Georgia weather is always the strangest, but this year’s more than ever. It was rainy and 75 on Christmas day. This morning when I took the dog out, it was a windy 27. I’m learning to let go of any expectations at all – a good exercise for my life in general.
I was without the kids for a solid length of 5 nights over the holiday break, and it stretched long before me as it began but was over in a flash. Solitude is getting so much easier, it seems. I always have something to do, and I’m seeing the power of intention and creativity. When I put in even the smallest effort, it multiplies and is rewarded ten times over.
I’m not a fan of winter, and I know those of you in colder climates are probably laughing at me as I say that. Atlanta isn’t exactly frigid. But having grown up a southerner, my bones can hardly stand it, and I’ve grown spoiled in that way. February drags with the heaviest weight, but January is always nice despite the cold. The fresh slate of a new year made even more noticeable to those of us in academics who get to begin a new semester as well. It all starts over for me when the calendar flips, everything begins again.
This week is a soft start for me. Classes don’t begin until next week, but I have a lot of planning to do. One day I might step into the 21st century, but for now, books with real pages and an actual pencil and paper are the only ways I can plan my semester. There’s always that moment when you begin a new task or a new class, and you think you are nowhere near ready and that this is not going to come together the way you’d like it to. But then it always does somehow.
I was talking with a friend on Instagram last week about how I had to make such a conscious effort in 2015 to ditch my old distaste for sentimentality and truly surround myself only with ideas that lended themselves to my own growth. This has meant a lot of non-fiction reading and very little snark and sarcasm. Positivity everywhere. The only way I could “keep on keepin’ on” in light of what happened to me and the speed at which it happened was to not even for a second consider that something better wasn’t coming my way.
I follow a pretty awesome Instagram feed that said last week that rather than thinking of resolutions and ways to “fix” your life, you should see the new year as “a time to reflect. To learn. To create an intention, a positive call to shift, a spark of magic + manifestation rooted in self-love and backed with action.” That explanation resonated with me in so many ways. For the first time in a long time (ever?) I don’t look at the new year as a way to fix anything about myself. The ways that I have shown up in my own life before this moment in time were all necessary to get me where I’m going. I see that clearly now.
For me, this month is about a clear intention + magic + manifestation, and I can see it in little glimmers already. It’s this formula of focused intention + hard work that equals so much more than just the hard work, I’m finding. Life is not as simple as just wanting something, praying for that thing, and then watching it appear before you. But devoting space in your own imagination for it, saying aloud I want that, outlining the ways to accomplish it, working hard, and then allowing space for it to unfold in ways that might be different from what you expected but so much better. That’s the way.
This January feels less like a completely blank slate and more like a soft start. I don’t want to be something entirely new, and I see countless ways every single past experience of last year worked together to create a fuller picture of myself and my own abilities.
We don’t ever really start over, do we? We can never completely leave it all behind. So many people try to do it that way, to cover it up or turn a new page to be totally remade in an instant. But that’s the most dangerous approach, doomed for failure. The real fruition of what we can be lies in carrying it all with us as we move forward – all the past experiences and the good and the bad – and making sense of it in new ways as we make new intentions.
Wednesdays are crazy for us. I leave at 7:30, get Jude on the bus, commute 45 minutes with Norah, work until it’s time to head back and get Jude. I pick him up in his after-school program, and then back-track 20 minutes to go to our 5pm weekly speech therapy appointment. It’s past 6pm when we get home – logging miles and hours and long days for all of us. And this time of year it is dark which only seems to amplify the tired bones and empty bellies.
I picked up pizza on the way home tonight. Not a single healthy vegetable on the table. We ate it with one hand, standing up. I fed the dog and as I went to take him out, I heard laughter inside and turned around to see my glass patio doors framing our little table like a movie scene as it was light inside and dark out. Both of them laughing, mouths open, chasing each other around the table holding pizza. I guess it was the bitter cold outside and the light and warmth inside, combined with their little laughing voices. But it looked like perfection when I know what it really was – a tired mom, tired kids, long day, and a $9 dinner.
