lessons learned while un-blogged

Yikes. This year I completely un-blogged.

It would be easy to proclaim that I’ve been too busy or that I made a decision to unplug or that I’ve had nothing profound to say. All of those things have been true at one moment or another, but really I haven’t been writing at all for reasons that have nothing to do with any of that.

This year has been all new for me. There has been lots to say. And most of it has felt too personal, too intimate to write about and publish online. I feel different when the wind blows over me, as if I’ve shed a layer of myself and the layer that is bared is tender and unweathered, unused to being exposed. I don’t know how to write about this time. It feels a bit too much like stripping off my clothes in public. It feels like that tipping point when I laugh so hard that I begin to sob.

So, I un-blogged knowing that there are some things that need to be kept just for me. But while I’ve been not writing and settling into my first, delicious year of marriage, I’ve learned and been reminded of a few things:

-I need to let my friends know the good stuff and the hard stuff; I need them through it all.

-Spanish cheese is delicious but if I eat too much of it, I can’t sleep.

-Just because someone isn’t near me, doesn’t mean they aren’t close to me.

-Dear friends can be made in the strangest places, even in the lobby of a hotel in Santa Cruz.

-When living overseas, a check-in text from someone I love feels like a good hug.

-Hot water bottles are magical. So is the rose tea that Holly gave me.

-Everyone has something to teach me.

-Watching videos of puppies or hedgehogs or baby sloths is strangely awesome.

-Saying out loud what I am grateful for is like giving myself a present.

-I am powerless but I keep on breathing.

-Everyone is going through something, so I can be kind and gentle and listen and not take myself too seriously.

-John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is a masterpiece.

-Letting people in expands my life.

-Being married to Andrew is my favorite thing.

-And, as Rayne has been saying for years: Love Is The Best.

 

 

Advertisements

strange little wonderful

When I was 21, I took my backpack and went to Europe. I was alone and trying to get comfortable with that feeling of being myself with total strangers. I tried in Brussels and wound up eating mussels with my mom and stepfather who happened to be in town. I tried in Munich while hoisting a stein of amazing beer at Oktoberfest with about a million other people. I tried in Salzburg while humming Doe-A-Deer as I skipped down the street with my hostel-mate.

The more I tried, the stranger I felt.

And I tried again in Vienna at the Wiener Staatsoper, grabbing a front row in the cheap standing area for an opera.  

At intermission, a fellow American tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how I was enjoying the show. She’d lived in Vienna for years and asked me to coffee afterwards. Before we ventured from the opera house, she offered to show me the best view in town and whisked me up the stairs to the balcony of the historic building. Together we looked out over the city, all lit up at night, twinkling and vast and for the first time in weeks, I wasn’t trying to be comfortable, I just was. 

We skipped coffee and, instead, ventured on a night walking tour of the beautiful city. We talked and talked and shared the stories of our lives. Mine was pretty short at that point… and then we parted with just her recommendation that I return to the opera tomorrow night. When I asked why, she said, “You’ll know when you hear it.” And, she was right. The Marriage of Figaro was on stage and my name was sung in opera all through the night.

It was a gift.

I was meant to be there that night; I offered to show some fellow standing strangers the amazing view and wound up traveling with two of them for months afterwards. They are dear friends to this day.

And, so I didn’t flinch the other night in Bombay when a stranger approached me on famous Chowpaty Beach amidst the crowd. He commented that I was brave to be eating bhel puri from the streetfood stall. Toothless and rocking an Alaska t-shirt, Madhu offered to show me around the beach scene and reminisced about his childhood days there and his daughter’s childhood days there. He asked about my family. We decided to walk together along Marine Drive after we’d watched the sun go down over the city.  Madhu is a retired teacher, a psychology enthusiast, a world-traveler, a retired Indian Navy man, a husband, a father, a walking enthusiast and a good, old soul.  He challenged me with ethical riddles as we walked, admiring the sea as we pondered choices and why we choose what we choose. 

When we got to the end of the 3 mile walk, Madhu offered to show me the best view in town. He took me into the Trident Hotel, a fancy, swanky type place and we paused for a bit in the lobby before venturing up to the very top floor where the lights were out. We each leaned up against the glass and peered out at the amazing view of the “queen’s necklace,” the lit-up waterfront that curves around like a sparkling jewel. We were silent and it was a gift.

Madhu told stories with great details just like my dad. He was born exactly one month to the day before my mom. I know his favorite places in the world and his deepest hopes for his daughter. He knows who I have left behind in coming here. And after lots of questions, he understands why I am here and what I believe about the goodness of people.

I told Madhu on the elevator heading back down about my night in Vienna. He remarked on how vivid the memory still is for me these 17 years later. I told him that I would always remember this, too.  

The moment a stranger becomes a friend is far too incredible a gift to forget.

snuggling with words

Back in the days before the internet I was a letter-writing maniac.

