Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

Tag Archive: live

  1. Love Yourself So Matcha!

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    Maybe you’re a biological mother or an adoptive mother or a step-mother or a mother to people you work with or for. Maybe you play the role of mother to animals or a business or your parents.

    Regardless of the way you mother, I hope these words that I shared with my step-daughter will help you during this Mother’s Day week to remember to love yourself as well as others. Other women, from my mother to Jen Louden and Bridget Pilloud, shared some of them with me, and I’m passing them on.

    • “Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future; therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself. If you do, it will take you where you need to go, but more important, it will teach you a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”– John O’Donohue, Anam Cara. This “kindness of rhythm” is probably my big overarching goal right now–all of the rest of the thoughts below should be in service not only to getting things done, but more importantly, to the goal of being kind to myself and respecting my own very personal rhythm and speed. If I get things done by beating myself up, that really defeats the whole purpose.

     

    • I am not Mary Poppins, as much as I might like to be. I cannot solve every problem anyone might have. My purse is not infinitely big.

     

    • Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. A gym lesson that applies everywhere–nothing happens faster because I rush and get rattled.

     

    • Just say no. Don’t let other people set your priorities (which of course means you have to get clear in your own mind about what your priorities are but remember that they are yours to set).

     

    • Routine is key. For you all this may be different (as in, you may have to do your sanity-essential routines late at night, whereas I do them early in the morning) but I wake up early enough to do the things that are most important to the overall sanity of the day: meditate, journal, work on book, exercise. If occasionally I only have a short time for each of these, I try to scale them all down. 5 minutes of meditation, 5 minutes of journaling, 5 minutes of work on book, 5 minutes of stretching. Doing these in the morning before I go to work means that no matter how many interruptions I have, the things most important to me, the things that really no one on the planet but me cares whether I do, will actually get done before other people start pulling at my time and energy.

     

    • Lists are also key. I don’t know if you have the energy to explore anything new right now, but for quite a while I’ve been “bullet journaling,” which means to me that I keep all my lists, my calendar, my journal, pretty much everything, in one notebook, and I always keep it with me. When I feel that paralysis of overwhelm that you described last night, I look at my list and just pick something, just one next thing that will give me progress toward one of the things that’s causing stress and needs to get done. I also use list making to clear my mind of what I worry I will forget. Put it on the list, and forget it while you do what’s really important right now. If it’s not worth writing down, it’s either not worth doing at all or can be done in less time than it takes to write it down, in which case I just do it.

     

    • Resist the tyranny of the urgent. This is easier for me since “urgent” rarely involves anyone’s safety or health. But sometimes I find that urgent things, especially other peoples’ urgent things, can take up the whole day and despite my feeling of complete depletion, I haven’t gotten anything done that’s important to me. Make the distinction between urgent and important.

     

    • Be lazy/efficient. This is small, but I try to never walk from Place A to Place B, at home or office, without something in my hand(s) that needs to be moved from A to B. I let things stack up until I have to go from A to B for more than one reason.

     

    • Keep clear surfaces. I am a little bit of a fanatic about this, but visual clutter makes it really difficult for me to sort out what needs to be done, what needs to go with me when I leave, what is just sitting around, what is mine, what needs to be thrown away. I have “staging areas” at home and at work that are always clear, except for what needs to be taken with me when I leave, or what needs to be done imminently. When I have too much clutter, sometimes the only next right thing is to take a moment and clean it up. Otherwise I can’t function, can’t see the forest for the trees, can’t find my bullet journal ;).

     

    • Back to the beginning: be kind to yourself. I find that I am most grouchy and resentful when I do not give myself kindness and space, when I feel like I’ve been running around in other peoples’ urgent matters, not keeping my routines and practices, not remembering what is really important to me.
  2. What I Learned Before, During, and After Hurricane Irma

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    My stuff that matters a lot to me fits in a small carry-on.

    My stuff that matters a little less to me fits in a small car.

