Mirrors

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52. Looking into a mirror, most of us see what we perceive needs correcting. But there is this moment, when you’re a bride. A rite of passage planned for, deliberated over, wherein the adornment is a large part of the ritual.  A glance into the mirror after dressing, and a slight breath in, to feel something so outside of ourselves, so outside of the everyday. I love this image of Alicia before her marriage to Ben. In the space between planning and declaring. A moment of culmination.

 

Happy Easter. Bye Bye.

0040.jpg51. My great aunt Joan was my maternal grandfather’s sister. She lived in the city of Indianapolis, where she taught kindergarten as far as I know. She also played classical piano. She smoked a pack or two of cigarettes a day, and as we grew, the gaggle of cousins that are us were intrigued by her. My memories of her: she wore orange flowered bell bottoms, she bought us gifts, she was hoarse and independent and tiny and a little outside the main. One year, near the end of her long life, we had come home from Easter Sunday church. My mom hit the blinking PLAY light on the answering machine as we walked into the wood paneled kitchen, and Joan’s nicotine-laden voice came through: “Claire. Happy Easter. Bye Bye.” As far as we know, she left the same message, with a different address, to each of my mom’s remaining 7 siblings. Joan was a woman born to a woman who died giving birth to her. She has a story that I don’t know, but want to. She carried a love for her extended family, because we were what she had.

I get a call several times a day from a man in Atlanta. A 770 number. A few months ago his message would say “Lanel! It’s your dad. Just wantin’ to talk with ya. Give me a call when you can.”  I called him back after a few messages to let him know he had the wrong number. After gently explaining the situation, he became irate. His wife grabbed the phone. I explained the same, and she said “We just got off of the phone with Lanel, our son. Please excuse my husband, he’s not well.”

He still calls me. Every morning and most evenings. I don’t know his name. This morning his voicemail said “………..my knees are a’hurtin. so bad. my knees are a’hurtin and i don’t know what to do about it. bye.” and just now: “I’m havin’ problems. Lanel….” I could hear his wife chatting in the background with a visitor.

I can’t do anything about this man in Georgia, I don’t think. I can hear his wife in the background as he leaves me messages, thinking that he is communicating with his son. But what it reminds me is that family and community is everything. If you aren’t in touch, be in touch. Today is the day.

Living It

17-3.jpg50. Twelve years ago I was introduced to this lovely woman, Kelly Dinardo. I asked if I could pick her brain about starting my own company. She said, “Sure! Join me while I take my dog for a walk and I’ll share with you what I know.” She had been a freelance writer for many years before then, carving her own path. It was her support in this first conversation, and a deep, multi-faceted friendship and series of collaborations since then that has enriched both of our lives. With joy, I want to celebrate her new book, Living the Sutras and podcast, Living It. To celebrate her newest endeavor, my little new company Bird&Fish, Co. is giving away a free set of custom playing cards with any purchase. Listen to today’s podcast for the code, and be entered to win a fun Bird&Fish, Co. gift pack!

Here’s to collaborations, great friends, mutual support and living it well. And RIP dear Dudley, the wonder pooch who needed a walk and helped bring us together.

Crux or Climb

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I have a dear friend, Carter, who is wiser than most. We have rock climbed together throughout the years, and a couple back we were discussing why we love it. What he said then I’ve leaned on in so many moments (his words paraphrased): “Some people climb for the crux, the hardest move in the sequence. Their goal is to conquer the most difficult part. But we climb for so many other reasons. To be in nature. To share a campfire and guitar strumming and good food with close friends. To be on the climbing route, moving our bodies, stretching and working and feeling the journey. In each climb we confront our fear, address it, keep moving, confront fear again, address it, keep moving. What I learn about myself from those routes is what keeps me climbing. Not just beating that crux.”

Yesterday I was climbing Red Mountain, on skis this time. A few hours in, we traversed a very steep, sketchy section on 8 inches of new powder, and a layer of ice underneath. With each tentative step I took, I heard circling in my head: “fear, address it, next step. Fear, address it, next step.” Then: “The more you do this, the less fearful you will be. You will have been here before.”

Once safe in a stand of trees, I said, “Let’s head down. I’m good.” Fear talking. I still had strength and power but didn’t feel the need to go on to be satisfied. But as an experiment, and a more stable way to continue, we then took off our skis and put them on our backs, something I had never done before. And we said “we’ll go maybe 10 steps, this is just to get used to it”. My highly experienced partner lead the way, doing a vast majority of the hard work, breaking trail. We walked to one set of trees as a stopping goal, then pushed on to another, then pushed on to yet another. We thought that we were 1000 feet from the summit and knew we weren’t going to make it to the top because of the time of day, but we kept on. We’ve come this far…just a bit more. As I hiked the last thirty steps to where my partner stopped in our committed finish spot, the blowing snow cleared. Like magic. After lunch, we looked behind us to see that the summit was just a few/five hundred feet above us. Within reach. But it was too late to continue, so we headed down. The steep slope giving us a whoop! inducing run, earned hard and well enjoyed.

