The Camino List!

I woke up this morning with a new sense of hope. It is the first time I’ve slept soundly through the night since last weekend, and I’m sure it was partially due to the fact that I was finally able to eat somewhat normally yesterday.  I’m still unable to get back to hiking training, but I feel less like the room is spinning every time I exert myself.

I am also beginning to fully process that I indeed only have two more weeks in a full-time, traditional office setting.  I’ve been counting down my return to the trail for nearly six years, and more recently, obsessively counting down the months and weeks.  This trip represents far more than a career change and “vacation.” It is the end of a three-year push to pay off a mountain of debt, to figure out a new lucrative, freelance career and lifestyle, and most importantly–to learn how speak up for decisions and ideas that truly make me a better, more complete person.

But with joy and realization, comes the inevitable travel anticipation–the total “holy crap moment” that accompanies leaving your comfortable bubble and doing something rather terrifying.

And so to both celebrate this morning’s new-found sense of hope, and to recognize my underlying terror of returning to this physical undertaking of hiking 500 miles, I have begun mentally making the “Camino List of Awesome Stuff”–a list that will keep me going through my final 15 days.

Things I’m looking forward to on the Camino

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A Time Capsule of Anger

I try to avoid negativity and anger on my blog.  After all, it’s published online for all to see, possibly forever.  But to be truthful and straightforward–and to recognize the physically and spiritually difficult trip I am leaving for in two weeks–I will respect the crappy feelings as well as the good ones.  So if you are–understandably–not in the mood to read a rant, do not feel bad about moving on.  This rant is for comparison for when I return in August.  It is a time capsule of sorts, here to look back on once I have found some distance.

 

 

Recently, I’ve found that the same people who tell you constantly to “take better care of yourself” are the ones that will also go out of their way to point out why you aren’t working hard enough.  I’ve spent the past four years in a work and family-related “assistant role.”  I’m the “dependable one,” the one that doesn’t get angry, the one that reads all the details and explains them to others with a smile, the one that orders the food, sets up the wedding, puts everything in place.  I am thanked constantly for it–which I find very kind. And yet you know what would be kinder?  A hand when I ask for one.  Since last summer, I’ve been mysteriously sick.  I have bouts of terrible stomach problems, landing me in bed with no energy, barely able to eat for a week.  My joints hurt most of the time, my muscles involuntarily twitch–luckily not enough for anyone to see if you don’t look closely enough.  I am tired and foggy, and feel most days like I am moving through  a physical and mental swamp.  I have asked for space but am rarely, truly given it.  I am told to rest and then called to assist an hour later.

Because when the “helpful girl” admits to being chronically sick, or additionally just sick and tired of being the only go-to person in a community–the contradictory people come out of the woodwork.  Now that I have admitted “weakness” by speaking about my health issues and expressing a passion to move on to a different career, they descend, pleasured to find a scapegoat for anything that can be pinned on the “girl who helps everyone, but messes things up because she desires a life change.” They are the finger-pointers, and only in the privacy of their quiet moments do their fingers really just point back at themselves.  Common phrases include, “Maybe you’re not eating healthy enough.” “Why haven’t you seen the specialist I suggested–that’s why you’re sick.” “You disrespect your anxiety because you won’t take anti-depressants.”  “You probably just need to stay more positive.” “Everything will be fine, just keep doing all the stuff your’e doing.  Oh, and take it easy, you’ll make yourself sicker.”  Or there are the career-related ones: “Some of us can’t choose our careers over having a family.” “You might as well give that artistic thing a try when you’re young so you can come back to this when you want to have kids.” “How does your husband feel about this?”

I know these are projections of their own issues; I know all the logical reasons why this shouldn’t get out of my skin. And yet all of the practical, psychologically friendly pep talks I’ve given myself in the past several months have done nothing to keep my anger, frustration, and bitterness at bay.  I do not like who I am right now.  I don’t like how I respond to people’s needs, coworkers questions, or family expectations.  I knew my anger had over-boiled when the other day, while walking into Trader Joe’s, I became resentful toward the automatic door for not opening right away when I walked my cart up to it.  It’s a shock to everyone who has named me the “calm dependable girl.”  Because right now, I am not that.  I almost yelled at a door in public.

At the same time, this weird wave in my life has shown me that my frustration has significant outside sources, and is not something I’m imagining, or need to “just find a way to get over.” Yes, I need to build up my defenses against the occasional misunderstanding, but no, I will not carry on to simply be the girl who everyone thanks for cleaning up the work they don’t want to do themselves.  I was recently told that I should expect less of people so that I would not be as disappointed when they did not treat me with respect.  What a terrible way to view those around us–that we should expect less of everyone?  Not take their word as truth?  Assume that they will not come through?

