There is too much to say and there are also no words. The feeling that the world has been torn apart over the past few days is an understatement. Watching feelings come out of the woodwork, people divided. Politeness and empathy often left in the dust of panic. All valid and warranted.
There's palpable fear. Anger. Trepidation.
I had more than one moment of worrying about what I put out into the world. Tiny me, on my insignificant blog, in my tweets nobody reads, thought the worst more than once.
But I've come to realize we have to speak. We have to voice what we're feeling, our frustration, our discontent, our disgust.
We have to shout.
WE. HAVE. TO. SHOUT.
And that's not something I, or many I know, are used to. I'm used to polite, to quiet, to calm discussion.
Those days are over.
Many of us are being fundamentally challenged for the very basis of who we are.
With all that's going on in the world, this keeps coming back to me:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ― Fred Rogers
To me, that is a profound and powerful and positive thought.
It's scary out there right now. Everyone has their own ways of supporting. No one should be judging or shaming others on how they want to help. That angry energy could and should be channeled towards something other than divisiveness and judgement.
I hope people can soon come together instead of looking for ways to tear things even more apart.
I've found myself frozen in inaction this election season. As a writer, I've had no words. My creativity went missing and stayed that way as I silently watched the evolving mess. But, I've found brave, smart, resilient, like-minded people out there, wanting and working to keep this country safe and tolerant and moving forward. They inspired me to write this:
Never in a million years would I have imagined stringing those words and that thought together, but after this anxiety-producing, accusatory, contentious election season, I realize that one person is responsible for all that has transpired. You’ve brought the hatred that runs deep in this country out in the open.
Thank you for bringing intolerance into the limelight.
Thank you for showing the world what a bully in action looks like.
Thank you for showing us how many Americans would support building a wall to keep out those who want to move here, who would willingly break up families, who would deport those already living here.
Thank you for highlighting Islamophobia and for making sure radical terrorists got more attention than they ever have. By doing that, you highlighted the many Muslim-American families who are such a vibrant fabric of this country.
In fact, thank you for attacking Khizr and Ghazala Khan, grieving parents of an American hero. Thanks too for accepting a Purple Heart and then questioning its authenticity, while saying you always wanted one your own even though you were continually deferred from having to serve. While managing to insult Gold Star families, members of the military, and veterans at the same time, you brought their collective service and suffering to the forefront.
Thank you for mocking that reporter so that there could be more conversation about people living with disabilities and the extra challenges they have to deal with.
Thank you for making rampant assumptions about entire demographics with statements like Mexicans are drug dealers and rapists and African-Americans are barely surviving in violent ghettos. Those sorts of sweeping generalizations make it easy to pinpoint blatant racism.
Thank you for driving a deep wedge into the Republican Party, so the country could see how many elected officials would choose self preservation over the welfare of not just their constituencies, but the entire country.
Thank you for showing us just how partisan our government and governing institutions are.
Thank you for inadvertently talking about menstruation and maintaining the age-old superstition that periods render women incompetent. Because the millions of us in this country know that’s not true.
Thank you for choosing Mike Pence as your running mate. There is not a candidate more qualified for making sure the country knows your utter lack of respect for women and their right to make their own decisions about their bodies.
Thank you for bringing women’s issues to the forefront. Your predatory words and dismissive attitude, your rating system and misogyny enabled countless women to speak up and learn they’re not alone in having been abused and assaulted, victims of sexism, attacks, rape. When Hillary talked about a glass ceiling, she was calling out a fundamental truth in this country. Women have been treated as second-class citizens for too long.
As a society, we’ve done a remarkable job of keeping much of this just below the surface. But you blew the lid off, uncovering and highlighting the ills that run deep and keep this country from moving forward.
So yes, thank you Donald. The silver lining is that now it’s all out there. You shined a light on what is, and with that knowledge perhaps innovation can come.
Now it’s time for the thinkers, the doers, the dreamers, the visionaries, the educators, the activists, the people of this country, and hopefully the elected officials and lawmakers to work to make constructive and positive change happen.
