What Would You Tell A Younger Version of Yourself?

I’ve been trying to figure out how to start this blog post.  Usually when I write I have an idea of what I want to say, and then I sit down at my computer, and some introduction will come to me and then a segue, and before I know it, the whole thing is written, and I have really no idea exactly how.  That’s why I don’t really take credit for my writing – I don’t feel like it’s something I do.  I feel like I just sit here and type out the words that flow through my head.  My fingers are just a conduit.

But that’s not happening tonight.  Tonight, I honestly have no idea where to begin.  I don’t know how to tell the story I want to tell.

So maybe I’ll just try to jump in.

I was sitting here tonight playing mindless games and letting my mind wander.  (This, incidentally, is not something that happens often as I have four little girls who try to fill my every waking moment with words and conversations.)

But tonight I got the chance.  And because I like to do things temperately and moderately, I decided to go through my entire life and decide what things I would change and what I wouldn’t.

And I realized that in terms of decisions I made, there aren’t a whole lot that I would change.  Sure I would have changed my undergrad major and I would have perhaps cut out  a few people who really shouldn’t have been there and I would probably completely erase a few incidents completely from memory completely.

But overall, I’m pretty happy with the things that led me to where I am.  Yes I would do many things differently now, but if we find ourselves at 39 wanting to make the same deacons we did at 19, then I think perhaps there’s a problem.

So if I wouldn’t change much over the last twenty years then why was I getting so anxious thinking back?  Even as I’m typing this, I can feel a lump in my throat and the panic rising through my fingers as I type.  What was scaring me so much?

And I thought back to about ten years ago.  I was so deep into anxiety that I would stay up until the sun came out because I was worried about lying in bed and letting thoughts run through my head.  I was sitting in a therapist’s office, and he said to me, “Amanda, you are okay.”

And I laughed.

And he said it again.  “You are okay.”

And I laughed again and looked away.

And he said it one more time.  And then he said that he knows I don’t believe that.  But he said he hoped that one day I would look back on that moment and I would finally believe it.

I am okay.

That sentence still gives me troubles.  It still makes me question myself.  It still makes me uncertain of my place in the world.

But it’s nothing like it was back then.

So if I could look back and tell the me of twenty years ago anything, that is what I would tell her.  I would tell her that she is okay.

I would tell her that she deserves her place in the world.  That she doesn’t have to shrink herself.  That she doesn’t have the let the utterly suffocating insecurity win.  I would tell her that she can stand up for herself.  And I would tell her that she is worth being stood up for.

I would tell her that it is okay to go out and touch the world.  It’s okay to make a mark and make a wave.  I would tell her that it’s okay to dip her toe in the water – she’s not going to disrupt the workings of the universe.

I would tell her not to listen when someone says respect is earned.  That’s bullshit.  Respect isn’t earned.  Respect is the barest of minimums that we owe to each other.

And if someone doesn’t treat us with respect?  Well that’s their problem not ours.  It doesn’t mean we are worthless.  A person’s actions reflect back on themselves, not those unfortunate enough to share space with them.

I would tell her that we are all loved.  So deeply loved.  Even her.  And that she deserves love even when she doesn’t think she does.

And I would tell her to open her eyes.  The world is a wonderful place.  It’s full of so much hope and tenderness and beauty.  And it belongs to her just as much as anyone else.

Yes, there is hate in the world, I would tell her.  But don’t bring it in.  Don’t allow the hate of others to eat away inside of you.  People will judge and condemn and dislike.  And that’s fine.  Their opinion of you is theirs alone, and they have every right to it.  But it doesn’t define you.  It can’t.

And so I realized that that insecurity, that soul crushing doubt that led to so many decisions was the catalyst to the anxiety I was feeling tonight.

I wasn’t regretting decisions.  I was regretting the motives and the feelings behind them.

And as I sit here and write this out, I’m realizing that those doubts are fading – they are becoming a thing of the past.

Because right now, in this house, I have four little girls who look to me to figure out how to be a woman in this world.  I couldn’t make the decision against insecurity way back when because I didn’t know there was a decision to be made.

But now I do.  And now I can choose differently.

