The rain is softly falling outside. I can always tell when it’s raining, not from looking out the window, but by the whoosh of tires from cars racing against the road. Right now, I can also hear the faintest sound of birds singing in the tree under my window. I’m guessing they are always there, chirping away, but I’m usually too preoccupied to hear them.

I love the peace of early mornings before the city hits full speed.

It has been almost six months since my last post. I’ve barely written anything during this time; this felt necessary.

I took some time off at the beginning of the year, and it wasn’t until I stopped that I realized how much I needed it. We don’t appreciate this in our non-stop culture, this thing of taking a breather. But I’m beginning to believe it should be required every few years, if not sooner.

Something funny happened during this time: I got to see what a normal work day looks like from an outsider’s perspective. And, it was shocking. We live like crazy people, you guys. Faces in phones, racing against time. Bodies pushing against others, needing to get where they are going—and fast. Humanity everywhere but in the moment. Is this normal?

All of my senses felt the shock of rush hour without anywhere to rush. No wonder I needed a break.

So exactly how did I recharge my psychic batteries? I started off with an overpacked schedule of cocktails and dinners, bracketed by wall-to-wall news. My advice? Don’t do this. It will not refresh you.

Sleeping in helps, though I rarely did. But the following things were my biggest helpers.

Art. It became my lifeline. I think it should be a habit to explore something artistic once a week. In museums, in the streets, in the park—wherever. Just to get out and see someone else’s perspective.

Georgia O’Keefe is my everything. I fan-girled at this exhibit—and then I went back. A few times.

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Irving Penn blew me away with his striking images and fashionable eye.

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Chihuly inspired with color, curlicues and creativity.

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Travel. My friends invited a few of us to accompany them on their family vacation to Denmark. At first I said no. I was on a break from work, and it wasn’t practical. They made me go anyway.

Everyone should have friends like this. Without them, I wouldn’t have hiked to castle ruins…

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…walked through the forest amongst Danish cows…

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…seen these magical trees everywhere (and if anyone knows what they are called, please let me know!)…

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…eaten the best fish & chips I’ve ever had (curiously, in an aquarium!)…

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…seen all the colorful buildings…

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…or walked through the Rainbow Bridge atop the ARoS Museum in Aarhus.

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I’m the luckiest girl.

My takeaways from the trip? The Danish are perhaps the kindest people I’ve ever met—not one rude person did I come across the week I was there. Their 7-Elevens are spotless and the food looks so fresh I bet you could have a delicious four-course meal in any location. (No, I didn’t try this.)  There is a civilized way of living in the country—no less productive, but slower paced and more deliberate—that I aspire to incorporate into my own daily life.

Wandering. Back home, I wandered around my city, now in full bloom. New York is never more beautiful than when she is coming to life in spring. She’s such a show off.

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Beauty reminds me about the simplicity of life. When I acknowledge it, and drink in its exquisite gorgeousness, it brings me back to myself. I’ve learned when I’m feeling frazzled and rundown and uninspired, it’s time to seek out beauty.

What about you—how do you recharge? I’d love to hear.

To my friends United States, however you choose to refresh on this Memorial Day holiday, please take a few moments to remember all of those souls who devoted their lives to our country. We may be one gloriously dysfunctional, divided mess of an American family, but we still live under one flag. Remember to honor those who have fought for our rights to enjoy freedoms we so often take for granted. That bravery is the epitome of beautiful.

xo, with goodness and grace.

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I’ve written several drafts of this end-of-2016 post, trying to make sense of a year that made no sense. Nevertheless I’ve plodded along, stringing sentences together that were angry or incoherent or sappy or whiny. Or all of the above. But when I looked back in all my drafts, there was a single theme threaded throughout.

My year was weird. Maybe yours was, too?

For me, it was the most bi-polar 12-month period ever. Here’s my story of two very different years. One was super duper ugly, and the other was, dare I say, pretty good.

PART I: The Ugly

This part was all about the storms that rolled in.

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It wasn’t just the election. Though, much of it was—and what it revealed. People are angry. Though underneath all that fury, I think people feel vulnerable and scared and unsure about so many things. The world can seem frightening and uncertain, and because so many don’t know what to do with all those feelings, they lash out at the low hanging fruit. Which may be you.

Can we just pretend like all that didn’t happen? No? Mmmkay.

This year wore me out, you guys. I’m tired. Like, a Rip van Winkle kind of tired. Only, I also have insomnia and can’t go to sleep. (That’s a true story.)

I’m over everyone’s political opinions. Enough. Basta. Callate. Please. It’s nice that so many people are interested enough to have opinions, but good lord…do I need to hear every single one of them?

