shotgun

What is he doing here? I am surprised almost every time I notice he is next to me. My son now sits in the front seat of the car. In fact, that was the highlight of his twelfth birthday a few months ago. Forget the gifts or the fun. The best part for him was getting to sit shotgun.

There are some definite up sides to the whole thing. This means that now, in our minivan, the boys cannot touch each other when we are driving around town. Tremendously helpful. Peace is possible (sort of).

And since he is right there next to me, I can pass him my phone when I remember a text I need to send and simply dictate. When his little brother drops something, he can see behind my seat and pick it up for him. He can change the station on the radio (confession: not always a “pro”).

But now I have someone next to me pushing buttons, asking questions about driving (four more years, but now that he can see out the windshield he’s all about it), and just generally being in my space.

And as a mom of three, I don’t have much space. My “adult world”, no matter how limited my visits there may be, has been my place to take off the mom hat.

Now I have a twelve year old who is learning the ropes. He needs to come visit that adult world bit by bit with increasing frequency, just to try things out, look around, and get a feel for the place. Developmentally this is time.

Emotionally speaking for me? Not so sure.

I may, from time to time, feel as though my toes are being stepped on. I may feel a bit territorial. Especially when it comes to my van. The one I have been driving around for the last eleven years. Sharing the van, but having the front section all to my adult self.

But this is good. Always good for me to have something tangible to represent the intangible. I see things clearer that way. They make more sense to me.

So now I see – with my son sitting in the front seat of the van – that I am going to need to share things I haven’t had to pry my fingers from just yet in this adventurous process of motherhood. And like I said, it is time. He is ready. He will never learn to function in the adult world if I don’t let him in.

And so begins the process of learning to have a relationship with my growing-up son who will always be my child, but will not always a child. 

soak it in

Soak it in, I tell myself.

This has been one of those days. The kind of day that starts out rough and doesn’t let up. The kind of day when my skin is tissue paper thin. The kind of day when everything is catching up to me and I am tired and overwhelmed and fragile.

I have bitten off more than I can chew. I didn’t mean to. I am usually pretty good about knowing my capacity and staying within it. But sometimes I don’t know how much is too much until I am suddenly and surprisingly falling apart.

I won’t go into the sordid details. Suffice to say I did at one point manage to realize I was in a bit too deep. But I have a hard time looking a need in the eye and walking away. And I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but California schools these days are pretty needy.

So I reminded myself to do the best I can. Something is better than nothing, right? Well, today was a day when the best I can was not good enough for some of the people around me.

And I will be honest…..it hurt. When I am genuinely trying to help and I run into someone along the way who would like to tell me how terrible I am because my help is not perfect or leaves them feeling disappointed, I take it personally. I know whatever they are telling me says more about them than me, but still….ouch.

But I also know the people hurting me are just as human as I am. So what do I do with it all?

Just when I think I am going to break, I find myself on my couch with a four-year-old sleeping on top of me. I thought we were headed for disaster as he was waking up cranky from a car-ride nap. I knew I did not have enough in me to make it through that.

But as we snuggled, he fell back asleep. And I don’t have sleeping child moments that often anymore. In fact, hardly ever. And they are some of my favorite moments.

So I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

The day washed over me. And in and amongst all of the crud, the care of friends stood out. Love through the phone from my sister. Two encouraging emails from people who had no idea how much I needed them.

As I opened my eyes, the smiling faces of my three boys looked back at me from above the piano. Life. My life.

Soak it in, I tell myself. Because this is how you recover from the wounds of life, I say. Not by giving up or hiding under a rock like you are tempted to do today. But seeing these elements of healing mixed in with all the rest and letting them penetrate those painful places.

Listening. Understanding. Encouragement. Perspective. Love.

Soak it in.

what’s worth got to do with it?

I am a little late to the party. Brene Brown’s videos have been creating quite a buzz, but I only recently watched her most well known one, The Power of Vulnerability. Really phenomenal stuff. I am a fan.

I laugh at her humor and marvel at her succinct articulation of things I have intuitively believed but still questioned all my life. And I feel completely validated by the fact that all of what she says is backed by research.