How about you?  What would you tell the you of twenty years ago?  If you could grab her by the shoulders and look into her eyes and make her understand one single thing, what would it be?

I would love to hear if you would like to share.

God bless!

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Loving Others

I used to fashion myself a hippie of sorts.  I used to use phrases like, “Follow your bliss.”  And “You do you.”  And “love your neighbor as yourself.”

They sound good.  They sound liberating and freeing.  They sound happy.

But then I realized that the good things in life barely come around as a result of bliss.  They usually stem from hard work, dedication, and a dying to self.  Bliss, rather, usually leads one to immediate gratification and hedonism.

So “follow your bliss”?  Strike that.

And then there’s the “you do you,” and  “Be yourself.”  Overall, those are great.  There’s nothing worse than trying to fit ourselves into molds that don’t fit.  We are all unique and individual, and we need to respect that in ourselves and others.

The problem with overly focusing on those messages, however, is that these, too, often lead us down a hedonistic path.  Too often these are used as justification for hurting others or abandoning our values.  They convince us that it’s okay to hurt others to advance ourself.  Too often, they lead us to selfishness.

So this one still stands.  But we have to be careful with it.

And then there’s the Biblical wisdom of “love your neighbor as yourself.”  I was actually reading that Bible verse just the other day.

I’m not going to bash this one.  There’s so much to be learned about life and love and wisdom from those brief words.  No, with this one the problem isn’t in the message.  Rather, it’s in the interpretation.

So (so so) often I hear people use these words to try to convince us to accept any and every decision a person makes as good.  But is that loving?  Is that how I would want others to treat me?  Or my children?

If my children are on the wrong path, I don’t let them go that way just because it will give them temporary happiness.  If I see my child constantly watching television because it makes her happy, I’m not going to let her do it because I know that in the long run it will not lead to happiness.  It will lead to problems.

And if I, myself, am really messing up and I’m hurting other people or myself, I don’t love myself by telling myself that it’s okay.  I don’t accept those actions in myself.  No.  I hope I love myself enough to expect more of myself.

So where does that leave us with other people?

Now I am most surely not advocating judging another person as good or bad.  And I’m not telling anyone to go out and scream at other people or disparage other people or necessarily even tell other people what you believe.  Sometimes silence is the best option.  (And sometimes not.)

But what I am saying is that loving someone is not the same as always agreeing with them, and it’s surely not the same as hiding our opinion when it’s asked for or pretending that those opinions or beliefs don’t exist.

Lately I hear people being told that they are not loving because they do not agree with actions of other people.  But loving isn’t the same as condoning.  It’s not the same as agreeing.  And it’s not even the same as approving.

No.  What loving means is respecting.  And sometimes respect requires us to stand our ground.  To believe that people can do better.  To believe that people can overcome.  To believe that people can use their strength and their courage and their integrity to do so.

So if someone tells me to love my neighbor as myself, I will give a wholehearted and enthusiastic, “yes!”

But I’m going to love them in the real way.  The full way.

I’m not perfect.  I make mistakes all the time.  I hurt people.  I say the wrong thing.  I make bad choices.  But I love myself enough to acknowledge them and to expect more from myself.  And I love others enough to do that as well.  Even if I do it respectfully and silently.

Most people don’t want my opinion on their actions, and as such, I’m not going to force it.  But I also don’t want people believing there’s something wrong with me because I have an opinion.  And I don’t want people telling me to lie.  And I’m not going to feel sorry for having those opinions.

So feel free to disagree with me.  You can have opinions on my beliefs.  But share them respectfully if you choose to share them.  Or keep them to yourself.  I won’t judge you for having them.  Please don’t judge me.

I think somewhere inside of me that old hippie is still hiding.  She still believes all those same things about a beautiful world and the power of love and the warmth of a kind soul.  But now I guess I just see people as being a bit more multifaceted.  And I want to respect all of those facets – even if it’s not always as pretty.

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Today Just Sucked

Ever just had a really crappy day?

It’s not like a catastrophic day.  Nothing bad actually happened.  It just sometimes seems like frustration is constantly around the corner, begging me to indulge it.

