All my old posts are still here but you can find my new ones here!
a theme song. Mine is constantly changing but most mornings I find one fitting for the day. If you don't have one you can borrow one of my faves...
Six weeks ago a close friend's father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 6-12 months. His funeral is on Wednesday.
Over the last six weeks I've been thinking a lot about mortality and how precious life is. Earlier this week my sister wrote a guest post and mentioned her fears around early onset Alzheimers - a disease both my mother and grandmother were diagnosed with. We talk about it a lot and debate whether we should get tested for the gene ( I am an adamant no, she waivers). My thought process goes something like this: What difference would it make? If knowing would change the way I live, I should change the way I live. And so that is how I am living, as is my sis. Whenever one of us mentions something we want to do the response is inevitably..."You got twenty years baby, do it now."
This morning a friend sent a text with one of my favorite Mary Oliver quotes...
"Tell me, what is you plan to do with this one wild & precious life?
Whatever it is, I say do it now. Make 2012 the year for not only doing it differently but doing it NOW.
If you feel in need of support determining what IT is join the fabulous Julie Kesti and I for our Create Your Year Retreat Saturday the 14th from 4-8. It is filling fast!
I was writing a post about the post-holiday crazies and being in the moment - then my beautiful, hilarious, and slightly irreverent sister send this. She is a wonderful writer and she summed it all up perfectly (plus I think she is brave for wanting to share our story openly).
When in doubt just return to the moment..
My sister said I should start a blog. I laughed, “you mean a flog,” I said. Since daily I seem to flog myself over something. She said people might want to read about your experiences with mom, grandma, that kind of thing.
Oh, the Alzheimer’s thing. Yes, I spent many nights taking care of my Grandma with Alzheimer’s. I made food, sat and watched golf, listened to her nonsense. I flew her across country to her son and daughter in California to finally be put in a nursing home. I wiped her bottom when she pooped in the shower. I fastened her bra. I curled her hair. I was fifteen.
I am now 37. I have a two year old son. I have a five year old son. I have a husband. I have a full time job. I have a house. I have sea monkeys. I have a 70 year old mother who is entering the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. I have no idea how I will make it through this.
Most days I can busy myself life’s daily tasks, matching boy’s socks, folding little sweatpants and finding the proper spots in closets and dressers. I can busy myself watching the Real Housewives. I can busy myself answering work emails.It’s when the phone call comes. I chat with my mom as politely as I can about how the boys are doing, how the holidays were, what news there is. Repeat. Repeat again. Then, I say I have to go and hang up. Then it hits me like a freight train...the ache, the sadness, the anger, the fear. Staying busy doesn’t work plus I've quit some bad habits recently. I realized I didn’t need to add an addiction to my list of things I have. All the books say you need to figure out what your triggers are so you can avoid those situations. I realized some days’ just waking up was a damn trigger.
So, I started reading Pema Chodron and listening to her in the car on tapes borrowed from the library. She is a Buddhist nun. I want her to adopt me. I want to cut off all my hair and live in an abbey in Nova Scotia. I want to learn to feel these feeling without wanting to vacuum the entire house, clean out the fridge, sort the matchbox cars by color or drink a bottle of wine. She says it’s about staying in the present moment. Sounds easy, huh, it’s fuckin’ hard, way harder than I thought.
For example, I was trying to be in the present moment with the boys one afternoon. We were playing animals. I was helping to build a zoo. I was thinking while I stacked the blocks, stay in the present moment. But my mind went to wondering..."When that kindergarten form is due? Then, should we go to the Children’s Museum Sunday? Graham has that birthday party Saturday, shit we need to get a present. Did I buy tampons? Should I run later, I really need some exercise. What are we going to make for dinner? Is it bath night? Where did I put those new towels we got for Christmas? I should call Dad and see how he is doing. Ugh, I don’t want to talk to her. God, I am shitty daughter. Okay, stop and focus. I am going to put the hippo over here next to the lion who can eat it. Dang, I was totally not in the present moment there. Sorry, Pema."
Then, I started running more. It helps me calm my mind (and exercise is supposed to aid in the prevention of the big "A"). I listen to “Eye of the Tiger.” I feel like Rocky. Then after that song is over, I start to wonder if I am supposed to be keeping my chest up. Am I supposed to feel a pain in my side? Should I be running on the balls of my feet or my heels? I start thinking my feet are hot. I start thinking my arms should be close to my sides. I remember my junior high track coach told me to not run like a chicken. I wonder why that asshole was coaching adolescent girls? I think about how I hated sports. I start to feel like a poser out here running in the cold. My form is all wrong, who am I kidding I am not an athlete. Yet, secretly, I want to run a marathon.
