Beginnings and Circles

I sit here typing on my phone-something I really dont like to do. The keyboard always works against me adding letters and slurring my words. I have to proofread very carefully so that the autocorrect feature doesn’t make me look like a moron. It’s a frustratingly slow process, and you’ll still probably catch several errors that I’ve missed.

Today is the day though. The day we begin. The day we set out. The day where we put all excuses aside and go. All of the things have been packed, which is why I am typing on my phone. Most of the things have been cleaned, though not very well. None of the groceries have been bought, but the stores will open soon. If everything works perfectly this is the first of many nights I’ll fall asleep with my head in my camper bed.

I was up early today, sipping my coffee, waiting for the birds to wake up and begin their singing. Sitting in the stillness, seeking a bit of peace and a restfulness that did not come while sleeping. As I tap out these lines I wonder if everything is ready?

…if we are ready.

There is a lot a person needs to do to walk away from their house for six weeks. Most of it is done, but likely not all. I’m not sure how often I will wake in a panic realizing some thing I have left undone. Hopefully not too many. Hopefully I don’t think much about this place at all.

The most difficult part for me is the people, as I knew it would be. Leaving this community makes me cautious. I know I can leave this over-large house with all of it’s sweeping and scrubbing. I know that I can (someday) leave Minnesota and it’s frigid temps without any sadness at all. I can even leave the gardens I’ve cultivated for going on seven Summers; though that one is a close second. The women in my circle though…I’m not sure what life will look like without their daily influence.

In this modern-American culture we tend to think that we can do everything by ourselves, and that we should. I’ve written about this before (here and here and especially here), but community can not be ignored. Indeed it should not. As I think about the ways my people have built upon each other I am overwhelmed. I know we have our struggles, our difficulties, our disagreements; we do life together after all, but the good in the group outweighs the bad of being outside of it.

In the past few weeks I have dug berry plants for and with friends, I have been delivered wood chips, I have gifted garden accessories and other small treasures, I have been saved from an empty gas tank, and I have sold off a million pieces of my life to these friends. I have people to pray for and people who pray over me. I have friends whom I message daily and those whom I wish I could touch base with more often.

This. This I will miss a lot. This I may regret leaving.

I will miss sitting, tucked away in a corner of a yard while children run and scream. I will miss a friend dropping by to my messy, chaotic house with no worry over it. I will miss all of their children. I will miss rushing to a planned event because I want every possible minute with these women. This worries me, makes me think I can’t do it. Can’t really go for good, isn’t that messed up? I mean it’s not, but I spent all of these years aching for this community only to finally have it and then to come to a point where I am in a position to go where my heart calls. Which requires me to start over on so many different spirals of life. Maybe we always need something to cry out for?

I was telling a friend recently how I was nervous to walk away for this season and she kindly reminded me that we will still be together, if not physically. She noted that my circle may be a couple of hours away but that the values we share will hold us close. She was right of course. We will have to work harder to maintain friendships, but they can be maintained. Even grown.

This opportunity to travel (even a bit) and to live smaller is something I have longed for, as most of you know. I can’t pass it up. The need to follow this path and see where it leads beats within my very heart. Who knows what we will learn over the next few weeks? I am excited too.

Often I get stuck in that worrisome place. Seeing only the difficult part of the adventure ahead. I don’t want to do that with this. This chance to be out there, living something that has long called to me is exciting. I see that too. I will be concerned over walking away from dear friends, but! Instead of only worrying, I plan to work. To work on building a larger community for myself, for my family. I mean, there are people everywhere, and most of them probably want the love and the connection I am fortunate enough to feel every day. So, I’ll try to bring it, to build it, to create it.

I’m praying for this opportunity right now. I dont want to get bogged down in the sadness of leaving my people, and I dont want to simply find new or different people. What I am hoping for is complex, I know. That ever-widening of the circle will be difficult to be sure, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth it too. If you’re close, you know there are still many miles to go but I thank you for being here on the path with me.

And so today is the beginning. The start of a wider circle, a wilder path, a larger wonder.

Or maybe tomorrow, the rain forecast for tonight looks pretty severe…

Recycling and Assigning Value

I’ve been decluttering the last few days. I don’t feel like my house is overly full, but somehow we regularly end up with a box for the thrift store and books to drop in little libraries and a pile of things that need to be disposed of properly. It really adds to the list of errands that we need to run and while I get quite the sense of satisfaction from it, my kids do not always enjoy the extra stops. Especially when it’s six degrees outside.

