Please read my warrior friend’s blog. This incredible woman writes hard and clear about what hurts. Love you, Lady Bear.
About six years ago, I was sitting in my therapist’s office, discussing a new relationship. She made a statement to me that made NO sense to me at the time, and yet something inside of me believed it could be true, simply because of the fact that she was WAY smarter than me.
“The highest level we can achieve in our relationships, is when we have the ability to stand alone in the presence of another,” she said.
What in the whatity what? Like what in the actual heck are you TALKING ABOUT? I looked at her like as if she had grown two heads–this was one I wasn’t even going to ask her to explain. It was too…BIZARRE. And what fresh hell is this in re: to dating? You mean I have to stand alone even if I’m dating someone? I’d rather run away from someone than have to show up as I am and be alone in his presence. What is this crappy alternative universe she is speaking of and how can I make sure I NEVER GO THERE?
Those ⬆️ were my thoughts.
And yet..here is where I want to go with this today. Today is right now. 7:51 pm on February 19. I am thinking about this alternative universe my therapist mentioned, where people can stand alone in the presence of another, and I can still honestly say that it feels just plain WEIRD to me that this is even possible.
… I now believe in different things: I believe in BEING STILL with the stupid negative feelings that come up. I am still sometimes afraid of pain or rejection or even intimacy, but I know I can tolerate them so I SIT with them and sometimes I EVEN SIT WITH THEM IN THE PRESENCE OF A FREAKING OTHER PERSON. Which is still not fun, but I CAN DO IT, which is the weirdest thing ever.
This is what it’s like: Here I am, living my life, joyfully, or sometimes not so joyfully, doing my thing. “Doing my thing” basically means BEING MYSELF. Showing up as me. And then, in the midst of me doing my thing, someone else tells me or shows me in his or her actions that he or she doesn’t like my thing-whether it’s the way I express myself or my belief system or even the way I look or show up to him or her.
And this hurts when they communicate this to me. Because that’s how I’m wired– I am wired to care about people and thereby I sometimes care a little too much about what they think.
But I can TOLERATE the discomfort of the disagreement. I can still stand as myself, being myself, allowing myself to be who I am.
And furthermore, I am allowing the other party involved to BE WHO THEY ARE.
And here is what I now KNOW to be true:
WE MUST LET PEOPLE BE WHO THEY ARE. LET. THEM. BE. WHO. THEY. ARE.
Let them BE who they are.
And know that you CAN still stand in their presence.
This is how this *could* look in various relationships:
Scenario 1: Pretend I’m married. My husband always forgets to turn off the coffee pot in the mornings and this drives me crazy. I keep telling him to do it and he keeps forgetting or maybe just plain doesn’t want to. Instead of continuing to get angry, I let him be who he is. I start turning off the damn coffee pot because it’s important TO ME.
Scenario 2: Pretend I have two kids who are angels. Then I suddenly give birth to a third who is literally hell on wheels. I say go left, he goes right. He is HARRRD to parent. But I continue to show up as I am in my parenting and exercise my beliefs and values in the way I teach him and treat him. He continues to show up as himself in his strong willed, yet sensitive nature. We butt heads, but we still ALLOW each other to be who they are WHILE still enforcing the boundaries and teachings that as parents we must enforce.
Scenario 3: Pretend I am dating a man who has a lot of qualities I like. And he has some other qualities, that, while are not deal breakers, are TRIGGERS for me. So that basically means that he’s a human being who is just minding his business and being himself, but then I text him something and he doesn’t respond to it, and I am triggered. It is at this moment that I have choices. I can text him in anger, asking for a response. I can text him with a humorous, playful tone, but still with the express intent of getting a response. (Which can actually be controlling since I am texting him as a way to diffuse my triggered emotion, instead of just owning that emotion MYSELF). Or, I can LET HIM BE who he is. And do nothing, unless I am sure I am responding from a place of love, instead of a place of being triggered.
You see, we ALL have our triggers, and we have to OWN them. Another wise person once told me, “What other people think of you has nothing to do with you,” and I thought that she had grown two heads too. But guess what?? She actually only has one head and she’s right. If someone doesn’t like how I show up in this world, that’s about THEM. If I don’t like another person, or if I feel “triggered” by them, that’s ALWAYS about me. It’s never about them. They are just doing their thing.
We have to allow the people in our difficult relationships to be who they are. And that may mean that we sometimes take a break from them, and that’s called self care. It’s also called “being still” until you are confident you are interacting in a spirit of love, instead of fear.
It’s a tricky thing. Because it involves being yourself 100 percent of the time and staying true to you, while simultaneously showing the utmost respect to a person who is 100 percent being who they are in this world.
