Reverb14 is a prompt-a-day series for the month of December designed to reflect on 2014 and project hopes and dreams for 2015.  Throughout December,SarahKat and I will post each day with a new prompt.  Join us by writing, or join us by reading.   Follow us on Twitter @project_reverb and #reverb14.

Leap of FaithWhat decision did you make this year that was a leap of faith? Did it work out? Or not?

It began in the wee hours on Monday morning, 24th of November.

I’d gone to bed just after midnight, in my half-unpacked new apartment, due to leave for California for Thanksgiving that evening. I was missing my long-dead grandfather for no discernible reason. He had been gone for nine and a half years, and yet I was overcome with the desire to send him photos of Roo; to tell him about Paul; and, to tell him to his face: Look, your being dead has been highly inconvenient for me.

He would’ve laughed at that.

I went to sleep and woke up with a start around 2.30am. The house was silent, then I heard hysterical laughter. My grandfather’s distinctive laugh. And then it was quiet again.

I hadn’t heard Bop’s raucous laugh in a decade and still, there was no mistaking it. It was like the laughter was trying to tell me something, and I didn’t yet know what.

I flew to Los Angeles that night, and the next morning was getting ready to leave for the drive to Yosemite National Park, where my family spends Thanksgiving (and indeed, has spent the last 31 Thanksgivings.) I mentioned the story about Bop to my mother, who was a True Believer in the supernatural, so virtually nothing was too batshit for her. Whereas I was feeling marginally self-conscious about being the type of person who had just heard her dead grandfather laughing in the night, my mother was the type of person who whole-heartedly embraced that sort of thing.

Of course, my mother said, I’ve been feeling Bop nearby too.  As if what I had just told her was the most normal thing in the world.

There was nothing more I could say to that, so I began to blow-dry my hair and got ready for the long drive to Wawona.

Paul and I drove to Yosemite, and were planning for a Big Hike in Yosemite Valley the next morning. I thought nothing of this, because we’d discussed doing this the year prior, and hadn’t gotten ’round to it. But he was pushing the idea again this year, and asked me to plan it, so I did. (And if you have ever run a race or done a Sierras climb with me, you know that this is my specialty). We had initially settled on Half Dome, but after further consideration, decided upon Upper Yosemite Falls.

At 5.30am on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we set out for Yosemite Valley from Wawona, and embarked on a Big Hike.

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And so we climbed.

We didn’t talk much on that first mile up. It was early, and cold. And I was thinking a little on how Paul and I had met. It was the end of May 2013, and I had been in Scotland for the Edinburgh Half Marathon. I had been dating a Random Finance Guy, and the relationship clearly wasn’t going anywhere.

In the course of hanging out with a friend who was also in Edinburgh for racing; eating Mexican near the University (shockingly, not half bad); waiting in a hotel room for the northern sun to set around 10.30pm; and, running in the sunshine along the North Sea, I had sent a message to Random Finance Guy calling it quits. He wanted to be a senator, and had told me time and time again that I wasn’t senator’s wife material.

I didn’t want to be with someone for whom I wasn’t enough. Again.

After the race, I left Edinburgh and went back to London to see PG, and then flew back to New York. And I listened to my mother moan at me for breaking it off with Random Finance Guy because No one is just going to walk into your office and sweep you off your feet. You need to put yourself out there.

That following Friday, Paul walked into my office for a meeting.

We’d talked on the phone and by email for some time — his firm had done work with my company for years, and I’d worked with him on a few projects. But we’d never met. And he was looking to talk to me about some European directive, however, the conversation never got that far. Instead, we spent an hour or so talking about life and friends and California and how we’d both been to Easter Island.

At the end of the meeting, he said he was in town for the weekend, and asked for some suggestions on what he should do. I gave him some and wondered if he was asking me out.  But at the end of the meeting when no date was forthcoming, I shrugged it off.

I would later learn that Irish men are oblivious.

He emailed the following Monday, confessing his obliviousness, and asking me out. He booked a trip back to New York, and…on a leap of faith, I booked a trip to Dublin. From there, it wasn’t all smooth sailing (for instance, we didn’t really get along that first weekend), but we’d been together ever since.

