Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Zest of A Radish (or, the story of my divorce)

I was a radish tossed into a sack of potatoes, trying hard to imitate a potato. "Why do these potatoes act like my sharpness, my bitterness, my incomparable zing are a pain in the ass?" I'd wonder. … 

Well, its time to raise your standards and honor that zing. Honor it in your friendships, in your work, in your recreational time, in your love life. Honor it and pay attention to those who honor it.
-Heather Havrilesky
Radishes are my favorite vegetable.  One year I ate over 1,000 of them.
This is a painting done by Lucille Conklin which hangs in my house.
When I recently came upon the above quote in
article, my
appreciation of radishes deepened.

This is the story of how I came to be divorced, but in order to tell it I need to go back in time, to before I was ever married.

My mother tells me that I was born strong-willed and rebellious. In her words, “Celeste, you have been feisty since you had breath to be feisty with.” Though it may have been difficult for my parents, I feel that my temperament was a necessary ingredient in cultivating the courage to pursue life on my terms. You see, I crave freedom the way other people crave convention- freedom of expression and exploration, freedom to feel exactly what I feel and speak without censorship. I live for the freedom to make the unknown known. This is the kind of freedom that terrifies most people, but for me it is life-giving. You can only imagine the blocks a personality such as mine might bump up against growing up in Mormon suburbia. As my friend Don says, “it must be funny for the people who know you day-to-day… thinking you’re this sweet and generous person they hang out with and not necessarily knowing this depth and burning urge for freedom.” Don gets it.

Fast forward to 2007. I had just started teaching school and was working long hours. One weekend, I decided I wanted to go out dancing. I mentioned this to my brother Joe, specifically stating that I just wanted to get out and have fun. I was not looking for a relationship. I ended up going dancing with one of Joe’s friends. He was smart and confident and we had some chemistry. By that first date, he knew he was in love and told me that he planned to marry me. I loved him, too, but deep down I knew that he had no idea who I really was. When I tried to tell him, he didn’t listen. He was looking at diamonds and planning our life complete with kids and a house in the suburbs. On the day he proposed I asked him what he wanted in a wife. His immediate reply was “a girl with a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” I told him in no uncertain terms, “I am not that girl.” He claimed he didn’t care.

The following two months were tumultuous. I felt pressured into making one of two choices: break up or get married. I wasn’t ready to break up and so, in early December we eloped. I have never regretted the decision to get married. I learned a lot about myself and I was forced to out grow some old insecurities. My husband and I had a lot in common. We both cared about each other, we were smart and talented. We wanted a lot out of life. But, where I had been born fighting convention, he was the exact opposite. He had spent his life striving for normalcy. He was the first person in his family to graduate from college. He had dreams of church leadership and fatherhood. I had dreams of travel and of connecting with fellow free-thinkers. For four years we made it work.

We didn’t fight much, but we didn’t connect much either. We knew what topics would spur an argument and, for the most part we avoided them. Slowly, we began to live separate lives. One day, in 2011, I rolled over in bed and said, “I think we need a divorce.” He calmly replied, “I agree.” Our whole divorce process went quite smoothly and quickly. Neither of us wanted anything but a chance at happiness. I didn’t ask him for a penny. My freedom was reward enough. He went on to meet a truly lovely Mormon girl whom he married in the temple. Their son is turning one this month.

I went on (after a couple of rebound relationships) to settle into, and thrive in, life as a single person. In the months where I was trying to decide whether or not to divorce, I had many family and friends encourage me to stick it out, to endure the censorship of my soul. They would say things like, “you don’t want the stigma of divorce,” or “when you find a good man, you keep him,” or (and this one is the one I LOVE to hate) “you don’t want to get old alone.” The truth is, I never worry about getting old alone. I really like my own company. I sincerely believe that the only thing worse than death is not really being able to live one’s true life in the first place. I’ll risk solitude for the privilege of a lifetime: the chance to be myself.

I will say that our society has no idea what to do with a woman who is single and childless by choice. I know that there are several well-meaning friends out there praying that I’ll find a man or religion or both. While I appreciate their good intentions, this kind of pity does not endear me. Instead, it fuels my fire. I do not get my worth from my marital status. My place of belonging in this world is certain. I am worthy because I say I am. I am worthy because I am here.

