Don’t look down

Perspective

Stick with me here for a minute, per usual, I have a round about way to get to the point. I used to spend an awful lot of time driving towards the lake. Specifically a small outlet in a nearby town where the parking spaces were few, the traffic slow, and the view unending.

It’s been a while since I made this pilgrimage … for a number of reasons. I haven’t really had time with this project house we’ve been working on, and the emotional space this ride used to take up was otherwise occupied by my anxious worries about the end result. The end result?

Of so many things.

When is this house going to be done? When is it going to sell? Is it going to sell? What did we do wrong? Why hasn’t any of this worked out? Did we make the right decisions? Should we have seen this coming? Were there red flags that I ignored? Is this ever going to be something that’s easy for me? Will this always be a fight? Why do I feel so unsupported? Where did my people go? What’s going on? Why can’t I stop the roller coaster? Are my kids ok? What the hell were we thinking? Will they ever make new friends? Did we just cement their future in therapy? Why is marriage still so hard? Aren’t we supposed to be good at this by now? Why do I resent my husbands job so much? Why is my family such a basket case? When does any of this workout for me? Have I just gone through life bulldozing my way towards something better without waiting for whats right?

So, as you can see, super busy.

The house is finally done and is listed for sale. Now we wait, while also continuing to work on things as the weather improves.

There’s so much more going on in the background of some of these decisions – I’ve thought more than once that we never really know whats going on behind the curtain.

Anyway, enough about the house. Back to the beach.

In addition to my mental gymnastics that were keeping me busy I’ve been having some pretty interesting conversations with God. And some completely crap-tastic dreams every night. Weird stuff, heavy stuff, icky stuff. Not generally “sleep good” lullabies – more “you’re trapped in a room and here’s your clue to get out, clock is ticking, enemy is after you: GO” adrenaline dump at midnight type stuff. I wake up weeping most nights.

Right? So – we’re all on the same page. Things are stressful. Overwhelming. And yet … I continue to hear from God that I can trust him. That he will not surprise me. That I haven’t heard him wrong.

You need that information for the next part:

Early this week on my way home from bringing my kids to and from school, somewhere on the rural back roads of Holland Township, this conviction just hits me;

I don’t trust him. No two ways about it, when I get an idea I don’t wait, I go. Not always without his blessing, but definitely always before the prompting. I am impatient. And in control. I have a hard time accepting blessings (tangible ones from friends or family, as well as those lofty things we all pray or hope for) because I am so capable on my own. Not necessarily from a “I’m awesome” stand point, more from a “well, I can afford to buy my own meal or we aren’t the ones who NEED that gift/blessing/or pardon.”

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I drive up to the beach this morning, park and get out. I walk to the steps and relish in how mild the weather is today. I’m not too cold near the water, it smells amazing, and the ice is moving. I think to myself, why have I waited so long to come back here?

I get to the bottom step, before another set of stairs that takes you right down to the beach, and I stop. The sun is just peaking through some clouds, it’s kind of moody – my favorite. I take my phone out for a few photos:

Perspective

Perspective

And then I walk down towards the beach, and stop again. I take another photo:

Perspective

And I immediately notice how I can no longer see beyond the ice formation towards the horizon. My view is blocked by what’s in front of me. I know it’s there, because I was just a few steps higher and saw it. But coming down to the beach, towards the water, everything changed. Somehow now I was landlocked. The open and vast water in front of me now a small shore towards something that felt much smaller, even though it’s still the same big lake I know exists.

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Here’s how this all came together for me; this morning I had a very tangible example of how moving just slightly in any direction can change the view in front of us drastically. How perspective is more a tool than an idea.

When I have a broad view (say, things are going well and my quiet time is full of big picture promises and hope and encouragement) I can see beyond the peaks in front of me. Beyond the road blocks, the hills, the possible mountains. I can see the horizon – still endless – but visible.

But when I walk towards those peaks, hills, mountains and the view changes from being able to see where I’m going to where I am right now: shit can really hit the fan.

