Tis the Season of Endings


seasons

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.  —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have begun to refer to this past month or so as the “Season of Endings.” While it feels like this has snuck up on me, I have been staring down the barrel of this gun since last year. As the school year wrapped up in the spring of 2014, I telescoped out to the spring of 2015, imagining what it would be like to see both of my boys moving up and entering new stages of their lives. We’ve been through this before with the older one but it was a subtle ending, a minor shift of the universe as he ended his time in the secure blanket of elementary school and made his way to the middle school, embracing the roller coaster ride of adolescence and hormonal inconsistencies. It seemed like a small moment at the time because the younger one was still, seemingly, our baby and was providing a safeguard that we had a long way to go before our lives as parents would truly shift and our children would begin their not-so-slow ascent towards adulthood.

This year, both our boys will move up. The younger one finally leaving the pediatric nest of grade school and the older one beginning the final stage of his mandated academic career as he prepares to rise up to high school. I’m incredibly proud of both of them, shining stars in their own rights. And, I am surprisingly overwhelmed by how their rapid maturity and readiness to embark on their new journeys stands in stark contrast to my desire to push them back into the womb. They are navigating their journeys with confidence and competence that is equally impressive and humbling. As their mother, I struggle to strike the proper balance of nurturing support and respecting their growing boundaries. It’s an obstacle course that I trip over daily, rewarded with eye rolls, exasperated sighs and complete insolence. My older one has fine tuned his ability to tune me out and disregard my wishes while the younger one is watching carefully as his mentor blazes the trail.

For my older son, this year is transformative. As an athlete, he is moving into a much more serious period of his young athletic career. He has his eyes set on playing in college and is beginning to understand the implications and obligations that come along with that goal. He is constantly weighing his options, looking at potential outcomes and examining consequences. I wonder where he learned this and question if his father and I truly had the capacity to teach this to him when this was never ingrained in us. He is remarkable. He shared with me this week that the girl he had asked to accompany him to the 8th Grade Dinner/Dance was  just a friend because the girl he wanted to ask would be more than a friend and he didn’t want to get involved with someone who was going to be leaving for the entire summer to go to sleepaway camp. It took me a few seconds to process his comment and I had to quickly decide if I was immensely proud of the logical and mature thought process or if I was saddened by his lack of whimsy. Either way, I respect his decision and admire that he made one that he is comfortable with. I sensed no regret or disappointment. He had not settled. He made a choice and was secure in that. Wow. That just happened.

The season of endings is truly bittersweet. And, I have found, it is seeping into other areas of my life as well. As I prepare to celebrate my boys transition to the next stages of their lives, I am carefully trying to not overshadow their moment. However, I know myself well enough to realize that when life is changing beyond what I can control, I will look to control other types of changes in my life. I try to ease my discomfort with everything moving so fast and my inability to keep up with it all by focusing on the areas of my life that I can control and change at my own pace. Our lives – mine in particular – is always in a state of flux and I never sit still for too long. As I have often shared, change is both scary and exciting to me. I crave it and I try to control it. I dread it and I am wildly anticipatory of it. Like my boys, who are ready to move into new schools, make new friends and partake in new experiences, I grow antsy with the familiar, seeking out new experiences and interactions. I love the thrill of the new and the opportunities and adventures that come along with that. I love to reinvent and refresh and am always looking for ways to introduce that into my life. Whether it be a new job, a new friend, a new hairstyle or a new hobby, I am always trying to find ways to create new and interesting experiences for myself. And, like with the Season of Endings, I do this while struggling to let go of the old. I hang on, often far too long, failing to detach from what I have outgrown. My metaphorical closet is stuffed with clothes and shoes that no longer fit or are not in style.

During this Season of Endings, I commiserate with fellow parents who are bracing themselves for all kinds of new adventures as our children embark on the next leg or their journeys. We love them and support them with tears gently spilling from our eyes as the umbilical cord stretches just a little bit further, getting ready to finally split off. We watch our babies grow a little taller, talk a little deeper, walk a little faster as their little hands slip from ours and they assure us that they can cross the street on their own. We hold our breaths as they step out from the curb, trusting that we have reminded them again and again to look both ways and take care of themselves. We beam with pride as they take long strides in the crosswalk, making their way to the other side, waving proudly to reassure us that they did it. They made it all by themselves. And we weep a little more while feeling grateful and proud.

Each day that passes and I endure another element of the Season of Endings, I realize that we are quickly morphing into the Season of Beginnings. It’s a new road and a new chapter for all of us.

