dandelions

I have loved Beauty and the Beast for what feels like my entire life, but there is one scene that has always stood out among the rest (and that is saying a lot because it had to compete with the library reveal and that time when she's trying to pick out a book on the step ladder and that first "There goes the baker..."). 

But the scene that has stayed with me long into adulthood is the one where she runs into a field of dandelions and sings, as the music crescendos,: "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell..."

The scene even seeped into the decor of my last home without my entirely realizing it: 

One last picture of my living room in Florida just before the movers packed everything up and I had to take the dandelions down. 

One last picture of my living room in Florida just before the movers packed everything up and I had to take the dandelions down. 

Picture just outside that FL living room. 

Picture just outside that FL living room. 

A week ago I moved from Florida to southern California, barely escaping a hurricane. 

The travel part was stressful because while on layover in Colorado our hometown was on CNN with predictions of flooding and scary, scary weather. We had gotten out but all our family and friends were awaiting a terrifying storm. We felt helpless so far away. But luckily, the hurricane moved just enough to not devastate in the way that was predicted. 

Once the hurricane panic died down I finally started to feel excited. We were going on an adventure. I was moving forward in my art and was going to a new place to pursue it. I felt like Belle in the dandelion field, ready for my adventure.

But somewhere along the way, I forgot about the fact that Belle is locked in a dungeon shortly after singing her adventure song.

picture i took while walking in balboa park last saturday. 

picture i took while walking in balboa park last saturday. 

I'm writing this right now from the floor of an empty apartment in San Diego. My dog won't be here for a few more days, nor my couch, and my husband is traveling for work. I am alone in a way I've never been in my life. No friends, no family, no dog, no couch. And the Thai food and taco place I usually seek respite in are on the other side of the country. There is good food here, yes, but I haven't found that replicable comfort yet. 

I wouldn't say I'm homesick, exactly, I'm just in the dungeon part of the adventure. I'm at that part where I've left everything behind and the walls are bare and I have absolutely no idea what is happening next.

Seriously. 

I have no idea. 

Adventure sounds so romantic and then you remember adventure also means danger and the unknown and insecurity and uncertainty and no map. 

I like maps. I thrive with maps. I even bought a stand for my iPhone to sit on my car's dash so I can see the GPS better as I drive in California for the first time. 

But of course, even with that, I've still made wrong turns.

So before I leave the house I just make sure I have enough time to get lost.

"The great wide somewhere" Belle sings. Somewhere. Unknown. 

And when you blow off all the seeds on a dandelion, that's it. All you're left with is a stem, and sometimes that can feel awfully lonely, especially when you have no idea where all those seeds you blew are going to land. 

The last seed of my dandelion stickers. I managed to peel it off gently and save it by sticking it to the back of my typewriter case. 

The last seed of my dandelion stickers. I managed to peel it off gently and save it by sticking it to the back of my typewriter case. 

Sunset on the day we got our keys to our empty apartment. 

Sunset on the day we got our keys to our empty apartment. 

A movie bookstore maze in burbank i literally got lost in. 

A movie bookstore maze in burbank i literally got lost in. 

spotted this on my first walk outside my apartment. 

spotted this on my first walk outside my apartment. 

maybe being embarrassed by your creative work isn't always a bad thing

Doing creative work can be embarrassing: putting yourself out there for all to see, waiting to see if anyone responds, all the while unsure which scenario you fear more - someone actually seeing it and responding or no one seeing it. Both sound terrible in the beginning. 

I'm sure there are things I probably never published because I felt embarrassed, or maybe things I never said. I'm sure there are projects and ideas I've never shared because I was embarrassed. Somehow I came to think that embarrassment about something before sharing it was a sure sign that the thing would indeed be embarrassing (i.e. a total failure). 

And sometimes, I'm sure that's true.

But what if sometimes it isn't? What if sometimes that embarrassed feeling you have about an idea or a project is actually a sign that you're doing something so different that it might just work? What if risking embarrassment is crucial to creative movement? 

