Friday, January 1, 2016


I love making New Year's Resolutions, but because I'm human, I am truly terrible at keeping them. They're a perennial (literally) favourite of mine! And, not to brag, but a lot of the resolutions I've set for myself over the past few years have come to pass, even if they were sort of by accident. I've made my peace with my body (or at least I had; we'll just have to see what a post-baby incarnation looks like and what kind of spirit work it requires), which means I no longer "need" to lose x-number of pounds. I've accepted my Coke Zero habit, mostly don't eat junk food, and I quit smoking ages ago.

But that doesn't mean there aren't things in my life that wouldn't benefit from some changes. Resolutions, adjustments, goals, habits to break or create, things I need to examine or challenge, and all the other work that goes into the improvement of a human being. In the spirit of the new year, here are some of my 2016 goals:

1. Set a monthly intention. A friend of mine does this, and I think it's pure genius. Whether it's practicing more gratitude, getting outside more often, working on a relationship that needs some TLC, or some other goal, holding it in my mind for a month seems doable. I'm a person who, every so often, will "make a five year plan": this is literally just a half-baked spreadsheet with columns like FINANCE and LOVE and I'm stumped on how to fill out the cells. I do much better with short-term goals, like giving up sugar or social media for a month, and I often find that these experiments act as a window into my priorities. Like, giving up sugar was horrible, because it tapped into the obsessive, punitive part of my brain. Better to just have a bit of chocolate and be cool with it, you know? Anyway, a monthly intention may just be enough focus in a year which I'm sure will have its share of hairiness.

2. Stop taking everything so damn personally. I am...not very good at this. From other people's weddings to celebrity bodies, it can be a real challenge to remember that these things are not happening at me, and I don't need to react to them as though I've been personally wronged. This happens literally all the time, from the mundane (I didn't win an Instagram giveaway! I am bad at Instagram and am also a loser!) to the meaningful (before I was married, unchecked jealousy over other people's engagements left me feeling like I'd been doused in lye). Being able to celebrate people's milestones and accomplishments is the mark of a healthy soul, and it's something I need to cultivate in myself before I shrivel up into a husk. I've been working on this for years already, so this is more of a reminder to, you know, keep at it!

As a corollary, if my husband happens to have a grumpy face when he's talking to me, he might not be grumpy at me (although he definitely might be: I have been known to push a button or two). I want to be able to hear past an angry tone, an interruption, or a misspoken word, and not weaponize it and turn it back onto the person. I want to be able to hear the message without getting all bent out of shape about the delivery. Personal criticism is vital for growth (prune the dead branches, etc), but it doesn't always come in an embossed envelope, delivered by singing baby angels.

3. Stop swearing (in conversation). I love salty language. I've peppered my speech with forbidden words since the fifth grade, when I realized that my parents weren't actually in class with me and couldn't do much about it (my big transgression? Telling a classmate to shut up, which, along with hate, stupid, and dumb, was definitely Not Allowed in my house). I swear like a sailor with my friends and my therapists, and I love it. It's fun! But, if I'm being perfectly honest, swearing is also sort of déclassé and aggressive. I hate that I'm more likely to drop an f-bomb when I'm angry, or when I'm trying to come across as cool or tough. Removing rough language from my speech doesn't mean I don't feel angry, or want to seem cool or tough; it just means I don't have a convenient crutch to lean on to convey those thigs. And I can definitely keep using the whole dictionary, including the R-rated entries, in my writing. Sometimes, a sister just needs to write fuuuuuck, you know?

2016 is going be a nutty year for a lot of different reasons. We're transitioning from a two-person family to welcoming a third. My parents and siblings are in flux right now, and "home" is undergoing a radical redefinition. I have creative projects simmering in my brain, but they've not yet come to full boil. And, as the year passes, time will stretch and slow like it always does. The days will be long and the weeks short, and vice versa. "One day at a time" is such a cliche, but even cliches have their usefulness.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Girl and the Bird

 Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in the city. She was a happy girl, more or less: she had friends and family near and far, and she had a bike to ride, and good food to eat, and a happy boy by her side. The girl was a wild one: she wore feathers in her hair and rode her bike on the empty streets of the midnight city, daring the world to come up and meet her.

Most often, the world did.

One night, the girl was riding her bike when she happened across a tiny bird in the middle of the street. The bird did not fly away when she pedaled towards it; instead, it cocked its head at her and blinked. Despite its tiny size, it seemed fearless. The girl slowed her bike down. The streetlight pooled orange glow across the road, and the moon rose slowly beside them.

The girl looked at the bird. The bird looked at the girl. Nothing around them moved. Even the treetops were still. The girl smiled gently, silently inviting the little bird closer. The bird hopped, once, twice, then stopped. The girl smiled. A tenderness flew through her, unexpected on this ordinary night.

Then the bird let out one small sound, and its body fell to the side. Its tiny talons curled up, and its eyes closed.

Dead? Dead.

The girl let out a cry she did not hear. Without thinking, she scooped the little bird up into her hand. It weighed barely anything at all: it was lighter than a rose in bloom, smaller than a handful of snow. It did not move as she held it near to her face. She looked through tears for signs of life.


The girl was still astride her bicycle, still in the middle of the street. Because she didn't know what else to do, she swung leg over her frame and carried the tiny body over to the sidewalk. She placed the bird gently on the pavement, then stood and looked at it from her full girl's height.

It was so small. Surely nothing this small could have suffered for long.

The girl sat on the curb and allowed her sadness to rise up. A sob slipped out, then another. The night around her blurred into orange light and shadows. The moon's full face disappeared under her tears. The bird lay beside her, quiet in death.

Then the girl heard a sound. Another bird had landed, cheeping madly at the girl, at the tiny body beside her. Then another bird landed. Soon, the girl and the body were surrounded by a tiny quorum of birds, all crying into the night.

The girl pushed herself back up to her feet. The birds fell silent for a moment, watching her rise. Then they turned their attention back to the death at hand. It was impossible for the girl to know—were these other birds friends? Family? Perhaps a lovebird, drawn to the scene by the tidal knowledge of death? All mourning in their own raptorish way?

As the girl watched, each took a turn running its beak along their fallen friend's feathers. It was a gentle thing, made strange and beautiful under the orange glow of the streetlight. The birds paid her no heed as they tended to their friend.

The girl walked back to her bicycle and looked once more at the birds on the sidewalk. They were silent now, looking down at the tiny body.

The girl did not smile as she rode away, but neither did she cry. Instead, she felt the love she held in her heart for her own flock rise up over the city like a wing on the breeze.

Image via Karl Martens via My Modern Met