Badges

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Last night I caught a glimpse of the tattoo on my boyfriend's left shoulder blade as he was toweling off after a shower. I've seen that tattoo nearly every single day, but last night I couldn't help but smile in its direction. It reminded me of something. A badge.
This little symbol is one of his badges. Some little reminder of something that he had gone through, something that made such an impression on him that it had literally left behind its mark. I know because I have nearly the exact same badge on my shoulder blade.
Not terribly far from the badge on his shoulder there is the scar on his right hip from a bicycle accident that he told me about over drinks on our very first date. Perhaps after I had already told him about my crooked middle finger, mangled in a door slamming accident back in 1995. Mom wears one of her badges on her chest, a scar from the port-a-cath that was removed after she had beaten breast cancer. We all have badges and they each tell a story.

Every day I see patients baring their badges, their scars, their stories and I can't help but wonder what they each have to say. Most of the time I really can't help it, and I ask them to tell me about that faded panther tattoo they got when they were 18 at the county fair, or that scar on their elbow from a hoverboard ride with the grandchildren gone wrong. Some of these badges cause a smile, maybe even laughter when explained to the inquirer. Some badges will forever be painful, acting as a constant reminder of something that would preferably be forgotten. But all of these marks represent something that cannot be changed. And for that, these badges are honorable. Whatever it was, you made it out alive. You experienced it. And you learned from it. Regardless of how it got there, you're the one standing here today still able to look at it. That is something we should all be grateful for.

So I took a good hard look at my body tonight, reliving memories and acknowledging my own story. I found the beauty in each of my badges as I took the time to tell myself what I liked about every single one of them. Nobody else wears the exact same collection of badges that I do. And I just love that.

Your badges are beautiful. Wear them proudly, darlings.

Raesurrection

Saturday, June 4, 2016

For nearly an entire month, I had lost myself. I was bumping around my world, aimlessly, giving only pieces of myself and my time to those who deserved much more. I felt like the weight of the world was wrapped around my shoulders and I found myself trudging through long days, out of breath. But when I said goodbye to twenty-five after waking up last Monday morning, I was faced with a new starting line. Although I kid about twenty-sixth chances, I truly felt anew. And chances were all around me.

This most recent weekend allowed me to celebrate the life of another. A life that has become very important to me. I found myself sitting beside him, with the windows down and my feet perched atop the dash, just smiling. My fingers found their way to the nape of his neck as the opposite hand hung out of the passenger window, surfing the breeze. Another chance.

When I'm feeling the way I felt, like the depths of my couch cushions are the only reasonable place to be, my mat goes untouched. Either left on the porch, collecting pollen, or curled up into itself next to the front door, begging to be taken out. My mat stood there as a pink beacon, calling me home. And when I finally crawled back onto that mat, I found refuge. I regained my strength, my movement, and my appreciation for my mind, my breath, and my body. Another chance.

In another attempt to utilize my ability to move and breathe, I took to the trail. This morning the trail nearly took that breath away. The recent storms have washed the leaves clean of any dust caused by tires and tennis shoes, revealing what I believe to be the greenest of greens. Few others were up as early as me this Saturday, so I had nearly the entire lake to myself. Standing at the trailhead, I filled my lungs with the fresh morning air and as I sighed, I felt my heart swell for my life here. Staying suddenly didn't feel so impossible anymore. Another chance.

Sometimes you don't get second chances (or twenty-sixth chances.) So when you're handed one, don't be foolish. Make the most of possibility. Take it and run.


Birthday Blabber

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Another birthday.

As everyone knows, I've always loved birthdays and I've always liked to treat myself to something special each year. I mean, exactly this time last year I was sitting on the side of a volcano waiting for the sun to rise in Bali. Today I am nestled into my red couch, wrapped in a blanket, with a hot cup of coffee on the table in front of me. There is no trip on the agenda, unless we really do go to IKEA later...

Twenty-five was a funny year. I learned a lot of lessons..all of which were learned the hard way. The, seemingly, only way to learn a lesson. My life today is completely different than it was at the start of my twenty-fifth year. And what I am giving myself this year for my birthday is forgiveness, self-love, and a fucking hug. It will be difficult to look back on 25 fondly. Some days, I just wish I had stayed in Thailand...

What if?

