The Ocean, the Sun, and Dory

Aliana and I just came home from a short trip to Florida.  At the airport, a stranger asked me where I was going.  I told him, “Naples, Florida.”  He asked, “Who lives in Naples?”

“The ocean,” I said.

He looked puzzled.  I almost asked him, “Have you not seen the ocean?”

As Aliana and I swam in the waves on Tuesday afternoon, I asked her a question.  “How do you think you are like the ocean?” Together, we made a list of the ways that she is like the ocean:

  • Strong, yet soft
  • Beautiful
  • Constantly changing, yet still the same
  • Full of life
  • Deep
  • Fun
  • Majestic

Then last night, we watched the sun set over the ocean.  And all I could think about was how this same sun has been setting on our earth every day since the beginning of time. The sun gives us life and is such a powerful part of God’s creation, yet I have never stopped to even think about how that ball of fire keeps me alive.  That MASSIVE star keeps our earth going. It goes up every morning, no matter what, and goes down every evening, no matter what.  It does its damn job without complaint.  And when it shines, it’s amazing how that makes all of us feel.


So as I was having these thoughts and trying to practice gratitude for the beauty that was surrounding me and has been surrounding humanity since the beginning of time, I started thinking about what it means to surrender to the forces around us–God, nature, circumstances.  Whatever they may be.  And I realized this:  Surrendering is freaking hard.  It’s not in our nature to let go.  It’s not in our nature to let God and the universe make decisions for us, yet that’s exactly what sometimes happens.

People have often asked me why I’m divorced (which, by the way, is a somewhat invasive question to ask someone you don’t know well, but anywho).  Rather than going into an excessive explanation, I have started saying, “I married a person who God didn’t intend for me to marry.”

There is no doubt in my mind, that God didn’t want me to marry my ex-husband.  But I wanted to marry him, and so I did.  And while I have this incredible child as a result of my decision, I can still honestly say that I was not acting in accordance with God’s will when I said, “I do.”  I was acting in accordance to MY WILL.

Along the same lines, I do not understand when people say, “I have no regrets.”  Because, I think regret is an important teacher.  I have LOTS of regrets, guys. I regret hurting my parents by being selfish.  I regret having no boundaries with people.  I regret putting myself in danger.  I regret hurting people by not being honest with them.  I regret gossiping about others. I regret trying to control people.

While I learned from those decisions (notice I don’t call them mistakes, I call them decisions), I’m still a work in progress, and I hate that I am that way, but I am.  Because I’m like Dory from Finding Nemo (I totally stole that analogy from Glennon, by the way)–I now know all this “life stuff” and “who I’m supposed to be” in my head, but then I sometimes have days or weeks where I forget it.  It’s during those moments that I make decisions that are sometimes less than stellar–decisions I regret.  But I’m trying to iron my path out so I have less of them.

And, if I take the time to pay attention to the forces of nature, they just may remind me everyday to SURRENDER to who I am and to the universe.  If I were in control of my life, things would be so different right now, but I’M NOT.  And strangely enough, I also believe God knows what God is doing, and I am just gonna try to get out of God’s way so I don’t jack it up.

 

 

 

The Cave

When you decide to walk through the dark caves, searching for light, you may eventually find that you ARE the light.

On a sunny day in April of the year 2006, I woke up in a cave.

My body was aching and asking me to pay attention to it. But I didn’t, and I went to work anyways. I felt nauseated and weak. I went to the school nurse’s office and she took my temperature. It was 102 degrees. My principal told me to go home.

As I was walking out of the building, a colleague stopped me. I told her I was very sick. She said she would pray for me, and I asked her how she was doing, as I was getting into my car, and she paused to tell me she was feeling sad. Why? I asked her. She then told me that her sister-in-law was filing for divorce because her husband was having an affair. When I asked how she knew he was having an affair, she said, “He was often out late at night, came home drunk, and made excuses about feeling depressed and needing time with his friends.”

