Comfort & Joy

The last few weeks of the year tend to be pretty hectic, but I love them. People are returning home, meeting up with old friends and family, exchanging gifts, enjoying treats, watching movies, talking the night away and slowing down a bit to prepare for the start of a new year. It’s a bit of a reset button where you can wrap up the year’s projects, catch up with your loved ones, and savor all the Christmas cheer. I know my last post addressed the more melancholy, stressed feelings that can surface at this time, and those are valid feelings. Everyone has something different that might be weighing on them especially during this season, but I am still so excited for the Christmas holiday and the fast-approaching start of a new year. I think it’s always a good reminder to try to find the joy.

My family has a nice pattern of gathering with my dad’s side of the family on Christmas Eve for a traditional Eastern Orthodox Christian fasting meal, then my mom’s side of the family on Christmas Day, and the reverse on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This year certainly will be different as it’s the first where people have moved and we have no one able to pick up hosting duties for Christmas Eve, but we are embracing the break in tradition and just planning a more low-key, different way to celebrate. I must say, I never thought I would miss that sour mushroom soup until suddenly, pretending to like it alongside my cousins wasn’t part of the plans for the year…haha!

At any rate, I really enjoy these last days before Christmas. I have been really lucky, my Christmas wishlist is more like a list of people to see, and it looks like I’m going to be able to cross off quite a few! I had a great, super chill two-night sleepover with my cousin over the weekend, my mom and I had a wonderful catch up with a family friend for brunch this morning, I hope to spend some time with my best friend (and maybe bake some cookies!) on Friday as well as see some old ballet & yoga friends at the annual candlelight yoga, and then have a nice gathering with some other great friends on Saturday. Hopefully I’ll also get to see most of both sides of my family for Christmas and New Year’s to round it all off.

Today I’m planning on a lot of handmade gift-making, so wish me luck that I don’t get in over my head with that, I’m pretty last-minute as usual! Plus a yoga teacher training deep hangout/meeting later tonight. Is it odd that I don’t feel “busy” when I have lots of hangouts with close friends and family planned? I definitely consider myself an introvert but when it comes to people I love, socializing fills me up till I’m bursting with joy.

I hope whatever your plans are, you can be filled up to bursting this holiday season as well.

Gratitude

This can be a stressful time of year. Usually I get kind of internally frustrated with people who are unreasonably negative during the holiday season, because c’mon, it’s such a beautiful time, celebrate!! Be happy!! But this year I’m one of those feeling a little more down and stressed. My typical unrelenting optimism and general excitement is a bit dampened at the moment. I feel a little odd looking back at the serious tone of my blog posts the past few months, but then again, maybe I only ever want to write when I’m feeling more serious. It does tend to be the pattern in my personal journal, but it is quite a contrast from my off-paper(-screen?) self, where I’m constantly laughing and joking around and never taking anything too seriously, whether by myself or with others. So I guess with that said, I feel more comfortable talking seriously in writing than in speaking, and it feels good to write it out so I can keep laughing and joking elsewhere. 🙂 Anyone who can’t be serious sometimes and silly sometimes is a robot, I tell you.

So yeah, I’m just not feeling that great lately; my semester hasn’t gone too well. My last one went really well despite a lot of things that could have derailed it, so this one in contrast feels pretty defeating. It “should” have gone fine, but I just had a hard time keeping up with everything for no good reason, only myself to blame. I don’t feel super stressed, I’m not one to carry much tension, but I was just looking through some pictures from the past summer and I can see a difference in my face. I looked so fresh and happy compared to looking in the mirror today. I notice a subtle, tired shift in my features when I’m weighed down. Right now, I’m ready to move on but I can’t fast forward, I just have to keep going, even though at the moment everything feels impossible (and I know I’m just being irrational). I’ve heard from a few others lately who are feeling similarly stuck, so I know I’m not alone in this…when it gets to this time of year where it gets dark so early, it’s no joke that it just gets harder to function.

