then and now

One year ago, I woke up eager to get out of the house after being snowed in for a week. Being “snowed in” in the DC metro area means something different than it does in farther northern reaches. Whereas in Maine, the snow falls and the plows steadily carve a reliable passage for cars and pedestrians so that people can quickly return to business as usual, here a few inches of snow can paralyze the region for days. The 36 inches of snow we received in one fell swoopy storm shut down roads, schools, work, the metro system, and the federal government. 

But on January 28, 2016, I was breaking out of confinement for a few hours. I tightened the sling that held my healing (and aching) shoulder and draped a jacket around me, excited for, of all things, physical therapy.

I didn’t return home for five days. 

The slip on the ice (frozen melted snow) that led to a shattered ankle, surgery, and three months in a wheelchair left a mark, but one that fades a little each day. I’m still not perfect, but I can tell when rain is imminent. I probably won’t wear heels again. I don’t know if I could flee from an attacker, but in a hurry the other day I tried jogging down the walkway to the car and that didn’t really work so well. The one-legged balance poses in yoga that I used to love now challenge my balance and strength to the core. Some days I forget the break happened; others, the pressure from my blankets and comforter alone are enough to make my ankle throb. 

But I grew closer to even my dearest friends. I got to spend three weeks living with my sister, the longest time we’d spent together since her childhood. I’ve shed all scraps of modesty. (I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.) I’ve learned to accept help and even ask for it. And finally, I’m writing again. 

But the next snow storm – and the one after that and the one after that? I’m staying inside until every snowbank melts. 

When the time comes, send books and wine. 

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Marching forward

I woke up this morning to an achy body and bursting heart. Both sensations kept me weepy all day.

When the boys and I left home Saturday morning to meet up with the families who comprise our proverbial village, I had no idea what to expect aside from sore feet and complaints of hunger. In fact, I had a little talk with the boys before we even left home.

“Listen, today isn’t going to be easy. There might be a lot of people. We won’t be able to quickly leave if you’re tired or hungry. So just remember that fighting for what you believe in isn’t always comfortable and it isn’t always fun.”

I didn’t “make” my kids join the Women’s March on Washington. I’d decided to walk when I first saw the announcement, but initially figured I’d leave the kids home, fearful of subjecting them to acts of violence. But both expressed concern for this new Administration and a desire to take a stand, so we outfitted up, pockets full of snacks, and joined the throes.

“I wish I’d made a sign,” my younger son said immediately upon getting off the metro and seeing the sea of posterboard. He got something better; a marcher handed him a Ziploc bag containing a pink hat knit by a woman in Kansas unable to come for the march. (He didn’t take it off until bedtime.)

We walked. We chanted. We shared stories with the people we encountered. We smushed in close and spent the entire march keeping track of the kids in our village. We were 14 adults and 11 kids, though it certainly felt like those numbers were flipped, head on a pivot constantly counting and recounting. We didn’t make it to the rally (or anywhere near the Jumbotrons), wedged as we were on the Mall-side of the Native American Museum, just a few blocks from the action. So many people were packed into this usually wide open space that we never made it to the actual march route; instead our part of the crowd carved a wide and densely populated path to merge in with the rest of the marchers on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I’ve been to a few Inaugurations, Wembley Park for a legendary concert, the Esplanade in Boston for 4th of July festivities, and I’ve never experienced such a friendly, supportive and polite crowd. There was little pushing. Lots of information comparing/sharing. A warm camaraderie underpinned the grit, determination and passion evident on faces and signs. When in midafternoon we peeled off to head back to the metro, I was surprised to turn back and see the sea of pink overtaking the city; I wasn’t surprised this morning to read zero arrests were made in connection with the event.

We got home exhaused but exhilirated. Hungry, but ready for more. “We marched for a good cause,” noted my older kid. “Defending the rights of you and my friends is totally worth it.”

The hard work starts now. The new administration already scurbbed the words climate change from the White House website, like deleting those two words will make the crisis disappear. The new press secretary lied in his first press conference, which didn’t involve the press at all but served as a venue for him to scold the media for reporting the numbers from the day before. (Why is this White House so focused on size?) And the president made a jab at marchers before appearing to have his Twitter handle taken over by a more moderated set of thumbs.

This is our new normal; it’s anything but normal and it’s not okay. What I learned and felt yesterday is that I am not alone. For the last two months, I felt helpless; now I’m unstoppable.

hello, 2017

Two days ago, I stood waist-deep in the Hawaiian surf and braced against the push-pull of the ocean. I dug my toes in the sand and tightened through the core as stronger swells moved by and through me; I relaxed slightly when I detected the undertow had let up. Yet I remained vigilant against the natural force more powerful than me; 2016’s many surprises trained me well.

I contemplated my goals for the new year. Some I could count. Lose weight. Write more. Double the yoga hours I teach. Go on x number of dates. Save money. Volunteer. But many I couldn’t. Put the phone down. Listen better. Be more patient, thoughtful, present. Experiment. I grew agitated with this exercise. Should I set 17 goals? Or one for each month of the year? One quantifiable and one unquantifiable a quarter? A combination of work, family, creativity, travel?

A new swell of bigger waves moved in and I tried something. I didn’t grip so hard. Sure, the tide pulled me a little this way and pushed a little that way. That is life. I don’t want to constantly brace for the next big one. And I don’t want to make a super specific list of goals. Instead I’m recommitting to living an authentic life. When I focus on manifesting what makes me happy and healthy, I naturally achieve the named and unnamed goals embedded in body, mind and spirit.

If I can do that I will truly experience a happy new year.