South Dakota is such a land of wonders. We went in August to visit one of Adam's good friends who is a Lutheran pastor and lives outside of Sioux Falls with his family in an old farm house. Then we stayed on for a couple of extra days to drive for hundreds of miles and see the sights out west. I didn't have a lot of expectations for what our trip would be and so I was extra blown-away but this northern Midwestern paradise. I hope these photographs do it some kind of justice.
Now I've been back for the past two weeks and finding my ground before another month of wedding travel and then PERU in October. The time at home has been a sweet pause in the midst of movement that has yielded getting our house space together, a visit from my lovely friend Gillian, and a few more episodes of Friday night lights.
Also, I got a new backpack. This may seem small but my old one was digging into my shoulders and I spent a long time resisting buying a new one. It's nothing fancy but has nice padded straps and many pockets to fill with things. As I search for more and more ways to care for myself, I have filled it with: a water bottle, a book, a reusable spork, my npr fold up grocery bag, photographs that I will give to my friend the next time I see her (I've already forgotten three times), lip gloss and lip stick so that I am prepared for whatever the event, an extra hair elastic, essential oil and a spiritual-kinda book for teaching, a ziplock bag for my phone in case it rains, my headphones, two tampons, a pen, and my badges for my classes at the DOJ and IMF.
Again, it's nothing glamorous, but having everything that I may need all bundled together and waiting for me when I walk out of the door to teach each day makes me feel really sane. I've noticed that my leaving the house is much more zen-like, which leads to a calmer bike ride and more grounded teaching, nicer evenings with Adam, etc. It's a small thing but it's seeming to work in the grand scheme.
However, I continue to remind myself that having a nice, organized backpack is not a shield. it's always my temptation to believe that having everything together--a clean house, an organized inbox, all of my boxes checked off--will somehow protect me from life going awry. When my house was broken into this last spring, I had actually spent the whole day at spa world. I was bathed and scrubbed and uber-relaxed and as I drove back into DC, I kept telling myself that everything was taken care of, everything was pretty much perfect. Then I walked into my front door and saw quite the opposite.
I mean, it's life. We can't ever stop it from coming and challenging us and if we try, we only experience more pain. As Brene Brown reminds us in her latest ted talk, we all struggle, even the professionals who help us to get through our struggles. And if you are like me, you might fool yourself into thinking that if you could be just a little more perfect, then you could avoid the hard parts somehow. But really the only way out of the struggle is to let go, allow it's current to throw us around, and remember that suffering is just part of being human.
So instead, when I look at my new red backpack, I am trying to see it as a balm. It's something to put upon my wounds caused by the courageous art of everyday living. It's like a little first aid kit for the spirit--something to remind me that I am always worthy of care, especially by the person who knows how to do it best--the lovely me.