A Fragile Existence

We visited an ice castle in the mountains. Oh that sounds so wonderfully dreamy and fantastic and it was a site to behold. The castle was built over many days and includes slides, arches, towers, caves and tunnels. It took almost a month to create and about 10,000 icicles per day were harvested. The icicles were built and assembled alongside and over color-changing lights that created a breathtaking show. It felt as if the visitor had escaped to a far-off winter wonderland.

When we entered the castle, I tiptoed and carefully selected my steps so as not to disturb this frozen work of art. However, the size of the crowds were astonishing and as we proceeded through the castle I could see the influx of guests and hear the icicles fall and crunch. Some people even snapped off icicles to hold and for play. Of course this monstrosity of icicles was created for fun and enjoyment, not to whisper and tiptoe through but I couldn’t help noticing that while the structure was tall and massive and large enough to hold hundreds of people that it also was in another way much more fragile.

We too lead such a fragile existence. Over time and through our childhood and experience we grow and build a tough exterior. We do not come crashing down at every unkind word or hurtful conversation or broken relationship but it chips away. The hurt breaks off one icicle and then another and then another. Our core still stands however our being, our heart is changed one tiny moment or interaction at a time.

In the words of Holly Butcher, a 27 year old woman who recently lost her battle with cancer, “That’s the thing about life, it is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.”


Me Too…Said Everyone

To the surprise of some, a high-powered man in Hollywood was accused of sexually harassing and abusing women. Perhaps a little more shocking was the sheer number of women coming forward. The accusations of his crimes date back decades and the amount of women he injured is astounding. All of this time he happily continued an extremely successful career wielding so much power that his deeds went not only unpunished but unreported.

On Sunday an actress encouraged people to make their status on social media two simple words — Me too. Her purpose, to show the magnitude of the serious problem of sexual harassment and abuse. If you have experienced either of these, change your status and show the world the proof of this disgusting issue.

First, there is absolutely nothing wrong with shedding light on these actions and its noble to bring people who feel victimized together and show the importance of an issue. Shine a light in the darkness. I’m on board.

I remember the first time a man commented on my physical appearance. It was in 8th grade, my first day at a new school. I was wearing a white polo, blue and white checked shorts, and white Keds, no socks. The guy, while walking behind me, told me I had a nice bottom (only he didn’t use the word bottom). I cried in the bathroom stall and never said anything. How disgusting! Who do you even tell? How embarrassing!

Over the years, I’ve lost count of the comments regarding my physical appearance (I’m average-looking) and the things that guys would do with my body given the chance. Being in public or having a job meant sexual harassment. You stop thinking about it as actual harassment and it becomes part of your regular life.

It happens at the grocery store, on the street, at school, at your office. It has come from peers, mentors, strangers and subordinates. People voice their opinion on your appearance and oftentimes in an extremely crude and detailed manner. What’s the appropriate response when you’re grocery shopping and someone describes how they’d like to bend you over and what they would do from there? Call the police? The FBI? Or perhaps we could just fall back on the old adage of ‘boys will be boys.’

As my Facebook feed fills with the echoing of ‘Me too’s’, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a woman out there who hasn’t experienced sexual harassment or abuse in some form. Are there still women out there who haven’t been on the receiving end of an unwanted advance? Woman who haven’t heard comments about their physical appearance? Women who haven’t been the recipient and an inappropriate touch a time or two or twenty? I hope so, but I doubt it.

And so, women everywhere can either change their status or simply hear the echo of those words in their own head ….. me too… knowing that tomorrow or next week or next month they’ll experience the same harassment. Knowing that most (if not all) women wouldn’t have to think too hard to come up with more then a dozen examples, some more heinous than I can imagine. Some so benign you almost wouldn’t consider the actions harassment.

Type it in your status or think it in your head….. you’ve experienced it …. Me too.

Start with Something Small.

