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Nostalgia

 

I love when autumn awakens with crisp morning air that remains until evening falls into a cool, biting night. I love when those days fall on the weekend and are accompanied by beautiful azure skies that contrast with the burnt-orange foliage. My weekend was imperfectly perfect, just like these autumn days. Where – when you look closely at the beautiful contrasting leaves – you see that they aren’t really orange anymore and have begun to decompose.

Friday I woke up with a buzzing mind and anxious limbs. I set out early to tick off all the boxes on my to-do list. Homework, morning lecture, and a list of errands so long I didn’t know how it could all be done.

One by one, each box was ticked until I was back home. Both excited and exhausted, I waited for my housemates to get back and share a fun surprise with them. Stranger Things season 2 was released on Netflix that day and we were all anxious to jump back into the storyline.

Upon seeing an advert for a clothing line paying homage to our favorite tv show, I added “buy matching t-shirts” to my to-do list that day. When I ran to the shop in between more pressing errands, I was taken back by the amount of Stranger Things enthusiasts that flocked the isles surrounding the novelty clothing.

As I combed through each rack, I thought of the individual styles of my roommates before choosing the perfect match. It made me happy to think of them dressed in limited edition fan-wear whilst diving back into the much-anticipated series. I looked forward to talking over the new plot line and getting answers to our burning questions.

Beth’s jumper spoke to me first with a vintage print stitched together with superior quality fabric. With her birthday one week away, I decided to hit two birds with one stone. Beth would get the best jumper and Karen and I would get awesome t-shirts. A win-win all around.

After asking management to undress a mannequin for the very last Stranger Things inspired graphic t-shirt in London (possibly everywhere), I all but ran to the cash register with an absurd fear that someone was going to snatch the last t-shirt away from me. The fear didn’t subside until I carried my treasures safely home.

Barely able to contain my excitement, I showed Beth her jumper as soon as she walked through the door. The girls were happy and so gracious with their thanks. We donned our new gear and our comfiest pajama bottoms to watch the first episode. And 8 episodes later – around 3 AM – I headed off to bed.

Morning came with more energy than anticipated after our night of binge watching almost the entire series. Still in our awesome fan get-up, we congregated into our cozy living room to finish the final episode on the film projector while eating waffles. With messy hair and the smell of maple syrup wafting through the house, we hit play to conclude the latest season only 24 hours after its release.

There is a certain nostalgia born from coming of age films, especially those that emphasize the wonder of childhood bonds forged through adventure. After being transported to the 80’s through the set design and story of Stranger Things, I started remembering long-forgotten moments of my childhood; simple moments of innocence and uncomplicated joy.

I remembered little things like snuggling into my parent’s big bed to watch The Wonder Days while my mom fondly commented on the similarities between her own childhood. I remembered my little limbs tucked warmly into big, puffy coats and lace trimmed socks that were carefully folded over bulky, white tennies.

I remembered back to the days when my mustache-wearing dad called trainers “tennies” and had an orange bag in the back of his closet that was filled with relics of his past life as a white belt in karate; a short-lived hobby of his youth. I remembered my dad being the strongest man I knew and hanging on his bicep while he flexed in the kitchen.

I remembered my mom’s puff paint sweatshirts that were fashionable evidence that she was enthusiastic about being a mother; With each of her children carefully detailed in colorful paint across the chest of her white jumper. She was a true Beverly Goldberg.

I remembered over the top homemade Halloween costumes, themed birthday parties, and our awesome family van that existed many years before “mini vans” would grace us with seat belts and practical size. I remembered the smell of candles burning and clean, wood floors that would greet me as I came home from school. I remembered warm ovens and roast dinners and splashes in the pool.

For a moment this weekend, I stepped back in time. I remembered the joy found in those simple pleasures. I remembered how life could feel so full and incredibly thrilling without being constructed and manufactured. If I could go back to a time before the internet, mobile phones, and social media for just a day – if I could know all my friend’s phone numbers by heart and wind the cord around my fingers as I chat by the receiver, if I could sit at the family table next to plates of piping hot roast on Sunday afternoon, or make my way home to mom and dad when the street lights came on – if I had the chance do it all again, I would.

As I pass by the fading autumn foliage throughout this next week, I hope I remember to pause and be fully present. I hope I study the details and take mental images of the small things around me – to listen intently and speak truthfully. I hope, when the true autumn of my life is fading away, I am able to look back at where I am now with fondness, nostalgia, and a grateful heart that I soaked up every moment I could while it was happening.

