children · joy · mortality

Creating a Life Worth Living.

Salted-Caramel-Ice-Cream-3-527x794.jpgPerhaps it’s my status as a cancer survivor, but I think about my own mortality a lot.

On Sunday, J and I walked to the Punjabi Burrito place in Fairfax (which, yes, is as magnificent as it sounds!!!).  We were having the, “So if this is really happening, what about kids?” conversation.

We’d discussed having kids before.  Within the first month of dating, I let him know that I wanted to have children if I could, that it felt really important to me.  Two years later, it still does.

Sitting eating a pumpkin basmati rice enchilada(!), I said my reasoning was still partly about sharing this awesome thing called life.  As I’d put it then, “Yes, the world is f*cked up and falling apart and dying… but it’s also amazing and fascinating and rich.”  As I said to my friend on the phone last night, “Only humans get to experience salted caramel ice cream.”

But I noticed on Sunday something new within me, a new reasoning.  I told J that the idea that once we’re gone, that’s it, there would be no one to remember, no legacy to live on, no lineage to carry forward, that it felt empty to me, or sad or like an absence.  That, with us, the branches of our family trees stretching back millennia would just end felt … like an incompletion, a void.

I said it reminded me of Macbeth: “Out, out, brief candle!”  (To which J replied wryly, gamely, “Yeah, that’s totally what it reminded me of, too.”);)

J’s concerns about having kids are typical ones: the expenditure of time and money.  Which, of course, are real, relevant, and not miniscule.  But.  So what, frankly?  All of life’s endeavors require time and money.

I told him that I wasn’t “Closed Book” on the having kids subject, that if he were truly able to lay out a vision of a life together that felt fulfilling (that really did include the pieces he wants that he’s afraid he won’t have if we have kids), that I’m honestly open to listening.

I want fulfillment, too.  I want him to feel fulfilled, too.

Our visions are not at odds, but whichever way they go will require openmindedness on the other’s part.

So: We’ll see.  This life thing is so good — and I’m so awed it includes salted caramel.

 

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love · mortality · relationships

The Days Are Long…

10.26.18But the years are short.

I invited J to lay on the wood floor with me.  We were in the house he’d purchased earlier this year in the northern suburbs of San Francisco, him sitting on the camping chair I’d brought over last week and me on the nice single chair he’d purchased since he moved in this June.

That’s all the furniture that exists in the living room.  Right after he’d purchased the house, I’d ended things and this isn’t the kinda town where a single guy wants to spend out his days.  So he hadn’t bought anything besides a mattress and this one nice chair.

“Lay on the floor with me,” I asked.  It was after 9 o’clock; we’d been sitting in the nice and camping chairs, drinking hot tea, lazy talking about the house, next steps, ring sizes.

He groaned.  “Come on, two minutes.”  He scrabbled up out of the camping chair and came to lay next to me on the blanket I’d set on the floor.

I nuzzled into his shoulder crease.  It was likely the only time we’d be able to do this before it all got painted and furnished and shaped like a lived-in home.  It felt like a picnic, like a marking of time, that time we could lay on the floor together at 9pm on a Thursday only now, before it was too late.

I angled to lie on top of him, propping myself up, looking into his face.

“It’s so short,” I murmured.

“What is?”

“Twenty-five, thirty-five years,” I replied.  “It’s so short.”

I got kinda teary, staring down into his eyes that I didn’t get to see for three months, feeling body warmth I didn’t get to experience, hearing the wry, insightful, hilarious, ridiculous, planful words I didn’t get to smile at.

I saw the New Years’ turnings, flying off like film pages.  They seemed at that moment like just a handful.  Only a few, what felt like only a sample.

“It is short,” he said, closing up his eyes against new wetness himself.

“The days are long, but the years are short,

and I want to spend them with you.”

 

abundance · mortality · self-care · time

The Teapot Enables You

teapot 8 15 17

You must note the way the soap dish enables you,[…]
The kettle is singing even as it pours[…], the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and seen the good in you at last.

