Love Hike

My husband and I fell in love hiking. We met on April 20, 2000 while both living in Burbank, and for the first few months of our courtship, we would meet almost every day after work to hike and trail run through Griffith Park.

We've lived in Malibu for nearly 15 years now, and we've hiked and trail run all through the Santa Monica Mountains to the coast - most recently Nicholas Flats, in which the lake is fuller and the trail more lush than it has been in years.

Three days shy of five years together, we were married on April 17, 2005 at the Adamson House in Malibu... which means we are celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary today. 💕

It's not always been an easy road, but our marriage is stronger now in the wake of the bumps and bruises it's taken over the years, and with a healthy sense of reality, perspective, positivity and perseverance.

#happyanniversary #twelveyears

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook

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.

Eleven Years of Wedded...

... bliss. That's what you were thinking, right? The word that most often ends any sentence containing "years of wedded" is BLISS. It's ironic that bliss is the word we expect to fill in that blank when bliss is not the word most people married more than a year would use to describe their marriage being full of.

After all, bliss is something we feel when eating chocolate, having sex, lying on the beach, or binge watching our favorite TV show... not when coping and coexisting with a spouse day in and day out. It seems any degree of bliss that exists in the realm of marriage is usually confined to the moment of engagement, the day of the wedding, the honeymoon, and whatever number of months go by before reality sets in.

So how did "bliss" become the anointed word to describe the state of marriage, when the term "wedded bliss" is itself an oxymoron? Moreover, why do people continue to tie the knot when this concept is widely held, and often humorously accepted, as the dismal truth?

I celebrated my eleventh wedding anniversary last week, and I can unequivocally say that these first eleven years of marriage have been anything but wholly blissful. Still, misery, the antonym of bliss, would not be an accurate word to complete that title sentence either. For me, marriage has trod steadily between the paths of blissful and miserable... traversing a road riddled with potholes, wearing blinders to warning signs advising it to reroute in a different direction from where it was heading, and coming close to falling off a cliff a few times.

When a marriage starts off as storybook perfect and ridiculously promising as mine did, this bleak assessment may sound overdramatic, or just hard to believe; especially for those who attended the wedding or have seen the wedding photos.

I was married five years almost to the day of meeting my husband at a birthday party in a karaoke bar. True, nothing about that fact sounds storybook or promising; but I assure you, as kitschy as the setting was, it was wildly exciting when our eyes met across a crowded room, and sweetly romantic when he wrote down his phone number, walked me to my car, gave me a hug, and earnestly asked me to call him.

Our courtship was immediate and exclusive, and we were engaged four years later. We took a year to plan the wedding; and a month out, our wedding photographer shot our "engagement session" - a photo shoot that solidified our status as a couple madly in love and destined to be together forever. I mean, how could we be anything short of blissful in marriage after those photos?

We snuggled in wildflower fields, explored coastal caves, walked hand in hand along the shore, all the while staring into each others eyes and kissing... everywhere... on the rocks, in the caves, on the beach, and in the water. Lying on the sand seductively smooching as the tides enveloped us, like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity (but with clothes on), we were the picture of true romance, burning passion, and undying love.

As a woman who was about to marry the man of her dreams, I had no idea just how little I knew about the realities of the life to which I was committing myself... how idealistic I was about my expectations for married life... and how firmly I believed that love will conquer all, love is all that matters, and love will sustain in the hard times.

Our wedding was an event to behold - flawless, gorgeous, timeless, and dare I say... perfect. It was the happiest day of my life, as I have attested to for years. It was so perfect and I was so happy that it all set me up for a big, fat fall. I soon discovered through the travails and trials of life, unexpected family tragedy, and birthing a couple of babies, that the actual experience of marriage does not equate to the elation of the wedding day, nor does it resemble an engagement session. Not even close.

Yet, this is not where I say how wrong I was to believe as I did. This is not where I admit defeat and profess how naive and unrealistic I was to believe all that foolish love mumbo jumbo.

Well, maybe it is.

