I Could Be Folding—Discovering ‘Nothing’ is a Legitimate Activity

Posted on May 21, 2017

I got home from Mom2.0 a week ago. Sean said, “You need to move quickly. Don’t let your Iris win fall to the wayside. Allow it to catapult you into whatever it is you want to do.”I nodded dutifully. I wasn’t going to rest on my laurels, I was going to charge ahead and let myself build upon the idea that my words have an impact and a purpose. I really was going to, but then the realities of the laundry situation hit home, the continued aftershocks of some things that happened at work, school concerts, texts about the dog, “Having a huge disgusting tick where his eyebrows would be if he had eyebrows,” and the whole feeding a family, and managing the rampant cases of poison ivy that three of us are suffering from in ways that are not diminishing.

 

I have posts dancing in my head, emails that I want to write, and mileage that I want to achieve through the catharsis that I find in writing. No matter how many lists I make, incentives I create for myself, or other tricks, the end of the day feels like it’s kissing my tail before I’ve even finished my lunch. I am grateful that I haven’t retreated into my place of panic, where I lash out and take on an attitude of hopelessness. Because it’s a rut I know well, a forwarding address even, but no, I kept it at bay.

Actually, this whole post is to share with you a moment that I had. I was in my bedroom, a place that I have slowly done things to to make it feel more like an oasis, but is still very much a work in progress (<—-gentle disclaimer, but also read the subtext: no one has it all together.) Anyway, I had a bona fide Oprah–level, aha moment and I wanted to share it with you.

When you watch this video you might think, “Is she whispering? Is she drunk?” The answer would be yes and kind of. I was whispering, and that is because I genuinely believed if I said any of this stuff out loud I would get some sort of zap from the universe for sitting on my duff. As far as being drunk. I think that the sensation of doing nothing was legitimately intoxicating. Also, I think sometimes when you actually slow down you become aware of just how exhausted you really are. In any case, if I can do one thing for those other people out there trying to do more than they would ever believe another person could do, it’s to have you hear me say, “Doing nothing is important.”

 

 

 

Do you do nothing? Where is your favorite place to do nothing? If you have never done nothing, promise me right now you will do nothing and you will come back and tell me all about how amazing it was?

 

Deal?

I Was There All Along

Posted on May 14, 2017

Wednesday morning I kissed Briar goodbye, got Avery on the bus, and squeezed Finley and Sean before driving to Albany to fly to Orlando for the Mom2.0 Summit. I was nominated for an award in the category of Best Writing. Last year I was nominated in the category Break Out of the Year. I was souped up in a heady mix of anticipation, sheepishness, and desperation. I wanted it not to be a fluke, for me not to be a fluke.

I set my mind to enjoying the time and allowing myself to expand, spilling out of my “always” and “ought tos” and filling the cracks of places I’ve never allowed myself to go. I should note that the location made it much easier to throw my cares away. The Ritz Carlton is Orlando is a dreamy place. I wandered around, palm trees towering at every turn, making me feel as if it any moment they might start lumbering next to me and speaking like characters from a Where the Wild Things Are and Moana mash up. The moon was every bit as present in my days, making the three days feel like a walking dream.

Wednesday afternoon was a whirlwind of having women whose faces I’ve seen more online than in person come to life in vibrant, better-than-I-imagined ways. The electricity of purpose and focus was palpable. The other thing I felt everywhere I went was respect and interest, pockets of conversation and collaboration. Christine Koh pulled me into a session on Meningitis vaccinations, where I met Morra Aarons Mele in the flesh. Listening to a mother talk about watching her daughter spend 8 months in the hospital after contracting meningitis was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I was riveted by the session and reminded of the power we each have to share with our peers. If you use Twitter I encourage you to check out the hashtag #Take5forMeningitis

Tangent—many of you may know that about 24 hours after I left town all 3 of my daughters were evacuated from their school after the “credible threat” of a bomb on campus. I watched from thousands of miles away as social media blew up. I had friends text and call, keeping me in the loop. Say what you will about Facebook, but as the day progressed I witnessed firsthand how much we rely on one another for guidance, insight, and support. These tools can be incredible forces for good.

One of my favorite moments was passing Meagan Francis and Sarah Powers in the lobby. Meagan turned spun toward me on her heel.

“I’m sorry. Have I ever, have we ever…I mean I’ve been friends with you online for years, have I ever stopped and actually said hello?” Her face was one huge smile and when Meagan smiles at you, it feels like a wink and a hug at the same time.

“No, you haven’t and neither have I,” I said smiling back.

She smiled wider and said, “Here, let’s fix that and touch bodies,” or something like that as she pulled me into a hug. Sarah was smiling and then leaned in and said, “I know you online too.” We all laughed and, at least for me, these tiny moments of recognition and connection are what it’s all about.

