Tuesday, June 21, 2016


I don't usually remember my dreams, but lately I've been having vivid dreams that stay with me when I open my eyes.

The other night I dreamed that I was in bed with a man who looked a little like Luke; not his doppelganger but close enough to draw comparison.  The dream started after some kind of sexual intimacy had taken place (why oh why couldn't I have started the dream with the fun part of sex?!), and we were lying together.  Except we weren't really together; I moved into his arms and his body and he gave me a little hug and then re-positioned himself away from me.  I arched an eyebrow and said "Why are you moving away from me?" and he mumbled something incoherent, and I knew that we weren't really well connected, and that our intimacy wasn't deep.  Somehow, the dream then transitioned to the man throwing a party at his house, and all of his friends were showing up, and they were eager to meet me and to get to know me, though he was basically ignoring me.  I smiled at his friends, walked up to the man, and said, "I'm sorry, but this isn't going to work.  I want a deep intimacy and we just don't have it."  He was startled and said "But all my friends are here to meet you - isn't that what you wanted?" and I said, "That is lovely but it isn't going to work," and I calmly walked away without regret, and as I left the party - and him - I woke up.

I puzzled this dream a while, thinking at first that it was about my inability to commit or to be vulnerable in relationship, or maybe some kind of ambivalence about being in a relationship at all.

That's not it.

It's about knowing when it's not right, and refusing to settle, and feeling peaceful about that choice.  And while it might be about dating, I don't think it is.

I think that this is a work dream.

I have been in my new "dream" job for seven months now.  I have gained unprecedented success for the organization financially, and made amazing new connections, and had press coverage, and gained new donors, and created marketing materials, and brought in volunteers, and so much more.

And I'm unhappy.

I work from home, in an organization that consists of me, myself, and I.  I report to a board who is alternately distant and then - in a panic because they want to feel involved - micromanages.  The board hired me with promises ("professional development!" "more time off!" "grow the organization into a regional force!" "board involvement!") that they are backing off from at an alarming rate.  I had my six month performance review and they let me know that there would be no professional development, that they would not provide resources despite our additional financial gains, and that they would not get involved, and that they did not wish to grow.  I asked for more communication with them to strategize together, and their response was to ask me to send them a written report weekly (helpful for them, perhaps, but a very one-way form of communication that only adds to my work load and gives nothing in return).

They told me "Good job!  Great start! Well done!" but aside from platitudes, it felt very much like the hug-then-roll-away-I-don't-want-to-talk-or-snuggle-we-are-together-but-apart-and-this-intimacy-has-deep-boundaries of my dream.  The donors and volunteers have been enthusiastic in their support, and that feels like the crowd of friends excited to see me.

But in a relationship, I don't want to feel alone or pushed away, and I don't want to feel alone when I'm together with my other half.

In the dream, the part that is key is that when I walked away, I was calm, clear headed, and relaxed, without regret.  I knew that whatever he could offer, it was not enough, and even that it hurt.  I knew that I could not have what I wanted if I stayed, so there was freedom in walking away.  I did not need a crowd to want me, I needed the deep connection that wasn't there, so I left.

I am going to walk away from my job.

When I took this job, I knew that working from home was going to be a challenge: I knew that being alone in my basement would feel isolating.  I did not know HOW isolating.  I did not realize that I would not be able to 'leave' work, and that I would always feel responsible, and that my board was happy to let me take that responsibility on solo, taking credit but not sharing the load.  I knew it would be a lot of work, but I don't think I realized how unbalanced that work load would make me feel, or how much harder I would find it when I didn't have colleagues to brainstorm with.

It all came into clarity last week, and I've got to be honest, the clarity is painful.

I'm not where I need to be.

Since I asked for a divorce in 2011, I dabbled in the idea of returning as a teacher (substitute teaching for a while before I realized that I couldn't afford before AND after school care and so teaching wasn't a viable career as a single parent), returning to corporate America (with one horrific week as a vendor with my soul being sucked out of my body), my return-to-work-just-do-anything-to-pay-the-bills job of working in the jewelry business doing business development (doubled the business in a year and a half but bored me silly).  Then I got on my true path: fundraising at a dysfunctional little non-profit with a crazy boss, but growing that organization anyway and raising my professional skills, and then this new job, working for an organization that I love but which just doesn't suit me professionally.

All of this change is wearing on me, dear readers.  I want to go home.  I want to lie in the arms of the man who loves me.  I want to feel stable and steady, even as I grow.  I want a career that energizes me more than it drains me.

And I want colleagues, benefits, a great work space.  I want division of work and home. 

And "I want to be in the room where it happens."  (Is everyone else listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, too?)  I want to be an an organization that is making a big impact, and I'd rather be a small cog in a big organization than the biggest cog in a small organization.  I want to find mentors at work, and growth, and friends, and conspirators.  I want to be a part of something much bigger than myself.

I want water cooler talk, brainstorming sessions.  I want to work with people as committed to the mission as I am.  I do not want to work alone, with inappropriate resources.  I want to be able to grow as much as I want, with enthusiasm from my colleagues and bosses, not a message to stay small.

It's time for change.  Achingly, I admit this.  I need to change again.  I don't like change.  It's hard, and it's painful, and WHATIFIFAIL?WHATIFIFAIL?WHATIFISUCK?

But I'm not going to fail, and I don't suck.

I have my eye on a big company where I can use my skills.  I have my eye on it, and I'm not letting go.  I got my foot in the door once before, but couldn't get past the lobby (figuratively) because my career wasn't ready.  Well, my career is ready now, and I'm going to do this.  Maybe tomorrow (unlikely) or maybe in six months, but I am going to do this.

