Bridge

Yesterday I had to glance at the calendar to find an upcoming date in February, and I was struck by this:

calendar-shot

 

Earth-shattering, isn’t it? These are the kinds of pictures that keep the masses coming back.

So yesterday when I was looking for that date in February, I saw clearly for the first time that January is not a beginning, or not just a beginning, but a bridge. It’s not only THE FIRST OF THE YEAR, RESOLVE, RESOLVE, RESOLVE!, it’s the space between December and February. That looks so ridiculous in writing, but I saw this on the calendar, and I took a breath. I know that this is a profoundly obvious thing to make note of (so wait…you’re saying that January is between December and February? Get Out!), but there I was with a handful of peanut m&ms, eyes wide.

What if we stopped talking about January as a fresh start–January being a metaphor for all beginnings, of course–and started just talking about it as a bridge. A traverse between. I’m not starting something new, I’m just rolling over the work of last month. Taking a beat to make a new choice. No pressure. There’s plenty of time.

I think that a lot of the reason that we try and try again and fail and fail again with things at the beginning of the year is that there’s a lot of pressure associated with starting something.

On your mark…

get set…

LOUD GUN SHOT SOUND! (no wonder we’re frightened.)

***

A number of my close friends have sworn off of marriage because of how unreasonable its premise is. The argument is that marriage is built on a false statement (I swear to like you as well in 50-79 years as I do now, maybe even more) and that it’s a passive act. By nature of the commitment, we no longer actively choose one another. Although I obviously made the choice to get married, I’m so appreciative for the perspective that those hold-outs have brought into my life. When I remember to, I like reminding myself that each day is an active choice. I like breaking free from the motivation-crushing confines of “have to” and making eyes instead at just…today.

Happily, I committed to marriage because I was too young (and endearingly dumb. It’s ok, we’re friends, we can say that here.) to genuinely think about what my end goal was. Now I think about what some of my personal (and very concrete) goals are these days and truthfully I mostly see what’s between this moment and arriving alllllllllllllllllllllll the way over there at some point in the future, because the beginning commences with the arrival in mind. And that gap is intimidating. But if I borrow from the blissfully ignorant boldness of my younger self, I see that marching confidently in the direction of a vague idea of something out there isn’t quite as foolish as it sounds. Or maybe it’s foolish, but foolish is a friend too.

In a book that my mama gave me for Christmas that I am loving, the author writes, “Every book, essay, story, begins with a single word. Then a sentence. Then a paragraph. These words, sentences, paragraphs, may well end up not being the actual beginning. You can’t know that now. Straining to know the whole of the story before you set out is a bit like imagining great-grand children on a first date.” (Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: the Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life) 

That little passage got many exclamation points from me in the margin because, we can’t know. But our human nature dictates that in the best of cases, we show up anyway. What we think is the beginning isn’t (and by definition is generally an end as well) and we think that we’re finished with something and then we’re not. But if we hinged our entire lives on the business of beginning and used those beginnings to predict the future, I think that we would just be disappointed by being wrong all the time. Better, I think, to not worry so much about starting, and focus instead on whatever doing might be within our reach.

So all of this is to say, January? I take it all back. I didn’t just start some things this month. I’m continuing. Continuing on with ideas that have been percolating, continuing to suit up one pant leg at a time, continuing to look for the bridges to carry me between this and that, continuing, continuing, continuing. Because I don’t want to lose out to you and your crazy fresh-start perspective. You’re just a space between, a chance to make a choice.

This post is a part of my 2014 Rising Tide Project. Read all of the posts about January’s topic, pace,  here

 

 

This is it

The secret, I think, to finding a good pace:

(And PS, this is basically my answer to anyone who ever asks how we knew that we were ‘ready’ to have a kid. There is never a good time to have a child, and I constantly wonder what being ready actually means, but there’s no time like the present for babies or projects or flossing or smooching or running or any of those little human oddities that we love so much. Well, maybe not flossing. I probably don’t really love that all that much. But you know what I mean.)