Every Friday I take a kick ass Pilates class - trying my best to never miss it. It's been a constant in my life for awhile and while I have both love and dread relationship with it, the good outweighs the pain in the end.
Today I raced to class, set up my mat, and a sub walked in. I'd taken her class before and it wasn't what I was looking forward to. Before I even had time to process what to do, I left.
Grabbed my bag and skedaddled.
I didn't want to hurt her feelings so I slipped out as she walked past.
I then wandered over to my yoga studio, took an hour and a half class, got to hear a stunning version of Little Wing, and dissolved into one of the best shivasanas ever.
A delightful outcome.
Not getting caught up in expectations or disappointment.
Six years ago, this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I got a text asking if I was serious about being a kidney donor.
Conceptually of course I was.
In the real world I wasn't as sure.
I freaked out for a day or so and then realized I had to get tested. At least I'd know. I'd either be a match and then figure out next steps, or I wouldn't be and that door would be shut tight. While waiting for results, I wasn't sure what I wanted the outcome to be.
Two weeks after testing I got a voice mail that yes, I was a match. Joy flooded me. I sobbed in the street, thrilled beyond believe. I knew then this was meant to be.
The next six months weren't so much about joy and happiness. There was endless testing, there were complications, delays, stress, anxiety, countless unknowns. We didn't know until day of surgery if my brother even had room for a kidney in his scarred abdomen. And there are no guarantees that a new kidney would work.
It still is.
That donation defined me for a long time. It changed me forever.
I'm down an organ.
But now I feel exactly the same.
My brother is healthier than he's been since he was a baby. But also settled in to his new status quo.
Talk about a monumental, life changing, life saving change.
For as long as I can remember, I worked for straight hair.
Blow drying in steamy bathrooms. Hot ironing before heading out of my bedroom. Bottles of shampoos and conditioners all promising help.
So much of me, my ego, my sense of self was tied up in my straight, at times bordering on perfect hair.
If my hair looked good, I was good.
When my hair was neat, controlled, managed, tamed, that reflected out the parts of me I wanted the world to believe were who I intrinsically was. There was no room for mess, for change, for awkward or volatile or unattractive. I wanted to be in control and have everyone see me that way.
Story of my life.
Inner turmoil masked with straight hair, a big smile, and a powerhouse drive to get things done.
Last summer, I gave up. Gave in. Threw in the towel (or at least straightening tools).
It was a sweltering August day, upper 90s, and as I sweated just holding my hair iron, not able to see myself in the bathroom mirror from the building up of fog, I stopped. The ridiculousness of what I was doing struck me. I unplugged my necessary accessories and walked out.
And then had to acclimate to the messy head I was choosing.
For someone so used to absolute control, wavy hair was an existential crisis. That is not an exaggeration. I stopped looking in mirrors. I apologized for how I looked when running into people. I researched products and techniques and spent more time and money on serums and sprays and beach bounce gel than one person should.
I dreaded having my picture taken. I hated people asking me what was different, assuming it was a polite way of noting I'd looked much better before.
And then, it all stopped.
I stopped caring. It stopped mattering. I left my house without touching my hair - how I woke up was how I spent the day.
And that was freeing. Letting go of expectations, of perfection, of rigidity, of control.
Turns out I was able to let go of those things in other places too. My hair was the way in.
Today is a cream puffy skirt with an ornate black pattern printed on it.
A loose black tank top.
A grey lace single wrap scarf.
Weathered Frye boots.
An ever present nose ring, circle stud earrings, and wrap bracelets.
Every morning is a fresh palette, an opportunity to put things together I hadn't before. Huge change for me after years dressing in almost uniforms that hid me in crowds and made me as invisible as I wanted to feel.
Now I embrace funk, eclectic, avant garde, on the edge - within reason.
But I've asked people to let me know when I go from being a cool dresser to that embarrassing woman on the street.
I spent much, if not most, of my life unhappy with my body.
My hips too wide, freckles apparent on my arms, cellulite mottling my thighs.
Big feet, big nose, big ears.
Bowed legs. Thick eyebrows. Eyes that needed correcting in 4th grade.
