Even Brave Girls Get Scared

Dear Hadley,

You have heard me tell you many times that it requires 3 things to be a princess: a princess must be brave, a princess must be smart, and a princess must be strong. I want to make sure you understand that ANYONE can be a princess based on how she acts and thinks. But, I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of explaining what the word “brave” means because tonight, when I asked you if you were scared of the dark, you told me “Brave girls don’t get scared.” Baby, brave girls absolutely do get scared. In fact, it’s having to face a fear that makes someone brave. Without being scared, you never have a chance to discover your courage.

Think about Belle. The Beast looked so huge and scary and had a very mean sounding growl. He could have eaten Belle for dinner. Of course Belle was scared, but she was able to go beyond her fear and see into the Beast’s heart. She knew that deep down, he was a good person and she chose to be kind and loving despite the fact that the Beast looked different.  You show this same kind of bravery every time you play with a child that looks different from you. You are courageous every time you forgive a child that has been mean to you. There are so many grown-ups that aren’t brave enough to do this. You are so brave.

What about Anna? She had just seen Elsa freeze her entire village. Most people would run the other way. But, Anna knew that the right thing to do was to help her sister and to save her town. So, she followed her heart. Following your heart is such a scary thing, especially when everyone else is telling you something different. It takes real trust in yourself and an ability to look other people in the eye and say, “Thank you for your input but I’m going to do it my way.” You do this every time you tell your friends “No” when they are trying to get you to do something that you know is wrong. You are brave every time you stand up for yourself or for a friend that needs help. You are a princess.

I also don’t want you to think that fear is a bad thing. Being afraid is one of those instincts we are born with. Fear comes from that part of our brain that tells us to “RUN!” if a tiger is coming after us. Fear is what can sometimes save our lives, or at least save us from getting into trouble or doing something too stupid. But, this part of our brain can’t tell a real fear from an imaginary one. That part is up for you to decide- if it’s a real fear, RUN! or STAY! or do whatever it is that your animal instinct is telling you to do. But, if it’s just an imaginary fear like worrying you will forget all the steps to your ballet recital, politely tell the fear, “Thank you very much for your input. I’m going to listen to my heart for this one. Would you mind sitting over here for awhile until you are needed again? OK? Thanks.” Fear is a necessary part of you, so don’t ever try to fight with it. I think that just makes the fear grow bigger. The key to being brave is to look that fear in the eye, appreciate it, and then set it aside until necessary.IMG_0810

Want to know a secret? I see you being extremely brave every single day. You do the bravest thing that any of us are asked to do- you keep your heart wide open. All of the time. Most of us begin to close our hearts every time the fear wins. When I say fear here, I mean the fake kind, the kind that tells us that we’re not good enough or that we need to be scared of someone that looks different from us. Or believes different from us. People lose to this fear every single day. Keeping your heart open and sharing your joy with others is the bravest thing that you can ever do.

I am so proud of you. You are the bravest person that I know. You not only try new, scary things every day, but you do it with a wide open heart and joy that shines for miles. And, if you want to sleep with the light on for a little while, it’s totally okay with me.

Love,

Mom

Time to Get Off the Big Wheels

(Originally published on Facebook on May 7, 2014)
The picture below is my child, wearing her ladybug wings, riding a Big Wheels that is way too small for her. She tried riding her new big girl bike a few times but got very frustrated with the brake pedal. She’d finally get herself going when she’d pedal incorrectly and be thrown to a jerky stop. I get it. Her beloved Big Wheels that she has affectionately named Scarlet is safe, familiar, and low to the ground. This new bike, which has not yet earned a name, is new, scary, and more challenging. It’s going to hurt a lot more if she falls.

I realize that I am guilty of doing the same in my own life more times than I’d like to admit. I stay where I feel safe, secure, and rooted. Even if I’ve outgrown the situation. Even when I know something bigger and better is waiting for me. Even if I am ever brave enough to try something once or twice, I sometimes still walk away from the challenge and go back to my familiar Scarlet because the fear of not being perfect the first time overtakes me.

Yet, I remember very well those times that I just went for it. That I refused to give into my fear and just kept trying and pedaling until I either started flying or I crashed and burned and ended up with a scraped up knee. Either way, those were the best rides of my life.

Time to get off the Big Wheels and just go for it.

