No regrets

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I loved him with my whole heart.

I gave him everything I had until I had nothing left. And then I realized I loved myself too.

He loved me as fully as he could. As much as he loves himself.

He hates himself.

This is the first breakup I’ve had that I’m not a wreck. I think it’s because I loved so fully. I was all in. I listened. I grew. I was vulnerable. I don’t have to wonder “what if…”

And I realize the point of loving isn’t to be right. It’s to be open. That’s the real beauty. To feel the endless possibilities. I’m grateful for the time we had together.

I don’t regret a single moment . Including goodbye.

~Sonja Braun

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Lessons learned while driving in traffic

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For a year I commuted 90 miles round trip from Broward County to Miami-Dade County, Florida.  I loved my new job and loved living for free at my mom’s house.  During this past year I generally spent 2-3 hours a day in traffic.  These are the lessons I learned:

1. Breath.  There are many things in life you can control, traffic is not one of them.  When you are faced with something you can’t change, just remember to keep breathing.

2. Listen to the messages God is trying to send you.  I know this sounds corny.  But after you drive the same route day after day, you get to know the spots that have lots of traffic and the spots that you can coast through.  One day I woke up in a bad mood, and there was this one stretch of road that I can always count on to never have any traffic.  However that morning it felt like every douche bag in the world was cutting in front of me and then driving slow.  This aggravated me more because there were so few cars on the road.  “Why do you need to be in front of me?????  Go over there!!  There’s plenty of room!!” After the tenth time it happened, I realized the Universe/God/your Higher Power (whatever) was telling me to slow down.  I reflected on the past week and realized all the mistakes and frustrations I had encountered  were due to rushing ahead.  I took it as a sign, and slowed down in every aspect of my life.  Things started clicking into place.

3. Money can’t buy you happiness.  To make my commute quicker, I often took the express lanes and the turnpike, both of which charge tolls.  I figured my time is valuable, this commute is long, throw money at the problem!  However, no amount of money spent prevented me from hitting traffic.  Every day I spent at least 20 minutes of my time traveling only 3 miles.  Having money is great.  I love money.  But it can’t solve everything and it can’t make you happy.

4. Go local!  Everyone benefits when you think of the environment, especially you.  Many people think going green or going local is an altruistic or long-term thinking strategy.  But it’s not, when you go local and green YOU are the biggest beneficiary NOW!  I realized after commuting for 8 months that I was literally setting my money on fire.  I drive an SUV that is 12 years old, between the cost of gas (2 ½ tanks a week) and the tolls, I was spending $600-700 a month.  Every time I turned on the engine, up in smoke went my money.  Living with mom wasn’t so cheap after all!  I reflected on previously living in NYC with the amazing public transportation system.  I lived in Long Island because it was cheaper and commuted to Queens, I took the Long Island Rail Road every day.  It seems more environmentally friendly but between the cost of the LIRR and my Metro pass, I was spending around $300 a month.  You add that to my rent, and I probably could’ve afforded to live in Queens!  If you also include all the time standing on a freezing cold train platform waiting, commuting really was a waste of non-renewable resources (my time, fuel, the environment, etc).

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate! And do, so promptly.  If you commute to work long enough you’ll eventually encounter a major that accident that will have your 1 hour commute, turn into a 2 hour nightmare.  Most of the time when this occurs the driver won’t call in to work until it’s close to the time they were supposed to start.  For example, Mary starts work at 9am, she finds her self stuck behind a major accident at 8:30am, she probably won’t make that call into work until 8:50am.  Bad move!  I know that calling in late feels like you’re admitting you did something wrong, even though you did everything right.  No one likes being wrong, so we all hope the accident will clear up quickly, so we wait before calling our colleagues.  But really, the best move is to call the moment you sense something out of the ordinary has happened on the road.  That way your team can prep themselves and come up with Plans B and C in case you do come in later than expected.  The moment you know something is wrong, is the moment they should know something is wrong.  Hording information can really mess up everyone’s day.

6. I am important.  If you’re like me, you probably go to work everyday unless you are on death’s doorstep.  I’ve gone to work with fevers, I’ve gone to work with stomachaches, I’ve gone to work with injuries.  However, when you have a long commute doing those things can be extremely uncomfortable, and even extremely dangerous.  One time I was running a fever and I went to work anyway, I did my full day of work, and then promptly fell asleep on the road several times on my way back home.  It was the most nerve-racking experience.  I was fighting sleep with all my might, the road felt never-ending.  Till this day I thank God and modern engineering for the rumble strips that are on the side of the highway.  I could’ve died or killed someone.  And all for what?!? To give some corporation eight hours of my blood sweat and tears?  Now, when I’m sick I stay home.  I choose to take care of me and my body instead of taking care of someone else’s profit margin.  After all, if I become disabled, die, or am incarcerated, all they’ll do is replace me.  Never put someone else above you!