I have three stacks in my house right now as I am making a hard push to get rid of all unnecessary items. The first stack is the “donate” pile. The things in this box have not been dug out of the backs of cupboards or closets in at least a year. I may look at some of them longingly, wishing I could convince myself they were needed, but I just can’t. They have to go. This stack is really easy for me to put stuff into, I don’t have a ton of sentimental attachment to things. I also don’t have a ton of cupboard space since I asked my husband to drag the island out of our kitchen two summers ago. Space is at a premium for me and so if it’s just collecting dust, it’s gone.

The second pile contains all of the things that I would call “recyclable”. My own big blue bin is full right now after snapping pictures of the dusty wine bottles I’d saved from special occasions and the thirteen-thousand pieces of child-art. This is normal recycling. What I’m talking about here is the out of date printer/empty toner cartridge/broken charging cord that needs to be dropped off at BestBuy. Did you know this was a thing? It is sooo simple, you should really try it out if you haven’t yet. You barely have to walk in the door with the smaller bits, and there are basically zero questions asked even with the larger items.

Also, the expired bottles of children’s Advil/sore throat spray/prescription-you-didn’t-finish in your medicine cabinet. Most cities have a place to drop these meds off so that they don’t end up polluting the groundwater or in the wrong hands. I’ve included the link for my county, but it’s quite simple to alter the search for your own corner of the world. I was worried that I’d have to {gasp} pay for parking just to drop off my expired bottles yesterday, but I was able to run into the downtown location quickly and without issue. Definitely safer than just tossing this stuff in the trash.

If you’re anything like me, despite your constant use of cloth bags for all of the things – groceries, library runs, even the liquor store- you still have a bazillion plastic grocery/other bags that make their way into your house. These usually should not be thrown in with your regular recycling, but can be easily returned to a grocery or box store for recycling. Also, many other places will take them too. The library will take clean bags for folks who ended up with more books than they thought they would and now need an extra hand. Many thrift stores will take used grocery bags. In my neighborhood there is even a group (probably more than one) that uses the bags to make “plarn” (that’s plastic-yarn) and then knits the plarn into mats that are distributed to the homeless community so that they have a layer of protection between their bodies and the cold concrete. If you want to donate your bags to this project let me know and I can connect you to someone who currently knits the mats.

There are other things in this pile; items I want to post on the Facebook sale sites, toiletries and dry goods that can be donated to the local shelter, jackets and shoes my kids have outgrown that I’ll pass on to friends with smaller children. Being able to do all of this makes me feel good. Sure it sucks up half a day once every couple of months, but I’m also able to benefit so many people by taking this time. It is a good opportunity to remind my kids that the trash is not the best option much of the time. It helps them to see that most items have a usefulness beyond what we might think. Yes, it requires a bit more work, but I think it’s worth it.

I honestly didn’t come here this morning to talk about recycling. Or even about downsizing in preparation for upcoming travel. I can’t exactly say how you got to read five paragraphs of this. All of this purging, all of this disposing, causes me to pause and really look back over the last ten years of accumulating. That is what I had hoped to mentally sort through here. When I went through my divorce, I left with one pickup truck bed full of things from my previous life. Though my lawyer told me I could go to my house and gather all of my belongings, my ex said otherwise and, since I was in a place of shame and fear, I returned only once to sneak back some of my favorite gardening things.

This leaving began my process of starting over. I truly had very few possessions at this point in my life and, looking back we should have hit the road right then and there. Instead, I felt the need to acquire all of the lost treasures I’d had “before”. This was made difficult due to job loss and babies, and deep emotional struggles. We worked through it though. By the grace of God we have come back from the lows of constant financial worry, pressing anxiety, and fear of what is to come. How do I now justify to myself the giving away of all that we have worked to gain? I suppose I do it by recycling. I imagine that is how all of those paragraphs came into being this morning. By giving the things back to those who need them.

In walking away from all that I had worked for nearly ten years ago, I felt a sense of loss for the material possessions. Those things represented all I had longed for, all of the brave and bold steps I had taken over the years to do little things for myself. The sacrifices I made to work where I wanted to work, to put effort toward what I wanted to do with my life. When at home I had been repeatedly told the things I felt were important, were not. I felt like the things I was walking away from were pieces of myself. Almost literally footprints from the times I had stood up for my own wants in a marriage that did not care what I wanted.

