Being Enough

I found this necklace today in the bottom of a bag, all tangled up with about five other necklaces, and immediately set about extracting it from the jumble of chains and pendants. It’s one of my favorites and I thought I’d packed it away in storage with the rest of our lives.

I Am Enough

I’m headed out to the Mom 2.0 Summit tomorrow morning and I needed this little reminder that I’m enough. Just me. Just as I am.

As I started packing this afternoon, I felt myself slipping into worry and doubt, mostly about how I’ll look. It feels like something I can control, and since I always feel like the least well-traveled person in the room, no matter how inaccurate that may be, that’s where my mind goes.

Do I look good enough? Do I look like I’m pulling this all together well? Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about? It’s often an exercise in faking it until I make it and quite frankly, all that worrying gets exhausting. Quickly. It robs me of the ability to pay attention to speakers and conversations and enjoy time with friends.

This will be my sixth blog conference, and the thing about all of them is that at any given moment, a majority of the people in the room don’t feel like they’re “enough.” We ALL struggle with insecurities and the person who says otherwise is lying. (No, really. They’re lying. To you or to themselves or both.)

Some of us struggle with our writing. Some of us struggle to make the right connections. Some of us struggle to know our worth. And, yes, some of us are just struggling with our Spanx.

The thing I’m trying to remember right now is that for all of my flaws, for all of my insecurities, I have strengths too. We all do. I’m tired of listening to my own brain tell me all the things I can’t do instead of the things I know I can do and do well.

Learning, being inspired, connecting, that’s why we’re there; turning ourselves into people whom we do not recognize is not.

You are enough. I am enough.

So if you see me this week at Mom 2.0 and you’re struggling with the feeling that you don’t belong, that you aren’t enough, say hi. We’ll be enough together.

It’s Showtime!

Tonight on a historic stage on the Marietta Square, 13 new voices will add theirs to a collective over 1,000 strong as they turn their invisible tassels and graduate from Listen To Your Mother cast to alumna.

I could not be more excited about the stories being shared tonight. I could not be more proud of the women (and one man!) who have trusted Jana and me and Listen To Your Mother to amplify their stories over the past two years.

Listen To Your Mother Atlanta Stage

These stories are uplifting, heartbreaking, humorous, and sometimes all three at once and then some. They are stories of courage and bravery and self-discovery and survival in the face of some of the hardest challenges life has lobbed their way.

These are stories of resilience and triumph.

I’m proud to call these women (and Benjamin) not only fellow storytellers but also friends. My life is better for having met them, my heart more full.

To our cast, past and present, thank you for trusting us with your stories. Thank you for taking a chance, a risk. Thank you for saying yes.

To Jana, thank you for being on this journey with me. There’s no one else I would rather have by my side as we bring this show to life each year.

To Ann Imig, thank you for your vision and direction. Thank you for believing in us and in Atlanta. My life is forever changed because of you.

Happy Wife

I was scrolling through Pinterest this morning when I came across a pin:

love your husband how he needs to be loved.

Curious as to what advice regurgitated from the 1950s would be dished, I clicked through to the blog from whence said pin came. It was as I expected. A list of things that make women and wives lower on the family totem pole than husbands instead of equals.

The premise was this: hand your husband this list of 100 items and ask him to highlight the top 10 that he needs you to do for him and order them in terms of importance. And then set about making your husband’s life awesome.

I suppose the idea is that in doing so you will inadvertently be making your own life awesome because your man is just so happy and taken care of that you’ll shoot glitter out of your ass. Maybe it will work, but I call bullshit if your husband isn’t spending as much of his time making your life awesome as you are his.

Why are there no lists directed at men about keeping their wives happy?

Marriage is a partnership, teamwork. Reciprocity, you know.

In case anyone was curious, keeping me happy is simple:

  • Stock the freezer with ice cream and the pantry with chocolate, just in case
  • Stock the fridge with wine, just in case
  • Put your underwear in the hamper instead of beside the hamper
  • Take me on dates so we can remember why we’re in this
  • Pitch in with dinner or the dishes when you’re home
  • Love me even when I’m feeling unlovable.

