Keep That Hunger


Eleven years ago today, I got off of Route 40 in Flagstaff, took I17 south, and headed home to a place I had never lived.

One night, a few weeks later, while sitting alone in my apartment, I said to myself, “I can’t visualize my life, going forward; but also- I can’t imagine going back.”

A few days later, I met Craig.

~

A year ago, I walked out on a profession I had spent 15 years building. 

With no plan.

I sat with the uncertainty. I faced all the fears. I melted into the sadness. And then one night, I said, “I’m a writer.”

I called a grant writer I happened to know and I said- I need you to help me get to where you are.

This led to a second opportunity. This time I busted through the door for the interview, placed my hand on my heart, and said, “Writing is my art.” 

A week later she called me and said- Come back here and help us do this thing.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a VP I didn’t know looked at me during the middle of a meeting, and said, “So. I’ve heard you’re a writer.”

I swallowed the excess saliva that had overcome my mouth, sat up in my chair, and said, “Yes. What do you need done.” 

Don’t give up on your journey just because you keep falling off the train and your shoelaces are caught on the track.

Follow the trail of bread crumbs home.

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How to Write Short 


How to Write Short

This is the title of a book I read recently, (by the brilliant Roy Peters), that I can’t stop thinking about. Which words to omit, and which sentences to pare down? Where to play the darling word games, and where to cut to the chase?

Can we talk about commas? Do I even have a single-handed, Vaseline-tight grip on this? How many of the punctuation rules learned in grammar school am I using correctly, and how many of them have I bent and twisted as I’ve aged?

“Just go write!” my husband says, “get out of your head!” But where is excessive, heart-aching self-expression worth it, and where does it become utter and complete self-indulgence and redundancy?

Speaking of redundancy, have I ever spelled this word with any kind of confidence? Truth be told, there are a slew of words in the English language that I write on a daily basis that I can say- I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO SPELL. “Strength.” And “length.” and “exacerbate.” (See also: redundancy).

Which brings me to the point; does this matter?

It matters to me. It doesn’t have to matter to you. You know things I don’t know. In fact, it’s one of life’s greatest serendipities that we don’t all know the same things. So it matters to me, and it may not matter to you; and that’s- beautiful, actually. It means you’re holding up some other end of the fort that I would have a leg and a clump of my hair stuck in.

I’ll keep sharpening my pencil and you keep counting the numbers, teaching the kids, painting the art, and holding the space.

 

When the Book is too Delicious

  
To My Daughter,

Today we went to story time, like we do every week. You didn’t want to sit. You wanted to stand. Right up in front. Inhaling the words off the pages, snuggling your heart into the arms of the librarian, and swallowing life the way you do; whole and all at once.

I know that I kept asking you to sit down. It isn’t that I don’t understand your need to move your body, it’s that I want you to understand the lay of the land, the rules of the world. Because this will help you channel that energy into the good stuff.

I speak about you often as though we are nemesi, you and I. As if you live to challenge me, break every rule I put in place, toss every parental confidence I have wildly astray. 

But you are me, little one. You are my spirit outside of my body. I know you need to move. And jump and hop and laugh furiously and yell like wildfire. All of this while you are taking in absolutely everything around you. I know you are. Listening. Learning. Shaping your mind.

I know this because I see myself in you. And in this picture. 

I know how hard it is to wrestle within a body that wants so badly to follow the rules but also- to break every last one of them. To feel the dizzying longing for creativity while wrangling oneself into the structure of a sound and well-researched paper.

Despite this understanding, I told you to sit down 97 times today and then finally pulled us both out of story time. But like I told you in the parking lot; it wasn’t because I was upset with you.

It was because life has rules to follow and because the people we meet out there have rights; being able to see the pages of the book too.

So sit right up front and feast on all the universe with your eyes and your heart; just sit down on your tush so all the world can feast too.

[Sit down. 

Sit.

Stop moving. Just wait hold on. Just. Hold on. Wait just… Hold on. 

Hold…

Just.

You’re standing on me. On me. You’re on me.]

The Momentum of Being Lost

  
I’ve been lost. Okay. Many, many times. I’ve been lost in my personal life and my professional life, and in both cases I’ve found a few fundamentals to be true. 

1). Being lost is the single most mojo-threatening yet hopeful state of existence. It promises nothing, hopes everything, and swings back and forth on the hinges of faith.

2). Settling isn’t ever the answer. Settling has a powerful draw. Arguably a logical one. But the basic tenet of fit-ness remains ; if it’s not right, you’re just killing time. And your spirit.