***
This post is a part of my 2014 Rising Tide Project. Read all of the posts about January’s topic, pace,  here

2014.

Lately it seems that I’ve been getting all of my earth shattering revelations from one of our local radio stations. Move over Steve Martin, this is a VA Story. So the other day I was driving Asher to school and listening to a local DJ interview a running coach about sticking to New Year’s resolutions and this running coach said something along the lines of, in order to get started and be successful, you have to own where you are. What he was specifically referencing had to do with how often people don’t achieve their goals because we want to be super human when we might actually just be a mere, slightly out of shape mortal. In the case of running, this leads to injury or apathy, or both, but I think this makes sense in our creative lives too.

At first I heard this and started thinking about my exercise goals for the year (just do it!) but more broadly, I’ve been thinking about how sensible this advice is for starting anything.

I just need to own where I am.

And when I do that, I might start finding a good pace because my goals will be in alignment with my abilities, and as my ability grows, so too will my goals. Shazam, radio inspiration!

So the next time that I stood in front of the freeway billboard had a revelation while listening to the radio, a guest was talking about creating vision boards as a way of patterning or manifesting for the New Year. Some of you will be really excited by what I just wrote and others might be rolling your eyes a little, but hear me out, mmkay?

She said that there are three key components to creating a vision board: creating it, letting it go, and then being ready.

I’m pretty familiar with the first two elements here, obviously we have to create something that we’re putting our intention into, I was less familiar with the idea of then putting the board away, or letting it go, but when she said, and then be ready to take action when the opportunity arises, all of my brain dingers started dinging.

Be ready to take action. For me this translates to: have your s#*t together so that there’s enough time to take action when inspiration strikes, because that’s what I spend a lot of my time doing: looking for more time. But truthfully? I know that there’s plenty of time, I just need to get better acquainted with spending it wisely. One of the first pieces of advice that my clever (and published) aunt gives aspiring writers in her classes is to stop watching tv. If I cop to watching about 1.5-2 hours of Netflix a night, I’m also owning up to around 730 hours of time this year that is mine for the taking.

730 hours.

Own where you are. Be ready to take action. Find a good pace.

I feel like the marital conversation that Drew and I most often have is, there’s something in between all or nothing, more than just black or white. And we all know this. As we get older it becomes all too clear that 98.99% of our lives exists in grey. And grey has such a bad wrap for being bland and boring and unclear, but grey is where all the good stuff happens. The nuances, and quick glances and the feelings that come to comprise who we are. Grey is where a small change can become a new habit, where baby eyes light up and suddenly there’s a person in there, where feet find each other under the covers and all is forgiven.

Grey is basically the rainbow of our lives, the space that we exist in when it doesn’t just have to be this or that.

 My hope for the year is to embrace the in-between place, to own that the only changes that I’m in a place to make right now are small ones, and to create enough mental space that I’m at the ready should inspiration stroll on to the scene.

So here it is, 2014: I’m still going to watch some Netflix this year, and I’m likely still going to knock around aimlessly in my house and life, because there is something really essential about being aimless from time to time, and also because having another baby has left Swiss cheese sized holes in my brain.

But I can also take it easy on my all-or-nothing approach and just be content to make some small changes when and where I can and see what happens. To go back to the coach’s advice, I am not going to be able to hop out of bed and run a 10K tomorrow morning because I haven’t worked with body to earn that ability. Similarly I’m probably not going to crank out a novel or completely supplement our produce with our garden, but I can write a little every day, and I can grow tomatoes. That’s where I am, and unlike years past where the resolutions are BIGGER and BETTER and BRIGHTER, this year it’s all about integrating and owning it and being ready and being patient.

This year it just might be about hitting a good stride.