I started thinking about this a lot after re-watching Beauty and the Beast a few weeks ago. 

The 25th anniversary DVD edition came out recently and despite already having a copy from its previous release I had to buy another because of a very special special feature, a conversation between some of my creative heroes: Alan Menken, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bobby Lopez, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (fun fact: Kristen follows Creative Teacup on Twitter...so you should too...because why wouldn't you want to be like Kristen Anderson-Lopez? Exactly.)

Listening to them all geek out over the artistry that is Beauty and the Beast would have been enough, but then Alan Menken offers a story that is worth all of my $22.99:

He tells the group about the time when he and the lyricist for the film, the late great Howard Ashman, finished the opening song, "Belle." Alan remembers: "[Howard] said, 'We can't send this. We cannot send this to Disney. Who asked us for a...What was it, like, a 7-and-a-half minute opening number?...They're going to laugh at us.'"

Alan assured Howard that they should send it because, "It's good. It's really good!" But, as Alan remembers, Howard was adamant: "He said 'I don't want to send it. I'm embarrassed.'

Alan continued to insist that they should send it, that it was good, that it was worth the risk: "And then [Howard] finally said 'Okay, send it, fine. Send it.' And, you know," Alan recalls, "they liked it." 

They liked it so much that twenty-five years later Emma Watson will be singing that song

Maybe embarrassment isn't always a sign that something is going to be embarrassing - maybe sometimes it's simply a sign that you're doing something so innovative, so new, so different, that not feeling embarrassed would be worrisome. 

And sure, maybe sometimes that embarrassing thing will actually be embarrassing. That's the risk of creative work. The great part about that scenario, though, is that it builds embarrassment armor (patent pending), which might just help you keep pushing through to send out the next slightly embarrassing thing that could be something wonderful.

We may not all be Howard Ashman, but who knows? Maybe something you feel embarrassed about might actually be really good. All I know is that there's really only one way to find out.

Send it. 

(Pro Tip: Sending it out begrudgingly works just fine too.) 

"ohhhhh isn't this amazing? It's my favorite part, because, you'll see......."

On Brittany Van Ness and Dancing in The Kitchen

I’m sitting at the back of a church bawling my eyes out while Taylor Swift’s “Best Day” plays to a montage of pictures of my friend Brittany and her mom (Darlene) doing what they do best – loving each other.   

That is the only way to describe the pictures: Love, love, love, love, love.

Through my tears I notice that Brittany and her mom seem to match completely in every one – both rock matching pixie cuts that only they and Meg Ryan can pull off, framing their identical smiles peeking over vibrant scarves.

Brittany and her mom at a Taylor Swift concert. 

Brittany and her mom at a Taylor Swift concert. 

As I sit in the church I am transported to Brittany’s bridal shower only months ago – I see the look in Darlene’s eyes as she gives Brittany a treasured family heirloom. I see Brittany burst into tears the second she opens the box and understands what she is being given. I fast forward and see Brittany walking down the aisle in a gorgeous white dress with her mom accompanying her in a classy navy satin dress, leading her towards her now-husband Brian, his tall silhouette blocking some, but not all, of the rain outside the window that forced an indoor ceremony at the last minute.

Photo credit: THe Happy couple photography (crop,mine)

Photo credit: THe Happy couple photography (crop,mine)

But now there are only pictures in a church.

Taylor Swift has never made me cry so violently.

It is the moment when my heart finally gets the message that there aren’t going to be any more new pictures of Brittany and Darlene. Darlene is gone. Cancer.

The music ends and I look up to see only one pixie cut at the front, Brittany, about to read a eulogy about the woman whose smile she shares, though, understandably, not today.

Brittany and I grew up just a few streets away from each other in a small town in Florida but didn’t actually “meet” until after college; once we had our first conversation we never stopped.

During one of our first beach trips together Brittany brings a Tupperware overflowing with cold, sliced radishes, and raw broccoli and cauliflower, along with this incredible white dip with green flecks. I swoon and don’t understand how vegetables could be so crave-worthy and decadent; I beg for the recipe. She tells me it’s her mom’s and that she’ll get it from her when we go there later today.  

