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For these last days in December, I am participating in a blogging challenge http://www.reverb10.com/, which is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.  Reverb provides writing prompts to elicit my reflections on 2010 and to generate my intentions for 2011.

PROMPT:  December 22 How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt)

At this time in my life, I find that my travel involves dragging my daughter around the country to visit various family members.  Up until a few weekends ago, my husband and I had not been away together, without child, for four and a half-years.  Our flight for our weekend getaway to Asheville, NC left Cleveland, OH at 6:25AM.  By the time we reached the airport at 4:50AM that morning, we had completed TWO WHOLE CONVERSATIONS.  I mean, the- from- beginning- to- end kind of conversations.  Not the kind that involves a “hold on, Sophia, mommy is trying to talk to daddy” every 5 seconds.  The problem was, by the time we reached our departure gate at 5:30Am, we were desperate to hear our daughter’s tiny voice.  And we admitted it, tearfully, to each other.  But Lord knows we boarded that plane anyway.

In 2011, we celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  But time and money may not cooperate with any sort of big trip kind of thing.  We will take it as it comes, which is how a traveler should travel.  Sure, we have a wish-list that butts up against a to-do list, like every family.  The key is to remember this:  “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”  Marcel Proust

For these last days in December, I am participating in a blogging challenge http://www.reverb10.com/, which is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.  Reverb provides writing prompts to elicit my reflections on 2010 and to generate my intentions for 2011.

PROMPT:  December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

You know what, I have stopped doing this.  I have stopped imagining the future and planning for the future in a way that compromises my present.  Think I am joking?  Call my financial advisor.  I recently cashed a retirement fund with the click of a mouse button.  I did not need the money for anything specific or any sort of financial mess that I am in.  I just wanted it.   My intention for that money is to help me become the person that I want to be TODAY because I am not that person yet.  And it is time to be her.  So what have I done with some of that money?  I have enrolled in a professional herbalist program that hopefully will lead me to acupuncture or naturopath school, because I would like to be an authentic healer for my family and community.  I am holding on to some money so that I can enroll in a course to become a certified yoga instructor.  I have taken a recent retreat for myself and I am going to do it again until I am all retreated out.  I am going to get a tattoo that I have wanted for a long time.  I treated my husband to a really great pizza in Asheville, NC a couple of weeks ago. I purchased some clothes and shoes that actually fit my current body…not the body that I want to be or the body that I once was.  Besides, what was that money doing anyway?  Expanding and contracting in imaginary ways in an imaginary account for some future that may or may not happen.

So what advice would I give myself for the current year?  STOP LOOKING AHEAD.  Be here now.

We have been told that we must plan, save, project, aspire.  But no one ever told us to just BE.  I am telling you now.  Just Be.  Warning: this may hurt, but look up from this screen and look around.  What is around you now?  The felty grey walls of a cubicle?  A messy kitchen?  Are these places where you want to be?  Are there people around you that you wish were not around you?  Worse yet, are there people you wish were around you right now who are not?

Even worse than that, are you, the person you want to be, the one who is missing?

In 2010, I discovered that I was missing.

For 2011, I have set the intention to find the person that I want to be.  I had to step out of my financially responsible self to do it.  I have also had to step out of my people-pleasing, comfort-seeking self to start to shed the situations in my life that are no longer working for me.

Are you ready to transform the place where you are into the place where you want to be?  What needs to be shed from you?  What needs to be found for you?

Now for the “bonus” portion of the writing prompt:  Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?

Dear 23-year-old self,

Your plans are solid and in place and what everyone has ever wanted for you.  They are the plans that you want for you.  But do yourself a favor.  Stop planning.  Put the becoming aside and let life awaken your true self.

Love,

Your 33-year-0ld self who is learning as she goes and grateful for every moment of it.

[Image from here]

This weekend my husband and I are going to attempt to spend a weekend alone for the first time in 4.5 years in Asheville, North Carolina.  At this point I am only going to count on the “attempt” as we have a list of obstacles to overcome before we actually arrive there.  We have to drop a kid off in Cleveland in my sister’s care, and we have to hope that our car and Continental Airlines can battle early December weather in Detroit, Cleveland, New York and Asheville.

I love Asheville, but we have no major, groundbreaking plans to accomplish much while we are there.  I just want to stand in the belly of the Blue Ridge Mountains and once again wade through the accumulation of  soft, long needles from the Carolina Pines.

I let my 9th wedding anniversary slip away unblogged.  This was intentional because I am getting a little concerned about the need for people to do things and then run them by THE INTERNET.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say “this will make a great facebook status” before they actually do something.  Are we living for facebook?  And I am getting a little wary of the facebook status complainers, the blog complainers.  The internet could be a tool to spread light, love and truth through ease of connection. Instead it is often used to dump our oh-so-smart opinions about our last bad meal or traffic or coworkers.

