Sliding Doors Closed

The view from the house at which I stayed During My birtHDaY getaway this year - sailboats at Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA - May 27, 2019

The view from the house at which I stayed During My birtHDaY getaway this year - sailboats at Crystal Cove, Newport Coast, CA - May 27, 2019

Sliding Doors. A metaphor for alternate realities.

For the last six years, I have created an alternate reality for myself while away for my birthday, escaping my real life circumstances to frolic and play in the coastal towns of Orange County each year since 2014.

Sliding Doors is also a feature film starring Gwyneth Paltrow in which this metaphor is rooted. The film is centered around this concept of alternate realities… the “what if’s” of a hypothetical life that we usually don’t get to explore in the linear narratives of our real time lives. The film jumps between two storylines, following two possible paths the main character's life could take depending on which side of a subway train’s sliding doors she ends up during one life altering day.

In my previous birthday getaway posts, I have mentioned this concept of sliding doors a few times, and the proposed alternate reality in which I began to indulge while away on these weekends. Spending my last six birthdays in towns adjacent to Irvine, CA, the city in which I graduated from college twenty five years ago, lent a whole host of what if’s to surface over the years; and each year, I explored various ones in my mind and heart.

This year’s getaway in May, my sixth consecutive, was the culmination of all that I have realized through my previous glimpses into the parallel life I imagined during these visits. It was the longest trip yet - five days, fours nights - and by the end of it, I emerged from the other side of the sliding door with a clearer sense than ever before of how to move forward in my own reality.

Top: In 2002, I was working in the Feature film department At the Walt Disney StudioS in Burbank, CA,, and was dating the man who would become my husband in 2005.  Bottom: In 1992, Ten years earlier, I was a junior at UC Irvine, had just declared my film Studies major, and was a member of the Women’s fraternity, Delta Gamma.

Top: In 2002, I was working in the Feature film department At the Walt Disney StudioS in Burbank, CA,, and was dating the man who would become my husband in 2005.

Bottom: In 1992, Ten years earlier, I was a junior at UC Irvine, had just declared my film Studies major, and was a member of the Women’s fraternity, Delta Gamma.

I attended The University of California Irvine from 1990 to 1994. During those highly impressionable years, I made pivotal decisions about my life and career, as most college students do, between the tender ages of 18 and 22. These decisions steered my life in a specific direction that brought me to where I am today. Yes, stating the obvious, I know; but the path on which I expected to be then, and the one I actually traveled down, ended up being very different.

I left Irvine after graduating in 1994 with the solid intention to work in the Hollywood film industry. Not as an actress, but as a creative… a filmmaker - a member of the visionary creative teams that make movies possible. And that is what I did, at least for the first ten years.

When I returned to my college stomping grounds for my first birthday weekend getaway in 2014, my life looked starkly different from what I envisioned twenty years prior. I was married, had two children, was no longer working in film, and had just begun my journey as a writer who shares her writing with others instead of keeping it hidden in a journal or in a file on her computer.

That first visit changed me; and I have since come to realize that in some ways, over the five years of birthday weekends between that first and this last one, I had been intermittently chasing the feelings I experienced that first transformative weekend away, trying (at times, in vain) to replicate them.

I have never been one to chase ghosts. I tend to look ahead with hope for better tomorrows rather than pine away for the past. But when I was down there - in Newport Beach, driving the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway between the Balboa Peninsula and Crystal Cove, running along PCH and Balboa Island, and walking around Fashion Island, Pelican Hill, and Newport Coast… or in Costa Mesa, shopping South Coast Plaza mall and spending time in the parks, hotels, and neighborhoods… or in Irvine, roaming the campus of my alma mater and visiting the dorms and greek housing where I lived - the smiles and excitement and hurts and faces in my most vivid memories of these places would materialize, often without effort or intention.

Every time I returned, memories of the past, both distant and recent, would come to the forefront, and I would either bask in them or dread them, depending on how I felt in my “real life” - my present reality back home. I was reminded of the actions I had taken and decisions I had made, both twenty five years ago and five years ago, that shaped who I was going to become… and who I was now. Some good, some not so.

I think what I was doing by going down there each year was exploring an alternate path that my life could have taken since college, when my “grown up” life had just begun. I wasn’t trying to go back in time. I was entertaining a fantasy - the “what could have been” of my life had the stars aligned in a different pattern. Had the years unfolded differently. Had I made different choices.

This may sound like I regret the decisions I did make that led to the life I currently lead. Honestly, over these last few years, I have sometimes felt like I did… like I wished I had known myself a little better to choose better, and wished I had developed a healthier mindset that didn’t allow fear, hurt and insecurity to guide those decisions that end up shaping one’s life.

But if I really am honest, in my heart, I don’t see any of the choices I made as bad or wrong. This is a hard one to reconcile, as we all have some things we have done that we wish had played out differently, or rendered vastly different results. It’s okay to have hoped for alternate outcomes that never came to be, while still believing everything that’s happened has happened as it was meant to happen.

My choices have made me who I am; and after a lot of inner work, healing and acceptance, I like who I am today. ALL of my choices (even the presumably regretful ones) put me here, in this beautiful now. They have brought me to where I am, how I think, what I have, and who I love, in my imperfectly charmed life.

But aside from the good in it, my life has never been, and will never be, free of hardship. No one is immune to bad times. There are experiences survived, mistakes made, and lessons learned that are gifts. When it’s hard and things feel bad or overwhelming, they certainly don’t seem like gifts, but they are. Even the biggest mistakes are gifts. Those actions taken and words said that make us feel initial regret, guilt or shame… those are the greatest gifts of all because they make us human, and teach us what we want and don’t want in the future. They teach us who we want to be, and who we don’t want to be. 

So, had my life been the alternate reality I had often envisioned on my birthday weekends in Newport Beach or Costa Mesa, I know I would still have had hardships. I don’t know what they would’ve looked like, or what difficulties I would’ve faced, but it’s possible they would have been less desirable than what I grapple with now. Who knows… maybe I would’ve wanted to escape to Malibu for my birthday weekends and dream of a life like mine.

It is the unknown - the possibility of what “could be” or “could have been” - that beguiles us. It is safer to dream or hope for something that, in our minds, still has the potential to be better than what we already have than to accept and enjoy what we do have, even in the most unfulfilling moments. Keeping your head and heart in a fantasy temporarily protects you from facing the disappointment that what is real is not perfect. Reality will always pale in comparison to the fantasy unless we change our perspective on our lives, and alter how we interpret the challenges and perceived barriers to happiness with which we are presented.

2014 was the year it all started; and every birthday since, I anticipated with excitement, and a sort of desperate desire, to relive or recapture the feeling of renewal I felt that first year. Now in 2019, it doesn’t serve the whole of my life to look forward to one weekend a year to be a person who wants to lead a different life. Now I am looking to integrate that weekend into my life in a way that doesn’t dishonor my current existence, but rather enhances it. To have an experience that strengthens me, rather than one that elicits me to look back with longing.

The me that I am is the only one I can be. I may not ever be that college student who has the chance to pick a different discipline and start my life with a different career. I may not ever be that sorority girl who has the chance to date a boy in college who changes how I see the world, and thus alters the trajectory of my life. I may not ever be that twenty-something young adult who has my whole life in front of me, with infinite options from which to choose, and the chance to find my passion and true calling twenty years sooner.

But I can be the woman and the writer I am now… with all the knowledge and love and wounds and growth and wisdom to stay on and enhance the path I did choose, not because it is my only choice (it’s not), but because it is what I want for my life right now.

Life doesn’t present choices only when we are young and starting out. It continually offers us opportunities to compose and edit our own story. We often don’t get to decide every detail of the outline, but we always get creative control over the content of our minds and hearts. We choose who and what we let in, and of whom and what we let go.

There comes a time to say goodbye to phases and feelings and circumstances that no longer fit. To end a chapter. To close a door. To move on... This is mine. The only thing left to do is to say thank you. Thank you Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Irvine, and all that I enjoyed there. For the roles you played in my life. For the joy you brought me. For the love, excitement and possibility I got to feel. For the escapism, the relaxation, and the reconnecting of myself as a woman. And for all you taught me.

Sliding doors closed.

POSTSCRIPT: A little backstory for those new here, or those who have not yet read any of my previous birthday getaway posts…

I have written about and reflected on my annual birthday weekend getaways every year since 2014 (except for 2015). Staying in either Costa Mesa or Newport Beach each year, I have walked down memory lane in many ways on these trips, re-visiting places I lived and loved as a college student and alumni, both in Newport Beach and on the campus of my alma mater, The University of California, Irvine.

