The Writer's Long Road

Every now and then, I find myself despairing a tad over my lack of progress as a writer - well, as a read writer. Maybe despair is too strong a word, but as a writer, I'm going to exercise my right to use dramatic language.

It takes such a long time to simply get a project to where I want it to be. Even a short story can take months to write and edit before I give it my stamp of approval. And novels can take years. The Poison Box took me over 15 years to write and rewrite (and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite…).

It seems like once you have completed something that took all your creative energy, all your courage, and all your free tree, there should be some kind of energetic exchange with the world, right? Like, at the very least, people want to read it (and hopefully buy it). Or at least follow you on social media.

Well, I haven't found the equation to be quite that simple. I struggle with attracting social media followers (and often question the presence of social media in my life, in general). I struggle with getting my pieces published in magazines or blogs. I struggle with the process of attracting an agent. And I struggle mightily just getting people to review my work. Even when I give it to them for free.

I've been trying to find an agent now for over a year. I've gotten a handful of rejections, which I celebrate (it means someone is actually reading my submission, rather than ignoring it!), but no interest so far. And I've spent months reaching out to bloggers, trying to get them to review The Fox at the Door, my fairy tale for mothers in grief and the childless-not-by-choice. I believe in that story and I believe sharing our loss as mothers or the pain of not becoming a mother is something we, as women, need to talk about. This world of social media curated motherhood needs to crack and shatter and make room for everyone. Despite my attempts to share with bloggers and podcasters…crickets. Nothing is happening.

I forget that writers have to walk a very long road. Sometimes, we have to carry our stories such a goddamn long way just to get a handful of people to acknowledge the life force, the energy that is our story. We have to bundle that story up against the cold winds, hold it tight to our chest, and feed it the last crumbs in our pocket never having the assurance of knowing if anything will come of it.

I have to remind myself that not getting any interest from 33 agents is nothing in the writer's world. A writer might have to submit to hundreds of agents before getting any interest (if it happens, at all). I have to remind myself that spending months trying to get reviews for The Fox at the Door is nothing in the writer's world. It could take months. It could take decades.

The writer's road is one of the longest that I know. There aren't a lot of rest stops out here. Even fewer restaurants and cozy beds. It's one long, grueling walk, in your bare feet. There's no point in turning around because the road back is just as never ending as the one ahead. And there aren't any other paths, so the writer just has to keep moving and hoping that someday, please Muses, someday, our people, our readers, will start to find us and cheer us along to the next story.

Another Season of Owling Begins!

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Last Friday, I went out to my glade with my brother's dogs to sit by the Oregon grape and have some quiet time. The dogs surged ahead and to my surprise…an owl who had been sitting in the glade was startled by their movement and flew away.

It was such a wonderful surprise. I haven't seen my owl family since last fall and I have missed them so much. Although, this is something that attracts me to owls - their unpredictability, their mystery. You never know when or where you are going to see them. And even when they seem to be absent, you know they are out there, somewhere.

Later that evening, sans dogs, I went back to the glade to see if the owl was still in the vicinity, but knowing it wasn't. (In my year of owling, I've never found an owl in the same site he'd/she'd been in when I'd scared them away.)

And guess what? The owl had returned to the glade! I scared it off again, just as the dogs had the first time. But this time, I followed its path and found it in a nearby tree. It let me get very close to it - about 30 feet - and I sat there watching it for about an hour. It was such a privilege.

Then the following Friday, I returned to the glade…and there it was again! Just like last week, it flew away to the same tree it had sat in near me last week.

This is so unusual. I've never seen an owl revisit the same places again and again. This makes me wonder if it has claimed the glade and an abandoned nest there as its home.

It was also unusual that it let me get so close to it without giving me an aggravated clacking of its beak. It makes me wonder: Could this be one of the owlets? Though I have heard it's more and more common for owls to be somewhat unaffected by a human's presence these days, I never found the adult owls I encountered last year to be particularly open to my visits. They heard me long before their babies did and were quick to fly away, though never going far, just in case their little ones needed them. But for the babies, having a human nearby was part of their lives - they knew nothing else. They grew up in my mother's "back yard," where I came to visit them every single weekend.

Is it possible that the parents left the area for new territory, along with two of the owlets, and one stayed behind? Could that happen?

Honestly, I want to believe it. I would love it if this was one of those dear little beings. Especially if it was Vesper, the youngest of the family. Unfortunately, comparing them in photos doesn't help, at all. They still had their juvenile plumage last time I saw them and this owl has all his/her adult feathers.

Owlet or not, it is so wonderful to have this opportunity again to spend time in the company of these beautiful creatures. My hour with the owl was very quiet. It sat in the branches, watching every movement in the fields beyond, every rustle of the bushes. When geese flew overhead, it looked up, watching with interest. (I remember last summer, when Vesper was hunting a duck, and Lyra overhead, perking up at the sound of the quacking.)

These birds are so patient and so slow, and at the same time, lightning quick. When they want to disappear, they can do so in a fraction of a second. When they strike as hunters, you wouldn't even know what hit you.

It's incredibly fascinating to observe them.

Meet Ruth, of the childless ones

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This is Ruth.

Unlike my grand-aunt Aida, Ruth and I crossed paths in this life. Despite the fact that she was one generation higher than Aida, she lived a very long life. I met her a few years before her death, in the late seventies. Sadly, I was so young, I do not remember her. But I share her name (Ruth is one of my middle names) and have always felt a deep connection to her.

Ruth was the daughter of Norwegian immigrants who settled in Minnesota in the late 1800's. She was the middle of three children, with a brother above her and a sister below. Like me, she was the quiet, introverted sister, and like me, she worshipped her gregarious, outgoing, vivacious little sister.

My great-grandmother Ruth's little sister married and gave birth to my grandfather by the time she was 20 years old. Ruth was still single at this point, watching both her siblings build families, waiting, no doubt, to build her own. For me, in the 21st century, watching my younger siblings reach major life goals ahead of me wasn't so bad - it's not something that's considered unusual anymore. But back then, in the early 20th century, I can only imagine how much she must have stood out, single and childless, long after her siblings had created their own families.

Ruth fell deeply in love in her late twenties and "finally" married at the age of 27 - spinsterhood in 1919. From the stories I heard, she adored her husband - and he adored her right back. All the family spoke of their relationship and what a deep companionship the two forged.

  Ruth & her husband

Ruth & her husband

Unfortunately, Ruth still found herself childless well into her marriage. Motherhood did not seem to be within her reach…until one day, she found out she was pregnant, and as the story goes, she was overjoyed to finally have the chance to become a mother.