So fast forward a year and a half or so to the present day, there we were, climbing the trickling falls above Yosemite Valley in the place nearest and dearest to my heart. It was the place I sought shelter in times of trouble. It was the place I went to feel triumphant.

Look at that view, Paul remarked, a couple of hours into the climb.

Gosh, it’s gorgeous.

I pulled out my phone and snapped the view. I had been taking photos all the way up, but this particular vista seemed especially breathtaking.

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When I turned back around to him on the trail, he was, down on one knee, asking me to marry him.

Of course, I said yes.

And then I knew immediately why I’d heard that laughing in the night earlier in the week.

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To borrow a cliché, they say that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. But I don’t necessarily look at it that way. I would say that I waited my whole life to meet someone who I don’t have to explain myself to; who is perfectly receptive to my batshit suggestions like Let’s go to Japan, and then doing it; who knew my heart so well that he proposed in the Sierras halfway through a strenuous hike, with Half Dome in view.

I would say that this is the sum of experience and a hopeful willingness to look stupid with someone.

One might even call it a leap of faith.

#Reverb14 is the opportunity for us to reflect and project throughout 2014.   Each month, Kat, Sarah and I will be posting on a new prompt.  Please check out the #ProjectReverb main page and join in.

Luck: Is luck what you get?  Or is luck what you make?  When have you been lucky?  When did you create your own fortune?

I have had this in draft since mid-March.  When I did Sarah’s podcast, we talked recovering from perfectionism (a topic on which Sarah muses frequently); tinkering with writing; me having over 250 drafts in my drafts folder on WordPress.

I’m not kidding about that — I do write a lot, and often, but it seems I can’t gather my thoughts as well as I used to.  I’m pulled in a lot of different directions, and my life is very different than it was a year ago; two years ago; five years ago.

That said, here’s how I’ve been lucky this year:

1) A few weeks ago, I ran the Rock & Roll DC half marathon with some of my best girlfriends.  I’m so lucky to have such amazing friends, whose interests are so similar to mine, and who have been there in the trenches with me through everything these past few years.  Love these girls (and Bethany’s wee babe on the way!).

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2) Having the chance to see Witness Uganda in March.  Matt and Griffin’s show was gorgeous, moving, and generally incredible, and I’m so grateful to have Matt in my life and to have spent some time with Griffin.  We are going to be watching their shows for generations, I think.

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3) This great spa Paul took me to in February.  I generally feel pretty lucky we live a charmed life.

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4) And finally, this boy.  Every day I remember how lucky I am that he chose me.

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Do I think we make our own luck or take what we get?  I think it’s probably a little of both.  But I think, overall, I’ve been very, very lucky.

I’ve been taking a brief break lately — not fully intentional!  I was recovering from surgery, then travel, then more travel and a couple of huge projects, then I got wildly, unexpectedly sick.  Bah humbug.  I’m on the mend now, but going to bed at 9pm every day is not terribly conducive to blogging.

But I’m back, however briefly, to share that I’m a guest on Sarah’s podcast this week, and we’re chatting about being recovering perfectionists, sharing the ugly stuff, personal mantras, and rest/recovery, and anticipating the road ahead.

Please be sure to check out Sarah’s blog and subscribe to her podcast via iTunes.  That way, you can hear what I sound like IRL, especially that weird question mark I make with my voice when I’m thinking too hard about what I’m going to say.

During this break, I’ve been weirdly busy, but also had a certain amount of time to read other writers, and enjoy the challenge of my work, and take in things that I feel like I’ve been missing.  It’s that old wisdom from the Sermon on the Mount; the old speck-of-sawdust-and-plank thing.  I kept talking and talking and talking trying to tell people how to get specs of sawdust out of their eyes, but I wasn’t taking care of myself enough to notice the plank in my own.

I’ll be back very soon with new stuff.  But in the meantime, please check out Sarah’s blog and podcast.

It has been a wild six weeks.

