Savoring Beautiful Quarantine Moments

Today, after nearly four months of being together around the clock, my husband got on an airplane and left. For the whole week. Our nearly four months of togetherness ended. Just like that. It feels so abrupt.

Work is part of a good life. I knew work travel would come back. It did not get me down and I am not worried about Kris’s safety. What I did feel over this past weekend as Kris prepared to leave though, was a profound savoring- a savoring of this unique and special time when my little family was all together all the time for nearly four months. A time we hopefully will never experience again.

These times have been hard. They have been far harder for some than for others. As we move through the summer months and hopefully get back to normal, maybe it’s a good time to savor.

Maybe you are headed back to the office soon or are getting back to travel yourself. Maybe you are looking to the Fall and the likelihood of your kids returning to  school. Whatever the reason, your COVID Quarantine is coming to and end too and when it does I bet it will feel abrupt for you, too.

What will you miss that you are currently getting to do? What fond and loving memories will you bring with you that you are creating right now? Is it more time with your dog? Getting to cook a pancake breakfast for your family whenver you feel like it? The rhythm and freedom that comes from not needing to set an alarm or iron clothes? Being able to wear sweatpants and knowing everyone else on the Zoom has roots growing out too? Maybe you’ll miss the stillness and quiet- the empty roads and momentary feeling that the whole world was in something together.

I’m not romanticizing this horrid time we have lived through. I’m not dismissing those whose livelihoods have been destroyed. I’m not pretending this was a joyous time.

Still. Many of us felt moments of profound beauty amidst this horror. It’s good to savor them.

Savoring is a Practice

So maybe now, as we slowly roll out of COVID Quarantine, we can step outside of the experiences we are living to appreciate them. We can share these special moments with others by talking about them. We can file them away as a reminder that sometimes even horrid times have moments worth savoring.

None of us knows what the future holds. Certainly though, we have all gained a heightened apprecation of the everyday things we will practice gratitude for, instead of taking for granted.

A hug from a friend. Hopping in the car without thinking to grab a coffee with your mom. Inviting family for Sunday dinner and not giving a thought as to whether or not it’s safe. Riding an escalator with gaggles of strangers. A quick trip to the grocery store because you forgot the Tahini. Attending a new networking event, in person. Play dates. Dinner with friends. 

Amongst the devestation of destroyed lives and livelihoods, there are some things we can glean and hold onto going forward- things that can make life more beautiful. Savoring can help take those things with us.

In your last days or weeks of quarantine, maybe you will pause a little more, notice how long sleep stays on the face or your soon to be 14 year old. Maybe  because you are up later than normal, you will look in on him sleeping and savor that covered up in bed, your boy looks like the tiny guy he will always be in your mind…not the young man who is taller than you without wearing shoes or standing on tip toes. Maybe those extra moments can be savored and held onto forever.

Maybe you’ll let the smile spread from ear to ear that you don’t have to rush up when your sweet pup has fallen asleep on your lap. Instead, you might feel the way the sun warms her fur and how relaxed her body is from feeling safe with you, and let it overtake you.

Maybe you will spend an extra twenty minutes in your garden, since you don’t have a commute. You might let the scent of the hydrangea be the only thing you notice or marvel that you can spend time on yet another day watching that seed turn to fruit!

This was not a beautiful time, but there were certainly moments of beauty. As your COVID Quarantine comes to an end, whenver that is, I hope you find moments you can savor- beautiful moments that might end up defining this time for you, when it is all a distant memory. I wish for all of us that quarantine moments pop up unexpectedly on busy streets and tight schedules and that these recollections feel dreamy and put a contented smile on your face, and mine.

Whatever it is that makes you feel happy, the time to savor is now. The time to savor what makes you happy is always now. I’m not sure this is something the people of Earth have ever collectively felt before. This was not a lucky time, but aren’t we lucky to know this now, together?

