Do your dharma.

Today I was sitting at work thinking about completely non-work-related things like the fact that I need to move out of my house in the next month, leave for a trip home to the U.S., come back and wrap up all ties to Australia over the next month and a half and then move back to the U.S. and get married.  It should be a relaxing few months, eh?  And then I started thinking, “Hmm, Kat, what should you do for a living when you get home?”,  and “When will you get home after your several months of intended bike-touring honeymoon?”, and “Where will home be when you return?”, and then finally, “Do you actually qualify as an adult?”

This isn’t an unusual train of thoughts.  In fact, I think about it most days. And, it’s slowly driving me mad.

Truly.

Meanwhile, I am nearly done with my yoga immersions.  In a few weeks I will complete the last of them, which means I will have all the hours behind me to move forward into teacher training.  It also means that I’ve re-read the Bhagavad Gita and dabbled in the Yoga Sutras.  I’ve begun to more seriously meditate and I’m feeling pretty excited and energized by all of this.  I had a new break-through in opening up my psoas.  It was life-changing. Only serious yoga-types can say stuff like that unironically, which means – I’m in.

But with all these pieces of my life swirling around me, I still wonder what direction I should move in on the larger plane.  I’m still stewing over whether the current course of my life is what I’d like and what I’ve envisioned for myself.  It’s kind of funny that I was mulling over this today, because in an unrelated search of my gmail account, the following conversation, which took place several years ago, came up.  It felt symbolic and a bit sad.  Names have been changed to protect this innocent:

me: i just remembered talking to you last night

Mystery person: well i remembered it at the time

me: haha, i was asleep!

Mystery person: sorry it was so late, but you go to bed early

me: it was like 12:20

Mystery person: well, that’s when i worry the most about you

me: oh mystery person.  just calling to check in? making sure i’m safe in my bed?

Mystery person: no that’s not why i called if you remember

me: i don’t

Mystery person: because i was thinking about how different you would be if you lost your idealism, and that maybe being a teacher would help you with that because you wouldn’t be corrupted by monetary success

me: do you think i am very easily corrupted?

Mystery person: no i don’t think you are easily corrupted, but given enough time, I think you could get worn down

me: hmmm

Mystery person: and then one day you would just become part of the system
me: never!

Mystery person: ok, i was just worrying that’s all

I read this conversation, looked up from my computer and found myself in the office of a major oil and gas company, developing on of the largest coal seam gas to liquefied natural gas projects in the world.  I wondered if perhaps the mystery conversant was perhaps a bit clairvoyant.  I got a little squeamish in my seat.

So, I thought some more about it.  And yes, I work for a gigantic multi-national oil and gas company of the variety that I regularly skewered in papers and presentations throughout college and beyond.  But, on the other side of that,  I am part of a small and dedicated environmental team, working to ensure the project complies with all environmental laws and permits applicable to it.   That is a good thing right?  I actually care about this.  I don’t want to see this go pear-shaped.   I subscribe to the credo that you can’t say damn the man unless you can turn around and go off the grid tomorrow.  Until you’re there, you need to work with the man and get what you want through the proper channels.  And, I truly think that some of the best change comes from within.  So, am I doing what the idealist within me believes is right? Yes.

Should I continue on this track?  That’s a tougher question.

You see, I’ve learned in my yoga training about a concept called dharma, which was previously unknown to me. Dharma is the idea of doing what upholds the good and right in the world, and which an individual is uniquely suited to do.  It is what fits, feels right, and works in your life. For example, if your dharma is to be a garbage man, you’d go out and be the best you can be at it because that’s the right spot for you in the greater scheme.  Some people actually believe that when you do your dharma, the road opens up before you and what felt stuck suddenly begins to flow.

In that sense,  there is a part of me that feels I have always been in line with my dharma career-wise because I have been unusually lucky in my life. Doors have opened for me over and over again at just the right moment.  People have walked into my life and touched it perfectly, and then moved on.  But yet, I have a constant sense of being not fully committed to my plan.  So, is it my dharma?  Does it fulfill me and make me feel whole?  I’m not sure whether it does at the moment.  I know that I enjoy my job.  I feel like I have a path forward, an appropriate level of influence, and I am surrounded by extremely knowledgeable people to gain experience from.  I get to work in environmental law on a daily basis, I have ample opportunities to write (which makes me happy), and I communicate and work with all aspects of the project which makes me feel aware and engaged on so many levels.  So, why do I question my choices?  Does my sense of turmoil over working in oil and gas stem from anything inherent to it, or does it come from a place of internal judgement that I should be in a more creative, cutting-edge role?  That’s where I need to focus my analysis.

