Opening for enrollment this fall - The Beautiful Life Collective

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Hello Beautiful!

Right now, I'm overjoyed to be creating the next phase of our self-care work together: an affordable, accessible membership program where we support each other in creating a more beautiful world together.  

What is it?

A monthly self-care membership program that provides content, support, accountability, inspiration and the opportunity to invest in your most important asset: your ability to care for yourself, other people and the world as a whole.

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”  - E.B. White

 

Who is it for?

The Beautiful Life Collective is for you if…

  • You are living with the consistent anxiety of imposter syndrome and know it’s holding you back

  • Listening to the news hurts your heart, and yet, you don’t know what to do about it

  • You want to show up to support vulnerable communities, but often hold back out of fear

  • You want guided support to explore how the dynamics of power and privilege show up in your own life

  • You are tired of trying to fix yourself and would rather use that energy to help the greater good

  • You sense the power of leading from your own vulnerability and our willing to take risks as you put vulnerability-led leadership into practice

  • You are craving the experience of your own wholeness in a way that feels too big to even put into words

  • You desire the support and inspiration that comes from a group of women working on their own self-care
     

In The Beautiful Life Collective, we see social activism as an essential form of self-care and understand that the only way to show up for others consistently is to show up for our our self-care.  Caring for ourselves, working compassionately with our imposter syndrome, and being part of a supportive community is the recipe to help us authentically show up to support others more vulnerable than us.  Only with self-care can we be the change we wish to see in our world.

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Do you want to learn more?  

I will open the doors for just one week in September. Join the VIP Waitlist and be the first to know when The Beautiful Life Collective is open for enrollment. 

 

Wednesday Missive: My Morning Routine Troubleshooting FAQ

 Woo-hoo!  Here we are as a family protesting against white supremacy last Sunday in DC.  Self-care has helped in both becoming parents and upping our game as politically activated human beings over this past year.  Both activities have been been hugely rewarding and require a lot of self-care replenishment to stay vital and connected. 

Woo-hoo!  Here we are as a family protesting against white supremacy last Sunday in DC.  Self-care has helped in both becoming parents and upping our game as politically activated human beings over this past year.  Both activities have been been hugely rewarding and require a lot of self-care replenishment to stay vital and connected. 

Hello all!

I’ve dedicated this month of my Wednesday self-care missives to cultivating morning routines.  This is because 1) I love geeking out about morning self-care routines (Listen to my podcast with My Morning Routine creator Benjamin Spall to hear the full geek-out), and 2) I think creating a dynamic morning routine is a great place to start focusing on your self-care.  

The good news is that you can do your morning routine super, super imperfectly and still gets a great deal of benefit (Read how my morning routine changed as a mother here).  Yet there seems to be common places where we all struggle with our mornings. Over the years of helping my clients with their self-care morning routines, I’ve heard many of the same questions over and over.  I’ve decided to compile them into a Morning Routine Troubleshooting FAQ.

A couple of things before I launch into the troubleshooting.  First, these are my ideas, opinions and lived experiences (or the lived experiences I’ve noticed my clients having over and over).  My philosophies are inspired by a mixture of self-care resources I’ve experienced, particularly the sciences of yoga and Ayurveda. Of course, I see these experiences through the lens of a 30-something Western woman, and thus, my interpretation will be unique. Please begin applying the practices and perspectives that feel inspiring for you, and leave the rest behind.

Second, I’ve learned that practicing authentic self-care isn’t easy or just a matter of pure logic.  If it was, we’d all be practicing the self-care we desire for ourselves. Rather, real self-care is challenging, nuanced and cyclical.  When applied bravely and compassionately, it will teach you so much about yourself, your culture and the world. My hope is that this advice will help you fine-tune your morning routine so that it feels truly useful for you, and that you feel less alone when you struggle with common self-care blocks.  

Please reach out to me if I can answer any other questions for you along the way.

I’m excited for your self-care and all that it will bring!

With care,
Gracy

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Morning Routine Troubleshooting FAQ

Why is it important to keep a morning routine?

