Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Shortest Day

Today is the shortest day of the year, yet it stretched on like it had one hundred shadows.  

A shadow is an area of darkness where light is obstructed. A shadow is a silhouette or a reverse projection of the object blocking the light.

Maybe it's because I spent today brain-deep in cancer biology, but that sounds like poetry to me. A shadow is just an obstruction, a blockage. A shadow is a mere outline of whatever is blocking the light. And really, a shadow is the opposite of whatever appears in front of you, the opposite of whatever is between you and the light. 

It sounds a lot like fear.

Today, I did 108 sun salutations to celebrate the winter solstice. Fitting, because I am thinking about balance and centeredness in a completely different way than I have before.

I am wondering how long my heart will have shadows, how long it takes to see yourself clearly again when circumstances have changed so drastically. I already know the answer, but I can't recall it easily in the midst of change, so it waits for me, lurking.

Did you know that on the winter solstice, the sun does not rise at the North Pole—so you would have no shadow? And at the South Pole, the sun is up all day on December 21—so you would cast a shadow all day. So the size and very existence of your shadow depends on where you are, and when, and, presumably, with whom.

But tonight I was reminded that it depends quite a bit on the source of your light, too.

The number 108 has many symbolic meanings. Tonight's teacher shared one: the Buddhist belief that humans suffer and move through 108 human delusions in their lives. Buddhists believe that if you bow (or, in Chicago CorePower style, salute the sun) 108 times, you purify these delusions and as a result, find infinite capability and vitality of mind.

Delusions, I have many.

I am hoping my shadow might be one of them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


This is the cutest thing I have seen in a while: "Ooh, that's filthy. I can't do dat."

Except for maybe this.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

When Things Are Good

I don't know how to write about joy, and it's hard to pinpoint why. What does it say about me, I wonder, that I am more skilled at describing struggle and loneliness than I am at security and bliss?

To be fair, I know the words for struggle and loneliness didn't come right away either. I wrestled with them and birthed them. I sat with them while they appeared, like old drawings on a foggy mirror.

I just know joy feels like a warm hand between my shoulder blades, in the exact spot that makes me lose my train of thought (but who needs thoughts anyways). I only know that "I can't wait to see you" sounds a lot like a melody, one that is loud enough to drown out doubt. 

When things are good the choice is easier. Light over heavy, forgiveness over resentment, optimism over worry. When things are good I don't mind that I'm too tired to pop up into crow pose. I don't bristle when Henley is jumpy, because Henley needs love too. When things are good I am only mildly annoyed when I run out of yogurt mid-week.

Sunrise on Lake Michigan

Byron Katie, knower of all things, has said that pleasure is an attempt to fill yourself, and joy is what you already are.

Maybe that's why I can't articulate it. I just know I feel more like myself than I have in a long time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

5 Things Making Me Happy Right Now

Life is pretty great right now. Here's a few things that are making me smile.

A close serenade with Reba and Jimmy.

Two of these beauties are on their way to my living room right now.

And so is my long-time duvet crush. #thanksAirbnb

A co-worker shared this recipe and I am so pumped to try it.

What Will Happen If I Don't Take My Phone Out Right Now. Number 5 is extremely likely in my office.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


I avoid writing about work here, mostly because that tends to put people in hot water (dooce is rare bird who can bounce back from that--but then again she is the exception to most rules about writing about yourself on the internet). But not writing about the good things, when they are good, seems a waste. And I worry, ironically enough, that people who read this blog think that all I do is worry, when that is not true. There is a lot of light in my life, and I want to share more of it here, with you.

A scientist-turned-strategist colleague shared a New York Times article by Oliver Sacks, an NYU School of Medicine professor and author, with me and another writer over the weekend. He often forwards articles about genes, cancer costs, new discoveries--whatever might be useful for communicating with prospective donors.
As death nears, I am surrounding myself, as I did when I was a boy, with metals and minerals, little emblems of eternity.

His message simply said: Wow.

You should read the article--we all should, every year, every birthday--but to summarize: Sacks is grappling with his mortality, having recently been given a metastatic cancer diagnosis, and he turns to the concrete, enduring nature of the physical sciences for comfort.
At one end of my writing table, I have element 81 in a charming box, sent to me by element-friends in England. It says, "Happy Thallium Birthday," a souvenir of my 81st birthday last July.
The other writer--whom I deeply admire, not least for her keen strategic eye, but also because she is a fabulous and kind person--wrote back and said: Certainly as we age we become more unstable (at least in our corporeal body), as do the higher atomic number elements. In our youth, we have been the airily confident oxygen (8) and the intolerably caustic sulfur (16). Now it's time for me to embrace my fissionable future, I guess.
Have I mentioned I work with really smart, amazing people?

