Family, Marriage, Parenting

Once upon a time, I was a ghost…

photo (8)For about a year I was a ghost.  It all started with the official day of Mae’s diagnosis.  Even though we had several days of testing, even though I knew it was coming, even though I should have been prepared, it really only hit me when the report arrived in the mail.  A big white envelope with lots of data to support that my child was about three years behind her peers.  The doctor who had done the evaluation was wise, compassionate and strangely good looking.  The fact that I was able to track his appearance was the one sign I had that despite the fact that my world had been blown open, I was in there somewhere.

The day after the report arrived, the cute doctor and I had a phone call to go over every sentence. The net of the call was, my child was severely autistic but with hours and hours of therapy she would make some progress. It was just unclear how much. It was a good thing I was a ghost, because a real person might not be able to live with that kind of uncertainty.  Instead I put down the phone and went about the rest of my day.  I went to the grocery store, taught some yoga, met my kids at the school bus, woke up the next day and did it all again.

I looked normal, I was functioning, but everything was an out of body experience. My ghost hands made dinner, my ghost legs went for long runs in an effort to exhaust my ghost brain enough to sleep.  There are very few pictures of me from that period of time, she was diagnosed in October and I am in the background of a few photos of the kids at Christmas. Usually just a bony arm, or sharp cheekbones and dark circles.  Ghosts don’t photograph well.

I thought I would always be a ghost.  I thought that my life would be split down the middle.  The first half where I was pink cheeked and hopeful, and the second where I was a ghostly and sad.  The normal operations of a happy life were available to me but I felt nothing as I went through each day. For weeks and weeks I didn’t even cry.  Finally, one night I got in bed with my husband and said, “I am so sad because I really wanted to dance at her wedding.”  We both cried all night. I was still a ghost the next day.

It was a year before I had glimmers of myself again.  At first they were just flashes; for a brief moment I would catch sight of the living, breathing me, and then I would become a ghost again.  Finally, the moments turned into hours, and the hours into days, like the part in the Wizard of Oz when the color seeps into the movie.  I slowly returned to myself.

It has been four years since I turned into a ghost, and a broken heart pushed me out to the edges of my own life.  I know that life has other ways of turning you into a ghost that are unavoidable, but I also know that eventually the color will seep back in.  When I see people who have been turned into ghosts by the loss of a loved one or a vanished dream, I want to tell them that they won’t be a ghost forever, that they will be able to feel and connect and live again.  Sometimes I do and sometimes they hear me. It can be hard to hear when you are a ghost.  My heart still hurts for my ghost self, if I could go back in time to that day when I became a ghost I would tell myself, “Don’t worry, it gets better. You don’t have to fix it. You are doing the right things. Just keep going, it’s all you can do.  You won’t be a ghost forever.”

Family, Marriage, Meditation, Parenting

Sacred space at a Maryland truck stop

Today I watched a man turn a truck stop parking lot into a sacred space. He took out his prayer mat, he carefully washed his hands and feet, he positioned his mat towards the east and proceeded to pray. He bowed towards his god, humbling himself in service as he must do several times a day. When he was done he rolled up his mat, popped his cell phone ear bud back in his ear and drove off. The space underneath his mat became a parking lot again.

A sacred space doesn’t need a giant altar, an impressive entry or even an entry at all. A sacred space is about ritual. Sometimes a cup of coffee at my kitchen table in a house that is still sleeping can feel sacred. In the morning when I sit for meditation on my living room floor that is a ritual. It is not public, it is in fact very private. When I am finished I slide the worn purple cushion back under the couch, and get ready for the rest of my day.

We fill our lives with rituals.  Some are familiar acts of worship that have gone on for centuries, generations of people repeating the same vows or prayers to define their lives and their milestones. We have personal rituals, the little moments that define the culture of our families and lives. They change as our families change. At this stage of my life, my day begins before the sun and ends with the dishwasher triumphantly signaling the end of another day, long after the sun has closed up shop.

