Sunday, April 15, 2018

That Perfect Quiet

I keep noticing how much I am aware of quiet lately.  In silent moments reclining in my yard during my son's birthday party today, I sat in a cool breeze yet in the warm sun and just soaked it up.  I rented a video game truck for my son and sixteen of his closest friends to play in parked in front of my house, and while I got some fun photos and videos of the kiddos, and laughed at and with them here and there, I really enjoyed the decrescendos... the stillness away from the chaos... the quiet.  Who would have ever thought there would be quiet during a ten year old's birthday party?  But there was.  Even when they switched to nerf wars in the backyard after cake and ice cream.  I was still able to let them be the rambunctious kids they are and yet maintain my own peace.  I also enjoyed casually chatting with parents as they came to pick up their kiddos, and even reveled in some engaging deeper conversation with new parent-friends I'd not met before.  And yet, still I was able to embrace the calm in between.  Perhaps it's partly the age.  It's not fun, nor is it necessary, to micro-manage fourth graders.  So I didn't.  And the party was perfect.  And yet I was relaxed throughout.  I think I've also hosted enough kid birthday parties by now to not let anything stress me out about it.  This is the goal, I think.  Perhaps in almost everything.  To find pathways to peace despite the chaos life brings.  In a way, it's both an embracing of the chaos and a holding fast to peace all at once.  I think we all need both.  But I also think I've had so much chaos that it's time for embracing calm.  I just need it in my bones.  And my interfering mind is getting quieter and letting me actually have what I need instead of just doing all the things all the time.  When I step back and really acknowledge who I am and what I've been through in my forty-one years so far, I suppose it's no wonder I find myself drawn to the calm right now.  

And I also keep finding myself thoroughly enjoying pauses generally.  In the right places in conversations or between actions... reprieves from a generally busy life that is otherwise consuming.  The pauses are pregnant with so many thoughts and emotions and with such beautiful promise.  I cannot help but dwell in them. 

I think I'm so caught up in the silences right now, I don't have many words to share at the moment.  Which I can't help but acknowledge is odd for me, but I'm intent on embracing it because this is apparently what I need to do, who I need to be right now.  I'm just going to revel in this particular silent moment, on a fuzzy blanket, next to my kitties and let my mind go where it will.  It is in stillness that we know our true selves.  Our minds and spirits travel where they need to.  If we pay attention to where we go when it's effortless, that is where we find peace.  The North Star that guides each of us.  I think I've been so caught up for so very long in the what's-next-on-the-list vantage point of seeing the world that this just holding onto pauses, soaking in what's there, and flowing with moments as they come is just... so... refreshing.

And related to silence, somewhere floating between silence on one end of the spectrum and speaking and thinking on overload on the other... is listening.  I am normally such a talker.  And a writer.  As if you don't know that by now.  But I've entered a phase where I find myself listening more.  Absorbing more.  Letting things inform me.   And fill me.  And so I'm quietly processing underneath in my subconscious.  I'm sure more blog posts or scrawled-on journal pages or perhaps even novels will come pouring out of me again soon.  Because I know me.  But right now, I feel as though it's time for simmering.  Soaking in what comes to me.  Interpreting it all.  Inhaling it all.  Existing with as much presence as I can in each moment gifted to me.  It's ever important that we learn how we learn.  Learn how we grow.  Learn how we love.  Learn how we best listen.  And learn how to just sit with things and feel them.  So here I sit.  Absorbing.  A willing listener.   Open.  Feeling.  And knowing deep down that I'm undergoing something deeply different in this quiet shift in space and time for this normally verbose girl....



Monday, April 9, 2018

That Perfect Phoenix

My son asked me a question the other night before bed, which is my favorite bonding time with him each day, when we lounge on his bed and just have some time set aside to talk about whatever is on his mind.  His pivotal question of the evening was this:

"Which is cooler -- a dragon or a Phoenix?"

I was using his covered up legs as a pillow (a wiggly and giggly pillow at that), and I thought for a moment.  Hm.  My wheels started turning.  My Chinese zodiac is the dragon, so I immediately felt a little partial to answering dragon.  And I know his adorable girlfriend (oops, friend-girl) loves dragons, so I was clearly tempted to say dragon for that reason, too.  Plus I could tell and just knew that's what he wanted me to say.  And I always love to see him smile....

But... then I said, almost instinctively: "Phoenix."  Just blurted it out with certainty.  And then realized why after I'd answered.

He thought I answered wrong.

I sat quietly as he tried to convince me otherwise because of all the cool things dragons can do and how big and majestic they are... and they can both fly, but dragons are bigger....  You get the idea.  All the things an almost ten year old boy would rattle off about how cool dragons are.  And he then even told me about all the friends he has who picked dragon instead of Phoenix when he and his friends had been surveying each other about this at school earlier in the day. 

And I said "Nope."  I utterly don't care if I'm the only one who says Phoenix.  I've never cared if no one agrees with me... so numbers in opposition aren't going to sway me.  See, none of what a dragon can do matters compared to the extraordinary thing the Phoenix can do.  "A Phoenix can come back to life," I said.  "It can rise from the ashes."  And then I finished with this... "What's better than immortality?"  I asked him.

He didn't have a a good answer.  Dragons are fanciful and dominating creatures of lore.  They are fierce.  They are powerful.  But a Phoenix rises from its own ashes and becomes whole and perfect again.  Transforms.  Metamorphoses.  Into what it was always supposed to be.  After having been consumed by its own fire.  Turning to dust and ash and then rising and becoming majestic once again.

I'll pick that every... single... time.  That's pretty fucking magical and resonates with just about the most beautiful thing I can think of.  Consumption.  And then rising.  Becoming.  Renewal.  Being reborn from fiery dust to remake itself into a beautiful whole again.

I found a website just now discussing the Phoenix and its historical role in various cultures, and I just read this:

"In Chinese culture, a phoenix-like bird is known as 'fenghuang,' and is the sacred leader of all birds. Feng is male and huang is female, and thus the Chinese phoenix serves as a representation of balanced, integrated masculine and feminine energies.  It is considered to be symbolic of nobility, divinity, peace, prosperity, immortality, and the constant striving of the human spirit to transform and ascend."

That.  All of that.  I can swim in that forever.  I'm glad I chose the Phoenix.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

That Perfect Floating

I feel like I just floated through the day today.  Not long after the kids left for school, at 7:45 a.m., I dialed into an 8:00 a.m. court hearing from home in my pajamas.  I warned folks I'd be working from home this morning and would be in after the hearing.  I expected it might last a couple of hours.  It lasted more than four, approaching four and a half.  When it was done, I slurped down a Nutri Bullet smoothie in a mad dash, quickly got dressed and did my make up, then zoomed to the office, arriving by a little before 1:00 p.m. (happily getting a decent parking spot since people were still out to lunch).  And from there, I hit the ground running (ha, so to speak... if you know me, you get that joke).  On a normal day, I might bill time to 3 or 4 clients, or if I'm lucky, I can focus more intently on just 1 or 2.  Today, it was more like 8 or 9 (I'd have to log in on my work computer to confirm, which I'm just not gonna do right now).  And each matter came alive and kicking, back and forth, so I had to jump from complicated matter to complicated matter all day long.  Until I finally left the office approaching 7:00 p.m., still in a whirl.  It was an insane day, but I also kinda loved it.