If we could all do this… even just SOMETIMES. We maybe could teach others in our world what it’s like to respect humanity. What it’s like to be true to who you are, not betray your values, while also allowing someone to be who he or she is, and not taking his or her behavior personally.
This involves knowing ourselves. Knowing what rubs us the wrong way. And then digging deeper with that. What’s under that feeling? What thought or belief is behind your experience? Why do you feel that way?
While all the while, remembering that the highest form of relationship and love you can show to another person and to yourself is to be willing to stand alone and stay true to you, while still standing in their freaking presence. 😳
It’s so hard. Yet so easy. And I’m convinced it’s the best way. But you can disagree with me and still stand next to me and I will still love you.
(Picture in my house I look at every morning before I get in the shower. And I sometimes even pray, “Dear God, help me to love others just as they are. Just the way they show up, while still being true to me. 🙏🏽)
Yesterday, my dad turned 77 years old. Like I said in my last blog about my mother, who just turned 79, it’s so hard to believe that my parents are almost in their 80s. In my mind, they are still like 62 or something. But as I discovered the other day, my parents are older than some of my friends’ grandparents. They are aging, and that is a reality which has somehow never been easy for me to grasp.
But, back to my dad. My dad has always been an unusual character. Out of my two parents, he’s the most like me, in personality. He’s extraverted, works better with children than adults (he still teaches Sunday School to preschoolers), enjoys adventure, and tells the most interesting stories of ANYONE I’ve ever known.
When I was a child, I remember one of my cousins describing a man in an airport she had observed that reminded her of my father.
“Did he look like my dad? Like bald and kinda short?” I asked.
“No, she said. “Not at all. But it wasn’t the way he looked that reminded me of your dad… it was the way he moved around.”
“Yeah, like he stood there with his hands on his hips, turning his head in every direction, frenetically observing everything happening around him. And his face had a look on him like this 🤨.”
Yep, that sounds about right, I thought to myself.
My dad has never known a stranger. He has always spoken to everyone about anything and everything. If my dad were a cat instead of a human, curiosity would have killed all of his nine lives before he had even made it to adulthood.
My father’s stories have always intrigued my friends and I. His stories include some of the following: the time the nuns made up a lie about him in order to kick him out of the choir in Catholic school, the time he almost drowned in the ocean when he kicked off in an inner tube from the north shore of Oahu, the time when he got fired in the college cafeteria, the time he dropped a mercury thermometer and infected large quantities of tomatoes at the canned tomato factory, the time he failed sex education class IN COLLEGE, and the time he was thrown in jail in Florida on spring break.
Despite his animated storytelling and unique way of carrying himself, he always struck me as someone who perhaps has been misunderstood. People have mistaken his kindness for weakness, his ADHD nature for being unobservant, and his sense of adventure for fearlessness.
When I was in high school, a mentor of mine told me that every nuclear family tends to have a scapegoat–the person who gets blamed for everything or is picked on more than others. Upon hearing this statement, I immediately thought of my father, and realized that he was our family’s scapegoat. Something missing? Dad surely misplaced it. Forgot the one item on the grocery list we needed? Dad’s fault. People are laughing at us? Dad must be doing something ridiculous. Happy birthday rendition sounds like nails on the chalkboard? Dad tried to sing.
Everything wrong? Dad must have done something.
And here’s the thing about scapegoats–they often play along in their role. And my dad did just that. He had no problems being the brunt of jokes or being blamed for crap for the most part. He just went with the flow.
But here’s the other thing about scapegoats–they are often misunderstood.
I want to tell you a story about my father that only I can tell so that maybe I can show a side of him that not everyone knows. When I was about eight years old, we were walking out to the car together to go to the grocery store and I said, “Oh my God!” about something, and my dad froze in his tracks. I looked up at him in that moment, and the outrage I saw in his eyes made me truly afraid of him for the first, and possibly only, time. You see, my dad would get mad here and there, but I never took it too seriously because I knew he was just pouty and a little emotional. But this time, I had apparently hit a nerve. He was angry, but he didn’t scream. He got down on his knees, eye level, and told me, “Don’t you ever take the Lord’s name in vain again. You know I don’t spank, but I will spank you for that.”
And I don’t think I ever said, “Oh my God,” until I was like 33 years old after that. My dad wasn’t strict with me (that was my mom’s job in our home,) but he was apparently strict about invoking the name of the Lord.
A couple of years ago, I gave my dad a book that had questions in it that I wanted him to write the answers to. The questions were mostly about his life, and the experiences he has had. When he was done, he gave the book back to me to have as a keepsake. I am a sentimental person when it comes to my aging parents, so I didn’t open the book up until yesterday because I was afraid it would make me cry.
But it didn’t make me cry. Instead, it made me laugh a little. Mostly, it made me feel profound gratitude for having had my dad as MY DAD.
