the long, infinite echo

The kids are away on spring break until tomorrow afternoon, so I’ve spent the last two days getting my own self ready for work in the quiet of early mornings and coming home to that same quiet after my evening commute. It is a weird feeling. I know I’d hate it if this was my norm, but it’s a good three-day break from the usual chaos that mornings can bring when they are heading to school.

I’ve spent a good bit of the past few days enjoying my house in a way that I forget to sometimes. Home is important. This week marks three full years in this space, and I love it more everyday.

I also caught a documentary on Netflix that I can’t recommend enough — InnSaei, a film about intuition and ways the modern word has lost it. (The trailer is here if you’d like to see it.) I keep turning it over in my mind, and I already want to watch it again to hear it a second time around.

You don’t have to work hard to convince me that intuition exists in a very real way or that it’s something valuable, but this film explores it from so many different angles – including the ways that science can measure it and the ways that we can cultivate it. One thing was certain across all of the resources and all of the interviews and all of the conversation about intuition – that it only shows up in the quiet.

I’m working on this, on letting the quiet settle in the space around me without looking for a distraction. It is hard though. It is against the grain of the world we live in. But it never ceases to talk to me a bit when I let it grow and expand in spaces in my life. Sometimes you know things and you don’t even know why you know them. Do you feel that way? I can hardly count the times in my life when I knew something and later saw such a clear line between this and that. I’m getting better at feeling it in the present moment now and not just the rear view mirror.

Saturday I went for a hike alone, and when I got home I repotted a plant my mom had picked up for me a few days prior. Since that weekend was followed by a few mornings of slow silence, somehow I feel more centered than I have in a while — even though work is crazy and there are a million things to do — somehow all of the spinning plates are moving a little more slowly. I heard someone say once that people always say I don’t know what to do about a given situation, but the thing is that you do know. You always know if you are quiet enough to listen.

Untitled

I am sifting through the pieces of what 2018 has brought me already and listening hard for what they have to tell me. I hear nothing at all in the midst of everyday noise, and I think nothing has changed or I am just treading water or I am not where I should be. But the minute I take a day or two to shut it all down and let the silence swell a bit and sit with it, I hear it. I always know what to do, always know where I am. The term Innsaei apparently translates to the sea within as well as to see within and finally to see from the inside out. We don’t exactly have an English word equivalent, but intuition is as close as we can get.

I can remember when I was a kid, my great-grandmother had this massive seashell that she used as a door stop, and my cousins and I would always do the trick of holding it to your ear to hear the rush of the ocean. I remember it was just one long, infinite echo. Loud and quiet at the same time. No matter how long you held it to your ear, the rushing just kept speaking to you in one long hush. I swear intuition works that way, too. There is a hum there if I listen. As vast as the ocean, loud and quiet at the same time.

Hafiz tells us, “This place you are right now, God circled on a map for you.” I forget that sometimes until something small delivers that message. It’s always something tiny — the way afternoon sunlight comes around the curve near my house in the early evening hours, the feel of my hands in a pot of black dirt, the silence that punctuates bird chirps when I hike alone, the way words flow when I string one sentence together with another. This is my spot, circled on a map. That quiet rush inside always talking to me like a compass.

Advertisements

Sunshine Blogger

I realized this month marks 8 (!!) years of this blog’s existence which is so crazy to me. I can hardly believe how much has changed and what this space has brought me. I haven’t been spending as much time here, but that is largely just because this time of the semester is crazy, and it’s also because I’m working on other projects taking up my creative energy right now.

So when Elizabeth forwarded this Sunshine Blogger recognition to me, I decided to play along. The “rules” are simply to choose a fellow blogger who inspires positivity and creativity in the online community. Then send them some questions and be sure to answer the ones sent to you. It’s a fun way to honor a fellow writer and to introduce readers to new spaces.

Untitled

Here were Elizabeth’s questions for me. I had fun answering them!

  • Is it difficult to write about true stories from your life?

