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On Miracles

18 Mar

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Anne Lamott once said that going from an addict who couldn’t take care of herself to a sober, functioning mother was a moderate sized miracle.

She had transformed herself completely, changed things she thought impossible.

It was a miracle.

 

I don’t use the world miracle often, even in hyperbole.  Miracle always seemed too big and intangible. Do I believe in miracles? Sure.

(Where you from? You sexy thing.)

But what have I classified as a miracle?  What in my life, of relative health and prosperity qualifies as an actual miracle?  I haven’t been healed from some life-threatening illness. I haven’t lifted a car with brute strength or survived  a dramatic plane crash on berries and volleyballs alone.

Reading Anne Lamott, though, I realized that I have experienced miracles.

Miracles are things that you previously thought impossible that you’ve now done.

Staying sober.

Having a conversation that could have never happened five years ago.

Getting over something–something impossible.  Something you knew in your heart you could never ever ever after 60 years get over, and yet.

Here you are.

You are over it.

These are miracles.

 

Grace.

I think it goes back to grace.  I’ve been studying grace for a few months now, and like miracle, it was not a word I used very often or saw very often in my life.

But the other day I bought a pair of pants online and they were too small and my first thought was I would lose 10 lbs.

An hour later I recognized how unhealthy this all was and that the pants were the wrong size, I wasn’t the wrong size.  I put them back in their package, took them to the post office, and returned them.

I realized that so often in my life I assume I’m the wrong size rather than my pants/someone else/the situation is the wrong size fit for me.  I realized that I am the right size as I am.

Right now.

This very moment.

 

It was grace.

It was a miracle.

Super Bowl Sunday

2 Mar

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I woke up lazily.  Every time my body wanted to rise I asked it if it really did.  I slept on and off through the morning.

I pulled out my latest Anne Lamott book and read until I couldn’t read anymore.  I meditated for 12 minutes, reeling my mind back in approximately 1,400 times.

I had a bowl of Frosted Flakes and a ripe tangerine for breakfast.  I drank 16 ounces of water.

I caught up with a few friends.  I headed out for a walk.  On the way, I made the last minute decision to turn around and check Pavilions for Girl Scout cookies.  They were there!  Hallelujah!

I bought four boxes of Tagalongs.

I accepted that Tagalongs are the only Girl Scout cookies I truly care about even though society told me for so long it was Samoas and Thin Mints that should own my heart.

I walked on the Pepperdine track, the last of a children’s soccer practice clearing out with tears and grass stained shinguards.  Pepperdine’s baseball team started practice, tiny, gorgeous orange dots on the horizon.

I made plans with Rob for the next day.  Mondays are our weekend and we alternate who chooses what we do.  Tomorrow is his Monday and he wants to get Lily’s breakfast burritos (with potatoes) and go to Broad Beach.  It’s nice that what we like to do lines up so beautifully.

I walked around Pepperdine’s track for 5,000 steps.  I listened to Mariah Carey and remembered her arm movements in her concert and how everything I know about dancing I learned from Mariah.

Look fabulous.

Stand in one place.

Sing your guts out.

Let your diva arm do the talking.

I sang Touch my Body as I rounded the track for the last time.

I had a huge salad topped with peppers and olives and artichokes and garbanzo beans. I added a Diet Coke to the mix for balance.

I didn’t pretend like I cared about football.

Or the Super Bowl.

Instead I went to a yoga class with other people who weren’t pretending.

I thought about how a few months ago I felt like everything was falling apart.  How there are half a dozen dramatic blog drafts entitled things like “I feel happy today” and “I’m trying” that I never published on this blog because when my internal life is too jumbled I’m unable to create anything.

I thought about how I got myself over that mountain or molehill or something in between.  How I sought help.  How I reevaluated my career and made some course corrections.  How I took up meditation and how the benefits of that cannot be overstated.

I thought about how I’ve pursued my self-care as a religion the past few months.  How I walk every single day and read and meditate and self soothe.  How I am able to take one bad thing that comes my way and accept that it is a bad thing not a bad life and I’ll try again tomorrow.