I wrote letters to friends like it was my side job; letters on note paper, on stationary, on napkins, on balloons. I was all about the lengthy, hard-to-read handwritten letter full of details about what I’d been up to, how I felt, all that I hoped for, and on and on. I wrote letters to friends who lived far away and friends who I saw everyday in school. I wrote because I loved connecting and it felt good to share how I felt with my friends and because maintaining friendships required keeping in touch and checking in and I wrote because I loved the feeling of getting a letter in return.

I was one of those kids that ran to the mailbox everyday.

Now I just get bills. And election flyers. And Crate and Barrel catalogs. And more Crate and Barrel catalogs. And bills.

While digging around in the attic at my dad’s house a few weeks back I found a shoebox of old letters. I found a postcard my dad had sent me at camp, a note my mom wrote in her beautiful cursive to me while I was laid up in the hospital in Russia, a card my niece drew when she was just three years old, a letter my brother wrote to me when I was in high school and missing him. I found a letter that I had written to my grandmother when I was in first grade that she had tucked into a book that I kept when she died, a card from my grandpa in his scribbly handwriting, a letter folded into a tiny square from our dear Kerwin who died too young.

Treasures.

In this digital age, those tangible handwritten treasures are few and far between. We tweet, we text, we facebook, we email. We delete.  We quickly read and quickly dash off notes but we keep in touch. We cyber-snuggle. We share. We check in. Though I no longer have a shoebox full of proof, when my phone beeps that I have a text or I see an email from an old friend in my inbox, I feel that same   feeling I would get when I’d peek into our mail basket and see familiar handwriting on an envelope back in the day.

Happiness that someone is thinking of me. Privileged that someone chose me to share their thoughts with. Joy in connecting with another.

Letter, note, card, text, tweet, inbox message…connecting is what it’s all about.

It feels good to reach out and to be reached out to.

Nothing can delete that feeling.

xoxo

 

 

waiting for sandy

So I’m sitting around waiting for a hurricane to hit.

The trees outside my window are swaying, the sky is grey. I’ve got a pile of books to read but no groceries because I went out for ice cream sundaes with friends last night instead of scrounging for batteries and stocking up on non-perishables.

It’s the calm before the storm.

Everyone is in deep speculation mode. How hard will this hit? How many will lose power? How long will we lose power? Will Halloween be cancelled? Will everyone be okay??

The questions are endless.

And as we sit and wait, no one knows the answers. No matter how much internet trolling I do, no matter how much Weather Channel I watch, no matter how many times I get out of bed to peak out of the window in the middle of the night; this is going to be what it’s going to be.

Everyone’s got a storm style. There are folks who plan and prepare and take care of business. Folks who freak out and worry and worry and worry. Folks who think everyone else is crazy for even talking about the storm. Folks who get excited.

Maybe our storm styles are a reflection of how we approach the unpredictability of life.

I can’t control what Sandy will bring, so all I can do is be. I’m the calm through the storm.

So on this blustery, weird day, I’m headed to where I feel safest and happiest during a storm: in my pjs hunkered down with a dear old friend.

(Stay safe and warm everyone. xoxo)

20121029-140659.jpg

susie’s got her groove back

Oh, okay. I never really lost it…

But it’s officially Fall and I just like the sound of that: I’ve got my groove back. I’m getting my groove on. I’m in the groove. Grooving.

These first days of Fall are delicious. When the air starts to feel crisp and sleeping with the windows open means pulling the covers tight and snuggling in, when sandals get traded for boots and the leaves begin to change… A perfect time to reflect on what’s gone by and what is to come.

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Summer vacation, a major hiatus from my computer, lots of little trips to here and there… it was the Summer of Yes!

Saying yes is easy when you don’t have a shower or a toilet for two months. Yup, that’s right. I had no shower or toilet for two months. This summer included the DIY transformation of my hideous bathroom into a sparkly, beautiful new bathroom! For this, I have my amazing Dad to thank. I said yes to his offer to help me with the renovation; he said yes to helping me and took on the project with such enthusiasm and energy, I can’t say that I did much other than cheer him on. I can say that this was truly a labor of love… it was not an easy project.

The moral of the story is that one has to be resourceful when without a shower and toilet! So YES! I was open to whatever came my way. I said yes to opportunities. I ate out. I went to the beach. I road-tripped with my mom. I picnicked. I visited the beach my family camped at when I was little. I drove to Rhode Island to spend a few hours on the beach. I chilled with my family and my oldest friend. I danced my butt off with old friends. I flew to Florida and laughed myself silly with the girls. I went wine tasting with new friends. I visited my camp GALS. I carried a bag full of necessities with me wherever I went and I said yes to any invitation that came my way… it was a wonderful summer!

And so it’s Fall. And things are changing…

It’s time to let go of the pieces of myself that no longer serve me. It’s time to prepare for the hunkering down, to take a good look at  life and see what I really need to move forward.