People Plan, God Laughs


“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

fishtankOne of the many dichotomies of my life that sometimes leaves even me with whiplash is my ability to embrace the impermanence of my life running up against my need to plan. I am a chronic planner – probably not as extremely far along on the spectrum as some of the more compulsively organized people I know – and this need often collides head-on with the nonstop flow of change. Perhaps, I suppose, there is some deep logic to my planning. I plan for all eventualities, knowing full well that my primary plan is likely to be pummeled by some unexpected occurrence. Ultimately, I am prepared for a variety of outcomes.

I do truly embrace the notion that life changes on a dime. And, in fact, sometimes I introduce the change into my own life in order to challenge the status quo. I am restless, typically bored when things become too familiar or predictable. I like to move things around and mix things up. When I was a teenager, I frequently rearranged the furniture in my room in order to gain new perspectives. I have always liked to have a variety of friends, continually affording myself a new panorama. So, despite my need to have plans in place and create a level of order in my life, I have a high tolerance for the unpredictability that constant change creates. I was raised to expect change as my mother used to often say “People plan and God laughs.” I am acutely aware that God is continually getting side-splitters watching me. I acknowledge his hysteria and continue planning nonetheless.

One of my goals in my life has been to effectively read the cues and prepare myself when change is afoot. I have astutely read the tea leaves time and again, seemingly forecasting outcomes of different experiences. My senses are fine tuned and I am not typically surprised or overwhelmed when changes take place. However, the one area of my life that usually creates the greatest vulnerability and challenges my ability to predict the future is with my relationships. I have been blindsided far too many times, devastatingly hurt by betrayals or misdeeds by people I have cared for. I am a glutton for punishment when it comes to my relationships because I don’t install safe boundaries that protect me from the surprise left turns that are often outside my peripheral vision. Because I invest so much into my relationships, I frequently relinquish the planning and the control and allow them to take on lives of their own. Authentically, I drop my guard and allow myself to get pulled out by the tide, hoping that if the seas become rough, I can swim back to shore safely without too much fatigue. I’m usually successful and, sometimes, not so much.

I was recently sitting and talking to a friend who I had lost touch with for many years. I struggled to remember what precisely had pushed us apart and felt frustrated with myself that I had not been more intentional with this person. I knew there were elements about their personality and behavior that didn’t jive with mine and, yet, here we were sitting and laughing like old friends. We connected and it appeared that we were a good fit. Was it simply that our lives had diverged or had it been a clearer choice on one or both of our parts to move in different directions? I couldn’t help but reflect on the many relationships that had, at one point or another, been so integral and meaningful but suddenly were no longer a part of me. Relationships that seemed non-negotiable. Relationships from which I derived oxygen. Yet I was still breathing while they no longer provided an inflow of air. I have reminisced time and again, marveling at how unbelievably interconnected I have been with one person or another, then impaired by the rupture and finally settling into a new normal. There was no planning for it, there was no alternative strategy. For me, I simply had to move on and move forward and maybe, one day, look back in wonder.

Change is inevitable and, in fact, there are few non-negotiables in my life. My kids being the primary. Beyond that, I know that tomorrow could be a new reality and, regardless of how much I plan or try to prepare myself, disruptions will occur and my landscape can look entirely different. And, admittedly, I don’t entirely hate that concept.

Vive la difference.

CHANGES AHEAD


changeChange is a funny thing.  So often we resist it yet, at the same time, we also quite frequently crave it.  Change is inevitable but we still make such great efforts to dig our heels in and avoid it – especially when the changes that are occurring feel out of our control.

In my coaching group, we have been rotating leaders in order to give everyone in the group an opportunity to offer their point of view or voice to the conversation.  Each week, another leader provides a topic for us to work on and, this week, we focused on change.  Being the end of the school year and all of us having children progressing to the next grade or moving up to a new school, it seemed like a timely topic.  For me, the turning of the calendar and the progression that comes from the end of one school year in preparation for the next, is the kind of change I love.  Even though some years it is bittersweet to say goodbye to teachers we love and know that some of the pals my kids have had will be swapped out for new friends as the classes get juggled around, I still welcome the break of the summer and the fresh start of the new school year.  It is a necessary and refreshing change.

