Last night I was attempting to explain to my 10-year-old daughter that anxiety can come from believing something that’s not true.
“Our brains don’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s not real,” I said. I was about to launch into a sure-to-be-cumbersome definition of perception and reality, when she said:
“Right, because the mind and the brain are two separate things. The brain is physical and the mind is spiritual. If your mind thinks that something is real, then your brain and your body will act according to what you think.”
Whoa. I just got schooled.
So my new hobby is social dancing. I had been to several open dance nights when I decided it was time to step it up, so to speak, and take some lessons. I couldn’t decide between West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Country Two-Step, or Hustle, and the registration deadline was fast approaching. Then, as I was talking to a friend, he began telling a story about life lessons he had learned in his 20s.
“I had to learn to hustle,” he said.
The title of my first book, ‘Hello Loved Ones,’ comes from an “endearment “ used casually by the father of the narrator when he comes home drunk after long unexplained absences. He tosses these words at his children, who are starved for his attention, before leaving them. The novel looks at the importance of love in action and questions whether love is determined by blood or by choice.
British author David Mitchell says, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” These words came to me as I was about to embark on a dream vacation to Paris, the city of light and love, with some of my favorite people in the world: my daughter and two dear family friends.
While I was excited to share the adventure with them, I knew the beauty of the trip would be in the various and unique ways we each find enchantment. Of course I wanted to pose in front of the Eiffel Tower and float along the Seine, but more than that, I wanted to discover: How would my heart be changed?
My flight from Los Angeles to Chicago touched down just before rush hour, making the trip home last a solid eight hours (ten including the time change). It marked the end of a busy two days spent sharing one room with three 17-year-olds, navigating LA freeways while listening to hip-hop, taking college tours, visiting friends, and wedged next to a stranger devoted to friendly chit-chat. It was a wonderful trip, but it reminded me that there is one personal item essential to me (even when I don’t have time to unpack it):
It’s 5:23 a.m. on a Sunday and I am awake. I reach for my phone. There is no text from my 13-year-old son, who is in China, and my brain jumps straight to the conclusion that he must have gotten lost in a crowded Beijing market. In the pale light of dawn, this thought seems as plausible as any other.
In the space of 24 hours, my three children have been on three separate airplanes. My predominant summer anxiety has always been around how to keep them all busy. This summer they are suddenly off to see the world—my 15-year-old son to a camp in California, my 10-year-old daughter to visit family in New York, and my middle child with his father on the other side of the world. Having them in the air has me feeling ungrounded. To counteract my restlessness, I get up and go into practical mode. I text my ex-husband to make sure Boone has the hotel address in his pocket. I transfer a little money to Lincoln’s debit card for airport food. I text Genevieve a reminder to take her digestive supplements.
A few days ago, my friend Mark was feeling depressed and decided to stop at Trader Joe’s and buy himself some flowers. When he told the woman at the check-out why he needed flowers, she insisted on buying them for him.
Random act of kindness? Sure.
But it’s also a reminder that asking begins as an inner dialogue. Mark asked himself, “What do I need to feel more loved and supported today?”
I know I’ve entered the wilderness when my son says, “Dad laughs. You don’t.”
It’s true. So we are embarking on our first post-divorce vacation. I’ll have the kids for a solid week, on my own, and I’m scared. I’ve chosen a YMCA family camp in Wisconsin as our destination because at least there […]
A couple of weeks ago my neighbor helped me hang a bird feeder right outside my sun room window. This is where I spend most of my day, and I was excited about getting such a close view of the birds. I pictured sparrows and finches—dainty little things with soft colors and timid tweets. And for the first two weeks, that’s what I got.
Until yesterday, when this big black ominous-looking bird with an iridescent blue head came swooping in, landing so forcefully on the feeder that it thumped loudly against the house. He sat there for a long time, laying claim to the suet, and when he flew away it was only to the nearby tree, where he perched most of the day.
He made me uneasy, although I’m not sure why. He’s just a bird, eating at a bird feeder. I got what I wanted, but it didn’t look like I’d expected.
I want to share a pet peeve of mine: when I listen to people call in to one of my favorite radio hosts, so many of them say, “I have a question for you,” or “Here’s my question…” and then they don’t ask a question! They tell a story.
Maybe there’s something slippery about the curvy question mark. Either we put it on the end of what should be statements, or we leave it out altogether and tell ourselves we’re being clear in our requests.
A friend shared recently that he was upset about having to clear his belongings out of his basement to make room for his wife’s things.
“Did you ask her to consider a different solution?” I said.
“Well, I told her that I was upset,” he answered.