Fond Farewell.

every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end

It’s time to say good-bye to robustorbust. This has been a space some long abandoned (I haven’t posted in nearly a year and a half) and yet it’s also been a space that I fully occupied for four years before that. This blog grew my family up and launched us out into the world. This blog brought people into our lives–and kept others–that likely never would have gotten to know us on a deeper level. This blog kept family near and far in contact. This blog likely kept me sane and somewhat steadied. For years I had a place to say nearly anything I wanted. Only as I began to feel silenced by professional expectations and the ever-growing identities of my children did I begin to struggle with using this space. Even then, I talk often about it.

This space has been my safe haven and it’s time for me to say good-bye to it. It’s time to move on. It’s been time for awhile. If anyone out there still organically reads this, please consider connecting with me on Facebook or Instagram. Or follow along in my new space, a place still as under construction as I often feel–ashleylewiscarroll.com.

I will leave you with what should have been the next post here, a post that was too long coming to be so relevant anymore. Or is it? Or is it one of the most honest and true and long-standing things I’ve ever written. It may be. I can say that almost every one of my worries over a year ago have come to pass. I knew what was inside me. I knew what battles lie ahead. I knew even the importance of finding a place I could articulate it to myself. I just didn’t know what to do next. So I sat on it. I sat with it. I ran from it. I spun within it. I denied and distanced and, occasionally, faced head on.

I did that. That year of hellish breaking open and subsequent picking up of seemingly a million pieces. I did that. And it started here.

May 2015 – Beautifully Broken

I think we’re all cracked and scarred and some of us maybe even have a chasm or two or four. Some of us are more tuned into our landscape. Maybe a few have put together a road map of trauma and triggers. Days and distances and despair to be avoided.

I find myself tripping over the same cracks I identified over a decade ago. Are these the markings that create the unique current of my life? Is this a sign of hard-headedness, weakness, unresolved turmoil, emotional instability, and/or old habits dying hard? Is it something more clinical?

Is tripping even a problem? Is there a steady cadence in this life? And if so, what kind of life is that associated with? Would it leave me happy and fulfilled? Would it leave me looking for a little crazy?

I don’t mind the trips. I worry about a fall.

Fall from grace. (saving face)

I worry about making decisions based on appearance. I worry about losing credibility. I worry about living a lie. I worry about the consequences of the truth. I worry about faking perfect and I worry about false hope and expectations and I worry about finding comfort in the downfall. I worry about awakening the voices within that scream so loudly and so cruelly. I worry about once again relinquishing control and how to even begin to contemplate arriving at that place. I worry about addiction and depression and diagnosis. I worry about the mental health system and societal stigma and professional appropriateness. I worry about running. I worry about change. I worry about being back to that powerless place that I don’t think I have the strength to survive again. I worry about falling apart.

I worry. I worry when what I really want is to be free. What I really want is to be thoughtful, intentional, peaceful, and positive.

Pretending is a prison sentence to me. A chasm of mine that separates me from you and from [nearly?] everyone. I want to show you my cage. I want to show you my strength. I want to show you the depths of my denial, the cracks in my façade, the errors in my thinking, the sorrow and shame settled into my soul. I want to show you the million ways I’ve devised to make it work, to make it better, to be in the here and now and have the great privilege of presenting as normally as I elect on a given day or season.

I want to be free and I don’t know how to get there without being true. Without baring all. How can you accept what you do not know? I want to push back. I want to go all in.

I’m stopped by the sacrifice. The vulnerability. The critique and criticism. Misgivings.

But I can’t be still.

And so I spin a little. Circles. Cycles. I spin with my brokenness and my cracks and my sorrows and I hold them close. I don’t hide them but neither do I stop long enough for you to catch a good look. I talk openly, but it’s calculated. I assume my appropriate persona and occasionally allude to the depths below my surface.

It helps to be dizzy. It helps to stay busy. It helps to take a vacation. It helps to stay in crisis. It helps to place blame. It helps to sink into the drama. It helps to arm myself with excuses. It helps to look at the big picture.

But I’m still broken. And I don’t mind to be.

I just want you to see it too. We’re alone in this together.