That’s the way it goes though. The comfort in the mess. I’m not starting over this year; it’s just a soft start, a calm reset to carry what I already have and let it push me forward to where I’m meant to go next.
2016 is here, and I’ve never been so happy to see a new year arrive.
Thank you so much for the kind comments, emails, and messages in the past few weeks. I read every word and every bit was encouraging. I’m happy that this space has grown a little, but the small growth comes with new challenges in the writing process, and I just needed a few weeks to take a break and regain my footing creatively speaking.
My resolution last year was to find what makes me happy. And I’ve done that this year. I spent New Year’s Eve with the kids at the home of a good friend in the afternoon. The kids played happily with her crew, and her husband made tacos for an early dinner. By 7:30, we were driving home, and my two went down for a usual bed time which left me with a couple of hours to look through my jar. I read them all. Every single little moment that I recorded in 2015.
There were so many little seconds recorded there that I would have forgotten otherwise. Jan 11 Winter sun. Driving home. Distant flock of black birds in a perfect formation. / Jan 24 Two students moved to tears by poetry in class. A tangible connection to the page in front of them / May 3rd Sitting in the warm grass next to my grandmother. Watching kids pick flowers in her yard. / July 31 Cousins running through the grass, ice cream, lightning bugs. / Sept 4 Broken A/C, but it just rained. Cool sheets, windows open, kids asleep. Feels like summer camp. / Oct 28 Making dinner, dancing in the kitchen with Norah, Jude laughing. / Dec 15 Watching Jude build a rocket ship from a box on the back patio. Concentration with his paint, tape, scissors. There were so many more, tiny details of happiness, even in a dark season or on otherwise bad days.
Life is neither good nor bad, but it is a lot of things at once, and it glimmers in the best way if we just take notice. Mary Oliver wrote, “I don’t know what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention.” Sometimes I think they are the same thing – to pray and to pay attention.
Healing is not a straight line, I suppose, and my life is not always shimmering. I’m still grieving a bit, and it sneaks up on me sometimes. But grief doesn’t mean I can’t move on in the best way I know how. I have more to do, and I can feel it stirring. I’m still working to shed the last bit of what needs to fall away, but that is always a process in life, I think. If you are awake and aware, then you are always growing and changing. And the layers are falling away all the time.
I look at 2015 as a year I am ready to leave behind, one I never want to do again. But I cannot bring myself to look at it as a bad year. It is the year I built my own bones. I think back to December 31, 2014 when I was alone in a house that no longer felt like home, still married though he celebrated in NYC and I stayed at home with Jude and Norah. We made an early dinner. I put them to bed, and stereotypical as it sounds, I remember crying in the bathtub as the final hours of the year were coming to a close. The night felt heavy and scary and lonely. I had no idea where I was going next or how I would climb that mountain in front of me.
Now I look back at all the little tasks – opening the solo bank account, meeting with attorneys, selling and buying a house, dealing with my insurance and retirement accounts, the stacks and stacks of paperwork that felt like they’d never end. I can’t believe I did all that – emotional wreckage aside. I can’t help but sit here today in a house that is my own, surrounded by a life I am composing on my own volition and wonder how I even got here. One step at a time is how it happened, but that doesn’t make it any less miraculous. I did it, and my story doesn’t end here. That has been the common theme in these months. I can feel it moving and stirring and pushing me forward. There have been dark days when I felt overwhelmed or unworthy, but never once have I doubted that there is a story unfolding and a reason for every single moment of my year. I’m so grateful for all of it, every second.
I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that I’m meant to do something that I couldn’t do in my former life, and I am not even sure what it is or how it will surface, but I feel certain I will do it. If this year has taught me anything it is the power of my own strength and determination. If I am meant to do something and I want to do it, it will happen.
