Life in General

Growing Pains

Fatigue shrouds itself around my shoulders these days. It’s cold to the touch and impatiently whispers demands in my ears: Miss the people you love. Mourn the life you had; all you wished and planned for, too. Medicate the pain you feel, and all that you anticipate.

There is so much pain these days.

There is so much anticipation, too.

Life has generously dropped such heavy weights in our laps and jealously lapped up the pillars and pleasures we took for granted. But no matter what any of us may have gained or lost since around this exact time last year, we all carry with us an incomparable, often completely inconsolable pain.

I have not weathered the worst of this storm as so many others have; I still have my home, my job, my loved ones, and so much more. Yet I ache for those who have lost any and all of the above. But I have my own loses and I, too, am shrouded in my own unique and unparalleled troubles.

My heart aches at the loss of 500,000+ Americans to an illness that needn’t have taken so very many lives. But I hope our nation grows more aware of the inequities and works to eradicate them.

My ears hurt from wearing two masks more tightly than ever before. But I grow more confident in my ability to safely navigate the world to achieve success at my job, to purchase my groceries, to help my neighbors.

My soul suffers each time I make the choice to keep my distance from friends and family and pastimes I once so enjoyed. But I grow more sure of my convictions and more appreciative of the times I had and will have once again to enjoy cherished people and places.

There is so much anticipation.

And through the anticipation, I am growing.

Growing weary of staying home, especially when home isn’t always a perfect haven. Growing tired of the effort it takes to go out, whether the outing is for wants or needs. Growing bored. Growing impatient. Growing angry. Growing older.

Growing thankful for the home I have, flawed as it may be. Growing determined to make my dreams reality, even before I think I’m ready. Growing wiser. Growing calmer. Growing stronger. Growing hopeful.

Growing, through it all, into myself and more intro my truth than ever before.

A final whisper: Make the best of it.

There is no easy way or duty to make the best of the loss of a loved one, one less source of income, lacking a home, or the absence of safety and security in whatever form that takes. Some of these things are allowed just to be and remain shrouded for however long one needs. And outside of those things, I intend to do what I can to take the shroud thrust over me and turn its cool touch into the warm embrace that I so long for.

Instead of a thin veil that obscures my sight, I’ll have a warm wool to brave the seasons while I continue to grow and head toward the horizon.

Here’s to our collective pain, and here’s to the hopeful landscape that will come of it.

Life in General

Still On That Tightrope

Words matter.

Many people choose a word to guide them through the year ahead; a word that sets their intentions and helps them make choices, set goals, achieve dreams.

If my past year had a word, it chose me. And that word was: SURVIVAL.

Even before 2020 became the year of global distress and personal woe, I had set the bar low and not given myself goals or resolutions; the goal was to rest and I resolved to go as slow as I needed. I was already tired.

And so, when the word turned upside down and threw so much of what we knew from our chartered courses, I felt simultaneously unmoored, but also able to adapt in a way that got me where I needed to go: safety.

On one hand, I didn’t feel -outside of the obvious- like I had gone completely off the rails or nor did I have to cancel any of my non-existent plans, pause my invisible goals, extended my unset deadlines. Because I hadn’t set any, made any, agreed to any.

On the other, there was nothing stopping me from swaddling myself deep into what kept me as comfortable as one could be during a time of such turmoil.

While I don’t believe that a magical cleansing takes place when one year becomes the next, I do like the idea of a common, set time to evaluate the paths we’ve chosen and decide whether to continue steadily, veer slightly, or about-face entirely. And in that reflection, I’ve decided to let a word guide my next year’s choices.

The past year’s SURVIVAL got me to today (in full and heavy acknowledgement of the many who could not -often for reasons outside of their own control- do even that), but I am not ready to hit the ground running at this starting point. And while I am not revitalized or well-nourished enough to believe myself capable of great feats or glorious resolutions, I am ready to come out from where I’ve been safely nestled and test the waters once again.

Which brings me to the word I’ve chosen for this year: BALANCE

Sometimes balance means low. Bending. Feet rooted. Body folded. Exhale.

It means doing less. It means protecting yourself and your time. It means closing windows and locking doors, saying no instead of yes, making a point to regroup, looking before you leap… if you ever even make the jump.

Sometimes balance means high. Reaching. Gaze upward. Heart open. Inhale.

