discovering hope in the cold

What is your favorite season? I am always curious to hear what people have to say in response to that question. To me it is so obvious that spring is the best season of all. The sun is warm but not hot, the land is waking up out of the slumber of winter, leaves are turning green again, the hours of light are increasing, and the air holds the aroma of hope and potential and that is why I love it so.

But some people love winter. Perhaps you are one of them. It seems a little bizarre to me, but then again, I choose to live in San Diego where it can be argued there is no winter.

Even in San Diego, my winters are a constant attempt to get warm. I have a bag of rice that I heat in the microwave at night to snuggle my toes against. I shake my fist at the sky when it pours rain during school drop off or pick up. I have even begun to dress as strategically as possible with my under shirts and scarves and socks and boots and jackets and it seems like such a bother. I hate to be cold.

So of course I wonder why anyone would like winter. But lately I have been thinking metaphorically about seasons, and I am beginning to have a new respect for the winters of my life.

I am hoping against all hope that the snow is melting and light is over taking dark at the end of what seems like a much too long season of winter for me and my family. A few years ago I incurred a trauma that lead me to deal with some nice items of baggage I had collected in my journey through life. That took its toll on our little family of five.

We made it through that just in time to have the economy and some investments catch up to us, thus giving my husband his turn with the bags he has collected along his way through life. Add to that my oldest son starting middle school, throwing our family dynamic on its ear and leaving us groping around in search of a new normal.

And it has felt very dark. But just in the last few days I have seen some glimmers of hope that spring will in fact come and bring life to my weary soul once again. And I just want to stand in front of that rising ball of light and weep with exhaustion from enduring such a lengthy time in the cold.

Winter Snow - Landscape

I realize with this dawning hope that we are making it through this difficult season. And our family will be stronger for it. We will be deeper. More bonded for having weathered the storms of a bad winter together.

Things happen under that mysterious layer of cold. Often I can’t see what it is until the snow melts, but I am beginning to realize that the season of winter has depth, beauty, and value all its own. Even if it means months of cold feet.

What beauty do you find in winter?

 

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the face

What do I say to a face like this? These puppy dog eyes, red and splotchy from tears with hot cocoa stains around the mouth for finishing touches. The fact that he is about the most adorable child God ever created works in his favor almost all of the time.

My former self would have known just what to do when face to face with this forlorn little boy. I would have forced the older brother who wanted to play by himself to play with this child. We must sacrifice everything – including our very selves – in honor of being nice. I don’t care if you want a moment alone. Can’t you see this face?

But I am not my former self anymore, even though parts of her tug on my heartstrings from time to time. So while it kills me to look at this deliciously pathetic face, as a mom of three I also respect that everyone needs time alone now and then.

I had been listening and after quite some time playing nicely with someone less than half his age, the older brother had requested said time alone respectfully. And I haven’t heard a lot of respectfully around here lately. The three-year-old stormed off to his room where he proceeded to weep bitterly with angry sobs.

I followed him in and scooped my snuggliest child into my arms. He was offering his love and adoration for his older brother in the form of intense desire to be together, doing what his world revolves around, playing. And he was rejected. And it hurt.

And I have to admit, I was a little at a loss of what to do. It is fair to need some alone time. It is also fair to be hurt when someone doesn’t want to play with you, even when they are not being mean about it. How can I help my children understand boundaries, respect, and love? There was no simple answer here, so I sat holding my youngest son and felt the tension of the situation for a while.

Sometimes people’s boundaries are not what we would like them to be, but that does not give us the right to make their choices for them. Even when we are the mom. And it’s hard.

I was encouraged that after some snuggles for one and some time alone for the other, the boys figured out for themselves how to play together again. At least for about another five minutes. Then I got to see this face again.

What situations have you faced lately that don’t have clear cut solutions?

my treasure hunt

Her words saved me. I woke up after that naked day still in a fog from life. Since I spent the day before naked, today I was going to dig around inside of me to see if I could muster an ounce or two of umph.

But on the way home from the gym I started thinking about some sad realities I am facing. Realities that have nothing to do with writing but are all to do with more important parts of life. Relationships and people. Broken people I cannot help fix. Finding some umph was looking pretty dismal.

But then I began checking the blogs I follow. I read the words of my new favorite writer and I practically cried right then and there in front of my laptop. There is something incredibly moving when receiving words made just for you in that moment, offering you hope when you were beginning to wonder if such a thing existed anymore.

Keep searching. There is treasure to be found in this life. Beauty is all around and gives us life. It is worth the effort to keep your eyes open and look for it. Even when the energy required for doing so seems impossible.

So I took the child with the soul of an artist with me and we headed to a park we visited a few weeks ago with friends. The place is full of textures and sculptures and flowers and space and I have wanted to get back there with a camera ever since.

The fresh air soothed my raw soul. Being with only one child soothed my raw nerves. My pictures did not do justice to what I saw with my eyes, but the fact that I was there and attempting was a miracle.

I was not completely healed in that one outing, but I got just enough to carry me through to the next moment. And that is when I realized the words of Francesca Zelnick had saved me.

naked

Today is not this day. Today I have my makeup on, a bright purple ruffle-y scarf around my neck with a cute pink necklace peeking out underneath, copious amounts of bracelets clanging around my wrist, a fun new pair of knee-highs, and of course the boots I feel so sassy in. And it’s fun.