So, as I consider where to move when we go home and what my next steps will be (and the pressure is all on me here, as Rick is changing course completely and is totally flexible) I have to consider what is my dharma?  What makes me feel whole and right in the world? What inspires me and makes me passionate?  I have to also consider these questions without too much regard to monetary reward – which is hard for someone like me who often uses external metrics like grades, salary, and position as indicators of my own progress in lieu of more subtle things that are less easily measured.  I need also to, on the flip side, consider whether I am particularly judgemental about my personal career choices (despite being quite happy in my role) because of external influences such as my college experience, my liberal bias, and my own internal pressure to do something more selfless

I sometimes wonder why I impose these periods of deep reflection on my life in what appears to be two-year increments.  It’s insanely stressful, especially when you add a wedding and a transoceanic move into the mix, but I do feel most alive in these periods of massive change.  I do love the process of really stopping to consider what I want and how I want to achieve my goals.  I do like waking up in the morning with the knowledge that I’m walking away from what I know and rebuilding, again.  There is something cathartic and beautiful in the process of creation and destruction that goes with these moments.

As much as I want to settle a bit in my life, I feel most awake in a state of flux.  Is that my dharma?

What is marriage?

Rick has already written his vows.  He knows what he intends to say, even if he still plans to finesse the wording.

Me?  I’m what we call a procrastinator.

To be fair, it’s June and our wedding is in October.  In my defense, much remains to take in on the subject of love before one professes it eternally.  I find my mental space evolving constantly from one filled with autumn leaves, white dresses, and music, to one more observant of the subtle rhythms and patterns that form a marriage.  I watch my parents, my friends, my coworkers, and observe the way they talk about marriage and the way the don’t talk about it.  I take note of the specialized functions that develop in a two-person distribution of labor.  I watch the veiled jabs and gentle support that dance together through a conversation between lovers.  I watch the ways that friends slowly disclose the intimacies that make their marriages work, and I watch Rick and myself as we navigate the road that will take us to these places.

But most recently, I have watched with a heavy heart as my grandfather has been torn from my grandmother by death.  I recognize that the experience of grief is a universal one that we can all expect to experience, but as I often do, I come back to the specificity of THEIR lives and their love.  They married so young that he needed a fake ID to get a marriage license.  They shared their lives together for almost 65 years.  And in death, perhaps, they shared more intimacy about themselves than ever before.  He laid with her in bed, we all did, as she passed away from us.  I watched his poise and stoicism melt before me as he lost her.

My family is not a sentimental one.  Gruff, even.  But we wear hard exteriors to hide soft interiors.  Having the vantage point on marriage that her loss provides as I approach mine, perhaps is one of the gifts my grandmother is giving me posthumously.  She had a sharp intuition, that one.  And I credit her with helping me make my decision to come to Australia – a decision that has made all the difference in my life.  Her judgement was good.

I am, therefore, taking in the way Rick looks at me in the sleepy mornings and the way my heart melts when he talks about our puppy.  In these vignettes I have begun to envision the  architecture of our marriage, and the possible evolution of it with time.

Each time I speak to my Grandpa and hear the ways he is re-envisioning his life daily, recognizing the loss of structure, companionship, and intimacy he faces, I am reminded of what I’m signing up for.  I hope that I can emulate what he had and I take each painful observation as a lesson in what to strive for.

Breathe

crow pose

Crow pose

Breathe.   I keep telling myself that.  A few months ago, it came easily, but since I’ve gotten engaged everything has changed.

It wasn’t getting engaged that changed everything per se, it was the cascading life changes and decisions that resulted from it that are now adding up.  That, and my Grandma’s passing which, in watching my grandfather cope, has shone a spotlight on what a marriage should be and what it means to love the evolution of someone else – to evolve with them and change in harmonious ways as you both grow with time.

We’re moving home in October when we come back for our wedding.  That’s wild.  It will have been two years abroad for us, and we said that’s what we planned to do.  But, sadly, the thought of leaving challenges me a lot.  I really enjoy my job, my progression in yoga, my nearly car-free existence, and the friends we’ve made here in Brisbane.  I have finally begun to feel like this foreign land is home to me (at least in small ways), and now we are uprooting ourselves once more.  It fills my heart with a mixture of emotions.

