Winter Wonderland ~ Bridal Veil Falls, March 2017
I slowly placed the lid over the top of the candle on the nightstand. As I sat back on the bed with tears streaming down my face, I watched as the flame flickered out. It felt oddly symbolic. Just five days before my 31st birthday, I was once again reminded of the weight of being an adult. Having to make decisions that hurt so bad in the moment, but the mature you knowing deep down it was right; right for future you, right for your children. So I took a deep breath and I let go. Physically, I let the tears go. Mentally and emotionally I freed myself of what was, what could’ve been, and I remembered this: there is never a better time to start anew than the present. So I closed my eyes and awaited the sunrise. The first sunrise of the rest of my life.
“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow” ~ Caroline Moss
I have been reading a lot lately about the concept of immersion in relation to creative non-fiction writing. You find a subject of interest and then immerse yourself in that culture/trade/way of life, whatever it may be. In memoir style writing, YOU ARE the subject. You are essentially immersing yourself in your own life. Not in a “head in the sand” type of way (unaware of what’s going on in the world surrounding you, or uninterested, caring only for yourself). Rather, in this refreshing, self-enlightened kind of way, albeit incredibly vulnerable at times. You learn what made you, what moves you…tapping into memories, emotions, hesitations, and ambitions that shape you in one way or another.
When you lose someone close to you suddenly, you begin to think about all of the lingering questions you wish you would have asked them and the stories that were yet to be told. That was, in part, the reason for me to begin writing…the realization that there were many adventures and tales unique to my Father that died with him. Narratives I will never be privy to. I decided I didn’t want the same to be true of myself. And then, as if to cement that way of thinking, I came across the following piece of advice: “Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you.” – Neil Gaiman.
One definition of immersion is “deep mental involvement”. In a world that’s become obsessed with being “involved” in the lives of others (even those they’ve never met), the idea of developing a deep mental involvement in my own life, an awakened consciousness, is a concept I’ve welcomed with open arms. Something I truly hope sticks with me through the remainder of my life, whether that life includes a future in writing or not. It’s something I want my children to observe and to learn because what this world lacks greatly, is compassion. And I believe compassion cannot be shown without understanding, and understanding can’t be achieved without consciousness and recognition. We understand others when we can relate in some way, either with feelings or experiences, aspects of ourselves that we must learn to be in tune with if we wish to tap into them for the better good.
To write about something, actually, to write WELL about something, one must have a level of interest that mirrors passion. I have, through this process, become increasingly passionate about my life…how, where, and with whom I spend it, and most importantly, how I view it. As my immersion deepens, I have found the following state of being to be less and less elusive:
And that is what I wish for anyone that is reading this. Now, and for the coming New Year.
Crossing an item off your bucket list….
Multnomah Falls – Oregon
“It’s the oldest story in the world. One day, you’re 17 and you’re planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life.” – Anonymous
I’m not sure those words could reflect more accurately how I’ve been feeling as I approach my 30th birthday. Time has evaded me. Almost three decades on this intricate planet of ours and I still have an overwhelming amount of self-awareness to achieve. I would file the past three years in particular under “lessons learned” and “harsh realities”. Life changing for both the good and the bad. In that time, I have managed to experience some of the most exhilarating moments of my life; hit rock bottom (or what I certainly hope is my rock bottom), both emotionally and financially; seen some of the ugliest sides of life, as well as people (myself included); rebuilt some relationships and abandoned others completely; and struggled with a mountain of guilt, regret, and loss (not all in that order).
There have been times I didn’t think I could possibly feel more alone…imprisoned in my own whirling thoughts. Times I didn’t think I could feel more alive and enlightened. And times I truly didn’t know how or what to feel, so I sort of just stopped feeling. But that, I’ve come to understand and embrace, is life. The only thing predictable about it is it’s unwavering ability to be unpredictable.
This period of transition I find myself on the brink of is pivotal to my evolution. No, the earth won’t stop turning the day I turn 30; nor will life suddenly change in some sort of drastic or abrupt way. However, the opportunity presents itself to exhale the negative from the past decade of my life (a decade full of self doubt and self scrutiny, more rash decisions than I’d like to recall, and more hard losses than I was able to cope with) and to instead breathe in a new decade. One of potential, one where I focus on self love, personal growth, and strengthening my ability to be more patient and understanding of others, and most importantly, MYSELF.
As I tip toe on the still hot pavement at the end of another scorching California day, I look to my left to see a familiar sight. The old woman that lives across the street is sitting comfortably on her porch, preparing to watch the sunset…just as she does every single night. I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing her at this time that I never actually stop to wonder how long she’s kept up this routine of hers; what she thinks about while she sits there; or how long it’s been since someone sat there and enjoyed it with her.
