Lately I’ve been trying to simplify my schedule, opting for No over Yes; looking for ways to streamline and pare down. It’s not just that the holidays are busy, or that family is busy, or that applying to schools in New York is busy – although all of those are true. I am realizing that my longing for less is a sign that should not be ignored. It’s not laziness and I’m not in danger of becoming bored if I take a day off. My brain cells are not all going to wither away and dissolve into nothingness if I say No (to the contrary, that’s when I will finally have the time to think and to create again).
But. I said Yes to something this past month. I almost dismissed the idea altogether – without even considering it – and then, hesitantly, opted in. And it has been surprisingly, refreshingly wonderful.
I said Yes to writing a poem every day during Advent. Continue reading
Last night when I lay
I turned my problems
from back to front,
then front to back,
trying through worry
to wear them down
I only made them
loom larger, by slipping
one next to another,
matching craggy edges
until I had fashioned
wall. Continue reading
Today is Henry’s first day (well, partial day) of day care. I dropped him off at 10, rushed to Jacob’s violin lesson, and now have settled down with journal and poetry in hand. It did take me 20 minutes of searching to locate the journal…I was sure that I had one, somewhere, and was fairly certain that it was green. But I had no idea where I put it or when I last actually used it.
And so now I sit here, at a coffee shop, enjoying a “fancy” soup (cauliflower mushroom…or is it mushroom cauliflower?) and my first solo time in thirteen months (although let’s be real: between the violin lesson and picking up my daughter from school, I have almost 115 minutes). It’s a battle, to stop the thoughts whirring in my head: should I have handled drop-off differently? Should I have fed Henry a snack before we left home? Packed him his favorite snack to have once we arrived? Sent one last email about his schedule and what he likes? Will he nap? Will he be okay?? Should I have just kept him at home???
But then I hear a phrase echo in my head, a phrase that I overheard another mom say to her three kids yesterday on the subway: “What’s done is done.” They repeated it after her, almost automatically – a household mantra, I guess: What’s done is done. So I try it out, saying to myself and the whirling thoughts in my head: What’s done is done. You chose to start him at daycare today. This is how you decided to do it. What’s done is done.
It feels good. I stare down at my open journal, the date on the page. What am I supposed to write? It has been so long since I’ve written in a journal that I’m not sure how to start – and while I have a vague idea that I should write about “how I’m feeling,” it’s been so long since I’ve actually thought about how I’m feeling that I’m not sure, honestly. Continue reading
I want to remember it. Every time I hold your hand.
Earlier this month, my family visited some acquaintances who own a small home and cottage in the Hamptons. They had invited us to stay in their cottage, and we accepted. After a slightly harrowing drive out of Manhattan, we arrived late morning on a Tuesday, spent some time relaxing on the property listening to the sound of lazy lawn mowers and chirping birds, and then walked the 400 yards to the “bay beach” at the end of their block.
As per usual, I carried the family backpack and had a little hand in each of my own. Jacob scampered about, holding my hand for a few yards and then running up to his dad and then back again. Hannah Grace, as per usual, clung tight, my fiercely independent girl who always likes to have a hand to hold (as long as she can choose to hold it). Our host caught up with us and fell into step with our slow pace. Hannah Grace immediately requested her hand as well: “I hold your hand?”
Anne seemed both pleased and surprised. “Of course!” she exclaimed, and eagerly shifted her bag to the other arm. “It’s so nice to have someone who wants to hold my hand,” she remarked casually. Continue reading
This summer, my kids participated in our church’s “Vacation Bible School” program (aka, VBS). Every day for a week, we left the house early to trek down to the church’s building, where the kids attended the opening and closing assemblies and rotated through crafts, music, Bible, snack, and movement classes each day. I mostly volunteered in the preschool Bible class, performing various roles in Bible skits for over 100 little ones. The whole week was exhausting for me.
