The other day M and I were in the car talking about music and how much we missed concerts and all the things we had hoped to do this year. I mentioned that I feel like we have missed out on so much, that we didn’t get to really plan and look forward to things like we have in the past...that it feels like there hasn’t been much to look back on this year. And she paused and said, “But it’s still been a really good year.”
Bam. Just like that my perspective changed. My view went from all I feel like we’ve missed out on, everything I THOUGHT she might have been focusing on in that moment, to one of immense gratitude and...peace.
See, I when I think of what this past year has been like, or what we’ve missed out on, most of what I think about is what SHE has potentially missed out on and memories we should be making in the ever-present reality that she is growing up. I feel like we are in a constant mourning period - mourning life experiences she should be having as a 16 year old, and those we should be sharing in the time before she is all grown up.
I started a gratitude journal this week - I thought about doing that on here, but that was more than I could handle this round. Anyway, this morning as I sat down with my cup of coffee and my little notebook, I was trying to come up with three amazing things from yesterday. (I’ve chosen to focus on things I’m grateful for, a simple affirmation and three things that were amazing from the day before.) Most days coming up with what I’m grateful for is easy - while the things I write down are simple in words their meaning to me is typically much greater - but finding three amazing things to celebrate often has me stumped which causes me to feel a bit sad, but this morning it occurred to me that I’m looking for the wrong things. I’m taking “amazing” to mean the really big moments...the concerts and nights out, the Sunday brunches with my girlfriends, the trips, exploring the city with no agenda - all the things that I typically would spend time looking forward to, but have basically been put on the back burner since early March. So much seems mundane lately...it makes it hard to really see moments that are worth celebrating, but maybe this is when we should be noticing them the most...or, at least redefine what amazing moments are in the world we currently live in. I’ve been quick to say these past several months that I’m thankful for the extra time with my teenager who would have been gone much more if it had been any other year. But, I haven’t been quick to really make the most of that time.
M’s words were a beautiful reminder that all has not been lost this year, that we have MUCH to be thankful for, that despite a pandemic that has altered almost every aspect of our lives, IT HAS BEEN A REALLY GOOD YEAR.
I’m going to try and look at life through those glasses, with that perspective...to see the beautiful and amazing in the mundane...to take this Groundhog Day shit storm we are wading through and make the most of each day. What are your three amazing things today?
I woke up this morning to a video a friend posted on Facebook of our girls’ volleyball team returning home from winning the state championship yesterday. I had watched the girls win yesterday afternoon on her live stream and got choked up then, and found myself even more emotional when M called me just after they won to tell me...but this video of the girls coming home, lead by a police escort, to a crowd of their family and friends...it did me in. My little blonde ponytail of a girl was in that crowd, cheering for her friends, sharing that moment with them - a moment that few kids get to experience, but even more special this year. See, THIS is what I want for her...these moments of celebration...these moments with her friends...these moments that when she looks back at her junior year she will know there were things so much more memorable than Covid and the election. I want so badly for her to have normal high school moments that become cherished memories with these people she has grown up with, moments that shape and solidify friendships and show these kids that life is best lived in the moment and not behind a screen.
I’ve thought a lot lately about the time we have, and the people we spend it with. One of my dearest friends text me the other day and said she feels like we are being robbed of time and I had to agree. I feel stuck in many ways, like I’m in quicksand and don’t know how to move beyond this Groundhog Day of a moment. No, I’m not depressed or anything, but I hate that we are missing out on so much right now...that most of this year feels sort of lost. Maybe it’s the upcoming holidays making me feel even more nostalgic. Maybe it’s the realization that M is getting closer and closer to being grown up and I feel like precious time is being stolen from us - yes, we have had extra time together, but we haven’t done many of the things we would have typically done this year and I can’t stand the fact that we aren’t even really able to plan anything for the future. I see this virus all around us, impacting so many, pushing pause on so many aspects of life. That’s why seeing our kids in that video hit me so hard...there was no pause button, they were living out loud and it felt so good to see them get to enjoy and celebrate and just be kids.
