Life Requires Time and Space

Green Lake

I get choked up every time. Every. Single. Time. There is something about a morning walk or run through the tiny little park not far from my house. The sunrise reflecting off the water. The stillness of this tiny little corner of the world. The way the trees and branches hang out over the jagged little shoreline. And the dock. The lone, long dock looking like a pathway to somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

How many, many times I have sat on that dock wishing I were anywhere but here.

But not this morning.

This morning, I still got choked up. But this morning it was in gratitude. Gratefulness. I sat on that dock thankful that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. Not because everything is perfect. I have finally learned perfection is not the goal nor is it possible.

But everything is okay. 

Better than okay. But in the very least, okay.

And what I’m learning now is life requires time and space. Kind of like the old adage, ‘Time heals all wounds’, but different. I’m not sure I believe time heals all wounds. But what I do believe is time and space help things change shape. Time and space give life a chance to sort things out. Time and space allow things to breathe a little and work themselves out.

A thousand times I’ve walked through this same little park.

I walked through it as a pregnant teenager, not sure how I would ever manage a baby at such a young age. Then I watched that same baby grow up and play baseball on those  diamonds. And now he’s 23.

I walked through that park as a young widow. I cried my heart and soul out on that dock. I could’ve filled Green Lake with those tears. I had no idea what life would look like or how I would go on. But I did.

Time and space.

I walked through that park and sat on that dock worried about my girl. How she would navigate some of the challenges thrown her way. In the next few months she’ll go to prom, get her license, graduate from high school and head to college.

Time and space.

I sat on that dock after my sister experienced several absolutely devastating miscarriages, begging God to please fix this somehow and give her healthy babies. Now they’re 2 and 4.

Time and space.

I ran through that park and collapsed on that dock during the toughest battles of my marriage, grieving everything I thought my life would be and wasn’t.

Time and space.

I sat there for 5 minutes this morning. Just to say thank you. Just to remind myself of all the times I didn’t know how things would ever be okay. And now they are. I know they won’t stay okay forever. I know there will be a lifetime of running through that park and sitting on that dock, wondering how things will turn out. But now I will take a deep breath. I will remind myself that time and space help life change shape.

And somehow, even if it takes a year, or two, or ten, everything’s going to be okay.

Fighting for Gratitude

gratitude

Gratitude has not come easy to me today. You have no idea how much I would love to have woken up this morning completely and totally happy and grateful and smiling. But. I didn’t. I woke up to a quiet, empty house. Sort of sad. Sort of lonely. Peaceful. Totally peaceful. But sort of just… not feeling festive and holiday-ish. I made my coffee, puttered around the kitchen. Fed the dog. Watched a little Scandal and DID give thanks that I don’t have Olivia Pope’s problems. Damn. Those are some big, big problems. All the while trying not to feel what I still feel so often: Broken.

And so I cried. And cried. And cried some more. I let myself feel the ugly, crappy, familiarity of it all. I talked to a few people who really love me so much– and I hated to be the downer in the conversation– because that’s not a role I enjoy. Ever. But they each reminded me of this: I am totally loved. I am totally supported. There is so much right even though sometimes it feels like there is still so much wrong. And that we are all broken in some way or another.

The tide comes in. The tide goes out.  And on holidays especially, it can feel like the tide always comes in. Good news though: It will go out again.

 


 

So if this is you at all today– if you, like me, are struggling with grief of any kind, it’s okay. It’s okay to feel whatever it is you’re feeling.  Allow yourself the chance to feel it and process it and find what’s true in it and what’s not. And then, use whatever self-care techniques work for you– and out of self-love, decide to bounce back. Because it IS a holiday, and despite not everything being exactly the way you’d like, there is still a lot of goodness. Tons. Tons and tons of goodness. So get up. Get dressed. Work out. Turn on happier music. Set a timer for 3 minutes and write down a rampage of everything you have to be grateful for. Pray. Meditate. Read something good.  Watch Scandal. Call or text the people you love and tell them so. It helps and it works and I’m doing it.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear reader. I’m thankful for you.

