Atha

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This photo is the first photo taken of me post-Doha. For all who are reading this, my husband and I have been living in Doha, Qatar for the last year. And  we have just recently returned to the states where I have accepted a job teaching at a college in Northern Wisconsin.

As the days begin to spread out between our current lives and our life in Doha I have had the chance to reflect on my experiences there. The reason that we took the job was mainly because of the money, and it appeared to be a great opportunity for my husband and we thought well, we can do anything for a year. And we were rightbut what we didn’t know at the time is what we would have to sacrifice for that year.

Now looking back I am just grateful that we made it out in tact and still married. Something happens when you are immersed in a culture whose values are so far removed from your own. I am not referring to the difference between Islamic beliefs and my own because I actually found the ritual and sacredness that Islam possesses comforting and have influenced many of my own beliefs and actions. What I am referring to is the inherent change that often takes place within cultures that posses vast amounts of wealth and how it can change the relationships people have with each other.

Growing up my family was fairly poor, when Christmas or birthdays came around the gifts given were more often then not things that were needed not wanted. And as an adult I have continued this sense of frugality. Buying things that I want is rare and take more stock in the relationships that I share then the things I posses. And it was this exact way of existence that made life in Qatar so challenging. The average person that I was around saw more value in what could be bought then in the way they treated each other and those around them. I suppose in a lot of ways this is now the way of the world but in reality I had never been so directly involved in this type of reality. Or maybe I had but all the muscle and skin prevented me from seeing the bare bones of the reality in which I lived.

But in Qatar I couldn’t deny it and I didn’t want to either. I didn’t know how to healthily exist within a culture where myself and those around me had so much but the people working construction, serving coffee, or cleaning bathrooms had so little. I had never witnessed a culture where its workers would walk out into traffic to purposefully be killed because the insurance would provide their families back home with more money then they ever could. I didn’t know how to live with this reality and then work and walk alongside people who talked about the perks of flying business class and where they would travel next. I didn’t know how to do it.

So it ate at me, slowly, and the isolation did too because I separated myself from them, my coworkers and found myself moving towards building relationships with the security guards and the cleaners. Because I knew them, their struggle seemed more familiar to me then the fantasy reality of others. But how much of a relationship can you build with someone when they are shipped into town to work and shipped out  immediately after? Where they spend their nights sleeping in un-air conditioned apartments where they sleep eight to fourteen people to a room. I shared as much love and kindness as I could as I came in to work, as I walked in the halls, these are the relationships that sustained me, these are the relationships that made life bearable. And for this I am so grateful because without their presence in my life I think I could have lost a sense of my humanity.

I understand now that they only thing that kept me going there were these abandon people, who literally lived like ghosts. Seen but not heard. So this is for them. This huge exhale, this bounty of gratefulness in my heart is for them. This is my way of saying, I SEE YOU. I see your beautiful hearts beating. I see you out there doing your best to survive. I see your struggle. I SEE YOU. So to your sweet lights I say Jai, Victory to that light.

Follow this link: 

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/14/migrant-workers-dying-qatar-world-cup

When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits - anything that kept me small. My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving.

-

Kim McMillen (via cheesesquats)

Another very important aspect of self care!

(via unfriendlytaiwanesehottie)

(Source: yagazieemezi)

FIRST KISS

For a little beauty in your life……..

March

I was recently asked, “Are you okay, cause I am worried about you hon?” And to be totally honest it hadn’t occurred to me to ask myself this question. But now that I am sitting on my coach on a quiet Sunday evening I am beginning to discover that I haven’t been okay. I have not been okay.


My sister died seven years ago. And there isn’t a day goes by, not one, when I don’t think of her, of what she would think of me now, of what we would be like together had she lived. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.

My brother was diagnosed with malignant glioma four years ago and he was given at most, eleven years to live. Eleven years, given that he gets proper nutrition, lives a low-stress life, gets adequate rest, takes his medicine daily, and gets an MRI every six months.

But the truth is, he is 34 years old, with four children, he smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, he barely eats and when he does its mostly crap, he works three jobs, one of which is the night shift at a 711, he sleeps for 4 hours a day between jobs, daycare, and driving everyone from place to place and he refuses to get his scans or see his neurologist. Despite the fact that he weighs 120 lbs or that he has a large growth protruding from his temple. Everyone pretends like it is normal, like he isn’t dying. Even though he is.

I haven’t seen my father in five years. Not because he lives in some far away land but because who he has chosen to be in this world doesn’t make sense to me. And because I couldn’t accept being treated like I was not enough.


Eight months I ago I moved to Minneapolis, MN and have spent this time trying to forge a place for myself here, at my job, in my community.

And it has been hard, devastatingly hard. Everyday has been living and breathing with my skin turned inside out, raw all the time. And the person I was seems so very far from the person I am becoming.

I haven’t stopped to ask myself if I am okay because what if the answer is that I am not. What if the answer is that I feel exhausted, tired and alone. That some days I wake up and I don’t understand how all of this has become my story.

