Making our way for the holidays: January 16, 2015

Reading and remembering this feels longer than 6 years ago.

My side of the family, each Christmas, converges at one of our homes to celebrate the holiday. This past season, after too many years away, we met in Monterey, CA. Monterey is where my Uncle Daryl and Aunt Carol have lived for a few years shy of forever. We left home Saturday evening and made it through LA by the cover of night. We missed all the traffic and buzzed right on through. (So nice!) We spent the night in Thousand Oaks. We slept in, ate a leisurely complimentary breakfast (that was surprisingly decent for hotel breakfast), and hit the road. The skies were rich blue and the air clear and clean. Even though we were in Southern California, there was just enough crisp in the morning air to make me feel like we were, really truly, on a holiday adventure.

The only downside was that Amira was sick. She had come home from school on Friday with a fever. We were so disappointed because it meant missing her choir performance that evening. For the trip though, if she was going to be sick, it sort of turned out to be good. She was able to create a nest for herself in the backseat and just rest, read, and sleep.

We opted to go up US101. I’ve traveled that way so many times over the years. Because of rains in the prior weeks, this trip was something special. The hills, which are normally a dry golden brown, were covered with fresh green growth. You could see still the spent summer grasses below the verdant new growth. It made for a spectacular, beautiful display. I thought about stopping a few times to take a photo. I’m wishing I did as I type this now. The landscape is so sharp in my mind’s eye. I desperately want to download it from my noggin and share it with you.

Paul and Amira had never been through Big Sur and I hadn’t for years. Because of this, even though it made the trip longer, we opted to drive Big Sur into Monterey. Like the entire trip so far, the colors of Big Sur’s landscape and sea were hyper vivid, intense, and beautiful. We could see evidence of mudslides and road outages from the recent rains. Except for one small 15-minute delay, we were lucky that they had all been cleared and repaired before our passage through. We stopped at a vista and were dazzled by it. Amira was likely less dazzled. She did her best and took it in through her sick-bleary eyes. I do believe the fresh air did her good though.

And this is where I confess. It wasn’t too long after that stop that I suddenly felt done! I wanted out of the twisting roads that followed the Big Sur shoreline. It was majestic, beautiful, moving, and about 20% too long! It felt ungrateful to want out. But, wanting out is exactly what I wanted! Maybe if we had come just for Big Sur, I wouldn’t have felt that way. My relationship with it would have been different, as I think about it now if we had stopped at multiple vantage points and spent time. Instead, we were on our way to somewhere… to Monterey. I was ready to no longer be journeying and to simply ARRIVE at my intended destination. That’s the way it can be with a lot of journeys, right? I have a tendency to be impatient with the journey when I have my desired destination in mind. This can be true of road trips and in things I want to accomplish in me personally. I want better health. Do I really have to invest in consistent and ongoing weeks of regular activity? I want enhanced peace of mind. Do I really have to take the time daily to quiet myself, meditate and listen? The examples go on.

See what I mean? It can be hard to be in, stay with, and enjoy the journey. (I have a friend, Shelli, who is an exception to this rule when it comes to road trips. Maybe you are too.) But for me and maybe others of you too… the key might lie in consciously embracing the journey. Obviously on a road trip that’s not always possible… but for the sake of analogy… what if we had planned to enjoy, meander, breathe and really take in all of Big Sur? We could have planned our travels so that we started fresh in the morning. Bolstered, strengthened, and refreshed by needed rest the night before, we could take our time. We wouldn’t feel the press of having to “get there” and could celebrate the beauty of Big Sur. Something for me to think about for the future, in both a literal and metaphorical sense.

Despite my impatience, we did make it to Monterey in good time… perfect really… dinner time! 

Do you share too much or not at all?

So, on my TikTok feed, I saw a man calling into an imaginary customer service line:

Hi! I would like to cancel 2021, please.

(pause and then…)

Yes, I want to cancel. I tried the 7-day trial and I don’t like it.
I don’t want it. I just want to cancel.

It was funny because, well, it’s relatable. Life throws what it is going to regardless of whether there is, say, a worldwide pandemic or an ongoing threat to our country’s democracy happening. What do I share? Which part? And how much? I want to document, share, and process. At the same time, I don’t want to complain or bring you, my dear reader, down. How do you navigate the tightrope of being a light for hope and encouragement while still allowing room for discouragement, overwhelm, and grief?