On my way into work this morning I was thinking about an article I read in the Newsweek about how to keep your brain healthy. As I was reading, I thought to myself what’s the fucking point? The genetics are fairly clear when it comes to early onset Alzheimer’s which has eaten away my mom’s brain since she was 50 and her mother’s before. When my grandma was in her mid-seventies she was diapered babbling like a baby. That means I might have 20 good years left. A friend told me “what’s happening to your mom doesn’t mean that’s your story,” he was wrong and he was right. I don’t know what will happen to me.I could live to be 89, mind intact I could die in a car accident tomorrow. I could get the big “A” and my sons will suffer through the same heartbreak.I don’t know. I know the article said I should master a foreign language, I should do more brain puzzles, I should learn tae kwon do, I should start to play an instrument...
Crap, I think I’ll just try that present moment stuff again.
Last night the boys and I paused outside to honor the solstice and to make wishes for the coming year. As we sat in the dark, I thought of the sweet family who lost their son this year. I thought of the pain and the love that has surrounded them in the long months since their loss. I thought of a close friend who found out that her father was given six months to live. I thought of the friend whose nephew was taken three years ago and of another whose son died right before the holidays. I thought of a friend struggling with navigating her first holiday season divorced. I thought of my journey. I thought of the darkness that has surrounded us all in times of loss, transition, etc. It can seem a little dim, especially during the holiday season.
As we looked up, I remembered one of my favorite quotes “It is only in the darkness that one can see the stars.” And I smiled to myself as I remembered a conversation from last week. The close friend I mentioned above had called me in the morning to tell me she lost her job and five hours later called to tell me her father was dying. Through her tears she said “I guess the gift in being unemployed is that I can be with Dad.” We both started laughing as it has become kind of a joke with my friends that I say there is a gift in everything. Last winter I wrote a newsletter about unexpected gifts and while I still I believe that there can be a gift in everything - my faith has wavered a bit. Sometimes there is a gift and sometimes not so much. I want to believe it but sometimes life just doesn’t make sense, sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it is just plain brutal.
I do know without the dark there can be no light. They do not exist in isolation. I’ve learned that both lead to growth and a deeper connection with oneself. But you can’t have one without the other. They both have their place.
The impossible blackness of the dark and the incredible brilliance of the light.
Ahhh…I come full circle - that is the greatest gift recognizing a full life means having both. Maybe I still believe.
If you are struggling to keep the light in the season I offer the following:
Just returned from a trip up north with my friend and colleague Julie Kesti. We headed up there to work on our January retreats and to connect before she leaves for a huge adventure - a move to China (I try not to think about her leaving).
After spending the morning making art we headed out for a hike. We were sort of meandering through the quiet woods - not sure of our path - chatting about how the quality of sound is different in winter. We decided the word is muted. It was a very calm, peaceful, and beautiful hike.
Aware that we spa appointments to get to, I asked what time it was and she responded we have plenty of time. To which I replied crap we need to be back in 20 minutes. Julie with her crazy calm personality said it will be fine. I thought to myself we are 20 minutes from the trailhead and still have to drive back to town. I found myself falling into city mode...speeding up, anxious, etc. But sure enough she was right. Everything worked out fine. All that wasted energy.
Downtown yesterday I found myself swept up in the speed of the city, then thought about our hike and decided to slow way down. When I feel that press of life I am going to gently remind myself to "walk like I am in the woods" or maybe even better ask myself "WWJD" (what would Julie do?).
P.S. We have only three spots left in our January 7th and half-full for the 14th retreat so grab your spot soon!
I step into my harness, and reach around my back to chalk my hands. As my foot finds the first hold and my fingers search upward the world falls away. I hear only the sounds of my breath and the blood pumping in my ears. My troubles and imaginings fall away. The list of worries: kids, to-do’s, family, work, my missteps, my life - all fade and are replaced by a sense of suspended time and an intensity of focus I seem only to experience here. I forget myself. I lose myself in the moment. Mind, body, and spirit come together. It lasts until the shaking begins. The fatigued muscles remind me it is time to return. Reluctantly I climb off and face the day…but I do so with calmness, focus, and a silent joy that evaded me before.
