Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mind The Gap

2017 marks nine years since Ryan died. Nine years of tears, laughter, love, heartache, and a big healthy dose of perspective.

You only live once.

Live in the now.

Less is more.

Follow your dreams and chase your passion.

Make sure those you love know it.

Talk about taboo subjects.

Embrace your values. 

Give thanks and gratitude, everyday.

Over these past nine years I've searched for ways to make sense of what it means to suddenly loose someone you love. I've searched for ways to express that sadness and loneliness around the empty space in my heart with other people who have no idea what it feels like, yet. But there are gaps. A grief gap; a living gap; a what is the meaning of life gap.

I've been searching for answers to the gaps in my life, all my life. Maybe you have too. Gaps exist when you see where you want to be but have no idea how to get from here to there. It's easy to say you only live once. But does that help you dive into something you're apprehensive about? Why do those gaps exist? How can we close those gaps? Do gaps give us hope? Are gaps necessary to help you strive for what you want to become?

I wanted to bridge the gap between experiencing grief and sorrow of losing my spouse and looking at grief as a gift. But I had no idea how to at first. So I started searching.

What I discovered about grief is that everyone processes it differently at different times. I understood that right away when Ryan's mom had a dark immeasurable cloud blanket her movements. Or when an insensitive friend said, "it shouldn't be that bad. You guys were apart most weekends anyway." I had a college friend come visit and stay with me within the first few weeks of Ryan's death and insisted I take down his vibrant pictures I had put up around the house. I could understand if the pictures were morbid and dark - but they were of him climbing and doing something he loved. Why was it wrong to commemorate the person I love in my own home? Was it wrong to miss someone deeply even though we were apart on the weekends? Was it wrong to feel a different grief than someone else? And why does it feel like other people are putting judgement on the way I grieve?

The more answers I found, the more questions I had. I mean really, why hasn't someone written an idiots guide on how to grieve losing your loved one?

I've also come to terms that our language around death sucks. Before Ryan died, I didn't understand how hollow saying, "I'm sorry" would feel for the receiving person. I didn't know what someone should say but I knew that "I'm sorry" wasn't cutting it. What I longed for was for someone to ask me how it happened: why did he die? How did he die? How does it feel to be human?

So, we're left with these gaps in our lives. Gaps that may never have answers. Gaps that may swallow us whole or that might give us hope. And while we may never figure out why those gaps exist or what they're there for, accepting those gaps for what they are is healthy.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Ambition Gap

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone had told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is a gap. For the first couple of years you make stuff, it's just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste, the thing that got you into this game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close the gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met. It's gonna take a while. It's normal to take a while. You've just gotta fight your way through."  - Ira Glass

This is so true. Every time I re-read and re-work my book, I encounter the gap. I know it has potential. I know how good it can be but I'm in fighting mode right now, just trying to bridge that gap. So I continue with the 7th re-write.

To those fighting the fight in the murky, mucky middle - keep fighting. I'm right along side of you, slinging mud and covered in it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Growing out of Plateaus

  1. 1
    an area of relatively level high ground.
    synonyms:uplandtablelandplainmesahighland, coteau
    "a windswept plateau"
  2. 2
    a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.
    "the peace process had reached a plateau"
    synonyms:quiescent period; More
reach a state of little or no change after a time of activity or progress.
"the industry's problems have plateaued out"

I coach an athlete whose code/safe word for "it's not working" is plateau. We jokingly landed on it during our last conversation of sorting through her work/life/exercise balance.  I'm grateful to write her training plan and she does an exceptional job adhering to it despite her hectic work schedule, motherhood, wifehood and helping others be the best they can be. She is a giver, through and through. And because of that, she often has a hard time taking time for herself. 

Sound familiar, anyone?

Forgetting to take time for ourselves is common. Especially for caretakers. 

So when this athlete sent another plateau text recently, I knew she was ready to have "the talk". And no, I'm not referring to analyzing data or annual training plans. This talk was going to be about what's really going on. A talk that goes beyond periodization and tapering and figuring out how hard to go during intervals. 

She was cautious at first when we first started talking so I dove right into it. We talked about unshakeable sense of something not sitting quite right.

We all have plateaus in our lives: staying at job because you feel comfortable but know you could be contributing more to society; getting that book published but not finding the time; wanting change but not making the time or effort. Stale moments in life happen despite being super busy and juggling a million things. It's the realization that something isn't working and that your forward progress has halted. 

The good news? Overcoming plateaus is up to you. You can change things. You can put in the time and energy to make a difference in your life. The first step is recognizing that you want change. Then it's figuring out how to make that change and coming up with a game plan. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Becoming An Expert On Living

Every day is an opportunity to live a fulfilling and satisfying life. Yet it's easy to get swept up in the everyday routine, the struggle, the push to produce and keep up with your workload. And it's just as easy to get complacent and settle into a comfortable routine that no longer challenges you. It's easy and potentially satisfying. I assume that we all do it at some point or another.

But I keep coming back to the same question, over and over again: am I living life to the fullest?

Things will get busy and the routine will swallow the hours in the day, quickly fading into night, and into weeks, months, years, and gasp - decades.

No matter how much times passes though, that question keeps bubbling up.

Am I living life to the fullest? 

Are you living your life to the fullest? When you close your eyes and think about what it is that you really want to be doing in work and in life - are you doing it now? What's preventing you from striving toward that goal? What do you need to overcome in order to pursue your dreams? What's holding you back?

I figure once you land on that dream, then chances are you'll stop asking yourself if you're living your life to the fullest. Or at least that's my theory.

If someone has a road map on how to get there - can you please share it with the rest of us?

Sunday, December 11, 2016

When Inspiration Calls...

You never know when inspiration will hit. It could be in the shower, while you're doing laundry, at the store, or during any other mundane task. And if there's one thing I've learned time and time again - you've got to strike while the iron is hot. You have to find a piece of paper and pen or computer to jot down your thoughts or else they quickly fade back into the world. I once read that if you don't capture those moments of inspiration or ideas then they float away, landing on someone else until someone finally picks up a pad of paper and pen and gets to work. How many times have you read something someone else wrote or saw some sort of art and thought, hey! I remember thinking that at one point! Yep, it happens.

And trust me, I've had dozens of creative thoughts since the last time I wrote. My resolution is to start jotting them down with more regularity, to get those ideas out into the world. I created a road map, or rather, a game plan of sorts to help me. And I'm taking steps to make my dreams become reality.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Traditions: Old and New

I stopped at McGuckins on Sunday, Boulder's local hardware store with absolutely everything you could want in it, excluding fresh groceries. I'm sure every town has a store similar to it - a catch all place where you can buy housewares, green egg supplies, screws, seasonal Christmas items, art supplies, and garden tools all at one stop.

It was early. I beat the after church crowd and walked up to the outdoor Christmas Tree corral and inquired about a tree. Since Ben and I have been together, we've decorated one Charlie Brown tree and that was many years ago, in Colorado Springs. That fact hasn't stopped our assembly of ornaments. Every year we acquire more through either gifts or hand me downs and they get placed in a big box in the basement. A couple of years ago I added an entire box of fragile glass balls and funny naked lady ornaments from my grandmother's house in Hawaii. And this year I added a bunch of childhood ornaments from Seattle my mom had graciously held onto for me.

Growing up in Oregon, our entire family would make the trek out to a  Christmas Tree farm, hack down a tree and strap it to the top of our wood paneled station wagon. One year my grandmother visited from the islands and insisted on going barefoot, promptly catching pneumonia before her return flight. We saw a little more of Gammy that year and I loved every stollen moment.

Decorating was awesome. My mom would play the obligatory Christmas music while we placed ornaments as high as we could, about four feet beneath the top of the tree. Our house had vaulted wood ceilings and we could get a tall tree (8-10'). My dad would put his favorite ornaments high on the upper branches, balancing out the bottom half. The house smelled like noble fir and fresh baked sugar cookies.

