An outsider. A wannabe. A poser. Me, ages 8-15. A tattletale. A teacher’s pet. A follower.
They called me “mosquito bites” for my budding breasts and wrote L.D. on my shoes before I even knew what “learning disabled” meant.
I befriended some of the bullies in later years and they asked why I always brought up the past- I didn’t have an answer then but now I know. While my past does not define me today, it shaped the person I have become: an includer.
It’s understandable why someone might rather forget the painful things that happened to them in the past; however, it is by working through these memories, we are better able to understand the lessons they have taught us. If we focus solely on our anger, regret, or sadness, we miss the phoenix that rose from the ashes- we fail to recognize ourselves as survivors with the ability to overcome and become better because of it.
But not all of us do- it is only by conscious choice. By remembering. By observing our behaviors since. How did those things affect the way we speak and act now, even subconsciously?
I didn’t have an answer for the person who teased me, then, but I have an answer now.
I bring up those painful memories because I realize that the loneliness I felt when I was in middle school is something I never want anyone else to ever feel. I relive the tears spilled in an effort to empathize with the blackest sheep in the room. I find some way to welcome them- some common ground. I want them to know they are not ignored, they are noticed and they matter. They are important to someone.
Five years out of teaching, I can now say I think that is why my students loved me. Because I loved them. I met them where they were and I celebrated them for who they were and wanted to become, regardless of how vastly it differed from me.
And I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it hadn’t been for my miserable formative years.
You hear “You can be whatever you want to be!” or “There will be time for that later”, but how often do you truly believe it? In high school we are groomed to find a college that will fit some far concept of what we “want to be when we grow up”. And in college we are forced to choose a major at 18 years-old, as if we know what the next 70 years hold in store for us. Once we enter the workforce, we get comfortable in our position or too fearful to leave. We begin to invest in retirement funds and pensions. We have loans to pay and children to raise. So to the back-burner our dreams go . . . but does it have to be this way?
At some point, we lose sight of our heart’s true desires. We may admire others who are pursuing it from a distance but we tell ourselves reasons why it cannot be ours. We pacify ourselves by counting our current blessings and convincing ourselves that we don’t need those dreams to be happy. But what if we itched that scratch? Why are we so afraid of trying? Why are we so afraid of change?
As someone with a fairly positive outlook on life, I was surprised to realize the extent to which I actively shut-down my deepest dreams. It’s not as if I can pinpoint a day I told myself “No”, rather it is the presence of a subconscious voice that constantly provides reasons why my dreams cannot be.
This “ah-ha” moment hit me within the last couple of weeks. First, as I watched The Dave Matthews Band Listener Supported DVD. Mesmerized as I experienced a symphony of music dancing in my ears, I couldn’t fathom how these musicians could be so in tune with one another as they improvised each and every song. It dawned on me that they practiced. All. The. Time. They practiced. They dedicated their life to what they love.
I witnessed this again as I watched The Masters on TV and reveled in Sergio Garcia’s win after decades of losing this tournament. He kept trying and trying even as he played that 18th hole twice. It was inspiring.
It forced me to try and remember what my dreams really are. What did I like to play as a child? What do I really want to do with my time left here on Earth?
I’ve always heard of age 50 referred to as “Over-the-Hill” but I’ve realized that by shifting my perspective to truly believing I’m just getting started here at 34, I have a whole lot of living left to do. The last 34 years were just a warm up for the best that is yet to come.
So here’s my list:
National Geographic Photographer
A Great Cook
A wife and mother.
I’ve done a lot of these things as a child or in lessons, but I haven’t continued to pursue them, So here’s my plan:
Make cooking healthy food a number one priority by using Lisa Leake’s 100 Days of Real Food Challenge cookbook and blog.
Continue writing this blog and continue jotting book ideas in my notes.
Pick up the Ukulele in June and continue lessons online.
Start piano lessons again this fall. Schedule an in-home concert to invite family and friends so that I have a goal to work towards finishing 3-5 pieces.
Purchase a very nice camera. Read books, blogs and find lessons.
Next 1-2 years
Be a wife and mother. (just kidding )
Find a pottery studio and get back on that potters wheel- I feel home there.
Next 3-5 years
Buy a violin and start taking lessons
Next 5-10 years
Write a book.
It’s time to shut that negative self-talk down. It’s time to stop fearing failure. It’s time to not just tell my daughters they can dream big, but to show them how their own mommy makes it a reality.
