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Thoughts

Lying down with grief

June 24, 2017

Grief is your receipt that proves you loved. That you paid the price. – Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior 

This is a difficult post for me to write and likely for you to read, but writing is my therapy and this blog is my couch. You can either come in and grab a tissue or catch me at the next session. No hard feelings.

Wednesday morning, at 11:05, my Grandma Marge marched boldly into heaven.

She lived her life honestly and simply. Her possessions were few but all treasured. She walked this earth with red, fiery curls, long, killer legs and few apologies for her opinions. She was the definition of a matriarch, always guiding her tribe toward truth and the simplest, smartest answer. She spoke from her heart and accepted all who came through her door. She only asked that you “serve yourself”. My life was forever changed by her light and her love.

I never met my mom’s mom. I lost my dad’s mom when I was fairly young, so when Hank and I started dating and he told me he still had all of his grandparents, I was over the moon. And then I met her, Grandma Marge, and I went over the sun, too. She was so welcoming, so accepting so familiar. It healed a part of me I didn’t realize was so tender. She slipped right into that painful void and stoked a very specific joy for me.

I remember when Hank and I were engaged and everyone on the planet had an opinion about where and how we should get married. I felt overwhelmed and, admittedly, like I was being swallowed up by the ceremony of it all. Sensing my stress, Grandma held me back one day at a family gathering, looked me in my eyes and said, “You hold onto your convictions, doll.”

That was just something she would say. She had perfected the delivery of very sharp directives that somehow didn’t feel offensive, I think because she diluted the bite of the words in concern for your best interests. It felt like gospel … a wise woman’s suggestions, rather than a command to change direction. She was a sincere sounding board, an unfeigned confidant, and sometimes, a lighthouse. She lived on a lake with Hank’s Grandpa Butch, and before we had three kids, before everything changed for her and for us, we used to stay up late and have these long, revealing talks on the deck by the water. She always had a question or a story or a scrap of advice to punctuate the end of my sentences.

Five years ago, when we found out she was sick, it felt impossible. It felt like tomorrow’s worry. She would be the first person to beat it. She even said she would be. And she knew everything! There was no way this badass great grandmother could be stopped by some freak illness. She was bigger than that, stronger than that, invincible.

But last Friday I got the call I’d been dreading for more than a year. Grandma had taken a turn for the worse. We needed to come up that night. I was a sobbing, snotty, hysterical mess. Hank was calm, understanding. He didn’t push. He let me come to the decision on my own. And together, we drove 40 minutes to say goodbye to the woman we loved so much.

She was laying in her bed when we walked in. I hesitated for a minute and then felt a powerful pull toward her. I leaned down, put my head on her shoulder and sobbed in her ear.

“Don’t do that, honey. You’re so pretty when you smile,” she said.
“I just love you,” I cried.
“I know, honey, I love you, too. Now, you take care of those little girls, and my grandson and my daughter.”
“I will, I promise.”
“You two are going to make it,” she said, “but it won’t always be easy.”
I stood up to wipe my face and look at her in the eyes. We held hands so tight. Tighter than I’ve ever held hands with anyone with a grip that got away from me. It was this beautiful, tense, brutal energy, shared for what felt like a blink and an eternity at once.

“Thank you for being my grandma,” I strained.
“It was my pleasure. We wouldn’t have kept you around if we didn’t like ya.”
I hugged her again. The tightest embrace I could give her without breaking her fragile frame.

There’s a reason I’m sharing this …

This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. If you’ve read any of Glennon Doyle’s work or seen her speak live, you’ve heard her talk about leaning into pain. How the easy buttons are what we should be afraid of, not our feelings. But I love easy buttons when it comes to death. I’ve never been in a position where I was able to say goodbye, nor have I ever been a person who believed she could handle such a thing. I’ve never really looked that kind of loss in the eyes and worked through it in any kind of confrontational way. But, you guys, I’m so glad I did. It was a gift sweeter than I ever could have imagined.

I will never forget those honest, precious minutes with Grandma Marge. I will never forget that hug, her hand in my hand. I would have regretted it for the rest of my life if I hadn’t gone. It gave me comfort, cruel as the conditions were. But it hurt, too. It hurt in the way profound loss does; pounding head, lurching stomach, heavy, quick heartbeats. All of these things are the going price of one last hug, one last talk, one last memory of her eyes and her voice and her stories. I have always resisted that kind of hurt, but this time, I laid down with it, and that gives me some peace.

She held on through Father’s Day. She made it to and through her anniversary. She would do that. She would fight with everything she had to spare the people she loved. She would have fought like that forever if she could. But instead, the great beyond was blessed with one of the most amazing souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

And now we’re trying to come alongside our babies and help them lean into their pain. They don’t want to go to the calling hours or the funeral. It frightens them, and I think that’s OK. Tonight we are having a Great Grandma Marge Party. We’re going to bake sweets, because Great Grandma loved dessert. And we’re going to talk about all of our favorite things she said and did and all the kindness she had in her heart.

We’re choosing not to remember Grandma Marge with oxygen on her face and a bed in her living room and a breathless desperation in her tone. I, personally, will remember things like this, instead, and smile. I’m told I’m prettier when I smile …

♥ She had the walkin’ farts. They’d just pop out when she waltzed around the kitchen and startle her and everyone in the room.

♥ She always started sentences with, “I got so tickled …” or “I had to laugh …”.

♥ She would stay up until 2 o’clock in the morning playing euchre and sipping coffee with powdered creamer. Then she’d sleep in her recliner to make sure she didn’t miss anything.

♥ One night, Grandma Marge and I were sitting up chatting while the boys went fishing, and I asked her what was the happiest day of her life. And she told me that one time, her and Butch (Hank’s grandpa) were driving in the country and he pulled over and made her a bouquet of flowers from a field. That was her happiest day.

♥ Spike’s middle name is Margery, after Grandma Marge, a fact which Grandma made known by always using her full name when she introduced her to strangers.

♥ As she gave away her treasures, one by one, and handed out her final instructions to her grandchildren over the weeks as she deteriorated, she cautioned each of them. “Take care of this, or I’ll come back and haunt ya!” or “Keep your nose clean. I mean it. Or I’ll come back and haunt ya!” Just awesome. .

♥ She had the best laugh.

♥ Nobody could give Hank’s Grandpa Butch shit like Grandma Marge could. And that man deserves to get some shit. He’s a pistol.

♥ When she was little, she shot a hole through the tip of her boot trying to climb a fence while holding a shotgun. Luckily, they were her brother’s shoes so they were extra big. The bullet missed her toe.

♥ She was the calm conductor of a huge, loud, tenacious family, and the result of her efforts is a masterful display of unyielding love, indestructible support and everlasting faith. It’s the house she built. It’s her legacy. It’s beautiful.

