him.

You
curled up like a ball
with ten swords sticking out of your back.

You
letting them pierce your heart
and your consideration
and your goodness.
Robbing you of what I saw
(what I thought I saw).

You
selfish and bleeding.

Me
devastated by a distant, silent, internal war
a ravaged village with embers burning into the morning.

seasons.

The space between us
sometimes is nothing.
It's like laying and laughing
at the same time.
Inside and within and enveloped.

And sometimes
it's quieter and more vast.
Like both of us are exhausted
and can't take care of the other.

Living things are always both.
Throbbing, beating, still and fast.

As I am.

It has been my experience and therefore my belief that the ineffable can exist within the expressed; that is, that words are not limiting in and of themselves and that the act of naming is not the final definition but rather a beginning, a jumping off point. This is what I love about writing, and it's why I've been more eager lately to describe myself, among other things, as a writer. Language can bring a concept to life, and since we all walk around thinking about ourselves as certain identities anyway-- faithful God-fearing husband, delinquent daughter, successful, lazy, excitable, brave, single, depressed, smart, etc.-- we might as well start to name and therefore think of ourselves as how we would like to be.

When I talk with people about writing they often ask what it is that I write about, and my response always orbits loosely around women, bodies, food, and female identity. When I began this particular blog a few years ago, I spoke very briefly about my previous eating disorder and my intentions for this space, and since then I've elaborated on that line of thought approximately three times. I think of myself as a generally self-aware, highly reflective person, and yet there's this chasm between how I perceive myself to be in the world and how I actually am. The space between is mostly made up of self-doubt and the fear of vulnerability, afraid that my messy and my broken are too much. This narrative that women are supposed to take up as little space as possible has been imprinted on me since birth, which is why it felt important to carve myself a new story.

Last August, Austin and I had been married for four years. It felt like an important marker because it had been a year full of experimentation, voicing our desires, showing up for each other in very unexpected ways, paying witness to each other's personal growth and change, trying to live up to our vows of always being the other's most fervent advocate. As he and I have grown accustomed to doing, we wanted to set some intentions for our fifth year of marriage, for the two of us as a couple, but also for each of us as individuals. As we discover more about what marriage for us means and is becoming, we wanted to be braver about sharing that process more with people around us. For Austin, he wanted to practice loving the questions themselves, an homage to Rilke and an understanding that his inquiries ought to be friends to find intimacy with, not anxieties to be banished or shamed. For me, my intention was to learn how to decidedly and militantly love myself.

It's hard not to treat that concept as merely a platitude, and I'm fighting that urge even now as I try to summon the urgency I felt toward making it a reality back when it felt so far out of reach. Sure, it can be overused, not to mention damning (mistakenly, in my opinion) in all of the literature discussing millennials' key character faults, but I believe that mastering self-love is the means as well as the end to living our best, most vibrant, most generous, most congruent lives. To state the obvious, our bodies are the most material parts of us. They are often the first way that other people experience who we are, and unlike our hearts or souls or thoughts, we can't hide them. They are clunky and bony and muscular and beautiful and unique, and they are our primary vehicle for experiencing the world and, at a surface level, how the world experiences us. As a little girl and then as an adolescent and now as a woman, my body has been the focus and the target for judgment, celebration, ridicule, lust, and comparison from loved ones and advertisers alike. It's been out there in all its awkward and gorgeous glory as my first line of defense and my first wall of perception, so it's no wonder that I've always felt an enormous pressure to fashion and shape it accordingly, as though it's a never-ending project to be completed and perfected.

When I graduated from college and was moving to New Mexico to teach, something in me snapped. Suddenly it all felt too exposing to have the appetite and the body that I had, like I was abruptly caught completely naked in a room full of everyone I knew and loved and they were all laughing at me or completely disgusted with what they saw. It became unbearable. I had, months prior, returned from my time abroad in the Middle East and I had unknowingly, gained some weight while there. I had become dissociative with food, a form of disordered eating no doubt, and had lost track of what hunger and satiation meant, replacing it with whatever my emotions wanted to consume (Peanut butter. They wanted peanut butter). As I was looking this new chapter of life in the eye, I felt it looking back at me judgmentally, and I didn't want anyone looking at me anymore; I wanted to hide, but baggy clothes can only do so much, so I slipped knowingly, willingly into obsessively restricted eating, praying that it would make being seen more tolerable and less excruciating.

Months later I remember asking my trusted nutritionist if there was ever going to be a time when this didn't weigh so heavily. At that point, it felt as though I was never going to be able to focus on anything other than bodies and food and how much and how little-- I was like one of those bees that can be trapped in a glass jar without a lid because they just walk around on the bottom and forget to look up. She told me that it was going to get much less consuming, that I would find freedom eventually, but that my eating disorder was always going to be a part of my story. She was right on all accounts, but it took so much longer than I had thought it would, and not only is it still a part of my story, it's still a mindset that I can access when things get dire, something to fall back on when the ground gets bumpy, or falls out completely.

In many ways, loving myself has been a much easier practice when I apply it to only my insides rather than my outsides. It's far less painless for me to love my soft heart, my often-sporadic mind, my hypochondria, my rash decision making, my excited curiosity, or my sensitivity than it is to love my soft stomach, my long straight hair, my square jaw, or my pinkish golden skin. By all accounts, loving my body has been the first and the final frontier, a way of experiencing myself that I've had to confront and make stubborn peace with, and the most difficult aspect of loving who I am.

Which is why that individual intention for our fifth year of partnership felt so crucial, and elusive enough to elicit a reminder of the most permanent kind: a tattoo in my own handwriting penned across my feet that says 'Beautiful and Fierce as I am.' As I am. Not when I lose or gain, not when I have this career or that one, not when I evoke any compliment or praise, not when. Just right now. Always. In my own flawed and bubbly scrawl I etched a new story onto my body, and every time I look down at my feet or feel them carrying me from this place or that, being my ever faithful vehicle and tool, my body is reflecting that resolve back to me as a reminder and as a truth, which were always the same things anyway.