But, my God, the ride home.  It rained madly this afternoon (which I barely noticed out my window), but by the time I was driving, the rain had stopped.  And it was crazily windy, and my windows were down (of course they were... because wind, soothing everything and making my hair dance).  And I had ridiculously good and loud music coursing through me as I rode.  I don't think I could have mustered any words in that moment that weren't singing-along ones.  I was just... floating.  My body was... is so deeply tired.  I'm not even sure precisely what I'm trying to say here tonight... I'm just that exhausted to the core.  Except I feel like I'm still floating.  Maybe it's flying from hard thing to hard thing non-stop.  Maybe it's the wind.  Maybe it's the deep tired.  Maybe it's the afterglow of light I keep finding and just keeping inside me like treasure I hold dear.  I feel freer than I've felt in a long time.  I think Spring does that, too.  Especially windy Spring.  Tired, but floating.  So it isn't bad.  It's just an odd juxtaposition that feels kind of warm and tingly and also like I might fall over asleep any moment, but probably won't because my mind just won't stop.  I just keep riding, like a wave, floating along.  Knowing I'll just be carried where I'm supposed to be going.  Is it possible to hit a stride and float at the same time?  Because I kinda think that's what I'm doing.

I had this image in my head partway through the day of my hair being on fire it was just so non-stop... and speaking of hair....

I had lunch with my sister in law recently, and she said in passing we should talk about my hair (but we never got back to that subject).  She's a hairdresser these days.  But I kinda don't want to talk about doing anything different to my hair.  So, all I said in return was, "It's curling really well today, isn't it?"  Because it was.  I love that it's a mane again.  I stupidly cut it shorter after my son was born.  Never doing that again.  It's longer than it's been in many years, and it's a wee bit unruly, but also in a good place because I finally found hair products that I really love.  God, it took long enough.  And I don't even own a brush because just NO.  Conditioning is key with curls.  Like tons of conditioners.  Anyway, I do get compliments on my hair, but I don't even care.  Even if I didn't... wouldn't matter to me.  It's sort of a trademark for me.  Maybe it's also a trademark or a sign of this chapter in my life.  And I love when it's big and crazy (but not in that Big Texas Hair kind of way... you know the difference).  Maybe my sister in law was talking about my gray hairs.  There's plenty more of them cropping up.  But I don't care about that either.  Kinda like my surgical scars or pregnancy stretch marks.  Or teeny wrinkles on my nose from scrunching it up when I'm laughing.  All those little things that show the life this body has lived so far.  And that are there to be seen unabashedly in the life I have yet to live.  And with the work and the trials in my life to come, I'm sure more gray hairs will sprout.  And more scars ultimately, just because it's probable.  But there will also be lots more laugh lines.  And all the things that make life worth it.  And maybe they're all beautiful in their imperfect way.  And maybe my crazy hair is just another way of floating.  Not trying too hard.  Just being... well, me. 

So right now, I'm floating.  On the wind.  On a song.  And in a dream.  Don't care where.  Don't care how messy my hair gets.  Seeing where things go and diving deep in every moment.  With intention all the while... but still floating. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

That Perfect Riddle

I just awoke from a nap, and though I'm not sure it was in my dream, per se, the following was what was swirling in my head as I awoke:

"Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

This particular riddle is a curious one from Alice in Wonderland that has been oft cited as having had no answer when Lewis Carroll penned it.  (And isn't it fascinating indeed how literature we love frequently often poses the most interesting questions for us to answer or to let percolate as we ponder?)

The Mad Hatter poses this riddle to Alice soon after she joins his unbirthday tea party by accident in Wonderland, and then he turns it on her as she roots around in her mind for the answer:



There are some funny, witty, or at least cheeky answers to this riddle that people on the Internet have come up with over the years, but the consensus appears to be that Lewis Carroll really had no answer in mind when he originally inserted the riddle into his story (though he later placated his questioning readers with a relatively unsatisfying answer, in my humble opinion).

Here's a link to a short piece I stumbled upon on that point:  https://io9.gizmodo.com/5872014/the-answer-to-the-most-famous-unanswerable-fantasy-riddle

Curiouser and curioser, as Alice would say.

It's funny, though.  This question has come up in my house many times over the years, each time referenced as being an answerless riddle... to connote silliness... just for the pure nonsensical quality of it.   

And while we're on the topic of the Mad Hatter, an aside is in order, I think:

I once participated in a non-profit arts organization year-long board training experience in Dallas called Leadership Arts Institute.  And at the culmination of a year's worth of blood, sweat, and tears I poured into that work in the arts community in Dallas, we had a graduation ceremony of sorts.  And each of us in Leadership Arts was tasked with coming up with a creative graduation hat and giving a short speech to the group of us who participated.  I was the chair of the steering committee that led our project, so I felt I had to wield that authority I'd been gifted by my peers responsibly and thoughtfully, in a way that might even move them.  In short, I felt obligated to say something lovely about the unforgettable group of people I worked with who helped my crazy vision of our project come to fruition.  So I found a gigantic Mad Hatter hat that I wore, and I said this in my speech to the crowd:




The Hatter:  “Have I gone mad?"

Alice: “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are." 



(And I think it almost invariably should be read in a British accent.)

Here's a more polished version:



Perhaps the raven riddle is pure charming madness.  And because a little madness may be one of the most wonderful things about a person, I probably would be satisfied if that were the answer.

But then shortly after I awoke from my nap with the raven riddle swirling in my head, I serendipitously saw this American Indian horoscope link a friend posted on Facebook as I mindlessly scrolled for a few moments after I awoke.  It said my horoscope (appearing to correspond with Libra dates) was the Raven.  It also said my best time of day is between 3 and 5 p.m.  (I'll note for you that I was, in fact, born during this window, for starters.)  It described the Raven as follows (perhaps at least some of this is accurate):  "Highly enthusiastic and a natural entrepreneur the Raven is quite the charmer.  As a Raven, you possess a type of easy energy that everyone relies on.  As a Raven, you are quite the idealist but also calculating at the same time.  Under positive circumstances, the Raven is very easy going, romantic, and almost invariably soft-spoken.  In relationships, the Raven is intuitive and patient."  Another website, corroborating that I am a Raven, said that "Raven people are highly clairvoyant and see real magic in all things.  Though indecisive, a Raven's love, once gifted, is the truest of trues.  On this turn of the medicine wheel, Raven's lesson is to gain a more balanced emotional life."

So I think today I've come up with what I find is a satisfying answer to the raven riddle, and it is this: that both a raven and a writing desk are something beautiful upon which to write.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

That Perfect Film That Will Leave You in Tears

I was awake until a little after 2 a.m. last night, curled up with my cats, watching a film.  Call Me By Your Name.  I've been wanting to watch it since I learned about it in advance of the Oscars, but I haven't turned on a television other than to watch something with my kids in probably a month.  Or perhaps more.  Wow.  maybe it's been two.  I've been exhausted to the bone with just Life, and I haven't had it in me to absorb anything emitted from a TV.

But I'm so glad I finally watched this film.  It won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay this year, and it was nominated for best picture and best actor.  And a song from the film was nominated for best song.  Not that any of the nominations really matter, except to say that it got a lot of attention.  And when I finally watched it?  It arrested mine.