How I couldn’t do that before.

My friend is going through a hard time.  I wanted to pass all this on to her, to say, “Hey! Here’s the secret.  Do it!”

And then I remembered that this is my secret, for now.

My sacred, for now.

I remembered that we all get there through different means at different rates.

That we can’t save anyone but ourselves.

That we’re all just doing our best.

For now.

January Was The Month Of Meditation

29 Feb

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January was the month of meditation.

November was budget month. October I cleaned.

I’ve discovered setting goals for a month is the only way I can get anything done. Goal for a month, I suppose.  Only one.

At the beginning of each month I decide what’s most pressing and I put my energies into that. If I complete that goal then I have been successful for the day.  There is no other measure of my success.

This system feeds into my need for success, but also lets myself off the hook a bit.  I don’t have to change everything today.  I just need to meditate.

That’s what January was.  A month of quiet and breathing. Of listening to sounds and feelings and reeling my wandering mind back in again and again.  In 10 minutes of meditation my mind can escape me thousands of times.  The task of recognizing it has lost its way, lassoing it and bringing it back to the present—that’s hard work.

That’s the lifting weights of the mind.

It’s funny, not until this last year did I think of mental exercise in the same way as physical exercise.  I’ve always known that I can improve my physical health by exercising.  Walking, lifting weights, stretching and moving.  There are tangible effects from those exercises.

I understand why I do them.

With my mind, though, it’s always been Fleetwood Mac.

It’s always been

How can I ever change things that I feel?

 

Oh Fleetwood

Oh Mac

 

I think the answer, or part of the answer, is I can’t.  I feel something, I recognize it, and then I move forward.  I don’t take every feeling as fact or an indication of my future everything.  I don’t indulge them all.  I experience them but I don’t let them overtake me.

I train my mind like I train my body.

I sit on my marshmallow bed, palms up and breathe again and again.  I work at it for a month and get up to 15 minutes in a state of meditation.  Barely 15 minutes.  Working on 15 minutes.  I think that maybe in a year I can complete the hour-long meditations.  Maybe in a year I’ll be there.

But for January.  For this month.  For today.  I am stretching my mind.

I am a success.

The Year Of Try

29 Dec

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2015 was the year of growing up.

I bought a blender.  Well, first I researched the blender. I read online reviews, I talked to friends.  I thought way, way down the line into how many kids I might want to have and if this blender could feed them and then I decided that was a step too far and I would bring it back to somewhere normal—like my decision to live out of a blender in February 2016.

That sort of normal.

The blender was on sale and I used a coupon and in 2015 I grew up.

In 2015 I tracked my spending for a month.  I have this hideous Excel spreadsheet with things like “entertainment” and “food” and “health insurance.” There’s a system with Xs and numbrs and it’s all too complicated to explain, but it’s there.  In 2015 I budgeted the crap out of a month and it’s stuck with me.

Once you start worrying about money it doesn’t really go away, does it?  I wish someone had told me that first. Before the spreadsheet.

In 2015 I took up yoga.  I mastered crow pose, which is something different than taking up yoga, but equally important.

I endured hundreds of hours of doctors appointments to get my moles checked.  I took care of every non-urgent medical issue that was vaguely plaguing me.

I found a radio station that works in Malibu.

In 2015 I followed a bunch of Cape Cod Instagram accounts.

I unfollowed a bunch of writers who were making me depressed with their portrayal of their lives and their writing.

I wrote a book.

A book I’m proud of.  A book with a love story that gets me a little giggly when I think of it.  One I want to see to the finish.

I started a website.

I changed the size and cut of my underwear and let me tell you what.  I think that was the most important thing I did this year.

Fix your underwear situations, ladies.  It’s worth every penny.

In 2015 I started using men’s razors and became outraged, outraged I say! About the state of women’s razors.

I read my first Joan Didion.

I met Nick Hornby.

I got so into Hallmark Christmas movies I started ranking them according to the Bechdel test.  I wrote about religion, in a sitcom of all things, and it really scared me to even try.