A few hours later I enter Darlene’s house for the first time – it has warm yellow walls that make you feel like you are being hugged the entire time you’re inside. You instantly feel like you are an adopted daughter and can easily imagine sitting on the pillowy couch forever, watching movies like You’ve Got Mail and Little Women.

Brittany and her mom show me the ingredients for the dip and I make it and eat it for years.  

But for some reason, after Darlene dies, I can’t remember the recipe anymore. I know I can just ask Brittany, but I haven’t. (When Brittany reviews this prior to publication she tells me she can't remember it anymore either.) 

When I get the idea for Creative Teacup last year Brittany is one of the first people I tell. She’d recently been accepted to the Millennial Trains Project for her own creative project, and for what feels like years we have been texting back and forth, me in Florida, her in DC, about the ups and downs and downs of creating stuff.

I talk about creativity with Brittany a lot because I am constantly in awe of hers – one of the best experiences of my life is a Little Women viewing party she hosts at Christmas, and one of the best invitations I ever receive is for a birthday tea party she throws that I (very very very very very sadly…seriously…I’m still upset about this) can’t attend.

This is brittany's basement by the way, not a RESTAURANT. her basement!!!!!?!!!!

This is brittany's basement by the way, not a RESTAURANT. her basement!!!!!?!!!!

She's also in the midst of creating a company while grieving her mother. I am having a hard enough time creating stuff in general, without the grieving part, and I am, simply, in awe of her.

I ask if she would be wiling to be one of my first interviews for Creative Teacup and she says yes.

I ask Brittany what she is most proud of creatively, and what she says next makes the Little Women and yellow wall feelings make perfect sense: “I think I am most proud of taking a great deal of care into anything I do. If it is hanging a wreath, designing an invitation, or hosting a party - I really care about the experience. Everything I do is with the other person's viewpoint in mind. How will they feel when they walk up to my front door? Open the envelope? Sit in my living room? I get the most joy out of creating an experience for others.”

Getting to be one of those people who gets to walk up to Brittany’s front door and sit at her table and experience her food is as precious to me as seeing Hamilton.

Brittany creates theater with her food, and I want to find out more about how she got here and how she is able to continue to create after she loses one of her greatest sources of inspiration – her mom.

Brittany was a dancer first. For 15 years.

She loved it so much that she majored in it in college. Well. Kind of. She was a double-major: dance and business: “Growing up I always felt like I had a split personality,” she remembers. “I was in AP courses and student government in high school, but I maxed out my calendar with art and dance classes.”

Brittany enters college as a double-major and dedicates herself to her art. She works really hard at it, so hard that while rehearsing for a guest choreographer she rips her right hamstring: “It was black and blue and quite nasty. I could barely walk for a couple weeks.”

The injury forces Brittany to reflect on her chosen path. She realizes the fragility that is making dance her livelihood – she is one injury away from that path being closed off completely, and suddenly that feels too risky. She knows (and today still knows) a lot of people making it in dance beautifully, but when she’s forced to confront this part of the profession, she realizes it isn’t the life for her.

And that terrifies her: “I was really worried that I would no longer be the person I had been all my life. So much of what I identified with was wrapped up in dance.”

Her boyfriend at the time (and now husband), Brian, helps her think through it: “[He] helped me see that the things [that made me, me] included my life outlook, my mind, and my personality - dance wasn't those things, it was just the current expression of it. I could still express who I was, I just needed to find a new outlet.”

And then, of course, she talks to her mom: “My mom made me see that the thing you love doesn't have to be your college major (it's great if it is though!). It just wasn't going to make or break me.”

Brittany quits dance, changes her college major, and transfers to a new university. And even though, when I later ask Brittany “What is a decision you made that you feel had a tremendous impact on your creative life?” she answers “Quitting dance,” it was very difficult at the time: “It wasn't an easy transition...I felt broken for a long time.

