Pressure. | by Joshua Woolf

It’s a lot of pressure being born into so much opportunity.

There should be no mistaking that we have absolutely no justifiable reason to complain. All of us born in countries where we are encouraged to learn and venture in whatever direction we may have a calling in are clearly in a great spot- but now I’ll go ahead and complain.

Being told your entire childhood that you can do whatever you set your mind to is a set up for disappointment. Even those of us who eventually do what we dreamed of rarely find it as interesting as we thought it would be. And now after putting more than a quarter of your life toward that goal and hurling you and your family into debt to make the dream happen… What do you have to show? Experience. Isn’t that what life is all about? I venture to say- “maybe?”

But wouldn’t being born into a trade in a land that was all you ever knew with your tight knit community and simpler ways of living be more fulfilling in the long run?

Us privileged ones spend all our time getting educated and exploring what we want to do with ourselves only in hopes of then making money and finding the person to be in love with and then working really really hard so that we can then take some vacations and perhaps find a community that we feel at home with to raise our kids and grow old and work and grind and vacation from and work and work and work. At some point if we are lucky maybe we can accumulate enough to set aside a legacy so that maybe our kids and grand kids don’t have to struggle as hard, but more realistically they’ll just take it for granted and fight over it.

So what is the answer? Is it that more simple way of life mentioned before? No, not really. I’m sorry to break it to you but that green patch of grass is hardly as picturesque as it sounds. It barely exists anymore. The World shrunk. People have tried to recreate it, but I believe most of those have collapsed as cults.

The Answer (for me): understand my surroundings. Use my hands. Work smart. Make a difference. We were all born on this planet in different circumstances and its my job to find the best Quality life I can. For some of us that could be accumulating education, for others building a city, for others it’s just Being.

It really is a lot of pressure, the pressure of having so much potential and opportunity and using none of it. Because whatever the answer is here, the one thing we don’t want to be is that person that could of had it all but instead squandered it.

-Joshua Woolf

Love Letters. | by Joshua Woolf

I sit in the dark with just the low glow of the fish lamp in the corner of the room. our daughter has been crying for over 30 minutes. The experts say that you should let them just cry it out and soothe themselves to sleep, which I was skeptical about at first- but now I understand that it isn’t cruel, its just the first step in them learning to cope. The baby will play you, exploit your parental weakness and have you wrapped around her little finger in a snap if you aren’t careful. Some are easier than others and lindsay and I created a baby in our spitting image which means she is a ferocious one.

Just as I finished that sentence she actually fell asleep and I can finally hear the inside of my head again.

Love letters. I wish I could say I write one a day for my wife, there was a time when we did. We’d talk on the phone for hours, mail things across the country, surprise each other, and now we are together. We share a home. So the courting isn’t quite the same, but that makes me think- maybe it should be? She is stunning. My dream. We are real friends, the kind that confided in one another for years and years before romantically falling head over heals. We’ve had adventures. Our relationship has been exciting and storybook-like, brilliant- and often times disgusting to others around us (I don’t care). We’ve been there for some of the toughest times and been there for some of the worst days we’ve ever had. But we have also been there for the best ones.

I love her so much.

Once a baby is brought into the world it’s easy to get filed in line to this parental structure “eat” “work” “feed” “sing” “eat” “drive” “shop” “eat” “work” and so on, (I left out “sleep” on purpose). The outwardly exciting adventures take a break and we are on this much longer adventure of creating a family. This is mostly great but tends to get frustrating for us rolling stone types. Mo•not•o•ny, It can be a dirty word. Luckily for us, we were raised well. We know that family is the most important thing. Our daughter sees how much we love each other and will be a better person for it (*fact). We laugh a lot, we also pull out our hair. We get to see the most beautiful girl in the world growing up before us, but sacrifice so much of ourselves in the process. Being a parent is a very strange sort of mental push-up you perform constantly every day.

This upcoming month will mark our two year marriage anniversary (2 years going on 10).

I love you my wife. You’ve given me the best gifts. You and Olive. We’re getting to reinvent what life and family is all about and that is the best thing I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. I give you my all.

