Making friends with hard emotions

Thicht Nhat Hanh talks about feelings and emotions. When we are experience them we are those emotions. So acknowledge them, sit with them, and get to know them.

“We do not need surgery to remove our anger. If we become angry at our anger, we will have two angers at the same time. We only have to observe it with love and attention. If we take care of our anger in this way, without trying to run away from it, it will transform itself.”

I am working on recognizing and acknowledging how I feel right now. Drained. Sad (rather deelply sad). Disappointed. A little angry, but mostly frustrated. But also excited, energetic, restless and hopeful. These emotions obviously relate to two different areas of my life. I think I am finally (FINALLY!) on some sort of focused path for my ‘career’. Romantically, things are imploding a little bit. I can’t say that I didn’t set myself up for it, but I truly thought it would turn out differently. I actually think this might be the real end. We’ve gone through these pseudo-breakups before, where we talk about how he doesn’t want something that’s long term and he’ll only end up hurting me, etc. etc. ad nauseum. But the universe always throws us back together. Me needing to be taken care of after too many birthday shots (woops), him moving on from a job and needing support. Or just generally us enjoying one another and being friends who want to see one another, who enjoy physical affection, who value one another.

But this time feels different. I’m trying to sit with these feelings of sadness. I will breathe through them. I am trying to not hope that he’s feeling more sadness than I am, but I would be lying if I said I was succeeding. Because despite everything there is a part of me that has hope that if he is experiencing enough sadness he will come back. Realize what there is between us. Isn’t that the ultimate trap of getting over someone? Of breaking free? To actually WANT to be free is the hardest part. I don’t want to be free of him; I want him to want the same things I do. But he doesn’t – or he claims not to (I think the only person who is convinced of what he says is himself. Everyone who sees us together is convinced otherwise).

But this feels final. I’m not expecting to hear from him. In fact, I would be surprised if I did. This makes me sad. Incredibly sad. It’s time to sit and make friends with that sadness.



I was looking through one of my older journals recently and I found a random piece of paper with these words:

I’m feeling stagnant lately. I don’t have much motivation for anything, but at the same time I’m feeling as though I’m getting trapped into a life I don’t want. What do I want? That’s what I must ask myself. What do I want?

– Purpose





And then there’s the necessities like: pay off student loans! As well as more specific goals like: learn French and Swahili

Sometimes I wonder if a job in the office of SCIAF will really help fulfill any of these. I suppose that might depend on my motivation- like the opportunity to travel. But then I think that perhaps working at some kind of relief agency might be better – to be ‘on the ground’ providing people with immediate relief. But can a job like that really pay the bills? And will my MSc have been a waste? I really just need to remind myself – all of this stuff doesn’t have to be accomplished by the time I’m 25 or even 30! I can do whatever I want – but I’m going to have to get motivated and WORK for it!

I felt two things when reading these words: first, that this could have been written literally yesterday, and second, that I need to listen to my younger self! This was written during the summer of 2008 while I was completing my Masters degree in Edinburgh. Young Danielle was right – I don’t need to have this shit figured out yet! Just breathe. 

These past few years have been variously difficult, frustrating, heart breaking, foundational and hopeful. I have been on a search for meaning and place. Trying to figure out what my passions are and where I fit. I am still not there. Not by a long shot. But I think I am finally getting close. When I moved to DC I was sure that I wanted to build a career in international development. I wanted to travel and try to help people who are truly needy; to analyze US policy toward poor countries and try and change it for the better. That didn’t work out. For whatever reason, I was not successful in securing a job in this field. Eventually, frustrated and exhausted, I exited the 9 to 5 and began working full time in the service industry. I did this with the intention of simultaneously starting my own business. It was going to be a virtual assistant business. You know, because I have a knack for organization and a background in admin. This would have had the perks of being able to live/travel where ever with no consequences to my work and also allowed me to make money for myself, rather than someone else. But you know what? I don’t love admin. In fact, I don’t even really like it! I like excel, numbers and spreadsheets. And I do like to organize things if I’m in the right mood (but mostly I just want things to BE organized). But admin? Like, calendars, meeting scheduling, etc.? Boring. as. fuck. So WHY did I think that would be a good idea for me? It wouldn’t have.