I am ready to rejoin the world.  My world has become too small, too focused, and I am lonely and isolated.  I'm ready to go to a vibrant part of town, to meet new people, to be a part of a team.  I'm ready to take my new skills and successes and use them for something that will change this world of ours in a big way, in my own small way.

I'm ready.  I am good enough.  I will find what I want.  So I'm leaving the arms of the good-enough lover of my dream, and heading out to find the lover that satisfies.  Jobs, lovers, it turns out it's all the same.  Who knew?!


Another note:

I'm not PollyAnna anymore.

I am an optimist.  I believe in grace.  I am hopeful.

But I'm not PollyAnna.

PollyAnna could content herself with ugliness and lack; she could take anger and loss and isolation and turn it into something grand; she could be expected to make something out of nothing, and to be happy when she received nothing.

Well, I want more than that.

I am going to keep being my optimistic self, but when someone hands me darkness and loss and isolation, I'm a grown woman, and I have the right to say, "No, I don't want that, and I'm going in a different way."

When someone hands me two shoes that match, I will not cry "Goodie!  Two shoes, not just one!"  I will say, "Thanks for the offer, but I'm holding out for a pair that fits my feet and my style.  I want something beautiful, and I can wait for it if you don't have them."  I have enough money to buy my own shoes, enough resources to find what I want.

When a man says "I will give you this much but no more," I will not say "thank you for what you offer" I will say "I cannot settle for less, because I know my own value."  I believe in myself, so I have no need to accept anything less.  I believe that the right man will see this knowledge and love me more for it, that it makes me a better partner.

When another job comes up, I will assess the hiring team, the working environment, the salary.  I will know to demand my worth.  I am not worth millions, but nor am I worth pennies. I do not have to accept their offers if they do not suit me.  I can hold out for what I want, because I know it will come.

I will be grateful.  I will see the good in the world.  I will forgive those who do not understand how little they offer me (present employer included).  I will not forget optimism, and grace.  (How I ever got from where I was to where I am now took a lot of grit and resilience....but it also took grace.)

I do not need to work alone.  I do not need to create something out of nothing.  I am allowed to request beauty, time, love, companionship.

Perhaps of all of the things I've learned in the past five years since my divorce, this is the biggest breakthrough of all.  When I refuse to make something out of nothing, refuse to get excited about scraps, it is not because I am an ingrate or I am not trying hard enough.  It is because I know my worth.

I am valuable also, and knowing my own value, I can hold out for what I deserve.

Goodbye, PollyAnna.  You served me well when I was subsisting on scraps and needed to fight for my survival; your survival instincts served me beautifully.  I wish you sweet rest, dear girl.  You worked hard, and you struggled, and you stumbled, and you kept picking yourself up and continuing.  I will always be grateful to you for that.

But our time together is done.  I am not you any longer; I am not a PollyAnna who will agree to less than she deserves.

I don't know how I'll get what I want.  I do know, at last, that I deserve it.

Adieu, PollyAnna.  If we cross paths, forgive me if I smile but do not stop to say hello.  I know you'll understand...you always do.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Just when I think I have something figured out, the landscape changes.

On a recent hike with Katherine, the trail started out more like a logging road, and it was flat and free of obstacles.  Our thoughts of "this isn't what I was expecting!" were replaced by "this is easy and therefore fun."  There were some gullies with streams in them to cross but they weren't difficult, and we meandered along, comfortable, peaceful.  And then we hit the real trail a couple of miles in, and our "well this is a cakewalk" was replaced by me gasping for breath and demanding that my very fit teen daughter slow down to wait for me because she was getting too far ahead.  Though it was a cool day, the back of my shirt where my pack sat became soaked with sweat, and the quick pace became a slow one.  There were rocks, logs, roots, and stairs (thank you Washington Trails Association for building those log/stone steps).  We found a new rhythm, slower, but so much more beautiful than the earlier part of the trail.  And then, finally, the lake: snow melting in around the edges, the mountain tops hidden by fog, the weather cooler.  My sweaty shirt now making me freezing cold, I was glad I had an extra in my pack, and I slipped on my down vest, too, grateful for layers, for views, for a rest, for packed lunches, for charming chipmunks, for quiet, for a perfect rock to sit on, with trees as our chair backs.  And then, lunch complete, we headed down the hill - a bit of an obstacle course going down, footing less sure, a new rhythm required so as not to tumble down ravines.  When we got to the flat part again we laughed about how we'd thought this would be an easy hike, and how the beginning was no indication at all about what had been ahead of us.  The last couple of miles, so easy on the way in, were a relief, but also a little bit of a bore compared to what we'd seen; we started talking about future hikes, future lake swims, and the desire to spend more time by backpacking instead of day hiking.  By the time we got back to the car, we'd planned our next destination.  My legs were sore, I desperately needed a shower, and I was not the same as when I'd started the day.

I really wish I could remember that this is just how life goes, and that the way we start is not the way we stay, and that what we expect is not what we always get, and that the changes - good or bad - are impermanent.

Because this is not a post about hiking.

I have been struggling to know if I'm on the right path, struggling to know if I'm doing my best work, struggling with my vast imperfections.

Because, dear readers, nothing about me is perfect.  Nothing, not one thing.

Now, if you are very evolved and actualized, a statement like that might make you smile, because you have accepted your imperfections, and you are at peace with them.

Well, not me.  I fight my imperfections, sometimes by trying to outrun them, and sometimes by pretending that they don't exist, but there they are, with me all the time.  Just when I think I have the path figured out and I think I know what to expect, I think that I have conquered one of them, the landscape changes, the rules don't apply, and I have to start from scratch.  My imperfections follow me around, and it's only recently that I'm realizing how much energy I expend trying to outrun them or ignore them.

Here is what I am at my best:
Organized. Resilient. Happy. Motivated. Excited. Fit. Compassionate. Helpful. Articulate.  A leader.  An inspiration.  Innovative.  Community minded.

Here's what I strive for:
Ready to run a half marathon any time.  Size 4.  Volunteer for a few hours every week.  Organized and on top of everything at work.  Filing - personal and business - complete, all affairs in order.  The house dust free, tidy, organized.  The food filled with healthy food in the right quantities (no waste, and no mid-week trips to the grocery store).  Home made meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with an emphasis on fruits and veggies and clean protein; desserts are special, home made, and delicious.  All calls are returned promptly.  I read at least one book per week.  I manage my work schedule so well that if I work from 8-6 daily it's all done, and I can enjoy my evenings and weekends without guilt dropping the ball.  Katherine and I work in synch, as a team, and she opens up to me about boys, friends, school, and her dreams.  Once a week I go on a date with an interesting man, and I feel confident and secure in myself so that I present my finest version of myself to him, and happy that the universe is sending such high quality people my direction, and grateful that I know how to identify the keepers.  Once week I go out with friends, and we laugh and talk and share deep parts of ourselves and do fun activities.  Once a week Katherine and I do some fabulous mother daughter activity that we both enjoy; we take time to connect every day whether that's a walk along the water, a weekend hike, going to the movies, volunteering together, or playing a game of chess.  I exercise daily at 4:30am, write in my journal daily, do a little yard work daily, send thank you notes and birthday cards and just-because notes daily.  Once a week I sit down to work on big goals: planning a vacation, working on my financial goals, keeping in touch with my professional network.  I take time to meditate.  I entertain casually once a week, sometimes spontaneously.  I have a budget, and I always keep to it, and I love watching my savings accounts grow.  When friends or family call, I make time for them without dropping other obligations.  I walk the dog every day, patiently allowing him to stop to sniff and pee and do other doggy things.  I call my mother daily.  I dress stylishly in a classic way.  I complete one major house project per year, and there is a plan in place for when the roof, furnace, appliances, etc. will need replacing (and funds budgeted for them) so that there are no big emergencies.  My home is filled with eclectic art, literature, fresh flowers and plants, and good food.  I take time to relax, too, and have a monthly pedicure, facial, and massage.  I go out of town at least once a month on a mini-vacation, and spend at least one weekend a month doing big chores around the house.  I wake each day feeling rested, I go to sleep each night feeling fulfilled.  My novel is in the works, and I make time for it every day.  I submit short pieces of writing once a month, and some are published.  I take classes at Hugo House and The Mountaineers.

Are you exhausted with all that?

I am not even close to living that life.

This week, I have made progress on some work projects, but I should be tackling a big one right now and instead I'm blogging.  My house is tidy and organized, but it needs a major scrubbing to get rid of fingerprints and dust and the dog hair that is woven into my whole existence (best dog ever sheds more than I knew possible).  Last night I did not grill salmon and make a salad as planned, I ate bread and cheese and no veggies for dinner.  I haven't written a word in ages.  I did go for a run this morning, but it was under 3 miles and it was HARD because I'm out of shape, and though a year ago I was a size 4 right now I am a size 8 and every part of me is squishy.  (I'm not fat, but I'm not fit either.)  My desk at work is piled with papers and there are emails waiting to be answered and I feel like I'm three steps behind.  I haven't dated in months because, well, I haven't.  I often feel like going to bed at 7pm because I'm so tired, and when that happens I fall into TV and forget to read and I don't sleep as well.  I call myself PollyAnna but so often I feel like a fraud and wonder why I can't get it together and why it is all SO HARD.  Two weekends ago I went on a great hike with my daughter, but last weekend she was with friends and I decided to get work done and I did some chores but work didn't happen because there were too many chores and I'm still not caught up on work or chores....and I didn't get to hike the way I hoped.

Does this make you hate me?  Do you read this and think, "PollyAnna, I'm wasting my time with you.  I thought you had it all figured out and you don't, and I can't believe I wasted my time on you.  You are a waste of space on this planet, and I wish I'd never bothered to click on this blog.  Get it together!!"

I hope not.  If so, then just move along, because we're not good for each other.

But I think that when you read that first list of my ideal self, you thought "hmm, sounds good....no, wait.....it sounds impossible and ARGH I AM TIRED JUST READING ALL THAT!  Nobody does that.  NOBODY!  Let it go!"

I hope that when you read the list of what life is really like, I hope that when I said I went on a run you thought "great!" and when I said that I wasn't fit right now and that run was hard, you thought "yes, lots of us struggle with that."  I hope that when I tell you that I have my dream job but sometimes I struggle with it, you nod to yourself and think "yes, that's sometimes how it goes."  Maybe you read that my house was tidy and thought "oh I wish mine was, I just can't escape the clutter!" and when you read that it had fingerprints and dust you thought "hey just an hour could change that, why don't you just do that? I couldn't deal with the dirt."  Perhaps you noticed that if I wasn't blogging right now I would be getting ahead on the work projects.

It's not black and white.  I want to put myself into a box that says "Good!" or "Bad!" but that just isn't how life goes.  Am I good because I went on a run today, or bad because I used to run ten miles no problem and now I can barely struggle to do three miles?  Am I good because I'm doing innovative things at work and lead to the best event we have ever had, and we're way ahead with our finances?  Or am I bad because I'm behind on the August event?  Am I good because I've managed my own finances since my divorce and have more money than before I was divorced despite reduced income, or am I bad because I don't have much of a savings and I don't always keep my budget properly (hello, REI, I'm talking to you!)?  Am I good because I am making progress, or bad because I'm not fast enough with it, or consistent?

