renewing my definition of success

Today I am joining The Skinny Dip Society on an incredible blog tour! 20 women, 20 days, 20 ways to feed your soul, free your body, and love your life. After you read my post, click above to see the lineup! 

Recently, I've been feeling rather stuck.

I imagine t's because of this bouncing babe in my belly, who, according to the doctor, is quite ready to make her grand entrance 5 weeks early (I'm really not surprised - if she's anything like me, she's already impatient and itching to let the wailing, breath of the world embrace her skin). Maybe it's because I simply feel as though I'm running out of time.

I listened to a TED talk a week or so ago about success. About how we're encouraged from all angles that we can strike it rich and change the world and make an impact. And when this doesn't happen - when it's not as easy as the magazine headlines make it seem - we feel like failures, over and over again. As a coach, and a teacher, and a writer, I am guilty of pushing this message as well - onto others, and even more strongly, onto myself. 

These days, the world is full of self-help books and five-simple-steps-to-success-follow-your-dreams e-courses and coaching opportunities and quick fixes and maps to all of your desires. It's overwhelming. When we see that there are so many people who are chasing after & nearly grasping what appears to be the same dream (striking it rich; changing the world; making an impact), we might feel as if we've already failed, even if we haven't yet tried.

The truth is, very few people are successful by that narrow definition of the word.

A slice of the population will ever be financially wealthy. A handful will ever change the world (the whole world - internationally recognized & respected). And while at first, I was discouraged by these facts, I was afterwards quickly humbled by them. Softened. Renewed. Relieved.

The pressure's off, my love.

I think the biggest problem is that we're constantly told what success means. Money. Power. Popularity. Reach. 

But thinking back to the beginning, maybe this isn't what you imagined success was.

I close my eyes and invoke my childhood. Those wild-eyed years of endless opportunity and drinking in the wideness of the world. Then, what did I imagine success was? What do I still feel - truly, beneath the illusion of the media - that is is, now?

Writing a little bit every day. Traveling for myself - not to tell anyone about it or record the whole thing in a photo book. Laughing a lot. Watching sunsets from the porch. Living close to my family. Changing the world around me - one person at a time. Spending slow hours with my husband. Having a child. Teaching her to be wild, and still, and loving. Simple things. Having enough, but not too much, because too much always leads to wanting more.

Small. Hearty. Warm.

It's reassuring, really, to renew your definition of success. It doesn't have to be the same definition that the magazine titles & self-help section has painted over your heart. Dig deeper. Remember. What does success mean to you?

Write it down. Sound out the words in your mouth and notice how sweet they are.

Then, move forward. And be incredibly successful.


Don't forget to check out the rest of this beautiful blog tour! These ladies truly are following their own definition of success. They're all brilliant & contagious lights. I'm honored to be posting after Laura Madden. You can read yesterday's post here.

the running half

I want to be everywhere but here.

I woke up anxious, and flighty, and I feel that I simply must jump from my soft, new mama skin and go somewhere far off. Somewhere rough, and wild, and full of stories. Because I’ve been housed in the same white room, brushing up against the same crimson sheets, pulling open the curtains to the same bleak, smog laden neighborhood, day after month after year.

I’m tired. And I’m restless. 

I want to punch the map on the wall. I want to close my eyes and open them again and see Sonora, or Croatia, or Sedona, or somewhere that isn’t the stinking, gun powder peppered Army Base that we’re stuck in.

This happens, sometimes, but I haven’t felt it in a while. Not since I was nineteen, and living in the city. I used to wake up and explode at least once a week - fill my books with travel plans, hop on the train and take it up to Oregon, or down to the coast, just like that. 

It never fixed anything, really, because the anxious wanderlust is strapped to my ankle like an anchor, and no matter how often I travel, or how frequently I fly away, it always catches up to me. As soon as I fold my wings and rest for a moment in a new set of skin, I can feel the weight of the world coiling up around my foot, my leg, my lungs, and I have to run again and stuff my eyes with more, more, more for it to momentarily loosten.

