Hiding.

I am a hider.

I used to say that I was a liar, which I am. I lie and I keep secrets and I “gloss over” things and I “keep things surface” sometimes. But the word ‘liar’ has such a negative connotation, and makes me feel bad. And the truthier truth is that I am not so much trying to trick YOU; I’m trying to hide ME.

I have been hiding myself for as far back as I can remember. At some point early on in this Life, I started believing that people wouldn’t love me if they knew all of the bad parts, the unattractive parts, the less shiny parts. I said earlier today that I didn’t trust other people to be able to handle me – all of me – but, again, the truthier truth is that I didn’t trust in my own worthiness. I thought that the “bad” parts – my selfishness, my self-righteousness, my greed, my desire, my enormous ego – meant that I was broken, and so I better hide those things away if I wanted people to love me.

I’m writing in the past tense, but I still carry this belief now. In fact, this belief is the deepest wound that I have and undoubtedly causes me the most suffering. Hiding is suffering. Being afraid all of the time of the truth of myself is suffering. Hustling for my worth is suffering. I am tired of suffering.

Changing a behavior is hard, and changing the belief that fuels that behavior is even harder. There is no easy button in which you “just stop.” Trust that every addict and overeater and bulimic and hoarder and obsessive worrier and gambler and shopaholic wishes that there was.

Change is hard work. Change is overcoming resistance and doubt, and plunging straight into vulnerability and fear. Change is giving up the things that give me a sense of safety and comfort, for things that scare me and make me extremely uncomfortable. Change requires sitting in our pain, long enough to realize that we can survive it, and then even longer to realize that we can grow from it. Change requires courage that I don’t always have, and faith that I am desperately trying to find. Change means that I have to keep showing up, relentlessly showing up, and doing the next right thing for as long as I get in this Life. Change is exhausting, and terrifying, and *hard fucking work.* Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Change is the work of the warrior.

Sometimes, I hate it. Sometimes, the work feels overwhelming and insurmountable, and I just want to escape. I want to gather my maladapted beliefs and behaviors around me like a goddamn ironclad security blanket and block everyone else out. The world is so scary and this Life is so hard and I am so tired.

I sometimes don’t know if this work is worth the struggle. But my strongest belief of all is that Love Wins, always. It must because I just haven’t found any compelling alternatives. And when I’m feeling particularly disheartened or broken or experiencing a strong vulnerability hangover (as I am today, from practicing this whole ‘not hiding’ stuff), the belief that love – real, genuine, authentic, imperfect love – is worth struggling for and showing up for and coming out of hiding for is the thing that helps me sleep, so that I can get up and try again tomorrow. 

♥️

*Photo and idea credit: Glennon Doyle.

All Things Can Be Mended.

Hello Loves,

I had a GNARLY work week. (“Gnarly” and “stoked” are Santa Cruz words that I’m slowly incorporating into my vocabulary. Like I did with “y’all” and “ma’am” in Austin.) For two days, all of the big-hearted people in my office kept checking in on how I was doing because everyone understood how hard my job had been on Tuesday night. I also pretty much gave up on working by early on Friday afternoon because I was just done.

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My favorite rose bush, in our garden.

People often ask how we do the work that we do, and I often just smile and shrug. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Because the answer is complex and multi-faceted and not easily fit into a conversation. But two parts of that answer particularly shone through this week: 1) I know what’s mine and what isn’t. The tragedy that occurred this week wasn’t mine. I had to tell people about it and bear witness to it and hold space for other’s feelings about it, but, at the end of the day, my life rolled on without great impact. This approach could be misinterpreted as callous or heartless or cold, but it may just be a realistic way to do this job and to live in this world. We cannot take on every other person’s personal tragedy as our own; nor should we, actually. As Glennon says, pain is holy, and it’s not my job to steal other’s pain. They earned it – I didn’t – and they might need that pain to do their work and to grow in this life. 2) I work with some really solid, really compassionate, really loving people. As Mr. Rogers’ mother said, when tragedy strikes and we feel panicked, look for the helpers; they will be rushing in. They rush towards the pain and they help. And I work with an office filled with helpers. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the love and consideration that came pouring at me this week. People are so good; their goodness never ceases to amaze me and fill my heart. Go Team Humanity. 🖤❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

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Also! The littles help. When I’m having a hard time processing all of my adult problems, all I want is to hug babies and be around children. Their innocence restores hope. So, I spent Wednesday night with my friends’ kiddo – for whom I have earned “auntie” status in the past few months – playing and doing an improvisational ballet-inspired dance to Lionel Richie’s “Ballerina Girl.” And then I was gifted with the below hand-drawn picture from another friend’s kiddo on Wednesday morning, which basically made my week. The kids are alright.

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In other news, last weekend, I started a “Heartsong Journal,” an idea created by my friend, Rachel (the person from whom I get literally all of my writing and journaling projects). I have been contemplating starting one since she wrote about it, but couldn’t quite commit; I mean, I have a lot of journals. 🤓 But then I woke up last Saturday morning with zero plans and realized that I absolutely had to start one of these that day.

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Why yes, I did steal the title of this journal from a stunningly beautiful memoir by Ann Patchett. I prefer to think of it as paying tribute to a much beloved book.

I spent so much of my three-day weekend in my room writing in this journal that even my roommate – who has been known to lose herself in hours of craft projects – commented that it might be “getting weird.”

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I also picked up three new Tombow pens. I let myself buy three for each new season.