 

Catching Fire in the Trenches

10669127_10205174436388441_2938143554706449772_oIn 2011, in the midst of great heartache and sleepless nights, I published what is still, to this day, my most widely read blog post ever, An Open Letter to my Daughter’s Bullies, Including But Not Limited to The Mean Girls. It was a tough time in our lives. My daughter Casey was 14. And 14 was not a good year. In fact, 13 had not been a good year. 15 wasn’t great either. Middle school was not kind to her. And despite our best efforts as parents, things were not getting better. The bullying at school had reached an all-time high, and Casey’s self-esteem and head space about life in general had reached an all- time low.

There are far too many details to include in this post that would betray way too much of our family’s privacy– of Casey’s– but suffice it to say, from the time she was a baby, this sweet baby girl was different. Special. Intuitive. Kind. Tender. Brilliant. Sad. And the world is not kind to people who are different. And shame on us. Shame on us for thinking that everyone needs to look and act and think exactly like we do. What a gray and lifeless place this world would be. Most of the beauty and brilliance in this world comes from people who are different. Thank God. Thank God they are different. They have gifts the rest of us don’t have and most of us are far too blind and narrow-minded to see it. Myself included.

Casey is a gifted writer. And today, her very first article has been published in the Buffalo News. The road here– to this smiling, successful, confident young woman, has been paved with blood, sweat and tears. Ten million appointments, CSE Meetings (Parents who know what that means…you get it…) true grit, heartache, and struggle. But it’s also been marked by love. By great bravery. By persistence. By mini triumphs along the way that felt like gigantic victories. And the point of this whole thing is not to laud Casey, per se. And it’s not to tell her bullies and haters to SUCK ON THIS. (Although maybe just a tiny bit)

It’s really this: To tell other strugglers out there in the trenches– parents and kids alike: Keep going. Don’t quit. Don’t stop. Don’t give up or give in. Take whatever spark you see and fix your eyes on it. Get down on your hands and knees and blow on it. Fan the tiniest flame, no matter how dim. Because if you will. If you will keep adding tinder and kindling and sticks and branches and logs…one day it will catch. And you’ll have the most spectacular bonfire your eyes have ever seen.

Casey girl, you’re on fire, my love. Don’t stop now.


Today was supposed to be my first installment of It’s Thursday. And This is What I’m Reading. However, I have happily been upstaged by my daughter HAVING AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE NEWSPAPER. Mama can wait ’til next week.

Just a Little Farther…

images-21When Mark and I first got married, he was in the Army and we were stationed on Fort Riley, Kansas. Mark was in great shape and totally fit from daily PT and all of the other physical rigors that accompany military life. I, however, was not. But I had run track in high school and wanted to start with running as a means to get back in shape. Mark wanted to run with me and I immediately disliked this idea. I knew running would be hard, and as a competitive person, I was not ready to suck in front of him. Sucking by myself would be easier to take. But he insisted it would be more fun to do it together. Begrudgingly, I agreed, and just as I had imagined, not long into our first run, I was ready to hit the wall.

{That competitive spirit is how I ended up with a tattoo. Mark thought I wasn’t tough enough to get one. Oh? Really? Is that so? Watch me. Um. So yeah. I don’t recommend that as a consistent way to make life decisions. But at 24, it felt totally legit}

So there we were, running along and Mark chatting away, acting as if it were no big deal (JERK!) while I am out of breath and ready to stop and walk. I’m sure I was ticked off and possibly being a poor sport. I was sucking in front of him! UGH! But just as I was starting to say I couldn’t go any farther, he looked over at my struggling self and said, “See that stop sign up ahead? You can make it to there.” I’m positive I rolled my eyes and inwardly whined that I was sure I couldn’t…But, indeed, I did make it to the stop sign. After all, it was only 100 yards away. Okay. Fine.

