Thursday, January 3, 2019

Leap Year: 2017-18 in life lessons.

I missed a year. It was the first time in over a decade I missed a year of lessons.
I kept thinking that I’d make it up some time along the way. It irks me in that annoying “add it to the list of things I have pending” kinda way.  I disappointed myself. I’d stare at the post-it note on my desk and just think “write the damn thing” but then I’d get distracted watering any of the other gardens I tended to.

It’s not that I didn’t think about what I’d learned in 2017.  To some degree it felt like I was still working through a lot of it. So without further adieu, I offer you what I learned the last 2 years in no particular order.

  • To mute myself less & love more.  When we withhold love & when we filter ourselves, we’re only dimming the light that naturally wants to shine from within us. Go big. Love big.  Wear the fucking outfit you want to wear… say what you feel. This means you 100% won’t be everyone person and that 100% is okay.

  • Where my parental limits were. Raising a toddler while battling pregnancy hormones, raising a toddler while learning a new human and then raising two small people hasn’t been easy.   I’ve been pushed to my absolute point of breaking more than once. I’m not proud of the person I am in those moments but I’m also learning to pull back and cut her a little slack. There’s some pain behind the anger and I’m finally ready to start looking at what’s there.

  • To seek the community I was craving. It’s easy to feel isolated working from home and in a small team.  Over the last two years, I’ve become fearless in my pursuit of connection and relish the amazing people I’ve met as a result of making the first moves.I have found that people don't always know what to make of my forwardness and that's okay. Those aren't my people.  

  • The value in civic engagement.  My world opened up the moment I got active in my community in a real way. I have this unique opportunity to live in a small town within a big city.  It’s made me a better human. It’s changed my understanding of politics. It’s challenged me to step up. Thank you, West Hollywood, for letting me love you.

  • To relish those moments of divine inspiration and to lean into whatever is pulling me into a direction.  This year, it pulled me into organizing something I had no business organizing but did anyway. Successfully. In 8 weeks. With a group of women I now consider sisters.  I still don’t 100% know what’s next, but I remain committed to honoring the voice that pushes me into crazy-sounding scenarios.

  • To face failure.  I bombed a campaign. It was awful. It was the single biggest failure of my career. It fucking hurt and a lot of it was my fault.  The view from falling square on my face has altered my perception of success and of myself. I’m better for failing and no longer fear it because I’ve faced it head on.

  • Feelings are often not one or the other. There’s a LOT of gray area and most of the time, I live in that space.  Empowered yet alone, ecstatic but anxious, angry yet full of love.. The list goes on. Lolly’s birth took me by surprise. She came quicker that we thought and it resulted in my partner missing her birth. There’s so much beauty in my memories of cutting her cord & the intense bond we share as a result of the experience but it left me sad, nonetheless.  It took a long time to sort out and give space to both experiences.

  • That I am magic. My kid thinks I’m magic. I’m officially choosing to believe him.

This year I hope to:

  • Be more selective in the gardens I water…and to deepen the connections that are blooming vs spreading myself so thin.  

  • To leave more space for play in every aspect of my life.
  • To rediscover who my partner is and what our connection looks like after 4 intense years of grad school, 2 babies & demanding jobs.
  • To write down recipes vs always subscribing to the “fuck it school of culinary arts”
  • To rediscover who I am without a baby attached to my nipples or growing in my tummy… or impacting my hormones.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My year of Yes. What I learned in 2016.

2016 was my year of yes.  After choosing to leave the comfort of a corporate job, the urgency in saying “yes” became apparent.  In my mind, it felt as if anything was ever going to work, 2016 would be the year that those seeds would be planted.  With that mindset, I chose to say yes. I said yes all year.  Sometimes it bit me in the ass, sometimes it opened doors I didn’t even know I needed to walk through. Here’s what I’ve learned as a result.