I wrote back: All of this beautiful talk has put me down an internet rabbit hole researching Gallium. Looking for meaning on Wikipedia for my 31st year--this is what this job is doing to me!

Of course, neither of them know about this blog, where I have been searching for meaning since I was Iron (26)... which (I'm sorry, it's too perfect, it cannot be helped) is "in the first transition series." I refrained from making a Breaking Bad reference before I hit send.

Fabulous-and-Kind wrote back: Soft and silvery and not naturally occurring in nature? That does sound a little like you. And next year you'll be a semi-conductor!

I have carried a Joseph Campbell quote with me since I graduated college: If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. (Fittingly, Campbell studied biology and math but found he preferred the humanities.)

I had the last sentence of that quote on my graduation cake, and I have always clung to it: I thought of the "doors" as opportunities, and if I just believed they would appear, they would.

And they have, my goodness, they have.

But this email chain also made me glad for the people these opportunities brought to me, and the ideas they have introduced: different ways of seeing myself, and my surroundings, and the world at large. The people that make me stop in my tracks with gratitude, who make me think via their thoughtfulness, whose belief in me makes me believe, too.

Windows, if you will.

P.S. Why Time Flies -- you'll want to check this out as well.

Monday, July 13, 2015

With Arms Outstretched

My palms had been turned inward in the yoga classes I'd dragged myself to. There is a belief in some yoga circles that the direction your palms face is the direction your energy will go, outward or inward, and I'd needed to retain my own energy lately, so I'd needed to believe that, too.

I used to "dedicate" my practice and send energy to my mom, the guy of the moment, or the person I cannot reach with my words. But not lately. Lately I'd been greedy, self preserving, hoarding the love and the light for myself.

The city had been closing in on me. Elbows in my ribs on the bus, someone around seemingly every corner, oops, sorry, excuse me, goddamnit I exist! We were in our umpteenth month of renovation in my lobby at work, temporary walls blocking the light and filtering us through changing mazes like cattle.

Our office was coming apart at the seams, all of us desperate to come out on top of the fiscal year, a hill we weren't sure we could mount. My hands were clenched every time I looked down, my anxiety tell, and I felt like any moment I might start beating my chest with them like a caged animal.

The #firstworld #whitegirlsbelike #millennial problems were piling up, and then I was pushed off the edge by a wolf in sheep's clothing, this time in an array of perfectly pressed Ralph Lauren button-downs. The kind with the collars I can't help but fuss with, that make flirting, and apparently letting your guard down, so easy.

I kept telling people "I need to go home. I'll be so refreshed after Michigan" but I lost track of whether I was promising them, or myself.

I read paperbacks on the porch instead of blogs on the bus, had conversations about French fries instead of fiscal years, muddied my hiking boots instead of searching Match.com. I was seeking higher ground.

I didn't find it, not the peace I was after, or the momentum. Not the rest, or the meaning. I wish I could say that because this post is written in past tense, that I let go any, that I shrugged off any of the worry, or felt like I was over the hill in any regard other than just feeling plain old.

I filled my tank a bit, stretched my legs, fed my soul in the way that only best friends and back roads can, but I am really no better prepared to climb than I was a week and a half ago.

But I can say this. I've turned my palms toward the sky, in a very I-Know-What-You-Did-Last-Summer kind of way. 

Your move, Universe. I've given you all I've got.

It's sixteen miles to the promised land
and I promise you, I'm doing the best I can

I visit these mountains with frequency
and I stand here with arms up

Now some days they last longer than others
but this day by the lake went too fast

And if you want me, you better speak up, I won't wait
so you better move fast
--Rilo Kiley, With Arms Outstretched 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer 2015 Bucket List


So, let's.