Wait.  I am totally complaining about complainers.

The title of this post will prove to be a bit ironic, since the heroine in the book Eat, Pray, Love left her husband to find herself by traveling around the world, discovering that she was a spiritual being, only to wind up in the arms of another man.  That being said, I would encourage anyone who is starting to nudge into a spiritual existence read it right away.  A really good book, but I do know that it did not resonate with many wives and mothers who already know that the real, true world runs into your arms every morning, kisses you on the cheek and demands chocolate milk.

Anyway, I did make it to the 9 year mark in my first marriage on September 15th.  My husband and I are financially forced to keep things low-key these days.  And I was about to get all pouty about this, like who lets a 9 year milestone pass them by without at least a dinner out that costs half a thousand dollars?

Because that is the way we used to do things.

Way before we had to factor in the cost of a babysitter, before the housing market decided that we should carry a boat anchor around our necks in a state we no longer live in, we really knew how to live it up.  We spent our 5th anniversary in Napa Valley, and we only rolled out of bed for those pesky vineyard tours and dinner reservations we had every day and night.

So waaaaa!, those days are over for a long while, I think.  But scarcity can be a blessed bitch, if you open your eyes.  And I did.  And now I see that I don’t have to travel to California or even to the most expensive restaurant in this town to celebrate what I have every day of my life.  What I have is better.

I am going to let out a secret here.  My husband is a gourmet chef and the way he cooks turns every day into a celebration.  And you guys, you should see our wine cellar.  My readers who know him are also aware that there is always some type of charcuterie in the works (and that charcuterie no longer attracts flies).

Pork Belly

One problem.  I am having trouble keeping up the act of whining to him about how he never takes me out anymore.  Food from any other place does not compare.  It’s true and sad.  I crinkle my nose at the finest menus.  I can’t get a steak that like his from any restaurant.  He selects the perfect rib eye and dry ages it and cooks it to perfection.  If I ask for something innovative, he comes up with something like vegetable egg rolls and spicy coconut rice.  And that is what we eat on a non-celebration weeknight!  Imagine what he pulls out when he is really trying to impress me.

What I got when I said I wanted Macaroni and Cheese

Christmas Eve Roast

He is now sharing all of his creativity and ideas in a blog, and I am glad. Passion should be shared.  What I get is the first taste of his creations and the man behind them.  The one who rubs my feet as we sip wine,  loosen our pants, and watch our daughter fill our living room with laughter and surprise.

As far as I know, those things cannot be ordered off of a menu.

Happy 9th Anniversary, Dan.

We made fun of my sister for organizing this photo while we were in Myrtle Beach.  She made sure we were all dressed this way and standing on the sand at precisely 7pm, not 7:30.  At 7:30 the light would begin to fade and that would show all of our excess weight and wrinkles, perhaps.

Anyway, I take back all of our grumbling and whining.  I take back every comment about wishing we were at the beach bar instead.  I take back laughing at the moment when the camera clicked and my husband said, “everyone say DYSFUNCTIONAL!”

There will not be day that I am not thankful for this photo.  If I look long enough, I catch myself smiling back at all of those people standing there in the sand.  They are my past and my future, and the net that I could safely fall into at any moment.

Maybe it is just the magic 7pm moment, but there is a light cast on this photo that is unique.  It is the light that fills the space when everyone you could ever want surrounds you.

Tomorrow we head to South Carolina to spend two weeks on the beach.  I assume it will take me less than a day fall into South Carolina time–the way the minutes just drip into hours with relentless and heavy slowness.

My family needs to slow down for a bit.  We are going to sit on the porch and let sweet tea slide down our throats as we watch dragonflies marionette through the air.  I am going to teach my daughter how to rest on the shoreline to let the waves offer a foamy baptism over and over while we take deep, salty breaths.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is, Mary Oliver says, but I know how to be idle and be blessed.

[Image from here]

This very moment is the perfect teacher.

Girl Before A Mirror--Pablo Picasso

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”
— Pema Chödrön

The following is from a book by Deshon Fox called “The Middle Theory.” His words aptly describe where I stand on health and wellness.  I will also not deny that I came to this thinking by kicking and screaming and crying and scratching.  I am posting this now because I have had so many friends and loved ones recently run to their doctors because they just are not feeling “themselves.”  The doctor, in ten minutes, decides the appropriate arsenal of drugs for these patients.  And then these friends and loved ones call me, report with excitement and hope about this “solution.”  I bite my tongue because I do not yet have the loving language that Deshon Fox has. So I hang up the phone and try not to punch the wall.  Clearly I am still searching for my own place in the middle theory.  My frustration is out of love, as frustration so often is.  The people that I love deserve to understand wellness in the way described below.  Actually, all humans deserve this.

