Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One of my shame stories

Several months ago, I wrote a post about how I sometimes wish my blog were bigger.  I got a comment from a very well meaning, kind, and successful blogger asking why I wanted that and if I was sure that being big would be worth my time.

And it sent me into a shame spiral.  Which I haven't come out of.

Several months ago.

(This is not intended to call anyone out. Don't dig through the archives to find the comment. You probably wouldn't hear it the way I did anyway.)

I have a lot of shame wrapped around the idea of trying, of wanting.  It was hard for me to say I wanted to be bigger and so I felt like I'd been slapped. Being successful was good enough for this person, but me? I didn't deserve it. I should stay small.  Who did I think I was anyway?

Which of course isn't what she really said.

It was hard for me to say (and so, well, I didn't) "what I do here is important to me. I value it. I think it matters. And because I think it matters, I want it to be seen and heard.  I want people to hear my voice because my voice MATTERS.  It's worthy.  People need to hear me.

I have a story that matters, and when people heart it, they will be better for having heard it." [SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP, scream my demons, IT'S NOT OKAY TO SAY THIS. EVERYONE WILL HEAR YOU. EVERYONE WILL *KNOW.*  YOU ARE WRONG. YOU AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE???]

I know she was asking me an actual question. I heard it as a rebuke.  I thought I was being punched in the stomach.

"Why do you want to be bigger?"

Because I want connection. Like all humans do.  Because I want people to hear me and think, me too. Because I think there are so many more people out there who would think that if only they heard me, if only I stepped out of the shadows.  Because I can change the world. With my words.

"Is it worth your time?"

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

Months of that festering in my stomach. We have to tell our shame stories out loud or they own us. The only way out is through.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Being and doing

What if being here doesn't actually mean I have to DO anything?

I sit on the floor with my kids.  The big one is putting a pot in her toy oven and prattling away; the little one is stirring in an upside down early shaker with a spatula.  She hands me a teacup and says "drink! Drink!" I drink.

I am not in charge. I am not in control. I am not doing anything.

I'm more here than I have been in a long time.

And in my head, in my writing, in every aspect of my life, what would happen if I stopped doing, stopped looking ahead, stored trying to get somewhere and was just here?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Equal and Opposite

Clack, clack, clack, the plastic of the Little People hits the bottom of the plastic storage container as BG drops them from her full 40 inches.  Then, with one foot, she steps on the side of the container, sending them all flying through the air.

And begins again.

I am sitting on the couch, my knees curled into my chest, a book in my lap.  Slowly, I lift my head.

"Honey, why are you doing that?"

"Because, see, when I put my foot here, this goes down and the people go flying."

Equal and Opposite Reaction.  Newton's third law.  I am familiar.

"I mean, why are you choosing to do that?"

"Because it's fun."


My littlest trots over and places my sneaker on my chest.  I kiss her forehead, which is cool to the touch.

Twelve hours ago, when I collected her crying self from her crib, it was not.

"It isn't dangerous," the emergency nurse had told me on the phone, of the 104.5 degree temperature.  "Just try to get her comfortable so she can get back to sleep."

I held her in my arms like I did when she was a baby, the burning skin of her face nestling into my neck.  I sshhhed softly, hoping her whimpering wouldn't wake up big sister.  

"Do you want your tablet or book or something?" asked DH.

"No," I said.  "She's enough."

Little sister, back to her normal shenanigans, sidles over to see what big sister is doing.  Gleefully, she picks up Cinderella and Batman and drops them into the box.

"What is she doing?"

"Playing with you.  She's playing with you.  Because she loves you.  You love each other."

BG seems convinced and goes back to her task.

This morning, when I woke up with my sick baby in my bed, I felt calm.  When BG woke up, tromped into my room and announced herself, I felt level.  I understood my job.  My place.  The appropriate level of reaction.

I glance down at my book.  I realize I haven't read a word of what I've spent the past ten minutes reading.  As Belle and Wonder Woman go flying through the air, I cringe.  I hold my breath.  I hold back.  I don't know if this is a test.  I don't know if this is a boundary I need to establish or a battle I need to choose.  Both girls are giggling as they push either other, each one falling back with an amount of force proportional to the size of the pushing child.

I want to scream at them.  I want to ignore them.  I want to be present.  I want to disappear into this book.  I want to be seen as patient and creative.  I want to be seen as laid back and mellow.  I want to be seen as knowing how to mother my kids.

