In honor of Susan Strayer LaMotte‘s fabulous birthday, I’m participating in #40forgood. Today the dogs and I came cross a woman in our neighborhood sitting on her stoop having a very tough day. We stopped to sit and talk with her. She pet the dogs and they loved the attention. By the end of our conversation, she was smiling. It was a small thing to do. It didn’t take a lot of time. My hope is that it made a difference. Let’s make the world a little brighter for each other every day.
Last week, I mentioned a poem my friend, KaRyn, wrote and then gave me a framed copy of as a 21st birthday present when we were in college. She is an amazing poet and this framed poem is one of my prized possessions. It’s one of the very few things that survived my apartment building fire almost 6 years ago. And I think that says something extraordinary about its power, and the magic of the poem and the person who wrote it. Thank you, KaRyn! Here’s the text:
“It is a renewal of Spirit that makes you uncomfortable Butterfly.
Whetted wings of resistance
stick to walls of old paper that advertise nothing—needing nothing.
So Flyer, fly—and make your peace with the blue sky.
Swear you don’t wear pastel.
Take on black, brown, gold
and become a richness of soul.
Beauty is a hidden trick
most hands would capture with pins
and fettering glass,
starving the greeness from the grass.
But some hands are freeing.
Some hands are strong enough to come home empty
and some hands will hold but not contain.
Those are the hands to land on.
Let your Spirit Wings of Water wake
and rise unweighted.
There is a threshold of reason
and one of power;
These are yours to cross and attain.
Voice your wings, my breaker of cocoons.
For Christa Avampato – a true breaker of cocoons with hands strong enough to come home empty.
March 17, 1997”
“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” ~Lena Horne
This quote is on my mind today as I continue to roll up my sleeves and remake my life here in D.C. And though I drove alone with my belongings packed into my tiny car for 900+ miles with my tiny dog who was healing from painful back surgery, I knew I was driving toward a better, brighter future. I just didn’t know what that future was at the time. I knew I was going to have to dig down deep into my personal reserves to muscle through perhaps the most difficult move of my life.
In many ways, coming here 3 months ago was a practice of wiping the slate almost completely clean, save for my incredible friends who supported my journey in every way imaginable. Whether it was through phone calls, messages of support, renting me an apartment, sending me job leads, helping me unpack and get settled, showing me around the city, watching Phin, or just being there whenever I needed anything, they came through with flying colors. And now I feel really lucky to be back on my feet again and in the position to give all that love and support right back to them.
I’ve been honored by the number of people who have recently reached out and asked me for help. I like to be that resource for people, especially in times of change. I’ve been through the wringer, and I want as many people as possible to benefit from my experience. Whether that means looking at a resume, meeting for coffee to brainstorm, offering writing and job search advice, or anything else that they might need, I feel glad and grateful to offer that up. It’s the best thing about getting older—I’ve now got more experience to share than ever before.
So maybe you’re going through something right now. Something that feels uncomfortable or confusing or disappointing. You might feel alone, but you aren’t. Far from it. There are many helpers, seen and unseen, who are waiting in the wings for you to ask for help. I know because I’m one of them.
“Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I’ll rise.” ~Maya Angelou
Last night I had a long talk with my friend, Sara, who is one of the most inspiring, passionate people I know. She walks the path with me in good times and bad. I’ve had a particularly difficult couple of months, and Sara suggested that I put the movie The Unsinkable Molly Brown in my queue. “Unsinkable” is a word that gives me a lot of comfort. It’s something I aspire to be. When I look back on a long life, many years from now, I hope that’s how I see myself. As someone who continued to rise no matter what life served up. I’m going to adopt “unsinkable” as my mantra for year 39. Thanks, Sara.
Life is about finding people who help us light the way forward when we can’t see the path ourselves. Many people will be with you in the good times, cheering you on and celebrating in your wins. And that’s terrific. Others will be with you only when times are tough, and that’s valuable, too. I’ve found that the people who mean the most to me, the people I’m most grateful for, are those who are there through all of it, people who will walk with me when times are good, bad, and confusing. What matters most to them is that I just be me.
“May all who enter as guests leave as friends.” ~ Unknown
I’ve started to explore different neighborhoods in D.C., including my own! Though I have a general sense of some things in D.C., it really does feel like I’ve landed in a brand new place because the city is so different from 10 years ago. It’s blossomed into a fascinating mix of revitalization and preservation. Part of my exploration is to see how I feel in different neighborhoods as potential places to buy my first home. My hope is that I can build a home here that becomes a place where people gather and share and learn. I’m not exactly sure what form that will take, but I do know I want a house where people enter as guests and always leave as friends. I want my home to feel homey for everyone who visits.