7. Be grateful.  It was a Saturday morning and I was running an hour late on my way to a wedding.  I was driving like a maniac, there were very few cars on the road so I was driving about 100mph.  And then I saw the weirdest thing….across the highway was a mack truck on it’s side and on fire.  It clearly had just happened since there were no fire trucks, ambulances, or police cars.  It was just sitting there by itself.  On fire.  I slowed down and passed it, and then saw all the emergency responders barreling down the road towards the truck.  And I just thought…how funny life is…I get to spend the rest of my day celebrating the union of two people’s love, and I don’t know how the driver’s day will turn out.  He might be dead.  All of a sudden, being late didn’t matter.  Being able to show up in one piece was all that mattered.  My life is beautiful, unless I destroy it.  So be aware and be grateful.

I have since taken my lessons to heart and turned my 90 mile a day commute to an 8 mile a day commute.  I now work and live in Miami!  I haven’t lived in the middle of a city in over a decade, and it’s different.  It’s noisier, everything moves faster, and it’s harder to see the stars at night.  But I have regained hours of my life back.  And I enjoy finding a multitude of ways to spend that extra time getting myself into trouble!

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How making a tie dye shirt is an exercise in trust

tiedye2Tie dye renewed my faith in life.

I’m 33 years old and I have never done tie dye.  Last weekend I had and opportunity and I jumped at the chance to do something new and creative.  I had heard that the instructor knew of a method to make a heart, so days before the class I had already decided that a heart was what I was going to make.

The class was chaotic.  It was mixed ages and levels.  You had whining kids chomping at the bit to do tie dye, anxious parents worried about their kids getting dye all over themselves, old timers who were pros at it, sulky teenagers unhappy they were there at all, and then me.  I sat quietly and patiently while the instructor went table to table.  I knew I didn’t want my lesson to be rushed.  I wanted to do it perfectly.  So I waited and my table was the last table she helped.

With me were three overly excited little girls, an overprotective mom, and a preteen that was too cool for school.  The instructor showed us how to do a swirl, bunches, and the heart.  Everyone at my table did theirs in 3 minutes flat.  Except for me.  I took my time.

I lovingly folded and refolded my shirt, meticulously drew the outline of the heart, painstakingly (yet precisely) bunched up the shirt exactly how she showed us.  I carefully tightly wrapped many rubber bands around it and then followed the rest of the directions to the tee.

When I was done and my tie dyed shirt was put in a bag to sit for 24 hours I was elated and excited, and then…the doubt crept in.  I kept looking at the shirt in the bag.  It looked like a bleeding blob of fabric!  I didn’t see the heart.  I didn’t see the beautiful colors I had chosen.  I didn’t see how it could ever be what I hoped it would be.

All I saw was yet another failure. I had done it again and tried too hard to make something beautiful.  And within those 24 hours I had already accepted my fate. I was already making excuses in my mind trying to forgive myself for messing up.  “It was my first time after all.”  “Next time I’ll do better.” “It’ll be okay.”

The next day I rinsed it out and put it in the washing machine.  And when I took it out, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it looked!  It was prettier than I had imagined. Once I was able to try it on, it fit perfectly.  I had done it! I hadn’t failed. My efforts actually paid off!

Tie dye reminded me: don’t doubt myself, trust the process, and…I am not a failure.  Even when things look ugly and that nothing beautiful can come from it…trust that it will be even more wonderful than you can imagine.

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I choose to be human

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Being superhuman is easy, selfish, and overrated.

I recently had this amazing opportunity at work to move forward with lightning speed.  The caveat: I had 3 weeks to pull off something that takes a team of seasoned veterans at my job at least a month and a half.  As someone who is in a junior position, I jumped at the possibility.

Or at least part of me did.  The old part.  See, I’m a recovering superhuman.  I started college at 16, did study abroad at 17, backpacked solo at 18, published by 22, prestigious fellowships and scholarships throughout my education.  And I did all this while managing a congenital heart defect with several open heart surgeries, stents, and medical implants.

Superman had nothing on me.

If you study comic books or any other story involving superhumans (including Jesus in the bible), you’ll see it’s an easy life to live.  Superhumans only focus on ONE thing at a time!  They never have to balance dating, being an active member of a family, figuring out how to be a woman in our society, while being a leader, along with being superhuman.  Nope.  All they have to do is defend the universe from evildoers.  Really?? That’s it? Easy!