Photo: This is my child, wearing her ladybug wings, riding a Big Wheels that is way too small for her. She tried riding her new big girl bike a few times but got very frustrated with the brake pedal. She'd finally get herself going when she'd pedal incorrectly and be thrown to a jerky stop. I get it. Her beloved Big Wheels that she has affectionately named Scarlet is safe, familiar, and low to the ground. This new bike, which has not yet earned a name, is new, scary, and more challenging. It's going to hurt a lot more if she falls. 

I realize that I am guilty of doing the same in my own life more times than I'd like to admit. I stay where I feel safe, secure, and rooted. Even if I've outgrown the situation. Even when I know something bigger and better is waiting for me. Even if I am ever brave enough to try something once or twice, I sometimes still walk away from the challenge and go back to my familiar Scarlet because the fear of not being perfect the first time overtakes me.

 Yet, I remember very well those times that I just went for it. That I refused to give into my fear and just kept trying and pedaling until I either started flying or I crashed and burned and ended up with a scraped up knee. Either way, those were the best rides of my life.

Time to get off the Big Wheels and just go for it.
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Getting Older is Weird

(Originally posted on Facebook on Aug. 25, 2014)

You guys-

When I went to try to post my latest blog entry I couldn’t freaking remember my password. I hate that! It took me at least 5 tries. This is sad, SAD. This means that I must make writing more of a priority. It also means that you will become more privy to my late night deep thoughts, where the quiet of the night lets introverts like me do our deepest, weirdest thinking. Brace yourself.

So here goes tonight’s rant. I have a golden retriever named Vegas. Vegas is 110 pounds of furry goodness all rolled into the most adorable creature you’ve ever seen. Seriously. Vegas is now 8 which means he’s entered the “old man” stage of doghood. He creaks, he’s slow, and he only gets up to move when absolutely necessary. A piece of perfectly cooked steak can literally hit him on the nose, bounce a few times, and land a few feet in front of him. He will eye the steak and telepathically communicate to me, saying: “Hey. Could you help a guy out here?” and will patiently wait for me to get up and bring him the bite. If Kirby tried to pull that crap I’d definitely tell him where he could stick it. But because Vegas is cute and old, he gets away with murder. 

Vegas guarding my sick daughter. Seriously. Look at that face. How could he not get away with murder?

Vegas guarding my sick daughter. Seriously. Look at that face. How could he not get away with murder?

Having an older dog is definitely weird as a pet owner. I’m used to Vegas sleeping all the time. He’s a dog and that’s what they do. But now, I catch myself checking to make sure he’s still breathing. I am also making it a priority to spend time with him each evening when he is the most playful. And it totally sucks to see your pet grow older and realize that your time with a beloved friend is winding down to an end.

Is this how it’s going to feel when we get to be that old? So old that people check to make sure we’re still breathing? So old that we realize our loved ones are coming around more just because they know that we could be gone any second? Or where loved ones stop coming by altogether because they begin grieving and missing us before we are even gone? Or worse-where they just don’t care?

Death is such a weird concept. It feels so far off until the day it doesn’t.

I feel like there are so many people just waiting to die. This world isn’t good for them and they are just waiting for the next best thing. Then there are those people that live life to the fullest, people like my grandmother that are in their 90’s still going on cruises and watching Wheel of Fortune and Young and the Restless, all while wearing the most bling they can fit onto their bodies and their brightest reddest lipstick.

My first 38 years have flown by. I can only imagine that the next 50 are going to go even faster. I don’t know how I’m going to feel at 90 or if people will be checking on my breathing after I fall asleep in my chair watching old episodes of Breaking Bad and Louie. I do know, however, that I intend to squeeze every drop of life out of my limited time.

A Beautiful Mess

When I was a kid, the rule in my house was to “clean up one mess before you make another”. It’s a good rule. My house was never a mess, my room was picked up, and my mom was never in a panic straightening up when unexpected company arrived. I learned the value of having a peaceful, organized living space.

I also learned the value of making a huge, gigantic mess when my parents and their friends got together at someone’s house and the kids got dragged along, too. These occasions were golden nights of unparalleled delight that did not happen nearly often enough. As a kid, this was like being dumped on Fantasy Island for a few hours with some kids you may or may not know. You were forced to get along and entertain each other until your parents dragged you home. Every kid knew the rule- your parents didn’t care what the heck you did as long as there was no screaming, crying, loud thuds, or broken glass. And we all knew the kiss of death would occur if we were being too quiet for long stretches of time and our parents noticed the silence. Obey those rules and you were guaranteed hours and hours of pure, adult-free joy. It was like we all had some secret, genetic code that made us all in on it together, that we collectively knew our mission for that night was to get away with as much forbidden stuff as humanly possible. We did things that were beyond creative- we did things that were pure genius.

