Home

By: Gabriela Yareliz

Recently, Atelier Doré announced its theme for the month is ‘coming home.’ Ahhh, the classic holiday move of returning to family and familiar grounds. For so many of us, home means two places: where our family lives and where we made memories, and also, the place where we lay our heads to rest each day, even if those two are miles apart. Also, home can mean a person.

Going home can be comforting, exciting, nostalgic and also stressful. (This isn’t including the whole airport hoopla). Some people have these homes that remain unchanged, and they encounter the same people at their family get-togethers. For me and for some of you whom I have spoken to, the constant of life is change, and it seems that sometimes, that has made us afraid. I know that personally, I have seen and dealt with more change than most see in a lifetime. I get how daunting that is.

But I guess, in this ever growing and expanding world, we all face some levels of change (even if, for some, it’s smaller and less emotional).

Families, cities, streets, campuses, churches and all kinds of things seem to change without us. Suddenly, we are back in a place that means so much to us, and so much is different, including ourselves. It would be naive to think that we are static.

It’s important to go and make new memories in all the changes with the people whose stories have shaped our own. Family ties uphold us in the darkest of times. And the ties that remain, must be celebrated. The ties broken, must be prayed for.

Holidays sometimes have a way of reminding us of all that is not as it should be, but that’s not what Christmas is about. We may be reminded of the absence of some loved ones, but that is not what Christmas is about. Christmas isn’t about absence or lack. It’s about God with us. Christmas is about a promise of restoration and redemption being fulfilled.

What I want to do is focus on that which is still the same. The members of family that remain. My perfectly adorable creature of a dog, who I pray hasn’t forgotten me. The sunrise on the cows and property out front, and the sunset through the trees and the property out back. I want to drive through Raleigh with the radio up; and drive up 34th Street and see the graffiti wall; and I want to go to Dauer Hall, and sit quietly by the basement door, where I spent so many mornings.

Florida always speaks to me. It offers a healing whisper in the crisp star lit nights. It’s simple, like a Cracker Barrel hashbrown casserole. Home isn’t a tourist attraction. Home is for those who can see beauty in bare nature and simple southern stillness.

Home is about bubbling springs, sprawling trees draped in Spanish moss, quiet so loud you can hear every insect, and strength— lots of quiet strength that will carry me through the next turning point.

I hope you find your own quiet strength and hope in whatever home means to you.

Christmas is coming, and I know there will be a bright shining star in the dark night, because it wouldn’t be Christmas without it.

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“I used to think God guided us by opening and closing doors, but now I know sometimes God wants us to kick some doors down.” Bob Goff, Love Does

Boxes

By: Gabriela Yareliz

I have had this on my mind, lately; this idea of boxes. No, before you ask, I am not moving.

The truth is, there is always a box in every career that you are expected to fit into. There is a set rubric and technique that you need to comply with, to do well.

I saw this in journalism school, where they wanted everyone to basically sound the same. I saw this in law, where there is this checklist you need to check off and sell your soul for.

I know that to learn something, you need to get the basics down, and rubrics help with this. I know we need a measuring standard, but boxes can be tough on those of us who don’t fit into them, in the long run.

I love Dancing With the Stars. I like dancing, and I LOVE storytelling, so what is not to love?

Recently, people were shocked at the fact that Juan Pablo, a contestant with perfect scores and at the top of the leaderboard, was sent home.

His routines were perfect. There were times when we didn’t know who was the pro and who was the celebrity. He checked off every box.

His pro said something along the lines of, “I guess people want to see someone with two left feet become a dancer” in one of those post-elimination interviews. Maybe, we do.

I really don’t think they were eliminated because people “forgot” to vote because they were “so good”, as they insinuated. To be honest, I think his perfection bored us all. I know it bored me. And confirmed by their post-elimination interview was this impression the couple gave off of slight arrogance.

He is a great dancer. I am not taking anything away from him. Juan Pablo was perfection, but I prefer some of the other, dancers on the show. (See Bobby Bones).

See, the box here is the rubric with which the judges come up with their scores.

My point is that I realized that staying in the box and perfection and adherence to an arbitrary and commonly recognized standard is a high score, but it doesn’t make people feel things. Fitting into a box can also lead to arrogance and complacency.