-My mom always used to call this the 'What If' game. Her rule was simple...no 'what if's?' She tried to teach me that there is no sense in asking yourself such a painful question. The kind of question that can never be answered. But seriously, what if?-

I will say that I made a lot of wonderful friends in the last 365 days (it was a Leap Year, right?) Last night we went for Mexican food, in true Rae-fashion. I sat at the end of that huge table where I was able to see all of my beautiful friends under the glow of string lights and Saint candles. I was full of house margaritas and gratitude as I watched the salt fly from the rims of our glasses clinking togther throughout dinner.  One spoon, for the tres leches cake, fed our 9 mouths, and we declared it to be lucky for each of us to have a bite of birthday cake.
..As if I could ever be more lucky than I felt just then.

Twenty-five was hard. But I hear that the 26th time's a charm. And I've got everything that I need to make it a wonderful year. Especially with wonderful friends to see me through it.

On Love, Crushes, and Other Things.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Lately, I've been bombarded with these topics in my personal life. The fragility of new loves, the seemingly indestructible presence of the old, the fun flirtation had with a forbidden crush, and the sweetness of selfish self-indulgence.

Last night I was listening to an episode of my favorite podcast and the topic was the 'forbidden crush.' I could go on to share my views on many aspects of this particular episode but to prevent rambling, I will just touch on one specific point. Crushes are who or what we want at that particular point in our lives. The guy who is 'husband material.' The guy with a million stamps in his passport. The guy you always see at yoga. You desire what may fulfill you. But as you grow and change, so can your mind. And mine often does.

I was recently told that I am reckless with my feelings. Which I could not agree with more. I am a zero to sixty kind of gal. One minute I'm hot, and in the blink of an eye I can be as cold as ice. A Gemini to the very core. I've pushed many a boyfriend away because of this duel personality, but I guess that is usually the plan. To 'silently' slip out the back... or so I tell myself. But really what I do is give my heart to these men quite easily, and then I tear it away with little warning. It's like waking up from a dream.. I sort of just snap out of whatever trance I had myself in.

Unfortunately it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I compare most of these relationships to the one I consider to be the most serious. Although it was serious, it was not always healthy. We spent a lot of time arguing and betraying one another. Yet we were able to connect on another level that allowed us to somehow overcome these instances just long enough to share a burning passion and curiosity for each other. He once referred to me in a letter as being like a drug, intoxicating and fleeting. As was he. Despite the fights and the pain we dragged each other through, we shared some beautiful memories, some serious laughs, and many of the most influential years of my young life. Most days I go without thinking about him, but some days he still leaves a gaping hole in my chest. It's hard to lose any love, no matter how ugly it may have been at the end. And it's sometimes easy to think that returning to this love affair would breathe life into those stale memories. But it's important to remember that if that relationship didn't make you happy before, what makes you think it would make you happy now?

These thoughts seem to be in the forefront of my mind since moving. Uncovering hidden treasures from past relationships as I packed my life into cardboard boxes. Stirring up the feelings I had the last time I had loaded my life into boxes. And the time before that. And the time before that.

So here I find myself in a scenario much like one I've already experienced. Out of a relationship and into a one-bedroom bachelorette pad, living in sweet solitude. I've done a lot, literally and mentally, to clean my slate and I've just begun tot have a relationship with myself again. I spend many a quiet night in perched atop my meditation pillow exploring these thoughts and feelings. Trying to forgive myself and others for the sticky residue and uneasiness that heartache can often leave behind. Trying not to over analyze my every action but instead being patient and tolerant with myself. I'm actively working towards letting go of the things that do not serve me. The weight of the baggage I carry from my greatest heartbreak. The guilt that pushes down on me from the hearts I have trampled. The ache of wanting something that I cannot have.

The Road to Pai was Paved with Good Intentions.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Thailand changed me. Just like any other outstanding experience I've ever had. But this change came suddenly and without warning.

It was after nearly two weeks in Thailand that I finally found myself in Pai. Beautiful Pai. The hostel was, quite literally, a circus. The scenery was right out of a fairytale. The tiny lights of this tiny place glittered after the sun set behind the mountains. There were waterfalls, and firesides, and snuggly puppies. My heart was aflutter and I nearly pranced through the streets thinking to myself, this could be home.



The people I met while I was in Pai changed everything. Free spirits who had each quit their jobs to travel the world. All of which had only planned to only stay a few days in Pai..and ended up staying for weeks. Months. Forever in Pai. The Venus Pai Trap.