I think a lot about my brother Charlie who passed away in 2009. In a lot of ways his death was the beginning of the end of my marriage. Charlie was the first person in my life who loved me unconditionally. He had the sort of energy and fearlessness that most people only read about in books. He was brilliant and bold and loved without expectation. Even during my marriage, he was the person I would talk to and confide in the most. He explained the world in a really wise and wonderful way and tried to give me pointers for winning at the game of life. He wanted my freedom even more than I did. He encouraged me to listen to myself and honor what I heard. When he passed away I lost my mentor, brother, confidant, and best friend. I also slowly realized how much my marriage was lacking.

It is not always easy to step into the unknown, but it is worth it. Since getting divorced, I have never once wished I were married. There have been hard times, yes. There are still moments when I feel alone- especially since my only other non-Mormon family member is gone. But even in those painful times there is the peace that freedom brings. There is the satisfaction that can only come from living life on one’s own terms. Whenever I start to compromise and allow my fears to run the show, I feel Charlie’s presence. It tells me, “Celeste, you love yourself too much to live a life this small.”

The day after we received the devastating news of Charlie’s passing, his law partner sent this quote. It was so fitting that we had it printed in my brother's funeral program. It is not always easy being a bright, spicy radish in a world of potatoes, but it is far better than being stifled.

“I would rather be ashes than dust!

I would rather that my spark

Should burn out in a brilliant blaze

Than it should be stifled by dry-rot.

I would rather be a superb meteor,

Every atom of me in magnificent glow,

Than a sleepy and permanent planet.

The function of man is to live, not to exist.

I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.

I shall use my time.”

-Jack London

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On Work (or, the courage to follow what matters)

Yes, leave it to me to create hope where there was none
The human being shall cast shadows on the sun
Leave it to me to create hope where there was none
My inner soul shall cast shadows on the sun
-Brother Ali
Me and my brother Charlie before his death in 2009

“The mundane details of our life eat us up. 
Therefore it is important to keep asking ourselves again and again:
what is the most important thing?”
– Pema Chodron

I have been going through some serious angst related to my job.  The truth is that it is much harder than what I could accurately describe to you.  It isn't just dealing with kids (and raising normal, healthy kids is very hard work), it is the dysfunctional kids, it is those parents who are worse than neglectful, it is a system that does not honor teachers but instead blames them for everything that is wrong with our society when they are the ones who are doing something to fix it.  It is watching good, brilliant, hard-working women be beat down under a structure that is designed to create failure.  After eight years I have reached a breaking point.

This has led me to seek other options.  This week alone I've contacted several friends working in the corporate world as well as every graduate program the University of Utah has to offer.  I want to show the universe that I am willing to do whatever it takes.  This morning I took the initial steps of applying to an MBA program.

Except, the thing is I don't really want an MBA.  Like, not at all.  Not even a little.  And I am really, really bad at faking things.  Fortunately for me, this afternoon I found myself in the writing office of my friend and exemplar, Nan.  I have been trying to clean out my house and my life of any unnecessary clutter so I can prioritize those things that matter most.  In the midst of dropping off random paper, I asked Nan for her opinion.  Can one really follow their bliss?  What do I do with the nagging tugs on my heart and soul to make more meaning of my life?  How do I reconcile my need to work with my need to contribute my soul's gifts while I am here?  Can I find a life where I am giving service and feel good at the same time?  In a world that will neatly knock the dream out of you, how do I know it is still okay to dream?

These are not selfish questions.  They are essential.  This is not about laziness or a desire to not work.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  It is about the desire to make our lives matter, to make our work matter, to give our unique set of talents and gifts to the world in the way that only we can do.  It is about finding the courage to show up and work with integrity in a world that is trying everyday to stop you from doing exactly that.

Nan's words spoke straight to the heart of the matter.  "Celeste, you are the most vibrant of people.  Of course you deserve to dream.  All the dreams in the world belong to you."  And she meant it.  She went on to mention that I wouldn't be very happy in the corporate world.  As soon as she she said it, I realized that I already know it to be true.  I think there's where the angst comes in.  There is a tremendous amount of pressure in this world to conform.  But the human soul yearns for freedom.  And at times the road less traveled is lacking in signage.

I recently read this article by Paul Kalanithi who passed away earlier this year at the tender age of 37 from cancer.  In it he describes how it feels to want to know a definite timeline for his life.  His oncologist ends up telling him, "I can't tell you a time..  You've got to find what matters most to you."  Those words, while particularly poignant for Mr. Kalanithi, are true for all of us.  I am currently 32, the same age as my beloved brother when he was tragically killed in a car accident on his way to work.

