Own your story. Stop walking around it. You're not entitled to anything so you better play the hell out of the cards you're dealt. You want your life to look different? Stop waiting and do something about it. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is gonna change if you don't. You've had your heart broke? Too bad, who hasn't? Can't get over it? Feel stuck? Unless you want to stay feeling that way, forgoing the opportunity to be loved (and love) again, do something about it...get some counseling, dig deep and do the hard work, figure out why you're so stuck/hung up on Mr. or Ms. Wrong For You/Heartbreaker and make peace with the fact it didn't work and then trust that something better FOR YOU will come...once you give it a chance. Don't like your job? Find another. Your house, your car, your savings account, your health, your friends, yes, even your family, where to vacation, and so much more are ALL UP TO YOU...if you choose. Not happy? For the love of God...do. something. about. it.
Own your story. This one is yours. Don't let someone else write it and then discover you're super disappointed with the outcome. The last chapter, hell, what FEELS like the whole damn book, may seem like crap - but, if you're still standing, there's another chapter to write. Life's not fair - thanks for that advice, Mom - but it's true. It's not. I wish it were...that somehow if we played our cards right and treated people with kindness and (almost) always played by the rules we wouldn't get hurt, wouldn't have shitty things happen to us, wouldn't accidentally hurt others, wouldn't feel disappointment, wouldn't get smacked upside the head with a big ole' dose of reality from time to time...you know, if life were fair, "life" wouldn't happen to us. But, that's not how it works so might as well get over that. Shitty things are going to happen, that person you love may choose to leave/never be able to love you the way you want them to, the "flat tires" are going to happen, and, yes, you are going to be the reason someone else has that shitty, life isn't fair day from time to time. Just try and minimize those if at all possible because damage control is messy and tends to have lasting effects way beyond whatever it is we initially did - you know, miscommunication, hurt feelings, harsh words, unsaid words...etc.
Own your story. Get inside of it. Stop tip-toeing around the edge of it hoping that if you don't get in deep you won't get messy. Trust me, messy is going to happen. But, and here's the really good part...beautiful, indescribable, incredible, can't believe this is my life in the best way possible is gonna happen too. And those are the moments we live for. Those are the highlights reel. Those are the paragraphs that lie within the mundane chapters that if you appreciate them make the story...your story...worth reading.
Own your story. You don't like something? Seriously. Do something about it. You love something/someone...appreciate it/them and don't take the time/moments for granted. Because, well, let's be honest...it can all be gone in an instant. We screw up all the time. And...life happens...to us all. Make the most of what you have. Right now. Not what you had yesterday or last year or five years ago. Live the life you have TODAY. I know. It may not be what you THOUGHT you would be doing, and initially you may be super disappointed, but I can guarantee one thing...if all you do is think about that one fact, you will miss something great for sure. Best thing I learned in college - wait for it - we cannot control others, we can only control our PERCEPTION (i.e. our THOUGHTS) about the situation/person. Did you hear me? Remember what I wrote the other day about trying to control my thoughts in the hopes that I can then guide my emotions? Yeah, that. I can't make someone love me. I can't keep bad things from happening sometimes. I can do everything possible to show others my best side, but sometimes things get turned upside down and no matter how hard I try bad things happen. I can't control how someone else reacts or feels. I can only control how I react, how I perceive/think/feel about the situation/person. We must own our thoughts, words and actions.
Yes, sometimes life sucks. I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't. But, honestly, if you really look, there are way more moments that don't suck...they just don't speak as loudly most of the time. Look for those. Seek them out. Find the people who will lift you up and help you through the sucky spots, and then help you focus on all the magical moments surrounding them. Those are the people you want to share your story with. Those are the characters I want in my book. Live my story with me.
Tonight, as I buttered slices of bread for grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, I found myself thinking about how carefully I was trying to be with the knife...being sure to spread the butter evenly and to the edges...thinking as I did so, this was one simple way I am "momming"...you know, taking the time and effort to to love on our children through otherwise mundane acts of service we provide for the little (or, in my case, not so little) people we created.
