There is so much emphasis on balance in life these days, and combining balance with the ebb and flow of emotions of life is something that I have wrestled with on many days over the last few years. I’ve always been pretty even keel when it comes to handling my feelings, but in my earlier days, I didn’t quite have to absorb the chaos of life that came my way in the last few years either. I've learned that it's good to slow down, feel deeply, and yet not react quickly, and cry when I need to. I've learned that comparing my life to a story of what I thought I deserved is the perfect way to play victim, a game I have never been fond of, and that even though some days are rough, I am far from crisis. All that being said, today I couldn't shake the feeling that my life had left one station, and I am barreling down the tracks, with good intention, trying hard to get to the next destination, and when I didn't arrive by the end of the day, I ended up slowing to a crawl, feeling defeated and with a voice saying in my head, “why did you think you could go to the grocery store and be a writer?” There is just so much to do, it's overwhelming. I know that sounds less than my optimistic self, but it’s important to me to be real and acknowledge that, although most of the time I don’t find it hard to focus on the positive and keep my mind firmly set on personal growth, every so often I come up short and I know it’s important to process it.
Today was a struggle day…I miss my kids and feel like there isn’t enough of me to go around…not just for them which is most important, but for friends, family and my own ambition. After my knee surgery three weeks ago, I had to take some time off from yoga and my head feels so cloudy, it’s hard to stay focused and prioritize what to do next. On top of that, today I was feeling the weight, rather than the excitement of my goals, and the life I’m trying to create for myself feels further off than I want it to.
It’s so different than what I imagined. Stay present, the little voice says, keep working. I do, and it rescues me from the slipping down the road of “what if’s” and needing to know an outcome right now. On top of these feelings, I know my voice and my words sound different to old friends, almost unrecognizable in some cases, so I hesitate to reach out, because it's hard to feel understood. So I write about it, and even as these words flow from my fingers, the weight starts to lift, and I start to feel better. Maybe I can be a writer and go to the grocery store, both are pretty important right now.
The thing about personal growth is that it doesn’t ever start from that comfortable spot on your couch, all cuddled up with your soft blanket and sipping hot tea from your favorite mug. Growth is more likely to begin in a crouched position in the farthest corner of the closet with your hands shaking, and a fear so intense that it blinds everything for a moment, before strength takes over. Somehow, in my life, I knew that the only thing that would alleviate this paralyzing fear was action. Action I didn’t feel like taking, but knew I had to. One foot in front of the other, setting small goals, like getting in the ocean every day and going to yoga. Simple choices that started to rewire my brain and the way it worked. Slowly but surely, I started to rise and create a new normal. I’ve talked with so many people lately who have similar stories of fear or feeling defeated. There is so much pain out there, but I know there is more resolve and resilience.
My point is, its ok to hurt, to struggle and to be discontent. It keeps the fire burning, even if you have to step away from the flame for a few minutes every so often. That's my take away from a day like today. Not every day will come up roses, but leaders and followers are separated by what they choose to do when the chips are down, and I am a leader. I will examine and not bury, push forward even when I don’t feel 100%, and know that over time the path will become clear. The cool thing about life is that there is no moment of arrival, we are all works in progress as long as we want to be. I am a writer, even when I don’t feel like writing, an athlete, even when I am healing, and a mom first, foremost and always…a blessing that even on the hard days, makes everything better.
I am a homebody, but I’ve moved 7 times over the course of 20 years. Each of my four kids was born in a different place. Every home contained multitudes of memories, some amazing, some haunting, favorite spots (which for me were usually the outdoor patios), some included decorators, fancy knobs and pulls, even copper sinks and home theaters, things that the first world pays for and then has to keep up and maintain, in my case, at the expense of connection. Stuff can never fill a human void. I think you can probably see where I’m going with this. What I have learned over these 20 years and 7 houses is that home for me is about the intangibles…safety, security, and warmth, and if you are lucky a comfortable bed.