As you may have noticed, I usually participate in our #Reverb project, however, this year, some unexpected personal and professional matters overtook my December.  A few weeks ago, I got the news that I had some health issues that needed to be dealt with rather urgently.  I had surgery this past Friday, and when this whole situation is a bit clearer, I’ll be more forthcoming.

As this the madness was unfolding in December, Paul and I decided that I would spend Christmas with his family in Dublin, and then we would go somewhere warm for a little holiday before I had to go back to New York and face this surgery.  We booked a last-minute trip to Ile de la Reunion, through Paris, and all was set.

We landed in Saint-Denis just after Christmas, and just in time for a Category 3 cyclone to hit the island straight-on.

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(100+ mph winds)

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(Happy New Year, indeed!)

After a very tense few days, with intermittent water/power, and no mobile phone service, we eventually made it back to the airport and got back to Paris.

It was all…hard.  You know, I wanted it to be easy.  And it wasn’t.

The very fact that we can do stuff like that — decide at the last minute to take a sunny holiday; fly to places near and far — reveals how privileged we are.  I’m not unaware of that.  But in those difficult moments in December — when I had few answers about what was happening to me, and I was physically and emotionally spent from the year — I just wanted it all to be perfect.  I wanted the scrambled eggs to be the way I like them, and I wanted to sink into a fluffy white-linen’d bed every night, and I wanted to take dramatic hikes to volcanoes and waterfalls each day and look out and feel…okay.

Instead, I got a hurricane.  And Paul and I were at each other’s throats the whole time as we coped with changed plans, and changing expectations, and disaster and uncertainty.

But we made it through alive.  And finally made it back to the airport a few days into the new year.

So we were on the flight back from Saint-Denis to Paris, and we hit more storms, and the plane dropped significantly in the air.  Paul’s wine flew off the tray and went all over me; dishes were falling; flight attendants were diving for their seats.

And we had no choice but to look at each other and say, So what happens now?

The answer: NothingWe were powerless to do anythingThe only thing we could do was sit still and wait out the storm.  It wasn’t up to us to guide the plane, or make the decisions…all we could do was sit and let others do their jobs.

That was it, really.  I spend a lot of time trying to control or compensate for or understand things by being and doing, and I often forget that there is so much value in just sitting still; letting someone with more experience or expertise take the wheel.

We made it to Paris alive; made it back to Dublin safely.

And in the midst of travel chaos, and life-madness, I wrote a list of resolutions to guide the rough ride of 2014.

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Right now, I am incredibly grateful for wonderful friends, a good surgical outcome, and a great partner, I am mostly trying to embrace even the suckful moments. 

I am trying to sit still and wait out the storm.

Kat, Sarah, and I have once again collaborated on Project Reverb — a prompt-a-day writing project throughout the month of December.  Check out the Project Reverb page for instructions, and to sign up to receive the #Reverb13 prompts in your in-box daily.

December 2: Shine: What was the best moment of 2013?

2013 was a lot of Moments.

There was the Moment I started the 2013 ING NYC Marathon with my little brother.  There was the Moment I got the Phone Call.  There was the Moment I took a taxi up the FDR to visit Katka and Matthew on the day that Everything Changed.  There was the Moment that Paul walked into my office.  There were the Moments with Friends and Family; the Parties; the Dinners; the Travel.

And then there was This:

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It seems almost…staged…doesn’t it?  It seems too good to be real; to be true; to be possible that someone could’ve spontaneously captured such a gorgeous moment.

This year, I had the privilege of officiating the wedding of two of my dearest friends. Their wedding day was a blur of sunshine and love, unlike anything I have experienced in recent memory.

Marriage is hard, and to willingly and joyfully choose it is a pretty awesome thing.  For me to have been such an intimate part of this was a blessing and an honour.  And to have spent this day surrounded by so many people who love this couple, and who are so familiar to me made it even more special.

It was a Moment.

Paul and I drove to Yosemite for my family’s 30th year celebrating Thanksgiving in the Woods.

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On our way through the Grapevine, Paul marvelled at the overwhelming police presence.  Between Castaic and Fort Tejon, he noticed six or eight highway patrol cars.