Here are a couple thoughts he wrote in the book:
“I would like everyone to remember me as a person that loved his family and tried to do everything I could to create a happy family.
I also want people to know I tried to live a life that I felt as a human could follow the love of Christ. I also tried to make life better to others that I related to. I truly wanted to not hurt others and tried to create a life that Jesus wanted me to live.”
What stood out to me is that he said he wanted to follow the LOVE of Christ. Because an awful lot of people these days are talking about Jesus as if he were some conservative dude who supported the wealthy and those in power. I am not an expert on Jesus, but one thing I learned from my dad is that Jesus showed love to those who were OUTCASTS. To those who were poor. To those who were underprivileged and not accepted by mainstream society. To those that were the antithesis of popular and respected.
And that’s the Jesus my dad modeled his life after.
So Dad, even if you are the scapegoat of the family, one thing you can be sure of is this: you will be remembered as you want to be, because that is WHO YOU ARE: someone who loved his family, always quick to forgive and the first to apologize, and someone who loved the outcasts of this world: the homeless, the refugees, children in poverty, the drug addicts, and I could go on and on.
I learned how to love others from you. And I learned what love IS from you.
Thank you for your unconditional love, Dad.
This past week my mom turned 79. It’s kind of jolting, because I don’t think of her as being someone who is close to entering her octogenarian years. She’s just my mom. However, she’s MY MOM. And being that I’m a mom, this has caused me to reflect on what it must be like to be my mom.
Sometimes I look at old pictures of myself from when I was a kid, and try to remember what my personality was like. I’m guessing my mom would say I was a happy and talkative child, and I was, for the most part. I liked to play outdoors in the dirt, ride my tricycle, talk to the neighbors, and play in the sandbox. I also liked to pretend I had imaginary friends and even children. One day I told my mom that I had two daughters–one named Ruthie (after my grandma who I was obsessed with) and Crouton (after my favorite salad bar topping-BECAUSE WHO DOESN’T LOVE SEASONED BREAD?!). I was creative and liked to color and draw and watch the birds at the bird feeder.
My mom would sit at the foot of my bed every night until I fell asleep. We said bedtime prayers, and she helped me to learn how to pray. She cooked healthy food for us, and we always ate at the table.
(God, I should stop reminiscing because this is actually making me think about all the ways I’ve failed as a parent.)
But before I stop, I must mention one more thing.
I remember lying in bed in my childhood bedroom. Only I wasn’t a child anymore. I was 30 years old. My mom had pulled the curtains up, in hopes that I would feel the sunshine. It was springtime and it was beautiful weather. And yet, I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t get out of bed. I knew my parents were concerned, but every time they tried to speak to me, I either cried or shut down. And all I remember thinking was, why can’t I just enjoy the sunshine? There are actual people who are getting up with the sun and going outside and living their lives and going to the grocery store and shit. And getting up to go pee was overwhelming to me. Eating was overwhelming to me. Showering was overwhelming to me.
I felt like I was getting evicted from my own life. This was during my second separation from my husband. Things were crumbling and I did not want to surrender. What I didn’t yet understand was that, as Glennon always says, nobody gets evicted from his or her life unless she is being called to a truer, deeper life. Rock bottom is always an invitation to something else- something even more authentic and beautiful.
My mother came into my bedroom. She sat down on my bed. She told me she had baked some homemade bread and had fresh strawberry jam, made with strawberries from our garden. While my mother is an incredible cook, it was very out of character for her to make homemade bread. I looked at her, perplexed. But then I knew: she’s trying to get me to eat AND baking may be her way of coping with the fact that her child is feeling hopeless and not eating or sleeping.
She convinced me to eat a piece of bread. She brought it upstairs to me and sat on my bed. I put the bread in my mouth and could tell it was nearly a perfect tasting piece of bread, so I began to chew it, even though I wasn’t enjoying the process of eating. Every time I swallowed food, it went into the pit of my stomach and I thought would vomit. But I didn’t vomit. So I continued to slowly and thoroughly chew the bread in my mouth so that I could nourish my body at least.
“I’ve been thinking,” my mother suddenly said, “about you.”
I sat up in bed. She had my attention.
“I have this vision of you in my mind. You are an exquisite, beautiful flower. And yet, you’ve been buried for so long under the dirt. The ground above you is hard and cracked, and the soil is not good. However, you continue to grow and you will soon sprout above this ground that is holding you back–this ground that has held you down for so many years, and you will begin to bloom. And you’re just the most beautiful flower. You’re becoming yourself and you’re stunning. You are going to bloom and break free.”
I looked at her in awe, because she was envisioning things for me that I simply couldn’t see. But what she said–her words–were so intricate and fascinating, that it drew me in.
