A dream to remember

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Do you believe in dreams? By that I mean, do you ever wake and know that your dream meant something real? I’m a big believer in the power of dreams, and I had one last night that was so encouraging to me that I just wanted to share.

First, a little backstory. This last year has been one of questions for me. I’ve done a lot of self-examination, a lot of mental wandering…wondering about vocation vs. hobby, who I am vs. who I want to be, etc. I can visualize the kind of life and work and meaning I want to have and bring to the world, but I have such a hard time finding the way there, and so much impatience about how long it’s taking, that I often wonder if these visions of the future hold any weight, if they could ever come to pass.

Back to the dream. I dreamt that I was wearing my wedding dress, and my hair was down, and loose. I was in a large open field, under a tree. There were lots of people surrounding me, including some I admire and know only by their work. Everyone was smiling and connecting with each other. In front of me was hanging a rope, the kind you would use to swing into a lake. I knew that if I got on this rope and swung on it while wearing my wedding dress in front of all of these people, it would look really silly, but I also knew that it would mean I had come to my fullest potential and finally become the truest expression of myself. I was kind of nervous, but I was laughing and everyone around me was encouraging me, “Get on the rope! Do it! You have to!” Finally I just decided to give in to it, and I climbed on the rope and started swinging, in front of everyone. I was going higher and higher, my wedding dress and my hair were flying out behind me and I felt completely free, with the purest sense of joy. Everyone was clapping and just so happy. Joy was the only emotion anyone had. My field of vision kind of panned out and I saw myself, swinging, surrounded by all of these people, and I was totally free of any fears or insecurities, basking in complete fullness of self, joy, and purpose.

When I woke up, I just knew that this dream was meant as an encouragement. Despite all the fears and gnawing, daily insecurities I may have about my talents, my work, my passions, my life and relationships…if I just move forward and swing on that rope despite it, I will accomplish those dreams. And I have so much support. It was like the whole world was saying, “You have to lay down your fears and just start swinging…we’ve got you.”

 

(photo of my sister-friend, Jen, in La Casa del Árbol Baños, Ecuador)

Becoming Balanced

Lemon Tea
I’ve been thinking a lot about balance as of late. It seems to be the distress of our time to be surrounded by extremes. We gorge ourselves over holidays and then starve ourselves in the new year. We work ourselves into the ground during the week and then can’t get off the couch for the whole weekend. We give all our energy away and then can’t understand why our own lives are a mess. It seems that we are always looking for the next Thing that will help us, or fix us, but the problem is that we often look outside ourselves for it. We are so out of tune with our own bodies; we’re constantly taking in information and not giving ourselves time to sit with it and process it, or to feel stillness or silence. We rarely create space and time for ourselves. I am guilty of this myself. It was in contemplating these things that I then began to explore where I am learning and desiring balance in my own life.
I’m learning balance in my rest. Having a work/life balance has always been important to me; I am not the workaholic type. I enjoy and need rest and time to myself. However, my rest time is often very unproductive, and rather lazy. I forget to use my time towards the things I say I love, like writing, practicing French, or baking. This is something I always struggle with, but want to get better at.

I’m learning balance in my spiritual practice. I see many people who are all or nothing in their faith (whatever that faith is), and I just can’t reconcile that for myself. I want to find a balance where I can see and accept truth for what it is, no matter where it comes from, while still being strong in what I believe. I want to be confident in my convictions, but open and willing to listen.

I’m learning balance in how I eat. For almost my whole life, I’ve been able to eat whatever I want, and I rather scorned “health” food in favor of weekly nachos, pizza, and cheeseburgers. Now I’ve been introduced to super delicious healthy foods that I love. I feel good about what I’m putting in my body, and am interested in eating to be healthy, but I don’t place restrictions on what I won’t or can’t eat. I’m trying to find that middle ground.

I’m learning balance when it comes to how I care for my body. I’ve never been athletic, so I’ve never exercised. I hated it. But I’m learning what I really dislike is running, so I’m finding other ways to strengthen my body and see what I’m capable of. For me, that’s yoga and barre classes. I love the way that it makes me feel more in tune with what my body needs, and I love feeling stronger and less achy.

I’m also learning more natural, holistic ways to treat ailments, and products to use in beauty care that won’t harm me in the long run. I’m still a firm believer in doctors and know they are vital, but I’m interested in finding that in-between place where holistic, more Eastern health care meets the more traditional Western health care.
This whole balance thing has really taken up a lot of my thoughts in the past month or two, and it’s become something I feel really passionate about sharing. This place, Dear Wilderness, is not going to become a health and wellness blog by any means, but it will continue to remain a place where I share what I’m passionate about, and so it might take a more “natural” turn in its focus. I want to talk about faith and spirituality, finding emotional expression, delicious recipes and restaurants, books that stimulate the imagination, natural health remedies, and general balance in all areas of life. Life is about the contradictions, the things that shouldn’t work but do, the unexpectedly beautiful, and finding the balance in the midst of it all. I want to extend my roots into this beautiful earth and reach up towards the heavens to search for beauty and wholeness. Hopefully I’ll have the courage to live out what I find.

