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.

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

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Finding Presence As A Work-At-Home Mother

When I got pregnant over 6 years ago, I knew I wanted to try for the best of both worlds. I wanted to work, and I wanted to be the primary caregiver for my daughter. I figured I could do this by starting my own business and working from home. I was wrong.

While I may have been home, I was not always there. I had tea to mix and invoices to bill. I had marketing to do. I had a website to manage. I tried to run the business alongside raising my kids. Literally. Which meant I did neither at full speed and I always felt spent.

Possibly my greatest regret as a mother so far is that I have not always been present for my children.

But, there's a light and a shadow side to everything. I was able to breastfeed my daughter on demand through her toddler years. We spent copious amounts of time together. We still do. She received plenty of unstructured undirected play time. Now, she has a wild imagination and she can play "pretend" like no body's business.

I had high hopes for working at home. I thought my daughter could learn a strong work ethic by seeing me work. I planned to automate most of the business so I could make money and still be at home with her AND have time (and money) to write. I thought Timothy Ferris' book, "The Four Hour Work Week," offered the perfect blueprint. I just needed to fill in the blanks. Reality proved far more complex.

When my second daughter was born, my attention became divided once again. My older one came up against a brick wall of jealousy, and I struggled to carry her over it. I could not physically care for everything and everyone. Running the tea business became a burden that ceased to pull its weight. I learned the lesson we all learn sooner or later, sometimes more than once: I needed to do what I loved most. I couldn't divide my attention into so many pieces. I needed to edit and discard.

I continue to grapple with presence. I carry around books and notebooks, hungry to read and write at every opportunity. Though the books mostly remain unopened, I like to have them close by. They bring comfort. As I mentioned in my post about winning, you never know when a thought may strike or the children may become so absorbed in their play that I can read a few lines.

Modern humans have a billion different things to do and watch and read and be. Meanwhile, a bit of undivided attention goes a long way, whether it's applied to a child or a website or a novel or a movement. When faced with a gamut of opportunity, how do we prioritize? Ideally, we do it according to love. Not prestige. Not expired ideals. Not outside expectations. Not habits. Not other people's passion. But our love and our passion.

When my daughter erupts with emotion, what she needs is my full and honest presence, with a side of snuggles. In those tender moments, I see how motherhood can be simple. But this simplicity requires, without exception, presence.

This is day 11 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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What Does It Feel Like To Be You?

Do you ever wonder what it would feel like if you led a different life? If you wore different kinds of shoes and had a different head of hair and took different pictures with your iPhone. You might live in another house with another set of kids and another set of problems.

The green-eyed monster knows where I live and sometimes she visits me. I see your Instagram feed and I read your blogs and I see the colors in your home. And I'm jealous. Not because I don't love my life, but because I love your life, too.

I want my life but I want it to have elements of your life. I want to travel to exotic locations and eat pretty food and connect with cool people. I want to exist in an artist's haze where every moment feeds my art and my art feeds my family.

But I have no choice. I can only be me. And so I am the best me I can be. I don't lose myself in your life anymore. (Ok, sometimes.) I don't want what you have. (Ok, sometimes.) I want what I have. (Always.)

Sometimes, when I open my eyes really wide and I see the pure white walls of my home and the miniature people who run away from and back to me and the light that filters through the windows into our protected pocket of earth, I remember what it was like to be a child. Those moments are fleeting and untenable and perfect.

We were born perfect, but when we grow up, we forget. We forget that even the struggle exists for us.

I want to see the universe through your eyes, but I will settle on seeing the universe through my eyes--opened just a bit wider than yesterday.

This is day 2 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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Life And Death Transformation

On the evening of Mother's Day, complex emotions and utter exhaustion induced sleeplessness, my head buzzing with metaphysical possibilities. I'd just finished reading "After This: When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go?" by Claire Bidwell Smith, the pages containing a litany of profound revelations about death and the afterlife. Claire helped me excavate a knowingness from deep within: there is no such thing as death, not in the sense that our souls leave these bodies and we cease to exist. Death is a transformation. There is consciousness after death, even if it looks and feels different than we look and feel while animating a human body.

