Perfecting imperfection…

3ll_nlvpl08-matthew-henryI sit here, laptop flat on the deep grey quilt. To my left there is that one thread, unraveling big. To many, this would mean it is time to shop for a new one, while to me it simply makes my heart soar a little. This quilt makes up a small piece of the larger picture of home. It has wear spots and snags, like all good home things do.

Me too…

To my write sits an unfinished library book balancing a long, cold cup of coffee. My day, before it unfolds, holds hope of laundry, quiet time, a face mask, bottles of water, chapters read and a heavy word count written. So many things scribbled out on my to do list. Drink water. Record food. Take a walk. Wash the towels. Hang up the closet clothes. Wash face, and moisturize. Put dinner in the slow cooker. Address the envelopes. Make some calls. Work on that project. Write a blog post… The list of things tick out, both equal measures of daunt and comfort.

I love lists. They keep me grounded and in line, until they don’t. The don’t, these days, begins to strike about Wednesday. The rest of the week has taken up the bad habit of rebelling against everything good, healthy and necessary. I am watching and listening, careful to try and find the place the days snag.

Do I not have enough grace for myself? Am I driven by lists until I simply cannot drive any longer? It does not seem so, or feel that way, but why else?

What is it I want? Really? At the end of the lists, when the day’s sun is disappearing behind the skyline of that moment, what is my goal? To have a clean home? To feed my family clean, healthy and yet delicious food? To find joy in every experience and make joy when I don’t find it? To be a slave to nothing other than the moment and making the best of it? To be a writer/artist who creates? To further grow and nurture relationships? To read a book every week or two? To lose 50 lbs? Why can’t I do all of these things? They don’t seem too big, they do seem like every other wife and mother gets them done without much effort.

My apartment is thick with the smell of barbacoa in the slow cooker. Today’s organic grocery delivery is put away, nestled into a freshly clean refrigerator. The laundry basket is stacked high with clean and folded clothes, the dryer humming with another load shortly on it’s way to the same. Music softly plays in the back ground and I feel a slight twinge of frustration that I didn’t even manage to open my laptop until 3:30 in the afternoon, which means that not only will I not accomplish much writing today, but that I MUST prioritize and manage my time better. I must… I must. But I don’t know how. How do I do it all? I do I get it done? At what point do I decide the things which are accomplished, (and accomplished well, at that) are insignificant to the contrast of what remains incomplete or left for abandon? How fair is that to myself? I have a clean fridge, food prepped and put away (or cooking), laundry in progress… Once things are done, do they lose their importance?

I’m also, in the back of my mind, packing and preparing for the few days I am going to spend with my older daughter for her spring break. That little voice, in the back of my soul, is saying why? Why try so hard to figure out how when you are just going to be gone and ruin it all anyway?

I do not want my life to be a slave to the daunting list to check off, missing the heart in the moments written there. I do not want to live my life by check marks, missing all that might happen when I am not looking. I ache, simply, to live my life. To live it well, with intention, and still manage to get the necessary responsibilities done.

If nothing else, today, there are successes. I have managed conversations with each of my beautiful daughters, reminding me gently that I am so blessed to be their mother. I have sang along with songs that stir my inner self with so much love and goodness. I have began dinner, lived Monday with open windows and fresh air. I have washed, masked and moisturized my skin to the point of glowing-smooth (and healthy) goodness, (my absolute favorite part of Mondays.) I have prep-work done for a tasty snack for our tv-catching-up evening. My laundry isn’t done, but it is getting there. Mason’s birthday gift isn’t wrapped, but it will be before Friday so I can relax on that one.

So I don’t write today. There’s always tomorrow. If I set my alarm, I can do it. If I clear out and set myself up somewhere inspiring, a place which does not remind me of the undone list and unfinished snags of home that sit all around to call my name and distract me. I can do better, or at least, different. It can have both to-do lists and grace. It can be imperfect.

I can be imperfect…

Connected…

photo-1480928591476-bca930016dcd

As I was plugging right along with everyone else, moving toward the beginning of 2016, it was hard to catch my breath. While everyone else seemed to be swimming and gliding along, just fine, I was drowning. I knew that every area of my life was in complete disarray, it was completely unmanageable and I knew the only answer was to let go.