3). Every time I’ve thought I had it figured out, I ran the risk of being very, very wrong. Take a look at the many parallels between finding a relationship that “fits” as well as an employment opportunity that “fits.” Years ago, I sat with a couple of then colleagues (who then became some of my closest friends) and we tore open this hypothesis we’d come to that the relationship you have with your work is much the same as the relationship you have with your significant other. Is this a good fit? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Can we laugh together? Are our hearts in sync? Do we share the same vision? Can we grow old together? Or will we crash and burn, scraping ourselves off the pavement with a pervasive confusion and partly inevitable binge ice cream eating after all is said and done. 

4). I have been professionally lost. For…. well a really long year now. I’ve tried some things, always well intended; only to find that they were not my soulmate. I mean a job is a job. Right? No one likes their work. Right? Well. After a year of this mess, I’m not sure it’s that simple. 

5). This month I tried three new things, simultaneously. One crashed and burned immediately. It didn’t only just scrape away at my layers of defensiveness. It didn’t promise to teach me any sound lessons. Instead it immediately shouted THIS IS NOT FOR YOU, my dear love. Walk away. And walking away is not a class act feeling. It burns through every layer of my sense of self. But as soon as I noticed my flesh was literally ON FIRE, I grabbed a hose, cooled down my skin, and threw the papers across the room. Don’t do the thing that sets your skin on fire. You’re going for soul on fire. Not skin.

6. So, exhausted, I brushed the burning embers into the fireplace and I reached my heart out. Again. Only this time I reached out to the one opportunity that has been feeling the BEST of all of them. All along. And I said, “what more can I take off your plate this week.” And that was it.

7. And then, magic. I got a reply so full of passion, so full of love. A reply of appreciation, of trust, of gratitude. And so I put the rest of my pile down. And I turned to face this reply. And I picked it up, and I held it. And I looked at it. And I felt it. 

8. And I decided- this is the one. This one is my baby, my partner, my selection. This is the one that gets me. The one that wants to hear what I think, what I believe in, and wants to read what I write. 

9. So, to my other my friends who are lost, I tell you this. Just like not settling in finding a partner; don’t settle in finding your career. Or your next career. It’s as much about fit as anything has ever been. Life keeps rolling no matter what, but you owe it to yourself to fall in love. With your work. 

Lost is the best place to begin. Don’t be afraid. Float.

Raising Memories

  
I grew up on along the Jersey shore. Not literally, but close enough. So many summer memories from childhood right up through college and beyond involve those hot, sticky sand days and boardwalk nights. They are memories that define me, candle scents I search for and harshly critique, and rolling ocean sounds that I can still hear in my head.

I didn’t expect to grow up and move 2,000 miles away. And more than that, I didn’t expect those memories to represent home to me for the rest of my life in the way that they do.

That said, I’m raising my daughter in the desert. Not literally, but close enough. And sometimes I feel palpably saddened for her to think that she isn’t growing up… well, the exact same way I did. 

Which is of course, ridiculous. Because they don’t. Not completely anyway. Times change, things ebb and flow. She’s growing up in an entirely different world. Faster paced, sure. But that’s not quite what I’m getting at. She’s growing up in the world of Spring Training up the street, fire pits and marshmallow roasting during the winter, and “driving to the snow.” 

She can look in through the gates at Sloan Park and see the next Cubs pitcher warming up on the practice mound; like it’s Little League practice. She can look off into the distance in literally any direction and see mountains just a few miles away. And on a lucky winter’s day, some of them white-capped. 

She can ride “up north” to visit any season at all, and see fall trees and sledding, skiing and mittens. She can pop out back any evening from October through May and ask if we can “do a fire tonight.” 

Maybe the grass here in the desert isn’t always green, and when it is; maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe our front yard is gravel and our summer heat scathes the paint off her backyard toys. Maybe she’ll never wake up to a snow day. Maybe she won’t grow up with cool summer nights.

But she’ll have high energy Spring Training crowds up the street and all over town. And beautiful winters and campfire marshmallows out back. She’ll grow up understanding only certain shady summer trees can grow in the desert, and that they’re special and rare. Maybe it’s not about giving her my memories, but making space for her to make her own.

  

On Turning Five

 In three days, my little goober turns 5.

This is not new or surprising information. I’ve only blogged about it maybe 6 or 7 times now. But birthday number 5 feels a lot like birthday number 1, and perhaps for good reason.

The first birthday, for mom and dad, is largely about survival. Or, having survived. The first year of your first born’s life is often equal parts bliss and oblivion; and the celebration of the first year encompasses each of those emotions.

