Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

Do You Want To Be Well?

…it seems like almost a silly question. Who doesn’t want to be well? But if you think about it, a lot of us don’t. We continue self-destructive behaviors that feed our addictions. We don’t do the things we know will be good for us. Sometimes, there’s a deep self-loathing that makes us feel we aren’t worth the effort. Most of the time, though, it isn’t as complicated as all that. It’s just simply that being “well” – spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally healthy – takes real work. Hard, painful, awkward, uncomfortable work. It’s almost always three steps forward and two steps back, then sitting on the stoop feeling like a failure for a while.

More and more lately I’ve been asking myself this question. Sometimes, it’s honestly hard to tell the answer until you ask follow-ups. What are the things that make you feel well, and what are some steps you could be taking to get there? Are you doing those things? Are you taking those steps?….And almost always followed by “why not?”

As Paul said so succinctly all those years ago, ” the things I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do”.

On a simple level, it goes like this: What makes me feel well in the morning? Drinking tea. Going for a hike. Doing some reading. Washing dishes. Journaling. So naturally, that’s what I do every  morning, right? Of course not, that would be too easy! Instead I roll out of bed, walk directly to the computer, putter around for half an hour before grabbing a hap-hazard breakfast and eating it at my desk while I put a tv show on and continue puttering around on the internet. And that’s where I stay for the next 6-8 hours. Sometimes working, sometimes not, but generally not making time for the things which are important for wellness. It’s not like I’m saving the world by being on the computer, I can make the time. I just don’t. Because it’s easier not to. It’s easier to be distracted and entertained than it is to think and process, to be quiet, to be aware. Being aware, my friends, is scary. But I’m trying. With itty bitty baby steps, I’m trying.




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What I loved most about “the old place” were the windows. Huge windows which opened up unto views of rooftops and trees. Our street is lined with the big, leafy trees and adorable freshly-painted stucco houses built in the 20s. Every single one has some sort of gorgeous flowers growing in the front – a fluffy white arch of jasmine over the entry, a beautiful pink tulip tree bending under the weight of it’s enormous blooms, or even a carpet of wild lemon grass with its simple happy yellow. I loved our street. This particular day was the last day I could rightfully call it “our street”, as we tossed the last remaining dregs of “random uncategorizable stuff” into unlabeled boxes. The winter (otherwise known as “lots of rain” in these parts) had finally arrived and it was my favorite kind of weather: miserable and unpredictable and heavy. Of course, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”  was blasting.

I was standing there, looking out the window as the clouds shifted to cover an unexpected ray of sun and it once again began to pour, and I had one of those poignant moments. You know what I’m talking about. The kind of moment you think “man, I really have to write this down” (if you happen to be of the writing sort) but you don’t know what to say about it.  So I was looking out the window, and of course the song “time” started to play. The one about how life goes so fast, and we’re all just sleeping and walking when we should be running like hell. And then, icing on the cake, Sean came up to me and hugged me, and we were both just standing there looking out the window. For the grand finale, the song reached its crescendo: it started to hail, I started to cry.

I was just thinking that the life Seany and I are making….well, it’s not perfect, but its a pretty good start. It’s that combination of recognizing that things, for that moment, for you, are really quite good, and the terror that one day it might NOT be good and it would be too late to change anything. I’ve lived with this fear for as long as I can remember – the fear of the roads untraveled, the races un-run, the mistakes made and the ones that weren’t, the overwhelming amount of what-ifs and what-thens.  I live my life half asleep because I can’t bear it, and then I have these moments of being completely alert and awake and thinking of all the time I’ve wasted. But what was crazy about this particular moment, was that I didn’t think I had wasted a whole lot of it. I thought “by the grace of God, we’ve done alright so far. I have no regrets. ”

And so, we moved, and life goes on. I like moving, because of the poignant moments and the fresh starts. Hopefully, it will just keep getting better, and maybe one day I can be fully awake all the time, and it won’t be so terrifying and overwhelming. Maybe I’ll figure out how to balance it.

rainy rooftops

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I’m kind of an anxious person. I guess I’ve always been a bit of a worry wort, occasionally leaning towards the emotional wreck side of the spectrum. The past couple of years though, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. I’ve been getting more and more anxious about everything which is unfamiliar. Which is ironic, because I enjoy spontaneity and adventure. Anything new, out of the ordinary, different from my daily routine – particularly when it involves meeting people – puts me into a highly anxious, near-debilitation state.

