Feeds:
Posts
Comments

As I type this, Nala is lying in her bed and I am sitting in my easy chair where I always write, and we can see each other. She is drowsing, half sleeping and then cracking open her eyes to look at me. I am making silly noises at her and calling her nicknames.

20160609_190304

We have lived with each other for seven years. Today is our adoption anniversary.

20160520_143201

I have lived longer with Nala than I have lived with anyone aside from my nuclear family.

I feel like you can’t know me well without being aware of Nala’s existence in my life. I share photos of her all the time because they make me happy and I want to share that happiness with all of you. She is an essential component to the rhythm of my days. She loves it when I have friends over because she is so curious about people. Oh, and also she’s fond of getting more belly rubs.

20160511_162012

We’re moving out of state in less than two weeks. My days are filled with logistics and scheduling and making big decisions and packing and saying goodbye. Meanwhile, awful things are happening out in the world, and when I think about it (and how can I not think about it?) I feel like crying. Sometimes I do cry. And then I have to focus instead on whether I should pay to move my Billy bookcases or whether I should give them away, and what health insurance plan should I sign up for, and why hasn’t the welcome letter from my new complex come yet. And I have several friends who are having a difficult time right now, and I’m worried about them, and I don’t want to be dealing with moving, I want to be next to them giving them support. But I can’t because I have to be here. It’s a weird time.

In the middle of so much turmoil and change, I am especially appreciative of the things I can depend upon. I am afraid. I try not to problem compare, but I think of all the people who have so much more to be afraid of than myself right now, and this complicates my feelings even further. Even so, this is my reality. I am afraid. I think of being all alone in a new city in an empty apartment (because who knows how long it will take my stuff to arrive) and I am afraid.

And then I think of Nala. “Nala will be there,” I tell myself. And that fact, the fact of Nala, makes the fear navigable. She will roll around on the carpet and make funny snorting sounds. We can sit together on the floor in the dark. She will lick my arm. We can discuss her sentience or lack thereof, and she will be there when I cry and then realize I forgot to pack any Kleenex and end up draping toilet paper around the apartment like ghostly tear trails.

20160610_162350

The ones we love can’t take away the fear or the pain or the struggle. What they can do is make it easier to sit with these things.

What they can do is make us feel like we aren’t alone.

20160613_163333

I am so grateful to have Nala in my life.
20160521_193256

She gives me something to emulate. I hope my words can make a few of you feel a little bit less alone too.

I’m not burying the lede this time, but I’d be happy to mix some metaphors. I’m taking a leap, starting a new chapter, and making the move up to Seattle in a few weeks.

20160604_154210

What you are seeing here is a completely mythical sunny Seattle day.

Haven’t you been talking about this for a long time?

Yes, since my first visit to Seattle, in fact, which was in the spring of 2012. So this is definitely not what I’d call a spontaneous decision.

Didn’t you once make an April Fool’s joke about moving to Seattle?

Yes, and I think it might be the only April Fool’s joke I’ve ever made. But I’m moving for real this time, I promise.

Doesn’t it rain a lot there?

Yes, yes, it does.

Aren’t you afraid you’ll get S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) and be absolutely miserable? Don’t many Californians move to Seattle and then come back?

I survived a winter in London, so I’m not hugely worried. But I’m also prepared to move again if I feel I’d be happier somewhere else. This is me we’re talking about, so I have a plan B. And a plan C. And a plan D, E, and F….

This is a big deal!

Yes, this is a really big deal. Some of you may not know that, aside from a year I spent living in London right after college, I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life. So moving to a new city in a new geographic region will be quite the adventure for me.

Are you for sure going to move?

I’ve put money down on an apartment, I’ve given notice at my current place, and I’ve reserved a moving truck, so I’m pretty sure this is going to happen. I’ve taken my time with this process, partly because I had other stuff I needed to do before moving and partly because I wondered if I would change my mind, given the chance. But I never did change my mind, so here we are.

What are you going to do in Seattle?

Pretty much what I’ve been doing in the Bay Area. Although it’s not a stretch to suppose that living in a new place, I may try some new things. And I’ll definitely be meeting some new people.

