Take A Step; Learn A Word

“Each life is a language no one knows. With every heartbreak, discovery, and unexpected moment of joy, with every lift of music that touches us where we didn’t think we could be touched, with every experience, another letter in our alphabet is decoded. Take a step; learn a word. Feel a feeling; decode a sign. Accept a truth; translate a piece of the mystery written in your heart.

Before we live what’s next, it always seems like there is some answer we need to arrive at. But daring to enter, we are humbled to discover, again and again, that the act of living itself unravels both the answer and the question. When we watch, we remain riddles to be solved. When we enter, we become songs to be sung.

When life feels far off, remember that a flute is just something hard with holes until it’s played. So, too, the heart. As matches are just sticks until lit, as ice is not quenching until thawed, questions and problems remain obstacles until lived. In this way, the life of every soul waits like sheet music to be played. What good are we if never played?

Only when life moves through do holes become openings.”

– Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Today marks my six month anniversary in San Francisco. So it was only fitting that I came across this gorgeous passage.

By taking a step out of my home state, I have decoded another letter in my alphabet. And with it, I’ve had my fiction published and discovered a platform for my poetry and found a growing artist community of moms.

As for my family–Giovanna has had the opportunity to attend preschool in the California forest, forging a unique spiritual relationship with nature that will stick with her forever. Emile has gotten to travel on an airplane by himself at frequent intervals, allowing him to show responsibility and practice precocious independence. James continues to move forward in his career as a professional creative. And Skyla, baby Skyla, she gets to soak up all this good sunshine and ocean air, the excitement of San Francisco as it comes through her mama and daddy and siblings and self.

By leaving Seattle, we have ripped holes in our lives. Never again will my children and I feel entirely at home, but we have something else. We have San Francisco–and when the storied winds of this city blow through our holes, I hear music.

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

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Dear Beautiful Women

I randomly came across this short essay in my digital journal about beauty. It was written nearly 4 years ago, yet it still makes sense to me today. I’m sure I meant to post it at some point, but like so many of my words, I kept it to myself. Today I choose to share it in hopes that it reaches you when you need it most. 

Dear Beautiful Women,

I’ve felt self-conscious lately. Vacillating between extremes. Both aware and oblivious of my own beauty, the kind that shines from the inside out.

When I’m listening to the voice in my head, the voice of knowledge, the voice that was born from all of the lies I’ve accumulated over the past 26 years, I feel ugly. I feel judged. I feel that I will never be good enough.

When I’m listening to the voice of my true self, my highest self, I find a deep knowing that I was born perfect and will always be perfect. My so-called flaws are not flaws, it is only my perception that is flawed.

Once upon a time, my aunt wanted a nose job. She is gorgeous, my aunt. As a child, innocent and pure, I was unaware of the societal consensus that a nose must be inconspicuous and perfectly curved, not too straight or too bent, to be beautiful. I could not understand what was wrong with her nose.

Can we agree that all noses are miraculous? As babies, we use our noses to seek out our mother’s breast. As we grow into children, scents have the unparalleled power to invoke emotions and memories. As adults, our noses lead us to pleasure as we inhale the scent of our lover, to relaxation as we relish in the soothing properties of a lavender sachet, and to love as we bury our noses against the head of a newborn baby.

Now in her early fifties, my aunt says, “you spend the first half of your life wishing things were different, and the second half of your life wishing everything would stay the same.” She never did get a nose job.

I want to know: what does the size of our nose matter? Or the straightness of our teeth? Or the perkiness of our breasts? If we can smell the sweetness of a rose and chew the fruit of the earth and nurse the children of our womb, why are we complaining? Why are we wasting energy when we could be celebrating the miracle of life?

The voice of knowledge, the snake in the Garden of Eden, the fallen angel — they are around every corner. In magazines, on TV, on the internet, in movies, on billboards, in windows, in parents, in friends, in spouses, in children. Everywhere. The web of lies is thick, and it’s growing every day, with so many people busy at work, adding their own intricate layer of false convictions and lies of imperfection.

The truth, however, will always set us free. No matter how detailed the lies have become, the truth is always underneath. If you stop believing in the lies, they will fall away like dead rose petals because they’ve lost the life force behind them: you.

