Small Mercies

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”

–Anais Nin

Lately I find myself in the kitchen around 7:30 or 8 at night, foraging for something sweet. I’ll eat maple granola from the Pyrex dish we keep on the counter, chocolate chips from the bag I attempt to hide at the back of the cupboard, a caramel from my Valentine’s box, or the worst (but my favorite): a big marshmallow dipped in peanut butter.

I didn’t used to eat like this. In fact, about a year ago I had just finished a 21-day cleanse where I removed gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs, alcohol, and caffeine from my diet. The me from a year ago would be horrified by the me today eating marshmallows, chocolate chips, and caramels.

But here’s the truth of it: a lot has changed since last year. I found out I was pregnant. We decided to get married. We planned a wedding. We tore out nearly everything in our home and slowly put it all back together. I gave birth to our baby. I learned how to swaddle, breastfeed, cloth diaper, soothe, bathe, and care for a whole new tiny being. I’m still learning. Each and every day I’m learning.

Photo by Mara LeBlanc

Photo by Mara LeBlanc

A lot has changed.

In my first week home with Max, I grew to despise the late afternoon. I quickly learned that the evening hours brought screams and howls from my tiny baby, and a knot would form in my stomach each day as I watched the sun set. At that time, all I knew was frustration, confusion, exhaustion, and my own deep ache of postpartum sadness.

It turns out that my howling baby was simply hungry. I wasn’t producing enough milk to keep his little belly full. I worked with a lactation consultant to boost my supply, and after weeks of a regimented, ‘round the clock schedule of nursing, my little swaddled baby finally began to fall asleep in my arms after his meals.

photo

During those tough weeks my husband made me a big batch of cookies with oatmeal, flax, and brewers yeast. They were touted as a magic bullet for nursing moms, but honestly, I was just grateful for the soft comfort of butter and sugar. When the first batch was gone, he made another.

So began my bout with a ravenous sweet tooth.

And yet, I’m not worried about this like I would have been a year ago. I know this phase will pass. As the months bring warmer weather and longer days, I will soothe myself with walks along the riverfront. The spring breezes and summer bug sounds will gently lull me back to center. Soon enough, my tongue will crave sliced watermelon and cold green grapes. Finding my way up the steep learning curve of new motherhood during the brutally cold winter months left me craving ease and sweetness. In this season, I’ve indulged in the small mercies of a treat.

Indeed, a lot has changed.

And so, as the quote above describes, I am growing. But I am growing partially, unevenly, and not absolutely. I am harboring some unsustainable habits, but I am also learning to give myself grace during my periods of uncertainty and change.

As we endure these trailing weeks of winter, I encourage us all to extend ourselves some grace. For the perceived shortcomings, for the things we don’t yet know, for the moments we can’t muster strength. I wish us grace and peace through it all.

(I thank Kelsey from Happyolks for introducing me to this quote in her latest post. It was a perfectly timed salve to my heart.)

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The Best Laid Plans

” Once we’ve thrown off our habitual paths, we think all is lost; but it’s only here that the new and the good begins.”

-Leo Tolstoy

My initial interpretation of this quote was “once we’re thrown off our habitual paths…” I took it to mean something much more visceral, like an outside force coming in and giving us a hearty shove off of our old rusty rails. Somehow, this interpretation made more sense to me and gave me a stronger comfort because it does, after all, promise the beginning of something new and good.

Happiness

Turns out, sometimes we really are the ones who throw off our own habitual paths: we take on a new job, we let go of a stagnant friendship, we start a meditation practice, we get off Facebook, we move across the country for love, and sometimes we just clean out our closets or go and get a haircut. We make changes in our lives to feel open and new and raw and fresh and alive. Along with the change comes inevitable vulnerability and maybe a bit of fear, but it all feels damn good and it’s all entirely necessary.

Well, it also turns out that sometimes we get knocked right off our habitual paths and we have no say in the matter: we get laid off, our loved ones die unexpectedly, we become allergic to foods, our dream grant gets funded, we meet our partner while waiting in line for a taco. At the core of it, these changes will also likely make us feel open and new and raw and fresh and alive, but the vulnerability usually hits us first and the fear is probably what we feel the strongest.