I couldn’t get my garden to look the way I wanted it to.  I bought a new television stand, and I think it look atrocious in my living room.  We can’t put the old one back because it broke when we moved it out.  I rearranged all of my furniture to accommodate the tv stand, and I think it still looks bad.  My children are not listening to me at all.  I’m getting seriously annoyed at the sound of my voice at this point saying the same thing over and over again.  My baby won’t sleep.  My house is a mess.  I think everyone cried at least once during dinner.

And no matter what I do, this little voice is following me around telling me every single thing I am doing wrong and pointing out all of the ways that I am failing everyone around me.

Often I think that the best thing to try to do is nothing.  Because every time I try to accomplish something, it ends up a mess.

I get that there are bad days.  I know that I won’t ever even remember this one unless I go back and read this post sometime in the future.

But still.  Indulge me a bit.  Feel sorry for me.  I surely do.

Today just really sucked.

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Broken Hearts

A schoolmate of my daughters left this world today.

It wasn’t sudden.  Obviously any death of a child is too sudden, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t overly so.  She had been battling a nasty tumor that invaded her brain for the past seven months.

We’ve been praying for a miracle for months.  We prayed fervently last night.

Sometimes you don’t get the miracle you hope for.

We were discussing her passing with the girls this afternoon.  At dinner, they started talking about Heaven and how this little girl is perfectly happy in Heaven.

I love the faith of children.  It’s so simple, and it’s so pure and so real.  They were certain.  I, myself, was struggling.

As I was nodding with them and talking with them about the afterlife, my heart was breaking.  All I could think about was that she was a baby, and the mama heart in me couldn’t comprehend how a baby could possibly be okay somewhere, anywhere, without her mama?

How could she stay safe in Heaven?  Who would dry her tears?  Who would hug her and talk to her and make her smile?  Who would be her cheerleader?  Who would be her companion?  Who would protect her heart and her soul?  Be her soulmate?  Her rock?  Her confidant?

A girl needs her mother.

Then we started talking a bit about Fatima and how Saints Jacinta and Francisco were canonized today and how they, too, were children when they died.  We added a bit of levity to the discussion by considering that perhaps they were all playing together and they were teaching her games from a hundred years ago while she was introducing them to the wonders of an iPad.

And I let that thought percolate for a bit.  I started thinking about all of the children who populate Heaven.  All the little ones who left behind so much heartbreak from a life cut too short according to our standards.

And I started to see a bit of a blessing in the sorrow.

My grandma died eight years ago this week.  I still think about her constantly, and I still cry sometimes when I do.  But when someone who has lived a very full life dies, we are sad and broken and mourning, but we don’t necessarily see an injustice in it.

After all, that’s how life is.  We live, hopefully for a long time, and then we pass on.  Ninety some years of life is a blessing, and we generally see it as that.

Nine years, on the other hand…

But what if we look at it from the other side.  From Heaven’s side.  From perfection’s side.

All of us, no matter how little or how much of life we get, spend precious little of our existence actually on this Earth.  We were made for eternity.  And if our goal is to live a life in Communion with God, so we can go spend eternity with Him…

Well then can we mourn for what the children lose?

They leave this Earth without experiencing heartache.  Without knowing rejection.  They spend their entire lives in a  home of love, surrounded by unconditional love, bathing in it.  They don’t have to fight against the bitterness that years can bring or the temptations of jadedness or roughness or callousness.

They don’t have to struggle to maintain their innocence and the simplicity of their faith because they never lose it to begin with.  They return pure to the one who created them and loves them best of all.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,” and as devastating as seeing a child walk to Him is, perhaps it’s not as hard for them to walk confidently into those waiting arms than it would be for us.

I’m always hesitant to write things when tragedy strikes others because I am cautious not to make it about myself.  I didn’t know of this little girl until her diagnosis was announced. My girls knew her, but they were not in the same grade as her, so they were acquaintances at best.  The pain is not mine; it’s not ours.  The suffering is not on our shoulders.  We are not the ones left to face a future of mourning and what ifs and what could have beens.

I often think of these things and choose to remain silent wanting to respect the overwhelming grief that stands before me.

But the thing I realized today is that we do not live in a vacuum.  Our lives are like the rock skipped across the ocean that sends ripples to shores we have never even touched.  We impact others.  Others impact us.  And whether we want it to or not, everything changes us and adds to us and chisels away at us, molding us into the people we are meant to be.