I’m also tired of being accommodating to everyone’s feelings. Now…I know this is not a Goodness, Grace and Grub kind of sentiment, but when I’m tired I get real. Too many times I’ve watched the quieter, tentative, thoughtful voices begin to express opinions, only to be resolutely shut down and shut up. I’ve seen it, and I’ve experienced it—and I’m done with that. So I’ve had to get used to speaking a little louder and a little more forcefully. Sometimes I forget to be polite; I talk over people when they are in mid-thought. Sometimes I speak just a little too passionately, where it makes people uncomfortable and they quickly change the subject. But you know what? Everyone needs to get over it. Because I’m all about owning my version of the truth, and it’s time for people to hear it.

So there’s that.

I’m emotionally exhausted from holding it all together. It takes a lot to make a life—patience, courage, grit, fortitude, and EFFORT, with a loud-mouthed, shouty E. Sometimes I just want to stay under the covers, jar of Nutella and spoon in hand, Food Network on the TV, easy summer read (even though it’s winter and I still haven’t finished it) somewhere in the sheets.

I literally can’t even with walking behind certain people on New York City streets—you know the ones, those who shuffle along with their heads stooped and eyes mesmerized by their phone, fully oblivious to the fact they are all up in my way. Is that you in front of me? Please stop. Because your life isn’t in your phone. It’s when you turn it off and look up.

I can’t handle losing any more icons. George Michael…what can I say? You were my adolescence. I still remember the day I heard your group Wham! was breaking up. I was 15, in the car with my mom, driving down the 405 freeway in Los Angeles with the radio on when the DJ made the announcement. At the time I thought my heart couldn’t be broken by a pop star any more than that. Now I know that isn’t true. Thank you for leaving a legacy of music; it means you can still be here for all those important moments in our lives.

I’m exhausted from all complaining, my own included.

But. I’m beginning to see all this as a blessing. Even the anger. Especially the anger. This year I felt all the feels, and I got in touch with deep dark rage hiding in the recesses of my everything. A few years ago, this would have made me uncomfortable, and I would have giggled the rage away. This year, not so much. I’m saying goodbye to all that. The anger and the rage and the fire in me burned bright and loomed large.

My good girl persona is learning how to co-exist with big gnarly feelings. I think it’s about time.

PART II: The Good

There was so much to be happy about. Really. And the good wakes me up when I’m exhausted.

First came Goodness. I traveled more than I have in years. The more I travel, the more I think it’s necessary. When you get out of your own neighborhood, you begin understand life more. When you see the world, it isn’t some big idea outside of yourself. You become part of it. You learn new ways of seeing life. Even in Vegas, baby.

After my trip to Portugal (see post here), I spent two days on my own in Madrid. Not gonna lie, it was tough. I missed my friends. None of my elementary school/high school/college Spanish came back like I thought it would, making it tough to communicate in a city where most people don’t speak English. Restaurants I wanted to dine in were closed, as so many places in Europe are in August. And I got lost on the way to virtually every place I tried to find.

In situations like this, I discover so much about myself, like how I react when I feel out of my element—and how I talk to myself during those times. (Spoiler alert: It isn’t good.) I was constantly challenged—hot and sweaty and cranky and tired and lost and unsettled—but I made it through. And then, I was rewarded with perhaps my most magical night of the year.

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Chasing the sun in another country is fun, y’all.

Then came Grace. This year, I found community. It came to me when I wasn’t looking, as most good things in life do. I now have a group of people in my life who are always supportive of each other, make me laugh, and don’t run when I say crazy things.

I made new friends. I reconnected with a few old friends. I strengthened bonds with people who’ve been in my life for ages.

This year, I found my people.

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And there was Grub. When I look back on this year, I realize I don’t write nearly enough about food.

My favorite meals of the year were colorful and full-flavored, yet homey and simple.

There were these clams.

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Oh, these clams. One of my favorite places in Manhattan is Via Carota, in the West Village. The menu is Italian-inspired, but I don’t really like to put a label on the food. It’s just good. The menu changes in tandem with the season. The clams—with corn, tomatoes and shallots—were one of the highlights of my summer. I know this sounds very dramatic. But they were gooooood, perfectly capturing essence of summer. Food tastes different when ingredients are at their freshest.

I’d say these were my favorite thing I ate all year, but then I remember this dessert from Wildair on the Lower East Side.

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I don’t remember what it was called, but the bowl held an airy panna cotta topped with what I can only describe as strawberry snow. Refreshing, cool, creamy, crunchy. Delicious.

The dessert wine was selected by my server. All I can say is, when you eat in a place known for their wine and you don’t know what to drink, put yourself at the mercy of your server. Their expert recommendation will not disappoint.

I think this is a good lesson for other areas of life, too.

How do you sum up a year so full of contradictions? You don’t. You keep living a life, one full of angst and confusion and joy and clarity—because the contradictions are the fairy dust of life.

Here’s to saying goodbye to a big glorious mess of a year, and hello to a new one where we get to try it all over again. Whatever you do in this next year, just make sure you LIVE it.

As always, thank you for being part of the Goodness community. Wishing you a beautiful 2017 full of dreams come true. Happy New Year!

with goodness and grace, XO.

If I had made a list of dream places to visit, Portugal wouldn’t have made it. So when my friend said she wanted to take a trip with a small group of loved ones for her milestone birthday, I was surprised to hear the country was at the top of her list.

