Today is my birthday and the first day of our kid’s school in Portland. It’s been a year, or 42. The 4 of us are feeling equal parts excitement, relief, nervousness, and curiousness. They are curious how school works after a year and a half out of it, curious what it’s like to make new friends, and how nice their teacher is going to be. I’m curious if they remember how to read and right (JK). We are finding our new normal and not every day has been easy. The thing is, settling into the unpredictability of life is strangely comforting. My mantra for the last 2 years is dripping with bachelor-style-meets-Goop-sap, which goes as follows: “The obstacles are just part of the journey”. They are unavoidable and the only way over is through. Framing it like that lets me approach mistakes like lessons I get to learn and the missteps are actually challenges that I’m meant to face. It’s been far more freeing and allows me to almost watch along, view my life from a more objective perspective in addition to experiencing it. And y’all, it’s been pretty entertaining to watch.
The only newsletter I actively look forward to reading is Maybe Baby by Haley Nahman. The last few Sundays have been meaningful enough for me to forward them to friends, with a “you have to read this” subject line. A recent one posed her theory on life, which gave me a lot of comfort and insight into what has been happening internally with me the last few years. It’s about a search for what she called “existential frisson” – the tension or relief you feel when you move the dial towards or away from something in your life. I related to it SO MUCH. 15 years ago I bawled when we left New York – I wanted to live there forever, raise our kids there, craved the energy of the city with the daily search for the new and novel. How does that person end up isolated in the mountains, where there is virtually no newness, loving that every choice is so simplified – so simple you almost don’t think about it and it becomes a non-choice. It’s a jarring shift. Brian is ready to get back to a city, and frankly, I wasn’t and there are days still when I’m not. But our neighborhood is so quiet, the parks here are meandering and I’m baby-stepping it back into traffic and crowds. But maybe I’m watching too much Virgin River and fantasizing about a “small town” reality that doesn’t really exist.
And yet we are here and moving forward with this plan, with a lot of hope that our family will thrive here. Maybe we won’t. Maybe our search to find the adorable public school experience we longed for in CA will not pan out after all. Maybe the groundedness and normalcy we have been craving won’t be satiated by moving to Portland. Maybe I’ll be allergic to Alpacas. There are times when I’ve felt whiplash even watching myself, curiously thinking WHO IS THIS PERSON??? I guess Haley’s piece reminded me that it’s normal and maybe even the point of life is to make massive shifts based on current emotions or seasons of life – and that we find relief, joy, and even growth in the midst of that change, regardless if it sticks. I know that the isolation of the mountain house was an over-correction to living in the busyness of LA/NYC. And our extreme hope is that being in this more mellow city will be the right balance of nature + culture that will make both myself, Brian and the kids thrive.
So I’m waiting for things to normalize, and I know it only takes time – you can’t really rush the process. I’m equally grateful and privileged to be in this situation, this I know. Until I settle in this new life I won’t know what version of myself will come out to play, or how long that version will stay – the extrovert that likes newness and fun or the homebody who wants to cook and snuggle. I’m getting used to the consistency in the inconsistency. I’m appreciating the predictability of myself being unpredictable. I feel like I’m watching a bio-pic of my own life and I truly don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I’m pretty into the series and can really relate to the main character, plus her husband is hot. One thing I do know about myself, that will never change, is that I will always watch a long, meandering TV series, full of love, drama and levity, with characters that bring me comfort along with some surprise. Hopefully, you do, too.
Season 12 of this show starts next week. It’s set in Portland where the family lives in a rental house while they wait for their mini-farm to be livable. It’s sure to be a year of transition, of feeling unsettled, and likely some existential clarity. I have all my tools (soup, exercise, podcasts, romance novels, close friends/family, long baths) and I know that it’s really about us creating the right environment and energy for the kids to feel good. Some days it’s harder than others as I mourn the simplicity of our small-town life, and that is absolutely to be expected. So I do what all moms do – I find a shower to cry in, and get it all out. It works. 🙂
Grab your popcorn, get comfy on your human-sized fainting couch. Let’s watch it together and maybe play that drinking game that many of you have suggested in the comments – a shot for every time I say/write “simple”, “sweet”, or “special”. 🙂 Except it’s Souptember so I’ll be drinking Kombucha and tea. Listen, mistakes and missteps have been made, and not just in design. I feel like I’ve grown up on the internet, accidentally, and with that comes a lot of successes and failures, and so much learning and personal growth. Knowing that there are people out there rooting for a happy ending, and willing to forgive when we’ve taken a wrong turn is truly what drives me to continue this “show”.
The plot will thicken with added chickens and rain. Thanks so much to all of you who have been watching and rooting for us over the years. It means more than I could possibly express. I still genuinely love this job, and am so grateful to be here and am even more grateful that you are here, too. Thank you.