There are moments that feel sacred to me within our days, the sound of my kids sleepily making their way downstairs in the morning, or the sigh of the bus stop doors. From the outside of our life they are completely unremarkable; from the inside they are the moments that make up the sacred landscape of this stage of our lives. Every family has it’s own little culture and set of rituals.  Our days are held together by ordinary moments that may not resonate with anyone else.  Small things, a dish filled with brightly colored sunglasses will always remind me of my grandmother, or a Sunday brunch menu at my mothers house that has never changed.  These details or habits of our lives can be done automatically or with an awareness that a day, a week, a month is all just a series of moments.  If we choose to see the richness that exists within the ordinary we won’t look for it other places, but instead will see it in everything we do.

The man on his knees in the Maryland truck stop was connecting with his past, his present and praying to the future. He was totally focused. His surroundings were irrelevant. All over the world people engage in rituals defined by religion every day. For many people though, their lives have different kinds of rituals and routines. A ritual does not have to be shared with a cast of thousands to be meaningful. It can be as small as weeding your garden in spring or walking your dog. It is the attention that we bring to it that can make it feel sacred.



Family, Marriage, Parenting, Yoga

There are very few yoga emergencies…

photo (5)The first time I saw a beeper I was probably 8 or 9.  It was on the belt of a family friend who was a doctor.  It was mind blowing at the time to think that no matter where he was, the hospital could reach him and he would get up, find the nearest phone and in minutes be updated on a patient or called into action.

At the time it seemed like an amazing innovation.  Eventually all sorts of people started to carry beepers.  It was no longer just doctors on call who may be needed urgently by their office.  It was the police, business people of all varieties, even drug dealers. Those little black beepers eventually gave way to the cell phone and now we are all “on call” all the time.

The cell phone has changed everything.  We had this babysitter when I was a little kid who was out of central casting.  She was a thousand years old and wore those pantyhose socks rolled down at her ankles.  She would arrive, (an experience that was always accompanied by my mother wearing Aliage perfume), my parents would greet her with the relief in their voices that I recognize in my own at the arrival of the sitter.  They would kiss us goodbye, and leave the number of the restaurant on a notepad in the kitchen should anything go wrong.  As soon as they drove away Mrs. Carter would fall so deeply asleep on the couch that we would put tissues over her nose just to watch them shoot up into the air with each massive snore.  She was not overly concerned about emergencies.

Now of course many of my friends have apps where they can tune into their children’s baby monitors from wherever they are.  Not only are they reachable via cell, but at the slightest blush of anxiety over the wellbeing of their child, the first pang of missing them, they can log in to their bedroom. It doesn’t just relate to children, I often find myself feeling vaguely rejected because I emailed someone a non urgent request and have not heard back within hours.

Our sense of urgency is off balance.  We text to say “on way” as we are leaving the house to whoever is at our destination.  We carry our phones from place to place like Linus and his ever present blanket.  We have feeds of information pouring in from all over the world, our childrens’ bedrooms, CNN, Twitter, Instagram; all of it keeps us up to date on our universes big and small.

I think that all this “on call” doesn’t always bring with it a sense of connection but instead allows our anxieties to rule the day.  We are all always slightly on alert should we be needed, a level of edge that I am quite sure my parents did not feel when they left us in the care of the world’s oldest babysitter.  In some ways, feeling constantly plugged in means we are never actually anywhere.  A friend of mine with a teenage daughter told me that if nine of her daughter’s friends are together, they are all texting the tenth friend who isn’t there.  Locked in constant communication with each other regardless of location.

