Life is dotted with switchbacks...and maybe they are here to help.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to explore some of the wonderful National Parks of the United States. On the itinerary was a few days in Utah, hiking in Zion National Park. I was SO excited! Zion is an amazing place to be - from high cliffs to wooded back trails to beautiful winding waterways - nature is on full display here.
Going in, I was curious and energized as guides explained to us the varying difficulty levels of the hikes we could choose from. I was feeling rested and ambitious, so I didn't shy away from effort that day, and off we went. It was going to be a long trek to the "plateau" where we could access the famous Angels Landing.
The walk started off easy enough, but before too long I encountered twists and turns in the trail: switchbacks. Looking in front of me, I could see that the trail winding back and forth to accommodate a smaller...
I recently started practicing my music and singing again.
For about a decade of my life, I practiced singing and music for at least an hour every day. For a decade before that, I practiced piano, too. Getting back into a more formal practice around music making has felt like coming home in many ways for me. There are moments where it has felt like riding a bike - and then other times where I realize that the bike. is. rusty. That's OK too, I decided. It's through careful and deliberate, consistent practice that I know my body will get back into the familiar ease of music making again.
As I practice again formally, I find myself just singing more throughout the day as well. In between meetings, or as I'm getting ready for the day, I will notice myself humming a song or fully singing out loud and really being in that moment, enjoying the journey that the music takes us on. It's been really wonderful to reconnect with myself this...
This past week the New York Times put out a call for submissions from anyone who wanted to send in a voice memo and honor a loved one who moved on due to the COVID pandemic. A few nights ago I found myself with phone in hand, finger poised to press "record", and a few bulleted notes in front of me to keep track of my thoughts. A voice memo with a few poignant memories seemed an impossibly incomplete offering. Yet there I was.
I have every voicemail saved on my phone, though I haven't been able to listen in over a year now. Thinking of her always brings a smile to my face and offers extra warmth inside a tiny part of my heart. I miss her deeply, and also still call on her all the time.
It got me thinking about legacy and what we leave. It got me thinking about how we define ourselves while we are here, and how others will define us afterwards. I think that it's worth it to consider how to live in such a way that how you define yourself is...
It's been three months since I have written anything here. Three months since I had a quiet piece of time to sit and think and listen to myself. Three months since I've been in an emotional place to do it.
It's not that I didn't HAVE the time - certainly not that I could not have MADE the time. It was more that I knew I didn't have the clarity of what to say next. So it's been three months.
A lot has happened, practically, in these last few months as well, and that needs to be acknowledged. Trauma and grief and joy and celebration have all crammed into this time. For me personally, both sickness and health cycled in as well. When I write all of this down and take a look at it, it's easier to give myself a break and be kind and understanding with myself about why so much time has passed without me feeling like I could authentically engage. Of course.
But each day while I was moving through it, it didn't feel like I could...
As any of my friends will tell you - I just LOVE a cleanse.
Typically every month or so, I'll take a few days and eat a little cleaner and simpler - getting nutrients from juices and smoothies and just giving my body a little break. My body loves me for it. I find that doing this physical process not only helps me shed a few pounds, but also gives me additional energy, enthusiasm and clarity. I can't recommend them enough.
In the same way, a cleanse of your stuff and space is massively helpful and is a healthy thing to do on a regular basis. I usually do some kind of cleanse of my stuff about every quarter - to shed the things that aren't serving me and make sure that the space in which I'm living really sets me up for success.
There are SO many research-based reasons why we should all prioritize cleansing our space and keeping our lives tidy. Beyond just the cleanliness aspect of reducing dust and dirt, there are real psychological...
What I wanted to write about today is particularly timely for me personally.
The last few days I have been feeling run down, like I need to tap out and retreat a little bit. It feels like I need to cease with all the outward-facing energy and efforts I've been engaging in, and recommit to the inward-facing work that is so important and restorative. I also know that if I don't choose to take heed and listen to what my body is saying to me right now, my body will make me listen before too long. :)
It's perfect timing, because what I'm living through right now is exactly the Reminder that fall offers to us. The way we approach this time of year is important in our own cycles. We all have a periodic "fall". But that doesn't mean we are weak or failing or losing steam - it means that we are given the deliberate opportunity to take a beat and go inside to listen and prepare for what's to come.
The fall is still a very active time,...
I grew up going to New Hampshire a few times a year to visit family. We would pick blueberries and go camping in the summer, and stock up on maple syrup and admire the beautiful changing of the leaves in the fall. There is nothing else like a walk in the White Mountains - the smell of nature, especially in the morning; the colors on the trees so vibrant that not even a 96-color coloring box could cover it. Stunning.
Later, going to school in upstate New York, I got to experience it all again. Sometimes the crisp air and smells around me would take me right back to a cool morning, waking up inside the tent and pulling back the zipper to climb through and help start a fire.
It is because of experiences like these, and many others, that I have a profound appreciation and admiration for the fall. Many look around and see the changes around us just as falling leaves; "everything is dying". But I don't see the adjustment that way.
If someone asked you right now, "who are you?" - how would you answer?
Would you mention your job, your profession, perhaps that you are a parent or a partner? Would you think about your value vis-a-vis finances or property? Would you think about your outward image and how social media plays a part in your life?
Would you immediately think about your "failures" or focus on the areas you want to improve? Would you describe your physical appearance?
Essentially, would your immediate response be to define who you are by all sorts of outside measures and standards created outside of yourself?
So many of us would absolutely say "yes" to that. I used to.
From a very young age, people all around us tell us who we are - tell us what our value is, how smart we are, how talented we are, how attractive or healthy we are, how funny we are. We are informed of these things - it isn't for us to decide.
I have a few huge problems with that....
We all want to have a happy, healthy life. That's what we are all striving for, in our own ways. It will look different for every single person, but the bigger picture and the fundamental desires are the same no matter who you are.
So how do you do it? How do you get "there" and create the life you want?
The components that make up a life are like a puzzle - each with its own shape and specific purpose. They all come together and fit exactly as they are supposed to - its just a matter of making and finding those pieces and then one by one, aligning them to make the whole. I happen to love (LOVE) doing puzzles, but I know for many people, looking at the huge pile of pieces, scattered and disorganized, can be completely overwhelming. When looked at this way, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. But if you create a strategy - a plan of attack - and slowly, systematically, pick up one piece at a time and sort it, suddenly the whole...
It's high time that we re-define excellence and perfection and reorient ourselves around what real success looks like.
Achieving a high level of competence in any one area is something to strive for and hopefully achieve, to be sure. Establishing a goal and going after it with determination and persistence is a worthwhile endeavor...but not at the expense of growth.
In my experience, veering off course AND BEING ABLE TO NAVIGATE IT has been a far more valuable teacher than staying on it (as long as it doesn't literally put your wellbeing in danger).
In fact, in the moments where I am "off course", when I have been able to be in that space and remain observant and curious, I have gained incredible insight into how exactly to move forward with intention and a bit more insider info than I had while I was on that original path.
When things happen in our lives, when we have recurring thoughts, when distractions come during meditation, when life offers us...