None of us knows how long we've got, and (while abundantly clear in the face of death) in the mundane heaviness of day to day life what matters most is not always obvious.  A myriad of external things are vying for our attention, our time, worries, and effort.  In fact, that is where my main frustration with teaching public school has come from- the prioritization of trivial things.  So, while my career path remains unclear, I feel a renewed courage to speak my truth.  I know exactly how it feels to be free and how it feels to have compromised myself.

My commitment to that internal compass remains.  I will continue to show up authentically and to look for ways I can give my gifts to the world.  I believe this quote from Deepak Chopra to be true with all my heart.  May we have the courage to honor the alignment our souls are seeking.

"When you’re living your true purpose in life, your dharma, abundance flows to you easily and effortlessly. As the popular saying goes, 'Do what you love and the money will follow.'  It is not only material wealth, but also satisfaction, confidence, optimism, joy, and abundance in all its forms that will follow you when you are living [a life with integrity.]"

Sunday, April 19, 2015


"Ruby had felt it then. The audacious hope of rooted things. 
The innocent anticipation of the shooting stalks,
the quivering stillness of the watching trees.
” - Cynthia Bond
Tulips from my friend Tim's garden

I wanted to post an update today because I am feeling much more hopeful.  This morning I went for a run and the thought finally clicked "I am going to leave teaching."  I think that up until that point it was something I wanted to do, but really didn't know if it was possible.  It didn't help that all of my coworkers are in my same boat,  Teachers talk to each other a lot and I never hear anyone say, "I love this job.  It is so amazing.  I feel fulfilled.  I feel appreciated."  Instead we say things to each other like, "I am breaking down.  I don't know how much longer I can do this.  Can you believe [insert unbelievable event] happened?!  My family is concerned for me."  And yet we each convince ourselves to show up each day. 

The arguments for staying put are clear and I have repeated them every single day for the last 8 years.  The arguments in favor of doing something new (and, as of now, unknown) are not so clear.  But moving into uncharted territory is something I have done before.  I remember having a similar feeling when I left the LDS church and also when I got divorced.  Those were scary things to do, but I was so much happier after I did them.  When I think about doing something new, I feel lighter, happier, and more hopeful.

I also know that looking for a job will go much better if I am in a place of peace and positivity.  I plan to leverage the power of the universe (I know that is a bold statement) to move in the direction of the life I want to be living.  I don't know how long it will take, but it feels possible.

I feel happy to even have a glimmer of hope and to start moving in a new direction.  I plan to write more often and really move towards the things that bring me to life.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


There is a truth I need to acknowledge.  It isn't something I want to focus on, but rather something I know I need to admit.  Here it is:  life is hard.

I titled my blog glowing and grateful because gratitude is something that comes easy to me.  I feel grateful often and I express it.  Positivity is one of my strengths.  But for the last few months I have felt a struggle that I can't gloss over by counting my blessings or thinking on the bright side.  I don't even have the exact words for it.  There is some anxiety, defeat, exhaustion, and depression that I feel during part of every day.

I think that part of it is related to my job.  I wrote a post about a month ago where I described what my job is like.  But I wrote that post knowing it would be read by many people.  It did not tell the whole truth.  The whole truth is that most days my job feels impossible.  It feels thankless.  It sucks the soul out of me.  There are core parts of myself that are silenced the second I walk into the school doors.  This year they gave us 4 days for spring break when we needed a full week.  I am tired.  Yes, I am good at what I do.  Yes, I know my work is important and that I owe it to the kids to take good care of them.  But at the end of the day I give much more than I receive from work.  And the scary part is, I transferred schools and my job is better than it has ever been.  I am surprised that I survived my first years of teaching.  I think I still have post-traumatic stress from those experiences.

Because work is so challenging, I spend every moment outside of work trying to practice self-care.  I go to bed early and unwind with chamomile tea.  I wake up and prepare healthy foods and meditate.  I blow off steam at the gym or on my bike.  I pet my dog as often as I can.  I visit friends who uplift me.  I read and listen to inspirational thinkers.  And it still doesn't feel like enough.  The other thing that doesn't help is the phrase "other people have it so much worse."  I know how lucky I am and that there are people praying for things I take for granted.

This winter and spring I've had issues with my heater.  I know that sounds like such a trivial thing.  But its not.  I've had repair men come out to my house a total of 10 different times so far.  I've spent over $1,000 on repairs.  My parents have helped me with the cost, but the experience has compounded my stress.  In addition to the time, money, and cold house it has brought up so much fear for me.  I have fears about not having enough money and my biggest fear in the world is that I will lose Boo.  I love him more than I've ever loved anyone.  So I worry that some electrical issue or heating issue will cause me to lose my home or my dog which are the two things that keep me sane.

