joy, sorrow, & toothpaste

joy, sorrow, & toothpaste

small things

I bought new toothpaste today. It’s a small thing.

This post is about small things, which are big things in this murky water of change.

Slowly and all at once – I’m making/finding/feeling out a home here. I’ve been meaning to buy toothpaste. I had bought some when my travel sized toothpaste ran out in the first few weeks of being here. And now this week, the anniversary of living here for 6 months, I needed to buy more. A lovely serendipitous coincidence. And a small marker of that amorphous slippery being that is change (s/o to all the Octavia Butler I’ve been reading this year).

It is a small thing – but it’s the small things I’ve been noticing. Small things that were foreign and now feel (more) familiar.

I’ve noticed how uni and flat roll comfortably off my tongue — words that have never been part of my lexicon. ’Ich hätte gern’ isn’t usually so daunting to say. It used to make my heart race. Still, I give myself a mental high-five when I complete any simple interaction all auf Deutsch. I can order hummus and almost joke back when it’s clear to the guy my German isn’t so good but hey the attempted joking is all auf Deutsch. I knocked on the table at the end of my German class, while everyone else clapped. Knocking on tables is how it goes for the end of class in German Universities — maybe others too but certainly not U.S. universities and very alarming the first few times.

And these little things and a million more small things that are going from unknown to everyday have added up to 6 months. Not a long time but still enough time to feel a little less lost, a little more grounded.

I had the realization the other day that it is going to (I can already tell) feel weird to be back in the US. Cultural adjustment in all its glory is what I’m moving through. I know this intellectually & that I’m far from the only person who’s experienced this process. Every step of it here for me though is mine. I’m savoring it. Or I’m at a point where I can – so I am.

the cycle continues

Last week I had a few days in a row where I just felt full of joy. It was, perhaps, the happiest I’ve felt since moving. On my way home from Aquafitness (auf Deutsch) dancing down the street to music (auf Deutsch) I’m slowly starting to actually understand — I thought to myself, hell yeah, I’m doing this. Figuring it out. Schritt fur Schritt. Looking toward my 6-month mark – I thought I’m in a new phase of this transition/cultural adjust process. One that’s a little more grounded. Where I feel a little less lost.

Then a small actually insignificant comment sparked renewed insecurity about speaking German and wedged itself in my psyche the rest of the weekend.

This comment and actually making it to 6 months sparked some renewed sorrow. This cycle of ever intertwined joy & sorrow & peace & longing continues. And now every time I feel the ‘downward’ part of ‘it’ happening, I can see the signs and understand what’s coming a bit better. Each time is a little different. Not just a circle repeating, it comes in waves, each a bit different from the last. Crest and fall. And I have had a little more practice now in pulling myself back up from this particular kind of fall. And allowing myself to be moved by the current of friends, community, & grounding practices who lift me up, renew me when I can’t alone. Thank god for German learning pep talks from fellow-learners and some really kind folks who are German and willing to be patient with my learning. Thank god for remembering I’m never in this alone, though sometimes I feel lonely.

intrepid

Over the weekend I was in contact with my advisor from undergrad. I had a question about the research I’m doing and also wanted to update her on things. Her response to my ramblings was “that’s the intrepid Mary I know!”

I’ve never seen myself as intrepid. Yet I’m seeing in my behavior that I am. A small tattoo on my inner right ankle is a permanent reminder to never stop taking risks (among other things). Through to this point in my life, I sure haven’t stopped. And this is the plan ever more.

Every time I do something that scares me, I remember I can move through fear and discomfort and not-knowing. I build this muscle of acknowledging ‘yes, I’m afraid and no it’s not going to stop me.’ Even if it does temporarily. Even if the first time I’m babbling like a baby and messing everything all the way up. Reflect. Try again. The cycle continues. Buy more toothpaste.

