A Time To Tell

I gather with a few writing friends every month or so.  We don't have a lot of writing to share, but just the meeting makes us feel like there is this one little part of us we simply refuse to let go. We have given ourselves over to the dance of parenting, work, and making a life for our familes knowing that another time will come when we can dance more fully in our writing. This does't stop us from being observers of our lives, from noticing and taking notes. We talk through where we are in life which lends itself to stories and metaphors that might show up later in our writing. In fact, the very act of talking provides all of us with much needed perspective, raises questions, and gives each one of us more to ponder, to stew, to check in with later. It is our form of pre-writing and brainstorming. This is a neccessary gift to our writing selves. 

Yesterday we meandered over how joy and grief are so closely linked. We don't feel big feelings about things that have not touched us. Whether we are letting go of a person or saying goodbye to a way of life or working through some tough things with children, the feelings present are in proportion to how much we care.

This conversation led me to think of an email exchange I was having with a new friend who said, "I believe all the broken people are the real ones."

This is truth. And we are all broken in some way. You can't live without getting dinged up just a bit. But not everyone is comfortable sharing the broken bits. It's a scary place to be- putting out there your pain, your insecurities, your biggest hurts and not all of us are called to be a voice. Writers feel called to share their broken bits in poems and stories and novels.

I am a truth-teller. I am my own truth-teller, and yet I care so much about trying to help others find ways to get theirs out in a time and space that feels good to them. My writing group has given me a safe space to practice this. 

Sometimes our conversations stop. There is silence and I love that silence. There is something magical in holding what was said and letting it sink in. Sometimes in a meandering conversation that seems to have lost it's footing we will stop and minutes later one of us will say, "There's your story."

Often that story is not the one we were intending to tell.

And that is the power of the pause. Sometimes I fear we don't use the pauses enough in our life. We rush from this to that or from the event to the response/reaction that we do not get any time in the middle.

And I really think that middle place is where the juicy stuff is. It's uncomfortable, sure, but is also rich and full of possibility and growth.

Sometimes in order to tell your truth, you do just have to let time do it's thing before it can fully shape what you see.  

So here I am, not trying to rush any of this or that. I am learning to say no when I need to and I am saying YES always to my writing group. It is a writing group very much in the middle, holding a place for what is yet to be created, a place where time will eventually lead to telling.  

We are all on the same team.

Being a mom is hard. Being a dad is hard. Being a single parent is hard. Being a parent with a partner is hard. Being a parent whose primary work falls outside the home is hard. Being a parent whose primary work falls inside the home is hard. Being a parent with no support from any other adult is terrifyingly difficult. Being a parent with a village surrounding you is still hard.

Some people parent while living with long-term illness, some battle depression, some work three jobs, some worry if they can make the rent or mortgage, some watch their kids being bullied, some get to take three vacations a year and some don't leave their town for months. Some are mothering or fathering children alone by choice. Some have six mouths to feed by choice. Some just can't stop thinking about adding one more to the brood, but it's not happening. Some have incurred thousands in debt just in order to get one child.

Once a child enters your life, no matter your circumstances, a whole new world of joy and pain is opened to you.

I am lucky. I am raising my kids in a best-case scenario. I have a steady income with a partner who can emotionally support me though most of the day-to-day grind falls to me. I am not worried about my ability to fill the fridge or send in the latest round of activity fees because I can afford to let my kids choose activities. I keep them updated on shots and dental visits and while the rest of the world is running from sugar, I have tuned them out in order to get my son out of bed each morning with creamy coffee laced with arsenic. I may or may not pay for it later, but it's my choice.

One thing I've noticed, in the mom-world in particular, is that we always seem to gage ourselves. My kids are now 11 and 13 and mothers with toddlers will look at me longingly as if to say, "Oh you are so lucky they can dress themselves." And I look back at them and think, "Isn't it nice that crayons and art supplies sing a siren's song to your little one's hands and body odor (unless it's a dirty diaper or wet pajamas from bedwetting) isn't making you grimace? How wonderful that your little sweetpeas are completely at home inside their perfect bodies? They do not care at all how others see them." What these parents don't yet know is that seemingly overnight puberty will change this joie de vivre . I keep this to myself because somethings have to be seen to be believed.