Do you share enough? Do you share too much or not at all? Last night and this morning, I helped edit my mom’s Christmas letter. It’s the first one she’s been able to get out since 2017. The Parkinson’s that has been fraying away at my Dad’s physical and mental well-being has been doing the same to my mom. She’s Dad’s full-time caregiver and the demands are complicated, relentless, and increasing. As I was editing her letter, I saw how she shared the fact her life has been difficult but in a way that isn’t exhausting for the reader. Part of me was impressed, and part of me questioned it.

I mean, her sharing is authentic and in keeping with who she is. And yet, I wonder, shouldn’t she be sharing with family and friends just how intense things have been and are for her? I realize how much I was admonished to, for the most part, handle my challenges on my own. Being a burden on others is discouraged.

This year has been a real test on the limits of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, stiff-upper-lip, and all the other appropriate colloquialisms. One of the things that I *have* liked about 2020 is that it has brought a lot of cultural assumptions out into the open for analysis. It has given us the opportunity to determine whether these assumptions that we’ve long lived with, both consciously and unconsciously, are valuable and service to humanity. Or, are they actively working against it. It’s an excellent opportunity for self and communal reflection. It’s an opportunity to culturally evolve as humans in community together on this shared, singular, beautiful miracle of a planet.

I’ve had things happen or that I’m experiencing that I’ve wanted to share. But, I hesitate, pull-back, and opt on the side of not sharing. What if they (the person I’m thinking of sharing with…) are already having a hard day? Won’t my sharing make it worse for them? Am I just complaining, being selfish, and self-absorbed to share especially given that everyone is going through so much? Heavy sigh. It’s exhausting just thinking these thoughts. So much going on and so much to process, it’s difficult to find focus in the midst of it all. Heavy sigh.

All that said, I know getting to be there for someone else, to listen to their stories, worries, and emotions, can be surprisingly re-energizing for me. When I know my presence has been supportive and helpful, there is a kind of level-up bestowed onto my own resiliency. I know I don’t have an eternal capacity to do this and boundaries must be maintained. Self-nourishment and care must be maintained.

But, maybe some of this conversation would be moot if we were well-trained in boundary setting. If I knew I could reach out to share, but also be confident that they would tell me (if need be)… “I love you, but I don’t have the emotional bandwidth today to listen… or to do x.y,z. Let’s talk tomorrow.” That would be such a relief. I wouldn’t have to second-guess if I am overwhelming them or causing them emotional harm. And, if we were good at doing that with each other… that confidence could flow both ways.

I’ve been thinking out loud this entire post. I hope my rambling thoughts might resonate or spark with some of your own. I am a big believer in the power of self-reflection, intention, and committed action. The more aware of these things we are, the more opportunity there is for us to make intentional, conscious choices that will allow us to live lives of meaning and increased joy.

Awkward, big-ass chair

Nearly every inch of Amira’s walls is covered in Behr’s P290-5 Squash Blossom. Finally. I bought guaranteed-one-coat paint. Three to four coats deep, I’m disillusioned. But, I’m getting closer.

A part of this project has included clearing out outgrown, outdated, and unused items from the room. This has included decor, clothing, furniture, and a variety of tchotchkes. That has meant that an awkward, big-ass chair that has lived in her room for 3 years is now in mine. Ultimately, it will be leaving this house never to return. But, until then, it lives in my room.

After having groused in my mind about all this, I curled up into that awkward, big-ass chair yesterday afternoon. I needed a break after painting and sat down. And this was my view…

Holy moly.

I’m so lucky to live where I do.

Grateful for the view, and the awkward, big-ass chair to view it from.

It’s good to be reminded: Jan. 7th, 2007

I don’t remember this at all. It feels familiar like a relatable story, but not necessarily my story. I know it is necessary for our brains to constantly be clipping information away that it deems non-critical. Even so, I feel a little sad that I can’t remember *all * the moments like these. I’m glad I wrote it down. It’s a snapshot of the average every day of life. Even if I don’t remember it, it’s still precious. So, the original post title “It’s good to be reminded.” and is equally appropriate for what I feel rereading this post.

