might be a word with only four letters
but it feels so much heavier than that.
It carries a thousand weighted breaths and
teems with tears.
Can I begin to trust the universe
when I've been left before on the docks empty-handed,
standing agape at the magnitude of the waves?
Can I allow what I feel in the air around me---
salty and sweet, everything will be all right---
to be my truth?
Hope might only be a word with four letters,
but today it is my life raft;
I'll clutch to it until the sea swallows me whole.
What else is there to do?
The snow is falling outside; quietly, slowly. Dancing toward the ground as if taking part in a silent ballet. It has come down all day, and I’ve spent the afternoon in my favorite place—in my warm home with my boys.
I’m nestled on the couch between them, my head on my husband’s lap, my dog’s head on mine; our breath moves together, in and out at the same speed. It’s as though we’re all connected by a thread that none of us can see, but we all sense exists.
With busy weeks behind us, we relish in the stillness, knowing that our weekends to come will surely be swallowed up with dinners with friends, visits with family, social engagements that we’ll dread ahead of time but love once we’re in the moment.
Our house hums with few distinct but familiar noises—the dishwasher whirrs quietly in the kitchen; tires break through the fresh snow on the busy road just outside our yard; the delightfully cheesy theme song from Star Trek: Enterprise breaks through the living room every hour or so.
It’s a Sunday built specifically for relishing in the laziness; a day where sweatpants and dirty hair are mandatory, and popcorn seems a perfect lunch. My legs begin to fall asleep from lack of movement, and I wonder if they’ll eventually stop working if I never move again; it wouldn’t be the worst thing to imagine, dissolving into the couch and being a spectator to every future conversation in this house.
It’s a Sunday built for ambitious planning for the week ahead, at least mentally; I imagine the books I’ll read, the poems I’ll write, the goals I’ll tackle head-on—a matador facing down a bull in a scarlet outfit. I accept these plans will likely never be realized and will fade into memory as they do every Monday evening, after the determination has materialized into exhaustion.
It’s a Sunday built for daydreaming, building imaginary houses and decorating them with the beautiful plans I have for our lives together; the nursery will be space themed, adorned with sweet images of stars that I hope our offspring will reach someday. Cosmo will begin walking through the house more slowly, gray fur taking over his muzzle. His tail will wag with joy when he sees our children toddle into the living room, welcoming their entrance with a wet kiss. In my head, I see Evan pick up the smaller members of our someday family, his face growing larger with an overflowing smile. I can see it so clearly.
It’s a Sunday built for gratitude.
I sit in the comfort of this day, of this life, and I drink it all in like a warm cup of tea. There are moments when everything else falls away and you realize how blessed you are—the moments when the Universe asks you to pause for a moment.
And when you do, it whispers in your now-open ears: Trust me. I have your back.
All is well.
It has been exactly two months since I’ve written anything. Not a blog post, not a poem—hell, barely even a fully composed grocery list. I just haven’t had it in me.
Much to the chagrin of every writer that ever existed, the urge to write is not an ever-flowing champagne tower that can just be tapped into. Eventually the waiter walks away, the bubbly stops flowing, and you’re left with an empty glass and no idea what you should be writing.
But then every once in a while, the urge comes back. You’ll be wandering through the store, block of cheese and bottle of wine in hand, and suddenly you’re itching to go back to the keyboard.
Today is one of those days.
I’d like to tell you that I missed every moment I was away. But the truth is, I didn’t.
I’d like to tell you that I felt bad for not posting a blog for two whole months, without so much as a warning to you all. But I didn’t.
You see, here’s the beautiful thing about adulthood that I’m just beginning to fully comprehend--I’m an adult, and that means I get to do whatever I want.
It’s a concept that I’ve always entertained but never fully vested myself in. Sure, I knew that, without someone telling me otherwise, I can wake up and eat ice cream for breakfast and never wear makeup again. But, as I’m slowly realizing, it’s deeper than that.
I’m an adult, fully in charge of my own decisions, but also fully responsible for my own happiness.
If I don’t want to do something, I don’t have to. Plain and simple.
And neither do you.
I temporarily left the blog and writing world, knowing that when the time was right, you’d welcome me back with open arms. I knew that, when it would make me happy, I would post again. And I will likely drop out again for a while and only post when I feel like it—and that’s totally okay.
If there’s something in your world that isn’t serving you or no longer makes you happy, then maybe it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with it. (Or with them, if it’s a person.)
No one is forcing you to do anything. And nobody else is ultimately responsible for making sure you like your life except for you. So, if you don’t, please do something about it.
There are too many copies in this world: be yourself and do what makes you happy.