If you asked me ten or twenty years ago what my general feeling was about change, I would say that I embraced it – even, perhaps, craved it.  Given my childhood, I was looking to run away and create a new reality for myself.  I wanted to change everything about my life.  I was willing to toss out every aspect of my life and start over.  And, to some degree, I did.  I abandoned so much of what defined my life in exchange for a life that where I could chart a new course. Today, I’d answer that question very differently.  Nowadays, change is a mixed bag for me.  Maybe it is because I have gotten older and am more set in my ways or maybe I have become more acutely aware of the impermanence of things but, regardless, I have a much more uncomfortable relationship with certain types of change.  I still welcome the changing of the seasons as I quickly get bored with the scenery and appreciate the leaves going from green to colorful and falling to bare trees to rebirth.  I value the unique aspects each season has to offer.  I enjoy the different occasions and celebrations that blow in with each new season and find the change offering me an opportunity to focus on different aspects of my life.  I love how I can hibernate a bit in the winter and hunker down with my writing or find opportunities for projects around the house because we are trapped indoors.  The warmer weather invites me outside to exercise differently and creates more opportunities for me to socialize with friends.  On the other hand, I struggle with a lot of the changes with my children while also feeling excited as I see them moving into new stages of life.  With my excitement comes the inevitable melancholy of seeing how far away they are from the precious little babies I carried in my belly, then held in my arms, then walked alongside with their little hands tucked into mine.  I recognize that they grew taller and pulled away.  With every glance at them, I see the evolutionary development of their young lives and I feel conflicted.

However, where change becomes the biggest challenge for me is with other people in my life and when things change right before my eyes and I miss them.  I often feel like I have fallen asleep during a movie and missed a critical plot point so that everything going forward does not make sense.  I become confused and disconnected and spend a lot of time trying to remember what I experienced before the change and attempt to catch up to the new environment while trying very hard not to lament that things are simply not the way they used to be.  With relationships we have so little control of the evolving landscape because they are fully dependent on a multitude of circumstances that come into play, providing a powerful backdrop to the interpersonal interactions.  For me, this often results in my missing cues and not recognizing that a shift is occurring.  I continue to use the same script that the other person may have long since tossed, favoring a new and refreshed version that has critical edits that leave me clueless.

I find myself getting lost in relationships – especially those really close to me – when I wake up from my nap and realize that I am operating with an outdated perspective that no longer fits the situation.  I struggle to find my way to the new pathway and, sometimes, simply opt to get off the road altogether and move away.  Rather than embracing what might be the potential for a new chapter that builds so solidly on the one before, I run scared, afraid that the change represents something bad.  I worry that I have broken something and it can never be repaired to its original state.  Never do I consider that the reconstructed relationship might be stronger and more solid than it was before.  I recognize the origins of these feelings.  I understand that living with a mother who suffered from borderline personality disorder created so much uncertainty in my relationship and I never knew how she would change the rules of the game with me.  Our relationship was a moving target and she held the bullseye, rendering me incapable of ever taking a clear shot.  I had to zig and zag to respond to her ever-changing moods, rules or feelings about me.  When I see things change in my relationships with those closest to me, I immediately attempt to find a pathway back to the former state and then get frustrated and sad when I recognize that is so far out of my control to make that happen.  Yet, I rarely look to see what I can control or influence because I remember my mother.  I fall into that mindset that I simply cannot control anything.  I am at her mercy, once again.

Certainly, no one ever said that change is bad and, more often than not, change is what helps to make space for really wonderful things.  Unfamiliar pathways often lead to the most amazing destinations.  I try hard to remember this as I begin to focus and recognize that a change is afoot or already well underway.  Right now, I know my life is shifting.  There is a lot of movement underneath my feet in so many different areas of my life – much of which I am, in fact, forcing.  I am continuing to try to balance myself and not keep falling down as the road rolls with the seismic shifts.  I do not need bars to hang on to nor do I need a safety net.  I’ve got everything I need to keep standing and to pull myself up taller and stronger – as long as I keep looking forward and stop looking backwards to try to figure out what I missed.

MARRIAGE


marriage“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Unknown

My husband came home from work today, after hanging out with some guys at the bar to watch the Masters, and said “I think we are becoming a minority.” Knowing my husband as I do, I could have gone in so many different directions with that comment. I looked quizzically at him and, as has happened hundreds of times in the 21 years we have been together, he realized I had no idea what he was referring to. “It seems like we are the only ones left married,” he said smirking. I laughed, knowing he was being facetious but I also stopped for a second and took in a deep breath. He is right. Maybe it’s because of our age, maybe it’s because of where we live, maybe it’s because of our circle of friends and acquaintances but, whatever the reason, it seems like every day we learn of more and more couples splitting up. Today he learned about yet another and, as is always the case, it sends chills down your spine. You can’t help but wonder if one day it will be you. I cannot deny that there have been moments – more than I care to admit – that I wondered if our marriage would survive.

