Birthday Reflection #4: All I Don’t Know.

Birthday #4

Photo from my walk this morning.

So much of growing older for me is getting comfortable with not knowing.

I don’t know when or how loss will shake the very foundation of my life. But I do know that it will come, as it comes to all of us.

I don’t know how I will respond to that inevitable loss and grief but I do know that I have the tools and the most amazing support system to get me through anything that comes my way.

I don’t know how my body and mind will age in spite of all the care I give to both. I do know that I feel immense gratitude for this body that allows me to experience the world and this mind that allows me to process and wonder and dream.

I don’t know when or if I will have a drink again. I do know that I feel my best when I don’t drink.

I don’t know if I will be published. I do know that I continue to write something every single day and even if I knew that I would never be published, I would continue to write.

I don’t know where life will take my daughters. I do know that we have given them deep roots so that may fly.

I may not know what is around the next bend in my day or life but I do know that I try to live my life in this moment which I know is the only moment that truly exists.

 

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Learning to Lean into Joy.

content me

I posted this photo today on-line describing how content I am feeling.

Almost immediately this little voice popped up: Who do you think you are? Stop bragging. Enjoy it now cuz it’s all gonna come crashing down. How dare you be this happy when there are children locked in cages in our country.

And on and on and on.

The first time I heard Brené Brown talk about foreboding joy, every cell in my body vibrated with recognition. Foreboding Joy

It’s that space of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Or think you don’t deserve this happiness so it will soon be taken away.

2019 has been a good year for my family. Both of our daughters have graduated with their Bachelor Degrees. One is headed back for her Master’s on a full scholarship plus stipend as a Graduate Assistant. The other is getting ready to apply to an accelerated nursing program.

My daughters and I enjoyed an amazing 16-day adventure traveling to 4 different countries across Europe in May.

I came home to find my husband had bought me the perfect car.

We adopted a sweet puppy from Good Karma puppy rescue and her transition into our lives has been pretty seamless considering her background and how we were expecting it to go.

My BFF has almost completely recovered amazingly well from heart surgery.

I have stepped back into my role as yoga teacher after a month-long sabbatical in May and I feel even more at home in that role, connected to my purpose to create and hold space for my students to meet themselves where they are on any given day. A lovely student recently shared with me how much she has enjoyed watching me blossom into this amazing teacher and how much she loves my classes.

My heart is full with joy and gratitude.

And yet.

There’s this fear lurking beneath the surface. This fear that it will all change. All be taken away. That some catastrophe has to happen in order to even things out. No one person deserves this much joy, especially me.

That especially me is what Jen Pastiloff calls “my inner asshole.”

I am quite familiar with her. Luckily, I am also able to recognize her when she shows up. She showed up recently when my youngest (who is 22) chose to drive across the state on 4th of July to go to a party. My IA came out in full force. I felt this enormous anxiety about her safety. Drunk drivers on the road. Driving all that way then needing to drive back home. What if something happened to her while swimming? All these worst-case scenarios took up residence in my mind in technicolor details.

Then I recognized it for what it was. My IA and foreboding joy.

Brené Brown suggests using gratitude as an antidote when this happens so that is what I did. I called up everything single thing and person I am grateful for (it’s a long list). The sense of anxiety didn’t completely go away. But what did happen is that it created just enough space between me and that story. Between reality and fantasy.

I know this will never go away. It’s part of being human. But I know that I have the tools to see beneath the surface of the IA, beneath the anxiety and fears.

I have the tools to continue to lean into joy, day by day, moment by moment.

And I am not going to stop sharing my joy.

Or the vulnerability I feel at experiencing it.

Mother’s Day 2018.

growed up

When my daughters were little I used to want to celebrate Mother’s Day with time alone. They’d bring me breakfast in bed along with the cards and gifts they’d made then either my husband would take them out for the day or I would go out.

Back then, that is what I needed. Time alone to recharge, to remember who I was besides “Mommy.”

little

Now, my daughters are 21 and 24. They just finished up this semester at college and both had trips to go on this past week. Katie attended a LeaderShape conference and Emily went on an Alternative Break where she volunteered on a Native American reservation in South Dakota.

All those years ago I couldn’t even picture having all the time I now have. Now, all I want is to spend time with them. Today, we went to a restaurant for a vegan brunch then browsed the bookstore.

Right now, we are all just hanging out together in the family room, watching “The Good Place,” pausing it to talk then playing it again.

And it’s been the perfect Mother’s Day.

 

“Tully” is the Perfect Movie for Mother’s Day.

Warning: If you haven’g seen “Tully yet, A) Go see it. B) Spoilers ahead so read this after you’ve seen it.

Tully

Image found via Pinterest.

I took myself to the movies yesterday morning. I slipped into the theater for the 10:10 showing of “Tully” reminding me of how I used to go to the movies as stress relief when my daughter were little.

The movie swept me further back to that time of my life. The lack of sleep, the isolation, the monotony, the joy, the boredom. That feeling of every nerve being on edge from being pulled in ninety different directions throughout the day.

