Archives for posts with tag: identity

Be still. Think.

Rolling the words around on my tongue, they feel swollen, slippery and cumbersome

Like pieces born on the bottom of the ocean, they taste simultaneously sweet with pleasure and sour with decay

“What do I want?”

Sadness. Loss. Confusion. Wonder. Nothingness… like searching in the fog for the hint of an outline of a building or a tree.

Consider the act of wanting? Consider objects to want?

No. Consider me.

To know what I want suggests to know who I am.

Who am I?

Who is asking the question?

Who is answering?

A reflection of time. A compilation of 43 years of thought and action. A force in motion, moving not because of desire or motivation but because of habit, momentum and expectation. Ticking forward from minute to minute, second to second. Overwound on the day I was born and set in motion,       waiting for the movement to stop and another winding to start.

You do because you should. You enact because you’re here.

What do I want?

Do I want? Do I?

I do want. I desire. I aspire. I exist.

I want to matter. I want to be heard. I want to have meaning. I want to love without fear. I want to accept love without consequence. I want to know me and love me. I want to know what I want, and know that I deserve to want. I want to be creative and feel justified in my creative pursuits. I want to leave behind the hurt. I want to laugh more. I want to let go of pain. I want to forgive and forget. I want to sleep for a very long time, then wake up refreshed and happy to not be in the dream any longer. I want to know God and see Her everywhere, and feel Her within me. I want to believe that I too am God. I want to live as an inspiration for my daughters, so that they may never not know what or if they should want. I want to see me as my daughters see me. I want to believe that my husband is a good person. I want freedom from my judgements. I want to have an answer when asked what it is that I want.

What do I want?

I want to want.

trainingcruise

Let’s get one thing clear about me training for a triathlon: you are witnessing a cosmic anomaly. Think of the Northern Lights or Hale Bop…you aren’t going to see this every day. I have run in exactly two 5k’s in my life and one of those was because I was just trying to keep my marathon-running boyfriend from breaking up with me. Aside from that, the grandest bit of public competition I have ever participated in was the Filene’s Basement Bridal Sale… and even that was 15 years ago.

Let’s also clear up another misconstrued notion: this is not a real triathlon. This is what the athletes call a “super sprint”: 500 yard swim, 6 mile bike ride, 2 mile run. I’m guessing the ‘sprint’ in the title is because there will be people going all out to finish this as fast as possible. Those people. The reason I was able to sign up for this without doing a shot of tequila first was because there is actually a parent child category, and I figured that if I was unable to get myself through the water, I could always use a passing child as flotation device.

Training Day 23: 

Waking up at 7am on a Saturday wasn’t that difficult, it was getting out of the bed that was sucking the happy out of my soul. Visions of me getting passed by 7 and 8 year olds as I puffed and wheezed my way through the running portion of the triathlon pushed me out of bed and got me dressed. I was going to kick some elementary school ass if it was the last thing that I did.

When I opened the garage door, I growled. My bike was in the shop after spokes began to spontaneously burst off of the rim. (I’d like to say it was because of the comet like speed that I had been generating, but upon my first “long” ride, I nailed a curb and possibly a parked car… I was too busy licking the ground to pay attention.) The bike that I was riding in the tri was a 24 speed hybrid, not the optimal bike for that type of race, but since this is only a 6 mile ride (and possibly one with a child tagging along) I felt that it would be fine. However, now with it in the shop, and time marching ever closer to race day, I had to take my beach cruiser.

If you do not live near the sea, as was once my case, then you might not be familiar with the common mode of transportation known as “the beach cruiser”. Beach cruisers come with names like ‘Low Rider’ and ‘Lil’ Betty’, wide handle bars and cup holders made out of coconut shells. Mine came from a school auction that we accidentally won after too many Moscow mules. There were no flame jobs, but a sassy bell and banana seat. And now here I was, trying to crank out a speedy six only to jump off and then run two miles… the “brick workout”. I wished that I had one of those cyclist outfits on to make this expedition truly complete.