Not great.

Recently I've noticed myself asking and answering the "how are you feeling?" question, not regarding anything immediately physical but rather the state of our collective life and times. We have a new, devastatingly inept President and the last few weeks have seen a constant, unconsciounable exploitation of power. I've caught myself feeling and acting flummoxed more than once, unsure what my role is in this new world order. I've seen that sentiment reflected in my friends and colleagues, even as we are perched geographically and ideologically far away from the epicenter of harm.

The answer most of the time is, "You know, not great." Not great at all.

There's a large part of me that wants to numb that feeling, and because I'm someone with a fair amount of privilege, I have a number of tried and true tools available in order to make that happen. Exercise is an option, alcohol is an option, online shopping is an option, busyness is an option, the constant need for approval is an option. You name it. Everywhere I turn, avenues of distraction, normalization, and minutia present themselves almost effortlessly, and it takes very little for me to happily melt into them. It's relieving, after all, to deaden the discomfort and the ache. Those feelings were never meant to be pleasant, but I also don't think they were ever meant to be squashed; they have to be endured.

I have no recollection of the why or how of this (given my apparent aversion to all things competitive and sporty) but recently I was reading an interview with Joe Maddon, the coach of the Chicago Cubs. He was asked about how he handles the pressure of success and winning, and he replied that he refuses to focus on the outcome, but rather on the process because process is fearless. Process is fearless. If you do what you think you should do and stay true to the next right thing, the result will work itself out. In other words, you focus on what you can control and draw from the wisdom of others who have come before, and the rest was out of your hands anyway.

I find this incredibly comforting as well as liberating. There is always a next right step, and if we can assuage our anxieties long enough to stop and look, it is ever available. In this day and age, I am trying to take note from those who have come before and move forward as presently and congruently as possible. This means actively resisting the temptation to dilute or extinguish my anger. It also means showing up and paying attention in large but local ways, starting from my tiny radius of influence and moving outward, even and especially when it's uncomfortable, lonely, or risky. I'm not a natural organizer or activist, far from it, but the moment demands more.

Process is fearless. May we be as well.

Marching.

Right now, the Women's March is happening all over the country, including one mile down the street from where I'm sitting cross-legged, candle lit, and hot chocolate-warmed. Chiara texted me earlier this afternoon to invite me to march alongside her and some new badass friends of ours. It's so important to show up, so important to be a part of it all, and all the best women I know are doing it. Now that I'm back on social media, I'm seeing it all over that as well. It's invigorating, it's so good, and I just don't feel like it. It's rainy outside, I've set aside this weekend time to be with writing-- my own and so many others-- and that felt really important. It felt more important to honor the still and quiet inside of me that needs tending, to block aside this time for my feminist spiritual writer self that needs some space to breathe and think. I'm learning that I am inherently wise, that my body is my tool for emotional intuition, and that when I stop to listen to it, whatever it's telling me, it will not steer me wrong. The problem is that it's not always convenient. Last weekend Austin and I joined 8 other new friends for a retreat in Santa Cruz, focusing on being badasses and teaching each other our own unique flavors of what that looks like. There had been talk of a dance party, but when 11 pm rolled around, and I found myself comfortably perched in a hot tub, I realized that all I really wanted to was to read my brand new New Yorker in bed and fall asleep in a cocoon of sheets and thoughts and wet hair. I didn't want to miss out on the good memories, and if our life is a story, then shouldn't we always be striving to live better stories (i.e. choosing to boogie over washing my face)? But also. We must honor ourselves.

This is what the Women's March is all about. It's about women and men all over the country making strides and taking stands for their whole personhood, in all their contradictions and messiness. It's about honoring ourselves, which is an inside job first and foremost, and then demanding that everybody else (especially our leaders) do the same.

It was important to show up today, and I didn't do that. I didn't join legions of others who made the time and space to walk shoulder to shoulder, to speak out and be seen. I feel some FOMO about this, obviously and honestly, but I also feel so proud to be showing up here, and making this march and this moment my own in the way that my truest self knew how to today.

This realization of our full personage is about so much more than being a woman and peacefully protesting bigotry and sexism. It's also about being brave enough to let more of myself and ourselves be seen, not just some layers and not just some angles, revering my truest self and getting out of my own way, believing that my truest self will recognize and honor your truest self, that that's so much of what we want most of the time. I love that this is what namaste means, that the light in me honors and recognizes the light in you. It's communication at its best, it's humanity at its best.

It reminds me that so much of what we loved about Obama was that he reflected, from beginning to end, the kind of people who we wanted to become: engaged, optimistic, agents of change, compassionate, the epitome of cool. There is something so ineffable about being called to be better, and that moment when we sense the other's sincere faith in who we are continually strikes me as one of the great honors and privileges of being human. Those moments alter lives because they change our self-spiraling narratives about ourselves, and I'm not sure there is a greater gift.

My writing voice is my most honorable and genuine expression of myself, which is why being separated from it feels like such a loss. It doesn't speak out of fear or angst, it grows from a place of stillness and wisdom, and we can't have one without the other. This act of sitting, this act of marching, this act of being still is my namaste to myself, honoring that which is most lit and most true, banishing fear and hatred and judgment. Today and always.

Exhale.

This week has been one of exhale, of letting go where I was holding on tight before. I've let my guard down this week, letting the pendulum swing to the other side. For example, over the holidays while we were traveling I was careful in terms of food. The assumption is that we pile it on through Christmas cookies or family gatherings, but I was scared of losing control so I just decided not to. I kept it clean through our trip and then, because we are always (whether we know it or not) trying to balance out, have let myself enjoy any and everything since coming back.

This is a truth that perhaps I'm finally starting to learn: the wisdom of our bodies and ourselves always strive for equilibrium, even if we do our darndest to keep it rigid and keep it harsh.