    Electricity and air conditioning are luxurious necessities.

    Order is calming.

    Waiting is hard.

    My sister is brave.

    Afternoon bourbon is helpful.

    Ribs can be cooked on Sterno.

    No one wants to leave home, even when a Category 5 storm is coming, even when there is no electricity.

    Little kindnesses like cleaning-out-my-freezer casserole shared with a neighbor are appreciated more than usual.

    Imminently restored electricity makes a woman want to hug a lineman from Indiana.

    Adrenaline crash will kick your ass.

    From Mary Oliver’s Upstream:  “All things are meltable, and replaceable. Not at this moment, but soon enough, we are lambs and we are leaves, and we are stars, and the shining, mysterious pond water itself.”

  3. And here we are.

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    I started blogging right after President Obama’s inauguration, participating in optimism and a sense of community here and in my little corner of the early days of Twitter. Vice President Biden championed victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and the Violence Against Women Act was strong and enforced.

    But life–my life, your life, the life of the country–goes on, gets in the way, changes everything. And here we are.

    My brother-in-law’s cancer fight over; my sister’s grief is a little bit less fresh.

    Mr. Z and the dogs and I have moved house and reshuffled priorities.

    My book  is still in revision. I’m back to it now.

    It’s time for me to start talking again, with anyone who will listen.

     

     

  4. Grey Area

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    Life is easier, in some ways, when things are neatly divided into them/us, bad/good, never/always boxes.

    When those boxes crumble, when the lines between certainties blur, our assumptions and givens shake. Things get trickier and more interesting.

    A few box-crumbling events have happened in my world over the past few years:

    • a friend’s husband was accused of molesting their granddaughter. I believe that he did not do it.
    • another friend was attacked in her home and brutally beaten. She found her way to deep forgiveness.
    • a trusted employee was arrested for domestic violence. I decided to pay for his bail.

    In an either/or world, I believe in accusers/victims no matter what; I want my friend’s attacker to go to prison for as long as the law allows; I draw a hard line and fire the batterer.

    In the grey zone, I can be open to the possibilities of believing in the accused, marveling at forgiveness, and hoping for the batterer’s change.

    My bias remains toward accusers and victims. I believe there is no justification, ever, for emotional or physical violence and also that it is very, very difficult to stop learned behaviors like battering.

    Living a little bit more in the grey helps me better understand my own story. Living in the grey is expansive.  Challenging my assumptions makes my ultimate conclusions–or what will be my interim conclusions–more nuanced, more complex, more allowing of further refined understanding.

    Living in the grey allows the possibility of telling and hearing all the stories.

     

  5. Life is Long

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    I repeat the mantra “lifeisshort lifeisshort lifeisshort.” Sometimes I add “getbusy hurryup domore lifeisshort ticktock.” I check an online calculator again—254 days until my 50th birthday.

    Lifeisshort, I chant as I rush from my office to the Women of Tomorrow event before heading back to the office again. I talk with a group of high school girls about dating violence.  I want to make a difference in their lives. Lifeisshort lifeisshort.

    I tell my story of being in an abusive relationship, and the girls share theirs. One girl feels pressure to continue her relationship with her controlling boyfriend, and one of the other women in the room says, “Girls, you can take your time to find the right relationship, the right career, the right life. It may not seem like it now, but life is long.”

    “Life is long”? Hmmm. Maybe for 16-year-olds. I am nearly 50.

    Two days later, I sit at my dining room table, coffee within easy reach, Sunday’s New York Times spread out in front of me. Frank Bruni’s op-ed about maturity and Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos’ 37-year-old quarterback, is a celebration of experience: “With a bit of age has come a better grip on the fact that a game, like a life, is long.  Stay calm. Hang in. Wait for the inevitable break. Trust your training.”

    Now we know that the inevitable break never came for Manning on Sunday night, but I remember  Bruni’s column. “A game, like a life, is long.”