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Portugal has been an under the radar destination for some time, making it a more affordable option to places like France and Italy. But travel seems to be on the upswing. Over the last two years, I’ve noticed a good many people I follow on social media posting about travel there, with mixed reviews. Some worshipped it, while others felt a deep indifference.

I fell into the former category, happily. But here’s what you need to know: Portugal is not Italy. Italy is easy to love, mainly because she can be aggressively romantic and lusty with her demands for you to love her instantly. (And, I did.) Portugal is its own locale, and it deserves to be judged for what it is. So, as with any new lover, you have to surrender the need for comparison. You have to arrive with no expectations and let Portugal show you why she deserves your love.

Lisbon, where we were based, is a shabby chic town. It is hilly like San Francisco, and much of the city is under construction. But, five minutes wandering through a Lisbon neighborhood charmed me; five days had me in the full bloom of love.

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When I arrived, my friend Dana was already at the hotel and eager to show me around our neighborhood, called Alfama.

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The first thing I discovered is art is everywhere. It is embedded into the fabric of everyday life in Lisbon. We ventured into an area filled with graffiti, where artists were encouraged to create works of art within the landscape. It was magical.

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We stopped in the Palacio Belmonte, an exquisite hotel in Alfama. There was unexpected beauty in every corner.

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When the rest of the group arrived, we took a food tour of Lisbon. Experiencing how people eat is such a great way to know a place. We stopped at the Mercado da Ribera, which has served as Lisbon’s main food market since the 1890s. Today the market is divided in half.

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One half is a traditional market that sells fresh produce, meats and fish to consumers, as well as local restaurants and bars.

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The newer section houses the Time Out market, an awesome food hall with a dizzying array of options.

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We drank copious amounts of vinho verde (or “young wine,” a refreshing white wine as light bodied as water) and sampled many delicious things on our tour…

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…but my favorite was the most famous dessert in Portugal: custard tarts.

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The tarts, also known as pastel de nata, were developed by the nuns who used egg whites to starch their habits, which left them with an abundance of egg yolks. Rather than discard them, they created this heavenly confection. Ours were from Manteigaria, reported to be some of the best in the city. While many bakeries use margarine in their crusts, Manteigaria uses 100% butter. The good news is they are only 120 calories per tart, so when you have more than one (and you will!), there’s no need to feel guilty about it.

The beauty of traveling is you dive deep into life—and eat two or three (okay, four!) pastries—with not one ounce of guilt. You meet yourself in the sweet spot of pleasure, happy to wander for hours on end. I like who I am when I’m traveling. I begin asking myself the big questions of life.

Like, why does my laundry never look this cute?

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I loved the people everywhere we went. Sweetness abounded, and while most people spoke at least a little English—a taxi driver told me the United Kingdom once ruled Portugal, so English is generally taught in schools—they were bowled over if you tried to speak Portuguese, even if only a word or two.

I can confidently say three things: bom dia (good morning), sim (yes), and obrigada (thank you). If you are a man, people were always eager to tell us, then you’d say obrigado.

Also charming were the tiles, or azulejos, we saw everywhere. They are traditionally embedded into the architecture throughout Lisbon.

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But then again, I found mostly everything to be sweetly enchanting.

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After our first cloudy morning, I realized my hotel room faced east. The light chaser that I am, I wondered if I would be able to see the sun rise each morning.

And boy, did I.

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Each morning the sun lit me up with excitement for unexpected pleasures of the day ahead.

I can’t wait to go back.

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Bom dia, with goodness and grace. xo

How do you name what is unnamable? I don’t know. Except, it is profound.

I find it difficult to describe it in the way I can give meaning to other emotions. My anger is full of fire; my irritation, a constant hot friction; my annoyance, ever-present and something I’d like to flick away.

But joy, instead, presents itself with subtlety. It whispers. If you are paying attention, though, you know when it is there. It passes through like a beam of light, illuminating everything, permeating every cell and hair and curve of your body. It is a resounding yes in a world full of nos.

My word of the year is joy. I plucked it from the ether, hung on the hopes of beginning again. It sounded lofty and unattainable. I tend to choose things like this because they are hard, because achieving them means I have done something. It means I am living a life and not simply taking up space.

But you cannot achieve joy, any more than you can achieve love. Nor can you possess it. It simply arrives one day, and then it leaves, sometimes all on the same day.

This summer has not felt like summer in all the ways it is supposed to feel. I’ve had exactly zero beach days and precisely the same amount of time to meander aimlessly through my city with no obligations. The things I love about summer are ones I haven’t had time to embrace.

But, in lieu of days that end with sand in everything, perhaps I’ve discovered something better. It has been a season of friendship. Of reconnection. Of community. I have found myself bonded in all ways, unexpected and humbling.

I remember the January day when I struggled to find a word, the idea of what this year would represent. I settled on joy—if you can settle on such a thing—and it felt right. Last year (and the year before that, and the year before that, and maybe even the one before that) was one long slog through emotional mud. Maybe I’d earned a bit of joy.