Minutes, hours, days, months, years spent trying to lose weight, battling anorexia, working out too hard and beating up on this body I often felt was the enemy.
But now I revere it.
This is my home.
My heart beats with love.
My skin wraps me tight (although slightly less tight in some areas).
My legs walk for miles and get me where I need to go.
My hands knit and bake and hug.
My larger than ever lap held babies who grew into wonderful young adults.
In a world where it's all too easy to feel fat, old, wrinkly, inadequate, I treasure this body. I've learned to give it rest when it needs, to stretch it when it's tight, to heal it through meditation, to appreciate all we've been through together.
I am not an adventurer seeker. I'm more a creature of habit, a doer of the familiar, a person who sticks to the same general path.
Brave new endeavors forced anxiety to the surface. It was far easier to maintain steady than risk going off the deep end.
But, delving into the unknown is getting easier.
I'm not searching for it per se, but when opportunities cross my path I'm finding myself more likely to take them than run away.
Today I hopped on my bike, rode around the tip of Manhattan to a ferry slip. We fly across the water to Sandy Hook where I rode, for miles, into the wind, in blazing sun, across a significant bridge and then turned around and reversed it. Back in Manhattan I rode back from the East River, through unchartered block, Stuy Town, Union Square, traffic snarls, tourists blocking blocks.
In the past I would have found one hundred, one thousand reasons not to go. And every step of the journey, if I actually embarked on it, would have been fraught with near panic, worry, doubt, fear.
Today wasn't that. Today was just an adventure. Long, hot, tiring, fun beautiful at times, frustrating at others. I watched the sun set over the Hudson. Saw the Statue of Liberty, twice. Felt light-headed and heat stroke-y a couple of times. Wondered at wildflowers blooming near blocks of concrete and the joy of ice water when over heated.
Adventure will never be my middle name. But I'm thinking it's going to be a hat I wear more often.
A major change I've noticed lately is my lack of commitment. Even here - a few days into a 40 day writing challenge and I blew it after day three.
I used to breathe obsession. I could give up sugar, fat, salt. I could do cardio until I couldn't walk. I delved into projects with abandon, until whatever I was working on became my everything.
Now, not so much.
Part of me thinks this is a far healthier way of being. Being more present in what is, rather than spin my wheels about other things. Letting the ebb and flow of days take precedence over an iron willed set of rules I impose.
I'm less driven, less hard edged, more tolerant. And in the end that's good.
But sometimes I miss the depth of drive that made anything possible.
So, what do I do? That's a question with an evolving answer. Actually, it's a question with a myriad of answers, most not particularly conventional for the world we live in. I've rarely been able to sum me up in a word or two and even when I try, it never quite works.
I'm a mom, a caretaker, a holder of hearts.
Until right now I've been an over zealous volunteer.
I walk dogs, mine, on a regular basis.
I'm a yogi.
I'm a good interview if one's talking about menstruation or education.
I've been a graphic designer for a long time, mostly freelance, but I don't do that much anymore.
I'm a writer of a bunch of books, lots of articles, entertaining Facebook posts, and one screenplay.
I can be an avid listener and/or a serious distraction.
I'm a mediocre cook but an above average baker.
I don't mention most of the above, when asked. Except for the graphic design and writing parts. But when asked recently I had a new answer: business owner.
That's not something I ever aspired to or thought I would be, but it's a good fit. It's communicating, helping people, problem solving, and writing roled up into one. It's something I created that fills a unique niche.
I'm making it up as I go along. Enjoying this part of my ride. And wondering what will come next.
My hair is slightly less outraged by the humidity.
Air conditioning is optional not mandatory.
And so the question becomes: what to wear.
It's not quite a flowy summer dress day - my staple for summer. Even though it's beautiful and will be hotter later, that doesn't quite work for now. But it's not a jeans and boots day either - my staple for fall.
And so, it's all about making hybrids work.
I love fall fashion in the city - everyone working (or not trying hard) to make sense of changing weather, new shoes and sweaters, still longing for long summer days while excited for changing fashion.