2014, the first year I escaped to Orange County for my birthday, was the catalyst to many important changes in my life. With a 7-year-old daughter and 3.5-year-old son at the time, I experienced a taste of freedom from being a wife and mother that I had never felt before. Having sacrificed so much of myself for my children those first seven years, I had unwittingly abandoned who I was and ignored my needs as a woman and individual to the point of desperation, with an overwhelming desire to reclaim my autonomy and a sense of myself that I had lost along the way. I wrote Saturday Night Live(s) while I was away that weekend, and Beautiful Mommy in reflection upon my return.

In 2015, I had just completed an intensive yoga teacher training and certification in March, away from home alone without my husband and kids for nine days while in Davis, CA. I also enjoyed a 10th wedding anniversary trip with my husband to the Pacific Northwest that April; so a big birthday weekend getaway in May was not in the cards for me that year. I did go down to the OC for one night that weekend anyway, visited with some people, and got a massage. I guess I didn’t feel the need to write about it, because I didn’t. Life was good.

In 2016, I wrote Birthday Weekend Away. In Short. Gratitude. in a stream of consciousness, with excessive punctuation. That year I was feeling especially nostalgic, in conjunction with the many challenges I was dealing with back on the home front.

In 2017, I used no punctuation at all when writing mind body soul truth self love attraction birthday wishes and hotel beds, after being challenged by a friend to write in the opposite form from the year before. Feeling especially strong and confident that year, I enjoyed my stay in Newport Beach at the Island Hotel immensely… that weekend was the most like my first year away in 2014.

In 2018, my written reflections on my weekend away in May weren’t completed until September, when I shared No Mom Is An Island, as well as a poem I composed entitled Forty Six.

And so this was my entry for 2019, four months after my sixth annual birthday weekend getaway during the memorial day weekend in May. As mentioned in the piece, I’ve decided that this year’s getaway was to be my final one spent in Orange County. I have already made plans elsewhere for my birthday getaway in 2020!

This is 47

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In bed reading last night in the last few hours of being age 46.

In the year while 46, I had to help save a family business from financial ruin, preserve my father’s professional legacy, and prepare him to retire after 60 years of performing on stage... evacuate from the worst fire on record in my Malibu community, live in a black and burned disaster area for months with mudslides and power outages, all the while nursing a child back to health with multiple fractures in her jaw and rehabilitating my own body from the worst physical injury I have ever suffered... say goodbye to my favorite aunt who passed away at age 62, write and deliver her eulogy, and bury her alongside my mom... and through all of it, find my strength, not give up hope, persevere, and just feel it all (and cry a lot).

In the same year, I also smiled thousands of times, laughed with my sisters and husband and children and loved ones, enjoyed wonderfully meaningful talks with siblings and friends, took my kids to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time, read profound, life changing books and learned more about the world and myself, wrote and wrote and wrote about what was in my heart and soul, was educated and gained newfound wisdom on a wide facet of topics regarding humanity, mental health, spirituality, mortality and overcoming adversity, saw Hamilton on stage two times, kissed and hugged and cuddled and said “I love you” to the ones I love as much as I could manage, and was inspired by the innate goodness of people and our shared intrinsic desire to bring joy and hope and love to other humans.

Today is my 47th birthday. This year in which I will gracefully age into 47 will also be one filled with challenges, most that will look and feel different than those of last year. Yet I am determined to also make it a year in which I let go of any fears that could paralyze me, embrace the unknown, learn and grow more, lean into vulnerability (more than I already do), love myself and others more deeply and authentically than ever before, and trust in what I know on the deepest level possible.

#thisis47 #youknow #trustyourintuition

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Don't Be Afraid to Go There

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Life will take you places and show you things you never planned or expected. It will put you in the paths of others you didn’t choose or imagine. It will amaze, astonish, hurt and disappoint you. It does this, not to make you dread or tire of living it, but to implore you to rise above the challenges, find the joy that is to be had, and make the good parts count.

No one is guaranteed an easy, problem-free life, nor sustained happiness, even if it looks that way for some from your individual perspective. It’s just not realistic, and most circumstances are not what they seem from the outside anyway. A life that invites us to evolve, learn, grow, improve, and enhance our relationships with ourselves and others is possible for all of us, yet only a reality for those who accept the invitation.

Meditating and practicing yoga can only do so much. A positive attitude can only get you so far. Educating yourself on philosophies to live by is just knowledge if you don’t integrate what you’ve learned into your core being and live it every day.

For many, there are issues that require a different level of attention and care. Don’t be afraid to go there. To ask for help. To see yourself and show yourself. To explore your hurts and feel your wounds so you can begin to heal them. To admit you may not know how to move forward in the most healthy and beneficial way. To accept you can’t handle everything yourself. To acknowledge that you will only heal, grow, and cultivate resilience if you first approach what needs to be addressed.

It takes bravery to be vulnerable, not to be closed off or in denial of pain. Denial is useless, and does nothing but perpetuate a problem and impede healing and growth. See a theme here? 💪❤️🙏

#stopthestigma #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthawarenessmonth

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Love Oneself

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It is harder to love oneself than it is to love others.

We can feel so much love for and have such a passion to give to those whom we love most; and still not give that same love to ourselves.

Perfectionist tendencies can make us feel ashamed of our flaws, and even lead us to shame others who don’t meet our lofty expectations. This is my hardest and most challenging work.

From a young age, the expectations I put on myself and others were always extremely high. So high that they often created an unrealistic vision for what I thought life “should” look like, and how people “should” behave.

Idealistic expectations are impossible for anyone to consistently reach, as nobody is actually perfect. We all have our own internal weaknesses and suffer from external circumstances beyond our control. Yet, being faced with anything short of what I had originally envisioned often left me in a state of presumed defeat, and with the feeling that others had failed me somehow. Or worse, that I myself just didn’t measure up.

Subconsciously, I felt that if I wasn’t being treated fairly, or if my accomplishments weren’t perceived as good enough, then that must mean I wasn’t deserving of love. This misconception is common among individuals, like me, who grew up feeling they needed to prove their worth in order to receive love. Owning this wounding, discovering my tendency toward shame, and consciously waking up to this destructive thought pattern, was integral in my awareness toward change.

Still, reprogramming negative behaviors and breaking habitual thinking has not happened overnight. It has been a long journey, one I am still on. To find peace in the “what is” of life - cultivating equanimity in the face of imperfection - is hard.

Acceptance of who I am, where I am at, and what I have done, has graced me in stages, and is something I can cultivate most days; but it is still not my resting state of existence. I consider myself a recovering perfectionist, but like a recovering anything, I’ve not eradicated it for good.

I strive to embrace the dark corners of myself as much as the bright and shiny parts, for this is the only way to truly love.

#loveoneself

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Don't Do It to Look Hot

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Don’t do it to look hot. Don’t do it to get other people’s admiration, envy, or approval. Don’t do it so those you think are hot will find you hot too. 🔥

Do it to take care of yourself, be strong, move free, feel good, and live long. If “looking hot” is a residual effect, and admirers let you know it, don’t let that define you or your self worth.

Physical “hotness” is fleeting; but the intangible force that attracts others to us and us to them on deeper levels will outlast any surface attraction. Depth of character, kindness, respect, and vulnerability are at the core of the connections we make with those who are meant to be in our lives with longevity.

Deep connections will survive casual flirtations and fleeting infatuations every time; so be sure to put equal energy into the fitness of your mind, heart, and soul as you do your body. Redefine your hotness from the inside out.

#dayfive #dontdoittolookhot

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Focus Through It

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When you are challenged to the breaking point and are weary of the climb, remember it’s not going to get easier when you decide to try again... in an hour, a day, week, month, or year.

The only way through any kind of discomfort is *through* it... not around it or away from it.

When you know what you need to do to get where you want, but aren’t sure you have what it takes to get there, focus on how you want to feel when you reach the top. Focus on what you are working to overcome, what from which you want to heal, and what existence you want to live as you move forward toward your goal.

Focus on how the strength you will gain on the journey will fuel your desire to persevere, and how every step you take brings you closer to where you want to be.

#dayfour #focusthroughit

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

You Know

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When everyone around you is marching to a different beat, keep time with your own drum. Don’t let the pull of the majority sway you to abandon your instincts on what you believe is the right path.

You know what is true. You know what to do. You know.

#daythree #youknow

*Originally posted to Instagram and Facebook

What Is

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Life will continue to surprise. You never know exactly what will come next.

The not knowing means there is always hope that what you want will come; but the unpredictability means there is no guarantee you will get it. No rushing results or controlling other’s actions.

Trust that everything has been leading up to now, and what is about to happen. To what is about to be realized in your heart and mind. What IS being realized. Believe that the culmination of your actions and choices have brought you to where you are supposed to be.

Live with gratitude, hope, positivity, and perseverance; and continue to take positive action, but also surrender to what is. Allow “what is” to be, accept what isn’t to be, and keep the faith that what has yet to come, will come, if it is meant for you.

#daytwo #whatis

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Promote What You Love Instead of Bashing What You Hate

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There are, and always will be, things we love and things we hate... about situations, opinions, people. We can even feel love and hate for a person, circumstance, or reality simultaneously.

