Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Let me explain...No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Dear Nick,

I woke up this morning thinking about how to write about 14 years of marriage.

When I was younger, even past the age where I thought my freckles would magically disappear when I was all grown up, I believed that marriage would make me happy. Like, the fabric of my universe would fundamentally alter and I'd be happy.

Even though I was unhappy much of the time--something that would change with therapy and meds. But not for years and years.

But marriage is like moving; wherever you go, there you are, and you can't escape yourself. And marriage is unlike moving in that you're you, with all your own whatevers, having to try to build a compatible life with another human with all of their own whatevers. 

And then you add small humans into the mix, and the various stresses of jobs and life, and harmony becomes further complicated.

It would've been helpful for me to know ahead of time that in our marriage we could have tremendous, enraged, yelling disagreements and still ultimately be OK. 

I wish someone had explained to me that there could be an entire year that would suck, but then a really good year could follow it.

Recently a photo from our trip to Maine in 2014 popped up. We were laughing, looking so happy. And I remember what a horrible time you and I were having that summer. In fact, that whole year was wretched. 

We discussed divorce. And then decided to affirmatively work on our relationship.

That was six years into marriage, and here we are eight years later.

Which is not to say that it's all been sunshine and puppies. More that we have ups and downs but agree that it's something we both think is worth working on.

Because, jeez, loving someone and being harmoniously married to them are two different things.

At some point you told me that me joking about stabbing you really bothered you. So I no longer joke about it in front of you.

(Although please understand that I don't actually trust women who never admit to feelings like this.)

But, anyway, the other night we were sitting on the couch annoyed with each other about, I don't even know, something, and you made a Lisa face and said in a falsetto, "I'm going to stab you!"

I laughed and laughed. I don't honestly know what we'd do if we didn't find each other funny.

Today it's been 14 years since we stood up in front of so many loved ones and promised to love each other forever and ever or something along those lines. I loved our simple vows; I just don't seem to have a copy.

Honestly, I think the idea of committing forever is a daunting one at the outset. I see how it promotes societal stability, but practically speaking, it's kind of weird.

Which is not to say that my goalwhich I know is our shared goalisn't forever. Our hope is till death does us part. We sometimes joke about the other going first and what we're going to do when that happens, and other people don't seem to find those conversations as funny as we do.

But back to forever: it's more like how do you pick one person whose jokes you'll want to hear, whose hand you'll want to hold, whose air you'll be willing to breathe for the rest of your life?

It's such a leap of faith.

And then a lot of work. I mean, I suppose if it's work to be together at all, then it's just the wrong thing. But it's work to communicate effectively. And to listen to the other person and try to understand where they're coming from.

And all the compromise. My hell, the compromise.

I think what I find most important, and maybe most interesting, is the ability to see you for who you are and accept all of you despite the parts that annoy or frustrate me.

The things I love and admire about you are the easy things.

This is not something I thought about prior to marriage.

I didn't anticipate having to grow so much. I had no idea I'd need to learn so many skills in order to advocate for what I want and actually hear-not just listen towhat you want. I didn't think about needing to work as a team to achieve shared goals, like raising secure children.

Who knew we'd need to work so hard to build something together? I'm still my own whole person, as are you, and then our marriage is this whole entire, I don't know, thing unto itself.

I don't actually care about cut flowers or chocolates or fancy dinners. Gifts, as it turns out, are not my love language.

I don't know what other marriages are like, or what other people like about their marriages. But one of the things I appreciate so much is knowing that you always, always have my back. I'm independent, but I'm not alone. 

We are in it—and what "it" is variestogether.  

What I want is to be seen and heard and loved for who I am. Because of and despite who I am, as an entire, multifaceted person. I want to feel secure in the knowledge that that love is not predicated on me looking or behaving a certain way.

And in this, I have what I want. (Although I'd never turn down chocolate. Or a ticket to Cartagena.)

I love you. Happy 14.

Lisa

Sunday, August 14, 2022

And now I am 53

Yesterday was a glorious day for a birthday.

I like to write a birthday post on the day, but the entire day was just so busy.  Well, the entire day up until 4:00 pm, at which point I commenced celebrating.

And I have learned that I do not have the fortitude to drink with a Russian.

Nick and I are currently headed to Maine, so we spent much of the day preparing to go, and getting the house/dog sitters acquainted with the house and dog. 

Plus I had to bake a cake. And get ready for my wee party. 

Initially I was going to let my birthday pass mostly unremarked upon, but a couple friends said I just had to celebrate in some small way. Which, honestly, I wanted to but I guess I needed some prodding. 

