You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2017.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this last year and what it meant to me. But I find myself not wanting to recap or rehash or relive any of it.

Instead, I’m thinking about what I want from the next year.

On Christmas Day, I hunkered down on my parents’ sofa as we flipped through old photo albums. I came across a picture of me from when I was about 7 or 8, and it stopped me. That was a girl I hadn’t remembered.

I recall the day vividly; I was roller skating on my block, as I often did, and my dad came outside, armed with his camera. (I inherited my love of photography from him.) We had an impromptu photo shoot; me skating and posing and being goofy, him documenting it all. I wore a purple plaid pinafore, accessorized with my blue and yellow skates and a Reggie Jackson pin. I loved baseball—actually my brother did, which in those days was the same thing—and I loved #44 on the Yankees.

There were a series of pictures from this shoot in the album, and seeing them now makes me laugh. I was open and funny and spirited, at that beautiful age before self-consciousness sets in. But I kept going back to that one photo.

I’m looking off camera, most likely at my dad, hands on my hips, slight smirk on my face, eyes steely and certain and probably annoyed about something. I’m sassy, feisty and unafraid. I’m in command of myself.

I turned to my dad, incredulous at this picture of my younger self. When was I this person? He laughed and then heaved a sigh full of humor and weariness. You’ve always been that person.

How can we get ourselves so wrong?

I once had someone challenge me about my personality. What is it with you and being nice? I didn’t understand what she meant at the time; in fact, I was slightly offended by it. I know now that I confused being nice with being kind. I understand that wanting to be viewed as nice often leads to a contrived persona, built so people will like us. But instead we betray ourselves as we dumb down our truest essence.

Now I know that sometimes I am kind. Sometimes I am flippin’ furious. And that’s okay. It is possible for both things to exist in the same person. We can be many things at the same time. Soft and rough around the edges. Courteous and demanding. Understanding and challenging.

So much of our lives is consumed by what we’ve been told to want and need—and who we should be. When I think of what I want in 2018, I’m pretty sure of what I don’t want. I will not start a diet on January 1. I certainly will not be in the gym bright and early on that day, nor any other day that week. I will not deprive myself of my feelings. I will not buy into any of this ‘new year, new you’ nonsense. I’m fine just as I am, and I’m guessing you are, too. I will not waste anymore time with resolutions based on who everyone else thinks we should be and all strive towards becoming.

Instead, my hope is to show up—as me. Not some made-up and idealized version of myself, but who I really am. That person is messy in so, so many ways. (My brother loves to tell a story about a donut and my desk drawer. But, a tale for another day.) The real me has big emotions and is learning to express them. She gets angry. If you are annoying her, chances are she will blurt it out a little too quickly and very loudly. This may hurt your feelings. But she feels love deeply, too. She loves to laugh. She thinks comedians are rarely funny, but real people are inherently hilarious. She looks for beauty in the world every single day. She will point at the moon as it rises and tell you, Wow…you need to see this! If you dismiss it, she will know that you’ve unlearned wonder, but she trusts you will find your way. This is the person I was when I was born, and she is the person longing to be fully immersed in the world every day. I know intellectually that I am enough, but maybe it’s time to start living like it.

Wishing all of this, and all beautiful things in this new year.  Let’s make ourselves proud.

xo, with goodness and grace.

Listen, are you just breathing a little, and calling it a life?  — Mary Oliver

Taking a late summer stroll through the winding streets of Panarea—a magical island north of Sicily—I was talking to my friend about my writing.

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She’d asked me why I wasn’t blogging anymore. My goal had always been to maintain a positive outlook in the blog no matter what was going on, but that had begun to feel inauthentic. I was thinking about this when she asked her question—and instead I blurted out, “Since the election, I haven’t been feeling very positive.”

Now. I don’t share that to get political. Like, at all. I share it because it startled me, and I’ve been trying to make sense of it ever since. I’ve voraciously consumed the news over the last year, thinking I was merely staying informed. What I hadn’t realized was how deeply the rollercoaster of events was altering my worldview. I hadn’t understood how much it changed me.

When we’ve lost our way, how do we return to ourselves? 

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I have always been someone who feels deeply.

