Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Year in Review

It's hard to believe I've now been back in Denver for an entire year! In some ways it seems like I never left, except that many of my stories sound pretentious because they begin with "When I lived in France...."

My first view of the Eiffel Tower

When I made the decision to go to France, I thought of it as a sabbatical year - a year away to breathe deeply, immerse myself in a new culture, learn a new language and take some intentional time to focus on my spiritual journey as well.  However, the reality was so much different than my expectations - while my year in France was a fabulous experience, it was definitely not restful or introvert-friendly!

The chaos of Montparnasse train station where I started and ended every trip into Paris

Now I've been home for a year, and as I reflect on this year of transition, I see that, just maybe, THIS has been my sabbatical year - my year of rest. I have been truly blessed by so many wonderful friends who have companioned me along this journey - providing safe places and offering me lots of space to process (one of my favorite past-times) and to figure out who I am now. This year back in Denver I've been able to breathe deeply, immerse myself in my neighborhood culture, develop my new language skills, and continue on my spiritual journey.

Cherry Creek Bike Trail downtown Denver

City of Golden - one of my favorite spots for contemplating life

One of my favorite yards in the neighborhood - check out the huge candelabra!

My neighborhood park

I chose to return to Denver specifically for Community - it was something I realized is critical for my health, happiness and wholeness. I'm not talking about having lots of friends, I'm referring to a group of people that you do life with. Those people that drop by unannounced, that you can call at any hour,  that don't have to be entertained, but can just be present with you. Those with whom you can share the joys and sorrows of life, those that know your story, those who will help you with chores - just so you can spend time together. Sharing books, recipes, and meals. Having adventures. Having a place to belong. I unexpectedly experienced this in France, and greatly miss the community I was a part of there, and am grateful for the community that has grown around me here in Denver.

Good book

Good drinks

Good food

Looking back over this past year, I never could have imagined the beautiful community that would develop around me. Old and new have mingled together to create the present. Recently, I was walking home from visiting a friend (being able to walk to a friend's house is one of my favorite things, and I now have several friends within walking distance!)  where we sat on her porch and had a cup of tea (another one of my favorite things). The weather was beautiful, my heart was full, and I thought, "I am so fortunate - I love my life!" It was such a spontaneous reaction to all that has been accumulating. True contentment is rare, and I often miss it because I'm so busy thinking about the what-if's and the maybe's, or I feel guilty for enjoying the good when so many others are hurting. But this weekend, as I was reviewing this past year, I was able to recognize and receive the gift of contentment and experience tremendous peace and joy.

Denver Botanic Gardens - an oasis in the city

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Season of Transition: Finding My Roots

I've now been back in the States for seven months, which is crazy to think about. Time sure does fly by and yet stand still at the same time. So, can I still say I'm in a season of transition? How long will my transition home take? I've moved often, and am quite familiar with the tasks and feelings involved in starting over and establishing a new life, but this returning and re-establishing is a new experience. It might seem like a minor difference, but it's actually been quite substantial for me.

I was away for nearly a year and had some significant life experiences which have shaped me and contributed to my continued growth. Returning to Denver, I wasn't sure how the "new" me would fit in and where I would belong, but friends have welcomed me with open arms. Some saved space for me while I was away, and others have made new space for me. What I sometimes forget, is that others also had a year's worth of life experiences that I was not a part of, and so when I can't figure out where I belong or why I no longer have the same place, I have to remember life continues to move forward for all of us.

Beaches always remind me of the fluidity of life

Now that I am back, I find myself struggling with finding my place and purpose in this season. My life looks almost exactly like it did before I left, which can be comforting, and I have received it as a gift; yet, before I left I was restless and dissatisfied, looking for more. So I went away and had a life-changing adventure, which was not at all what I had expected, but exactly what I needed. And now, I find myself with the same shell of a life, but my soul has changed, so things don't fit the same anymore. It's kind of like going back to visit your childhood home after being away for many years - it doesn't seem as big or grand or impressive as it once did, yet it is still so comforting and full of sentiment. You can cling to the memories and be disappointed with the reality, or you can embrace the reality and treasure the memories for what they are and how they brought you to the present.

This sign above the door at a local coffee shop recently caught my attention
In times of transition, I often find myself on an emotional roller coaster - loving the thrill of the new discoveries, the excitement of new routines, and the richness of new relationships; but also the exhaustion of unfamiliar rhythms, the burden of discovering all of the necessities of daily life, and the loneliness of casual acquaintances. In this time of returning and rediscovering, my roller coaster is off the rails as the juxtaposition of new and old, familiar and foreign collide.

I realize that some of my tension comes from trying to keep a foot in both worlds. My dad has often told me, once you make a decision, be all in, don't look back and wonder "what if", because you'll never know. Instead, embrace the decision, and if you don't like the results, make another decision and keep moving forward. So, rather than wondering "what if...." I am continuing to practice being present and making decisions that will keep me moving forward on a journey of growth and discovery, embracing this crazy adventure called Life!

I don't know the name of the artist, but what a perfectly lovely sentiment