And now? Now I am choosing it. It is less heart-wrenching to dispose of the things because this time, most of them are just things that we have used. Not things that are a statement of who I am. I am trying to walk this line carefully, not insisting anyone in my family give up things that are special to them. Not forcing the donate pile to be too large in spite of cries from my children. While I don’t see the need for twelve stuffed animals, should I force them to be given up? I won’t yet. I can understand their fear of losing treasures that are truly important to them at this stage in their young lives, and I will make a conscious choice to not steal those treasures away.

If you’ll remember I started out by telling you I was making three piles. The third box that I’m filling up is full of the things I will take with me. While my sweet husband has repeatedly told me that he will only take three things along when we leave this place, my list is slightly longer. The things I am setting aside as important are small, most cost me nothing, and almost all of them speak to the person I am or have been over the last ten years. The pieces of history I put in the box all speak to me, some remind me of who I have worked so hard to become. Others show me where we are going.

What would you put in your box? Which possessions in your house would you definitely bring along if you had to/got to leave? I don’t mean the external hard-drive with all of your family photos on it. Though that could go in there for sure. As you look around your home, what holds value for you? What would you be grieved to leave behind? You may think that all of it is just “stuff”, I know that I did before. It’s funny how things can be so meaningful in showing who you are and who you’ve been. While I’d be one of the first to tell you that you’ll be fine without all of the stuff, I’ll also be one of the first to understand when you can’t part with a hand trowel or a bird bath or a jewelry box.

As I prepare for more things to be put into piles this weekend, I am feeling peaceful. I trust that I’ll have just what I need, exactly when I need it. There is no need to hold on so tightly to all of the knick-knacks or memorabilia. I can get through it, I know now that I can be defined by some thing and still let that thing go. The definition is still inside of me even without the external representation.

Simple Beauty

Post Script: I wrote this piece in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. I was genuinely feeling like I had given up on myself, like I was “only” a momma. I needed to find myself inside of this mothering shell that I felt I had become. While this article is not too deep, it covers a transformative place in my life. Though I have not corrected or healed all of the places inside of me that need it, I have found that taking care of me for me is worth the time invested. Sometimes, words from others make me feel like I’m not worth the time, or that perhaps I am doing it for external reasons. I still struggle with that, but now I can more quickly get back to my own “why” and remind myself that I am worthy. I hope that you handle these words gently and that they may speak into each of you where you most need it.

There’s this Winnie the Pooh picture book about Winter. This is the copy that I read to my littlest child. In the story, Pooh believes that Winter is a snowman who comes to visit the Hundred Acre Wood, typical Pooh. Some of you might accuse me of overthinking, but my take-away from this story book was that I should look at things more simply. Because of how I’ve been feeling lately, it was easy for me to take this thought and make the jump to my health and personal care routine. Though it might be difficult for an outsider to see how I got there.

It was with an idea of simplicity in mind that I left the house the other day to purchase some nice things for myself. I don’t really shop for myself and when I do I usually hit up my favorite thrift stores. This day though I was going to buy skin and hair care products and so I went to the natural-care product section of the market and started reading labels. Let me mention here that I have not spent more than $3.95 on any personal care items in, like, I don’t even know, maybe ever. I’ve been mostly okay with that. I don’t mind my wrinkles as they show how many times my sweet husband has made me laugh and I don’t really mind the gray hair as it reminds me of all the learning I’ve done as I’ve grown and gone through some hard and holy stuff over the years. The reason I was standing in what I would call the “fancy” shampoo aisle was and is because I just don’t feel good.

A lot of how I’ve been feeling is due to too much consumption, while I am actively working to turn that around, some of it is because of how harsh Winter is on my skin as well as my mind, and some of it is just plain bad habits. I don’t wash my face every night, heck! I don’t even shower regularly. While my hair care routine mostly works for me, since I trimmed it this autumn I have been bummed by how “mother-y” it looks. I couldn’t help but feel that something needed to give. I had a gift card tucked away in my wallet and so I spent all of that money on goo for my hair and a bit of make up to make me feel like maybe I do care about myself a little. This was a simple thing, but a big change too.

Since I bought the new things I have remembered to wash my face every night. I have almost looked forward to brushing my teeth regardless of the toothpaste left in the sink by my littles. I have brushed my hair everyday…which is definitely overrated, but I’ve done it because I have felt better about myself for taking seven to ten minutes in the bathroom. It’s weird isn’t it? As mommas it is so easy to get to this place where it’s simply too much effort to put effort into ourselves. I often feel like it’s simply not worth it, but that silly Winter book got to me. Was I making the care of myself too big of a deal? Couldn’t it be simple and meaningful? I needed to understand that the way I’m feeling is at least partially due to the way I am treating myself. I realized that if I wanted to feel better I needed to put in the effort.

