Friday, August 30, 2013

Pressure Vessels

Back in Graduate School, I spent a lot of time hanging out with engineers.  Because of this, I learned quite a bit about how our world works, some of which surfaces from time to time. At some point on my flight to Madrid last night, I spent some time thinking about how a plane is basically a pressure vessel.  What is a pressure vessel? I am so glad you asked! ;-)

I am sure that at least half of my engineer friends/family will correct this definition, as this is based on fuzzy descriptions from about 15 years ago, but basically, a pressure vessel is a vessel that can sustain pressure from the outside, like a submarine (or can keep pressure inside, like a pressure cooker).  So, as I contemplated pressure vessels, and how I was hurtling through the atmosphere in one, I then started thinking about the fact that all pressure vessels have a limit to the amount of pressure they can sustain (which is why the bombs in Boston last April were particularly devastating).   No, I wasn't getting morbid in my sleeplessness... Somehow explaining your thinking seems to take longer than the actual thoughts!

Anyway, I then realized that my body is basically a pressure vessel. There have been a few CSI episodes where a body has "popped" because of the buildup of gas from the decomposition process. And so, that thought led to thinking that, as humans, we need pressure vessels like planes or submarines because we don't do particularly well when the pressure is too high or too low... We are at equilibrium with our surroundings because our internal pressure pushes back on the external pressures.  

Which brings me to my point--emotionally we are similar to a pressure vessel, too. If we live with too little or too much stress for too long, we don't do very well.  With too little stress, we (or at least I) tend to get bored and restless.  With too much stress, we get physically sick, irritable, and we often start living our life perpetually defensive.  Life becomes something to retreat from rather than something to embrace with a breath stealing bear hug.  Just like a pressure vessel, we either expand, sometimes explosively, or we collapse on ourselves.  

So far, in spite of the fact that I have maybe had about 4 hours of sleep in the last 24, I am leaning toward the "just right" category of stress.  This pilgrimage is a way to reset and evaluate, and yet, we should all reset and evaluate from time to time.  Where is your pressure gauge at?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Traveling Light

I prefer to sit in the back 1/3 of the plane...since Delta assigns seats, I was able to get aisle seats right where I like them.  However, since they also fill the plane from front to back, by the time I started boarding, most of the overhead storage bins were getting full, and they started requiring people to check their carry-ons.  Not for the first time today was I glad that planning to walk 299 miles with all of my luggage on my back required me to pack light.  I also saw someone ahead of me have to rearrange  the contents of her suitcases because one of them was over weight by 8 pounds.  When my backpack went on the scale, it was 17 pounds--with an allowance of 50, I didn't have any problems.  *grin* 

I was also pleasantly surprised to find these in the airport equivalent of a 7-11.  I hated spending $7 for one, but it seemed like a better choice than airport food for breakfast!  Of course, as I bought it, 2 thoughts went through my head.  First that I forgot to bring the snack size potato chip bags from home, and second, that I should have asked Tabitha if she had any of these I could have, since I know she keeps them around for her oldest to take for lunch.  Full disclosure: I also had Starbucks while I was waiting... I doubt that Starbucks is in Spain, and even if it was, european coffee is better than Starbucks any day. Even so, I was glad for the caffeine.  I was up late late last night spending time with my Dig-dog and Amber, so I am currently surviving on about 3 hours of sleep.  I am hoping that this will help me sleep on my long flight this evening, but only time will tell.

While getting on the first leg of my flight, I noticed that the zipper had broken on my fanny pack.  The seam on one side of the zipper had frayed, and the zipper head came off the rails.  I was able to put it back, but will need to add a safety pin to that side of the zipper if I want to keep it from happening again.  For a brief moment, I almost wished that I had left my hiking poles and pocket knife at home so I could have carried my backpack on... Am I the only weird person who keeps a safety pin or two in her purse???  Maybe I will get lucky in Atlanta, and find someone with a safety pin!  If not, I can just be careful, and get one out of my backpack in Madrid.  

