A Reminder to All the Mamas Everywhere: You Gotta Keep Doing You.

mom in curlers

Lipstick and Mustache

Recently when my youngest daughter had a day off from school, I asked her what she wanted to do and gave her some options~

Me: “We could go to a pumpkin patch or cider mill. Go shopping? To lunch? Is there a movie you want to see?”

Her: “Maybe I’ll go to a movie with a friend.”

Me: Blank stare. Long pause. Hard swallow. Fake smile. “Great! Yes! Great! What a fun idea!”

Me, internally: WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT? Oh? Why, you ask? BECAUSE I THOUGHT MAYBE IT WOULD BE FUN TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER. Jerk.

Man. I’m not gonna lie. My feelings were hurt big time. But she’s 13. And as much fun as we have together, (although apparently I’m having more fun than she is ) it’s totally normal and appropriate for her to want to spend time with her friends instead of her mom.

Whatever.

But it was a sharp reminder:

Mama needs to keep cultivating her own life.

empty nest

mommyish.com

I’ve got 3 kiddos, two of them technically legal adults already, and Little Miss Smarty Pants.

The nest is getting dangerously close to empty which inspires a guttural, emotional cry of~

They don’t really need me anymore!

(FIST PUMP!)

                      and

  They don’t really need me anymore…

             (TOTAL DESPAIR…)


Nothing is more thrilling than watching your kids grow and develop into these amazing, separate human beings, complete with their own lives and friends and interests.

But nothing is also more desperate and wrenching than realizing your days as Full-Time Mama are dwindling.

{For single moms, I think this can be an even greater challenge. We’re not rekindling a marriage or reconnecting with a partner. It’s us. We’ve got ourselves.And it’s equally exciting and terrifying.}

So Mamas everywhere–this is not new information–But here’s your reminder:

You gotta keep doing you.

There is more to life than the kids. There is more to you than motherhood. And if motherhood has swallowed up the entirety of who you are and completely suffocated who you used to be, please go back and find the girl you were before you had kids.

What did she love? What lit her up?

What made her eyes and heart glow with life and enthusiasm?

What will bring her sexy back??

If you can’t remember, find new things. Join or start a book club. Get back to the gym or find a walking buddy. Take a class. Learn something brand new. Follow any little spark of curiosity burning inside you.

Pink Lemonade Design

Pink Lemonade Design

But do these things NOW, while the birds are still in the nest.

 So when they DO leave (or you know, want to go to the movies with friends instead of you), you already have your jam. You know what you like. You have things to do. You have options.

But doing all of this isn’t just about you. It’s about your kids learning to see you as a whole person, with a whole personality— not as just a one-dimensional Mom character.

Kids should not grow up thinking they are the center of the universe.

Kids should grow up thinking there is a universe that pre-dates them and they are joining in and becoming a part of it.

When my girls watch me follow my own passions and do activities that have nothing to do with them, it frees them to keep pursuing their own interests and hobbies. It silently gives them permission to be themselves and do their own thing.

I never want my kids to feel responsible for my happiness. Their hearts cannot bear the burden of trying to fill something in me that was never meant to be filled by them (or any other person for that matter).

mom on beach

cafemom.com

I remind myself on the daily: Happiness is an inside job. 

My happiness is MY job.

And for now, their happiness is part of my job, too.

But it’s never too early for them to learn how to make THEIR own happiness

THEIR job, as well.


As it turned out, my daughter ended up spending her day off with me. We saw a movie, did a little shopping and a good time was had by all.

In my heart, my first choice will always be to spend time with my kids. But my second choice will always be me. So that when they come to me and say, “I’ve already got plans. Do you mind?”

I’ll smile and say from the bottom of my heart, “So do I.”

Becoming the Real Me

barefoot

Someone going through a very tough time recently messaged me this question:

“How did you get past the rumors and people smearing your name during your divorce?”

