Anxiety

Ink

I made the mistake of scrolling through Twitter while having my morning coffee. Anxiety-inducing caffeine mixed with anxiety-inducing messages about how health care changes are going to influence us all swirl like the cinnamon in my cup. Today’s choice makes my stomach hurt – health care, not my coffee.

I’ve got to stop starting my day on social media.

Coffee time needs to be for Jesus, for devotionals, for lists of gratitude and prayers and hopes.

So I write, to calm my anxiety, and to ground myself in the good again. Putting words on ‘paper’ often times is the only thing that makes sense.

The phrase ‘pen to paper’ really seems to lose its romance when you think about how people write their thoughts these days. ‘Put your fingers to the keyboard’ has none of the glamour. No images of writers struggling are conjured with the act of typing. Click click click on a keyboard – the nostalgia is gone. You can’t smell typing like you can a ball point pen. The beautiful smell of ink coming out of a ball point pen.

Ink.

Pre-death, I always said I would only get a tattoo if I had something big to remember. If I went through something tragic, or lost someone.

Damn. I have lived through both.

I wrote a letter to my dad on the year anniversary of his death. In my ramblings, and through my tears, I wrote about how proud he would have been of my brother who has lots of tattoos:

You should see Sam, Dad. His long hair and big muscles and tattoos to remember you by. How we ink our skin in hopes of putting you and your legacy back into our bodies, to absorb you yet again into our blood. I want one, a tattoo to remember you by. I’m kind of scared though. Needles and me don’t get along. That’s something we had in common too. What would you get? Your handwriting on my arm? That chicken scratch scrawl that used to drive me nuts.

I went back and forth, for that fear of needles is real for me. Could I be brave enough to make such a permanent choice?

A few weeks later I was reading the handwritten speech Dad gave at my wedding. At the bottom of the paper he had scrawled his favorite phrase of adoration, ‘love you much.’

“Do it”, he whispered through those words on paper, “mix my words with your blood and carry me with you permanently.” 

And so I did. I met a beautiful tattoo artist who accepted my whole family into his studio with compassion. My mom embarrassed me exclaiming to Jordan, “but you are just so normal!” He laughed her words right off his shoulders.

Jordan took Dad’s handwriting and made it beautiful.  Figured out how to transfer the letters onto my skin. Held my arm, made sure the words were straight, transferred Dad’s legacy onto my skin and deeper into my blood. Words and love made permanent through ink.

Here it is:

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Needle to skin has shimmers of beauty too. Writing stories on our skin. Ink.

 

For more information on the studio Heart & Skin visit their website.

It’s Your Turn and Yes, I Love Croissants

Hey you! Yes! You!

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Do I have your attention? One of the most beautiful experiences that has come of this blog is the chance to connect with other writers, creatives, inspirational folks fully living life, who are also seeking beauty in their every day to day ordinaries. I have reached a point where I want my ideas expressed here to inspire others. I am excited to announce that I am now accepting guest submissions to be included here on my blog. If you have had a poignant example of choosing to experience the beauty in your every day life, I want to hear about it, and to share it on this space. If you are interested in being a guest contributor please email me the following to 52beautifulthings@gmail.com:

A post between 500-800 words about your experience with beautiful things

A picture of yourself and your favorite quote

Any social media connections you want to promote – Twitter, Instagram, your blog or website

If you think we may be in alignment, I can’t wait to host your beautiful encounter here.

And now on to this week’s experience with a beautiful thing…..

When I was in college, I vividly remember sitting on the back porch of my bible study leader’s house with four young women who had walked the four year journey with me. It was the week before graduation, and nothing was set in stone. One out of the five of us, one had a job lined up. One was staying in Boulder, one going to DC, and the rest of us were moving home. As the sun set over the Flatirons, our conversation wafted out into the summer night as we shared hopes and dreams, and anxieties about what was next – what wonderful adventures would fill our lives as our bank accounts quivered in fear of “self-sustainability.”

This weekend, I got to spend a full day with two of these women, and my heart was full to the brim. I was amazed to think back to that hot summer night, and to watch in awe at how God’s hand continues to direct each of us on our paths to, I don’t know, the beautiful something or someones rather, that we are meant to be. One friend is living in Manhattan using her amazing skills to sew costumes and alter the beautiful clothes of the rich and the famous. One friend is living in Denver, working her way through the advertising field, gaining skills and supporting companies as they grow and change and morph. I continue to walk my way through the non-profit field, learning new things and finding new ways to connect caring individuals to causes they feel passionate about. The whole group could not be with us in our mini reunion because one woman is in Africa doing missions work. The other in Japan with her husband in the AirForce.

I wanted to turn, as I walked with my friends in the sun, and whisper back to those anxious 22 year olds, it’s ok, you are going to continue to discover more about who you are and what makes you tick. You will continue to learn to stand up for yourself, and what you believe in, and navigate some gain and some loss. You are more beautiful now than you were then, because life and all of its roller coasters bring you more beauty if you let it.