Her life was too short.  But that doesn’t mean it was quiet.

She touched people.  She inspired passion and empathy in people.  And she made a lot of people a whole lot better.

So these thoughts of mine aren’t an attempt to make sense of something I couldn’t possibly understand or empathize with.  They are just the thoughts of someone on the sidelines.  Someone watching from afar a life well lived.  Someone who was impacted and someone who cared.  And someone who is desperately trying to understand.

Sleep with the angels tonight, little girl.  And look after and pray for your mama – she’s going to need your prayers more than you ever needed hers.

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Standing in Another’s Pain


Tessie is in the hospital.  She has RSV and viral pneumonia.  This is the 9th day someone in my family has spent in the hospital this year.  

It’s not cool.

And it’s not cool to see your baby in pain.  

I’ve spent most of the last couple of days holding her as she sleeps, getting slightly more worried each day.  Finally today she passed the benchmark my doc gave me for when I should take her in to the hospital.  And so I did. And so we are here.

She’s sleeping comfortably right now.  Her oxygen level is hovering just above the level where she would need oxygen.  I’d rather it be higher, but at least it’s on the right side of the line.  Earlier today she wasn’t.

I ran her here this afternoon, and by pure twist of fate, TJ was working at the hospital today that she is at, so he was able to be right here.

Unfortunately he had to leave to take care of our other three for a couple of hours, and I was left alone with Tessie when she needed all of the invasive testing.  

It sucked.

She had to be lying on the table for the nurses to get to her, and all I could do was hold her hand and rub her face as she stared up at me screaming and pleading with her eyes to take her out of there.

When she would close her eyes, I would be tempted to look away.  When the needle would go in her arm, I would instinctively close my eyes.

But then I stopped.  I forced myself to look.  

Perhaps that was silly.  Surely me watching her pain wasn’t alleviating any of it for her. 

But all I could think about was myself and what I need when I’m in pain.  And all I ever really want when I’m in physical or emotional pain is for someone to stand in it with me.  For someone to not look away.  To know that someone is there, not trying to change me or change it or do any acrobatics.  I just want someone to simply slide into it with me, so I’m not there alone.  

I want company in my muck.

That’s all I could really do for her this afternoon, and so I did it.  I stood in the muck with her.  And she won’t remember that I didn’t look away.  And it probably didn’t help her in any way.  But I know I was there.  I know that I didn’t send my girl in alone.

You gotta hold on to what you can, right?

And I feel compelled to note that I am not neglecting her while I write this.  I’m supposed to let her sleep in her crib bc of the SIDS risk if she sleeps with me.  And so I’m sitting two feet from her writing this as she slumbers.  And now the oxygen is dropping.  Time to go hover above her again.

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What Mothers Give

They did a May Crowning at my daughters’ school today.  It was a bit of an emotional experience for me because my oldest was doing her first reading at a Mass and my youngest was strapped to me struggling to breathe with pneumonia and May Crownings just in general bring tears to my eyes.

I stood in the back the whole Mass hoping not to get close to anyone so as not to pass on our germs, and as I stood there, rocking Tessie, the 2nd graders all lined up in their First Communion outfits, and the eighth graders walked two by two up to the statue of Mary and placed flowers in a vase.

Meanwhile Magoo was up there with the choir singing quite a few of the songs I used to sing to her as I was feeding her during those first few precious months of my motherhood.

And I started to think about how much being a mother requires of us.  I *had* to be at that Mass.  I could not miss her doing her reading.  She needed me there.  Not because I was going to mouth the words to her or was going to be her courage when she got intimidated.  But because we belong to each other.  Because I am the face in the crowd that she searches for when things get exciting or scary or new.  And because nothing could be a greater honor than to be that person and nothing could be of greater importance than to live up to that honor.  To be there.  To show up.

And then I looked down at the sick little one strapped to my chest.  I thought of the responsibility I have to her.  I thought about how my arms are the only ones that will do when she is upset.  I thought about how she might not understand a single word I say, but that we communicate seamlessly through affection and familiarity.  I thought of how my body produces antibodies to actually fight off her illness for her.  She needed me.