Sometimes, yes it is. It’s weird for me because sometimes things just pour out – almost without my permission. (In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert refers to it as feeling like you are on a moving sidewalk.) And other times, a little essay can be so slow going and really just downright difficult to get out. Right now I have an outline for a book, and I am plowing my way through chapter by chapter. Some of these stories fly right out, and others take a while to shape.

  • When writing, how much attention do you pay to your audience?

For blog posts, I think I imagine my audience as a good friend. I’ve interacted with readers here and there over the years, so it’s become this safe and soft space where I can sit down and spit something out without judgment like I would with a friend over coffee. I know there are naysayers or haters or whatever lurking somewhere, and I’ve received some spiky comments here and there, but they are few and far between, and I throw that audience way out of my head when I am writing. If I didn’t do that, then I’d never write at all.

  • What do you avoid writing about at all costs, if anything?

I guess in a practical sense, I am careful to never write about anyone else’s challenges or motivations for their actions. I might mention how someone’s actions (as a statement of fact) affect me, but I don’t tread on the ownership of their perspective. I’m actually not sure that I have a good answer for this question though. I am of Hemingway’s belief that you have to “write hard and clear about what hurts.” I’m writing harder and clearer for my book than I do for my blog. But I firmly believe that place where it gets uncomfortable for me is that place where the magic happens.

  • What’s your favorite post from your own blog?

Oh this is a hard one! I love re-reading the birthday letters I write my kids. I’ve stopped doing that publicly with my son, and I soon will with Norah as well. I still write them, but I don’t share as much here because of privacy as they grow older. The post where I came clean about my divorce is on my list of favorites because now when I read that, it has such a prophetic tone. I had no idea the beauty that was waiting, and I was writing that through tears and shaky hands, right in the middle of the searing pain.  This post when my grandmother passed is also on the list – no doubt. That one was a moving sidewalk for sure. It came from somewhere else, and I wrote it so quickly. Lastly, I’d say “Sinking the Ship” is up there. That one came out like a manifesto that I didn’t expect when I sat down to write.

  • Do you have a favorite post from someone else’s blog?

I don’t know that I have one favorite, most memorable post. There are certain writers that have been really influential for me for lots of reasons — Dooce’s honesty was my first introduction to the idea that blogs can be powerful. I was obsessed with her blog back in maybe 2007-2010 or so. I used to read Lecia Phinney pretty regularly too, but she stopped blogging as she began working on her book. Glennon Doyle circa 2012-2016 or so probably put out the most powerful and memorable posts that stand alone for me. Her do-I-stay-or-do-I-go post was written after I left, but I loved that one so much.  She speaks my language. Anne Lamott “blogs” through Facebook posts every now and then, and every single time, I am nodding in agreement. She is incredible.

  • Do you ever wish you could take back one of your posts that perhaps an earlier version of yourself had written?

Well, ahem, this blog chronicles a totally normal, totally happy little family from 2010 when I started writing here until 2015 when it blew up. That is super weird to look back on. I’ve considered removing those posts because this blog became something else… because I became something else. But that seems weird — to strike years from my record like that. So I’ve left it. I also think, in general, that my early posts are boring because I am not at all writing about what hurts. When I got real is when this blog got better, and that’s when my audience began to grow as well.

  • Do you write more for personal or professional reasons?

Personal for sure. Even when working on this book lately, I’ve really had to look at it that way for it to feel true. Maybe only 20 people will read it one day, but who cares? I write to explain things to my own self that I otherwise might never understand.

  • What’s the most amazing thing about you?

Oh, yikes. I get weird imposter syndrome about everything in my life, so this is hard to answer. I guess that I stay open and that I have softened instead of hardened when some really terrible and scary things have happened to me. I think my very best days are ahead, and I always keep the faith that a larger thread is pulling my life every minute. I am very good at finding the sacred in the mundane. It keeps me going.

  • What is your greatest aspiration as a writer?

To write a book that more than a handful of people will read. To leave my children with my story.

  • What do you wish you knew about blogging before you began?