    I google “Frank Bruni age” and smile. Of course. He’s 49 and he’ll turn 50 fourteen days after I do. 268 to go, Frank. Do you really think lifeislong?

    The next day I read, as I do most days, Andrew Sullivan’s Dish blog, which linked to a story about Janet Yellen, who, at 67, has just become the Chairwoman? Chairman? Chair? of the Federal Reserve.  “Life is long,” says the article, which continues, “It’s a liberating notion, really, to think that you don’t have to accomplish everything in your life – or ‘have it all’ – simultaneously; that leaning back during one life stage doesn’t preclude leaning in later.”

    I haven’t had it all, at least not in any conventional sense or in any conventional order, but I notice that phrase again. Lifeislong. And Janet Yellen, at the top of her game, the beginning of the peak of her professional life, at 67, inspires.

    Okay, if Anyone is coordinating this onslaught of “lifeislong,” I’m listening. I’m thinking.

    But maybe this is mere coincidence; maybe everyone is saying “lifeislong” now and I’m just noticing. Is this the new YouOnlyLiveOnce?

    I google again. The search leads me not to urbandictionary.com but to this quote from a Chris Rock movie, I Think I Love My Wife: “You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.”

    And then I click on stanza V of T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”:

    Between the conception

    And the creation

    Between the emotion

    And the response

    Falls the Shadow

                                    Life is very long

    Between the desire

    And the spasm

    Between the potency

    And the existence

    Between the essence

    And the descent

    Falls the Shadow

    So. A woman advises girls. A man praises  Manning’s long game. Janet Yellen has it all, in her own time. Chris Rock calls “bullshit.” I shake my head at  the beauty of Eliot’s words. I pay attention.

    Lifeislong invites exploration, slowing down, mixing in at least a  little rest and reflection with the urgent drumbeat of “getbusy hurryup domore lifeisshort ticktock.”

    Over the next 254 days, I’ll write a series of 50 posts. 50 posts before 50. They’ll be less “lifeisshort” bucket list and more “lifeislong” what’s next?

    I hope to have some guest posts, too, maybe even 50 of them, from women who have already looked 50 in the eye, as well as women who still look forward to it 500, 1000, 2000  or more days from now.

    Is life short or long? I don’t know yet. I hope to have a better idea by my birthday.

    What do you think?

     

     

  6. A Matter of Life and Death

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    Last year I picked a word and ran with it all year: tell.

    I’m still running with it, and still thinking about 2012 and still needing to write about it, and I will, soon.

    But I’ve chosen my word for 2013, and it’s “live,” the verb.

     

    Maybe I’m feeling my mid-life-ness. Maybe it’s time to get on with some things I’ve been delaying. Maybe I don’t even yet know what this word means.

    After I’d chosen the word, I ran across “Posthumous” by Jeffrey Eugenides.

    He quotes Christopher Hitchens, quoting Nadine Gordimer, who had advised Hitchens, “‘A serious person should try to write posthumously,’ Hitchens said, going on to explain: ‘By that I took her to mean that one should compose as if the usual constraints–of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and perhaps especially, intellectual opinion–did not operate.'”

    So in 2013, I want to write as if I’ve already died, and live as if I might die at any moment.

     

     

  7. Aurora

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    This morning when I heard the news of the Aurora shooting. I immediately thought of Jeanne, whose son lives in Denver, and who wrote a beautiful post today that weaves a whirlwind of reactions into a reminder to love each other.

    I keep thinking about the story of one of the people who was killed. Jessica Ghawi was in Toronto just last month at the Eaton Center, where another shooting took place. She blogged about her experience here.

    Jessica wrote,

    I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.

    I hope she lived the past 45 days with those words in mind. I hope all of us can live with those words in mind.

    In Walden, Thoreau wrote, “All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.”

    May we all be children of Aurora today.

     

     

     

  8. On Fire

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    April:

    Month of rebirth,

     month of two anniversaries.