What came next is heartbreaking: Ruth's baby was born still. It was a little girl who never took a breath outside the womb.  

While I remember hearing many stories about Ruth, I heard very little about this horrifying experience - how it happened, why it happened, what happened after. I don't know anything about it except the baby's name: Dorothy. I can only imagine that Ruth and her husband were devastated by the experience.

She never had another child. Were they plagued with infertility? Did they stop trying?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but I have been told that their marriage was strengthened by this tragedy, which isn't always the case. Ruth and her husband stuck together through thick and thin.

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My grandfather loved his aunt dearly. His father was not much a part of his life, and as such, Ruth became like a second parent to him, taking care of him when her sister was busy. She might not have had her own children, but she loved the children in her life as much as any mother would.

  Ruth & her nephew (my grandfather)

Ruth & her nephew (my grandfather)

Ruth's husband died after a good, long life, leaving her on her own. One of the things I admire so much about my great-grand-aunt is that she persevered for many, many years, all by herself, after his death. She lived alone in Minneapolis and took care of herself, keeping in touch with all her nieces and nephews and their offspring, like a loving mother hen. She outlived both her brother and her sister, and became a surrogate mother, of sorts, to all their descendants.

She was an amazing, brave woman with a heart of gold, and I'm so proud to be her great-grand-niece. As with Aida, it's so important to me to keep her memory alive. As a descendant three generations below her, and as the only one in my family to have met her, I realize I might be the last one to tell her story.

Her bravery inspires me every time I think of her. She was so willing to surrender to the life that was given to her, even though it bucked tradition and didn't give her what she had hoped for. She still put one foot in front of the other each and every day and freely gifted others with her motherly love.

If I find that I share her destiny - to be childless - I hope that I can be as generous and brave as she was.

My first real garden - and building it as a single woman

Sometimes, the things I struggle with as a single woman are not the things you might expect. I can handle being alone. I can handle being lonely (most of the time). I can pay my own bills.

What I really struggle with is completing the projects that I dream up. Most of them are just a little beyond my reach - either technically challenging or so physically demanding that I need another set of arms and legs. I found myself staring down the barrel of this very type of challenge recently.

When I moved into my new house, I was intimidated by the amount of lawn it had. It's at least twice as large as my old house here in town. Those of you who remember the days of Five Seed and A Green Spell might recall that I really struggled with the lawn, both financially and ecologically. I'm not a big fan of lawns, except in very particular situations. Give me a food-producing, soil-building, erosion-controlling garden any day.

So yeah, the lawn here really made me cringe. My last house took 2 hours to mow, so I'm guessing it would take me 4 hours here. And I know from last fall that the water bill runs just under $200 a month to keep it going. And to me, that's a ridiculous amount of money to spend on something that has no use (in my eyes) beyond curb appeal.

 Before...

Before...

After struggling with panicky feelings about it, I deciding last week to rip out the sod along the western side of the house - a huge strip of land about 60-ish feet long and 20 feet at its widest. It's a tricky area - right behind the neighborhood mailboxes and at the very end of the road, and I've noticed that many people seem to think it's a park. I find people hanging out there from time to time, and about half the neighbors let their dogs poop there (and they leave it behind for the magical dog poop fairy to clean up). So I had a lot of hesitation about building a garden there, where I imagine people might roam through and pick vegetables, or (perhaps worse) let their dogs go to town in there.

 During

During

However…I just couldn't fathom mowing all this lawn. I just can't do it on my own and I don't want to pay $150 a month to have it mowed by a landscaper.

So…I took the leap. My first challenge was getting help. I could never have pulled that sod out by myself. I am so grateful to my brother who spent at least 8 hours doing most of the work to pull it out and pile it up. This is exactly the kind of thing that scares me as a single woman. I couldn't have done this alone. If I didn't have such a generous brother, who would have helped me? Do I need to have a savings account for all the projects I want to do that I'm not strong enough to do on my own, so I can pay someone to do them when he's busy? I mean…yikes.

Anyway, as we pulled up the sod, I felt very weepy and afraid. Sod ain't cheap, and there I was, removing it from a HUGE swath of my property. I have already been warned by several people that I just took a chunk out of the property value by doing that.

I questioned myself over and over and over again that first day, worrying that I had really screwed up.

But every time I circled around it, I kept coming back to the same conclusion: This was the best course of action.

I don't want to spend most of my free time this summer mowing the lawn. I don't want to spend so much hard-earned money on watering the lawn.

I've always wanted a huge garden - always. My last rental didn't have any property on which to garden. The one before that (that I used to blog about) was big enough, but I couldn't alter the property, so I had to get creative about where to plant things.

This place, however intimidating and scary, is a dream come true. That one chunk of land that I just stripped could produce enough food to feed three families this season. Seriously. It's huge. It's also on a down slope, and parallel to an irrigation ditch - which means free water. And, even better, the earth there is absolute crap - our typical dusty, central Oregon sand, mixed with gravel from the construction area this used to be, and it's desperately calling out to me to build the soil back up.

So far, I've planted an apple tree there, strawberries, arugula, and spinach. That covered about 1/100 of the land. I've got a long way to go.

 After (so far)

After (so far)

And I'm still facing more challenges and deep fears about how I'm going to do it, as a woman on my own. I needed my brother's help (and his pickup truck) to haul and dump compost into this area. I will need help hauling and dumping wood chips, too. I'd like to get some pavers, but I can't do that on my own, either. I'd like to build a fire pit and compost bins and trellises but guess what? I've never built any structure in my life, nor do I know how to use a drill! And more than anything, I'd like to build a fence around this area, to keep the dogs, and their poop, out of my yard.

So…I don't know exactly what to do about this big stuff. Some of it is stuff I could learn. Some of it I need help with, no matter what. Some of it, I might need to pay for (and therefore save for). And some of it might be impossible.

I'm excited to dream it up, though. The Garden Awakening is my bible right now. I never go anywhere without it. If you haven't read it, you really must. You might find yourself ripping out your grass, too.

I still have my doubts, but I'm also certain I did the right thing. When people remind me how much others love grass and that I'm alienting future buyers because they will alll want grass for their kids, I remind myself that no one with more than one kid would ever live in this house. It's too small (600 sq. ft.) unless it's someone living in a tiny home, already. And even one kid doesn't need this much grass. Plus, it's Oregon, people! We're all about the sustainable, eco-friendly garden space here!

I believe that 2 years from now, this space is going to be so beautiful, that it'll ADD to the value of the property. I just have to figure out how to get there.

I'll be sharing here about the garden project from time to time if you want to follow along.

Single ladies, have you faced any challenges like this with your garden or house projects? And what are all of you planning for your gardens this year?

Meet Aida, of the childless ones

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This is Aida.

I discovered her in my 20’s when I was working on my family tree. She was my grandfather’s sister. I had heard a little about her during my childhood. She had died young, in her early twenties, and by the time I was that age, and found myself looking at a photograph of her, I couldn’t stop thinking about her legacy.

She had never married or had children. Who, I wondered, would remember her? Who would keep her memory alive?

Even at that young age, I remember fearing such a fate. If you are a woman who doesn’t have children, who will remember you? Who are you and what does your life mean if you leave no descendants, or if your descendants leave this earth before you do?

And twenty years later, I find myself facing those very same questions all over again, as a woman who did not have children (by circumstance, not by choice).

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Even in my youth, I recognized how important it is to remember the women who came before us. But now I realize why. Our ancestors, mothers or not, leave an impact on their family members – cousins, sisters, nieces. Aida might not have had her own children, and might have died long before I ever had the chance to know her, but as my grand-aunt, she is still part of my DNA. And it’s important to me to remember her and share her story.

Like me, she was the eldest of four children (though unlike her, I have two older half-siblings, as well). Also similar to my family, the older two children were girls, the younger two, boys. Aida, my grandfather, and their siblings were born in Copenhagen, Denmark. They spoke Danish and English, and a smattering of French and Latin. All four of the siblings were fierce kayakers. They loved to be in the water. They came from a long line of Scandinavian intellects, philosophers, and craftsmen.

  Aida at St. Joseph's Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark: 1920

Aida at St. Joseph's Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark: 1920

That is, I’m sorry to say, most of what I know of Aida. My grandfather didn’t share much about his family when I was little – and I was probably too young to have appreciated (or retained) what he did tell me. Any other information I have beyond this is based only on my intuition. I have a feeling Aida was a bit of a loner – perhaps her health problems set her apart from others. I believe she loved her siblings, and most especially, her sister, but that she never felt like she truly belonged. And most of all, I believe she loved life, and didn’t want to leave it so soon. I suspect it pained her, in the end, to face leaving her family, knowing they would go on to live full lives while she would never realize her dreams.

Aida was the only one in the family who never left Denmark. She was buried there. Soon after her death, the entire family – Grandpa, his remaining siblings, and his parents – gave up their lives in Denmark and immigrated to New York. None of them, to my knowledge, ever returned to their homeland.

  Aida's grave: 1922

Aida's grave: 1922

What happened to Aida seems so brutally unfair - to die so young, without the chance to experience love, motherhood, life. I have an especially deep compassion for women who have lost the chance at motherhood – in any way that might have happened. For some, it might be the death of their child. For others, infertility or other circumstances. And for some, like Aida, it might be their own early death.

It’s so important to tell the stories of the unheard women. We don’t have the voices of our daughters to echo our story to the world. But these stories need to be told. We need to be remembered, too.

To that end, I dedicated The Fox at the Door to two of my "great-aunts": Grand-aunt Aida, and Great-grand-aunt, Ruth. I will be the daughter they did not have, making sure their legacy lives on. I will share their story, and even join hands with them, as a fellow childless woman.

Now it’s your turn. Please leave a comment sharing the story of a childless relative (or friend) that you want the world to remember.

Scratch, scratch, scratch

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There are times in all our lives when things go dreadfully bad…and then a little worse…and sometimes, every now and then, even worse. After a certain age, even in the midst of the loss, we know our grieving will come to an end at some point and that we'll experience joy again. Love. Hope.

Sometimes, though, those rough patches are followed directly by a dry spell. Sometimes a really, really long one. It's as if the universe has hit the pause button on our lives. We're starting to feel ourselves emerge from the shroud of grief, but nothing is happening. We interview for new jobs, flirt with new people, move to a new home, double our efforts to make our dreams come true… And still, nothing happens. We look ahead and see a desert staring back at us. Barren. Endless.

We might start to lose hope.

I struggle with this from time to time. I feel like I've been on a hamster wheel for 2 years now, running faster and faster, trying to get somewhere yet remaining in the same place. I even have nightmares about this sometimes, that I'm trying desperately to run, but my legs somehow just won't fall into rhythm and I can' t move forward.

I suspect many of us feel this way - often, perhaps. There is a dream on the periphery of our current circumstances, one that seems so close, we could literally reach out and pluck it, as if it were an apple in the Garden of Eden. Yet, somehow, we can't quite reach it.

I wanted to write a story that would be a balm for this feeling of frustration, for this "just out of reach-ness." I wanted to write a story that would help us remember hope again, especially when we are in the depths of our grief.

The Fox at the Door will be available for pre-order this Friday, Februrary 2nd, a very special day that was once celebrated by my ancestors as the day the earth began to wake up from its long winter nap. The day crocuses begin to push up through the snow. The time of year when the sheep begin to give birth. It's a time of inspiration and…hope.

Yes, hope.

The book won't be available in its current form on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It'll only be available on my website. I'll be signing every copy of this limited first print run, packaging each one with my own two hands, and sending them out to you. I want this to be an intimate experience between writer and reader. I want you to feel like I'm personally handing this story to you, gifting you with beauty and hope.

It's a bit of a risk to do this. There's little profit in it. (Not that I have ever written with profit as my goal - though I have hope that one day, my writing will, indeed, bring in an energetic exchange that will allow me to continue my work.) The books are expensive to print in full color, and becoming the "distribution center," so to speak, adds a lot of time and labor to the process.

But I feel that we're at a time when this needs to happen. There's always a place in the world for e-books and mass market paperbacks, always a place for Amazons and B&Ns. BUT…I think we need to keep a balance and remember to support our small bookstores and our indie authors. I think we need to remember to support the "little guys" who cultivate community, who respect the art of storytelling, and who make space for the bards of our modern world.

I believe that relationship goes both ways - we authors need to cultivate it, too, by offering special projects (Wild Talewort comes to mind) to our readers and being willing to shorten the distance between us.

That's one of my intentions for the year - to reach out to all of you readers and see what happens when we step into the same circle. Hopefully, this will also allow for some events, as well, where we can meet in person. (Stay tuned!)

In the meantime, be sure to check out the website on Friday and order your copy! 

A change in communication

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know that these past few years, I tend to get really quiet in November and December. I long for silence. I quite suddenly have no desire to produce on the level that I’ve been producing throughout the year. I’m a little bit tired and a little bit overwhelmed, but really, I just want to listen, rather than talking, rather than even writing.