Amira & Max 01/07/2007

JANUARY 7th, 2007

The two wind storms that we had have taught me more thankfulness. We’ve lost power during both storms. We’ve been lucky that we haven’t had to live without it for more than 24 hours. In the first storm, some people went weeks without.


Night-before-last our power went off just before 1 AM. Amira woke up about 5:30 am the power was still off. We started a fire for warmth and lit the candles for light. Pulling her toys and books in close to us, we spent the morning playing in front of the fireplace. Once Mom & Dad got up, we decided to head out to get some breakfast. As we tried to pull out of our driveway, we discovered 5 tree branches had fallen and blocked our exit. Dad took a saw to the branches, while Mom & I hauled them out of the way. A little pre-breakfast exercise.

We spent the morning at the mall eating tasty spinach and artichoke egg souffle, hanging out with Amira while she climbed, hopped, slid, and generally romped in the kids’ play area. When we discovered there was still no power, we went grocery shopping and had a delicious lunch (I had a tasty hummus and veggie sandwich on Etruscan whole-grain bread – yum!). We came home to the cold house, bundled Amira up in her bed for her nap. She was cozy under a blanket and down comforter. Around 2:15 pm, the power returned. Obviously, losing our power couldn’t be called a hardship.

Even so, being without power makes me really grateful that we have it 99.9% of the time. I don’t know the statistics for how much of the world lives without reliable power or running water – but that this is something that I can take for granted… it’s a wealth and a blessing.

The night before Gigi’s moving day: Jan 3rd, 2012

Due to my own neglect, I lost my old blog URL and the blog content that it held. I was able to salvage some of the content using archive.org. As I was writing for my Patreon last night, I had the idea to post some of those nearly lost moments here. My tentative plan is to keep an eye on my archive and post them around the same date/time in the year. So, here we go. I present to you, the night before Gigi’s moving day, a look back to 9 years ago. We were still living in Portland, but our time of caregiving Paul’s grandmother was coming to an end. We called her GG (which later morphed into Gigi).

JANUARY 3RD, 2012

I’m really tired. It’s only 10:20 pm but my vision already has that blurry, out-of-focus thing going on. Tomorrow is Grandma’s move day. I’ve got some low-level nervous energy, despite the deep desire to curl up and sleep, about the remaining ‘day of packing’ to-do list I have. We are going to have a small army of people and cars showing up tomorrow, and so I know everything will be covered. And still… niggles wriggle in my mind.

The walls are completely bare in most rooms and boxes are stacked neatly waiting for the moving crew. For those who have known Grandma’s house, it’s a profoundly strange sight. We shared our last dinner and evening with Grandma in her house.  We took a short moment to say thanks for the grace, love, and support given over the last (almost) year and a half to each other.  We enjoyed dinner as usual and with happy banter played a few hands of UNO together. There will be more dinners and more rounds of UNO… just not here and like this.

At Amira’s tuck-in – it was my turn to pray. I felt such deep gratitude for the lessons learned and the relationship built and I said so. Amira expressed sadness for GG (Amira’s nickname for her Great-Grandma) having to move and that she was going to miss having her here with us. She talked about moving in next door to GG at the assisted care apartment complex. We had to concede that GG’s soon to be neighbors probably wouldn’t appreciate our bumping them out of their home. We had to remind Amira that we have many visits, shared dinners, playing games, and pool parties (there is a pool and families are welcome!) to look forward to.

Communal living changes you… from age 7 all the way to 92. It’s not always easy or fun, but it often is too… and it is most certainly stretching and deeply rewarding. There’s more to be said about this – but this will have to do for tonight.

This particular portion of our adventure is complete.  Tomorrow begins a new adventure for her and for us.

The value of blogging and why I have done it

This morning, I’m remembering the deeper value of blogging and why I have done it. I get Seth Godin’s blog in my email. He’s great at keeping his content pretty short and digestible. Even so, I’m sporadic about reading them. A good chunk of the time, I delete them without having read them. Even so, I haven’t unsubscribed because there is always a gem seemingly written just for me. For example last night, I was cleaning out my email and pulled up all of Seth’s emails. My inbox gets cluttered far too easily and I try to purge out the cruft regularly. I started scanning my way through Seth’s post, one at a time, when I hit Dec 29th’s blog post:

The most important blog post.

