Shenandoah Sunsets (for My Sister)

It’s 5:04 pm on a Saturday but if I hadn’t consulted my phone I’d have no idea what time of day it was. The sky has been the same translucent grey since I woke up, making it impossible to distinguish between morning and evening. I’m typing this on my phone as I walk laps around the park a few blocks from my house; I wanted to sit and write but my body – just like my mind – is not accustomed to stillness. For a multitude of reasons (global pandemic included, of course) I’ve felt more thrown off in the past 24 hours than I have in a while.

I have so much anxious energy in my body; not entirely in a bad or negative way like it sometimes is – but just an overwhelming amount of it, like if I don’t move around it will swirl around inside me like a tornado, sweeping up everything in its path, gaining strength until eventually I explode?

I miss my sister so much. I painted this watercolor while thinking of her:

A sunset in Shenandoah National Park, inspired by Leslie

I wish I could reach into my belly and extract like a heavy mass all the love I have for her and Express Mail it to London.

This morning she sent me pictures of the gorgeous flowers out in London and I had this thought that they’d all bloomed for her. Like all the flowers, in all the gardens across London, put their heads together – each arching in with their stems so that their flowered heads touched – and were like, “OK guys, it’s time. Leslie needs us. Give us your best bloom.” Like the flowers knew that she – more than anyone else – is always, always there for her family and friends, sometimes to the point where she neglects herself. And that the flowers saw this and said, “Hey, Leslie needs some love, too.”

And we all do. We all need love, especially now. And so much of this energy I have in my body is made up of love for everyone in my life: Leslie, my family, my friends, even strangers I pass (six feet away) on the street. Sometimes I don’t know where to put it all and it swells up inside me and I find myself like I am now: walking in circles, typing furiously on my phone, looking like a madwoman. Which, a lot of times, I’m pretty sure I am.

I take a deep breath; the moisture in the air tingles in my nose.

Some Things I Thought While Watching the Sun Set This Evening

Feel free to call me out as hypocrite here; I know I’m usually the person running and riding and squashing around like crazy. But today, the only exercise I got was walking two blocks from my front door to watch the sunset (OK, fine, also to pick up dinner at the Whole Foods hot bar because I’m a lazy and impatient piece of garbage who didn’t want to wait for pasta water to boil). And as I watched the exceptionally beautiful sunset (again, probably played a role in my current sentiments) I thought to myself, “I don’t need any more from ‘exercise’ than this.”

By which I mean that even though I have spent the majority of my life playing sports or being active, there’s only so much the intense physical activity is necessary for my happiness. I run and ride and hike because for me, to be outdoors is to be happy, no matter what it is I’m doing. To be able to sit outside and watch the sunset, or to spot the new flower blooming in front of my neighbor’s house, or to smell the ocean or the eucalyptus trees when they’re nearby; that is happiness.

And the feeling of my legs underneath me and my breath colder against the becoming-crisper October air; that is happiness.

And to notice: the smallest corners of the earth, my breath, the simultaneous silence of a sunset and the background cries of a bird or a child; that is happiness.

When I heal I will return to my sports and my jogs, I can’t pretend I won’t. There’s something about my heart beating hard in my chest and the burning of my quads that gives me an endorphin rush. But after not having any of that for the past six weeks – and believe me, I never thought I’d say this – I genuinely think I’d be ok without it. As long as I have this sacred earth’s nature, and the ability to notice and feel even the smallest moments of beauty and awe within it, I think I might just be alright.

(P.S. I wrote this stream-of-consciousness while sitting outside, in the dark, on the sidewalk outside Whole Foods. When I say that these are my unfiltered thoughts, know it’s no exaggeration.)

Women Are Magic

I’m starting my Friday the way I’ve started every day for the past week: brushing my teeth (difficult because I can’t bend over to spit in the sink), sitting on the couch (well-equipped with multiple pillows and blankets for maximum comfort), washing down my morning pain medication with iced coffee (who needs water?), and listening to music. I have to say – aside from the always-dull-and-sometimes-sharp pain in my chest and back – I’m enjoying having the time and space for these slow mornings. In my dreams of retirement this is how I spend each morning, though maybe I’ll have to substitute the coffee for decaf, and ideally I’m in a log cabin in the mountains (and will I even be able to retire in this economy?!).

This morning I’m listening to one of the most beautiful songs dans le monde:

This song feels like a secret that I’ve kept hidden away in some deep corner of my heart… the kind of secret, like a hidden trail in the mountains, that you simultaneously want others to experience the magic of but also don’t want to give away because it feels like losing a part of yourself?

