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...
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.
Strength of Heart
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.
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.
Be Here Now
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?
After The Rain Has Fallen
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.
Don't Walk Away
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.
It Gets Joy
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.
Happy New Year to you all. I hope you will join me here often for the interesting journey that is sure to be 2017.