life as i know it

"...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -Sylvia Plath

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Exciting News and Needing Help Please!!!

First of all, I have exciting news to share...David and I are now engaged! It was a magical weekend overflowing with perfect moments.

Secondly, I need your help please. I have been tired of blogger for quite a while now and wanting to switch over to typepad. Tonight I made the decision and set up a typepad account...however, I desperately need help in figuring out how to add images, personal touches, etc. I really want to make my new blog a place where I enjoy coming, so I am asking please for your help. I am technologically retarded...seriously. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. And by the way, my new blog address is:

Please come visit and help me make this new blog a place that inspires creativity and soulfulness. Love to you all!

Monday, November 05, 2007

gift of childhood innocence

At what age do we lose our blissful childhood innocence? When does the world cease to be one giant playground? When do simple pleasures such as kicking up piles of crinkled autumn leaves stop being seen as simple pleasures?

I think about the kids I know and I recognize how different life experiences can lead to a premature loss of innocence. But then I think back to my own childhood and I have no recollection of any particular experience that stopped the steps of my innocence mid-stride. I cannot remember why it happened, and yet I also cannot remember a time when the world was nothing more than a playground for me. I remember my childhood, but my memories are filled with feelings of sadness and regret for the little girl who spent her hours worrying about being away from her parents and living in a state of chronic fear. Fear was the encompassing feeling I remember from childhood and it has continued to haunt me all these years. I can tell you all the specific fears, those vast and myriad fears, and yet I still cannot tell you from where or what or who they originated.

A few simple pleasures this weekend brought about these thoughts. Our friends that live across the street have the two most adorable little girls ever. Their daddy brought them over Friday evening and while the guys hung out, I played with the girls. Inspecting the autumn leaves that adorned the ground, the oldest delighted in naming the colors in her baby 3-year-old voice…brown, yellow, red. It became a game of collection, gathering the leaves in their tiny fists and crumbling the dead ones, then pushing them down a drain in the sidewalk. A baby’s 2-year-old “bye bye’s” to the leaves as they vanished from sight. The tree branches, 4 or 5 feet above the ground were pronounced “too high”, so I took turns flying the girls up to the branches where they would shake the leaves in the hope of helping Nature adorn the ground with more yellow and red treasures. So simple and yet the girls were mesmerized with this activity for a near half-hour. It was the first time I remember feeling such a powerful sense of freedom and pure joy in quite a while. No thoughts or worries, only pure laughter and twinkling smiles and a heart filled to the brim as tiny arms clasped around my neck and baby-soft faces snuggled next to mine. Literally, moments of pure bliss.

In another month, I will get to spend an entire weekend with my darling niece for her first birthday. In the time since I last saw her, she has learned the art of crawling and grown her first baby teeth. She babbles on the phone to me now, that nonsense jibberish of baby talk that just lights up my heart. And when I tell her how much her Aunt Tara loves her, I can hear her laughs and imagine her own little world of childhood innocence. But my heart aches that I am so far away, that I cannot hold her and feel her tiny arms around my neck or her baby-soft face snuggled next to mine. I am counting the days until I see her in all her sweet innocence, and her mama, my soul mate and eternal best friend.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to many more afternoons and evenings with the two precious baby girls across the street. And I am learning more and more each day the true beauty and happiness that children bring to the world. The world may not always be a pretty and peaceful place, but all of these darling babies bring more happiness to my heart than they will ever know. That sense of internal fulfillment is a feeling I am only just coming to truly know, but the lessons I am learning are indeed a life-long gift.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

early morning blessing

It is early morning, still dark and strangely quiet in these suburban streets. The rain falls softly, slowly, steadily, a blessing for the worried and weary. The ground laps at each drop, begging for more. The corner streetlamp casts a yellow light, reflected in the shiny black pavement, a miniature pool proudly forming, its abstract, fluid form appearing as waves in the slight breeze. For one moment, standing in the rain, my mind was empty. As the rain to the earth, that emptiness was my blessing today.

Life has begun to move too fast, a race against time and growth, a marathon of responsibility. With each step, I fight for freedom and creativity, wisdom and self-nurturance. My body aches for sleep, my soul for soothing. My spirit roars in a protest of feminine wildness, but the sound is muted. I can barely hear myself anymore and it is a sound I long to hear.

I love my drive to the mountains. Once or twice each week, I awaken in the darkness and begin the journey northbound to a place where silence is broken only by Nature’s whispering. Life slows down and I am blessed by each turning shade of the leaves. The turning is slow this year, announcing its own protest against the unseasonable heat and insatiable thirst. Through amber-tinted glasses, Autumn feels closer than the naked eye allows. Through these lens, I am able to see the threads of gold woven ever so slightly, the splashes of red haphazardly painted on the canvas of the horizon. Through these lens, I am granted another moment of blessing.

