Last week I was driving and when I went to push on the break the pedal went all the way to the floor. The car wasn’t stopping. I thought I was dreaming because often I have a dream where this happens and in my dream I call the cops and they have to drive alongside me until we figure out a way to slow the car down, but it wasn’t a dream. My breaks weren’t working and I just kept driving hoping for the best. I somehow made it all the way home and down a giant hill in tuckahoe. My dad took the car down to the station later and the mechanic said the break line was completely severed that he had no idea how I got home and that I was incredibly lucky. When asked why the break line severed he said he had no idea. There was no explanation as to why this car with this few miles would have this freak thing happen to it.

My best friend just had open heart surgery. She’s 23 and she had a less than a 1% chance of getting this congenital heart problem. They’re not really sure why it happened it just did, one day something snapped in the tunnel of her heart and then they repaired it and it’s better now.

The breaks just went. My best friend the tunnel in her aorta just appeared. It just happened and no one knows why.

When we got back from South Africa, we went on these retreats with this Jesuit in training named David who was this really nice guy and super smart. He led us through lots of discussions and on one of the last ones he went on for a really long time about how “things don’t just happen” about nothing being chance. Another ex Jesuit in training named Raymond who led our retreats in SA said the same thing he said he hated the expression “luck” it’s not “lucky” he would said it’s fate.

One of my favorite poet’s Tony Hoagland has this amazing line in a poem of his “memory as a hearing aid” and in it he walks to the front of the room to give a lecture to a classroom and is reflecting on his life when he says:

"But here I stand, an average-looking man
staring at a room

where someone blond in braids
with a beautiful belief in answers
is still asking questions.”

A beautiful belief in answers is still asking questions.

It’s such a profound statement.

I tried for a while to believe things happen for a reason. To think that one day it’ll make sense and all will be reveled. I feel unlike David though lately anyway I feel that things just happen. I feel like most of the things that happen to us are based mainly on human choice and while the connections we make with one another are deep and real and up to us-I’m not so sure about the circumstances around them. I’ve lately found myself so confused in so many aspects of life and things going on around me that like the narrator of the poem I feel so removed from anyone still asking questions as if there were any answers. Of course I’m grateful my best friend is going to be ok, I’ve never been more grateful for anything in my life and of course I can see how people could look at it being fate that I made it back to my house ok. But was it? What if it hadn’t been? Then what?

What if there really aren’t any answers. Doesn’t that make us so much more responsible for our actions? Wouldn’t that make us more aware of the little we can control? What if things really do just happen? I’m not sure if that’s true and I definitely don’t think it’s comforting and I’m rooting for one day looking back and understanding why to so many unanswered disconnected unexplainable things have happened in my life, it seems like I can’t see that right now though

Beginnings, Inside and Outside

I wouldn’t begin a blog if it weren’t for my friend Mahfuzul who knew it wouldn’t be enough to encourage me to blog but actually had to make the platform itself otherwise I never would have done it. The idea for me to blog came out of both a need for me to actually start writing again (why there’s such a resistance to it from my end I’ll never really understand) and to tell people about a project we began in order to have more confidence or more specifically in order to love ourselves. It sounds like some incredible vanity project until you think about the fact that we needed to do it. 

Self love (deriving from “self-care” a term that’s credited to our friend Victoria) is something that should come naturally-you’d think anyway. You are all you have and you are the person you know the best, to hate or merely to not love fully this person is self destructive and would seem to go against a natural instinct and reason. Yet, here we were 22 and struggling to navigate a life while waist deep in dehabilitating self doubt.  The reasons for this are probably ten fold but are mainly surfacing from a deep emotional intelligence (lends itself to being more aware of others feelings sometimes over your own), loss, and change. 

It isn’t for me to discuss Mahfuzul’s but the past for me especially this past year has been full of experiences that have required me to rework my understanding of the way the world works. I like being on this side of it, where now I can look at it more clearly and call it the past and see the lessons of it. At the time, when my perspective of everything was shifting I wasn’t even sure what or who I was and instead of seeking refuge in myself, I chose to see what was happening on the outside as evidence that I had failed in some way, that life and people were being cruel because I could not find happiness. 

 I’ll go into more details about this time as the blog progresses because there was so much to learn from it  but for now let if suffice to say that from this experience I learned that when things go bad I tend to blame myself and I realized my best friend did too.  The “happiness project” we embarked on this past December was an attempt to see that we are good and deserve love regardless of what happens on the outside. It was an attempt to reaffirm an identity, so even though something that loves that identity may have stopped loving it, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be loved. 

We texted each other something new we loved about ourselves every day. They ranged from admittedly a vanity project on my end-I began working at the Bloomingdales’ Christmas Shop for the season and realized how much more I was on display than the ornaments I was selling -and then to real revelations.

There were days when I really couldn’t come up with anything I loved about myself, that happened to me beginning only day three. It was also revelatory to see how much daily interactions made it difficult or easy to find something to love. I didn’t like that at all. I liked to think I was stronger in my self image than I was that I was somehow above negativity. It was important for me to understand how greatly someone else’s attitude can impact your self image and to realize that while life is really about the beauty that comes from being vulnerable to someone else and caring so much about them- if that person makes it harder for you to find something you love about yourself than they make it easier, you should probably spend your time elsewhere and around people who make it easier to find something to love. 

It was easier to go “on a roll” about what we loved rather than come up with one thing cold. One night we went out to get pizza and came up with three things each in the span of 30 seconds. Once you come up with one really good thing, you get the confidence to see others. 

Equally eye opening was how difficult it was to answer the specific question. It was difficult to pin point an inherent characteristic. We couldn’t say something we loved that we had done or something apart from us (these things were movable), it had to be a part of your own identity.  For example, I couldn’t say “I love my best friends” but I could say that I loved that I valued those friendships. 

At the end, what I gleamed from it the most was that when you’re forced to do really examine what you love about yourself you begin to understand you love what makes you different, what makes you interesting. So this is the beginning of the blog. And an idea for a project for anyone who may need a reminder of self love!