This turned into thinking about how we care for others...sometimes gently, with great effort, focusing on the ways they need to be loved, putting our needs/wants second...sometimes we do so carelessly, rushing through the task at hand, putting our needs above theirs, choosing not to love them in the ways they need to be loved...and I can admit to doing both - regularly. No excuses here, just honesty. Sometimes it's easy to love on people - either because we truly have, or make, the time, or because they are simply easy to love on. Sometimes, though, life gets in the way - a busy day, a headache, lack of resources, whatever it is...or...and this part is the kicker...or, we simply CHOOSE not to love them in the ways they need to be (i.e. the ways they RECEIVE love - look up the Five Love Languages for a full description of this) loved because we don't FEEL like it out of either laziness or resentment or hurt or some other dirty little excuse that ultimately causes more harm than good.
So, as I stood there spreading butter on our slices of bread, taking the time to do so slowly and intentionally, because I had A) the time and B) the desire, I also thought of all the times I don't do things with nearly so much intention and love and I felt a pang of shame. See, M gets one childhood. And, the people I care about may stop giving me chances. And my bad day, or headache, or exhaustion is no excuse for not giving my best to those I love if at all possible. But, there are MANY times that's exactly what they get...less than my best...a tired, cranky, sharp-tongued, impatient, insecure, quick to judge, over-assuming, less than accepting, pitiful excuse for a mom/friend/sister/daughter. What makes all of this worse, is the realization that when we're hurting, or trying to protect ourselves, we are much more intentional about the ways we love...or don't love others. We know the things they need, yet withhold them out of anger, pride (that's a biggie), distrust and even shame. Loving others selflessly requires us to be vulnerable with them...to open ourselves to the idea that we may not get something in return, and our selfish tendencies make that hard a lot of the time. In my old job I used to say that I tried to meet my families right where they were, to not ask them to be something they weren't ready to be, to give them whatever support they needed in that moment and most of the time I found that fairly easy. What I found, ultimately, is that while it was easy to do that in my work life, I was not so good at it in my personal life. I ask too much of people sometimes...want them to be something they aren't ready to be...find it hard to meet them right where they are because, selfishly, I want them to be more somehow/someway. Which is totally unfair. I am working on this.
Lastly, when I titled this post, I initially thought it was silly to call it "Bread & Butter", but then I realized that when it really comes down to it, the need to be, and feel, loved is as essential as breathing...it is the "bread & butter" of living. Without it we feel alone, anxious, stressed - read up on this, it's true. We associate feeling loved with all sorts of things, which is why so much emphasis is put on making sure children feel loved because it helps create a sense of security within them, even in the worse circumstances. And, I don't know about you, but I would much rather create a sense of security for those I care about than any measure of insecurity ('cause, come on, we've all got more than enough of that going on already). There is a laundry list of things I'm TRYING to work on right now...top two: thinking before I speak - "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all", and battling my insecurities/jealous tendencies - my ugliest traits that to date have reached an all-time high and I can't even stand to be around me a lot of the time so I understand why others steer clear. Mostly, I'm trying to learn to control/guide my thoughts - I keep reading about how our thoughts control our emotions and as an emotional person, I think I need to stop allowing myself to focus on negative things because they then influence how I feel. And...oddly enough, I was literally just dubbed the Vice President of Sunshine by someone at work so it's good to know that side of me shows more often than I sometimes think. Okay, somehow I just rambled a lot...imagine that. But, ultimately, butter the bread of those you love carefully, intentionally. Don't be careless or reckless with them. Think of how being loved in the ways you need makes you feel and then do more of that for others.
Words for tonight (these are not mine, but I keep reading them over and over and anytime that happens I feel like there's something I'm supposed to be getting from them):
"You are part of a puzzle in someone's life. You may never know where you fit. But, someone's life may never be complete without you in it."