I am not sure we all have more to say, or more to worry about.  We just have more access.  Recently, I have taken to keeping my phone on silent all the time and, for the most part, buried in my purse.  I am not a doctor, and yoga emergencies are rare.  Should one of my children be in trouble their schools have enough numbers that they would reach me.  I did not consciously break the habit of treating my phone like my woobie.  It happened slowly.  I just kind of stopped answering it, and eventually people stopped calling or expecting to hear back right away.  Amazingly, the world has continued to turn.  When something urgent has come up, the message has made its way to me in plenty of time.  I also feel liberated from my feeds. I engage them rather than the other way around.  If I want updates they aren’t hard to find.

I don’t know if I can stop being “on call” altogether, but I do know it feels way better to live on my own non-urgent terms.  Sometimes less is more, even for those of us who work on the fly we need to learn how to stop treating everything as if it were urgent and re-learn how to be unavailable. If you are telling someone you love more than once a day to “wait a minute” or “one last thing” you might be teaching a lesson you don’t want them to learn.  When we are constantly plugged in somewhere else we send a pretty clear message to the people we are with: someone somewhere is more important than you are.  I know in my case the people I am with are usually the ones I care about most. I am going to stop asking them to wait while I multi-task the universe.  The universe won’t notice but those people that I care about certainly will.

Family, Marriage, Parenting

I was not expecting that…

the beginningWe are moving, so I am packing.  I went upstairs today to start on the attic.  I have been making deals with myself for days to begin the process, so I was feeling resigned with a hint of itchy pre-boredom as I went up the ladder.  I was starting with the things we use least.  It was a horse race between Colin’s college textbooks, my high school camping gear, and some ice skates–until I saw my breast pump peeking out of a bag.  We had a winner…..

In the bag with the breast pump was a towel shaped like a duck, a tiny sock, a tennis ball, and a copy of What to Expect When You Are Expecting.  I held the book in my hand. I turned it over.  Then I ripped off the cover and the title page, which I ripped in half.  Before I was totally aware of what I was doing, I started ripping more pages, like a bite of ice cream that turns into the whole pint. In minutes I had shredded the book.  I was sitting on the attic floor looking at this huge mess and thinking, “maybe I can wrap glasses in it or something”, trying to make this weird random act of violence against this book make sense.

It does make sense though. It is one of the best selling books of all time, but it sends the wrong message.  It sends the message that if you love your kid enough and you rock them in a chair and wear comfy clothes, and you start with peas instead of peaches and you watch and track their milestones, then you are in the clear.  But that is wrong.  You can do everything right and things can still go haywire.  In fact they probably will.

Here is what I think you can expect:

  • Expect that your 10-year-old will be a Minecraft genius but not remember that dirty clothes go in the washer.
  • Expect that your 8-year-old will be charming and kind and wonderful, but may frequently have days when he cries three times before breakfast.
  • Expect that no matter how much you love your 6 year old, she may not be able to say Mom because her brain isn’t wired the way yours is.
  • Expect that you will look at your husband and feel like you haven’t seen him for days, even though you live in the same house.
  • Expect that you will think that we need as many words for tired as the Eskimos have for snow.  Not sleeping through the night for ten years and taking an Ambien on an overnight flight are two different kinds of tired.
  • Expect that you will see your hands on your steering wheel and wonder why your mother is driving.
  • Expect that you will look at your children at least once a day and think, “I really love them.  I hope they turn out ok.”
  • Expect that every day you get to begin again, and that is all that really matters.

I was a little embarrassed that I destroyed the book, I didn’t know I had any feeling about it whatsoever.  I have learned that having children is not about expectation it’s about learning to see ourselves and them for who we really are and to love each other in spite of it.  There will always be a gap between expectation and reality, so learn the basics:  feed them, love them, apologize often and let them do the same, but don’t drift too far from what’s real.  It’s the only thing that matters.


Family, Marriage, Meditation, Yoga

Where you belong…

Ev and Me 1979There is almost nothing more pretentious than quoting the Bhagavad Gita, except for maybe referring to it as “the Gita,” which assumes a level of familiarity I can’t imagine having with an ancient text.  There is however a quote from the Bhagavad Gita that I keep scrawled on a piece of paper in my wallet and pinned by the side of my desk. It serves as a constant reminder not to stray from where you belong.