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‘Real Work’

It may be that when we no longer know what to do

we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go

we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

by Wendell Berry

 

 

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view of the river down the street from my flat

 

this too shall pass // 2 january 2018

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” I whispered to a coworker now friend, trying and failing to hold back tears.

“You’re surviving,” She responded.

Then, we overlooked the mayhem of Midtown Manhattan from a conference room whose door couldn’t be trusted.

Now, overlooking my small cobbled street of colorful alt baus (old buildings) in my neighborhood, Kreuzberg, in Berlin, Germany, I think to myself. What am I doing here? These first three months, I have been, in many ways, surviving. But in an entirely different way than I was in New York.

then

In 2013, I moved to New York City, a process and period that I somewhat documented here.

When I first started working in lower Manhattan (Chelsea & then Midtown near Times Square), I remember seeing people drag themselves, unenthusiastically shuffling off trains and up stairways, to their jobs. My new to full-time working self, did not want to become that.

In New York, I had jobs that filled my days, community that filled my soul, and bills that drained my bank account every month. I had a rich and beautiful life. I engaged in work paid and unpaid that was deeply meaningful, incredibly challenging, and will ever be important to me. The work, people, and communities I was welcomed into and co-conspired in building will always be a treasure and joy to me. What I’ve learned in these years, has I am sure only begun to unfold.

I was also, at times & especially in my final year, just trying to survive. When a challenging job became toxic, I was one of those people barely dragging themselves to work. Dreading it at every step, I was hardly present to myself because presence would have meant feeling feelings of anger & hopelessness I couldn’t safely express. That job threatened to take my spirit. It almost did. And so I left it. I quit my first full-time job, the most consistent part of my life (aside from some of my first friends) for 3 of 4 years in New York, for a new host of unknowns and uncertainties. That day was the most exhilarating day I had had in months, years. I felt terrified. I felt alive.

now

On September 26th I (barely) got on a plane in New York and by the following morning, I had moved to Berlin, Germany to pursue a Master’s in Global History. Well, I moved my packed things & myself. And I began a process that is still ongoing of grieving, letting going, and beginning to build a new life here.

I moved with two suitcases, a backpack, my violin, and a box on its way to my new flat, as Europeans say. I moved with emotional baggage of jobs I loved and hated. I moved not wanting to leave people I loved, a city I loved (and hated), and knowing deeply that I needed to leave even if I didn’t (I still don’t) know all the reasons why.

I began, after sleeping a lot, with tears looking out my new window wondering precisely that: why I was there? What had I done? I began by making myself leave my flat that second day, walk down new streets, and utterly fail to order some food in German. I began by pointing. I began to learn German, which in my native-English speaker privilege/arrogance I did not yet know. I began getting to know a new train system, new cultural norms, a new school system, a new way of grocery shopping, new friends, new everything.

This newness was and is exhilarating and exhausting. Through this point, it is often more exhausting. And getting out of bed every day is its own struggle. Making it through each day of new everything has been its own process of figuring out how to survive. As much as I tell myself, remind myself, this was my choice and it is an incredible privilege & opportunity to be here, my body & inner self crave familiarity. Amidst all this change, my body craves rest.

But now slowly, slowly, as my route to the train becomes rote and small German phrases feel (more) natural, I am not just surviving. I am thriving. I am inspired in new ways by old passions. I am exhausted & rejuvenated. I am lonely & yet connected to communities that cross continents. And, aside from needed Netflix retreats from humanity, I am every day alive. So deeply alive.

a year of transition (amidst years of uncertainty)

For most of my 20s, I’ve felt like I’m in a state of constant uncertainty and transition from one thing (mainly places & jobs) to another. And in the last three months I’ve begun this huge transition, an upheaval of the life I knew and built in New York. So, I am moving into 2018 knowing and naming this year as one of transition. I’m transitioning from a steady full-time job (both the constraint of that schedule & freedom of its salary & PTO) to student life and the part-time hustle(s). I’m transitioning cities, countries, cultures. And I am in transition personally, coming slowly to know myself in this place with people I’ve met and will come to know.