In my fogged-up, feverish state, I told her I was so sorry about her sister in law and that I would hopefully see her Monday and we could chat more.

As I was driving away, the pit in my stomach abruptly felt as if it were bottoming out. I was no longer nauseous. I was STARVING. I am embarrassed to say I drove through a Culver’s drivethru and ordered a big, greasy cheeseburger. I went home and devoured it and took Tylenol and went to sleep.

As I drifted in and out of dreams, my skin vascillated between chills and sweats. My thoughts went to the story my colleague had told me about the family member whose husband was having an affair. I knew why the pit in my stomach had bottomed out. The pit had cracked open from hearing the truth: I was that woman, too.

My body was ready to feel this truth. It was so exhausted from lies. But my spirit wasn’t.  It was in fight or flight mode. I tossed and turned in my feverish stupor, and finally went back to sleep.

I began to dream. I dreamt that my husband was drowning, and I was trying to resuscitate him, but he asked me to let go of him. Under the water, he called to me, “I’m having an affair. Let me go.” I let go and watched him sink further into the water.

As I continued to dream, my fever broke. My body jolted awake in a sweat. I remember sitting straight up in bed, completely clear-headed, yet terrified.

I called my mom.

“He’s having an affair,” I blurted out. “I know it because I dreamed it! And my friend, she said it happened to her sister in law-that’s what’s happening to me!! I know it. But I can’t prove it.  What should I do?  Should I hire a private investigator?”

My mom listened. She didn’t think I was insane. She knew I had been searching for answers as to what was feeling “off” in my marriage. But, she knew I was afraid and told me, “God has already shown you so much. Don’t go out and investigate any more. God will continue to reveal the truth in the time that you need to know.”

After I hung up the phone, I started to pray. I prayed so hard for truth. I prayed for more information. I prayed that I wasn’t crazy. And as I was praying, I suddenly heard a voice–a voice that I believe to be God–who spoke to me and said, “Go check your mail.”

And here’s the freaking thing…as I’m walking to my mailbox, I KNEW I WOULD FIND SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT THERE. I was awake, yet zombielike. In that walk to my mailbox, I was feeling like every sensation I felt, every person I passed, and every detail I noticed was a sign, pointing me in the direction of truth.

I went to the mailbox, turned the mailbox key, and a piece of mail fell out from a jewelry store. It was addressed to my husband, and looked like a bill. I opened it up, and was not surprised to see a credit card bill with several hundred dollars worth of necklaces, bracelets, and jewelry purchased that wasn’t for me.

I held this bill close to me. It felt important, almost sacred. Here I was, holding a piece of gold in my hand that was pure truth. I went upstairs, and once again, I heard the voice saying,  “Go to the computer.” I sat down at the computer, and looked up our cell phone bill online and pulled up my husband’s phone line. There was one number on there repeatedly at all hours of the day and night that I didn’t recognize. I called it.

A woman’s voicemail came on.

“Hi, this is Maricela. I can’t take your call right now, but leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”

I didn’t know a person named Maricela. But I ascertained that my husband knew her very well.

The rest of the weekend, I curled up in a ball and cried and ached and talked to my family. My husband had told me he was going to Chicago for a concert that weekend.  I called him many times, but he never answered. I didn’t know what I was going to say or do. I just knew that this truth was crumbling everything I had been clinging to and destroying it. This truth wanted to break me from my attachment to my husband, because that’s what the truth does-it breaks you wide freaking open and you can’t hide. Or run. Or really do anything, except for sit with it until it’s taught you what you need to know.

The next day was Easter. I didn’t go to church. It was a sunny day, yet I couldn’t move. I didn’t eat. I sat in the darkness of my bedroom, wondering what was about to happen. I had been split right open in the course of 24 hours with a truth that felt so threatening to me; however God had revealed it in such a precise manner that it was impossible to ignore.

