on making magic

The holidays are officially here. It is snowing outside (!!!) in Georgia as I type this. We occasionally have icy snow in February or so, but these are fluffy flakes that are melting as they hit the roadways but covering branches in white this morning. As a native southerner, I will never think it’s anything less than magical to see snow out my window. I’m drinking coffee to armor up for a long day of grading essays while the kids are at school, but I wanted to take a minute to write first.

I took Norah to a Nutcracker tea party last weekend hosted by her ballet studio. We had treats and tea and watched the “big girls” perform Nutcracker variations. I caught a glimpse of her face watching them, and it is everything I love about ballet condensed to one expression – the awe and the dreaming and the bewilderment at the grace of it all.

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She watches the older girls practice in the studio sometimes and looks at them like they are celebrities. I try to use it as an opportunity to talk about hard work and perseverance, but she mainly just sees it as some kind of magic they have that she hopes to grasp one day.

I see parallels there in my own self. As humans, we tend to look at success in any area – career, health, relationships, anything – as some kind of magic sauce, but when we break anything down to see the smaller pieces, it’s clear that we make our own magic, don’t we? Or at least we make it bloom where the spark began. It starts like some magnetic thing we can’t quite put words to, and it grows when we decide to lean in and make it our own.

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Our elf is not typically very exciting or creative, but he brought a skittle rainbow today. (I can’t take all the credit. I had help on this idea.) Both kids stood enamored this morning with their bed heads and sleepy eyes watching the colors swirl. Seeing Christmas through the eyes of kids is such a reminder that enchantment is there for us if we are just willing to open our eyes to see it. And as a parent pulling all the strings, it also emphasizes my role in creating my life’s magic.

It always requires leaning in a little past where I normally would, laying bare what I usually shy away from showing, and letting that spark ignite without judgement or expectation or cynicism. I think as I get older I am finally understanding that magic does not simply fall from the sky fully formed and ready to bestow itself on the lucky few. It starts with a spark, and it evolves to some kind of fascinating alchemy when we show up for our own lives with a true curiosity, a clear voice, and an open heart.

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mostly standing still

It’s Thanksgiving Day, mid afternoon. The kids return to me at 5, and then we will head out to celebrate with my family. I woke up alone today after the best night of sleep I’ve had in ages. I sipped coffee and read a little bit before breakfast, and then I did a yoga session twice as long as my usual one before I began cooking cranberry pie and putting a few sides together to take to my family potluck dinner.

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Tonight we will eat with cousins and grandparents, and four generations will be together. Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday. It’s just food and fun and no pressure to wrap gifts quite yet. It signals the start of the advent season, and for the kids, it’s the signal to get started decorating in our house. We will pull out the Christmas tree this Sunday and sip hot chocolate and eat leftover pie and watch movies in our pajamas.

My hope for the rest of the year is just to notice the ordinary, the everyday. I ran across Mary Oliver’s “Messenger” this morning, and my eyes ran back to the first line of the poem as soon as I reached the bottom to read it again and again. She insists, “Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work, which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.” Standing still is hard. Especially for me with the never-ending motion of that reel inside my head that spins and spins. I think maybe I just need to remember that I cannot mess anything up if I just stand still and be astonished. I think maybe in the past my expectations are actually what missed the mark because goodness can’t always find its way through the tough exterior of perfectionism.

Holidays find me faster and faster every year. And every time they say the same thing. All you need is right here.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

ambition. bedrock. spirit. soul.

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There’s only one week left to register for my online writing workshop before it closes for the year. Head on over to Truth Collaborative to take a look and sign up if you want to join us. Registration closes November 18th.

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We are wrapping up the soccer season this weekend and watched the final game yesterday in the chilly wind. There are three weeks left of my semester. December is almost here. I know I’m not alone in this, but 2017 feels like it just began. I can hardly believe it’s almost over.

I love the reflection that the end of the year brings and the goals it prompts us to make for the future. I’m thinking a lot about what I wish for my 2018. I mentioned on Instagram yesterday that I’ve thought lately about that Zora Neale Hurston line when she tells us that “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” After years of questions and hardship and confusion, 2017 was finally an answering year. Everyone in my house learned to stand a little taller somehow. We are steadier on our own feet than we were a year ago – all three of us.