All that said, though Thanksgiving has come and gone, I think the season of extra focus on gratitude should linger well into the new year. Christ is almost born. We need to remember to glorify Him and be so grateful that we can live our beautiful lives knowing that He humbled himself enough to be born on earth, to our beautiful mother Mary, (Theotokos, what a wonderful title, the mother of God!) to eventually die for our sins so that we may receive God’s mercy and have an opportunity of eternal life to look forward to even after our life on earth ends. I look back on especially defeating weeks I’ve had, where everything seemed to go wrong, and see that there were still so many blessings in every day.

A season where things don’t go as you planned is never the end of the world. It’s just even more of an opportunity to pick out all the things that still go right, all the small beauties. Even if you just smile at the fact that if you hadn’t been running late, you wouldn’t have seen that bubblegum pink Volkswagen Beetle pull up behind you at the red light. Or that plane gliding through the sky low enough to make out the detail of its wings. The little, funny things are worth appreciating even when you just want to cry. Gratitude makes all the difference. It really does turn what we have into enough. And in first world countries like America, most of us really do have enough, more than enough. The older I get, the less I want material things for Christmas. The more I just want quality time with people I love, and the chance to sit in silence and be grateful for everything, even the challenging seasons.

Questioning

My posts have gotten gradually fewer and farther between lately, but it’s not for lack of ideas or effort. I’ve been writing and rewriting, saving drafts and rethinking. I only started this blog under four months ago, and I started strong and with excitement. I still get really excited about what I can write and make for this space, it’s truly a just-for-fun project and creative outlet for me. I don’t really mind if almost no one is reading. But that initial “yay I started a new blog, I need to fill it with posts!” stage has worn off and I’m starting to question if I should be hitting “publish” at all.

What do I know, y’know? I try to write about my honest and relevant experiences, but I’m also becoming more careful. I don’t want to write and publish something that I later realize was worded in a way that doesn’t properly convey my values or my purpose. I’m only human though, and I realize anything can be misconstrued. The comfort of having a private blog or journal is that I can look back on what I wrote and shake my head if it was something silly or that I no longer agree with, or I can flat-out type “I don’t know if this makes sense, I’m just getting it out” and it doesn’t matter. I mean, I’m pretty sure mostly the only people that read this are a few friends and family, so I know I don’t have to be press-release perfect.

But that’s the thing about our social media era. Everyone can have a voice on the internet. Anyone can be an influencer. I have enjoyed reading blogs, watching youtube videos, and following people on instagram for years. I have my own few favorite “influencers” that I’ve honestly come to trust for opinions like a close friend. If I’m looking for a good recipe, I’ll often check a blog that I’ve followed for eight years before I would ask a family member I’ve known my whole life. So you see, having a voice on the internet is a responsibility. It’s easy to think yours doesn’t matter, but I’m a firm believer that no matter how small, your voice had better be intentional, well thought-out, and true to your values if you’re going to hit “publish,” and in fact, hitting publish is probably a bad idea nine times out of ten.

As a high school senior, somehow I was voted “most likely to be famous” along with another old friend. I joke about it sometimes, because I have to wonder if it will ever come true, or may even be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of that little thing in the back of my mind, will I seek out opportunities to put myself out there, like writing this blog? Or did the few classmates that voted for me in that category recognize that I already always tended to put myself out there creatively? I do keep telling people that my dream is to be a children’s book author/illustrator, because it honestly is, and I intend to pursue that dream. In fact, starting this blog was sort of step one in that process, to practice building a style and brand identity. But, unlike my high school superlative twin who was the more deserving of the “most likely to be famous” title, I have honestly never truly desired fame.

I’m not afraid to attach my name here, as I know I am being authentic and always will. But I think that aversion to fame is why I’m hesitant to post a picture of my face on Luna Moth Life. (although for anyone reading that doesn’t know me, my face is probably not hard to find from here if you snoop around a bit) I understand that nowadays, anyone not showing their face on the internet is hard to trust and relate to, and I try to make up for that by writing as personally as possible.  I love to create and share, but I don’t want it to be all about me. I don’t feel entitled to recognition. It’s just, a byproduct of a creative life, and potentially a creative career, is that you have to have yourself in it somehow. Creativity is personal.