My Dear Beautiful Women, I’ve heard your cries. You believe you aren’t good enough. You have wrinkles. Your nose is too big. Your teeth are too crooked. Your hair is too curly. Your skin is too pale. Your thighs are too big. Your breasts are too small. Your waist is too thick. Your arms are too chubby. I won’t even get started with the deeper insecurities, except for to say that you are never doing enough for your career or your children or your partner or your self.

What if we knew these were lies? What if we believed ourselves to be perfect right now as is? Your highest self knows the truth, can you hear her? Her voice is smaller than a whisper at first, but she gets louder when you learn how to tune out the other voices, the ones spouting lies.

Let the truth set you free. Let your beauty shine from the inside out. Next time you look in the mirror, allow yourself to see perfection.

I will, too.

All my love,

Lucy

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Living With Change As The Only Constant

Life changes so fast. Just when I get used to things being a certain way, everything rearranges. I’d like to think this is always for the good. Always. For the good. It’s absolutely terrifying to live this way. To think that bands break apart and marriages break up and children break off into the big bad world–and it’s all for the greater good. To think that everyone is going to die and somehow, we need to accept this if we want to delve deeper.

I feel pain. Not just my own, but yours. You feel my pain, too, don’t you?

I hear horrible stories about children drowning and men taking their own life and I feel the residual pain on a very physical level. My heart moving upward. Grief squeezing the hope out of me. None of it is okay. The tragedy never disappears. It follows people everywhere. It follows their children. It stops them from living.

What if our pain is perfect as it is? What if there is a purpose behind it? I have a hard time finding purpose in a murder, for example, but maybe that’s part of it. We are mere mortals. We cannot begin to wrap our heads around good and evil, though maybe we can untangle the two if we never give up. Maybe that’s what pain is, at its core. An untangling of truth and lies. A separation. A deconstruction.

Who are we and what do we want and why do we always want more when we finally get what we want?

Of all my failures, it might be my hunger for more that hits the hardest, digs the deepest. Instead of focusing on being happy with everything I have, I tend to believe that I’ll be happier once I have this or I’ve done that. I know this is flawed, and I know why it is flawed and I have been working hard to release this belief. There will always be something else, some reason why now is less than perfect.

Instead of congratulating myself for writing for 20 minutes, I usually feel defeated. Only 20 minutes before I picked up my phone or the baby woke up or I had to pick my daughter up from school. 20 minutes doesn’t get you very far down a page.

But it gets you somewhere. And before you know it, you’ve written a book. And your baby is now a kid and your house with a sprawling yard is now a flat on an urban block and your exercise routine looks different. So do the trees. So does your hair.

You wonder how long it will be until you understand that now only happens now and it is absolutely perfect. Even the fat salty tears are perfectly formulated to smooth out the rough edges of pain.

I loved school as a kid. Especially September. New classmates, new classroom, new teacher, new routine. But by the time spring rolled around, I was over it. Bored, mostly. Ready for the next thing. Then, summer would come and go and finally it occurred to me that I missed the energy of my old class. Something so familiar and boring, gone forever. Last year when I intuited that we would not live in our Seattle house much longer, weeks before we actually had plans to move, I walked the perimeter of the yard. I tried to memorize it.

Soon this time in our lives will be reduced to a memory. We think we have the good stuff memorized, but eventually, we will forget most of it. I cope with the passage of time, the temporary nature of existence, with my words and my camera.

That bald little head. Her bouncing curly head. Tiny round teeth. Precocious eyebrows. Squeals. Squeaks. Giggles. Deep questions. Baby babbling. Kid-isms. Snuggles. The baby’s breath. A hungry little mouth. Those voices. The word “mama” and “mommy” and “daddy.” My hair and skin still relatively thick with youth. My twenties, my husband’s thirties, both of which are nearly over. My life as a fresh transplant in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. The stories untold. The possibilities.

I cope with challenges by remembering they are temporary.

The sleepless nights. The query letters. The rejections. The exhaustion. The messes. The laundry. The temper tantrums. The screaming. The uncertainties. The travel. The loneliness. The tedium. The waiting.