Most of the time I like putting my best foot forward in the day even if that day involves dropping off and picking up children, doing dishes, folding laundry, and cooking dinner. Because although I graduated from UC Santa Cruz, fashion and makeup are fun for me.

But not yesterday. I didn’t have a best foot to put forward yesterday. All I had was a foot. And I didn’t feel like pretending or working my way out of it either. So although I showered, I left the makeup off.

The freckles that have taken over my face in a way that by this time in my life is probably called aging showed in all their glory.

My eyelashes remained invisible.

The wrinkles that have started to emerge were not minimized by foundation.

And my nose that likes to turn red was one that even Rudolf would have been proud of.

I have these days from time to time. I think everyone does. Days when the fun of getting dressed up isn’t fun. Days when sadness seems to loom over my head and sorting it out to get better and move through it feels overwhelming. Days when the wounds of life catch up and I just need to take a moment and let it be so.

And on days like that I leave the makeup in the medicine cabinet and let the people in my world see that I do not have it all together, that I am not indestructible, that I am not super-human. Because I think the people in my world need to know all of that. Including me.

We often think everyone else has life all-together, knows what they are doing, never has bad days.

We tend to feel alone in our struggles. In our humanity.

And it’s just not true.

And that is why I left my makeup off and took this picture and wrote this post. I needed the honesty of someone standing naked in the middle of the rush hour of life shouting, “I can’t do it all!” Even if it was me. Maybe especially if it was me.

the second tissue

I have never been so mortified in all my life as when she handed me the second tissue. It was bad enough that she pulled them out to give me the first one.

The advanced reading appointments at the writers conference were only ten minutes long. You pay a large sum of money for those meager ten minutes. And I used part of mine in tears in front of a seasoned agent needing not just one tissue, but two.

In all fairness, I didn’t start crying until after the critique part was over. I handled all of that quite well and was not even tempted to cry. She had some of the best feedback I got from any of the three appointments and I was grateful.

I knew before I sat down that the writing I had turned in was crappy when compared to industry standards. I thought it was decent when I wrote it (otherwise would I have paid professionals to tell me what they thought?), but when I reviewed it before my first appointment suddenly I saw a wealth of things I was previously blind to.

So I knew what I was getting into and beat her to the punch on much of what she had to say while the rest of it I took in hungry and dry-eyed, eagerly writing down each point in my notes. I said thank you and started to get up and she said we have more time and I did pay for this, did I have any other questions for her?

I told her I did before I came in here but I couldn’t think of any of them now and I rested my weight back into the chair, not sure where to go from there. Then she asked me about my kids. I started to tell her their ages and instantly knew I was not going to make it through the sentence.

No fair! I was prepared to remain professional, but now you have just asked me about my kids and my kids connect me to my heart and what with the run in with the pole last night and my dreams of getting a book contract smashed to smithereens my heart is a bit tender right now! Crying in front of an agent is terribly unprofessional but you asked me a non-professional question and now I am crying and you are handing me tissues!

To make matters worse, she was kind to me. If she had just been awkward or mean I could have reeled in the tears and pulled it together. But she kept being nice to me, offering what seemed like genuine care thus making a safe environment for me to continue to lose it. “What else do you do when you are not with your kids? What do you do for a break to get away from them for a while?”

Lady, you are not helping. I write that’s what I do. And I think we have adequately covered that topic. I mumbled something about pictures for the blog and then the bell rang announcing our time was up. Praise the Lord.

I didn’t have to sign up for those critiques. And if I hadn’t, the conference probably wouldn’t have been so painful. But it would have been a lot less valuable too. I would have stayed in my dream world, happy and safe……and wondering “what if?”. I took a chance. I put myself out there. And for now, that is the win. Even if it came with the second tissue.

nothing else was on……i swear!

I saw myself in her. Truth is, I saw all of humanity in her. Tears streaming down her face in classic Bachelor style, she was a picture of brokenness.

“What did I do wrong?” rejected Nikki asked bachelor Ben Flajnick on the secluded Puerto Rican beach. Isn’t that what they all ask the cameras during their tearful exit interviews when they fail to receive the coveted rose? Is that what I would ask?

I am a little embarrassed to admit I watch this show from time to time. Every few seasons I will catch more episodes than I miss. I confess, mostly that has to do with if I can find anything more entertaining to watch at the slated time.

Mostly I don’t like the show because it puts all of the worst of the female nature on display for the world to shake their heads at. But last night I was struck by the words of this girl and how they revealed a piece of me.

In asking what she did wrong, she is revealing a belief that somehow love can be earned. That if she just did something different, then she would have received her payment in Ben’s love.

I know that on The Bachelor we are talking about romantic love…..being “in love”. But I think the concept applies no matter what kind of love we talk about. Not long ago I became painfully aware that I held this same belief.

I was moving through life trying to earn love. It seems natural in a way. Most everything in this world has to be earned, why not love? And to be honest, (because we live on this planet with a bunch of humans) much of the time we do have to earn love. But when we earn it, is it still considered love?

It would be nice if I could earn love because then I could have some control over the whole thing. And I like control. But love is a gift. And inherent in the concept is the lack of ability to earn it.

So I am left wondering what this girl’s interview would have sounded like if she didn’t believe that love could be earned. And I wonder what my life would look like if I understood the same thing.