What Is Within My Silence?

The view from here. November 12, 2015

The view from here. November 12, 2015

I have always lived in chaos. It’s what I was born to, first of all: a dramatic and dynamic mother, a total whirlwind of personality, charm and presence whose mind was a turbulent sea, able to pull her underwater at any moment; and an impatient and rageful father, with an exacting sense of order that he was never, ever going to have satisfied within the bounds of our boisterous family of five.

Chaos has its thrills, for sure. (That would explain how my father fell in love with my mother, not knowing what he was in for.) I can enumerate those thrills with a fervent enough passion to convince even the most risk-averse person in the world that they should maybe toss everything aside and join the circus. I mean, I am myself a three-ring circus: more enthusiasms and ideas and foment than should probably be allowed to exist in a single body. Of course, along with that comes the darkness, but pish-posh. Small price to pay for the peaks.

But I am making a very strange and uncomfortable transition right now. I am learning who I am underneath the adrenalin addict.

It’s terrifying.

The quiet inside me is a much more dangerous villain than the dozens and dozens of storms I have stared down and raged through in my life.

But an interesting thing happened when I got fired from my last job: I realized I was Done.

Done with heroics. Done with impossible tasks and teaching everyone around me how to survive the war zone. Done with the incredible labor of being a triage nurse. Done with proving myself to myself and staring down a wall of doubt and fear again and again and again. Done with seeking out just one more goddamn big, hot mess and putting myself in the middle to solve it.

Done, as I put it to my therapist, “pushing the rock up the hill.”

So it’s been about two months since I stopped working. I had a trip to Morocco, the recovery from the bug I brought home from Morocco, a terrifying experience with my dog becoming totally immobile from the onset of a joint disease and a few other things in the mix. So in some ways I actually feel like it’s only the last two weeks that I have been mentally present in the experience of being…. quiet.

I have been able to do absolutely mundane house tasks. (Ask my son how much I keep talking about the thrill of my spotless windows. I’ve done only 12 out of about — no exaggeration — about 58, but still, I’m preening and prancing about it.) I have organized my office. I have crawled back into bed and napped when I felt like it. I have taken long walks with my dog. I have taken even longer walks by myself.

And I now cook every single meal my son eats, preparing his weeknight dinners for the very first time in his life, ever. (He’s 12. My career is — was — 26.)

So these things I’ve listed above are good.

Less good is what else lies beneath.

Anxiety. Doubt. A lurking miasma of failure. (Always the failure.) And a gripping fear.

That I am wrong. That I am lost. That I am destroying everything I ever could rely on to carry me. That I am slothful, lazy, disgusting.

Because the only thing that carried me through many, many years of my life was working until I was blind to everything else but work. And living out and reliving the chaos of my childhood home in extremely intense jobs where I righted the ship, made the plan forward, put out fires, nurtured my team, wiped tears, held hands—and continued to feed my sense of being superhuman.

Above human. Above pain. Above the darkness.

But no. All that was still within me, waiting until the time I was healed enough to let it flow forth from my brain and into my being. And then integrate it all, absorb it into myself so that it’s just one more part of my story—instead of a sealed trunk of darkness that leaks its poison into mind when I am alone. And quiet.

I’ve learned so much in the twenty years I’ve been in therapy. I consider my therapy assisted growing. I’ll never stop. I don’t think of therapy as something people do when they’re broken. I think of therapy as something people undertake when we want to see how big we really are, to free ourselves from the fears and safety tactics we grow up with as children that keep us small when we become adults.

And so here I am. In my own quiet. In the home I led myself to after I lost all the things that had given my life shape in 2010. This magical place that feeds me in a deeply meaningful way every. single. day.

Monday I spent in bed, in and out of bouts of anxiety and tears. What am I doing? I’m never going to be okay. Not working is not possible! You need money! You need a job! You suck! You are washed up! You are hiding!

But today I am overcome with lightness. Sitting in my conservatory (oh, how I love to call it conservatory, the word’s five syllables expressing the luxury and pleasure of such a room), listening to the fall rain, listing all the things in my life that make me feel full, loved, right. 

