Thursday, December 31, 2015

Life in Pieces

June 2015.  That was the last time I published a blog post.  6 long months ago.  It was also the last time, I wrote anything more than my daily "To Do" list.  I have been completely constipated--creatively speaking.  

June 2015.  We closed on a new house.  Not a new, new house--relatively old in fact--1989, but new to us.  In the beginning, we were excited.  The "new to us" house sat on Lake Norman and  I imagined myself sitting on the deck for hours sipping wine and writing, writing, writing as the water soothed my central nervous system and sparked my creativity.  I fantasized about boating and kayaking and paddle boarding.  In my minds eye, I could see my newly defined abs from all that paddling!  And most of all, I felt certain that as a family our quality of life together would increase exponentially.  The kids would be so excited to live on a lake, they'd willingly leave behind the digital world they live in and spend time frolicking in the surf.

But almost immediately, as we put our house on the market to sell, anxiety took hold of my heart and began to squeeze the breath right out of me.  The children were not allowed to sit on the furniture for fear of crushing a perfectly puffed pillow.  They were not allowed to eat inside the house.  All snacks and meals were served outside on the deck.  I stopped cooking meals.  Everything was take-out so that counters stayed clean and dishes stayed done.  I've always thought I walked extremely close to the edge of insanity.  But during this time, I jumped right off the fricking cliff.

Panic set in when the old house, which was actually newer than the new house, didn't sell within the first month.  That's right.  We closed on the new house in mid-June with no offer on the old house.  We owned two houses (and two mortgages) and the real pisser was that the kids were not even excited about moving or living on the lake.  In fact, the day the moving truck arrived,  Numero Dos threw himself on the ground.  Flailing and sobbing, he exclaimed, "My whole life is a downgrade!"

A downgrade!

Can you imagine how spoiled my children must be that moving to a house on a lake is a downgrade? Of course the truth is, he wasn't exactly wrong.  From it's brass fixtures, to it's one-piece fiberglass shower inserts, to the popcorn ceilings in the basement--this house was a downgrade, relatively speaking.  But it was still on the freaking water.  That's got to count for something, right!?

Wrong.  We experienced one disappointing set back after another.  The flooring company, which we hired to refinish the hardwood floors, flooded the house before we even moved in resulting in the decimation of the main floor powder room and the basement bedroom.  6 months later, both rooms are still barren wastelands.  The toilets were not a standard 12" on center and now sit two inches away from the walls.  The washer and dryer I purchased were too big for the space resulting in the loss of the closet doors and there was no garbage disposal.  None.  So, take the stress of not selling the first house, add in a slew of installation mishaps, multiply it by the gut-wrenching sound of your child sobbing everyday after school because we left a neighborhood he loved and you've got a recipe for depression, anger, frustration and regret.

And thus I didn't write.  Writing about anything other than my true feelings seemed disingenuous and really who wants to listen to me whine about how much it sucks that we chose to buy a house on a lake?  Does anyone feel sorry for me?  Shit, I don't even feel sorry for me.  And besides, I had the perfect solution.

We needed a boat!  A boat would make everything better.  What good is it to live on a lake if you can't even get out on the water?  And so we bought a boat.  But, you know what?  The boat did not make us feel better.  Not even by a little bit, because not only did we discover that our lack of knowledge around a boat only led to more frustration, but we also discovered that our boat lift didn't work.  Chalk up one more disappointment to the tune of $8500 in favor of the house.

Fast forward to this week--the last week of 2015, I stumbled upon this blog post.  I am going to post it in it's entirety as it is the catalyst for me picking up pen and paper this week...and I just happen to think it's really, really, good!

