Redefining.

16 September 2017


It’s been quiet here as I’m navigating the season of transition;  it’s not been easy but it has been worth it; I find myself having to redefine what it means to be… well, me.   

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I’m redefining what valuable means.

I’m a super task-oriented person and am generally at my most comfortable in one of two places: 1) I am at about 105% of capacity, a little stressed, with several balls in the air and responsibility on my shoulders; in this scenario, I’m decisive, confident, calm, and super productive. Or 2) I’m on vacation and completely unplugged.

So when I started my new job about six weeks ago, I expected to start off running from day one; with a task list that I would accomplish faster and better than anyone expected, proving my value and inviting more trust and responsibility and input and all those things that add up to being a valuable member of the team. 

And instead of running from day one I have felt like I’ve been wandering around looking for the starting line.   It’s brought out the worst in me; panic and striving and anxiety and desperation, trying to prove my value in an environment that, as it turns out isn’t actually looking for it.   That’s just me.  What I need to do? Sit back, read, learn, watch, observe, and stop panicking about not being productive and proving my value by checking off a to-do list.  Value is not actually defined by productivity.

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I’m redefining what selfish means.

I’ve had this nagging thought in the back of my head for weeks; this accusation of values that just won’t stop.  It’s a belief that a life not dedicated to service is a selfish life. 

Transitioning from an existence that is almost entirely altruistic; volunteering my time and then in my spare time volunteering somewhere else is an incredible lifestyle that I loved.  And so to find myself living in Boston with a salary and a neverending shopping list and a weekly schedule that is filled with events that are all about me, about finding my tribe and trying to find happy and all I can think is what a selfish person I’ve become. 

But actually, that’s also not fair, and there’s a time and a season for everything, and altruism and service are not actually about the events or actions you’re doing but the life you are leading.    I can lead an altruistic life while still collecting a salary, I can offer my time where it is needed/wanted in this season; and actually, finding my tribe is important, too. This is something I’m still wrestling with, what does it look like, how do I do this, how do I find the balance; and the still, small voice gently reminds me that a truly selfish person wouldn’t be asking the question. Selah.

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I’m redefining what self-control means.

Time-management and money-management looks really different for me on this side of the sea. Suddenly I’m realizing how much time goes into maintaining life that I never had to consider on the ship; things like grocery shopping, cooking and preparing food, cleaning up after said cooking and preparing, commuting (100 steps from bed to desk on the ship; 20-30-minute commute each direction here), making plans with friends ahead of time instead of walking down the hall and finding someone… I’m also realizing how much money goes into maintaining that life that I never really considered before.  Sticker shock is in full effect; it’s expensive to live and eat and be social in Boston, and I’m what most people would generally call frugal.

And so after the first week I decided I just need to get it under control and I created time management plans and budget plans and because I don’t do anything at less than 100% I also decided I would enforce these things to the letter starting on that first day.  I scheduled out every minute and budgeted out every dollar and was so proud of my self-control and discipline and was excited to see my own massive productivity increase and personal finances blossom… and then reality and humanity struck, and just a few days in I was wallowing in a puddle of misery: I had failed.

But geez, it’s all new and self-control doesn’t actually mean get it right on the first try and it also doesn’t mean if you don’t stick to this (incredibly restrictive, controlling, and unrealistic) plan on the very first try (when you really have no idea how long things actually take or how much things actually cost) you’re a failure as a human.  I don’t want to go the other direction by throwing out all time and money management plans, because those things are important; but too much control is not self-control, it’s just setting yourself up for failure.  I’m figuring out what it looks like to be gracious to myself, these things are lifestyle changes not intended to be perfect from day one.  Self-control means asking the questions and trusting the process and offering grace and doing the next right thing, whatever that is.

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Patience and grace are the words of the season.  Patience with myself, mostly; I have incredibly high expectations of myself and just want to be through the difficulty of discovery and have my work and social life and service life and financial life all figured out already.  It’s not. But I’m on the right path and I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing the next right thing. 


Until next time…


Defiant.