But the fifth birthday; this one wraps up the first few years in a bow. It sets our little ones right up for kindergarten, and reminds us, quite often by way of a well-executed blow of smart sassiness, that the times, they are-a-changin’.

Five year olds are people. They have thoughts of their own, ideas of their own, and what I can only assume is the beginning of an internal dialogue on the world.

This is alarming.

All these years we have held her and paddled her little feet out to the edge of the branch, and jumped back. And then we stepped forward again, tapped her on the little head, scurried her out to the edge of the branch again, and tip toed back.

And now, it is safe to say…. the tricycle in our backyard is obsolete. The alphabet puzzles are no longer a fun challenge. The sippie cups stand, stagnant, in the cabinet. It takes a full twenty minutes to find a wipe in this house now. The swingset in the backyard no longer looks so looming. Story time at the library is just another opportunity for her to pull out her school skills. And these are good things. These are the things we live for when we become parents, the notion that while time marches on, we have prepared them for it.



Well. Kind of. Because after all, this is only test #1.


Happy 5th birthday to our baby girl. I mean big girl. I’m sorry; young lady.

To my kid.

To my whole heart.

To my husband and I.

We have fed her and bathed her and kept her warm and dry for five years now.

Remember when day one seemed so daunting? We did it.

how i met your father

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Two people come out of a building. One out of the whirling central door, and the other out of the furthest door to the left. From the gold-laden revolving door at center, a sharp looking man exits. He looks to be about 30 years old; give or take, and his demeanor makes him appear somewhat like a giant, just out of place, in the middle of an amusement park.

To the left, a young woman exits from the furthest door, trying to remain as invisible as possible. But that’s not quite what it seems. She wants to be seen, she’s just terrified of what will happen once she is. So she stays quiet and stays left, and just out of the rain and just out of sight.

As they step out onto the street, the rain suddenly turns into downpour. She buttons up her brown overcoat and pulls the collar up around her neck. At the same time, he pulls an umbrella out of his back pocket. He sparks a smile and opens the umbrella, quite pleased with himself.

But she, with her buttoned up, weather-appropriate raincoat securely shuttered around her neck, is now soaked to the bone.

Here is our heroine, drenched and shuddering, yet seemingly unaware. Now this is not to say she is optimistic and handling it well. No. Anyone could tell by the look on her face that shows that, on some level, she knows how cold she is. She knows. It’s just that she isn’t tuned in. There’s just too much to think about, so much to do and to learn and to know; she has no time to stand soaking in the rain, thinking about irony.

Our gentleman lifts his head to look up a bit, trying to get a sense of how to navigate his way through this storm. Suddenly, our heroine appears in his view. He looks at her. In shock. Why is she soaking wet? What is the deal with her malfunctioning raincoat? Why isn’t she looking for cover?

He walks toward her, the bottom half of his pant legs now weighted down from the gathering rainwater overcoming the sidewalk.

“Hey,” he offers, “You look kind of, uh, like you could use a hand.”

She looks up to see a man standing before her. He has offered her a smile, and she’s working to get a read on it; much in the same fashion as a mathematician would read code. He’s got an umbrella, she thinks, but just about the only thing it’s protecting is his head. Water is pouring down from the sides of it, in sheets. He doesn’t seem to notice.

“Uh yeah,” she replies, “I guess when it rains, it pours here.”

He laughs, “Yeah, when we do weather here we pull out all the stops.”

He cautiously steps forward, in an effort to get some umbrella over top of her.

She looks up. What’s he even thinking, that umbrella isn’t big enough to cover us both. What silliness.

He steps forward for the one last step and stretches out his arm to bring her underneath. She looks up and nods in appreciation. Then suddenly she glances down at the umbrella’s handle.

“LM,” she reads aloud, surprised. He looks down at the handle. “Oh. I don’t know, I just picked this up somewhere,” he explains.

“That sounds like a bad plot gimmick of an overly long sitcom series,” he laughs.

“Haha, totally” she chuckles. “What even, anyway? Don’t you hate when they have this build up for what seems like, ever, and you’re like hello, I’ve got it… I’ve got the ending. Like, let’s move this along now. Enough with the fillers.”

“I know, right?!” he tosses his head back in laughter, “Let’s just get on with the ending already. I mean look, I’m Craig, I’ll be your husband in about three years.” 

“Haha oh! Is that right?” she half-shouts in disbelief, “I guess we’ll see.”

He takes her arm and leads her away from the awning dripping rainwater overhead, “I guess we will.”