Rules to live by?

The Flash makes a deal with Snart (Captain Cold) in “Infantino Street” (Episode 22 of Season 3).

For both professional and personal reasons, as of late I’ve been swimming through literature, podcasts, film and research all related to the concept of resilience. So as often happens, when my brain is steeping in thematically rich waters, I can no longer avoid catching a glimpse whatever the theme might be every.where.I.freaking.look. I see it in the spring blossoms and explosion of greenery up here in the Pacific Northwest after a ridiculously rainy winter. I see it in the faces of those whose stories of heartache I’ve been privileged enough to witness as they continue to pursue life despite having tasted or touched death in a multitude of ways. Last night, I was even struck by how a television series based on the DC Comics character, Barry Allen, explored the concept of resilience. That’s right. I am now considering The Flash as part of my research.

Don’t worry. If you haven’t seen this recent episode, there won’t be any real spoilers here. The scene that I’ve been chewing on involves the insight that Snart (a former villainous expert thief turned complicated hero type) offers The Flash as they discuss the challenging task laid before them. These are Snart’s essential rules for master thievery but I propose they’re actually his rules to strive for his own version of resiliency:

1. Make the plan

2. Execute the plan

3. Expect the plan to go off the rails

4. Throw away the plan

I personally find Snart’s rules to be a little too fatalistic or pessimistic to cultivate a resiliency that is more characteristic of thriving as opposed to strictly adapting and surviving. And so as I play out this 4-part rhythm of sorts in my own mind, I keep trying to nuance the language of rules 3 and 4.

Expecting the plan to go off the rails feels like a psychological defense against the vulnerability of hope. I imagine that this sort of defeatist expectation would permeate and impact the planning and execution stages of our movement through life’s varying chapters as well. AND YET. Here’s the thing. Assuming or visualizing or wishfully believing that life will go exactly as planned can also be a psychological defense (called denial) that leaves us completely ravaged when tragedy or disruption strikes. And it will strike. Our own mortality is evidence enough that suffering is a universal human experience. So I’m left wondering, how do we give ourselves fully to any kind of plan? How do we show up to the present moment(s) of our unique stories with hope and openness, desire and adaptability? Logic might argue that these are contradictory postures. But logic has never really been my best teacher.

There have been a ridiculous amount of thwarted plans in the recent years of my own life. Plans to have an idyllic pregnancy and birthing experience went off the rails by way of placenta percreta and a near death experience. Plans to maintain some family and community stability in the teenage years of our older three daughters were obliterated with my husband’s sudden job loss resulting in an unexpected relocation. Plans to find and cultivate a new normal in this chapter are perpetually obliterated by the ups and downs of chronic illness and chronic pain conditions two of our daughters have been battling in recent months.

We know a little something about making and executing plans that eventually go off the rails. So I hold plans a little looser than I once did. On my best days, the loosening grip is influenced by a posture of surrender and the awareness of my limited control, but there are days where it is more of a resignation because it feels pointless to hold onto anything very tightly.

Throwing away the plan sounds violent to me. Surrendering the plan through the dance of grief feels richer and kinder and gentler. Somedays that dance looks like anger and frustration. Somedays it’s closer to sorrow and disappointment. I’m coming to understand that the movement of this dance is widening the space, opening up the previous boundaries of my own lived experiences. Only when more space is created am I able to accept the broadening of our story, the expansion of the dance floor. Surrendering the plan and dancing through the grief helps me feel my way to new (albeit ever-loosening) plans.

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Pilgrimage to Disneyland

IMG_2406We just returned from a long-anticipated family road trip that included jaunts to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Disneyland and Newport Beach. We also somehow fit two different soccer tournaments for two different kids within the span of our 10 day trip. We’re a family on the move through much of life, in case you hadn’t picked up on that detail already. This pace and determination to cram fullness into limited space and time is often a point of contention for many who find themselves in relationship with me. I’m notorious for underestimating the amount of time a project might take or just how much work a task will require. I always find a way to get it all done, at times at the expense of my own body and at the mercy of those who choose to love me anyway.