But Mark had a method now. As we neared the stop sign and I was mentally preparing to  collapse and take a break, he chimed in again. “See that fire hydrant up ahead? You can go just a little farther and make it to there.” This guy! What the heck! See? This is why I wanted to run by myself! Maybe it was my competitive nature, pride, or just aggravation, but I kept going. I DID make it to the fire hydrant. And then some. And as you might imagine, Mark continued to coach me this way through the rest of the run. And lo and behold, I made it to the end.

Only a few short years after that day, I am sitting in the dark. Staring at the clock. I have lost Mark. He is gone forever and not coming back. I am physically aching to be where he is. The grief is dark and thick and threatens to consume me. I am fully convinced I cannot go any further. And it is then that I faintly remember his coaching, whispering to me now in the night. I hear myself say out loud to the empty room, “It is 11:31. I can make it to 11:32. It is 11:32. I can make it to 11:33…”

I don’t know how long I sat there counting minutes, but I made it through that night and went on to use that coaching many, many nights after that. In fact, 20 years later, I still use it. And I have taught my kids to use it, too. Because you know what? It works. The truth is, you can pretty much always make it through another minute. And then another one. And another one. And the minutes turn into hours, and then into days and weeks and months. And before you know it, you are absolutely doing that which you swore you could not do.


I don’t know what it is you’re facing today that feels too hard. Maybe it’s learning to run, or maybe it’s grief or maybe it’s a hard marriage or parenting or a job you hate– or maybe– maybe it’s just life. Because life is freakin’ hard. Even when it’s good, it’s hard. But I’m pretty sure you can get through today. Take a deep breath and go just a little farther. You can do this.

{And Mark. I hope you are smiling.

And proud.

And…we will keep going…just a little farther… until we see you again someday}

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This is Why We Tell Our Stories

images-18Not long ago I received a call from a good friend in total distress. A young woman he knows had lost her husband suddenly and tragically. He didn’t know what to do or how to handle it. He was shaken and looking for direction. Knowing I had walked this road before, he called me first. With tears in my eyes, my heart was already silently breaking for what I knew lay ahead for this girl. I gave him some advice and then choked out the words I sort of dreaded to say: “When are the calling hours? I’ll go see her.”


 

Flashback to December 31, 1998: I have just been gifted with the American Flag from the United States Army on behalf of a grateful nation for my husband’s military service. With my little boy by my side, I am walking down the aisle of the church. I have just sat through my husband’s funeral service. I am numb, but not so numb that I don’t feel slightly annoyed and frustrated when someone pulls me to the side and says there’s someone I should meet. Seriously? Who could I possibly need to meet right now? Whoever it is, surely there is a better time than this. But then I see her. A child standing on either side of her, half-smiles cloaking their mild embarrassment and it’s as if I already know.

This woman. This stranger with whom I was prepared to be annoyed with, warmly grasps my hands in hers and tells me how sorry she is for my loss. And that she understands. That she knows this pain. A few years back, she lost her husband too. And honestly, after that, I don’t remember another word she said. But it doesn’t matter. Because in that very brief meeting that could not have been more than two minutes long, this is what my brain processed: “She survived this. She lived through this. Her kids are standing next to her. They are here. They are alive. They seem okay. One of them is even smiling. They survived. They are here. I am not alone. I may live through this. My children may be okay someday. We might recover. We might make it.”

To this day, I don’t know who that woman was. I never saw her again. I don’t know if I said thank you or just nodded my head or cried or what. But I know this– in the middle of my absolute hurricane of shock, grief and despair, a total stranger came to see me for two tiny minutes and do something extraordinary: Plant a seed. Give me strength.  Show me that I was not pioneering this road; That there were those who had gone before me and survived. It was barely perceptible that day, but it was there: Hope. Possibility. A future. I would look back on that meeting for years to come. When the way seemed too dark and too hard to navigate, I would think of her and remind myself, “People survive this.”


 

And so I hung up the phone with my friend and made plans to attend the wake, if only for a few minutes. Because this girl needed to see me. She needed to know what I already knew. There are those who have gone before us to pave the way and report back about giants in the land and roadblocks in the way. About the cracks where the light will shine through and the spaces where it is so dark you cannot see. But that there is a way through. That there is hope. And this is why we tell our stories.