Somehow, amidst the depression, thoughts of suicide, long days of sobbing and aching in my bed and the overall absence of self, I began emerge and realize how disconnected I was. It was on January the fourth, 2016, that I finally realized what my word was supposed to be. Connect…

At that point I identified as a Christian, yet had no actual connection to God. I was technically a wife, yet my husband wanted nothing to do with me. I had a hard time finding anything that defined me outside of motherhood, and my kids were all three spread out over the country, and terribly far from me. I had not seen my son in two years, I was as disconnected as humanly possible from the very small girl I had raised into the 16-year-old she was. I was of no value or worth to the most important people to me, and it was on this tide that I had floated until my life became something more akin to nightmare than what I had hoped for/dreamed of/worked towards. I remember telling whoever would listen, in those early January days, that I felt like every morning waking was like waking to a nightmare rather than from one. I wanted to sleep all of the time because sleep held dreams with my husband, with my kids, with moments which had once been true but no longer were… Awake rhymed with ache, which was all I did and let me tell you- it was excruciating. In my 40 years of life I have never known anguish like I did in those days.

How would I connect? I did not know. What would it mean to me? I could not say. Was I terrified? Absolutely.

Today, on December the 30th, I can’t help but look back.

Important things to note:

  • I no longer feel like that upon waking.
  • I no longer need to sleep to be.
  • I no longer struggle to know who I am, outside of being a wife or a mother.
  • I am both a wife and a mother, by choice. It may aid to define me, but I am something more.

When I was least expecting it, still drowning a little, I found my way to God. It was raw and ugly because I was ugly and raw. It involved Sunday mornings in church alone, (something I had never, ever done before) and these Sunday mornings always involved tears. Words were sung and spoken which reached deep inside of me and began to stitch and sew me into something new, deeper and better. I began meeting and praying with someone who, alongside of me, dissected me, my depression, my need to take care of others and cast aside myself. I bared all to her and she met me there, without judgement and together we trudged through. (This is something I had never, ever done before.)

Slowly I allowed my need to control the perception of others and just let go of that too. It didn’t matter what they thought. I evaluated, with honesty, whose opinions of me truly mattered and the list was very small. As time passed I began to let go of the toxic ones I thought I’d needed. My relationships with my sister and a few friends grew deeper because I found I was more able to engage in those ways, when I wasn’t tugged in unhealthier ones.

Still I ached for my marriage and my motherhood. As the other things seemed to clear and grow me, these two things seemed to kill me more. It was a journey. A necessary journey which I probably could have gone through while still in my family, but life played out differently and I went through it alone. I learned a lot alone. I learned about me, my motivations, patters, limits… These were things I had never really known before. Being the product of a society that touts sentiments such as Where there’s a will, there’s a way, I had naively believed if I could write it on a to-do list or if _____________ over there could do it, I could too and if I didn’t I was lazy and worthless. I grew to not only admit, but fully accept that I am not _______________. What works for them may not work for me… I am a woman whose body has had a hard life. I have a chronic condition which gives me limits and in order for my body to last many more years, (and my heart, and my soul, and my mind) I need to have grace for those limits. They too, do not define me.

I was able to see my son and spend time with him; take an emotional road trip which led to confrontations, endless laughter and healing; I was able make a handful of precious friends; I worked in two entirely different job fields which each taught me a lot about myself and my goals/heart; I reconnected with my mother with whom I’ve been estranged for what feels like a lifetime; I came home and am working on my marriage (something that felt impossible 9-12 months ago); I was there for the birth of my grandson and cut his cord (something I was certain I’d miss so far away) and have been able to spend endless amounts of time loving on him; I was able to fulfill a life long dream of exploring New England in the fall; I reconnected with an old friend who had severely wounded me some 11 years ago; I got back in touch with the writer inside of me who had been buried under so much gunk… And it goes on and on and on… The people I’ve had the chance to meet, the unexpected experiences I have been privy to. Along the way, every second of this journey I would say to myself over and over again: Connect. Connect. Connect. Connect… And I did.