Some of the examples of this are pretty normal – I can’t sleep before shooting a wedding, and am very nervous about meeting new clients (to the point of not being able t do anything most of he day in anticipation). Others are a bit more absurd. I am anxious about doing laundry at our new apartment. About biking an unfamiliar route. About going to work out at the YMCA where Sean and I just registered. In fact, I was supposed to go there and check it out two weeks ago, and I ended up having Sean go with me. I would have done it eventually – I usually do. It just takes me so long to get over this bizarre, pointless anxiety that things don’t get done in a timely fashion.

Meeting people is the worst. I’ve already mentioned the client meetings. It’s such a strange concept, to get in touch and set up a meeting with a total stranger, in the hopes of convincing them to hire you to be present and photograph their most important of occasions. It’s kind of a bizarre concept to begin with, and then you add the self doubt: “What should I wear? How will I seem? How much should I talk? How many questions should I ask? Will I come off as professional, or like a little awkward girl who has no idea what she’s doing?”. For some reason, the acquiring of self confidence, the becoming your own individual person who is worthwhile and can accomplish things on her own, is a part of growing up I seem to have missed. Maybe it’s because I’ve never really been on my own – I’ve never had my own car, provided for myself, etc. There was a brief two years in college when I lived with roommates, had jobs, took classes, etc. But even then, I had to get rides if I wanted to go somewhere a bus couldn’t take me, and I never went far. I didn’t join any clubs or groups on campus, I didn’t make any friends, or talk with my professors or actively participate in church ministries. I just sort of existed.

I’ve been trying to break out of that the past couple of years – but it’s so hard, after all this time. I purposely will sign up for things that make me uncomfortable. And when the day rolls around, I’m miserable – I’m so anxious I can barely function, and all I want is not have to go, and just sit inside at my computer like a hermit. We can probably all agree that that’s not super healthy. So I go.  And it turns out just fine, whatever it is. And my quality of life increases. And maybe next time, it will be just a hint easier.

An example:

I’ve been wanting to volunteer at some women’s ministry for a while. Especially since I’ve been done with school and quit my day job, I’ve been wanting to contribute somehow. My church works with a lot of ministries, but they are all in Santa Cruz, which is far and difficult to get to. I wanted something local. I did a search and found a ministry that helps pregnant women who are in a crisis situation (addiction, homelessness, etc) learn how to be independent and self sufficient and how to raise their babies. It’s a group home, essentially, where these women live during their pregnancy and take classes on life skills and go through recovery programs. It’s an awesome ministry.

So, the first step was to email the volunteer coordinator. That took me a little while, but emails are pretty easy even for me. He gave me background forms to sign and told me to get them back to him. This required a bit of effort – finding a printer, finding a fax machine. It took me weeks to fill out the papers. Then I asked Sean to fax them for me. He kept forgetting, and then they got lost. And a year went by. Seriously, a whole year. And then I remembered, and this time, I printed them up and Sean faxed them and everything got done pretty quickly. And then I didn’t hear back from them. And then another year went by. Yes, a whole year. Finally, I remembered again, and gathered up my motivation, and emailed the guy again. A month later I heard back that my paperwork got lost, and I’d have to fill it out again. Finally, I did it that same week, and got a phone call. Then there were three weeks of phone tag. Finally, I got in touch with the girl who had called me, and she told me the initial thing I had signed up for was already filled (of course, it had been two years!) but that she could meet me and show me around the house, and maybe they could find something useful for me to do.

That meeting was today.