It was such a beautiful portrait of love.  The messy, scary, uncomfortable, mind-scrambling nature of it.  And also the sheer joy, drug-like, that commandeers hearts and minds when it burrows in.

First, the song.  The song from the film that was nominated was by Sufjan Stevens entitled Mystery of Love.  I heard it many times before I saw the film, but its placement in the story was so very beautiful.  Perfect even.  Like puzzle pieces falling into place.  This song will surely be on my playlist for a long time to come.  I already had an album by Sufjan Stevens before this that I loved.  His whispery voice (maybe that of a distant cousin of Sam Beam of Iron & Wine) is so calming and yet he sings of real things, sometimes sad things.  Achingly beautiful.



The story itself is a coming of age love story.  And it's told in the most picturesque location in Northern Italy with captivating attention to detail that left me beside myself.  And the tumult, passion, and humanity of it all, in vision and in story, is humbling to behold.  Watch this film.

And I hesitate to include the clip below, but I will.  Admittedly, the clip and the sentence that follows is a bit of a spoiler, but I just can't keep quiet about it.  After an affair of historic proportions and a loss that followed, the professor-father of the main character, Olio, delivers a monologue of epic proportions to soothe his son's heartache.  I totally bawled through it.  (Ignore the subtitles, but at least I found the monologue.) 



I almost feel as if the time I spent waiting to watch something paid off in the quality of what was delivered when I finally did watch something.  If I am assured films of this much beauty will follow after waiting for weeks and weeks to even turn on the television to any adult programming of any kind, maybe I'll wait months again before watching anything else. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

That Perfect Elusive Leprechaun

In 1998, I spent a lot of time in Ireland, not only the locale of the most breathtaking cliffs I've ever seen, but also the homeland of the Leprechaun.  I even saw a sign near a beautiful place called Dingle while I was hiking, and the sign read "Leprechaun Crossing."  Here's the photo I took while I was there:



This year, my daughter planned in advance for months to make a Leprechaun trap in advance of St. Patrick's Day.  So, we had no choice but to make an amazing Leprechaun trap.  She made most of it, but I helped a little (mainly with wrapping the box, er, trap, which was loaded with soft stuff so the Leprechaun couldn't get hurt when he fell in).








She set it out among the clover and flowers in the backyard, sure the elusive Leprechaun would be lured in.  She was absolutely determined to catch him, though I guess she didn't really know what to expect.  But through her dedication and tenacity, she spent hours, all day long, checking her trap in the backyard to see if she'd caught him.  Each time she checked, the trap was empty.  But the joy she took in setting the trap, lovingly crafting it (I mean check out that rainbow), was worth all the effort.  Even if no one else actually appreciated it, I was in awe of how far she went to get what she wanted.  And with such perfect and lovely thought behind it. 

Guess where I'm headed next... you guessed it... the dictionary.  Webster's actually defines Leprechaun (who knew?).  And I think the definition is simple and pretty perfect:

: a mischievous elf of Irish folklore usually believed to reveal the hiding place of treasure if caught.
 
I can't blame her one iota for wanting so badly to catch the Leprechaun.  After all, vast treasures would await her, she was certain.  Alas, she didn't catch him this time... but, not to worry, he left some surprise treasure for her to find.  Not nearly as good as catching him, but treasure is always treasured, of course, in whatever form.  She'll catch him next time. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

That Perfect Childhood Love

My daughter is five years old (almost six).  She has magnetism, a spiritual sixth sense, tremendous empathy, and a contagious giggle.  She has wild hair like her Mom, is so smart and creative, is mischievous and courageous, and even told me this morning about seeing the shape of a hippopotamus in a tutu in her oatmeal.  And nearly everything is transformed into a dramatic dance in her mind, which she then performs just about anywhere when the inspiration strikes her.  She has music coursing through her veins.  Always has.  She's almost too good to believe. 

She has this boyfriend.  In kindergarten.  I know... how can a kindergarten boyfriend be worth writing about here?  All I can say is don't go thinking this is trite or just cute... even Cute with a capital "c".  It's way better than that.

This little boy is so stinking adorable.  And he has the cutest long in the front and short in the back haircut.  They hold hands on field trips.  And I'm sure other times, too.  I have adorable photos to prove it.  It's just beyond precious.  His Mom reached out to me by text a few weeks ago to share those photos and to set up a playdate, and our two kids exchanged videos of themselves jumping up and down for joy via Mom texts in anticipation of the playdate.  They've had just the one playdate so far, but he lives only a few blocks away (with a park in between), so there will be many more to come.  And his older brother is my son's age, and they were in their TAG class together last year before my son switched schools this year. 

I went to read books to their class this morning at the beginning of the day, and when my daughter pointed at me from her classroom table as he sat next to her, and she told him I am her Mom, his jaw dropped and he just stared at me.  And then he came and sat right by me while I read.  And no less than five kids told me they were boyfriend and girlfriend when I was sitting patiently waiting for morning routines to be done before I began reading to all the kids on the reading rug.  I just smiled each time and said, "I know."  I've heard about him for months.  And knew my daughter considers him to be her boyfriend.  But I never expected this....

So, I had the pleasure of meeting his family tonight at an event at my daughter's school.  And I got teary just now remembering the conversation I had with his Mom.  She said her son has been talking about my daughter since the school year began in August and that he says all the time that he is going to marry her.  He has been begging to have a playdate with her for months.  He also refuses to hold his Mom's hand anymore (he's six...) because he only wants to hold my daughter's.  His Mom then told me that she said to him, "Well, what if she's not around?  You can hold my hand then, right?"  And he said, "No, she would know."  And I knew in my belly that he was right somehow.  My daughter would know because she just knows things.  His Mom also asked him what he likes about my daughter.  And do you know what he said?  "Mom... we're just the same."  He found his kindred spirit and he's sure of it.  And he's six. 

I am so moved beyond belief at seeing this pure adoration and love for my precious girl.  And how she just shines when she talks about him.  Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.  💗

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

That Perfect Grace

Grace is one of my deeply favorite words.  I admire those with it.  I aspire to embody it.  I am moved to give it.  And I am so thankful when it's my turn to receive it.

I think falling from grace (or perceived grace) in life, as they say, brings about our finding actual grace within ourselves, at least if we have the presence and wisdom to recognize that is what is needed for healing, for growth, for peace.  We have to spend time in the valley before we can appreciate the view from the top.  I think it was Glennon Doyle who wrote about the valley.  And grace is the greatest gift.

But, ha.  Don't get me wrong.  I get frustrated sometimes, just like you.  I get impatient and obsessive sometimes.  I probably say fuck too much, maybe more than you, and in any event more than you think I do.  I totally overthink things if given too much time.  I am not afraid of the dark, and, in fact, I even happily dwell there sometimes (but in such a good way... at least I think so).  I can be a tad difficult and perfectionistic (unachievable, I know... you don't have to tell me, but I'm still gonna try).  I probably work too hard as a result.  My body is so much more broken than I ever like to admit.  I can be profound, but also profane (but isn't some combination of the two required to keep things lively and inspiring?).  In short, I have my faults, and I know it.  But under it all, there's an abiding grace I am able to find or summon time and time again.  A river that flows through the varied rest of me.

Definitions always provide deeper insight.  So here we go.