I vote for the dancer who inspires me and makes me feel something. Perfection doesn’t always make people feel things– vulnerability does.

I want to live outside of the box. How we live is art. I may not get a perfect score in my art or craft, but I want to make people see the real me. I want to be vulnerable. At the end of the day, I don’t want to make people remember my perfect score or perfect grade, I want them to remember me and the fact that I got up every day and gave it my all. I want them to remember how I made them feel.

You can keep your ten, if it means you will cry with me. This is true art, in every field, in every way.

On the NYC Train

By: Gabriela Yareliz

It’s November. Apple picking is done for the season. The elections came and went, and here we are. Amazing. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, like that girl whose podcast I always listened to, but then she said the same thing every time and would cry in every episode, and I had to take a break because I started to feel like her therapist. I want to share some things with you, but in a different way.

The year is coming to a close. The new year always brings us hope. We have an idea of who we want to be and all we want to do. (Or not…) We end up traveling, spending time with family, and sometimes, this time of the year brings back bad memories.

I want to give you some reminders, and I am going to look around the train and gather lessons for the end of the year from the failing and ever insane NYC subway.

Coming to you from the underground tunnels:

1.Projection

I just saw two 60-something-year-old sisters with faux orange skin, bleach blonde hair and tons of blue eyeshadow. The reminder is to be your best, natural, true self. Not sure if it is because I am getting older, but I feel more and more “right in my skin” (if that’s the expression. Is it? My English-as second-language self is anxiously questioning). What has felt right for me is: Less makeup (only spending like 7 minutes on that); my own skin; supplements until death do us part, and less wired and shaped undergarments. It’s weird. It’s refreshing. Be you. My point is, though, remember that how you project yourself has consequences. These sisters looked stiff and trying way too hard. They got the attention of the subway car, but it was negative attention. Let’s not make life more complicated than it is. You are great. Be you.

“It’s weird. It’s refreshing. Be you.”

2.People

There was a man who furiously walked past me, mumbling something to himself. For a minute, I said a prayer that he wouldn’t stab me or throw me on the train tracks. (Sounds dramatic, but I assure you, you would have done the same). The train is the perfect place to find angry people. It just is. To avoid anger, we are all either staring at our phones or the headphones are in as we listen to that podcast of the crying girl (the one I mentioned before), or we are reading our New Yorkers with furious focus, so we can catch up. When the mariachi band interrupts, there is a collective sigh of irritation, a slight smile, and then, we resume. Let’s make a commitment to not ignore each other. It’s fine to have your alone moments— to read and do your thing (I need them). But let’s always be present. Let’s not give up on people, and let’s not think we are alone in the world. Being alone is easy, but there is no growth in easy. Acknowledgement, even with the fear of death, can be all someone is looking for.

“Being alone is easy, but there is no growth in easy.”

3.Wellness

Winter is coming. I got away with sheer tights today, but oh man, it’s coming. The black pumps and mules will be put away, and I will live in my boots for the rest of my days (just kidding— just until next July). I see the subway poles and stuff we all touch, and one word comes to mind: Immunity. May we build and protect our immunity from the germs we will all share when we will be coughing on each other, in a month. And let’s build our immunity for the bad and negative thoughts and energy that threaten to invade our minds and souls. Sanitize that.

“Sanitize that.”

4.Patience

You develop the patience of a saint in NYC. I think we New Yorkers think of ourselves as impatient because sometimes our frustration eats us alive inside, but we are actually very patient. There is no other way to navigate and survive. There are masses of people, and sometimes, you get trapped behind the person with the cane going up the stairs or helping the woman with the stroller up the same said stairs. It’s a way of life. You learn to just be like “deep breath.” “Fix it Jesus.” We need more of this patience as our life unfolds. Sometimes, we have to help someone carry his/her burden. Sometimes, we need to go slowly because there is brokenness, but one thing is certain, we make it to our destination.

“Sometimes, we need to go slowly because there is brokenness, but one thing is certain, we make it to our destination.”