One thing I am already thankful for are all of my writing utensils... Back in high school, I started using colors to show my moods in my journals, and it has been fun reconnecting with that part of my personality...

Of course, I have come to realize that my drawing skills have atrophied to the point where I suspect that my nieces can draw better than me, but then, what is the fun of drawing a sun if you can't put a smiley face on it?  Doing so makes my heart happy, and even though I know that there will (and have been-they were relatively minor so far, though) hardships on this journey, I choose to do as much as I can to increase in joy and gratitude.  And, really, I think that is the true key to traveling light....being able to look for the small moments that increase our joy, as well as to be grateful for the victories, great and small.

And the above is a small victory... I cut myself last night while I was cleaning the mirror in my bathroom, and Amber gave me one of her Ninja Turtle bandaids.  I purposely asked for one of them again after my shower, because it reminds me of her and how much We love each other.  She has been wonderful in that her love, willing ear, and all-around awesomeness has helped me to complete the emotional healing I have gained so far from my divorce.  I wish I had packed more ninja turtle bandaids, but at least today, I get a visual reminder of my niece and roomie!

And, as I wait 7 hours until my next flight, here is another small victory: being able to zip up my fanny pack with impunity! 

God is just so good to me!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Santiago de Matomoros and Santiago de Peregrino

As I have been reading about the Camino in preparation of going there myself, I found out that there seems to be two basic depictions of Saint James in Spain, and along the Camino particularly.  The first is Santiago de peregrinos, or St. James the pilgrim.  He usually has a floppy hat whose brim is being held up from his face with a scallop shell pin.  He also has a walking stick and a satchel, with a gourd hanging from the walking stick.
This is a statue of St. James found along the Camino.

According to Wikipedia (I know, not the most reliable of sources, but the easiest place to find what I was looking for),  there are several legends that describe why the scallop shell became a symbol of St. James, as well as some practical reasons for pilgrims carrying them:

Version 1: After James' death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. Off the coast of Spain, a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost to the ocean. After some time, however, it washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.
Version 2: After James' death his body was mysteriously transported by a crew-less ship back to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in what is now Santiago. As the ship approached land, a wedding was taking place on shore. The young groom was on horseback, and on seeing the ship approaching, his horse got spooked, and horse and rider plunged into the sea. Through miraculous intervention, the horse and rider emerged from the water alive, covered in seashells.
The scallop shell also acts as a metaphor. The grooves in the shell, which meet at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of James in Santiago de Compostela. The shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim: As the waves of the ocean wash scallop shells up onto the shores of Galicia, God's hand also guides the pilgrims to Santiago.
The scallop shell also served practical purposes for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. The shell was the right size for gathering water to drink or for eating out of as a makeshift bowl.
Personally, the romantic in me likes the second explanation better--who doesn't like a good love story?  However, the real reason is probably more simple than that: shells are ubiquitous on the coast of Northern Spain, and pilgrims used to pick them up and take them home as souvenirs of their travels.  Whatever the reason, I now have my own shell to mark me as a pilgrim, a Peregrina.

I took a shell I picked up from the coast of Denmark when I was an exchange student, added a pin to the back with superglue, and then added the St. James Cross with a red Sharpie.  Except for a mishap with the superglue, I'm pretty proud of this!

Notice the Santiago Cross, though...if you look at it, it looks a little like a stylized sword.  I was talking with a friend who let me borrow a statue of St. James, and because he was carrying a sword, I thought he might be a depiction of Santiago de Matamoros, or St. James the Moor Slayer.  However, my friend said that St. James is often depicted with a sword, since he was beheaded.  

This is my (newly clean) dresser.  I know the picture is a little dark, but I wanted to show the St. James statue where it is currently residing, and I just thought that having the candle lit made it pretty. :-) The other statue there is St. Rita of Cascia, my Patron saint.
When I looked up pictures of Santiago de Matamoros, I realized that this for sure wasn't a depiction of this...

