What do you want to be?

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Amy Sherald, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama (2018). Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child — What do you want to be when you grow up?  As if growing up is finite.  As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”

–Michelle Obama, Becoming

 

Thank you, Michelle, for this beautiful observation, and for reminding us of our infinite potential.  This Friday I am thinking about growing up, growing older, and what it means to “be” something when you grow up.  We are not our professions.  We are not only defined by the work we do.  And we are always evolving, changing, growing, becoming something new.  We are more than the sum of our parts.

Myself, I am striving to find a happy middle ground between becoming and being, moving forward vs. holding myself in the present moment.  But it is a real comfort to know that no matter where I am now or who I feel like I “am” at present, I always have the opportunity to become something else — to become something more.

 

When it is time

img_0002This past weekend was one of the hardest of my life.  We put our dog Oliver to sleep yesterday, my sweet boy.  He was 17 years old.  As much as I agonized over when, I know now it was the right time.  He always hated being picked up, but on Sunday morning he didn’t mind at all, just trusted us as I lifted him and sat him on my lap in the car.  Lots of pets and kisses.  It was quick and painless, and I think he knew he was loved and cared for, right up to the end.  I had tears running down my cheeks all morning, and we sobbed there in the room after.  Pulled it together enough to head home, and then I cried again at home as soon as I saw his empty bed.  I miss him, but I am at peace and I hope he is too. Peaceful and happy, and no longer a prisoner of his aging little body.

I didn’t realize quite how much medication had become Oliver’s new normal until I cleaned everything out this weekend.  Our pantry feels remarkably uncluttered in comparison.  The cat’s kibble is in the second food container, now that his reviled prescription kidney food is gone.  Likewise the kitchen floor feels oddly empty, with only one pair of dog dishes and the extra rug out of the center of the room. We’re going to be getting used to being a family of eight paws instead of twelve over the coming days and weeks.  It simultaneously feels like a sad emptiness and a weight lifted — not fussing over medication schedules and attempts at feeding him, not listening for any signs of distress or vomiting from him in the night.  I miss him already.  In the meantime, life winds on, and we hold our memories close.  Almost fifteen and half years of love.  Until we meet again, my bear, my dear sweet Oliver.

conditional retraction

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‘Sitting Woman with Legs Drawn Up’ by Egon Schiele (Narodni Galeri)

 

(for now) there is stillness amidst

what was once her maelstrom

whirling slowed into a lilting-soft song/dance

less frightened, more eager

no longer slamming her body against the walls

of an invisible cage

(for now) she is perhaps not sated, but quiescent

he has soothed the beast within

brought her light

velveted the darkness

into an appealing purple twilight

she has sheathed her claws

(for now) they do not reflect the cold moonlight

instead (for now) she allows his warmth

to thaw her edges

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

 

Get ready to vote!

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Despite all of my concerns for the world today, the tragic violence of yet another mass shooting, and the dismal reality of each day’s news, I am buoyed by hope.  Midterm elections are this November 6th, and I encourage each and every one of you to seize your power and your voice.  We all lose when we are silenced.  Your vote matters, and your voice matters.

Joanna Goddard shared four things to do to get ready to vote, including helpful resources to educate yourself if you are feeling a bit lost about where your polling place is, what the issues are, or even how to get to the polls.

I believe in us, and I believe in our country.  Remember, a journey of 1,00 miles begins with a single step.

(Photo via The Sunday Post 16th May 1911)

On home, and tea

acs_0133Thanks to Erin Boyle I stumbled across a beautiful mediation on home, travel, and belonging in Candace Rose Rardon’s essay, Home is a Cup of Tea.  She combines sweet sketches with simple musings about traveling, moving, settling, loving, and living — and how we define “home.”  Like Rardon, I have fond memories of drinking tea.  The tall, narrow cupboard in my childhood home full of tea tins, the fun of choosing a flavor for that particular afternoon, and the steamy, milky sweetness in my cup.

Even though the world may be extraordinarily challenging and difficult right now, we can pull strength and resilience from a sense of home, whatever that might be for each of us.  Some days, a cup of tea and a quiet moment to recharge are exactly what is needed.  Then we can jump back into the fray, renewed and ready to face the day.

missing vocabulary

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I wish there was a word for that feeling of wishing you had a part

in the happy memories of someone you care about (perhaps too) deeply.

