It’s Not An Island, It’s A Forest.

Lucy Miller Robinson:

Brilliant piece on parenthood by Cassie Fox. I love this woman and her words.

“And you’re not the only one who is scared of losing yourself in this journey; who hasn’t written a single word in months, who hasn’t picked up a paintbrush or knitting needle since you had a baby, who hasn’t held a pencil in so long that it feels like you’ve forgotten how. You’re not the only one who feels like you’ve been bled dry by the end of the day, like a bleached jumble of bones laid out on your bed in the moonlight, with nothing holding you together except someone else’s need, and it’s all you can do to just stay there in one spot; you’re not the only one who wonders what else there will be for you, what will be left of your heart once they’re grown, how you can sustain yourself in this current space. And you’re not the only one who finds fulfillment outside of motherhood, who needs to move and create and comfort outside the square feet of your home; you’re not the only one who has a wide-open spirit and a need to be just a little bit wild, just sometimes, who wants to drink too much and dance too dirty and lick honey from the fingers of a lover.”

Originally posted on If We Do This, Then We Really Did This.:

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There are over 7 billion of us humans here on Earth, but how often do we feel as though we are entirely alone? Right now, I am sitting on my comfortable couch in my second favorite room of the house, and it’s the kind of grey misty day I love, and it’s an unbelievably cool day for mid-July (I am wearing long sleeves! On July 18! In Memphis!); one kid is two feet away from me, yelling at the Playstation 3, and the smaller kid is methodically dumping out on the floor every single small toy she owns, but my heart — today, my heart feels small and shriveled, all drawn up the way my skin gets when I step outside in winter, and it’s like there’s this giant bubble all around me, and it’s made up of loneliness, and a quiet ache inside my chest, and a persistent sadness…

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Lessons on Optimism

You’ve probably heard that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”—the sentiment of Charles R. Swindoll, an evangelical Christian pastor, presumably a man of faith and optimism.

In the second volume of Anaïs Nin’s diary, she cites two different people who proclaimed that her diary would never be published. Stuart Gilbert, a famous literary scholar said: “You have the makings of a Proust. This is too natural and will never be published.” Denise Clairouin, a French translator of novels, said: “The diary will never be published. People can’t bear such nakedness. You are so much in life.”

Of course, seven volumes of Anaïs Nin’s diaries were eventually published, making her a feminist icon of the 1960s, a woman studied and celebrated and often quoted.

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The thing is, she started seeking publication of her diaries as early as the 1930s. It took thirty years to see her diaries in print and yet she never stopped writing them. Some of the closest people in her life fought to break her dependence on her diary–her mother, her mentor, her lover, her therapist, her friend. But it was her diary who became her best friend and confidante (wikipedia). She wrote 15,000 pages, which today fill two four-drawer filing cabinets in a Brooklyn bank vault.

She didn’t need the permission of others, not even her loved ones, to fulfill this deep calling. She gave herself permission to do it. May we all be so bold.

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May we all stop thinking about what it is we are supposed to be doing, how we are supposed to be parenting or working or spending or living. Forget about what you’ve started and what you’ve promised, not for always but for now, and think about what you freaking want to do with your life.

Maybe you want to quit your corporate job and move to the country where your children can run free.

Maybe you want to move to a bustling metropolis and devour culture with every one of your senses.

Maybe you want to live like a monk and write poetry.

Maybe you want to tell your boss to fuck off (maybe in polite terms, maybe not) and then go start your own company.

Maybe you want to create pockets of passive income so you can travel the world and work 4 hour weeks à la Timothy Ferriss.

Maybe you want to break up or get together or have children or stop having children or read more or kiss more or sleep more or move more or write more.

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I think you should do what you’ve always wanted to do. Give yourself permission. Don’t seek it outside of yourself. Be inside your body. We feel trapped beneath the skin for a reason, right? There is a time and a place to transcend the skin, but right now, while pressed against this earth, it feels good to be grounded in our bodies. Who we are, what we want to do, what and where we feel called to live.