Some people embrace it. Others seem to have randomly grabbed pieces in the dark to cobble together things that just shouldn't be worn at the same time.
It's a fine line.
Today I've got on a cream 50's style summer dress. Distressed mid calf Frye boots. A handmade brown denim jacket with a giant hot pink flower pinned to the lapel.
Could be good. Or I could be the one others are pointing to as an example of a fashion don't.
Fashion change is in the air. I'm working on going with whatever instead of stressing the finer points.
One child away at college has a profound difference on everything.
But the thing that I'm noticing most is the spaces. The silences. The lack of music or yelling to turn down music. Less showers being taken. Less discussions about what to eat, discussions about emptying the dishwashers, arguments about walking dogs.
It's adjusting to a new way of being. A different way of staying connected. Forging a path both to stay in touch and to be ok with how things are here.
The fall usually brings change - a least it has for as long as I can seemingly remember. New grades, new school supplies, new classes, new adjustments, new challenges, new friends, new routines.
And so, in honoring another September, with cooler skies and stunning sunsets, I'm going for 40 days of writing about change. This fall their not just for my children, who've been the center of just about everything since they arrived. This fall lots of changes have to do with me.
And that is slightly nerve wracking while pretty thrilling.
After the whirlwind and drama and confusion and emotion of a child leaving for college, after the panic over perfect make up containers and what will she eat and is the room too cold and is campus safe - after the stifled sobs and quiet crying, the forgotten favorites and the over planning, there's this.
This missing her first thing in the morning and saying good night when she always turned in first.
The sparkling clean room that's the opposite of her reality. The Nutella that won't be touched. The lack of art supplies strewn everywhere.
The comfort of knowing where she is and what she's up to.
This new reality feels lonely, strange, a sense of waiting for her when she's not here.
I know this newness and I will come to terms with each other. But I'm not seeing the silver lining at the moment.
I'm in Chicago at the moment. Change from my NYC day to day.
Moving my oldest into her freshman dorm. Huge change.
Got my period unexpectedly in the midst of all this. Changing body.
First thing this morning I tracked down the nearest CVS to stock up on supplies. Lovely change in make up offerings.
And I thought how poignant, how significant, to have my period the day my child goes off on her own for the first time. It's a reminder of fertility. Not having my period meant I was pregnant with her all those years ago. It's allowing my emotions to bubble up to the surface. While I usually keep things stuffed deep down, I've been quietly (and openly) sobbing as I'm getting ready to let her go.
Life is changing, shifting to a different place, a different stage.
My body is too.
This physical reminder is reminding me that even in the changes, some things never change. And through the cramps and the missing my girl, I can still smile and know it will be ok in the end.
I'm heading to a funeral this morning and need to wear a black dress. In my mind I rifled through my closet, knowing there was only one dress I could wear. And knowing too, that it was too fitted to look good anymore.
I have a bulge. A pot. Love handles. Gushy skin. Sagging. Drooping. For the first time in my life (except for pregnant bellies of course).
When I was a teenager I wore a back brace for scoliosis and, encase in plastic and metal 23 hours a day, my middle learned to stay flat. And that stuck with me as I ditched the brace and got older.
After my first pregnancy my body bounced right back. After my second, not as much. I felt a bit like the Pillsbury dough boy, but it was something I could mask well.
This is there for all to see and it doesn't seem there's much I can do about it except take a deep breath and deal.
Someone I didn't see often or know particularly well. But someone I was always delighted to see, who was at the top of my favorite relatives list. Her drive, her determination, her work ethic after a stroke to get herself to a better, stronger place were inspirational.
She and her husband Sid, both active folk dancers, were the namesakes for my kidneys as I went through the donation process. They were touched and slightly bewildered by that but my brother, my recipient, and I admired their perseverance and joy in continuing to do what they loved.
I was lucky to spend time with her a couple of months ago at a family bat mitzvah. It was good to catch up, to sit, to share all that had been going on. To hold hands. To watch people dancing. To relax in comfortable quiet.
While I didn't see her often it was always assumed there would be a next time, in the way that families are constant and fixed in time and space somehow.