If you noticed in my playlist a couple posts back, I included a few Taylor Swift songs. I think she’s talented and I enjoy her music more than most chart-topping pop of this era. When I first became a fan of her a little under a decade ago, she was probably the least controversial person in the music business…a cutesy teenage rising star writing country-pop hits about love, friendship and heartbreak. Now, because of her exponential fame, she’s about the most controversial artist to be a fan of. Everybody knows who she is, and everybody has an opinion of her, usually love or hate. She was able to write a whole album centered on her crazy reputation and living with the consequences of being famous. A perfect example of what the modern media and fame in the 21st century can do to a creative person (as in, anyone doing anything).

So I guess my whole point in this rant is that this is truly an experimental platform for me, one that I might have to continually question, rethink and reorient. It’s personal, it’s real, and it’s intentional. I try to be consistent for the sake of it, but I really don’t want this to be tainted by any goal of fame or about being an influencer, just about sharing my life, and for those few who might stumble on this and not know me personally, to just connect with you across the interwebz. I’m not trying to influence you, just to sort of give you a virtual wave, a smile, a handshake, or a hug as we cross paths in this life. I write here mostly to influence myself, really. In a way, it’s just one big accountability project to get me creating more, connecting the dots more, doing more. I may decide I want to grow this blog and put it out there more in the future, but if I do that, I would probably shift the focus to be more about illustration or short stories or something not so personal. Anyway, if you got this far, thanks for reading, truly. 🙂

Trust

I think the root of so many problems lies in trust, or lack of it.

In our monthly Sunday session of yoga teacher training last week, after the morning yin yoga class, we began with a brief meditation. It involved sitting and breathing in and out for equal counts of your own timing while blocking one nostril, alternating and repeating, and then after a series of that, breathing through one nostril at a time without physically holding the other closed with your finger. I can’t remember how many breaths but it was probably around 10 minutes of this meditation.

The first thought I had when our teacher told us to begin was already to doubt myself. Not that I could do it, because we had already done this sort of active breathing meditation in the past, but just various silly things, like: “oh no, I think I already forgot the instructions–how many breaths am I supposed to take? when do I switch sides? am I doing this right?” etc. I kept opening my eyes for the first few breaths to check that I was doing the “right” thing. Luckily, after a minute I remembered that lesson that keeps tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear lately: “there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ way. just do it.”

I could’ve spent the ten or so minutes wondering whether I was doing the meditation “right,” or I could relax into it and focus on the breathing on my own pace. Which was the whole point, anyway. But sometimes we forget that we don’t always have to follow instructions to a T. Sometimes we forget that we know what we’re doing. We forget to trust ourselves.

Later in the day, we were given instructions to pair up and study the muscles of the hip, upper leg, and abdomen. We were given a list of muscles, a total of 16 groupings, told to grab an anatomy book, and figure out their attachments and origins, and subsequently what kind of movement the muscle controls. Now, I loved the one anatomy class I took my senior year of high school and I tend to retain that kind of highly applicable information pretty well, but this kind of assignment (using medical illustrations and not, like, google and youtube, mind you) seemed like a pretty big jump outside of my scope of expertise. However, since I’ve known this teacher for the majority of my life, I’m pretty used to her tendency to assign challenges by now.

After an hour, I’m pretty sure we were all going a little brain dead from the mental work, but it was surprisingly not as out of reach as it seemed when assigned. We were all used to using these muscles, we just never had to think about them that technically until that point. But we figured it out, mostly, and then it was time for lunch. Again…a small part of me didn’t want to trust myself at first, but I proved that I had no reason not to.

Later, the final thing we did was build little tensegrity structures out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands. These were confusing at first. Once we got them started, we helped each other hold them together to finish connecting the parts. As I was pulling all my rubber bands into place, I started to get that doubt again. I was sure it wouldn’t work out, saying I had probably done something wrong, it wasn’t looking quite right. Yet, as I pulled the last band into the notch of one of the sticks and we let go, it sprung into place and held its shape.

