Big news in our house this week! Jude graduated pre-k yesterday with a little ceremony with his classmates. I snapped a quick picture of the kids before we got in the car in the morning so that I could compare it with last August’s “first day” photo, and it’s hard to believe how much they’ve grown in the past 9 or so months. It’s been such a tremendous time of growth and change for all of us. And when I see these smiling faces and happy kids, I feel such a swell of peace and pride.
As teachers, I think we approach life through the lens of the academic year a bit. January brings a fresh start for most people, but we run along in an August to May pattern sometimes. So to look back at the insane changes that happened this year and what we had before us (unknown to me) last August, it feels SO GOOD to have it all behind me. We did it! I can’t wait to exhale this summer.
I took care of a few last minute things in my office on Friday morning, and then I picked up the kids from school at 2:00 – meaning of course that I walked the tiny distance to get them from my campus’s on-site child development center. We walked around a bit to enjoy the weather, and the kids played with the sculptures near the fine arts building as we waited for family to show up for the big ceremony.
I could write a novel-length post here about how amazing my job is and how much I value my community there and how insanely and divinely perfect this opportunity was for me in light of my current situation. But I should also mention that the very best thing about my job is that the kids are plugged in right where I am. I’m grateful that they get to see art exhibits or plays or ballets or whatever is happening on campus at any given moment, but I’m also thankful for caring teachers and the sense of community that exists there. I can pop in whenever I’m needed or want to check on something or help with things. It is such a gift to see these moments in the middle of my workday – birthday celebrations with classes, reading a favorite book, trick or treating on Halloween. All of it right there with me. I never take it for granted.
The ceremony was adorable, and Jude received a diploma and a folder showcasing much of his work for the year. He has grown so incredibly much this year, and I know he’s still little and it’s only pre-k, but you really can’t help but feel unbelievably proud of your kids as you watch them achieve milestones like this one. He has so much ahead of him and a bright future waiting. I’m excited to watch it unfold. But for yesterday, I was also just happy to celebrate what he’s done already. Five is such a great age. The world is wide open for him.
On the whole, as I finish this school year and this stage with my oldest, I’m just feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Yes, there are things that seem pretty unfair and certainly unexpected about this past few months, but those details are fading and bothering me less and less every day. I don’t have to fight those thoughts from my head much anymore as I did in the beginning.
There’s too much happiness and promise waiting down the road for me to dwell on anything else for too long. Everyone has her own road to walk, so to speak – her own path and purpose. Mine feels pretty good lately. I love these kids. I love my community. I love my job. And yesterday, I was so grateful for all of those things and how much they are shaping my life as I know it.
Cheers to summer! To rest and resetting my thoughts and priorities. To celebrating and appreciating these two kids and my little life. It’s a good one.
You are three today, and as usual, I’m not sure how it happened. I blinked, and you are here. Potty-learning far behind us, talking clearly to anyone and everyone who will listen – including grocery store clerks, strangers in line with us, waiters in restaurants. You are three going on twenty-three lately. When we leave for school each morning, you apply lipstick you steal from my bathroom, choose your own accessories, and grab a purse with a tiny toy cell phone and sunglasses. You request Katy Perry and Taylor Swift on the radio, and your dancing never stops. For all the times I swore I’d never have a prissy girl, you are proving me wrong. Determined to be your own person and reminding me everyday that you are an independent being separate from me and unlike anyone else I know.
I have a feeling I’m in for it, so to speak, when you enter adolescence. But in my view, my greatest goal is not to teach you obedience as your chief characteristic but to teach you how to really care for others in kindness and listen to your own voice above all the other noise. Your spunk is my favorite thing about you. It doesn’t always make our days easy, but if there is anything I’ve learned in the last year of my life, it’s that grit and determination will push you through the hardest trials. And though it pains me to say this to you now, there are hard things in your future. They are there for all of us, and the best you can do is plow through. For now though, I’m grateful to watch you enjoying the little things everyday, oblivious to the bitter or boring tasks of grown-up life. You have been such a comfort to me this year, food for my spirit even in my most exhausted moments.
