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Living With Roaches

There are definitely roaches in my house.

Not like big ones, but roaches nonetheless.

Cockroaches.

I feel like it’s such a gross, dirty word.

I’ve gotten myself into the habit of cleaning my house when I feel like things in my life are not the way it should be. It’s like my go-to channel for making things seem like they are in my control. A clean, spotless space that smells of disinfectant, bleach, and glade.

“Cleanliness is next to godliness.”

I forget exactly where I remember hearing that phrase said, but for me, it has become something of a truth that has permeated my treatment of self and habitation. Where I am should be clean, spotless because it is a reflection of myself. Who I am as a person. I should also be clean. Pure. Somehow more godly. At least that was how I was raised …

Which is why finding a small roach in my drawer this morning was a little unsettling.

The fact that the little guy scurried away before I could grab him with a tissue and flush him down the toilet makes it even more of a problem because now I know that my room isn’t the perfect, tidy personal space that it should be. There is something living in it that for me, is unwelcome. Dirty. Unclean. Ungodly – whatever that word means to me now.

Because if cleanliness is next to godliness, then ungodliness is next to being unclean.

And that’s sort of how I’ve felt for a large portion of my life – unclean. Mainly I think, because of how I’ve come to define dirtiness and what it means to just not be clean.

Weakness, fear, insecurity, stress, worry, the sound of my voice, the way my body looks, acne, my height, my hair, my face, mistakes that I’ve made, a comment someone made, how someone may or may not have treated me, being rejected, not having something be the way I want it to be, not saying something I should have said, not acting when I should have, having done something that I regret, breaking a promise to myself, having sins …

Bits and pieces of dirt. Marks. Stains that I feel like won’t wash out because I’ve come to see them as such. They claw at my brain and make me react. Sweep. Dust. Mop. Wipe. Spray. Scrub. Wash. Repeat. And yet I know that the cycle is endless. There is no such thing as clean because cleanliness, just like godliness, is nothing but a state of mind.

What is unclean, dirty, ungodly, is what I decide it to be – nothing more, nothing less.

And I can spend my whole life continuing to sweep, dust, mop, wipe, spray, scrub, and wash out the unwanted things about myself day in and day out or I can decide to start learning to not be so obsessed over this notion of having to be clean. Pure. Spotless.

What is unclean does not have to be ungodly and what is godly is not always clean.

As individuals we have control over nothing but the way in which we choose to see things, and so in following, when we choose to see things differently, the things that we see around us slowly begin to change. Like the little roach from this morning …

Cockroaches.

They’re gross and dirty right?

But maybe they really aren’t so bad. I mean, I don’t have to like them, but why feel the need to attach these labels on them? They are what they are and they can’t really do anything about it. So why not see them as they are and leave it at that? They’re roaches. And this roach is in my house. Do I want him here? Maybe not. But then again, do I need him dead and down the toilet this instant? To be honest no. He’s fine where he’s at.

And so am I.

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From Shoes to Sandals and Back Again …

It’s taking me a long time, but I think I’m slowly finding my way back.

Since leaving Thailand, I have honestly been so lost, in more ways than one. But the biggest piece of me that has been difficult to bring back has been my sense of self. That confidence that I once had in myself and my ability to be a part of something bigger.

I’ve lost my community and with it everything that I once stood for and believed in.

But this isn’t the first time that I’ve had to make this kind of transition. I’ve had to move around a lot. City to city. House to house. Job to job. Friend group to friend group. Over time I’ve grown accustomed to having to reposition myself and transition. And yet, for some reason, this time it feels different. Like I’m not as flexible as I used to be when it comes to getting used to the change. My mind is getting stuck on things that I used to be and can no longer stay focused on the present and what it is that I am trying to become.

I’m stuck staring at an image of myself that I am slowly starting to loathe the sight of.

And it’s crazy because now more than ever, I have the freedom to do what I want, be who I want, go where I want, buy what I want … the world is my motherf*cking oyster, which I think, oddly enough, is the problem. I’m not used to having what it is that I want. Growing up in a big family, being a poor college student, being an even poorer graduate student, working as a teacher in a failing urban school to working as a Peace Corps volunteer in the middle of the Manang jungle. This is the first time in my life really where I don’t have to think about anyone other than myself if I don’t want to, and it has honestly been the most difficult experience of my life. Mainly, I think, because I am slowly starting to discover that I don’t know who it is others want me to be if I can’t do something for them. I’m a sucker for service. I feel like doing things for other people brings me closer to them. And who I am, my self-worth, has become attached to this notion that if I give up what it is that I want in favor of what it is that another person wants, I can make them like me … maybe even love me – which sounds kind of nice I know, but in reality looks like you forgetting what it means to do things for you.

