Moving: Settling into a New Home, New Life, New Way of Thinking

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my new writing space: my backyard

Awhile back, I wrote a poem where a willow tree played a prominent visual role. I don’t know why or where it came from. It just…appeared. Followed by the words. As I write – as often happens – ideas, images and lines come to me. Creative gifts.

I’ve learned not to question.

Shortly after I wrote that poem, I decided it was time to move. On a Thursday night, I reached out to Rich, a real estate agent/friend who has helped me buy two marital homes and rent my post-divorce home. (Yep, I rent. At this stage of my life, I travel light.) I’d been looking for the past two years on and off, but nothing felt right. Not the house, not the location, not the time, not anything. By Friday morning, he had a listing – very rare, met all my criteria: closer to school; extra bedroom for my office; and two bathrooms – a must after three years with three people/one bathroom, all in a town where rental house inventory is scarce. I toured the house on Friday afternoon. Took the kids on Saturday afternoon. By Monday morning, I was negotiating. By Tuesday, it was mine. Two weeks later, my kids and I moved out and in. (Special shout out to my sister for helping!) Four days later, I packed up and flew to California for work. Flew back.

And finally, my first Saturday evening free in my new home, I sat writing in my new backyard. And I saw it.

A willow tree.

I used to believe in so many things.
I love my magical beliefs. 🙂 Everything will turn out alright in the end! You will get through “fill in the blank!” The universe or God or someone is looking out for you and protecting you! Everything happens for a reason!  Your soul mate is out there! Everyone means well, you just have to lower your expectations! No, lower! Okay, wait, lower. No – lower.

All of it. I was all in. It’s embarrassing to admit now, but – you know what? Fuck it. That stuff helped me survive. I’m still here and those “silly” beliefs carried me through some of my darkest, loneliest hours. The truth is, I still believe in that stuff…with caveats. Because I’m older and I’ve seen shit not work out. I’ve seen bad things happen to good people. I’ve seen bad people get away with bad shit. I’ve done shit. Shit’s been done to me. Soul mates in the age of swipe left. And then…

This willow tree.
My magical, starry-eyed wonder at the universe rushes right back in like it never left. I didn’t notice it on the first walk through. I didn’t notice on the second. It was only when I finally had a chance to breathe. Write. Look around.

Settle in.

To this house. This life. Three years ago, I had no idea where things would end up. Where we, the three musketeers, would be. It often felt like I was trying to turn the Titanic around. And now this.

Space

Light

Rightness

So this is

Who and where 

I’m meant to be

In this moment

So this is what peace feels like

And now…
Two teens driving. Busy. Independent. Scarce. Me and the dogs looking at each other. I find myself feeling keenly what one of my new favorite authors, Laura McKowen, captures so eloquently:

It started this morning when I dropped my girl off for camp and kissed her goodbye. She’ll be with her dad for the next few days. That little, nagging ache of longing. I went through my day, took a long run, did some work, and it kept creeping in.

Took a nap, because I can, and when I woke I realized: it’s a long holiday weekend and I miss having my little family. I miss having that part be known, to settle into it without a plan, because you are the plan. Home is each other.

Oh. That plan. That home.

That ache.

But this is now. 
My days of buying sand toys in plastic netting, scheduling events around naps and planning big holiday parties are far behind me. Yet close enough to make me choke up in the middle of Ikea when I tell my kids to think about their new furniture as stuff they can take with them in their new lives when they move in just a few years.

😳

My 15-year-old daughter says she is SO out of here, heading to California or as far away as she can get!! YAY!! Adventure, possibility, opportunity!! Of course!!! (Right? lol) My 17-year-old son sees the pained look on my face, hugs me – right in the middle of the store – and says, “I’ll stay at home with you as long as you want, Mom.” I hug him back. Fiercely. We both know he needs to stay longer.

I write extra long in front of my willow tree that night.

The thing is, I don’t have a plan. 
Which is weird. Up until a few years ago, I survived with a loosely, illogically, spontaneously constructed yet rigid set of rules, plans, backup plans, contingency backup plans, lists, constructs, magical beliefs, lines…shit, lines were drawn everywhere. It was at once brilliant and messy and frightening. But it WORKED.