My sister won’t always live on the other side of the planet (RIGHT?!). I won’t always be the new kid in my city. My children won’t always want me 24 hours per day. We won’t always have to prove ourselves.

But maybe the proving could be just as enjoyable as being proven.

Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.
– Walt Whitman

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

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The Purpose of Privilege

In what ways are you privileged?

We are all privileged.*

What does the universe want from you?

The universe wants something from you.

Do you know what your purpose is?

We all have purpose.

What makes a life worth living?

This man says “flow” is the secret to happiness.

So when do you lose yourself?

When you “lose yourself,” you can become a vessel.

What is the self anyways?

It seems we love to define the self, our selves.

How do we transcend the self?

We need to get out of our own way.

What would you do if you could do anything?

We could start today.

Where do we start?

Perhaps our various privileges serve as guideposts.

No matter what we’re doing, whether it’s staying at home with kids or wandering the world with nothing, may we let the ways we are privileged reveal our purpose.

Let us notice how the universe nurtures us. Let us take it in and love it, then let us lose the self for a moment, let us get into the flow and release all that goodness back into the ether. Let our privilege become someone else’s privilege.

This is vague, so I will offer a few examples. It could be music. Maybe you have a pretty voice or mad piano skills. Have you thought about sharing your music? You could go into a classroom and play a few tunes, you could join the music ministry in a spiritual community, you could write music and play it for friends, you could post videos to YouTube, you could go after a talent agent. Really, there’s no limit, great or small.

It could be organizing messes or organizing communities. It could be counseling others or taking photos. It could be crafting or welding. It could be a job or it could be volunteering or it could be neither. It could be the main focus of your days or it could be a couple hours on the weekend.

The bottom line? If we feel good about our privilege rather than guilty about it, we know we are using privilege for the Greater Good. It’s that simple.

May our privilege not be in vain.

Where does your privilege point?

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

*Inspired by Roxane Gay’s essay entitled Peculiar Benefits. (more…)

Read My Fiction Now!

Taryn started twirling because she had nothing better to do. Twirling made her hair stick out straight like she’d plunged her finger into the socket and stolen the electricity meant to keep the universe on its toes. She twirled until her legs got mixed up and she fell to the ground in a tangled mess, the earth spinning around her head. For a moment she became the axis around which it revolved.

This is the first paragraph from my short story published in the current issue of MUSED, the BellaOnline literary magazine. The review called it “an emotionally gripping story of a young girl striving to make sense of her tangle of a world.” Read it here.

I also had the honor as the Featured Fiction Writer to share about my writing process. Find that essay here.

Thank you, as always, for your love and support.

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

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Becoming a San Franciscan

I’m obsessed with people’s stories. It’s why I love novels and Instagram. Long stories. Short stories. Everything in between.

I enjoy living in a dense city because of the human energy. I loved it when I studied in Rome in 2005 and I love it living in San Francisco in 2015. I’ll gladly take the downside, the overwhelming swirl of it all, to get the upside, the imagination awakened. Every where I go, the people are fascinating. If only they knew how I notice all of them. Their wrinkled knees and red-rimmed eyes and aching smiles.

There’s a lot going on. Time occasionally slips into a vortex. Hours whoosh by, leaving my hair messy and my clothing soiled. I shrink literally and figuratively from the demands of motherhood, even as it fuels me with the deepest well of purpose, reasons why I must be strong, why I must sleep and eat and take care of my self every time I get the chance. My husband’s job, bless it, takes him away from us more than we like. But the job is also the reason we are in San Francisco and I wouldn’t change any of it.

I am head over heels for San Francisco. The city by the bay. Paris of the West. The Golden city. Fog city. Rainbow land. Call it what you may, this place is magical. Today I drove west and found myself suddenly under the fog and it was so fresh and cool that the mist felt like something out of a storybook. Lord of the Rings mist. Hogwarts mist.

I drove home the long way, along Ocean Avenue and I didn’t pull over to get a good picture, but I did taste the Pacific air and gaze oceanward at the stoplights. The fading sun slashed a few white clouds the color of a peach. It was only the hint of a sunset, but it was enough.