I miss my people. I miss happy hours and Sunday brunch. I miss Saturday shenanigans and last minute plans that become the best memories. I am guilty of living way too much of my life behind a screen this year and I’m certain it’s adding to my increasing anxiety. Right now it’s easy to feel like there are so many uncertainties, so many things out of our control. How do we focus on what we can control? How do we find joy in the mundane we might feel stuck in? How do we best use the 20% we have (the other 80% is the stuff we can’t do anything about)? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. But, I’m gonna do all I can to try and LIVE more.
I’m so thankful our kids are getting some incredible moments together. That their lives have more to them than listening to us freak out about a virus and feel anxious about an election. I’m so thankful they can celebrate and be kids and create memories that they do not realize will be something wonderful to look back on in time. Here’s to more moments that become incredible memories...for all of us.
We do not exist alone. Every part of our being, our character, our outlook is shaped by the people and experiences we’ve encountered and endured. Moments of weakness, of pain, of strength and of celebration carve and mold our heart and soul taking the canvas of our lives and giving it shape and character. But, what we do with that, who we become, is up to us.
Last night someone attacked my sister on social media and I lost my mind. I saw red. I was literally ready to launch a no holds bar, stop at nothing, return attack on this person. What she said was based on political belief, but was ultimately a very personal attack aimed to hurt and belittle. My fingers itched with intent, ready to fire back with as much hatred and vitriol as possible to put her in her place and restore some of my sister’s peace. But, thankfully I live with a man who is better at seeing the bigger picture - he reminded me the words I often say myself about not engaging with people who are only there to bully and cause pain - and I rethought my intention, my anger, my feelings for this woman and the situation. I made one statement that was met with challenge, but I took the high road and let her bury herself.
I have felt so much anxiety and what I can only describe as a heaviness this year...and it is only getting worse as we lead up to November 3rd. This year has people on edge for so many reasons. We are being pushed and pulled from every angle, and rather than peace all we are being given is a future that appears to be more polarizing than the reality we already exist in. This isn’t a political post, but one can’t ignore the backdrop of political discord and a climate that is full of fear and uncertainty. I don’t know about you, but I’m just plain tired of all of it. Maybe it’s worse the older I get simply because with age we see more, or maybe it really is worse now than it’s ever been. Regardless, it’s exhausting and I’m struggling to see an outcome that brings peace. I wish people could see each other without the labels...take off the “red” and “blue” hats and just be human. If we could acknowledge that the words used to describe a party aren’t all true, and certainly aren’t true about most of the people who align with whichever party, and try to see that we are all searching for HOPE, looking for something better - whatever that is - and work towards that without all the name calling and awful assumptions that come with a sign, a vote, a belief that only exists because we love this country and the freedom we have to choose. We seem to have lost sight that we are all Americans, all on the same team, all wanting the best for our country and the people within it. We need to look at the bigger picture and stop thinking of how we are being mistreated, or how we might lose out on something and realize how very lucky we are. No, we aren’t all going to agree, and there are going to be things, and people, we disagree with but that doesn’t give us the right to turn on each other and make things we can’t really do much about personal.
Also, social media shouldn’t be a platform to air all your grievances or pick fights. On Facebook, our contacts are “Friends”...I don’t know about you, but I would never treat my friends in real life the way I’ve seen people treat others behind the safety of a screen. Let’s be honest, no one chooses the misfortune in their lives, so let’s work harder to help others rather than add to their burdens. Treat others as you’d like to be treated...don’t judge until you’ve walked a mile in someone’s shoes...if you don’t have something nice to say - keep your damn mouth shut!
Alright, enough of that. Let’s find a better way to focus our limited energy...find something to be grateful for today...do one thing that makes a difference...give a compliment...mend a hurt...turn off the news, get outside, pet your dog, squeeze your kid...just foster goodness and set all the junk aside!