Superhumans also live mostly solitary lives.  And if they don’t, their lives are filled with lies and facades.  The whole unrequited-love-thing is so selfish.  It’s an easy excuse to never have to be fully vulnerable. Love is easy and fun, until you try to make it last a lifetime. Living a life rooted in truth and authenticity takes real strength.

It made be lonely at the top hovering over the stratosphere, but at least it’s neat, clean, and you have full control.  Being human is messy.  You’re in the thick of it, in the trenches.  With the writhing, sweaty, crying masses.  All struggling to find joy in this world.  Trying to stay connected to things that are uncertain: like God and love.

So what happened to the opportunity at my job?

After a week of reflection, I told my boss I was going to pass.  I then took a deep breath and cried in the bathroom.  Poor poor human me.

~Sonja Braun

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Insane in the Membrane!

leapingsquirrelCrazy insane, got no brain!

Am I falling in love or just losing my mind?  I’m excited, thrilled, and giddy.  Yet at the same time irritable, annoyed, and confused.  It’s all spinning out of control.  Feeling trapped and sucked into a vortex.

I like to think I’m an intelligent person, yet my actions last week say otherwise.  I’ve lost the ability to make wise decisions.  How did this happen to me??  The connectedness feels suffocating and overwhelming.  But when gone, I feel lost and empty.

Help! This is bullshit!

I think I’m going crazay!

~Sonja Braun

Daddy’s Girl

seadragonJust what the world needs, another woman with daddy issues.

Is a good man hard to find? Or is it that I just keep picking my fathers over and over again?  I’ve had two fathers in my life: biological and step.  Both have been useless as healthy male role models.

Many of the men in my life have been weak.  Unreliable, unpredictable, flaky.  Irresponsible. Short sighted.  Conditional love: I’ll love you as long as you’re perfect, the moment you’re not (or I get bored), well…you know.  Unforgiving.  Mean.  Taking.  Dismissive. Withholding.  And yet are charming, well spoken, unique.  Peter pan.

Now that I’m aware that I have daddy issues, I worry that I’m jumping at my own shadow.  I see my fathers in every man I meet.  I’m 33 years old, any man I date is going to have some level of baggage, the same way I do.  A divorce/children…what happened? Conditional love? Or on the other end of the spectrum, never been married/no children…Non-committal?

I’d like to get off this rollercoaster.

I heard this saying: A good relationship is when someone accepts your past, supports your present, and encourages your future.  I know as someone with her own baggage, I’d really like to find someone who does all that for me.  Yet I struggle with accepting other people’s pasts.  If they’ve fucked up before, well…

And if I’ve fucked up before, well….

But life is not an algorithm.  And we’re not just robots programmed to keep picking our mothers and fathers.  Are we?

~Sonja Braun

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Apex prey: A lesson in knowing your worth

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What would it look like to live a life without fear?

First, a short science lesson: An apex predator is a predator species that isn’t eaten by anyone.  Well what about those prey species that also aren’t eaten by anyone?  Ecologically speaking, carnivores are predators and herbivores are prey.  Yet, there are a large number of herbivores that once they reach adulthood have no known predators: giraffe, elephants, moose, kangaroos, hippos, rhinos, musk ox, whales…the list goes on!  There are probably over 50 species of herbivores that meet this criterion, yet there’s no term to define them.  All of these majestic apex prey live with no fear even though most have no fangs or claws, and are often extremely slow moving.

What does this have to do with life?

I’ve been reminded of the harm that can be done when fear drives your decision making.  I witnessed discrimination in its most harmful form: hidden.  When people don’t know their worth, they live in constant fear, that fear often drives them to keep “others” just the way they are.  Stereotyping is a tool people use to stop change, because change is scary.  Some common stereotypes I’ve seen are:

Minority = struggle/criminal

Woman = servant/object

Young = inexperienced/dumb

Old = bigot/useless

When people use stereotypes to decide how to interact with people, it doesn’t just hurt the victim of the interaction, it hurts our entire society!  Our community has become global, which means a world filled with “others”, and our community is in pain.  Poverty is rampant, education is failing, chronic illness is now a way of life.  We have work to do!  We don’t have time to keep things the way they’ve always been.  It’s time for a change.

So…what would it look like to live a life without fear?

Many species of apex prey live in communities where everyone chips in to help raise and protect the children in the community.  They often watch over their sick, and pick a pace where the ill or elderly stay included.  Parenting is strong within these apex prey communities.  There is no war.  And when there are fights, it’s rarely to the death.  They find ways to feed everyone.  They take time to enjoy their surroundings.  Everyone uses their strengths to better the community.

Maybe this is why ecologists haven’t created a term to define these creatures.  They are undefinable.

~Sonja Braun

PS: Below is a video of one badass giraffe!