And then I went on with life. Every now and then I’d check my joy barometer. Nope, not yet, was always the answer.

Throughout the year, I manage to maintain a sense of wonder about the world. I look up and see clouds in wispy, angelic formations, sun rays beaming between buildings, birds playing and swooping in flight. Wonder is my thing.

But joy? Not so much.

And then, the fault lines of my inner landscape began to shift.

On the last morning of a fun birthday weekend a few weeks ago, I sat down for a meditation. Almost immediately, I was overwhelmed as gratitude washed over me, ebbing and flowing like the ocean at high tide. I felt humbled by the love I’d been shown.

I felt such deep gratefulness for the old friend who spontaneously asked if I wanted to meet for a cocktail, which turned into a fun evening where I’d felt more seen and understood than I had by anyone in years. For a generous friend I deem my fairy godmother, who gifted me with a birthday evening with more champagne and fun with a group of strangers than I thought possible. For girlfriends who make a day of wandering through new neighborhoods ridiculously fun. For co-workers who are kind and funny, always laughing in spite of the craziness of what we do for a living.

When I was done, I even felt a profound appreciation for the pigeons who take a breather from the summer heat on my windowsill.

This gratitude opened a doorway to joy. It didn’t shout its presence; it crept up slowly, kindly. Joy welcomed me, and beckoned for me to sit with it awhile. Maybe it’s always there, lurking just underneath the layers of irritation and annoyance.

I’ve wondered, how do you hold onto this thing, so blissful…yet slippery? The answer is stunningly simple: you don’t. You allow it to sneak up on you and, when it does, you let it permeate every cell and hair and ounce of you.

And then, you wait until the next time.

I have fallen in love with trees.

It began with a trip to Savannah, Georgia, a place new to me and my six traveling companions. Almost immediately, I was charmed by the slower pace, the architecture, and the way everything was framed by majestic trees.

Obsessed with the stature and curve of their branches and the dangling Spanish moss so foreign to me, I regularly interrupted conversations to say, Oh, look at this tree! Then I would stop and have a personal photo shoot with my new muse.

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At one point, my friend Claudia eyed me pointing my camera phone at yet another set of trees and, with sweet sunshine in her voice, staged a one-woman intervention with her words. Okay. We get it. You love the trees. I think you got your picture already. Maybe something else? 

So I kept snapping images, but only in my memory.

During a walk through Forsyth Park, I spotted a tree trunk so massive it had to be a few centuries old. I felt deeply connected to its roots, a gravitational pull moving me to stand by its side. I resisted the overwhelming urge to hug the tree.

I mean this quite literally.

Back home, joy filled me one morning when I saw the tree underneath my window about to burst into leafy bloom. My favorite color in the world is the fresh green of a newly born leaf, so vibrant and bright and full of life.

New leaf life always makes me think of the winter just past. What a marvel it is for a tree to have shed old leaves and to devote an entire season to creating new life in their place. How it looks so bare and forlorn, and how the lack of life on the outside always makes me sad. But, that sadness is misplaced. In reality it is still full of life, though it lives beneath the bark.

I think this is true for people, too.

I think this of me, in the middle of a transition difficult to name, even to myself.  The old life—and its stagnant, stale, and unnecessary parts—has fallen away, and the new life is not yet fully formed. In this space of becoming, I chase the things captivating my attention, which I now understand is a way of rebuilding. The muse highlights what really matters. In seeking the things I love, the things that love me back, I am able to begin again. Rebirth is inevitable, and I’m excited to see where it leads.

In the meantime, I will let nature have its way with me.

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xo, with goodness and grace.

I’ve come down with a case of the Who am I…?-itis.

Perhaps you’ve had it, too.

You know, the voice that comes chiming in from time to time? When you’re all full of confidence and lofty dreams, and you’ve made grand plans to fling yourself into something new?

That voice that says, Who am I to think I can do that?

Making my Who am I…?-itis worse—someone unfollowed me on Instagram. As I write that sentence, I know it is the silliest thing ever.

Someone unfollowed me on Instagram.

It should be noted that if someone I knew uttered those words to me, I would absolutely, unequivocally say to them, “REALLY? Maybe you should get a real problem???”

Sometimes I get judgey.

Is judgey a real word? (See.)

Anyway. The person who unfollowed me, it wasn’t a person I knew. It was someone I briefly met at an Instameet, where people from the Instagram community gather at one place in a city for the sole purpose of taking pictures. 5:30am, standing on a subway platform in the chill of a windy early spring morning, about to chase a sunrise. We greeted each other, as strangers in a ridiculous situation do. Hi, I’m me and Hi, you’re you. We exchanged Instagram handles, so we could follow each other and see our pictures from that day. And that was that.

Over the months that followed, he would often “like” my pictures. Whenever I would see his name pop up, I would feel a small amount of pride. This person, with a sizable social media following, likes my pictures! It felt like validation. Like, okay, maybe I can take a decent picture. Maybe I have something to say.

