I Do Therefore I Am

Looking back over the past ten years, the times when I’ve been the most unhappy have also been the times when I haven’t had enough work to do. This is not a mere coincidence, but a trend that disturbs me. Writing has been a tool to help me wrestle with these type of stuck patterns, extending my understanding, and putting old stories to rest. Noticing this trend, I’ve wanted to write this piece for a while, but I’ve put it off, too busy with work and other projects to get to it. 

In truth, it’s not just busy-ness. I recognize that a part of me is holding tight to an old story that how much I do is what proves my worthiness. It’s the part of me that got good grades, that wants to always do a good job, that likes being busy and moving quickly. This drive to do and accomplish has made me competent and successful, and I’m utterly terrified to loosen the grip on it. 

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Becoming Woo

I started doing yoga when I first moved to the Bay Area right after college, but only for the exercise. Sometimes there were breathing techniques or meditation, but I’d tune them out. When teachers said things like, “Acknowledge and thank the people you’re sharing this class with,” I would just wish that there were fewer people crammed into the small space and jockeying for a good spot. When, at the end of class, a teacher would bow and say “Namaste” or (worse!) “The light in me honors the light in each of you”, I would bow too, but only because the stretch felt good on my back. Mentally, I’d roll my eyes.  (read more…)

Who are we? a new Small Answers season on Identity

Dear Readers,

We’re back with a new season of Small Answers! We so enjoyed focusing our last selection of pieces on the topic of parenting, that we decided to keep the idea of a theme: this season’s theme is Identity.

Many of the big life questions that we’ve wrestled with on Small Answers can be distilled into questions about identity: Who am I? What makes me worthy of love, friendship? Am I competent at work? Do I fit in and belong? Who am I becoming? We construct these ideas to make us feel safe, secure in our understanding of ourselves as competent, good and likable people. However our identity — who and what we are — is never a fixed set of things. We grow, age, and mature; our notions of ourselves evolve.

Sometimes, these changes are ones we get to choose; we decide to let go of an old identity that no longer fits. We can shed a part of who we were like outgrowing an old shirt and growing into something new. Other times, identity shifts with circumstances outside of our control– losing a job, getting sick, becoming an aunt/uncle or grandparent, or political and cultural changes around us. In these situations, we can only accept and work with the changing tides.

It’s been six years since we started Small Answers and the best part of aging has been growing into ourselves more and more. And yet, life is not a steady upward trajectory. We continue to navigate the peaks and valleys of both our chosen changes that come with unintended side effects and the changes we’re forced into. So much of our angst and worry comes from the ways that we try to firmly hold onto things that are actually always changing, even ourselves. We like to cling to something firm, especially the stability of ourselves, even though we can look back and see that we are different than we were several years ago. We know that we are evolving beings and personalities.

To explore the many facets of identity and our shifting understanding of ourselves, we have a series of wonderful pieces coming up for you covering topics from post-PhD blues, to a loss of confidence at work, to getting in touch with our spiritual selves.

Thank you to all of our guest authors who have contributed to this series! As always, we’re excited to share a variety of voices and stories on Small Answers. We’re still accepting pieces for this series or in the future — if you’d like to contribute please contact us.

As Maria Popova has described: “Life is a continual process of arrival into who we are.” We hope this season shares some of the inner workings of this process. Thank you for continuing to arrive with us.

With love,

Leda & Steph


Image: Yayoi Kusama : Infinity Mirrors

I Understand My Mom Now (3 Mysteries Explained)

I get it now; several of my mom’s baffling behaviors regarding her kids have been explained. I’m not a mom myself, but just being an aunt has really shed light on three key mysteries about her.

Mystery 1: The Case of the Blurry Photo

My mom has a shelf of photos above her kitchen sink that we call “The Shrine.” (Note that some of these photos are blown up so much that it’s just a loved one’s face, blurry in the frame.) (read more…)

The Years That Ask

I find myself disappointed when I learn that a woman I admire has kids. Like when I read Heidi Julavits’ memoir, “A Folded Clock,” I was excited when she describes an abortion. “Maybe she doesn’t have kids!” came a gleeful shout from somewhere inside me. She does, I discovered a few chapters later, and my heart sank a bit. Listening to an episode of Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, I had the same experience. “I wonder if she has kids?” She’s so wise and successful. I Googled for the answer. She does (two). Cue disappointment.

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