02 March 2014

The Gifts of Grief

Grief can be defined as a keen mental suffering or distress, or a sharp sorrow. 

In the past year, I've experienced more grief than I wanted to, more than I was prepared for (after all, who is usually prepared for grief?). I've had a lot of time to reflect (and sometimes agonize) over the last year, but through it all, I've pushed myself to learn through it, to grow through the pain. What I learned was that this grief has been a journey, one that began the moment my father was diagnosed with cancer. I like to call the things that I've learned the "Gifts of Grief".

During the past year, countless people have told me, "Man, your problems are so much bigger than mine. I shouldn't complain over [insert life issue here]." I never really knew what to say to these people. How can life events which cause pain that we don't have any control over be quantified? How can good events in life be quantified? The short answer: they can't. One of the gifts I learned through this was empathy. I wouldn't say I wasn't empathetic before this experience, but my ability to empathize grew. Just because life had thrown me curveballs that happened to really hurt didn't make my problems or issues any more or less than someone else's. And here's why: we all experience life through our own lens. The way we react to events is based on our experiences. So, for example, to say that 25-year-old Sarah's problems are bigger than 13-year-old Sarah's problems is a matter of perspective and experience. What was big to me in middle school is nothing to me now; it's all about perspective.

When my dad was sick, there were countless days where the only thing on my mind was him. The thoughts would race uncontrollably, sometimes putting me in a sort of daze. Is he going to get better? What is he doing now? Is he in pain? How is he handling this? How is my stepmom doing? When can I see him again? Can I handle this? Some days I could only function at a basic level, feeling crushed by the weight of the situation. I'd wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to sleep. I found myself asking God why, why him, why our family, why now? I still haven't found answers to these questions, only knowing that life happens, and we often can't do a damned thing about it. It was in this that I learned adaptability. I didn't want to adapt to a life where my dad was sick, or worse, where he wasn't here. I still don't want to. But what choice do I have if I want to continue on and not be stuck in a constant "woe is me" state? I had to learn to continue with my life. Adapting meant giving up the control I wanted and allowing myself to live in the here and now, because it's all I had.

Perhaps the greatest gift I was given is perspective. Life is full of choices, each and every day, of what we choose as important. With limited time and resources, we often have to sacrifice one thing for another. For me, this played out in one seemingly simple way: not sweating the small stuff. Yes, it sounds cliché, but hear me out. I am the type that always has a to-do list. They help me focus, help me organize my thoughts, my day and my life. As silly as this might sound, I've learned to deviate from the to-do list. This gives me more time to spend with the people I love and, sometimes, even means that laundry goes unfolded for days on end. In essence, my perspective has changed to reveal a less structured life, giving me more time and attention to focus on the things that really matter, things like snuggling with my husband and pup while we watch TV on a cold February night, having an impromptu dinner with my in-laws or being able to babysit my nephew at a moment's notice. It's these things in life that give me all the perspective I need.

I've written here before about my dad teaching me to accelerate into the curves when he was coaching 15-year-old me to navigate back country roads. But what he didn't know when he taught me how to drive was that he was also teaching me a life lesson. When life twists and turns, slowing down or stopping can paralyze us in our tracks. Learning to accelerate into the curves keeps you moving, growing and, most importantly, living.

21 October 2013

Slowing Down

Life is like a curvy, hilly, back country road. One minute it's up, one minute it's down and, just when you seem to have settled into a rhythm, all the sudden a curve comes out of nowhere. In the last year and a half or so, I've learned more than I've wanted to about how to cope with this road. Nonetheless, I'm still learning how to accelerate into the curves, as my Dad once taught me. One thing I do know: without the support of my family and close friends, I would have pulled the E-Brake long ago. 

