February 17, 2015
by Tricia
7 Comments

This is 34

photo 3

I’ve finally started waking up early again. It’s 4:45am as I write this and my office is cold buy my coffee is hot and somehow the two battle it out and the coffee wins and I’m not as numb as I expect to be. Beyond the sheer curtains and the windows behind them, snow is still falling lightly, sprinkling the tops of who knows how many inches that already lay on the ground. When I went to bed last night, the snow sparkled under the glare of the street lamps in a way that looked almost magical and I hope that glitter affect remains this morning so that when the little ones wake we can talk of Elsa and fractals and carry that sparkle right through this snow day.

This is 34. Waking early, getting a head start on the snow day, happiness for coffee to hold off the cold, and wishing for magic.

34 is also reaching this point, this moment of reflection and writing about another year around the sun, a week late. Because 34, it seems, is life moving like lightening across a night sky. It is deceptively long days with hours that pass in a blink. It’s more mothering and less working and somehow more working too. Or, perhaps, less writing, more working. It’s not realizing that the balance has shifted until it’s too late to fix without a bit of freefall. 34, so far, is a lifetime of dreams all wandering up to me all at the same time and me realizing that my hands are already too full to grasp them all and having to figure out what to drop and in what order to drop them.

A few days ago I let sleep drop. I’m curious to see what falls next.

At the beginning of 2015, I had a premonition that before the clock turns to 2016, my life, the life of my family, will look nothing at all as it does today. I can already feel the winds changing and although I am not given to premonitions or belief that I have an inkling, ever, what the future holds, I can already feel that seed of thought growing. Which means that 34 is going to morph me and change the landscape around me. When I look back on 33, I know that I’ll see family and love and smiles and a foursome hitting their stride together. When I look back on 34, I’m pretty sure it will take my breath away.

Usually, at this point, I launch into a list of things I’ve learned in the year gone by. I mix the silly with the serious and gather all that I can from the age I lived through for a while. Sometimes I even email myself little nuggets as the year churns so that I’ll remember when I get to this moment. But I didn’t do that this year. I’ve got no little email reminders of the things I gathered during my time with 33. I suspect that is because there was a lot of living to do with 33 and a lot of love and a lot of big. A handful of things that were scary, moments that I knew would draw lines, those lines where everything that came before looks one way and everything that came after looks another.

And so the lesson I’m taking away from all of that is the incredible importance of leaping. That life, truly living, is giving yourself a running start, squeezing your eyes shut, and just launching into the air, holding onto faith that a net will materialize before you reach the ground and squeezing the hands of those who love and support you all the way down and so tightly that you may even cut off circulation but you know they won’t care. Leap, but never leap alone, is what I’ve learned.

sunrisebeach

Leap into a trip with your family that you never dreamed you’d take. Leap out of a place that has been safe and that has felt like home. Leap into a dream and make it a reality just by your very presence. Leap into a weekend that intimidates you. Leap into a world that terrifies you. Leap into sharing and honesty and telling your story.

And if you do all of that, all of that leaping in one single year, expect pain. Expect a moment or two (or more) when you can barely move from the weight of the falling. Expect tears. Single tears dropping quietly and full-on, body-shaking sobs. Expect moments in between the leaps and expect that they will feel like moving backwards even if they aren’t. Expect that you will land from your leap and turn around to find the people you love but not be able to reach them. Expect that it may take a little while before you reconnect. But expect to reconnect.

And when the year is over, expect to have fallen in love with leaping. Expect to be nostalgic for yesterday and the feeling of flying through the air. Expect to feel a little out of place, a little unsure how to keep it up, a little wary of leaping on legs that are another year older. Expect to take a beat or two to gather up the courage to keep at it, to gather up the resources and confidence, to need to find a new stride to launch you into the air. But, after all of that, I hope that you can expect to keep leaping. I’ll be sure to let you know. 51 weeks from now.

February 5, 2015
by Tricia
8 Comments

I understand why you said no

I almost said it too.

parents with new baby

Sitting in hard plastic chairs with our 2-month old nestled in our arms, we exchanged nervous glances when the doctor told us she was ready for her first set of vaccinations. We’d heard enough of the rumors to be terrified. The anti-vaccine campaign had long legs and sharp teeth back then and the pro-vaccine campaign… well it didn’t exist. Because, of course, why should it have to?