The lamp is worthless unless we plug it in. I had been for years, like that socketless lamp. I am no more.

My word for 2017 is MOVE. The depth of how far this word can reach is intimidating. I knew weeks ago that it was meant to be my 2017.

How will it look? I don’t know, but I am ready…

Beneath the view…

photo-1451955545619-8036c05af226

 

Beneath this multi color sky rests a village.

Villagers close their days, in many ways. Some are laying the tableware down, while the stew is simmering. Others slap turkey and thinly sliced swiss between two slices of rough cut baguette. There are homes with shingle tile roofs, where beneath them families interact little, instead losing their best selves into their screens. Some homes have single-paned windows, no television and their dinner of lentils and tofu will be followed by board game and laughter.

One or two of these homes likely have pictures of Jesus on the wall, angry hearts seated in plaid patterned recliners, bottles of cheap bourbon stashed about the room indiscreetly.

Across town perhaps a father is sincerely praying a prayer of gratitude for the meager meal his family is about to dine on. In another home a mother is crying while her pork chops burn on the stove because her four-year old drew all over the newly painted dining room with sharpie, and she’s tired.

Beneath many of these roofs there are tired and weary souls. Tired from working, tired from living. Tired from living to work, lack of connection, poor nutrition, fitful rest, marital discord, and so on. Tired never ends…

One woman, down there, in one home hiding behind one porch light miscarried a baby today. Behind another, a spouse hides the secret of an affair. One home holds an empty bed because their teenage son ran away, choosing addiction over the tough love of a mother and father.

A fraction of the homes have held cancer, loss, bankruptcy and enraged anger.

Beneath the view, an artistic photograph with which one took pride and many admired, there is life. Life is ugly and lonely, life is messy and hard.

Though much is speculated about these nameless, faceless people below, a few things are certain…

There are hurting, aching and broken people down there, hiding behind their front doors. Neighbors don’t know. Many neighbors do not want to know. The Villagers are consumed with their own empty, lonely aches.

No one grabs the hand of the stranger next to them, no one says “We’ve got this, you and I. You are not alone.”

Wednesday morning the sun rose, and people felt crippled with fear. Not just these villagers, but most of us. Our financial system took a hit and the optimistic ones placed their hopes in a man who isn’t ready to be our everything. No man is. Until we take the faceless and broken and learn their names, learn their stories, and decide to set our aching down to help them carry theirs, we will continue to fall downward.

Today let’s go love someone. Let’s call a friend whom we know is hurting, and let’s not ask if you need anything, let me know. No, let us say “I am bringing you a well needed chocolate bar that I am instructing you not to share with a single soul!” And then do it. And when we see them, hug them with as much sincerity as our arms can contain, and let them know by our gestures that We’ve got this, together, and they are not alone.

Shame, fear and hatred bread in the dark. Let’s be the light, and shine and shine and shine, until there isn’t a square inch left untouched. Let’s make America great, finally...

Then & Now…

photo-1456894332557-b03dc5cf60d5
I know an amazing man who I look up to. I am not alone in this, as there are literally many in the world who value this man’s opinions and perspective. I could get into an entire post about him, and why, but I won’t. I think, periodically, about the different advice I’ve heard him speak over the years. Most recently I’ve been recalling a talk he once gave about New Years Eve and personal reflection.

Reflection… It’s hard to not reflect on what my life looked like a year ago, in contrast to today. I would imagine the idea behind this reflection exercise is one of encouragement, and probably at any other point in my life, had I done this, I would be feeling some. Today though, right now, I can not.

This time last year I was renovating a house I loved, with my husband (whom I also loved). Our youngest was getting ready to begin her Junior year of high school and our older daughter was a newlywed. Believe me when I say that I have no disillusions of a perfect or filtered life, I know it wasn’t perfect but I also know that I was present and grateful. I loved Saturday brunches, day dates, inside jokes, bantering, having someone who held me at the end of the day, etc. I knew there was a weakening of my husband’s presence in our marriage but, at that time, I still believed his promise of valuing me and loving me before anyone else. Having been abandoned by every significant relationship in my life, he had earned my trust and faith that he would never dispose of me. Though, deep inside, I still felt disposable and ugly, I believed him when he said I was not and that he could never be without me and that he found me beautiful.

