Wednesday, May 15, 2013

is it real?

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.

"Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

-Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

yes. yes. yes.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

the lone black dress.

we were coming off the fastest moving experience: boxes in seven cars, twelve people, two trips, two hours. boom. we were ready to relax with the rest of the pizza and some board games.

we walked in the house to find her in her puddle of tears. she could barely breathe and the one with her didn't know what to do.

i don't know where i learned it; probably a combination of watching my mom and training in trauma. after she told us her dad had passed we all stood there, frozen and awkward. the thoughts of what do we say? what do we do? ran through our minds as we stood at the top of the stairs. i sprang into action and started directing traffic. "we need a one-way ticket out tonight; if the airlines give you any trouble, someone call kimberly." i demanded. "tell her- don't ask her- to drink this water." "what's the weather in rhode island for the next five days?" i asked.

we took turns rubbing her back as she sat doubled over. we kept packing and guessing what you think one needs to attend their father's funeral. i choked up as i looked in her closet to find the lone black dress; she's worn this dress many times before but never to represent mourning.

she soon departed for her flight and we gathered in the kitchen. our energy shifted so quickly from joy to sadness; a fresh chapter for friends in their new home and a daunting chapter for another friend as she moves into deep loss and mourning. i sat down and as we prayed, i asked God to give her rest. the shock she's in will only drain; any extra rest would be vital. my love reminded me of the value of our community-- that we could be present and support, that we arrived when we did, that we leaned in instead of standing frozen.

i cannot imagine wearing that lone black dress at twentyfive. i cannot imagine ever wearing it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

flying in space shuttles.

to know me is to know that when i get (or am a part of) an idea i'm really excited about, i can quickly become attached and fixated on the implementation plan. i begin dreaming and researching and planning. sometimes it even takes over my life enough that i'm caused to make up work hours late into the evening. let's just say that when i'm in it, my loyalty kicks in and i'm gonna win it. sometimes this can result in being seen as inflexible.

and him, the one who has my heart, he brings me to relax. he reminds me- without audibly saying it- to take big deep breaths. it's the look he gives or the question he asks that allows me to be me- the one who is driven and dependable and faithful- but sometimes inflexible.

sometimes i imagine this process like taking flight. but not just on an airplane, more like on a space shuttle from some nasa launch pad; it's like the flames are coming out from underneath me and there's no stopping: it is what it is, i am what i am, green means go. but then there's him, the one who knows me. how he gets me to return to earth, back to the reality of a life dashed with a little ambiguity, i don't always know. he asks me, without asking me, to remember i can be inflexible.

it's almost that these ideas and my excitement are fulfilled because of an anxiety that propels me to do, make, get. and sometimes that's okay. but this isn't wise or leading me toward the path of wisdom. accepting this piece of me is good, but knowing my weakness is even better, recognizing i am inflexible.

so this is to being known in a deep way; to surrounding myself with grace and gentleness and learning how to be less anxious. to getting ideas and thinking instead of reacting. to researching without stubbornness. to not getting hope mixed up with determination. here is to being with someone who allows me to be me but helps me to be flexible.

here's to being wise about really big decisions. and safely coming back to earth in my space shuttle.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


time flies when i share a meal with rusty.
her fingers are slowly becoming harder to manage,
they angle in different directions now.
it's hard to open jars and hold two cups.
she allows me to wind her clocks, which feels oddly familiar.
not because i ever wound the clocks growing up,
but because it feels like i'm sinking into my roots,
like i'm coming closer to who my father is and who my grandfather was.
or maybe i should say who my father was.
thirtyone years he wound clocks and made magic
happen for those intricate little pieces.
his fingers are so thick and his hands are so large,
i don't know how he did it, day after day.
i suppose it was a labor of love
where his commitment and knowledge allowed for a skill
to fix things, making them better.

i grew up with grandfathers and grandmothers and anniversaries and
carriages and regulators. brackets and tambours and schoolhouses.
their nightly noise became soothing; to not have them would bring
unfamiliarity to my slumber.

when i go to wherever my dad makes his home,
there's always the sweet sound of his clocks.
we have to turn them off for guests
as they've not known the pendulum's swing
to soothe and comfort,
but rather to annoy and distract.