So, while taking the opportunity to train behind the bar at work set me back in starting my business, it really did me a favor. It helped me to learn a lot about myself. In fact, I think that I have learned more about myself and what I am looking for in a job (as in, the activities I spend my time doing day to day) than I have in a very long time. So what am I looking for?

  • Spending time outdoors and on my feet (not behind a computer!)
  • Working with a close-knit team rather than doing primarily solitary work
  • Opportunities to teach
  • A varied environment that involves a lot of human interaction

Given these parameters, there are a lot of things that I think could fit. I had the idea in Denver to look into being a park ranger. I still think this would be amazing. But, after some research it’s clear that park rangers aren’t a very lucrative path. Not that I’m all about money, I’m definitely not, but my loans are such that $16/hr isn’t going to cut it unless I have something else going on the side. Another thing I have learned in the last year is that I DO want to be making enough money to have savings and disposable income. I want to be able to invite 10 girlfriends over and make brunch and cocktails for them without worry. Or go to one of my best friend’s weddings in Arizona and take 2 weeks off to take a road trip of a life time to the Grand Canyon. Or buy my family tickets to a Red Wings game for Christmas. These experiences matter and I am increasingly hesitant to take a position that is going to put me back into the position of scraping along and constantly worrying about paying my bills. Being even semi-poor sucks!

So, the last few weeks I’ve been really putting some thought into where I want to be going in and, more so, what do I have a passion for? I’m still in the process of answering this question. But today I ran across this blog as part of Katie’s SDS blog tour: Just flounder a little bit. It is part of a series that Sarah is doing – a lesson she has learned each week for the last 29 weeks of her 20’s. This hit home a lot. I may be in a floundering place, but sometimes those places are needed to find what we are truly meant to be doing. Looking back at the things that I said I wanted as a 22 year old – Purpose, self-fulfillment, adventure, travel, love – was it any wonder that I finally got sick of being in an office?! I could have told myself that six years ago, apparently. And the funny thing is that what I want today hasn’t really changed that much. I have been thinking about this recently as I have been reading about the Desire Map and preparing myself to read the book. I articulate what I want slightly differently today – in terms of feelings rather than qualities – but I just journaled this the other day and the words that I used were: Joyful, Inspired, motivated/active, loved, valued, freed, strong, grounded, zen, and ‘make a difference’ (I think ‘purpose’ could be used in that place). The only thing missing is ‘adventure’ – which I think was an oversight because that is definitely something I want in my life. 


So – I’m at the point now where I have a few potential options available to me and I have to decide what I should take and what I shouldn’t. Sometimes I think that my problem is that I see potential in all opportunities. So, for the new, smallish neighborhood bar/restaurant that is looking for a server for two nights and a bartender for a brunch shift, I see a growing company that I could get in on the ground floor with and potentially move to management as they expand, allowing me to learn more about small concept restaurants, sourcing, ordering, budgets, etc. from that end. But that’s looking really long term. Do I pass that up and try to find something that is a) closer to my house and b) wanting to hire me into a higher position from the get-go? Or at least wait until it’s closer to the busy season so that if nothing else I’ll at least be making money? If I’m offered a part time position at a catering/farmers market  do I take that as well as the job at the new restaurant and try to keep only a couple shifts at FFB while also trying to volunteer at a school garden and maybe Rock Creek Park? That’s juggling a lot of things! Do I just stick with FFB and do the farmers market stuff and then when it gets to busy season look for a different restaurant gig? There are so many options and so much potential that at this point it’s hard for me to narrow things down.

