When choosing to be brave,
one often feels the opposite
of what we think courage feels like.
When choosing to be brave,
one often feels the opposite
of what we think courage feels like.
I really thought I would have gotten more done by now. My children have been in school for over a month now. All of them.
Aren’t they so cute on the first day?
Today I took some time to review my last few posts here. I was reacquainting myself. Reconnecting with that woman who does her best to put her soul into words and claim it by writing on her little corner in cyber space.
That woman has still been musing, still been creating, still been learning and growing. Still writing even. Just less and not on here.
Not because I don’t love what here is, because I do. I am so grateful to have readers who meet me in this place, who see me for what I offer, who peek inside themselves and share with me that I am not alone.
But I also have some safety issues. I’ve alluded to them here and there. They pop their head up every once in a while and prevent me from sharing what I want to share on this particular blog.
My battle with them has been a bit more present than normal the last several months, if that makes sense to any of you. That’s the yuck part.
The yay! part is that I have also been embarking on new adventures. “Digging in” was the main theme of the summer. The boys and I did not do all that much. We stayed home and were together a lot. We enjoyed a slower pace. We rested. We dug in to time at home. Insert deep breath.
Mostly I loved it. Sometimes I had to fight the voices that like to tell me my value is in how much I am doing. That I’m “supposed” to live life at a fast pace or I don’t count for squat. I learned that living within my boundaries – not writing on my blog for instance because I simply can’t do it all – takes practice. So staying home might not seem like an adventure, but it was, and I think it was really good for all of us.
I also dug into our Lego collection. I sorted them. I know. You’re right. I might be a little insane. I can’t really explain it other than I needed to. Sorting Legos was my cathartic way to process the fact that my children are growing up.
And staying home allowed for me to have time for working on my yard. And I actually wanted to, can you believe it? I’ve been working hard. Digging and pulling and clearing and watering and digging and digging. Our yard is a far cry from what it was back on my Insideout post.
I have decided that pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are about the MOST exciting thing a new grow-er can plant.
And I have been dreaming new dreams. I have discovered something in me that needs to be pursued. And that involves grad school.
I wish every night could be like tonight. But I suppose then it would not have felt so special, so wonderful, so absolutely like an oasis to a weary traveler journeying through desert lands.
I have not posted here for quite some time. There are a plethora of reasons but they mostly boil together to just one.
Sometimes in life, I have to lay down the things I love, like writing, because the rest of life is stretching me thin. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.
The perfectionist in me screams and shouts that I don’t really need breathing room. What I need is to simply organize differently and push myself harder like everyone else. Then I can do it all.
I hate that perfectionist.
But then, magically, a night like tonight sneaks in. An old groupon we purchased a few months ago during a brief moment when we had the tiniest bit of breathing room in our finances is about to expire.
So we pack up the boys and head out to a fancy restaurant. One of our favorites back when we were dating and had what I believe is still called “discretionary income”.
I prep the boys.
“Dad is taking us to a fancy restaurant. Probably the fanciest restaurant we will ever take you to. At these kinds of restaurants it is important to use your best behavior. When we get there, I will have a story to tell you about this restaurant and your dad and me.”
After we arrive, before they seat us at our table, I take the boys aside.
“Your dad and I came to this restaurant on the night he asked me to marry him. We came here to celebrate. That year, there were really big storms and on the night we came, this bottom section….here, come here and see….these big windows were all boarded up and no one was sitting downstairs here.
But this was one of our favorite places to go, so instead of leaving, we went upstairs. Come on, I’ll show you.
Right over here is where we sat. The rain was falling hard and the waves were high but we could hardly see because it was so dark. I remember watching the storm through the stain glass in this window.”
During dinner, the boys all got along and used the best manners they could remember. Bravo boys.
My oldest son tasted crab cakes and lobster for the first time. He loved them both. We could be in trouble.
After dessert, all three boys hopped over the rocks separating the patio from the beach together in search of shells. I sat back with my husband and took the moment in.
The glow sticks Phil thought to get for the boys lit up the van the whole way home. Camaraderie, nostalgia, joy, and love saturated the air. Tears slowly seeped from my eyes. Oh, how I wish I could bottle this night up and keep it forever.
This post was written several months ago….I was surprised this evening that I got it all the way onto WordPress but didn’t finish to publish! There will be more coming and this is not a current snapshot but it is an accurate one from the time it was written. Keep checking because I will be back!
(I’ve not posted for quite some time. Some people have inquired – thank you. There may be a post about that eventually but for now the short version is that my windows of time normally set aside for writing have been filled with other things I value deeply…for now. Alright, now on with the post….)
What are these thoughts I keep having? Oh, that’s right, I believe this is called perspective. I often gain it by listening to someone older than me who has survived my life stage and has a grain or two of wisdom to pass on. Or I can take a step back. A break. Time away.
And that is what I was able to do this weekend. My sister took our kiddos (bless you, Karen and Carl!) for a cousin weekend of fun and my hubby and I had the house all to ourselves.
A wonderful chance to breathe. To think. To rest. To gain perspective. And maybe a few other things I won’t mention here….ahem.
Here are some things I hope I can hold onto when the loves of our lives – and the chaos that comes along with them – return….
Have you any chances to gain perspective recently? Would you share with me?
Keep a straight face, keep a straight face, keep a straight face! The whole thing will be blown if your oldest sees you smirking.
He is sitting shotgun right next to me. And he doesn’t miss a thing. So if I and his younger brother, my middle son, are going to continue to enjoy this moment, I must keep from showing my grin.
I have no idea what it must be like to grow up in the middle of the family. My best friend growing up was the middle child and after watching how much she struggled with her place in the family I vowed I would never do that to someone.
Then I had a surprise that turned my baby into the middle child. And my heart has ached for this tension in his life ever since.
To be fair, sometimes I think I struggle more with Colby being a middle child than he does. He certainly loves his brothers with a depth I am not sure any of us can fathom.
But sometimes I can tell it wears on him. Someone always going ahead of him, learning everything first, excelling at everything he tries. And someone constantly behind him being cute and adorable and the youngest.
Then a few weeks ago, I realized I had been hearing a new sound. A sound I had never heard from a child in our home before.
Our oldest whistles through his teeth. It qualifies, I have reassured him, but there is not a whole lot of umph behind it.
I called the whistler over to me and said in a stealthy but clearly exuberant voice, “Colby! YOU are whistling!!!”
“I know.” His notorious deadpan.
I cup his face in my hands. “Do that again.” My eyes dance with delight as the air goes from his lungs and passes through his pursed lips, making a song as it goes.
I look around and then I say very quietly, “You know…..your brother doesn’t know how to whistle. Not like that.”
“I know.” His smirk and twinkle tell me everything I need to know. He knows. He learned to do something his brother can’t do.
I would love for my children to be satisfied in who they are without comparing themselves to one another. But the fight for alpha exists anyway. So I work with it and try to celebrate their individual strengths anyway.
So a few days later as we drive in the car and my oldest starts whistling in his own special way in the front seat and a minute later I hear a (real) whistle coming from the back, keeping up, fluffing his feathers, and I know it is completely intentional, my heart does a little happy dance.
This middle child now has one thing he did first. He can do better. And in his sweet little non-confrontational way, he is celebrating. And so am I.
And it’s our little secret.
As long as I can keep a straight face.
Her comments struck me. I was hit with an ah-hah and a rush of relief all at once. I am not alone.
A few moms gather chatting on the playground with our younger kiddos after the olders have been safely swept away into their classrooms. We join together not everyday, but many. There is a certain ritual about it. And honestly, it helps me breathe.
Not because we have such profound conversation while our children run and play. We slur our way through most of it while the coffee kicks in. I am settled in my soul simply because we are together. There is so much extraordinary in ordinary life, if only I see it and let it in.
Out of my mouth came one of the phrases I often find coming out of my mouth toward my children and I expressed the frustration of repeating myself to my friends. When will they learn?
The camaraderie was a warm blanket set on my shoulders as we all related together. And then one of my friends used the word “mantra”. Comfort gave way to peace.
It was as if Legos I had been trying to force together the wrong way had just been straightened out and the puzzle was solved. They clicked.
These things I repeat over and over to my children, they are not just for them. They are not things that can be mastered in one day, one week, one childhood, or even one lifetime. They are learnings of life. They are things that no one ever masters, not my children and not me, but we all simply continue to learn through the process of life.
They are things we need to hear over and over and over again because they are truths easily forgotten. Easily misunderstood. Easily cast aside.
They are in fact, mantras. Things that help us as we chant them over and over. And I realize in this moment that I need to hear these mantras just as much as my children do. Because I want them to become a part of me. But I am not the only exacerbated parent who tires of chanting from time to time.
Every family has different mantras. Some help us, some beat us down. Sometimes the difference between the two is all in the delivery or the interpretation. God, help my tone of voice breathe life into my family instead of shame.
Everyone has say over their own bodies.
We don’t get to make other people’s choices for them.
Listen to your body, it tells us some of the things we need.
Love is not earned.
It’s okay to think different things.
Our choices affect our future.
Outside energy is a good energy to have, it just belongs outside.
Everyone feels disappointed when we don’t get our way. But it’s also important to learn how to move on with life afterward.
Those are some of my favorite mantras from the Koo family, but I am curious…..what are yours?
They were just the words I needed to hear. Which is exactly why we read, right?
I have a love/hate relationship with my calendar. I used to love organizing and keeping things inside the lines of the nice, neat, pre-printed squares. And my pocketbook sized calendar fit in any purse. Easily managed.
Then I had children.
And everything got a little hinkey. I had to get a bigger calendar. Then I had to get a bigger purse to accommodate for the bigger calendar. Would be nice if they sold bigger brains.
Then I had my third child.
That is when the color-coding started. I know. But when my brain went ADD, my calendar countered with OCD.
Not long after that, I rebelled. Against the calendar. Too many colors, too many appointments, too much to keep track of. Just chuck the whole thing. Live life in the moment.
But when I have five people in my family with dental appointments and karate lessons and play dates and coffee dates and school and laundry and dinner and dishes and and and and and and and……life, my little brain has be known to forget a thing or two.
But once I write ALL those things down and actually look at it, rigor sets in. Thus the love/hate.
This is so hard. No wonder I feel like I am running a sprint that never ends all the time. I am.
I cannot possibly do it all. So I will sit here in my paralytic state and enjoy the warm cozy feeling of overwhelm. How on earth do single parents survive?
Then I read this post from my friend Leeana. She is married to a SEAL. Leave it to the SEALs to make the impossible sound fight-able.
So the last few days I have been attempting to channel my inner SEAL. Yesterday was the only easy day, I keep chanting to myself. My how I love a good mantra.
Maybe I don’t hate my calendar after all.
This was a celebration for me. A marker of growth, of change for the good.
A few years ago, I let myself see an ugliness inside of me. It was something I tried to hide from for years before that. I was too ashamed to admit, even to myself.
I have resisted writing about my ugliness because it comes out in context with one of my sons and it is my ugliness, not his. I would never want for him to someday read my writing and do what we as children always do, internalize our parent’s brokenness as our own defectiveness.
But these chicken fingers were just too much to pass up. So here I go.
I have had trouble accepting my middle son for exactly who he is. Don’t get me wrong, simultaneously I recognize and love what he brings to the table and how he gets me outside myself.
But he’s different than me. And when it comes to being different, I like to think I am the right way and anyone else is the wrong way. Apparently that includes my children. Great.
He likes to make messes and struggles to clean them up. He’s well liked and sweet and tender and makes some pretty great choices on who to be friends with, but he’s also just a little bit…..awkward. Quirky. Unique.
And he doesn’t like words. And words are how I function. They’re my strong suit.
But that’s not how he wants to be loved. He is intuitive. He senses what is going on behind the scenes, in my heart. So that means I have to actually work through my issues instead of just covering them up by using the right words.
What kind of mother has trouble accepting her child?
I will tell you.
The kind of mother who has trouble accepting herself. Fully. Un-conditionally. Wholeheartedly.
Because what Brene Brown says is true. We can only accept others to the degree we accept ourselves.
