Visions of the Future

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The first week of January finds me rummaging through the largest drawer in my desk trying to find a notebook I took on a trip several years ago. The notebook remains unfound but I do come across the vision board I made last year. I prop it up on my writing table and reach out to two of my closest friends to see if they want to have a vision board making party once again this year. Finding a date for all three of us to gather proves to be difficult. The one date in January that works for all of us is the Lunar New Year – kismet.

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The 2019 vision board sits on my writing table for a few weeks without garnering much attention or reflection. I pick it up the day of the 2020 vision board party and find myself unable to connect with the woman who just one year ago so clearly and confidently created the collage in my hands. I have a strong desire to set my vision board on fire…bonfire style in the middle of my Brooklyn apartment. (Don’t worry; I don’t actually follow through with this impulse. Largely because my friend confirms that yes, burning things can be cathartic, but doing it inside one’s apartment is not the wisest choice.)

This year finds me feeling lost and confused. For the first time in my life, I don’t know what I want. I have no clear visions for the future. No specific goals. What do I want to do? What do I want to achieve? What do I want to create? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.

As my friends sip wine and flip through magazines searching for images and words to create their vision boards, I open the most recent O The Oprah Magazine, brought home because one of the cover headlines reads, “Midlife crisis, anyone? For every woman who’s not where she thought she’d be – a must-read”. I begin reading the article aloud as my friends envision their futures. It is poorly written, uninformative, a bit offensive in some places, and does nothing to answer any questions floating through my mind or alleviate how utterly lost I feel within my own life.

I flip through magazine after magazine to begin working on my own vision board. The rustling of turning pages randomly punctuated by an aggressive rip or methodically planned out scissor slicing from my friends gathering images and words for their vision boards. We chat and laugh, enjoying one another’s company. In front of me, each page becomes a sea of blurred colors, images, and letters. Every once in a while I catch myself deciphering a specific word or picture. I cut these out, not because they resonate with me or have some profound meaning but because my brain saw them for what they were and not just a nonsensical blur. Both of my friends create vision boards. I keep hunting for the words and images that my brain and eyes bring into focus gaining absolutely no clarity surrounding what I want for myself in this coming year. The result, a pile of clippings.

I can feel shifts in my life and within myself preparing for and clearing the path for something new. I just don’t know what that is yet. I don’t know what I want it to be either. Usually, this would freak me out – this would be cause for extreme anxiety. I feel like I should be worried, stressed out, concerned at the very least. And yet, I am not. I am oddly okay with the unknown. A shoulder shrug, my response to the fact that it seems everything I have spent close to ten years building is currently unraveling. My braiding skills are subpar at best so I’m not even attempting to plait the unraveling ends of my life back together. I sense that is not what is needed here either.

The next morning one friend texts me, curious to see how my vision board came out. I send her an image of the random scraps that got swept into a pile next to the stack of cut apart magazines to be recycled.IMG_3512

She messages back that she likes it and finds it expressive. Only after I explain does she realize I have not in fact created a vision board. I have sent her an image capturing my attempt to bring order to the random, unattached pieces of a nonexistent product, which mirrors what my life feels like right now.

All the various pieces of my life seem to be unconnected – no coherent or completed vision emerging just yet. A jumble I have neatly contained, safely tucked off to the side while I ponder what to do and how to put things together.  I don’t have the answers right now. And, well, that’s okay.

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Getting Older

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A Year of More Questions or Answers…

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I can feel myself softening as I approach the point in the path that offers a panoramic view of the bay. There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun is warming my face. I go home tomorrow, but this place is slowly beginning to feel like a home of sorts as well. I begin to wonder if I can maintain softer edges and a slower pace once home. Here, my sneakers are constantly filed with sand from the beaches and pathways along the bay. At home, the sidewalks grind down the soles and the grit and dirt from the streets quickly cake on to any white trim instantly making new sneakers look dingy.

Yesterday, New Years Day, I took the ten-minute drive from my parents’ house to the state park. The moment my feet hit the pathway leading to the sand dunes and strand a subtle smile crept onto my face – the softening that began happening…I don’t know when, but that I noticed over the last few weeks. I nod and say hello to the people I pass, wishing a, “Happy New Year,” in return to those who say it to me. The people are friendly here. Back home, we mostly try to survive and get from point A to point B without acknowledging those surrounding us. I used to crave the anonymity. I didn’t want to smile and say hello to strangers. Now, I must admit, I kind of like it. It takes work to tune out everyone and everything surrounding you all while strangers press up against you on overcrowded public transportation and every sense get bombarded nonstop.

A few months ago I began consciously slowing down. In the city that never sleeps, this felt sacrilegious. I had so fully burnt out just months prior to this shift that a complete halt was required. I was not willing to keep going down the path I had begun running down full steam ahead. I didn’t really know what else to do, but I did know what I was doing was not working.

I gaze out over the bay on my left and the mountains on my right. Tomorrow there will be skyscrapers and city lights surrounding me. I feel the pull of both places. I hear the questions that have been bouncing around in my brain raise their voices to be heard over the silence that envelops the place where I stand at this moment. I realize how few answers I have. A clear schedule of what the first five months of 2019 will look like exists, a roadmap of sorts. I have made obligations I will keep. I have chosen to invest in projects I will see through. I have also left space for myself, for the unknown, for rest, for whatever life may throw my way, for finding answers…or maybe asking more questions.

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Happy Birthday to Me!