I have a difficult time asking for help, though to make this move to D.C. I needed help in a number of areas. I let my vulnerability show. Certainly there were people who kicked me when I was down, who took the opportunity to make themselves feel better by making me feel worse. I cut them loose. They were the vast minority and I realized in short order that I didn’t need that kind of energy in my life. Nearly everyone who heard about my move asked how they could help. It was an incredible feeling to have that kind of support, and I’m grateful for it every day. I’ve learned so much in this move and the most valuable lesson is this: when you ask for help nearly everyone will want to do whatever they can to help. My friends had an apartment for me to rent immediately. Others called, texted, and emailed me during my drive and the day I arrived to see if I was okay and if I needed anything. Friends have recommended me for jobs, and many people have cheered me on every day before, during, and after the move.
You might be going through a tough time right now – the loss of a job, difficulties with loved ones, or the general heaviness of life. Reach out. Connect. Let people know what you’re going through and what you need, and they will step forward and lend a hand. I know because I’m one of them. We’re in this together and to make life easier, happier, and healthier for each other. That’s what matters.
Over the years, Phin and I have worked nearly every angle to help manage his separation anxiety—several trainers, numerous practice exercises, a serious amount of walking, toys to keep him occupied and busy, medications, aromatherapy, and even a few months with my mom in Florida. The one thing we never tried was a second dog. I was worried about taking on the expense and work of a second pup, and many people convinced me that a second dog wouldn’t help. “He’s just not a city dog,” they’d say. Or worse, “He was meant to be with a family that’s home all the time, not a single person who works.” I’ve shed a lot of tears and experienced a huge amount of anxiety because I was worried I just couldn’t help him.
It’s been two weeks since we moved to D.C., and my friends Matt and Alex whom we rent from have a sweet pup, Otis. Otis and Phin get along very well and they were immediate friends. We just open up the door between my apartment and their house, and Otis and Phin pal around together all day. It’s an incredible situation, and I’m so grateful for it. And Phin’s anxiety when I leave the house? Gone. Turns out what he needed all this time was a pal to be in the world with. And isn’t that what we all need? No matter how heavy life gets, as long as we’ve got a friend we’re okay. Another beautiful lesson from the world of canines.
One of my very dearest friends was in town on Friday. Though I’ve only been in D.C. for a week, I didn’t hesitate to invite her and her boyfriend over for dinner. She’s spending a year abroad and I’ve so missed being in the same city with her.
As soon as I extended the offer and she accepted, I panicked a bit. My place isn’t all set up. Heck, I don’t have any cookware, plates, silverware, glasses. I don’t even have a table. You know, all the things you need to actually cook and host a dinner. On top of that I’m running around trying to get my life set up, and interviewing for jobs. Am I really in a position to host a dinner at my home? Should I just order takeout? Should I email her right back and say we should meet at a local restaurant? What am I doing? These were the thoughts that ran through my mind.
Then I took a deep breath. I decided to improv it. I stacked up a few of my unpacked boxes and threw a cloth down over them. Voilà – end tables! I made some tasty Mexican food – easy to make vegetarian and ready in half an hour. I turned on the jazz station on my TV and we had instant dinner music. We sat on the couches, holding out plates and glasses. It was wonderful—comfy, fun, and relaxing. This is exactly the way I hope everyone feels when they come to my home. As long as hosting is done with love, it doesn’t need to be fancy. Come as you are is the only dress code in my home.
Last night I went to bed thinking about the wonders of meditation, and especially when practicing that long-distance meditation with friends. My friend, Sofia, had just posted a link to a new study that provides further confirmation that meditation changes our bodies and minds at a cellular level.
In a very powerful dream, I arrived at Faneuil Hall in Boston. My friends, Mary and Tom, whom I’d meditated long-distance with the day before, were there smiling and waving. I made my way to them, they gave me a hug, and Mary said, “All will be well.” I smiled, turned around, and found myself facing a maze of paths through a grassy field. There was a street sign nearby with an arrow that read, “On the path to ancient healing”.
With that, I knew that all the plans I’m making now are the right plans. They’re what I need to do now, even if the road ahead seems uncertain and winding. Luckily I have many friends who are lighting the way.