When I consider all of the various areas of life that I have some semblance of control over (health, work, love, play, learn), I've been spending a lot of my energies in just a few, and the wisdom of my soul and my heart have been working quietly but no less tirelessly to bring in the others as well. The best parts of me, my truest and highest self, knows what it needs and when I spend too much time and energy focusing on what other people think or dounced with worry about a certain relationship instead of focusing on work or play or health, it shows. It lets me know.

I'm not really that comfortable with the exhale part of life. It's too much surrender for me, too much freedom. We live in a universe of give and receive, inhale and exhale, live and die. With most of these, there is a side that I naturally gravitate towards if left to my own devices. This weekend I'll be practicing some surrender that I don't typically: showing up to a new, adventurous, wonderful group of people to open myself up to change and their wisdom. It will be beautiful and it will be open-handed and heart-forward. Yes please, yes please.

first.

This is my first day back at work, and even though I have trusty Rufo by my side, it's the first time in three weeks that Austin won't be there too. As two married people, we naturally drift toward enmeshment-- it practically takes no time at all for Austin to want to take care of me and for me to want to be taken care of and la la la isn't it all great? Which is why, in very real ways, we've been working toward differentiation and redefining what our relationship looks like. What have we been assuming to be true because that's just the way that it's done? What feels good and what doesn't feel good? What makes sense for who I am and who he is? Having such robust uninterrupted time together adventuring and exploring is the spaciousness we need to live into our true selves and stave off the January blues for as long as we can.

But this morning, gearing up for rainy traffic and finally putting on mascara and going through emails, the goal is to bring the same level of freedom and space that's always present but not always accessed Monday-Friday, back in the grind, back in the commitments.

I fall prey to January newness and the desire for a reset almost every year-- I love goals, love the dreamy nature of resolutions, love to let that run free.

Monday!

New Year, New You.

Ever since I was 18, traveling for the Christmas holiday has been the norm, one that I expect and cautiously dread, though the experience is always assuaged by Starbucks red cups and the onslaught of holiday hits that this pop-loving heart can't get enough of. Whether it was flying from Seattle, Bethlahem, Albuquerque, or Mexico, it's all a part of it. But all of those trips have always landed me squarely at SFO, hopping into my parents' SUV, talking about my flight, what's new at home, and what the Christmas Eve menu is going to look like. This year was different; this year Austin and I booked tickets for Florida to visit his family for a few days and then to spend the rest of our two week vacation in Cuba.

I've always been pretty attached to my family, especially my parents. Their voices and opinions are instilled in me, if not ingrained. When I was a kid or a teenager, this was a helpful thing; if left to my own devices, I would have made many a bad decision, not just limited to my already questionable fashion sense or penchant to talk about poop. But I've been doing a lot of growing up this past year, not in the ways that people expect progression to look like, but in the ways that are teaching me about who I really am, how to love and be loved (starting with myself), and what I actually believe or don't believe. These questions have opened me up, softened me, but being a personal essayist has made it hard to write about in any sort of declarative way. I've been taking myself too seriously, a severe buzzkill when it comes to artistry of any sort.

One of the byproducts of sitting with bigger queries has been that I'm looking critically at my tribe, what I've been taught and what I've contributed to, just trying to get curious about the stories that have been passed down generation to generation, especially about who the women in my family are and ought to be. A few years ago, it would have broken some glitter-covered heirloom glass piece of my heart to not be home for Christmas, whose unfettered expectancy I always joyfully anticipate, missing out on all of our traditions and rituals, feeling connected to my family in this way that only Mariah Carey knows how to facilitate. But this year it almost felt fitting-- when your internal world is shifting and looking like new land all over again, it helps to have your outsides match your insides.

These past few weeks will take time to elucidate, a gift I fully plan to use. Until then!

life, updates, etc.

Sometimes, a good old-fashioned life update is what's needed. As much for me as it is for anyone else, it's hard to expand on life thoughts without knowing what the stuff of our days is in the first place.

Is it just me or has 2016 felt like something new altogether? I've been so in it , gloriously in it, there's a part of me that wants all of life to be this way, but there's this other whispering part of me that knows how important it is to create in the midst of change and the normal. This is where beauty births and it's important to notice it.

Logistically, little has changed these past several months. I'm still working at the same company, with more responsibilities and more contentment. Something shifted for me around my 30th birthday when it came to questions about career, worth, and my path; in March, my best girlfriends and I retreated to Napa Valley for the weekend. These women are from all walks of life and though they don't make up the entirety of my people, they are so formative and so inspiring. I was knee deep in wanting my job and career to look different, knee deep in feeling so discontent and disappointed in myself, that part of what I really wanted out of this celebratory time with these women was some concrete plan of how I was going to move forward toward something I could be proud of.

What I got instead was a poem, by Sylvia Plath to be specific. It talked of fig trees and how each branch represents a different life: an author, a mother, a teacher, etc. If you sit paralyzed not able to choose, the figs fall off the tree and wither beneath you. Or, OR, you choose one. Mostly this concept felt entirely true and entirely dreadful. 30 years old and unable to choose! Or, maybe worse, 30 years old and choosing but not able to be happy with it. But there's another way to look at it, one that has brought such comfort and joy: at any given point, we move toward the fig that's the ripest. That's all anyone does, really. When enough of whatever needs to align finally aligns, we move toward the fruit that's the closest and the ripest and we eat it for all it's worth. And then, we move on to the next fig, something entirely different but suddenly ripe and appearing.

Tech Recruiting is the fig that's the ripest for me right now, because it's where I am. It's not to say that graduate school or writing or therapy or law isn't going to be a fig someday, but that's also not the point. This is the fruit that I have, and I'm going to eat it for its deliciousness, give it all I have and dance in the midst of it. It's mine to enjoy right now, and that is good news.

