I Am Messy Jessie

I am a dreamer, a traveler, a music maker, a lover, a story teller, a thought provoker……welcome to my big, beautiful MESS!

My Cycle.

Hello again. It’s been a while…and here we find ourselves in the middle of August. I have officially been 31 for two months. And let me tell ya, it feels great! Other than the fact that my body seems to be rapidly declining with age (i.e. dislocated shoulder, pinched nerve in my neck, plethora of bruises covering my skin), my spirits are high and I have much to be happy about. Of the many things going on in my life, the one that seems to be consuming most of my mental and emotional energy these days is the upcoming tour I’m about to embark on. Once again, my dad has asked me to accompany him on his latest musical adventure, and without hesitation I immediately accepted! It’s funny though…the initial excitement I feel is almost always quickly replaced by an “oh shit…what did I just commit to?!” feeling. It’s as if I need a reason to question whether or not I can pull it off, whether or not I want to.

This encounter is familiar, and yet it never seems to get easier. I say this because, even in knowing deep down that this is something I want, I always (ALWAYS!) meet up with my old pal, “resistance.” And let me tell you, he’s not my most favorite or encouraging of friends—that’s for sure! But as I sit with him, and hash it out, absorbing some of his negative energy while trying conserve my own positive energy, I’m presented with an opportunity to defend myself, defend my choices, defend why I feel the need to share my art with the world. As the temperature intensifies, I’m left with a decision to make. Do I listen to this manipulative yet obnoxious voice telling me to abandon ship? OR do I stick the course, see it through, and learn to trust myself and the choices I make?

Time continues on, as it always does, and I am reminded that this “bump” is simply part of a cycle, My Cycle.  I’ve been here before…and then just as it came in…out it goes. I feel the resistance and then DO IT ANYWAY. Because ultimately, there’s no greater feeling than being up on stage and getting to share a piece of who I am with a room full of open, supportive, complicated people (just like me!). I’ve learned that the more I share from a vulnerable place, scary as it may be (!!!), the stronger I actually become. And I become stronger because I know that my vulnerability is relatable, my vulnerability is what allows the rest of the world to know that they are not alone. And their vulnerability, their acceptance of who I am in that moment, reminds me that I AM NOT ALONE either.

What a beautiful Truth.

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“Hello 31.”

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On the eve of my 31st birthday, it just so happens to also be Friday the 13th and a full moon.  Now, if I was a particularly superstitious person, this might give me the heeby-jeebies…but alas, I am not.  I am simply someone who is exiting the start of a new decade and embracing my wiser, more experienced existence in the world.  As I inch closer to my day of birth, I can’t help but feel the urge to reflect on the past year.  It has been growth provoking, if nothing less, and deserves recognition as I prepare to leave it behind.

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Of the many things I learned during the 365 days I spent being 30, I would like to now recap 3 of the most important lessons.  And while it’s hard to narrow it down to just 3, I’d rather do THAT than spend all day at the computer. 

Here goes nothin’:

  1. It’s annoying as shit, but everything makes sense in retrospect.

Well, maybe not EVERYTHING, but most things that have lead me to a state of confusion are a little bit clearer now.  Looking back, I’m able to actually see why specific challenges presented themselves when they did.  I seem to keep bumping up against this lesson repeatedly…and I think after an entire lifetime of practice, I’m fiiiiinally starting to get it.  It’s no small feat—accepting the way things are when all you want to do is get rid of the horrible feelings that have surfaced.  But, that’s life.  We experience discomfort and then move forward.  Not that we really have a choice, but even if I did, I’m not so sure I’d pick the easy way out any more.  I mean, had I not experienced my unique collection of difficult moments last year, there’s no way I would be the person I am today.  And I just so happen to like her a lot. 

  1. Flexibility is invaluable.

Just when you start to get comfortable things change.  FACT.  A day that is sunny can grow dark with clouds in an instant.  FACT.  Like the weather our physical and emotional climates shift as well.  Sometimes we can sense the change coming on, like a strong wind blowing in a storm.  Other times, it hits us like a ton of bricks.  We have no time to prepare for what’s to come.  And it’s here where I’ve had the most difficulty. Living in a world that is simply unpredictable presents a varied set of problems (or shall I say opportunities?!).  Especially for someone like myself who has grown accustomed to the illusion of “being in control.”  But just as all illusions eventually dissolve, revealing a raw and tender underbelly, so too does the illusion of control.  And it is through this painful recurring experience that I’ve learned to surrender.  Because surrendering to what really is, rather than living in a false reality, ultimately makes me feel like I can handle whatever weather the day brings…rain, sun, snow, thunderstorms, wind…it’s all groovy. 