Everyone has always loved my mother. At times I resented this, because I didn’t like sharing her. I would get jealous and hide for attention or act out (when I was a child, to clarify-not last week 😜). But now I know why people are so drawn to her-it’s because she showed up for them, and never fell apart. It’s because she’s a vault when it comes to trust. My mother has exhibited grace under pressure, time and time again. When others are stressed, she remains serious. When people are crying and crushed, she responds with compassion. That’s why people love her.
So that is my mother. She is a believer in things that dwell in truth and possibility. Happy birthday, Mom.
When I was still married, I remember lying in bed one night thinking of all the reasons why I shouldn’t get divorced, despite the fact that my marriage was pretty much a living death at the time. All of the reasons I listed were branches grown from trees of fear or “what if’s.” Among these reasons was the following;
He’s gonna find another woman and I cannot bear the thought of another woman playing mommy to my daughter.
My internal dialogue went something like this: She’s gonna be pretty and sweet and is gonna let my daughter do whatever she wants and my daughter is gonna want to go live with her just like what happened in whatsherface’s family–YEAH that will be my freaking life and I won’t be able to bear it. And she will be the “fun mom” and my daughter will hate me because her dad and fun mom hate me.
But, as the story went (that was actually not just a story, but my real freaking life), I filed for divorce in spite of this fear and all the other fears. Because what often happens when you’re in a situation where fear is ruling your life, is your heart and your brain and body eventually can’t take it anymore, and so you have two choices: disassociate from the pain and fear OR boss up. Somehow, not by anything less than luck or possibly the grace of God, I chose to boss up. Not everyone is or was as lucky as me, and it is to those beloveds who are still living with fear as the boss of them, that I dedicate this post. I am speaking to you, my loves, who are living in fear, and I want you to know:
I am no different than you. I am no smarter than you or more courageous than you. I just somehow decided to do it-to leave an abusive, scary hellhole that was my life. Maybe your hellhole is different situationally than mine, but fear is fear, and loss is loss. It is real, and it’s hard, and it’s scary.
To this day, I have mixed feelings when people say to me, THANK GOD you changed. While I am very thankful I left my situation and that my life is now beautiful and true (albeit messy and hard, just like life is), I have SO much compassion for that girl that I used to be-my rock bottom self. Cause there ain’t nobody in this world who loves her more than I do. Why? Because she felt the pain and let it steer her. She felt the loss and knew that it was devastating. She knew she wasn’t like everyone else around her. But what she didn’t know, was that she was worthy of happiness, respect, and peace of mind. And so that’s why I love her–because she needed love and still does.
We don’t give as much love to people at their rock bottoms as we should. Sometimes it’s because we are afraid they will never change. Sometimes it’s because we are afraid they will change, but not for the better. Sometimes it’s because we’re just plain tired. To the people who are tired, please rest. But to everyone else, I say this: love them anyways. Show them love without fear, so that they know it’s real and that it exists.
And to my rock bottom beloveds, I tell you this story, about my now ex-husband’s girlfriend. Once I left, I had the gift of time. And with time, came less fear and more understanding. And then one day, my little girl came home from a visit with her dad and said, “Daddy has a new friend and her name is Ashley and she’s my friend, too.”
And somehow, I felt the goodness in this. You may ask me WHY and HOW in the HECK did I get there? And all I can tell you is that it was time, beloveds. Time created space, and space created awareness. Fear cannot survive when you start doing things you’re afraid of doing. I don’t know why that is, but it just is. It’s like your brain and anxiety get a little shock, but then they realize that you are still alive, so they keep going. That’s kinda how it was for me, too. I did a lot of little, scary things, and then the big ones took care of themselves.
And then it was revealed to me pretty quickly that Ashley was just a younger version of myself. And I loved her, because I love me. And she loves my girl, and so it makes sense that there is goodness in that. And even though she’s a younger version of me, she’s still not me. I am still mom, and that’s a truth that will always exist. Fear can’t change the truth.
So here it is, my fellow rock bottomers who may be reading this: I am no different than you when it comes to strength and courage. I love you more than I do most people because you know rock bottom. I love you because you understand pain and haven’t entirely dissociated from yourself yet. The pain you feel can be a loophole that you slide through which brings you to your future- a future where you find others like you, and show them love, and pull them out, too. All you have to do now, though, is believe, even if it’s for just a minute, and that everything you’re afraid of, isn’t as strong as you are. Give yourself the credit you deserve and know that you even if you just slide your pinky toe through the loophole, you still got through, so just keep going. One minute of believing fear isn’t your boss may turn into two minutes the next day, and soon enough, with time, you will realize your whole entire leg slipped through the loophole.
And that is how your truth begins.