If you honestly think about it, how long has it been since you stopped and watched the sunset? Not just snapped a picture of it to post on social media…but actually took in the process of the sun dipping slowly, the colors of the sky changing and intensifying, the air beginning to cool, and the city magically quieting down? For me, it’s been months; since my last vacation. (Funny how it takes a change of location to help us appreciate the things that are already in front of us).
I’ll be the first to admit that my life is quite a bit busier than I’d like. This is due to both circumstance and habit. I’ve worked and taken care of people from such a young age that I struggle with the ability to relax. The majority of my time spent “relaxing” is me sleeping. I do believe, however, that there is something so powerfully therapeutic about that in between phase of our days and our lives; where we are no longer on the go, and yet not entirely shut down either. When we allow our minds to wander and pressures to subside.
As small children, we appreciate the simple things. Bright colors, new noises, familiar faces, a box to play in or keys to jingle. But as life progresses, we slowly lose sight of simplicity and contentment. In this society, we are constantly being enticed and pushed toward bigger/better. Not that I’m insinuating in any way that moving forward in life and having goals is wrong. Self fulfillment and healthy aspirations are vital aspects of life. However, it’s become very evident that for me personally and this generation as a whole, we need to train ourselves to come up for air more often. To become one with the world around us, outside of a screen. To redefine our idea of beauty and to appreciate the things around us that are not man made and can’t be bought.
In a way, I feel like that old woman is richer than most. She spends more quality time with the universe and her own quiet thoughts in a week than the majority of us do in months. At what point in time, in our lives, do we once again embrace the uncomplicated, transparent, “free” treasures in life? I suppose that is up to us.
“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, ever day can end beautifully” ~ Kristen Butler
“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” ~ Camille Pissarro
Last night I picked up your guitar for the first time in years. The acoustic one you used to play us. I dug it out of the back closet, dusted it off, and strummed the strings slowly. Maybe I thought if I did I could hear your singing voice more vividly in my head. I’m scared. Three years and I feel like I’m losing grasp of some of my memories of you. Yesterday I actually sat through the entire song I had picked out for your funeral without crying. Why does that make me feel a tinge of guilt? Time heals….healing is good right?
You’d be so proud of me; that I know with certainty. My boys, your Grandson’s, are growing up to be such sweet, respectable individuals. They would make you smile and laugh every day. I have a great career I know you’d love to hear about. You and Mom raised a strong, independent woman. And the man that has blessed my life, boy would you love him. He’s musically gifted like you and works well with his hands.
Life is good now, even though I wish I could show you.
When you were in the hospital bed, I held your hand and I sang to you. I think you heard me, because I saw a tear roll down your cheek. The song we sang growing up:
I remember daddy’s hands folded silently in prayer
And reachin’ out to hold me, when I had a nightmare
You could read quite a story in the callous’ and lines
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind
I remember daddy’s hands how they held my mama tight
And patted my back for something done right
There are things that I’d forgotten that I loved about the man
But I’ll always remember the love in daddy’s hands
Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’
Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand
There was always love in daddy’s hands
I remember daddy’s hands workin’ ’til they bled
Sacrificed unselfishly just to keep us all fed
If I could do things over, I’d live my life again
And never take for granted the love in daddy’s hands
Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’
Daddy’s hands were hard as steel when I’d done wrong
Daddy’s hands weren’t always gentle but I’ve come to understand
There was always love in daddy’s hands
I have plenty more to tell you. Until next time, Dad.
The house is dark and still, and the boys are fast asleep. In true Mom fashion, I sneak into each of their rooms and plant the softest kiss on their heads and adjust their blankets. Motherhood is the most natural process that exists, and yet it stirs up the most complicated emotions imaginable. Never does a woman know worry, self-doubt, sacrifice, and pure love like she does when she becomes a Mother. I don’t believe there exists a perfect age or set of circumstances that can fully prepare one for the challenges and changes that come along with Motherhood.
I think about my own Mother. At a fairly young age (having enough knowledge about the struggles related to her upbringing), I realized the tremendous emotional obstacles she had to have overcome to become a nurturing, loving Mother. The mold she had to break from her own childhood experiences. I’m not sure how she did it, but for her strength, I am grateful. My sister and I were her world; her priority in life, from the time we took our first breath through most of our formative years. We were always well fed and well dressed. She took in our friends as if they were her own; taught us how to cook; to love music and to dance our little hearts out. She helped us succeed in school, and tried hard to keep us entertained and out of trouble (sorry Mom). Her and I are a lot alike in some ways. We love people……too much. We give to others even beyond our means at times and are willing to sacrifice a great deal (even our own inner happiness) for those we love. I admire her ability to love past great faults. She is all of the soft aspects of my soul.
