around the bend

I like to do things fast. Knock them out quickly. Before I get scared or tired or bored or distracted.
(What was I talking about again??)

This morning, in need of some reliable wifi and peace to work on homework, I drove into Taos. It was only 24 miles but took me a good 45 minutes.
You have to move slower when the road winds and twists and turns and the other side is a steep drop off. Down a giant mountain. Most of the drive is a no passing zone. You can’t see down the road far enough to get out ahead. You are just stuck. Winding and turning. And following the advised speed limit or the car in front of you. Occasionally feeling your stomach lurch with another turn.
It is easy to not care about the time because it is so damn beautiful.
My husband is all about the mountains. He breathes easier in this thin air.
I am a water girl. Give me a beach or a paddle board and I am in my happy place. Even if I have to put on a swimsuit.

But I get it.
I get how much easier it is to feel alive here.
My kids drop their devices and play in the snow until their toes and noses are numb.
I stare out the window instead of down at my phone.
I read by the fire.
My coffee gets cold.

My son skis just like these mountain roads.
He uses the whole mountain. He goes slow and cautiously back and forth.
Winding and turning taking his sweet time.
Because really what is the rush? And truth be told I like to keep him in one piece.
My daughter is more likely to point her skis into French fries and head straight down.

I learn from watching my kids all the time.
I learn who I was and who I am from the parts of me that I see in them.
Genetics is so much more than my daughter having my freckles across her nose and my smart mouth.  I also see so much of me in their questions, reservations and insecurities. They are often mine.

I see my daughter rush and fight and resist.
I see my son wind carefully down.
Taking it all in.

These days it all seems a bit slower.
My brain moves at a different pace.
I run slower. I do less. I sleep more.
There is frustration in that.
Seeking a balance between what I know I shouldn’t do and will pay for with pain for days later and still living my life. Finding a difference between good healthy decisions and things that are worth the risk. I am sure that is probably a skill most people master by the age of 22, but it is still something I am working on.

This morning I hole up at a hippie coffee shop down a windy road instead of joining my family
on the mountain. ( I have papers to write).
I try not to mind.
But I do.

On Saturday I ran a race. Well…I slowly jogged a race.
I told almost no one. I got in the car – headed there –changed my mind went all the way home and then changed my mind again and got back in the car.
I was crazy nervous.  I used to run 5Ks as my warm up, but I wasn’t sure I could finish. I have never not finished a race. The fear of not finishing almost made me not even start. Ironically the big inflatable starting gate was backwards.
The first words I saw when I lined up to begin was “finish”.
I also cried for the first half mile. I was glad that it was raining a little so no one could notice. It is something I love and haven’t been able to do in well over a year.
Slow and steady. Paying attention.  Glad for my shortness of breath and stitch in my side. It probably wasn’t my best idea. My face went numb halfway through. It was my worst time ever – but after 3.1 miles I ran through a huge inflatable “start”.
And I couldn’t have been more ready for a new one.

This morning my daughter asked if I had ever skied (even though I skied with her just last year).
“Yes, Tess – last year with you and Owen remember?”
Tess: “Was it before your surgery?”
Me: “Yes”
This before and after that seems to separate so much of my life.
I’ve started making dumb decisions. That involve living instead of protecting.
Tomorrow I think I will hit the slopes.
I need to feel that alive.
I need my kids to remember me there.
I need my knees to ache and my cheeks chap from the wind.
I need to make my way down the mountain just like my son.
Slowly. Carefully.  Using the whole mountain. Soaking it all in.
I worry that I won’t be able to make it down or get my money out of my lift ticket.
I worry about the pain that it might leave me in.
But then again, it might not.

In a few hours I will drive back on those same roads.
Windy. A little dangerous. And slower than I usually drive.
I can’t see what is around the turn.
I have no idea if it will hurt or be fine.
I just have to go.

I will crank up my music.
And soak every damn bit of it in.

choose courage

My friend Rhonda spent months and all her creative energy shooting 12 beautiful women who also happened to be victims of domestic violence. On the night of the big reveal of their photos, I couldn’t wait to see these amazing photos and real life women. Almost all models were present and we sat in folding chairs in her backyard and watched the photos roll across the screen as the wind threatened to blow us all away. Each woman was stunning. Each shoot seemed to show something different. Strength. Beauty. Fragility. Fun. Resilience.  The photographer really  saw them and wanted to make sure everyone else did too.

Instead of talking about struggle and the past, we were looking at picture after picture of penetrating beauty. These portraits show that these women are to be admired not for where they have been or what they have survived, but for the courageous women that they are right now. Every one of these women had a different story, past and present. But they all had a common thread. They have survived domestic violence. Walked away and come out beautiful and stronger for it. It was hard to sit beside them, watch their images and know what to do with that.  Sometimes I think we get stuck in the struggle as well. Trapped in our past and in the battles that we let that define us. Where we have walked shapes us, but it is not who we are. It is not who we should see when we look in the mirror.
I wanted what I saw in the photos. I just didn’t want the hard past that has brought them there. I think if you ask anyone they will tell you that they want courage. They want to be strong, brave and kind. I started to think that the best thing I could do to honor these women, to honor myself was to make some of those same choices for myself. I could start choosing the beautiful present over the struggle. I could let myself be seen and do my best to see the beauty in others. Not all of us carry bruises and scars on the outside, but somewhere in our past we have all been hurt and broken. We have all had to make choices to leave things behind and move forward. No matter what the cause, big or small, walking away from what we know is always terrifying.

For these women, choosing courage meant calling the police or a women’s shelter, but for all of us - it means choosing the better. Choosing the uncertain. Choosing ourselves or are children. Choosing to walk forward despite paralyzing fear rather than staying stuck where we are.

Sometimes I think courage is this giant thing that only some people are born with. This super-hero power that allows the brave to risk their lives and show giant public heroics. These twelve woman sitting next to me in folding chairs might have told me a different story. That courage starts small and with knees knocking. That maybe choosing courage looks a little different than the movies. Brene Brown says this:
Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as "ordinary courage.”

Choosing ordinary courage might be
going first.
showing up.
calling a counselor.
saying yes.
saying no.
asking for help.
signing up.
saying you are sorry.
praying when the other end is silent.
telling the truth.
filling out an application.
trying again.
going home.
being seen.
putting it out there.
moving forwards. and then backwards. and then forwards again.

Somedays I believe this. I believe that I am brave, strong, courageous. I believe that I am worth it. But there are also days that I forget.  Sometimes for lots of days in a row, I forget. Ordinary courage is not a character trait that you are born with. That some people are just gifted with more than others, like a great metabolism. It is not a feeling you get, instead it is something that you choose and something that you practice. Every single day. Regardless of what happened yesterday or an uncertain future. You can choose to be brave right now. You can choose to have courage. You can choose to be kind. You can choose to love. You can choose to hold someone else’s hand while they choose it too.

Be brave. Have courage. Leave behind whatever is holding you back and find the beautiful.

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