And now, miraculously, weirdly, glroiously, it's opened me up to something else and something that I didn't see coming: a way to use these skills to help people who could benefit. Since embracing where I am, I get to expand and create and lean into something related but new, a unique but closer fig, if you will. I'm spending a lot of energy thinking about and working on onramping opportunities for lower-income adults in the Bay Area who want to move into careers that can sustain them economically and financially in their homes and in their communities. It's a blooming thing growing near the fruit that I've already picked and am enjoying, like a bud that I can't quite touch, but somehow that doesn't take away from its hope.

And so

Here we are! So many months later. This is a blog post that I've stopped and started more times than I care to admit, because it's awfully hard to start something out of nothing, whether it be a blank page or a new venture or a brand new skill; going from 0 to 1 is a wholly different thing than going from 1 to 100.

What I'm trying to say is that I haven't been here in a long time. This isn't because of any particular reason or event, but rather because life goes in seasons, and some are made for the taking and enjoying, while others are more reflective and still. The past several months, the whole of 2016 really, has been like a growth spurt: lunging and awkward like my 13-year-old self, fast and foundational. The living has been so, so good and true. I have truly loved it.

And I have missed this space. I have to keep reminding myself that we are seasonal creatures at our core; we were made to adapt to each changing interval, acclimating to both the feast or fallow that came with it. I'm not the best at this, with my longing for freckled sunny skin and my purchasing of frozen berries all day errday, but few of us are. It's funny sometimes to consider how our bodies were made for a time and place so foreign to the one that we're living now— hunting and gathering, harvesting with the summer, taking shelter with the winter.

It's okay to take breaks. It's okay to let things go when it feels good to do so. It's not failure, it's congruency. I'm trying to lean into more of what feels kind, and so here we are. See you soon.

November 8

When I was in college, I fell in pretty hard to the church scene. I would go to these gatherings at 9 pm every Tuesday (a time slot that my current 9:30 pm bedtime cannot even fathom), and see loads of friends and sing our little baby hearts out to worship songs and listen to a sermon and generally feel connected and valued. It was a great place, a great community, and a story for another time. But when I would spend time alone, not raging until 11 pm on a Tuesday, I would take some "quality time with God", which ended up being me writing down prayers in a leather bound journal that I bought at the Barnes and Noble in U-Village. As with all of my journals, I still have it, and the other day I cracked it open, half wincing for my 20 year-old self and her woes, half so curious to remember all that was so true then, that thankfully passes with time eventually. True to memory, most of my writings were prayers, mostly for friendships and crushes. I wrote about the same boy for about 2 years, many friendships, papers that were due, internships and career dreams realized and lost, general next steps. I haven't been as diligent about writing or praying since, and even though so much of me feels different now, I love that I have these records of what I believed and what I wanted, because you can tell an awful lot about someone from what they believe and what they want.

Back then, I had this notion of God and of prayer that I will lovingly call transactional, not un-ATM-esque. At the heart of my worship fervency laid a fundamental view that my prayers (ie, longings, desires, general anything's) would be answered and fulfilled if I was emphatic or disciplined enough. This would be a highly convenient system if it was true, mostly because of its ease, but also because that is how a lot of us have set up our lives; we are always seconds away from getting anything we could ever want or need, and if you have the capital and are able-bodied, there are very few obstacles.

The last (few months, but especially) week or so has been a trying one for my family. This is not the place to go into details, but it's not an unfamiliar story for any of us. Bodies break down in this imperfect and frustrating way and people you love aren't invincible, and even though we know that, and it's how life is, so on and so forth, it's not so casual or distant when it happens-- it can't be; it shouldn't be.

Way back in the journal days, when there was something that I wanted badly enough I would decide that that prayer deemed a different sort of reverence, so instead of writing it down or just saying it out loud, I would get on my knees, because at some point someone said that that was the way to do it, and I would beg. It was raw and connected, a far cry from the way I would conduct myself in front of people, and long before I had any beliefs one way or another about how our bodies are connected to every other part of us, it felt special and real.

I've never been great at figuring out what I want, if we're being honest. My best friend and I growing up would have sleepovers on Friday nights and ask each other "what do you want to do?", and she'd say that she didn't care, and I said that I didn't care, and we'd go back and forth like that until some blessed opinion would surface, probably from one of our siblings roaming the house while we sat in our 9-year-old complacency. Maybe it's that I've always been more externally focused than the average bird, taking my cues wherever I could find them, or maybe girls and women aren't typically encouraged to be opinionated; we're taught that flexibility and accommodation is the mark of feminity, and so we float.

There's another view, I think a truer view, which leaves us where we are. It's where I currently am when I think or talk about my family, or career and the questions therein or anything else that feels unfinished, maybe even fragile. It's not active movement from point a to point b, it's been difficult to articulate or share, but I wonder if most of life and of prayer is learning to deal with the tension of where we want to be and where we are, what we want and what is not yet, and that the most we can so often hope for is to not have to deal with it alone.

October 19.

Austin and I were traveling last month in Colombia, mainly on the Western side. It was dreamy from start to finish (with pictures to come soon!). The way that it began was a weekend email from my most adventurous friend saying that flights to Cartagena were super reasonable and did we know that her aunt actually had a place there that we could stay for free? The timing was difficult; my brother was getting married the weekend before, and we would have good friends visiting SF as well, but I love traveling with Camille and we had been wanting to explore some part of South America, and when you really want something, you make it work. So a few months later, there we were.

When we all met up on our second day (she had been there a week before us) Camille was talking about her trip and how wonderful it had been and then she talked about how she also just didn't feel like this was her place, how she wasn't really connecting to it. Camille had lived in Thailand and Burma for 5 years, making Asia her home. She effortlessly wore skinny jeans when it felt like a hair dryer blowing on high outside, and she adopted every puppy she could find. But when she talked about this not being her place, and something else being her place, it reinforced what's been happening inside of me for a while now: how I miss the places that I've been and lived, how I long for them even while I so enjoy where I am now; how I feel their absence.