What is it in your life? What part of your journey does another weary and wandering traveler need to hear? Have you run a marathon? Lost the last ten pounds? Finished your college education? Started your own business? Found freedom from an addiction? Learned to live with a chronic illness? Every single one of us has something we have made it through— and the proof is that we’re still here.

There’s healing in the telling and there’s hope in the listening. Tell your story. Because someone needs to hear it.

 

 

 

5 Things (it’s okay) to Tell a Struggling Friend

images-17When people we care about are struggling, it can be so hard knowing the right thing to say or do. And even though pain, grief and loss are such a universal part of the human experience, for some reason we suddenly feel so awkward on how to handle it. There are lots of WRONG things to say and you can find those here or here. But to be honest, the worst thing to say is NOTHING. To ignore it altogether. To pretend it didn’t happen or that you don’t know about it. That. is. the. worst. For the love. Don’t be that person– use one of these instead:

1.  I‘m so sorry you’re going through this.”

“I’m so sorry you have to walk through this.”

“I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

“I’m so sad for you.”

Any variation of “I’m sorry” is a good place to start. C’mon. You can say that. It’s not that hard. This is the universal sympathy phrase for a reason. It’s easy to get out of your mouth. You should use it. And please don’t ever qualify this with a “But…” As in, “But I don’t agree with your divorce.” (That must be so hard for you. Because I lose sleep at night over whether or not you agree with my situation.” Smile. I’m kidding. Obviously.) “But you deserve it.” or “But I told you so.” No. Stop. Don’t do it.

2. “That must be so hard.”

“That must be awful.”

“That would be so hurtful.”

Validation is a gift. People who are struggling often keep apologizing for all of their emotions when it’s probably all very normal. In the midst of chaos and pain, it’s a wonderful thing to be told, “It’s okay that you feel this way.” When you tell someone, “That sounds horrible”, it’s not a sudden revelation to them. They already KNOW it’s horrible. But what you’re really saying is, “I see what you’re going through and I can see why it’s so hard.” Do this.

Important side story~

When I lost my first husband, everyone thought it would be helpful if I attended some sort of support group. Except there weren’t any support groups for 26 year-old widows. (What I really needed was a support group for 26 year-olds who had to attend a support group) Ultimately I ended up attending a group filled with– wait for it– people over 65. I was mortified. It only continued to point out the rarity and devastatingly “bad luck” of my situation. Except for one unforgettable moment that night. Everyone had to tell their story; Who they had lost and why they were there. As I listened to tale after tale of people who had been married for 50 years, people who had to discontinue life support and feeding tubes, people who had needed Hospice, it was my turn. And as I told of my husband being killed in a car accident and leaving behind myself and our two small children, the elderly gentlemen sitting next to me grabbed my hand, looked in my eyes, and said, “You must be in hell.” I wept with relief.

Finally. Finally someone was acknowledging exactly what it felt like. How bad it was. How hard it was. Naming it for me. To finally NOT hear that God must have needed another angel (more than my kids needed their dad??) To NOT hear that I was so young– I would surely find someone else (as if the true problem was the vacancy and filling of the position of husband and father). To NOT hear that everything happens for a reason (because there is no reason thorough enough that would justify this loss). Finally. Validation of the hell I could not escape. I never went back to that support group. But I also never forgot the words of that man. It was a healing moment in my grief.

3. “I may not completely understand, but I can sit here and listen.”

Most struggling or grieving people have a need to talk. And talk. And talk. If not right away, eventually. External processing is a powerful way of understanding and sorting out the jumbled mess of emotions locked up inside. No one is looking for you to have any answers or come up with solutions. And really, don’t. All you need to do is sit and listen. And then get used to responding with simple phrases such as, “That’s awful.” or “That sounds so hard.” Or even, “Mmmmm.” There are very few requirements to be a good listener– a little bit of time, a compassionate heart, and gentleness. Lots of gentleness.

