A weekend birthday! So no headache-inducing overly-exhausting solo birthday hike for me this year. Instead, the three of us went to the Rhododendron Gardens, which I somehow have never been to in my 14+ years in Portland. Absolutely lovely, despite the 4-year-old whining about how she was hungry and needed another snack (no, not that snack) about 80% of the time. Looking forward to going back and exploring again, maybe soon — some of the rhodies are done for the year, but a ton of them are just explosively gorgeous, peak blooms right now. And the waterfowl! We saw a few big-kid ducklings, plus some possible teen ducks, plus some kingfishers, plus some swallows, plus what I might describe as a Canada Goose having a sneezing fit. I’ve never heard one make that sound before.
Usually, around this week, I start getting sort of angsty about what The Theme might be. It can feel so weighty! It can feel so permanent! But no angst this year, and no ideas, really. This is largely what the last year has been: I am finally in the role, career-wise, I’ve been trying to make happen for years. And it turns out: I was right. It’s a phenomenal fit. My team has changed a lot, and I still love it. The work fits my brain well, even though I feel like a fool a lot of the time. I have enough freedom and enough safety that I can focus on thriving, not just surviving. (Do I have off weeks? Of course. Have I had a couple this month? Of course. Nevertheless.)
My mom recently commented that when she asks me about work these days, I sound excited and engaged. (And I am!) A few years back, she asked me what I’d done over the weekend, and after I talked for a while, she said, “do you realize you’ve just given me a list of things you haven’t done?” I realized, in the days and weeks and months that followed, that I did this ALL the time, in all kinds of scenarios. And now, she noted, I tell her what I have been doing. Of course! I’m still in over my head, but I am learning a lot, the work fits my brain better, I relish working independently and with my team, and I have so much more freedom and flexibility. Work is not who we are, but in a capitalist society, it’s often how we spent a LOT of our time. And I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful that I get to spend my work time with people I respect and like, doing things that are doably challenging (mostly), being reminded that the world is in fact full of people who are both kind AND capable.
I’ve also had a year where I’m starting to more tangibly understand what I was told by a practitioner I saw a few years ago. She said that trauma and hard times are awful, of course, but that they give you access to strong medicine that you can’t get any other way. And that sometimes I’d be able to give it to someone directly, and sometimes I’d give it to someone else who would ultimately use it to help someone. (I think at the time I felt optimistic but irritated by this, like, could I NOT have gotten whatever boring secret medicine I have, and NOT have had the trauma?) And also, sorry that happened to you, AND…it will make you a better parent down the road, because honestly, who do you want to talk to when something difficult is happening: the person who’s never really struggled, or the person you know went THROUGH it?
This year, I’ve been starting to learn about the medicine I hold. It’s not a magic bullet, but multiple people this year have told me that I gave them exactly what they needed, when I really just thought I was saying “obvious” things calmly and emphatically. What is obvious to you is not necessarily obvious to other people. Sometimes your “obvious” is someone else’s shred of hope.
I’ve also started piano lessons again, for the first time in what I think was 23 years. (I studied for years as a kid. How many years? No idea.) I had my first recital as an adult last Sunday, after six months of lessons, and got to listen to two friends (and be heard by them, plus Nathan and Astrid, who did ADMIRABLY for her first “real” recital/concert as a non-baby/toddler). Utter treat; can’t wait to do more. And I also started bouldering (climbing at the rock gym, no ropes) a couple months ago, mostly because we took Astrid and then I got envious and then I went “hmm, I feel like that feeling is telling me something.” And now I get to hang out with another friend or two in a new context, too.
The ways that my job, bouldering, and piano all are sort of in conversation with each other is lovely harmony, honestly.
My struggles, meanwhile, are a little the same, a little different this year. Quieter, I think. Mostly I don’t want to talk about them until I am making progress, or have solved them, which I don’t particularly think is a great strategy, but I DO think is what I’ve gone back to lately. I’ll tell you this one, though: I am stumped on a theme for the year. I have a longer list of candidates than ever before, and a few of them twinkled, and I feel like I’m just throwing a dart at one. But it does, eventually, feel better to make a decision.