October 21, 2011 § Leave a Comment
A few weeks ago I posted 10 reasons not to quit.
I think it would be a big mistake to post the encouragement I found to hold on, without posting about the good things that have come out of my refusal to quit on the things that are slow going (or seemingly motionless) in my life.
I’d say I’m no where near the end, except that I don’t really know that for sure. What I do know is that I am still in a place where I have no idea when the end of this hard period I’m in is coming. A friend wrote to me last night that – “God appears silent. You wait…and wait…and then, sudden waterfalls.” I also read something that said a period of waiting is necessary for every truly good thing in life. The author said that suffering often comes to a person before great blessing because not knowing if one is going to get what they are hoping for, not knowing what comes next and not knowing what to emotionally prepare for are realities that cause feelings of suffering.
I am not a “religious” person, per se. I take my margaritas with an extra shot, and I like a turkish silver or two on a long night. But lately the spiritual presence of God has led me to peace I did not think was possible while living in the unknown.
I think it’s because my view of grace has changed.
Grace – 4. a manifestation of favor, especially by a superior: It was only through the dean’s grace that I wasn’t expelled from school. Synonyms: forgiveness, charity, mercifulness. Antonyms: animosity, enmity, disfavor.
I’ve lived long under the belief that grace is a precarious plateau, easily fallen from, and with a Mt. Everest kind of foreboding height to those starting over again the bottom. I learned three things about God, growing up: 1. He moves in ways you don’t want him to. 2. When He does so, you must thank Him for unanswered prayers. 3. He hates cigarettes.
In Africa, the people tell me that grace is a saving measure. And, women saved out of poverty by forces they could not have set into motion tell me God and His graciousness are inseparable. There is no God without graciousness. “Jesus brings me food, and He brings me money,” they testified to me last year. “If it were not for Him I would be dead. He came when I was going to die.” African sun baking my shoulders, I remember looking at those women, unabashedly praising the cigarette hating God of Mount Everest, and feeling like an outsider. Surely, grace is a saving measure in Africa – where it has to be. Grace comes to those who could not have conjured up saving measures for themselves – for their unique, impossible situations.
But what about me? I had (have) my own impossible situations. What about grace when I’m in Africa being told that no one can promise me my boyfriend will come home from Afghanistan? What about when I’m wondering if I’m “good enough” or “smart enough” to be able to come back and start my own enterprise? And now, a year later, what about grace out here, in this limb – personally, professionally? What about grace when my belly is full, but my heart hurts? What about grace when I need wholesale orders?
Is there some kind of climbing gear I can merit for this? An easy place to start climbing the Mt. Everest like plateau from?
The women I work with in Africa tell me there isn’t. They don’t need words to communicate this truth. Big tears in their eyes, paychecks for the first time in their lives, giggling over forces set into motion by something bigger than themselves their lives paint for me a moving picture of unmerited favor. No climbing gear required.
And, this week? This week, in the midst of a hard place, my own story told me the same thing. Things were set into motion that I could not have foreseen, and I could not have forced. And, I’m sure that grace did that for me.
10 good things that have come from refusing to quit on a hard place:
1. I was able to pay my own bills from my own social enterprise for the first time since our launch.
2. The cascades AIDS project in Portland is shipping 1,000 condoms to be distributed in Kakooge (I keep laughing about what my neighbors will think).
3. Olukai donated around 300 pairs of children’s shoes for the school children in Kakooge.
4. A 1.5 hour Skype call to Uganda informed me that many of the women in our program have been shocked by what they can do with their pay checks. “You have to understand,” my guide said to me. “So many of these women have never seen so much in a go. What I am trying to say is – a lump sum of money like this has never come into their possession all at one time.”
5. A friend I haven’t talked to in two years came back into my life suddenly, and encouraged me to believe in miracles.
6. Another friend called and told me that he had a plan for action – an exact action I had hoped for, down to the very words he plans to use while doing it. It could be the first movement towards the end of a period of unknown, for me.
7. My network responded to my need for clothing donations for Uganda with such a force that I don’t even know where to put them all.
8. I stumbled across this.
9. Plans for a trip back to Uganda began for next year – the first trip ever where I won’t be going alone.
10. We booked so many events for Nakate between now and my trip to Africa that I have absolutely zero weekend time left.
Sometime soon, I’ll talk all this over with a dear friend. I’ll tell her how things are changing, though I’m not sure I did anything to set them in motion. We’ll talk about the good things that come, even when you’re in the middle of unknown. And, if the talk goes long enough, and the night stretches on – we’ll have a turkish silver or two.
