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Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Home Alone Diaries

Written June 22nd:

I’ve spent the past 19 days with my dog, home alone and holding down the fort while my parents went gallivanting through Europe for their 30th wedding anniversary. Considering I spent all last fall gallivanting through Europe, and considering it’s a pretty great accomplishment to stay married to someone for 30 years, I sent them off with much excitement. They were visiting some places I’d been to in the fall (Rome, Cinque Terre, Pisa) and I LOVED that we shared that, that I knew exactly where they were going. I could picture the view in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, picture the Crayola-colored houses of Cinque Terre, picture the baptistery and church in Pisa that never make it into the pictures, but are right there next to the leaning tower. So, I waved them out of the driveway with a “have fun! Be adventurers! Don’t worry about a thing, I won’t burn the house down!”

Commence home alone experience. You really find out what kind of person you are when you live all alone in a big ole’ house for a few weeks. Can you roll over and nod off when you hear creaking around the house, or are you more the axe-wielding type? I thought I’d be the latter, but it turns out I’m the former. I’d made a plan that, worse comes to worse, I’d fend off an intruder with the nearest heavy object - which turned out to be either a Bible or a handheld vacuum cleaner. But never once did I roam the house, vacuum in one hand, phone in the other ready to dial 911. 

Being alone, still, and silent for extended periods of time is something we as a society are afraid of, I think. We stick earbuds in and crank up the volume, scared of what thoughts we might have to face in the silence, what person or question might come to mind if we take a second to let ourselves be still. What a paradox it is that the sound of silence can be louder than the noisiest of crowds. I struggle with this as much as the next person, but the perfect opportunity was placed before me (story of my life this summer, but more on that another day) to spend some time in silence and solitude, and I chose to say yes, to say thank you, opportunity, for knocking at my door. Let’s see what you’re made of.

Opportunity knocked. Responsibility called. And I answered. Student, preschool teacher, athlete, repairwoman, exterminator, gardener, chef extraordinaire, chief of security, dog walker, pool girl. Phew, it’s been quite the few weeks. Being the sole Hagen in El Dorado Hills taught me a lot about myself and the people that surround me. I need both my fingers and my toes to count how many people came over to visit, skyped with me, called me to check in, and told me ‘if you need ANYTHING, you call us.’ To have that kind of community – I am thankful, my heart is full.

My home alone routine?
Dinner Dates: Every night I chose who I wanted to eat dinner with – Richard Castle, TED Talks, Sister Bertrille, the opportunities were endless. I also learned that I’ll eat a whole lot of broccoli for dinner – just broccoli – and then wonder why I’m starving 2 hours later. Duh, Emily. Protein, gotta work on that.
No one was there to stop me, so I baked cookies and cobblers at 11 pm. I hosted concerts for my dog every night while doing the dishes, belting out the tunes like nobody's business.
My lawn mowing skills improved from mowing like a drunken sailor to mowing like a sober person (yay progress!). I almost fell in the pool while checking the pool chemicals. How embarrassing, I can’t believe I’m even sharing that.
Ant Invasion: I fended off a few hundred ants in an ant invasion in the laundry room like a boss. Those ants didn’t know what hit them. They won’t be messing with Emily Hagen anytime soon, I'll leave it at that.

Full days led to full nights. I didn't live monk-status for 19 days, but I made sure the TV wasn't always on. I gave my mind time to wander, my heart time to search, my feet the chance to walk and explore, my eyes the chance to open and see the world anew.

It’s easy to be scared when you’re alone, to be scared that no one cares, that everyone else is at some great party that you didn’t get invited to. It’s easy to push the silence away with the touch of a button, refusing to slow down, refusing to listen, refusing to face the questions or feelings we’ve been running from all along. There’s something about silence, about being alone, that is both wonderful and terrifying.

There exist two types of silences, I think. The cold, lonely silence and the rich, filling silence. One leaves you feeling small and empty inside. The other, satisfied and comforted.

We were meant to live in community, of that I am more than certain. But, in one of the great paradoxes of life, it is equally important to stand on your own two feet, to silence your own racing heart, to be comfortable in your own skin and to own the silence. 

I am learning. More and more.

To be comfortable in who I am I must remember whose I am. Ephesians 2, anyone?

The silence I felt was incredibly filling, incredibly rich. It felt full, this silence, full and thick with possibility and wonder and growth. The world is a big, big place. There are places to go, things to do, people to meet and share life with. There are callings to be found, adventures to be had. It’s a big world, and the future is very bright.

In Home Alone Kevin McAlister says, “This is my house and I have to defend it!” That boy knows what's up, he wraps up my feelings in one dramatic sentence. The home is still standing. I am alive. The dog is alive. Success.

Over and out from the Hagen household. As much as I enjoyed my sojourn living alone, I’m grateful to have some company back in this house...and some pesto and pasta from Cinque Terre just waiting to be cooked.

It’s 105 degrees in the shade here. I hope it’s cooler wherever you’re at, friend. Thanks for sticking with my ramblings this long, you're a champ.

Here’s to you and to me, to finding who we are and whose we are. And to answering the door with joy and grace, even when you don’t know what’s knocking.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How a Yoga Mat Changed My Summer

All the cool people at the gym have their own yoga mats. Have you ever noticed that before? You know someone's the real deal if they walk into class with their own mat. Watch out, world. One day, amongst a sea of blue and purple yoga mats, I noticed one with words on it. The text caught my eye, so as I was putting my weights away I looked over to see what it said. "Do what you want to do, and do it often." Huh. It was the end of class, so I quickly grabbed my water bottle and car keys and headed home. Driving through my neighborhood, I couldn't get that phrase out of my head. 'Do what you want to do, and do it often.' 

It's so easy to get caught up with work and school and life that we forget to actually enjoy ourselves. We forget to really live, to do the things that make us happy and make us come alive, purposefully. They are good for our souls and good for our mental health. These small things have the power to bring joy and renewed purpose into our lives. They deserve to be done - often. The 10 simple words printed on that mat have shaped my entire summer.

Do what you want to do, and do it often.

So, I thought about all the things that I want to do and like to do, and I've been doing them. Simple, yet profound. Oh the paradox of it all. I've been eating spinach salads, walking the dog, taking kickboxing classes at the gym. Sitting on the back porch reading, watching old TV shows and reruns of Castle, running for miles. Loving on children. Writing letters to friends. Smiling. Painting. Emptying the dishwasher (yes, I enjoy emptying the dishwasher, quite a lot, in fact). Hugging 2-year-old babes and putting band-aids on 4-year-old scraped knees. Catching up with high school friends. Eating copious amounts of broccoli and corn on the cob and pineapple and greek yogurt. Writing down the funny things the kiddos at work say so I can report back to my parents. Spending serious time in the Bible. Reading books that challenge and grow my faith. Drinking lemonade and peach tea. Baking fruit crisps and crumbles with whatever fruit’s in the fridge. Buying food for the food bank. Jumping in the pool after a sweaty workout. Writing letters to soldiers overseas and Christians in prison overseas. Eating dark chocolate on the deck while doing summer school (anything to make summer school a little sweeter). These are things that I love to do, that I want to do, a (short) list of the simple, daily things that make me happy and make me a better person. This is my one life to live, so I’m doing those things that make me come alive, and I’m going to do them often. 

Here's to yoga mats and the simple life. I hope you do what you want to do, and I hope you do it often.