To The Sea

It gets easier with time, mostly, as things tend to do. Sometimes, though, it still isn’t softer or kinder. Sometimes I wake up made of thorns and fire.

It didn’t happen overnight, the way it does for some, the way you slipped into a spirit to me.

My bones ached a little with guilt that day, knowing that we were supposed to be celebrating you and instead, I felt more like I was hiding from you. It feels disrespectful to those that can’t pick up the phone and call; they’d give anything to hear his voice. I don’t know how to do that, how to share bullet points of my life with you like you didn’t used to be my favorite person. It’s safer to protect my memories, my biggest cop out.

Lucky for me, I’m in love with a human who suggested a morning on the water, an activity just for me. We lugged my monstrosity of a paddle board out to the bay and I climbed aboard. She ain’t pretty, but she’s sea worthy- her and I are a perfect pair. It was a choppy day and more than once, I found myself very nearly going for a chilly swim. I couldn’t have cared less either way.

It didn’t come naturally for me to cry then, with the wind and the spray from the ocean greeting my skin. I stopped being angry for the moment too. Instead, I paddled to the quietest space I could find and I sat perfectly still, with my feet underwater. I put my head back to the sky and simply said “thank you” – for the brightest spots of me that I inherited from you. I celebrated our shared love of solitude and the sea, the trees, coffee that is strong enough to rot your stomach, and also a small bit of the stubbornness that gave me no option other than to say “yes, I can” to schlepping the 12 foot beast into the car, strapping it down with bungee cords.

The best way I know how to celebrate is by being the person you raised. I think I’ll keep her close.

In 2020

The world is new through this lens, 

With distance and focus, intention, all the colors brought directly to the light. 

Never not wondering ‘where could I have been more alive, more awake to the pain of my family in every shade?’

What did we ignorantly take for granted when others struggled to breathe? 

How can I be better now, more in tune with the oneness of the suffering?

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We strive to find a way to capture the brightness of this moment, exposure wide enough to speak only to the contrast in the days of sharp edges. 

With a shutter speed fast enough to tell the story of a blissful revolution, let us remember the moments we all learned to see the world in perfect vision, every image in 20/20.

Wild

A few days ago, Jenna took my picture for my Wanderlings bio.

I don’t know the last time I’ve had a picture taken of me, just me, without a prop or an occasion to give context to the photograph.

I’ll be completely honest, it sent me to crazy-town for a moment. It was somehow too intimate – just me, standing alone with my face and my hair and and my acne and my crooked smile. My instant response was to jump back from all of this, to recoil from the show of me-ness in its unapologetic roar. I wanted to be embarrassed, I wanted to criticize. I wanted to call my mother and reprimand her for not putting me in a helmet to correct my asymmetrical infant head, which I would wager to bet was a pretty linear path to my asymmetrical adult head. I wanted to tell her that I know my teeth were straight enough as a pre-teen, but I’m sort of pissed that we didn’t look more closely into braces.

As soon as I looked more closely, though, I started to see and feel something else. That need to jump back from myself, to be embarrassed and critical of the things that will keep me off of magazine covers, was not erased, but joined by a question I couldn’t quite articulate yet.

Going back for another look with an awareness of my ranting internal voice, I noticed first how happy I look. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and I’m in my sixth week of sheltering-in-place… and I look happy? Then, I noticed how peaceful I look with the trees all around; it looks so normal to have me sitting in the dirt at the base of my dear green friends.

I started to note the peculiarity of this notion that I can celebrate your attributes that make you you and on myself, they’re flaws. I know this isn’t my fault, that we’ve been cultured to seek our imperfections and obsess over them, chastise ourselves for having them, make ourselves small because of them. The hard truth of this is that I don’t get to start helping define a new normal in this realm by exclusively honoring my little sister, my future daughter, or my best friends. Those celebrations are important but the real work starts right here.

I took another look through a new lens with the compassion I’d have for a dear friend. I knew that if I was looking at a picture of a friend, I’d tell her that I like her wild hair, which has never been tidy a single day she’s been alive. I like that it refuses to stay one color that would make it easy to categorize. I’d remind her that, as a person who lives to be outside, why would her wild skin not have imperfections and blemishes from the sun, the change of season, and so much sunscreen? These are her trophies of her wild lifestyle. I’d remind her that her body is wild and strong enough to run up hills and carry a human in some sort of emergency. I’d remind her that her eye color is hard to see because her smile is big and goofy, tending to change the expression of her whole face, and that makes her feel wild too – wildly connected, wildly loved, and wildly lighthearted.