As surely as my decision closed doors, I know too that it is opening other possibilities. And I know I need spaces to slow down, reflect, and share in order to document and fully explore those possibilities. Thus, I began a daily practice of sharing a photo & caption on Instagram/FB/Twitter. I’ve felt in the last few months that perhaps I need something more.

I’ve held on to this blog. Though my writing has been sporadic at best & almost non-existent for a while now, I haven’t been ready to let it go or to create something entirely new. So I return to my initial intent: to share my story as it emerges & the stories of those I encounter (as it is right & appropriate to do so).

So, my original intent is still my intention. And for the next year I will write & share here when I feel pulled to do so. Then, I will review what I’ve written and whether to continue on, let this space go, or create a new space.

gratitude

The following is a non-exhaustive, non-sequential list of people, spaces, and organizations in New York (and beyond) that for the last four years have shaped me, held me, encouraged & demanded I continue to become who I am becoming: MarieLiz, Liz, AnneMarie, Adriana, Sharese, Michael, DS, ARTE fam, young folks incarcerated at Rikers, every young person I got to work with, Stevo, Erica, YJB, PANY, NOMADA, JVC fam, DIYLADIES, Marisol, Teresa, St. Francis Assisi, St. Francis de Sales, Ben & Leo, Charlene, Dona, Max, Medina, Lisa-Marie, Adelle, Nich, Jeri, Amy, Courtney, Christine, Hannah, CCI, YUNY, Crystal, Angela, Ife, Josy, Juan, Claudia, Betsy, NYIC, the Conservatory in Central Park, Breakneck Ridge, Gina, my block in Harlem, my roof, my room, Grace, 5F, Emily, my momma, Patrick, Michael, Peter, Theresa, my dad, PCAP, Rachel, Sara, Buzz, Mike, NADA, Suz, Anne, Dave, Kev, Elizabeth, Sarah, Jill, Maggie, and on and on and on.

I wouldn’t be me without my family and community. I write now for you. And for all of you, I am grateful. Frohes neues Jahr // happy new year to all wherever you are in the world and in your own processes of being and becoming.

paradox: thoughts on leaving a life I love

I am a walking paradox. This is how I describe myself these days when someone asks how I am and really means it. I am filled with sorrow and joy. Anxiety, fear, excitement, and resolve.

Through all of it I feel loved.

I am in transition.

A big one.

Oh so soon I will be getting on a plane with some luggage and moving to Berlin to pursue my Master’s in Global History – a dream I dreamed up two years ago while a Public Ally. Since I have far too many feelings to be very coherent at the moment. Here is a collection of thoughts and feelings as I am closing an immensely important and challenging four years of living in New York City:

I am loved. Goddamn I am so loved.


I’m hella afraid. I picked up ‘hella’ from Teresa and Lisa-Marie.

I’m *ucking excited. Amplified by affirmations from friends new and old back home over Bell’s and here at old haunts and new spots I’ve meant to go to for four years (including Spot bar).

How has it been 4 years? // It’s only been 4 years why am I leaving?

What am I doing? // this is exactly what I need to do. I dreamed it and wrote it into existence and worked for it. It’s here.

I’m going to miss all of this. // get me the hell out of here.

Embrace it. Embrace it all. – Ben

Never doubt your potential. – Nich

I’m going to miss making space with you. -AM

Shit I have so much to do.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe it all in. Soak it all in. Everything is about to change.

Long drives (in Michigan) turned to long walks (in New York). What will it be in Berlin?

Joy as resistance.

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In this transition, How do I balance this me-focused time with engaging in the urgent times we live in? DACA is attacked. Black communities continue to experience police violence and the violence of mass incarceration.

People are dying. I’m moving to Berlin. Why? Is my why enough? Am I?

I need to do this.