"Ruth didn't go back to what was familiar. She stepped out in faith and walked into the unknown. Her courage brought her to her divine destiny. Don't look back." - A Modern Day Ruth
"There's bravery in being soft."
I spend a lot of time thinking about how we all fit together, how who we are and the decisions we make affect all the others we share life with. I beat myself up a lot for being too nice, for giving too many chances, for extending too much grace...but, without all of those things, I wouldn't be me. I often think that if I were more tough, played the game differently, stopped giving so much some things in my life would be different - I think I tend to see those more "powerful" women as brave, but then I read those words - "There's bravery in being soft" - and I realized that God is using my "softness" in ways I likely can not see.
I spent some time tonight with a very dear friend who was dealing with something very fragile, and she was feeling very vulnerable. She is the most kind-hearted person I know, and while she was dealing with something that was causing her great pain, she continued to choose kindness over cruelty when the latter could have easily been justified. (Let's put it this way, I offered to buy eggs - no, not to cook - and she wouldn't let me. It was THAT kind of night.) We spent over an hour driving around after discovering news she needed to know, yet wanted not to know and talked about how two nice girls end up in such shitty situations. What I could tell her is that while the outcome ultimately wasn't what she wanted, she had without a doubt played a very important role in the other person's life ("You are part of a puzzle in someone's life. You may never know where you fit. But, someone's life may never be complete without you in it.") Life is not fair (I hear my mom's voice in my head every time I try and argue the unfairness of a situation), and at any moment we can be on the heads side of a tails-up coin. But, what I remind myself is...while I may not ever truly know how I've fit into someone's "puzzle"...there have to be places where I was the only piece that fit. And that's what I shared with her tonight.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. We are all hamsters in that way. We replay scenarios with little variation in the variables yet somehow expect a different ending. We can't be afraid to change, to "...not return to the familiar but instead step out in faith and walk into the unknown..." because even if the what if doesn't seem appealing (okay, scary) at the time, it's gotta be better than whatever result we keep coming up with. I've said it a million times...life is short. We get one shot at all this...to create our puzzle...so be soft, be brave, don't be afraid of the unknown because maybe that's where you'll find the missing pieces...or, maybe you'll end up being a special piece for someone else. Who knows? Either way you can't lose...either way you gain something...either way something new, and most likely good, will happen...even if you were afraid of it initially. Don't be afraid to feel and root yourself in love...those two things will carry you when you doubt all the rest.
The biggest complaint I have about my little house is the inability to see the sunset. I can see a small glimpse of it, but never the whole thing in all its glory and I LOVE sunsets. I always have. I used to think it was sun rises I loved most, but no, it's sunsets. The breathtaking beauty always stops me in my tracks, forcing me to pause and reflect, thinking through whatever thoughts I may be struggling with in that moment. Often I find myself a bit emotional as the sky brightens into shades beyond description before fading into a pale, shimmery glow just before the day gives way to night.
Today was rainy and dreary...a nice, sleepy, quiet Sunday so when I looked outside and saw pinks and oranges on the horizon I found myself needing to see tonight's story unfold. I threw on shoes and ran up the hill, trying to find the best vantage point. I ended up standing next to M's school where I was able to catch it at it's most radiant. There is something about a sunset at the end of a rainy day. I've always been amazed at how somehow it can literally rain all day and, yet, at the end of it all, there is a gentle reminder that no matter how stormy it may have been, there is something worth waiting for. I guess maybe that's why I love sunsets so much. I try really hard to keep things in perspective...to remember that no matter how bad things may seem, it can always be worse and that even at the end of a really awful day we get another shot tomorrow. Sunsets are a visual version of that I suppose. It's also like the ocean...something so much greater, so much larger, so much more than myself...something beautiful for the world to see...something that makes me feel small, insignificant, humble...and it reminds me to refocus for a bit.