I want to be perfect.  I want to be Good with a capital G.  And I want to be seen as an amazing person, the best of my best attributes.  And I want all of my "bad" attributes - disorganization, inconsistency, fear, squishy belly, dusty house, crappy bookkeeping skills, biting off more than I can chew - to disappear.  I want to conquer them.  I want them to GO AWAY.

And they're not going anywhere.

Perhaps I can conquer some of them some of the time.  I did indeed get a better job with better pay, making my financial issues lessen immensely.  I know that I can run a half marathon if I work at it, because I've done that, and because I've done it lots of times as training runs.  But I know that job loss (a few years ago but I haven't forgotten how painful it was!) could derail my finances, and I know that an injury derailed my running and then I didn't pick myself back up when I was well and so now I'm back at the beginning again.  One step forward, two steps back; a burst of energy propels me ahead, but thinking that it's okay to rest, I fall behind again.  I might be able to keep a clean house, a tidy yard, a great relationship with my daughter, hobbies like hiking that fulfill me, balanced finances, great vacations, success at work, work life balance, fitness, healthy eating, publishing writing, taking classes, connecting with friends and family, volunteering, staying in close touch with friends and family, reading daily, and a fabulous relationship with a great man, all the while walking the dog, delivering soup to a sick friend, baking treats, hosting a Syrian refugee, supporting foster children, giving the teachers thoughtful gifts, growing my organization to something spectacular, taking time to whale watch, with a balanced budget that accurately reflects my priorities, while remembering to meditate every day in a practice of gratitude that leads to a good attitude all the time......................

But I can't do it all at once.

When I write all of this, it feels utterly OBVIOUS.  A major case of "well, of course not!"  And yet there is a big part of me that thinks that I should be able to do all of this, and be happy about it, and not just tired.

Wonder Woman is my alter-ego, after all.

I went back to therapy.  I told my therapist that I was willing to face some of the old issues that follow me around, starting with growing up with a family who name called and said some very nasty things to me.  I don't want to blame my family for my problems - I believe in personal accountability and transcending our problems with hard work - but I do want to face that maybe I'm going to have to face it head on if I want to move past it.  I told the therapist that when I was a girl, when I was good I was told that I was smart and capable and could do anything I set my mind to.  When I did not meet my parents' approval (sometimes because I dropped the ball, sometimes because they were in a bad mood) I was told that I was a moron, a cretin, an idiot, and I heard "What the hell's the matter with you?!" more times than I could count; it was the refrain, not unusual.  It was only confusing because they didn't say it all the time, mixing up the "you're wonderful" messages with the "you're terrible" messages.  I believed both sides: that I could do what I set out to do, that I was capable; but also that I am a shameful mess.

I don't believe in shame as a motivating factor; I parent Katherine VERY differently, and I go out of my way when I'm mad to say "I AM VERY ANGRY WITH YOUR BEHAVIOR RIGHT NOW EVEN THOUGH I KNOW YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON AND I LOVE YOU VERY MUCH."  I never want her to feel that her flaws make her unlovable, or that my love for her is conditional on her grades, housework, or her love for me.  My love for her is constant, unshakable; my belief in her as a human being is solid, strong.  When I'm mad at her, it means that I am mad at her, not that she is worthless.  When I want her to do something differently, it means I want her action to change, not that her whole being needs to change to become acceptable.

My parents didn't have access to work like that of Brene' Brown, and if they did, they might not have chosen to read it.

So what has to change is that I have to give myself the same messages that I'm giving Katherine.

I can be fat, and messy, and disorganized, but I am still lovable.

I do not need to be a perfect size four, dressed in heels and something sexy-but-not-too-sexy, with a good hair day, a perfect resume', a ton of money in the bank, a clean house, and all of my issues figured out, in order to deserve romantic love.

I can be truly imperfect and still perfectly wonderful.

Because we're all imperfect, and we're all wonderful.  News flash: I'm no different than anyone else!  My flaws and attributes may be different than yours, but in the end, we're all flawed, and we're all amazing, and we all deserve love and happiness.


I'm imperfect.

I can keep working on having my best life, and feel excitement when I move towards that best life, but my imperfections make me human, not less than.

I'm imperfect.

I'm flawed.

I will never reach my goal of having a perfect life.

I will never be perfect, no matter how hard I try.

I can keep doing my best, and I should, but with the goal of happiness, and the journey as its own reward, not perfection.

And you can, too.

I'm ready to face life with this new view, so obvious, but so hard for me to accept about myself.

And I hope that with this new understanding of how my imperfections make me human, not less than, I hope I can find another imperfect human who is also striving to be his best without striving to be perfect, and the two of us can have a beautiful, flawed, beloved life together.

Am I alone in this strange way of seeing things, alone in discovering it so late?  Or does this speak to you, too?  Is it time to let your view of a perfect life fall away and reveal, instead, something flawed but incredibly beautiful despite those flaws?


Two Mary Oliver poems sum up what I'm feeling today.  The first, The Lilies, because it reminds me that the imperfections are nothing, that the light is everything, and I can choose to be amazed even when I am lopsided.  The second, Wild Geese, because I do have a place in the world of things, because I do not have to be good, and because maybe that really is exciting.

The Ponds
Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them —
the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?
I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.
Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Okay, WHAT?!

I feel like something is off.

Way off.

What the hell?!