And I have four of these little people.  Four people that I have such a huge responsibility towards, and then I looked up and saw the kids placing flowers at Mary’s feet, and I realized that she, too, was a mother.  That the most celebrated fully human being in human history is celebrated because of the very fact that she was a mother.  That she played that role.  That she ushered in that grace.

Things are changing in the world these days.  Definitions are being changed and expanded and morphed.  Roles that were once prized are scoffed at and roles never before imagined are becoming commonplace.

And at the center of all of this is the role of women and of mothers.  We are told time and again that women can be more than just mothers.  That we don’t have to be limited to it.  That we don’t have to be tied to it.  That it’s not a responsibility we need to accept if it is given us.  That we can be more.

There’s a whole lot there that can cause so much division among so many.  And the last thing I am prepared to do right now and right here is to jump right into the middle of that.  But what I would like to say, what I feel I need to say, is that motherhood matters.

Being a mom is important.

Being a mom isn’t a “just” thing even if it’s not the only thing.

Being a mom isn’t a lowering of oneself.  It isn’t a step back from the world.  It isn’t a resignation.

It’s not a rock we are tied to that will sink us down into the deep even as it is a responsibility we are tethered to for the rest of our lives.

It might be our primary responsibility.  It might be one responsibility among many competing ones.  It may be where we find our greatest joy or where we find our greatest stress.  Or it may be both.  Or it may be all.

But whatever role motherhood plays in our lives and whatever role it plays in our days, it matters, and it matters deeply.

And so I might be sitting there, laughing at the absurdity of having to be almost everything to so many different people.  But the gift of motherhood is in the giving.  It’s in the pouring out of ourselves into the lives and the hearts of others.  It’s in saying, “yes.  This is the most all encompassing and intensive role we could possibly play, but we are up to the challenge, and we will give our whole selves to it.”

We live in a world that wants to make things easy.  That believes we are owed the easiest path of least resistance.  That believes suffering should always be alleviated and that it never can have a greater good.  It believes that we look out for ourselves first and give our own needs precedence.

But then moms come along, and we turn all that on its head.  We say that to give to others is our greatest joy.  To center our lives around other people’s dreams is what can give our own dreams meaning.  And we say that it can be hard, really hard, but the struggle is worth it, and it will forge us, hopefully one day, into human beings who are worthy of the title mom.

I hope this doesn’t come across as saying there is one type of mother because that is not what I am saying.  This has nothing to do with whether a mom stays home or works, whether she home schools or boarding schools.  It’s not about the individual choices she makes for herself or her family, and it’s not about sacrificing her own sense of self.

Instead it’s just about that gift all moms give.  The one thing that unites us regardless of the paths we choose.

This self giving love is our gift to the world.  It’s our example to this world.  And as we saw in a small village working class woman two thousand years ago, it can be how we live on through eternity.

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Word of the Year: Home (Hygge)

So every year, I pick a word of the year.  While it has taken me over four months to write about this word, it has been “home” (or hygge for any Norwegians out there) since the beginning of the year.

It’s a lot different from the words I chose in years past.  Usually I choose a word that describes how I want to approach things or a motivational saying to help guide my decisions.  But when I kept trying to think of the perfect word, this is the only one that fit.

I thought back to a few years ago, shortly after we moved into our house, when we went for three months without any income.  It was awesomely fun with three kids at the time.

Yea, obviously it wasn’t awesome, but honestly, there was a lot that I learned – I learned about trust and faith and peace.  But the most important thing I learned was how to feel like what I have is enough.

I’ve always had big eyes – I see things and I want them.  Concepts like minimalism never came easy to me.  But then during those months when we had no income, I realized that we really didn’t need very much at all.  As long as my kids had food in their bellies, school to nourish their hearts and their minds, a safe home to live in, and us, then they had all they rally need.  I had all I really needed.

And it’s a lesson that stuck.  It hasn’t been often since then that I have bought things I didn’t need or very seriously desire.  It’s been great!

So I guess you could say that I learned to find abundance in very little.  And one place that I found that abundance was in my home.

