We Are Never Stuck

Right now, there is clarity. The zeitgeist of January. The patina of the holidays. Today I return to regular programming, the magic of the season like a contrail in my tailwind. Today I see the point in everything, the sacred place of process. I want to pause in the middle of it, but there will be none of that. We simply cannot stop moving. Life does not allow it.

It helps to attempt stillness, to make friends with the impossibility of it. When we recognize our inability to be completely still, our unwillingness to stop breathing, we will understand that our worst fears are not true: we are not stuck, stalled, or trapped; we are never actually any of these things. We are perfectly dynamic creatures.

Lately life is a series of snapshots. A grid of burners, hot with potential. I tend each one in turn. Sometimes I turn my back at the wrong moment and something or someone gets burned. Sometimes we salvage, or we start over.

Despite my optimism, my idealism, the ripe promise of a new year, I haven’t forgotten what it feels like to see the point in nothing. We teeter over it by the sheer act of living. And so I feed myself carefully. Presence is still a slippery thing.

Resolve

The beginning of things. Mondays. The first of a month. The stretch of a new year before us. If we have nothing else, we always have possibility.

New Year. New You. I’m starting to see these words in strange places. On the Amazon.com header. On the marquee of my mind. Lighting up centers of hope. Sometimes, sadly, the realist comes in and takes over with a thwack. Yeah. Right. It’s a calendar year, not magic. Change happens quickly, but also slowly. Change happens in one step forward and one step back and (if you keep on keeping on) two more steps forward.

How many times must we see or repeat something before it becomes built in, part of us, another screw in our hardware. How many beauty magazines must we read until we grow fearful of aging? How many rejections must we receive until we condemn our dreams? How many barriers must we construct before we can love? Conversely, how many resolutions/intentions/goals must we set in order to find progress?

Make it a mantra. Write it down. Put it where you can see it. Put your money where your mouth is. Believe. The past has no bearing on the future. What has always been done need not determine what will be done.

I don’t know the occult formula, the foolproof strategy for growth. Aside from faith.

Resolutions are not one-size-fits-fits-all, not one-size-fits-forever. Resolutions are mutable, discoverable, breakable. And nothing is foolproof. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is forever. Yet everything is forever, because God is forever, and God is everything, and we are God.

Resolutions themselves will not change a life. It’s the energy behind the resolutions that make them powerful. The momentum of the new year brings a surge of energy. A fresh wave to ride. I like to take advantage of it, tending to the spark until it becomes a fire that clears space for new ways of being. The sacred ten days between the solstice and the new year, this is when we set the goal posts. The resolutions.

Here’s 17 things I want for 2017. (Fun fact: I didn’t use numbers as I wrote them, just happen to come up with 17 things.) Can I call them resolutions? Not sure. They are behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that I seek to practice and master. I am sharing them because it’s a kind of accountability, and because I hope to inspire, and because I want to remember.

  1. Make my bed in the morning. And by morning I mean MORNING, not right before I get back in it at night.
  2. Be curious, not judgmental. Finding curiosity instead of judgment feels like breathing in ocean air instead of carbon dioxide.
  3. Balance creation with consumption. Stop the soul-sucking madness of mindless scrolling through social media. Yeah. That.
  4. Practice kindness. Even when I want to growl or yell or howl. Especially then.
  5. Go for quality over quantity. Run faster, for shorter distances. Lift heavier, for less reps. Buy less. Buy from socially and/or environmentally responsible companies. Read favorite books again, rather than seeking to read all the books.
  6. Cultivate inner peace. Use meditation, mindfulness, and deep breaths. Don’t worry if my youngest wants me to lay down with her for an hour until she falls asleep, use this time to be with her and be still. Know without a doubt that everything I need is within me right here, right now. There is nothing I must accomplish or accumulate in order to find inner-peace. It is within me all along.
  7. Simplify. Letting go of things/activities/habits/beliefs I no longer need. This is all-encompassing, a continuous work-in-process. We must always edit, or we risk stagnation. Our best life comes from whittling away the detritus to arrive at the shiny center.
  8. Count blessings. Have gratitude for everything, even if it’s hard to see the good in it. Refrain from comparing my life to other lives on social media. Want what I have. Rejoice in the gift of life.
  9. Call people. The quickest way to connect with far-flung loved ones is to call. Call them first, call them back. I’ve fallen into the comfort zone of texting, but nothing replaces a conversation between human voices.
  10. Make more art. Yes, stories and essays and ramblings, but also collage art and installation art and collaborative art. Feed my inner artist. Let my inner art monster loose.
  11. Share my art fearlessly. Actively share and seek ways to share. Submit. Query. Apply. Publish.
  12. Focus on the process rather than the end result. Love the process. Have gratitude for the process. The process is the only thing we can control. The process is the reward in and of itself.
  13. Let presence eclipse productivity. “Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.” – Maria Popova
  14. Go on more adventures. To places I’ve never been, whether that’s a city or a country or a street in my city. And to my favorite places more often, like the beach just to watch the sunset for 10 minutes.
  15. Practice peaceful parenting. Show empathy. Listen to and respect their opinions, wants and needs. Say “yes” when I can. Don’t get in power struggles. Delight in my children. Put aside special time every day to connect with them on an individual basis.
  16. Practice rituals religiously, and create new ones. I like to write my intentions under the New Moon and use fire to release that which is no longer serving me during the Full Moon. I like to read something spiritual with my coffee in the morning, and read fiction in the evening. My family likes crepes on Sunday morning and kisses when we say good-bye. In the coming year I would love to declutter and clean the house as a family on the spring and autumnal equinoxes. I would love to host gatherings on the summer and winter solstices. I would like to bless my food before eating it. I want to see my life bookended by rituals of my own choosing and making.
  17. LOVE MYSELF. Befriend myself. Shine my light. Be true. Be vulnerable. Be a badass. Be inspired. Be love.

