3 Things

July 30, 2015


I read 3 things in the past week that I particularly loved:


For starters, this interview with my former boss lady Sarah Schultz conducted by writer Lightsey Darst for mnartists.org. Lightsey- one of my favorite arts critics- is, per usual, amazing at asking great questions and offering insightful observations. Sarah's responses are smart and funny and thoughtful- because she is. Her thoughts on work particularly resonate with me: "I'm feeling a pull to figure out what my 'work' should look like-- you work at a job but you also work in the garden. You work at problems. You work in a studio. You 'work-it-out'."

I love this onbeing blog post called Where the Earth is Most Torn: On Staying with Discomfort. This year I've been thinking a lot about how to get comfortable with discomfort, because, let's face it, we probably all spend a lot of time in this state. Transitions are uncomfortable, growth is often uncomfortable, the best things in life are uncomfortable. I particularly like this quote: "I give myself this advice as a resource: become intimate with discomfort. Pull it closer. Mend nothing first. Don’t say, 'I will allow discomfort to teach me when I have finally done XYZ.' Take to discomfort now and feel the sensations in the body that correspond and feel how alive you are." I'm going to practice.

And finally, an email newsletter from Sarah J. Bray, one of my favorite people from the internet. I spend a lot of time deleting mass mailing from my inbox, but Sarah's is delightful. Last week she discussed reading Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things for the first time- one of my favorite books, of course. Here's part of what Sarah wrote: 

"I was struck by how Strayed can take any horrendous, gut-wrenching human problem and apply empathy and wisdom to make you feel like even this is something you can deal with, and even use to make you a better person. 

I thought, how amazing. And then, I want someone to do that for me. And then, maybe I can be Dear Sugar to myself. 

So I did. I wrote a long letter to Dear Sugar about all the things that are bothering me, and then I wrote Dear Sugar's response back to me. 

It was amazing. Exactly what I needed to hear. Because you know what? Everything we need, we've already got. We just need to give ourselves the empathy and wisdom that we are so willing to give to others."

Everything we need, we've already got- I'm hanging onto that thought this week.

Questions

July 24, 2015


I've been thinking about this article, awesomely titled Everything's Awful and I'm Not OK: questions to ask before giving up. Everything in my life is certainly not awful, but I am still adjusting to some pretty significant life changes that sometimes leave me feeling confused and even panicky. I get worried that I haven't found my new normal yet. I start to think that there's something really wrong.

Then it turns out that I just need to eat something and get more sleep (and be patient). This is why these questions are so helpful. Don't give up, just drink a glass of water. You know, Maslow's hierarchy of needs: you have to make sure that you have food and shelter and sleep before worrying about the more nuanced aspects of life.

This is probably key for every life transition. Sometimes feeling more even-keeled comes down to the basics.

So, this week I went to bed a little earlier. I did a few things that reminded me I can still be productive. I bought a few shirts so that I can wear something that isn't stained with breastmilk. I ate more frequently. I took a few deep breaths.

I felt a whole lot better.

Related: Peter.

In the Body

July 22, 2015

photo by Gene Pittman for the Walker Art Center
I'm very interested in body...interested in how my body and other people's bodies are in the world, and I have been since I was a kid. There can be a purity to [dance] in that it's this tactile thing. It's almost...it just feels like in our world, where everything is fighting against the body, it's a statement. It's like being an anarchist or something. --Angharad Davies on making dances via Justin Jones' podcast TALK DANCE

Lately I've been convinced that most of the smarts we need for pretty much every challenge in our life reside in our bodies. I don't mean brains (yeah, those are important too). I mean body wisdom: the memories and intuition that live in our bodies, that can't be accessed unless we slow down and breathe and listen. I've realized that I can go days without any real awareness of my body, other than knowing that I'm hungry or tired. I can go days without fully feeling or paying attention. 

I listened to this podcast interview with badass local choreographer Angharad Davies, and have to agree with her sentiment: there's something rebellious about focusing on the body. There's something necessary about it, too, which is why I continue to be curious about making and watching dance. Making dance forces me to tune into my body and its needs and emotional intelligence in a way that little else does. 

Days and Weeks

July 14, 2015


Fox is 7 weeks, and we are in the trenches of newborn: a sweet and disorienting place. People ask me what I'm up to these days- besides baby things. The truth is, learning how to make life work with a new baby is an all-encompassing process that consumes my days. Figuring out breastfeeding and sleep and baby gas and then adding in a layer of adult things- eating, going places and seeing people, paying bills, maybe cleaning a house or showering, and eventually working- takes time. These things don't make for exciting adult conversation (even for me). And yet, there's a lot happening beneath the surface of banal daily occurrences like figuring out how to combat excessive boob leakage, deciphering baby cries, and working against the urge to destroy my partner with sarcasm after one too many nights of not sleeping. Maybe this all sounds horrible, but there's actually been a beauty in such a simple, utilitarian time. These days contain metaphors and life lessons applicable to all of us- not just parents. I am, however, usually too sleepy to properly absorb and apply them.