I would love to say that I am reveling in many moments of such blessing, that the journey I am now walking is one in peace and balance. I would love to write those words because that is the experience I ache for in the deepest parts of my soul. But I remove the lenses, and I am faced with the suffocating pain of the world. When I reach my destination in the mountains, I spend my hours holding the pain of innocent children. Stories of violation, brutality, and the most basic forms of human betrayal hit me in tumultuous waves. I feel incompetent, helpless, lost in a maze that contains a hidden door to which no one has the key. On Thursday mornings, I am faced with more stories of pain, teachings on grief and trauma that brush too closely against the fragile fabric of my own memories. The afternoon discussions of oppression leave me in a state of defiance followed by exhaustion. I am learning more than I could have ever imagined and yet that learning requires tremendous self-sacrifice.

It is time to venture northbound again. Daylight is slowly creeping into the corners of another long day. The pain of the world awaits, as does the persistence to battle the feelings of anger and hopelessness lingering beneath the surface. Another day, another opportunity. I am thankful for Nature’s reprieve and my own moments of blessing.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

what are your beliefs?

One of the things I am really enjoying about my schooling this year is the plethora of thought-provoking questions. Questions designed to make us explore our own inner selves, beyond the surface facades, deeper than the boundaries of familiarity and comfort. Questions that challenge what it is we know, what it is that we have always known. Questions that push us toward a greater, more expansive knowing.

We are born and then raised in an environment in which our core beliefs, values, and expectations develop within a relatively condensed system of family and community. Some people are raised in areas of greater diversity, embracing open-mindedness from an early age. Others of us spend our formative years in a fairly homogeneous group, limited and sheltered in our understanding of those people and places and beliefs that are different from our own. Regardless, we are all confronted with the boundaries of our beliefs at some point during our lives. And many of us find ourselves in a state of confusion at that point. What have we been taught to believe, to value, to expect from others and from the world? From our earliest teachings, which ones have we continued to claim as our own and which ones have we abandoned in favor of alternative views? And of the beliefs that each of us hold today, which ones have been challenged, confronted, questioned, or debated?

We are all guilty of making judgments. It is a natural human trait, albeit one that many of us would rather believe we do not possess. We see a disheveled person walking down the street and we tend to make a judgment about that person. We are apt to assume that the person is homeless, or lost, or mentally ill. We see a beautiful young woman wearing designer clothes, a scowl on her face as she avoids making eye contact with those around her. We are apt to assume that she values material things, is wealthy, and perhaps snobbish. Everyday we see people and we make automatic judgments about them based on what we see. It is a natural reaction and yet our assumptions may be quite far from the truth. The disheveled man walking down the street might have a home and a family and a good job; perhaps his car broke down and his appearance is the result of his attempts to fix his car before venturing to a nearby store for assistance. The beautiful woman in designer clothes may be a very caring and generous person, completely ambivalent about material possessions; perhaps she bought her clothes at a thrift shop and perhaps her scowl and lack of eye contact reflects timidity or a state of personal distress. The fact is that despite what we see, despite what we believe to be true, our beliefs and our assumptions are often more a reflection of our earliest teachings than a truly accurate perception of reality.

Working in the field of clinical psychology, it is imperative that we examine our own beliefs, our values, and our assumptions. If we do not explore these facets of our inner selves, we risk making faulty assumptions and making negative judgments of our patients. The attractive man seeking therapy after a recent diagnosis of HIV may not be gay or abuse drugs. The thirty-five year old woman who continues to live with her parents may not have any social problems or dependency issues. The adolescent dressed all in black with multiple tattoos and body piercings may be incredibly intelligent and well-behaved and have the kindest and most gentle spirit. If we sat with any of these people holding preconceived ideas based on their physical health or living situation or appearance, we would do a grave injustice. And yet we must be aware of how deeply ingrained our beliefs truly are. We must be willing to look at them directly and ask ourselves not only what it is that we believe and also why it is they we hold these beliefs? And then we must challenge them, challenging the very essence of ourselves in the process.

So, as I engage in my own process of self-exploration, I challenge each of you to think as well…What are your beliefs?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

defining daily life

“What if we didn’t define our daily life by what we accomplish?”

As I sat in class this afternoon, fighting the grogginess of insomnia’s aftereffects, I was struck by these words. In the context of a discussion centered on the values of productivity and success that are so prevalent in western societies, this question was raised. But far beyond the specific class discussion, this question set me forth on a broader path of curiosity and introspection.

Indeed, what if our daily lives were not defined by how much we accomplished or the notches of success we proudly mark before retiring for the night? What if we stopped focusing so much on checking off each item on the to-do list? What if we re-created our own individual meanings for the word “accomplishment”? Is smiling at a stranger or hugging a friend or enjoying moments of stillness any less of an “accomplishment” than doing the grocery shopping or completing a work assignment? How do we, individually and collectively, define our daily lives? And does our definition reflect our authentic values?