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Behind Closed Doors

So much to do so little time. Ya feel me? So many books to read and stories to write.

So many faces to kiss and smiles to feel.

So many experiences to have and restaurants to try.

So many sites to browse and things to know

So many cities to visit and songs to sing.

So much creativity pulsating behind so many closed doors.

I like to put myself in the bird's-eye view and soar overhead. I try to stay on this peninsula we call San Francisco while I am here in body, because if I don't, I might get lost out there.

I see the beaches and the tall trees and the harrowing hills. The Golden Gate Bridge and the Victorians and Coit Tower, and then I go deeper. I see people walking and running and talking. I see them tapping away at their computers and moving across the land because they always have places to be. I see them wanting, wanting, wanting so much. I see their creative energy bolstered by mine and vice versa. I see our work weaving in and out of each other even if we're not sure how or why or what the end result will be. I see tapestries of thought, intricate patterns emerging, ideas becoming things, an invisible and indivisible underbelly of love.

The work you do in your mind is the work you do for the mind. The work you do from your heart is the work you do from the heart.

I hope you know where you fit in today. I hope you can step back and admire your patch in the tapestry, whether it be tangled and tight, or lovely and loose. I hope you know your value. I hope you do work and I hope you own it. I hope you do things that scare you. I hope you aren't too scared to back away.

I hope today is your perfect day. I hope you embrace imperfections as perfections, and death as life. I hope you see two sides of the same coin. I hope we can all understand the paradox that in order to create, something must die.

What are you creating? What's happening behind your closed doors? Have you thought about opening them?

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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The Intersection of Art, Poetry and Motherhood

1505_May First Friday-rev(1) Life has a way of unfolding around us, in spite of us, for us. Do you agree?

I love writing poetry. I love making mixed media art. I love being a mother. And somehow in a whirl of synchronicity and serendipity, these passions that don't always complement one another, have joined forces and taken an unforeseeable direction.

In the month of May and mother's day and my birthday, we the three founding members of Maker Mamas will present "Maternal Matters" at The Shop at Flywheel Press in San Mateo, CA, a show exploring the intersection of art, poetry and motherhood. Cameras, keyboards, and canvases are the tools we use in the midst of nap, play, and dream time, nurturing our creations alongside our children.

The show opens on May 1st, 6-9 pm with the San Mateo First Friday night market, a food truck and live music. Please do pass along the information and invitation to Bay Area art lovers and mothers and non-mothers alike.

I look forward to telling you about the opening--and how it felt to scribble my heart on my sleeve and hang my stained laundry out for public scrutiny.

Until then, I leave you with my artist statement:

My intention is to coax feminine energies out of their centuries-old oppression by exploring the quintessential embodiment of femininity: motherhood. The divine nature of the feminine is to create and nurture creation; just as life on earth evolved out of our sister the ocean, dark and wet like the womb. This collection of poetry acknowledges the light and shadow sides of making and raising humans by taking a heart-centered perspective on maternal sacrifice. By seeing the unseen, specifically the woman as mother, we hold space for her to birth new ideas, inspiring women to take back their power--not just in birth but in life.

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

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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Read My Fiction Now!

Taryn started twirling because she had nothing better to do. Twirling made her hair stick out straight like she’d plunged her finger into the socket and stolen the electricity meant to keep the universe on its toes. She twirled until her legs got mixed up and she fell to the ground in a tangled mess, the earth spinning around her head. For a moment she became the axis around which it revolved.

This is the first paragraph from my short story published in the current issue of MUSED, the BellaOnline literary magazine. The review called it "an emotionally gripping story of a young girl striving to make sense of her tangle of a world." Read it here.

I also had the honor as the Featured Fiction Writer to share about my writing process. Find that essay here.

Thank you, as always, for your love and support.

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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