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I think the big answer that 2017 gave me is that I can handle it – whatever it might be – and I can do it on my own. When I think back to the past three years of my life and the catastrophes that seem to tumble one after the other, big and small ones, it seems like some divine storm. What other explanation can there be for so many things happening at once? And there are moments in all of that when you think you are not okay and you maybe will never be okay again. But this weird thing happens eventually when you just suddenly find yourself in the most mundane of tasks – grocery shopping, or stepping out of the shower, or stirring dinner on the stove, or sitting in a boy scout meeting or a neighborhood festival – and you are suddenly struck with how okay it feels now. It quietly swells in me in the most simple moments sometimes. 2017 showed me the other side of the storm.

I’m using this last few weeks of the year to ready my own self to take on 2018 with what I hope to be a combination of intention and surrender. I’ve got big ideas and little pockets of time, but sometimes the most fulfilling things can happen with that simple combination.

I think I’m ready to remember myself again now that the seas are quiet and I have a rhythm. I can feel this brewing in big and small ways. I updated my ancient iPhone 5 this week. I ordered clothes last month to freshen up my fall wardrobe. I cancelled plans to do things I want to do instead of heeding the call of a guilt-induced yes to someone else. These things are no big deal really. … The phone adds $20 a month to my budget; the clothes are simple and second-hand; the scary no felt not scary at all once I did it… I find myself wondering why I didn’t do these things before, and I don’t really have a good answer except that I was treading water for quite a while, and it’s easy to forget yourself when you are in that mode. And now it’s time to remember me again.

I caught Rob Bell’s podcast on ambition last week on my drive to work, and it’s worth a listen.  It was a message meant to find me at this particular time. (I love it when that happens.) I’ve struggled a bit with wanting things for myself and my own future, I think. I didn’t even realize that I was resisting that until recently, but now I see it so clearly. It’s hard to sort out our ambitions sometimes – what we want and why we want it.

I’ve been feeling the call to greater goals but also feeling both overwhelmed and a little guilty about pursuing them at this season of my life. Rob Bell noted on the episode that the New Testament tells us that it’s only selfish ambition that gets you in trouble. The original translation refers to a mercenary which is so interesting to me – a reminder that doing things for no reason other than your own interests without a nod to a greater purpose and framework will lead nowhere good. But as Bell says, “Proper ambition will move you beyond yourself.” 

I took a big leap of commitment, and my Christmas gift to my own self is a series of sessions with a professional book coach and editor. I’ve worked myself to the bone this semester teaching overloads to earn extra money for my household, and I set some aside for this purpose. I’m something like 10,000 words into a book manuscript that is disjointed and incomplete, but it’s a start. And every finished thing begins somewhere. My commitment with these sessions is a commitment to my own self too, a nod to that proper ambition I own. It’s both exciting and scary for me.

But Bell’s show made me feel a little better about that fear as well because he reminds me that “When you own your ambition, what you will notice is how humbling it is. Because when you properly own it, it will – if it is the deepest desire within you – inevitably tap into the divine within you which is the divine within everybody” Or as he says later, “When you go far enough into your own ambition, you strike bedrock, spirit, soul.” I dabbled for years without going deeper into that ambition. I guess it took the storms to find the bedrock, but I’ve found it now. Here we go.

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I have things I am meant to do, which doesn’t make me special or more important than anyone else because we all do. But I think the difference for me now is that I am listening and that the call is for the purpose of a greater framework and not a mercenary life. We all have stories that can open the eyes and hearts of other people, and I think mine is meant to make its way to other people as words on the page. I feel that thread between my ambition and the spark in others, and I want to watch it grow. 2017 paved the way for that, and maybe 2018 can finally be the year I can hold that ambition without question or apology and just heed the call. I’m listening. I’m ready.

 

**** Photos on this post are by my friend Michelle Andrews this fall. If you are in Atlanta, check her out!

 

Love Story

I flew out last Friday morning to Austin, Texas and home again early on Sunday. I’m still recovering from a whirlwind of a weekend spent celebrating the wedding of one of my closest longtime friends. I’ve spent half my week a little delirious from the travel exhaustion and the excitement and the beauty that was all of it.

Traveling mid-semester is no joke. I carried a bag full of student essays with me through airports and airplanes, and I had to work hard to turn off the teacher-brain and the mom-brain living inside of me with that constant voice of rush and guilt and worry. But I managed to quiet those voices for a day or two as I celebrated with some of my oldest friends – some of whom live close or traveled with me and others spread from Texas to New York City.

We celebrated Friday night at the rehearsal dinner and an after party downtown, and then we woke early on Saturday morning and ate breakfast in a a little cafe before stopping by the LBJ Library for a while. Eventually Graffiti Park and Mount Bonnell followed, and the climb up gave us a beautiful view of the Colorado River. Austin is such a unique place, and I already find myself wanting to go back and explore a little more. It was full of so many fun and funky spots.