It is on the most important blog.

Yours.

Even if no one but you reads it. The blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts.

And the most important post? The one you’ll write tomorrow.

SETH Godin’s Blog

Blogging has tangible value for me. I’ve written, more than once, about it in the past. I do love the idea of blogging and having it be of a source of interest and value to any readers who might stumble into my digital space. But, at the end of the day, remembering the value of blogging and why I have done it.. *because it provides value to me* is reason enough to get back into my practice. Although the timing is coincidental, I suppose, you could call it a new year’s resolution.

Leaning into that uneasy feeling.

(Published first to my Patreon supporters.)

Recently, a good chunk of my brainstorming and working time has been on our deck. The breeze has been brisk and cool enough. I haven’t had to run back inside for relief from the heat. (I’m told that will change over the next few days… heatwave on deck for Labor Day weekend.) I did have to share my office space today. He’s not a bad office mate per se. He is a little pushy when it comes to getting what he wants (scritches on demand) but otherwise, he’s alright. 😉 I’m beyond lucky to be working in such a comfortable and luxurious space. 

My brainstorming sessions have been mulling over how I can use my skills to meet people’s needs. Art does meet a need, but not always in the direct, understandable way that, say, buying groceries does. As I brainstorm, I alternate between feeling stuck and stymied and then excited by the possibilities.

There’s a business/entrepreneur coach that I follow on Instagram named Gary Vaynerchuk. I like his no-nonsense practical thought processes. His wisdom sounds more like common sense than something enlightened and otherwise out of reach. The only catch is implementation, consistency, and patience are required.  It shouldn’t be a thing at all… except for the temptation of wanting quicker, more successful results. But, I’m taking his advice to heart. Be willing to experiment, fail, learn, and show up again. Seek what will provide value to those who cross paths with what I’m sharing, saying, and creating… and doing it consistently. It feels risky but I can see its value. 

I have an online friend who has been self-employed for the last 15+ years. She’s successful at what she does. In her office, she has a banner. It says: “Comfort is a slow death.” My instinct is to fight with that statement. But, it has a lesson it is trying to convey. The lessons I’m learning in following my calling are simultaneously lessons for day-to-day life. I see that.

Next step, feel the anxiety that is speeding up my heart as I type this. I will do it anyway. I only have this life to live, so there’s no use it waiting around for the anxiety to magically evaporate. Ha! I’ve been around long enough to know that isn’t going to happen. So, Janece, discomfort it is. This insanely blessed life that I’ve been gifted… it’s one I want to live. Here I go.

Castle in the sand

I’m grateful for the have-to-dos in life sometimes. For example, last weekend, I had to take Amira to the beach for a sculpture class homework. I decided to take on the assignment too – build an abstract sand sculpture. We sat down where, if you dug down a few inches, the sand was still wet. I got to playing. I could have used more water to help keep the sand together but it made for a creative constraint. I decided I wanted to build something that would be photographed from above and got started. I felt, in my delusions of creative grandeur, like Andy Goldsworthy in Rivers & Tides. The surf was advancing and I didn’t know if I would finish before the sea reclaimed her sand.

I’ve never sculpted much of anything before beyond PlayDoh. It was fun. It was a good lesson that taught me the value of setting up new experiences outside my creative rabbit trails. It’s been a few days and I can still feel the creative energy boost.

It was an spirit boost as well. Getting outside and connecting with nature doesn’t fix anything that’s happening in my life. It does give me a resiliency boost.

Disregard the horizon tilt: I was standing in the surf, water rushing over my feet. I was enjoying that experience more than paying attention to whether my photo was level.

Want is different than need

In about an hour, we have friends coming over for a socially-distant lunch. I’m looking forward to seeing them, it’s been a few months. And, my heart and mind are anxious. I feel like too many things aren’t up to snuff… things are wrong. We’ve been painting color swatches upstairs in preparation for repainting the bedrooms and the bathroom. It looks a mess. It’s chaotic and jarring visually. We are going to have lunch on the deck. Our deck isn’t finished and I feel self-conscious and embarrassed about that. There are things all over the place, nearly anywhere my eye might settle, that aren’t up to my standards. I’m afraid they won’t be up to our friends’ standards either. I don’t want them to look down on me. I don’t want to be wrong. The fear of being judged burns into me like a brand.