I am writing this rant as a reminder for myself when I return in August from the Camino.  I am angry and tired. I don’t sleep a full night because I wake up feeling sick, tense, and angry.  I wish I was better at blocking out the anger around me, especially when it is wrongly directed in my direction, but I will also not settle for expecting less of people.  I will continue to expect that those in my life will strive to be true to their word and kind to those around them, because I am striving to do the same.  I am not a saint, I am no indestructible event planner, and I am not (nor should I be) expected to do everything with a smile on my face.  Yes, I may continue to be disappointed by others–and in this state, I may disappoint them–but I will not lose faith in humanity just because I’ve hit a patch in my life when I feel walked on.

Here’s hoping I look back on this with some peace in a few months.  Until then, I’ll be home sick today, hoping I can eat again.

“But that doesn’t make it okay…”

Cloe Ridgway via Unsplash

Just before leaving the house this morning, I flipped open a book by Pema Chodron that I’ve been slowly reading.  I specify slowly because it’s a breakdown of an eighth-century text called The Way of the Bodhisattva by the Buddhist sage Shantideva, and most of it takes some time to process.  I usually have to be in either a very concentrated or spiritually depleted mood to focus on the densely packed text–and then take a bit and walk around with it throughout the day.

Well, this morning, I was the latter of those two–spiritually (and in this case, physically) depleted.  As I hoped, the book’s message was exactly what I needed to read in that moment.  Not only did Shantideva talk about the damaging and purposeless effects of self-resentment, but I was also reminded of Pema’s tonglen meditation method–or, the process of breathing in someone else’s vices, and breathing out peace.  In this practice, you are fully experiencing someone else’s anger, hatred, confusion; recognizing it in your self; and breathing out peace for both parties. It got me thinking about a dilemma I’ve had during this rough time.

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When a Community Loses the Biggest Energy in the Room

When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher asked us to describe the first time we processed the idea of death. As was the case with most of my high school papers, I came up with a much better description of this childhood moment years after writing the paper; the assignment has stuck with me for years. If I wrote the paper today, I would talk about my paternal grandfather’s passing when I was ten years old.  I understood the idea of death, but I didn’t yet fully comprehended the human confusion that succeeded someone’s passing, especially when the person lost was one of those “big energies,” one of those people that changed the energy of a room, who drove the conversation and led a community in subtle ways that no one truly notices until the person is gone.

In my limited memories of him, this was my grandfather–a “big energy” kind of guy. At the funeral, my dad–who up until this point I had never seen get emotional or speak in public–told a story (Dad, I’m sorry, I’m probably going to butcher this). As he was driving out to Pennsylvania for the funeral, trying to process what he was going to say in the eulogy, he stared out into the river alongside route 80. Though most of the water was frozen, there was one circle of clean, melted water right in the center of the river. And in that hole of water, was a swan–just sitting, in his own little area of peaceful space, lit up by some sunlight. This serendipitous sight sparked a memory of when my dad and his family first walked back into their Wilkesbarre home after the flood which followed Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  He recounted that the house was nearly ruined, the living room and furniture caked in a foot of mud.  But across the kitchen, my grandfather was clearing off a space on the counter, furiously cleaning a few square feet of space. My dad, wondering if his dad had lost his head, asked why he was cleaning off such a specific space when he was surrounded by rooms of mud–what good could that one spot possibly do?  And my grandfather turned around and explained that all day, no matter how overwhelming things seemed, he would have that one clean space amidst all the mud. It was a space for the swan in the frozen river. Whether it was a well-read coincidence or a sign from my grandfather, the world reminded him of his wise energy and profound lessons, even after he was gone.

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Day 30! Thank you!!!!!

Hi All!!  Even though we’re on our last(ish) day of the fundraiser (I may do an extra something for tomorrow), donations are still coming in!!!!

Thank you so much to Fangzhou Zhang for donating to my fundraiser!  Fangzhou is a very sweet and super-inspiring teacher here at MKA.  I am so lucky to have her as a colleague!  You are the best!

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Day 26 Fundraiser: It Continues!

Even though we’ve reach our goal, the generosity keeps coming!  The wonderful thing about this whole project is that Crowdrise doesn’t cut you off by a certain date or amount, so we can just keep going and see how far we get!

As for two awesome people who pushed me over the $1k mark…

Tom and Anita Bartolone!!