This is Santiago de Matomoros: he is always on a horse that is trampling a Moor while wielding a sword.  This particular statue is on one of the buildings in Burgos, where I will begin my Camino.
In this day and age, seeing St. James depicted as a soldier who is in the process of brutally killing his enemy on the battlefield seems excessive, heinous, ugly...but St. James is the Patron of Spain, and when Spain was fighting for its life in the (about--I'm not sure of the exact dates...) 10th through the 12th centuries against the Moors, seeing St. James as fighting for them must have been very comforting.

And yet, isn't that what all of us are called to be: both pilgrims and soldiers?  Think about it--we here on earth are called the "Church Militant,"  because we are in a spiritual battle, and that means that we have to be willing to strap on our armor and get on with the battle.  Granted, that doesn't mean slaying actual people most of the time, but it does mean that we have to be willing to engage the enemy of our souls.  So, as I leave for pilgrimage (TOMORROW!!!), please pray for me, and don't stop praying.  We will battle together, even as I take this journey that God has placed my feet upon.  And so, as I set my feet on this path, let me leave you with a snippet from one of my favorite Tolkein Poems:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Packed and Unpacking

Last night, I got help from one of my friends in order to pack my back-pack, and it feels a little weird to be able to say that I'm all packed for my trip next week.  Honestly, I don't know if I've EVER been packed this far in advance before, and I seriously doubt that it will ever happen again!  Final Tally for my backpack: 17.6 lbs, plus a fanny pack that weighs another 3.6 lbs.  It is more than I would have liked, but it includes my hiking boots and my walking poles, so I will actually be walking with less than that on my back.  I'm pretty proud of myself for that, even if it IS more weight than I really wanted to take with me.

Because I was going to my friend's house straight from work, I brought my gear with me...When my boss saw the fanny pack, his comment was that I would look like a dork wearing the fanny pack.  I actually agree with him, but don't know how else to keep tabs on my passport, etc.  I would rather look like a dork than worry about losing my passport!

The amazing thing is that I actually have extra room in my backpack (Unlike most trips, I didn't have to do this!)--This is good, since it means I will be able to do things like carry a little food while I am walking, as well as be able to fill my water bladder!
I'm also getting close to where I need to be for work, and as long as my professors cooperate, I will have everything in good shape for while I'm gone.  I still have some cleaning at home to do, as well as to do some purging so that I have a place for all of the stuff I plan to keep, but the plan is to do that on Saturday morning, especially since my niece will be waking me up at 6 AM in order to get a good start on the day before I bring my nephews to their football game in the afternoon.  Then, the Bishop is going to be at the vigil Mass on Saturday, so I want to go to that as well.  After that, the plan is to go dancing with my Niece, since she needs some time with me before I leave.  I'm not sure that I can shoehorn anything else into Saturday if I tried!!!

The cart is my weekend, and I am feeling a little bit like the Burro!

My brother and his wife is also coming into town this weekend, so I wouldn't mind visiting with him a little bit at some point...We have a family dinner planned for Monday, so that may be the first time I can see him, but we will see.  I'm not sure what else is planned at this point, so until I know, I can't plan much better than what I have.

It is only 7 days until I board a plane for Spain and I am beginning to get excited about my trip, although I am also dreading all of the things I still need to complete before I go.  As time accelerates, my To Do List seems to get longer rather than shorter--and this is in SPITE of actually finishing items on my list!  At the end of these 7 days, whether I finish everything on my list or not, I'm still heading toward the airport at 4 AM on August 29th, as well as  boarding the plane at 6 AM.

I am flying Delta, then AirFrance (Operated by Delta) to Madrid...Unfortunately, I have a 6 hour layover in Atlanta.

So, the physical stuff is getting taken care of, and my attention has been drifting toward the spiritual side of my pilgrimage lately.  It has been heading in that direction for a while, but the scripture passage that I feel like the Lord wants me to memorize has been steering me more in that direction...