Let's see:
Katherine is doing well.  Good grades.  Good friends.  Smiling.  Talking to me.  Check.
My finances are okay.  Not great, but okay.
I finished my taxes and get a refund (phew).
I have friends.
I have a comfortable home.
I have a good job.

Except that I'm struggling at my job and I feel empty.  I feel like it's not right.

I want it to be right.

I think it's about love, and my inability to open up or invite it in, despite my protests to the contrary.

I think it's because I'm not writing what I'm supposed to be writing and I'm terrified of it.

I think it's because I'm isolated at work.

I think it's because I'm not on the right track.  I'm supposed to be doing something different, and I haven't figured it out.

And it feels like hell.

Argh.  Back to the drawing board, because I've got to figure this out.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Overwhelming Desire to Be Loved

Recap:  I was married for 13 years.  When I accepted his proposal, I believed that I was deeply in love, and that I knew what I was getting into, but it went downhill almost immediately after the proposal.  Even in the first year of marriage, there were some serious warning signs that we were incompatible, and perhaps that he did not love me (according to what I think love looks like).  I wanted to love, and be loved, and I stuck it out.  Hindsight shows that I should have exited many years before I did, but hindsight always says things like that.  He moved out in 2012, and we were divorced three years ago.  Since then, I have gone on countless first dates, very few second dates (mostly because that is how I felt about the first dates!), and I've had one little rebound relationship that lasted a glorious few months and included sex, but then went up in a blaze and quickly disappeared.  Almost all of my dates have been from online dating.  In 2013-14 I dated frequently; in 2015 I dated less; in 2016 I vowed to take a year off dating.

That brings you up to speed.


I told myself that I was taking a year off dating because I don't have time.  My new job is keeping me super busy (three evening meetings in a row this week and I'm so tired I can barely think), I'm committed to being there for Katherine as the best mom I can, I have this house that feels too big for me and takes a lot of energy to maintain, and then there are the tasks of eating (a trip to the grocery store, prepping, serving, cleaning), etc.  When eating seems like too large of a task, I know I'm over the edge.  I missed meals this week due to meetings, and then after the meetings I was too tired to deal with it, so I ate a bit of chocolate and went to bed.

This is ridiculous.

My self care is in the toilet, and I need to get better at that.  When food feels like a burden, it's time to look at my life and figure it out, because this has gone too far entirely.

I don't care how much work I need to get done, I need to take better care of myself and leave room for myself in this busy life of mine.

I need some self love.  Not some words, not some basic belief in my own goodness (which I have: I am proud of who I am), but some love that looks like action.  I tell myself that I am worthy of love, but then I don't take care of myself.  How is that worthy?  I beat myself up over what I do not get done.  I haven't had a haircut in a year.  I am spending little to no time in nature, and not taking care of my body (healthy food and exercise).  I haven't taken days off (including MLK).  I'm spending little time with friends.  When I have time alone, all I want to do is sleep or vege in front of the TV; when I read the words dance on the page because I'm so tired.  My sleep is restless, the anxiety of how much work I need to do coming to bed with me.

And do you know whose fault this is?


If a friend told me about all this, I'd raise my eyebrows and suggest some time off, suggest that she go for a walk, suggest that she set a timer of when to stop work and then adhere to it.  I'd point out that food and sleep are not luxuries, and that if she got sick that it wouldn't help anything, including her deadlines.  I'd give her some love, some encouragement, maybe make her some soup.

I'm not treating myself the way I'd treat a friend, and that is a problem.


It occurs to me that maybe, just possibly, I'm making myself this busy to avoid admitting just how much I want to love and be loved.

Ouch.  I don't want to admit that.  I don't want to acknowledge that sometimes it feels like I am absolutely alone and that I will stay this way forever, and that the knowledge of that truth feels like the kind of grief that death leaves in its wake.  I don't want to feel those feelings.  I want to feel strong and capable and optimistic.  I want to feel in control, directional, positive, hopeful.

But sometimes I feel the opposite, and ashamed of it to boot.  (I know.  Brene' Brown.  I know.)


All of the focus on my career and motherhood - worthy pursuits! - can't cover up the facts.

I want to love.  I want to be loved.

At the end of the day, I want to slip beneath the covers and feel strong arms around me.  I want to wear something sexy to bed on some nights to make his eyes flash and his body respond, but I also want to feel accepted when I fall into bed (and those arms) too exhausted to do more than bury my face in his chest.

I want to listen to NPR in the kitchen, doing the morning dance around coffee cups and feeding pets and packing lunches.  I want him to say "You look great!  Are you meeting a donor today?" and "I'll be down by the market today - do you want me to pick up anything?" and I want to grab him before he goes out the door and plant a giant kiss on him and say "Something to think about today..." with a twinkle in my eye.  I want to plan surprise birthday parties for him, and I want to come home to find that he arrived home before me and made dinner.  I want to plot vacations with him.  I want to meet his friends, learn his inside jokes, support his passions.  I want him to look at me and say "You're a nut case, you know that?" with gentleness in his voice, and I want him to look at me and say "I didn't even know I could be this happy."

I want to know him, and be known by him.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ms7wQI_Q5iU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

I want that kind of love.

But if I can't give it to myself, how can I expect to take it from someone else?

I think I don't believe that I deserve love.  Why I believe that, I have no idea, because intellectually it's not the case, but the idea is there, anyway.

I told myself that I would not date in 2016, but what I think I was really saying is "I'm not good at this, so I'm giving up."

I am not a quitter.

I want love.  I deserve love.  I'm going to make a great partner for someone.  I long for it, and I won't be ashamed of that longing.  I am no more lacking than anyone else.

I'm not sure what happens next, but there it is.  I'm putting it out there.  Again.