When something induces fear, it can force us to either back off or keep going. There are only two choices. We don’t live in the middle. When we keep going, we lay down one more data point of possibility. And when we return to a similar situation, that data point reminds us that we are capable. We overcame fear and came out the other side one notch up, opening us up to the next challenge. Confront fear. Address it. Keep moving.

Cherry Blossoms are Almost Here!

3-5.jpg49. I know that it seems impossible. It always does in early March, when we’re in the last throes of winter, days still feel short and nights long (we spring forward in only 6 days!!) and there isn’t a sign of spring to be found. Not a bird chirping, a leaf forming, a crocus emerging. But we are almost there! Before long everyone in the checkout line will be complaining about the heat (sigh). So join me in ringing the bell for spring by registering for our 11th Annual Cherry Blossom Mini Sessions! Registration opens tomorrow, March 5th at 12pm EST. Mark your calendars and check back for the registration link, as we typically sell out in 24 hours. Can’t wait to see you all there!

Kites and Snowflakes

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48. Today I spent the morning on a long walk with my friend, talking politics and life and family dynamics. After that I went to the Co-op because I’m obsessed with making almond milk these days, so am, well, out of almonds. I was putting the almonds into jars in the pantry, and came across this kite that I had bought for my nephew for Christmas. Gifts were a shake uneven this year, so I hung back on giving it to him then. But, as he lives in Detroit and they are still in deep freeze territory, I decided to send him the kite as a signal to spring, and a paper snowflake as a reminder that winter is lovely and only lasts a short time.

I couldn’t remember offhand how to make a successful snowflake out of office paper. I tried and made a few cute, but square ones (and thought – hmmm, maybe I should dip that in natural dye of turmeric or beet, and frame it???) but returned to the task at hand. They didn’t look like the angular, diamond shaped snowflakes that I remember making in 3rd grade. So I headed to YouTube, and followed a diagram-based video created by a TEACHER OF PAPER SNOWFLAKE MAKING (anything is possible, kids). But when I opened them, they fell apart into four pieces instead of one. I had followed the written instructions directly, compensating for my left-handedness and reversing all of the steps, but still. Broken snowflakes. Pretty, but not what I was going for. So I went to the next YouTube video, this one an actual video, of hands and folding and cutting, and got it first try.

I could write now about how this relates to our experience in life – about how we learn, how we get our information, how we vet our information, balance it against other approaches, process the world around us, and much more. But instead, I’ll leave you with this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59dOIF3PMjY

A lovely way to spend a cold, sunny, Sunday afternoon.

 

What We Think Is Expected of Us

DSC_197547. I just had to turn off NPR mid-way through a story on eating disorders. It was killing my morning vibe. But it triggered a thought about self-perception and and fitting-in. Fitting in, what is that? Fitting into what? It’s a ridiculous trap. I know that it seems so simple to say, but at times in our lives it feels impossible to ignore.

To find true balance and happiness, is it possible that we can unlearn what is expected of us (perceived or real), and instead learn to tune in? Tune in to that quiet truth that knows what makes us feel whole. Tuning out the noise of “yes, that’s cool, but to be truly happy you have to do all of this other stuff first”.

I’m 5′ 1″. I blush easily. I’m a hard working space cadet. I don’t have children at 41. I uprooted my life and moved across the country and essentially started over. I am doing all of the things that I’m not supposed to do, I suppose. If I were 5’7″ and could fit into clothes designed for a 16-year-old high-fashion waif model, and had 1.5 children and a predictable career. Well, I don’t worry about any of those things any more. But I did. For a while there, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be sure to DO THINGS RIGHT because that would prevent me pain. It would prevent the worst from happening, it would assure my safety, security, success and happiness. And it was all a lie. The only thing thing that came of not challenging what I was expected to do was frustration. Tuning into who you are and what you want and need is not dangerous. It’s not scary. It’s following a true path that will become easier once you commit to it. The whole world will open up if you let the whole world be. And focus instead on just on being you.

This is my favorite image from a few weeks back. I’m in the backseat of my sisters car, on our way to do a family session at the beach. Her stepson Kyle is scrolling through Twitter next to me, and I glance through his bent arm to see the precious cheeks of her daughter. Without an ounce of fitting in energy having yet invaded her little spirit.