Reconciliation to self.

My sister wrote this poem and sent it to me the other day, and it was so exactly right, so exactly how I am feeling. I haven’t had the will or the strength to come up with my own words lately, but hers have filled my heart and spoken for me. I am learning how to hold the good and the bad, the light and the dark, because as long as we are in this world we will have both. We will live through both. Life is learning how to live in the tension. Learning how to choose good, to choose the light, and learning to forgive ourselves when we don’t. Learning to forgive the people we love when they don’t. And learning through all of it to remain rooted and grounded in love.

 

I promise to go away

I promise we will travel and see all the places we said we would

And we won’t wait, we’ll do it now.

I’m sorry we failed, I’m sorry we feel

Like it is not enough

To just lie on the couch and think about life

Because life doesn’t look like something we planned on

We will drink more cups of tea and less alcohol

We will hug more friends

And less boys who say they like to be with us

I like to be with us

I like to be at home

All alone,

Because I never feel lonely when I am at peace with what I choose to be.

I am sorry to my stomach for treating it like steel and

Sorry to my heart for pretending it was immune from feeling

And I’m sorry to my friends for the lies I’ve told them about where I’ve been

It is so isolating to hurt on the inside

Without being able to get the true words out from inside my mouth.

In my head I am trapped

But it will not be forever

I believe there is forgiveness and a bridge to walk over

To a field where there is peace

And freedom for the past

I have a friend there

He doesn’t need me to speak

He knows

And he felt the ache in my stomach

And the cold bathroom floor

I can feel he is with me

And I will meet him there

 

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A Moment

My life is quite full at the moment, but here is part of poem from Thich Nhat Hanh that spoke to me this morning. Take a moment to breathe and be and meditate on love and compassion.

 

The only thing worthy of you is compassion-

invincible, limitless, unconditional.

Hatred will never let you face

the beast in man.

 

One day, when you face this beast alone,

with your courage intact,

your eyes kind,

untroubled

(even as no one sees them)

out of your smile

will bloom a flower.

And those who love you

will behold you

across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.

 

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A Brief Note on Grief

I don’t do grief well. Today I started crying in a coffee shop. The trigger? I couldn’t find the articles I needed to read for a class. And suddenly it is everything in the whole world that just feels so so hard, and the thought of never again getting a hug from one my dearest mentors and friends. Libby died on Tuesday and the funeral was Saturday and today is Sunday, September 11, which is significant but not significant, and I am in New York City trying to do my homework. I was told once that if I feel like crying but am in a place where I really should not be crying that I should focus on concrete facts. Fact: I am drinking black coffee. Fact: 2,996 people died on September 11. Fact: she gave the best hugs.

Have you ever had the experience where something bad happens but you can’t deal with it at the moment so you shove it down down down with the knowledge that it will inevitably catch up to you? And then here I am crying in a public place. Fact: my dress is grey. Fact: I live in Manhattan. Fact: she was someone who was impossible to keep secrets from.

I cant stop thinking about being seventeen. I was so dramatic and optimistic and hopeless and driven. I am still all of those things. I’m thinking about the way the living room carpet felt. I’m thinking about gingerbread houses. I’m thinking about that time I dreamed of my house burning down. I’m thinking about Wednesday nights and wishing it was Wednesday night eight years ago or Wednesday night eight years from now. There are too many memories, too many memories, and I miss everything. Fact: I’m crying again. Fact: people die. Fact: she called out all of the best things in me.

Grief feels so vague but so specific. There are no words except for every single word that races through my mind all at one time. Sometime soon I’ll have real words to put down and I’ll write some beautiful essay that says everything I want to say. But right now I don’t know what I want to say except, why? except, because. Right now I can’t write in the past tense. Right now I am so tired. Fact: I’ll find the articles I need to read for class. Fact: the weather is good in New York today. Fact: she loves us so much.