David Whyte, Everything is Waiting for You

My coffeepot, perhaps like yours, is electric with a clock and an auto-brew timer feature.  I have never in my ownership used this feature.  Until today.

Because of my new work schedule, new commute, and the relaunch of my daily blog, I am currently awakening at 5:30am, and it will have to be earlier once we move from “teacher prep” days to “omigod the students are here!” days next week.

Each morning past, I have woken up, pet my cat hello, and klutzed open the machine’s lid to pour in new water and grounds.  (For my own good, I have been forbidden by my boyfriend to brew a whole pot to drink throughout the week via microwave swill reheating…!)  This takes about 10 minutes from alarm to first sip.

But, this is inefficient in the industrial, technological age; I need my teapot to enable me.

Last night, for the first time, I pre-loaded my coffeepot with its daily matter and as I pet my cat and yawned in darkness this morning, I was greeted by the glug glug of the machine doing its work. I bumbled into the kitchen, ready to sip.

This may seem simple, banal even, but it’s progress for me.  For several years now, one of my aims has been efficiency, effectiveness.  Wanting to use the time I have on Earth performing actions that are aligned with who I want to be.  I don’t want to be the groggy-eyed medusa filling a daily water reservoir; I want to be the slightly-less groggy-eyed medusa sitting down to her daily journaling, meditation, and blog.

The coffeepot enables me to do this. Enables me to be present in the work I truly want to do (writing, creating, discovering, softening), rather than inefficiently toiling at Sisyphean tasks.

In this way, the coffeepot gets to fulfill its purpose and I, ten regained minutes at time, get to fulfill mine.

 

aspiration · dissatisfaction · dreams · mortality · spirituality

Near – Far. Near – Far.

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Anyone else remember those segments on Sesame Street?
Well, I recall it this morning around desire. Around the
idea that if we’re not happy with what we have right now, why would we expect
something more would make us happy later? If we’re not content in the “near,”
how can we expect to be happy in the “far””
That said, I don’t know that I completely agree with this concept. I do “get” that it is
important to recognize the gifts around us. Especially at this time of year,
it’s easier to get that reminder to “give thanks.” It’s what I’m teaching my
4th graders lately, about gratitude, being happy with what’s around us,
noticing what we have, and how lucky we are. By nature of our birth, we’ve
landed in a circumstance where we’re healthy, educated, and pretty well off. In
many ways, we’ve hit the lottery in comparison to the 8 million other souls on
this planet.
I can count my blessings, though they are innumerable.
And yet.
What about the phrase, “It helps to envision our spiritual
objective before we try to move toward it”? Isn’t that implicitly saying that
we can want more, and we have to clarify what that is so we can get there?
Isn’t there an inherent longing or dissatisfaction? A seeking?
So, today, I sit with the duality of … reality (sorry!): I
am content with my life, and I want more for it.
A friend once said to me when I was in a lot of pain around
a previous job, “Just stand at the copy machine and be grateful you are.”
Included in that idea is being grateful for: being alive, healthy, employed.
And yes, of fucking
course I am and was. But does that mean, Don’t dream beyond that?
Does that mean the longings of a soul are symptoms of being
ungrateful? Hmm….
Happiness breeds happiness. Contentment seems to attract more
of itself. I am a “law of attraction”
kind of believer. I comprehend that living in where I am with adulation and
appreciation and awe is crucial.
But. …
How do you truly sit with that frisson?
In the immediate present, in the “near,” I am going tonight
to perform in a community theater production. A good community theater, at that. For years, I’d been
dabbling at acting, and only at the start of the year did I make a conscious
commitment toward it.
I am adamantly grateful, and also, this was all borne of
restless desire and dissatisfaction.
I don’t know. I don’t think I can “figure it out,” and maybe
I don’t have to. But, I will always find it difficult to “sit” in gratitude for
things that make me feel I’m wasting my life. I have too much respect
for the time we’re given to simply “be” in where I’m at when that feels deadening.
And maybe that perspective is “wrong,” and it perpetuates my dissatisfaction. Maybe this longing and seeking
keep me from feeling fulfilled, but for today at least – however off-balance
it may make me – I do have one foot in
the near, and one firmly planted in the far.
Because, sorry Ekhart Tolle: I believe in the Power of Then. 