So, tonight as I stood there on top of the hill overlooking the middle school football field, I thought of where I am right now....a weekend well-spent...a shifting focus...a redirection...simple moments turned into new memories. My eyes filled with tears and I didn't want to turn my gaze, but as all things do...the view quickly changed, diminished, faded...making way for whatever is to come next.
I am addicted to connections. I love the simple, yet intricate, ways we connect with the people around us whether it be those we are most intimate with, or complete strangers passing by. Many of you know I have a lovely little red bow tattooed on the inside of my left wrist - something that means the world to me because it symbolizes a belief I hold very dear. I believe we meet the people we're supposed to meet, when we're supposed to meet them, and we serve a very specific purpose in each other's lives. The hard part is, we have no idea how long we get with anyone and, if you're like me - a hanger-onner - then the letting go, when necessary, is extremely difficult. (My bow is based on the Asian Red Ribbon of Fate that says we are tied to specific people through fate for a variety of reasons - love, business, friendship - and nothing can keep that bond from forming.) So, when I look at my wrist, I am reminded of lots of things/people depending on my mood...sometimes I think of the cold January afternoon when K and I stood in Grimm's on Broadway and had that tiny little picture etched on my body...sometimes I think of people I've known and lost...sometimes I think of people who I will call "almosts" because they could have played a role but were more of a shadow in the background when it was all said and done...sometimes I think of all of you; those who came into my life and stuck, choosing to do this messy thing called life in tandem. But, no matter what, or who, I think of/remember when looking at that little red bow...I always find myself smiling to myself.
So, connections...I am constantly trying to figure out what makes people who, and why, they are. I refuse to see people at surface level, although that's the easiest thing to do. Obviously we are naturally drawn to certain people for a variety of typical reasons: looks, personality, shared interests, common location, etc. But, what about a person causes you to want to know more, to invest in them, to not only acknowledge, but also accept and encourage the differences between the two of you? I've always asked a lot of questions. My sisters used to worry a bit when they brought boys they were dating around me and always asked me to behave because I tended to ask more than the usual "what do you do" or "where are you from" questions...sure it was to get to know them, but it's also because I'm just naturally curious, especially about people. I love to figure out what makes someone tick, what makes them WHO they are. I mean, really...what we do is just a job...but, aside from that, aside from the visible, tangible, day-to-day things everyone sees...WHO are they? Aside from all of that...aside from what YOU show everyone...WHO are YOU?
...to be continued...
Write what you know they say. Take 20 minutes each day. Start there. Give the words time to come. And then, just let your fingers do the talking. I’ve been waiting for the words to come for what feels like forever now. Something that used to happen so easily that it felt like second-nature to me is now one of my greatest struggles and I have no idea why. I could argue that I have become shallow, or that I’ve stopped experiencing life the same ways I used to causing me to have little to write about. Or, that stress has taken the inspiration right out of me. Or, maybe I have nothing of value to say. Or, maybe I never really did. I honestly don’t know. What I do know is I still think about it a hundred times a day…the what if’s and should have’s and why can’t I’s. The frustration boiling up inside of me as I beg the words swimming around inside my head to bump together just right forming something resembling sentences. Yet, as I sit here, fingers on keys…nothing. Well, nothing of any real meaning anyway. So, a topic…
I’ve been reading lots of women authors lately…Brown, Gilbert, Poehler, Kaling, Strayed, Fey…I’m drawn to them in an unrelenting fashion – their wit and talent, wisdom and sass creating an urge to soak up as much of them as possible in a way I haven’t felt in a long time, if ever. I think it’s my way of trying to be more like them…to glean something from them…to be inspired by them. No, I’m not funny like Poehler, Kaling or Fey. And I’m certainly not nearly as academic and respected as Brown. And I have nowhere near the grit and experience as Gilbert or Strayed. Yet, I feel a connection to them…a desire to write something…what? Something real. That’s the only word that fits, the only word that seems to even remotely say what I hope to do with my writing; what I’ve ALWAYS hoped to be and create with my words – REAL. And each of these women writes that in their own way with their own flair and I love them for it. No, I don’t want to copy them, or try and recreate something any of them has already done. I just want to learn from them, be inspired by them….and maybe find a way to give the world (or anyone who may be willing to read my paltry, simple thoughts) something of my own.
