Get to Work

Posted on December 10, 2017

Friday I spent the day on a photo shoot in the Scoharie Valley. The cold came at me like I’d done it wrong, turning my fingers white and making my insides quiver. It was alarming to be so cold, but it also felt good. It was all consuming. There was no phone checking, no idle fretting, the cold made me purposeful and focused.

The animals made me believe again, even as I grappled with the idea of food and the way I love flank steak with hot-from-the-oven-tortillas and green tabasco. There are choices and consequences.

I returned to start. Land, people, and animals. Farm. Farmers. Innovation. Resilience. Respect.

 

The light repeatedly took my breath away.


The animals, from goats and lambs to cows and horses, were irresistibly curious about us.

 

I talked to each of them and, in doing so, I talked to myself in ways that I haven’t recently been able to.

Oh, and I laughed.

 

This guy, super stand offish when I’d talk to him, but as soon as I turned around curious snorting and nudging on my neck.

 

This was before I climbed into the pen. She gummed and gnawed on my boots for 5 minutes straight. When I joined her inside she buried her face in the front of my jacket.

 

And this gal, she grabbed on to my right back pocket with her bottom teeth and wouldn’t let go. I didn’t mind.

Turns out that letting someone else, in this case farm animals, set the tone can be a really restorative gift.

Learning to Live with Anger & Joy

Posted on November 11, 2017

Anger doesn’t sell. Joy can be dampened by the 24 hour news cycle. How are we supposed to achieve any sort of balance? I don’t mean the elusive idea of family and work, finance and purpose, and a hair cut that really is wash and go, because that’s all a lie.

I mean how do those of us who aren’t professional activists or impervious optimists operate when we are pelted daily with fallen heroes, crippling expenses and tender, “Do you want to see what I made today, mama” from our kids and “You look gorgeous and I cannot wait to be alone with you” whispers from our partners? How are the people shouldering the greatest burden in trying to fix the world supposed to withstand the hopelessness? When do any of us catch our breath?

As I’ve staggered through the last month, reliving the 2016 election, the #MeToo of the rape I endured in high school, the flashbacks to what the neighborhood boys did to me, and the imminent arrival of the high school years and dating by my daughters, and unprecedented growth at my small business, I really do wonder. I don’t want to live with my head in the sand, but as I tend to my youngest who has been ill for 4 days now and read articles about elected officials defending a man who “dated teenagers” I am at a loss.

 

I want to kiss her brow and heal away the bug, but then I think that maybe she is safer at home. Maybe the classroom or sidewalk aren’t as safe for a young girl as her home. Here she isn’t sexualized, here she isn’t blamed or desired because her body is changing.

I want to raise her to be strong and to give her the space to unfold or explode into whoever and however she wants to be. But will she be too loud? Too beautiful? Too opinionated? Too indifferent?

I look back on my own odyssey of perspective and sexuality, both of which have expanded and contracted. There were times when I was bold and unapologetic, other times when my opinions were tempered. I quieted to be more appealing, softened because I came to believe that somehow my opinions mattered less or weren’t defensible simply because they were mine.

Abusive men siphoned the desire out of me. Who wants be attractive or desired if you end up with demands of putting out and shutting up? It’s almost as if I couldn’t have both at once, if I wanted opinions I needed to not care about relationships and if I wanted a relationship, my convictions and hot buttons needed to be paused.

Having a sexual predator and fairly self-avowed misogynist in the Oval Office is pretty clarifying. I can’t allow myself to stop feeling joy or hope because there are men in the world, women too, who seem to believe that women and girls are pleasure holes; if penetration happens it is ALWAYS the hole that caused it, not the shaft.

I have my joy because of my anger. Every misstep by the legions of white men in power, across industries, gives me another reason to rejoice in these women I am raising. Many of their male classmates are being raised by the same force of joy. We will do better, we will demand more, and we will be transparent. It won’t be easy, safety isn’t a guarantee.

I talk about my anger and my disappointment in ways that the girls are able to comprehend. They ask questions, often their questions help me see things more clearly. “Are Democrats better than Republicans” was a question that came up once. “No, babe, they aren’t. The failures happen with both parties. Dad and I have Republicans that we love and there have been plenty of Democrats who have screwed up.”

They looked shocked. “Dishonesty and cruelty aren’t exclusive to one political party or even one gender. It’s why we try to teach you to live in ways that you feel proud of your choices. It’s why we tell you when we mess up.”

I apologize if I made it seem like this post was going to have easy answers, if you take anything from this let it be that you are still entitled to joy as you fight for a better world. You will need your joy and your hope to endure the reverberations of inaction, sabotage, and dereliction of duty.

Happiness doesn’t make you ineffective, just as strong opinions don’t make you undesirable.

We have so much work to do, but there is also living to do and that is never weakness. Live.

 

 

Tiny Reminders for Big Change

Posted on November 8, 2017

Do you ever catch yourself saying, “As soon as things slow down…”

They never slow down.
We never have the money sitting in the account.
The right time rarely arrives in a moment when we can actually embrace it.