I look at my boys sleeping peacefully; with their soft faces and their perfect button noses. It’s amazing really…to give life to these little people that reflect you, and yet they show you the world in their own unique way. My hope as their Mother is that they grow up knowing they are loved, valued, and irreplaceable. That they thirst for knowledge and adventure. I want them to truly embrace the world. Not to be complacent or ever allow the world to make them angry or cold. To love even those who act unlovable and to open their hearts, even at the risk of having them broken. I hope they view the world as their oyster and never be confined by how or where they were brought up. Even though I was still practically raising myself when I first became a Mother, I tried to create a carefree life for them. Sometimes I succeeded, other times I failed miserably. At the end of the day however, I want them to know that my heart beats for them. They will always be my greatest accomplishment; my reason to smile. I can fall asleep with a full heart.
“When my children remember their childhood, I want only for them to remember that their Mother gave it her all. She worried too much, she failed at times and she did not always get it right…but she tried her hardest to teach them about kindness, love, compassion, and honesty. Even if she had to learn it from her own mistakes, she loved them enough to keep going, even when things seemed hopeless, even when life knocked her down. I want them to remember me as the Woman who always got back up.” ~ Annonymous
I remember the first non fiction book I read as an adult. It was about the expectations that we ourselves, as well as others around us, put upon Mothers. I was a young, stay at home, first time Mother at the time. Parts of the book made me laugh, others actually made me cry because I felt relief. It was then that I really, truly began to realize our need as humans to be understood and to feel as though we aren’t alone; in our thoughts and in our struggles. I felt the same, powerful resignation with the next “self-help” type book I read many years later about patience in life. Whether it’s a heart to heart talk with my sister or close friend, or words I’ve read; there’s something so therapeutic about truly identifying with others’ feelings and experiences. The greatest gift I’ve been given from my entrance into the “blogging world” thus far, has been my ability to emotionally connect with many of the things I’ve read from other writers. To sympathize with the phases they are at in their lives, the harsh realities they have faced, and the passing thoughts they share.
As I mentioned in my first post, I try very hard to be an upbeat, glass half full type person. Usually, I succeed. But like any normal person, I experience emotional highs and lows; often depending on the circumstances of my life at that very moment. In an effort to keep consistently open and honest throughout this writing process, I’ve decided to share even the thoughts I’ve had that aren’t the most nourishing. Because those thoughts, in a way, may prove to be just as helpful to others as the positive ones are.
After a long day of fighting a cold, shuffling children around, cleaning up after them, feeding them, and getting them to bed, I was feeling pretty spent. But I told myself to sit in bed and write; just whatever came to my mind the second the pencil hit the notebook. And here’s what came out:
I feel as though I am at a disadvantage. To grow the imagination, the originality within me. Although it would kill me not to. It would appear as though I’m stuck. My future has been written out for me. Maybe not the details, but the outline. What I can express, what I can create, is my way to escape; my ability to scream without making a sound. I was born a free bird; I was meant to fly far away and do great things. My mind wanders always. But our choices dictate the direction we’re headed, and I feel I’m on a one way road. This is my truth, my reality. I wonder how many others have felt they are prisoners at the mercy of their pasts?
Much of these feelings of being confined and somewhat resentful at times, stem from my being a caregiver, a wife, and a mother too early in life. Then divorcing and having to hit rock bottom before I could climb my way back up. I’ve truly felt at times as though my life would have turned out much differently, possibly much more fulfilling, had I not made the choices I wasn’t mentally or emotionally equipped to make. I never had the time to focus only on myself and to pursue some of the things that were in my heart to do. But despite those very legitimate feelings of frustration and regret, here is what I concluded with:
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars” ~ MLK Jr.
We all have darkness of varying shades and depth. For me, that darkness tends to intensify when I am feeling weighed down by the encumbrance and accountability of being a single Mother. The life decisions I am often faced with that sit heavy on my mind many anxious nights. The ones I wish someone else would make for me. Implosion, however, is not an option. Nor will I be content with dutifully moving through life without passion, without intensity. If it takes years of flickering before the star that is my soul shines brighter than the rest, well then, let it flicker.