Grace, as defined by Webster's (pruned and with a few left out... because who would have expected grace, as a noun, to have eight different definitions?):




1    a : unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification
      b : a virtue coming from God
      c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance

2    a : approval, favor
      b : archaic : mercy, pardon 
      c : a special favor : privilege
      d : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
      e : a temporary exemption : reprieve

3    a : a charming or attractive trait or characteristic
      b : a pleasing appearance or effect : charm
      c : ease and suppleness of movement or bearing

                                 ...

8    a : sense of propriety or right
      b : the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful 
And it's our own situatedness and perspective that impacts what form grace will take in our lives at a given time, in a given chapter.  And how it will transform us.   
We can be givers of grace.  Or, of course, we can be on the receiving end of grace.  And if we're especially tuned into the deeper levels and importance of real connection and beauty, we can have the presence of heart and mind to recognize how we both give it and receive it.  There's almost nothing more beautifully human than that combination.  
On giving grace.  It's hard to give grace sometimes, when we've been tested.  When things feel wrong or toxic.  When something done to us feels unforgivable.  When we recoil.  When our patience has completely dried up and withered.  It's not for the faint of heart.  But when we overcome the urge to fight, to yell, to belittle, when we let harsh words roll off of us and away without absorbing them... in short, when we just give grace anyway, even in the face of undeserving behavior, we realize that it is our very constitution that drives us to be compassionate, to think of the ripple effects of everything we do, and to be strong throughout.  And we are grateful for the strength and peaceful tenacity we can hold on to, which allows us to give grace, even when parts of us viscerally don't want to.  Sometimes, it requires painful patience.  Intolerable tolerance.  Even when it's the hardest it's ever been, and even when we're scared of too many things to name, it still feels right to give grace.  To emit some constant light, even in the dark.  Especially in the dark.  At bottom, we are all human and deserve grace, especially when we fall, that we might learn ourselves how to show it to someone else when it counts.  And our children are watching all that we do.  So it matters.  Sometimes we, too, learn by example, even as weary old adults.  I have certain special people in my life who have modeled grace for me over the years.  I am lucky in that way.  And grateful and so moved that I can recognize it when it unfolds before me.  Sometimes, though, we learn how to give it the hard way.  When we desperately wish at every eleventh hour for grace to be shown to us, but it doesn't come.  And we are alone in the loneliest of ways.  That, too, is a lesson that can change us for the better.  To give what we wish we'd had.  To give reprieve we so needed and didn't get in our darkest hours.  But... if we only give, we can become empty after a while.  And we can tell when we are hollow.  And while it's beautiful, to only give is unsustainable.
On receiving grace.  Receiving grace from another human?  That.  It is ever humbling, beyond word and thought.  It burrows into our hearts, if we let it.  And it transports us into someplace much deeper.  We rise and live up to something different.  It's going off the map of the expected and into the realm of real connection, of being seen.  You simply cannot unsee or unfeel the beauty of grace once you've truly been gifted it and truly received it.  And it makes us feel so special to know that grace comes from someone believing in our good, in our humanity.  Someone who is willing to save us from our heavy, dirty selves by reflecting back to us the poetic and beautiful version of us they see.  And it comes from unwavering faith that we will live up to being our highest selves, even when we are disappointed that we have fallen short in ways we'd rather not admit.  Because of this kind of grace, we can face our selves for real because someone else already has (they've been willing to walk that treacherous ground before and with us), and by doing so, has accepted us.  And then we can live in love and without fear.  And be who we are meant to be.  No hiding.  No shame.  Just human.  And full of grace.  But... if we only receive, and we do not also give, we do not allow ourselves to feel and embody the depths of the most beautiful state of being, and we would fail to know the light we, too, receive when we find we have the ability to inspire and transform someone else, just by our gift of graceful acceptance. 

On recriprocal grace.  Sanctified.  Mercy.  Reprieve.  Divine.  This is where the best words in the definition of grace come in.  This is where we must aim.  This is feeling what the stars feel like -- their guiding sparkle in the vast darkness -- in our very being, deep in our bellies where our knowing resides.  Reciprocal grace is mutual acceptance of what is human, dark or light, perfect or imperfect, giving or needy, strong or weak, broken in whatever ways we are, in each of us.  Maybe you'll say it's an elusive unicorn.  But... I happen to know that it isn't.
When I sit down to write in this blog, it's often just because I have this need to say something important while I daily search to find something perfect upon which to focus my thoughts.  To reach out and let loose on the universe something stirring within me, or maybe even some part of me, that needs to be poured out and seen.  Maybe I'm unwittingly hoping to feel some grace in return.  I wish I always had divine sense to know what to say.  Every now and then I think perhaps I do.  And maybe, just maybe, that is a manifestation of grace, too. 

This image is one of the first ones that comes up when you Google "grace."  A heart made out of human hands and the star that keeps us alive.  Fitting, I think.  
Photo credit:  https://livingbydesign.org

Friday, March 16, 2018

That Perfect Upside Down

"I'm okay when everything is not okay."

I mean, it's true.  Somehow, that's actually true.  Even though they're Tori Amos's words, not mine.  But I'm taking those words and making them mine today.  Even when I feel like it's really not okay, my heart knows it is.  I guess that's what faith is.  I guess that's what hearing yourself and listening to and heeding that self feels like.  Even when angry chaos is outside and knocking at, or trying to beat down, my door.  Sometimes I just have to ride it out on a trusty blanket.  And pull the blanket up to envelop me and just let the wind blow where it will.  And keep focused on the stars that center me again and again.    

I sorta think upside down is part of my fate.  And maybe it's also just what my 41 looks like.  And, again, that's okay.



That song.  It keeps playing in my head today.  No matter how sophisticated a person becomes in the real world, and how experienced a person grows to be through the complexities and intricacies of climbing ladder after ladder, hill after hill (thank God some of them have cliffs we can see at the top)... we still all started out the same -- a little blue and upside down in the hospital, when we first began, knowing only our mothers.  And I suppose despite all the growing, learning, stumbling, succeeding, and aging, each prior stage of us never leaves.  Like a mother's love.  And like a coat of paint underneath that you can cover over again and again with different colors.  But it remains as a priming surface.  Including the upside down blue one after being thrust out of the womb.  And there's some solace in remembering that I, too, was an upside down baby once.  And felt like one other later times in life when I wasn't.  Because I know I'm stronger than that now.  Smarter than that now.  Understand the nature of love now.  Feel the deeper forces of the universe and revel in them now rather than letting them destroy me.  When I see that I was able to weather that upside down and become the me that I have, I am assured I can weather this, too.  Because it's all part of a larger whole that I know is beautiful.

And that kitten, kitten, kitten in my hair line.  That feeling.  Giving in to the tangled mess that is determined to just... keep... fucking with you when you've grown so weary of it.  In fact, I painted a large oil painting long ago when that line got stuck, a record skipping in my mind, in another upside down chapter of my life.  Turning round and round.  And that one, inspired by this song, was red.  And around the same time, I also painted this other blue painting with birds picking me apart.  Back when I first got brave as an artist.  And didn't care what people saw on the canvas; I just needed to pour things out.  I had no choice.  These two paintings pictured below were once hanging in a gallery and have adorned the walls of many homes I've had, but they are currently in my attic, at least for the moment....  They're the first two paintings I made that were real, and I mean that in the Velveteen rabbit kind of way.  The way that real means messy and worn... and broken and not particularly shiny... but also feeling genuine, essential, and found, all at the same time.   