“To be healthy, we should shift our focus from what we need to do to be healthy to who we must become. Too often we treat our physical health as if it were something external to us that can be perfected by popping enough pills, consuming enough low-calorie drinks, or eating enough cholesterol free foods. This “Cartesian” approach to physical health, as Dr. Weil aptly puts it, is limiting because it encourages a fragmented approach to wellness. It tricks us into thinking we can be healthy— whole— by simply attending to our physiological needs. This is tantamount to cutting off the roots of a plant and watering it with the purest water. Clearly, a plant has other needs. It needs sunshine and it needs to be rooted in adequate soil. If we ignore the plant’s need for sunshine it will eventually wither away and die. Likewise, if the plant is planted in shallow soil, it will dry up. The plant’s need for water cannot be separated from its need for sunshine and soil. These needs, though specific and distinct, serve one purpose: the health of the plant. We see then, that our health is not served simply by attending to the needs of the body. Certainly the body may survive for a period if it receives sufficient nourishment and adequate exercise, but survival does not constitute health. We are not healthy until we are happy. To be happy, the human mind must be illumined by the light of spiritual truth. Our entire beings—body, mind, and soul—must be rooted to the spiritual source that brought us into being.

When we visit the doctor, he or she checks our vitals to determine our health. Our blood is checked for disease. Our eyes, ears and internal organs, through a variety of scientific measures, are evaluated to rule out any presence of infection or dysfunction. If we are found to be free of disease, and our vital signs are within normal ranges we are declared to be healthy. But is a person truly healthy when his body is working normally but his mind is unsettled and burdened?

The human being cannot be separated from his spiritual reality. Though this reality cannot be heard with a stethoscope or examined under a microscope, it is real and vital to our existence. Surgery cannot remove cancerous thoughts, and pills, no matter how powerful, cannot change the momentum of the will. True health begins with a balanced mind that is molded by the higher will of the soul.”

[Excerpt from here]

[Image from here]

Deshon Fox has a blog too!

You have me on this huge emotional rollercoaster with your new mantra being, “I will do it MYSELF!”  Don’t get me wrong, I practically fall over with joy now that you are old enough to realize that your hands are covered in jelly or glitter glue or butt stink (yes, thank you for making me verify that one).  Better yet, you totter over to the sink to wash them without even consulting me.  It is limited joy because even though I did not have to stop unloading the dishwasher to help you, I find out soon enough that while washing your hands you decided that your rock collection needed a sink bubble bath.  The super luxurious kind of bubble bath that requires a whole bottle of hand soap.

The downside to this new independence is that you are now insisting that I refrain from doing the things that I love to do.  Like pushing you on the swing because over the winter you somehow picked up the skill of pumping your legs.  I swear, when I saw you do this yesterday at the park, I felt like my whole role as mommy was redefined.  And like every mother who discovers this feeling, the rest of the day was filled with unsolicited bouts of weepiness.  Not just tears in my eyes, either. I am talking about the irrational mom-sobbing that cannot be stopped.  I thank you for not getting upset when you noticed the tears falling on my hands as I buckled you into your car seat.  I thank you for reading my mind in the car on the way home and saying, “Mommy, sometimes you teach me things and sometimes I teach you things.”  Although the amazing timing and clarity of your words only made the sobbing more intense and more irrational.  Not to mention how confused daddy was when we walked in the door at home and saw you were bubbly and thrilled and me grim-faced and practically suicidal.  He is lucky that when he scrambled to get you a Popsicle that he remembered to ask me if I wanted anything from the kitchen.  And he is even luckier that he came through on my cold and demanding answer of, “vodka and soda.”

Perhaps I should have asked for more soda and less vodka, because when it was time to go to bed last night, I realized I forgot to put your bed sheets in the dryer.  So we adapted by snuggling together, all three of us, in our bed.  When you woke me in the middle of the night to re-tuck you in under the covers, I could not help but smile.  And I had to physically hide my laughter  this morning as I watched you get dressed for school “BY YOURSELF!” and you stuck your entire body through the leg hole of your Sponge Bob underwear.  I was not trying to be mean, baby doll, I DO want you to grow up and learn new things.  I just cannot help but bask in the glow of my job-security here and there.

Truthfully, Sophia, when you dropped my hand before running off to play with your friends in your preschool classroom this morning, I knew neither of us really wanted to let go.

Love, Mom

[Image from here]

Sometimes I say things like, “I just killed a man” or “I’ve decided to leave my husband and daughter to become a Vegas stripper” or “I am joining a convent” just so I can hear her say to me,

“I accept that about you and I love you not in spite of it, but because of it.”