Stop pretending to be someone you’re not. Own your flaws, your attributes, and all the things in between.
Speak up for yourself.
Demand respect for yourself and your time.
Honor the things you love.
The minute you realize, damn, I’m amazing, so will the rest of the world.
Moments exist in life that serve no other purpose than to bring us back to reality: fights with your best friend where you clearly in the wrong; being rejected or embarrassed; a family member getting sick; a loved one dying.
God or whatever you want to call that Supreme Being above us is a big fan of humility—not in terms of humiliation, which is an entirely different animal, but reminding us that we are not perfect and we will falter.
But most importantly, we are reminded that we can get back up—that there are things greater than our struggles, anxieties, and misfortunes.
In times like this, when I've been knocked down and told to re-evaluate my situation, an overarching theme stands out.
Most of what you think is important doesn't actually matter.
Your job is important. But should you let the piles of undone work take over your family time or occupy your thoughts while outside of the office?
You may fret about your physical appearance. And yes, feeling good about you the way you look is worthwhile. But is it worth stressing over? Are those extra 10 pounds worth the self-abuse you heap on yourself?
You may worry about where you will be in 5, 10, or 20 years, but will that change the present?
Popularity, if you're doing enough with your life, what you eat, how you carry yourself, what your friends think of you, how much stuff you have, and how much money is in your bank account—the list of fascinations goes on and on.
But, friends, this is not the stuff that matters.
Sure, on a practical level, some of it is worth entertaining. (You need money to buy food, so keeping an eye on that bank about might not be a bad idea.)
But the point is, life isn't worth stressing about things that aren't serving you.
When you think about what makes your soul happy, is it really what you wore last week? Or if your friends laughed at your joke? Or if your boss likes you?
Your soul doesn't give a second thought to any of that stuff.
So where does humility play into this?
Humility reminds us of the importance of our life—as well as the experiences and people with which we fill it.
The love you give to your family and friends . . . this is what matters.
The relationships you foster and grow over time . . . this is what matters.
The generosity you bring to the world around you, taking care of anyone and everyone you can . . . this is what matters.
The way you nurture yourself, both body and spirit, so you can better give yourself to your passions . . . this is what matters.
So slow down: appreciate this moment, and remember that life is so fleeting and yet so full.
That is what matters.
Guys, Mondays are hard.
Even the best Mondays seem tortuous to get through, which is a bit of a conundrum to me—Monday's the beginning of a new week, a fresh start, a time to seize the day and run with it!
. . . that is, until you get to your desk, see dozens of blinking, unread e-mails, get buried under a mountain of paperwork and tasks, and feel general discontent that your beautiful weekend is already gone.
At the end of your work day, even though your home to-do list grows exponentially, the only energy you can muster is to sit on the couch with the TV blaring and your eyes gazing listlessly at the screen.
Sound familiar? We've all been there. And considering it's Monday night, some of us are still there.
But here's the question: how do we recover so that the rest of our bright, shiny week doesn't end in the same sad state of despair and laziness?
With this post, I mean to say one thing: you are important. The work you do is important. The energy you bring to this world is even more important. So, if you can do what you can to make your place a little brighter, a little more comfortable, then what are you waiting for?
Often when you hear people discuss physical things, they throw around the phrase "quality over quantity"—the expensive, well-made shoes are worth more in the long run than the eight pairs of cheap sneakers in your closet, the subject matter of the books in your collection holds more weight than the number of stacks, and so on.
But less often do you hear the concept applied to people—living, breathing things with personalities that are harder to quantify or appraise.
Let me tell you about my dear friend, Becky. Inseparable in college, we practically finished each other's thoughts and spent every possible second together for years; then, as it often does, life happened. She graduated and moved to grad school across the country. Devastated doesn't seem correct for the way I felt the day she left; as we described it earlier today, I felt as though my tribe abandoned me.
We keep in touch as well as we can via e-mail, texts, and phone calls, but coordinating time to connect in the midst of marriages, careers, and differing time zones proves difficult. Even though we communicate less, I always feel that she walks by my side during every big event and every time I doubt myself.
Being separated by so many miles, Becky and I rarely get to see each other in person (usually only once every year or so). I treasure every minute of that time. We laugh, cry, and babble philosophically as though we never parted.
And why am I telling you this?
Today, I had the distinct pleasure of spending the afternoon with my Becky, and it was another one of those moments—the move never happened, the miles didn't exist, the talking never stopped.
Relationships, too, boil down to quality vs. quantity.
I may not get to spend several days a week with my friends that I love so much, or my family that lives across the state, but when I do, I make sure that those moments count.