I really, really didn’t want to go. My stomach was in knots, my heart beating irregularly, I had a hard time taking deep breaths. But I did it. One anxious step at a time, I changed, got my bike ready, hauled the thing down three flights of steps, biked through the terrifying chaos which is downtown traffic, and met the nice lady at the beautiful house. It was awkward, but overall I think it went ok. She said they’ll talk it over and can maybe set me up with something. Someone will give me a call.

I guess my point is…well, first off, volunteering is hard. I have time to give, I have some skills and a lot of passion and I’ve been trying to find a place to give that away, some cause to give myself to. And Ive been finding that giving something away isnt nearly as easy as I thought it would be.

My second point is, I’m trying to grow. I’m trying. My methods for dealing with this anxiety issue – making plans and arrangements that make me very uncomfortable but are ultimately beneficial experiences – is similar to the way I deal with trying to eat well. I know I lack self control (especially when it comes to tasty things like brownies) so I just don’t keep any in the house. In both cases, it’s like I have to trick myself into being good – into being productive and healthy and spiritually alive. It’s a constant struggle, and I know I need to pray more.

Now that I’m back home, I feel good about having gone. It was the right thing to do. Perhaps it will lead to a rewarding, mutually beneficial relationship. Perhaps not. But it’s worth it anyway to try.

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There’s a strange thing that happens to me at church. One minute, I’ll be paying rapt attention (mind you, this usually only lasts for one minute), and the next I’m feeling an overwhelming desire to make something. Usually it’s stained glass (there’s not much mystery in that – my church is a hundred year old brick building with simple but beautiful stained glass – muted yellows which filter the morning sun). I just want to do it, make it, be around it, consume it. I get fidgety. I have a hard time sitting still. Ideas come, right after another, fleeting, unhindered but undeveloped. They don’t come out of me, but through me, like a sudden gust of wind through a barely opened door. I don’t usually have a pen and paper to write them down – I don’t usually think of writing them. I can’t imagine ever forgetting them, or ever losing that desire, the hunger, the thirst to create.

By the time the sermon’s over, and the music has stopped, and the greetings and smilings and windy mountain roads have passed…the feeling, too, is gone. “I turned to look, but it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now, the child has grown, the dream is gone”*. The rest of the day is usually filled with the requisite chores and errands, visits with family, the occasional blessed hike out in the forest. All good things; valuable, necessary things. But it’s not the same as that high that I felt before.

I think one of my major difficulties in finding a rhythm and a balance to my life is this…happening. It is not only in church when it occurs – sometimes all it takes is a beautiful Victorian house (there are a lot in our new neighborhood – original leaded glass and everything), or a mesmerizing photo, or a line of words woven together so perfectly and seamlessly that you would think the entire line was one word that could describe everything. Then it comes, the inspiration, the rushing in my ears, the wanting to runrunrun. The hunger – is an apt description, as I want to not only create “it”, but want to also consume it, devour it, become one with it. This beauty. What stops me?

Well, I don’t know where to run. I don’t know what to do. The ideas are so unformed, and to form them would take time, and discipline, and effort – it would take the ability to slow down the rushing sound in my ears and my beating heart and the nearly painful desire long enough to listen. Long enough to hear, instead of a cacophony of noise a melody, a single uniform concept. I don’t have this ability, or rather, I’ve never take the time to hone it. Inspiration is a high, but a painful one when you have no idea in mind and nothing to busy yourself with. It’s like a caffeine buzz in the middle of a slow and boring lecture – you yearn to jump up, out of your skin – “I’ve got wide, staring eyes, I’ve got a strong urge to FLY!  ….but I’ve got nowhere to fly to”*

So you see, it’s so much easier – to watch TV and check up on facebook, play mindless games and wander aimlessly about the house. Dull the senses, mute the noise, until it’s nothing but an uncomfortable buzzing in your ears.

Well. No more. I’ve got a strong urge to fly now, and I’m gonna figure out where I’m going.



*quotes by Pink Floyd from the epic “The Wall”.