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When my friends showed up – because I do also have a social life, I swear – they found me practicing calligraphy (because I wasn’t super thrilled with how the title of this poem came out and realized that I needed to practice). They also graciously complimented my work because they are sweet and generous like that. 🙂

This journal is also great practice in not losing my shit because I made a mistake. I kind of love handwriting and calligraphy, and I also love for my journals to look beautiful in my own minimalist way. (I say minimalist because if you follow some of the bullet/dot journal-ers in the world, you will see that they are true works of art. I just have nice handwriting, colorful pens, and washi tape.) But, that’s just not the way my journal or my life goes. I make mistakes. I’m human, as it turns out. And I can’t just throw a fit every time something doesn’t turn out the way that I had hoped because that is both unskillful and unproductive. And besides, I don’t even believe in perfection; it’s a fantasy, and we cannot try to force our very real, very human lives into a very unreal fantasy. We must learn to let it go.

I kicked off this weekend on Friday night by cleaning my room, including refolding all of my clothes, putting my hanging clothes in order of color, and hanging my house plant with the macrame cord that my mama sent me. Saturday morning, I woke up and did some morning pages, and then started writing a short essay on why I’m not ready to start dating (that I will probably finish later this week and maybe post here). Then, my friend and I went hiking at the Quail Hollow Preserve, and both the hike and the company were quite beautiful. 💞 We accidentally walked about 3-4 times more than we meant to, but we got smoothies afterwards, so it all worked out. After I dropped her off, I ran some errands and had lunch with another friend, then came home and laid on my bed for 40 solid minutes because I was so tired from the heat and the dehydration. When I got up, I made some tea and lived my best life, reading in the garden for a bit.

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I actually got a TAN LINE from our hike. This almost never happens for me, and will fade probably by Monday, but still! (And yes, Mom, I was wearing sunblock.) 

And then I came inside to write to all of you. 😘Tomorrow, I am heading to the Redwood Mountain Faire with a friend and her family, and I’m pretty excited about it. Despite all the tragedy this week and the brokenness in the world, I live a pretty freaking lovely life, and I (almost) never forget it. ♥️

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Happy Saturday, Loves!

Adulting.

Hello Loves,

I want to lighten things back up around here, as I know that I’ve been posting some heavier stuff (on the heels of being MIA for a few months). My Grandma’s death has made me sadder than I expected to be for longer than I expected to be. I miss her, and I miss the farm, and reckoning with the reality of death is kind of a bitch. And because I am more comfortable being joyful and ‘fiiiiiiine’ all the time, sitting with sadness is challenging, and I mostly want to ‘fix’ it. But I can’t. And trying to force myself to feel better just made me feel anxious and unsettled.

SO, last week, my therapist asked me how I could get grounded again, and I made a decision to not make any new plans for three weeks. The plans that I already had could stay, but the rest of my schedule would be ‘spacious,’ to use a word that my sponsor loves. And it has been glorious, and helped tremendously. I’m still sad, but I do feel more grounded. And I stopped trying to fix my feelings because…they aren’t broken! Being sad is part of the human experience, and this is yet another growth opportunity on the journey towards accepting (and celebrating) my humanity. 🙏🏼

Anyway, here’s some things that I’ve been up to: My roommate was out of town all last week, so I was responsible for keeping the garden and the cats alive. I watered every morning, which cut into my meditation time, but I decided that tending to a garden was meditative enough. On Thursday, I hosted two friends for dinner at my house for the first time in…seven years? I can’t even remember. We had bread and crackers and cheeses, and I made a frittata with potatoes and broccoli, and a chopped salad. We talked and laughed and drank wine, and it was very lovely. 💞 On Friday night, another friend and I had dinner out. We talked about relationships and our childhoods and our worth and our spiritual growth, and I marveled at the level of vulnerability I can have with my friends and how rich those connections can be as a result. After dinner, I drove home on West Cliff, and the light was so pretty that I parked and sat and listened to the ocean for awhile, and thought about how freaking lucky I am to live here. Saturday morning, I took another early-rising friend for a hike in Henry Cowell park that I’d been on once before. Early morning hikes are special because there aren’t many other people, so it sort of feels like all of the beauty is just for you. After the hike, I came home and ate Thursday night’s leftovers in our garden. It felt so indulgent, and I felt pretty smug about my level of adulting for the week. And THEN, I spontaneously went plant shopping with another friend, and I bought a houseplant!!!! The pinnacle of adulting was achieved. Except… I bought a hanging plant because I remembered there was a hook on my ceiling. And there is; you can see it in the above picture, wayyyyyy at the top of my very high ceiling, where my new plant looked absolutely ridiculous. So, for now, the plant is living on my window ledge or on my easel. (My mom offered to send me some macrame cord to use, so that it’ll hang a bit lower.)

Saturday night, I paid $2.99 to rent The Matrix, which I watched for the first time several months ago, and loved. I don’t normally think of myself as a sci-fi fan, but I really enjoy the explorations of reality and consciousness and humanity and whatnot. (I love Westworld for the same reason.) I also worked on my puzzle while I watched.