  1. We’re all just a bunch of giant babies.

Over the past year, working on myself has become a major priority.  In doing so, I have uncovered a lot of painful truths about my personal sensitivities and triggers.  It grows clearer and clearer as time carries me forward that many of my idiosyncrasies have developed out of habits I formed at an early age.  If I wanted attention, I found a way to get it.  If I wanted to be liked, I found a way make that happen.  If I saw someone else behaving in a certain way, I mirrored that behavior without really knowing why.  And while many (if not all) of these behaviors were important to my development as a child, they don’t quite seem to work as well in my adult life.  As a matter of fact, over this past year I’ve grown much more aware of the tendencies that don’t seem to serve a purpose any more.  Rather than constantly thinking about my immediate desires and how to get them met, I can now allow myself to take some time to figure out how I feel about something and what an appropriate way to respond might be. I don’t have this behavior totally mastered, and I probably never will (!!!), but as long as I continue to be aware of it and work towards a “me” that is less impulsive and reactive, and more spacious and thoughtful, I think I’ll be just fine. 

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Looking back on my year as a 30 year old has allowed me to also look forward.  I am reminded of all the unknowns that popped up unexpectedly.  I am also reminded of the ways in which I confronted those unknowns.  I feel a sense of pride as I write this entry.  It can be a scary thing, getting older.  But rather than being frightened by it, I want to embrace it!  As each year passes I find that I like myself more.  It’s as if my capacity for love and acceptance is constantly expanding. 

So…“Hello 31!”…I see you up ahead in the distance, slowly walking towards me…and I just wanted to let you know that I can’t wait to meet you! 

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If Tinder Is A Game, Then I Just Won.

 

After several months of swiping, and 10 Tinder dudes in the rearview mirror, the time has come for me to say goodbye and give my right pointer finger a rest. It’s been swell (thrilling even!), but truth be told, the game just isn’t as much fun when you’ve already slayed the Tinder dragon…crossed the drawbridge…and rescued the princess. I would know. And in case you’re curious, she is actually a he.  His name is Kevin.  And he is fan-fucking-tastic.

It took going through 9 different guys (each date successful in it’s own way) to find him.  I was just about ready to throw in the Tinder towel and bid farewell to any hopes and dreams I had of meeting my next main squeeze on this silly “hot or not” app, until I met lucky number 10.

I was getting ready to pack up and head south to play a couple shows…he was busy doing grown-up Lawyer things…we almost (ALMOST!) didn’t meet up.  Thanks to the Tinder gods, Kevin’s schedule opened up and presented us with a small window of opportunity.  The date was set, the details easily fell into place.  He seemed cool, but my expectations were low.  I mean, after already experiencing a plethora of blind dates, I was no rookie.  It had become clear to me over the past few months that whatever fantasy I had created about my current subject of interest was no more than some silly idealization.  And I wasn’t about to let yet another guy fall into that category.

Being the experienced Tinder babe that I was, I went into my date with Kevin thinking that it would probably be both the first and the last. And that was OK.  After all, I was really honing my first date skills.  By this point I didn’t even have to think about what I was going to say, or how I wanted to reveal who I was, or whether or not there was food in my teeth.  I was just gonna be me.  He could take it or leave it, and I would be absolutely fine with either outcome.  And I can’t help but think that it is precisely for this reason, this new “I just don’t give a shit” mentality, that our initial meeting was so successful.  I was just me.  He was just him.  And as it turned out, we kinda liked each other.  Like a lot.  Whoa.

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During that first date, we talked and talked and talked until we were the last patrons in the restaurant.  Still not ready or willing to get swept away by any ideas of what might become of “us,” I just hung out in the moment, enjoying my delicious bourbon cocktail and the ease with which our conversation flowed.  We had touched upon many subjects…but I guess the most important detail to recall is that we both enjoyed each other’s company enough to set up a second date.  Not just any second date, mind you, but an overnight in Guerneville.  The plan was to drive up on a Saturday afternoon, check into our (dog friendly!) cottage, head over to Jenner so that Banjo could run around on the beach, go out to dinner, take a cab to Forestville for an awesome show, yada yada yada…and then drive back to the bay on Sunday.  Was I ready for this?  Hmmm…maybe…maybe not.  Apparently there was only one way to find out.