but rusty knows.
and so does my late grandfather,
and my father.
they understand the warmth and ease
of the repetition.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the lives they lived.

i always seem to skim the year-end articles that capture things like "the best ___ of the year" or "the twentyfive ____s you should have ____ this year"; it reminds me what happened as i'm often wrapped up in the world of me.

this year i read almost every "the lives they lived" put out by the new york times magazine. there's something about celebrating life, but also about remembering what one has left behind that i connect with. ariel kaminer wrote a heart warming letter to david rakoff, who passed away in august, and it caught my attention as he seemed to leave three meaningful lessons behind. i've heard many of david's stories on this american life, and after reading ariel's letter, it made me want to do better and be better.

this led me to think about those in my life who live out these lessons:
thank you lisa for never trading up.
thank you molly for always being kind.
thank you peter for living out gratitude and humility-and meaning it.

i have much to learn, but i'll remind myself that i mustn't rush these lessons.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

the transition between twelve and thirteen.

twothousand twelve was marked by:
-a move to the castro and its many unexpected rewards
-breakup nights with three girl roommates
-failing my exam and later becoming licensed
-celebratory flowers, dinners and boots
-journaling for threehundred and fifty days
-the end of a twelve month stint as a hostess
-a redemptive wedding in april
-the best birthday ever, complete with a vitamix
-a most courageous love letter
-cleanses and conscious eating and thinking
-welcoming baby brennan
-family reunions, complete with horse races
-coordinating in july and august
-"he's the one before the one"
-a new job, a new car and a new haircut all in one week
-the "guys weekend" in december
-wonderful holidays with family, old and new
-understanding more about love
-realizations about privacy and patience and trust

in twothousand thirteen i'm looking forward to:
-not studying for my mft exam and reading for pleasure
-a trip to hawaii with moose's parents
-learning more about slowing down

Monday, December 31, 2012

some thoughts on the best year of my life (so far).

you may have experienced "rock bottom" or what is sometimes called the "lowest low." mine was twothousand eleven. no, not every day and every minute- but much of that year, which meant that when it came time to start twothousand twelve, i was hopeful for something better. (naturally)

this year started with a move that literally changed my life. i'd gone from being in a house of guy friends from college to being in a house of girls who were either friends or acquaintances. soon after the move, i found myself in a meaningful romantic relationship that was healthy... i was present and it was built on trust. this new relationship led to the ending of a long time friendship because it was getting in my way and wasn't going to benefit my current relationship; especially because it was never going to be what i'd hoped it would be while we were each in our current state. so i let go and committed to redefining me; getting back the pieces of the woman i lost in twothousand eleven.

the next few months of therapy were filled with forgiveness, grief, excitement and grace. i slowly peeled back my layers, relearning who i was, what i believed i deserved, and remembering the type of life i wanted to create for myself. because i had previously allowed myself to be treated a certain way, the relationship i was in created many "corrective emotional experiences" that said to me, "you deserve so much more."

it was during the late spring and early summer that i learned what love is. in april i posted about what i thought love was, believing that i'd never just know because that wasn't my experience. later i'd learn how wrong i was. i didn't just know because in this very case, i wasn't in love. surely i loved this person and would do anything for him but it wasn't the same as what i'd eventually know to be love in the way c.s. lewis refers to eros love.

there was a saturday night in april and a letter in may and a weekend in july that changed my life. really, i mean that. it's hard to detail the feelings i experienced regarding these events but i can tell you now that they only changed my life because of the work i'd done on me, for me. and of course the person on the other side of these events had deeply changed and grown, too- but we both did these things unrelated to each other.

and there was that day in july where i came to realize why i was with the person i was with, which resulted in the ending of our relationship. this was also part of a larger discussion about allowing others the freedom to be themselves, without trying to change who they are. i was familiar with this concept, but only because i talked the walk instead of walking the walk. as i look back, i was in it because i believed he would be a faithful partner, good father, and we'd be secure together. but these are not reasons to stay with someone! i wanted to stay because of an authentic desire to be with that person, because our relationship was built on love. when i faced my doubts that day, it had nothing to do with that old friend; i left because i knew that i could very easily regret my "i do." i would rather be alone than living a life of regret.