In 2015 I came home for my birthday to find the people I love gathered in a Beyoncé themed birthday party complete with every food I’ve ever even sort of liked.

I gathered my siblings together and surprised my mom when she graduated from college 32 years after she began.

I have a great video of this surprise, me in my blue dress, my mom squealing, “What are you doing here?” and even better one of my mom freaking out when she saw my brother Jeff just casually standing in the kitchen in the middle of the day.

In 2015 I gave Rob the best gifts he will ever receive in his life.  No really.  I imported spices and mugs and carefully gathered things for 12 months I knew he would love and then rained them all down in one week.

I feel a surge of pride at this gift giving.

I feel a surge of shame that I didn’t realize gifts were so high on my love language list.

I’m a Denning.  Dennings don’t like gifts.

Except for me.  I want every gift.

2015 was the year of failure.

I failed a lot in 2015.  Oh my gosh.

I failed so much I ended up in therapy to discuss it, though, in many ways that was a win.

“You say failure a lot,’” my therapist points out.  She asks me hard questions like if I would feel like a failure if I couldn’t see what anyone else was doing.

What sort of crazy ass question is that? I think.  I don’t live in a bubble.

And then I cry.

I’m a crier.

This year I failed and I failed and I failed some more. Big and small.  Over and over.   Each failure hits me like a bullet to the chest.  I do not take failure well.  I take failure the worst you can take it and then I take months and months and monhts to semi recover.

It’s a terrible system and one that I fear will take my whole life to get over.

And through all this, the growing up and the failing and the wishing so, so badly that something, anything would work out, I settled a word for the year.  A word to encompass it all.

Try

This year I tried.

So damn hard.

I tried over and over and over again until I felt like I couldn’t try anymore.  I tried and I failed and I am up again and I am still trying.  I’m still working at it.

I may get up shaking at the slightest breeze, not up with a fury and an “I’LL CONQUER THIS AND SHOW THEM” attitude, but I am up.  I’m shaking and up and I’m trying again.

I’m trying anew.

This year I tried so, so hard.

2015 was the year of try.

Grown up, lots of failure, actual trying.

Come at me, 2016.

 

PS: My word for 2014, 20132012 and my writing group member Katie’s beautiful essay on this same topic

The Colors Of My Cities

10 Dec

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Inspired by this beautiful post

Salt Lake is purple.  It’s purple mountains majesty and purple snowcapped peaks.  It’s purple in the mall parking lot, purple on your trail run.  It’s purple wherever you turn. Ominous.  Powerful.  All-watching. The kind of purple that means  everywhere else you live you notice its absence.

Las Vegas is neon.  A rainbow of colors flashing and shimmering in the desert sky.  It’s all spark and show, all fake and all amplified.  It’s nothing like real life and that’s what it’s bringing to the table.

London is gray.  Gloomy skies and clutched umbrellas.  Trench coats and ancient brick castles.  The gray of the tube.  The gray of the pub.  The gray gray gray that infects who you are.  The gray gray gray you can never get away from.

Malibu is gold.  The shimmer of salty air right before the sun yawns its last breath.  The gold glow of warmth, of wealth.  The gold glow of something solid in its worth.

I Wore A Bikini For A Month And Lived To Tell The Tale

20 Sep

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The month of July 2015 will go down as one of the best months of my life.  I traveled to Puerto Rico with my entire family, a treat of the highest order.  I traveled to Cape Cod with Rob and his family, a dream of the highest order.

I am so tan right now you wouldn’t recognize me.  The last time I looked like this I was a little girl in Las Vegas, running from my pool to my best friend’s pool to the neighbor’s pool and back, all in one blurry rotation.  My hair, a solid brown, was bleached and ragged.  My skin was so sunkissed I glowed.

Today I feel like that little girl again.

On the Cape the schedule goes something like this:

Sleep in as late as your body will allow.  Stay in bed an hour after you wake up, just because you can.  Come downstairs to an elaborate meal prepared by Rob’s food-loving family.

Put on a bikini.

Go to the beach.

Come back for six helpings of pasta.

Sunset.

Ice cream.

Repeat.