Does anyone know how to mother her kids?

I watch them play, I watch them invent their games, I wonder how much of the sass, of the stubborness is a direct reaction to my own.  Equal in force, opposite in direction.

All I can control is my own reactions.  And even then, I'm not sure I have as much power over it as I'd like to think.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


I sat in a student desk next to her.  "Here," I said, pointing at the page. "This is where your story is. This is the heart of the piece.  I get why you had to write this other part first" I bracketed off an entire page with my purple pen.  "It's important.  It matters to you.  But it doesn't get us where the story is going."

She nodded.  "Yeah.  I can totally see that.  So, I should talk more about this instead?"

"Yeah.  Your piece is really about the mothers.  All the mothers in your life.  Stay with them.  You did an amazing job with that."

She was 15.  I was 23.  God.

Sometimes I feel like that life was a prologue to this one.

Every voice matters, I tell people.  I say it all the time.  I listen. I encourage.  I draw out.  Every voice matters.

Except, I don't really mean mine.

So much of my life has been dedicated to helping other people thrive.  To showing other people their worth.  To other people's life work.  And I'm good at it.  It's a gift.  I'm proud.

But maybe sometimes I want to write my own piece.  I want my own life's work.  I want to create and not just discover.

Mr. Holland's opus was the kids he taught, the amazing work he did in teaching, the way he changed the world one student at a time.  And it was amazing.

But don't you think sometimes he just wanted to finish writing the damn symphony?

Do we get to do both?

At that desk, ten years ago, she looked up from the memoir and smiled at me.  "You remind me of my mom, too, you know. That's how I know you're going to be a great mom."

You just have to find the heart of the piece.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Sometimes, when I try to take a deep breath, it feels like it catches in my throat.  Like something is physically blocking the air.  And I know, with every logical part of my brain and body, that I should know how to breathe.  That breathing should be easy.  That I shouldn't have to muscle my way through it, to force it, that it shouldn't take any effort at all.

But still I gasp and sigh and yawn and gulp air as of my life depends on it.

Sometimes writing feels the same way.  And parenting.  And, yknow, life.

I'm feeling stuck lately.  Like my life is catching in my throat.  I am feeling irrelevant and useless and lonely and outside and just ... Sad.

I know that I'm supposed to be grateful for my life.  That I'm supposed to recognize the value of the little everyday things I do. That I just need to remember who I am, that the things I've chosen not to do are okay.  That I don't have to live up to anyone else's standards to be good enough.

I know.  I know this.


Friday, June 6, 2014

My kid

In the back of the car, BG is sobbing and wailing, "but I don't want peanut butter and jelly!  I won't eat anything! No one will eat anything!"

We pushed back lunch and quiet time, so I'm pretty sure the meltdown is only nominally about the menu.

I breathe out my exasperation and rising rage.

"You're having a hard time, huh, sweetie?"

She immediately quiets. "Being a kid is hard."

I barely suppress a giggle and affect my most sympathetic voice. "I hear you.  Being a kid IS hard."

"Being a baby is hard. Being a grown up is hard."

Now I'm grinning. "You are so right, kiddo."

She continues. "Being a dinosaur is hard.  Being a robot is hard."

And that about says it all, folks.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The thing about birds

I opened the garage door to get some light, and BG ran outside instead of to her side of the car.  The toddler on my left hip leaned forward, reaching toward her sister, and I set her down on the ground rather than drop the casserole dish in my right hand.

She ran out the door and started spinning in circles.

Deep breath.

We were already late.

I set down my diaper bag and my potluck contribution, opened both back doors of the car, and walked outside slowly.

Both my girls ran to me and hugged my legs.

"Mommy, can you help me catch the birds?  They keep flying away every time I chase them."

"Sweetie, the thing about the birds is, they're really fast.  And they can fly, and we can't.  And when you run at them, they feel scared, and they fly away.  So, really, the more you run at them, the ... faster they're ... going ... to fly away."


BG didn't notice me trailing off and was hanging on my every word.

"So, I guess, if instead of chasing after the birds, you just stand still and look at them, you'll see them better."

"And maybe they'll fly to me!"

"Well.  Maybe.  I guess it could happen."

"Okay, mommy.  Let's get in the car now."

And both girls held my hands and walked back into the garage.