the weekend that my friend nick ran around san francisco will always be marked with the beginning of love with that old friend. it's when i didn't settle and i actually knew what it meant to just know. it especially represents great risk and great reward. it is the beginning of learning that trust is a choice, not an airy-fairy feeling that you grab out of the sky or even something that "comes with time."

at the end, my big take away for this year is that i believe some people stay in (unhealthy) relationships because it's what they think they deserve. no, in twothousand eleven, i never thought "yes, i deserve to be treated like shit in this relationship- keep it coming!" but i tolerated it because i didn't actually believe i deserved more and because i dreamed up things with this person and created a life that didn't exist. i think this may be other peoples' experience, too; they believe the (unhealthy) relationship they're in is the best thing that will ever happen to them. this is either due to low self confidence or a fear of being alone. unfortunately, these both lead to loneliness. and worse than this realization is that we can't actually help the person who believes this- like me, they must learn it on their own.

cheers to this year, this best year, where i've learned about love.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

my (recent) story of failure.

at the end of february twothousand eleven i set some goals: i'd run a second marathon, i'd take my first mft exam, and i'd sing a song in public. i gave myself threehundred sixtyfive days, making the completion day march first, twothousand twelve. as march was approaching, i'd finished the marathon and the singing escapade but i'd neglected to study for my exam. i put it off and postponed the exam date until i realized i just needed to take the damn test, regardless of the amount of studying i didn't do. at the time, it was more important to complete the goal regardless of my preparation for the goal. i think this was symbolic of twothousand eleven- one of the most difficult years of my life; i needed to know that some of the central components of who i was were still deep inside me: courage, diligence and drive.

 so i went to the testing center on march first and took the first of the two exams. you learn the results immediately following the exam so when i read the big red letters FAIL i wasn't terribly surprised. okay maybe they weren't bigger than the standard twelve point font but they were red. either way, i failed. in that moment, and in the weeks following, shame followed me around like a rain cloud in seattle.

i began processing my failure in therapy where i was quickly reminded of all that i've achieved. we talked about failure and why it was so significant to me: it was more about letting others down with the perceived expectations people had of me than it was about my own expectations for myself. for some reason, because i didn't waltz into the test and pass without studying, i now would be classified as stupid.

slowly i told people here and there but the most monumental experience of sharing my failure was when i told my small group of high school girls. showing these four girls that i could fail and my life didn't come crashing to the ground and that i could even still be successful in my career was what we all needed to hear. i was humbled by their response, but more so, i was grateful to show them that attending a good college will still be an option if they don't have straight a's, perfect sat scores, and more extracurricular activities than they can count on their toes and fingers. we laughed and talked about ways each of us had failed recently. we talked about what it meant to be smart, what it meant to live for (the perceived) expectations of others, and what it meant to have expectations of ourselves. it was so worth it. i became a little bit more human for those girls in that day.

i went on to put in significant time and effort to study for the first test. i took it over again on november twelfth and passed, which opened up eligibility to take the second test. passing brought me a new confidence and i decided to put everything into studying for the second exam. december seventeenth at eleven in the morning i saw a green PASS on the screen. the feeling of completion overcame me; the journey of becoming a marriage and family therapist started in a classroom in august of twothousand seven and it was finally finished.

failing that first exam and bringing my shame into the light has been the most significant part of this career journey. i am grateful.

Monday, November 5, 2012

my favorite day of the year.

my friend vincent recently asked if voting day was really my favorite day of the year.

"yes. absolutely. without a doubt."

he looked at me puzzled. "why?"

"vincent! we have so much freedom and opportunity here. there are so many places where people still don't get to vote." i went on and on and on. he didn't seem to care or resonate.

"do you know what it really is, vincent?" i left time for a pregnant pause. "there are very few days, or even moments, when my voice as a woman gets to be heard as loud as a person of color, or as loud as a person with a different sexual preference from me, or as loud as a person who practices a different religion from me, or even as loud as a white man's. there aren't many days when there's one hundred percent equal say- a day on the calendar when privilege and power go out the window!?! to not take advantage of this day and celebrate- not just my freedom to cast a vote, but an ENTIRE DAY where every person of voting age has equal representation- well that would be silly. if i really buy into the idea of power and privilege in this nation, i've got to celebrate the moments when it's minimized. this is my day to celebrate."

and so i am: at seven am tomorrow morning and proudly wearing my sticker for the entire day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012