Transitions- faith and doubt

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I’ve been so afraid to say it. it. say it. it. it.. Say IT. I’ve heard other’s say it, cry it, whisper it, yell it, and all I’ve wanted to do is save them from their words. “Take it back” I wish to say to them, “You don’t mean it, you’re just lost, confused, you haven’t prayed hard enough. SHHHHH don’t say it. It. It.. Don’t say it!”

But really those pleadings have never really been for them. No, they’ve been for me. “Katie, you don’t mean it, you’re just lost, confused, you just haven’t prayed hard enough, SHHHH just wait a little longer, it will be okay if you just forget it. Just don’t you dare say it.”

Then one completely unspectacular morning it fell out of me like gravity stole it from my clenched teeth. I waited squeezed fists, eyes closed, in silence hoping somehow I could clean the wreckage and the splatter when it reached the ground. But as it fell through the air, echoing, dancing and twirling in its newfound freedom I realized I didn’t want it cleaned.

Instead, I wanted to give it room or a canvas even. I wanted to see what could be made from this spill, this mess, this truth and all its untogetherness.

I don’t know anymore. I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW. I DON’T KNOW!! There, I said it! I’m sure sometimes I’ll cry it, sometimes whisper it but right now I can’t help but yell it so I can hear my own voice for what feels like the first time, “I don’t know!”

And finally, that’s okay.

x
Katie

“Whatever inspiration is, it’s born from a continuous ‘I don’t know.”

-Wislawa Szymborkska 

Art: Jerome Lawrence

Hawaii

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I moved back to Hawaii this week. My friends have been gone for a while now and I’ve had time to bask in my radiant solitude.

I’ve made space for poetry again. For barefoot sandy morning runs. For acai bowls while feeling the receding tide tickling my sunburn. I feel joy.. Today I feel far from lost.

Lost

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

— David Wagoner

Our cluttered side of the bed

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We can choose to be perfect and admired, or to be real and loved. -Glennon Doyle Melton

She announced her pregnancy to the blogging world with one photo. Her husband, who held an uncanny resemblance to a Ken doll, was juggling their 3 year old twin daughters in their matching dresses while she coincidentally let out a flattering laugh. In her manicured hands she held the string to a giant golden balloon in the shape of a five, indicating their family size was about to grow. It was precious, really. But I have to admit the subtle sinking of my stomach as I noted the stark contrast of her life and mine.

This was sparked by the empty side of my bed. Or I guess ’empty’ wouldn’t be completely accurate because most of the time it is filled with random travel books, last week’s half eaten snack that I haven’t yet thrown out, and my bra that I’m still not quite sure how often I’m supposed to wash.

I am convinced my life is accurately depicted by the cluttered side of the bed- without much sense, order, or those cute Pottery Barn throw pillows. All this isn’t a horrible reality for me to accept, but there are moments, especially while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, that I sense a growing hint of uncertainly if I would be happier had I filled my life up differently.

But my uncertainty echoes hers as I am reminded of the myriad of comments she and many of my other married friends have said regarding their envy of my life. They see pictures of me hiking the basecamp of Mount Everest, eating Nigerian caterpillars, cycling the forests of Germany, chasing (or being chased by) sheep in New Zealand. In their eyes the world is my gumball and I’ve never had the fear of choking.

But trust me, I have the fear of choking. I am as uncertain as they are.

Too often, I stare at someone else’s still life photographs and disregard the complexity of their life as if I am the only flawed and doubting individual in this messy existence. But I am becoming increasingly convinced, no one is immune to self-doubt, or to the shreds of unfulfilled pieces within our hungry souls. We are all missing something. Even with God, even with families, even with the right flavor of our favorite ice cream, we can never have it all, nor can we ever be completely fulfilled in this life. Oddly enough, this is our gift!