As human beings, our nervous systems are inclined to follow habits.  The more tried and true something is, the safer it feels to our brains and bodies. This is why we have such a hard time letting go of our habits, even when they aren’t serving us!  Establishing and practicing a self-care morning routine is a great way to ensure that you get your self-care needs met first thing in the morning, which will benefit you all day. Being authentic in your self-care is a really effective way to show up as the best version of yourself. In turn, your self-care efforts serve the people around you, your community and the world as a whole.
 

How do I begin to build a morning routine?

Well, chances are that you already have some kind of a morning routine!  Sure, it might not feel the healthiest - perhaps involving 30 minutes of Facebook, four cups of coffee and then a mad dash to work - but it’s still a routine.  I think an effective way to build a morning routine that gives you energy is to make small changes in the direction of self-care. Can you drink one less cup of coffee or one more glass or water?  Can you meditate for a moment before you reach for your phone? The smaller and more realistic the change, the more likely you are to actually do it. Then, once you change something effectively, you’ll begin to build the identity of being someone who is capable of change.  Once you have that identity, it gets way easier to change many things in your life.
 

How do I break the habit of hitting “snooze” over and over?

It’s funny, right?  Snoozing gives us the feeling of getting more sleep, while only chopping up our morning rest into odd little pieces that might actually make us feel more tired.  I’ve learned that you can begin to break any habit by carefully interrupting it. A fun way to do this is to keep a strong scent - perhaps a eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil - by your alarm.  Before you hit the snooze button, take a deep inhalation of the scent. See if this wakes up your brain more naturally and takes away your desire for one more snooze. You can also move your alarm across the room, which might motivate you to snooze less. Finally, see if you can plan an array of enticing morning activities for yourself.  If you are excited to get up and work on your watercolors or read a novel for 15 minutes, you might naturally want to snooze less.
 

I’ve heard I’m supposed to poop every morning, but it never seems to happen.  What should I do?

I hear you!  For me, it’s always been hard to make sure I eliminate consistently.  Ayurveda taught me that in order to poop, I need to cultivate downward energy during my mornings.  I do this by drinking a big glass of warm - almost hot - water in the mornings. Drinking enough warm liquid puts a bit of pressure on my colon and seems to help my body release naturally.  Sometimes I squeeze lemon in my water - which is said to have a detoxifying effect - but often I go with just plain hot water because it’s easier.

Cultivating this downward energy also means staying relaxed. I try not to think about my to-do list in the morning, and instead focus on the energy of being.  I wander around my house, cuddle my people and pets, and basically do my best to feel softly optimistic about the day ahead. On the days when I can’t poop, I try not to worry about it too much and just go about my day. It will come out eventually! Also, taking a little powdered magnesium supplement, like CALM, at night can also help with elimination -- but be careful: you can easily take too much and wake up with the runs the next morning!
 

What are these “morning pages” that everyone keeps talking about?  When is the best time in the morning to write them?

“Morning pages” are one of the tools from The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron’s book about creative recovery, or the theory that everyone has repressed creativity to explore.  The instruction is to write three pages of stream of consciousness in the morning so that we can tap into the creative energy that exists underneath our everyday thoughts and anxieties.  Personally, I’ve done “morning pages” on and off over the past decade. I do notice that when I do them, my life just seems to flow in my enjoyable ways. Like many practices, there isn’t a right way to do them, but for myself, I enjoy writing them after I’ve gotten out of bed and while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea.
 

Speaking of coffee,  I’m afraid you’re going to tell me to give it up in the name of self-care.  Do I need to be caffeine-free in order to practice self-care?

I think each of us is different, and thus, we all have specialized limits around caffeine.  If you love the ritual of drinking coffee each morning, please don’t give it up. Happy-making is happy-making, after all!  If you’re drinking multiple cups of coffee out of habit, then perhaps you could swap a cup or two for herbal tea, and see if you feel better throughout your day.  Like with all self-care, you just have to experiment and see what works best for you.

Keep in mind that your self-care feel-good habits may shift and change. For example, sometimes I feel better coffee-free and sometimes I worship a cup in the morning.  Letting my habits be flexible with the shifts in my life helps me uphold my self-care, even during big moments of change and transition.
 

I’m not a morning person.  How do I change this?

