found

this place feels like a dream. it’s been more than three months since i first set down my boxes here, peeled off the packing tape, and moved myself in—but i still catch myself in a moment every once in a while and wonder how i got so lucky.

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i know that finding a new place to call home was my very specific new year’s wish, but it’s still hard to know how to take it when these things actually work out, when you get what you want. i have trained my cynical heart to prepare for the no’s, for the inevitable disappointments. and here i am, completely spun by how sweetly i have landed here. all i can do is keep whispering thank you.

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living here has been restorative, a place for my whole soul. in some ways, this was what i was hoping for. i knew that moving from a stale, shabby house in a gritty neighborhood to a little cottage on a lush, tree-lined street would bring me relief and peace of mind. i knew that letting go of a shared space with three housemates i had fallen out of rhythm with would free me to find a rhythm of my own. of course i love it here.

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but it has also surprised me, how deeply i needed this place. to bring grace and purpose to my solitude. to strengthen my sense of home and belonging. to help me understand that i know how to walk away. that there is indeed a place to be received into, once i am brave enough to voice out loud that there had been something missing all along.

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a song for these sweet and hopeful times.

Walk the Moon – ‘Aquaman’

 

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this place

i come here every once in a while to shake the dust off my writing, wax poetic, and take myself too a little too seriously. but it’s been too long, i think, since i’ve let my mind wander in the other direction – to come here and daydream forward a little.

i know it’s not that hip to make resolutions these days; we’re opting for “intentions,” or choosing a theme word for the new year, or articulating affirmations on the year gone past. and i like those—they’re kinder to the self. but there is one thing i’d like to scribble out for my 2016, a resolution in the classic sense: by this time next year, i’d like to have a new home for myself. a new space to nurture the old me. i’m a nester by nature, and a hostess through and through. it’s time to give her a place to shine.

it will be a place to gather friends again, over dinner

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or over hot mugs of tea, warming our fingers and fueling long chats

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a place to mix up drinks and toast to big celebrations and small victories.

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there will always be lots of light

 

and places to curl up

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and little remindersyou-make-everything-beautiful-illustrated-art-print-01.jpg

of what makes this place a home.

these days

lunarbabboon comic 'thINK'comic by Lunarbaboon

this winter break has given me the amazing gift of time. large swathes of it, largely uninterrupted, for reading and thinking and inspiration in its gentlest form. it’s also brought the seasonal jealousy of being bystander to happy families and cozy homes, friends’ and strangers’ alike… but that comes with the territory, every year. i’m getting more used to it, and better at wading through it.

so i refocus my attention as best i can to what i have and realize i have a lot of good work to do—catching up with myself, my thoughts, and what matters.

here is what i’ve been tucking into:

 

The New York Times’ Year in Pictures

i always hesitate with these, because i know clicking through will be painful. beauty always pushes right up against the horrific. but this year i’m glad i let myself be assaulted by the images. to feel every bundle of confusing, contradictory emotions that came with them. what an overwhelming year on this earth.

 

Mothering My Dying Friend

absolutely beautiful writing. the subject of enduring friendship has been on my mind lately, especially as i track like a spectator all the ways our lives have been changing, all the reasons we have for not staying.

 

The Friend

i promise i’m not seeking these pieces out like a morbid article hound. they are finding me — and helping me understand what it means to stare loss straight in the face.  to understand writing as an act of healing.

 

12 Signs You Accomplished More Than You Think You Did This Year

i usually go on autopilot when asked to take stock of my personal growth. ‘not much has changed,’ i’ll say. i’m still single, still living here, still working on this, still dealing with that.  but i’m ready to give myself a little more credit this year.  part of this season of hibernation and introspection has been realizing how powerfully i’ve changed, and how little of it i have yet recognized in myself.