And then the other day, I realized I hadn’t seen his name in a while. So I did the thing you should never do if you ever want to maintain any sense of sanity anywhere in the vicinity of the world of social media. I checked my list of followers. And his name was gone.

The Who am I…? voices got even louder. I mean, there are REAL photographers in the world. You probably take too many pictures of your food—and who cares what you ate/are eating/cooked/are cooking, anyway? And there are people who are REAL food photographers. And REAL cooks.

Who am I to do any of it?

The things we put ourselves through.

A day later, I was waiting on the bus stop, en route to see a friend. I was on my phone, doing goodness knows what, when a woman walked up to me, sighed and said, Hi.

My New Yorker guard went up. Hi, I said tentatively.

She asked me how to get to a certain cross section, the location of a hospital. She’d had surgery on her brain and hadn’t felt right, so she wanted to get checked out.

I told her where she could get a ticket for the limited service bus, which she should take since it would get her there faster. She didn’t have any money, she said.

This was one of those city-specific moments; as she was talking, I was wrestling with how long I would continue with this conversation. A reality of urban life is encountering people from all walks of life, all with very real (and some not so real) problems. As a sensitive person, I am like a sponge for everyone’s emotions. I’ve learned the art of putting up invisible boundaries in order to protect my own sense of well being, particularly in this city where everyone wants something from you.

She kept talking. And because I am polite and she seemed like a kind person, I kept listening.

She was glad to be alive. She had been in the service and saw things that changed her. That no one should see, go through, be immersed in. She enlisted after her mother died because she needed a purpose.  She was in the military for 7 years. After she came home and dealt with her head trauma, after surgery, she said the military wanted her for another tour. This made her laugh. She was thankful to laugh and to be alive and to have breath sigh out of her lungs every day.

I listened, and I nodded, and I smiled when it was appropriate. I was moved by what she was saying, but I was desperately trying not absorb the energy of it.

The regular bus came, and I needed to be on my way. I told her to wait for the limited bus because she could get on in any door and chances are they wouldn’t check for tickets.

God bless you, she smiled.

Bless you, too, I smiled back.

Thank you for talking to me, she called out, as I started towards the bus.

Those six words, so open and vulnerable and honest, almost made me burst into tears right there on 2nd Avenue.

Whether we are wrestling with head trauma or social media rejection, we all really want the same thing.  We all just want to be seen.

There’s that saying, the struggle is real. It makes me laugh every time I hear it. The store was out of Nutella…the struggle is real.  

But you know what? IT IS. And so, maybe our job in life is to bear witness to the people around us. To acknowledge each other’s hardships and sadness and struggles.

We have these moments of “Who am I…”-itis, where we feel less than and not entitled to dare to dream of a circumstance better than the one we’re in. Who am I to dream?

With breath in my lungs and health in my body, who am I not to?

As for my Instagram unfollower? He had his reasons, whatever they may be. Ultimately the people who are supposed to witness how I see the world and my musings, will.

Like you. 🙂 Here’s one of my favorite photos from this week.

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We don’t always know where we’re going, but our deep selves will get us there. Who we are is infinitely braver than any of us can imagine.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I have a number of things rattling around my brain and trying to hit the page. Separately they seem random and not at all connected.

Bear with me as I try to make sense of them all.

Thought #1: When I woke up this morning, the first bit of news I read in my email was of the passing of David Bowie. It immediately gave me a pit in my stomach. Now, if I were being honest, I wasn’t a super fan. But I did have an appreciation for his artistry and some of his music.

When I think of him, I think of a very specific time in my life. Junior high, me at 12 and 13 years old. Let’s Dance, China Girl, Modern Love. These songs, at a time when I was awkwardly transitioning into another phase of life, were pure joy. At a time when MTV was beginning to flourish, those videos were alive. I would stand in front of the TV in my older brother’s room—because my parents wouldn’t yet let me have cable TV—lip-synching and dancing as the videos played.

If there was one thing I learned in my adolescence, it’s when life gets tough, when you really don’t fit in, when you feel like a misfit, lock yourself in your room, and dance. To this day, when I hear Modern Love, I stop what I’m doing…and I dance.

Have I dated myself yet?

Thought #2: Over the weekend, one of my Facebook friends put up a very poignant post on Oprah and weight loss and how we feel about ourselves. (You should very definitely read it; click here. You’re welcome.)

In her essay, she mentions how she’s heard the phrase “get your life.” I’ve heard it before, but something about the way she uses it kept it stuck on a loop in my mind.  It can mean a lot of things (some not so positive), but it can be a simple as ‘get it together.’ Or, go out and get the life that you want. At least that’s how I’m choosing to spin it.

I want to get it.

Thought #3: I don’t believe in making resolutions. For me they are the equivalent of waiting to start a diet on Monday—and a set up to disappointing yourself. (See the link above.) While I love taking stock at the year’s end, I prefer to begin anew, with the months ahead feeling freshly scrubbed, all shiny and new.

