on stage

Since I was a middle schooler, perhaps longer, I’ve had the same dream. It varies slightly and happens about once a year. It is always an indicator that I am stressed beyond comfort.

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The dream: I am in a performance. I am the lead performer. Sometimes it’s a dance recital, sometimes a play, sometimes a comedy act. The consistent part is that I am always completely unprepared — don’t know my lines, forgot my costume, have never learned the choreography — but have to get out there and do it anyway.

In my dream last night, I was alone on stage under a bright spotlight to a full, quietly excited house. A shiny silver microphone on a shiny silver stand, my only prop. I was to tell a story, the program declared with my name in bold on the front page. Back stage, I reached in my pocket and felt my notes. I was so relieved to have something to tell me what the hell to do. But when I opened the paper, the words were unreadable. The sheet was water damaged and was consequently a smear of black. The crowd cheered as my name was announced and I walked out on that lonely stage of potential and told a story.

I always make it through the performance. I leap around one step behind everyone else, wearing only my underwear, insecure about my thighs. I sing the song passionately without knowing the lyrics. I take a deep breath, start talking and my words tumble into a story. I am exposed and not ready. I am nervous and sweaty and inside out. I am compelled to continue. And I do it. It ends and I feel hot flash of relief and deranged success and then I wake up. It goes this way every single time.

This is a busy time of year as I make and mail gifts for my dear customers. It’s an interesting dynamic because I deeply crave hunker down with ginger tea, glitter and daughters. My reality is that I have less to give to that homey-family time than I do the rest of the year. I actually need more time without my kids so I can meet my work expectations. It’s a necessary and appreciated crunch time. I am so grateful for my work, I love my work. And I want just a few more hours in the day to do it all.

Those hours are unavailable so, instead, I dive wholly and thoroughly into the day’s opportunity.

My first time ever hunting. Went with my uncle and cousin. Read more in this week’s mamalode.com column mamadigs: everywhere, life.

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I make myself open to anything, every day. This is not a natural instinct for me. I practice. I’ve become good. Or perhaps this is my natural instinct and I was taught to be scheduled and plan-oriented and I am now unschooling. My kids are very good at focusing in the reality right in front of them, their inclination driven purely by the moment’s emotion. They were born with that. For sure, we need to evolve as we age because grown ups have real and tangible commitments and responsibilities that are time sensitive, unlike kids. We do not always have the luxury of changing our socks seven times and then deciding we’d rather wear a tutu without undies. Sometimes we have to grab jeans out of the dirty clothes pile and apply lipstick while driving to a meeting. But! I think I grew to compartmentalize things into ‘commitment’ and ‘responsibility’, even when unnecessary.

My daughters have helped me remember that we have choices about most things. Feeling panicked or overwhelmed is a choice. Time and humanness are here to stay. It’s my interpretation of productivity and my interaction with my brain that counts. I make choices throughout my day and, with those choices, I decide to be undistracted. I commit.

Often, things that seem inconvenient at first glance are our greatest, most generous experiences.

When Andy took the kids to the carousel on Sunday, I had a choice to make. I really wanted to go with my family. I didn’t go, opting to take advantage of the time and hole up in my studio, prep work for my seamstress. When a friend emailed to say she was considering hopping on the Greyhound to visit me, I chose to wrap my arms around that opportunity. I shelved work and the anxiety surrounding shelving work, knowing it would wait 24 hours for me. And that I would not regret my choice, that I would love my choice.

I’ve met a couple of people after ‘meeting’ them through blogging. Every single one has been awesome. There was Finny and then Kelle and now Melina.

Melina rolled in on the bus but I couldn’t pick her up right away. She texted me that she’d just walk to town. Town being a few miles from the bus stop. When I was able to fetch my wandering friend I couldn’t get ahold of her so I started driving west and there she was, just as I thought she’d be. Walking down the sidewalk in her light blue puffy coat, petite and smiley. We hugged. I love that she’s a firm hugger.

The gist: Melina is a wonderfully authentic, inspiring and relatable writer over at The Wilder Coast. She’s the same way in real life. She rolled seamlessly into our fold. We ate and stayed up so so late with wine, watching the election returns and talking grit: regrets, love, growth, perspective, loss, family, politics, future, past, now, writing. My half-dressed kids crawled into bed with her at 6:30 in the morning and when I rushed (ok, ahem, slowly sauntered) in to fetch them I found her with a grin and snuggles. We played and hiked. I am just enamored with this woman’s presence, smarts, guts and love. My family too. Earlier today Ruby said, “Mama, Lina please come to my birfday party?”

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I paid attention to last night’s dream. I had worked most of the weekend, which felt really great and productive. But I couldn’t turn it off and my sleep didn’t feel restful. I didn’t commit. I had this ache in my wrist, that came on Saturday. Ache is actually an understatement. I couldn’t lift anything with my left arm. I couldn’t bend my wrist without gasping. When I woke from my dream, my wrist throbbed unbearably. I got up, walked down the dark hall to the bathroom and dropped essential oils of lavender, valor, pan away and frankincense over my knobby bone and around my low arm to the soft purple veins. I chugged a glass of water. I looked in the mirror and felt confident. I let go. I woke this morning and the pain was gone. I went for a run. And worked all day again, strong.

In the end of it all, we go on stage. We participate. We perform. We engage. We give it our all and wait for applause or rotten tomatoes and hope we feel good about our choice, regardless of response. The world spins. We gather another collection of moments and memories on our curriculum vitae.