As I happily peddled along, I imagined myself in the triathlon, smiling and waving to the people walking with their morning coffee. Bling bling! I bet they’re all looking at me and thinking, “Wow, is she training for a triathlon?” I spy an older gentleman with a crooked baseball cap riding up ahead of me, a bag of McDonald’s breakfast in his basket, so I nominate him as my official pace setter. I roll up behind him and think about how ridiculous this entire endeavor is, how if I had to plan a triathlon, we’d all go for a lovely 500 yard swim/float, get out and shower, have a nice breakfast, then a quick 6 mile bike to a vineyard where there would be a wine tasting waiting for us. Finally we’d walk through a magical set of Italian gardens 2 miles long only to be greeted with a fantastic lunch. That’s a triathlon, right?

I found myself getting bored as I rode, so I made a game out of swerving to miss tiny dogs, but not the ones with sparkly collars. I thought about all of the people that were rooting me on; my friend in NY that despite not having run in a year, went out for a 3 mile jog with me and pasted an ironman number leftover from the previous weekend’s race to my shirt; my sister-in-law who would sit and listen intently to all that I had (or more accurately had not) done to train, with tips, clothing and bike at the ready to hand over to me; my sister who sent me a package containing an article about an ironman competition that I would not only never attempt, but secretly loathe as I was accidentally present to it on my 40th birthday and might have something to do with me forcing this upon myself now. And my husband, and my children, and more and more and more. I realized that I wasn’t the only one swimming/biking/running this race. Apparently trying to kill yourself also takes a village.

As I pulled back into the driveway, I leapt from my bike, trying to obtain the most accurate re-creation of the transition that happens in the race. Of course, my ear buds were stuck in my helmet, then I accidentally shut off my music, and my husband had locked the garage so I couldn’t put the bike away… and 10 minutes later I was off and running. Well, less like running and more like a zombie rising from the grave and trying to flee after their decayed feet have fallen off. Oh, I get it—brick workout. My mind immediately calls roll on every reason why this is a bad idea, and my anxieties are jumping up and down with their hands raised and shouting, “Present!” I slow down to a discernible crawl, but keep moving. I chastise myself for not being able to run. I realize I’m not very kind to myself, remember that I’m not sprinting I’m just finishing, and still keep going, and when I can, I run some more. I feel tired but stronger, sore but proud. Just get to the corner. Just make it through this song. Walk three steps, run four. And breathe… and breathe… and breathe. At least I’m moving forward.

In the weeks that followed my brick workout, I have increased my bike speed by 10 minutes, can run two miles non-stop, and can swim twice the distance required. I feel stronger physically, as well as mentally. I have learned that having to slow down to a float/coast/crawl just means experiencing the world on my terms. I have learned that coffee and wine are like drinking sand when it comes to hydration. I have learned that my mind is the Fox News of my physical capabilities, and I just have to change the channel to Discovery.  I have learned that all of those words of encouragement that I tell my daughters every day, phrases such as “believe in yourself” and “you are strong” and “you can do anything” aren’t just cookies that you hand out to satisfy a craving, they are the meat and potatoes of our soul, sustaining us, growing us, guiding us.

I know now that I can do this, and because of that, I can do anything.

rockclimbing

Do you remember a time in your life when fear just never entered into the picture? The summer I turned five years old, we visited a friend’s pond; a murky hole in the ground that was teeming with soupy rich greenness. Being upstate NY in July, it was beastly hot and humid, so submersing in more moisture was surely the best answer for finding relief. We were told that the only way we could enter the water was on a float, because it was home to several snapping turtles. (Yeah, looking back upon that concept really colors my childhood in a whole new questionable hue.) Not really understanding what a snapping turtle was, or how that possibly could be a bad thing, I eagerly accepted a ride sitting upon my teenage friend’s back, on the float. (I’m not talking the sturdy water crafts of today that are tied off to docks and boats across upstate NY. This was 1977. Half deflated and covered with Pabst Blue Ribbon emblems, this raft was less floatation device and more flagship for a drunkard’s folly.)

We paddled out towards the middle, leaving behind the oppressive climate of the shore, and the casual concern of our parents.

About 10 feet offshore, the raft tipped over. Looking back upon it now, I’m not sure what is more surprising, the fact that no one anticipated this or that I was in the middle of a snapping turtle infested swamp, practicing Cirque du Soleil-like feats and did not know how to swim.

