March 14, 2017

Be who you needed.


I’ve always equated motherhood/parenthood a little to the grade levels in high school/college. Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. Not that one level is “better” than the others (because all of them have their own unique issues and requirements/responsibilities), but in the sense that we’re on the same track, just different places along that track. (The track being: successfully keep your tiny humans alive and thriving and hopefully growing into competent, compassionate larger humans one day.)
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For example, my best friend Steph is amazing. I’ve always thought so, even though she deflects like a boss and never believes me. Her oldest son is one year older than my oldest son. So she’s “ahead” of me on the track. Her path is a little different from mine, considering she has three children (and I have two) and she has a little girl (and I have two little boys). There are certainly differences, but she’s always and forever been a safe place of mine - literally and figuratively. She’s a frontierswoman, she’s breaking through the snowpack and I get the benefit of following behind her. There are still plenty of times when I’m striking out on my own and carving my own experience along my path, but she’s always been there to commiserate, share her experience/knowledge, and pull me up. There’s never judgment. There’s never “I told you so”. There’s never “my way is right and yours is wrong”. She is my best friend since middle school for a reason.
. . . . . 

Life is freaking hard. Adulting is freaking hard. ALL OF IT IS FREAKING HARD. Add in the completely magical-yet-overwhelming aspect of parenting tiny humans, and it can often be too much.

Right now, I’m struggling with some of the things about life in general… but I feel pretty confident in myself as a mother. I’m always learning and growing (currently reading a couple of books right now about raising/parenting boys in particular), but I feel solid about my capabilities, my resources, and how to advocate for myself, my children, and my family. 


Not every mama feels her confidence - and not even I feel it all of the time.

I wholeheartedly believe that it is up to us to support each other, and particularly for those of us “upperclassmen” to lift up those behind us. We are done having children. We are no longer in the phase of expecting another pregnancy or child. We are more tenured than some of my beautiful friends currently expecting or just having welcomed their first child. We are less tenured than some of my inspirational friends who are dealing with middle school or high school or college aged issues with their children (or beyond). 


In any space, it is ridiculously hard to know what you need when you’re confronting something you’ve never dealt with. You don’t even know what questions to ASK, or what resources might be available to you when you’re operating in a vacuum.

No one’s life is perfect. No one’s freaking Facebook or Instagram feed is representative of a life entire. If you’re anything like me - when things get tough or stressful, you back away from the optionals, from the social fluff.

Life shrinks down to the essentials, and hopefully - the people who love you are still there when you rejoin the current. But we’re not all able to share the hard times, the challenges, the struggles in-the-moment. This can make it feel incredibly isolating to struggle with something in the moment and feel like it’s just you. That you’re broken. That you’re wrong.

It’s not. You’re not. 
. . . . . 


I struggle personally with deep doubts of my worthiness. Of whether or not my text or phone call or email will be an inconvenience or bother to someone. Whether I’m making up these emotions and struggles in my head, or blowing things up out of proportion, or whether anyone cares. We’re all dealing with our own shit, right? Is there anybody out there? 
. . . . . 



Here’s what I know. Life ebbs and flows. Gives and takes. There are seasons to it all, in the real physicality, and in the metaphorical aspect.

In some seasons, you are able to give back - to pull up the people below you, to serve others in the way you either were served, or you wish you were served. That service adds deep meaning and richness to my life.

But there are also seasons where you are on the other end. You’re taking from others, asking for help, receiving more than you can give. This might be literally, asking for help with money or meals or tasks. This might be emotionally, asking for space to vent or process or unload. These seasons are particularly hard for me - as someone who chases that “achievement” designation, that “perfection” of accomplishment, of doing it all myself.

I’m thankful to James and Thomas for helping me work through this (and it’s a work in progress). For helping me acknowledge that it’s okay to give myself grace. For reminding me that as much as I love to be of service to my loved ones… they might want to do the same for me in a difficult season.
. . . . . 

Think about it. Imagine a dear friend who confides to you that they are struggling deeply with something. They are wracked with shame and fear and frustration. They say, “Never mind, I don’t want to bother you with this.”

What’s your reaction?

Now imagine - giving yourself that same grace and room.

I remember being very pregnant with Thomas, having two year old James in tow, and carrying a casserole to a friend in need. She was fairly astonished and mentioned “I don’t know how you do it - help me when you’re so busy yourself.” But at that time, I was in a place where making and dropping off a meal wasn’t just that - it meant so much more. It meant being heard. Being a friend. Being present to someone who needed my presence. It meant showing up. In that time, I was able to do that.

Shortly after Thomas was born, I found myself back on the “taking” end. It was frustrating for me as I’ve mentioned, but it was easier to ask for and accept that help this time around. Knowing that it wouldn’t be permanent. That the people who were in a position to help would be able to help, but some folks would be in their own season of taking - unable to give back to me. And that soon enough, I’d find myself with the ability to serve others once again.
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It’s a back and forth. I think so many of us are stuck in the belief that one day, we’ll hit the milestone. That all of a sudden, we’ll win the race, get the trophy, be an adult and forever more know what we’re doing and so will everyone else in the world. But it doesn’t work like that. We’re all doing our best, groping through this life and each obstacle that presents itself to us is novel. Perhaps not unique to the human race, but certainly to us as individuals.

I’m so thankful to the women who came before me, who are willing and able to help pull me up. To help me see with clearer eyes that this too shall pass, that there are resources out there for support, that I’m not alone. That there is room enough for all of us and our unique abilities, visions, talents, and voices. That her success does not diminish my own. That her choices do not diminish my own. That we can love and support each other, even when that looks different from what we expected or envisioned.

I am particularly passionate about this today, as I hear from a dear friend being shamed and disregarded by other women for her struggles. I'm at once both heartbroken and furious about this. How are we still pulling each other apart? It's mindless, cruel, mean. I choose instead to invite empowerment, love, authenticity, and vulnerability into my life. 
. . . . . 

I encourage you to defy this mindset. Reach out today to one person in your life. Check in. Encourage them. Remind them of their value and worth. Be the person that you needed. If you’re not in a position to be that person for someone else in this season of your life, consider reaching out for support. Let your people love and support you. The daily noise of our lives gets so loud that we can get lost and distanced from each other without intending to. Sometimes we simply need a reminder.

My commitment is to honor these seasons not just for myself, but for my loved ones and friends. I will certainly never be perfect, or be everything to everyone, but I hope to be a positive influence when I’m capable of giving back. I hope you can choose to do the same.


(Spring is coming. These images were captured just yesterday in our front yard.) 





 
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