Hopeful February Days

A few years ago, I wrote THESE FEW THOUGHTS on a cheery February day in Seattle.

A few days ago we had that same kind of first hopeful, cheerful February day here in Porto. The difference being, that that one hopeful day has been followed by a string of even more hopeful, more sunny days – which wasn’t usually the case in Seattle. I’m so very happy to be soaking these days in here.

IMG_1715Helder texted me midday from his office, “It’s an amazing day, what time will you be done with your work?”

Me “I have a break between things from 5-7PM…”

And so, as soon as he arrived home from work, we made our way down to the river as quickly as we could so that we could catch the sunset.

IMG_1726We were still bundled in our jackets, but the air had a new warmth to it – that kind of warmth that makes you happy. We walked and laughed and sang an impromptu duet of “All you need is love.” Ha!

IMG_1724This was just a week or so ago and to my delight since then I’ve noticed that warmth present for atleast some time almost every day. We’ve felt inspired to get ourselves near to the water around sunset time and to our credit have been doing a fairly good job of it.

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Ahhhh, these February days are so good.

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Winter Blooms

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As a follow up, to my wish to keep growing and sprouting in the “off season”, I present these camellias. They are common in Portugal and it’s normal that they bloom in Winter. They caught my eye walking home from the metro the other day.

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New Growth

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I’m familiar with these bright green tips on evergreen trees. I remember with clarity the first time a friend of mine pointed them out to me in Seattle.

“Look! New growth!” she said.

Ever since, I’m always on the lookout for when the new growth starts to appear. There’s something magical about it.

I think in Seattle, the new growth is most prominent in Spring. But here in Portugal, maybe it’s common in December? I was running thru Parque da Cidade the other day and kept seeing it everywhere.

What season is it again?

That question sums up my current state 9 months into this adventure.

I’ve never been a fan of winter time, not really.  Some cozy time by the Christmas tree, okay. Popcorn and movies on rainy days, okay. These are some perks of Winter that I embrace but really I could do without the season.

Especially here. Where we don’t have heat! And, even though it’s not THAT cold. It feels SO COLD. ALL . THE . TIME.

But new growth…

In a sense I’ve been growing so much these past months that I can’t imagine anymore growth spurts till next Summer.

In another sense, I’m still ready to keep moving forward, to keep realizing these decisions and dreams. It doesn’t feel like the time to embrace hibernation.

Maybe Winter this year is about continued, steady new growth? New spurts and stretches so that a few of my deepest desires can bloom?

Growth can happen as one settles, commits, rests and also pursues right? I sure hope so, because there are some things I care about that I’m hoping will continue to sprout even if its the “off season.”

3 Notes on Resistance

IMG_7037.jpg#1 “The light always gets through the cracks.”
Meandering through the streets of Porto (bc this city is old and still recovering physically and economically from a not so distant dictatorship and economic crisis) it is quite common to see images like this:

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Someone pointed them out to me as “signs of the Resistance” and since then I can’t help but notice these “signs” everywhere.

Flowers and greenery bursting through crumbling walls. This is the Resistance my friends, this is Love. It always gets through cracks.

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#2 Receiving Love is an act of Resistance
A client recently taught me this in a coaching session. As these words emerged we both felt their deep truth and relevance.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I know DOING things and SHOWING UP in solidarity is important, but what if just as important, just as radical is not participating in the frenzy? What if slowing down, receiving love from whatever source it is being offered to you (or in whatever form you can give it to yourself) is the form of resistance that will most transform us – personally and collectively? It’s hard to be hateful when experiencing love. Here’s to being brave and vulnerable enough to let LOVE in – what ever that might mean for you right now.

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#3 My next door neighbor is 93 years old. I am the first American she has ever met/known and she has welcomed me to her country, into her kitchen and as her friend and neighbor with an open heart (and with weekly gifts of soup, fruit, antique dishes, ice-cream, you name it).

Her love has enveloped me and she has become a consistent, beloved piece of my new life here. I can only hope that when I am at her stage of life that I will be oozing love and hospitality to my neighbors, whoever they might be and in whatever small or big acts of kindness I have available to me.

This woman, who rarely leaves the 10 block radius of this neighborhood, whose mother died giving birth to her, who never had a family of her own, who has lived through an unkind dictatorship is to me a sign of Love and the Resistance.