I’d remind her that the wildness of her imperfect physical attributes are just as they’re supposed to be, even if she wouldn’t have chosen them all.

She may as well learn to love them wild.

And finally, I heard the questions loud and clear – Doesn’t the picture look just like me? Isn’t that enough?

Pause

The majority of the world has hit pause.

For the first time in forever, we’re separated – together.

Our pause is a result of circumstances none of us would have chosen, the effects of which we can’t begin to know yet. Lives and security in more forms than one, have been lost. None of it is fair or sensical and yet, I believe that it is also an extraordinary moment for reflection.

I’m fascinated by the universe-governed detox that has been assigned to us. Like addicts, someone, somewhere in charge called for our intervention and we have to be still and sit back as we heard about all the ways we’ve been ignoring the life that has been waiting for us. We’ve been distracting ourselves from real life with so much busyness, so many shiny objects that keep us numb from sitting with our actual human experience.

It’s possible that we were so caught up in the daily race that we forgot to let ourselves imagine, to create, to dream of how big this life could be.

I’m intoxicated with the reverberations of this pause, this moment we’re in that’s forcing us to focus on the inside worlds right at home. For some of us, that means slowing down and watching the majestic horror of our kids growing up, really seeing them in ways we don’t ordinarily allow for in the swell of everyday chaos. For others, it’s returning to basics, priorities, self-care, sleep, natural rhythms. It’s stripping away all of the extra and coming home to ourselves. It’s breathing in stillness where there is normally so much extra noise. It’s marveling at the Earth starting to heal from the pause of extraneous waste we’ve created. It’s noticing what our habits look like when we want to numb the sharp loneliness that is sometimes there too. It’s treasuring the deliberate efforts made to reach out to the ones that matter most, watching how we show up for each other with humble hearts. It’s being physically separate and less alone than ever before.

I hope to never forget the way this pause has made me feel.

Heart Lessons

More than any of the years before, my 28th has taken my insides on a nonstop rollercoaster –  a consistent peak and valley of emotion in sharp contrast to the relative steady river I’ve always known to be home. I’m learning more from valleys than I do from the peaks, as the story tends to go. I’m practicing breathing during the quieter moments, the breaks in the clouds, to take inventory of what is true and what is not true. 

My lists for today looks like this.

Here’s what is true

Hearts can hurt, and then they heal.

Chosen family is the greatest gift I have ever known.

Pain feels unmanageable in its full roar – because it is. It was never meant to be managed.

Sometimes, unintentionally, our trauma hurts the people that we love.

A heart that hurts is a receipt for the openness we offered. It doesn’t feel like it, but the extent to which we offered it to the world, to another perfectly imperfect human, is a souvenir of courage. It’s something to be proud of.

Relationships end in all sorts of different ways for all sorts of different reasons – some of them matter, some of them don’t. Capital L Love Does Not End.

Sometimes it is my turn to grab your hand and pull you back into the boat, and sometimes it is my turn to reach from the water and let you do the same.

Here’s what is not true

That anything – pain, joy, car rides with the windows down, confusion, inexplicable peace, suffering, summer days, or stomach aches – lasts forever.

All of these tiny pieces in a life are anything less than a miracle, exactly as they’re supposed to be.

Life is easy and there is something wrong with us when we feel otherwise.

We are supposed to be happy all the damn time.

Your choices about where you choose to put your pain are a reflection of my character or my worthiness.

Not actually wanting AnotherFreakinGrowthOpportunity at all will stop it from coming.

We can fix the people we love simply because we want to.

Genuine connection is so rare that you or I, having experienced it before, will never find it again.

An outside stamp of approval makes you or I or our neighbor’s dog more worthy of love. 

The Right Thing for you and the Right Thing for me are the same; I can predict what your Right Thing will look like five seconds from now. 

Any pain, any love, any story is ever wasted.

Just Maybe

I’m scared sometimes when I realize you’re slipping from me. 

Your goofy chuckle, your unique expressions, and the weird tone of voice you use when you’re frustrated and trying not to show it are vibrant and loud. They’re stuck with me forever.