I entered into marriage completely clueless. I had no role models. I had no reference point. Frankly, I had no interest in getting married. I had determined, at a pretty young age, that I wanted to have a fantastic career and would not submit to giving up my dreams for any man. And, I certainly did not want to have kids. Sure, I was a feminist. I was also broken from all that I had experienced in my childhood that I couldn’t even imagine a reality where I could be happily married. By the time I was in college, my mother had been married and divorced 3 times and was on her way to her fourth. My father had 2 under his belt and my sister, 14 years my senior, had just split up with her husband. She would go on to marry 2 more times. I wanted nothing to do with all this. I was not interested in participating in this ritual that seemingly always had an unhappy ending.

I was a serial dater after I got out of college. I would meet guys, date them, break up, find another, date them, break up, find another and the cycle went on and on. Nobody lasted more than weeks or maybe a few months and the relationships never went very deep. I had so much intimacy with all of my gay boyfriends that I never felt needy in that way. If it were not for sex, I would have been content to hang with my gay posse forever, collect some cats and become a living, breathing stereotype. I simply did not see a pathway that would ever lead me to wedded bliss. I had a great career, was starting to make some money and had, what I believed to be, a relatively glamorous life. I worked for a major movie studio optioning books for movies so I spent my evenings going to plays, movie premieres, parties, fancy dinners – all surrounded by the largest group of gay men imaginable. I guess, perhaps one of the reasons I could not see the pathway was because there were not very many suitable candidates crossing my lane.

I met my husband when I was 24. When I think about it now, I realize how I was still an emotional amoeba. I simply knew nothing about the world yet I had lived what felt like 5 lifetimes sorting through the turmoil of my family’s drama. We met as friends – he and I were both dating other people (he was living with someone!) so there was no pressure on the relationship. He seemed like a nice enough guy and, much to my amazement, I found myself quickly intrigued by him. The relationship became romantic very quickly and, after we sorted out our other conflicts, we started dating for real. Both of us being somewhat impulsive, dating lasted about two minutes before we fell remarkably, passionately, overwhelmingly in love. He was my soulmate. I could not imagine how I could spend one minute away from him, which was extraordinarily difficult since he lived 3000 miles away on the other side of the country. We managed to find ways to see each other several times a month and each visit was filled with anticipation – heart-racing, soulful expectation. And every goodbye was marked with tears, sometimes painful and gut-wrenching, because we could not imagine how we would be able to fill our lungs with oxygen without the other to move the diaphragm. We so quickly became a symbiotic unit and every thought I ever had about not wanting to marry went out the window like a paper floating away in a brisk March wind. My fears or uncertainty about how I could sustain a relationship seemed foolish and immature. Here I was madly in love and all I could think about, even at the tender age of 25, was how fast I could begin my life as his wife.

We got engaged in less than 6 months and just a little more than 2 years after we met, we walked down the aisle in a lovely spring wedding and began a whole new chapter in our lives. We set out to right the wrongs of our parents. We vowed to do it differently. We committed to break the cycle. We blindly, ignorantly, whimsically set out on what seemed like a perfectly paved pathway together.

Next month will be 19 years since that lovely spring wedding. 19 years – nearly two decades! In contrast, his parents’ marriage lasted 13 years, my parents stuck it out for 15 before they separated, my sister’s ended at year 14. There was a moment, several years ago, that we realized that we had hit some magical milestone in our family. We were officially the longest married couple. We made a toast. And returned to our blissfully banal life. We have expanded our symbiotic union by two with sons that keep us grounded and focused and remind us why we decided to enter this extremely challenging and complex obstacle course.

