April 28, 2011

Whoever made up the phrase “it’s all downhill from here” must not have been afraid of heights.

I am not paralyzingly afraid of heights, but I have an extra touch of caution, especially when going downhill. My feet must touch every rock to make sure it won’t wobble, so for me, going downhill requires a lot of thinking, patience, and not walking close to the edge. Do you see me in the photo?

I learned a lot walking down Ben Nevis, the tallest peak in the UK. Don’t worry: it zigzags up and down, so I didn’t do any serious rock climbing. It did take 10 hours, however, and in many ways, I considered this task more difficult than the marathon I completed years ago.

Lessons Learned:
1. It’s good to practice before you go. All of that time running and doing squats was so worth it. I could have been injured otherwise. My legs did hurt for a few days, but I was running again only three days after the hike.

2. Go at your own pace. I spent most of my 20s learning my pace, learning what I like, and living as balanced as I can (I’m still figuring that out and probably will be forever). I’m convinced there’s a pace in nature that our mobile phones don’t often allow us.

3. Don’t think too far ahead. I couldn’t think about every rock on the mountain at once, but had to take them one at the time. I get the most fearful in life when I start thinking more than the next year or two. When I start thinking, “What about five years from now?” I get anxious. Will I accomplish all I want? Will I have enough money? I believe it’s great to have goals, but they should be balanced with a healthy appreciation that there’s really no way to know what tomorrow will bring, so there’s no sense worrying about it today!

4. Joy is unexpectedly in the journey. There were three icy patches at the top of the mountain. Walking up them was tough, walking down even tougher. I’m so glad I let my friend Lisa convince me to slide down one of these patches on my bum (only after looking at her like she was crazy!). Unexpected joys have got to be some of the best, especially when you’re doing something that is demanding.

One of the gifts of spring is in my front garden:

The last time I looked at my garden was probably three weeks ago! Unbelievable. I did nothing to deserve such beauty and diversity of colour, but I am so glad I paused today to take it in.

It’s natural to want to go faster downhill, but I am glad to be a bit slower.

motivational poems

April 17, 2011

I love spring. I love that everyone is outside. Today, I hung out with about 20 people I know and met about 5 new people whilst playing frisbee. I then saw two more ladies I know who were on the Meadows (massive park near my flat), and when I walked home, I got to walk home with my neighbour who saw me walking back.

My friends were telling me today that April & May are the most beautiful months in Scotland because it rains all summer. I don’t want to miss a moment.

However, (sigh) I–and several people I know–have been having trouble sleeping. It is getting light around 5 a.m. already, and I am waking up about 6 wide awake. It is also staying light past 8 p.m. I’m writing this post at 8:30. It’s still light.

Why should I complain that I’m full of energy and can sit outside without a coat? Well, it’s a restless energy. It is difficult to focus. I find myself barely able to sustain a conversation without effort.

A few weeks back, I wrote this poem about motivation that I find very apt for the season (I hope it helps you if spring is treating you the same way). The “it” in the poem is anything you’ve been putting off and need to do:

do it hungry
do it tired
do it wearing your worst

do it when you feel like something else
do it when you are cold
and can’t feel your fingers
especially when you’ve just gotten cozy in bed,
that’s the best time to get out and do it

do it when more than three items
in your flat are broken
and you can’t find your keys
it’s best to do it when you have
visitors coming round and you
haven’t even started cooking
when your favourite programme
is on TV

when you can’t even remember
how to do it
or the last time you did

that’s when it turns out best.

And, when there’s so much going on, you also need the ability to say no:


why is no so difficult for me
and easy for no others?

of course, I have no time for
5 more projects
when I have had
no sleep a solid night
in no three weeks

I wake up, I no work
I work just before no sleeping

how long will this no go on?
before I learn that no
delirium is a special type of
no creativity.

Happy Spring!

hope’s hazards

April 2, 2011

It’s best to start this post with a poem:


is obvious
and it hurts
think of a scab
or a scar

or a reattached button
slight off-centre
different colour thread
too tight

yet stronger

Our pastor preached a sermon this past Sunday about letting go of bitterness. It felt great to worship God in that moment. I repented for some bitterness I’ve carried, felt new faith rise in my heart, and left church with high hopes for the week ahead.

What a disappointment the week was in comparison! I’ve had moments where I wished that tomorrow would be a better day, but it is so rare that I wish the next week would be a better WEEK. (I’m sure there are some of you who wish next year or next decade would be better).

A lot went right this week circumstantially. Nothing to do with people I saw, events I led or attended, or even the weather (well, there were 2 foul rainy days). My struggles were internal. Me holding something back from God and trying to deal with it on my own (ministers and Christian leaders especially face this temptation). How this opens us up for attack by the enemy of our souls! And lies I did, have, and will believe.

God wants it all.

Unless I let God speak (which means I stop yelling at him), let God have it, and let God have His ways with me, I cannot be full of hope. If I just talk to my journal, my guitar, or the floor and don’t open up to other people who may or may not understand me, I become arrogant and self-sufficient (and in my eyes, more arty somehow).

I have a love/hate relationship with being an artist. I love the stuff I create and how it can speak to me and bless others, but I hate that I don’t even understand myself. I take comfort at times in being around other artists, but we don’t understand each other either.

A lot of my projects are personal (I came up with some more ideas of stuff I want to do yesterday on a long walk). They feel like stabs in the dark almost always. Last week, I carried a painting over to Edinburgh College of Art where I took a part-time course this past fall just on the encouragement from my tutor that this would be a great event. It was also minimal effort. Because I painted on board, I didn’t even have to frame it.

The exhibit opened Thursday evening. This was the worst day of my week. Rainy weather and me not being able to figure out how to make a website (again)–I’ll get there: I’ve got a lot of training videos to watch. I stayed in all day and didn’t go to my studio.

I was teary at the exhibition. The first thing I see walking up the stairs is this massive banner: “Don’t lose hope: You’re just tired darling.” (Tired I was after about four nights of not sleeping and wrestling with God). I’m not even sure the banner’s part of the exhibit – it felt very out of place, a huge non sequitur. It was God’s direct word to me.

I didn’t stay for the winning announcements. I went around the exhibit twice, didn’t talk to anyone, barely waved at my tutor (he didn’t recognise me because I don’t have dreadlocks anymore), and made my way out of there. I was on my way to my graphic design course anyway, even though I told them I would be late because I had an exhibit just before. There are over 150 works in the show, and all of them are better than mine. No one was even looking at my painting. It was above eye level and behind a section of wall. I could barely see it because I’m short.

My graphic design course was wild that night, too. This was the night we were all meant to present our books. I was the only one who completed mine. While everyone in the room was really excited for me (and a bit jealous), I felt dorky. I spent a lot of late nights finishing this book.

The next day, I took a university student I mentor over to see my painting because we were very near. What do I see beside my painting? A sticky note with “2nd prize” scrawled on it. Utter shock, complete amazement, and my faithful friend disbelief.

After looking at the other award winners and telling my friend about why all the other paintings in the exhibit are better, I go to the office to ascertain what I had won exactly. A free course, which is worth £200.

Guess I’ll keep being an artist after all. I’ll be taking two art classes this spring: drawing and painting. I’ll let hope be “the thing with feathers” that may seem elusive at times, but also let it “[perch] in the soul.”

God, even though it hurts, You can take residence in me.