With the change of the seasons comes a change in mood, a change in the way I look at life, just a little bit. It's as if an era has ended and a new one has begun. It leaves a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach, one I know only time will ease. So many things remind me of my dad on a daily basis, but one thing stands out to me the most right now: the changing of the leaves. He loved this time of year and always insisted on coming to Missouri from Texas to get a small taste of the beautiful scenery, crisp air and a little time with his kiddos. 

It's in these daily reflections that I find myself thankful for what I have and wanting to soak up every moment. It may sound cliché, but it's truer now than it has ever been. It's also made me slow down. I find myself lingering a bit longer in moments special to me, like nightly walks with my husband and pup, making my nephew giggle or chatting with a dear friend over a cup of coffee. 

The pain is still raw but I take comfort in the small things that bring sweet memories flooding back. It's the memories that remind me that Dad would want us to live life looking forward, loving those precious to us, enjoying the great outdoors and remembering that this life is a gift. 

01 May 2012

Confessions of a 20-Something Woman Living on Her Own... For the First Time

First confession: writing "woman" in the title was a conscience decision... "girl" seems to be more applicable to me, especially since I still see myself as the 18 year-old braced faced version of Sarah. "Woman" is a term I'm slowly coming to terms with.
Living alone has been a long time coming. Almost 2 years out of college, it's time. I had lived with two different friends for 2 years, in different apartments, moving on from both because they were ditching me to get married. So I guess 3rd time is a charm, right? ;-)

I've only lived in my new apartment by myself for about a month, but I already love it. It doesn't really come as a surprise to me though, because I've always known myself to be okay with being alone. Often I've wondered if something is wrong with me because I prefer many times to be alone than with people. I'm the person who typically prefers 2 or 3 close friends for dinner rather than 10 for a party. Quality, not quantity.

However, I've found living alone to be one of the best experiences of my adult life thus far.

Confession #2: Sometimes (ehem, tonight), I eat ice cream... out of the carton. Less dishes!

Confession #3: I dance in my kitchen a lot. Like, full-on, shake yer booty, dance. 

Confession #4: The first time I truly realized I lived alone, and could consequently do whatever I wanted to do, was when I left a sweatshirt out on the couch. Getting ready to go to bed, my internal dialogue was "I need to take that to my room and put it away." Suddenly, I stopped myself, and said (aloud, mind you) "This is my apartment. I'm leaving it there." Rebellious? Probably not. Gratifying? You betcha!

Confession #5: I hate dusting. Actually, it's more like loathe.

Confession #6: I'm terrible at decorating...but I don't really care. I had to have a friend help me organize my furniture to make it look suitable (aka, big furniture, little living room). Currently, there are 3 things hanging on my wall: a key holder so I don't lose my keys, my dry-erase calendar to keep me organized and a collage of my time in Granada, Spain, to help me remember where I've been. I figure I'll have someone else help me when it comes time to actually decorate a house.

Confession #7: Walking around in one's underwear is as freeing as they make it out to be. Whoever "they" are.

Confession #8: There have been plenty of nights I have lied in bed, covers up to my neck, heart beating fast, sweat dripping down my temples, sure the boogy man was about to get me. Usually, it's just my loud neighbor above me, who likes to stomp around.

Confession #9: TV is not an essential to me. I am perfectly content watching "New Girl" and "Glee" a week late. 

Confession #10: While I love living alone, I admit, I do miss people sometimes. That's why I'm lucky I have friends whose apartment I can walk to, and who love me enough to let me hang out whenever I need people time. I'm sure I'll enjoy this time alone, but I'm also grateful it's only for a season.

In the end, I'm really just damn proud of myself for being a big girl. (See..there it is again: "girl".) Being able to support myself was my #1 goal right out of college. I know I'm blessed to have reached that goal so quickly, and I'm really thankful for this time in my life, especially since I know it's only for a little while. In the meantime, I'll be dancing in my kitchen, only to realize I'm not alone when I get a weird glance from a neighbor walking by outside. What, you don't dance like a manic in your kitchen too?!