But what’s a new parent to do? New parenthood, the time when you hungrily drink every ounce of information about your new life and how to care for it, is like living against a constant tidal wave. There are so many options, there is so much information. And you want to learn everything and consider everything and decide as if your life depends on it. You don’t want to just follow the crowd. How does the crowd know what is best for the most precious thing you’ve ever known.

So we read the books and tried to understand, to cut through all of the hype and reveal the truth – to see clearly the thing we should do for our daughter.

But pregnancy surfaces so many decisions and newborn babies take so much energy and this question laid in a long line of what-to-dos and how-to-handles. So there we were, at her 2-month checkup, nervous and unsure. Our doctor, of course, strongly advised us to vaccinate on schedule and didn’t try to hide his irritation. How often he must fight this battle. He seemed at a loss with parents like us, the ones who ask questions. So he offered us the documentation that came with the vaccines to read and review.

We eagerly took him up on it, though looking back now, I can’t for the life of me tell you why. Sitting with pages of medical-ease in one hand and our iphones in the other, trying to sort out what it all meant on a couple of hours of sleep as our baby fussed in our arms just made us more confused than we were before. Eventually we threw up our hands, tossed the papers back at him and held our baby still as they stuck needles in her legs. I cried and nursed her and then we took her home, hoping we had made the right decision.

Five years, a dozen vaccines, and a second baby later, I know we made the right call. No doubt remains in my mind that vaccinating my children, on schedule, is the way to go.

But you aren’t so sure. You hear the hype and you haven’t gone through this yet and you can’t look beyond the next feeding or the next nap to the day when your child will mix with other children on the playground, in the toy store, at school. Yes, even at Disneyland.

And I get it. Oh I understand it all. You hear things and you read things and all of it is so terrifying as you hold this tiny, precious, fragile body in your arms. Nobody wants to make a choice that forever alters the future of the people they love. Nobody wants to see their children suffer. And we all want control. We are all tossed into this sea of chaos, the reins ripped from our hands the moment our babies take their first breaths. So we cling onto the things we can control, the decisions we can still make all on our own.

I understand. I’m a mom and I know why you are considering saying no to that shot. Or why you’ve already said no a dozen times.

But I also know that diseases like measles and whooping cough bring suffering too. These are ugly diseases and there is a reason that so much time and effort was spent ridding our lives of them. I know that these illnesses take away control. And not just from you but from the mother whose infant is not old enough to get the vaccine and risks exposure every time they leave the house. From the doctors who are spending their days treating diseases that we haven’t seen in years. From the public health workers, battling an epidemic of a disease they had worked so hard to eradicate.

You want to make your own choices about what is best for your children. We all do. And nothing is more terrifying than sorting out which danger is the most real among a litany of possible dangers. But as you raise your child, you will want to encourage him or her to make decisions based on proven fact and data and clear, well-considered thought. Now is the time that we, as parents, must do the same.

February 4, 2015
by Tricia
6 Comments

Time Travel, Oprah, and Vulnerability

desk selifie

Last week I watched Barbara Walters’ most interesting people of 2014 special.

Yes, last week. Three weeks into 2015. The holidays were busy, ya know? And I have a bit of an obsession with watching interviews but, in one of those opposites-attract kind of ways, my husband does not. So I set the DVR and intended to watch it long before now but I don’t clock a lot of hours with just me and the TV so I’m actually lucky to be talking about this now and not six months from now. And this is why I will never be caught live-tweeting any event. Though, I have to say, I was tempted to late-live-tweet Barbara Walters as I watched because how awesomely confusing would that have been?

I used to be one of those people who refused to brush up against anything holiday spirited after December had closed. No music, no decorations, no red or green. But I’ve sort of found myself moving on from that in recent years. It’s a bit too restrictive and I just can’t control the five-year-old who can’t control her own love of humming Jingle Bells, regardless of season. And this year, dipping back into early December of last year for an evening was actually rather comforting. It reminded me how happy I was with the year as it came to a close which is something I think we tend to forget as we get into the never-ending forward motion of a new year. Time to reflect on a year gone by should not expire at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. At the risk of living in the past, I like to linger in good times gone by. Sometimes they help me recreate those same feelings in good times to come. So, for an hour or so last week, I pretended it was still 2014 for a while and it felt really nice.