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Write about nothing

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Suhareke, Kosovo

I have so much to say and nothing to say and I don’t know what my life is. But I’m 25 and isn’t that exactly right? I like to write on here because I like to write, and because I like to think that maybe there’s someone who reads this who feels just like me. And so this is a post about nothing really amazing except for a few feelings (except that I think feelings are amazing). But just to sum up: for the last few months, I haven’t really felt like writing. I think that’s because I’ve had too many things to write about and just thinking about it feels overwhelming.

Here is a list of the things I have done since I last wrote:

-traveled to Turkey

-visited a refugee camp on the Macedonian/Serbian border

-hosted my mom and sister in Kosovo

-helped run a summer camp with my NGO

-packed up my entire apartment/life in Kosovo

-said goodbye to a million places and people and things

-traveled to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Italy with my sister, brother, and sis-in-law

-traveled to Jordan

-returned to America

-said hello to all my friends and family

-unpacked all my stuff

-watched my best friend get married

-packed all my stuff

-moved to New York City

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Ajloun, Jordan
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Atlanta, GA

 

Yeah. I’m not really sure how to sum all that up in words. I have so many feelings about everything that’s happened in the last few months and all those unspoken moments in between. There’s a fullness and an emptiness. It’s heartbreaking and wonderful. I feel simultaneously loved and alone. I’ve been curled up in the fetal position on the floor of my childhood bedroom and I’ve been dancing with my favorite people at my best friend’s wedding. There’s so much room inside the human heart.

All of that leaves me pretty unsure. Unsure about how I feel, unsure about my life, unsure about what to write in this moment at this coffee shop in NYC. I could write about what it’s like to pack up my life in a few suitcases. I could write about returning to places I’ve loved deeply. I could write about the new places I’ve been. I could write about falling in love with people, places, moments and watching my friends fall in love with people, places, moments. I could write about how excited I am about my life. I could write about how scared I am about my life. I could write about sitting on my windowsill in my new home in my new life in New York City. But I don’t think I’ve really leaned into any of that yet. I’m not quite ready to feel the whole weight of it. So for now I’m just going to say that I’m here, feeling what I feel, letting myself be blown by every breeze that passes through. My feet will touch the ground soon, I think. And then I will sit down and write something that makes sense. But until then I will just take deep breaths and go on walks in Central Park and try to remember all the good things that have come and let that heal me from all the bad. There’s so much room inside the human heart.

 

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NYC

These Days

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This past fall was the one year marker of my time here in Kosovo. A whole year. That seems tiny and huge at the same time. “What is my life?” I say this at least three times a day and it’s not always said with excitement or hope.

Living in Europe can be really exciting, and I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve been able to have because of living here. But as with anything in life, the novelty eventually wears off and the dust settles and what is left is the simplicity (and monotony) of the day to day. I knew that when this time came, I would need simple rhythms that gave me space, community, and boundaries so that I could be creative and inspired and empowered.

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For me personally, this has looked like creating time to write at all costs, even if I have to say no to other things on occasion. I’ve committed and invested my time in beautiful and encouraging people both here in Kosovo and back home. I focus a lot of my attention on being mindful and present as I go through my day by meditating, setting reminders on my phone, and stopping to simply take a deep breath every once and a while. These are just the tangible things, but they have proved to be so crucial to my well-being.

Why am I telling you this? Well I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that makes up a life. What is at the root of it? Experiences, emotions, people, places, careers, the snapshots we share and the stories we tell, all of those things are part of it for sure. But what is so obvious to me now is that what life is made of are those really simple rhythms that we create within ourselves and our communities. It’s the moment in the morning where I sit with my cup of coffee and read a couple of stories out of a flash fiction anthology. It’s sitting in the office waiting for a student to show up and searching the internet for scholarships for Kosovar exchange students. It’s calling my sister right before she has to go to work or excitedly emailing with my best friend about a creative collaboration we are working on. Listening to podcasts while I do the dishes, spending at least an hour everyday writing, planning adventures for my spring break, making tacos simply because it’s Tuesday. That’s my life. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it, and a lot of times I’m totally indifferent towards it. And I’m guessing you feel all of that about your life too.