I try so hard not to use the word hate, and constantly tell my kids to express this strong emotion using “I don’t like” instead of “I hate.” Yet truthfully, among adults, hate is more accurate a word to use when it comes to what we passionately oppose, that with which we vehemently disagree, or realities we have an impossible time accepting.

I can say I hate prejudice, intolerance, racism, sexism, ignorance, misogyny, chauvinism and injustice; and there are many people who would think I am justified in my hatred.

But there is a different brand of hate on the opposite side of mine; and if that hate is what fuels my hate, then more hatred is being generated than love.

Allowing ourselves to feel hate on such a deep level can bring us to a dark place, and will never pave the way to the light.

When I suffer disappointments and dashed hopes, when my precious (possibly idealistic) expectations are not fulfilled, and when I envision the way I think others will behave (or I want them to behave) and find instead they do the opposite, hate can manifest within me, despite my desire to feel empathy instead of anger.

If we allow hate to grow in our hearts - out of fear, pain, outrage or conditioning - it can eclipse the love for which we have an unlimited capacity.

Giving love without strings attached, expectations placed, or guarantee of when or if it will be returned, is scary. Loving unconditionally is risky; it can make us feel vulnerable, powerless, and taken for granted.

Love itself is the opposite. It is powerful. It can transform and transcend. And promoting what we love - equality, justice, respect, tolerance, acceptance, hope, positivity, perseverance, generosity and kindness - especially in the glaring face of hatred, can be the difference between fostering a life consumed by ugliness, and creating one that thrives on compassion.

Multiply that exponentially, and it’s not just a life... it is a nation, a world, a global consciousness, a future generation.

Becoming You: From Tragic to Transformative

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Thirteen years ago, I had a dream job, dream husband, and dream lifestyle by the sea. Happiness was on the rise, and its expected trajectory was limitless. I was living a perfectly charmed life, despite mild insecurity and self-doubt; and the formula I had created for it centered around pronounced wellness... in health, fitness, discipline of mind and body, and professional success.

I ran three miles five times a week. I practiced yoga. I worked long hours, but was rewarded for it in title and salary. I drank green smoothies, ate vegan meals, and consumed eight glasses of water each day. I wore a size 0. I had overcome a dysfunctional childhood, suffered career failures, and let go of unfulfilling relationships. I lived in an impeccably choreographed external reality, while my internal footing was not completely solid. I fought for the life I wanted, and created the best version of it I could. I felt happy. I thought if my life could just remain stable and secure long enough, then maybe I could feel a deeper sense of happiness and belonging in my soul, down to my core.

But it didn't stay that way. I was laid off my job, got unexpectedly pregnant, and tragically lost my mother, all within the span of a year and a half. This eruption of unexpected losses and unplanned detours blew up my life, triggering unconscious wounds and undesirable outcomes. Life's curve balls were thrown so fast, and from so many directions, that there was no time to brace for disaster. They invaded my intentionally crafted existence and destroyed what I had worked so hard to craft.

Now, not only was my mom gone, but my life, as I knew it, was over. I felt left behind and tossed aside by the world. This world, which I thought had promised me a good life, had lied and reneged on its promise. My baby was born amid my crippling grief. Postpartum depression, marital disillusionment, and a monumental identity crisis soon joined in; and together, these life altering states of being uncovered a minefield of hidden wounds within me, and ignited deep emotional pain, debilitating me.

I naively thought I had paid my dues of difficulties early in life, and that this was supposed to be my time to shine. It was my turn to have a happy life. One full of joy and love. One in which I felt that I belonged, and was wanted and needed. How I always dreamed. But it was not going the way I hoped and expected. I had lost the dream. I was angry and sad. I was no longer the me I wanted to be. My neatly landscaped life was now a messy, damaged life... one chosen for me, rather than by me.

Through sheer will and stubbornness, I hastily rebuilt myself and attempted to regain control of my life. I was a mother now, but also a motherless daughter. I kept mostly intact for years, and even thrived in short, temporary bouts... in motherhood, marriage, and fitness. But my proven formula of wellness, and the method of healthy functioning I previously used before the fallout, was no match for my unresolved wounding. My life appeared put together enough from the outside (again); but inside, insecurity, hurt, and fear were emerging from the shadows. They began to eclipse the happiness I had cultivated out of tragedy, and I couldn't sustain it. Compelled to remove the masks of coping and posturing, all too common in adulthood, I exposed the dark underbelly of my sadness and perceived inadequacy, and faced it.

By my own resolve, I was forced to grow.

This kind of personal growth is distinct from the growing we do as children, which doesn't take our conscious effort. Our new bodies, ripe with possibility, develop beyond our control and without our deliberate intention. Our minds, clean slates ready to be written on like new blackboards with fresh pieces of white chalk, soak up life’s experiences like sponges. Before our physiques are done developing, our young minds and hearts begin to fill with experiences... ones that elicit hope, hurt, conceptions and conclusions. For most of us, the development of our emotional intelligence is hijacked by wounding, in its many forms, encouraging a climate of managing and minimizing to take over while a regimen of denying feelings and numbing pain sets in.

The depth of hurt and vulnerability that's inside us by the time we are adults often remains buried and unexplored, sometimes for a lifetime; unless we are compelled to dig deep and break through to the other side of pain. Loss is most often the catalyst to this unearthing, as was the case for me. Although I had been an introspective student of yoga and soul centered living for years, this was different. More confronting. I realized that emotional, spiritual and whole body wellness could no longer be a surface goal, or merely a healthy or trendy lifestyle choice. Exercise, smoothies, and meditation weren't gonna do it alone. No more glossy top coats to conceal the flaws or slurry to cover up the cracks. I needed to jackhammer that shit up, down to the foundation... to the core of my soul. I had to confront my wounding, look my pain dead in the eye, and rescue myself from its clutches.

I am still under this personal and intimate reconstruction, and expect to be indefinitely. I have learned and healed so much, yet I have so much more to discover and integrate within. I love and fear the process; but mostly, I am grateful for the insight I have gained and the perseverance I have found inside myself to stay curious, courageous, and keep healing, growing and evolving.

I have concluded that if we don't commit to doing this healing, growing and evolving bit, we are at risk of staying stuck in a version of ourselves that we've outgrown, but insist on squeezing into...  just like that tight pair of jeans we claim still fit, but require us to lie down and suck in to zip them up. Being stuck in those old, shrunken selves stifles joy, impedes our potential for true belonging, and immobilizes us from moving about our lives freely with comfort and purpose.

It is possible for personal growth and evolution to be intentional and self-motivated as well, rather than spurred on by loss or misfortune. It could be inspired by a desire for a more fulfilling existence and a deeper understanding of one's place in humankind, or it can be spurred on by the discomfort of trying to fit into those ill-fitting, played out denims.

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Whether prompted by life changing challenges or by curiosity about what exists beyond our self-imposed limits, growth happens when we open ourselves up to the possibility of exploring, healing, and becoming who we truly are. Becoming more kind, compassionate, and empathetic to ourselves and others. Becoming whole and wise and open and vulnerable. Becoming who we were meant to be, before we began to tailor and fabricate a version of ourselves to present to the world for self-preservation.

Becoming you is the single most important thing you can do in this life.

From tragic to transformative, only you have the power to make your life what you want, out of what you have. All that is required to establish strong roots and grow magnificent wings is to accept the invitation to find what authentically grounds you, and to cultivate the strength and courage to let it fly free into the wonderful wilderness of this world.

It's all inside of you... it's inside all of us.

We Are Not Our Faces

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We are not our faces. Our physical beauty. Our smooth skin. Our flowing hair. Our yoga poses.

Our professional accomplishments. Our bank accounts. Our cars. Our houses. Our jewels. Our reputable names.

Our extra pounds around the middle. Our gray hairs. Our dark circles. Our wrinkles.

Our shame. Our guilt. Our hurt. Our regrets. Our failures. Our vices. Our self images, distorted through other people’s lenses, tarnished when fallen short of lofty expectations. We are none of these.

These attributes and circumstances do not define us. It may feel like they do, because they have shaped and molded us into who we identify ourselves to be today; and we present these selves to the world (flaunting or concealing parts) for others to weigh in... to decide our worth or our level of acceptability.

But we aren’t these things in our core. In any way that truly matters. No, instead, we are our strength. Our vulnerability. Our kindness. Our courage. Our perseverance. Our empathy. Our hope. Our compassion. Our humanity. Our love. Our resistance to letting all that other sh*t define us.

#internationalwomensday2018

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Even in Australia

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It’s #nationalreadacrossamericaday, so books are on my mind; which, truthfully, is no different from any other day. 📖 I recently color coded my library, with inspiration from my sister’s 🌈 rainbow book display... these are just two of several shelves in my house filled with books curated over many years.

