I just took a delicious swig of the cool left over venti Pike Place I got yesterday morning after checking out of my hotel. What is it about the combination of a packed carry on tote and Starbucks that literally gives me life? I don’t know but I am a believer.
This is my writing warm up for the day. I woke up in room 1107 at a little boutique hotel yesterday and spent a full morning in a sunlit queen sized bed doing whatever I wanted in my notebooks and on the internet. A daughter turned 13 on Saturday and her and her best friend got some rare pandemic free time to just breathe, be social and be somewhere different.
The idea was generated out of excitement for them, they are great girls and deserve a little treat. However, as the day progressed and birthday morning prep and “party” execution and basketball games came and went; the excitement rolled over onto me. I have been missing the smell of my suitcase and long for the mental puzzle of a little bit of travel. And though the night was not necessary relaxing (though it is where I started to relax – as the eucalyptus soap washed the bonfire off) the morning for sure was.
I attempted to draw the curtains shut at the crack of dawn to learn that they actually did not shut. Grateful for the pretty morning after such a grey week, I woke as early as I normally would and began to peck through my heart and my thoughts to figure out: with no other stimuli – where I was in life, what I was wanting to do and spend time on and where I needed shifting.
My negative thinking is rarely negative thinking more than it is noticing the problems to be solved, the areas to transform. I told a friend this morning, when we caught up for a quick thirty, that I can tell when I am doing something wrong in my approach when my approach is causing me stress, worry, losing sleep or irritability. I have learned that means a belief I have isn’t helpful or it is a reminder that I am attempting to manage something outside of my own self (and to knock it off).
Because of this, I share my “negative thinking” openly. I am comfortable with it. And though I know that I have a MAJOR opportunity to change up *the way* I tell my stories so it doesn’t sound hyper critical of a specific kid or situation, I do trust the overall process I have learned to be true: you learn your words and your needs when you acknowledge the things that make you feel gross.
I decided to start up an anonymous blog on the internet to talk more candidly about some of the major themes in our house hold that this blog needs to keep private. I have my writing projects prioritized and moving along; with full access to my basement study. I have a new mental memo to self going on which is telling me what is not necessary in my writing and it feels helpful; like I have grown there.
Every single hard thing offers a way to make room for something better. The emotional labor of life is real and can create a trickling speed limit of how much you can take on, can sift through, can handle, at a time. I believe our lots in life are where our opportunities to demonstrate variations of loving lie. And, with that, I finish my writing warm up. Which I originally thought was going to be a fun little travel bit about Ojai.
It’s a Monday night and I am sitting in our newly finished rec room on our new Ikea couch. Outside of cleaning up the kitchen and a few loads of laundry (PS: I am an official Dropps subscriber…) I did nothing today before or after my Ikea run. My mind was kind of going through thing after thing – not really in an incessant or obsessive way. It was more of like I was just watching my life like a movie and taking notes on what I should do. In that way, it felt productive even though I was curled up in my bed with the cover over me pseudo napping for the duration of the cold, gray midwest afternoon.
I prayed for the first time last night in what feels like ages. A couple of years ago, I shifted from dedicated prayer journaling, dedicated prayer outpouring, dedicated prayer groups to this idea of constantly praying. I started to say “I have been praying for you” to friends who I had been thinking about; even though there was no “Dear God” about it. When something angsty would spike up, I would just “commit it”.
I learned this technique when my mom was in a coma. I remember thinking that I had to keep praying, keep praying, keep praying. One day, in the elevator to her floor of the rehab facility after she had resurrected from the dead, I caught myself daydreaming about something other than her recovery and felt ashamed.
I STOPPED PRAYING.
That’s when I got one of those divine mind spells served to me: an image of angels going up and down stairs that were built out of prayers. Repeated prayers were these thick sturdy staircases, carrying hundreds of angels up and down, but even prayers that were prayed just once had at least an angel or two traveling up and down from heaven to earth and back again.
Back to last night. I found myself with space slash patience and I thought to myself, “Huh, maybe I’ll pray”.
I don’t remember what I prayed for or for how long I prayed until I fell asleep. But I remember feeling the words in my brain and this sense of breadth and was reminded of a time I prayed so hard I suddenly started to see a different version of myself in my mind’s eye: standing on a cliff in the middle of a galaxy with green vines growing up the side of the cliff with each breath I continued to pray.