I find myself doing little things to try and dull the sensation that I am tempting fate. I try not to race from place to place, I tell myself not to measure my success (or failure) by how much is left undone at the end of the day. I doubt most of us would put the same expectations on other people that we do on ourselves. It’s also unlikely that we’d afford the same kindness or consideration to ourselves that we give to others.

I wish it didn’t take a tea bag to remind me of that. Instead of being dismayed, I’ll give myself credit for slowing down enough to allow myself to enjoy a cup of tea.

 

It’s a start.

How will you begin to let yourself count?

 

Shifting Focus

Posted on November 7, 2017

This fall has carried with it an unprecedented level of busyness. I used to sit in the camp of busy being good, but several years ago I saw the light. No one cares, there are no awards, you don’t get out of bad luck or health calamities because you were working hard. Life happens whether we carve time for it or push it off until “things ease up a bit.”

Sunday was the final day of the girls’ and Sean’s run of Oliver. It was a whirlwind that came to a close on the doorstep of exhaustion. Any longer and it would have been too much, any shorter and it wouldn’t have been the experience that it was. Monday morning Sean and I trained to the city for a video shoot. This definitely tiptoed along the edge of too much, particularly with Sean heading out again later this week.

My parents brought the girls and our dog to their place for the night. Sean and I planned for an afternoon into evening of shooting and then a late dinner before collapsing in a hotel. The venue for the shoot, Farmer and the Fish, was gorgeous. We set up outside to capture the hustle and bustle of the city against the simple sign and potted herbs overflowing around the door. I pressed a leaf of basil between my fingers and laughed aloud at how the scent, always a bit like cinnamon in my mind, filled the air around me. Ivy leaves tickled the top of my head and I reached up to touch them, like one of the girls playing with my hair.

 

I’ve not really been on photo shoots with Sean, it’s one of the rare times we divide and conquer at work. He’ll travel to clients and I’ll stay back at the office managing other things. Standing beside him, I once again felt slightly out of place, unsure what to do.

“Can I do anything?” I asked.

He didn’t say anything, I waited. “Just block for me.”

I looked around at the endless motion of the people on the sidewalk and the irresistible pull of the menu to passers-by. How on earth could I block anything? I began a quiet campaign of kill them with kindness. As people would look at us, craning to figure out what Sean was doing I would smile, trying to get my eyes as twinkly as possible. It was completely absurd and I found that I loved every minute of it.

I let people’s responses to my smiles wash over me, because they all smiled back. One man asked for money, said it was his birthday. Sean was fussing with a lens. I reached into my wallet and pulled out ten dollars. I placed it in his hand. His eyes got big. He said, “Bless you,” and I touched his tattooed knuckles and said, “Bless you.” He stood there and smiled at me and I smiled back. “Thank you very much,” he said. Again, I replied in turn, “Thank you.”

As he walked away he took off his hat. About a half a block down he lifted his head and kissed his hand and held it skyward. Eventually I couldn’t see him anymore and I turned back to Sean.

“Can you flip the sign around for me?”

I walked over to the sign and turned it around, careful not to let my fingers get pinched. I looked down the other side of the street, back toward where I’d just been standing. I was nobody and everyone on that busy street as different faces and things came in and out of focus for each of us. I think we really need that, to slip out of the speed and tension that we maintain each day and experience something closer to different. It doesn’t need to be radical, just a little shift in focus.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Turns Benefits Everyone

Posted on November 5, 2017

A couple of days after bringing Briar home from the hospital my mom set a turkey sandwich on the arm of the chair I was in, “Be sure to save a little for Sean.” She said nothing more. She wasn’t talking about the sandwich, it was about my complete infatuation with Briar. If I wasn’t nursing her I was gazing into her eyes and kissing her brow.

I was in complete awe of this new creature and I gave her everything. My mom was reminding me that it was my marriage and this man that had made her possible. “Save a little for Sean,” could also mean, “Save a little for yourself.”Spend time on who or what brings you joy. Put your own air mask on first. Yadda yada yada. We know, but we forget.

I was reminded tonight as I watched Sean holding Briar before she went onstage, that we all need to trade roles. I cannot provide everything because in doing that I actually deprive. Sean doesn’t get to connect with the girls, the girls don’t get to operate outside my spotlight (or shadow).

None of us learn how to lean on someone else or how to cope without someone there. It can be heavy, but then to watch it. It wasn’t threatening, I didn’t feel left out, I felt love expand. She needs to feel his hands on her shoulders, I need to see her on her own. I try not to make it too mechanical or intellectual, but it really is arduous to hold on, let go, and accept melancholy in the same breath as celebration.

Tomorrow Sean and I head to the city for a work thing. The girls will go to my parents. I feel pulled both ways, like I ought to stay and like I am excited to venture into the city for a project with Sean. My parents get a turn, the girls have a different experience, Sean and I work in a different way. Everyone wins, but it takes trust and release.

Lights up on trading roles and sharing lives.

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