Marlo (played by Charlize Theron) is about to give birth to their third child. She is already stretched thin and her son Jonah, labeled “atypical” by doctors and “quirky” by teachers, is both a blessing and a challenge. After Mia’s birth, Marlo finally breaks down and gets the night nanny that her brother offered. Tully, the nanny, says she is there to care for her and helps her not only with the new baby, but also bakes Minion cupcakes for her son to take into class, gets the spark back into her sex life with her husband Ron and just generally brings the spark back into Marlo.

As Marlo comes back to life, I found myself crying. I remember those times so well. When I watch videos of myself back then, there is always this empty look in my eyes. I call it my Stepford-wife look. Part of it is being self-conscious and uncomfortable being filmed.

But it was more than that. The occasional movie couldn’t offset all the energy I gave to motherhood. My own spark was so faint back then. So when I saw Marlo reviving hers, I cried. I wished I had my own Tully back then. Then I thought that we should all be our own Tully. Be that inner voice guiding us back to ourselves.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what Tully was. There was no nanny, just a piece of herself that Marlo conjured up to remind her of who she was. Tully was her maiden name. Tully was her.

At first, I thought I didn’t even see it coming just like in “Sixth Sense.” But obviously I did. I sensed it without quite understanding the turn the movie was about to take.

I didn’t feel tricked or manipulated. It was exactly how it needed to be.

It’s the perfect message for woman and girls everywhere, whether they are moms or not, to take care of ourselves.

To put our needs first sometimes.

To listen to what we need.

To let that inner voice guide us back to our spark, to fan that spark, no matter how dim and faint it may be, so that we have a light to shine onto our families and out into the world.

A Book I Love. #TBT

Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I am going to feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

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This book saved me. I read it when I was a new mother myself. It was before I had found my circle of other mom friends. I was far from family, my husband was often on the road for his job so it was just me and the girls. Her daily reflections sustained me through the dark times when I was exhausted, had no idea what I was doing and felt incredibly alone and lonely. It wasn’t a sugar-coated version of motherhood. It wasn’t the Hallmark version. It was real. It was honest.

Exhausted, she leans over the bassinet as her son wakes up from his nap and thinks, with great hostility, “Oh, God, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again.”

I laughed out loud, I cried and found solace in her words. Here was another mom going through the same joys, the same shit, the same despair, day after day. She gave me permission to not enjoy every single aspect of motherhood even though it would go by so fast. By being herself, she gave me permission to be more of myself.

 “We had another bad night. We finally slept for two hours t 7:00 AM. What a joke. I feel like thin glass, like I might crack.”

The Practice of Devotion to all that Lights Me Up.

Wednesday Writing Prompt

winter swings

Image found on alice-eve-lithium.tumblr.com

 

{Fiction}

She hadn’t been to a park since it happened. Just couldn’t bring herself to be around all those children, all the moms who don’t seem to realize how lucky they are. Lucky? Does that mean she is unlucky? Does luck have anything to do with it? It’s science. She knows that.

People don’t know what to say to her. Even her own husband has no words. She actually finds that comforting. No words are better than some of the words that have been tossed her way like tiny breadcrumbs designs dot lead her out of her grief. Words like God’s will, not meant to be, try again…

Her husband is asleep in their bed now. She envies him that space he has to retreat. She had trouble sleeping toward the end. Her belly so big, so cumbersome but secretly she loved it. She carried that huge belly proudly. They had tried long enough. She wanted to savor every second…even the crappy uncomfortable ones.

But nothing prepared her for that night. That night she just knew something was wrong. Her belly felt so still. Probably sleeping her husband said. Even the nurse tried to reassure her but then came the ultra sound. And the silence. From the machine. From the technician. From her belly.

She’d known. Even as the doctor delivered the news, part of her felt like at least she’d known, like it was some kind of badge of honor, some secret link to her baby.

Now she can’t sleep for other reasons. Her belly is soft and empty, but her mind is hard and jagged. She crawls out of bed each night, slipping gout into the night, walking the neighborhood, a few random lights still on well after midnight, the occasional car passing her, its lights streaming over her for a brief moment before leaving her in the dark again.

Tonight it has snowed. She can handle the park at night. An empty park. layered in snow is even better. The silence is profound, dense against her ears. She feels the cold seep deep into the canals of each ear, almost painful but she welcomes it. A different kind of pain. The snow crunches beneath her boots. She holds one of the chains of the swing in her bare hand, squeezing gently as the cold metal presses into her skin. She sits in the soft layer of snow on the swing and feels the cold permeate the layer of jeans she pulled on over her pajamas. She kicks her feet out in front of her, leaning back, gripping the linked chains with both hands, pumping more and more, gaining speed and height, flinging her head back, eyes wide open as the world flails around her at odd, sweeping, disorienting angles.

 

Celebrating the White Space of Motherhood.

Celebrating Motherhood

Three months into our empty nest and I am feeling the emptiness.

I’m surprised that I never noticed how similar those two words sound.

Empty nest.

Emptiness.

Our house feels empty.

My days feel emptier.

The girls came home from college last weekend with a bunch of friends. I fell gratefully into my mom role—preparing a delicious homemade dinner for them including an apple crisp; making a big breakfast in the morning with a fresh fruit salad; taking them shopping for clothes, shoes and food.

(Read the rest of the piece here.)

What I loved about writing this is that I wasn’t even aware of what I was thinking or feeling until I wrote my way into it.