The Beautiful Hike

Again, I am compelled to write. I am so moved and so very grateful for this time in my life, especially the last few days. I can feel my place on earth shifting. I’m not sure how to put this into words, exactly. It just feels like I am moving into the place I am supposed to be at this time in my life, surrounded by the people who are supposed to be in it. It is a good and strong feeling; it is comfortable.
Yesterday was a typical weekend day for me—hiking with friends. It was also atypical, and magical. There were four of us. In the beginning I expected about eight people, but some people cancelled for various reasons. It is always so. I wasn’t offended, but I was a little sad they would miss out on the experience. As it turned out, it was meant to be.
Coincidentally, none of the people who came to hike with me yesterday knew each other. There was Chris, a guy I met through salsa dancing, but who quickly became a staple hiking buddy. I never actually invited him to go hiking, but he took a chance when he saw my post on Facebook one day and decided spontaneously to ask to join my friends and me. We instantly clicked and we have been hiking together ever since!
I’ve known Chrissy for a long time. In fact, she was one of the first friends I made in Oregon. We worked together for a short time, stayed friends, lived together for three years, and after eight years we know each other through and through. She doesn’t usually hike with me, although she has a strong love for the outdoors. I was so pleased she decided to come because we hadn’t spent much time together since moving out of our apartment a year ago.
I met Kim a few years back when, in a panic about an ill-fitting bellydance costume, my cousin Yemaya came to the rescue and hooked me up with her. Kim is a bellydance designer and seamstress, and she fixed my costume, amazingly, in the 36 hours before I had to leave for the Oregon Country Fair, where I would be performing for the first time ever! (For more on that experience, please read the blog post entitled “The Art of the Dance.” http://wp.me/p1AwLQ-I) Some years into our business relationship we decided we genuinely liked eachother and decided to hang out outside of bellydance events. It was a successful venture, and we continue to hang out!
Since there were so few of us, we were able to drive down to Silver Falls State Park in one car. The drive was over an hour long and we didn’t stop gabbing once. The conversation flowed easily and it seemed everyone felt completely comfortable with everyone, as if they’d known eachother for a long time. The vibe continued when we got to the falls. The conversations were full of giggles, exclamations, intensity, and were all very interesting.
As it happened it was the day before the anniversary of September 11th, 2001. I am not prone to going on about this event. I will not post about it on Facebook or Twitter. I mostly keep my feelings about it to myself. Interestingly enough, though, all of us shared our “I was at…” experiences about that day ten years ago. It didn’t seem awkward like I expected it to. I felt like it bonded us. We didn’t mull over it, but our sharing created a feeling of love inside me, as did all of our topics of conversation.
At the end of the hike I felt a ball of light rising from my stomach into my heart. I couldn’t hold it in, I had to share it! I knew that this day would have a special place in my heart for a long time. Now I will be able to come back to this post and relive that day whenever I want.

BIRTHDAY POST!

It’s my birthday, so go ahead and take this opportunity to celebrate the day of my birth in any way you wish! And don’t forget my twin; it’s Sarah’s birthday too!
I want to give you a recap of my Portland to Coast experience, but I also want to share the more intimate inner workings of my mind when it comes to my philosophy on running/walking.
The 2011 Portland to Coast Relay Walk was exhilarating and terrifying! (I have not built up the nerve to the full Hood to Coast Run yet, but I’m working on it.) This year was my sophomore year as a part of a speed-walking team. I was a little apprehensive before the event began. There were a lot of unknowns on my team—I had never met three of my new teammates, who would be squished in a Suburban with me for 30 hours. As Captain, I had made every effort to communicate with them, to make everyone feel at ease with the journey to come, and to let them know I had everything covered. Only I didn’t feel like my efforts were much appreciated. Most of my brain knows that just because some of my team members didn’t respond to my (well-written and thoughtfully-crafted) emails, it doesn’t mean they weren’t read. Being a Virgo, I wanted immediate responses from each recipient upon receipt of every email. Ok…I’m being a little facetious here…but I wanted to be assured that my efforts were being acknowledged, and also that I wouldn’t have to read all the rules and regulations to the team once we’d all gotten together. There are a lot of things to remember in this event, and I knew we’d be busy enough with the task at hand.  
Can you tell I put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to things like this? Have you ever been in charge of something and be absolutely terrified that things will fall apart, and everyone will turn and blame you because you stupidly volunteered to be Captain and Team Scapegoat? I have those fears. I bet a lot of us do. My chest tightens just thinking about it. I must remember to breathe.
In the end things went pretty well. They definitely weren’t perfect, but we didn’t forget any supplies, we never missed the baton handoff, and no one injured themselves, aside from the usual muscle aches. While observing hilarious costumes and team names, I also noticed was that there was so much love and support coming from everyone in the event. Yes, my teammates cheered me on when I killed that 8 mile leg in record time, but in addition to that, many strangers rooted for me as I passed their vans, stood beside them in the 2:00 AM chill, and moaned about the lack of sleep with them. I felt such a kinship with the thousands of people walking and running beside me, all of us reaching for our best selves.
That feeling is like a song that makes me fill up with joy every time I hear it. The one that comes into my head right now is “Iwoya” by Angelique Kidjo and Dave Matthews. Whether or not you like or understand the music, you can’t not be happy when you hear it. I feel this song gives the listener a gift of love with every play. And that is exactly how I feel about running and walking. It’s a gift I’m giving my body, and it always makes me happy. I have never said to myself after a run, “I wish I hadn’t done that!” I love running…and I hate it too. It makes my chest burn, my legs ache, and my everything sweat. But the most commanding feeling I have about it is that it makes me feel like a total rock star. I have never been so proud of myself as a physical being. Besides bellydance, no other activity has ever made me feel so alive. I also recognize that it’s starting to make a serious impact on my body. I’ve gone from hating my body to embracing it, thanking the Universe every day that I am able to do these things, and do them well. I wish that everyone will find their love of life the way I have. It’s a beautiful thing.