BONUS: I love it when you make the coffee because you’re better at it than I am anyway and you don’t even drink it.

On Being a Good Mom

This week the kids and I traveled to my mom’s house for Spring Break. This is important on many, many levels.

For starters, hanging out with Nana means I get to breathe. There’s no judgment here. No “well, you should really consider…” I don’t hear “If you would just…” The kids get to spend time with her and I’m reminded of all the reasons why I wanted to become a mom. Why it was a dream of mine.

I’m always a more confident mother when I’m around my own mom. It’s been that way since Joshua was born. It will be that way probably for eternity.

There’s something about my mom’s presence that’s just reassuring. Through no words at all she lets me know that I’m doing okay at this whole mom thing. I’m calmer, more patient. I know I’m not completely screwing it all up.

Last week I was called a bad mom. I let those words fester like an infected wound in my heart. I couldn’t help it. Try as I did to let them go, put them out of my mind, I just couldn’t stop replaying them in my head. They were trapped on a loop and I sank into a pit of self-loathing.

This week I’m calling bullshit.

This week I know that even when things don’t go as I’d have them, when the kids get a little crazy, it’s not because I’m a complete screw-up. Could I have made different choices (and have I since then)? Yes, probably. Of course I can. That’s why hindsight is so valuable. But that’s also why it’s called hindsight.

We take those moments and we replay them, sometimes on what seems like an endless loop, and we imagine all the things we could’ve done differently so that they don’t happen again. Sometimes they DO happen again, despite our best efforts to ensure they don’t because that’s just what it’s like, but most of the time we learn and grow and adapt and do better the next time.

I know that I’m a good mom, despite what I sometimes think after the bad moments.  A bad moment doesn’t make me a bad mom. It doesn’t make you a bad mom either. None of us are bad moms because we have bad moments. Do you know how I know?

Because in my worst moments, I’m harder on myself than anyone else possibly could be. I’m hard on myself because I care so much about getting this parenting thing right that when I screw up, it rips me to pieces.

Has this been a blissful and perfect week? Of course not. Emma’s very much a threenager and Joshua is pretty certain he knows what he’s doing even when I’m pretty certain he doesn’t.

But this week I’ve found a little bit of grace, both through mothering and being mothered, and grace is something we all need. We all need the reassurance that we’re doing our best because the truth is that most of us are.

Last week I screwed up. This week I didn’t.

Either way I’m still a good mom.

Dear Lady Who Judged Me Today

I don’t know if it’s just my kids, these ages they’re in, stages of development, the sun and moon in terrible alignment, or something else altogether, but I would rather have a root canal than take my children into a store. Any store.

Mostly, Emma has a serious case of Ants In Her Pants and she wants to talk and talk and grab and hold everything she sees. She’s nearly three. While I have no recollection of Joshua being this way, I was also in the throes of very, very new second motherhood and rarely ventured out of the house with both of them. I have one distinct memory of shlepping them both to two separate Target stores in search of a Rock-N-Play for Emma and Joshua having an epic meltdown which resulted in me practically dragging him out of the store while Emma screamcried from inside the Moby but I’ve slept since then. A little bit. The details are fuzzy.

The details of today’s excursion are not.

Today I was openly and publicly judged for my children’s misbehavior and I’ve got to say that it was definitely a shitty experience.

The scene:

A very energetic almost three-year-old and her six-year-old brother are taken into a Dollar Tree, bastion of classy shopping. While inside, said three-year-old has a very, very hard time not looking at all the things and wandering away to do so, despite being asked and told to stay with her mother. Mother holds daughter’s hand tightly, until it’s time to pay for the three items on the conveyor belt which must be purchased for big brother’s class Easter egg hunt tomorrow morning. Mother regrets not putting toddler into a cart, but she was only stopping in for THREE THINGS.