One of the things I struggle with is the fear of simply repeating something someone great – or a whole bunch of people, to be completely honest – has already said in a way so much better than I could ever dream of doing. My thoughts aren’t new, or fresh. I haven’t come up with some brand-new way of thinking, nor do I have crazy, original thoughts about some subject that others are just dying to hear about. What I do have is the love of people and the hope that something I say could maybe, just maybe, matter to someone someday.
I went to a blogging conference a couple weeks ago to try and gain inspiration, motivation, guidance. I found some of each, yet still haven't written til now. Not that I haven't had thoughts to share, moments happen all the time that I want to put on paper yet never seem to find the time and when I do, they just don't come in the same way. So, here it is. I'm challenging myself to documenting a thought a day...to finding, and sharing my thoughts about something, anything, once a day. They may not all make it to "published" status, but I'm going to try. I realize you can't get any better without practice and perseverance, traits I've never been all that great at honestly. But, I also know that if you have a dream - one big enough that it not only scares you, but that you can't go a day without thinking about - then you owe it to yourself to fight for it constantly until it no longer exists merely just as a dream, but manifests into something complete...however monumental or simple that may be.
Thoughts for today...or, a pep talk to myself...
Be brave and vulnerable. Trust others, but trust yourself more. Protect the life you've worked so hard to create, but be generous with your heart, your time and whatever you have to offer. Try not to take yourself so seriously. Life is tough, but it's also funny as hell - look for those moments and take time to really enjoy them. Don't be afraid to fail. Seriously. Nothing is perfect so stop waiting for whatever you think could be - a relationship, your writing, your butt, most of your cooking, being M's mom, your friendships - none of it will ever be perfect so give it your best shot, do your squats, drink more water, try the recipe but be okay about ordering pizza if it's terrible, say the words - yes, the hard ones - when you need to, stand your ground and remember your worth because it's your life and you're the only one who can live it. Demand respect. Wear your big girl shoes and the questionably short skirt while you've got the legs to do it. Learn something new. Anything. Never stop wondering and keep asking questions. That's part of who you are. Don't make yourself quiet or small for anyone. The right people will love every bit of your sound and spirit. Dance with M, jump with her and listen to all of her stories. Laugh and cry with those who need it. Be genuine. Always. Don't hold back. Be undeniably you. Compromise when necessary, but never compromise your character or values. Be open to conversations with people who think differently and don't fear change even though it's in your nature to do so. Get the manicure, drink the wine, buy the shoes...but pay the bills first. Take time to tell others how you really feel, even if it's hard. Stop apologizing out of habit. Go for a walk. Practice yoga. Both make you feel better. Do more of that. Text less, talk more. Get more rest and stop wasting so much energy and time on social media. Read. For fun, to learn, to let go, to get lost, to forget. Find your way back to a piano. Stop saying you'll take lessons and do it already. You know how much you loved it. That hasn't changed. Remember to say thank you...to others, and for something every single day. Because you've got it good.
Enough. After each attack – here, or abroad, it really doesn’t matter anymore because lives are lives and whether lost on American soil or not they are still lives taken without cause, without permission, without any chance of justice – I find myself saying that single word. Enough. I’m gonna be real blunt, and I honestly do not care who I offend at this point so if any of what I say going forward bothers you, well…kiss my ass and move on because I’m sick and tired of being politically correct while innocent people die.
A life is a life. I honestly do not give a shit if you are black, white, Muslim, Christian, gay, straight, man, woman or child. A life is a life. Got it? Last time I checked the time of death for any of us belongs to God – not some asshole with an agenda who thinks he has the right to choose who lives or dies by his own moral compass. Yes, I know martyrs have existed long before any of this nonsense and I’m well aware innocent lives are lost every day without any acknowledgement or global news coverage. I also know that this isn’t the start of social injustice, or the beginning of something new but the way it’s being carried out is and the rate at which these attacks are coming is increasing and I fear the reality we are being faced with.