I broke my book-buying ban (and my rule against buying hardcovers) to order this one, and feel pretty solid about that choice. I love Austin Channing Brown’s work, I love memoirs, and all of my love leaders were vouching for it. (Also – I actually break my book-buying ban all the time. I did it a few weeks ago because I was sad and wanted to feel better, and buying books makes me happy. There are worse vices. 🤓)

I did a little bit more adulting on Monday, making two doctors appts that I’ve been putting off, increasing my contribution to deferred comp and setting up another thing for savings, and hanging some pictures in my room. AND, my roommate’s birthday is on Friday and I already got the perfect card AND a little gift to leave for her in the morning, two days early. I mean, who am I? (I haven’t actually written the card yet, so there’s that. Progress not perfection, people!)

In conversations with my roommate, we also figured out two important and simple truths this week:

1. The work of Life = reckoning with what to believe (about yourself, humanity, this world, this Life) + continuous practice in living in accordance with those beliefs.

2. Happiness = do more of what feels good and less of what feels bad.

So, what I’m saying is, I made more time in my schedule and used that extra time to basically solve all of the problems in my life and this world. Go team!

Love yous.

I Grew It Myself.

I was walking around my neighborhood today, and a guy leaned out his car window and said, ‘Mmm! Thank you, Beautiful. Thank you!’

This is not an unusual occurrence. In fact, it’s an extremely usual occurrence. Allow me to explain why I hate it so much.

One: While I exert some minimal amount of effort to take care of my body – I don’t eat as much sugar or junk food as my monkey mind wants to, I move regularly, I eat a lot of vegetables – I don’t have a lot of control over how my body looks. It’s basic shape was out of my hands; my face was not my creation. Mostly, I have nothing to do with how I look. I know that I’m expected to say, ‘Thank you’ when someone compliments my body or my face, but that seems disingenuous, as though I’m accepting credit for something that I have nothing to do with. (I’m kind of fond of facetiously saying, ‘Thanks? I grew it myself.’) And frankly, I don’t want that credit. Because my body won’t always have the somewhat aesthetically-pleasing shape that it has now, and I don’t want to also have to accept responsibility – or, blame, depending on how harsh the critic is – for how my body will look as it ages.

Two: Because I have zero control over my looks, I feel really, really anxious that they matter so fucking much. And do not fool yourself: they matter SO. Fucking. Much. Image – and looks are a part of image – is a core value in this American culture.*

Three: Because my looks matter so much in this culture – and because I live in this culture – I fucking like it when people compliment my body. And I HATE that I like it. I hate that when a friend says, ‘She looks good for 50,’ my first thought is, ‘I hope that I look good at 50.’ I hate that when people compliment my looks, I feel like I’m earning my worth. I’m a goddamn ‘hardcore’ feminist: I don’t want to fucking like having societally-accepted looks. I don’t want to hold this value, to be indoctrinated into this value. Self-hatred is vicious, and every time someone compliments the way I look, I am involuntarily pulled into a spiral of shame for liking it. So… THANKS.

Four: This toxic value serves no one, except advertising companies (whose entire job is to get us to buy things we don’t need). We starve ourselves to be thin. We spend insane amounts of money on makeup / skin creams / diet programs / hair products. We undergo surgical procedures to change our bodies. These are not the behaviors of people who feel good.

Five: We are SO MUCH MORE than the way we look. We all know this. We are minds, we are hearts, we are souls. How did the shape of the vessel that we use to carry these precious parts of us through this Life become more important than what the vessel holds? Why did we decide that the body matters more than our character, our love, our wisdom, our creativity? Because, make no mistake: we did. One glance at our current president or the number of followers a Kardashian has confirms that we are living in a country that has forgotten what matters.

I don’t want to forget.

*Image + money + convenience = America’s value system. And it’s making us all so fucking happy. (see: addiction epidemic, obesity epidemic, rates of depression/anxiety) Deep sigh. 😣

Snow, Sweat, and Tears.

[This post is kind of a disconnected mess. Which is actually a pretty solid reflection of how I am right now. So… enjoy! 🤪]

On the morning after my Grandma died, before I knew she was gone, it snowed at Breitenbush. I woke up early to take a 7AM yoga class, and when I arrived, exclaimed excitedly – as though no one else could see for themselves – ‘it’s snowing!’ I remember when I was in elementary school the way our teacher would lose control of the class once it started snowing, all of our eyes glued in wonder to the snowflakes falling outside. Twenty-five years later and I am still that kid with her nose pressed to the window.

After I found out my Grandma died, I cried for two hours and then went back to my workshop, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do and because I didn’t want to drive down a mountain through the snow and my tears. I considered not telling anyone what had happened. After all, I had only known these people for a few days, and telling them sounded awkward. I didn’t want to bum people out, or – worse – have them think that I was being dramatic over my 97 year-old grandmother’s extremely timely death. But, I was at a workshop based on mindfulness and sitting with our feelings and being an authentic human, so I marched up to my two new friends and told them. We hugged, and I didn’t even have to make them feel better about me being sad.

That afternoon was pretty special. We had a sweat lodge – the first that I’d ever been in – and I was nervous. Someone had told us that it can be hard for claustrophobic people, a fact that I immediately glommed on to as evidence that I would most likely die in there. Or get badly burned falling on the coals in a panic-driven attempt to escape. My new friends and I adopted the mantra, ‘Just breathe and don’t freak out,’ and decided that that was a pretty good mantra for both the sweat lodge and life. We held hands when it went dark inside, and I dug my toes into the cool earth. Our teacher dedicated our sweat lodge to my Grandma, Mayme Rose, and I held my friends’ hands and my tears mixed with my sweat as I cried into the darkness and the heat.

