The moment between noises: Reflecting on HUSH

HUSH was an incredible necessary this past week. Finals happened (hooray!). This consisted of nights spent studying and researching two final papers on gender studies and sexual discrimination. Hours would pass between conversations, the only noise heard the typing of keys, sipping of coffee, and tinkling of classical music from our Echo. It was a productive week that left two hyper-extroverts feeling distanced from one another.

Then Josh went to New Orleans for a business trip and I was cast into solitude. I wrapped my last final the afternoon he left and found myself suddenly without distraction. I didn’t have my person, I didn’t have my studies. But I did have a clay face mask, a brick of wine, a meditation downloaded, and half a dozen candles; so I decided to treat myself to a restorative bubble bath.

The meditation (#52) was precisely what my overworked brain and body needed. Intended for deep relaxation, Mary Maddux directions were to listen to the tiny bits of silence in the midst of all the action and ruckus around. To breathe in the stillness deeply. As I sat in the softly lit room, literally bathed in warm delicious smelling water, my eyes closed and head reclined, I listened for the HUSH between noises. The end of the train whistle blast. The shift in conversation between the girls gabbing outside my window. The split-second pause between heartbeats.

It wasn’t so much a game as it was an activity. And because I’d snuck in a few Christmas movies before finals, I was reminded of the opening monologue from Love Actually:

If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

That’s the trick of silence. It’s nowhere and everywhere — you just have to HUSH long enough to hear it.

We are wrapping up the year so it’s a good time to RESOLVE our minds for what comes next…


Lin’s VOW mantra: If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that *silence* actually is all around.

Lin’s SOW (Song of the Week): Not quite just a song, but this is the soundtrack to my week: Deep Focus playlist curated by Spotify.


Check out Steph’s #VOWhush post here.

#VOWhush as Snow

I’m not sure why Lin and I both associated snow with #VOWhush, but we did. Hell, we may have manifested the flakes that fell on Alabama and DC.

For me, the day it snowed was the first time it really felt like winter.

Like the holidays were almost upon us.

Like the slow was coming.

Like I could sit for a moment, near my Christmas tree made of books, and just watch with wonder.

This week, we

RESOLVE.

Playing Catch Up: Reflecting on November

So November happened. And I had the fullest intent to post each and every week as it passed because even though I may not have been writing about our VOWs, I certainly felt like I was living them. The weeks piled up at the same rate as my work case load and grad school readings. There are seasons when it feels like all you can do is keep your head above water; be it by skipping workouts or ignoring personal writing assignments. For anyone who missed these posts, my apologies. But now you get a huge recap (and I get a head start on next year’s format where we focus on one VOW per month).

SHOW certainly, well, showed up at the start of the month (November 6 – 12). This fall has been eerily quiet in my office; typically incidents start getting reported near the start of October. But this year? Crickets. It took a full month for the reports to start coming in, this time with the mass and intensity of a plague of locus.

Additionally, I was also presenting to First Year Experiences throughout the month. Let me tell you that talking about sexuality — let alone sexual violence — is not your average 18-year-old’s idea of a fun class session. Typically, I am met with tons of discomfort, a heap of uncertainty, a touch of resistance, and sometimes a sprinkle of hostility. I try to make my presentations to students as painless as possible (given the subject) and engage them in a way that makes the issue at hand applicable to their lives. I have limited success but the song-and-dance feeling of NINE one-hour presentations IN A ROW has the ability to make you feel like you’re putting on a SHOW. And it’s a program no one really wants to be watching.

Thankfully, I can say that those presentations were a RISK of developing my own program, outreaching to faculty members to get on their syllabi, and receiving some positive feedback from at least one or two students at the end of each session, was entirely worth it. It was exhausting and I half-expected to be chastised by several professors because of my liberal use of the word fuck (though I never used it as a verb, solely an expletive). Overall, I felt proud of myself for accomplishing so much single-handedly.

The week of Thanksgiving (#VOWReplenish) was sooo appropriately timed. Josh and I headed to New Orleans for the start of the week. It was our first real trip together, with no work or family obligations to dictate our schedule. It was unfettered, glorious, silly, and extravagant in ways that only New Orleans could be. Strolling aimlessly along streets in a foreign (to me) city is one of my favorite past times, made all the sweeter that my hand was constantly tucked inside my favorite person’s. We drank copiously (something I hadn’t tasted much of since August) — indulging in cocktails in a red-lit, French-themed seance room, champagne on one of the city’s premier patios, and bloody mary’s on a legit steamboat. My heart was exploding with happiness from the moment we embarked on the train.

