When the bright side isn’t so bright.

In a roundabout conversation with my doctor this morning, she shared she was widowed. Prior to hearing this, I had kind of written her off as one of those women--you know–the ones who just happen to have it all…great career, a few kids, doting husband, etc. I stupidly categorize people like this in my head, glamorizing their entire existence, only to learn my assumptions were completely off base.

I felt like crap for pre-judging her and couldn’t begin to wrap my head around what she’d been through. She summed it up in a matter-of-fact way, remarking: “You just can’t plan your life, you know?”

This struck me–hard–because I spend a lot of time doing just that. Planning…worrying…planning some more.

From weekly activities to finances and career goals, I tend to default to over planning things. I want everything to always be ok and my rationale is that worrying will ensure this. I mean, I might as well obsess over things that will probably never happen, because that seems like a logical way to prevent them. Sigh.

This incidental reminder came at a perfect time, when a lot of people in my life are going through particularly hard times. Different people in different situations, each rough and overwhelming in its own right. I’ve been thinking through it all and it’s troubling. Sometimes it’s really hard to find a bright side or spark of light in the storm, and sometimes there isn’t one. When the bright side isn’t so bright, we just have to stumble along in the darkness until the sun comes up again.

There’s nothing comforting about this realization, it’s just another lesson in growing up. That the tough times we go through will shape us and strengthen us, and ultimately serve to highlight the better, easy times.

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double e-g, double e…

I often claim that I don’t like surprises, because:

A. I’m a control freak.

B. I have poor in-the-moment reactions.

C. I’m an introvert.

D. I scare easily.

…Or maybe it’s all of the above?

At any rate, I realized last week that I secretly do love surprises, even if the act of being surprised throws me off a bit.

When my doorbell rang at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, my immediate reaction (as a result of living in our prior neighborhood for four years) was, “I know these people mean well, but they’re never going to convert me. They need to understand boundaries and check for mezuzahs.”

I was going to ignore it altogether, and then at the last minute I panicked that a neighbor may have lost a pet or child or something equally important, and I decided to press my luck. I opened the door to see my friend Angela from high school waving enthusiastically at me. Before I could ponder how she knew where I lived and what she was doing at my house, she darted back to her car and came back to present me with two extra large Eegee’s drinks. She told me they were a gift from my friend Amy, who lives in LA, because she knew I was having a rough week. Angela happened to be driving back from Tucson that week and Amy worked with her for the delivery.

Talk about stealth coordination.

I was floored that Amy would go to such lengths to bring a smile to my face and a sugar high to my head. Eegee’s is what we grew up on, and how we marked every important life event from birthdays to break ups. It’s the delivery-room cigar of Tucsonans. And it was exactly what I needed.

It’s funny because I was so excited that it almost didn’t matter what she had done; it was the simple fact that she worked so hard to show me she cared and deliver something I would truly appreciate.

I can thank her and thank her, but instead I’m going to try and return the goodness to the universe when the opportunity presents itself.

Grateful for best friends.

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A pregnancy interview with myself.

How are you feeling (23 weeks, 4 days)? Mentally, it’s a consistent blend of the following: good, terrified, excited, happy, emotional, astounded, anxious and hopeful. Physically…I’m feeling pretty good and comfortable most of the time, but definitely get winded more easily and have lots of dizziness. I can still knock out a lot of push-ups which makes me happy.

What makes you happiest these days? Jim, exercise and ice cream, which is fairly consistent with non-pregnancy. I also find great joy in wearing sweatpants and leggings. I’m appreciative of calm, positive and realistic moms as influences.

Anything you miss? Intense workouts and beer.

What’s been the most surprising? How much the baby moves…getting to feel her all the time is amazing, and how many strollers are available at Buy Buy Baby. Oh, and Sophie the Giraffe–people are really into her.

What are you most grateful for? Good health for me and baby and an incredibly supportive husband; having several pregnant friends to share this journey with. The enthusiasm and support of our families.

What’s been the most overwhelming? Knowing that there’s so much I don’t know.

Has anything been annoying? I haven’t been loving the What to Expect series. It kind of makes me feel like a science experiment. Also, has anyone else noticed you can see Heidi Murkoff’s bra in every single video the app posts? I mean, she has millions of dollars, she should hire an honest assistant already.

What’s been the most helpful advice so far? “If the girls on 16 and Pregnant can do it, so can you.”

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Excuse me, this torch is kind of heavy.