After the sweat lodge, we stripped out of our muddy, sweat-drenched clothes and immediately got in the hot springs tubs. To my immense delight, the snow started falling again while we were in the tubs. I was in awe. ‘I’ve never been naked, outside, while it’s snowing!’ Our hair and eyelashes were white with snow, while our bodies remained warm, submerged in the hot springs. We talked for hours while we soaked and the snow fell, and I was pretty sure that I’d made some lifelong friends by the time we got out. The whole experience was magical, and we all felt so lucky to be there, together.

That night, at our evening meeting, I shared that I had found out that my Grandma died that morning, which was devastating, and then I had the BEST day. I had wanted to leave that morning – I had told my friend in Santa Cruz, ‘I just want to go HOME,’ though, I have no idea where I was imagining ‘home’ was at that moment – and had stayed, and instead had a day that I will not soon forget.

I’m not sure what the point of this story is. It’s just a memorable day because there was so much hard and so much good smooshed together into one twelve-hour period. In retrospect, that day was the calm before the storm. I was still wrapped in a cocoon of retreat, nature, community, and whole-heartedness, and the grief that would settle in to my heart the next day hadn’t yet arrived.

It’s been nearly five weeks, and I surprised myself by crying in my therapist’s office this morning at the mention of my Grandma’s death. I was trying to figure out why I have been feeling so unsettled, so off center, so untethered. My Grandma died and I wanted to go home, and five weeks later, I’m still not quite sure where home is. And also, I don’t believe that I am entitled to this sadness. She was my Grandma and she was old, and this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s not like I talked to her everyday or even every month. How can I feel such a big loss when she took up such a small amount of space in my daily life?

I sort of know the answer: With nearly every other person in my life, I hustle for my worth; I think that I need to earn their love. But with my Grandma, I truly believed that her love for me was unconditional. Nobody else will ever look at me the way my Grandma did; I see that same love in the way my own mom looks at my niece. There is no responsibility, no exhaustion, no expectations. That Grandma Love is so special, and I am so lucky to have had it, and I am also so greedy because I just want more. I miss my Grandma so much.

The day that I found out she died is just a microcosm of Life, right? So much hard and so much good smooshed into one Life experience. It’s a mess (much like me. And this post). If you’re lucky, you find more good than hard. But for sure, you will get both. I’ve known that, on an intellectual level, but this is the first time that I’ve felt it so deeply. And it’s fucking uncomfortable. I want to ‘fix’ my sad, to question it’s validity, to escape and distract from it, to think my way out of feeling. But, apparently, that’s not how things work. Apparently, I have to ‘feel my feelings.’ I love Buddhism and therapy and meditation right up until they become fucking uncomfortable for me. But I’m gonna keep sitting with these feelings. Because I know the alternative all too well, and it’s worse. So…

Right now, it’s like this.

🙏🏼♥️

My Grandma.

It has been three weeks since my Grandma died. I’m surprised by how sad I still am. After all, she was ninety-seven, and – even though I had sort of convinced myself that she would live for at least five more years – I knew that she could die at any time. But as it turns out, the lack of tragedy around her death does not make me any less sad. And I am so, so sad.

My Grandma died while I was on retreat in Oregon, taking a meditation workshop and soaking in the hot springs and enjoying the respite from cell service. On the day that she died, we had a grief ceremony as part of the workshop, and people were talking about loved ones that had died. I was thinking how lucky I was that I am thirty-three and didn’t have anything to contribute, and also thinking about my Grandma, and how painful her eventual death would be for me. She died that night. I found out the next morning when someone in the workshop gave me a note stating that my mom was trying to reach me. I blinked, said, “That’s alarming,” and left the workshop. The five minutes that it took me to walk from there to the main office were excruciating. I knew that my mother wouldn’t be calling me at the retreat unless someone had died or something equally serious had happened, and my imagination ran wild with the unknown. When she told me that Grandma had died the previous night, I felt a mixture of relief (that it was, at least, an expected death) and immense pain. I cried for the next two hours, and then returned to the workshop. We had a sweat lodge that afternoon that our teacher dedicated to my Grandma. My sangha held me, and I felt so lucky to be where I was. 🙏🏼

The eleven hour drive home after the workshop ended was too long. I was too emotionally raw to listen to music, and so I half-listened to podcasts to distract myself. The following four days were a blur. On one of them, I decided that I could not wait any longer to get to Wisconsin, to my family, to my mom, and desperately tried to change my flight, to no avail. I went to my office for two of the days – I had already been out the previous week at the retreat, so I had a lot of work to do, and thought it would be a good distraction – and quickly remembered that I do not have the kind of job that can be done halfway. Some people didn’t know about my Grandma, so I had several conversations that started with an enthusiastic question about how my vacation was and ended with me totally bumming the other person out. Other people who knew about my Grandma came by to offer condolences, which warmed my heart. I left early both days, and was overwhelmed with gratitude for my co-supervisors, who kept checking on me, took me to lunch, encouraged me to take time, and covered my work while I was gone. People are so, so good. 💞

During the last twenty minutes of my travels, as I was en route to our family farm – my Grandma’s farm – I wondered if this would be my last trip to Wisconsin, if this would be the last time that I came to the farm. My Grandma dying is one loss; my connection to the farm and to Wisconsin is another. I sobbed in my rental car.