And when I first read it, I sort of laughed. Because it was one of those moments when something is pointed out that you only knew to be half true. Like if someone were to say, “What’s it feel like to be fat?” and here you only thought you had a gained a few unnoticeable pounds.

So while I knew my divorce had been talked about and judged– and so had I– I was also convinced it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined. (Oh, sweet blissful ignorance, how I love thee)

And so I told her the truth.

I used to cry. A lot. At the unfairness of it all. At the injustice of it all and the envisioned misrepresentation. I used to cry because my feelings were hurt. To think people who didn’t even know me well– or at all– were judging me and my decisions. Or worse yet, people who DID know me well. To think they were judging my divorce and my story. They walked in on a chapter and read a negative review without reading the whole story, and it stung. Bitterly.

Regularly, I would call my mom or best friends who would offer comfort and encouraging words. Often I would text my sister who would respond with fiery fierce words to remind me of who I am and how far I’d come.

And of course, like it does with most things, time and space began to soften the blows and toughen up the bruised and tender skin, which grew a little thicker,in the best possible way. 

But I had to let it go.

That’s the real answer.

I had to let go of everything people thought they knew about me and my life.

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I had to accept that my truth was enough. It was enough for me, and for my family and my friends and the people who know me and love me. I could never control what other people would hear or think or believe; I could only live my own truth.


But there’s a second part to the answer.

I had to be brave enough to keep becoming the real me.

I was regularly shamed for “changing”. But I think maybe it’s not so much that we change. Maybe, instead, we just become who we were always meant to be.

And I am becoming who I was always meant to be. 

The difficulties in my life and in my marriage didn’t create the new me; They helped carve out and uncover the Real MeIn such a hard-fought, ongoing and treacherous battle, I am digging out The Real Me. And I am proud of her.

jesus hair

There is no shame in evolving. The real shame is in fighting so desperately to stay the same when everything around you is beckoning for change. For growth. For expansion. For freedom. If you’re still the same exact person you were twenty years ago, with the same thoughts, the same habits, the same beliefs, have courage. Take heart. Have the guts to uncover the real you. If there were no fear, no expectations, no system to conform to, who would you actually become?

For most of my life I lived within a community that valued sameness. There was so much safety in all the ways we agreed with each other; In our speech, in our values, in our dress, in our lifestyles. And it’s not that I didn’t prescribe to it at the time, but I outgrew it. The outside of my life no longer reflected the inside- which has got to be the shortest path to unhappiness.  A golden cage is still a cage.

I started to value my own thoughts and feelings and intellect.

I’d been conditioned to think so many of my thoughts and feelings were wrong, when it turns out, they were essential.

After my divorce, when I was free to dig deeper, to explore, to be authentic– come what may, expectations be damned– beneath all the layers of religion and dysfunction and heartache and loss, there was a weathered but solid and beautiful soul underneath. It’s as if I unearthed the foundation of my personality. And it has been the perfect space to rebuild myself and my life from the ground up. It is steadfast. It is strong. It is mine. It is the Real Me.

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I want to tell the woman who messaged me that after I publish this post, I will get a hate message or two.

But I rarely cry anymore. Instead I get back to creating my life.

Loving and enjoying my kids so hard I think I’ll burst. Laughing every single day with them ’til we can’t breathe.

Loving God. Saying ‘Thank you’ and ‘Help’. Meditating, reading, journaling. Searching for Him and everything divine in the Universe.

Treasuring my family and my friends. Having a beer. Dancing in my kitchen.

I think of Elizabeth Gilbert, (Author of Eat, Pray, Love, and her newest masterpiece, Big Magic) who says, “If people absolutely hate what you’ve created? Just smile sweetly and suggest— as politely as you possibly can— that they go make their own f*cking art.”

That’s the real me. I am making art with my life. And in my soul. And it takes my breath away. It is the happiest and saddest I have ever been, but nothing could be lovelier because it’s real.