It’s time to stop taking each day for granted.
Today is a fresh start, as is tomorrow.
So turn over that leaf. Write down your list. And join me as we get busy living.
In all our 21st century inventions, it’s the one thing that has continued to evade us- the thing we cannot recreate, erase or prolong. It’s immeasurable and invaluable- and somehow, we never feel that we have enough.
“Look at them,” My father says as he watches my eldest daughters roll the ball down his billiard table while the youngest pulls every book off of his bookshelf. “It doesn’t matter how many times you have seen this. It’s incredible. I just wish I could know them when they are 26, 28, getting married, having babies of their own.”
Anyone looking in would agree that my 85 year-old father has lived a complete and fulfilling life. Five children, 10 grandchildren and two great-grandaughters – all healthy. I envy his reign and only hope I can follow in his footsteps.
And yet as precious as time is, how unbelievable is it that we waste it on jobs we hate, partners we know are not good for us, choices we know are not right? It’s as if we falsely assume their will be time for better decisions later . . .
Time has never seemed more precious to me than when I am on an airplane. For whatever reason, it terrifies me and I am left wanting more time. I want to be present for my daughters as they age- I want to witness their growth and change. I want time to fish and hike with my husband and time to read on my own.
But even when you’ve had 85 years full of health and mostly happy memories, you still are left wanting and wondering what, if anything, comes after our time here on Earth. What yet do we not understand?
All we know for sure of our life on Earth is now. Our current time. Are we appreciating it? Reveling in it? Not waiting for something better? Making “the most” of it?
We must. For anything less . . . is a waste of time.
“What a waste.” I thought. I’m ashamed to say it now that I know better, but back then, that’s what I truly believed. My sister had a degree from the esteemed University of Virginia and she had chosen to stay home to raise her children instead of juggle both a career and her role as a mother.
I thought about this, recently, as Aurora vocalized her desire to be a baker with “Big Harper” (my friend, not her sister) when she grows up. Back then, I would have encouraged her to set her sights higher- a doctor, a veterinarian, an astronaut and while we still discuss those opportunities, I embrace her current decision as a 5 year-old to be a baker. Because you know what? We need bakers. And cashiers. And trainers. And trash collectors. And salesmen. And custodians. And waitresses. And hairstylists. And teachers. And mommies who “just” want to be mommies.
When did this job become not enough? And not enough as in “income- earning” but as in “you got a degree what did you do with it?” I have a B.A. in English and a M.Ed in teaching Pk-6. What am I doing with it?
I’m raising the next generation.
I’m surrounding them with books. I’m sharing my knowledge. I’m using my critical thinking skills to figure out how I can raise my children with the perfect balance of exposure to the arts and experiences while still living “simply”. I’m using my psychology classes to deal with epic emotional meltdowns on a face-to-face, you-matter basis. I’m using my anthropology minor to teach my children about people around the world and what that looks and feel like. I’m providing them the tools to discover their roles now and later.
Ignorance makes it easy to judge but once we know better, we do better.
So this is a long-overdue apology to my sister. She’s raised three beautiful children- now teenagers, soon to enter adulthood where they will be faced with their decision of what they will do when they grow up.
I hope they follow their heart because whatever their role is, wherever their “place” is, we definitely need one of them.
Like every good book, every great show, and every epic movie, we seek the DRAMA and resolution. Nobody wants to read or watch a flat plot-line, which begs the question . . . can you find comfort in the calm?
Lately, on a weekly basis, I say to my husband (around dinner time), “There are just so many of them!” I’m referring to my helpless children. They can’t dress themselves, squeeze ketchup, or pour their own drink without help. In my mind, I can’t wait for them to be able to do for themselves. But as that time draws closer for my oldest, I recognize the empty feeling I will have, as a result. Am I ready for that?
We are natural problem solvers- some of us better than others. Some of us thrive on the drama – others run away as fast as we can. But all of us have an innate desire to feel wanted, accepted, needed. Partners, children, pets- they all fill that void.
When things are busy and tough, we feel exhausted and yet . . .useful.
When things are gravy we initially feel rested and peaceful and then . . . unsettled?
Why is that? Isn’t this what we’ve been working towards?
Why can we not find peace within the calm?
Every good story has a climax and a resolution.
Each of us has a different story, some more dramatic than others.