28 August 2017

As I continue to ride the proverbial roller coaster of emotions through this season of adjustment and re-adjustment, I came to a conclusion this week.

I’m doing everything right.  And it’s still hard.

And I find that fact incredibly frustrating; the logical, rational part of me gets angry, because A+B should equal C and actually it doesn't.  If I’m doing everything right, I should be happy, making friends, fulfilling my purpose and destiny of life to the full no matter where that life takes me.

When I say I’m doing everything right, what I mean is this: I’m not sitting at home, even though that would be by far my first choice of an evening activity most days; I’m getting out, meeting people, showing up to large groups of strangers and asking God to give me the courage to let myself be seen; I’m pushing myself physically, I’m eating really well, I’m saying yes to things that come my way even if I’m nearly crying or shaking my head no while I’m squeaking out the yes through gritted teeth with all the determination and courage I can muster.  I own my own life, and I’m all in; I can’t be sad about being lonely if I stay home every night. I can’t find my tribe if I’m not out there getting met. It’s a balancing act between self-care and being compassionate to my introvert heart; but really, we’re often much more capable than we give ourselves credit for, and the majority of things in life worth doing aren’t easy. 

So I’m doing these things, A + B, and my logical brain says since I’m doing everything right in this season I should be really happy, excited, fulfilled, brimming with life to the full, with friendships, with the depth of connection we all long for.

And in reality, it is many of those things. But there’s also moments of ugly crying and frantic calls to friends a million miles away to try to talk some sense in to my less-than-logical-and-rational emotional chaos that somehow defies all the restrictions I put around it and roars out like a lion in the most uncomfortable ways.

Like this week I had my first appointment with my newly-selected primary care physician.  And promptly had a meltdown in her office. I mean, it is partially rational, it should be an uncomfortable thing to share your most intimate self with a stranger; but beyond that it felt like I was just going to be told all the ways I am failing at life compounded upon my heart crying out I miss my friends and struggling to find my fulfilment at work or in achievements or in people while being reminded that none of those things make me who I am, but I want them, and it’s all just really confusing and murky and just downright hard.

But life isn’t fair or logical or rational or straightforward; millions of people across the planet are doing all the right things they can and yet face horrific difficulties.  When I think about that I feel guilty for whining about my little story; but then I remember that my little story still matters to the One who has written it.  Sometimes A + B just doesn’t automatically equal fulfillment and joy and happiness. It just doesn’t. It does equal life; and once again I find myself saying I’m glad I can feel because it means I am alive, and just being okay with the discomfort and not letting it define me or not letting myself agree with the darkness that whispers what a failure, I’m living the defiant life I’ve been called to and created for.

So happy Monday, friends; keep doing the right thing; putting one foot in front of the other and living in defiance of the darkness.  Be brave. Be seen. Be you. All in.


Until next time…. 

Sunrise over Boston and the Charles River this morning

The valley.

20 August 2017

I’ve felt guilty a few times in the last couple of months; people I know struggling in life post-ship and here I was cruising along, happier than I’ve been in recent memory, excited and expectant and ready to take on the world.

We all love the mountaintops, eh? But at some point what goes up comes back down…

Well, I suppose it’s kind of like the disappointment you feel after all the gifts have been opened on Christmas Day; sad that this thing you’ve looked forward to for so long is over... that melange of gratitude and joy mixed with sadness and a little bit of despair (if we're honest). 

And this week the Africa Mercy, my home that isn’t my home anymore, sailed in to Cameroon.  And the tears cascade down my face as I think about what that excitement was like; a new country, people so excited to see and receive whatever we had to offer.  I knew what my job was and it was important and needed; I was wanted, I knew what I was doing was making a difference somehow, I felt alive and known and surrounded by a community where friendship was instantaneous and finding your tribe was a pretty straightforward process. 

And here on the far side of the sea, the excitement of moving and newness has peaked and this thing I’ve looked forward to for months and months is over and reality is setting in hard and cold and fast and I feel unknown, unwanted, frustrated, and lonely.