What does this mean for me?

Well, if you live in the Bay Area, you might be seeing a bit less of me. If you live in the Seattle area, you might be seeing a bit more than me.

If you read the blog, I hope to write about my experiences living in a new place and creating a new life for myself there. I imagine I’ll have a lot of thoughts about it, and I’m pretty excited about what this could mean for the blog. We might be in for some interesting times ahead!

I have feelings about this!

Oh, wow, do I know. I have feelings too. Lots of them, and they run the gamut from excitement to terror.

How can I help?

My friends have been very supportive thus far, and I feel really lucky. If I am moving away from you, keep in touch; I’d love to hear from you! If I am moving near to you, invite me to do stuff; I’d love to not be a hermit!

If you read the blog, I’d appreciate your patience. I might be writing here sporadically or not at all over the next few weeks as I orchestrate this move. If I am quiet here or elsewhere on social media, it is because I am very busy. But I’ll be back soon enough.

You still haven’t said WHY you’re moving.

Yeah, this is the most common question I receive, after some comment about the weather. The decision to move out-of-state is a complicated one, and I’m not moving for any one reason. The easiest reason to give is that it’s a financial decision, and it is true that I’ll be saving money living in Washington, and I am looking forward to that.

The more accurate reason is that it feels like the right time to move on. While there have been plenty of challenges in execution, this wasn’t at its heart a difficult decision for me to make. I gave myself a lot of chances to turn back, but I never wanted to take them. On the whole, I have felt exceptionally grounded about uprooting my life and trying something new.

That is not to say I don’t feel sad to be leaving. I will miss my friends here a great deal. I will miss the sunshine. I will miss the place where I grew up. I will miss the sense of personal history I get from so many of the places I go. I expect I might be horribly homesick, and then I will write about it, and we will see what there is to learn from that.

But it is time. And so I am going.

Let’s see what this next chapter holds, shall we?

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. – Socrates

When you want something you have never had, you have to do something you have never done. – W S Bloom

I have been thinking about my future. Not next week, not a few months from now, not even next year. I’ve been trying to think about my longer term future, and what I would like to see, and what concrete steps I can take to work towards that vision.

I haven’t been thinking much about my future the last few years. I’ve been thinking about now, and I’ve been thinking about a few months from now, and I haven’t been seeing more than a year out from where I am at any given time. It’s been good to practice flexibility, and it’s been good to take the time to figure out what I want. Not based on convention or what anyone else I know is doing or what other people think I should do or be, but based on actual me. What I want and what I think is important.

I find having a vision to really help with my focus. Having spent the last few months honing my vision, I’ve begun to see that many of the details are extraneous. They don’t matter. It feels like they matter; it feels, in fact, like they are huge life-altering decisions. But sometimes all the big flashy external stuff is merely a blind for what’s going on inside. And being able to focus on the inside stuff brings a lot of clarity along with it.

It’s not always the specifics of a vision that matter. You have the vision, and then you figure out some specifics to get you there. But you could figure out a whole different set of specifics that may very well get you to the same place. What’s important, then, is figuring out where you’re generally trying to go. In order to pick specifics, in order to confidently make changes, it helps to know what you want.

20160523_164359

Details are a bridge, but you can always build another bridge further down.

I feel like this is easier for some people to achieve than others. I ask a lot of questions, and that can mean it’s more complicated to figure out what I want. I kind of tried to follow a common middle-class American life road map, but I was never completely on board with it, and then it turned out to not be what I wanted at all.

And then there’s the blindness that can come with experience. You don’t have something in your vision not because it’s necessarily not possible, but because it’s outside what has happened to you personally. Sometimes our expectations for what is possible can end up being set too low, and it doesn’t even occur to us to shoot for something more. And sometimes we don’t add something to our vision because it doesn’t occur to us that it is even an option.

I have discovered that Socrates was a wise guy (not that this should be news!) I have spent a lot of time in my life fighting the old. I have this weird idea that if I simply try hard enough, I can fix anything. I say it’s weird because it is patently false.

