The Guest House

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Dear Keatsway,

I want you to encourage you as if it’s the most important task I’ve been given. You’ve been brave and adventurous, hopping continents and crossing borders, forging your career trajectory and becoming the most international person I know. All of which comes with a cost: leaving friends, meaningful work, and places you love behind. Of course, you are heartbroken and unsettled. You don’t know if you should prepare yourself for the next move or learn to love Amman. I don’t have easy answers.  I can only echo your broken heart.

Recently, I returned to America after living in England for sixteen months. In York, I fell in love with the city, the people, the lifestyle. I lived inside Roman walls, traded my car for a bicycle, bought my groceries at the year-round farmer’s market and grew to love the rain and the fog. I critiqued literature, translated foreign films, and learned how to read medieval maps. I went road tripping and hiking through the Yorkshire Moors, Scottish Highlands, the Lake District and Irish countryside. I traveled by train across Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. I did daring things I had never done before: karaoke, bouldering, sensual bachata dancing, swimming in Loch Ness, clubbing until 3 am. I also wrote a thesis, fell in love, and started attending an Anglican church. I could write a book about everything I did in England but there is not enough space here yet for that.

A few months ago I unpacked my bags in a new place: a hamlet in southern Washington state. I am grateful for the hospitality of my cousins, and the chance they have given me to start anew in the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, I struggle to be fully here at times, as I imagine you are in Amman. My 16 months in England reels through my head reminding me of all the brilliant adventures and loves I have left behind. I want to return permanently, but I don’t know yet if that’s in the cards or as you say, Inshallah, if God wills it.

I agree with you Keatsway, we must write about our inner journeys. The highs and the lows. The joy of a discovering a new place and the ache that accompanies having your heart split across continents. What do you love about Amman? What do you miss about Kampala? What can you take with you from place to place to create a home regardless of where you lay your head?

I think we can choose to stay in a place and call it home. Even if we have to leave we can build our lives around returning. I don’t know yet if Amman is your city, but I do know that the last city I lived in felt like a place I wanted to stay.  I don’t know what it will take for Amman to feel like home for you. And if you are not sure about Amman, be excited about what the city has to reveal you. What the city expects of you. Maybe you will discover answers to Rilke’s questions or perhaps you will learn to carry them with grace and poise.

All that is yet unknown. As you learn to hold uncertainty with open hands, I leave you with this poem by Rumi. It offers solace for the expat whose heart is still halfway in Kampala or York.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jellaludin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

So much love,

xoxo Brightstar

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How to have a good morning

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Dear Keatsway,

A few months ago I dreaded mornings like the plague. I hit the snooze button for at least an hour and got up at the last possible moment. Finally I decided it was time for an intervention: I needed to make changes to make my mornings manageable, smoother and happier.

Do not say, ‘It is morning,’ and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name. –Rabindranath Tagore
<a title=”view quote” Do not say, ‘It is morning,’ and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a newborn child that has no name.

Although they are still hurried and I am often running late, I now actually enjoy getting up in the morning. By attending to the details I would profoundly influence the rest of my waking moments. simply because I made these five key changes:

1) Hot lemon water: I fill the electric water kettle the night before so all I have to do is slice and juice half a lemon and turn on the kettle when I wake up. This is an ayurvedic practice done by yogis in India that hydrates the body, stimulates digestion, and increases alertness.

2) I have a few 8tracks playlists with positive, upbeat messages that make me want to get up in the morning. “Lets Go Surfing” by The Drums is my current favourite song to wake up to: https://soundcloud.com/downtownrecords/the-drums-lets-go-surfing . It’s impossible not to feel happy in the morning with this song on in the background.

3) I save time and crucial decision making energy in the morning by making breakfast the night before. Overnight oats is the easiest thing to do. Add:

-1/4-1/3 cup steel cut or rolled oats

-1 cup milk or filtered water

-TBSP each of flax seed, chia seed, hemp hearts, coconut oil, nuts (all full of omegas)

-dash of cinnamon, stevia, nutmeg, lemon zest, fresh ginger (optional add 1 TBSP coconut flakes)

Cover in a bowl overnight and then in the morning top with fruit like a cut-up apple, banana or berries. Extra time saver: use a transportable container like a mason jar and take it to go.

4) An easy paired down make-up routine: Narrow down your make-up tools to 8, and place them in an easy to access area either in your medicine cabinet or in upright open containers on your counter. Have a shorter routine ready (limit to 4 tools) for when you sleep in.

5) Coffee before work: Having caffeine in my system before I get to work in the morning has a huge impact on my productivity, mood, and alertness. I only wish I knew this two years ago when I was making coffee when I came to work every morning and wondering why I had a hard time getting started.

I not only have brighter mornings, I have better days. I am getting more sleep at night and falling asleep faster because I no longer dread the morning hours. I am more productive when I am at work, and enjoy my time off more. Finally, there is no longer a grey fog obscuring what has now become my preferred time of day.

Keatsway, what makes your mornings brighter?

xo, Brightstar

P.S. Here’s my adrenaline charged wake up playlist.
P.P.S. Here’s a morning classical playlist for when you need to add peace, calm, and clarity to the start of your day.