  1. The more I allow myself to just do and not overthink, the more I’m learning to trust those instincts. Whether it’s being open with a new friend or pitching a ridiculous idea that feels interesting, there’s something really powerful in allowing the process to just happen.   
  2. I found that by helping other women share their voice, that I’ve been able to find my own.  Never in my entire life did starting my own brand or movement across my radar, but nonetheless, Radical Mother came to be in 2016 and I’m so excited to see what it may become.
  3. I learned to accept criticism and push-back with grace. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but I know that when I’m being pushed, it’s time to step up, push harder and allow for something great to come as a result of it.
  4. I learned to acknowledge that my relationship with God is complicated but very much renewed. I’ve never felt more sure in the existence of something greater than myself (whatever you prefer to call it) than when I’ve been with families during & after the births of their children.
  5. I learned to create & hold space. I was humbled by the opportunity to support 8 families in either birth or postpartum support.  These families are etched on my soul and have left me changed as a result of knowing them.
  6. Something always suffers when you take too much on.  It’s either your health, a relationship or a combination of the two but pressure must find a release and if we don’t allow ourselves space, life will make the choices for you.
  7. Parenting is complicated and often time a minefield of triggers but empathy will get you through it. I try to put myself in his shoes and come at situations from love & understanding. It’s not always easy and I don’t always succeed, but I try. In 2017, I vow to put him first much more.
  8. If I don’t value my worth & my time, no one else will.  
  9. I fully embrace my love of the word “fuck”. I’m not sorry for this.
  10. Maybe it wasn’t dumb luck that put me in these situations and maybe, just maybe, I’ve earned it.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Tits out on the 405: 2015 in life lessons

Ten years. I've been officially writing these lists for a decade.  They are my time capsules- my touch points.  They are generally overly sentimental, sometimes funny and always honest.

1. There's nothing like driving & using a breast pump to make you feel liberated. "Tits out on the 405" isn't just a great way to sum up my 2015, it's also the title of my someday memoir.

2. Some of my favorite moments of the year have involved sharing unexpected truths with unsuspecting people at work.  The world stops for one beautiful moment and allows two people to be real with one another - to be vulnerable.  To me, this is at the core of what it means to live life fully awake and I believe we need more of this in our work-selves.

3. I survived this year on humor, coffee, gratitude & tequila.  All carry equal importance and feed the others.

4. There have been two times in my life that I've gone to bed decided on one thing and woken up completely convinced of something else.  The first was when I woke up with the clear intent that we needed to travel to India after determining we should save and start a family.   The second was deciding to quit my full time job to pursue an unknown path after rationalizing the safe route the evening before. The definitive feeling of these decisions is both calming & invigorating at the same time. It's nice to know that I'm working things out in my sleep but it's hard to wrap my head around the intensity with which these decisions are made subconsciously. 

5. At the end of the day, the single thing I am most proud of are my friendships. Every time I think I've hit capacity and my dance card is full, another person enters and I fall head over heels in love again.  These folks have added even more depth to the rich flavors of our already complex life in LA.  To think that VN is growing up surrounded by these weirdos is the best I could ever want for him but truth be told, I'm still trying to figure out why they like me.

6. Postpartum depression & perinatal mood disorders are very real and very common. It's time to talk about them, make a safe space for each other and push for the necessary changes to help prevent these from becoming even more commonplace.

7. Babies really are little Buddhas.  My son has a delicate way of holding up a mirror to my soul, causing me to take pause and then adjust.  He teaches me to live in the moment and reminds me how fleeting time really is.  I love his gentle, playful soul and remain grateful that he chose me to be his mom.

8. Sometimes your inner voice needs a megaphone to reach you and sometimes this megaphone takes the form of a friend.  If this happens, listen up. It's big.  A, thank you for being mine - you changed my life.

9. There are times & places to be passive. One of those places is NOT in the chair of your stylist. Be decisive. Be clear. Otherwise, you will end up with less hair than you bargained for. Trust me.