A friend I dragged along once said, you are the most you when you climb. She is right. It is where it all comes together for me. But I am grateful it isn’t the only place I feel that sense of time falling away...I feel it when I work, when I create, when I run a trail, or dance, or sit on a rock staring at water…maybe not in the same way but I do feel it. And I feel so very lucky whenever it happens. We all need that more.
Sometimes we need to get lost to find ourselves. This is where I start when I work with anyone considering a career change and it is where I start with mothers redefining their lives after children. It is where is where I start with anyone who feels stuck. What and when are the times you lose yourself, when you look up and wonder where the hours went, the times when you feel the most you and feel that sense of aliveness running through you? It is within those moments that you can find the keys to unlocking what will fill you up with a sense of purpose and deep satisfaction. The keys to helping you get unstuck.
Go to those moments and lose yourself in them. They will help you find insight into whatever path you need to take.
(The pic is one of my son - who has a little bit more of me in him then I thought!)
are by far my sons. Three lessons gleamed from the weekend:
Late to a party, annoyed, and moving slowly in rush hour traffic on Friday night, my four year old looked out the window at all the car lights and exclaimed excitedly, "Mom look we are in a parade!" Once again reminding me it is all in how you view the world.
Lying in bed nose-to-nose my six-year-old reported, "This is what matters Mom - love, oxygen, water and trees." So simple and so true.
And the only lesson in this last one is how good it feels to laugh and I did and still do whenever I recall my little ones comment after watching Frosty. He said "I wish that Frosting guy would take off all the little girls clothes." Laughin as I type this.
I usually start talking about the holidays mid-August and my sister gently reminds me to enjoy Labor Day. I start because things have been a bit wonky in my family for the last few years. The wonkiness (I know this isn't a word) has a lot to do with to my mother's illness, managing complicated schedules, blending families, the pressure I put on myself to create memories for my children, and my expectations around what the holidays should look like. When I think of the holidays I am flooded with memories of twinkling lights, glowing candles, love, laughter, and a houseful of friends and family. In the last few years I have been fierce in my determination to recreate this and usually end up on Christmas Day night screaming into a pillow.
After a wonderful meeting last week with the Renee Trudeau team I was reminded of my favorite mantra "do it different" and I decided to truly embrace it for the holiday season. Here are a couple of ways I have decided mix it up:
What can you do different this holiday season?
I can't help but smile when the first flakes fall. Watching my son run outside yesterday, tilt his head back, and catch the first snowflake of the year on his tongue made me laugh out loud.
Not only does the first snow fill me with joy - it makes me remember. I believe the body holds memory and I carry a lifetime (minus a year or two) of winter ones within me. The soft kiss of a snowflake melting on my cheek, staring out the window of my childhood home at the sparkling blanket of fresh snow - waiting for my parent's cocktail party to start. I can almost feel the warmth of the candles, hear the swish of my mother's skirt, and catch the scent of her perfume as she bent down to whisper "They are diamonds just for you." And others...snowangels, stinging cheeks, biking in the drifts with my brother and his subsequent peels of laughter as struggled to keep the bike upright, "the pins and needles" of thawing toes and fingers, snowballs flung through the air, struggling to drive a rear-wheel drive Chevy (both a station wagon and a Caprice Classic) up the hills that surrounded my home, footprints, snowforts, and a Halloween blizzard.
So I watched, sipped my coffee, and lost myself in my son's joy...and then I felt the cold fingers of fear reaching in...the whispered panic..."IT is here! What am I going to do? How will I survive IT?" The IT being the long stretch of winter...the piles to shovel, scraping windows of cold cars, the two young boys with boundless energy that has to be released, the endless putting on and taking off of layers. Maybe due to the remnants of being housebound with newborns, winter feels a bit daunting to me. And even though we get outdoors plenty in the winter, I can scare the crap of myself wondering if I will make it til thaw with my sanity intact.
But I stopped. Went outside to snap a few shots of my son's joy and reminded myself that I am trying to look upward, not backward or forward. As I did I felt the wetness of the first flake on my cheek and decided I will not fear winter this year. As with any fear when we face it - it falls away. I felt it's icy fingers release as I mentally embraced an attitude of playful fearlessness. Instead of a pile to shovel I will choose to see the diamonds.
And I will buy warmer boots.