Monday, December 28, 2015

Facing down the mountain in the New Year

Chicago, one of our housesitting gigs.

2015. In my personal sphere and on the planet, it's been a year of darkness and light.  It's been a year of writing and travel, growth and exploration. And of letting go, again and again.

Pema Chodron has been my greatest guide, Byron Katie a close second. They remind me to soften, to keep my sense of humor, to love (accept) what is.

All my precarious emotions? They are projections; they are bad weather in a vast, unchanging sky. And the feelings that come from my gut? They are my guide.

This year has been a bunch of puzzle pieces fitting together. We spent the first few months at our little house in Mexico. One of our biggest adventures was taking four days to drive up Baja. After that--except for New Orleans in spring Chicago in summer--we spent the rest of the time buzzing all over California.

When you add up all of our housesitting gigs this year (Chicago, Rancho Palos Verdes, San Francisco, Berkeley, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Tahoe)--that's six months of free rent!

Sure, we take care of cats and dogs; sometimes that feels like work, but for the most part it's fun. Even the dog who bit my finger, and the dog who barked in the middle of the night--I got over it, and so did they.

Traveling around California, it seemed we spent more time with family and friends than we did when we lived here. We were privileged to attend my niece's 8th grade graduation and Dave's nephew's wedding. Another highlight was time with my 92-year-old piano playing aunt. And, just the other day, skiing with my sister and her kids.

In June, my memoir (my fifth book) came out, followed by a flurry of book parties, readings, workshops, and generally awesome mayhem. Friends, family, former students and colleagues cheered me on, and strangers became intimates.

Some of the material in the book is so potentially embarrassing that I jokingly tell people to pretend it's fiction. But as Joe Loya once said, we must be willing to be embarrassed to write a memoir. And of course it's all the juicy bits that people love--not just for the sake of titillation, but because they can exhale and say, "Ah, yes, we're all very human, aren't we?"

Also on the writing front, Elephant Journal took me on as a regular contributor. The scope is mind-boggling; thousands of people are reading and sharing my pieces. People email me about how my writing is affecting their lives. Others have invited me to be guests on their blog-casts and telesummits. Holy internet!

My piece "How to Have a Crush on Your Husband" went viral. I was a puddle on the floor when I saw how many used their comments to express their love for their spouses.

Maybe that's my calling: spreading love with my words like some doped-up hippie child strewing flowers. (Although I'm doing it without being doped up, for the most part, since I rarely drink booze anymore, and I quit coffee.)

Boo and Coco, the beasts at our San Francisco housesit.
On my blog, I started a series I call "Books That Inspire." It's a blast interviewing authors whose work makes a difference in the world.

This was a year of music and adventure: JazzFest in New Orleans, American Music Festival in Santa Cruz, High Sierra Music festival in Northern California, and a sprinkling of other live shows. We went river rafting, beachside bike riding, Yosemite hiking, snow skiing, and swimming with whale sharks.

I continue to be grateful for my health after brain surgery two years ago--and yet now there's this whole "going through menopause" thing. It's not for wimps.

Here in Tahoe, Dave's been battling a rough flu (as I did earlier in the year). And several friends are battling grave illnesses. I am reminded the body is both fragile and resilient.

While Dave was sick, I took the leap and skied by myself. People chatted with me on the lift and invited me to ski with them.

The perimenopausal skier in action.

And then, when I accidentally found myself facing a gnarly, ungroomed, moguly, super-steep run (not my forte!)--ahem, two different times--angels came to me. Once a woman and once a man, each who guided me down. Thankfully, I was able to face down the mountain, turn and traverse.

As this year closes, it's becoming clear there are a lot of uncertainties ahead for these nomads. We aren't sure what shape our work and living situation are going to take.

But guess what? We know how to turn. We know how to face down the mountain. Let us remember that in 2016.


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