Photo uploaded by this Pinterest user.
October 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Wisdom, as seen by our greatest thinkers and doers over the age of 65
via Brain Pickings.
June 29, 2011 § 4 Comments
I’ve been taking yoga classes at a studio down the street for the past two weeks. One hour and a half class was all it took for me to know it was for me.
As I’ve practiced this week, I’ve noticed that the last three breaths of a pose are what makes it in a hot yoga or flow class. In a slower class, it’s the last thirty seconds. It’s not the burn, but the awareness that one is engaging a part of the body that wasn’t previously being used – and its that engagement that awakens the senses, and the muscle, in a different way before. I was in warrior one, just last wednesday, thinking about how much my thigh hurt, when my instructor told us to take five more breaths. In effort to hold the post longer, I deepened my lunge, and with the new engagement in my thigh there was a release and a relief that happened. I was using more muscle, but I felt less stressed as I was fully engaged in the pose.
I think you know where this is headed. Painful spot. Engagement. Intentional focus on embracing the present until a relief comes at the end of the present struggle.
I learned, this week, that if I can focus on my breathing and the atmosphere around me, I can stop thinking about how difficult its to remain in a pose. There’s a wild knot in the wood floor of my studio to the right of where I normally lay my mat. To the front left of me there’s a gorgeous orange lantern that I wish I could have for my living room. I’ve thought countless times of the new toning I was sure was forming in my thighs. I’ve learned that if I can focus on the present moment, I can get deeper into a pose. And, I’ve realized that as I go deeper my body is able to hold better. If I’m only partly bent in a deep lunge, it will hurt more than if I am fully bent. If my back is only arched part the way into crescent moon, it misses the release it could get from a full arch. Plow is more restful than a shoulder stand. And the further “down” I can get my hips in a long down dog, the better my back will feel.
It’s been in the hundreds in Sacramento this week, and I’m still living in my mother’s corner attic while I, “get on my feet” with Nakate, with my writing, with my life. I sit with my coffee at her kitchen table and set up meetings with stylists, entries into fashion shows, interviews with publications and I write. The writing doesn’t come as naturally as it did before I took a six month hiatus to focus on Nakate. It feels like I’m stretching a muscle that has lain dormant. The living at home is stretching, too, and I keep thinking I’ll get the next job that still allows me to run my project. That, perhaps, this pending freelance project will be my golden ticket into a whole plethora of freelance projects. That next month will be the month that I called Jeremy to come and help me move my things into my own place, with my own things and the pride in work that is not only providing for others, but providing for myself. In the midst of discouragement, I’ve been a half way sort of person. And, if you know me at all, you know that I’m just not a half way in kind of girl. I gave a horrible interview to CBS local last week. I went to a party and felt focused almost entirely on a pending job in Portland, instead of focusing on networking for Nakate – which is what I was there for. I yawned my way though emails. I was half alert.
I chose to engage, this week. I made the conscious decision to stay in the difficult situation I feel that I am, and to force myself to live it to the fullest. As I began to engage, I felt a new strength coming back into my life. It’s a quiet one, but I began to write with new vigor, speak with new vigor and focus on what is in front of me with more clarity – noticing what is around me, the opportunities that are in this city, in this period of time for what I am doing now.
As I pushed myself deeper into what feels impossible to keep engaged in, I found that I was freshly aware of strength in me that I didn’t know existed.
And I am walking around with new awareness of what I can do, if pushed to it.
What helps you engage with your life when you don’t “feel” like doing it?
Photo via Gosia Janik
May 14, 2011 § 2 Comments
I come back, again and again, to Deb Talan’s writing:
Someone who is real, oh, gets in the way
and moves inside my heart, not just my head
interfering with how I want to feel.
How do I want to feel, I wonder?
Talan’s words – “how do I want to feel, I wonder?” were a sign in a series of signs pointing to the need for solitude, this week. More than that, they were a sign that I needed to ask myself some questions again – about who I want to be, how I want to feel and what direction I should be heading in to get there. Nate Riggs and his article “Alone with Your Goals” came next. Then came Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her book “Gift from the Sea.” Her writing came in like the winds of change, ushering in a new season of reality, and a new way of looking at things.
After reading Lindbergh’s chapter on seasons in relationships, I called my mother and we talked while I walked on Huntington Beach for a half hour. My solitude, this week, felt like the shedding of an old skin.