“I kept waiting for the sadness to go away. It felt a bit like mourning. Mourning the loss of childhood…I kept thinking that it was just time to ‘grow up’ and leave my hobbies behind. It wasn't until I felt that creative expression was a key element of living life fully regardless of age that I started thinking I could be fulfilled by another outlet.”

But it took a while for her to find that: “[At the time] I was just looking for identity. At first I just tried working out in a gym, running, going to yoga and pilates for the physical excursion. It never quite fit the feeling. Slowly I started dabbling in other things, writing, taking photos…and occasional drawing, but nothing quenched.”

You can get a sense of Brittany's sketching skills and the care she puts into things with this layout she drew before building her office. 

You can get a sense of Brittany's sketching skills and the care she puts into things with this layout she drew before building her office. 

Nothing makes her feel like dance did.

Until a few years ago when she is visiting with her mom in the house with the yellow walls: “We were getting ready to make dinner. I had a recipe in mind, but she didn't have all the ingredients. But she did have half of the ingredients for one recipe and half for another, [so] I thought I'd try combining the recipes to make due with what we had on hand.”

It's called a "Winter Bowl" and the recipe is below this article. This pic is mine; I make it every year now and am obsessed. 

It's called a "Winter Bowl" and the recipe is below this article. This pic is mine; I make it every year now and am obsessed. 

I’ve often heard creativity defined as just that – bringing two seemingly disparate things together.

And in this case – it works. Brittany receives the highest and most treasured honor in her creative field: “My mom…looked up at me from her bowl and said with wide eyes, ‘mmmmmmmm, this is SO good!’ It was then that I thought ‘Ah, there's something good here.’ I can take ideas, put them together in the kitchen, and make my mom happy.

“With that, it became my whole world, to make her feel loved through food, to make her smile, and to nourish her fully.”

Brittany had just started cooking with Brian not too long before that, and it wasn’t actually something she was trying for a creative outlet. It was just a thing for her and Brian to do together.

Their engagement pictures took place in the kitchen. And yes. They're all this amazing. (photo credit: the happy couple photography)

Their engagement pictures took place in the kitchen. And yes. They're all this amazing. (photo credit: the happy couple photography)

They start like most beginners – they get a book and a pot and begin trying stuff: “Along with our first cookbook (Rachel Rays' 30 Minute Meals) we got an all-purpose 5-quart pan. It gave us the freedom to make just about anything.”

Brittany starts with a cookbook, but she quickly begins doing her own thing: “I started altering recipes almost immediately, not because I was brave, but because I was terrible at following the directions…I'd double the onions, or add an extra spice. A little change here, and little change there.” She admits she’s not very good at baking because it requires such exact science.

“Cooking is the most encompassing experience for me…I get into a rhythm when cooking. Chopping onions, mincing garlic; I rock back and forth, sway from sink to cutting board to pan. Things sizzle on the stove, sea salt floats down like snow. You can smell it, and make a plate look beautiful, you can taste it…You can't eat a painting, or deeply inhale a dance performance." Brittany loves all forms of creativity, but it is cooking that she can’t seem to get enough of because of the way it reminds her of dance, its “rhythm.”

“You build a level of skill over time ([similar to] barre), your recipes are planned (choreography), but there's room for improvisation. All the while you are rocking your knife between vegetable and board, swaying between sink and pan, and orchestrating between spice, color, and flavor…[and] I can even listen to music all the while.”

One of her ramen creations. 

One of her ramen creations. 

She also loves the effect her food has on the people she loves:

“Brian is the most gracious recipient of food. You'd be crazy to not want to cook for him. We often cook together as a way to spend quality time together… cooking for Brian feels more collaborative. But when I cook for him, he always makes me feel like it's the most important and rewarding thing I've done all day. He makes me feel like a superhero.