Now, I could probably recap everything detail for detail, but I’m not so sure that’s where I want this blog to go.  I think the point in me sharing the above story is to remind myself that sometimes it’s really true—just when you’re least expecting it, someone awesome comes along and totally blows your mind.  I’m both confused by and thrilled with the outcome of my Tinder experience.  Could this really be happening? Did I actually meet someone who is not only tolerant of my quirks, but might even like them? Am I ready for this?  Can I continue to stay true to who I am and let things unfold naturally, trusting that the foundation we are laying is solid and real?

In my struggle to define the nature of my new relationship with Kevin, I’m happy to say that after many enjoyable adventures and nearly 2 months of getting to know this wonderful person, I cannot wait to see what happens.  Am I terrified? Sure am.  Am I excited? Yup, that too.  Am I enjoying the ride? Every second of it.

THANKS TINDER, for making a believer out of me!

And I Thought I Was A Wild Child?!

Hello world.  It’s been a while.  And to be perfectly honest, I have no excuse as to why I haven’t been blogging.  I guess I’ve just been living my life, which isn’t such a bad thing.  But for some reason, after returning from a nice run on this beautiful morning, I was inspired to take a seat in front of my computer and start smacking those keys.  Let’s see what comes out, shall we?

So. Yesterday (being Mother’s Day and all—I love you, Mom!), I decided to spend some quality time with my own daughter (Banjo, duh) and go for our favorite hike at Sibley Volcanic Preserve, up in the Oakland hills.  It could not have been a more picturesque day.  A slight breeze dropped the temperature from 80 to 75, and with a Peet’s iced coffee in hand and my entire body lathered in SPF 30 sunscreen, I was ready to hit the trail. 

Banjo and I know this hike well.  We visit it often with our friends Kyle and Bandit, and have spent several hours exploring different secret paths and coming up with stories about what might have happened at a specific site.  For example, there are about 5 labyrinths spread out, each unique in it’s own way.  The “Mother Labyrinth” (pun intended…it’s a Mother’s Day joke…get it?) is set down a steep fire road.  In the center is a pile of treasures (aka shells, feathers, bones).  Kyle and I decided that it had once been an Indian burial ground and the bones we found in the middle belonged to a human.  And just like that, the story came to life and we were hiking on sacred soil. 

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent…back to Mother’s Day.  So, Banjo and I complete our hike.  And it was just about as lovely as lovely gets.  After frolicking in the wilderness for about an hour and a half, we headed back to the car—happy, hungry, high on life. 

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Now, you see, the thing about my dog is she’s not your average pooch.  And one of the ways in which I’ve learned this (other than the tree climbing and bird killing incidents) is by observing her as she rolls down the windows in the back seat of the car.  No joke! At first I thought it was pretty cool.  “Wow, my dog must be really smart!”  Eventually the novelty wore off and it just seemed like a hazard to me, which is why I’ve started using the child lock.  For some reason I forgot to do this yesterday, and as we were driving home on Skyline Blvd we both spotted a young, bouncy deer.  Banjo, being highly attracted to all things bouncy, was naturally interested in joining (aka chasing and killing) this wild creature.  Before I knew what was going on, she had rolled down the back window and jumped through it onto the curvy mountain road.  To put it nicely, I JUST ABOUT SHIT MYSELF!!!

I pulled as far over to the side of the road as I could, which was difficult since there wasn’t any sort of shoulder to pull onto, and immediately put my hazards on.  Luckily Banjo didn’t get too far and I was able to grab her before any cars came around the bend from either direction.   Other that being covered in dust, she was pretty much un-phased.  Me, on the other hand, well, let’s just say I was less than pleased and will now double, triple, quadruple check the child lock on my windows.

Needless to say, what could have been an unfortunate end to a wonderful day, turned out fine (THANK GAWD!). 

Happy belated Mother’s Day to you and yours…for the sake of your own sanity and stress-level, I hope that the day didn’t involve a dog jumping through a moving car window or anything in that vein of “excitement.” 

 

Now, have a wonderful Monday and go hug someone you love!!!

Let’s Go Surfing.

 

I’ve noticed a change inside myself the past few days and it’s pretty easy to trace it back to its source.  The sun now stays up past 7:00pm…the days are warmer…the people I pass on the street appear happier…Spring seems to be embracing Oakland in a big, warm hug!  AND I LIKE IT!

It’s funny, though.  Yesterday when I woke up, my mood was horrendous.  I had been shaken by a bad dream and just didn’t enjoy the experience I was having when my eyes opened, and I swung my feet off my bed directly into my slippers.  My routine was the same as it always is.  Potty Banjo, brush teeth, get dressed, go for a walk.  And while I remained less than thrilled for the majority of the morning, my internal fog began to lift as the day unfolded.  I was determined to let myself have a bad morning, and allow for that to just be OK!  It was no disaster.  I simply woke up on the wrong side of the bed.  But that didn’t mean that my entire day had to suck because of it! 

Determined, without being too pushy, I pulled myself out of my minor funk and what was once heavy became light.  Hmmm.  This is new for me.  How the heck did I manage to pull this off?!  Although credit should go to none other than myself, it’s important that I share where I’m coming from and how my personal developments lead me to achieve what seems to be a big step!  

Over the past several months (as you can probably tell if you’ve been keeping up with my blog!), I’ve been doing a LOT of work on myself—exploring why I am the way I am.  Where did the ways in which I learned to function in the world come from?  Why do I tell myself stories that defend a false truth that only leads to me feeling negative?  What will happen if I challenge my knee-jerk behaviors and risk losing part of who I thought I was for the sake of learning more about who I’m going to be?! WHO AM I?!?

Ok…so…I don’t necessarily have the answers to the above questions.  What I’d like to point out, however, is that the fact that I’m willing to ask myself “what’s going on here?” is a step in the right direction.  Sure, I may not have it figured out yet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try.  

For example, let’s return to yesterday morning.  My mood was foul, my outlook grim, my attitude shallow.  The world was not my ally, but rather additional weight I had to carry on a day where everything already felt heavy.  There was the part of me who was experiencing this discomfort, squirming around trying to shake it off…and then there was the part of me who was observing this discomfort, gently watching how it naturally rolled in, like waves on a shore.  But just as the nature of a wave crashes and then becomes flat, so too did this feeling inside me.  It was as if I was both the beach upon which the wave crashed AND the wave itself.  Needless to say, it was a very strange experience.  How could this be true?  How could I feel something AND observe it at the same time?  Very interesting…

Today is a new day.  Plenty of waves await me.  The more I encounter, the better suited I am to know how to greet them.  Some days I may feel attached to the dramatic shape they take, incapable of distinguishing the space between each one, the space inside of me.  Other days I may feel more connected to my observational self, watching the tide rise and fall, as the sun comes up and then sinks into the horizon.  I can’t quite say where I am on my journey today.  All I know is that whatever comes my way I am capable of taking it on.  You are too!  Let’s go surfing…

Largo.

Sometimes you just don’t know.  You don’t know what’s around the corner…you don’t know how it’s going to make you feel…you don’t know who you’ll see when you get there…you don’t know a lot of things.  And that’s a FACT.  And while I don’t always like this Truth about life, there’s nothing I can do but surrender to it.  Which I guess isn’t such a bad thing after all.  I mean, if I give in to not knowing, what do I have to lose?

Well, this is what I have to lose!  All of the assumptions I’ve made about the way I am and how my life is supposed to unfold, and all of the stories I’ve ever told myself (it’s a lot, believe me!) were wrong.  I’ve been wrong for almost my entire life.  And that’s a tough pill to swallow.

But what makes “not knowing” so difficult?!  I think it’s because I have such a hard time relinquishing the illusion that I actually have control.  Control over what’s going to happen to me, control over the people in my life and how they receive me, control over my “destiny” (or whatever you want to call it).  But the truth is, I don’t.  None of us do.  So if I’m aware of this and I desperately want to change the way I live my life, why is it so damn hard? And why am I so afraid of my own potential?

I think the first step to embracing “not knowing” is being kind and compassionate towards myself–loving myself just as I am, right now.  I am flawed in many ways, but my flaws are beautiful and unique.  My flaws have brought me to this moment where I’m questioning the very things that have made me ME.  But while my old skin doesn’t seem to fit right any more, loose in some spots, tight in others, shedding it all at once completely terrifies me.  If I am not longer who I always thought I was…THAN WHO AM I?  Deep, I know. Whoa.