I am learning to live in my quiet. It’s a process that is many years in the works and probably has a while to go. But I know when I land there, in the center of my self, in that quiet place, that from it I will draw incredible beauty and bring it forth into the world—in the loudest, most dramatic way possible.

Because that is simply who I am.

I accept my seemingly nonsensical juxtapositions. Have you come to terms with your own? Tell me about them. I’m fascinated by our complexities. For that is what tells our stories.


Posted in living in the quiet, starting over | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

It’s Just Me

Aaaaaah, my blog. My little home space. My big white box that connects me to about three dozen people who know me so well. The intimate audience of people whose questions about life are similar to mine.


I am back. Back at home. Back at my blog. Back at writing. Suffice to say I didn’t expect to be here again so soon, but all is well. There is no story to tell.

And so I am edging out on the tightrope I have been avoiding.

Many of my friends are confident — in a way I simply cannot be, me who is made of primarily confidence, especially in the face of uncertainty (see also, every post on this blog, my book, my everything) — that life is certain I should be writing.

Be a writer.

Be the light.

Be the questions.

I will try, my dear friends who honor me with your confidence and love. I will try. It begins today.

I always knew I would write about her. That much is clear. Now, whether that idea was my mother’s or mine, I still can’t say. Like many things between us, the boundaries of what was hers and mine—memories, personality traits, burdens—are hopelessly confused. Even now, after she’s long gone and a few of the facts about our fiction have risen to the surface.

She called me her “one and only,” and by that she meant daughter, mostly. Those words were both benediction and warning. That she had two sons mattered, too, and a husband as well—but not when she and I were in our fantasy world together, which was most of the time.

By most people’s account, my mother and I had the ideal mother-daughter relationship: close, confiding, we looked alike and we acted alike, creating commanding interactions wherever we went, gathering up people’s attentions like flowers tossed on the stage.

It was a romance we shared, my mother and me. Hopelessly in love with one another, freakishly intertwined. She was my best friend and her own worst enemy, and I spent my childhood trying to convince her she was worthy, to keep her alive, to make her see that she mattered so much, and not just to me.

Because I was never going to be enough to save her. But I tried. Oh, how I tried.

I took on the role of being her greatest fan, which only meant that later I would become her biggest disappointment. Truth is, I didn’t travel too far, moving from one pole to the other. She did instead, moving ever imperceptibly backward, until none of us in this world could reach her at all.

Not even me. Her precious, beloved daughter, her second chance, her everything….

Posted in living, starting over, writing | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Such Sweetness, This Life

Oh, how things are crazy right now. I’m in the deepest hell of the launch, when everything is upside-down and nothing is moving fast enough and we don’t have systems and processes and I haven’t hired all my hires and my boss is wondering if I know what I’m doing and I’m not sleeping through the night and I have to just keep saying to myself over and over and over: “You’re in it for the long game. You’re in it for the long game.”

Just keep going. Just keep going. Just keep going.

This, apparently, is my life skill. To just keep going. To be the ox with the world strapped on her back, completely oblivious to what it is costing her to keep going. All I see is the goal, the vision, the reward.

I’m doing pretty well, have created different coping devices than wine and crackers to get through the stress. I still need more and better habits, but I don’t feel the self-loathing loading onto me as I have in launches past. I think: “I’m doing the best I can.” “It won’t be like this forever.” “You have to take care of yourself. You’re older now.”

And so I go to bed early, make plans with different people I am casually dating on the nights I take for myself after working late, bring real food into work on Mondays to supply a week’s worth of healthy lunches. And it helps. All these things help. I’m not drowning.

But it’s hard. Twenty hours of commuting a week is hard. Not having any time to go running is hard. Missing my meditation practice (oh the irony) is hard.

But today, a friend I’ve known since what seems like the beginning of time posts this on Facebook, after he asked what I was up to right now:

I am so proud of you, and all of the beauty you have brought to life through your work.