We walked the few blocks Saturday evening from our hotel to the wedding venue, and I had the best kind of butterflies in my stomach. I’ve seen this friend through something like 18 years of ups and downs and dating questions and heavy moments for the both of us where we thought we knew where the path was going but found soon enough that our assumed outcome wasn’t in the cards for us.

Weddings are almost always beautiful, but this one held its own kind of special for me. A reminder that sometimes the most uncomfortable bumps in the road and the very biggest heartaches are actually exactly what lead us to what is real and true. A reminder never to settle. A reminder that real love is always worth the wait, no matter how long that is for us. A reminder that we never really know where the story ends.

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Weddings can bring all kinds of sticky things for you when you are divorced, that first year or so especially. It’s hard to watch others make promises when you are emerging from the shreds of your own that were left unfulfilled. But this one was easy for me. It felt soft and real and not sharp or sad in the least. Maybe that means I have healed, or maybe that means they are the real deal. Or likely both. Whatever the reason, only love was there.

Krista Tippet writes about her own post-divorce wreckage in her book Becoming Wise. I’ve underlined and noted certain passages in that book and reread them so many times. She echos my own experience; “When my marriage ended, … I became one of the walking wounded in the wreckage of long-term love. After my divorce, I created a welcoming home, took great delight in my children, … invested in far-flung friendships, and drew vast sustenance from webs of care through the work I do. Yet I told myself for years that I had a hole where ‘love’ should be. This is the opposite of a healing story — it’s a story that perceives scarcity in the midst of abundance. … I suddenly realized that the lack of love in my life was not a reality but a poverty of imagination and a carelessly narrow use of an essential word.”

This season of my life has shown me how narrowly I’ve seen that word love. How much bigger it really is from what we perceive it to be. How much it stretches beyond the reach of two individual people and moves far and wide through the circles that make our lives what they are – if we are lucky.

These women are so much to me. Even as a writer, I can’t really describe it in words – which is something I don’t say often. We have seen it all in the past 18 years. They are there through thick and thin. The real thing. I knew it would feel good to see one of our own celebrated like this, but I didn’t expect it to feel this good. I think you know that friendship has reached that magic place when your sadness is truly my sadness, and on the other side, your joy is my joy. It was all joy last weekend, and it felt like such a gift to watch it happen.

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We stole her away for a minute during the reception to step outside for a second and get out of the madness of the crowd. The tears of gratitude wouldn’t stop for me. That joy that hums deep down inside where it is so much fuller when you’ve seen the other end of things. Who knew heartache could make your happy happier? Love is sweeter when you’ve had to wait it out to find it, and love is better when you have friends who see you like a sister. Someone’s husband snuck this picture, and it’s my new favorite thing. I’m the luckiest. 18 years together is something to be grateful for.

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I’ve stopped reading that script that tells me love is somehow less present in my life because I sleep alone. And it’s such a liberating thing to see my life for just a moment from the outside eye – from the camera lens or through the eyes of a friend. I’ve got more love than I can handle, and it overflows sometimes in the very best ways.

I was revisiting some of Laura McKowen’s writings recently, and I stumbled again on her musings on love. She resonates in all the right places for me and reminds me to “keep faith in the larger story….there is a through line that runs deeper and is more benevolent, surprising, and magnificent than you can conceive. … no matter what, do not be mistaken: this is a love story. Your entire life is a love story. It’s just not the kind you think.”

I feel that line running through the undercurrent of my life, and everyday that I get more solid on my own two feet and more grateful, it gets stronger. I don’t know where it’s headed, but it’s taking me with it.

I know there is a more typical love story happening one day in my life, too. The kind with two people and a white dress and all that comes with it. I can’t even explain why I know this except that I just do. The way you know the sky is blue and trees have roots. I can feel it pulling so clearly sometimes in a way that is more real to me than almost anything else in my life.

But I’m waiting it out. And in the meantime, this love story I’m in right now is not the kind I thought it would be, but it is as true as anything ever was for me and anything ever will be. Love is love is love is love.

 

that higher order

Fall has finally arrived in Georgia. We’ve bundled up this week to walk to the bus stop, and afternoons are that perfect breezy and 75. It’s over in a blink, but that makes it sweeter. We have two weeks left of Daylight Savings Time, and dark is coming fairly early even now. We are finally moving to a new season.

