Just Like That

This one’s for all of my Empty Nesters out there. 

You think you’re ready. 

Joke as you “count down the days”.

And then, 

Just like that, 

They’re gone. 

Mine aren’t off to college

But the youngest is off to preschool this fall. 

And it’s been 10 years (and 199 days but who’s counting?)

Since I’ve been home alone. 

Let me repeat that. 

It’s been 10 and-a-half years since I’ve been home alone. 

I imagine that I will begin that first day crying and then laughing hysterically while eating ice cream in broad daylight watching inappropriate shows on Netflix. 

And on the second day . . . .

On that second day I am throwing myself a celebratory brunch because you know what?

I’ve earned it. 

And so have you. 

Take time to cry and then upon realizing that they will be just fine, 

Celebrate. 

Just like that.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Carry On

I walked in and explained that I’d held on to this gift certificate since Christmas. That I was in the midst of a family trauma and that I was here to relax and let some of that go.

What I didn’t expect was to burst into tears 45 minutes through, as my massage therapist pulled the energy from my muscles and flicked it away. As she summoned my breath and thanked me for feeling safe enough to let it go in that room, with her, a stranger.

But there we were. 2 strangers united at 9 AM. She, not knowing the trauma and still, meeting me there. Helping me to release.

We hugged, afterwards. After all, after weeping, what else is one to do?

And then we carried on. Her next client. My day with my daughters.

We release and we carry on.

Growing Pains

“Mommy, it hurts.”  

I wish I could tell her that it stops. 

But it never does. 

Instead, they migrate from the bones to the heart.

From the physical to the emotional. 

These growing pains. 

Just when we think we’re done . . . 

There they are. 

To remind us that we aren’t yet done. 

Growing, that is. 

And when you think of it that way, it makes sense. 

Perhaps instead of dreading 

We should welcome the pains.  

Peel back that layer

And discover what comes next . . .   

Camille Vaughan Photography

Written while listening to Cover Bombs (Odesza Remix) by Nomadic Firs

Show Up

Here’s the thing about mental health: 

No one knows what to do. 

Instead, everyone waits for someone else to solve it. 

Because it’s ugly. 

There is no straightforward “treatment plan”.  

When someone is in crisis, it’s scary. 

What do I say?  What do I not say?

How should I act?  

And so we freeze and wait for someone else to solve it.

But when it’s between life and death, 

What then?

Someone has to step up. 

That’s what. 

When everybody else waits, what are you going to do?

Are you going to wait?

Or are you going to show up?  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Here, we go

I told him. 

I told him tonight. 

I make it so easy for you. 

And he nodded. 

Because he’s always known. 

He was just waiting for me to catch up. 

And Here. I. Am. 

And you know what?

He’s still here. 

Here. He. Is.  

Here. We. Are. 

Here, we go.  

Straight Up

It was our first meeting. 

And I told her, straight up: 

I won’t be able to tell you what I need. 

Instead, when I go into labor for the first time, and I’ve met you literally once, 

I  basically need you to read my mind and anticipate my needs. 

Welcome to the life of someone who has no gumption to ask for help. 

I didn’t say it in those words. 

I said it in apologetic, self-deprecating language.  

Like, I’m sorry I’m bothering you with paying to help me have a baby. 

I’m sorry I asked you to be my doula.  

I don’t know how to ask for or accept help. 

So, when I resorted to acupuncture to induce me, 10 days after her due date and a few days before they were going to induce me with pitocin, 

I apologized. 

My doula was a mother and it was a weekend, after all. 

She slept in a hospital room while Emmett and I labored all evening without the help I neglected to ask for. 

I had a perfectly, beautiful baby girl and I felt like a failure. 

Because I was too sorry to ask. 

And oh, was this not the theme of my life.

Too sorry. 

Too sorry to ask for help.

Too sorry for the imposition of my existence. 

Until I met others. 

And realized, I can’t change my past but I can forge our future. 

My daughters will be grounded and supported. 

They will not be afraid to ask for what they need. 

Instead, they will. 

Straight up. 

Becoming

I realize, now, why it came so easily to me. 

Because it was easier than living my truth. 

Assign me a role. 

Hand me the lines. 

Anything but live. my. truth. 

What was I so afraid of?

Oh, I know.

Fitting into a shattered family. 

Don’t make waves. 

Instead, belong.

What a sad, little girl I was. 

And what a strong woman I am becoming. 

Listener

Why didn’t anyone tell me this?

We spent K-12 in school learning the basics; 

Yet, somehow they missed informing humans that

They. Are. Not. Done. Growing.

We set a magic number: 

18. 

As if then, we are released to the world, ready to tackle it on our own!

What in the actual world??

Some of us go on to college, graduate or doctorate school. . . .

And some don’t.

Then, what?

We magically become parents who know it all?

No, no, no. 

The trickiest part of parenting for me is the revelation that I am growing right alongside with them. 

Who knew?

We are never done learning. 

There is no final exam. 

Just as they have their epiphanies, I have mine- only wishing I had mine first so that I could have led my children all the wiser.

Is this what they meant when they said ‘Life is not a destination, but a journey.”?

Oh. 

Perhaps, I should have been a better listener. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Notice

Have you noticed?

I do not consider myself a “current’ person but if you are on any kind of social media these days you have witnessed Ryan Reynlod’s reaction to his wife Blake Lively’s dress transformation. 

It’s straight out of one of his movies. 

Moving.  What dreams are made of. 

The moment was magnificent.  They are both extraordinarily beautiful, stunning people.

But what about the rest of us?

I vacuumed out my disgusting van while also prepping lunches, dinner and teacher gifts.  

He mowed the lawn, took out the trash and fixed Harper’s fan.

And yet I did not stop dead in my tracks to ogle him. 

Welcome to reality. 

It’s not extraordinary or sexy. 

It’s so completely normal that I am literally closing the stinky trash-can lid as I type.  

But the fantasy has us. 

And what’s wrong with that?

Because without fantasy, what have you?

Reality. 

It’s easier to dream than live. 

Have you noticed? 

Camille Vaughan Photography

40

I started and stopped. 

Some things are just too complicated to try and explain. 

But he looked at me and said, “Talk to me.” 

So, I told him. 

I explained how I had spent a lifetime trying to make sense of who I am today, based on my upbringing. 

I grew up dead-center-middle of a fractured family and as a result, I had built a life of trying to prove myself.  

I did this by being whatever the other person needed me to be. 

In other words, I had never found myself because I was too busy trying to be what anyone else needed. 

And this carried on through adulthood. Through friendships.  Through motherhood.  Through marriage. 

Oh, how easy it is to get lost in being whatever your children need.  Why else would there be an “empty nest syndrome”? 

But it was the marriage that had me, at the current moment. 

“What do you love about me?” I point-blank asked him. “Aside from the fact that we have similar interests and I don’t complain about you fishing . . . “

I asked him not to respond right away because I wanted a genuine answer. 

Do you love me because I am who you need me to be?

Or do you love me because of who I am?

In other words, do you see me?

Even when I can’t?

I’m soon celebrating the Eve of 40- an age I cannot *wait* to reach because finally, you just don’t give a damn anymore.  

And I. am. so. ready. 

To stop trying and to start just being. 

Camille Vaughan Photography