Here’s to trying, and believing. Here’s to the rebirth. Here we go.

Imagine

Imagine what a beautiful, balanced, educated, nourished, whole society we might have if there existed no offshore accounts, if the 1% paid taxes at the same rate as the rest of us, if we we weren’t afraid of our differences, or our power.

We came so far, we came so close.

Until the collective “we” sanctioned a master of the 1%, while the majority looked on, horrified and powerless beyond one vote. We watched as America sold itself to the highest bidder, a demagogue.

Across the planet, death. A holocaust. Rape, murder, and war. Mankind doing what it has always done. We know, maybe we’ve always known, that it’s madness. Man failing to honor the divine in every life. Men killing out of fear, in the name of power. The greed of man tipping the scales dangerously.

And despite having awareness of all that is wrong with the world, we feel powerless beyond one donation.

We can bear witness, so we do. We can cry.

It is no wonder that many of us with porous natures are caught in the tangle. The slow drip of sadness, loneliness, confusion. We are part of the mad world, and so the madness is part of us.

The only thing we can do in this smudge of a moment is LOVE fearlessly and show that love to ourselves and others.

We can raise the frequency.

“We go high.” – Michelle Obama

The Beginning

(11-9-16)

Last night I held energetic hands With Every Woman I’ve Ever Known.
So much red. Blood spill. In the darkness I lay still between my
Young Daughters. I sing to them for a miracle. They sing with me.
In the night, I wake up, knowing. God, I can’t see the miracle.
All I see is red. Trapped awake writing poetry in my head.

No waking from this nightmare. Feels like. Grief.

I have to tell my brown baby. Someone told her Trump
doesn’t like brown people. I don’t want her to know about
racism. I know she knows about racism. First grade. Loves
Hillary Clinton. L-O-V-E-S. She doesn’t believe me. I was wrong
before. Two year-old sister knows his name now. Pink lips innocent
to hate, fledgling voice violated by this bigotry embodied.

At school, public/urban/diverse, see a gay dad but not the
mothers in hijab. Don’t look at anyone too long. Sunglasses.
Closed slash of mouth. No crying in public. Children chattering
his name. Shame. The liberal bubble. Popped. A hush over
San Francisco. My daughter interviewing my husband for answers.
Meanwhile, a gas station in suburban Cleveland, someone to a
Young Black Woman: “soon enough you and all your family will be
eliminated.” Eliminated. This isn’t fiction. My cousin knows the
mother of the victim personally. I said, This isn’t fiction. This
happened, is happening, and what the actual fuck have we done.

I have gray hairs and fine lines and children and this morning damn
how could I be so naive, positively smug. We have seen too much
come too far to let this happen. Don’t I have enough reasons to worry
about my husband? Now half of our country condones the man
endorsed by the mother-fucking KKK. I don’t know what to say
anymore. Trump doesn’t love you, America. He loves power.

Extinction burst: a sudden and temporary increase in the response’s
frequency, followed by the eventual decline and extinction of the
behavior targeted for elimination. Racism. Misogyny. Homophobia. Xenophobia.
What else. Millions awakened by the cold truth, corruption revealed.
People talking about rebirth, evolution and revolution. No more time
for distractions. Conserve energy. Heal. Hope. Fever burns away the old,
clearing space. This isn’t the end of the story. It is the beginning.

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3 Reasons Modern Life Makes Parents Crazy

A 24 year-old mother of three injected her children with heroin to make them sleep. The horror of this headline is enough to pull otherwise contented mothers into an abyss of despairing solidarity. Because we cannot un-see this evidence that our own kind, at this moment, are desperate, alone, unsupported, deranged. All humans are suffering deep wounds and fighting dark demons. We are winning and we are losing, fragile and gritty, attached and dynamic. No matter how disconnected we feel, we are forever members of the same universe, our joy and pain transmuting into frequencies that wrap the earth with love and fear.

