A close up of a shimmering soap bubble. Science News, L. Shen
I feel it most in the mornings when I awake alone and wrapped in silence. The north-facing window is sometimes open having shimmied down on its own in the night, and I will myself from my warm nest to close it. The cool air hits me like a shot of gin and I retreat to my blankets. Just 15 more minutes, I tell myself, time to imagine being held by another, and then the doing can begin.
I reach for my phone.
Then it’s time for the day — the balancing of the this’s and that’s on my to-do list with a deep hunger for something more. The feeling dissipates but it never goes away.
It is this longing that keeps me under my covers. And it drives my incessant reaching (try as I might to create barriers) for empty connections that pop upon contact like rainbowed soap bubbles.
View from atop Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most visited Buddhist temple.
I’ve just returned from vacation in Singapore and Thailand, and though I’m happy to be back, some part of me is still in a far off place.
Maybe it’s the jet lag or maybe it’s the balm of living without email, news and Trump for several glorious days, but my world is moving much slower.
I’m worrying less, strolling my neighborhood more and prioritizing time with friends.
This is a much different pace than where I was 10 days ago.
Last week I led a flash mob on a BART Train.
Heading to San Francisco.
On the long stretch when the train dives under the Bay.
I asked riders and friends to shake their arms and legs.
To take deep breaths followed by long sighs.
To tap dance down the aisle between the seats, and to move their bodies slow and smooth like the seaweed floating on the waves in the Bay above our heads.
This train where we often cram in, press to strangers arms and legs, but carefully avoid each other’s eyes.
Where I plug in, head down, legs crossed, arms folded and pray no one sits next to me.
What would happen by opening up in this way?
I practiced what I might say. There would be no room for timidity. The train is loud. Alone in my living room, I yelled, trying and discarding tones and words like blouses on a dressing room floor. Which would cloak me in confidence?
My friends, yesterday I posted my first FaceBook Live video. The topic was joy. Above is a truncated version where I summarize three steps I use to touch into my own internal joy, which I believe is inexhaustible, unconditioned and a resource for dealing with the many challenges we face in our world and personal lives.
It’s a topic near and dear to my heart — a message I share with delight and conviction with all those who know me, and yet, this morning, I’m filled with the voice of my inner critic.
Why were you so serious?
You should have danced!
You should have worn glitter!
It was way too long!
Nobody experienced any joy watching THAT!
You get the idea. It’s been brutal.
My body and I have not always been on the best of terms. For most of my life, ignoring the anxiety, fear and self-doubt that I faced in my day-to-day was a second full-time job. I constantly looked to my colleagues to determine which face to put forward in different settings. Work meeting? That’s confident, decisive Kelsey. Party? That’s friendly, open Kelsey. I became so adept at being the person I thought I was supposed to be, that I forgot who I really was. The anxiety, doubt and insecurity continued but I Hulu’d and Facebook’d these feelings away. I thought I was the problem. Everyone else seemed successful, confident and happy. If I tried harder, did the things they did, wore the right clothes, said the “cleverest” things, I would be happy too. Right? Wrong.
Head-to-head with my constant companion
Grace lead me to a meditation practice. The first time I landed on the cushion, I encountered so much anxiety that I could not sit in the open, hands-on-thighs posture that was prescribed. Instead, what felt “safe” was to fold my arms across my chest and sit in a kind of hunched, protected fashion. There was much awareness that I was doing it “wrong” and, for a girl who’d spent much time imitating others, standing out in this way was painful, but I couldn’t help myself. After 5 minutes, I jumped up ready to do anything else. That was enough of that.
Sacred Waipio Valley. We hiked down to swim in the water and warm ourselves on the black sand.
I did not know when I booked a trip to Hawaii in December that it would fall in the middle of so many important projects – each like a precious jewel requiring constant attention and regular polishing.
How could I put one down for a frivolous vacation? Yet, I’m not one to go back on my word or undo plans already set into motion, and a part of me knew I was being called to the island for some reason.
I thought this trip was about reclaiming my power.
I thought it was about learning to live with a broken heart.
But things are never what you think they will be.
This morning I woke to the gentle drum of rain kissing giant palm fronds.
I have come to the Big Island – to the mother, to whisper to her the secrets of my silent sorrows and be held in her generous bosom.
My host, a dear friend who like me cannot believe it has been three years, is now sautéing sausages, onions and peppers for the first of many morning meals.
Later, maybe we will hike down to Waipi’o Valley to be with the velvety lusciousness of this place. Or, perhaps we will hear the power of Akaka falls and imagine swimming at its feet.
When the clouds part, a soft shore may emerge and invite us to recharge by the warmth of the sun.
I am here to connect, to be with the heart, with possibility and with reality. I am here to remember that things are not always as I’ve made them in my feeble mind.
When the time is right; when all has been said and I’m left only with what is felt, I will cast dreams into the ocean and watch them drift out, tiny and bobbing into the vastness.
I am so grateful.
I’ve missed you, and yet, some time away was exactly what was needed.
At home in Utah it snowed most of Christmas Eve and all of Christmas Day – big, soft flakes that settled on a quiet world. It was just my dad and I this year. We started the morning with meditation, then a leisurely breakfast and gifts in the late afternoon. The pace and stillness of the day was an obvious contrast to every Christmas morning past. I reminisced on the holidays of childhood when my sisters and I would eagerly bound down the stairs before sunrise to see if “he” had come – evidenced by a consumed glass of milk and always half-eaten cookie. “Santa must be so full of cookies by the time he gets to our house to only eat half,” I would think. Sometimes I’d venture outside to see if I could make out in the snow where his sleigh had landed on our roof. Most always I found the hoof prints of reindeer.
How I miss the confidence I had in magic in my youth.
The darkness comes quickly.
These days the sand moves rapidly through the hourglass narrow. There’s a sense of being squeezed by time. There are emails to send, stories to edit, friends to check in with and gifts to purchase. With each tick of the clock, my hopes for getting it all done before the New Year take another step further from reach. And yet, though many items will likely slip through this arbitrary deadline, I’m not 100-precent frantic. Amid the whir of the season, my body refuses to be rushed.
October danced a strange and exotic combination that moved quickly. I’m just now catching my breath.
My friend Sophie and I share a birthday. It was one big cheerful party with, naturally, two cakes.