“It is better to strive in one’s own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another.  Nothing is ever lost in following one’s own dharma.”

One of my favorite things about seeing someone you love and have loved for a long time is that when they stand in front of you there is a split second flip book that happens, where you see them as all the people they have ever been. This week, my very talented brother published a book called Age of Ambition.  It is about China and is being very well received. When I spotted him last night right before he went on stage to give a talk to a packed auditorium, I saw him as every version of himself. On his face, as he spoke and answered questions from the moderator and the audience, I saw his teenage self, and in his body language, shades of both our parents.  The thing that I saw most of all was a person who is on the right path.  My brother is smart, and charming and would have found success in lots of different fields.  But success and being on the right path are different.  You can be successful and unfulfilled; your success won’t last but the emptiness will.  There is no greater joy than knowing that someone you love is on the right path for themselves.  As proud as I am of his enormous intelligence and the discipline that allowed for this book to exist, I am even more proud that he has found his path and in his wife, the right partner to walk it with him.

People come to me all the time for yoga and meditation.  Sometimes they do want simply to inhabit their body better or to learn to be still.  But more often they are feeling unmoored; their life has moved away from its center.  They have had children, or a partner whose own trajectory doesn’t leave room for anything else. They are feeling ill at ease but they aren’t sure how to get back to themselves.  I can see it in their faces and bodies. I don’t really know how to guide someone back to their center.  I only know what works for me.  I can stay rooted in myself if I am honest about who I am and I do it with kindness.  As soon as I start comparing my mothering skills to someone else, or the state of my house and children, I am lost.  The first moment, I envy how a friend is aging, or feel like my classes should be larger, I am lost.

Every day I sit for meditation, for twenty minutes. I do not collude, placate, engage or respond.  For a brief period every day, I am not an active participant in anyone’s life but my own. This keeps me rooted exactly where I belong.  Right in the center of my own messy, imperfect but perfect for me path.

My greatest hope for my nearest and dearest is that they find their path, and that it includes room for those they love most. I have taken the jacket off my brother’s book and pinned it next to the wall beside my desk as well.  Every day I will look at it and be reminded that the joy is not just in living your own truth but also in knowing that those you love are doing the same.

Family, Marriage

Apraxia Awareness Day


Mae ChillingYou might not know this, but today is Apraxia Awareness Day.

As I thought about what I’d write for this post, I longed for a time when I was unaware of Apraxia. There was a time in my life when I thought that children were born, they cooed, they gurgled, eventually busted out with some random word, and then, like a train picking up speed, words came spilling out of them.

My older son talks so much that I occasionally pretend to be lost when we are in the car so that I can demand silence to concentrate on finding our way — a trick that I learned from my mother who did this to defend herself against my endless chatter.

When I thought of “speech issues,” like most people, I thought of lisps or stutters. Or, I assumed that if someone couldn’t formulate words, it was due to malfunctioning equipment, maybe a voice box that didn’t work or a misplaced tongue.

In college, the father of one of my closest friends had a massive stroke and was left with Aphasia.  He could no longer speak, except for a few choice curse words.  It was awful. The thought of him imprisoned in his own body made me sad for him, his family and all that he had lost.

It wasn’t until some 15 years later that I would meet Apraxia and truly understand how  devastating it can be for a human being to be robbed of words. My daughter Mae is living with Apraxia of Speech.

When I met my daughter, she was already walking. We adopted her just after her second birthday. I knew the first time I looked at her that this was going to be a bumpy ride.  She made no real sounds for the first six months we had her. She put nothing in her mouth, and rarely, if ever, pointed.  All of these things I eagerly wrote off as a result of her time in the orphanage. Institutional affects. She was in so many other ways normal. She looks normal. She is, in fact, beautiful   She jumps, she skips, she runs, she can do the monkey bars, and she laughs when things are funny. She just doesn’t speak.