If we don’t follow these tugs, these whispered callings, we’re not playing with the universe. We deprive the greater good of our individual goodness, our gifts, our passions. No one else is me or you. Our DNA is 99% the same but it’s that wild card of a 1% that makes each of us irreplaceable.

I wonder what these comments about her diary being unpublishable did to Anaïs Nin, if anything. Obviously she didn’t believe them. She believed in herself instead. Do I believe in myself? It’s a question I keep asking.

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Anaïs Nin famously said: “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” An optimist sees opportunities, notices blessings. An optimist takes criticism as fuel rather than bullets. An optimist knows that she can do a whole lot with her reaction. If Piper Kerman had wallowed in her prison sentence rather than immersed herself in it and written about it, we wouldn’t have my new favorite television series, “Orange Is the New Black”

I’m talking to you as much as I’m talking to myself, perched upon a soapbox of beautiful intent: I hope you believe.

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Lessons from my children: it’s okay to be real

My girls need me. They need me to pay attention, soothe, be steadfast.

But I am erratic. My attention is scattered in piles like fallen leaves in the autumn. Cayenne crimson, turmeric orange, ginger yellow. The colors of my temper, spicy like the evil twin who lives somewhere in my head not my heart (I wrote about her on Mamalode). The earth spins and circles the sun and the leaves die and emotions gallop into uncharted territories like wild horses and no one can control any of it.

I see it in my daughter. Four years-old with feelings loud as a train wreck. She opens up her heart when its bursting and spills her frustrations all over the universe. Like fallen leaves in the autumn. Though I may grow angry in response, I prefer to be calm. In my center I am glad that she expresses herself with the freedom of a person who is safe.

Wild horses do not do well in cages or suppressed by crowds, but in wide open spaces where emotions have room to dance and turn, an ever-shifting kaleidoscope, its beauty a product of all the colors.

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Funny how I can celebrate my daughter’s colorful feelings and yet feel shamed by my own. What if we extended the same love and sympathy we show our children to ourselves? What if the chubby pieces of our belly are actually endearing, indicative of pleasure and humanity, and not something we need to hide beneath big shirts or use as a catalyst for deprivation or guilt? What if our stupid mistakes are not stupid but natural and productive?

Maybe I’m not a failure for raising my voice or losing patience. This isn’t Pleasantville, this is Earth in all its grit and glory. Maybe I don’t have to pretend to be calm when I’m not. There’s no shame in being real. Right?

At a birthday party recently where GiGi knew no one but her big brother, she covered her eyes when the party coordinator asked her a question in front of a small crowd of (older) kids. She didn’t try to pretend to be bold, she didn’t speak simply because someone asked her to. She let herself be shy and she opened up to the others when she felt comfortable. And ready. She stayed true to her emotions.

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It all comes to holding these emotions inside vs. feeling them and letting them go. There’s a fine balance between keeping your cool and causing a fuss, not only for parents but adults everywhere. I’m not suggesting we go around town honking haphazardly at other cars, arguing with hostesses or dragging our children by the ears, but rather that we feel okay about it when we do lose our cool. We aren’t bad parents or road ragers or terrible people, we are people. Terribly fallible, terribly sweet people.

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Collecting Moments

Time stretches before me like a magic carpet willing to take me anywhere. I remember back when I thought I’d never grow up, when the end always felt so far. Four years of college passed. Four years of my daughter’s life happened. Now the first four months of my second daughter’s life are nearly over. She was just born and soon she’ll be walking. Change happens without regard for the weary.

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How is it that I am both the oldest I’ve ever been and the youngest I will ever be? How is it that I have children and a husband and a home of my own and all these terrifying adult responsibilities? It happened slowly over time, moment by moment, and yet so much of those moments have disappeared. Important things happen but they fade until the memories bear no distinction from dreams and I must ask myself: did that really happen or did I dream it?

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Important things take place and I forget them completely as if they never happened at all. Either they fall into the vortex forever and I have no knowingness to miss them, or something reminds me. A picture, a person, an event. And though I may still not remember it for myself, I find comfort that I have a past. It’s out there. I’ve been living. I’ve been breathing for 29 years. The atmosphere contains me and I contain the atmosphere. Time unravels as it winds around itself. Time cannot be conquered nor reigned in nor slowed. So how do we cope with it?