Beauty Itself

“What if the man could see Beauty Itself, pure, unalloyed, stripped of mortality and all its pollution, stains, and vanities, unchanging, divine,…the man becoming, in that communion, the friend of God, himself immortal;…would that be a life to disregard?”
—Plato

Shades of Grey

Gray 4

Gray 3

Gray 2

Gray 1

I love these photos from Kinfolk Magazine. As much as I may think I’m not susceptible to the idea of “eternal youth,” it still creeps in unexpectedly, because our culture is saturated with it. That’s why I so admire these beautiful women. The photo essay these appeared in was titled, “The Grace of Gray,” and I don’t think there is a more apt description. These women are so beautiful, in the most natural way one could be. As I continue to get older, my goal is to embrace the lines of life on my face, for they showed where I felt beauty and pain. As difficult and counter-culture it may be, I hope I have the courage to be crowned by the beauty and grace of gray and silver. I want to appreciate my body more the longer it is around. I want to nourish and care for it, not try to hide it. I’m not sure now how I will feel when I get closer to the actuality of wrinkles and streaks, but I hope that no matter what the color of my hair, I will embrace who I am and the body that’s carried me so far.

Life as Paradise

I read a quote by Leo Buscaglia today that said, “Life is a paradise for those who love many things with a passion.” It made me stop and think. Am I living in a paradise? Am I pursuing the things I love with a passion? I like this quote because it implies that we are in charge of how great our life can be. Of course bad news, bad days, and bad circumstances will come our way. But we can choose whether or not we view our life on the whole as boring and lackluster, or as a happy paradise of our own making, filled with things we are passionate about.

So how do I make my life a paradise? What are the things I love and am passionate about? And then, how can I pursue those things on a day-to-day scale? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking long term or big picture, but I really think that it is small moments that are the most important. Daily decisions and small acts make all the difference- and they are much more attainable!

Buscaglia’s quote really made me desire to live more passionately, so I’m starting by writing just five things I love most to help remind me to take pleasure in the small things and small decisions, and build my own paradise.

1. Books- I have to make time to read, even just one chapter, every day. I definitely feel it when it’s been a couple of days without this time.
2. Aesthetics- I love putting together images of beautiful things. Something about a cozy space, a flower in bloom in a jar, or a gorgeous Christmas party makes me so happy. Now that I have an apartment of my own (shared with my husband, of course), I love finding images and shops that help me express my aesthetic. Sometimes, it can make all the difference in one’s mood.
3. Small businesses- If given the option between a chain or an independent store, I’ll almost always head for the latter. There is so many beautiful, unique things to be found by the creative, passionate types who open their shops, and I love supporting their creativity.
4. Food- I do love cooking, but I love eating even more. Now that I have my evenings free, I’ve been meal planning and trying out new things almost weekly. It’s been a good exercise in learning, patience, and health.
5. Relationships- This reflects not only my desire to cultivate the beautiful friendships I already have, but my desire to truly see people. I think of all the people who work in customer service who often get mistreated or simply overlooked by people in a hurry or in a fluster. I do not want to miss all the beautiful people in the world because I was too busy thinking about myself. (I think what this really comes down to is being present in the moment, but that’s another post.)

What are your passions? How can you make your life a paradise? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

On Love

Is it possible to write freshly about the oldest topic since the beginning of humankind? I have spent my meager 27 years of existence trying to wrap my head around it- trying to chase it, to hold it in a jar, wondering how to let it illuminate me, how to let it transform me and those around me.

 

We think we understand it. The majority of all songs try to capture its nuances in some form, whether decrying it or extolling it. We’ve heard about it from every medium, and we have certainly received it in certain forms. There were many times in my past where I was sure I felt it. Looking back, it’s hard to say, because I now contrast everything in my past to the present I am living.

 

Love.

 

It is the driving force behind everything, whether or not we acknowledge that fact. It transforms everything it touches. Everything we do comes from the love we choose to share or withhold.

 

It is so easy to sound cliché when talking about love, because it seems that everything about it has been said. Language falls short in describing this most unique of all emotions. We say the same things, not because we cannot think of anything else to say, but because those clichéd phrases hold a deep truth that we have simply taken for granted. Gustave Flaubert famously wrote in his breathtaking novel Madame Bovary that “none of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” Language, while beautiful and meaningful, has its limitations, and love seems to be beyond its capacity, hard as we try.

 

Love, like much else in this world, changes and evolves. We are unaware of the forms and the strength it can take until we are deep in its throes. When we are children, we feel the safe, unconditionally love of our parents. When we are teenagers, we experience our first tantalizing taste of passion (and naivety) and we are convinced we have found The One (every time). As we get older, we experience the painful side of love and the devastation of broken trust and forgotten feelings. And after all this trial and error, we still hope for a kind of love everyone says exists, even if we may feel slightly unconvinced that it does. And then…we find it. We find this deeper, truer feeling than we knew we could experience. It’s better than what we could imagine. It’s heaven, it’s perfection. And even later, as all parents (even the surprised or unsure ones) will tell you, the love you have for your children is like nothing you have ever experienced.

 

And so love comes full circle.

 

I think we are so fascinated by love because it contains so much more than just amorous feelings. It contains trust, instinct, validity, safety, nurturing, listening, encouragement, challenge, and friendship. We search for it because we search for all of these things. Love makes people act with more grace, more compassion, and more kindness. What we receive, or what we’ve forgotten we’ve received impacts the way we treat our fellow human beings. The sting of lost or betrayed love can fertilize bitterness and anger, but the force of a deep, unconditional love cannot be contained and blossoms to show its face wherever it goes.

 

They say love is blind, because many times we are unable to see (or deliberately ignore) the flaws in other people, many times to the detriment of a relationship and personal health. But we do this because we love that person- in light of love, we are able- and willing!- to look past certain flaws and shortcomings with grace, because we love them. My question is, what if we took the healthy part of that- the grace and acceptance of others and others’ humanness- and applied it to everyone we meet? How different would the world look? I think this is the question that so many poets and songwriters have tried to answer. If we truly put love at the forefront of our minds, and at the foundation of all we do, perhaps we can make our lives, and the lives of those around us, more beautiful. I’m all for trying.