The truth is I have no idea where to go from here. I don’t ‘know if abandoning ship is right, or if staying right where I am is a better idea. All I know is that I can’t allow for all of this to be my story. There has to be sweetness, kindness, gentleness and community in there to. There has to be a dreams that come true, a love that is pursued. It can’t be all loss and aloneness.


So maybe the answer is, no I am not okay but that maybe tomorrow I will be. Maybe tomorrow I will wake and all will feel right in the world. And if it isn’t all I can do is strap on my boots and keep walking, keep finding ways to open my heart, to keep breathing.

Jan 8

Love

"sometimes you look up and there just seems to be so many more stars than ever before. more. they burn brighter and they shine longer and they never vanish into your periphery when you turn your head. it’s as if they come out for us and to remind us that their light took so long to come to us, that if we never had the patience to wait, we never would have seen them here, tonight, like this.
that as much as it hurts, sometimes it’s all you can do, wait, endure and keep shining knowing that eventually, your light will reach where it is supposed to reach and shine for who it is supposed to shine for.
it is never easy, but it is always worth it.”
-tyler knott gregson
Dec 3

December

It’s been thirty-three years, one month, and five days since I was born; It has been nineteen years, six months, and twenty-seven days since I picked up my first pencil and found a part of myself I hadn’t known; It has been ten years, seven months, and eight days since I was first introduced to Ashtanga yoga; It has been six years, eleven months, twenty-nine days, and eleven hours since my sister was killed; It’s been four years, eleven months, and one day since I taught my first ceramics class; It has been five months and twenty-three days since I met the love of my life; It’s been three months, two weeks and six days since I packed up my life and moved to Minneapolis, MN; It has been three months since I began to truly see myself and decided that loving myself, forgiving myself, and dedicating the rest of my life teaching others to do the same.

These moments have had a profound effect on my life, introduced me to tremendous sorrow and love. These moments have asked me stand up and arrive just as I am, to lean into tremendous discomfort, to grow.

In two days, it will be seven years since my sister passed away. I try now to not think of how she died, of what she was thinking as she died, or of how I don’t remember the person I was when she was alive. These are the things that keep the breathing held in, that cause the chest to tighten. Instead I have been working on cultivating a stronger relationship with her now. Getting to know her now. I can’t express how much I miss her, which seems so strange to miss someone so deeply when you can’t remember their face. So perhaps I miss the strength I felt in her presence, perhaps I miss the courage she often loaned to me, and the beauty she seemed to always exude. Perhaps it isn’t her face but her breathing, knowing that she was breathing alongside me, somewhere out in the world, perhaps this is what I miss the most.

But maybe in some way she still is. Breathing, out there in the world. And so for this I am grateful. In many ways I am grateful to have lost her. Because in this loss I have discovered how important love is in this life. It has made me hungry to ease the pain of others, to offer solace to others in their time of need, to be kinder, to be softer.

But some I know that she is here, she is still breathing, her heart so close to mine some days, when the wind is just right I know she is there. She encourages my heart to keep pressing forward, to keep seeking. She is always in the pursuit. She is there in my practice, when the desire to quit is heavy, She is there when I doubt my abilities and strength, and She is there when I don’t believe I deserve love. Always there…always there…always there.

I have wondered lately why I am where I am, how I got here, and why. I wonder how I ended up with these tools of the practice, with these tools to create, with a man who actually loves me despite all my faults. I often wonder how I got so lucky. But somehow I have to believe that I deserve these things. I have to believe that all of these wonders have been given to me so that I might give them to someone else.

I am grateful for all of these moments… I am grateful for the presence of and loss of my sister…I am grateful for this breathe

November

I sit here, a couple of hours before the first of November, at a table, with low, rosy light, with a dog in the next room, on a night with a sense of deep cold in the air, wondering how I got here. Not that being here is awful or totally unimaginable. There are just moments that I look around and I don’t recognize where I am, who these people are that I spend most of my day with, or who I have become. And in these minutes I come face to face with the person that I am right now and there are parts of myself that I dislike, parts that I honor, and parts that I haven’t come to terms with yet.

The thing about all this change, all this newness, all this growth, is that you always know where your skin ends. Rarely does a day go by that some experience doesn’t remind you that there really is no skin at all, its all just open, all of you is either dying or being born and there is no rest.

The years prior to this, this vulnerability what always present too, the only difference is that then I had buffers, I had friends, family, the same ride to work, the familiar coworkers, the routine, the day to day. Now I have no choice but to be present, all the time. And its painful, some days it is excrutiating. These are the kind of days that you would give just about anything to be sitting on a couch next to one of your siblings, your momma, or a dear friend. Just someone whose heart you know, whose hand you know will always be there. A person whose you have such trust in that being vulnerable isn’t painful but allows you to rest.