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Possibly paralyzing existentialism.

existentialism definition quoteI think about life all the time. This life. My life. The life I am giving my children. The life they will choose as their own. The life this world will give to them, or sentence them to. The life my husband has chosen to share; the sacrifice inherent in that. The life I am touting (consciously or unconsciously) if anyone looks quickly, clearly, and/or closely.

The life that will inevitably end.

I think about life all the time. I think about global warming when I open a package or remark on unusual weather or sit in traffic. I think about the myriad of ways I am contributing to the problem. I think about the hopelessness I feel at our current political climate—and the many effects it has, and will continue to have, on our environmental climate. I think about generations to come.

I get a pit in my stomach.

It’s the same pit I get when I think about “forever”. What the fuck does that word even mean? That is perhaps the scariest word to me in our English language. When I grew up in the Christian church (Southern Baptist to be exact) “forever”—even in the context of an eternity in paradise—made my skin crawl. Maybe I am of little faith. I cannot picture or fathom or begin to sit with thoughts of eternity.

And commitment. And sameness. And never-ending.

eternity goes on forever

But I think about life a lot. I think about what the point of mine is and how I’m ensuring that and role modeling it, and who I’m connecting with and if the time I’ve spent matters.

I think about death. I watch closely the process of grieving. I deeply admire the people in my life I watched walk through grief and come out the other side (or maybe it’s continue walking despite). I see some changed: wiser, more accepting, in possession of an uninvited understanding about certain truths of this world.

I want that but I don’t want to go there.

It must help me to focus on the outcome. To see the result of the process, even if the event itself (and the inability to avoid it) scares the shit out of me. It’s the other shoe I’ve been waiting to drop my whole life.

malshi puppy dog maltese shitzu small teacupI think about life when I love on our dog. She’s an occasional little shit with a strong streak of Princess, but my love for her is so pure and brings such a sweetness and additional dimension to this life. I think about her life cycle and the assumption that I will be by her side throughout. I don’t expect to bury my babies, but I hope (in a somewhat sick way) to be by Mabel’s side letting her know we love and have deeply loved her until her end.

Almost every time I look at her, I have all these thoughts. I weigh the pain ahead and the joy right now and almost have to decide each instance, each day, if I can/should go in any deeper. Can I care for her more? Can I bond with her further? Can I go further in and still survive an inevitable loss?

I think how stunted this life would be if we shield ourselves from the hurt. If we build walls before the connection and the caring even starts. Many do. Most have (to some degree). It’s like staying at a resort in the wilderness. Comfort. Predictability. Control. But without the adventure. Without the risk. Without the highs and lows of survival. Lacking the payoff and the breathtaking sights, sounds, smells, fears, feelings and unending complexity this life is meant to lay out in front of us in great expanse.

I don’t know if my insight, my thoughtfulness, my persistent wondering helps me at all. I strive not to be chained by it, to acknowledge the fear without embracing it. It either adds meaning and purpose to my life or paralyzes me with existentialism. It all means so much and yet perhaps nothing at all.

And so I share with you. Perhaps you also carry this weight. Perhaps you have walked this path. Perhaps you have cracked the code (do tell). In the meantime, I will just sit here and think. And live. And further explore how those two inexorable actions increase/decrease joy, fulfillment, presence, understanding and/or feelings of purpose.

never ending donuts comic existentialism forever eternity

I actually don’t eat donuts. Perhaps this is why.

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Relationship path(s).

I have this theory I’ve been throwing around in my head and my life. It starts out something along the lines of this: it takes a certain amount of time with a person to get comfortable with them.

I know, mind-blowing, right? I think it probably varies from person to person. Some people (ahem, extroverts!) are either comfortable in a short period of time–perhaps even immediately–or are incredibly good at acting comfortable (and feel free to enlighten me extroverts because ya’ll are experts on you).

I think it takes me about eight hours to get comfortable with someone. It’s an interesting question how often you spend eight hours with someone you don’t know as an adult. I make friends (well, usually “friend” singular) pretty easily in a classroom situation. If I routinely sit with the same person, there is some forced interaction to break the ice, and/or plenty of opportunity for (and appreciation of) snarky comments. Otherwise it’s somewhat rare to spend eight hours with someone. Or it takes awhile. Multiple meetings, or months maybe. I think this is why certain people/types of people have to force themselves to meet others–why structures social situations are so necessary and sorrowfully missing in/for many segments of our society.