    Good Friday, 2002: a beating, an interim separation.

    April 11, 2007: another assault, an arrest, the first night of a final separation.

    Easter weekend 2012: time for a fire.

    Tonight two Adrienne Rich poems:

    “Burning Oneself Out,”

    its last lines:

    “or, as tonight, the mirror of the fire
    of my mind, burning as if it could go on
    burning itself, burning down

    feeding on everything
    till there is nothing in life
    that has not fed that fire”

    and

    “Power,”

    about Marie Curie,

    “[who] died a famous woman denying
    her wounds
    denying
    her wounds came from the same source as her power.”

    ::

    What has fed your fire?

    Can you see that your wounds and your power come from the same source?

  9. What have you survived?

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    In From a Survivor, Adrienne Rich writes,

    Next year it would have been 20 years
    and you are wastefully dead
    who might have made the leap
    we talked, too late, of making

    which I live now
    not as a leap
    but a succession of brief, amazing movements

    each one making possible the next

     

     

     

     

    Every one of us who lives another day is a survivor of something, or everything.

    Survivors of  violent, personal trauma–domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape.

    Others are survivors of cancer, accidents, natural disasters, genocide, the suicide of a loved one.

    What have you survived? What has been your “succession of brief, amazing movements”?

     

     

  10. Nest-Making Retrospective

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    On March 1, I had an idea so clear and bright that before I knew it, I was sending out this email:

    I’m putting together a month of blog posts for National Women’s History Month. This year’s theme is Women’s Education–Women’s Empowerment. Women’s stories are near and dear to my heart, and I believe they are important to you, too.  I admire your writing, and I would be honored if you would be willing to share a story and/or photos in a guest blog post at www.angelakelsey.com.  I’d love to read your stories of women who’ve contributed to your education and/or your empowerment, in whatever way(s) you choose to define the words and convey your stories. Poetry, prose, and photos are welcome.”

    After the initial email,  I exercised no more control over this series than I did over the hydrangea pictured here, and the pieces worked together just as beautifully, just as organically. With the exception of knowing that I wanted to contain the posts within the supportive bookends of Jeanne and Julie, I posted them in the order I received them, and if you read them in order, I think you will see that a whole, greater than the sum of its parts, was formed.

    Part of me, not wanting to impinge upon the nest that’s been created of its own accord, wants to post an awestruck retrospective that simply says, “Wow.”

    Wow to the synergy and the dance of the posts with each other. Wow to the openness and the willingness of the writers. Wow to the women they honor, the personal journeys they share. Wow to those who continued the conversation through their comments.

    Another part wants to acknowledge the generosity of each woman who gave of herself and her life and her stories. Another part wants to highlight some of the themes that emerged.

    So, in awe mixed with gratitude, I do a little of each, although these pieces are so tightly interwoven that they touch each other in many more ways than I can show here.

    Wow–to Jeanne and Josie and Ann and Sally and Cheryl and Liz and D., who celebrated collective feminine power in  Fran and Marcia and The Fierce Feminine and Hey Girls, We Slipped Up and A (Wonderfully) Mixed Relationship and Her and This Little Light of Mine and Loving women comes easily.

    Wow–to Shannon and Alana, who wrote about their grandmothers in Happy Birthday Viola Sylvestra and Her Unseen Hand on My Back.

    Wow–Julie and Bindu and Teresa and Kelly and Streetlights, who wrote about mothers and mothering in Empowerment and The Birth of Compassion and The Body as Nest and Lesson Plan and A Transforming Force.

    Wow to Illuminary and Megan, who described solace and comfort in Auntie Jaquie and Someone Makes a Nest For Me Today.

    Wow to Meredith and Bridget, who celebrated women teachers in  Short But Sweet and Wonder Woman Hilda Raz.

    See what I mean? Just–Wow.

    Now: how can we continue the spirit of nest-making every day, with every breath and step?