Some of my happy quarantine memories that I savored. Gardens, guitar, yummy food, water balloons, family tennis, awesome stories, and outdoor concerts. What are some of yours? Will you share in the comments? 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Away From Family: How it Turned Out for Our Family

I was almost 40 before I knew Living By Design was an option. Now that I know, my family is moving toward it. 

Author’s Note: This piece was originally published by the same author on a different blog in approximately 2017

Our family is at a crossroads. We have been living in Denver for a couple of years. We like Denver. There are neat things happening. The scenery is gorgeous. The weather is ideal for us. There are no bugs (at least compared to what this East Coast family is used to). The homeschooling community here is huge- that makes life great for us for a whole bunch of reasons.

But, we’re bored.

Some will call it wanderlust- say that we will never be satisfied no matter where we are. That is not how I see it, though.

See, up until a few years ago I never thought I would move away from New England. It’s where I’d lived my whole life. My whole family (less siblings, now) are there. My paternal grandmother was still alive when we lived there, and we were close. I knew she would not be around forever. I’d had kids- how could I rip them away from their family?

Nubble Light House
Nubble Light House York, ME Photo Credit: Author

Then circumstances changed. My husband was offered a new position and we decided to take it. With a heavy heart we decided to move away and left New England. I could not imagine living anywhere else- though I had always wanted to. In fact, I had always dreamed about it. I never wanted to stay in the same place where I had grown up but one thing or another had always kept me there. Then, it made sense for us to move. So we packed everything up and headed west. WEST!

It was so far… so different. Unlike anything I had ever known. It was exciting. It was also sad. Nobody in our family (including me) expected to see this day and off we went; myself, my husband, and our two (very young) kids.

There was adjustment. There was sadness. There was lots of homesickness- especially on lonely days or nights with sick kids. There was also lots of adventure. We lived in Arizona first and woke up to cacti everyday and the soothing colors of the southwest desert. We saw sunsets that we only dreamed of and cowboy hats in the grocery store. We felt heat that went right through to our bones. We thawed out. We warmed up. We calmed down.

Saguaro Desert Tucson, AZ Photo Credit: Author

Living around those who have always known you has a funny way of keeping you as you’ve always been. Instead of trying out a different part of yourself, you tend to stay as others know you. Sure, there is some growth (hopefully) but it always felt contained to me. Even while we were there. It is hard to become a new version of you when you are surrounded by who you have always been.

When we arrived in Tucson I felt a freedom I had never experienced. So many confines were gone. My husband, two children and I found ourselves with only each other. My choices felt like my own.

Values are different out west. People are different out west. Culture is different out west. The excitement and joy that came from this made me see how much I did not understand. It opened my eyes to how much there is to see.

Moving Away to Arizona
Arizona Photo Credit: Author

My kids found a freedom they had not experienced before. It may have been my excitement or joy that created it. It may have been living in the west. Whatever it was may have been the same thing that made my husband’s shoulders relax six inches.

We saw that life everywhere was not as we knew it. We saw that where you choose to live creates an environment. We learned that you can intentionally create your surroundings. We did not know that before moving, at least I did not.

Moving Away (Again?) and Living By Design

So here we are now wondering what comes next. The norm is to shirk at the thought of us moving away again. We “should” stay put- after all, it is what creates stability, right? And is that not what children need? To stay put for most of their lives?

I did not need or want that as a child and we live in a different world now; one that is more connected and accessible. Things have changed. Kids are not out playing in their yards and riding bikes all day anymore. Does flashlight tag even still exist?

Moving Away from Denver? Denver Skyline
Denver Skyline Photo Credit: Author

We may stay in Denver- it is a good fit. We also may decide to try somewhere -or something- new; an endeavor that excites us. While some may call moving away again wanderlust, I know this is inaccurate. In reality, it took me until nearly 40 to realize that we do not have to stay where we are. We can choose what comes next. We can decide what our life and surroundings will look like. I spent 38 years in the same spot. Exploration is good. Curiosity and new experiences feed the soul.

It is a whole new world for my family and me, and for the first time it is accessible. Some may call it wanderlust, but not me. I know this is what intention looks like. I know that choosing what comes next is better than living by default. I know that as long as we are thoughtful and considerate  there is no wrong next choice.