First Day Fears

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There’s something about the first day of ANYTHING that combines to be one part fear, one part anticipation and one part bravado. My friend and fellow blogger Christina Hubbard of Creative and Free takes us on her First Day journey as her kids head back to school. Christina and I met last year at a writer’s conference in Chicago. I was immediately struck by her inquisitive nature and her open gracious spirit. She is a mother. A writer. An artist. And her soulful, deep-waters writing helps make me a better person and a better writer.  A few weeks ago I was honored to guest post on her blog. And this week, I am honored even more so to feature her on mine…


 How First Day Fears

Can Find Your Faith

When You Can’t 

First day fears feel so wrong, like looking up at a sheer rock face we’re supposed to climb when we’d rather slide back down the rocky scree to safety.Inline image 10

I didn’t want the first day of school to come. I thought I did. Really, I didn’t.

I wanted to be the fierce Let’s-Do-This-Thang-Mama. Pretending to have it all together is like telling you I like to eat worms for breakfast. A complete crock.

I thought I was ready for the first day. As it turns out, I wasn’t. 

Let’s face it. I was a mess before the first day. I couldn’t even lead my son in to meet his teacher when we got to sneak a peak at his new classroom. So he would be less afraid on the real first day, I was supposed to be strong. I had planned to be brave, but I wasn’t. My husband took his hand and carried the torch for all of us.

I didn’t know how this would feel. No one told me I would flash back to my daughter’s first day of kindergarten and feel tidal waves of missing her again. It felt like a double loss—sending two kids off to a new school for the first time. I wasn’t prepared for the surging emotions, but I don’t suppose anyone is. I longed for the sending off to feel like embarking to a new land, like our recent roadtrip, but it didn’t.

We made it home that night. While I consoled myself with courage tips from Bear Grylls, my husband tucked in the kids. They fessed to being nervous too. There’s strength in the solace of knowing we’re not the only ones who are scared.

I love what Bonnie Gray says about letting ourselves feel at the gut-level:

“…There comes a time when it takes more faith to fall apart with Jesus than to stay strong enough to stop it from happening.” (Finding Spiritual Whitespace)Inline image 11

My husband and I talked into the night about why our decision felt hard even if it was the right thing. It’s ok to feel broken up, to admit we have no idea what we are doing. Before he shut off the lights, Bobby said, “It’s going to be ok.”

The strongest faith grows from the most broken places. Falling apart helped me believe my husband’s words fully. Falling apart helped me believe the words God had whispered for months: “Trust me. It’s going to be ok. I love you.”

Let’s skip the part in the middle of the night where my thoughts raced like a rat in a wheel. (I remembered I hadn’t put my little Jedi’s pencils into his pencil box. Will he be able to open the package by himself? Dear, Lord… I must have prayed it fifty times.)

What transformed all of our fears into fortitude was admitting we couldn’t summit this mountain alone—not without God or each other.

Our whole family walked into the elementary double doors the first day. We came nervous, scared, and unsure—AS ISThis is the adventure our family has been preparing for, the change we prayed about, the step of faith we took. By God’s strength alone, they walked tall and so did I.

We didn’t have it all together. We held hands for a while and hesitated for a minute. All the kids were being ushered into the gym. Clearly, it was time to go. Our hands released, and I exhaled.Inline image 8

My husband and I went for coffee and sat together marveling at our composure and theirs. Clearly, we had nothing to do with it.

God uses weakness to give us the greatest strength. He takes our tied up, twisted up fears and uses hard things to make us mountain climbers.

Go ahead. Fall apart. Hold hands. FAITH FOUND.

The first day of school happened. Today is a few days after, and I’m still not prepared or happy about it.

We did it anyway, with God’s supernatural strength—nothing else. We came to Him at the end of ourselves—clueless and vulnerable. When we admitted our helplessness, the first day became do-able. We admitted our inability and the pressure in the can released. Bear Grylls has it right:

Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.

Take it from the guy who really does eat worms for breakfast.

Take heart, fellow climber, you’re not trekking alone.

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Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

wine woman

“You’re like our little pet,” my daughter said, smiling.