But whenever I celebrate this transplant, she will always be with me.
I recently was cast in a project that was real moms talking about motherhood. It went live yesterday:
I am usually a good talker. Self possessed. On top of my info and in control of my conversation.
I like talking in front of crowds. I own my facts and can riff and make an deep impression in real time.
Not this time.
As I talked to the remarkable women who were also part of the project I felt smaller and smaller, not quite sure why I was there. They had such riveting, inspirational, life changes stories about being a mom.
Not me. I'm just a mom. No huge circumstances or out of the box tangents.
I'm a mom who didn't necessarily want children back in the day. But I'm a mom whose entire reason for being became clear as I grow into this role. I'm a mom who loves her kids profoundly,
Who appreciates their quirks, who celebrates their very being here, who will listen to just about any topic just to spend time.
I'm a mom who is, and will always be a mom first, no matter what else I do in life.
What a precious opportunity this was, to talk about something that changed me, made me, motivates me, moves me.
The campaign is How We Family. And that is something I do with all my heart.
Yesterday I had one of those once in a lifetime, how did I get to do this, outside my comfort zone experiences.
I talked about being a mom.
It seemed like it would be easy. Being a mom is my most important role. It defines me in a way nothing else has or will. It made me, changed me. Shaped me.
Forced me to grow and let go.
To be stronger and kinder.
To channel patience at levels I never knew possible and in all that discover compassion I didn't know was in me.
And learn what the depths of love truly are.
But talking about it was actually hard. Almost impossible at points. I was awed by the other mothers I met and felt unworthy to be there after listening to their struggles and realities.
But one woman said to me: everyone has a story, and that helped. A bit.
I spent hours in a holding room, then worked with wardrobe - they liked my style and I wore my own eclectic stuff that looked much better everything was steamed. I sat in hair/make up. Was wired for sound and let to a wooden stool on a dark set. The direct was behind a screen, her face reflected in a mirror I could see. Crew and clients were off to the side, bathed in darkness watching me on monitors.
I've been interviewed plenty of times before, but this was different. I wasn't talking about a subject I'd researched or a cause I was fighting for.
I was talking about me.
I teared up far more than I expected to. I got lost in answers. I wasn't making points I wanted to. In fact, it wasn't about making points at all. I walked off set relatively certain I bombed the whole thing and that everyone was relieved when I stopped talking.
But that's part of motherhood too. Not always being perfect or fine or right. Sometimes, as my little one says, it's just about being present and listening.
Yesterday, I was present. I listened. I met remarkable women and am grateful to have shared their stories and glimpses into their lives.
This was all for a project that will be online for Mother's Day. Sitting here I'm doubting I'll make the final cut. But the experience itself was one I will never forget. I was proud, nervous, uncomfortable, honest, empathic, relieved, in the moment, on the spot.
No matter how crazy things get, no matter scary or out of control or overwhelming or intense or confusing or conflicting, I never doubt that I am loved.
And that is one of the things I am most grateful for.
It's not often that I see something that I have to have, but this bracelet spoke to me. Nice to have a constant reminder that love is always there. Should you fall in love too: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CynicalRedhead
That conjures up all sorts of not positive scenarios.
We don't know.
We'll have to see.
That was yesterday. It's hard, no it's close to impossible to completely breathe deep with those words hanging out in space. Doubt engaged. Fear piqued. Waiting for news that could be fine or catastrophic.
Bleeding ulcer in the esophagus.
That was today. And amazingly that was amazing news. A finite answer. A relatively quick fix.
Hope is the new worry.
Optimism is the new doubt.
With all that positivity though comes the post stress crash. Relief that all is ok with exhaustion and apathy thrown into the mix as things settle back down to this new status quo.
I talk to my mom. A lot. She thinks not enough. I hit the guilt ball back with the fact that I speak to her far more than most people speak to their mothers.
She complains that I call when I'm on my way somewhere. I respond with she should be glad I call so often.
She says we don't talk for long enough. I say I'll call back later. She says I never remember. I try to but life often gets in the way.
That's been our phone volley for a long time.