The only thing that helps is stillness, and I know I can find that here. The more I long to run, the quieter I need to become. To reflect. To ground down.  

So much is changing, even though it’s not. Even though I’m still here, still waiting for the echos of the cannons in the late afternoon, still showing my ID to officers and driving through gates and squinting against the greyed out sun to see the planes flying overhead. 

Carrying this babe beneath my breast has been the most wild adventure yet, like a train ride a thousand times around the crest of the continent, and I can feel myself being torn in two as her journey Earthside approaches. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling anxious. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling so oddly alive.

Half of me is dying. The running half. The half that always flys away when things get hazy. And like all things, it doesn’t want to die. It wants to punch the map and trace road lines and open sleepy eyes to somewhere far off.

And the other half is growing tall. Becoming confident. Swelling. Feeling everything, all at once, deeper and deeper still. The other half is woven around a little mystery of knees and feet and fists. Every story I write about my pregnancy helps to breathe more life into that half. That soft, new mama skin that’s fitting warmer every day. 

I think I’m unlocking the anchor around my ankle with a key made of ink. Slowly, I’m learning how to rest and be present, all the while still wild in my skin. A merging of the best things, as one half quickly dies and the other unfolds.

I have so much to learn from you, little love.

less

I find that I am the most happy when I can use fewer words. When we speak in softened eyes and curling lips, in fingertips tracing freckles, tracing scars, chasing the goosebumps down shoulders and arms and sun-stained, summer skin. The less we need to say, the more we seem to know.

with you, I'll jump

Sometimes you wake me in the middle of the night with a heavy hand on my cheek and tell me that you can’t sleep.

“Talk to me,” you say, so I do.

We talk about the big things, of course, because at night our minds are never stirred wild by the little ones. You tell me about what you’d like to teach our daughter - about taking chances, and being fearless, and snowboarding, and magic - and I tell you about the kind of mother I think I’ll be. A quiet one. Kind, and warm. We talk about our house, whether we’ll have just one child, or two, or three, how we’ll manage when you’ve finished your time in the Army.

“It’s coming up soon,” you said last night. “Four months, and we’ll be done.”

“Are you worried about money?” I asked, and I felt your shoulders shrug against the sheets.

“Not really. I know we’ll come up with something.”

“I have a lot of things I can do,” I said, “Like design, and art, and writing. I’m working on it now, I swear. I can tell I’m on the edge of something big. I’ll be able to keep us going, I think.”

You didn’t say anything back, and I could tell by the softened rhythm of your breath that you were probably sleeping.

But I was awake. I thought about money, for a while, and how it used to frighten us both. I thought about all the other things that used to frighten me. Groundedness, and sharing my life, and settling down. You and I hopped from dating, to engaged, to married, all within a month. I was terrified, and so were you, and I remember how your fingers shook in the midmorning sun as you fastened the little band to my finger.

How different our lives would be had we gone weak in the knees in the face of fear that day. 

“What do you think you’d be doing right now if we hadn’t got married?” I asked, half to your sleeping shoulder, and half to the moon, because I knew that you wouldn't wake up.

I tried to imagine it. I would be somewhere far off and dirty, maybe Zanzibar with an old love, taking pictures by the ocean and swatting flies from our faces with a folded map, or back in San Francisco, sitting at a tall table, drinking something with ice, writing something that no one would read, making lists of things that would never get done. 

I’m happy that I chose you: my roots, my love. I’m happy that I stood tall in the shadow of fear, that I decided to see over the top of darkness, into the endless opportunity for light beyond.

We will always have a reason (one at least, maybe more) to feel afraid, you and I. After all, the Universe is a scary, wonderful, unpredictable place, and the idea of ‘safety first’ is something that’s been worn into our bones.

But what a rare thing this is! Every day, we jump from the edge of a cliff, wild-eyed and fearless, and piece our wings together on the way down. I am terrified of heights. I always have been. But with you, I will jump today, and tomorrow, and every day after that.