(Seriously, I need to take a minute here. This is the first real good think I’ve donated towards this memory. Where in the Hell were my parents? I know it is the 70’s and all, and surely I don’t expect a helmet or safety harness, but my God!  Would it have killed them to strap one of those inadequate styrofoam eggs to my back at least?)

As I sank to the bottom, I remember feeling only one thing. The sounds around me went silent and as I looked up towards the green dappled surface, and felt the sweet coolness of the water around me, I felt completely at peace. I wanted to stay there below the surface, bubbled in this womb of nature, but before I knew what was happening, I was being yanked to the surface where heat, blindingly bright light, and shrieks of terror reclaimed me.

As children, our innocence prevents us from being swallowed by our fears. Often times we aren’t afraid because we don’t know any better. Then as we walk through the world, we encounter obstacles that tend to come with the stories, anxieties and failures of others, which then become fears of our own. If only we can remain in that innocence, and simply view each experience, each obstacle, as new and separate from every other moment, fear wouldn’t stand a chance.

Yesterday, I brought the nine year old and the six year old to an indoor rock climbing gym for the first time. Imagine a warehouse sized space with multiple two and a half story high walls built out in various gravity taunting formations, dotted with a series of shaped holds that appear to be made from Play Doh. In the middle of the gym was a structure meant to resemble a boulder, standing 15 feet tall.

As we entered the space, the palms of my hands instantaneously began to perspire. Despite having spent time in the quarries of Massachusetts and the rock formations of New Hampshire climbing in my youth, I could feel my pulse quicken and my breathing shorten.

My daughters, who had never seen such a spectacle, were mesmerized. To them, I couldn’t sign the documents declaring them able to throw themselves to the wolves of gravity fast enough.

Within minutes of donning the equipment, the nine year old had bouldered her way (read: climbing guide rope free and thereby giving her mother another reason to drink on a Thursday afternoon) to the top of the 15 foot structure. The six year old was complaining that she wanted to remove her safety guide line (the belay) because the tension of the automated rope was competing with her tiny sparrow-like frame, and preventing her from being able to get close to the wall.

For them, there was no hesitation, only excitement. For me, there was a litany of emergency room menu items scrolling through my head. I tried my best to keep my anxieties to myself, and gently guide as opposed to aggressively scream. I did see my six year old pause once, as I reminded her when she had bouldered her way three feet above my head, that there was no guide rope and I couldn’t come get her down. She retreated down the wall, only to chalk up her hands, immediately remount and make her way the full five feet above my head so that she could loudly declare me wrong from her perch.

Recently, The Universe was kind enough to call me out on my nightly prayer of wanting to be shown my path. Apparently there is this notion that I should be writing a book. To further back up this cosmic plan, a famous and well documented journalist has been placed in my circle, near enough for me to reach out to, ask for assistance, and firmly solidify this next evolution of Mikko Cook.

My palms are sweating, my pulse is racing and I’m finding it difficult to breathe.

Thanks to the lesson of living in oblivion from my children and my own youth, instead of hitting ‘ignore’ when I see The Universe pop up on my caller id, I’m going to set aside all of my ‘what ifs’ and my ‘remember THATs’ and take the call. I’m going to take this new experience for what it is… new and to be experienced. Sure there is so much that can go horribly wrong (don’t think I haven’t been calculating it all out since I took that initial call), but now what if I pretend that I don’t know otherwise, that humiliation and rejection are like snapping turtles to a 5 year old… something that exists, nothing more.

Guess it is time to dig out my chalk bag and begin my ascent.

kittylittercake

I was a total shit to my husband last week.  Not like cutting-the-nipples-out-of-all-of-his-dress-shirts kind of a shit, or texting-his-friends-pictures-of-him-playing-dress-up-with-the-girls kind of a shit… more like I-was-feeling-less-than-so-I-took-it-out-on-him kind of a shit.