As my professor pointed out this afternoon, parents often ask their children “what did you DO today” upon their return from school. But how many of us stop to actually think about why we ask such questions? Why is there such a focus on what has been DONE? Our society and our American culture have instilled in us the conditioned belief that we must DO something in order to be worthwhile. It is a belief that many of us have come to accept without question. But is it true, for us?

For me, life’s meaning is not about what I do or don’t do. It is about who I am, who others are, and our being in relationships with one another. For me, life is not about DOING, but rather about BEING.

I spend much of my time occupied with classes, studying, working, and doing the necessary errands that reality demands. The act of “doing” cannot be extinguished, nor should it be. It is not in the “doing” that we lose our meaning and purpose, but when the “doing” becomes more valuable than just “being”.

I admit that I am often guilty of defining my own daily life by what I have accomplished throughout the day. I experience a sense of pride in the completion of tasks, and there is nothing wrong with feeling good about finishing 5 loads of laundry or reading all of the assignments before a particular class. But for me, there is something personally wrong when I define my life by those necessary daily activities.

So what if I defined my daily life in some other way? How would I define it?

Taking away those actions of “accomplishment” or success, I would define my life in a way that much more closely resembles the person that I am and the inherent values that abide within my soul. I would define my life by the love I give and receive. I would define my life by gratitude for blessings and prayers for those in need. I would define my life by a balance of dedication to self and others, moments of excitement and peace, the treasures of beauty and hope. I would define my life in terms of smiles and laughter, hugs and kisses, words and affections. I would define my life through creativity and dreaming, inspiration and taking chances, holding and releasing, knowing and believing.

At the end of our lives, does it really matter if the carpet was vacuumed every Saturday? Does it really matter if we set aside work on a dissertation in favor of an afternoon spent in the company of loved ones and the beauty of Nature? Does it matter if we worked overtime or did the dishes immediately after dinner? For me, these are not the things that matter in the end. At the end of my life, what will matter is that I have known the power and fragility of love, that I have made a difference in my own life and in the life of others. For me, defining my daily life means that I must purposefully embrace it, for what is it worth at the end for a life that was never truly lived?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

savoring each pause

The days rush by, whirring, swirling, an occasional brief pause.

But I feel the air getting cooler, the breeze tickling my skin with an invigorating rush of excitement. The absence of humidity is not mourned, the changes of the season gradually inching toward my open embrace. I see the beauty as sun beams dance between towering pines, the early morning fog hovering over creeks, those beloved smoky blue mountains rising in the distance. I hear new birdsong, the sound of slightly crinkled leaves skipping across pavement. I taste the richness and warmth of morning coffee as if it were the first taste of bittersweet darkness. I breathe in and smell the scent of autumn. And I know that these moments are so full of life.

Each pause must be savored.

Monday, September 10, 2007


One step forward, two steps back.

Although I began my weekend in the right frame of mind, intent on nurturing myself and relaxing as much as possible, Sunday ended in a state of extreme exhaustion (both physical and mental) and a sense that I had once again not placed my own well-being as a priority. The good news: I explored my feelings about this and devised a preventative plan to circumvent this particular type of problem in the future.

One step forward. I must brag for a moment and say that I attended my first (ever) yoga class on Friday morning. I am aware that many people practice yoga on a regular basis and that this notion of my self-pride in this arena might appear silly to some. But this was a big deal for me. As I am not a fan of going to the gym or being in a big room of sweaty strangers, it took a bit of courage for me to open those doors and enter that unfamiliar realm of tribal-sounding music and strange body positions. Despite my fear that I would look like an idiot (not knowing what I was doing and supposing that everyone else was well practiced in the art of yoga), I took a deep breath and opened that door anyway. What I found in that room was a sense of liberation and the feeling that this was one activity in the gym that seemed to truly fit with who I am as a person. As each minute passed, I could feel the music resonating deeper within me. My eyes naturally closed with an inner focus, my hands in prayer. Even my initial frustration that my breaths, inhale, exhale, were not matching those of the instructor, seemed to diminish as the minutes passed. Realizing that my breathing will become more aligned with my body as my comfort level increases, I let go of those concerns and set my focus to “the warrior”, feeling a swell of inner strength, the empowerment of a true “warrior”. It was a baby step, but it was a step forward nevertheless.

Two steps back. I will not recount the details of the remainder of the weekend but suffice it to say that Saturday and Sunday were spent in a state of increasing exhaustion. The positive side is that I managed to claim an afternoon nap on Saturday and got (more than) my share of therapeutic gardening on Sunday. The negative side is that I spent 90% of my weekend working and another 9% reading books for school. I think the remaining 1% was probably spent on the toilet…sad, but true.

Now it is the beginning of a new week. Busy days await and a long to-do list continues to grow. Amidst the chaos, my personal goals for this week include one art project, one yoga class, finishing May Sarton’s journal “Recovering”, and my own daily journaling.

My other goal: Two steps forward, one step back.