This year I was determined to get a tree. I schlepped the tree home in the back of my car, dropping needles every where. After buying a stand and hacking off the lower branches, the 5' tree sat level and I turned on Christmas music. Ben was out on a run to IKEA and wouldn't be home for a couple of hours. He told me earlier he didn't have time to help so I started stringing the lights and the next thing I knew I had opened every box, revealing little treasures and kept memories.

Pineapple glass bulbs, naked lady eggs, the Grinch and Cat in the Hat. A blend of recent ornaments and old. Each ornament not in its original packaging was wrapped in butcher or tissue paper, wrinkled from years of unwrapping and then re-wrapping. Baby's first Christmas from 1978, quilted unicorns, turtle doves, Mele Kalikimaka bulb. And then, an unexpected well of grief when I came across the leprechaun hat with Bubba printed on it.

Holiday's are like that. Ticking time bombs of emotions. They're a guaranteed trip down memory lane. A way to remember previous holidays with those you love and who are no longer here. And a reminder that there's no time like the present to create new memories.

"Hey baby," a text read from Benjamin. He'd sent it 45 minutes prior. I was so involved in hanging memories from the tree, I didn't hear it. As it turns out, "Hey baby" was to tell me that he wanted to help decorate. By the time he came home, the tree topper lay crooked atop the tree, the lights blinking and the tree weighed down by memories.

He admired the tree, noticing the naked ladies first. And when I pointed out his ornaments, he couldn't remember them. Even the creepy pink elf with tracking eyes was foreign to him. It faces away like a scolded child on a lower branch. Mainly so its eyes don't freak us out. I asked him if I should un-decorate the tree so we could do it together. And he said no, but next year he's all over it. Maybe we'll go to a Christmas Tree farm and hack one down ourselves and avoid getting pneumonia.

Notice the Pink Elf on the bottom branch off to the far right. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Governor Pants

You could feel the buzz of Thanksgiving everywhere on Wednesday. I circled the parking lot and was about to give up when a spot appeared. Inside the grocery story, dads were interspersed in isles consulting lists their wives had given them with kids happily sucking on candy canes.

I stopped by a liquor store in search of my favorite winter brew: the Jolly Roger by Maritime Brewery. No such luck. But I did find a variety of other ridiculously high alcohol content beers that somehow found their way into my cart.

Then that night I baked and baked and baked. I was in charge of desert this holiday and on the menu were pumpkin and pecan pie and Ben's favorite: Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. Yum, yum, and yum.

Earlier that morning I caught wind of a friend learning how to make the best pie crust in Boulder and asked to join. Turns out crust is something that's a little tricky but Jaye, one of Cari and Greg's longtime Boulder friends, was willing to share her tried and true recipe. I wrote down two pages worth of notes. And I'd happily share them with you but you're going to have to come to Boulder to get it. It is that good. So book your ticket already.

The Secret Boulder Pie Recipe.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake, Pumpkin and Pecan Pie. 

Our Thanksgiving feast was amazing. The group of friends went super traditional: smoked turkey (on the Big Green Egg), mashed and sweet potatoes, mac and cheese (with bacon!), Brussel sprouts, green bean casserole, stuffing, dinner rolls and not a single piece of salad. The group opted to skip the green stuff so we could make more room for a higher calorie count. And then there was desert - a couple of hours later, dolloped in freshly whipped cream. It was a good night to be wearing governor pants. You know - the ones that are just tight enough that if you eat too much, they prevent you from eating more.

We actually had a surgeon cut up the turkey. First you dislocate the joint and then you hack through the tendon. 

Greg working on the gravy. 

We started circling the kitchen like vultures.

Mike pointing out all of the delicious dishes: get in my belly.

A big thank you to Olivia and Mike for hosting!

Ben always tells me he's not photogenic. 

But I beg to differ. Ha!