10. Even with all VN taught me this year, parenthood didn't make me a better person - my husband does.

Curious to know about years past? Here are my favorite lessons from the last decade:
  • 2005: Love alone does not float the boat but a renewed love of tequila helps fill the holes 
  • 2006: Sexy is a state of mind, not a dress size. 
  • 2007: That I don't like hiking, but I love the feeling you have when you get to the top, so therefore, I love hiking.
  • 2008: The more comfortable I feel with myself, the less I own. 
  • 2009: After years of thinking otherwise, it has become clear that I hate pastrami. Realizing this was one of the more definitive moments in my year.
  • 2010: If you never take chances, be it with design or life, you will always have white walls.
  • 2011:That although my partner may be the only one that finds me funny, that I am blessed to have the opportunity to make him laugh the rest of our lives.
  • 2012: fear of not being good enough prevented me from moving on for a long time.  
  • 2013: To accept that when I have said I can't do something, it has most often meant that I am unwilling to do something. 
  • 2014: People offering to help does not mean they don't think you are capable. It means they care.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

This is motherhood today - exactly at this moment:

It's after 10 pm on a Thursday night.  My husband just finished a sink full of dishes ranging from our run-of-the-mill spaghetti dinner to my spare pump parts while I stare blankly into the glaring white space of a blog page. The page feels like the florescent lights of Walmart- bargain-priced, far too big and begging for some personality.

Our tiny human is (for the moment) fast asleep in his crib but I type with hesitation - never sure what the last word typed will be before he wakes.  We spent 20 minutes letting him learn to self-soothe tonight which really means we spent 20 minutes letting him cry.  With each whimper my heart hurt more and my frustration intensified.  Of course, like every hormonal, sleep-deprived, confused mom, this frustration was immediately turned at my husband who sweetly asked "can I help?".  Ever the grown up, I responded with a nasty "with my job or with something else?" followed quickly with "You are annoying me." Wow.  I'm a peach.  Isn't he the luckiest man alive to have a a wife treat him this way?

This is motherhood today - exactly at this moment.

Podcast advice floats through my head - like a catchy melody you can't quite shake.  I know I'm not alone. I know there are women out there in the same boat.  I know this will pass and I know that someday I will miss this.  But these days, especially right now, all those thoughts are like tiny fruit flies in my face- useless and completely unavoidable.

When people ask how I am, I pause and debate.  What portion of the story do I tell? What version do they see?  Sometimes it's the sugarcoated "I'm great. VN is great. I never knew how much fun being a mom could be.  He's learning to do this (insert adorable moment)." Sometimes, I let them know that he's not sleeping well and that daycare is wreaking havoc on both of our immune systems but not to worry- we're hanging in.  And sometimes, I decide to give my honest one liner "I'm living in extremes: moving between feeling like a rock star can-do-anything mom and a complete and utter failure.  Sometimes this shifts by the day, but there are days it shifts by the hour.

Sometimes I can do anything and feel like the world is my oyster.  I'm holding down a full time job, a part time job and still managing to visit friends, look decent and cook at least 3 meals per week while my husband works full time and goes to grad school.  These days are generally accented by a multi-tasking-mama moment that involves pumping to and from a client's office while catching up either with business or a friend on the phone.  These moments- oh man, they are better than any drug I've ever done.

And then it shifts.  It could be an innocent piece of feedback from a colleague or a friend who doesn't seem to get it or just simply an over-tired infant who is still learning how to sleep.  Sometimes its everything and sometimes its nothing.  When it hits, though, the bottom drops out.  I don't sob.  I don't fall apart.  I just simply numb down.  Going into what can only be called survival mode- existing on the bare minimum of emotion needed to get through to the next experience.  We all lose in these moments.  Work suffers.  My marriage suffers.  My relationships with other people suffer.  It's unpredictable and it's messy for anyone that is close enough to me to see the change in tides.

The guilt that comes along with the shift compounds the sadness.  Worry and anxiety whittle away at the dwindling pool of emotions and then I'm just left with sad eyes and a racing mind.

This is motherhood today- exactly at this moment.  It's confusing.   Highs that are unbelievable.  Have you ever cried from sheer joy? I have. I do. When VN and I get into staring contests or we read "On The Night You Were Born", tears of overwhelming love flow.  It's amazing. It's endless.  It's affirming.

Have you ever laid in bed thinking about the possibility of single parenting or wondering if you could get pregnant by just thinking about having a second child because the thought of actually having sex any time soon is close to repulsive?  I have. I do. I don't give these thoughts much space, but they do exist. They hurt me as much as they worry my husband who is weathering these storms with me. The numbness causes me to question everything - except the love for my child.  Somehow, that remains untouched.