And if you look hard enough, we’ve all had our share of drama. So the real quest becomes, finding the peace, the joy and the comfort in the calm after the storm.
I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for five-years and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m scared shitless once the youngest goes to school, goes to college, gets married, has her own babies.
But the reality is, deep down, we are always hoping for a happy ending- EVEN IF, it doesn’t turn out as expected. At the very least, we want a lesson, and at most, our dreams come true.
So when we have it in our grasp- our great relationship, our healthy family, our fabulous co-workers or dream job- we owe it to ourselves to appreciate the moment. The Calm.
Is it in inches? Accomplishments? Pounds? Number of children? Years married? Diet choices? Miles ran? Miles traveled? Degrees accomplished? Job title? Devotion to God? Cheeks turned? Concerts witnessed? Art exhibits encountered? Tribulations overcome?
How do you measure yourself?
As a young child, we compared ourselves to the fastest, the most popular, the smartest.
As an adolescent, the coolest- however, we defined that.
As a teenager, those we found our identity with- those with common values.
As a young adult- we struggled. Was it our friends from the past? Faith? Parents? Partners? The parents of our partners? Our co-workers?
As a young parent- our parents? Family? Other young parents? Other experienced parents?
As an older adult- Our God. Our partner. Our loved ones. Ourselves.
We grow, we evolve and the ways in which we measure ourselves change, if only we allow it to be so.
We no longer look to the fastest, smartest and coolest- the skinniest, the most devout, or the most traveled.
We look inside ourselves to find the essence of our unique us.
We seek acceptance. At first, by others but over time, by ourselves.
“Take a day, babe. Get out of the house because I can’t do anything with them when you’re around. They only want you when they see you.”
My husband was right but where would I go? After a week of very little sleep, I’m exhausted. And to be honest, all I really want to do is stay home.
But with a high of 40 degrees and a 1, 3 and 5 year-old in tow, kicking my husband out of the house left him with limited options.
“I’ve got some errands to run- I’ll take them with me.”
Music to my ears, but how long would I have? I didn’t care. I parked my rear on the recliner and watched a tv show for 30 minutes before starting dinner and calling my mom.
She lives only five minutes away and comes over to play with the kids twice a week but we spoke for over an hour- because we could without distraction. It. Was. Amazing.
I folded a gargantuan pile of laundry, chatted with a few friends and sat down to write this article. Not an incredibly momentous day, but after 3 hours alone, I felt renewed.
In my heart of hearts, I am a homebody. These days, however, I never get to be home alone. I miss the one-bedroom apartment I had to myself on the third floor of a 100 year-old house right after college. I ate, slept and woke when I wanted and after years of roommates throughout boarding school and college, I finally didn’t have to share a thing.
My husband returned with a screaming three-year-old in tow. She was mad he was returning a movie we rented- in other words, the world had just ended. For a moment, it felt like the afternoon was a wash, but once we had her tucked in to bed, I reflected on my afternoon with gratitude.
A break from the daily chaos in the comfort of my own home. Silence. Solitude.
I sure do miss that old apartment.
But never enough to trade it for this house full of noise and love.
Refresh the water cups, pull back the covers, turn on the night-light. In the midst of my nightly bedtime routine, I stop dead in my tracks and look around. I take in the trinkets, the treasures, the brightly colored toys and the marks on the walls as if I am seeing it all for the first time.
Lately, I’ve been listening. Everyone tells me to enjoy this phase while it lasts because in the blink-of-an-eye, it will be gone and I will wonder where all of the time went. It’s just so easy to get distracted in the day-to-day rush and to miss the gradual evolution of our children. Board books become picture books then chapter books. Doll babies become barbies and diapers become underwear.
I kneel down on the ground and look around the room from their perspective. I can see inside the tiny oven but am in awe of how large the bed appears. In a decade, surely they’ll feel it is too small for them.
I want to freeze this moment. I close my eyes and thank God for these children. For the opportunity to be their mother, for this life I have been granted. I am overwhelmed with a deep sense of gratitude for the tiny teacups, the stuffed animals, and for those God-forsaken barbie shoes I always seem to step on in my bare feet.
I will remind myself to do this more often. To appreciate the perfect imperfections of our daily lives for the days may seem long now, but soon I will wish for them back. And I don’t want to regret not taking a moment to pause and marvel at these miracles we’ve created.