We returned the day before Thanksgiving in time to collect Sister, and we continued to dine on cheese and guzzle wine for four more restorative days. It was a humble Thanksgiving but one of the best ones I’ve had. I was sad to come back to work but also refreshed enough to see my cases through fresh eyes.

Last week, we HEIGHTENED. Most specifically, Josh and I are now Club People. Hopefully not the insufferable kind. Birmingham’s City Club and UAB partnered on a pretty sweet membership price that offers free breakfast and squishy seats all day to those who want it. And Josh, who currently pops around from coffee shop to coffee shop, could certainly use a new space. Add to it the most stellar view from one of the area’s tallest skyscrapers (that sort of looks like the building from Ghostbusters), we have literally moved upwards. We’ll see if we stay Club People but figured given our current circumstances, we might as well soak in the views next to the clouds.

Ironically, the week I finally decide to post is the week we HUSH


Check the links for all of Steph’s timely VOW posts: #VOWsave/#VOWshow, #VOWrisk, and #VOWreplenish/#VOWheighten


header image courtesy of RedStampBlog.com

#VOWreplenish + #VOWheighten = a Recipe for Hope?

Lin is deep into Finals during her first year of graduate school, which is why she has been quiet.

My excuse is not quite as good–I spent Thanksgiving with Sister, REPLENISHing. We drank wine and ate cheese, and she let me spend a day reading a book that devoured every square inch of my soul (thanks, Sis–I needed it). And I just wasn’t quite ready to go back to the Real World.

But I had to, and after a day of traveling, I was back in my apartment with my cat, getting my life organized for Hell Week.

That’s what I nicknamed this past week of work. You see, I’m starting a new job on Monday–one I didn’t ask for and am not sure I want, but I know it’s one that I need to be good at. So…I’m in Stephanie Mode. Those of you who know me know exactly what that means:

Head down. Eyes getting ready to look up. Scared shitless. Heart reconciled to not disappointing the opportunity and the people who gave it to me.

Everything in me was HEIGHTENed this week. I’m all too aware of what life needs to look like as I get my bearings in this new job and in preparation for my last weekend of YTT this semester and the Holidays: Wine becomes a thing for the weekends. Meditation EVERY SINGLE MORNING a must. Yoga an every-damn-day reality. Body language in check. Food as fuel. All the coffee.

And there’s something else at work here. I’ve struggled to name it, but tonight I have: grounded possibility, also known as hope.

I think it’s important, when our hearts find themselves floating somewhere we aren’t quite ready to fly, that we keep our heads grounded, without pulling down too much. Because hope is a pretty powerful thing, and it can lead us places we don’t know.

I spoke to my Grams at length tonight about what’s in my heart, and she said the thing Stephanie needed to hear: Just let it be; see what happens; trust the Signs, and then let it be what it is.

I have this feeling, though she has never said it, she prays for me every night, and maybe that’s the reason I consistently feel some kind of faith. Because no matter my stance on a Higher Power, she has a firm one, and because of her, I have a firm belief in something.

In myself.

In my judgment.

In love.

In hope.

We are nearing the end of this year, of BUILD, and the words that are coming–#VOWhush, #VOWresolve, and #VOWwait–are ones I already feel. Things I am already committed to. Verbs that hold power to change the course of my life, whatever they bring.

So keep me where the light is, and this week, we

HUSH.

 

#VOWrisk = Trust

Taking chances isn’t something I dread normally. I do pretty well with risk.

But I have to be honest, I was not looking forward to last week’s verb.

I believe that your vibe attracts your tribe. I also wholeheartedly believe that the energy you put out into the world comes back around to you. And when you’re feeling nervous about or dreading something, the Universe tends to help you face that resistance by giving you an assist and helping you lean in.

This past week, there were all the things I didn’t want to do, mainly because they each made me somewhat uncomfortable: Going to the dentist. Being patient. Waiting for clarity. Potentially embarrassing myself. Turning upside down.

All the things I didn’t want to do, and all the things the Universe basically gave me no choice but to do.

Turns out risk doesn’t always look like running.

Sometimes it means just showing up, trusting someone else with your teeth.

Sometimes it means just trusting the process, and when it comes to dating, that means maybe giving someone else the chance to get curious and remain curious (read: unsure). That means maybe reminding yourself that you should get curious too, because isn’t that what dating is all about?

Sometimes it means doing something a little bold but totally you (read: quirky) and trusting it was the right thing.

And sometimes it means trusting your body to catch you, even though the idea that your shoulders will do just that when you get your hips right over them (read: inversions!) seems INSANE.