 

This seems perfectly normal to me. Winter is a time to settle down, listen, rest. You wouldn’t know it, though, by the way our culture is designed. Our work schedules do not change – we still work (and are expected to work) the same hours at the same pace winter, spring, summer, or fall. We do not change our sleep schedules with the seasons, even when the nights get longer. And with our consumer-driven holiday season, we are bombarded with stimulus non-stop from November through early January.

 

The older I get, the more I pull back from this. I want to enjoy the holiday season quietly without a lot of fuss. I want to sleep more and try to alter my schedule to make that happen. And I want to pull back from my work – even the work I enjoy very much – to make room for inspiration and rejuvenation.

 

In this time of quiet, I’ve found myself on a search for authentic connection within my online community. I have my blog, which I worked really hard to update weekly this year (until recently). I send email newsletters to my readers, but not regularly. And I try to post a lot on social media (mostly Facebook and Instagram) and interact with people I enjoy and admire on those platforms.

 

When I first started blogging in 2009, people visited one another. Communication happened in newsletters, emails, and blog comments. We weren’t yet at the point of convening on social media platforms. Once that shift occurred, I initially enjoyed it. But as social media has rapidly evolved, I’ve become more and more disillusioned with it.

  Photo by  Joanna Kosinska  on  Unsplash

 

Trying to get your message to people, on Facebook in particular, is very challenging due to all the new algorithms that dictate who can see your posts and when. I’ve found it difficult to start or keep communication going on social media (though that’s certainly not the case for many people). I find myself suspicious of the data collection these platforms do – it feels as though they have shifted from places of connection to advertising factories. Even trying to use that advertising to our benefit is, at least from what I’ve seen, a waste. I’ve tried two Facebook ads – one in 2016 and one this year – and both times, every single engagement my ad attracted (and I paid for) was from a spam account.

 

And that’s not even to mention that what was once a place to visit to see pictures and fun stories from friends and family members has now become an endless stream of ads, memes, and political rants.

 

This isn’t how I want to communicate or share with others. There’s nothing intimate about it. I’m not even sure there’s any pleasantry to it. It’s an overwhelming waterfall of words, pictures, stuff…and what I want is focused, tangible interaction.

 

I’ve come to this place before, but I’m even more committed now to focusing more on targeted communication, the way we used to do back in the old days (2009). It’s true, it’s harder to get people to come visit your blog when it’s so much easier to just visit a social media platform and see everyone you follow at one time. But I believe it’s worth it, and I believe that ultimately, those of us with like minds will be moving back in this direction as social media continues to grow and become more and more consumer, rather than community, driven.

 

I also believe in returning to the practice of writing consistent newsletters and reaching people in their inboxes. Again, this is a challenge – so many people will click delete before even opening an email, and let’s face it, with all the spammy “buy my stuff” emails that became so popular, that’s not surprising. (Not that there’s anything wrong with advertising via email – but there’s an art to that, and I think we’ve largely lost that.)

 

Personally, I love a newsletter-type email from writers, shop owners, etc. I try not to subscribe to many, but the lists I remain keep my attention with their creativity, interesting information, and beautiful photos. As I said, there is an art to this. Check out One Willow Apothecaries to see what I mean. Asia Suler has the best emails I’ve ever seen. Stories about the earth, herbalism, and alternative healing, beautiful photos and videos, and subtle reminders about her courses and services (which I’ve purchased and which are amazing). No, I’m not getting a kickback by talking about her. I just believe in her business and that's because she knows how to communicate beautifully and intimately – both on social media and off.

 

People like Asia are my inspiration when it comes to shaping my communication intentions. I realize that my audience might always be small if this is the path I take, but to me, it’s worth it. It shouldn’t be about numbers, anyway. It should be about connection.

 

I’m still debating how I want to use my blog (and am even debating splitting some of my creative work off of the Yancy Lael brand/website), but you’ll definitely find more of me here than on social media in 2018, with the possible exception of You Tube. And you’ll see me in your Inbox slightly more often. And I would love to hear more from you, as well – either here, in email, or yes, even on social media.

 

But that’s enough chatting for now. Remember, it’s the time of year to listen more, say less. I’m ready to descend back into silence… at least for now.

Writing with Focus

I have recently decided to let go of my decision (which now seems arbitrary) to post here every single week. It was a good lesson in disclipline for 2017, and helped keep me focused on maintaining my online world, but it also took a lot of time and energy. I also had a goal of sending out two newsletters a month (which I almost met) and continuing some pretty major work on my next novel, and some adult fairy tales.

That’s a lot of writing and heck of a lot of deadlines.

I tend to get pretty locked into all the “shoulds” and “supposed tos” of the world. I’m supposed to keep my blog current, right? I’m supposed to maintain weekly or semi-weekly contact with my audience, right? I’ve even spent a lot of time researching the websites of my favorite authors to see what they feature there, if they blog, and how often they (or their web designers or assistants) update their content.

That didn’t help, at all. There were so many different types of websites out there for each of them – some with blogs, some without. Some websites were masterfully designed with animation or themes that matched their upcoming release. And some were downright awful – basic templates with zero detail toward design and branding.

So that research didn’t give any shoulds or supposed tos. But it did make me see that everyone is doing it differently. And that that’s okay. Some of the authors with the crappiest websites are some of the most successful authors on the NYT Bestseller list. It really didn’t seem to matter one way or another whether or not they were blogging or podcasting. They’re all doing pretty well, so far as I can see.

I feel a little relieved by that. Sometimes the pressure to blog makes me feel like I’m forcing the issue. And it genuinely takes away from my time writing the projects that matter to me so much more.

I also talked recently about how and when and where to share more honestly and that’s something I’m still debating. Is that something I want to live on my blog? Or do I want to go more deeply into my newsletter? That’s definitely something I’m thinking about.

In any case, as I consider my next steps, I know it’s important that I start putting more energy toward my high priority projects. So I might be posting a little (or even a lot) less around here. Or maybe transitioning into newsletters. Or podcasts. Or…?

There’s a lot to think about this winter, which is exactly what winter is for. Thinking, renewing, gathering energy for the next move. I know I need a lot of clarity about not only what I want to do…but WHY.

The Growing Space

Every day, when I pull up to my home after work, I’m struck by how much space I have acquired. Previously, I lived in a duplex in a cramped neighborhood where we each had a one-car garage, small driveway, and no curb parking. Being the only person who lived alone on that street, I was also the only person who only had one car. Everyone else owned 2, 3, or 4 cars and as such, the street was lined with parked vehicles from one end to the other. Our yards were almost non-existent, and there was no point in being precious about your personal space – anything outside the duplexes was fair game. The kids in the neighborhood played in everyone’s yards, having no recognition or care for property lines.