We had a neighborhood festival yesterday afternoon with a cake walk, kid games, a ticket booth, a chili cook-off competition, and a hayride. It’s an annual event here, and it gets more comfortable for us every year. Faces we know well and a place that feels like home. Every afternoon, the kids are outside with friends on bikes and scooters or playing “capture the flag” in the grassy area beside the playground. Life is stressful beyond belief for me on some days, but I have to pinch myself sometimes that this part is even real. We created a home that somehow feels more solid than any other home I’ve had as an adult. Sometimes it really is possible for things to turn out even better than you ever dreamed. It’s so incredible to bear witness to things like that unfolding in your own life. The miracle of it doesn’t go by unnoticed for me.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things I care about and the things I don’t, about where I spend my energy. I caught an interview with Joan Halifax this week on the latest On Being. She talks a lot about “compassion fatigue” and the general sense of helplessness and burnout we can encounter in the face of what we see around us everyday – sometimes in our own lives and sometimes on the news. It’s hard to care sometimes. It takes a lot out of you to care about things that you cannot easily change.

She encourages, as she calls them, antidotes for these moments we are pushed to our edge. Beautiful spaces that are safe for us to retreat to can be an antidote, as can stillness and meditation and spaces of contemplation in our own lives. It occurred to me as she was talking that writing is my antidote certainly. It functions as a space for me to retreat and a form of stillness. I’ve seen this work with all kinds of situations I cannot easily change, all the continued difficulty of a blended family where my idea of boundaries is entirely different from the view of the other adults involved. I feel pushed to my edge a lot these days, but the blank page is where I sort it out.

Halifax talks about how we can deal with the despair we feel looking at the world at large, but I hear echos of my own life’s path in her answer, too: We can look back through history … when systems break down, the ones who have the resilience to actually repair themselves, they move to a higher order of organization. And I think that this is characterized by something the complexity theorists call robustness, that we can anticipate both a time of great robustness, which we’re in, with tremendous potential to wake up and take responsibility … we need resilience to make our way through this change. 

My own resilience and robustness are what enabled me to move to a higher order of organization, as she calls it. So I can say, as I did earlier, that I’ve watched a miracle unfold as I feel such solid ground beneath my feet. But when I look a little more closely at the past few years, I see why. Everything about my present life operates on that higher order of organization that I was forced to reinvent. And I was given this gift of time to thoughtfully put it all together piece by piece with no rush and nothing to prove. What I’m left with is something that can never be shaken. It’s no wonder this home feels more solid and true than any other place I’ve been. I built it with intention.

I’m so excited to pass along to you a closer look at the writing workshop I’ve completed. I’ve spent the past couple of years answering a lot of questions and building friendships across wide spaces as a result of this blog. And I kept finding myself again and again answering some similar questions — How do you find clarity in the middle of all this? Do you ever move past pain and onto something else? How do I get there? I want to write, but I don’t know where to begin.

I’d answer when I could and offer little pieces of my own experience here and there, and it finally occurred to me that I should just put together a more polished path to share the tools that worked for me with anyone else who needs them. I’ve worked really hard on this over the summer and spent the last couple of months having a few friends do a trial run for me and offer honest feedback. I wanted it to be something I felt good about sharing with all of you and something I could potentially build on in the future.

It’s a 5-week course where you are given a theme each week to write about and consider. I created these by looking back on my own path and seeing what worked for me, how I made it through from one end to the other in a major transition. The result is a string of lessons and writing prompts that carry you through the process from asserting and exploring your own independent identity to reconsidering past experiences that shaped you to capturing a better presence in your everyday life and eventually setting goals that you want to manifest for your own life. It’s a path that can offer clarity and empowerment for anyone – not just in the throes of grief or major transitions, but in life’s more subtle storms as well.

Registration will open on November 1st, and I’ll be sending out a 15% discount code to those on the email list, so be sure to sign up there if you haven’t already. I use that list to update on the course enrollment and also send along writing resources and journaling prompts every now and then. I’m thinking I’ll do another run of this workshop in 2018, but this will be the last one for the year. I hope you’ll join me if you have an honest curiosity about your own life’s questions and want to shape whatever lies on the other side. You can build it with intention, too. And I know from my own life that writing is a powerful tool to get you there.