So far my summer bucket list includes:
  • Yoga in the Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Yoga on the beach     x
  • Yoga in Millennium Park     x
  • Yoga in a butterfly haven      X
  • Improvised Shakespeare    x
  • Drinking cider out of cans (no glass allowed!) with my esteemed colleagues after work on our super swanky 11th floor outdoor lounge space, overlooking Lake Michigan and Millennium Park     x
  • Dave Matthews cover band at a street fest
  • Tacos at a street fest      x
  • Dirty sandal group photo at a street fest        x
  • Tacos at a food truck      x
  • Live taping of The Moth, a story-telling podcast     x
  • Wanderlust 108, a mindful triathlon      x
  • Revisiting college, aka OAR at Ravinia      X
  • Judy Blume (!) talking about her new book at the Chicago Humanities Festival     x
  • The Revivalists at Taste of Randolph    x
  • Niagara Falls/Canadian road trip with my family     x
  • A really solid beach day on Lake Superior      x
  • Camping in the U.P.
  • Antiquing in the U.P. or in Chicago
  • Watching Henley swim in the U.P.     x
  • Grilling with my parents on their deck     x
  • Dirty Dancing (!) in Millennium Park        X
  • Cheap seats at the Sox     X
  • Country bar in Chicago     x
  • Downtown Sounds concert...in, you guessed it, Millennium Park
  • Lincoln Park picnic       X
  • Lincoln Park reading on a blanket; getting Henley to chill with me     x
  • The Northman, a new all-cider bar opening soon
  • Read the remaining 18.5 books on Huff Post's List of 21 Books From The Last 5 Years That Every Woman Should Read
  • Re-reading The Great Gatsby
  • A Ferris Bueller Day, doing something completely non-work during work hours

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Epiphanies, Volume V

  • "Stop listening to yourself, and start talking to yourself." Boom.

  • There is a difference between complicated and difficult. You can be the girl in the country song who is complicated and maybe even a little crazy, whom the boy loves for just being herself, without being the girl in the country song who gives way more than she gets and loves difficult and stubborn men.

  • Nailing it and not looking back > nailing and needing a little feedback that you did, indeed, nail it. > nailingggg? it? I think. I'm pretty sure. > not fucking doing anything

  • Honey is magic. Seriously, make this greek orzo salad and do. not. omit. the. honey. (You can, however, omit the basil and mint, and the tomatoes. Just as good.)

  • In Sanskrit, chair pose (utkatasana) roughly translates to "fierce pose." Also known as "hazardous pose" or "awkward pose." That's basically your elders saying, "Yep, we know this sucks."

More flashes of genius here.

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Cure-All Tonic

It must be something about my connection with my friend Alicia, because after my trip to Hawaii, I experienced another love hangover.

Exactly like what followed her visit to Chicago this summer, in the wake of my vacation I felt unusually thirsty for creativity, for influence, for progress. For love.

The love part was quenched when my friend Allison made a trip down for a belated birthday celebration with my Chicago girlfriends. Sushi, a dive bar, and late-night pizza punctuated by sweet toasts, loud laughs, and too many vodka sodas to count. My friend Whitney shared a touching tradition from her college friends: Each person went around the table to say how I came into their lives and why they love me. I think my exact drunk words were: "You guys, words are my love language!"

As if they didn't know.

Allison brought me a kombucha SCOBY so that I could brew my own tea, the supplies for which I finally moved to Chicago from my parents' basement a few months ago. I'd been reluctant to bring them prior for the same reason I have yet to buy a coffee table or a real bedside table: Why acquire more things if I don't know how long I'll be in Chicago?

I missed making my own, and I cringed (as one does) when shelling out $4 every time I bought one in the grocery store. But still, it took me two years to bust out my supplies.

You guys, I do these things. This is my way. I drag some things out unnecessarily, and I will not listen to anyone who tries to impart wisdom or offer alternatives. Sometimes it's as if I need to make myself completely miserable in one facet of my life before something breaks, and I change courses.

Today I bottled my first batch of kombucha in over 2 years, my first since selling my house and moving to Chicago. That was five hours ago. I listened to podcasts with Henley at my feet, and I am still smiling.

I won't wait so long next time to do something I know makes me this happy.

The hangover is inevitable, whether it be love or otherwise. I'm going to do the living anyways.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


31 is crumbs in your keyboard and the perfect black heels that you hope will make it through another season. 31 is raising your hand and saying "Yes, I can get that done for you" while thinking "That's not fucking possible" and then doing it anyways. 31 is delivering, over and over, until they do it your way.

31 is laughing out loud in the way that made your grandfather beam. 31 is silver and gold, and keeping an open heart with the bronze. 31 is polishing what's worthy of elbow grease.

31 is rigidly straight enemy grey hairs. 31 is eye cream and a prayer that you inherited your mom's agelessness. 31 is junk in the trunk and the familiar ache in your right knee. 31 is owning it.

31 is coordinating pet sitters and filling up the water bowl. 31 is smooshy-face kisses and belly rubs and "hello my little plum, what did you do all day?" 31 is savoring the tail wag.


31 is vinyasa after yinyasa, well past when your arms tire. 31 is knowing that someday, out of the blue, you'll pop up into side crow. 31 is practice. 31 is showing up.