It's interesting to think about how a place's meaning changes over time, like how I was so set on leaving the Bay Area when I was 18 for the more theater-centric East Coast in hopes of fulfilled improv dreams, but landed in rainy, perfect Seattle instead. Or how I was ready to leave the PNW 4 years later, after college, after life-changing friendships and heartbreaks and mind blowings. How New Mexico was this desolate, raw, unforgiving painting when I first arrived-- how I was both scared of the loneliness and comforted that it mirrored what I felt inside. How the first salad I had in Gallup literally had green jell-o inside of it. How dating someone who loved it there helped me to learn to love it, all of it, the sticky kids and wild sunsets and long drives and walks and runs that fed me, as I learned again how to feed myself. How I longed for community-filled Seattle even when held by such beauty. How I missed NM when I moved back to the friend-filled, familiar PNW. How I missed my family and California rays and my aunts and my grandmas and 280 and its its and the Giants. How I'm here in SF, truly here, in an amazing apartment with my husband, our soul-dog, with jobs no less, and my heart sometimes aches for Seattle and for New Mexico. San Francisco was the old thing that I wanted to leave when I was 18, and it became the new thing that I wanted to come back to 10 years later. Seattle was the old college town that I wanted to leave at 22, and it was the known refuge I sought when I was 25. New Mexico hadn't hardly ever crossed my mind until I was assigned to go teach there 6 years ago, and now it appears woven into my daydreams and every Chris Pureka song.

I read that last paragraph and think immediately about how discontent I seem. "Just be happy, Lindsey!" my worst critics shout. But I don't think I'm alone in this missing, especially if you're someone who has had whole lives, whole livelihoods with friends and partners and memories in other places. I don't think the right question is, why aren't you happy now? I'm actually really happy right now, but in a different way than I was 10 years ago, 6 years ago, 1 year ago. What I'm actually doing is mapping a whole decade of my life geographically, but we all have our different data points that help us hold on to how life has moved on: mapping with relationships or heartbreaks or or careers or adventures.

It's no surprise that we don't typically grieve well (in our society, in my family unit, in general). Most of us are removed from the bloody births and deaths of life, and we don't know quite what to do with sadness. But I'm drawn to people who do, who don't scoff at the word 'grief', who let themselves be curious about it. We hardly ever let grief do its job, though, including me, and maybe we also forget that it's important to let ourselves be sad about the good things that happen too: the changes, the way life moves on.

Change is defined as "making and becoming different", that things are no longer what they once were. The changes can be primarily good moves, things that you had been hoping for or wanting, or they're the byproduct of tragedy, of never choosing that particular outcome. But either way, I think they're important to pay attention to, important to let yourself take in.

It's like how I really love being married to and living life with Austin. He's the most kind, hilarious, brave person I know. And, AND, I miss living in a house full of people coming in and out, like I did in Seattle. I miss living in that sort of dynamic community, and even though I wouldn't want that living situation to be my forever, even though when I met Austin I knew I would marry him, even if living with him was what I had wanted, a part of me needs to grieve what was, that things aren't like that anymore, because if I don't, I won't be entirely free to enjoy what is.

New parents tell me that it's similar when it comes to their kids' milestones. They cry when their child takes their first steps or has their first day of Kindergarten or weanes from nursing. We don't put these things into the category of anything to be sad about-- they represent appropriate development and growth, after all-- but we all know that feeling, and how it's not that simple. There's a "both/and" quality about the moving on; it is good and what we wanted, and it means that things won't ever be exactly that way, ever again.

This is life, this is the good grief, this is the thing of it. I've been letting myself miss my people in Seattle and NM more lately, which has helped, thinking about them when I want and need to, crying when it feels good, making more phone calls, reading old journal entries, looking at photographs.

Part of it is that SF is still new and feeling known is a long, arduous process that often takes a backseat to Netflix. The amount of times I've thought to myself or said out loud "how in the world do you make friends in a new place as an adult?" is real; the struggle is real. But then I am reminded of the age-old truth that belief or feeling does not always precede action, that often we have to do take the next right step anyway, without feeling like it, and the rest will come. So we go out when we feel like staying in, or I try that new group or book club without being sure, and what do you know, grace upon grace, one Saturday night in October you find yourself taking the bus to meet Austin and two new friends at their place wanting to get there to debrief your day, looking forward to feeling understood. And as all Saturday nights should go, we found our way up to their rooftop to take in our city, all of it, the familiar home and new adventure, all that is still waiting for us and all that holds us up.

It reminded me that just like how we are all of the ages we've ever been, we are the product of our experiences and places; we take them with us. And on this morning with my pup and husband sleeping in this gentle foggy light and an acoustic song about long desert roads in the background, I am much more homefull than I am homeless, and so grateful.

known.

(written about 5 weeks ago)

You guys. So much to say! And the paralysis of getting this post right is, well, paralyzing. But, suffice it to say that what has happened in the last few weeks is what always promises to happen when your eyes and ears are open to the universe answering an open-ended question: perspective shifts and sharpens, and we realize that knowing the answer is more of a remembering than it is a finding. I should have known.

The day after I published last, I got a call from an organization that I admire inquiring about whether or not I'd be interested in becoming a fellow of theirs, with the end goal of opening a charter school. In the span of that decision process, I was asked by that organization's CEO why it is that I "can't figure out what I want to do with my life." In a separate instance, I sat around a table of fellow ex-TFA'ers (current teachers and scholars, mostly) and ruminated on how confusing it was that vocation and contentment continue to be so confusing. Along other lines of life and happenings: I have missed Seattle wholeheartedly this summer. I rediscovered my music library from high school and the results are gloriously damning. I started taking guitar lessons.

But alas, I did not get said fellowship (a truly poor fit from the start), and the few short days of amusing the possibility brought up some curious feelings. I began to foreshadow how I would miss the life that I'm currently living: bringing Rufo (dog) into work everyday, feeling valued by the company, being able to live in our cozy studio in the Western Addition. Everything is a trade-off, isn't it? I also immediately threw myself down a path of 'what would this person, and this person, and this person think?' People who work in education would be concerned (school leadership without the proper training is a disaster, and often a very costly one), my parents would be impressed, my coworkers would be surprised, my friends would be all across the board. It would awe certain people and not others. Win me points here, but not there. But that's what happens when you're as externally focused as my little baby heart tends to be-- it's a game that you can't win. The cards are marked, the game is rigged, and it's best not to start in the first place.

