On giving in to magical thinking

Just a few days after we got home from California, my dad died. Since then, I've shared on social media about the mementos from my life that he'd saved, the rainbows I've seen, and how it all feels connected to the song we danced to at my wedding. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. 

For the funeral, I helped select the music, sat down with the minister and talked about what would be shared. I had a voice in the narrative, and the opportunity to stand up and tell a story provided its own surreal comfort. The funeral was the one day, the only day, that I haven't cried. 

I just finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion's memoir about the first year following her husband's sudden death, and I understand when she writes:

"We have no way of knowing that the funeral will be a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning..."

I understand now that this magical thinking is not what I imagined when I first picked up the book. The magical thinking is not about putting a positive spin on things, it's about the way we trick ourselves into thinking we have some power to change what has happened, what's done. 

Didion's question is also mine: "Why did I think that this improvisation could never end? If I had seen that it could, what would I have done differently?" 

It's been two weeks since my dad's passing, and I notice how my mind is stuck in a loop, mentally reversing the clock, still believing in/wishing for the possibility of a different outcome. Trying to bring him back. 

I understand that grief and mourning is a season, but not to be mistaken for something we can place on a time schedule. I also understand that the time is now, when my emotions and memories are close, to keep writing.

I'm reminded of an article I read a while back by author Dani Shapiro, A Memoir Is Not a Status Update. Shapiro writes:

"I wonder what would have become of me if I had come of age as a writer during these years of living out loud. My parents were in a car crash in 1986 that killed my father and badly injured my mother. If social media had been available to me at the time, would I have posted the news on Facebook? Tweeted it to my followers as I stood in line to board the flight home? ....And ten years later, would I have been compelled to write a memoir about that time in my life? Or would I have felt that I’d already told the story by posting it as my status update?"

Unlike Shapiro, I am coming of age as a writer during these years of living out loud. And I'm grateful for it. But I also understand what Shapiro is saying, and I see the fine line. I understand that there are some stories that must be held close, under pressure, before they are released. 

So I will continue to write and finish my own memoir, which is about a time in my adult life with threads from my childhood woven in. The book is my attempt to make a "whole out of parts" as my lifelong friend Meg has said. 

That's what I do. Every day. I try to take parts and pieces that don't seem to fit and make it whole. 

•••

Sail on, silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way. See how they shine. Oh, and if you need a friend, I'm sailing right behind, like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind.  

•••

Thanks for reading. You can also find me on Instagram. 

16 lessons from 16 years of marriage

Shawn and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary here in California, so we loaded up the kids and drove to Aneheim to spend the day at Disneyland. On the way, I decided to ask Shawn what he's learned in our 16 years of marriage.

He talked and I typed. I mostly kept quiet, but sometimes I had to interject as noted in italics. 

1. I’m still learning about marriage. We're growing and changing and the marriage relationship is constantly changing, so the old rules and ways of doing things don't necessarily apply today.

2. If it weren't for you, I never would have entered a Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

3. You're typically right but it doesn't keep me from arguing my point. I knew it!

4. Not going to the bathroom in front of each other is a good thing. I don’t think I’ve missed anything by not seeing you pee. This was actually Shawn's rule, and I 100% agree. 

5. Women aren’t necessarily the tidier sex. Hanging things up does not seem to be a premium value. I've learned that it's okay for you to leave a mess in the bathroom, but it's not okay for me to leave a mess in the kitchen. Guilty.

6. You are in no way interested in mowing the yard. But I will scrub a toilet any day of the week. 

7. I’ve learned that you’re not that interested in going to the beach. That's not true. I'm not that interested in going to the beach with kids. But now that everyone is out of diapers, I'm coming back around.  

8. I’ve learned that you’re a good travel partner. 

9. I’ve learned that you are a great mother. 

10. I’ve learned that no matter how progressive you try to be, things still boil down to division of labor. Exactly. See number 6.

11. You’re still the same person, but now you’re the same person who has three kids. Or sick parents. Or job stress. Sometimes it's hard to remember that the person you married is still in there. They’re just buried under all of the stuff. 

12. Marriage is a commitment. You’re either committed or you’re not. But I’ve never thought about the alternative. 

13. I’ve learned that it gets better. Because we get better. When you get married, you’re still a kid.

14. Talking things out is not always a good thing. Some things are better left unsaid. 

15. You have to be willing to say you're sorry. A long hug can reset a lot of things. 

16. Marriage is a compromise and it’s not for everyone. You make decisions for the good of the team. Supporting your spouse actually elevates you. They’re happier. They’re happier with you. Everybody wins. 

I've learned that I have a wonderful husband. Thanks for playing, Shawn. Blog friends, if you'd like to share what you've learned about love and relationships, join the conversation by leaving a comment below. And, if you like this post, please share it!

Want pics from our trip to California? You can find them on Instagram. 

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Finding Home...away from home

As I write this, Shawn, the kids, and I are in California. We're staying in a condo on Venice Beach with a direct view of the Pacific Ocean—our temporary home for the next few weeks. Shawn is here for work, and because the kids are out of school for the summer, we decided to take this trip as a family.

Airport at 5am.

Airport at 5am.

Meeting the captain.

Meeting the captain.

Already, so much has happened: the kids flew on a plane for the first time, got their "wings", and were invited into the cockpit. And then yesterday, we ventured down the boardwalk and happened upon a street performance by the Calypso Tumblers. Cate raised her hand and got picked to join them.

The other priority has been to settle into our space quickly, and make it feel as much like home as possible. We've stocked up on groceries and got a temporary gym membership. We make sure to run the vacuum and wipe down counters daily. We'll spend a lot of time here in the condo—playing, resting, and just hanging out. 

This trip is significant for me because I used to want to live here, on the west coast and specifically in Los Angeles. This place once held the dreams of my younger 20-something self.

I wrote about this in detail in a recent post for skirt.com, and it's a story I've told in bits and pieces over years here on my blog. My story has been one of untangling my mixed up feelings about success and self-worth, learning to live from a more authentic place, and finding home. 

Last night, we had dinner in Santa Monica with one of Shawn's colleagues, who—in an instant—became our kids' new best friend. Highlights included pretending to be statues, eating frozen yogurt on the street, and adding heads to the mannequins at Old Navy.

In that moment, I was reminded of something important: Joy can be found all around—in the big adventures and in those everyday experiences you can do anywhere. The good stuff of life is found in relationships, and in those moments when we're able to be fully present. 

Of course, we have a long list of touristy things we want to see and do while we're here: go to Disneyland, see the Hollywood sign and Walk of Fame, and visit the Anime Jungle toy store. (My son Blake tells me this place has Power Ranger action figures you can't get anywhere else.) I'm sure this trip will feel both long and quick, and I'm glad that Charleston will be waiting for us when we get back. 

I'll see you back here on the blog—my online home—soon. In the meantime, you can follow along on Instagram and Facebook.  

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