Things Thought and Mostly Unsaid at the End of the Year

A dog went for a walk before the sidewalk set, and left his impression in the wet concrete. A little boy noticed this and etched his initials nearby.
The boy enjoyed the moment, but I wonder what the dog thought.
Among the things I think about on when walking alone at the end of 2013: It would suck to step barefoot into wet cement.

Also…

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12 years old; My heart in her hands

I am cleaning up her room so we can redecorate it as a Christmas present. I’m sorting through her clothes and books for things that don’t fit or suit her any more than do the pale pink walls and kitten-themed quilt on her bed.

Same as me, she leaves her private journals strewn about in plain sight. I wonder what she’s written there, and how much of it is an indictment of my parenting skills verses boys she is crushing on. I wonder if my mother  wondered the same about me at these ages – me at 12 going on 25, she at some spot in her 30s I couldn’t be bothered to keep straight. I do remember writing something like, “When I am a mom, I will NOT do these things…”

And I made a list I’m sure I’ve betrayed.

Her bulletin board is tacked with swim medals and dream catchers made in summer camps she doesn’t want to attend anymore, and also writing by me, for her.

The meaning she assigns her favorite objects: I wonder how different it is from what I’ve assigned those things, or if she’s assigned any such meaning at all. I wonder how annoyed she’d be if she knew I was in her room at all, much less thinking about her things.

Last week she told me she didn’t want to spend Christmas with me, then she begged me to take her Christmas shopping.

Cleaning out her closet, I found two of my dresses and a pair of my heels.

The other morning, she asked me to french braid her hair for school. I don’t french braid, but I tried. She scowled and rearranged it into a ponytail, then complained that we were going to be late, then freaked out upon realizing we’d be further delayed by me having to scrape the ice from the windshield. “I will be late and they won’t let me take my midterm!”

She shouted it was my fault, I shouted louder that it was hers, and we arrived at school – on time and unspeaking.

I called my mother and asked how long and frustrating this phase of our lives would be, and Mom and I talked for an hour.

I love-love her, like you like-like certain boys at her age: beyond the day-to-day and with bittersweetness.

Tomorrow she’ll be someone else I’ll love just as much.

More.

A Prayer for Martyrs

Sometimes we’re living in a space between unhappy and fulfilled, and that space can be worse than miserable.

Nothing is what you really want. And nothing is so bad that you feel justified in seeking or accepting help. It’s an insincere space because you’re not living your life the way you’d wish to live it.

For many loyal, giving, and dedicated parents and professionals I know, these periods of inauthenticity can overtake us when we prioritize others’ needs (or perceived needs) over our own emotional, spiritual, creative – or whatever fundamental needs – are at our core.

Life is full of compromises based on open communication and mutual respect. That’s a good thing.

What isn’t: a willful denial of one’s own happiness on the notion that someone else’s is more important. Especially – especially – when your assumptions about what would make others happy are wrong. (What if they just want you to be happy and you’re denying them that, ironically in the interest of their happiness? I have friends whose parents waited until they were grown before they got divorced. This paradox is the reason why, and it wasn’t good for anyone in the family, including the kids. Similarly I’ve worked with people who worked all hours of day and night. They did this for their teammates, but their teammates resented their workaholism because it made them feel less dedicated.)

A trite but helpful metaphor someone shared with me when I said my own happiness would have to wait because my daughter’s was more important: When the cabin pressure drops, the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before you try to assist someone else. Why? Because you can’t adequately assist another person if you yourself are in need of assistance.

Think about the people who are the most sincerely generous – i.e. generous without strings attached – in your life. I bet they are the most personally fulfilled. It’s nice to think their lives are whole because they are giving. But I have to admit that in my own life, anyway, it has been the inverse.

A hope for the selfless and yet unfulfilled people I love is that they come to know this: Once we stop living for other people, we begin to truly love them.

It’s been a tough lesson for me to learn, but it’s been the most important.

12th & Broad Memberships Open Dec. 9

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Work-related post, y’all. Using my personal blog because we are still putting the finishing touches on our website. I do love my job, but writing about it here is atypical. Anyway!…

In ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, we officially open memberships to 12th & Broad. What does that mean?