31 is cracking rental car deal codes.  31 is forgetting your car charger and knowing all the right shortcuts to get home before the battery dies. 31 is watering your roots.

31 is loving people, well past when your heart hurts.  31 is knowing that someday, out of the blue, you'll master the balance between vulnerability and boundaries. 31 is mustering grace. 31 is letting go instead of being dragged.

31 is well-laid plans and "oh, shit" moments. 31 is remembering that nobody really knows what they're doing anyways. 31 is winging it.

31 is being free, defined your way. 31 is truth, even when it hurts. 31 is being grounded, only by things of your choosing. 31 is thriving, in spite of it all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Because this is where you are.

It's no secret that I've tired of city life.

The freedom and newness and possibility that enveloped me upon my arrival has, over the past two years, given way to inconveniences, grind, and cramp.

It culminated a few months back, when I came down with the flu just as Henley picked up a bug from, one can only guess, the back alley. Days of diarrhea and vomiting on her part gave way to a very scary reality: It was Sunday, a day when all normal vets are closed, she was refusing food for the third day and couldn't keep water down, I had a fever and no car, and the nearest emergency vet--bound to cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars--was 2 miles away. And it was freezing and snowing, because of course.

As the saying goes, FML.


I spend a lot of time going back and forth between two camps:
  • This city doesn't suit your ideal lifestyle and you need to take care of that ASAP
  • You are really lucky and you need to recognize that and not take it for granted
So basically I've spent a lot of time beating myself up.

"Why do I live here?" has become a pretty constant refrain, both in the "why the fuck do I live somewhere where it hurts my face to walk down the street??!!" kind of immediate way and also in the "but no really, why? What's keeping me here?" It gets existential pretty quickly.

Answers range from "because it's 6 hours from your family" and "because you have a great job and why would you risk leaving" and "because it would cost a couple grand to relocate" and "because I'm scared that I don't have it in me to start all over once again".

The other day on the bus home, I found myself silently asking that familiar question. I looked out at the lake, a daily commute ritual that calms me and reminds me of home, and a new answer appeared: You live here because this is where you are.

You are here because this is where you are.

It's as simple as that. This is where I am in life. It's not where I'll always be, and the mysteries behind that will unveil themselves in good time. But for right now I live here because this is where I am.

And that's...satisfactory. It doesn't feel like a question anymore. It hasn't crossed my mind since.

I live here because this is where I am.

You guys, I am nowhere close to being a Zen Buddhist Priest, but I am so much closer than I ever thought I'd be.


This personality test is eerily on point.

"...isn't always prepared to share her grievances" might be the understatement of my lifetime.

That is all.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Let's fall in love quickly and let's let it dissolve the callouses we've collected from other lovers.

Let's not be late for things because it makes me anxious and because it's rude. Let's try to be early. Let's claim the worm.

Let's drive modest cars so we can travel to places our grandparents never heard about. Let's have the craziest adventures. Let's be the ones about whom people say, "Where are they off to now?" Let's eat like the locals and let's hike as high as we can.

Let's have sex. A lot of it, and not just on vacation.

Let's not worry until there is something to worry about, and when that proves impossible for me, despite all the yoga and tea in the world, let's pitch a tent in the living room and sing old country songs at the top of our lungs. Let's drink vodka and light candles and watch our worries go up in smoke.

Let's share secrets, and scars, and scary dreams. Let's go dizzy with desire, feel special, feel sacred, feel safe.

Let's strive, baby. Let's be the people that always tried and sometimes achieved. Let's let go of things that aren't meant for us, be they babies or houses or frequent diner credits that went unpunched.

Let's fight. Just enough to feel alive and be heard. Let's go to bed angry, and pass the toothpaste without talking, and wake up regretful. Let's know we're in it together but be willing to stand firm in our convictions. Let's move on.

Let's have a dog, always, and let's ignore the tumbleweeds of hair and vet bills and chewed up electronics, and let's just appreciate the tail wag. And when the inevitable happens, let's pet their sweet faces while they go. Let's say, "He was a good boy, a really good boy" as we tearfully pull onto the highway from the vet's office, holding hands.

Let's talk a lot. That's why we fell in love, right? Because I thought you were cute and you thought I was cute and we liked to talk to each other. Let's discuss philosophy and morality, at 3am, eating spoonfuls of almond butter on the kitchen counter. Let's discuss football, if you want to. After all, I fell in love with you because you make everything interesting. Let's never stop talking.

Let's never stop kissing.

