Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Spy Something New

Check out the newest addition to Smelling the Sneezeweed- the "Gesundheit!" forum! I have been dreaming of adding an interactive section to the blog, and here it is. It's a *supportive* space where readers can interact with one another about just about anything that effects us twentysomethings. So check it out! Tell your fellow bloggers, and please have a bit of patience while it gets going!

Happiness Is...

"Happiness is finding the little piece with the pink edge and 
part of the sky and the top of the sailboat."
~from Happiness is a Warm Puppy, by Charles Schulz

To call the last couple of days eventful would be a complete understatement. I mean, we are talking "are there really THAT many hours in a day? Did I really get ALL of that done?" eventful. And well, its been real. Things have begun to fall into place just a bit; my life is coming together one little piece at a time, and I am feeling less and less like I am running in aimless circles while I figure things out.

First, I would like to introduce you to the newest intern (me! the sneezeweed!) of Reach the World; an organization that aims to bring elementary and middle school students together with college foreign exchange students to learn about culture and geography, through the use of technology. Coolest thing you've heard of in a while? I thought so. This crazy opportunity literally came out of nowhere; nowhere being my aimless craigslist surfing. I saw, I applied, I Skype interviewed (yes, that's right. I interviewed via Skype.), and was offered the internship within twenty-four-hours. This lovely little piece of my post-grad-life-puzzle fit so nicely in its place.

After I had my ten AM Skype interview, I was a ball of productive energy. I hit the car wash, the card store, the post office, the photo center, and took my final teacher certification exam. Needless to say, I felt awesome. That little corner piece of the puzzle right there? In place.

When heading into the card store I remembered it is one of my college roommates birthday this coming week, and then it hit me. For the first time since we have known each-other, I won't celebrate with her. Margaret is attending graduate school on the other side of the country, and she will be celebrating with new friends this year. There I was, feeling the reality of distance between close friends all over again. Remember those bridges I talked about? I guess we're crossing another. But this time, I am prepared. I know what to expect. I know that we might end up on different islands, worlds apart. And I know that doesn't have to mean I've lost my friend. This time around though, I learned another way to contact the other islands. Did you know that these islands don't just have boats that run back and forth, but they also have the postal service?? So of course I went ahead and bought a card that had nothing to do with birthdays but would make my Margy laugh, wrote "Happy Birthday!" over whatever message was there (happy anniversary? thinking of you? happy halloween? I don't remember...), and handed it over to the lovely lady at the post office. It felt good, great even, to know that I was reaching out and saying "I love you, I miss you, and I am thinking of you on your birthday and everyday." Hey, I think that might be the piece that completed the edge of my puzzle.

I could go on and on about how amazed I was by my sunny Wednesday, but instead I will tell you what I did after all the productivity. I went ahead and got myself the most lovely treat. Dunkin Donuts iced coffee and a glazed donut. I sat in the cool grass in my yard with the sun on my face taking in the fall evening while I indulged. Heaven? Why yes, it was.

It's the little moments you know, it's the little pleasures that make a life. A card from a friend, a cup of coffee, a sunshine-filled fall day- these are the most valuable pieces of the puzzle. And mine are all right there in their place.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Beauty of Some Silence

After writing yesterdays post my mind was reeling. I wanted to know why I, someone who is usually pretty articulate, could not find smooth and meaningful words to describe my feelings.

entering the Mojave desert in Nevada
I wanted to know why I could feel a rush of energy surging through my entire body, but felt a comforting numbness in my mind.

I was frustrated by the fact that I was simply speechless...

there are some huge cactus in the Mojave
overlooking the Hoover Dam

Native American traditional dance at the top of the Grand Canyon
... and then I started sifting through the pictures from my recent trip to Nevada...

... and I realized that what I tried to describe in yesterdays post, was a pretty similar feeling to the one I had when I was standing at the top of the Grand Canyon not even a week ago.

me! at the top of the canyon
Speechlessness. I was so terribly taken back by the beauty of the natural wonder that I had absolutely no words. Only silence could describe just how amazing I felt in that place, at that time.

Suddenly it all made sense. Sometimes words just aren't big enough. Sometimes the only way to describe the beauty before you is to stand silently in its presence, thinking "I'm here, I'm here and this is perfect."

looking down at the mountains in Nevada from the plane
I'm here, I'm here and this is perfect...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Circles Baby, Life is Circles

I promised myself quite a while ago that this blog wouldn't turn into a place where I would pour my heart out about recent loves or broken hearts. I made a commitment to myself, and to my lovely sneezeweed, that  I would make every effort to keep my romantic relationships off the blog. I am no Carrie Bradshaw, and this is supposed to be a space for self-discovery and a closer look at the confusing beauty of life. I also realize that like me, this blog is a work in progress and there are welcomed surprises around every corner.