Everything was achingly cramped – enough to make me grit my teeth every time I turned onto my street and had to navigate between the tightly packed parked cars and children running back and forth across the street.

Now, 20 miles away, on the edge of another town, I live on a sprawling lot with a huge lawn. There’s enough space on the curb to park at least 5 cars – and no one parks there. There is a house to the west of me, but nothing else. My home is at the end of a 3-way intersection, so it faces a street – not another house. And there’s a farm behind me. The lot tapers into a point at the east end, and there’s nothing more there but the farm and the road.

Space. Everywhere.

And silence.

There are children in this neighborhood, too. They holler and laugh and run past my windows over and over, sometimes riding their bikes in my big driveway. But other than that and the train that passes by on the nearby tracks, it is so quiet in my neighborhood that it sometimes makes me anxious.

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Inside, funnily enough, is the opposite, as far as space is concerned. My old duplex was close to 1,000 sq. feet and this house is a mere 600 sq. feet. It is almost hilariously small. I literally have to walk sideways to make my way around my full-size mattress in the bedroom. (Imagine if I wasn’t single and had a queen or king-sized mattress – there’s literally no room for that in my house!)

As I move in, it’s a genuine challenge for me to figure out where to put furniture – how to fit it all in and do so in an effective manner. And it’s even more challenging (but also fun and freeing) to decide what items to let go of.

I find it so fascinating that I went from a spacious interior in the most cramped neighborhood I’ve ever lived in to a huge, open area with an interior space that could only house 2 if both ascribed to serious minimalism (and had a very tiny bed).

I’m glad, however, that my outdoor space exceeds my indoor space. This means I’m moving in the right direction. Ultimately, my goal is to either have a small ranch property, or to buy my mother’s property someday and bring it back into farming life. I want at least 30 acres – preferably 40 or more. I want my own forest that I can cultivate and protect.

Three years ago, I reached for a goal I never thought I could achieve on my own – owning a home in this wildly inflated market. Truthfully, I didn’t really think it could happen, but I kept finding ways to talk myself into taking another step.

And then....it actually happened.

So me having a huge lot, a lot of space outside the house, and a ranch behind and beside me…I know exactly what that means. My little farm is on its way.

In the meantime, I'm thoroughly enjoying my teeny-tiny nest. 

The Language of Honesty

I have been wanting so badly to really open myself up and write more honestly about my life. I have been helped by so many who have shared with honesty and compassion – people like Elizabeth Gilbert, Brene Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Natalie Goldberg, and Glennon Doyle. And we need that so badly in this culture where life coaches and social media have helped ingrain in us our desire and expectation for perfection.

But I struggle so much with how much to share. There’s so much of me out there, already, and so many privacy leaks online that we may not even be aware of. I’ve learned from experience that it’s so easy to become an object to someone, something they can project their wants and needs onto. And so easy to become the target for someone’s cruelty.

I don’t want to overshare or put myself into a vulnerable position. And yet, sharing the way I do, lately, has sometimes felt a little icky. There was a time, after I stopped green blogging, that I became so entrenched in the language of self-help, that everything I wrote felt like it was sales copy for a life coaching practice. Not that there’s anything wrong with life coaches, but ick, that’s not what I was and not what I wanted to sound like.

Even to this day, I still struggle with shedding that language from my toolkit. It’s not accessible in the way I want to be accessible. It doesn’t feel genuine to the kind of writer I want to be.

Unfortunately, the language itself doesn’t solve the other problem – what and how much to share. How do I protect the privacy of the people in my life while still telling my story? How do I know what’s too much?

It’s almost easier in books. In The Paris Diaries, I really laid it all out on the table. That book is literally a copy of the actual journal I wrote in during that time in my life, with only a few changes made to make it easier to read. I did hold back just a tad, though. There are a few incredibly personal things that happened that I didn’t mention in the book. But mostly, it is a very raw account of what happened.

There was a safety in the book format. I knew people would have to actually get their hands on the book in order to read it. They couldn’t just type in a search term on Google and have the intimate details of my life pop up.

But…people do that. And oftentimes, successfully. Many people find great clarity and release from sharing in very public forums, and many others are strengthened by that spirit of truth and courage.

I guess part of what I want is to just strip away that awful life coach language and at least see what lies beneath it. And I try to do this with every single blog post. It’s a good place to start, at least. And hopefully, things will become clearer from there.

What are your thoughts on sharing your life in public forums?

Three Years and Seven Inches Later

I’ve been growing my hair out for 4 years. The first year was just a lark, wanting to see what it would look like just a tad longer. But after my boyfriend left to marry a woman almost twenty years younger than me, my desire to grow out my hair became something else.

I had always wanted to have really long hair. In my childhood, my mother always had my hair cut short, while my sister typically had very long hair. At some point, I started to wonder if our different haircuts were reflective of something my parents saw in our personalities. It was easy to see what long hair symbolized – beauty and femininity. Was I the opposite of those things? Is that why they always encouraged me to have shorter hair?

  Copyright Yancy Lael 2017

Copyright Yancy Lael 2017

I wanted to bust through this perception of myself at many points during my life – and hopefully end up looking like, say, Queen Guinevere in the process. In my mid-twenties, I let my hair grow out halfway down my back…and I hated it. I was very overweight back then and every time I saw the pictures of myself with that super long hair, I felt like I looked even heavier and droopier.

I happily kept it at a medium length throughout my thirties…until that day the ex left. I was crippled with insecurity. I had wanted to marry him and raise a family with him so badly and over the course of our seven years together, he backed away from those dreams until one day he started claiming that he didn’t believe in marriage, at all, would never get married, and that he would never, ever have a child.

And then a little twenty-something single mother caught his eye, he fell instantly in love with her, and decided it was time to become a husband and father.

All I could feel for two years was that I just wasn’t good enough. If he could so easily do the things he had abhorred with this new woman, it must be because there was so much wrong with me. I was just a mess. I knew I couldn’t “fix” my personality, I knew I couldn’t make myself younger like his new love, and I knew I definitely could not make myself prettier. Don’t get me wrong – being in your forties is great – but, to put it bluntly, the 40’s cannot compete with hot, young ass.

But there was one thing I could do, I realized. I could grow out my hair. It seems ridiculous to say it now. At the time, however, it was perfectly logical. Having long hair would somehow transform me into that Celtic princess. It was like a magic spell that would cause observers to see me as pretty, even if I wasn’t. Somehow, I could hold my own next to a 20-something…because I had long hair.