Happy Friday, friends!!!!
Moms and daughters...do we ever really figure this dynamic out? This photo is old, but in it is the woman I made a mom and the girl who did the same for me 26 years later. Most of the time I don’t have words big enough for either of these relationships. See, this whole mom-daughter thing is one of life’s greatest gifts, and one of it’s greatest mysteries. Ever since M was born, I have felt as though my heart was walking around outside of my body...as if a piece of my being was all at once a part of me and, as she got older and more independent, separate from me. When you become a mom you love with a wholeness that is greater than you. And, I have often taken the love my mom has for me for granted...as all children do. We forget that these people who have given us life are still trying to figure out things within their own lives. We selfishly assume they have it all figured out and are here now mostly for us. We offer little grace, and rarely allow them to be human. I have been known to remind M that I’m far from having much of anything figured out, and that many of the things she struggles with as a girl I, too, am still struggling with. And yet, I find it difficult to see my mom in that way. It’s funny how at 42, while I know she is more than our mom, I know I still see her mostly as that...rather than as the woman she has always been with her unique gifts and talents, her struggles and her flaws...to me she is somehow beyond all of that.
Mom...thank you for loving me for me. For never asking that I be anything other than who I am. For teaching me to love unconditionally and without reservation. Thank you for reminding me to “act like a lady” and for setting realistic boundaries for me. Thank you for road trips and vacations that are still some of my very favorite memories. Thank you for being in the corner when M was born so you could capture my first moments as her mom. Thank you for being patient and kind...for never making fun of my worrying and for gently reminding me not to take myself so seriously. You are so smart and funny. I’m not sure you see that now, but you truly are. You could do anything you tried when we were growing up. To me you were fearless and brave. I know you’ve had your share of hardships, but you still press on. Please know I see you and admire so much more than I’ve likely ever said. Thank you for giving me my sisters, my two dearest and most cherished friends. And...thank you for showing me how to be a mom when I had very little idea what I was doing. Happy Mother’s Day. I love you so very much.
M and I stood in this monumental spot a few years ago...our perceptions of the moments spent there vastly different...to me, a heartbreaking reminder of a day that stole not only all of those lives, but also the innocence that collapsed with those towers...to her, a history lesson centered around something that happened before her time that while so important to the world around her, she thankfully has no personal connection to.
Year after year we post the reminders, so we never forget...the list of names and the breakdown of the numbers by civilians and flight crew and first responders - and we stop and think about where we each were in those moments that September morning...not physically, but emotionally, spiritually. The events of that day cracked us open, exposing our differences but, more importantly, our often underlying and ignored similarities. For a time we weren’t politically divided, we didn’t care about anything other than being united as Americans. The nonsensical things we typically allow to come between us didn’t matter for a time as we displayed flags and stood together in our homes, communities and government. It’s a shame that isn’t the same today...
Yes, I remember where I was that morning but my story doesn’t matter. What matters are the stories of those we lost and the ripple effects that horrific day has had on us. I struggle with the fact that to my daughter’s generation this anniversary means little other than a day that tends to choke her mom up and another lesson for them to read about in history class. I guess I should be happy that she doesn’t have a personal connection to it, but it’s also a reminder of how easily events turn into history lessons that we must continue to teach in order to prevent them from happening again.
I told her her last night that most of the time 9/11 feels like a long time ago, but this time of year - each year - it feels like it was just yesterday. I’ve been fortunate to visit Ground Zero twice - once just less than a year after the tragedy and again a few years ago. On that first visit, the hole was still there...the giant flag still hung from a neighboring building...the memorials still tucked into the wrought iron fence at the church across the street - and I remember feeling unworthy, like I didn’t deserve to be there because I didn’t lose anyone there that day....but then, I realized as an American, we all lost something that day and visiting the site is an honor. Never forget - words we have seen often in the months and years following...words those of us alive that day don’t need to hear, but so very important for the generations we are raising. The children born that year are now becoming adults...they are emerging as the first post-9/11 generation with a voice that will hopefully be used to not only remember the tragedy, but show how bright the human spirit can shine.
