The Moment

It’s sunrise in Punta Mita, Mexico. I have been waiting for it for nearly thirty minutes already. The sun is rising slowly from behind the mountains, in what feels like it should be a big, climactic moment, but is instead just the casual repetition of what happens here everyday. It won’t be rushed to glory because we are here to watch it. The orange and pink colors gradually, painstakingly spread across the sky, illuminating the stand up paddle boarders in the ocean below, as they take deliberate and precise strokes away from the shore.

The roosters crow somewhere in the near distance, their calls immediately answered threefold by the seagulls flying over our heads. But otherwise, there is silence on this morning. Those who wake early seem to understand this sacred moment of the day beginning, respecting its quiet.

There is no smell here, surprising me, when smells are so often what ground me to a particular place, like the blooming tuberose we smelled each morning in Bali, or the unique earthy mixture of horses and dirt on a farm in Italy. No fishy saltwater smell wafts up from the bay, no floral aromas surround us and tell us that we are not at home. It is only when the coffee begins brewing that there is any scent recognition at all.

I’m sitting outside on our patio, sipping tea and writing while overlooking the waves on the shoreline below, the early morning mist still rising off the water. This outdoor area is partially covered by a wooden trellis, with vines hanging over the edge, framing our pictures with context, setting them apart from anywhere else we may have taken this sunrise photo over the sea. I sink deeper into the soft cushions on our wraparound couch, crossing my legs beneath me as if in meditation, as if I might close my eyes and begin a chant of OM to seal this moment in my memory forever.


I am 36.


There’s no birthday confession this year, no fighting against what my life is, or grappling for what it perhaps “should” be. There are no justifications of my choices, or resignations of what I must accept for myself. There is no fretting about the future, or tormenting myself about the past. Not this birthday morning, not right now, not in this moment.


There is just stillness.


For the next four days I am in Punta Mita, a tiny gated area situated on a bay north of Puerto Vallarta, with several girlfriends, to celebrate the passing of another year in my life. I asked them to join me, without worrying if it was too much to ask six women leave their jobs and their families and their lives to travel to another country with me. They simply asked what time to book their plane tickets and didn’t question it further. When we arrived at the airport in Mexico, we stepped into the arrivals area to find someone holding up a sign in front of her face, meant for me to read:

To Me, You Are Perfect

A tribute to my favorite movie, Love Actually, and to me, actually. One of my friends who had been unable to commit to the trip was suddenly there, surprising me outside of baggage claim in  what could have been a scene from a movie. The movie of my life.


It’s the scene in the movie where the soul-searching, fumbling-for-life’s-meaning girl finally feels how much she is loved.


And then, (I had almost forgotten it!), there it is! That moment of climax in our peaceful morning. The moment the sun finally emerges fully from behind the mountains. It shines brightly on our faces, heating them, and glistens in its reflection across the water below. The moment that feels like a reckoning, as if all of our sins are forgiven in the face of this beauty, as if we could do no wrong in this day. The moment that reaffirms our goodness, and our place in this world. The moment that reminds us who we truly are. The moment I have been waiting all morning to find.


The moment that is everything.


Early morning sun, Punta Mita

Early morning sun, Punta Mita

The sun finally emerges, an hour later

The sun emerges, an hour later…most definitely worth the wait

With love, and so, so much gratitude from Mexico,


Confession: I Don’t Feel Worthy

This weekend marked the beginning of a week of birthday celebrations for me, orchestrated and carefully set up to ease me into this new year, a year that puts me into a new bracket on the age chart.  Setting up dinners with beloved friends, yoga classes and brunches, so that I’m surrounded by love instead of alone.  So far, it has been wonderful, fun, special….and just a bit uncomfortable.

