mirrors

She was a little girl once, beautiful and innocent. Then life happened. She got hurt. And somehow, somewhere along the way, long before I knew her, that little girl figured out how to cope with herself and the people and world around her in a way that kept it all at a safe distance. She created her own reality.

And now she is locked in there, and that reality seems very rational. To her. It has pieces of what the rest of us experience, but it’s much like the mirrors at a fun house. Distorted versions of what stands before them. Including me.

I spent my life trying to figure out how to make sense of fun house mirrors, attempting to please them while simultaneously struggling to figure out what reality truly was. Confusion. Ambiguity. Always questioning myself, wondering what is real.

Over time the mirrors took over and the ground ceased to exist and I floated in a nebulous darkness. Which way is up? I groped around, grasping for anything to help me orient myself. How do I get out of here?

Eventually, miraculously, I found a way out of the fun house. There were people who fought for me, who loved me. But what made the biggest difference was when I decided to fight for me, too. To do everything I could to find out who I really am, not whom the mirrors say I am.

Now I am out. The force of gravity tells me the ground is down and the sky is up. And I love knowing those basic things.

And I desperately want to bring the little girl who led me into the fun house out and show her the ground and the sky. I want to show her the mirrors lie. They distort and trick.

But she has been in there so long that gravity and ground and sky are petrifying to her and the mirrors have become safe. And while all I want to do is help her, love her, that’s not what it looks like in the house of mirrors.

So she remains out of my reach.

a needed love


He was the source of nurture at my house. He tucked me in and rubbed my back. “Tickly light please, Daddy.” He said prayers with me even though I am not sure if he knew whether or not he believed in them. When I had bad dreams, I found myself on his side of the bed, snuggling up to him to calm down.

He was also the one who came to check on us after the very loud fight when they threatened to leave one another but didn’t. “Are you guys okay? Were you scared? No one is leaving.”

And he was the one who left me a note on the night he had to leave when I was in high school. “I didn’t want things to end up like this. I will always be here for you.”

My last two years of high school I lived out of my car, moving every two weeks from one parent to the other. I never quite knew where all my clothes were. I suppose it should not have been a surprise when I drove out of town for a wedding not realizing I left my dress behind. He drove an hour and a half and dropped it off to me, hugged me, told me to have fun and then got back in the car and drove and hour and a half home. No shame, no guilt. Just love.

Then there were a few years of crazy between us. More people came into the mix and things got complex. I got damaged in the process. We all did.

I know it hurt him when I asked for space last year. I wasn’t trying to punish him or be childish and angry. I was falling apart and I needed my therapist and some time. He worried. The whole time. And it took a lot longer than I thought it would.

But now that time is over, and I hear something new in his voice when I call. Gratitude. He seems so much more aware of being glad to hear from me. He takes time to ask questions and really listen.

His love continues to keep me sane. I have always had this gut sense for what a loving parent feels like, but my mind likes to tell me that I am a terrible child, undeserving of such love, foolish and unreasonable for desiring it.

So I need the reminder that he is and the unearned love that he gives.

Desperately.

purging

The day had been a bit of a struggle. Who likes cleaning out the garage? Maybe I would if I ended up with an empty garage in the end. But life with a family of five is a far cry from the simplicity of college when the whole of my possessions fit in my four-door hatch back red Chevy Nova.

But we had made it through. The toys stowed away in the garage for getting rid of served the purpose of keeping the kids occupied while I sorted and sorted and sorted. At least they kept them busy when they weren’t fighting over them.

I must admit; I was doing pretty well all things considered. That is until I started cooking dinner. I could feel myself tighten. I began grumbling in my head. Irritation and resentment started to grit against my soul the way sand does on the ride home from the beach.

I won’t lie. Hormones were involved. I’ve started wondering if PMS is known to get worse after bearing children.

Either way, by the time I got in the car after dinner to drop off a few bags of clothes at a friend’s house, I was thinking what a fortunate thing it was that I would be away from humanity for a few moments, alone in the cocoon of my minivan. Fortunate for everyone involved, that is.

I turned on some of my favorite music and my shoulders released their suction from my ears. I started to talk to God. It was a little awkward. It’s been a little awkward between us ever since my therapy. Not distant per say, just different. I’ll leave it at that.

I was talking to God about some big philosophical things I have been wrestling with lately. Things I don’t have answers to. Things I am not sure anyone has answers to. There were some awkward silences.

And then, somewhere on the drive home, it happened. I didn’t hear a voice or have some large epiphany or see the answers to my questions mysteriously appear in the stars. I sensed that I was loved.

In the midst of my questions and awkwardness and wrestling I knew that I was loved even still. Because I don’t earn love by having all the answers or not asking questions or having appropriate hormone levels or a lack of internal tension.

Love is not earned. This is a truth I cannot be reminded of enough.

forever preschool

When will he finally get this? To be fair, he is truly doing an exceptional job learning. But even still, I find myself quick to be frustrated with my youngest son. He is all of four years old now and we are constantly working on the tasks of his life-stage.

Learning to not get his way and handle himself appropriately.

Learning to speak up for what he wants instead of whining or whimpering.

Learning to respect others, get along, and use his words.

And all the while figuring out who he is and how the world works.

Simple.

So why do I not have more patience for the poor boy? I am not in new territory. I have done this before. Twice. And yet there is something in these moments of teaching and coaching that reaches beyond this one child. Whatever it is seems to trigger a quiet desperation inside of me. One that is distinctly disproportionate to the four year old at hand.

Eventually, after one of the days of family togetherness that didn’t bring out the best in us, a light bulb goes on. I am not just disturbed by Zachary and his age appropriate behavior. I am also discouraged with his older brothers and the fact that they have not mastered the tasks of preschool yet, either. And I am disgruntled with my husband because he has not mastered the tasks. And while I am at it, I am completely stymied with the entire world for not mastering the tasks of preschool.

Which really, of course, all boils down to the fact that I am irritated with my own self. Because I have not mastered preschool either.

So my distinctly disproportionate desperation comes from the knowledge that no one ever truly masters these tasks. My son is doomed to live a life of humanity. And so are his brothers. And his father. And the rest of the world. And me.

I must have tricked myself into thinking these tasks should be easy because the age appropriate time to address them is when we are small. And my frustration only magnifies when I realize NO ONE has mastered these simple tasks, including me. The futility of the situation glares at me every day.

The problem is, the tasks I speak of may be simple but they are also enormous.

And so I have changed my mind. Instead of thinking the tasks are small because we teach them to small people I realize the tasks are just as gargantuan as they sound and that is why we start learning them at such an early age. Because truly, these tasks require a lifetime to even begin to grasp.

But I have to believe it is worth the effort to try.

process of a perfectionist

When will it end? When will I be “finished” as a person? I used to struggle so much with the process of life. I wanted to be perfect and I found the fact that I was not both disappointing and discouraging.

If you have read my blog for a while, you may remember me referring to myself as a “recovering perfectionist”. It’s true. I have come a long way. Just ask my sister (don’t sisters always know?). Not that perfectionism is inherently bad, but it was bad for me. I used it to point out all my flaws and failures to myself, to make myself miserable and never enough.

But now – mostly – I embrace process. I love it, in fact. I find process completely energizing and exhilarating. The fact that I am never finished; there is always more to learn, more growing to do. I don’t have to have everything all figured out. I can be free to make mistakes because, of course, I am still in process.

But every once in a while, I have days like the ones I’ve had recently where process is arduous and painful. And I’m just sort of tired of it. Weary. And I would like some days where maybe if I don’t have all the answers, I wish I just had some.

And when I am having those types of days, I do what I know makes things worse, but I can’t seem to stop. The familiar voice of perfectionism sneaks back inside my head.

I point out all of my flaws to myself. I point out all the ways other people are better than me, stronger, more together, prettier, more fashionable, better with their money, and on and on.

And then, when I finally convince myself that comparing myself to other people is destructive and terrible, I simply continue on by comparing myself to my former self.

Perhaps I have grown and changed, but I point out how it is just not enough. If it was, then I would be there, I would be done, I would be finished, I would have arrived. And I wouldn’t be struggling so much.

The thing about the process of personal growth is that it is just so endless. But the only other option is to become stagnant. And who wants to be stagnant? Living, but not really alive.