As I sit on my patio tonight I think of the lives lost not only today, but over the past several months. People like you and me, simply going about their lives, with zero thought that their time was up. What I can’t fathom is how anyone can care so little for human life, yet care so much about a cause that does absolutely nothing for them that they are willing to do the unthinkable. Yes, I feel like I’m in a little bubble…like I’m sorta untouchable in this moment…but, you can guarantee all of those people did too. What I’m trying desperately to do is to not live in fear because the anxiety I could feel if I allowed it would be paralyzing.
Let me be clear. I do not have the answer. Man, I wish I did, but I don’t. But, what I know is…enough is enough. How do we take our world back? How do we give our children something to live for? How do we protect them and create a future for them that doesn’t involve all this chaos and loss? I am not looking for a political debate. If that’s what you want, look elsewhere. Truth be told, I don’t think the answer lies with our politicians or our government…it lies with each of us. I know many police officers – all good men and women, none of whom I would ever blame for taking a life unjustly. And tonight, I fear for those officers whose one goal in life is to keep the rest of us safe, no matter what the cost. Tonight I pray for their families…for the spouses and children who are hugging a bit tighter amidst the fear of every call, praying that every shift brings their loved one home safely.
I refuse to accept that this is it…that THIS is the world we live in and we have no control over what happens…that more and more people will die without cause. I am really struggling with this, and want (like the rest of you) to make sense of it, but I honestly have no idea how. How many more have to die? Where does it end? Why aren’t we asking the hard questions? How do we stop these things before they happen? Who can we turn to? Again, I don’t know. Many blame Washington. Okay, sure, I’ll place a relative amount of responsibility there, but at this point, in this moment, how do we stop these rogue attackers? They are here, among us, living and working beside us…today’s shooter was FROM KC!!! Holy hell! No, I don’t own a gun. No, I’m not rushing out to buy one. Do I condemn anyone who has one? Definitely not. What I fear most is our country truly falling apart…of everything we hold dear collapsing beneath us. Is that an unfounded fear? Perhaps. But, what if? What we are facing is man turning on man…human lives mattering little. I’m so sick of hearing “black lives matter”! ALL LIVES MATTER you dip shits! You don’t stand up when a black child is killed in a rolling gun battle between two gangs, but you sure as hell come running when a black man is killed by the cops for not following directions. Where is the sense or justice in that? We have worked so hard to get away from racial separation, yet in the past few months we have taken every step forward and thrown them out the window replacing them with a version of 1965 that is worse than we could have ever imagined. As long as we keep turning on ourselves, ISIS wins. As long as we keep acting like selfish idiots, ISIS wins. Is that what we want? We have to stop the division. If we want a United States of America, then we better start acting like it because we are crumbling rapidly. We may be the most powerful country in the world, but that matters little if we become the sum of all that’s evil within our borders. Step up, America. Pull your big girl panties up and ask for more. Enough already.
Tonight I struggle to find words...mostly because I have no way of understanding what happened in Orlando almost 48 hours ago. If I'm honest, I don't want to think about it. I don't want to admit that I live in a world where so much hate and anger not only exist, but do so with life-ending power. I truly can't understand how one man could harbor so much anger about something that truly had absolutely no effect on his life whatsoever, and then allow that anger to manifest itself into a hatred so deep that he felt he had the right to enter a public building and open fire on hundreds of innocent men and women who were just trying to live their lives. There are so many layers to this tragedy. It would be naive to say otherwise. Fear, hate, anger, judgement, persecution, ignorance, grief...ALL layers of shame, blame and pain. There is so much about this that represents all the horrific, dirty, judgmental thoughts we all have about one thing or another...the things we know nothing about that cause us to fear and to hate out of the need to try and control those things and people different than us. Be it the color of our skin, or the church we choose to worship in, or the man or woman we choose to love...this one, awful act reminds us that all those things we THINK we have grown past as a society still haunt us with glaring reality.