The two full days that I was in Wisconsin included the wake and the funeral. The open casket made me uncomfortable, and I dealt with my discomfort by talking about what a weird practice open caskets are, and repeatedly stating, “It’s not really her.” But when they closed her casket and lowered her into the ground, my heart wrenched with the thought that I’d never see her again.

So many people came to see my Grandma. She used to worry that she had lived so long that there would be no one left to come to her funeral. She was wrong. She was so loved, more than she even knew. The wake lasted for four hours, and there was no more than one five-minute window in which there was no one coming in. My dad and his siblings were champs, standing and greeting each person that came through, while my cousins and I sat around eating snacks, talking, and taking turns holding my brother’s baby.

People – including my cousins, who wrote and gave her eulogy – spoke beautifully about my Grandma. Everyone – everyone – talked about how much she loved her family, how much she talked about all of us, how proud she was. One of my cousins commented that she made everyone feel like her favorite, which must be true, as – up until that moment – I had secretly believed that I was her favorite. When I walked into her room, her face would genuinely light up, and when I left, she would whisper in my ear, repeatedly, ‘I love you so, so much.’

My Grandma was a devout Catholic, but her faith was bigger than her religion; her faith was deeply rooted in the goodness of humans. She loved people, and so they loved her. She took her time with them, and had a gift for making others feel like they were the only person that mattered. Because when they were with her, they were. My Grandma is the person that taught me how to love with my whole heart.

At her funeral, I held my cousins’ hands, and held my niece tightly as my Grandma was lowered into the ground. My dad was holding my nephew and I caught him wiping away tears. Later that night, back at the farm, my cousins and I crowded into my grandparents’ bedroom to watch video interviews with members of our family from my grandparents’ 50th anniversary celebration in 1990, spliced together with interviews from my cousin’s 2006 wedding. We laughed and cried, and felt the weight of time passing, and knew how precious this time together was. I left the farm the next day accompanied by the greatest heartbreak I have ever experienced.

C.S. Lewis said, ‘No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.’ This is my first experience with real grief and I find his observation to be extremely true. My Grandma was the glue that held our very special family together. In the 2006 video interviews, everyone is asked their favorite part of being a Ledvina, and nearly everyone gives a variation of the answer, ‘the Ledvinas just love being together so much.’ I am so afraid of losing my family. I am afraid that I’ve lost my connection to Wisconsin, to the place where I was born, to cheese curds, to my family’s past, to a farmhouse wrapped in sweet nostalgia. I am afraid of the knowledge that my family will keep growing older, that my grandma was not young and so neither are her children, that there will be more loss. Logically, I have always known that death is a part of life, that if I hoped to live a long life, I’d have to live through other’s deaths. But logic is blissfully devoid of emotion, and the pain of reality is a bitch. The first several days after I came home, I woke up and immediately started counting down the hours until I could get back in bed.

Last week, I woke up one day and laughed with my roommate, and then felt guilty. ‘How can I be feeling joy already when my Grandma is dead?’ I texted my cousins, who easily reassured me that my Grandma would want me to feel joy and to embrace my life. In her eulogy, my cousins told the story of my grandparents being on a cruise ship, shaking hands with the captain, and my grandma laughing in amazement that two farmers from the Midwest were eating shrimp while sailing across the ocean to a foreign country. My Grandma lived her life in awe of the gift that she had been given, spreading her love and her gratitude and her joy wherever she went. This Life is so precious, and all I want for mine is to live in a way that would make my Grandma proud. ♥️

Hippie Hair.

Last week, I chopped my hair off.

When I was eight years-old, my mom made me cut off my long hair. She was tired of me screaming in pain when she tried to comb through my incredibly thick long hair. (As an adult, I totally understand my mom’s position on this, as the dread associated with combing my hair resulted in the stretching of days between hair washings from three to four to sometimes five days.) I cried in the chair while the poor hairdresser did what the person paying her told her to do, and then spent hours moping and crying in my room when I got home. (Then, THEN, the next day, my 3rd grade teacher started the day by saying, “Awwww, what happened to your hair?” and making a sad face. That was SUPER helpful.) Ironically? I ended up really liking it, and eventually abashedly admitted this fact to my mom and apologized to the sweet hairdresser. This incident taught me some of the facts of life: Nothing – including the length of your hair – is permanent. And that’s okay because sometimes change brings new beauty.

Since then, I’ve gone back and forth between short and long hair, with a bias toward the long hair (because it just takes so long to grow long hair; once it’s long, I want to enjoy it for a minute…or a couple of years). But, I think that this is the longest time period that I’ve had my hair long in my life. Danny liked it long, and once I got to California, I immediately developed an affinity for the long “California girl” hair, and I liked that people could recognize that I was a “hippie” – and all the socio-political views that being a “hippie” entails – just from my hair. Over time, I grew attached to that image.

🎶…We don’t want to live like kooks

Just want to live in-between

Not square, not hippie, and not like you

Good American kids with dreams…🎵

When I told my friend, Amber, that I wanted to cut my hair because I was “too attached” to it, and wanted to – literally – cut the attachment, she laughed and said something like, “So you want to cut your hair because you like it too much?” Yes, yes, I do.

But it’s also deeper than that. (Not much deeper because, we are still talking about hair.) In my dabblings into Buddhism, I’ve re-learned about impermanence. Almost nothing in this Life is permanent. Relationships change and grow; people and plants and pets die; jobs don’t last; resources get depleted; objects break; we move; we create new people; managers retire; the atmosphere is affected by humans’ short-sighted use of fossil fuels; trees fall down or burn up. Everything changes. And our human denial of that simple fact – our attachment to things staying the way they are, particularly when things are pleasant – creates a lot of unnecessary suffering. We do our best to keep things the way we want them, and then we feel sad / betrayed / lost / angry / unsettled when they change anyway.