(PHOTO CREDIT: THE HAPPY COUPLE PHOTOGRAPHY)

(PHOTO CREDIT: THE HAPPY COUPLE PHOTOGRAPHY)

“[And] my mom was my biggest fan and grandest cheerleader. She made me feel invincible and capable of all things. Part of me always tempered her praise to account for her being my mother, but it was a difficult feat because there is no one I respected more. Cooking for my mom, taking photos on a trip abroad, drawing a sketch - these all had the end goal of putting a smile on her face. Creating something and making someone smile because of it...it's my purest form of love.”

So what happens when the person you most hoped to make smile with your art is gone?

“After my mom passed away, I initially thought I would…[eventually] rebound with free flowing creativity. I definitely expected to be full of sorrow, but I also theorized that the invisible weight would be lifted, and even though the rain would keep pouring down, I would be free to move within it. 

“I couldn't have been more wrong. 

“The first year was honestly a black hole. There were really good days in there - I am immensely blessed with a supportive husband, a loving sister and family and friends that called or texted just to check in...but to be honest, I don't remember much from that time. Autopilot turned on. The days were gray with fog and the nights were so so long, and yet without rest. Creativity was completely shut down. And when there was 'creativity' it was devoid of joy. It was pure survival mode.

“I have a very sweet friend who lost her mom years ago as well. She kept telling me it was going to get better....and for some reason, her voice was the only one that I believed. I really held on to her words, more than she probably knows.

“[But] while I watched the best pieces of my life fade, twist, and contort into darkness, the idea of trying to create anything seemed like it was both mocking my pain and taunting any sense of satisfaction. Everything I used to find joy in suddenly felt incredibly shallow and pointless. Contemplations about my impermanence overwhelmed my ability to forge ideas and essentially rendered me useless.

“Every day that I thought about doing something to try to make myself happy or fulfilled, I'd be stopped before I could even get to the other side…The fact that I was still here, while she was gone was such an injustice that I felt guilty for seeking anything else. I was here; she wasn't.

“I felt guilty for just being alive while she had endured so much…Seeking happiness and creativity made me disgusted with myself.”

When I read this part I ache, the kind of ache that comes when you know you have no idea what someone is going through, when you know that there is pain out there that is beyond your understanding – when you’re disgusted with yourself because of your privilege, because there are people around you experiencing undeserved pain beyond your comprehension, because, even while writing this post, you get a text from your mom saying she’s excited to spend her birthday with you this Friday.

It’s no surprise that Brittany’s answer to the question “What was the most difficult thing you've experienced in your creative life?” is this:  

“Depression. It has a tendency to stifle [my] creativity. It feels as though someone has thrown a cold damp blanket over you, obstructed your view, made it hard to breathe and then said: ‘Look at and enjoy the beautiful sunrise.’

“You know the sun rises everyday....you believe it is there and want to see it with all your might, and you can feel the warmth of the sun coming over the horizon, trying to filter through the shield - but none the less, you are cold and shivering and in darkness. For me, creativity often feels like the complete opposite. It is an alive feeling. Both accomplishment and hope bundled together.”

I ask Brittany how creativity came back to her after losing her greatest source of creative inspiration. She explains that it was a long process, but it begins with others in need of service: “Other people asking for help seemed to be the first time that I cared to get into the kitchen again. It didn't feel creative yet, but it felt good to be cooking something with intention again.”

Brittany's homemade egg drop soup; great for when you're not feeling well. 

Brittany's homemade egg drop soup; great for when you're not feeling well. 

There was no grand moment of creative return. Brittany begins cooking because she has to survive. Then she cooks because someone else needs help. Then she cooks because family or friends are visiting. We can’t pinpoint when joy returns, but it does.

It does not replace the sadness of course, nor will anything ever replace or become a greater reward than Darlene’s “mmmmm.”

But Brittany’s smile returns, and with it, Darlene’s. (And fun fact? Darlene's maiden name is Cook.)

Brittany biking in the pacific northwest recently. 

Brittany biking in the pacific northwest recently. 