With that said, I'm here to tell you there is a boy. This isn't just any boy, this is the one boy that carved himself a lovely little nook in the back of my mind four years ago. He hibernated back there, only peeking out once in a blue moon to remind me of his presence before receding back inside for another long sleep. Well, apparently my brain has the seasons mixed up and instead of seeing golden leaves and warm sweaters, the boy is seeing lovely spring flowers with dew covered leaves, and he is climbing out of the little nook in the back of my mind, launching me back to my eighteen-year-old self that met him so long ago.

Part of me really does want to believe that this is "just one of those things," that this too shall pass, and that he will soon realize that it is indeed autumn and his eyes will grow heavy as he crawls back into the nook. The other part of me knows, really knows, that this is one of life's moments that really matters. I am sitting here in awe of how cyclic our story has become. I was shocked to realize that I feel just as giddy and comfortable as I did with him when I was fresh out of high school. Nothing brought these feelings back more than an old journal entry I shuffled around for, one that I can remember physically writing after the end of round one:

Sometimes I feel like all I am doing is running. Wether after or away from something or someone, Im always short of breath. Im always on the go. And this time I just want to stop and let whatever is behind me catch up. I want to breath air slow and deep. I want to look all around me and take in the wonder. But I dont want to do it alone. I am afraid if I stop, and what I really want is in front of me and not behind me, Ill get the air. But not the boy. I dont understand why I have such a soft spot for him. I dont know why my mind always wanders back to thoughts of him. I dont even know why I like him so much when so often he lets me down. But for some reason I feel like I would take him back a hundred times over if it would result in what Im looking for. I just want to stop running. Take the deepest breath I can bare, and make a wish that he will come running up behind me. I want him to be standing next to me when I take in this world around me. I dont want to be running here alone anymore, I want the air and the boy.

Now, don't you worry. I won't judge anyone who feels the need to excuse themselves from the post for a minute to go vomit after reading my sappy sappy eighteen-year-old entry (frankly, I wanted to myself), but the point is, this feeling I have now is exactly the same. It's like every thought and emotion that I had then came rushing back to me, right down to the tingle in the tips of my fingers. Moments that I had only dreamed up, conversations that I only imagined are playing themselves out in my real life. 

And you should know, as I sit here and write all this I am struggling to get the words out. I feel as if I am stumbling and fumbling over every sentence, and came close to hitting the big delete button several times. But somehow, it seems beyond appropriate that I am having such trouble figuring out how to say what I am feeling because it's just one of those things that can't be put into words. It's a pit in my stomach, it's a lightheadedness, it's a jitter in my fingers, and a restlessness in my legs. It's possibly the greatest, most sickening feeling ever. And it is so familiar.

Circles baby, life is circles. And I am living mine round and round. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Well, Speaking of Doors...

... I stumbled upon this picture of my favorite one while looking through some old photo albums, and well, after the events in the past few days it sure did get me thinking. Two minorly-major things have been occupying my time over the past few days. I have been reading the book The Happiness Project like my life depends on it, and I had lunch with a childhood friend, who I recently reconnected with. Both of these (and this lovely blue door) have given me a serious jolt of "get up please, and do something that makes you just plain feel good" energy. 

The Happiness Project, again one of my Readers-Digest synopsis, is about a woman (Gretchen Rubin) who spends a year trying to change small and big pieces of her life to make herself, and others around her- happier. She does everything from be more diligent in acknowledging other's birthdays to starting a collection of all things bluebird related. She breaks her project down into tangible topics, and then further into realistic goals. Her dedication and passion for the project are awesome. And while I didn't intend for this to sound like some cheap magazine book review, that seems to be the only way I can get around to saying- "reading this book makes me think about my own happiness," which is precisely what it sets out to do.