In the moment, I thought I was being funny.  I thought, “Ha ha!  Wouldn’t it be great fun to point out just how many times I have cleaned this container of cat crap more than he?!?” (Which, if we’re counting is exactly every time since we’ve moved.  Every. Time.  For 8 weeks. But I assure you, I’m over it.)  And he would laugh, and I would laugh, and then he’d say something Brontë-esque that would draw tears from my eyes like, “My darling, you are too delicate a creature to have to bend to the wastes of felines.  Never again shall I allow you to humble yourself so intimately!”  And then he forever more cleans the cat box.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

There was no laughter, nothing quoted from classical literature, and while there were no tears, there was also no humor or good anything left in the room.  While the cat box was fresh, the air left behind after the comment was pitifully stale.

So, I decided I would try again.  After sourcing out the freshest, most divine specimens from the area farmer’s market, I came home to prepare a luscious, highly nutritious dinner for the family.  (And, let it be known that this was one of a long menu of meals that I had prepared as I was cooking all of our dinners lately.  All. Of. Them. Again, totally over it.)

As the family was leaning back in their chairs, satisfied by the rich culinary delights, my husband thanked me for making another delicious meal.  Inspired by my husband, my girls also complimented and thanked me.

“Aren’t you getting tired of thanking me for making dinner every night?”

See?  A total ass.  In just one sentence, I illustrated textbook marriage no-no’s  – scorekeeping and sarcasm.  And then, I followed it up with a dollop of Complete Surprise when he got angry and called me out on it.  Nothing like avoiding responsibility and demeaning his response to bake it into a steamy shitcasserole.

We spent the evening tossing verbal barbs back and forth.  To be honest, in the moment, I was completely put off that he was even the least bit offended, let alone thinking he was <gasp> JUSTIFIED in his response!  How dare he think that I can’t indicate my own feelings of frustration!  Just because he had been working 14 hour days, without the ability to stop for a snack let alone prepare a meal, doesn’t mean I get to feel like I’m servant to the world.

And there you have it.  Right there is where this heaping pile of doo doo rained from our sky.  Did you catch it?  Did you see the underlying crack in my perception that quickly spread to a chasm and widened itself to separate me from my love of these amazing people?

According to my ego, I am a servant.  My chief responsibilities are cleaning cat boxes and baking casseroles, and that is NOT acceptable to my ego.  According to my ego, to assume that that role in it’s entirety is me is an insult and I need to fight that identity, no matter the cost.  The title of ‘Servant’ is beneath me.

However, after I was able to get some space and clarity, this is the alternate reality that I came up with…

According to my soul, I am a servant.  While my responsibilities are cleaning cat boxes and baking casseroles, I do this because our cat brings us love and joy and deserves the respect necessary to not have to utilize a festering waste receptacle.  And for my family, it is my choice to shop the farmer’s markets, create the recipes and cook the meals from scratch because it is how I show them how much I love them.  Cooking dinner is not a chore but a labor of love.  I could easily return to my days of eating a single baked potato for a single girl, but is this really what I want?

I am worthy of far more than my chores, and that is the love that I give by doing those chores.  What I do reflects my gifts to the world. I am not identified by what those tasks are, but with the attitude I choose to embrace as I do them.

I also got, in a 2X4-upside-the-head kind of way, that if I have an issue with how I am identified, than I need to fix that.  It is not the responsibility of my husband to sort that out.  He’s busting his ass to get me the space and the resources to do that on my own.  And guess what?  I’m an even bigger ding dong for giving him grief about that.  And, while we’re at it, how about I sit down and sort out what is so goddamned important about having an identity.  Sounds like someone is swimming in the low self esteem side of the pool and needs to do a little soul searching about what this all means. (Yeah, I ate a bunch of chocolate after I swallowed all of these bitter pills.)

So, after I sorted all of this out, I apologized.  Profusely.  I confessed all of the aha’s that came to me and how every one illustrated how supremely awful I had been.  Sure, I harbored a bit of panic that this all might come back up in later arguments and be used against me in our Court of Life, but I had to take that chance and not hold anything back.  Love isn’t about trying to keep the upper hand.  Love is about handing them your heart and trusting that whatever comes next – cat poop or casserole – will all be fertilizer to make it grow.