But I am not there, I am here. And somehow, come hell or high water I must go in search of joy, light, breathing, love, and practice. So on a late night at the end of October, from my heart to yours, calling from the depths of an apartment in Minneapolis, may this night hand out rest to your heart, may that tea, that book, that bed, that breath, may it all show you the way back. I look forward to seeing you there.

Skin

I have discovered that there are times in our life when we are presented with situations where we fully understand where our skin ends. Our familiarity to the situation is slim, we feel out of our element and our minds long for home. I have found myself in situations like this many times; during trips abroad, after my sister died, moving to a new place, etc. And all of these situations presented me with a mirror.

And now isn’t any different. If there is a difference, it is that not only do I know where my skin ends, but there are moments when I know that there is no skin at all. I have moved to a new place, with a new person, and have started a new job. And all of these things are requiring me to change, to learn, to accept, and to surrender. I do believe that a greater portion of the day is spent on the verge. Of what I don’t know. But I do know that there is no escape. There is nothing I can dive into to make all the doubt, worry, fear, and anxiety go away. I HAVE TO LOOK AT IT. And some days it makes my insides crawl.

But when I do come down from this. When I get quiet. When I lay out my mat and practice, somehow I find peace. The madness doesn’t stop, I just keep moving, I just keep breathing. And even though there are some days of practice that are hard, lack grace, and are just a bear to get through. I show up. I keep showing up.

I am uncertain of what is transpiring within me, but I am grateful enough to be a witness. I know that something is dying and something else is being reborn.

Sep 2

New Tools

The last two months of my life have been bright, magical and mysterious. And even at times terrifyingly powerful. On June 10th of this year I ventured from my home in Philadelphia to a small Artist Residency in Johnson, Vermont. Where I was met by artists, writers, and vagabonds from all over the world and we spent our first night together over wine, a fire, and a sky full of stars. This was the beginning of………

The days that followed were full of making, drawing, rivers, nakedness, sweetness, fields, flowers, and practice. I found myself there, the part of myself I thought I had lost or didn’t know I had. I grabbed a hold of my courage and my own ferocity and ran as quickly as I could through fields of green and purple. And amongst all the romanticism of a Vermont summer I met my partner, Ryan, I recognized him, I witnessed him. The two of us were drawn to each other, we crept towards each other and saw the others’ deep soft spots that were so in need of healing, of love, of kindness, of recognition, and we filled it. We spent four weeks together, feeling so grateful that the dream we had been having our whole lives was actually real, we just had to wait and that it was now upon us.

So we left that little haven in Vermont and spent the next two weeks driving across country, looking for home. Philadelphia, Richmond, Chicago, Madison, and Minneapolis. We looked and decided upon Minneapolis. And as I waited in line at the Minneapolis Airport we said our goodbyes, anxiously waiting for the next month to pass until we found our way back to each other. I went back to Philadelphia and Ryan to Iowa so that we could each pack up our tiny lives, say good bye to friends, close doors that needed to be closed, and move on.

Two and a half weeks ago, Ryan flew to Philadelphia, helped me pack all of my stuff into a Uhaul, attended a going away party with all of my dear friends, and together we drove home. We have been in our house for one-week and six days. I, in a new city, with all that I have known far away and there are moments that the fear has flown so deep into my chest that I can’t breathe. I suppose a big part of me thought that all of the fears, doubts and faults that I have wouldn’t follow me. But they did, and they are just as present now as they were in the last place that I left them.

So now I am presented with an issue. How do I move forward with a man, whose potential, our potential, is so much greater than anything I thought possible, without getting in the way. I feel as though that the tools that I have acquired thus far in my life that haven’t taught me how to handle such a love with the care it needs. My feelings of inadequacy, and self-doubt splinter our time together, damage my own reflection and bring such heaviness.

He, this incredible man who some how manages to love all of me, even the parts I can’t seem to love myself, he loves them. And I, when totally open and free, carry a love so strong in my heart that the deepest sorrow couldn’t sweep it away. This is who we are, two people who need each other in order to help save the world, at least do our part to help it. Two lovers, both broken in our own ways, but yearning and grateful.

So we are here, I am here. In this city of bike highways, blue moons, and farms on its outskirts. I feel terrified, excited but powerful. I feel powerful because I can see all the potential before me if I just keep my eyes and heart open, if I keep moving forward, if I keep love in my heart, doors will continue to open I think. So I guess here goes……………

May 5

Moving Forward and Coming Home

Hello Friends,

I have been selected by the Vermont Studio Center to participate in a one-month residency this summer. In order to be able to take part in this opportunity I need your help.

I have started a fundraising project through Kickstarter. Please take the time to give my page a look.


If you are able to offer support that will be amazing, if not that is amazing as well. If you are able to share the link below with your friends that too will be spectacular.

I have 30 days in order to reach my fundraising goal and I need to get this link in front of as many eyes as possible.

Thank you for rocking the house.


http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2114635001/moving-forward-and-coming-home