She's a Walkstar!

Games of Life

It’s 8 AM on Sunday. Normally, if I had naturally woken up at this hour, I would be attempting to go to Meeting for Worship at one of the Quaker meetings in town. Instead, I am taking advantage of this early hour and am going to finish this blog that should have been done on Friday. I apologize; I am a creature of habit, and very much wanted to post my blog on Friday, as I always do. However, I was in a frenzy of sleep deprivation and the need for one last night of practice before my bellydance performance at a Saturday market the next day. It turned out beautifully, in case you’re wondering. I haven’t performed solo in about three years, so this was a lovely welcome back into the performance world. When people who aren’t my friends or family approach me and tell me they loved my dance, I consider that a huge success. Not that I don’t appreciate the cheers of my loved ones; it’s just a nice addition when I get accolades from a stranger. Dancing for a crowd feels good! I love the call and answer of the dance. It’s like a fun game when I shimmy and get the crowd’s response in return. That kind of energy is really great!
I could write about it for hours, but I must get to the point of today’s post…
Every week an NPR podcast called Pop Culture Happy Hour (PCHH) is downloaded to my iTunes. It’s an uproarious mish-mash of pop culture and hysterical personalities. To be honest, I can’t relate to half the stuff they talk about. I’m not a Harry Potter fan, I don’t know anything about video games, and I didn’t follow the royal wedding. Nevertheless, one of my favorite things about Monday morning is knowing a new PCHH podcast will be in my queue when I turn on my computer. Any topic can be entertaining when the hosts make it so, and that is why I listen, even when I don’t know why they are giggling so hard.
This week’s PCHH was about games. The hosts spoke of the unbearable heat in D.C., which is where they are broadcasting. Games and movies are just about the only activity they can muster at this point. Growing up in the Midwest, I could relate with the heat, and games were definitely the summer evening activity in my family. One of my favorite memories involves playing Spoons around my Uncle Glenn’s dinner table in Pennsylvania. My family would pack the car and drive to Pennsylvania from Ohio every summer of my childhood. Most of my dad’s family lived in a concentrated area, so I got to see a lot of my paternal cousins while I was there. The most amazing part is that, even after my parents divorced, my paternal uncle still welcomed my mother, sister, and I into his home every summer. Obviously we would always be his nieces, but I thought it was really special that he didn’t think twice about continuing the tradition with my mother after the marital ties with my mother and father had been broken.
I started thinking about how games we play represent the stages of life and our development into adulthood. First we play Chutes and Ladders. My sister and I played this game for hours when we were little. It’s a simple game of chance where you move a few steps and are either thrust down a chute, or are able to climb to higher ground on a ladder. For me this game highlights what little control we have over anything at that stage in our lives. When you’re eight years old you can pretty much only go with the flow. You may not like going down the chute; you may love it. Eventually you’ll move on to a place in life where you are entitled to make your own decisions and be responsible for your actions, but right now it’s not up to you. So hold on for the ride! Or rather, slide!
The next two games I thought of were Spin the Bottle and Twister. Our fragile knowledge of sexuality and carnal relationships were just starting to bloom at the dawn of adolescence. These two games in particular helped develop my sexual curiosity. Spin the Bottle was the more obvious ploy to learn about boys. There were so many times my sister and I had “movie nights” in our basement while our mother was upstairs, unknowing. Now that I am older, I think she probably knew exactly what was going on, but trusted us enough to know it wouldn’t get too crazy. I can still remember my first Spin the Bottle kiss, and after, my first real kiss.
Twister was a great way to learn about bodies. When you play, you are not necessarily seeing the whole of a person. You glimpse an ankle, an elbow, sometimes a breast peeking out of a shirt. Twister made me feel like a variety of body parts, not like one whole person. At that age this was perfectly acceptable; I didn’t really like my body. I was overweight, self-conscious, and generally terrified of boys. But playing Twister was different. Maybe they would catch a glance of my left foot (My left was totally skinnier than my right.), or see that my neck was long and slender when stretched out over Blake’s kneecap. Maybe Gary would like me more if he saw me that way. Maybe we would get in a compromising position over a game of Twister and he would see the real me: smart, quietly beautiful, and willing to write romantic poetry about his glorious left upper thigh. You can see how games were not just games at this stage.
As I got older, I learned more intellectually-stimulating games like Poker and Canasta. The draw of these games was not only to stir my competitive side, but also to point my cognitive skills in a different direction once in a while. As we approach adulthood, we need constant reassurance that we are not acting like children. We want to be older, cooler. We want to make sure that everyone knows we are independent and self-sufficient. Cruising Maple Avenue and finding someone to buy me alcohol may have been fun, but it didn’t give me any aspirations, and it certainly didn’t help me build a life strategy. Kicking my dad’s butt in Poker, however, made me feel smart, powerful, and at the same time bonded me to him in a different way than before. It was the start of a new type of relationship with my father.
Growing older and forming strong relationships with family and friends has been one of the best parts of becoming an adult. Playing games with them gives me a type of knowledge that I am in the stage of life where my choices are my own. I am choosing to spend quality time with these people. I don’t have to be there; I could be anywhere, but my plan at this point in my life is to spend time with people whom I love, and value this time with them. I’d say that’s a great strategy.
Look for the parallels next time you play a game. Games are all about the similarities between real life and fantasy. Strike up a conversation about it with your opponents. Maybe it will distract them long enough so you can slip the ace out of your sleeve.