I'm working on my self love, my self care.  I hope that grace takes care of the rest.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Itty Bitty Steps and Giant Leaps

I want to be a superhero who leaps from building to building, my long legs powerful and strong enough to push me safely across the abyss, fast enough to pass through fire without being burned.  I dream big.

Sometimes, this is fantastic.  Sometimes, this way of living allows me to take the risk to gain the rewarding career, or to reshape my entire life by leaving an ugly marriage.  It is part of my optimism, and part of my joy.

But sometimes, what this world view does is traps me, and makes me feel incapable and small.  I look at my grand dreams and feel utterly frozen: I have no idea where to begin.  I stare at my life, wishing I could crawl back into my bed, unsure not only how to take a leap, but how to even move.  The grandness of my vision terrifies me, even though I am its creator, and I feel certain that I will fail, that I am incapable, that I am not enough.

(That "not enough" thing is getting really old, by the way.  It is annoying me.  I want to shed it for once and for all, but it slinks around and attaches itself to me every time I turn my back.  It has tentacles that wrap around me from the back, and I have to peel them off, one by one.  It is tedious, frightening, and disgusting, and I am over it.  I'm getting better at spinning around and yelling "Get the hell outta here!" to scare it away, but eventually I let my guard down and it pounces on me again.  It is a work in progress.)

At work, I feel completely overwhelmed.  There are so many moving parts to what I need to do, some of which are exciting and some of which are tedious; all of them are important.  I stare at my computer screen and telephone and calendar and wish I could disappear because I feel so overwhelmed.

Not a good feeling.

But I think I know how to get out of that feeling, out of that stuck place (which, let's be clear, is a career killer if I don't manage it!), and I got the idea watching The Good Wife.

(Avoidance of responsibilities by watching television.  Don't ask.)

In The Good Wife, the character of the husband is trying to get the nomination to be the Democratic presidential candidate, and they have showed him in all of his power as he aims for that lofty position.  But in the episode that struck me, they showed him touring the country, stopping in tiny towns and speaking to small crowds and shaking hands and repeating the same few ideas ad nauseum.  There was a funny bit in the show where he had to try the "local delicacies" at each stop, and the local news crew would come film him taking a bite and saying "oh wow this is good!", and in this way he was eating a dozen meals a day (or at least a dozen first bites of a meal), and because the towns were close together, he was often eating the exact same thing many times a day, with the same smile on his face, the same look of pleasant surprise as he declared its deliciousness, even as he fought his own feelings of revulsion for the "delicacies" and for the overeating.

Nobody is asking me to overeat meaty sandwiches (thank goodness), and I have no intention of running for office, but it struck me that there was truth in what I was seeing.  In order to hold the most powerful office in the land, the most powerful people in the land need to smile and bite into (sometimes disgusting) sandwiches.  They need to shake hands.  They need to sit on a bus for hours and hours.  They need to repeat the same canned lines over and over as if it's the first time they're saying them.  They need to treat little people like they matter, treat their special requests (for photos, for signatures, etc.) as if they're interesting.

To be the president, you have to do a lot of really small, meaningless things.  If you don't do them, you'll quickly find out that even the most trivial, meaningless things can hold great power.  ("For want of a nail the shoe was lost...")

This applies to all of us, and particularly to me in my current situation.  To make my organization larger, to help more women than ever before......I need to "eat sandwiches" over and over and over.

I have been so caught up in the big picture, in the importance of what I'm doing, that I have felt impossibly small under that task.  But really, if I break it down, now that I have a plan, all I need to do is eat one bite at a time.

It's funny how often I have to learn my life's lessons.

Getting divorced was an impossible leap from stay at home cancer patient mom to working independent mom.  Doing a half marathon was an impossible leap from the sofa to the finish line.  Both required a million tiny steps....taken one at a time.  Both required keeping my eye on where I wanted to go, but lifting one leg up, moving it forward, setting my food down....and repeating.  Both required falling down, getting up. (In running, this only happened once in the literal sense.  Bloody hands and knees and shoulder; it was ugly.  In divorce it happened metaphorically on a daily basis, I think.)

So, I'm going to tackle my job one step at a time, too.  Make a list of calls, and start at the top.  I don't need to wear a cape, I don't need an invisible jet, and I don't need to be superhuman.  All I need to do is pick up my right foot, move it forward, set it down, and I'm on my way.

Maybe you have something you're working on, too.  Maybe your life seems overwhelming, too.  Maybe it's because you need to get divorced, or because you need to have the difficult conversations, or because you need to reignite your career, or take on a creative project, or lose the extra weight, or clean your basement.  Maybe your life doesn't yet look like your visions, and you're scared that you can't reach your goals.

Me too.  I have a lot of work to do.

Let's start today with little, tiny steps towards our visions.  Let's put the cape down, ignore the cellulite on our non-superhero-y legs, and take those first toddling steps.  I promise not to laugh at you when you fall down, knowing that I will fall, too.  Let's take those steps anyway, and see how many feet we can travel today.

Let's do it!  One bite at a time, let's become Presidents.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Being a grownup is hard.


My life is easier than it has ever been.  I have all of the basics in my life: health insurance, a comfortable home, clothes that keep me warm in winter and clothes that keep me cool in summer.  I drive a reliable car (yay!).  I live in a safe neighborhood in a country where there is no war.  My refrigerator and cupboards are full.  I have a great job.  I have friends and family.  I have my health (thank you thank you thank you).  My daughter is healthy and happy.  I have a great education, and my daughter is being educated, too.

So, anything that I say now might come off as whining, and I know it.  Maybe all that I have is a case of first world problems and I ought to be quiet and just sit here counting my blessings.  Please know that I know how lucky I am, and that everything I say is within that context.

