Soft Will Power

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I am strong willed. I prefer to think of this stubbornness as a super power. I’d go as far as to call it one of my greatest strengths.

As with many positive attributes, it does have a dark side I encounter once in a while.

Lets take for example my morning walks. Walking is great! Walking is healthful for body, mind and spirit! So when the temperature cooled enough last September, I headed out on my first neighborhood walk in our new home. In the beginning I had a very nice 5.5 mile loop established. Every day I’d lace up my shoes, push play on a podcast and head out into the sunshine.

Speed walking over five miles a morning should have been enough. Not for this strong willed girl. I added on a little bit at a time until the day my walk had grown to 7.5 miles. Occasionally I’d have a few muscle aches and pains, but nothing that kept me from my routine.

Pushing myself further and further while trying to increase my speed took a toll and by the end of December my left leg said “Screw this action. I’m out”. All at once I could only hobble around trying not to anger my hamstring.

I don’t deal well with being sedentary. Surely I could go for short walks once I was no longer in the hobbling category. How wrong I was.  I would gingerly go for a walk only to come home in tears.

So, I sat. I hobbled and I sat more.

I was forced to look for the lesson I had been trying to ignore. What was the universe trying to teach me this time? (The universe has seen me take my strong will and use it as a weapon on my body more than once.)

Still pondering the universe, I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon where I could only walk on the rim trail. For an avid hiker, this felt like torture. But it was during that trip I understood. By slowing down, I could really take in the magic surrounding me.

All I could do, all I needed to do, was walk slowly and allow my eyes to take it all in.

This morning I was able to walk my original 5.5 mile circle. I am overjoyed and grateful for healing and the ability to begin again. I know how lucky I am to have a healthy body. Lord knows I’ve put it through a lot, and yet it heals.

I’ll always be strong willed. If my Grandma is any indication, it will only get stronger. And I’m okay with that.

I will, however, be prepared to be soft willed once in a while.

Still learning. Still growing. Still changing.

Still just me through it all.

 

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Bridges

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Last winter I knew the height of all the bridges. I slept on hard surfaces in emotional beds of regret. Last winter served me lessons I couldn’t refuse.

(walking the slick streets with my face to the wind just to feel alive)

And now I’m in January with perfect vision looking back. How I grew stronger on the tile floor. How I found a gift in the darkness.

Gratitude comes quietly to lift my head. Hums a melody I know by heart. Here I’ll stand for a little while longer considering the low bridges. How they saved me with their proximity.

How they led me to this place.

 

Just in Case

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I wait, breath held, in this clumsily constructed doorway. You’d expect better of a woodworker’s daughter. You’d think I’d be skilled at right angles and plumb lines. 

I ,too, thought that I’d be further along by now.

But I’m strong. You have no idea how strong I’ve become. And hopeful. I hold it in my sun spotted hands like the winged creature it is.  Still learning to fly.

Part of me wants to slam this amalgamation of days behind me. Part of me wants to leave it open. Just a crack.

Just in case. 

 

 

Ineffability

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One week and a day ago I woke to another gloriously bright Sunday in Las Vegas. I went for my morning walk. Almost every person I encountered gave a wave or a good morning. As I walked I felt so happy. This new home was nothing like I’d expected.  I had the realization that I love it here. I love the scenery and the people. I love living in a thriving community where no community should thrive. It’s the middle of the desert after all. I realized I felt at home.

I realized I too am thriving.

The next morning I woke up to a phone screen lit up with texts. Sisters saying they were devastated reading the news, parents making sure I was okay. My heart racing, I immediately opened my news feed. Mass shooting…Mandalay Bay… hundreds injured… death and panic.

Just miles away from where I slept safe and sound, the worst mass shooting in modern American history had unfolded.

Last Monday is a haze in my mind and yet feels like yesterday.

Rob convinced me we had to leave the house. I agreed to drive to Hoover Dam. I don’t know why we chose this, but I knew just being around other people would be comforting in a strange way. I’d finally stopped crying when we got in the car to leave. As I’d been doing every few minutes, I refreshed my news feed.

Tom Petty. Fresh tears and a sense that my whole world was falling apart. To say Rob and I are Tom Petty fans in an understatement. I wanted to go back inside the house. I wanted to hide in bed until I could wrap my mind around the grief that had already been too intense. Rob didn’t let me. He went back in the house for the box of kleenex and we drove.

The rest of the day is cloudy. The rest of the week is cloudy.

Today is cloudy.

I grapple with so many emotions and thoughts over the course of the day. What kind of world are we living in? How are people that I know and love against gun control? Why did this happen? How do we heal?

Months ago I bought tickets to a concert at The Mandalay Bay. It’s thirteen days from today. I still don’t know if I’ll be able to go. I’m torn. Part of me doesn’t want to miss seeing a band I’ve loved for so long. This part is reminding me that I never saw Tom Petty in concert. I thought I had time. The other part of me is afraid. I’m not only afraid for our safety in big venues, but I’m afraid that I’ll be too emotional to even enjoy the show. Can I possibly enjoy a concert so close to where so many endured the most traumatic night of their lives?

The only thing I know for sure is how important people are. Your people. My people. Hold them close. Even in such uncertain times, we have each other.

 

 

 

Fruition

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Every morning the past looks different. A new yesterday overlaid giving it an unexpected hue. I can worry away the minutes of today (and I probably will), but I cannot predict tomorrow or the next day or the next.

And yet, even knowing this, I worry.

Has the future ever turned out the way I imagined it might? Never. This is a blessing and occasionally a curse. The things I held onto with utmost certainty have often been the heart-strings painfully pulled apart. All the while, worries that had taken up my entire world, never see fruition.

What am I trying to say?

I don’t know. I only know as I sit here on this Friday morning on the first of September, I’m worrying. I’ve had two cups of tea as I’ve looked around at my new home. Once again I’ve realized I would never have imagined this new address. Even a year ago I would have insisted I could never live in Las Vegas. Yet here I sit. Alive.

And isn’t that what matters in the end?

I guess I do know what I’m trying to say. I will continue to worry.  I will continue to live. And I will continue to be amazed by it all.

Identity

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“Since we’re friends in real life now…” the text began.

“You should know there’s an extra ‘A’ in my name”.

Yes, I was being very “Anne with an E” Green Gables about it, but my name without that extra letter never feels right. It’s not me.

The recipient of the text was very gracious (as he always is) and needlessly apologized for getting it wrong. I let him know that it’s been an issue my whole life. Even my birth certificate has it wrong I informed him.

Wait…what? Wouldn’t that mean that I am, in fact, the wrong one? Au contraire. My social security card and all other official documents use that extra ‘A’.  The first passport I obtained went with the SSC spelling as did the second passport.

I have never had anyone other than myself question my identity, and that is always purely existential.

Perhaps this text was tempting the universe to mess with me, put me in my extra letter place. Or maybe it was always only a matter of time.

Last week I went very responsibly to the DMV to register our vehicle in Nevada and also to apply for a Nevada driver’s license. This goes against my usual habit of letting whatever state license I have expire before even worrying about it. Lately I’ve been waging less of a war against adulthood, so off I went to the DMV.

Proof of residency – check. Proof of identity – check and check . I handed over all items as the friendly (it’s true) DMV employee chatted and filled out forms. That’s when it happened. She paused. Looked at my birth certificate, looked over to my social security card, back to the birth certificate, glanced at my Montana driver’s license, only to land back on that damn birth certificate.  She looked up at me, and in a tone that didn’t let on that she was about to ruin my day, informed me that there was a discrepancy in the spelling of my name. It didn’t matter to her that everything else of importance in my life didn’t use that spelling, the Nevada DMV firmly goes by the birth certificate.

I held back tears. I pleaded. I almost stopped the entire process. I should have now that I look back. Before I could fully process the implications, I was standing in line for my glamour shot. The photo snapped, the man let me know my new license would arrive in a few days.

I walked out.

I cried.

I actually sobbed the sentence “Who even AM I right now?” to poor Rob. The new spelling of my name had rendered even my grammar useless.

A rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, but I bet the rose would cry too if you called it lily.

At home, I googled. I contacted my friend in law school for advice. I texted my sister to cry on her shoulder. How does one change their birth certificate? I was imagining lawyers, court dates, huge bills and stress. My sister wasted no time texting me links to the appropriate site in Washington State. She had gone through an issue with her own birth certificate years ago and had to have it corrected.