This is motherhood today- exactly at this moment. Twelve hours after I began this post. VN ends up in bed with us because after a few times waking up, it's just easier and there's something sweet about having him so close - even when he kicks me in the ribs.  I glance down in a dream state to see this small person fast asleep with my nipple in his mouth. He's happy and he's safe and even in those barely conscious moments I realize that this is worth all of it.  It's worth the pain, the confusion and the sleeplessness.  In a life full of unfinished tasks, he remains the constant reminder of the commitment I made to raise him to be the best person we can.  He will have faults, he will fall down but he will grow up loved and wanted- just as my husband has always wished for him.

This is motherhood today- exactly at this moment.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2014 In Life Lessons

Last year I published the year in life lessons on January 17th.  2014 was looking like it would be a stellar year- I'd started working out with a personal trainer, my husband was contemplating grad school and I had a goal of competing in my first tough mudder. We had girls trips to Vegas planned and looking into Peru for the next Christmas travel.  It would be our last year of us before we started having kids.

A few days later I learned that my husband and I were expecting our first child.  This enormous life event consumed 2014. From morning sickness to birth and postpartum recovery, instead of being the "me year" it turned into the year of Vapor Ninja (the sweet nickname given to him in utero).

One trip around the sun later, with my son and husband both fast asleep in the next room and my entrance into the work force looming, it feels fitting to enjoy the quiet and reflect on what 2014 meant.

In 2014 I learned:

- Pregnancy is a trip. See What I Learned: The Pregnancy Edition

- To pay attention to signs.  The universe kept dropping major hints long before I found out I was pregnant. Deep down, I knew my son was ready for us before I could admit to myself that we were ready for him.

- The importance of a village.  Whether it was calm responses to crazy text messages, offers to bring food, or the nice stranger who stopped to help when I dropped my groceries, I was overwhelmed by the kindness of others this year.  These neighbors-turned-friends and strangers-turned-friendlies added a beautiful layer to our complex little neighborhood and further tied us to this unlikely home away from our families.

- To be more vulnerable. I cannot do everything alone and it's okay to ask for help.

- That motherhood is as transformative as the cliches I refused to believe. I'm still learning who I am along with getting to know this tiny person I carried with me for nine months. The process is complex, emotional and ongoing.  It's exciting. It's terrifying. It's liberating.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What I learned- The Pregnancy Edition

I imagined pregnancy to be this life-affirming magical period in which I woke up every morning with rays of sunshine streaming from my vagina.  THEN, I saw the two lines on the pregnancy test and my world shifted.  

I've been enamored with pregnancyfor years.  Even when I wasn't sold on having my own children, I considered being a surrogate solely so that I could know what it was like. To me, being pregnant and carrying a child was the most amazing natural experience that a woman could have.  You grow a person and without thinking your entire body just KNOWS what to do.  It's primal. It's nature at it's best.  After having the life-changing experience of assisting one of my girlfriends during the birth of her first child, I knew I wanted to be a doula.  I read books. I'd gone to classes.  I thought I had it down.  One quick shift in perspective and the whole narrative changes. I would no longer be a supporting character who helped girlfriends through their pregnancies, I would be the star of this ordeal. 

The truth is, seeing those lines scared the crap of me.  As I've gone through this experience and spoken candidly with other ladies, I decided to stop giving the standard "everything is great" generic answers and just being real. If I could go back 10 months to a newly-pregnant me, I would tell her the following: 

1. It's okay to freak out. 
I wigged out... big time. I spent the better part of my pregnancy completely and totally freaked out.  It took 6 months for me to verbalize that although I had no fears about birth itself, everything else completely terrified me.  I was afraid this baby was going to ruin my career, my marriage, my friendships, and my body. You know, pretty much everything.   The more I've admitted this to other women, the more they have acknowledged the same fears.  Pregnancy & parenthood are big unknowns.  Of course you're going to be afraid. Instead of avoiding your fears, talk about them. Own them. Shine a light on them so that you can process the fears. Name them. Give them space and be okay being afraid. 

2. Hearing "everything will be fine" only minimized what I was feeling. 
I didn't want cheerleaders.  I wanted someone to understand that right in that moment there was no guarantee to me that everything would be fine.  Part of me knew that they were right, but in those melt-down moments,  you just want someone to walk with you through the dark and twisty forest, not fast forward to the happy ending.  

