I think of myself as being born in the spring, because I remember birthdays in Seattle when the crocuses pushed themselves out of the earth, the cherry trees burst into bloom, and the camellias blossomed in pink and in white all along Cascadia Avenue.
But my mother reminds me that on the second day of March in 1962, we barely made it to the hospital for my birth because the fresh snowfall made the hills nearly impassable.
She remembers winter and I remember spring.
If you’re an East-coaster, you may be thinking that March is not just winter, but the dregs of winter, with everyone completely exasperated by the cold wind and dirty snow. In March, hints of warmth (and hope) are frequently doused by the next surprise storm.
All of these perceptions are true, of course. The crocuses push through the snow, and even through the dirty dregs. The calendar says “still winter” but the trees say “becoming spring.”
Which leads me to talk about how we frame things.
I think of myself as a spring kind of person.
Spring because it’s proof of life under the quiet earth. Spring because it’s ripe with possibilities even if the fruit is not yet harvestable. Spring because it allows us to imagine and anticipate the rebirth of our surroundings.
* * *
This birthday, my husband rallied a few of my closest friends to celebrate 60 years of spring, 60 years of life, 60 trips around the sun.
Sitting with the people I love to the depth of my heart, I noted how different this milestone was from my birthday ten years ago when I built Parlay House. That was a time when I was coming out of one of the darkest life moments – a painful collision of illness, job loss and an empty nest. I was in a sad and desperate place, seeking to trade out extractive relationships for fresh, deep and meaningful ones. My spring of 50 planted “idea seeds” for growing deep roots and strong limbs as I replanted myself in San Francisco.
But at 60, I was celebrating with spring in my step. Surrounded by loved ones, many of whom were the flowers of my 50-year-old farming, I felt rejuvenated. While my 50th birthday was a time to ask, “What do I want to grow?” at 60, I was able to nurture and reap the harvest.
The time with my circle and the chance to see them grow to love each other was glorious. And while each friend lavished me with a thoughtful gift gathered based on truly knowing and seeing me, the best was a box of letters they had elicited from other people in my life that I care deeply about.
Letters came from childhood friends and college classmates. They came from family, both inherited and chosen. They came from people I admire deeply and mentors who helped me along the way. A few even came from former colleagues whose relationship with me transcended the transactional and competitive underbelly of work.
The messages were as varied as the writers.
Some were poems, song lyrics or shared memories. Some noted that the girl I was when we first met was the obvious precursor to who I am now. Some expressed the hope that we would grow to know each other even more deeply and fully over time.
Of course these letters were an ego boost and made me feel connected, loved and grounded.
They were also proof that having a vision of what you want, stating that desire out loud, and working towards it can fertilize your getting there.
* * *
I’m happy to say that at 60, I am not in a personal place of darkness and feel propped up by the people with whom I’m deeply connected. It feels wonderful to have that strength and support.
But I also recognize that while I’ve emerged from my own battle, I have spring in my step while others are huddled in darkness and fear. That truth is very hard to reconcile.
The promise of spring and the chill of winter’s depth exist at the same time.
So while my vision for the last decade was to create personal intimacy and connection, I’m committing to making this decade a time to extend light and a sense of belonging on a broader level, drawing in those who are currently in the darkness. When I was in my own darkness, this is what I would have wanted.
So I’m putting it out there; planting those seeds.
I want to have conversations that draw in those who are hurting and those who are misunderstood. I want to give them a place to speak and be heard, to listen and feel connected. Whether it’s the darkness of war, the depth of exclusion, the pain of prejudice or the personal hell of depression and isolation, I want to help strangers realize they have a place to be propped up too.
I’ll do it by amplifying stories that wouldn’t otherwise be shared. I’ll do it by welcoming strangers into my home, whether it’s literally or figuratively. I’ll do it by sharing resources of whatever kind is needed.
This is my 60’s, flower child, positive interpretation of all that is possible. It’s my journey.
But since I’m reaching you, I hope it’ll spark something in you as well. Maybe it’s that you see that you are in a good place and you’ll celebrate that moment and maybe even pass on a bit of the sunlight. Maybe it’s that you are in a darkness, but are willing to let someone else know where you are so that you are not alone in that suffering. Maybe you have something to share and just need to figure out how to direct it.
Whatever that spark is, I hope you’ll water it and see what grows.
* * *
Share it Small: Parlay House isn’t the only way to be inclusive beyond your circle. Someone you know is in the depths of something right now, and by asking the right questions, you’ll find them. When you do, all you need to do is find ways to let them in so that you can share your spring.
Share it Big: There are thousands of grassroots organizations doing amazing work. Whether they are providing humanitarian relief, mental health advocacy, educational support or social justice activism, supporting their efforts will channel resources where they are most needed.
Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a breakthrough, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.