That it doesn’t matter if 10 people read or 10,000. Just write. The readers meant to find you will find you, and sometimes cozy is better. I’ve had days where my stats soared to 15,000 or higher in response to something on Huffington Post or Scary Mommy, but those are not my best blogging experiences at all. The times I poured something out here and heard a small chorus of “me too” are far better moments than tons of page views. Just write what you know. It’s your journal.

  • Do you ever get tired of the whole thing and want to throw in the towel (speaking of your blog here)? 🙂

I do throw in the towel from time to time in that I will go a month or two without a peep. But I know that it’s always here waiting for me when I get to it. It’s my little corner of the internet (for 8 solid years now!) and my happy place.

I nominate For the Love of Wonderlust because she inspires for sure, and I also nominate Memory Box Mom whom I’m lucky enough to call a close friend.

Questions – if you want to give them a try:

  • Why did you start blogging?
  • Why do you keep doing it? Why you keep coming back to it with so many other social media forms?
  • How has blogging changed for you since you began? Has your site somehow taken a different shape than you expected?
  • Do you envision a certain audience when you write?
  • Do you have a favorite post of yours?
  • What’s your best writing advice?
  • Describe your ideal day? Is writing part of the equation?

one long look in the mirror

Yesterday I turned 37. We celebrated pretty simply with sushi the night before, and I indulged in a facial while the kids were at school yesterday. We played a bit in the afternoon, and then they went to dad’s for the weekend, so now I’m in a quiet house and looking at a weekend that unfolds a lot a work I need to get done. This season of life is ever-busy it seems. I paused it all yesterday for a day of indulgence, but that means I have to somehow pick up the slack today.

I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago about the concept of aging. We went to high school together, so we are approaching 40 at the same pace, and she said, “Isn’t this age the best? I love getting older.” I think there would have been a time when I was surprised to hear myself say this, but I feel the same way. It continually brings me closer to some center that gets a little more solid every year.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of self-accountability lately, the ways I am good at it and the ways that I need to get better. There are countless floating pieces of that equation: boundaries, discipline, honesty, delayed gratification, perspective, drive, and self-respect.

I recently revisited that famous Joan Didion essay on self-respect published in Vogue in 1961. (First of all, wrap your head around that. That this essay appeared in a widely read fashion magazine years ago in America. Culture has changed a lot in fifty years.)  She tells us, “In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of moral nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues.” If that seemed true in 1961 – that character can lose ground to what is more “instantly negotiable” –  just think a minute about how much more true that is today in 2018. When instant is the name of the game every single day.

Didion continues, “Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts.” Weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts is something I need to write a hundred times to imprint it on my perspective. Not just in my own life where I can constantly use some encouragement to keep my eyes on the long game. But also in terms of the comparison trap that 2018 living drops upon us. Immediate comforts are glorified everywhere — on our social media feeds, in glossy magazines, in storefront windows. Everywhere.

Self-respect runs out the door when you can’t see past the immediate. That is a harsh reality that finally, at 37 years along after some painful life lessons, I can see so clearly.

Maybe it is the changing air of spring that is opening up for us in small ways here already, maybe it is the newness of my 37th year, or maybe it is that after 3 years of survival mode living, I am finally getting to the real living part. Whatever the reason, I woke up two weekends ago, and I’d been looking at a room full of furniture that I didn’t choose, couches left from another life, for 3 years now with that tiny urge to wipe it clean. And I’d been ignoring that tiny urge or telling myself that I didn’t have the resources to change it – for 3 years now. More than one thousand days. But something clicked inside of me, and I could not look at it for one more day. Not once. I listed it that morning on a local sale site, and by 5pm someone had come to pick it up, and I went to bed that night with an empty room.

I had to do this on a dime, but I didn’t care. I got a new couch for cheap, a discount rug, and I moved a couple of chairs from elsewhere in the house. I spent that weekend scouring antique stores and found a little table and lamp I loved, and just a couple of days ago, I bought another used table for $28, and somehow we have all that all we need.