I asked myself what I wanted from this year, and the answer was pretty simple. Joy. (See thought #1.)

I also think sometimes we make life more difficult that it needs to be. So, I simplify.

Instead, I’d rather ask myself who I want to be.

This year, it’s pretty simple. I want to see more sunrises and sunsets, and feel reverence in the miracle of another day. I want to laugh more—though, even when it gets hard, somehow I can always manage a giggle. I want to say a big YES to all the things I have wanted in my life, including some that are as spooky as a haunted house.

I want joy. I want to dance. I want to get it.

Look at me. Somehow, I managed to tie together three disparate thoughts.

As I figure out how to do and be all of those things, I may write less here or I may write more. We’ll see. There won’t be, for this year at least, weekly posts about what was good. Because I’ve decided, it’s all good.

Now, go get it.  I’d love to hear what you want from this year. Share in the comments below!

xo, with goodness and grace.

 

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” — Seneca

The year that was.

Have you ever had a year so challenging it made you question everything? Where you were stripped down to the core in all ways? Emotionally, physically, professionally, and spiritually?

I began the year with lofty intentions. It was to be the “Year of Me,” where I would finally set myself on a path to being the woman I always wanted to be. My word of the year was freedom. Somewhere along the way the refrain let go of what no longer serves you took up residence in my brain and wouldn’t leave.

All I can say is, be careful of what you intend.

Why, you ask? When you set intentions, the universe will rise up to meet them. It will gather the sun and the moon and the stars in a special council meeting to figure out ways to help you get what you’ve asked.

This I learned in some epic ways. Because, people, the events that follow are not always pretty. Sometimes the special council says, Nope…we gotta tear the whole thing down and start all over again.

Crazy happened, in many ways and in multiple areas of life. The days went by, and the crazy got crazier. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, throughout the year I did my best to see the blessings in advance. To say, oh yes, here’s why this happened. I GET IT, dear universe. I’m good. 

But, actually, no. It doesn’t work that way. You can’t avoid the hard and difficult and weird by “spiritualizing” your way out of it. You cannot pre-pave the pain in the hopes of avoiding it.

The only way out is through. 

At the end of the day, y’all, you need to care for your heart’s longings. This—not a 401(k), not health insurance, not a promotion, not a corner office—is all you really need. Those other things may be necessary, but they are not a life.

But, fear gets in the way.

Fear makes us do funny things. Fear can make you build a foundation for a home in a place you didn’t know you’d end up—and exactly where you never wanted to be. Fear encourages you construct a life on shoulds. Fear leads you to the long conversation with your doctor, as I had a few months ago, where his prescription sounds like this: “You need to be committed to living a clean and pure and health-driven life, and you need to be committed to getting the crazy out of your life.”

This advice also led me to a summer of drinking rosé like it was blush-colored water. (Which, I admit, was pretty fun…but, I digress.)

Fear will also make you blind to changing things because it gets in your way.

But, here’s the deal. If you don’t deal with things, they will deal with you. You end up living a life by default.

This is not soul satisfying…nor the reason why you are on this earth.

In the end, I found my freedom. It is mine to do what I will. I end the year on a blank page, holding a clean slate, and sitting in an empty room. This would have freaked me out a few years ago. Now—now that it’s all said and done—I understand the gift for what it is. I have the freedom of a future of my own creation; I have the ability to write my own story. Joy awaits on the other side of this newfound freedom.

At the end of this year, in all its difficulty and all its toughness, I am free.

Wishing you all beautiful things as the new year dawns.

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Now, we get to begin again. Happy New Year, y’all.

xo, with love and light, goodness and grace.

Christmas is a holy, deeply spiritual time of year for me. In the cold (or spring-like warmth of this year), long days of darkness, there is light everywhere. It’s a happy time.

For anyone who has been to New York during the holiday season, you know it is a wonderland of lights and sounds and energy filled with the spirit of Christmas.

For anyone who actually lives in New York, you also know the holiday season can bring forth deep wells of rage you didn’t know lived within you.

Vulnerability alert. I often tumble into the latter category.

When I wanted to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center this year, I briefly thought about repeating my pilgrimage last year. I had to leave early for a day trip, so I got up a few hours earlier and ventured over, practically in the middle of the night. It was awesome: the hush of the early morning, just me and a few security guards nodding at each other to acknowledge the beauty. And I got great pictures—with no people in them.

But this year, I valued sleep more than the peace of sightseeing undisturbed.

Instead, I flung myself into the belly of the beast on a random weekday. In order to keep living in the city I love so much, I’m making peace with the fact I need to coexist with the millions of people who come to visit. Being among people (sometimes people who are rude and pushy or worse, oblivious that locals don’t function at their (enviably) slow and unhurried pace) has become my spiritual practice of sorts. There are over seven billion people in the world, so I should be able to function properly among 50,000 of them. All the yoga and meditation in the world doesn’t matter if I can’t bring some zen off the mat and into the everyday.