Thoughts

Why I just can’t stop getting baked

June 15, 2017

This week had all the nauseating makings of what’s becoming a typical 7-day span in our world; a giant building fire, a plethora of senseless shootings, a serious Bachelor in Paradise scandal, investigations and hearings and lies and denials and a bunch of other devastating tragedies that made my emotional organs ache. If you came here looking for deep commentary on the dark side of the universe, this ain’t it. This, my bros and beauties, is not a hard-hitting piece of journalism, because, quite frankly, I just don’t have that in me. It’s not about anything cruel or executive or despicable or discriminatory or inhumane. Still, it is about something that’s been on my heart as of late, and so I feel compelled to address it here.

Guys, I am 120 thousand percent addicted to The Great British Baking Show on PBS.

Have you seen it? Tell me you’ve seen it. If not, you need to at least entertain the idea of opening a soft little spot in your life and letting it crawl right in.

Should you prefer to take your television in buttery binge form, as I do, there are three complete seasons on Netflix and the fourth season is underway now on PBS. I’ll give you details, but all you really need to know is that this sugary little show has all of the ingredients of an unforgettable meal. It’s mesmerizing. Me and my little chicks will settle into a spot and look on in awe as these completely endearing foreigners, with their imperfect teeth and buffet of awesome accents, torch and pipe and crouch on the floor to watch their confections brown in the oven.

The premise is nothing groundbreaking. Each weekend, as many as a dozen amateur bakers come to this pimped out tent on some beautiful farm somewhere in, I don’t know … I guess Britain? No, that’s not right. It’s Berkshire. Berkshire’s the place. Anyway, over the course of the weekend, they complete three challenges: a signature challenge, a technical challenge and a showstopper. By Sunday’s end, we have a Star Baker, and we have the person whose flavors didn’t jive or their bread was raw or their house made of gingerbread collapsed and they must, unfortunately, be eliminated.

All their efforts in hopes of exciting Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Mary is this stylish old bag of class who is apparently a baking legend across the pond. She’s published more than 70 cookbooks and been recognized by the Queen. Paul Hollywood is a silver fox with 500 expressions conveyed entirely through his eyebrows. He’s one of the UK’s leading artisan bakers – the Billy Crocker of Berkshire and beyond – and, while he tries to be a badass, he’s really a teddy bear. A handshake from Paul is the equivalent of Johnny Carson asking a comedian to come over to the couch after a standup set.

The emcees, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, offer just enough British humor to keep things light. They step in to bring the bakers off the ledge when their Baked Alaskas melt into a puddle or the top tier of their wedding cake crumbles. When a contestant cries, which happens kind of a lot, they deliver a soothing perspective that makes it all better.

As the episodes pass, I just fall more and more in love with the subtle charm of the personalities and language and the way Paul fingers loaves of bread with such authority. It’s the way they call cakes “sponges”, and cookies “biscuits”, and pronounce basil with a short “a” instead of a long one. I watch intently as bread proofs. How is that exciting? I don’t know! I can’t answer it honestly.

I knew my condition was contagious when I overheard JoJo and Spike playing kitchen in their bubble bath the other night. “Spikey, your flavors just burst off my tongue! You are this week’s Star Baker.” They gradually went from hearing it in the background, to being fully absorbed. Especially my JoJo, who now carries a sketchpad to draw cakes and souffles. She asked me the other day if we could go on TGBBS as a team … you know, since she’s not allowed to use the oven by herself.

I can hardly keep up with JoJo’s newfound thirst for culinary knowledge. I am not a baker. I can cook up a dinner like any desperate housewife, but kneading and ramekins just aren’t my jam. This brings me to the intersection where the Pinterest phenomenon meets my new obsession, this show. I’m lusting after a skill I will never possess or pursue, just like 85 percent of my pins. I’m never going to make an arlette or a windtorte or a Charlotte Royale. But I’m sure as shit gonna watch other people try.

So what is the appeal of a show where you watch people sweat and stress over plates of beautiful foods that you will a) never taste and b) never recreate at home? It might go under another name for you – Chopped, Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Chef’s Table, whatever – it’s all the same concept. We’re using two senses (sight and sound) to take in something that typically only delivers pleasure when tied to two totally different senses (smell and taste). It’s all one big olfactory, tastebud tease, and I question my willingness to play along.

And yet, each night, when the dinner is dished and cleared and the training miles are logged and the freelance is filed away, I curl up and let Netflix take me to the tent. I mean, I think there’s something to the microcosm you find if you look past the sugar and spice.

Sometimes shit falls apart.
There are times in life when your meringue is stiff and fluffy, and others when it’s deflated and chewy. But regardless, you have to “proceed with confidence” as my old manager would say. You have to present your efforts with a smile and a smidge of pride, even if it looks like a pile of dirt. Crying over curdled custard does good for no one.

Patience pays off.
There’s the suspense of the bake – things take time, they can’t be rushed. The closer you watch it, the more you agonize over the end result, the longer and more torturous it feels. There’s a thrill in that moment when the timer goes off and the work is done. Just give things time to rise up.

Sometimes you gotta stick your neck out.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I love when a contestant presents their concept and it’s something that seems crazy, like apple and tarragon (this constitutes crazy by PBS standards), and Paul raises his skeptic eyebrows at the poor soul. But then, more often than not, Mary takes a forkful of the final dish and declares it, “positively scrummy” and the audience rejoices with the relieved baker. Sometimes you just gotta hang your dough balls out there.

Being competitive doesn’t have to mean being a turd.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing or maybe it’s a casting thing, but the bakers on TGBBS are just the greatest people. They’re humble and helpful and they send every contestant voted off away with a group hug. There is no sabotage or trash talk or conspiracy. Honestly, in three seasons the closest thing I’ve seen to a dick move is when one baker accidentally grabbed another baker’s meringue out of the fridge and used it. And then she cried and gave him all the credit, as deserved. That’s it! They’re too focused on their own work and their own goals to worry about screwing with anyone else. And isn’t that how it should be? We’re all ultimately in the same boat here. If everyone just focused on being the best version of themselves, on baking the most beautiful, delicious cake possible, there would be enough slices to pass around. The TV villain is tired. Give me more confidence coupled with a dash of grace, and I’ll watch all day.

With a great sadness for the seasons behind me, I feel like I’m at a place where I can reflect a bit. My guess is I fell so hard for Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood and their sweet little tent in Berkshire because it’s an emotional refuge. It’s a place to hide for an hour while everything and everyone else in my world is busy going entirely batshit crazy. And this post, I suppose, is my invitation for you, too, to run away for a little awhile. To come lose yourself in proofing baguettes and trifle layers and statues made of biscuits. You have to admit … it’s an appetizing prospect. Or rather,”positively scrummy.”