As I mentioned in my last post, I will be memorizing Isaiah 54 while on my Camino, which is a bit of a difficult passage, since it could very well point to me having a vocation as a religious sister.  (see verse 5, for instance, or even the first verse, where it talks about the desolate one having more children than her who is married.)  I don't know for sure that I will be heading in that direction, but I feel like the Lord wants me to prepare for...SOMETHING...on this trip.  I have already been working on memorizing this passage a little bit, and the second verse points to preparation--for making room--for what God wants to give me:
Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; hold not back, lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. (emphasis mine)
So, I've been thinking about and working on UN-packing the clutter and baggage that I have in my spirit/emotions.  This isn't always easy, just as it isn't always easy to clean out our closets--most of us have that ONE outfit that, even though it doesn't fit right anymore, we keep, either because "I will be able to fit into it again one day." or "But I wore that outfit when..."  I think that we do this spiritually as well, and in the process, we don't have room for the blessings and lessons that God wants to give us.  Instead, we are too busy thinking, "Remember how much God blessed me way back when?"  or, "Why can't God bless me the way He did 3 years ago?!?"  Sometimes, we think more along the lines of, "I deserve to hold on to my anger at So-and-So because of what they did to me."  or "It is OK if I continue to do X.  It is only a little sin. God understands."  And, the next thing we know, our spiritual house looks more like that of a hoarder's house than as the Tabernacle of Worship that it is supposed to be.

Does your heart look like this?

Really, I have been working on this since my divorce, but the process has been accelerating of late--I can let go of things I never thought I would be able to, and in the process, I have found a source of peace and joy that I had forgotten was available.  I have been learning that both the Good and the Bad, when I hold on to it with inordinate attachment, can be just as cluttering as the other.  I learned back in High School that the Lord gives us blessings in order for us to bless others--when I hold on to them, my heart becomes a stagnant pool and I start to grow spiritual scum, or I start to accumulate things that I don't need anymore, like the picture above. I don't want to be like that, so I am learning to let go--in Catholic Parlance, it is being detached--not just from physical things, but from spiritual consolations as well.  How can the Lord do a new thing if I am clinging to the old?

I have a feeling that my Camino will make some things very clear to me, not just personally, but spiritually and professionally as well.  I'm excited to be walking this path, but I also know that I need to make room for God to move in my life.  So, in these last 7 days, I will continue the de-cluttering of my heart through prayer, confession, forgiveness, and extending a little grace to myself.  As I continue to prepare, please pray for me.

Friday, August 16, 2013

13 days!!!

I recently got a text from my sister, and my last piece of gear arrived in the mail today...I now have everything that I need for my Camino, and I'm beginning to get excited!

I am beginning to feel this way...I'm just glad I won't be walking in snow!
  • I have also talked to my bank and let them know that I will be in Spain during that time so that they don't lock my debit card.  
  • I have new epipens to take with me.  
  • I have begun to make a list of things to complete before I leave, such as clean my bathroom and put everything that is chewable out of my dog's reach.
  • I have been working on eating all of my perishables so that I don't leave anything to rot in the fridge.
  • I'm slowly but surely working my way through all of my courses so that I can  (hopefully) complete all of them before I leave.
  • I found a passage of scripture to memorize: Isaiah 54
  • I have begun making a list of intentions to take with me to pray about while I am gone (If you have something specific you want me to be praying about, please email me about it).
  • I bought catastrophic health insurance for while I am gone
  • I have been working on my Spanish with co-workers
  • I have been making a list of phrases that I'm going to ask one of my coworkers to translate for me.
  • I will be renewing my lease at my residence first thing next week, since my current lease is up at the end of the month.
  • I have been collecting pebbles from friends and coworkers to take with me, and will have a way to keep them together next Thursday!
  • I will be seeing the chiropractor and my counselor one last time before I leave.
I'm also getting nervous...I'm beginning to worry about the following:

Typical sleeping arrangements in Alburgues--hence my worry about snoring...I am taking earplugs, but still!
  • Is my sleeping bag warm enough?
  • Will I have too much gear? not enough gear?
  • Should I wear a non-hiking outfit on the plane, or one of my hiking outfits?
  • Do I have enough money for my trip? (according to most calculators, I do--actually 2-3x what they estimate, but I'm still worried it won't be enough!)
  • Should I take a travel pillow, or just plan on using my clothing as a pillow?
  • Will I be able to find enough to eat while I am gone? (related to food allergies--most traditional walking food like bread or nuts is out for me....I suspect that I will be eating a lot of Tortilla!)
  • Will I be able to find hot tea, or will I be stuck with coffee for the whole trip?  Should I pack some teabags with me?
  • Will I have the stamina to walk 300 miles?
  • Will I be the person who keeps everyone up with her snores?
  • Will I be able to sleep with everyone else's snores?
  • Should I take more than one pair of shoes beyond my hiking boots? If so which one?  My running shoes? My sandals?
  • How important are shower shoes? (DestructoDog chewed my flip-flops up, so if I really need them, I will need to buy a pair).
  • How likely will it be that I lose my backpack when I fly?  (I have insurance for this, but don't want to start my Camino by replacing all of my gear)
  • Will I be able to find friends on my trip, or will my introvertedness and inner feelings of awkwardness get in the way (Most social situations make me feel like the awkward, geeky 13 year old that I was in middle school)?
  • The litany of questions goes on and on....
I know that many of them will depend on how heavy my pack is once I put everything in it.  I'd really like to be lighter than 15 lbs, but anything under 20 is acceptable.  Also, many of my questions are questions that I will just need to leave up to the Lord.  Even so, I am spending more and more of my time contemplating these questions instead of focusing on the preparations at hand.  I hate to say it, but I think my brain checked out on Camino about a week ago, even though my body is still firmly in the United States.  

To get my Compostela, I have to walk from Sarria on, no matter what.

It is too late to do so at this point, but the one thing I regret is not ordering a patch from the Camino Forum I am a part of.  It would have been nice to have added that to my pack.  Even so, I will be buying a shell as soon as I arrive in Burgos to attach to my pack.  Once I arrive in Santiago de Compostela, I plan to find and buy a small silver shell with the St. James cross on it to add to the necklace that I wear every day.  I'm not sure what I will be getting friends and family members as souvenirs from my trip yet, but I know for sure that I want this particular souvenir for myself.  

In the meantime, I need to get back to work...Focus, Ruth, Focus!!! You have to get your work done!!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cheerleading for Fun and Profit (or Why We Need to be Encouragers)

[As an aside, I think I like blogging so much because of the fun of choosing titles....But that is another post for another day. ;-D]

Most of the time, when  I think of cheerleaders, I think of something like this:

You know the type, the way too perky, always happy person that lives in some kind of la-la land most of the time.  And yet, I am finding myself in the role of cheerleader more and more in my life....If anything, I've always thought of myself as the antithesis of the typical cheerleader.  I'm more of a brooding pessimist than a perpetual optimist with a perky, sparking personality...I am more like this:

I've never been a true goth, but I definitely have a corner on introverted navel-gazing
So, I'm finding myself surprised at how well I can fall into the role of cheer-leading.  How did this happen?  I really don't know, but I am currently my department's Wellness Ambassador, so I've been using that role to convince my colleagues to become more active, and in the process, I am doing a Couch to 5k training program with them on Tuesdays and Thursdays in addition to my normal exercising.  (As an added bonus, I am cultivating more running partners!) With some of the less athletic members of my department, that means reminding them that they can do it...hence the cheer-leading! 

Back when I used to teach public speaking, we spent considerable time talking about public speaking anxiety.  When it came to this particular class, I would usually start by asking students what they were most afraid of about getting up in front of everyone: the answers ranged from passing out or throwing up to having everyone's eyes on them.  A few mentioned that they felt sure that they would die of embarrassment! And yet, in my time teaching public speaking (6+ years), I have never had anyone die, pass out, or throw up.  I have had a student break out in tears, and another one trip and skin her knee on the way to the podium (and a few other jokers taking prat falls for the laugh), but the worst things people thought would happen have never materialized.  The best part of teaching public speaking was seeing how students were able to get past their anxiety to do well!

