in which there is nothing to fear

Oh, I’m still doing color inspiration Tuesdays— yesterday just got completely away from me, that’s all. I wound up spending the time I should have used to write a blog post for talking to Kiddo over FB about TV, organization, commonplace books, and how to make a Big Plans notebook. It involved sending goofy photos like these over chat, because I am a Serious Grownup Person and Very Good at Parenting/ Mentoring. Or something.

Photo on 5-24-16 at 6.11 PM

Right? Because THIS is the face of RESPONSIBILITY, y’all. (Also, that GitHub Octocat sticker: anonymously left in our booth at a STITCHES event years ago. I love it SO HARD. I keep wondering: who was the fantastic person who left this? It’s like carrying a tiny, adorable mystery.)

I’m not going to pretend I regret it at all, although I do regret not setting a post up to auto- load, just in case. That was a mistake. By way of apology, have a link to the Katyushka Dolls, something lovely and strange I found while trawling the web this week.

It’s still strange, all of this- parenting from a distance, having an adult child, trying to figure out what a relationship with my kid looks like (and should look like) after the age of, I don’t know, 16- 17 or so, which is roughly when my relationship with my parents fell apart. Certainly, we didn’t talk to one another after I left the house, so this is all new. I think, in my case, that that’s really really good: nothing negative or weird to imprint over, just a blank space to write our own story. We have all these great positive examples that we draw from around us– friends with wonderful, healthy, close family relationships that we can use as guidelines– but I like that we are writing our own story, too. We will (and have!) inevitably screw things up along the way, but they will be our own unique and creative mistakes, instead of inherited routines, and that, at least, is a relief.

This week, I’m using a photo from a very old shoot as color inspiration. This comes from a long walk I took with our good friends T & D several years ago; I happened to bring my camera along, and this is one of the outtakes/ possibly a make- do white balance photo from that session.


Sam and I were married in front of a tree like this. Not this tree- our tree was much older and is covered in carvings, and lives in Rock Creek Park, in D.C., but every time I see something like this, I think of us.

The weather has turned warmer suddenly- or at least, it seems sudden to us, it’s hard to tell. We only just put up the winter coats, and now June is creeping up, with the threat of 90- degree days. Sam and I go on our weekend hikes, long wooded treks with Hugo where I scope out photoshoot locations and wreck pair after pair of trail runners. It feels good, although I’m trying to be mindful of my limitations and not get overly attached to these (or any!) sensations. I keep the Five Remembrances in mind:

I am of the nature to grow old.
There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health.
There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love
are the nature to change.

There is no way to escape
being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.

My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve always loved the Buddhist doctrines of impermanence and emptiness. They are confounding, confusing, and incredibly direct, going right to the heart of our deepest fears, finding our soft spots and pressing them, pressing us and asking us to fully live in this present moment, to realize the immediate. It’s a challenge, but a welcome one.

An example: I wake up earlier- so, so much earlier than I used to, folks, it’s a little horrible. It just started HAPPENING in my mid- thirties. This is the sort of bewildering, why- are- you- doing- that? body thing feels like it’s happening ON me, if you know what I mean. (Aging isn’t all the different from puberty, turns out; we’re just better psychologically equipped this time around.) At first, I blamed it on Afghanistan; a year of waking at 4:30, 5 am will do that to a body. Once I’d acclimated to being home, though, it began to wane, although I suspect that was due to my being in poor health. Now that I’m feeling better, for the last two years or so I wake up at about 6 am- 7 at the latest- no matter what. I can still stay up until oh-dark- thirty, but I’ll regret it when I’m awake at 6 am, so I don’t.

Some mornings I’ll wake up before Sam does, and that, friends, that I never saw coming. In our relationship he’s always been the one struggling to stay up with my night- owl self, then getting up early to do his just- Sam- things while I slept in. I adore these mornings when I’m the first one awake. It’s a perfect moment for quiet mindfulness: lying in bed, I listen to my partner’s breathing, feel the air in the room, look at the fine lines gathering in the corners of his eyes. I’m pretty certain he hates when I inspect those, but I’m fascinated by his crow’s feet, which have begun to appear in the last few years like tiny roadmaps of accomplishment in the corners of his face; love had, smiles past. I remember when he was 19 and had a face like a blank slate, so I steal these moments and mindfully wallow while he holds still.

I try to take the time to be mindful with all the people I love, but it is hard; life moves so fast, and we’re always telling each other- and ourselves- that we are so very busy. I am not too busy to hold still for a moment and admire crow’s feet, though, or to smell my daughter’s head (which she hates, but will always smell like home). I keep the Five Remembrances in mind. It is less, I think, that I can do better here, than that I can be more intentional. Less judgement, more encouragement!

This week, I’m focusing on being in the moment, making sure I’m fully present with the people I’m engaging with at that time, and knocking out my To- Do list during the work day so that I don’t have distractions when I’m on personal time. (I’m really bad about working “just a little!” on my down time, which robs me, and anybody I might be sharing time with.) What’re you focused on this week? What’s your biggest project right now?

And what do you find pulls you away from the things that you want to focus on the most? Jasmin Canty (from The Knitmore Girls) said in their most recent episode (#378) that if she could have any superpower it would be to be like Multiple Man from X- Men so she could have 16 versions of herself in order to accomplish all of the things she wants to get done. I found myself nodding along vigorously (although Gigi’s desire to be able to make everything magically, instantly clean is pretty high on my list, too- TORN) although I found myself later wondering: what is it that is distracting me from getting everything that I want to do, done?

Outside of my list of Want To Do’s being very, very long (and including things like visiting Antarctica and Cambodia, which are both expensive and take a lot of planning) there isn’t a lot preventing me from just getting organized and doing a great deal of it. So then, I thought, what are the distractions and impediments stopping me? How am I getting in my own way? Not every impediment can be easily overcome, but those distractions? It was definitely a useful chain of thoughts. What about y’all? How are you breaking your own focus?

  One thought on “in which there is nothing to fear

  1. May 25, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    I am reading blogs when I should be doing work so that I can stop doing work and just be home… sigh. So easily distracted!

  2. Tan
    May 25, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Waking up first means you can be who you really are, not who other people think you are.

  3. May 31, 2016 at 9:19 am

    >And what do you find pulls you away from the things that you want to focus on the most?

    Dumb stuff, like games on my Kindle. And not smart or enriching games – I’m talking things that are created solely to distract. Sometimes the distraction is ok – sometimes it’s actually good for my brain and my soul to be unproductive for a while. But, more often than not I find myself in a pattern of increasing frustration over the fact that I let myself keep getting sucked into the lure of mindlessness. Path of least resistance, etc.

    • May 31, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      I know what you mean about feeling like you’re wasting time on games— I’ve been thinking the same thing recently with a few things I have going on my phone. I play a couple random things (The Sims is a good example) and lately I’m just not sure what I’m getting out of it, but I’m still… doing it. Why aren’t I using one of my language apps instead? Agh. Then again, does EVERY minute of our lives need to be useful?

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