But two weeks ago when I jumped on a plane to see my Grandmother and arrived 26 hours later in my hometown just in time to see her before she left us, I realized that the distance from Australia to Wisconsin is massive.  And, lives pass quickly in the spaces and distances that I’ve allowed to grow.  Since I got back on the plane and left my wounded grandfather at home, I’ve felt every inch of that distance acutely.  My heart aches for him constantly.

So, rather than dwell on the hurt of being so far from one I love so much during this painful time, I have thrown myself into work, wedding planning, and coordinating our move home and the subsequent settling (after some months of honeymooning) that we’ll need to do (where that is remains unclear).  But all this planning is only to cover a rawness that sits just below the surface.  The littlest things have set me off all week; whether it was Rick’s tone of voice, work stress (I’m slammed), or being the eternal subject of twitter jabs from my old boyfriend’s fiancée  (an ongoing saga). Things that normally roll off my back or make me chuckle, simply don’t. Try as I may to observe my moods and ride out the waves, I find myself prickly.  I’m edgy and sad.  I keep waking from dreams of my Grandma, and I realize now that in attempting to be strong for my Grandpa I have bottled up a lot of my own grief.  I’m back to crying on the yoga mat.

I’ve been reminding myself to breathe deeply, do yoga, slow down, and come back to my core in order to look outward.  I’m hoping this three-day weekend will be just the enforced-pause I need to do that.

Misrepresentation and social media

I came across the most interesting line in the New York Times a few days ago.

I was reading an article about the passing of Lilly Pulitzer, whose iconic clothing line, popularized in the 1960’s, continues to be a symbol of wealth (and WASP) despite the audacious color choices and patterns which are her signature.   I wore a vintage Lilly belonging to my mom to a wedding in Virginia last summer and the dress brought the house down.  I had old men looking at me like I was their 1960’s prom date, older women stopping me to reminisce about the Lilly’s that they had worn and loved, and people my age wondering where I got it and how they could find one too.   Vintage Lilly designs are fun, quirky, and more elegant than anything they put out today.

But this post isn’t about Lilly’s per se, it’s about the changing way society uses symbols and shared meanings to communicate information.  To wear a Lilly was to indicate you were a part of, or at least understood, the rules and customs of a certain part of the population; a typically upper class part with the luxury of being able to buy and wear outrageous resort-wear without shame (or you simply have exceptionally loud taste). She may never have intended this as a designer, but the brand grew the way things have for years: a good idea, worn and shared at first by friends and family locally, and eventually shot into another echelon when worn by Jackie Kennedy Onassis, an old schoolmate supporting her business.

I enjoyed reading that Lilly Pulitzer hated promoting herself. The author slipped a truly telling line about the world’s changing social mores in her piece, saying “She (Lilly) meticulously avoided personal publicity, as was once common to people of bottomless wealth.”  It was a refreshing reminder of what used to be the norm before social media amped up each of our personal megaphones.  Once upon a time people let their actions speak for themselves, without putting it on youtube, writing an ebook, blogging, tweeting, Instagramming, or facebooking each passing thought or moment of their day.  I long for the time when being humble and soft-spoken about one’s life and achievements was the mark of character.   I thought it  was one of the most sharp statements I’ve ever read on class and the changing dynamic brought to today’s society through social media, and it really hit home to me.

The topic of how social media is changing our rules and mores is a topic I have given a lot of thought to.  I recall sometime in college writing an email to facebook inquiring whether Macalester could be included in their network, back when it was only in the East.  I wanted to be a part of it then, the connectivity and intrigue of being able to learn about the people you see every day.  I don’t think I anticipated then, what social media is today. And, honestly, I don’t know if I would have gotten on board then had I known.

Whatever happened to understatement and the elegance of doing something for its own sake, without sharing it ad nauseam? I find that from facebook, to twitter, to instagram, social media seems to induce a sense of self-importance among its users that rubs me the wrong way. It memorializes life as we’re living it, giving a sense of urgency to each of our desires to share or promote our moments as we live them, rather than just living them.  It makes everybody’s walk home from work, or bike ride, or dinner, or baby suddenly worthy of blogs, photos, and incessant snippets shared via Twitter.  and while these are important personal moments, the sharing element seems to me like crying wolf on what’s important in life, slowly lowering the bar for what qualifies as memorable.