26 February 2012

Everyday Happy

The other day while milling around the Plaza with my boyfriend's family, we wandered into a little boutique. It had all sorts of cute clothes and jewelry, but the one thing that struck me was the wall art (or words?) which couldn't be missed. What did it read?

"Happiness is not a destination. It's a way of life."

While this line isn't something that I haven't heard before or a concept with which I'm unfamiliar, I've never heard it put quite so simply. So often we have a tendency to see the greener grass on the other side, wondering if those other things would make us happier. I, too, am guilty of this. In all my planning and hoping and wishing for the future, I tend to lose sight of those things around me that make me happy on a daily basis, and all those things for which I am thankful: sunrises, the warm sun on my face, puppy kisses (thanks to a friend letting me dog sit!), Skyping with my brother, baking for other people, snuggling, making new friends at work, getting complimented on a job well done, laughing about nothing, crying at a sappy movie, reconnecting with old friends, to name just a few.

This quote, or thought, that happiness isn't somewhere we arrive, but the moments that make up every day life really got to me. I'm in a time of transition in my life in many different ways (or maybe I'm learning that life, especially after college, is ever-changing), and sometimes it can be very daunting and unsettling. I find myself thinking "When I live there" or "When I get this job" or "When I get that degree" then that is when I'll be happy.

But why can't I be happy right now?

In a society where we're always looking for the next best thing, I am choosing to be happy, right here, right now. I have a job, an apartment, a family and boyfriend and friends who love me and take care of me and are always there for me when I need them, and when I don't know that I need them. I am choosing to look at the little things that make up the days and be thankful. That's not to say sometimes I don't wish I were out traveling the world or living in a different state (ehem, Colorado), but I can't live my life focusing on the "greener" side. I have what I've been given, the cards have been dealt, and, while they're not yet all played, I must play the hand I've been given to the best of my ability. And sometimes, that means simply choosing to be happy, right where you are, and enjoying the ride. Because really when you look at it, it's the little, everyday things, and not the destination, that lead to the big, everyday kind of happy.

26 January 2012

Buena Gente

I've been working at my job at Ford for nearly a year. In fact, I think it'll be a year in just a few short days...which also means the anniversary of the snowacolypse in Kansas City (God help us all!). I remember this time a year ago: I was so excited for something new, challenging and exciting, somewhere I could better excel, grow myself and really use my skills and, better yet, my degree. The world was my oyster.

A year a later, I've learned a lot. I remember feeling so lost, uncomfortable, nervous and really insecure at times as I entered the manufacturing world. I went to college about 15 minutes from the plant for 4 years, yet I can honestly say I never knew it existed. I'm not really sure whether that shows how much of a bubble I lived in at school or if Kansas City just isn't a big Ford city, but that's besides the point.

In my year of learning, one of my favorite things to learn has been about all the different people who work at the plant. These people are so hard working, it can put anyone to shame. They work crazy long hours, run on little sleep and wear bright yellow reflective vests as their fashion statement. But despite their matching attire, I've had the privilege to learn about the individuality of many individuals at the plant.

I've met people who have culinary degrees, run rodeos on their farm, drive an hour one way to work because they love their job, run marathons for the thrill of it (and get up at 4am to train), speak Spanish even though they're from Malaysia, have worked and traveled all over the world and even ones who have grown up in Kansas City and been here all their lives. Many, upon having a real conversation with them, are absolutely brilliant. It just amazes me how much I can learn from them. They are really, really interesting people, many of whom have become some very good friends of mine. They've enriched my life in so many ways, and I'm happy to call them my friends. 

These people, they're buena gente. In Spanish, this means "good people." To me, it has a rather profound meaning, because you don't hear it often in the English language. In Spanish, it's used as a strong compliment, more than just "he's cool," or "she's neat," but it's meant to really get to the core of a person, who they are deep down. Or at least, that's how I interpret it. 

