Keep Going: It’s Supposed to Be This Way

” As painful as this all is, I know that in the end things will work out how they’re supposed to, and I’ll keep going.”

Lotusgirl80, November 25, 2014

I still remember when I wrote those words. At the time, I’m not sure I whole-heartedly believed them to be true. My heartbreak was fresh, I was taking it day by day, trying to stay positive, but losing interest in those life sustaining activities, like sleeping and eating. My days went by in slow motion, and life seemed to be a chore. I had lost a piece of myself, or at least that’s how it felt. It took time, a long time, to truly believe that things would work out, and that I’d keep going.

It was the time and distance from my heartbreak that gave me a new perspective, and made me realize that all the pieces were already inside me. The love we had was beautiful, but it wasn’t perfect. We both had our faults, and I kept making excuses for him and trying to change who I was. I couldn’t see that when I was with him, and it took me a long time to realize that after we broke up. Now that I have distance, I can admit to myself that he was not the one that got away — it just wasn’t meant to be. Still, he’ll always hold a place in my heart, and the beauty of his faith and integrity will never escape me. He taught me to always be grateful, and to ask for more — not to settle.

And as I keep going, it is with gratefulness and a desire for something more. And this is reflected in all aspects of my life, not just my dating life. (I know my stories here have morphed into a dating blog recently, but there’s been a lot more going on behind the scenes.) In January, I started a post-graduate program, and after many all-nighters and internal questioning, I completed what I had started, and am now looking into new possibilities. In May, I quit a job that filled my need for productivity and belonging to the daily grind, but was ultimately no longer serving me, filling me with confusion and resentment. In June, I began following a dream that stemmed from my elementary school days, a dream to run long distances. After an intense 16-week training program, I ran my first half marathon in October, and now I have plans to run a marathon….eventually. To be honest, I’ve had my doubts along the way, but I have moved through these changes, thankful for the support of others, and my own internal drive that has kept asking for more of myself.

And love. I’ve had my doubts. For a long time, I didn’t believe it was out there and was so reluctant to make another connection, especially an online one. However, I did get back in the game, even created an online dating profile (hovering over ‘delete’ the whole time) before settling for that good-on-paper guy who totally didn’t get me. That didn’t last long, because my inner voice kept speaking out and I decided to listen. And I am so glad I did listen because I was shutting myself off to a real connection.

The real connection. I’ve met someone who gets me. I’ve met someone who makes me believe in love again. I’ve met someone who’s not afraid to share what’s on his mind, and I feel comfortable reciprocating. I’ve met someone who uses the word ‘love’ freely to talk about what matters to him, and  notices how guarded I am with that same word. I’ve met someone who makes me laugh to the point of tears. I’ve met someone who appreciates my randomness, or peculiarities, as he calls them. I’ve met someone who wants to explore the world and all the possibilities it holds. I’ve met someone who has woken me up to the possibility of an ‘us’.  And if you must know, we met on that feminist app, Bumble.

So, I’m glad I didn’t give up on online dating, and that I kept going, asking for more in all aspects of my life. I truly believe I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Before I die, I want to fall in love again....
Before I die, I want to fall in love again….

 

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NBPM #9: Nine things on my mind

Day nine of NaBloPoMo has arrived, so I thought it would be appropriate to share nine things on my mind.  Most of these things are simple and random, but some of them are more complex. Read on for my list of nine, in no particular order.