Risk is all about trusting something. Or, rather, questioning whether you do. Be it yourself, someone else, the Universe, etc.

What I know for sure is that I trust the journey, because even if ruin is what I find, at least it’s a road to something.

So I go to the dentist, because the worst that can happen probably will if I don’t go.

And I consider the fact that curiosity is not a verdict but a chance.

And I’m true to my quirky self that knows what she wants, so I send the email.

And I’ll take a really deep breath and then turn upside down–yep, still scary as fuck.

And this week, we

REPLENISH.

#VOWsave & #VOWshow (With a Bit of Tell)

I’m nearing the end of my two-week trip overseas; my flight back to the District leaves in less than six hours. But for now, I’m checked out of my hostel and nestled into the corner table of a quaint little Icelandic coffee shop in Reykjavík. I haven’t written more than an email to my loved ones while I’ve been abroad, and I haven’t posted any pictures on Instagram since I left American soil. More than one person has asked me where my pictures are, and I don’t have a complete answer for them.

It started with the meditation retreat I think. For those who don’t know, the main reason I went abroad was to attend a week-long Buddhist meditation + painting and photography retreat at a Triratna (i.e., Hippie Buddhist movement that aims to make Buddhism accessible to the West and applicable to modern life) center in the Scottish Highlands. For a week, I meditated 2-3 hours a day, took photos of the countryside, and painted with watercolors—all wifi- and cell signal-free.

I will pause for a moment to tell you a bit about that experience:

I must say I didn’t miss my phone really. Definitely not the calls or texting. Or even Instagram–I do realize how much time I spend scrolling on there. I missed emailing Sister. But honestly, the thing I ached for and had no idea I would miss: Google. Every few minutes it seemed, I wanted to look up the history of an aspect of Buddhism or the root of the word or the English slang for something. I explained this in a small group circle early on, and Amoghavera (aw-mo-gaw-veer-a), our retreat leader, said he would be my Google–I was constantly asking him to write out a chant so I could get the spelling right or about the difference between a British Pound and a Quid (nothing it turns out).

But the main thing I missed Google for, and I know Sister nearly died laughing when I wrote her this, was my symptoms. I’m apparently more of a hypochondriac than I knew. I got very ill on the flight overseas, and it developed into a good ol’ head cold. I was miserable for the first Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when I first arrived; I also looked like death. I wanted to see if I had a sinus infection and what the risks were of going without antibiotics (I’d be fine). Then when stomach stuff started (turns out I had problems with the very carb-laden vegan food), I wondered if peat in the Scottish water could make a person sick and if I should be boiling it (the water was fine). I also got curious and wondered if extended meditation periods could adversely affect the body for a bit (um, no). And, after a bit of an itchy scalp and a few dandruff flakes, which I don’t usually suffer from, I assumed I had lice (spoiler alert: I didn’t; I am quite sure the change in shampoo is to be blamed).

Yeah, so, that happened in my brain (please be laughing, so I feel like less of a weirdo), and, yes, I am now limiting my Google diagnosing since I am aware of the problem.

But back to why I have not shared a lot:

Nayyirah Waheed, one of my favorite poets, asks, in “A Question of Appropriation”, “Would you still want to travel to that country if you could not take a camera with you?” Man, let me tell you, that line sat in the back of my mind, staring at me, this whole trip. Especially after a week of focusing on being present and the art of seeing, really looking without trying to capture anything but the moment in your mind.

I took fewer pictures than I normally do on trips. I really thought about each photo before I snapped it, be it via my iPhone or my DSLR; there was a reason behind each image. And before I post anything on IG, I want to be clear in my mind about the story and how much of it I want to tell about this trip.  Also, becoming even more important to me these days thanks to yoga teacher training, I want to be able to explain why (in my head) I am posting something, because “Likes” are a dangerous reason.

I thought a lot too, about #VOWsave (last week’s verb and the main subject of this post) and #VOWshow (this week’s verb). About the things I want to keep to myself about this trip. About what I found on it. Because this has always been a completely solo jaunt that was and still is only about me, and in my heart, which is where I feel my intuition, I believe (and have for months thought) that things are going to change when I get home. Nothing particularly “magical” or “life-changing” happened on this sojourn, but I am sure it was a dot that will eventually connect for me.

For now, ellipses…

And a few photos, because this is, after all, a combined post about #VOWsave and #VOWshow:

Dhanakosa (Balquhidder, Scotland):




Edinburgh, Scotland:

Reykjavík, Iceland:


And beginning Monday, we

RISK.