I stop trusting that beyond this little bump in my journey there is still a beautiful horizon. I stop believing I’m on the right track, I start looking at my feet and my ability as the only tools to get me to the other side when I’ve forgotten the best part:

feet

The sky? She never disappears. Those beautiful clouds and the sun shining through them – they don’t connect to the endless horizon but they meet the mountain of ice instead.

Boulder, Co Day 6

I’ve been looking at the wrong thing. Trusting that the end is the goal and if the goal is out of reach, I must be doing it wrong. So I should try harder, do better, get more resourceful, get busier, work more … when I could, maybe, just keep going instead.

The hills are never that big, after all.

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Literally none of this changes my circumstances, it changes my perspective. My attitude. It calms my fears and washes away the anxiety. It brings my focus from a micro to a macro and I can finally breathe knowing we aren’t stuck here. Not even ‘we’, but me. Among my chief fears in life are: being forgotten, never being loved, and being stuck.

Not one of those fears is actually true. I just wondered if I was having such a hard time in this place, maybe one or two of you were, too. I would say to you: You’re not alone, you are loved, and don’t look down.

Change of address

All that writing about a book and then no follow up. Here’s what’s happening:

I wrote the book.

I did the thing.

It’s as done as it can be at this point.

And it will likely live on unpublished for a long time. This gutted me at first, I wanted to release this and let it go but what ended up happening is even better. I got it out of my head and if it’s ever time to release it to the rest of the world, I will readily.

If my kids are my only audience, I’m so glad I wrote this all down for them. As we enter the grey waters of growing up and learning that right and wrong are always colored in grace … I’m glad that if I don’t ever have the opportunity to tell them myself, they’ll still have my story to answer any of their questions.

I was talking to a friend recently about stepping back, being online for the past 16ish years has over-exposed me for a really long time. I’m ready for the mystery to return to my life. I don’t want to depend on the branding of my living room to feel good or the likes on twitter to help me feel worthy. I don’t want to be the person who creates images for consumption without having any real impact on the reality of the lives I can touch.

I worried that stepping away from the daily grind of creating would produce failure, but it’s been a fertile ground instead. A steady climb towards something new, different.

In the past year we’ve quietly changed most of our life. Changing schools, we bought a new house, we’ve been on trips without posting a damn thing about it and these moments that we’ve kept for ourselves, they’re the ones I’m savoring.

Not because the secret is more powerful, but the being present in the quiet moments of living are what I want to remember.

I’m honored to be asked to speak at events, to throw them still, to think-tank projects with some of my favorite people who are going places I’ve wanted to inhabit. And I think the best lesson of less has been this: it’s not that I won’t get to inhabit these spaces, but that I have time to inhabit them.

A few years ago I went to an event in upstate New York with one of my talented writer girlfriends and we sat and listened to authors speak about their careers and how varied their paths were towards the success of a book. The best thing I took away from that weekend was that there’s time. You can be 60 and still write the book. You can be sixty and start over entirely. You can be 80, or twenty-two or thirty-nine or twelve.

You can live all nine lives in the span of your one, amazing lifetime.

Maybe I’m explaining this poorly, I mean to say that I’m a writer. I just am, I always have been, I always will be. I will keep a record of my life and the lessons I’ve learned for as long as I live. I’m also a sharer. I care deeply about connection and information sharing. Of having the conversations and saying the things. I will write poetry for the rest of my life, even if every single one of them gets mistaken for trash on the back of a used envelope. I will keep releasing the prose to paper. Over and over and over again.

And eventually … they’ll live beyond my door.

I’ll let you know when that happens. It will be a really good day.

First snow, 2017

I try not to make myself promises anymore.

Today is the first snow of the season and I’m drinking my coffee next to the window overlooking our backyard while a symphony of beauty whirls outside.

First Snow 2013

I saw a cardinal swoop in front of my car this morning driving my son to school, this burst of red in a blanket of pristine white branches.