Untitled

I think when your outsides don’t match your insides, that incongruity can eat you up until it is unbearable. And this can work both ways – with an impeccable home and a stellar social media presence when the insides of that life are a mess. Or maybe, as it was in my case, you have come so far in the last few years, and then you suddenly wake up one day to open your eyes to some element of your life that doesn’t look like you at all. Stuff is more than stuff. It can cover up a lack of character and be used as armor sometimes. And likewise it can carry a heavy energy that just doesn’t belong with you anymore. I rid myself of all of it this month, and I feel like a two-ton elephant left my life.

Last weekend was sunny and 70, and I spent the afternoon in my backyard removing dead leaves and old stems from my flower beds, working pre-emergent in the dirt to ready things for the growing season come May. By the time I finished, my arms were sore from raking and digging. I swept the porch. I cleaned the front door. I left the windows open all day with the ceiling fan on and sunlight streaming through the house. Self-respect takes courage and elbow grease — whether that is selling something you don’t love anymore without a bundle of money to replace it yet, washing the winter’s dirty residue from your front door, taking an honest look at yourself and improving whatever makes you wince, or digging through overgrown flower beds.

Didion’s most famous line from that essay states, “character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs.”

It can take a long time to accept full responsibility in every way. 37 years for me, I think. You eventually learn that you own all of your assets and all of your capabilities but all of your incompletions and your mess-ups, too. It is all only mine to reckon with. Aging, if you are doing it right, is one long look in the mirror. It is honesty and backbone —  and eventually it is hard-earned self-respect.

in and out of time

I’ve been dreaming lately of a house where I used to live. Over and over, night after night, this house makes its way into my imagination.

Sometimes dreams seem like nothing more than leftover, jumbled images and scenes from my recent days, but when they come to me repeatedly, I cannot help but pay attention.

I never go inside of this house in the dream; I only see it from the exterior view. Once I stood in its kitchen with a crowd of people and looked out the windows into what was the backyard. But every other time – and this has been night after night for weeks now – I only see it from the outside. Something is always altered about it. The newest owners have put in a swimming pool, or reshaped the driveway, or built an addition. Last night I was perched farther away from it not even realizing I was there but glanced over to see that there it was again, this time with little yellow lights strung up all around the porch. One wild night, I rode a roller coaster through the thick woods and hills all around it. Another night, I waved to the neighbors from the yard. And in every one of these dreams, I meet it with no sadness or loss or panic or longing. Just everyday observation — sometimes fascination, and always curiosity. Familiar and unfamiliar, too.

I moved in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2013, and 2015. That 6 year stretch in the middle was spent in that house.

It was old(er) and drafty, and when we bought it, the carpet was terrible, and every wall seemed covered in patterned wallpaper from 1988. We spent the first night sleeping on a mattress on the floor and the following few years improving it bit by bit. We eventually bought furniture to fill every room and landscaped the yard which began as a massive muddy slope and ended as a shaded grassy hill. I brought two babies home there. Nothing matched, and none of our appliances were new until the dishwasher broke and we had to get another one. It was nothing special. But somehow everyone who ever crossed the threshold of that old house loved it and commented that it felt like home. In the end, they maybe loved it more than I did because I grew lonely in the old house on the hill with no nearby neighbors, and we grew tired of the constant need to fix and repair.

Life was so simple there though. In hindsight, naively so. Like Eve before she bit the apple and understood everything. It feels like a hundred lifetimes ago.

I hadn’t thought about this house at all in my years since. Until now that it revisits me night after night, dream after dream, in every way and angle you can imagine. Always somehow altered from what it was before but familiar enough that it’s recognizable to me.

I’ve been browsing dream dictionaries, reading Thomas Moore’s ideas, and thinking thinking, thinking. Turning it all over again and holding it up to the light. I’m not sure dreams have one perfect meaning and literal interpretation we are supposed to read as though it is a code giving us answers. But I think the subconscious finds a way to talk to us through our dreams when the outside noise may be too loud for us to hear it otherwise.