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21 Responses to on stage

  1. Oh wow, I don’t know where to begin. Love Dig’s new digs. I loved your column and even more loved how I could hear the voices of everyone so clearly in my head, if you know what I mean.
    I can so relate to your descriptions of the give and take of work and play, but what I love best is how when you’re in a moment, man, you’re in it.
    Beautiful. xoxo

  2. Hmm, I wrote a comment but it evaporated. Anyway, to restate:
    I loved this week’s column. There’s clarity in that landscape and I loved how I could vividly also hear the voices of that trip, if you know what I mean xoxo
    This post is beautiful, my dear. It’s so full of head-nodding lovely spaces I don’t know where to start. But I can end with how I love the way you so often describe the ebb and flow of play and work, and when you play, man, you play whole-heartedly. And I like that. A whole heck of a lot.

    • dig dig says:

      Hey mama! I adore hearing from you, always. Of course. My comment filter is sorting itself out. Anyway, it’s even fun to hear from you twice. :)

      Totes know what you mean about the voices. Colin is a born teacher. It was wonderful to be with him. xo

  3. Stacie says:

    My goal for future motherhood is to attempt to be half as amazing as you are. Rock on, mama!

  4. I really loved this post and I really, really needed to read it. My life is very full and while I love so many of the things I do I often feel strung out, stressed and overburdened…usually when I’m looking at everything at once instead of being in the moment. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • dig dig says:

      It’s so easy to look at everything at once! I so get this sister. I find it to be an awesome challenge to pick one thing and rock it out. That one thing can be work or playing a puzzle with your kid. Our culture is constantly so distracted…we work while returning phone calls, while eating lunch. We play the puzzle while checking email on our phone. I do these things, for sure. And I find I am happier when I don’t. And, interestingly, more efficient for the quality of the experience is what counts, right? Right. OK, getting off my blog so I can now focus *only* on sewing. :)

  5. Dana says:

    Thank you for this perfectly timed post. I’m trying to figure out how to balance work, family and myself. You give me hope. Thank you for that.
    Dana

  6. finny says:

    Oh how I feel you on the whole ‘stress from making adult choices’ thing.

    Being the business owner and responsible for so many things can get stressy, but I’ve been trying extra hard to be good about taking advantage of the experiences life doles out, too.

    Sometimes that means packing up work so that I can take it to where the friends are gathering for a long weekend (did this last weekend) and that has never proven to be a mistake.

    Good GOOD good job balancing everything – you’re a mindful trooper :)

    • dig dig says:

      My friend says ‘screw balance, I want to be flexible.’ And I think that is so right on. It’s more about following your gut, doing what feels good and right. That isn’t always balanced, and often even socially poo pooed. I know you do this. It’s one of a billion reasons I think you’re the coolest.

      ps I’m coming back your way in February! Hook up over gin drinks? x

  7. Happiness is... says:

    Wow, this post is just overflowing with detail and depth. A true unexpected surprise this morning. I love your observation that you were taught to be scheduled and goal oriented and now you’re learning to unschool. And funny that it is the children who are guiding and teaching you. The surprising ebb and flow of parenting; and here to think we adults are the only teachers.

    I have been feeling overwhelmed and anxious for months over a variety of reasons, most which are out of my control. I needed to be reminded that feeling overwhelmed is a choice. I need to write it down and hang it so I get the visible reminder that feeling overwhelmed is a choice. Choose otherwise.

    Thanks Nici.

  8. Maggie says:

    Boo. I wrote a long and lovely comment, but something went awry.

    Summary: I like you. Your words, your perspective, your photos.

    Oh, and the new website rocks.

  9. Stephanie Neumayer says:

    Balancing life, my kids, my daycare kids and a sewing business during craft show season is HARD!! I feel your pain:-(
    I also felt your wrist pain! Have had to have both of my thumb tendon’s released. It’s commonly referred to as “Mommy thumb”… I suppose after 6 kids, it was bound to happen to me!
    Hugs!

  10. Abby says:

    Love this post. It made me realize a daily struggle I seem to have with my Ceci. I feel like I’m constantly telling her to hurry even when we’re not in a hurry. This is because she does everything unimaginably slow. You’ve motivated me to have a talk and agree to not rush so much in exchange for her showing me she is capable of moving quickly when I need her to. I don’t think I’ve done that yet and she will totally get it.

    And it’s silly but I REALLY love at the end of the post where it says, “You may also dig”. Very clever:)

  11. Melina says:

    Nici,

    What can I say? I’ve read this post a few times over now. I wish I was back in your sun room, playing with trains and drinking way too much coffee and cream.

    But I’m not, I’m back in Seattle and chiseling out a good life for myself, one simple task at a time.

    You are such an inspiration. I’m excited to be writing my post about our visit. (And still kicking myself for not bringing my camera!???!?) Oh well, IG it is!

    xoxo
    I miss you, and I love that I can really miss you!
    Melina

    Your new site is such a milestone. Be very, very proud, mama.

  12. Jasmine says:

    Girl you’ve got your shit together! I love how eloquently you pull this piece together. The writing is perfect, and the living is inspirational. Aren’t we all just trying to cram it all in half the time and working to prioritize love over laundry? Well done.

  13. Whitney says:

    I have this dream, too. Only in my version I’m in college/grad school, final exams are looming, and I realize there’s a class that I have not been going to. It’s always an English Lit class, and I haven’t been reading the books or participating in the discussions or writing the papers. In other words, there’s nothing I can do to make up the work I have missed. It is a horrible, awful dream….and always a sign that I am way, way overcommitted. I’m thankful that my brain has a way of warning me when I’m spread too thin.

  14. Sarah Phillips says:

    Oh my…..I have felt this shift from productivity to stress so many times….you put it into words so well. And you’re right – sometimes, the choice to shelve that responsibility and “to-do” list for something else is the RIGHT choice, even if it’s wrong! :)

    And I meant to say it on my previous comment on another post, but I LOOOOOVE your new digs over here! Fantastic set up!!

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