-Joshua Woolf

365 Days Ago. | by Joshua Woolf

In this culture we remember dates and celebrate years since events happened. It must be part of the caveman in all of us to keep track and record these things because we tend to do it automatically. When you put more thought into this it starts to seem strange. Tradition, boredom, the sales of greeting cards all come to mind. Why does it matter? There is the saying that if we don’t remember history we are doomed to repeat it, but the majority of the days we observe don’t fall into that category. The real notable moments in our lives tend to be remembered everyday.

365 days ago. It was a hot day in Los Gatos. Our family was all gathered at my grandparents house for the past week spending time with my mom as she lay in her bedroom quiet and in a lot of pain. Her body had withered away from the medicine and cancer, but she still looked beautiful and goddess-like in her white robe. It was very peaceful in her room. Quiet with only the sound of the pond outside and family talking with whispering voices. There were 15-20 of us at all times individually coming in to speak with her, sit quietly meditating or praying, and help keep her comfortable.

At this point we all knew that my mom was going to be leaving us soon. There wasn’t much of a chance of her coming back and her silent internal meditation was her preparing herself to go. She was in two places at the same time fluxing in and out of what is here and what comes after.

My sister Lily had been traveling across the country after spending months taking care of our mom, but she had jumped on a plane in Louisiana to make it back. It looked like my mom had been holding off to see her. When Lily arrived she burst into the room and mom pushed herself up to embrace her. It was as though she had been saving up this energy to give to Lily. They held each other- my sister was very strong but still weeping as she squeezed because she knew at this moment the fight was over. We all cried silently together sitting around the room.

In between seeing her in the room we spent time outside on the deck in the sun eating and sipping wine or coffee and working on a mosaic that my mom hadn’t yet finished. Carefully picking up glass with tweezers and placing over my moms painting trying to follow her structure and patterns, often times not up to moms standards. Mosaics are difficult.

We were all exhausted. Emotionally spent. Our inner contemplations spinning at all different speeds just moving around one another with this sort of instinctual pack mentality.

After all saying good bye for the evening and knowing that mom needed to rest, some of us drove off back down the hill to the houses we were staying at, some spent the night there in the living room.

My wife Lindsay and three month old Olive had to make a trip to Texas and so I was sleeping alone that night. It was very strange to reach over and not have them there. I remember reaching my arms out to hold Olive every few minutes. Phantom limb.

Shortly after midnight I received a phone call from my mom’s cell phone. My heart was racing. In my daze of waking up I had almost thought it could be her calling me. On the other end of the phone it was a friend calling from her phone, “it happened, she just passed away” were the words I heard. I said okay- ill be over. Got dressed, woke up my dad- he and mom hadn’t been together for many years, but their friendship was lifelong. The look on his face when I told him was strong, he now had 3 kids all on his own. We made the journey back up to the house in the mountain.

We arrived and it was dark only lit by some candles and small lamps. Everyone was huddled together in the living room amongst the blankets from bedrolls and each other. I went to the room and saw my mom at peace, and said goodbye.

We all slept side by side that night. All of us kids and my dad. My grandparents were close by. Like a pack of wolves we held close and did our best to sleep off our sadness.

The rest of the events were less important. The real world duties that come along with someone passing away are less than special, but those days before mom had to go seem to live in my permanent thoughts every day. It was the end of something and the beginning of another.

Thank you Momma for giving us everything you had, for being the most loving, for teaching us your magic, for your laugh, your sarcastic humor, your energy, your support and for teaching us the most important lessons about what this life is.

-Joshua Woolf

Being A Dad. | by Joshua Woolf

It’s still surreal when I think about being someone’s dad. It’s tremendously important. The title alone holds the weight of creating and shaping a life. My actions my attitude my outward personality gets soaked up by this little person like a sponge. My little 15 month old notices every detail already and she reflects what she sees with perfection. That reflection inspires me to strive to be my best so that she will be her best. It’s this symbiotic relationship that was so unexpected. Just as much as I’m getting to shape her life she is shaping mine. As a dad you transform. You make adjustments to yourself, you look at the world differently and you base you decisions selflessly- the fantastic gift you get in return is that you do in fact become a better version of yourself. So, thank you Olive Lillian. Thank you for being my daughter, for choosing to be with us. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.

And- thank you to my dad. Thank you for being my guide, for showing me how to be a man and a good father. I get it now. I am starting to understand the responsibility and the strength it takes to create a family. I know I have a lot more to learn and I’m thankful I have you to help me. I won’t take this for granted.

-Joshua Woolf