And although I may not know in this very moment, I’m learning.  As it turns out, I like quiet time.  I like being by myself.  I like living in a tidy environment where things have an order.  I like routine and structure.  I also like dinner parties and game nights and going to shows with friends!  I guess I never realized until NOW that I can be both things: quiet and­ outgoing, soft and strong, relaxed and energized.  And what totally blows my mind is that I’m not only those things, but sooooo much more!  There are parts of me that I have yet to encounter.

So, I return to this new truth that I’ve learned: I DON’T KNOW.  It might not totally fit right at first, and I may want to wiggle and squirm and do everything in my power to shake it off.  But no matter how hard I try, it’s not going away.  And I’m not either.  So we’re just going to have to learn to get along.

A few days ago, the morning after our show in Napa, my dad, my sister and I were sitting in his hotel room reading passages out lout from books we personally enjoyed.  Something in me bubbled up and I felt the need to share the below excerpt; it’s from a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  If you are at all struggling with being more committed to your life and what you’re meant to be/do, I highly recommend reading this.  Here is a taste:

“One night I had this dream:

I was part of the crew of an aircraft carrier. Only the ship was stuck on dry land… The sailors knew how screwed up the situation was; they felt it as a keen and constant distress. The only bright spot was there was a Marine gunnery sergeant on board nicknamed ‘Largo…’ The one guy on the ship who knows exactly what’s going on, the tough old sarge who makes all the decisions and actually runs the show.

But where was Largo? I was standing miserably by the rail when the captain came over and started talking to me. Even he was lost. It was his ship, but he didn’t know how to get it off dry land. I was nervous, finding myself in conversation with the brass, and couldn’t think of a thing to say. The skipper didn’t seem to notice; he just turned to me casually and said, ‘What the hell are we gonna do, Largo?’

I woke up electrified.”

I was so moved when I first read this passage that I began to cry.  Sharing it with my family evoked a similar feeling.  I felt tears well up in my eyes.  “I’m Largo,” I thought to myself.  Then my dad said the same thing out loud, “I’m Largo.”  My sister too!  We’re all Largo.  We just have to surrender.  We just have to let go of everything we’ve ever clung to, everything we’ve ever thought to be true about who we are.  Because if I really am Largo, then there’s a lot more about myself that I’m about to discover.

Skunked.

It was around 10pm on a Monday night.  I was returning from a first date, full of warm-and-fuzzies from the pleasantly surprising chemistry that had sparked between this new boy and me.  It had been a successful and enjoyable evening.  Just as we walked into my place, I opened the kitchen door, as per usual, so that Banjo could be freed from her prison for “potty time.”  With a graceful twist of my hand, I opened the front door and my beast darted out into the yard.  This behavior is not abnormal.  In fact, she does this often—darts into the front yard, a girl on a furious mission to eat, smell, or kill anything that moves. Only this time her mission was to confront and attempt to destroy a nasty black and white creature that was playing in my bushes.  And unfortunately, it did not end well for Banjo.  I would definitely say the skunk won this battle. 

 

For the sake of privacy, we’ll call my date “Mr. Monday.” Amidst all the stinky chaos, Mr. Monday was a real trooper.  While Banjo began to foam at the mouth (the skunk sprayed her directly in the face!), I ran and put my rain boots on and grabbed her shampoo.  This was gonna get cold, and wet, and messy.  Mr. Monday held her down while I attempted to lather her up as aggressively as possible, in hopes that a little extra elbow grease might help.  It didn’t.

In the end, nothing seemed to work.  She smelled/s horrible.  I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced skunk juice like this before.  Banjo stunk, I stunk, Mr. Monday stunk, my house stunk, everything inside my house stunk.  There was really no way around it.

So now that it’s been just over a week, and the stench is slowly fading away, every time I get a whiff of the grossly familiar smell, I can’t help but giggle to myself.  Because, while it may suck being surrounded by such an unrelenting odor, it was actually kinda fun experiencing something so dramatic and exciting with someone new.  And while I would have been fine ending the night with the sweet smell of a glowing candle, we were dealt “skunk stench” instead…and a silly story to boot!  LUCKY US!

It Happened.