I have a theory for this. When kids get together, the first thing they do is check out each other’s toys. Then, they slyly start investigating a little bit further, sniffing everything out. Finally, they go for the kill, dumping every box of every little tiny piece onto the floor. Kids start digging, things literally start flying, and lost, forgotten toys are rediscovered and played with in new inventive ways.

I’ve been thinking about these messes again as I am constantly asking my 5 year old to clean up one gigantic mess after another. Seriously. I find signs of her in every room of the house. And I have to breathe and smile and fight the urge to get annoyed at her creativity, to resist the temptation to take her messes personally. After all, how can a 5 year old really understand that her mother feels best in a peaceful, calm environment? Especially when she witnesses my own creative messes, when I’m in the process of writing or painting or practicing yoga? Yet, I know the importance of cleaning up, of starting fresh. As a compromise, my daughter makes her messes. She creates. She explores. Sometimes she needs the space of the entire house, other times she might just need a pencil and a piece of paper. But, at the end of the day, she cleans it all up so that in the morning, she starts fresh. She begins the digging process again. And I think this is what so many of us are missing as we enter our middle ages. We’ve stopped allowing ourselves to make messes and we’ve forgotten what we have because we’ve stopped digging.

The silence is becoming noticeable. Dig, friend. Dig. Find that thing that excites you again and go make a beautiful mess.

My favorite beautiful messes.

My favorite beautiful messes.

 

~ALA

Practicing Courage

For Christmas one year I bought my husband a cushioned toilet seat and a sign that says “Kirby’s Reading Room” to hang on his bathroom door. They are still some of his favorite gifts to date. He can disappear in his bathroom and stay for hours. photo (21) When we first married I thought he had a major case of irritable bowel syndrome. Nope. Turns out he just goes in there to disappear sometimes. I totally get it. I even do it myself every now and then because it’s the only socially acceptable way of barricading myself away from my family for a few minutes.

Although the powder room will do in a pinch, my favorite place to escape is the shower. It’s always been this way for me. My dad used to gripe at me all the time about wasting water. Now that I’m an adult and pay my own water bill, I can enjoy my shower guilt free. It’s glorious. I love picking out new bath products. I seriously get excited about a new bottle of shampoo. And soap…. I LOVE soap. I recently made the switch to all natural bar soaps and I’m in heaven. Need a gift idea for me? Give me bath products (not the Bath & Body kind… you know, the fancy stuff in the gorgeous bottles) and I’ll be like a kid on Christmas morning.

Showers are my sanity breaks.  I am able to do my best thinking, come up with my best ideas,  work my way out of problems and de-stress, all while standing under a waterfall set to the perfect temperature. I can’t bring my phone with me, distractions are kept to a minimum, and I am completely alone with my thoughts.

I’m convinced that we all need these sanity breaks, to let the voices run amok, to let them have their say. The more I listen to these voices, the more I am realizing that they have two distinct personalities. There is the nagging voice, which I call ego, that is filled with self-doubt and fear. This is the voice that keeps me from moving forward, from following my dreams. Then, there is the other voice, the one that points me in the right direction. Some might call this the nudging of the holy spirit or the voice of the higher self. I like to think of this voice as my gut feeling, my intuition. Whatever term is used, we all have that quiet voice and most of the time, we hear this voice encouraging us to become fuller versions of ourselves, yet time and time again the loud voice of the ego kicks in and keeps us from moving forward because of fear.

My shower conversations go something like this: I’d really like to write more. I’d love to start working on a book and try to get some things published. I should dedicate time for writing every day. Why? You are not that talented. There are people that are much more gifted, that have a bigger following, that are changing the world with their voice. Who are you to think your voice will make a difference?

If I listen to the ego voice, every successful blog I read (and I love so many of them) seems to prove the point that my writing just isn’t as good. I become stuck. I stop writing. In doing so, I shut off a big part of myself. I stop looking at life and how it unfurls around me. I stop seeking and asking questions. I stop being an observer and a huge part of me, part of my very core, lies dormant. I feel less alive when I don’t write.