Thoughts

Confession: I gave bad advice to bachelors

June 9, 2017

In 2003, Hank and I were just babies. I was a journalism student who smoked a pack of Camels a day and wore black stretchy pants with one-shoulder tank tops when I wanted to be fancy. He was a frat guy who drank Early Times with a splash of Coke and grew lawn grass in a pot as a conversation piece.

At the seasoned age of 20, through a series of events erased by Bacardi and time, I ended up connecting with the editor of the newspaper at Hank’s all-male school. It was a perfect storm, really. I was a card-carrying member of the cult of Sex and the City and they were thirsty for a female perspective. Thus, a weekly advice/editorial column, called From the Hip, was born.

I had the purest intentions, I swear. Hand over my heart, I believed I was giving them legit advice. I aspired to be a guiding light for their liaisons, both committed and casual. They were my Anthony Michael Halls, and I was their Carrie Bradshaw, and together we were going to revolutionize the way men and women – who drank a lot and hooked up – communicated with each other. I exposed all of the sores and issues on the underbelly of the twenty-something dating scene, often shoplifting stories from my roommates’ love lives, which were far more exciting than my own.

The men of the campus gradually started seeking me out. Once adequately liquored up, guys would come up to me at Tommy’s, the townie bar, and scream their questions in my ear over Sublime and Tom Petty. I’d walk by them at parties and they would point and sloppily gush as they realized, “Hey! You’re that girl in the paper!” Then they’d be on to a sweet piece of ass who wouldn’t exploit their misfortunes for a spot in the “Stuff” section. Professors and students debated my opinions in class and it didn’t always fall in my favor, which bewildered me. Until recently.

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with an old friend about writing aspirations and the good ole’ days and all the things you cover with the dear ones, and she mentioned my old column. I hadn’t thought of those articles in years. I hadn’t read them since college. So, I went home, did some Googling, and soon found myself sitting inside the mind of my 20-year-old self. And let me tell you, it was scary in there. Nothing was how I remembered it. It was like finding your childhood dollhouse and realizing just how tiny the furniture was. The writing was terrible, the perspective was all wrong and the topics were predictably tacky.

Aren’t these just the cutest things you’ve ever seen? I mean … precious. And naive AF. Sure, there might be some little nuggets that hold up, but overall, the work and the arguments are mediocre at best. My 34-year-old self realized I had done a massive disservice to the men at that college, and their partners. I took a platform primed with potential for enlightenment and healthy dialogue and squandered it on topics like strip clubs and clingy exes.

The view from the woman behind this keyboard – now 14 years of living, 10 years of marriage, and 3 children the wiser – is much different. It’s messier. Happier. More Claire Dunphy than Carrie.

Honestly, I’m confident the voice of Courtney 2017 wouldn’t have really resonated with the men of 2003, or the 20-something men of 2017 for that matter. But you know what, screw it! Here’s to trying to right what’s wrong …

FROM THE HIP
What real women really want

By Courtney Leach

First, gentlemen, I must apologize for casually disrespecting the complex expedition we endure to establish strong relationships in the unsophisticated fashion that I did. The idea that the intricacies of one person dedicating their mind, body and soul to another person for any period of time could be simplified or summarized in 800-word musings was an ignorant, albeit well-intentioned, endeavor.

It has taken me 16 years of being with the same man, decades of listening to my dear friends and a lot of great books and self reflection to realize that my opinions, or anyone else’s for that matter, are just that, opinions. They are beads representing other people’s experiences we string on a necklace and wear on the battlefield of our own relationships. They are tools in the shed, but each landscape is different. There is no magical salve for your relationship pain points, because each partnership is unique and requires its own set of care instructions. Instructions you come to on the other side of steep mountains and colorful emotional bruises.

But since this stage is meant for advice, I might have a little bit left in my back pocket. A few beads to string on your necklace.

You’re in college now, and what I offer you is a glimpse into your future. A telescope for the not-so-distant journey ahead. My sincere wish for each of you is that you find that person who pours into your heart and fills in every gap, every hole. When fate reveals your other half and truest equal, it’s an unimaginable gift. Recognize the beauty in that and celebrate it every day, with both minor and magnificent gestures. Everyone’s love language is acknowledgement. Everyone needs to feel appreciated. Including your partner. Don’t forget that when things get hectic.

I can tell you that, in my experience, the best unions are rooted in respect, fed with thoughtful exchanges and watered with laughter. There will be so many hard moments and gut-wrenching decisions to be made in the years ahead; Unfathomable losses and love so intense it frightens you to death. The sooner you learn to dance in the light and joyful reprieves, the fuller your heart will be. Don’t take life so seriously. There’s enough weight to carry between the two of you as it is.

Understand that the woman you love will feel like a stranger in her own skin at some, or many, points in your life together. Maybe it’s a result of pregnancy and the subsequent nursing and hormone changes that accompany that process. Maybe it’s a change in metabolism or motivation or her ability to cope with the suffocating stress of keeping a household running. Whatever the cause, the body she has now, will not be the body she has always. And she will wrestle with that. Be understanding of this gradual evolution. Remember what came with those curves; your son, your daughter, a warm meal at the family table, a soul standing and aching next to you in the hardest of times. You, too, will likely change. Just use it as an excuse to go for a walk together.

Contrary to what your current stage of life would have you believe, sometimes being the strongest man, means staying completely silent, unless your words can guarantee progress or healing. It requires you to hold your tongue when the sharp organ is dripping in toxic antagonism, and reserve your words for constructive conversation instead. Words can build bridges between torn hearts, but they burn them just as quickly. Be thoughtful with the woman and the people you love.

If you’re angry, go lift some weights. Move boxes around in the garage. Go for a run. Just go. The water tastes like shit when you draw from an indignant well. Just be sure to circle back when your mind has cleared. Progress is the pup born of honesty and communication.

Always have your partner’s back. Even when she is wrong. She probably knows deep down that she is. (If she is.)

Life is about to pull a big fast one on you and pick up its pace. It goes way too quickly to argue about who’s going to come to your wedding, or get the groceries, or fold the laundry, or take the car in for an oil change. Don’t burn these sweet minutes on such inconsequential disputes. With a full-time job and active kids and a thousand responsibilities you can’t even imagine right now, you’ll come to see your time together as an extravagance. Be an observer of your partner’s struggles and the load she carries. Watch for opportunities to pitch in and do it, unprompted. Make the ride a little easier so you can both enjoy the music on the radio and the sights as you speed along. She isn’t the only one who can pack the sandwiches. And, I’m tellin’ ya, a basket of folded laundry at the hands of her spouse, is a woman’s greatest aphrodisiac.