As if this were a good, sweet way to be and I should, perhaps, feel happy and loved.

Happy and loved to be fed and bathed and groomed and cared for so gently and meticulously.

And sometimes I do. Sort of. For a minute or two.

Almost 2 weeks after a very scary accident which left me with a broken right collarbone and a broken left wrist, and one week since surgery, I mostly always feel loved. And here and there, I sometimes feel happy. Except for when I don’t. It has been the ongoing paradox of life. The way the worst of times pave and weave together a broken and unsteady well-worn path with the best of times.

It feels very similar to grief– the way one minute feels as though nothing will ever be okay again, and the next minute feels as though everything’s going to be okay after all.

I cry everyday out of both pain and frustration. It’s been the toughest physical challenge I’ve ever faced. To be so helpless. To feel weak and fragile and hurt. And at the constant mercy of others.

And yet that mercy has been holy. And constant. And beautiful. The love and support and strength and generosity from my family and friends.  Mom: No words. Thanks to you, we’ve laughed as much or more than we’ve cried. (Okay that’s a lie. But damn if you’re not trying to make it so) It has felt like a feather bed. Like a soft place to land. Most days. A reassuring and steady rhythm whispering, “you are not alone…you will not bear this by yourself…” And sometimes, I believe it.

Except for when I don’t.

Because there are moments. Days. Nights. Where it is suddenly much more clear. I am alone in this. No one truly bears it but me. When I am cold and unable to pull up the blankets or pull on a pair of socks. When I’m hungry but will have to wait until someone can feed me. When I can’t reach something I need and I can’t adjust my position to get it, either. Just to name a few. Hundred. After days of crying hot tears of humility and embarrassment in the bathroom, I stubbornly figured that out. Because really. A person has their limits.

And I totally get it. People have jobs and events and commitments. Busy lives. They have the luxury of stepping outside of this and stepping back in at their convenience.

But I don’t. And it’s hard.

Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not cancer. It is not terminal. I get it. But it is still a huge, painful, lonely, suck.

Occasionally, well-meaning people will joke that I should enjoy all this lying around, all this being waited on business.

No.

No. I don’t enjoy it at all. I don’t want to work on my tan. I don’t want people at my beck and call. To a fault, perhaps, I do not enjoy being helped and served and on the receiving end. And I know. It’s already been said– how good it is to learn these things- being a gracious recipient. Allowing people the pleasure of helping you.

But it doesn’t feel like a pleasure or a gift. It feels like a burden.

One big gigantic burden. Again.

(God. Seriously. Because the whole widowed/divorced suitcase is also being dragged along as well. Though not by me BECAUSE IT WOULD BE TOO EFFING HEAVY.)

For a person who is a do-er, a self-proclaimed DIY Girl, this is a nightmare. For a person who stubbornly wants to be independent, who loves to be alone, who would much rather figure it all out than have it done for her, this does not feel good.

As I was lying on the gurney, waiting to be wheeled into surgery, my dear, weary mother, looking over at my tear-stained face, said these words:

“You don’t have to keep tap dancing for us. It’s okay. We all love you. You are enough even when you can’t keep performing.”

Woah.

But when tap dancing is your way of life, all you really want is to get back out on the floor.

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.

Cupcakes and Dance Parties Just for Showing Up

I recently caught up with one of my oldest and dearest friends and not surprisingly, we spent a good deal of time talking about our kids. She is an amazing mom, and it’s no surprise that her kids are all doing super amazing things. No. Seriously. SUPER amazing.  As the conversation continued, I could feel myself starting to get an icky feeling inside. I was starting to compare myself to her. And as soon as we wrapped things up and I got in my car, the tears were caught in my throat.

Right away, Logic told me, “This is ridiculous. You are ridiculous. You have had COMPLETELY different lives and paths. There is NO WAY you can possibly start doing this to yourself.”

Logic is an insensitive A-hole. Logic clearly did not just hear everything I heard.