 

…and some snippets of affirmation from around the instagram world:

Brene Brown The magic is in the mess

Brené Brown
Our City Lights
Momastery

’tis the season for imposed expectations of cheer and warmth and unfettered celebration. it’s nice to know there are big voices out there advocating for a reality that is more complicated than that.

the guest house

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here we are, at the last of november.  wrapped in bed, with the window cracked just a little bit, so i can feel the new winter wind come in, imagine i can smell the coming rain.

at the edge of this holiday season, i find myself wondering at so many different things. this is the time of year i lose my friends to their families, and i lose myself to mine.  every once in a while, it catches me: delight at the thought of a pretty new cake recipe, excitement over the perfect present idea, images of baking up a cozy dinner for everyone and settling in for the night, candles lit, twinkly lights twinkling, heater turned on full blast.  but then i remember: come mid-december, my friends will quietly scatter, houses will empty out, and it’ll just be me. the sense of home i made for myself will dismantle, like it does every year, because the truth is, it’s a mock-up.  a stand-in.

i have a family, they have a house, and  it’s not half-bad.  nice, even.  but it’s not home. and i have to return to it this time every year.

there is a lot of guilt mixed in with this grief. can’t i make the best of it? is it even really so bad? what do i know.  in the absence of others, this poem has been a comforting voice.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi
   translation by Coleman Barks

ready for the mess

it’s been so many damn years since my last relationship that even if my personal growth weren’t enough, the sheer amount of time would’ve done the trick — it’s history.

but to hear this song after this movie was like someone taking me by the wrist and leading me back, just for a short visit, to that time. to my young, new, raw self, just learning how it’s possible to hope and to walk away at the same time.

 

i loved it. i love how one movie and one song can shovel under all the progress i’ve made, undo it all just for a sweet miserable moment, long enough for me to remember the taste of that specific grief, the dismantling, the mess.

and then to remind myself: i know how to put it all back.

no is the new yes

the other day, not long after i wrote my last post, i was shuffling through my feedly queue and read this. i loved what she said about the special ways her apartment parties would bring people together – i feel the same way about my dinner parties. but really, it was this one sentence that sung out at me:

and what a soothing truth it was. my accommodating nature is so ingrained in me… it’s a complex network of cords and cables that runs under everything i do, and very hard to rewire. so any time i’m asked to do a favor, lend an item, give a ride, help out with this work project or that volunteer event, and i’m on the verge of saying no, a riot of noise starts up in my head: “no one else will be able to do it; you have to help!”; “don’t be selfish!”; “what’s your excuse?”; “say yes now, so you’ll feel less guilty when you need a favor yourself!” it’s crazy in there, let me tell you.

but this one sentence really stilled the room, so to speak. it’s simple. it’s strong. it’s something i hope in a year’s time, i will add to my 2014 list of “what i’ve learned.”

p.s. i just read this article about how clichéd the phrase “something is the new something” is… and yet, i couldn’t help myself with the title. sry.

what i’ve learned

i feel like this has been a big year. amazing things have fallen into place, while other parts of my life have taken me by surprise and gotten flung up in the air with abandon. i’ve read others’ lists like this and am always touched by how insightful and wise they are – we have a lot to learn from our own lives if we just take the time to listen. i didn’t want 2013 to go by without a little reflection, so this is my own small act of homage to everything this year has taught me. here goes:

  • in friendship, support is better than advice – i don’t say this as an absolute; everyone values different things when it comes to friendship. but this is what i discovered and ultimately articulated about my own: when i call up a friend, with good news or bad, whether hurting or elated, i don’t want a diagnosis and prescription; i want someone to join me in what i’m feeling, to remind me what i’m made of. my friends are my heartbeat because, with them, i am known. “a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”
  • how to take care of myself – this year, that has meant: exercising, finding healthy foods i like to eat, giving myself permission to say no (instead of doing every favor asked of me), and setting aside sacred time each week to decompress.
  • how to comfort myself – this is different than taking care of myself, and that was a lesson all on its own. no matter how diligent you are about living right, things will still go wrong. what happens when it’s up to you to make yourself feel better? it’s ok if the answer involves netflix, chocolate, a strong drink, and/or a few angry journal scribbling sessions.
  • you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have– this lesson carries over from a health scare i had in 2012. what was then a seemingly slow-motion series of events (lump, doctor visit, ultrasound, probably benign, mysterious pain, doctor visit, biopsy, phone call, definitely benign) has now become a short story about understanding my strength. i am not invincible; i know it could all happen again but with a different ending. but because of how i faced the first fear, i have been irreversibly changed for the better, for the bolder. i know who i am in the face of uncertainty. i have proven myself to myself.
  • having strongly-held values is different than living according to them; setting a goal is different than working towards one – this is my current lesson, and it’s a work in progress, for sure. i have always prided myself on knowing what i want, but this year was a series of gentle wake-up calls that perhaps the way i was living was not in line with those end goals. how can i say i want to meet someone if i don’t set aside energy to date? how can i talk about being a full-time teacher “someday” if i don’t look into what degrees i need to get now? caring is not the same as doing.
  • i like work – yes, i might currently be sitting on my bed still in my pj’s typing this. however! that doesn’t mean i don’t gain an immense sense of satisfaction and contentment after a good day’s work. i was never one to define myself by my job, or my success by my professional accomplishments, so it was quite a pleasant surprise to discover how much work means to me: my job specifically, and my field in general. what i do makes me a better person, and i like that person a lot.