I recently joined Instagram while traveling with Eliot. He loves it and finally convinced me to get off my high horse about it.  And it’s fun, I can admit it.  But I catch myself in the midst of editing a photo of something utterly mundane that, upon further reflection, has no place on the web and then deleting it.    Not internet worthy.  Not worth memorializing, at least not anywhere outside of my brain.  I don’t want my life represented in a series of over-hyped vignettes.

I think perhaps most Instagram photos fall squarely in that category.  I mean, I love sharing photos of my life – but they can’t possibly produce an indicative image of what my life entails.  More than anything, the images present a custom-crafted vision of how I want my life to be seen by others.  It’s a form of personal marketing, and frankly I think it’s turning us all into narcissists.

Maybe I just don’t get it.  Is Instagram about marketing your life or is it just an artistic toy?  If it’s about art, again, it’s setting the bar pretty low.  I took a photo of my shin guards today and made it look good using filters. If it’s about sharing and memorializing one’s life, I think there is more insidious stuff happening to each of us when we begin to see the mundane details of life – a glimpse in a mirror, or a flower we pass on a walk, a morning coffee, etc., as media to consume and share, rather than personal experiences that make up a life.  I wonder at times whether this type of consumption of isolated personal moments takes away from them, and instead turns them into media tools to craft an image of who we are and what our lives look like.

This is just something I’ve been chewing on lately.   Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy social media and I don’t think it’s going anywhere fast.  It’s here to stay.  But,  I worry about what it does to me, and what it does to each of us.

Vietnam Pho Life!

Halong Bay sunset

Halong Bay sunset

You better believe I came up with that catchy title myself!

Anyway, I’m sitting here over a hot bowl of pho.  It’s not the first time I’ve done this since returning from Vietnam, and it surely won’t be the last.  The food in Vietnam is a never-ending gastronomic adventure that I’m doing my best to replicate at home. I wish I could tell you about all the things I ate, but the truth is that I didn’t even know what they were most of the time.  Regardless, they tasted amazing.  Even weasel coffee, made from coffee beans specially processed through the gut of a weasel!  Can’t wait to send that home to the fam!

I know I should go into detail about my travels in Vietnam, and I would love to, but I hardly think I did the country justice in my short visit.  As I always seem to do, I underestimated both the size of the country, and my desire to see all of it.  As I’ve said many times over, travel is such a refreshment for the soul – it awakens your mind and body, and reminds you of the breadth and depth of humanity.  There never seems to be enough time for travel.

Flower market by morning

Flower market by morning

Rather than go into detail about what I did and saw in the country, I’m just going to share some vignettes and observations from my time there.  I didn’t travel with a detailed enough itinerary or plan to be of use to anyone else in planning, and I didn’t take notes on what I did.  But, I can tell you my thoughts because I have plenty of those.

One of the most surprising things about Vietnam to me, was not the motorbikes, or the crush of people, or the smells of food and streets and exhaust, as many people described to me.  My mind was more fixated on the layers of culture that permeate the Vietnamese world.  As you walk the streets you see pate, french breads, and other foods whose stay has long outlasted the French rule.  You see colonial architecture next to soviet-style, socialist government buildings.  You see countless reminders of the “War of American Aggression”  or the Vietnam War, whether in museums, or in the form of someone wheeling themselves down the sidewalk in a cart because they have deformed legs due to the toxic chemicals sprayed across swaths of Vietnam during the war. You see women carrying their wares, or other goods on carrying poles and wearing the traditional Non la hats, next to teenagers on their iphones.   It’s a wild array of contrasts.

259925_647298586475_1561644896_n

Motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City

Most of all, I was struck by the persistent thrum of Vietnamese society despite all the occupations, wars, and turmoil.  I was stuck by the grassroots victory of capitalism in a country that fought so hard for socialism, and intrigued by the tangible sense of economic acceleration that I felt both in the cities and in the outlying areas.

I think part of the reason I so enjoyed the country was the company I kept, and the timing.  Having just gotten engaged a week before, my brain was full of emotions and my heart felt like it was on overdrive. It felt odd to leave on a vacation without Rick during this time, but the plans were made months earlier. So, I picked up in the throes of giddy wedding planning (and more importantly, life planning) and spent a week with one of my ex’s best friends.  It felt a bit ass-backwards and it freaked me out.  In fact, I took so long saying goodbye to Rick that I nearly missed my plane!