Two and a half years after he left, I had an opportunity to buy a house for the first time. That had been one of our biggest disagreements – I wanted to buy a house and he didn’t. I thought it would be impossible for me to buy one on my own…and suddenly, there I was, about to sign off on a stack of mortgage documents.

I could not believe how scary and amazing that process was. But throughout it, I realized that my hair was starting to ask for attention. It was so long, it was becoming burdensome. And every time I looked at it, I remembered my ex and how insecure I felt – back then, and if I was honest with myself, still in the present moment.

But I had done something I never thought I could do – I bought a house BY MYSELF. Commitmentphobic boyfriend be damned. I DID IT. I started to see myself very differently. I could do more than I thought.

Meanwhile, my hair was dragging, dragging, dragging. I felt so heavy with the weight of it. And no, I didn’t feel like a Celtic princess, at all. And no, it honestly didn’t make me feel prettier. It just made me feel a tiny bit unusual.

Things were also starting to come full circle. Moving back to the town I had left after the breakup was bringing up all sorts of emotions. At first, it was sad – the last time I moved into a house in that town, it was with him and was literally one of the happiest times of my entire life, however shortlived that joy was. Later, it started to feel freeing – like I was starting fresh, wiping the slate clean. I realized there might be a time when I didn’t feel so much sadness in that town, that I wouldn’t see the ghosts of the past on every sidewalk, in every store.

Two weeks before I got the keys to the house, I started to feel so terrified and so excited that I wanted to make even bigger changes. I knew this really was a whole new chance for me and I wanted to let go of EVERYTHING that had dragged me down. Including my hair – or rather, what it represented.

My schedule was too crazy to get an appointment before the big day, so I had to patiently wait a few more weeks to get rid of this bad mojo I’d been carrying around. I even had to reschedule the appointment, and asked if I could push it back a week. Later, as I plugged it into my calendar, I saw that that “one week later date” was my ex’s birthday. Well…that’s appropriate, I thought.

I babbled and laughed during the entire cut, trying to manage the anxiety I was feeling. She took a “before” picture and I was stunned by how long it was. I hadn’t really realized. She said she was going to cut 7 inches to get the length I was asking for – was I sure?

Yes, I said. Do it.

Every snip of the scissors had me both exhilarated and sad. I couldn’t even look on the floor afterwards – I knew there was a ton of hair down there and I just couldn’t bear to see it all.

After the cut, I was feeling pretty good about myself and I decided to run into the store and pick up something I needed. And there, I came face-to-face with my ex’s mother who hadn’t spoken to me in 3 years, despite the many times I had reached out to her.

She gave me a huge hug and seemed anxious and sad. She asked me several times how I was doing, was I okay? It was a short conversation and I was overwhelmed with emotion – which I hadn’t expected – and afterward, I really didn’t know what to make of it. Hey, Universe! I just cut off 7 inches of hair to let go of that man and then you put his mother in my path right afterward? What the holy heck?

I think I might have to forgive his parents. I felt so hurt that I’d never heard from them again after all this happened. Their son had lied and cheated and I was the one who was pushed away? It seemed so unfair to me. It still does.

But…ever since I bought the house, I’ve felt more indifferent than I used to. Not in a disconnected way – just in a “sometimes shitty stuff just happens” kind of way. I don’t have to do anything about it – I don’t have to cry about it (not anymore), I don’t have to feel bad about it, I sure as hell don’t have to fix it. It just happened, and who cares now because I’m an independent woman who can kick ass and buy herself a house?

So yeah, maybe forgiveness is the next layer. For them. I’m not quite there when it comes to the ex, yet. That might take another three years and seven inches.

And in the days following the haircut, I admit, I have a bit of a hangover about it. I kinda miss the long hair. Not a whole lot – it really didn’t do much because of how heavy it was, and I usually just braided it, which got so boring. But I miss it a little. It was a security blanket of sorts.

Now I have to face the fear I was avoiding the whole time – without the hair, am I just old and ugly and totally useless to a man? I know in my head that that can’t be true. But my heart isn’t there yet.

I also know I don’t want to set this kind of example for the young women in my life. I’m buying into the disgusting notion that the only value women have is in their beauty and youth. Apparently, that’s still very true for many men out there. But not the ones that I want to be around. Not the ones who are worth caring about.

It’s a long road, those seven inches. Even now that they’re gone, there’s still such a long way to go…

The Clarity of 600 Square Feet

Three weeks in and my little cottage looks like a bomb went off inside it. I have never in my life lived in such a small space and even just getting things set up is a challenge I did not foresee. In the past, I’ve been able to designate part of a room the “drop zone” – I’ll stack things there and move them to where they belong as I tidy up.

Well, the rooms in my new house have no “parts.” Each room is so tiny, there’s no place to stack items in order to move them around later.

Because I packed my belongings without dividing them into boxes based on which room they belonged in (I’m more interested in using the space in a box wisely than designating each box to a separate room and potentially waste a few square inches), when I open a box, stuff comes out that belongs in the garage, in the spare room, in the bedroom, in the bathroom, in the kitchen… It’s a random grab bag. So I’ve had to move piles of items from the spare room to the garage to the living room to the garage to the spare room again to the garage and on and on. I’ve literally shuffled things back and forth at least 4 times, at this point, just trying to figure out where to keep things, where things will FIT. (Not a lot fits.)

I’ve known for a while that I would have to seriously downsize – and before I moved, I got rid of my couch and two entire carloads of stuff I don’t use anymore. I thought that would make a serious dent.

It turns out that actually being in the tiny space of my home gives me much more clarity about things than I had before I moved. Now it’s not just conceptual – this is the real deal. Suddenly, being able to function in a room without feeling like the walls are closing in is incredibly important. Suddenly, the occasional usefulness of an item is not enough of an argument for me to keep it. Suddenly, something that takes up only 3 square inches has to justify its presence in my home.

As I was unpacking the other day, I thought about Marie Kondo’s organizing philosophy that an item should “spark joy” if it’s going to stay in your home. Usually, I’m pretty sharp about what that means, what that feels like. I know that spark of joy.

But now that I’m in this new space, swimming through a sea of stuff, I started to feel a little muddled about it. I’d pull things out of boxes and remember that I used to love that item, but did I still? It fit so well on the table in the old living room, but now… A lot of items also reminded me of how much time and money I spent on trying to build a perfect home for a family I never had. That’s a lot of ghosts to bring into a new home, and frankly, I don’t have room for them, either.

As I pondered all this, pulling items out of boxes that made me feel lukewarm and confused, I suddenly pulled out some of my antique knickknacks…and smiled. I could feel my whole face light up. I was excited.