I know, I know. These things take time.  I get it.  I’ve only been here a few weeks and I can’t expect to have a well-rounded life set up already.  But things do happen that quickly on the Africa Mercy and they did happen that quickly in the Peace Corps and looking back further and further, the last (and only other) time I was in this place was right after I graduated college and packed up and moved to Seattle; fifteen years ago… yeah that was hard too. I cried a lot.  And when I finally did find my tribe it was a glorious thing. But it wasn’t easy.

So I’m not surprised to find myself in the valley, just wish it wasn’t this way.  I’m excited about the potential my job has, hoping soon I feel wanted and needed and valued and a part of something bigger than myself again.  I’m such an idealist, I just want to know I’m making the world a better place somehow.  I’m digging deep in the wells of courage and joining ultimate Frisbee games and visiting churches and group bike rides and running up a million seats at Harvard stadium with three hundred others and saying yes to as many opportunities as possible while still being gentle to my introvert heart that is exhausted by those things and would much rather curl up in my bed with a good book. 

Ultimately, the tears cease and my heart is content when I dwell on the fact that I know with all of my being that this is exactly where I am supposed to be; there’s nothing in me that actually wants to be on the ship right now, I just miss some aspects of that life.  I’m fighting to keep my heart fully present here, not longing for any other place or life or experience.  I have a list going of things I love about this life now; top of the list is having a Trader Joe’s right down the street and a kitchen at my disposal. I never enjoyed cooking in the past but I’m loving it now! I know I’ll find my tribe and I’ll figure out how I fit in at work and I’ll make some friends and feel once again like I’m doing something worth doing… I just need to make it through this space, in the meantime; keeping my heart here and present and engaged in the reality of this life to the full.

To the Africa Mercy crew – God’s richest blessings poured out over you as you give of yourselves to help the least of these; it’s such an incredible thing you get to be a part of. 

To myself others who can relate to the floundering in the valley – Stay engaged in the here-and-now. It will be worth it.

To my future yet-to-be-discovered tribe here in the Boston area – I’m here, I’m all in, and I will find you. 

Until next time…
on a beautiful hike in France last month (was that just last month???)





Love.

15 August 2017


Over the weekend some atrocities occurred in Charlottesville that make me want to scream and cry and rant and rage while at the same time curl up into a ball and weep - along with a huge number of Americans. But also, the terrorist attack in Burkina Faso that probably never made the news in America; the mudslide in Sierra Leone, the devastating famine in East and Southern Africa (how can we let people starve to death today?), the racism and sexism and hatred spewing all over this country and world...  It is all tragic.  

And if I screamed and ranted and raged all over about everything I find awful and wrong about the world... that is all I would do. ever. 

But I don't see the point of that. Especially on social media.  I am not a public figure nor do I have a following of people that in any way would be influenced by my calling out of atrocities.  And going to marches or protests or whatever else? What is the point?  What does that actually accomplish?  

Read this New Yorker piece that is much better at asking that question than I am:  Is there any point to protesting? 

I'm not saying it's bad. Go march if it feels like it will fill something inside of you.  But it seems like an empty action to me. 

But I know the flip side. The flip side that says silence is supporting them, or our lives begin to end when we stay silent about things that matter (Martin Luther King Jr).  I don't want to be silent either...

But anyone who knows me or knows even a little bit about me, I certainly hope, would never question my intentions.  Anyone who knows me would know I stand for love and truth and hope and life and light and joy and peace and freedom.  Silence isn't just about words. Silence is about actions. And I am a woman of action.  Standing for what is right doesn't mean going to the local rally or demonstration, necessarily.  

It looks like volunteering your time or resources to serve and love others, especially those who are different than you.  That's what will change the world... not screaming your lungs out, but loving your life away.  Go feed the hungry, or clothe the naked, or love the unloved, the forgotten, the widows, the orphans, the lonely... If you want there to be more love in the world... go put more love in the world. Go love the world. 

At least, that's my take on it. And that's what I'm going to do. Join me. 

Until next time... 

All in.

