I’m “on the road,” visiting St. Louis and (perhaps) other destinations later on. St. Louis is a given and I’m here now, the Arch in viewing distance. Things are greener, with actual leaves and blossoms on trees. It’s warmer down here and when I walk around here, I feel looser-limbed, savoring the sky and sun and air.
A walk is more of an amble in this new place, and there’s a lot to explore. I’ve been to a Japanese restaurant where they lit a sushi roll on fire. I sat underneath a blooming cherry tree. I went to the City Museum and saw some phenomenal art fashioned out of the detritus of urban blight, making something unique and provocative out of ugliness…and I went down a 10-story slide. (Which was AWESOME and something I recommend everyone do!) I sat by a fire and felt sweetened and mellowed by good conversation. I’m surrounded by positive people and interesting ideas. I love just being in motion under a new piece of sky, and life is renewing and expanding in the best ways. (I’ll write a longer post about St. Louis itself next week — this is a genuinely fascinating, historically rich city!)
Traveling more is a new recent priority for me — I realized it had become one of those things that I put on the sidelines while I developed other parts of my life, but now I want that energy of physically embodied change and exploration in my life. My eyes want to see new things; my feet want to walk in new directions, and funnily enough, the beautiful Fates have pulled some lovely people in my life who share this sense of adventure. (Much gratitude, Fates!) A lot of change has been happening in my life — and so many recent efforts and changes in my life have been in reaction to events and decisions I have no control over. (I feel like lots of people I know had really rocky beginnings in 2014 — breakups, job losses, deaths, etc.)
The one silver lining of so much tumult in life is that it gives you an opportunity to look hard at your life, to examine the things you’ve been avoiding or not seeing and decide to make changes. And for me, one of those things is realizing how certain decisions and commitments in my life had not been in alignment with who I wanted to be or what I wanted in my life. And even if life was a little scary and unpredictable, I now had a lot of space and opportunity to do something.
I ain’t gonna lie: some changes weren’t fun and weren’t things I would’ve chosen for myself. They involved loss, the death of certain dreams and hopes and loves, and uncertainty. I lost love and security, and there was a lot of hurt, sadness and anger. But I have to also be honest and say that it…wasn’t as horrible as I would’ve thought. Seriously! Some parts of my life fell apart around me, but in terms of myself, I was okay. And that was because I had already been doing a lot of things to keep myself moving forward in life, irrespective of what life was throwing at me to begin with.
A long time ago, my dad once said to me that emotions and feelings were like clouds, but behind them the sky was always blue. Sometimes we forget the sky is blue, he said, because we mistake clouds for sky and think they will never pass, but they do. I still felt grief and sorrow for what had happened but I also remembered the sky was blue, and that made all the difference — and helped the clouds pass through faster.
I know that’s “fortune cookie talk,” as I said when I was a kid to my dad, so I’ll try to be a little more specific. If you’ve been reading my personal blog for awhile, you know I’m (somewhat dorkily) very conscious about what I want to learn and grow into and challenge myself with. Sometimes it’s a to-do list, sometimes it’s just an intention to bring a quality or feeling into my life. But those always boil down to specific things and practices: basic things like eating really well, mindfulness practices like yoga or meditation, spending time in nature, creative endeavors like writing novels or just fun things like riding rollercoasters or horses or having hijinks and all kinds of fun. What they all do is help me remember the sky is blue underneath the roiling turmoil of life.
All those things, too, are also proactive. I used to hate hearing that word because the only people who said it were my parents and business nerds. But now I see why: being proactive means creating your momentum instead of reacting to your life. It means knowing what you want to have and feel in your life instead of just letting whatever happen to you, and taking those small yet specific steps and actions to create that. You don’t need to do a lot, but you do need to choose something meaningful and compelling to you. I’m a real nerd — I have a big list I keep on my phone of these things, and it has everything from “really, really listen to my nieces and nephews when they tell me stories” to “do shoulderstand yoga poses before I go to bed at night” to “get a massage” to “visit my favorite perfume counter” to “go bowling with my mom and dad” to “write an amazing story that will be a good companion to beautiful souls.” And I keep adding to that list, because there’s really no limit, though it does take thought, self-knowledge and the commitment to actually do these things. Your own list may be different: it may be sourcing rare spices all around the world, climbing a mountain, writing a song. But I’m sure they all make you feel expansive and connected to whatever great and beautiful spirit animates you, which is the point.
Don’t get me wrong: none of this insulates you from negative emotions. You will not be protected from the peccadilloes of life: breakups, illness, financial problems, losses, deaths, as well as the emotional fallout from them all. It won’t keep you safe from the downs of life, from getting your heart broken, from grappling with fears of inadequacy and uncertainty — though sometimes I think we have a subconscious expectation that it will. We do those little proactive steps to connect ourselves to a bigger dream and our best selves — to keep you in touch with the blue sky beneath it all.
Tags: father's wisdom, St. Louis, travel