To help diffuse the intensity of what I feel, I often describe the sensations to Paul. I did and he asked me what the worst-case scenario is for me. I told him I’m afraid of being judged, shamed, or disliked. He asked why that was a concern and I replied, “Because I want to be liked.” Paul in his clear-sighted wisdom replied: “You don’t want to be liked. You need to be liked.”

I’m not even sure how to go about it. But, right now, I’m committing to practicing not needing people to like me and what I do. If you have any tips… I’m all ears.

Getting into and used to flow

Flow is the sweet spot of conversations and blogging. You get into it and everything moves organically, one topic to the next. If you fall out of it, getting it back can be awkward. It’s sort of like needing an ice breaker activity at a party or sitting next to someone and not knowing how to start up a conversation. I ask questions and hope their answers will prime the conversation pump. In blogging, I have to ask myself the questions to get the flow started. A while back, I saw this meme: “I have so much to do I can’t decide whether I should get up early and dive in, or just give up, roll over in bed and let it all go.” Relatable, right? But, of course, I won’t let it all go. I’ll dive in and trust the flow.

Recently, I’ve found flow is either the sweetest spot to be or the most uncomfortable. Flow is the all-is-right-with-the-world feeling or the exact opposite. It’s effortless to float in the flow when it takes us where we want to go. Drowning in rapids is what it feels like when we are tossed about the unchangeable and unexpected.

LIFE JUST WON’T STAY PUT

Amira is in 11th grade. I saw those words next to her name on the school information website and felt a jolt of amazement. Today is her first day of school. Thanks to the pandemic, school is online distance learning only. I say that and I am grateful for the tools available and the effort that has been put into making this the best experience it possibly can be. It’s requiring the administration, parents, teachers, and students to have a willingness to work with things as they come. And as they do, they will, hopefully, develop their unique customized flow into a this-is-school-for-now normal.

My dad has Parkinson’s and PD-induced dementia. Mom is his sole caregiver right now. (We are working to get her help but it has been trickier than it would have been pre-COVID.) She & I talk almost every night after Dad goes to sleep. Mom, before retirement, was a payroll accountant. She was a good accountant because she is good at keeping a structured, detailed checklist, meeting deadlines, and getting everything corrected down to the penny. It’s a must for the job and she excelled at it. It was a perfect job for her because it is just part of who she is. She is reliable, consistent, accurate, and has everything under control. Those skills have made her an amazing caregiver too. She has detailed spreadsheets with Dad’s medications (both a list and the when and hows of giving those meds to him throughout the day). She has all the documentation you could want or need regarding his medical history. She’s thinking ahead, managing for contingencies, and possibilities that she and Dad might have to face. She’s incredible.

CONTROL (OR THE ILLUSION OF IT)

Last night, during our phone conversation, we got onto the topic of control (or the illusion of it) and the need (especially right now) for going with the flow. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease that has and will only get more complicated to manage. Mom is incredible and she’s spread too thin and exhausted. Dad’s symptoms have been both expected and also out-of-the-blue. There’s just no way to say “This! This is how this will go.” It’s fluid every day. We talk about the days ahead and we find ourselves once again having to let go of timelines, getting everything perfect, and being in control. Predicting how things will go is impossible. We make our best-educated guess and accept that it is good enough. In both daily life and looking at the future, we are having to do the best we can with what we have today and go with the flow. (I say us, and while true… she is, as his caregiver and wife, taking a master’s level course in this compared to me.)

ART

I was working on a series of paintings (before migraines interrupted my flow) that are about choosing a focus and a meaningful direction when faced with life’s unpredictable flow of circumstances and emotions. It’s a paradox I keep thinking about… going with the flow of things (releasing control) while simultaneously embracing the idea that I have a choice (taking control) in how I respond and live within that flow.

My paintings are my visual thought pieces, in context and execution. They are me asserting my belief and desire that I have free-will and access to healing and transformation if I will allow and pursue it… even when life is utterly out of my control. I don’t have to be happy about it. Agreeing that it is the best thing, or where I “should” be right now at this moment, isn’t necessary. I, however, can take control by determining what kind of person I want to be in this flow and what I will do next.