Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Savouring what is

About six weeks ago, I was on the cusp of a family holiday. I was also in the thick of rewriting my novel. Both of my kids were sick. I was exhausted and feeling extremely vulnerable and in full control-freak mode.

I wrote:

This is not easy to say when travelling with small kids but I really want some of this trip to just be for me.

You never know, I may even get some rest.

And I might even write more soon.

Reading this now, I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. For reasons I am not quite ready to unravel here, very little of our trip -- in fact none of it -- was "just for me". I did not get a minute of rest: the total opposite. And writing, even in my journal, was the last thing I felt compelled to do. Ditto anything that would have nourished me, body or soul. Including time out or reaching out.

It's funny, the options that evaporate when you are in full anxiety mode.

Anyway, I am home now and decompressing and have been lucky enough to have some really wise and compassionate support as I try to understand exactly what went on for me and why I was in such pain, despite being in one of my favourite cities in the world.

In an effort to coax myself back into writing, I wanted to share some of the things I have been grateful for over the past few days, including:

1. The air! One of the first things I noticed when we got home was that the sky was so bright and clear. And the air so fragrant with the magic of Spring. It was such a contrast to the New York fall and really felt like our neighbourhood was welcoming us home.

2. I also had three handwritten missives in my mailbox, including a comic, a pretty card and a letter detailing fifteen years' worth of news plus photos. Quiet honestly, there's nothing that beats snail mail! Just knowing that someone has taken the time to put pen to paper, you can practically feel the love on each indentation on the page.

3. That said, I am also grateful for the dears souls with whom I am in intense email correspondence. In particular, there are a tiny number who receive my offerings with tremendous grace, particularly when there are huge gaps in my response time. I find equanimity and self-compassion surprisingly difficult concepts to grasp and am so grateful to those who model it for me in their actions as well as their words.

4. My landlord's generosity. I finally took the plunge and gave notice on my beloved writing studio. It was a tough decision but it was also a bit of a no-brainer. The money I had set aside to pay rent has run out. And, realistically, I was only using it once a week and it's unlikely I'll be able to carve out more time to use it. My landlord has kindly offered to give me as much time as I need to vacate the premises and is also letting me use the desk until it is snaffled by the next lucky soul.

5. Taking a moment during nap time. We did not bother trying to get the little dude to nap while we were away -- for better or for worse - but now that we are home, the midday nap has been firmly reinstated. It does limit our flexibility during the day but we are both so much happier for this small window of time. Lately, I have been resisting the urge to run around and attend to domestic tasks and have been just sitting down with a book or magazine and cup of something. It feels so decadent, it's ridiculous.

6. I am going to see Patti Smith! Well, not actually her incredible self, this time around. I was lucky enough to nab a ticket to the extra performance of the tribute to her seminal album Horses this coming Sunday. One of the things I am really looking forward to is stepping out of my daily life for a couple of hours and spending some time alone, soaking it in. And, of course, I am checking the mailbox every day until her new book arrives.

7. Halloween is coming. I am not sure what it is about this particular celebration that has captured my daughter's heart but she has been crazy for Halloween ever since she was three. Spending the last few weeks in the USA was like heaven for my beautiful girl. The pop-up shops! The cards! The decorations! The costumes! The candies! Her delight was every bit contagious.

8. More recently, there have been question marks over my baby son's hearing. So far, tests have not yielded any cause for concern but he will be having more intensive assessment next week. Deep down I know there is nothing to be too worried about but it will be a relief to rule out anything that might hinder his development. His personality is really blossoming right now and I feel so blessed to have this sweet, affectionate and funny little fellow in my life.

9. In the midst of a tough week that included some extremely sad news for at least two of my friends, I have found incredible comfort in stories of hope. One such example is Heather Von St. James, who is celebrating her ten year cancer-free anniversary. Heather reached out to ask me if I wouldn't mind sharing her story in celebration of Healthy Lung Month and I found it so incredibly moving, particularly as a mama (Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma right after the birth of her daughter Lily, then told she only had 15 months to live). This is a highly recommended read, including a lot of really useful information and resources.

10. Humans of New York. I know I have mentioned this before but following Humans of New York on Instagram feels like a direct line to the heart of the human experience. I was particularly affected by the recent stories of Syrian refugees across Europe. For my part, I see how easy it is to overwhelmed by numbers and to fear what they mean. And yet, every statistic comprises individual people, each of whom have extraordinary, terrifying, exhilarating stories of their own.

As Muriel Rukeyser once wrote: The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.

Our stories are our own but, in sharing them, they become universal. And timeless.

Silence kills, my friends.

Tell me: what are you grateful for this week?

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