Letting Go

I can’t believe it’s been over a week since I’ve blogged. I think that’s the longest I’ve gone in years. I’ve been trying to be more forgiving of myself though when it comes to not accomplishing things, and blogging has been one thing I’ve tried not to beat myself up over. That said, I do miss it. I’ve always loved coming here and getting the opportunity to spill out my thoughts like a little bag of marbles, marveling over each one and arranging them in some kind of order that makes sense.

My thoughts these days are scattered. Nothing seems to have any sense of continuity. Any snatches of free time that I get I’ve been spending either fulfilling my writing duties for BlackBook or going for long runs around my neighborhood. I’ve been loving running again. I really missed it during my pregnancy and even though we’ve had a heat wave, it’s felt great to be out, moving my body and sweating. Every time I feel fatigued or get a cramp I remind myself of how much I missed this, of how envious I felt seeing other runners when I was seven, eight, nine months pregnant, and then I feel spurred on all over again.

I ran for forty minutes yesterday morning, down Ocean Park and into Cloverfield Park, running past kids playing soccer and a mom teaching her son to ride a bike. Three times I ran past this mom and her son, and three times I watched her push him forward on his bike, running alongside him for a moment until she let go. Three times I watched him fall into the grass, a look of surprise and dismay crumpling his little face. Three times I watched his mom squat down and help pick him back up. And three times I teared up thinking about how sweet life is, how it’s these moments that pull us forward, that sustain us, and that these are the moments we will look back on years from now.

It’s things like this that help me to let go when I feel discouraged about not writing more often right now or when another bill we can hardly afford to pay lands on my desk, or when it’s 9:30 at night and I’ve been trying for almost two hours to get the baby to fall asleep. I’ll take a deep breath and let it out, feeling my body soften and relax, and I try to remind myself that life is not made up of bills or stressors or stupid numbers on the scale in the bathroom. Rather it surely consists of moments between people, of the way the light shifts in the sky at dusk or the feeling of an infant’s quick little breath on my neck.

In some ways it’s felt good to give up on getting anything done. I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at the beach. I figure if I’m not going to be getting anything done, I may as well not get things done while on the sand, staring out at the water. Jules seems to like the ocean air and Vera is content to play in the sand for hours. Often I marvel at the idea that my girls are going to grow up amidst palm trees and sea breezes.

I’m finding it easier and easier to get swept up in gratitude for this time in my life. For California, for being a writer and a mom and a therapist, for this beautiful, little family I am a part of. I took this photo on my father’s death anniversary last week, struck by what a different place I find myself in all these years later. A reminder that even when it feels like we’re not moving forward, we are.

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Of Things Big and Small: Nine Years Without My Father

Dear Dad,

Today is August 5th, 2012. You died nine years ago. Funny, it seems like it was yesterday, and also a lifetime ago.

For a long time that evening stayed in my head. The balmy California dusk, the palm trees outside your bedroom window and the sound of kids splashing in the complex pool, after you had taken your last breaths and I was alone in the world.

But that was nine years ago, and now here I sit, in my office in Beverly Hills on a sunny, Sunday afternoon, 34 years old with a husband and two children at home. Part of me wants to implore, “Can you believe it, dad? I’m a mom? A wife? I made it past your death? Can you believe it?” But of course you would believe it.

Those are the very things – children, a family to call my own — that I’m sure you hoped for me. Those are the things I think you felt certain I would find, no matter how far I fell after you died. I hope that I have the same confidence in my girls one day, that no matter what happens to me, that they’ll survive. That they’ll thrive. I think some part of me knows that already. I mean it’s what we all do, isn’t it? We survive.

I wish you were here to meet my daughters, dad. You would love them so much. They both remind me of you in such strange ways sometimes. Something about their eyes, their determination to live and breathe and be part of this life. And not just that, but their determination to enjoy this life, to find mirth and delight and mischief and wonder in it all. That’s what you were best at, dad. Even when you were weighed down by life it seemed like all you had to do was pause, take a breath and some kind of light would find its way back to your eyes, a smile there, even if it wasn’t on your lips.

I miss you so much, Dad. And sometimes for the silliest things. This morning I was rummaging through the toolbox and I saw a spool of shower tape and remembered the afternoon you instructed me, weak from bed, on how to install a new showerhead. I’d wanted to skip the part with the shower tape – it seemed overly dramatic to have to wind that flimsy tape around the base before screwing on the nozzle – but you shook your head and stared me down and I finally retreated to the bathroom to do as you had told.

A few months later, living on my own for the first time I had to do it again. This time I skipped the tape, that seemingly unnecessary step, and when the water sprayed down the room proving that you had been right, I sighed and began again, winding the soft blue tape around the base, just like you’d said had to be done. And I smiled, glad to have had you teach me that, but sad too that there would so much more I would never learn from you.

