Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On the swell and the crash {Just Write}

There's grass weaving a pattern through the pavement. And there's wind carrying a scented cocktail of sea and blossoms. And there's me, running with mountains to my left, waves to my right, looking but not seeing. I left sub zero temps to escape to this paradise with my husband, and I have no business being anything less than euphoric as I run without hat and gloves for the first time in months.

But I'm not anything close to euphoric. At best, I'm content. At worst, I'm disappointed. And somewhere in the middle, I'm trying to talk myself into gratitude, willing myself to stay in the moment, loathing the way I can't seem to outrun the anxiety.

I want to believe that I'm easily pleased, that I'm mostly a happy person. But there are moments adding up to hours and days and even weeks when I'm close enough to the edge to lose my footing, when the sturdy trail narrows into inches, when I'm one footfall away from a faceplant.

I don't want you to see the ugliness. I don't want you to know how irritated I was with the rooster that kept waking me up at 3 am, or with the coffee maker that didn't have any filters, or with myself for leaving the camera charging cord at home, or with the way our plans were foiled by a road closure. Because for real. I'm in freaking Hawaii celebrating my wedding anniversary with my awesome husband. It's negative eleven degrees at home where my awesome children are being wonderfully cared for by my awesome parents. How the hell can I feel so crabby and disappointed with all that awesome floating around? What is WRONG with me?

Don't answer that.

Here's the thing. I know what's wrong. Imagine the ocean, the swell of the waves, the way they rise and fall. Imagine a mountain, the highest peak, the way it juts like the tip of a triangle into the horizon. I want to perch on that tip, that narrow, steep, impossible top. I want to float on that swell, that fleeting, porous, impossible top. But that's not how it works. How it works is that you crash into the sand. How it works is that you tumble down the mountain. (Jack and Jill will vouch for me on this). How it works is that the highs are never quite as high as we hope they'll be. And the lows are far too frequent.

I don't know what the answer is. Gratitude is a big part of it, I'm sure of that. Meditation and prayer. Hugging the awesome people in your life. Smiling more. Visualizing anxiety in the form of a person and then punching it in the face. These are all good ideas, but really, what do I know? I'm not the answer lady, not on this one.

But here's what I do know. It helps to know that we aren't alone. It helps to know that even people with picture perfect lives (guilty!) feel totally effed up at times. It helps to know that these valleys, these crashes, these crumbly-earthed trails, these are the rule, not the exception. No one gets to linger on that impossible top of the mountain. No one gets to float endlessly on the swells. I'm telling you this because I don't want to feel like something's wrong with me, and I don't want you to feel like something's wrong with you. If we must live mostly in the valley or in the climb or in the fall, let's at least give each other good, honest company along the way. Yes?

And speaking of good company, I'm just writing today, with Heather.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hashtag Amazing

Different day, different place, same #amazing moon
I tried to take a picture of the moon as it rose above the mountains from my highly artistic perch in the grocery store parking lot. I wanted to show you. I wanted to say to the lady rifling through the too-yellow bananas in search of the green--I wanted to ask, "Did you see that moon? Isn't it amazing tonight?"

I wanted to post it on Instagram so all of us, all of us shopping for groceries under the same ridiculously bright moon, could agree on the beauty. So you could click the clear little heart for "like" while fiddling with your phone in the express line. All you needed were bananas and milk. So this picture of an amazing moon, well, that would be a bonus.

I live in a place that routinely takes my breath away, be it because it's zero degrees or because I caught a glimpse of Denali under the pink spell of a winter sunset. A mountain hundreds of miles away, and I can see it as I drive home from getting the eggs and returning the library books. How is this even for real? I think. And on I go, driving through postcards. Even if I could take a picture while driving, the picture wouldn't do it justice. Not to the moon, not to the mountain, not to the moment.

But beauty shared, eyes ahead, shoulders beside, is so much richer than a glimpse alone. There's something deep within my DNA, even as an introvert, that cannot see a beautiful thing without calling out to you to come see it too.

When we drove 4600 miles from Ohio to Alaska, we divided our lives and livestock into two cars. (I drove the children, and L got the dog. I'll let you decide who had the better end of that bargain.) We used two-way radios to communicate. We thought we'd just use them to decide on pit stops and clarify directions. But we could barely go 15 minutes without calling out. Did you see that? Gorgeous! Look to your right! Amazing!

By day four, we had a running road trip joke. Whenever we saw something beautiful, we'd ring to the other car and say in our best valley girl voices, "Hashtag aah-MAZE-ing!" It became a thing. The kids chimed in with their adorable little voices and a hundred times a day we were shaking our heads, saying can you believe this? Hashtag AMAZING.

The human condition is this: We need to see the beautiful things to keep from giving up, and we need to see them while standing next to each other, eyes lifted, not staring down at screens. So grab someone near. Tell them to look at the moon or the sunset or an open field or a two hundred year old building or whatever beautiful thing it is that you see with your own eyes. And I promise you, it will be doubly amazing without the hashtag.