Seventeen years

September 9, 2000
Not the greatest photo of us, but I still love it because it’s pretty clear we’re having a good time

Seventeen years ago September 9th, in a thunderstorm, Matt and I got married.  We didn’t know what lay ahead, and I think it’s safe to say the years between then and now have been both exactly as we planned and nothing like we expected.

What is on my mind lately is how full circle we’ve come from that day.  It was the two of us then, and these days I can see clear to when it will be the two of us again.  That truth is filled with loss and sorrow, but also with pride and celebration.  From the moment I became a mother I knew my job was to let her (and then, 2.25 years later, also him) go.  That’s been crystal clear to me from day one.  That I didn’t know how hard it would feel is a topic for another post.

In his sermon at our wedding, the minister who married us spoke about Kilimanjaro, which we had recently climbed.  I’ll never forget how he closed his remarks, speaking of marriage: “Kilimanjaro is nothing compared to this.”  And he was right, and I’ve been learning that lesson every year that we have been married.  As I’ve written before, the views are as spectacular, too.  The climb of married life, like that of Kilimanjaro, has been unexpected, sometimes surprising, and once in a while I have had a hard time drawing a deep breath.  But like Kilimanjaro, the journey of marriage is head-spinningly glorious and unforgettable.  I have never wanted to turn back.  Matt was there with me as we neared the summit of Kilimanjaro in the darkness, and he witnessed my determination that day.  I feel the same way now: keep moving forward. It’s worth it.

During a few days in August when neither child was home, Matt and I looked at each other and saw both the young people we were in the photo above and who we’ll be in a few years when we’re alone again.  It was disorienting, I’ll be honest.  But I just have to remember that he’s my wingman and has been for many years: on the mountain, on the dance floor, in the delivery room, and in the years ahead.

They are not long, the days of young children at home.  They fly, in a blur of crayons and crying and then, later, hockey games and baseball games and track meets and Snapchat.  I think the key, when choosing a spouse, is taking a gamble that the person you stand next to in a white dress (or another outfit, depending on your preference) is one you’ll want to be standing next to many years later.  In many cases, that’s after the intensity of the family-focused years has ebbed.

2017 has held great new beginnings for all of us and a huge amount of tumult.  A lot of change.  I described the last month or two as “whitewater” to someone recently, and that’s what it has felt like. May there be both smoother sailing and gentler voices in this next year.

Happy 17 years, Matt.  This message, like life lately, is a little disjointed, but it comes from a place of deep feeling and tremendous commitment.  I love you.

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my new kind of prayer

The secret of life is not about knowing what to say or do.  It’s not about doing love or loss right. Life cannot be handled. The secret is simply to show up. It’s about witnessing it all, even the pain, and letting it touch you and make you not harder, but more tender. Showing up, feeling it all – this is my new kind of prayer.  I call it praying attention, and it’s how, for me, everything turns holy.

-Glennon Doyle Melton

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Summer 2017

One of our last family tennis matches, late August, 2017.  I promise Whit was also having fun.

This summer was jammed to bursting with beauty.  Possibly it shone particularly because we knew a big departure and ending threatened at summer’s end (Grace’s departure to boarding school), or maybe it just was golden, but for whatever reason there was a particular patina to these three months.  A few highlights:

We kicked off summer with a trip to New Hampshire where we went ziplining.  As is often the case, I felt flattened by the metaphors presented by ordinary life. The kids were brave (and so was I) and we were together.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, flying above the trees.

We spent a lot of time as a family of four (and as a whale pod of three, since Dad did a lot of golfing) at my parents’ house on the Massachusetts shore.  We swam and we biked and we played tennis and we watched LOST and we ate caramel M&Ms and we grilled on the back porch. We played cards, did puzzles, and watched the Red Sox under the slow spin of my parents’ ceiling fan. Our days together were largely unstructured and we put being together as a family above all else.

Whit loved sailing, and I hope he’s found a sport that he can enjoy during the school year.  Grace had a very successful tennis season, playing on our tennis club’s team which qualified for Nationals and personally winning the club U14 singles and with her partner the U18 doubles.

We had two wonderful visits with my sister and her family, over the 4th of July (and my mother’s birthday) and later at our cousin Allison’s wedding.  That wedding was a true highlight of the summer, as we watched a family member we dearly love (she’s precisely in between Grace’s and my ages, and we all think she’s the best) wed her long-time boyfriend who we also adore.  Welcome to the family, TDT!

I kept up my streak of reading books best described as Those You Can Buy in an Airport.  I found myself unable to concentrate on anything more challenging, and sought out stories that were plot, plot, and plot.