I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s to the Next New Beginning and it Does Not Need to Be Grandiose

Here’s to the next new beginning. It’s just the next one. It’s not grandiose or loud. No one next new chapter creates seismic shifts. It’s a million next new chapters practiced thoughtfully, intentionally, and repeatedly that creates new beginnings. I’ve learned the hard way that some of those previous chapters have to be dealt with before we can get to the good ones.

Wherever you are in your story know that you have plentiful company. You are worthy exactly as you are. You are not the exception.

We’ve all made poor choices. We’ve all been irresponsible. We all have things our wiser selves would not have chosen. And since we are reading this, we are all still here.

If this is the year you breakdown remember you are loved and belong.

If this is the year you are scared and healing, look out the window and find comfort in the real beauty around you.

If this is the year you are confidently healing, move through it with self-compassion.

If this is the year you find your self-worth, celebrate that shit like crazy!

If this is your next new beginning, reach that strong and steady arm back to bring another woman along with you.

This next new beginning will neither make nor break you. It’s one of many. Forget the pressure so many are putting on us with this new decade. If you want it to be a big huge new chapter- take it! If not though, if you want this month, this year, this decade to be lived the way you’ve been living, that is to be celebrated too. That is a beautiful and inspiring choice. We’ve heard lots of talk about how we should grab this decade by the balls and make it ours. Some of us prefer a quieter, steadier way of moving through life.

Whichever new beginning becomes a part of your story it is important, valuable, and yours.  It is also not as big or important as some are making it seem. Nothing magical happened when the clock struck midnight. No timer started nor did one expire.

Each of these lives belongs to the one living it. If you need a fresh slate, maybe this is the time to find it. You can also find it next week, next month, or next year. Maybe more important than waiting for a magical moment to grant you a fresh start is understanding that the life we live holds value- including all of our choices.

I’ve learned that owning our stories is likely the most grandiose thing we can do. Whether we like to move through life in a loud, enthusiastic, and exciting way, or a mild, calm, and softer way, the value of our stories do not change. We all have important experiences. We all have wisdom to share. We all have stories to share that are worthy of being heard.

However you enter this new decade, I hope your next new beginning is one that makes you feel the way you want to feel. Whatever actions you decide to take or not take, I hope they are authentically yours by desire. Whatever road you are walking, or whichever divergent path you step onto, I hope it leads you closer to the life you want.

Wishing you a very happy Next New Beginning, whatever that looks like. Happy 2020!

What is your Next New Beginning? Will you share in the comments for us to know too?

 

I Cannot Live in the Rabbit Hole: It’s Happier Outside

Poisoned food. Fracking. Climate change.  Vaccines.

I have gone far, far down one Rabbit Hole- no, two. I know there is truth to a lot of the things we dismiss as conspiracy theories.

Here is the thing though; I cannot live there. I cannot live in the place where the government may be out to make me sick with our food or by shooting poison into my children. I cannot live in the place where I believe there is a possibility that I cannot escape the poison- that my children cannot escape the poison- that permeates our existence.

I know that upsets people. “Ignorance is bliss” they say. “I sure wish I could just leave it for somebody else to deal with, too” others say. “Must be nice to just ignore all the things that are killing you and your kids.” “Don’t you worry about your grandchildren?”

Do I worry? Yes. I worry about everything all day, all the time. I do not get a break from the worry, in fact. So why would I choose to live in an environment that feeds my panic? Why would I surround myself with sights and sounds and voices that that prove how murderous the world is?

I am not ignoring these things, though. I am just choosing not to live in the Rabbit Hole.

Because in the Rabbit Hole, life is dark and glum. There are boogymen around every corner and pits of lava and trees whose branches will reach out and rob me of my breath.

In the Rabbit Hole, a cloud should be feared, not admired. The sun will kill my children and doctors do only harm.