Silverware Drawer

Last weekend, in a bout of misguided organizational zeal, I decide to deep clean my entire kitchen. It started when I lifted a stainless steel pot to make some soup to go along with the dropping temperatures and found a pile of gunk. Gunk that turned out to be a hair band, some bread crumbs, a post-it and a tiny Elsa figurine.

Am I really this disgusting? No I am not. So I made the decision to scrub and scour every corner of my kitchen. To wash every spoon and wipe down every appliance. To clean the spilt cinnamon and oregano and cayenne pepper out of the bottom of my spice cabinet. To wrestle the drawers out of my fridge (I think they come out….at least I think 2 of them do) and place them to soak in some hot soapy water. To restore order to the heart of my home.

Alas, I now know why there’s garbage in my cabinets. Interruptions have a mysterious way of turning my plans and goals swiftly into fantasies. Most of the time when starting a project, interruptions get in my way. If I’m honest, interruptions are much more of a reality and less of a surprise (I knew my spouse and children would want lunch…it was inevitable). At the heart of my gunk problem is a giant case of unrealistic expectations. Too often, I pretend that 15 minutes is enough time for me to get from pajamas to completely dressed with makeup on and 4 lunches and 2 backpacks packed and coffee and a smoothie made and in hand.

Life has a way of overwhelming even the most ambitious of people (or perhaps the ambitious have it worse off). Before I spiraled into the depths of despair and tore apart my entire kitchen while giving my hungry family a piece of my mind…. I leveled with myself. Is Saturday at lunchtime the best time to clean the kitchen? Do I really have time today to clean my entire kitchen top to bottom? Do I really want to do all of this work on one of our few family days?

And the final doozie of a question — What can I actually (realistically) accomplish today?

By now I’m sure you’re quivering with anxiety at my answers to myself, so I’ll tell you. I cleaned the silverware drawer. I hand washed all the silverware, wiped down the drawer, and sent the compartments that hold each piece for a nice, hot, bubbly soak. It wasn’t revolutionary, but I feel better. Instead of being paralyzed by my inability to accomplish my entire project in one “sitting”, I did 1 portion and the next day I cleaned the spice cabinet. And the next day, I cleaned the pots and pans.

So, dig on in. Pick something small. Start.

The Monotony of Life.

Fall is a season of physical and tangible change. In Colorado, the Rockies will often be covered with a light layer of crisp white snow, while the surrounding trees transition into fiery reds, oranges, and gold. It’s breathtaking and locals flock to the mountain to bask in nature’s glory and the change in scenery. The change is natural, predictable and consistent. Why were the trees given this ability, yet I struggle to make any change at all?

Recently, I heard a wonderful TED talk during which the speaker continually encouraged listeners to FORCE themselves to change. The more she said FORCE the more I cringed at the visceral sound of the word. Who wants to FORCE themselves to do or be anything? And when you think about it, what are the other options? To naturally make changes in our lives? To discover change that requires no effort?

During this talk, the speaker outlines how we work towards the stability of adulthood. Once we arrive, we find ourselves doing the same things day in and day out. Driving the same routes. Eating the same foods. Watching the same television shows. And one day, we wake up to find ourselves bored and unsatisfied. Thinking about this, I can see the patterns; whether healthy, unhealthy or just needed, of my own life and the monotony that weighs upon me. I’ve already see that show on Netflix. I don’t want to clean the bathroom. I don’t want to send another email or add another appointment to the calendar. The monotony of autopilot can easily rob a person of their joy….if we allow it.

So, tonight I will take a walk, spend time reading with my children, carve out some precious time for myself, and set my alarm just a little bit earlier. I’ll probably still clean a bathroom or kitchen or pick up some room in my house but I’m hoping that carving out just thirty minutes of enjoyable time during which I don’t revert to autopilot. A mere half hour or so of choices that will not add to the monotony.

Author’s Note: After publishing this, I realized the kids have extracurrilcar activities tonight and my husband is out of town and I’m watching my friend’s children. Maybe I’ll try for 15-20 minutes but dang it, they’ll be the most fabulous 15-20 minutes of my day.