Morning in Hanoi

Morning in Hanoi

That nervousness proved unfounded, because Eliot and I have always gotten along like two peas in a pod.  He read the maps, I perused the internet on his cell phone.  He suggested ideas, and I said yes or no to them. He shared his mangoes, and I shared my antacids.  He paid for my custom suit, all my flights, and a few hotels, and I paid for the 6-hour bus ride where he nearly got motion sick and an overnight boat where he narrowly avoided singing karaoke.   You can see how we work together well.

I kid.  There was much more than that.  I also let Eliot wear my scarves in cold air conditioning.

But, seriously, Eliot made me feel like someone was watching out for me while we  traveled, and was a great companion for the week.  We talked and talked and talked some more, and we drank coffee, picked out baby gifts, tried on clothes, ate incessantly, rode bikes, dodged motorbikes, and generally had a great time.  Traveling with him is sort of what I imagine it would be like traveling with a brother; comfortable, engaging, flexible.  We could do what we wanted; at times we split up, or one of us went to bed, but there was never any drama.   It was a perfect fit.  And though travelling with Eliot reminded me of the past, it also brought back a lot of wonderful memories and made me smile.  As soon as I was on the plane to Kuala Lumpur by myself, I missed having Eliot sitting next to me reading magazines and acting impatient.  The kid is just wonderful.

Eliot overlooking the Halong Bay sunset

Eliot overlooking the Halong Bay sunset

It was definitely a bit odd taking off to travel with Eliot, given the myriad associations that I attach to him, and the timing of my trip just a week after Rick and I got engaged.  But, oddly, traveling with Eliot gave me a lot of mental space to recall who I was in college and who I am now, and reconcile the differences. I relish my time with him because I have never had such a close guy friend in my life.  I have no brothers, or close male family members near to my age. I have been surrounded by women my whole life, so I’ve had few chances to share a close friendship with a guy that didn’t suffer from sexual tension and miscommunications.   I just soak it in with Eliot.   He is the only guy I have even felt so uninhibited around that I wasn’t dating.

As such, he was party to all my ramblings about all the stuff tumbling through my head, and he listened and gave advice as someone who has known me well for a long time. Whether  it was life advice, or determining which fabric to use for my suit, he was on it – it wasn’t his first rodeo, in that sense.  It was so nice to talk with him, hear his thoughts, and remember how much I like Eliot.  He doesn’t begrudge my ridiculousness, and I never feel like I have to put on airs around him.  He even was sweet enough to tell me I’d be a pretty bride when I showed him a picture of a white dress I’d tried on while I was wandering around the city on my own.  It was a joy traveling with him.

The trip to Vietnam, for all these reasons, was incredible.  All the things about the trip that initially made me nervous like leaving Rick when we were so happy, seeing Eliot and dealing with the related associations, etc., were EXACTLY what I needed at that moment in time.  It really felt like the pieces all fell into place for a reason.  Being away from Rick reminded me of how much I care about him, how much I miss him when we’re apart, and how I enjoy being with him.   Being around Eliot helped me process some unresolved things from the past few tumultuous years, and reminded me of the road I’ve traveled to this point today.  It was an amazing trip and I’m so grateful that all the pieces fell into place to make it what it was.  Vietnam is an incredible country and I hope to return.

Trackside in Hanoi

Trackside in Hanoi

Some news!

I’ve been sitting on some news for a while. Some pretty great news. Some news worth letting sink in. But, I think it’s time to share.

I’m engaged!

It happened on the first of March, so it’s taken a bit of time to tell my friends and family, square it away in my head, and digest the news before sharing. That said, it can be hard to keep good news under wraps I’ve learned! It spreads like wildfire! Even though I haven’t exactly been able to stop the excitement from spreading on social media, I am excited that I have had a few weeks to absorb this news before personally sharing my story! We are so excited and eager to begin to plan a wedding, and our next moves from here.

Here’s the story of how he proposed – if I appear gushy, it’s because I am.