No, most of us do not hate on such a deep level. We don't go out buying automatic weapons intended for war and then walk into a crowded club with the desire to murder as many people as possible simply because we don't like their lifestyle. But we do judge. We do offer so much less than acceptance and love. We look at others and don't really see them, but rather we see them as we choose to see them...typically through skewed eyes that tend to see the worst rather than the best in those around us.
Friends...this isn't about politics or sexual orientation or even gun control...although that's what the media is going to try and make us believe. This is a hot, sensitive time...people's nerves are raw, we are facing an election year like no other, the underlying topics surrounding this disaster are already front of mind for most of us and we are faced - yet again - that evil truly exists. I refuse to place blame on ANYONE other than the coward (yes...coward. I refuse to even call him a man.) who made the decision to end 49 innocent lives simply because he disliked their lifestyle. This is not the President's fault anymore than it's yours or mine. It's not because he was ABLE to buy the weapon - because he WOULD HAVE FOUND A WAY. And it's certainly not because the men and women killed were gay and lesbian. It's because of one man's hate, fear and intolerance - nothing more.
Just like most of you, I'm struggling to put my thoughts and feelings into words...especially when speaking with my 12 year old daughter. How do we make sure this doesn't happen again? How do we show the victims, their families and all of the people whose lives are forever changed in an instant that those lives were not lost in vain? We love. That's it. We stop laying blame. We don't turn on one another. We don't seek ways to repay the injustice. We simply love. We teach our children to be better. We show them that people are not measured by the color of their skin, the God they worship or the person they love. We teach them to seek ways to make this world a little better. We remind them to always be kind. We help them to look deeper, to see others for who they are rather than the predisposed assumptions we often make based on first glance. We show them in word and deed that every life has value. We stop and take stock of our own thoughts and opinions and change the ones we know cause more harm than good. We seek intelligence rather than settling for ignorance. And, above all, we do not feed into the cycle of hate.
Friends...I pray we each find some sense of peace in the face of tragedy. I pray we open our hearts and seek to understand and accept the differences that make us each so incredible. We are all chosen, all created for a purpose, all put here to live...NOT to decide who is worthy and who is not. I'm not going to ask you to pay it forward, or go out and do some great act of kindness. This is so much greater, yet simpler, than that. This HAS to begin with you...with me...with each and every one of us. If we can't look within and see the things we fear, the things we distrust, the things we judge then we can't love without measure and that is the only thing that will help us heal and work towards making sure this never happens again.
She kissed me goodbye as she has every morning on her way out the door for the past nine months and I reminded her to have a great (last) day. I thought of the mid-August morning when we stood side-by-side on our front steps for the obligatory “first day of school” photo and remembered the nerves we shared – while for different reasons, they were shared all the same – and knew that in a few short hours she would return as a seventh grader…just like that. I didn’t take a photo. Maybe I should have, but I didn’t. As with every year before, sixth grade has flown by with an urgency I find myself straining to contend with. She’s 12 now. My size. She walks out of my room with my clothes on and I’ve almost gotten used to it. She told her cousin on Saturday that the only hand she likes to hold is mine. Mine. For now, anyway. I will take it. And cherish it…knowing I have little time left before that simple pleasure is no longer mine and my heart will swell with something less than joy when I see the other hands she chooses to hold. I watched her walk up the sidewalk this morning for one last time as a sixth grader and remembered the first few times I watched her walk up the same sidewalk last fall; with a catch in my chest if I’m being completely honest. She is older…maybe a bit taller…more mature…more sure of herself in that great big building…confident in the ways that count…yet, sitting precariously close to the edge of childhood – the place we parents find ourselves struggling with almost as much as, if not more than, our children do. We talk of boys and girl drama, of making good choices and acting with respect and character, of expectations and dreams, of all the things she is still trying to hold onto while reaching ever farther towards those she is almost ready to