But when I focus on building something new instead of fixing or trying to prop something up, that’s when I tend to make actual progress. That’s when my vision begins to clear, and I think, “Oh yeah. I do know what I want. Huh. How about that.”

And that’s when things really begin to change.  

 

(P.S. I’m going to be traveling, so there’s going to be a short break in our regularly scheduled programming. See you in a bit!)

 

Change hurts

Change hurts.

Sometimes change hurts a lot.

20160521_193251

I find that change hurts a lot when it cuts close to the bone, when it touches on something deep from the past, when it challenges some long-held belief or defense mechanism that you desperately do not want to let go of, because to hold onto it equates to survival in your own mind. Even if that is no longer the case. You might be reliving a reality that is long gone.

Change hurts.

You may be sitting there, and you notice that you’re breathing. You take a breath in, and then you take a breath out. And you’re surprised, not even surprised, shocked. Not because you were trying to hold your breath, but because it seems inconceivable that you are still breathing at all. It seems unbelievable that the entire world hasn’t frozen in place.

You may be afraid to move because there is a knife lodged somewhere deep inside of you, and any movement could shift it, and any shift could drive it deeper still, or cause it to cut some critical artery that means you bleed out. You are afraid to move physically, you are afraid to move emotionally. The pain is balanced so precariously, and your main focus is keeping it there instead of letting it slip.

Change hurts, and sometimes the pain makes it feel like the change might not be the right thing to do. Because if this change was so good, why would it hurt so much?

This is a lie. Sometimes positive change hurts a hell of a lot. It hurts for a reason. It hurts because it is hard for you to do something different. Or maybe it hurts because you are afraid. Or maybe it hurts because you just jammed a surgical instrument into an old wound and ripped it back open again so it could finally heal cleanly.

That is not to say it’s a good idea to seek pain simply for pain’s sake. It’s okay for things to be easy sometimes. It’s okay for things to be good. It’s okay to let yourself be happy.

The truth is, the pain is just the pain. It doesn’t tell you what to do. It simply tells you something is going on, and whatever it is, you might need to pay some attention to it. You might want to think about how you are going to respond to it. Maybe there is something active you want to do, or maybe you just want to sit there with the pain for a while. Maybe both.

Nowadays, when I have the time and space, I try not to hide from the pain. I don’t confront it either. I exist with it. I let it be with me. I bring my mind back from all of its distraction techniques and circular games. I want so badly to castigate myself, because this distracts me more effectively than almost anything else, but every time I start, I simply stop and redirect. No, I’m going to be kind. No, I’m going to be kind. Over and over, for however long it takes until it settles.

And then there is the pain I was trying so desperately to avoid. And it is terrible. It is the knife in my gut, it is the air in my lungs, it is naked and wretched and it is a part of me.

Change hurts.

And then it dissipates, and it is sad but also clean, and it is hard but also okay. Sometimes another wave of grief comes later, and another, and another, but once you’ve allowed one to wash through you, the worst of the terror is gone. It simply hurts. And then it hurts less. And then it hurts more. And then it hurts less again.

Change hurts. And then you come out on the other side.

Here are a few of my favorite songs right now.

 

 

I’m also super into Portishead’s cover of SOS. It can be tricky to find but is so worth the effort. I want to listen to it over and over. Actually, I have listened to it over and over, but I need to listen to it EVEN MORE.

I’m also learning to cover Ruth B’s Lost Boy, which has been fun. I haven’t had much time (read: pretty much none) to practice the last few months, so I’m really happy to be singing and playing the piano again.

 

Yes, I know this isn’t the most in-depth blog post, but I spent the day visiting my mom’s ashes, so that was an important thing to do. It’s interesting how familiar Marin County still feels to me. I hardly ever go there (I think the last time was at least a year and a half ago, and the time before that was probably at least another year), but I learned it so well I guess in a way it will always feel like home.

It’s a comforting thought.

I am interested in depth.

I was talking to a friend who was sad because she had wanted to spend all day with a close friend of hers, and then that friend booked herself so they’d only have a few hours instead. My friend was sad because this would mean they wouldn’t have a chance to go deep. “We’ll only just have gotten warmed up, and then she’ll have to go,” she said.