Lately, I’ve been losing faith in myself. I’ve suffered a few major failures in the past few years and I’m still suffering from the residual ego-bruises. Now, when I fall behind, I start to doubt my ability to succeed. The thing about working as part of a group, such as in yoga teacher training, is that ego is often pushed aside. We’re all helping each other, we’re open, we’re vulnerable, we’re in it together. It’s good to push aside your ego as much as possible, especially where success and failure is involved. Your failures do not define you, and neither do your successes. They just help you learn and grow. These are all temporary experiences, and you will have plenty of them in a lifetime.

Often, I need to write my experiences out to connect the dots. I didn’t really know where I was going with this when I started to write this post, I usually don’t. But I think I’m convinced now; I’m not helpless, or aimless. Maybe I should trust myself a little more…but more importantly, realize that trusting myself isn’t really about me. It’s about trusting all the lessons I’ve been taught. Abandon that ego and you find that you’re never really alone. You’re not God. You didn’t get where you are by yourself. You’ve had a lifetime of lessons: hard lessons, small lessons, shaping you and nudging you into where you are. It’s not all on me, and I would be pretty silly to think it is…trusting myself is really just trusting in something more.

Explore

When you feel uninspired, unmotivated, restless…it’s time to explore. It’s time to get out of your house, take a walk, drive somewhere, take a spontaneous Saturday trip to a nearby city with no plans. If you feel like you aren’t meant to sit inside all day, working, studying, doing nothing…it’s because you’re not! It’s time to get moving and get some fresh air. Any excuse to get outside is a good one.

Maybe you can tell I’ve been unmotivated lately. I needed to get out and do something. Last Saturday my mom woke me up and said she wanted to drive to the city to explore a little and hang out for the day, so that’s what we did. I had some stuff to do, I always do, we all do. But I knew I wasn’t going to have a productive day if I stayed home, I just wasn’t feeling it. Sometimes, to get rid of the “but I should do _____ instead…” guilt, you have to picture how your day might go if you stay home. Are you feeling energized, motivated, ready to tackle that thing? If not, you may end up wasting your time procrastinating, doing unimportant things, and feel even worse for trying. Can you do it tomorrow instead? If so, a little day trip might be just the break/motivation/reset button you need.

I’m the best and worst person to take this advice from…on the one hand, I tend to prioritize family and healthy fun over to-do lists, and I can’t say I have ever really regretted putting something off to spend time with people I love. On the other hand…this can get me into trouble sometimes if I sacrifice sleep or get stressed later on because I didn’t prioritize my work…so take this with a grain of salt. But, I find that most people tend to put themselves under too much pressure, and I’ve always valued quality time with people above all else, so maybe I am the perfect person to give this advice. Trust me, it’s kind of impossible to regret actually spending time with people you care about.

Also, I’m a big believer in hometown pride (see my last post) and the whole “bloom-where-you-are-planted” -type affirmation. So even if you feel like you live in a boring place, I think it’s a fun challenge to seek out the local gems. I’ve always found surprising beauty in my literal and figurative backyard. I do happen to live an easy drive away from a couple major cities, but I often have just as much fun taking a walk in the park near my home…which, thanks to creative locals, occasionally has some fun surprises in store. The photo above was taken this past summer when my friend and I left the park path to take a shortcut past the baseball field and through the woods…and hello, someone had built a teepee out of branches tucked away in the trees! Super fun, random discovery.

Magic can be found anywhere, I tell ya, you just have to keep your eyes open…and explore from time to time.

P.S. If you need some new jams for your road trip playlist, I thought it might be fun to share what I’m listening to currently. Some old and new favorites of mine:

(shoutout to my cousin for randomly telling me I could pass for the singer of the band Alvvays, because it was just what my playlist has needed lately. Thanks for the accidental music rec Claire!)

Being a fan

Go team!! Why do we love rooting for the home team and being fans so much? It’s part of our identities. We attach so much importance to team allegiances. We get emotional, we get excited, we keep track of statistics and players and wins/losses. Maybe “we” is too much of a generalization, but I feel like here in America especially, everyone has a favorite team of some sort.