In a famous advice letter on Dear Rumpus, Cheryl Strayed describes the process of writing her first book, and she explains it by saying, “I didn’t know if people would think my book was good or bad or horrible or beautiful and I didn’t care. I only knew I no longer had two hearts beating in my chest. I’d pulled one out with my own bare hands.” I feel a little of that every time I write here. And every time I pull out that piece with my own hands, it facilitates a healing and a clarity that I cannot achieve any other way. Writing is the raft that pulled me through my past year. And as you look back at so many posts that emerged in 2015, you can see that I was writing for myself– for the questions and fears in my own mind. And yet without much effort on my part, it has made its way to many of you and caused a few small ripples in the world around me. It’s been such a beautiful thing to watch.
I’m finally reading Big Magic after hearing so much about it, and she describes writing in a way that was so familiar to me that I had to say yes! aloud and read it again — “Sometimes when I am in the midst of writing, I feel like I am suddenly walking on one of those moving sidewalks that you find in a big airport terminal; I still have a long slog to my gate, and my baggage is still heavy, but I can feel myself being gently propelled by some exterior force. Something is carrying me along — something powerful and generous — something decidedly not me” (66). The vast majority of the time I spend writing just feels like laborious digging, to use Seamus Heaney’s metaphor, but sometimes I get picked up by that moving sidewalk, and it is the strangest and most amazing feeling ever. I will read a sentence or a paragraph, and I think did I write that? Really?
Friends, I’ve got only one resolution for the coming year and that is to make space for that moving sidewalk. I’ve got a second beating heart inside me, and 2016 is the year it is going to make its way out.
It will come in fits and starts and bits and pieces, but I will write and write and write without fear of judgment or failure this year because it is what I am here to do. I’ve always felt that teaching was my calling, and it still is. But something else is bubbling up. What has happened this past year with writing is that it moved from a tiny voice to a loud roar on my inner radar. There are so few things in life that give you a clear message telling you to walk that path. When it happens, you need to listen. I don’t know where it’s leading, but for now, I am just going to listen and obey and make space for it. I own every single thing that has ever happened to me. I need to unload this second beating heart because it is burning me up.
I write a lot here, but there are so many things I haven’t said. Lessons I have learned – not just as my marriage dissolved but as I began to discover life on my own. Lessons that began long before I ever thought about boyfriends and marriage. Lessons that start deep inside all of us and take a lifetime to learn, and some of them take longer still to unlearn. These are lessons I am learning everyday still. I have something to say, and I think if it is knocking so hard on my heart, it is meant to be heard by someone else as well.
I’m getting braver as the months roll by, and this task requires a lot of courage. Memoir is what we call it when you write about your own experiences, but if it is done well, it taps into that common consciousness that every human has. It’s not writing about me specifically. It’s writing about Us in the largest way. When a book shakes me at my core and makes me question everything I know or makes me scribble in the margins and say yes! me, too – that is memoir done well. You can’t do that when you hold back from your reader or guard yourself with some attempt to seem perfect.
My goal at the start of 2015 was to find what makes me happy, and I did. Writing is it for me. My resolution for 2016 is to listen to that calling, to set loose that second beating heart, and to do it with painful honesty.
I don’t expect it to pay the bills. I don’t expect to accomplish some perfect recipe for major publication. But I can say with all certainty that writing has given so much to me these past few months, and it’s the least I can do to give back to it as best I can – with determination and courage and dedication. Basically I’m saying that this is the year when I begin to take my craft seriously. Hiding in a corner of the internet and writing my way through my own path has been exactly what I needed this past few years. But now I’m ready for more.
I’m going to do my own part. I’m making a commitment to give writing a higher priority in my life in the coming year. To do the work – to get through the ugly early drafts, do the painful editing, and submit in hopes to be heard by someone else. But I’m also going to ask for your help as I begin this task, friends and readers. The publication industry has changed much in light of online connection, and my work begins here. I’ve begun a Facebook page for this site, and if you are active on Facebook, I’d love to see you there. I’m also new to Twitter as Mama the Reader and hope to share there often if you would like to follow along.