I had this conversation as I was planning my LA trip, and as a result I didn’t make as many social plans as I might otherwise have done. I wanted to allow time to relax, get comfortable, and potentially go deep. What I found bore this strategy out: the longer I spent with someone, the deeper we were able to go.

20160224_180644-EFFECTS (1)

One reason I like Rainforest is because it encourages depth.

Perhaps this is particularly true of people who you don’t get to see in person all the time, but I found the first couple of hours was usually spent with general catching up, some small talk, and just kind of remembering what it was like to be together. Then the conversation would gradually deepen, circle around, come back again, deepen some more, repeat a few times. The longer the amount of time, the deeper we could go.

What do I mean by deep here? Just by seeing each other in the first place, my friends and I were strengthening our connection to each other. But depth is when you move beyond small talk, beyond what you’d say to more or less anybody. Depth is when there are no more pat answers. Depth is where surprises happen, and reveals. Depth is when we say things that are scary. Depth is when we really learn who the other person is, beyond their basic preferences and interests and obvious personality traits.

Depth is the experience of sharing what it is to be human, and what it is to be this specific human right now.

Just as depth takes a bunch of time to foster in any given interaction, it also takes time to develop in any given friendship. Perhaps if you meet someone in a particularly intense circumstance (Clarion, anybody?), you can move into depth more quickly than normal. But more often you’re acting on a mere feeling that depth might be possible here if you invest enough of yourself. Sometimes that feeling pays off, and sometimes it never does. To find out, you have to take time.

The people with whom I am closest all have this quality of depth. I never grow tired of hearing about their lives and what they’re thinking and feeling. When I’m in their presence, I feel something inside of me relax. Thank goodness we can be real together, I’m thinking. Thank goodness I don’t have to put on an act to make them comfortable.

Thank goodness we can love each other for who we are.

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I have been re-reading bits of Letters to a Young Poet and then I found this cool site called zenpencils.com that illustrates quotations and poems in a comic-like style, and they recently did this Rilke quotation, and it seemed timely. So here we are. (The latest one they did is a Lang Leav one, which I also highly recommend, especially because I love Lang Leav’s poetry.)

20160217_120509

It’s nice to think about living into an answer, but I think we are always living our questions. And the answers simply lead to more questions. Sometimes life seems to me to be one giant experiment. You can follow blueprints left by other people, some of which are more detailed than others. Or you can strike off on your own and see what happens. But it’s all about questions, starting with the simple “What will happen next?”

I ran into a friend at a party some time ago, and he said he reads the blog from time to time, and he told me how idyllic it seemed, that I got to sit around and ponder the big questions. And I do. That’s exactly what I do. I spend a lot of time sitting around and thinking. So here’s another question for you: Why? Why do I sit around and ponder the big questions? And why do I get to do this? And does it have any outward effect whatsoever?

I’m reading a book about playwriting, and I have learned that the “action” of the play is what the characters want. This idea will be familiar to anyone who has studied any kind of storytelling for more than a few months. (Weeks? I don’t remember, I just remember it is foundational.) So then some of the other questions we live are “What do we want?” and “Are we going to get it?” and “Are we going to keep it?” and “Is it going to change?”

I spent several hours on the phone this past weekend with a friend who is going through a break-up after spending more than twenty years not being single. “Friends aren’t the same,” this person told me. “I feel so alone.” And I felt a jolt of surprise that this was a revelation, even though after twenty years, of course it was. Yes, being single means being alone in a different way. How do we become okay with this? How did I come to this almost benign acceptance of yes, that is really how it is? And then another question: who am I when I’m alone? Who am I when I’m not fulfilling a role that is at least partially defined by my relationship to someone else?

These are questions that have been occupying my spare moments lately. Who am I when I strip everything away? When I put aside relationships to friends, family, a lover? When I subtract job and career and calling? When I suspend my hobbies, my interests? When I forget about my past? When I am no longer concerned with status, power, wealth, influence, and ego? Who am I then?

Who am I then? I am living that question. Maybe nothing, maybe everything. I am present. I am living into answers that will give me more questions, and my curiosity will be my fuel.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,992 other followers