In 19 years we have had more than our share of fights and far too many moments, through tears, that we each gritted our teeth and questioned our beliefs. That perfectly paved pathway has revealed many cracks, uprooted roots that have pushed up the concrete and we have tripped and fallen many, many times. We have been challenged to find the intoxicating love that left us in tears when we could not be together every moment of the day. Now the tears were rage-filled and that love was nowhere to be found. Well, actually, it was buried beneath piles and piles of hurt feelings, unkind words, bad choices, anger, resentment and all the wonderful things that are often hallmarks of long-term relationships riddled with financial woes, exhaustion from child rearing and general disappointments that life did not turn out to have the fairy tale ending you dreamt of. For some couples that is where it all goes awry. For many, the challenges become too untenable and the relationship dissolves. For us, we had many sleepless nights, raging battles and days where we could barely look at each other because we loathed the sight of the other but we pushed through. Perhaps the fear of splitting up was more overwhelming than the notion of trying to tolerate each other another day, but we persevered. Despite our efforts to hold it together, I was certain we were doomed. Everyone around us seemed so happy. Their marriages looked so healthy. Everyone seemed to be having sex ALL THE TIME while I couldn’t muster the energy to even think about it most of the time. Everyone appeared to be blissfully in love, even after the trials of marriage had weathered their bond. They all seemed to have a healthier, stronger, more powerful attachment and I didn’t see how my marriage could ever compare.

The joke was on me, of course. Sure, some couples seem to have the good fortune of peaceful and loving relationships and personalities that are not like firecrackers with short fuses and a lit match. Many couples, however, put on a good show when everyone is looking in order to make the pain of their own unhappiness less visible in hopes that it will make their misery more manageable. They sweep it under the rug and put on a good face, hoping no one will notice, existing in silent desperation. For me, I had to learn to stop looking around for comps and spend more time looking at my own relationship and understanding what it needed to work properly. When I searched my soul, I knew I loved my husband on the deepest level and could not imagine a life without him. I needed to focus in on that and stop worrying about the window dressing. None of that shit mattered.

As I watched so many friends delight in the sparkle of new relationships after their marriages ended and they were reborn into these new loves, I had to dig deep to find a way to reconnect with the man who changed my life and brought peace to a war-torn girl. I doubted, I questioned, I ached, I cried, I searched, I begged for mercy. And then I fell in love all over again. This time, I fell in love with the old pair of shoes lying in the back of the closet that I had forgotten were hiding out, stuffed underneath some boxes of new shoes that were so shiny and inviting. I slipped into those shoes and they felt warm and comfortable, and my feet knew exactly how to mold themselves into the leather. They were perfectly suited for me. I exhaled and I opened my eyes wide to find that nothing ever changed between my husband and me. We still loved each other deeply – in fact, we were much more in love than we had ever been but we had lost our way. We fell victim to the complications of life. We stopped paying attention, took our eyes off the road as the car careened into the woods. It was a bit dented but still ran pretty well and just needed someone to get behind the wheel and steer it onto a new road.

I love my husband more today than I ever could have imagined that pretty spring day 19 years ago. I look into the eyes I have stared into millions of times and I see our lifetime together. Soon we will be together longer than we have not. Now we fit together like two puzzle pieces that slide together so easily. There were days we had to shove ourselves together, taking a second look to see if, in fact, we were the right pair of pieces but, now, it is easier. Sure, we still take each other for granted at times and we still have trouble finding time and energy to have quiet intimate moments but I know, without any uncertainty, that there is no one else I would travel the road of life with. We are a real story, a 3-dimensional, full-color, reality of married life. We are imperfect, we hurt each other, we make mistakes. And, we love each other with everything we have. And we fall in love over and over again.

SLIPPING LIKE SAND THROUGH MY FINGERS


sand slipping through fingers“Time is like a handful of sand – the tighter you grasp it, the faster it runs through your fingers.”

I saw a photo today of people I knew in college.  I looked at the picture several times because, while the names looked familiar from the tags on Facebook, I could not place the faces.  In fact, I really couldn’t much place the names either but there was some ring of familiarity to them so I squinted and taxed my brain and tried to remember.  It was hard.  Granted, nearly 25 years has gone by – almost half of my life has happened since I graduated from college – but it disturbed me that I could not remember.  I was frustrated that I could not place them.  It feels like life is so fleeting and I could not help but wonder who, in 25 years, I would not be able to place.  Which people who play such a big part of my life today will drift into the obscure regions of my brain and will no longer conjure up clear, distinct memories?  Certainly, I hope no one but I know that is not true.  I know that life changes so rapidly and people come and go based on your life’s circumstances. People change jobs, they move, you drift apart.  It makes me want to hang on so tightly.  It makes me think that I need to commit even more effort to those meaningful relationships to ensure that they endure, that they survive the shifts that so naturally occur in our lives.