15 August 2017


It’s been a whirlwind few weeks of adjusting and readjusting and resetting and lowering expectations until finally they’re just chucked out the window. Moving across the earth and starting a new life in a foreign place Is. Not. Easy. But it certainly is an adventure, and there are many, many fun moments intertwined in those that may, in the most generous terms, be categorized as tolerable.

In two weeks I’ve visited two different churches; I’ve ridden my bike throughout the city several times; I’ve tried a new running club and I’ve played several games of Ultimate Frisbee; I’ve gotten a bank account and a drivers license and registered to vote and got health insurance and found a primary care doctor and gotten a library card; I managed to get furniture and work clothes and run around the city a bit and even explored Lexington and Concord last weekend.

In it all, a phrase has been uttered by several different people, when hearing of my various adventures and escapades: Wow, you’re all in.

Yep, I am.

Because you know what? Why not?

That first visit to the ultimate Frisbee field?  A field full of strangers of whom you have no idea if there are any players of your ability or gender or friendliness level or age level or anything at all… that first visit is going to be miserable and you’re probably going to want to bail and may even want to throw up beforehand as all the nerves in your entire body rebel at the thought of showing up and being seen. Regardless of whether I do it in my first week or my hundredth week, it’s going to be miserable. So why put it off? Then you just get to feel that anxiety and the dreaded I should really go and the worry every week until you finally bite the bullet and go. Ridiculous.  Do it now and get that part over with.

Because if it’s awful?  You don’t ever have to go there ever again.

But if it’s wonderful? Think of what you would have missed out on, because you let fear be the boss of you. 

Replace that Frisbee field with the running club or the church meeting or riding my bike in the city for the first time and you have my first week of life in Boston in a nutshell: lots of scary things, and lots of deciding not to let fear make decisions for me.

I’m all in. And there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Until next time…
The Concord river - beautiful! I want to go canoeing down it! 

Bending my brain with algebra and statistics in real life.  I love feeling my brain turning on again! 
 
That's Louisa May Alcott's house - home of Little Women! I need to go back for a tour... 







The boss of me.

05 August 2017

Fear is not the boss of me. Love is the boss of me.

I’m not sure where I read or saw or heard someone say that the first time; if I did, I would give them a ton of credit. This mantra has been a life-giving truth I’ve repeated to myself at least a million times in the last few months.

I said it to myself on repeat the first time I got on my new bike and rode around the city. I’ve certainly ridden many bikes in my life but never in an urban environment, filled with cars and pedestrians and traffic signals and how DO you make a left hand turn when the bike lane is on the right? I had images of blood and flying through the air and bones breaking and road rash and a mangled bike… and I said, louder than the voices telling me to just walk instead, fear is not the boss of me. And I asked some experts the questions and rode sort of slowly and got off when I felt unsure… and it was awesome.
 
My new wheels.



I yelled it to the windshield of my rented Nissan on the way to return it to Logan airport. It was beautiful and sunny and warm in Cambridge when I drove out, as it had been since my arrival; somehow in the 6.2 miles between my home and Logan a hurricane formed (well, it seemed like it!) and dumped inches of rain, hail, and massive winds while I was trying to follow signs to rental car return.  It was legitimately nerve-wracking but instead of giving in to fear I methodically decided how to proceed in the most safe, comfortable manner I could. And arrived, relieved, and very happy to drop off the car.
 
Boston Public Garden - such beauty!
It’s my mantra right now as I think about going to play ultimate Frisbee tonight on a strange field full of people I’ve never met.  Love is the boss of me.  A successful night does not look like impressing all of them with my Frisbee abilities… it looks like showing up and being light and speaking life and running around and playing a game I love. If it’s absolutely terrible, I never have to go again.  But if it’s wonderful, well, that’s worth the anxiety ball in the pit of my stomach, it’s worth putting myself out there even if I’m not the greatest player, or… even if I drop the Frisbee (gasp…). 

A fine place to sit in the shade and eat an apple.
It’s written on a small post-it note on the corner of my mirror, where I can see it and remind myself that a good Sunday and first church visit will mean showing up and experiencing all that I can, and trusting the rest.  A good Monday will be showing up, filling in forms, being kind, open minded, open hearted, and relaxed as I start my new job. It’s about showing up and being seen and loving well and while fear gets to be in the room, too, it doesn’t get to call the shots. Fear is not the boss of me. Love is the boss of me.