So I pushed myself into the world of Christmas and I managed to function like a normal human being.

And, the tree did not disappoint.

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Wishing you a beautiful holiday season where you find ways to coexist peacefully with the situations you find challenging, and may you find beauty and light everywhere.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I have inspiration block.

It’s like writer’s block, but worse. I don’t really want to write. I don’t really want to snap photos. If I were honest, I just want to pick up my phone and aimlessly swipe. Swipe. Swipe. It’s mindless and strangely meditative. And it’s exactly what feels good right now.

Now, ever the picky Pollyanna, I’ve become swipe selective. Facebook is too full of political opinions and missing children and awful things you don’t want to know about your friends. Twitter, with all the news in my feed, reminds me of everything I don’t want to think about. All those dating apps? I literally can’t even.

No. I want Instagram. Pretty pictures. Pretty posed pictures pretending to be snapshots of a real life. Pretty pictures move my mind away from current events and crazy people.

So I swipe. Swipe, swipe, swipe.

But here’s the thing. When inspiration is napping, it’s important to keep moving. All of you, not just your fingers. You may want to give up, to think this is how it all goes down, that creativity and grace and beauty are gone for good.

Instead, find the courage to walk and walk and walk, and little clues suddenly litter the pathway. Answers—and inspiration—maybe, just maybe, find the way to the rightful owner.

Maybe they were always there, waiting to be discovered.

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That’s my goodness of the week.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I am capable.

It’s funny, what we forget during those difficult times. We can forget we’re smart, or we’re kind, or we’re capable. Growing up I knew I was all of those things. I was most proud of being capable, an independent spirit who could do things.

But somewhere along the way, I forgot this.

As the temperatures dropped this week, a wintry chill breezing into town, I was reminded I needed to get my air conditioner out of the window. Every year I wait too long. Every year. Because I have casement windows—the kind with handles that open the windows out towards the street instead of up—I have a floor air conditioner unit. The air flows out through two hoses, so holes need to be cut into the window panes.  I have one of the handymen in my building install it when it begins to warm in the spring, and I have him take it out in the winter. But I always wait too long and I spend weeks freezing in my apartment.

This week, I had the idea to take it out myself. I’d found long-forgotten covers for the holes, so I placed them after I unhooked the hoses, and then I used duct tape on the outside to plug any drafts.

It was ridiculously easy.

I am capable. I can take out my air conditioner. I can cook dinner. I can hang a picture on my wall and I can hook up a DVR.

But. Can I create a meaningful life?

I’ve been thinking about moments. The small, sweet ones that make a day. The big moments that change a life. The fleeting ones, missed, never to come back.

But there’s one in particular I keep coming back to. That moment when you stand in front of the closet and think, there is nothing in here that feels like me. This is how it begins.

Transformation.

Many years ago on these pages, I spoke of standing at the crossroads. I had begun to feel some unknowable thing, certain only that something wasn’t working. Every day I faced the hours ahead feeling like I was wearing a sweater that no longer fit, as if it were two sizes too small.

In the following years, the metaphorical clothes kept shrinking.

Soon the physical manifestation began, which I wrote about earlier this year. Clothes emerged from my closet with new holes—sometimes days upon days in a row—some on the seams (seemingly from wear, but relatively new), some moth worn. Items began ripping, reminiscent of Bruce Banner when he’s angry and about to transform into the Hulk. It began to feel comical, like someone put a weird voodoo spell on my clothes. That, or they just didn’t want to be with me any longer.

And then one day I stood in front of my closet and it occurred to me. None of this represents me. Only I didn’t know exactly what me was supposed to be.

Sometimes you don’t know how to feel, and your sense of well being wavers from minute to minute.

It’s that time when you are in between two lives.

There’s the one behind you, near enough to still see in the rear view mirror. And there’s the one you’ve longed for so long—even if you aren’t sure exactly what you long for—not yet visible.

I’ve tried to make sense of this year, with all of its twists and turns and bends where it seemed there were straight lines. I’ve tried to preemptively see the blessings in the difficulties. I’ve tried to understand what craziness was trying to tell me, where it was trying to lead me.

But you can’t do that. I know that now. You can’t jump to the end of the story without having lived through the middle.

The middle is where everything happens. This is where life is lived. This is where you find yourself.

Once, in the throes of broken-heartedness, a friend gave me a piece of advice. The only way out is through. I’ve thought of that many times this year, when things seemed so hard I just wanted to go home, crawl under the covers, and stay there for months on end.

The truth is you have to keep going. You have to drive through the storm in order to see the sun again.

The storms of this year have settled and I’m left looking at what is left.  Once the clouds parted, what I expected to see was wreckage, debris everywhere on the ground, remnants still falling from the sky. Instead, in the middle of the space in between who I was and who I will become, what I see is a vast field of empty space.

Sometimes that empty field is overwhelming. So many possibilities in the space in between.

But then I remember what I’ve always known. I am capable. And I can build whatever I want on that field.