It’s just about the best schedule I can imagine, especially because the time at the beach includes things such as ladder golf and waboba balls, sailing, and diving off sailboats.  Beach chairs on the edge of the tide so you can sit as the jacuzzi water washes over you, Diet Coke in hand.

Yes, July was paradise.

And I lived in a bikini.

There was a time where those two things could’t have coexisted.

I’ll call it the first 25 years of my life.

I used to think that my body was not a bikini body and that was that.  I’ve had stretch marks since I was a teenager.  Cellulite since then as well.  My arms look nothing like Michelle Obama’s.

I could give you a laundry list of my physical complaints.  Every girl I know can.

And so there were no bikinis for me for a long time.

When I was in high school and my body was undoubtably more lean than it is now, I used to float around in my best friend’s pool wearing knee-length board shorts making fun of my body.

I am very, very sad for that young, healthy girl and for the culture and circumstances that lead to such behavior.  I want to talk more about that young, healthy girl and the culture and circumstances that led to her behavior.

Anne Lamott says something I love:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you
never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in
warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly
and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out
on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big
juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring
off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart.
Don’t let this happen.”

I read that quote on an airplane on my way to Cape Cod and I thought, “Yes, Anne.  Yes, again and as always.”  It’s all a lie, you realize at some point.  Every girl I know, including the one-and-only Kate Moss, has cellulite.  Human beings have dimples and curves and inconsistencies.  This idea that we shouldn’t, or it’s abnormal, this idea that we should look Photoshopped in order to feel comfortable at the beach–at some point you have to say no to it.  At some point you have to say, “I have stopped buying into this notion and choose to live my life.”

At some point you put on a bikini.

I have a comfortable tummy, cellulite and stretch marks.  And my goodness if I was going to let that ruin July for me.

I didn’t.

I wore a bikini and ate pasta and laughed a whole lot and right now I am so tanned and so happy I feel like childhood Jill, the one before the heartaches and the real life.

I wore a bikini for a month.

This is my tale.

How To Beyoncé

1 Sep

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Ahhhhh

Today my baby, my pet project, my (almost?) everything launches.

Readers, meet the girl power blog:

HOW TO BEYONCE

My insanely talented friend Rebbie and I are running this site and you can read more of what it’s about here.  Basically, as Rebbie put it, we believe women are strong and talented and capable and should have the lives they want.  We will be writing about the ups and downs of being female through the lens of Her Majesty, The Queen, Beyoncé.

I wrote a few pieces for the launch.

My personal favorite is Should I Keep Talking to my Ex?  I wish someone had given me this years ago and forced me to read it every night before bed.

There’s also I Need to Stop Following Your Wedding Hashtag about one of those Instagram weddings that destroys your self esteem. (I cannot be the only one here.)

And then there’s The Most Powerful Thing about Bey (According to Vogue) about body image and loving yourself and that ever evolving internal discussion I’m having with myself.

Rebbie wrote some stellar pieces.

The Truth About “Crazy Girls” featuring one of Beyoncé’s greatest videos, “Why Don’t You Love Me.” (I wish I had written this piece.  It is gold.)

We are…Sasha Fierce on internet personas.

And It’s OK to be Solange which is a must-read for the title alone.

We also answered the pressing question, Are You Two Obsessed with Beyoncé?  (No!  Yes!  Sort of?)

Check it out and let me know how you like it.

Let’s run the world!

Ahhhhh

 

How To Beyonce:

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Oh, well. Hi. I finished the first draft of my novel.

1 Jul

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Oh, well.  Hi.I finished the first draft of my novel.

I don’t know if that’s technically true, actually.  Two and a half months ago I sent a friend a really haphazard version of my book along with the plea, “Tell me if this is a stepping stone project, because if so I want to step right along.”

“You need to finish it,” my friend said.

I didn’t realize at the time he might not have been saying, “You need to finish it” because it was a great novel, he may have been saying “You need to finish it” because it is good to finish things.

Especially writing things.

Before I’ve picked a project, really settled into it, before a project has become fun and manageable, all I do is bounce around.  This new idea is going to be great!  And maybe this thing that I put on hold a few years ago–now is probably the time to take it up!