I had a mother. Was she perfect? No. The majority of time, in fact, she was incredibly verbally abusive and cruel. I still, however, had a mother. I could still pick up the phone and call my mother to placate the defeaning truth that I was without a family.

I had an exciting vision of what I wanted, as both a writer and in my career. I had direction and drive, though to be honest, I was feeling a little numb due to house repairs, the significant debt that was accruing due to our fixer upper’s unimagined needs, and the impending arrival of my mother to live in our house. I had a husband who, though he was not a reader, was supportive and believed in my writing. We also, together, had a little podcast with a pretty solid little following.

I was straddling the fine line, then, between the benefits of my mother living with us, and the negatives. The benefits? She could live out the rest of her days without the sadness and stress she’d been under; I could eradicate her worries; My daughters could have a more regular presence of extended family thus increasing the quality of their lives as well as my mom’s; we could maybe actually have some chance at having some resemblance of an in person relationship. I tried to see the glass as half full, I guess. The negatives were crowded, but the three largest were her verbal abuse and treatment of me, how she could possibly emotionally wound my daughter and her overwhelming pessimism. I mean, wasn’t it my responsibility to take her in, even if she had never identified with any sense of responsibility around being my mother?

Today? Today things look very different. Predominately, every day I am well aware of the reality that I am disposable to my husband. I am not his choice, nor am I someone he could see himself fighting for. I have no confidence in my dream/passion for being a writer. My youngest was deeply wounded by my mother, and then by us as our marriage failed, and by me as I failed her as a mother. Her life changed exponentially and I am faced, every day, with the effects and consequences of that which have shaped her immeasurably… I have no relationship with my mother, despite the proximity in which we live. (It is the least amount of miles separating us, since I was twelve.) It is a small apartment without any of my belongings in which I live, in a town where I have no friends. And while I still find myself filled with gratitude and awe, I also walk through every day with the weighted burden of the hurt and damage I am responsible for, all that I’ve lost and can not get back, and my own worthlessness in this place.

As a woman and I person I know that I have value and worth. This is the one positive. I did not know this last year, at this time. I could not feel this or identify with its reality. As a mother, daughter or wife, however, I do not. I had wrapped myself up in my wifehood and motherhood before. I existed in them and they were my world. Beyond that, I believed some in myself and the mediocre talent I had for writing. Now? Now I do not really exist within my motherhood or marriage, but I also do not exist outside of it. I have no faith in my writing and I also know, at 40, if it were up to me to support myself, I would starve to death in complete destitute-homelessness…

What has changed between last year’s today and this one? Everything. Everything has changed. I have changed. I once grasped a hope and lighthearted something in conversations about tomorrow or the future that I simply cannot fathom now. As with a child learning about Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy, I feel deceived about life, love and commitment. I have finally come to realize that I will never be THAT PERSON. Not to anyone. I have really wonderful friends who care about me and have been awesome sources of support, but what I have ached for is more than that. It is that feeling of belonging to someone who will not let you go. I have been let go so often that I’ve finally realized that being held on to is not in my life plan. This is said with so much less woe-is-me and more in the tune of ok then, I get it, so now what?

In so many ways I have lost everything. Not the majority of my friends, but certainly everything I thought I was. I have gained too. My sense of self-worth. My willingness to fight for myself, even if no one else found me worthy. This is a good thing, a beautiful and courageous thing. Unfortunately it doesn’t pay the rent or keep bread on the table. It also does not bridge the gap between my possessions and myself. (Sidenote: anyone have a few grand lying around that they don’t need? Ha…)

Most mornings I wake up, overwhelmed by the heavy awareness that I no longer know how to feel hopeful or navigate a day. I am battle weary and ache from head to toe. Still I move forward. I try. I listen, I am open to learn. That’s the best I’ve got. This time last year, I’m not sure I did those things…

To boldly go…

“Do not dare not to dare.” ~C.S. Lewis

photo-1448518184296-a22facb4446f

Do you ever sit (or stand, I don’t discriminate) somewhere and, having lost track of your thought/plan, your brain instead says a word? The same word over and over… I’m not sure I’m explaining it right. In fact, I’m not sure I actually know how to explain it… Let’s see. A long time ago, I’d be thinking something or about to embark on some activity when I’d be distracted by life somehow and suddenly, in trying to remember what I was up to my brain or mouth would say “Pink.” Weird right? But it was always like a reset and I’d shake my head and think What? No, not pink. Dishes. I was going to do the dishes, and then I’d chuckle to myself. I chuckled up until this became an often-daily event and then I started questioning my mental clarity and the possibility of a brain tumor.

