Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring time wonderings, childhood questions

We say some interesting things to little kids. Sometimes I think about the repercussions. We gush over little girls who are dressed up, proclaiming them beautiful only when they are looking most made up. We ask children what their drawing is supposed to be, instead of letting it be simply an exploration of how to hold the pencil and using different colors. And we ask them "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

I'm not sure how I feel about the last question. It certainly helps to clarify the child's interests and help him/her imagine how they could pursue them all the time. But to me, it also made it sound like growing up was a destination. "What do you want to do after you cross that line that is college and find your destiny!!?"

Welp. I got to college, got that diploma, and here I am. Me and a lot of my peers. Wondering what exactly happened - or didn't happen - and if I'm in the right place. But let's go back to little Ellen for a moment. What did she say when people asked her that ever present question, "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

You know what I said? Two or three things. This is how it went:
Little me:"I don't know!"
Adult: "Oh really??"
Little me: "Yeah, I mean probably a mom, but I don't really know."
Adult: "Like a stay at home mom?"
Little me: "Yeah. I think that'd be cool."
Adult: (Varying responses, usually affirmative and letting me know I could be a mom AND have a career. If I wanted.)
Little me: "I guess maybe I could be a teacher. Maybe. But I really don't know. Or I want to be a mom"

When I think back about this experience, so many things strike me. The fact that my mom was an awesome stay-at-home mom. How I thought her job was awesome because she could pack our lunches and write sweet notes, pick us up from school with a cooler that had two popscicles in it for after school snacks, bring us snack trays when we were playing, help out with our school and sit with us when math was just too hard. (long division is TRICKY!) How I still think my mom is awesome and everyone should be blessed enough to receive one of her care packages. That to me, being a teacher was sort of like second class interactions with kiddos, but I thought maybe I could settle for it if I had to.

I think there is some value in going back and remembering your own answer to this question: What did you want to be when you "grew up"? That little person is still inside you somewhere. Did you become that thing? I'm super interested in your answers, so whether you comment or start a conversation with me, I'd love to know.

Now. Obviously I am not a mama. And that is OKAY. (Don't freak out y'all.) Where does that leave me, though? What the heck am I supposed to be doing right now if it isn't that and if teaching has been feeling a little murky lately?

What the heck am I supposed to be doing? THIS. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. Living with my roomie. Dating my boyfriend. Hanging out with my friends. Doing yoga. Cooking lentil soup. Learning to not rush through or into anything and to be satisfied with less. Practicing being content in a less than perfect world and opening myself up to others in love.

I don't always feel that way. In fact, most days recently, it seems like I am swimming in anxiety over what I'm doing or not doing with my life. Why is X not happening now? Why can't I just Y? Why does money suck? Maybe a better question for little kids (and big "grown up" ones) is "How do you want to be when you're older?" I want to be peaceful, spacious, and joyful. I want to be connected with God, others, nature. I don't want to swim in anxiety over what I'm "supposed to be doing" when what I am doing now is okay. My discontent about certain things is worth listening to, but I will no longer allow it to steer the course of my emotions in a day.

And you know what? If I asked a little kid how they wanted to be when they were older, I think it might lead to some great conversation about how good and beautiful and wonderful and special they are right now. Don't stress about the future, baby. The present is good.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I live in the same town I grew up in, a bicycle ride away from my childhood home.

There's something really nice about that. It's nice to feel rooted in the patch of earth where I spent those magical, hazy years called childhood. This is my place. This is my home. And yet... living in a context that is familiar to you makes you question fewer assumptions about it. Today, I am thinking about the American value of work. I think hard work is important. I also think rest is important. Yesterday and today, I have been resting and resting and resting. I have spent most of the time in my pajamas in my bed alternating between reading Sherlock Holmes and Eat, Pray, Love, watching online TV, and surfing the 'net. Sometimes I change it up and lay on the couch, sometimes I wander into the kitchen for a cup of tea or a snack.

In any case, these things are only the very start of rest. Because sometimes you have to be rested in order to rest.

Friday, March 9, 2012

ellen amanda barcelona... take two

Tonight, my dear friend Amanda and I watched one of our favorite movies, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. We first watched it on a snowy March night three years ago. I shared the joy of Spanish tinto (dry red wine mixed with orange Fanta) as we were whisked off to Barcelona. Amanda and I watched the movie again two months later in May. In October 2009, we decided to live out the trip to Barcelona by meeting there. I was living in southern Spain, Amanda in England. It was delightful. We stayed at a friend of a friend's piso, drank sangria (a little too much acutally), road on a boat, experienced the Sagrada Famila cathedral, and relished in each other's company. A friend from the past sharing the present experience of Europe was a treasure to us both.
When I returned from Spain, Amanda had just moved to my city. Again, a friend from the past with which to share our current experiences... Most of my life has had very clear stages with only one friend from each passing into the next. On entering high school, I lost contact with everyone I went to grade school with except one person. On going to college, I kept in touch with only a few people. After college, I have continued that pattern - for some inexplicable reason.
And so, as I have woven together a life in my city, Amanda has been a link. She has been someone I don't just call to catch up with, but actually live normality with.
After we watched the movie tonight, we reflected. Amanda and I often say that we bonded over tea and toast, broken hearts, and a love for Europe. The first time we saw this movie, we were in college. Since then, we have graduated, traveled to Barcelona (together!), shared a lot more tea and toast, and even gone on double dates with our super awesome boyfriends. Life's beautiful, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

oh hello spring!

Spring feels so new and surprising, though after an unseasonably warm winter, it feels less so. The link is to a really thought-provoking blog about this by my friend Mary... she's a great writer.

However, the recent humid, blustery days mark that it IS March and not February. A lot has been blowing around in my life too. The winds of spring feel like the winds of change; and there is almost no aspect of my life that has been left un-fluttered by my swirling thoughts.

Today has been a day where my body said to my mind, "Sorry lady. No more of this running around, blowing to and fro. Time to just rest. I can't do it anymore." And my mind said, "Okay body. That sounds good to me too." My mind and body are not always synchronized as one. I need days like today has been when I can remind myself that I am my body and my mind.

One of the best things I did today was talk to a farmer. A real organic urban farmer. Named Lew. In my Internet wanderings, I found something on a CSA page written by Lew. (What's a CSA? Awesome. Here's more info. ) Farmer Lew said that he is always looking for people who like to wallow in the dirt to help around planting time.

HELLO! This whole week, I have been thinking about how it's the time to plant seeds and how I wish I had somewhere to plant them! I emailed Farmer Lew right away. He called me within an hour. We're planting tomorrow. I can feel the life it will give me already! I'll keep you posted...