In the Rabbit Hole, nobody can be trusted. Everyone is the enemy. There is no safe space or place to enjoy life, or the world; flowers are not beauty realized, but are poison carriers and representations of our dying bees.

I understand there is truth to some of these things, and for a while, I did live in the Rabbit Hole. Life is unhappy, and scary, and dark in the Rabbit Hole. Happiness cannot exist there.

I can put sunscreen on my kids and still basque in the warmth of the sun. I can research the agents in the bottle that the doctor wants to shoot into my child’s arm and still appreciate their ability to heal. I can buy organic when that feels important to me and mix Kraft Mac and Cheese when it does not.

I have chosen not to live in the Rabbit Hole. I have chosen to let some things go. I can both educate myself and opt out of being responsible for the solution. With age has come the wisdom that I am not responsible for changing everything. With greater age has come greater wisdom that it is immature of me to think I can.

Most importantly though, I have come to learn that I can acknowledge the things that need to get better and still choose happiness. I now know that I need not feel guilty when weeks or months go by and I have not even peeked into the Rabbit Hole. Instead, I can celebrate. I can feel good that I have made a healthy choice to see the colors of the leaves as they are and to smile big at the way the sun’s rays light up the beautiful clouds.

For me, only peeking into the Rabbit Hole on occasion allows me to be more of a change agent than if I lived there. By seeing beauty and making small changes when I am able, I have found a balance that allows me to enjoy my time on this Earth instead of fear it.

 

Moving Away from Family

Note: this piece was published on a  different blog by the same author in 2013. 

Moving away from family is sad- no matter how exciting the prospects.

It’s not that I don’t want to go. It’s just that I don’t want to leave.

I have spent most of my life in a 60 mile radius. There was an exception for college, and for two years when I turned 4, but the rest of my life has been spent close to home. My sisters each moved away for a while, and for the first time since high school, my whole family has been back together- something I always wanted.

Moving Away From FamilyNow it is my turn; to try something new, to live somewhere else, to know who I am outside of the surroundings that remind me of who I am supposed to be. This is something else I have always wanted.

But now I have kids, and my son and daughter have grown knowing what it means to have ready access to their grandparents and aunts and uncles- to feel the confidence that comes from being accepted, loved and adored for who they are- by so many people. I didn’t expect my kids to have best friends at 3 and 5 years old. So it’s different.

It isn’t that we have to go- though we would be foolish not to- but it is more than that. It is a chance to experience a different climate, and new people… a lifestyle that offers outdoor activities all year long and sunshine 300 days each year. It is an opportunity to know a different part of our own country and for my husband to grow professionally in a way that is exciting for him and for us.

I look forward to all of these things. I am eager to experience understanding our family for our own dynamic; with different surroundings and people, and without the reminders that keep me boxed in to who I have always been. (Click here to read).

It’s just the leaving; the saying good-bye, the knowing that my dad is not a phone call away to remove a bat that has entered my house when my husband is away. It is the understanding that we can no longer visit my mom at work when it all is just too lonely.

It is the already longing for the impromptu sleepovers of my siblings… who are always child inclusive because my sisters and brother value my kids as much as I do. It is the wondering of who my own family will be without the support of my own.

I do not know how to reconcile this. I am unsure of how to prepare myself so that I lead my children to the exciting and positive experience we are about to have.

So I am trying to be with it. I am not distracting us. My tears flow freely. When my children ask what is wrong, I tell them; that I am sad. That I will miss my mom and dad and Momo and grandmother and Minna and Bridgey and Uncle TJ. I tell them that this is the place I have always called home- that the ocean is in my blood and that this is the blood of my family.

I also tell them that I am excited. I share all of the things that I am looking forward to- like stability, adventures, and exploration. I share with them that our whole family will never change and that the people they love are never more than a plane ride away. I remind them that all they have to do is call any one of these people and they will drop everything to come. Just as it always has been.

For now this will have to do. Once we are settled things will seem brighter. They will be fresh, new, and exciting. My children will fall asleep in the only home they have ever known; the space between my husband and I.