This was the beginning of a spiritual awakening.  I did not go gently into that goddamn night, though.  I went on to wrestle with the truth and what it meant to be awake.  I even went on to have a baby with this person.  That’s right:  I ignored the truth and hoped that a child would change it.  But I discovered that as I fought that truth, it continued to fight right back.  And this moment in April when I was curled up in a fetal position in my bedroom in Madison, Wisconsin was only the beginning of the fight.  My husband’s affair was pure PAIN for me. But it was only a thread of the truth that was about to unravel before me.

The good news is this: once it unravels, there are treasures to be found.  You just have to be willing to enter the darkness to find the light.


 

I Woke Up Like This

When I first got divorced, I walked around for about a year like a female version of Rip Van Winkle who had awoken and was seeing a new world. 

Despite a PTSD diagnosis from my doctor,  everything felt like a miracle to me. 

Every time I would pay a bill, I felt gratitude to be paying my own bills. When I bought my first piece of decent furniture, I felt like a queen. I finally slept like a baby most nights in my bed, and I let my daughter, who was two at the time, sleep next to me, despite everyone telling me “that was a bad idea.” I didn’t care. What I cared about was that we were finally SAFE and FREE. 

For about a year, I walked around like that-in an almost mystical, childlike state of wonder. I am not saying I wasn’t raw and emotional-what I’m saying is that I felt peace, despite the range of emotions that passed through me.

I remember sitting in my little, white and brick house in a not-so-great part of town, rocking my daughter in my tattered, hand-me down rocking chair, thinking that I had life figured out and that life was good. 

You see, it takes some time to realize you have your own life after you haven’t for so many years. And here I was, in 2010, finally awake to the idea that I was alive and that I could make choices for myself.

People observing me said, “Wow. Emily is doing SO well. She’s, like, a brand new person.”

Only I wasn’t. I was still the same person I had been during my entire marriage; I was simply now reacting to the fact that I was finally safe and free.

I was like an aged onion. There were so many layers of me that hadn’t been peeled back yet, and my skin was starting to toughen and the roots were trying to pop out because I needed to be peeled. The learning had barely begun. 

I realized in therapy that rejection was my oldest wound. And it has also been the most difficult wound to heal. Deep wounds like that do not heal from the outside–they can only heal from within. You cannot slap a bandaid on a rejection wound and expect it to heal. You have to do the deep, psychological work that starts from within. 

Combining my fear of rejection with PTSD, and you could say my post divorce dating life was a complete shit storm. I went from boyfriend to boyfriend. I remember my therapist looking up at me and asking me, “Where did you go?”

My energy was frenetic. Although the framework for the abusive marriage was gone, I was still the same person, afraid to be seen. Afraid to show up, instead of showing off. Afraid of being my true self, because…who would actually love that?  Although I said I wanted a partner, I continued to pick partners who were clearly not right for me. 

But tonight, as I sit here on Valentines Day 2017, the one thought in my mind is this: it is so good to be single, free, and safe. I once prayed so hard for the things I have now, and I feel GRATITUDE to have them. I feel a little wide-eyed tonight, even though seven years have passed since I left. 

I know there are many men and women in relationships that, even if they are safe, they are not free. They feel afraid. Maybe they are afraid of rejection from their spouses, even after being married all these years. Or maybe they feel like they just don’t have the courage to be seen, and that eats away at their insides. Or maybe they feel they cannot trust this person lying next to him or her and that wears on them day in, and day out.

If that is you, while I do not have specific answers, I can tell you this. Don’t stop peeling off your layers. Don’t stop showing up. Don’t stop feeling the feelings. Don’t numb out. Have the courage to be yourself and figure out what’s underneath the feelings. Because until you peel all the layers off, all you are is a body with feelings-not your awokened self. And we all need a planet that is full of humans who are healthy, alive, and awake. 

Happy love day, 2017.


Back in the days of my 2010, Rip Van Winkle awakening. 