Today, I choose to look that self-doubt in the eye (again) and say, “Thanks for trying to protect me, but no thanks.” I’d rather fail miserably doing something I love than to do nothing. I doubt that anyone on their death bed thinks, “Wow. I’m so glad I played it safe my entire life. I’m so glad I didn’t take those chances. I’m so glad I didn’t chase my dreams.” No thank you. I want more.

I love these words of wisdom from writer Anne Lamott:

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans in all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”

Being brave is a choice, one we have to make every day. Courage is like a muscle that needs to be strengthened daily.  So, let’s take those long showers, allowing the voice of inner wisdom to drown out the voice of doubt, and let’s strive to practice courage every day. The world needs our voices.

Here’s to wishing you strong courage,

ALA

 

 

 

 

 

 

COWABUNGA!

A friend of mine rented this gigantic water slide for her son’s kindergarten graduation. photo (20) My 4 year old, Hadley, was fearless, climbing up to the top and sliding down without a moment’s hesitation. She came barreling down the slide, smacking her cheek as she hit the bottom. (See that white diamond on the left side? That’s how much water is required for the slide to work properly. Good thing to notice before your child is crying hysterically while a huge bruise appears on her face because she hit the ground too hard. Mother of the year right here.) Not surprisingly, she was pretty much done with the slide at that point.

It was splash day at my daughter’s summer camp one week later. The school had a few blow up baby pools and a smaller blow up water slide. I made sure to point out to Hadley that the slide had the proper amount of water so that she wouldn’t get hurt this time. Does it come as a shock to anyone that Hadley wanted nothing to do with the slide?

One bad experience is all it takes to ruin something fun. I know that more than likely, Hadley will eventually be willing to try a slide again. But, she will first have to overcome her fear of getting hurt. We will have to work to replace a bad memory of the slide with a good one, and that will take time and trust.

We’ve all heard the expression about getting right back on a horse if you fall off. Sounds good in theory, right? You fall off, you get right back on so that the fear doesn’t build up inside you. Sometimes, though, falling hurts and you might need some hugs and kisses and some TLC. You might need a little time to nurse your bruises. But, guys, we’ve all got to try the water slide again eventually. We all have those things that excited us, that thrilled us, those things that we dared to try. Then, something happened. Maybe we weren’t perfect the first few times. Perhaps someone said something critical that discouraged us. Maybe the overpowering voice of self-doubt crept in and convinced us that we weren’t good enough. Perhaps even some of us are still looking at those steep steps afraid to climb.

We convince our children to keep trying, to never give up. We encourage them to try new, challenging things. We know that the best teachers lead by example. Let’s all be brave enough to practice what we preach. Life is too short to play it safe. Let’s not just slide… let’s yell “COWABUNGA!” on the way down.

 

 

A Graduation Letter to my 18 year old self

When I started high school, I had two major goals. The first was to get into a good college. The second was to fill up all the white space under my senior picture in the year book with activities. Nothing was sadder to my young self than a senior who only did one or two things the entire time he was in high school. I didn’t like looking at a bunch of white space under a picture. To me, it represented a sad, lonely high school existence. To make sure my picture did not come off as pathetic, I basically spent all 4 years signing up for everything that my high school had to offer. It did not matter to me if I liked the activity or not. The only criteria for me was that it would fill in some of that white space. I even included things I was nominated for but didn’t win, because who wouldn’t want to remember that they lost 3 years in a row as homecoming princess? I also included that I was a runner-up for an internship…look how close I came to something great but failed! Didn’t matter. The goal was to fill up the white space. I’m happy to be able to tell you I accomplished both of my goals. Amy yearbook picture

It’s now been 20 years since I graduated from high school. That is such a big number and it means that high school happened half a life time ago. I look at the girl in my high school picture and I see her promise, her potential, and her fear. I also see a girl that is full of hope but one that has no idea what the future holds for her. I sometimes wish I could sit my 18 year old self down and have a chat. There are a few things I’d like to tell her. This is what I’d say:

Dear Amy,

You might want to take some time to think about your college major. Seriously. Like more than a 3 minute conversation with your mom during freshmen orientation where you arbitrarily choose business as your major because it sounds promising and is filled with good looking guys. Explore your options. Read through the choices. Think about your favorite activities in high school, your favorite classes and your favorite jobs. Think about what you love to do in your spare time. Follow a passion, not a paycheck.

