Non-glamorous self reflection

Over the years, I’ve derived my identity from a lot of illogical places: the size of my house, my title at work, the places I travelled. I was great at piecing together all the parts of a full life, but it was never all that fulfilling. I was sort of like a paint-by-number piece of art where from a distance I was pretty impressive, but up close things were messy and awkward.

You hear people say it takes losing everything to realize what really matters, or experiencing a rare sense of enlightenment to discover their true purpose. Whatever it looks like, being stripped down to your bare-bones self is a fast track to figuring out who you are.

For me, this didn’t occur after a magical yoga retreat or hike in the rainforest, it happened during maternity leave.

Forget all the pain and hormones and general madness (I’m serious, forget about it, or no one will ever reproduce again). Consider going from life with a 50+ hour work week, full social calendar and time to do whatever the hell you wanted…to the complete opposite. Once baby arrives, the very ways in which we’ve defined ourselves are snatched away, replaced overnight with this hard and amazing and Most Important Duty.

Color me clueless, but I couldn’t wrap my head around how to use a swaddle blanket, let alone the fact that I’d created and sustained a life. And the crying. Oh, the crying.

Adjusting to this new life can feel hard and sudden, no matter how much you thought you prepared. At first, you might fumble about in resistance, but you’ll surrender everything as you’re gently immersed into your new world.

This 12-week period was the most time in my entire life I spent alone. And while I wasn’t really alone (come on, I was with the baby! I could text! I was occasionally awake when my husband was!), there often was no one to talk to, and summer in Phoenix meant I was pretty much on house arrest. It was me, the baby and my thoughts.

When you take away everything you’ve used to build your identity, you spend a lot of time realizing what parts of yourself you like and those you less than like. You get to live in this distraction-free bubble where you can peer out at how you’ve been living your life “out there” and see if you want to change anything.

Glamorous enlightenment? Not really. But just as effective and no sweat lodge required.

wish-even-clue-baby-ecard-someecards

Advertisements

neighbors without borders

When this happens in your backyard you might consider a few things. Like, how good is my homeowners insurance? Or, how did I not hear this thing fall? Or, how lucky am I that gravity had the tree fall away from the house and not onto it?

IMG_9859

IMG_9864

We had a macroburst two weekends ago that involved 100 mile-per-hour winds and torrential rain. The neighborhood looks like a hurricane passed through–I’ve never experienced anything like it.

This is an inconvenience largely because we have dogs and our neighbors have dogs, and because it’s a giant mess. (And it’s a million degrees out, and I’m super pregnant, those conditions heighten any disturbance). But this is a joke compared to problems that exist in other parts of the world–or hell–in other parts of Phoenix. But while incredibly annoying, knocking down walls makes for a great social experiment.

It dawned on me today how different life would be without so many walls. What would it be like if we didn’t live in such modular, segmented ways that separate us–literally and figuratively–from those around us? How exactly did we become so reliant on the idea of privacy?

Chances are it would be weird if things were different. I mean, I’d definitely have to dress more appropriately when I let the dogs out in the morning, and there’s always the off chance your neighbors are creepers, or have ugly yards you don’t want to stare at, or run a frat house. But it also might be kind of cool to have a more open sense of community. Lots of cultures live more communally than Americans, and I think that’s neat. Although in these cases it’s often families that live interchangeably, not strangers who happened to prefer the same zip code as you.

At any rate, in the week since our wall was demolished, we’ve gotten to know more neighbors than we did over the past year, and it feels nice to get better acquainted with the people that reside 15 feet from you.

All day at work I sit in an enclosed office. My house is (well, was) surrounded by a six-foot wall. I’m an introvert, so this doesn’t displease me, but I also thrive in social settings and often wish I sat in an open bullpen with coworkers instead of in my own stall. And that I had neighbors dropping by to say hello rather than just waving from behind closed car windows.

The wall should be resurrected by the end of the week, but it’s temporary hiatus has had unexpected perks.

And then things got deep at the horse track.

We went to the horse track last weekend in true Phoenician spirit.

“We have to embrace every possible outdoor activity because the weather is perfection and it will be 120 degrees in four months.”