3. People offering to help does not mean they don't think you are capable. It means they care. 
Initially, I was hell bent on doing everything for myself.  I found myself spouting phrases like "I'm pregnant - not disabled."  In time, I realized it came from my own insecurities about the changes I was facing. I didn't want to be seen as weak or incompetent at work or at home.  This shifted the bigger I got and the more comfortable I became.  People want to help because they want to help. Let them.  It builds your community.  Accepting a helping hand does not make you weak. In fact, it can help build relationships.  As I work through new motherhood, I realize this is still something I need to focus on. 

4. Being pregnant isn't limited to out-of-office hours.  I don't believe in crying at work. You can judge me for that if you'd like, but it's against my personal policy. This rule, well, it was broken a few times this year.  Early on, I did my best to hide these changes in tides- escaping to the bathroom, spending a few extra minutes in my car or bottling everything up until I could deal with it at home.  This only worked for so long.  Soon those pesky feelings managed to seep through and I found myself at their mercy - crying on the shoulder of an unsuspecting coworker in the hall.  It was forced vulnerability and from that moment on, I wasn't afraid to have real feelings 9-5.  In fact, the more I embraced them, the easier it was to be comfortable later in my pregnancy when things were undeniably changing.  

5. As a general rule, the more I resisted, the worse everything became.  From riding emotional waves, to not listening to my body when it came to rest, or not putting on maternity clothes sooner, I found very quickly that the more I resisted the changes I was going through, the more severe they became. I was already pregnant. I couldn't control what was happening to me, it just needed to happen.  The more I was able to give in, the more I was able to feel my way through experiences instead of spending so much of my energy pushing against them (Thank you, India). 

6. Stop Judging. I was judging other women very harshly.   Early on, I found myself on a high horse "I will never do.." "Why would anyone.." I was a know-it-all and even a bit of an asshole.  I'm not entirely sure when I came to this realization, but it's been one of my favorite truths and the one that is at the forefront of my mind every day.  The thing is, I don't know, but I do have preferences.  We all do.  That does not make them correct.  What is right for you, is not going to be right for someone else. It's okay to be impassioned about your preferences.  Know when to discuss and know when people really don't want to hear your advice.   I have preferences about how I would like to deliver my baby and raise my child, but I will not be arrogant and say this is the only way.  Instead of looking at how differently two women have done something, look for the ways in which you can support each other. Stop Judging.

7.  Be here now.  At the end of the day, pregnancy is beautiful and it will end.  There's something amazing about creating life.  Strangers treat you differently.  Your partner looks at you with reverence. People are nicer and the world gets smaller. Everyone is more gentle with you. Napping is allowed. Second helpings are encouraged.  Feeling your baby's hiccups and kicks - regardless of how appropriate the timing (like in meetings with clients) are insanely amusing. Enjoy the newness and revel in the firsts. Never again will you be in a position to feel these things for the first time. Take a moment and etch all of it in your mind.  That little peanut causing your heart burn is the safest they will ever be and life will never be the same after they are born. Enjoy the calm.

Someone told me that pregnancy is the only time where two souls exist in one body.  In the times I struggled most, that image pushed me through.   Pregnancy is hard and it's scary and it's also beautiful and inspiring. It's celebratory and somber - we celebrate a new life while mourning the end of our own childhood. You may be surprised how much you miss it one day. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Totally New Year: India, Nepal & After

We spent New Years Day exploring Kathmandu and the surrounding area- concentrating much of our time in the area called Boudha where one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world exists.  The city was flowing in prayer flags. Tourists, monks & locals overwhelmed the center of the square- walking the stupa in prayer.  T.J. and I ate lunch on a rooftop and enjoyed birds-eye views of the magnificent structure.  Om Mani Padme Hum played everywhere, bringing a meditative quiet to the whole afternoon.  While T.J. took photos elsewhere, I enjoyed solitude on the stupa - wanting to give the new year space to come into existence while sitting with the one that had just past.