Until next time… 

Urban life.

01 August 2017

One of the biggest adjustments of the season (that I wasn't really expecting)? Living in the city.

I’ve never lived in a truly urban environment.  Sure, I’ve lived on the ship in giant cities, but the ship was a calm, quiet, predictable retreat from the city…. I never lived on land in the chaos. I grew up in the woods and lived in the suburbs in the Seattle area… and out in the desert in the Peace Corps. 

So I live in Cambridge, just across the river from Boston proper, in a high-density neighborhood.  It’s a quiet pocket, to be sure, with trees and green space… but definitely urban.  There are people, everywhere. Walking their dogs, going shopping, walking to work.  There are cars everywhere.  The streets are narrow and packed with parked cars, and oh, what a nightmare!  My na├»ve suburban self thought it would be helpful to have a car for the first few days I’m here… well, it’s stressing me out more than it’s helping. It took me ten minutes to get to the furniture store yesterday, not too bad; but took me thirty minutes to find a parking space, a half mile from the store, that cost me twelve dollars for a few hours. I was so stressed out after driving around for thirty minutes that I ended up buying the first set of furniture I liked just so I wouldn’t have to go to any other stores.  (A bit more than I planned to spend but I think it’ll work out fine) I totally get why everyone says a car is not necessary here and I’ll be dropping it off sooner rather than later!

There’s also noise in the city I’m not accustomed to. It’s not terrible, but there is trucks and vehicles and planes overhead and workmen down the street that hopefully will all fade into the white noise of life in the coming days and weeks. I have to remind myself I’ve only been here two days and any big move like this takes time to adjust to!  And let me be clear – I’m not miserable.  I think I will really like this place once I can get my bedroom organized (furniture arrives today!) and my commute figured out and my schedule and rhythm put into place. Thankfully it’s been gorgeous weather – blue skies and mid-70s.  I can’t wait to get my stuff organized so I can go explore the city and the surrounding area.  I’ll be buying a bike in the coming days as well which will be fun!!

So glad I made sure to carve out this week of settling in – I would be pretty stressed out if I had to start work today or tomorrow! Thankfully I don’t start until next Monday, so between now and then I’ll be able to actually properly read the emails and information I’ve received from my team and feel ready to begin. 

Thanks for all the encouragement, friends.  I’ll take every bit right now.  Until next time…


p.s. most helpful friend comment yesterday – I was giving myself a bit of grief for slogging through a run that felt terrible, and she said “goodness girl, if I had gone through what you have done in the last month, I’d be curled up in the fetal position in the corner for at least a week”.  Thanks, friend. Erring on the side of compassion for self at the moment Jx

On Compassion.

31 July 2017


I woke up unusually slowly this morning – my body felt stiff, my mind foggy.  I squinted into the early morning sunlight (I really must get some curtains…), looking around my seemingly huge bedroom (anything is bigger than the closet-sized space I had on the ship) that more closely resembles a thrift store drop-off location than a place of rest and calm and peace.  Plastic bins of clothes, bags and bits strewn around, a gigantic pile of cardboard boxes and packing material piled up in one corner against blank beige walls. 

And I thought why is it still such a disaster? Get it together, Kristin!

Barely conscious and having moved in 36 hours ago, 16 of which were spent sleeping, and I’m already berating myself for not having my bedroom oasis/new life in Boston neatly organized and put together.

Somehow compassion seems to come incredibly naturally when directed at others, and is nonexistent towards myself. What is that about?  There's something in there about privilege and probably a little guilt thrown in for good measure; like if there are people starving or desperate for healthcare I deserve to be hard on myself for the privilege of a job and a place to live and food, blah blah blah. But even if it was a friend in this same situation, regardless of the state of the world, I wouldn't say that to them.  I wouldn't even think it. 

So as I cleared the cobwebs and stretched out the lingering kinks from cross-country driving and packing and unloading, I asked myself overly critical self what I would say to a friend in this situation.