In Al-Anon, too, we learn about the dangers of attachment – to people, to outcomes, to places, to all the things that we have no control over. At the beginning of every meeting, we recite The Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” And you know what? Most of the time, the “things I can” change boil down to my perspective and my own behavior. That’s about it.

And so, what I’m saying is, cutting off my hair was actually a deeply symbolic gesture of my cutting off attachment. Of my detachment. Of my acceptance that nothing is permanent, and that does not have to be scary or bad. Of my realizing how ridiculous being attached to “hippie hair” is, which is actually just an attachment to – or an attempt to control – how other people see me.

Or, you know, it was just a freaking haircut.

Painting.

You may remember about a year ago when I did this painting workshop thing at work, and – surprisingly – really liked it. The painting, the ambiance in the room, the break from work, the low pressure emphasis all made the experience really enjoyable. We drew ourselves, and then created a “self-care” plan. My mother, being the adorable and incredibly supportive person that she is, took the iphone picture that I sent her of my creation, blew it up, and framed it. It’s now sitting in their dining room.

Since then, I’ve talked often about wanting to paint again. Every time I went into the art store downtown, I wished that I was an artist, so that I’d have a reason to shop in that store more. (I only went in for fancy pens and their killer card selection.) I had priced out easels and paints – I even had a wishlist on Amazon entitled “The Arts” – but could not quite bring myself to pull the trigger on something that I didn’t know if I’d really use and, frankly, felt kind of silly buying. Because I don’t know how to paint.

But when my parents asked for ideas for birthday gifts for me this year, I decided to add the easel, some watercolors, brushes, and paper to my potential gift list, and I was overwhelmed with their generosity when they got me nearly everything on the list.

I set up the easel last weekend and loved looking at it. I took pictures and sent them to my friends, confidently saying, “My parents got me an easel for my birthday, so… I guess I’m going to learn to paint.” I am moving next month – into the house one of my friend’s lives in – and told everyone that I was going to set up a painting corner in my huge bedroom. I started looking up painting classes in Santa Cruz. I was going to be a painter!

…Except that I was scared to actually try the painting. Those painting classes came with intimidatingly long lists of materials that I didn’t totally understand. And there are acrylics, and watercolors, and oil paints, and I have only the vaguest idea of the difference between those mediums. And… I don’t know how to paint.

Then, I found myself full of free time this afternoon, and the easel kept looking at me. I couldn’t, though. What would I paint? I don’t know how to paint. And then I remembered what Elizabeth Gilbert taught us when she decided to try writing poetry. She didn’t know how to write poetry. But she wrote a poem anyway and reported, “It wasn’t a great poem, but nobody died from it.” So I remember Liz, and then I thought, “Well, maybe I could try painting, and even if it isn’t great, nobody will die, probably.”

And so I put on a mix of Jaymay, First Aid Kit, and Phish as background music, and I painted today. Because I didn’t really know what to paint, I went back to what we learned in that workshop. I drew a picture of my face, and a bunch of self-care things around my head. And then I painted my drawing.

🎶…Truth that starts as understanding finds you in the night

The circles all around the ceiling, a frightened bird in flight

After spending hours beneath it, everything comes clear

Truth will pose no danger to you, what haunts you both is fear

And if this darkness came from light

Then light can come from darkness, I guess…🎵

It’s not great. The pens that I used to draw did not respond well to water and bled all over the place. [I think that we used a Sharpie in the workshop; I’m going to email the facilitator on Monday to confirm.] But, nobody died. Nobody died at all! AND, I actually had fun! Like, I really want to do it again. I want to get some Sharpies and draw more things and then paint them. And I want to tackle the intimidating materials list and take one of those damn art classes. As it turns out, it doesn’t freaking matter if I don’t know how to paint (or draw, for that matter) because it’s fun anyway!

And, I mean, of course it’s fun. Painting was fun when we were kids. Kids love painting. Kids love doing a lot of things that adults don’t because kids have not yet learned to be afraid of failure. I love listening to my three year-old niece sing with gusto and watching my friend’s three year-old dance with abandon; it’s like watching freedom. Little children have not yet learned to feel insecure or embarrassed or afraid of looking silly or wrong or like they don’t know what they’re doing. Kids are just doing the damn thing. They know that nobody is going to die. They don’t even know to consider that anyone might die.

I have friends – mostly internet friends from my Bullet Journal groups – who, instead of making resolutions, choose a word to embody what they want for that year, and then they do things related to that word for the year. I think that it’s a cute idea, but have never done it. But then, earlier this week – probably around the arrival of the easel – I couldn’t get the word create out of my head. I want to create paintings. I want to create essays. I want to create new friendships. I want to create progress at work. I want to create boundaries with unhealthy or toxic people. I want to create the life that I want to be living. Because I can. We don’t have control over many things in Life – that’s part of the adventure – but we do have control over what we do and who we spend time with and the perspective that we choose in our daily lives. I can create a life that I love living.

And that life is going to include painting, apparently.