Let's hang out and for the love of god let's never call it 'date night'. Let's hang out because we make each other laugh and we think one another is super cool. Let's schedule it if life gets busy and let's spice it up if we get in a rut, but let's never make it just-one-more-thing.

Let's hang out with other people. Let's have boy-friends and girl-friends and old-friends and new-friends. My-friends and your-friends and our-friends and those-friends. Let's go to yoga and to boxing or basketball or taxidermy or whatever the hell you're into, separately. Let's you go your way, I go mine, and meet up over sushi to tell the tales. Let's listen and hear and leave with our arms entangled.

Let's live as if life is long, and let's not do things just because we're supposed to have done them by now. Let's choose good people and let's make plans.

Let's live as if life is short, and let's call our parents to tell them we love them. Let's hug people goodbye and let's use the special dishes until they show their wear.

Let's be a united front against anyone who dares utter the words "geriatric pregnancy" or "finally" or "it's about time" about any of our milestones. Let's live as if everything is right on time, because it is. 

Let's teach our kids to play cards and talk about their feelings and make conversation with strangers. Let's watch them become who they are. Let's catch them being kind and tell them how good they are at growing up. Let's be a landing pad, and a lamp, and a ladder.


Let's be stricken when our parents die, and let's know that there is never the right thing to say. Let's let it make us gentler, kinder, and more in love.

Let's be super fucking cute old people. Let's be the people who swim laps and stay trim and dress up nicely for each other. Let's take up underwater basketweaving at 60 or jujitsu at 75 and let's laugh our heads off at how horrible we are. Let's swear and tell jokes and make our grandkids blush.

Let's never stop dancing.

Let's have a really good life.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Forward Fold

Oh, January.

Sorry to you Capricorns and Aquariuses (Aquariai?) out there, but for me, January is a throw-away month.

One reason is that I live in Chicago and, well:

Yep, I changed my social media names, you smarties.
Big changes to come once my soul unfreezes.

But there are other factors, too. The holidays knock me off kilter: I stop exercising, I binge on gluten. I've also had a few blows to my system in the last few months; this Aries saw the words "tension between two planets" in her monthly horoscope email and knowingly deleted it without needing to read the rest. So I was feeling pretty low by the time the New Years Eve countdown started. There was no resolution this year, unless you count just hanging in there.

But I've been here before. Last winter when the skies went grey and the city got pounded with sleet and wind, I experienced the same quiet panic, the same dimness in spirit.

So I knew just what to do. Lots of quiet time. Ginger tea with honey before bed, lots of exercise for a happy Henley, clean sheets, and...you know where this is going.

Back to yoga I went.


I can always tell how long it's been since I've been on the mat by how tight my hamstrings are in forward fold.

And you guys, it was bad. Really bad. Basically like I was starting from scratch, post-back injury.

In a vinyasa class, where you "flow" or move quickly and repetitively from pose to pose, you come to forward fold over and over again. I normally love the vinyasa style because it both challenges your endurance and creates a rhythm that's easy to lose yourself in. Vinyasa yoga usually helps you forget, but coming to forward fold 20 or 30 times in an hour was reminder after reminder of how far I'd let myself slip.

At first I tried to force it by making my legs poker straight and lunging my chest at the floor. Ouch, no bueno. When that didn't work, I bent my knees a lot and touched the floor...but missed out on the hammy stretch. I just didn't feel right, no matter how I contorted myself or how much I strained.


This weekend, I was one of two people who showed up for a hot vinyasa class during the blizzard and the Super Bowl. Without dozens of other people in the room (enjoy your guacamole, people), I was more aware of my body--I wanted to have good form so the teacher wouldn't correct me too much--and also hyper-aware of my thoughts. And a funny thing happened. I got sick of myself. The repetition eventually became my friend, because every time I found myself in forward fold, I couldn't bear any more contorting or flinging. I couldn't bear any more wallowing or disappointment. I choose, instead, to look at it as an opportunity to be looser, to let go, to quite literally hang in there. Each time I found myself in forward fold, I thought, I've been here before. I know just what to do.

"Hanging in there" became my intention during each class this week, and tonight I touched the floor with both hands firmly planted on the mat. The hamstring gods sung a sweet hymn.

I don't know if it's the happy hammies or if maybe mercury is going into retrograde (ha), but tonight I feel light. Like maybe it's going to be alright after all. Like maybe I believe spring is actually coming. Like maybe I can remember what it's like on the other side of heartbreak.

I still have February to go, yes, but I've been here before.

P.S. This is exactly how I feel about winter.