Later, when we got through the hours of tears and testing to finally understand that she was Apraxic, that the part of her brain that manufactured words and the part of her brain that processed them for production and moved her mouth did not communicate, that was when we started to become aware.

If most speech disorders are lisps and stutters than most of the therapists we encountered in the early days were equipped for that.  They had no idea how to handle my daughter, it was like pulling a line cook out of McDonald’s and asking them to be lead chef at The French Laundry. They would hold up pictures of pigs in front of her and simply repeat the word “pig” over and over and over again until she or I would start to cry tears of boredom and exhaustion.  It was only several years in that we were introduced to the therapies and very talented people who could help.  They would touch her face, coaxing sound out of her mouth in small chunks and reward her efforts with incredible enthusiasm.

The thing that you can’t appreciate unless you have a special needs child with a condition like Apraxia of Speech is how much we can adapt and normalize things.  Today, when I see a six year old girl speaking I am in awe. I forget that they do that, because mine does not.

Mine points, she gestures, she solves problems herself, she gets frustrated, she loses interest. If she has thoughts about the weather I have never heard them. She’s never told me how her day was or asked how mine went. I do know that she loves peanut butter and hates jeans. She is not without thoughts or opinions. She has tons of both. She just can’t communicate them the way most people expect her to.

She has made progress, but it’s slow.  It breaks my heart when someone says “hi” to her, and ten minutes later I hear her force out her own version of a greeting.  It takes so much effort and the world has moved on.

I am never unaware of Apraxia. It sleeps in my bed at night and joins us for all our meals.  It is the boogeyman in the closet and a common scapegoat for all our other fears. It is also something that so few people understand. The more aware our friends and neighbors become the more they understand what she needs, what we need.

No individual child is Autistic or Apraxic.  Their whole family is Autistic or Apraxic, as is their community. For as long as one child doesn’t have access to the right tools and therapies, we are all losing.  A person without a voice lives on a planet alone. We owe it to our kids and each other to do everything we can to connect these kids to their voices and meet them where they are.

My daughter is incredible and I love her beyond imagining, and we will continue to wrestle with Apraxia. Someday, I plan to have a conversation with my daughter.  In my wildest dreams I imagine telling her we are lost and she has to be quiet so I can concentrate… maybe, someday.

Family, Marriage, Meditation, Yoga

Fragile and solid at the same time…

Mae and ColinThis morning I sat down to work my way through a giant pile of mail.  Tucked in with all the other mail was a giant medical bill I wasn’t expecting.  It has been many years of giant medical bills and they should no longer take my breath away, but for some reason this one made me feel like the wind had been knocked out of me.  It was Mother’s Day and Colin knows me well enough to know that thing that I would want most is time to myself.  He and the kids were out hunting and gathering a picnic for later in the day, and as I first sat and then stood in the office, then the kitchen, then outside, then inside all desperately trying to calm myself down, I just wanted him to appear.

In my head I was ticking off everything I have learned in my meditation and yoga studies.  I was going back over all the other massive medical bills we have paid, and reminding myself that it would be fine.  Still my head was spinning, I tried to sit for meditation, to lean into the feeling, to see if I could get at what was really at the bottom of it.  Fear? Why the intense reaction to a problem I don’t want to solve but know I will.

When Colin walked in I was so relieved, I showed him the bill and described my complete and total meltdown at its arrival.  He was calm, he agreed it sucked, he said we will deal with it tomorrow when it’s not Sunday.  He didn’t tell me to calm down, or ask my why I wasn’t expecting it.  I was able to exhale, we will deal with it tomorrow.

Being married is hard. Being married with young children is harder. Being married with a special needs child and all the stress that comes with it is harder still.  Sometimes, I can’t believe how hard it is, but when Colin walked in the door and just his presence made me feel better, I was also overwhelmed by how lucky I am. Sometimes it takes these crises that come up — in this case an unpleasant problem with a solution — to remind me to be appreciative of all that I have.