When a couple is in a committed relationship, and one of them is contemplating leaving, he or she may ask him or herself questions such as, “Is this bad enough for me to leave or good enough for me to stay?” However, when that same couple is in a committed relationship with children, there is a much more disconcerting thought that may enter his or her mind: “What would leaving do to my children?”
I am 41 years old. I am divorced. I am clearly not a psychologist or a relationship expert. I am not going to furl data or research at you. However, I have had the privilege of witnessing profound personal growth in people who were willing to dig deeper into the layers of this aforementioned question: What would leaving my children’s father or mother do to my children?
When I hear people ask this question, I also hear the following underlying/interconnected questions:
- What would it do to me to see my children suffer through this pain?
- What would it mean for my children to come from a broken home?
- What will happen to me as I explain this to other people?
- What will people think of me for leaving a marriage or partnership that doesn’t look “that bad?”
- Shouldn’t I be able to tolerate it, at least until the children get older, so that I can give them a “stable” home life?
These are really hard questions that I am sure many a therapist has heard in their offices. These are questions that have been written into journals and secretly tucked under people’s mattresses where no one else can find them. These are questions that are whispered in quiet corridors where lovers meet to have affairs that feel more comfortable to them than leaving the status quo. These are questions that people ask themselves as they drink a bottle of wine every night in order to go to sleep, because numbing out is easier than answering these questions.
While I️ don’t know the answers to these specific underlying questions, what I️ do know is this: OUR CHILDREN NEED US, NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE. And when I say “need us,” I mean need US–the real, most true version of ourselves. If we are in a relationship that does not offer us the opportunity to be the most REAL and TRUE version of ourselves, then staying in that relationship CANNOT be what’s best for our children.
When a mother walks into her home, and feels like she can’t be herself, that has a negative effect on the little people in her home. When a girl looks into her daddy’s eyes and sees a person who does not love himself, that actually has a negative impact on that little girl’s mental health. When anyone walks into his or her own home, feeling broken-hearted because love doesn’t live in his or her marriage, his or her children will FEEL the effects of this sadness.
I know kids. When I come to school to teach, and I seem frazzled for whatever reason, one of these insightful little people will come up to me and say, “Have you had your coffee yet?” BECAUSE THEY KNOW THINGS. I don’t really wear makeup much anymore to work, but the first day I stopped wearing it, a five year old asked me the minute I stepped into the building, “What happened to you and where did your pretty eyes go?”
These are children–some of the most curiously perceptive people on our planet. They FEEL things in the air and see between the lines. They know when we are trying to distract ourselves from our lives in order to avoid living it. And they definitely know when we don’t love ourselves.
They can also sense when our lives are unfulfilled. They can feel when there is an emptiness in our hearts. Our children know when we are pretending, and if we continue to show them that pretending is okay, they will begin to start pretending and stuffing their feelings down, too.
And one of my mantras for this year has been: there is no power in pretending. We do not want our children to believe it is okay to behave like someone they are not. When we push down who we are and what we want, in order to avoid causing other people to experience pain, we aren’t actually LIVING, and are in fact, BETRAYING our truest, highest selves.
We must start to understand that there is a way of being that is authentic. And in this space of authentic living, we will find that what is good and true and right for us (and I got this line from Glennon Doyle, because she’s a genius) is going to be what is good and true and right for “our people.” And our people include, but are not limited to, our children. Now, this does not mean our children will not suffer pain. Divorce is painful. Painnnnnnnful. Heartbreaking, in fact, for adults, children, and members of the extended family. But–and I️ cannot ask this question enough-is it our job to protect our children from ever experiencing pain and heartbreak? Is that truly what being a parent means? Or, does being a parent mean to hold our child’s hand and show them how to be their truest selves, even when it’s hard and not popular or right?
Could it mean that we are actually doing our best parenting when we teach them that they can walk through pain and come out stronger and more resilient?
I️ don’t know about you, but for as much as I️ hate seeing my daughter in pain, what I️ would hate even more would be for her to never know the lessons that pain can teach. That grief can teach. That heartbreak can teach.
Perhaps if our children can learn to withstand heartbreak and grief and pain, they can learn to sit with others and have empathy for them, too, when they see them walking through the same. And when our children can learn to hold space for each other and practice empathy and compassion, they can change this very world.
I turn the corner onto Virginia Avenue, and suddenly I see him walking on the sidewalk. Aaron (my ex-something-not really a boyfriend but something like that) is tall, dark, and handsome–my archetype, so he stands out. I stare at Aaron through my car window, jaw dropping, unable to believe that he’s in my neck of the woods.
Why in the world would he drive an hour to have brunch at Milktooth? I mean, Milktooth is cool and everything, but he’s NOT even a foodie.
Aaron spots me in my car, since I don’t have the foresight to close my jaw and stop staring at him.