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I live in Europe and someone might live on a mountain top in Nepal or in the center of New York City or in a redbrick house in suburban Georgia, but I really doubt that is at the root of what any of our lives are. A trip that I take to Slovakia or Italy or Florida is not what makes up my life. Whether or not I get a Master’s degree or published in the New Yorker is not what will give my life substance. What makes my life completely worth living is the space I create for inspiration and community. It’s the creativity and curiosity I cultivate within myself and the world around me. It’s the everyday reminders of what it means to be alive.

I think I write all of this because in my life here in this tiny Eastern European country, I often feel totally weird and isolated and out of place both with the people here and the people back home. But that’s part of the deal you make when you decide to step out into unknown territory. I guess I am just needing to remind myself, by reminding you, that at the end of the day, each one of us is left with the rhythms we’ve made and the space we’ve created. I hope that it’s a beautiful space. I hope those rhythms match the beat of your heart. I hope that even with all the moments that leave you feeling broken or the ones that simply slip by unnoticed, that there are also moments that inspire you and leave you in awe of the world and your life in it. It’s nice to remember that we aren’t so different. We all feel weird and crazy and curious and invincible and fragile, and we are all here, today. Sometimes (often times) I just need to remember that.

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Paris

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Ah Paris. You really won me over.

I’m going to start by saying something that will make you roll your eyes so hard and think that you cannot relate to me at all: I have never wanted to go to Paris. The only reason I decided to go was because it was on my way home and I wanted to check it off “the list.”

Let me explain.

“Paris is always a good idea,” said Audrey Hepburn, to which I would respond, “sure if you’re thin, rich, white, and own a lot of black clothing.” The movie Midnight in Paris is wonderful, but I couldn’t help but watch it and think how if Owen Wilson’s character was a woman, it would be a much different movie. Think less quiet strolls among twinkling street lamps, and more like Morroccan dudes yelling at you as you power walk to your destination with your hood on and head down.

I’m also just not a huge Ernest Hemingway fan, and he goes around claiming Paris is a “moveable feast.”

I know that you can apply some version of these anecdotes to any number of cities, but I had fastened them all onto Paris; and honestly, I just wasn’t in the mood.

For all of that, I must apologize.

As I walked out of Nord railway Station at 9 am, I was wonderstruck (to borrow the T Swift term). I spent 24 hours wandering through Paris, and in my short time there I found it to be beautiful and diverse and complex.

It felt like art and life, the intersection of the two.

I stayed in Montmartre at Vintage Hostel, which was totally lovely and perfect. It was just a five minute walk from Sacre Coeur so I walked up there first thing to see the view of Paris.

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I walked from there down to the Seine to see the Notre Dame Cathedral and the [outside of] the Louvre. I bought bread and cheese and sat in the sun by the river to eat. Then I walked along to the river till I reached the Eiffel tower.

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“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and the point of life.” Bold claim, Thomas Jefferson, but I get it. Paris is so many things.

I took the metro back up to Montemartre and went back to the Sacre Coeur to see the view of Paris at night. I bought a crepe on my way back to the hostel and ate it under a twinkling street lamp (and a good distance away from the yelling Moroccan men). It felt like life and it felt like fairytales. And I think that’s what made Paris beautiful to me. It’s magic, and it’s real.

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“The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant.” -T.S. Eliot

Throwback Thursday

Another old love poem written on a cold afternoon in a coffee shop somewhere.

 

The third poem I write for you

will be a pretty snowflake

resting on your sleeve,

so small you don’t notice

but there all the same.

 

The third poem will be bright and full

a siren that brings life

like a cup of coffee that you buy me

and in a moment

the world is our shining carousel.

 

The third poem will be Lewis and Clark brave

telling you all about how

I’m almost about to be falling

in ill-timed love with you

and though I’m the one who’s leaving

You’re the one that is slipping

through my fingers.

 

The third poem I write for you

will be the one that you see.

I’ll leave it on your car or slip it into your hand

or give it to you as a gift,

my goodbye letter,

and you’ll read it and chase after me,

in my mind.

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