Regarding our self-care efforts, I think it’s important to not try to change ourselves.  Perhaps you just don’t like being awake in the morning, and that is ok.  However, I do wonder if having an established morning routine that you enjoy might help you enjoy your mornings more.  Or, perhaps you can just feel groggy and cranky and still half-heartedly do a few self-care acts for yourself in some kind of order each day.  My sense is that even 50% effort in your morning routines will still yield so much helpful benefits throughout the day.

Also, mornings are tough when you haven’t had enough sleep.  If you don’t sleep well, you could try getting into bed a bit earlier.  It’s easier for me to go to bed earlier when I avoid electronics and other forms of stimulation too late in the day.  I’ve learned that a dynamic morning routine almost always starts with a solid nighttime routine. Winding down for sleep before 10pm (when possible) isn’t very glamorous, but it yields many benefits that serve me in all parts of my life.  For this reason, I make myself turn out the lights earlier than I want to and go to sleep.
 

Is it really important to eat breakfast?  Should I force myself to if I am not hungry?

Again, each of us is really different in our constitutions, and thus, our self-care needs.  For this reason, I can’t make a universal statement. I will encourage you to pay attention to how you feel when you eat breakfast and how you feel when you skip breakfast.  Do you feel better when you eat a big home-cooked breakfast or when you blend up a smoothie? Whatever you decide, I do think it’s important to follow a general routine. So, if you usually eat breakfast, you’re might feel off if you rush out of the house without it.  Try to stay consistent most of the time in the name of your own care.
 

I used to have a good morning routine and then I fell off the wagon.  How do I keep myself from backsliding?

Join the club!  I’ve gotten on and fallen off so many wagons when it comes to my self-care habits.  When we backslide on our self-care routines, a very mean part of our brains will tell us that we failed. It will tell us that this failure is proof that we are defective and that we are better off not taking care of ourselves so we don’t fail again. To this, we have to gather up all of our inner strength and speak back to that mean voice.  We can say: “So, what? I’m allowed to make mistakes. Everyone makes them. I’m still as worthy of self-care as anyone else. I’ll just start again. See? I’m already taking care of myself!” Then pick one tiny habit and start taking care of yourself.

Also, it might be helpful to examine if you were being rather strict and rule-adherent with your last morning routine.  If your chosen self-care habits are a killjoy, then the fun-loving part of yourself will naturally rebel. Choose workability and joy over perfection.  Aim to do your best 70% of the time and do whatever you want 30% of the time. Also, ask for support when you need it. You don’t have to go it alone.
 

How can I get more self-care support?

Look around you and notice who in your life seems to have inspiring self-care habits.  Ask that person to tea and begin a conversation about self-care, perhaps starting by asking about her morning routine.  Chances are that she struggles with her self-care too, and knowing this will make you feel less alone when you struggle.  Once you’ve had a few of these conversations, see if you can band together a few of these self-care friends into a little support group.  Add more people to it over the months and years and soon you’ll have your own self-care community.

Also, if you’d like to join my self-care community, I would be honored.  I am launching The Beautiful Life Collective, my membership program that will support each member to use our own self-care as a way to care for those around us.  Registration opens in September - stay tuned to my newsletter and blog to learn more!

Morning Routines That Work with My Morning Routine Blog Co-Creater Benjamin Spall

 

After a big pause (geez, moving is hard!), I am back with a new podcast on morning routines!  I recorded this podcast back in May with My Morning Routine co-creater Benjamin Spall, right before the launch of the blog's amazing My Morning Routine book. As you might know by now, I am a big believer in the power of self-care morning routines and love learning how other people begin their days. 

In this podcast (and their awesome book), Benjamin shares the morning routines of some the most creative and effective people in our world today. Listen and get inspired to create your own dynamic morning routine!

How My Morning Routine Has Changed as a Mother (and why I think this applies to all people)

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Dear Ones,

It feels so good to be back and writing to you all!  Taking a pause from my communication over this past month was necessary, and it also highlighted how much sharing about self-care is a form of self-care for me.  It’s shown me, once again, that we just can’t do this self-care work alone.

With that, I am getting very excited to share news about the upcoming beta version of my self-care membership program, which will begin on October 1st.  This affordable, accessible collective will deeply inspire you in your self-care, help you transform your compassion fatigue and provide a workable route through the block of imposter syndrome.  All of this will be in service of showing up to create a more compassionate, equitable and healthy world.