When in doubt, come back to the love. You will always think that you are right. And she will always think that she is right. And both of you will be accurate. But there is nothing more important than the magnetic, authentic admiration you feel for the soul that climbs in bed next to you at night. Lose that perspective, and you’re screwed.

To assume it will be perfect is to set yourself up for a life of disappointment. It’s a fool’s vision. You have to go all in. You have to do the work. You have to get into your bathing suit and embrace the heat when it all goes to hell in a handbasket. The bruises and bumps and hiccups are perfectly human, and they will subside with time and care. And, as you grow together, as a couple, you learn when to warn each other to duck and come out less scathed. In the end, 98 percent of your disagreements are trivial, and the best things often come from the brutal 2 percent that’s left over.

In the end, being a good man is a matter of character. It’s about supporting your partner’s dreams and setting some of your own as well. Hold onto who you want to be, and make a point to validate the goals of the person across the table, too. Put yourself in her shoes, even when that badass, exhausted woman is wearing those pointy uncomfortable ones. Pitch in so she doesn’t feel alone, always. Practice empathy, loyalty, compromise and humility.

Remember that you are not perfect. Neither is she. You are two flawed creatures trying to build a burrow where you can create a life of contentment. Don’t overthink it. Just bring it back to love. If you always come back to the love, you’ll do just fine, young man. (Well, that and pare your morning shit back from 45 minutes to a more acceptable 15, um kay?)

Thoughts

Let me float something by you

June 1, 2017

When I close my eyes as tight as I can, or stand in a completely black room, I see things. Not like psychedelic cats blowing smoke rings or anything, but like moving streams of light and twinkling dots of color. Now, this could get weird because I don’t know if that’s normal for everyone, but it’s normal for me. (At this point, you’re either nodding with your eyebrows raised encouragingly and feeling validated in some way, or making a confused crinkly face that I’m glad I can’t actually see or I’d feel too judged to continue. I understand it could be caused by my special eyes.)

I see these lines and colors when I meditate, when I go to bed in a hotel room with the curtains drawn and when I sit in a closet waiting for a little pair of hands to turn the doorknob and seek me out … finally. And, as I discovered, I see the equivalent of the Northern Lights behind my eyelids when I float in a pod of concentrated salt water.

I know, I know … This post is stupid scattered to this point. I’m seeing things in the dark, I’m submerged in salt water. There’s a lot going on here. Keep following the needle, I’m about to get to a point.

My brother had been raving about float tanks for months. Because I struggle with claustrophobia and the general notion of taking time for myself, let alone a water nap, I politely brushed him aside. Plus, it just seemed weird; like taking a swim in a baby whale’s old bath water or something. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. And yet, he persisted.

For Christmas, Matt gave Hank and I three passes for one-hour floats. Well, hell! I thought. Why not? There’s nothing like a freebie to convince a stubborn skeptic. So, I scheduled a session for 7 o’clock on a Monday night, since they’re typically uneventful at our house.*

The gentleman who runs the place was waiting at the front desk when I pulled up. He gave me the instructions: 1) Go to the bathroom, even if you don’t think you have to go (no Code Browns in the pod). 2) Change into your swim or birthday suit. 3) Shower, using body wash, shampoo and conditioner. 4) Ball up your wax earplugs and drop em in your ear holes. And 5) Climb into the tank, turn off the light and turn on the tunes (a massage-style relaxation playlist.) You can leave the light on if you prefer, but because it was my first time and I lose my shit in confined spaces, the owner recommended lights out, which I think was a game changer.

Here’s how it went …

7:05 p.m.
All I could think about was the hour ahead of me. How was I going to just float in a tub of dark gray water for 55 more minutes? I was sure I was going to freak out. It was inevitable.

7:15 p.m.
This was when my list-making started, which is typical for me in any sort of silence, meditation or pre-slumber space. The girls had field trips that week. I really needed to get some art up on the walls in the living room. We were out of ketchup. My right armpit felt itchy.

7:20 p.m.
A drop of saltwater dropped on my forehead, startling me for a second. I tensed my stomach and tried to force my butt down to the bottom of the tank. I accidentally used my fingertip to remove it – rookie mistake. Regret. Immediate regret. I reached out and grabbed the folded washcloth on the table just outside of the pod and dabbed the stinging corners of my eyeballs. Once calm was restored, I succumb again to the weightlessness.

7:25 p.m.
The reality of the dark hit me and I started to think about death, as I often do (apologies for the shift to the morbid tone here). It’s true, I’m generally afraid of death. And I often obsess over the undeniable uncertainty of how things end for us, but in my defense, my deep thoughts on this occasion were likely a result of a podcast I had just listened to about how our souls are so much bigger than our bodies and are always connected to our great loves. I started thinking about what it would be like if death was eternal blackness with the presence of thought, and how terrible yet comforting that idea was. These thoughts are slippery for me, often dragging me down rabbit holes I’d rather leave unexplored. Nevertheless, here they were. I was trapped inside a giant white plastic prison, hovering in a pool of my own fears. Submerged in them. Forced to swim with them.

7:40 p.m.
I woke up after a very brief but sweet snooze. Apparently, being scared shitless makes me sleepy. Everything shifted for me here.

7:45 p.m.
I gently but playfully pushed my body around in the pod. I waited until the tips of my toes hit the bottom and used as little effort as possible to push myself up until my fingertips touched the top of the pod. I’d shift my weight side to side to feel my slippery, freshly conditioned hair settle around my shoulders like affectionate baby eels.

7:50 p.m.
I felt a consuming peace. I was seeing streams of white light dancing behind my eyelids and it reminded me of God and busy angels. I felt so connected to the calmest version of myself, and she’s been quite the stranger lately. I love when she comes to visit. She has no worry, no sense of urgency, no self-loathing. This, I thought, is what meditation must feel like if you make it past the first 10 minutes. I was atmospheric, ethereal, near sedation.

8 p.m.
The light clicked back on and a robotic woman’s voice filled the pod. “We hope. You enjoyed. Your float.” I lifted the lid, beaded with salted condensation, and reached again for the washcloth to tuck my eyes away from the bite of the mineral.

I climbed out and went back into the shower, as instructed. I washed my hair and body, which was slick with a film of fabricated ocean water and sleep. My clothing clung obnoxiously as I tried to slide into the shirt and pants I’d packed. Normally, I’d be irritated. I wasn’t.

I emerged from the room like a flu patient after a 48-hour nap. The tranquilizer dart had just been removed from my backside and I just wanted to keep a good thing going and go get in my bed. I felt beautifully depleted, emotionally drained.

The owner and I chatted for a bit. “Mind or body?” he asked. In his experience, some people notice more of a physical response to the tank, and others more of a mental response. I don’t have gout. My back isn’t too bad. And my pains seem to be reasonable for a gal of my certain age. So, for me, it was almost entirely a treatment for mental chaos and fatigue. “Oh gosh, mind!” I answered without hesitating.