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Perhaps in another dimension we can manipulate time, but not here, not now.

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I cope by writing about it and taking pictures of it and trying not to dwell on it. Time cannot be reigned in, but my thoughts can. I try to be happy about time rather than nostalgic. I collect moments to remember.

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I spend a lot of time these days “wearing” Skyla. We both love it, the closeness and ease of nursing and napping and traveling this way. Occasionally she will be nursing in the pack and I will look down and see her staring at me. Or I will look down and see her smiling at me. And those eyes. And that smile. And that fuzzy little head. Joy pours out of me like smoke from a burning building.

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She opens to this plane of being. Unfurling, unfolding, uncurling like the spiral of hair on the crown of her head. She stretches her limbs longer today than yesterday, grabbing and kicking at an understanding of what it means to exist here and now.

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Giovanna is a force to be reckoned with, a spirited opinionated stubborn girl-child. She’s not my baby as much as she is her own person with awareness, consciousness, and a memory of her own. She doesn’t care much about following the rules at home. She draws on walls and sneaks downstairs when she’s supposed to be sleeping. She thinks her brother is the coolest and her sister the cutest. She loves them something fierce. She finds everything I might ever try to hide from her because she’s always looking, her brain is always turning. She reminds me every day to give her the gummy vitamins. She loves water balloons and dresses.

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Emile turned eight last week. He is the sweetest handful. He likes to talk back and he thinks he knows everything there is to know. He is very willing to read stories to GiGi and help herd her to bed, though he’s not so keen on his own bedtime. He loves bugs, legos, playing with his little sister and holding his littlest sister. He loves babies. He is a bona fide boy with holes in his pants, dirt lodged beneath his fingernails, and a tendency to tackle. He calls me out when I let a swear world slips (he doesn’t like it). He is quick to forgive. He’s already up to my shoulders.

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They take so much out of me. They keep me awake, they demand my time, they suck me dry. Yet I am willing to give more, I am willing to give everything. These moments are everything.

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It’s June and I am

Inspired by Alisha Sommer’s “Currently I am …” post.

Listening … to Skyla’s voice as she finds it, her breath as it moves through her body, pliable and pure.

Eating … like a goddess and letting food love me back.

Drinking … homemade americanos, and many glasses of water.

Wearing … my torn up TOMS because I just can’t quit ‘em, they make the earth feel soft under my feet.

Wanting … to take more of my beloved barre classes because this energy, nor the subsequent endorphins, cannot be replicated at home.

Dreaming … about traveling, publishing novels, going deeper.

Needing … time, sleep, and a tan.

Thinking … about opening as I participate in another session of Liberated Lines. The theme of OPEN feels different than the last session on LOVE.

Feeling … like I could spend every spare moment reading and writing, and there would still be more books to read and more words to write.

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Be the Light (+ 28 other pearls)

Today, I am 29 years-old!

I have never been this old before and I will never be this young again.

As I grow older I look forward to cultivating greater self-love, traveling to foreign lands, meeting like-minded people, making deep connections and friendships, reading more books, writing and publishing more words, watching my children grow up, acquiring more wisdom and experience.

It is a privilege to be 29. I am young but I am not so young.  I have lived, learned and loved well but I have more living, learning and loving to do.

I celebrate today by sharing 29 of my favorite pearls of wisdom, lessons and quotes.

If you feel moved to, please share one of your favorites in the comments section or on Facebook/Twitter.

 

1. Life is what you make it.

2. This, too, shall pass.

3. The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.

4. Don’t take it personally.

5. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

6. Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

7. Love is all you need.

8. You can’t save people you can only love them. – Anais Nin

9. Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage – Anais Nin

10. Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. – Eleanor Roosevelt

11. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt

12. All good things are wild and free. – Henry David Thoreau

13. Stars can’t shine without darkness.

14. Be the light.

15. Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.