The oldest in my collection is the big red coffee table book on the far left entitled “The Movies.” It was my mom’s and sat on a shelf in the den of my childhood home for as long as I can remember. Having it here makes me happy and feel connected to her, reminding me of our shared passion for film.

But today, when I think about the book that meant the most to me as a child, I could think of no other than “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. I grabbed it from my kids’ bookshelf in their room & added it to my library here for a moment, since I no longer have my childhood copy.

After I birthed my first child, this was the first hardcover book I purchased for my nursery library of cloth and board books. It was my favorite as a child because it taught me that it was okay to have feelings... to have MY feelings, ANY feelings I felt, no matter what anyone else said. That it was normal to feel yucky sometimes and that every day didn’t have to be picture perfect, chronicling a childhood of a chronically smiling (often fake smiling) girl.

Expectations to be cordial, well behaved and “good” dominated my childhood, and any feelings of anger or sadness were rarely accepted or validated. The pressure to present a groomed and shiny exterior, for the purpose of preserving my father’s celebrity and professional reputation, was overwhelming for me, and it didn’t leave much room for normal childhood fears and angst.

I related to Alexander and his desire to get away and move to Australia. I related to his feeling of being invisible and finding life unfair and unbalanced sometimes. This book helped me be ok with being the real me, big feelings and all, and that was transformative.✨💫

*I also wrote about this book in Some Days Are Like That

#booksaremagic #readacrossamerica

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

No Filter Rant

no filter rant.jpg

There is no filter on this photo I just snapped a couple minutes ago; so there will be no filter on its caption either (which is the norm for me anyway). It is inconceivable to some that one could look out at this view from their front door & not be grateful every moment of every day. Yet, sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

Gratitude is not automatic or a given. It is not inherent in direct relation to one’s interpreted & conceived good fortune, nor even to the obvious blessing of being alive, healthy & safe. Of course, you would think it would be, but it’s not. Gratitude needs to be cultivated, & so often that part is overlooked. I am grateful a lot, but not as much as I consciously wish I would be.

I have been enjoying this same view & these same sunsets for over 15 years, living in this tiny edge of the world since 2002. I have gotten married while living here, changed careers, grieved the sudden loss of my mother to a car accident, birthed two children, given up having a career at one point, suffered marital challenges, stayed home (sleep deprived & depressed) nursing babies, chasing toddlers, sweeping up cheerios, wiping up smushed baby food & feeling like I wanted to (& actually have) scream & cry from the grief, hardship, mundaneness & lack of intellectual stimulation.

Today, I stand here with children who are 7 & 11 & gone most of the day navigating moments of their own lives without me, on an unpaved road leading to an unknown destination, on the journey of a new career & a new stage of life. Nothing is certain... nothing but the love I feel for my husband, my kids, my siblings, my friends.

It is easy to see that this view is quite spectacular to the naked eye (& this image doesn’t even do it justice) in all its obvious glory; it is harder to see how spectacular everything else is in your life without consciously recognizing it - without tuning in your mind, body & soul to it - breathing it in & letting it inhabit your being.

I am doing it now. NOW. Now is all we’ve got until the next moment comes. Breathe it in. All of it. It is a privilege. Even the hard... especially the hard. It is what moves us closer to our truest selves.

#nofilter #rant

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

 

The Legacy of Grief

And Why It Is So Important to Own Our Pain

My daughter leaving flowers for her grandmother on her birthday yesterday - Now ten years old, she was born three months after my mom died.

My daughter leaving flowers for her grandmother on her birthday yesterday - Now ten years old, she was born three months after my mom died.

I am still thinking about the people who lost their loved ones in the Las Vegas shooting massacre last Sunday night, October 1st.

Yes, still. It has only been a week.

Those left behind to grieve lost loved ones are on my mind because I was them. I know what they are feeling right now. The rest of the world may have moved on, but they are still in the thick of it, possibly paralyzed by sadness, scared about the future, and looking for answers on how they are going to live without their mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, or best friend.

I know their pain. I have felt their pain; as I too lost someone in an unexpected, tragic accident. One day my mom was here, turning 60 years old, and the very next day she wasn’t. That next day changed my life forever... October 10, 2006, eleven years ago today.

The deadly weapon used to kill her was a truck, not a gun; but the person operating the weapon was unwell just the same. The driver was under the influence of prescription drugs at the time of the accident, and so her impaired state caused her to drift off the two lane highway she was speeding on. When she swerved back into her lane, she over corrected and plunged her Bronco into oncoming traffic... slamming it head on into the car in which my mom was a passenger and killing her instantly.

My mom died lying on the asphalt of a rural road in Northern California at the hands of a woman not intending to kill her that day but who wasn't in the right state of mind to safely operate a vehicle that became a lethal weapon. There was no news coverage of the accident; and no villains were vilified nor heroes celebrated (although the driver did get sentenced to a year in prison). There were no hashtags prayers. Still, my mom's death changed the lives of her family and friends instantly, just as the deaths of those 59 people in Las Vegas changed the lives of their families and friends instantly, and forever.

In both cases, the irresponsible act of one single, troubled and unwell individual took innocent lives. The Vegas tragedy was just on a much larger scale and in a very public forum; and that act was committed with malicious intent. The added sting of knowing the killer intended to harm and kill people that day is one I was spared when my mom died; yet, the result of both events was the same - people were killed violently and unexpectedly.

Social media was ablaze this past week, with some people praying for Vegas, others demanding gun policy change, and still others protesting those demands by trying to convince the opposition that they should blame the individual, not the weapon. I know this is not true, but it seems like the people in the latter group are stuck in time somehow, like we are all still living in the 19th Century, when guns were shot one bullet at a time and were used primarily for protection from looters, robbers, and carpetbaggers. Their argument frustrates and confuses me, seeming archaic and inaccurate on so many levels. Yet above all the various protests, there were genuine sentiments of grief and many heartfelt pleas for stricter laws and demands to hold our politicians accountable for their failure to implement policies that they believe could have prevented this tragedy.

Now, over a week has passed, and most voices have quieted on all sides, save the various articles still being written and shared to further the debate on the subject of guns, media, and politics. It seems most people have moved on, resuming their normal output and usual consumption of media and going about their regular lives.

As I touched upon in Forever Changed, the only post I shared last week, our society functions on our collective ability to keep the tragedies of each day at arms length, and to prevent them from penetrating the armor we built up to protect us from daily doses of bad news, depressing statistics, and inconsiderate behavior by those around us. The Vegas tragedy was so tragic though that people could not help but let it into their hearts; and so they allowed themselves to feel devastated for a day or two, or three... just as they did when deadly shootings happened in Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, or Columbine.

But eventually, after a few days, maybe a week, most people expect themselves, and each other, to revert back to their normal routine of disconnect. Be it for self-preservation or simply for keeping their lives operating, they pull themselves up, look ahead and move forward, leaving the devastation behind, along with most of the emotion connected with it. After all, they would argue that they have to get out of bed, go to work, take care of kids, and contribute to society in the way they normally do and are expected to do. They can't afford, neither financially, emotionally or mentally, to curl up under the covers and allow themselves to feel sadness, fear, and powerlessness to the detriment of their careers, families, and self-images.

For about a week, praying for the families of the victims in Vegas or "keeping them in their thoughts" was the extent of what most people would allow themselves to do or feel. This is understandable, as it really is all most of us can do. The sad reality is that a week of prayers won’t give the lost loved ones back to those families, and heartfelt thoughts won't stop future acts of violence, irresponsibility, and loss that are bound to occur in a society full of people in pain that are taught to treat the symptoms instead of the roots of problems.

The people that were demanding stricter gun laws and policy changes may have felt more in control by "taking action" rather than just sending prayers. As admirable and empowering as this feels, it may not have any effect, since deeming something illegal does not mean people will immediately abide by the law and cease seeking out and possessing it. This has proven to be true over and over again by the whiskey and rye drinkers during prohibition, the pot and hash smokers of the sixties and seventies, the cocaine snorters of the eighties and nineties, and the crack, heroin and meth IV drug users of any decade. It is a well known fact that making something “illegal” doesn't make it unattainable; it just makes it trickier and more expensive to attain.

Too many people own guns already, or possess a large enough arsenal to sell them illegally and make a lot of money. So even if stricter policy changes are made, possibly banning bump stock devices that allow semi automatic weapons to perform like automatic ones, someone somewhere will still figure out a way to make, sell, and buy them illegally.

Aside from guns though, add to those illegal drugs listed above the issue of legal drugs - alcohol, prescriptions, and medical marijuana - that are over used and abused daily, and you have a whole other group of citizens that are taking lives via DUI accidents and drug overdoses in record numbers that dwarf the 59 souls lost in Vegas at the hands of one soul with an automatic weapon.

