The No-Word Year

standard January 4, 2016 Leave a response

I love the act of picking a word each year, one word to focus on, to center on, to aim for, to help you come back to what mattes, what counts. I’ve picked some doozies over the years. Great words that have been inspiring, motivating, even comforting. (I fully, 100% embraced last year’s word, Cry. In fact, I think I cried almost every day in 2015. Because I’m an overachiever like that…)

This year though? I’ve been struggling to find The Word. The right one. The one that would sum up everything I want out of 2016.

Personal and professional success. Joy. Comfort. Stability. To feel fulfilled by everything that fills the hours of my working days. To connect more, engage more, partake more. In life, in relationships, in everything.

Everything I came up with felt so big, so overwhelming. It all just left me feeling like I needed more time to lick my emotional wounds, to take care of myself, to sit on the couch in comfy clothing, knitting while my TV friends engaged in their own dramas.

So, instead of picking a big word like Engage, or Immerse, or Conquer, all of which I wish I were ready for, I think I’m going to give myself a break. I’m going to keep making my goals small and tangible. I’m going to keep getting through small chunks of time instead of trying to stare down a whole year.

I have high hopes for the year ahead. I plan to enjoy watching The Zen Pencil take off and change people’s lives. I know I’m going to make my consulting clients really, truly happy. I’m greatly looking forward to enjoying my kids, my husband, my family, and my friends.

But I’m not going to burden any of it with more than just hopes. No quarterly goals. No big words to live up to. Just days to be crossed one at a time, with whatever energy and mettle I have that particular day.

So I might not cook 7 healthy meals a week, or lose the last 10 pounds stubbornly hanging on. I might not run a race or even around the block. But I will be treating myself with the kid gloves and the kindness I deserve.

I’m usually the queen of words, embracing their power whenever and wherever I can. This year, I’m embracing space. The space to heal, to grow, to be, without judgement or pressure.

Let’s see what that leads to, shall we?

2016 is the No Word Year

Past Words:

2011 – Guide

2013 – Brave

2014 – Embrace

2015 – Cry

 

 

Clawing my way back to joy

standard September 13, 2015 1 response

Last week I went through this past year’s blog archives to find a post or two that I could to enter in the Type A Parent “We Still Blog” contest. As I perused what I’ve written a few thoughts occurred to me.

I’m proud of what I’ve written. Proud of the way my voice sings on the screen. Proud of the fact that I can let my vulnerability shine.

But I’m sad at how sad pretty much everything I’ve written in the last 12 months has turned out.

It was a grim read-through.

I’ve been deluding myself somewhat, telling myself that I’m fine, I’m coping, I’m getting through the days. And, for the most part, it’s very true. The days flow by, the work gets done, the kids are thriving, the house is cared for, and most days, there’s even some laughter.

But reading through my blog was like having the cold hard truth stare me in the face.

The last 6 months have been hard, really, really hard. Instead of seeing everything surrounded by a silver lining of hope and potential, it feels like everything has been surrounded by a dark lining of sadness.

No matter what I do, a part of my heart feels sad.

Please, trust me, I know this is normal. I know this is grief. I know this will fade in time until I’m almost sad it’s gone.

But I’m still ready to take back my joy.

A couple weeks ago, when the school year was just starting, I realized that one of the things that I most missed from the time before my father’s death, the time before all the sad, was my knitting.

Knitting has always been a source of comfort and calm for me. It helps center me and make me feel whole and connected. I always turn to my knitting when I’m facing challenges, when I need peace. I knit on every plane ride taking me to see my father, I knit whenever I was at his bedside, and I knit as he lay dying.

During his last months I worked on a gorgeous scarf made of luxurious yarn that brought me solace whenever I simply touched it. I finished the scarf a few days after I returned home after his death, draped it around my shoulders and felt comforted by this thing I had created as he breathed his last breaths.

And then I put my knitting needles down and walked away.

I told myself that it was too hot, that I was too distracted to focus on the challenging pattern I had chosen for my next project, that the yarn just wasn’t soft enough. I lied.

The simple act of looking at knitting needles made me uncomfortable. The act of picking them up made me downright nauseous.

A problem since I was desperate for something soothing to do in the evening.

Now, I don’t just knit when I’m sad or anxious. I also knit during most school volunteer meetings. It keeps me from getting distracted or doing something rude like playing with my phone while someone is talking. The mere thought of heading into the school year without this crutch to help me get through the countless meetings I attend every month was enough to make me hyperventilate in pure panic.

And that’s when I realized that it was time to take back what was mine.

It’s enough that I lost my father. I wasn’t about to also lose something so essential to my well-being.