5.Scent

Always smell good. Enough said. Dishonesty smells. Be as honest as the notes of Chanel N•5. Bold, beautiful and so timeless. Secrets, double lives, shenanigans— that smells as good as that Walmart imitation fragrance that fades in about twenty minutes. Smell is not something you can hide. Honey, we can all see it and smell it. You are only fooling yourself. When you smell bad, people gag. Same goes for your character.

“When you smell bad, people gag. Same goes for your character.”

6.Accountability

I hate when people leave their trash, and then, the subway floor gets sticky or wet. Nothing beats the tsunami of spilled coffee or soda you see making its way down the subway car. Clean up your mess. If you can’t contain the spill and the damage is done, at least apologize to the car and take your empty cup with you. (Literally and figuratively).

“If you can’t contain the spill and the damage is done, at least apologize to the car and take your empty cup with you.”

7.Share moments

Do not come and sit to eat your egg and cheese sandwich next to me at 7:30 AM, on the slowest train in NYC. But yes, we share a lot of moments. We eat breakfast together, put on makeup together, we smile at each other when a cute kid says something adorable in an extremely loud voice, we witness fights and share our expressions as the couple exits the train, we hold the door open for that commuter who looks like he or she will have a breakdown if he/she misses that train (even if we piss off the train conductor), we cry along with the crying girl in the aforementioned podcast, while staring out the train window— we have moments. Make memories. The routine may seem lame, but these can be the most interesting moments that we remember. It’s how we build a life.

“It’s how we build a life.”

8.Sleep

Sleep at home. I can’t tell you how many Asian men have fallen asleep on my shoulder (not intentionally) (not sure why they are all Asian— it’s a thing). Sleep is important. We don’t get enough of it. Sleeeeeeeeep.

9.Ads

There are a memorable one or two, but usually, I don’t remember the ads because I ignore them. Block out the noise and everything crying out for your attention. Ignore the noise and remember the cute stuff.

10.Hurt

I have been elbowed in the face and hit in the eye, unintentionally (I can only assume as they were strangers) by people taller than me. It happens. People will hurt us. Sometimes, they don’t even realize it. I have had to just keep moving and run to court, even after feeling like I got punched in the eye by a total stranger. You blink back the tears and keep on moving. Nothing can keep you down. (And learn to duck— it’s a good skill to have).

“Nothing can keep you down.”

All right, this is my stop. I am getting off. Until next time, my fellow commuters.

Choose Life

“We are impacted by the choices of the people who came before us; we are impacted by the choices our parents made, in fact, there’s some things about who you are that you are that because someone chose that for themselves, and they passed it on to you— and a lot of times, it’s the worst of us (…)

I wish my father had chosen me over alcohol, and I’ll wish that ‘til the day I die. I wish he had chosen to stay, instead of run. I’ll wish that until my last breath because here’s the reality— those moments, those defining moments in our lives, some of them are not the choices we made, but the choices that are made that impact us.

So then, you have to step up into a new moment and decide that you’ll choose a moment more powerful than their moments, in your life.

Choose life so that you and your children may live; now, here is the beautiful thing— if they can pass onto us the worst of them, then we can choose life and pass on the best of us. ‘That you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.’ This is what it looks like when you live in a relationship with God (…) ‘For the Lord is your life.’ (…)

God can’t give you life apart from Himself because God does not give life. God is life, and the only way you step into life is to step into Him. (…) If He chose you, who cares who doesn’t choose you.”

Chasing Daylight: Choose to Live, Erwin McManus

“God can’t give you life apart from Himself because God does not give life. God is life.”

Be True

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By: Gabriela Yareliz

Thérèse Desqueyroux. Does that name ring a bell? Thérèse Desqueyroux is François Mauriac’s most respected novel. It was turned into a film with the brilliant Audrey Tautou starring as Thérèse. 

Indulge me.

Spoiler and storyline breakdown (it was published in 1927– so if you haven’t read it by now— *eye roll*): It’s about a young woman who is a free spirit. How free, is often debated. She grows up and marries a family friend, who is a financially well off, emotionally unavailable man who can add on to her own wealth. She marries him, and basically fulfills her wifely duties. She is quiet when she is expected to be, and she speaks when called upon. She had a child and forms part of the inner family gossip circle and high society. Her husband’s family is unsettlingly unpleasant.

