Saturday, April 19, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 40

Day 40: April 19th, 2014

Well, friends, we made it. The season of Lent is ending and Easter Sunday is tomorrow. I have successfully sat down in this chair for 40 days (give or take), chronicling the daily effort and effects of living my life with an eye towards the divine. If you've made it through these 40 days with me somehow, I no doubt owe you a drink. We will have to raise our glasses together because you guys, I think it might have worked. 

What does that mean, exactly? I have no idea. I think I thought when my mom died that it was a punctuation mark of sorts, like that marked the end of life as I knew it before and now it was the beginning of a different life, one where I was sadder and looked at life through the dimmer and blurrier lens of loss. I think I thought that to try to live any other way would be insensitive, and worse, inauthentic. But I also think there was a small part of me that knew to try and do that would be like slowly suffocating. So with that and the beginnings of a sneaking suspicion that there was always something miraculous lurking quietly just out of my peripheral vision, I tried to think of a way to force my eyes open again. I thought that if I made myself look for it, if I committed to it and let you hold me to it and talked openly about it and bore witness to it, I might be able to bring it into focus. And I can say without any doubt now that looking for the thankful in my I-can't-believe-I-am-not-in-the-psych-ward life has helped me to truly open my eyes.

And you know what? 

It's beautiful out there. 

There are babies and children and embraces and romance and friends (great friends) and family and neighbors and mentors and the kindnesses of strangers. There are good meals and clinked glasses and hot baths and the nights where you sleep so hard and so deep that you wake up in the exact same position you fell asleep in the night before. There are sweatpants and heels and all of the beautiful things in between, and there is a hot mug of coffee in the morning to center your mind and a hot mug of tea in the afternoon to quiet it. There is yoga and practice and community and music that gives you goosebumps and those moments where you chest splits open and your soul shines out like a ray of light and you cry hot beautiful tears and feel like if there is a God, this is him holding you up. There is a keyboard and a little blog and the people who are amazing enough to read it and tell me their own stories and there are the people who want me to please shut the hell up for once but yet are kind enough to not say it to my face. 

My chair here is in front of a big window and I look out onto my street often as I write, trying to find the right words to explain what I mean (and usually failing). Seven weeks ago, when I first sat down here, it was dark out there and cold and the trees were stripped bare. It was ugly. Tonight, the sun is setting in this ridiculously beautiful rainbow of reds and oranges and golds, the trees have buds and the grass is green and better than all of that: there are children running everywhere laughing. 

You know what that means? 


You see? Its not just little me with my little mid-life crisis and my self-indulgent little experiment and my little life. Maybe I'm just a metaphor and spring is just a metaphor and maybe Easter is just a metaphor or maybe it's the only story but no matter what you celebrate and what you believe, there's the undeniable truth of darkness and light, of loss and rebirth, of falling down and GETTING BACK UP.  It's all of us and it's this great big life and this great big communal world and its every one of you, helping me get back up. 

And maybe yet again it's just little me, sitting here on the 40th night, and saying thank you. 

This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 39

Day 39: April 18th, 2014

Today we celebrate my husband’s birthday. As it happens, adult birthdays in our house have become rather subdued affairs as we transition both to celebrating the kids and also to bemoaning our own aging rather than wanting to shout it from the rooftops. But we will have dinner, his choice, and cake, and singing, gifts, and time together as family; and even if that is all we have, we are happy. We are also approaching ages where we can pretty safely say we  have been in each others lives (Nick and I) for more than half of our lives. We have been married for ten years, known each other for 18, and HOLY CRAP WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?

It was hard for me for a long time to stop thinking of “my family” as my own nuclear family I grew up with and start thinking of it as my own nuclear family I had created here with Nick. We often talk about how we still, undeniably deeply entrenched in our 30s, consider ourselves to often be “playing” at being adults. This stuff is hard that we are doing. It’s hard to have a marriage and jobs and extra side jobs and so many babies and a house and friends and obligations and THIS TOTALLY INSANE LIFE and still find time at the end of the day to come together and exhale and remember that were it not for the two of us, there would be no family.
And I love this guy, and this life that he has indulged me in having, and the stolen moments we have where we catch each other’s eye over the top of the head of a child that is either doing something so cute you could puke or doing something so horrible you could puke and we both just KNOW. We just know that this is where we were meant to be, in this moment. 
And isn’t that what makes up a life, after all (the moments, not the puke)?

This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.
To see the following day, click here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 38

Day 38: April 17th, 2014

I have been noticing lately that I have old lady hands.  I see them sitting there taunting me on the keyboard as I type or on the steering wheel as I drive, all wrinkly and veiny and old-looking. I think, "When did this happen? Was it a gradual thing or did it happen all at once? How did I not notice until now?" And I look at them and I try to decide how I feel about them. 

I don't, as one would think, immediately hate them and all that they stand for. My hands and I have been through a lot, and I kind of have an affinity for them, even if my fingers have always slightly resembled plump sausages. These hands have curled around countless mugs of hot tea, seeking warmth in the soul and in the body. They have wiped everything imaginable, from asses to tears and everything in between, and they have cleaned this damn house from top to bottom only to come back up to top and find it all messed up again, and they have poured many a glass of wine and curled around that fantastic goblet seeking peace, a little bit of luxury, and a moment's respite. They have touched and held and been held and waved erratically in the air as I struggled to find the right words and they have struck and soothed and they have shook with fear. 

They are mine, and they are getting older, and so am I. 