My little blue world is turning upside down.  That may be a good way to put it.  Not like the Stranger Things Upside Down.  My nightmares can be haunting, with images so hard to shake in the daylight, but thankfully not in the demogorgon kind of way.  And I don't have nightmares that often these days, but when I do, mostly they're manifestations of my latent fears of death or disease befalling a loved one.  I think our dreams give us the keys to life we need; they tell us what's important to us, in secret but confident whispers. 

There's certainly an upside down-ness to life these days.  I am using the strength in the reserves I've saved for a rainy day (or more likely stored up on a rainy day when I've been revived by the rain).  The kittens in my hair and birds pecking at me in those old paintings remain, but they don't feel quite the same.  I know more.  I've learned more.  I have faith now.  And I have more warmth inside that is simply incapable of being chilled.  And the blue has faded... I'm not a dangling blue newborn, and my blood is circulating mightily because this beating heart of mine was meant to weather all of this, I know that.  But I'm not fully right-side up just yet. 

For now, I'm gonna go listen to that song again and stare at these old paintings for a little while more, as I quietly continue to resolve to do the work of turning myself the right way round.   




Tuesday, March 13, 2018

That Perfect Blue

There have been two stressful events now that have made me see blue.  Like a blue haze over everything.  Like a film.  Kind of spotty.  And it exists somehow, ephemeral between me and what I see, if that even makes sense.  Can see it even when I close my eyes.  Kind of a cobalt blue - that's the closest pigment color I can think of to try to name it.  I've Googled this before, and I came up with literally nothing.  No explanation.  I talked to a friend last time it happened who assumed it was something like an aura signaling something deeper.  I wondered if it's a strange sort of stress migraine.  Or maybe it's some spiritual shift.  I honestly don't know.  But when I feel like everything is outside me and broken wide open to a place I can't comprehend in that moment (which is insanely rare for a control freak like me), I somehow am lifted up on to some other plane out of pure necessity to escape a moment, and things go blue.  Maybe it's my spirit saving me from something I need saving from.  Twice now.  As of tonight.

Try not to worry about me, if you are so inclined.  It didn't seem to have any lasting effect last time this happened many months ago.  I've survived way worse.

I'm reminded of a song, which in this moment somehow makes this unnerving blue a little less worrisome... it's the most human color, after all:

He stumbled into faith and thought
God this is all there is.
The pictures in his mind arose
And began to breathe.
And all the Gods in all the worlds
Began colliding on a backdrop of blue.
 
Blue lips
Blue veins
 
He took a step but then felt tired,
He said, I'll rest a little while.
But when he tried to walk again,
He wasn't a child.
And all the people hurried past
Real fast and no one ever smiled.
 
Blue lips
Blue veins
 
Blue, the color of the planet from far, far away
 
He stumbled into faith and thought
God this is all there is.
The pictures in his mind arose
And began to breathe.
And no one saw and no one heard
They just followed lead.
The pictures in his mind awoke
And began to breed.

They started off beneath the knowledge tree,
Then they chopped it down to make white picket fences.
They marched along the railroad tracks
And smiled real wide for the camera lenses.
They made it past the enemy lines
Just to become enslaved in the assembly lines.
 
Blue lips
Blue veins
 
Blue, the color of the planet from far, far away
 
Blue lips
Blue veins
 
Blue, the color of the planet from far, far away
 
Blue, the most human color
Blue, the most human color
Blue, the most human color
 
Blue lips
Blue veins
 
Blue, the color of our planet from far, far away.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

That Perfect Integrity: A Meditation

I have been thinking a lot about the word integrity lately. 

As a lawyer, I've heard so many times, and I've seen with my own two eyes, how critical integrity is.  My word matters.  My ability to feel and show respect matters.  My temperance matters.  My intense and steadfast care in the things I do matters.  My conscientiousness matters.  These are all forms of external integrity -- meeting high standards, not giving in to defeat, respectfully working with others, and in all ways, being respectable.  It's imperative in a profession where poor judgment can lead to losing a law license or the respect of judges and peers.  Without my integrity, what have I got? 

(Caveat: I am human though, and I have learned to also be mindful about my conscientiousness in particular going too far... I know this now.  It can create an unhealthy rigidity that can feel toxic if it bleeds over into everything too much.  A law professor once told me I was conscientious to a fault... which I was a little offended by at the time, but now I realize that perhaps I can be, when I am overthinking things, anyway.  It may give me near perfect grades and a reputation for doing impeccable legal work, but it steals joy to be too conscientious in all facets of life.  Perhaps I should remember a little more often something that my boss (also a highly-respected lawyer, by the way) told me a few months ago: you have to be good enough to be healthy, but bad enough to be happy... there's a lot of wisdom in that off-handed comment (which clearly stuck with me).) 

But at the core, without integrity, I am not me.  And I cannot do all the Everything I do in an authentic way without it.  And interestingly, as an artist (my other me, the eccentric and grittier side of my otherwise type-A personality), integrity also lies in the center of everything, albeit manifested differently.  Maybe it's no coincidence that integrity has the word "grit" embedded in it.  I've got that in spades.  The artist-side of me is a less conscientious version of my integrity-fueled self, though.  When I have focused on art in various ways throughout my life (in making, in loving, in music...), it's been with an honesty and ease of dedication that comes more effortlessly than in any other form.  There is no bending to expectation or convention.  It is just pure as can be.  An integrity tied to my inner self that just flows out.  I am less anal-retentive in art, and passionate.  But still... integrity is key.  (And I'm realizing the concept behind what I'm sleepily trying to explain is also tying to a book I started reading called Finding Your Own North Star... and the main important takeaway from that book (which I didn't finish yet) seems to be this: we have social selves (the supposed to do's and should do's) and essential selves (our own internal North Star that our gut points us to if we listen).  And they must be in harmony.)

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I should probably back up and start where lawyer-me usually does: with the definition (...that art-side I was swimming in a moment ago in that paragraph just before threatened to interfere with my orderly analysis... but I honestly like that it interrupted the order by injecting a little chaos, so I'm gonna leave it as I wrote it... as it just came out).

Anyway, Webster's defines integrity as:


1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility 
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness 
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness
Adherence to a code... an artistic code even.  Incorruptibility.  Unimpaired.  Soundness.  Completeness.  Undivided.   

This is who I am.  Who I must be.  At my core.  Whether it's the conscientious and detail-oriented lawyer version or the steadfast and pure artistic side flowing from within.  Either way.  Incorruptible.  Sound.  Unimpaired.  Whole.  Even if seemingly disparate on the surface. 

And I'm realizing why the concept of integrity keeps sitting on my shoulder.  It's one of the hardest things to hold on to with steadfast determination when things crumble or catch fire.  When change is afoot.  And it happens to be the Monday concept on which I focus in a series of daily meditations I've been doing for a number of months now.  Each day of the week, I focus on a particular concept or notion from the seven virtues of Bushido, which I understand only loosely and on a surface level to derive from the Samurai honor code.  I'm not focused on the history of Bushido or the why or how this concept ended up on my path.  Indeed, I had never heard of Bushido at all until a friend posted about it on Facebook.  But I saw it, it caught my attention, and I realized I needed to incorporate it into my way of thinking at this time in my life.  And so I have.  (When something makes itself evident to me, I listen now.  I don't quash or ignore things I sense I'm supposed to see or hear.)  And so these seven lessons are now ones I remember, consciously, every day.  On repeat.