Justin was today really trying to get me to focus on what my end goal is and to get rid of all the extra. The problem is that I don’t know what my end goal is! I don’t think I know enough about many of the things that I am interested in to make an informed decision. He really challenged me when I said that I was interested in food, cooking and farms and how they relate to restaurants, etc. He pointed out that I don’t go around checking out all the farmers markets and I don’t cook super often; I’m not obsessed with trying new recipes and stuff. This is all true, I guess. But I would counter that I don’t cook much anymore because of my job; I’m not home during cooking time! And really, I like to cook dinner foods, but I’m not really home for dinner. I used to cook a lot! And whenever I do cook I enjoy it immensely. It grounds me and makes me feel home. But I really enjoy cooking for other people. Ari came over the other day and I got so excited to cook a big meal for us. I guess for me food, and everything that goes with it, is about community. So yes, I don’t geek out on farmers markets because I’m more interested in what they are about, how the farms operate, etc. than the actual things that are sold (also I’m just not the geek-out type of person I don’t think). And I’m not cooking everyday because I can barely eat the food I do cook before it goes bad – I don’t have anyone to cook for. 

I also have problems with motivation; sometimes it’s difficult to motivate myself to do even the things I enjoy, especially if/when they involve getting up earlier in the morning or getting myself out of the house when I have no other reason to do so. I’m not proud of that, in fact I’m working on it, but that’s reality. In this way I’m very kapha! And when I had a more regular schedule I did do these things! When I first moved to DC I went to Eastern Market every weekend. Even this autumn when I had Sunday mornings off I would go to yoga and then to the Bloomingdale Farmers Market. When I worked 9-5 I cooked dinner every night. I’m also very kapha in that I thrive on routine and schedules. So as much as I do like the flexibility of my work schedule, it makes it hard for me to get into a groove and commit myself to doing these things. 

Things are getting a little jumbled now and not super productive. I think I just needed to get all that down on ‘paper’.



Skinny Dip Society

My best friend from college is a seriously amazing woman. Katie has started her own company, opened her own storefront and is busy inspiring women all over the world to connect with one another, come alive, be free and really start to live the life they want. She is currently sponsoring a 21 day ‘Skinny Dip Society’ challenge – each day one new challenge arrives to your inbox that will help us to live a little more joyfully and find some fun and whimsy in the day. I have been participating (of course!) and invited a whole bunch of my girlfriends to do so as well.


Day 1: Eat like a queen

I invited about half a dozen friends from high school to join in the challenge with me. I love these girls. Of all the ways that I have been blessed and privileged in my life, I consider having friends that have known me for as long as I can remember to be one of the greatest. Women that I grew up with for as long as I can remember; we went through childhood, adolescence and young adult hood together and I truly believe that they ‘get’ me in a way no one else can, because of this shared experience. I value these relationships so much, even though I don’t keep in touch as well as I should. I also have an incredible amount of envy – they are almost all based near to where we grew up and therefore see one another weekly, if not daily. Their relationships and friendships have grown and developed; they have made new histories together and rely on one another as sisters and family.

So, I was taken aback at one of their responses to my invitation. In my introduction to the SDS Challenge, I stated that Katie is one of the most amazing women I know (empirically true, not just my own opinion 🙂 ). One of the responses was: “For you to say she is one of the most amazing women you know is really saying something! As I think we all feel that way about you and your life!!”


Day 2: Buy yourself flowers

Excuse me, WHAT?!! While very touched at this sentiment, it has really stuck with me how far apart our own assessments of our lives and accomplishments can differ from what other people see. There has been a lot of discussion about comparing one’s lowest moments to someone else’s ‘highlight reel’ and the role that social media plays in this comparison game. I try to not play into this as possible. I post pictures of things that inspire me and make me happy in the moment, but these are rarely ever of myself. I don’t do the happy, smiling, shiny picture thing and avoid putting too much personal stuff onto social media. So I was really very surprised to have someone say such complimentary things. Especially when all I could think to myself was how lucky they all are to have one another! In my head, they have strong, grounded, long-lasting friendships, relationships with spouses, some are starting families or have developed their careers. Me? I’m sputtering all over the place, working as a bartender with a Masters Degree. I have friends here, maybe a couple that I will keep in long term contact with, but many I will not. That’s not enviable! Their adorable little babies and beautiful growing families, those are enviable! Whereas from the other perspective, my ability to sleep in, take a jog past the Lincoln memorial and a cross-country vacation whenever I want must seem enviable. I know this is true, as another one of these friends only last week posted about nearly crying over realizing that she was able to stop and having a relaxing lunch all by herself (1.5 year old son doesn’t make that possible often!). 