I feel like everything I do has the ulterior motive of trying to gain someone’s approval.

Especially now, here, in the big city, where selfishness is success. And yet that selfishness is attached to this same need to please. I’m lost, unsure of where one line ends and the other begins. What do people want if they don’t want you to do things for them, to not seem so “desperate” and simple? How is it that you can learn to complicate your life so that there is that added mysterious element of being there but not at the same time? Focused on yourself, untethered, uncommitted, and yet somehow still desirable?

I’m confused right now by the way the world actually works. When I moved to Thailand, I started wearing sandals for the first time, which for me, signified a big change. A move from caring so much about me and really just going all out on a feeling that caring about others mattered so much more. That it would bring me more fulfillment and happiness. But now, I feel like everything I learned and practiced is somehow no longer right. That fulfillment and happiness cannot be achieved merely by giving up yourself and all the things that you want. There needs to be a balance. Who you are is not attached to your desires, but they are still a part of you. And they are important. The world doesn’t need you to give up everything so much as it needs you to know and love yourself enough to understand what it is that you have to offer. Which means that wearing sandals all the time really isn’t all that necessary. And so here I am now, making the move …

From shoes, to sandals, and back again in the hopes of making some “new” rediscoveries.

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Make Peace with Imperfection

This mornings chapter from Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson.

I’ve yet to meet an absolute perfectionist whose life was filled with inner peace. The need for perfection and the desire for inner tranquility conflict with each other. Whenever we are attached to having something a certain way, better than it already is, we are, almost by definition, engaged in a losing battle. Rather than being content and grateful for what we have, we are focused on what’s wrong with something and our need to fix it. When we are zeroed in on what’s wrong, it implies that we are dissatisfied, discontent.

Whether it’s related to ourselves – a disorganized closet, a scratch on the car, an imperfect accomplishment, a few pounds we would like to lose – or someone else’s “imperfections” – the way someone looks, behaves, or lives their life – the very act of focusing on imperfection pulls us away from our goal of being kind and gentle. This strategy has nothing to do with ceasing to do your very best but with being overly attached and focused on what’s wrong with life. It’s about realizing that while there’s always a better way to do something, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy and appreciate the way things already are.

The solution here is to catch yourself when you fall into your habit of insisting that things should be other than they are. Gently remind yourself that life is okay the way it is, right now. In the absence of your judgment, everything would be fine. As you begin to eliminate your need for perfection in all areas of your life, you’ll begin to discover the perfection in life itself.

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Moving Onward

I’m sitting right now in the second story of Di Cafe next to Monomer Hostel with my computer plugged into an outlet that doesn’t seem to be working, sipping on a steaming hot Americano and munching on french fries wondering what it means to be happy. 

This journey here across the globe has been for me, a search for meaning and purpose. 

It is here I think, that I have figured out what it is that I want out of life – and it isn’t complicated. Friends, food, feelings, french fries. (Damn, these french fries are good.) It’s all part of a complex fabric that covers us all, keeping us moving forward and wanting. And lately I’ve been finding myself wanting. Longing. Not just for the things that I used to take for granted such as hot water, air-conditioning, a gym membership, fresh ground coffee, but for the things that I thought I could live without. Religion. Family. Culture. A relationship. Important things I know, but these are the things that I left behind to come here. To serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. To work at a school that is 100% Muslim, live with people I have never met before, be mistaken for Thai on a daily basis, dodge messages/invites from girls who can’t even pronounce my first name right … I’ve come to learn that the heart is a fickle thing. Love is hard. Trust is difficult. Integrating is more than just showing up. And yet, I’ve made a life for myself here. Amongst a people that I knew next to nothing about. In a place that I have never before heard of, let alone seen on a map.

Sitting here now, staring out the window, the sound of Bangkok traffic intermingled with voices from downstairs, the coffee grinder turning on and off, pop music playing on the station overhead, thinking to myself in Thai and then switching back to English, I can’t help but sit back, close my eyes, and just soak it all in. This moment.