Resentment is a Teacher 

Here’s a quick exercise: 

*Think of someone in your life right now who is really getting on your nerves and/or irritates you. Picture that person in your brain. Got it? That was easy. Now, here’s the hard part: think about what boundary you need to set with him or her. 

The hardest part of adulting is boundaries. I hate them, in fact. I mean, it’s so much easier to just complain about people bugging us, while slowly building up resentment towards them, and maybe even gossiping about them. And gossiping is so much fun, anyways. It’s like, a way to connect with friends, right? Let’s get together and talk about all the people who irritate the heck out of us and how we can’t stand them, but then we’ll be nice to their faces and pretend everything is fine.

Only it’s not fine. Because our resentment continues to build up towards that irritating person or people we have yet to set a boundary with. And so then, we start doing things, like becoming passive aggressive towards him or her. Or snarky. Or confusing. Or we just bottle it up and then gossip about it with our friends, thinking it’s making us feel better, without realizing it’s actually MAKING US FEEL WORSE to complain about a person behind his or her back.

I have spent most of my life believing that if I set boundaries with others, then that made me a b**ch or a meanie or not Christian *** enough. When in reality, that’s all bullcrap. Complete bullcrap. What I didn’t realize is that when I was honest with people, it gave them the opportunity to change, and it also was a way of honoring my truth and integrity. 

I once had a friend who spent years asking me for advice. And I spent years offering it to her. She chose to never take it, or when she did, she ended up telling me how bad the advice was or how “that idea didn’t work for her.” At the time, I was really in the middle of my own crisis, but instead of focusing on healing from that, I was focused on trying to save/help my friend. 

And it became exhausting. And then I was like, “Oh my God, this friend of mine is irritating the crap out of me.” I kept telling others about it and asking them for advice on how to handle her. I was angry and resentful towards her for continuing to suck the energy out of me. But I was actually TURNING INTO HER because I was now doing the SAME, EXACT thing with MY friends. They all told me, “Talk to her about it. Tell her why you feel depleted. Tell her you need to take a break from offering advice. Set a boundary.” 

And I was all like, “Why in the HECK are you TALKING like a crazy person… you think I would actually say that to her face??!! As if! ” 💁🏻

But you guys, here’s the thing. A couple  of my courageous friends basically told me, “You need to either set a boundary with this person or accept her for who she is. That’s your choice. But I’m not going to keep rehashing it with you. It is what it is.”

See what they just did there? They set a boundary with me. And at first I was like, “Fine. Guess I won’t talk to you about how upset I am with this person anymore! Hmph!” But then, after a bit, my ego subsided and I somehow realized what was happening. My friends had called me out on my own bullsh*t.

So after gaining my composure, I called up this friend and told her, “I care about you and I know your situation is not easy. But I can’t give you any more advice right now. I need to get my own crap together. Our friendship is important, and I want to be honest with you. I am still here for you and will continue to hold a space for you in prayer.”

“Lord Jesus, I can’t believe I did that,” I told myself as I hung up the phone. 

And to my surprise, my friend actually understood, even though it was weird at first.  It changed the dynamic of our relationship. I was no longer her psychologist. I was simply her friend. 

And I slowly began to heal myself.  I began to give myself the gift of self care and more time alone, to fill up my own cup so that I could give in love to others. 

*exercise taken from a Brene Brown interview with Chase Jarvis. 

*** and speaking of Christians setting boundaries, did you know that Jesus set boundaries, like, ALL the time in the course of his life? And before you get excited, Mom, thinking I remembered that from Vacation Bible School, I didn’t. I just googled that shit. http://www.soulshepherding.org/1998/07/jesus-set-boundaries/

Go, Jesus! I really like him. He’s been keeping it 💯 since the year zero AD.

Top Five Lessons Learned in Yoga

I am a yoga novice. I’ve been practicing for a year, and while there are many poses that are still highly difficult for me, I keep going back. Why, you may ask? Because not only has it improved my balance, strength, and flexibility, but it has also improved my outlook on life. Here are my top five life lessons I’ve learned from yoga.

