Saturday, August 2, 2014

For the days when you don't feel good enough

Dear mama,

It's okay.

I know that some days you wake up and you just don't want to do it.  You let your kids watch more TV than you meant to. You don't know how your coffee cup got empty (again). You just feel ANGRY, and you aren't even sure why.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

It's okay.

There are days when instead of thinking "this is the best job I've ever had!" You think, "How did I end up here? How is this my life?"

It's okay.

You want to be grateful.  You want to catch all the moments. You want to be present.  You want to be fulfilled by motherhood.

And you want everyone to just shut up for five minutes.

It's okay.

I often wonder if the internet is to blame.  I mean, I really don't Ma Ingalls sat around wondering Am I present enough?

And on days like this, even the posts on the Internet that tell you why you're doing enough, why your work as a mother matters even on bad days, they can feel like condemnations too.  You hear in your head the voice that says "but that doesn't really mean me.  If they knew what I looked like on the inside, they would see how I'll never be enough."

I know.  Me too. Me too.

Doubting yourself isn't a fault. Feeling disappointed and discouraged isn't a fault.

Feelings are never a fault.

Be who you are, mama. Be the imperfect, messy, tired, insecure, people pleasing, grouchy, angry, overachieving, ULTIMATELY LOVEABLE person who you really are.

You aren't ungrateful. You aren't missing anything. You aren't doing it wrong.

In this global Internet village which is such a blessing and a curse, all I have to offer you us my truth and my listening ears.  Both are yours.  I see you and I hear you, the good and the bad.  It's all real. It's all important.

You're the kind of you I need, your kids need, the world needs. Right now. Messy. Incomplete.

Come be messy with me.  It's enough.

All the love in the world,

Story

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Release

I sat on the couch, my feet tucked under me, my baby curled into my chest.  This is the way all my stories start.

But yesterday, after patting me possessively on the chest and saying "mommy," my littlest looked up at me inquisitively and said, "sister?"

"She's sleeping, baby. Should we go wake her?"

"Sister," she agreed, nodding emphatically.

The museum had been exhausting.  Both girls had run from room to room, touching everything. They'd climbed, they'd built, they'd crafted.

And at some point, halfway through the day, I'd let go.

BG was sitting at the circuit table with the teenage volunteer, pinching the leads of tiny wires to batteries, switches, lightbulbs, asking the same questions again and again. Little sister was sitting at the building table, dropping a nail repeatedly through the hole in a block, furiously shaking off my attempts to help.

So, I sat. And I watched.

And I realized my baby was figuring out more than I could ever teach her as she patiently and diligently experimented. And I realized BG was charming the volunteer and not annoying him. And I realized there was no hurry, no agenda, no need to push or control anything. And I sat. And I breathed.

I was happy.

But now I was home. We three piled on the couch had nothing left.  I turned on Martha Speaks.  And, unfortunately, Facebook.

All weekend, I'd seen BlogHer posts, and although I wanted to hug my friends, I hadn't really been jealous. I've come to terms with who I am, with my way, with my identity. I know that truly? I wouldn't love a conference like that.

I know who I am.  I am trying to believe that being who I am is okay, that it isn't a fault. That my way is no worse than anyone else's. I'm working on it.

But.

Yesterday, when I was collapsing into my couch, both of my children now fusing with my body, I felt jealous. And what I found was that I wasn't jealous of the parties, of the accolades, even of the connections.

I was jealous of the direction. The certainty. The clarity of purpose.

I wanted to feel sure of something.

Sitting on the floor of the museum, the only thing I'd been sure of was that I wasn't in control.  And that was okay.

I guess I have to learn to do that here too.

And to remember that my way isn't wrong.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Joy

She reaches up with her right hand first, grabbing the next rung of the tallest ladder in the playground, grunting as she hoists her right foot up to the next step. I stand on the ground behind her, cheering, encouraging, coaching.

"That's it, baby. You've got it. Now your other foot."

As she pulls herself onto her stomach on the platform, she lets out a high pitched shriek of joy, which little sister, arriving at the platform from the steps, echoes.

As she gets to her feet, raising her hands in triumph, she says, "mommy, am I strong like Kacy?"

"Yes, baby. You are."

Better writers than I have talked about how enjoying every minute isn't a requirement of motherhood, but still I feel the pressure. I think we all do.

And those of us who value honesty, authenticity, vulnerability, we want our readers to know it's hard. We don't want to write just about the moments when we look like heroes. We don't want to make others feel bad by celebrating too much or for too long.

A few months ago, my tiny ninja warrior participated in a study on how children of parents with depression process their own positive emotions differently than those with mentally healthy mothers.  I don't know the outcome. I'm afraid to hear it.

I don't want my girls to ever do anything but shriek for not when they get to the top.

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."

"Ah."

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

Prologue

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.