Once I am comfortable I get pretty outspoken. In fact I’m pretty sure I begin to share the steady march of observations, thoughts, conclusions, complaints, questions, etc. that are ever-present. Once comfortable, I can talk a lot.

So that’s Phase I of my theory. Inevitably it takes a certain amount of time to get comfortable with someone, and from there the relationship begins and can grow. Each subsequent interaction is another step on a somewhat-shared journey.

The process from here I’m not so clear on, as it takes awhile for these initial interactions to reach full maturation. My guess is there’s a somewhat long period (depending on temperament and stage/fullness of life) of introduction to the many different parts and pieces of all people. If you like or get along someone enough to continue through this phase, a friendship has formed. Phase II, if you will.

I think there may only be a handful of relationships in one’s life that survive the next phase. Phase III is when your dear ones faults come to the surface. And in this period they are all you can see. Maybe one party puts distance between the other (I do not know if these stages happen simultaneously or if the rhythm varies by person). Maybe you find yourself nitpicking every fault of the other. Maybe you can’t even remember why you are friends, lovers, etc.

Phase IV is the fork in the road. Do you find/develop/choose love with this person? Do you make it over the hump and see their good, their unique, their potential, their hurt and caring and kindness? Can you carry this with their weaknesses, their imperfections, their trauma, their shame, their triggers and/or baggage? Do you accept all of them? If you do, I think that is love–true, wordly love that keeps us sane and human and together and kindhearted and honest and striving. Let’s call that Option A.

But sometimes you can’t. Or you aren’t forced to. Or the cost is too high or the out is too tempting. I’d bet that some people are better at finding the good, seeing the positive, loving through–and/or despite–the challenge. Some are probably worse at it. Maybe it’s something innate. Maybe it’s a life harder than life should be.

I think I know what happens to relationships stuck in Option B. I think those are the mean girls (because that shit stops in ones teens right?!) talking/stabbing behind each others’ backs. The spouses that seemingly hate each other. The fakes and the master manipulators. And all the people, in all the varying relationships, spinning their wheels until circumstance forces them to take it/make it/survive it to the next level. I think it’s that.

Thinking about this has me imagining my family; the people you walk through these stages with often before you have any clue that love can be something different than whatever it was you’ve grown up with. I wonder if this is why family of origin (and extended/chosen family acting as if) is so damn important. Without them would one even make it over the hump with anyone? If you can’t tolerate flaws in others, how do you concede to them within yourself? What does this world look like if you don’t?

I have a number of relationships squarely in the third phase. I don’t know what will become of them, but it’s helped me to identify what is going on. It’s not a negative thing–perhaps it’s a necessary stalling point. It’s not entirely uncomfortable either. But it does make you look fondly back on the honeymoon.And appreciate the people who have walked through the darkness with you. If we knew it or not.

I pinned this random quote on Pinterest four weeks ago in the hopes I’d find time to blog on the topic it so brazenly summarizes:

love marriage relationship

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Trapped in my life.

Picture this. It’s Mother’s Day. And I’m sad. Like, really sad.

And kind of mad. But I don’t know why.

I mean, yes, I’m freaking ravenous (slightly long story) so maybe it’s that but it’s not really. That doesn’t build the tears behind my eyes or the scream in my chest. That didn’t create the gray cloud hanging overhead.

What is wrong with me?

I sift through my mind and my heart and the pit of my stomach. Assess, assume, connect, compare, infer. I have no control over my life. I’ve worked it, built it, merged it, made it. One obstacle, anniversary, accomplishment, opportunity at a time. And now here I am living it. And I can’t get out.

I can hardly speed up or slow down.

I can respond. I can cope. I can challenge my perspective. I can live one ah-ha to the next. I can strive and I can push and I can vacillate. I can pull back. I can shift focus. I can plan for the future. I can be more in the present. I can process the past. I can juggle.