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I can build a life of my dreams.

xo, with goodness and grace.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes there just are no words.

When the unimaginable happens—as it did in Paris, and Beirut, and Baghdad, and Kenya, last week—sometimes all you can do is to fall to your knees and ask for mercy for the whole of humanity. Sometimes things don’t make sense.

So, there are no words.

When I first heard the news of the Paris attacks, in the early stages of its unfolding, I was horrified. On my way to a workout, I thought of a picture I’d taken the evening before on my way to an event with a friend. I posted it on my personal Instagram page, with a caption that was heartfelt, and then I went to class.

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After class, I began to worry I’d gone wrong in posting that. Even now I feel awfully vulnerable posting it here. It was how I felt, but I began to wonder if it wasn’t appropriate. Perhaps it was too soon to try to see the good in something so clearly not good. The perils of social media—sometimes your heart is in the right place, but you don’t always hit the right note.

I left it up anyway.

Because, here’s the thing. I choose to believe life—in all of its complexities and awfulness and heartache and things we cannot ever understand—at its core is beautiful. The outpouring of love and concern and support around the world demonstrated the good in spite of the bad. It is not right we have to witness parents explain what happened to their children, but there is an inescapable hopefulness in watching a father tell his young son the flowers people were placing on the sidewalk were to combat guns. Flowers fight guns.

Sometimes goodness is complicated. But in spite of it all, I do believe there still is beauty in life.

And, somehow, the next morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that, the sun comes out again.

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That is grace.

xo, with goodness and grace.

I err on the side of being a Pollyanna. It’s my nature, to try to see the positive in everything. And sometimes, I know, it can be annoying.

But, this year. This year has been hard, y’all. When you are being stripped down to the core, when you are sitting in the muddiest of mud pits, let me tell you, it’s hard to see the world through those rosy lenses.

Still, it happens. I’ve been blessed with moments, in the middle of darkness, that help me to see there is always light.

This week, I found beauty in the unlikeliest of places.

Basically, everything I need to know about life, I’ve learned on a SoulCycle bike. Things like…the hill makes you stronger; keep climbing. When you need to sit down, let yourself recover. When you lose your way, just move to the beat. When you think you cannot turn up the resistance higher, try a little more. When it gets too hard and you think you can’t go any farther, keep going. And when you keep going, you will be surprised at your own strength.

And so on.

I tend to take the same instructors week after week, mainly because I love their energy. Energy, I’ve learned, is the key to so many things in life.

Before class at the end of the week, I chided myself for not canceling it. I was tired and wanted nothing more than to go home and hang on my couch. But I showed up anyway. SoulCycle taught me that.

As class started, I found myself worried about keeping up. I became concerned about not having eaten enough. I felt a vague hunger. I was mentally exhausted.

And then, my energy shifted. Suddenly, I was happy to be there and in my body and in that moment. The music was loud, and as I cycled and moved with the choreography, I felt grateful for it all.

I had one of those moments where everything felt right. I felt happy. Genuinely, deep into my core, happy. I looked around and could feel the joy pulsating through the room. I thought, life can be so beautiful.

And then the disco lights came on. Seriously.  I mean…you can’t not be happy with colored disco lights spinning around the room.

There, in the middle of 60-something sweaty people, I found my center.

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And it was beautiful.

xo, with goodness and grace.

Sometimes I forget how restorative my city can be. To have a few weekdays to wander is a luxury, and one I don’t have often enough.

There’s so much hustle all around, so much energy and movement. But then you find places where stillness exists, and it stills you, too.

Want to see some of those places?

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Too much fall? Maybe. But let’s just go with it.

xo, with goodness and grace.

So much sweetness.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve talked about fall. I’ve come to see what a beautiful metaphor it is for shedding all the things not serving a purpose any longer. The leaves fall, releasing all that needs to be pruned away. And life follows suit.

I understand that now.

This year has been a series of endings. To outmoded ways of thinking, to worn out routines, to almost everything that has become familiar, including some relationships. This year has offered up a tough and often confusing mix of situations, with one just coming to a conclusion.

So much sweetness.  

This is what keeps playing in my head, like the chorus of a song with an unforgettable hook.

Here’s the beautiful thing. Whenever I thought I’ve been alone, completely adrift and on my own, I’ve been met with support. At times it was almost as if people fell out of bushes to give me messages of encouragement. Grace, somehow, in the sweetest of ways, has always been at my side. For this, I feel humbled and grateful.

Trust. This is what I’ve learned.

Trust in the unexpected and the unknown. Trust people—even, perhaps especially, people you never imagined—will stand in front of you with offerings of friendship and love. Trust, and the universe will rise up to catch you when you stumble, to push you when you think you cannot get up, to hold your hand when you are in need tenderness.

So much sweetness. 

That gives me faith in a future full of things that will serve me well.

One day I came out of the subway and was greeted by this sidewalk chalk inspiration. Signs are everywhere.

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xo, with goodness and grace.

 

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