mantras

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?

Advertisements

gone tomorrow, hair today

I am having an out of body experience. I walk by the shop and a reflection in the window catches my breath.

Who is that girl? The girl with the edgy haircut. She couldn’t possibly be me! I don’t have the guts to get a cut like that. I am not that kind of girl.

I am a color inside the lines kind of girl. A rule follower. A let’s-not-make-waves kind of girl.

The kind of girl who gets that kind of haircut is a girl who is confident. She is comfortable with herself. She gives herself permission to risk.

My sister does it. My friend Linsay does it. My friend Amy who I went to high school with can totally pull it off.

But not me.

If I had that haircut I would feel horridly self-conscious. It would show all over my body. That’s why I don’t get haircuts like that. I stay safe. Attempting to stay current without going too far.

Feeling that uncomfortable all day would not be worth it to me. Especially if it lasted as long as until my hair grows out.

But in another instant, I realize that girl is me. And I like my hair. And it doesn’t even feel gutsy to have it like this. I just like it.

So who climbed into my body when I wasn’t looking?

Some people might not think this cut is all that out there. I understand. It’s not a Mohawk, much to my husband’s relief.

But my hairdresser knows I don’t do short. I may think there are so many cute things you can do with short cuts and I may be a fan of almost all of them. But get too short and I start to panic.

When I was growing up, my hair was short. Like very short. And I got a lot of comments about being “such a cute little boy”. And I might have been scarred for life. Just a little bit.

But clearly I have healed. I didn’t even freak out when I washed my hair the next morning and found out it was all gone.

I must be getting more comfortable with myself. I must not be taking life so seriously. I must be more at ease around risk. Who knew?

And that’s how it happens. Growth and change happens so slowly and seems so small that sometimes we question whether or not it is there. But then something that might have been a big deal in the past…..isn’t. And sometimes, when something is no big deal, that’s a big deal.

moments

String of pearls

The sound of my family is filling my heart and my ears. As I sit outside letting the night air cool me off from this hot October day I can hear my husband and my younger two boys inside playing Battleship. I love it.

I am struck by the moments of life. They string together to like a pearl necklace, but each has a beauty and story all it’s own.

In this moment I let the sweetness sink into me. Writing about it helps.

I have been trying to write for days. I have a beautiful moment I want to savor, commemorate, and express but it’s just not working. I sit down, my fingers fly across the keyboard, but it’s not coming out the way I want.

And then today something dawned on me after two failed attempts on the laptop and endless ones in my mind. I’m maxed out.

I have taken on too much. And like most things, some of what I have taken onto my plate is completely energizing and some of it weighs me down like concrete bricks.

But all of it strung together is a huge reminder to me that I am limited. I have boundaries. I can only do so much.

And it is not so much the feeling of stress that reminds me. It is the breakdowns my brain keeps having. The thing simply stops working.

For me, writing requires a certain way of life. Time and space to breathe. Moments. Brain power.

And I have made a commitment to help with a function at school that is requiring those moments and that brain space. I am glad to do it, but I am not sure I will do it again. At least not in the role I committed to this time around.

But keeping commitments is important to me. So when this all dawned on me today I realized I needed to let go of this one post I was working on. At least for another week and a half.

And this is the dance of life. Living out my priorities does not always look the same from moment to moment. There’s no formula to it. Sometimes the choice is writing, sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is family, sometimes it is projects.

And each moment has something to show me. Perhaps my limitedness. Perhaps the beauty of family life. Perhaps something else entirely. Something reflected in the way the moments are stringing themselves together.

And that is part of the beauty of the whole thing. Each moment having value all it’s own but also connecting to other moments to form something bigger. A day. A season. A life.

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.

scraps

What will come of this? I was petrified to pull out the scraps. The process was overwhelmingly intimate. Delicate, fragile, and timid. One that I only let my therapist into.

I gingerly opened my soul and uncovered the part of me that had been kept in hiding. I feared that if anything more happened to the college student in me, she would disappear completely. So the scraps of what were left of her had subconsciously been put into the witness protection program.