(Are you interested?  I’ll be sharing more information very soon!  Keep checking in here on Wednesdays and all will be revealed.)

Today, I’d like to talk about cultivating a dynamic morning routine.  Actually, I’m going to spend the whole month on this topic, because I think having a workable morning routine is so important for our overall well-being, which in turn, is so important for how we show up to serve others.

However, despite its importance, part of me wants to completely ignore the topic. Why is that?  Because my formerly uber-dynamic self-care morning routine has pretty much fallen apart as I became a mother.  The perfectionist part of me would rather not admit that my morning routine is not as shiny as it used to be.

Before I became a mother, in a typical morning I would:

  • Wake up before the sunrise

  • Scrape my tongue, splash my face with cold water, spritz with rosewater spray

  • Drink hot water until I pooped

  • Meditate or write my morning pages

  • Do 20 minutes of yoga

  • Walk Poncho and enjoy the sunrise

  • Eat a good breakfast, shower, begin my day

Intense, huh?  Reading that, I’m not even sure how I managed to fit it all in.  All I know is that my morning routine sustained me through a lot of transition, and being conscious that it was stabilizing made me very disciplined about sticking to all the steps.  At times this made me rigid, but it was what I needed and I went with it.

Now, almost a year into motherhood, my mornings look so different.  I alternate between waking up with my son, Jonah, at 6:00am and catching an extra hour of sleep on the mornings Micah, my partner, wakes up with him.  Jonah’s been sleeping through the night for almost two months now and each morning, I say a little thank-you prayer for an uninterrupted night’s sleep.  Still, I think my body will take a little longer to continue to heal itself from over 10 months of sleep deprivation.

However, some aspects of my self-care continue to stay the same.  Regardless of other factors, here is what I continue to do on any morning:

  • Scrape my tongue, splash my face with cold water, spritz with rosewater spray

  • Drink hot water (although I tend to poop a little later in the morning now)

  • Do at least a little stretching, often while Jonah plays with his toys

  • Eat a good breakfast, shower, begin my day

  • (Also, I get to play with Jonah and chit-chat with Micah, and these are total self-care practices for me)

I can look at this list and feel deficient, or I can choose to celebrate the immense self-care I am practicing.  Part of me thinks that feeling deficient will motivate me toward greater change. This is the part of me that tells me I’ll never be good enough in any capacity, i.e., my inner saboteur.  Over time, I’ve learned that listening to her will only keep me miserable and stuck in my life. So, I choose to ignore her.

The most revolutionary move I can make in my morning routine, or in my self-care in general, is to completely accept where I am with a kind, enthusiastic heart.  This is the fertile place where I can nurture all the tiny little steps that help keep me growing in my self-care. I mean, I have kept a tiny human being alive for a year and I am still tending to my self-care.  Isn’t that amazing? This is the voice of my inner cheerleader, who believes in me endlessly and still gives me those little nudges forward that end in sustainable change.

And now, what about you?  Are you judging your morning routine for what you are not doing?  Or are you celebrating the tiny but important wins that do keep you stable?  It doesn’t matter if you are a parent, I know you are dealing with big things in your life right now. Any effort toward self-care, including reading this right now, deserves to be celebrated fully.

As the Buddhist saying goes, how we do anything is how we do everything.  Your attitude about your morning routine is your attitude about your life in general. The amazing news is that changing your attitude in one arena, such as your morning routine, will help you in all areas.  Let your cheerleader take over, and see what opens up in your life.

A self-care practice:  This week, take a moment at the end of your mornings to congratulate yourself for any self-care efforts you’ve made.  Write these efforts down to make your victories even more concrete in your brain. Tell a supportive friend to increase the momentum. At the end of the week, see how you feel about your mornings.  Do you notice any more willingness to experiment with new self-care? How do you feel about yourself in general?

As you congratulate yourself, please let me know what comes up for you. I’d also appreciate reading your morning routine questions.  As I’m spending the entire month of this newsletter on self-care morning routines, I can share your victories and offer self-care tips to help when you’re feeling stuck.

Tune back in next week when I’ll release a podcast with Benjamin Spall, the co-author of the My Morning Routine blog as well as the blog’s recently released book about the morning routines of some of the most creative, dynamic people in the world today.  Our conversation shares how these people practice self-care and offers ways to get started on creating you own morning routine.

