Maggie McReynolds, Sidewalk Chalk June 2011

Thank You

I love sidewalk chalk.

I love drawing clumsy flowers with it. I love making clichéd rainbows, footprints leading up my front walk, sketching Buddhist or Wiccan or Pagan symbols with it.

I also like to write with it, and last year, I wrote a lot of different things. Seasonal greetings. Questions that I left a piece of chalk out for people to use to answer. Favorite quotations. One quote, unabashedly one of my own, stayed on my porch’s outside wall for the whole year.

This year, after I moved, I got this card, left anonymously on my former doorstep:

“A few weeks ago, I was in a really tough place emotionally. I had been feeling depressed and restless, and was walking through the neighborhood in an attempt to settle myself when I saw the message you had written on the side of your house: ‘Making peace with what is makes space for what’s next.’

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dictionary page, maggie mcreynolds blog

Use Your Words

Words are funny. Words are powerful. Words are cool—sometimes even when we don’t know what they mean. My son, at age six months or so, would get completely hysterical over words he loved the sound of: itchy, whoosh, kapow! He even came up with a few priceless ones of his own, whose meaning only he knew: widgy-widgy, boof, and, my favorite, va-boom.

I come from a family of professional writers. Words were and are my Legos, my blocks, my roller skates, my backyard jungle gym.

When I was eight years old, I wrote a collection of short stories that my mom “published” (aka copied and stapled together in batches) as a gift for my extended family members. Of course, being only eight, I had no idea how to get my characters out of the strange predicaments into which I had plunged them, so almost every single story ended with “and it was all a dream!”

I thought it was a cop-out until I watched that “Who Shot J.R.?” cliffhanger years later.

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The Eve of Expectation

norman rockwell, christmas, maggie mcreynolds blogMore than any other holiday, it seems Christmas is expectation. We were raised with it, we cleaved to it. Our Advent calendars count down the days; retailers relentlessly remind of us of the time we have left to shop. Our early Christmases set the stage; our Christmas movies set the tone. Ask just about anyone—even someone who doesn’t observe the holiday—what Christmas is “supposed” to be like, and they can probably tell you, in meticulous detail.

But here’s the thing. Nothing, not even Christmas, can possibly live up to the vision in our imaginations, or the sentimental bar set so high by the media and our own childhoods.

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woman having panic attack, maggie mcreynolds blog

Hijacked!

I got hijacked this weekend. Not by extortionists or terrorists or carjackers. Instead, I got hijacked by my own emotions.

It started when my mom, whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years, had to cancel a trip I’d arranged for her to visit me in Boulder. Even though I know my mom is as disappointed as I am and that we will find another time for her to come, I got triggered by old, old childhood stuff. “I’m alone in the world,” I told myself. “I’ll never be able to recreate the sense of family I had as a child.” And, more Eeyore-like, “There’s no point in looking forward to things because I just end up getting disappointed.”

Before I knew it, I’d been hijacked by my stories, and they were holding me hostage in an isolated, dark, depressing little room.

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angry kid, maggie mcreynolds blog

Stuff Your Stupid Uplifting Blog Post

Sometimes, I get really tired of uplifting blog posts. Or motivational quotes. Or inspiring stories of people triumphing against all odds. Or pictures of animals hugging each other.

Sometimes, I just want to be in a thunderously bad mood, all right?

Sometimes, I want to be a toddler having a tantrum. I want to stomp my foot and pound my fists against the floor, and scream, “It’s NOT going to be okay, it’s not it’s not it’s not!” I refuse to be cheered. I won’t breathe deeply, or imagine my ethereal higher self cradling me—in fact, just the thought of imagining that makes me want to run head-first into a wall. I don’t want to chant forgiveness mantras or hug a freaking rhododendron.

I will not be assuaged, damn it! Stuff is seriously sucking around here and I demand my right to be pissed off about it!

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How to Rock Your Right Life No Matter How Heavy Your Load

Balanced Rock Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Balanced Rock Arches National Park, Utah, USA

When I was little, I had a rock collection, culled mostly from the landscaping in my front yard.

I named each of them in a list my mom has in a scrapbook. Some were pretty lame: Rocky, Pebble, Stone. Others had weird names whose origin I no longer remember. What was up with Bee Boy? Garg? Twoy?

I don’t have those rocks anymore, but as I grew up and went about my life, I’ll be darned if I didn’t acquire more. Rocks with names like Abandonment, Loneliness, Anger, and Isolation. The older I grew, the bigger and heavier the rocks got: Chronic Illness. Unemployed. Infertile. Separated. At one point in my life, the weight of all those rocks was so overwhelming I truly thought I’d be crushed beneath them. Sometimes, I thought I deserved to be.

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fire, maggie mcreynolds blog

Into the Fire

Warning: this is a woo woo post.

A while back, I studied contemporary shamanism. A shaman is believed to be a healer who travels between the world as we know it and the world of the spirits. I wasn’t looking to become a shaman, assuming such a thing is even possible. But I was definitely looking.

Our first assigned meditation, I got way more (and less) than I was expecting. We were supposed to meditate our way into the spirit world and ask for a guide. I wanted something cool, like a panther. Instead, I got a toothless old aboriginal dude who wouldn’t talk to me, but who seemed very amused by me and my presumptions.

I wanted a mysterious jungle to travel, me and my exotic panther. Instead, I got an other-worldly beach with a purple sky, indigo blue sand, and red water.

My annoying guide pointed at the horizon down the beach, which just so happened to be completely on fire, and gestured that I should walk into it.

What the what?!

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girl on swing, maggie mcreynolds blog

Got a Moment? Set Yourself Free!

I’m writing this from a white twin bed in a soft, airy room with a butterfly mobile, lilac and lime green walls, lamps edged in ribbon, a ceiling fan, and framed canvases of little loopy flowers. I feel about eight years old: safe, cared about and for, and a little sleepy in that wonderful pre-nap way.

How did I get here? Well, first I had to bail on the townhouse I was supposed to move into after contractors found mold growing inside the walls. Then I had to scramble to get all my furniture out of my current rental and into my would-be landlord’s garage; and, the next day, from the garage to a storage unit.

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