Yesterday, I signed a lease, on my own, for the first time ever, and I’m 43. It’s a little house, and so amazingly, still close to the beach. I had to move by March 2019, but I decided that the unknown and the anticipation of every “last event” (Christmas, summer, birthday) in my home where I have spent the better part of 12 years raising kids, making memories and at the end, a heavy unraveling that doesn’t need to be dwelled on now, but has nonetheless taught me so much about my outlook and toughness that I never knew, was more taxing on my spirit than just taking the leap. I thought I’d wake up this morning apprehensive, but I happily found that I am confident that I can turn this house into a home and a huge reason for that was one simple statement made by 13 year old Kate, after i took her and her and brother to see the house.
“It’s not extra, it’s enough.”
Talk about clarity spoken by a child from the back seat. She just gets me, whether she knows that completely yet or not. When a comment like that comes out of my child’s mouth, I have a moment of all is right with the world, and I have to take it in and write it down. For me, that profound but simple statement means she sees, hears and knows me, and my influence is being felt. To me, that is the ultimate gift of parenting.
I started to think…extra or enough. Extra is what makes my heart pound with anxiety, enough is what makes my heart full. Extra is what costs more, takes away time and diverts from the simple pleasures. Enough is what gives me time to talk with my kids, write, do yoga, learn more, and breathe easy. Extra is full of comparison, enough is content. Extra is exhausting and enough sleeps easy. Extra is never satisfied no matter how much it has, enough counts every blessing. This concept has grabbed on for me and this list is going to expand and maybe be printed and posted all over the bulletin boards in my new house. Right now life is calling and I get to go watch some more volleyball. Hoping your heart is full of enough today…
June 9, 2005…one of the four best days of my life. I’ll never forget the ear piercing scream you let out after the doctor coaxed you to breathe, your stubbornness was apparent from the first moment of your life. Two nights later, and back at home, when Lauren was afraid to sleep on the top bunk, Luke was crying because “that baby” wouldn’t stop screaming, and I was still awake at 3am because I had to stand up and rock you so you wouldn’t cry, and every time I’d sit down you’d start again…I’ll admit for a moment, I wondered what we had done. Kate, you have taught me so much about hard work and how it pays off. Training your amazing intelligence and iron will has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You are so much like me, and sometimes when that is the case, it makes it harder, not easier to communicate. I feel you and understand you in an almost intuitive way. I feel my feet on the path you are walking, introvert, aware and observant, stubbornly strong but so sensitive on the inside you almost have to put a wall around it. You are a beautiful person already at just 13. So, as you become my third teenager in the house, I have a few words that I hope you will carry with you as your life tells it’s story.
Learn to love the work. You’re old enough to see cause and effect. Give your endeavors your best effort and note the results. The habits you form now, when your hormones are making you moody and tired, will serve you for the rest of your life. If you can focus on your process now, the benefits you will reap will run deep for the rest of your life. The reward doesn’t come from accolades from the outside world, or medals and awards or even report cards. What is of true benefit is the deep satisfaction you feel in your soul when you know that you are giving your best effort. Once you build that muscle, it’s a fulfillment that will sustain you through all of life’s highs and lows.
Find something you really like about yourself and focus on it, even celebrate it. Be humble, but inwardly, focus on your talents and gifts, there are so many. Thirteen is an age of transition, for me it was the height of insecurity, but I always had a voice in the back of my head, even though sometimes it was hard to hear, telling me I was enough, it didn’t matter what other people said. That voice got me through the years of mean girls, acne, and being taller than every boy except for 3 (and I can still remember their names, Kevin, Zach, Tino… because it stood out that much). At 13, there is always something about yourself you will question. Find that positive inner voice and work to get comfortable with it, and your doubts will linger for a much shorter time.
Know that what’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right. Popular is still a word that makes my stomach lurch. The discomfort that goes with trying to fit in at 13, and sorting out your own feelings, is not a time I’d ever ask to return to. It’s a right of passage though that shapes your character, and helps you define what is important to you. Discomfort allows our biggest opportunities for growth, so now, looking back, I realize 13 for me was a time of some pretty heavy lifting. As painful as some of it is, I hope it’s the same for you, which sounds strange, but you are strong and it will help you discover so much about yourself. Know that I am always here to help you navigate, with the most open mind and heart.
The cool crowd is always changing, so set your standard. The truth is, you can only find security within yourself. Just keep being you, and you do that so beautifully. If you have a tribe, even just one or two, that you know you can depend on, you don’t need much else. Sometimes even the one or two will let you down, its ok, it’s part of life and learning…if they do, you will always have me in your corner, no matter what.