  1. Writing challenges.  A teacher at my school is doing NaNoWriMo, and she’s loving it! She’s becoming addicted to the increasing word count, and turning into a writing machine. She knows I’m doing a writing challenge as well, and she asked me about this blogging thing, that’s hard to pronounce. We commiserated about Writer’s block today, and she suggested I write about life at the school. To that I replied, “I’d rather leave work here, and keep my writing random.” And to that, she gave a knowing nod.  For my sanity, I need to keep my work life and my outside life separate.
  2. Laundry.  As I was walking home tonight, I was thinking about laundry, the laundry I had to do tonight. And then I started thinking about the fresh smell of the laundromat on an American military base in South Korea, and afternoons spent hand-washing clothes in Thailand. We take washers and dryers for granted here. They save us time and manual labour, and nothing beats the smell of a blanket fresh out of the dryer, but there is something to be said for the meditative satisfaction that one gets from washing clothes by hand and hanging them to dry. My Sunday afternoons used to be reserved for laundry and somtam (spicy papaya salad).
  3. Patience. Not everyone has it, and I don’t have it all the time, but I think I have more of it than the average person.  Funny thing is, I have more patience for others than I have for myself. Today, my boss was losing his patience, so I left five minutes early.
  4. Gratitude. Lately, I’ve seem so much gratitude around me. Last week, there were two flower deliveries at my office; one with a thank-you note, and the other with a happy-anniversary note. It is my colleague’s last day on Friday and I want to do something special to express my gratitude for all she has done for me and our students. I’m still working on my gratitude plan.
  5. Tipping — Not tipping the scale, but tipping your barista.  Three weeks ago, my friend from Boston came to town to give me a reality check. After she left, I realized my thirty-five is just fine, and I should start tipping coffee baristas. You see, her boyfriend is a barista, and she told me about some of their ‘extra’ jobs, like cleaning up shit. You may choose to take this literally or figuratively. So, if I am ordering a fancy coffee, I always tip now.
  6. Skinny legs and boots.  I envy skinny legs and slim calves.  Buying high boots is an absolute nightmare, if you have calves and little boxes for feet. On Friday, I tried on a dozen boots and shoes, and ended up walking away with boot shoes.  I took them back today, because they just weren’t me.  I really wanted boots.
  7. Separate spaces.  As I was wandering down the hall to do my laundry, I was thinking it would be so nice if I lived in a women-only building. If that was the case, I could simply wear my pyjamas, while I did my laundry. And I wouldn’t have to worry about one of the tenants asking me out.  When I was working in Thailand, I lived in an apartment building that had separate floors for men and women. It was perfect for students; it provided a safe and distraction-free home. These separate spaces for men and women provide comfort, and a place for camaraderie. On Sunday, the Arabic school is organized by women; when they are not in the classroom with the students, they are lounging on the sofas, in their slippers, chatting. However, this past Sunday, my boss made an appearance, and the headscarves flew on.  Today, I told him not to come to work on Sundays. The Arabic school is for the women to run the show; it’s their space.
  8. Bridging the gap.  I love watching the unexpected friendships that grow at my school. I love being able to offer gratitude in a language that is not my own.  I love seeing our students take their learning beyond the English classroom. I love listening to all the different accents and stories around me. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, South Korea, Brazil, Morocco, Japan, China, Thailand, Mexico…..my school is a little UN.
  9. Netflix.  I’ve started watching a new show – Master of None.  It’s Aziz Ansari’s little baby, and there are so many things I love about it — its diverse cast, its take on social media in our everyday lives, its look at the immigrant experience and racism, and its relatability. If you’re a twenty or thirty something navigating your life, you’ll get a laugh out of it, and probably a whole lot more.
And there you have it…….nine random things that are on my mind.  Good night, NaBloPoMo!
flowers and Paris

NBPM #6: Flowers for Friday

Flowers at Pike Place MarketThis morning, I walked into the office at 10:30 and found a beautiful bouquet of lilies, irises, and pink gerbers on my desk. This time the flowers were for me! They were ‘thank you’ flowers from a colleague, on her last day. For a moment, I thought maybe they were from him. It’s been nearly a year since we’ve been through, and I guess I’m still a little hopeful and/or delusional.  Anyhow, I’m not going to get into matters of the heart at this time of night, especially on a Friday. Friday was our day.

 

flowers3Tonight, Friday is for flowers.  Although I would rather receive chocolate, the beauty of flowers does not escape me; the vibrant colours, the intricate petals, the sweet fragrance, all make me stop and appreciate. Flowers on their own are beautiful, but it is the stories and intentions behind them, that warm my heart.  Yesterday, a student at my school received flowers from her husband in honour of their seven years of marriage. Many yesterdays ago, I received white lilies on a first date. Last month, I received a single coral rose for my birthday.  On Mother’s Day, I sent a bouquet to my mother at work.

