From the Lake’s Howls Come Spring

Posted on April 19, 2017

 

 

The first time I heard the lake moan I didn’t know what I was hearing, I imagined a pack of wolves high on the ridge keening. It sounded at once mournful and foreboding. The 9-year-old me pressing hard against 42-year-old me, was all nerves and excitement, “Is it howling?”

“It’s the lake,” Sean said with a smile. “Isn’t that wild?”

“The lake? The lake is making that sound?”

He nodded and held his hand out to me. We walked out on the porch, “Listen.”

I turned my body and tilted my ear toward the lake. The sound started on the far side of the lake as a kind of warble that bled into a groan which went on for a full minute. I looked out thinking that the sounds would come from visible motion, but all was still.

The trees towered, weak moonlight filtered through casting shadows on the frozen surface of the lake. My eyes tried to track the sounds, but the night swallowed the source, leaving the noise to bounce off the mountain. Sean’s hand touched my back and I felt small. We walked back up to the house as the lake continued its song.

Later as I listened through the tiny windows near the floor of our room the sounds made the distance between our bed and the lake expand and contract.

I am there, out on the lake with my face leaning into the wind, the cold so fierce it feels as if it is splitting my skin open. Tears spring from the corners of my eyes. I can feel the uncertainty in my feet, will the ice hold me? Beneath the blanket Sean gave me, with its purple-grey wool like massive braids, I feel safe, tucked far away from the lake, high up on the hill.

Groans and cracks, splinter the quiet inside and out; the sounds become a part of us, another member of our pack. We all listen, welcoming the layers of awakening from the lake. As winter continues to wane the sounds shifted, their pacing changed from long and drawn out to energetic and almost playful. We follow suit, the tightness of winter loosening and our eagerness to reach movement and light bubble up.

We hold a reverence for the seasons and what each holds, but it is time to move as water, toward light and newness, through shallows and deeps, and into the promise that time moves through death and rebirth.

 

 

 

 

 

A New Wrinkle

Posted on April 11, 2017

“Let’s run the West Mountain race together.”

 

I turned to look at Sean. “Really?” The race was a 5k with multiple obstacles. We aren’t exactly regulars on the road race circuit. Something about it was intriguing though. A part of me feels like we are approaching a moment in time that demands we choose—are we down shifting and settling into easy, or are we continuing to quest?

Easy is good, you know?

 

I like leggings and a t-shirt and puttering around the house. It feels like a treat, but the truth is that my peace and my fire come from exertion. I don’t really want to compete, I have no designs on a 26.1 sticker. I do want to stay invested enough in my own well-being that I pursue the things that are good for me.

 

“Ok, why not,” I said to him. I’ll admit that even as I agreed ten days out, a part of me never believed we’d actually do it. I kept imaging that something would come up, that we’d bow out, but with cause.

We didn’t. We ran it.

 

I had ridiculous butterflies as we registered and then waited 90 minutes to start. Somehow when the announcer said through the loudspeaker, “Ok, everyone, get out there and be careful on the course stay to the groomed areas because the snow and ice are treacherous,” we were right there in the pack.

 

We stayed together, laughing as we each got muddier, wetter, and colder. People were friendly, laughing and chatting as we went through mud, slush, and remarkably high banks of snow that held you up until it didn’t and you sank, shins barking on crusty ice bits.

 

I was older than a lot of the participants, like older by two decades. I marveled that I could start Saturday making pancakes for the girls and then be at a race alone with Sean like we were still two twenty-somethings dating.

 

Seems that for every instance we experience feeling too old, we have another that reminds us that we will always be who we are. Maybe the time on the race clock is longer, but we’re out there, laboring and laughing.

 

As we were thawing out post race, he ran his finger along my hairline, “You have mud and paint…” He snapped a picture that I saw later. Frizzy hair, bits of silver, a little paint and mud, visible pores, crow’s feet, and the tooth he affectionately calls my fang that sometimes gets caught on my lip.

 

 

I loved it. I loved me. I loved us.

We did it. We aren’t perfect, we aren’t the fastest, but dang if we aren’t giving it a go. Military crawls, climbing walls, and riding down ski jumps on cafeteria trays.

 

 

Is there anything you are doing that you thought you’d get too old for?

Start New

Posted on March 26, 2017

Friday into Saturday I was in a funk. I tried to push through, moving from one thing to the next like I could outrun it. The funk clung. Sean knows me, recognizes these lows after 18 years together, and has mastered worrying from a gentle distance. He did things to clear my path—setting the girls up with activities, passing me a plate of eggs and bacon, setting a bottle of sriracha next to it and saying “Eat, please.”

I felt myself slipping deeper, colors began to mute and I forgot all the reasons I’d been grateful for the weekend to arrive. Despite the clutch of nothingness, I ate. One solid achievement I’ve unlocked in my 40s is to listen to him more often. I still resist and make noble, stupid, or stubborn moves, but more frequently I see the food, the pjs, the invitation he offers to help me escape my own cycle.

 

I eat. I say yes.

I followed that yes by a dozen more.