Because my heart wasn’t having it. My heart was having a teeny tiny meltdown. If there’s one thing a mom really wants to know, it’s that she’s doing a good job. And in that moment, I was starting to doubt myself.

If you’ve been around here any length of time then you already know some of my blog topics repeat themselves. And you also know they repeat themselves because apparently it takes me a long time to learn some of life’s lessons. Possibly longer than the Average Bear. We don’t know why this is. And we don’t exactly know who the hell this Average Bear is, except that my dad has been comparing he and I my entire life and it would seem that I always come out ahead.

And so I am still learning about my worth. As a woman and as a mom. And how I measure that worth. And who else I allow to measure that worth. Because not everybody should be allowed to.

Fast forward a few weeks to today…

It’s been a really positive, really satisfying Mama Week here. One kid has an article in today’s Buffalo News. Again. She went to a Buffalo Bandit’s game and made all of the arrangements ahead of time to get behind-the-scenes access to players and personnel. She rocked it.

Another kid has been going to school softball tryouts all week and just found out she made the team. We LOVE all things baseball in this family– and now softball, too– so it’s a big deal.

College kid is alive and well. And I know this because when I texted him and asked if he is Alive and Well (also known as the A & W Text),  he responded “YES”. He’s going to class and playing baseball and working and paying his bills. And happy. Bless his heart. Seriously.

Huge happy mama sigh of relief and satisfaction.

But the thought occurred to me, as I was lying awake at 3:30 a.m. this morning, what if none of these things were true?

What if there WASN’T an article in today’s paper? Either because it didn’t meet the publication standards, or because my kid never followed through on what she needed to do to make it happen? What would that mean?

What if my other kid didn’t make the team? What if she just wasn’t good enough? What then?

And what if College kid WASN’T going to class and taking care of business?

What would all of that mean for me as a mom? For my self-worth? For my Motherhood Job Review?

Sometimes people in our world can be pretty harsh critics of our parenting choices, but I’m not sure anyone is harder on us than ourselves. And I think almost DAILY, we’re tempted to compare ourselves and/or our kids to other parents and kids, just to see if we’re doing this whole thing semi-decently.

And so as I lay there this morning, I knew I needed to remind myself: If none of these things had happened, I am still doing a good job. If none of these things EVER happen again, I am still showing up and doing a good job. And so are my kids.

As exciting as these accomplishments are. As proud as they make me, I want to keep emphasizing who we are becoming over what we are doing and achieving. I want to keep learning and teaching and modeling healthy relationships. Kindness. Love. Acceptance. Tolerance. Generosity of spirit. Goodness and grace.

If all we ever do is keep showing up and being brave, even when it’s hard and scary and we’re not sure how the whole thing is going to turn out, you better believe we will still keep celebrating with cupcakes and dance parties.

And if it turns out somebody gets their name in the paper or we hit a few home runs along the way, that will be pretty cool, too.

Must Be Nice

geazy-must-be-nice-video-main

If I hear someone say this one more time in response to another person’s good news, good fortune, or good luck, I will seriously throat punch. My patience is starting to wear thin like WOAH for such a selfish lack of sharing in another person’s happiness.

Guess what? There’s enough happiness and goodness to go around. And we each come by it through different means at different times, usually without knowing the whole of someone’s back story. I wouldn’t want to get there the same way you did, and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to get there the same way I did.

At some point this year, I started to understand when I’m feeling jealous, envious, or as if there ISN’T enough goodness and happiness to go around–or when I’m feeling scarcity for some reason– it’s time to move back to the mindset of abundance. Of gratitude. To spread love. To generously compliment. To be EXTRA gracious. Not in the form of insincere flattery, but to truly share in happiness WITH people– instead of competing for it– which really doesn’t work or make sense, anyway.

So please. For the love. When good things are happening for the people around us, can we all agree to stop saying, “Must be nice” and try one of these instead?