I realized my new experience of “sparking joy” was going to be much more discerning. There are a whole lot of items that made it past the pre-move initial sweep that aren’t going to make through this time around. The second round is a lot tougher than the first. My possessions really have to work it if they want to remain a part of the household.

Some of this is painful – it’s always hard to relive memories of the dreams that fell by the wayside. It’s hard to open a box that was packed up right after the dissolution of a household and relationship and find items, three years later, that had once held a place of honor in your supposedly happy love nest, but that went forgotten in their boxes.

Some of it is completely awesome. There’s a lot of stuff, I have discovered, that I used to love to do but perhaps don’t really love so much, anymore. And even more stuff that I thought I should love to do that I really don’t. Hobbies that I’ve grown out of, or hobbies that I started because I wanted to be “that kind” of wife and mother.

It’s really exciting to claim what I am and what my life is like here and now and decide what that really means and what that looks like. I’m not a mother. I’m not a wife. I can let go of so much of what I acquired to fulfill those roles and then…what might await me? Time and money to spend on a little bit of travel? More time to explore the woods? Or better yet, what if my writing becomes such a hot commodity that I have to spend most of my time writing novels? I love clearing the space for these possibilities.

I also just love to relieve myself of the emotional weight and energy. I believe that every single thing we own (even stuff that’s as tiny as a thimble, and even things we have forgotten we own) costs us energy. Every single thing. Anything under our stewardship demands energy from us, in one form or another. And when you’re the sole head of a household and every part of it, inside and out, is yours and yours alone, that’s a heavy load to carry. It can be a joyous one when you have struck that balance of owning the right amount of possessions and only (well, mostly) those things that make you happy. But if you’re drowning in an ocean of STUFF that you don’t really care about…it’s time to reevaluate.

And that’s where I am. I am waiting for that smile now. That excitement when I look at something I own, when I see something that makes me happy. Almost everything else is going to find itself a new home with people who truly appreciate it and will be energized by its presence.

I want to be a lean, mean machine in my 600-square-foot house. I want to know where every single item lives and be able to grab it quickly. I want my home to be simple, organized, and filled with space for whatever is coming.

And guess what else is going? The hair… (Stay tuned.)

We cannot hide at Grandma's house

As I write this, I find myself terrified. Excited, yes, but incredibly terrified.

I am buying a house all by myself on a salary with which I can barely make ends meet (the danger of working for a non-profit). No backups. No safety nets. No second income. No roommates.

Just me.

There are times, as I run from one room to another, packing furiously, that I feel I will explode from the worry, from the fear. Can I do this? Can I even make the one step it will take to sign that last contract? Can I even make it as far as to just finish packing and truck everything over there?

Funnily enough, by the time you read this, I'll be well-settled into my house. I realize all of this will be over. I might even feel like laughing that I ever felt so afraid.

In fact, I'm counting on that.

In my youth, this kind of fear would signal to me that it was time to run - or at the very least, hide. I would've assumed the fear was a sign that things were wrong, that I was going down the wrong path.

Now, I see that I have never grown in significant ways without doing something that scared the you-know-what out of me. I have never changed without the rug being pulled out from under me, without doubting that I was ready to make a change, without jumping off the edge and into what scares me most.

I still hate that that's true. Will the next 40 years also be full of nausea-inducing choices to grow, versus the relative ease of complacency? Will I have to face this fear again and again and again?

I wish it weren't so, but I think I probably will. It's the Big Bad Wolf waiting for me in my dark forest. I just want to arrive at Grandma's house, safe and sound, but in truth, there's no end, there's no destination. There's only the twisting, winding pathways leading us through the woods, where all the scariest creatures await us.

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So, I press on. I know better now than to run. The fear, like a bear, will only run after me, and eventually overtake me. So I might as well face it, trembling, holding on to my lantern. Once I've looked it in the face, I know it's not going to be half as scary as I thought. And once I've danced with it for a little while, it's going to become easier and easier, pressing me to meet the next creature that awaits me.

I suppose that's the best gift we get out of all of these risks, all of these moments of facing our fears - we realize, simply, that we can survive it, which gives us the courage to try again, to reach even further.

Scared as I am, I cannot wait to see who I become after I settle into home ownership. That's a big manifestation in the physical realm. What's going to come to help me support that?

I am terrified…but jubilant with excitement, waiting to find out.

Hunting with the owlets

On the evening of September 8th, I headed out into the woods to spend a little quiet time (which I do at least once each week, with no expectation of what I might see. I hadn't seen the owlets in two or three weeks, instead encountering a heron and a peregrine falcon, so I was excited to see whatever Mother Nature decided to show me.

Before I even made it to the woods, I saw one of my owlets sitting on a fence post behind the pole barn. I couldn't believe it. She was so beautiful - still with much of her white coloring, and beautiful "horns" that have fully grown in.

Truthfully, I cannot easily tell these three birds apart, especially when they are alone. Together, I can compare their sizes and behaviors and make a pretty good guess. But when they are alone, I trust my intuition to clue me in. I had the feeling that this one was Lyra - she certainly had that diva attitude about her, which is so like the Lyra that I know.

For the first time since she was a baby, she let me come pretty close to her and watch her for quite a long time. She was mostly napping, but at one point, she puffed up her feathers, opened her mouth as if she were yawning, and made several squawks (still not hooting). I could hear her siblings answering her from the woods beyond, but none appeared.

Some time later, I heard a duck quacking and landing in the pond several hundred yards away - out of sight, but loud enough to hear. Lyra heard it, too. She perked up, moving her head forward and back, forward and back. I thought she might fly off, to explore, but she remained where she was.

I remained there for another ten minutes, taking pictures and watching Lyra, the duck happily quacking over and over again, and suddenly I realized: there are at least two other owls out there in the woods. I couldn't help but think about the duck, who would be completely defenseless against a Great Horned Owl.

I carefully made my way down the hill, hearing Lyra squawk behind me. As I rounded the corner, the pond coming into view…sure enough, there was an owlet sitting on a rock overlooking the water. I had a feeling it was little Vesper, the runt of the family (or, more accurately, the last one born, making her markedly smaller than her older siblings).

  Copyright Yancy Lael 2017

Copyright Yancy Lael 2017

I can't explain the feeling I had in that moment. I was nervous, excited, and even a little horrified. There was my beautiful little creature honing in on her prey. All of that gorgeous wildness was about to turn into blood, bone, and death. I have seen what Great Horned Owls can do to other birds - even birds larger than themselves - and it isn't pretty.

I wanted to see Vesper have her moment. I wanted her to have her dinner and keep surviving. I wanted to see her power.