After time, Pink grew into birthday. Why? I don’t know. Seriously, what is the significance of this ridiculousness? Birthday lasted for some time and then in an odd plot twist, birthday morphed into Happy. Happy. Yes, HAPPY. Is it because birthday and happy go together like peanut butter and pickle? (at least according to Gen they do anyway. PB & Pickle isn’t really my jive anymore.) Is it something bigger? Psychological scuba diving is my absolute favorite pass-time and so with this new arrival that proverbial squirrel in hamster in my brain is running on that wheel like crazy.

It is at this point, in this blog post, when I realize you may be thinking the last word in my last paragraph may be the biggest key of all. It’s not. I’m not actually crazy, though I’ve felt like maybe I could be headed there many times over the last year.

At any rate, I’ve asked my youngest and she says “no, this has never happened to me but I do think it is very interesting.”

The original point of this odd-turned-post had nothing to do with this in fact. I was in the shower, some hours ago, thinking about a post idea. This post idea morphed and grew, becoming more and more real (in thought) as I progressed through my morning routine. As soon as word press was open, however, it was gone. I sat staring at the cursor when my daughter distracted me for a bit. When my attention came back to my Macbook, I thought oh yes, the post… and typed out HAPPY. Twice. This happened twice. And suddenly my odd little reset word moved from simply living in my head to also living via my fingertips.

I prayed a bold prayer this morning. Since I am not really the religious type, but do have a real and relevant relationship with God, prayer is an important part of my day. I am also a writer and so it occurred to me today, as I prayed this bold prayer, that I should write it out and make it a prayer/affirmation. This is something I’ll have to ponder on, because the pressure for such a thing is huge. It is one thing to say a prayer, but an altogether different one to write it out and intentionally meditate on it. This prayer I prayed is themed upon the idea of daring. Daring to do something, daring to be something. Something I spoke the words (in prayer) of when I was 7 years old, sitting cross-legged on a rug in the middle of my bedroom floor. Something I’ve had spoken to me for months, by strangers and friends alike. Something that my soul thinks about and every fiber of my says “yes! THIS!!” but the idea of how to get from where my feet, barefoot, plant to there is overwhelming and terrifying.

Daring…

Yesterday I had a conversation with my husband about the times in life when we go for it because we know we have no choice. My example was the day before, Chw was stress-neck deep in auto repairs that were frustrating him incredibly. He took phone advice from our mechanic son-in-law, like a man desperate to solve this issue. He pursued YouTube videos and internet articles and bought tools promising to help our midwestern-rust-compounded issue. He knew he HAD to fix the car because He needs that car. He pays a monthly payment for that car. There was no question that the problem HAD to be solved, so he dove in and gave it his all until it was solved. There were no options for sitting back in self-doubt and fear, or ignoring the issue and the jack stands until the went away because he knew they wouldn’t… When I used the example, I was referencing the hard work our marriage will need to get to a good place and how worthwhile it will be, if we do that work.

The thing is though, isn’t everything like that? While I wasn’t wrong in using the example towards our marriage, the reality is that we should always dare to dare. Dare to repair relationships. Dare to make a creative dinner. If we didn’t allow fear to hold us back, what could be do? What we knew we had to…

And what make something a “have to”? These are the things I’m thinking about, as of late. How to take something from the bare-minimum-effort to an all-in… How to stop sitting back in the false sense of security that comes with “if it works out”, “if I can” and just giving something everything I’ve got. Are there guarantees? No. But if we throw ourselves into the things we are supposed to, we can’t lose.

Daring… Happy.