adulthood · ambition · connection · death · direction · life · mortality · stagnating

Caution: Lifeguard on Duty

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Today, I think of Death as the figure of the Grim Reaper
lounging by a public pool, a lifeguard. Watching, waiting for the people to
tire, and when they do, reaching in his scythe, and hoisting them out of the
water.
Over the last week, I spent my time with several people I adore who are all in their 30s and 40s and in phases of change in their lives. I
got to witness how they’re handling, adjusting, chafing, and, sometimes, enjoying their lives. And if
I’m honest, I got to witness a good deal of loneliness. (“If you spot it, you got it,” the saying goes.)
Because this isn’t only my story, I will be courteous to allow others their story and their privacy, but it inspired in me a great deal of reflection
over the week about my own life, my own story.
Early in the week, I heard a woman, a stranger, say, “At some
point, we have to give up all hope of our past being different.” There’s a lot
of standing in two worlds–past & present, present & future–that I got to witness this week, and see reflected in
myself. I had a line from Fiona Apple repeating to me on the plane home yesterday:
The child is gone.
I got to see that there is a pivot point in life; that adulthood is more than an age, or bank account, or relationship. It’s a
marrow-deep understanding that the time that was is over. We’re no longer looking toward the top of the mountain and how to get there: it’s now a horizon we are looking toward. There is a plateau in the middle of the ‘natural’
course of life between the climax of our lives to come (if we
get to it), and its decline.
Maybe it was all the True Detective we watched this week!
I don’t mean to be grim, I just mean to be realistic
with where I am standing in my own life. I simply saw the story arc. I heard
the restlessness, the ambition toward something not yet attained, and I
believed for the first time, despite all cancer-awareness and mortality-facing,
that the long life we have is shorter than I’ve known, that the center of that life is closer than I’ve known.
Mostly, I thought about my own ambition toward family and
career. Toward relationship and being “settled” and the timing of all that.
I’ve written before that being in a metropolitan area, I feel less inclined to
think “TICK TOCK” than some of my suburban friends. But, on the heels
of the new job proposal I handed into my work last week for myself, and the
idea that if I spend 7 or 8 years in that job, I’ll be 40, and then be poised
for a more senior management position. Seeing my professional future suddenly chopped up into finite chunks, seeing that I actually do want that kind of trajectory, having the ladder open up to me suddenly, and fucking taking a step onto it
– well… everything else seems to now be broken up into those same finite chunks.
I’ve never had a “five year plan” or a “ten year plan.” I’ve
never known enough about what I want to do to have any path whatsoever seem
like it makes sense to pursue in any certain direction.
There may be “many roads to the mountaintop” and “All roads
lead to Rome,” but I’ve been so stilted in knowing where the fuck Rome is, that
I’ve sat at the base of the mountain, stared at the nailed signpost with its
array of choices, and drawn figures in the dirt with a stick, waiting for one
of them to illuminate or something.
Well, honestly, one of them has, career-wise, and I see the
opening, and I feel myself– well, no, I actually did take a step in that direction at work. And in seeing
that there is suddenly a path that I’m actually on and actually taking, I see
that there are all these other 5 and 10 year plans that I kind of have to be aware of now… and I see what implication that has for life. For
romance, for family, for place.
I see that I’ve sat at that intersection for much too long,
or, simply for as long as I needed to, but now I feel like I have to race to
catch up to the toll of the clock.
I feel like the sense of timelessness in life has
disappeared. That, “eventually” and “some day” are not allowed anymore. And not
really that they’re “not allowed” or “not permitted,” but that there’s just no
room for them. The dreaming must be directionalized now.
This terrifies and goads me. I feel pushed in a way I haven’t.
I feel more certain of what I want in my life, and a bit of a manic thrall
toward doing it. – Sure, All things in time, and All things in balance, but: I have
begun to think that this might be what ambition is; and what it is for.