Making Space for Love

FullSizeRender (2)Today’s blog is a re-post from earlier this year, in honor of the baby who inspired it. She’s 13 today. A gorgeously fresh 13.  She was a baby I wasn’t sure I was ready for after so much loss. Baby Number 3. And then when she finally got here, I am overheard on the video–my voice hoarse and strained from labor–in total disbelief: “It’s a GIRL? A GIRL??” What? All along I had thought her to be a boy. I sort of thought I wanted a boy. But instead, she turned out to be everything I didn’t know I wanted. My joy baby. She is all the best parts of me, only better. Her wit, her style, her humor, her sarcasm. She makes me laugh hard, every single day. I can’t believe she’s 13 today, but it’s hard to be sad because she just keeps becoming more magical…right before my eyes.

And as I’m typing this, said child literally just came in my room, looked at herself in the mirror, declared, “I am a mini you.” Smiled, and walked out. I should be so lucky.

Happy Birthday, Smush. Thanks for making life so fun.


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. (Widowed and divorced over here…remember?)

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

Aside

The Mosaic of Motherhood and A Tribute to My Mom

1cdcdbb34620a8ee0bd579c09f44cfaaI hate that I have never written this post before.

In my head I have written and re-written it a thousand times. I have started and stopped. Tried and failed. Left it halfway. Left it undone, incomplete.

I cannot write a blog post honoring my mom and describing her because I don’t know where to start and how to finish and how to make it complete enough and accurate enough and beautiful and fitting so you get it. So she gets it. So it feels like I’ve done her justice. I’m afraid it will fall short and I will be sorely disappointed I didn’t exactly represent her the way I wish to. The way she deserves. (So. No pressure.) But it’s the week of Mother’s Day- which also happens to be her birthday this year–and so it’s time.

(But first let’s all pause for a moment to please acknowledge the big suck of Mother’s Day and your birthday being on the same day: Big suck. Sorry, Mom.)

And so… My mom. My mom and I think the same things are funny, which means I like being around her. Because, you know, it’s US.  And what I love about my mom is that one of her core values is to really know people– because when you really know them, you can celebrate them. She has forever ruined my birthday expectations by making birthdays such a big deal. But how fun, right? She notices and appreciates important life moments and then celebrates all of them. With surprises. And food. Lots and lots of food. She is the ultimate hostess, setting the loveliest tables I’ve ever seen. Because she cares. Because she wants to make life moments treasured and memorable.

My mom is a giver. She is rarely ever a taker. When people say she’s beautiful and then follow it up with the ultimate compliment: “You look just like her”, I beam. I want to look like her and be like her and love my kids the way she has loved me. I know there are no paths my feet have traveled that my mother’s prayers did not first pave the way. I know there are few depths my heart has felt that my mother’s heart did not also clench in agony or beat in exhilaration, too. There are few tears I’ve cried that she has not also tasted their salty sting. And there are at least a million smiles and laughs and memories we have shared with equal joy.

We sort of joke sometimes, my mom and I– because I have had a rather eventful journey- and I have needed her. A lot. Some weeks I promise to lose her number. When she hasn’t been holding my hand, she’s been holding me up from behind. I hesitate to start listing things she’s done, ways she’s cheered and supported, ways she has “shown up” for me, because really, there is no end and no beginning. I simply, literally, could not remember it all. And most of them are really not isolated, listable incidents anyway.

My mom has a way of just being. When I was 18 and pregnant, I lay in her bed for 3 days as she tried to help me figure it out. And when we finally did? She said, “Now it’s not a problem–it’s a baby. Are you hungry? Let’s feed you.” She was in that delivery room for my firstborn. And then for my second born. And my third born. Because there is no one who quite comforts me and gets me like my mom. She took the phone call when the news of my first husband’s accident came–and then had to tell me–and then never left my side.

Years later, as I faced a very difficult confrontation, I remember her charge:

 “You are woman enough to handle this.”

I believed her. And I still hear those words echoing in my heart. Someday there will be a moment when I say them to my own daughters.

My mom was not, is not perfect, because that’s impossible. But she was good. Really good. And twenty-two years into motherhood myself now, I have firsthand empathy for what mothering asks of oneself. Of what it requires. Of the ingratitude and relentlessness of it. Of the dailyness. Of the restless nights wondering if you are truly effing up this whole thing beyond recognition and repair.  (“Effing” I must point out, is NOT from her.) I understand the absolute treachery and harrowing exhaustion of trying to create a beautiful, meaningful, whole life for your children while you are still in the midst of growing and morphing and realizing your own self.  The continual sacrifice of one for the benefit of the greater good.

Mom, you have given so I can take. You have said no so that I can say yes. You have stayed back so that I could shine.

And so in the most poetic and exquisite way, there is blood on your hands, Mom. Because those hands of yours, your fingerprints– are on nearly every inch of my life, creating a mosaic.  You have taken your own cracked life pieces and my fragile broken shards– and you have helped craft this shimmering, fragmented life with me. Bit by bit. Moment by moment. Forfeit by forfeit. And so I am clutching it to my chest, this mosaic. And I understand it better now, seeing the blood on my own hands from trying so desperately to craft a mosaic for my own children. Big pieces. Tiny slivers. Jagged edges. Ill-fitting. Impossible. It is whole. It is shattered. It is achingly and devastatingly beautiful. It is mine. And it is yours, too.

And so I want to end this, probably prematurely, despite my best efforts; presumably  falling short and failing miserably, by saying the one thing every single mom on this planet wants to hear:

You did a good job, Mom. You did a great job. Every day, you still do an impressive job.

My kids think you are hilarious. And loving. And creative. And fun. I’m proud of you, Mom. Thank you.  And I’m raising my glass to you, Mom. My coffee cup. My teacup that belonged to your mom. My wine glass. My beer. My Bible. My apron.  My 13 X 9. My ice cream cone. My dust cloth. The leftovers. The birthday parties. The posters. The babysitting. The ball games. The report cards. The acceptance and rejection letters. The birth certificates. The death certificates. The marriage and divorce papers. The heartbreak. The hell. The happiness. The paid-in-fulls and the debts I cannot repay.

Cheers to you, Mom, and the perfectly imperfect mosaic you’ve created for all of us.

{If I failed in epic proportions, please let Michael Buble say it better~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoEWmc60wJY}