Why I Do The Things I Do

My mom has this way of attracting ladies with magnetic personalities. Her gaggle of girlfriends is eclectic and intense, always laughing, always sharing, always discussing, and always formulating. I’ve always been intrigued by her network, and when I visit I often find myself gladly in their company and energy. Tonight was no different when she invited me to go with her to the Women’s Wisdom Circle – a group led by her friend C.

Leaving Mr. Possibility to have dinner alone with my father (the house and the two of them survived, though the bottle of Tequila did not), mom and I had dinner at our favorite Greek restaurant and a few glasses of Cabernet before taking a seat of wisdom. The group aims to raise questions and to get women to ask themselves basically the premise of this blog: if we know thyself, then doesn’t everything fall into place?

Each week has a different topic of interest and this week, the group chatted about motivation. Specifically, what motivates you to keep going?

We all had a moment to ourselves before sharing our thoughts, and as I sat there, pen and clipboard in hand, trying to answer this question for myself. Playing off of the very little I know about meditation (that’s the next step), I pictured myself back in New York, lying in the bed I bought with money I earned from the job I go to everyday. I thought about how I feel each morning, when the alarm goes off earlier than I want it to and my body is tired from a night of unsettled rest. I thought about the routine I practice when I’m not on vacation and how each day gets started.

What makes me get up?

Is it my iced coffee and egg-and-cheese wake-up wrap from Dunkin’ Donuts? Or my morning commute that is always filled with interesting people and ample fodder? Is it penning articles and updating websites and writing this blog? Maybe it’s my wonderful group of friends or my possibility or the combination of all of the above?

I couldn’t really decide and at first, it worried me. Does nothing really motivate me? Do I not have anything in my life that gets me going? That pushes me to move forward? Do I just do things for the sake of doing them? Because I know I should or that I think that by doing them, I’ll get somewhere else? Or find someone? Or get something in return?

Why do I do the things I do?

Chewing on the end of my pen on loan, hoping the owner wouldn’t mind, I circled the room with my eyes, searching for answers in the faces of a few strangers, a friend and my mom. They all read differently and they spoke about what drove them in different ways: “my morning coffee”, “my pets”, “I feel lazy if I don’t”, and “I have a need to be productive”, among others. When it came my turn, I spoke hesitantly because I noticed a big difference in my response compared to the others. Also because I was at a different point in my life, all of the women were over 40, a few retired, some married, some with children – and here I was, the visitor from the big city, daughter of the very lovely, open-minded and radiant woman, in my 20s, not hitched and without a child. Was I really about to say what I truly felt?

That the reason I got up each morning was that I’m happy?

And if I think about what motivates me to give each day a chance, it’s the fact that it is a new start. A sunny beginning. It’s the fact that if I get through today, if I give this 24-hour span my everything, if I work hard, if I believe in the goodness of life and in the brightness of my spirit, then tomorrow will most likely come. Perhaps not guaranteed but quite likely, it will arrive. And with tomorrow, I’ll be one step closer, one moment nearer to the pieces of my future and of my dreams that I’m still piecing together. That dream job down the road will be in sight, that home I hope to build, that love I want to find, and that byline I long to see, those will be closer if I decide to turn the alarm off instead of snooze. If I decide to shower and throw the covers up on my bed, pick out a pair of kicks to battle the city with. If I decide to smile and have faith in the divinity of what is it be and to have peace with the days that came before. Those days where I decided to do the things I’ll do today.

And I’ll do  the things I do because I’m happy with the me I am. And excited for the me I’ve yet to meet.

For more information on Women’s Wisdom Circles, email C

Finding (and Un-Defining) a Faith for Me

Coming from a ruthless, unforgiving Southern Baptist background in the heart of the infamous Bible belt – once my mom was old enough to leave the church, she went as fast as she could in her early 80’s up-do and pumps.

Wanting to find a religion that would not only suit the words she read, but the spirituality she craved, she tried all sorts of different options as a 20-something. She dipped her toes into all of the waters her past congregation would have found unholy, and submerged herself into learning what she could about what other people believe and why it means so much to them. By the time she met my father, she was active at the Unity Center of Christianity – where they would eventually marry – and a few years later, when I made my grand entrance into the world, she wanted to place some structure on my faith. And so, like she always had before, she prayed for a sign from God about where to go to find that open-minded, yet not too liberal, mindset she craved.

As the heavens always seem to do, they delivered an unspoken guidance to my family.

And so, I was raised in a tiny-church-that-could on the winding back roads of Western North Carolina. My mother swears the first time we went to look at what would be our home, she drove past this hidden chapel and her bones told her this was the place to give her blue-eyed little girl a proper upbringing. Or as proper as one can get with my low-key parents, anyways.