Be you, bravely

the sky last night

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and back to regularly scheduled programming.

this was the sky last night. unbelievably soft looking and the sweetest combination of sherbet hues, the clouds cracking open to a final brightness, an end to an otherwise gloomy day. i walked my two dogs, and a smattering of raindrops began to fall; i felt them land on my nose and my wrists and fingertips.

later, in the middle of the night, i woke to the sound of more rain falling. heavier this time, fatter drops, more steady in rhythm. so i pushed up my window so i could listen as i fell back to sleep.
 
it is one of my favorite pleasures of living: this sound of rain. in a time when we can engineer so much, plan and manipulate and create so much, i need these small serendipities. to know that beauty sometimes just comes, when you least expect it but most appreciate it. to know that someone else is in charge and that he is good.

 

white peach sangria

sunset reflection

i had this recipe saved since a year ago, when the air was just as oppressively hot as it is now and we were all just as desperately thirsty for a clean cold drink — but the times were so so different. at once less turbulent yet more uncertain, every step a test of sound ground.

i was swimming my way through fresh unemployment at the time and the simultaneous feelings of rejection and liberation that it brought. things were murky, and i decided to just float in it. a summer wedding gave us roles: a bride and her maids, and so we rallied; and for me it swiftly gave me a new point around which to pivot and swivel. i was grateful.

in that summer, that was what i knew of strength: to call upon others, to link our arms, to celebrate our ties, even as we tightened them. we had a thing every wednesday — we had a thing, period — and it made me strong.

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this year, to count back the months and figuratively turn them over in my hands… i see what has shifted and settled, to become more fully itself. anxieties turned into job offers, vows into supreme partnership; wanderlust evolved into residence; and in some cases, quietly kept longings revealed themselves to be decidedly false starts. for better or worse, it was a year of becoming.

it may be a strange time to do a year-in-review — end of june, cusp of july — but i suppose this is what happens when i finally log into a long-neglected blog account. and when i run on teacher time, with summer opening up ahead of me, full of promises of free time and a freed mind.

in any case, i think i like where i stand. i like the view from here; i like how my legs feel underneath me.

a year later, cheers to that.

white peach sangria

White Peach Sangria
Adapted from the Los Angeles Times
Makes 16 servings
 
2 bottles dry white wine
¼ cup brandy
¼ cup peach schnapps
2/3 cup simple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla extract
juice from ½ an orange
juice from 1 lime
3 white peaches, sliced
½ orange, sliced into wheels
½ lime, sliced into wheels
1 lemon, sliced into wheels

  1. In a large pitcher or beverage dispenser, combine the wine, brandy, peach schnapps and simple syrup. Stir in the peach, orange, lime and lemon slices.
  2. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours.

animal dreams

every once in a while, i’ll find myself in a really fantastic reading mood — a deeply gentle frame of mind, in which i effortlessly tuck myself into a good fat book and measure the passage of time in page turns (instead of commercial breaks). it is a rare space, and it’s lovely while it lasts.
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this week, i got a shiny new toy, a hand-me-down kindle, and the first thing i did was troll through our library’s e-catalog for something delicious to read. i was hunting for something addictive and popular like the buzzworthy gone girl, but found myself downloading barbara kingsolver’s animal dreams instead.
 
i can’t remember exactly when i first read it, but i know it was ages ago. far enough back that a different breed of sadness was seated in my throat, a loneliness i, most mercifully, have not known since. so i don’t remember the plot points, but i do remember it for the way it met me there in my freshly aching desolation, mirrored it, and then wrote me an ending.
 
times are different now. i can sit here in this different house, with its different voices and new history, and think about that stale and hollow time as if it was someone i used to know. how lucky i am that this is my time lapse moment… to flick open an old book, live in the swell of memory, and realize how good things have become.