PS: My art blog: http://lizardartworks.wordpress.com

PPS: My professional photography blog: http://juniperspringphotography.wordpress.com

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You know where is a good place to sit in silence? A new apartment. It’s quiet. There’s nothing gurgling on the stove, no computer fans whirring in the background. But it’s not too quiet – you can hear the clicking and shhhing of the rain falling on rooftops, the distant horn of a passing train, the occasional gust of wind shaking water off of the trees. It’s a good place to sit still and look out the window and ponder.

This is a strange transition time, when you know a new place is already yours, but it has none of your stuff in it yet. There are no fond memories of friends gathering for food and games, no paths dented into the carpet where you walk around the furniture every day. There’s just a feeling of something new about to happen, a new chapter, a new leaf – better even than the clock striking midnight on new year’s eve.

The living room in our new place is roughly the size of the entire old place. The giant window takes up most of one whole wall and looks over the rooftops of surrounding homes. There is so much light. Oh, the things I plan to do in this light – the ways I will be better. I will make stained glass windows again, I will edit photos. I will read and look out the window. I will ride my bike around town and hang out in the coffee shop around the corner. I will enjoy the city. I will be new again.

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…so hush, little baby, don’t you cry.

I’ve been hibernating. Which is hard to do when it’s gorgeous and sunny outside. I’ll be bored one day and find a tv show to watch…and then proceed to watch it like a coke addict until I run out. Hours, days of of my life go down the drain in front of a computer screen. It becomes compulsive – I start the next show without letting the credits roll, taking my laptop from one spot in the room to the other – wherever I am. Usually I try to do something else at the same time. Pack, knit, edit photos…just…something. That makes it less painful, to at least have something to show for the days as they drift by. I made 7 hats in the past three days. Hats that no one buys, and goodness knows I don’t need any more. But hey, they are evidence. Liza was here. If only for a moment, I was here.

I don’t know what it is, that makes me hibernate, that makes me need to disappear. Maybe it’s just the availability of the drug – when I start watching a series, I have to finish it. While it’s available, I can’t stop. The loss of brain function, the flat-lining, the simple, painless, brainless consumption of storyline and emotional stimulation is something I lack the self-control to refuse. It’s a good thing I don’t like being drunk, or this drive would be an unfortunate basis for alcoholism.

The more I read of Kathleen Norris’s “Acedia and Me”, the less definition acedia seems to have. And the more I am able to define it for myself, in my own life. For me, it is simultaneously the overwhelming desire to do EVERYTHING and the overwhelming  desire to do NOTHING. One moment I am jumping out of my skin, bouncing from activity to activity, sprinting from one cluttered corner of the apartment to another, wanting to


The next moment, the thought of doing anything fills me with so much apathy that it borders on disgust. Disgust at myself, at my life, and every activity under the sun. Everything is vanity, a chasing after the wind. I want to sleep, and opening the windows pains me. I mentally flip through my rolodex of possible activities, trying to find a single thing, any single thing, that excites me. Nothing works. The sun rises and sets, and through the blinds I barely notice.

Everyone seeks balance…but I don’t know where to find it. Even more so, there’s the ever-present fear that I wouldn’t know what to do with balance if it fell in my lap. Further, that balance would suck the artist out of me as surely as good weather and cheerful disposition makes painting impossible.

Prayer and Psalmody, she says, is the way to battle with acedia and apathy. If only I could bring myself to either. Sometimes, I have to be my own friend, and lower myself through the roof to the feet of the lord for his healing. I just have to get up and do it. I just have to get up.

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New Now

getting up slow but i’m leapin the last bit
i was young in the morning, now i’m creaking with age
everyone’s got their problems, got their own shit
mine’s the brains of a child and the worries of a sage

when i’m feelin down, no i don’t get down some
i get down all the way through the earth
i taste the soil and remember where i come from
let the dirt that i was then determine my worth

when i’m up i sing praise hallelluiah
and i raise up my hands to the sky
i remember then the times that i knew Ya
and the way that your presence made me high

every day, every day is a struggle to be new now
every day to be raised up with the Son
learn to live like i’m alive but i don’t know how
to be fighting keep on fighting til the dawn

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