So on Thursday I sent an email to a few friends recognizing the last-minuteness of the situation and inviting them for afternoon drinks and snacks and cake.

The fact is that I'm an inviter, and I have great taste in people, (really, I do). And even though I regularly loathe humanity, I seem to meet amazing people with some frequency. 

That said, I'm also not a very good organizer. So being a disorganized inviter, I tend to wind up preparing for large parties in a state of utter anxiety.

Fortunately, Nick is a terrific organizer, and ultimately our parties turn out well because the people are so interesting and we have lots of food and drinks.

But! Being that it is still Covid times, and this is the first party we have had, and we all needed to fit in the shade of the umbrella on our deck, I kept it very small. 

Honestly, limiting a list is something that takes effort. Much like how I have to focus hard on the amount of popcorn kernels I pour into the pot so that I don't wind up with twice the pot capacity when it pops.

I've only managed the appropriate amount once or twice.

Anyway.

After a couple weeks of the kind of heat and humidity that gives a bad name to summer in DC, it was suddenly and inexplicably perfect. I mean, I guess it is explicable, in that I heard on NPR that this weather is coming all the way from Greenland (I think? Somewhere very north and cold.).

So instead of being soaked the moment you leave the house and then slogging down the sidewalk dripping, the morning was actually chilly! Or, maybe not for most humans, but my friend Meg and I like to text each other about how cold it is when it drops below 80.

I don't mean to go on about the weather but it's been a big topic because the heat has gotten so hot. Somehow we have been talking about how hot it is every single day. It's been so hot.

Not, like, Spanish vacation hot where the heat was coming straight from Africa we had no AC and I took to drinking first thing in the morning right after my coffee because everything was so hard. Or maybe it has been that hot, but we do have AC and no beach so we just stay inside.

Further anyway:

This past year has been one of emotional growth for me. 

You know how however you feel is your reality, whether or not it's factually real, and no matter how much your reality doesn't line up with other people's?

Like, not total fantasy, but maybe your perception of yourself and your place in the world is a yellow circle, and other people's perception of you is a red circle, and while there is some percentage of orange where they overlap there's still plenty of separation as well.

Inconvenient but true.

So, I think my biggest revelation is that I have always been loved, and never actually been alone, no matter how isolated I felt. So many people reassured me that I was loved and cared for, but there were many periods where I didn't actually believe that.

In my awake life, I feel confident that I'm loved, and that I'm surrounded by people who care about me.

In my dreams, I'm still regularly abandoned, and entirely alone.

Sometimes while still asleep I can remind myself it's not real, that it's just a dream. And sometimes I can't, and I awaken upset.

So I suppose I'm still processing. But on the whole doing so much better.

This was also the year I discovered the magic of Crocs. Who knew they were so cute and comfortable?

India and I share, and we've now gotten my mom into them as well.

Both kids have been at camp all summer, and while I'm so happy for them, their prolonged absence has been hard. I mean, yes, it's been a tremendous luxury to go to yoga every evening and not worry about dinner. Or to have a last minute have a date with Nick.

But my gosh, I miss them.

When they were younger and the physical and emotional demands were relentless, I fantasized about a kid hotel kind of like how you can board your pet for an extended period of time. Just for a break. 

But we have had an extended break, and I really miss their company. They're funny and interesting and old enough to be independent but still young enough to want to spend some time with us.

Nick and I pick them up on Tuesday, and I cannot wait to hug those little humans. Or big humans, rather, as Jordan is taller than me, and from photos it looks like he's grown more this summer.

Also, since we only communicate through letters, I get tidbits of information, and then I want more, but the subsequent letter doesn't necessarily provide the next installment. Like, why did Jordan and his tent-mates get in big trouble? What kind of trouble? Who is the mean girl in India's cabin? Did they ever figure out who stole Jordan's magic cards? 

The kids get candy once a week at camp, and our last request from Jordan was to send him candy disguised as something else. 

I'd sneak a shiv into prison for that kid, but on the whole I'm a first-born rule follower, and I'm most certainly not sending contraband sweets and getting in trouble with Aunt Laura.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Like a handprint on my heart

Sometimes you luck into situations, people, places with no particular intention. 

And they change you in some way, small or even fundamentally.

Later you have to think long and hard to remember how your life was before.

Back when I was internet dating like a second job, married friends would occasionally suggest that I was trying too hard.

"It's because you're looking. You need to stop looking."

"You'll meet someone when you least expect it. That's how I met my husband." 

They'd say some version of this.

One suggested I lower my standards.

And I'd silently be all fuck you very much and discuss with my similarly-single girlfriends how really, if we weren't looking, how were we actually going to encounter a man we might like to kiss, much less marry?