👩🏻‍🎨

———————————————————-

[I need to add a disclaimer here that I am exceptionally privileged. Having the resources to buy these supplies (or parents with the resources to buy these supplies for me) is privilege. Not having to work a second job on the weekends to make ends meet is privilege. Having access to these supplies is privilege. Having the time and energy to spend painting – as opposed to say, fighting for survival in a war-torn, food-impoverished area of the world – is privilege. Having a home is privilege. Having an extremely comfortable life is privilege, and one that makes my everyday perspective a helluva lot easier to keep positive.]

Thirty-three.

I am turning thirty-three tomorrow.* When I write out “thirty-three,” I realize that I’ve lived three decades plus three years, and that seems older than I feel in my head.

I know plenty of people that are super reflective on their birthdays. I remember having a conversation with Brother on one of his last three birthdays (30, 29, 28), in which he shared that he expected to have accomplished far more by that age. I was equally amused and confused; my Brother is fairly accomplished and, by some standard measures, much more so than his two-years-older sister.

I want to be reflective on my birthday, but I’m generally working too hard at insisting that it’s just an average Tuesday and age doesn’t mean a thing to entertain any kind of introspection. But as I was walking by the ocean at sunset, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy (sunsets and oceans almost always have that effect), and had the desire to give some reflection a try.

Last year on my birthday, I was, to some degree, suffering. Danny and I weren’t in a great place, but I wasn’t telling anyone that, and so I spent the day happy and incredibly grateful for my friends and for Danny’s efforts to make it a good day despite everything, but also alone. Nobody knew what was happening in my head or what was really going on in my life, and I wanted it that way, but it was lonely. Loneliness is the cost of valuing image more than authenticity, of valuing what things look like instead of the beautiful humanity of how things are. I didn’t even know that I was lonely.

This year, I am alone, physically, in my apartment, and I think that this will be the first year that I’ve ever spent a birthday sleeping alone in my home. Am I where I thought that I would be when I was thirty-three? If I really focus on what my younger self imagined for my 30s, I can vaguely remember thinking that I would probably have a Ph.D. by now and be ready to start having kids. My mom had me – her first kid – when she was thirty-three.

But as I try to remember what I imagined for thirty-three when I was younger, I realize how irrelevant it is. What difference does it make what my eighteen year-old self thought thirty-three looked like? I mean, seriously: What did she even know about how this whole life thing works? [It’s worth noting, too, that my eighteen year-old self rebelled hard against the idea that her life would be linear and neat and square and just like The Jones. And when my twenty-two year-old self got into her dream graduate school, she literally cried on the phone with her then-boyfriend, telling him about her secret fear that everything in her life was lining up too neatly and that she was going to wake up when she was forty with a white picket fence and two kids and realize she had given in to the mainstream. So, really, if my eighteen year-old self had been introspective back then, she might have realized that that version of what thirty-three looks like wasn’t even something that she wanted.]

Some better questions, I think, are Am I where my thirty-three year-old, present day self wants to be, doing what I want to do, with the people I want in my life? Am I content? Am I striving to live in accordance with my values? The answer to all of these is an easy yes. My life now is filled in ways that I could not have predicted when I was eighteen because I didn’t even know these options existed. I didn’t know that I could choose joy, by most of the time doing things that I love with people that I love. I didn’t know that I could choose gratitude, by seeing around the horror and disbelief at our country’s elected method to execute our inevitable fall from World Superpower, to the people rushing in to help, and by going outside often enough to love my neighbors and smell the roses. I didn’t know that I could choose my own god damn worthiness. I can scarcely believe how long I have spent hustling, in a million different ways, for my worth. This is the year I learned that I can literally choose how I want to live and how I want to see the world and this life and myself each day.

I learned a lot of things in the last year, actually. I think that is a natural byproduct of change, or of life not going as planned or anticipated. And I am so deeply good with that. The thing is, Life didn’t promise me anything, other than maybe an adventure. There are no guarantees that it will be easy – in fact, if anything, Life is pretty much guaranteed to have hard parts – and I’m starting to suspect that maybe that’s part of the actual plan, a plan that is much bigger than anything that I could come up with on my own. Who knows?

What I do know is that I am exceedingly grateful to be getting older (as I am fond of saying: It’s certainly better than the alternative), to be garnering wisdom, to be becoming more myself, to be getting healthier and more joyful and freer, to be living where my feet are. Thirty-three looks pretty damn good from right here.

*I wrote this last night. So, I’m actually turning thirty-three today.

Community. 

When I first moved away from the tri-state area, to Colorado, I remember my mom telling me that it takes about two years of living somewhere to start to feel settled there. That’s about how long it takes to get to know the city, make some real friends, find your favorite coffee shop and bookstore, and figure out where you fit in with what the city has to offer. In other words, two years is how long it takes to start feeling a sense of community. This timeframe has proven true in all three cities that I’ve lived in since I graduated. The flaw in the plan is that I left both Fort Collins and Austin soon after I hit that mark. 

Because of Santa Cruz’s culture, I made friends and felt like the city was a fit from the get-go. After all, I chose to live here; CO and TX were both a result of Adam’s job and – while I was not opposed to living in either, very much enjoyed both, and remain grateful for the time that I spent there – they were not places that I would’ve thought of living had Intel not been located there. Santa Cruz is the first place that I’ve lived that I decided that I wanted to live in, and went about making that happen. 
That being said, I’ve now been living here for about two and a half years, and I found myself telling my parents during our Skype date last week about just how settled I feel here, and how much I love the different communities that I’ve found. 