Until it didn’t.

For so long, I thought if I just did all the right things, followed all the rules, did as I was told, kept giving and giving and giving, then good things would happen. Then everything would work out. Then “they” would see the light. Then all the wrongs would surely be made right. Then I would be loved. Okay sure, I might have to pay my penance: walking the beach with wind-swept hair [cue soul-searching music] while I stare pensively out at the ocean, kicking a seashell or two with my cute bedazzled sandal along the way. But surely it would all come together in the end! Everything would be fine! My prince would come get me! We would find a way! Live happily ever after! No one would ever get sick or die! Ever! Happy ever after! The end!

[Protagonists stare lovingly into each other’s eyes. Exit stage left.]

[Upbeat music up and out. Roll credits.]

And now. 
I sit in this new yard in this new house that is mine but not mine with no fucking plan other than to be me and do this day. And I’m only sorta kinda freaking out a little. Full disclosure, I still don’t sleep well. I don’t think I’ll ever learn how to do that. I’m anxious as hell in any given moment and I’ve stopped trying to control the nine hamster wheels in my head that keep me up at night but GOD they make me feel alive and want to write and write and write and see willow trees where there are none until…

suddenly

one day

there is one

Freedom
Still getting used to the texture, feel and fit. Growing pains. Never going back. And neither should  you.

In this moment

I wish you

a willow

a light

a sign

that everything will be okay

whatever that means for you

xoxo

 

Tonight’s musical inspiration. Yeah, I know, it’s July. But it feels like September.

 

Coming Out of the Closet: Making Space for Your Dream

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my writing desk. reminding me to show up.

This post is for anyone who has ever had a dream. The passionate ones. Creative ones. Visionaries. Artists. Storytellers. Meaning makers. Lost ones looking for the way back to something they feel but can’t see.

You.

I was cleaning out my closet this past weekend and it got me thinking about dreams.  Those big, hairy, audacious ideas for something you love to do but don’t. It’s scary to put your dream out there, let alone go for it. A dream is a tiny flicker of a flame and there are dream crushers everywhere. One wrong look or word and poof!

It’s gone.

But the dream keeps tugging at your sleeve: Listen! Pay attention to this! This is good stuff! Let’s see what we can make happen here!

It’s soooo easy to defer your dream.
If you follow me, you know my story. I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was five years old. Two degrees, a professional writing career and 43 years later, I’m just now getting back to making space for my dream of being an author. There. I said it.

< insert terrified look here >

It’s one thing to say you want to do or be something. It’s quite another to make the commitment despite the doubts, insecurity and gigantic hairball of fear that tells you oh no, you can’t do THAT. That’s not going to put food on the table, pay for goalie gloves and new brakes for the truck. You’re not good enough. Who do you think you are, thinking you can do THAT??? And then there’s life. That thing that happens when you’re busy making other plans.

But then there is that little tug on your sleeve.

Continue reading “Coming Out of the Closet: Making Space for Your Dream”

Plan Be: What It Really Means to Be Strong

Crossfit Training Lifting Kettlebell Front

Ever since my divorce in 2014, I’ve thought about getting another tattoo. But I couldn’t think of anything that really “nailed” what I wanted to convey permanently in art on my skin. Something I could look at every day and say – Yes. That.

Maybe I’m over thinking it. One of my strengths is that I’m good at thinking things through, but the flip side is I think too much. 🙂 But as I approach another birthday, I find myself pensive, as usual. Taking stock, looking back, peeking forward.

And then my friend Joe posed a link to this article/love letter/online dating profile for her husband by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, a writer and fellow Chicagoan I adore: You Might Want to Marry My Husband. (Special thanks to my friend Susan for recommending her to me years ago.) I remember reading her witty books when my kids were babies and was heartbroken to learn of her illness. I am in awe of her grace, humility, prose, and beauty. Her strength, even in the midst of a dark time, is touching beyond any words I could muster.