I love interviews because they often provide a little window into a person which, then, creates a different view of the world for me. I love watching to see who settles in nicely as if they are having a conversation with a good friend, revealing openly and honestly all sorts of details and who remains stiff or mysterious, leaving you feeling as if you want more but know you’ll never get it. (For the record, in this particular special, Oprah was of the first type and Scarlett Johansson of the second though that may be because Oprah and Barbara are friends? I’m not sure).

I bring up Oprah because although I’ve never been a diehard fan the way that some are, I’ve always respected her and as I watched her interview I found myself wanting so much to be like her. She has a rare presence that you don’t often find. For the entire time she was completely in the moment, calm and collected, polished but not fake. I’ve no doubt that this presence comes from years of being a highly public figure and that she’s worked for decades to be able to speak with such openness and honesty. She’s had enough experience with backlash and criticism that she knows she’ll survive it and so she shares her true self because she’s learned that the reward is worth the risk.

She is comfortable with vulnerability.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” ~ Brene Brown

I’ve been reading a lot about vulnerability lately. There’s the words of Brene Brown which I consume hungrily whenever I see them. There was Lindsey’s lovely piece last week about how vulnerability fosters closeness. There’s the fact that I read so much memoir and so much personal essay and that I am working on a memoir of my own and spend my days and nights writing personal essay and what could be more vulnerable than writing your own journey for anyone in the world to read?

Or, at least, that’s what I thought. But I’m starting to believe that writing my stories and revealing things, even some deep and personal things, here isn’t what’s vulnerable. Vulnerability is the rare ability to recognize that the risk is worth the reward. And it’s recognizing that in more than saying that the reward of being published is worth the risk of revealing something personal (which is a trap I have fallen into). It’s realizing that you can’t get close when you put up a wall.

aerial selfie

vulnerability is a selfie. making it black & white is not going all the way. but we’ll get there.

Vulnerability is openly and honestly exposing your true self in a conversation with another person. It’s showing your truth, your true self, fears and blemishes and quirks and all, in service of closeness and genuine relationships. It’s first accepting yourself and your own natural tendencies and wishes and desires and then bravely sharing them with the world. Because the world needs them. And the world does need them. I wholeheartedly believe that the world needs our truest, most open selves.

I’m bad at these things, admittedly. For as much as I write here, I am bad at vulnerability, at letting my honest, true self out in the wild. But my birthday is nearing and I’m shifting into another reflective mode and I can feel that begin to change. With as much as I’m stumbling over words about vulnerability right now, I think the world is urging me to be more like Oprah. And I think I’m ready.

February 3, 2015
by Tricia
2 Comments

Time with Intent

feet on yog mat

I pull my mat out of the corner and unroll it across the floor. The mat is olive green and faded and missing in places where the cats have mistakenly used it as a scratching pad over the years (or, maybe intentionally, they are cats after all). I’m tempted, every time, to use my daughter’s bright purple and blue mat, just a few months old. But I don’t. It’s hers and should be hers and if I were to use it she wouldn’t have a yoga space of her own.

Still, despite the old and the holes, the feeling of unrolling my mat across the floor, in front of the piano and between my desk and the double french doors, is a deep clean breath. It’s a motion I never thought much of really. Never really thought that it would yield a moment I’d ache for in the hours (sometimes days) in between but I do. It means that the next ten or fifteen minutes are mine. That in the next ten or fifteen minutes I will breathe deeply and focus inwardly and stretch outwardly. It means that I have chosen, specifically, how to spend this time and nothing will stand in my way.

My word for this year is intent and as I began the year, I chose this word thinking about relatively big decisions. Decisions about new schools and career trajectories and what to do to move our family in the way we want it to move. I wanted to approach those choices and crossroads thoughtfully and respectfully and with the time to think them through so that I wouldn’t just gravitate towards the first option presented. So far, I haven’t made any big decisions just yet but I’m considering many and the process feels right.