I've discussed the importance of being present and enjoying the best times of your life while you're in them; this is a concept with which I continue to struggle. But as I sat there, laughing over a glass of wine with a friend who's been through so much with me, I didn't want to be any place other than that moment in time.
You may have a lot of friends, and if you do, that's great—I hope you cherish them and make sure they know how much you appreciate them. But if you're like me, keep your small crew of friends close and squeeze them with so much love that they'll never doubt your affection.
Record each moment in your personal happiness book and appreciate every second. You may never have that moment with those people ever again.
And so today, I say thank you to my friends—thank you for your love, thank you for your loyalty, thank you for always being there when I needed a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen.
But most importantly, thank you for being quality.
Cosmo and I went on a walk today, just like we do any other day. It's been a while since we needed to bundle up, but the biting Fall air felt a little more like early Winter. Against his will, I zippered the pup up in his jacket, outfitted myself in a hat and mittens, and headed out the door.
After about 30 minutes in the chilly but beautiful outdoors, with the sun fading into the skyline, we migrated back inside to the warmth of our house.
As I removed our excessive layers and Cosmo attempted to shake off the imaginary water rolling down his back, I looked around and took in the view.
Our home isn't anything special—a standard 1970s-era split-level in a cul-de-sac. There's far too much paneling in the basement and carpet too old to ever be considered fashionable. The ceilings sparkle with the artificial popcorn spray that invades many suburban homes. There's so many projects to be done to this place, so many things that could be improved.
But I wouldn't change a thing.
Our home isn't anything special, but it's just that—home.
The entryway where I stand is where I drunkenly asked Evan if he was going to kiss me for the first time. When I look in the living room, I'm reminded of the sparse setting for one of our first dates: a big-screen TV, nothing on the walls, Evan's hand-me-down floral sofa, and Seinfeld filling the room. When I walk down to the basement, I see the fireplace where he proposed to me on Valentine's Day almost three years ago. The kitchen emits the scent of the meals we've made together, the wine consumed, the birthdays celebrated. The walls are full of wedding pictures, family photos, and souvenirs of great times.
Every inch of our home pulsates with memories. These are the places where we've lived, loved, and tried to grow up together (as hard as it proves at times).
Sure, it's often covered in piles of laundry, stacks of mail for sorting, and eight million books, but to me, it's perfect.
Whenever I look around, I'm reminded that a home isn't just a physical building. It's a place where not only your loved ones live, but where your love lives.
Coziness is basking in the incredible glow of that love, embracing it, and looking beyond its faults. Much like our house, our love isn't perfect. But I've never felt happier or warmer than I do when I'm snuggled up in this place, with this man, with this life.
While I'm working, I often pour myself a nice mug of tea—especially in the Fall, when I can indulge in delicious, warm flavors like cinnamon and licorice. (This one in particular is the best.)
Yesterday's editing involved a challenging client project that tested me both mentally and emotionally—and when I reached for my steaming hot tea specifically poured to calm me down, I noticed some writing on the tag, which said:
"You are unlimited."
Normally I agree with the little inspirational quips on the tea tags, but man, do I disagree with this.
Yes, you should believe in your potential. Yes, you should push yourself professionally, personally, and emotionally. But everything has its limits. Especially you.
I've written before about the importance of self-care; how can you take care of others when you aren't taking care of yourself?
Speaking from my experience, we try so hard to do everything: to have amazing careers, a flourishing side gig, beautiful homes, take care of picture-perfect families, and build watertight relationships with loved ones.
I'm going to say it: it's just too much.
On a weekly basis, I reach a breaking point and something has to give. Maybe the blog only gets one post that week instead of three. Maybe I let our house fall into a state of constant clutter for a while. Maybe Cosmo doesn't get an hour-long walk every day (sorry, buddy). And it's totally okay.
We can't think of ourselves as a constantly regenerating machine, ready to give to others endlessly. Your daily ability to keep going is finite—a tank that slowly loses its contents.
You can refill your tank by taking care of yourself; it's a simple concept, I know, but so many of us neglect it. Relax, read a book, eat some real food, exercise, or get some sleep. It's that easy.
Just for a moment, take a breath and remember that you need to take care of yourself and respect your limits. As productivity expert David Allen once said, "You can do anything, but not everything."
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend an entire weekend on the couch reading—not cleaning my messy house, not working on articles or editing, not feeling like I should do anything. And it's going to be beautiful.
Yesterday, I sat in the waiting room at my doctor's office—don't worry, guys, everything's okay, but my injured tendon and I are living proof that running is terrible for you and should be avoided at all costs—when I heard a little beep come from my phone.