Four Hours in the Library

 

If you are looking for me, I’m probably in the library. Past the busy entrance where students tap their heels quickly as they try to balance books and Starbucks cups ten minutes late to class. Past one of many never-ending corridors guarded by heavy wood doors that swing on unforgiving hinges. Past the first part of the library with noisy printers, whispered chatter, and teachers with impatience etched into every line on their foreheads. I am behind the glass doors marked “silent”.

At first you’ll feel the pressure of heavy silence hanging in the air.  You’ll notice the scent of old books as it tickles your nose before settling into a comfortable aroma of home and rain and blankets by fires. Between each row of shelved books sits a long wood table. Each table is dotted with a hand full of graduate students. I am sat at the a table run vertically straight through the library, facing giant windows that disclose the world outside.

The trees are slowly dancing. Each green leaf is matched by gold and stippled with fading orange. Through the glass and against the dark grey sky is Saint Marylebone Parish Church. Once I figured out how to pronounce Marylebone, the word echoed through my mind like a children’s rhyme “Mar-le-bon” in rhythm with no rhyme. Again and again.

I spend each Monday here for four hours and impatiently wait until I can return. The silence is comforting and these people are my people. They have enthusiasm for their futures. I can read it in their concentrated eyes, unyielding to the slightest distraction. I feel it in the silence, their minds learning and sharing information. If I could read thoughts, libraries would be my personal hell.

Sirens sing out like a far away song that grounds me to reality. Each finger on my keyboard taps frantically to convey what I am experiencing while my mind nags at me to finish the last canto of Gawain and the Green Knight. I bought it in hard copy so I could make notes in the margins and highlight my favorite parts. It’s waiting for me in Karen’s backpack that I borrowed three weeks ago. I pull Beth’s suede jacket closer around me. Gangs all here.

My mind is swirling around the information I received during an appointment with the careers advisor. The sweet Italian woman spent 20 minutes talking to me about my future. I was told to make lists and decisions and explore because my face looks twenty but I’m five years older. She was surprised at my work experience and I tried to tell her I am open to taking risks. “Someone may have told you that being a writer is pointless” her words echo through and land like a knife in my heart. How do you explain that writing is the only thing you know? “I’m willing to take risks”, I responded. I need to be a creative, I explain. Lists and more lists and another appointment next week.

The clouds are somber now. It’s as if night is falling at 3pm. The impending storm encompasses me like a familiar blanket. Last week someone said that London has the worst weather, but I’d have to disagree. The siren’s are growing louder and a plane is roaring overhead. But in this library it’s just me and the tap of keyboards and the rustling of pages and the sound of my breath.

Life Update: I Moved Again

 

Quick life update:

 

I moved back to England last month. I am officially in week 3 of fall semester and I am incredibly overwhelmed! I am putting a pause in my former blog series “The Balanced Life” for the time being (maybe indefinitely) because of the amount of reading and writing I am required to do for my literature program.

First, the university campus is absolutely beautiful. I prefer this location and so far my education at this university than I did my last. I feel that I will have many more opportunities and chances to network during my time here that will put me on a better path as I later pursue a career and graduate school.

The trees are changing color and the leaves are falling much too quickly. Autumn is my favorite season, especially in England. I wish I had more time to wander through parks, gathering mental images of the beautiful leaves in their array of burning colors. School has me running around like a chicken with its head cut off. After taking a year off and working full-time, I got used to the rhythm of a nine-to-five. Now I am thrown back in the world of lectures and academic learning in a variety of topics, some of which are not in the realm of English literature so I am working twice as hard at those things that don’t come naturally to me.

I live in a cozy flat with two awesome friends. I am definitely the least cool roomie but my housemates continue to show me patience as I rise to the occasion. Everything in our flat is centered around vintage relics, alternative and oldies music, minimalist design, and messy Sunday morning brunch. I love it.

I am finding my path here slowly but surely. When I arrived I couldn’t decide if this was the right move (which has been the theme of my life for the last 7 years). London is teaching me to just go with it sometimes. You choose a good path, not necessarily knowing if it is the ultimate path designed for you by the grace of heaven, and go with it. You sit in the discomfort without wrestling with it. I have learned self-acceptance and self-appreciation. What I know for certain is that life is a bunch of question marks and I can either embrace them or fight with them. I am tired of fighting and clawing and trying to go “against the grain” of the course of my life. How cool is it that despite those questions that keep me up at night on those inevitable bad days, that I am a frequent visitor on Abbey Road, that my class today was held in a beautiful museum, and that I laid underneath a giant, silver gleaming ball at the Tate Modern for an hour just talking with my friends about nothing?

