The Purpose of Envy

Nobody enjoys this feeling. This distance between you and who you think you are meant to be. The people and places who show up to remind you of the gap. The sickness in your heart when you come close because you still cannot cross the space between here and there. You feel stuck in the quicksands of Now. I know all about it, my friends. Do you?

I passed through San Francisco three years ago this month. July 2012. I was here without being here. I felt intense longing for more of the city. I sensed something beneath the surface that vibrated on my frequency. It didn't really occur to me that I could live here, too. In retrospect, the envious longing I felt for San Francisco was the first hint that my path would bring me here.

Envy acts like a hint from the universe. Envy tells us about our heart's deepest desires. Envy helps us reach beyond what we thought could be possible. Because we see someone else doing it or we see another place achieving it and we realize that anything, anything is possible. We realize we miss big things by thinking small.

Envy can also dampen our spirits and break our resolve. Envy can throw us off track. Envy can trick us into thinking we need something to be happy when truly nothing can bring us happiness, because happiness is not a destination. Happiness is the way.

I hope we can be happy enough Now to cast aside fear of envy, so that we may pay attention to it and explore where it's coming from and why. There's no use in numbing the tinge because chances are good that it will never go away. We can drink and forget, but when we wake up, it will be there. Waiting with a Cheshire grin.

The universe tickles our respective fancies in mysterious but purposeful ways. We can spend our lives running, or we can spend our lives chasing. What will it be?

This is day 13 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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The Summertime Blues

Motherhood has, as of late, turned me upside down. I guess I had it coming. When I became pregnant for the first time unexpectedly, I didn't have cold feet about becoming a mother. I didn't fear losing my freedom nor my body. I had a doctor who interpreted most of my pregnancy as having the potential to go very wrong, yet I carried to term and I gave birth quickly and easily, with the help of a doula rather than drugs. I nursed easily and my baby was healthy and I did not suffer from postpartum depression. My "pre-baby body" returned, I ran my organic tea business out of my home, and all was good. It was all so good. And now, it's harder. A lot harder.

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Take A Step; Learn A Word

"Each life is a language no one knows. With every heartbreak, discovery, and unexpected moment of joy, with every lift of music that touches us where we didn't think we could be touched, with every experience, another letter in our alphabet is decoded. Take a step; learn a word. Feel a feeling; decode a sign. Accept a truth; translate a piece of the mystery written in your heart. Before we live what's next, it always seems like there is some answer we need to arrive at. But daring to enter, we are humbled to discover, again and again, that the act of living itself unravels both the answer and the question. When we watch, we remain riddles to be solved. When we enter, we become songs to be sung.

When life feels far off, remember that a flute is just something hard with holes until it's played. So, too, the heart. As matches are just sticks until lit, as ice is not quenching until thawed, questions and problems remain obstacles until lived. In this way, the life of every soul waits like sheet music to be played. What good are we if never played?

Only when life moves through do holes become openings."

- Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Today marks my six month anniversary in San Francisco. So it was only fitting that I came across this gorgeous passage.

By taking a step out of my home state, I have decoded another letter in my alphabet. And with it, I've had my fiction published and discovered a platform for my poetry and found a growing artist community of moms.

As for my family--Giovanna has had the opportunity to attend preschool in the California forest, forging a unique spiritual relationship with nature that will stick with her forever. Emile has gotten to travel on an airplane by himself at frequent intervals, allowing him to show responsibility and practice precocious independence. James continues to move forward in his career as a professional creative. And Skyla, baby Skyla, she gets to soak up all this good sunshine and ocean air, the excitement of San Francisco as it comes through her mama and daddy and siblings and self.

By leaving Seattle, we have ripped holes in our lives. Never again will my children and I feel entirely at home, but we have something else. We have San Francisco--and when the storied winds of this city blow through our holes, I hear music.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Living With Change As The Only Constant

Life changes so fast. Just when I get used to things being a certain way, everything rearranges. I'd like to think this is always for the good. Always. For the good. It's absolutely terrifying to live this way. To think that bands break apart and marriages break up and children break off into the big bad world--and it's all for the greater good. To think that everyone is going to die and somehow, we need to accept this if we want to delve deeper. I feel pain. Not just my own, but yours. You feel my pain, too, don't you?

I hear horrible stories about children drowning and men taking their own life and I feel the residual pain on a very physical level. My heart moving upward. Grief squeezing the hope out of me. None of it is okay. The tragedy never disappears. It follows people everywhere. It follows their children. It stops them from living.