For the past five years, I have written here for my own self and shared a bit with family and friends. I haven’t made much effort to really reach the world beyond, but I’m ready to change that.
I’m asking you from my deepest place of heart and purpose – when you read something here that moves you or changes your perspective, please pass it along. The small growth that has happened last year in this space encourages me so much, and I’d love to see that expand and open new doors for me as I begin writing more seriously in a way that I feel I’m meant to. Each of you is instrumental in building that platform for my voice, and I can’t thank you enough. If Facebook and Twitter aren’t your thing, pass along through links or emails or conversation or any way that you feel led to. There are new spaces to illuminate and new views emerging everyday for me, and I’d love to move forward together.
My favorite thing about writing is that I never know what’s on the other side. I never know when I sit down to write what kind of treasures and discoveries I will find by the time I reach my conclusion. I’m ready, 2016. I can’t wait to see what’s in store on the last page.
I said I’m taking a break, and that is still the case. I’ve been doing my writing elsewhere and I’ll return to more regular posting soon. But this is my journal – with every major moment of my past 5 or more years chronicled here. I’m writing here tonight to look back and remember, to fill in the spaces when I look through the eye of nostalgia to piece it all back together.
It’s almost midnight on Christmas Eve. The house is quiet. The kids are upstairs asleep, and the presents are laid out by the tree. It’s 64 degrees outside, even now at this hour. We wore short sleeves today. It’s raining, and we are sleeping with the windows open on Christmas Eve. It doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.
The timing of my major life shift sort of straddled across two years. It was November of 2014 when it all exploded, and last year was the hardest Christmas of my life, hands down. It was right in the middle of the eight week stretch when I cried every single day. Everyday. This year is easier, but it is still my first Christmas on my own with the kids. In a new house – with everything else new as well. The last of many firsts. We are about to turn the page past the firsts, and I am so ready.
I was prepping holiday food yesterday and listened to this podcast that pierced me straight through. Rob Bell interviews Alexander Shaia about the first century details and interpretations within the Christmas story that modern audiences tend to miss. It was pretty illuminating to hear him speak about the metaphorical significance of the angel appearing first to shepherds in the night, and I found so many parallels to this season of my life. “This radiance is born in darkness. Actually the only place this great radiance can be born is in the depths of great darkness. And the only place this great radiance is born in us is in our own darkness where we feel so raw and perhaps unworthy, where we feel so much that we have lost our standing and our privilege before society, whatever that is. Whatever the raw places in ourselves [are] this is where we go to look for the new radiance. … That’s where the radiance begins, in the dark places, in the low places within ourselves…. This is where it begins. And you may not believe me and that’s okay, but lean on my knowing and the Christ’s knowing and just act as if right now, and God will take it the rest of the way. This is where it begins. Mary is this incredible presence of knowing a positive future, and if you know a positive future, no matter what you are going through today, know that this is not the end. This is the beginning.”
It’s so much this time of year – Christmas and the closing of one year and the dawn of another. It’s no accident that it falls in line with the winter solstice as well (on this side of the globe anyway). The contrast of the darkest day of the year punctuated with little twinkling lights everywhere.
Joy works that way as well, I think. Powered by gratitude and mindfulness, it twinkles and shines through the mud of whatever is aching you.
We made cookies this afternoon. The kids played loudly upstairs while I finished up some kitchen tasks, and they were exploding with excitement all afternoon. We went to my grandparents’ house where I have spent each and every Christmas Eve of my 34 years. We ate and laughed and talked above the chaos of happy kids. My two played with their cousins in the same way I played with mine more than two decades ago. So much has changed, and so much has stayed the same.
We drove home, bellies full. The kids looked at Christmas lights out the car windows. They brushed their teeth when we got home and then set out a snack for Santa and headed straight to bed. We huddled, all three of us, in my big bed with the window open in this bizarre rainy heat wave. Norah fell asleep first, and Jude was almost there but jolted up for a minute when the dog shook his collar. I thought that was a reindeer, mama. I kissed his head, he finally fell asleep, and I came downstairs to set up gifts and record a few things here for you – and mostly just for me.