The float granted me a temporary buoyancy for my abused, slouchy body and my tired, frantic brain. The optic light show in the infinite darkness and the subtle sounds of splashes as I glided across the water washed away my worry for a few hours. I came out a convert, a believer, an enthusiastic float-pusher. I don’t know what you’ll see when you close your eyes, but for me, it was serenity. I skimmed the top of the water and took home a doggie bag of tranquility, a scarcity for me and most.

I never felt trapped or claustrophobic. I never felt like I was going to drown. But there was one negative side effect – I find myself telling people the exact thing my brother told me for months. Despite my best efforts here, “I can’t explain it. You just have to try it.” Go find yourself in a float.

*This is not a sponsored post. I am not that big of a deal.

Thoughts

Calling a Code Brown

March 23, 2017

Last week, I ran into my sweet new friend in the parking lot at preschool.

“Hey! Did you get a new car?” I asked her.
“No, I got in an accident.”
“Oh my gosh! Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because I’m not that person. I don’t like to be Debbie Downer.”
“But, I don’t care if you’re Debbie Downer. You got in an accident?”
“I’m just not having a good week. I screamed at the kids yesterday for no reason, and I’m cranky, and …”

I was watching a very familiar ball of yarn – one I personally keep in my nightstand, next to the melatonin and emergency candy bars – unravel.

She’d taken a mental health day from work, she went on to say, because things were just piling up. Between yelling at her boys and being annoyed with her husband and questioning all of those pesky major life questions, she was mentally depleted and in need of a mindless, indulgent Netflix binge. As I stood there, an unforgiving morning wind intruding in our conversation, I listened as this strong woman, who I deeply care for, talked herself down into a hole. It was a ritual I’d practiced myself and with almost all of my girlfriends, my sister, and my own mother. I waited for an opening.

“Listen, I know exactly how you feel. All moms feel that way. We all have those lows and days where we feel totally defeated, and it’s OK! I promise. I was standing with my toes to the edge last week. And now you’re up. We all just take turns.”

I think we can all agree it’s time to call it good on the charade. Being a mom in any capacity on any day that ends in “y” is a crazy occupation. Crazy! Anyone ambitious enough to think they’re going to climb that ladder has another thing comin’. Between the demand and the clients and the hours, mere survival is considered an above par performance on the job. There are two kinds of days: The days you have enough milk for their cereal, and the days you have to go out into the garage and grab a new gallon. The days you catch the bus, and the days you chase it down and get reprimanded by the driver. The days you make it to work without incident and the days you hit the bump and spill coffee down your white button-down blouse sleeve.

I can tell you, within 10 minutes of my children waking, what kind of day lies ahead of me. I can feel it. Like the air before a tornado – Mother Nature’s hot breath. But we don’t show the sweat on our faces, no. We smile and we press on and we push all the shit way down deep because we think it makes us less of a mom or less of a wife or less of a woman if we aren’t acing all the things, all the time. Well, guess what … that’s bullshit.

I always say, God makes ‘em cute so you don’t kill ‘em. In my case, he doubled up just to be sure and made them funny, too.

On one particularly trying morning, I slipped and let the truth serum seep in. When Cheri in my office asked how my morning was, I said, “Oh, I’m fine, thanks, other than the fact that I want to go on strike against my entire family for a few days.” A spark flickered in her eyes. “You know,” she said, like a kid at confession, “once when the kids were little, I told my husband he had to take them and I checked myself into a hotel for the weekend. I just watched TV, did a little shopping, ate.” We laughed like idiots, and I thought about how many other times I should have put out the invitation for other mothers to share their tales from the trenches.

In the parking lot that morning, if I squinted really hard, I could see the little armies waging battle inside my girlfriend. One side was fighting in the name of vulnerability and transparency and saying all of the depressing shit she was really feeling, while the opposition was willing to die on that hill for the sake of smoothing it all over with a laugh and a shrug. I’m familiar with that war, that struggle. How much to share, when to share it, how to sugarcoat it, which parts of the day’s failures I should censor for fear of how it will poison the perception of my otherwise “tidy” life.

We women, we are an efficient bunch. We are anticipatory. We are prepared and organized and concerned. We shoot ourselves in both feet day after day after day by getting everyone up and dressed and fed and out the door. We sign permission slips and send notes about doctor’s appointments and talk to the sitter at length about the quality and quantity of the baby’s bowel movements. We do it because somebody has to do it. But sometimes, being the somebody who does it just chews you up and spits you out.

In holistic nursing, there’s something called a Code Lavender. When the code is called for a caregiver, he or she is given a purple bracelet to wear, signifying they are in emotional distress. People might be a little kinder, a little more understanding, a little quicker to forgive minor oversights. Well, I’d say it’s time for moms to get a code of their own. Code Yellow, maybe? Code Brown? (Signifying we’re in deep shit.) That way, we can offer hugs, or cocktails, or comforting cuss words to our fellow comrades who are momentarily flailing.

If you have a perfect household with a perfect spouse and perfect children and everything is all Marie Kondo perfect everywhere, that is incredible. But, for the rest of us, it’s really easy to feel lonely sometimes. We think we’re alone in thinking our kids are assholes on occasion. We think we’re the only one who wants to stop for a drink after work on Thursdays instead of sitting in the carpool pickup line. We think there’s a conspiracy that our neighbor’s house is always suspiciously clean while ours is reproducing dust at a mind-boggling rate. We hide our secret Lucky Charms addiction and exchange kale salad recipes.

But the Code Brown could revolutionize our sorority.

For example – and this is entirely hypothetical – if I saw you pulling into the local watering hole on a Monday afternoon and we locked eyes, and you just happened to flash your poo-colored wristband, I might offer to pick up your kids and keep them busy for an hour, no questions asked. And you would return the favor two days later, when it was me sporting the bracelet. If you saw me carrying a snot-covered, entirely hysterical child out of the grocery store and glanced down to find a doo-doo-hued decoration south of my fingers, you would know to say a silent prayer for my sanity (and my child). And I would do the same for you that Friday when you replicated the scene in the McDonald’s playdome. It’s an emotional exchange program, rooted in support and understanding.

So, who’s in? Who’s comin’ with me here?

Let’s remove the stigma staining our struggles and choose, instead, to help a sister out. Friends, I do not mind having your children over to play for a bit, no strings or expectations attached. It does not inconvenience me to listen to your recount of just how irrational your daughter got over al dente noodles last night. No one can hear a mother’s cries and gripes like another mother. I say it can’t count as a true failure if you speak it aloud and set it free.

I’m here. And I know you are, too.

Thoughts

These three resolutions made the cut

January 5, 2017

Happy New Year, you beautiful souls!