I am so lucky to have these two loving people as an aunt and uncle.  The Bartolone’s welcomed me to their large, caring family the first time I came to the famous Christmas Eve party.  So happy to get to see these two, and everyone else, in just a few short months:)  Thank you, Tom and Anita!!!

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WE DID IT!! FUNDRAISER GOAL REACHED!!

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You are all amazing people!!  As of today, we have gone BEYOND the goal to raise $900 for Zara Aina.  And the best part?  There’s still a whole week to see how far we can get.  I am so blown away by this experience, I had no expectations of reaching the total, especially before the end of the 30 days.  You have all given such a beautiful gift to me and this organization.  Go team.

THANK YOU ROBYN AND ALEX!!!

The amazing couple that put us over the fundraiser’s edge were my cousins, Robyn and Alex.  These are some of the most generous people you will ever meet.  When I was getting to know Ben, the welcoming energy of the family was overwhelming, and came full force from these two lovely people.  I couldn’t be more grateful to call them family.

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Day 24: We’re at 99%!!!

So I don’t normally post this early about the fundraiser, but guys, we are $8 away from the goal!!!!  With a week to go!!!  And here’s the great thing about this fundraiser, there’s no reason we have to stop at $900.  If you need to re-inspire yourself this Thursday morning (especially after the anxiety-causing disaster we watched last night) check out Zara Aina’s site, and believe in the world again!  Either way, if any one is up to sending $8, you will be the official fundraiser finisher!

Here are the three people that helped us reach this yesterday…

Zach and Leslie Hoover!

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I love these two people so much!!  They knew my husband way before I did, but I like to pretend I’ve known  them for just as long.  They are incredible friends, gracious hosts, amazing parents, and very generous in all the admirable political and philanthropic work they do in their lives.

Carlaina Bell!

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I couldn’t ask for a more positive person to sit right across the hall from me at work.  Carlaina is the loveliest of coworkers and so generous for donating to my fundraiser–because of her, we’re now at 99%!  Also, she has the best dresses.  Like, how do I find these dresses?

Day 23: Thank you!!

Hi All!!  I cannot believe we have less than $100 to go!  This is incredible.

Today I would like to thank an anonymous donor–an awesome person that has been very supportive to my writing.  And it’s so great that they donated to Zara Aina!  As I have with past anonymous donations, here’s a picture of a cute doggy!

Day 23: The Night I Met Ben

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

With only one week left in this challenge,  I figured it was a good time to tackle the bigger stories, the ones that shifted the course of my 20’s, and really, as luck would have it, my life.  I’ve written about this story before–the night Ben and I met–but never in complete detail.  SO here we go.

I almost didn’t accept the birthday party invitation from Jenn, a friend from college who was celebrating her birthday on the Lower East Side.  Nothing against Jenn, I would have just rather given into my trusty depression and climb back into bed with my laptop.  Yeah, that sounds like a better plan.  I was living at home at the time.  The year leading up to that summer left me in a rough spot.  I graduated college, hiked the Camino de Santiago, went through a vicious breakup three days after finishing the hike, worked in a job with a bully by my side for four months, and then found myself curled up in bed back in North Jersey for several months.  It was like a floodgate of emotional issues, kept at bay for years by the structured world of formal education, released its wrath the moment I left its protection.

Invitations like this were few and far between.  And since I planned to move to NYC, I needed to at least try and become comfortable with having social life there.  Yet there were several issues–I barely had any money and I worried my mood would take a dark turn during the party.  Still, I decided to accept Jenn’s offer and she graciously extended an offer to stay with her in Astoria that night.

It was one of the hottest days of July–July 23rd to be exact–and the only thing I could bare putting on my body that afternoon was a small sundress given to me by my friend Claire years earlier.  I stressed all afternoon about not looking like a weirdo, especially since I knew my ex, and many of his group, may be there that night.  Why I was putting myself through this, I did not know.  I just hoped there would be enough other people there that I could manage to have a good time.

After dropping my things off at Jenn’s, we stepped out into the humid night when a dramatic crack of thunder ripped through the air, sending a deluge of water through the streets.  It was a comical storm really, you had to laugh.  Because of this however, we took a cab–a luxury beyond my means at that time, you can be sure of that.  I noticed during our drive down the east side of Manhattan that this was one of those black cars that didn’t take cards–it’s wild how clueless you feel when you look back on your early-NYC self.  We arrived at the bar and I handed over every dollar I had brought for the evening.  I had money in my checking account, but not a whole lot.  So yeah, this should be an interesting evening.

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