For those of you who are curious about my dating life, I have three words for you: I’m On Tinder.  I have no shame in this admission.  It’s actually been a lot of fun so far.  I’m learning a lot about my taste in men and how I operate on a first date…both important things to discover about one’s self. At first I was skeptical of this infamous dating app, but after spending some time getting to know it this past week, my views have shifted and I’m now on a man hunt like none I’ve been on before. 

Here are the rules of the game:

1)     In order to create an account, you must allow Tinder to access your Facebook profile to retrieve the use your photos.

2)     Once you have connected the two accounts you then choose which photos you want your potential Tinder suitors to see.  You can post up to 6 photos.  I guess there is some strategy in this move.  Mine was just to pick pictures that accurately represented me in a multifaceted way.  It’s become apparent that other people have chosen a different strategy when picking their shots, and that’s fine, however it’s often lead to me “swiping left,” which I will elaborate on shortly.

3)     You then select an age range with which you would like to be matched, as well as the distance between you and the people you are scanning.  For example, I initially put 30 miles, but when it came down to the reality of it all, I knew the likelihood of me traveling 30 miles for a cup of coffee with some dude I don’t even know was slim.  My distance now reads 15 miles, in case you were wondering.

4)     Next comes the fun part.  Once your profile is up and running, you then get to actively participate.  Initially I thought that it seemed unfair to merely judge someone based on his physical appearance.  I mean, I sure didn’t want to be judged solely on the way I looked, but I was willing to try it out.  And with the swipe of a finger all negative theories magically vanished.  I was hooked.  SWIPE LEFT if you’re not into them, SWIPE RIGHT if you are.

5)     If both you and the person whose pictures you enjoy have swiped right, you are notified that “It’s a Match”…and that you “like each other.”  Every time this notification goes off, without fail, little warm and fuzzies bounce around in my tummy.  I just can’t help it.  And in reality, it doesn’t really mean anything.  This person doesn’t KNOW me and I don’t KNOW them, but it still feels good to know that we both SWIPED RIGHT. 

6)     At this point you have the option to start messaging each other.  For the most part I’ve let the guys initiate contact, and they’ve all been pleasant conversations.  No perverts or inappropriate banter so far, which is surprising in a way. I’ll keep you posted on this!

7)     Once you’ve gotten a feel for whether or not you think you might get along with someone in person, you have several choices.  You can a) exchange numbers and bring the conversation into “real life”; b) plan to meet up; c) continue communicating through tinder; OR d) all of the above.  And I’m happy to say that I have tried all of these options with 100% success rate. 

 I’m not going to go into full detail about my “meet-ups” because I think I deserve a little bit of privacy, but because I’m sure all of you are dyyyyyying to know, I’ve met 2 people in person.  Both have been lovely conversationalists and have emitted a positive energy.  I’m looking forward to meeting up with Tinder #3 this week for a climb (yes…we will be saving each other from falling to our death in the climbing gym!)…

But just like I needed a break from Facebook, it’s looking like Tinder and I might need some space in the near future.  Uh oh.  Until then, I’m going to continue to swipe away!

Hello (again) Wall.

“I yam what I yam and I yam what I yam that I am/

And I gotta lotta muscle and I only gots one eye/

And I never hurts nobody and I’ll never tell a lie/

Top to me bottom and bottom to me top/

That’s the way that it is ‘til the day that I drop, what I am/

I yam what I yam”

-Popeye

 

Change is in the air.  I can just feel things moving around. It’s as if the moment I got comfortable with where I was, almost as if on queue, the winds begin to shift.  This past week has been very informative and thought provoking.  I feel as if I’m still me, but a different version of myself—a version that does more observing and less reacting, someone who feels deeply, as I always have, but allows for some space so that I don’t become so attached to my feelings.  And while this identity change is exciting and intriguing, I’m also finding it a little loose.  I guess I still need to grow into it!

This past Monday, I returned to my climbing gym and faced the wall, once again.  IT was familiar, which induced warm and fuzzy feelings, but I was different.  I hadn’t climbed in over 2 months, and my body, once strong and capable, now felt weak and foreign.  But I was ready for this challenge.  I was ready to listen to my new body, and allow it to teach me its latest set of needs—one of which I knew was bound to be patience (It always is!).