‘Mary I believe you are meant to move to Berlin’ – a new friend while riding the train
In every way God is telling you this is your next step. – Momma

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I cried ‘my heart is breaking in the most beautiful way’ tears on my roof dancing dancing dancing with all the joy and love of four years in this wild wondrous chaotic serendipitous city. A night I won’t forget.

This is going to change everything.

While I’m in graduate school I plan to dedicate more time to writing. Both continuing to reflect on my daily life, as well as what I’ll be learning in conversation with the present day. Stay tuned.

holding on & letting go

I have trouble holding onto a singular thought here. I think it’s the almost constant barrage of people, feelings, sounds, moments, and movement. It’s too much to hold. So for my sanity I’ve learned to let go.

Sometimes I think I’ve learned to let go too much. If I let too much just slide by, what is there to hold on to?

A couple of things will seemed linked in my head and as I try to write them down I lose them, lose the connections. I write what I can in the short moments I grab and then onto the next. Barraged with new sensations and new thoughts and feelings and memories that come up and I can’t hold on to the old ones. But if I just let it all slide by, what am I carrying with me? I can get to the end of a week and someone asks how I am, how was my week and I honestly need a few minutes of fumbling and trying to think back to remember it at all. That scares me. Because my life and days are so full. Sometimes so full they’re overflowing and it all flows out and what am I left with? Trying to reach back. Slow down long enough to even remember. To write down a few disjointed lines I believe somehow to be related. I just can’t hold on to the thoughts long enough to see them before they rush away and my mind and heart are filled with a whole new set of almost connections. I say I’ll ponder them at some later date. I rarely do. I’ll happen back upon disjointed thoughts and wonder how I thought they were connected…. 

So, as the last few (albeit old now) posts attest, I’m taking to poetry. Putting together images and feelings as they pass through grabbing at the moments that seem connected yet I can’t quite fully connect them so I’ll suffice to name them and let them go.

some (overdue) updates

So, if you’ve read this blog prior to December 8th, you’ll see I’ve made some changes. It just felt like it was time for a new look to reflect some of my own evolution. This Fall was again a time of transition for me into a “regular” full-time position, a new roommate, friends leaving, and family coming. So, a bit over due, but as Mary Oliver wrote:

Things take the time they take. Don’t worry.

How many roads did St. Augustine take before he became St. Augustine?

Poem from Felicity

The Title

I originally entitled the blog “Good Morning America.” Not as a reference to the TV show. “Good Morning America” was the title of a rap Doe Burns wrote as part of the original play “Unforgiving” created and performed by the great and unforgettable theatre workshop I had the privilege to be part of through the Prison Creative Arts Project. I’ve written about it here before. I then changed the title to “Walle in the World” with the tag line “Every day is another day to grow”, which Rob reminded us in workshop regularly. The blog has existed mostly as “Walle in the World.” However, in the spirit of the blog and my personal commitment to continuous growth, I have renamed it ‘Internal Resistance.’ This names my own ongoing resistance to complacency and injustices that threaten our collective humanity. I resist by stopping to eat lunch away from my desk, taking breaks, hand-writing letters, not measuring my worth by my productivity, naming the world, caring for myself, asking questions, sharing stories, breaking down social barriers, connecting, holding space for pain to be filled with love, lighting candles & watching the flicker, re-reading Freire, making art personally & collectively, and trying again when I fail.

Picture

I live in New York City. I’ve previously stated that on here as “I’m currently living in New York City,” as if I’m just passing through or I might move tomorrow. As scary as it is still to say, I’m not moving tomorrow. I’m here. So my picture is the view from the top of my apartment building where I often stand gazing in wonder at the Manhattan skyline.

Tagline

‘Speak the truth even if your voice shakes’ is written on a small card on my desk at work. Since I created this blog, I’ve done a lot of silencing myself. So it is a reminder to me and to all to speak the truth, perhaps, especially if your voice shakes. For me, in those times it has been most important.