Start a new life for yourself in college. You will be tempted to room with a friend from high school your freshmen year. You will be tempted to keep your high school boyfriend. These feel safe and comfortable. This isn’t bad but don’t stay tethered to the past because it will keep you from discovering yourself and from moving forward.

Grades are important but for heaven’s sake, have some fun. Seriously. 

You do not need a boyfriend to be happy. In fact, you will probably be more happy if you focus more on friendships with girls. Your girlfriends will one day be your pillar of support. Don’t cut them out of your life to make a boyfriend happy. Ever.

Along those same lines, you do not need to get engaged before you graduate. Please don’t. Even though it seems like everyone else around you is planning weddings. Even though the thought of graduating and having to live and find a job on your own seems scary. You are braver than you think and stronger than you know. Give yourself a chance to try your wings. You won’t know you can fly until you jump.

Use the opportunities in college to explore and find out more about yourself. Take classes that seem fascinating. Ask lots of questions. Get to know people that think differently than you do. Don’t be in such a hurry to move on to the “grown-up phase” of your life. Enjoy where you are, right now.

It is okay to cut people out of your life that do not value or appreciate you.

Be yourself. You are good enough just as you are. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Do what makes you happy. Above all, follow your heart.

With much love,

Your 38 year old self

Just call me Pamela Anderson

There are 3 things you should probably know about me if we are going to be friends. I sense eye-rolling from those of you who really do know me, because who are we kidding, there are of course countless other things that should warrant some type of warning about me. But, today you are only getting 3.

Number 1: I am not an easy friend. I disappear for LONG periods of time. When I resurface, you’ll need to be able to pick up right where we left off.

Number 2: I will laugh if you get hurt. Not seriously hurt like you need to go to the hospital. Just sort of hurt. Especially if it involves you hitting your head on something or tripping and falling down, but I will hyperventilate if you hit your head, fall down, and show your underwear. I’m only human and that stuff kills me. However, I will NEVER laugh if your heart hurts.

Number 3:  I am not your best bet in an emergency. Seriously. One of my best friends fainted in my kitchen. She was walking to the other room and then just all of a sudden was making a beeline for the floor, head first. My husband swooped in and caught her, laying her down gently on the floor. Meanwhile, I was frozen at the kitchen table with my mouth hanging wide open. After a few seconds the first words out of my mouth were, “Is she dead?” And, if you are trying to be kind and give me the benefit of the doubt when it comes to my own child, don’t bother. I am hopeless. When I see an accident about to happen, I freeze and cover my ears. What the heck is that? Probably because I don’t want to hear the wails and anguished cries that I know will soon be following. I’m thinking it would be more helpful if I’d  just use my hands to maybe catch her instead. I’m a work in progress.

So, imagine my surprise when I was the first to jump in to help a little boy that had wandered a little too deeply into the pool. His parents were right there with me and we were watching him have so much fun in the shallow end. A few steps too many, he could no longer touch and was beginning to panic. He probably would have been just fine. But I went all Baywatch-y and jumped into the pool, fully dressed. I did somehow manage  to kick off my flip flops but I totally forgot about my phone in my pocket. Big bummer. But hey. For once in my life my instinct was actually helpful in a could-be emergency.

And that felt pretty good. And then I remembered that my daughter’s first ballet recital was on that phone. Gone. Just like that. To die the horrible death that all phones experience when submerged in water. There is no mercy for photos and videos unsaved.  RIP phone. RIP photos and videos. Please say hello to your sister that drowned a few years ago after falling out of my pocket into the toilet. At least your death was noble, good sir. And at least I didn’t pee on you.

Of all the things I lost on the phone, the ballet recital was the hardest. I swore I wouldn’t be one of those parents. The ones that get all caught up in their children’s games and recitals. I am now so totally that parent. Now I get it. It’s just that my baby, the one that I was  holding in my arms just yesterday, is up on a stage. Performing. And smiling. And having the time of her life. I sat there, spellbound and amazed. Her joy radiated out of her and touched everyone in the audience. I wanted to look around and scream, “Look at my baby! Isn’t she beautiful! Look at her go!” hadley ballet I was so incredibly proud of her and of who she has become. I looked around and realized that every single parent was feeling that exact same way. So there I sat on the floor in front of the stage (I had to be as close to her as possible, of course) and watched my baby dance. She would look at me every once in awhile, give me a huge smile, and then twirl around some more.

