Love, Doubt, and Guilt Dance on the Head of a Pin

Posted on February 3, 2016

“Do you even know what I wore to bed last night?’

The question made contact like a right hook. Finley and I were waiting for the bus in a driving rain.

I’d worked late the night before and, as I always do, I’d slipped into their room to kiss them goodnight. I brushed my lips as delicately on Briar’s face, knowing that despite her pleas for me to wake her, she would start disoriented and upset. Ave, up in the top bunk, is the heaviest sleeper, but never fails to murmur, “My mama, I love you,” before rolling over and back to sleep.

“You know what, honey? I don’t know, but I did come in to kiss you last night.” I said the words quickly and lightly, wanting to move along from this question.

“Dad promised Briar and me that he would tell you to wake us up when you got home and then put us back to bed. Why didn’t you?”

I gasped, “Oh, but I did, you just didn’t wake up!’ We looked at each other, I wondered if she knew what the question meant to me. Does she wield guilt knowingly or am I imposing my own struggle on an innocent question.

Her eyes got big and she giggled, “Really? Guess I really love my sleep!”

“Did you have a good meeting talk thing? She asked. I smiled, lately they’ve been trying harder to understand what it is that I do. Briar had been eager to show me that she was supportive of the work that I needed to do. She shared one of her performance tips for me in a text in the afternoon. It reminded me of the kinds of peppy texts I send to her.

Waiting to take the stage, I felt odd. The specific block of time that I had to be away for this event is usually off limits; it is a sacred-to-me-time. I missed homework and the post-day chatter. I wasn’t there to hear the stories, or fix the snacks, and I wasn’t at the dinner table. I felt an ache, but I also felt an adrenaline surge. I was representing my company, my beliefs, and living up to the kind of go-for-it attitude that I try to ignite in the girls. My business partner and one of my employees were in the audience laughing, nodding, and taking pictures. After so many years of feeling like I had no tangible product and doubting whether or not the time away from the girls is worth it, I saw myself and all the different roles that I have.

The contradictions and deficits that I sometimes feel faded. I stood before the backdrop of the the words and ideas of mine that Sean had collected and packaged. The points that I planned to cover were each artifacts from moments in my career, as my voice filled the room it felt like Sean was there and, in some ways, so were the girls.

AIGA

At the moment Briar thought I was taking the stage, she’d sent me another encouraging text. I didn’t get it until afterword, not until after her bedtime in fact. I smiled thinking about riding out my head cold and stage-fright-weakened voice.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 10.21.00 AM

A great deal of what I do, as a parent, wife, and business person, is rooted in emotion—leveraging joy, learning from defeat, plowing through fear, and allowing myself to be spurred to action by my own doubt.

I texted Briar, then I texted Sean. My cheeks flushed; I was guilty for feeling exhilarated and ashamed that I’d missed bedtime. I was longing to have my guy with me, not the dad, not the business partner, but my guy. He told me he wished he’d been there, I told him that it felt like he was.

“Do you want to guess which pajamas I wore?” Finley asked. I remembered kneeling on the floor in the laundry room on Monday folding clothes. I could see the striped pjs sets I’d stacked, the long nightgown of Briar’s, a short one of Fin’s, the Trampoline Dart League shirts that they sometimes wear. She asks each morning and each night what the weather is going to be like to help her decide between long sleeve or short. It had been in the high 40s on our drive the night before.

“I’m not sure, but I don’t think you wore pants and a shirt.”

“Correct!” She squealed.

“I think you wore the light blue nightgown that’s short but has long sleeves,” I said.

She lit up, “Yes, but what’s the pattern?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know.”

“Crowns, crowns like a queen. Like you are mine,” she said.

 

Supergirls

It’s inevitable that we spend moments pulling ourselves taut; it’s how we grow. Stretching doesn’t make us weaker or put us at risk of breaking, it makes us stronger. We lean into work, surrender ourselves to intimacy, devote time to our kids, these are the ways that we nurture the different parts of who we are and the people we love. It isn’t easy and I don’t think any of it comes without debt or compromise, but each instance of enduring the tautness and learning from it helps us understand the things that we want to hold on to and the ways that we can contribute.