  • I’m so happy for you

  • You deserve this

  • This has been a long time coming

  • I hope you enjoy every second

  • I feel so grateful to share this with you

Or how about this?

Must be nice to have such good things happening in your life…and I wish you many, many more.”

The end.

 

 

Making Space for Love

I should’ve been resting, but everyone knows a hospital is no place for rest. My brand new pink tiny bundle of joy lay tightly swaddled beside me in the clear acrylic nursery crib. And even though I most certainly did feel all of the sweet and tender feelings a new mom is supposed to, there was something else roiling inside I wasn’t expecting:

Fear.

Fear of not having enough love for 3 kids.

Fear of there not being enough of me to go around.

Fear of my two older kids being cheated out of getting their needs met.

Fear of just not enough.

And that was it. Between the exhaustion and post-pregnancy hormones, the tears started falling and wouldn’t stop. I lie there in the dark with my hours-old baby girl and sobbed, knowing sleep wouldn’t come until I understood how it was all going to work.

And in the middle of the night, in my WAY overly emotional state, I remember thinking I had discovered the keys to the kingdom: We’re created with an infinite capacity to love. And when new people — babies we birth and babies we adopt, step-children and new family members, new friends and lovers and neighbors and co-workers, fellow travelers who were previous strangers — somehow make their way into our lives,

Our hearts expand and we make space for more love.

That’s it.

There’s no competition.

It’s not a tight squeeze or an ill fit or a just barely made it.

There’s no shortage or rationing.

We’re all in.

There’s room for everybody.

Our hearts expand and love makes space.

How small-minded and silly to think maybe my heart wouldn’t be big enough and strong enough and soft enough to love all three of my babies at once; To think there was a limit to my heart’s capacity.

But to be honest, I didn’t just think this way about babies.  I thought this about the rest of my love life, too. At one time or another, we’ve all experienced a love that made us feel as though this were IT. We never would or could feel love like this again. And maybe we didn’t want to. (POV: Widowed and Divorced)

But wouldn’t that be so sad? To think love was so limited and exclusive? (A year ago, I would’ve said no. That’s not sad. That’s awesome. Love can go fly a kite or play in traffic.) Yet I realize everyday now that over the course of a lifetime filled with hundreds and thousands of people and experiences on our journey’s way, our hearts expand and love makes space. We have the ability to love an infinite number of people with infinite types of love. We never run out. The well never runs dry. Somehow, there is an indeclinable source.

I know, I know, I know. This from the same girl who, a year ago, wasn’t sure she still believed in love. This from the same girl who, last Valentine’s Day, declared herself her OWN Valentine. But as life (and love) would have it, this past year the people around me, both old and new, poured more love into my life than I ever would’ve imagined. And in spite of my weathered and worn out rose-colored glasses and snarky commentaries on love, my heart expanded and love made space.

And so Happy Valentine’s Day to you. I hope you can look back on this past year of your life too, and see just how much love is all around you–just how much space there is for love. And the good news is, there’s still room for more.

Effing the Whole Thing Up and Still Being Awesome

Elliott Erwitt New Rochell, NY, 1955 (busy mom)

Some girlfriends and I were sitting around the dining room table, drinks and appetizers scattered between us, ruminating as usual over love, life and relationships. And despite it being Girls’ Night, and despite our best efforts, the conversation inevitably steered itself toward our children. Toward motherhood. Toward parenting. To our fears and failures. Our triumphs and trials. Our daily insecurities of, as I like to say, “Effing the whole thing up.”

The conversation wore on and a common thread remained: Each one of us is hard at work trying to keep our kids from pain. We’re all trying desperately to keep our kids from screwing up. From making a mess. From making the same mistakes we did.

It’s scary. And tiring.

But more than that?

It’s impossible.

In her new book, Carry On, Warrior, Author, Blogger and Speaker Glennon Doyle Melton  (on whom I have an enormous girl and writing crush) says this:

My most important parenting job is that I teach my children how to deal with being human. Because most likely, that’s where they’re headed. No matter what I do, they’re headed toward being messed-up humans faster than three brakeless railroad cars.

