Reconnecting

Have you ever fallen out of touch with a good friend? You’d really like to call; you miss her. But with every day that passes, it seems harder to reach out. So much time has passed and so much has happened. You wonder, Is it too late to reweave the threads of intimacy? Catching up can be harder than staying close.

The weeks go by, the months, the years, perhaps. More change, more water under the bridge. The life you’re living now isn’t the same one you shared all those yesterdays ago, back when you and your friend knew all the ins and outs, the ups and downs, of each other’s days. Where to start?

That’s the question I’m asking myself this morning as I sit propped up in bed, with my laptop on my knees. Where to start?

For two and a half years, I wrote here each and every week. What began as a way to publicize my book The Gift of an Ordinary Day very quickly became a treasured two-way conversation with you – readers, kindred spirits, new friends. A conversation in which I’ve most certainly received more than I gave.

I posted a weekly reflection for you, and you wrote back, sharing your lives with me. You generously offered wisdom, gratitude, advice, book recommendations, and, most of all, connection. After a while, I couldn’t imagine NOT showing up each week to write these essays. My commitment to myself had transformed into something else altogether: a commitment to a vast web of relationships I’ve come to treasure.

But, I haven’t been a great friend to this blog of late. Months have passed, and my posts have been sporadic. I’ve missed our weekly conversation. At the same time, it’s felt as if time itself has picked up speed. The truth is, I’ve found it hard even to be present for my family, let alone to claim a few quiet hours to sit down and gather my thoughts onto a page.

Not long ago I wrote in an email to a friend that I’ve been humbled, over the last six months or so, both by what life demands of me and by what it offers. A challenge at every turn, it seems. And yet, too, gifts of extraordinary beauty. Lately, it’s been difficult for me to accept those gifts with open hands because I’ve been so consumed by the challenges.

I had a book deadline to meet, and then to meet again, and yet again after that. (There was the deadline for the first draft, back in April; the deadline for revisions in June; and finally, just four days ago, the Big One, for returning the final, copyedited manuscript to the publisher.) I made it. But not easily, and only by leaving much else undone.

At the same time, I’ve been called upon to help loved ones going through unexpected hardships. Caring for a dear friend through a life-threatening health crisis has been both challenging and fulfilling, certainly an opportunity to learn and grow. Trying to figure out how to help our son Jack recover from two debilitating stress fractures in his spine is part of my job as his mom these days. (It probably goes without saying that nineteen-year-old boys in chronic pain are not the easiest creatures to live with.) These last months have been about doctor visits, MRIs and CAT scans, trips to specialists and herbalists, lots of research, blender smoothies and Chinese remedies. Not anyone’s choice; just the way it is right now.

And yet, even in the midst of deadlines and obligations that have felt overwhelming at times, there have been gifts to treasure: A day in spring when all the peonies and irises and lupines bloomed in the garden at the same time. Sitting in the audience with my husband as our son Henry played keyboard for a production of The Music Man on Cape Cod. Relaxing by a fire on our hilltop with Steve and an old friend as 4th of July fireworks filled the night sky. Rounding a corner and seeing this glorious ancient beech tree, its branches aglow with late afternoon light, while on a walk near my friend Margaret’s house.

The demands of my life, I realize, are here to stay. They may shift and change, as what’s urgent one week is supplanted the next by some new need or obligation or crisis. But there’s no such thing as smooth sailing, or an empty road, or a clean slate. Real life is stormy, bumpy, complicated. Perhaps my real challenge is not about ducking my head and leaning into a task with single-minded focus until it’s done (it may never be done!), but about remembering to stop once in a while, to look up, open my hands, and accept the gifts that my life offers me right alongside the challenges.

Already, I sense summer slipping toward fall. The drought in New England has given our thirsty landscape the brittleness of autumn two months early. Time marches on relentlessly, but I don’t have to. I can pause whenever I want to. I can take a deep breath, and decide where I want to place my attention in this moment.

Looking at my calendar, my to-do list, the stack of unsorted mail on the desk, I can allow anxiety to have its way with me. Or, I can choose instead to see a bigger picture, the abundance of my life just as it is.

On this early morning, it feels good to be back here, catching up with you. I have a new book coming out in January. (More on that soon!) I’ve just committed to walking The Jimmy Fund Marathon Walk again this September, in memory of my friend Diane. (More on that soon, too, but first I better put on my sneakers and start training!) I have a stack of unread books by my bed. (I’m eager to share them with you.)