The point of all of this being, sometimes we are mentally stronger than other times. Sometimes, even if just for a brief moment, we wallow in self pity. But there are always others who can relate in some capacity. Others who have hit the same walls, and yet come out on the other side. Even though life didn’t turn out the way we had hoped, it can still be beautiful and fulfilling. It’s ok to entertain negative thoughts for a moment, as long as we turn them around and realize that we have the ability to shine, even if it takes us a little longer than most. Life is a process, one we are all trying to figure out as we go. One that’s easier to figure out together. Maybe my life could have been easier in some ways, even more exciting. But there’s no telling if the darkness I’ve experienced and the frustrations I encountered early on in life, have actually made me a deeper, more well rounded, more inwardly beautiful person than I would have been if it had been smooth sailing.
My mindset for the upcoming months:
“Don’t get stuck. Move, travel, take a class, take a risk. There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming. Don’t lose yourself at happy hour, but don’t lose yourself on the corporate ladder either. Stop every once in a while and go out to coffee or climb in bed with your journal. Now is your time. Walk closely with people you love. Don’t get stuck in the past, and don’t try to fast forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.”
It’s Friday morning. The only weekday morning I don’t have my children. This usually means I can wake up to the sunlight peeking through the shades, rather than the sound of fighting over whose bowl of cereal is more full or the nails on chalkboard sound of cartoon characters blaring through the TV. Don’t get me wrong, I love those little monsters with every fiber in my body. But the silence and ease of Friday mornings remains idyllic.
As I listen to music and get ready for my day, I look to the coming weekend with anticipation. I have a few things planned, but for the most part, I’m free (which doesn’t happen often enough). I decide to head to my favorite coffee shop in town. It’s downtown and completely out of my way to work, but I love the place. The inside is too small for the amount of patrons they see on a daily basis; especially on Saturday mornings when people are out enjoying the farmer’s market. What it lacks in size, however, it makes up for in charm. The establishment is a reminder of the small town that this rapidly growing commuter location once was. The young employees are always eager and cheery and dare I say, actually seem to enjoy their job. Their Chai lattes (my drink of choice) taste earthy and robust, unlike the over processed/syrupy concoction Starbucks has to offer. Their bagels are always so fresh and toasted to perfection. It’s just one of those things in life that make me happy, albeit small and seemingly insignificant.
Upon walking in, I see familiar faces. A group of old retired men that sit there every morning chatting about sports and politics. I wonder how many of them consider that the highlight of their day. I’m reminded that no matter our age, we never lose that need to belong, to be in the company of peers. I also see a Grandma sitting with her little Granddaughter, enjoying a drink and something sweet. The smile on both of their faces is so bright that I can’t help but smile myself. They are unsuccessfully taking a “selfie”, so I offer to take their picture for them. The Grandma gladly relinquishes the phone to me and tells me they are having a special “Grandma/Granddaughter Day”. Growing up, I never had Grandparents I was close to and in that quick moment, I was happy to have captured the memory they were making together. How beautiful that life offers us so many different types of relationships to nourish and enjoy.
As I wait for my order, I sit at an empty table next to a middle aged woman. She was probably in her mid to late forties, sitting in yoga pants, reading the newspaper and sipping her perfectly foamed cappuccino. I envied her for a second, sitting there enjoying her morning, with no apparent rush. Suddenly she looks over at me with an endearing smile and says: “I love your outfit; your skirt with those cute sandals….very pretty. I saw you walk in and wanted to tell you.” Those are the best compliments, the random ones….with no ulterior motive, no hesitations. I thanked her and headed off to work.
On my drive I thought about those few minutes in the coffee shop. How many people we come across on a daily basis and how we have the power to impact one another with a smile, a kind word, or gesture. How we are all in different stages of our lives and yet we are all in pursuit of the same basic things. I wondered, too, where I’d be when I was that woman’s age, the one that offered the compliment. Approaching my 30th birthday now, feeling the pressure of having life more “together” than I do at this moment, although not really knowing what that entails. Wondering how I will let the events in my life shape me in the next 15-20 years. Will I let them make me bitter or better? Will I continue to look for the good in people and in the situations that I am faced with?
On this particular Friday morning, however, I am a young, single, working Mother of two. Like the loving Grandma, the relaxed middle aged woman, and the retired comrade’s, I have something to offer to those around me. With drink in hand and head held high, I’m ready to take on the day; and the world for that matter.
“Wake up early. Drink coffee. Be ambitious, keep your priorities straight, your mind right, and your head up. Do well, live well, and dress really well. Do what you love, love what you do. It is time to start living.” ~ Anonymous