This man’s horrific deed has incited ideological arguments, intense anger, and (more than usual) political dissonance; yet adding to the debate on gun laws, the responsibility of the media, and the political failings of our leaders is not the purpose of my writing this. It is charged subject, with multiple facets and layers that don't add up to one definitive solution. It troubles me, but I am not entirely convinced that what happened in Vegas could have been prevented by stricter gun policies in a culture that, on the whole, glorifies violence, condones separatism, and encourages and enables the denial and numbing away of our emotions.

Instead, I write to share and process my experience of loss these past eleven years, and to grieve the loss of the people killed nine days ago. Their families are just beginning their journey into grief and loss, so I honor them and the difficult road toward acceptance and healing that they have just begun to travel.

Yet I also write to ask questions. To bring up that which most don't and won't talk about. To point out the way in which our society (dis)functions as a whole to the detriment of our collective mental health and emotional intelligence. Among all this discourse about policy and politics, where is the dialogue on the state of our overall wellness as a people, as a society, as a nation?

Wellness is a buzz word these days, as is mindfulness and meditation. But these concepts, and the efforts to implement them, only seem to surface in progressive communities and are often isolated to an individual's personal journey of growth and awareness. Self help - therapeutic, holistic, spiritual or motivational - is seen by the general public as an esoteric ritual reserved for yoga instructors, therapists, fitness and lifestyle coaches and their tribe of followers.

The fact is, there is nothing alternative or obscure about addressing our natural human emotions and our fundamental need for connection and love, or honoring our pain by approaching it with awareness, compassion, empathy, and understanding.

Where is the national agenda promoting true wellness in our society, outside of Western medicine's money making racket of drugging its people up on prescription medications? Where is a national dialogue confronting how to tend to people's mental and emotional well being without the use of drugs or other numbing methods?

There isn't one. There is no national dialogue such as this.

Sure, we have renowned alternative medicine doctors, writers, and self-help gurus, such as the late Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, and Eckhart Tolle who guide and teach those who seek them out through their books, articles and talks. We also have influential people such as Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, and Brené Brown who do the same with their powerful platforms, working in their own unique ways to show us how vulnerability and emotional intelligence is not something to shame or be ashamed of, but something to strive for, encourage and support within ourselves and our fellow humans.

There are also thousands of therapists and social workers doing their part every day, without the fame and glory of the former teachers and leaders mentioned above, to instill knowledge and awareness, promote courage and healing, and help people face and overcome their adversities without the use of prescription drugs, violence, or the usual numbing tactics coveted and accepted by our society as the norm.

But on a national scale, the need for and goal of true wellness, for the most part, is unaddressed in our society. In its absence, the crises of our culture is the perpetual numbing of pain and discomfort with a host of band-aids... anticipating and celebrating wine-o'-clock, ritualizing Sunday Funday drinking, zoning out on YouTube videos for hours, and binge streaming seven seasons of Game of Thrones in seven days, to name a few.

Numbing and denying our pain, instead of embracing it, leads to isolation and disillusion. Sharing our pain and our struggles in a supportive environment, instead of sweeping it under the rug, is the road to healing and thriving. The "rug" in its many forms - alcohol, TV, drugs, movies, video games, work, social media, sex, gambling, pornography, and retail therapy - has the magical ability to camouflage and cover up a lot of hurt and pain. Yet after the magic wears off, in a matter of days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years, we are still left with the same hurt and pain, now increased exponentially. If left under there, unchecked and unresolved for too long, this pain can rot, decay, fester, and transform into something twisted and toxic, with the potential to erupt in violence; and in last Sunday's case, a shower of bullets.

So where does this leave us? Where does this leave me in writing about my cyclical grief for my mom's death and the empathetic grief I feel for the families that are suffering tremendous loss right now? I don't know. All I know is I will continue to hold the victims of this tragedy close to my heart, next to the memory of mom, for as long as my grief needs me to do so. I am open to feel and accept it all. The grief, the pain, the disappointment, and the loss. I am a living testament to working through grief and pain by embracing and owning it, instead of concealing it away in a dark corner of my soul.

I will grieve, and when I am done this time around, I will remember and cherish my mom even more. I will recall how my kids brought flowers to her grave site on her birthday yesterday... how my son placed his colorful fall bouquet in the ground and uncomfortably yet sweetly wished her a happy birthday as he looked down at her grave marker... how my ten-year-old daughter chose red roses for her because through the years she has learned that they were her favorite... and how she hugged me tight and cried her first tears ever over for the loss of her grandmother whom she never had the chance to meet.

The legacy of grief.

It seems like an unwanted burden to bear, but it is really an invitation to expand our capacity to love.

mind body soul truth self love attraction birthday wishes and hotel beds

The idea of traveling to Orange County to spend my birthday in Newport Beach, Irvine, and Costa Mesa came to me in 2014. I had attended college and earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Film Studies at the University of California Irvine many years ago; so I had a lot of good memories from my time there and wanted to revisit some of them.

After seeing Fleetwood Mac live at the Hollywood Bowl and staying at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel in Los Angeles on my birthday in May 2013, I decided to up the ante and escape for an entire weekend away to celebrate my birthday the following year.I got a much needed break from being a mom that weekend away in 2014 (as chronicled in Beautiful Mommy); and thus began my ritual of returning to OC each year for my birthday and then writing about it upon my return.

I wrote Birthday Weekend Away. In Short. Gratitude. after my third getaway last May, a stream of consciousness composition written with a period. after. almost. every. word. A friend challenged me to write about this year's birthday trip as a counterpoint to that piece, one without any punctuation at all (nor capitalization or paragraph breaks).

I took on his challenge, along with a lot of creative license, artistic expression, and a stream of consciousness approach once again. I expect it to create some sort of visceral response for you, the reader... although I'm not sure if it will invigorate or exhaust you. Regardless, I hope it provokes thought, elicits feelings, and, at the very least, entertains.

headed south on a thursday to start my annual birthday weekend a bit early and i couldnt wait to get it underway as soon as possible and reach the island hotel in newport beach on the dot of their check in time because i didnt want to miss one minute of my stay yet it seems the 405 freeway and its slew of accidents and infernal congestion had another plan for me so i arrived an hour later than desired but aint nothin gonna break a my stride nobody gonna slow me down oh no i got to keep on movin up to the valet i breathed a sigh of relief and elation that i was finally there and into my hotel room on the eleventh floor i went where i opened an alternate sliding door to my life like gwyneth paltrow did in that movie as well as the sliding door in my hotel room that led out to the balcony and looked out at the ocean to breathe in the same sea air i breathe at home now just 70 miles down the california coast where the islands in front of me arent the channel islands i see from my deck in malibu but balboa island hugging the newport coastline and fashion island just below me which really isnt an island at all but a big concrete slab with a forest of palm trees where neimans nordstrom and bloomingdales anchor an upscale shoppers paradise encircled by the circular newport center drive providing me with a much different view of the blue sea than i am used to yet i still find it beautiful because it is here and i am alone and loving this place already so i shed my sweater down to my tank top and move my breath and body through a few yoga vinyasas to shake off the impatience and anticipation of my arrival yet the sweater is not the only layer i shed as the cloak of my daily life as a mother wife and caretaker begins to peel off me like a snake breathing and stretching out of its old skin to allow further growth and reveal its fresh new luminous scales that had been waiting patiently below the surface to break out just like my autonomous woman slash mom on vacation skin begins to see the light of day and i feel a bit different now as a door opens and i embrace and breathe in my mind body soul and see this beautiful version of me reflecting back to me through love gratitude and connection with so much to honor and feel and be and so much energy in my body releasing and more wanting to be released but cant so i go for a run to release it by heading down below to the circular road around the man made pleasure island and watch the sunset as i move and feel the gratitude of this day and how fortunate i am to be here to feel as i do to run as i do and love as i do being who i am now glistening with endorphins walking into the gorgeous airy lobby to get snacks gratis at the marketplace before riding the mirrored elevator up to eleven to sink into my lovely room on this first night of freedom with a hot shower and soft white hotel robe enveloping me kindly while i settle in my chaise to lounge and look out at the view of the ocean now dark behind the lights of the city drink my rose kombucha eat my ranch kale chips and reflect on the wonders and gifts of the day and melt into the cloud of a bed before me to read my book until my eyes get heavy and its time to sleep dream and awake to my 45th birthday with gratitude in my heart sunshine birthday wishes on my phone and dreams of kisses cuddles and morning snuggles filling my head that are not to be while here alone in this bed still this bed is oh so heavenly and this day is free open and full of promise for whatever adventures i want to create whatever impulses i want to amuse whatever feelings i want to indulge and whatever reflections i chose to contemplate so first things first i decide to stay cocooned in my yummy sheets with my book open and my body engulfed in the pillowy softness while i read until my hearts content and my stomach calls for nourishment that can be found on a short walk across the street to the island of retail therapy where a whole foods market will curb my hunger and enliven my body with food and drink promising energy vitality immunity and wellness for a small fortune before i return to my now favorite room of all time to my beloved bryan kest yoga session cued up on my ipad so i can breathe deep and fill up with calm and peace while challenging my strength and suppleness with sensuous stretches for my body my muscles my mind and heart yet i cant help but get back under the covers after an hour or more of heat and yoga and body loving tlc to read a bit more of my book im loving about longevity of life science of aging biology of strength privilege of time and blissfully immerse myself in that bedding which smells so fresh and feels so good and tempts me to take a nap right then and there and i think i may have done so for a minute or two before i shake myself up get out of bed and lace up my running shoes for a run on pch to explore the town by foot challenge my body to go further and my mind to let go even further before i pass a store that makes me smile and flash a memory that makes me sigh and finish up my run on the actual legit island of boats yachts slips chocolate covered frozen bananas and world famous balboa bars where i stop my runners pace to a walk and stroll up to balboa beach company where that old bbc logo on the sign outside beckons me in and i find a white logo cap i must get