It's not that I was wrong about LOVE, per se. I do not and will not refute the power of love to uplift, heal, and do all kinds of miraculous things. I truly believe love will conquer all, love is all that matters, love will sustain in the hard times, and all the other meaningful memes about love. Oh, "love wins" is another one.

What I was wrong about was the kind of love that conquers, matters, sustains, and wins.

Ultimately, as a young, fresh-faced, newly engaged fiancé, it was ROMANTIC love that I hung my hopes on and put my blind faith in. You know... Romance. Happily Ever After. Fairy Tale Love. Romantic Comedy Love. Whatever you want to call it, I was fully invested in this variety of love and believed wholeheartedly that the fervent love I felt was IT, the real deal. This was the stuff. This was the love that will last.

But romantic love did not live up to all the hype. The false advertising I was fed all those years as a young girl - one born, bred, and brainwashed by soap operas, romantic comedies, and silly love songs - was debunked by the challenges of marriage. I had believed, or wanted so badly to believe, that the dreamy brand of love that all those melodramas, far-fetched narratives, and sappy lyrics were heralding was not only the kind of love I should desire and seek more than anything else, but it was the only kind of love that mattered in the context of an intimate relationship.

Intensity, passion, conflict, drama, attraction, and the desperate love for another human being... these were the attributes in which I was indoctrinated to believe. These were the emotions celebrated and lauded as the essential ingredients that define true love stories.

But they don't. Oh my, how they don't.

Love is so much more than a passionate kiss in the park. It is so much more intricate than a romantic snapshot on the beach. And although swooning over someone is fun and exhilarating, it will not sustain a relationship... much less a marriage. Romantic love does not even sustain itself most of the time, its power is so fleeting and temperamental. Its delicate survival depends on an unrealistic mix of circumstance, expectation, and the existence of simultaneous feelings and efforts on the part of two diverse and complicated people. Of individuals who sometimes don't even know what they want themselves, while being expected to fulfill the needs, desires, and dreams of another.

Soon after pledging "I give you this ring," my relationship began to be strained by unexpected roadblocks and pitfalls that quickly challenged my notions and expectations of how married life would be for us. The story I had written in my own mind was not the one playing out in my life. Work and economic setbacks coupled with the death of my mother and the birth of my baby made the first few years of married life especially difficult.

Yet, more than anything, my husband's and my divergent viewpoints and differing philosophies on almost everything under the sun made our signature "opposites attract" love affair much less charming and endearing than it was before we said our I dos. The attributes in each other that had intrigued us in courtship were becoming liabilities in wedlock.

This disturbing new perspective did not bode well for our proficiency as partners in parenting; and the conflicts that arose between us after having children further eroded the fondness and devotion we had for each other - that which I had once deemed unshakable. I was forced to realize that love after, and within, marriage is so much more than a flutter in your heart, butterflies in your stomach, or desire in your body. I came to recognize that love has to surpass the romantic realm and elevate to a higher vibration in order to withstand all that life throws at it. That it must let go of ego, find humility, cultivate depth of character, and shed its romantic fallacy to transform into a version of itself that knows full well what it's up against, yet charges into battle anyway with a strong will to triumph.

Sometimes, love in marriage is as simple as staying. As simply being there. As being true to the intentions that fueled its existence in the first place. It is rooted in reality, commitment, and duty... in surviving late night feedings, postpartum depression, and disagreements about how to raise kids... in overcoming career crises, money issues, and disparate dreams for the future... in staying home Friday nights to watch family flicks, play board games, and wake up early for Saturday morning soccer games... and in understanding that the big picture we're living is far more significant and paramount than the small illusions we contrive in our minds and hearts.

The sprinkles on top of all that sobering responsibility and accountability can most definitely be romance, lust, candlelight, flowers, sex and candy... whatever floats your boat; but these sprinkles alone should never be expected to keep a marriage afloat. Unwittingly place romantic love at the foundation of your marriage, expecting it to hold it all up, and perfectly construct an imperfect union in peril of drowning under the weight, truth and actuality of life, careers, egos, kids, growth, aging, and the passage of time.

