Adventures of an Untethered Heart

Yesterday, I felt really tender in a way I haven’t in a while. It was in the middle of watching The Great Gatsby on the big screen with an old fashioned in hand. I’m not exactly sure what it was. I think it was the way Gatsby (played by the beautiful, wickedly brilliant Leo DiCaprio) looked at Daisy. Maybe it was his ache for her that was so palpable, so visible in his every move. I’m not sure, but I let myself get a little sentimental and soft. In the best way.

You see, I’m at this place I never in a million years thought I’d arrive at. It’s still fairly new – fairly new being a month and a half – so I’m still marveling at the greenery and the simple grandeur. It’s pretty lush, much to my surprise. What is this place, you ask? It’s the “I don’t want to be in a relationship” place. I swear, I never thought I’d say that and mean it.

I’ve said it before – many times, actually. But I was trying to cheat the system because everyone in a relationship has this terrible habit of telling single women that it’s the minute you stop wanting it that you get the man of your dreams. I find that idea very confusing and illogical. So does that work in other aspects of life? Is it the minute I stop wanting my dream job that it comes to me? Or the minute I stop apartment hunting that I find the apartment of my dreams? Maybe my problem is that I’m too logical about these things. I’d rather the old wives’ tale be that it’s the minute you realize there’s more to a grand life than a significant other that you find him.

Any how, because I was told to stop wanting it in order to get it, I tried that plan. I convinced myself that I didn’t want a relationship and I was satisfied with no hand-holding and cuddling. Since it was a lie, it didn’t last for long. Soon, I was bitter and whiny again, and I thought, “To hell with this whole sham!” and instead, talked loudly about how much I wanted it. I wanted it bad. I wanted it because it was all I could control in my life at the time. (This was pointed out to me by a dear friend recently whom I love even more for her honesty). Nothing else in my life was working so I thought I would manipulate my way into a man’s heart to prove that I was at least good for something.

Wonder of all wonders, that didn’t actually work. And here I am, many months later, thinking that my life is marvelous and I am excited to be learning and growing even in the most difficult process of self-analysis. I’m excited to one day be a therapist – at least, most days I am. I’m so excited for this summer where I’m going back to therapy to deal with the entire world of junk this past semester has unearthed in me. I am excited to read books and talk about existential/theological/psychological issues over beers that I brewed. I am excited to travel to the Pacific Northwest for the first time ever and bask in the grandeur of the ocean, hipsters, good coffee, and old friends. I’m excited to meet new people, and have the best conversations with wonderful men who are more than potential lovers. I’m so excited to dance the night away at my friend’s wedding. And for the first time, I am very content with not having someone to take me on a date.

I’m not saying this because there are no romantic prospects in my life. Oh, there are. But I’m so very uninterested at this present moment. I believe that love should be wild, and intoxicating, and breathtaking. There are far too many mediocre things in life for me to settle for a mediocre love. Until then, I’m basking in the glories of being young and beautiful and free to travel and roam as I please.

But then there are those moments like last night that remind me that just because I’m content being single right now doesn’t mean my heart has become hardened and untouchable. I still get breathless and melty when a guy looks at a girl the way Gatsby looked at Daisy. I haven’t given up on the man of my dreams – I’m just realizing for the first time that my life is still full of adventure and worthy of celebration without him. And I’d like to believe that he would be disappointed if I didn’t spend these days enjoying life in all its fullness. I hope he’s doing the same wherever he is.

As I write this at a coffee shop, a beautiful tattooed stranger is distracting me with his witty lines about my future career of manipulating people into honesty (aka therapy), and making me laugh really loudly. Maybe we’ll get a beer later, maybe we’ll never see each other again. Either way, I’m having the best damn time just living my life for me and not for the approval of another. Cheers to being young and wild and free.

In Pursuit of Life

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Last night, I started a tradition. Sunday Night Dinner. It’s really an idea I’ve had for the longest time, long before this year even began. I think a large part of it can be attributed to being raised as an only child, in a family of adults. Dinner was rarely eaten around the table – each person off in their own room, engrossed in a book or the news or silence.

I didn’t discover my love for the kitchen until I left home, and when I fell in love, I fell hard. I love good food – making it, eating it, sharing it. I love the thought that goes into planning a meal and executing it. I love the community that is built and strengthened over food whether at home or out somewhere. I love entertaining people in my space – I feel warm, and maternal, and incredibly joyful when I get to fill people’s bellies with delicacies from my kitchen. It just feels right, like I’m reflecting the image of my Father when I create something cohesive and delicious out of previously unrelated ingredients.

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When I was in New York a few weeks ago, I complained loudly to my best friend about all the things I wasn’t satisfied with back in Denver. The list was embarrassingly long. And then she said something that sounded very much like my old therapist. She said, “Well, just go do stuff by yourself. Or start XYZ and invite other people.” That’s the polite version of “Get off your butt, quit complaining about everything, and go get what you want.”