4.  “What would be helpful right now?”…And then offer something specific. Or just do it.

Most of the time, people will add, “Is there anything I can do?” And in the middle of grief, it can be very hard to answer. Ideally, if YOU can think of something thoughtful and helpful (as long as it doesn’t cross any major boundaries), just do it. Or offer something specific that requires a yes or no response. “Can I drop off dinner on Tuesday night?”, “Can I do all the driving for baseball this week?” If none of that seems right, stop by for 5 minutes with a coffee, muffins, beer, a new purse, shoes, anything with a bow on it…Wait. Sorry. That’s maybe only what I would like. But. You get the point.

Another important side note~

Sometimes when my girls are struggling or sad, I say to them, “What would make you feel taken care of right now?” The answer can be as simple as a cup of hot chocolate, a nap, snuggle time with me or a quick date somewhere. I especially like that this teaches them to recognize what they’re feeling and then ask for what they need. And it teaches me, too. I think women, especially, are bad at this. Or maybe it’s just me. I’m bad at this. But my girls won’t be. They will know how to ask for what they need.

5. “You are not alone.”

Grief and loss. Pain and struggle. It’s all very isolating. The rest of the world is moving on while yours has stopped. It’s a very lonely place to be. Depending on your relationship,  it’s such a relief to hear someone say, “You’re not alone. I’m with you in this. Text me or call me 24/7.” And then, even if you have to set a reminder in your phone, YOU text THEM every few days with some love and encouragement. A friend and I stumbled upon a little code– when one of us is feeling really low, or thinking about the other one, and we don’t really want to talk or don’t really know what to say, we will text  ” …” And it just means “I have no words. I’m here. I’m with you.”

And believe it or not, it helps. Easy. Small. Simple. Gentle. Kind. You can do it.

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Another Round of “What Not to Say to Your Struggling Friend”

e4fdff0a1508f0c5e69dcbc04de02a21But wait! There’s more! In my aggravated haste, I missed some of the BIGGEST offending phrases! BIG as in WAY too awful to be left out! If you missed the first list, check it out here. And listen, we’ve all been guilty of being in a tender spot with a struggling friend and not known what to say– myself included– but there are still some things better left unsaid.

So  please…Join me for another round of “What Not to Say to Your Struggling Friend!”

God has a better plan

Sighhhh. Of course He does. That would be just like him, wouldn’t it? How sweet. And maybe next week or next month, or next year, I will see that and find peace in that. But today, right now, I wanted THIS plan. MY plan. And I’m sad and disappointed that my plan did not work out.

God must have something really special in store for you

I am totally calling bullshit on this one. I have heard this line for 20 years. Maybe He does, maybe He doesn’t.  Because maybe–just maybe–this is just how life goes. Sometimes, really crappy things just happen. And the only reward for living through it is…living through it. (Which, you know, IS a big deal, but still…)

Don’t Cry

Don’t tell me what to do. K. Thanks. Because I am crying. And when you say “Don’t cry”, now I feel like I have to fake my behavior because you’re uncomfortable. People cry. We all survive. Trust me. I would’ve drowned by now.

Someday this will all make sense

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Today, it doesn’t. Today it sucks. Can we please just acknowledge the suck of today?

And finally…(but certainly still NOT a conclusive round-up!)

Things could be worse

SIGH……(I’m yelling now) WELL OF COURSE THEY COULD BE WORSE! Let’s now list all of the ways things could be worse. I don’t even know where to start. It’s long and involved and ranging from the house burning down to starving children in Africa. The only way you can use this phrase– THE ONLY WAY– is if you look at your very, very close friend and say it JUST LIKE THIS, “Shit could be worse. I mean, you could have bad hair. Or ugly feet. Or no style. On top of everything else you’re going through.” And then, after that, buy her a beer. Because you both know you’re kidding. Period.

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{A perfect example of what NOT to say to your friend.}

I loved hearing YOUR input on the first list! If you’ve got more, lemme have ’em!

