Tag Archive for: life

I am often astonished at how much less I write here than I used to, and for a while, I attributed it to the speed of life. There have been so many changes – substantive changes – in my life in the last two years that I can barely keep up.

For a while, I was trying to peg some freelance writing work to the news cycle – writing about depression when Kate Spade was discovered to have committed suicide and realizing that by the time I wrote my piece it was Anthony Bourdain that was in the news and by the time I heard back from an editor, the world was talking about North Korea and then the next school shooting and then family separations at the border.

Funny how much that felt like my life.

Separation after 23 years of marriage followed by (or in the midst of) my oldest daughter’s senior year in high school with the attendant college preparation/final Homecoming/Prom/graduation. Searching for an alternative to the youngest daughter’s school and finding the Running Start program that allows her to enroll in community college in lieu of finishing at her high school followed by divorce and moving to a new home. Watching my mom descend further in to herself and trying to help arrange for her move to a long-term facility and preparing to help my daughter now move across the country for college.

The speed of life.

As I walked the dogs in the cool mist this morning, I realized that part of what has been weighing on me is a feeling of failure – that I am doing so many things and none of them very well. I’ve sold some writing, but not enough to live on. I bought a new house and there are still pieces of furniture where I don’t want them and the outdoor space isn’t as inviting as I want it to be. I don’t cook as often as I used to and I am afraid I’m not showing up for my girls in the way they want me to.

But when I took a moment to really say those words in my own head – to bring them out of the shadows where they play havoc with my heart – I realized that I’ve actually done a pretty damn good job in the last two years simply by putting one foot in front of the other. The fact that I’ve sold any writing, finished my manuscript, bought and sold a house, navigated the end of a decades-long marriage, and managed to stay upright and kind and tell my girls every damn day that I love them is almost a miracle. If I’ve failed in any way, it was a failure to accurately assess what my future was going to look like, and I think it’s a human trait to be pretty bad at that kind of prediction, isn’t it? By making an effort to stay grounded in who I am and what’s important to me and focusing on the next best step, I’ve strung together quite a path thus far, so while the news cycle of my life is still hurtling along at a fairly fast clip, I know it won’t always be like this. I’m just going to hold on and keep doing what I’ve been doing for the next little while and believe in my own abilities.

Anyone who knew me during the first 35 years of my life would probably describe me as “Type A.” A perfectionist, in love with control and order and predictability.  Far from being disturbed by that sort of characterization, I embraced it fully. I was in love with the concept of controlling my own destiny and often (quietly) railed against those who might stand in my way as I traveled down the neat and tidy path of my life as I envisioned it.

On the other hand, folks who have met me in the past few years might not agree.  I like to think that I have seen the error of my ways, addressed the driving forces behind my drastic need to control the parameters of my life and the lives of my children, and become much more accepting of the world and my place in it.  I am capable of letting go of worries about how others might see me and not nearly so frantic about working, working, working to prove my worth and avoiding all potential difficulties.

That said, I still have a bit of a mental struggle between “being” and “doing.” I have a meditation practice that has served me well over the past several years and often at the first sign of trouble, my instinct tells me to slow down and check in with my gut. To be still and quiet and breathe instead of mobilizing for action to mitigate damage.  And yet, often as I am working to ‘be,’ I carry ‘what to do’ in the back of my mind like a pebble in my shoe. It is not front and center, sharp enough to make me stop and shake it out, but it’s only a matter of time before I get annoyed and stop to examine it.  Even as I am simply experiencing the discomfort of a particular situation, working to not judge it and panic, I am acknowledging somewhere in my head that soon I will have to do something about this situation and this state of suspension is finite. Perhaps the most mundane, and certainly the most recent example of this in my life follows:

Last week I was suffering with shoulder and neck pain, popping Advil like black jellybeans on Easter Sunday, and wondering when I might find the time to go see my chiropractor. It was a particularly busy week for the girls, Bubba was in Europe on business, and I had a million projects to tackle, so my time was limited.  After two nights of migraines, I gave in and made an appointment for Sunday at noon, knowing that Eve had made plans with a girlfriend and I may have to cancel.  I put it to the back of my mind on Friday night with a little mental post-it that I had to cancel by Saturday at noon if I was going to.