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I am home sick with a nasty, drippy cold. Tucked into bed with every pillow I own propping me up while I precariously balance the laptop on my outstretched legs, dirty tissues strewn about on either side of me, tea cup by my side (the steam doing nothing to help clear my sinuses), all plans for the day canceled so I don’t infect anyone else with the plague, I am left with my own thoughts, and a cat who periodically wanders into the bedroom to meow at me then leave before being exposed to the germy mess I am today. This was not how the day was supposed to go. It’s my birthday! This was not how my 37th year was supposed to start. And yet, here I am.

I’ve been pondering what I really want out of this year – not my goals or what I want to achieve, but what I really want to feel and be. Somehow, 37 feels big. I am way closer to 40 than 30. Forty is coming for me like an oversized boulder that was just pushed off a cliff. Thirty-six was a year of growth and healing and being downright uncomfortable as every piece of my life encouraged, or flat out pushed me out of my comfort zone. I came face to face with some old, deep-rooted inner dialogues that needed to be rewritten. As I finally began allowing myself to grow and speak to myself in new ways I had to let go of relationships, tend to unhealed wounds, and genuinely forgive people I thought I could secretly hate for the rest of my life with no great consequence. I’ve spent the last month laying the foundation for true self-love and self-care as I walk into this 37th year of life. Sometimes being an adult means getting up early to workout so your back doesn’t hurt and eating the salad for dinner instead of the French fries so you aren’t awake all night with indigestion. Man, I miss my 20’s…sometimes.

This year, I choose happiness. I think for many years I didn’t think I could be happy, or that I deserved to be happy. It feels a bit revolutionary to declare happiness when I don’t have what society says I should have to be happy and fulfilled at this point in my life. My generation was told women not only can have everything, but we are supposed to have everything. Anything less, and something is wrong with you. I am not married. I’m not even seriously dating anyone right now. I practically drop my phone in fright every time I get a notification from one of the dating apps I foolishly created profiles on. I don’t have any children – unless you count my cat, which I kind of do, especially when I get the bill for his cat food or he wakes me up at 5am for no good reason. I have some amazing kids in my life but I may never have children of my own. I’m on my third career. I don’t own a house or have a comfortably, consistently growing 401(k). And yet, I say, fuck it! I am going to be happy. I am going to consciously make the choice to be happy over and over and over again this year, because why the hell not?!? Sometimes we get so fixated on things happening in one way (our way) that we forget life can, and does, unfold in lots of different ways. It’s okay if things don’t look the way we thought they should, or the way they do for everyone else. This year I stand firmly rooted in the fact that I am fulfilled by my life as it is right now, and I choose to be happy.

Maybe this was the way the day was supposed to go. After all, one of my main goals this year is to deeply connect with my own voice and use it. And being sick allowed me to have quiet time with myself and actually write.

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A Rough Week


I feel like I have been in a fog this week. I am downright depressed over what is about to take place in this country. I decided to drag  myself to the gym after teaching this afternoon because I ate my weight in carbs yesterday and my metabolism is not what it used to be…and I needed the endorphin boost. I found myself watching the inauguration preparations on the TV attached to the elliptical while listening to an On Being episode called, “Meeting Our Enemies and Our Suffering.” Yes, I purposefully chose to listen to that episode today. No, I did not anticipate watching MSNBC muted on the TV screen. Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman share so much wisdom applicable to what is now happening right now in the United States that I invite all of you to take some time to listen to Krista Tippett’s interview with them. I think we could all use some practice and tips on “meeting our enemies and our suffering.”

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Adios 2016

2016 has been a doozy! I spent most of the year with an emotional hangover from everything 2015 threw my way. Even the good moments were intertwined with challenges and uncomfortable growth. There was lots of letting go. I learned that healing and growing are painful, messy, and confusingly nonlinear processes. My comfort zone became too confining, so I wandered, okay, sometimes I was lovingly pushed by my closest friends, outside of what felt safe. Some truly magical things happened (when I was able to quiet the intense anxiety of being so far away from my stifling comfort zone). I spent a lot of time feeling uncomfortably cracked open. However, Leonard Cohen, was indeed right, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” A lot of light and love came into my life in 2016 (when I stopped fighting and blocking it). And, well, let’s not even get started on all the world events this year that made it seem as if hope, love, and acceptance were trendy things of the past meant to be squelched out for good. All I can say is, if you are reading this then you survived 2016…congratulations! May we all find greater clarity, love, and connection in 2017.

 

 

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Election Day Jitters

Confession…I am a bundle of nerves on this election day. I am secretly wondering if it is acceptable to have a stiff drink or a glass of wine with my bagel. Yes, it is a bagel kind of day. It is an eat as many carbs as I can stuff in my face in hopes they absorb some of this anxiety kind of day. No, I am not going to start drinking mid-day. I don’t think the students I see this afternoon and my classes this evening would appreciate that very much. Or maybe they would, but we will never find out.

The woman who greeted me at the door of my polling site was wearing a smile and a hijab. Most of the poll workers at my site are older African-Americans. Inside were people of every color and religion, lots of young girls standing hand in hand with their moms and dads, a lesbian couple with their two daughters, and I thought, “This is the America I want to live in.” Our communities and country gain strength when everyone has a voice. So many fought tirelessly and gave up so much for the people at my polling site to have the right to vote (there weren’t a lot of white males represented when I was there). We still have a very, very, VERY long way to go, but backsliding is not going to help anything.

For now, all I can do is wait…along with the rest of the country.

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