*** A closer look can be found here, and the email sign-up is here. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions over email as well. 

the charm of the ordinary

Wednesdays are our long days. The amount of orchestration it takes and the marathon from my morning alarm to when my head hits the pillow that night is almost funny. It starts on Tuesday night when I pack Norah’s ballet bag with her clothes and shoes for dance class. I leave it on my table and make sure to have all of Jude’s soccer gear in my car. Then Wednesday morning has me throwing food in the slow cooker at something like 7am. My mom comes to the bus stop (thank God for that) on Wednesdays to meet the kids as I’m finishing up work. She takes both of them straight to the ballet studio – where I stop on the way home to relieve her and send her on her way. Then Jude and I wait until Norah’s class is done, and he changes into soccer clothes and shin guards in the ballet studio bathroom. All three of us load in the car and drive straight to soccer practice where Norah plays on the sidelines in her dance leotard and I grade or read to prep for class. By the time we make it home, it’s something like 7pm.  We eat whatever the slow cooker has ready for us, and the kids head straight up to bed soon after. It is a carefully constructed marathon with all of its moving parts and pieces.

All of life can start to feel this way sometimes, no room for spontaneity. This is beginning to get a little better for me as my kids age and are more capable of embracing flexibility, but the weekdays still fly in a frenzied blur most of the time. All work, no play – for all three of us.

Wednesday night when I was cleaning the kitchen while the rest of the house slept, I found an envelope Norah brought home from school weeks ago with tickets to our county fair. They did one drawing for each grade level, and she was the lucky kindergarten winner. We got rained out last Sunday when it would have been more convenient to go, but I didn’t want to lose our chance to use them. When the kids woke up on Thursday morning, I told them we were going to the fair after school, and I’ll never forget the excitement – and also the confusion – on their sleepy little faces.  One of the things I am best at in life is routine, and I think they didn’t quite know what to do with my insistence that we were going to shake it up a little that night. I left work as quickly as I could on Thursday afternoon to pick them up at 4:30. We came home to decompress a minute and tend to the dog, and then we loaded the car to arrive at the fair by 6.

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What is it about that smell of funnel cakes and cheap nachos that takes anyone back about 20 years? We had 50 ride tickets to blow through, so we hopped on a ferris wheel soon after we walked in. Norah saw her teacher as we were standing in line and shouted her name above the crowd. She got a smile and a hug, and we boarded the ride where Jude insisted on his own seat to prove how brave he could be. Where we live is a classic example of a small town morphing into a suburb. Population growth is crazy around here, and new neighborhoods are popping up everywhere. But sometimes it still emerges with that hometown feel. Bumping into your teacher at the annual fair is one of those moments, and fall is full of so many more of them – neighborhood chili cook-offs, pumpkin patches, and fall festivals everywhere.

The fair arrives for two weeks every October. There’s a small amphitheater in the center of the fairgrounds where you can find country music every night, and they’ve got local craft exhibitions here and there and a working cotton gin on display. It’s hometown Georgia at its very best. I feel lucky to center my kids in a place that feels solid and steady – planting little seeds of memories in their own minds that will bloom to nostalgia one day when they are grown.
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We stayed until the sun went down – my promise to them. And we left with full bellies and balloons and tiny toys they won in a carnival game. We rode the sky buckets just before we left, and they carried us high above the crowd and the lights. Poor Norah was scared, and I’m always relieved when my feet hit the ground, too. But I’m learning that it’s important to push yourself to do things you wouldn’t usually do. Sometimes that means eating a corndog for dinner and spending two hours at the county fair on a random weeknight when mom lets you stay up past your bedtime.

Little things are, in fact, the big things sometimes. I am inching my way through a great book right now, but midterm madness at work leaves me with so little energy that I only turn a few pages each night before I am sound asleep. It’s Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing, and so much of what she says about the writing process can be applied to life in general, too. In the chapter where she explains the importance of detail, she insists, “I’ve learned that it isn’t easy to witness what is actually happening…But my days are made up of these moments. If I dismiss the ordinary — waiting for the special, the extreme, the extraordinary to happen — I just may miss my life.” How true that is, right? There is nothing extreme or extraordinary about funnel cakes at the county fair on a Thursday night, but I wanted to sit down to write about it this afternoon to say here I am refusing to dismiss the charm of the ordinary. I’m grateful for every little mundane second in this life I’ve got.

Jude turns eight tomorrow. I can hardly believe it. Eight years of motherhood have changed me almost beyond recognition, and to be honest, even glimmers of who I was when he was a baby or a toddler seem pretty far from who I am now and from what I know to be true.