I have this printed out on my desk at work next to one of my monitors and have an electronic copy on my phone for reference on the weekends, with a reminder on my phone for every morning to meditate on the Bushido concept for the day.  And I do it and reflect on how it fits and strengthens me with each passing week.  The first virtue I meditate on every Monday, and so on through Sunday when I get to the seventh.  

And even though I began this post thinking about integrity, today is Thursday.  Which in my meditative cycle is honor.  Which happens to have my favorite precept of all seven in a simple and poignant line at the bottom:

YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM YOURSELF. 

Can't you just still hear that reverberating in the air?  I cannot hide from myself.  
 
I did for a long time.  Not in everything.  I've been authentic more often than not throughout my life.  But I did hide from myself as I tried mightily to be conscientious in all things, even if it meant silencing inconvenient things inside, even when mess should have been allowed to win.  Life is a beautiful mess, after all.  And this conscientiousness of mine running rampant was, indeed, to a fault as my professor tried to tell me twelve years ago; I now see.  But I refuse to ever do that again.  There's no going back once you open your eyes to your self.  I know myself, and I love her, strengths and faults... all the things.  And I trust her.  I never wanted to hide from her.  But it's easy sometimes to hide from yourself when you're so determined to do what's objectively right, when you're a pleaser by nature, when you're determined not to fail at things, and when you've worked so damn hard.  But... when I stopped hiding from myself, something magical happened.  I greeted myself on a path.  Petals unfurled.  Smoke cleared.  Fog lifted.  Every metaphor like that you can think of.  There was more light I had forgotten to see.  Things began to sing everywhere.  I could see things falling into place.  It's an irreversible course fueled by energy, by the universe, by everything I see, which just propels me forward in an authentic and beautiful way.  With so much less fear.  Enlivening and solidifying the me from whom I cannot hide.   Indeed, pieces seem to fall into place even while they are also objectively falling apart.  I cannot hide from myself.  The conscientious form of integrity is still inside me of course, but so is the integrity with GRIT.  My social self and my essential self -- my North Star -- are coming together.  I have a burning desire to be whole again.  And I am so close. 


 
 
 
 


 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

That Perfect City

Maybe it's because my dad grew up there through his whole childhood and all the formative stuff, and he's one of my very favorite people.  Maybe it's because my grandparents lived there when I was a kid, and we'd hop in the station wagon to go visit them at 1336 New York Street (God, how do I remember that address?), with the terrazzo tile and the swimming pool and banana trees... and where I'd mail the cardboard backs of my dad's legal pads I'd drawn pictures on and made into makeshift postcards to my grandparents, and I'd get a return poem from my grandmother in the mail inspired by the postcard-drawing I'd sent each time (no doubt penned with a too-long-ashed cigarette hanging from her lips as she crafted the rhymes for me while wearing amazing cat eye glasses).  Maybe it's because my grandfather would cheerily answer his art business telephone "Ted Drell in Sunny New Orleans."  Maybe it's because he left me all his art supplies and furniture when he died.  Maybe it's because it's where I gulped down a terrible rum old fashioned with my grandfather after my grandmother's funeral at the mausoleum, where he cried to the point of shaking even though he'd cheated on her.  Maybe it's because I like the memory of hearing about old ladies my grandfather flirted with in his dotage who took him to the museum for outings, which, when I'd visit, he'd tell me about over french toast he'd make for me with special Ted butter (the kind the fat falls out of when you cook it).  Maybe it's because every time I went to New Orleans as a kid (from my small hometown a few hours away), I understood deeply and had imprinted on my psyche that "This is what a CITY is."  (I almost cried in a cab, overcome by that very specific feeling last week as we drove by so many buildings I recognized... and again now as I remember it all over again while I type this.)  Maybe it's all the old restored signs on all the businesses that seem to have been there forever... and they better never be replaced.  Maybe it's the puddle-ridden cobblestone streets coated with grime that makes the stone feel almost soft.  Maybe it's that Popeye's on Canal Street.  Maybe it's because it's the first place I knew where tattoos were okay, and even beautiful.  Maybe it's all the balconies and small shops filled with treasures and skulls (including the nutria skull I bought long ago, which they said was a beaver, but it's not).  Maybe it's because more often than not, dark and dirty is more beautiful than clean and too-perfect.  Maybe it's because my parents met, had their first date at Venezia's Pizza, and fell in love there.  Maybe it's because of all the road-trip-concerts I saw in high school in New Orleans, usually at UNO, and especially Lolapalooza... and even more especially the last Lolapalooza, when I lost my shoes and my friends and I piled in cars and slept at my Aunt Barbara's house in Metarie on every inch of her floor and any spare soft surface.  Maybe it's because of that high school art field trip where Rachel and I pulled some ridiculous shenanigans (I'll never tell) and almost missed the Bolton bus home, which we mightily grimaced and laughed about as we reminisced while we weaved our way through the artists and poets-for-hire in Jackson Square last weekend (24 years later).  Maybe it's because of biegnets and gumbo (even though as a small kid I'd complain about going to Cafe Du Monde with my family because I didn't like biegnets... let's just pretend that didn't happen).  Maybe it's because I got my nose pierced at Rings of Desire there back in the day when I wasn't supposed to.  Maybe it's the extra cherries they give you in your Hurricane at Pat O's if you smile when you ask.  Maybe it's all those spirited musicians on the street corners (including the electronica snake charmer sounding trio I saw last weekend).  Maybe it's all those trips to Mardi Gras during college (even though I was fully groped everywhere that counts by a complete stranger in the wall-to-wall mosh pit of people on Bourbon Street that one time).  And speaking of college, maybe it's because I almost accepted my offer to attend Tulane for undergrad but for the charms of Texas drawing me in so fully and away from my home state.  Maybe it's because I worked for a Fifth Circuit judge after law school in Lafayette and spent many days in hotels and eating at all the best restaurants in New Orleans while we were in town for court sittings at the gorgeous Court of Appeals building on Camp Street (seriously, those courtrooms are majestic).  Maybe it's the air that hangs heavy and makes my hair grow bigger by the minute (who cares?).  Maybe it's all the big love and reverie that just is that city.  Maybe it's because now I'm no longer a Fluevog shoe store virgin.  Maybe it's because rain feels right there.  Maybe it's all the things seen and unseen that hang in the air there and make it feel like I belong.  My body and blood knew last week that I was home.  When I was there, my body breathed more easily.  My tense upper traps felt like water instead of stone.  I rested more fully.  Was in much less pain.  Felt more beautiful.  Relaxed into my environment.  And I loved every single second as I let it just fill me up.



