2020

Pivot Forward

Yesterday, I was every bit of a capitalist consumer. I spent the afternoon searching for  key pieces for an upcoming trip and bopped into a few shops, heading straight for the sale rack towards the back of the stores.

Each time I checked out, the cashiers I interacted with said something along the lines of, “Enjoy the sun while it lasts. Snow is coming tomorrow.”

I was ready for big flakes, fluffy blankets, and savory food warming in the oven.

When I checked the weather before bed last night, I was disappointed. Our anticipated snow day had gone from a sure thing to a 30% chance of flurries for just a few hours. When I woke this morning, no snow had fallen. The ground was dry. The light was grey.

In Colorado, this change of weather and threatening inconsistency is nothing new. I’m used to being told to wear layers to prepare for multiple scenarios.

I have been trained to prepare to be flexible.

Like a toddler pushing the limits, I frequently go in to work on blue sky mornings wearing polka-dot flats only to come outside at five wishing I had worn socks as sharp little ice drops bite at the tops of my feet. If I’m going to get cold, I’ll do so on my own terms.

We wounded wonderers are masters at pivoting.

Turn for the needs of others. Turn for the wallops of pain. Turn for the things we didn’t see coming. I’m used to pivoting to protect myself, to mask disappointment, and to forge forward telling my spirit, “It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.” when really, the situations are anything but.

Yes, the soft landings of snow flakes are missing today. In the grey sky surrounds I sit and I wonder, “How can I teach myself to pivot differently? What if I moved, not away-from but towards the things I want? Can preservation be channeled into motivation instead?”

This week I walked into the gym and climbed onto the elliptical stationed in front of the big t.v. showing the Food Network. The absurdity of watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives while attempting to burn off calories does not escape me. The choice, however, was better than the ever-present terror unfolding on CNN, NBC, and ABC after work hours.

I spent thirty minutes pedaling backward and the lights on the whirring machine began to flash.

Pedal forward. Pedal forward. Pedal forward. 

The green words blinked at me across the digital keypad.

It was time, again to pivot. To change my legs and my weight and move forward with my movements even though I was going nowhere at all.

March is coming and with it birthdays and anniversaries of death. In my head I’m pivoting between how it was then and where I am now and what it feels like to sit in the grey.  Four years have passed and I’ve found myself forgetting the electricity of shocking loss in my veins. The memories are softer now, still cold and wet and powerful in congregation with their fellow flakes.

I want snow and protection and warm food and calories to cushion me.

Machines are beeping, I am weeping, and conversations with encouraging strangers are telling me, “Now. It’s time. Pedal forward. Pivot towards the places you want to be. Create your work – the world needs you just as you are. ”

March is coming. Maybe this year, pivoting forward can be a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Daaad, can I have one beer?

“Daaaad, can I have one beer?” he squeaked out from the corner of the table.

A little boy wearing a navy winter coat stood a foot behind his father, pulling on the older man’s black puffy jacket.

“Can I please have one beer?”

The dad stopped, put down a bulky baby carrier and turned to address his curly hair child.

“Yes,” he said, “but how will you choose which type to have first?”

“Blue sprinkles,” said the little boy. “That’s the one I want to have here.”

I had heard the young one incorrectly, and perched on my orange bar stool, I started to laugh.

Sitting in a busy donut shop on the morning of Valentine’s Day, I watched families stream in with little children. Grub hub delivery people stood patiently in the corner with their branded red bags. Office managers waited patiently as steaming-hot clumps of dough got dipped in strawberry frosting, rainbow sprinkles, and the good part of Lucky Charms cereal.

One man in his twenties was working hard solo, filling the orders with patience and frosting smears. His eyes opened wider each time another person walked in the door.

It was a simple Friday morning. I was invited for a coffee and a donut with a dear friend. We sat on orange bar-stools, and sipped bad drip coffee, and filled our tummies with sugar and dough fried in lard. I watched the woman scrape mounds of lard into the fryer.

We need not go far to be delighted.

Hard working people. Lines of people on their way to work waiting patiently for fried dough. Sprinkles. Smashed cereal and chunks of chocolate and raspberry glaze.

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Say what you will about donuts, sugar, health food and habits, but for just that one morning, I felt the love.

What a beautiful thing.

Caught an Edge

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Photo by Emma Paillex on Unsplash

“It’s happening!” I heard my brain say to my left leg as it lifted from the slush and jolted painfully, pulling me up and then down.

There was a loud crack and a solid thwack as my back met the iced-over ski slope. I don’t know if my turquoise helmet hit first, or my shoulder, but I was dazed.

I’d caught an edge and ate it. Hard.

I stared up at the blue sky for a moment or two.

Or seven.

I knew I had to sit up. Wincing, I raised my upper body to vertical.