Then all Hell breaks loose as the toddler AND the big brother begin running a marathon around the store while the mother is trying to pay as quickly as possible so she can corral her children and GTFO. A worker at said store shouts across four aisles, “STOP RUNNING BEFORE YOU FALL AND GET HURT!” and a lady two behind the mother in line says “those your kids?” with that “Mmm-mmm” in her voice that says no children of hers would ever be caught acting like that and then she clucks her tongue as the mother grabs her bags off the checkout stand and begins darting in and out of aisles to find her children in order to march their giggling, energetic behinds to the car.

In case you thought this was some sort of hypothetical situation, let me clear up the confusion. This mother, toddler, and big brother are me, Emma, and Joshua, and this is a totally true story.

A totally true, incredibly humiliating story.

First, I was humiliated by their behavior. I don’t know why they act like heathens whenever I take them in public, but I’d say the two of them conspiring not to listen to me happens regularly and I’m regularly driven mad by it. But I can’t stop running errands and it’s not always possible to run them without children and/or with only one child, so sometimes they both have to go. It’s just…life. Life doesn’t stop because things get inconvenient. I actually cannot order everything on Amazon so as to avoid ever having to take my children in public again and not taking them in public doesn’t actually teach them how to behave in public. It’s a chicken-egg predicament I’m in.

Secondly, I was humiliated by the woman who deemed it her place to openly and publicly judge and shame me for not being able to control my children.

What was I supposed to do? Hold up the line while I chased them down, further angering the people in line behind me for making them wait? Retrieve the kids and then stand there, mortified, while I paid and Emma fought to get down again, throwing a Threenager Tantrum at the checkout?

Which situation would have made that lady feel better? Probably neither.

There was no way I was winning in any scenario other than having perfect, quiet, well-mannered children who listen to everything I say like tiny automatons and never step even a hair out of line. HAHAHAHAH. Those are…not my kids.

When we finally got to the car after doing our march of shame out of the store, I screamed and yelled and shouted and I wasn’t proud of the mother I was as my children began to cry. I was scaring them. I was parenting out of a place of embarrassment and not love.

Hell, I wasn’t actually parenting at all. I was just being angry at my kids who cannot just listen when I ask them to do something simple and angry at myself for dragging them to the store after school. But mostly I was angry at that woman who deemed it her place to say something to me about my children who were acting up in public LIKE I DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW THEY WERE ACTING UP.

OF COURSE I KNEW.

I knew and I had been embarrassed by it longer than she had been aware we were even there.

So thanks for the judgment, lady. That’s just what my Tuesday afternoon was missing.

Flotsam

Look, I’m basically exhausted because March is Birthdaypalooza, I’m averaging 4.5 hours of sleep a night, my children decide to wake up before the crack of dawn every morning and I’m about to embark on three four-hour car trips in the next 10 days. What that means is that this post, long overdue, btw, is coming from a place of not-quite-pulled-together and is really just a bunch of random things I cannot purge from my brain.

AKA: Things I Don’t Understand and/or Which I Find Dumb. 

Let me be clear that absolutely NONE of these things are intended in any way to be offensive. That shouldn’t have to be said, but maybe someone will find talking about corsets offensive so there you go. People are nothing if not predictable and Being Offended is practically an art for some people.

So here we go.

Waist Training. I don’t understand this phenomenon of squishing in our ribcages and waists in order to make them look smaller because what that actually does is make our asses look bigger and I don’t know about y’all, but my Nutella and wine habits are doing that just fine.

But really. We burned our bras because they were constricting* and don’t even tell me you don’t do that shiver and “ahhhhhh” the minute you rip the thing off every day. A corset? HAHAHAHA.

No.

Why is this attractive? Can anyone explain? I understand if you’re dressing up in period attire and need to wear a corset for a dress or you’re into some sexy dress-up, but daily? As, like, part of your routine? Nope.

Pants. Why do pants have to be a thing? Can we just actually not?

(I may or may not also be feeling a little bloated at the moment in addition to all the tired in case you were curious.)