I know that change happens in between the milliseconds of time.  I desperately try to slow it down and attempt to capture each moment in order to witness the changes as they occur but it is something like trying to watch a movie and seeing each frame.  It is moving far too fast and our brains cannot keep up.  Regrettably, we can only identify change after it has occurred when we reflect on the difference – the noticeable aspects of someone or something that is not like it was.  Sometimes even after the fact it is imperceptible.  “What’s different about you?” you might ask a friend.  You know it is there but you cannot see it.  Change happens before our eyes but without our eyes being able to see it.

Part of my aching melancholy in life is that I am forever wanting to capture every moment and absorb every last drop of it so I can taste it, let it roll around on my tongue for a while and adhere some permanent memory to my brain.   I want to soak in all of the spectacular – and the not-so-spectacular – aspects of my life so I lose nothing.  Instead, I spend a great deal of time reflecting, trying to recapture, revisit and relish in all those moments.  I worry that, as distance grows, I will forget.  When I am away from home, I try to carry with me reminders of my children.  I want more than just photographs.  I like to store away very specific memories that can dance around in my head so I can visit with them in my mind when I cannot be with them in person.  I close my eyes each time I take off on a plane and play my mental reel, remembering the small moments, the specks of time that made me smile, that made my heart melt.  I ache when I return home and I am certain they have each grown just a little bit taller or their voices have sunken just a little bit deeper while I was away.  Those changes happen during my brief absences yet sometimes it feels like months or years have passed.  Something always shifts while I am gone and I can’t always figure out exactly what but I simply cannot put things back together in the same way from before I left.

In my coaching group, I recently asked my participants to write about a superpower they wish they had.  I thought a lot about this for myself because I never really admired superheroes for their special skills.  I never wanted to fly or have x-ray vision like SuperMan.  I never wanted to have special weapons or fighting skills like Wonder Woman.  What I always fantasized about was time travel.  I wanted to be able to go back and revisit experiences in my life to either relive them or intervene and make corrections.  I want the ability to go back to those amazing moments in time that I struggle to preserve in my mind and see them all over again.  I want to visit with those people from whom I have drifted and remember our special moments and try to recapture some of the magic of those experiences that time has clouded over, leaving behind distant and unfamiliar blurs.  I’d love the ability to make some different choices and perhaps change some situations but, most of all, I just want to visit my memories in full technicolor.

But, alas, absent those abilities, perhaps my journey includes learning to catalog all the wonderful moments of my life and preserve them in my own type of mental storage shed.  Perhaps my lesson is to learn how to extract all the critical vitamins and minerals from those memories in order to use them to nourish me during difficult moments.  Maybe I can learn to utilize all the memories to make sure that my past does not slip like sand through my fingers.  Rather than hanging on for dear life, my fingers slipping from the ledge, I can just let go and drift on into my future blanketed by my history ready to ease my fall.

This afternoon while driving around with my younger son, we had the windows opened, enjoying the first taste of spring.  As we drove down one particular winding road, my son declared ” Mommy, can you smell those smells?  It’s like fresh trees!  I love this street!”  His innocent little 9 year-old brain was enraptured with the early fragrances of the season and the bounty of the fresh air coming in through the windows.  Of course, we could smell the same scents as we drove up our own street but he was convinced this was a magical place that held these special smells.  “Close your eyes and try to remember the smell,” I told him.  “Try to take a picture in your mind so you will always remember this moment with these smells.  Then you will always remember this time when you smell these smells in the future.”  He only understood me a little bit but I knew that I was trying to pass on to him the guidance I give to myself.  I wanted him to be able to always place his memories and be able to observe his life through a lens other than his eyes.  I wanted him to be able to observe his life and all the changes that take place through the memories burnt into his brain.  I hope that when he is 45 and trying to remember the roads in the town he grew up in that he will close his eyes and remember our little spring drive today.

KINDNESS


kindnessToday, I simply need to give a shout out to my good friend Claire who has committed herself to spreading kindness in every way possible.  She started a wonderful blog in January, setting her intention for spreading kindness throughout the year.  She’s gaining some traction and I can feel the impact.  I have found myself reflecting on my own actions and behaviors, using her stories and her efforts as a barometer of sorts.  I am inspired by her passion and commitment to create a society of kinder, gentler people.