By giving myself a few minutes -and a few products- I am reminding myself that I am worth more than what I was allowing. I’m reminded that while I don’t need to look good for other people or listen to societies words about women, I should feel good about me. Am I making any sense here? I didn’t need to make it complex, it only took a few boxes to help me feel worthy of the time and attention I was giving myself. I changed my routine in simple ways, it is no harder to do what I’m doing now than it was before and now I feel a little kinder toward myself when I look into the mirror. I still don’t feel good. I feel run down. My skin is irritated, red, angry. My nails are brittle. My joints ache. I know that to correct all of that I need to fix what I’m putting into my body, but I didn’t feel like I was worth it. No, I felt like it wasn’t worth the effort to take better care of myself. The effort is the thing that was lacking.

Knowing this has made a big difference. It has made me put on actual clothes, and not just walk around in my jammies all day. Okay, not every day, but a lot of them. Knowing that I can do all of my new morning routine in the time it takes my seven year old to make his bed reminds me that I’m not inconveniencing anyone or making us late, it just allows me to yell down the stairs fewer times because my toothbrush is in my mouth longer. Knowing that I can take a little time for myself to feel better on the outside reminds me that I can take a few minutes to make good food for myself, to drink more water, to take slow deep breaths in the still evening air. I can take time for me, I can feel better on the inside as well, the effort is worth it.

In hoping to create a more simple routine I did have to do a little more than I was before, but by looking at my problem with a simpler perspective it became so very clear that by allowing a small amount of time for the care of me, I would improve so many other pieces of my life. I’ve noticed some deeper things in these few days since my trip to the store, things that I probably make too complex. I’m trying to look at these things simply, to adjust each one with just the right amount of my time put in.

That simple childrens’ book…I’m sure the author had no idea that it would cause this kind of self-consideration in a momma’s heart. Perhaps I would have come to this place on my own anyway, I have been feeling pretty miserable. I am grateful for the random places I run across that I can draw inspiration from. When I feel like I’m worrying over the routine or the extra steps I’m taking, I can now offer myself the very simple reminder of the Winnie the Pooh book. Hopefully that will be enough to continue on with the slow process of finding myself.

While a simpler life doesn’t mean an easier life, the effort is worth it.

Post Script: I wrote this piece in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2018. I was genuinely feeling like I had given up on myself, like I was “only” a momma. I needed to find myself inside of this mothering shell that I felt I had become. While this article is not too deep, it covers a transformative place in my life. Though I have not corrected or healed all of the places inside of me that need it, I have found that taking care of me for me is worth the time invested. Sometimes, words from others make me feel like I’m not worth the time, or that perhaps I am doing it for external reasons. I still struggle with that, but now I can more quickly get back to my own “why” and remind myself that I am worthy. I hope that you handle these words gently and that they may speak into each of you where you most need it.

Walking the Path of Less Anxiety

Sometimes I’d like to hide in the sofa too little one, really.

I was pulled into a conversation recently. One that I really didn’t want to get involved in, but couldn’t quite stay out of either. Still working on keeping my mouth shut while the masses spout their opinions and certainties… As I thought about what I would say to a friend and her shared opinion, I felt the anxiety rise in my chest. Is that odd? I’ve written about my anxiety briefly before and I have actually had a pretty good handle on it for quite some time. I know that my current mental capacity is maxed though, and in adding in this small extra I should expect to feel the familiar flutter.

This has been going on for a few days, so I did what I do now; I sat with it. I’ve been reading too, trying to keep myself from reading too much into the flutter in my chest, the nervous creep inside my mind, the lack of peace and the lack of sleep. In being still with the unrealistic worry, I’ve noticed the growth I otherwise would not have. In the past my anxiety would make me jumpy, more stressed, more worried, more anxious. Nice cycle, right? Perhaps I’ve learned something over the years though.

While I still have the anxiety; it still surrounds me and closes in on me. The growth comes in not being afraid of this tight place anymore. I have felt the lack of oxygen enough times and I now know how to calm it, ease it, live through it. As I sat this afternoon, trying to write while my heart beat loudly in my chest, I decided that there are a few things I do to ease the anxiety. I thought perhaps they might work for you too. Here’s my short list and the path I usually take through the dark forest.