What? Did someone really just say that to me? And mean it?

Wow. Someone did. (Thank you, Steven. You have always been the biggest heart in the room since we were all 8 years old.)

And I’m going to take it at face value and be so fucking grateful that this is how some people see the madness I put myself (and my family) through. With my work, I want to reach us all, all of us (including and especially me), and say:

You are just fine. You are. Listen closely to the small voice in your head, the one you sometimes ignore. That voice is the one that tells you the truth about who you are. Listen. Listen, closely. And know that that is your intuition leading you to where you are supposed to be.

It’s hard right now, where I am. But I’m hoping it’s where I’m supposed to be.

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The Changes: A New Starting Over

I’ve been swallowed up. I am in the beast and the beast is me.

Change is all around me, once again and as always. But this time it all feels different. I am not digging out, not anymore. I am moving forward.

It appears I have filled in the blanks, the blanks that were torn open in my life in 2010, and that kept tearing open for the next few years. Those blanks have been filled, painstakingly, slowly, carefully, with great intent and attention on my part—only to be met with more blanks. We know this is how life works, and yet it is a humbling—and galvanizing—realization all the same.

These are some of the answers that go inside the original blanks from when I started this blog:

I am now and have always been fine.

I do really intimately know the person I am and the person I aim to become.

I am both an individual ego, searching for instant pleasures and solutions, as well as a larger being, engaged in the act of coming to terms with consciousness. This is okay. This feels good. I know most people don’t reside here, but it is where I feel the most capacious and the most safe.

Loss is a brutal kind of beauty. I still pause and feel my mind reel a bit when I gaze backwards at the terrible storms that turned my life completely inside out for two years, but I am more whole, more clear and more loving toward myself than I have ever been, and perhaps more than I ever even dreamed possible. The loss did that. I know it did.

And so I am clearing the deck. I have incorporated the wounds and the terror and the fury.  I am still imperfect and imprecise and purely human: fallible, egotistical at times, easily seduced by my own ideas of how things should go.

But I am clear, and whole, and ready to rocket through this next round of changes and transformations, to take them on and become ever more who I am, to find new boundaries to flirt with, new fears to push past, and work to stay ever-connected to the naked me I brought to this blog, when I had been stripped of everything I thought I ever knew about myself.

In the next few weeks, I will announce my new job. (A huge and deep thank you to BlogHer for being a place where I could grow and heal, be both public and hidden, and learn the ways in which I was still full of my own bullshit.) I have started dating again. I am starting another internal journey, based around falling into my trust of myself. I am once again doing the work of reconnecting to my body, which is always the last piece of me becoming whole and healed. Someday I’ll understand where, exactly, it is I am hiding when I disappear from myself in that way… but not today, or next week. I don’t need all the answers.

There is always time to keep becoming.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Oddly this post feels like some kind of end, and I guess in some ways I am defining an endpoint. So I am going to take a moment to get down on my knees, with my head bowed, and my palms directed up at the sky to thank Every.Single.One.Of.You. who read this blog, who commented on it, who emailed me to check in on me, who shared your own stories of confusion and loss and fear, who shared my links and wrote about my posts in your own posts. Being able to be so weak out loud was an experiment for me, a crucial passage in leaving behind the coping devices I built for myself as a little girl (which are much detailed in this blog). You loved me while I ached, and sometimes you loved me because I ached. Which blew my mind. And allowed me to keep being brave and open, to dare myself not to make up stories, to challenge myself to stare down every single thing that terrified me in an effort to hear the whisper of my intuition, the voice inside me who knows—and has always known—who I really am.

A deep namaste to all of you. I will forever be buoyed by the way it is we humans really, truly, do want to lift others up.

And from that easy, familiar desire, we learn how to fall in love with the harder work of lifting ourselves up as well.

Posted in flux, gratitude, starting over, Uncategorized | 11 Comments

New Year, Not-New Me

New Year, Old View: This view will outlive me and existed eons before me.