2 yoga mats

But, of course, intent also comes into play in even the smallest moments of life. The daily decisions about what to do, what to eat, where to go, what to listen to. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow, yes. But more often than not I am finding that taking a moment to pause and at least give a thought about how to spend this moment or the next, this hour or that morning, is changing, in micro-movements, the way I live my life. It means that rather than diving into my office on a Saturday afternoon, because that is what I have always done, I buckle my daughter into the car for a couple of hours of shopping and hot cocoa and we have the sweetest conversation in the car on the way home. It means that I plan out the work I need to do and the work I want to do and I align it to the times I know work best for my brain or heart and just by that act of planning and thinking about being intentional with my time, I make the time for the things I want to do. It means that I have begun tracking my time in a messy spreadsheet, even when that time belongs to me and not a client, so that I can get a better picture of where my minutes go.

And it means that, almost everyday, I put work aside, leave the laundry unfolded and the dishes dirty. I kiss my children goodbye just for a bit, and I go into my office and unroll my yoga mat.

I’m new to yoga and the progression from where I pose today to a yogi who can successfully achieve a flow is slow. But in just a few short weeks, I feel my arms and legs growing stronger and my breath reaching deeper. And I feel my actions becoming more intentional. The slow transition between poses and the moments to linger in each one is the most tangible study in intent that I can imagine and so my minutes on the mat push me deeper into my word and my goals for this year, every time.

In the first days of the year, with the impetus of a fresh start and the relaxation of a somewhat slow return to the normalcy of after-holiday life, carving out these fifteen yoga minutes was easy. And you’d think it would always be easy. It’s just fifteen minutes, after all. But it’s already become more difficult. My mind could reel for hours on all of the reason I should not unroll that mat, all of the other things I need to be doing, all of the other things I could be doing. And it will only become more difficult when the snow melts into spring and life literally beckons and it will be just so easy to blow it off and take a walk or run the kids to the park. Of course, intent is not about the easy thing or the thing that beckons. It’s about actively choosing the right thing for the right moment.

January 28, 2015
by Tricia
12 Comments

This strange January feeling

snow angel

snow angel

I can’t get started.

It’s that winter feeling. That feeling of the second and third and fourth weeks of January when the glow of new starts and freshly written resolutions has started to fade beneath inches (or feet) of snow and layers of sweaters and socks that fail to warm against the cold. It’s strange that all year I ache for the quiet and the calm and the clear calendar that January brings so that I can focus and reflect and write. And then when January gets here, the quiet and the calm and the clear calendar make me want to leap out of my skin.

It’s also strange to me that I find myself here, in this place, every year. The bigness of the plans I make and dreams I commit to overwhelms me until I can’t even get a word on the page. The weather never helps. Just one week with a consistent schedule, the predictability that helps my fingers do their thing, could set me straight, I swear it. It’s hard to focus when you’re perched on the edge of a fleeting hour in which to write before the TV show entertaining the kids will end and they will, once again, beg to make cookies or play in the snow. It’s also hard to focus when you’d much rather be cozied up in slipper feet dropping chocolate chips into sugar and butter than staring at a blank screen.

I’ve started this post a half dozen times in the past several days but just can’t seem to get it going. So now I’ve resorted to the thing that all writers do as a last-ditch effort to remove the block. I’m just writing. Without editing or thought or inserting ideas about where I hope this will go or what it will do. Because it won’t go far but what it will do is remind my fingers that January will end in a matter of days and we have to keep moving forward. That this strange feeling of wanting and trying to reach but not being able to lift my arms above my head will pass when the month changes and we can feel a little bit of momentum into the year, closer to spring. I’m just writing and I will just publish not because this is the best thing I’ve ever written (you feel that pressure too, sometimes, right?) but because it needs to get out and make way for the next which, also, will not be the best thing I’ve ever written but we’re going somewhere as soon as we remove this block.

It’s this strange January feeling I’ve got right now. And with decades of Januarys behind me, I believe I’m finally giving into it. Finally not berating myself for the difficulty I have dealing with the strangeness. Finally just saying yes, it’s January and it’s strange right now. But next week we’ll be hanging hearts from the ceiling and powering through the shortest month of the year on our way to days when the sun shines for longer and the grass grows brighter and we can wiggle out of the strange place ready to take on the world.

~~~~~

Linking up with Lisa for One Word Prompts

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