I stayed up late with these beautiful people, exchanging bits and pieces of ourselves under the stars. Their stories inspired me. Their stories stirred something up inside of me that snapped me out of what now feels like a dream.

It took every ounce of responsibility I still had left not to take the yoga instructor position they had posted all over the place. Free room and board. And food. For as long as I cared to stay....
I'm still dreaming about those fucking posters.

I left Pai at the very last minute that I possibly could. I hung behind the rest of my group to soak up as much of it as possible in the short time that I had there. I left Pai just before sunset. And instead of that nauseating van, I got to say goodbye to Pai from the back of a motorbike. Twisting and turning down the 762 turns that the road to Pai was made of, I watched the sun set. And everything that I ever wanted changed instantly.



Temples.

Monday, February 29, 2016

This morning we set out to explore a few of Chiang Mai's Buddhist temples. The two temples that we visited are the two that are said to house the two relics of the Buddha. The first, Wat Suan Dok, was my favorite. With its perfectly white washed mausoleums housing the ashes of Chiang Mai's royal family and the breathtaking golden chedi, this temple stole my heart.














As Kadison and I wandered its grounds and throughout the ubosot, we felt dwarfed by the enormous statues of Buddha. We quietly admired the intricate details as monks meditated nearby and tip-toed back out into the garden to rejoin our group, humbled by Wat Suan Dok's beauty.

We cruised around the gorgeous Chiang Mai University campus before heading up the mountain to the second temple we were to visit, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This temple is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai named after the mountain on which it was built. According to legend, the second relic of Buddha was placed on the back of a white elephant and was released into the jungle. The elephant climbed Doi Suthep, stopped, trumpeted three times and then dropped dead. This was considered an omen and the temple was built at this site.









We climbed the 306 step staircase to the temple and waited for the rest of our group (who opted to take the cable car to the top.) This temple, though beautiful, was crawling with tourists. We saw a million different Buddha statues, had our fortunes told, and visited a jade factory and showroom before we headed back to the hostel for our usual lunch of Pad Thai and a cheeseburger and fries.


Thailand.

Friday, February 26, 2016

It is safe to say that our first day in Thailand will be remembered as our worst day in Thailand.

After 24 hours on a plane, a few stops in Moscow and Singapore, and only dinner rolls and roasted peanuts in our stomachs, we still had the daunting task of finding our way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Instead of a quick 2 hour flight, we took some bad advice and headed toward the train station. We both agreed it would be a nice change of pace, plus I had never ridden a train before. It was said to be scenic and quick.

Besides nearly losing my life to a taxi van the moment I stepped off of the curb, our taxi ride to the train station was the highlight of our day. The adorable taxi driver, Vanda, was giggly, jolly, and a sight for sore eyes. She popped in a CD that she clearly only played for her American passengers and got us to the train station in one piece.

We purchased our tickets for the "Rapid Express" train that would board a few hours later. I asked a gal working there how long the train ride would be and nearly shit myself when she said 15 to 16 hours. We tried to stay optimistic by telling ourselves that this was the worst case scenario and sat down to await the 13:45 train to Chiang Mai.

Hualamphong Station in Bangkok, Thailand

The people watching was PRIME at this train station so the two hour wait was nothing but a pleasant experience for me. Kadison watched a few episodes of Grey's Anatomy on her laptop and I stared at any and everyone who passed me by. A crawling man, a couple performing some sort of tantric love karate, and bob-tailed cats were just the tip of the iceberg...

We boarded the train 45 minutes early, struggled to lift our beyond-heavy bags into the overhead storage and slumped into our seats, exhausted. This was not the sort of train I had always imagined I'd ride through a foreign country.. this was the kind of train you take from one side of Disneyland to the other. But worse. The chairs were busted, their was no air conditioning, and the bathrooms...well, the bathrooms were holes that you had to squat over while you bounced down the tracks. We stayed pretty optimistic throughout the entire endeavor.. despite the heat, the bugs, and the f.i.f.t.e.e.n. hours we spent on that damn train. But! We did make it to Chiang Mai and we did save $90 in the process.

All aboard the shit train

We took a taxi to our hostel, threw our bags down, took the best showers of our lives and reminded ourselves that we were in Thailand for the next 16 days! And also that we it could only get better from here.

View from the rooftop of Hug Hostel in the center of Chiang Mai, Thailand