   

Monday, February 26, 2018

That Perfect Little Prayer

Tonight it struck me that I've been saying the same prayer every night with my kids, for their whole lives, that I said with my mom as a little girl.  I started singing it quietly to my son when he was a wee baby, and I just never stopped.  My singing was the magical cure that could calm him.  Almost like a snake charmer.  Not much else worked.  I'm still his touchstone for calm in this crazy world, and I dearly hope I always will be.  I also sang Puff the Magic Dragon to him over and over and over.  Even when I was deliriously tired with a cranky baby, I just kept singing in the dark with him because he loved it so.  It makes me teary to remember doing that now that, at nine years old, he comes up to my nose.  And when my little girl came along, she got to join in our ritual, too.

But back to the prayer... when my mom and I used to say it together before I went to bed, it was third in succession after two others.  We had a routine.  (Perhaps this began the series of many routines I find myself forming and craving, and always have... or perhaps I'm just a wee bit OCD.  Or, likely, both.)  In my childhood, the first prayer was mine to say alone (The Lord's Prayer), the second one my mom would say alone (it was one generally about gratitude, though I don't remember all the words now, but it included something about being thankful for the "birds that sing" and for "Everything"), and the third one, we'd say in unison together... and, well, that's the only one I say with my kids. 

Actually, I don't say it with my kids.  I sing it.  And they sing it with me.  Because I tend to turn random stuff, especially with my kids, into songs.  My daughter even danced to it last night.  It's still spell-binding to my son, the same way Puff the Magic Dragon was when he was teeny.  His eyes just hone in and lock on mine, and he sings with me.  It's just a thing we do.  And I love it more and more every single night we do it, as they get older, and as I get older.  First, I sing it with my daughter in her room, then with my son in his.

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
Guide me through the starry night
And wake me with the morning light.
Amen.

(We sing the first and third lines to the tune of the first part of the alphabet song: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and the second and fourth lines to the tune of the next part of the alphabet song: H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P.)

And I like remembering that "Amen" means an expression of solemn ratification or agreement;  “it is so”; “certainty”; “truth”; and “verily.”  

It's that simple.  But it's also kind of Everything that matters at the same time when I really open my heart and just sit with it.  It's like star gazing and dreaming all wrapped up in a perfect little prayer. 



 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

That Perfect Music... and Flight...

Sometimes that's all there is.  Floating in my mind.  Enveloping me in my car.  Pouring through these membranes between speakers set in cushions on my ears.  Filling me with something.  I can't see images without associating songs with them.  Can't see faces I love without tunes filling in the missing pieces.  Everything that matters is always tied up in music to me.  Perhaps that's why it makes me cry to watch my little girl dance with so much emotion. 

I read recently that God speaks through music.  "You know what music is?  God's little reminder that there's something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, every where, even the stars."  (Robin Williams)  And while I'm on the topic of God, I had a realization the other day about a phrase I must have heard about a million times throughout my childhood, but it never really struck me until now.  I made note of it in my phone during the middle of a random day this week when the thought passed through my mind.  And the hallways of my mind are echoing with this notion in my Mom's voice:  God is love.  Such a simple answer.  Maybe that's why I'm always so struck by love songs (the good kind... the subtly good but deeply real ones). 

Music is the place where people pour themselves.  And we can't help but swim in it.  The most passionate parts of us are music.  I get chills hearing the right music.  My OCD grinds its teeth and clenches something inside me when I hear the perfect song to hold the hand of the exact feeling I'm cloaked in... and then I find myself listening to it on repeat for days on end.  It's like the song is around every corner.  Whether it's actually playing or not.

I thought late last night about writing about a particular song that's got my attention as of late, but I was too close to dreamland to get up and type.  It's one I've been listening to a lot after first hearing it while watching figure skating on the Olympics.  It's a Coldplay song with gentle piano rhythms behind haunting vocals.  And it's about a flock of birds taking flight.  Hovering above.  "It's how you think of love," it says.  And it reminded me of a print I made in art school that is part of an autobiographical series I made into a handmade and hand-printed book called Stages (both the performance kind and the time-passing kind).  This particular print looks back and encapsulates how I felt just before I fell from grace and became lost in my young adulthood.  A shifting into a lonely place.  The image in the print is of this flock of birds taking flight, coming right at the viewer, out of a New Orleans balcony window.  It's a serigraph, with deep reddish undertones.  But amid the lively flock emerging is a dead bird, bound and hanging by a rope in the very heart of the image.  But the hung bird I printed in transparent iridescent purplish ink on top of the rest of the photographic image, so it's faint.  Glimmering quietly there, shadow-like.  You can only see that something is dead in the very heart of that emerging flock if you look really closely.  If someone wants to see what's actually there.  It's easy to miss if you don't look long enough.  But it's there.  That print, with the free, soaring flock marred by the nearly invisible dead bird just hanging there, feels like that song.  A sadness.  It hangs.  But also sings.  Nothing is ever black and white, is it?  And every beautiful thing has tears inside of it, doesn't it?  What else in the world can capture a feeling like that besides art?  And what does it better than music?  Maybe only art and music combined, even if only in my head.  But I don't think it's only in my head.  Music is entirely too universal for that.  Thank God for music.  Or is that just redundant?












Saturday, February 17, 2018

That Perfect Re-Emergence of My Professional Self

This past year, I worked a full time year.  For most people, that's not a big deal.  In years past for me, that wouldn't be news at all.  But in BigLaw speak, after so much medical leave and working from a recliner at home when I could even work at all, that officially means, I'm "back."  And I am given important work to do.  And am assimilated into my team.  In real world terms, it means I finally proved to myself and everyone else I could still do this very hard and demanding job of mine after my seven surgeries and all the recovery time that goes with that.  It means people I work with believe in me.  It means I believe in me.  It means my kids get to see what grit and determination looks like.  What getting up when we fall looks like.  And my law firm is incredible.  Not only in terms of the work we do, the clients we have, and the quality of intellect of the people with whom I work, but also in terms of how well they have supported me through my difficult time because they understood the value I bring to the table.  While I work in BigLaw, which is known for being an environment that is the toughest of the tough, this firm is special.  All the high expectations are there, but the support is also there when they see that you're giving your all and have real value to contribute.  So, it's a win-win.  I think those close to me probably all wondered for a while there (me included) whether I could still do this given the physical hurdles I faced.  Whether my professional re-emergence was possible.  It was humbling and scary.  To my core.  For years.  Especially when I'm the sole breadwinner, and I have precious young eyes looking up to me for love and financial support as they grow and shine through their childhood years.  While nothing in life is ever assured, it feels damn good to be back in the swing of things, to be working in my office for full days every day, and to have even earned a bonus this past year for all the everything I've committed of myself to this endeavor during my steep climb up the recovery hill.  And climbing is hard with these operated-on hips, let me tell you.

Last week, I had two monumental achievements... well, monumental to me. 

First, on Monday, I gave a CLE (continuing legal education) presentation to a group of lawyers in my firm.  It was based on the substance of a scholarly article I've written that is being published in June in a major legal journal in my field.  I spoke for about an hour while people either were or pretended to be interested in jury trial rights issues in bankruptcy detailed in my PowerPoint.  I used to speak to large rooms filled with lawyers about all sorts of topics related to my field at various conferences both in Texas and Louisiana.  But I've not done it in about three years due to all my surgeries.  And the room of folks to whom I spoke this week wasn't as large as many I've faced, but still.  I did it, and did it well. 