I turned 43.  I’m in the thick heart of life’s grand pageant now, there’s no question about it.  I continue to be struck by the non-coincidence that both my birthday and our anniversary land during the weeks of the year that I find the most liminal, the most striated with both endings and beginnings.  It is without question a melancholy time for me, and yet it holds some big celebrations.  This seems apt, and it’s also intensely bittersweet.

August was quiet.  Grace was at home, preparing for boarding school, and I worked a lot of days with her puttering near me.  She spent a few days with Matt’s family in Vermont, which was full of joy and waterskiing.  For anyone curious, Matt did not waterski. We passed the one year anniversary of his injury, and then of his surgery.

Grace and I picked Whit up at camp because Matt was in California, and had a happy visit to the place she spent six summers.  We returned to our pre-camp routine of family dinners, card games, and ice cream.  We saw Matt’s parents when they were here.  We watched some more LOST.  We read together in bed.  It was the best kind of ordinary, and I could see the shimmer in that ordinariness.

And then, just like that, summer came to an end.  September arrived with its host of changes, and our family spun off into its next and new season.  We are all still a little stunned and shaky from these changes – well, I can only really speak for myself here – but also deeply grateful for three months together.  I won’t ever forget the swims to the line, the family tennis matches, the candlelit dinners on our back porch, the quiet walks, the loud laughter.

It was a magical summer.  And now, it is in the rear view mirror.  Onward.

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August break

As I have for many years, I plan to take August off from blogging.  There’s a lot happening in this final month of summer: campers coming home (Whit), children preparing to leave home (Grace) and for new schools (both).  We have shopping and packing and laundry to do, as well as our final family dinners in this particular season.  It brings tears to my eyes to write that, so you can bet I’ll spend chunks of this next month in tears and morose.  But I’m going to do my damndest to live it well, to let go of my fear about what’s coming, and to pay attention, and I’ll be back in September.

I hope to see you then.

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wake up to the very life we’re living

Our intention is to affirm this life – not to bring order out of chaos, nor to suggest improvements in creation – but simply to wake up to the very life we’re living, which is so excellent once one gets one’s mind and desires out of its way and lets it act of it’s own accord.

~ John Cage

Another beauty from First Sip.  I know, I’m a broken record, but check it out!

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Turning

It may shock some of you to hear this, but I can be heavy lifting.

I know.

Someone as melancholy as me, as attuned to both loss and sorrow?  Hard to believe.  But it’s true.

And it is getting more pronounced.  Well, to be accurate, my sensitivity is getting more pronounced all around, which means I’m more aware of both the dark stuff and the outrageous beauty. I try to focus on the latter.

But there are times when I’m swamped by all that feels difficult.  That’s not true right now: as I wrote just last week, this has been a summer full (so far) of uncommon beauty.  Of course, I also acknowledged that that patina is likely burnished by the endings and departure that lurk under everything right now.  But still, there’s a lot of beauty right now.

In the last week, though, I started noticing that the days were getting shorter again.  The nights are falling a bit earlier, and I am already aware of summer’s end even amidst all the riotous hydrangeas and hot days and beach swims. It’s as though the next season, and its accompanying darkness, is already encroaching in around the edges of the light and beauty of right now.

It’s that old preemptive regret thing, the way I can’t focus on what’s in front of me because I’m too distracted by what I can sense on the horizon. Everything is turning, so fast I can barely catch my breath: summer turning towards fall, Grace turning towards her leaving, Whit turning towards teen-hood and being a young man.  We are all inching forward on the ferris wheel and I am breathless at the view but also at what I know lies ahead.

I’m not the only person in my family who evinces this sensitivity.  On Sunday night, Whit was sad at bedtime.  It took me a while to drag out of him what was wrong (planting the seeds of another post, about the ways in which we should run into the burning building, or about how it is when those we love are at their worst that they need us the most) but he finally admitted, tearfully, what was on his mind.  It was a long list, but one of them was that “the summer’s already halfway gone!  It feels like we just got out of school!”  He was very upset. “I mean, summer is basically almost over.”  He swallowed, wiping tears from his face.

“I know what you mean, Whit.” I told him, rubbing his back.  I had no idea what else to say, since the truth is the awareness of how fast it all flies brings me to my knees on a regular basis.

With effort, I turn my face back to what’s in front of me, and take a deep breath.  My time on earth turns forward no matter what I do.  The bitter aspect of my orientation towards bittersweetness is unavoidable (so, by the way, is the sweet part).  What I can choose is where I place my attention.  So, once again, I try to do that right here.  Right now.