One thing that seems particularly notable right now is the strange, contradictory way that time works: the days are simultaneously long and short; a million things have happened, but I'm not sure what. Sometimes it feels like nothing is happening, and I will always be in a sleepy haze and whatever challenge I'm facing will never change. This isn't the first time I've encountered this feeling. It's happened when I'm undergoing any kind of big transition- a move or job change or big project. Anything where getting perspective is difficult because I'm so in it. 

I've been trying to reserve a few minutes of each day for perspective. I don't have the energy (or desire) for diary entries or that kind of thing, but I do have a notebook that I scrawl a couple of bullet points in. An incomplete sentence about one or more of the following: something that was good; something that was hard; something I'm totally excited about and hope to someday follow through on; something I want to remember. There's a lot I want to fully relish in these strange, slow days, but I still need reminders that they won't last forever- that things are changing and shifting and finding motion. I'm reminded that 'motion' was my word of the year, knowing that this year motion would look differently than it has in the past. I like to go, go, go, and right now the challenge is getting comfortable with slow motion and endless transition. 

Winning

June 23, 2015

Our baby, Fox Carroll McGinley, was born on May 23 accompanied by a great big howl of a voice and two eyes that refused to open for a long time. When they finally did, it was just one eye squinting suspiciously at me for at least 20 minutes, and I finally wondered if there actually was a second eye. Guess what? Two eyes!


He is beautiful: 10 fingers and toes and an amazing smirk that he utilizes regularly to make me laugh even in the middle of the night. 

I have to admit that I'd had a really hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I was carrying an actual human- not a reptile or alien. The various lumps and bumps were hard to identify and match with real human parts. The midwives kept saying that his feet were the bulge on the side of my abdomen, but part of me kept wondering if it was actually a second head. The last couple months of pregnancy were filled with unexpected worry and extra medical appointments and testing, and finally an order to induce labor 3 weeks early. So imagine my surprise over two things:

#1-- a rather undramatic and even joyful (though fast and furious) labor where all of the things that I'd been told could Potentially Go Very Wrong went right, and where I felt insanely loved and supported
#2-- giving birth to a perfect little human that I fell fast in love with



My brain had been so absorbed with pregnancy and anxiety that I hadn't spent much time thinking about all of the awesome things that would happen afterwards-- that there would be a real baby. I want to remember sitting there in the hospital room marveling over Fox's sweetness, and the strange and wonderful mix of my features and Ben's on his face. Ben's first known blood relative! I want to remember Ben saying over and over to me: he's cute, Laura! look at how cute he is! with the biggest grin I've ever seen on his face. I want to remember the whirlwind of bringing him home, and how I felt insanely confused and sore and overwhelmed but so happy it truly didn't matter. How Ben and I kept saying to one another this is the biggest win! How we couldn't even believe what had just happened to us or how much our hearts hurt from loving so much and feeling so fragile and vulnerable: our hearts now outside our chests! How we truly cried with joy- often. Because joy really can be the scariest emotion.


Ben and I spent a lot of those first two weeks just staring at Fox while he slept and then looking over photos we'd taken of him earlier in the day. We talked about his spontaneous smiles, the wrinkling of his brow, and how he puts his arms under his face, senior picture- style. He looks pleased with himself, and I hope he is. We talk about the day he will actually do things! He will swim in pools and play in the sand and eat delicious food and see beautiful places. It's all far away. For now he grunts in his sleep, and continually shifts positions. We talk about being proud of him- of his sleeping patterns and bravery when his heel is stuck by yet another doctor. We congratulate him on overcoming jaundice and on kicking his feet. His greatest challenges are moving from sleeping to waking and surviving a diaper change. We applaud each victory with seriousness. He is so small. He shrinks down almost a pound in that first week and he's practically miniature-- still with a formidable nose, just like me.

I want to remember all the friends who stopped by with food and celebrated Fox from afar and send encouraging emails and sweet gifts. I hope we were all loved and celebrated like this the moment we were born!


Did I mention the crying? Our crying, not his. The combination of the hormones and the lack of sleep and the vulnerability of loving a tiny human so much that you regularly wake to check on his breathing makes for tears of fragility. We talk about the people we know who have lost children and loved ones. We talk about the people we know who are trying to have children. We talk about all the people we love. This openhearted state is amazing and exhausting. I want to remember it-- feeling that open. 