And I promise– A list of helpful, validating, gentle things to say is on its way…

 

 

5 Things You Should Not Tell Your Struggling Friend

images-151. Cheer Up

Really? Cheer up? Thanks. Because I never thought of just “cheering up”.

2. You shouldn’t feel that way

That’s so weird. Because I DO. So. One of us is wrong. Feelings are NOT wrong or right. They just are. It’s what we do with them and what actions they illicit or inspire that give them dynamics. You are allowed to feel what you feel. You have wide and varied reasons for feeling what you feel. You do not need to defend them or explain them. Period.

3. Here’s what you should do…

Big. Heavy. Sigh. Thanks. I know you mean well. Really. But your suggestions for fixing my life are unsolicited and not helpful. And, whether or not I’ve already considered your solution, it’s usually not that simple. And if you’re a Christian and you proceed to tell me what the Bible says when I am smack in the middle of my pain and my process…Lose my number. There might be a delicate time and place for that– this is not it.

4. You think THAT’S bad….

I know. I KNOW what you went through. I get it. I get that your situation is/was/will be ten times worse than mine. But pain is relative. Your pain doesn’t make mine better or worse and vice versa. Pain is pain. And it hurts.

5. I thought you were over this.

Great. Now I’m not even struggling right. My timing’s all off. Well I’m not over it.  And I wish I was more than YOU wish I was.  Sooooo….when I get over it, I guess that’s when we can be friends. If you don’t hear your phone ringing, that will be me. Not calling.

Believe it or not, I’m smiling as I type this. There’s no resting bitch face, there’s no animosity or bitterness regardless of how snarky I sound. (Um. Okay. Maybe just a teeny bit. Working on that…) I have been guilty of ALL of these and I hate myself for it– but I’m human. We all are. It’s just that I know so many people struggling right now who just get railroaded and corrected and shamed for their personal process of grief and recovery. Which is kinda like pouring salt in the wound. It hurts.

What would YOU add to this list?

Next Up: 5 Helpful Things to Tell a Struggling Friend

 

Scenes From a [temporary] Break Up with Jesus

images-14As I was bustling about my prep work one morning, a co-worker whom I adore asked if I wanted to hear a horrible joke. Assuming it was a sex joke, which, you know, I’m always down for because I’m a terrible person– I said yes. But it wasn’t. It was actually a Jesus joke– and had I known that, I would’ve said no thanks. Sex jokes are funny and naughty and even if they turn out to cross every boundary you have, you can easily forget about them. Not so much with Jesus jokes. The joke was short and to the point and as soon as it was over, I gave a fake laugh and a half-smile and said, “Sorry- nope. Can’t do that one. Not funny.” I didn’t want her to feel too bad about it because the truth is, this person really has no idea about Jesus-y things. If I can be so presumptuous and naive to say this– she doesn’t know better. But as I turned back to my work, my heart was heavy and tears pricked my eyes.


I’m gonna be honest– over a year ago or so, I told Jesus I was breaking up with Him. Maybe not forever, but I needed a break. I even used “It’s not you, it’s me.” (Although He and I both sort of knew…it kind of WAS Him.) And since then, I have struggled and wrestled with Him. I have cried and said mean things to Him and shook my proverbial fist in misunderstanding and hurt feelings and unmet expectations. I have cried into my pillow at night and whispered worries and gratitudes and short prayers for loved ones. But we both knew things had changed. I have heard Him whisper, “Please come closer–” and I have held my arms tight across my chest like the passive aggressive girl that I am and turned my head, all the while silently hoping He wouldn’t leave. That He would ask again. And again. I needed space. I needed time. I never wanted to see other people. I just didn’t know if I wanted to keep seeing Him. Or how He and I were going to bridge the gap that now felt like the Grand Canyon.