I learned a lot in this Summer of Yes that I will take with me into this transformative time:

  • It is the people in my life that make my life beautiful. Wherever I am. No matter what.
  • Laughing rocks. Even when crying seems more logical.
  • Being there matters. It matters to someone. It matters in ways that are immeasurable.
  • Sometimes there is nothing to say. So don’t say anything. Just hug.
  • This is your one life. So live it. Live it big.
  • Maybe the things we think we really need aren’t really the things we need.
  • Love is the best.

It’s amazing what you figure out when you don’t have a toilet.

Groove is in the heart.

the 40 year-old PICOUP

My brother turns 40 today.

They say 40 is the new 30. They must know my brother.

He is vibrant and funny and full of incredible ideas and always making something neat happen. He is full of energy and passion and magic and music and stories. His spirit is limitless. He is magnetic. Babies love him. Nuns adore him. Even middle school kids who hate everyone can’t help but love my brother; he’s got a pocketful of stupid-human tricks that throw them instantly into idol-worship mode. (I just felt like Rob Bass: I mean even the ones who never saw him like…)

Since we were little kids and he could stand on his head and wiggle his ears first, I’ve been in complete and total awe of him. That’s not to say there haven’t been moments when my awe was coupled with, “oh my god! get away from me!” There have been plenty of those over the years. The time he tried to vacuum me comes to mind. I mean, literally, he vacuumed me. That’s all fun and games until the nozzle comes towards your hair.

All brother/sister torture aside, being the younger sister is kind of a cool perch.

I’ve been witness to my brother’s journey from a seat of looking up to and learning. He did almost everything first. He tested the waters. In many cases, he didn’t just stick a toe in, he cannonballed right into the deep end. In some cases, he dove headfirst into the shallow end.

No matter what he was doing or where he was, through the darkness and back into the light, my brother has always been an incredibly influential force in my life. I can count on him. Deluxe. And even though we’re older and I’m taller than him, I still love when he calls me his little sister.

My brother’s road has been windy. And bumpy. But as he turns the corner into 40, his road is smooth, new pavement with all sorts of great scenery. He’s kicking some serious world-butt. He has a beautiful family. He’s written a book! He has carved out an incredible career and he has a diverse group of interesting friends who, just like me, are in awe of how funny and cool and smart and ridiculously creative he is.

Today I see him more clearly than I ever could when we were younger.

Today I see a guy who loves so deeply and with so much of himself. I see a guy whose mind is racing, whose ideas are powerful, whose potential is limitless. Today I see a guy who can find something magical in everyone; a guy who seeks that connection, to draw that out in each person he meets.

My brother’s mentor and friend, Mike Gessford passed away unexpectedly last year, just before his 50th birthday. Mike had a sign above his desk that read, “PICOUP: Person In Charge of Unlocking Potential.” Mike was that. And, my brother Justin, he is that: a person who makes it his mission to help others find the magic inside of themselves.

Happy Birthday, Bo. Thank you for being the ultimate PICOUP to me…

UBUNTU and I love you.

 

queen of sheba

We live in a shiny world.

There’s a whole lot of bling and bright lights and stages and soap-boxes. There are folks that everybody knows and whose voices are louder and whose connections are deeper and who wind up all superfabulous in the spotlight. There are people who get a lot of love for something wonderful they’ve accomplished or for their brilliant ideas or for their athletic talent. In some cases, this is good stuff; I’m all about sending emotional bling to the Desmond Tutus of the world! (In some cases, this is not so good; I mean, really, why so much attention for the Kardashian sisters?)

It’s easy to admire those that have light shining on them.

Today, however, is all about sending a shout-out to all the people in the world who do amazing things, every single day, and never get the shine.

It’s about spreading a little bit of that light to the custodian at school whose day begins as mine is ending, who cleans up after hundreds of teenagers with a wide grin on his face and remembers everyone’s birthday. To the security guard in my building who works two jobs to pay for his wife’s medical bills and gives me a hard time about basketball. To my student who, even though the spotlight tries to shine on him, finds ways to focus the light on his teammates. To my dear friend who left a comfortable job to take on a crazy challenge at a new school with no resources, who is making significant change in the lives of the kids she is working with and still manages to go home and be a mom to three little hooligans all while going to school at night. To my dad who is simply kind, all of the time, to everyone he meets.

These people don’t do what they do because they want to be acknowledged. They are rocking out and changing the world with their integrity because it’s just who they are. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be acknowledged; some recognition might feel good and encourage them to be even kinder, even more industrious, even more real. And how great would the world be if the great ones became even greater?!

Part of what makes them so great is that they don’t realize how great they really are.

Shiny bling is cool! But all of the humble-rockstars in the shadows? Now, they are the truly fabulous and spotlight-worthy.

Today, remember to snuggle the people who do it all for the love.

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: