5 Bucks

So, I was kind of an asshole this morning. No reason to sugar coat it. And I feel bad about it now. Sort of.

We’ve got a BIG push in this house toward personal responsibility. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t held accountable for much as a kid (I didn’t even know how to do my own laundry when I left for college). Or maybe it’s because, as an addict, I refused to take any responsibility for the chaos that followed me everywhere (like Pig Pen in his cloud of dust).

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But, by God, I’ve been determined since before she was born that this child of mine would be fierce, independent, and that she would take responsibility for herself.

Except that she’s, you know, SEVEN.

And she lives life with full on, knock-down-drag-out enthusiasm–which can make her forget mundane things like grabbing her clean capoeira uniform out of the drawer and putting it in her book bag. Which I’m gonna cop to being kind of annoyed by. Because, look, right now my house is in disarray. Lots of stuff is still in boxes. I feel disoriented and a bit anxious because I don’t feel settled. But I managed to pull my shit together enough to wash her capoeira uniform so it would be clean & ready to go for class today. Do I deserve a gold star? Yes. Yes, I do.

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So, yeah, I was miffed when she told me she left it at home. And I told her, calmly, dispassionately, that she’d just have to live without it today because I wasn’t bringing it to her. But then shit really went off the rails when she said, “You’re acting like this is my fault. It’s not ALL my fault…”

Hold up, kid.

Who’s fault is it, EXACTLY?? I did my part. Washed? Check. Folded? Check. All you had to do was stick the uniform in your book bag. Did you do that? NO. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, friend.

Capoeira is part of the after school program, so the good folks there are used to kids forgetting their entire uniform, pieces of their uniform, etc… and they would still let Jane  participate, albeit in her school jumper. Then something registered in the back of my brain, and I eyed Jane in the rearview mirror… “Did you put shorts on under your jumper today? Like I asked you to?”

Her little face fell. Both because she knew no one was going to let her turn cartwheels in a jumper with no shorts underneath AND because I’d specifically told her to put shorts on. And she did God-knows-what-else instead. She was probably applying (fake) nail polish to her dolls. Or building a fort out of twine and broken pencils. Or performing her own musical in her room. But she definitely was not putting on shorts, like she was told.

Let’s just say, at this point, some tears were shed. None of them mine.

Then I took a deep breath. And I realized things had gone too far. I’d fussed WAY too much over a forgotten uniform. I wracked my brain for how I could fix it without REALLY fixing it… because if you give this kid an inch, she will take a mile. So, tears or no tears, I couldn’t just cave. But I hated that she was so upset. That I had taken a teachable moment and used it against her. Then I had it…

“I’ll bring you your uniform, if you give me 5 bucks.”

Sniff. Sniff.

“You’ll bring it to me?” she asked, incredulously.

“Yeah. For 5 bucks.”

And suddenly I was the hero again. The best mommy in the world. But I still felt shitty. Because I’d gotten too mad. Accused her of being irresponsible (she’s not). And, overall, just been kind of an asshole. About a uniform.

So, I apologized. And reminded her that everyone makes mistakes. And that we aren’t defined by them. She’s still a responsible kid, even if she forgot something one day.

And, I suppose, I’m still a good mom, even if I acted like an asshole on one random, rainy Thursday morning.

(By the way, I’m going to use that 5 bucks to buy a latte. In case you were wondering.)

Good Enough

I’ve spent a lot of time convincing myself I’m not good enough. Like most folks who excel at alcoholic-type behavior, I am a master at self-sabatoge. I’m a hard worker. But I like to work right up to where I want to be, then decide I just can’t do it. That I don’t deserve it. That I can’t handle it. And then, I just …. stop. No dramatic flame out. Just a quiet deceleration that takes me back from the precipice of success and puts me on the slow track to just-good-enough.

But…

About a year and a half ago, I realized I’m guilty of holding myself back. On so many levels. Emotionally. Spiritually. Professionally. And I realized that this is my next hurdle: to embrace real, substantive growth on all levels. To allow myself to change and explore new territory, whatever that looks like.

Today, I sat in a meeting with a big, international client. Which I never would’ve allowed myself to do just a few years ago–I would have been so consumed by anxiety that I wouldn’t have been able to hear the conversation around me over the roar of “don’t fuck this up” in my own head. But this morning, I sat there. Cool as a fucking cucumber. I munched on a bagel, offering my opinion when it seemed relevant. Otherwise, I was just  being. Being comfortable in my own skin. Being worthy just because.

If this doesn’t seem revelatory, I’m so glad. I love that not all people struggle with self-worth. I hope my kid never has to. But I had to sit through a few rounds of therapy and lots of AA meetings to get to a point where I got it: that I am okay. That I am MORE than okay. That my brilliance comes just from being–not because of anything I do or don’t do. I am worthy just because I am.