The Cleveland Indians’ 2017 season recently came to an abrupt end, the team coasting through the final month of the regular season with a record-setting 22-game win streak but ultimately losing the American League Division Series to the Yankees after 5 games. It was disappointing for sure, but as a lifelong Cleveland fan, I’m pretty used to experiencing loss. The Cavs brought a championship to Cleveland last year for the first time in my lifetime, but since baseball is my one true love as far as sports go, I’m still holding out for a World Series win by the Indians (their last one was in 1948). Last year, they came about as close as you can get, losing to the Cubs in game 7 in extra innings.

There’s something really special about maintaining a loyalty to a certain team. In my communications theory class, we discussed how proximity and shared interests draw us to other people. When you find out you are from a common hometown or area, or you are fans of the same team, it makes for an instant connection. These are your people. It’s fitting that the nickname for the Indians team is the Tribe. It really is our tribe.

I attended my first ever postseason baseball game on Oct. 5th in Cleveland. It was the first game of the ALDS; people were excited, hopeful. The stadium was packed full, loud, electrifying. The Indians were looking good, it was an easy 4-0 win that night. It was natural to chat with and high-five the strangers around us. We were all there for a common purpose. We were rooting for the home team. The phrase “Rally Together” was emblazoned everywhere you looked. Everyone sang along to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with a smile during the 7th-inning stretch. There’s something about coming together for that major shared interest, coming together as fans.

The same applies for many things. Going to see a band in concert, keeping up with a favorite TV show or seeing the work of a favorite artist in a museum. There’s something about humanity that craves connection and familiarity. I love sharing excitement (and even disappointment) with thousands of strangers. I love things that can bring us closer, even if only for a moment.

What do you think? Has being a fan of something ever made you some fast friends? Isn’t there something special about having a home team? After all, there’s no place like home.

Grief and high delight

“Against my better judgment, I feel certain that somewhere very near here—the first house down the road, maybe—there’s a good poet dying, but also somewhere very near here somebody’s having a hilarious pint of pus taken from her lovely young body, and I can’t be running back and forth forever between grief and high delight.”

–J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books. It stuck with me immediately and has continued to resonate with me for years, even though out of context it sounds a bit odd. Even in context it might be odd by some standards, but if you are the type of reader who appreciates some good Salinger, I think you understand perfectly. Even if not, I think we can all relate to this feeling in our everyday lives…the feeling that some days you just bounce between those two extremes on the spectrum of emotion, grief and joy, and sometimes the oddest things bring you joy in the midst of your grief. It just seems to go that way in this world…such major highs and lows, so many joys, but so many tragedies.

Sometimes when grievous things happen, I find myself wondering why, but at the same time, I don’t really dwell on the “why.” The photo above was taken on Sunday in an herb garden that my cousin planned and planted several years ago. It has been almost half a year since a rare and aggressive cancer took his health and his life.

I find myself thinking of him in some small way every day since, and sometimes I do wonder, “why?” But mostly, I don’t, at least not as much as before. As young children, we often ask “why” repeatedly. As children, we are curious, inquisitive, learning in high volumes. As children, we need to ask “why” to start building connections between everything in this great big world we have newly joined. As an adult, however, I find that the greatest lesson I have been slowly learning in the past several years is that I will never understand everything. Some things don’t have a clear answer to the “why.” Some things aren’t meant to be understood.

I still feel stressed, anxious, or deeply grieved by some things. But I have found a remarkable peace in letting go of “why.” My faith is definitely the major influence in this mindset and this peace I have regarding hard and heartbreaking things, and I really couldn’t imagine having this extent of calmness in the face of certain tragedies without that belief that there is a God who is perfect and holy and cares for all of His creation, despite all the bad things in this fallen world. I want others to come to this same peace, but I’m not very good at talking about God to others because my faith is so deeply a part of my being that I just don’t know where to start or how to word it. Instead, I just try to live a thoughtful life through which I can pass this peace and joy to others in some small way.