Compassion’s Lace

Posted on February 1, 2016

My phone doesn’t work well in the cold, something about the combination of the cold air and my poor circulation makes trying to do anything pointless. If I am out in the snow with the girls I have to think ahead if I want to snap a picture or be able to respond to a call or text. It’s not complicated, neither is my ability to muster flexibility and patience. If I wear myself out or if I don’t speak up my capacity to operate from a place of acceptance or openness shrinks.

It doesn’t matter how often I hear the saying about putting your own air mask on first or that you can’t accept love from others unless you first love yourself, somewhere along the line taking care of self or loving self began to feel like a flaw.

Avery will often say to me, “Not to brag, but I did really well on my spelling test.”

A woman I admire the other day wrote, “My biggest gym success so far: I did 2 pull-ups! I know it’s not anything to brag about, but I was still proud.”

The other day a guy I ran track with in high school posted:

“Well it’s not Harvard, University of Washington, University of Oregon or Stanford but I have received a degree from the University of Phoenix. This is been a milestone that I have been working for for such a long time. I almost can’t believe that I did it. I want to take this time to think all of my friends and Family that supported me in this process. Thank you all very much!”

It breaks my heart that pride in a job well done has been smudged with a misguided preoccupation with humility. I want it to be ok, no, I want each of us to feel like it’s ok to be proud of what we’ve done. One person’s Kilimanjaro may be another person’s 5 minutes on a treadmill.

I apologize if this is maudlin, but our time is so short, each minute granted without guarantee of another, that it seems like we ought to celebrate. If we cannot do it for ourselves, then maybe we can do it in pursuit of greater compassion for others.

Sun

“Compassion is a verb.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

 

Sucking It Up isn’t a Virtue

Posted on January 29, 2016

Sometimes the advice and edicts that swim through my feeds make me feel underwater, not just overwhelmed, but literally drowning and unable to breathe.

You are doing it wrong…
Why you should do it this way…
The most important thing is…

I’m not saying that the articles or headlines are explicitly wrong, but I do think they stifle instinct. I’ll also own a bit of it, I go to the social media trough hungry and expectant. I want to find things that fill up some part of me, but the thing that ends up happening is I forget what I had before I arrived. It isn’t social media or the articles that are damaging, it is the unique combination of my willingness to be influenced and the sites’ need to demonstrate influence.

I may open my laptop with significant opinions but the rat-a-tat-tat of directives to Suck it up, Man up, Put on your big girl panties wear me down. It seems to suggest that I don’t have the answers inside myself or that what I am feeling might be wrong or weak.

Yesterday morning I woke up and went about the routine that has come to be very meaningful to me. It isn’t fancy, but it’s working.

 

  • Wake up.
  • Pull on work out clothes.
  • Make coffee.
  • Feed cats.
  • Walk down to basement.
  • Set Pandora to Jason Mraz, Meghan Trainor, or Beyoncé station mood depending
  • Stretch.
  • Dance (listen for feet on stairs, in which case STOP dancing immediately, act cool)
  • Lift weights.
  • Go through a series of Pilates movements.
  • Stretch.
  • Pad upstairs.
  • Pour coffee.
  • Wake kids.
  • Make lunches.
  • More coffee as I surf.

It looks like a lot but that all happens over the course of about 45 minutes, but it’s mine. I enjoy that balance of time for me and tender attendance to the girls’ needs. Thinking about feeling my sore muscles throughout the day and imagining how the girls feel when they see their lunches makes me smile.

Many mornings the things that I read make me feel a part of a community. I learn, I weep, I admire, mostly though I sit in my favorite chair and just honor the act of doing these things completely without apology. Except when the little worm of doubt slinks in, am I buried in the screen? Am I shirking responsibility?

Sean was walking past me and said, “Oh, you haven’t showered?” I immediately felt guilty, but also resentful. Do I need to be showered? Haven’t I done enough already? Can I take  minute? Then I wondered, maybe what he’d said was as simple as taking note that I hadn’t showered.