Deciding to tackle Disneyland in a single day was evidence that this pattern of mine is alive and well. We have actually done Disneyland on two previous occasions – also in single day excursions. On these previous occasions the kids were all pretty young (as were Brian and I) and we weren’t overly concerned about conquering the park. We knew then that even a taste of the experience would feel like magic for our girls. BUT expectations and desires shift when children morph into teenagers. If I’ve learned anything in this season of parenting two teens, a tween and a threenager, it’s that these years are about continual growth and change. “Duh!” you might be thinking (yes, I still use ridiculous sayings from the 90s). I am not, however, strictly referring to the surge of pubescent hormones responsible for the fairly rapid metamorphosis of their glorious bodies. I’m talking about the space between all of us as well – that relational matrix found within every family system. As our “big” girls are each transitioning from childhood to adulthood we are perpetually being asked to make more space for one another’s differences and separateness. We are expanding as each daughter discovers how she is different and continues to lean into her process of individuation.


So how do you do Disneyland in a single day with a family as large as ours? Because these days I’m feeling how large we really are – not just in numbers, but in spaciousness with six different humans who all have their own expectations, desires and needs. I should add that it was also 95+ degrees and a gazillion times more populated than it had been when we last braved those crowds a decade before. We were a hot sweaty mess of a family that day, spending a larger portion of our vacation budget than originally planned and spending most of our time in lines feeling like it wasn’t quite what any of us had hoped it would be. But we did it. We bumbled and bumped our way through sorting out who wanted to do what and with who and how and where to meet up and reconvene. It was a day of some bickering and then compromise and deconstructing and leveling expectations, and ultimately making peace with reality and making space for each of our exhausted hearts in the end.

As the sun began to set and we found the relief we all needed from the blazing heat, we entered into the best part of the day together. Our tired feet and empty bellies led us all to the same desire – to eat and rest together before we would stake out our spot for the evening parade and fireworks show. It’s this rhythm of family I’m learning to embrace -the wrestling and sorting and pushing out and beyond that must take place so that there is enough room and space for everyone to gather within.

Later that night there was a moment of magic. I’m a sucker for fireworks put to music and it turns out each of my girls are as well. Just before the finale, Disney did what it does best – it made magic. Let It Go was blaring through the speakers and I couldn’t help but notice each of my girls singing along to a song we’ve listened to way too many times (it’s the threenager’s favorite movie). The three big girls were standing in front of me and Briella was perfectly situated on my hip and then it happened. The entire audience gasped as we all began to notice snow trickling down from above. I first caught Briella’s wonderstruck face and then each of my girls raised their hands into the air utterly delighting in the collective spectacle. I felt my eyes well up instantly with tears of such deep gratitude because this is the point of it all. Life is mostly about the struggle, the sorting out, the navigation of sometimes competing desires or needs, the individuating, the sweating and bickering and compromising. It’s the mundane and the messy. But then there are moments of magic. And it’s not that the moments of bliss make the rest of it bearable. It’s that the moments of reality make the magic that much more magical.

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*All photos taken by Bailey Gauthier

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Breaking the seal

13498145_10201671930998284_3887171278168271103_oI have this habit (that I’ve grown to love) of purchasing a new journal every time I begin a new adventure or enter into a new season of my life. Forsaking or letting go of the journal from the chapter that concludes always carries a great deal of ambivalence, but opening up the fresh crisp pages of the newly acquired bound book of wonder never disappoints. Apparently this need to mark a new beginning by swapping out journals has infiltrated the interwebs and has inspired me to launch a(nother) new blog.

The idea for this more personal blog has been swimming around my brain for over a year, but given the aforementioned habit, it makes sense that now in this new season of life that an unrelenting need to create a new space to catalogue the journey has pulled me along and moved me through any inhibitions or fears.

So here I am. The hubs and I just moved our family of 2 bigs, 3 not-so-littles, a 3 year old straggler and one anxious chocolate lab to Covington, WA. It was our 12th move as a family (not counting a few double moves) and now Covington is the 8th city we will call home for at least a little while. It’s a long story filled with a few chosen adventures and a few not-so-chosen adventures too. And so with this move comes some of the all-too-familiar adjustments to another new sub-culture, new schools, new surroundings and developing new rhythms as we learn to do life here together.
Truthfully, this new chapter is really just a subplot to the larger narrative that I’ve been working tirelessly to sort out most of my life. But lately, I’m more interested in learning how to delight in the living of it rather than being obsessed with figuring it all out. Old habits are hard to break, but here’s to capturing the days of our lives as we live them.

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