In the quieter moments, I have to admit that I don’t remember if the hazel ring in your eyes that I inherited was on the inside or outside of the green core. I don’t remember if you drank water with dinner, or only before and after. I’m not sure if I remember your shoe size. 

The holes in hearts have a strange place in the world, I think. There is this everlasting collage of pieces that will always be missing. More than anything, I am fascinated by the space they free to love more. I don’t believe that love is finite, that we only have the capacity for so much. But I do believe that the truth of love and loss is that they both crack us wide open, and maybe those cracks are our personalized invitation, meant only for us and our unique but wildly universal pain. 

Maybe losing you helped me in some part to find me

Me in the biggest, purest form  – loving sunrises and books, belly laughs and hard work, showing up for myself and my people as this biggest, purest me. 
I wonder if just maybe the openness and courage of loss prepares us for the openness and courage that will be required of us later.

..because it will be required of us later.

Swoon Balloon

Floating. 

The air is thinner up here, 

The colors so bright we can taste them. 

My heart beats quickly, but curiously knows it’s safer than ever before.

It’s warmer than I’d expected, 

The layers of fear I’d clung to are used for kindling. 

I take them off of my body, each time imagining I’ll feel colder.

Instead, the bonfire grows. 

My Tethered Kayak

Once upon a time, I adopted a cat for 48 hours.. Ironically, this isn’t a story about the cat – and it’s only half about me. 

It was a strange time in my life, a “learning phase” we’ll call it – I was very single, I was likely hormonal, and I was a little lost. I waltzed into a Starbucks on the morning of a friend’s wedding on my way to act as her blushing Maid of Honor and I saw the advertisement with pull away tabs at the bottom, 2001 style. I might interject at this moment to remind you that I am wholeheartedly a dog person and had never previously harbored any desire to own a cat. But, again, refer above to the season of life I was experiencing; you should also know that this cat had a hand-to-God perfectly formed mustache. He was the most ridiculous looking creature and at first glance, the decision was made for me. After getting the go-ahead from my roommates the next day, I called the owner and learned that Paco, much to my surprise, had not yet been adopted and he and his owner could come by in a few hours for an introduction. I hastily finished my errands and raced home to ready the apartment for the arrival of our new pet. In my ecstatic chaos, I bumped over a bag of groceries in the parking lot of our apartment complex, sending a carton of eggs rolling freely about. I found and gathered all (or so I thought) of the somehow perfectly unharmed eggs and scurried upstairs.

The owner brought the cat over and he was as mustachioed and delightful looking in person as he had been in his photograph, a vision. He, unfortunately, bolted immediately to my closet, as cats will, and hid there for the remainder of the evening. The owner was content enough with our living situation to leave Paco with us, promising that he would reveal himself and make himself at home within a few hours. Sure enough, Paco waited until long after I had given up sitting outside the closet door with handfuls of treats and after the sun had gone down and I had called it quits for the night, assuming my peaceful position in bed. After I was soundly asleep, Paco emerged from the closet and made himself a tiny nest… on my face. I woke up smothered and coughing on tufts of thin cat hair. The next morning, my eyes and nose were unmentionably red, swollen, and clogged. It was mildly unpleasant, to say the least. Meg, being the cat loving good Samaritan that she is, offered to take Paco into her room for the following night. We decided that it was best that Paco find a new owner whose lifestyle more closely aligned with his own, as he had been given to us for a test drive anyways. 

I wanted the best for this little mariachi singer and his future owner, whom I trusted could love and care for him in a way that my histamine response and I could not. 

His owner came the following night to pick him up with no hard feelings whatsoever and Meg and I helped him carry the ridiculous amount of cat gear of sorts he had brought over downstairs through the darkened parking lot. We were chatting mindlessly and politely with him, calculating how soon this would be over when I heard it. 

I knew instantly.

An unmistakable crunch, out of place in the pristine smoothness of the asphalt from underneath Paco’s father’s foot. He glanced momentarily at his shoes, behind him, to both sides, with great perplexity before continuing across the parking lot.

I glared over at Meg, whose petite frame was staggering under the weight of an oversized cat crate. My eyes were wild and wide and they caught hers as we walked.

“THAT’S – MY – EGG!” I mouthed with great emphasis and passion, behind the owner’s back.  

I pointed my eyebrows at her with exasperation; I needed her to get it. It was the most inexplicably ridiculous chain of events and the urgency of my laughter, my surprise, my hysteria was tremendous. 

