City cousins and sycamore saplings and Facebook

sycamoreMy mother-in-law used to tell stories about when she was a child, growing up “dirt poor on a tomato farm” in Arkansas. One of my favorites is about how they were visited by their “city cousins.” The siblings devised a number of absurd and not completely safe hazing activities, leveraging the naïveté of their cousins about how things worked in the country. A game they introduced was “riding the sycamore saplings” – in which the kids would bend a tall sycamore sapling down to the ground, have a cousin hold tight, and then let go of the young tree as it whipped back and forth in a frenzy of released energy. Miraculously no one was seriously injured as they were thrown to and fro, desperately holding onto the narrow trunk.

Today, I was the “city cousin” and my Facebook feed was the sycamore sapling.

I know that I should be working. I have a ton to do. This is the thing that happens when I’m obsessed with an idea – it won’t leave me alone and my brain just keeps turning it over, thinking about different angles… But I needed a break from my work-brain for a few minutes and I turned, of course, to Facebook.

Ah, Facebook. I go there now not for work as I once did, but as a normal person, using the site in a normal (though perhaps over-knowledgeable) way. I browse through my feed. I forget to check my inbound messages to see what I’ve missed. And I have that feeling of keeping up to date on the events in the lives of people I know, but am not close enough to that I actually talk to them often (or perhaps, not at all anymore).

My feed today had three events commemorated that in combination gave me the same feeling of thrash I imagine the city cousins once felt. Back and forth, waiting for the sapling to stop shaking.
First, I saw that a former colleague turns fifty today. I never in a million years would have guessed this man is FIFTY. I mean, I didn’t look equivalently as good as he does when I was twenty. Genetics and clean living, I suppose. There’s an outpouring of FB love headed his way. I actually adore those birthday post-floods. I think they’re kind of beautiful. I hope that he knows everyone is both happy for him and secretly envious of him. Heh.

Then, I saw a post from a friend who attended middle and high school with me. I haven’t spoken to her in years, but there’s always FB, keeping us in each others feeds, occasionally commenting on what’s happening in life. Today, she said goodbye to her son who has been valiantly battling cancer. I think he was fourteen. He’d been fighting for over two years – sometimes with amazing promise that he’d beaten it, then the disappointment of its recurrence. She shared that when she asked him how he wanted to be remembered, he said that he wanted people to remember that he loved everyone. When I read the post, my heart broke for them again. I don’t have kids, and I know I can’t imagine what her family is going through. But my heart broke nonetheless. Her post was open-hearted and loving, a beautiful tribute to her child. It was beautiful.

Just below the post by my friend, my Facebook feed had another post that tugged at the feels, but in a completely different way. A former colleague posted a picture of his new daughter, born this last night, perfect and adorable. I’m so happy for them, growing their family of two into a family of three. It’s a time full of anticipation and excitement… and it’s beautiful.

I hear people bitch all the time about how their Facebook feeds are full of crap and I believe them. Some days, they are. I’ve aggressively pruned mine over the years, sending “I don’t want to see this” feedback until the algorithm stops showing me whatever it is that won’t go away. Today, my feed was powerful in a way I couldn’t have ever predicted it would be. My gut felt the whip of the sapling, back and forth while I held on.

I felt.

It was beautiful.

+3 weeks(ish)

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 10.50.46 AM

Three weeks ago(ish), I turned 43. I made some resolutions. Let’s review them, shall we?

First, I said I’d stop hitting the snooze button. This one has been going not-so-great. Okay – total honesty time: I just kind of forgot that it was something I had committed to do, and let it go by the wayside. But this something I’m in for the long haul, not for just a checkbox to say I did it. It’s okay for me to fail a bit and then try again. That’s my new plan – I’m going to try this one again. I’ve been waking up for basically no reason around 5am – and if you know me, you know that this is probably the least bethanye thing ever. I love to sleep. I love love to sleep. I do not wake easily. But I find myself conscious at 5am, completely wide awake… and then SHB is dozing next to me and there are cats on top of the blankets and I am stubborn that I don’t want to leave the comfort of our warm bed. So I drift back to sleep, waking a few hours later and then annoyed I missed the chance to get up early and do stuff. My days feel too short when I sleep in like this, so I’m re-committing to this one. If I wake up on my own and it’s after 4:30am (UGH), I’m going to just get up. If I don’t wake up on my own and my fitbit-alarm goes off at 6:30, I’ll actually get out of bed. I need to get back in the groove of having a normal-person schedule. I have other commitments to attend to.

That brings me to the second resolution: Write Every Day. This one has been kind of hit or miss. I’ve probably managed to pull this off about 2/3 of days, which isn’t terrible though it’s not good enough. I was very diligent when I was in Houston, and I’ve had a few other projects going on that I’ll count towards this goal. Yesterday I had no posts and no journaling, but I managed to get some work done for another writing project and so what the heck I’ll count it. Maybe 3/4 of days over the past three weeks then. I’m surprised how much the journal writing is training me to have both focus and fluidity of thought. I type pretty fast (read: like a damn machine gun), and sometimes that means that words come out of my hands without every really taking time to settle into my brain. Writing with the pen slows me down. [ Funny discovery: I make WAY more “typos” when I’m writing by hand. I just drop letters out of words and keep going. But my journal writing is for me, not others, and it’s not about how perfect my grammar and spelling are, right? ]

The third resolution: nourish myself. This one has been going really well, probably the best of the three. I haven’t hit the gym as much as I intended, but I’ve still been going to pilates at least weekly. I have been eating better, reading better, sleeping better (maybe too better, but better). I’ve given myself space to think. I’ve listened to music that makes me happy. I’ve enjoyed incredible and insightful conversations with amazing people, and those discussions have unlocked my thinking in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. I’m stronger for moving towards happiness instead of feeling guilty about wanting to be multi-dimensionally happy. I feel both anxious to make things happen and fulfilled at the same time. This is the best way for me to be. I need to move, not just my brain but my body. I need to feed both. I’m doing just that. It’s liberating and exhilarating. Yes, I gave up sugar for Lent and yes, I miss it. But it will be there when Lent is over. I mean, I didn’t give up coffee or bourbon, and I am happy that I have excellent versions of both in my life. Maybe next year I’ll forego something more difficult, but this isn’t the year for it.

Some of my pet projects, like posting a new photo every day, have fallen by the wayside and I’m okay with that. The projects I really care about (like Cathy Labs) have had some happy-making strong progress over the past several weeks. At least some of that progress stems directly from the time I’ve spent focused on writing. In particular the journal writing has forced me to think through and articulate ideas I’ve otherwise let float about in my mind. I’m growing more comfortable with the ritual of sitting (or standing, like I am now) and just pouring out words to my keyboard or page. I’m less worried about how things will read or seem because even if I share them on my blog, I’m not writing them for anyone else. On my projects, I’m writing those for others as well but they are coming into existence because of the work I’m doing to nourish myself first. If I want to be more reliable in my cadence, I realize now that this is absolutely possible if I get over myself and JUST FREAKING WRITE.  I had no idea it would be this hard, really.  And I have it so much easier just saying “these are my thoughts” than the amazing creating art-through-words really good writers do, like my husband and friends and favorite authors. Fiction writers: you’re inventing worlds, you have people and situations in your brain fighting to get out. How the hell do you do it? All I have is me in here, nervous about becoming somehow exposed to the world via words and still… getting better at it. Little by little. Getting better at it.

There might be something to this whole “resolutions” thing after all.