I woke up early Thursday morning and joined 50 other women in a morning yoga session in the “Citrus Garden.” Birds perched in the palm trees and along the balcony and sang to us. I spied a little lizard as it crawled past. I beamed even in the moment when I realized I was in front of the whole group doing a shaky warrior pose in the opposite direction from everyone else. I also had not yet found a ponytail band (eventually Deborah Cruz took pity on me and gave me one) and I was rocking a Paulie Shore meets Cynidi Lauper hairband-MacGuyver situation.

I participated in the Dove self-esteem workshops with Jess Weiner, which I’ll write about in a separate post. Dove has worked with 20 million young women on issues of self-esteem and they are on track to hit the 40 million mark by 2020. I am endlessly grateful for what they have done by committing to women’s health, because the truth is that they don’t have to, they could just sell product and make money. This work is critical and they do it really, really well.

I spoke with women about challenges, all of us struggling with different but similar things. I remembered to listen and ask questions instead of nervously filling the air with rambling. I had a moment when I realized that instead of hoping people will like me for me, the trick is to be willing to share my truest self with people without apology. Sitting with Natasha at the airport after sharing a 4am Uber together, I marveled at how improbable it is that a mom of 4 from Chicago who considers herself a “semi-homesteader” would be chatting with a mom of 3 from upstate new York, but there we were and it was amazing!

I won’t mince words, waiting for the awards ceremony to start and trying to reconcile my desperate wish to hear my name called and the deep respect I had for the other nominated women made me sick. I was shaking and trying to project a face that didn’t look like it needs a toilet and a wash cloth. Elaine sat beside me, rubbed my arm, and kept me laughing. My category was first and I felt like my ears were giant conch shells and the ocean was crashing inside my head. I watched our faces flash on the screen as they named each nominee. I reminded myself that being nominated with these women and recognized by my peers was plenty because it was.

I looked toward the stage and readied my “I’m ok” smile. “And the winner is… Lala Land.”

Silence. Thunderous applause and laughter.

I lost my a-ok smile and winced. “You can do it, Manda.”

They announced the winner and stumbled on the last name. I sat ready for the looks of, “You were really close, great job.”


 

“Amanda Magee, congratulations.”

Everything went silent in my head as I waited for another woman to walk up to the stage. I looked around and then I heard it again, “Amanda Magee.”

I shook and blinked my eyes. My name doesn’t get called. I couldn’t find the stairs, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stop the montage of times I’ve sat at my keyboard. Nursing Briar, pumping for Ave, after work, in the pre-dawn hours during those years when Ave woke up at 3:45, the tears that have fallen on the keyboard as I’ve typed.

Then I was on the stage with different cheers and screams coming from the audience from people who have exchanged middle of the night emails with me or back channel facebook messages as one of us have wondered whether or not we can make it through a certain challenge.

I knew that I was up there not just for my writing, but because in writing, whether it’s comedy, advocacy, anger, education, or sentimentality (and we need it all), it is what is made possible that yields the demand and loyalty. It is knowing you can weep over dried flowers or rant over impossibly perfect cupcakes and gift bags that everyone but you can make—I believe it is in transforming the screen from a place where you read to being a mechanism for reaching through and clutching on to something or someone who makes you feel less alone.

Writing did that for me. I found a home and a purpose. I do believe I’m rambling now, which is also what I did as I stood up on that stage holding that impossibly heavy and wonderful statuette. I also told the MC, Andrew Shue, that I was grateful he came. No selfies with him, no “Hey let’s collaborate” as a matter of fact I don’t even know if I had the presence of mind to thank him for shaking my hand and congratulating me. I remember so little beyond the exquisite moment of realizing they had said my name.

Arnebya, Adrian, RachelJanelle being presented in your company, grouped with your writing and your beautiful selves was incredible. Mugging for the camera with Arnebya, chatting with Rachel, it felt otherworldly and I will never forget a second of it.

I have been watching Rebecca Woolf, who I so desperately wanted to meet in person last year, promote her Kickstarter campaign for the movie PANS. She is a writer who I actively admire. Her tenacity to pursue this movie, writing the screenplay over the years as she has been raising 4 children and conducting incredible campaigns that throw back the curtain on married parent sex and speaking honestly about watching our first borns come into themselves, awes me. I don’t want to stop.

I want to take the glow of this moment, preserve the feeling of it in the same way I can remember precisely how it felt as Briar came out of my body, inexplicably wondrous and natural. This dream and this life, I want to experience them open-ended, unlimited by my fear or assumptions, instead fueled by my desire to return to the keyboard and find new ways to take my heart and translate it to the page.

I hope you’ll keep me company as I move through these years of parenting older kids, working on my marriage and myself, and using my voice to talk about things like vaccines, social justice, bad hair, and hope.