So I did. Last night, my little apartment was filled with food, people, laughter, and the sounds of Billy Joel filling the empty spaces between our words. We sat on the floor around my coffee table because my dining table wasn’t big enough. I lit candles and danced around my kitchen as I chopped onions and sautéed Italian sausage in a giant skillet. And I thought, man, this is good.  A number of my favorite things – food, conversations, and laughter – were happening in that room all at the same time because I got off my butt and invited people to join me in celebrating life and each other. Who knew it was that easy?

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Amidst all of this, I’m learning to truly accept and own parts of myself that don’t always seem to fit into this Colorado culture. I’m learning to be okay admitting that I’m the girl who’d rather read a book/bake cupcakes/go to a jazz bar and drink scotch/ride bikes for hours, and not the girl who wants to hike a 14-er or go camping or skiing. It’s easy to feel subpar and silly around people who idolize the outdoors. If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked, “You live in Colorado and you don’t [insert some outdoor activity here]? What’s wrong with you?”

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Instead of feeling subpar and consequently complaining about it, I’m taking my best lady’s advice and just doing the things that bring me life. I’m going to spend my summer valuing and loving this quiet heart that prefers a different kind of adventure. So while my friends are out hiking and climbing, I’m going to take myself on a food tour of Denver. I’ll learn Spanish, finally, and then I’ll go salsa dancing and practice the language while I’m breathlessly reacquainting my hips with the rhythms of the merengue. I’ll read lots of grand books, maybe even join a summer book club where we drink wine and talk about our opinions about whatever great literary work we’re reading. I’ll find a band and play music again for the first time in almost two years. I’ll do the hour-long bike ride along the river from my apartment to Downtown Denver. I’ll take little weekend adventures to beautiful places in order to hold on to my sense of wonder and awe. I’ll learn how to brew beer, and I’ll feel so damn proud of myself. And every Sunday at 6pm, my house, my heart, and my belly will be filled with the goodness of God in the form of people and food. Man, this life is a good one. There are no complaints here.

“I live according to my faith when I love a meal that has been prepared carefully, when I notice texture and color and taste, when I let the flavor and scent of something fresh from the ground surprise me and bring me back to life. I demonstrate my theology when I dance all night with people I love, because this life is worth the best celebration we can offer up to it. I thank God every time I eat crusty bread and garlicky olives, and when I smell clean laundry and hear that little squeak of fingers on a guitar. For me, what God said when he made the world is a prayer: It is good. This world, it is good. The beauty of a perfect green apple is good. The first steps of a child are good. Watching my grandparents dance in their kitchen is good. It is good.”
– Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines.

 

Autumn

Fall, to me, is symbolic of life. In its brevity, its glorious march towards death, its invitation to come behold. There’s a haunting desperation at the beginnings and peaks of fall – you can’t gather all the beauty into your heart, but you want to. You can’t make it last forever, but you want to. You know it has a definite beginning and end, but you also know that this fall – this one right here – could shock you and last for a month, or a week. You just never know.

And because you don’t know, you want to take in all you can when you can. You want to make use of every opportunity to be outside, soaking in the bright hues strewn across the fields. You want to postpone other “important” things just to stare at that gigantic red tree in someone else’s yard for just another half hour.

Because tonight? The wind might pick up and blow in a snowstorm and those beautiful leaves that cause your breath to catch in your chest might be annihilated by the first, enchanting snowfall. You know that you’ll want to mourn the loss of fall, but it would be hard to embrace sadness standing in the middle of a world now pristine and sparkling in the cold, winter sun. Winter is, after all, glorious in its own right. It’s no fall, but it is wildly breathtaking nonetheless.

This is life to me. It has a beginning and an end, but both are a surprise. You want it to last forever, but it won’t. So we try to soak in every minute of the glory while it still exists. We make time to be alive, instead of merely accomplish tasks and acquire accolades. Because we are aware of its brevity, we are bolder about what we want, who we want, why we want. We don’t stand back, waiting for life to invite us to come out and play. We run out the doors and jump into a pile of leaves and laugh wildly as we pick them out of our hair. We don’t need an invitation – the invitation is that life exists. We take all we can now. We’re weather-stained, but we’re at peace. We breathe in as deeply as our lungs will allow, we exhale as long as it takes to let go of our penchant for control and worry, and we bask in the glory of what could be a short week, or the best month the world’s ever seen.

We’re a sight for sore eyes, because we’re not afraid to die. We know that the closer we get to death, the more glorious our lives become. When we’re presented with harsh weather, we’ll discover that we’re not just another green tree. No, our leaves burn bright red; we are an unexpected wonder. When we don’t run from living, from breathing, from dying, we discover all that we can be.

And the whole world won’t be able to look away. Because we. will. be. glorious.