Tag: Purpose

7Jan

Drink More Pie

The new year so far has been set to Radiohead and Frou Frou with too much black eyeliner and madly-swirled daydreams with sprinkles on top to prove it’s not moping. I’m not fooled though. It’s been hard to face these lumbering gray skies and the remains of last year lying belly-up in the recycling pile. Too many days on that calendar are circled in charcoal and navy, and I’m still not sure I took the right steps to climb out of my mental sludge. 2008 knows, but it will never tell. So I do what little I can to welcome a fresh-faced year I’m unready for: pour myself a mug of hot peppermint tea, light a cluster of candles, and write to discover the good.

A surprise pops up when I glance over a post from one year ago. Despite my pulverized post-partum emotions, 2008 granted me nearly all my weakling hopes. To enjoy my girls, to branch out in cooking, to get confidence in Italian, to take better care of my body, to befriend others, to start down a new spiritual path, to fill myself with others’ words and to fill others with my own… each resolution blossoming quietly while I looked the other way. I would feel sure I floundered through last year if not for the wealth of gifts I hold on this side of it. Several new friends. Morning dates with The Message. Pages upon pages of whimsical love letters to my girls. A recipe treasure trove. Italian vocabulary sets to go with snowboarding, doctor’s visits, board games, babysitting, school, and pie (most important of all, that one). I am rich.

Another surprise: After thinking and thinking and drawing blanks and finally giving up on a word for 2009, I bumped straight into it—Drink—one accidental word to tie up all the loose trails of thought that have wound through my head lately. Drink stands for being present in my own life and rushing headlong into meaningful experiences. It stands for choosing adventure. It stands for refusing to let fear shrivel my decisions and for indulging my ever-present thirst to learn. No resolutions this year, just this one word to live out.

Well, okay, maybe one little resolution: More pie. Yes, that will do.

20Nov

Pomegranate Seeds

The girls are finally in bed, and I’m sinking into the couch with half a beer and two fresh clementines, impulsively ignoring the to-do list that I wrote in flowery cursive to make mopping seem more appealing. (It didn’t.) These November days have been studded with these impulses, little sudden choices in favor of irresponsibility. A ten-minute detour at the park on the way home from school. A midnight game of mancala in bed when Dan and I are too restless to sleep. Guests on a whim. Dissecting a gorgeous red pomegranate instead of ironing. A second cup of tea. Rocking-chair rides with tired little girls, wrapped up in my arms with nowhere else to be.

To tell the truth, I feel embarrassingly petty writing this. Something in my soul believes, deeply, that it was meant to change the world. I feel it in music, I snag against it in great literature, I catch a glimpse of it on perfect blue-skied mornings. And yet, here I am coloring in my November with impulses. Pomegranate seeds.

But, for reasons I can hardly explain, I’m satisfied. I’ve settled into a rhythm of peace—or at least an armed neutrality—with housecleaning, and the cogs of our little family purr smoothly again. (Clean floors cover a multitude of sins, you know.) And my little spur-of-the-moment decisions toward happiness have put more than a year between now and last November. In fact, greatness may not be as far away as I once thought, wispy shreds of a future. I’m finding out that it’s more like pomegranate seeds and heart’s impulses. Like being completely present for one of my girls’ giggles. Like hopping off the beaten path with my husband. Like choosing deep breaths and whimsy. And really, that’s not so petty at all.

12May

Giggling Over Spilled Milk

(Yesterday morning)
Natalie, marching into my room with a gift bag: “Here’s your surprise, Mommy! It’s a necklace! A really pretty necklace! I got it for you, Mommy! Here!”

(This morning)
Me: “Natalie! WHY did you just spit out that mouthful of milk?!?!”
Natalie: …
Me: “WHY?!?!?!?!”
Natalie: …
Me: “Answer me, Natalie!”
Natalie: “Well… I’m kinda cute!”
Me: …
Natalie: “AND I love you!!!”

My three-year-old has two life purposes: 1) To create unnatural disasters, especially in rooms I just finished cleaning, and 2) To remind us how fabulous she is. She sings and skips and spills and strews, and just when I start to think that Jim Carrey would make a less frustrating child than mine, she charms me into giggles.

Dance party 3

Because, of course, she is kinda cute.

My scrumptious sugar-topped babyroll of a six-month-old has developed the following opinions:
– Milk is for wusses
– Crawling is for wusses
– Being little? Is for wusses

So she runs around the house in her walker, dribbling cereal on her 18-month outfits and shrieking for joy. Sophie already flaunts a mischievous streak and shares snickering secrets with her big sister, and I’m learning every day to relinquish her babyness in lieu of her adorable personness.

Mommy, Sophie, and spit-uppy leg

And also to snack on those luscious cheeks whenever possible.

I celebrate Mother’s Day not for the recognition or for the jewelry (though the necklace is superb) but for the two beautiful, loving, vivacious little girls who make mommyhood worth every drop of spilled milk.

Shoes!

15Apr

Leafshade Living

I’m having a heavy week. It’s not bad exactly, just dappled in shadow like leafshades on the grass.

Sophie’s been a fitful version of herself. She’s allergic to bananas of all things, and I can’t shake the feeling that I betrayed her trust by feeding them to her, even though she loved them. Especially because she loved them. This is such a non-problem compared to Celiac Disease or lymphoma or epilepsy or spina bifida–should I go on?–but I keep thinking about banana nut pancakes on Saturday mornings and deflating in tiny puffs.

The weather is on crack, of course, but no one wants to hear more about rain. No, wait, sun. No, rain again. April, get thee to rehab.

I’ve started an intensive workout routine called “walking around.” I am enough of a wimp that circling the neighborhood every day leaves me breathless and sore and feel-goody the rest of the time. The idea was to build up my nonexistent energy, get my blood flowing enough to wash the breakfast dishes without collapsing into a puddle of wife-slush. What I didn’t count on was loving the effort. The steady push-pull of bright air in my lungs. The rhythm of feet on pavement. Wild wisteria, children playing soccer, twilight reflecting off the city’s peak. Twenty minutes a day to expand my hunchback life.

I’ve also been sorting through the tantalizing sludge of What Do I Want To Do When I Grow Up?, except this week, it’s I Finally Know What I Want To Do, So How Do I Do It? If I ignore the time factor (specifically, how I have none), I feel ready to write for broader surroundings. This blog is my cozy little house where I can wear pajama pants all day, let the dishes pile up, and spill my unedited guts. I feel safe and happy here, but I’m aching to get out the door, maybe wear heels and sparkly earrings, give my creativity a big breath.

Now that I’m looking for them, the opportunities are overwhelming. In fact, I’m having trouble staying in tune with my goals in the face of so many almost-rights. It’s like chugging a strange cocktail of doubt, hope, turmoil, and inspiration. Can you get a hangover from excitement? I’m ready to see myself as a writer, and it’s every bit as scary as you might expect… multiplied by a majillion or so.

Taxes are done, I have a functional computer again, and the kitchen floor may just get mopped this week. I am madly in love with my family, and I know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m thinking this heaviness won’t last much longer than the smoky crack-clouds pausing outside our window.

14Jan

Part Two

Q: What’s scarier than ‘fessing up to the inadequacies of the previous year?
A: This:

2008 is my year to experience the joy and creative sparkle of writing every day, even if the dishes go unwashed. (Anyway, dishes? Vastly overrated.)
This is my year to explode in Italian fluency.
This is my year to play with vegetables–try out new recipes, fix them in inspiring ways, have a tea party with them if necessary, and maybe even start to get along with them.
This is my year to throw out all remaining frump clothes from college and explore an edgier, more exciting look. (Yeah, sexy boots, I’m talking about you.)
This is my year to intentionally bond with my little girls, whether that means re-learning the fine art of pretend or including them in my daily chores or hugging them every five minutes or making eye contact when we talk about McDonald’s, isn’t McDonald’s amazing, can we go to McDonald’s for breakfast and lunch and supper and today and tomorrow and next week, were you aware they have toys at McDonald’s, let’s go to McDonald’s RIGHT NOW, McDonald’s has hamburgers, and why have we not moved to McDonald’s yet?!
This is my year to approach religion gently, asking my questions and opening up to the answers gradually, even if I can’t yet shed the crusty negativity built up over years of Christian misrepresentation.

And now the Beyondo part of Mondo Beyondo, the terrifyingly wonderful daydream material, the list of radioactive fantasy-goals that glow and pulsate and burn:
I dream of becoming fluent in multiple languages–Italian, Spanish, French, German, and maybe even Chinese or Russian or Icelandic or Aboriginal or duck.
I dream of writing books, publishing them, seeing my words printed and bound and carving out cozy little niches on people’s nightstands.
I dream of a future me who is confident, steady, and radiantly peaceful, always.

I feel incredibly precarious writing all this down, wondering if the limb I’m edging out on will support all my weight. But wouldn’t you know, the view from here…

…is spectacular.

8Jan

Mondo Beyondo

Note: I didn’t intend to post this, the results of a therapeutic journaling session, for a few reasons:
~ I feel like I’ve already bored my readers to death by writing about this last crazy year.
~ Speaking of readers, I have readers. Readers who will read this.
~ I’m still new to this full honesty concept, and it’s terrifying. (See above.)
However, reading other people’s “Mondo Beyondos” has made me feel so affirmed in this harrowing business of being human, and I want to share that feeling–that we’re all real, with jagged edges and soft, spongey hopes, and that these twelve-month blocks we order our lives around matter more than we might ever realize. So:

“What do you want to acknowledge yourself for in regard to 2007?”

I’m proud of myself for jumping off the deep end into dream-chasing mode, for letting go of control and the need for stability. I found my secret stores of flexibility during a summer of three moves–the last, a one-week dash to another continent–and I found my secret stores of bravery during an autumn of jarringly new surroundings.

I’m proud of myself for saying goodbye to handwritten journals and a new hello to online publishing–exactly what I needed to kick start my writing again. Beginning with this impulse blog project in June, I’ve found satisfaction and resolution and incredible enjoyment through writing again. These increasing pages of text have helped me explore my voice and find clarity. Even more importantly, they have convinced me that writing is my love, my dream career, and thus my aspiration.

I’m proud of myself for learning how to care for two little girls at the same time. Despite all my previous assumptions to the contrary, I found the courage to leave the house… then to drive (stick shift, on hills, with Italian drivers, oh my)… then to run errands with both of my daughters in tow. I have been a good mother, as evidenced by the perpetual smiles on my girls’ faces, and I think they will love remembering these times through photos and wisps of memory and the letters I recently started writing them.

I’m proud of myself for digging far past my comfort zone to unearth new layers of honesty this past year. I’m also incredibly proud of my decision to stop regretting my past, my present, and everything about myself. It has certainly been a challenge for someone so accustomed to self-deprecation, but it has been freeing. I’ve found myself in the shower, mulling over blunders I think I’ve made, then pulling up short–No, this isn’t me anymore; I no longer regret myself. And perhaps this will turn out to be 2007’s greatest gift to me.

“What is there to grieve about 2007?”
I grieve that my relationship with God traveled beyond doubt and anger and simply dissipated. I need to forgive myself for leaving my Bible unopened on the shelf and my questions unasked simply because I didn’t want to face the pain.

I grieve that my relationship with Natalie moved into such rough territory. I need to forgive myself for yelling at her during bouts of frustration and for not giving her enough of my undivided attention.

I grieve that I spent so many days of the year battling depression… or not even finding the strength to battle it anymore. I need to forgive myself for being chronically tired, needy, human. I also need to forgive myself for letting the “shoulds” conquer my mind and saturate me with frustration. And I need to forgive those around me for not magically making me better or knowing the solutions that I can’t seem to find.

I grieve that I accomplished so, so little throughout the year–that I didn’t learn Italian fluently or finish my book or complete art projects or practice my instruments or cook new foods or exercise regularly (or at all) or make progress on reading lists or teach Natalie more or do volunteer work. I need to forgive myself for being one person, for being unable to multitask, and for needing so much sleep.

“What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete?”
2007 was deep and raw and intense, dark chocolate with pepperoncino eaten from the blade of a knife. It hurtled between welcome adventures and terrifying ones; it pulled us far into the joy of close friendships and then slung us away. It taught us about generosity and flexibility and courage and communication, about how we face fears and changes and the future. And even though I know it’s okay to reel in 2007’s dizzying wake for a while, I’m ready to move on.

I declare 2007 complete.

4Jan

Serenity

The new year is already up and running, but I’m wandering somewhere on the other side of the line with untied laces, trying first not to choke on the dust, second to figure out how the hell to catch up, and third to find serenity in the midst of personal chaos. That’s my wish-on-a-star for this year–serenity. It was conspicuously absent last year, and I’m suddenly feeling desperate.

Don’t get me wrong–last year was fun… in the way that hurricanes and tornados and seizures are fun. It was like a twelve-month play date with a schizophrenic giant. Dan got his master’s, we were unemployed, we were homeless, we moved three times, we shipped our possessions and selves overseas without any guarantees, we started a new life in Italy, we had a baby, and our two-year-old inexplicably turned thirteen–each a circumstance saturated with stress. 2007 should have come with a label: “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: This year may be hazardous to your health; proceed at your own risk.”

I’m wildly glad we took so many risks to chase our huge dreams, not letting practicality or security tie us down. I also know that one day, I will realize how truly incredible the payoff is. But for now, I’m spent, running on a backup generator. This holiday break has been rather disastrous, with all four of us contracting bronchitis, influenza, or a hairy scary combination of the two, and I haven’t found the space to recharge. Thus, I find myself entering 2008 with my sanity tied in knots and my view of the future splattered with calamities.

If I still believed in the power of resolutions–or at least in my own power to keep them–I would make several:

To have fun with my girls every day.
To try cooking a gourmet recipe every week.
To learn Italian fluently.
To get in shape.
To reach out to new acquaintances without fear.
To rediscover God.
To make friends with new books and rekindle my friendships with old.
To write, constantly, with all the beauty and honesty and creativity I have to offer.

But I would give up these hopes, these efforts, this carousel of trying and failing and trying again if only to have a year drenched in serenity. Then, I think I could finally find the craziness to be me.

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