It means doing more. It means being generous with your resources. It means opening up and inviting in, asking for seconds, making decisions swiftly, jumping in headfirst and not looking back… especially when things get hard.

Both sides of balance take practice, patience, effort, discipline: qualities not often available to me last year, and that may not always be available to me this year.

I know that even in times I am able to put my full focus on balance, I will inevitably stutter, stumble, or even fall. And part of achieving balance is giving myself grace should I …when I… slip.

Yes. This year, I will do my best to balance.

Balance the hope I feel about the future with the fear I feel about how we will get there. Balance the joy I feel seeing the first Black, Indian-American, female Vice President of the United States with the sadness I feel reflecting on the shoulders of so many brave and powerful women on whose shoulder she stands, especially when they were never able to take their rightful place at the table. Balance the ambition I harbor with rest I still require. Balance my desires with my whims. Balance whatever life throws my way.

Because I may still be on that tightrope, but the view is so marvelous from here.

Life in General

I Don’t Know About You…

…but I’m feeling 32.

And a slew of vacillating emotions on top of that.

But back to 32. Because today is legitimately my birthday and that is my newly minted age.

Oddly enough, 32 is my lucky number. It has been ever since I first donned it on the back of my travel soccer jersey as an 11-year-old budding athlete. Seeing as 2 (the date of my birth and my hitherto luckiest number) and all iterations of it from 2 to 12 and 22 were already claimed on my team… 32 it was, and 32 it remains.

What makes that even more special was, well, when have you ever seen a soccer player with a jersey number over 30? You usually don’t. And even from a young age, I was never afraid to be just a bit (or even a lot) different to get a semblance of what I wanted.

But allow me to set the record straight: at the beginning of the year when I said that I planned to pivot from my ambition-forward and goal-getting life in order to slow down and learn what truly brings me joy, I never thought that my more low-key lifestyle would take this form. This isn’t the type of different I favor. Nor do I find acceptable.

These days, I am often reminded of that saying, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. And this piece of life we find ourselves in across the globe (though mostly, at this point, in the United States) may be the best example of that sentiment I have ever experienced. Because all those plans we had for this year and beyond no longer exist. Or at least, they do not in the way we originally thought they would.

After all, who plans for a pandemic?

I mean, who outside of the highest global officials who are supposed to have the foresight from the science community that an event like this may be on the horizon and be properly budgeting to properly allocate supplies and support to the people they govern?
But I digress…

Life as we know it ended, ironically enough, on my husband’s birthday: Friday, March 13. And now here we are, nearly 6 months later… and while much of the overwhelming panic that comes with the unknown of a highly-contagious lethal virus has shifted into the steady beat marching toward an unknown endpoint, it feels like so little has actually changed.

While we all are older, are we any bit the wiser?

I think that, after living through the events of the past 6 months, many of us are. And in so many ways outside of what you would expect from a half year passing.

It is my most sincere birthday wish that all of us, no matter where we are on our journey, can find it in ourselves to forgive our past views and ignorances in favor of moving forward armed with new truths that manifest not just in convictions and platitudes but in actions and efforts, too.

Further, I wish that that we can be vulnerable in showing our remorse, and forgive each others’ trespasses as we work -together- toward something different. Something better. Something fit for all of us. Because that is nothing less than what we all deserve.

It’s okay, life is a tough crowd / 32 and still growin’ up now
Who you are is not what you did / You’re still an innocent
-“Innocent” by Taylor Swift
Life in General

2020 Vision

The dawn of a new year -and a new decade at that- is a customary time to reflect on what has come to pass and plan for what’s yet to. To think of goals and make resolutions.

For the first time in a long time, I won’t be doing that.

If you know me, you know that I traditionally thrive on plans. On setting goals and working toward them. On reflection and learning and dreaming and achieving. For thirty years of my life it has been my way, and for thirty years it has served me well.

And the past ten years are proof of that: I set many goals for myself over the years, fell short once or twice, shifted a few as I grew, and met a fair share of them, too. I made mistakes both personal and professional, but I was also sure to learn as I rose from those ashes. I ended bad relationships, began better ones, embraced cherished ones, and discovered what it means to be a good friend, daughter, colleague, and lover all while making sure I stay true to myself. I earned degrees, cobbled together a living, and built a career. I purchased cars and mortgaged houses and set up homes. I adopted animals. I ran marathons. I traveled. I lived. I flourished.

As far as a goal-getter is concerned, I’ve had an outstanding decade.