I was explaining how peaceful the first snow is to my son and he was trying to grasp the entire idea of weather being quiet. “You mean it’s basically like a bunch of dust in the air and maybe it interrupts the radio waves so you don’t hear anything else?” (This kid, his mind, I swear.)

“No, buddy. Uh … it’s more like, you know how rain makes a lot of noise? Snow doesn’t make noise. It’s quiet, everything feels still, even the air. That’s what I mean by peaceful. It’s just … calm, even though it’s also always changing. It’s beautiful.”

He was quiet for a while, somehow processing what I was saying and making room for this explanation in his brain while still trying understand the abstract. My engineer minded kid, his metaphor loving, dreamer of a mother. Words are more like entities to me, they’re there to be brought to life. Words are a means to an end for him. They’re tools to use to bring his own language alive, full of mathematics and codes.

If I’m not careful, we completely lose each other in translation and both end up frustrated: but still full of ideas we want to share with one another. Me, over here with a paint brush and colors he can’t see – and him, over there, with a graph and instructions I can’t envision.

So complex. People, in general. People in relationships, even more so. So beautifully broken and weaved together in a patchwork of memories, anticipation, and hopes. This is what the first snow does for me: reminds me to be captivated. To be patient, look a little harder. To wait for the burst of color, to listen for the stillness.

I try not to make myself promises anymore. Not because I’ve given up, although that’s a road I know too well, but because I’m learning to trust the unknown. What’s next? What now? What if?

All very interesting, time consuming questions. But maybe … instead … it’s more about; And then what happened? And being totally engrossed and encapsulated in the outcome that you forget the rest. And maybe, for the first time, you don’t need the explanation, you finally just understand that this is what peace feels like.

All the dust in the air interrupting the radio waves so you don’t hear anything else.

How I’m working through the active fear and self-doubt of writing a book.

Morning and hello!

I’ve been doing oh-so-much thinking lately, while I’m editing and writing and reorganizing this mass of work I’ve been collecting it’s time to say here that … I think it’s a book. It is. But I think I’m going to do something with it. I am. But. It’s scarier than I thought it was going to be.

I printed the entire body of work this week and just finished reading it through for the first time. My throat hurts, I don’t usually talk out-loud that much apparently, but it feels like the first mile of a run is finally behind me and now I can set pace and just keep going.

With each essay I’m holding it up to a few standards and questions to determine whether or not there’s something constructive in it, if it meets the ultimate goal or message of the entire collected work, and finally, if it’s something I want my kids to know, learn, or have as a record of me.

That last one will cut through so much bullshit.

Writing here for the last 17 years or so has been a beautiful exercise in learning to use my voice, and while I get that publishing words on the internet is sort of like putting them “out there” forever … something feels so much less permanent about these words. I write, shooting from the hip, quickly edit, and then publish. Rarely do I rework something I’ve already put out there.  But the idea of having bound pages with my words to live in a physical place for ever and ever? I mean, that scares the living hell out of me. I don’t know how paper writers for hire do it day in and day out. It really spooks me to write for a physical book.

So. That means I just have to keep doing it. Being scared, I’ve learned, isn’t the emotion that leads to safety. It’s not the response my body needs to listen to when I’m on the cusp of making something happen. Being scared is more like the “here we go” feeling of heading off into the great big yonder. It’s the walking man signal of crossing the street, not the flashing hand. Fear, in this sense, isn’t the ‘stop and wait’, it’s the ‘time to go!’

In addition to that, I’ve tried to find the appropriate box I might fit in. You know the ones, the ideas and dreams we have: where do they fit, what size do they need to be to become the most successful commercial version so I can claim success by standards not set by me, but for me. And not in my best interest, but in the interest of commerce.

Which, sounds about as exciting as reading spread sheets. Ok, LISTEN! Here’s what I’m getting at: It’s all uncomfortable. To say the ideas or dreams out-loud, which moves to (hopefully) actually making work of them, which moves to the undeniably hard work of pushing through the fear and self doubt, which leads to the unknown.