I’m grateful for every single minute. All of it. This Christmas, more than ever, I feel broken but also whole and real. And I see the light unfolding in front of me. The lights are flickering in the smallest of spaces, and this is the beginning.
Today has been hard. Really hard. There is so much I want to say, but let it suffice that I’ve spent the better part of the past five hours crying. Parenting is hard. Parenting a sensitive six year old in the aftermath of his parents’ unexpected divorce is even harder.
I am exhausted and overwhelmed. I try so hard, and I just don’t know if I’m doing the right things. I left the pediatrician’s office in tears this afternoon and have hardly stopped crying since.
We walked in for a regular well-check, and I can’t even explain the bizarre behavior and tantrum that came from my child. Punching, hitting, and biting me. The nurses were completely shocked, as was I. I’ve been taking him to this same small office since his birth, and they’ve never seen this from him. They weren’t giving a shot. There was no threat. I asked him to pee in a cup, and next thing I knew, we were leaving the office without the exam because he was so beside himself, there was no way it would happen. He was delirious with fear and anger.
I walk a fine line here – and in my everyday conversations with those I’m close to – a fine line between being honest and trying to focus on the good around me. I’m trying so hard to follow the smallest sliver of light toward wherever it will lead. And I want to see that good emerge, so I look for it when I can.
But some days just suck. Sometimes it’s just hard. I get chided a lot from their father that everything I write is designed to make me look “like a martyr,” and I pray that is not true because I do not see myself that way at all. I am not a martyr. I am not persecuted and suffering. I am strong and resilient, and in most moments I am happy. But I refuse to gloss over the hard stuff all the time.
There are three people in this house who are all aching with growing pains, and some days it is really painful to feel and to watch.
I want every single person reading here to be honest and call me out if you see me as trying to appear like a persecuted saint. It is not my intention, but I fear it is what people might think sometimes.
I am not. I mess up everyday, and I take full responsibility for my actions. I’m trudging through some really messy territory right now, and it is not always pretty. There are days when I feel like nothing I could do will mend what has happened. My swollen eyes are evidence of that right now. It is hard – and that is not because I am a saint; that’s because it’s life. Life is messy and sometimes full of shit that I frankly don’t want to deal with, but I am expected to guide these two kids through this patch in front of us, so I have to deal with it whether I want to or not.
This space is really important to me. It is more than a website to me, and I want it to continue to feel sacred. I feel that I’ve written myself through some dark moments, and I can see the thread of my own expanding consciousness, my own growing character, as I read posts from the past few months.
And 99% of you offer so much support and a sense of community that I need badly. But sometimes I wonder if it is worth it when anything I write here is dissected by a few people, and some of you who leave encouraging comments or dare to click a “like” button even receive unsolicited personal messages educating you on all the million ways that I am a terrible person and the multitude of reasons you shouldn’t show me love or respect.
How do you do it, fellow bloggers? How do you feel free to write in spite of the nay-sayers? It’s the one in one hundred complex…. If 100 people in the room love you and one doesn’t, you focus on the one. It leaves me so frustrated with myself, but I can’t help it. Sometimes the one is so loud and so close to your own ear that it begins to steal the joy from the other 100.
I intend to take a break from this space for the rest of the year. Rest assured that I am still writing somewhere – in half-finished documents I hurriedly type or in scattered bedside notebooks. But I am taking a break from posting here until I can gain some strength and resolve to hear my own voice strong enough that others can’t drown it out.
I want this to be my space again, that small and quiet room where I can come to reflect and refresh. I don’t want to let a small few bully me into silence or steal it from me. But to be totally honest, right now it feels a little stolen. I just need to find a way to claim it back again without feeling like I am under a microscope. Especially at a time when I have fought so hard and for so long to sound my own voice.
It’s just a pause button. I’ll be back in 2016 to gain some strength again from all of you. Wishing you peace and gratitude in the last weeks of the year.