Only now, it's not.
I see my mom's number pop up on my screen, hear the old phone ringtone that let's me know it's her, and my stomach clenches. Tears often well up. I'm scared something will be wrong because, for the past few months, something generally is. At this point, I've been conditioned for bad news. I steel myself to be supportive, understanding, positive, ready to drop everything to make phone calls, inform people, even fly down if and when necessary.
It's a completely different way of being.
This whole experience has changed me. Every time I talk to my mom I'm grateful she can talk to me. I call her when I'm sitting and can talk as long as she wants to. I'm happy to live the life of Seinfeld and have conversations about nothing.
These days, I'm never quite ready to say goodbye.
I would love to go back to the days when we're slightly annoyed at each other and disagree about how we should be in touch. Because that will mean the day to day drama we've been living through will be a thing of the past.
But for now, I am grateful for every single time we talk.
I got three of those phone calls. Not come now, or this is it, or tomorrow might be too late.
"You should think about coming."
I froze every time. I didn't want to make that decision, as if making it acknowledged things were that bad. That there was a chance my mom wouldn't survive. That in a heartbeat she could be gone.
I wanted someone to tell me what to do.
I wanted someone to tell me it would be ok. Deeper than that, I wanted my mom to tell me she would be ok.
But she wasn't.
I flew down three times last month, not knowing, when I got on the plane if she'd still be there when I landed. I spent hours and hours in ICU's and critical care rooms. Acclimating to incessant beeping and pulsing monitors. Negotiating with doctors and nurses in a language I didn't understand. Days full of stents and hospital psychosis, oxygen masks and ice chips, fresh blood and more medications than one could imagine, cajoling her into sipping water, eating, and breathing deep. When she told me she loved me and that I couldn't help being so annoying, my heart swelled. It was a moment.
It became about moments.
When she was on breathing and feeding tubes but smiled when she saw me.
That was a moment.
When she told me that I come and miracles happen.
When she said she had been in a bad place but when I got there she was able to get back to the other side. Or: I feel such happiness knowing I've raised such a lovely, thoughtful daughter.
Moment. And moment.
When she clutched the stuffed dog I'd brought her and said it was her only ally, holding it tight when she was awake, stroking it in her sleep.
Chatting about nothing. Explaining that her parents loved her even though they weren't there. Kissing her forehead. Holding her hand. Struggling and then understanding what she meant through her medicated haze.
But I think, the most profound was the most simple. One morning I walked in and she said: Good morning pusselah schentz. I love you.
In spite of the chaos and fear and no guarantees she would be ok, I got to hear my mom say she loved me. And in that moment all was far better than ok. My heart filled, I told her I loved her, and things were just fine.
I've been thinking about writing what I've been living through lately. Writing used to be my solace, my therapy, my outlet.
Part of me doesn't want to go that deep again.
Part of me knows it'll help not just me but maybe others in the same place. That time when your children are growing up and your parents need you in different ways than you could have imagined. When your life feels continually upended and your equilibrium and center have shifted to a place you don't know.
Today I was ready to start writing it.
But it turns out I'm not.
Thinking, contemplating, mulling it inside is as much as I can muster.
I would suppose everyone compartmentalizes to some extent. Blurry edges can make life more difficult to navigate and handle sometimes.
And so many have too many balls in the air. That constant distraction though, can help with staying focus and getting through to do lists and overfilled days.
Most of the time the balancing act is fine and I'm quite adept at it. My mother always tells me I do too much but to me, it is what it is and it's the way I am - I don't know another way of being.
Anyway, right now my edges are blurring a bit more than I'm comfortable with. Balls are starting to drop. My inate drive has shut down and I'm perfectly happy lying on a couch and doing nothing. Yet I can't sleep at night. I'm on the edge of too many unknowns and I can't find the excitement in it at the moment, only a subtle sense of dread.
I would imagine that many at this point in life, with 52 fast approaching, college looming on one end, hospitals and rehab for others, are feeling this too. Everything is shifting. You're needed in different ways. Your children are becoming adults and your parents need you to be the grown up sometimes. And with all that comes such profound change. Houses will be emptier. Responsibilities will shift. Holidays will be different.