I am entering that state of never-ending gratitude that I have only experienced in this city. It feels pretty-freakin-awesome.

The Balanced Life: Understanding Spirituality

 

What is Spirituality?

 

Let’s go on a walk. I know a relaxing, easy hike through a beautiful forest. The day is mild with a slight breeze that cools the back of your neck and the tip of your nose. We’ll start our hike noticing how the sunlight cascades through the compact branches of the forest trees. As we move along the path, you notice how the light filters through the treetops like a jewel toned prism. Its golden rays gently touch the highest and most delicate leaves; yet as the light makes its descent toward the forest floor, it gradually moves in shades of mint to dark and brilliant emerald. You make your way down a muddy path where, just ahead, there is a slight break in the foliage. Delicately, you peel back each branch, finding your way through the hedge until your standing on the precipice of the most amazing view you have ever seen. A valley of treetops extends like a sea before you. Every mountain surrounding the valley is magnificent in height and breath. A dusting of feathery clouds sits atop each mountain, lending a feeling of mystery without any sense of foreboding. The view takes your breath away and in that moment, you know it isn’t by chance. This was all created by the hand of the most careful artist – it was all created for you.

Let’s explore another scenario. Have you ever felt compassion for a stranger? Perhaps a person begging on the street? A map of wrinkles creasing their face as they wearily sit on a busy street-corner, their heads bowed over an empty cup. Their clothes are riddled with holes and they worn out the soles of their old shoes. Their skin is marked with dirt and grit and their hair is dirty. You might wonder what happened to put this individual in such dire circumstances. Knowing what you do about life, you are slow to judge but quick to feel compassion for this fellow human who looks so down-trodden. Pity doesn’t drive you forward, pity resists against compassion. You feel empathy and you are quick to act, to empty your pockets of what little change you have or ask them if they desire a warm meal. You might take your shoes off and offer them, knowing full well that you have another pair at home.

This is spirituality. To look at the world without “I” but with us in mind. Whether it is you and your creator or you and your fellow man, that connectedness we feel is crucial to our fulfillment in life.

 

How The Expert Defines It

 

I love the work of Brene Brown. Her definition of spirituality in the book “The Gifts of Imperfection“, is better than my explanation:

“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning and purpose to our lives.”

“Celebrating”. It’s something wonderful to celebrate! To know and feel as though we are not an accident – not a blip in the mysterious fabric of the universe – that we serve a purpose born out of pure love; that’s one amazing thought.

Interconnectedness inspires us to take care of one another. It helps us reach across political and social boundaries. Common humanity says “I am with you”. When we can say “I am with you” and apply principles of spirituality – recognizing and celebrating our connectedness through and by a greater power – we can develop hope and foster love in our homes, communities, and throughout the world because we know that we all serve a purpose and that we are all worthy of love and compassion.

 

My Experience

 

Finding your own spiritual path helps to make sense of life’s mysteries. When life tosses us in the throes of sorrow or when we have questions about our identity, spirituality often brings peace and calm to these deep and confusing questions. I don’t only feel spiritually nourished when I am sitting in church but I feel most spiritually sound when I spend time in nature.

Whether it’s a long run in my favorite park, a hike with friends, or taking my morning tea on the porch of my family’s cabin, I feel most connected to God when I am witnessing His artistry in nature. I find that being in nature calms my anxiety riddled mind. I can breathe and meditate on ideas. I often offer silent prayers when I am sitting alone in nature and I feel my most open and vulnerable to accept answers. Being in nature reminds me of my purpose, of my identity, and that I am made by a God of Love and that we are all connected through Him. It makes the world seem a little smaller, which makes far off problems in the world more meaningful to me. The way I see it, the smaller the world, the more connected I am to issues that seem far away.

I grew up religious and continue to practice my religion. My religion brings me peace and comfort. It has greatly impacted the way I view the world. I believe we are all brothers and sisters, no one is lesser or greater. We’re all unbelievably loved and we have been sent here to grow and serve one another. I won’t get into all the details but these beliefs have served me well. They have always emphasized the importance of compassion, the interconnectedness of not only people but animals and nature, and the duty we have as human-beings to serve one another and take care of our world. We don’t always get it right but I believe that developing a great sense of common-humanity has helped me through times of loneliness and suffering. The comfort lies in knowing that I am not the only one, that suffering serves a purpose, and that I can’t ignore the suffering of my fellow-man because, at the end of the day, their suffering is mine.

 

May you find what spirituality means to you.

Best,

Darcy