It’s a Process

lunaAnother pomegranate martini lingered in front of me; its sweet red nectar glistening in the glow of lowered lights and laughter. Two of my girlfriends flanked the table and I was absorbed by their presence.

I’m realizing that everyone suffers from some level of loneliness or discontentment. The stay-at-home mom, the working mom, the mom with grown kids, the working woman with no kids, married or not married…we are all the same. We fill the emptiness with food and drinks, shopping, random busyness, excessive exercise or dieting, unfinished projects, sometimes absorbed in self-doubt and gossip. We sabotage our relationships by assuming our significant other innately knows our sadness, this unexplained emptiness, and we carry secret grudges that spill out in bursts of unexpected emotions.

We are surprised by our seemingly sudden lack of emotional endurance and struggle to get through each mundane task.

The first week of school I overheard a group of moms half-joking about their increased anxiety and chaos of trying to maneuver successfully through school schedules, carpool lines, after school activities, dinner, and homework while still keeping the household together and their husbands happy.

“It’s all a process,” one mom said to the other, “eventually it works itself out.”

But maybe it doesn’t ever really “work itself out”.  Perhaps what really needs to happen is that we work it out with ourselves, change our perspective and expectations of what life is supposed to look like in this moment.

There have been different moments in life when I felt content and filled with purpose. Some moments lasting weeks, months and years. Some simply just that, a moment. And then there have been all the “in-between”, the days where the world felt like it was suffocating me and abandoning me all at the same time.

So there I was, having dinner and drinks with a couple of friends last night. We were doing what we’ve done a thousand times before, venting about life and love. There was a fair amount of wallowing in self-pity too, swallowing up the conversation in “If only” and “I need” statements. But as I replayed the conversations in my head this morning, when I really listened to myself, it struck me that these feelings of discontentment are just strands of all the things about myself I don’t really like but could change with a little effort. My loneliness is also me digging in my heels, desperately trying to stand still as my children and my life  have marched forward.

It truly is always a process and a constant state of change. Life doesn’t just work itself out – we have to work harder at finding our own happiness, seeing our own worth and moving towards it every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no bad people, not really

“Do you think my mom is a bad person?” Peanut asked, sitting at the kitchen counter, feet dangling over discarded flip-flops while eating a late breakfast.

“I don’t really know your mom,” I answered cautiously, “why?”

“cuz my last foster parent said my mom was a bad person and that’s why I can’t live with her right now.”

Glass mugs and metal pans clinked and clanked as I emptied the dishwasher, wondering how to approach this conversation. One of many challenges when fostering a school-aged child are the questions. Training had prepared me to answer most inquiries with a “maybe”, “someday” or “I don’t really know”. It had not prepared me to help define an 8-year-old’s perspective of his very foundation and core of his identity.

“You know me, ” he continued, “so you kinda know my mom.”

I stopped putting away the dishes and faced him at the counter, taking in every curve of his face and slightness of his body. I pictured him holding the door open for me when we came home and how he rushed outside to help me bring in the groceries. I thought about how thankful he is when I wash and fold his laundry, the way he makes his bed in the morning without being asked and helps clear the dinner dishes before I’ve even left the table. I could hear his sweet voice in my head, every please and thank you without hesitation, every made-up story or joke told. I could feel his warmth and affection from him resting his head against my shoulder while I read him a book. Most of all, I couldn’t ignore all the times I had already witnessed him put fear aside and try something new with optimism and eagerness, like swim lessons, making friends, tasting an unfamiliar food, or living with us.

“I believe there are no bad people, just people who sometimes make bad choices, ” I said carefully. “I also believe you are kind, thoughtful, honest and compassionate. I also believe that you are brave and loving. You are funny and easy to get along with, and most of all, you bring joy to the people you meet. And I believe that you are this amazing person because of your mom.”

Peanut smiled, his eyes slightly moist.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” he said quietly.

It is humanly impossible to avoid all opinion about a person who can not currently care for their children. But after spending time with this child, I realized “she isn’t what I thought though. I still don’t know who she is, but I do know now who she isn’t.” (Anne Lamott, bird by bird, pg. 82)

*This post was inspired by The Daily Post

 

 

 

 

 

Expect Nothing

Expect prompt

I’ve spent a lot of wasted time expecting people to be different.

Expecting them to be thankful or honest.

Expecting them to love unconditionally or be tolerant without question.

Expecting them to be compassionate, self-less or encouraging.

Expecting them to apologize.

But mostly, I think I’ve just spent a lot of wasted time being disappointed, time that would have been better spent giving wholly of myself without expecting anything in return.

As I crossed over the 40-something threshold a couple of years ago, my perspective changed. My focus became less about being and more about doing. My mind’s eye has finally partnered with my heart’s desire, working together to hopefully leave this world a better place than I found it and without any expectation of being recognized for my efforts.

Give without getting.

Forgive without an apology.

Trust without hesitation.

Help without judgement.

Love without condition.

The more I work through my days looking for opportunities to do good, the lighter my spirit becomes and the more relaxed my body feels. Holding on to anger, disappointment and frustration is cumbersome and suffocating. It weighs heavy on your heart, puts a physical ache in your bones, making it hard to feel anything else.

Some days take more effort than others.

Some days seem effortless.