So when I think of tragedies in the world, some affecting many people, such as the recent multitude of natural disasters or the shooting in Las Vegas, or some affecting a smaller group, such as losing a family member much too soon, I don’t dwell on the why. I believe things happen for a reason, or maybe weren’t “meant” to happen, but have positives even despite tragedy. But I’m not meant to understand it all. I’m only meant to love my family and do my best to work on my tiny presence in the world, through the joy and the grief. Remember to always look for the light in the darkness, because there are always glimmers of hope. If your heart has been heavy lately, I hope this can encourage you.

“Grief will succeed joy, and joy, grief, just as night follows day. This is how the Father of lights has established the path of those who are being saved. Just have patience and hope: engrave these in the depths of your heart—with these, all adversities will be faced.” – Elder Ephraim of Arizona

Fall feels

So…is anyone else getting those #fallfeels really strong right about now?

Was that a very millennial thing of me to say? haha. I think fall has been made into such a big thing the past few years where it seems like it’s everyone’s favorite season, and the Halloween and pumpkin-spice-everything marketing is off the charts. Eye-roll inducing, maybe, but it’s hard to say that the fall love is unfounded. It is a pretty lovely season that seems to bring strong nostalgic, cozy feelings with it as the air cools down and the leaves change to those gorgeous warm colors in contrast.

While I think spring will always be my favorite season with my mid-April birthday and undying love for flowers galore, fall certainly makes me question my allegiance year after year. There must be something in that crisp autumnal air that hits me with waves of bittersweet memories, as if my entire life could be summed up in all the autumns I’ve experienced. Suddenly, I’m back in my little woolly brown coat, my tiny fingers learning how to do up the buttons, or sitting in a pile of leaves as my cousin makes up scary stories, or testing my sewing skills putting together another homemade Halloween costume, or meeting family to go apple picking or exploring one sunny weekend.

I’m beginning to ramble, but I believe autumn is the season for rambling…a season to slow down a bit, appreciate the fleeting beauty in the air as the leaves change and fall, to take time to get outside on the weekends before the weather becomes too frigid, to reflect on all those magical autumns from childhood to present and try to rekindle that magic in a busier time. The summer warmth is still lingering this year where I live, but when those temperatures drop, it’s also time to embrace the coziness of wrapping yourself in sweaters and layers and grabbing a hot drink or soup. Soak it allllllll in. 🙂 I don’t know about you, but while I would prefer to ignore everything and take up residence in a cozy cabin somewhere to read all those books I haven’t made time to finish, I also find that even schoolwork and typically monotonous responsibilities are more tolerable when I embrace the fall spirit and cozy up to get work done.

So wherever you are, take a moment to feel all those fall emotions…it’s a season for the joy, and the grief too. Take it all in with extra gratitude if you can, and use those changing leaves as one of nature’s clearest illustrations of transition: time passing and seasons shifting. Because time and change are the constants in our fickle world, and all we can do is appreciate every season we have. 🙂

Jumping In: Yoga Teacher Training

Picture this: it’s summertime and the sun is beating down, the pavement is hot, but the pool water is cool and refreshing. The water temperature is so different from the air that wading slowly into the shallows would make you tense up in discomfort. So there’s only one thing to do…

jump in.

Some things in life require you to do the same thing that you would to enter cold water on a hot day: jump in, all or nothing, submerge completely.

I quickly realized that’s how it was going to have to go for me when the opportunity arose to go through Yoga Teacher Training. I didn’t feel ready. In fact, I wasn’t even considering it as something I wanted to do, even though I’ve been doing yoga for around ten years now. (Remember I mentioned my ballet teacher in my last post about Focus? The same woman is my yoga teacher and I’ve been doing yoga this long because she would incorporate it as cross-training for ballet.) That changed when the aforementioned yoga instructor announced she would be offering her last round of Yoga Teacher Training.

Knowing her, it’s debatable whether this will truly be her “last,” but nonetheless I decided pretty quickly that this was not an opportunity I wanted to pass up. Initially, I had serious doubt and hesitation. Could I ever really be a yoga teacher? Well, yes, I guess I could, but it would certainly mean leaving my comfort zone, which I am trying to do more anyway. Could I really commit the time and energy (and finances) to doing this intense year-long, 200-hour training on top of my college education that is nearing its end? Well, I want to become more consistent about practicing yoga, and since I’m living at home and have finally become decently organized with my coursework, I guess I could handle it. And so the doubts slowly lessened, and I realized two things: there would be absolutely no better time in sight for me to take on this training in the future, and I would seriously regret not doing it if it truly was my longtime teacher’s final time offering it.