And you can't go back.
It's far easier for me to box it all away in sections, keeping doors shuts and balls circling as effective coping strategies. At the moment though all go to methods aren't working and life is messy and unexpected.
Perhaps overseeing arrangements for a college acceptance weekend, dealing with set ups at rehab, putting info together to hand over to the board I've headed up and am leaving, walking the dogs, making breakfast, editing a movie script, cleaning the apartment, and updating 3 websites will help me get back on my track.
Or maybe I'll get lost in the Great British Bake Off for awhile.
I went to yoga today, too tired to be there but too compelled to skip. Sleep has been eluding me lately. Tightness in my jaw has become more of a staple than a passing fad. So many emotional balls are in the air, so many imminent changes, so many almost dire circumstances have left me a bit on the shaky side.
Waiting for class to start, tears welling up slightly, I wondered if I should quietly slip out before we started to move.
But no. I stayed. Realizing I hadn't eaten all day and hoping I'd make it through to the end.
Then the teacher said we'd need extra props. That we'd be flowing but we'd also be spending time in restorative poses. That finding balance in this hectic city, with sirens screaming and people throwing elbows on sidewalks, was necessary. That in the busy, overwhelming lives we lead, we need to find space. And quiet. And peace.
My body turned it down a notch.
My brain stopped whirling for a bit.
I walked home slower than usual and then sat with my daughter, getting lost in a delicious reality baking show.
My to do list is still tremendous. The changes and stresses from before haven't gone anywhere.
But the door to calm opened and I remembered I can always step through and visit when I need to.
I just wrote an entire blog post at how I'm getting better at dealing with those overwhelming, shake your head at how frustrating, things are completely beyond my control situations.
And then the post disappeared into cyberspace.
Yet another speed bump on the journey. But that's ok. The point of the missing post was that I'm learning to find the silver linings in the chaos. Rehashing previous disasters served no purpose. It's the awareness and growth that matters.
The beginning of this year got off to a rough start and I remember hoping it would soon improve. But from here I can't being to recall what it was that was so challenging. Because this, right now, is pushing my envelope. A kid going to college. Another grappling with the transition to high school. A mom who's been in the hospital for over 2 months, battling crisis after crisis. My body navigating uncharted territory as hormones are in flux and can't commit to anything. A long stint doing important work that's about to come to an end.
I've lost track of how I feel. Where I am in space. I'm frozen yet running. Thrown continually into unknowns. I'm not sure how to act. What to do. How to cope. I cry far more than I usually do. I have tears in my eyes right now as my plane is taking off, shuddering in the rain, having just left my mom on a cardiac floor, heading home knowing everyone has held it together but will melt when I'm there.
There are no breaks. No answers. No guarantees.
And so I'm learning far more to appreciate moments. Not what will be. But what is. Sitting and holding my mom's hand. Watching baking shows with my girl who will be starting a huge new chapter in her life soon. Talking to random strangers and sharing snippets of each other's lives. Meditating every day. Breathing. Finding my ground. Loving as much as I can and making sure people know how much they mean to me.
Then one more situation hit my plate that put me over the edge and shut me down again.
In the blink of an eye everything can change. And even if things eventually pan out to not so bad, that moment, that phone call, that panic, that terror, that potential loss, that impending/imagined doom takes its toll.
Staying open and unlocked is a work in progress. A delicate, tenuous balance.
It's not often that I fall victim to apps/games (although I still play Fruit Ninja) on occasion. Temple Run caused way too much angst for something that was supposed to be enjoyable. Angry Birds escaped me. But I recently discovered the 8 year old in me loves making avatar, picking out outfits, and putting myself in ridiculous contexts on Bitmoji.
I've irritated friends. Wasted too much time. Talked about it incessantly with family. And days later am still amused.
I'd been thinking about writing about something more meaningful, introspective, or thought provoking, but after a rough night, this is as deep as I can go.
I've generally been on the outside of things. Even when I wanted to be smack in the middle, I never was and didn't understand why.