It can be easy to overlook each other in the same house, or respond to the difficulties of a grown-up life by being nasty to each other.  It is much harder to be honest, and sad, to be overwhelmed, and need help.  I hear all the time from people about how their marriage or partner is different than they had imagined.  When you are dating you never play the “How will you respond to medical bills?”  game.  Or, how about “What will we do if our child has a life long cognitive condition?” I didn’t seek out a partner thinking about the dark moments.  But I am grateful every day that I found someone who sees the darkness and even if there is no quick fix will always keep reminding me that there is light up ahead as well, and just to keep moving forward together.

Family, Marriage

Sometimes birthdays are complicated

Mae BirthdayWhen we think of our childhood birthday parties, we think of cake, and songs, pin the tail on the donkey and pinatas.  When your child is on the Autism spectrum, birthdays, like everything else, are complicated.  There have been years when I have not wanted to celebrate Mae’s birthday, not because I don’t love to celebrate her, I adore her.  But it made me sad when I spent time decorating the kitchen with balloons and banners so that like the other children on the mornings of their birthdays she can wake up to a party. Except, she doesn’t seem to notice, she comes into the kitchen, past the pink balloons and the streamers, pops up into her chair and awaits breakfast as if it were any other day.  Her presents do not entice her; there is no anticipation about what she will like, or excitement that builds throughout the day.  The truth is she doesn’t register her birthday or the fuss around it at all.

One year I almost decided not to do anything, I was wiped out. I didn’t feel like decorating and fussing about her birthday when it didn’t seem to matter.  When I mentioned this to a friend, she reminded me that birthdays aren’t about milestones or accomplishments. They are celebrations of a life.  She was right, and I have never forgotten that advice.  Mae’s birthdays are not necessarily about her being 5 or 6 or 7.  They are definitely not about pony rides or pottery painting.  They are about making a choice every year not to give up.

When I decorate the kitchen for the other kids I do it because I know they will come down in the morning and be thrilled to see their balloons and banners.  When I decorate it for Mae I do it for me.  I do it because if I don’t it will mean that I have given up.  The same way I ask her how her day was when she gets in the car at the end of the day even though I know she won’t answer, I will decorate the kitchen and buy her a birthday dress.  I will send treats into school. I will spend time picking out a present for her, because it matters to me that I tried.

We can’t just fight for our kids at school, or with doctors.  We can’t just fight the isolation and strangeness of Autism by finding communities that accepts us and our children.  My biggest fight is never to decide that because she doesn’t care I shouldn’t either.  I care that it’s her birthday because I love her.  I will continue to ask questions that go unanswered, and throw little parties that go unappreciated because if I don’t then it means I have conceded, and I refuse to give up on birthdays or my girl.

Family, Food, Marriage

How do I know if I am good at this?

Benny_10_1_04 019My first pancake is about to turn ten, which means that I have been someone’s mother for a decade.  When I was pregnant with Ben, I went to Greenwich Hospital to fill out all the pre-delivery forms.  On his form there was the section that said “Relationship to Patient.” I pointed to my stomach and said to the nurse, “We haven’t met yet.”  She looked at me with a mix of laughter and pity and said, “You are the patient’s mother”.

A few days after he was born, we headed back to the hospital for a post-delivery check-in.  When I explained to the nurse that he would only sleep at night if he could sleep on me, and that I was worried that I was starting him off in life with bad habits, she smiled with that same mix of laughter and pity, and said, “He is a baby animal and you are his mother.” Clearly, I was not a quick study, because I kept having to be reminded that this very small human around whom the entire world now seemed to revolve was depending on me.