Axx

This post is a part of my 2014 Rising Tide Project. Read all of the posts about January’s topic, pace,  here

a rising tide lifts all boats

For the last couple of years I’ve been floating. Pardon me for quickly looking back when this month is all about looking ahead, but last year I wrote this in January:

“In the dreamy summer that I spent in Madison, Wisconsin nearly ten years ago, my dear friend Nelle and I would steal away with a canoe and paddle through the locks between the two lakes that hug Madison. We would paddle into one, sink down with the water, have the lock open up and glide through safely to the other side. Something big was happening around us, we were dwarfed by larger boats with big engines, but even in the narrow little canoe, we were able to stick our paddles in the water and row to what felt like the other side of the rainbow. It was thrilling and a simple enough mechanism, but one that was ultimately transformative. This year feels like that adventure. perhaps 2012 was the distance that I needed to travel between my twenties and thirties, a slow and discreet move between the prolonged adolescence that America is so fond of and my arrival into womanhood. It seems though that right now, on this day, and this point, I’m sitting in the locks watching the water slowly drain, waiting to see the gate in front of my little boat open. It seems like I might be about to paddle through to the next phase of my life.”

And now here we are in 2014 and I’m about to kick of a year-long project that is fittingly based on yet another boat metaphor. And y’all, I don’t really even know that much about boats. In fact, I’m about as land-locked as a girl can be, but I do know that every single one of us can identify with the wild feeling of having our feet standing strong on a floating floor in a vast sea. And what I particularly love about this year’s metaphor is that it’s taking the emphasis off of feeling solitary and putting it back on us. You and me. You and You. Y’all. Us. Because…

A rising tide lifts all boats.

I don’t want to be a boat this year, I want to be part of the tide. What I love about this little adage is that it points to the thing that we all seem to long for on and off the Internet these days: the truth that the collective affects the collective. How we speak and act becomes not only who we are, but it also becomes a part of a tide, and I want the tide that I’m a part of to be rising.

So I’m kicking off the Rising Tide Project here at Flux Capacitating. I need a little direction and this is going to be it. The premises is very simple. Each month will be dedicated to a topic and I will be joined by other writers who explore that topic with me. I’m lining up some pretty wonderful folks, and my hope is that even more of you will join in. I want to curate a positive space that will help me focus my writing and sharing efforts, but that will also serve as an homage to all that I gain from all of the incredible personalities in my life. Someone was recently telling me about her (impressive) button collection and without hesitating I said, I think that I collect people. I want to start sharing that collection.

January’s topic is PACE. I like having a word for the year (which apparently I quickly forget, because I just saw from my copy and paste above that my word for last year was Pivotal which turns out to be the perfect word for 2013, but I had already forgotten its assignment. My brain.) I will be diving in this week with some writing about pace, and I hope that you’ll join me.

So that’s it. In the absence of rooftops and support groups, this is the best I can do to shout it out and hold myself accountable. I’ve never finished a year-long project and I am anxious that I will blow it and excited that I won’t. Because last year was pivotal, something essential turned on for me, and this year is going to be all about finding a good pace.

See what I just did there?

To the year ahead. You and me and us.

-Axx

Beached (Whale)

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” -Anne Morrow Lindbergh

It’s possible that all the relaxing by the ocean all last week has bleached the words out of my brain, so before going into too much detail about our annual family reunion with Drew’s mom, brother, sister and her family, I’m going to gently ease back into the land-locked world with some pictures.

This year, the beach looked like this:

With tons of glorious, beautiful, hysterical cousin love at every turn: (Ok, ok, and maybe a few freakoutswah! over who got to sit in the big chair or look at that book, but you know, mostly glorious! cousin! love!)

From Ashley

From Ashley

Also from Ashley

Also from Ashley

We had many dance parties:

And by ‘we’, I mean them. I pretty much did a lot of this:

Because really, that’s the best thing in the world when you’re 31 weeks pregnant and close to an ocean.