The kids were gone this weekend, and I needed the alone time badly. I usually try to catch up with friends or get out a little on a weekend I don’t have kids at home. But this was a two-week stretch of single parenting that included the insane pace of grading final exams as well as periodontal surgery which is still hurting a good bit, especially when I try to eat or talk. I’m growing tired of the healing process for it, but as with all things in life, it takes however long it takes and you can’t rush healing.
When Friday night arrived, I did nothing but eat soup from my most recent kitchen fascination. (Have you guys seen this thing? I LOVE it.) And I watched Love Actually which is probably my favorite Christmas movie – a yearly tradition for me. Saturday brought a required work function during the day and visiting with family a little, but Saturday night was more of the same – reading, watching television, enjoying my quiet house.
Christmas is an intense time of year, isn’t it? All the reflections of the past year can come rushing back a bit. All the reflections of Christmases past as well. All the posed Christmas cards and Norman Rockwell images we try to blend into. All the demands to measure yourself against everyone else.
I stumbled on a post from Momastery this weekend where she said, “This time of year always makes me thrilled to remember this: Once upon a time, God decided to send God’s son to Earth. God needed to pick an Earthly family to care for this precious boy. So God scoured the land searching, searching for the perfect family for this special, special One. And out of every family in the whole world, God chose a young, poor, single girl to be Jesus’ family. And later, a step daddy. A young unmarried girl and a step daddy. That was the perfect family. It just makes me remember that our human ideas about what constitutes a perfect family are not necessarily God’s. If you are a parent of a busted up or single or blended or step or struggling for money family and you wonder if that’s good enough for your kiddos well….it was good enough for God.”
At the end of a year when I have learned to rest in imperfections, to see the value in the unexpected, and to finally recognize myself as enough, this really struck a chord for me. It’s so amazing, right? That it’s the very things we dread or hide that actually work the magic in us. Those wrinkles and cracks and unexpected hiccups are what the universe uses to mold us and to change the world around us.
My church this morning was in my pajamas and with coffee in hand on my couch. I watched a Marianne Williamson talk about relationships and spirituality. She explains, “We can start over. We can be better. We can know that yesterday I was weak and today I am strong. … Where I was selfish, I’m going to be giving. Where I was bound in fear, my love is going to free me – because I, no better than anyone else but no less than anyone else, am an instrument of God. I am a lamp through which this light is meant to shine.” That image of a lamp and electricity from a divine source is something that resonates with me in a powerful way. When we stop trying to accumulate things for our own self and start wondering how we can use our specific experiences and gifts and talents to better the world around us, life opens up in a shape it didn’t hold before. I hope to fill that purpose, and I think I’ve seen that light shine a little this year already. It’s only when we are transparent that we allow that light to travel through us and travel outward to everyone else.
And as Mother Theresa once said, when you don’t know where to begin, you have to start with the people closest to you – those you know and see everyday. Being real in our conversations and listening intently. Asking someone what it is that she needs. Saying thank you and really meaning it. Putting yourself in someone’s shoes really and truly – not just giving empathy lip service. Really taking the time to stop your hectic pace, put yourself in someone’s position, and hold bodhichitta for a minute makes all the difference. I’m not ashamed to say that I was not as good at doing that before, and now that I understand what heartbreak really means, I’m better at real empathy. 2015 has left me a fuller person than it found me.
I feel blessed that I have seen my own life transform when I’ve shared my truth this year, and I have seen others transformed in small but significant ways by my honesty as well. Emails from readers or friends or students, every little word has been encouragement. I’ve experienced a deepening of relationships with my friends and my own kids. Any discomfort I feel when I show my own cracks and bruises has been returned with a reward beyond measure.