 

It comes with a surge of envy for those that do,

and a queer ache in the chest,

and sometimes even a pricking of the eyelids.

A stab of sadness that feels utterly at odds with the happiness of their memory.

 

I’d hand you that word with my palms wide open — like a gift —

to show you my aching, and how I wish to be more/closer/deeper a part of you.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

 

the challenges of feeling empty

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Depression is a difficult thing to talk about.  I know, because I suffer from it.  Lock, stock, and barrel, I deal with depression and anxiety both.  I do think the stigmas around mental illness are slowly beginning to change, but preconceptions and judgements still linger.  Even when people mean well, it can still be a challenging topic to deal with.  Especially since these disorders are largely invisible.

In some ways, I think some of the difficulties surrounding depression (and anxiety) can be attributed to the language we use.

“I’m so anxious about my meeting today!  I can’t wait until it’s over.”

“Ugh, I’m so depressed they got rid of the pumpkin spice latte already.  It’s my favorite!”

Sound familiar?  The fact that we use the same verbiage to describe both fleeting emotions AND majorly debilitating illnesses often makes it difficult to be taken seriously, no matter how well-meaning someone might be.  No, a walk around the block will not make me less depressed.  Unfortunately, encouragement to look on the bright side will not make my anxiety any better.  But someone listening, just being there, or simply acknowledging how difficult things may be can sometimes make a world of difference.  And if you aren’t sure what might help?  Ask.  It’s that easy.  A very dear friend recently asked me what helps when I am feeling bad, and I felt so seen.  His kindness in that moment made me so grateful.  Similarly, I almost cried when my doctor described panic attacks as one of the most terrifying experiences out there.  Up until that point, the episodes I had experienced were described to me as “only” panic attacks (as opposed to a cardiovascular issue).  The validation and relief that came with that simple shift was staggering to me.  I felt seen.  And I felt understood.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to explain is when people say you can “just ask” for help:  “Just reach out — I’m here anytime!”  Unfortunately, depression is insidious in that way.  It isn’t simply feeling sad. To me it feels more like emptiness.  Like inertia.  All the color drains from the world, I can’t appreciate any of the good things in my life, and I want nothing more than to curl up into myself and cease to be, for fear of being a bother to anyone.  As much as I try to “logic” myself out of negative self-talk, on the bad days, you can’t convince me I am anything other than lazy, weak, a downer, a failure, and a burden to everyone I care about.  It takes an immense amount of willpower to even get out of bed some days, much less send someone a text that I’m feeling a little down.  (I won’t ever say more than that, for fear of being a burden.  Or a downer.  You see?  Insidious!)  That being said, if I can get there, if I can send that little text, I am forever grateful if someone says, “Hey, you’re not a bother.  I know it’s hard, but you’re strong.  I believe in you.”

I had a rough day recently, which made me think I should put some of this out there, in the hopes that maybe someone sees this and feels a little bit less alone.  Sometimes, that can make all the difference.

Then and now

Very recently I had the pleasure of visiting with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school.  We had a lovely afternoon catching up and laughing at the antics of her small son.  Life took us on our own paths, and then somehow dumped us out into a fortuitous afternoon — one where we could just walk and smile and enjoy a moment in time together.  It got me thinking, about thens and nows, and about the people we become.

Certainly I am not the same person I was 18 years ago.  It was more than half a lifetime ago, and since then I have experienced joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, pain and love.  But in some ways, I think I am still that girl, too.  Idealistic, quick-witted, a bit self-conscious?  That girl is still there.  She is deeper now, though, and more multi-faceted.  Hopefully a little wiser.  Maybe a bit more of a realist, but no less a romantic.

The way we grow, the paths that we carve towards change — these make for quite the journey.  I get caught up in the day-to-day so often that I forget sometimes how far I’ve come, and how far I still can go.  Thank you, C, for unwittingly prompting this meditation on self.  It was lovely to see you.  And to see me, in a slightly different light.

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