New Year, Old View: This landscape will outlast me and existed for eons before me. Christmas Day, 2014

As a magazine editor, every year I faced down the challenge of how to repackage the irresistible “New Year, New You” beast, trying to take a somewhat facile notion and turn it into something meaningful, true, with depth.

Because none of us should want a “new you.” Our existing ‘you,’ is just fine, thanks.

My life’s work has been to come to terms with my existing me, make peace with it, accept it. My current meditation mantra is “I am now, and am always, fine”—a reminder that humans were created with frailty at our center, and that how we collectively manage that frailty is the defining statement about humanity.

I want the defining statement about humanity to be about compassion, love under all circumstances, acceptance of all we cannot know and cannot control. It’s challenging work, to strive for that, to be sure. But I comfort myself with the reminder that all we can expect of ourselves is that we will keep trying, that we will commit to the practice of being human; we cannot and should not expect we will ever hit perfect…. except in the Buddhist meaning of the word, that we are now and have always been perfect. We are here to be human—that is all that is required—and, on our best days, to try to transcend the burdens of consciousness and ego.

When I look at the past ten years of my life, I am still utterly flummoxed at the series of losses (though typing that makes me nervous; there is always so much more to lose, isn’t there?), but it just keeps becoming ever more clear that the more that is pulled from my grasp, the less I grasp.

And the less I grasp, the more I can just be—and what I mean by “be” is not about some quantum state of transcendence (again, our desire to achieve drives so much of how we gauge how we are doing), but more about accepting the moment of existence that I am living this second. I am here. I have no great goals for my life other than to fill myself and my son with love and wonder (and hope he spreads that in his own life, and that it gives him peace the way it does me).

Modern life is not built in a way that allows us to dwell in love and wonder; we have created so many demands and so many distractions, and then, of course, there is the forever lure of wanting to define ourselves on this worldly plane: magazine editor, writer, author, mother, good person worthy of love…

But I accept my humanity. I accept that there are days I want to play Cooking Fever for three hours in a row and perfect my ability to make video-game sushi really, really fast in exchange for gems and a new set of tables and chairs in my video-game restaurant.

I accept that there are days that I can do nothing better with my mental energy than tear myself down for a dozen minor infractions of being: eating too much, sleeping too late, whatevering too little.

I accept that we are all here just doing the damn best we can, most of us with full hearts and good intentions.

For me, the dawning of this year is not about resolutions, perhaps for the very first time ever. In the past when I’ve resolved to have no resolutions, that was in and of itself a goal, a goal of trying, trying, trying to do the impossible work of letting go (of detaching, in Buddhist parlance).

More and more I am able to live on two planes: the plane of my flawed human self, and the plane of my higher consciousness. I will never be able to live in the latter plane full time, but the fact that I have re-engineered my life in a way that gives me daily appreciation and contact with the awe of all I will not know—even though I fail to meditate regularly, even though I play video games on my phone too much, even though I gained six pounds over the holidays—feels like a sweet freedom that is richer than anything I could ever give myself through striving.

Let go. Let the river of life carry you.

Happy New Year, my dearest, dearest friends. Having you with me for this conversation, this incredible journey of being, is the greatest treasure of all.

Posted in faith | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments


I am overwhelmed, just digging through a large volume of stuff to do as well as reacting to new possibilities coming at me.

I forget that this can be stressful. I forget that I can get stressed. I still catch myself in that old, familiar habit of simply not feeling the feelings that might be negative. Instead, they swirl around inside, unacknowledged, and wake me up at night. That’s always my first clue: Oh. You’re feeling some pressure.

Amazing to me that with all my years of experience, my age and wisdom, my years of therapy learning to untangle unneeded or expired defense mechanisms that I can still swallow some feelings whole. Me, who (seemingly) lives every single moment of my life out loud and in public, for my own edification and education, and for others, for company.

But last night I slept all night instead of waking up and staying awake for three hours. And with the soothing power of being well-rested, I can see more clearly.

I am going to take some risks.

I am going to step outside my box.

I am going to challenge my own ideas of what “security” I need to be “safe.”

