Taking Stalk vol. 1

I thought about the question Katie posed in between bites of zucchini bread. We were catching up in a coffee shop near my office. My explanation was brief. I haven’t been writing much. In truth, I haven’t felt like I had much to say—at least not much I’d like to post online in quite a while. Until now.

Six weeks into a new job I feel my long-drained tank refilling. I like what I do very much and the team with which I do it. I appreciate that my new boss and colleagues recognize my contributions—even in a matter of weeks. This new environment energizes me.

It cannot, however, be underestimated the toll the previous job took on me, my mental health and well-being, and so I am allowing myself space to process (yet again) that experience whilst luxuriating in the fact that I have landed in a place where I can finally thrive.

In celebration of the one-year anniversary of celeryforone’s launch, I’m documenting what the past year has meant for me and what it has taken to feel the deep exhalations of relief, peace, and optimism about the future.

In April it became evident that a change of employment was imperative. My view of my professional qualities and competencies had atrophied, so I enlisted the wisdom of a career coach and a spiritual director to pose the questions I needed to face and to help me summon the courage to pull myself out of this rut. I wanted to see myself the way these women saw me, and needed more practice at asking for help.

Neural pathways, deeply entrenched by inertia and the unkindness of some, slowly rerouted my opinion of myself and gave me a more expansive view of what I would bring to a new team. These sessions also helped me role play conversations in which I could sell my skills and attributes as a viable candidate with confidence. The practice worked, and here I am ending the year in much improved circumstances.

I am keenly aware of the passage of time. I can no longer hold reading material at a comfortable distance. My arms are never long enough, and there is not a light bulb bright enough in my house to light the page. I often think how nice it would be to have the extension arms of Inspector Gadget (again showing my age), and then remember making an appointment with the optometrist is all that’s required.

Time also whizzes past me from the passenger seat of my 2006 Nissan Pathfinder as my 15-year-old with a learner’s permit chauffeurs me around town. Wasn’t I just changing diapers and playing ‘cooking show’ with her? Yes, it’s true. Those 15 years have flown by and crawled all at once. The richness of our conversations these days and her alert attention to the rules of the road ease me into this new phase of parenting. I don’t want her to grow up, and I want to see the magnificent creature she will be in adulthood. Time is elastic.

I have observed I carry a new calm within me—one that is even noticeable to others. I wear this calm like a hard-won medallion—a reminder of my ability to reach the mile markers in life’s long, ongoing race. This calm makes everything easier. Not easy. Life isn’t easy. But I feel capable of taking it as it comes. Navigating the hairpin turns and the steep hills that knock the wind out of me. (Like a teen’s broken leg in winter, surgery, and months of rehab.) Now that I know how to invoke this calm, I am certain it will be a constant companion.

I am gentle with myself in ways I have managed only recently. I have eased up on the arbitrary rules I once created to form an artificial sense of control. For instance, I am a writer. Period. It doesn’t matter what my daily word count is or how often I post to this site. My world is oriented by an unending stream of words—no matter what form they take. I also have tossed out my reading list. Tired of feeling constricted by what I’ve written down and the length of the entries, I trust that there will always be good reads, and they will find their way to me. Reading a book about the calamity of the 1918 influenza outbreak has me wanting to resume my presidential biography project. It feels refreshing to let my curiosity guide me to the next title.

My gardening pursuits continue to nurture all of this growth. My Fairy Garden Mother sowed seeds late in the planting season when I’d run out of steam. The results were amazing stalks of Mexican sunflowers and orange and magenta zinnias that decorated my backyard until October. The lesson? It is better to plant seeds late than not at all. To let Nature do her thing. This lesson has also found its way to my heart. I have cultivated the ground where a seed was long ago planted. To my surprise and delight, a friendship took root and has blossomed into something more.

It’s been seven years since I became a co-parent and a solo homeowner who simply could not imagine what the future had in store. It’s been two years since I sat on a Zoom call with Rob Bell, and said aloud, I have an idea.

I have had a lot to grieve in the intervening years—lost time with my daughter, financial insecurity, expensive car repairs, unrelenting work stress, loneliness, my grandpa’s death. I faced the fear of the unknown head on. What I wasn’t prepared for was everything I have gained—most of which has been possible because I learned how to trust myself.


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