So as I enter my twelfth year of marriage, I take all that I have learned and move forward. Forward as a wife, mother and woman who knows what it takes; while still being a wife, mother and woman who knows it is not easy to do, be, or live what it takes. The knowing is now the easy part, the doing is definitely the hard challenge, and the trying means absolutely everything. Keep trying and soon find the doing will happen, even when it doesn't seem like it will.

And that doing of it... is LOVE.

with our one and five year olds - January 2012

with our one and five year olds - January 2012

*For the follow up story about how this post was received by thousands of readers, go to Honestly, I Want to See You Be Brave.

Fun with Hubs in the Pack-En-Dub

Quick trivia lesson: The Pacific Northwest (the region comprised of the states of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, along with the province of British Columbia) is sometimes abbreviated to simply "Pac NW" and pronounced "Pack- En-Dub". Maybe you already knew this, but I just learned of it because my husband and I recently returned from a trip up there. Our ten year wedding anniversary is this month, so we decided we were going to take a trip somewhere to commemorate the occasion. We first thought of going on a cool couples adventure retreat, where we could mountain bike, trail run, do yoga and eat organic meals for days on end. We also considered taking a spa getaway somewhere secluded to indulge a bit and rekindle our romance.

Then reality hit us. Realizing we had to fit a trip in during the kids' spring break three weeks before our actual anniversary and accepting that we better do it somewhere close so we didn't waste too much time on travel, we resolved to stay on the west coast. And who are we kidding, our youngest is still only four and I wasn't jazzed at the thought of being too far from him for too many days in a row. Mama has separation issues, I admit.

So we settled on the "pack en dub" and dropped the kids at the grandparents' house in central California before heading up for a short six day jaunt. Not the grand anniversary trip I had pictured in my head months before, but it was time away nevertheless. Any break from the norm is therapeutic, and spending time essentially masquerading around as a carefree, autonomous couple, one unhindered by school schedules or bath and bedtime rituals, was a pleasant departure. We galavanted around cities we had never seen and explored places we had never been with the freedom and abandon of teens without a curfew... or at least that's what I envisioned we were doing. In reality, it probably didn't look quite like that. 

   

To start, I had a terrible cough, so bad that we seriously considered canceling the trip just a few days before we left. Although it seemed to get progressively better as the days rolled on, it still put a damper on enjoying an anniversary trip during which your husband apprehensively kissed you between hacking coughs for fear of catching it himself. Wildly romantic, I know.

Second, as we have such different ideas of what constitutes fun these days, we were hard pressed to find activities we both were equally excited to participate in. While I am the art museum type of tourist, a seeker of local culture and historical landmarks, curious and excited to explore the sights, sounds, eats, and haunts a locale is known for; my husband likes to exist on the fringes, be the anti-tourist, and runs in the opposite direction of the traps that attract most visitors, looking to forge a new trail off the beaten path, usually somewhere in nature and outdoors, with no plan or idea if the direction he is going will be worth the effort or will be a complete waste of time. The planner in me found this very unsettling, and the adventurer in him felt my desire to stay in the city and not explore the unknown (and risk wasting any of the limited time we had on this trip!) was confining and made him very restless.

We went to Seattle first, and both loved it more than expected. We arrived there early in the morning, like 8am early, after waking at 4am to catch our plane, and our first stop was inevitably Pike Place Market where we happily discovered The Crumpet Shop, proceeding to stand in a crazy long line out the door for a well worth it breakfast. Walking the market was amazing, with all its levels and hollows, and impossible to explore in its entirety. We strolled by the original Starbucks and found the sidewalk in front of it was so crowded with lookie-loos and the inside of it was so packed with tourists that we both agreed (yay!) that that was one place we could live without experiencing. Instead, we got coffee at Storyville Coffee Pike Place - a cozy nook we loved so much that we went there twice in our short two days in Seattle. Yes, the coffee was yum, but what sold us was sinking into the comfy, cognac leather chairs in front of a warm fireplace while sipping it. Heaven. I also met up with a dear college friend of mine at Storyville, whom I hadn't seen for over twenty years, for a coffee, a sweet, and an hour long chat. That lovely hour was nowhere near long enough for us to fully catch up, but seeing her was a wonderful perk to the trip.

