Take Courage

In John Green’s beloved tear-jerker The Fault In Our Stars, Hazel says in the whirlwind of her first romance,

I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

It’s sweet, it’s innocent, it’s powerful, and it’s especially heart-wrenching as you just know that their story is not going to end in happily-ever-after.

I’ve always loved this line. I’ve read that it’s originally from Hemingway, but either way it tends to stick in my mind from time to time. And I do think love is like that. Love is many things…but I’m a romantic at heart, and falling in love (the good kind) is really just that. Falling slowly, and then all at once.

And then I realized there are many things I’ve observed in life to feel this way too.

Like:

-trees blooming with new leaves in the spring

-rain storms on a summer evening

-a creative spark of an idea

-a committed lifestyle change

-fires in the backyard fire pit

-the fading of a friendship that isn’t meant to be

-the blossoming of a new friendship

-learning lyrics to a brand new song

-the coffee kicking in

-being part of the group

-learning to not fit in

-loving ourselves

-loving people who are different from us

-joining together in community

Slowly, and then all at once.

Love. Life. Growth. Change. We know these all take time, cultivation, and effort. But they also seem to build momentum as we continue. As we persevere. As we go with the flow. As we grow in our faith.

So be encouraged, my friend. And take courage. Take cues from nature and from the world. Your slow, small first steps are leading you to your goals and to our collective dreams. Spring will come. Change will endure. And yes, the coffee will kick in.

I’ll leave you with lyrics from one of my new go-to encouraging songs from Bethel Music:

“Take courage, my heart. Stay steadfast, my soul. He’s in the waiting. Hold on to your hope. Watch your triumph unfold.”

All. At. Once. 💚

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Give Me Five

In the midst of a cold, average Monday, it’s a bit more difficult to remember the bright spots of last week. Anyone agree?

But if I take just one breather to reflect, I can refocus and remember not only cheerful moments but the ones that made me crack up, smile, and just feel good. In fact, here are five quick snippets that come to mind:

  1. I say the exact phrase “peanut butter is the love of my life” to our COO. No joke.
  2. A friend acts out the demise of a chocolate bunny to our small group – consisting of twisting the neck and making a sound similar to a stifled sneeze.
  3. The woman who prepared dinner at Central Community House (that we just served) runs out to the piano to sing a five minute version of “Happy Birthday” to her daughter that is completely improvised. She dances around the keys. 🙂
  4. After setting up an egg hunt, we watch a little girl so confused by the fact that there is individual candy AND plastic eggs that she throws her bag down to yell “Y’all are crazy!” to kids and parents who are not at all listening.
  5. Dad laughing a bit uncontrollably at one of my sister’s inevitable puns when the fam is together for Easter. The best. ❤

Your turn! Give me five. I’m already feeling better…and I know you will too.

Threw it On the Ground

It was a late Friday evening a few weeks ago, as I giggled and looked up from across the table to ask my boyfriend, “If there was one thing in my closet you’d throw away, what would it be?”

We had decided on a whim to play one of those “how much do you know about your significant other” games just for fun and this question I found particularly silly. He looked up at me with a straight face and said “Your scale.”

…You see, just in September of this year, I did it. The thing I’d heard about, read about, laughed about, thought about, and finally realized I could live without. I’m talking about throwing out the scale, my friends. Okay, I didn’t throw it out, but I shoved it into my utility closet. Outta sight, outta mind.

And you know what? It’s been AWESOME. It’s not like my life has changed drastically, or that I’ve been instantly 100% healed from all issues I’ve ever had with eating (more on that here if you’d like)…but it’s been crucial to recovery both in mind and in spirit.

If I don’t like how I feel after eating, running, drinking, spending time with a friend, etc., a number cannot tell me that I’m fine. It cannot deceive what I know to be true.

If I do like how I feel after an amazing meal, my favorite workout, time with loved ones, and a glass of red wine, a number cannot tell me another story.