Rick planned a special date, almost two weeks in advance, with a formal invitation requesting that I wear something nice (a specific dress he loves) and that I meet him before our reservations for a drink.  I’ll admit that the early planning did have my curiosity piqued at that point. I had some inkling that an engagement might be in the works, and my psychic sister had been asking me about it for weeks. But, disappointment sucks, so I wasn’t jumping to any conclusions. Though we’d talked about marriage over the time we’ve been together,  I had never put any pressure on him and didn’t feel a strong sense of urgency on the matter.

After meeting him for a quick drink after work, he took me to a very nice restaurant in the CBD, where we both ordered amazing steak dinners, and shared a bottle of wine.  I was just considering what dessert should be when he stopped me and told me he had something for me.  I thought, “Oh my god! This is it!” But, he went on to tell me he had picked up some headphones for me after borrowing mine and realizing they were falling apart. So thoughtful of him, and so not what I expected him to say…

So, with a slightly embarrassed sigh, I thanked him for the headphones and admonished myself for being delusional.  We resumed considering our dessert options, but after a short time he announced that he had something planned for dessert elsewhere. This raised my eyebrows a bit.  We paid our bill and headed out of the restaurant – me with excitement and confusion, (and sharp reminders ringing in my head about not building up any expectations).

He led me to the botanical gardens, which were wet with rain after three weeks of nonstop drizzle.  We walked the empty sidewalks, chatting about life, dinner, and Brisbane, when he noticed a bench off the path and suggested we have a seat.

The bench overlooked the river, sparkling with the reflections of the city on the smooth waters.  To my left I could see the lights of the Story Bridge, its suspension cables lit brightly against the night.  In front of us were the sailboat moorings, peacefully bobbing in the current, and to the right, the Kangaroo Point cliffs were lit up in a soft purple.  It was a gorgeous and silent night in the gardens.  After a few minutes of taking it all in, he told me he had something for me and gave me a small box.  I opened it to see a sparkling ring, unlike any I’d ever seen before.  Immediately my eyes filled with tears and I looked up at him, to find him on one knee, in the mud of the gardens, asking to spend the rest of his life with me.  I was so overcome with emotion I could barely reply.  But, obviously, you know what my answer was.

After some more tears and hugs, he reached back into his bag and pulled out a bottle of champagne that he had been carrying with him all day, along with two glasses.  We toasted to the wonderful night, and drank the whole bottle in the gardens while we let the news settle in.  We both were crying and laughing and giggling, and repeating things like “Holy shit, we’re getting married!”  It was the kind of moment that you hope is forever crystalized in your memory.

Once we finished the champagne, we giggled our way back home where we gorged ourselves on ice cream, berries, and chocolate shavings that he’d been sneakily hiding in the freezer (which I had found earlier in the week and been told to pretend I never saw). We turned on some music, danced around in our house, and then called our friends and family. It was jubilant, champagne-soaked, and giggly.

In my opinion, one of the things that made the day perfect was the story behind the ring he gave me. To preface this, I have always been unsure about diamonds. I have conflicting feelings about buying an artificially price-inflated stone for the sake of custom, especially given the ethical issues associated with diamond mining. That said, I can’t argue against the beauty of a nice diamond, or the value of presenting a solid investment to one’s partner as a testament to one’s commitment. So, the bottom line is that I’ve always wanted something that served as a bit of a compromise, a vintage ring that has a story, a history, and is re-used, but still is a valuable and beautiful gift. Well, Rick nailed that. The setting came from his mom’s mom, the main stone from his Dad’s family.  The stone has been used by EVERY Frederick John Weismiller (he’s number 4) to propose to his wife.  It’s from 1918.  The setting was worn by his grandmother for years, and is worn down along the sides where it rubbed against her wedding band.  It’s a vintage heirloom, with SO much special meaning – the only kind of diamond I think I’d want.  We took it around to various jewelers the next day to ask about making some changes to the ring to make it “mine” and every single one has been incredibly complimentary of it, to the extent of insisting I make no changes save for re-sizing. I guess that means it’s good! I feel so incredibly lucky to have such a meaningful symbol of his love, and our mutual values of family and simplicity.  It feels perfect.

I know this is gushy, and I never expected to be gushy. I never expected to start crying immediately upon seeing an engagement ring. Or to have a big, sparkly diamond on my finger. I haven’t always been certain these were things I wanted. A lot of the way this played out took me by surprise, and truth be told, there is plenty of reckoning still happening in my head. But, I wouldn’t want this any other way. The ring, the ice cream, the calls to family in the middle of the night – it was special. I guess I have to admit that I’m a girl, and I’m sensitive, and apparently I get gushy and emotional at times like this. I suppose it would be worrisome if I didn’t. 🙂

Happy birthday to me!