I found a super simple project and unearthed some of my favorite yarn. I knit a coffee cup cozy, and another, and another. I started playing around with the design, taught myself a new technique, made another two. (If you’d like one, let me know. I, ahem, have a couple extra.) Then I started a new, slightly harder project.

Now, when I pick up my needles, it once again feels like coming home. I’ll always feel myself sitting at my father’s bedside, but it’s turning into a tender memory, not a panic inducing one.

Taking back my knitting feels like the first step towards taking back my joy.

It’s not going to be an easy process. It definitely feels more like I’m clawing my way back to my joyful life, rather than just sauntering there. But it feels like I’m finally on my way.

I’m spending more time with friends. I’m searching out opportunities to be with people rather than holed up alone at home. I’m looking for rainbows and reasons to smile. I’m cooking again, running again, reading again. Taking things back, one by one. Doing them because they bring me joy rather than because they stave off the panic and the sad.

The sad will still be there, I know that, but I’m going to try to keep it from overshadowing everything. At the very least, it’s not what my full-of-life, passionate father would have wanted. For that reason alone, it’s worth the effort.

Leg warmers

The slightly harder project. Legwarmers for Little L.

Parenting: The balancing act

standard May 11, 2015 1 response

Balance. It’s that elusive thing we’re all after all the time.

Balance between productive time and down time. Between being a firm role mode and a fun parent. Between work and family. Between being a parent and spouse. Between all the people who need you and, well, you. Between taking care of the house and taking care of the people in it.

It’s the thing that makes parenting feel like a never ending tightrope walk. You’re focused on taking the next step, placing it carefully down, balancing everything at the ends of your hands… and hoping against hope that nothing will come shake your wire and make you drop everything.

Because when you drop everything it takes forever to pick it all back up and feel stable again.

At the beach this weekend I spotted a row of stacked rocks. It happened to be Mother’s Day so I had mothering on the brain, but the rock formations reminded me of the balancing act we all constantly do.

Rocks on the Beach

 

As we walked by the log on which all the little towers perched on, my sister offhandedly asked if I’d noticed all the sand under each one.

“The sand is what keeps them balanced.”

It reminded me that even though it often feels like we’re balancing up there, on our wire, all by ourselves, juggling all the things life throws at us, we’re not alone. We have lots of little grains of sand helping us balance. (And yes, I know my metaphors are all tangled up. Just go with it.)

We have friends who stop by for coffee and offer a supportive ear. We have family members who know us better than we know ourselves. We have spouses who share the burdens. We have teachers who share the kid worries with us. Some days, we even just have the person who smiles knowingly as they pass you at the grocery store. Or the friends in the computer and in our phones, who aren’t with us, but are still doing this thing alongside us, ready to offer a quick word of encouragement, commiseration, or even levity.

Parenting. The ultimate balance. And the ultimate test of our ability to notice the grains of sand that hold us up.

Grains of sand

 

Life is fragile… and absurd

standard May 4, 2015 1 response

On Saturday morning I woke to the news that Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave Goldberg had passed away unexpectedly while on vacation. Now, to most of the world, this is a sad news tidbit people learned about over their morning coffee and forgot long before the day had grown warm, but to our corner of the country, where he was well known and loved, the news threw everyone for a loop.

Successful, healthy men aren’t supposed to die at 47.

To me, the news was particularly poignant, as is all news about dead parents these days. It doesn’t take much to bring tears to my eyes or make me relapse into my grief funk.

I rallied as best as I could. Took the little and a friend to a skate boarding lesson and rallied as best as I could.

And then, while meandering around downtown, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while and discovered that she was battling bone cancer.

I felt panicky for the rest of the day. Short of breath. Shaky. Terrified. Life felt just too fragile to bear.

Most of the time, we live in happy denial of all the things that can tear our friends and family away from us. We don’t know about most of the illnesses that can claim or radically alter lives. We conveniently forget about how dangerous it is to even walk down the street or up the stairs.

And then, sometimes, you get hit in the face with one reminder or three. And BAM, the mere thought of how fragile life is, of how easy it is to lose someone, brings you to your knees and steals the breath from your lungs.

I’d love to say that this temporary epiphany made me more loving to my family, made me want to hug everyone close, but really, all it did was make me want to hide under the covers and lose myself in a book. Even when fictional characters die, they’re never really gone. Just flip a few pages back, and presto, they’re back.

I’m sure that in the not so distant future my denial will be securely back in place and I’ll be, once again, able to get on with my life without gasping for breath every time I glimpse what life would be like if it were missing more of my people.

In the meantime I feel about as fragile as life really is.

Life is Fragile