I’m realizing it makes a few people uncomfortable too, doesn’t it? When your family doesn’t fit the shape theirs does and your life doesn’t fit their expectation and you are happy anyway, people just don’t know what to do with you. I’m not sure what to do with that criticism other than ignore it. I choose to spend my energy to shed a little light and open my own path and purpose. If there’s one thing I know it’s that there is enough happiness and abundance for everyone. If I’m happy and loved and respected, it doesn’t make you any smaller even if your worldview looks entirely different from mine. Fill your own self up, and you will see that there is enough for everyone.
Next week is busy with a million holiday activities and a few appointments thrown in the mix. We are baking cookies and singing carols and wrapping gifts and doing all of the things that give life to this season, and all the while, I’m hoping not to forget what gives it purpose. Other people can take what they want from the story of Christ, but what I take is this: God loves. And more than that he chooses to love the cracks and scars the most. He himself chooses the broken as a place to let in the light. In any faith and in any interpretation, God is never for the winner. The one with the most money or power or perfection? It is never that person who experiences the divine in the truest sense. Within the broken, the underdog, the defeated – that is where it begins. Rumi said the same thing in the thirteenth century as well: The wound is where the light enters you. But you have to admit there is a wound there in the first place.
I am ordinary, like you. But I am also extraordinary, as we all are. I have unique gifts and a heart with a capacity to love in ways it didn’t before. Cheryl Strayed said on a TedTalk once that “The journey to the extraordinary is through the true root. Finding within ourselves that voice that we know to be true … We are all ordinary and we are all extraordinary, too. The line is very thin, and the way to reach to the other side is to follow that truth that is at your core… It’s all stuff that’s inside of us. We have that there in abundance. It’s not all good, that stuff that we have. But it’s all in there together. And it’s what will feed us in our lives and on all our journeys.”
Truth is a powerful thing, isn’t it? It can make you feel naked and exposed, but after that shock wears off, you feel a freedom that lends you the bravery to do anything you desire.
We made cookies tonight when the kids got home. Flour everywhere, sticky hands, wasted sprinkles.
They turned out pretty ugly, truth be told, but we ate a few anyway. It’s in these ordinary seconds with them that I see the season in its very best light. The awareness of the here and now, no expectations or demands. The reminder that the divine speaks to us in the humblest of moments when we pay attention.
I’m hearing the word adulting all the time lately. We’ve somehow turned “adult” into a verb, it seems. Like other trendy words (literally, random, totally) it will have its moment in our modern lexicon and then fade. It’s starting to wear on me a bit, and it’s mildly annoying to hear my students using it all the time. But I see the value in having a word that captures the essence of all those practical, not-fun tasks we have to check off the list.
I’m writing this as I recover from periodontal surgery. Which was every bit as unpleasant as it sounds. But it was necessary, and though I could have perhaps put it off one more year, I decided I might as well bite the bullet and do it. Fork over the $700 (gulp) that I would much rather spend on something else or save. But sometimes life demands that you put on your big girl panties, as some people say, and tackle the unpleasant mess in front of you.
I have done a lot of that this year. Countless unpleasant tasks: meeting with attorneys, paying said attorney, selling a house and dealing with the hassle of showing it with 2 little kids and a full-time job, buying another house, changing my name on a million legal documents, trading in a car, dealing with insurance hassle when an inattentive driver hit the car I bought only 9 months earlier. … The list goes on and on and on and includes managing a thousand tiny details to make my life run smoothly on a daily basis. …. Kids, house, work, all of it…. At the risk of using that trendy word one too many times, I have been doing nothing but adulting for the vast majority of 2015. Frankly, I’m growing weary from it.
One of the biggest lessons of growing up – especially in America in our puritanically based, capitalistic, work harder to do better kind of society – is to learn that you don’t always get a prize. This is life. It can be full of stuff you don’t want to do, and you don’t check a bunch of things off the list and then never have to struggle again. You aren’t doing something wrong if you have difficult tasks in front of you. You don’t somehow arrive at a place where everything is magic and sunshine and roses. Perfection is an unattainable quest. The beauty lies in those tiny seconds in between, and it’s our job to find it among the mess.
I think I like it better here in real life anyway.
