Sunday, April 20, 2014

Redolent with possibility

For Alvin, who inspires me and for Paul, who makes me a better person.


It's hard to imagine what it is like to live in an environment where you don't have the weather to mark the passage of time. Seasons rise and fall in Michigan, none more so on the thumping, wet, cold darkness of Winter and none more delightful than the brilliant rays of the sun in Spring. We emerge, hunkered down from holding on through the most bone-chilling weeks of near desperation to a sky blazing blue and redolent with golden light. And for those months of light, we don't look at the sun as an advantage, we relish it. Seattle is like this too, as is Portland and all other climates I've lived in where people are deprived of the nectar of light. It's delicious beyond belief. It gives us pause. It renews us on a cellular level.

There's a lesson in this renewal, one subtle but worth exploration in trying to clear out the mental models that stand in our way. I sat at a bar the other night and explained to a friend how incredibly horrified I am of growing old, that there is something inside of me that shudders when I think of aging; that not enough of my life has been lived, that whatever shreds of youth I have had left will leave quickly, that I will never have again the time that I squandered when I was young. In my brain, this causes an odd inertia. I drag my feet, like some 3 year old who wanders the room because he doesn't want to leave, hoping time will stop or slow down.

But this year feels different.  Everything feels like it wants to be new. Clicking off miles on my walk to and from work, new skincare, new sunscreen, new bright running shoes on my feet, new music curated by friends, new writing, new reading, new perfume on my wrist, new, new, new.

More new this year than last. This year is about choices. This year is about vision. This year is about bursting with creative ideas, about curating again, about feeling the current of aliveness from discovery. It's the act of assembling and reassembling the parts to find the best combination. It's about paying attention to the little things as well as the big things. It's about being in it, swimming in it. It's about paying attention, having an avocation or two that sharpens your eye. Boldness and subtlety. Braveness and humility. Not being hamstrung by anything. Loving the process and expecting amazing outcomes. Humming at the cellular level with something that stirs your very soul and marrow. To choose to be alive in a fundamentally exciting way, to live a life powerfully evocative.

I love this feeling. I wish I could bottle it, the possibility of it all. In these moments, I often think of my friend Alvin and his ability to keep it fresh, moving, thoughtful; how he is always turning the dial just a bit to find the right frequency. Or my friend Paul whose practice of reflection and personal editing is not a task, but an essential part of his being. And Annie, and Sharleen, and Nicole. All of these people who have curated lives that are rich with interest and possibility. They remind me of how resplendent with interest the world is, how positive and alive it can be when your creative side gets to lead.

How to keep this feeling alive? How to carve out the time for energizing work? How to construct the next stage of life so that the cellular hum remains? Intention, focus, space, opportunity, running lanes, collaboration, courage, joy, choice. Yes.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Gravity pulls us back

My mother and I had a sticky relationship. Two people could not have been more different in many ways, our political beliefs unbending, our ways of arguing about things loud and confrontational. This was years in the making, journeying through high school and college and beyond up until the weeks preceding her death when the soft reality of a short time gave us the space to not so much talk things through, but just to be attentive to the love that we had for each other, the love that underwrote all these things.

People that know about my hard relationship with my mom always wonder, sometimes aloud, sometimes with their eyes, about how we wrapped things up. I shuffle my feet a bit, uncomfortable with the question that implies what it does, that we wasted many years in disharmony only to be robbed of a future together.

But in these past few years that my mother has been gone, I have realized that our relationship was what it was and would have continued to be so until something catastrophic happened that would have changed everything. And then likely changed nothing.

Because behavior in relationships is incredibly difficult to change. The gravity of the well-worn path pulls us back to what we know and are accustomed to, even if it's not what we want in our heart of hearts. That pattern may be the inability to admit that we are wrong or the hurt at another freezing us out. It may be the lack of courage to have hard conversations, to say that we are sorry, operate on a different level and in a different behavior pattern than we had before. But it's just really hard. And it may not mean that we don't love the other person, it may mean that we just don't have the capacity to make that change. Changing behavior in relationships takes time and near constant attention. It takes intention and tending. False starts and failures chip away at the surface. Sometimes it feels safer not to even start. Sometimes the disappointment feels like more than we can bear.

And you can live the rest of your life sick to your stomach that this never happened, riddled with guilt that you squandered your time with something so precious as your mother's time in your life. You can let that eat away at you, blame yourself, wonder what you could have done. Or you can realize, as so many relationships in life, that it was what it was, mine the time that you had for the good, push past the regrets and move forward. You can take this realization into your relationships that are alive today, have expectations for people and for yourself, live according to what you need and how you need to be loved and to recognize your own role in how that all works out. Because that is what she would have wanted, honestly. I think she'd appreciate that most.