Each age and stage of a child's life brings joy and pain. I have noticed that as soon as you leave one stage, you forget the one prior so focused on getting through this next stage. I used to wonder how my mom didn't remember the stages. I know now. She didn't  necessarily want to. I was not a good parent to little kids. It was hard for me. I didn't sleep much, the real crux of why I didn't like it, and when I stumble upon talk of those early stages, I have to tune out because I don't really want to look back. But here is another thing. When you are in a stage, it feels like YOU are the ONLY one who has ever done this. News:  not true. We have all been there and we have all survived. If there is one thing I know, we all make it through the sleepless and frustrating bootcamp of early parenthood. It doesn't make it easier and it doesn't make it more fun, but the evidence suggests that those hard sleepless nights will pass and you will find yourself catching enough zs' to prepare yourself for a different sort of battle.

Another thing I know is that what we give focus to is what we become. To admit that it's hard is one thing. To focus on it is what it becomes.

There have been times when I have been so stuck in the mom story I was living that I did not understand I was also writing it. I could change how I looked at my story. In order to save my sanity, I had to tune out and bear down on the work to be done, my work, no one elses, and do what felt  right and true and good for my family within my own power. Sometimes what is within my power doesn't always align with what is in someone else's power in any given moment. I am grateful for the Katy Smith's of the world- leading the charge for those disadvantaged children and parents- the truly powerless of our ilk. They need the leg up we often forget we have.

When the going gets rough in our world, we do have choices to make. Sometimes we don't up feeling good about our choices and yet there is more essential choice we can make:  forgive yourself and move on.

This has been a revelation to me in so many aspects of my life;  health, relationships, parenting, even buying the freaking groceries. Never before has the grocery store felt so much like a landmine of rights and wrongs. And yet it is not just the grocery store. It is the screen time and the choice of schools and the test scores and the choices of activities that will best prepare your child for his or her future. This social media world we partake of has provided so many of us with voices and a chance to weigh in/judge all that we do. I think moms are particularly susceptible to feeling judged and needing to defend their choices. I fear we are failing to adhere to some basic principles of parenting and simply living:   following your gut and forgive yourself when you mess up.

Children are not projects and parents are not getting tested to see how well they achieved. You do not win and lose based on how you navigate each day. In fact, if you are reading this, it's pretty likely things are great for you. It means you are not picking rocks in a field with a 90 degree sun bearing down on your uncovered head with your kid strapped to your front or back.  It means you have a minute or two of sweet freedom and the choice to use it as you see fit.

Your "best" and my "best" are so wildly different. That we live in a place where this freedom exists
is pretty amazing in it's own right. It is richer, if we can just choose to see it that way, for all the ways in which we interpret our own personal bests.

Sleep deficits can make us crazy and angry and dull our reflexes and sharpen our tempers.  So too can all the ways in which feel the need to validate our choices, script our frustrations, and air the fact that it is so hard. I know it is. I really do. When you have kids, you give up that ticket to ride on "easy" street. To have kids means you will be gutted a thousand times over. That, sadly, is the truth.

I just want us to forgive ourselves for our mishaps, to listen sincerely to each other, and to create a narrative full of support and loud cheering when needed instead of the constant comparathon.

Recenly Big Man and I reached an impasse about something and I was reminded of something he told me earlier in our marriage when I was getting sucked into being right about who-knows-what. He let me rant and then he said, "Hey, we are on the same team."

Did you hear this? We are on the same team. I think we forget that sometimes.


It doesn't matter your circumstances. If you have a kid or care for a kid you are on our team!

It's a little bit less lonely knowing there are millions of others who will also fail and have to forgive themselves and then keep going all in the name of love for our children.

That is the kind of mom story I want to live, the one I want to write, the one I want to read. A story that is hard, yes, but also real and true and full of forgiveness and empathy. Let's write it on our own and then let's write it together, as a team.

Let it be MONDAY!

My kid, Thing 2, always has a bit of trouble with Mondays. On Sundays he starts mourning the passage of the weekend and the dreaded morning comes and something along the lines of this recent exchange occurs.

"I am experiencing once-in-a-life time comfort. How can I possibly leave such wonderfulness mom?"
"I know you don't like Monday's Ben. You aren't the only one."

Big pause.

"Can I have breakfast in bed?"
"Um....NO! Unwrap yourself from that lovely little blanket burrito you are in and join the hard cruel world. But I can offer creamy coffee."
"But Mom.....ugh...Monday."
"I know. Every 7 days the world is cruel, including me."
"You got that right."