Every time I listen to this song I’m overwhelmed by the power and emotion and incredible beauty that Joan produces from nothing but an acoustic guitar and her voice, the closest humans will ever come to making true magic…

And then I think about this woman, this one woman, and how I wish I were so beautiful, and how there are so many beautiful women in this world making magic, small and tender magic, loud and powerful magic, some of which will be recognized but most of which the world will never see, confined to their minds and souls and maybe sometimes shared with those closest to their hearts.

I hate that women have been reduced to external beauty. I hate that we as women have reduced ourselves to external beauty. F*ck the modeling industry and the media and superficiality and Instagram and any place where a woman’s body replaces her mind as the voice people listen to. I despise the society that forces this superficial beauty on us; but, even more so, I am angry that we often force it in ourselves; that women take pictures and sell bikinis and sports bras and an image of themselves to other women.

Women like Joan Armitrading and Jane Goodall and Toni Morrison and Ida B. Wells and Ada Lovelace and Patti Smith and Nina Simone and Billie Jean King and my best friends and the barista who greets me my name every morning at Starbucks and my grandmother and the mother sitting with her kids on the bus on their way to school and all the little girls writing poetry in their bedroom are who come to mind when I think of beautiful women. I feel lucky whenever I get to experience the power and depth and passion of these women, and am angered and saddened when I think about all the other beautiful women whose souls I haven’t gotten to know because they’ve been silenced or afraid or forgotten. As I share my thoughts here I think of women who have so much more to say, so much that needs to be heard but isn’t, and I wish I had a voice like Joan’s or a heart like that mother on the bus or a brain like Maya Angelou’s and I want to know them all. I don’t want to see another picture in a magazine, I don’t want to watch as a woman congratulates another women for being “beautiful” on a post on social media. I want us to know these women, to know all women, to recognize their real beauty.

Flowers & Fullness

One of my best friends said to me the other day, “I like that you only post [on your blog] when you have something to say.” (She is also, un-coincidentally, one of two (2) people who reads this blog.) Unfortunately, I’ll be straying from this paradigm today – and likely in the next few posts as well – since I’m couch-ridden and have nothing better to do than spew my thoughts into the black hole of zee interwebs.

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Perhaps the most frustrating part of my recovery process (my days alternate between sleeping and lying on the couch) is the lack of creative inspiration I’ve felt. Most of my (subjectively) great ideas and thoughts come to me when I’m in motion: walking, jogging, or biking, which is why this post and the following will likely lack direction and inspiration.

Anyway – trying to remain ~on brand~, if you will, during my hospitalization and recovery process has been challenging. Thanks to the appetite-suppressing effects of my medication, the drastic change in my lifestyle from (arguably too) active to completely sedentary, and the logistical difficulty of eating with a neck brace, the consumption of my favorite foods has proved to be a formidable endeavor. That being said, I managed to consume a burrito and some pizza and, of course, plenty of mint chip ice cream which, thanks to my amazing friends and visitors, has not been in short supply.

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The frequent delivery of mint chip ice cream brings me to the most important reflection of my recovery process thus far: my friends and family fucking rock. I’ve never felt as much gratitude and love for the people in my life as I have these past few weeks. I can’t lie – I’ve spend a lot of time the past year or two wondering if my relationships are OK; I’m constantly anxious that I’m not a good friend or daughter or sister or colleague, and in my darkest moments I ask myself the question, “If I died tomorrow, would anyone come to my funeral?” I want so badly for all of my relationships to be perfect all the time, even when it’s unrealistic, and I have an unhelpful tendency to take everything extremely personally. So when I returned to consciousness after my surgery a few Saturdays ago, I certainly wasn’t expecting the outpouring of love and support I’ve received these past few weeks.

To everyone who has come to visit me in the hospital, or sent me a thoughtful text message, or had flowers and chocolates delivered: thank you, thank you, thank you. I’ve had more than one of my friends who, after visiting me in the hospital or at home, have said, “You seem so positive and in good spirits!” and each time I’m surprised because how could I not be? I have never felt so supported as I have the past few weeks, and I’ve never felt so full of gratitude and love for the people in my life. I may be going slightly stir-crazy being confined to hospital beds and now to my house, but this process has confirmed for me that the people in my life are all that matter. My heart aches when I see people walking and biking and moving about the city, and sometimes the pain in my body gets so bad that I can’t think of anything else – yet I keep returning to this incredible feeling of fullness. Even when I’m back up and running (literally and metaphorically), I will hold onto this feeling. My life is so very blessed. Also, if we happen to experience a crazy snowstorm in San Francisco that confines us all to our homes, I definitely have enough chocolate to last for a few months.