25 December, 2014

Doing What Makes You Happy

Number one perk of celebrating a holiday as a small family of three:
everyone gets a moment to themselves to do whatever makes them most happy.

My husband's been napping now for a few hours, which is quite possibly one of his favorite things to do on any given holiday day. He looks serene and entirely comfortable surrounded by all of those pillows.

My almost-five-year-old daughter spent about an hour carefully following the directions for a wooden doll painting activity that she received as a gift this morning. She was so proud of her creation - and then asked if she could take a rest while her artwork had time to dry.

Me? I took the opportunity to soak in that precious quiet moment. The sun was setting. Candles were glowing. The tree was lit up in a way that made me think of my childhood. The only sounds I could hear were the faint rustlings of a wind chime on our back deck, and the friendly honking of geese enjoying our pond on this warm winter day.

Legs curled under a cozy blanket, perched on the couch with my cup of hot cider, I just... sat.
Sat and listened to the quiet.
Sat and let myself be quieted.
And it was perfect.

My view from the comfy couch on this quiet Christmas Day
And as I sat and listened (to myself) I was reminded of all the things I love to do that stem from moments like these: reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing the piano and, of course, writing.

I felt a quick pang of loss when thinking of this little spot I'd carved out for myself on the World Wide Web almost seven years ago... and how this spot, like a forgotten garden, has gone largely untended for months on end. When I began writing this blog, I wrote a little bit each day. Just like the title stated. Back then, I was basically a single woman living alone in NYC. I hadn't even met my husband yet - and now we have this whole other life together. Different town, new careers, super cool daughter. With that life comes increased adventures, and responsibilities, and demands on our time. And those quiet writing moments that filled my evenings when living alone have now been replaced with family dinners, planning activities, bedtime stories, and preparing for the next busy day.

As I glance back through that first year of my blog (360 posts) and notice the significant drop in the frequency of my writing (until I get to this year's measly 4 posts) I feel a definite loss. A regret for not taking the time to reflect on all the incredible blessings that have come my way since then. I tend to value quality over quantity, but perhaps I'm experiencing a version of the "seven year itch"... maybe I need to get back to that daily writing routine. Need it not for the sake of others, but for my own.

I hear the patter of little feet above me. A familiar sound to stir me from my silent thoughts. My daughter will sneak down the stairs in a few moments and ask, "Whatcha doin' Mama?" She will have a grin on her face. She will probably be hungry. And as I welcome her onto my lap, putting this computer down, I will try to hold on to my own hunger - for writing - while I make her a snack and continue on with our full and fulfilling life.

16 April, 2014

Capable of Being

"Treat people as if they were
what they ought to be...
and you help them to become
what they are capable of being."
- Goethe

06 April, 2014

I Love You Too Much

"Do you ever think your heart isn't big enough for a baby?"

by Maddie Dawson

I find that my husband and I are now in the stage of our family life when people start asking, "So - are you gonna try for another one?" And whether these people are dear friends of ours, or work colleagues, or mere acquaintances we've only just met, the personal question they're really asking is: Are you going to have another kid?

I deflect with smiley answers like, "Oh, one's enough for now!" Or, "She's just so perfect, I don't want to push our luck!" Or, "We'll see what fate has in store..." But the truth is, I am not convinced that I could fully handle another child. I don't know if my heart is big enough for a baby.

Our four-year-old is one of the kindest, funniest, most genuine people I know. She is full of love and light, and she owns so much of my heart. I love her entirely, in a way I have never before loved anything or anyone. Anyone who knows me well knows that I love with abandon. I open my arms and heart to so many people - and it makes for quite a full and joyous life. But the rare and overwhelming kind of love I have for my daughter is... well, overwhelming. It's not just that I love her, it's that she is a part of me. Elizabeth Stone said that to have a child is to "have your heart go walking around outside of your body." I never really knew the feeling of what she meant until I had our baby girl. And I cannot fathom how I would be able to handle twice as much of that feeling with two children. How would it not feel like splitting your own heart? What if I couldn't offer that same amount of overwhelming love to another little life?

It's hard to write these honest thoughts... and it may be hard for people to read them. I question this feeling inside of me each and every time someone asks if we're "gonna try for another one." There's not an easy answer in there. But when I read that line in Maddie Dawson's novel, The Opposite of Maybe, I felt a familiarity in the question: "Do you ever think your heart isn't big enough for a baby?"