There is only one thing that I have trouble with. It’s not the validity of the research or the conclusions she makes based on them. It is what those things confirm to me about how the world views love. And I simply wish we saw things differently.

In The Power of Vulnerability, Brene talks about people she calls “whole-hearted”. Basically these are people who live full and satisfying lives with deep, connected relationships. She says that what sets this group apart is a belief that they are worthy of love. Those not in this group, those living disconnected and unfulfilled in their relationships, seem to have a belief that they are not worthy of love.

(There’s more to it than that, but if you are not going to watch the video linked to the blue words above – which you totally should, just hover and click and it will take you there – that summary will have to do.)

I believe I fall in both of these groups at different times and moments in my life. I believe the truth of what Brene proposes that this basic self-assessment has a dramatic affect on our lives.

I just don’t like it.

Because while believing we are worthy or unworthy of love may impact our lives in magnanimous ways, either way we are viewing love as something to be earned. And that is the problem I see in the world, the problem I see in myself.

A misunderstanding of love. 

Love does not account for worth. Love is a gift. Truly, no one is “worthy” of it. It cannot be earned. It is not a commodity to be traded for inherent value.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that every human being does have inherent value and worth. I think every human being desires to be loved and needs to be loved and should be loved and is loved.

But that love is not earned by value or worth. In fact, love is distinctly given in spite of those things. That is what makes it love.

Believing we are worthy might help us in life, but it perpetuates a misunderstanding of love. I think the trick is to let ourselves receive love – truly take it in and accept it – regardless of our worthiness of it.

 

(Normally I would stop here because I have a short attention span as a reader so I try to keep my posts under 500 words. So I promise not to hold it against you if you stop reading here. But I just can’t leave this next part out.)

For me it comes down to moments like this: picture a moment of marital friction. I am furious about something. I want to be right. I am stomping around and screaming because I want my way. And then I realize I am acting like an idiot. And I am sick with myself about it. But I want my way anyway. And I know that in this moment I am unlovablly human.

But my husband comes close to me and touches me tenderly on the shoulders anyway. He tries to pull me in for a hug.

In that moment, what do I do?

Sometimes I push him away because I am so furious and confused and pissey and weak and human and unworthy of love that I refuse to accept it. I only want the love that I think I have earned.

And sometimes, due to some intangible miracle, I let his touch soften me. I let it break me. I let it in past my will and my need to be right and my need to control. And I know I am not worthy of it. But that’s okay. It’s love. I can let it in anyway.

So the question for me is not so much if I believe I am worthy of love, but will I let love in even though I am not worthy of it? Because that’s what love is.

collecting hope

My parental heart swells with pride. But more than that, my hope for this world is revived in this moment.

My son is not getting an award. He’s not starring in any big performance. He didn’t just graduate. This is a small act, really. Unnoticed and uncelebrated by anyone who might happen to see. Including my son.

He’s not pointing out his actions with the common, “Mom! Watch me!” that accompanies most acts children think are spectacular. Or the, “Did you see what I just did?” when they want to receive credit for what they have done.

And maybe that’s what made this all the more amazing to me. The fact that it was no big deal was a really big deal.

Because I, like most people, want this world to be a better place. But I am completely overwhelmed by the thought of making the whole world better.

And not just better on the outside, the tangible things we see, our behaviors. I want the world to be better from the inside out. Better because people care more. About the environment. About one another. About themselves.

Because change from the inside out – transformation – is a lasting change. This kind of change usually indicates a healing and making whole of damaged people.

So of course sometimes I feel a little hopeless. Because while I often see the incredible beauty in humanity, I also see the terrible brokenness of it. And sometimes I am crushed with despair.

Because I can’t put the world back together from it’s brokenness. So sometimes I doubt that it happens at all.

But when I see my nine-year-old son walk over to pick up a piece of trash on the ground that was not left by him and put it into a trash can, I celebrate. I do the happy dance.

I know. This is a small thing. But to me, it represents so much more. Because transformation is often revealed in small, changed habits.

As his parent, I am glad to see my son keep track of his own trash. To make sure what waste he creates he also takes responsibility for. That on it’s own is a win.

But the fact that he went outside of himself and picked up trash left by someone else and it was no big deal was ENORMOUS.

Not just as his parent, but as a fellow human being. Because he cares enough to do the little things that make this world better.

He wants the world to be a better place, too.

And he knows that starts with him.

And that gives me hope.

safe and sound

As I reach for the phone, my throat tightens around the lump that developed while I dialed the numbers. Why do I fall apart when I am so close to comfort?

I am having one of those days when my insecurities flare and my emotions swirl and I don’t know where it’s coming from or what to do about it. So I do what I never want to do: reach out for help.

Vulnerablity. Showing my weakness to another person. Letting someone see I am fragile just like everyone else.

How do we become safe people for one another? To show this side when all we want to do is hide?

Becoming a safe person for another human being is no small task.

Not safe as in someone who will put up with me, but safe as in the person I might dare to show up on the doorstep in a crying, heaping mess of humanity.

There is a process involved. Trust must be built. Over time. Honesty and gentleness must coexist in the best possible way. I have to know you are absolutely FOR me. And I, like most humans, have a pre-existing condition that tells me no one is for me. To work oneself beyond that requires much.

Listening. Real, true, bonafide this-is-about-you-and-not-about-me listening must be present. Listening to the words but listening for the heart.

Acceptance. Take me as I am. Period. Not “as-long-as-my-taking-you-as-you-are-turns-you-into-who-I-want-you-to-be”. Just okay to be me. Broken and confusing me.

Compassion. See me. See my hurt. See my pain. Don’t rush so quickly to fix me because this isn’t about your great abilities to fix. This is about you seeing me and all I am holding and all that I carry with me.

And boundaries. There is something incredibly comforting in knowing you can take care of yourself and say no to me when you need to. That I will not obliterate you with my need.

Surely this list is not complete, but still I wonder….how much do I offer these things to other people? To my friends? To my children? To my husband? To myself?

No human being can do this perfectly. But can we do it well enough……to make a difference…..for even just one? Isn’t it worth the effort to try?

*Honor to all who risked and sacrificed eleven years ago today to rescue to safety the people of this country. Words are not enough.*

HOLD ON!!!

In that moment, the adrenaline surges as my stomach goes haywire because I know it’s about to end up in my chest. The cars all obediently hooked together have taken their last few chink–chink—chinks on their way up the rails. We can just barely see over the crest of the ride and the impending descent is upon us.

I grew up in the Bay Area, which meant of course that I didn’t miss the magical wonders of The Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. There is a right of passage to it, riding the classic coaster that has appeared in movies like The Lost Boys, Dangerous Minds, and Sudden Impact.

The Giant Dipper is a traditional wooden roller coaster ride. No fancy loop-de-loops or corkscrews. Simply and beautifully, the ride showcases large ups and downs for the purists in the crowd.

And for that reason, the moment when the ride goes from sounding like it will never ….make it ….up ……..…the ……….…hill to a whipping, whirling, out-of-control rush that’s over before you know it has been etched into my brain. To me, this encapsulates the quintessential roller coaster experience.

I have found myself thinking about that moment on the ride in Santa Cruz quite a bit lately. My early years of parenting were wonderful and treacherous all at once. Elusive sleep and demanding little people always underfoot existing side by side with sweet kisses and nighttime stories and snuggles that made my heart burst.

Truthfully, I often felt like the roller coaster fighting to make it up that hill, trying to survive to the next stage.

And suddenly, the top of the hill is in view and I realize in moments this will all be over. The phrase “the days drag but the years fly” is giving way to a blur where everything is flying.

I can see our oldest turning into a young man more and more each day right before my eyes. And I know that his brother is right behind him. And that our baby will be only a blink after that.

There is much life to be experienced in the immediate years ahead. And I don’t want to miss any of it.

I may be a little exhausted at times. I may feel overwhelmed. I may not return phone calls or check my email with a speed or frequency I (or any adult person) would deem appropriate or responsible. I may not read or write as much as I prefer. I may not think we will make it in one piece every now and again.

But I am gripping the safety bar and holding on for dear life as I can see what is to come. I am screaming for fear and for fun and for all of the life in my life that I love with precious ferocity.

And I am determined not to blink.