It’s always chaos in the beginning – I think it’s incredible that you have been there not even two days and already have a bed set up and clothes hung! AND you managed to feed and water yourself?  AND find your way around to the grocery store and the other big-box chain store AND thrift store in a city you’ve never been to?  You’re amazing! It will come together, give it a few days. Give yourself some grace.

So today I will take one step at a time and show my own self a little compassion.  I’m going to run along the famed Charles River and then try to find some furniture to get my clothes and stuff off the floor and out of bins.  It’s a beautiful summer day which I think will be better spent enjoying the journey, rather than being upset with myself for not being super human and waving the wand and getting it all finished already.  It’s a new experience, all of this, and I’m grateful for the journey.


Until next time….


Until next time...

26 July 2017

It was summer of 2002.  I knew I wouldn’t stay in my hometown and indeed, even with the economic difficulties resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attacks I had gotten a job offer in a tiny little town north of Seattle. I had never been there, didn’t know anyone and really didn’t have a great idea of what I was getting in to… but it was right.  So just over fifteen years ago, I packed up my car in my mom’s driveway with everything I owned and headed west into the next right thing with a little faith and a little fear and a whole lot of hope and trust and excitement and anticipation. 

Fast forward fifteen years, and I find myself doing exactly the same thing. I’m packing up my [rental] car in my mom’s driveway with everything I own, this time heading east to a city I’ve never been to, where I don’t know but a couple people and I don’t have a great idea of what I’m getting in to… but this time I have a little more faith and a little less fear and a whole lot of hope and trust and excitement and anticipation.

How on earth did I get to be so incredibly blessed??   

The last few months have been absolutely everything I hoped and needed.  France was filled with hiking and exploring and resting and reading and writing my thesis and enjoying a pause in the chaos of transition.  The last week I’ve been with family in Minnesota, with lots of time at the lake, quite possibly my most favorite place in the world.  I’ve got about a dozen half-written blog posts, thoughts about transition, about living in America again, about saying goodbye and saying hello and adventures and wrestlings and wonderings and dreams...  I’ll get to them sometime soon.

But for now, I find myself saying once again until next time to my family and my hometown; this place I’ve never wanted to move back to but always love to visit.  It’s eerily reminiscent of my first move fifteen years ago; I’ve leaped into the great unknown many, many times since then and thankfully I can say it does get easier.  I’ll be driving to Chicago tomorrow and will visit a friend I haven’t seen in over eight years; after lunch with a friend in Cleveland and a stop in Niagara Falls I’ll get to the Boston area next weekend and will have a week to settle in, take care of business, find my way around and figure out how things work before starting my new job at Harvard Medical School.

Thank you, dear ones, for being a part of my journey. Until next time…

 
The iconic Aerial Lift Bridge in my hometown of Duluth - taken this afternoon!

Take a breath.

23 June 2017

It's been five days since I arrived in France, and it's been a glorious time of rest and renewal.

I've slept, I've eaten well, I've hiked and run and went for a bike ride and walked and shopped and explored and relaxed.

What a gift this is, the gift of time; time to take a breath, to drink in the beauty of mountains and green and songbirds and church bells in the distance.  It's different this time, for the first time in many years I have been able to truly relax, with no work to be concerned with, no programs to plan or problems to solve or conference calls to plan around.  I've only got my thesis to write, which is really and truly enjoyable, not stressful for me at all, and I'm way ahead of where most students are just ten weeks in.

But I'm also not one to waste my time; I want every moment to be intentional, on purpose.  Sometimes that purpose is to sleep just a little bit longer.  Sometimes that purpose is to bless others, like taking the time to mow the lawn.  Sometimes it's physical fitness, sometimes it's intentional stillness, listening, feeling, breathing, living.  Sometimes it's kicking back and reading a book that's not a school book. Sometimes it's working on my thesis. It's all important.  I don't want to get to the end of my time here and wonder where it went.  But I do want to bless and to be blessed, to breathe and embrace all the goodness I possibly can.  What a gift this is.





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