At night, the market emptied out and the streets were wet and glistening after being hosed down from a day full of visitors, fresh fish and floral sales. It was peacefully quiet when we finally wandered into Matt's in the Market for a late dinner and were the last to be seated for the night. Looking out the restaurant's huge arched windows at the looming Public Market Center clock and sign lit up in bright red neon, we thoroughly enjoyed this quaint yet classy eatery, dining on the most incredible halibut and sea scallops we had ever tasted.

The final attraction of this first city in our two-city romp was the Space Needle, despite his trepidation and resistance to visiting it. Once we were at the top, watching the sun set over the water and looking out at that spectacular view, he was slow to admit that I was right and it may have just been worth the trouble of behaving like a tourist and waiting in a line to experience it.

We then took a three hour train ride from Seattle down to Portland and stayed in the Southwest section of the city, smack in the middle of the bustling downtown. Walking around amidst intermittent rain showers, where I swear no one carries an umbrella, we gazed up from below the colossal Portlandia statue, stood in the long line of hipsters and vagrants at VooDoo Donuts to sample pastries covered in Oreos and Butterfingers, witnessed the fire and flair of a theatrical Spanish Coffee order at Huber's Cafe, and enjoyed an extravagant Peruvian dinner at Andina in the hip Pearl District. But above all, one of the greatest treats during our three days in Portland was visiting with two of my oldest and dearest childhood friends who have both lived there for over twenty five years. They were kind enough to give us the grand tour of their city, and we were grateful they took the time out of their daily schedules to be such gracious hosts.

Most unexpectedly, we next found ourselves bearing the freezing cold temps (i.e. freezing cold to this wimpy So. Cal. girl) and spraying mist of Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. We had to rent a car and drive thirty miles outside the city of Portland to do this, and that took some convincing on his part to get me to agree to it. As we're in the car so much at home, I was looking forward to a week solely on foot and not having to ride in a car at all, other than an Uber lift from the airport. But despite the bit of driving, it was now my turn to concede that his detour out of the city - with its fresh air and lush green scenery - was a welcome reprieve from the grit and noise of the downtown cityscape.

   

My nagging cough be damned, I was determined to get in at least one yoga class while in each place, and before we left home, I had already picked the very studios I wanted to visit. In Seattle, hubs and I took a power flow class with Chandra at Yoga to the People, a donation-based yoga studio that originated in New York City and has expanded to Seattle, Berkeley, and San Francisco. The class was full and Chandra was a kind, effective instructor. After class, our appetites guided us to look for food right away, and we were fortunate to find a fantastic lunch at Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe. Then in PortIand, I alone took a power yoga class at Yoga on Yamhill, a small, donation-based studio in the heart of downtown, right next to the MAX Blue Line light rail. Studio owner Paul Terrell and I have a common bond as students of Bryan Kest, and it was lovely to attend his class and enjoy the familiarity of a kindred yoga practitioner.

All in all, it was a short, yet fun, excursion; and being able to recapture a bit of that pre-kiddo vibe and enjoy a somewhat carefree vacation was well worth the weeks of pre-planning and incessantly hacking and coughing my way through the Pac NW. Truth be told, it was not a trip free of conflict, as we had a few arguments that I could have done without. Nevertheless, we put forth our best efforts to make it special, and to celebrate still being married after ten years of, well, marriage. It seems six days in two bustling cities full of attractions and distractions was inevitably not going to be a magic pill that transformed us back into the starry-eyed newlyweds we were on our ten day honeymoon. It was, however, a welcome reprieve from the whirlwind that is parenthood - of PTA meetings, little league games, spelling tests, toddler potty mishaps and early morning wake ups.

It was also a lovely introduction to the Pacific Northwest, and what I know is only the tip of the iceberg as far as seeing this beautiful region. We can't wait for our next trip up there and take the opportunity to explore the Oregon coast, Washington's Orcas/San Juan Islands, and maybe even the Canadian cities of Victoria and Vancouver. Now that will be a trip the kids won't want to miss.