 

Thank you from the bottom of my goofy heart.

Trips Around the Sun

Posted on May 7, 2017

Time reveals a lot, it shows us how where we thought we were going and where we end up can be blessedly out of synch, it tells us more about ourselves, and it also uncovers who really matters.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes with who I have chosen to trust, who I have doubted, and how much I’ve given. I wish I could say that it’s been an internal revelation or decision that has set me straight, that somehow I have had the instinct to ferret out the truth from the lies.  Nope. Good old fashioned before and after has done that, with a bit of help from forgotten texts and someone telling the truth.

There are things in my life I would take back—don’t walk out to that car, Amanda.

Don’t say yes to that request, Manda.

Sweet girl, don’t say what you are about to say.

Splinters.

I can’t go back. I can’t change the way things played out and I won’t change who I am. There are people I could track down and confront, there are apology letters that I could write. There are also people I’d like to spit in the face and kick in the shins.

 

 

I won’t spend my days worrying about what was and what isn’t. I won’t rehash another misconception, a group I don’t belong to, or a friendship that fell apart. There was a scene in the movie The Way Way Back when Sam Rockwell’s character sets a teenage boy straight about something cruel his mom’s boyfriend had said to him. It’s along the lines of, “That was never about you, that was about him.”

Somewhere between getting it all right and being completely wrong, there is an expanse where you let go of the people who were never true and you actively hold tight to who and what matters.

For me it is family, the traditional kind and the serendipitous, unpredictable band of kindreds we collect along the way.

A year ago.

As Good As We Let Ourselves Be

Posted on April 29, 2017

We were sitting in the wood stove room. He was sitting in a small leather chair we bought on a trip north. He saw it and fell immediately in love.

“It looks so small,” I said.

“I love it. I love the lines, I love the look of the leather, and those antique wheels on the legs are perfect,” I couldn’t remember him being that smitten by something in a long while.

It was a beautiful chair and it wasn’t so much that it was small as that it was not the oversized, over-stuffed, kid friendly thing we’d been drawn to for the last decade. It fit perfectly within the small, boxy rooms of our house. Across from his spot are the wildly patterned chairs he bought me for my birthday or Mother’s Day.

I remember a few weeks after we bought them the thin fabric on the seats had started to come apart at the seams. I had been furious, the chairs had been a splurge from a store I love but am not able to shop at very often. We called the store and they said they’d never heard of that happening. They showed me similar chairs I could get in exchange after paying the difference. There was a back and forth, but ultimately the difference of $2000 and the idea of driving two hours round trip made less and less sense. I made peace with the wear and, in fact, came to love the frayed edges and the rose colored fabric that showed through underneath.

“I bought you reading glasses,” he said. “Two pairs, one for here and one for camp.”

I was surprised. “You did? When? And why?” I asked. He smiled and said nothing for a minute. I found myself feeling two very clear emotions: gratitude and embarrassment. The former for the way this gesture let me know that he had heard me saying things like, “I can no longer read things like shampoo bottles or cooking directions. Poof, gone,” and the latter for needing reading glasses sooner than he does, for aging.

It’s so strange that we pursue more—being older, having more things, more freedom, more time, growing old together, but when it really comes down to growing old together we resist. I know with utter certainty that I do it for him, and yet, there are times when I feel shame for not being the youngest, the fittest, or the whateverest.

“It was a few weeks ago. I was out and I was thinking of you and wanting you to have them when you needed them.”

The most potent emotion became the sensation of being dear. I am dear to him, not a disappointment, not a burden, not a drag. All those abstract wishes for someone to love me and keep me safe, I am living them now. Sure, all of it comes with a greater demand for humility, patience, and effort than I could have ever imagined or read in a magazine, but the reality is also more than the dream.

There is also a legitimate need for self-love and self-care that can’t ever come from a partner, no matter how amazing or committed they might be. I find inspiration and cues from women around me and from my own thoughts when I am willing to hear them. The latest come from things that happened organically, of all places, on Facebook. The first a closed group for women in their forties, the second a hashtag ( #fit40whatever ) also for women in their 40s trying to manage fitness/health/self-confidence.

I found myself thinking about all of these things and how relationships, self, friendships, and aging are all kind of laced together. I decide to reveal myself in all my tentative, panting, and maybe slightly whiny ways on video. I was fascinated to find myself actually enjoying all the ways my face moves as I talk. When I’m not inspecting my face as I try to apply makeup, not measuring the elasticity or sallowness, but just looking at myself like I look at others, I’m happy with me. Content with the changes in pacing.

Take a look. Let me know where you are. I’d really love to know. (Also: I am not as scared or pissed as this cover shot would have you believe.)

 

Click to Watch

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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