This is something you do alone, BUT IT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU DO ALONE

626950724_tYJuB-MJust spent a week away without internet, and I’m feeling all off-kilter being back in front of a screen, venting some internal pressure to recount the whole experience blow by blow, the way I told Aviva and Pearl their birth stories in the car yesterday, minute by minute.

Two birth stories, it turns out, gets you from Joe’s Pond to Burlington.

Within 24 hours of arriving on vacation I was sitting on a grassy slope next to an old railroad bed, sobbing, choking, telling my husband to fuck off, then thanking him, then lying down below some old birch trees to watch the clouds.

Ah, the drama of leaving it all behind, only to take yourself with you. The gift of a partner who says, Stay here. Sit here. Everything you’re feeling is valid. I’ll bring the kids to the playground. The feeling of being caught in the wave, tossing, violently, no air, no upside. The only way out is to do nothing, stop thrashing and panicking, wait it out, trust that the surface will find you.

And moments of bliss, kayaking with little Pearl through the dense white lilies. Jumping off the raft with Aviva, whose confidence exploded with each canonball.

Bread and Puppet up in Glover, my moving-to-the-country-and-simplifying-our-lives fantasy, which, I understand, is just that: a fantasy (you take yourself with you).

The rather remarkable ability for a group of thirteen people to process and move through a moment of serious tension – and go on to have a fabulous day on a rental boat, on which we towed by sixty-five year old dad, who had what must have been one of the high points of his life!

My camera is officially dead. I read half a book. Went to bed early. Swam everyday. Got really tan. Debated the merits of joining Costco. Made lists in my journal of clients I’m working with and others I hope to be – to offset my free-floating anxiety about work. The list kept growing throughout the week.

And then Friday, I read my horoscope, which said something about how my skills are so unique to me, have been with me for so long, that I forget they exist – or something like that. And I thought that sounded about right, and decided that I want to work on re-routing the neural pathways of how I respond to inquiries from people interesting in coaching – to move from all of my habitual “what if” kinds of responses (i.e. what if what I offer isn’t what they’re looking for, what if they decide it costs too much, what if I’m not good enough) to responding with curiosity and an open heart to the person calling (i.e. I wonder what is going on with them and can’t wait to connect). Aaaah, it’s like a big exhale.

My mind has been doing lots of bendy acrobatics this week, trying to impress me with how many ideas, thoughts, worries, concerns, details, and tasks it can play with at once. It’s like a one-trick pony, doing a shell game at the fair and then demanding I pay.

And here we are, back in the neighborhood. Back in town. Back at our laptops. Here is Aviva, with her “I’m with my BFF” t-shirt that her, well, BFF from three houses up gave her last night. Here is Pearl, wearing her cousin Caleb’s superman underpants. And quite proudly.

I’ve got Natalie Goldberg’s Old Friend from Far Away at my side. I keep dipping into it when I want some help writing. It has been a nice practice, to pick a page and see what emerges.

I’m committed to showing up here as an exercise in not being clever, a practice of not being smart or insightful or necessarily having anything beautiful or brilliant to say. This is the practice of writing and moving on, letting go, not re-hashing every word. Which is also the practice of going on vacation and then coming home, which somehow is the practice of self-forgiveness, of gentleness, of getting into the ring with all of my cleverness, all of the perfectionism and doubt, and sitting down on the bench. Not today, lovelies. I’m taking off my gloves.

If you have no idea what this post is about, don’t worry. I don’t either. It’s raining now and a cool breeze is coming in through the window where the cat likes to lounges.

Last night, Greg and I miraculously found an hour alone together in the kitchen as we did the dinner dishes. We had the kind of conversation that usually occurs over Switchbacks and pizza in a booth way at the back of the Pub on Church Street. In other words, it felt like a date, just the date Greg had been wondering out loud if we needed. We talked about his upcoming vision quest, about the overwhelm of technology, about heart work, about perspective. We drew little pictures of circles and puzzle pieces. We talked about the fact that the higher you raise the stakes, the more you up the ante, the fuller your plate, the more you need to create and commit to the space of self-care, of quiet, of connection that will balance out the exertion and output.

You are part of this for me, part of the balancing act. You, who come here for reasons I’d love to hear. You, whose life is, as all of our lives are, full to the brim. You, whose children are pulling your pants down. You, who wonders what the balance looks like. You, whose expectations collide with reality. You, who aches to know what the whole puzzle looks like.

Let’s help each other remember these words from a not-teacher of mine: This – practice, parenting, making a life – is something you do alone, BUT IT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU DO ALONE.

These words are so true; they sing in my ears everyday. And so I practice alone, sit here and write, go out for a run, tell the truth, lay down in the grassy slope and let the tears dry on my cheeks. And I reach out, invite you to reach back. No need to be clever or clear. No need to know a thing. Just show up here with me. As September looms, let’s keep reminding each other that that is enough. It is everything.

10 thoughts on “This is something you do alone, BUT IT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU DO ALONE

  1. The Other Laura says:

    Jena, this is beautiful and without being clever I will say that the idea of a good long cry sounds pretty good to me right now. I’m facing September with a lot of hope and more than a little bit of fear. What will happen to me if I step out of my comfort zone? What will happen to me if I dream big?


  2. GailNHB says:

    I come here because you tell stories like this one. Of tears and anger and washing dishes and doing cannonballs and giving up and giving in and giving over to all that is your life – and finding out yet again that all of it is exactly what it should be. As it should be. At just the right time. With the right people. Alone. And together.

    That is why I come here. And why I will keep on coming here.


  3. Jamie says:

    thank you thank you thank you…..tears, i say. ive been waiting to just explode today. dealing with a big move….and trying to be a good momma. my plate is full and i feel so unpleasant to be around. thank you – now i have to apologize to my husband.


  4. Chloe says:

    Jena, just wanted you to know that I’ve been reading through some of your blog posts this evening and have found them so healing and restorative as I think through some messy/difficult questions and wonder where balance is! much, much love –



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