Zits Past 17. I am at least 82.4% certain that my face looks worse right now at 33 than it did at 17. That should be illegal. I don’t really want to dig up old photos of 17 year old me because I would probably weep at my lack of jowls and the crease between my eyebrows, but suffice it to say I should not have zits AND gray hairs.

Speaking of that…

Gray Hair. As it so happens, I do not actually love Nature’s Highlights, particularly because they’re not well-placed, sporadic, and don’t make me look nearly as amazing as Rogue. If I had her hair I wouldn’t complain, but no. I hold my hair up to brush/comb/dry shampoo it and I’m blinded by random glints of lighting off the grays which I swear I did not have until six months ago. YAY.

Bronchitis. It’s the definition of “worst” because you feel fine but you cough like a three-pack-a-day smoker AND pee yourself a little every time you do it. No bueno. Do not recommend. Thanks, Obama.

______
*I know that isn’t why we burned our bras. That is, however, why I would like to burn mine. Bras that don’t fit are the worst.

What Living With Anxiety Feels Like

I spent the end of last week on the verge of an anxiety attack. It wasn’t spectacular, in case you were curious. 

Anxiety is weird. It’s weird to live with. It’s weird to explain to others who haven’t experienced it. It’s even weird to explain to those who have because no two people experience anxiety in the same way.

I do my best to mitigate anxiety, to keep it from creeping in. I steer clear of triggers like the news, high-stress situations. I try to get enough sleep and practice self-care. But then there are days when it’s impossible to ward off the anxiety threatening to overwhelm me so I just…deal. Because I don’t have a choice.

Anxiety, for me, feels like electricity in my skin. And not the good kind of tingles when you’re on the verge of something fun and exciting coming your way. 

My anxiety feels like my skin is threatening to combust. Every part of me is on edge and aware that things aren’t normal and I can’t calm it down. I can’t stop the prickly feeling that is made worse by just about any and everything touching my body. Clothes, kids, Dan, my hair. 

I feel like a wild and uncontrollable downed power line you might see in the movies is just bouncing around inside of me, threatening harm to whatever comes into contact with me. Not physical harm. Just…like I’m a harmful presence in other people’s lives. 

I shouldn’t be there because what if my anxiety jumps to someone else?

I try, in those moments, to get away. To breathe and clear my head. To tell myself that the anxiety I’m feeling isn’t me. It’s in my head. And in my skin. And my guts. But it isn’t who I am. It’s not who I want to be. 

Sometimes the self-talk works. Most of the time I want to bury myself in the bed and wait for it to pass, however long that may take. 

But life–my life–is still happening around me. My responsibilities continue even when I feel like I cannot move.

So I move. 

I fill cups and make meals. I let my children sit in my lap because what they need in that moment is to be close to me even when my insides are on fire. I give hugs and kisses. I try.

I push forward. I choke back the thoughts of running away. Of hiding from the pain and trembling I’m feeling. Because anxiety, my anxiety, is painful. It hurts me and I know that sometimes it hurts others, too.

I don’t know how to begin to understand what will likely be my children’s legacy of dealing with a mom who suffers from anxiety. 

It’s not every day that I feel this way. It’s not even every month. It’s just…there. Like once I’ve held it off for so long, the dam breaks, it comes crashing in, and once the swell of emotion has had a chance to seep into the earth again, or find its way down some tributary, I’m okay.  

I’m in treatment. I take medication to help control it. I know enough to know that there will be days like these, and I tell myself that once the kids are older, they’ll be able to understand. Mom is having a bad day.

I will always wonder if that’s enough and cling to the hope that it is.

More

2015 Word of the Year
I realize we’re nearly two months done with 2015, so the timeliness of my word of the year is, well, not timely at all. But it’s still 2015, so I’m giving myself a wide berth to do what I want.

My word for the year is MORE. And it came to me while watching The Little Mermaid on repeat in the week between Christmas and New Years. Thankfully, I know I’m not the only person on the planet who’s ever been so inspired by a Disney movie she made a mantra about it, and if I am, oh well. I guess I am.

More is such a materialistic word. People want more money, more stuff, more more more. But that’s not what I’m really looking for with 2015 being about the acquisition of more.