The scale can’t tell me which jeans I should wear, how I should eat tomorrow, or where I should go. Weight does not define my happiness and it does not determine my confidence. “It’s just a number” is a phrase I’ve heard all my life. I “knew” it to be true. But it wasn’t until 2017 that I really started living it.

There are plenty of amazing blogs already out in the world written by strong women who have done just this. I’m not reinventing the wheel. I’m not saying this would be helpful for you. We’re all different. All I want to do is share my story, because it took me reading 100 real stories to uncover my subconscious unhealthy relationship with the scale. And if I can be a part of someone else’s 100 stories, then that’s what it’s about. We empower each other towards self healing and self love.

And hey, perhaps I will actually toss the thing in the trash some day. Or maybe I’ll THROW IT ON THE GROUND. Stay tuned and stay true to you. Happy 2018 🙂

Dear Younger Me

Remember in elementary school when your teacher told you to take out a piece of paper and write a note to your future self? Or better yet, you were in high school writing words of advice to a younger, more self-conscious you.

I was strolling around German Village not too long ago when I had the sudden urge to do just that. Speak to past Diana. The cause? For once, I chose to not skip a single song on my playlist, only to reveal songs I had not listened to in quite some time. Songs that uncovered specific, real, emotionally-charged moments from the past. WOAH. Don’t worry…it’s not that deep 😉

It started with I Guess That’s Why They Call it The Blues by Elton John. Suddenly I’m 10 years old in the backseat of Dad’s Acura MDX as we’re headed towards the beach in July. As my sisters complete word puzzles, I’m staring out the window, singing along with Mom, trying to pick up Elton’s British accent, and trying not to be nauseous. Once in a while, I’ll look up to see Dad’s hands tapping on the steering wheel to the beat.

Dear Diana, soak in these family moments. Life won’t always be this simple. Actually, tell your 16 year-old self, too.

The song transitions into A Way Back Into Love from the lovely Music & Lyrics. I’m sitting next to my best friend in eighth grade at AMC (when movies were only $7.50?!?!?) smiling, giggling at uncomfortable scenes, and wondering what in the world it will be like to fall in love. I mean, boys are cute, and Hugh Grant is cute, but what the heck is love all about?

Dear Diana, you’ll find it! And you’ll find it again. 24 year old Diana is still learning. But the best part? It is real, and it is good, and it is so much more than the ending kiss scene between Drew and Hugh. Promise.

Michael Buble interrupts with Haven’t Met You Yet. Ah. One of my favorites. I pressed repeat on this song at least a thousand times before I finally gave in to buy it for $1.29 on iTunes. And I still couldn’t get enough. I remember belting it out on Saturday mornings at Krema with my colleagues. Where is my future going? What will I do after Krema?

Dear Diana, hang in there. I know at 16 it doesn’t seem like it, but you’re right where you’re meant to be. Trust the process, and trust that one thing leads to another. Also, a part of you will always miss Krema days, so try not to get too frustrated when customers sprint through the door to order sandwiches when you’ve just finished washing dishes.

Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Gotta thank my sister Emily for always giving me a taste of alternative music. (Is that still the genre?) I fell in love with this song the summer of 2013, ironically while I was trying to fall out of love from a most recent, painful breakup. Wiping away tears, staring at my iPad, I wonder if it will ever get better?

Dear Diana, long story short…yes. Girl. It’s going to be SO much better. You’re meant to go so many places and that was not on the right path. Plus, you are not and never will be defined by a relationship. Keep that chin up like you are, you’re doing great.

Next plays Our God by Chris Tomlin. Melanie first showed me this song. I loved it for the violin strings and Chris’ smooth voice. I’m walking around campus, earbuds in, music up full blast. Enjoying the song but not hearing it. Focused on classes and internships and tennis and sorority events.

Dear Diana, Guess what? Actually, you’ll never guess, but God is pursuing you this very moment. Listen. Be still if you can. I know you can’t believe me now, but you’re going to find your own faith in just a few short years. And it’s going to be amazing. I’m so excited for you.