16. Count your blessings.

17. Fear does not stop death. It stops life.

18. Make time for yourself.

19. You are what you eat, so don’t be cheap, easy or fake.

20. “My suggestion is that you start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results.” – Elizabeth Gilbert

21. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” – Pablo Picasso

22. Live simply, love deeply.

23. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. – Albert Einstein

24. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett

25. Reality is merely an illusion. Albeit a persistent one. – Albert Einstein

26. The best things and the worst things in life are tangled together, making regret impossible.

27. Never give up. – The Dalai Lama

28. There is nothing more artistic than to love people. – Vincent Van Gogh

29. Dreams come a size too big so that we can grow into them.

EDIT:

When I picked up my phone this morning, I headed straight for Instagram for some reason. The first post I saw was a quote from Maya Angelou and the words RIP. I scrolled down to see my feed filled with tributes.

A great woman passed on the morning of my 29th birthday, a woman whose wisdom I have long admired. It only makes sense that I would add an extra quote (you know, one to grow on)–a quote that has been a part of my Facebook profile for years though now somewhat buried, the information too static to be considered interesting.

And I’ll resist recalling every other quote of hers that I love. (But google her name if you’re a quote junkie.)

30. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

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Nothing Lasts Forever

I turn 29 tomorrow. My golden year is nearly over.

Though it terrifies me to think of myself as 30 years-old in one year, in some ways I feel older than 30. As if I’ve been 30 for years. Which somehow makes sense considering that I also feel like I am my 13 year-old self at times.

Birthdays often bring introspection and this one is no different.

Right now I am sipping my espresso and milk, nibbling on ultra dark chocolate, nursing my baby and typing with one hand… Now she’s in the swing next to me, asleep. I can see mountains and tree tops and water from up here on my perch. Though I have many things I still want to accomplish, many moments to look forward to, I am perfectly content where I am right now.

Things continues to change rapidly. Time never stops nor slows. Everyone is getting older. People come and go. Nothing lasts forever–a truth that troubles me deeply because I am happy now. I am aware that I have it good. I love being a mother to small children and though it is exhausting it is delightful and precious and wonderful. When James is at home we exchange glances a hundred times a day, smiling over the unbearable cuteness, grimacing over the tears, laughing over the funny; we are partners on this glorious adventure. We are in it and we love it and we love each other.

But nothing lasts forever. Our children are only getting older. So are we.

I might be especially preoccupied with time right now because it gallops along at an unfair pace when you have a baby. Just the other day Skyla was a skinny-legged newborn who slept all day and now she has rolls beneath her chin and she is attempting communication. She has beautiful brown inquisitive eyes and a generous smile. The rest of us won’t stop gushing about her. That’s four people head over heels in love with one tiny person. She handles our affection with grace. She soaks it up and makes it her own and beams it back at us.

The thing about having children is the love they bring into a home. Every challenge in parenting is punctuated with love. You’ve got to work for the love I suppose, but oh sweet universe, the rewards outlive the work.

It’s like anyone’s life’s work, really. You don’t need to have kids to experience this kind of infinite love. You need only to give your best away, offer it up to the greatest good. Your best efforts, your best creations. It’s the only way to live properly: find what you can (and love to) do to add value whether it’s by raising a person or founding a movement or taking care of people.

We have to do it now. Today. There’s no time to waste. We must run with ideas, listen for callings, ask God and other people for help.

We’re only getting older and nothing lasts forever.

Yet there’s an undeniable beauty to growing older because youth is replaced with wisdom. Each day is a new experience and each experience lends itself to our understanding of why the hell we’re alive and what we’re supposed to do while we’re here to make the most of our brief forays on this four-dimensional plane. So that we may not only leave the earth better than we came upon it, but we may in the process delight in the taste of water and chocolate, the sensation of sunshine and wind, the swell of love and connection.

Since I enjoy quotes and learning and wisdom, I will celebrate my birthday tomorrow by sharing 29 of my favorite quotes and pearls of wisdom–lessons and philosophies that have enriched my 29 years of life, whether or not I have mastered or even understood their meaning.

Until tomorrow.

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To read more of my musings on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.