What if our pain is perfect as it is? What if there is a purpose behind it? I have a hard time finding purpose in a murder, for example, but maybe that's part of it. We are mere mortals. We cannot begin to wrap our heads around good and evil, though maybe we can untangle the two if we never give up. Maybe that's what pain is, at its core. An untangling of truth and lies. A separation. A deconstruction.

Who are we and what do we want and why do we always want more when we finally get what we want?

Of all my failures, it might be my hunger for more that hits the hardest, digs the deepest. Instead of focusing on being happy with everything I have, I tend to believe that I'll be happier once I have this or I've done that. I know this is flawed, and I know why it is flawed and I have been working hard to release this belief. There will always be something else, some reason why now is less than perfect.

Instead of congratulating myself for writing for 20 minutes, I usually feel defeated. Only 20 minutes before I picked up my phone or the baby woke up or I had to pick my daughter up from school. 20 minutes doesn't get you very far down a page.

But it gets you somewhere. And before you know it, you've written a book. And your baby is now a kid and your house with a sprawling yard is now a flat on an urban block and your exercise routine looks different. So do the trees. So does your hair.

You wonder how long it will be until you understand that now only happens now and it is absolutely perfect. Even the fat salty tears are perfectly formulated to smooth out the rough edges of pain.

I loved school as a kid. Especially September. New classmates, new classroom, new teacher, new routine. But by the time spring rolled around, I was over it. Bored, mostly. Ready for the next thing. Then, summer would come and go and finally it occurred to me that I missed the energy of my old class. Something so familiar and boring, gone forever. Last year when I intuited that we would not live in our Seattle house much longer, weeks before we actually had plans to move, I walked the perimeter of the yard. I tried to memorize it.

Soon this time in our lives will be reduced to a memory. We think we have the good stuff memorized, but eventually, we will forget most of it. I cope with the passage of time, the temporary nature of existence, with my words and my camera.

That bald little head. Her bouncing curly head. Tiny round teeth. Precocious eyebrows. Squeals. Squeaks. Giggles. Deep questions. Baby babbling. Kid-isms. Snuggles. The baby's breath. A hungry little mouth. Those voices. The word "mama" and "mommy" and "daddy." My hair and skin still relatively thick with youth. My twenties, my husband's thirties, both of which are nearly over. My life as a fresh transplant in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. The stories untold. The possibilities.

I cope with challenges by remembering they are temporary.

The sleepless nights. The query letters. The rejections. The exhaustion. The messes. The laundry. The temper tantrums. The screaming. The uncertainties. The travel. The loneliness. The tedium. The waiting.

My sister won't always live on the other side of the planet (RIGHT?!). I won't always be the new kid in my city. My children won't always want me 24 hours per day. We won't always have to prove ourselves.

But maybe the proving could be just as enjoyable as being proven.

Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour. - Walt Whitman

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Becoming a San Franciscan

I'm obsessed with people's stories. It's why I love novels and Instagram. Long stories. Short stories. Everything in between. I enjoy living in a dense city because of the human energy. I loved it when I studied in Rome in 2005 and I love it living in San Francisco in 2015. I'll gladly take the downside, the overwhelming swirl of it all, to get the upside, the imagination awakened. Every where I go, the people are fascinating. If only they knew how I notice all of them. Their wrinkled knees and red-rimmed eyes and aching smiles.

There's a lot going on. Time occasionally slips into a vortex. Hours whoosh by, leaving my hair messy and my clothing soiled. I shrink literally and figuratively from the demands of motherhood, even as it fuels me with the deepest well of purpose, reasons why I must be strong, why I must sleep and eat and take care of my self every time I get the chance. My husband's job, bless it, takes him away from us more than we like. But the job is also the reason we are in San Francisco and I wouldn't change any of it.

I am head over heels for San Francisco. The city by the bay. Paris of the West. The Golden city. Fog city. Rainbow land. Call it what you may, this place is magical. Today I drove west and found myself suddenly under the fog and it was so fresh and cool that the mist felt like something out of a storybook. Lord of the Rings mist. Hogwarts mist.

I drove home the long way, along Ocean Avenue and I didn't pull over to get a good picture, but I did taste the Pacific air and gaze oceanward at the stoplights. The fading sun slashed a few white clouds the color of a peach. It was only the hint of a sunset, but it was enough.