Okay I lied. It did get deeper than I thought. That’s exactly what happened on my walk, too. I stepped back into my apartment with a silly grin and teary eyes. Nothing like a little bit of perspective when you least expect it. Thanks music, you rock.

Oh and I can’t wait for the Dear Diana‘s to come…

Soak It Up!

Just ten days ago, I’m standing on stage at this very moment. The sun is setting and it will disappear any moment now. My feet are tingling, my heart is racing, my cheeks are burning from smiling with excitement. This is real. I’m about to be singing for the very first time with the Columbus community choir and nonprofit organization that I’ve dreamed of being a part of for three years. I cannot focus and yet I’ve never been more focused in my life. I want to remember every note, every sound, every feeling, every breath of the next forty minutes. Forever. Okay, Diana, that isn’t plausible. How, then, can I best remember? How can I live and experience what’s about to happen in every way possible? How can I soak it up? Like Sheryl Crow is to sun, I am to this moment.

Ten days later and here I am typing this, still utterly in awe of that night. I can feel the rush of the first chord. I can see the sweat from our conductor, moving fiercely to each rhythm and every lyric. I can hear my heart beat as my favorite song builds in volume and echoes against the crowd. I could go on and on and on. But while reminiscing…I realize something. Perhaps there are actionable ways to soak up a moment, an experience, a lifetime dream. And perhaps I practiced them ten days before. First, you got to:

Hold up. Wait, wait a minute. If you ain’t got no – wait, that’s a Chris Brown song. Back to the point. Hold up. In other words, clear your mind from anything other than this moment. This is it. If possible, physically stop moving for a bit. This is real. This is life right now.

Shut up. Okay now your mind is focused, so why are you still talking? To be honest I definitely tend to suffer from I’m-so-excited-I’m-going-to-keep-rambling-about-my-emotions-outloud disorder, but this is not the time. Even if everyone around you is chatting, be silent for a minute. Focus on your emotions, on how you feel at this very time in your life. Focus on your excitement, happiness, peace, or whatever it is that makes this moment something you want to remember.

Look up. From your phone. From others. For me? I look to the sky. I look to the sky a lot because I love the sky. I smile at the sky more often than the normal, sane person I’m sure. You don’t have to look at the sky. But look at what helps you meditate just a bit more. What helps you go deeper. Close your eyes and whisper thankful prayers. This moment will not last forever.

Follow up. And now it’s over. But it can still live on!!! Cliches aside, follow up – with yourself. For this specific concert, it took me a couple days because it still did not seem real. Let yourself travel back, though. Let yourself wander in the fleeting memories. And soak it up.

And then make a hit song like Kelly Clarkson. A moment like this. Or dance/smile/spin because guess what? The moment did happen. It really did. And you really lived it.

I Spy

Yesterday morning found me sitting cross-legged in Atlanta International Airport – the “world’s busiest airport,” says Wikipedia. “Best airport ever!!!” exclaims multiple Google Reviews. “Worst airport ever!!” complains additional Google Reviews. Well, whether worst or best, there I was perched in one of those stiff, awkwardly-leaning seats (seriously, is it just me or do all airport terminal seats lean back just a bit too far?) next to my sister. It’s just past 8am and we exchange yawns resulting from a whirlwind weekend trip. She returns to reading her book. I tune back into the song in my earbuds, and continue staring off into space and soaking in the environment at the same time.

Wikipedia seems accurate. There are so many people here and it’s even an early Sunday morning! All different walks of life. All different ages. All different demographics. I begin noticing little things, and I begin taking notes of them. I begin watching the people around me, I begin “people-watching” I suppose. To my left, I spy a young man chatting with an older woman in what seems to be a lovely growing small talk conversation. Perhaps they aren’t strangers but it looks that way. A 3ish-year old boy runs by me and steals my attention with his bright giggle. He has to be the most alert individual in the terminal. I wave to him. To my right, I spy the brightest coral pants I’ve ever seen on a man. Dang. Now I’m thinking about how I want a pair of coral pants. Would it be weird to ask him where he bought them? Probably. Especially since they’re male pants.