I reached out and touched the wall in front of me.  It was just as I remember it being: a smooth, tan service that shot straight up towards the sky, speckled with colorful holds which varied in shape and size.  Some of the same routes were still up from before my trip to Africa, and I greeted them as if they were old friends of mine.  “I know you,” I thought to myself. 

But the moment I wrapped my fingers around the familiar curves and edges, tightly hugging these old friends of mine, I immediately wanted to take back that thought and replace it with another one.  “I used to know you,” felt more appropriate.  But the “I” that used to know the wall had changed.  The “I” that had built a relationship with the wall, built a connection with her own body in relation to the wall, was different.  I decided to keep climbing anyway.

Hand over hand, I slowly inched my way towards the top.  It was harder than I remembered it being, but also a known experience.  I had been here before.  I had been a beginner and had gotten better over time.  What quickly became apparent, though, was the fact that I was not a beginner, but rather beginning again.  I knew what to do, my body knew what to do, but I had to give my “self” time to RE-discover it. 

The next day I went back to the gym.  I started out on a climb that I thought was going to be easier than it actually turned out to be.  And instead of pushing myself to finish the route in one fell swoop, I took a deep breath and realized that what I really needed was to rest.  “Taaaake!” I called below to my belay partner.  I would give myself this gift.  I would allow myself to actually utilize my partner and the inherent support they provided for me.  After about a minute I was ready to continue my ascent.  And before I knew it I had successfully made it to the top. 

Had I measured my success according to my old system of evaluation, I would have come up short. And in coming up short, I would have attached a multitude of negative emotions to my experience—“what a joke!” “you call that climbing?!” “I thought you were better than that!” “pathetic!”…and so on and so forth.  And while I was awfully tempted to take the bait, I decided to slow my mind down so that it didn’t feel as compelled to cling to such ridiculous stories. 

Instead, I wanted to create my own story.  One that was truthful and appropriate. One that would build me up and encourage me to keep trying.  One that would remind me that where I am today is not where I’ll be tomorrow, or the next day, or the next!  I am constantly developing and growing and stretching.  And while it is often more uncomfortable than not, it’s the only thing I can really count on! 

Today I will meet the wall once again. I will approach it with curiosity and openness, rather than caution and judgment.  I will do my very best, but will also keep in mind that my “best” today will not be the same as it was the last time I climbed, or sang, or played my guitar, or simply had a conversation with someone. 

After all, like the wise Popeye once said: “I yam what I yam what I yam!”

And ain’t that the damn truth!

When I Say Yes.

I’ve developed the habit of saying “no” to things before I even give myself half a second to think about if that’s how I really feel.  For instance, if a friend asks me if I want to go do (a) activity with them on (b) day/night, my knee-jerk reaction is to decline.  What I’m learning about myself is that my immediate response tends to be premature, and if I actually took some time to think about whether or not something appeals to me/works with my schedule, my answer might vary.  Yesterday I found myself in a position to experiment with this reactive tendency, and unintentionally decided to challenge it.

Lindsay, an old friend from high school, was in town for work and we had made plans to get together for a drink on her last night.  After receiving a text from her asking if we were still on, I automatically began crafting a response that gave me an out: “I really want to try and make it, but I have a lot going on today.  Can I check in with you later?  If I’m able to get all my errands done, I still want to come see you!”  Before pressing send, I thought about what I had just written.  Total bullshit.  If I was being completely honest with myself (and her), the answer I should have typed (and eventually did) was: “Yes!  Can you confirm the details of where/when I should meet you?”  Luckily, I didn’t act too soon and was able to correct my message before sending my response.  I began to wonder why in the world I would have automatically written something I didn’t mean, something that ultimately prevented me from spending time with someone I wanted to see, doing something I wanted to do.  This sparked my curiosity.

Minutes later, as if the gods were targeting me (and my impulsive alter ego) on this lovely Sunday, my phone rang.  It was another friend, Megan, whom I hadn’t seen in months. We were long overdue for a good catch-up.  It just so happened that she was hanging in the city, and was available for a walk and a chat that afternoon.  Something clicked in me and I decided that this was also an activity I wanted to do…so I said, “YES!” to it.  “Yes I will come to the city early…Yes I will head to your brother’s house…Yes I’m bringing Banjo and would love to take her and Luna on a walk…YES, YES, YES!”  The day was unfolding more perfectly than if I had strategically planned it.