I'm convinced that we all need encouragers in our lives to keep us from psyching ourselves out of the opportunities God has put in our paths.  Without encouragers and people who can help us look at our own insecurities with a little bit of objectivity, we lose sight of the unique gifts and talents God has given us to share.  Then, we become like that guy in the Parable of the Talents--the one who buries his talent and doesn't do anything with it.  Scripture says that the master throws this servant out for not at least giving the money to money lenders in order to create interest...I don't want to be that kind of person.  I want to use my gifts and talents so that I can leave this world a better place, and that requires both taking risks and receiving encouragement.

While I'm not sure that I will ever be the perky cheer-leading type, I do want to be an encourager in my daily life, and I think that is something that all of us can strive for, since all of us need to be encouraged at times. Most of us have insecurities, and because of them, we tend to overlook some of our own abilities.  When that happens, we tend to avoid putting ourselves out there because we don't want to deal with rejection or failure.  Here's the thing, though.  If we don't try, we can be 100% sure that we won't succeed. So, sometimes, we need a friend or a colleague to come along side us and encourage us to get out there, to try, to let us know that we can try and will (usually) succeed.  I think that is why I love Dr. Seuss's book, "Oh the Places You'll Go." so much.  It doesn't sugar-coat the fact that we will sometimes have to move through failure to find success, but it also encourages us to take that risk.

The last page of the book.  I love Dr. Seuss!

What risk have you been hesitating about?  What has been holding you back?  Go ahead!  You can take that first step!!!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Welcome to Holland

A friend of mine posted this on a forum that I am a member of...

Welcome To Holland
Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel.  It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy.  You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum.  The Michelangelo David.  The gondolas in Venice.  You may learn some handy phrases in Italian.  It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives.  You pack your bags and off you go.  Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy!  I'm supposed to be in Italy.  All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan.  They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease.  It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language.  And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place.  It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy.  But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips.  Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there.  And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned." 

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever  go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.
 Since I don't have children, I can't speak to whether this is true of having a child with disabilities. However, I often feel the same way about being where I am in my life: divorced and childless (unless you count my animals--they are spoiled like children at times!).  I remember dreaming about having a large family in high school, and then feeling the pressure to "find the right one" while in college. I remember the moment in my marriage when I realized that having children was unlikely, and then the moment when my ex's behavior removed all doubt.  I remember the point when I realized that I had married the wrong person, and then the moment when I no longer had the ability to fight for my marriage by myself.

As you can see, the animals really rule the house...This is what it often looks like when we are watching TV.

Now that almost a year has passed since my ex moved out, I find myself (finally) getting used to Holland, and I like it here.  Unlike the above author, I didn't start out in Holland.  I got on a plane expecting Italy, and ended up landing in Somalia on the battlefield--I fought with everything I had for the duration, thinking that, if I fought hard enough, Somalia would become Italy.  I lost  my ammunition, my weapons one by one, and finally, the will to fight over the space of 11 years (I'm not a quick study when it comes to my personal life!).  When that happened, I walked off the field, got on a plane, and landed in Holland.  It still isn't Italy, but Italy, even if I get there, will never be the same because of the scars from Somalia.  Even so, I'm beginning to love Holland.  The tulips and windmills are peaceful, and there is a joy in finally living without bullets whizzing by my ears.  Sometimes, I still duck at loud noises, but that is happening less and less.  I have hope that there will come a day when I can look back and be thankful for Somalia and the lessons I learned there.

A picture from my most recent hike.  This was the sunrise as we began our hike over the Ron Coleman trail.  Isn't Holland Beautiful? (This is actually a picture of El Paso from McKelligan Canyon, but I'm trying to stick with the metaphor)

Right now, while the scars are still tender (but healing), I'm not always very thankful for the pain....I spend more of my time with God being a big fat whiner than I'd like to admit to!  When I am at my worst, I tend to hear the voice in my head saying, "Suck it up!" If I listen to that voice, I find that my being quiet allows me to hear what the Lord has to say to me.  And that is the best part of being in Holland....I'm finally at a place where I can really listen to the Lord instead of just reacting to the chaos around me.
Another picture from my Hike yesterday.  Living in Holland is like this flower--you bloom where you are, even if you have less soil than you would like. 