But, of course, easier said than done. Those older and wiser tell me that not caring what people think comes with age. I really hope so. What a gift to have some irreverance come earlier, and what a long and active road it is to get to that place; the term 'gift' feels like such a passive understatement.

Like many, I've always put a lot of stock in what my parents think (or what I think they think). I hold onto a fistful of off-hand comments or conversations from long ago or from the other day, and feel deeply sensitive to their views and wishes, which, of course, are rooted in so much that I cannot control. As Anne Lamott said at her UC Berkeley commencement speech, "[your parents want] you to do well in your field, make them look good, and maybe also make a tiny fortune. But that is not your problem. Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are."

And then she goes on to suggest that if your parents are hell bent on you excelling in the field of, say, microbiology, that they are free to enroll in their own program and forge their own way. My choices have to be my own. And even in two years of therapy, I probably barely scratched the surface of this dynamic; and though I don't know much, I do know that my desire to please and impress my family is stunting.

I was having breakfast with a good friend a few weeks ago, and we were talking about she has a flower bed on her rooftop that she's tended to pretty vigilantly, but for some reason the flowers that she's planted there die pretty quickly. They get plenty of sun, and it's a secluded spot, so there's no real reason why they wouldn't thrive, but they don't, and still she waters. She was telling me that it reminds her of pregnancy, actually: the woman has to incubate an environment that's friendly toward new life, so she eats well and exercises and doesn't drink. But she can't control whether or not something grows, and she can't control how it does. The actual development of the baby is a hands-up-white-flag-surrender situation, even as she makes sure that she's doing her part. It's both incredibly active and very passive, which (not speaking from experience) seems like an exercise in trust and major anxiety regulation. The metaphor alone slays me: that we can only create an environment where something can grow, but whether or not it does is not something we can manage. This was true with dating, it's true with friendships, clearly it's true with child-rearing, but it's also true with career.

Nurturing a place where something has the best chance of growing means letting go of the grabbing for approval and validation from those who (in this instance) don't serve me, even and especially family, even and especially old acquaintances, even and especially anybody that I please. We live in an age where, if I wanted to publicize and ask for affirmation about every aspect of my life-- my job, my commute, my marriage, my writing, my free time, my friendships, my adventures, my outfit, my dog, my face-cleansing routine-- I could, all day everyday. But on that micro-level of social media, it makes me nauseous to even think about playing that game (says the blogger). I never leave a rabbit hole down instagram or Facebook feeling more inspired or enthused, instead I emerge wondering how this person's arms are so toned, or how this person got a particular job, or why that couple looks more in love than I feel sometimes. It's silly and, for me, a gigantic waste of precious time.

But I need to apply that aversion to the harder, bigger, monolithic work of becoming apart from my parents' views in the ways that will allow things to grow. In the ways that for some people, happen when they turn 18, or 25, or when they're sent out on their own, or when they get married, or when they get divorced. And for others, holding onto this misplaced anxiety leaks out throughout their lifetimes and masks itself as ambition or laziness or restlessness or long hours. Clearly, I cannot deny anymore that my struggle with career is tied and knotted up with my fear of letting my parents down. In the words of the great Josh Ritter, every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied. The process of unwrapping and untangling doesn't happen overnight--how can it when the coils and snarls took 29 years to form?--but rather with presence and conversations and fights and truth-telling.

Write that.

There are parts of all of us that aren't really hidden from others as much as they just don't come up in normal conversation. They're opinions or anxieties or just realities that root deep down, and if we're lucky we can share them with a close friend or partner and that turns out to be enough. But sometimes my deep down matches your deep down, and we would never know otherwise.

Like, say for instance, maybe to use one tiny, miniscule, completely unrelated example: ever since I stopped teaching 4 years ago, I have been having a mid (quarter?)-life crisis regarding work and career. Each new venture, in whatever industry or role-- prestigious or not, education-related or not, well-paying or not-- has resulted in me feeling like an utter failure, like a fraud, like I'm both wasting my time on things that don't matter while at the same time not being very good at the work in front of me in the first place. I'm instantly defensive when people ask what "I do", especially people who I knew from college or from Teach For America. I have literally lied about it before and made my tech recruiting sound philanthropic and leadership-oriented, knowing that my fabrications would never be uncovered, young con artist that I am.

I grew up in a family where success was valued, where my parents worked hard to send my brothers and I to good schools so we could get into good colleges, so that we could find something we cared about and get really good at it. I was competitive with myself from an early age. My grandpa would come over for dinners and quiz me on my multiplication tables circa third grade, and I would study my flash cards like crazy to impress him. And while the academic part of school came easily enough in the earlier days, I'm not sure if I necessarily ever felt particularly smart as much as I just felt driven. I mean, for goodness sakes, my plan until high school was to go to Stanford and play for their women's basketball team. LOLZ.

If I think of life in terms of when my dreams were the biggest and most brave, it's not the magnitude that has necessarily taken a toll, but rather my own belief in myself and the legitimacy those dreams held. At some point around the TFA days, or the long unemployment shortly thereafter, a voice and a narrative began to emerge that screamed "Failure!" any chance it got, and I suppose the work that lies ahead is one of figuring out what that is.

It's always nice to write from a place of knowing, isn't it? It can be an afterthought of that one really vulnerable thing, complete with some well-timed self-deprecation and perceptive wisdom, offered as a gift to both anyone who reads and who wants it, but also to my future, distant self, someday lost and wandering, brought back by dusted off retro wisdom. The image alone slays me. And while I need that sometimes, the afterthought and the well-packaged perspective, avoiding the messy doesn't help in my lowest-of-low moments, the kind that spiral and bring me and my general vicinity down.