Ok, I’ve gotta back up a sec here.  I forgot to mention that earlier in the day I had taken Banjo to the Berkeley Marina, an expansive piece of land where dogs run around off-leash!  This is a huge deal, simply because Banjo and I are both new to the whole “off-leash” thing…and our past experiences with it have been rocky (i.e. dead birds, tree climbing, cat chasing, etc).  So, while this new adventure was a definite risk, it proved to be one worth taking.  Not only was our trip to the park successful because Banjo did so well, but I was also able to practice walking on uneven ground with my newly-healed foot!  Horray!!!  Turns out, saying “yes” to this experience, one that I was pretty unsure of, proved to be the right thing to do.  Now back to the afternoon in San Francisco.

As I packed a day bag, preparing for our trip into the city, I began to think about when I first started contemplating getting a dog.  It was important to me to find one that would be compatible with my lifestyle, not one that I would have to sacrifice all of my favorite activities for in order to make it work.  But how could you know what it would be like until you actually had the dog?  How could you predict what the dog’s personality was going to be and what type of nature it was going to have?  Well, the answer is you can’t.  There’s no way to know until you’re actually in the moment, figuring it out. Yesterday was that moment for me.  With Banjo in the back of my 4Runner, and me in the front, blasting my new song (on repeat, hehe), we were off to the city to test the limits!  First stop: hanging with Megan.

After a quick visit with Brandon (Megan’s Brother) and his girlfriend, Olivia, we headed out on a lovely afternoon walk up to Buena Vista Park.  It had been years since I’d spent time on that little hill covered in redwoods.  Needless to say, the company and conversation were both wonderful. My only complaint about that part of the day is that Megan and I didn’t get enough time together!  But since I was on a schedule, Banjo and I bid her and Luna (Olivia’s dog) farewell, and hopped back in the car.  Next stop: Fort Mason to visit Lindsay at the art show.

I was curious how this next phase of our day would go.  I knew that the show was “dog friendly” but I didn’t know how “people friendly” Banjo would be.  Since the day I got her back in September, it was obvious that Banjo was a sensitive girl, one who needed to take time getting to know someone before she trusted him/her.  Over the past few months her level of comfort and ease around strangers had grown significantly, but this was going to be a new, stimulating environment.  We both entered the Festival Pavilion bright-eyed and cautious.

I immediately found Lindsay, gave her a big squeeze and then began to check out the exhibits.  Banjo did great!  She was a little timid and untrusting at first, but stuck by my side the whole time, licking crumbs off the floor and sniffing her way down the long corridor.  People kept approaching us, proclaiming: “What a beautiful dog!”  “She’s so elegant and well behaved.”  “What an interesting breed.”  “I spotted her across the room; she’s got a wonderful gait.”  The compliments kept pouring in.  I know it’s funny, but I was shocked.  It was a cool thing to both witness and be a part of.  I sure was proud of my girl.

Once Lindsay was done for the day, we headed to The Social Study for a glass of wine.  As I walked away from my car and towards the bar, Banjo’s yelps made it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand: spending a little bit of time enjoying the company of an old friend.  I wanted to say to her, “don’t worry sweet girl.  I’m coming right back!”  But I knew that she’d never really be able to hear me, so instead I just reminded myself that she’s a dog, not a human being, she will be fine.  And of course she was.  I was able to thoroughly enjoy my visit with Lindsay, and was reminded time and again that “Yes!” had been the right answer earlier that day.

As we wrapped things up at the bar, my friend, Caitlin, texted me.  Turns out she was also in town, visiting from New York, and was free to meet for dinner…another wonderful surprise!  So when I left Lindsay, I headed up Fillmore Street to meet Caitlin and indulge in a burger and a beer.  With Caitlin and I, we always seem to just pick up where we left off.  It was a fun, brief dinner that was satisfying on multiple levels.  Our date ended with her walking me to my car, meeting Banjo and listening to the latest mix of my new song.  And after a long hug goodbye, I drove back over the Bay Bridge, reflecting on my fulfilling day.

Had I said “NO!” to Lindsay, I would have never had the opportunity to say “YES!” to all these other things.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that, rather than letting my knee-jerk reaction get the best of me and dictate my life, sometimes it’s helpful to just sit and think about how I really feel. Maybe I don’t actually want to do something…but maybe I DO.  And when I say “YES!” to the universe, maybe it will say “YES!” back.  

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