 

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acknowledging the good

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.

-Eckhart Tolle

Thank you to Kerry, on whose lovely blog Next Trip Around the Sun I found this perfect line.

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Around Here

Everything lately has a particularly heightened sheen.  Maybe this is because of Grace’s impending departure.  Maybe this is because after a cold and rainy spring we are having spectacular weather that we’re grateful for.  Maybe this is because of an on-and-off back pain that’s made me hyper aware of what I can do when I feel fine. Maybe it’s for a host of other reasons that have pointed a spotlight of grateful awareness onto our everyday lives.

No matter, really, why: life has a patina lately, and I feel keenly conscious of all that is glorious. And, simultaneously, of how fragile it all is, and how fleeting.  For me at least, I can’t have one of those feelings without the other.

some screen shots from Whit

Whit got a phone.  Enough said.

sunset from the air over San Francisco

I had a quick trip to California, complete with my second redeye in six weeks (two too many).  On the upside, I saw a dear friend from business school and had some powerful encounters with the sun (both setting and rising) as I traversed the country.

my sister with her children and mine, swimming in the ocean

We had a marvelous visit with my sister and her family over the Fourth.  This annual visit, which is also a celebration of my mother’s birthday, has become a cherished annual tradition for our family.  I watch as each child gets taller and sleeps later and says more interesting things, and I love everyone even more every year.

the sun on Vineyard Sound as we headed back to Falmouth

Grace played in a tennis tournament in Edgartown so we spent a sunny Saturday on the Vineyard.  Taking the ferry was great fun, as was wandering around Edgartown and having ice cream before our ride home.  My college roommate, who has a house nearby, was free at last minute to come say hi.  A regular Saturday turned spectacular just like that.

dinner at Brick in Fairhaven

Whit came home from sailing bubbling over about a pizza place he’d heard about.  We decided to go on Saturday night and, because I’m a huge dork, I called to make a reservation.  They agreed, and that was that.  We showed up to a place that is totally casual – think, you order at a counter. There was one booth open, and we bee-lined for it before noticing a small “reserved” sign on it.  Oh, I sighed, we should go over here, steering Grace and Whit to another table.  Mum, Whit hissed, it’s reserved for us. And it was.  And the pizza was delicious.

I used to write posts like this more often, and I am grateful for the reminder of life’s small good things my archives are.  I think part of why I do so less often now is that I use Instagram in this way now.  I’d love for you to find me there, and to find you!

 

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we still and always want waking

Why are we reading, if not in hope of beauty laid bare, life heightened and its deepest mystery probed?

Can the writer isolate and vivify all in experience that most deeply engages our intellects and our hearts?

Why are we reading, if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage and the hope of meaningfulness, and press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power?

What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and which reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered?

Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?

We still and always want waking.
~Annie Dillard from “Write Till You Drop”

Yet another beautiful passage from Barnstorming, one of my few absolute must-read blogs.

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Things I Love Lately & Happy Fourth

Poppy and his four grandchildren out for a dinghy ride, July 2, 2017

Happy Fourth of July!

In what has become a cherished tradition, we are celebrating this weekend with my whole family.  The small town where we spend summer weekends has a wonderful parade (you can see photos of the children at the parade through the years here).

So, today I’ll share a few things I’m loving lately.  I’d love to hear what you have been reading and thinking about this holiday weekend.

How to Raise a Feminist Son – I love every word of this piece. I often hear from people that I must be so proud that Grace has a role model of a mother with a career. I am, I say, but I always add that I’m equally as proud that Whit has the same.  This piece beautifully captures a topic that I’m not sure is getting as much attention as it should.  I want both my daughter and my son to grow up believing that the genders are equally as valuable.  Period.

Why Women of 40 and 50 Are the New “Ageless” Generation – I actually have no problem with the expression “middle age” (and I began using it, to criticism, when I turned 35 and then, again when I profiled 38).  That may be because to me that phrase does not have negative connotations but rather means, quite literally, that I am in the middle of my life (which feels like an irrefutable fact to me, as I head towards my 43rd birthday). I relate to a lot about this piece.

Lost – Grace, Whit and I started watching Lost from the start of the first season.  I’d never seen it (and neither had they).  I saw on Instagram that Heather was enjoying the same.  Riveting!  We can’t stop watching and talking about it.  Highly recommend.

June – I love Dina’s writing on Commonplace and these posts always inspire me to pay closer attention to the abundance of small good things that fill my everyday life.

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

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