I watch my daughters with their dad now and think about the kind of relationship they’ll have with him, about the way they’ll revere him and sometimes loathe him too, just as I did with you. Mostly I revered you, loved you. Still do. There have been times in the last year in which I wept, really wishing I could call you. Feeling confused and overwhelmed by life and all that has presented itself, wishing so much I could hear your kind and gentle voice talking me down from the ledge upon which I teetered, knowing you’d have some advice and soothing words to turn whatever felt big into something smaller. I have no doubt that Greg will be able to do that for our girls time and time again in their lives. Such is the art of fathers, I think. Turning what is large into something smaller, something softer and less scary, something we can handle.

I miss that in my life so much now. Just someone bigger and wiser and stronger than me, someone to tell me that these years will unfurl whether I want them to or not, that whatever is true now, will change and be both less true and even truer later. That whatever scary thing has awoken me from sleep or set me to crying on a Tuesday morning, won’t be the thing that takes away the light at the end of the day.

Nine years ago today I held your hand as you took your last breath. I’d been so determined to be there with you as you left this world, dad. It seemed like the smallest thing to be able to give in return for all that you had given to me, but it was all I had. I know it will always be one of the things I’ve worked hardest at in this life – being there in that moment – but it will always be one of the things I am most glad I was able to do.

With unending love,

Claire

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The Good, the Bad, and the Filtered (Truth About My Post-Partum Life)

It’s late afternoon. Juliette is napping and Greg is at the pool with Veronica. I have a cold coming on and my limbs feel sticky and achy, my throat sore. I’m tired too. And drained. And kind of sad.

But you wouldn’t know that from the pretty pictures I post on Instagram all day, would you?

Every day I take photos, probably several dozen. I capture little moments of my life. The bright, blue California sky. My two girls holding hands or Vera in her underwear helping me make muffins. They are sweet, colorful and poignant pictures, snapped carelessly sometimes but always with intent.

But they don’t tell the whole story.

What I don’t take photos of is me and Greg bickering at 5AM because Veronica has awoken from a nightmare and Jules is stirring and we’re both sleep-deprived and stretched too thin. I don’t take photos of the two of us taking turns bouncing a colicky Juliette around our living room at 9:30 at night for the sixth night in a row, after Veronica has finally gone to bed and we’re both exhausted. I don’t take photos of the bottles of wine I eye greedily throughout my day, hungry to take the edge off this stressful time in my life. I don’t display the envy I feel for my friends who don’t have kids, my friends who are enjoying summers at the beach and traveling to visit friends and family.

I also don’t take photos of my fleshy post-partum body that makes me turn away from the mirror every day, scolding myself for not sticking better to my diet. And I certainly don’t take pictures of our sorrowful bank account, the very one that leaves me crying in heaves once a month as we struggle to make rent and pay preschool dues. I can’t take pictures of how frustrated I feel to not be writing, to barely have time to respond to emails, or to help friends with projects. I don’t know how to capture the anxiety I feel about how Greg and I will make it through our girls’ early years and survive happy and romantically attached. I can’t show you the moments in which I feel worried about my career, my future books, or about when and how I’ll ever find time to write again.

So I don’t. I just take photos of the pretty parts. Of Vera’s face, lit up by sun casting off the Pacific Ocean, or the way Jules purses her ruby lips in her sleep. I take photos of my handsome husband holding hands with my oldest daughter as they stroll close to the ocean. I take pictures of our wonderful friends who stop by, the very friends who later confess to me that my life looks idyllic.

But that’s where the disconnect sets in. Several times in the last few weeks different people have remarked on how idyllic my life looks. My two beautiful girls, the little house in Santa Monica, the California sunsets and constant friendly gatherings. And yes, those things are real, and I’m grateful for them every day.

But most of the time I feel frazzled, depressed and coiled tight with anxiety. Being a mother is hard. Being a wife is hard. Being a writer is hard. Living in California is hard. I worry about the future a lot. I worry about the present. I worry that I’m not being present.

And maybe that’s where the photos come in. I spend so much time feeling like things aren’t good enough, that when they are I take a picture, desperate to hold onto that moment for just a little longer.

I know these first months with a newborn are one-of-a-kind, that each day moves me towards a place where I’ll be able to breathe a little easier. I just wanted you to know that my life isn’t perfect, that instead it’s built up of a series of wonderful, terrible, beautiful, tiny, tragic, flawless, and human moments.

Just like yours.


My paperback hits shelves December 24, 2012, but it’s already out on e-readers or for available for pre-order!

[booksellers]

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