And the first step to talking about it, I think, is to name the elephant in the room, the one that is scary in its enormity. There is nothing unprivileged about a struggle to sit in the uncertainty of career and jobs. This is the plight and the writings of an upper-middle class white woman who got to go to and graduate from college because there were never any questions that she wouldn't. This is privilege, first and foremost. And, this is my story. It's real and good because all of ours are both. But the reality that so many people live without the luxury of choice when it comes to how they will pay the bills is heavy and real, and if it's possible to hold both stories as legitimate, then I'd like to try.

I was talking the other day to Austin while we were sitting in the park, the sun beating down in the warm-breezy way that is San Francisco. I knew that we had the afternoon to ourselves, but having that free time meant that I would have to sit down to my computer to write something, or else my conscious (the part that says "you belong here. sit.") would haunt and poke. But writing hasn't felt good for a while now, and when we were sitting in the park, I was trying to articulate why. It feels hollow, I said, and I know that I should be publicizing more on social media (ugh), but I really don't think that any of it's very good anymore, and quite frankly I'm embarrassed to put it out there. I said that I didn't feel like I was living a life worth writing about, like I've just completely settled and there's not a lot happening. I'm not living a great story with my days anymore, I said, and I'm frustrated. I work, I work out, I read a bit, watch a show, go to sleep and do it all again the next day. All I want is for this feeling inside of me that feels like a failure with every job and every thought of any career, I need that surgically removed. I need a therapist surgeon and I need help.

And then he perked up from his happy place of sunshine and Rufo time and said 'write that.' Write about that feeling you want to be removed. Write about the struggle. Stop dancing around it. Start doing things that may not make everyone feel great. Write like you have stuff to say, because you do. And I said, okay I think I can do that. And he said, well then go do that.

So I guess this is that. Or this is the introduction into that. I want this feeling inside of me, that shows up often and without invitation, that feels so judgy and discontent and mean, to leave and shut up. But it won't unless I decide to climb that mountain. So instead of making grand and panicked plans to compensate-- to go to law school or open a charter school or work for the White House, or cry uncontrollably in my bright pink robe because I'm turning 30 next year and none of those things feel particularly viable (I'll take the last option, thanks!)--I'm going to start writing and sharing and trying something I haven't done before.

Because you know what? Me too, me too, me too.

I'll take it.

I took myself on a writing retreat, to repent, in a way, for so many days not writing. I recently quit my job for another that will be less flexible, but more social, with more opportunities. It was probably as easy of a transition as I could have ever expected, which I will put away in the bank of emotional stamina and come back to when that is not the case.

In any case, here I am in the high mountains of Aptos, CA, perched smack-dab in an apple orchard, doing the hardest part of a writing retreat: writing. Austin keeps telling me to "relax, do whatever feels best", and I'm with him on that, I really am. But I don't necessarily think goals have to be the opposite of relaxing, especially when I know that this act of sitting my butt in a chair and letting it happen, is one of the most life-giving works I could ever do, that it heals and stretches and opens. And, not to mention, I'm here alone. So it helps that I have a purpose, that I'm not going to spend the entire time doubting if I'm doing anything worth while, if I'm wasting it.

If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? If a single woman spends a vacation completely alone, is it fun?

We could use more wasting time, in my opinion. We could use more spacing out and doing nothing for a while. Which I think is why I love driving so much. My friend Mark thinks that I can't part from my car, even though it woud make sense to, living in the city and all, because of New Mexico. We talk about living in New Mexico as an event. "Because of Apollo 11." "Because of New Mexico."

I loved driving before that point though. When I first got my license, I would drive circles around the streets close to our house, next to two (separate) boys who I had always had life-long crushes on (simultaneously, of course-- gotta diversify that portfolio), who lived up a few big hills from my home. I'd sneak side-glances to see if they were there, which they weren't, and then keep driving. I was most likely listening to Five for Fighting or Dave Matthews. Most definitely was. In college, I found my looping routes as well. They were the loops I would take when I was driving home but not quite ready to be home. I'd drive around Greenlake in Seattle a few times, most likely listening to Taylor Swift- not much has changed- or Hillsong United (I'm never publishing this), singing along, resting in the in-between place. I adore the in-between place. At my core, I don't think the best part of the journey is the destination. I fucking love the journey. Or at least, I fucking love car journeys.

In this case, though, the desination is pretty sweet. I mean that in both the hip 'sweet' way, as well as just the big sigh of relief of "ah, I'm here" sort of way. Bless you, Airbnb, bless you so hard. No hotel could or would ever compare to having a tiny cottage all to one's self tucked into the Santa Cruz mountains, it just couldn't. Maybe this is why family camps were born. Remember family camps? Where, for one week per summer, your whole family would pile into a 'rustic' cabin, which I'm realizing now must have been dreadful for my mom, and just do fun, individualized things the whole time? Camp in general was my bread and butter growing up, I realized the other day when Austin and I were driving through some of my old camp stomping grounds. I had as awkward of a teenage stage as anyone, but I shined at camp, as least in relation to my other life of losing every student council position that I ran for.

I haven't been back to any of the places I used to frequent over the summer, the camps specifically, I mean. I don't really have a reason to, nor do I have a desire at this point in my life, but lo and behold, this weekend I am, hand to heart, a mere few miles away from one of the most prominent camps, Kennolyn. But it's not the knowledge that it's close that feels comforting or familiar, it's the fact that this skyline and these trees hold such sweet invitations to remember, which I suppose is just a roundabout way of saying memories. I'll take it.

back.

Hellloo-ooooooooo!!!!!!! I've been thinking that this space would feel like a cold, damp, forgotten room where old camping gear sits and spreads, where you never want to show first time visiting guests when giving the grand tour. But of course, so much of how we feel in any given place is so often what we bring into it. Which is to say that perhaps I've been feeling parts of myself becoming cold and damp, a bit forgotten, and that returning here scratches an itch that's been burning for a little while now.

