The joy of watching my kids make the world their own

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Photo by William Milliot on Unsplash

I’ve never felt as full up with wonder as when I was watching my toddlers learn how to name everything in front of them.

I can still feel my daughter’s squirmy body shifting around on my lap as she tap-tap-tapped on the puffy green cloud perched on top of a popsicle stick in her ABC book and exclaimed, “Tree!”

“That’s right!” I said, for the millionth time. (I don’t have as much occasion to say these words these days, now that they are teenagers…).

“Yumi, look — that’s a tree too! Look, TREE,” I said, pointing to the serene Japanese maple outside our window with its tidy shelves of delicate red leaves. …

To paraphrase Winston Churchill

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Photo by Oliver Cox on Unsplash

I have a confession to make. I don’t want to forget 2020. In fact, I want to tug on the shirt sleeve of anyone who posts about wiping this year from our collective cloud storage and say, “but then it won’t have meant anything, all of our loss, isolation, and dread.”

I don’t want to let this crisis go to waste.

I wonder why it is that we pledged to “never forget” 9–11 but we are so eager to erase the memory of 2020? …

The story of power is in the tally, but the story of beauty is in the details

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Author’s photo from Aloft hotel, Detroit, Michigan 11/4/2020

Good morning from Wayne County Michigan. This is the view of the Detroit Tigers stadium from my hotel room.

My first thought this morning is that the true beauty of elections lies in the details. We fixate on the big amalgamated number, but all that tells you is a story about power, and the history of power reaching forward into our lives. As Lawrence O’Donnell put it, “the Electoral College is slavery’s revenge on the 21st century.”

On the other hand, grace is in the details. The young people showing up to vote. Wearing a mask, and working outside the campaign office all day long. It was so f’ing cold, you guys. …

The scanxiety is real, and here’s how I’ve learned to cope

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Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

My anxiety used to grow in the days leading up to the next scan as we’ve navigated my husband’s Stage IV cancer. What version of the future would we get to live? He had done all the treatments, I had fed him all the kale. Was it enough to make a difference?

My cancer lens showed me our future cut into a split screen. On one side, we were celebrating our son’s graduation together as a family. On the other, I was lost.

So I recognize this anxiety we’re collectively going through as we get closer to November 3rd. …

It hit me over watching him eat too many fries

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Author’s photo of the first dance to Ray Charles’ “Don’t Change on Me” — during which the groom enumerated all the changes that he would actually welcome, “Except you can be more on-time!” “Except you could tidy your dishes!” etc. etc.

I was watching my boyfriend munch on fries on a picnic table in New Haven one fall afternoon when it suddenly hit me. I didn’t want him to finish those fries — because I didn’t want him to die — because I didn’t want to be without him. So I gobbled down the remaining fries two and three at a time.

Maybe it started with trying to justify downing more than my fair share of greasy goodness. Regardless, I couldn’t shake the realization that started to weave its way around me.

So I began to untangle the near-term implications, which went like this: 1) I was finding that I wanted to hang out with this guy for a long, long while; 2) Often people who want to hang out together for a long, long while do a thing called “getting married”; 3) OMG! …

Wrestling with mortality is the opposite of depressing; it may be the truest path to freedom.

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Photo by Alan Mersom on Unsplash

I met mortality last year when my husband was diagnosed with thirteen malignant tumors in his brain. Until then, I was living with “health privilege” (a close cousin of the White privilege many of us are grappling with as a country right now), and I busily brushed past mortality with minimal curiosity or acknowledgment.

But now I’m all in. In even my busiest of days, working at building my fledgling company, parenting teens, and trying to spouse the best I can, a part of me is still dying to get back to my love affair with mortality when the house is quiet at night. …

There is no beginning or end, just always the messy middle.

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Image by Aslysun, licensed via Shutterstock.

When I started my first company, I didn’t know what to put on the “exit” slide of my venture capital pitch deck. Why would I ever “exit” the role of a lifetime?

I raised over $50MM in VC funding with only the vaguest of exit plans, arm waving in the general direction of huge valuations when we got to that point in the meeting. This page was so lacking in detail that I literally put a BREAK in the chart of our revenue trajectory, a veritable “dot dot dot” and then a star burst with “$1 Billion valuation” on the far right hand side. That “break” might have been the most straightforward part of my presentation. …

Saying goodbye to the Justice and to who we were as a country when she was with us

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Author’s photo.

Like many of my women lawyer friends, my phone blew up with “Fuck Fuck Fuck” on Friday September 18th. A total of 38 F-bombs peppered my text streams that night. I’m not sure that this is exactly how opera-loving RGB would have wanted us to react to the sad news of her passing, but we weren’t thinking about that in our grief-rage.

My friend Ali and I cried over FaceTime as we drank wine brought to us by our husbands — who, to their credit, were both smart enough to tiptoe out after setting down our glasses. …

Books about loss are my drug of choice

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Author’s own blurry photo of jumping on stage as the band packs up, taken by friend Suzanne Cohen

If you met me at a party, insisting that everyone had to dance to Abba, or jumping on the stage to yell, “One more song!” blocking the poor, tired members of the eighties cover band from making their well-earned escape, you might be surprised to learn that I’m obsessed with death and dying.

If you heard me on stage at a start-up conference, evangelizing about vulnerability and entrepreneurism (while slyly trying to weave in marketing for the new company I just started), you might not realize that my vitality is fueled by a slow-dance with mortality.

Just yesterday, while I was looking for scrap paper, I found a notebook with the words “death café” illegibly scrawled on the fifth leaf, tucked between otherwise blank pages. (My therapist had mentioned the phenomenon of these conversations that happen all over Europe over coffee and pastries, I wonder why…). …

How I trick myself into making peace with it

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Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

The biggest, dirtiest swear word in my book is the word “acceptance.” It’s not fit for polite company, or any company at all, as far as I’m concerned. I can barely glance at the collection of letters that make up that word without a grimace.

I first realize that I have a deep-seated problem with this word when my therapist throws it out in passing in one of our first sessions. …


Jane Park

CEO of sustainable gifting company: Speaker, writer: Addicted to making meaning.

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