Maybe a year ago, our daughter started saying "I love you too much" instead of "I love you so much." Now we repeat it daily. It's innocence makes me smile - the funny confusion of language that can suddenly mean something else entirely. But it's the weight of that simple sentence that sticks with me each time I hear myself say it to my little one.

I am certain that I have a very big heart... and yet, I still wonder.

For more quotes collected from this book, and others, visit Borrowing Wisdom.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Maddie Dawson's The Opposite of Maybe to read and discuss as a member of the online book club From Left to Write. The thoughts and opinions expressed above are my own. Click here to purchase your own copy of this novel.

17 March, 2014

Balance as Happiness

"Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight."

by Susan Rieger

Sometimes I think there might be too many things I enjoy. Does that sound silly? Maybe it's not a case of there being too much to enjoy, but instead feeling like there's never enough time to enjoy it all equally. And, truth be told, there's not. There's not enough time to do all of the things I'd like to do in this life. There's barely enough time to do all of the things I'd like to do in one day! But that's not the point, is it? As my mother said this weekend (about a totally different topic) "Nothing is always equal or fair." She's told me this about work, she's told me this about relationships, she told me this (many times) as a Teenage Libra who was constantly seeking fairness in all things. The point is not to have fairness in your life or to evenly distribute your time between things you love. The point is to enjoy them... perhaps simply, to enjoy.
And while I believe that to be true, I also am beginning to know myself well enough to recognize when I'm out of whack. Out of balance. Off my equilibrium. It happens when I spend too much time or energy or effort on one specific thing, and unintentionally ignore the many other things that make me happy. I become cranky and I nag about there being dishes in the sink. I eat a bunch of crap and I forget how much I love cooking delicious and healthy meals. I have a shorter temper than usual and I am not as patient and loving as I want to be, as I know I can be.
While reading The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger, a quote about a third of the way through the book leapt off the page at me and I couldn't forget it: "Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight." The quote is actually from Tom Stoppard's play The Real Thing. It's advice from a father to his daughter. And it's good advice.
I know that keeping a balance between my many loves is what makes my life happiest... it's actually one of the cornerstones of this blog (and my lack of writing here has been something "out of balance" in my life for quite some time now). But the second part of that quote is harder for me to remember to do: shift your weight.
What I love most about it is how simple a directive it is. Shift. Shift your position. Shift your attention. Shift your attitude. Not "be perfect." Not "be amazing at everything." Not even "make sure to keep it all exactly balanced." Just a little shift.
With the post inspired by this book, with the projects coming up that excite me, with the adventures that lie ahead this summer... I look forward to the shift already in progress.
Disclosure: I received a copy of Susan Rieger's THE DIVORCE PAPERS to read and discuss as a member of the online book club From Left to Write. The thoughts and opinions expressed above are my own. Click here to purchase your own copy of this book.

23 July, 2013

The Most Vulnerable Moment in Any Artist's Life

Advice from Stephen Sondheim to Jason Robert Brown (paraphrased by JRB): 
"Nobody cares what you think. Once a creation has been put into the world, you have only one responsibility to its creator: be supportive. Support is not about showing how clever you are, how observant of some flaw, how incisive in your criticism. There are other people whose job it is to guide the creation, to make it work, to make it live; either they did their job or they didn’t. But that is not your problem.
If you come to my show and you see me afterwards, say only this: “I loved it.” It doesn’t matter if that’s what you really felt. What I need at that moment is to know that you care enough about me and the work I do to tell me that you loved it, not “in spite of its flaws”, not “even though everyone else seems to have a problem with it,” but simply, plainly, “I loved it.” If you can’t say that, don’t come backstage, don’t find me in the lobby, don’t lean over the pit to see me. Just go home, and either write me a nice email or don’t. Say all the catty, bitchy things you want to your friend, your neighbor, the Internet.
Maybe next week, maybe next year, maybe someday down the line, I’ll be ready to hear what you have to say, but that moment, that face-to-face moment after I have unveiled some part of my soul, however small, to you; that is the most vulnerable moment in any artist’s life. If I beg you, plead with you to tell me what you really thought, what you actually, honestly, totally believed, then you must tell me, “I loved it.” That moment must be respected."