Saturday morning, Eve’s friend still hadn’t called with the details of their plans. By Saturday afternoon, I had decided I would try to push the issue a little and let Eve know that I could either take her to her friend’s house early on Sunday or for a couple of hours after my appointment in the afternoon.  I was still unsure whether Lola would accompany me to the chiropractor or not, and I was a little uneasy as to how it would all turn out, but I resisted the impulse to actively problem-solve.

Within five minutes of Eve texting her friend an inquiry about details, our home phone rang and it was a friend of Lola’s, inviting her over to hang out for a few hours on Sunday. Within the next few minutes, Eve’s friend texted back saying earlier was better for her and we should bring her in the morning. Problem solved.

On Sunday, what I got was a fabulous chiropractor appointment with a skilled practitioner who made me feel almost instantly better and a quiet house for three hours while I worked on a writing project I haven’t been able to tackle yet this week.

But what I really got was the reminder that while sitting with uncertainty (no matter how small) does not necessarily translate to action, it often results in less action being needed.  If I had scrambled around trying to make arrangements for Lola or scheduling Eve’s time with her friend, I would have used up precious energy for no real reason. What ‘being’ did for me was allow time for some of the details in the Universe to shift and provide a clear path for all of us. Had I pre-emptively cancelled my appointment so as to avoid the cancellation fee, I would have ended up frustrated that both kids were away and my neck still hurt.

Over the years I have noted the positive affects of not-doing again and again (this, by the way, is much different than procrastination, although I often convince myself that it is not and justify my procrastination by saying that I was simply waiting for ‘things to work themselves out’). I am coming to trust in the partnership between being and doing, the yin and yang of them in relationship to each other, the notion that there is a time and a place for each and neither ought to be forced.  In my life, anyway, the more I can initially sit with a new situation and not succumb to that siren call to “Act now!” the less effort I end up expending to find a workable solution that feels right.  Beyond the weekly, mundane examples like the chiropractor appointment, there are many more monumental issues I have experienced in my life in which this principle is astoundingly applicable. Perhaps my new mantra ought to be, “When in doubt, do nothing for a little while. Just to see how things unfold.” You never know – I may not have to do anything at all, and that is certainly cause for celebration.

I went walking with a friend (I’ll call her Sunny) today who is feeling at a crossroads.  A year ago, she and her husband decided to simplify their lives a great deal by pulling their kids out of private schools, renting out their lovely home, and moving to a neighborhood where the public schools would serve her children well.

The kids have thrived and are thrilled with their new schools and their new friends and their new community.  It helps that they are within 15 minutes’ drive from most of their old friends, but they don’t seem to miss the old school or their old haunts in the least.

My friend’s husband has since taken a new job which requires him to travel a great deal, but  he enjoys it and their marriage is strong enough to weather the time apart.

For now, Sunny is a stay-at-home mom, running her household, fixing her children healthy meals and available to help with homework.  She has interviewed for a few jobs in her field but nothing has stuck yet, since it is important to her to find one that has enough flexibility for her to remain present for her kids.

Last month, they decided that this experiment had worked well enough to warrant selling their house and it sold in five days.  They are renting a home in their new neighborhood until June and when I asked her, “What next?” she paused before admitting she didn’t know.  They could move back east, closer to her family and her aging parents, or they could look for a house to buy in their new neighborhood.  I pushed a little more, probing to see what she wanted to do, and she began a verbal pro/con list of all the options.  Then she sat back in her chair and sighed.

“Honestly, Kari, – and the kids and I talk about this all the time – it’s just so easy to be here. The kids are happy at school. They have friends. I don’t have to work, for now, and their dad is happy with his job. The schools are great, the people are great, everything is within walking distance and life is just…easy.”

Her face was a mixture of guilt and embarrassment as she admitted all of this to me.