Most notably on my journey through each bout of anxiety is thankfulness. I have kept a joy-journal for three or so years, tracking every little thing that makes me smile, makes me see God, makes me thankful to do this life. My list is several thousand gifts long and when I look back over it I can see how keeping track of the good has been pivotal in weathering the bad. The “thankfulnesses” have helped me carry on through the anxiety, causing me to search out the good amidst the immense worry that sometimes threatens to smother me. When it seems there is no good, only pressure I try to remember that I can be thankful for the weight, how it anchors me here.

I’m going to assume that you can see how the writing has made a difference. I am not at all surprised that with each sharing of a struggle, each admittance of a fault, and each spoken silence I feel less of the crush. It is scary to put myself out here in this Nevernever of internet space. I find more peace in pouring out the truths of my soul than I could realistically put words to, though I will continue to try. I search for meaningful thoughts to be shared. I hope that you get something from the rambling. I pray for those who read my words, that you would be changed by them. My audience is small, but still, this is what I work toward.

My next go-to is that I get lost in fantasy. I post on Facebook begging for recommendations of a fantastical world to get lost in. I pull out old stand-bys; thick volumes that allow me to live in another time and place for two (let’s be honest, four) hours at bedtime each night. I make digital library requests and charge my Kindle. This getting lost in literature is not just a typical escape, I find that it frees up my mind to not focus and dwell on whatever is causing the anxiety. I can put myself in another world while my unconscious self works out the perceived problems in my life. I’m in the middle of my eighth book this month, so I know I’ve been hiding here.

My final tactic to fight against the clinging fear is sort of an anti-tactic, if that’s a thing. I will bail out of commitments and obligations, I will be still and focus on the anxiety, not willing it away rather, asking it to come close. To whisper what it is that is lacking or overwhelming. I suppose I could go to this place first, get quiet with God and my own mind, asking for the wisdom to be imparted. Not all anxiety is created equal though, and most is petty and manageable through these other strategies. This place here is where I have seen the most growth, this is why I no longer fear the crush or the flutter, why I can still process daily life when anxiety is pressing.

When I took a deep breath and spoke actual words to my friend, I felt the exhalation of my lungs and I let my head clear. I spoke my truth into the fear-filled place between us. The place where I didn’t really want to be. I was able to be kind and clear, I didn’t yell as perhaps I would have once, I didn’t demand she do it my way, I didn’t even suggest that she should. I trusted that my truth would not be lost on her and that if somehow it was misunderstood, we could work through that together.

I knew that my own experiences were worthy of putting out into actual space because I have put so many of them out there in digital space. I knew that I would, one day, be thankful for adding my own opinion to the masses, and that it matters what I think. I knew that no amount of educating myself on the topic would better express my thoughts than my own experience. I simply had to invite the fear in, let it rest in my mind and be healed by the peace it found there.

Trusting Their Choices

I’ve been thinking about how I will allow my children to be more independent in their decision making. Since they were small, we have allowed quite a bit of freedom. Letting them jump in the puddles and then dealing with cold, wet feet has always been the best way for them to learn not to jump in puddles with tennis-shoes on. My sweet husband calls this method the “experiential” manner of parenting. I’m not sure if that’s actually a thing, but while he teases me with it from time to time, I think it is the best way to describe my overall philosophy for life. How will we learn if we do not experience?

Still, my ten-year-old is getting to a point in life where learning through doing can cost her more than just wet feet. I wonder how to provide all of the right activities for her to live her bigger-girl life without overly harsh consequences? Too much freedom given in the teen years can lead to all sorts of unchangeable life situations, choices that will need to be lived through for years to come, not just an afternoon. Yet I know that this child learns best by living, by putting her truest self out there and trying it out in the real world. I have no answers for these questions this morning, we will walk along this path together, hopefully the puddles won’t be too deep for awhile yet and we figure out the necessary boundaries as we go.

I also have been watching my littler kids, my husband and I give them a lot of space to learn by trying things out, but these two youngest kids are around a lot of other peoples parents, how do I let them think for themselves when so many other mommas don’t give their own kids the freedoms we allow? How do I respect other parents’ boundaries, while still letting my kids respect their own? I know that I need to be more vocal, explaining to my mom-friends the “why” behind the seemingly crazy things I “permit” my children to choose. I forget that our way is what has worked best for our family and, while I don’t need to force it on anyone else, I do need to respect it even in situations where other kids might not be allowed to do the things my kids choose to do.

