Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lesson 195. Pick up somebody's pen.

I'm sitting on the sixth floor and my head hurts. I do this dreadful thing where I start to think about dinner or how to solve everyone else's relationship problems and start staring vacantly but probably quite intensely in a certain direction, and unfortunately this has led to me making eye contact with the same boy three desks away at least four times. Sorry, he has nothing to do with the rest of this post; we didn't fall in love or figure out we were twins that were separated at birth or anything of that nature, I just had to tell you because when I feel uncomfortable I have to verbalise/share my discomfort. It's not always the best thing in the world. Oh heavens, he just smiled at me when he walked past like he thinks I'm deliberately looking at him, which I am very, very much not. This situation is growing more disastrous by the minute. Welcome to what is probably the most entertaining part of today and the story that I will most likely tell my flatmates at the end of the day when I arrive home. I apologise for the completely irrelevant anecdote once again, It's exam time and I'm probably procrastinating a little. I'm drawing out this post so that I have to spend a few less minutes writing about the political theoretical lenses through which we see the world and I can spend a few more minutes pretending that none of that exists while I write to you. 

If you're in study season as I am, and you have a splitting headache like I do (although I think it's mostly due to the fact that I tied my bow on my head too tight this morning) you're probably feeling a little over it. I've found myself slipping into bad habits over the last few days, like seeing that the dishwasher is empty and leaving it to empty itself (i.e. I'm so stressed someone else will do it) or being in too much of a rush to hold the door for a stranger. It's so easy to get caught up and forget to do the small things that make the world a little brighter for everyone else in it. I dropped a pen earlier today and someone picked it up for me, and it reminded me that at the busiest or most stressful of times, we often neglect to do the little things that really matter to other people. Something in us takes over and we stop being kind to other people even though we aren't even really taking the time to be kind to ourselves. Make the effort simply because it makes a difference. Take a split second out of your stressed out schedule to do something for someone that inconveniences you. All it took was a moment of remembering that we're all still human, a instant of connection in which a stranger reached out with the most basic of my needs, but it mattered in that moment and it matters now because it made me realise the importance of making small sacrifices for others.

Pick up somebody's pen. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Lesson 194. Choose life.

Tonight I share with you one of the lessons I hold closest to my heart.

I spent the first eight months of this year surviving via sleep walking. I was numb except for when I cried, which seemed all too often. I had days where getting out of bed was too much, I had hours where all I did was drive and then park to stare at streetlights, I had moments where breathing seemed like too much to ask and standing without my knees buckling was way beyond what I was capable of. I ate way too much. This is grief. And it was okay for a season, for a time. I don't look back with regret for the way my unraveling of grief began, we all have different journeys and that was where mine started. I shut down part of my heart, I didn't engage with anyone in lectures at Uni, I simply attended and returned home to the only other faces I saw. I'd call my mother in tears telling her I couldn't be in Auckland any more, and she'd tell me that I had to be, knowing better than I did that running does not fix anything. It was life without living, it was puffy eyes and washed out skin, it was two ams in tears too often.

I couldn't tell you where or how I worked it out, but somewhere in the events of the last few months, I started to live again. Life became more than just a routine. The small victories still lay in the basic needs of life, but I began again to see greater victories, like letting people in, and laughing with more than just my voice. It doesn't mean to say I am not still grieving- I am. It means to say that amidst the heartache it is possible to be more than just a shell. I took my time getting there, but gradually getting out of bed in the morning was less of a mountain. I started attending a Zumba class with a hilarious assortment of middle ages ladies, utilising the fruit bowl (which I once thought was a joke, like, really? I don't need a whole bowl for that nonsense. Get me a cookie jar) and forcing myself to be social. It wasn't easy, but it started to come easier once I realised why I was doing it.

I couldn't go on the way that I was. Not because it was hazardous, although it certainly wasn't good for me, it was more than that. I couldn't go on the way that I was and be okay with myself because in doing so, I wasn't living for the loved one that I lost. In no way am I saying there is a time frame or a certain way to go about this messy grief stuff, but I think we all reach a point where we realise that the best thing that we can do, is to live again.

To not let loss win, but instead to choose to love life once again. To get out of bed today and do something with someone who makes you laugh, or better yet, get out of bed today and do something for someone else. To choose to walk instead of taking the bus, just so that you might smile at a stranger or see the sunset on your way home and be reminded that no matter how grim it feels, there is joy to be found within each day, within each struggling soul.

Choose life. Let the little victories lead you to greater ones, trust in your ability to face the world. You don't have to be perfect, you can go out with your extra five kilograms of grief weight and you can even cry in front of people if you need to, you can struggle with the fact that life is moving forwards. Don't feel guilty, it's not moving on. It doesn't mean pretending or even brave facing, be honest and open and talk about how you feel. But it means you can't run any further or hide beneath your layers of pain, it means facing yourself and making a choice. This means taking a look at the life that you lost and asking yourself how you can best honour and those memories and the heart that was.

Choose life.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lesson 193. Let off fireworks with people you love.

Two hours and twenty four minutes. That's how long I sung really badly and really loudly last night to Westlife's first two albums. They were my only company on the way home to Tauranga for a couple of days, but they're arguably the best company one could even dream of so I wasn't complaining. I say arguably because after that John Mayer post I wrote I dreamt that he asked me on a date and Westlife have never asked me on a date in my dreams so it's up for debate.