Your joy is contagious, and your humor is unmatched of any other kid your age that I’ve known. You’re learning already how to time your jokes in a way that can make your brother laugh, and the two of you are a tight pair. Your possessive way of referring to him as “my Jude” makes me feel like I must be doing something right in my home. I worry a lot that I’ve been in such a mode of survival this year that I’ve forgotten about the art of mothering, so to speak. It’s been mostly just one foot in front of the other for me lately. But we’re emerging as quite the team, the three of us. There’s a lot of love here, and I’m grateful I get to watch you share it with us.
I’m not sure how much, if anything, you will remember about this time in your life, but I have no doubt that it still leaves an indelible mark. I’m trying to model for you the things I want you to know one day – perseverance and responsibility, honesty and vulnerability, love and loyalty, and most of all a joy that is not reliant on material things or outside circumstances. Happiness in the moment is fleeting, but true joy is something else entirely. You inspire that joy for me everyday, and I pray I can return that favor with the understanding and comfort that only a mom can give.
You’ve grown up so much this year. You love school and are a social butterfly with your little friends. You are beginning to better understand abstract concepts, and you have an amazing memory that is very inconvenient sometimes. I’ve learned already that if I promise you something in the moment, you will not forget it. Days or weeks can pass by, and you’ll still be reminding me I owe you something. It’s both impressive and frightening, and you don’t miss a thing. You have such sharp observations of the world around you, and your social awareness is extraordinary. You are blooming in your own little way so different from your brother or anyone else. It’s incredible to watch it happen.
You are honest in the most brutal ways these days, and though the usual toddler shouts or tantrums can wear me out, I feel good knowing that you feel enough safety and comfort with me to show when you are angry or upset or disappointed. I wish for us that it will always be this way – that you’ll tell me when you’re sad and why you’re angry and show me even the darker corners of your heart because some days they are there for all of us. There’s a lot of companionship to be had between mother and daughter, and I’m so lucky to have you. It’s tea parties and baby dolls and playgrounds for us now, but I know school worries and friend advice and broken hearts and all the hard stuff comes later. But know that our way of being together – my love and acceptance of you in your ugly toddler moments – that’s not going anywhere. Family is for helping each other move through even our ugliest times, and moms never stop catching you in those moments and feeling what you’re feeling. This is hard when you are sad or angry and I feel it, too. But to witness your joy and feel your enthusiasm is the greatest gift of my life right now. Everything else suddenly feels a lot less complicated or overwhelming when I’m in the simplest of moments with your brother and you.
You are so many things in your third year – independent but still attached and cuddly, sweet and soft but with a backbone of steel and an unbendable will, carefully observant but active and curious. Above all, you are simply Norah – in all your quirks and qualities. And I cannot imagine life in my little family of three without you. From the moment you arrived with such a special birth, you’ve been teaching me that I’m capable of hard things. You are doing that for me now as well. Any moment my confidence shakes or my spirit feels broken from life’s storms, your sweet smile reminds me why I’m here and how the simplest little moments can fulfill our divine purpose on any given day.
I love you, Norah. Life has great things in store for you. If there’s one thing I know for sure in all of life’s uncertainties, it’s that I was meant to be your mother. I’m so grateful your little soul made its way to my belly and through my body, and now I get the honor of watching you grow and move mountains in a way that only you are meant to do. Happy Birthday, big girl.
I write birthday letters to each of my kids on their birthdays to give them when they are older. For now, I also post them here as well. You can read my others here.
It’s 10pm, and the kids are asleep after a full day in the hot May sunshine. We visited a local strawberry farm for their strawberry festival as opposed to just picking berries like we did last year. The kids were serious about finding the ripest ones, and they had such a good time.
We left with A TON of strawberries, and I need to get baking this week to do something with them. The kids also enjoyed time with their cousins who came with us and indulged in face painting and tractor rides and all sorts of fun distractions. Schlepping kids through a festival in the hot sun always takes some effort, but I am so glad that we did it this year.