If I don’t respect the guidelines that I show my kids one on one when we are in a group situation, it sends a mixed message and my kid may start to question her body or brain. That is something that will come back to bite me when we are climbing or on an unfamiliar trail and they suddenly question themselves in a moment of fear. I know that by letting them climb out as far as they feel safe, by letting them jump off the highest wall they are comfortable on, by simply allowing them to choose to wear a coat or not, they are learning that their choices matter. More than that they are learning that they have power over their own choice. They also see that they are capable, sometimes they fall, sometimes they flail, sometimes they come down a step first, but because we are there to bandage the scrapes and encourage the efforts, they trust themselves.

I suppose that is how I’m hoping to make it through the teen years with grace this time. We have allowed, permitted, encouraged even, this child to listen to her body. To trust her gut, to choose what is best for her through all of her “little” years. Unconsciously, by supporting her in these small things we have encouraged her to do the same with the big things to come. Hopefully she has failed enough and dealt with unpleasant consequences enough times to have those lessons to draw from as she matures. Ideally, she will have so much faith in her own body and brain that she will not fall to pressures or fail to be true to herself.

And so we continue. This day I will allow my eight-year-old to wear shorts…in January…in Minnesota…because that is his choice and he has yet to regret it, though I can’t look at him some days without shivering. I will watch my tiny stomp out into the snow wearing dress shoes and be there holding the boots I suggested before we left the house if she chooses to admit that snow is cold when it melts into your shoes! (I know that she will not admit that, she is as stubborn as I am and she will deal with wet feet for as long as she is able, but next time? She’ll choose the boots from the start because she’ll remember.) I will explain myself better to the other moms that we interact with so that I don’t have kids who second guess themselves.

This is not always easy. I often try very hard to explain my “why” to my kids when I want them to do one thing and they are certain that their own way is best. It is hard to remember that cold fingers will not kill an otherwise healthy child when my own life experiences tell me to put on mittens. It is difficult to stop and see their independence growing when the way they want to be independent causes me to need to plan ahead more. I mean, you really can’t let kids be free to explore their world without remembering to pack a spare pair of clothes and a towel or two. I’m banking on this being best though, that as they grow up they will know themselves and have a wealth of their own experiences to draw from. Not just scary words that grown ups threatened them with.

While my confidence often lags behind what I know to be true in this area, I have decided to commit to advocating for them more vocally. If your family plans to meet up with mine on one of these mild winter days please be prepared. I will not be telling my kids they can’t eat snow because they’ll get too cold, that they can’t take their coat…and hoodie…and snow-pants off (insert eye-roll here). Because I trust that when they are cold they will put them back on. I will continue to let my kids climb the trees, stand on the ledges, and jump from the rocks. Whether we are with friends or not. Because I really, really do want them to hear their own inner voice whisper and they won’t be able to do that if I’m constantly screaming at them to “not”.

Join me won’t you? It takes only a few steps. Choose a day and pack the car with all of the things you might need, take the extra time to do this. Then let your kid choose. Shorts in winter? Sure, if you want (you can pack pants). Take a few steps out onto the thin ice at the bend in the creek? Yes (you can explain currents and how far is safe, you can have spare boots and socks in the backpack). Climb on the frozen, metal playground equipment? Yep. (Maybe put dry mittens on first though?) Life should be experienced friends, even at four-years-old.

If For No Other Reason Than; My Heart Needed the Words

I cut my hair today. I had almost done it a few days ago, but I couldn’t find my scissors. Today I knew right where they were and I quickly snipped four or five inches off of the ends. If we are not friends in real life, it’s important that I pause here and tell you that I have a lot of hair, so the few inches I cut are really not that big of deal.

Or so I thought.

Before I cut my hair I suspected that I would regret it. I did it anyway because as Autumn’s endless layers have already proven, long hair and cold weather seasons do not go together. My hair had been what I would call “difficult to manage” before I had to pull on sweatshirts, sweaters, coats, and scarves. Now, on the occasion that I tried to brush through it, I just broke brushes with the tangles. Literally. My hair needed a serious trim and so I went on ahead and did what needed doing. Now though, I feel much more soccer-mom than gypsy-princess. It’s sort of bumming me out.

 

 

I know, I know, you don’t come here to read about my hair issues. Tiny apologies sent out to those of you who won’t make this connection, I know it’s a stretch. As I went to toss my recently snipped locks into the compost pile, I couldn’t help but feel like those strands were still a part of me. My mind quickly drifted to all of the other things I have cut out of my life over the years, how they still felt like part of me at the time. As I walked back up to the house in the late afternoon sunlight I continued to think how easy it is and how hard it is at the same time.