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and an anchor ornament i convince them to sell me and a sweet and cute sales boy at least twenty years my junior fumbling over his words to expose his attraction to me his interest in why im in town and his desire to know what i was doing for my birthday that night when i graciously share that i was going to do whatever i felt like doing as the feeling came to me and although it was probably odd and strange to him as it would be to many younger childless lovelies that i would chose to spend my birthday night alone when i could be with people music drinks fanfare and flirtatious men i didnt mind what he may have thought as i knew what i wanted and what i didnt want what i could have and what i couldnt have and remembered what i already have had in spades before for years pre marriage and even in marriage and how the freedom to be me individually for a few days has trumped it all these last few birthdays as i have thankfully gained the wisdom to now be a woman who loves herself enough to no longer let flattering attention define her self worth since even though a sometimes fragile ego gets a nice boost when someone shows they find you desirable vivacious and mysterious the truth is you still ultimately are left with yourself and what is inside your mind and your heart your love and your truth that no one can take away so i smiled and bid the cute and sweet boy farewell with my bbc cap and prized wooden anchor in hand and took a photo of myself right then and there on the streets of balboa island to remember my entry into 45 not the nightmare commander in chief but my birth years knowing there was going to be no one to pose for in front of a cake candle and camera later that night or a song sung while a wish is made even though i discovered a surprise birthday dessert awaiting me back in my hotel room compliments of management which i didnt eat but still appreciated so before eating dinner i decided to finally enter the mecca for shoppers across the street to buy a pair of shoes as a birthday gift to me and then return to my room to place a order for in room dining before taking another heavenly hot shower and re entering the white spa robe i cant get enough of just as my grilled salmon and veggies were delivered on a silver tray courtesy of the oak grill downstairs wow it was beautiful so i dove in voraciously as i was famished from my five mile run and then contemplated watching a movie or soaking in a bubble bath for a while but didnt do either since after applying a lot of eucalyptus mint lotion and slipping into something more comfortable yes yes i mean that divine bed ive grown quite fond of since the first sweet moments i spent on it the day i arrived so i read a few more lovely birthday messages and then a few more pages of my book before drifting off to sleep in a sea of white sheets with miles of empty real estate surrounding my small frame with no one to share it with except in my dreams and in complete contrast to the reality at home where a six year old often infiltrates my space to sleep close to his mama before the sun rises and unwittingly smacks her in the face with a flailing arm while tossing and jolting me out of my slumber to find myself pushed to the edge of the bed so god yes this nights sleep on my birthday night in my island of a bed and on my island of solitary existence was a dream compared to typical nights and those dreamy dreams i continued to have all night were followed up the next morning by no less than two hours of deep tissue massage deliciousness as i was pampered in oil and restorative touches that stimulated every inch of my body to open up and surrender its tightness and lull me to a near sleep before the session was up and my masseuse who is one of the most generous and kind people i know took me to lunch for my birthday at eat chow my favorite restaurant in these parts where good conversation grilled prawns and ceviche were consumed and full stomachs were enjoyed along with a bond of friendship that i am more thankful for with each visit and as i was leaving i realized this weekend was going by way too fast for my final plans were upon me so i ran back to the hotel to wash off the scented oils that had lubed me up good and where i wished i had time for a bubble bath but didnt since a quick change is all i could manage before getting on the road to laguna niguel to see my two childhood girlfriends and eat some amazing food at hendrix a hot new spot just opened and talk laugh and share our lives for hours until its time to bid farewell and drive the winding pacific coast highway back up from laguna beach through dana point newport coast corona del mar then finally back to my room at my island paradise where there was still no time for a bubble bath darn it as i was so sleepy and so on goes my nightgown and off go the lights as i collapse in bed reflecting on my time here with still more birthday wishes to read with gratitude before falling into a quiet and peaceful sleep until early morning when i awake to my last few hours in this place wishing i could stay and knowing that i couldnt since i had to check out by nine to head back to los angeles and dodger stadium where a little league team day parade was taking place with my daughter and her softball team as part of it and their coach my husband me and their unofficial team mascot my son who wore his coach pitch t ball uniform to be a part of the action on the field walking slow behind the girls holding their team banner feeling the excitement of the stadium from below for only a few precious moments before it was all over and then climbing several mountainous flights of stairs to our relief of shady seats in the stands to watch the dodgers play the world championship cubs in an exciting game filled with hits and home runs that i wasnt able to experience fully along with the rest of the fans standing and screaming as i remained seated holding my almost seven year old son limp and napping in my arms while recognizing clearly that my birthday getaway weekend was officially over even though it was only sunday and monday is a holiday yet my time was again becoming their time as my kids began to behave and need and nestle as children do to cause my cloak of motherhood to creep back up onto me to cover my new skin as i knew it had to as i returned to usual life and i then realized i hadnt officially made a birthday wish despite the wish i wished in my heart on my birthday in the hotel so maybe now it was time to wish upon the night sky the wish i will wish forever and a day right along with another lovely wish i know will be realized one day because i believe wishes are dreams that come to us through the truth we feel and are fulfilled through our actions and intentions and since my intent is strong my focus is clear and my hope runs deep for all that i desire for my life i know it will come to me as we all reflect what we are we see what we want and we attract what we focus on so chose to focus on hope light destiny kindness friendship positivity tenderness empathy and love always love because love is the greatest gift we have to give and receive so make sure to give and receive it with your whole heart and your mind body soul will be yours and the reflection in the mirror and the one reflected in those you love and who love you will reveal the authentic you beauteous as my mom would say and more filled with hope positivity perseverance the three things my tattoo symbolizes brighter lovelier truer than you ever imagined before

period.

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Beyond Leia

Image: Rolling Stone Magazine/Aaron Rapoport/Corbis

Image: Rolling Stone Magazine/Aaron Rapoport/Corbis

 
I am Princess Leia, no matter what. If I were trying to get a good table, I wouldn’t say I wrote Postcards (From the Edge). Or, if I’m trying to get someone to take my check and I don’t have ID, I wouldn’t say: ‘Have you seen (When) Harry Met Sally?’ Princess Leia will be on my tombstone.
— Carrie Fisher
 

I was five years old in 1977, the year Carrie Fisher first took on the role of Princess Leia. As a toddler, I didn't see Star Wars when it first came out; so my earliest visual memory of Leia was not in a white robe with side buns, but rather in this gold slave bikini and long braid from 1983's Return of the Jedi.

I eventually saw the first film, along with its sequel The Empire Strikes Back, and witnessed the debut of the gun-toting Leia, with her sharp tongued quips and calm under fire demeanor that not only left Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in dumbstruck awe of her, but also firmly established her as the original cinematic female action hero. 

Leia was stubborn, courageous and formidable... put simply, a genuine badass. The image of her in that gold bikini, chained to the slimy, alien slug gangster Jabba the Hutt, definitely stuck with me; not to mention how she killed him wearing that same outfit with the very chain that bound her.

So much of Princess Leia's charm, grit and attraction is due to the fact that Carrie Fisher was the one who brought her to life onscreen. Leia exuded Carrie's strength of character, resilience, and dogged determination to reject norms, defy limited expectations, and surpass and defeat the literal and figurative restraints that an alien slug, or anyone else, tried to put on her.

Yet as strong, lovely, and memorable as she was in the Star Wars films, Carrie Fisher was much more than Princess Leia to so many, including me. In the whole of my life, she emerged beyond Leia, inhabiting other roles and other identities that have endeared her to me even more...

... more as Meg Ryan's best friend in one of my all-time favorite films, When Harry Met Sally. While in college in the early 1990's, Carrie was a big part of nursing me back to health and comforting me when I just needed to cuddle up and escape into a movie. As a Film Studies major, this was my go-to movie to put on when I was sick, burnt out from studying, or in need of a break from all the cerebral and abstract foreign films I watched in film class.