One would think that Mother’s Day without another adult in the house can feel a little weird, I guess. But frankly, it doesn’t feel all that different than the past few years for me. I’ve never had a big celebration or major gifts or breakfast in bed or whatever other images are presented all around us. This year feels special for a lot of reasons though. Jude is starting to understand it much more clearly. He’s made me all kinds of things – some with the guidance of a teacher or my mother – and lots of other spontaneous drawings and pictures that he explains elaborately to me. I think he said “Happy Mother’s Day!” with a tight hug at least ten times today, and it’s not even Mother’s Day yet. They’ve been talking about it a lot at school, and he’s entering that age where he loves helping and doing things for other people.
It’s so crazy as my kids get older. So weird to look at them and see them as little people with their own ideas and opinions. I love it, but it is scary – especially in light of recent happenings for them. I’m going to be honest in this space and say that every single day I wonder how to handle all of this with them and if they will emerge relatively unscathed. I worry everyday that the transition is too much and that no source of security here in our own walls can mitigate that confusion. Frankly, I feel lost and overwhelmed pretty often when it comes to answering their questions and explaining what has happened this past few months and why it is happening so fast.
For now, I just keep loving on them and moving on with our routine as we always have. The one very good thing about their father’s previous travel schedule these past few years is that, to be honest, absolutely nothing in our daily routines has changed in the midst of this. Nothing. We moved, and the house is different, of course. But I’m still getting them out the door each morning and to school and we eat around our table just the three of us as we always have and enjoy evenings and bedtime routines together just as we always have, and that consistency is helping us all to adjust pretty easily – myself included, I think. There is such comfort in routine. Such peace in what we know. And if I am being completely honest here, what I know (and have known for these past couple years especially) is my children.
I know every little thing about them. And I’m not special for this. Mothers always do. It’s knowing what they like and dislike. The names of their little friends and whom they most love playing with on the playground. Their teachers’ names and school tasks. Their favorite foods – which can change daily. The music they request on the car radio. But there’s also the physical traits mothers know so well that make me ache these days as I see them changing. Jude’s legs elongating and his toddler belly disappearing. His hands lately look like a school boy – no chub as they navigate legos, playground dirt under his fingernails at the end of the day. Norah’s hair changing texture to feel like a big kid and not so wispy anymore. The list goes on – the cheeks and eyelashes and all the details you carve in your memory as they are cuddled up nursing and rocking at some ungodly hour when they are so new.
In Perfect Match, Jodi Piccoult says, “Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.” I’m feeling that these days for certain. They are separate and apart, but a piece of myself that I could not live without.
Early days seem like so long ago now. I hardly remember the feeling of changing diapers all day and stumbling across a dark hallway in the middle of the night to nurse a crying baby. And more than that, it is so strange and surreal to think back to that new mom in that house – 2 houses ago now – and that she really had no clue what change and chaos was coming. How ridiculously certain she was in her worldview and expectations. It all seems so hollow now except for the memories with my babies. They feel like the only real in my life then, and in many ways, they are the most real now.
I’ve babbled on and on before about how amazingly supportive my friends have been and how I could’t have made it without them. But these kids are the other side of that for me. They are my compass and my center, and I sometimes think they are the reason for all of it. The past ten years of my life is the only way that these two souls could find their way to me. I have no idea what the future holds, and I’ve learned enough about life these past 6 months that I know it’s pointless to guess. But whatever unfolds, these two will be central to it. And for the moment, it is the three of us running along as best we can, and I think we are actually doing alright.
Motherhood is hard. And I am not sure that I do things right every step of every day. But right now, we are doing some very hard things. And we are making it. They know I love them, and I know they love me in a way that is unique to the three of us and always has been. It’s been a hell of a year, but we are making it. And this weekend I’m celebrating that. To motherhood and all its difficulties – all its gifts, too. There’s no place I’d rather be than with these two.
Our custody agreement allows for one-on-one time with kids a few times a year. While I don’t particularly like separating them all that often right now as they lean on each other and find comfort in one another, it was a treat to have a little while to focus on each of them individually this month.
A couple weeks ago, I had Norah and we kept it pretty laid-back – playing a bit outside and satisfying her request for cheese quesadillas. But our big night out was a stop at the American Girl Bistro. She has a newer American Girl she got for Christmas last year from my mom, but she prefers my old one. I can remember setting up tea parties for Molly myself, reading the books, changing her clothes, taking her everywhere I went. It’s such a sweet moment to see my own daughter playing with a doll twenty years older than she is, a doll I adored so much when I was a kid and had no idea what real motherhood would look like for me one day.
I love making new memories with my kids that are intertwined with my own experiences I have filed in the back of my mind. It’s most noticeable on bigger experiences or notable moments like this one, but it sometimes washes over me in little moments, too. The other night, Norah fell asleep quickly, but Jude came down the stairs wide awake with a smirk asking if he could stay up with me as I was writing. I obliged, and I couldn’t help but remember my own similar late night hallway wanderings as a kid. Such a common memory and a common feeling, but it hits you in the face sometimes – the notion that I’m creating the memories my kids will harbor, creating the realities of their childhoods as well.
Jude and I got our turn this past weekend, and he requested a few dollars at the Lego store and some mall pizza, so I agreed. I let him choose the agenda for every step of our weekend, and I was again reminded about how easy he is to please. How joyful he is and how easy he is to be with. After our mall trip, I got another huge dose of nostalgia with a skating rink birthday party for one of his classmates. It was hilarious, first of all, to watch all these preschoolers on skates for the first time. (I mean, who roller skates anymore!?) But they were also playing old Michael Jackson and ABBA, and I think I heard some Journey and a couple 80’s ballads as well.
The lights and the carpet and the neon and the music – it all had me straight back to elementary school and skating rinks with orange cheese on stale nachos and the simple happiness of being with friends in that atmosphere. Watching him interact with his little friends is becoming more and more fun to watch as he grows. Even though they are young, it is real friendship, and I can see in my own mind’s eye the little faces and details of my own elementary school buddies.
The next morning, his request was a stop at our favorite donut spot (of course!) and a hike at the nature preserve a short drive from our house. It was perfect. It’s so rare to enjoy stillness and no demanding plans – especially in this current season of my life. And to enjoy this with only my oldest was even more special. He was so happy and so appreciative just to be dictating the day and to have my full attention without anyone else around. Truth be told, I was happy for it, too.
My pace is slowing down at work now that the semester is over, so today the kids and I spent some time at my grandparents. Their place is always where my nostalgia hits hardest through the lens of my kids. I can remember running the same property with my cousins when I was young, and now I watch my kids do the same thing. They are so happy when they play there – climbing trees, picking flowers. Coming inside is a terrible chore that I have to beg them to do. I can remember spending hours and hours outside with my sister and cousins when I was little, only coming in to eat or find the bathroom every now and then.
When we were there, my grandmother got the phone call that my great-aunt in Texas passed away this morning. It’s been something like three or four years since I’ve seen her, but when she was healthier, she’d make annual visits here each summer, bringing her crowd from Dallas with her. My already large family would multiply, and we’d have a potluck and tables of food spanning half the length of the yard. I see the phases of growing up in my memories of those summer meals – first as a kid running with my other cousins to find some entertainment, then as I grew and began to listen to a few adult conversations here and there, and finally to an age when I wanted to listen to stories and ideas from my older relatives.
She outlived her husband by eighteen years, and it warms me to think of their reunion on the other side. But I can also remember her laugh so well. Her raspy voice and her no-nonsense streak of humor. Her southern speech patterns that were just the tiniest bit different from most of the ones I grew up hearing. Her hilarious stories of raising four children who inherited her humor and mischief. I’ll miss just knowing she’s here – on this planet with the rest of us.
But who she is and what she was for me resides forever in the back of my mind, and I’m grateful for that. For my own stories that evolved from these characters and moments in my life. I hope, above all, that my kids feel the same sense of place one day – that they remember these details and feel the familiar comfort of nostalgia, too.
Have you seen Emily McDowell’s Etsy shop? I checked it out last week and logged on to quickly buy a sympathy card for a friend, but I ended up lost in her stuff for quite a while. She is funny and talented, and I totally snagged this print for my reading and writing room. I’ve got a lot of empty frames to fill, and this one resonated with me, and it made me giggle a bit.
A friend of mine tweeted something a while back about how she was proud of me for all the “grown-ass lady tasks” I was accomplishing – countless meetings with attorneys, real estate matters, moving checklists, changes in insurance, name change tasks, and the list goes on. I am growing so incredibly tired of “grown-ass lady” to-do lists, but being a grown up does have its perks, I guess. Being independent does as well. I can do what I want. I suppose I’ve always had the power to do what I want, but as I look back at my last ten years – this past five or so especially – I see so clearly that I let my goals and wishes become completely absorbed with someone else’s, and it’s a recognition that stings a little.
There’s a lot of goal setting that happens in marriage, and that’s a good thing. Families need to set goals to move forward in the same direction. But in thinking of the direction my life was heading, the priorities in my married home, I am seeing so clearly now that I was not reflected in much of that at all. I thought I wanted the same things my spouse did – financial security, upper-middle-class luxuries like a shiny granite kitchen or nice vacations or new cars. But if this experience has taught me anything it’s how empty all of that is. How terribly off-balance your entire life can become when you live to work instead of working to live.
So now as I look ahead with such a blank canvas in front of me, I find myself having to think hard and think honestly about what it is that I want in my next chapter. My happiness jar is actually helping a lot with this – just seeing what it is in each day that brings me the most joy. It’s always the simplest things that stand out at the end of the day, rarely something money can buy.
But what else do I want? I don’t know that I am sure about all of it yet. But I know I want as much time as possible with my kids, and our time together to be as simple and genuine and not-busy as it can be. It’s always when I feel closest with them – not out and about, not in front of the tv, not buying them things, but those moments when we are together in the easiest and quietest way… playing on the back patio with bubbles this afternoon, or listening to Jude talk in the car on our long rides to school, or saying prayers after bedtime books and listening to what three “blessings” stand out about their days. I want more of those moments.
I want more time with friends as I’ve seen how they fill me up and help create a better and fuller me. I want more travels with my kids – though I know it will be quite some time until I can swing it financially again. I want more time devoted to writing. I want more books read and more projects created and many, many more meals in the kitchen. I want to learn new things. I want to feel more of the divine purpose and calling that I sense now on my best days.
And though I am not likely ready for a serious relationship as I still feel a little shell-shocked from the betrayal of my last one, I have already begun to think about what I will want when that time comes. I know I do not “need” a man to fill some void and fill any silence in my home. I’m not in a hurry to go running to anyone or jumping into someone’s arms without knowing every last detail of that person’s heart. But I have enough self-awareness to know that I will not spend the rest of my life alone.
And when that time comes, I have such a different perspective of who I want than I did when I was twenty-four the first time I committed to someone. I want someone who is honest, whose family and friends would say he never lies or exaggerates to fulfill his own purpose. I want someone whose chief attributes are kindness and generosity. Someone who is honest with me about vulnerabilities, admits mistakes, and never makes me feel as though I am not good enough. I want someone who loves me truly, speaks to me gently, and appreciates what I have to offer to the world. Someone who comes to love my children, but more than that, someone who can respect them as the little growing people that they are with their own desires and their own plans and their own boundaries. I want someone who always and forever values his family and relationships above his job.
There are probably a million other things that I will realize I want or don’t want, but those are the non-negotiables, the places to start as I begin thinking about that step of the journey. It’s a tall order, but I have faith there are men out there who can be truly kind and honest and loyal. And that is a big change from where I was two months ago, but I am starting to think they do exist.
But men aside, I have so much to chase and dream about in the months and years to come. So much to see and do. I feel the old dreams bubbling to the surface a bit, the real foundations emerging.
I adore Linda Pastan, and I’ve cited her work here before. But she has a poem I stumbled on a couple weeks ago at work as part of a departmental exam, and it resonated for me – the idea that these dreams never really went anywhere. Like stars in the light of day, as she says.
“What We Want” by Linda Pastan
What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names–
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don’t remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.