Until then, much care and love!
Gracy

A Little Recap

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I’m not quite sure where to start. I guess, first, a little recap is in order.

In the last month we: bought a house, had our car and my phone stolen during the walkthrough (we recovered the car right away but not my phone), moved into our new house (lovely), Jonah got viral pinkeye, then we each got the virus (though luckily not the pinkeye) which turned into a sinus infection for Micah, our car was stolen again, Micah threw his back out, Jonah got hand/foot/mouth (omg that one is brutal!), and finally, this weekend the police found our car in not great shape.

It’s been one wave after another of challenging, time-consuming situations that need my attention with a backdrop of aching sadness and boiling rage over the greater political picture.

Intellectually, it’s way more than I can handle, but the truth is that I’m actually ok. I’m still eating three good meals a day, getting in bed by 10pm, going to therapy, and finding time to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race (my favorite). Also, Jonah started walking this month and watching him teeter around with a huge grin fills me with joy.

Once again, I am sustained and energized by the power of self-care. Rather than feel exhausted by my situation, I feel compassion for how much so many of us are struggling. I see the work I need to do in the world - creating space for social justice and true equity through self-care - more clearly. Expect much more on this front from me in the near future.

In the meantime, check out the post I wrote for Ten Directions on Self-Care for Facilitating Conversations about Racism. This is such important work for white people to be doing right now. Learn the self-care to challenge the status-quo. Love you all!

Seasons and Cycles...Endings and Rebirths

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Yesterday, I was part of creating this wild collaborative painting with a group of DC women (thanks for inviting me Manisha Tare!). 

For an hour, we painted over each other’s work and ended in a place more awesome than any of us could have gone alone. 

In my own life, I’ve decided to take a step back from a lot of things. I’ve paused my Wednesday newsletter, stopped recording new podcasts and I’m even letting go of visioning ahead. 

I’m doing this because I’m finally respecting that I’m just not in the workhorse mode right now. Truly, I haven’t been since the late stages of my pregnancy last year, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying to force myself back into high productivity. 

I’ve loved becoming a mother, but I’ve also felt so guilty and inadequate when it’s come to running my business. After a few years of surprising success, my ego was determined to evade failure. 

Well, guess what - I’ve failed! I know I can’t go back to how things were and I can’t quite see the way ahead. Wisdom tells me to willingly let my fields lie fallow for a while. I’m experiencing a real ego death as I do this, but I’m also being liberated from the constant pressure to do more, be more, have more. 

As Micah says, the only thing in nature that grows unchecked is cancer. For everything else, there are seasons and cycles, endings and rebirths. Finally, I’m starting to realize that I’m part of the everything else and that feels like the sweetest exhalation ever.💜 

How Feminism and Making Money Go Together with Feminist Business Maven Stephanie Newman

Are you sacrificing your feminist values for a stable paycheck?  Do you want to take more socially-conscious risks in your career but feel afraid? Stephanie Newman shows women how to create real businesses that align with their deeper feminist values while making good money.  

During our conversation, we speak about the myth of "needing" to stay at your office job, how feminist values can create a viable business, and the stories of our grandmothers (and how they influence our current ventures).  Listen and learn how to bring more feminism into your career - the world really needs it!

Most recently, Stephanie launched an online course that teaches socially conscious women how to launch their businesses. You can find it at feministinbubator.co

I'm Tapping Out (in the name of self-care)

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Hello Dear, 

Isn't this comic great? I love it because it's true, and its message has never felt truer than right now. 

At the end of last week, I was in a tizzy about meeting GDRP requirements (thank you to everyone who shared their wisdom!). Then I went away on retreat and spent the weekend guiding a really terrific group into deeper states of growth and self-awareness. It was self-care at its finest. 

The retreat gave me space to take a good long look into myself. I saw how hard I'd been pushing myself to create the membership program I wanted to launch in the fall.  Further, I saw how tired I was from trying to balance motherhood, business, relationships and my own self-care.

Finally, I saw how all this pushing from a depleted place was backing me further into a corner of "I don't know." Instead of feeling fresh and exciting, this "I don't know" felt scary and limited. The more I struggled to get out of it, the more trapped I felt. 