I really began to feel this sense of wonder at why someone would think such (to my mind) mis-judged things about my life when our Day 3 Challenge came to my inbox: make a date with someone who inspires you. More specifically: “Identify someone in your life that embodies some aspect of truly LIVING that you would like to embody as well. Ask him/her to coffee, lunch, a phone/skype chat, happy hour, pen pals, or even a simple stroll in the park. Just being around people who embody where you are going can INSPIRE you to live FREE. Sharing where you’re at with someone and asking for support for where you want to go…that takes this challenge to a whole new level that will change your life.

With Katie all the way in Denver, this seemed like an impossible thing to accomplish! Like I said, I have friends in DC – many that I love and admire, but I couldn’t think of anyone who ’embodies where you are going’ and that I could ask for support. Perhaps I needed to expand my view of what this person would look like. My current path is figuring out my career, so I really had in my mind someone who is so inspired by their job and who could mentor me into figuring out where I would fit and be fulfilled. I have lots of friends who care and can give good advice in a particular situation, but I haven’t found anyone yet to act as a bit of a mentor – I know I need help (and direction, and so many other things), I just don’t know where to find it!! So, I was feeling pretty insecure over the fact that the life that I have actively created is lacking this. In the end, I sent out some emails that I have been putting off to try and get involved in the urban farm and school garden scene in DC… it was hopefully setting the stage for finding the mentor that I am looking for (and I have a coffee date next week! Hurrah!).

But then that evening I was able to facebook chat with another one of these old friends who just had her first child in October. It was spontaneous, but such a breath of fresh air. It was freeing. Inspiration can be found in so many places, and I really was looking too narrow for it! I do know that I need some sort of career mentor, but perhaps that wasn’t the inspiration that I needed that day. I was and am so inspired by these friends and talking to any of them is a different kind of freedom. It’s freeing to be who you’ve always been with people who somehow manage to look past your shortcomings and make the choice to love you anyway. 

When I try to reflect and think of why people may see my life in a way that (to me) isn’t reflective of reality, I think it must be because I’ve done something a bit different. I mean, I left my home town and never went back. I lived in a different country for the better part of 4 years and came home for visits speaking differently than I had all my life. That is certainly different, but it doesn’t make me any more brave then anyone who stayed, necessarily. I left because I had to. After high school the town felt claustrophobic to me. After college, the country felt claustrophobic. It wasn’t brave; I wasn’t scared. I was scared to stay. Staying would have been the brave, hard thing for me. Leaving was easy. Like, super easy. Even now, I wonder if I would be more fulfilled if I moved home to be with my family and these women. But the thought of being there is scary. I’m not really sure why – perhaps I would need to confront old demons that I left behind, perhaps I’m scared that I would be kind of bored, perhaps I’m scared of being overwhelmed by my mom after a decade of living away, perhaps I’m scared that I would find that the place I’m meant to be is the place I am from, or perhaps I’m scared of strip malls and living my life in a car and getting fat. I don’t know really. What I do know is that it is easier to be here, or to contemplate moving to Denver or Arizona. Like, way easier. 

So please don’t envy me. We all have our struggles, secrets and insecurities just as well as our strengths and blessings. I think that the best we can do is to each strive for our own kind of bravery while being authentic and honest with one another. So guys, I’m a little bit of a mess! I’ve traveled, had fun and learned some things, and while I am generally happy and (I think) a generally joyful person, I struggle with finding inspiration, motivation and direction and I am by no means fulfilled. Maybe this is a good thing that will keep me striving to find that fulfillment… but Monday I spent all day on the couch feeling lethargic and watching Parks and Rec, so ‘striving’ comes and goes. What I do know is that self-knowledge and growth is a process and I am truly so happy and grateful to have women in my life to inspire me on this process even when I forget they are there. I love you guys.