But I can’t drop a ball. And I can’t find a minute to take. I obviously can’t stop time. I can’t quiet the voices in my head/heart/soul. I can’t do it all. And I’ll be damned if I throw this one life away trying.

Is this being thirty now? Existential, mid-life crisis shit? Is this finding myself in a place both chaotic and predictable enough to have me standing at the edge of this life/season, looking thoughtfully at the expansive world beyond? Am I looking for more?

Am I looking for less?

Sometimes I do feel trapped in my own life. I’m trapped in my head, trapped in my choices, trapped in my successes (haunted by my failures), trapped in security and predictability and comfort. Trapped in the rat race and unrelentingly polished (worn?) by the stream of society.

It’s like a bad suburban, white girl, housewife, #firstworldproblem, privileged and predictable sob story. I know that. But it’s my story.

On Mother’s Day I had this epiphany that I am trapped in my life.

What followed was a teary conversation with the one who is committed (possibly sentenced) to walk/fly/skip/hop/crawl this life with me. Elaborations on much of what was written above (but the concrete versions: messes, maintenance, money, managing, moving). Followed by McMenamins.

Mother’s Day 2015.

It feels like more than a funny-or-not-so-funny family story. More than an unexpected answer to “How was your Mother’s Day?” It feels like a precursor. I just don’t know to what yet.

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Personal style is a journey (with or without Birkenstocks).

target style 2015 thirty grown up fashion personal style

My mom wore Birks when I was a kid. My aunts did too. It was the only shoe I probably could name and I saw them on many people (think, early 90s) and my mom had them too.

As I grew up I realized this would only happen when something was fantastically made and comfortable, reasonably priced (keeping quality in mind) AND trendy. For my mom to purchase and wear them and me to recognize them. So it was a rare occurance.

Who would have thought I’d grow up to care about clothes and style and fashion? Or, how could I not? Maybe it’s because I notice everything. I take in all available information and I chronicle it and refer to it later for further information or–often–analyzing. Style and appearance say so much.

(Two other things I’d like to say right here are: style also hides so much; the line between inferring and judging is awful hard to discern.)

My personal style is fluid, always. But I’ve come to know a few things about myself (or, “become able to know” because style is heavily influenced by other personal factors: age, income, culture, religion, body shape/size/function, etc.) and that includes a love for: cognac shoes, comfort and quality, items that work multiple seasons and occasions, and some kind of perpetual formal/casual combo. Also, bright nails and color coordination. And fit and flattery. And I’m working really hard to figure out this “invest in classics and signature items (buy back-ups!), but go to Fovever 21 for trends and to test ride”.

I may have just summed up my personal style for the first time since I would have considered myself to have one–and it would entail an answer beyond: “Zumiez” or “Charlotte Russe”.

So anyway, Birkenstocks came back like a year or so ago and I was immediately intrigued. I’ve always noticed people who continued to wear Birks and watched with some semblance of sadness as the women in my life slowly drifted in a different fashion direction. There’s something nostalgic in me about them. Obviously. And they are pretty much totally my personal style. Talked about it even brings out my inner valley girl.

There’s one thing about growing up and into yourself and that’s knowing that you can’t wear everything anymore (actually, very few of us ever could). And that “making it work” with something you love but don’t feel great in just isn’t worth it over the long term. And then there’s the financial investment/misstep piece of it.

Plus, seasons. Seasons and weather are a big part of fashion and often heavily influence style. So when I began thinking Birks late last summer and didn’t really need them and the price was something to consider, I held off.

But the days are growing longer now. And my toes are freshly self-painted as of yesterday. I’m looking ahead at a road trip to Cali next week and happened to be out at Target this morning, my first brush with society since I went home sick from work Thursday. These definitely cute knock-offs were on sale for $20 and I snatched them right up. For all the reasons mentioned thus far.

Also, I’m thirty now and that means sometimes I try a trend on for size (or comfort or appropriateness or frequency of use) and then upgrade to the “real”/better/nicer/etc. thing.

This blog post is dedicated to my dear husband who will likely never understand the multifaceted role clothes and accessories and style and appearance play for me, but also never mentions my credit card bill. He only mildly roles his eyes when I get multiple packages delivered and return the majority of it and was the first person to tell me I might like Stitch Fix.

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