Big House, Many Suitcases

"Can you imagine who you'll be in five years?" she asked.

"What an incredible question. Let me show you," he answered. 

--

Last year, the Baltimore Museum of Art opened an exhibit called Imagining Home. The experience was everything I always hope art to be: interactive, beautiful, surprising, and uncomfortable. As someone that has reimagined and reworked my definition of home over the past few years, this exhibit designated with a depth I had not anticipated. 

At the end of the exhibit, there was a table with stacks of postcards and blank labels. Above the table stood directions to answer questions about your definition of "home" on the postcards. Your card should then to be slipped into a box. You could also write an address on the blank label and release that into another box. The museum staff would then randomly match each postcard with an address label and mail them away into the universe.

Pretty cool, huh?

About a month later, this experience more of a shadow than a bright light in my memory, I received this. A modest haiku, written by the hand of a stranger, made its way into my one-bedroom apartment on Saint Paul Street. I loved everything about this home. It had a surprisingly personal history I only discovered after moving in, and it quickly became a character in my life. In the two years I lived there I traveled a lot and came to discover that while I loved the rush of traveling there was no place I would rather return to than Baltimore. 

This is one the most important truths I have come to learn about myself as an adult.

I decided to make true my commitment to Baltimore and buy a house here. While looking at houses and trying to find my right match, I uncovered that I was wildly attracted to three story houses (read: homes way too large for one woman and cat). This attraction brought to the surface a wild notion I had nurtured years before of having a "reflection home–" a place people could come to gather, retreat, recharge, eat, laugh, and love. 

A place we could be ourselves, together.

My search soon took me to the edge of East Baltimore and into a home that made my heart ache. I was seduced by the large, open staircase that winds through the middle of all three stories of this home. I was enchanted by the transition and grit of the neighborhood. I was in love with the energy that lives in the walls of this 1920's Baltimore rowhome. Knowing this was the one, I purchased this home, welcoming my first guests in two weeks later. Though not exactly the reflection home I had imagined just yet, over a dozen people for all over the world have rested, eaten, uncovered, laughed, and loved in my home. 

For many years I thought that I would build a life around the philosophy of "small house, big suitcase." The restlessness. The travel. The excitement and the unknown (!)– I could have sworn it would be all I ever needed in this life. But strangely, this settled life is gripping me tightly. The roots, the stability, the time spent building a foundation just feels so smooth and easy all of a sudden. The space to wake up and ask myself the questions that are hard to answer– this life feels pretty good to stand in the middle of and own. 

I didn't know it would. But it does. And I like it. 

So as life has a way of doing, my philosophy is slowly shifting to meet my new self-discovery and budding life in a beautiful space of truth, honesty, and authenticity. Slowing down seems to suit me. In practicing this, I invite you, travelers, to come to me. If you find yourself in Baltimore or would just like to come visit, Hemingway and I are excited for everyone we love to help us make this house home.

We have time, safety, and sunlight waiting for you in Baltimore. I can't wait to see you soon.

31 Approaches

" I am so excited to see you," she whispered, vulnerably.

" I wish I could say the same," he shot back with a smirk.

She could only look away as she tried to hide her cracking heart.

--

When I was in college, I learned that I could be Type A. Before this point, I had no idea how to organize, plan, predict, or get anything done. Once I got a taste of the control this brought into my life, I was hooked. Getting shit done was my drug. 

This trait has only deepened as I've grown older. With little exception, every area of my life is tainted by a very stern need to control outcomes with high-energy and ambitious attacks of tasks. My personal and professional goals are carefully outlined, the action steps are calculated, and satisfaction comes when things are accomplished before deadlines and above expectations.  

But thirty has been a different kind of year for me. It wasn't the most transformational year, or the hardest year, or the most exciting year. It was, though, a year that was wholly unexpected. Nothing about my life ended up as I predicted or planned. I did a lot of things that took me aback, both positively and negatively. It was the first year of my adult life I wasn't in love. I took risks but not with the kind of enthusiasm I have experienced in the past (more with daunting, dragging-myself-forward motion). I cried more as a thirty-year-old woman than any other year of my life. Yet, felt the most content in my skin than any other year of my life.

Thanks for totally fucking with me, 30. 

Sometimes life is like that. You learn truths about yourself and they don't really shock or scare you, even if you're blindsided by them. You just accept them and keep moving, albeit little changed. I think that's called growing up.

As I exit the first year of my 30's, I find myself approaching this human existence in a few new ways:

  1. Giving words, hugs, gifts, time, and love in small, unexpected moments is a disarming act that I am dedicated to practicing, even if it is uncomfortable. It feels so much better to give than to take.
  2. Being okay with falling apart, a little, sometimes, and without judgment of myself.
  3. Allowing others to take care of me, even when every thread of my existence wants to resist.
  4. Reaching out instead of pulling back. Holding hands. Kissing. Crying into someone's neck. Rubbing a shoulder or back. Pain is soothed by touch. Sensory experiences connect us.

