adventure is out there

Infectious disease is one of the few genuine adventures left in the world. The dragons are all dead and the lance grows rusty in the chimney corner…About the only sporting proposition that remains unimpaired by the relentless domestication of a once free-living human species is the war against those ferocious little fellow creatures, which lurk in the dark corners and stalk us in the bodies of rats, mice, and all kinds of domestic animals; which fly and crawl with the insects, and waylay us in our food and drink and even in our love.

– Hans Zinsser, 1934

 

adventure is out there

maybe

maybe 30 is the new 20
(or at least 25).
maybe the sun shines everyday
(somewhere).
maybe a nap is all we really need
(and water).

maybe he comes
maybe he doesn’t.
maybe you forget when you
stopped caring.

maybe
you make yourself a home
within the walls of your own
body.

you make
a cup of tea and
curl up in the valley
of your thighs.

you say,
“i’ve never felt better”
and this time
you believe her.

 

maybe

grace under pressure

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Lately I have not been living up to my name. There has been no grace shown to my loved ones or myself as work and life seem to keep throwing lowballs all around.

I’ve been reading/hearing a lot about grit lately. Passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long term goals. In the freakonomics podcast on the topic, grit expert Angela Duckworth says there are four traits that gritty people have in abundance: interest, practice, purpose, and hope.

And I’m hung up on hope. Or lack thereof.

I am not a particularly gritty person. My score on the grit scale was a measly 2 out of 5. It comes out to about the 10th percentile of the general population.

Two things stuck out to me as I listened to the podcast, though. The first being the idea of reference bias. We are our own worst critics, and the standards we judge ourselves by are probably much higher than objective measures. When I think about how much grit it takes to finish medical school, run a half marathon, and start over after a divorce,I am reminded that my 2/5 is relative, and also an underestimation of my grittiness. Yes, I get distracted easily and new projects will always be more fun to me than following things through to completion, but that does not make me worthless.

Which brings me to revelation #2: Shame is not a productive emotion.

In yoga, they are always telling you to let go of things that do not serve you. Shame is a heavy load that most of bear unnecessarily. I know it’s broken me more times than I care to count.

Duckworth goes on to say that it’s important to learn to substitute nuance for novelty. It will always be human nature to prefer the thrill of something new. But there is importance and even pleasure in the nuances. I think once you let go of the shame, it’s easier to focus on the interest and the purpose of your goal.

So shed your shame, feelings of guilt or worthlessness or not-enoughness. Feel yourself become a little lighter. We all need a little grace sometimes.

grace under pressure

A good day

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Photo: Spotted in Zilker Park, Austin

Maybe not for the U.S.A.*,

But I had a good day. A great day.

My failure to speak up during a meeting last week at my internship resulted in me blowing off class today and spending it at a middle school, helping eighth graders learn their purpose and practice gratitude.

It sounds so extremely lame, and I’m sure some of the students felt that way (they sure acted like it, anyway), but I wish something like that had been offered at my school. I saw these baby adults** stand up and read their purpose statements, recognizing their gifts and wanting to use them to make the world better. And it gave me hope.

We also talked about gratitude in a way I want to incorporate more in my life. They wrote down a list of 15 things they were grateful for***, and next to each, they wrote down what they were going to do to express their gratitude. I know that love without action is meaningless. But, it’s a logical next step I frequently fail to take.

So let’s take it a step further. Express gratitude rather than just being grateful. Bake those cookies for your friend who always listens to you vent without judgment. Take a walk to stretch your hard-working body. Sit outside in the sun after a rainstorm and do your part to keep the air clean. Not because we have to, but because we want to.


*Politics should not be reduced to an asterisk, but it’s the most I can muster without falling apart right now. Here’s a link to call your representatives. Participation is required of responsible citizens: https://5calls.org/
**so many of them in Lululemon yoga pants for some reason. When did that become a thing in middle schools?
***One kid wrote down “lemon” 15 times. I didn’t ask.

A good day

so this is the new year

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In less than 30 days, I will have been on this earth for 30 years. It’s a big number for me, and one that I’ve been self-indulgently thinking about a lot this past year (among many other things).

When do birthdays stop being fun?

I hope never.

My beautiful friend, who is a year younger than me, made herself a “30 things to do before I turn 30” list, and it’s inspired me to do the same. I realize I’ve given myself a lot less time, but 15 before 30 didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

The list started off ridiculously practical – a “to do” list of all the things I’ve been putting off for ages. But, they stand for all the ways I feel weighed down. If I’m going to be my best self in 2017, I figured I’d better start somewhere.

I wouldn’t say I’m a private person, but I am deeply self-conscious (is anyone surprised?). Even putting this list out into the world seems incredibly vulnerable, but I need you to keep me accountable. Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear, right? I am excited to write about my progress and fill in the infinite pages of this space again. Because I’ve missed it.

Last weekend, I spotted this on a Post-It stuck onto a classmate’s bathroom mirror. It was from a book I had read in college, and it’s something that’s stuck with me ever since. It’s always relevant, but seems so especially important to say right now:

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” – Paul Farmer

so this is the new year

For Charlene

image

When I picture you in my head you are always dancing. Dancing stone cold sober with our drunk asses, dancing with me at the death cab concert at rimac, and dancing in the car on the way to get burritos.

I wish you could see yourself as we saw you. The same girl we all knew could change the world and made our lives better by being in it. You were a pain in the ass sometimes, I’ll admit it, but it was hard not to love you. You kept in touch with all of us, and always made a point to see me when you were passing through whatever town I was in. Your adventures inspired us to see the world, and the passion with which you lived your life inspired me to ask more of mine.

It’s hard for me to refer to you in past tense.

It is such a waste, Charlene. There’s no other way to put it. A waste of a beautiful person who didn’t understand her worth or was perhaps burdened by it. A waste of a brilliant mind and a heart with so much love to give. A waste of the metabolism that could eat combo #3’s with double rogan josh from punjabi tandoori on the daily and still rock anthro’s smallest size.

I miss you. We all miss you.

I can’t help but believe we’ve failed you. Not individually, but collectively. The grad program that didn’t provide you enough support or guidance. All the times each of us shrugged off a request to visit or chat because we were too busy. Our naive faith in your strong spirit – the same one that pushed you to find a cure for AIDS, and also made you feel like you could battle life alone. Until you couldn’t.

I so wish I had come to visit you on your birthday. That I had heard the urgency in your texts and had dropped everything and run to you. I don’t know if it would have changed things. I don’t know which answer I want to hear.

To me, you’re not gone. You’ll never be gone. You’ll always be dancing – bobbing to some Format song on the beach at dusk, eyes closed, hands up, shiny black hair swinging around your face as the sun sets behind you. 

For Charlene