Anyway, my dating life is not actually the point of this.

The point is yoga. 

Sort of.

The fall before the pandemic, after I'd left my office job and had weekday flexibility, my friend Tracy told me that I should start going to Asrat's classes. He was, in a word, incredible.

So I walked into his class, with students of a range of ages, where everyone already seemed to know each other.

Asrat is like nobody else I've ever known. He has a huge heart and an intense personality. He was a mixed martial arts champion who, after years of competing, and ultimately injury, discovered yoga.

His yoga teaching mixes in martial arts, for those who are familiar with both yoga and martial arts, which I am not. It's power yoga, I think?, with his own personal twist on everything. Every time you master a pose or part of a sequence, he notches it up and makes it harder.

His favorite thing to say is, "Nothing is impossible." Said while asking us to do seemingly impossible things.

But I digress. This yoga, it was challenging. Because Asrat pushes you to challenge yourself.

It was hard in a way that resonated with me. I'm not flexible, but I'm strong, and I'm so very stubborn. Week by week, I saw myself improve. 

Incrementally, but still. It felt good.

And then the world shut down. 

I missed everything, as we all did. I missed yoga, and I missed my new friends. I didn't know anyone well, but I liked them. I felt connected.

Then Asrat started teaching online. So I did Zoom classes multiple days a week. We did this for months and months.

And at some point friend Kathleen was Zooming in from a gorgeous living room in a beautiful house in a spectacular location. Where, we all wanted to know, was this magical land?

MONTANA.

So we started joking: When the pandemic ends, we're going to do a yoga retreat in Montana. Kathleen, can't wait to come to Montana for our yoga retreat!

We talked about it regularly, in a low-key fantasy sort of way.

Then we started doing Saturday yoga in-person outside on an office roof downtown. I looked forward to in-person Saturdays so much. We did yoga in freezing temperatures in hats and jackets and in sweltering ones with copious sunscreen and sunglasses. 

Those who couldn't be there in person still Zoomed in. This is one of my favorite photos from the roof.

Eventually we started doing masked in-person yoga inside. At that point we were all vaccinated and there were only 2-3 of us at a time. Eventually we moved to unmasked.

Which, in Covid, took a tremendous level of trust.

And as we spent more time together, cheering each other on in both yoga and personal victories, and struggling together in increasingly difficult classes, we forged an intense group friendship.

I mean, being corrected in yoga is pretty personal, and being vulnerable and working so hard takes an immense amount of trust.

So when Kathleen said she was absolutely serious about hosting us in Montana, our little group started talking schedules and working to make it real.

For months it would come up every time we saw each other. We were giddy with anticipation.

And last month, five of us flew out to join Kathleen in the magical land of Montana. (One of us is included in my heart, but omitted, by request, online.)

It was glorious.

Tracy and I flew a day before the others, and we stayed a cabin just outside Glacier. 

Kathleen gave us bear spray for our hike. Bear spray! 

Here Kathleen and Tracy demonstrate, although apparently you want to use it before the bear gets that close.

(India later asked if you use it like bug spray and I was all, uh, no.)

We awoke super early, and Tracy, who is even less of a morning person than me, and less nature-y, and more food motivated, said, "OK. We go do The Thing in Glacier and then we meet our friends for lunch."

The Thing: hiking to Avalanche Lake.

And then we joined new arrivals for lunch and all headed to Kathleen's house. On a lovely, deep, clean lake

This view was ours for a week. I took versions of this photo every single day.

Only our morning schedule was strict: up at 6:00 am, yoga 7:30--10:30 or 11:00, and then we prepared and ate a large meal. We had down time, then a hike or nap or swim in the lake or really whatever. And then yoga again in the evening, then prepared and ate dinner. 

Half an hour per day of phone use. We gave our people Asrat's number for emergencies.

I feared this would be terribly hard. In truth, it was such a relief. When do we get to divest ourselves of the obligation to respond to everything?

I thought we might split up in our down time, but in fact we all wanted to do things together. We all went on hikes. We all wanted to see the waterfall.

One person headed down to the lake, and eventually, we'd all trickle down.

The only activity we didn't all do was the insanely hard bike ride up a mountain. We left that to Kathleen and Asrat.

I also thought we'd be in bed by 9:00 pm, ten at the latest.

But the Montana skies are delightfully light so late, and we all had so much to do, so much to say. We knew each other mainly in the studio or online. But we knew very little of each other's backstories.

And you know how much I love a life story.

Even the strongest among us has vulnerabilities. Otherwise we wouldn't be human. Or truly able to connect. And I love those moments of deep connection.