And that's the big thing, isn't it- the elephant in the room, that we maybe only notice when someone we think will always be around all of a sudden isn't anymore. We are getting older, my hands and I, and wrinkly-er and veiny-er and (I goddamn hope) wiser and BETTER AT THIS. It's scary, the speed at which this life is hurtling by me, and how I suspect but don't want to exactly know for sure that if I shut my eyes at just the right time it could be twenty years later when I opened them again. No, I am trying my damnedest to keep my eyes open- to not miss a beat, and that's why I was so surprised when I looked down and noticed my hands. 

Because what I noticed is that they look just like my mother's. 

This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.
To see the following day, click here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 37

Day 37: April 16th, 2014

And other times, the words don't have to come from me at all. 

“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
― Meister Eckhart

Thank you. 

This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.
To see the following day, click here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 36

Day 36: April 15th, 2014

I sat down to write this yesterday and I choked. It's nebulous and personal and scares me a little to put out there (yes, even I have limits) but I feel like I have been dancing around the edges of it for 35 days now and in the interest of authenticity and growth and betterment, its time I try to put words around it. So here goes nothing. 

I taught yoga last night, the first class in a new six week session, and I never know who, if anyone, is signed up and coming until I show up for that first class. Well, last night only two people showed, and for a fleeting second I was transported back to being that vulnerable girl in high school who feels like no one loves her. And then we dimmed the lights and started the music, came into our bodies and shut our eyes and moved and breathed and almost danced, and when they had their eyes closed I inched my mat closer to them and we talked and laughed and I adjusted them and all of the sudden it was an hour later and the rain had started falling and the light was that amazing blue of twilight and HOLY SHIT it was beautiful. I sat there as they lay in savasana, and I reflected on how this thing I was insecure at first about, this class of only two, was just EXACTLY what (I didn't know) I needed. 

And isn't life exactly like that? The things that we are afraid of, the things that make us uncomfortable or vulnerable or if you're like me, a little pitted-out: these are the things worth paying attention to. 

So that brings me back full circle to this, to writing for 40 days, and to really putting my journey out there and becoming more and more vulnerable along the way. I know it must be doing something to me, because I am starting to feel uncomfortable about it. I sit down to write, like last night, and the words get all twisted up and stuck and I have to put it down for a while. Because the things that are left, after I am done with 35 days of peeling back the layers like an onion, are the real things, the soft things, the vulnerable things. Like how there is this hole inside of me, one that has always been there, sometimes it is big and ugly and other times the edges heal and its smaller and less noticeable, but it is ALWAYS there. And how sometimes I try to fill that hole, with excessive food or way too much drink or with approval or desire, and I always end up sadly realizing that not only can this hole never actually be filled, but ironically trying to fill it always leaves it stretched out and bigger.  But oh, how I can dance around the edges of the hole, I am a MASTER at that, sharing enough to make the connection while still protecting enough to not break in half. 

The thing is, my Mom had this hole too, she perfected this dance, and hers got too big. I know that is why she isn't here anymore, and I see both the loss AND the warning in that. I know I have to learn to close my hole. I know I can't keep trying to fill myself with wine or food or kind words from strangers. Even further, I know that in order to heal, the edges have to come together and I have TO EMPTY MYSELF. I know this, because it came to me as I shared an intimate yoga practice last night with a dear friend and a new friend, in a blue-lit room while the rain fell. 

So I will empty myself of it here, this thing that has been growing in these 35 days: 
I am afraid
I am afraid of my grief, the enormity of it and the shades of it and how it doesn't seem possible that it could ever go away. 

And that is how I know I am healing. 

This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.
To see the following day, click here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 34

Day 34: April 12th, 2014

I make fat babies. All four of my babes have been squishy things with rolls and big cheeks that you just want to take a bite out of. By the fourth one I have just come to expect it, and hope that maybe my arms will get a little toned from having to carry his little fat self around all day. By the time they are old enough to start running around they always slim down, so Gabby is starting to lose a little of her chunk as we speak, and I am a little sad about it. She has the BEST belly, I like to just grab a hunk of it in my hands and tell her how much I love her awesome belly- and she beams with pride. I look at her and wonder when we as women lose that innate self love we are born with, as she struts that belly around like it is her masterpiece while I suck mine in like it is a thing of shame. 

I've been jealously watching her run around outside this weekend like only a child that just lived through six months of winter can, with her too small shirt not quite covering that belly, her curls unbrushed and her toes hopelessly dirty. Yesterday mid-play she ran up to me, out of breath and pink cheeked:
Gabby: "Mommy, do you know why my belly is so fat?"
Me: "It's not fat honey! It's beautiful!"
She: (exasperated): "No MOMMY! It IS fat! It's fat with good foods and drinks and I love it!"
I've already started to lose Maria: I can see her looking at herself critically in the mirror, and she recently told me that next year she wants a winter coat that doesn't make her look fat. I know that Gabby will eventually follow suit despite my best attempts to tell them every day that not only are they the most perfect beings I have ever laid eyes on, but also that IT DOESN'T MATTER, words that I know fall a tad short as I myself bemoan my imperfections. 

But I also know that these children are here just as much (or even more so) to teach me as I am to teach them, and there is a lesson in Gabby's self love for me, for Maria, and for all of us. In her honor I have decided to spend the weekend filling my own belly with good foods and drinks and not even trying to suck it in. 

Own it. 

This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.
To see the following day, click here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

40 days of gratitude: Day 33

Day 33: April 11th, 2014

You know the kind of Friday where the sun shines and there is baseball in the yard and hot dogs on the grill and wine in the cup and Goonies on the TV and you want to sit down and write a big fat "thank you" to the universe in elegant prose and poetry and all you can muster is a long grammatically incorrect run-on sentence because you are writing with one finger while the baby sleeps on your chest?

I am grateful for those kind of Fridays. 

This post is part of a series. You can learn more about this gratitude experiment here.  
To see the previous day, click here.
To see the following day, click here.