Most of my thoughts above are subconscious until I realize a pattern. I spy…I spy…I spy. My mind is like those books I loved (and sometimes hated) as a kid!! You know the ones. Each set of two pages reveal a scene of either 1) an explosion of the tiniest items you ever did see or 2) a scene of such intricate detail (usually constructed with toys) you could lose time gazing at it. And then, in poetic form, you as the reader were instructed to find 10 random items within the scene. It was such an accomplishment to catch all ten! And it was so maddening to not find that last one. What do you mean, “a flag on a house in a tree” ? There are NO trees!! You lie, I Spy book, you lie!

Back to Sunday morning, though. What if I could construct my airport scene into an I Spy scene? What would be the items, what would be the clues, what would I want others to see that I see? Or, what do I want others to show me that they see? Wait, I tell my mind, as it usually does like to run off…what if the I Spy clues are intangible rather than tangible? Such as, I spy joy. I spy love. I spy strength. Who of us fits those adjectives? Can we tell by their face? Their body expressions? Their conversations? Or is it hidden behind blank stares, heads buried in phone screens, and isolation? Because I bet in all of these people around me, no matter what they look like, no matter how they seem in my snapshot view, have wonderful and intriguing and beautiful stories. And I want to catch a glimpse. I want to spy a part of that. I smile.

Diana, stop smiling to yourself. You probably look creepy. That’s what others will see in you. Wait, maybe they’ll see joy. And happiness. And a free spirit.

I like the sound of that. Or rather, I like the sight of that.

Mission Possible

Those of you who know me well know I absolutely love Tuesdays. Yep, I’m that weirdo. The one humming down the hallway for more coffee at 9:15am, stopping for brief conversations with my favorite coworkers, and ready to attack my current project list with enthusiasm. To me, Tuesdays will always have a magical, productive charm to them.

Except a Tuesday morning not so long ago, this is not the case. 10am hits and instead of feeling high on life, I feel burdened, anxious, even a bit bitter. The worst part? I have no idea why. Sure, we all have bad moments, upset feelings, disappointing times – and I have my fair share. But looking around my office, I cannot put my finger on what or how or why I am feeling “off.” Then I feel it. It’s these dang jeans. No, I’m not kidding. I’d bought these new black jeans around four months ago and they were great, and sleek, and fitting, and perfect for work…but they really weren’t all that comfortable. I kept thinking I’d “wear them in” or “wash them enough times” or “stretch them out in the right places.” After four months, clearly the jeans were the real winner. At this moment, I admit defeat.

Then I look at the time. 11:15am. For every battle lost, another battle is yet to be won. Am I right? (Yes, I am still talking about jeans in this specific situation). 11:15am. I could make it. I could make it to Easton, to Forever 21 where oddly enough their jeans always come through for me, and back within an hour. Those of you who know me also know I dislike shopping, like really dislike it, but this is different. I am on a mission. And it is possible.

Twenty minutes later finds me at Easton mall. I may be the only shopper in Forever 21 (XXI) (I don’t know which is official) (because I don’t shop there unless it’s for jeans) (or the occasional dress) and I’m speed walking through the store and low-and-behold, there is the tower of black jeans!!! Another ten minutes, and I’ve tried on a perfect pair, checked out, and am back on the road. Every song on the radio is that much better.

I stop home for two seconds to change into my silky new denim, drive the 0.5 mile back to work, walk (but feel like skipping) back to my office, close the door. 12:15pm. Okay, okay, it was probably not on the nose but I did make it back within the hour. Life is GREAT. I’m feeling great. I start to laugh because of what just happened, and because no one else in the office would even be able to tell, and because I know that now whenever I wear these jeans I’ll smile to myself. There’s that Tuesday enthusiasm! Alright, back to work.

Guess what? Tomorrow is Tuesday. What will your mission be? It may be grand or may be trivial or may not hit you until a specific moment. But it will be possible. And it might be funny. And it very well may make a great story 😉