This started as an Instagram “rant” of sorts, so please forgive the sloppy social media shorthand.Read More
To the good men reading: I love you. I really do. None of the men in my life deserve to be talked to like they’re a rapist or potential rapist. They are not responsible for the poor choices of another, and I don’t intend to treat them, or you, that way.
So please, stay with me guys. I’ve written this with my sons in mind and from a perspective built on years experiencing vastly different socio-political settings, seeing the virtues of both.Read More
Culturally, we have sent a message that a person is not of complete value until they are married. Which naturally leads to the belief that if one loses that value through loss of the marriage, they are less-than. They aren't a "full" member, and by extension, a “complete” daughter of God.Read More
I’ve felt off my parenting game for the last couple of months. We made the decision to move from Dallas in May, made the move to Provo in June, and our belongings didn’t arrive here until the end of July. It’s been a whirlwind for a family that has been creating our own whirlwinds since 2012. As much as this shouldn’t impact how good of a parent I am, at times, it has. In the life we have chosen for ourselves, a lot of adaptability is required, and I am constantly tempering my impulse to “wait” until things are settled before I really step up.
Stepping up--to goals, to routines, to settling in-- requires annoyingly repetitive personal pep talks and external reminders that life is happening now, and the small moments today are what make up the big advances of my future.
In the midst of it all, my kids. Perfectly childish and childlike, they vacillate every moment of their lives between joyous and carefree, to overcome with giant emotions and concern for detail.
My greatest guilt doesn’t come from feeling like a bad mom… it comes from feeling like I cannot possibly accept all of the unabashed, unfiltered, uncontrolled love they have for me.
Like, "Hey kids- I was actually kind of a jerk today- you’re supposed to be angry and hold it over me for awhile, and THEN ask me to play a game with you. Don’t you know you’re not supposed to be so obvious about your devotion to me? Have I failed you in your future negotiation and playing-hard-to-get skills?"
It is not easy on a sub-par, C- parenting day, to embrace this gift- even if it is the very thing that will nudge that grade higher the next day.
Last week I was lying next to my oldest son as he was going to sleep, throwing in some extra cuddles as a last ditch effort to reconnect on a day I felt I had blown up good.
I was holding him and silently praying to God to help him not internalize any of my moodiness or take any of my dismissiveness personally… to help him know through and through that I love him, and to help me show him that more fully the next day.
As those last words went through my mind, my boy turned to my ear, his little lips grazing my temple, and whispered,
“You are so, so good.”
Right then, I was a child and a mother all at once.
There is nothing closer to the voice of God than the voice of a child, and for the first time in a long time, I was able to believe the sentiment: that as bad as I feel, I am good. God knows it, and my son knows it.
A moment later, he leaned over again and said, “You’re a good person, Mom."
At the risk of speaking out of turn and saying something that’s not true in every single situation, I want to say this, to you, my reader, to whom I’m 99.99% sure this applies:
You’re good, even when you’re bad. You are better than you think.
You are so, so good.
"We’ve come so far my dear, look how we’ve grown..."
Our marriage is Five Years Grown now and I have some things to say now that I'm officially an expert. FIVE YEARS!
Sometimes I see posts with captions to this effect: “I don’t get why people say marriage is hard work. If you treat each other well and just show love it doesn’t have to feel like ‘work’. Love is easy and being kind feels good!”
That’s sort of like saying, “I don’t get why anyone has a complicated relationship with food or their weight. You just eat fewer calories than you burn, then you always stay a healthy weight! What’s hard about that? Food is yummy and a healthy body feels good!”
The number of people who are full of hope and dedication on their wedding day is greater than both the number of those who get divorced, and the number of people living in unhappy marriages. No one is trying to have a hard marriage.
Few things shared online offend me, but this does. Posts disparaging my religion or my political views don’t cut as deeply as a well-meaning message saying that the only reason marriage feels “hard” is because someone in it is doing something wrong:
Bad attitude, bad match, bad effort.
This is a message that perpetuates the myth that marriage itself should only exist if it is comfortable and convenient for everyone involved. It focuses on marriage being for some and not for others- "others" being anyone for whom sharing life with another person feels like "hard work" sometimes.
It leads to some of those "others" they just aren't "cut out for marriage".
Listen folks, very few people are cut out for marriage... before marriage. Becoming good at it can take a lifetime, and that's precisely the point.
I believe a marriage that comes naturally and “just works” from the beginning is a gift some people are given, just like some people are given the gift of easily relating to others, doing math, or having faith that is never shaken.
For the rest of us, marriage was designed to be our most challenging, transformative experience. God Himself is in a marriage, and His greatest work is done in partnership with Heavenly Mother. When I remember this truth, I immediately question why it matters to me where my husband puts his towel.
There is no time that I’m more grateful for the belief in and power of Eternal Marriage than when mine is at its most difficult. It would seem like that's when the idea of being with someone for eternity would scare the final shred of commitment right out of me.
But in those moments, that’s when I learn to shift my success gauge from measuring Arrival to measuring Progress.
Marriage is about enjoying daily life and helping one another through it. It's about sharing life's big moments and forming families, and all the things people think of amid the wedding day bliss.
But it’s also about teaching us how to fully give ourselves to love and becoming more than the sum of two parts, and that can be a very tough stretching experience. As stretching as the hardest work out there.
"Because the home is so crucial, it will be the source of our greatest failures as well as our greatest joys." (Neal A. Maxwell)
With such a tall order, some of us are challenged within ourselves when we have another person viewing our every shortcoming, like living with a magnifying mirror who loves you.
They're nice about it, but it can still freak you out to know how much they can see. Insecurities we never had reason to face in our more distant relationships can rear their ugly heads and bring out sides we didn't know existed.
Some find the biggest challenge allowing another person into our heart enough to let them heal the wounds gathered over a lifetime.
Others among us press on when their partner is the carrier of scars from a traumatic past, keeping their willing spouse at arms length, struggling to find the very connection that would heal them.
Some of us never had a model for what dedicated love looks like, so despite our best efforts, we take unhealthy strides to keep the union together, ultimately eroding its fragile foundation.
Some of us have a disparity in commitment level with our partner; no matter how much one person wants something, this endeavor requires all hearts all in.
Others of us have experienced unthinkable tragedy with our partner, the kind that shakes faith and puts everything into question- including the union.
None of these weaknesses are inherently selfish, unloving, or intentionally harmful.
A wise friend once taught me that most people live up to the light that they have. It’s the exception when people are out there trying to hurt one another, trying to make life difficult for someone else.
This goes for marriage, too. I believe aside from bonafide abusers, most spouses would give anything to see their husband or wife happy- they often just have a lifetime of weaknesses and insecurities to overcome before they can understand how much power they have to make that happen.
I'm reading a book where a recent widow mentions how, when her husband was very sick, she would help him with his breathing mask and one day was getting very frustrated with it when it wouldn’t go on correctly. She was flustered and annoyed and acted as such.
He remained patient, and when the nurse came later that day, he said to her, "Help Ginny with the mask. She's losing her confidence."
The author continues, "That response...is what true charity looks like. Rather than be offended by my behavior, he interpreted my actions as having come from a place of ignorance rather than flawed character. When we are filled with charity, we understand that the behavior of others is most often motivated by their desires to do good, even when that is not the reality of their actions."
He is trying. She is trying. It's not her character, it's ignorance. Ignorance of her own capacity for change. His ignorance of your faith in him. Ignorance of the potential two committed people contain to change the entire landscape of the marriage.
Marriage is a lifelong mission to change us. If we aren’t vastly different inside from years of efforts to meld our hearts to another’s, we didn’t do it right.
We can make it easier on ourselves the more we allow love rather than brute force to be the changing agent, but even when putting our heads down and powering through feels like the only way, it counts. Hanging in there just to hang in there is valuable, too.
Holding on until you are strong enough to carry your Love at a moment they feel they can’t go on anymore, is good.
Giving one last push to forget yourself in order to give them what you thought you never could, will never be a wasted sacrifice.
He’s trying. She’s trying. Give them the lifetime you promised them to become who, perhaps at times only God, knows they can be.
If the goal is to get to a point where marriage comes easily, you may be disappointed for a long time. But if the goal is to get to a point where marriage brings you joy, that is within reach.
Sacrifice is power. Selflessness is strength.
It gets easier because being willing to work is half the battle. It gets easier because you’ll realize that “needing work” and “broken” aren’t the same.
It gets easier because Charity Never Faileth.
I celebrate every great day my husband and I have together, because our success is in our progress. I know we created these good days through hard fought sweat and tears, and therefore no matter what lies ahead, we can create more.
I know many of your stories, and I know you can say the same. I have listened to your sobs over the phone as you tried to work through questions your wedding day self couldn’t have imagined.
I've held your hand in my home when you felt like your only option was to leave your own for the night.
I’ve read the lengthy texts, sent many of my own, and spent hours exchanging thoughts as you’ve grappled with the choice you have to hang on or let go.
I’ve cried with you when we both recognize that the more difficult choice is to stay.
I know what you’ve come back from, the demons you’ve fought off, the thrill you’ve felt when the two of you can happily cuddle up together and share a laugh. After what you’ve been through, the high price you’ve paid, that is a triumph.
I’m here for the fighters, the hard workers, those in the trenches.
I’m one of you, and I can hardly believe how far we’ve come.
Happy Five Years to my one and only. You make me feel like I am both enough and becoming more.
Unlike the Pinterest meme, I don’t believe that “everything happens for a reason.” I believe in every individual’s God-given freedom to think and act however they choose (within or without the law), which can lead to some truly terrible and unfair events.Read More
I would like to be able to say that I never again did something dumb to win another’s approval, but I can’t. What I’ve hopefully done is made it to a place where I am trying to win the right people’s approval, for the right reasons, and in the right ways.Read More
When I wrote “My Lifelong Wrestle With Mormonism,” up to that time I had been writing for an audience made up of my friends, my parents, and nine and a half “extended friends”, give or take.Read More
Lately, each time I've thought about writing a post to get going on Relationship Refinery, I quickly feel like it's futile and almost superficial in the midst of the global events going on. So I didn’t write; I just did a lot of angry texting and fight-picking on Facebook. You may have noticed.
Then, I quit. All of it. Social media, TV, caffeine, sugar, arguing, blaming, and all that. The numbness went away. I began to feel again, to think about things other than politics again. That was a nice week... (baby steps)
During that week, I watched Jim: The James Foley Story for the third time to bring me back to myself.
Jim the film is… well, it’s something I will flatten if I write too much about. It needs to be seen to fully get the picture of who Jim (James Foley) was. But let’s just say the film made me think about Jesus, a lot.
In short(ish), James was a somewhat accidental conflict-photojournalist who first was captured in Libya as he documented their uprising. He was released after 45 days, and to his family’s dismay but ultimate understanding, he went back to document the horrific scenes of Aleppo, Syria.
He was captured by ISIS/ISIL, which at the time was an unknown force-- not even the U.S. government (seemingly) knew about, much less suspected, this group. He was held in the worst conditions imaginable with another journalist for about a year, before being transferred to yet another prison where 16 journalists from other Western countries were being held.
After another year, most of the other journalists were released, while James was taken to the top of a hill, made to read an anti-American script condemning his family and country, and then beheaded on camera in one of the most viral stories of all time.
The documentary was made by his family and does a remarkable job at making the story an uplifting portrait of James, amid the most somber and heartbreaking circumstances. The things I have learned from his example I fear can’t be captured here, but they are by far the most profound things I have picked up from something I watched on TV, and that’s because they helped me better understand Christ and His example.
Here is a person who is in the worst place imaginable, with the least amount of hope and the most amount of uncertainty. The other prisoners talked about how during the torture sessions, they would have much rather taken physical torture than the mental torture of never knowing what was in store for them. James, a devout Catholic, really wanted to pray. In order to do so, he converted to Islam so that even though he wasn’t able to verbally pray to Jesus, he could kneel five times a day to pray to Allah and hope his prayers were being heard.
One of the other prisoners described it this way,
“Religion is like language. It's the love that matters. So even though James prayed to Allah, he needed that. He needed that connection to his God, and he also needed that connection to his mother and family.”
In these dark, dark days, James thought about beautiful things and was known to always be at peace. On Christmas day, as the men sat in a circle telling each other something they liked about the others, one of the prisoners said to James, “You are pure good. There is no evil in you.” He then went on to say that that Christmas, being with James, was the best of his life.
Can you imagine? You’re a prisoner in a literal death chamber, experiencing the best holiday of your life because you’re sharing it with someone who brings light into your heart.
Amid these conditions, Jim was described by every prisoner as a steadying force, unselfish and honest. That although every one of them at some point had “cheated” with food, hoarded food, snuck food without sharing, Jim never did. Jim took the worst of the beatings because he would request the most of the guards- always petitioning for more food for the group.
At one point another prisoner and James had endured excruciating physical torture for hours. The other prisoner, Daniel, was in the corner crying from what he called the worst pain of his life. James, somehow not in tears, reached out to comfort Daniel in the midst of his own suffering.
One of the most powerful examples of his selflessness was when Daniel was about to be released. He thought it would happen any day now, yet James had no word whatsoever that he himself would be released anytime soon. After six days of thinking he would get out that day, Daniel was in the depths of despair because it hadn’t happened and was terrified of what would happen if he didn’t get out. Jim went to his side, put his arm around him, and told him it would be ok. He said, “Daniel, you are going to get out. It’s going to be ok. You will go home.”
He then went to the other side of the room and sat quietly. 15 minutes later, the guards came to release Daniel.
The fellow captives were so certain of Jim’s goodness through and through, that one of them said that he is positive that even while Jim was kneeling before the terrorist, about to be murdered, there’s no doubt that Jim was admiring the view of the sunset as he passed.
Another ex-prisoner remarked, “He died as a free man. I ended up being released; he ended up free.”
My little brother and I watched this film together and afterward he wondered aloud how he himself could make that kind of an impact. Go to Libya? Syria? Zambia? Become a conflict journalist?
We talked about how, even within the best of intentions, that focus can end up being one of the Adversary’s tools used to keep us locked inside ourselves. You can’t do anything if you can’t go abroad. You can’t do anything if you can’t reach the masses. Or change a law. Or unseat a president. Or feed the hungry millions. Or have some big fancy job making a lot of fancy money.
Every time I watch James’ story, I feel immense sadness for his family. But I can’t help but feel their pride as well, particularly his parents’. To have a child die is a tragedy unmatched.
But when I think of how remarkable it would be to discover that my son was known, in the darkest, most hopeless place, to be a person of integrity, unfailing charity, optimism and humility... I can’t help but believe that their joy in that knowledge has gotten them through many dark days.
Nothing would put my heart at more ease than knowing that Charity, the pure love of Christ, was my child’s legacy.
His parents said that they came to know their son through the people in his life, after he had passed, as they met his friends and former fellow captives for the memorial service. People like him don’t go around talking about how they are saving the world one good vibe at a time, so other people have to do it for them.
When I say the film makes me think of Jesus a lot, it’s because I’m given a visual of perhaps how our Savior might have conducted Himself had He been in similar circumstances: serving the poorest and most war-torn among us, giving up all material possessions, remaining faithful and connected to God throughout it all, and always, always being there to comfort another in pain despite His own, likely worse, pain.