Life is what you invest into it: Reflecting on SAVE

The synchronicity of our VOWs serve as a constant delight. We didn’t arrange for any of these verbs to fall on certain weeks, so imagine how tickled we were to discover SAVE was occurring the week of Daylight Savings time.

Historically, I make proclamations about waking up an hour earlier and getting my day off to the right start. The hour is a gift and I’m already used to waking up at that time — blah blah blah. This year is different because Josh and I have developed the habit of waking at 5:45 to hit the gym before work. That’s early enough for me as I have zero interest in seeing 4:00am at either end of my sleep cycle.

This year I feel giddier about the time change. I have no sense of obligation of shoulds or ought to’s. Instead, I get a free pass to enjoy luxuriating in bed. I’m a girl who loves her sleep and loves her bed, so this is downright magical. So in honor of that sleep, we purchased new accouterment for our bed — new throw pillows and the softest faux fur blanket I’ve ever touched.

This week we SHOW


Lin’s SOW (Song Of the Week): Sound of Your Voice by Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions

 

When to Bend: Reflecting on BEAR

So this post is coming about a week late but BEAR has been active in my life for quite some time.

I’m not sure exactly when the aches and pains in my lower back started, but a pinched nerve and compressed lumbar joint in my back made me, for the first time ever, seek the assistance of a chiropractor. To note — my parents have strong-held belief that chiros are a form of witch doctors who actually cause more harm than good. I don’t hold this belief but have always feared as soon as I start going to one, I’ll have to keep going forever because they’ll force me to realize exactly how shitty my body feels when it’s out of alignment.

But the pain was getting so bad that I had a hard time getting out of bed. The aches couldn’t be massaged or stretched away. I decided living with preventable chronic pain was kind of stupid.

My congenial chiropractor confirmed a lot of my suspicions. my lowest lumbar vertebra was tweaked backward and towards the left, likely causing my sciatic nerve to get pinned in areas it doesn’t usually sit. The muscles in my lower back were locked up because my back was so out of alignment.

The recommendation? Two or three sessions a week for the next few months. At $30 a pop, correcting my back was going to cost me nearly $1200 to fix.

Erm, no thank you. So after a few adjustments, already feeling improvement, I decided that I should just BEAR with the pain and figure out another, less expensive way to find comfort. Dedicate more time to stretching before bed. That kind of thing.

This lasted about three weeks and I caved. Or rather, I decided there was a choice point. Because my back got worse (again) and exactly as I predicted, I now knew relief going back was next to unbearable. This is obviously an issue that won’t fix itself. So I started going back — once a week. It may delay my treatment but it is also financially feasible, which was essential to me. If I’m going to do this, I’ll do it right, and just budget that expense into my budget.

This week, just like the daylight, we SAVE


Steph is exploring the wilds of Scotland and enjoying a well deserved vacation.

Doubling Up: Reflecting on BREAK and ARRANGE

Regarding #VOWbreak:

Sometimes when I go into autopilot, I wind up moving way too fast. Too fast to really collect my thoughts. Too fast to think everything through. Too fast to give something a real chance. The momentum carries, carries me. And when I suddenly realize my speed, I try to BREAK quickly to slow myself down but not so hard as to spin out.

We’re hiring a second Investigator at work to share my caseload. My boss and I were cruising through the (extremely long) hiring process that defines higher ed. A process that lasts at least three or four months start-to-finish for a quick hire. We both really want and need that extra body but it turns out we rushed too quickly. Three candidates have come and gone, and we’re no closer to identifying a person we believe can elevate to the job.

We found ourselves a little lost. Do we keep trudging down the path knowing that the route may end up taking us the long way round (or to an entirely different destination)? Or do we pause, evaluate our options, orient ourselves on the path we’re on.

Sometimes stopping feels like wasted time. But when looking back in hindsight, you realize that you saved yourself a lot of heartache by recognizing the sunk cost fallacy — don’t keep investing time (energy, resources) into a failing venture just because you’re in it too deep.

This week we’ll have a bit better perspective about which route is the best one for us to take.

Regarding #VOWarrange:

This has been one of the most fun VOWs in recent memory, mostly because my Type A++ personality got to plan out a regimented schedule for my parent’s weekend visit. Mom and Step-Dad came to Bham for the first time and we followed the tried-and-true pattern of showing off a new place by heavily featuring the food and cocktail scene.

It was fun to show off my new town to people I love. I got to nerd out and celebrate with a small group of people I love. It may not have been much time but we made the most of it.

This week we BEAR what we’re able…