Fall in Portugal

September 2018 :: This month marks my arrival to Seattle 17 YEARS AGO. I arrived nervous and excited and ready to start college. Scared and also not scared. I realize that’s a contradiction, but I think I was somehow both at the same time. I remember being annoyed with my mom in that way that only teenage girls can be annoyed with their moms. Fighting in the car as we failed at navigating the maze of Seattle streets. Sitting with her in the school cafeteria too nervous to eat before my first college gymnastics practice. Saying goodbye in front of my dorm, my mom holding back tears and saying, “I’m jealous, you’re going to have so much fun.” (She was right.)

I could go on with more details of what I remember from those first days in Seattle, but the one that has stuck with me the strongest all these years is the way the air felt that week I arrived. Every September since, as summer was fading away (and I was trying to cling to to it, wishing it to last longer) I’d recognize that same damp, but crisp almost cold feeling in the air and remember my first days in Seattle.

As I say so frequently, I never planned on staying in Seattle as long as I did, but post college life unfolded and kept unfolding and kept keeping me there even in times when I really thought I wanted to move on.

This year is the first September in quite some time (17 years to be exact, how am I old enough to have done anything for 17 years?!) that I haven’t been in Seattle. I keep waiting to feel that fall feeling in the air as a reminder of what season it is and where I am.

I don’t think I’ve ever articulated this before, but I think that familiar air was also somehow a reminder that I was “making it”, a celebration that I’d made friends, survived college and moving to a new city, gotten jobs, made more friends and learned to love and really know a place.

I’m waiting for that feeling in the air and that reminder that I’m “making it”, but in my new city it’s currently 95 degrees outside and one thing I don’t have to do is wish for summer to last a little longer! I’m wearing shorts and drinking ice water by the liter. I’m starting to make friends, I’m building a business, I’m stepping towards love, I’m starting Portuguese classes in 2 weeks and we’ll probably spend this last weekend of September at the beach(!). I don’t know what September or October or November or December feel like here. I don’t have familiar holidays marking the time or nostalgia for the air feeling a certain way. In some ways, my life feels without its rhythms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m glad I chose this , and 6 months in it seems important to acknowledge that it all still feels new, foreign even and I don’t know how its all gonna be. Most importantly, I think I need to remember that I’ve done this before. I mean not THIS exactly, but 17 years ago I arrived to a city where I knew no one and the Pacific Northwest compared to my high school days in the suburbs of Atlanta was certainly foreign. I was scared and not scared, kind of exactly like I feel now. I lived my way into a decision to be in a new place (that I now feel nostalgic for!), it was a decision I that I made in much the same way as I made this one — WITH MY HEART.

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My Plant Babies :: I’ve been diligently tending to my plants these past two weeks, most of which I started from seeds. I can’t remember the last time I planted seeds and watched them grow. I feel like a kid – so delighted with every sprout and every new leaf that appears. It’s like magic watching these little babies grow up. And of course these seeds are teaching me things — a reminder to diligently tend to myself and my heart as I am beginning brave new things. To take delight in new self-awareness, to be okay taking a few more days under the dirt than those around me, to let roots form, to get enough sunlight and water and keep warm at night. To enjoy each little moment even if it seems like nothing is happening – to let myself rest and play and laugh as much as I want.

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IMG_4974Superheroes :: There are so many things I want to capture in writing from these last 2 months. I don’t know that I’ll do it all right here, but I’ll get to a few of them now and perhaps slowly but surely I’ll put a few more in writing here or in a journal somewhere. It feels important to remember all the things I’ve been feeling and all the ways big and small I have felt deeply loved by so many people. As I’ve packed up my life in Seattle and made this transition to a life in Portugal that is the phrase that best summarizes how I’ve felt: DEEPLY LOVED. And for that, I am so grateful and so lucky and also so proud of myself for accepting that love from so many people at a depth that I’m not sure I’ve allowed myself before.

These last couple weeks and days spent with my parents have felt especially full of love, so much so that the day before my flight to Portugal I felt my chest constricting. Just 48 hours ago, I was curbside at the San Diego airport being held in my dad’s arms – those safe arms that I’m so lucky to have known my entire life. I get teary all over again just thinking about that familiar embrace. Goodness, the depths of love is such a beautiful, complicated thing: holding on and letting go and sometimes having to do both of those things at the same time.

As I walked into the airport with my 5(!) bags on a cart, I blew kisses to my dad as he drove away. My throat knotted and that place in my chest got tighter and tighter, tears streamed down my face all the way through security. I must have really looked forlorn as the guy putting my bags through the conveyor belt offered me tissues – then said, “Let me know if I can do anything for you,” and then after rummaging through my bag (the chocolate chips were suspicious) said awkwardly (I think in an attempt to make me feel better), “You have nice hair, it looks soft today.” and then, finally, “Take care of yourself okay?”