I don’t know what your Christmas looked like, but mine was fantastic, to the tune of a tummy-flattening stomach flu (second time in three weeks), a 103 fever for Spike and 2500 rainbow loom bands scattered across the floor like birthday confetti thanks to Sloppy Joan. Ahhhh, the holidays. A time of sugarplums and pure insanity.

Anyway, you blink and Bam! A brand new year has arrived. Everybody’s so excited to see 2016 go and I’m over here all just like fine with the ways things are. [gulp.] But I’m going to put my big girl pants on, stuff some optimism in my pockets and step boldly into 2017 with my chin up and hope in my heart.

The best part about turning the page? Resolutions. I love ‘em. I do. I typically come in at around eight goals because, you know, I’m desperate for improvement, and I typically hit one or two. Last year I checked off backpacking, trying one new thing a month, and I’d like to think talking less and listening more, but that’s subjective.

This year I got a little … we won’t say less ambitious, we’ll say wiser about resolutions. I hear a lot at work about setting SMART goals. They should be Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely/Trackable. Ohhhhhh! That makes so much more sense than saying, for instance, “I want to stop living by a schedule” or “I want to be a better human”.

Also, while I was enjoying some much-needed, stay-in-my-jammies all day time over the holidays, I came across Gabrielle Bernstein’s Facebook Live on goal setting. “Don’t make them negative,” she said. “Put a positive spin on them.” So, instead of saying, “I’m not going to let myself eat crap anymore.” You might say, “I’m going to truly fuel my body.” Find a way to take all the terrible things you need to quit and make them sound pretty. I’m up for it.

So, I see you 2017, and I’m comin’ for ya. Here’s what I’ve got my sights set on …

We’re tackling our fourth Whole30 in this house, and this time, the hope is I can reintroduce every food group but sugar. I have not kept my addiction to sugar a secret and it’s time to say goodbye once and for all (except for birthdays and warm donuts). Parting is such sweet sorrow.

I’d also like to push myself to get stronger. I always look down at a scale, but I’m starting to think scales are stupid. I want to look over at a bicep instead. I want to feel like a badass and have the package to drive the message home. I find the weight room at the gym to be such an intimidating place, filled with men who really, really use the mirrors. I need to get in there in the new year.

I need more of what scares me in my life. For example, Hank surprised me with a trip to see one of my besties in Florida in February and let me tell you a secret … come close … closer … closer … this is going to be really embarrassing for one of us … I have never flown by myself. Yes, I am 34 years old. Yes, I do grownup things like pay bills and buy food to cook it and keep a household of people alive. Yes, I am terrified to fly by myself. But I’m doin’ it! I love the feeling after I do something new and it turns out completely fine and, on top of that, it’s awesome. And most new things are just like that.

I want to use my vacation days for vacation and not just sick kids and furniture deliveries. Americans throw away like 600 million vacation days a year. Let’s all agree that’s just sad. When I think of my happy places, with my happy people and all I’ve yet to experience, I just want to turn in PTO and get going. Twenty years from now a house filled with things won’t mean shit compared to a heart papered in postcards from beaches and mountaintops, signed by my four favorite people (plus me, of course).

About two weeks ago I started on this one. I began unfollowing every major news outlet on Facebook, Twitter and email notifications. No more “Alerts” or “Updates”. I find that the majority of what’s published poisons my spirit, and the pieces I need to know always find me in other ways. Peace, to me, is better than drinking from the fire hose of negativity fed by our popular media outlets. It’s just noise at this point, and everyone wants to shout so their voice can make the ugliness even louder. Well, I don’t.

The second prong in this approach is the adoption of a flow rather than a routine. This one will actually be pretty brutal for me. If we’re buds, you know I live and die by my schedule. Up for the gym by 4:40 a.m., out the door for school and work by 7:16 a.m., lunch at noon, snack at 3 p.m., dinner on the table by 6:30 p.m., kids in bed by 8 p.m., melatonin at 9 p.m., nothing after 10 p.m. It is the fabric of my being. It’s ingrained in me the way Let It Go is ingrained in my children’s vocal cords. But living in a flow might look more like …

4:43 a.m. – I think I’ll sleep in a bit and do yoga at home instead of running at the gym.

Noon – I’m not too hungry yet, maybe I’ll finish up this story and then grab a late bite instead.

7:30 p.m. – It’s bath night but we really should go for a bike ride instead, it’s so beautiful out.

8 p.m. – I feel flustered. I think I’ll meditate for 15 minutes.

No one – and I mean no one – would describe me as a gal who can just roll with what comes, so this one’s my wild card, but I’m optimistic. Maybe sugarfree me will be more malleable, too.

Whatever goals you set for yourself, I hope the next 360 days bring you hope, love and lots of wholehearted contentment.

Thoughts

It’s simply the Best

December 9, 2016

It was one of those evenings right before the official start of winter when the cut of the cold and premature darkness still surprise you. It had been a long day at work. My brain needed an invigorating, startling freeze to reset. I pushed the door open, stepped into the parking lot and turned my face to the sky, as I always do, in hopes of a masterpiece. My God, the moon is breathtaking, I thought. What magical gifts He gives us sometimes. And then, just as I reached my car, it occurred to me … it came into focus … that solar superstar, that awe-inspiring sphere, was not the moon at all. It was, in fact my friends, a high roadside sign for Burger King.

I wish I was kidding. But alas, this is the burden I bear. My eyes are not like your eyes. My eyes are very special.

See, along with an affinity for chocolate laced with nuts and tendency to burn dinner, my mother also handed off a rare genetic eye disorder called Best Disease the day I was born.

First of all, we can all agree that Best Disease is, hands down, the absolute worst name for a disease ever. Ever! Can you imagine spending your entire life telling people you have the Best Disease? It sounds so narcissistic. Oh, you have diabetes? Well, I have Best Disease, so your second-class excuse for a disease can just have a gay ole’ time being in my disease’s shadow. Sorry bout ya. Crohn’s? Pssh! Why don’t you man up and get a real disease, son? Cuz there ain’t no disease like the Best Disease, cuz the Best Disease don’t stop …

I’ve seen it in pictures and had it explained to me a dozen times, but I’m still not 100 percent sure what this inconvenient little bitch is all about. As I understand it, it’s a form of macular degeneration that manipulates the macula in the retina. The macula is a tiny area that’s vital for seeing detail and color. We use it anytime we look directly at something, like when reading, watching TV and writing. (So, naturally, I decided to be a writer.) Members of our elite little club develop blisters on the macula that look like an egg yolk. There’s more potential for growth and decay after that, but it’s all kind of scary and gross, so we’ll leave at the yolk. It doesn’t hurt and there is no cure. It just is.