Just a month after our foster child came to live with us, I found myself saying “I love you” as I tucked him into bed at night. It felt natural, especially after putting The Tortoise and The Hare to bed. I know my words of affection carried through the house, and it pained me greatly to think of this little Peanut going to sleep at night without the reminder that they are loved. One night as I whispered “I love you” and gave a quick kiss on the cheek, arms suddenly wrapped around my neck, keeping me from pulling away.

Our eyes locked.

Our breath in unison.

“Is it okay that I don’t tell you that I love you back?” Peanut whispered.

“Of course, little one, ” I replied, “How you feel about me doesn’t change how I feel about you.”

Peanut pulled me closer, hugging me tightly.

“Is it okay that I love you?” I asked.

I could feel a smile press against my cheek.

“Sure,” Peanut said, “and you never know, if you say it enough I might even say it back one day.”

*This post was inspired by The Daily Post and Two Shoes in Texas

 

 

 

Perfect Moments

Two Shoes TuesdayI made stricter house rules this summer for the kids in hopes of keeping them from spending the next three months absently laying in front of the television, a computer screen or their phone. It was a well-thought plan, a list really, of alternatives to glowing screens. Things like being creative, reading a book, spending time with friends outside and helping out with a small household chore are but a few. So far, it has been effective for both girls, and it has allowed me time to focus on the things that get neglected during the school year. I can’t possibly be full-time teacher, chauffeur, meal-planner, event coordinator  and housekeeper from September to May. Summer is my time to re-group. Summer is my time to try new recipes or re-organize the closets. It is a great time to purge our basement and filing cabinets. These next few months help me prepare for the next school year, the next swim and gymnastics season.

However, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily tasks of life. There will always be something that needs or should get done.  Cleaning and organizing may be as much a mindless addiction for me as television and gaming is for my children. And I know, deep down, that having a perfectly cleaned and organized home is not a true reflection of our family. A clean house does not build relationships or create new memories or adventures.

hammock profileSo, between the sports camps and the vacations, between the running around to friends houses, and the chores, the most perfect moments are usually the ones completely unplanned. I am trying harder to look for those perfect moments hiding in forgotten corners of our day. Things like cuddling on the hammock with one of the kids while we both read a book or take  an afternoon nap together. When they are home, I’m trying to be diligent about putting down a broom and picking up a badminton racquet. I want them to remember music festivals and people watching rather than a long list of movies they’ve already seen. I want to fill our scrapbooks with goofy faces and unexpected giggles from days spent swimming in the lake.

nap outside in hammockAlthough I am aware that life is not perfect, I do believe that we can string together enough perfect moments to make life all the more wonderful.

“Life is not perfect. It never will be. You just have to make the very best of it, and you have to open your heart to what the world can show you; and sometimes it’s terrifying, and sometimes it’s incredibly beautiful, and I’ll take both. Thanks.”― Graham Nash

 

Writer’s Workshop: Finding Joy in My Winter

A few berries still cling to one of our trees
A few berries still cling to one of our trees

Believe it or not, avoiding this blog has been as impossible as avoiding myself.

Not a word has been written for months. I’ve purposely found other things to do than write and yet, this blog has been on my mind, in my heart, every day. It was not my intention to disappear, but the longer the silence, the harder it was to find my voice. The deeper I buried myself in laundry, housekeeping, home school and other people, the easier it was to stop being accountable. Accountable to myself, anyway.

I could easily avoid the scale, the grey hairs popping up, the constant achy joints and lack of sleep. But the minute I thought about writing anything, I had to take a look at myself again, flaws and all. So I chose silence over honesty rather than run the risk of filling up space with ridiculous excuses.

The weight of winter is suffocating sometimes.

Joy is so much easier to find when things are going well, when our relationships are constantly blooming, when the seeds we plant seem to grow all on their own and certainly when we can physically feel the warmth of success. Joy escapes me when shadowed by dark thoughts, unexpected friction and lack of motivation. It becomes much “easier” to tend the gardens of others instead of taking care of my own. At least then, I can lie to myself, pretend I’m too busy to work towards a personal goal, and pat myself on the back for accomplishing something.

Due to large amounts of snow and bitter cold, I have not left my house since Saturday evening. School was supposed to resume this past Monday, January 6th, but our area closed schools for three days straight. For the first few days, my house was filled with extra bodies. Both the girls had friends over to celebrate the snow days. I unpacked suitcases and cleaned while listening to five girls sing karaoke, tore down Christmas decorations while hanging up wet snow pants, and studied lesson plans I already knew from front to back.

But yesterday there were no extra bodies.

Yesterday was just me and my daughters. We made a short school day out of it and finished laundry. After dinner, I found myself staring out a window, getting lost in the white canvas. Everything looked peaceful and relatively undisturbed. I was mesmerized by the nothingness.

For a moment, I felt like a blank slate.

DW was gone for the evening. I called the girls into my room, asked them to grab a book or something and declared it “quiet time”. We snuggled under the covers in our pajamas, the dog squished between blankets and robes. The heat from our bodies quickly bound us together. Sleepy heads  rested on each of my shoulders as breathing sounds slowed to a soft purr. The Tortoise reached for my hand at the same time The Hare leaned over and kissed my cheek.

“I love you,” they each declared.

“We should do this more often,” they each proclaimed.

“I agree,” I answered.

Last night, I was reminded of the joy in my winter.

Mama Kat Button