I was reintroduced to TS Eliot’s Four Quartets recently when I was studying something else. That line nearly knocks me over — the way forward is the way back. We always end up where we started. But we always look a little different than when we began.

I’ve bitten the apple, obviously. Things are not naively simple anymore. Everything is different. But there’s another level of ease and simplicity and truth to my life now that I don’t think I have felt since I’ve left that place. Maybe not ever.

Here we are again. Sometimes my back door is a little drafty, and nothing matches, and my appliances are not new. My dishwasher broke this month, so I finally ordered a new one. And when we walk in the door, it feels like home. Like a place to jump off from.

Perhaps this is why, in those dreams, I am not haunted or sad or grieving or knocking on that door longing to go inside. Every night, I simply see it, altered somehow, and I take a look as best I can with a little curiosity and a healthy disbelief that this thing is really real. That the simple life is here again in another form.

Later in that poem, Elliot goes on to say “For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time, the distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight, … 
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music.”

I think my current season of simple truth was heard so deeply that I didn’t even hear it at all – until my dreams had to show me again and again. I hear it now. I’m hearing the music and seeing this moment in and out of time. The way forward is the way back. 

 

wanting

** Registration for my current writing workshop is open now. 7 more days to enroll in this session. Click here to take a look.

__________________________________

 

I ran across a meme the other day that said January was a tough year, but we made it. Amen and Amen. 45 days until spring. We can do this.

I’m typing this as I sit alongside a sleeping and feverish Norah. It’s been nothing short of a miracle that I’ve got a kindergartner who hasn’t really been noticeably sick all school year, so we were due for it. Kids around us have been dropping like flies to fevers and flu, so I guess it’s our turn now. I’m grateful it’s Saturday and I’ve got no classes to teach or meetings to rearrange, and we can just stay in until it passes. Or at least until Monday when I do the usual juggle to create a new schedule.

It’s hard to keep the line open to something greater and bigger when you are in the thick of daily tasks and interruptions like this. But somehow it magnifies the bigger things, too.  I think it’s Fitzgerald who has that famous line Things are sweeter when they are lost. And it is true.

You crave summer’s heat when you have the February doldrums. You crave wellness only when you are sick. I crave solitude most when I have a string of days without it. It’s always what we can’t have that we want most.

I know with certainty that the world works with a push-pull of opposites. Everything works this way. And it is such an ancient, unoriginal idea that I feel disingenuous even typing it here. But yet it’s hard to sink into. Maybe that’s the struggle of being human. But it is far worse in modern times, I think. Everything happens with such speed that we forget that the very best things in life are made even better because of times we didn’t have them.  This is true with big things and little things, too.

I heard a yoga teacher say recently that an acorn can become an oak tree, and an oak tree can become a piano. But an acorn cannot be transformed into the piano without whatever comes in between. It’s such a simple illustration, but it sort of unzipped my brain a bit, and I’m replaying it again and again in my head since I’ve heard it. We so often want to arrive somewhere and skip the middle. But what if I’m gaining the whole of what I need for my final destination right now?

I yearn for a lot of things big and small. I want warmth and sunshine. I want a house without the heavy interruption of sickness and feverish kids. I want a working dishwasher (waiting weeks on that delivery makes it sweeter for sure).

I want lasting purpose and drive and ambition without the ebbs and flows of life’s interruptions. I want finished projects held in my hands. I want security and sustained joy.

I used to be afraid to admit to what I want, but I think what we want says so much about us. And maybe the clarity that we find in the act of wanting itself is what gets us where we need to be.

 

on the daily

The kids are snoozing soundly, and I can hear their stuffy snores as I type this. I haven’t done this in forever – writing aimlessly just because I feel like it.

I’ve been listening to this incredible book of essays on my way to and from work lately. I laugh out loud and tear up and just generally get reminded everyday why I love words so much and why I love home so much, too.

I have a lot of thoughts tumbling and nowhere to put them. Because I’ve been spending my writing hours lately exploring things that have long passed, I tend to pay less attention to what is happening here and now – which has always been the aim of this space, to just record events as they happen and my feelings about them as those feelings pass through. I miss that. But there are only so many hours in the day, only so many stores of creative energy to use. As a result though, I tend to find myself surprised when an emotion sneaks up on me these days. I think writing is my mindfulness practice in ways I didn’t realize until my pace has slowed down with this journal.

One thing I’ve been pretty dedicated to lately is a daily yoga practice. I use the early morning hours to make this happen, and if you’d told me years ago that I’d be up at 5am rolling out my yoga mat while my kids slept – every single day – I wouldn’t have believed you. And I’m realistic enough to know that this is not a permanent thing that will happen for me 365 days a year forever after. But for now, it is floating me through the coldest and darkest days of the year which is something.

It ignites certain muscles, I’m finding. It’s an odd feeling — to be sore somewhere you didn’t realize you even had a muscle. How can I live in this body and be surprised at how it works like this? But it feels so good for me to turn that energy on as I begin my day. It somehow makes me feel like my spinning pieces are going somewhere, like there is a place here in the center pushing it all forward and welcoming it back home at the end of the day. It makes the rest of the world matter a little less.

I’ve practiced more intensely than this once or twice a week and not experienced nearly the benefit I’m getting now with a daily ritual. It is this way with absolutely everything in life, I’ve found. The daily rhythm matters. There is no replacement for it. Want to be a better cook? Do it everyday. Want to be in better shape? Move your body everyday. Want to be a better writer? Write everyday. Want to know someone better? Connect with that person everyday. All of life rests in what happens repeatedly, not what we do once in a while when we feel like it. That is a hard thing to swallow sometimes when it’s not always easy to do these things, but that is the truth.

My kids’ father is traveling across the ocean with his current wife this week. They land this weekend to spend it with the kids and then fly out again somewhere else a few days later. As always, I am here with the regular, predictable rhythm.

They call the kids every evening with the daily report of sights seen and presents purchased. I hear the chatter as they explain these things to the kids, and I wonder if this ever stops being strange. I stir dinner on the stove and unpack the backpacks and wash the clothes, and the ocean between us feels more like a universe because I just cannot imagine any other daily life than this one. Sunrise at the bus stop, school days ticking by, dinner at a table for three, and warm bedtime stories before we do it all again the next day.

Travel can bring all kinds of exciting things, and home (especially in the dead of winter) is not always so exciting to say the least. But I’ve been doing so much reading and writing lately about this place I call home, so much reflecting on the stories that float to the surface of my 36 years on this spinning planet, and I think maybe home doesn’t get enough credit for discovery either. I drive the same winding roads everyday to and from work. We lean on the same schedule everyday before and after school. It’s hard not to feel restless sometimes, but that’s the thing about home. You cannot run when you are here. My roots are deep enough in this place that I’ve come to see what self-accountability means. And at the end of the day, life is only made of what you use to create it with your own two hands.

As I stirred the soup tonight waiting for us in the slow cooker, I called my grandad to check in on him and on another family member. I could hear clucking in the background, and he explained he was “fastenin’ up the chickens” as he does every night at the same time. He is from a time that doesn’t seem to exist anymore – one when accountability and honesty were the measure of a man and consistency was paramount. Sometimes it feels like in all the beautiful, wide open possibility of what we see before us in the 21st century, we have lost that touchstone somehow. Jude loves pinto beans, and now that my grandad knows that, he’s asking when we can come for dinner so that he can make them for him. (He was never the cook in the family, but in my grandmother’s absence, he’s somehow absorbed her insistence on feeding legions of people and memorizing our food preferences and sending us out the door with arms full of food… It is hilarious and another post for another day.)

It made me smile to think of every bit of this. The daily task of “fastening the chickens” and gathering the eggs. The way he predicts the weather more accurately than any meteorologist just by the cumulative wisdom of a lifetime of paying attention. The generous offer to feed a growing boy with what he loves and a nod to the days when beans cooked all day were served in a single bowl with homemade bread in a skillet and that alone was called dinner (still works for us).