Despite being surrounded by Bible verses, memory points, smiling people with what seemed like boundless amounts of energy, and energizing pop songs about God’s love and forgiveness, I felt spent, exhausted, and alone. The transition back to New York City after over three weeks away was a difficult one, and I realized in hindsight that I had not prepared myself or the family well for the adjustment. (I actually made lists of things to do differently next time. I love lists.) And to make things more difficult, it was a hot week in New York, my husband was working out of town, and I was 7-something months pregnant. And my kids weren’t sleeping.
Each day I’d show up, feeling beaten, and run into dozens of people I knew, some fairly well, most acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a year – and everyone was all smiles and “it’s great to see you!” and “how wonderful that you’re expecting!” and hugs. I didn’t feel like smiling, and I didn’t feel like it was great to see anyone, and I didn’t feel like it was wonderful to be expecting. It all felt like hard work. Continue reading
I walked by a shuttered restaurant recently – not an unusual sight in New York City, a place that’s always on-the-go, always changing, always moving. This particular restaurant was not an amazing eatery, but it was one filled with memories for me. It was close to my first two apartments in New York, and I’ve had dozens of conversations there. I’ve shed more than a few tears at its tables and gotten into at least one noteworthy fight. I’ve been there with friends, with guys I was dating, with my boyfriend-then-fiancé-then-husband. I’ve been there with one of my kids. And now it’s gone. The old is being replaced by something new. Continue reading
In the Aftermath,
the water is still and the mist hangs heavy in the air,
a memory of earlier rain.
On the periphery, the trees are motionless.
Lake and sky are gray:
a monochrome world.
Two ducks paddle slowly across the water.
I take it all in: the water, the sky, the ducks, the trees –
the heaviness of the air, the gray stillness of the world –
but feel nothing.
Just the wet of the tears as they slip down my cheeks.
They come slowly, at first, but soon are a silent downpour.
Grief weighs heavy on my heart.
I grew up in a home that valued work. My sister and I learned not to waste time, and that working hard was one of the most important things we could do. Following the examples of my hard-working parents, I believed I could achieve anything—as long as I worked hard enough.
When my son was born, I was not ready to return to my previous job after just three months off. So I took a new job: motherhood.
I had worked hard building my career as a professional musician and arts administrator. Yet I believed spending time with my son during his most formative years was important—even if it meant leaving a job I loved and had worked hard to achieve. I now wanted to work hard to train up my child in the way he should go.
However, I often found myself longing for a different life. I grew jealous of friends and colleagues as they achieved professional success, some even having children of their own along the way. The past three-and-a-half years have been a struggle to find my place—as a mom, as a freelance writer and musician, as a Christian, as a driven and hard-working woman.
I’m delighted to be writing again over at the fabulous website Off the Page this month. Won’t you join me there to read the rest?
long to hurt more.
they sear and want to sear deeper.
they long to cry out into the darkness:
is anyone there?
long for comfort.
they seek it in food and drink, listlessness and frenzy, silent tears and screams of pain.
We all have our ways.
One hurting heart,
while hurting for us all,
while abandoned and without hope,
while crying out in the agony of torture,
can we, too?
I was nervous the first time I met the men. Possibly even afraid.
They were behind bars. Locked up in a maximum-security facility. Separated from society because they had done bad things. And most of them were going to live that way for a long time. Some already had, their crimes unfathomable.
My trip to the facility was to present a Latin jazz band concert. A few of the incarcerated men were onstage, helping with set-up when I arrived. They were polite, but physically far away in the large, concrete auditorium. I had worn a navy turtleneck sweater, black pants, and no make-up, very aware that I was a young woman entering an all-male facility. I could feel the eyes of each man who noticed me, wondering what I was doing there—so obviously out of place. A flurry of emotions flew through my head as the auditorium slowly filled to capacity. Should I be afraid? What are they thinking about me? Should I have come at all?
I’m honored to be writing over at the fabulous website Off the Page again this month! Won’t you join me there to read the rest?