He smiled when I spilled it all out.  He also gave a few confessions of his own, but I suspect those were trumped up to make me feel a bit better.  I now look at cleaning the house and cooking our meals more like love notes than community service.  And he has jumped in and helped out more than he really has energy or time for.

Like right now.  He’s photoshopping a picture of cat poop into a casserole for me.*

I so love this man.

(*Editor’s Note: He didn’t actually photoshop the above picture.  He googled the image (Really? You googled ‘cat poop casserole’?) and found this blog about a kitty litter cake.  Looks like a fun idea for Halloween.  Check out the blog here: http://kitchentreats.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/kitty-litter-cake/)

blackdogmug

My coffee mug has a picture of a black dog on it.  Not just any black dog, but the iconic image from The Black Dog bakery and cafe in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.  I drink coffee, tea and even the occasional red wine in this mug.  I love that it is old school, diner shaped, porcelain and that it is heavy enough to feel like I’m drinking something substantial.

A friend gave me this mug over a decade ago when she was embarking on her own west coast adventure.  It was of no use to her any longer.  She wanted to untie the bow lines and this mug was left behind.  She has since returned to the east, but has most likely forgotten about the cup.

Looking at the worn but famous type, I remember a visit to the bakery. I was on my way off of the island, hoping to never return as I had just experienced jail as well as my first in person hurricane, all at the tender age of 20.  The memory makes me smile.

This image on the mug is the same image that I once drew on the side of a canoe, the second major expenditure that my then boyfriend, now husband, made.  It represented our love of the island, the ocean and our adoration of our first major expenditure, our chocolate lab puppy, Graham.

That dog has since passed, but the mug remains.  Friendship, mischief, love… how can a simple coffee mug hold all of these things?

Because we attach our emotions, our energy, our stories to our stuff.

It was amazing to me, as we began the process of moving ourselves to California and determining what to get rid of, how heavy my stuff became with the memories and emotions that they were a part of.

At our wedding reception, my husband and I sat in two unique, red chairs – one velvet, one faux leather – like a king and a queen.  The chairs were a last minute addition to a very eclectic, self designed backdrop.

On the day that we walked about our house, deciding what to throw away, my husband immediately offered up the chairs – one broken so badly only the cat was able to still use it, the other forgotten all but as a depository for unused blankets.

“You can’t get rid of our wedding chairs! That one was my wedding gift to you!”

(I had found the red faux leather one on the side of the road, cleaned it, repainted it, and offered it up as a token of my undying love (and limited financial budget) to my betrothed.)

“Yeah, that chair is horrible to sit in, but we can keep it of you love it.  You only get to keep one.”

And there it was.  Those chairs were my wedding day, my love for my husband, my need to feel unique and artistic.  To me, they weren’t chairs, they were a part of my identity, a contrived one, but still a part of me.  To him, they were just chairs, mostly useless and uncomfortable.  To him, they were furniture.

Over the months before our departure, I learned a lot about my relationship to my stuff, and how I create my identity through my things.  We all do it, even my husband.  (Right now, he’s wandering back and forth in the living room debating exactly what is the right positioning for our artwork… all symbols of our artistic sense and creativity.)  I did fight for one chair, and it wasn’t the one I refinished.  It would have been easy to throw some sort of tantrum around my gift to him vs. his love for me… but in realizing that it was just furniture, not a love token, I was able to let that go.  What was even better was that the chair went to our newly married friends who had attended our wedding and held the memory of that day for us. There were thrilled to add this chair to the budding interior of their own home.  In some way, we were passing on the love of our marriage to theirs.

I am learning that I am not my things.  By attaching myself to my material possessions, I am only weighing myself down with the past and a contrived version of who I really am.  If my arms of full of my stuff, I have nothing left to reach out with and grab my dreams.

Yes, in addition to a handful of things, I still have this mug and I still have that one chair.  I negotiated a full reupholstery of the chair, complete with brand new peacock blue tufted velvet.  I sit in it now and marvel at how regal it feels, even in a simple living room.

The mug still holds hot coffee and a few memories.  If it broke tomorrow, I’d be frustrated, but not heartbroken.  My friend, my mischief and my dog will always be a part of me no matter who I choose to be.