She maintained eye contact, heroically carrying the weight of our never ending struggle of smalltalk with this stranger and raised her eyebrows, did her best to shake her head and shrug. She had no earthly idea what was making me convulse with stifled belly laughs. I pointed fiercely, intently at the man’s shoe, mouthed again. Nothing. 

We said our goodbyes to this poor, poor man whom we knew had gotten more than he bargained for and ultimately, still had the cat he was trying to get rid of. Also an entire raw egg on the underside of his shoe. 

Then, we sat on the living room floor and cried with laughter about the egg, the shoe, my irrational need to explain the situation with mouthing and gestures, Paco, his mustache, his very strange owner, and the ridiculousness of our lives.

Since my dear friend has moved from a bedroom 10 feet from my own to one 5,155 miles away, I’ve been missing her. Given who I am and how I was hardwired, I have consequently been doing a lot of reflecting on friendship and the people we choose to love us, the ones that find us unexpectedly. 

Sharing this particular story feels synchronistic and powerful because to me, the light of friendship feels just like making eye contact with a soul you trust, who gets you, during two of the strangest minutes of your life, humbled by the hilarity and bizarreness of it all, and knowing she’ll play along. 

It’s improvising this life like we’re in a shtick together, making it up entirely as we go. 

It’s what it feels like when you’ve done so much growing up  with someone, pretending adulthood is anything like we’d planned.  

It’s a simple, wordless glance that says “I’m not okay right now, please don’t go anywhere.” 

It’s accidentally wearing matching t-shirts time and time again.

It’s knowing that while one of us has enlisted in some life shenanigans, the other one is calmly steering the boat. 

It’s an agreed upon contract pre-determining which one of you will hunt spiders in the house and which will hunt rodents. 

It’s a simple, but authentic  “what can I do to help?” when your heart has been broken and you can barely remember how to take your next breath. And knowing they’d find a way to execute whatever the answer is.

It’s never having to explain or depersonalize why you need a few hours in your room alone at the end of the day before re-emerging to socialize.

It’s all of the average, ordinary days that feel like manageable marathons because you know someone’s got your back.

It’s paddling my own kayak in blissful solitude, hearing the beat of my own heart in the big wild world and when the waters get murky, turning back to see that your boat was tethered to mine all along. 

How I Survive Hard Days as a Messy, Imperfect Human: A Disorganized List of Thoughts

-Floating with my face to the big, wild sky and my back to the ocean floor.

-Breathing in and breathing out.

-Crying in REI.

-Dancing every day, especially when it’s the last thing I feel like doing.

-Courage in loneliness.

-So many “What-ifs” and “supposed to’s”. 

-Infinite angst over social media comparison.

-Crying in Savasana.

-Another flippin growth opportunity.

-Real, true, genuine laughter.

-Real, true, genuine connection. 

-The warrior team in my head and heart that does not quit on me.

-Strangers in the blink of an eye.

-Marveling at the beauty and the sorrow of human complexity.

-Belief in abundance rather than scarcity.

-Unhinged.Glued together by Grace and the smell of the trees.

Body Like a Backroad with the windows down, just like my girls taught me.

-Deep knowing that none of the love, the growth, the pain, was ever wasted.

-The colors of the eyes of the souls I was meant to find for days like these.

-The playlists I’m just now brave enough to open back up.

-Having so many hands to hold.

-Long walks, talking to the trees.

-Compassion, frustration, suffering, loneliness, connection, and right back to compassion.

-Sometimes a glass of wine..or two.

-Beginning to flirt with the new “what-if’s”.

-Finding one tiny, beautiful thing every single day if it’s all I do.

-Authentic vulnerability with my SoulTribe.

-Books on Books on Books.

-Bare feet in the sand, in the damp grass, on the sidewalk.

-Improbable moments of silliness, of laughter, of light.

-Finding new ways to know and care for myself exactly as I am only in this moment

-Still craving nature, my oldest friend.

-Booking the flight to Scotland.

-Pumpkin candles, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin carving.

-Family.

-Very serious thoughts of dog adoption.

-Acts of love for others, strangers and friends alike.

-Making mistakes and calling to say “I’m sorry”.

-Messy, disorganized lists if that’s all you can do.

-Trusting that these lessons are perfect preparation for the journey we don’t get to see yet.

-More dancing.

One foot in front of the other. All the way home.