Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On love and letters

I read this article a couple nights ago that a friend had posted on her facebook wall. John Steinbeck, one the most well-known authors was also a prolific letter-writer. A book of Steinbeck's letters to family, friends and the like was just published called Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. I love letters, especially those of the handwritten variety, but I took to this letter especially. It's a sweet response to his eldest son, who had confessed to have fallen desperately in love with a girl named Susan while at boarding school. I couldn't love Steineck's response any more, we could all use these pearls of wisdom, I know I can.

New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.



Monday, January 16, 2012

fear is a beast

Wouldn’t you know that just days after I write about my yearly resolution to be brave, I am reminded that to become brave you first have to be scared. Brennan Manning writes about people that aren’t prepared for their prayers to be answered. He says people pray for humility but they don’t prepare themselves to be humiliated. Every time I pray for courage and bravery, I forget that we don’t just receive these things, we learn them. We experience things that cause us to encounter humiliation or fear in order to learn humility or courage.

Fear is a beast

always lurking around every corner and always present in my peripheral vision even in my most contented moments.

After all this talk about how I feel a little more brave, I’m reminded that I have much farther to go and I am learning still.

Fear steps in, steals my breath, hollows me out and leaves me with just enough energy to close the curtains and lock the door. I am amazed at how quickly I throw my walls up when fear enters the room. I’ve had a lifetime of training in self-preservation and turns out, it’s not so easily unlearned, go figure. Once I feel that fear, it’s hard to choose courage; my words, my actions, my demeanor all turn themselves over to fear. Everything in me desperately fights to protect itself-and it gets ugly.

I’ve found that half the time I don’t even know the root of the fear in the moment. Fear knows my weaknesses and my wounds and knows just what will trigger that automatic response to sound the alarms. I’ve buried those things away. I have to dig and dig until I get at the root of the fear. It’s then that I have the choice to be hurt by it and bury it away again or I can acknowledge it for what it is, feel the weight of it and let it go. There’s a quote that I love that reads,

“the rain of grace pounds the dirt until life breaks through the mud and reaches for the sun”.

I just love that. It’s digging down deep, finding the root of the fear, letting grace in and allowing life to come out of it. It’s work. It’s not easy. It’s like soul gardening; it requires using mental muscles that I never use or haven’t used in years and at the end of it, I’m left feeling sore and tired, much like real life gardening. But, what I love about gardening is that sure I’m sore and tired and dirty at the end of the day but I can step back and look at the progress I’ve made. I can see something grow where I once thought nothing could and that is something to be thankful for.

Monday, January 9, 2012

this is the new year

And cue, Death Cab for Cutie’s song…this is the New Year. It’s funny how different markers in life or the year almost warrant a reflection, a mandatory looking back of sorts. I always feel that way anyway. I like that though. I am a reflective person and any excuse to look back on where I’ve been and where I’m going refreshes me. In fact usually when I sit down to journal, without fail I spend a majority of the time re-reading old entries and transporting myself back, remembering how my heart was at a certain moment in time.

What did I learn this year? How did I grow? What did I do? How did I spend my moments? So many questions that I ask myself-maybe one or two that I actually have an answer to off the top of my head. Without fail, every year I am just amazed at how much can happen in a year. It’s been a really hard but really blessed year. If you had asked me a year ago what the year would look like, I could not have predicted or forecasted this year in the slightest. Time goes so fast but so much life and healing can happen in that amount of time.

This year I was a bridesmaid in two of my dear friend’s weddings. I went to Haiti for the third and fourth time to complete a portrait project and teach a trauma support seminar. I co-founded a non-profit for Haiti. My best friend and I held our very first photography show together in Seattle. I showed my Haiti photography at the Dragonfly and shared my love of Haiti and photography with my community in Portland. I started my own photography business. I started dating and am still dating the most amazing man I’ve ever met. I shot five weddings. I helped shoot a destination wedding in Mexico and rung in the New Year shooting a dear friend’s wedding in Spokane.

Every year, I make the resolution to be brave. Perhaps not the most specific resolution and most of the time if one doesn’t make a specific and achievable goal, it’s just not going to happen. But you know, even with my vague resolution or prayer, I feel a little more brave. Brave in work, brave in relationships, brave in faith. I In those little or big steps toward bravery, I’ve found that it’s worth it. A year ago I would have stayed safely where the risk is minimal or the reward assured and that only takes you so far. I always fall back on the quote, “may you always do what you are afraid to do”. The best things in life are a little scary because there’s risk involved which means it’s worth something. I think back on this year and think of all the amazing experiences and people I would have missed out on if I hadn’t said yes to those opportunities. This year has been rich and full and I am so very thankful for that.

“But in the books again, great joy through love always seemed go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain– if indeed, they went together. If there were a choice– and he suspected there was– a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths." (A Severe Mercy)

As I look ahead to next year. I can’t tell you what the year will look like, I was never any good at making a plan anyway, but I can tell you that it will surely be really rich and full, full of both joy and sorrow as our days always are, I just hope that I keep a thankful heart through it all. Here’s to the heights and the depths.