Meanwhile, I am making a commitment to myself for these next few weeks of summer: To meet life’s demands as they arise, but to gratefully accept its gifts as well. I intend to take a swim in the lake, read a book in the hammock, wander through town with an ice cream cone.

And I’m going to stay in closer touch. Because taking time to catch up with a friend is absolutely worth the effort — in fact, it’s really a gift we give to ourselves.

So my friends, hello. It’s good to be back. And I wonder: What has your life been demanding of you this summer? What has it offered?

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for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. A real friendship does not demand regular attention but allows for time to pass and then, with grace, can pick up right where it left off. Just glad to know you are there. :)

  2. Oh Katrina, I surely needed you this morning! I’m so sorry to hear about Jack’s illness! I had no idea.

    Just this morning I sat down and finally wrote a long email to my sister, encouraging her that these trying times are just a season, just like potty training was. The stakes feel so much bigger, as we wade through these teenager problems our kids are facing, but a season is a season. In its design it changes into something else before we know it.

    This summer I have a daughter who is still experiencing unexplained seizures, which we now know might be related to an undiagnosed Lyme infection. Her meds make her unable to drive, have memory loss, and overall feel miserable. Through it all she goes to work 40 hours a week and puts up with younger brothers who have no idea what she’s going through and only see her as a whiny older sibling.

    I have a son whose life plans evaporated on Memorial Day and now he’s trying to find a new plan. Instead of facing it, he wants to spend the summer playing. It’s time to confront and push and I just dont have the energy.

    In the midst of all of this, my book is in final edits and I am shooting for Aug 1st as a launch dates. Websites have to be created, fliers made, press releases drawn up…the list seems endless.

    So I needed your reminder today. To slow down. Let things come as they need to come. And remember the beauty all around me. I have blessings every day, especially now that I live in this CO mountain town that I am falling more in love with every day.

    I will cherish the ripe tomato at lunch and the amazing elk that will surely cross my path on the drive to work. Thanks for being my therapy today. I love ‘hearing’ from you.

    Hugs
    Judy
    justonefoot.blogspot.com

    • I am touched by your words. I am a mother too and soon to have an empty nest (bittersweet transition).
      I grew up in Oregon and moved to Los Angeles 29 years ago for my husband’s work. We were newlyweds then.
      Anyway, I was struck by your words,”and the amazing elk that will surely cross my path on the drive to work.” Wow. How special to be that close to Nature.
      I miss the lush green of the Northwest and long to return to my homeland. Yet, there are so many good people here from all over the world. Not to mention, wonderful weather.
      Anyway, be grateful for the wonderful Nature around you. I took it for grated until I moved to LA.
      Warmly,
      Linda Marten

  3. I always enjoy reading your essays. They help me slow down, enjoy each and every day with my teens and realize what is important in life. Thanks!

  4. At the risk of sounding like a cornball, “I’ve missed you!” I was surprised to read that you’ve been at this blog for two and a half years, but that’s just about how long I’ve been reading it. Time slips through our fingers. This piece is beautiful, as all of your pieces always are, but this line in particular struck me: “But there’s no such thing as smooth sailing, or an empty road, or a clean slate.” I spent a lot of my life waiting for the do-over, waiting for things to be clear or easy sailing until I moved forward with a new plan or way of being. I finally realized that there was no such thing as perfect timing. And in that spirit, this summer has offered me the opportunity to think about launching a new project of my own, which I’m preparing to begin in a few short weeks (am I doing a good job building suspense here?). The beginning of this summer has been incredibly busy, just as I knew it would, so I was careful to protect my August, when things ease up. So now I am offered the gift of a plan-less August, and I plan to keep it that way, to let the days unfurl as they may. I’ll never get to do as much as I wanted to do — isn’t this always the way with summer? — but I plan on doing my best to enjoy what I am able to get to.

    Okay, enough of my rambling, run-on sentences. So glad you are back in this space!

  5. Katrina,
    So good to hear from you! So sorry to hear about the challenges you are facing, as I can unfortunately too easily relate. May things get easier for us both! Thanks for the ever-needed reminder that “Real life is stormy, bumpy, complicated.” Indeed. As the lesson, “no mud, no lotus” teaches us, one can not exist, or reach desired enlightenment without the dark parts. I just always hope to wake up to the lesson!!

    Anyway, HUGE CONGRATS on reaching your deadline, and seeing your book on Amazon is SO EXCITING! Really hope you’ll keep us in DC in mind when you set out on your tour…we can not wait to see you and celebrate with you! Peace and light, and healing energy to Jack and your friend.