Second, I attended a dinner meeting of the Inn of Court (a true honor to be a part of) this week.  I've been unable to sit for extended periods for so long that I've also not attended Inn meetings in years.  It felt incredible to attend, and I was moved by how warmly I was welcomed by my colleagues in my field from firms all over the DFW metroplex.  I sent an email yesterday to the seven or so people with whom I sat at dinner at the Inn meeting just to say how much I enjoyed being in their company again, and everyone sent me lovely responses in return.  It's always important to show people you're grateful for their presence when you are.  That stuff matters.  My Dad taught me that, among many other things, when I was a baby lawyer, and his influence and guidance regarding my professional career has been immeasurably valuable.  Mostly, it consists of being mindful and friendly to everyone (because you never know who you're going to meet and how your meeting might be a light or a help for you, the other person, or someone else), being damn good at what you do (this is where the hours of grunt work and polishing of grey matter come in), and putting yourself out there (this is where bravery comes in), so that people know you and know what you're good at so that you become a go-to person when it comes to the things for which you're known.  And then people start to use the word "expert" when they talk about you and your work (who knew I'd become an expert on bankruptcy jurisdiction, for instance?).  That advice has increased my success ten-fold.  It's a pretty simple formula really, but there's a lot of character and discipline that goes into putting into action.  It's funny... I wonder where I'd be today but for the orthopedic quagmire that dragged me down.  It's probably not worth thinking about... "what if" roads rarely are.  Instead, it's better to think more along the lines of being a phoenix that people weren't sure would rise again.  But I'm rising.  Because that's who I am.  And this week, I have concrete examples of forward progress.  Of rising from my ashes. 

And next week, I'm attending a conference for lawyers and judges in my field in New Orleans.  Which takes my breath away.  I used to speak at gigs like this, but I'm not speaking this time... though I'm thrilled to be attending.  I'm the most senior attorney from my firm attending this year, so it's important for me to be there and to circulate.  And it will feel like putting on an old comfortable pair of loved shoes I haven't worn in a while (though, ironically, I don't think I get to wear my trademark heels to this conference just yet because of my hip).  Settling back into the professional public me I worked so hard to build.  And I'm really looking forward to it.  My oldest brother is also a restructuring lawyer (ahem, a fancy way of saying business bankruptcy lawyer), and he'll be there, too.  Which is a comfort and gives me even more to look forward to.  Quality time with my big brother.  Given how different our personalities are, I find humor and odd joy in the fact that we ended up with pretty much the same job (though we approach it in our own unique ways and at different firms).  And then the cherry on top of this cake is that I get to spend the weekend in New Orleans after the conference with some of my dear Louisiana girlfriends, who always fill me up and bring much needed insight, hugs, and laughter into my life.  And I get to be in New Orleans, a city that always sings to me.  It's where I visited my grandparents so many times growing up, and a place I attended so many concerts in my youth... in short, a place that is simply beloved to me. 

Despite all my positivity and talk of rising from the ashes, there's something I'm a little afraid of.  The scary part I keep trying not to think about is that I'm flying alone for the first time in 3 maybe 4 years.  Flying is flying... which is always a little scary just because of the small space and nowhere-to-go-in-an-emergency fact of being in a plane among the clouds.  The normal flying fear, I find, is easily overcome by consciously remembering how cool it, in fact, is to be in the clouds.  And amazing music in headphones and a good book to read (I've definitely got the music and headphones part covered, and I have a book arriving from Amazon today) also create lovely distractions.  But here's the thing... schlepping myself and my things through an airport while still maimed is not something I'm looking forward to.  It's precarious because I am not willing to hurt myself again, and I have to be so careful that I don't.  And it's an embarrassing contradiction to still not be physically independent when this girl inside is so independent.  But if there's anything this broken-bodied journey of mine has taught me, it's the grace necessary to ask for help when I need it.  So, Southwest (and perhaps fellow passengers) and New Orleans hotel staff, here I come... and I may need a hand here and there to make it where I am going.  Some help on my journey onward and upward.  Because it matters.  And I simply have to be me again, and this is part of it.

So it's a monumental couple of weeks for this curly-haired girl with a cane... who happens to clean up pretty well in a suit when she needs to. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

That Perfect Entertaining Thing to do Whilst Others Sleep

I only remember perhaps once or twice a year that I own this set.


I don't know that I take it very seriously, but it's fun to dive into.  And I feel like diving right now.  And for fun, I am going to add some music that seems fitting with each card....

I did a pretty standard tarot reading on myself just now.  The card at the top represents the archetype, a/k/a me for purposes of this reading.  Then there's a set of three cards.  The left card represents the physical realm, the middle card represents the mental, and the third represents the spiritual.



My archetype card for this reading is Fourteen - Temperance.  The book describes Temperance as the character Delirium.  Here's the excerpt from the book for this card:

Always in command.  But bound.  Paradoxically views herself as weak.  As a result, ignores the restraints most people think of as normal.  Coming after death.  Winged.  Tossing liquid gold from one gleaming cup to another.   Power in excess.  Yet calm, self-possessed, contained.

 This one has to be Tori Amos.  Cornflake Girl seems fitting.

Okay... with that foundation, on to the physical: the King of Pentacles.


Belongs totally to the world he rules.  The spirals are not alive, and some are broken.  Fossils.  Body mostly stone and dead matter.  Master of wealth, property, power.  Had to fight to achieve, to protect.  Does not seek out battles.  But not passive.  Torn and cracked crown, but with a fiery light.  Person of importance and substance.  Successful.  Loves life.  Protects what she loves.  Calm but with deep understanding.  (Interesting how the physical card was literally about physical attributes, including brokenness, yet power.)

Here, I'm thinking Iron & Wine.  Woman King.  Unmistakable power, but with bloodshot eyes, and weeping.  And Marlene Dietrich's Favorite Poem, a single line is resonating in my mind here - ...spoke hushed and frailing hips.... 

And mental: the Six of Swords:


Intellect.  Conflict.  Fenced.  Complicated images - productions of the mind.  Everything in the universe, seen and unseen, fits into some perfect pattern.   Everything with a place in the grand scheme.  Obsession with visions becoming more and more complicated... as the medieval cosmos, with the universe's concentric circles moving in harmony.  We can never really separate intellect from our emotions.  (Interesting again how the mental card was about intellect....)

For some reason, with this one, I'm thinking Hedwig & The Angry Inch.  Origin of Love.  Historical, mythological roots trying to explain how our bodies came to be and love.  Intertwined, harmonic, approaching some sort of logic to describe the indescribable... but fanciful all at once. 

Finally, spiritual: the Page of Cups:


Feminine.  Water.  Above a stream of words.  Water is feminine in the way it flows and shimmers with beauty.  But hermaphroditic, including all qualities, flowing from one thing into another.  Spreading over everything.  Literary stream of consciousness... no judgment.  Experience.  Imaginative, dreamy, reflective.  Allowing feelings or fantasies to flow into awareness without judgment.  (And interesting, once again and finally, that the spiritual card involved water and flowing.)

 I'm going to end it here with Tori again.  This time Reindeer King.  "Crystal Core... you are at the still point of the turning world... The divide, fearing death, desiring life... Ice you were the one most tender with the rivers, you the roof of the waves layer after layer...."  And also Love is the Seventh Wave... "There is no deeper wave than this...."

If you're still reading way at the end of this long, long blog post, I hope it's at least been a little fun to journey through this with me here in my quiet late evening.