I feel fortunate to have met these people, to have been impacted by them in ways I'm sure I don't yet even know, to be challenged and stretched and grown by their influence in my life. I only hope that I could give as much back to them as they've given to me.

21 December 2011

Pensar: To think (Pienso mucho... I think a lot)

I think so much.  This week, I find myself, sitting at work, just thinking.  About what, you ask?  Name it, I've probably thought about it.  Granted, I'm distracted by the fact that Christmas is in 4 days, and that means a week off of work (thank you, automotive industry).  A week to... act like a college kid on break.  Or something like that.  

This year signals a change.  Actually, many changes.  I thought I went through a lot of changes in college, but sheesh... this year has been a doosey.  In February, I started a new job as a Communications Specialist working at the Ford Motor Company.  It's been challenging, invigorating, rewarding and, at times, extremely frustrating.  I never knew I could grow so much in a job, or that my skills and training would come in so handy (especially all that Pryor stuff from college which many of us thought was somewhat silly).  I have grown so much, it's been incredible.  Back in February, one of our bosses told us that if we wanted to stick around for more than a year, we had to make them not be able to live without us.  On Monday when we officially found out we'd been renewed, one of our bosses said "you have shocked and amazed us" about our work and effort this year.  WOW.  I'm looking forward to growing and being challenged, making better friends with my awesome co-workers and communicating the crap out of that place!

Another big change that's been on my mind as we inch closer to Christmas is the fact that I'm going to be celebrating Christmas on Christmas Day with my dad in Texas.  This is quite monumental.  I haven't been with him on the actual Christmas Day since I was a wee little one.  My mom's side is going all different ways this year, and we won't all be together to open presents.  It's... odd.  It's the beginning of the kids growing up, moving away and, really, starting their own families.  My step-brother, who is 6 months younger than me, becomes a father in a few short weeks.  It's crazy how much and how quickly change happens.

Maybe my Spanish word of the day should have been "cambiar" which means "to change."

In 2012, I don't really see the change slowing down, though I'm hoping I know what's coming at me a little more.  But at the same time, I guess not knowing is half the fun... or frustration... or something.  I think my New Year's resolution should be to learn to roll with the punches.  I could probably stand to just let go and see what happens.  

19 July 2011

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

I am a planner. For as long as I can remember, I've always been a planner. I plan everything from what I'm going to eat at work the next day, to what I'm going to do in 5 years, to what I'm doing this weekend. Except I don't have to plan my lunch for tomorrow because I'm getting a free one (SCORE!)! You may say "well, that's not a bad thing, you have goals and know what you want." Okay, yea, I have goals. But that doesn't mean it's always a good thing.

About 6 months ago I started a job and signed a contract that I knew might put me in a position where I'd be looking for a job again in a year. Well, that time has come. Kind of, anyway. I still have a few months, but I can't help already trying to figure out what the heck I'm going to do with my life starting in January 2012. Things are very up in the air, and, to be honest, this scares me. It's led me to be very anxious the past week or so, to say the least. I've found it hard to focus on many things, except for figuring out my life. It's driving me nuts! It's probably driving my boyfriend nuts too, but that's besides the point.

I put a Post-It on my desk at work that says "BE HERE NOW!!" The cool thing is that little reminder is actually helping me. I find that, often, because I am a planner, I tend to miss the here and now. This is a problem. I also get tense shoulders because I'm just anxious. Annoying. 

Now, I'm not saying that I'm ungrateful for the chance to start new again, find another adventure, and expand my experiences. But man, is it stressful sometimes. Maybe the point of this all is to remind me to just chill. Or, as my friend Jade would say, "let it be what it is, man." 

I think that's a good reminder. Often we (I) get caught up in the day-to-day activities and just worry. But, according to the boyfriend, "worrying is about effective as trying to solve an algebra equation with chewing gum." 

So just let it be what it is, man. It'll all work out in the end.