The amazing thing about having daughters, and today, you in particular, is that I get to see beautiful humans who bear a likeness to me, with vastly more potential. You inspire me to set an example to push that potential of yours to it’s farthest reaches. Kate, to say you are an original is an understatement. You are learning to use your stubbornness for good, your intelligence to learn, create and bring other people joy, and your kindness to make those who feel marginalized, good about themselves. Don’t be afraid to show those qualities to the world in the boldest ways.
Last piece of advice… dance when you feel like dancing, it will happen, and when it does, it will feel like the best night of your life.
Welcome to the teenage years Kate, you join two others in this family who are navigating it pretty well, you will do it in your own original way no doubt, but know that we are all here for you to help make this journey beautiful. Love you more than you’ll ever know.
If we pay attention, history has a way of teaching us about our own destiny and fate. I have always loved a good history class. I’ve been fortunate throughout my life to have had history teachers who could communicate stories, some with calm, clear voices and some with more excitement that you could imagine, hands flailing around and even one who jumped off his desk, mid-lecture (George Cotkin, unforgettable, Cal Poly Fall 1992). Either way, these voices showed me the angles of history that could incite critical thought and great conversation...a testament to the power of a great teacher. In part, because these teachers sparked my interest in history, I became an observer of the people in my life that could tell me the stories that had come before me. Stories of strength and perseverance and grand plans that turned into reality. I have always had the sense that what came before me was there to teach me about my own life story and, I have been fortunate to have people put in my path to be proud of and to prove my theory true.
Today I woke up thinking about D Day. I don’t know how many people my age did that, maybe a lot, maybe not so many. I would be willing to bet though that there are far fewer in the generations younger than me, mainly because the storytellers of the Greatest Generation have not been a part of the younger generation's day to day experience and, as humans, we learn so much more through story and experience than hard text.
When emotion is weaved through historical data, it embeds in our hearts and minds in a much more profound and impactful way. I grew up with a grandmother who told stories of being stationed at Elveden Hall (think Eyes Wide Shut and, more recently, All The Money In The World, they were filmed there) in England in World War II. She was a secretary to General Partridge and one of the first members of the WAAC, the Women’s Army Auxilary Corp. Her stories were my first taste of ground breaking female strength and conviction, and I always admired the way she radiated those qualities in the most humble, grace filled way. She also used the tenacity it took to get her to that point of her life, defying odds and breaking barriers, to carry her through both blessed and, more importantly, difficult life circumstances after the war, always using that strength to be a constant light to other people who crossed her path.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Normandy and see the beaches and rocky cliffs. It was the trip of a lifetime. Even better, I shared this trip with my dear friends, one of whom had been there before with his father Jack, who had shared his story on that trip, as they traced his journey through the European battlefront to celebrate his 90th birthday. Jack landed at Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944. Note the irony of that date. As fate would have it, his ship was delayed by bad weather after leaving England, and when it arrived in the waters beyond Omaha beach, the fighting had moved inland. Hours and even minutes can make such a difference in the outcomes of our lives. A delay of 24 hours could have been the difference that afforded him a life well lived. A story that includes a wife, six kids, and more grandkids and great grandkids than I can count. Jack turned 100 on September 6, 2017 and is still going to work today. Born just two days after my grandmother, and as fate would have it again, they became friends much later in life, after the war, going to party's, traveling together, and sharing a life that looked much different than the days of World War II. On top of that, I am fortunate to call Jack's son and daughter in law among my closest friends...like attracts like.
The strength of the Greatest Generation will always be something I admire and use to motivate me in our modern world, in the face of fading human contact and the instant gratification that we face as a society every day. I am so grateful to have had these stories passed on to me to wake up with every day. When I stop for a minute, and let the stories I have been told sink in, the universal truths are there for the taking. Perseverance in the face of adversity, belief that both fate, and our own discipline, choices, and actions, have a hand in telling our story, and above all, that love, family and friendship will carry a story through many generations, if we care enough and are brave enough to tell it. May we all have the courage to create stories worthy of telling to those who come after us.