And when Brittany feels depleted now she no longer sees creativity as selfish – instead, she has come to see it as necessary; she often finds herself going on what she calls “creativity binges” when she’s feeling low. She says a creativity binge is like gulping a glass of water after you realize you’re dehydrated:   “Have you ever been even mildly dehydrated? It changes your perception of everything; I get tired, problems seem insurmountable, I'm cranky and trudging through heavy sludge...and then I realize that I haven't had water in hours. I can't guzzle enough of it, and then shortly thereafter the haze is gone...the sun brighter and the sky a deeper blue.

“A creativity binge can take many forms for me, but it usually starts with copious amounts of information absorption. I'll try to find a good TED talk, breeze through a magazine, or randomly look up plane tickets. Sometimes just the thought of changing my view is enough to breathe new energy into my outlook. 

“I'll crave visual interest, a good read, a deep conversation. If I can get any or all of these, I'm off to a good start. Then maybe I'll search for new recipes to try out and instantly start making alterations in my head. I'll sketch something fun or put on some music.

“Sometimes it feels a little manic, but in the best sense. It's as though in an instant anything is possible and so I try to cram every possibility into a tiny sliver of life as though I am running out of time.

A pic from one of brittany's biggest creativity binges.

A pic from one of brittany's biggest creativity binges.

“My favorite [creative binge] activity though is to take a trip to the farmer's market. I'll just go and walk around and look at all the vegetables before buying anything. I'll play a game trying to think of things to cook with the ingredients without pulling out my phone…The air is fresh and filled with earthy smells and bright fruits and vegetables pop out all around me in bursts of color. I swear food looks more beautiful outside. 

“I'll cook for days and open the windows to get fresh air, take a walk…”

I am lucky enough to be a part of one of these days – a snowy one in DC. So snowy, in fact, that Brittany’s work closes and a creativity binge is possible.

A picture I took that day. 

A picture I took that day. 

We get in the car that morning and drive to a market called “MOM’s.”

The snow sticks to trees in a way I’ve never seen before. Brittany makes me chai tea from scratch and a three-cheese grilled cheese with avocado and basil that changes the way I think about grilled cheese forever.

Brittany's chai ingredients. 

Brittany's chai ingredients. 

She also stands in that same kitchen as her whole body wracks with sobs when we talk about her mom.   

Somehow, the kitchen is able to hold it all. 

 

 

 

 

Photo thanks to Brittany and The Happy Couple Photography

...

Winter Bowl Recipe
(thanks Brittany!)

Adapted from recipes found here and here

Makes 4 Servings as a meal
Makes 8 servings as a side

 Ingredients
(1)  small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
(1) small head of broccoli, cut into florets
(3/4) cup walnuts, lightly chopped
(15)  fresh sage leaves, chopped or torn into small pieces
(4)  tablespoons grapeseed oil, for roasting
(1) tablespoon olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
(1)  poundgnocchi (*optional - fresh or frozen)
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano (*optional)

Directions
Heat oven to 400ºF
In a large bowl, toss the broccoli, cauliflower, walnuts, sage, grapeseed oil, sea salt, and black pepper.
Transfer to (2) cookie sheets
Roast, tossing once, until the broccoli and cauliflower is golden brown and tender, 15 – 18 minutes. (Be careful not to burn the walnuts)

*Optional: While the broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts are roasting, cook the gnocchi according to the package directions, drain, and reserve some of the cooking liquid.

Removethe roasting pans from the oven and toss the cooked gnocchi with the broccoli, cauliflower, and walnuts in a large bowl.

Spoon the mixture into individual bowls, sprinkle with some Pecorino Romano if desired and drizzle with fruity olive oil.   

If you have any leftovers, pour a few tablespoons of the gnocchi cooking liquid over the top to help keep them moist in the fridge. It should keep for 2-3 days refrigerated. 

my gardening fail

For the past 10 years I've lived on the second floor or higher, so when last year my husband and I moved into our first first-floor place - a townhouse that came with its very own open outdoor patio - I decided to get my very first gardening pots and plants.

It was oddly the first thing I did when we got the keys. 

