Sunday, November 18, 2012

Feels like quiet.

Today I was stressed, and as a result, was furiously thinking and analyzing and worrying. Before I knew it, I picked up the cat and was petting it against its will. Pets can be so soothing when they want to be, yes? Unfortunately, this cat was not in the mood to sooth or even be looked at. He scrambled out of my arms and high tailed it to his scratching post, as if he'd been separated from it for years. I laughed because he was acting like I was before - anxiously grabbing onto the closest soothing thing.

We do that, seek comfort when stress gets high. I'm pretty sure that's why chocolate and alcohol manufacturers will never go out of business. It's natural to seek comfort. We seek it in things, we seek it in all kinds of ways and places. But for me, and I'm sure for many of you, the best comfort I have found is in other people.

There are people and things in this world that add to the dizzying spiral of thoughts that concern me. It makes my head feel full and tight, overflowing with questions, what ifs, possible solutions, and a myriad of other emotions. This isn't good or bad. It just is. I imagine it causes my brain to look like a tangled mess, with thoughts careening in and out of the webs in a pinball-esque fashion. It's exhausting, if not useful.

But sometimes, I need to be quiet. I need to be still. I struggle with this because there's so much around to keep me occupied and engaged. Add the fact that I love people, and that makes for tiny amounts of quiet time. It's something I'm working on, this whole meditation, rest idea. Turns out I suck pretty hardcore at resting. A good friend asked me recently, "Do you feel you're worth taking care of? Do you love yourself enough to rest?" Wow, just punch me in the heart, why don't ya? The effect would have been the same (ah, tough love).

After I added "practice resting" to my ever-growing list of "Things You Suck At and Should Work On Instead of Pinning Pictures of Cute Animals All Night", I realized that I do rest. Just not on my own.

I am blessed with the presence of precious people who, when I'm around them, have this amazing ability to relax me without me even trying. Being around them causes my thoughts to settle softly, the tension to ease out of my shoulders, and my lungs to breathe deeper than ever. They are peace and meditation in human form, the human equivalent of a Xanax or 60-minute hot yoga session. They allow me a place to rest, to feel happy and carefree, to believe in life and love again. Even when they are going through crisis, or having conflict with me, we always come back to that place of peace.

And in this I am truly, deeply blessed.

So while I work on taking better care of myself (what? Eating chocolate everyday isn't good self-care?), I am so thankful for the people who quiet the crazy in my life.

"So much noise,
Always so much noise inside.
Some people,
Some rare
and absolutely
vital people,
Will always
like quiet."
- Tyler Knott Gregson

Friday, November 16, 2012

Fifty years and counting.

I have the honor of calling Irene Holan my Nana and Thomas Holan my Papa. They are my dad's parents, and I grew up in Nana's daycare, learning everything from how to play Duck Hunter like a pro to why it's never a good idea to fake being sick to get out of eating something you don't like (because then you'll sit at the window watching all of the other kids play outside, while your bowl of soup congeals on the table).

Something else my grandparents taught me was how precious and real true love can be.

My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year on October 20th. They didn't have a grand party or posh trip. They simply went to dinner, like they have thousands of times. You would think that after 50 years, having dinner with the same person would get old, but just the contrary. When I asked Nana if dinner was romantic, she exclaimed, "Yes! Of course it was!", as if there couldn't possibly be any other answer. When I asked her how it felt to be married for 50 years, she responded, "Like it's our 25th anniversary. I love him even more than before, it just gets better with age. The more you know someone, the better it gets."

This answer was so beautiful and stood out to me, since I work and live in a society that often looks at marriage as something so easily thrown away. Marriage should be something permanent, uniting two people committed to a life of mutual self-giving love and sacrifice. Instead, marriage has become something that people begin with one foot in and one foot out (confusing it with the hokey pokey?). Lifelong commitment is a scary thing, no doubt about it. It's not easy or always pretty. But I have to believe that lifelong marriage is possible and worth every second. I've seen it.

When asking my Nana about how she's stayed in a marriage this long, despite our society's trends, she said, "Well, you have to have the three things: faith, trust and love. Without faith, you have nothing to stand on, you have nothing to go by."

I asked her about trust, saying it seems that might be the toughest part. She sighed and said, "Yes, it seems it's hard to trust in relationships these days." Oh so true. Trust is not an easy thing, but nothing worth it in this world usually comes easy, does it? Sigh, if only...

That brings us to Nana's third thing: love. Love is that anomaly that we all want, but none of us really understands. It's the topic of so many songs and movies and books, and yet we still don't really know what it means. But we know it when we feel it. And sometimes, it comes out of nowhere.

As Nana explained, she never intended to fall in love. She was discerning another life calling, and my Papa thought he was going to be the eternal bachelor. But that all changed on the night she saw him at a dance in Minnesota, "and it was all over". My Papa, fresh out of the Navy, danced with my Nana, then asked if he could give her a ride home. She declined because she was with her girlfriends, but that didn't stop her - Nana called Papa a little later, and the rest is history. She explained, "God had a plan for us, and had three kids waiting to be loved by us." She told me that it wasn't always easy, that there were times when they thought it was over, but they held on through it all. And now 50 years later, she laughs as she tells me, "You kinda get to start all over, just like you're dating again!"

My Nana and Papa have a beautiful relationship. He teases her mercilessly, but adores and dotes on her more. She pretends to get offended at his flirting, but giggles and adores him right back as if no time had passed since the day they were married. She once told me that he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, and she replied back confused, "I already have you - what more could I possibly want?"

I hope and pray that I can one day be as blessed as my grandparents are in love. And I hope that those of us called to this amazing commitment, will embrace it with courage, and a love that sets the world on fire.