MlookingnextWant to hear something insane?  Something so ludicrous that I can’t even believe that I’m thinking it, let alone giving it the light of day within the written word?

I don’t want to be settled in.

OK, a little back story… Almost eight months ago we have this kooky notion to uproot ourselves and move away from my hometown, where all of my family lives, and where I own a business, rent out our house built by my grandmother and move across the country to a town we’ve never even seen.  I detach from the business, we give away the majority of our possessions, and we say good bye to our comfortable life that we had worked for years to build.  Last month, we climbed onto that plane and we didn’t look back.

Now we’re here, in California, the other side of our world.  School is in session, boxes are unpacked, swimming lessons are scheduled, drivers licenses are on order.  There is still the novelty of waking up in a new world – remembering where the post office is and trying to figure out just which neighbor said ‘hi’ to you today – that is exciting, but the newness is fading.  The adventure is becoming routine.  We are slipping back into comfortable.

I don’t want to be comfortable.  I don’t want to forget to be present in every moment because now that moment is easy and I can just glide through it.  I don’t want to fall back into step with the expected path, the easy path, the comfortable path and pick my head up years later and think, “How did I get here, again?”

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not one of those martyrs that LOVES the drama and the crisis.  I used to be, but that shit is exhausting and doesn’t get me anywhere.  Fun to whine about, ultimately a complete suck as to actually moving through life.  I’m so over that.

I’m talking about sucking the marrow out of life, becoming an adrenaline junkie for actually living as opposed to just phoning it in.  And let’s be clear, I’m no idiot.  Swimming lessons still need to happen.  There is a modicum of traditional life, of existing within the routine and the mundane, that must be fulfilled.  I’m into that.  I’ve learned to look within the ordinary to find the beauty that exists.  But I’m not about to sit around and curate the Museum of Ordinary.  Way too many others willing to step up for that job.

I have an itch and it is not fully scratched yet.  Moving across the country was just the beginning.  There is more coming, and although I have no idea what it is, I know that I have to trust that it will all be sorted out.  But I am an inpatient person, in an instant gratification obsessed world.  Can I remain uncomfortable and aware or will I succumb to weaving a cocoon of familiar routine?

A beautiful and very missed friend reminded me today that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.  I guess for today I’m going to learn how being patient and satisfied to be right here is all the adventure that I need.

I just hope this shit doesn’t take forever.

sidebyside
(photo credit: me. And I swear to you that these images are not retouched… except for erasing some water droplets that got on my lens in the Guam shot.)

There was a lovely man, with crazy hair, that proved that time is relative some years ago. I understood this to mean that waiting an hour in traffic when you are late for an appointment was actually akin to doing so in years, and spending an hour catching up with an old friend goes by in the time it takes a hummingbird to dry its wings. You know, the uncomplicated, easily digestible understanding of time. Then I traveled to and from an island in the Pacific to a town in the Northeast, in the winter, with children, and time became an entirely new concept for me.

No matter how much I prepared, how many activities, sleep aids and herbal supplements I packed, I now realize that I was preparing for something that I couldn’t possibly comprehend. Kind of like packing to climb Mt. Everest, and being sent to teach English to a group of small children in a Thai village. Not even English… Swahili.

Going there was taxing, but not insurmountable. We chased the sun as we flew west, and spent 21 hours in daylight. This just tricked us into feeling like we had lived through the longest day ever. Once we boarded our last flight (4 hours long), and the night sky descended upon us, we were toast. We tumbled off of the plane, out into the 86 degree humid air, and into the loving arms of our family. Congratulations, you have now arrived at Bliss State! We spent some short hours celebrating, then off to bed. It was midnight Guam time, 3pm our time.

In the days that followed, I quickly gave up looking at clocks, converting time zones and worrying about sleeplessness. It was easy. When you wake up in Guam at 3:30am, you simply strap the paddle boards to the car and go off in pursuit of some night snorkeling. And as you do so, you are treated to the most symphonic rising of the sun over the ocean that you can imagine. Even the rain, warm rain!, brings you waves of joy. You think to yourself, “Thank goodness that I’m awake and I did not miss this!”. And later, around 4pm when your children are passing out asleep trying to go to the bathroom, you simply scoop them up, kiss them on the cheek, place them into bed and look forward to swimming with the phosphorescent fish in the wee hours of the next day.