I smiled and thought about what a lovely, lovely turn of events this is.  Why should life be hard?  Of course, it is sometimes, and for some people more than others, but often I think we make it too hard on ourselves without realizing that we are.  Their conscious decision a year ago was to simplify. And it seems that it worked.  Good for them.  I hope they revel in it. I hope that it feels safe and comforting.  I can’t say that there was ever a time in my childhood that felt “easy,” and I hope she knows what a gift she’s giving to her kids by letting them experience that.  It won’t last forever, but while it’s here, I’ll celebrate it with her.

I like to say that I love roller coasters.  There is some truth to that statement, but it isn’t that simple in all reality.  I love the idea of roller coasters. I love that they exist and I love remembering the times I have ridden roller coasters.  But I don’t like to look at them too closely. Especially the wooden roller coasters that go two stories high. I don’t want to see any peeling paint or splintering wood and I don’t particularly want to examine the construction.  Maybe that’s why Space Mountain is my all-time favorite roller coaster, because I can ride it entirely in the dark.  I can’t anticipate whether the next thing coming is a dip or a turn or an enormous drop, I can just sit back in the saturated darkness and ride.  I can’t see if there is a loose bolt or an inexperienced-looking ride operator.

Last  Monday I woke up and found myself standing in line. It was my turn next, to sit down, strap in, and take off and, true to form, I was both excited and a little bit nauseous, wondering what I had been thinking when I got in line for this upcoming week.  Fraught with anxiety and excitement and the entire spectrum of emotions in between, for several days I was unable to do much more than watch the passing scenery and confront each emotion and situation as it hurtled toward me.  In the end, I know I will walk away with shaky knees and a sense of accomplishment and a smile a mile wide.

I am glad that I wasn’t given any opportunity to stop the ride and step off because I am not sure I would have opted to get back on after a brief time-out. The expectation that I will simply see this all through to the end is a rather comforting one. Somehow, it doesn’t require anything of me other than my presence and that is enough.

The highlights have come in a big way. Katy Hutchison came to speak to the students and staff at Eve and Lola’s school on Thursday, delivering a presentation that left us all breathless after an hour. She talked about synergy (positive and negative) and personal responsibility, group dynamics and tragedy, forgiveness and restorative justice and provided a jumping off point for our community to begin having conversations about the way we interact with each other when things get hard.  She is an incredibly generous, dynamic, authentic person for whom I am incredibly grateful.

Lola is embarking on a courageous adventure this weekend with many of her schoolmates that will be a test of her resilience in many ways.  It helps that Eve will be along for the trip, and I am excited to hear about the weekend when I pick them up on Monday. That said, in the quiet moments, I wonder if she is homesick or sad and I fervently hope that she is too busy to be either. The neighborhood has been shrouded in fog for going on three solid days now and the oppressive grey mist has set the trees to dripping. I can’t help but feel that when I pick the girls up on Monday it will magically lift.

I am headed to Portland on Tuesday for the book launch of “Get Out of My Crotch,” the book for which I wrote a chapter about reproductive rights.  I am thrilled to be an actual published writer and so looking forward to meeting some of the other people who share this passion with me.  I also get an entire night in a hotel to myself in one of my favorite cities on the planet, which is pretty cool. But I’m nervous about meeting the other writers, all of whom are more accomplished than I, and I’m sad about leaving the girls less than 24 hours after their return home.

CB, the injured dog, is feeling a lot better on his cocktail of anti-inflammatories, pain killers and antibiotics and is driving me insane with his pleading for walks every couple of hours.  Unfortunately, the specialist who read his x-rays believes that a spot on his bone is either cancer or a deep bone infection – neither of which are an easy fix.  Sorting out the options and trying to understand the ramifications has been difficult even as I am nudged by his wet nose and reminded that, for now, he is here and he wants attention.

Somehow I knew, when I stood facing this week that it would be a wild ride. Even Monday I saw this roller coaster looming as I stood in line to get on it feeling slightly ill and wondering why I chose all of this.  Despite that, I also knew somewhere in the recesses of my brain that it would be worth it to get on and strap in. I will do my best to experience and cherish every moment, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was looking forward to getting home next Wednesday, stepping off for a bit, and taking a nice quiet seat on a bench in this vast amusement park.