Yes, let’s go to the gym.

Yes, let’s take a drive.

Yes, I am starting to feel better, but it’s still there.

 

“It’s ok, babe. You’re exhausted. It’s been a week and you get to feel like this,” he kept his eyes on the road. I took a breath and stared out the window.

For me, daring to commit completely to a relationship has been the chance to have another voice to listen to other than my own. The echo of, “You will never be good enough,” grows more faint each time he cups my face in his hands and says, “You are everything I ever dreamed of.”

I look at the girls and imagine the things I’ve said to myself being things they ever hear inside thier own heads. I press against the numbness and reach for everything Sean is coaxing me to remember.

I plot the steps ahead. I leave my phone behind when I get up in the morning. Coffee. Daylight. The fog of yesterday is gone, but I know myself and I can’t be passive. I have to actively claim a different today, which in no way suggests that people can choose happiness or beat depression through willpower. I am talking about my own rhythms and hurdles. I pad down the hall toward the stairs.

I see Ave and Fin building with LEGOs. I walk in, “What are you doing?” They launch into an introduction to the empire of little rooms and shops. I work to stay focused on what they are saying.

I sit down and begin to build. I choose beige and white pieces to add to a green base. A room starts to form beneath my fingers. It is wide and airy, with entire walls of windows, I add arches. There is a gate to pass through and I decorate it with red, pink, and blue buttons.

“Mom, that is so amazing. What is it?” Finley asks.

“I don’t know, I just thought it would be a place someone would want to be.”

“It is. Keep going.”

Keep going.

Avery holds her hand in front of me, offering me pieces. Fin hands me flowers and asks f I can make a bed. We keep building.

“Ave, would you go start the coffee for me?”

She leaps from her spot, “Sure.”

When I finish the bed Finley declares it perfect. I start to stand, “Can you add it to the room, mom?”

I move toward her when Ave says, “I can do that. Go get some coffee, mama.”

Their heads touch as they add the bedroom to the room and then begin plotting, “So my girl will be asleep…”

“And then mine will open her work..”

I walk downstairs to the smell of coffee and last night’s fire in the woodstove. I stoke the embers back to life and pour a cup of coffee. I settle in with my laptop and start the internet.

No Facebook.

No Instagram.

No email. Period.

I open Feedly and see a link to “Barbara and Stanley: A Modern Romance.” I don’t usually watch long videos, this one clocked in at 17+ minutes. I start to scroll to the next thing but decide to watch.

What followed was the oddest, most lovely, and different from my own world slice of life. I listened to the Barbara and Stanley tell their own story, why how they live works for them. Early on Barbara coaxes Stanley to get out of bed.

“I think what you ought to do is get out of bed.” He says he is tired.

“Come, you must go the gym, g-y-m, we must move or what is it all for?” He says that he will.

They are across the country from one another and are wildly different from Sean and me, yet that insistent exchange, the urgency of guiding your partner to what will bring more daylight, more tomorrows and better todays; it’s exquisite.

I followed it with a post up at Cup of Joe about a woman seeing herself though the eyes of her partner. Again, I was fascinated by the generosity and wisdom of a partner debunking the cruel inner voice.

I looked up as Avery and Finley bounded into the room announcing they were ravenous. I’d bought baking mixes at the store in a plan to fill the day with new things. They did the dishes to prep the kitchen and then they began to bake. Entirely on their own.

The house filled with the scent of cinnamon and the sounds of the fire and Katy Perry. The girls danced and goofed, and I remembered why I’d been excited for the weekend and why I am so grateful for this life of mine.

 

 

 

Rooted in the land of torn

Posted on March 21, 2017

It seems that there is an inevitable counterweight to pressure, when things at work begin to move quickly, requiring more focus and time, the details at home get trickier. I suppose I signed on for this, I knew that being a mom and being a business owner would multiply the number of things and people who are my responsibility. What I did not understand was that the peace I make with sacrifice and compromise would not be one and done, I go through it over and over again.

“I’ve got this.”

“I am failing.”

“I can’t do this.”

“I have to do this.”

“What have I done?”

“Why do I do this?”I read the words of other women on both sides of this, I read the comments of dads. I skim the articles about how kids are better with moms at home and on and on. We’re all different, managing different circumstances and dreams. Opinions and think pieces either really help or bind me to flashes of regret and fury.

Finley leaned into me this morning, her face letting me know her headache from the day before had not gone away. “What do you think I should do mom?” I nuzzled her and thought about my day. A 2:30pm presentation 45 minutes away, a speaking engagement at 7pm also 45 minutes away, and a morning of rehearsing for both.

“I think you should get up slowly, feel my icy hand, it’s my new wake up weapon,” I placed my hand on her forehead and she squealed and giggled as she wriggled away. “Then you should have a drink of Gatorade, which might help your headache and then, more cold hand, ” she dissolves in laughter, “and then let’s go downstairs and I’ll drive you to school with your sisters and we’ll have a Starbucks date.” She grinned.