“Skis still on?” I asked myself. Yes, the bindings did their job.

Poles were close by.

I tried to breath deeply and a kind woman stopped and asked if I wanted help standing.

“Yes please,” I said as I tried to make eye contact. “It’s been years since I’ve fallen on skis.”

I haven’t fallen because I haven’t been on skis in years. I haven’t fallen because I’m cautious. I take calculated risks. May I be one with the slope, not one laying on the slope.

As the stranger reached for my arm, she reminded me to turn my skis parallel from where I sat, rather than pointing my tips straight down the hill. If I could lean my body weight into the mountain, I could stand again.

I had to push into the very thing that hurt me.

I stood and eventually swooshed the two hundred yards to where Dylan was waiting for me.

“I hit my head.” I said, “Hard.”

My ski afternoon came to an end after a medical check from Ski Patrol and a gondola ride back down to base.

As the incident replays in my brain this week, I’ve been wondering what it means to be brave. We tell ourselves to muster up the courage and to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Being brave can be an active choice, yes, but what about when we are attempting to enjoy life and plans go otherwise? When our instincts kick in and the hard things require actions we feel we must do – not the ones we are brave enough to do?

This weekend, I didn’t cry when I fell. I said yes to help from a stranger, asked Dylan for water, and thought it would be smart to get more medical help. I chose the safe route down the hill rather than pushing myself to move on two sticks of waxed wood. I wobbled in ski boots and found my mom who was waiting and sat quietly in the car, imagining all the things that could have gone wrong. I didn’t feel brave.

Grief looks very much the same.

I didn’t feel brave when I wrote my dad’s obituary or called the organization in charge of his pension. I wasn’t brave when we spread his ashes or gave away his golf clubs, or each week when I choose to share my experience here. I wasn’t being brave.

I was surviving.

Are they the same, beautiful thing?

Life gives us edges to catch, limbs to flail, and places to fall. We’re lucky if we remember to wear our helmets and rely upon the little, beautiful buffers to help us feel a smidge safer in a scary world. We spread out, stunned, staring at the sky, trying to catch our breath as people swish by. And we remind ourselves to sit up again.

In order to do so, you must lean into the mountain. The majestic destination, the reason we are there out under big blue skies seeking solace and cold crisp air.

Lean into mysterious source of the beauty, of pines, jagged rocks, crisp, hard, sometimes powdery snow, and possible pain.

What a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

 

 

February Favorite Things – 2020

It’s snowing again. While February is the shortest month, it’s often a long haul. Here are a few favorites to delight you while the weather is cold and gray and the promise of Spring is still tucked around the corner.

  1. The BFG by Roald Dahl

I’m sure I’m late to the party, and the movie version of Roald Dahl’s classic book warmed my heart. We all need to believe in magic just a teeny bit more.

2. Snake Skin boots

Because we all want to feel sassy. I’ve been told that trend was ‘So last summer’ so if you want to be on the forward edge, I guess leopard print is in.

3. Surface Dry Shampoo

Again, late to the party, but here I am. Perfect that tousled look and avoid wet hair for another day or two more.

4. Salt Lamp Tea Lights

They tell me the benefits of Himalayan Sea Salt are endless. So we put the lamps by our electronics and I light candles at my desk. Warm glows of healing rays. Perfect for gray days.

5. Winter bouquets

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Surround yourself with bright berries, and blue thistles, and tiny, delicate blooms of chamomile. Add some color to your space while we wait for things to think about preparing to bloom. You can buy online, or Trader Joes does a great job with flowers for cheap, cheap, cheap. This florist does floral subscriptions! Get fresh flowers delivered to you once a month.

What do you do to get through the long month of February?

Looking For Beauty Amid the Pain – A Conversation with Non Wells

I have a hate-love with internet. I tend to spend so much time here. I easily get distracted, depressed, or feel stuck in endless comparisons. Hate.

Then, at other times, I realize this vessel is how I can connect with you, share updates, and change the narratives our culture tells about how we must live and operate. Love.

I was so excited to come across Non Wells and his project You, Me, Empathy last year. He’s setting out to tell stories and make connections for what he calls “Feely humans.” He explores topics of mental health, emotional wellness and human connection and I was tickled when he agreed to host me on his podcast.

Our conversation went live this week and you can listen in here.

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We kick off the show talking about my early childhood, wherein my parents valued downtime and play, often using the term (as did Non’s mother), “only the boring get bored.” We explore saying yes to the things we truly want to say yes to, using our time well, and tuning into what we actually want.

As two introverts, we talk about what that means to us, feeling the pressure to be a certain way in life, moving through the world at our own pace and not anyone else’s, having sensitive hearts, and then I share my experience of losing my father. From there, we talk about why grief isn’t contagious, the discomfort many have with death, and the ebbs and flows of life.