I almost never impulsively buy anything, but after looking at this poster 27 times in a week, I bought it. I love The National (band), and love these lyrics. And Facebook kept showing it to me over and over again! 😝


Last Friday night was a really special night for me at Al-Anon. A friend of mine that currently leads the Friday night meeting texted me on Thursday afternoon to ask me to “chair” that meeting. Which basically means that you share a bit of your own story – what brought you to Al-Anon, what you are learning, where you’re at now – for about 15 minutes in the beginning of the meeting; and then, for the rest of meeting, most of the people who “share” talk about the parts of your story that they related to. 
I was nervous. While I am pretty comfortable with public speaking and have been giving educational presentations to various community agencies throughout my career, publicly speaking about myself makes me feel a bit more vulnerable. 😬 But I’ve been trying to practice this concept that I learned from either Brené Brown or Glennon (or both) about changing the thing that you value from “doing things well/perfectly/right” to “courage.” That way, all that you have to do to “succeed” is show up. It doesn’t matter what happens after that; if you fumble for words or fall on your face, you had the courage to show up and that’s all that matters. 

This is a card that I got for Danny at The Flying Pig (in Wisconsin) in 2013. I still love it.


So, I showed up. And wore my favorite rainbow tie-dye dress for confidence (and distraction). Glennon has written before about sweating profusely when she’s nervous or gives public speeches, but I always thought she was being a tiny bit dramatic. I thought wrong. She gives speeches to hundreds (maybe thousands?) of people, and I gave mine to a group of about ten, and, literally, my entire body was covered in sweat by the time I finished talking. And I didn’t stop sweating until about 35 minutes after. 

BUT, I did it. And people told me that they liked it. One of my girlfriends told me that they felt like I was giving a presentation, like a TED talk. It was all very flattering and self-esteem boosting. AND, the best part was that, afterwards, this woman who is about my age, that I’ve been inspired by since I started going to Al-Anon, that I had actually hoped would be there that night to see my chair, came to talk to me about being my sponsor. Like AA/NA, the Al-Anon program also includes sponsorship and “working the [12] steps,” and I’ve been thinking more seriously about getting a sponsor for the past few months. And I’ve been thinking that it should be this woman! So, that was pretty amazing. She is not officially my sponsor yet; I have to call her every day for thirty days to check-in, which is mainly to demonstrate a level of commitment to the process and for us to get to know each other better. 

I really enjoyed this garden. The picture doesn’t do its beauty justice.


[Another great part of that night was simply hanging out with some of my girlfriends. One of my friends and I stayed and talked for over an hour after the meeting. Al-Anon has gotten a lot more fun for me since A) There are more young peoples, and B) I started talking to them. Now, going to meetings is becoming synonymous with going to hang out with my friends.] 

I also have my work friends, who are some of my favorite people in the world, and my Buddhist group friends, who are incredibly lovely and full of wisdom. I have coworkers that I am friendly with, and whom I really respect and enjoy working alongside every day. I have a job that I really love and feel passionate about, that has great benefits [OMG. The benefits. We had a mini presentation about them this week, after which I turned to my friend that has a three year-old daughter and said, “Well, I guess that I’m going to watch K grow up and have kids because I’m clearly retiring from here.’], and that I am feeling more and more confident at doing everyday. I have my favorite hiking spots, and am always finding more; I have my favorite bookstore, thrift store, grocery, farmer’s market, float center, and coffee shop; I know the differences between all the beach spots and neighborhoods, and I know when and where the traffic will be the worst. And there’s so much more to explore and try and learn. I love this city that I call home, and the community that I have found within it. 

Other wonderful and fun things that have happened lately: 

Rooms had her baby!!! ❤️ Much like during weddings, I found myself sobbing when I received the first picture of the miracle baby for reasons that I didn’t understand. I cannot wait to meet her – and to see the sisters together 👭 in September. 

Danny and I saw the band, Portugal. The Man., at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. [And I didn’t take a SINGLE DAMN PICTURE.] It was a beautiful, outdoor, amphitheatre with no bad seats. Not that we were sitting. Danny and I share the belief that the best way to enjoy live music is to dance our little hearts out. We had a blast. 

I got a ticket for rolling through a stop sign back in March – my first ticket in years! And it wasn’t for speeding! – and I argued the ticket, and won! Woot woot!! 🤗


The next day, I was a bit tired from the concert, and ended up watching The Matrix for the first time in my life. When I explained to Danny that I had never watched it because people had told me that it was hard to follow and I didn’t think that I’d understand it, he gave me a sideways look and pointed out that I was much younger and maybe now that I’m thirty-two, it might not be so far over my head. 🙃  And I loved it! So much so that I’ve suggested that we watch it again – along with the sequel – at least seven times since. 

I started a new puzzle that my dad got me from The Magic Garden in Philly last time that I visited. Starting a new 1000-piece puzzle with itty-bitty pieces is always a bit intimidating, and I never have any idea how I’m actually going to do it. It’s puzzling! 😜🤔🤓

Otherwise, life is the usual mix of friends, sunshine, hiking, yoga, reading (Loving Day is the current read), journaling, Bullet Journaling, meditation, cooking, Al-Anon meetings, Buddhist meetings, hanging with Danny, chores, and working. How do people fit children into their lives? I barely fit in time to write this blog or send an email (Alix – you’re still on my list! 😘). Parents are heroes. ❤️

Love yous. 🤗😘🤗😘