Are any of your goals conflicting? What choices will you make and why? Are there goals you’ve reached already? What’s next? Have your goals changed? What should you do now?
For me, reflecting on my goals began as something personal during a discussion early this week with Jeremy. I asked him for the week off, afterward, and he gave it to me – without reproach. We texted throughout the week, but I took time to be alone – to remember who I was, the things I wanted and the reasons I was or wasn’t working toward them. Mostly, I just took time to remember to settle with something Lindbergh wrote -
Can one actually find oneself in someone else? In someone else’s love? Or even in the mirror someone else holds up for one? I believe that true identity is found, as Eckhart once said, by ‘going into one’s own ground and knowing oneself.’ It is found in creative activity springing from within. It is found, paradoxically, when one loses oneself. One must lose one’s life to find it. Woman can best refind herself by losing herself in some kind of creative activity of her own. Here she will be able to refind her strength. Only a refound person can refind a personal relationship.
I refound myself this week, on my brother’s girlfriend’s couch – coffee, books, writing, work for Nakate, photographs. Jeremy and I laughed on the phone last night, after speaking for the first time in a week – and I found that I had the new perspective I had been looking for.
March 10, 2011 § 1 Comment
Yesterday, I wrote 5 things that I’m learning the hard way about running a project. One of them was writing a mission statement.
I found Rosetta Thurman’s blog to be particularly helpful in this process.
Here are her three steps (in their entirety).
Read the rest of her post here.
Step 1: Identify Your Values
What matters most to you in life? Often we find that we’ve forgotten about that which we care about because we’re stuck doing something else. Take 5 minutes to jot down a free-for-all list of what means a lot to you. Just a few examples of values include:
- Achievement, fame, advancement, leadership
- Money, power, authority, economic security
- Having a family, children, love, community, friendships
- Nature, religion, public service, ecological awareness, healthy living, physical challenge
- Democracy, civic involvement, wisdom, integrity, truth
- Location, privacy, country, adventure, fast-paced living
Step 2: Identify Your Goals
Once you’ve reflected on what matters most to you, then take 5 minutes to think about how you want to be remembered. How do you want to contribute or what goals do you want to accomplish for yourself or your career? This question is really relevant to nonprofit professionals who for the most part, came to the sector to make some kind of social change. Other goals can be related to how you want to go about building your career. Just a few examples of goals include:
- Career aspirations
- Volunteer interests
- Ways to make social impact
- Ways you want to grow in your career or personal life
Step 3: Write Your Mission Statement
Now that you’ve identified your values and what you want to be when you grow up, you can take the 10 minutes to begin drafting your personal mission statement. It can be as short or as long as you think it needs to be. And remember, it will continue to change as YOU change over time.
What blogs/resources have you found helpful?
February 17, 2011 § 2 Comments
The peace corps turned 50 in January, and the Align Ministries founders and I caught a January 14th special on 20/20 about the organization. Except, rather than singing the organization’s praises, the episode covered several sex scandals (not to mention a murder) that the corps has, supposedly, sought to cover up.
I was struck by a few things as we were watching the special, and it sparked a long conversation between the three of us. Firstly, I was struck by the need for education on sexual assault. Second, I was struck by the cultural ignorance of the women working for the corps. I don’t know all the full stories, but I do know that you don’t sleep on an open veranda in an African village. I know that from walking on the streets in Africa. I know that from how the men talk. I know it from how they call to me. I know that from the narrowing in Morris’ eyes when they say things he won’t repeat to me.
More than that, I know that from experience. On the last night of my first trip to Uganda, I left my Ray-bans at a home down the street. A friend and I put on sweatshirts and (in shorts and flip flops) ran back down the street to get them. I remember feeling afraid – not the kind of fear you get in your bed at night when you know, deep down, that it’s just the dark, and you really are safe. This was a new kind of fear – a fear that felt instilled by a cosmic force in the universe to tell me when I was being stupid – and I was. When we got to my friend’s, she scolded both of us – two blonde, nineteen year old American girls who ran bare legged down the streets of Jinja for a sixty dollar pair of shades.
“It wouldn’t have been worth it,” she said. “And things do happen here.”
Less than a week later, two of my roommates were attacked on the street outside the orphanage I had been working at. One was saved wielding the laundry basket she was carrying, another ran for help. Less than six months later, two of the staff I worked under were attacked in their home by four men, one of them using the girls’ own meat cleaver against a closed door, while screaming, “give me money!”