It’s like having a cool party trick that only the nerdiest people at the party appreciate. About eight years ago I thought I needed reading glasses. So I did what anyone would do. I went to a popular optometrist in town, known for having the coolest frames. I think the publisher I worked for at the time also got a fat discount through some shady deal, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I went in, they took their pictures and put me on the end of the table to start playing Name That Curvy Figure That Vaguely Resembles a Letter.

“OK Courtney, if you could just read line 5 for me, please.””
“Sure. K … 7 … J … G?”
“Huh. OK, how about line 4.”
“9 … T … P … is that a horse maybe?”
“Interesting.”

After I murdered the test, the optometrist threw my eyeball pictures up on the screen. What happened next should have been embarrassing, both for the professional administering the exam and myself, but somehow it just happened and neither of us acknowledged the absolute absurdity of the exchange. The dude actually sat his pen down, excused himself and left the room. Only, he forgot to close the door.

“Tim! You have got to come see this lady’s pictures! I mean … you’re gonna shit.” he said to, I’m assuming, the other nerd at the party who would appreciate my trick.

Then, as casually as if he’d just dropped off a roll of toilet paper to a buddy stranded in a gas station bathroom, he strolled back in and resumed his routine. I let him have the moment.

My college roommates called them my special eyes. (Do you remember that commercial? “Look … Look with your special eyes!”) Hank still affectionately refers to them by this name whenever I think I see a cat in the yard and it turns out to be a plastic bag, and other such misunderstandings. I can see most things, but color can be tricky. I get headaches after too much reading. I crinkle my whole face and bring things about a centimeter from my eyeballs to put it all together. Sad? Not really. I don’t know what I don’t know. I don’t know if my red isn’t your red. If it’s duller or distorted or muddy. I have no clue. Are the clouds closer than they appear? I mean … maybe. If you say so. I don’t know. Perception is reality, right? It’s like when someone describes The Revenant and how visually stunning the cinematography is. I’m never gonna watch that graphic shit, so I take their word for it, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m never going to actually see The Revenant, so what difference does it make, really? OK, that example was a stretch … But the point is, I can see some form of red and some clouds and so, I guess, don’t cry for me Argentina.

1-800 Contacts – Special Eyes from The Perlorian Brothers on Vimeo.

The poetic karmic justice of it all is that I spent years watching my mom magnify large print and smash magazines to the tip of her nose, always giggling right up to the threshold where good fun met mean-spirited, only to realize that I blinked and became the object of my own jollies. My brother sent me an email on my first day at a new job: “I can see you now,” he wrote. “Sitting in your new office, hands folded in your lap, leaning into your monitor, face smashed to the screen, granny panties halfway up your back.” I looked down and smirked. If he had a spy in the room he couldn’t have gotten any closer. It was exact. I am my mother’s daughter in many ways, but perhaps none as strongly as my blind lady posture.

And I can laugh at it. All of it.

Except then someone took Spike’s picture.

Hank and his mom both noticed it first. In several pictures where someone used the flash, one of Spike’s pupils was red and one was yellow or white. It was the strangest thing. Googling commenced. Discussions were had. It could be nothing … or it could be cancer. It could be a sign that the blood vessels in her eyes are not receiving blood. It could be a handful of devastating, gut-punching problems. But I suspected the Best.

An ophthalmologist in town was kind enough to squeeze her in at the urging of Hank’s dad. Hank took her. When he came home he did this thing that he always does when he delivers bad news. He sat down next to me on the bed, put his hand on my leg and started rubbing his thumb back and forth. “Well, it’s Best Disease.”

First I cried.

Then, I called my mom. And she cried.

“Oh honey. I know exactly how you feel. I felt the same way when they told me your sister had it. And I felt the same way when they told me you had it. And my mom felt the same way when she found out I had it. But you know we really are so lucky.”

When my mom was in her 30s she went to see a specialist at the University of Michigan. After a full day of tests, questions and observations, the puzzle still had quite a few missing pieces.

“Let me ask you this, can you read the paper?” the doctor asked her.
“Yes. I have to use a magnifying glass, but yes.” she’d answered.
“But, the point is, you can read the paper. A lot of people can’t.”

And the older I’ve gotten, and the more I’ve morphed into Marilyn and her mega-magnified dreamworld, the more I’ve come to terms with the hand I’m holding. And it ain’t so bad. You learn to laugh at things like grabbing the wrong child’s hand at daycare and walking right up to the projection screen to read your notes during a presentation and having your husband read an entire movie’s worth of subtitles to you so you can watch what all the sophisticated folks are watching. It’s all part of the deal. You learn to just ask for a paper menu at restaurants where the food is listed on boards above the register. You squint. And you get by.

And, above all, you learn that very special “p” word. Who remembers our life skill here? You learn perseverance. Because things won’t be as black and white (they might seem more dark gray and cream, depending on the light) for her as they will be for others, my second daughter’s skin will get a little thicker. She’ll learn adaptability and how important it is to let humor hold your hand when confronting adversity. And she’ll learn the truth, which is that it can’t all be easy. If it were all easy no one would know how to fight for the good stuff or fix anything.

When the shit hits the fan, I want my kid to persevere. When the menu is listed in light blue print on a dark blue board high up on the wall, I want her to kindly ask for a printed copy and get on with her face stuffing. Because nothing – and I mean nothing – should stand in the way of a girl and her chicken soft tacos with pico and extra guac. Certainly not a decor choice. And certainly not egg yolk eyes. Sometimes you gotta just put on your big girl granny panties and promptly bitch slap the hurdle at hand.

Every parent gives their kids something terrible; Whether it’s a weird big toe or pointy ears or debilitating genetic disorder. (Note: If you don’t know what this terrible thing is, you don’t know there’s something weird about you, too. Look into that.) In the long run, having something not great happen to you is a blessing, not the curse it presents as first. It’s the stuff of character and grit and the female equivalent of balls (we really need to figure that one out).

Plus, she looks so cute in her little sparkly pink glasses. I mean, you guys, so cute.

My sunsets might be made of Burger King signs and distorted shades, but at least I get them. And I know that Spike will learn to see the beauty in sunsets, too. Whatever colors they come in through her special eyes.

Thoughts

Paul’s Boots

November 12, 2016

screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-6-47-26-pm

I don’t know about you, but this week left me feeling chewed up, spit out and nauseous as hell. I’m not going to talk about politics here because quite frankly I’ve exhausted my arguments and understanding, but I’ve slept, stayed off social media, gone for a run, and all I will say is that the world better just prepare itself for the shit storm of love I’m about to unleash on it, starting with this amazing short film REI released this week. Live this life. Love these people. Spend time somewhere magical.

Thoughts

To Courtney, with love on her 34th birthday

November 3, 2016

birthday

Today I turn 34.