My heart often catches on these slices of heaven. The severity of life's beauty. The heartbreak of it. Because nothing lasts. On a cellular level, I will be a different person in seven years. I will look similar to the current me, but if the next seven years are anything like the previous seven, I will feel oceans away from this current iteration. I often notice that I am mourning the fleeting smallness of my babies, but it is not just them changing. It's me, too. It's everything. Never before has transience been more apparent.

San Francisco is a city of transplants. People come and they go. Sometimes they come back again. It is a city of International residents. I hear accents everywhere. Australian, South African, British. German, Chinese, Spanish. I try eavesdropping on French conversations at the gym and I am disappointed by how quickly they speak. I feel myself craving France, but that's another post.

Here, the architecture is quaint and the art is unexpected and the people are lovely. I am enchanted by the hills and besotted by the vistas and reverent to the ocean. I have been here five months and I've barely taken my first chip at the tip of the iceberg so I'm still unwrapping the reasons why I love it, and the ways it's loving me back.

Now, I am anticipating the storied cold of the coming San Francisco summer. I feel that perhaps anything is possible under the blanket of fog freshly churned by the vast Pacific. It contains a purity I want for my life. A clarity of thought, word and deed. A washing away. An emerging of new.

It must be spring.

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Taking Risks

I think maybe the important thing for writers is just to keep writing even if they don't at first think they have anything to say. Only because it's cathartic. It brings a unique satisfaction. If my brain is a leaky tire, then words are my oxygen.

I've long wondered what this blog would become should I make it a daily practice rather than an occasional one.

(I hate blogging about blogging but I'm going to follow this train of thought anyways.)

It could become a collection of boring thoughts that don't make sense. It could become a compelling journal about an ordinary middle class American life. It could become an ode to mothering or writing or San Francisco. It could be good practice for finding my voice. It could be all of these and none of these depending on the day.

But I haven't taken the leap because I don't know if I want to expose that much of myself. Which reminds me of this poignant quote by my current favorite artist of my generation, Lena Dunham:

Shame is the emotion that makes us feel most isolated from each other, and the most isolated from ourselves. It’s deeply important to try to rid ourselves of it. Exorcising your demons is a gift that you can give to other people, I think. It’s what makes our art not totally self-indulgent nonsense.

I think I'm ready to experiment. I learned this year that change is good. 2015 is around the corner, I'll be 30 soon. I feel like shaking things up. In truth, I'm bored more often than I'm not. Maybe because I've been playing it too safe.

Instead of wasting time on the how, I'm going to leave it at the intention: I intend to take more risks. I intend to blog more frequently. I intend to publish more work. I intend to make new friends.

Perhaps this could be the year..

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To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

Powerful Beyond Measure

When Simone, a dear reader, sent me an email to offer support and wisdom for my recent interstate move, she said, "no need to control or fix or worry. All needs are met, and they always have been." I knew I wanted to hear more so I asked if she would share her story about moving across the country and how it changed her. Here it is. Enjoy. My plan was simple, move to Los Angeles, spread my professional wings a little further than I was able to in Philadelphia and then, perhaps move back to the east coast.

The first 6 months here, I unraveled, and my plan disappeared.

I became a person I didn’t recognize, like or want to be around.  I was shedding, crying, self-loathing and withdrawing from all the parts of myself I thought I knew and recognized.

2 months into my move, I became introverted and disillusioned. The expectations I had for myself were unrealistic and full of ego.  In Philadelphia, I wore a lot of hats, accomplished some pretty hefty goals and had a lot of titles. I had a BA in journalism from Temple University and an MS in arts administration from Drexel University.  My resume was 3 pages full of outlined experiences, and I cared a great deal about those achievements. They validated me, boosted my courage, and gave me a fantastic sense of self-esteem. Or so I thought.

By month 3, I had been on quite a few interviews, with no call back.  I didn’t understand. I had all the experience, qualified – many times over qualified and nobody wanted me. I was quickly learning that all that used to matter, didn’t matter anymore. What was wrong with me? Was I not enough? What was going to be my fall back plan? I had no job. No real sense of how to get around LA without a GPS (which depressed me) and no creative outlet. I was stuck. It was hard for me to see outside of the cloud I had created for myself. I was drowning in doubt, worrying about going back to Philly and what that would look like and what others would think.

I didn’t recognize myself and had no idea who I was turning into…

I desperately needed an answer, a sign a reminder, warning – something! I wasn’t at all sympathetic to the person I was becoming. I was used to always falling on my feet, while lining things up so that if plan A didn’t work, there was always plan B. I was used to being in control.