Our last tourist stop was a monkey temple over looking the entire city of Kathmandu. It was from our perch you could see the vast population below and really understand the density of the area.  There of course, were monkeys and they were of course, most adorable and curious. 

After freshening up, we met our fellow travelers-turned-friends for one final dinner.  We shared Tibetan bread and tried a fermented beer drink that tasted like hot yeasty bread - not bad but not good either.  It was just weird. There were of course, momos. What I remember most about the meal is just how good it felt to be with them all one more time and how perfect it felt to spend our last night with these people who we did not know existed three weeks prior, but now felt strange thinking that we wouldn't see them again anytime soon.   Our evening ended with hugs and promises to visit and to stay in touch. It was like summer camp.  
The smallest vendor

The next day, after indulging in a decadent day of hotel spa services and one more drink in the Kunti bar, we prepared to head to the airport to board a plane home to LA.  In the car, T.J. and I both noticed the same chant playing that we'd heard the previous day in Boudha. Om Mani Padme Hum- Nepal was guiding us out as softly as we entered.

Back in LA 
T.J.'s adventure stance
The trip home is a blur. Between jet lag and too many thoughts to fully piece together, it took days to come back to earth.  The disparity between our home and where we had been felt painfully obvious.

Driving felt weird. Los Angeles felt foreign. Brushing my teeth and showering was different. The lens in which I'd been viewing life had been altered in some way.  In between visits with friends, I began to feel our narrative come together and was able to finally start comprehending the vast impact our trip had on me.  We found themes and through lines.  Every night I went to bed dreaming about mustard fields and prayer flags.  Even now, those are the places my mind wanders to when I need relief.   It became commonplace to enter our home and hear the chant we'd heard in Nepal. The trip had changed me. It changed us.

The contrast between these two neighboring countries was amazing.  India, well, India made you work for it. It was unapologetic - You either coped or you didn't. Move in rhythm with the rest of the country or get hit by a rickshaw or stopped behind a cow. India didn't care.  Nepal had a more gentle hand. Nepal gave you space, guided you softly while still providing reminders of the wonder around you. Perhaps it was the mix of Hindu & Buddhist influences, the sweeping landscapes or more likely, the fact that Nepal depends on the tourism industry for much of the country's income.  In the end, like two vastly different best friends, I loved them both for entirely separate reasons and neither more than the other.

Back at home, T.J. got busy with grad school applications and I dove head-first into work.  Within a few weeks, I noticed my prized string that had hung around my neck since Lumbini had fallen off.   We were moving on with day to day life.  What we didn't know was that India was still working on us. We just didn't realize the full extent.   

While putting the final trinkets away from our trip, I moved the unopened prayer flags into our office.  As I set them on the shelf, I looked around and had vision of them hanging above a crib.  I mentioned this to T.J. and we laughed about how great it would be to tell our someday child about our adventures. For he or she to know that we had thought of them prior to even knowing they existed.  It turns out our someday baby would be sooner than we anticipated.

The universe had been giving us signs for weeks - the purchase of the red elephant in Pokhara, the banter about storks and stowaways, my obsession with bringing back multiple pairs of comfie pants for my someday pregnancy, the vision of prayer flags over a crib.  In the moments between exploring the world, pushing our limits and learning to give in, we were giving life to our family.

India taught me the beauty found in breathing in instead of resisting the things I don't understand. It taught me to let go of control and simply ride the experience.  In Nepal, I learned to be more still.  It energized my spirit and helped clear my vision.  The trip taught my husband and I how to be scared together and figure things out as a team when neither of us knew the answer.  The lessons have carried us through 9 months of intense change - physically and emotionally. Pregnancy really has been an extension of that trip - giving myself over to the moment, keeping humor as my guiding principle & never quite knowing if what I just ate will make me sick. 

7 months pregnant 
As I sit finishing this, I think about our son who will be born any day now. Will we ever be able to fully explain the gravity of our trip? Will it make sense when we tell him that although I didn't know why at the time, that I'm convinced that he was the one that pulled us on that journey?  Will he understand that his spirit was in every one of those memories for us and although we weren't aware he existed yet, that we felt him long before we knew who or what he was?  

I hope that some part of him will revel in knowing that he's not only made of me and his dad, but also the adventure which created him.