I am by nature a confident person, or at least very good at faking it.  To the outside world I think it looked like I took to motherhood quickly and easily, but in fact I was obsessed with not screwing it up.  I hated not knowing whether or not I was good at it. I wanted evaluations, feedback of some kind, but of course the one person entitled to evaluate my performance slept eighteen hours a day and couldn’t keep his socks on.  I realized that what was hard for me about motherhood was not the exhaustion, or the changes in my body, or even the loss of my beloved routines.  It was the insecurity.  I wanted to get an A….

The joke was on me of course.  The one time in my life when I wanted to be the perfect student it simply wasn’t possible.  My sweet first pancake, who broke me into motherhood also taught me that I had to let myself off the hook.  I was not going to be able to be the perfect mother because there is no such thing. When I feel like torturing myself,  I look at other women I know who seem to enjoy standing on sidelines, or whose houses are always clean, and I think that they are better at this than I am.  Comparing myself to other women is poisonous but especially when it comes to parenting.

He is a baby animal, even as he is about to turn ten, and I am his mother.  He doesn’t know that I have never felt fully qualified for the job, and that the whole thing is held together with duct tape and love.  I am the only mother he has ever known and the best thing I can do for him is to stop chasing perfection and just be kind and patient with us both.  He is my first pancake.  I have learned more from him than he has from me, and I will be forever grateful to him for his patience and faith that I am up to the task of motherhood.


Family, Marriage, Meditation, Yoga

I might be getting in my own way…

sit500As both the wife of an adopted person and an adoptive parent I think about identity a lot.  When we adopted Mae there were many families at the embassy that day taking an oath that their child would be protected and safe.  It is a hugely emotional moment, one that most families in the room had waited many years for.  As I looked around the room I saw young Chinese children in the arms of Amish families, Asians, Italians, single parent, families of all shapes and sizes.  Each one of these children would go to a home to its own culture and lessons.  Those lessons would in part shape how that child identified themselves.  I am Amish, or Christian, oldest or youngest, but ultimately it is all just who brought you home.

The same is true for those of us who weren’t adopted.  It is just less obvious.  Over time, we identify as a mother or daughter, lawyer, liberal; we assign labels and qualities to ourselves.  I am flexible, I am a runner, I am terrible at languages, or I am a musician.  Each one of these declaratives serves us somehow. By declaring ourselves  something we relieve ourselves of the burden of the unknown.

Quite frequently someone will say to me “I can’t meditate.”  They are completely convinced that they are incapable of being still, and of course I don’t think that’s true. But as long as they believe it, it is true.  Writing a twitter bio or the bio for this blog felt silly to me because it is a series of declarative statements about who I am and what I believe.  But given the constantly changing nature of who we are, the bio feels misleading as soon as it is out of my mouth.  It is true that I am a mother, and a daughter, and a friend, and a buddhist, but to the teller at the bank this morning not a single one of those details mattered.  I was just the first person in her line on a Thursday.  We smiled at each other, exchanged pleasantries and went about our business.

I once happened to be on the beach when a prominent surgeon drowned in Lake Michigan.  At the moment of his death it didn’t matter that he was a father, a husband, a gifted doctor.  He was dead, and in that moment that became the defining feature of the man.

Our identity is constantly shifting and changing.  My parents tease me that every year they would go to my parent conference at school and every year the teacher would address me by the differing version of my name, selected by me for the year: Katie, Kate or Katherine.  One year I even tried on “Kitty.”  I admire the bravery of children who try out different versions of themselves.  Every year they grow, change and look different so why not shift their identity as well?

I am working these days on loosening my grip on my definite ideas of what I am and what I am not.  I was chatting with a friend recently about how she felt that being a mother was preventing her from taking her career to the next level.  That may be true, or it may be fear of the unknown or fear of failure and motherhood is a convenient excuse that no one can argue with.  I am hoping that by letting go of my very fixed ideas about who and what I am and returning more to that childish notion that my identity can shift and change that I will remove obstacles that I have placed in my own way. I will try to imagine that I am not limited by anything, and see how that feels for a while.  I will let you know.