In all the grace I can muster, I will slide into 31 as it arrives. This time, without plans.

All the Noise

"You're just free," he kept reminding her.

"Does that make you nervous?" she would ask.

"I haven't decided, yet," he answered. Until he had. And it did.

--

Almost two years ago, I decided to get rid of my television. Sort of. Really, I moved and didn't take a television with me. I made a home on the third level of a beautifully historical rowhome, in a space that I fell deeply in love with, and a TV didn't seem to fit the space or my new life. 

At night, I would lay on the couch, or sit in my window seat, and listen to the city. The urban soundtrack, I called it. Sometimes I would have music playing; sometimes I would dance. Other times I would turn on a podcast, doing work at my desk or just sitting quietly to listen. Lots of evenings I would read. All with this urban soundtrack softly humming in the background. It became reliable and nurturing.

For the first time in most of my life, I controlled the noise. When I sat down, it was with great purpose: to work; to read; to write; to listen. That thing people refer to as "being present." I controlled the way my home sounded and felt by eliminating a television and it drastically changed the way I interacted with everything else in my space.

Every day we are surrounded by noise we can't control. Some of it is damaging. Some of it is crushing. A lot of it happens without our permission. Noise from people, media, co-workers, family, lovers. A lot of us live with a ton of static noise within our own heads. It distracts. It creates anxiety. It blunts our senses. In a lot of ways, it is a subtle build, and we don't even realize it is happening.

The noise isn't always bad. There can be beauty in noise. But even beauty can be overwhelming when we can't manage it. Or worse, the background static becomes comfortable, making it impossible for us to understand how anyone could live without it.

I have no resolutions this year. Nothing major I want to make resolute, and I am steadfast in that decision. But I have some particular ways of living I want to invest in and tend to this year. Some are small, a few larger, but most extremely personal. To be open and free, to accept what I want for my life without judgment of myself. To be unwavering in my conviction to certain needs and beliefs, while flexible enough to change my mind and pivot.

And when I can't control it, to move through the noise with a grace.

Press Pause

“I won’t be here long,” she said softly.
His eyes gently smiled, “Quick dip. I know your style.”


There is value in balance. Not bending too much one way or the other. Finding a space that blends important areas of life. Pacing yourself. Working hard and taking breaks.

I don’t live this way.

I work at full capacity. Constantly moving. No transition time, just efficiently shifting from one thing to another. I don’t like to stand still. I’m more comfortable moving, preferably quickly and in a forward direction.

In past eight months, I’ve been sick more than I’ve ever experienced in my life. In a life I have created around moving, I have been forced to stand still on more occasions than I would like to admit. I haven’t slowed easily, and the result was unfortunate illness after illness that never really went away and that I never tended to long enough to allow full healing.

This is ironic, given that I have dedicated the last eight months of my life building a company that strives to help educators find happier, healthier life balances. 

Excruciatingly, taking the advice (not my own) of one caring friend and one firm doctor, I pressed pause. I slept. I drank lots of water. And tea. I slept some more. I left the country and slept in the sun and let the humidity drain my body of all that extra hydration. I moved slowly and with purpose. I healed a little more. 

Then I admitted, mainly to myself, that I might desire a slower life. A pace different from what I have built. A world where mornings start a little later and dinners last a little longer. Where transitions might not always be so fast and sometimes I get to hold a hand while I’m getting used to standing still. 

Maybe it is in the moments of pause that we see what has always been there, but in a still frame that finally makes sense

Earning or Sacrificing?

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"Because I'm lonely," he answered.   

And she knew that forever he would be the boy and she would be the tree.  

--

Recently, it was asked of me (and many others, apparently) what I want to be know for: Would I rather be known for what I earned or what I sacrificed?

Although I am not convinced that this is an either/or question for me, I do believe the struggle to earn and the pain of sacrificing are not all that different. Yes, the feelings and details around each may not appear similar, but each deals in value. Are you working to gain value? Or are you giving something of value up in exchange for something more worthy?

Earning is hard work to see more immediate results.

Sacrificing is a longer, more confusing game.

I don't think I would care to be know for either what I earned or what I sacrificed. That seems too limiting.

I want to be known for a different kind of value. Not one I chased and caught. And not a value that came at the price of exchange. 

I want to be known for what I build and grow and create. I want to be known for what I feel and how I act. I want to be known for what I give. I want to be known for being softer and kinder than was deserved or expected. I want to be known for being harder and faster at just the right moment. I want to be known for creating seconds of delight that are remembered for a lifetime. I want to be known for how I nurture that which has been both earned and sacrificed by others. I want to be known for holding so close and so gently what is in another's bones, even if I haven't quite figured out what is in mine.

I want to be known for being a person that is just really good at being human.

Despite the mess and tears and grind of earning, and despite the pain and turmoil and gripping uncertainty of sacrifice, what lives deep in the core of me is how I hope to be known. 

So maybe this is the bigger question for me: 

What will I have to earn, and what will I have to sacrifice, to be truly known?