  6. It’s funny that you talk about slowing down and enjoying summer and the things that make it summer (swimming in the lake, reading in the hammock). One of the things that is my standard go-to summer thing to do is re-reading your book. It seems like I am always frazzled and searching for something by the time the busy school-year schedule slows down. Your book is like therapy. It reminds me to savor the slower and fun times with the kids and enjoy the uniqueness of the season.

    I just recently had the idea that maybe you had a blog. I was so excited to find it and fill one late evening with reading through all your old posts. Thanks for doing it. . . and enjoy your summer!

  7. Oh, what you write here is so, so familiar, as I know you know. Your gorgeous words remind me of a far less eloquent and lyrical realization I had, a while ago, when Matt and I kept saying we just had to get “through” this next thing: the next health crisis, the next round of layoffs, the next move, whatever it is. Finally, with frustration more than anything, I blurted out that there was no “through” and in fact this WAS our life. Reading your beautiful thoughts here reminds me that that doesn’t have to be a frustration, necessarily, or at least not ALL the time. There are ways – with enormous gifts in their hands, as you say – to embrace that this storm is my life itself. And that there are moments of stunning beauty in it. Thank you, as always, for reminding me to pay attention to them. And I cannot WAIT for your new book!!!

  8. Carolyn says:

    Katrina ,
    Thankyou for your reflections… I too find myself dealing with compression fractures in my spine and so I greatly empathize with your son Jack. Back pain is excruciating enough , and so hard for our loved ones to endure with us ..wearing a back brace helps! Hopefully , I will be able to enjoy a leisurely stroll soon too. For those of us who find comfort in a belief in God, we are told that we are never given more in life than we can handle. So whether it be a book deadline or a fractured back, Thankyou for your posts. I always feel like I am indeed reading a letter from a very true friend..

  9. Natalie says:

    Welcome back! Welcome home!

  10. MargieAnn says:

    A buoying in spirit=your blog! My unexpected finding joy in my days time has been getting to ne nurse maid and cook and cheer leader in recovery to my dear mom after her unexpected hernia surgery!
    Summer blessings!

  11. Life does have its ups and downs. I have had two kidney stones in eight months. I have only one kidney because I gave my mother a kidney over 15 years ago. Im trying to follow a low purine diet since Mothers Day. I am trying to get healthy and fit and I am also trying to put my needs first. Not easy, since all Ive ever done is take care of others! But its a process!

  12. Ahhh. This is how I always feel when I read something you write. You always seem to write about something I too am dealing with, only you sort it out so much better than I do. I love what you wrote about being humbled by all the beauty and pain in life. It is always that duality and knowing that makes life feel so fragile and delicate. Thank you for this!

  13. Colleen says:

    Congrats on the new book! Stopping to look up and take a breathe can be a lifesaver :)

  14. Your energy is so inviting..I love your gentle reminders to be present..I appreciate that you are able to share your own challenges with being present as it does take effort and delicious awareness to do so on a consistent basis..

  15. I loved this writing. Thank you for writing for all of us. What we didn’t know how to formulate into our own thoughts you did for us.

  16. Linda MacGregor says:

    Thank-you for your insightful blog posting. Your writing never fails to resonate with me. Life is not a smooth ride: the key is to sustain joy even while knowing that it’s fleeting.

  17. Kathi Russ says:

    Balance. Such a tricky skill. Thanks for your honesty with your challenges and joys. We are all human and we are just doing the best we can. I used a “Katrina” quote just the other day… “My heart isn’t breaking-it is overflowing!”.

    Enjoy the ice cream!

  18. so looking forward to your new book!

  19. Nice to have you back. We all need a friend to remind us to relax and enjoy — you are that friend for so many people.
    Waiting for you book.

  20. Dear Katrina,

    These words echo exactly what I have been feeling lately. (So often your words speak to me like that.)

    I’m sorry about Jack. I hope he heals quickly. But I’m so glad you are finding the moments to stop and be grateful. I am trying to practice the same thing.

    Thank you for your words, always. And congratulations on the book. I can’t wait to read it.

  21. Oh, Katrina, I really needed this today. Thank you for such beautiful and grounding words.

    So often this year I’ve let life overwhelm me and my friendships/relationships are the casualty. I feel terrible about it and about myself.

    Your words reminded me that sometimes, we need to be gentle with ourselves.

    ps: so excited for your book!

  22. Welcome Back beautiful lady!
    looking forward to the next book and having you come for a visit to DC.
    I just finished “Learning to Breathe” after you recommended it- was lovely. Keep doing your thing lady! What a full life we lead and know that you are supported and loved, whenever you connect.