There was a sunrise(ish) walk with Asher at the National Seashore:

And home cooked meals every day, and late night conversations under scratchy blue blankets, and profound inappropriateness courtesy of Cards Against Humanity, and movie time in that cool darkness that can only be claimed after a long day on the beach, and bad jokes, and just love. It’s cheesy and true and deep and fabulous. We feel really lucky to have a family that we love to travel with and this concentrated week slightly makes up for the miles between us. We keep this trip simple on purpose, tumbling from home to beach to pool to home every day, trading sandy bathing suits for PJs, avoiding anything that would involve a crowd or a line or shoes, blatantly stealing time for naps, and just existing together for seven days. It’s so, so, so good.

Heck yes the Waltons travel with their slippers.

Here’s to the beach, to family vacations, and to floating, weightless, in a gigantic ocean.

Muah.

 

 

 

 

Carnival Tree

Spontaneous Car Conversation June 19:

Asher: Mama, is it Spring or Summer right now?

Me: Well, actually, this week, it will be Summer. There’s a day called the Summer Solstice that is the longest day of the year. That means that the moon won’t come up for a really long time that day, it will stay light until after bed time, and it’s the start of summer.

A: No! It won’t be summer until we decorate a Carnival Tree!

M: A what?

A: A Carnival Tree! We have to decorate a beautiful tree and then it can be summer.

M: Is this something that you guys are doing at school?

A: No! It is something that I know about. We have to decorate a Carnival Tree for summer or else summer can’t happen.

M: Ohhhhhkaaaay. Let’s choose a tree outside to decorate on the Solstice, will that work? We can decorate a part of it and maybe hang some treats for the birds?

A: NO! We have to decorate a WHOLE TREE or else IT WON”T BE BEAUTIFUL ENOUGH. <<getting upset>>

M: Of course we have to decorate the whole tree! We will find the perfect tree to decorate outside. The perfect [previously unheard of, totally fabricated by your amazing little brain, unknown] Carnival Tree. And we will decorate it for summer. Obviously.

And so, I give you our very first annual Carnival Tree:

Aren’t you relieved that it can be summer now?

 

**I highly recommend the $1 section at Michael’s for all of you Carnival Tree needs. The $1 section, and a ball of brightly colored yarn from a basket of random stuff that you’ve miraculously held on to since college for just this moment. Clearly.**

Revisiting

Hiya.

In (belated) honor of Mother’s Day, I thought that I would share a post that I wrote in 2011. I think that Asher was about 18 months old when I wrote this, but I’m pretty sure that I will be thinking about these car window down moments when he’s 40.

Car Windows Down

Yesterday when I picked Asher up I instinctively reached for the AC button, not wanting the car to be too hot or too cold and started to roll the windows up.  Before I clicked the button though, I looked in the backseat to see Asher’s downy red hair blowing straight up in the wind and he had both arms up in the air feeling the wind move through his fingertips with his eyes closed and the biggest grin on his tipped up face.  He was feeling the world, I could see it.

He was so beautiful in that moment.

So instead of rolling the windows up, I rolled the other two down and we drove on for 35 miles in the noisy sunshine filled cabin of our car singing the ABCs a little too loudly (me) and waving arms wildly in the wind (him) and as I was cruising down the highway a thought filtered through my mind that was so striking I had to stop in the middle of L-M-N-O-P to catch my breath.

I’ve known my whole life that this moment with my child was coming.

My mom used to pick me up from Mr. Ron’s (if you want to see my mama get all atwitter, ask her about Mr. Ron sometime) where I spent my preschool days doing the things that kids in Montessori preschools do.  One of my earliest and most distinct memories is of one of those afternoons in the car with my mom, or most likely a lot of those afternoons mashed into one golden moment; memory is broad-sweeping in its desire to distill.  Anyway, she worked as an educator in the hospital and so her workdays were marked in my mind with skirts and suit jackets, but in this memory I see her as I so often did, driving down the highway with all of the windows down in our blue Toyota Tercel (later dubbed the Blue Goose by my brother) both of our hair flying, her skirt pulled up over her knees, jacket off and in the passenger seat, fingers claiming a little of the blowing hair with her left hand and twirling it absentmindedly with her elbow crooked on the rim of the open window, her right hand on the steering wheel.  And that’s it, that’s the extent of the memory, but there we are, two women at opposite sides of the female spectrum, and I remember how free I felt, and I remember thinking how free she must have felt too.  I remembering thinking, we’re in this thing together.