Flowers say so many things – Thank you, Good luck, Congratulations, Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, You’re cute, You’re special, I admire you, I’m proud of you, I love you, I’m sorry, Get well soon, Let’s try again. The list of sentiments goes on, and the gratitude flowers express lives on, even after they are gone.

Couple buying flowers at Pike Place Market, Seattle
Couple buying flowers at Pike Place Market, Seattle

 

 

Natural Life Sweeteners: Joy and Extreme Ethics

The Chocolate Cake Sutra: Ingredients for a Sweet LifeI’m guilty — I judge books by their covers. A few months ago, when I was browsing through a used bookstore, I stumbled upon Geri Larkin’s The Chocolate Cake Sutra: Ingredients for a Sweet Life (HarperOne, 2008). I’m a fan of anything chocolate, so I bought the book.

Just like chocolate, The Chocolate Cake Sutra doesn’t disappoint. As a chocolate lover and management consultant turned Buddhist nun, Larkin draws on Buddhist dharma and personal anecdotes to offer up a simple recipe for a sweet life. The ingredients are all within our reach, and in each chapter she delves into each one — joy, extreme ethics, tolerance, a capacity to keep going, clearheadedness, a penchant for surprise, adventuring, and Yoda’s wisdom. You don’t have to be Buddhist or religious to get it — it’s baked in such a way that just makes sense. If you want to know just how it’s baked, you’ll have to read the book, but if you want to know how some of these ingredients have sweetened my life, read on.

Joy. Joy begins with a simple awareness, a simple quietness, a simple gratefulness. I’ve realized that it can only begin once I’ve let go of my worries, and am just in the present moment. If you know me, you know that I like to analyse things to death, and am usually living in the past or the future. I have a monkey mind, my thoughts swing from branch to branch, and rarely stop to admire the rainbows. However, I am aware of my monkey ways, and am now stopping to marvel at the ducks and turtles sunbathing together. And I’ve always known that my joy isn’t really about me — it’s about generosity. When I am present, I can be generous. Perhaps, this is why I’ve been volunteering since I was 15 years old.

Everyday we have the opportunity to be generous with our time, our thoughts, our promises, our money…. It’s so simple to spread joy, and to experience it as well. It’s as easy as smiling at a stranger, or calling that special someone just because.

Extreme Ethics.  Extreme ethics aren’t so extreme. Most of us live our lives following a moral compass that points to honesty, non-harming, compassion, and basic goodness. I know that as long as I follow this compass I will never be led astray. Here, I do want to mention what Larkin has to say about ethics –“…it is tough to be ethical, to do what is right, in an era that doesn’t seem to reward it.” Being ethical is a practice, and she carries on by identifying the five “resistant ogres” –desire, ill will, laziness, worry, and self-doubt — that impede our practice. Overcoming these ogres isn’t always easy, but it’s most definitely worth it.

Our moments of great clarity, and accomplishment are closely linked with our practice of extreme ethics; we are filled with a feeling of strength and capability.  Recently, I stopped drinking alcohol. I’ve always been a social drinker, and have also gone through periods of not drinking, and justifying this behaviour to drinkers (especially when I was younger). In a way, giving up social drinking was an act of rebellion. It was me not caring what anyone thought anymore. Turning down wine in Italy, and drinking soda with the teenagers was liberating. I’ve been reconnecting with my true nature, and seeing things more clearly. More and more, I am witnessing the beauty and strength of those who hold extreme ethics, and I’m inspired to keep practicing my own.

More and more, I am seeing the connection between joy and extreme ethics, and adding these natural sweeteners to my life.

*****

Tolerance, a capacity to keep going, and clearheadedness  are also the sweeteners of my life, especially since I moved back to the west. Next time, I’ll delve into these, and share some more.

What brings sweetness to your life?