... more for her connection to my family, as the daughter of the late Debbie Reynolds, the legendary entertainer who headlined Vegas alongside my dad in the late 1970's; and as the half sister of Joely and Tricia Leigh Fisher, daughters of Connie Stevens, also a renowned actress and singer, who started a vocal group with my dad back in the 1950's and who ultimately became one of my mom's best friends.

... more for the kinship I felt with her as a fellow daughter of an entertainer father that seemed to be much more accessible to his fans then he was to his children.

... more for her bravery and transparency about her mental illness, and how she didn't let it stop her from living her life on her terms. I know a thing or two about being outspoken and honest to the point that it sometimes makes others uncomfortable, and I love that Carrie spoke her mind on topics that mattered to her, or of which she had a strong opinion. Not only did she free herself from the stigma of an illness that is often misunderstood and dismissed as imaginary or manufactured; but she helped others to feel free of it through her public candor and her writing.

... and yes, more than anything, Carrie Fisher is endeared to me for her talent as a writer, and her propensity to tell the barefaced truth. To be a good writer you need to be fearless and free; not only do you need to possess the courage to say what others won't, but also to have the forte to write what others can't. Carrie was all this and more. I aspire to be like her, and to write with the same courage and flair that she did.

The overwhelming respect and regard I have for her, her work, her honesty, her love of words, and her legacy of living life in the most unabashedly real way, far eclipses any admiration I hold for her as that beautiful, bikini-clad woman. Carrie was proud and unashamed to be who she was, and she worked and lived to ensure that her worth was not solely measured by the veil of her perceived privilege, nor the fleeting nature of her physical beauty.

And for that, I believe she succeeded famously.

Rest in peace, badass princess.

Carrie Fisher
1956 - 2016

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Youth and beauty are not accomplishments. They’re the temporary happy by-products of time and/or DNA. Don’t hold your breath for either.
— Carrie Fisher
 

While Away

On the last day of 2016, my family and I visited the Sequoia National Park up in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. As we drove over thirty miles up a windy mountain road, the air temperature dropped from an already chilly (by my California coast standards) 49 degrees at the bottom of the mountain to a brisk 31 degrees at the point where we stopped amidst a winter wonderland.

We attempted to sled and saucer our way down hills so deeply covered with fresh powder that we immediately sunk down into the pillowy white snow instead of gliding atop the surface of it. This was a spontaneous day trip up the mountain, so we hadn't sought out a groomed tube park or any kind of designated sledding area. We simply stopped off the road when we saw some open space to explore and forged our own path to play in the woods where no one else was around.

This type of scenario is commonplace in my life with my adventurous husband, so I have learned to expect the unexpected over the years. As such, these natural snowy conditions were less than ideal for our planned activity. None of us seemed to mind though... we were having fun and were content to let the green of the trees and the white of the snow envelop us in their pure and pristine beauty.

The air was so crisp and fresh and the snow fell from the sky so soft and silent that, as I looked around, I felt as if I was watching a beautiful nature film with the sound turned down. Although I live in a rural mountainous area, it is temperate and always in motion, the coastal breezes and ocean waves providing us with a constant soundtrack. This frost covered forest was, in contrast, cold, quiet, and still; an environment to which I wasn't accustomed.

While my husband and kids were still trying in vain to get some speed and traction on the hills behind me, I stood alone in the middle of an open field, the blanket of white around me untouched except for the path of my footsteps. Entranced by my surroundings, I just stood there as the snow floated down and lightly settled upon me, not doing or thinking or being anything but present. I was just me. Me in that moment. Me in my mind. Me in my body. Me in my soul. Just ME.

A feeling of acceptance, peace and gratitude washed over me and I took it all in with a deep breath of cool, clean air... acceptance of myself, peace with my place in the world, and gratitude for my journey - past, present and most especially, future.

The sound of my kids laughing in the distance slowly came back into my perception, as if someone had turned the movie's volume up; and I realized they were calling for me to rejoin the fun. It seems I was being summoned back... Back to being a mom. Back to being a wife. Back to being a woman loved and needed by the same two eager and excited little humans as I am every day of my life. And most rewardingly, back to my position as the missing and vital puzzle piece that completes our family portrait.

2016 would be over in a couple of hours, and I was happy to see it go. It had been a year of examination, discovery, reflection, letting go, seeking resolution, and recommitting to dreams and goals that had always been there, but had begun to get lost in the shuffle along the way.

As I mentioned in my last post a couple days ago, I shared some things exclusively on Instagram and Facebook that I wrote during the final three months of 2016 in lieu of posting anything here on the blog at that time.
I am sharing those words and images below with you now to wrap up and bid farewell to what was a challenging and transformative year...

Milking It

Pacific coast Highway - Santa Monica, CA

Pacific coast Highway - Santa Monica, CA

A two and half hour, traffic laden drive from the OC to LA warrants all windows down, sunroof open, bare feet, music playing, and a leg up while driving (even when wearing a dress). I drove down to Costa Mesa this morning for a dear friend's father's funeral, a fitting end to an already emotional week for me, after the tenth anniversary of my mother's death a couple days ago.

I drove most of the way home to Malibu on the clogged 405 freeway in silence and quiet reflection, thinking about life and how those we love will all inevitably leave us at some point on our life's journey, and how I knew that this was only one in a long procession of memorial services that I already had begun to attend, as my friends and I continue to lose the beloved people that came before us and reared us into this life. I also partly dreamed about just staying down there for the rest of the day, hanging out at the beach alone or calling a friend I hadn't seen in a while to meet for coffee, a smile, and a catch-up chat. Wouldn't that be lovely, I thought.

When I finally made it to the 10 freeway, traffic opened up, and so did I... shaking off my daydreams, I took a deep cleansing breath to remind me to stay in the present and seize the moment to enjoy the cool coastal breezes that were now rushing through my open car windows. As I emerged from the McClure tunnel onto Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, traffic slowed to a crawl again, and I noticed a couple people in the cars around me craning their necks and doing double takes at me.

Now, I am a 44 year old woman in a black funeral dress in an SUV on my way home to my husband and kids, not a 22 year old freewheeling chick in cutoffs and a bikini in a sports car heading to the beach; yet, I was getting some looks. I can only guess that I must have looked slightly strange and oddly comfortable with my bare leg exposed and leaning on my door while wearing that conservative black dress. My black heels were kicked off under me and my wind blown hair was no longer in its neat little bun.

I didn't care how it looked - it was as free as I was going to feel today, and I was milking it for all it was worth.

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, October 14, 2016

Strength of Heart

Happy Kids Dental Planet - Agoura Hills, CA

This is the parking space I landed in today at my daughter's dentist office...

Seeing it reminded me that when we open our hearts, and then entrust them to others for safe keeping, we render them vulnerable to other people's insensitivity, carelessness and mistreatment. The most challenging part of recovering from the hurt and injustice done to us by others is to not close up our hearts as a means of trying to protect ourselves from additional pain.

True strength of heart hinges on our ability and willingness to keep our hearts open, kind, giving, and forgiving, despite the risk of being hurt again. It's much easier said than done, I know, but I think it's one of the most important virtues to try to honor and live by.

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, October 17, 2016

Start Doing

carljung.jpg

We are so good at saying what we feel, touting what we think, and preaching what we believe that the actual doing of it all sometimes gets lost along the way.

We promise the moon and then don't deliver it. We plant the seed then forget to water it.

Talk, talk, talk... words are our cheapest commodity. The real value is in our action and follow through.

Stop talking. Start doing.

  #actionsspeaklouderthanwords #talkischeap

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 4, 2016

Vote

Here we go...

#vote #election2016

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 8, 2016
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Be Here Now

Pantages Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Pantages Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Date night out to the theatre last Friday night. I snapped this pic before the show began but didn't share it instantly, as I didn't feel it was worth taking even one second of my attention away from my date or the beautiful architecture of the Hollywood Pantages Theatre to do it.

It's how I felt in that moment... just an overwhelming urge to remain fully present. After all that transpired last week, and the palpable uncertainty and anxiety about the future pervading the air since the election, staying present is what felt best. (And truthfully, still does.)

The show that followed this pic was an assault to the senses - so raw, so emotional, so tragic. It reminded me of how alive you can feel, how much pain you can endure, and how, no matter what you have been through or are presently going through, there is still hope for a better day, a new start, a brighter future.

Allowing ourselves to feel alive and in our tangible reality is SO important. Yes, we all have big plans. So many of us work so hard to ensure a safe and prosperous future for ourselves, our families, our world. Yet we get so caught up in it all sometimes that we forget to live. Forget to breathe. Forget to enjoy what is right in front of us. Finding gratitude for the here and now and choosing those moments to be fully present today, without an ounce of worry or concern for what's coming next, is what energizes us to face all that lies ahead and galvanizes us to do and accomplish what we need to do tomorrow. If we don't, what are we doing it all for anyway?