This inevitably led us to a conversation about CHPs.  (CHiPS?  How did they write out the name of that TV show?!)  Apparently, he and my father had discussed Erik Estrada at length the night before, and it was decided that even Paul’s lilting accent was going to be no match for the Highway Patrol.  Best to leave Ponch out of the conversation in the event that he got pulled over, and just produce the license and registration.

Little did we know at the time that we were having a recap of the conversation that the boys had had the night prior, my father had been pulled over just ahead of us.

Not that I ever want ill to befall my father, but between the two of us, Paul and I have a massive number of speeding tickets.  Best to just let the old codger handle the cops and not tempt the Irishman into a discussion about why California’s highway patrol would ever wear hotpants.

Needless to say, all was resolved in due course, and the entire family made it to Wawona otherwise unscathed.

These have been hard years.

This really occurred to me when my brother knocked at my door on the morning before the Marathon — after he escaped the Nightmare That Was Los Angeles Under Siege:  These have been very hard years.

I talk about them in the abstract; we talk about them in terms of Drugs, Heart Failure, Jail, Divorce, Eating Disorder, Loss, Et Cetera.  I talk about them in terms of Redemption, and What I Have Learned.  It has all been one, long, horrible Life Lesson — a very shitty Afterschool Special that Kristy McNichol might have starred in if this were the ’80s…

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…and in which she might play someone’s mom if she were still on TV.

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So my brother showed up at my house, by way of a miracle flight, on the Morning Before The Marathon, and I thought: The hard part is really over.

(I am not really sure why I had that thought, because I still had an entire New York City Marathon ahead of me.)

We ran the race, but I barely remember the race.

We got to the finish, but I barely remember the finish.

We arrived back at my house, and then I remember opening the door to a house full of people I love — people who were screaming SURPRISE, and who were passing a tray of Champagne around.

At some point this year, I think I stopped fumbling.  At some point this year, our little urban tribe hit The Bottom.  And perhaps that sounds silly, because one thinks that things “can always get worse,” but on the morning before the Marathon, I discovered that The Bottom is not always the worst place to be.  I thought: Why do we have to be such pessimists?  Sometimes, The Bottom is merely the point at which you make your Revelation.  It is the point at which you are Redeemed.

Together, we have survived the worst kinds of losses, and crises, and all of the kinds of things that most people don’t ever encounter in a lifetime.  Together, we have weathered the kinds of things that tore my marriage apart.  We have sat together in hospital rooms and kept watch; we have rushed across state lines to be together.  We have celebrated victories, and cheered accomplishments.

We have shared secrets; we have found safe spaces.  We have laughed, and cried, and climbed mountains.  We have run the hardest races and still reached the finish.

We have…survived.

I think that the scariest thing about relationships is not knowing whether you will be loved back — not knowing whether, if when you leap, that the net will appear.

We have been each other’s net.

We have held on.

What have I learned?  What life lesson has come about?

I have learned that sometimes, one has to lose everything in order to Start Again.

I have learned that I do not have to “behave” in order to be loved.

I have learned this because, years ago, I invested in many box-sets of After School Specials. Someone had copied them all to DVD, and was selling them on Amazon.  I bought the ones where Rob Lowe is a teen father, and he figures it out.  I bought the ones where Kristy McNichol is a wayward teen orphan who learns how to love and be loved.  I even bought the one only available on VHS where the Edward Hermann (aka Richard Gilmore from Gilmore Girls) is a widower who buys his kids an electric grandmother who teaches his motherless children how to open their hearts.

I don’t think I knew, back when I purchased this treasure trove of complete nonsense, that it would have a purpose.  Did any of you watching those specials back when they aired believe that they would be The Light that guided you out of the Shitswamp?

Probably not.

I did not.

But I guess what those shows were trying to teach — either by accident or maybe on purpose — was resilience.  The Main Idea is that if you fall, you can get back up. If you leap, the net will appear.

The race is long, and the miles will be hard, but at some point, you rise to the challenge, and you learn to live again.

I did not think I could ever be so grateful for these years I have spent in freefall.

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Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.