I’ve been so sure of this decision and this next step, but I’ll say there was part of me(even at age 35) that longed to just stay put on that curbside and the safety of my dad’s familiar embrace literally forever.

Last week I spent a few days with my college best friend and her 3 kids. We’d been discussing which small toy the kids could send with me so that I could send them photos of their toy in cool places in Europe. A few options were considered, but in the end Caleb (who is four) wanted to give me one of his superheroes. Caleb loves superheroes. His first pick was one which he has two of, but it was over a foot tall and too big for me to fit in my purse so we told him we’d need something smaller. “I know!” he said and ran to dig through a box of his toys. He came back with not one but two of his most favorite superheroes on motorcycles. “These. I want you to have these.” When I showed my friend his choice, she informed that those were two of his very favorite toys. “He loves those,” she said. “Ok, I’ll make sure he understands.” So perhaps unnecessarily(as I think Caleb knew exactly the gift he was giving the first time he offered) we explained that if he gave me these toys he wouldn’t be able to play with them again for a long time and since they were some of his favorites he could choose to send me with a less special toy.

“I’m sure, I want you to have these,” he said with certainty and bravery and absolute sincerity.

All this to say that while walking through the airport in San Diego, tears streaming down my face there was a moment when remembered I had Caleb’s two superheroes with me in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing. Remembering their presence didn’t stop the tears or the tightness in my chest, but it did provide some comfort and companionship somehow and it made me smile through my snotty teary face.

Thank you for sharing your superheroes with me Caleb. I promise they are going to have an incredible adventure, see some amazing things and comfort me when I need it most, but I think you probably already knew that and that’s why you wanted me to have them in the first place.

 

 

IMG_3872.jpgPorto :: I write to you today from a plane flying somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. I’m on my way home… errr back to Seattle. I’m not so sure where home is right now. I guess for the moment we’ll stick with Seattle – the sweet city that I’ve experienced so much life in for so many years. Though, I have a feeling I may be calling a new place home soon.

I spent the past 2 weeks in Porto, Portugal for Christmas. My family came and met Helder and his family and we had not one, but two Christmas’s (Portuguese on the 24th and American on the 25th). In hindsight, two back to back big gatherings with two families whose ability to communicate was somewhat limited may have been a bit much for everyone, but none the less we created it and while it my have had a few imperfections it was also so good and let’s face it quite  miraculous in some ways. I’m still pinching myself as a reminder that it happened at all.

My family left Porto a few days ago leaving Helder and I together to debrief the experience and talk about what’s next for us. Per usual, my mind seems to swiftly move back and forth from extreme certainty to extreme uncertainty about the way forward. It was cold and rainy these past few days and we spent most of our time cooking food together, going to the movies and holding each other while intermittently inserting thoughts and dreams for our next steps together.

Yesterday, the rain stopped and we joined what felt like the entire city of Porto for the annual San Silvestre 10K. An evening run that happens in multiple cities all over Portugal at the end of every year.

After 2 weeks of Portuguese dinners and not too much running these past couple months my body felt each one of those 10 K’s, but amidst the aches I was also touched by the environment of the run. Helder doesn’t like to run races more than once, he likes running new races for a new experience. San Silvestre is the exception to this rule. He runs it every year. “The environment is incredible” he always says with twinkling eyes. He has the most beautiful ability to soak in the present moment and get caught up in the energy and environment of a place and it’s people. I loved seeing his adrenaline pick up as he ran through the city – up hills and through cobblestone streets(not the best running conditions in my opinion!) and past curbs lined with people cheering, leftover Christmas lights twinkling, stunning river views, through a tunnel filled with music and my favorite: old ladies perched along their balconies waving.

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In my “un-10K” shape my biggest motivations and distractions were to wave to the old ladies as we ran past and blow them kisses seeing who I could get to wave or kiss back. That, and Helder’s and his friend Pedro’s(who I met minutes before the race) insistence that we were in this together even though they were capable of running much faster than me. We did indeed cross the finish line together.

80% of the houses and apartments in Porto are vacant(that’s right 80%) – leftover from a not so distant economic crisis. A few are being refurbished, a few are inhabited by the most precious old ladies who’ve been able to stick it out over the years and whose lives and endurance I am so curious to know more about, but most are dark and vacant. They are perhaps owned by a family somewhere without the means to restore it or in the midst of squabble about what to do with it.  As time continues, I’m sure there will come a time when the inhabited and restored apartments will outnumber the vacant and perhaps at that point the city will feel even more alive and vibrant, but last night and for now (atleast to me) it feels deeply hopeful, quite strong, full of resilience, determination and life.  Which, if I’m honest and can dig past my fears about my way forward and where I’ll be calling home is how I feel too.