It’s sort of like this; you decide one day that you really are done with this, this whatever-it-is, it is suffocating or irritating or endlessly entangling, and you do the easy part. Speak the words that cut the line, the ones that burn the bridge, the words that sever. Then, hopefully, you follow through and do the hard part, you walk away, back to the house to pack up or lock the door or shed the tears. This is good, honest, soul-work.

It’s weird that I got here from a trim, isn’t it?

messyhair2

 

When I think about the hard things, the big things that I’ve done to end relationships or endeavors, I often think about the regret I felt immediately after the fact. The fear rushed in and I could see all of the reasons that what I just did or said was wrong. In the looking back though? It is the times that I didn’t follow through, the times I didn’t let that bridge burn that I carry the most regret over. The bravest I ever have been has been when I have done just exactly what I said I would. In those moments I have developed the most respect for myself. Trusting myself is something I have to agree to daily. As I look back I can see that my initial response was nearly always correct, this observation alone should shut-up my internal negativity…though it does not always. It’s because of the words.

The words have often come too quickly for even me. They spill out before I think them over. I frequently apologize and even more often have to lie awake at night thinking over how some thing I said sounded to someone else. I have spent seasons praying that God would guard my tongue. I have spent what seems like millennia sitting quietly after a man told me to “sit there and wait” with an angry scowl on his face.

However, this is the message I now accept as truth:

God does not want me to be silent. He has allowed my voice to cause trouble, to raise questions, to make people uncomfortable. He is not worried by my words. Yes, I know that Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “…Not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths…” I do,  I really, really do. I also know in my very heart that speaking passionately will not get me cast out of His embrace. That following those passionate words up with equally passionate actions will not cause me to lose His favor. If anything this world could use more passion and I am still aiming to fill it with a bit more of my mine despite my unguarded language.

***

I once thanked my ex for allowing me to sit in the truck while he unstuck it all of those times, because if I hadn’t have sat there I probably never would have

A) left his unkind self or

B) learned how to back my own truck up without getting stuck in the snow.

All of those things are good things. All were hard to sit with, hard to follow through on, hard to learn. My ex was not appreciative of my thanks and, in looking back, I probably used some harsher than necessary words. This too is something that I am now okay with, those harsh words spoken in the ecstasy of knowing that I could do something by myself-something that I had been told repeatedly that I could not do- were the exact words I needed to hear in that moment. Me. Myself. My heart needed these words, and isn’t that enough? The regret in saying them because he may have realized some wrong he may have committed was far over-shadowed by the joy in my self-realization.

Peace flows in at the merest remembrance of this moment. My words did that.

***

After a little more than a year of pouring my heart out onto the page , I know that my words can mean something to you too, and I am both grateful that y’all listen to the ramblings and amazed at what you pull from their inconsistencies. God does not need me quiet, He may want a specific message to pour out from me to you, but a message takes words; written, spoken, heard…not silence. I’m learning to think over my words a little more these days, I try to use the words that will heal more often than the words that will hurt. Ultimately, truth is my goal and although I have yet to master delivering the truth in a syrupy sweet way, I will still speak it.

I often tell people that my hair means little to me, that it just “is”. Sure, it’s a part of me, a piece of who I am, but I don’t give it all that much thought. Today that feels less true. I haven’t cut my hair since I was pregnant with my teeny. That teeny will turn four-years-old next week, the ends I snipped today have been with me through a lot of spiritual growth. It really was time for some of those old memories, ancient hurts, and tired feelings to be let go of. Right now I feel lighter without them weighing me down, hopefully I can still feel good about it when I look in the mirror tomorrow. That’s the trick isn’t it? Still loving yourself when you look in the mirror, regardless of the truth you may have spoken?

Where We Are Falling Short

Posting something today that I wrote out in March of this year. I was angry over a life taken. It didn’t make sense to me then and it does not now. I want to do more, I want to serve those in this dark place. I want to help. I wonder what I can do. I wonder how I can give more than I currently give. I wonder how I can reach my hand out to friends, neighbors, when my own family needs me so much. I cry out over my shortcomings and failings, and fears. I’m putting this out there today to let you know that I’m working on these answers, not that I’ve found them. I also need you to know that I write these things from the only place I can; from my mothering heart.

This one feels raw, emotional, maybe even angry… Read gently.