1) Stay on your mat. Stop looking over at that person in class doing a headstand, while you are just trying to get used to balancing on one leg–much less your freaking head. The headstand is in her practice–not yours. Let her be her and you be you. Just do you. The more you are focused on what others are doing, the more you lose focus and the capacity to grow in your own development. Stay on your mat and take care of you.

2) Be present. All you have is this moment-this breath in your body right now. Your life is happening right now. In yoga, I am forced to pay attention to how my body feels when I’m holding different poses. My attention will wander, but it inevitably comes back to my body and breath. In the moments of stillness, I have to come back to my body and breath, no matter how hard that may be. In a culture such as ours where we are constantly future-tripping or past-tripping, we naturally do not live in the present.  It is a skill that must be learned.  And once you begin to practice that skill, I promise you, it can change your life.

3) When you fall or topple over, that just means you’ve found your edge.  Life is so hard. Sometimes when we fall, we feel like a failure, but in reality it just means we fell at a difficult moment. In yoga, you stand back up and try again because that is just what you do. In life, it’s pretty much the same-we fall down, but that is not a signal to stop. It’s not a signal to make up some story in our heads and analyze why we fell. We just need to accept the reality of the fall, live in the present, and get back up and try again.

4) The pose doesn’t really even begin until you want to leave it. That’s the exact moment to stay present and hold that damn pose you hate and feel the uncomfortableness. Can you imagine how our lives would be if we did that every time we felt uncomfortable? I have learned the hard way that if I can sit in the pain or uncomfortable feelings without trying to numb them or react immediately, then THAT is where the true journey begins.

“So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.”- Pema Chodron

Feel the uncomfortableness. Feel the feelings, but don’t start making up some story in your head about how you got there.  The feelings we feel are important–but the thoughts and stories we tell ourselves may need to be quieted.

5) You must learn to let go. This is the one I hate the most. I lived so much of my life believing in the importance of holding on tightly to things and people I loved. What happened when I did this was that I never allowed them to grow. In the same way, when I come to my mat in yoga, I must let go of my ideas and feelings about the past and future, and set a specific intention for the practice.  I have to let go of my “smaller self,” so to speak, so that I can surrender to what is happening in that moment. It took me years to learn that letting go of something you are fighting for isn’t necessarily “settling” or giving up.  Rather, its about the courage to move forward, free of a specific attachment.  It is an act of surrendering in faith, so that you may experience the present moment.

My yoga teacher read the following poem the other night, at the beginning of class.  I asked her if could share it with you, so here it is:


 “Not everything you ever lose, is bound to be a loss.” ❤

And here’s my little yogi and I in her favorite pose: Malasana.  

Grounded in Truth

I know this question isn’t anything new, but what would happen if we all got REALLY truthful about how we are REALLY doing?

This morning, a guy who I think may be interested in me, texted me, “Good morning.  How are you doing?”

My response was “Not well.  I miss my daughter.  I feel like shit.”

When I pressed send on that text, I suddenly felt this surge of power that I sometimes feel when I’ve been uncomfortably honest with someone. “YEAH!” I think. “I FEEL LIKE SHIT and I just told a potential love interest that!  GO ME. I CAN DO ANYTHING.”

(Images from Allie Bosch, hyperboleandahalf@blogspot.com)

I feel like shit.  Let me shout it from the god damn rooftops.  Let me tell the barista at the coffee shop when she asks me how I am. Let me tell the clerk at the gas station. Let it be known to one and all that I feel shitty today. 

Sundays when I don’t have my daughter can be hard. Sometimes I want to curl into fetal position and not leave my bed. My thoughts and emotions tend to become negative and it’s easy to feel stuck. And I’ve found that the only way to get unstuck is to fight back by doing the next thing. 