And you see as of late, my faith has been questioned. My love for God. My devotion to Jesus. And maybe rightly so. There was a collision of sorts happening all at once– the final undoing of my marriage intersected with the most profound spiritual awakening and insights I’ve ever experienced as an adult. And while some of these were good, necessary things, they were messy. Painful. Confusing. It’s sort of been an ongoing thing to wrestle with the deeper questions of love and faith. Of God and His somewhat unknowable ways. I have, at times, screamed in my heart, “Is this a game to you?! THIS IS MY LIFE!” And yet, like the girlfriend who just can’t let go, I’d always come back around, feeling shy and a little guilty for my bad behavior. “It’s not that I don’t love you,” I’d timidly point out. “I just don’t know what to do with you.” So feeling those tears– having hurt feelings and a heavy heart– on behalf of Jesus– was a beautiful, bizarre gift to me. Because hearing that joke was like hearing something rude about one of my kids or any person I love. The kind of thing where you think to yourself, “If you really knew them, you’d never say that. Because it’s so not true.” And though I wished I could un-hear it, I’ve come to see that it’s because I love Jesus so much. That’s why it hurts. And though I don’t need to prove that to anyone else (because I never really could anyway),  maybe I needed to prove it to myself.

To Believe in Love. Or Not.

ImageOn a recent snow day my girls and I had settled in to watch Yours, Mine and Ours–a favorite movie from a few years back.  The storyline gets laid out pretty quickly: Widow meets widower, they fall in love, get married, and proceed to merge 18 kids into one very messy blended family. And as the new family bickered and snickered and generally acted ugly toward each other, Emery (age 11), looked at me with mock horror. “Don’t ever do that to us! I don’t want to share a room and do all that!” She was kidding, but not really. And so I laughed and reassured her. “Don’t worry Em. I won’t.” And then, before I could back the truck up, this is what flew out of my mouth:

“I don’t think I ever want to get married again, anyway.” And in witty Emery fashion, she gave me a knowing look and asked, “Too much disappointment?”

I nearly spit out my drink. She knew she was being snarky with her little assessment of my unfortunate marital history (widowed and divorced)– and so I laughed and smiled back.

“Yes. Yes that’s exactly it.”

And that was that. We ate our popcorn and scoffed and marveled at the comical antics of this crazy blended family. (IF ONLY, people! If ONLY blended families were THAT much FUN.)

But that little dialogue stuck with me. Partly because of Emery’s very insightful question that seemed well above her age and maturity level.  But MAINLY because of my quick answer and the very clear message I was sending my daughters in that moment:I don’t believe in lasting love. I don’t believe in marriage. I don’t believe in happily ever after. And I certainly don’t want to take THAT risk again. Big. Heavy. Sigh. Oops. (But let’s be honest- married 3 times?? No offense…but no thanks. And I’m not quite sure my mother could survive another marriage with me anyhow. Thanks, Mom. I owe you. Like, in such a big, big way.)

And yet here’s the tricky part. I do believe in those things. Well…I sort of do. Well, I sort of do for other people but just not for me. (Clearly, I’m still working this out) In just about every other area of my life, I am the eternal optimist. I am a glass half-full kinda girl. I believe in silver linings. I look for the bright side. I believe in the sweetness of life and that it somehow eases the bitter. When life throws me a plot twist I’m usually pretty quick to find the positive. I believe that things have a way of working out. Blah, blah, blah. But love…ughhh. Love is a whole different beast.  Love has been…hard.

So. I need to do better.

Because it’s not okay with me if my girls think this way.

It’s not okay if I’ve somehow made them afraid of love or relationships or marriage.

It’s not okay if I’ve unintentionally sent the message that love will disappoint you. It will not win. It will not work out. It’s not okay to steal their girlhood dreams of Happily Ever After and Prince Charming and the Knight on the White Horse. I don’t want to tell them to be realistic. I don’t want to tell them there’s no such thing as true and lasting love. And I don’t want them believing it’s not possible for them. And in my heart of hearts, I don’t want to believe it’s not possible for me, either. So. Yeah. There’s that.

‘I asked her if she believed in love, and she smiled and said it was her most elaborate form of self-harm.’ ~Benedict Smith