I’ve surrounded myself with people who believe that miracles happen on a daily basis. I’ve jumped whole-heartedly into the belief that we humans habitually limit ourselves–that we are capable of so much more, that the possibilities are so vast and endless that I can’t begin to even imagine them. I’ve begun to trust my own intuition. To listen to my inner guide. To be open to the Universe (God… whatever…) in whatever way it presents itself.

And, more than anything, I’ve embraced my own divine spark. My own self. My own worth. It’s freeing. A little scary sometimes… there’s just so much POTENTIAL here. But the view from here is peaceful and hopeful.

A friend today told me that I sparkle. And it’s possible that she’s been a bit mesmerized by my shimmery eyeshadow & lipgloss… But the current around me feels electric with joy & possibility. I am deeply content. Not because everything in my life is perfect. It isn’t. I still fuck up. I still fall into old habits. I still have ultra-petty moments. But none of these things define me anymore. They never did. But now I know it. And that kind of knowledge ripples out to the folks around us.

That’s the kind of energy I want to put out to the world. The kind that sparkles. (The shimmery eyeshadow doesn’t hurt, though)

I Wish I’d Known…

I wish I’d known, from the time I was a little girl, that my worth was not defined by my relationship to boys–not whether I liked a boy, was desired by a boy, or whether or not a boy had ever stuck his dick in me.

I wish I’d known that boys would be taught to view me as an object–by society and sometimes by their own parents–and I’d have to fight that objectification tooth and nail forever.

I wish I’d known that the whole virgin/whore dichotomy is a bullshit racket designed to rain shame and guilt down on any girl who wants to control her own sexuality.

I wish I’d known that I had a right to say no. Always. No matter how I was dressed. Or how far I’d let him go. Or whether or not he’d bought me dinner.

I wish I’d known that I could own my own desirability. That I didn’t have to rely on boys to tell me whether or not I was attractive, and thereby worthy.

I wish I’d known I could tell the sixth grade boy that told me I was ugly to FUCK OFF. I wish I’d known I didn’t have to believe him.

I wish I’d known that no matter how much alcohol I consumed, no one had the right to fuck me without my consent. Even if I slept around a lot. I wish I’d known that I had inherent value simply because I exist.

I wish I’d known that boys were not superior to me in any way. They were not ever better leaders, stronger, or more resilient–unless I let them be.

I wish I’d known that I could do something other that giggle when boys hurled sexual innuendo at me.

I wish I’d know it was okay to be a girl, to set my own limits, to chart my own course. I wish I’d known that I could say NO loudly–to many, many things.

But I didn’t.

So, now I gather all the knowledge that I wish I’d had, and I pass it to my daughter. Because she deserves better than I got.

I’ve Unfollowed the God of My Childhood

This God question is still lingering about. And it’s weighty as hell.

Okay, it’s not really a GOD question. I’m all down for my higher power, which sometimes I call God & sometimes the Universe, and sometimes HEY YOU, if I’m feeling really impatient. It’s more a spiritual practice question, I suppose.

And like all good questions, emotional dilemmas, and garden variety baggage, it stems from my childhood. Because the God I was raised with was scary as shit. He was a God to be feared. Not to be questioned. He was capable of taking things away, if I happened to love something more than I loved Him. So, I was always worried about my family. Because OF COURSE I loved the people who lived with me & cared for me more than I loved a God I couldn’t see & who seemed to be capricious as all get out. I was constantly re-praying the salvation prayer, because if I hadn’t “really meant it” God might deny me at the moment of judgement. I was afraid of God. Because I had good sense. I surely didn’t want to get smited. Or have everything I love snatched away from me. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the weight I felt to save each and every one of my friends who hadn’t acknowledged Christ & who surely were bound for hell in the proverbial handbasket.

No wonder I was an anxious child with questionable self-worth. This God’s love totally needed to be won. And I just wasn’t sure I was up to the task. You see the problem, right? Because this God was the one I learned about in church.

This God of my childhood is so diametrically opposed to the God that’s been presented to Jane that, if I were to tell her what I’d learned about God as a kid, she’d call bullshit on it immediately. Because we’ve always attended a church where first & foremost, God is love. And, in every discussion I’ve ever had with my kid about God, I’ve shown her the God I met in AA. That God (the Universe, my Higher Power, whatever…) is big and expansive and loving. That God can’t be pinned down, pigeon-holed or co-opted. That God loves without strings or conditions. There’s no fear, because there’s nothing to be saved FROM. That God loves Jane simply because she exists. And she knows it. It’s intertwined with who she is. I see that every day, in the joy she exudes, in the choices she makes.

Jane Summer Shade Festival

Jane just being Jane.

This morning, as Jane & I were meandering toward the front door of her school, she said, “Mommy, I’m so excited.”