It’s not big.  It’s not fancy.  We have one bathroom for six people.  (Barely civilized, I know!)  But it’s ours.  And it’s safe.  And thus far there haven’t been any mass rodent invasions.

I think people think I’m silly when I talk about how much I love the place that I live.  But I really and honestly do.  I love the crown molding.  I love the floor trim that is all different sizes because it was installed and added to and replaced over the course of 137 years.  I love that the trim around the windows is different sizes and that the windows upstairs were apparently put in so that people could lay flat on the floor and see out the windows.

I love that our basement used to be a cellar and that Mae’s room is some sort of old sitting room and that there aren’t enough closets because there simply weren’t a lot of closets a century ago.

I guess you could say that I love sitting here and thinking about all the people and lifestyles and decisions that went into making this little quirky place what it is.

And so today, when I found myself with absolutely zero energy or motivation to do anything, I started to feel a bit bad.  Here I had this home that really does feel like home for my family, and I simply could not convince myself to do the laundry and the dishes and vacuum – all simple enough things that would have just made it that much more comfortable for my family.  All those little things that are important to me and that basically make up much of the day of a mom to multiple littles.

I started to get lost and a little depressed, and I decided that it was time to focus again on my word of the year — home.  Instead of trying to make it perfect, I just wanted to remind myself of the little places of loveliness.  The places that bring me delight.  The parts that wrap my girls in a warm hug.

And so I thought perhaps I would bake some fresh bread so that the scent could waft through the house.  And then I laughed because who was I kidding – burnt dough does not smell good.

And so instead I went out to a couple of thrift stores and I searched for the perfect little thing to make me smile.  And for far less than $20 I found a few.

I thought today that I would share some of these with you as well as some other parts of my home that make me happy.

And then I throw it back to you – what makes you smile in your house?  What makes you feel at home?  What parts are you proud to share with your kids?  I would love to hear or see pictures.

A few of my tangible, material loves.

I love fresh flowers

Especially fresh picked ones.

And I love anything hand knit or crocheted or handmade.  Especially if it’s in an unexpected place.  We have a serious yarn obsession.

And I love lace.  I’m hoping to make some doilies for my living room walls soon.

My kids like decorating too.  They take my hygge spaces and put stickers all over them.  Or notebook paper with words.  Go figure.

And I like just random pretty things.

And of course there can’t be home without books in every nook, cranny, and basket.

And finally, I’m a mom.  So perhaps my favorite places are those places decorated by my girls by hand.  Goosie made this for my window about a year ago.  I love how it catches the light, and I just can’t convince myself to take it down.

Well, that’s about it.  Like I said, it’s not big and fancy.  But these are some of the little parts that help me live my word of the year, and help me feel glad knowing I’m giving my family a comfortable and nurturing place to call home.

Sometimes soon, I’ll write about some of the non tangible ways I try to bring a spirit of comfort and inspiration and hygge to our home.

And this daytime post, of course, is brought to you by all sorts of naughtiness when I wasn’t looking…

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Photo Shoot Anxiety

I’m nervous y’all.  And you can tell I’m nervous because I always use the phrase “y’all” when I’m nervous even though I’ve never lived further south than the Chicago suburbs.

But I have people coming over to take my picture tonight for a magazine blurb.  They call it a “photo shoot”.  I call it “people coming over to my house to take a picture” because it’s way less scary sounding.

I used to write about veggies and getting my kids to try to new ones for a local farm’s website a couple of years ago.  Apparently this makes me a “foodie mom,” and I’m going to be in an article about such.

This is pretty exciting.  It’s not something that happens every day.  And yet I am so scared because there are a few things that scare me:

  1.  Getting my picture taken
  2. People coming over to accomplish something when my children are all awake.
  3. Feeling out of control.  And this is making me feel really out of control.

Arguably, I don’t need to have my whole house spotless.  They are just coming to take my picture in the kitchen.  But this is currently my living room.  While it has been worse, this is way more than my nerves can handle today.  (Notice that mic children occasionally like adding to our decor by writing words on pieces of notebook paper and hanging them on the wall with scotch tape.  We are super classy.)