This Methodist church taught me the basic fundamentals of good and bad, guided me through adolescence, and hosted my piano recitals during my childhood. It was there that I met my very first best friend, became a Girl Scout, learned how to make (and appropriately destroy) sloppy Joe sandwiches, and how to jump rope. The backyard of this church, along with the basketball ring I never grew tall enough to touch, is as familiar to me as the address I still write on my tax returns.

Once I passed my driver’s test, my mom stopped forcing me to attend church. She encouraged me to seek out my own beliefs, figure out who (or what) I wanted to worship, and what morality I wanted to base my life upon. Trusting I was mature enough to handle the exposure of diverse religions and ideologies, she suggested a few different places to give a shot. She even offered me gas money.

And so I started on a pilgrimage to find an undefined faith that fit me.

I attended a Catholic mass, where I learned the art of rising and standing (over and over) and how to respectfully decline communion because I was not confirmed. I tried out a Pentecostal church, where though they seemed incredibly passionate about their faith, I found myself a little frightened by the use of a language I couldn’t understand (and wasn’t convinced they could as well). I visited a Synagogue, where while beliefs are slightly different, they have a certain majesty to the depth of commitment and tradition that other fundamentals do not have (or at least express). I took a shot at meditation in my mother’s meditation room and my youthful, easily-distracted nature kept me from falling into any realm of anything. Unless Ancy Land counts, that is.

Now quite some years later, I find myself unsure about religion. I’m not Catholic. I’m not setting snakes free, unafraid of their poison. I did not convert to Judaism. I have yet to figure out how to meditate, even at the yogi-endorsed locations of the Lower East Side. I am still, technically, a member of the Methodist community- but I do not go to church regularly. Sometimes I feel like I should and I love hearing the bells on my walk to the gym Sunday mornings. At some point, I will attend one of those Gospel services around my Harlem neighborhood  -the fire eluding from them is simply intoxicating, not to mention they gave me free cake last summer.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I consider myself. I hear people toss around words like “spiritual” and “religious” over cocktails and o’dourves constantly, without giving it a second thought. Maybe a byproduct of my mother’s curiosity, but I’ve read countless books and asked people the ideas behind their belief systems and as adults who are not forced into stockings, socks-with-bows, and Sunday-best dresses, how we decide about a being above.

This blog is not about religion. But it is about love. I’m not a theologian, I’m not ordained by any church, or accredited by a university – but if there is one central theme I discovered in my quest to find my own ideology, it is love. The name of their savior or where or how its followers practice their rituals shouldn’t be a question, but rather if they are leading a life that’s based on a belief of an unconditional love. If they have a dedication, an honor, a profound respect, and continuous committment to a love they trust will never turn its back on them. That even when relationships fail, wars are declared -in our homes or around the world, when jobs are lost, when money is tight, when disasters strike that we can’t understand, we can trust in a higher power to be present.

When no one else will listen, when no one else is around, when no one else proves dependable, when no other sentence can ease our troubled mind – something we can’t see, but we can somehow hear and feel, appears.

I do believe in God. But I’m probably not the best devotee and I certainty don’t visit his blog everyday. I feel awkward praying and usually end up writing instead of speaking. I’ve always been more loyal before a test, when I’m scared, or when I anticipate the departure of someone or something I’d like to stay. But on days like today, where I commence in the rules of Lent, regardless of the lack of my Catholic-ness, I can’t help but feel a sense of connectivity. In an odd way I’ll explain at a later date, I think he/she (not sure which gender I’d like to assign to God, if any at all) has a gentle way of guiding my life -through things I stumble upon, from pennies that seem to fall from the blue abyss, and by giving me who I need, when I need them. I’ve felt alone, I’ve been depressed, I’ve wanted to find a man to give me love – but I’ve never felt abandoned  by a power beyond myself.

I’m not sure it is a relationship I can define or one where I give more than I take, yet it soothes me when other efforts do not. I believe that something, more dynamic than a human, and in a place away from this planet, has my best interest at heart. And while I don’t always get those things or those people who I want, I am challenged with accepting the simplicity of my needs that always find themselves met. And the strength I derive from a silent plea or praise in the middle of a busy New York train that lets me know I’m heading in the right direction, and I’m safe.

My sacrifices for Lent – no more Diet Pepsi and cutting back on the makeup – have the intention of making me a better, healthier person in the spirit of Christian traditions. And while I can never be guaranteed the way I lead my life, the decisions I make, or the company I keep will grant me a happy afterlife or an upgrade in my second life – I’m at least going to do this act of love. Not only in the honor of the holy-whomever, but in the name of the better me it is helping me to become.

PS: Jennifer from Cincinnati, OH completed Love Addict’s survey and won a fabulous glass from Lolita and perfume set fromPacifica. Love Addict will be doing another giveaway soon, so make sure to take the survey for your chance to win! Congrats Jen and thanks for reading!