So I go on, putting one foot in front of the other and trying to grow through these days when process feels heavy. And I remind myself that these days are part of the process. I will never be a recover-ed perfectionist. I will have to settle for recover-ing. Because recovery is a process.

choices

Why am I so drawn in by this young woman writing about budgeting? Let’s face it; budgeting is not the most riveting reading material. But I am completely giddy. And it is not because of the budgeting information.

There are a couple of blogs I read written by young, single girls out chasing their dreams of travel in the big, wide world. I so enjoy reading about their adventures. Sometimes I ask myself……why?

The natural answer would be jealousy. That would fit nicely. They are living the life I am not. Except jealousy is not it. Not because I am so evolved that I never, ever feel jealous of anyone or because jealousy is evil and I am perfect and would deny it even if I did feel jealous. But because I know in my gut when I find the answer to the why I search for behind my sub-conscious choices. And my gut says that’s not it.

Their writing is just as fun as they are, but there is something else that draws me to them. And when I read this post about budgeting for a nomadic life, I figure it out.

Much of life is choosing what I am going to do with what I have. And somehow budgeting makes that all so obvious and black and white when most of the time living it out seems murky and confusing.

I love these girls and their lives and their writing because they are choosing to live their dreams. And so am I. And those dreams are completely opposite of one another. And somehow, that is incredibly clarifying and energizing for me.

Because there are days, like Tuesday’s post, when I need to be reminded that I am home with my kids because I choose to be. Because as far back as I can remember, the one thing I desired most in life, the one thing I longed for was to raise a family with my husband and grow old together. And not just the picture on the Christmas card for other people to see. The real deal. A lifetime of love and life…together.

And sometimes living that out is different than I thought it was going to be. Harder. Trickier. Messier. But no less beautiful. And while I acknowledge living my particular dream requires my husband’s choices as well as my own, it is still the life I choose everyday.

And I remember all of that when seeing someone else making different choices and being just as fulfilled as I am. Their dreams are no more or less valuable. No more or less meaningful. Slightly more glamorous at times (which I think is so fun to read), but no more or less beautiful.

So thank you Kate McClafferty and Hilary Billings! May we all have magnificent adventures whether at home or traveling the world!

my moment on the couch

Why is this so hard? I leave the boys in the garage, buckled in their seats and ready to go to the World Famous San Diego Zoo. They are only missing the keys to the van and me.

I, however, need a moment. A moment to breathe. A moment to let myself feel as frustrated as I am. A moment to give myself some compassion and try to pull something out of myself I don’t think is there.

Because parenting is hard sometimes. Really, truly, very hard.

I had been listening to a bounty of bickering ALL WEEK LONG. I had done what I could to set us up for success at the beginning of Spring Break. I noticed the boys were having a difficult time remembering how to talk to one another, how to listen to one another, and how to treat one another with a general sense of respect.

You know, the kind of respect I, as their mother, would hope they would treat any other human being with. Apparently brothers are exempt “human being” status. So I reminded them what respect looks like and that every person is entitled to being treated with said respect, even brothers. And I told them this was our project for the week.

Needless to say, things did not go as I might have hoped. By now we were all completely saturated in our collective humanity. And in my desperation and exhaustion with it all, I was looking for my children to be different and change their behavior to be the way out. But I know that I know that I know that I know….that the only way out is for me to lead them.

But I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can change my attitude. Because I am so utterly tired of their bickering and arguing and childishness. However, they are children. And I am the adult.

And these are the moments when parenting is entirely impossible. When I have given all of the patience and grace that I think I have inside of me. But the job requires more.

So I let myself have that moment, inside my house, on my couch. And I practiced giving myself compassion, mercy, and tenderness. The kind I imagine God has for all of us, even parents who have reached the end of themselves like me. Honestly I didn’t think it would help much but it was all that I had.

I told myself this job is just as holistically difficult and insurmountable as it seems. “Of course you are spent and frustrated and done with bad attitudes,” I said with gentleness. And maybe a touch of attitude all my own. And I soaked in that compassion and understanding for a moment.

And then I reminded myself that they are not going to change their attitudes until I change mine. And it will be hard all day long to lead them out of here. And it will likely be hard the next day, too.

“But you are their leader,” I said. “So lead them.”