I am going to trust that I am as smart, talented and driven as I really do know myself to be.

I’m going to man up.

That’s, a little joke. By that what I mean is I am going to assume that because I am confident I can do 80 percent of the opportunities in front of me, that I can of course do or learn how to do the other 20. Men consider themselves suited for a position if they can do fifty percent of a job.

So yeah, I’m going to take on a bit of that attitude.

I am nervous, friends. Nervous to push myself onto higher ground. Not nervous that I can do the work, but nervous about leaving paychecks behind. The trusted rhythm of direct deposit is a powerful soporific, no doubt. But I don’t want to sleep. I want to live, and learn, and amaze myself, and push myself. And be interested in the work I’m doing. And get to choose the work I’m doing.

So here goes nothing. Or, more honestly, here goes something. Let’s just hope it’s something great.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep trying to feel my feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and doubt, and remember that they are all just part of the package of the freedom, creativity and influence I so definitely crave.


Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

I Am Full, So Full

I am in transition again, my dear friends and sisters (and brothers, too; I know you’re out there). I have so many things I want to share and say, this burgeoning clarity and peace with who I am and what I expect and want from life. But it’s hard to find the time to sort out the thoughts into something approaching clarity: It’s like I am trapped in pieces of several different poems, all of them singing to me at once.

But I feel so full and good and so… open. Wide open.

I wrote this piece about the gift of loss. It takes many years for this gift to rise up out of the rubble and to be visible through the tears, but I know that this specific gift is why I feel so whole and good right now.

Life: It doesn’t make sense. Not OUR sense. But it makes sense somewhere bigger and far beyond us.

Go and read. Let me know what you think, what resonates, if anything. xo


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5 Random Facts About Me

I’ve been tagged in an internet meme-ME thing, by the magical Susan Goldberg, aka Mama Non Grata, and so I am to tell you Five Random Facts About Me.

If you know me at all, you know one of my absolute FAVORITE things to talk about is myself. I am a person who examines every inch of myself and my life in a way that makes one of my best friends from college say, “Wow, you really have a lot going on in there. Don’t you get tired? I get tired listening to you.”

In a good way, I assume.

That’s why I think it’s oddly hilarious that I have been challenged to come up with Five Random Facts About Me. I can’t decide if it’s because I’ve already told the Internets and the world so much about myself that there’s nothing left to share, or that, really, I’m not that interesting and don’t have uniquely memorable details to the whole kit and caboodle that is me.

Hmm… ::cue contemplative gaze::

But I’m going to whip some off, off the top of my head. So, without further ado:

1) I have a deep-rooted connection with diesel trains, cargo ships and 18-wheelers.
I have spent a bit of time cogitating on this utterly romantic association, and yet, I can’t quite feel its roots. All I know is that the long lowing of a train in the night gives me goosebumps. That I love standing as close as I can to the train tracks as the huge diesel engines shoot by, and count the clackety-clacks of all the cargo cars, well past a hundred. That in Texas once I stood in the hot sun and watched a big train stop and the driver climb down after tossing his duffel bag first, and then another drive load himself up, and that I was so happy to catch that exchange it still stands crisp in my mind as if yesterday. That the day I saw a gigantic ocean liner make its way up the Bosphorus and disappear into the massive stretch of the Black Sea gave me vertigo in a way I treasured, the world at last visible in a glance, as I was hundreds of feet above sea level and the ship looked like a water bug being swallowed by infinity. That both my brothers have their CDLs (commercial drivers’ license) and I am jealous, and am always scheming about when the right moment in life will be for me to drive a massive 18-wheeler across the country on the loneliest, longest roads, at night, for pay. My father loved trains,  but it’s more than that, and it was born in me. It defines something important about solitude and strength and the pathways that are laid for us to follow, and yet also at the same time, about our incredible fragility and minuteness in the scale of this world.

