when the dust settles

when the dust settles - bedroom window - morning dust motes - The Best Advice So Far

I’ve been conspicuously absent for the last month. I figured, when the dust settles, I’ll explain everything. I’m ready to do that now.

Heading into 2016, I realized that I’d gotten myself into a position where I’d taken on so many extra things in order to help others that I had crowded out the pursuit of my own goals. And so I resolved to put forth my best effort, even if it meant cutting into already minimal sleep, to complete all lingering projects by the last day of January – or to hand them back unfinished, trusting people would appreciate the fact that they were certainly in far better state than when I’d stepped in.

The truth is that most of these projects were presented to me as “small favors,” unassuming kittens that developed increasingly ravenous appetites, devouring more and more time after I’d taken them on, until they’d grown, in many cases, into those B.E.A.S.T.s I talk about in chapter 31 of The Best Advice So Far. Still, whatever the reasons may have been, I had made the choice to continue to say “yes.” Come December, I realized I needed to make new choices, even if that turned out meaning people were disappointed with me.

I told myself, By January 31st, I’ll complete (or hand back, if need be) all of these tasks I’d allowed to pile up in 2015 and, when the dust settles, I’ll be sure to be extra diligent regarding what I agree to take on moving forward. I’m ready to get back to my dreams and goals, and reengaging with the activities and community that fill me with energy and inspiration.

And I meant that. My resolve was strong.

As it turned out, I did somehow manage to complete every single project I’d started. I took a deep, cleansing breath, and allowed myself to bask in the knowledge that I’d be back to writing (and at least five hours a sleep a night) the very next day.

Ahhhh, February 1st. Glorious freedom …

But just as the last motes of that dust were settling into place, a got a phone call. A very good phone call. A phone call where I learned of a sudden that I’d be able to not only present at a TEDx conference at the end of the month, but that I’d be able to incorporate materials that would include the URL of my website!

Only thing was … I didn’t have a website.  I’d been solely using the free version of WordPress and, with some HTML and CSS know-how, I’d just been warping the theme as far as I could, adding sidebar links to my book and the fact that I am available as a speaker and facilitator. But the opportunity to speak to upward of a thousand people and hand them a URL was the final push. I’d built plenty of other people’s websites, but never invested in my own. Now was the time.

However, building a website – a good website, one that I felt would truly represent me – takes many months. I had about three weeks.

So much for sleep.

Every spare moment went into building the new site in time for the event. This meant making a hard decision – to trade blogging and blog reading, effective immediately, for programming of the new site.

This was hard for me to do! I missed the camaraderie and inspiration of reading my favorite bloggers and interacting with them. But I knew they’d understand, once they learned why I’d disappeared.

When the dust settles, I assured myself, I’ll reveal the new site, explain the exciting opportunity, and get right back into the swing. Besides, this is a “me” project, so it’s different from the previous projects that had landed me in trouble.


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Well, somehow – and truly, it was down to the hour before I left for the conference – I finished the site. The conference was amazing, though I continued to lose sleep, making the choice to stay up each night, after all-day preparations and meetings, to talk with really cool and diverse people about life-changing things. (I’m being honest when I say that, as exciting an opportunity as the on-stage presentation was, I was most fueled by these personal interactions.)

I left the jam-packed weekend exhausted but feeling I’d made a difference.  When the dust settles … 

But what I didn’t tell you is that less than a week before the conference, my cousin Dawn who lives two towns over went missing. A state-wide search ensued. Two days later, she was found dead. She had taken her own life. She was a single mother who left behind one son, a senior in high school. Both of my cousin’s parents (my uncle and aunt) passed away in recent years, so Seth was left suddenly alone at 18 to face the world.  The tragic loss of his mother. The bills and utilities.  The sudden end to the flow of income.  The worry about where he would live or how he would eat. The funeral preparations.  The questions and grief and confusion.

This seems a good time to say that, if you would like to contribute to the fund for Seth, please CLICK HERE to view the many ways you can do so. Thank you!

Between the final days of preparation for the conference, I spent as much time as I could talking with Seth and being available. Great aunts and second cousins once removed are the closest family he has now. But family is family. We’re doing our best.  During the weekend conference, I kept close tabs with Seth between rehearsals and through texts even backstage.

I returned home just as the memorial service was approaching. This meant seeing some people I hadn’t seen in quite some time, with reason. It had been suggested that I support Seth before and after the memorial instead of subjecting myself to the possible mayhem; however, I decided quite some time ago never to duck around corners in life, but rather to build the stamina and character to face potentially awkward situations head-on (see The Best Advice So Far, chapter 30). And so I went. And it was awkward. But it can’t hold a match flame to how utterly uncomfortable Seth feels in his own life right now. I simply had to be there.

But, of course, the memorial was only the first step in a very long journey for Seth. I realize I always have a choice. There is no law that says I need to step in – to help him navigate his way back into school and try to make it to graduation; to sort out the bills, or the housing situation, or the income and banking changes. He is not my son. But like him, I’m choosing to take it one day at a time.

No one could have foreseen this turn of events. It was sudden and brutal. You adapt as best you can.

The same day, another large and potentially life-altering crisis hit within my immediate family, one which also called for my attention and intervention. There is no martyr syndrome going on, I promise. You just do what you need to do for family.

And all throughout, I kept thinking …

when the dust settles …

when the dust settles …

when the dust settles …

Ben, a teen boy I mentor, texted me a day or so ago:

Seems we’re due to
get together soon, no?

And I began to text back:

Lots going on right now.
When the dust settles …

But then I stopped myself. I erased that message before hitting SEND.

Because it hit me … the dust might not settle any time soon.

And if we wait for the dust of life to settle before we are able to live fully again, we may never get around to it.

Instead, I texted my young friend a new message:

Lots going on right now.
But if I wait until the dust settles,
I may be waiting a long time.
How’s tomorrow.

And so, after a visit to an allergist, where I was stuck for two-hours like a pincushion (when the dust settles … when the dust settles …), Ben and I met up. We kept our tradition of finding a brand new place to eat each time we get together. Tonight, we stumbled upon a little hidden Persian restaurant. We caught up and got silly and laughed a lot. And for a few hours, I was transported far away from the dust storm, as Mia from Iran served us dolmeh and felfel and shole zard with saffron and rose water.

Sometimes, you have to just learn how to live and enjoy and plan and dream and pursue goals in the midst of the dust.

You have to figure out how to let it settle on your clothes and in your hair, and to occasionally shake it loose by dancing a while, even as more dust kicks up around you.

The Best Advice So Far: Sometimes, you just have to shake the dust of life loose by dancing a while, even as more dust kicks up around you.

If you haven’t yet done so, be sure to drop by THE NEW MAIN SITE, and let me know what you think. Lot’s of cool new stuff to see, learn and do there (including a free download)!