Tag Archives: goals

widening the backdrop


I was listening to an interview with Marie Mutsuki Mockett, author of the book “Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye” on All Things Considered yesterday. It was broadcast in this half hour piece of the show that plays on our local station during the late afternoon, and then that same half hour is repeated later, usually when I’m in my car on my way home from work. I was partially listening the first go round – I heard enough to know that I wanted to look up the interview later and listen more carefully – but then it played again while I was in the car and I connected with her words so intensely that I started to cry in my car.

She talks about Obon – a period where the spirits of the ancestors return – during which there are lantern festivals held in many places in Japan. You can purchase a paper lantern and write down the name of the person you have lost, and you set the lantern onto the water just as the sun is setting. It’s still light, but then it’s dark, and there is this sea of light floating off towards the horizon. And suddenly your focus changes from the single lantern in front of you to the hundreds of lanterns in your wake. She talks about how she initially felt after the loss of her father – how she just wished that her pain could get smaller, shrink somehow. She eventually came to the realization that the pain would not shrink because she couldn’t love him less or miss him less, but that she could open up more to the world around her, and slowly she started to feel like that pain, although it was the exact same size, was a bit smaller in comparison with the vast world around her.


It was at that moment, with those words, that I could feel it. I could feel the very physical way that my body has curled up on itself for awhile now. I can very distinctly put myself back onto my bed in those first moments of knowing that my niece was gone, and how my body twisted into a groaning knot. I can feel how tightly coiled I was as I sat on the wooden pew at her funeral. I know how we spent that whole long winter retreating into the smallest footprint within our house, clustering together, perhaps without even realizing it. I have the imprint of the chair on my back still from where I sat and cut those evergreen paper branches for hours on end, without stretching. That feeling of tightness is so close to the surface that it can be conjured up quite easily. I told M this as I cut the wreaths and evergreen garlands for the holiday cards this year – just that act of sitting down for an hour with the same green paper and the same orange handled scissors brought it all back, the way our bodies folded in upon themselves, tighter and tighter.

She put words to the way that I’m feeling these days. Like I’m unfurling and stretching in ways that I had forgotten. I halfheartedly tried to articulate my desire to further open and strengthen myself this year in this post. Mockett’s description of that openness was exactly what I was trying to say. I have to flex that muscle a bit to get it working again – it’s been so much easier to say no, to recede, to back away. But I realize that I have to use it, and it feels good to use it. I have to stretch my body in new ways, I have to open my mind to other’s ideas that aren’t necessarily the ideas that I typically hoard and nurture within me before sharing. I have to find meaningful ways to connect to others and do things for others. I’m ready to nurture and care for this little place we call home, and make it stretch a little more to accommodate our growing girls and growing interests. We have curled into tiny corners of our home for so long, and it has waited patiently for us to return to it.

Listening to that piece made me more aware of what is driving my intentions this year – to stretch my body, to craft a home, to open up more in my writing. It has nothing to do with goals of perfection – the perfect body, the perfect kitchen, the perfect blog. It really has to do with openness. Less opening, the verb, but more openness as a practice. Widening the backdrop of this life a bit.

We have to negotiate this world where we know the worst can happen because it has, and the only way to move forward from that point is to let that pain float on an endless open sea with others.

working through january, one pile at a time


Working through January, one pile at a time.

Last January we all felt mired in grief, and the way that manifested itself for me personally was in irritation. I was also just plain sad, but beyond that sadness was this underlying irritation (and impatience) with myself. I wasn’t cutting myself a lot of slack, at least on the inside. I let a lot of simmering things continue just under the surface, until they eventually reached a boiling point at the end of the month, and I realized I had no choice but to face them head on.

Some of the simmering related to work, and I don’t really talk much in this space about my professional life, but its impact on my daily mental health was profound. I was feeling really frustrated with my presumed lack of time (or motivation) to deal with any of my own personal goals as well. I was also having a hard time visualizing seeing any project through to completion. Everything in my life felt half-done. And on top of all that steaming pile of melancholy, my feet hurt. Constantly. I could no longer make a lap through the grocery store without limping for several hours following the trip. I started waking up with shooting pain in my feet or the worst kind of of cramps in the center of my feet that would make my toes curl downwards and just stick there until I filled the tub with hot water and plunged my feet into it. I love a nice relaxing evening bath. I do not enjoy having to draw one in the wee hours of the morning.

I’m not sure what the tipping point was, but somewhere around the beginning of February, I woke up and decided that the only way to get through the work was to do the work.

And it was work. Making my case at work was never going to be a picnic, but doing it in the middle of intense grieving? I could hardly make it through a casual lunch conversation without crying. Speaking up for myself while keeping control of my emotions? Few challenges intimidate me more than that.

Deciding to table most things that I enjoy (and that keep me healthy and sane) to devote almost a third of the year to skipping sleep and following an aggressive study and testing schedule really scared me. I was also scared of failing. But mostly scared of falling asleep behind the wheel one day. I’m not one prone to laziness, but I do need sleep to function at a level somewhere slightly above despondent.

The hardest one to face was the surgery. So naturally I decided to do it (privately, in my own heart) before I made the outward commitment to the other two goals. I found a surgeon, I lobbied for an early consultation, I asked for the nearest surgery opening, and I convinced him to do both feet at once.

I wish I could look back to this time last year and understand where the nerve to go all in came from, but it’s honestly sort of a blur. I think part of me was numb, and the other part me was rebelling against that numbness. Fear, exhaustion, pain? Try me.


I feel like I’m starting to come out of the post-holiday slump. We are beginning to see the floor again between the dwindling piles. It’s cold outside, but the sun comes out just before we start to throw in the towel on winter. The feeling of being free is sinking in. 2015 stretches in front of me, open. I don’t plan to set any big goals or resolutions this years, but I have some good intentions for 2015.

It’s a bit of a milestone year for me, as I turn forty pretty soon. I intend to go into it as strong as I can. Last year was a pretty sedentary year for me. This year I’m stretching myself (and my toes) in several new ways, in addition to running. At one point in class tonight, the instructor said (during a particularly challenging series of weight lifting) that she tries to remember during each workout to give quiet thanks for her body, for what it can do, and what it does do each day. I loved that, mostly because I’d been repeating my own thank you’s in my head the entire class. I intend to show my gratitude for a body that heals by stretching it in new and challenging ways. 

This is going to be a bit of a milestone year for our house as well. We’re at the fifteen year mark, and we have some exciting things on the horizon. I can’t wait to share more about this on the blog in the coming weeks. When we bought this shell of a house in 2000, I’m not sure I had any idea what the long game was. But now I can sort of see the life cycle of this house – how we moved in, started a family, grew a family inside of it. In another fifteen years the girls will be onto new adventures, and we will likely be as well. It feels likes a bit of a half birthday for the house, and we intend to celebrate that this year.

I also have good intentions to blog more regularly here. It’s a tricky thing to squeeze in sometimes, but I’m excited to be more regular in my posting and to continue to talk about the things that I like to share here. I know I’m a wordy one, so I appreciate those of you patient enough to hear me out a semi-regular basis – and to stick with me after a year like last year.

To 2015 and Good Intentions!

rethinking resolutions: june and july update

Now here’s a funny question. Do they also send extra large, extra bold “FAIL”?

(My sister suggested that maybe it says “TRY AGAIN”.)