2) Dragonflies follow me around in my life, in ways that far pass chance.
The list of intense and memorable experiences I’ve had with dragonflies starts with my mother: the jewelry we loved and collected and gave to each other, pins and earrings and scarves and more. Then, later, dragonflies followed me, flew in patterns around me when I was with a lover who was teaching me to know myself, tapped on a friend’s window as I wept to her over the telephone and told her my pain, showed up in dozens and maybe hundreds in a field too late in fall when I was feeling my mother nearby after she was gone. I don’t know what it means—except that dragonflies represent living in two worlds, and moving from one to the other, choosing neither—but that I always pay attention when I see one, listen harder, hold my breath, wait for the memo that will surely follow…

3) I have two brothers; they are everything.
For some reason, I pass as an only child. Which I don’t totally understand. Yes, I’m driven. Confident. Attention-Seeking. Does that usually come with only children? But my brothers are such a deeply ingrained part of my identity and my sense of understanding myself, I can’t believe they aren’t automatically visible, two little men hanging out on either shoulder. (And yes, one’s an angel and one’s a devil—though neither in a simplistic way; they are much more complex and human than that.) I am at peace in the company of women now, after many years of struggling to find my way when I was a teenager and older. Because I grew up in the language of brothers—pride, love understood, unquestioned—and that will always be my native tongue.

4) I only very recently realized how much I like to be alone.
I am almost pathologically driven to engage, as any of you who have met me can surely attest. I absorb people, drawing them into me. I always think of the French word avaler, which means ‘to swallow,’ but the open-throatedness of the French word is how I consume and take in the people I’m meeting, talking with: ah-va-lay. In greedy gulps. So imagine my utter surprise to learn, at the age of 45, that I can be by myself for days and be completely satisfied with myself. I had no idea that lurking within this extrovert, this people person, this incessant talker and sharer and doer, was a quiet, content person, happy to be milling about with no company at all but the trees.

5) I like to eat anything red-hot cinnamon in quantity, until my mouth throbs, even though I think food coloring is immoral.
Not much else to say here for this one, except admit that it’s true. Oh, cinnamon hearts, I love you so. And Sizzling Cinnamon (TM) Jelly Bellies (R). And Big Red chewing gum. And Marvis cinnamon toothpaste. And when I get on the fire kick, I can eat an entire bag of whatever, even as I get a stomach ache, because that hot, sweet fiery, red sensation in my mouth is a drug I can’t resist.

– – – – –

Because I’m late to this meme—a lot going on in my life at this moment, which I will get to soon enough—I am sure the people I tap will have already participated, but I’m going to try anyway.

Have you shared this yet, Alexandra, Rita, Rita, Debra? Please do. (Lindsey, I think I saw yours already?) And link me when you do.



Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

What Life Is and Isn’t

I posted this on Facebook today, because I was feeling blank and miserable and overwhelmed and … grateful and wistful and everything, all at once, in those ways that life sometimes churns up for you, like a tamarind sundae, sharp and sweet.

And I liked it, and what it brought out from others, so I’m reposting it here.

I wish every day the cosmic majesty felt so close and so pressing, but we couldn’t handle it if it did. I’m fascinated by how our feeble minds must fill themselves with thoughts other than the IS of it all, or we’d spend our days in a corner rocking…. or, more likely, in supplication, praying, being.

A dear, dear friend found out her father, from whom she was estranged, has liver and lung cancer, advanced, five days ago. He died last night. She was with him. I am feeling so many feelings, about her, for her, about the world, life, loss, everything we want this world to be, how it can’t be those things. And how we learn to manage that gap—between what we hope for and what we get—defines us in profound ways that have much more meaning than any of the little thoughts that flit in and out of our heads all day long. I want to stand up in the aisle of my train and ask everyone to bow their heads and just take a moment to revere our mortal mystery, this accident of consciousness, this unsolvable puzzle called life. I love you so much, friend. I am so sorry you have had so much pain to carry. You are a miracle. As are we all.

Posted in living | 4 Comments

Looking Over My Shoulder

I undertook a big renovation in my house this year, adding a new bathroom and a walk-in closet to the big open room I decided to turn into a master bedroom when I bought the house. This meant stealing five feet from across the back of the garage (which I thought was very clever of me), and then steeling myself for the expense and mess of such a big undertaking.