Looking down, I noticed that I had an e-mail from a producer at the online magazine Thought Catalog (if you haven't visited their site before, please do. There is a plethora of wonderful content hidden in their pages). I grinned when I read that my submitted article had been accepted and was live on their site.
Immediately, I rushed to the website and experienced two conflicting, strong emotions: intense, ohmygodisthisreallyhappening excitement and an overwhelming, unwelcome fear.
What if their readers didn't like it? What if my own readers didn't like it? WHAT IF SOMEONE FOUND A TYPO? (Truth of Life: It doesn't matter that my official job title is Editor and I correct grammar for a living—I'm not perfect and, yes, sometimes there are typos in my pieces.) In my head, these were all practical and imminent scenarios.
And in my flurry of elation and anxiety, I had a thought.
Vulnerability is terrifying.
Submitting my article made me shake with nervousness. Seeing it live on the website did the same. After posting every blog entry, the same thoughts run through my head: Did I stay true to myself? Will my readers like it? Do I like it? What if nobody reads it?
We as living, breathing humans experience this every single day.
Putting yourself in a position for critique can be so difficult, no matter the situation. It's hard to stand on a pedestal and say, "Here I am, world, do what you will!"
But, guys, it's so worth it.
Without positive feedback from others, we would lose a source of many warm/fuzzy feelings: love, acceptance, appreciation. And without honest, constructive criticism, it sure would be difficult to make ourselves better people.
Opening yourself up is the only way to grasp what you're capable of. A flower that never blooms is stuck in the ground forever.
Learning to make yourself vulnerable, and especially embracing the potential benefits of that vulnerability, is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Learn to love the chilling, soul-shaking quiver of knowing that you could mess up, that you could be wrong. And even better, learn to crave the incredible feeling of knowing that you've done well, that your hard work and presence are important.
So what do you say? Tell that person you love them. Submit the big, important project you've spent months working on with your head held high. Invite someone into your emotional space that's never been there before. Do that thing you love, opinions be damned.
Close your eyes, open your arms to the sky, and jump. I promise you won't regret it.
I've always been an "all-or-nothing" person.
I'm fastidiously clean or I'm a tornado, leaving messes everywhere in my wake. I'm a fitness expert or a fixture on the Minnesota couch-potato circuit. I'm eating a low-carb, clean-eating diet or I'm devouring an entire bag of potato chips in one sitting.
Being totally committed to one side of something has always been so comforting to me.
It's hard to live in the grey areas; how can you identify yourself as a runner if you don't run every day? Or if you're slow? How can I be a wine connoisseur if I'm not imbibing on the regular?
The idea of identity and how you define yourself can make trying to live (and thrive) in the grey difficult.
The past few weeks, I've been working towards revamping my lifestyle and making sure I'm doing whatever I can to take care of this body. I've been logging my food (because I have a tendency to overeat if my portion sizes aren't monitored), watching my alcohol consumption, and sweating away at the gym. I feel better, happier, and healthier when I know I'm taking care of myself.
And then Friday night shows up.
Our favorite local brewery and some of my closest friends beckoned. I had diligently planned out my day to allow for a nice Oktoberfest, but no other indulgences. We show up and there's a food truck that serves exclusively grilled cheese. Seriously—seven different kinds of grilled cheese (one of which was stuffed with mac and cheese). Did I avoid the intoxicating smell of the grilled cheese and stick to my one beer?
Of course not!
I downed that delicious carb-filled sandwich, accompanying potato chips, and added more beer into the mix.
And when my husband and I arrived home, we may or may not have consumed nachos, too.
I don't write this to serve as some sort of bad diet confessional. All of those extra carbs and calories were amazing and so worth it. It would have been easy, or perhaps more beneficial, to turn down those items and stick to my original plan.
But oh dear, life is short and meant to be enjoyed in every single bite or sip. Instead of worrying about the potential grams of fat I was ingesting, I sat and thought about how good that sandwich was. I laughed with my friends and enjoyed the greasy, cheese-filled moment.
Yes, eating healthfully is important. Yes, doing things that are good for your body are important. But you know what else is? Learning to lighten up and enjoy the moment you're in.
And this morning, I picked myself back up—plenty of sleep, a wholesome breakfast, and penciled in some weightlifting for later this afternoon.
That's the point of this whole ride called life: enjoying the good moments when you have them, walking the fine tightrope of taking care of yourself and living it up, and standing up again when you fall off your plan--no smile withheld, no carb regretted, no moment wasted.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to hit the gym while salivating about those mac and cheese morsels coursing through my bloodstream.
Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.