I never envisioned myself getting really into yoga.

When I told Wendy that I'd gotten so invested in my yoga classes she said, "That's really funny. I remember years ago asking you if you did yoga and you said it mostly seemed like a bunch of people farting in a hot room."

I don't remember saying that, but it does sound like me, so I'm willing to own it.

Truly, I don't know what I thought yoga was, but I wasn't looking for what I got.

I wandered into Asrat's classes looking for a workout. With my early foray into yoga with other teachers, that's more or less what I got.

But looking back to those classes, my form wasn't correct. My poses had no life. I really didn't get it.

I don't know that I totally "get" it, but I'm way closer. I still struggle with breathing correctly. I have not yet managed to visualize myself.

But in the wretchedness of the pandemic I found physical and emotional challenge while building a profound connection to a small group of people.

Asrat and this yoga community pulled me through some of the darkest moments of pandemic isolation and exhaustion and depression.

In a Covid world gone scary and weird and empty and often devoid of joy, I ceased to regularly change my clothes or bathe, but I always showed up for Zoom yoga.

So with the opportunity to spend a weekan entire, uninterrupted, glorious weektogether, we reveled.

We stayed up late, so late, talking and laughing. We laughed and laughed.

I mean, not every minute. One day I actually cried. Yoga pulled the anxiety out of my depths, up to the surface. Tracy said she looked over at me in class and was sure I was going to cry.

It was like a Dementor had flown by. I felt empty and joyless and utterly devastated.

I assumed it was because it was hour three and I was starving. But as it turns out, intense yoga will extract emotional pain.

After class I sobbed, while one of my friends, who is a therapist, hugged me. She said to just let it go. I cried until I was exhausted. And then I was lighter.

But overwhelmingly in this week, what I experienced was tremendous joy.

The laughter and joy stood out to those who saw us together. Several people we met remarked on it.

We just had all this great energy swirling around us like stardust.

One morning after yoga we took a field trip to a store called Booze 'N Bait. 

We entered as tourists, not even pretending not to be astounded by the volume of weaponry and taxidermy. We posed. We took photos of everything. We bought liquor and logo hats and glasses. 

We giggled.

I was checking out last, and the rest of our group had gone ahead outside. 

A man in the store said to the woman at the register, "That sure was a jolly bunch."

I will be honest; I wasn't looking for friends when I walked into yoga. I mean, I'm friendly. I wasn't looking for adversaries or anything.

I was mainly just looking for a workout.

Which sounds so trite, considering.

Now, on our retreat we did some very hard things. We each worked up to poses we hadn't thought possible. We supported--both emotionally and physically--each other into headstands, handstands, etc. Some of these are scary, at least for me.

Honestly, I felt quite proud.

But what stands out in my mind from our trip is not the physical accomplishment. It is the connection and friendship.

There have been times in my life when I've had to search deep to find something to be grateful for. And then there are times like this, where my gratitude spills over.

Sometimes we luck into what we need the most.

(And sometimes, let's be frank, we fart alone in a hot room. Or anyway, I do. But better than on a plane, I can tell you that for sure.)

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Running up that hill

Dear Dad,

You've now been gone for 13 Father's Days. 

I chose this photo because I'm masked. I must've had a cold. There we were, way back then, in India, using masks to prevent the spread of disease to the vulnerable.

Now Jordan is almost 13, and India is 10.

They're smart and funny and gorgeous. There was a long time where I was wondering if parenting was ever going to become fun for me. More than baby giggles, goofing around on the playground fun. 

I mean, I always loved them.

But they took so much work. They needed me constantly. Mostly, they were exhausting with periods of joy.

And now, now they're fun. I mean, sometimes pre-teen moody. But on the whole, so engaging and charming and enjoyable. They're great travel companions, interesting to talk to, just lovely.

And they're huge! Jordan's taller than I am! India now wears all my shoes. It's hard to tell our clothing apart. I got a new warm fleece, and Jordan is taking it to camp. Honestly, I love it.

Nick is a wonderful dad, and the kids love their nana so much. We really have a good little family.

I wish you were part of it.

Last week I went to a yoga retreat in Montana. I do yoga now. I know this is hard to imagine. One of my friends invited our tight little group to her lovely house, where we spent a week. It was phenomenal.

I almost didn't go. Mom was in the hospital the week prior. 

And I'll be honest: I was scared. Really scared.

I was prepared, of course, to cancel my trip. We'd been planning it for a year and a half, and through the pandemic it was the bright spot to look forward to.

But I would've stayed without hesitating. I would've been devastated, but family comes first.