(Reminder: I had cancer, and then I got divorced, and a couple of years ago I spent a few months being unemployed.  I know what real problems look like, because I've experienced them.  I also work in an industry where I see people who are truly, deeply suffering in their lives, so I have that context.  Even at my lowest, I have been lucky.  I know.)

(end disclaimer)

Here's the thing: I keep being surprised at how hard it is to be a grownup.

Now that my life is more together than it has ever been, and now that I'm happier than I've ever been, I find myself startled that it's not always rainbows and unicorns.  I've been feeling guilty about it (see above), but I think that guilt is highly overrated so I'm trying to get past the guilt into something more.

I think that I'm hitting on a universal truth: that being a grownup is just really hard.  Really, really hard, actually.  Impossibly difficult.  And maybe it's that impossibility that I forgot about: perhaps it really is impossible to reach the GrownUpNess that I strive for, and that only in letting go of my vision of what it means to be a grownup can I be truly happy.

I want to live my life fully, deeply, to the utmost.  I want to squeeze every last drop from my life, feeling all of the joy, the hope, and the possibility of my life.  I want to learn all that I can from life.  I want to leave the world a better place than when I found it.  I want to parent my daughter in such a way that what I teach her will be a beautiful foundation upon which she can build her life (instead of finding out down the road that she needs to unlearn the harmful lessons of childhood).  I want to face my career with positive intention, rather than waking up every day dreading the drudgery.

And I want my laundry room to look like this, and my abs to look like that:
Image result for beautiful laundry roomImage result for flat abs women

My laundry room is in an unfinished part of the basement of my 1923 house, and also hosts the furnace, hot water heater, kitty litter, and stuff that has nowhere else to go.  It will never, ever, ever look like a Pinterest post.  My abs are not my best feature, and will never look like the "after" picture.  More like this:

Image result for basement laundry room before and afterImage result for woman's stomach

And of course, it's about much more important things than laundry rooms.  I want my finances to reflect 20% savings and 10% charity; I want my parenting to be yell-free (including this morning's "YOU ARE GOING TO BE LATE AND WHY AREN'T YOU MOVING FASTER AND I'M TIRED OF GOING THROUGH THIS EVERY SINGLE MORNING!"); I want my career to be brilliant and consistent.  I want to eat healthy, home made food every single day.  I want to have enough, but not too much.  I want to be the kind of person who writes thank you cards every single time (because I believe in gratitude more than because it's good manners).  I want to read intellectually stimulating books every single evening.

I'm trying.  Really, I am.  I think, in the big picture, I'm actually doing a decent job.  I have a good life that I'm (mostly) proud of.

But dear readers, I struggle!  I mean, I really do.

My new job is wearing me out, and I find myself taking on the role of the rabbit from "The Tortoise and the Hare."  Some days I am all out, and putting in hours and making things happen and basically feeling brilliant, and then there are days like yesterday when it was all I could do to get back to people on email and I took an extra long lunch because I couldn't face my lack of strategy for the day.  Thinking about work all the time is overflowing into my personal life, too, and at the end of the day I've been watching Gilmore Girls reruns while Katherine plays on her iPad, and I find myself waking up on the sofa and shrieking "oh no I fell asleep!  you're supposed to have read for a half hour and be in bed with the lights out!" and scrambling to get us both to bed.

My finances are improving, but have a long way to go (I'm basically an American statistic about savings rates; it's pretty dismal).  I'm skiing on weekends, but my weekday lifestyle is sedentary.  I cook healthy meals when I cook, but all too often I rely upon Trader Joe's processed dinners, or we go out to grab a bite (good bye, budget).  Katherine got in her well child check up, but is overdue on the orthodontist.  My friendships are in great shape, but I'm not spending much time with extended family.

The list goes on, and on, and on.  My house is pretty tidy and uncluttered most of the time, but my yard is a wreck.  My bills are paid, but my savings rate is terrible.  I managed to have a decent divorce, but my ex hardly spends any time with our daughter (one night at his house since September or early October).

Needless to say, I haven't figured out romance AT ALL.

When I look at my life, I'm trying to see where I'm getting it right, just as much as where I have room to improve.  I'm trying to be gentle with myself, at the same time that I try to make progress in the right direction.

I think that maybe the key is to just acknowledge that this stuff is really, really, really hard.  That while I may be capable of running a marathon, being a fantastic Executive Director, volunteering in my community, aiming at Mother of the Year, sending hand written notes daily, keeping my house clean, growing my own vegetables, and writing a novel, thru hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and much, much, much more, I just can't do it all at once.  I want to do all of those things, and I can....I just can't do them all right now.

I'm kind of resentful about the Pinterest/Real Simple/Shape Magazine pictures that imply that we're all aiming at perfection.  I know people with nice laundry rooms, but I do not know one single person who keeps a vase of flowers in their laundry room and keeps that room clutter free.  I see pictures of beautiful abs every day of my life, but I know very few women who would ever consent to show me their abs (let alone flaunt them in public) because even among the thin and fit, my 40-something year old friends aren't aiming at the perfection of a 20 year old's fitness.  I'm proud of my career growth and the work that I do, but I just have to accept that this means I don't get to go on all of the middle school field trips.  Perfection isn't the goal.  I will never have that laundry room, or those abs, and saying so isn't giving up or letting my life fall apart.  

Maybe acknowledging that I will never reach perfection is one more step on the way to a perfect life, the way I define it.  Because in my perfect life vision, I fall asleep each night knowing that I've done what I can, that I've helped more than harmed, that I'm still growing and learning.