It is the simplicity of what happens every single day that illuminates the core of your character and offers a rhythm for your life. I need to remember this among the early wake-ups and the packed lunch boxes and the evening rituals. Home is here for you when you need it, but it only blooms when you plant it. You have to tend a garden to watch it grow.

 

process and evolution

I’m almost to week three of this semester, but it feels like years. Winter can do that to you.

Where to begin? I haven’t written here in weeks, and I have been doing nothing and everything. We’ve had school closures during both weeks of the school year so far. Only little days sprinkled here and there, just enough to throw you off your usual routine. The kids have gone to dad’s for 24 hours instead of the usual every-other-weekend 48 hour routine because of his travel schedule, and it seems to be exactly enough time to answer an email or two, mop the floors, and grocery shop before they come pouring back in. Rinse, repeat. Do it again.

We were home on Wednesday for school cancellations when I walked in my garage to grab something from the car and saw my back tire flat as a pancake. It’s a long and boring story, but this is not the first time I’ve had issues with this tire. I kept going back to the same shop because they were under warranty there, and the man on duty persisted to attempt to flirt with me in such an overt way that it made me dread walking in, and then he’d fail at fixing my problem so that every time I returned I was increasingly aggravated and uncomfortable. Car issues are a major trigger for me in terms of stress. I know next to nothing about cars, and I rely on mine so much with long commutes and kid pick ups and general life needs in the suburbs.

But here I am on Saturday morning in a warm and quiet house with a functional car again and a clean week ahead of me with a weather forecast that promises five solid days of work and routine. I’m feeling for the rhythm again and trying to use its beat to push me forward.

I’ve heard before that the specific challenges that emerge in your life point to where you need to grow. I hate car trouble. I hate being assertive in general and especially with an auto mechanic. I hate it all. I lived 35 years of my life without once getting a nail in a tire, and in the past year I’ve had this happen 4 times. I also ended up with a dead battery over the summer. And the broken compressor I wrote about a while ago. But this time I walked in with a different feeling. I was happy to see a different mechanic there, but I fully intended to ask for another one if I came in to see the same face who made me so uncomfortable before. With some instruction, I used a tire inflator to reinflate my own tire in my garage just before I drove over – which I know is simple and not impressive to anyone who knows anything about cars, but this is a major improvement for me.

I was watching this documentary last night on the Galapagos Islands and all the animals who have adapted and evolved to survive in such a strange climate. All kinds of miracles happen when you need to survive — you grow webbed feet or your wings get longer or shorter or you change your diet or you cooperate with the other species around you to get what you need from each other.

When I rewind my life three years back and compare it to my current self, that evolution is no less impressive than a bird growing webbed feet when he never had them before. Anytime I feel frustrated with myself, I think I just need to rewind the frame a few years and remind myself of that.

I ran across someone else’s words this week that said something along the lines of “People mistakenly think happiness is the goal in life and are persistently disappointed and endlessly searching for it. But when you realize that personal growth is actually the goal, happiness happens anyway as a byproduct of your growth and evolution.” The joy is in the process, isn’t it?

Part of the reason I chose Trust as my word this year is that so much of my life feels like process instead of completion. I’m trying hard to trust that this is, in fact, going somewhere very good if I just keep taking on the assignment in front of me. One foot in front of the other. Next right thing.

I haven’t been writing here as often because, as much as I love this space and all of you who read it, I’m seeing that it does take a little time and creative energy, and I am chugging away on this book one line at a time with real progress now. I’m seeing firsthand the feeling of that famous Doctorow quote about how writing a book is like driving in the dark with headlights where you can only see the little span of road in front of you. I get that. I can only really see one paragraph at a time. But at the same time, I see the whole vision now, too. Finally. I see the general shape of what this will be, and I trust the process that will take me all the way there.

The process is ugly sometimes. I’m digging deep and writing about moments that have been beyond hard for me. I threw out something like 33 pages last month and started all over, but I’m at that moment where I can feel my little boat floating from the shore with this project, and I think I will be on the water for a while. Letting it float me all the way home.