This got me thinking about strength and what it really means to be “strong.” I used to want to be “strong” so badly. Continue reading “Plan Be: What It Really Means to Be Strong”

Enter “Happiness” into Google Maps: Where Will You End Up?

Sunset landscape

 

There is something about
Watching an orange sherbet sunset
framed by weeping willows
Sink quietly into darkness
that soothes the soul
(despite the weeping)

There is something about
Walking on eggshells
that changes you
Cheats you
Damages you
Shames you
Silences you
(did you know you could live your whole life like that?)

Being told
Don’t tell
Don’t cry
Don’t question
Don’t feel
Don’t be you
(how long exactly does it take for a heart to die?) Continue reading “Enter “Happiness” into Google Maps: Where Will You End Up?”

Keep Dancing: Bouncing Back from Life’s Curveballs

danceAs kids, we think about becoming something. A fireman. An artist. A parent. A better version of our parents. Lots of things. But life throws us curve balls and where we actually end up tends to deviate from what we once imagined. What is that phrase – life is what happens while we are busy making other plans?

In the last three years, I’ve experienced tremendous change. Divorce. A special needs child finally properly diagnosed after 15 years of struggle. I lost my home. Money. A few friends. My job. At one point, I felt like I lost me. Other times, I lost hope that things could ever be right again. I made mistakes. I tried to make amends. There are still days where I feel like Charlie Brown when the football gets taken away at the last minute and I fall flat on my face.

Some days I still think the universe is punking me. 🙂

But amidst the change and loss, I found so much more. Continue reading “Keep Dancing: Bouncing Back from Life’s Curveballs”

Dealing with a Tough Situation? Recover Faster by Asking the Right Questions.

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Anyone who has ever been stuck in a bad relationship – whether it’s a marriage, a job, dysfunctional family, toxic friends – you know how crappy it feels. There are a million articles out there about how to identify these situations, seven signs of “fill in the blank.” I know. I read everything I can get my hands on. 🙂 And you can get lost in the why. Why did this happen to me? Why did ‘fill in the name” do this to me? Why did my brother die? Why does my child have a disability? Why am I stuck? Why am I here?

This is an important part of the recovery process, don’t get me wrong. But often, we can stuck there, trying to process the why. We can stop there, filling in answers that don’t really help us move forward differently. I believe the only way to move forward and make real, lasting changes in your life starts with asking different questions.

Continue reading “Dealing with a Tough Situation? Recover Faster by Asking the Right Questions.”

Confessions of a Recovering Control Freak

control freakHi, my name is Christy and I am a recovering control freak. I belong to a secret society of people for which there are no meet up groups.

You know who you are.

You joke about being a control freak as you are wiping down someone else’s counter top or their child’s grubby, sticky-peanut butter/apple-juice stained face. You’re the guy who re-packs the trunk before vacation to make sure everything ‘fits.’ You iron everything. even things that are supposed to look crinkly (does anyone even own an iron anymore?). You put 20 chicken nuggets on the pan spaced exactly one-half inch apart so that they look like a regimented army of nuggets ready to march into the oven. When called out, you get defensive and claim you just want them to cook evenly. You bitch that no one helps you with the laundry but then bitterly complain because “no one knows how to fold towels anymore” as you refold them all the right way.

Yes. You.

There is nothing wrong with order and organization, don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in process and structure. The world is chaotic enough and there is nothing worse than coming home to a chaotic life. And there is a certain comfort in routine in our chaotic lives. But take it too far and your life becomes out of balance, more about control than living. And I am the first one to let loose and I say I love spontaneity – but it’s usually few and far between the day-to-day grind. Reality smacked me in the face when I was moving a few years back and the movers teased me about the stacks and stacks of organizing bins, baskets, bowls, Tupperware boxes and racks that I had lined neatly up in rows for them to load into the truck. Ha, funny guys. So what if I organized my spices (in alpha order), my clothes in the closet by color, season.

Or maybe I just like order and efficiency. So I tell myself. (Or maybe I am a hybrid control freak/perfectionist.) Continue reading “Confessions of a Recovering Control Freak”