I truly think it doesn’t matter where we were that morning. What matters is where we are now - to not let those lost be lost in vain. To remember we are ALL Americans first and to focus on what unifies, rather than divides, us. Never forget that.
A while back, M and I were in the car on the ride home from school. And while car rider line often makes me crazy, the time between school and home holds moments I look forward to every single day. In that 10-15 minute window she often lets her 15 year old, teenage girl guard down and allows me to peek inside her world. She “spills tea” and shares secrets. She lets frustrations from the day seep out of the cracks she has worked hard to damn up for the past eight hours. She is sometimes quiet, and that’s okay too. But, often, she takes over the radio and finds music to fit her current mood and we find common ground over lyrics written for moments just like these. Today it was a new Thomas Rhett song called "This Old Truck". We’ve listened to it before and I liked it then, but today it resonated with me in a different way. Just read the chorus:
I grew up in it
Yeah, I got stuck in it
Playin’ our song on the stereo
Drivin’ til we ran outta road
Yeah, I broke up in it
I fell in love in it
Made a lifetime of memories
On a half tank of gasoline
I learned just who I wasn’t and who I was
In that old truck
And, as we sang along, each lost in the trail of our own thoughts, I couldn’t help but think that while I’m hearing these words and thinking back to the memories I’ve long ago made, she is likely dreaming of making memories all her own. Having a child in high school is so much different, so much more nostalgic, than having a child in elementary school. Think about it - we remember high school...for good or bad...those memories stick with us because they are woven into the fabric of the life we are now living. Whether you’ve tried to outrun them, or you loved every bit of them, those four years held moments that took you from a child to something resembling an adult. For the most part, I loved high school. I had great friends and was involved in everything I wanted to be in my little school.
So now, as I watch her high school life unfold, I’m often hit with memories that don’t seem all that far away. I see her with her friends and I think about moments spent with mine. When she talks about boys, I shake my head at all of the time I wasted wishing some boy would pay I attention to me and smile wistfully at the memories of a boy who finally stole my 16 year old heart. I think about how excited I was each time I stepped on stage for our annual school play, and how nervous I was to walk out of those school doors for the last time. But, mostly, I think about the fact that no matter how many years separate our high school career, she is, and I was, just a girl trying to find her way, navigating the lanes and trying to avoid the landmines that can make or break these four short years. In less time than it takes to pay off a car, she will be expected to make major life choices. In that same amount of time, I will be expected to let her go down whatever road those choices take her. She will face obstacles I can't protect her from, and learn from mistakes - many of which will impact her in ways I won't be able to understand because she will hold them close to her heart out of whatever myriad of emotions she will be carrying. But, no matter what, it is her adventure to live and mine to have a front-row seat to if I'm lucky.
These car rides are dwindling as we get closer to 16. In a few short months I won't have this time with her. Instead she will be making memories of her own, behind the wheel, or in the passenger seat, with the friends who will come to know her heart in ways I won't have access to. I truly hope that she always knows I am her safe place, her biggest fan, the one in the background with a smile of encouragement and the lap she will never outgrow. So, live your life, sweet girl. Make memories - some I will know about, and many I likely won't. Laugh and love boldly. Never stop doing the things that bring you joy. If you outgrow something, or someone, have the courage to admit it and then do something about it. And, as we navigate these next few years, give us both a little extra grace - especially in the really hard moments...I promise, I’m not trying to make your life harder, and I do remember being your age (even if technology has added things we didn’t have). If you continue to trust me, I will do my best to ride shotgun as you drive.