The truth is, of course, all projects suck until you put in the work.  It’s as simple as that.

Without work, all projects suck.

And so to finish something, to really give it my all, to edit and revise and try again and again when nothing (and everything) is at stake, when I have no agent or book deal or money on the table, and all I’m giving is more and more time, time that could be spent on that thing I put on hold a few years ago or my waning personal life—

To do that is good.

To finish what I’ve started, to show I can do it, to put my full self into a project so I can no longer hide behind the excuse of “I didn’t give my all.”

That is good.

Addicted to Fresh Starts

11 Jun

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I’m feeling restless again.

I almost said I’m feeling restless (period), but that’s surely not true.  Just because I can’t remember a time when I was feeling like this doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

I’m restless because things are calm.  I don’t know how to do calm things.

I’m learning, slowly, how to do calm relationships.

I find myself trying to create excitement and change in my life, constantly.

There’s a trick, I think, to embracing the calm.

A trick to saying, here’s my circumstances, I’m making the most of them.

I’m addicted to fresh starts.

I realize this about myself.

I’m addicted to the idea of a new beginning–a new job, a new apartment, a new roommate–all of these things are going to kickstart some new change in my life.  These things are going to be the deciding factor, after which all of the things I’ve planned on doing and becoming will begin.

I know this is not true.

And yet I yearn for fresh starts.

I tried to make a list of summer things I want to do in LA this year.

The list was short and boring.  Have I done everything I want to do in LA?  Am I over LA?  Where’s next?

Or is there not a next?  Is this part of life, the calm part?

It’s easy to reach for the next thing.  This work promotion, this weekend, this retreat will change it all.

There will be some Big Break.

I know this is not the case.

There are two options for changing your life, really, when you boil it all down to the basics.

You can make some dramatic change.  Quit your social work career.  Move away from London.

Or you can say, this is my life right now.  I can’t/don’t want to/won’t change something major, so this is what I’m working with.  What do I do next?

I’ve done both.  In some ways the second one is harder than the first.  The first is more tangible.

Put in your notice.

Book a plane ticket.

The second one is the day-to-day stuff.

I get bored.

This is what I’m realizing.

I get bored with day-to-day.  I’m constantly craving stimulation and excitement.

I’ve lived, in the past, for the rollercoaster of a relationship, the breathlessness of the beginning, the peaks and falls of the fighting.  When you’re in a dysfunctional relationship all you get is stimulation.

It changes how you respond to things.

I need overstimulation.

I crave it and seek it.

I am restless and a new job and a new city and a new life is not the answer.

I don’t think.

I am restless and now I must take a deep breath, I must go after the dreams that are still far away, and I must make the best of what my life is.

But I am restless.

The Best Meal I Ever Had

8 Jun

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Inspired by this beautiful piece

 

The best meal I ever had was in Rome

A plate full of buttery pasta

A server named Romeo

Kiss me!  Romeo asked each of my friends

No!  We said, in turn

We walked home on dewy cobblestone streets

We giggled

I should have kissed him

 

The best meal I ever had was a greasy pizza

Pepperoni

Cheese

No frills

Eaten in the front seat of Caitlin’s Barbie car the first week we hung out

A pizza she bought because I was sick from fair rides

A pizza that made us friends

 

The best meal I ever had was a burger

In Rob’s Cape Cod house

Truffle glaze and onions

Brie stuffed patties

Me in a short white dress

The dress he saw me in and couldn’t speak

 

The best meal I ever had was a pan of hot no bake cookies

The good kind with chunky peanut butter

And a bit too much vanilla

A pan with my wild, silly high school friends

A pan with six spoons

 

The best meal I ever had was a lasagna

With creamy sauce

And sausage

A lasagna before a watching of Sound of Music

A lasagna before a moving to London

 

The best meal I ever had was a Greek plate in Carmel

Yogurt and hummus, gyros and rice

An owner who played the mandolin

A boy who I loved

Celebrating our one-year anniversary

Sharing plates

Sharing lives