The best part of all? I watched it with my eyes. I watched it with my heart. I did not watch it with my third eye, the phone. I asked my 14 year old niece to do that honor. So when Hadley relives this memory, if she ever does, she won’t remember looking out at the audience and seeing her mommy with her phone across her face. She’ll remember that her mommy was right there, starring at her, smiling up at her with proud tears running down her face.

How much of life do I miss by trying to record it for some future time instead of enjoying it right now? A lot. More than I’d like to admit. I know she’s changing and growing so fast and I just want to hold on to her for a little bit longer. Yet, I’m so grateful that I was completely there for her recital. No video could capture what I saw with my own two eyes. That is something I will carry with me and treasure for the rest of my life. Plus, I know that I’ll be able to borrow someone else’s video since we all took one.

As a result of my “heroic” deed (i.e. overreacting), I now have a brand spanking new phone. I’m not saying I won’t use it to take countless pictures and videos. What I am saying is that I am going to make every effort to be completely there more often, in those joyful moments that I wish that I could bottle up and sniff every so often. Because when I am 100 percent all there, giving the moment my complete attention, it is way better than any photo or video. It is real. It is true love. It is life.

Hey Nagging Parent Voice: SHUT THE HELL UP!

Today was “Mommy and Hadley Day”. Now, before you start gagging envisioning me doing all kinds of Pinterest-themed projects with my 4 year old daughter at our kitchen table, let me tell you what that means.  Mondays mean no school, no activities, no schedule. Mondays are usually the days I want to bang my head against the wall by lunchtime. However, “Mommy and Hadley Day” sounds much more positive than “Mommy Needs A Drink In A Bad Way Day”.

Usually on Sunday nights I’ll ask Hadley what she wants to do on our day together. This time, she told me she wanted to play school. She wanted me to be the teacher and she wanted to work on writing. I told her that sounded like fun and that I couldn’t wait. In my head I began envisioning us actually playing school, with me pulling out some of my old favorite kindergarten lessons from my former days of teaching. We would both have fun, she’d learn something, and she would beam up at me as if I was the best thing in her whole wide world.

The reality? She woke me up three times during the night because her nose was stopped-up and she couldn’t breathe well. As I stumbled out of bed I was greeted with a “Mommy? Are you ready to play?”  I immediately thought of the sad face that Anna in Disney’s Frozen makes when her sister won’t build a snowman with her. My heart wanted to say, “YES! Of course I want to play with you. I’ve been waiting all night to play with you!” but instead I hear myself saying, “Not right now. How about after I have a cup of coffee and catch up on a few things first? I’m tired and need to wake up a little bit.”

She played by herself and was totally happy and content. And I felt like a horrible mother. I’d already messed up and the day had just begun.

Since we had been out of town over the weekend, Hadley was pretty exhausted. She didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything which was fine with me because I had extra housework to accomplish. (Why does a few days away create SO much extra work when you get home?!?) We did our fair share of playing… a tea party, a make over for me which involved getting my nails painted and having sticky lipgloss smeared across my eyelids, a fake slumber party, checking on her bird feeder and throwing seeds to the birds, cleaning out her frog’s aquarium, and my personal favorite- a water gun fight. I was also able to get some work accomplished and to play catch up on some things that I had been meaning to do. Although we did a lot of fun things, we never did get around to playing school.

She asked me to play school again just as I was walking out the door to go to my yoga class. I felt like a horrible mother yet again.

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell that feeling to SHUT THE HELL UP.

Seriously. On behalf of all of us who suffer with the “I’m not a good enough parent” voice. I don’t know who fed us the lie that we have to always have it together, that we have to devote every second to our children, that it is our duty and our privilege to completely sacrifice ourselves on a daily basis, that if we ever put ourselves first in any situation that we fail as a parent, that if we don’t do this or make this or buy this our child will grow up messed-up and blame us for it. It’s all lies. It’s unreal. It’s an image that NONE of us can obtain. Yet, still we strive. And we try our hearts out. And we feel like failures because we never can and never will reach the impossible goal. This feeling robs us of the joy we could be feeling while being with our children. photo (14)

 

In reality, children need a balance… a time to play and work independently, a time to play and interact with others, a time to be loved and nurtured by us and others that love them. We need that same balance. Without the balance, unhealthy relationships develop and we can start to feel resentful, exhausted, stressed-out, or depressed.