I realized I need a break. Especially with our big move coming up, I need to focus on myself, my family, and to mindfully finish out my current programs. Once we are settled, I need space to see the bigger vision for the next phase of self-care work. My sense is that it's going to be really, really good. But to get there, I must let go of it for a while. In the release, I know I can really find it again. 

It's scary to let go because, like so many of us, I have an addiction to productivity. I gather my self-worth from how much I work and what I accomplish. Yet, my life is whispering to me that it's really time to find a new way. Finally, I'm giving myself permission to listen.

With that, I'll be taking a pause from these weekly missives. I wish I could say for how long, but all I can offer is the wise phrase: "things take the time they take." 

When I return, I will be organized around GDRP and very excited to share my new vision for where this work can go for us all. I can already feel it on some love and it feels great! 

In the meantime, I'll be posting on Facebook and Instagram now and then, and may release a podcast when I am inspired. For extra self-care, you can always check out my friend Lauren's weekly email on seasonal health and my friend Max's weekly email on dignified eating.

Over time, I've learned I cannot create anything generative from a place of depletion. The best way to bring forth beauty is to relax, trust and let the waves of support push me forward.

Stepping back and surrendering takes big faith. This faith isn't something I have found on my own. Rather, I gather it from the strength my community and the bigness of the world.

If this message of surrender resonates with you, lean in deeper to those communities and that bigness. Receive their affirmations of your value and power, and feel their need for you to step forward in your life. 

Mostly, please give yourself time and space to create. Things of beauty cannot be rushed. I know that is true for you, and, finally, I know it's also true for me. 

Thank you for reading and for your patience with me as I tap out. It means everything. 

With care,
Gracy

 

Self-Care Work in the Bigger Picture

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Look at this guy! He’s almost nine months and rearing to go, having decided to skip crawling and go straight to walking (still with our guidance, for now). 

He’s also been so fussy this past week. He’s cutting his top two teeth and has some upper respiratory sickness and we took him away on retreat with us this weekend. 

Seeing life through his vulnerable perspective reminds me how difficult transitions are for us all. It brings up many messy emotions and often, literal pain. 

In our culture, we are so adverse to vulnerability. I cry listening to the news that our government is taking children away from their parents because...we need to teach them a lesson? 

The people who are making decisions have built a wall between themselves and their own tenderness. The result is that they can’t grow internally and instead, feel compelled to dominate externally, particularly abusing those who are more vulnerable than them. It’s sickening to me, and then, so hard to see how I do it too in subtle ways. 

This is where this self-care work comes into the bigger picture. If we can’t honor the tender, messy parts of ourselves as necessary and valuable, then there is no way we can treat the vulnerability outside of us with anything but contempt. 

When we watch the news and feel powerless to make a change in the world, let’s try looking inside. Care for the broken, messy parts of yourself. See what it opens up. See how much more compassion and capacity you have to help others from this place. 

Self-care is not self-indulgent. It’s not naval-gazing. It’s necessary and it’s hard work. Let’s do it together. Let’s start today.

Joy and Grief

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This has been one of the biggest weeks for my family. We found our home on Monday and my brother got married on Sunday.

(Congratulations David Obuchowicz and Sarah Waybright - it was perfect.)

Within all these rites of passage, I kept thinking about my dad, who passed away over three years ago now. I think he would have been so proud of where we’ve landed, and the way my brother and I ended up here (not out of conventional or convenience, but fueled by desire and commitment). And it’s sad that he hasn’t been here to see the fruition of the arduous work of parenting.

It’s one the hard parts of this wild nature we spring from: it ends, sometimes quite suddenly, and for this the living is that much sweeter. There’s a fierce compassion to it all which holds me and all the feelings that come up during these passages. The joy and the grief will eternally live together.

I can whisper into unknown to him that we’ve made it, not totally, but at least to the place where our roots can hopefully grow deep.

Sometimes there are answers. Since his passing, I’ve associated those floating, ethereal seed pods with his presence. Yesterday the GPS routed me strangely leaving the city, and I went with it. While stopped in traffic, I looked up and there were hundreds of those fluffy pods floating above us. It felt profound and silly all at once - kind of like this life we are living.