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IMG_7339Giant Crashing Wave :: I’m in the midst of completing a professional coaching certification (which I am very excited about!). The focus of the class has recently switched to working with clients and building more advanced coaching skills and techniques. It’s challenging, but I’m loving this practical part of class and it’s easy to talk about it. It makes sense that we’d be learning and practicing these things!

But, prior to this part of class we spent months working on ourselves, articulating our values and defining who we are at our core or “essence”. This part of the process invaluable and at times fun, but was not always so easy to talk about without sounding loony. Some of the lingo drove me a little crazy and garnered a few eye rolls, but I’ve learned that when my eyes start to roll there’s a choice at hand – keep them rolling, disengage and find contentment in “this is stupid and not for me” OR I can lean in and give it a shot, whatever it is and the truth is when I stop rolling my eyes I usually learn or experience something pretty spectacular.

One of the exercises in our “Authentic Presence” class(do you see why I may have rolled my eyes?) was to write a nature story where we imagined ourselves outdoors noticing all the elements and picking one that captured our attention. Then, we had to write a story describing what it was like to be that object using first person “I” voice. I rolled my eyes, took a big breath, stopped thinking and went to town on the assignment writing down the story as it came to mind. Here it is, unedited (and accompanied by a photo of a wave that I happened to capture at the right moment when I was in Portugal earlier this year. How I miss those days I spent gazing at beautiful coastlines and waves!) —

I am the crazy giant reckless waves – crashing into rocks and splashing in the air. I have no fear. I am not afraid to be wild and crazy or to take big leaps and risks. Being of one of these beautiful waves is fun. I feel free and big. I am impressed with myself sometimes by how high my water splashes when I crash into something. Sometimes I’m surprised at my own strength and by how powerful I feel. I smile at people who watch me from the beach – so in awe of this power and freedom that I am demonstrating. And, I am in awe too with how wonderful it feels to be a wave and with how much I’m laughing and playing while simultaneously feeling and being such a strong reckless force in this little corner of the world. Maybe the most incredible part of being this wave is that while I’m playing in my little corner of the world I’m also deeply, literally physically connected to the ocean and the rest of the world – part of something bigger than I can really comprehend.

 

 

 

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How’s it gonna be? :: Had you told me years ago that I would live some 16 years of my life in Seattle, Washington I wouldn’t have believed you. For most of my formative years I hardly knew where Seattle was on a map! But alas, my 18 year old self made the decision to move here and I’m still in this city – 16 years and counting. Had you told me years ago that I would spend five of those Seattle years working at a Fortune 500 company,  then quit without any next step lined up and on somewhat of whim go to Portugal for several months, I wouldn’t have believed you. Ahhh, but I have lived those things now. Somehow they came to be and they were so good. And, had you told me years ago that my most Seattle-est of friends would get married in Manhattan, I also wouldn’t have believed you. It just didn’t seem like the way it would or could or should be, but now I have just returned from her wedding in New York City. All the time, things are turning out beautifully in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

In the aftermath of quitting said corporate job and traveling and now being back in Seattle and needing an income I have decisions to make. I should say, I am one lucky girl to have multiple good options to choose from. It shouldn’t be a hard decision – I have three great offers. Some would say, any choice I make is a really good one and if the life we were discussing wasn’t my own I’d agree. But ya see, somewhere in life I developed this belief that decisions of this caliber are heavy, complicated and determine how the rest of life unfolds. For me, big decisions have always come with so much pressure and I’ve never really questioned that perhaps that pressure is unnecessary.

Until now.

What if I can’t really “mess things up”?

What if there are a lot of good, right answers for every big decision we make?

What if no matter what I choose, everything is going to be okay?

In making decisions, I often wish that I could see the future –  that somehow if I knew how things were going to be I would know exactly the right strategic choice to make. Maybe life wouldn’t be life if we knew how things were going to turn out? Maybe it would lose its magic and a little bit of its wonder? Also, I guess I’ve never known how things were going to be and so far I’ve done just fine making big decisions even if I’ve had a tendency to make the process of making them quite torturous.

I’m also one, when comes down to it, who makes decisions with my gut or more accurately MY HEART – which freaks me out because it’s not really a very scientific or guaranteed process. But then again, I suppose nothing is guaranteed.

So here’s what I’ve decided my friends: When it comes to decisions my heart is just a lot smarter than my brain. And since so far I’ve done alright by my decisions I think I’m just going to keep listening to my heart and maybe get rid of all that pressure that has for so long come with every decision I’ve ever made.