I’m 30!  I’m….30?   I’m 30.

No matter how many times I say it, it doesn’t quite  sound right to me.    But, the clock does not lie, and as of February 15, 2013 I’m a 30 year old woman, complete with balloons on her desk, confetti, flowers, cards, lots of sweets, and a kick ass birthday party (with VIP wristbands for the bar!) thrown by a handsome gentleman and attended by special overseas guests.  I think it’s safe to say that I did 30 right.  Though the videos of me dancing might suggest there was a little room for improvement – or at least an acknowledgement that copious amounts of wine and swing dancing can be a dangerous mix!

A very handsome gentleman, and a fine dancer!

Some lovely ladies!

I have had such a ball the last few weeks.  In the beginning of the month I did the first of 6 weekends of yoga immersions, building up to a teacher training course later in the year.  It’s been amazing spending whole days with a group of people who have come from all over the country to participate and learn more about yoga.  I’m am so inspired, challenged, and excited to be a learning environment with homework assignments and background readings (I guess I’ll be giving the Bhagavad Gita another go round – it’s been a few years).   I am loving it!  I feel so blessed being able to make this a priority in my life.

Also this month, Rick’s brother, sister-in-law, and mom were all here visiting.  We surfed in Byron, climbed Mt. Kosciuzsko (the highest point in Australia down in the Snowy Mountains) and generally had a blast.  They made my birthday celebration really special.  His family makes me feel so welcomed and accepted – I love them!

Top of Mt. Kosiuzsko!

And finally, I am in the throes of making final preparations for my upcoming trip to Vietnam!  I thought the trip might have been a bust when my best friend had to back out a few months ago. BUT, then I got a call from another good college friend who is heading down (up?) there for a wedding and wanted to travel!  Voila!  Perfect.  I love to travel with this guy.  We’ve done Australia, heaps of ski trips, and a few rounds of NYC visits – not to mention living together in St. Paul after college.   I can’t wait to see Vietnam with him and catch up on life.  I love the kid and I’m excited to wander around with him trying crazy foods and being geography nerds.

I don’t have a lot of time to write this – in fact I should be in the shower right now and/or on my bike headed to work.  I just felt I needed a quick update on life!

Below are some more recent fun pictures!

Trying schnapps at the Wild Brumby distillery in Jyndabyne

Trying schnapps at the Wild Brumby distillery in Jyndabyne

The Weismiller Clan

The Weismiller Clan

Free, untrammeled womanhood

“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world,” feminist pioneer Susan B. Anthony said in 1896. “It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”

Susan B. Anthony knows a thing or two.

I have a new set of wheels.  I fought the idea of getting it for many months because we are trying to embrace a more minimalistic existence and adding a second bike to my clutter didn’t strike me as a move towards reduction.

But my job recently put me to work in an office park that is a soul-crushing 50-minute walk from the CBD. And though the ‘burbs of Brisbane are nothing like the suburbs of American cities, I still felt isolated by the limitations of foot travel and the banality of my suburban daytime existence.  I missed the convenience of being downtown – walking to work with R, going to yoga at lunch, zumba classes, shopping, and having whatever else I wanted at my fingertips.  The only answer to this dilemma was a new bike that could get me quickly and comfortably to all the things I needed: a cruiser.

So, last weekend we went on an expedition to find that perfect cruiser.  I had something in mind, but I didn’t expect to find it.  I wanted a vintage step-through frame, re-built with new parts – new brakes, wheels, cables, and shifters.  I wanted aesthetic beauty and elegance, mixed with a healthy dose of classic bike goodness (lugged steel frame!) and nostalgia.  I wanted my bike to take me back in time.  I wanted my bike to be this:

And I found it on the first trip.  It was unsurprisingly in the West End, a part of town with great farmer’s markets, ethnic restaurants, trendy bike shops, and all the brunch places one could need.  We came across a little shack with about 40 re-vamped bikes out front and I immediately knew I would need to go no further. I tried two bikes out, but I really knew the whole time that I wanted the yellow cruiser, with white-walled tires and aluminium (yes, that’s al-you-min-ee-um!) splashguards.  When they told me it came with a basket, I almost died.