But, while I don’t believe that this era of my life, my thirties, are an end to goals and dreams and achievement, I do think I have hit a personal plateau. Lately I’ve found that setting goals no longer sparks my spirit into forward motion, and achieving goals rarely gratifies my ambitions the way it used to.

So I have decided that my vision for the new year, the new decade, won’t be achievement. Because, in reflecting, I see that I have done much of what I thought I should by now. And I have accomplished more than my wildest dreams were for myself ten years ago. And while I am tired, I am also content. So, as I look to the next decade, instead of reaching up for my next success, I hope to simply go forward toward joy.

This will sometimes mean saying no more than I say yes, even to people and events and ideas that I love. But this will also mean dedicating myself to causes outside of my daily work; projects that fulfill my giving spirit and quench my desire to be the change I want to see in the world. This will mean giving myself space to revisit beloved pastimes and to play and learn new ones, all with naught in mind but enjoyment. No end goal of output. No timeline to perfection.

Maybe something great will come from it. and maybe nothing will but what satisfaction I glean for myself.

Some may see it as selfish. I see it as self-considerate.

I invite you, no matter how many or few other goals and resolutions you have, to join me in considering yourself and what will truly bring you contentment as we take one more step into our shared future.

And hopefully, in being considerate of ourselves in addition to caring for others, we might all see a brighter, healthier, happier, more peaceful world in the next year, the next decade, and create a new age of benevolence that’s worth remembering.

Lyric from “Long Live” by Taylor Swift
Life in General

Homecoming

I’ve been noticing so many references to home this past month.

Beyonce’s documentary on Netflix (and the subsequent live album of her Coachella performance) which bears the name Homecoming dropped, as did the first single and music video off Taylor Swift’s new album, where lie Easter eggs that make many fans predict the next single or even the album title itself will have something to do with Home.

I returned home after a weeklong vacation with my husband’s family, and then dropped off the face of the earth and stayed home from work even longer battling a terrible illness that left me coughing, aching, and voiceless for over a week. My husband has gone away on business and returned home, only to go right back out again.

And during this month exactly a year ago, my husband and I closed on and moved into our first single-family house in our Sweet Home, Chicago.

As much as we wanted this -a home to grow into out of the hustle of the “real city” that is significantly closer to where we both work- homeownership has thrown us into the deep end. And we know how to swim, we knew it was going to be hard: no more landlord to fix things when they break, no more shrugging fixtures or wall colors or outdoor spaces off as “good enough” because we didn’t have the power to change much, and no more power to up and leave at the end of the lease if we just weren’t feeling the place anymore. But we didn’t expect the water to be this choppy, for the ladder out to seem so far away.

We soon discovered there is so much more to owning a home than well, ownership. There are the things not noticed until after we began living here. The things the previous owners didn’t necessarily break but didn’t necessarily fix, either. There are the easy upgrades and personalizations that turn into full-on replacing or remodeling or, heaven help us, renovating. And then, of course, there are the things that do break on us and we’re on the line to figure it out ourselves (especially when the thing that breaks is the heater going into the second night of Polar Vortex -50 below temperatures… true story).

Every small improvement to this charming little Tudor is a marvel, but sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees and appreciate the learning curve of, say, fixing holes in plaster walls before painting the color of your choice when there are gutters to clean and bricks to tuck-point and patios to resurface and laundry machines to replace and walls to paint and chimneys to sweep and basements to finish and…

and…

…and so I am going to stop myself right there, almost a year into one of the biggest commitments of my life (outside of marriage and student loan debt and that time I spent too much on my Nordstrom’s card…) and stop analyzing the trees to appreciate the forest.

As I sit here writing this, there are a tremendous amount of things I could be doing to ever improve this house.

But my dog is curled up comfortably, looking out the front door which we throw open to let light into our main living area, patrolling the neighborhood; something he could never do from our beloved lakeshore condo in the sky.
My husband is cooking us shrimp scampi with fresh ingredients he picked up on his commute; something we never had time for when our days were long and our commutes were longer.
A white wine from our favorite vineyard chills and is begging to be uncorked and toasted. There is reading and puppy snuggles. There is laughter and dancing. There is art and industry. There are arguments and compromise. There are all the things we will carry with us wherever we live.

There is certainly work to be done here in this house, but there is, above all, the understanding that this place is already a home. Our home. Our trees that make a beautiful forest.

closing day May 2018