Little did I realize, I was that sign I was asking for.

After drowning myself in job applications and interviews, I welcomed any distraction.  I do not remember quite how I stumbled upon the author Marianne Williamson, but I will forever be grateful that I did. The first book I read by her was A Return to Love and digested it within a few days. I was new to the idea of speaking to the Universe, meditation or envisioning how I wanted to feel out of life, rather than what I wanted to happen or do in life. (That’s an important difference)

So, I called out. ‘Who am I?’ ‘Why am I here?’ It felt weird, and I was resistant. I struggled with releasing control and believing that all my needs would be met, without a tangible plan. That knowing (of the unknown) scared me, but I was willing to try.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” –M. Williamson

Was this true? Could I have been afraid of all that was waiting for me to experience? The thought of me being fearful of success or that my wildest dreams and ideas could actually manifest was silly to me.

Me?

Truth is; I was. The Universe gave me exactly what I needed. I needed to sit down and be with myself. Take a real good, long look at who I was, in that present moment. Forget goals, ideas, or dreams. I was a control freak, a perfectionist, and I felt like the world owed me because of the work I put in – I had a huge ego. With so many thoughts flooding my mind, I began to journal more frequently and meditate which became a beautiful distraction.  My thoughts changed from why I moved to LA and what I wanted to accomplish to who I wanted to become and what I wanted my life to mean.

I was here.

I was talented enough. I was experienced enough. I was opening my mind to possibility and definitely not afraid to learn what I didn’t already know.  I stopped rejecting what wasn’t about my life and became more open to what was happening and good about my life. I was exactly where I needed to be. I began to simply enjoy and look forward to every day.

I changed my attitude and approach.

I released the need to control or even worry about what direction I should take. I began to carve out time for reading, writing, job searching, discovering LA, talking to family and friends without shame or embarrassment and that became my routine.

I landed a job by month 6.

Did I particularly enjoy my emotional rollercoaster? No. But, I saw it through. Our truth can knock us down, but it is our willing heart that will always be ready to jump right back in! The question is; will you follow?

“Much of our anxiety and stress comes when we’re focused on fear and disconnected from the voice of our inner guide.” –Gabrielle Bernstein

dawn

"When life descends into the pit I must become my own candle willingly burning myself to light up the darkness around me" – Alice Walker

i'm a wildflower. constantly unfolding, learning, experiencing, and loving...in los angeles. - Simone

contrast

 

Have you been scared of your own beauty? Have you struggled to follow your heart? Tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I love hearing from you. 

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

Thank you for your beautiful words, Simone!

Trapped

Sometimes I feel trapped. In my body, my mind, my house, my life, none of the above, all of the above. I am neither depressed nor ill and I know I'm not the first happy person to wrestle with a dull claustrophobic ache now and again.

Maybe it's because children/job/school/life/whatever demands so much out of us. We live in a culture of do-more-be-more-have-more. Which can be fun and rewarding. And draining and overwhelming. We become trapped by our to-do list. We become trapped by our fears. Worst of all, trapped by what (we think) we want whether it's a social life or a career or money or children or a partner or something I cannot even imagine.

For some reason the things we want the most can also take the most out of us.

But we can never be trapped for we do not exist in a bubble, we are all-encompassing. We are waves in an ocean, the fingers of the same hand. Ego fools us into thinking we are separate or superior or inferior. Ego with its expectations and ideals and lies. The voice of knowledge, the snake in the garden. Highly conditioned, deeply programmed habits of thought about worth and meaning and value.

Who am I and why am I alive and what should I be doing that I am not doing? Why is there so much to do all the time and why can't I keep up?

Moving a family to another city and state has proven itself a beast. A beast worth taming. An exciting chase. An adventure that has barely begun. When I feel scared or displaced I realize something: this means I am growing. If it feels uncomfortable, it's probably good for me. Maybe I can learn to lean towards that kind of discomfort rather than away from it.

When I feel as if I should be doing something else or something more, it's impossible to be present in this precious moment. We are busy creatures. We say yes. We make promises to ourselves and others. We join groups. We start projects. We take on as much as possible because we think we need to master something. Our careers, our homes, our inner demons.