I never knew what time it was in Guam, and I didn’t care. When the sun came up, I was there waiting. I ate when I was hungry and went to sleep when I was tired. Our days were so filled with sun and warmth and activity, that we simply dropped when we couldn’t stand anymore. We were exhausted and happy.

I realized that I had put so much time and effort into worrying about my kids and the long flight and the time difference, that I never even gave the actual experience any thought. Perhaps that was a good thing. I can’t even say that our trip exceeded my wildest expectations, because I didn’t have any. But if I’d had… it blew them away.

And perhaps this tactic also backfired on me when I never gave a thought to the trip home. I can’t help now wondering if there was some way I could have steeled us against the jarring affect it would have upon us to return. I doubt it.

To come home, we boarded an early morning flight to Hawaii (7 hours) and crossed the international dateline. The day before we departed it was my youngest’s 6th birthday. Now, in Hawaii at 6:30 at night, it was her birthday once more. For this second birthday, Oahu pulled off a rainbow, right outside of our terminal as we disembarked our incoming flight. The sun was setting and the breeze was magical. My husband and I looked at each other with a flash of panic. Quick! How do we stay? How do we keep the inevitable at bay? My husband actually begged at the airline counter for any solution that would keep us in the Pacific breezes just a little longer.

“I’m sorry,” sympathized the agent. “Unless one of your children is either severely injured or desperately sick, which would prevent them from flying, there is nothing that I can do. You will have to board your flight.”

Our children will never be able to question our love for them. We thanked the man and left Oahu, Hawaii for Newark, NJ in February.

Hawaii to NJ was 9.5 hours, most of it filled with fitful sleep and repeated movies. Immediately following was a final 1 hour flight to our hometown, complete with no onboard bathroom, a 6 year old’s bladder, and a spilled carrot ginger drink. We arrived home at 2:30pm, miraculously collected all of our bags (I’m always thrilled and amazed when all of my luggage ends up where it is supposed to be. For this very reason, I will forever believe in Santa Claus.), and stumbled out into the NY afternoon… grey, brown, raining, snowing, cold.

The days that followed… well, I’d like to give you an honest recap of the days that followed, but frankly this must be what it is like at the beginning stages of rehab for a meth habit. Sleep became an elusive drug that was never available when we needed it. We try to go to bed at a decent hour, only to be wide awake to start our day in the middle of the night once more. However this time, there was no symphonic sunrise or gentle tradewinds to greet us – just darkness and snow and ice. So we’d toss and turn and cry. Sleep is like a lover who has moved on; the harder you to try to embrace her, the farther away she gets.

Nights felt like days, and days felt like Hell. That first morning I dragged myself out of bed, after 4 hours of sleep, at 11am terrified that I’d be left behind in the Guam time zone. Grocery shopping seemed like the most reasonable and less demanding activity, however it just intensified our feeling of culture shock. I craved to find myself once again in a sea of happy, vacationing, polite Japanese tourists, hearing nothing but their giggles and soft voices. Instead I was met with angrily knit brows, ashen flesh and the bitter sentiment that we’d all been orphaned in this godforsaken frozen wasteland and it was every man for themselves.

By the second full day home, I was desperate for a solution. Experts say that spending as much time as you can in direct sunlight will increase your melatonin and speed your recovery from jet lag. Yeah, great, I live where the light is like weak tea with a strong shot of whole milk. These grey skies did nothing for us. So, I thought perhaps we just needed some re-orienting to something familiar, warm and exhausting, and I made us swim at the local Y for 3 hours.

It was great and worked like a charm for the children – they slept for 12 hours straight. I don’t know if that would have worked for me. I got a call 15 minutes before midnight from my sister who was going into labor and I was the birth coach. Two days back and time to help deliver a baby. Most definitely the crowning achievement out of all of my beyond-my-bloody-mind moments.