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That’s what growth is – you can’t see it while it’s happening. When you stop to look around though, you’ve got more fruit in your hands than you’ve ever imagined. I miss my weekly encounters with those women, and long to create new community where I have been planted. If you are in your mid-twenties, raise your hand if you have been lonely in the loss of friendship as we all start to divide, to separate, to march into our own territory? I’m realizing, this week, that much like the separation from family is necessary to grow, the willingness to accept your friends coming in and out of your life is a blessing. No, I don’t see my circles of friends each week, each month, and now even as frequently as each year. I do, however, treasure the time I get to spend with those who still peek their way into my life. Thank you for shaping me, and continuing to support me as I start shaping myself.

And, let’s talk about bakeries. Nothing is better than a pastry and a coffee while you wait for brunch. NOTHING! I love me some carbs and coffee. If there are sprinkles, even better. I got to spend my Saturday morning here and the smells of sweet dough mixed with floating flour made my heart happy. Look at those pastries! SO BEAUTIFUL?

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Biscotti: None – but does this bakery count

Essie Nail Polish: got a pedicure instead

Plan to Be Surprised

The tagline up at the top reads “An imperfect attempt to find some beauty the world has to offer. One week at a time.” I’ve been dwelling on my own mantra for the blog this week. Do I try, ever so gently, to embrace the imperfections within myself and within our situation? I know, without a doubt, that I am blessed and experience immense privilege. My family is healthy, I have a roof over my head, I get along with my mom, I live in a state that has beautiful weather, and sunshine, and mountains. This running list of blessings and opportunities to grow are perhaps where I should extend my focus.

However, I shift gears this week to find the beauty in imperfection. Practice what you preach right? So, here we go (with the disclaimer that I’m a little insecure about what will flow from these words because honesty in your experience always open the doors to scrutiny from outside audiences.) Here are the messy parts of me that I’m trying to reclaim as imperfectly beautiful.

1) Healthy choices haunt me. I love eating little kid snacks. At times that means carrots and ranch, or snap peas and hummus. At other times, like tonight, a balanced meal consists of pigs in a blanket and brussel sprouts. With a handful of Cadbury candy coated eggs. Sugary, delicious, refreshing lemonade too. Everyone deserves a good hot dog now and then right? I choose water frequently, but Diet Coke is also delightful. I once had a wise woman tell me, “Everything in moderation. Even moderation.” I love that phrase. I will try to choose the pea pods more frequently. There are anti-oxidants in walnuts right?

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2)  I am an anxious person – I worry about our jobs, and when our landlord will sell the house we live in, and how to create a five year plan that is bullet proof. Baz Luhrman says that worrying is as effective as solving a math equation by chewing bubble gum. I know it’s not a productive use of my time, but I do, I worry. I’ve got several people who love me working on this with me. I say hello to my anxiety in the morning, and ask it to pass through my body, acknowledging its presence, and politely request it moves on. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I say goodnight to it, and sometimes, I let it sit until a moment of peace arises in my heart and I catch myself laughing.

3) I am messy. When you walk in the garage door into our house you will see four pairs of Dylan’s shoes lined up nicely on the door mat. When you stand on that very same mat, and look from the garage into the living room, and down the hall, you will see discarded pairs of shoes that mark my journey into the house that ultimately leads to relaxation for my bare tootsies. I discard my shoes, my keys, my mail, until we do a weekly round up on Saturdays. Dylan and I have separate closets because I leave my clothes on the floor, and don’t hang up my towel in the morning unless he reminds me to grab the potentially soppy mess. That mess is a part of me, so I lovingly embrace it.

4) I’ve been known to be sarcastically sassy. I snip when I’m under stress and when I’m hurting, or unsure of my space in this big, bold world. I like to think that I have a great sense of humor, but when I’m processing change or transition, I draw into myself and I snip. Sorry if you have been on the receiving end of that lately. When I’m aware of my own defense mechanisms, my reactions provide me chances to retry and regroup.

5) We commute. Both of us drive over a half hour to get to work. I bitch about it, and the driving, at times, eats into our evenings and our positive attitudes. Hallelujah for two cars and money for gas. Again, I know not everyone can utilize these luxuries. Negotiating how to change this concept of balancing where we live to where we work, or accept the things we can not control means analyzing how we can take personal responsibility here. And trust God that we are right where we need to be. That maybe, he, or she, has circled this place for us on a map.

6) I don’t have a five year plan. I stress out and jealously compare my dreams and pace of career to my friends who have said since the age of seven, “I’m going to be a doctor” and they are now doing it. I plan to dabble, and try things, and commit to learning. Have you seen that movie with Steve Carrel, “Dan in Real Life”? At the end of the movie he is giving advice and he says, “Plan to be surprised.”

That is entirely what I plan to do.

Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. Agree or disagree?

Biscotti: None

Essie: I need a color for a wedding I’m going to this weekend. Any suggestions?