The question is: would I do this if no one cared? Would I write books to leave for my children so they had a record of the kind of legacy I wanted for them? Would I tell them everything, anyway?

And that answer is always, without a doubt, absolutely.

The volley

Let’s catch up. I have a few things to tell you and then so many more to unpack with you, buckle in.

We started school this year at an entirely new school. My kids went from a private school to a public school and everything is going well.

Along with all of this change my daughter started a sport she’s never played with a team she’s never met and her first match was also the first day of this new school and everything is new – are you getting my drift? I spend a lot of time in bleachers waiting with her for her turn while she barrels through her nerves and anxiety and shovels every bit of it at my feet and then stomps around on it, like a tantrum. And I think to myself, this shit is ridiculous. Enough of this. Pick your damn self up off the mother loving pavement, Child, and go. get. it. But I don’t say those words, no I do not.

I spend that time rubbing her back and listening and offering a little hope, but not too much because then she accuses me of not understanding, so I wait with her. That is all she wants. Someone to bear witness to the waiting for her turn. When is it going to be her turn? Why isn’t it her turn yet? And the stage-fright. It’s tennis, but people are watching, so that takes it to a new level of MAKE IT STOP.

I didn’t play school sports for my own reasons, all of them selfish and kind of childish. I didn’t have a lot of school spirit. But this kid, she wants to do it all. Paint her face and wear the logos and do the fundraisers and buy the duffle bags and sign up for every club and get as involved as possible. She makes me tired. Because I still facilitate her social life, so when she signs up for something – in essence she is signing me up too. And you know what? I LOVE IT.

Here we are, doing all the new things and both for the first time ever. It’s pretty great. It’s great that she’s still inviting us along for the ride.

My life is now a serious matrix of overlapping schedules and carpools. I am always supposed to be in more than one place at a time. So far, it’s working just fine. Somehow.

I’ve tried to catch up over the summer or just chronicle our days and trips and memories but every time I came to this place and logged in and started writing I couldn’t bring myself to publish any of it. I’ve had kind of a bumpy summer? How do I say this without sounding alarming but also telling the truth THAT EVERYTHING SUCKS. I try not to spread the wealth too much. The wealth of emotional bankruptcy. That bitch came to win, and let me tell you, she swept me off the floor.

I’m mourning a great, very personal loss. In the wake of other very personal losses. Right after the other, all stirred up in a pot, on and on and on they go. Swinging at me like a batter bent on revenge. I see you: I’m awake.

I took a break from my other writing this summer as well, for the same reasons, everything was angry in response to my pain. But I also started this really lovely, very daring personal project before the summer came. And if the only thing you take away from this rambling is this: please pull for me. I think this is big, if for no one other than me, it’s monumental. And I need the timing to be right and the people to be in place and the conversations that have yet to happen, for those to have a way paved before them so I can have them. I need some cheerleaders. I need someone pulling for me, even if you don’t know why or what for.

As I was journaling recently I came face to face with some fear, not new. It’s the ugly side of my vulnerability. I am my own roadblock. Afraid of looking like a fool, but realizing that if everyone I’ve ever quoted or loved or admired let their fear stand in the way of their message or art or gift for the world: I wouldn’t have their words to help me or their photos to inspire me or their songs or poems or paintings to take my breath away. I wouldn’t have a full understanding of how big my own dreams are, how rare my own beauty is, how daring my own words could be.

And I learned: I’m not done yet. I have to keep showing up.

Just like my daughter needs someone there to witness her showing up, even when it’s scary and new and nothing feels normal, she needs someone who believes in her, not because we have to. Or because she’s shown great athletic prowess – but because we know she can. If she keeps showing up, if she keeps trying … eventually the ball will make it over the net. Eventually she’ll move from the bench to the court and without ever thinking of how or why, she’ll volley.

Not because she knows how – but because thats what you do when the ball is yours.