Like, this is a photo of me in that very moment:
Aaron waves. I wave back. I suddenly have a flashback of the time he made me a mimosa for breakfast and I didn’t have the courage to tell him that it was the worst mimosa I’d ever had in my life. I quickly snap back to reality as I spot a girl walking next to him, attempting to keep up with his long stride.
Now normally, this would REALLY bother me: seeing an ex-something but not really a boyfriend with another woman. (I mean I’m kinda zen, but not THAT zen.) However, in this very moment I realize I have no reason at all to feel weird about it, since I’m about to do the VERY same thing: brunch with new man 😳.
I pull out my phone and text Aaron, “Hey! What are you doing here?” followed by a smiley emoji so he doesn’t think I’m being confrontational. I just need to figure out if he’s going into Milktooth (where I’m meeting my date, Justin), because if he is, I NEED TO KNOW THIS MINUTE SO I CAN AVOID COMPLETE AWKWARDNESS.
He texts back that his “friend” is visiting from Boston, and he just picked her up at the Indy airport and decided to eat brunch at Milktooth since it was ranked #1 on some foodie thing and BLAH BLAH BLAH I stop reading since I have my answer.
I find a parking space and immediately text Justin.
“Hi!” I say and then stop.
Because I have no clue what to say next. This feels like one of those life or death moments, since I’m now sweating about the prospect of a FIRST (yes, I said first) date with a guy I really like (at least so far, over text) at a restaurant where I will have to watch another guy whom I have dated eat brunch with another girl.
I just literally CANNOT EVEN with this shit.
“Now is not the time to beat around the bush,” some gut instinctual voice whispers in my ear. “Now is the time for ruthless honesty.”
I suddenly imagine myself wearing some kind of medal for being courageous, which feels ridiculous and yet soothing at the same time. This image somehow propels me into typing the next part of the text.
“Can we meet at a donut shop up the street? I know you really want to go to Milktooth, but I can’t go there today because a guy I know is there on a date and I have gone on dates with him before and it would just be awkward.” Push send now, damn it, before you have second thoughts.
I push send and wait. A minute passes. Two minutes. Finally I see those little dots on Justin’s side of the IMessage which tells me he’s typing. I stare at those stupid dots because, in this moment, I believe they hold the power to decide for me whether or not this day is going to be shitty or half-way pleasant. The dots suddenly stop again. UGH. I wait another minute. Then the IMessage text comes through.
“Sure that would be fine lol.”
I was in shock that I was honest and he still wanted to see me. Like, I SHOWED UP as my awkward, embarrassed self and he still may like me.
This story happened over two years ago, and I’m still scared to show up as me. I continue to struggle with the fact that it’s okay to tell the truth from the start with someone about the awkward shit we feel and experience. Like, I may be someone who is easy to talk to, but I am not someone who is completely comfortable with being my awkward self all of the time.
Some of our most painful experiences stem from the times we have shown up to the party as ourselves, and people left the room. (Yes, this is a metaphor, but if you’re nerdy like me, it has actually happened literally too.)
Being myself is SCARY and I need to give myself medals for doing it.
Because, here’s the thing: there’s a part of me that knows that the only way I can find “my people” is if I tell the truth. There will be people who may leave the room when I show up as me, but there will also be people that feel my “realness.”
And even though Justin turned out to be a complete meanie (more on him some other time), I am thankful that I learned how to show up as me. Because it also gave him the opportunity to decide if he wanted to come to my party and help me put on my new, shiny pretend medal- the one I awarded myself for being me.
It is 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I am lying here in darkness and typing this blog on my phone on the eve of my 41st birthday.
I am contemplating who I am and how I want to evolve. I’m like a Pokémon or something. (I don’t really understand Pokémon at all, but I know they, like, evolve, right?)
I want to continue to evolve and change who I am by changing what I do. In honor of my 41st year of life, I am sharing 41 truths I’ve learned as I have changed my thinking and my actions over the years.
I love to elaborate. People who know me know that I’m the queen of elaboration and talking too much and overexplaining things. But I will refrain from doing that in this instance because I only have a few minutes to write before my yoga class.
So here we go. How to evolve like a Pokémon, a.k.a, 41 random things I have learned:
1. Kids pay more attention to what you do than what you say.
2. A daily practice of meditation and prayer will change your life.
3. Judging others is not good for your health. It’s also a negative “low vibrational energy” way of thinking.
4. Choose being truthful over being nice.
5. You don’t have to be nice. Like, really, you don’t.
6. It is your responsibility to practice loving kindness, but this does not equate with being “nice.” It simply means you act in love for others and for yourself.