One of my great pleasures in life comes from helping others as  I am so moved when I can connect with another human being and provide them with something – even if just a nugget – to help them propel themselves forward.  My passion for giving back and supporting causes that resonate with me is part of what brings me joy and satisfaction.  But, kindness is much simpler and far more complicated than that.  Kindness is a core value.  It is a deep-rooted commitment to shifting behavior and focusing on putting good into the world.  It is about the small stuff.  It is about courtesy and consideration.  It is about selflessness.  It is hard to sustain.  Listen, I am a hardcore New Yorker – cynical, snarky, sarcastic and sometimes down right obnoxious.  Most of the people in my life love that about me and, frankly, so do I.  Nonetheless,  my intentions and behavior are all about goodness, kindness, sincerity and integrity.  It is all about balance and sometimes that is not easy to maintain.  But I make the effort every.single.day.  It requires hard work and effort because life is challenging and our daily struggles often disrupt our intentions.

Ultimately, I simply love the concept of paying it forward and this blog post today is intended to do just that.  Yesterday, I wrote a very personal and very honest post about my own struggles with trust and forgiveness.  In response to it, a good friend complimented me and supported me in an extremely kind and generous way which nourished me and propelled me forward.   And that right there is kindness in action as I was inspired to do the same for someone else.  The act of writing and putting your thoughts and feelings out in the world for others to read can be very risky.  People interpret things through their own lenses and they don’t always understand your intended meaning behind the words.  But, I guess, that is often the beauty of writing.  It allows the reader to travel with you but on their own voyage and bring their own perspectives into play.  The connection you can develop through finding commonalities, regardless how remote, can be powerful and extraordinary.  For me, the ability to write and share my history and, often, the pain that has accompanied my journey is an act of kindness for me as I try to share these experiences to reinforce that we are never alone.  There is always someone else on the road with you – sometimes a bit further ahead, sometimes much farther behind.  We are all alike in many ways.  As different as we may look or as varied as our backgrounds might be, we are still a bunch of cells that have formed to create our unique DNA.  There are overlaps in so many ways.

So, today, I hope I can inspire and encourage you to find a way to spread some kindness.  I am going to continue my quest to do so because, in the end, it feels really, really good!

AULD LANG SYNE


AULD LANG SYNEI’ve noticed over the past few days that lots of my friends on Facebook have been posting their “Year in Review” which consists of a series of photos that appeared on their FB wall, randomly selected to encapsulate their activities over the year.  In the past, Facebook would similarly offer up a compilation of your written posts to take a snapshot of what your year was like.  Looking at the images certainly evokes a sense of nostalgia, especially if they’re of close friends and you can remember the events where the photos were taken and partake in the reminiscence of the shared memories.  Frankly, I think about my year a little bit differently.  The photographs certainly remind me of the happy times with all the smiles and laughter that make me feel joyful but I also have to take a close look at the struggles of my year to gain an understanding of what I have learned and how I have grown.  It is imperative to acknowledge and respect the challenges that I have confronted in order to ensure that the learning is etched in my brain and that I can grow and improve in the coming year.

I am currently sitting in my melancholy room – my first floor guest room with its dim lighting and tranquility that always centers me and is my favorite place to write.  I came in here tonight because I was banished from the living room and surrounding rooms because my son has a bunch of friends over for a sleepover.  My husband escaped to our bedroom upstairs with the dogs and I decided I would move to the guest room to lay down and perhaps read for a while.  The moment I stepped into the room, however, I immediately felt nostalgic and thoughtful.  It was so distracting that it rendered me incapable of concentrating on reading.  I became overwhelmed with emotions and was compelled to try to capture the feelings in a meaningful way.  Curiously, this room has taken on an energy of its own for me.  It’s like sitting at the beach and smelling the salt and hearing the waves crash to the shore.  You can feel the sun baking on your skin and all the tension leaves your body nearly instantly.  It is almost impossible to feel tense at the ocean because of the calming and restorative powers of the sea.  The intense feelings that pour over me when I step into this room are inescapable.  I need not contemplate nor ruminate because the moment I open the door and move inside, I am flooded with warmth and calm and creativity takes over.  I don’t exactly know what it is about this room but I have my suspicions as to its magical qualities.

Tonight, when I sat down in here, I decided to text my friend to share some of what I was feeling.  I knew that a little texting was not going to cut it for me as I had a lot in my head and it was more than I could expect a friend to guide me through.  When I settled down with my thoughts, the first thing that came to mind for me was change.  Change is such a constant.  In my job, when we work with our corporate clients, we always teach employees to be prepared for change because it is the one thing that is, ironically, absolutely predictable.  Change is always going to happen.  As long as you are open and willing to engage with the change, you’ll ultimately be fine.  For me, change is certainly familiar.  I am constantly renewing.  Despite my inner desire for predictability and consistency, I have a very primal need for change.  I get bored.  I need to grow and learn.  I need to have new experiences while constantly battling my resistance to trying new things.  I want fresh faces, fresh ideas, yet I rely upon my old standards, the friends who know me for years and years and can help me reassemble my history when it all comes apart in my head.  At the end of every year, I rarely feel sad for the ending and typically feel energized by the renewal and the anticipation of what another new year can bring.  I am hopeful – eternally hopeful – of a better, more prosperous, more satisfying annum.