So that’s just what I did. I wrote a list: coffee, write, laundry, exercise. And then I pretended I was a normal person and went to get coffee at a nearby coffee shop. While there, I ended up having a pleasant interaction with a dad in the coffee shop and his son who was building with Legos. And I talked to the employees about how I feel shitty and need espresso today instead of plain coffee. And those employees were so nice to me, and said, “No problem, we get you.” And while I was drinking my Americano, I decided to like, make this blog into an actual website. And then I decided to send invitations to everyone on FB to “like” this blog even though I really dislike self promotion and it makes me want to poke my eyeballs out. And I stayed in that coffee shop and started writing this blog entry until the coffee shop closed. 

Then I stood up and realized I felt pretty good… and it was all because I fought back by doing the next thing.  

So now, I’m doing laundry. And then I will exercise. And then it will be 8:00 and Aliana will come home and we’ll snuggle and watch a little tv before bedtime. And then I will know that today I was truthful and honest with myself and others about what I needed and how I felt. And that makes this day actually not so bad. 

P.S. During NYE I went on a yoga retreat led my Laura McKowen and Becky Vollmer. I had the privilege of sharing a sacred space with 26 amazing individuals. We did yoga. We spoke truth to each other. We worked on letting go of what we needed to for 2016, and looked forward to 2017. I chose a new phrase for 2017-Grounded in Truth. Because I realized that is what being brave looks like for me. Maybe that’s what it looks like for you, too. If it does, then let’s hold up each other in truth. ❤

P.P.S. As for the potential love interest, I realized today that I don’t think we are compatible enough to date. And that’s the truth. 

I love you guys. That’s all. And guess what? I don’t even feel shitty anymore. 

Weak is the New Strong

This is what it’s like to save your own life.


My husband of almost ten years tells me he is going to go out of town. I feel a pit in the bottom of my stomach. Pain wells up. Fear brims over me. Adrenaline rushes through my body in the way it does when someone attacks you, leaves you for dead, and you survive and escape.

I pretend I am dead. Not literally dead, of course, but dead in the same way I have  been dead for ten years. I do not show him I am still breathing and that a flame is flickering under the surface.

He believes me. When he walks out the door, I get to work. Time is ticking. I put my toddler to bed and start packing. I try to remember what is important-photos, toys, clothes, passports, birth certificates. As I stuff them into random boxes and suitcases, I suddenly feel like I just can’t move anymore.

I lie down on the floor of my bedroom. I want to cry, but my heart is pounding and my body is hollow from not eating. I realize I do not feel sad. I feel paralyzed. Paralyzed by the fear of doing something that other people will think is crazy. I realize they will think I’m crazy, only because they do not know I have lived a lie for years. The lie is crazy-not me.

I call my only friend.

“I can’t do this. I can’t pack another thing.”

My friend reminds me that voice is a liar and that I need to keep moving.

I do the next thing and the next thing, followed by the next.

Soon, it is morning. Even though I did not sleep, I keep going. My uncle and aunt arrive to help. Then my mom and dad show up. We pack the moving van quickly. I am afraid a neighbor will see me and ask me what the hell I’m doing. But no one does.

Next, I go to the courthouse. I empty out all the contents in my purse and put my belongings on the conveyor belt as I walk through the metal detector, clutching my paperwork for the protective order. I make eye contact with the security guards  and I wonder if they can observe that there is strength in my frail body.

I go down to the basement to file the order. I speak to a victim’s advocate. She tells me I am beautiful and that my life will be better after I file the protective order. She tells me her story and how she once ran away too. I look at her perfectly done nails and long blond hair. We are nothing alike. Can our stories really be the same, I wonder? I do not feel beautiful and I’m only pretending to be strong.

I rush home, drive the van to a storage unit, and unpack everything there except for a small suitcase. A stranger catches my eye and asks me if I’m moving.

“Yes,” I tell her, hoping she does not ask anything else because my mind may crack.

I get home and I take one last look at my kitchen where I used to bake cookies. I do not feel sad. I know the same kitchen where I baked is the same kitchen where I was once beaten with a broomstick.