Throughout, she begins to acknowledge what has been clear to her all along: her choices have not been true to who she is. Long story short, her husband has health issues and through his medication and treatment, she almost kills him by overdose. Yep. Super crazy. Interestingly enough, she isn’t sure why she has almost killed her husband (until later on). It’s a French novel, ok? If you want a real dark tale, read Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal. I remember it was one of my college love interest’s favorite books, so we read it together, and boy was that unromantic. I remember writing him a long letter about it and my analysis. He was so amused by my frustration that he wallpapered his French dorm room walls with my letter about Stendhal. Anyway, I digress.

The book opens with her trial, and her husband’s false testimony saves her (and their reputations), but the family subsequently keeps her in the house like a prisoner; she is only allowed to go in public for show, with her husband, for mass, on holidays, for funerals and weddings. At the end, her husband “releases” her, and she moves to Paris, health and spirit renewed. 

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Why am I sharing the disturbing tale of Thérèse? Something about this story has always stayed with me, and it’s the fact that we can all be Thérèse. (And no, I don’t mean her attempted murder; instead, I mean what drove her to her desperation).

How many people have you seen out there who have dreams, and the dreams are not acted on? Or people who rely on false realities and social expectation, when making important life choices. Some make themselves prisoners of other’s capriciousness, overbearingness or emotional unavailability. Some of us live as slaves to a system, whether it be the economy, politics, cultural expectations, work force or society, in general. 

This isn’t about quitting your 9-to-5, or a piece against marriage or some piece justifying her almost poisoning of her husband. No way. That was crazy. That is wrong and always will be wrong. 

This is about a conversation Thérèse has with her husband (wonderfully depicted in the film), where he asks her if she hated him. He wants to know what her motivation was for her strange actions. She simply said that she didn’t want to live just for show, as a puppet. She was tired of being a public spectacle that wasn’t truly seen, loved or understood but just fulfilled “her duty” which was dictated by everyone but her. I think anyone can relate to that.

In the film, there is a scene where she sees a small beautiful bird, and it is dead on the ground. She looks at it and sees herself. 

For Thérèse, in her time, marriage was the jail of every woman who was treated like property. Today, we have other prisons. The thing is, in a time where media and technology, plus information flowing through it consumes us, we have all these values and expectations and responsibilities competing for our attention and demanding our submission. 

Thérèse’s story reminds me about how important it is to always be mindful of our hearts and how we feel, and whether we are living in God’s purpose for our lives. Are you happy where you are? And if you are not, what are you willing to do to get what you want?

“There are only three requirements for success. First, decide exactly what it is you want in life. Second, determine the price that you are going to have to pay for the things you want. And third, and this is most important, resolve to pay that price.” H.L. Hunt 

When looking at Thérèse, I think she thought she knew what she was supposed to want, but it was at odds with who she was and what she truly wanted. She focused on external things and factors, rather than her heart. 

Are you happy with who you are? Do you have a dream? What is driving your decisions? Are you passive? Or are you actively pursuing? Are you doing things to appear a certain way? Who are you trying to please? 

Our mindset is so important. 

“Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.” Zig Ziglar

What is your input? What are you doing each day to challenge yourself? To inspire yourself? To feed your true essence and to honor where you are and who you are? Do you worry more about others? Do you pay more attention to your fears rather than God’s promises? Do you respect yourself? How do you speak to yourself? 

In the end, we are all that colorful beautiful bird. We are all Thérèse. Each person faces the same choices. The difference is whether we become the crushed bird who can no longer fly or whether we will be the one that keeps soaring and contributing beauty to the world.

This is all about where we want to go. This is not about where we have been. Dr. Stephen Covey states: “Live out your imagination, not your history.”

Tonight, think. What is in your heart? Let Thérèse’s story always remind you that you are meant to be free. It’s a cautionary tale. (And in France, perhaps just a tale). You are meant to be free. The minute you forget that, you have forgotten that you can fly. Be true. 

“You are meant to be free. The minute you forget that, you have forgotten that you can fly. Be true.”

Let’s take a page from Gabrielle Chanel who said, “I decided who I wanted to be, and that is who I am.”