I had bought a day. I was disgusted with myself. She didn’t have a fever, it was likely that it was morning blahs, but I wasn’t allowing room for anything but her going to school. I needed her to go to school and I literally felt sick about conning her into it.

Yesterday I snapped at Sean as he tried to get me to focus on my preparation for today. I wanted to listen to the hearings and tune into the press briefing. He nudged and nudged. I yanked the ear buds out and stewed. He’d been right, there are only so many hours in the day and last night and this morning I had to cram.

Dropping the girls off at their schools they were perfectly content, saying I love you and wishing me luck. The Starbucks date was a luxurious 40 minutes of I spy and ‘I remember when…’ we both lingered and declared it the best date ever.

The 2:30 meeting went well, now I’m sitting at another Starbucks killing time after an update that Fin’s headache never went away. Then came a text.

She apologized saying I had too much else to worry about, that she shouldn’t bother me. I corrected her and said that I always have time for her, which is true. Yes meetings and research call for me, but I can break away. I can also stay home for sick days and go on field trips.

It’s just that it’s hard to remember the times that it’s worked perfectly. I feel guilt for the adrenaline I feel when the work stuff goes well. This is inelegant and rushed, but the many ways in which love and purpose crystallize are unpredictable. This late afternoon sun and strangers milling around me as the texts turn to hearts and I love yous and “I’m so excited to hang out with Dad tonight,” is revealing that even in this space between unhurried and overbooked is bittersweet beauty.

 

One Day More

Posted on March 19, 2017

St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans—a scrawled message on the mirror made us happy through and through.

 

Our arrival to the next phase has been an exercise in time bending. My friend Lindsey Mead often says, “Years are minutes,” which to me is breathtaking in its truth. I can still feel the sensation of nursing the girls, whether for sustenance or to ease an injury. Their tiny heads nestled in my arm, impossibly soft fingers patting my side or stroking my chin. I remember the chill of the hard lift chair at Pico beneath me as I watched the three of them ride the lift alone together for the first time. Just like that, it was over, they ride together now.

It was the perfect metaphor for how the success of parenting is in shepherding the kids to be able to move just out of your reach, susceptible to danger, and leaving your arms empty. Sean laced his arm around me and whispered, “You ok, mama?” It won’t be the last time he says those words.

 

Since December Briar has been rehearsing for her role in Les Misérables. Avery was working on a production of her own as a performer, as well as another where she was on the stage crew. They are 20 months apart, bonded in a way that people tell us is not normal, and still, as different as night and day. They are both drawn to the stage, but in it seek very different things.

 

The pull to different schedules and the shifting of the spotlight are challenging, but when done within the tumultuous emotions and energy of puberty it can be heartbreaking. This isn’t because they are girls; it’s a natural evolution between siblings and family unit to spider into new territory, specifically in ways that are not laced together. During Les Mis the song One Day More is threaded throughout, sometimes a cry for one more day, other times a lament to get through one more day. I witness Briar and Avery testing new things, time apart, comparisons, and declarations of identity, I feel caught between the meanings of one more.

 

First, there was a trip to Sephora to explore make-up, not to look like other people, “It’s really like art and I think being able to express myself on my face would be great.” Then there was a late night talk about fitting in and figuring things out, requests to stagger bedtime for alone time or one-on-one time with me, ragged sighs over being interrupted, and eyes rolling over countless things. I can’t buy them clothes anymore, they want to steer toward what they like, which I don’t innately know.

They are often so caught up in what they are doing that my voice doesn’t register. I ache for the fresh-from-the-bath giggles and scents, but a touch on my shoulder and the words, “I can do that for you” is wild.

I cannot have it all and I can. They remember when they were little and many times need to revisit it as much as I do. “Can you tell me things about when I was little? Just until I fall asleep? I want to dream about it, kind of like being little again.”

I smile in the dark and do my best to follow my memories back. Finley is not yet pulling away; she dives deep into goofiness and togetherness. Nearly everything is more enjoyable when she has a sister with her, or me in a pinch. Suppressing the impulse to cajole them into playing together is gritty work; ‘fixing it’ undoes all the work we’ve all done. Then sometimes it just happens.

 

I think about one of the things I’ve had on repeat lately, which is the idea that each day we get the chance to (re)define ourselves. It’s particularly helpful when something crappy happens—harsh words spat in a moment of anger at a sister, something humiliating on the bus, a bad grade.

“This isn’t who you are. Your next test can be different. Any time you want you can choose to do things differently. It doesn’t take away all the hurt, but other people don’t get to say who or what you are.” I’m figuring out that I could stand to use a lot of the wisdom I try to dish out to them.

Day by day we try, holding our tongues for different reasons. This phase we’ve hit takes all of us to new places and understanding how to be who we want to be without losing who we have been and who we love is hard work. There is wistfulness and rage, heartbreak and hilarity.

There is also Finley, a tether and an invitation to joy in the most irresistible way.

She is uncomplicated. I watch the girls use her as permission to play and also as a safe zone. She helps us all articulate why things change and in doing so it feels slightly more gentle. Mostly though, she helps us remember to love for one more day.

 

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