It may not be Italy, but Holland is a pretty good place to be!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Going Alone

I have never really been a shrinking violet, scared of the unknown or of doing stuff by myself or on my own. I will admit that there are some things that I'm not able to do, with others or otherwise--anything that requires I fall from a height, for instance....even rappelling is out, since it requires that I let go of a perfectly good mountain!  I will admit to wanting to sky-dive at least once, but I also know that, if I'm the one responsible for jumping out of the plane, there is no way that this particular item on my bucket list will ever happen.  Unfortunately, that is the residual of having a fear of falling.  I can be up high all day as long as I feel safe from falling, but I even have trouble jumping off a high dive!

I would not be this happy if I ever jumped.  I suspect that the picture would basically show sheer terror on my part!

Even so, I went to Albania on a short term missions trip by myself when I was 16, I spent my senior year in Germany as an exchange student, and then I went to Mongolia to teach English for a summer when I was in College.  I have driven multiple long road trips across country by myself--the most memorable was the one where my car caught on fire, or maybe the one where I had a trucker try to pick me up via the CB my dad gave me--it was his way to make sure that I could get help if my car broke down in the middle of nowhere (this probably dates me, since I didn't have a cell phone and cell phones weren't common at the time).  

Honestly, I have no qualms about walking the Camino by myself, and I'm actually looking forward to the adventure.  I know how to be safe with my valuables by keeping them on my person at all times, and I have enough money in my budget that, if everything else is stolen, I can still finish my Camino.  If someone really needs my backpack and my hiking clothes that bad, they are welcome to them. I also know how to protect my sister Sarah made sure of that in high school, and my superiors while working in the dorms finished the job with ways to get out of holds and run.  *shrugs*  I'm not going to be stupid, but if a situation comes up, I can deal with it.

Doing certain things alone still feel a little unnatural to me, though....I would prefer to go dancing, to a concert, or even to some races with other people rather than by myself.  I can and I do go by myself when I can't find anyone to go with me, but I have found that some things are better when shared.  For instance, last March, I completed a color run in ABQ...It was fun, but watching some of the other runners as they interacted with their groups, I realized that it would have been more fun with others, even if only to be able to make fun of how everyone else in my party looked at the end!  I'm hoping that doing things by myself will eventually feel normal.  While I'm really more of an introvert than an extrovert, I have no problems introducing myself to others, so I can make friends where ever I go, and really, that is part of the fun of being single again.

I am terrible at self-portraits.  This is the better of the 2 I took at the Color run back in March...This is probably a good thing, as I'm less likely to inundate here and my Facebook account with self-portraits!

These shoes turned every pair of socks green for the next 4 weeks!

I asked one of the volunteers to take a picture of me.  I showed them how to zoom, but they chose not to...
It is funny....Being single has a different kind of loneliness than the loneliness I experienced in my marriage. The loneliness I feel now is less sharp-edged, less painful....and it doesn't last as long either.  I haven't figured out exactly why yet, although I suspect that the loneliness in my pre-divorce days was mixed with feelings of rejection.  Whatever the real reason, I have come to realize that I may not have full control over whether or not I feel lonely, but I do have control over what I do with it.  I can mope and wallow, or I can go out and live my life.  When I do the latter, I end up making new friends and spending time with the friends that I have....which takes care of the loneliness.  Even when I end up doing something by myself, the act of living mutes the loneliness, if not extinguishes it completely.  It becomes a cricket singing outside my bedroom window rather than the drone of a mosquito inside my bedroom at 3 am.

So, I continue to work on being willing to venture out by myself, and in the process, I'm finding contentment. I'm blessed by friends, but I'm learning that I am also blessed by my own company.  It is ok to go to an event alone!