Never in a million years would I have imagined that I’d be here, right now, doing the things I’m doing now. Spending the last week in a sleeping pod, collecting poop samples for the Medical team, feeling up the quick dry material at the Uniqlo, and swiping through Tinder profiles only to head back to site in the evening on the 15 hour overnight bus after which comes the local van and a 45 minute walk back to my school housing on a hill. Back to the people that I love and will be leaving in less than 3 months. Back to the life of a teaching volunteer where the daily life of my community has become my religion, my students my family, my work my culture, and myself my one and only committed relationship. Will I miss it? Most definitely. But what I am most afraid of is readjusting. Learning that everything really is so transient. Momentary. Quick. Replaceable. It feels like my life is flashing before my eyes and I just wish that I could hold it close and keep it. Not that I fear the change itself, I’ve been changing all my life – it’s the leaving behind that hurts and the knowing that in a short amount of time everything will feel normal again.

This journey will have come to an end and I will still be be on the search for meaning and purpose.

Because it is for these two things that I have done everything that I have and will continue to do. It drives me forward – moving onward towards a destination just beyond reach. Living right now in the want and longing knowing that if I take a step back and look at it all from a distance one day, it will make more sense then it does right now.

 

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Self-worth

We exist in two worlds, the internal and the external, and try as we might, we will never be in complete control of that which lives and breathes outside of us.

So focus inwards.

Hold yourself accountable for the thoughts and actions that come from your inner self.

Recognize that you yourself are also a being in search of belonging and significance in this life and that you cannot give what you do not already have.

Take the time to find within yourself that place of worthiness, because nobody else in the world is going to find it for you.

Understand that you are worth much much more than the pain, regret, anger, frustration, or fear you may be feeling, and that you can never be defined by what others think of you unless you give them permission to.

Don’t give them permission to.

Don’t let yourself be controlled by negativity.

Assert control over the only world you can ever hope to be the master of and find your place of irrevocable belonging.

Believe in your significance as a unique human being with something to offer the world that no one else can.

Trust in your own self worth as a human being, not necessarily a human doing, and I promise you, the rest will follow.

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Letting Go

I wish I could say that I figured it out. That in all this time I’ve come to a better understanding of myself. Traversed the journey. Taken upon myself the knight’s quest. Won myself a victory. But to say so would just not be true. I am still stuck on the path searching.

For all my words and hard effort, all I’ve won so far is the right to say that I am still fighting to stay alive – daily.

Struggling hard to stave off my hunger for warmth, security, and comfort.

Bits of me that beg to just give up and give in.

I believe that I am at a crossroads here, at home … a place I know so well and yet know to be the place that I am running from. My heart beats in time with the thoughts currently marching through my brain. How who I am and what I do has come to define me. How who I have been and what I am doing defines me. And how who I think I am and what I have done is defining me. We are an imperfect symphony led by a cacophony of voices coming from directions we cannot always follow. There is no rhyme or reason sometimes to the madness that consumes our insides with fear and doubt. It is up to us to silence ourselves and become attuned to the tuneless. That for which we do not understand exists to test us.

I am on a journey that has no real end. Caught up in a never ending cycle of rises and falls. Repeating history. Finding myself in the same ditch. Looking for a way out … There is a lesson to be learned in all of this. Or at least I think there is.

An Autobiography in Five Chapters by Portia Nelson:

I. 

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost … I am hopeless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

II. 

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I’m in the same place. But it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

III.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit. My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault; I get out immediately.

IV. 

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

V.

I walk down another street. 

Making a return back to the old, known, and familiar has made me realize that wisdom would have me choose not to walk down the same street with the same old holes, but I do so anyway … it’s a habit. My eyes are open; I know where I am; It is my fault. I need to get out immediately, but I hesitate, I justify, I revert. There is something strangely comforting about knowing that there is always going to be a place for me to hide. Something for which I can blame my own inability to keep moving forward.

The holes in my sidewalk are a familiar imperfection, and there is “beauty and humility” in imperfection. And yet, I find myself understanding that there is more to this story.

I am at a place and point in my life where growing means changing, and changing means learning how to not only walk around the holes in my sidewalk but to find another street to walk on, regardless of how well worn this pathway may be. How well I’ve come to memorize its every crack and crevice. How in love I may be with its neighborhood and views. The nostalgia it may hold. The colors it showed as the seasons came and went. The memories that were made on its cool concrete surfaces. I need to let all of it go. Somehow, I need to learn how to find another way to move on …

For in letting go, I believe that I am doing the only thing I can to save my life from the darkness.