This is what year eight looks like for us. We are celebrating with pizza and his choice of chocolate birthday cake and a door wide open for any neighborhood friends who want to join us. My fancy invitations this year consisted of a text message essentially saying Come on over, and tomorrow 16 of his little friends will come walking down sidewalks and across yards to sing Happy Birthday and play some backyard games. I expect that it will be like most everything else in my life lately – simplified to its most basic level so that I can actually get it done. But it will also be honest and true and real and a perfect celebration of a boy who has somehow grown to stand even with my chin and amazes me everyday with his curiosity and insight and his honest observation of everything around us.

My kids may think I am the one leading the charge here, but in fact it is always them. They are the ones teaching me everyday, reminding me of what is real.

refugee

As I type this (or try to), I’ve got a house full of kids playing hide and seek while the rain pours outside. I hear screaming and laughing, and I’m guessing I will throw a few words here and then leave it alone for hours and return to it later tonight when the kids are sleeping and the house is quiet. This is the way everything works in my life lately – half finished bits and pieces that eventually get done, but never on the timeline I prefer or expect.

There are five straight days of rain in the forecast here, but it held off for us yesterday and we took advantage – a soccer game followed by a visit to my granddad’s place followed by a trip to our favorite local pumpkin patch. I always over-plan fall Saturdays, but they come and go so quickly around here. I just want to be sure we get every last drop.
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What a week it was. The news is killing me – from Vegas to Capitol Hill to Tom Petty. One foot in front of the other is the only way I slog through it lately, and sometimes it looks like the entire world is on that same page with me, none of us really knowing how to do this.

I also ran across this dense and lengthy article online this week. A few points in it reminded me of what I touched on in my last post – that thing that happens to women when we pass 35 and inch closer to 40 and don’t see things the same way any longer. The author tells us, “I think of what my friend who grew up in Mexico once told me: ‘The 30s are the adolescence of your adulthood,’ she said, ‘and when you reach 50, it’s a restart—empieza de nuevo—a second chance.'”

I’m wondering if my empieza de nuevo might begin a little early. Sometimes it feels that way. Not that life isn’t still hard. It is. The same pressures the article emphasizes – from kids to career to finances to single life with no confirmed expiration date – are all true for me. But I don’t know; sometimes it feels like I just got used to facing stuff I didn’t want to face, and now I’m not scared of much of anything anymore. Life is hard. But I know I can handle it somehow.

I’ve been revisiting some Tom Petty this week – like most everyone else I know. I can’t help but think of my favorite of Petty’s songs, one that felt like an anthem for as long as I can remember, but especially in this season of my life. When I hear Everybody has to fight to be free. You don’t have to live like a refugee in his voice, it leaves a bigger mark than just reading those words or hearing them spoken. Art and music continually amaze me in how they capture what we can’t quite say in our everyday lives but always feel just the same. And this week, I’m reminded again with his passing that what we create outlasts us – whether it is art or music or words on the page.

Petty apparently wrote that song about music business pressures and recording label arguments in the 70’s. Whatever the case, I feel its defiant message in my own way and always have when I hear its melody. Life pushes us here and there, but we can refuse it, too. Refuse the feeling of being evicted from our own space and lay claim to what is ours anyhow. It can take a long, long time for some people to own up to every bit of their lives without fear and without that ever-present human reflex of distraction. But the closer I get to that place of honesty and accountability, the more fearless I become. I can think back to moments that I felt like a refugee in my own life, running from myself. But once you find that center to call home, you can stop running. It is the best gift my life has given me.

We wrapped up yesterday’s busy schedule with a showing of The Jungle Book with the university’s theatre program. I wasn’t so sure it was the best idea, to be honest. Sometimes things go awry when you ask kids to pay attention and be still after such a packed schedule all day long. But the minute we sat down in our seats and they saw the set, they were hooked. They waited excitedly and passed the fifteen minutes before curtain call playing I spy, taking blurry selfies on my phone, and counting the twinkles and lights on the stage.

 

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The minute the house lights went down, both kids were following closely and watching for the next character to make an entrance. We followed Mowgli through his journey from a crying baby to a man who is finally ready to leave the only place he’s ever known. The play closed with the main character crying into his own palms as he began his journey to another place and wondering what the salty water was falling from his eyes. The character of Baloo uttered those words (straight from Kipling’s version as well) Let them fall, Mowgli. They are only tears.

It’s only ever tears, right? Though it always feels like ours are unique and somehow harder to bear than anyone who has come before us. But really, we are mostly all the same. Every single hardship in our lives teaches us the same thing – that we don’t have to feel like a constant refugee, that we can learn to stop running and eventually come home to ourselves. And when we are really lucky, we find the empieza de nuevo on the other side.