Yesterday, in my own car, with my own son in the backseat, I could see the images of my mother and myself superimposed over the joy-filled bodies of Asher and me and it was one of those halting full-circle moments.  To feel that long-ago formed memory from the child’s perspective, I see my mother that I loved, confidently driving us home to dinner and bedtime kisses, patiently listening to me rattle on about all of the things that I never stopped talking about as a child.  To feel that memory now from a mother’s perspective, I think about my mom knowing that she was going home to an unraveling marriage, that she would have to cook for us, get a little girl settled for sleep, and a budding teenage boy settled from his own brand of divorced heartache, and I wonder what thoughts swept through her mind as the wind filled our car and blew us on home.

Just a couple of years after those car window down drives home, my mom would fall in love with her life-long partner, my brother would disappear into the world of college, we would settle into the house that I came to know as my childhood home, and the car window down drives would be replaced with my adolescent desire to control everything with air conditioning and radio stations.  But.  I can’t help but think that I can still remember a little of that acute observance that young children possess, and that my 4-year-old mind was watching my mom closely to figure out how to be a woman one day.  I can’t help but think that the beautiful abandon that I witnessed twenty five years ago reared its head again yesterday.

Part of parenthood is falling madly in love with your child, falling in love with parenting your child, learning your own thoughts and watching them change as you start to think like a parent.  But another astonishing (and I mean that, I’m not being cute here) thing about becoming a parent is seeing your parents for the first time.  It’s not like I didn’t know that was going to happen as one of the clichéd rites of passage into claiming a child as your own, that I didn’t know that I would one day empathize more with my parents than I ever believed possible, it’s just that I couldn’t have possibly known what it was going to feel like until it happened.  It overwhelms me.  Feeling what my mother in particular felt towards me, feeling the shame of abusing that love 1,000 times throughout my life, having an acute awareness of how potent it is, how fierce it is, how all-consuming it is to love a child, and finally understanding that I am on the receiving end of that love is overwhelming.  It overwhelms me because it’s such a powerful gift, and because I realize that Asher may not ever know the depth of my feelings for him unless he decides to one day have a child of his own.

One of my wonderful friends has been talking recently about her strong desire to be able to genuinely and effectively express the breadth of her gratitude to her husband as they’ve become parents together.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot because the truth is, there’s no gift that says thank you well enough when those are the kinds of the things on the table that you’re trying to thank someone for.  What I’ve come up with is that the biggest expression of gratitude is in our actions, and in this case it’s in the way that we love.  The kind of partner or parent or child or friend that we are and the level of thoughtful respect and care that we charge ourselves with in those roles.  I will never know how to say thank you adequately enough to my parents, all four of you, but I do know how to love my child as much as I possibly can, and I can pledge part of that love as a devotion to all that you have given me in your own ways.  I know that I will make mistakes as a mother, but I hope that in my triumphs my parents see a reflection of themselves and know that they are being honored and that I am, in my way, always whispering thank you.

My final thought is this: when Asher is in the backseat thinking his thoughts, is he observing a woman?  Someone who rolls the windows down and sings badly and looks so grown up?  Does he also see a skirt pulled up to free knees, an arm draped casually, a level of confidence that children assume comes with height?  Sometimes I think he might, others I’m beyond sure that my shortcomings are palpable. In either case, I am reminded of what my little brain knew way back then, which is that if nothing else we’re in this thing together, wind blown hair and all, and then I just turn the radio up a little louder and marvel at my beautiful child and the inevitable truth that we are marching forward, steadily on.