recovering an essential self

I thought my midlife season would be about pushing into a new future … and it is.  I thought it would be about leaving behind the expectations and encumbrances of the past.  It is.  What I didn’t know is that it would feel so much like recovering an essential self, not like discovering a new one.

Hold close to your essential self. Get to know it, the way you get to know everything in the world about someone you’re in love with, the way you know your child, their ever freckle and preference and which cry means what.

This self – this fragile and strong, creative, flip-flop and ponytail self – she’s been here all along, but I left her behind, almost lost her when I started to believe that constant motion would save me, that outrunning everything would keep me safe.

You cannot be a mystic when you’re hustling all the time.  You can’t be a poet when you start to speak in certainties. You can’t stay tender and connected when you hurl yourself through life like being shot out of a cannon, your very speed a weapon you yield to keep yourself safe.

The natural world is so breathtakingly beautiful. People are so weird and awesome and loving and life-giving.  Why, then, did I try so hard for so long to get away without feeling or living deeply?- Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

Around here lately

It’s been a while since I shared snapshots of what’s going on around here.  I realize I tend to do that more and more on Instagram these days.  It’s been a quiet fall, with a lot of time at home following a rough couple of weeks, and in a weird way as we come out of the fog back into real life I find myself strangely nostalgic. There was definitely a silver lining to those challenging days.

This fall has been a lot, lot, lot about the kids’ sports.  Matt came to watch one of Grace’s home xc meets.  He was unable to sit down, so as you can see, he lay down on a bench to wait for the start of her race.  img_3641

At another meet, my parents came to watch with me.  I took this photograph of our shadows as I stood next to Mum.  Now and then the good fortune of my parents living so nearby that they are able to do stuff like that threatens to swamp me.  Of course, it’s deliberate, that we live here, and this is precisely why.  Still.  I am so, so lucky.  img_3649

Matt’s parents sent me flowers.  How lovely is that?  The happy energy of these sunflowers filled our kitchen for days.  Once again: I am so lucky. img_3666

Whit is playing football for school.  Which is to say he is practicing, and in the game for one or two plays per game.  Which is fine by me.  But I do love him in his little uniform (they had to order new pads, since they didn’t have any small enough for Whit or his friend).  img_3639

I take a lot of photos of Grace running, and this is my favorite so far this year.  Somehow the blur, the movement, the way she’s looking away … feels like right now.

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

Seventh annual


Saturday night sunset on Chappaquiddick

This past weekend I was with my native speakers.  It was our seventh annual weekend gathering (2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 – not sure how I missed 2011).

This year we were a smaller band than usual, and it was hard not to notice the ways that life’s demands kept many away.  We are in The Middle Place, there’s no question about that. In the past year we’ve celebrated christenings and sat at the bedsides of ailing parents.  We’ve watched children be born and turn into teenagers.  We are reckoning with work challenges and what marriage looks like after 10 years and who we are.

We have reached the top of life’s ferris wheel.  The view is spectacular, but we know the trip down will be too fast.

We’re walking together – what an outrageous blessing it is to write the word together, I know that – into the early afternoon of life.  As I drove Grace and Whit to school on Friday morning, before heading to the airport to pick up a couple of friends who were flying in, they wanted to know more about who was coming.  I described each person, all of whom are familiar to my children (what a pleasure that is!), and then said to them that I hoped in their life they made friends that they’d make a point of seeing every year.  I didn’t expect the tears that filled my voice and eyes as I said that.  It’s true, though: one of the many wishes I have for Grace and Whit, and one of the fiercest, is that they meet friends like the ones I’ve been lucky enough to make. People who will answer their texts and calls, laugh and cry with them, people who will show up.

I’ve written before and I’ll write again that these friends are the ones who knew me as I was becoming who I am.  We are part of each others’ lives in an indelible way.  We share a colorful, vivid past, a rich, exhausting, blessed present, and, God willing, a long future. We experienced together some of life’s most formative years.  These women are a part of what shaped and molded me into who I am.

On Saturday night I sat at the top of the bluff outside of our hostess’s house and watched the sun set.  I took the photo above (and many more).  I was struck silent by the spectacular pageant in the sky, but I was also overcome by an immense wave of gratitude. I love our tradition and hope there are a great many more weekends ahead.

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

the silent and invisible life

Sometimes I have loved the peacefulness of an ordinary Sunday.
It is like standing in a newly planted garden after a warm rain.
You can feel the silent and invisible life.
~Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Thank you to my friend Emily, whose beautiful blog Barnstorming reminded me of these lines from my all-time favorite book.

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

Things I Love Lately

The best chocolate sheet cake ever – This is not an overstatement.  This recipe, from the Pioneer Woman, is incredible and I make it a lot (we always seem to have too much buttermilk).  I leave out the pecans.  Cannot recommend more highly.  This cake looks humble but is absolutely delicious.  A classic weeknight treat around here.

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead’s spectacular book is, as of now, my favorite of the year.  This extraordinary story manages to be both excruciatingly raw and violent and luminously beautiful at the same time.  I can’t stop thinking about Cora.  Run, don’t walk, to read this.

Want to Raise a Tail-Blazing Daughter? – I’m so grateful to my friend Gale for sending this marvelous piece to me.  Every piece of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s advice resonates, and of course I love that fostering a love of reading is #1.

24 Great Books that show Empathy and Kindness – I adore this list, which I found on twitter when my idol Michael Thompson re-tweeted it. Such a terrific list.  Grace, Whit, and I have read some but not all of these, and I’m madly ordering from the library.

I write these Things I Love posts approximately monthly.  You can find them all here.