It means that for $14 a month, members get:

  • Tickets to our events (at least one a month, held in unique spaces in your favorite neighborhoods with wonderful local creative and business partners)
  • Home delivery of our quarterly glossy magazine about Nashville’s creative and entrepreneurial culture
  • A digital subscription to The Tennessean
  • Perks like free drinks, ticket giveaways, and exclusive experiences with our partners.

Everything we do is designed to celebrate the talented, inventive and thoughtful people, organizations and businesses collaborating to make Nashville the place we are so proud to call home.

Become a member next week and you’ll get in free to our “Christmas Staycation” party on Friday, Dec. 13. Tickets for non-members are $25, which itself is a steal considering:

  • We’ll have My So-Called Band playing 90s covers in a motorcycle shop / vacant gentlemen’s club in the South6th District, which is emerging as a new arts scene we know you’ll want to support. (Thank you to our friend Shelby Smith for letting us use his awesome building between Music City Center and the Nashville Rescue Mission.)
  • Our non-profit creative partner, Turnip Green Creative Reuse, is helping us with over-the-top Christmas Vacation-themed decorations.
  • Everyone will get at least one free drink (members get two), complements of Lipman Brothers.
  • And if you bring a new or gently-used winter hat (think Uncle Eddie from the movie), we’ll be sure it’s donated to the Mission across the street.

This whole party – like Nashville – will be at least 15 shades of amazing.

Tickets to Christmas Staycation – as well as memberships that will get you into a year’s worth of similar events with topics ranging from music and literature to art and fashion to food and rec sports – will go on sale on Monday, Dec. 9.

Memberships and Christmas Staycation tickets will be available on our website, which launches Dec. 9.

ONE WEEK FROM TODAY!

How To Not Be Irritated With Your Family During Christmas

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Friends are people who know you as you’ve come to be, and family are people who knew you as you were coming along.

For a lot of adult children, this distinction is clear and very painful during the holidays. Through perceived or real guilt trips levied by their parents, they feel tugged to return to their families of origin to participate in traditions of their youth, giving up the cozy familiarity of their present day friends who know things like, for example, that they question the very religion that is grounds for this current holiday season. Or that we’ll be quitting the job that pays our bills. Or we’ve been having a fling – it’ll end soon! – with a cokehead drummer. Things they wouldn’t want to discuss with their parents. But I’d ask: why not?

It’s tough to be intimate with people who don’t know how you think, what pushes you and pisses you off, what makes you sparkle and what you hold most dear. It’s tougher when those people feel an assumed closeness to you simply because you share DNA or a childhood.

It’s also frustrating and borderline insulting when families do not encourage or in some cases even allow their grown children to establish their own traditions and customs.

But I think the onus is on the kids – us grown-up, navel-gazing, parent-pleasing “kids” in our 20s, 30s and even our 40s, often with kids of our own – to work this out with our parents.

If we want to enjoy our time with them (or for everyone to be cool with having time apart) during the holidays or other times, we have to let them know us as our friends do: as the people we have become.

For me, this comes from asking – and being willing to answer – meaningful questions of my parents and extended family.

But I know from being around other less verbal people (including members of my own family), that closeness can also develop over cards or football, a raunchy board game, on a pontoon boat with cocktails, walking around a golf course, cooking a meal together, listening to records, and writing letters (real ones, in the mail).

We expect the world from our families, especially our parents. It’s a valid expectation; they brought us into the world and, assuming the best, they raised us mostly right.

But we can’t expect them to keep up with all our changes – to know intimately whom, exactly, they’ve raised – unless we share ourselves with them.

Parents, grandparents, adult children… we are all adults now. We can act the part instead of assuming the roles we did as kids, and we’ll all be closer and more empathetic.

Footnote: the photos above are from Christmas 2011. One is of friends around a table in Oak Bar at the Hermitage Hotel – a tradition we started five years ago as a friends group. The other is of my family, in my dining room. Our family has several established holiday traditions, but we are flexible. That year, everyone drove or flew to Nashville to be at my house so my daughter could be with both her (very recently divorced) parents.