7. The most courageous people show up even when they don’t feel ready.
8.. That still, small voice inside of you will never let you down. It is there to protect you. It is the voice of God, speaking to you in quiet moments of truth. That is the voice that reminds you of what you need in this life, what to do next, and who you are.
10. When you are laughing you are healing.
11. Practicing yoga helps you develop an understanding and compassion for your body.
12. Talk to yourself like you would talk to someone you love.
Geesh, I can’t think of anything else. Maybe I don’t know 41 things. I’m going to yoga and then coming back.
13. It is not our job to make everything sunshine and rainbows for our kids. It is okay for them to experience pain and discomfort, and we walk beside them in this experience without trying to take it away. This is how they become resilient, kind, empathetic adults.
14. You don’t have to wear underwear.
15. Processed food can make you ill.
16. Meditate and pray. I know I already said that but that one needs to be on the list twice.
17. Do not be afraid of pain.
18. When you feel sad or anxious, go outside and breathe in the outdoor air.
19. Let people be who they are.
20. Do not assume what others are thinking. Ever. Ask them instead.
21. Things that matter are going to take some time.
22. You deserve happiness, respect, and peace of mind.
23. What we cannot see, we cannot heal.
24. There is no power in pretending.
25. When you’re angry, ask yourself, “What needs to be protected?”
26. We can do hard things.
27. Drink lots of water.
28. It is beneath your dignity to maintain relationships with people who do not honor your self worth.
29. Relationships that you have to keep a secret are not relationships that contribute to your freedom.
I can’t think of anything else. I lied about knowing 41 things.
Hey! I’m back four days later, and I’m now too legit to quit, which brings me to my next truth…
30. Don’t quit on your goals just because they are hard or you’re having a brain freeze.
31. If you want to find your tribe, you must first find yourself.
32. When choosing a life partner, consider first and foremost if the person is right for you (and your kids, if you have them). Family members and friends love to give their two cents, but when it’s all said and done it is you that must live with the person.
33. Ask for help when you need it.
34. Set boundaries with people.
35. Get your “news” and facts from reputable books and research–not television news channels.
36. Don’t write lists like these.
37. I know nothing.
38. Only you know what’s best for you.
39. After all, I’m a Pokémon.
40. When trying to decide whether or not you should stay in a relationship or marriage “for the kids’ sake,” remember that you being in a state of unhappiness is not healing for you or your children. You being authentically YOU is what your children desperately want from you.
41. You are what you love. So make sure who or what you are loving is good for you.
I bow my head in preparation for Namaste, as I hear my yoga teacher say, “As you go about your day, open your hearts to love.” I cringe. Yuck. I can’t. I don’t want to. When you love, you hurt.
I am four years old. I am sitting on the countertop of my parents’ kitchen in Kokomo. My mom picked me up and sat me there because she is about to give me a spoonful of cough syrup. I ask my mom, “What is love?” She looks at me strangely, and cocks her head to the side as she ponders a response.
“Love is…caring for someone. Like, me giving you medicine now. That’s love.”
I am 25. I sit in the women’s Bible study at the Baptist Church. I look up at the pastor leading the study. I like her because she tells me what to do and I have been searching all my life for someone to just tell me what to do.
“Love is a choice,” she says. “Pray for your husband. Show him love in your actions. You will not always feel like loving him. But you can make the choice to be loving.”
I am 27. I am lying in bed in my apartment in Lexington, Kentucky. It is 1:00 am. My husband is not responding to my texts. I wonder if he is coming home. I feel crushed because I know in my soul that he simply doesn’t give a damn about how his actions affect me. The words from the Bible study echo through me, “Love is a choice. Make the choice to be loving.”
And so I do. Again and again. If this is love, I hate loving.
I am 34. I look into my boyfriend’s eyes. He tells me, “I more than like you. I think I’m falling in love with you.” I repeat this back to him and believe it, because I feel it. I know it is a feeling, though, and feelings can be fleeting.
When we break up 9 months later, I channel my inner Whitney Houston and tell him, “I will always love you.”
I am 35. I do not speak to my ex boyfriend anymore and barely remember loving him. He is a memory.
I am 33. I see my daughter running at the pool at the YMCA. She slips, falls hard to the ground and has a concussion. I cradle her in my arms and carry her out of the building. I drive her to the doctor. She vomits and then falls asleep as I am driving. When I arrive at the doctor, I run in and tell the office staff through tears, “She has to be seen! Right now!!”
I know she is going to be fine, but I am afraid. I love this baby. She’s all I have. It doesn’t matter what she does. Love isn’t in the doing when it comes to her. It just is.
I am 39. I tell a man I love him. He is not my boyfriend. It is…complicated. I tell him not to say it back because I am afraid he doesn’t love me back. But then I realize I don’t care. I realize I can love without receiving love in return. This is both a good thing and a bad thing.