It’s strange to realize you’ve reached a point in life that used to be a distant vision. To hit an milestone or experience that you can remember imagining in earlier years as someday.

It’s natural to reflect on these moments during significant events–weddings, graduations, meaningful purchases–but there are so many other, smaller signs that are just as poignant. Things like role reversals…how we interact and advise our friends and parents, even the conversations with people who work for us. These moments create bizarre reflections on how far we’ve come and everything that’s changed over time.

I readily seek the advice of others, sometimes to a damning extent, but there are only a select few individuals who always have my ear. These are people I’m thankful for everyday because, at least in my opinion, they know everything. My encyclopedias of life advice.

This week, one of my encyclopedias came to me upset and in need of advice; suddenly roles were flipped. I was acutely aware of the irony of the situation as it occurred, and the weight of the proverbial torch being passed for a moment. It was a pretty heavy torch, but grasping onto it even momentarily was a welcome weight. Despite the negative feelings that prompted the exchange, I ultimately gained a sense of confidence in my own abilities to reciprocate advice and serve as a trusted confidante.

Until you’re forced to take on the tasks that always seemed impossible, you’ll never gain the satisfaction of knowing what you can achieve. Life pushes us out of the nest with moments like these, giving us a chance to stand, awkwardly, on our own two feet.

The art of reflection is a gift and a type of meditation. The more we learn to reflect not just on our current experiences but also how they relate to past experiences, the greater the opportunity to stay mindful of the present and confident in the future.

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You’re leaving corporate America to teach sky diving?

One of the best parts of getting older is letting go of the feelings of inferiority that sometimes plague younger years. There are lots of things I’ve always admired in other people and wished I could embrace, but it just never happened.

People who book travel plans on a whim, spontaneously move across the country or have a hidden penchant for tai chi and French cooking. Friends who take jobs with huge pay cuts to do something new, or quit awful ones without first figuring out COBRA payments.

There’s a lot to be gained through admiration of others, but in excess, comparison becomes the thief of joy. Getting older has helped me find a greater appreciation for others’ unique lifestyles, but also freed me from the jealousy I used to associate with my own lack of these things. Every year seems to bring increased comfort in my own skin and less senseless comparison.

What’s that? You’re leaving corporate America to teach sky diving? Sweet. Your passion is pretty badass, but I would lose my mind if I made that kind of choice.

The real irony is that for all the time we spend comparing ourselves to others, we neglect to realize our own awesomeness. While we’re longing to be more [fill in the blank], people around us are silently wishing for the things we take for granted about ourselves and our lives.

Truth is no one’s perfect or has it all, despite how it might seem on Facebook, which is why we gain so much from having all kinds of people in our lives.

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Change the world and have one hell of a good time.

I’ve been thinking more and more about closing up this blog for a bit. Not ending it – but going on a break.

It’s been seven years of history and thoughts here. An amazing relic to revist, sometimes embarrassing, sometimes hysterical. It’s been a good ride, but more and more of me needs to write new and more challenging things, in different ways. I’ve never made this a distinct destination, and accordingly, it’s become a blend of a journal, professional writing, miscellaneous lists, recipes and rants. Which I guess, in a way, defines a perfectly authentic diary.

I love writing more than almost anything, and not just putting thoughts into words; it’s the connections and sharing with others that really energizes me. There are times I can’t wait to write because I know how certain people will react or share in response. I’ve also met some cool strangers here. And I’m so thankful for everyone who’s supported my writing…by reading, kind words and funny comments. Every single time I get a response I’m elated, because it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.

But, there’s a pressure with knowing so many of the people who read your writing. To make it good, to not be too raw, to not expose the parts of you that might makes others uncomfortable. Not out of fear of judgment; more from a place of apprehension in blending worlds. Will they still like me if they knew ____?

In a way, it’s a relief to share parts of yourself that are normally hidden–but it’s also the scariest thing ever. If I’m going off the high dive for the first time, I might want to do it alone, not in front of a crowd.

Over the past few weeks (months?) I’ve felt a greater need to write for my own sanity, to express some hard things and uncomfortable feelings, so I’ve started composing lengthy, disorganized emails to my oldest (and incredibly understanding) friend. We often remark that as two very different aspiring writers, we should just publish the notes, cards and emails we’ve been exchanging since we were 13, and then we’d have our masterpiece.

I think I’m on the verge of starting something new, and I know I’ll share it eventually.

Until I figure that out, there’s this awesome quote: “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time.  Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.” -E.B. White