Friends...I got lost for a bit...felt lost for a bit...well, more like I had nothing to say - nothing WORTH saying...so, I just stopped writing. I let my website lapse, let go of something I had originally felt so proud of, just set it all aside because I couldn't give it everything I felt it deserved. And, with each passing day, my little website building icon would stare at me and I found myself looking away from it like you would if it was something that caused you pain or shame. Which, if I'm honest, it exactly what was happening. I guess that's what happens when you ignore something that matters - even if you feel like you have nothing worthy to give. But, what I've recently realized is, my voice is still there...the thoughts still waiting to be heard...I just have to let go of some pride and fear and find my way back to the truth that has always been mine - words. So, bear with me, because this could be slow and maybe a little painful, but I'm praying the words will come. I've missed them...as odd as that may sound. Because the words are the doorway to insight, to thought, to finding my way...and I've felt like all of that has been missing for quite some time - like I've got a huge hole in me and I need to find a way to fill it up. Also, the reality is, I'm the weird type of perfectionist who believes if I can't do something absolutely perfect, why should I try it at all? Honestly, in my opinion, it's the worst kind of perfectionist to be because there are so many things I just don't try out of fear of failure - you'd think that by now I could out-grow that, but so far I'm still struggling big time with that one.
"I'm a recovering perfectionist and an aspiring 'good-enoughist'." - Brene' Brown
If Brene' can work on it, so can I. So, here's to being "good enough" and putting one word in front of the other in the hopes that something worthwhile finds its way onto the page.
Another trip around the sun. Another 365 days written in my little book of life. Per usual, I spent the last week before my birthday deep in my thoughts, thinking back over the past year and all it held. Overall a good one. Much to be thankful for. I find that I continue to know myself better, continue to have a better idea of who I am - strengths, flaws and everything in between. Much has changed in the last ten years. Everything, really, except for being M's mom. My 30's were a roller coaster of emotional events, many firsts, lots of upheaval and change, more job changes than I care to admit, plenty of laughter, a few moments I wasn't sure I would ever experience on my own, and maybe most important of all...the realization that we are all truly here to support one another and it is in our most difficult, deepest, darkest hours where we find those who will carry us when we don't have the strength to stand on our own.
I don't want another decade like my 30's. I pray for less uncertainty and more stability. Yes, I made it through and most of what happened during those years was in response to choices I made, so very little of it just happened to me...but, still, I am hopeful that I have learned some tough lessens and am in a better place emotionally and financially to hopefully keep from repeating some of them. That said, I still want to really live. To explore and seek adventure, to make ridiculous memories with the people I love most, to chase after as many sunsets as possible and look for the good along the way.
I'm now "in my 40's", not just 40. For a while I thought that might bother me more than turning 40 did, but I woke up on my birthday feeling really good about it. I think there's something reaffirming about turning the page on a "big" year and opening the door to the next chapter. For me, at least, I feel less pressure to make this year monumental. I tend to feel like I have to make every moment count, and often set expectations well beyond healthy levels placing unnecessary pressure on myself to make things like milestone birthdays bigger than they need to be. My 40's will be full of change in many other ways...my girl is growing up at a rapid pace and with that comes the realization that my biggest role is quickly changing and I'm not sure how I feel about it. She is about to start high school and since I still feel like it was just yesterday that I was doing the same thing, I struggle with how to help her navigate the things she is facing with the wisdom of time and grace of experience. I find myself looking back on my life in blocks of time with the focus on 20-year increments as of late for some reason. Maybe it's because if I think about how quickly the past 20 years have gone it scares the hell out of me to think of how fast the next 20 are gonna come. I find myself unsure of how to give her good advice sometimes because I'm not sure if I've really got any to give mostly because so often I feel like I'm still somewhere around 18-20 with my life spread out in front of me and no idea where I'm going or how on earth I'm going to get there. Yet, somehow, I'm twice that age and still trying to figure out how to "adult" most of the time. Time truly does keep flying by, and for the most part age is just a number, but the life that surrounds that number is what matters.