With all this thought of happiness and change looming in the mid-morning fog of my mind, I was more excited than ever to meet up with a childhood friend who I haven't seen since college began. We reconnected, and after a few quick catch up e-mails we decided a proper lunch was in order. I'll admit, I was certainly nervous for the meeting after hearing about her newfound spirituality, her changed beliefs, and her impending marriage. But the day turned out to be just perfect. After we spent hours in her kitchen chatting and eating, we moved to the living room where I reacquainted myself with her family, and we watched the afternoon fade into evening walking around a gem of a park where the cool breeze and the warm sunshine matched the mood of our day: gentle and welcoming, rekindling of friendship. No one was more surprised than the two of us, that after all the time that had passed and all the turns life took us on over the years, somehow we ended up walking in the same park, at the same time, side by side-like nothing had changed. We shared stories of the things each-other had missed, sometimes with an eager smile and other times with a cautious tone, we laughed and we sat in silence. And we drank in the afternoon realizing that no matter what poured out of ones heart, the other was there to gently catch and accept it. It took a great bit of effort to not go huddle in her house with a bowl of ice cream, a cup of tea, and a good movie to greet the night, like we did so many times as children. 

After a day of filling my happiness cup to the brim, I came home to shuffle through some old photos when I stumbled upon the door. Stuffed in among pictures of chocolate covered siblings, family members lined up in a row, and christmas trees perched in front of dark windows, I found a stack of photos of beach trips, diner runs, and main street nights with friends, that all tugged on my heart strings. Sifting through the photos brought both a smile to my face and a sting in my heart. I sat there realizing many of the friends in the photos I would call up and laugh with about the strange outfits they wore, the big bite of pancake they tried to stuff in their mouth, or how the photos captured that they made that same face, even then. But then there were other friends. Friends with new phone numbers, new homes,  and new direction, that I wouldn't call. Friends who wouldn't get to hear that I found a picture of the door we often passed on our way to one of our favorite "spots." Knowing that they were the ones pulling on those heart strings would just have to do. 

My mood began to fall, and my happiness cup began to tip as I realized just how long the last four years have been. I had spent all day sharing stories with an old friend that she had never heard before. We missed so much of each-other, and I didn't love feeling that I'd missed just as much in other friends lives. The bridge between high school and early-adulthood is fun and exciting- but it is also terribly long. And when you get to the other side only to realize that your closest friends crossed different bridges, maybe even arrived on different unreachable islands, it can be a terribly unsettling feeling. At this point, all I wanted was to turn around and run back over to the other side of that bridge, gather up all of my closest friends, and cross together- arm in arm, to be sure we wouldn't loose sight of one another's journey. Naturally, thats not even close to possible; and even if it was, crossing together would mean we wouldn't have the memories and experiences that we gained on the long journey we already traveled. And if this is all starting to seem as jumbled and contradictory to you as it did to me, you will be happy to know at this point I walked right into a lovely epiphany. 

Boats. There are boats in this world! And do you know what boats can do? They have the wondrous ability to brave deep and dangerous waters, and frightening and foreign creatures, to arrive at other islands. Other islands that might just be housing those long lost friends who crossed their own bridges and have their own stories to tell. It was then that I jumbled The Happiness Project, that perfect afternoon, and the photo of the door into one big ball in my mind and I realized that maybe reconnecting with old friends is not some impossible task. Maybe I can have more heavenly afternoons wandering parks and catching stories, and maybe all it takes is a few goals, an e-mail, and heart-stinging photo or two. All I can hope is that when my boat hits the shores of such foreign places I will be welcomed with open arms. I hope that when I show up with tales to tell, photos to share, and eager to listen, the islands inhabiters will be as glad to see me pop-up in their inbox, as I would be to see them in mine. And maybe, just maybe, once I arrive we can set out on foot, or in lovely kayaks, to gaze at the shores of other islands all around while filling our happiness cups to the brim.

And well, there is no better time to set sail then the present. 
Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Living in Limbo

If you grew up in the 1990's (like most of us recent grads did) you certainly remember Sabrina the Teenage Witch. If you remember the episode when  Sabrina and her aunts get stuck "in limbo," well- then you know that Sabrina threw in a little relate-able-treat for us swirly-twirly sneezeweeds. Let me rattle your brain a bit;  Sabrina's best friend Jenny spends the night and somehow wanders into the "linen closet" causing Jenny to get sucked into "limbo" where Drell, the ruler of limbo I suppose, turns Jenny into a grasshopper because she is a mortal. Sabrina and her aunts follow Jenny and arrive in limbo themselves. They find grasshopper-Jenny and have to find a rule that can counter the "no mortals in the other realm rule" to turn her back into human-Jenny and get her out of limbo and safely home. Lucky for them, there is a rule that states "Every rule must have a loophole." (aha!) and Jenny is able to go back to the mortal realm, as a human, believing everything in limbo was simply a dream.

Now that you sat through my Readers-Digest version of the episode synopsis, you must be wondering what  on earth (or in limbo) I am talking about, and what it has to do with scraped knees and swing-set feet.

I, my lovely readers, am stuck in limbo on a vigorous search for my loophole escape. And those scraped knees and swing-set feet are what is on the other side of the linen closet door. I've been wandering aimless in this world surrounded by train-schedules, job applications, blue skies, late nights, teary-mornings, and maybe even a grasshopper or two. Don't get me wrong, limbo isn't all bad. I've had lovely afternoons with friends, sleep-in mornings with snuggle pups, and some life changing adventures. But the allure of limbo can only last for so long. I am ready for my loophole. I am ready to pop out of my little sneeze-bud.

I am ready to get back to running in cool grasses with scraped kneed children, and to kick my feet on swing-sets along side scuffed-sneakered-toes. I want to see rosy cheeks while handing out cups of cool water, and smell wind and dirt coming off shaggy-haired heads as they run past. I'd love nothing more then to get back to life as I know it. I'm not sure even the best of loopholes can get me there-but maybe I can come close.

I'm starting to feel like this world of limbo isn't about getting back through the linen closet door, maybe the loophole isn't meant to make me wake up feeling like these last few months have been a strange dream, and maybe Drells outrageous rules aren't meant to keep me in limbo forever, but to make sure I move onto a new door. Maybe, no matter how much I am longing to get back to those scraped knees, it is time to let someone else enjoy that world that I loved so much beyond the linen closet door,  while I move onto explore others. And there is no prospect as scary as that one.

So while I wander here, among paint cans and light-bulbs, resumes and checklists, and even sunflowers and fondue pots, I am on a constant search for the right loophole that will lead to the next door to get me out of limbo. Beyond the door? I don't know what to expect- but all I can hope is that I will find a wonderful field of sneezeweed, with maybe a scraped-knee or two giggling about.

After all, once a sneezeweed-always a sneezeweed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh, Oh Open Your Arms my Lovely Sneeze

(thanks thanks jenna, for the lovely photo)
I suppose, before I explain my delicious picture of the day, I should apologize for already "breaking up" with my lovely Sneezeeweed. It has been almost a month since I posted and yes, I know that that sneaking away in the middle of the night from my ever so loyal blog was incredibly rude. But I was frustrated. Two posts in and I started to think "who is going to want to read this crap?" And then, somehow, I got two answers. The first, I thought of all on my own. It was the type of answer that a loving mother would give to her twelve-year-old child who goes to school with her pants pulled too high clutching a Hello Kitty lunch box. It goes something like- "It doesn't matter who wants to read your blog hunny, as long as writing it makes you happy. Don't listen to what those other internet savvy kids have to say (or not to say)." Well that answer felt to me, the same way it feels to that poor twelve-year-old. Like a pile of crap. So, I continued to venture through the night, sans blog, toward some other unknown- yet mystifying- creative outlet. The second answer I got was much more reassuring, and it came to me right over the very fondue pot in the image. I went over to a friends house for dinner, and by the time we started dessert the conversation turned to old times and old loves. Mine being writing. And right there, as I popped one more guiltless chocolate-dripping blackberry into my mouth, Bridget said "Ashley, you should start a blog. I'd read it. I miss reading your writing." There you have it, those three words had me running back to the cozy bed in my glowing house all snuggled up with my dear Sneezeweed, apologizing over and over for sneaking out in my bunny slippers. "I'd read it." It seemed to be enough, having just one person remotely interested in my tiny corner of self discovery. And here I am, back to smelling the flowers and ogling at the sky.

Coming home after our dinner on a high of fondue and nostalgia, I couldn't stop thinking about how sweet life with old friends really is. We sit and reminisce about the past (past teachers, past curfews, and past adventures) and we fantasize about the future (future homes on the vineyard, future dream careers, and future adventures). But the sweetest part of sitting around a big fondue pot with old friends are the moments when there is chocolate dripping down each of our chins and we each let out a little giggle, and say nothing at all. The sweet moments when we are there, in the moment. There is no past and there is no future, there is only that instant around that very fondue pot. And do you know what I do when I find myself in such a moment? I think: "damn, I am so lucky." Lucky that I get to sit around and eat fondue on a rainy Sunday evenings, lucky that I have a knack for nailing that perfect combination of blackberries and chocolate, lucky that I can appreciate such a perfect moment, and lucky that I have such wonderful old friends to share it all with.

So I am back, all curled up with my lovely Sneezeweed, ready to appreciate every chocolate-dripping-blackberry moment that life sends my way.