I used to have serious home anxiety.  I would get so nervous whenever anyone would come over.  My mind would race and I would be terrified that something would be out of place.  Unfortunately, what often happens when we have that much anxiety about something is that we work and work and work to make things perfect until something inside of us snaps and then we give up and chaos ensues.  Oh the pictures I could show of those days!

Not a fun place to be.

And so I learned to let go.  I learned to let things be “good enough.”  I learned that perfect houses and little children don’t mix.  I learned that the less we try to be perfect, the better we become.

And I finally realized that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of my house.  It doesn’t matter if people like the decor or the furniture arrangement or the fact that nearly every single item in my home has some word or phrase on it.  (Hey, some of us love words.)

It doesn’t matter if other people’s homes are bigger or cleaner or fancier or trendier.  Or anything really.  All that matters is that it’s my home and it shelters and comforts my children and my husband and myself.  And that it nourishes us.  And is our refuge.

And I really do believe that.  It’s not just something I’m saying to make myself feel better.

So why am I terrified of someone coming over to take a picture of me in it?

I guess it’s just the joy of human insecurities.

And the fact that my kitchen floor currently looks like this.

And that we decorate with paper leprechauns made in kindergarten and achievement shields made in preschool.

Oh well.  I’ll survive.  I just wish I was someone who could relax with a glass of wine afterwards.  I totally would, but alcohol makes me dizzy and anxious, and so the thought of celebrating an anxious situation with wine would be a bit counter productive.

Oh well.  I’m going spend the rest of the day trying to remind myself that trying to impress people with my home is silly.  That all I need to be is me.

And then I’m going to go clean up that mess on my kitchen floor!

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Let Your Light Shine

I wrote a few weeks ago that I was having difficulty with the idea of blogging.  I was letting all of the negative comments get to me.   Some of these comments were written, but most of them never actually existed out there in the wild.  They were inside me, in my head.  They were the criticisms that I assumed people were silently thinking about me in their heads.

It’s hard to counter invisible made up criticisms.  After all, they could be saying anything!

I started thing blog about five years ago I believe.  I wasn’t exactly sure why I was blogging.  I’ve just always felt a call to write (literally from my earliest days,) and I felt that maybe it was time I listened.  I didn’t know if anyone would read it.  I didn’t know why anyone would possible want to read it, and I felt rather foolish.

But still I started.

In the beginning, I wrote about random things.  I tried to write daily.  I tried networking with other bloggers, and I tried doing all of their challenges and tried getting immersed in the blogosphere.

Most of it felt forced.  Besides the writing, I didn’t enjoy it much.  And it reminded me of why I quit my job in advertising all of those years ago — I hate selling stuff to people, most especially my own self.

But luckily I kept at it.

Well, I can’t really say I kept at it because that implies some sort of conscious choice.  Really I kept writing because it’s what I do.  And when I don’t do it, I don’t work well.  My brain doesn’t work well, my heart doesn’t work well, and my life doesn’t work well.

I don’t write because I think I have something that the world needs to hear.  I write, quite frankly, because I have things I need to say.

As I continued on this journey, I started to realize that writing was helping me to become me.

I have a very odd version of germophobia – I don’t worry about getting people sick or washing germs from myself.  I worry about infecting others with invisible germs.  Both actual germs as well as metaphorical ones.

In short, left to my own devices, I would spend my days trying not to touch the world.  Trying to make sure that none of me gets out there because surely any part of me touching the world would just taint it, infect it, make it less than.

You can probably see then how writing is the exact opposite of this.  Not only am I being in the world, but I am pushing myself out into the world.  And not just my physical presence, but the essence of me, who I am.  What I think and what I aspire to me.

I am taking the single most authentic pieces of myself and I am sending them out there.

And I’m hoping people read them.

Maybe that’s the craziest part.

The great thing about stepping out of your comfort zone, however, is that the more you take the risks, the more you realize that you were meant for those risks.  Taking the risks doesn’t take something away from you — it moves you closer to who you are and what you were meant to offer the world.

There have been some failures while writing.  I’ve written things that make me cringe afterwards.  I tried to enter the inner circle of blogging communities only to realize that either they didn’t like me or there wasn’t any room for anyone else.

But there have also been successes.  I’ve had some pieces be read by over ten thousand people, and I’ve had the opportunity to write for publications that have inspired me over the years and that have made me want to grow.