My heart often catches on these slices of heaven. The severity of life’s beauty. The heartbreak of it. Because nothing lasts. On a cellular level, I will be a different person in seven years. I will look similar to the current me, but if the next seven years are anything like the previous seven, I will feel oceans away from this current iteration. I often notice that I am mourning the fleeting smallness of my babies, but it is not just them changing. It’s me, too. It’s everything. Never before has transience been more apparent.

San Francisco is a city of transplants. People come and they go. Sometimes they come back again. It is a city of International residents. I hear accents everywhere. Australian, South African, British. German, Chinese, Spanish. I try eavesdropping on French conversations at the gym and I am disappointed by how quickly they speak. I feel myself craving France, but that’s another post.

Here, the architecture is quaint and the art is unexpected and the people are lovely. I am enchanted by the hills and besotted by the vistas and reverent to the ocean. I have been here five months and I’ve barely taken my first chip at the tip of the iceberg so I’m still unwrapping the reasons why I love it, and the ways it’s loving me back.

Now, I am anticipating the storied cold of the coming San Francisco summer. I feel that perhaps anything is possible under the blanket of fog freshly churned by the vast Pacific. It contains a purity I want for my life. A clarity of thought, word and deed. A washing away. An emerging of new.

It must be spring.

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

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The Beauty in Falling

I meant to click on the Safari browser but I clicked on the Freedom button instead. The box popped up on my screen. If I pressed “okay” I would get 60 minutes of freedom from the internet. I hesitated, even when I knew the errant click had been a generous gesture from the universe. I had opened my computer to write, and I needed Freedom to focus on it.

Isn’t it true that our favorite things can also be our worst enemies? Booze, sugar, caffeine, the internet. You know what I’m talking about. Even a beautiful romance can be ruined by codependency.

Life is a delicate balance. I’m guessing that most of us struggle with balance in one or more areas of our life. Learning balance, like most things, often involves failing. Falling and regrouping from the bathroom floor. At least that’s where I landed recently. I knew I needed to get up but it felt so good for the moment while it lasted. I belonged there. I had the stomach flu and the virus was taking my digestion system through the ringer.

The toughest balance for me these days is Mommy versus Self. I love my kids with every piece of me, it is easy to want to give them all of me, all of the time. Alas, this is not healthy. Every mom needs to be a person apart from her kids. Many moms, if they do not ask for and take their own time, don’t get it. For you maybe it’s balance between discipline and indulgence, work and family, work and play, friendship and partnership, adventure and rootedness.

It wasn’t just my stomach that made me lose my balance. It was my husband traveling, the sleepless nights on my own, the puddles of puke to clean up, the piles of laundry to sort and put away, the diarrhea in the bathtub, the unexpected temper tantrums, the absence of writing time, the shortage of alone time, the never ending to do list, the feeling that this cannot go on much longer–or can it?

But there’s a flip side to everything. Depending on when you ask, I am also thriving. I’ve started to find my groove at the gym. A literary magazine picked up a short story I wrote. Said literary magazine liked this story so much they asked me to be the featured fiction author for the issue and write yet another piece for them. My artist moms group, Maker Mamas, is in the midst of creating something special. (More on that, later.) I am making connections and enjoying meaningful conversations. I am praying. I am supported and loved and known.

Best of all, I am filled with awe. Awe for my children. Their beauty and sweet spirits. The shape of their eyes and the pitch of their laughter. The purity of their needs. The lessons they impart if I pay attention. Awe for this city. A city of transplants and foreigners and art and technology. For the friendly people who comfort me when my daughter pitches a fit and the open people who share their stories so willingly. Awe for my privilege. That I live here in this year in this place with these people. That I get to write words people read. That my family is healthy. That I have good food available whenever I want it. That I get to sit in a steam room every now and then. Awe for my relationships. For the love that bounces among us.

The understanding seems to be slow in coming, but it’s coming. There is a richness to the chaos. There is a purpose to the falling. There is a method to the madness, so to speak. There are people who can help you, if you ask. There is a divine intelligence at work, but it cannot be directed, it can only provide direction.

Some days are nuts. Some days we are in it. This is good. This is where we are supposed to be. Even if it’s the bathroom floor.

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work, it means to still be in the midst of those things & be calm in your heart” – Unknown

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

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