We are made hungry and bare so we turn to other people and to a belief in a higher power. Our emptiness and uncertainty forces us to connect in search of opportunities to fill and to be filled. The greatest tragedy, would be pretending to be whole or to assume everyone else is, because it pushes us away from what we crave most-connection to people who will love us beyond our accomplishments or our nibbled on pop-tart still stuck to our bedside table.

x
Katie

Art Courtesy of Beth Hoeckel

Traveling is a means of listening

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The most uncomfortable part of traveling is returning. I realized this sitting in the Dubai airport staring up at the blue tiled ceilings waiting for my delayed plane to arrive along with the dissonance that would soon follow. I knew yet again I would feel uneasy when I came back to the uniform of everyday life.

Returning always leaves me in a costume that no longer fits the way it used to- baggy in places where I store my nationalism, prejudice, and unchallenged opinions on how life ought to look, and tight in the places where I store my empathy, questioning, and sense of connectivity with the world.

After the swing of assignments, paychecks, and Netflix return, I am tempted to allow life’s comfort to place me back in my unchallenged manner of thinking and more comfortable attire. But I cannot return from living abroad as if I only spent a week collecting sunburn and tourist trinkets from my Cancun vacation. I find little value in that.

I’d much prefer to continually redress my mind with the millions of mundane moments I observe of peoples’ lives in places I once believed to be foreign. I want to redress myself over and over again until foreign is no longer how I see the world and the people who dance around in it.

No longer would I be able to passively watch the news and hear of people in places like Russia, Taiwan, Brazil, or Syria, and feel just as connected as if I had watched a dog food commercial or heard the catchy tune to a fast food joint as a dog-less vegan. “Today a massacre in Istanbul left 39 people dead after fighting breaks out in….after fighting breaks…give me a break, give me a break, break me off a piece of that kit cat bar.”

To me, what is worth more than a degree or cushy savings account is a life well traveled, and one open to the tailoring that comes from seeing beyond our own human experience. Traveling is a means of listening. Although listening may not always be comfortable or easy, it is essential. Rolling around on those dentist office patterned carpets in airport terminals becomes less daunting when this purpose is lodged in my mind.

x
Katie

Travel- Scattered Sense of Belonging

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I’ve been away from home for years now. Holidays spent in different languages, continents, and lost on public transportation have proven to be a pattern that I never intended to set, but I gladly continued as my desire for adventure deepened. Yet I can only be away from home for so long before I clearly recognize the time to return to family.

I’ll be back this February to visit our new home which now sits in one of those neighborhood developments with the matching beige and brown combo siding.

Welcome home, will be the words sharpied out in my Dad’s handwriting on a white poster board from Target. Ohh how I’ve missed my Dad, and ohh how I’ve missed Target. I’ll be full with excitement to taste the familiarity again- to hold my mother tightly and sit on our comfy recliner scattered with dog hair and stains that act as little reminders of my favorite glitter nail polish in the third grade.

But I’ve done this before, I’ve returned home after a long period away. It wasn’t easy. I was desperately happy to see my family and return home, yet it all felt surreal. The familiar life that I craved, oddly enough, seemed like a staged cardboard set that could be blown away by the next gust of wind. It all seemed foreign. I was cast in a play but had forgotten my lines. It was anything but the comfort I had expected.

When you travel as much as I do, home is dispersed in various family members, friends, park benches, and bakeries around the world. Calling one place home seems insincere and, quite frankly, just a lie. There is a scattered sense of belonging in traveling that makes every place a shred of home, but there is also a scattered sense of disbelonging even in the places meant to be your own.

Feeling like a stranger in a land that your whole life you’ve claimed to be yours is a harrowing experience, but one I consciously chose and will continue to choose again until I find it’s time for a different kind of adventure- one that possibly involves staying.

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3 Months Later

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You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you’re okay -Cheryl Strayed

Captive

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For her love is a hostage situation
it takes hold and no longer can she control
herself, captive is her mind and her sanity.

Any semblance to a balanced and
stable woman is gone into a sort
of dependence no one could deem safe
but just like that, love took her again

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Art courtesy of Guim Tio