So, over the last few days when I was looking at everyone’s photos and smiling at some as I recalled the happy memories, I realized that photos could not encapsulate my year.  They only told one small part of the story.  My year was highlighted by things you can never capture in a photograph.  They were small moments – some quiet and some quite loud – that catalyzed me to change, to advance, to propel forward.  Some of the moments were tear-filled because I was sad or in pain.  Some were tear-filled because my heart was so full it hurt.  Some moments were solitary when I searched deep into my soul to find answers to questions that plagued me for a lifetime and still sat unanswered, patiently tapping its feet waiting for me to solve the riddle.  For me, my year was one that brought continued awareness of who I am, where I am going and what is most important in my life.  I suppose this blog is the best snapshot of my year but, of course, I only shared parts of it.  There were still so many moments in between the photos and in between the posts that pushed me from day to day, urging me to shift into the next form that my life needed me to take.

I fell in love this year.  I fell in love with my husband all over again.  I remembered that I have a partner who, through the darkest of days, stands beside me and provides me with unconditional love.  He makes me feel safe and secure even when there is no safety and no security when the wolf is threatening to huff and puff and blow our non-brick house down.  He envelopes me and ensures that I am loved.

I also fell in love with myself this year.  I found a part of me that either had gone missing or I had overlooked for a very long time.  I was able to do that arm-in-arm with some very intimate and special friends who supported me and showed me what I am capable of.  Not many words passed our lips but the power of friendship – really strong and significant friendship – propelled me to discover parts of me that I simply never felt safe enough to explore.

I revisited trust this year.  As the year comes to a close, this idea continues to wash through my mind.  A long, long time ago I stopped trusting.  Probably it happened when I was very little and realized that I could not count on anyone to take care of me.  I learned then to be tough and strong to make sure that I could survive.  I didn’t believe anyone would protect me and I learned how to build a shield, a strong armor to protect myself from anyone trying to break down the fort that I had built.  No one was going to penetrate my castle.  I built a deep moat with a small bridge that only a carefully chosen set of individuals could cross.  Rarely did I let anyone even approach the bridge but this year, not only did I let down the bridge more frequently, I actually gave a select few the passcode to lower it themselves.  No picture can describe the power of that.  No image can articulate the vulnerability I opened myself up to.  And nothing can express the joy and relief that comes from moving out from the shadows and showing myself in full technicolor.

My mother passed this year and, I suspect, with her went floods of pain.  Many locked doors began to swing open, asking to be entered and explored.  It has been painful and powerful and complicated and sad.  It has relocated me mentally and brought me to a new level of being, a new place of understanding.  I feel things I have not felt for many years because I was so locked away, working tirelessly to protect myself from old demons and monsters that had long ago lost their fright.  But, until my mother’s soul left the earth, I could not be freed from decades of pain and struggle.  I am sad to not have been loved in the way a child should be but I am grateful to have developed a sense of enlightenment that, perhaps, would never have been afforded me without the struggle, without my particular journey.  And, now, I have a clear lens to see what I need to see in order to do what I am meant to do in the world.  My mother had her moments and I loved her so much as a young child but she suffered a lifetime of mental illness. While I try to forgive her for all the pain she caused, I still strive to understand the depths of the damage and am continually amazed by the unexpected eruptions.

Nearly 10 months ago, my very astute friend asked me some questions that catapulted me into a search deep within myself that I knew would lead me down a very windy, very narrow, very treacherous road.  And, as this year comes to a close, I know for certain what I only suspected back then was true – this year’s journey was intentional, despite the pain, despite the problems, and its outcomes abundant.  As I sit in my melancholy room, allowing all of my senses to take over, I can only smile a little internal smile knowing that all of the wonderment and all of the magic of my year can be captured only in my mind.  I cannot post it on facebook nor can I even articulate it using my mad writing skills.  It is preserved inside me, providing me with a bounty to catapult me into the next year, hopeful that even more of my unique riches and rewards will be forthcoming.

And, for that, I am quietly and overwhelmingly grateful.