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

Rethinking ease

Right now, when I think about the word I chose as my word of the year, I feel a grudging sense of oh, yeah, now that’s ironic.  Life right now is not replete with ease.  I was surprised to see, when I went back to see what I’d written about ease so far in 2016, that in the spring I was already asking is this the opposite of ease?

Now, ease does not mean easy, of course.  It doesn’t look like I expect it to.

When I think more about it, I realize that it’s not an accident that this is the word I chose for this year.  It’s precisely in the midst of these turbulent months that I am learning how to live with ease.  I’m not learning fast, let me be honest: I feel exhausted, and overwhelmed, and sad, and grateful, and emotional right now.  I do not feel ease.  But I’m aware of it, floating around me, and maybe that is the lesson right now.  It is there, the ease I want, and the way to reach it is to grasp less frantically, to breathe more deeply.

It’s only a goal now, ease, a desire, a fierce hope.  I am snappy and easily frustrated and my poor children are bearing the brunt of my not-easeful way of being in the world.  I’m so tired that the other night Whit observed that I looked like I had bruises under my eyes.  But still.  And yet.  Every morning I can wake up and get out of bed and as Jane Kenyon said, I’m keenly aware that it could have been otherwise.  Each day is an opportunity to do better, to be more patient, to be more gentle, to live in the days of my life with more ease.

So maybe that’s why this word presented itself to me at the opening of this year.  To remind me of what I want, what I aim for.  I think every single day of this quote, one of my favorites (author is unknown):

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart.

And so I return to my life, forgiving myself for being far from the peaceful, easeful person I want to be today, allowing myself to imagine that tomorrow I may inch closer to her.

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox


For all that has been: Thank you.
For all that is to come: Yes!

~ Dag Hammarskjöld

Another great find from A First Sip.

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

Early October


Photo on Sunday morning, doing errands with Grace and Whit in Boston.  We also stopped by one of my favorite buildings, the Boston Public Library. 

I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon.  Whit is doing homework in his room, down the short hall from my office.  Matt is reading on the first floor.  Grace is at a cross-country meet and I’m leaving soon to go watch her.  It’s rainy and gray outside, a gloomy day through and through.

I’m feeling gloomy too.  Maybe it’s the weather.  Maybe it’s the relentless needs that everybody seems to have of me right now (this fall is particularly busy with stuff going on and it’s all exacerbated by Matt’s injury; I feel like I’m walking through life with one hand tied behind my back).  Maybe it’s that I have been sleeping poorly and therefore I feel absolutely exhausted.

Maybe it’s all three.

I can hear Whit down the hall, and he just said under his breath, “oh my gosh, it’s October first!”  Which made me smile because that’s what I sat down to write about too.  It’s such a cliche but it’s just so true: time is whipping by faster and faster, and I can hear the months whistle as they sail by my ears.

Perhaps because of the particular family situation this fall, or perhaps because the children are getting older and their needs seem more complicated, this fall feels like even more of a blur than usual.  Time’s flying by, full of both bumps and beauty.  Each day feels full, from when I wake up in the pre-dawn darkness to when I collapse into bed as early as possible (but, these days, right after Grace goes to bed).  There are challenges and celebrations, races and games and tests and exams and school tours.  Each day feels small but significant, tinted with a sepia awareness of how short grow our days as a foursome at home.

Everything is poignant to the point of pain right now.  I’m tired and (even) more porous than usual and I know that’s contributing, but daily I find myself on the verge of tears. What I need to do, I know, is return to the gifts I talked about just two days ago.  They are still there.  There’s silver shimmering in the sand that fills my hands.  I just need to see it.

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

Gifts strangely, beautifully, painfully wrapped


Whit, reading one evening by Matt’s first-floor bed

It’s not a secret that September was difficult around here.  Late August and early October, too, if I’m being honest.  We aren’t yet finished with this season.  Matt’s recovery is long and slow.  But this particular moment when life screeched to a halt other than the absolutely necessary has carried some gifts in its hands, too.  This reminds me that all of life’s experiences hold both beauty and challenge.  I truly believe this, though I also know first-hand how hard it can be to see one or the other in middle of a moment.

But, given my fierce desire to acknowledge what’s good I thought it would be valuable to enumerate a few of the silver linings of this challenging time.

I’ve spent a lot of time with my children and husband.  We were already a foursome that spent a lot of time together (and it’s my introversion that guides this, sometimes to my and our detriment, I’m aware) but it’s been more lately.  Matt rarely leaves the house, and I don’t do so for anything other than what’s required (work, school, sports).

I’ve read a lot of books. I will summarize my favorites of 2016 towards the end of this year, but right now I’m still reeling from the glory that is Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad.  Extraordinary.

I’ve learned who my true friends are. More on that in that post.  Yes.

I feel deeply grateful.  For our health (the distinction between this injury and illness is something I think about constantly), for our families, for the friends who’ve shown up.  For so, so, so much.

One of the questions I’m asked most often is what my favorite quote is.  I usually demur, saying something about how I can’t pick one.  And I can’t, that’s true.  But these words from Rebecca Wells (from Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood – no, I am not a snob about where I find wisdom!) have a claim to be my favorite.  I’m not surprised they’re in my mind a lot lately.  Lately as in several times a day. I recently shared the brief passage by Wells that I adore on Instagram:

I will do my best to give thanks to gifts strangely, beautifully, painfully wrapped.

I will.  I am.

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox

it was about finding a language

It was about being true to the very stuff of life, it was about trying to capture, though you never could, the very feel of being alive.  It was about finding a language. And it was about being true to the fact, the one thing only followed from the other, that many things in life – oh so many more than we think – can never be explained at all.

– Graham Swift, Mothering Sunday

Get Lindsey's thoughts on mindful living and parenting in your inbox