Passion on My Mind, Pt. II—The Dating Diva

From reader comment by JM—“The wonderful truth (that you already know) is this: you ARE in a relationship…with yourself. It’s the one relationship that most people forget to nurture, especially once they get involved with someone else. The more you adore who you are and allow yourself to just be, the more you tell the Universe exactly how you wish to be treated – not just by an intimate partner, but everyone you draw into your life. As you continue to soothe those feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment when the opinions and behaviors of others rear their ugly head, you will strengthen your ability to remember that your unique life and self are perfect just as they are, right here and now (which is all there is anyway). The more you focus on that truth, that reality, the more it will show itself to you.”
I’ve been writing about romancing myself, making time for me, understanding the full potential of my fabulousness, and leaving dating to fate. I’ve been feeling really good about it! (Although in the spirit of full disclosure, I bought more heart-shaped stones for my altar and romantic pictures for my Love and Romance Feng Shui bagua* last week.) Ironically, the Universe is performing exactly as it’s supposed to and I’ve fallen prey to its unfettered power! It heard the “romance” call, anyway. Take what you will from the message of The Secret**, but always know the things you put into the Universe may not be interpreted in the way you intend! As they say, love comes when you least expect it.
I met a real live man while salsa dancing last Saturday! Before you laugh, hear me out. I’ve had troubles meeting men in Portland. Mostly it has been done through online dating, which can be fun, but for a short time. Then it begins to feel tedious and like you’re on the hunt for the perfect job. It just gets old. People (especially straight men) are not very aggressive when it comes to meeting their life partner here in Bridgetown. Ask around, you’ll find I’m not the only one with this opinion.
Anyway, I met a man! He was sweet, handsome, and had a desire to perfect his salsa moves. I was really excited about this, especially when he made the first move to get my phone number. We made arrangements to meet at a Tuesday night salsa event. From there the stress started. He didn’t know his way around Portland, so he asked me to Mapquest him the directions. Why he couldn’t do this himself, I don’t know. Then he started texting me—in Spanish—in really terrible, misspelled Spanish. My Spanish skills are middle-of-the-road at best, and it was starting to give me a headache. First I had to figure out what word he was trying to write: aser = hacer; boi = voy. He spelled everything phonetically. As an English nerd I was excited to figure out his method. I wasn’t so excited about deciphering the word in Spanish and then having to translate each text message. Ugh.
The date went okay. He looked good, smelled good, and was on time. I could tell he was into me, and I was physically attracted to him. Then, the things we didn’t have in common started piling up. Education, lifestyle, hobbies, family values, salsa ability (ok I’m being a snob here)…it seemed the only thing we had in common was our interest in dancing. The con list started to outweigh the pro list pretty quickly. The bottom line? He was a great guy, just not the great guy for me.
The evening ended well. He was very respectful about my personal space, and said goodbye like a gentleman. I wanted to give him some kind of consolation prize, like a second date, but I knew it wouldn’t be useful for either one of us.
When I got home I started analyzing. Maybe I was missing something fantastic about this guy. Maybe in a less crowded atmosphere I would find myself entranced by his charm. I went on like this for a while until I finally fell asleep. In the morning, regardless of all this back-and-forth, the pro-and-con list, I realized something. I wasn’t getting that sickening feeling I usually get; the one where I realize that a man is interested in me, and right away I panic and descend like a vulture, knowing that with one misstep he’ll ditch me for someone prettier and skinnier. It’s the inexorable itch of desperation that makes me think this may be the last chance at a boyfriend. Ever. But I wasn’t experiencing any of that sweaty anxiety.
It dawned on me (again) that I can be picky and wait for someone who is worth it. There are bellydance classes to attend, mountains to hike, and blogs to write! I can woo myself in the meantime and have confidence that I will never settle for someone less than worthy.
*For more information on Feng Shui, read the fantastic book Move your stuff, change your life: how to use feng shui to get love, money, respect, and happiness—by Karen Rauch Carter.
**The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne.