unexpected

He had just given me my toilet back. Now he was telling me we would be without water for another 24 hours. Or more.

“But……we are going to have a baby…..tomorrow morning.” The plumber already knew that. They had been working long hours to get me working pipes before I popped.

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Later that night there was a drug bust across the street.

The next day four different shifts of women rallied around our older boys to care for them while we birthed their brother.

The omen was clear. Chaos would abound.

Which is exactly why I never planned on having a third child. In my opinion control is preferable to chaos.

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Lucky for me, life does not always go according to my plan.

Because chaos has, indeed, abounded since that day five years ago when our third boy entered this world. But so has endless amounts of love.

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And somehow the fact that he is a whole hand old today is making me pause extra-long and think about the enormity of it all. (That and the fact that we did all of his celebrating this past weekend so there is nothing left for me to do but be sentimental.)

An era is ending. And that era lasted much longer than I thought it would. About five years longer. But what a beautiful era it was. Hard. Gruelingly hard. But simultaneously boundlessly beautiful.

Zachary was my gift to get to do it all over again, one last time. To live in different skin than I did the first two times. More comfortable skin. Completely imperfect and still quite messy skin, but somehow more peaceful skin.

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The one thing I wanted to do more than anything with my life was be a mom. But once I got there all of my “stuff” came to the surface and it was like breathing through mud. Slowly, very slowly, I have been working through all of that stuff. Learning to be loved. Learning to love.

And I have nothing but gratitude. Because somehow, the third time around I was free to enjoy the process. Somehow I was enjoying not only Zachary growing up but all three of my boys at the same time, in this new skin.

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And although my children are not out of the nest yet, the fact that all are now out of the formative years seems significant. And today I have not only been delighting in this child and all of who he is, but also in all he brought to me.

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Happy birthday Little Z. And thank you.

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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.

water process and patience

Why was I drawn to the water that day? I was on another treasure hunt, looking for something intangible. I hate that place of knowing I need something but not knowing what it is.

I left the muck and mire of my life and went out in search of that unknown thing. I had been feeling a little stuck in my life, trapped underneath the dishes and toilets and laundry and relentlessness of schedules. I needed to catch a breath.

And I saw so many beautiful things that day. I captured them in my camera lens so I could bring them home with me. And all of it helped, but the water seemed to haunt me a little more than anything else.

Pure and clear, the water was quite a contrast to my muddled and murky heart that day. I was filled with both my own humanity and that of others, covered in confusion. I wanted to be cleaned off.

I longed for the peaceful sound the water made swirling into itself to leave a few drops of serene on me. I wanted the beautiful white noise of the water to drown out the sounds of my world.

And I wanted the water to smooth out my rough edges, much like I saw it had done to parts of the steps it was pouring down. Water has this amazing capacity to wear down mountains and round off the sharpest of corners. Water can take a large and cutting boulder and reduce it to a smooth river rock.

The thing is, that all takes time. It is not instant and often does not feel like it is happening at all. I believe we call such transformational journeys process. And sometimes that process of being cleaned off and soul-soothed requires more of my patience than I want it to.

invaluable

In his most earnest voice he asked, “Can I buy some-sing with my money I saved up from itunes?” My breath was caught on the beauty of his innocence. He had no idea what he was saying. With his handful of coins, some of which were mearly tokens leftover from a bowling alley birthday party a few months back, I immediately saw myself in the believing eyes of my three-year-old.

Yesterday, after I got home from the conference Phil announced we would be going to the Lego store. With three boys, that store is always a hit. Zachary ran off to his room and came back with those coins, his eyes dancing with excitement.

That is probably about what I looked like to the agents I met with at this writing conference. My writing was not nearly good enough to get me what I wanted from their store.

My son being three, I did not explain to him how little was in his hands. It is not the appropriate time for him to learn this lesson. What was important was that he brought what he had and believed he was contributing.

But I am no longer three and it was time from me to learn some of the harsh realities of the world of writing and where I might stand in it. And then I am left with a choice: do I take my tokens home and cry or to do I go back and work to get more in hope that next time I will have what it takes? Maybe a little of both.

Truthfully I am left with many more questions than that, but I will save those for another day. To sum up the conference, it was painfully invaluable in more ways than I could count. I am so very glad I went.

And thanks to my son, the sting has lifted a bit. I can see the beauty in coming with my handful of coins, even if it was not nearly enough.