And I’ve had people tell me I’ve helped them.  I’ve had people tell me I’ve given them different perspectives.  I’ve had people tell me that they see themselves in my writing.  I’ve had people tell me that I make their journeys less lonely.  And I had a man once tell me that he decided not to commit suicide one night because of something I wrote.

I’m not writing all of this to brag.  I’m not writing this because I think highly of myself or what I do.  (If you know me, you know it’s more accurately the opposite of that.)

I’m writing it to remind myself — writing might be emotionally hard.  It’s psychologically risky.  It’s emotionally risky.  And yet, it’s important.

I try to hide those things.  I tell myself, who am I to write my ideas?  Who am I to make myself heard?

But then the other side chimes in and says, “but who am I not to?”  Who am I to take the one thing in the entire world that seems to come easily to me and hide it out of fear?

We all have gifts and we all have parts of ourselves that we are meant to share with the world.  And there’s nothing scarier than actually sharing these parts of ourselves.

But what if we all abstained for that reason?  What if we all took our passions and hid them?  If no one let themselves and their lights shine?

What a dark and dreary and dismal place this world would be!

And so as I end this rambling, rather self-indulgent blog post, I ask you all – what is it that you excel at?  What comes easily for you?  What makes your heart sing?  What makes you feel alive and alert and inspired?

And how can you take that and shine it throughout the world?  Or at least throughout your own world?

I’ll always wonder if I’m good enough.  If I’m making a fool of myself.  If I should just keep my words to myself.  And I can think of probably a dozen reasons why all that negativity is true.  But in my heart, I know that this is what I was meant to do even if it only reaches one other soul.

I’m not going to hide myself.  I made that promise to myself a couple of years ago, and I guess it’s time to live up to that challenge.

Even when it’s hard.  Even when it’s scary.  And even if I really don’t feel up to the challenge.

And by the way, these words are brought to you by CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and Matthew Kelly’s Resisting Happiness.  I’ve been reading them over the past couple of weeks, and they have helped me find the courage to do what it is that I want to do.

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The Hard Days

So I had an ear infection, and I believe I blew out my ear drum.  I can’t hear much.  

I think I could imagine that such an experience could be peaceful – a brief respite from the noise and chaos of everyday life.

That’s not how it feels.  

It feels really scary.

I feel like I’ve been sitting here in my own world, still a part of everything but watching it more from a distance.  I can hear and I can talk, but I feel like there’s a veil up, and I can’t quite touch the world.  I can’t reach beyond it to anyone else.  Everyone is a hare’s breath away.  

And when you are talking about isolation, a hare’s breath might as well be a continent.

I’ve been really sad lately.  And anxious.  

There’s no reason really.  Nothing horrible has happened.  Everyone is still standing.

I think perhaps it has been the stress of the last few months, and possibly most of all the acute stress during January.

I’ve come down from it; the adrenaline has lowered.  But now in its wake, I don’t know what to cling to or where to turn.

I need security.  I need to know what is solid and what can stand and what will be there and what can surround me.  I don’t know how to go out into the world without that.

And I feel like the last few months have shaken that.

You come so close to losing so much, and you can’t go back to how things were.  You sometimes can’t even find yourself in the wreckage.

And so I’m sitting here in my silence, and I can’t distract myself with a million thoughts or conversations.  Even the words I speak to myself in my head are muted by the ringing in my ears.

So instead of being able to talk myself into the light, I find myself sort of stuck in the sadness.

And I know it will pass.  So will the doubts and fears and insecurities and the onslaught of criticisms I shoot at myself.  For awhile at least.

But for tonight they stay.

I didn’t ask for this.  For TJ’s illness or for the fear or the terror or the uncertainty.  Or the anxiety of the OCD or the depression.  Or even for the ear infection.

And sometimes that makes me mad.  I didn’t sign up for this.  I don’t want it.  Take it away.

But I know that’s silly.  We don’t sign up for our struggles.  But they are our greatest teachers.  They are what will soften our edges until we emerge a better person.  They are the inevitability of life.

But sometimes I still rage against them.  They still overwhelm me.  And I still feel they have taken too much from me.

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