In both instances, the new and the good eventually makes it’s way to us.

I found out in early February that I’ll be having a baby in October. I found out a couple of weeks ago that the baby is a boy. I found out this weekend that he likes to wiggle and dance just as I’m ready to fall asleep.

Let’s just say that finding out this big news shoved me hard off my habitual path.

This isn’t what I had planned for myself. Nope, not at all. I wanted to be a carefree bride, go on a honeymoon somewhere peaceful, run a few more marathons, start teaching yoga classes, fix up our house, turn 30…

But those were all my own plans, and it seems as though those plans didn’t align with what was ultimately meant for me. It looks like I’ll be a bride with quite a bit on her mind (we’re getting married at the end of June), a honeymoon is being replaced with home fix-ups (at least that part will happen!), my due date lands exactly on the day of the next marathon I had hoped to run, and I’m still a couple of years shy of 30.

I’ve been struggling to not feel overwhelmed by all of this. I’ve been working hard to remind myself daily that the only thing that’s consistent in life is that it changes. That’s what makes it rich, right? But as much as I would like to be brave and strong as I face my new path, there are times when I get so scared or so mad or so disappointed that I just crumple into an inconsolable mess of sobbing. It’s not pretty, and I’m not entirely proud of it, but it’s the truth.

I spent the evening with a friend of mine who recently gave birth to a lovely baby girl. I watched my friend nurse, soothe, maneuver, bathe, and console her daughter and I thought to myself, I just don’t think I can do all of that. And it’s becoming clear to me that my habitual path has been full of thoughts just like this; ugly thoughts that leave me without much courage, strength, or belief in myself.

So maybe I needed to get shoved off that path. Maybe I needed to get placed directly into a role that I would have fearfully talked my way out of if left to my own devices. I’m getting the sense that life seems to have more confidence in me and my capabilities than I have in myself, and is offering me an opportunity to shine in a new light.

I’ve been holding onto this news for all these months for a number of reasons. Partly because I needed to let it sink in before sharing it with the wider world, and partly because I am still a bit embarrassed about getting pregnant “out-of-order” in the traditional sense.

Another reason I’ve been hesitant to share is because I know how badly some women and their partners want babies. I am sensitive to the fact that it can be an immensely painful process for couples who struggle to conceive, and that it can be crushing and heartbreaking to miscarry. I realize these things, and I hesitated to share the entirety of my feelings towards this news because I didn’t want this post to seem insensitive to the women who are in the throes of conception challenges. To all the ladies who read this and are aching for babies: please know that I love you and that it’s my hope that in sharing my truth, we can see each other’s side of the track a bit better.

We are all trying to get to our very best paths in life, and we all get knocked off our course in different ways.

We are all in this together.

So, whether your path is fresh or habitual, whether you have thrown off your path or you yourself have been thrown, let’s all start opening up to see the new and the good.

I’m trying. Everyday. Join me?

When has life thrown you a curve ball? How did you respond? How did things turn out?

Creating Space

At a previous job, my boss held weekly team meetings which gave us all a chance to re-cap our workload and update each other on the status of our projects. During particularly stressful stretches (which were more often than not), my colleauge would close her updates endearingly with a sweep of her hand and the brisk statement of, “Well, moving on!”

This statement sums up how life has been feeling for me lately.

My last post was December 20th, and since then Christmas, New Years, and the re-entry to working life have all passed. Life feels like it’s barreling forward, and I’m all but trying to keep up. During this particular time of year, with the richness and indulgence of holiday gatherings followed so closely with the reflection and contemplation of New Year’s; how could a girl not feel a little out of breath?

I intended to write a whole post about Christmas, which included a shift in traditions that left me in tears after brunch on Christmas day. It was the first time I had ever split my Christmas to attend someone else’s family gathering, and I came to realized that from here on out my holiday traditions will be evolving and changing. Sometimes I face changes boldly, and other times they break my heart. Even though I was warmly welcomed joining my partner’s family for their festivities (which included caroling and an improv Christmas play directed by a very special first-grade nephew), I still felt a stab of sadness leaving my own family before the Christmas dinner I grew up with.