We’ve been in this house 17 days, and I am – as expected – still tripping over boxes occasionally and looking endlessly for things I remember packing but can’t quite remember where they ended up. I moved in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2013, and now again in 2015. Frankly, I am really tired of it. That said, at least this is a familiar dance for me. I can remember having that feeling that I’ll never be settled or never have things looking the way I want them only to find things exactly as they should be with the passage of time. Time. The answer to everything lately it seems. It all takes time.
We are getting settled little by little. I’m using what is, I’m assuming, a formal living room space at the entryway as a kids’ reading area. They are loving it. (Yes, I’m careful to secure bookcases as best I can with this little monkey.)
It’s funny how liberating some of this feels. That I get to set the tone of the house, for instance. I don’t have to get anyone else’s opinion or approval before making decorative choices. I have been veto’d in the past when I wanted any sign of kids’ and play spaces near the common areas of the house. So it feels good to have this little space greet us as we walk in the door. Yes, children live here. Yes, you can tell. It feels authentic and lived in and comfortable that I am not trying and hide that. I want this to feel like their space as well.
Their rooms have a lot left to be desired. But beds are there. Clothes are in closets, and as of this weekend, I began putting a couple of things on their walls. I am hoping to paint a bit this summer when I have the time. We shall see.
We settled in earlier tonight with a movie and a huge bowl of popcorn after their bath time. The comfort of old routines feels good, and this rainy weather we’ve had all week has encouraged some cozy indoor hours anyhow.
I’m also finally feeling my kitchen motivation emerge again. Moving is so terrible on dietary habits. I hated that we went a good 7-10 days of mostly eating out as we packed away anything left in the old house and took a day or two to get unpacked here. The kitchen is always the first thing I unpack when I move. I feel like the moment I can cook a meal and sit at my table to eat is the moment the house really starts to feel like home, you know? My fridge and pantry are stocked now, and I shopped today for some really great meals I have lined up this week. It feels good to eat and cook like my old self again. I’ve also got two lettuce pots on the patio, thanks to my grandparents and their gardening expertise, so we’ve got salad for days and days ahead. I love spring and seeing all the fresh food return to my table.
A new house is like any other new relationship. It takes a while to see what you value most about it and what annoys you or drives you crazy. The eccentricities and sounds and details aren’t apparent yet, and for that reason, it still feels a little foreign here. But we’ll get there. I’m learning its patterns and quirks a little already. The best light is late morning through the back side of the house, especially the patio door. The laundry room is my favorite of any house I’ve ever lived in. My bedroom feels perfect and safe and cozy, even though it’s hardly got any furniture in it. The kitchen window makes washing dishes tolerable and even a little pleasant. Most notably, the neighbors are kind and showering us with gifts and hellos already. I have absolutely no idea what the future holds, but I think I want to stay here a good long while.
These past few weeks have been so hard, grueling really. But this past few days, I feel a shift. The slightest opening. More light coming in places it hasn’t been in months.
The kids were with their dad last week because the custody agreement gives us the opportunity to share school breaks 50/50, and I got the February week off with them when we went to Disney World, so he wanted their spring break. I’ve never been away from my kids for 7 solid nights, not once. So it was hard as I knew it would be. But the timing was good at least. I had (and still have) loads of unpacking to do, and I was working given that the university calendar is different than public school’s, so I had plenty of things to busy myself with.
I also have amazing friends who joined me Tuesday night for the distraction of Greek take-out and a bottle of wine and lots of chatter that, as always, extended to weightier topics. Thursday night, I headed out with friends again to catch up over beer and pizza. Then Friday came with a long day at work in the midst of grading pressures and term paper deadlines, and I got home to an empty and quiet house on a Friday afternoon. I turned on Pandora and got to work unpacking books in what will soon be my reading and writing room. It was raining outside as a soundtrack to my own music, and I felt the exhale of a long week with dissolved tensions. Me, alone, in my own home, with my own agenda and my own music. And that content and promising feeling of a Friday evening. It was the simplest of moments but the one I threw in my happiness jar at the end of that day. I’m feeling less and less frightened by the idea of solitude and independence these days. It seems promising instead of scary.