The movers weren't coming until the next day and all the packing was done. I had keys to an empty townhouse and nothing else to do that day. I'm a writer and was/am writing my 2nd book...but at this time I was very stuck; I'd decided to lean in to stuck. I was going to try to do other things, get my mind off it. Like moving a few streets away to a bigger place. Like getting a dog. Like gardening.

Place? Check. Dog? Allergy tests done and right one found, he would be coming to us soon. Check. Time for plants.

I knew I could have been forcing writing. I knew I could have been cleaning more or something. But I just felt like I couldn't think until I got plants. I needed plants. Right away. 

So I went to Home Depot (maybe for the first time in those 10 years?), rolled a big ol' cart around, and gathered pots and whatever plants 'spoke' to me. Lettuce and tomato and a few flowers.

Lettuce moved into the townhouse before any of our stuff. It was bright and green and gorgeous. It was life outside the window and I was thrilled. I'd go out and water the plants twice a day, take instagram pictures, and just stare at them, seeing the progress they'd make each week. They actually got taller. And I realized that sometimes we call things "cliche" when really we're afraid to call them what they are: magic. 

Hope. 

I can honestly say there were times when I wanted to give up writing altogether because I was so stuck and it was so painful and there was so much awful going on in the world that doing my art felt stupid and selfish and perhaps the dumbest thing I could have ever done with my life. Write a book about dreams?! In a world like this? Are you mad? And then I'd see a whole tree full of flowers and would think how crazy it is that that still happens. And I'd keep writing. 

And I don't care how cliche it is that flowers kept me going because it's true. 

The writing started up again and the puppy came but the gardening fell away. Rain piled up and ruined some of my favorite flowers, pots got knocked over in the summer Florida storms. And I never picked them back up.

I walk out there every day with my dog. Every. Day. And yet I didn't even turn over the pots or throw the dead plants away. There is this one pot RIGHT BY MY FRONT DOOR that has been turned on its side for months.

It was once so important to me that the patio looked perfect, and now I could not even muster up the energy to turn a pot that weighs nothing back on its side.

I was definitely lethargic and overwhelmed in that scary middle-of-a-creative-project phase, but I also think for some reason I didn't want to alter the natural state of the patio, even though it looked chaotic and messy and wilted. It somehow felt right.

Except the other day when I was unlocking the front door and looked down at the pot on its side and chastised myself for not cleaning up my failed 'garden.' I got suddenly and violently angry with myself - why am I so lazy? This is a $3 plant and all I had to do all these months was throw it away on my way inside but instead I've let it sit here?! What the heck is the matter with me? 

This little pot started to represent everything I was mad at myself about over the past year. Starting a book and taking longer than I'd planned to figure out what it was going to be. Getting a townhouse and feeling overwhelmed by all the space. Taking days to do things that used to take me minutes. Letting a puppy (and the judgements of strangers) make me cry and wishing I was just stronger and better at everything. I used to feel so on top of things and now everything felt like it was on top of me. 

It had felt like a year on my side, a year of chaos and confusion and grappling in the dark, a year of slowness and trying to force things that wouldn't come. A year of a person used to going a million miles a minute having to sit in a quiet corner of a townhouse and stare at over 1,000 pages of research trying to figure out how to turn it all into a book, all the while staring out the window at her dying plants, wondering how and when she became someone who would let a plant sit on its side for half a year.

I'm moving to California in two weeks. Back to the second floor - a porch but no patio. I was very adamant about this when we were choosing our next place. Plants and patios seemed to only cause me guilt. I needed a break. 

I walked onto our patio the other day as I was planning what I needed to collect for a donation truck that is coming tomorrow. Most of the plants were dead but in heavy clay pots so I made a plan to clean those out later, but on my way back inside I decided I would finally throw away that small tipped over plant. I walked towards it and bent over to grab it when I noticed something I hadn't really noticed before: 

It was still alive. 

Somehow, it didn't know it wasn't standing the way it was "supposed to" and it grew all the same.  

I decided to leave it there for a little while longer.