by Grant Andrew
COO IE Dawson International

I’ve been thinking about breathing lately. 
How it just seems to happen.
We don’t think about it until it gets labored or we are short of a breath or two.
But under everything in our lives, is breathing.
It is a kind of ground for consciousness.
It is keeping the lights on.
The quality of your day is dependent on ~20,000 breaths a day.
Our world is built of pieces. Like breaths.
The quality of your internet connection reflects how well the packets are moving.
Your nutritional intake is dependent on bites of food.
Big ideas are made of little flashes moving through your brain up to 268 miles per hour. (Sparks move inside you.)(Baby, you’re a fireworkfly)
We are pieces of pieces.
Companies, communities, and causes are made of people.
We see things as monolithic – solid, whole, together, but when you really get inside something, there are always pieces.
Atoms, Lego blocks, letters, and slow-twitch muscle fibers. All pieces.
What we accomplish is made of pieces too. The life you make, the work you do, the relationships you’re a part of…made of pieces.
It is tempting this time of year to teeter between euphoria and despair.
In every life, in every year, there’s always a hope for more. We have almost infinite capacity for hope and longing, so we want more from everything. Standing at the end of such a clear block of time, it’s not difficult to look back and despair for all that wasn’t, didn’t, or won’t be.
Turning our gaze forward, it’s easy to imagine the next year differently. So much that will be. All our hopes/dreams/longings manifested. Big things birthed, big breaks healed, big holes filled. Such a glorious and euphoric view, the future is.
The truth is more pedestrian. The future and the past are all just pieces. The same pieces, actually, that you have right now.
Breathe.  Swallow.  Blink.  Think.
That’s what makes this life beautiful and difficult.

Everything is small, simple, easy. The next right move, the next deep breath, the next right word.
But everything worth doing is difficult because it is a million right moves, a thousand deep breathes, pages and pages and pages of the next right words.
Life is made of pieces. We traffic in pieces. We are made of pieces. We are pieces. All we get is PIECES.
So even now, good traveler, as you stand in this present, this piece, at the moment when the line of NOW and the end of a big block of time happen to align, don’t get lost.
Your task today is easy. Your task for this next year is simple:
Take control of the pieces.
That’s it.
Think of all the big dreams you have. The moments you long for. The ones that will take away all your breaths. Break them down. To pieces. Look at them, so cute and cuddly. The atomic layer of your deepest hopes. Just little pieces. The tiniest manifestation of your dreams.
Look at this next year. 
Don’t see it whole. Don’t see it in quarters or months.
See it in seconds. Minutes. Moments.
Set your intentions high – aim for your Everest – then come back to the present, set your compass true, and a take a step.
Take a breath. Swallow. Blink. Think.
2016 is coming. And 17. And 18. Don’t worry about those.
We are made of pieces, we make pieces, pieces make us.
Please make good pieces. The world is hungry for your hearts. 

Enjoy the journey.
Throughout all the stress, anger, disappointment and regret, rather than lean on my yoga practice for strength, I ran from it.  In fact, I practically hid.  Yoga is quiet and calm.  It requires stillness of the mind and body.  But it takes time to sit in stillness, and I didn't have any time.  I was too busy trying to sell one house and prepare to move into another house.  There was too much cleaning to do.  And then there was too much packing to do, and then unpacking, moving, worrying, and mostly feeling sorry for myself.  Do you know how much energy is required to feel sorry for oneself?  I had nothing left for my yoga practice.  I didn't even have time to sit and breathe.

And then I came across this lovely, poetic blog post and the first line caught my attention:  I've been thinking about breathing lately.  I used to tell any one that would listen, that for me, the magic of yoga was in the breath.  And yet for the past six months, I have been holding my breath, drowning in regret and self-loathing.

"The future and the past are all just pieces. The same pieces, actually, that you have RIGHT NOW.  Life is made of pieces. We traffic in pieces. We are made of pieces. We are pieces. All we get is PIECES.  Our world is built of pieces--Like breaths." 

There is an old zen saying:  "You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you are too busy; then you should sit for an hour."

This year, I plan to breathe more, regret less and break everything down into small, delicious, bite-sized pieces.

There are so many morals to this story.  I know I don't need to type them in black and white.  As a post script, we received an offer on the old house mid-July and closed early August.  One week later, we made our first payment on the the new house, being spared the hardship of making two mortgage payments in the same month.

I am sending up prayers of thanksgiving right this second as I am once again reminded of how everything always works out in the end.

Happy 2016.  

May your year be filled with lots of happy pieces!