Perhaps you, like me, are stumbling along, wishing to be better than you are. I recently joined an active parenting forum in San Francisco where mothers go for advice and support (among other things). Mothers post about depression, anxiety, stress. Too-small homes, too-small families, floundering relationships. The struggle is real. Unassailable. Often the first step in overcoming these troubles is airing them. Letting them be seen. Letting your self be seen.

Like the author Gretchen Rubin who studies and chases and writes about happiness because she wants to be happier, I believe in my ability to change. I am made of life and life adapts. That's what life does because life longs to live. Plants have been known to start trapping and digesting flies for nutrients when the soil becomes depleted. Absolutely anything is possible.

Our struggles are like guideposts. They show us what we need to change.

I need to stay mindful about getting stuck in the drudgery of routine and caring for myself and several other people and do things that inspire me on a daily basis. When I feed my soul with inspiration, my mind is less likely to wander to what I need to "do" (and there will always be more to do), I am more present and able to see the sweetness and beauty of the moment. I set this intention one morning and just a few hours later I discovered a place called Inspiration Point. For the past couple of weeks I've unknowingly driven within 300 feet of it many times. Inspiration Point is a lookout with a smorgasbord of sights--ocean and island and tall trees and even a bit of city. A stone's throw from my regular path. All I had to do was go a little further, venture off of my beaten path. It made me think that if I make my world a bit wider, I won't feel quite so small.

How are you struggling and what do you think the struggle is trying to change in/about you? Please tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I love hearing from you!

To read more of my thoughts on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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Depleted & Alive, Uprooted & At Home

I knew that moving to another city and state would be a lot of work... But. This. This is intense. And long. It's been weeks of anticipating the change (packing, purging, house hunting, house showing, interstate commuting for James and solo parenting for me), weeks of change (signing a new lease, living out of boxes, living without any boxes, saying good bye and hello), and now weeks probably months of processing the change (unpacking, organizing, living around boxes, building a new infrastructure [think--school, gym, insurance, doctor, bank, car mechanic, internet, babysitter, ballet, gymnastics, library, friends ET CETERA]). Please, friends, do not take your infrastructure for granted. Creating a new one from scratch has given me so much appreciation for everything I left behind. It's like chipping away at a block of ice with a toothpick. Except I want it all to be done with as soon as possible, set up and settled in. (Just typing this makes me click over to research something or call someone...)

But it took years and many recommendations and serendipitous connections to build the old infrastructure in an area where I'd lived for pretty much my whole life. These things take time. Time and patience. And since patience is part of my struggle in this body in this life, I've become somewhat consumed by setting up my new life. Getting it over with and moving along.

Unfortunately, shortcuts aren't always better and "breaks" aren't always healthy. I still don't know if it's normal and acceptable to neglect parts of me when life overwhelms, or if it's a sign that my priorities are mixed up and turned around, that I'm lazy or undedicated or taking unimportant things too seriously at the expense of important things. Earlier this month I wrote a bucket list for savoring October. Now when I see it, especially #10, I scoff at my former self. It seems I do a lot of this on my blog. I write from my stream of consciousness, I publish, and then things change. But this outdated snapshot of my thoughts remains on the internet for anyone to see and know and judge. I avoid going through the archives, but when I do, I usually cringe with contempt for my former self. I am self-conscious and self-critical but somehow recognizing my flaws makes them easier to bear.

I've felt incredibly depleted by the past couple of weeks and by everything still undone. The boxes still in the hall, the pictures still in the boxes, the walls still unpainted, the dishes still in the sink, the laundry still in the basket. The classes I have yet to find, the doctor I have yet to meet, the strangers I have yet to befriend.

This afternoon marks the first time in weeks I've sat down at my computer to write, sitting with the discomfort of being unsettled rather than seeking to sweep it away. I stumbled through the preceding paragraphs, seeking to make sense of this current upheaval and the resulting breed of writer's block. There's just so much to do and not enough time to do it and two little girls who grow up a little more every time I turn around.

But I am also alive and enlivened and excited to start every day. I love exploring and getting to know San Francisco which I find warm and welcoming and winsome. I realize more and more that I am a true city girl. I feel at home in my new home, in my element amongst such activity and energy. Even without an established social network, I feel part of something. I am part of something simply by existing here. Perhaps the potential that I sense in San Francisco, the myriad of opportunities and experiences available, is the reason I am overly eager to get the logistics out of the way so I can focus on making friends and art and a life in the context of these sharp hills and valleys.

Onward.

Are you patient? Any tips on building a new infrastructure or recommendations specific to San Francisco? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!

To read more of my musings on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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