But now it was time. My body was telling me. The nightmares, the panic attacks, the sleeplessness, the anxiety. And lest we forget the depression.

They were all her, whispering to me from my past. She had finally deemed me safe enough to be trusted. She took me on a scavenger hunt of sorts, giving me clues to find where she had been locked away for safe keeping.

Once I found the place where she had been kept, I faced a choice. Do I risk taking out those frail little scraps that were left of her? What if she blows away in the process? What if she disintegrates altogether? I don’t want to lose her. She is a part of me. She is me.

She required every ounce of courage, strength, and gentleness I have ever possessed to bring those scraps back up to the surface of who I am and get her what she needed. Listening. Understanding. Validation.

Not judging her and telling her she could have done more, should have handled things differently, as I so frequently say to myself. Accepting her for the tender, sensitive nineteen year old that she was, confused with very little of life figured out.

Affirming her for being so beautifully valiant in the face of her trauma.

We worked together for quite some time. She would speak and I would listen and love her just the way she was. The whole thing was very mysterious, really. How is it that a soul heals? What magic is there in paying attention, giving space, offering patience, compassion, mercy, love?

I just know that there is.

And I think one of the hardest people to give those things to is myself.

But there are times when I am the only person who can make a difference in my healing. I can receive all the beautiful things I long for from hundreds of people around me, but if I am not willing to both give them to myself and receive them from myself, I remain lost in my own brokenness.

This was one of those times. I had to learn to love myself, both past and present. My healing depended on it.

What brokenness do you have inside that needs love from your own self to heal?

oops…my roots are showing

When I saw these trees I immediately sensed they were showing me something about myself. Sometimes I feel like my roots are exposed. Like others can see parts of me meant for keeping underground.

I do not hide my emotions well. Add to it the fact that I blush easier than an elephant gains weight. And I am one of the fairest people you will ever meet, so my crimson shade has very little pigment to hide behind.

I am not a pretty crier, either. My nose turns into a faucet of snot and my eyes turn red and blotchy and it is about the most hideous thing you have ever seen. And it takes hours for me to look normal. Again, the fair skin does me no favors here.

Sometimes I am okay being so vulnerable. Sometimes it is intentional, like when I am around safe people whose love I can count on. Or when I am being brave and purposefully putting myself out there in my writing or by making a new friend.

And then there are other times when it’s an accident. When my emotions are controlling me for the moment and I am embarrassed and can do nothing else other than live through the experience and somehow make it out the other side.

But then I see these trees with their roots exposed and I think it is one of the most exquisite things I have ever seen in my life. Somehow it is ugly and breathtaking all at once. And I understand, ever so slightly, why we find such beauty in the transparency of one another.

These roots – these things that most of the time stay underground and out of sight – are a beautiful, mysterious mess. Just like me.

potato chips and chocolate

The crinkle of the bag brings me hope and dread all at once. My pain draws me to the cupboard without my awareness. I have been carrying around this powerlessness and it is heavy and painful and I want an escape from it. But there is none. That doesn’t stop me from looking, though.

As the salt touches my tongue, it seems to be a numbing agent on my heart. For the moments that my mouth is full, the overpowering taste blocks out my emotions.

Eventually, I finish the bag or the bag finishes me leaving my mouth raw. I sit for a minute, trying to force the satisfaction to stay. But eventually it runs away like it always does and my mind dances with the sweet that would sooth the savory I just consumed.

Another crinkling bag delights my ears. I pull out the handful of dark chocolate chips and let them sit for a while to be warmed by my hand. Then in my mouth they go as the cocoa, rich and smooth begins to soften and ooze together forming a luscious mound of heaven that melts down my throat.

Eventually I realize the break from my pain was only temporary, and the let down sets in. I want this to help but it doesn’t. I try night after night, but the pain remains. I cannot control others. I cannot change what they think of me. I cannot force someone to listen.

All I can do is let go and mourn what is lost. And sometimes that is more of a process than I would like it to be, even with my potato chips and chocolate.