It was Guy Fawkes, and on my drive home I got to experience something kind of incredible. As I drove through the middle of what felt like a thousand nowhere towns, I witnessed more fireworks shooting up into the sky than I'd ever seen before. I, like them, was only passing through. I, like them, only caught a moment of beauty before moving on. It was kind of a lonely moment, and it left me wishing there was someone in the passenger seat. Although it was merely a coincidence that I was alone, it made me realise how important it is to have the ones you love there to reach out to not just in the hard seasons, but in the moments where for a second all you can see is that perfect shot into the sky and the way it seems to light up every messy piece of the world. 

Each time I drove past a fireworks display, I saw silhouettes huddled around the smoke. I didn't hear them but my heart did, and I didn't see their arms but I felt the way they were wrapped around each other. I've learnt so much this year about appreciating people in the times where my life seems too hard to face alone,  but I've given little thought to the importance of having them there in the happy times. Do we forget to love on each other when things are good? Do we only spend time in the arms of the people we love when things are hard? I don't want tears to be the only reason for my shoulder or the shoulders of my friends, I want simple joy to be a reason to embrace one another. 

When life doesn't give you lemons but instead offers a breathtaking display of fireworks, make sure you're arm in arm with your loved ones. Tell people how much you appreciate them in every season, even if you feel like you don't 'need' to. I guarantee you'll want them there on Guy Fawkes, whether metaphorical or the 5th of November.

Let off fireworks with people you love. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Lesson 192. You love who you love.

John Mayer is coming to New Zealand and I don’t even know where to begin. Clearly, the only appropriate music to listen to when experiencing such elation is the man himself, so I popped on Paradise Valley tonight and lay on my floor.

I like to put my feet up on the ladder that leads to the turret and put my fairy lights on the setting where it feels like they’re breathing with me. I like to just be and I like to just believe that one day I’ll find someone with as much appreciation for John Mayer and fairy lights as me and when I do I’ll marry him before he even knows what he’s changing my last name from. Tonight as I lay on my floor and pretended that the rest of the world didn’t matter and that I don’t have a really scary exam tomorrow, I realised something in my heart that I’d often discussed in my head but never really felt before.

Naturally, it was John who prompted it. I say naturally because if you’re listening to John Mayer and you’re not having life revelations you’re probably not listening hard enough. "Who You Love" has been played 42 times in the last three days and I couldn't be happier about that. In the first verse, our boy John says "I've tried to run before, but I'm not running anymore, 'cause I've fought against it hard enough to know, that you love who you love" and its been running circles in my head ever since. I love the concept of stopping the running routine that so many of us have going on. I love the idea that its a good thing to sometimes just sit in that love and accept it for what it is, outside of the fear of rejection or the uncertainty of tomorrow. I love the idea that love is stronger than the ultimate outcome, or our human inclination to fight it or run from it. 

I think this is because today I realised that there’s more to be celebrated than just the happy ending. I say this because I’ve been sitting straight backed in the cold arms of emotional numbness for nine months and 14 days and I had the revelation that feeling something, regardless of the outcome or the end product, is something to celebrate. The surrender to hope, to happiness, to letting someone in, is something we should be proud of and acknowledge- whether or not we end up with his and hers towels. We place too much value on mystery, on the elusive idea that loving someone who is emotionally unavailable is attractive, but it’s simply not true. Maybe the most attractive thing we can do is be honest, and instead of hoping for something from someone, just be content in the fact that your heart isn’t so broken after all. Hey, even through the heartache and the loss and the grief, by the grace of God your heart is still beating and even a slight change of pace or a flutter is a victory. It is a triumph. It is not to be belittled nor forgotten in pining for tomorrow, it is to be savoured and held onto for today. Because even if you didn’t get your happy ending, you know your heart is stronger than your hurt and that means that one day, you will. You love who you love, so be like John and stop running. Even if it doesn't go the way you planned it would, letting in and loving is something that will always stand as reminder that regardless of the devastation and heartache of life, your heart has the capacity to overcome. 

You love who you love. 

Lesson 191. Surprise someone.

Like all good stories start, it was a fairly ordinary Wednesday night.

I was attempting to study when we decided that the best course of action for the evening was to put on girl pop and give having hips that don't lie a go, just like our girl Shakira did all those years ago. The curtains were open, so when there was a knock on the door I naturally assumed it would be the neighbours begging to be my friends. And by naturally assumed I meant I had a split second daydream about it before coming to the conclusion that one of the boys across the road probably just wanted to borrow something that they couldn't be bothered buying. So I told Jess to get the door because I was too involved in my bollywood inspired dance moves to Selena Gomez. 

I was wrong about who was at the door. And I don't even mean wrong in the way that it was actually a wayward traveller who was lost and stumbled across our flat in the rain looking for a place to stay, it wasn't even something I'd considered before (Yes, I've considered a wayward traveller coming to stay. I think it would be kind of nice if there wasn't such a murderous undertone to the concept. But there is, so I should probably stop entertaining the thought that it would be a lovely way to make a friend whose couch I could sleep on if I was ever in Slovenia) It was the biggest and best surprise ever.

One of my best friends took off to the UK earlier this year, she left at relatively short notice to go and be with family for what was going to be at least six months. But on Wednesday night, Jess opened the door and there was silence, so I poked my head around the corner and saw a face I never expected to see. Naomi had pulled off coming home with literally about three people in the country knowing, and I don't know how she did it but let me tell you, it was well worth it. 

I did a sort of salmon like jump into the air, then wrapped her up in my arms, then ran outside and back in and then to the other end of the house, and then behaved like David after dentist for the rest of the night. I was so happy. For that moment, the fact that I will never be remotely close to being Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter and that I had spent the night putting off study for a 20 percent test for a paper that I didn't and still don't understand, didn't matter at all. 

Do that for somebody. Change their day or their week or their life by doing something amazing spontaneously, bring joy by just showing up. Surprise someone.