Everyone leaves the house and goes to their vehicles. It is pouring torrential rain, and we need to get out. But I feel the familiar wave of paralysis again, underneath the adrenaline and I cannot move. I ask my uncle for help.

My uncle is my second father. Over the last ten years, I have burdened him and my aunt with the story of my shameful  marriage, so that my parents’ hearts wouldn’t break. He knows everything, and he and my aunt have walked beside me through the pain and recognized the flicker of light, streaming through my brokenness.

“Do I leave a note?” I ask him.

He pauses and thinks. I can tell he doesn’t think I need to, but he gives me a piece of paper anyways.

“This is what you write,” he tells me. “Aliana and I are okay. I hope you can find a way to be okay, too.”

This note feels truthful and perfect and heartbreaking, all at the same time. I am proud of this note. I put it on the door and we walk out and never turn back. The note feels like a bomb that is about to detonate on the path of fear I have walked for so long.

I tell you this story today, because I remember what it feels like to die and start again. I tell you this story because I do not want to forget it. I do not want to disassociate from my darkness completely, because every time I do that, I forget the lesson that lives there. That woman is me. She is a survivor. I AM A SURVIVOR.

I need that lesson. Like, that lesson is the antithesis of my kryptonite. All my power lives right there.

And the lesson is this:   WEAK IS THE NEW STRONG. Each time I get to the end of myself, there is power in the new beginning. At the end of everything hard and messy, there is a reclamation of self that must occur. There is that moment that you do not want to cross the next line and do the hard thing, but you pick up a piece of paper, and start writing out the truth. You create your reality and are simultaneously shocked that you could do it.

I will keep trying to remember my lesson, and I hope you remember your lesson, too. When life is hard, remember that really hard thing you did. And know that you can do it again. And again. And again.

Smarty-pants Mrs. Pantley

Oh crap, it's tomorrow

When my daughter was six months old, she stopped sleeping through the night. The word, stopped, is not a typo. She was one of those freakishly strange children who started sleeping through the night at the very young age of eight weeks. I am not a sleep whisperer; she just did it.

Until she just didn’t. It all started when my then-husband and I took a trip with her during winter break to New York City. We stayed at my ex-brother in law’s (is that a word?) apartment.

(Based on his inability to operate social media and technology, I’m going to assume that my ex-brother-in-law is not reading this), and just bluntly state that he’s the opposite of someone who exhibits caring behaviors. He is somewhat “machista” in his outlook on life.

So, as you can imagine, when we stayed at his home I was expected to follow his rules…

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Child of God

On Tuesday, I drove up to Kokomo to be with my dad at his doctor’s appointment. On the way there, I stopped to grab some coffee. 

I went inside the coffee shop and ordered. As I was waiting for my organic, almond milk, local pumpkin “spiced” latte, (I know, I’m annoying), I sat down on a couch and peered out the window. 

Outside there was a child with a beautiful round face playing with legos at a table while a woman (presumably the child’s  mother) chatted with a few of her friends. 

The child came up to the window and waved at me through the glass. I waved back, smiling, and wondered what gender the child was. It was hard for me to discern, and I found myself wanting to know. 

And then I sighed. And just sat there, mesmerized by this child’s smile, until I heard the barista say, “Order for Emily!”

And as I walked away, I suddenly snapped out of my wondering. I am not sure why. Maybe it was just the emotional state I was in. I was trying to go into the doctor’s appointment with an open heart, trusting what was about to happen, despite my fear.  And so I heard a voice inside me say, “You don’t really need to know everything, Emily. Don’t put that beautiful child in a box. Separate yourself from this world of boxes and labels.”

And I began to think about my own baby, who is really not a baby anymore, but a vibrant 8 year old. As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, when people ask her, “What are you mixed with?” I feel weird and awkward and like some boundary has been crossed. I am still stunned when strangers and acquaintances ask that question so effortlessly. It slides of their tongues like smooth butter. 

“What is she mixed with?”

“What is she?” 