The page has always been my safe place for processing all those feelings. I don’t always know how to express them in person—if I’m quietly thinking, I can be seen as aloof and withholding; if I’m vocal and opinionated, it can come across as overbearing. But on the page, they find meaning and hope.

Until now. Now the words are stuck. The emotions feel big and complicated and aggressive in my body, but they won’t work their way out into the world. They just sit there, stuck in sludge, unmoving and unable to find a way out. So instead of writing, I read the news. Endlessly. And then I watch it on TV.

A few months after that Sicilian conversation, it occurred to me that I was in an abusive relationship with information. Too much of it isn’t helpful; it can actually feel toxic. But I like being informed, so I wrestle with balance. How can you stay connected to the world around you, while somehow managing to be completely disconnected?

I don’t know. But if you’ve figured it out, I want to hear about it.

Aside from that, life just feels so complicated. And exhausting.

Shopping in Whole Foods a couple of months ago, I found myself trying to pick up a dozen eggs on the way to the cash register. I stopped and stood in front of an entire wall display of eggs. There must’ve been 50 different varieties, each labeled with one of four classifications. Cage free. Pasture raised. Outdoor access. Mobile houses on pasture. (Wait…do chickens have mobile homes???) I was confused. Which was better for the chickens? Who had the best quality of life? What’s the difference between a pasture and the great outdoors? I wanted to be a good person, to make the right decision.

But. There. Were. So. Many. Eggs.

I became overwhelmed with indecision. I began to breathe heavily, and perspiration started to bead on my forehead. I felt ten seconds away from the onset of a panic attack. So I walked away, egg free.

Our lives are so complex. We have too many choices. I’m not sure this multitude of options is adding quality to our lives.

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Even my relationship with food—long my simplest and easiest partnership—is complicated. I’m allergic to everything. (Okay, not everything. But, so many of the things. How can you have creamy coffee when it seems you are allergic to dairy, almonds and coconut and aren’t supposed to have soy?) I took a break from my beloved cup of caffeine for two weeks and then, craving a steamy hot latte, I returned to it one Sunday morning. It made my heart race so fast I thought it was going to pound right out of my chest. I took a break from coffee and, in return, coffee quit me.

I find new gray hairs every time I visit the office ladies room, and a new wrinkle greets me each morning in my home bathroom mirror. Who is this person reflected back at me?

Can you return to yourself when you no longer recognize yourself? 

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All of this left me overwhelmed and wondering how I could ever feel hopeful again. I seek to make meaning in my writing, but sometimes I question whether it’s possible anymore. Did the optimistic l part of me move on, as people we know sometimes do? Or is she still living in me and just on a break, off somewhere recalibrating?

At the resort in Panarea during our Sicilian excursion, there was one young woman working in the cafe who took care of us every morning. Her joy was palpable, infectious. I asked her what her secret was—why was she always so joyful? Her eyes widened. She stretched an arm out in front of us.

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“Look where we are! How could you be anything but happy looking at this every day?”

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She had a point.

Months later, sitting at my desk, feeling spectacularly grumpy, I emailed a friend to discuss the foul mood I couldn’t seem to shake.

She wrote back, bossy with instructions. She ordered me to take my camera and go outside—that very minute—and to not go back to the office until I’d documented something beautiful.

All I can say is, I hope you have friends like this.

I did as told, ending up in Central Park for a brisk walk. The heavens did not part; rainbows did not magically appear in the sky; Moses did not part any sea. But on a cloudy and cool day, I found a respite from city life, if only for twenty minutes. My mind calmed down as I took in the fall landscape. Trees letting go of their auburn leaves. Birds swooping and soaring. Lake water flowing in a singular direction.

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Life moves on. The seasons change, and so do we. And we can focus on chaos and nonsense, or we can search with another purpose.

And so I am left with this: I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I don’t know who I have become or are on the road to becoming. I don’t know when hopeful words will once again flow on my laptop. But there in the midst of the uncertainty and the rage and the questioning, beauty is lurking. It may be right in front of me at every turn while on vacation, and it may lay hiding in the dustiest of corners. But it is always there.

Beauty persists.

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And as I make my way back to myself, I persist, too.

 

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