It appears I will be able to claim that extra vowel again eventually. It’s been surprising to me how very much my name and it’s spelling are my very identity. Two days ago when the new license came by mail, I cried again over the ‘mis’ spelling of my name. Even the photo of me looking like a fifty year old insomniac didn’t faze me.

I may be lost in the details, but I keep finding that deep down I am truly Just Me Actually.

 

Mobility

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The annual move is complete. As with the last four or five moves, I swear I’ll never do it again.

Except I will.

I won’t regale you with the tortuous days of packing up in Portland, driving one thousand miles, living in hotels for a week while looking at rentals, unloading our belongings into temporary storage when the search seemed futile, taking a few days out of town when the hotels filled and became unaffordable (welcome to fabulous Las Vegas), learning to do everything with crossed fingers, almost crying with relief when the approval call came through, loading our stuff back into a truck in 104 degree heat, unloading it all into our newest home (also in said heat) and collapsing exhausted at the end of it all full of hope that it would at least be a year until we do it all again.

Oops I regaled you.

You’ve been regaled.

 

P.S. I left out the broken garbage disposal and the rat I met yesterday. You’re welcome.

Playing Alone

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When I was a little girl I liked to play alone. In my mind, elaborate story lines and characters swirled. The only way they would go exactly as I’d imagined was for me to act it all out on my own with invisible friends.

My little sister didn’t like this arrangement. So, the only way I allowed her to play with me was if she said and did what I told her to. Every word out of her mouth was what I wanted her to say. Whether we were playing with dolls in our room, or running around outdoors playing pirates, she was my puppet.

One day we were sitting on my bed playing with our cabbage patch dolls. My doll said something to her doll and I waited for a reply. My poor sister looked at me helplessly and asked what I wanted her doll to answer. In that moment I realized I didn’t want my perfect stories anymore. I wanted the play to be spontaneous and unpredictable!

I think of this day often. I think of it every time I realize I’m let down, angry or frustrated at another human response (or lack of response) to something I’ve said or done.

Lately I see it all around me unfolding in the story lines of lives intertwined with mine. I see family relationships torn apart, siblings not speaking, children pushing away parents. I see friends pulling away from each other.

Maybe it’s simplistic of me to think it all starts with the common thread of expectation. Maybe it really is that simple.

We expect a very specific response to an email or a text. We have an idea of how a father should always react. We are sure a sister only says certain things. We hold fast to our picture of what real love is and when our love doesn’t match, we rip it apart.  We get so wrapped up in our own pre thought out ideas of how everyone else should be acting, that we lose the entire plot.

The plot is, there is no plot.

Without the freedom to be their very own human selves, we actually wouldn’t like our loved ones very much. We would miss the spontaneity it brings to our lives.

So what I’m wondering is if we can try to let go of our expectations? Can we allow our people to be flawed and love them anyway?

Nobody likes to play alone. Not even me.

 

 

 

 

Salve

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What a world.

What a scary, beautiful, disastrous, heartbreaking mess of magic.

It’s okay if all you did today was breathe (I say to myself like a salve for the bruises).

It’s okay if all you did today was breathe (I say to you like a salve for your broken heart).

 

 

Reaching

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Most of the time, my definition of strength is complete self reliance. Admitting I need help or attention…the epitome of weakness.

Life throws random difficulties at me and I respond by hardening my outer shell. Oh life, your parking tickets, rain, loneliness and depression can’t reach me in here. Nothing can get inside. I’ll even crawl down into this deep hole to hide from you. Nothing can harm me through my thick armor down in my dark pit.

Nobody can know I’m hiding so I smile bigger and I laugh louder. Distraction is key.

Eventually I remember I’m afraid of the dark. I don’t like being alone. I’m very brave and I’m very strong, but why wouldn’t I want my hand held? Why wouldn’t I reach out to someone who loves me and ask them to hold me up when I get too tired?

I’m still learning. I’ll always be.

But, I see my fingers stretched out in front of me more often. I see how this does not make me weak. Quite the opposite.

When my confessions are met with love and validation, when I’m bolstered by even one person who reminds me none of us are going it alone…. my heart opens and I know I’ll be okay.

And so will you.