“Are you her mom? What is her dad?”

It’s a label–a category–that people want. And it bugs me. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive. Or perhaps I’m not. 

But here I was with this beautiful child, in the coffee shop, wanting the same. I wanted a label. A box. A category. Male or female? I’m embarrassed to admit that my psyche may have wanted to know, so that it could structure my interactions with this child based upon knowledge of his or her gender. 

And that is NOT someone I want to be. 

I suppose my brain knows that deep down–which is why it started talking to me about boxes and labels. The child is a child is a child. The child has his or her own identity which is being shaped and formed and I have no business being involved in that process. 

One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, (who recently divorced her husband) announced that she’s in love with another female, who happens to be badass soccer player, Abby Wambach. Everyone is suddenly like, “Is Glennon gay? Is she bisexual? What IS she?”

And there’s something about those questions that I find unnverving. It’s like, we humans are so obsessed with checking boxes. These are some of the common boxes we like to check: 

  • Gender 
  • Race
  • Sexuality

And there’s a lot more. But those above are the three biggies. And there’s a reason for that–people treat you differently based upon their associations and/or unsettling beliefs they associate with those labels. 

There are people in this world who are very uncomfortable without labels; these are the people who can’t stand not knowing what “categories” others fall into. They find comfort in categories and do not like ambiguity. 

And yet, if there’s one thing to be certain of in life, it is that our lives WILL be filled with ambiguity. We are not omniscient nor were we designed to be.

And so I was thinking about ALL the things I just said (I’ve a busy brain) as I entered my dad’s doctor appointment with his neurologist. And as the neurologist gave me his diagnosis, “Your dad is in the beginning to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” I made a conscious decision right then and there to not let this diagnositic label DEFINE him. 

I saw my dad’s face, as the neurologist told him that the disease is not curable. He was unable to make eye contact with the doctor. He was somber. He did not ask questions. So I did. 

“What does this mean?” I asked. 

“It means he needs to start this medication I’m prescribing as soon as possible to prolong the quality of his life,” the doctor said. 

He went on to explain that with this medication, we are buying at least 8-11 more years of a life that is true to him. 

When I looked over at my dad, I thought I would cry, but instead I just felt overwhelming love and compassion for him. I looked him square in the eyes when we left and told him that this is a condition… but it’s not WHO he is. 

We cannot let these labels–these boxes, these words–DEFINE each other. They are cages. You know what my most important identity is? Child of God. That’s it. Because I’ve had important labels taken away from me–wife, niece, granddaughter, and friend. And yet, I’ve gone on living. 

People build walls in the name of labels; when what we REALLY need is proximity. 

As for me, I am going to do my best to fall in love with the ambiguity, while  decreasing the distance between myself and those different from me. 

And I’m going to keep reminding my dad of his most important identity: child of God. I love you, dad. 

I Didn’t Celebrate the Life of Hello Kitty

This was written two years ago today. I still am amazed at how fear likes to mimic anger. Not all the time. But sometimes. And fear is a feeling. A LEGIT feeling. We just can’t let fear be the boss of us. AND we must get to the bottom of WHY it’s there in the first place. This is at the crux of understanding ourselves and understanding others. 

Oh crap, it's tomorrow

A week ago, I woke my daughter up at her usual 6:00 am time, and asked her to start getting ready. She was in an unusually good mood.

After getting dressed, she noticed that she had forgotten to turn the page over in the calendar in her bedroom to November during the Halloween weekend. My daughter is slightly obsessed with calendars and dates, and immediately ran over to change it.

She let out a gasp as loud as a freight train.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I missed Hello Kitty’s birthday!!! I missed it!” she cried.

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“Okay,” I said, trying to understand why this was a big deal to her.

She read the look on my face. “Don’t you understand?!! You DON’T understand because YOU don’t care about Hello Kitty!”

“It’s not that I don’t care about Hello Kitty,” I lied. “I just don’t understand why you’re so upset.”

You see…

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