I need to make the orthodontist appointment.  I need to watch less Gilmore Girls and read more.  I can do those things...I think.  At nine in the morning, they seem doable, but when 8pm rolls around and I'm tired, I feel much less certain.  So, every day, I try again.  I keep hoping for that day when I have exercised (with the dog), prepared healthy breakfast/lunch/dinner and refrained from snacking, my house is clean with the laundry put away, my thank you notes are caught up, the yard is tidy, I've spent an hour writing and an hour volunteering, I landed the new sponsor and moved the strategy forward with key volunteers, I played a board game with my daughter, I stopped to enjoy the sunset, I called my mom, and I did it all under budget, and got to bed on time (with a kiss on Katherine's cheek before we each go to our rooms to read, knowing that we'll talk about what we read at the breakfast table).

I don't think that day is coming.  I get pieces of that day every day, but I don't get it all....ever.

Maybe the hardest part is pushing forward to be my best self at the same time that I relax about ever getting to that mythical place where it's all in order.  Perhaps we're already doing a good job, and we need to smile at our efforts more often, instead of berating ourselves for our flaws.

Maybe it's okay to vege with Gilmore Girls, to have the messy laundry room, to have abs that aren't airbrushed.  Maybe it's about the big picture - a happy child, a life that strives for overall balance, purpose and intention - more than the little bits and pieces that aren't quite right.

Being a grownup is really hard, and I know I'm not doing it all "right."  But maybe one step towards getting it right is letting go of some of the smaller details, and looking at the big picture.  Maybe it's okay to aim at an A without getting 100%.

I'm heading out into my day, and that's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to try to get an A as a grownup, but if I miss a few points I'm going to try to let it go.  I'm not sure who's grading me, anyway (and I'm certainly not inviting anyone in to my laundry room to evaluate me).  Maybe accepting that is one step closer to actually feeling like a grownup.


A poem on that subject that has spoken to me for years, but which I clearly haven't fully absorbed, is The Ponds by Mary Oliver.  I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing.


The Ponds
Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them —
the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?
I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

'Tis New Year's Day, and the sun is shining and the mountains are sparkling, almost glaring in their white brightness against the incredibly blue sky.  2016 is here, and I couldn't be happier about it.

2015 was a year of personal and professional growth for me.  It had some serious challenges (professionally and financially) but it also had some new joys.  I skied.  I backpacked.  I grew professionally.  My relationship with my daughter grew stronger (at exactly the time everyone told me it would grow weaker).  I came to some realizations about myself and who I am and why I am the way that I am, and I felt so incredibly liberated by it.

I am in the new job, and I am determined to make it INCREDIBLE.  This small organization is poised for growth, and I'm going to make it happen.

My home feels almost like someone else's home it has changed so much (in my eyes), and I love it.  I have swept through every room, removing what I do not want or need, and what is left are items that make me happy through their usefulness or beauty.  My basement is light, bright, and clean, and walking into it I feel my spirits lift.  The walls are a shade of blue called Waterfall, a fresh, clean tone that reminds me of summer skies and snowy hills and swimming in alpine lakes and yes, waterfalls; the floors are a clean, light bamboo; the trim is crisp and white.  The whole effect is airy and light.  If my basement represents my foundation, then my foundation is utterly altered, almost unrecognizable, and improved in every way.

I even got rid of eleven - ELEVEN! - boxes of books.  The two large bookcases have room to add a few more things, and I have enough credit at the local used bookstore to buy books for years.

Yes, I am ready for 2016.

16 is my favorite number, and I do think that this year will be sweet 16.  I am looking forward to a joyful year, where the wonderful surprises far outweigh the sorrows.  I am looking forward to professional success, bonding with Katherine, and even more skiing and hiking and backpacking.  I'm looking forward to a return to running.

My new year's resolution is to OWN IT WITHOUT APOLOGY.  I will not apologize for my desires or for my needs.  I will not apologize for others' behaviors.  I will own my strength, my capability, my desires, and I will forge forward with joy as I pursue my dreams.

But this year, even as I pursue my dreams, I do feel like I'm already living them.  How did I ever get this happy?  How did I ever feel this whole?  The shape of my life is so much closer to the way I've always wished, and I feel that wrapping around me like a soft blanket, or like the sun on my skin.

And love?  Oh, I still believe in love, and believe it's there for all of us, and that I am worthy and lovable.  I am also not sure if I will ever find love, and I know that the search for it doesn't bring me a lot of joy.  This year I'm focusing on my life, but not on romantic partnership.  If someone fabulous crosses my path, I'll smile and say hello and let nature take its course, but I am not scanning the crowd for fabulous strangers, and I'm not online dating.  This year, I'm setting all that aside, removing all pressure from myself.  My life is good and whole, surprisingly wonderful, and doesn't need a partner.  Sure, it would be nice, but maybe I'm just not ready.  I don't know if I want to share my beautiful relationship with Katherine, or take time away from work, or manage someone else's needs.  I'm learning how to manage my own desires without compromising them into nothingness, and it feels so good that I'm not in a hurry to alter that process.

This will be a year of owning who I am, living my life, and reveling in the idea that I am living my dreams.  You will find me on a ski hill, at a table surrounded by friends, diving into an alpine lake, running a 5k, snuggled up with a book, speaking to a group.  I'm going to whip my board into shape, and I'm going to spend a lot of time laughing and being open to surprises and to joy and wonder.

Thank you, 2015, for all that you gave me.  It was a wonderful year, perhaps the best of my life so far.  I treasure that!  And I feel that 2016 will be more of the same, but building on last year's joys, this year's will be even deeper.  What an amazing feeling.

Happy new year!