After 3 days and nights with 3-4 hours of sleep, sporadic at best, and dangerously high levels of caffeine in my system (in my dreams, I would be lost and confused, and go searching for coffee to help me re-orient) I found myself dreaming while I was awake. My husband would be trying to hold a conversation with me, and I’d throw something in there about it raining macaroni, and quickly realize that despite the time on the clock, I needed to go to bed.

Perhaps it is only when we are so far out of ourselves, out of our comfort zone and the cushion of what we’ve come to expect, that we are able to perceive our situation and the reality around us in a new and never-before-considered light.

That first night, at 2:17am, in a pathetic bit of parenting, I turned on what would hopefully be an incredibly boring television show for my children to help them fall asleep.

[image of snow laden forest]
“Do you hate the cold? Are you tired of being stuck inside all winter? Why not live where it is warm and you can swim, snorkel and surf all year round? You don’t have to be rich to live in Hawaii, you just have to want it.”

I looked around to find the hidden camera, and in my delirious state, wondered how Alan Funt could hide in my closet.

“You know what Mom? I could live in Hawaii, as long as we brought all of our pets.”

Thank you Universe. I’m reading you loud and clear.

winterforestWe are a few days and several hours in the countdown until departure to Guam. I have chores and errands that shoot randomly across the screen of my mind, like passing cars on a busy highway. ————- water the plants —————

———- mail out kid’s thanks yous ——————– pack Benadryl ———–

I try to catch them and stuff them somewhere safe, like catching fireflies in jars, but they are fast and I’m easily distracted. This morning, as we were getting children ready for the bus, I found myself digging out sun hats and considering sunglasses options for a 5 year old. Luckily, the girls made the bus with their more appropriate winter woolens instead.

There is a deeper, darker thought that surfaces these days, one that overtakes my usual neurosis about losing camera bags and blizzards delaying our flight. What if I don’t want to come back? What if, when standing in the warm sun, looking out over a sparkling azure ocean filled with a rainbow of fish, surrounded by a lush green landscape, my spirit breaks free and I crack and out oozes my resolve and my strength and I am unable to climb onboard that plane that carries me back to a land frozen under ice and snow and obligation?

————— clean out the fridge ————————————————

——————————————- call the plow guy ———————-

I guess we’ll just wait and see.

Lost soles, lost time, lost words, lost faces.  Things feel lost, gone, out of reach.  As a budding HinduBuddiPagChriJew, I’m keenly aware that all things move in cycles and attachment to anything but a healthy dose of change leads to suffering.  But can’t seem to reconcile that which I KNOW and that which I FEEL.

I want to say that I’ve lost my way.  That would imply that I had a WAY to begin with… which I don’t believe I ever did.  Recently I’ve been trying on new and old identities like shoes, hoping that one will feel perfect against my psyche and I can wear it into infinitum, lulled by the false sense of knowing who I am.  But there, back against the darker wall inside my head, is this quiet, slightly sarcastic, righteous and yet hopeful voice, coming from a half smiling mouth and a questioning stare, out of large dark eyes and bangs that are too long, and it says, “Nope.”

While listening to stand-up comedy the other day, something I gave up years ago because it just pushed all of my “Really? This guy made it?” buttons in all the wrong ways, I somehow sipped the tea of inspiration and before I knew it, I had opened a spigot in my head that I had a hard time turning off.  Bits were writing themselves as I walked around the grocery store, drove around town, accidentally woke up at 4am.  “This is it!” I thought, “THIS is what I’m supposed to be doing with myself!  I’m going back to stand-up!”

But, then I thought back to the minutes before I went onstage, the forced conversations with other comedians so wound up with neurosis that neither of us was truly listening to what the other was saying.  I remembered the whispers of festivals and scout sightings that made my stomach writhe, badgering my friends and family to pay cover charges so that I could make my way onstage, and more often, standing on that stage so that I could undo all the good I’ve done by pretending that being judgmental and ripping apart others – strangers, friends, families – was ok just so that I could advance in this warped and revered world.

“Nope.”  This is not me.  At least, this is not the me I want to be.

I’ll have to find another way to be funny, to be accepted, but to be honest and mindful and kind.

I’ll have to keep looking.