Even though my spirituality has changed in its form, whatever way of praying that delivered that night sky cliffside clearing broke some sort of veil to where I was just able to lay on a Sunday night, close my eyes, and go straight back to that same feeling of openness.
I am aware of mine and David’s marital milestones. Just like the dating type milestones where “I can’t believe you’re real” morphs into “I can’t believe you’re real even though – my God – you are super real”; marital milestones show up and say “Yeah – hey, so this is two people in a thing together, it’s not magic even though the love is other worldly”.
We were finishing our weekend as two foxes in a den when I said, “You know, it’s not like you get married to figure somebody out.” He nodded.
That is definitely not why you get married.
And it’s not like you get married for somebody to figure you out. Not at all.
I continued, “…and for those little things about you that are just like your things, it’s not like we are going to like get to the bottom of it and you’re going to stop being a certain way. That like is not the point. Same goes for me.”
David laughed, and we enjoyed what felt like a mutual acknowledged relief.
I think it is easy to get to the work of the union (the effort in the ease, some yogis may say…) and feel like you have to work to change, to fix, etc.
However, in dealing with my personal psyche (which has spent the majority of its decades attempting to 1) identify 2) analyze 3) plan 4) change), I have learned that the work is actually in allowing no work. The work is actually a deep breath in and full self acceptance. It doesn’t let you off the hook for shitty behavior or destructive tendencies but it does fall in line with the whole Thor theme of being who you are vs. who you are “supposed to be”.
Likewise, that same technique of offering space and seeing the other without the need to get all mechanical works well in love relationships. It takes the need to define and understand and replaces it with an opportunity to allow and support. My current findings is this creates a lot of laughter. It also starts to curb neurosis.
These milestones we get to that feel like a thick sheet of waxy bubble wrap that we need to push our heads through and breathe in a new leg of the journey; the breakthroughs that come feel a lot like that meditation space I got the key to that I can return to whenever I want.
The progress of openness instead of iteration dotted somewhere along the horizon of self acceptance. It’s absolutely fantastic in its realness.
These invisible things: beliefs and the ideas we carry – adhering to them or attempting to adhere to them – can make us suffer so much. And since this is true, the opposite must also be true: that freedom from things needing to be a certain way and liberation from definitions of the right way to handle something can bring us joy. For me? Allowing prayers and personalities to simply be whatever they are is a total game changer.
It allows space and it allows laying in bed for two hours after a hot shower to be productive.
My life is, as it seems, spiraling into control. I realized that this morning, watching The Flight Attendant.
I got up from the couch where I was eating a plate of breakfast hash. I felt it was time to sit and pull a post together.
Before opening up a blank page, I took a look at what was in my drafts:
Truth is, I have started and stopped a lot of thought trains. Trains trying to capture my current mental processing but there are a lot of threads to weave into a quick entry “hey this is life!” post.
How do I capture the humor of my current battle with my robots and the growing list of yet another idea for Google Home (and should I even share that without a patent?)
When I slay the mental math of “what is there to eat” does that officially put me in the mommy blog blogosphere? Like, nobody thinks I should start doing 10 Ways to Max a Pandemic Grocery Run life hack posts, n’est ce pas??
And when it is not how 3 meals were expertly served out of the same cut of meat, I have mindful living quips and anecdotal stories on how the furniture is arranged today to set up for the weekend. But these stories involve the learnings of a new, young marriage and HOW do you share a bit more about that or our house strategy without, you know, being public about our private plans? So those posts I don’t even try.
The only other little snippet suitable for Frozen Spaghetti is the regular processing of the whole why I retired thing. Little glimpses of the things I really miss about my work at Enterprise will pop up now and again. I’ll have an impulse to reach out off a flashback of hopeful moments talking shop on really, really good transportation ideas over exciting lunches in black blazers.
And this is where the rubber hits the road.
This is where self discovery would be at the core of all of this: who is the person that knows what to do with the ideas, has the functioning abode which ticks along a reasonably flexible but consistent schedule and that is actively in the publishing project each day? With so much going on, it is enough to make you think that I need to do that discovery work but the thing is. I actually truly already know that. I followed that self’s gut when I wrote my retirement announcement. I am in the aftermath of self discovery. I am in the living part. And it has been a long time since living meant doing whatever I wanted with my free time.
In a one on one phone call I made before my announcement, I was talking with a VP I had worked with for well over a decade. I told them that even if I had the perfect pitch for the right team or the right team had the perfect pitch for me, that I needed to evolve out of whatever thinking I have been in. Too long in one environment, I think, makes you start to believe certain things about yourself and about how things work.