  23. Your writing is like a long soaking rain after a hard drought. Your words instantly put me at peace. I am sorry to hear that you have had such struggles…but you remind yourself and all of us that is often what we get. I will read and love whatever and whenever you write. You really are so gifted and I just feel peace when I am in your company. Welcome.

  24. Thank you for your posts. I have felt as if I’ve known you ever since I finished listening to your book “The Gift of an Ordinary Day” on my iPod. I really appreciate having your perspective on life, since you have already accomplished so many things with your life!

  25. Thanks again,I usually start my comments to you this way. I have never been more sincere as I am today. Our 9 year old son suffered a broken collarbone one hour before we were going to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July. This break turned into something very literal for our whole family. Our son is involved in hockey, football, baseball, and golf not to mention all of the unorganized activities he is involved with. We weren’t going to take our annual family road trip due to camps, playoffs, and tournaments until his “break” our time was all scheduled. Now we have 12 weeks of nothing… at first we were flopping around like fish out of water, but now this new sense of peace has taken over and with it our whole family has relaxed. We are taking in our hot summer doing things we never had time to do. Your blog and your book remind me to breathe to live in the moment. Never be sorry about taking time for your family and yourself…we all have stuff!

  26. So happy to hear from you. Post only when you want to. I always check in and look forward to reading what you write, whenever you write it.

  27. SO happy to see you blogging again, Katrina! And thanks for sending something that is really resonating with me at the moment. There is a saying that if everyone’s problems were tossed up in the air, you would want to catch your own when they fell down. This thought helps me to get through the rough patches – there is always someone who is in a worse position than I am. I cannot solve everything in one day, so I do the best I can and thank God for another shot at it when I get up tomorrow. Wishing Jack speedy healing, and all of you some wonderful “summer time” to savor the good stuff. Can’t wait for the new book!

  28. How poetic that I should take a moment to check in with some of my most favourite writers, and kindred spirits, today, and to find this post. This post that speaks to my weary heart. I too, as you know, have been absent from my blog, mostly by choice, but also due to circumstances. And there are moments, like now as I read this, I that I miss the connection. That I miss the honouring writing each word forces me to do. The deep breaths that inevitably come with it. But it feels me to brimming to read this, to know that you are still there, and that I can come here whenever I want and read your amazing words and be inspired just as I need to.

    It’s so good to catch up with you friend.
    xo

  29. Your comments took me right back to where we left off…and I feel right at home again in your company. As I considered the grand chorus of your garden display, my mind was taken to the Proverbs; 4:18 describes the path of the righteous being like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Though it be challenging, the life well lived grows in richness and fills our soul with delight. I’m looking forward to the book. And thanks for reconnecting, friend.

  30. Your timing is amazing. I am meeting my dearest and oldest friend (we met 45 years ago. We have not seen each other in many years. A childhood friend I find is timeless and precious. I know when we get together the distance will disappear instantly. It does take effort and energy to communicate with friends and it is something I need to improve. I love your article today especially because my summer has been challenging and I tend to focus on the negative when I have so many blessings. THANK YOU FOR THE REMINDER, LIFE IS A GIFT AND LIFE IS DIFFICULT, BUT LIFE IS TO BE TREASURED.

  31. Katrina, it is nice to hear that I am not alone in my plight for time and space. I am a beginning writer whose first manuscript is being published in a compilation next month. I have been so busy adjusting my life to these new demands. My father passed away the day after I finished my final edits. My writing brought us closer together in a very touching way. I was able to do his eulogy also. Writing is such a powerful way to connect to people at the heart level. I value being able to follow a writer like you who open her heart to us. Thanks, Ardis

  32. I subscribe to your blog and had noticed the slowdown the past few months but know that I sometimes go a week or two or three without taking time to read the blogs I subscribe to…Last week, I spent a couple of days with my mom and brought back some old records that my dad used to play. One especially–Judy Collins–was a favorite because he loved her singing of “Turn Turn Turn,” the song based on his favorite Bible verse from Eccesliastes (3:1-8)…I believe in “seasons” and that “to everything there is a season.”

  33. I think you’ve been better about posting than you admit. I enjoyed reading about your process of writing your latest book. And I’m happy to read anything you write, no matter how intermittently you post. Be well.

  34. melody armstrong says:

    Oh Katrina – you are so precious. Truly. You give so much of yourself as a gift to all your readers — it doesn’t feel like anything remarkable to you but IT IS SO MUCH MORE POWERFUL (in a gentle, loving, refreshing, lasting way) THAN YOU’LL EVER KNOW. Prayers for Jack and all of you. xo
    Melody Armstrong

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