Since we've last spoken, so much has happened that I can hardly contain myself. Austin and I found a tiny, charming apartment in the hippest little neighborhood in San Francisco that I ever did see. And! He's working full time in a job that he's enjoying. And! The last time I traveled to Seattle for work, I didn't pine to live there again. I pined for my sweet friends who still call it home, but not for the place itself. And! (last one) I quit my job last week, and will be working with a company in these parts, with an office and people to see and be seen with everyday.

But, you know, more on that later. I was talking with a dear friend yesterday about this new move on my horizon, and how my quality of life is sure to improve from where it has been. An Italian anxiety-case at heart, I always jump to what could and will surely go wrong: I'll fail at this job, I'm making a horrible mistake, being on a more traditional schedule will take over my life, that I'll spend my entire existance commuting and being angry. But, I confessed, working from home five days a week has been more trying than I ever thought it could be. While I would never claim that I understand depression or how it works, I feel depressed during the business hours of Monday-Friday, so resigning and lonely. And then my friend said something that stuck. She said, "you are a soulful person, and there's nothing soulful about your days right now." She's right, of course she's right, but it got me thinking that there is a domino effect when it comes to our habits, or at least to my habits.

Fulfillment breeds more fulfillment, and gratitude breeds more gratitude. Just like resignation breeds more of the same, and so does dullness. There are seasons and then there are choices to end those seasons, and I'm not sure I have much more to say except that I feel back and that is no small thing.

remembering.

i walked though long island city, woodside, elmhurst, and jackson heights. i shook my tambourine the whole time, because it helped me to remember that even though I was going through different neighborhoods, i was still me. [oskar schell]


we shouldn't be here at all, if we'd known more about it before we started. but I suppose it's often that way. the brave things in old tales and songs, mr. frodo: adventures as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. but that's not the way of it the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually... their paths were laid that way, as you put it. [tolkien, courtesy of samwise]

letting it all out.

My family has a dog named Ace, a shitzu-poodle who I often describe as ‘a stuffed animal with a heartbeat.’ Ace is friendly and docile, looks more similar than not to an ewok, and has short stubby legs to hold up his barrel body. He has the physical stamina of a potato and the obedience of a very confused toddler. He is both our family darling and butt of most jokes; he is ridiculous. And he is ours.

Austin’s dad owns a Kansas-City based dog training resort where he specializes in all things dog. Chris, at any given point, has three or more dogs accompanying him from place to place, doing tricks and being off-leash and reminding most onlookers of a father walking with three furry kids; perfectly dutiful to his every move. He is consistently pulling out treats from a mysterious pocket, egging his many poodles to ‘dance’ or ‘jump’ or be general circus animals; it’s cute, it’s intimidating, and it’s the single best advertisement for his business.

Chris was visiting us this week with his pride and joy, a miniature poodle named Charlie, and I had my hesitations. Namely, I did not know how it would go to have Ace and Charlie in the same room. Due to his affinity for sleeping pretty much always, Ace doesn’t get out with other canines¬, though I can only imagine that carries his signature lethargy into all situations. But moreover, to be honest, it’s always a little embarrassing having Ace being around people who know what they’re doing with dogs. It just is.

And so when Ace, in the first few minutes of loving on Charlie as only Ace can: with lots of licks and taps and heavy-laden chases, pooped a fast one in the middle of the living room mid-run, not realizing what was happening, all semblance of coolness went out of the window and that was that. ‘I get it,’ I thought, as Austin, Chris, and I watched it happen. ‘The relief of letting it all out is always better than trying to keep it in for everybody else’s sake.’ You can only do what you can do.

But alas, who hasn’t been a nervous pooper? Not me, not ever. And certainly not Ace.

drain.

It’s therapy 101 to let your problems just be your problems, to not apologize or justify that it could be worse. Everyone’s battle gets to matter, even in the midst of such national sadness, even in a drought, even when it’s 65 degrees outside in the middle of December. And yet the voice that’s as old as a scar still shouts that I have no right not to be grateful, that complaining drains the room and the page. Sometimes I nod in feeble agreement—oh right, right, sorry about that— and sometimes I picture myself hitting that voice with a baseball bat until it splatters against the wall and breaks the bat in two. So there’s that.

I haven’t been writing. I sit down to write and try to start from where I am but the voice that emerges is either 14 years old and annoying as all hell or empty like a shallow well. I am scared of posting something badly written, and so I censor the words because the voice that’s trying to get out is just sad, and I’m just not sure I can do much with sad. I like to write from the place of redemption and hilltops; I like to be relatable insofar that I can still offer sage wisdom at the end. But I feel watery and raw and homesick, and though I know that joy comes in the morning, the night is the night is the night.

I understood that moving was eventually going to become sadder and somewhat more demoralizing than just being difficult. I knew that at some point unemployment or loneliness or familial disappointments or root canals would become the points of punctuation in this winter of our best efforts. What I didn’t expect was such a drought of strength, such a desire to withdraw from my family and this place. I’ve never believed that we have a set limit on how much we can handle, but lately I’ve felt like my ability to give has been slowly chipped away and depleted by worrying about Austin, by trying to manically please my parents and get out of their way, by reaching for optimism in the midst of rising prices and thwarted tries, by watching too many home videos of a lonely little girl, by missing Seattle friends but desperately wanting to love this place.

It’s times like these when I’m so grateful for my therapist’s voice in my head, for the fierce permission and solidarity she always offered. I’ll imagine taking these thoughts into her office like I always used to, and then try to imagine how the conversation would go—how she would listen, what she would be feeling while sitting with me, what she would challenge to go deeper with, what she would give, what I would let myself receive.

It’s okay, more than okay, to be sad, she would say. I am not responsible for anyone’s reactions to me or my emotions; I am free to express what affects me, regardless of how it makes anybody else feel. It’s still okay to be sad. Treat the tears as I would a rainy day: a warrant to curl up and hold hot tea in my hands, watching the steam rise and stick to the inside of the window as rain bathes us all.