There is really only one way to deal gracefully with being human and that is this: Forgive yourself. 

Oh. I love this. I want to frame this in my kitchen and stitch in on my pillowcase so that every time I’m tempted to think I could possibly ever possess enough power and persuasion to keep my kids from making mistakes and screwing up their lives, I pause. I pause to remind myself that while I’m responsible for healthy coaching and boundaries and discipline, there are, in fact, limits to my reach. As well there should be. We’re separate from our kids in the best of ways. It’s how we belong to ourselves and not our parents. It’s how we learn our own truth and feel our own feelings. Think our own thoughts. And really, become our own person. Big, messy mistakes and all.

And isn’t the struggle how we all learn to become?

[Side note~ I vividly remember being about 17 years old and actually shouting at my mom, “LET ME MAKE MY OWN MISTAKES AND LEARN FROM THEM!” Whew. Let me just say, make my own mistakes I did. Repeatedly. I did a very, very fine job making the mistakes I so brazenly declared I NEEDED TO MAKE. Jury’s still out on the whole “learning from them” part. Some things only become a WTF in hindsight.]

But as difficult as parenting can be, this I feel like I can do.

I can teach my kids to be human and to forgive themselves.

Every day. All the time. For the rest of forever.  And I’m learning it myself right now so that I can model it for them: Learning to be totally okay with the perfectly imperfectness of life.  Accepting that it’s messy. That I’m not always sure of myself, and I don’t always have it all together. And that’s okay. I’m carrying on anyway. And forgiving myself a thousand times a day because I’m human. Kids will learn to be gentle and gracious and compassionate to themselves when they watch how it’s done and then feel it extended to them.

Glennon goes on to say, “We have to forgive ourselves…and then oh my goodness…find ourselves sort of awesome, actually, considering the freaking circumstances.”

And so there it is. Considering the freaking circumstances, whether you got where you are today by your own fault or someone else’s, or just because life can be so damn hard, forgive yourself. You are exceptional at being human and even if you’re effing the whole thing up, you’re still actually sort of awesome. Forgive yourself and start all over again tomorrow.

frankl quote

You Gotta Fight For Your Rights

Woman suffrage. Mrs. Swing, picketing White House, 1917

You guys. One of my girls brought home THE most awesome thing from school today and I’m stealing it. And NOT because I didn’t have any content for this week. I just didn’t have any content I could actually publish. Because. You know. Some weeks are messier than others and it would just not be appropriate to press the Publish button. Woah Nellie.

But THIS! This fits perfectly into a messy week. It’s the Personal Bill of Rights and I totally wish I knew who the author was so that I could give them a big ol’ hug and kiss and double high fives and secret hand shakes and do-si-do with them and whatever else you do when you wanna celebrate. Because this rocks. I’m hanging it on my fridge and in my kids’ rooms and giving copies to a few friends. I’ve lived far too long with some blurry and loose boundaries, People-Pleasing Behavior Syndrome (because that’s a thing) and not always understanding what is reasonable to expect for myself or others. I’m guessing we could all use a reminder from time to time about what it genuinely means to be real people with real feelings and needs; Reminders about what is healthy and right and should be expected in healthy relationships. This list is that.

Personal Bill of Rights

1. I have the right to ask for what I want.

2. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I cannot meet.

3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.

4. I have the right to change my mind.

5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.

6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.

7. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it      violates my values.

8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.

9. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behaviors, actions, feelings, or problems.

10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.

11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.

12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.

13. I have the right to feel scared and say, “I’m afraid.”

14. I have the right to say, “I don’t know.”

15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.

16. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.

17. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.

18. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.

19. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.

20. I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment.

21. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.

22. I have the right to change and grow.

23. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.

24. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.

25. I have the right to be happy.

~Anonymous

Amen. And Amen. Thank you, Anonymous. You are wise and brilliant and insightful and you have done it again. XOXO