I won't lie. I still struggle with my place in this world. My identity isn't always clear and I still fight the same stupid insecurities...being enough in all its facets taking center stage as always. I'm not sure I will ever outgrow that. What I do know is that without all the experiences of the past, I wouldn’t have anything to write about. It’s up to us to live the life placed before us. We don’t get to choose the cards we are dealt, but it’s up to us to play the hell out of the hand we are holding. So...here’s to 41. May I have the wisdom to be the mom M needs, the spirit to seek new adventures without fear, the grace to see others for who they are without expectation and the ability to find more joy than anxiety in whatever comes my way.
Today as I sat at lunch in a restaurant alone, I didn't pull my phone out as I almost always do - mostly to feel less alone, to find comfort, to look at something so I don't feel like I'm just sitting there watching others. Instead I just watched and listened. Next to me two teenage girls talked nervously about learning to drive ("I practiced in the church parking lot and then drove home. I'm not sure I will ever get used to it."
"You will. I used to be nervous. Now it just comes automatically.") And then their conversation shifted briefly to college and where they might want to visit - one clearly wants to stay close while the other wants to go as far away as possible. They then joked about watching "The Princess and the Frog". I listened as they cautiously tip-toed around the topic, feeling the other out, finally admitting to loving it once it seemed safe to do so. One shared that her mom cried during it (as had she), and then said she gets embarrassed at the movies with her mom because she is the person in the theater who claps when something funny or good happens (I guiltily smiled to myself because I, too, am that person - likely also embarrassing my teen). As I wrapped up my lunch they were focused on the merits of Apple music versus Spotify which turned into the need to have a credit card to use Spotify Premium and how one had gotten her first card and her mom wants her to start carrying more than her lanyard to keep her money safe (I'm fairly certain they were rolling their eyes at this point).
I listened to them and thought about time...it wasn't all that long ago that I drove for the first time, and sat with my friends talking about college and the future...of course, we could never have imagined the ways music would change, but we sure did love a good mixed tape! And I thought of my girl with four years sitting in front of her that are about to shape her future and catapult her into the life she was created for. She will do each of these things...sooner than I want to admit...she will drive...she will dream of the life ahead of her...she will say and do things I will be proud of, and some I will wish she had said or done differently...she will make choices I will never know about and she will deal with demons and situations she may never share with me. So, while I may be the mom who claps when something funny or good happens in a movie it's because at the end of the day I am #foreveracheerleader and that kind of enthusiasm is hard to contain.
Lastly, as I sat and listened to those girls, I thought about my very own #sensationalsix and how, by the grace of God, we somehow managed to take the moments we shared as kids and turn them into something of substance and unshakable strength. I don't know how we got so lucky...I honestly don't. But, every time I see girls hanging out like I did today, I want so much to give them what we have. To show them that they will come out on the other side of all this teenage crap, and the people they should hold on tight to aren't the boys they THINK matter so much, but the girls who are walking with them through the moments that seem so huge and hard and beautiful and heartbreaking right now because, if they are really lucky, they will still be the ones walking beside them during the really big and really hard moments that make up...this life.
I'm still here. I know. I know. It's been almost six months since my fingers spoke for me and, honestly, I don't know why. Laziness mostly I suppose, but I'm still here.
I realized recently that I'm trying to live in the moment rather than live it through my phone screen. I'm not taking as many pictures because I don't want to be so busy capturing the moments to truly enjoy them. My birthday is only a few weeks away. This time last year I was busy trying to figure out what I wanted this next decade to look like. Now...now I think I've settled into it as well as I'm going to. There have been some obvious changes - metabolism is nothing to take for granted, friends - but, that, too, is something I'm slowly adjusting to. But, mostly, I'm trying to just live as much as I can, as well as I can.
The three photos above are from the 4th...they are my takeaways from a fairly great day. They capture the day exactly as I saw it...exactly as I felt it. I want more moments that keep me from reaching for my phone, and instead, more moments that make me reach for the people I'm sharing them with. More moments that continue to make up...this life.