grasp. And sometimes I can’t help but think back over these past 12 years with a mix of sadness at the ridiculous ways time slips from us when we are busy living. I fear missing something…I’ve always done that. And now more than ever, I fear not being there for her in the ways she needs me to be. I know we, as parents, fail our children almost routinely. As a friend said today, “I never tell another parent how to parent. We are all just surviving.” So. Very. True. There are moments of pride and moments of terror. Moments that swoop through, catching us so off guard that we have no idea which end is up. And moments that humble us with one single word. From birth, they can level us emotionally, and I’m fairly certain her ability to do this will only increase over the next few years. But, thankfully, our capacity to love them is greater than all of those things – and the pain we endure at their unknowing hands – combined. I see little- bitty her in my-size her…her three-year-old expressions crossing a twelve-year-old face. The face I see now has braces and touches of make-up on top of the same excited smile and big blue eyes I’ve spent hours memorizing over the past 12 years. She still looks to me for reassurance, but sometimes with embarrassment and eye rolls. What we share now are moments much different than in years past…talking her through the awfulness of first-time tampon use, giddy bedtime conversations about a new boy, frustrations over assignments, calming nerves before presentations. I often say that before I was just keeping her alive, but now I could really mess her up. I know that with every decision something is solidified or destroyed in her mind, heart, or soul. I know she is still very immature in the simplest of ways, and I pray daily to preserve those things as long as possible. The moments are flying by. There never seems to be enough time to say everything, yet as I look back, I realize how much time we waste. I beg time to stop more often than I wish it to move. The days that drug by when she was little seem to laugh in my face now that she’s older. For the first time ever, I thought about what comes after…after she graduates…in six short years (I say short because the last six have flown by with increased speed so I’m fairly sure the next six may truly be a blur) it will be just me and I honestly don’t know how to feel about that. So, we’re gonna just set that thought up high on a shelf for a while until I have to pull it down and do something with it. But today…she left a sixth grader and returned a seventh grader. Just like that.
Carter...may your memory always remind us to live big, to love with everything we have, and to take no moment or person for granted.
may 22, 2006...
my mind is stuck a little today...wrapped around memories i'm often able to pause only momentarily on without giving them the chance to fully take over...but, today is always different. today it's impossible to push them aside, to almost pretend they aren't actually real....today, like every year since, i let myself remember...give myself over to the reality of that day, the weight of those moments, and the significance of one very special life.
the day flashes through my mind like an old-school home movie...raw and sketchy with blurred edges, sometimes skipping and jarring from one image, one moment, to the next. i'm overly aware of times...6:45am...9:15am...3pm...8:45pm...each laced with emotion, softened some by time, yet still a little too familiar on days like this. i'm haunted mostly by expressions, predominately sarah's, but even by those on the faces of strangers in the waiting room; each carrying the weight of grief, fear of the unknown, unwilling acceptance of things no one should ever have to see. we each were lost in our own thoughts, drowning in our own personal pain; unable to see more than a minute at a time because it was too hard to look past the certainty of time.
it's amazing to think that one incredible baby touched so many people...that a life spanning only ten and a half weeks could have so much impact. some of us live for years and never serve our purpose, never reach our potential...yet, somehow, he did it in two months. each life is a gift, be it two months or 100 years...it's what we do with it, what we accomplish, who we serve, how we live, and maybe most importantly how we love that determines its worth.
find purpose in your life, experience the full potential of each day, feel each emotion and learn when to discard them when their time has passed, see the good in others yet don't let them walk all over you, be open to the world around you and know people are put in your path for a reason, understand the importance of time and spend it wisely with people who are worth it, give freely of yourself trying hard not to expect anything in return, smile more, laugh longer, hold tighter, walk slower, wait for direction, be mindful of others while putting selfishness aside, and love...love more, love harder, love openly without fear.
Faith at 1:13 PM