I have been looking for another job since December, but finding the right one is not so easy.  Teaching does have some awesome perks.  I have a lot of time off, job security, and decent pay.  I also have some level of autonomy.  I want to appreciate these things and I want to find the right fit for my talents.  The other truth I've realized is that many of my talents don't pay much.  I'm good at fitness, cooking, mindfulness practices, writing, and creative pursuits.  So I'm looking and praying and hoping that I can find a job that supports my life.  I am willing to work hard.

I don't know exactly where this sense of struggle is coming from.  It is probably one of those life experiences that I will just need to ride out.  It could be seasonal or hormonal or job-related.  It could last the rest of my adult life or it could go away tomorrow.  But I feel like it is important to honor my struggle and be honest about how I really feel.  I have deactivated my Facebook account to silence some of that noise and let my heart tell me exactly what it wants to.  It might be ugly, it might be hard.  But life is sometimes hard.  If I can honor that for myself then I can honor that for the people in my life who might also be going through a struggle.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Anne Lamott on Writing

"Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart--your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it's why you were born

Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. ... Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes. It won't, it can't. But writing can. So can singing."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


I had the opportunity to visit a good friend today.  I say good friend not because we've known each other long or been through a lot, but because she modeled and provided the things a good friend does- acceptance, wisdom, respect, curiosity, permission to be oneself.

As we chatted over our coffee and cake I was reminded of my intentions for starting this blog in the first place.  I wanted to have a place where I could freely express all the richness under the surface that I wasn't able to give voice to in my daily life.  I want this space to be as unedited as possible.  I realized that I might write more often if I dropped the obligation to find an inspiring quote or photo or come up with just the right words.  I still love photography and quotes, but I don't want them to get in the way of my spirit freely expressing itself.

Another thing that was illuminated during our visit was how I base the worth of a piece on what other people might say or think about it.  At one point I was envious of Internet personalities (Deepak Chopra, Brene Brown, Kelly Rae Roberts to name a few) who make a living writing, photographing, teaching, and selling their own take on life.  And today it hit me, "thank God I don't have a following.  What a relief!  I don't have to cultivate a following."  I already have a full-time job.  This space is not for making money or accumulating "likes."  It is so that my ideas, opinions, and desires can be heard.  If they resonate with you, that's awesome.  And if they don't, equally awesome.  Because we all need the freedom to feel what we feel.

*As a side note, I have noticed that whenever I post something related to teaching, it gets a huge positive response.  However, teaching is not the nearest or dearest thing to my heart.  In fact, sometimes I feel like it is slowly suffocating my soul.  Some of the posts that mean the most to me get very little attention from readers or friends.  But they still matter to the one writing them.*

I am going to give a little more authority to what I've learned about myself.  I'm not a big reader of books or watcher of movies.  I am tired of the whole "go big or go home," "anything is possible" mentality.  Having an organized living space is more important to me than making big, creative messes.  It helps me think more clearly.  I value alone time as much friend time.  I have to force myself to go to yoga even though I know I'll feel better after.  I never force myself to go running or walking or cook a yummy meal.  I don't want kids and at this point I don't want a romantic partner.  All of these things may change, but I want to honor what is true for me for now.  Emphasis on for me, for now.  I wish you the guilt-free permission to honor the same stirrings for what is true for you in your current life situation.

Why I Don't Want Kids

"People who want children are all alike.  
People who don't want children don't want them in their own ways."
-Leo Tolstoy

This book arrived today.  "Selfish Shallow and Self-Absorbed, Sixteen Writers on the Decision NOT to Have Kids."  Not wanting to have kids is something I have been wanting to write about for awhile and I'm hoping that some of the essays in this book will speak to my own heart and some of its deeper desires.

In my entire adult life (I am 32 now) I cannot remember ever having the desire or yearning to have a child.  I think the reasons for this are as much about what I don't want (sleepless nights, daycare bills, germs, mess) as they are about what I do want (freedom, quiet, simplicity, health, space to hear myself think).

This is one of those decisions which is near to my heart, but has taken some time to express vocally.  In much of my life it has felt taboo to say out loud "I don't want kids."  But I don't.  Not any part of me.  I'm not a baby person.  I'm not really a kid person either.  While I teach elementary school (and do a great job at it) I spend most days encouraging, sometimes even begging, my students to grow up.  My favorite part of the year is the end of the year when they have matured somewhat.  I don't have the patience or tolerance to go through the process with another person.

The sacrifice of having a child and raising it well is a demanding one.  It's okay to not want to make it.  I also think it is misleading to think that you can raise a child AND still do all of the other things you did before or that you might want to do.  Hell, I find it hard to do the things I want to do without having children or a significant other.  As one of the writers in the book says, "having it all is a slogan for ad execs and life coaches. I'll settle for having freedom of choice."

I'm not sure how much more I'll explore this topic.  I no longer feel a strong need to justify my life decisions. I guess that's the power of growing older.  Our life speaks for itself.  I'm happy with the freedom to make choices that feel right to me and I absolutely want to extend that freedom to others (including those who feel passionately about having a family). 

Having answered the question of whether or not to have kids, and being comfortable enough to not defend my position, I can now focus more on what I do want to have.  Some qualities coming up for me are a simple life, a sense of wholeness, time and space to unwind in, connection to a supportive network of enlightened beings, and clarity.  Moving forward, I hope to explore more of these core desired states.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

An Ode to Exercise

“Our goal is that more people begin to follow their inner guidance, in diet [and exercise]
 as well as all areas of their lives. We offer encouragement for [you] to make the changes
 that ultimately support a life of kindness and compassion.”
 –Paul Pitchford, author of Healing With Whole Foods

At the top of a hike with my good friend (and hero) Tim.
If it weren't for the gym, I wouldn't even know him.

I have been wanting to write this post for awhile now. I did a first draft, but it didn't convey the fullness of the message I wanted to share. So here’s my second attempt.

What I really want to say is that this body, this life I’ve been given is an enormous gift. Gene Gendlin says, “your physically felt body is, in fact, part of a gigantic system of here and other places, of now and other times, you and other people, in fact the whole universe.” Rumi also tells us, “do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.” If this is true, if our physical presence is the most valuable thing we own (at least as valuable as the whole universe), then wouldn't it make sense that we would try our best to take very good care of it?

But when I look around, I don’t see a society of people who are nurturing and tending to this precious gift. I see a society deeply disconnected from itself. For a society obsessed with health, we are awfully unhealthy. We have reduced our diets to calories and isolated nutrients and have vilified one of only three macronutrients available to us (carbohydrates, which we’ve turned into a four letter word “carb”).

As far as fitness, we have turned it into a strange pursuit wherein we objectify the body, prioritize achieving trivial goals, and ultimately push, prod, and punish ourselves and wear the result as some sort of badge of honor. While I love exercise, there are many reasons why I don’t want to associate myself with the term “fitness."  As Edward Yu says, “I’m unsettled about associating the human body with the word, fitness, because of its link to the term, survival of the fittest. Nature kills off those who are “unfit” and in doing so, separates the chaff from the wheat, so to speak… A question that we have forgotten to ask is: “Fit for what?” If I am deemed fit to be on a magazine cover, does that also make me fit for the rest of life, which occurs outside of the confines of a photography studio? Should Albert Einstein, who probably never performed a single push-up, be deemed “unfit”?"

And yet, I deeply love exercise.  In many ways it has saved my life and is a priority to me.  I have given it some thought and come up with this clarification on what exercise IS and IS NOT (at least in my opinion).

At the finish line with my parents after their first half-marathon ever at age 62.

Exercise IS:
  • A chance to socialize. 
  • A chance to be alone, hear my own voice, and deepen my connection to myself.
  • A time for fun and play. 
  • An immediate connection with nature. When I am walking or running or biking through the outdoors, I get the sense that the life force I see in a rushing river or hear in a bird’s song, or feel in a gust of wind is the exact same life force pulsing through my veins. The more I workout, the more I prefer the church of the great outdoors to the confines of a gym. 
  • The chance to clear my mind and blow off all the stress of the day. It is a practice guaranteed to clear and energize my body so that my spirit can thrive. It cleans away the sticky “gunk” of everyday living.
  • A reminder of how strong we are. Life is a great and challenging adventure, but I believe with the right care, we are up for the task.  Workouts (especially ones that push our boundaries) are reminders of how much is possible.  We are capable of so much more than we realize. 
  • Exercise is a chance to practice self-care by honoring myself and moving in a way that embodies wholeness, grace, strength, and ease. (Yes, I believe ease and exercise belong in the same sentence.) 
  • Exercise is an easy way for me to step out of the stream of my own thinking and actually embody my body. 
  • Finally, exercise builds my strength, confidence, flexibility, endurance, power, and grace which (if you think about it) have more to do with the natural qualities of the human spirit than with the attainment of a temporary fitness goal. 
Spinning out some major watts with friends at Plan 7 Endurance Training.

Exercise ISN'T:
  • Exercise is not a punishment. It is not a whip with which to beat yourself when you eat a doughnut or have gotten out of shape (probably because of life circumstances that took over).
  • Exercise is also not a measure of your worth as a human being. Some of the greatest people I’ve ever known have not been in the greatest shape. I am slowly learning that a fit version of me is every bit as worthwhile as an unfit version.
  • Exercise is not about pleasing anyone other than yourself. I have a hard time when exercise instructors use the phrase “I want” as in “I want to see your legs up high” or “I want to see that core pulled in.” Excuse me. My workout has nothing to do with what you want. It is a time to listen to my body. 
  • Exercise is not a form of brutality. I began noticing that there were few workout classes where the participants were actually smiling. Furthermore, I noticed many instructors who spent more energy pushing their students rather than encouraging their students. Exercise is seen as some sort of horrible chore which we must force ourselves to get through. 
  • Finally, exercise, for me, is NOT another way to objectify our bodies. When we turn ourselves into objects, we become separated from the whole structure of living things of which we are a part. Once we have created that division (our body vs. the rest of our lives) it is so much easier to treat the divided entity with violence (because it’s not part of ourselves, obviously). I feel like in many ways we can’t see the forest for the trees. We overemphasize being fit and working out, but have completely lost touch with the essence within.

Playing around with an assisted handstand

When exercise and other practices of well-being (such as a positive attitude and balanced diet) are practiced, there is no limit to the vitality and joy we can experience. Ultimately our bodies are the physical foundation for growing our awareness (and the qualities of awareness- gratitude, vitality, joy, kindness). I hope with all my heart that you will join me in allowing ourselves to spend more time feeling good. Our bodies are a gift, a miracle in motion.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The good, the bad, and the ugly (or freedom to stop pretending)

All in all is all we are.
-Kurt Cobain

Sometimes I forget that I have a darker side, that I am a lover of the night.  The sight of graffiti makes me happy.  I light up when I hear Rage Against the Machine or gangsta rap with explicit lyrics. I have one tattoo and plan on getting another.  I feel most alive when I am taking risks.  I start my day with strong coffee.  Suburbia bores me completely.  My favorite people are people with an edge, usually several.

But I am also a lover of the morning, of puppies, roses, and the color pink.  My heart swells when I am preparing vegetarian meals in my sunny kitchen.  I believe that kindness is more important than strength and I try to grow it within myself.  I am in love with sunshine and yoga.  I am a second grade teacher.  The photo above was taken at 2 a.m. in the Salt Lake cemetery by my dear friend and phenomenal photographer, Zoe Rodriguez.  It was incredibly daring, fun, and freezing cold.  Four hours later I got up, showered, and went to work.  For me, these are all integrated aspects of the multi-dimensional life I am lucky enough to live.

Beyond ideas of darkness or light, good or bad, I am a hopelessly flawed human being. Sometimes I yell at my students, loudly. I often am often wired or anxious. When I buy organic almonds in bulk, I write the non-organic PLU on the tag because they cost less. I am incredibly vain and do not appreciate the wrinkles taking up residency on my face or the five pound weight gain that won't go away. I worry on a daily basis that something will happen to make my life harder. I worry that I won't make it through. I still get trapped in comparison and greed and artificial identities I construct for myself.

There is a lot of Internet talk about "embracing imperfection" and while I understand the intention, I disagree with the language. Our lives are perfect exactly the way they are. I have a great love for this perfectly imperfect human experience. It isn't perfection I want to shine a light on, it is pretense.  Pretending is the sweeping-under-the-rug of anything that might be considered ugly, dark, or undesirable. It is taking the airbrush to our lives until they are soul-numbingly boring. Pretension is the act of erecting walls between us and other people, or between us and the experience of being alive. It is completely rooted in fear.  It blocks the natural flow of our impulses and the generous support we can receive by being permeable.  Pretension is isolating.

There is a real sense of life that comes from tearing down those walls. There is a freshness that comes from the ability to relate to people on an even playing field. There is a lightness that comes from not needing to be the good guy or bad girl (or vice versa) but in just being who we are- flaws and all.

In the words of Rumi, "out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense."  Here's to meeting one another in a fuller world.