Hopes & Healing in Boxes

This time two years ago I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time. I was in a city with people I didn’t know, and spent many evenings during the week home alone, or with Dylan, reading books and wallowing in anxiety of how to even get this thing called life started. In December of 2012 I moved with anticipation and anxiety of what being an adult actually looks like – away from home, away from my friends. Towards what I wasn’t quite sure. All of my belongings could fit in the back of my SUV. One load.

In December 2013 I moved back to my hometown with a hope of a return to normal, to community, to a proper sense of grounding. This time, the move took three trips in a truck and I brought a man back with me. I was disappointed and shocked to find that while my hometown hadn’t changed too much, perhaps I had. I wasn’t the same Katie that walked those streets and halls and through the nostalgic memories. The realization that perhaps the job, or the location was not the problem, but rather was something within me took quite a bit of therapy to admit. This move gave me the opportunity to say yes to new opportunities in relationship and fully walk towards the promise and commitment of marriage. I had to come home to move forward.

Here we are in December of 2014, once again moving, with wedding gifts, and hopes, and compromises that come with having a life partner. This move required a U-haul. I’m not quite sure what will be next, but know that it is so wonderful to be moving towards things with another person at my side. Excuse the self promotion here, but I am thrilled by the healing that I have carried with me this year. Usually, the moving of my physical belongings, and the disruption of my connection to place throws me completely off my center. I know I probably wasn’t the most fun to be with over the last week – moving makes me really crabby. This time, though, the past few years experiences have made me realize I’m going to be ok. I already am ok. Perhaps I’m even grand. I’m not waking up with stomach gripping fear that literally makes me gag. I’m not losing weight from stress. I’m breathing and trusting, and healing. I’m healing. And I’m thankful.

Remember, that return to community that was so important to me in December of 2013? God has answered that prayer tenfold and I’ve found wonderful opportunities to reconnect with old friends. Friends who were traveling, friends who are in school, friends who have also found their way home, back to their roots. Friends who seek out groundedness and peace and giving and look at the world through a critical lens. Friends who come over to help move, or bring dinner to share, or tell me to wipe a tear from my eye. I am not sure where we will go as a group, as dreams take all individuals in a multitude of directions. For now, though, there is so much beauty in connection with others. Look at this motley crew of people who showed up to help us move, because they care about me and they care about Dylan and they invest in friendship. They breathe fresh hope for human connection into my heart. For all those friends not pictured here, you, too, know who you are.

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I’m ecstatic about the beauty of healing, of progress, and the opportunity to reflect about growth. You don’t know what blossoms in that painful experience of sprouting new shoots until the flower has bloomed. Have I bloomed? I’m not quite sure.

What gives you anxiety? How about affirmations of healing?

The Laundry is Done

The laundry is done. All of it. There is nothing in my hamper, nor in Dylan’s. I don’t want to put on pajamas, because that perfect status of “all taken care of” will be incomplete. Maybe I’ll sleep in my clothes. 

The floors are swept and mopped – for probably the first time in a few months (sorry landlords). The toilets are scrubbed, and the dishes are clean, put away in the cabinet. I can see the surface of my kitchen table. The glass on our coffee table is sparkling. We cleaned. 

What is thrilling about this state of my house is that I took the intentional effort to regroup and make myself feel a little bit better about launching into a huge week of my life. Huge emotions, huge to do lists, huge excitement. Lots of people and feelings and food and items to carry. Fun items. I absolutely am thrilled that Dylan finds priority in these tasks as well. That lemony scent of floor cleaner is just as soothing to him as it is to me – I think we can thank his mom for that one. 

Don’t, however, look in our bedroom, because that seems to be staging for quite the ordeal. We’ve got piles of programs, and candy, and boxes of wine, and gifts and shoes to bring to this location or that. The bubbling anticipation of good things to come hums in those piles, vibrating with the minutes that tick by as we head towards the words “I do”. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure “I Do” is actually written into our vows. Maybe I should look into that. 

I feel really good right now, in this moment of ordinary chores, in tasks that I seemingly hate, because they bring familiarity. There is so much beauty in the pause. “All Praise to the Pause”, as Alice Walker would say. It was beautiful to have a break today – from work (slightly, I still went in to get things off my other to do lists), from crowds, from other people. There is beauty in being able to go to bed at 10 pm because I want to, and beauty in my down comforter tucked in next to my ears. There is beauty in the breeze that blows through our open windows cooling down the apartment. There is beauty in this pause, tonight, before the hustle and bustle. 

Last night, we went to a family gathering, and I was a little on edge. I am really nervous about being the center of attention, about answering questions and saying hello to more than 125 people. I’m anxious about pleasing people, and making sure the day goes smoothly, and that maybe, someone I love will be disappointed. Dylan told me, “You just get to rally.” I said, “What if, instead, I want to run away?” He said, “That’s not a fun choice in the midst of people that love you.” I have to remember that; they will be there because they love me. I get to be immersed in love, and joy, and maybe a few tense moments and perhaps exhaustion.

Tonight, though, there is beauty in the staging, the preparation, the pause. 

We take a deep breath, and we see how it goes.