As an early gift from the universe, I had the best conversation with one of my oldest girlfriends last night. We talked about expectations and pressure and our dreams and stress and our shortcomings and all the other hangups I regularly write your eyes off about. It was one of the most honest conversations I’ve had with someone face-to-face in some time. I live for talks like that with people like her. We cruise along on canned exchanges – How are you? I’m great, and you? – but when you really dig in and expose all the sores and bruises and shared struggles, that’s when it gets really good. That’s when it changes us.

Then this fell into my lap, so I unwrapped it:

hola-beach-club

This pursuit I’m in. This journey I’m on. At the brink of my 34th year, it finally gets a name. I am a woman absolutely seeking wholeheartedness. And man, aren’t we all?

My friend said so many times, “I just want peace, ya know?” I do. I looked at her face and into her well-intentioned heart and I thought, I 100 percent know. Because I want peace, too. Not only for me, but for my children and my family and my friends and my neighbors and the gal who pumped gas next to me this morning.

Whether you call the monster scarcity, as Brené does, or guilt or shame or by some other ugly name, the feelings of inadequacy that we carry on our shoulders all weigh the same and all hurt the same. And what do they get us, really, other than a shared sense of “not enough”?

But I get a wish today. So, here it is … In my 34th year, I wish for freedom from the poisonous lies and bullshit that scarcity whispers in my ear every day. I wish for more contentment and peace and strength. I wish to become friends with the idea that I do enough. I give enough. I am enough. And I wish to reinforce those same feelings in every person I meet.

Here’s to wholehearted living! I’m comin’ for ya …

Thoughts

Do you have the time?

September 23, 2016

“I myself am full of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” – Augusten Burroughs

When someone finds a way to say what you’ve been feeling, in a way you never thought to say it, but wish you had, it is the most bittersweet validation. Hearing your shortcomings echoed back through someone else’s voice and experience is like a doctor telling you that weird sperm-shaped mole is totally normal. Of course the bitter is the bite of not coming up with the words yourself.

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve been ingesting a healthy amount of non-fiction gospel lately, crafted by the minds of, among others, Shonda Rhimes and Glennon Doyle Melton. More often than not, you read these amazing works and then they leave your mind just as swiftly as they swept in and shook everything up. They get pushed out by PTO meeting notes and potluck dish assignments and lyrics from the Storybots song. But I’m finding the messages that were truly meant for me always seep back in.

Driving home from the gym this morning, I watched the sun beginning to rise and started ticking through my lists: The things I didn’t get done yesterday. The things I needed to do today. The things I would most certainly put off until next week. The shortcuts I could take. And I was reminded of sweet Shonda. In her commencement speech at Dartmouth College, she spoke about motherhood and working.

“Shonda, how do you do it all?” they would ask. And she would respond, “I don’t.” The truth according to the TGIT maven, and every mother, I think, everywhere, is that if we are succeeding in one area of our lives, we are likely failing miserably in another. She said it. She spoke my truth with words that I will likely borrow a million times from today until forever.

I am most certainly experiencing success in several areas of my life at the moment. And just as certainly, I am experiencing some failure … or rather, I am failing. I will not only own that last statement, I’ll pay for it outright in cash. If I were to take the personal and professional buckets of tasks, both mandatory and aspirational, that fill my days, and put a penny in the ones where I felt like I had killed it, I might have enough to buy a pouch of Big League Chew by the end of the month (Do they still make that?).

Did I handle that presentation well? Yes. Drop a penny into the professional bucket. Did I spend enough time with the chicks? Never. No. Skip that bucket. Did I get dinner on the table? Yes. Penny. Did I get my 5-mile training run in? Um … skip.

Then, as if someone were pouring cake batter over Swiss cheese, the voice of Glennon Doyle Melton oozed into my brain and filled in the holes. (I should mention here that I’m currently listening to her audiobook, Carry On, Warrior. I don’t just randomly hear Glennon’s voice.)

“There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s staring down the clock till bedtime time, it’s ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it’s four screaming minutes in time out time, it’s two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.

Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. Kairos is those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day, and I cherish them.”

time

And I was struck, right then and there, with more beautifully bittersweet words! The lights came on and I said, “amen!” out loud so the whole empty car could hear me. I am a creature who crowds herself with hours of toxic chronos time but so, so desperately wants that divine, illusive kairos time. You might be, too. Let’s work through some examples.

Laundry is chronos time.
Staring at your baby sleeping is kairos time.

Wiping baseboards is chronos.
Cuddling is kairos.

Monday morning staff meetings are chronos.
After school stories are kairos.

Making a grocery list is chronos.
A glass of wine with your husband is kairos.

The morning routine is chronos.
Hiking through mountains at sunrise is kairos.

My initial assessment has revealed that these two classifications of time, defined by the Greeks however many years ago, so accurately describe the divide between pleasure and pain that they were obviously intended for me to discover on this dark September morning. The worst part is, in many ways, it’s self-inflicted. I offer. I raise my hand. I sign up. I put my name on the line next to, “volunteer”.

Where does that come from? Am I a pleaser? Do I fear I’ll get bored? I mean … I should know I am NOT going to get bored.

I can not do it all. Shonda is right. I can not succeed in all of the areas that matter to me all at the same time. But now I know who to blame.

I blame the chronos.

Kairos means, “the right opportune moment”. And maybe that’s the problem. When, dear sisters (and brothers) in your day does it ever cross your mind that this, yes this, is the right opportune moment to stop everything and look at your sweet little girl’s endearing chocolate-covered cheeks? Or notice that dimple in your husband’s chin? Or admire a tree with particularly interesting branches? I know … right between picking up your middle child from daycare and burning dinner. If that time is too tight, you could always squeeze in some kairos while picking clothes up off the floor or replying to that 20-response-long email thread or prepping food for tomorrow’s friendship day snack.

agenda

In my world, and I’m guessing in yours, there doesn’t appear to be any kairos (opportune) time. But, as Glennon would say, that’s why you have to make it. No one is going to make it for you. No one is going to grab your feet and put the roses under your nose. The world is always going to go as fast as you let it. You might not set the pace, but you choose to keep up or just let it pass right by.

They’ve said it so well. In so many ways. In so many words. These beautiful women who sat down at their keyboards and were courageous enough to spell out the struggles of trying to do it all and trying to savor it all. They lent their voices to so many who want to scream but don’t know what it sounds like.

I can’t do it all. I can’t succeed at home and kill it at work. Or dominate in the office and still be the mother I want to be. Most days. But it’s the trying that they see … those little girls of mine. It’s the trying and the reaching and the ambition that they notice. All I can do is try to settle into a good pace, sprinkle in a bit more kairos, put pennies in the buckets and pray they’re lucky.