The workers started in April, about eight months after Zack and I had moved in, and they finished about three or four weeks ago. And it’s all amazing, totally worth it. Now the house is perfectly made for the life I wanted to live here. The master bedroom has windows all the way around it, and has a door that opens onto the gardens. It’s big enough to house both my bedroom and my office, all my beloved books in one place (as soon as the bookcases get here, in a month or so).

So this weekend I finally was able to undertake the labor of putting things to rights. With no closet, no bookcases, no office storage, it’s pretty much a giant mess of piles in here. A new file cabinet is tucked away into the closet, waiting to be filled. And though I didn’t have enough do re mi to finish the closet’s innards, I have two rolling racks at the ready.

I had already sorted out a pretty large pile of clothes to go to Goodwill this week, because—good news—I’ve dropped 25 pounds since June. Part of the weight loss was because of being sick with diverticulitis, but most of it is just because of Being Ready. Ready to let in that I might be safe, that I’m okay. How it is possible that I am still shaking off layers of grief and loss four years later, I don’t know, but that appears to be true.

So I was a little shocked to discover three full boxes of clothes in the extra bedroom, when I started rearranging all the clothing in the closets. (My clothes had been scattered throughout the house before the renovation, tucked into any open closet.) And I was more shocked to see what was in them: Clothes that don’t fit. Clothes from my “smaller” life. Clothes from four years ago.

I know I got rid of a ton of clothing when I moved. After all, I was a magazine editor, and if there’s ever a job that gives you permission to be clotheshorse, that is it. In fact, I often referred to myself in my job as a “pretty pony,” the shiny one, all dressed up and trotted out for advertisers and readers alike. Here I am on TV! Here I am at a fashion show! Of course it was all very fun, don’t get me wrong. But there were many moments I wondered if I’d get paid more as a spokesmodel for Redbook rather than its editor in chief.

So I was really, really surprised to see what must be at least 25 pair of pants, of all different sizes. Four different sizes, none of which fit when I moved (though from 2010 to 2013 I crossed the threshold of six different sizes, which is pretty amazing to consider). Why was I packing all that history up and bringing it with me?

I didn’t realize how much I was still holding onto that old life, life before everything changed all at once, until I saw those pants.

It wasn’t for the fashion, either. The fancy clothes I had sold off through a consignment shop. This was simply Old Navy jeans and J.Crew pants and skirts. Good news is that, yes, a lot of them fit now, but there are still bags and bags to drive to the Goodwill today, along with all the clothes that only recently became too big.

To me those boxes show how deep and intense the need was to hold onto all I knew when everything changed. It was impossible for me to know and see what life would look like moving forward—impossible to believe it would all once again be great—so I had to hold on to some artifacts, a promise to myself of where I would find myself again. I kept the clothes from that time, in the hopes that I could slip back into them, as easy as pulling a dress over my head, and be back in the security of those days before I lost everything I knew about who I was.

The subtle joke, of course—and, oh, doesn’t the universe always have a subtle joke for us?—is that you can’t go back. And I don’t want to go back. Part of me is even tempted to give it all away, as if anything I had from that time is tainted. And because I don’t need it.

I did find one or three dresses from my last winter that I was glad to see again. (Oh, there you are!) But I’m on the fence about everything else. These pants and skirts are my Rosebud. I can’t go home again. My parents are gone. That home doesn’t exist anymore. Nor does the home where a traditional idea of success could protect me and inoculate me from having to face down the wounds imparted during childhood. Nor does the home where life can’t touch me, a mythical place I believed in, for so very long. I had to—it’s what kept me going for years, until I was strong enough, and yes, weak enough, to let in the much more complicated truth.

But I am good with the truth, and the truth is good with me. The inevitable cycle of life has taken its turn, depositing me in a place where I am at peace, and healed and whole.

I don’t need no stinking boxes. I’m good. Really good.

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