As time passes we will evaluate what continues to make sense for our family and adjust accordingly. In the meantime, we will take with us the unshakeable love of our family, and the knowledge that something as small as a plane ride can’t compete with connections that run deep as the ocean.

Click here to see how moving away from family turned our for my family. 

Aging? Who, Me?

Aging is strange. I hear that word and immediately think of people older than me- like, much older. I feel like the word “aging” does not even apply to me. Same with middle age.

I mean, we are all aging right? Somehow though it doesn’t feel the same when talking about a 24 year old woman and a 44 year old woman.

I went through what may have been an intense midlife crisis a few years ago. I’ve called it a mental break down because that’s what it was.

During that breakdown/crisis I started to feel my “age”. I was 42 at the time, maybe 41.

I seriously started to wonder what the point of anything was. I was on the downhill. The best parts of my life were behind me. The fit and athletic body that could pick up a basketball and play a quick game without even feeling it the next day. The ability to eat whatever I wanted without consequence to my hips. Skin and a smile that wouldn’t quit. All of that was changing and I kept doing the math about how many years I might have left.

At my annual dermatology appointment that year my doctor told me the brown spot on my face was nothing to be concerned about. It was just an age spot. “My grandmother had those”, I might have mumbled out loud.

I think what made me feel the most sad during that period was that I had not lived a life I wanted. I had not done the things that, at my core, felt like me. I worked at a job out of obligation. I got married. I had two kids. I stayed home with them. I don’t regret the last 3 of these.

When I was in my early 20’s I wanted nothing more than to move to New York City. I know, I know. It’s cliche. I really wanted to though. People did it. My sister did it.

My sense of duty combined with the non-existent self worth that came with being a college drop out kept me in my small New Hampshire town. It was okay. I was lucky enough to make an incredible circle of friends, whom, all these years later I could not have done a better job of hand picking.

smiling woman, author, with text "aging? Who, me?"I started a successful blog. I got some writing published. I was interviewed for a national magazine. The woman who interviewed me was a real, honest-to-goodness, published writer. I loved her work and I was a little star struck.

I confessed to her that I had always dreamed of being a writer. I was in my early thirties at the time. “What do you mean?” she asked, “you already are”. Without her seeing, I cried.

A cross-country move, failing mental health, and other professional opportunities pulled me further away from this dream. I did not know how to pursue a freelance career. I believed that a college drop out could not be a writer, at least not today. I bought into the idea that an MFA was a pre-req for achieving your dreams. I read the words “if you can be anything besides a writer, be that.”

A couple of years later I read the words “I don’t know how I feel about that until I have had a chance to write”. Suddenly, the words my interviewer said to me swirled in my head along with the ones I was reading. As though through a time traveling machine I thought back to my many, many stacks of journals- kept from the time I was 8. I thought of all the things stored on my computers over the years, too. A piece for every major life experience; starting college, being at my grandmother’s death bed, becoming a mother, my changing views on religion.

The intention of these pieces was never publication. They were written for me, to process my thoughts.

My time spent blogging taught me that grammar is not my friend and that my eyes have a block to spelling mistakes and typos. Surely, this does not a good writer make.

But now I am 44. Almost 45. It seems all the reasons that stopped me from doing what I love matter less. A critic pokes fun at my writing? So? Someone shines a light on my flawed thinking? And? The grammar police say “and?” is not a full sentence?  Yeah?

At 44 what others think of me and what I love to do is not much more than something I glance at in my peripheral vision. This is a far cry from the thin skinned people pleaser I once was, which in part led to my mental breakdown.

I have done my work and am not just stable but thriving. Now, instead of feeling like life is over or has passed me by I am excited. I love being 40 something. I love the freedom that comes with it. I love owning my story. I love that, in so many ways, I feel like things are just beginning.

So maybe my body won’t recover so quickly after a game of pick-up. Maybe the wrinkles in my skin make me look more like 54 than 44. Maybe my hips have inched up to a number I never thought I’d see.

That’s okay. These hips have just started shaking and they don’t care who is watching.