We delve into the origin of this blog and explore the highlights of the small joys, the unforeseen beauties perhaps we overlook in life—not as a dismissal of the pain, but a recognition of the overwhelming beauty that exists in our world, and the meditative practice of taking notice.

I hope you take some time to listen. You can learn more about Non and his efforts to support Feely Humans here.

Lights Flicker On Again

I’m sitting, now, in a low chair with a rounded back embracing tiny arms around my frame. The olive leaf upholstery is worn by the bottoms of many learners who’ve rested and read in the library.  Looking out the large windows, I see across the street into my dentist office of yesteryear – the one I attended before things fell apart.

The last time I sat in this chair, I had just raced frantically across the street to find an internet connection. While sitting in the dentist’s chair, I remember obsessively flicking my wrist to check my watch and the seconds ticking away marking the moments I wasn’t responsive for a bad-fit job.

I remember my mouth being numb on one side from the novocaine as I opened my laptop and my stomach dropped again with feelings of “not quite good enough.” You could feel their disappointment in my pulse as my blood moved through my shrinking veins.

Little did I know what was about to unfold.

Tonight, almost four years later, I’m watching out the window again and bouncing back between remembering the fear and anxiety and reminding myself to be present as I listen to the soft click, click, click of my typing making music with the woman next to me knitting something on turquoise, two-inch needles.

Still on the second story, I can see across the street. The windows of the dentist’s office are dark. And the sun is setting over the mountains in the distance and a tiny patch of peach is fighting the fog as we move into another cold weekend.

My mouth isn’t numb. My fingers are moving.

I’ve moved and grown and ached and wondered and still, I’m here.

I’m not fearful of my boss, nor am I afraid to open the multitude of inboxes that come with jobs, and side-hustles, and pending freelance projects.

There’s beauty in the sitting, in the looking across the way. Beauty in the unfolding words and the potential when I open my laptop. Beauty in my deep gratitude for that feeling of  “Thank God I’m not there any longers.” Beauty in spaces once filled with fear gone dark.

Beauty in clean bills of health and the no longer numb and the same chair waiting to welcome me back to watch the lights flicker on again.

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Smeared

The smears are a pretty common occurrence.

Slivers of chocolate fall from a crinkled piece of plastic holding my breakfast onto my pants. Oats and nuts crumble and the binding cocoa leaves little trails on my hands and my jeans as I drive in to work. If I move fast enough, I can lick up the evidence.

If not, like most mornings, I walk into the office with a little chocolate stain on my jacket or dark denim pants. Does breakfast count if it’s covered in chocolate? I like to think so. KIND bars probably does too.

I’ve been thinking about those smears and the lingering they represent. How a messy  bite of joy on a busy morning lingers, integrating itself into the fabric of my clothes, the upholstery in my car, and at times my husbands jacket as I reach to correct his uneven coat collar from the passenger seat.

Sure, we could look and just see a stain. A nuisance, a frustrating something I’ll have to clean again. Yet, the frequency of the marks have turned into something for me to ponder. I don’t want to live without the marks of joy for we move along to the next thing fast enough.

I woke this morning feeling sad. My gremlin arrived yesterday, hopping from granite counter top to the new ceramic backsplash my father-in-law so lovingly installed in our kitchen. With each application of gray, wet grout, the little grief monster bounced and caused me to remember, “Yes, here we go again. Making progress without him.”

Just before, we had removed the spacers placed to hold it all together. I took a metal trowel in my hand, dipping over and over again into the sludge of prepared cement and smeared the wet to fill in the intentionally designed gaps.

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Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Every time the trowel met the wall, my little grief monster bounced, calling me to remember, “Yes, here we go again. Making progress without him.”

When my in-laws left, I sat at the kitchen table looking at our project. Taking a deep breath I mumbled to my husband across the room, “These projects sure make me miss him.”

A few tears fell, smearing day-old mascara around my tired eyes.

The pigment left dribbles on my cheeks as they fell, once again, onto my jeans. Another perceived stain on skin and fabric meant to be cleaned up. I stood and stepped up soft stairs and went about writing an ordinary grocery list.

There are smears – of joy, of sadness, of instant gratitude in the crinkling requirements of life. I’ve used my fingers to caress away, wipe, and lick at the morsels that fall. There will always be something to clean.

What if we let the smear stay a little longer and ask ourselves to move a little slower? What could happen then?

I’m thankful for the beauty of chunks of dark chocolate mixing with fruit and nuts. Beauty in tired mascara as it meets salty tears. Beauty in remembering and the smear of anticipatory emotion. Beauty in the ache of wishing he, too, could use his artisan hands to create in my house. We took cement and smeared it over the kitchen sink where he broke a wine glass the last time we had dinner together.

The smears set. They are radiating beauty. Come on over to my kitchen. I’ll show you what I’m talking about.