I was thinking about this fortune I received with my Chinese food a couple of years ago: yesterday was a dare to struggle. Today is a dare to win. This first month of parenthood has felt like the biggest win. We have felt like the absolute luckiest, and every hurdle has felt worth it. I want to remember this victorious feeling. I think about the shitty times and the emotional gunk and Ben's transition towards sobriety and my miscarriage, and they all feel small in comparison to this feeling.

I'm a big fan of talking & writing about the hard stuff. But I was reminded this month that it's equally important to mention the life wins- to avoid being humble about them, to accept them without surprise or question and even bask in them a little...these reminders that the universe is conspiring in our favor. I want to bask in this, the biggest win. I want to talk about this little person with the double chin and how light his presence has made me feel- how calm; how certain.

News & Notes

May 13, 2015

I've been moving my schedule around to account for the news that our child's ETA has been moved up three weeks by my midwives. Let it be one of the first lessons of parenthood for us: let go of your perfectly made plans. Ben says he learned this when he was sure we were having a girl, and could pretty much only imagine himself with a daughter. But...it's a BOY!

All to say, I'm wrapping up work and other plans until the beginning of August. If you're interested in a business coaching session in August, email me at LMholway[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll contact you as we get further into summer. 

A couple other bits of shameless self-promotion:
+ Ben and I (and Small Art) are a part of a collective of artists (including actor/theatre maker Candy Simmons and flutist Julie Johnson) that are part of the Twin Cities Producers Circle season. The collective aims to connect local arts enthusiasts with independent performing artists. You can check it out over here

+ I'm super proud of Ben and his 4-episode-long podcast, Thirty Minutes in Front of a Vending Machine. You can check it out here, or on i-tunes.  Caution: there's adult content! (A lot.) Mom, this one is probably not for you.

Unrelated to shameless self-promotion....
It's basically my Christmas--- it's the Red Eye's New Works: 4 Weeks Festival! It starts May 29. I'm hoping I will be able to magically show up with a baby at watch post modern performance. We shall see. If you're in the Twin Cities, the lineup of artists is spectacular.

Meanwhile, I'm alternating my time between walking (with the intention of baby eviction), finishing up a long list of odds and ends and enjoying as many adult meals eaten out as possible. I will report when the small human arrives (...eventually).

The Final Frontier!

May 2, 2015


I'm just 5 weeks from my due date! Though there's plenty of unknown around birth and parenting and future life, I'm feeling pretty ready to be done with this pregnancy gig. I write that with total reverence for the fact that many of my friends would bend over backwards to be pregnant, and with an awareness that it is a gift and a privilege in many ways. AND with gratitude that my body has supported and grown this baby like a pro-- holy crap, that's amazing. 

It's also been incredibly anxiety-inducing. I was feeling really confident about the work I'd done to minimize my anxiety: therapy, exercise, mantras! I've especially seen the results when it comes to art-making and work projects. I've been less filled with unhealthy amounts of responsibility; the stakes have felt less daunting; I've learned to give myself space to mess up (so liberating). But pregnancy has caused me to revert to many of those old fearful feelings and controlling impulses. I've felt so responsible; I've lost hours and days to an ever-evolving list of fears that would make you laugh (but which feel so real to me); I've then felt gobs of guilt for having the negative thoughts & fears in the first place (your unborn child, I've been told, senses everything). 

My first impulse was to try and figure out why I've been stuck in this anxiety spiral and to fix it - I love fixing! It turns out, though, that fixing and analysis is not what I've needed. It isn't about finding a magic vitamin and exercise routine. It's about what those meditator types call "noticing without judging." (Just seeing those words makes me a little bit confused-- noticing WITHOUT judging?) It's about being with the feeling, and not trying to change it, but being open to learning from it. It's about taking this as an opportunity to learn how to ask for lots of emotional support, and to remember that my body is a smarty pants-- it's not looking for an opportunity to betray me. Maybe this is the final frontier of my anxiety! Maybe this is all an opportunity to learn to find comfort in discomfort, which I'm sure I'll need to lean into as a parent. 

Final frontier/growth opportunities aside, this time has been really damn hard. What's been awesome, though, is that it's forced me to reach out to friends, ask for help, and open up about these challenges. This has never come easily to me. Even when I've experienced the really hard stuff-- Ben's addiction recovery, a miscarriage last year-- I mostly avoided talking to others about it. I realize now that this was actually a huge disservice to myself. If no one knows that you're suffering, how can they help? Yes, it's vulnerable. Yes, you  risk having people say incredibly awkward/inappropriate/unnecessary things. But usually? Usually you get empathy and support, and those magical words: me, too. Those words are priceless. Whatever it is that you're going through, rest assured that you're not the only one. Find the people that make you feel safe and keep them close. It makes a world of difference.
 

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