Though I cannot imagine doing what this mother did, I know the ways she felt trapped, the impossibility of motherhood without a magical solution. Though I do not know the pain of her childhood that shut the doors in her heart, I know how it feels to have children who don’t fall asleep or stay asleep, and to be desperate in this way. I cannot understand what she did, and yet in a way, I do. How many steps are there between a mother feeling crazy and going crazy?

Her children live in foster care now. They are very young, very tender. Their struggles and their suffering have only begun. They have messes to untangle, a world to be-friend. Will they ever believe the universe to be a friendly place? Will they find adults for meaningful connection before it’s too late? Will they process the abuse or will they become addicted to whatever numbs the pain? Will they forgive or will they try to forget? Will they find God or will they find heroin?

Stories like this do not make me feel better about myself as a mother. Instead, I am humbled. How easy it is to lose everything, including your mind. I had and have good parents and still I struggle to parent my children to the best of my knowledge and abilities. I make mistakes while knowing they are mistakes. Did Ashlee Hutt know it was a mistake? Does she know now? Does the guilt eat her alive at night or is she beyond guilt? How did she get this way? Why is madness so common to parenthood? Reproducing seems like a basic component of being human, something that should be instinctual and natural, but for many of us, it doesn’t end up that way.

Why? The list is long and never-ending, but worth exploring because awareness always precedes change. Here are a few ways we’re getting tripped up:

  1. The decentralization of family. We are a transient species. Immigrating, Emigrating, following jobs and money and new experiences. We live without the village. We live in single family homes, in detached cocoons. Grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins are mostly too far away, or too busy, or too preoccupied to help regularly.
  2. The individualist perspective. America, founded on the individual’s right to the pursuit of happiness, raises us to value our individuality. We learn early to ask the question, “what is best for me?” a mentality that does not serve us well when we become parents and must learn selflessness on the fly. On the other hand, parents in collectivist cultures view themselves as members of a community first and foremost. They value their work as parents as it ensures the survival and progress of the citizenry.
  3. An unsupportive government. Mothers in the UK are required to take two weeks of maternity leave, and permitted to take up to a year. Ireland’s tax code gives generous breaks for children. In Denmark, day care is readily available and heavily subsidized. The Swedish government provides parents a monthly allowance to help with the costs of raising a child. Considering our vast wealth, the United States is famously stingy in our support of parents.

And still, despite the madness we are driven to, the desperate measures we take, the guilt we harbor, the sleep we lose, every sane parent I know agrees that above all, it’s always worth it. Which may be the craziest part of all.

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Three Rules for Self-Actualizing

the new SF MOMA

Life offers vast possibility. This is the compensation for our suffering. Expansion becomes our catharsis. Happiness has been described as the movement towards fulfilling our potential.

Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who taught us about the hierarchy of needs, called it self-actualizing. He made it the tip of his pyramid. He said, “what a man can be, he must be.” This is how we occupy heaven on earth. The practice, the discipline, the mastery of recognizing one’s potential and growing to fill it. We need not achieve perfection nor possess wealth nor earn fame to self-actualize, we need simply to try our best. We need to be in it for the process. We need not wait, we can have it today.

Wayne Dyer outlined Maslow’s rules for self-actualizing in this talk with Deepak Chopra. He said there are three things that separate self-actualizers from the rest of the population:

  1. They are independent from the good opinion of other people.
  2. They are detached from outcome.
  3. They have no investment in power or control over others.

Personally, the first principle poses the biggest challenge. When I feel that uncomfortable unease regarding the judgments of others, I repeat: I am independent of the good opinion of others.

The second is a necessary reminder. I can write without expecting a certain outcome. I can post without hoping for a certain number of page views. I can parent without expecting society (or my kids) to give me recognition for my hard and heartful work.

With humble gratitude, I believe I’ve mastered the third principle; evidence that I’m on my way somewhere good.

Do you feel challenged by any of these principles? Which one(s)?

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Summer’s Last Hurrah in Sonoma

A vintage cabin in the redwoods, straight out of a Ralph Lauren catalog, a delicacy of a vacation home. Rustic luxury. Time machine. Splintered feet. Mosquito bites. Record player. Nigerian funk. Dance parties. Game nights. Dolls and books. Barbecue. Popsicles. Bedtime battles.

Then, a small place in the hills of Sebastopol, surrounded by rolling vineyards, fecund apple orchards, fairytale houses. Rusted tractors turned to sculpture. Rich food and vivid wine. Abundance of everything. Unexpected art. Blackberry trails. Purple tongues and teeth. Gravensteins. Apple fair. Deep fried fritters.

Unlike our previous trips of the summer, we didn’t do much. We hardly got into the Russian River. I thought I would run every day. I ran once. We ate out in exceptional restaurants, but more often, we cooked. We passed the time reading and playing. And when it was time to come home, we were ready and rested for a new school year, for fast mornings and short weekends, for deadlines and extracurriculars and routine.

I’m already planning Spring Break.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

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