“About what, love?” I inquired. Because, I don’t know, she kinda said it like maybe a circus was coming through.

“I’m excited about everything about today!”

This kid. I swear. I think she knows more about God than I do. She sure does radiate joy & love. At 7, she seems to have access to an inner peace & sustainable joy that I didn’t have until my 30s. So, maybe, with this kid, it’s not so much a question about what to do on Sunday morning. Maybe it’s more about teaching her the Judeo-Christian* stories and just opening up the conversation. Being more transparent about my spirituality & inviting her to participate with me. Maybe that’s enough spiritual practice for now.

Maybe.

 

*Yes, I totally agree that stories from other traditions are important, too. But I do want her to know the stories I grew up with. So, we’ll start there.

Spiritual Progress (rather than spiritual perfection)

Virgo – Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it. Thoughts, people, potions, food… get rid of what you’ve had your fill of. Even if it still smells good.                  —@leahtrox

Ooof.

Alright, truth time: I’m struggling hella hard with Christianity right now. Not in a theological sense. Theological stuff fascinates me but doesn’t shake me. No, I’m struggling with the Christian church. It’s a struggle that found its genesis in 1994, when I realized I was queer, and hasn’t let up much since.

So, what does a girl who was raised in the church, who is a big fan of Jesus but feels a bit skeeved by most of the folks who follow him, do? At various points in my journey, I’ve been able to jump whole-heartedly into the church vibe. But now, even with a church I love and admire—that really lives into social justice and mercy, that IS what I believe Jesus wanted his followers to be—I am struggling to fit.

And I’m just not sure I should any more.

I’ve always kind of rolled my eyes at the spriritual not religious folks. But that’s a more accurate descriptor of my current state of being. I’m in recovery, which I talk openly about (because openness saves lives when it comes to addiction). I got sober in AA. And, after a lot of years of kickin’ it on my own in recovery, I returned to AA. Because I’m kind of in love with the seeking that a lot of folks are doing as they work their program. That energy, the drawing closer to a higher power, is where I want to be. It feels like work. But good, honest work. Like meditation. It’s all kinds of hard. But it’s worth it. Managing a spiritual program of recovery iswork. And it’s work I’ve been doing all along (I wouldn’t be sober without it). But now it feels like work I need to do in community to push myself to do better & dig deeper.

And I’m not saying folks aren’t doing that at church (especially at my church, because I KNOW they are). It just isnt’ resonating with me in this place I’m in right now.

So, what’s my hang up? Why don’t I just step back quietly from the whole church business and be done with it? Why am I even still pondering this? Because of my kid.

It’s always been important to me to raise Jane in the church. I want her to have an unshakable foundation—an understanding that God made her, adores her, seeks communion with her without condition. I’ve always felt like, even at my lowest, my belief—deep down—that I was loved by God saved me. Doesn’t she deserve to have that touchstone?

Sometimes what saves us becomes toxic if we hold on to it.

But here’s some deeper truth: I didn’t really have any sort of meaningful relationship with my Higher Power until I got sober. Church didn’t teach me about God in the way that shapes my life now. AA did.

It’s so complicated, this question of how not only to impart something I hold so sacred to my child but also to find my own place of ease. Everything about parenting is complicated & joyful simultaneously… that’s the mystery & magic of it all.

I’d love to hear your (complicated) thoughts on spirituality & religious tradition and how you share that weighty and sacred stuff with your kids. But no hellfire & brimstone bullshit. I grew up with it & have had my fill. Just light & love welcome here.

 

Photo Cred: Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

That First Cup of Coffee

I love mornings: the sun’s slow, upward climb; the quiet; the COFFEE. But I don’t wake up perky. It’s a little fuzzy in my brain first thing in the morning. And I’m real sleepy until that first cup of coffee. Here’s a visual representation of my mental state first thing in the morning:

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But that’s fine. Because Simon sleeps later than I do. And after a cup of coffee (and a quick browse through social media), I’m all like this:

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But there’s one wild card in this morning situation: JANE. Jane wakes up like a shooting star every morning. She hops out of bed and greets the world with all the sunshine, rainbows, and sparkles she can muster. It’s A LOT of perk. Trust me.

And she gets up early. Really early. 6 a.m. early. Even on the weekends. I know. I know. I’ve tried to reason with her. She just can’t help herself. She’s SO EXCITED TO BE ALIVE.

So, when it comes to forging a bit of quiet time for myself in the morning–and believe this: I am a MUCH better mother after that first cup of coffee–I have to get up early. 5:30 a.m. to be exact. That gives me half an hour to wake up in the relative quiet (the dog snores, so there’s that) before facing the day (and other people).

Years ago, this was my everyday practice: up before the kid so I could have coffee and be charming and whatnot. But Jane & I, we know each other well. So well that sometimes it’s uncanny. (Like I really think sometimes she can read my mind. I wish I was joking. SO not joking).

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Jane can sense when I get up (the squeaky hardwood floors probably clue her in, too). When she was young, and not yet as familiar with the ways of the world (and the moods of her mother), she used to come in and climb on me when I was trying to have quiet time–which by it’s very nature is child-free time.

But this morning, I heard her get up. And slam her bedroom door shut. And slam the bathroom door shut. (She means nothing by all this slamming. It’s just her way). Then I heard her stomp into the kitchen like a baby buffalo, where she commenced slamming cabinets making her lunch.

And never, not once, did she venture into the living room where quiet time had commenced. She did not bother, pester, or annoy. She did not ask to cuddle, tell a story, or launch into a million questions about the day ahead. She just let me be.

When I wandered into the kitchen to greet her, I was all full of sunshine, happiness, and good-mother-vibes. Because coffee. And love.

All of this is apropos of pretty much nothing–except to say that the children, they are trainable. Don’t give up. Just keep loving them, redirecting them, and drinking just as much coffee as it takes.

 

Kids Will Totally Eat Your Plans for Breakfast

Kids excel at two things:

  1. Making sure their parents can never, ever again have sex without subconsciously (or, too often, VERY consciously) listening for the sound of little feet approaching the bedroom door, and
  2. Waylaying even the best laid plans.

Fortunately for you, this post is about the waylayification of expertly laid plans.

I work from home as a writer/writing consultant. Which means that I plan my own schedule. Folks hear that & they’re all: “COOL! That must be so great! You can do whatever you want.”

Yeah. No.

I write for other people. I write this blog. I send in submissions for publication. I’ve got a manuscript that I’m (supposed to be) editing. I manage clients. Attend meetings. And do the everyday shit that makes life run.

Same as everyone else.

Except that I suck at time management. I mean, I never miss a deadline. For real. BUT, I have no idea how long the average task will take me. Not a clue. And, if something happens in the middle of the day–like a client meeting or an doctor appointment–it can throw my day into a spiral of UNproductivity. Simply put: I never learned to maximize my time to achieve my goals.

And, y’all, it’s holding me back.

So, after two days of Simon listening to me kvetch about not getting done what I need to do because THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME. THERE’S NEVER ENOUGH TIME, he gently suggested that we watch this video:

When I say “gently suggested” I mean he sat me on the couch with a cup off coffee, put the computer in front of  me, and pressed play. He watched too, you know, so he could drive home the finer points. The man loves an organizational system more than most. More than anyone, really.

Amy Landino charmed me with her wittiness and her warmth. And her togetherness. I mean, I was watching in boxer briefs, a taco cat t-shirt, with my hair looking like a wild tumbleweed on my head. I was vulnerable. And halfway through, she had me. I was all: Shit’s gotta change.

And so, I did this:

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I KNOW, right? I’m obviously winning at scheduling.

Per my new bestie Amy Landino’s suggestion, every minute from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. got scheduled. Even though you can’t see a lot of it, there’s totally self-care stuff scheduled. But that’s not really my problem. My problem is working the things that make me ME (like running, reading, walking the dog, writing) into my day in ways that make me feel productive. Instead of like I’m floundering around aimlessly. Because that sucks all the joy out of having freedom in my schedule in the first place.

Because I wanted to be valedictorian of this newly scheduled life, I popped out of bed this morning at 5:30 (there’s that “me time!”), had coffee, centered myself. Then I heard it… the sniffles. From Jane’s room. I went in to find a variation of this:

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Isn’t it just the saddest? 

Jane never asks to stay home from school. Like, ever. In fact, any suggestion that she stay home is usually met with weeping & gnashing of teeth. Except for today, the day of my perfectly laid plans. When I asked if she should stay home, she nodded, sniffled, and crawled back in bed.

Well, I’ll be damned. The kid is actually sick. And hear me when I say I KNOW how blessed we are that she never gets sick. But it also makes her a HORRIBLE patient. She’s baffled by this cold. She doesn’t know what to do with herself. She just feverishly pouts about being sick. It’s A LOT.

And, remember that lovely, color-coded calendar of all that I was going to accomplish today? Well… I had to improvise. (Most of) the things got done, albeit wildly out of order. I managed to get dressed and put actual pants on (this is apparently something successful people also do). And when I had a moment where I didn’t know what I should be doing with myself–between pitiful moans from the kid and whines from the dog because she didn’t understand why we couldn’t go for a walk LIKE WAS SCHEDULED–I could just glance at the calendar, pick a task I hadn’t finished yet and go from there.

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This is the look of someone who feels accomplished–AND is wearing pants.

On a day that could’ve gotten sucked into the void, I managed to make meaningful use of my time AND be there for the poor, sick bunny. And it felt good. And productive. And like I was actually living toward my best life.

That feels like something, for sure.