And then dear friends who love me and love Betty--part of the family we've created for ourselves--stepped in. They said I had to go. I needed it.

(Oh, I needed it.)

They'd take over for me. Come to our house, spend time with Mom. Bring her food. Make sure she was OK. Nick spent a day at home to take her to the nephrologist (which I seem to confuse with phrenologist, which is completely different), who was happy with how she was doing.

My friends and Nick, and our kiddos, for that matter, took such good care of her.

She was in great shape when I got back. And in better spirits, than she'd been for weeks, maybe months.

I was so relieved, so happy. She was joyful, engaged, cared for. It underlined for me that she's so loved. I am so loved. 

And really, isn't that what we want most from family, from friends? Love.

I wish you were here to be part of our family. To know our friends. To love my kids.

I miss you.

Love,

Lisa

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Dear Dad, year 13

Dear Dad,

Today, 13 years ago, you left the house while Mom slept. We panicked, called everywhere, sat by the phone, bugged the police.

I stayed up late crying. Pregnant, uncomfortable, terrified.

Tomorrow, 13 years ago, we located you at the morgue.

I write this post every year.

The truth is, all these years of time and processing later, I'm OK most of the time.

Not the pretend fine that we grew up with. I mean like actually OK. 

Like, somewhere along the way I hit the point of being able to be more grateful for what I had than upset about what I've lost. (Let's be honest. This isn't always, every minute. But generally.)

I think I've said some version of this over the years, but I don't think it was actually true until now. It was more aspirational.

It's not that I don't miss you, or wish you'd gotten to know my kids. It's not that I never think of the what-ifs. Or that I don't wonder about details. It's not that I don't get mad sometimes.

But my grief no longer sits at the surface, leaking out all over everything all the time, pouring into the laps of strangers at the bus stop.

It's settled in. It will always be a part of me, I think. 

This expectation that you grieve and then at some point you're done is bizarre to me.

I think maybe that could be true if you hadn't lost someone really dear to you. Or maybe if you didn't feel intensely. It's been suggested to me that I feel more than others, and maybe this is true.

It's like colors--how do I know we're all seeing the same blue, even though we can all agree that a particular color is blue? So my level of love or missing is just my level.

It's like in the hospital when they ask you on a 10-point scale. My 7 might be way different than someone else's.

But anyway. I think my grief over losing you is just part of me.

And as May 15 approaches, as it does every year because time as we mark it is linear, my feelings work their way up through my body, till they're right under my skin. 

I can feel the shift.

Yesterday neighbor friends hosted a birthday party for their daughter, who is now one of India's besties. They had cake and lemonade out front of their place, with the revelry of good neighbors spilling onto the sidewalk.

They had champagne for adults, and it was one of the first nice afternoons in a long and wretchedly cold spring, which made it all the more fun and celebratory.

And so I had champagne and more champagne and my story just came pouring out.

I was wearing the tee shirt with this photo on it that I made for my Overnight walk years ago. And someone thought I was India. 

And all this information just fell out of my mouth, like it was just sitting there, waiting for me to open my mouth so it could leap out.

I know you hated how public I was with what you considered your information. 

Wherever you are now, I hope you are at peace with everything.

Anyway, I had lots of champagne after a day of very little food (which I'd forgotten) and as such, I was up watching Grey's Anatomy into the crazy wee hours waiting for it all to wear off. 

I looked at my phone and my dear friend Vik had texted, as he always does, one word: hugs.

Hugs. I see you, I remember. Hugs. 

It's beautiful to me. 

After 13 years with the facts being the facts, I have no new information, which frankly is fine, and maybe even better. 

But I need to commemorate this day. These days.

What has happened over the years is that more dear friends have lost parents. And one by one friends have said to me that they had no idea how devastated they are.

I've come to believe that regardless of how sympathetic a human you may be, it is impossible to really get it until it happens to you. And then you really get it.

And I've had conversations with our family friends about how truly lucky we were to have grown up in the communities we did, with the strong friendships our parents had.

You and Mom were dear friends with extraordinary people. What a gift for us to grow up with these relationships, and being loved and nurtured by them.

And now, there are very few of you left.

I know this is how life works, but gosh, I miss you. I miss you, Dad. I miss our friends. There are so many of you who have left us, and I hope you're all having a grand time together.

I was thinking how 13 is a teenager, and then I remembered that yes, of course, because my boy is going to become a teen in August!

It's always like this with the number of years you've been gone and the number of years he's been alive.

You'd be so proud of both these kids, I know. They'd make you laugh. You'd make them laugh. You'd play the piano and Wanda would croon, and then we'd all laugh.

I miss you.

Love,

Lisa