I know, how incongruous is that?  That I would feel anything other than elation around friends I have known for months, for years, for decades even.  Who have seen me through joy and tears, heartbreaks and failures and growing ups.  Who have rallied around me, toasting me with red wine and giving me cards and singing Happy Birthdays.  I should have exalted in the attention, basked in the love.  And instead, a part of me was uneasy.  
Because they all showed up.
Some with headaches, some with husbands, some who can’t even eat pizza, some from the South Bay, some straight from work.  
That’s kind of the point, obviously.  And they’re my friends, who had told me they were coming, it really was no surprise to walk into a restaurant and see them sitting there.  So what exactly was my anxiety about?!?!
Part of me felt like I didn’t deserve it.
When I was in 8th grade, my best friend that year threw me a surprise party.  I can remember my mom having to tell me about it because I was having a moody, 14-year old kind of day and wanted to skip the sleepover that was planned at my friend’s house.  I refused to go.  She pleaded with me, trying to reason with her stubborn, self-righteous daughter (to no avail, I could out-stubborn anyone).  She finally resorted to telling me about the surprise party, thinking that would surely change my mind.  Um, no.  That made me want to go even less.  Because now I was not only the brat who didn’t want to go to her best friend’s sleepover, I was the brat didn’t want to go to her own surprise party sleepover that she clearly didn’t deserve and had to be forced by her mom to attend.
I went.  It was fun.  We ate junk food and laughed, watched Pretty Woman and Robin Hood with Kevin Costner, and tried to see who could hit the high notes in that Phantom of the Opera song, the one that ends in that piercing high E that mostly sounds like shrieking.  But I don’t think I stayed over.  I think I remember that I went home that night from this surprise birthday sleepover that my best friend threw for me because I couldn’t shake the knowledge that I didn’t deserve it.

It’s 20 years later and I’m 20 years older and it’s the same.  I don’t deserve it.
I never had another surprise party after that birthday.  I took control, planning my own birthday celebrations or lack of them some years, it was my choice.  That was so much safer.  I could control how much I allowed myself to take.  And I could share it, that felt okay.  I could have a blowout 3-day extravaganza 21st birthday with my two sorority sisters who were born the same day.  Surely I deserved at least 1/3 of a celebration?  I could indulge in the 30th birthday party at that bar on the Lower East Side called the Skinny and invite everyone I knew because it was also my friend Erin’s birthday.  And people could come to celebrate her and maybe I could accept a slice of the cake, a sliver really, and wash it down with her prosecco and just a little guilt.
The control felt necessary.  Because what if someone else threw me another party that I did not deserve?  Or worse, what if they didn’t?
I’m still worried no one will show up.
I went to a healer earlier this year who placed her hand on my heart and told me that she was sending love to me, directly into my heart.  Could I feel it?  I don’t know.  I could feel the light pressure from her hands, and feel her breath on my cheek, but love?  I don’t know.  She then asked me to focus on sending it back to her, straight back to her heart.  Suddenly it felt like my chest was on fire, heating up that cool room in Ojai the way the blankets and tea and afternoon sunshine had not.  Burning down through my fingertips and my toes like I had been holding them over a campfire, so hot it actually hurts but you can’t move away .  “I feel it”, she said. “I feel your love”.
“But you have trouble receiving the love that you give.”
How does that happen?  Did I miss that lesson in elementary school that taught how to give and receive love, nestled somewhere between sharing your toys and washing your hands in the bathroom?  Was I home sick that day and no one brought me the homework that had 10 multiple choice questions that led you to the knowledge that you are worthy of love?  Or did I just pick B for every answer and miss the point completely?
Instead I keep tallies of what I owe, like mini-golf scorecards that come with those stupid little pencils and always have me +1 over par.  Struggling to get my score down, to at least break even someday. 
It’s fine, I don’t need a ride to the airport. (Don’t go out of your way for me!)
You don’t need to come to my party. (I can’t take up your time!)
Please, don’t get me any gifts. (How will I repay you?!?)
How can I possibly repay you for this love that I’m not sure I deserve?
I can’t.  I have to drop the scorecards.  I have to go back through the questions and not just choose “B”.  I have to find another way that allows me to accept love.  While I’m struggling to open incredibly thoughtful gifts, when someone else wants to pick up the tab, when I’m confronted by the idea that I’m taking more than I deserve.  
All I can come up with is…thank you.  That’s all that’s left.
“In the end, though, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives.  In the end, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.”
-Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
Thank you, to all of you who sustain me.  Who love me.  Who show up.  Who remind me that I am worthy, and that I do deserve love.

Confession: I’m Feeling Festive

The lovely Erin Haslag over at Well in L.A. is hosting a special series by guest bloggers on her awesome wellness site starting today (if you are looking for inspiration, her site is the first stop–a must-read!!!).

Her first “Giving Well Guide” includes picks from writer and yogini Mary Beth LaRue and…me!

Check it out for some fun gift ideas this holiday season.  And remember to look throughout the upcoming Friday in December for more holiday inspiration.



My 5 Top Holiday Gift Ideas


Happy Holidays!