But I also couldn't bear to see a harmless female duck lose her life.

What an odd moment, there in the woods, twilight descending, the shadows growing longer and longer, the sun a stark red against the smoky sky, the pond gently reflecting the tableau surrounding it, the duck happily quacking away. The owl waiting. Watching.

Did this duck have a mate? If her she was a mother, her ducklings would be grown by now, but would she be missed if she never returned home? Would Vesper kill her quickly enough so she would not experience pain?

Whose life was worth more in that moment? The duck? Or the owl? Would allowing the duck to become Vesper's dinner (breakfast?) be fairer than depriving Vesper of her well-earned meal?

I didn't have any answer to any of those questions. But I did know one simple thing: I couldn't bear to witness death in that moment. It was too beautiful. Too surging with life. All three of us living beings who wanted to keep on living. Who wanted to survive.

So I slowly walked toward Vesper, who finally became aware of my presence, and she flew away, into the trees. I felt guilty, but also grateful that I had come at that moment. Grateful that the duck would be able to return home, safe and sound.

I took a few pictures of the duck, then held up my arms and yelled, scaring her away. I knew Vesper would come back if the duck was still there and my attempt to save her would have been in vain. I watched the duck's retreat until she was no longer visible, relieved that she was safe.

I thought about what I'd done as I made my way back up the hill, back toward the house, Lyra still squawking away, still sitting on her post. We so often hear people advise us not to mess with nature. That if you do, it throws everything off balance, sometimes in ways we cannot even foresee.

I find this saying laughable, though. Look how much we have messed with nature in the last 100 years. We cover the earth in concrete, blast through tectonic plates to extract oil from beneath its surface, create enough plastic waste to destroy our ocean habitats, and poison the water with our chemicals. So making a fuss about not touching baby animals that appear to have been abandoned by their parents, or interfering in an animal's hunting habits doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. There are worse kinds of interference happening every day, every second.

But beyond this, using a word like interfere implies that there's a division between us and the wild world. There's us (the domesticated) and them (the wild animals). The truth is, though, that we are all one and the same. We are animals, too. And these so-called wild creatures live among us, and we amongst them, and everything we do affects the other, whether that's our intention or not. (You know what they say about the butterfly flapping its wings in Central Park.)

I have been a part of these birds' lives, and they of mine, since they were born. In their experience, it is normal to have a woman skulking around in the woods, taking pictures of them and watching them. Having me join them on a night of hunting is just another day for them. (Though I still feel guilty that I "stole" Vesper's dinner.)

The action that I took is a reflection of the kind of wild animal I am - philosophical, intellectual, pseudo-logical. I tried to make a moral distinction in that moment (which really was a random choice born of my own perceptions) and when that failed, I made a decision to do what would make me more comfortable. Because, yes, I, like other humans, have been somewhat domesticated, and that domestication alters our perception.

I often wonder what it might be like to have a different perspective - something wildly different. Like an owl's. Would it be as simplistic as we assume it to be? Do owls think about the meaning of life? About the price, born by other beings, to keep them alive?

I feel lucky to have had the experiences I have had with them. To watch, observe, think, wonder. To, in a sense, change my skin just by spending time with them. What would it be like to be one of the woodland's most powerful predators? To be so calculating, efficient, and even, perhaps, cold-hearted?

If you think about it, though, are we so different from our Great Horned Owl companions? Humans are at the top of the food chain. You could argue there is no one more cold-hearted, efficient, or calculating than we are. If we have this in common with the Great Horned Owl, what else might we share?

As they have grown up, I have seen so much tenderness in them. I have seen both the mother and father owls come swooping in the moment they thought their baby was in danger. I have seen the mother owl sit for literally hours at the top of a fence, a powerful sentinel, when one of the babies was too tired to try to fly out of the patch of grass she had fallen into.

I have also seen the babies peck at each other. I've seen them come flying at their father, pummeling him with their wings until the father gave an angry squawk and flew away. And now I have seen them carefully stalking their prey.

I think I am drawn to these owls because of the mystery they represent to me. They live in the darkness. Their lives are, generally, shrouded from the human eye.

But the more I watch them, the more I see humans reflected in their behaviors and the more I see owls reflected in humans. We are all so connected.

Striving for domestic goddesshood

As I'm preparing for another move into my first experience of home ownership, I have to downsize. A lot. Again.

My last move was somewhat unexpected. I had a tight deadline (less than a week) to go from settled to completely moved out. I didn't have time to purge things. I didn't have the strength, either. I was still processing the end of my relationship and the loss of the happy little nest I had spent 5 years creating.

Though I have had much more time to prepare this time around, I admittedly haven't done well with pacing myself. Now that there's less than 2 weeks left, I realize I've saved about 75% of the work for the last minute. Partly out of procrastination and overwhelm and partly because in my childhood, we moved a lot, and I have a particular aversion to living in a half-packed house for any length of time.

  Copyright Yancy Lael 2015

Copyright Yancy Lael 2015

But now, finally, I have no choice to pack. And with the packing and downsizing comes a lot of purging. I'm finding all the domestic treasures I made and/or collected for the house I had with my ex. Two years ago, at my last move, I considered these things precious, invaluable, a symbol of the hope and love I had in my heart. Today, I look at them and only see the burden I felt to create some unrealistic domestic paradise. Trying so hard to be worthy - a woman who could attract the love and commitment of a man, who could keep her home beautiful and cozy, who kept meals on the table, who constructed elaborate holiday traditions, who would one day become a mother (the most worthy creature of all) and continue juggling all these balls, plus night feedings and poopy diapers.

It pains me to see how much I strived back then. How much I've always strived. I aspire toward the domestic perfection I see in the movies. I aspire toward the domestic perfection I see on Martha Stewart. I aspire toward the domestic perfection I see in my friends and family members' lives. It seems like this incredible ideal that lives somewhere "out there" that I have never been able to attain and somehow, reaching for it, moving toward it, directing my energy toward it, has given me some level of comfort in all these years.

But it also set me up for massive disappointments time and time again. And caused me to miss out on the normal business of living - missing connection, missing the opportunity to engage in less stressful events, missing simplicity. Missing the chance to enjoy my life just as it is. Missing the chance to see myself as worthy without all the striving.

As I truck all of these items - supplies from my old business, handmade domestic frills, furniture the ex and I bought together - off to the thrift store, I feel a tinge of sadness and a ton of freedom. I don't know if I can live without striving - it seems to be a default setting within me. But to live with more awareness surrounding that still feels like an improvement.

What might come of letting go of these possessions…and what they were meant to symbolize?