You can see why.

It’s adorable, indeed.  But the most incredible part of my bike is the sense of freedom it gives me.  Never before did the Susan B. Anthony quote above mean so much to me. I hadn’t realized how much my walking habit was restricting my exploration of the city.  But when it takes more than 40 minutes to walk somewhere, that somewhere suddenly becomes less of a desirable place to go.

With a bike I can see and do so much more in Brisbane than I previously could.  I can bike to work, and then run errands after work all over town (without being that person dressed in all her cycling paraphernalia tapping loudly through the supermarket and attempting not to slip and fall).  I can head to a restaurant for dinner, check out a shop, and grab drinks with friends in less than half the time it would have taken me to do while walking. What’s even better, is that this bike is so stylin’ and comfortable that I can ride to work in dresses and heels, coast into elevator, and walk to my office. No changing clothes and fussing with shoes.

It’s nice to have such a functional and easy bike.

I have to add, that this bike has been a pick-me-up for me lately. I have been feeling the distance pretty strongly recently.  I am happy with my lifestyle here, but I miss so many people from home and sometimes I have to admit that it gets lonely being on the other side of the world from all of the people I care about.  Now that R and I have booked our trips home for the summer, the anticipation seems to be building more quickly than before and I find myself having phantom sensations of things at home – like the scent of a pine forest, the feel of the comfy couch in my parent’s house, or the squeezability of my sisters.

Sometimes with distance you’re forced to steel yourself from thinking about such things in order to function. Thus, once you let even the tiniest thought through, it threatens the whole of the dike with its force.  That’s where I am now, plugging the hole and hoping the time passes quickly!  I’m thankful for R, and for the wonderful life we are creating here.  I am thankful for the myriad opportunities that have come my way.  I’m thankful for the yellow bicycle that gives me free rein of the city.  I’m thankful that in just a few days I’ll be seeing Atmosphere – in Australia!  I’m thankful that next week will mark two years with R, a true measure of personal growth and a happy milestone.  There are more wonderful things here than I could possibly enumerate, but it all still feels a little empty without friends and family to share it with.

Come visit?

Would You Stay?

Watch the above video.  It always makes me cry.  Read below and you’ll see why.

Two years ago, today, I was presented with a difficult choice.  I learned that my boyfriend at the time had cheated on me.  It wasn’t the first time, and I hadn’t always been faithful either.  We had a tumultuous relationship, we’d done a lot of distance, we’d tried being “open,” we’d questioned ourselves, we built layers of scar tissue upon layers.  But, this time it was in my face.  The girl contacted me.  Told me she was sorry.  She wanted to be friends.  She was, sweet, almost as if she didn’t realize she’d blown a hole in my life.

I loved him.  With my whole being. I hated him for what he did.  I felt the kind of loveanger that makes you crazy and blind at the same time— completely unreasonable, completely set on ending it, completely unaware of how to live without it.  I cried mascara stains into my pillow case.  They never came out.  I knew that I had to make a change.  So, I called him to my house in Denver, sat him down, and told him I couldn’t live life wondering when my next Silda Spitzer moment was going to happen.  We had to be over.  It wasn’t a choice so much as an inevitability.

Since that time, a lot has changed.  He has moved on.  I have moved on.  We had our stumbles.  We had our tearful, rambling phone calls. Loss, over the phone line, is almost more poignant than loss and sadness in your living room, on your couch.  The distance magnifies it – the tinny sound of human on wire, over waves, through space.

Our souls fell out of solution.  Grains, one by one, falling to a cold, still bottomplace, where they rested.  Today, we live on different continents.  Lives separated by oceans, time zones, easterlies and westerlies, accents, seasons.  We share nothing.  Nothing, that is, but the history of loss.

These days, I don’t mourn the loss of that love.  I miss the boy I knew who was fragile and sweet.  I miss his insightful way of seeing the world. I feel sad that there was the callousness within each of us to hurt each other so badly.

I can’t imagine acting the way we acted anymore.  I can’t imagine inflicting that kind of pain on my new love.  I bristle at the childish notion that our hearts were so resilient.  They aren’t.  They continue beating, but the scars are still there, torquing the muscles, creating heart murmurs that whisper through stethoscopes to us, telling us not to make the same mistakes again.

And I won’t.