I slept in the same house the night I heard that story, thankful that my fear was only in my head, because a guard had been posted outside the house, and bars had been set on the windows.
I thought about the 20/20 episode and my friends’ experiences in Africa again, this week, when Lara Logan’s story brought the frequency of sexual assault against female journalists (and, with it, the frequency of sexual assault against female activists in general) to the surface.
HuffPo reporter Judith Matloff writes that women have remained silent because,
At a time of shrinking foreign budgets, no one wants to be pulled off the job because they are seen as a liability.
As one woman who had been molested by an Indian crowd explained: “I didn’t want to viewed as weaker than the guys.”
She writes further that,
The newsroom myopia is such that very few safety training courses offered to conflict reporters include specific precautions for women. Participants learn about evading kidnappers and the speed of a bullet, but not how to ward off a rapist. And yet, today, women fill the ranks of top foreign positions, and rape can be a death sentence if the attacker has AIDS.
Likewise, the lengthy security manual issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists, arguably the world’s preeminent safety advocacy group, lacks tips on sexual assault. It includes advice on protecting the wallet, and learning local languages. But where are the mentions of alarms for hotel doorknobs?
I am struck by the truth to this – the ignorance of my run down the street, the shock of an exchange student who told me the story of an early morning walk to school in Kampala, when she was knocked to the ground on a road she walked daily, and asked if she wanted the man on top of her to f**k her. She screamed “NO!” repeatedly, and gave him everything he asked for. I was struck by her comment that she was thankful for the spandex shorts she was wearing – quite possibly, they were part of what saved her.
Matloff suggests the following tips for protecting yourself as a woman because, let’s face it, we simply are different. Not weaker: different. I have often been told in Uganda that there is a particular strength in being there as a woman. But I know that I am different. With my emotional strength comes a kind of physical weakness:
Female correspondents need to be forewarned about steps to ward off rapists. To name a few: defecate on yourself, keep a deodorant can by the bed (to spray into an assailant’s eyes), don’t get drunk with sources, ensure you’re not followed to your room, push furniture against the door, always work alongside a man in crowds. Some more – wear a whistle but never a ponytail.
In my own travels, I have found that the key to safety (in my work, such as it is) is trustworthy locals. On my first trip to Haiti, my housemates Junior (24) and Jimmy (26) would grab my hands and hold them whenever we went into a crowded area in public. They’d cup my palm in theirs and pull it through the crook of their elbow so I was held close. Later, I was struck by the need for awareness, even with them, when Junior raised his hand to smack me across the face during an argument (he put it back down when I quietly told him I’d make him lose his job). I’ve heard stories of women that trusted local men with credit cards, rooms and personal belongings. A South African guide during a white water trip said to me once that, “You should never drink with the men here. I see it all the time – the girls doing philanthropy work that come to party. The men here aren’t the same. They’ll take advantage of you, and after that, they’ll take your things from you. If you’re going to party, party with other aid workers.”
In Uganda, I’m keep safe in the following ways:
- Even if I wanted to, the family I live with never lets me walk anywhere alone (and neither should you).
- I never am allowed to walk at the very back of a group.
- I pay the fare for one of my adopted Ugandan “brothers” to go with me when I travel somewhere.
- If I need to do work on my own, Morris travels with me and stands close by to make sure that I am kept safe. All I need to do is nod, and he comes to ask if I’m ok.
- I don’t talk to the men in the village without Morris speaking to them first and telling them who I am, and what I need. After that, he stands close behind me.
- I’ve ventured into the “red light district” in several villages, as well as into the bar scene (for what it’s worth) in several different places – but always with locals who know their way around well, and who talk and joke with the people around me while I take pictures, or talk. If someone becomes too excited or angry, they are apologized to – and we move on as a group.
- In Jinja, I am typically on my own more often, but I’ve learned from the women there that there are reputable drivers you can trust (we have three names). I only use those drivers.
- If I am moving on my own, I travel roads that I know well, and I only travel them during the day. At night, I drive places with local friends.
- When I travel through the UAE overnight, I go directly to my hotel room, and I don’t leave until I’m leaving for my flight the next day. I only stay in places like the Emirates hotel – where I am transported with several other international visitors.
Watch the full 20/20 episode below. As Matloff writes, “editors should not refrain from dispatching women into combat for fear of sexual assault. Instead, they should prepare staff to make informed decisions and cope in case the unthinkable occurs.”
At the risk of sounding weak, I’ll admit that I texted Codi this morning, and I thanked him for coming to Uganda with me.