It is good, because it causes me to love without expectations. It is bad, because I forget that I am worthy of being loved in the same way.
I sit in hot yoga class. I am 40. My teacher repeats the same mantra at the closing of class. “Open your hearts to love.” I realize that I am not cringing this time though. Maybe that’s progress.
Perhaps love is not simple. Maybe it is layered. Maybe it is light and it is dark; sadness and laughter. Maybe it’s supposed to be scary because it requires courage. I am still terrified to love; but I begin to think that love is a lot like faith. When you have faith, it does not mean things will go as planned; it simply means you show up and are open to what may flow out of you and to receiving what comes back.
Today, a week before my 41st birthday, I lie at home in bed, and take out a book I have been trying to read for some time, Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love. “As we demonstrate love towards others, we learn that we are lovable and we learn how to love more deeply…We will always learn what we have chosen to teach.”
These words are words I can now understand, but they are still hard to swallow. I want to love but not stop loving myself. Perhaps that is the whole point: what you put out will come back to you. In some way. In some form. No love is wasted.
During the last hour, the following thoughts have popped in my head:
- How do I unclog my bathtub drain since my landlords are being unresponsive?
- Why did I ever let my daughter watch the Disney Channel WHY oh WHY oh WHY just shoot me
- I wish that someone would deliver me Doritos
- OMG Irma and Harvey. What can I do to help Florida and Houston? Me being stuck in bathtub water pales in comparison to that.
But these thoughts don’t compare to a bigger thought that’s been on my brain: how can I fight the hate and racism I see aimed at people of color in this world? What do I need to change? And how do I convince more white people that this is important?
It seems that many white Americans were shocked by what happened in Charlottesville. Among the people of color I spoke with, shock was not the primary emotion expressed. They have been fighting the battle against hate, stereotypes, and inequality for SO LONG. This is the narrative they have experienced.
But here’s the thing. We white Americans need to realize it’s OUR story, too. It’s the story of our country. It’s a story that involves us taking responsibility for the disparaging inequality in our country that is fueled by hate, fear, and stupidity.
I think that even the most “progressive” white people haven’t taken adequate time to really stop and examine the stories of the victims of police brutality that have come into light over the last couple of years. I don’t think white Americans, including myself, have paid attention enough or felt enough empathy to FIGHT against the discrimination that is aimed at our brothers and sisters of color everyday. Every. Single. Freaking. Day.
It concerns me that we are fueled by fear not based on facts.
It concerns me that there are people in this country right now who have a disturbing idea of what love is. There are members of the white supremacist movement who say they are in it because they just love white people and love their country. I’m speaking to white Americans now when I say… do you hear how disturbing and disconcerting that sounds–to use the word, love, to give you permission to hate?
I was at a meeting last week where the topic of discussion was racism and inequity. A white woman had a sudden revelation. She raised her hand and said, “If people of color could have won the war on racism by themselves, it would have already been won by now. White people really need to see that. We need to join the fight,” and I looked at her in wonderment because I knew she was right. White Americans need to feel the urgency of this problem.
Part of doing the work and fighting the fight, is acknowledging that many institutions have policies in place which allow racism to occur. And the reason those policies are there is because racism is a pervasive and insidious beast. Have you seen this graphic?
(Via Showing Up for Racial Justice)
Look at that damn triangle there. Look at the statements both inside and outside of it. ALL of this needs to be examined and carefully looked at by White people, including myself.
How many times have people of color told their stories of inequality, prejudice, and discrimination to white individuals, and they haven’t believed them? How many times have white people stated that white privilege “isn’t real” or even that racism isn’t real?
Do you know what happens when you, or a member of your family has experienced trauma, disparagement, or even violence, and you tell your story to another person and he or she doesn’t believe you? Or doesn’t think it could be “that bad?” Or tries to tell you a story about something that happened to him or her as a way to get you to stop thinking about what happened to you?
I can tell you what happens. You become hurt, scared, or even angry. When you speak of personal or familial trauma, disparagement, or violence, and your story isn’t acknowledged or taken seriously, it can actually make the trauma worse.
This is why I can’t tolerate someone saying, “All lives matter,” in response to “Black Lives Matter.” It’s like me standing up and telling you that I want to speak to you about women who are victims of domestic violence that need help, and your response is, “well all women need help.”
Like seriously, what in the actual HECK is causing people to not listen right now? I would say it is time to fight this war on racism, but the thing is, it has BEEN the time to fight for such a long time, that now it’s actually a time for urgent responsibility. I cannot ask you to fight with me if you don’t take responsibility-responsibility for the violence, discrimination, and inequality in our country that is surviving because it’s fed by statements like, “don’t blame me.”
Please. Please have the courage to show up with urgency.