I get it. And while this is a pretty typical thing for many of us....ah, Monday! I do know some of us just spring forward much easier. I hold on tight to many things- people, ideas, places. It's not all bad, but in the holding on I can prevent myself from making progress, from moving FORWARD. To be resillent, we need to be able to let go and to understand what best serves us in where we choose to focus our attentions.  I found THIS article interesting. I understand that it might be a leap for some to go from lessons learned from POW's to parenting, but I know in my own struggles that practicing not becoming my emotions is a big deal. Having them is good, acting on them can sometimes be quite useful or even inspirational, but as I see that I am raising a sensitive child, I am re-thinking how I help him cope in the world we live in. We listened to Unbroken as a family on a long road trip and Thing 2 is currently reading a young reader's edition. When I stumbled upon this article, I found some things to consider as I navigate my personal  and parenting life.

In another find I am rethinking, what is your best? Are you doing your best? Mommy blogs are full of affirmative phrases and (some would say) whiney voices that suggest, "I am doing the best that I can." I think we think we are, but when you get to the things that matter most, I wonder, am I doing my best? Life pulls you in a million directions and it can be easy to lose sight of the actual effort put into the things you say are most important.

Do you see how the first and the second article relate? I can choose what I focus on and I can get real about my efforts. I have not always, if ever, done my best. This is a bit heartening, really, because I can see now what I can do in the areas that matter most to me. It doesn't mean all of life will be awesome and perfect, but it does mean that what matters most to me can be given my most and best efforts.

Books I am reading right now include All The Light We Cannot See (fiction) and Daring Greatly (nonfiction).  All the Light We Cannont See is gorgeous. I am reading it slowly because Doerr's prose seems like poetry sometimes and I can't take it. Have you ever read a book that makes you sort of ache because it was just so beautifully written? That's how I feel about this. It's a story of two kids, a blind French girl and a young German boy whose paths collide in occupied Frand during the devastation of WWII.

Brene Brown is the it girl in nonfiction and TED talks. She is making us all think more closely about how our real lives and work lives are intertwined and suggests that much can be learned by using the meaningful practices in both.

I am finding all sorts of connections within my reading and work and parenting life to almost everything I am doing in my work with The Red Boot Coaltion. For now, I am staying focused on the steps. I am taking each step each week as it comes and trying to focus. It's hard at times not to want to rush ahead, but in a change of pace I am choosing to stay focused. All my reading and working and parenting are supporting what I am discovering and so that keeps me grounded to the now.

Maybe I won't ever convince Thing 2 that Monday is a funday, but maybe I can help him to not dread it by simply stating as I did that he wasn't alone, and that it always comes around, and most of all we will get through it.

And seriously....creamy coffee works, especially icecream-y coffee.  To Monday!


Oh, the possibilities.

The initial appeal of January fades fast for me. I am not a resolutions sort of person yet it's hard not to be pulled into the reflection of the past year and thinking ahead to what I might like to see happen for me in the next year. I find that if I don't do this, I never really push myself. Never one to do what everyone else is doing, I keep my health goals to myself.  But I do think of things that I feel drawn to, things that, as I age, I realize, if not now, when? So I am turning a lot over and thinking carefully about my next steps.

Here is something I did not anticipate; how long it has taken us to recover from life as unemployed and the hurt we still carry from that year. Just when we feel like we've adjusted, we've MOVED ON, something happens and poof! It feels like we are re-living some difficult moments all over again. As insanely popular as that song from Frozen became, letting go requires much more than three minutes and a big finish. I am disappointed to report that there is no big finish. That work, for Big Man and for me, continues. Someone kindly pointed out that it is simply because we cared a lot. When I am feeling generous with myself, I can look at this as a good thing. When I am feeling annoyed at how I feel like we need to get over it, I stumble as humans often do. No news there, right?

So now here we are trudging through the winter. In my area, we haven't had a lot of snow at once so the little trickles that fall, while pretty and sparkly, do not feel exciting. February seems like a re-run of January to me and March looms. All that "spring is coming but it's not spring" sort of nonsense makes me crazy and I find I am going to have to work at staying up, I am going to have to be methodical and thoughtful at self-care. If I get lazy, time passes and I wonder, what did I do? 

Working with The Red Boot Coaltition is keeping me grounded and focused. With each meeting from each brave soul that attends, I am reminded again and again and again that when you give your complete attention to the people in front of you, to the task at hand, you are doing the work you were meant to do. I am trying so hard to practice what I am learning and it is as hard as any boot camp work out I have tried. But I am glad for the work, glad this challenge is making me think that while I thought I was a decent communicator, I have miles to go and so many ways in which to grow.

I have no wild insights today, no burning questions, no major offerings except that February has us all in a place where we dwell in possibility. I like that positive spin. A tip of the that to Emily for making me think that for now....anything is possible.