Ariel says it herself.

“Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl, the girl who has, everything…?

What she wants isn’t more stuff to fill up her grotto. She wants…yeah, you know where this is going.

She wants more.

I want 2015 to be a year of living a more full life, one where I don’t take things and people for granted.

Slowly, through dealing with Daddy’s death and some of the recent changes we’re making for our future, I’ve come to realize that this life I have is a good one, so it’s high time I started appreciating it for what it is instead of what it isn’t or could be. We can’t live in what isn’t or could be. We have to live in what is.

I know that I have a good life. That doesn’t mean I don’t have aspirations or areas that need work. Of course I do. But this life I have, the one Dan and I have created together, it’s good.

 

I want 2015 to be a year of more time with those I love.

There is never enough time for those we love, so this isn’t necessarily about the quantity of time as much as it’s about the quality. I’m a big believer in the small moments mattering most. The little times where we just sit and listen to each other are the ones that get remembered when everything else starts to fade away because those are the memories that make an impression on our soul and not just our minds.  I never want to turn down a cuddle from the kids or an opportunity to spend time with someone I love. I don’t want to “in a minute” my life away. I want to give those I love the quality time they need.

I want 2015 to be a year of more dependability because mine sucks.

I remember a time in my life when I was a relatively dependable person. Then I stayed home and that all went straight out the window. It’s way too easy for me to say “oh, yes, I’ll do that…” and then forget. Two days (or two weeks!) later it still isn’t done. It was easier to manage commitments when I had a more finite amount of time to spare. If I only have an hour to make phone calls before returning to work, I have to make those phone calls, you know? Being at home all day has ruined my dependability because I can’t remember anything. I’ve made commitments and failed to follow through on them because…because I have. I hate that I don’t feel dependable.

So now I’m making notes, I have a planner, and eventually I’ll figure out why checking email on my phone has made everything more complicated instead of less.

I want 2015 to be a year of more writing and creativity because those things fill up my soul.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with this blog right now. I can’t tell if I’m outgrowing this space or if this desire for more is telling me to branch out and readjust what it is I’m doing here. Maybe the answer is just to get back here and get back to doing what I do.

I Love You Too

I’m not a perfect mother. I know, I know. I was just as shocked to learn that as you are.

The truth is that I’m in great company because none of us are perfect mothers. We all have flaws, big or small or both. We all have ways in which we believe we could do better, even when the reality is that we’re doing our very best.

The trouble is that I often beat myself up for my imperfections. The times I yell too much or am too rash with my responses to their tiny questions eat away at me. How often have I let my annoyance at their insistence that everything be done their way or right that minute no matter what else is going on in the world shine through and am I doing it so often that eventually they’ll just give up trying to get my attention?

Am I shutting them down when I should be lifting them up? Do I listen to the small things they have to say often enough so that one day down the road they’ll want to tell me the big things?

Am I doing okay? This mothering thing? Am I doing it okay?

Those are the thoughts that nag me and lead me to wonder, nearly 6 years later, if I’m loving them enough. If I’m showing that love enough for them to know that no matter what kind of moment I’m having, my heart beats for them.

One day Emma snuggled into me and she said “I love you too, Mama.” I thought “how adorable is that!?!” Because it was adorable. She knows how to give and receive love and she freely shares her love with me. This is still how Emma tells me she loves me, but today I had a little revelation. That extra three letter word thrown into her proclamation suddenly meant just a little bit more.

She’s not saying “I love you.” She’s saying “I love you too.”

Does she know what she’s saying and how it’s not the normal order for swapping declarations of love? No, probably not, but somewhere in my heart, that little word “too” is soothing.

She knows I love her. She’s confident in that. She understands my love for her runs so deeply that I don’t even have to say “I love you” first for her to know it’s the truth.

Despite my faults, I’m doing this mothering thing okay.

I love her and she loves me too.