We worked with Andrew Thomas Lee again for photos a couple of weeks ago. I’ve known him for years, and I have his images of my growing kids all over my walls. His work has grown a different direction recently, and he doesn’t do family photo sessions any longer. But he was kind enough to meet up with the kids and me at a green space in Atlanta a few days before Thanksgiving and get some images I will cherish for a long time.
The kids were far from cooperative in the traditional sense. It took a lot of coaxing for Norah to get down from my arms, and at one point they ran off to play with someone’s dog on the other side of the park. By the end of the session, Norah’s hair bow was ripped out, and her shoes were off. Andrew is incredibly patient and such a talent though. He always manages to get some really authentic images that convey the real us.
I live with these two kids everyday, and it’s sometimes a blur. But I look at these photos, and I can see it how I feel it in those still moments, those tiny spaces in between the chaos.
So here I am on the 341st day of 2015. My mouth is swollen. I’m a little fuzzy from post-surgery meds. My house is usually messy, and my plate is always too full. But there will never be another December 7, 2015 again.
I am really thankful to see 2015 make its way out as it’s been so full of hard things. But I can’t bring myself to see it as a terrible year. More than any other year in my life, it has been a year when I know I’m really alive. The pain and growth and change – all of it for the better. I see that now.
Jen Pastiloff posted something this morning urging readers to “Take a picture of your face. Remember that in ten years’ time, you will be amazed at how gorgeous you WERE. Be amazed NOW.” This is so true, not just about what we look like, but about all the other details in our lives that seem overwhelmingly difficult in the moment. Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. So just for today, I’m seeing it.
I’m looking past all the challenges to see my beautiful little family – all three of us. To see the life we’ve created this year.
I’m still standing. And the view from here is pretty spectacular. Bring it, 2016. I’m ready.
Thanksgiving came and went, and Christmas time is here. I know this is cliche, but how is 2015 nearly over already? I can hardly believe tomorrow begins December.
My mom indulged my kids and all their little cousins with a pretty fun surprise on Thanksgiving night as we celebrated at my grandparents’ house.
My normally energetic boy got pretty shy when it was his turn to talk to Santa.
But Norah talked his ear off as expected. Like most siblings, my two are opposite in so many ways.
We drove home in the dark seeing a few houses already lit up, and they talked a mile a minute – about Christmas and Santa and a million other things. I thought for sure they’d be asleep by the time we got home, but they weren’t. The holidays bring so much wonder and excitement for kids. It brings it all back in the best way.
They spent the next couple of days with their dad, and I got to use the time to wrap up some grading piles and get out the decor. When they arrived home on Sunday morning, we got started on the tree. It’s little and covered with kid-crafted things and nothing is symmetrical, but it’s ours. Our little tree and our little house. And a house never feels as cozy as when it’s twinkling inside with Christmas lights.
We finished the afternoon with hot chocolate and a movie, and they were content and happy.
Tonight I’m filling the Advent calendar with our little activities for the month of December, gems we can enjoy everyday for the next few weeks…. make cards for your teachers, eat pancakes for dinner, wrap a present, go driving in pj’s and look at Christmas lights…. The smallest things can make them so happy. And me, too.
I see the value of tradition during the holidays more than ever. These are the moments they will remember as they grow, and that idea of creating memories for your kids is both the heaviest and the most beautiful part of motherhood to me. I’m creating the soundtrack and images that will replay for them in moments of nostalgia decades from now. And truthfully I don’t even know what will stick, what will survive the years and emerge as the things they love the most.
It’s the smallest things that they seem to remember so far – never the gifts under the tree. It’s the moments shared among the three of us that are creating a home and a life for them.
I hope I can calm myself for a few sacred minutes everyday in this last stretch of 2015 to remember that. I look around and see so much comfort and abundance. This is it. Not a year into the future and certainly not my past. This is life as it’s really happening and not a stepping stone to something else. I’m grateful for all of it – for the two little people I get to share these traditions with and for all the magic that December holds.