I’m not a big horse racing fan, but I know enough to equally appreciate and despise it. The Phoenix track oozes 1950s charm and nostalgia – a giant equine-themed time capsule. Patrons can’t help but question whether they’re within the confines of a vintage relic or outdated eyesore.

In the third race of the day, a horse stumbled coming out of the gate. It was severe enough to unseat the jockey, but the horse quickly recovered and didn’t miss a beat. It continued the race, expertly navigating to the inside edge of the track, and sailed ahead to win by several lengths.

Without a 120-pound rider, a horse is not only disqualified from a race, but also at a tremendous advantage. This still begs the question as to how critical the jockey’s role is, and how much heart these animals have to do what they’re raised to, to perform unfailingly, seemingly on autopilot. Even without any coaching, whipping or spurs. They just know how to dig in and give it their all.

Some horses, not all horses, love to run. But domestic animals have an innate desire to perform and to please. This is why my border collie passionately herds us around the house and why a rider-less thoroughbred will commit to winning a race without any encouragement.

If I’m being honest, this partially comical event really got me, goosebumps and all. It was beautiful to see something – animal or human – perform with such unbridled passion. It made me pause to consider if there’s anything I do that passionately. I need to find more situations where I can throw every ounce of my heart and soul into what I’m doing, even if it’s only for a minute-long race.

156211_10103336466840601_1693159979_n

shutterbug

Ever pretend to be a professional photographer?

Me neither. Until today.

The challenge? Family portraits.

Katie dear – you’re an amazing friend and inspiration. I love your family. Thanks for trusting Lisa and me to attempt this, it was fun 😉

pizza & drugs

It happened last night. I was bound and determined to: A) use a greenopolis coupon, and B) eat pizza. So I placed an order at Pizza Heaven. It’s a great neighborhood place that even touts gluten-free — for those averse to wheat and the gang.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I was a bit alarmed. There were no empty parking spots. Fortunately, a woman leaving waved at me as she walked to her car. In my mind this meant, “Panic not pizza friend – I will relinquish my spot to you.”

I was wrong.

Her frantic waving and honking at me as I tried to take her spot caused me to pause.

What the F, lady? I need me some pizza.

I rolled down my window and waited as she made three attempts to roll down the correct window in her car. And this is how our conversation unfolded:

Lady: They’re closed!

Me: What?

Lady: Yeah, they just closed. They’re in trouble. I’d get out of here.

Me: What? They what? Wait, who?

Lady: You should leave.

Me: Ok, I guess I’ll leave.

So I got freaked out that there was some sort of government raid or vandalism or hold-up inside. I fled the scene and started driving home to the melody of sad hunger pangs in my stomach.

About 45 seconds later, logic struck in.

Why the hell did a random woman just tell me to leave a restaurant in a good area with a full parking lot. This is insane.

I pulled over and turned around and called the restaurant.

Me: Hi, are you guys open?

Teenager on phone: Yeah

Me: Like, you’re really open. Right now?

Teenager: Yeah.

Me: KThanksBye

I drove back, parked and walked in. My pizza was ready, my coupon was accepted and I thought the whole thing may have been a vivid daydream until the clerk asked if I was the girl who just called “to see if we’re open.”

Busted.

I told them the whole story. And they told me that the panicked woman is a heavy drug user who often wanders through their place, demanding there are undercover cops everywhere. I asked if they call the police and they said no, she’s pretty harmless.

Yeah, except that she literally drives away customers.

Can’t make this stuff up.

is this real life?

You know it’s going to be an interesting day when this is the leading headline on your local news website:

Medical-marijuana superstore opens in Phoenix

Just wait, it gets better.

It may not have been the grand opening he’d hoped for, but Dhar Mann says his Phoenix marijuana superstore will be a boon to first-time pot growers. […] In addition to hydroponic supplies and other growing paraphernalia, Mann’s store at 29th Avenue and Thomas Road features an adjacent clinic where people can get marijuana recommendations after submitting medical records and seeing a doctor.

I’m not saying I’m for or against this, but I’m pleased I do more with my journalism degree than whoever was charged with writing the article.