Shouldn’t we all strive for more balance and less perfection? When I play and interact with my child, I want to do it with my whole heart and mind, without distractions. I will not feel guilty for those times when I need to work or spend some time for myself. What better example can I give to Hadley than to be a happy, healthy, balanced human being? One that she knows loves her unconditionally. One that she trusts. One that has a life outside of being a mother and a wife. One that lives and loves with her whole heart. One that goes for her dreams. That is a goal worth working towards. It has nothing to do with the fake image of parenting we have been fed our whole lives. It has everything to do with being whole and balanced, filled with joy.

~ala

The Light Can Only Shine Through the Cracks: Learning to See Again

My Grandmother, Mattie, took me to Victoria’s Secret when I married my first husband. When I married my second, she took me to a lingerie/ sex toy shop. To say that Mattie was awesome would be an understatement. I will never forget the image of my 82 year old grandmother signing her name on the receipt with a penis-shaped pen.

Mattie was an artist by heart, although she was never formally trained. Her two passions were fashion and decorating. She could remember and match any color perfectly. Everything was beautiful and everything was perfect. Even her drawers were works of art. I’ve never before seen such organization. Her attention to detail was unbelievable.

Her eyes missed absolutely nothing. We knew if we wanted to mess with her we could rearrange her color coded lipsticks and send her into a tizzy. She would also make the most beautiful sandwiches, cut into symmetric triangles with the crusts removed perfectly. Spending the night with her was quite a treat. We would get the royal treatment at bath time, concluded by being engulfed in a huge puff of baby powder with a pink powder puff. (That was my favorite part, of course.)

The powder puff my Grandmother used on me as a little girl now sits proudly in my bathroom.

The powder puff my Grandmother used on me as a little girl now sits proudly in my bathroom.

She’d then wrap us up in fluffy pink towels  and send us off to bed in… get this….IRONED SHEETS! She even had a top sheet over the blanket.  And the blanket was electric…. ELECTRIC!… which meant that I could turn my side up as hot or as cold as I wanted.

Yet, I also realized that the eyes that missed nothing could easily pick out my imperfections. I was afraid of this for many, many years. I never wanted to disappoint her so I would do things like wear my best outfit to visit her or tell her only those things that I thought would make her happy or proud of me. In other words, I filtered myself around her. It’s not that she required perfection of me, she inspired it out of me and I was afraid that I would fall short.

Yet, Mattie could sense how I was feeling and could drag things out of me that I hadn’t planned on sharing. As our relationship deepened as we both grew older, I began to get to know Mattie as a woman instead of just Mattie my Grandmother. She was brave enough to share her fears and doubts as well as her successes, which helped me to feel brave enough to do the same. Even though some of the messes I told her weren’t pretty, she would always tell me that she loved me and that she was so proud of me. I miss her dearly but I can still see the twinkle in her blue eyes whenever I think of her.

I believe our family members are some of our greatest teachers, and my grandmother was no exception. It was Mattie that taught me how to properly see. My eyes are like hers- I miss nothing. I am a detail driven person. I will notice the picture that’s not centered. I will notice the speck on the glass. I can drive myself crazy noticing all of the things that aren’t perfect. Or, I can shift my focus and learn to see the things that are perfectly imperfect. I can allow my perfectionist tendency to create negativity in my environment, or I can shift my perspective and notice all that is good and right by not having preset expectations.

Every day, every moment, I get to choose how I want to see the world: glass half empty, glass half full, or so critical that I only notice that the glass has a small chip in the rim and miss the water all together. I am learning that how I view others and my surroundings is a direct reflection of how I am currently viewing myself. The more critical I am of others, the more critical I am of me. No matter how hard I try, when I am in this state of mind I am never good enough. At this point, my focus is entirely on my own shortcomings, making me notice and point out the imperfections I find in those closest to me. On and on it goes, a spiraling of negative thoughts that take me into a deep, dark tornado of despair until I eventually realize that by setting impossibly high goals for myself and others that the only perfect thing I create is a “perfect-storm” of self-loathing.

I can choose to stay here, drawing negative experiences and people towards me, adding fuel to the fire of my own personal hell. Or, I can take a deep breath and emancipate myself from the mental slavery that I have created . I have learned that I have the power to change my perspective at any moment. All I have to do is pause for a second and quiet the nonsense that is circling round and round in my head. I have the power to see good, to see the positive, when I am finally free to see the good inside myself, to realize that I am enough just as I am. After all, the light can only shine through the cracks.

~ala

*If you want to get some science behind my fluff, read about a landmark paper recently published showing new insights on positive thinking.