My road has been off the beaten track too and there were times, many in fact, when I wished for more traditional and expected direction, instead of forging ahead with no set path to follow.
It was often isolating. Scary. Overwhelming. Intimidating. Threatening. Off-putting. It's taken until now (and I'm not totally there yet) to feel felt excitement instead of fear, anticipation instead of doubt.
But with age comes an awareness, an acceptance, a knowing in my gut that I never had before or imagined was possible. I'm starting, at 51, to own who I am instead of regret who I'm not. To accept what makes me different instead of angst that I'm not like everyone else. To appreciate all that I am without ending thoughts with but or if only.
Letting go of what holds us back is seemingly impossible at times. Yet imagine what we could do or who we could be without all the second guessing and self doubt.
I had my tarot cards read today. Actually, it was far more of an interactive and internal journey - general I'm more of a passive bystander but this was significant give and take and I found that I was sharing more of myself than I do just about ever. With anyone.
Perhaps it's time to change things up. Actually I know it's time. Or at least my gut sensed it and that's why it was important for me to do this. Right now.
There were many take aways. The one, mid session, that struck home hardest were:
ruthlessly cut myself off from negative
can't be the healer of everyone
cut out everything that doesn't make me feel good
Wow. As much/most of my life is trying to make things better for everyone around me, on so many levels, the thought of giving some or any of that up is daunting. Feels impossible. And terrifying. What would I do with that space? How would the people I help handle things? What does taking care of myself and focus on positive even mean?
Those are such profound, life changing, overwhelming thoughts. But perhaps it's time for profound, life changing and yes overwhelming action.
Yesterday was talking about menstruation. Next up is rallying a NYC school community to fight for fair funding. Throw in my new business helping people navigate our complicated high school process along with exploring new avenues to get the word out about what I'm doing in that regard.
I've got pieces to write.
Agendas to construct.
Plans to make.
People to motivate.
Ideas to communicate.
And then there's the rest of life.
Valentine's cards to make.
Cookies to bake.
Yoga classes to take (this rhyming is unintentional).
Movies to write.
Blog posts to ponder.
Much is on my to do list at the moment. But at this very moment, I've got a dog on my lap, a chocolate cupcake staring me down, and a comedy juggling show to go to in a few minutes. And those trump everything else listed above.
It's been a long time since menstruation was my middle name. For years I delved into, obsessed about, researched, dreamed, talked, lived, breathed periods. Against all odds and popular opinion I made my dream come true. My period project thoughts evolved into FLOW, the Cultural Story of Menstruation - 15 years from the inkling of an idea to a book on a shelf. With a fab launch party at Rizzoli's no less.
FLOW consumed me. It went far beyond research and writing. I scoured eBay and auction houses for vintage ads and packaging. Matched art to manuscript. Met with editors and designers. Wrote press releases. Created promo films. Pitched interview ideas. Spoke to reviewers, chatted on radio shows (Dr. Oz anyone?), spent a segment on The View with Whoopi, who thanked me for writing the book, and the rest of that morning cast. Amazon rankings ruled my emotions. Menstrual conversation took precedence over everything else.
And then it was over. Almost overnight.
I'd thought I'd be talking about periods forever. But instead, conversations moved elsewhere and the glimmers of interest dwindled. This process, that affects every person on the planet, whose presence signifies the ability to give birth, whose absence means life or life changes, still isn't something people want to talk about. Girls are still generally ashamed and uncomfortable. Women often dread or at least resent its arrival. Periods are the punch lines of jokes, the objects of ridicule, or the subject of blame. Except for out of the blue interviews, I stopped talking and moved on too. Then there was today. I got to dive in, revisit ideas, draw parallels and new conclusions. Talk about history and religion and girl power and packaging. Advertising and culture and puberty and menopause. Bodies. And blood. Where we've been, where we are, where we could go with mindfulness, constructive ideas, and the desire to make things better for future generations.
I wrote FLOW to inspire conversations about menstruation. Today I discovered they're happening. And I got to jump back in and remember why I put all this out into the world in the first place.