Before I could process that whole slew of emotions, it was New Year’s Eve. I spent the day ice skating, wearing clip-on rhinestone earrings, and dancing with my honey in the the living room of new friends.

Now it’s back to work, where we are gearing up for our busy spring season, smoothing out the glitches from a recent technology upgrade, and planning for a huge event in California next month.

And I’ve just been “moving on!” through all of it.

It’s the time of year of resolutions, fresh intentions, and wholehearted attempts at bringing new vigor to our daily lives. I have varied thoughts about New Year’s resolutions, but I usually land on the I-don’t-make-them end of the spectrum. Not necessarily because I don’t believe in them, or am too cynical to think they are useless, but more so because by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, I haven’t taken the necessary time to reflect on the past year to know what I would like to do differently.

I have a tendency to be in one place, and wish I were in another. To be eating something, and soon wishing I hadn’t. To plan things, and then wish I had the free time. It’s chronic and quite frankly, it’s irritating. It deters me from enjoying where I am, and it takes me away from being fully present. It also makes it all the more easy for me to just think, “Well, moving on!” without pausing for reflection. I did this with much of the holidays, and they ended up breezing on right past me.

I think it’s time to slow down a little. It’s time to sink in and allow more space for savoring, relishing, enjoying, and reflecting. Enough with the barreling forward, relentlessly onward and upward. We’re all moving that direction, regardless of whether we shove ourselves uphill or take it slow and steady.

I’m 8 days late to the game the time ’round, and I won’t go so far as to say it’s a New Year’s Resolution, but I am setting an intention: to catch myself in those “moving on!” moments and work to create more space for dedication to the present. 2013 is shaping up to be filled to the brim, and I deeply want to embrace it all – but I need to learn to pause every now and again and take stock of where I am today.

It’s a tall order – wish me luck!

I’m curious: Do you have thoughts surrounding New Year’s Resolutions? Did you make any this year? If you have chosen to make 2013 goals/resolutions/intentions, how did you decide on what was most important?

Birthday Time

Until recently, I was convinced that I was 27 years old. My boyfriend did the math for me during the summer, when I was so stubbornly sure that I could.not.possibly be only 26. Turns out, he was right.

It’s my birthday this week. I will be turning 27. I did that math, and I’m sure it’s true.

This birthday ushers me into the last stretch of my 20’s, which brings a bit of reflection and a tremendous amount of relief. My 20’s have been jam-packed with all manner of awesome and ouch. I’ve created the strongest friendships I’ve ever know, I’ve run marathons, and I’ve taken on and succeeded in roles that I couldn’t have dreamt of for myself 7 years ago. But, I’ve also found myself with more questioning, confusion, and fear than I would care to readily admit.

My 20’s have been a series of land-in-my-lap opportunities, curious observations, painful self-discoveries, and lessons on how to stretch, adapt, and find room for it all to fit. These past seven years have sometimes felt strange and  uncomfortable, an ugly truth which I have fought and ignored with equal measure.

But then I talk to other people, and women in particular. Women whose assertiveness, style, zest, and grace give me something to strive for. These women are generously blessed with more years and experience than I, and they tell me that all of this confusion and discomfort grows more simple the longer you keep at it. They tell me that life doles out situations and challenges that reveal our personal shadows, our resolve, and the strongest versions of ourselves. And really, it’s the strongest version of ourselves that we’re all working to uncover, right?

I’ve noticed, more so within the last two or three years, that each year leaves me with a clearer sense of my particular strengths, a better gauge for what works for my life, and a little less hesitation to re-arrange accordingly. I owe that to my 20’s. To which, I say:

Cheers to 27.

Cheers to the next three years.

Cheers to all that undoubtably lies ahead.

Tell me: If you’re in your 20’s, how are you doing? What have been the challenges and the triumphs? If you’ve already got your 20’s under your belt, what do you remember most about them? What did you learn?