I thought about all the times I’ve let comments pass unqualified and then the layers of interpretation that build and ultimately lead to some sort of explosion that is completely unrelated to anything happening in that moment.

“Is that ok? Can you shower now so that I can keep doing this or do you want me to stop?” I surprised myself with how calmly I said it.

He shrugged, “Not at all. I just want you to have time to get ready. I’ll go hop in,” then he kissed me and walked upstairs.

Do I have a concise moral to this story? Not really, but what I can say is that sometimes we just need to ask the question or say the thing that we are thinking. Sometimes between the headlines and our own ruts of assumption, parts of ourselves, our relationships, and reality get lost in the shuffle.

 

Don’t suck it up, breathe it in, even if it’s scary.

Clutching Happy Where It Appears

Posted on January 21, 2016

Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale.
Hans Christian Andersen

I’ve never been much of a collector. I used to envy the way people would have a fervor for something that would never wane. I tried, I saved wheat pennies when I was little (until I lost them), pictures from magazines in my teens, oh, and I stashed away slights to add to the chip on my shoulder in 20s like it was my job. When Sean and I got married I took a shine to blankets and mugs.

Lately I’ve been collecting strands of joy and courage, sometimes it’s a quote from a hundred year ago, other times it’s the idea of bunking tradition because I saw a photograph of someone wearing something intended to spur her own pleasure, no one else’s.

I’ve stopped feeling like I necessarily need to apologize for what makes me happy, or that I have to follow a linear path, professionally or personally. I can change my mind, apologize, burn a bridge.

Something I’ve been loving comes from Instagram. It’s the account of Alison Malee. I don’t know that I interpret her words in the way she intends, this one for example:

You

 

What if it’s not a lover? What if ‘you’ is self? I love the idea of finding myself again and again, despite the ways routine or responsibility might claw and weigh me down, there I am. There you are.

I’m also gathering strands from the girls. I won’t pretend that everything is easy, but when I listen or when I am still, or when time hiccups and things align in impossibly harmonious ways, they give me arm loads of wisdom and permission to be happy, wise, or just feel glowy.

Love

 

 

I’m looking to the sky. The reliability of that massive canvas, making my worries feel small, my spirit feel whole, or filling me with the idea that I’ve got this day—mine, to do whatever I want with it.

 

Sky

 

 

Surprisingly I am also finding things within myself, like the thrum of a different rhythm. Maybe I drop everything and sit by the fire or I let myself be late because I want to draw a thick line of black across my lid before putting on mascara. Sweep the girls off for a coffee date, press my lips to Sean’s ear and whisper that I love him until his shoulders spike, he chuckles, and turns to me.

Fire

 

 

It may not last forever, but for right now it feels really good to give myself the go ahead to clutch to my heart the things that make me smile.

 

How about you? What makes you look twice lately?

That Time We Chased the Dawn

Posted on January 15, 2016

I can’t remember if I ever shared the story of the time we bundled the girls up and ventured out in the wee-est hours of the morning to hike a mountain so that we could film dawn breaking over the summit for a video we were doing for work.

Sounds totally reasonable and very what-could-possibly-go-wrong, right?

IMG_9823Many unexpected things happened like the trail head being closed, one of the girls tripping and having one foot go into the nearly frozen water, or realizing that if we didn’t sprint we’d miss the dawn so we split up…

While we didn’t plan for those particular challenges, I did have extra socks in my pack and Sean had a resolve and endurance that helped us cross the various obstacles. We can try to pack the right things and condition our bodies and minds for what think will happen, but there are still variables—in life and in parenting.

I wrote more about the similarities and differences between parenting and hiking over at Bon Bon Break, and I don’t mean what to pack, but more the pacing of this beautiful, obstacle and reward patterned journey that we take as parents. Will you go over and read it? I’d love to see it spark a conversation at Bon Bon Break about softening our ideas of how things are supposed to be and how we can allow ourselves to enjoy it.

Parenting is not a Hike

%d bloggers like this: