My daughter, Natalie, is my stable rock. My ballast. My hero. She has recently turned twenty-five and moved to Seattle about a year ago. I had the great fortune to spend a recent weekend with her in New Mexico where she was born. It was great fun to return to a state that has many natural marvels and be able to give context to how her life began. Some twenty-six years earlier, my first husband and I moved to Albuquerque to run a restaurant and try our luck as entrepreneurs. The restaurant eventually failed and put immense pressure on our marriage. The wonderful shining glory that came out of that ill fated move to Albuquerque was a delightful, precious blue-eyed baby girl with an infectious smile and laugh.
Outside of a return trip to New Mexico when Natalie was eight, she has not returned. She has faint memories of that trip and certainly does not remember her first four months of life in the Land of Enchantment. We had a lot of fun returning to where it all began. It also brought up some of the reasons I have depended on her for so much in her quarter century on the Earth.
Here are the ways Natalie is my hero:
Open. Natalie is open to any and all adventures. We did not have much of an agenda once we landed at Albuquerque’s Sunport except for a restaurant reservation or two. Whether it was strolling the plaza in Santa Fe or taking a hike around a reservoir, Natalie was open. She had no deadlines, no agenda, no must-see spots. I feel like so many people in life have hidden agendas or hidden intentions. Not Natalie. Anything goes. Wanna hike? Sure. Shop? You bet. Sleep in? OK. It makes me rethink how open I am to what is next. Be open.
Decisive. Natalie may be open to all the options but once she has made up her mind, or the group has made up their mind, she goes after it. We had decided to hike Tent Rocks located outside of Santa Fe with my brother, Rick. Once the decision was made, there was no going back. I’m pretty sure that even if it was raining or 110 degrees, Natalie would have made it to the top of that slot canyon. She was committed. Even a random crossing of a rattlesnake on our path could not deter her from her destiny. Once you have weighed out all your options, be decisive.
Empathy. I have always had an issue with balance. I pause at the top of steps and escalators to get my barring. There were several times along the hike that Natalie grabbed my hand. I didn’t ask. She knew. When navigating very narrow footings, she said, “just one foot in front of the other.” I didn’t ask. She knew. As we hiked she would insist on a water break. Not for her. For me. She pays attention. She senses the discomfort. She anticipates the need. It’s such a gift that I don’t know she is even aware she has it. Be in tune to those around you.
Navigator. Natalie and I had explored a trail near Santa Fe around a reservoir. The trail was not well marked. Towards the end of the hike we lost the trail. Pretty soon we were hiking through low uncharted brush and no fellow hikers were to be seen. We had no GPS. No cell coverage. I felt a bit of concern. There was no need. Natalie had a feel for where we were and led us back to the trail head and parking lot. There have been many hiccups and storms in my life over the last year and Natalie has been the calm navigator seeing me through. Make sure you have a sound navigator to help you through the storms.
Ballast. Every boat has a ballast to weight the boat upright. Natalie is my ballast. She is rarely rattled by events and keeps an even demeanor. I can be easily flustered and fly into worst case scenarios. Natalie keeps me balanced by listening and asking questions to help me understand my own thinking. I may be ready to unload all the cargo on the boat or drop anchor but Natalie is the voice of reason. Who is your ballast. Maybe you are a ballast for someone else. It’s important to have a ballast to even things out.
Joy. Natalie has infectious energy. She also happens to be a great selfie taker. There she is in the center of the photo flashing her enchanting smile. I cannot look at a photo of her without smiling. She is joy. She is possibility. She is magic. There are very few people that I know who exude that joyful energy. It sparks action. Everything seems possible when there is joy in the room. I am so fortunate to have her in my life. Find joy.
I am so proud to be Natalie’s mother and, most importantly, that she is in my life. She makes everything brighter and more amazing. Who is your hero?