Diary of Depression

Monday: Wow. These kids are live wires this morning. I know I just woke up but I really want to go back to sleep. Is it too soon to go back to sleep? Maybe I’ll feel better after yoga. I wish this gym had a different yoga class, or that there were some familiar faces in here or a familiar instructor. Do I really suck if I just go to sleep while Joshua plays video games? Yeah, that’s totally shitty parenting and I shouldn’t do it. I should be engaging him, talking to him. Making him read or do flashcards or something. Not just plugging him into a tv. He’ll be back at school tomorrow and then I’ll take a nap. 

Tuesday (morning)Ugh. We overslept. Why can’t I just get out of bed when the alarm goes off in the morning? Why do I lay there and think that I won’t fall back to sleep? I do this all the time and at some point it’s like I’d learn that’s a dumb thing I’m doing and stop doing it. Where did all this traffic…oh right. First day back to school. God, is everyone running late? What is this? Please don’t let Emma cling to me at school drop off this morning. I don’t know if my skin can handle it. Man, my head hurts. I should shower when I get to the house. Shower and put on clothes and makeup and dry my hair and then I’ll feel better. Nah, I think I’ll just take a nap.

Tuesday (evening): Why did I think it was a good idea to bring Emma to the gym and feed her dinner here? And why was I so stupid to think scheduling Joshua’s swim lesson for 5:30 was okay? Can this child seriously not just sit in a chair and eat some food? What in the world have I done to screw her up so greatly and why is she so maddeningly wild? And why are all these people staring at me? Why I can’t I control this child? Man, I really just want to go to sleep.

Wednesday: Did I shower on Monday? Yesterday? Why can’t I remember when I showered? Do I smell? I should probably put on a bra. Where is my bra? And how many days in a row have I worn this hoodie? Why is the sun so bright outside the window? It’s too bright, but if I close my eyes I’m going to fall asleep again. But my head hurts and maybe closing my eyes for a minute will help it go away. Maybe sleep won’t be such a bad thing. I’ll just sleep for half an hour and then go get the kids. Sleep is probably better for me than taking a shower.

ThursdayWow. I got a decent night’s sleep last night and I actually feel okay this morning. For now. But these kids are shrieking and fighting and why do they have to do that? How do I get them to get along with each other and not fight all the time? I should probably write something. It’s been a while. I’m definitely going to shower today. If I do nothing else, I have to do that. I’ll do it after I get back from picking up the kids. Right now I’m going to lay here and do nothing.

Friday: I should text Dan and tell him that I need a reason to shower and do my hair and makeup this weekend. And wear a bra. Maybe that will get me out of this…whatever it is. I just need a solid reason to pull my shit together. Otherwise, I probably won’t.

People think depression is this deep sense of sadness. Mine is mostly a sense of abject failure. I can’t get the kids to behave. I’m probably not really welcome at this yoga class where I know no one and no one knows me but they all know or at least recognize each other but I’m the outsider and is that person staring at me? I can’t pull it together to put on a bra in the morning, much less shower regularly or do anything to make myself feel better, so I just throw on a hoodie, put my hair in a top knot, and tell myself it’s frumpy chic.

I’m just…empty.

It’s like being stuck in the Swamp of Sadness in The Neverending Story when Atreyu loses his horse because Artax just can’t muster up enough of a damn to get himself out of the mud. And it doesn’t matter that Atreyu is crying and hoping Artax will just get his horse shit together and climb out. Artax just…can’t.

Last week I just couldn’t. I could see that I needed to do something, anything, to break the rut and climb out of the mud, but I just couldn’t do anything except sleep.

I’m better now. I think. On the upswing, at least, but last week was really hard, for no reason I can determine. While the diary up there isn’t something I actually wrote last week, I definitely found myself just sort of stuck and feeling…nothing. That’s what depression is for me.

It’s nothing.

It’s not all the time, 24-7 nothingness in one of those periods. I’m not overwhelmingly unhappy. In fact, I laugh and experience joy and plenty of other positive human emotions, but there’s this nagging emptiness in the background, coupled with a desire to hibernate until it passes.

But life goes on and so do I and eventually the light in the windows is welcome instead of too bright.