Saturday brought one of my favorite traditions with old friends. I expected the day to be potentially rough seeing a few faces I haven’t seen since life changed for me. But it wasn’t difficult at all. It was another reminder that I’ve had a solid self buried inside all the other titles I’ve worn in the past decade, and those who have known me closest and longest still see me as that same person.
As the days are progressing, the light is leaking through again in the smallest of ways. I’m starting to feel a new normal arrive, and I shed the old skin a bit more everyday. I think this might be happening in bigger ways, too – but I’m not ready to share all the pieces yet until I see how they fit together. For now, I’m watching things happen and seeing what I’m creating in this new life, and it all feels much less strange than it did only weeks ago. It felt itchy and ill-fitting, but it’s starting to feel like it’s simply the skin I was born in, the path I was meant to walk.
There are lots of reasons for this – time helps, friends help, new perspective helps. But as I’ve been thinking about what creates this change of lenses, so to speak, what dissolves the pain and fear, I’m realizing the main difference is that I’m not sorry anymore. Am I still sad this happened? Sure. I probably always will be. But I spent so much of October through February apologizing – often frantically and aloud in those first moments of discovering things I never expected to find. (Embarrassingly, I remember an early and raw moment when I was sobbing I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry on the phone to my former mother-in-law as it all erupted, and she told me to stop apologizing and get angry instead. I was never angry at that time, only sorry.) Then it became apologizing in softer ways or silently to myself or my kids, feeling heavily responsible for mess I was cleaning up.
To be honest, I’ve carried blame for so many aspects of myself – I wasn’t prioritizing him. I wasn’t fun enough. I wasn’t sexy enough or interesting enough. I wasn’t smart enough, or not about the right things anyway. I didn’t make our home easy and comfortable enough when he returned from travel and let the stress of two pre-schoolers and the daily grind infect our weekends. Perhaps I didn’t choose well to begin with when deciding to embark on a life with someone. I didn’t see signs of what was bound to happen. I didn’t fight hard enough for my family to stay intact and listened too loudly to the burn and brokenness that resulted from the transgressions I discovered. … I was just sorry about it. All of it. And I’ve spent months in a perpetual state of apologizing to others and questioning myself.
I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book (like everyone else has recently), and she has a chapter on apology and guilt. She explains at the opening of that chapter that “It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.” And I ran across that line at just the right time in my life. A moment when, finally, the guilt and shame is starting to melt away a bit. I’m realizing that I’m only capable of changing my own reactions to a situation. I’m finally starting to take things a lot less personally. As a friend said to me recently, you have to finally realize that whatever issues someone else has don’t dictate your own self-worth. It’s not all about me, and it’s not certain that – even if perfection was possible and I was a perfect wife 100% of the time – my outcome would be any better.
And the most important part of this equation is that I am not perfect and was not created to be. I was created to be real. To be vulnerable and to talk about my own perspective and my own pain when I feel led to share. To connect with others and to know myself. None of those things align with perfection. I’m not perfect, but I’m realizing I am enough. I want to simply rest in that for a while and climb my way out of the blame pit, so to speak, that I’ve been drowning in for these past few months.
I have to answer to my own calling and my own conscience and my own voice. That’s it. This is who I am at the moment. This is my story as it happened to me, and this is how I’m taking the pen back on that story, so to speak. I’m not apologizing for anything anymore pertaining to my life state. Truthfully, for every word I write here, there are a million other words and a thousand sordid details dancing in my own head and shared among my closest of friends that I don’t write here because my purpose is not to rehash all the pain and embarassment. I simply scribble notes here on my story as I’m living it with a focus on my own piece of the journey and not an explanation for someone else’s actions because, truthfully, I will never understand that explanation. I will never know that piece of the puzzle.
That’s my present calling – to sort out the messy details in my own heart, to share with people who care to read, and to shed light on where I can move forward and illuminate the moments of gratitude that shine through the mud. The act of writing fulfills that purpose – it’s what has helped me move past apologies and wade through the mess and confusion of my own mind as I move forward to where I’m meant to be next.