It was my birthday last Thursday! The day itself was fine, but I’m not going to lie — the few days after was really kind of a massive suckfest in a lot of ways. Really, truly awful. It is actually a little funny — I can always find something funny in a situation, no matter how suck-y it is — because I was looking at my “birthday letters” post, asking myself how I could ever write something to top that or how I could build upon it. Many of those lessons and insights I’m still learning, cementing, evolving. I had actually started to write a post about forgiveness and imperfection, but deep in the back of my mind, I knew that wasn’t quite it, you know? Not quite the golden nugget for the year. And then Shit Happened and it sucks and I had to repot a plant. And then, suddenly, I have it. I knew what I wanted to write about.
I keep thinking back to a dream I had ages ago, while I was still in film school. I dreamed that I had a pet baby elephant named Slo-Mo, who was living with me in my apartment. He was just a baby so he could move from room to room, and he was happy, always with a smile on his face. But in my dream, I had the thought: Wow, at some point, he’s going to get too big for this apartment. I knew he would outgrow the apartment.
It doesn’t take more than an armchair psychologist to realize the elephant is a symbol of wisdom. When I had the dream, it hit me: I knew I had to leave New York if I truly wanted to grow as a person. Not just in circumstance, but in the deep parts of me that love, imagine, dream and connect. The confines of my life would not hold the growth my soul needed to take.
And that’s what happened. I said goodbye to a city I had always thought I’d live in forever. And honestly have not regretted it since, because my soul grew.
I don’t have a dog or cat, but I have a basil plant. It is the best plant I have ever had — it is alive, and it grows. The secret (besides not overwatering) is that its roots can’t get crowded — basil plant roots needs a lot of room. If it doesn’t, the leaves will get hole-y and spotty and that’s no good. So I’ve had to repot it a lot, and now it’s in basically the biggest container ever.
But even that isn’t enough for its abundant, joyous growth! Last week, I had to take one of the sections out in order to make room for the healthiest part of the plant, and change the soil. And as I was doing so, I thought, This is such a great metaphor. I mean, I have always believed in that corny cliche of “Bloom where you are planted.” I think growth is always possible, no matter where you are or what your circumstance, even if it is inner growth. But sometimes you need to change the soil, get a bigger pot — or else you wilt just a little. And perhaps, just lately, I have realized that I need a bigger pot. I don’t know how that translates to my real life, but the feeling is there.
Even in crisis, I have to admit, there are always moments where everything is worth it. Like how my niece’s heart-shaped face turns up at me like a little sun when she asks me a question. Or running by the river and the air is just the perfect crispy combination of warmth and brisk. A great conversation with the dear friend you haven’t talked to in ages. A warm, funny e-mail congratulating you on all your good fortune. When you’re riding your horse and your seat is so strong that you suddenly feel as if both of you can do anything together. How a t-shirt can fit you perfectly. A stranger smiling at you with the simple good cheer of both of you being alive on a beautiful summer day.
I’m fine, and everything is still beautiful, no matter what. Not being Pollyanna about it, and not minimizing my sorrow — just that, after all this time, something is working, and it is worth being conscious of your wisdom and expansion and choosing how you want to grow as a person. It pays off.
A horrible end to a lovely year, yes. I buy a new charm for my bracelet around my birthday to commemorate the passing and celebrate the future. It’s always hard to decide what to get. This year, though, I got a tiny elephant. The truth is, Slo-Mo is always alive in my thoughts in a slightly embarrassing way. I see a baby elephant toy and I smile because of my dream from long ago. I keep the idea of him in my heart because he always reminds that the point in life is to grow and expand, in ways great and small.
So basically I promised a book tie-in/promotion/special-specialness around my birthday, and I got derailed, needless to say. And I’m not going to apologize for that. But I’ll just mention it quickly — I’m working on a mini-zine, and if you get my book this month (or already got it), I will send you one. I’m not quite ready to go on it, yet, but I will announce when I’m done with it, tell you more about what it is and how you can get it soon. Also: newsletter peeps, there’s something fun in the works for you as well. But I’m a little behind, because, sigh, life!