Finally, eventually, I became safe enough to myself to go below the surface and deal with the issues that lie beneath. The process has been slow and scary.
But bit by bit, I work my way through. I have in no way arrived, but I am not where I used to be. And these chicken fingers told me so.
We call this Abby’s chicken. There are eggs and flour and dredging involved which means….messes. And my Colby loves to embrace a good mess.
Which is exactly why I avoid cooking with him. Because undoubtedly my perfectionism flares and I end up sending messages either spoken or unspoken that he is wrong for being the way that he is. Lovely.
But this time, I delighted in Colby and his chicken fingers. I laughed and celebrated his jois de vive. I let go and embraced the process. And of course, I had to take pictures, which he loved.
Growth shows in the little things. Like making chicken with my son. And enjoying it. And more importantly, enjoying him.
Relief washed over me. As the movie ended I realized I am not all that different and terrible than most any other loving, human parent.
I have gone back and forth about whether or not to publish my next post. The words have been sitting in my computer since last year. This is one of the loose ends I set a goal in January to tie up.
But I have been dragging my feet every step of the way.
It is no secret how vulnerable I am here. Some of you may think that it comes easily. Sometimes it does.
But other times it doesn’t. And so far, this next post has been the toughest.
I am not sure why. Truly, the post celebrates growth. And in that I my desire is to communicate hope. If I can change slowly bit by bit, anyone can.
But in the process I admit something to my readers that took years for me to admit to myself. And I feel ashamed about.
Even after I cleaned it up and uploaded it to have it all ready to go and just needed to press “publish”…..drag, drag, drag. I was going to push that button on Thursday.
My feet turned cold. Well, I will have a good one for Monday, I thought. But secretly I wondered if I could find anything else to write about to replace it. Maybe it could sit on the eternal shelf.
Then I watched The Odd Life of Timothy Green. And I realized my dear little post that feels so incredibly naked to me, so trusting of those around me to be gentle and kind to me and my son after reading it, is a common story.
I face what all parents face.
There are times when we want to take those things that make our children unique and beautiful and change them or cover them up. We think we are trying to protect them, working for the good of our children.
But really we are simply passing on our issues to our children, instead of dealing with them ourselves. And from experience I can tell you, passing them on is so much easier than facing them.
So one more day until I post it. I want as many other parents out there who maybe struggle with themselves in the midst of parenting to know that they are not alone. So feel free to spread the word.
Until then, go rent the movie. It’s definitely worth it.
As I sat around the table, the people around me held out pieces of me. Pieces I had not seen in a while. And it felt so good.
Those pieces are always with me, living inside of me. Sometimes I just forget about them. I live disconnected from them.
My life has moved on from when we were together, these friends and I. Marriage, babies, therapy, life. And it’s good. Moving forward, growth, change. All of those things are good.
And at the same time, sometimes I can forget that the college student me is still in there too. Along with the mom me and the wife me and the almost 40 year old me (ugh, really?).
But I am fortunate enough to still have friends from way back when. We were all on staff at camp together. And camp bonds people in a mysterious way. I have yet to experience it elsewhere. It could be the dirt, the camp food, or any number of the only-appropriate-at-camp conversations surrounding bodily functions.
I think it is all those things plus a whole lot more.
There is a sacredness about it, about the fact that we hold pieces of one another’s history. These people know a side of me that my friends today have only caught glimpses of, if that.
For a while, a few years ago, I felt in between. My friends where I live didn’t know my history but my friends from my past didn’t know the richness of my present. And I had this weird, awkward urge to prove myself to all of them.
But something must have settled in me. Made peace with the fact that the only one who knows me my whole life is me. I am the only one who holds all the pieces.
And occasionally that can feel like too much to hold. Sometimes I forget about the pieces that aren’t necessary right now. But they are still in there. They are who I was which is a part of who I am.
And it was whole-making, to have these people who are dear to me stir some of those piece to the foreground. To the surface.
They had not forgotten those pieces. They loved them. They kept them safe. They saw beauty in them. They remembered them. And being together reminded me of them too.
And it was…..settling, calming, restoring…..for me to be reminded that all of those me’s are really just parts of the same whole.