We are failing friends. If you’re like me you probably feel like you’re doing just all that you can and there is no more to pour out and there is no possible way that you can be expected to do more than this. But I say again; we are failing. We are failing our children, we are failing our communities and we are failing each other. We are not doing what mothers and wives and women should be doing. It’s okay if you disagree with me. I have a feeling a lot of people will.

I base this feeling of failure on current events, and so it is debatable to be sure. Where are the mothers when children begin to show dangerous tendencies? Where are the wives when men spiral into depression and despair? Where are the women who could be stepping into necessary roles as defenders, as counselors, as leaders? Modern women often claim they are just as strong as men, can do the same jobs, are even better at most things than men. So why aren’t we living it? Why do we collectively allow dangerous men to walk our streets? Why do we quiet our voice when something potentially scary happens to us personally? Why do we hide instead of stand up and speak out?

I do not agree with much of what happens in this world anymore, there is so little good left. I feel the brokenness deep in my soul and more than any of the other contributing factors I may discuss on this platform I believe the brokenness of man (read humankind) is why I personally struggle with anxiety, loneliness, sadness…more.

Do you know your neighbors? Do you know the moms in the pick-up line at school? Do you know the people in your church at all? If you feel like you do know these people, I’d ask, how often do you interact with them? Do you see them daily? Weekly? Occasionally? When you see them, do you work to build an actual relationship with them or are your interactions platonic at best and, more realistically; compulsory? Who is your community? How are you building them up?

I say again; We are not doing enough.

We are losing people, they are falling into the void, unseen by our eyes and untouched by our love.

We are failing.

Regardless of how or what you or I are doing I know that we could do more.

I know this because in community people grow and flourish, I’ve seen it in my own life, in the lives of my own children. I realize of course that I can not be all things to all people. I am not going to go out and get a degree as a psychologist, but does that mean I can’t talk with someone, really listen to what their heart is saying? Make a personal connection with them, let them know that I am here with them no matter what they go through. I may not be able to stop their pain, but I can sit with them in it. It also means that if I see the broken pieces of their soul and fear for them or their community I can reach out to someone who could help in the needed way. I can do this because I know my friend, I can keep them from falling through. I can also support others as they do this with the people in their circle. I can have a friend’s children over so they can support a sister. I can manage my household for much later into the evening without a break so my husband can assist a friend. I can do something as simple as bringing books along for drop off or pick up events so that my children are occupied while I lean in and listen to another.

Why do we bicker, why do we debate, why do we constantly question what is the right way to solve a problem when we should be quieting ourselves to hear the heart-cry of the person next to us? Why does everyone blame the political machine and then sit back in their comfy chair feeling justified in having criticized all that is wrong with the world, but having done no actual thing? I am so angered, so frustrated, so sick of all of this. I’ve asked these questions before, said that I need to do more, asked for suggestions on how I can act. I have not done enough. I am not doing enough. While no one in my immediate circle is currently falling through the cracks, do I even know how close they are? Do you?

Is anyone reaching out to you today? Do you see what they need and are you ignoring it because you have your own troubles, your own stress, your own mess? I can assure you that if we all did one thing for the person next to us that it would not only bless their heart but it would come back to us in some way. What’s the worst that could happen if we all stepped out and did something? Like it would be so bad if each of us did one good thing for one person today? Even if we don’t see the benefit or if the good doesn’t bounce back to us, can’t being a blessing to someone else be enough? Can’t touching someone elses soul on a personal level be seen as the exact right thing in this moment? Can’t we see that we must do this?! We must, people are falling-right now-we are losing them, we have to do better as a group of women, as a group of people.

This is one of those posts with more questions than answers, more words spoken in passion than could really be expected to find resolution. The cry of my soul is to catch my people, to let them know that we are better together, not without their difficulty or struggle. That while I don’t have all of the answers I can hear you, I can stand by you, I can help you to find what it is that you need. So I will say it again;

In the darkest struggles of our souls, in the deepest dark that we sink into, each one of us is needed. We are loved. We are cared for. I say “we”, not “you”. I have been there, I can be there for you now because someone has been there for me. Though I fail at this often and I fail at it with the ones I most deeply love, I circle back to this knowledge that I do have more to give, I can give better. Sometimes this means a physical task, other days it means listening, hearing without needing to repair what is broken. It may mean admitting that I can not help, but supporting and suggesting ways to find peace.

I ask yet again; What can each of us do this day, to really let someone know that they have value? If you find some answers, would you let me know?

 

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