I had come to recognize that there were things I believed about myself and about how things work that actually were only true within my place of employment. Not that they were wrong, bad or untrue – but what I said on that phone call when describing this was really, really necessary: I needed the saran wrap off my brain. I wanted to feel myself think and be unboundedly creative.
When I experience moments of shock or pressure that there is a litter box in the living room (basement being remodeled) or that it has been weeks since I have had that sweet “all the laundry is done and floors are clean” moment, I can get really hard on myself. It is a mix of feeling behind and out of sorts. I’m smiling now, editing this post, I totally get this now.
So last night, on NYE, the game I got out to play was super strategic and – though surely fun – virtual school and TikTok literally dissipated my teenagers’ attention spans and the comical groaning was just a little much while I tried to read the instructions. We called it and started a movie. I sat at the table, aware of how loose the seams were across the board. I let it make me feel really bad. Actually, I think I might have cried.
In hindsight, I think I felt like I didn’t execute the plan right. Felt like this on Christmas Eve, too. But as this pandemic holiday season serves a real lesson in knowing where you want to be and what you value, it is unique in that it shows you all the pieces without them all lined up and recognizable. << I think this is a universal truth.
I went and gave David a hug and cried about how stupid I felt trying to play that game. I lamented my choices and ruining the night. He rubbed my head and told me I didn’t mess anything up.
I felt pretty and full of love for my family. And even though I had this weakness, I felt like I was surrendering to the beauty of everything going on. I mean – my life has changed absolutely dramatically in the best possible ways. The pieces are not going to line up yet. The seams are loose and each day we get up and we do what we want and don’t do what we don’t want, we start to draw them in. David is teaching me this.
I went back out to the kids and Ellen gave me a hug. I apologized through tears that I didn’t have fireworks for them to shoot off at midnight. She looked at me like I was crazy and reminded me she hates fireworks. I laughed, she does hate fireworks – they make her nervous. It was funny because my distortion was proof that I was missing the moment, the point and the embrace.
She brought her guitar down to the table and started learning Walk Me Home by Pink while the other four kids came as if via magnets to the table, joined up teams for a round of Old Maid. (laughing now… a MUCH simpler game lol.. oh man, it feels good to laugh about when you know your kids and think “ok – Old Maid, not Risk”. I mean, it’s not that they’re stupid…. but… #yikes lol)
Ok – anyway, Ellen went on to play the chords to Hit Me Baby, One More Time as well as some Brandi Carlisle and of course Taylor songs. We played cards and sang until the ball dropped. (Which, Maddox pointed out, doesn’t actually drop and is either a conspiracy or a rip off.) Then, though I was tired as hell, I changed and curled up on the couch in the room with the litter box and watched Tangled with my teens, Ellen and Aria. I make Ellen laugh with my fatigued unfiltered and under the breath flow of consciousness commentary and she makes me feel good when she shares this with her friends.
Ah, my friends….
I am learning the relief of walking by a pile of laundry or not fussing about my tech stack: iPad waiting for illustrations, laptop waiting for words.
And, it is true: Google and Apple really do need to make these “stupid f*cking robots” (as I tend to mumble) a lot better.
But even if Siri and Hey Google don’t figure out how to intersect in some really wonderful life giving ways for me, they still at least take and display pictures of the unfolding of our wonderfully colorful life. Which is nice of them, I guess.
In watching the out of control spiral in The Flight Attendant, I realized how grounded I am in my self and in my life. And all the churn? The litter box and the constant need to tweak the system? This is the spiraling into control. And not corporate control like I have grown to know it.
This new kind of control requires NO estimates or timelines. It simply requires me to show up and be myself. Self control.
In closing, David told me this morning he does not make New Year resolutions. He simply “sets his goals whenever he wants and goes after them”.
He reads, he gets certified, he does new things with technology, he learns about what he wanted to learn about, he picks up a new instrument, he downloads the software and plays with it, he looks up the place, the recipe, the book and – boom: he evolves. He goes to sleep at 8 (9:30 on NYE), he gets up at 5, he loves coffee and his wife and his family and he doesn’t mind rinsing and repeating as long as there is an adventure around the corner.
And just like I know the truth that the best way to parent is to demonstrate not instruct, I think I recognize the best way to learn is to apply.
I am thinking husband may be an incredible teacher.