So: challenge accepted.

I’ve already made it through one twelve-hour Saturday and a nine-hour Sunday at the yoga studio to kick off our year of training, and honestly, it was super fun. Luckily, we have a great little group of people doing this round of training (my mom is in it too!) ranging from 20-something to 60-something, and we’re all in it together. It’s definitely not easy, but I think this will be one of those experiences I’ll remember for a lifetime, and hopefully I’ll learn a ton and be able to pass on what I gain to others through the teaching part in the future. 🙂

I look forward to documenting more of my experiences in YTT on here, I’m sure I’ll have lots to talk over! Also, “Jumping In” seems like a concept I could continue in future posts as well. We’ll see.

If you need a shove this week, try visualizing the pool metaphor…and just jump in. 😉

Focus

There’s so much going on in the world today. So much good, so much bad, so much exciting, and so much mundane.

In a way, social media has leveled the playing field. Major news headlines sit alongside headlines of lesser importance about celebrities or sports. People from anywhere in the world with WiFi access can have a discussion in the comments on a Facebook post. It seems like everything is accessible thanks to the internet and in turn, this makes everything harder to filter and process.

It’s so hard to focus in this world, but focus we must.

In recent years, it has become painfully evident to me how much I struggle to keep myself on task when I’m alone. I have gotten much better at cultivating focus out of necessity, but every so often I still have days when I just feel constantly restless, when it is just difficult to think. I tend to do best when I am in a semi-public place, like a coffee shop or library. My self-consciousness keeps me accountable to my work when there are other humans around me.

In addition to forcing yourself to focus in order to finish a certain task, it is also important to cultivate focus in your hobbies/activities and interests as well. This is perhaps where I struggle the most. I love doing anything remotely creative, so I often end up creating nothing because I can only think about the ten different things I want to try–weaving, sewing, painting, you name it–and end up indecisive and doing none of the above. Something that has really helped me lately is realizing that (God willing) I have time. I don’t need to learn and try everything I ever want to learn and try right now. I can focus on one thing at a time, and then move on to something else when I have sufficiently explored the topic. As much as I am always living either 10 years into my past or future in my head, I am very much here-and-now in reality: not a big planner, probably too emotionally-led, always wanting to do everything on my to-do list at once, and often a play-before-work kind of person.

I think about something my ballet/yoga teacher said to me when I once asked her about the potential challenges of teaching ballet in the 21st century. She said the challenge is that kids these days (or their parents) aren’t as willing to make the commitment. Ballet is one of those art forms that takes a solid 10 years minimum to really learn, to get the posture and muscle memory and all the nuances down. You can tell a trained dancer from a casual class-taker often just by the way they move their upper body, their port de bras; the minute hand, finger, and arm movements requiring years to develop into the strong but delicate proper expression.

I wondered the other day about how different I might look and move if I had grown up playing basketball or something instead of ballet. When you spend so much time on something, it truly shapes you. My feet instinctively feel the floor as I walk, my toes automatically point and reach for the steps as I descend stairs. When I look in the mirror and stand up straighter I can still see the ghost of my ballet posture, lean and long. It’s been years since I was consistently in class, but my body still remembers the movements that were drilled into my muscles by repetition during my developmental years. I didn’t do much besides ballet growing up; it was my primary, and sometimes only, extracurricular activity. I was in class 2-4 days a week from age 8 to age 18, with hours of rehearsal around performances up to 4 times a year. This is partly where I learned the importance of focus.

Now that I’m in full control of my life outside of school and spending hours in a ballet studio is no longer part of my routine, the art of focus is a constant pursuit more than ever. There’s just so much I want to do, but life is so short, and we must choose wisely. I didn’t really intend for this post to go so deep when I started writing it, but this topic has been on my heart for the last few years. Simplify, simplify. Focus. That’s the real key.

Where do you need to cultivate more focus in your life?