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 16, 2016

After The Rain Has Fallen

Malibu, CA

After the rain has fallen
After the tears have washed your eyes
You'll find that I've taken nothing, that
Love can't replace in the blink of an eye.

After the thunder's spoken, and
After the lightning bolt's been hurled
After the dream is broken, there'll
Still be love in the world.

-Sting

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, November 28, 2016

Don't Walk Away

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands - Malibu, CA

From my bedroom balcony, I watched this evening's stunning sunset unfold. With each passing minute, with every second even, the slightest shifts occurred, and the sky morphed from light blues and soft oranges to deep purples and intense pinks.

Although the changes were slow and subtle, they came in such a continuous progression that if you walked away for even a minute or two, you'd miss the whole thing.

There's no pause button. You can't walk away and come back to experience it when you're ready. It will happen whether or not you are watching.

I think the same could be said about life. Walk away, busy yourself, indulge in distractions, or simply take for granted life's pure beauty, with all its subtleties and fleeting nuances, and soon discover you're missing it... one minute, one day, one week, one month, one year at a time.

It's your choice. It's your life, and the only one you're gonna get on this Earth. Don't walk away. Don't sleep, swipe, surf, zone out, binge watch, or social media numb your way through it.

Please don't. Love it. Feel it. Breathe it. Live it. Just pay attention. It is worth it. Look up from your phone and see what's in front of you, live and unfiltered, in vibrant colors.

#nofilter

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, December 20, 2016

It Gets Joy

New years Eve 2016-17

This was the first New Year's Eve my son managed to stay awake until midnight.

Since he had never been a part of the festivities before, he didn't quite understand why we were all at his grandparents' house wearing silly hats and holding bubbly drinks.

We explained it to him by saying that when a new calendar year begins, it is kind of like the Earth having a birthday - just like how he celebrates his birthday every year.

He took a couple seconds to ponder this idea, then said quietly, "So instead of the Earth getting presents, it gets joy."

Yes, sweet pie, that's exactly right.

#insightfulbeyondhisyears #wiserthanmostadults

Posted on Instagram and Facebook, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you will join me here often for the interesting journey that is sure to be 2017.

Ten Years After My Life Before

The life I had before... I knew how to do that. I could do that forever. But now look at me. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do with all this?
— Erica Barry (in Something's Gotta Give)

Life is not a movie. No one knows this more than me. Still, just humor me here, okay?

The quote above is one of the most poignant and heartbreaking lines from a great scene in one of my favorite movies. It speaks volumes to so many of our fears of losing control, of stepping out of our comfort zone, of challenging the false egos and fabricated identities that we offer up to the world and hide behind to protect ourselves from the heartbreak of being vulnerable, of admitting we aren't fine, and of feeling and loving deeply.

Her sentiment, "What am I going to do with all this?" really resonates with me because I have felt it, not only in regard to romantic love (as she does in the film), but in regard to losing my mom... now ten years ago today.

When my mom died, so much came up in me that I was not prepared to deal with. I had my first child three months later, and my delay in fully grieving the loss of my mother until my daughter was safely outside of my body meant I was faced with embracing overwhelming joy and tremendous grief simultaneously.

WTF? Are you kidding me? How was I going to be elated about my beautiful and healthy baby girl while finally allowing myself to feel the intense anger and crippling sorrow of my mom being killed in a car accident?

What am I going to do with all this? All this feeling. All this hurt. All this love. All this disappointment. All this hope. All this sadness. What am I gonna do?

I couldn't navigate my way through it, and I didn't have the clarity, energy, motivation or support to know that I needed some sort of outlet, or some sort of outside help, to sort out the mess that was me, that sad woman buried somewhere beneath a bunch of diapers, baby wipes, burp clothes and boppy pillows.

So instead of real help, I used band-aids. I patched up my life as best I could with quick fixes, forced positive attitudes, running, yoga, clean eating, a bit of makeup, a healthy dose of denial, and the sheer abandonment of some of my deepest passions and strongest convictions. I created some semblance of a happy home life and convinced myself that it was all somehow, in some way, going to be okay the way it was now.

The way I was now.

It wasn't. I hadn't fully understood what these new roles I now was expected to fill (wife, mom, motherless daughter) would do to my former identity, or how my attempting to fill them would demolish all that I had thought of myself. Although it looked as if I played the roles pretty well from the outside, deep down I was partly broken, unhappy with myself, my ability to parent, my marriage, my choices, and my unwanted, unchosen, effed-up circumstances.

The difficulties I faced had rippling effects that forever changed the landscape of my life and led me down roads I never imagined I would venture. Roads of thoughts, feelings, words, and actions that did not serve my life. States of mind and being (sadness, anger, bitterness, fear, self doubt, insecurity and shame, to name a few) that I expected to only visit temporarily - that is, while grieving my mom, caring for needy babies and toddlers at home, and fumbling through my domesticated, messy life - were instead the states of mind and being that I set up camp and lived in for years.

In the narrative of the film, Erica dealt with her "all this" by writing. She wrote and cried and cried and wrote, and out of all of the hurt and pain and love, she created something glorious, healed herself, and moved on with her life. In the narrative of my life, over seven years had passed before I discovered that writing would be my salvation for my personal "all this."

With every word I wrote, I began to dig out of my dark tunnel both toward the light within me and the light in my life that had been eluding me. The digging was painful, enlightening, intoxicating, scary, euphoric, and all together devastating; yet, it freed me from the purgatory between "my life before" and the life I knew wanted to have in the future.

So today, on this day that means so much yet hurts so much, I am grateful that these last ten years are over. Still, the dawn of this solemn anniversary of sorts didn't flip a switch and make all my problems magically disappear. There is no ten year statute of limitation on my pain, suffering or difficulty in life. Sure, you can look at all the photos of me as a mother these past ten years, posing with my kids through faces of love, smiles and happiness, and see part of my story. And those faces are all as authentic and real as anything. But, as we all know, snapshots taken and often shared with those outside our inner world are mere snippets of a much larger picture... and rarely do they tell the whole story.

Not having my mom here hurts still. The void she left has never been filled. I feel it most when I see the grandmothers of my kids' friends enjoying their grandchildren, and the moms of my girlfriends helping their daughters like they have been doing all their lives, being there for them and showing them the unconditional love and support that only a mother can give. I miss that. This is the part of my story that makes life challenging for me.

But it's just a story. Not a movie, but a story without a completed script or a guaranteed happy ending. We all have a choice to either indulge in our stories, let them control us and dictate how we live; or to acknowledge and honor the events that unfold in them with awareness, vulnerability and acceptance. Then all we can do is just write and cry and cry and write until we create a new chapter, heal ourselves from the plot twists that we didn't see coming, and move through the remainder of our story looking forward to the parts that have yet to be written.

Freedom

Running at Zuma Beach - Malibu, CA

Running at Zuma Beach - Malibu, CA

Freedom from... 

_____________________


Today I am feeling free from things that had bound me for so long.

It's gratifying to cut the cord from those thoughts and behavioral patterns that no longer serve me, my life, or my overall well being.

It matters not that you know with what I personally fill in that blank; but rather that you know what YOU do... or at least what from which you still wish to be free.

Whatever it is, have faith. It IS possible.

Be patient. Do the work, persevere, and it will happen.

#fillintheblank

 
 
 
*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

My Abbey

Lighthouse inside the Malibu Library - Malibu, CA

Lighthouse inside the Malibu Library - Malibu, CA

I love our local library. Some days I wish I could stay here... live here. It's like in the Sound of Music when Maria returns to the Abbey and begs to stay and become a nun so she can avoid the dilemma of being in love with Captain Von Trapp. The Reverend Mother says to her, "Our Abbey is not to be used as an escape... These walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live."

Of course, she is right. You must live the life you are destined to live with hope, energy, purpose, positivity, determination, perseverance, resolve, and gratitude.

And I do... most of the time; or at least I try to.

Still it seems the strong impulse to hide, to escape, to shield ourselves from the world outside is powerful at times, especially when it all just gets to be too much. When it feels like so much is being asked of us, demanded of us, and expected of us, and we just aren't sure if we have the fortitude or grace to face it on any particular day.

My Abbey on a day like that (on a day like this) is the library. A safe, comfortable and beautiful place to just sit, write, read, learn, and get completely immersed in the endless supply of books. A place where I wish I could read and write until my heart's content, with no time limits, deadlines, or bedtimes.

I know I can't live here. I can't even visit here for more than a few minutes at a time, or without a kid in tow, between all of life's commitments. Still, it's my sweet dream I dream as I sit here in silence, reading a book or writing my thoughts down and relishing a moment to shut out the noisy world for a while.

Time spent here is fast and fleeting, and it will be over soon, at least for today, when I must begrudgingly put my bookmark back in the crease of my book, gather up my son and the books he wants to check out, and face the remainder of the day, and the coming days, until I can make my next library escape.

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.