That’s why I watch it despite the sadness. It reminds me that if all I do in this life is look outside myself every possible moment, wherever I am, even if no one but a few people in a prison cell will see it, it will be the best use of my life.
Recently I was visiting my aunt and uncle in California with my two toddlers who were out of sorts from a month of travel. My three-year-old had imprinted on this basketball and needed to play with it at all times. He had taken it outside where it was raining, then brought it in and was distraught that it was wet.
Of course my simply toweling off the ball wasn’t good enough for him, and he kept screaming. Since I found this to be unreasonable (“I want it dryyyyyyy”), I was bracing myself for a long tantrum and not giving into his lunacy. My aunt, who was minutes away from needing to leave for church, patiently came over and said, “We could go dry it with my blow dryer. Would you want to do that?”
As I watched her blow dry my son’s wet basketball, a sort of preposterous thing, with a smile on her face as if it were the most normal thing in the world--all while my son’s tears streamed down his face and he calmed down-- I had the thought, this is what the pure love of Christ looks like. I was surprised, because there were a dozen other things she had done that week that might have looked more obviously that way.
But this encompassed the spirit of Charity in such a lovely way that I couldn't miss it. Charity is discerning, but when it has to choose, it errs on the side of looking at something as “helping” rather than “enabling”. It doesn’t ask questions like, “But if I give in this time, then won’t he keep asking for other ridiculous things?” or “Yes he’s sad, but it will be good for him to not get his way.”
It says, “You know what? What would it hurt to help him feel happy? I have the power to comfort him, it’s not hurting him or me, so I’m going to try.” It’s not concerned with spoiling, or only helping those who help themselves, or forcing lessons onto a person. It’s just about giving when we can, and trusting it will all even out somehow.
"There is no such thing as a self-made man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the makeup of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our successes." -George Matthew Adams
So I’ll write. Because relationships--typically one-by-one and not by the masses-- are how we make the difference, and I need an endless stream of reminders to push me outside of my default stay-in-my-bubble-and-keep-things-medium mode.
I mean, literally as I write this, I just snapped at my husband for looking at me while I'm eating a messy bagel. As I write this thing about being just a tiny bit less selfish and a tiny bit more kind, I'm snarky over perhaps the dumbest thing ever.
I need these reminders more than everyone.
I'm easily prone to overwhelm, so my purpose for this site is to provide a place to remind us that there is much refining to be done without total overhaul. Push ourselves without pushing our own buttons. (Just made that up, clearly. Will someone please think of something catchy for this idea... I'm too overwhelmed.)
Refinement: it isn’t everything at once; it’s something at many times. (Better?)
It's thinking of your spouse or your mother or your neighbor in need even one time when you’d normally be thinking of yourself, and then actually doing something with the thought.
It’s looking at the towel on the floor and making the decision to be happy there is a person in your life to put the towel on the floor, rather than throwing said towel in said person’s face.
With God, it’s kneeling to pray just one of the times you would rather do it curled up in bed, or just praying a little, maybe during a commercial break, when you would rather not pray at all.
With yourself, it’s literally patting yourself on the back (I’m serious, get your hand and put it on your back) after you do that 15 minute workout or make a $5 donation to that GoFundMe page, when you had the strong desire to stay home or keep scrolling.
It’s after a week of tiny things like this, suddenly thinking, see? Little by little, I can do this. I can be better than I ever thought possible. So little has changed this week, but my hope has become brighter than it has been in years.
That’s what’s amazing about refinement. It’s not about the literal amount of change made in a given area; those are drops in the bucket of endless things you could be doing.
It’s about showing up and showing God you haven’t quit. You haven’t thrown in the towel (or thrown the towel), even when your desired outcome (of the election, the marital disagreement, the promotion or the kid’s birthday party) didn’t occur.
Give Him an inch, and He will give a yard.
That’s why I’m here. I’m going to keep showing up to this site, to put on screen things that matter to me, even though my voice is small and far from revolutionary.
If I can help someone think a little more about their spouse’s point-of-view, who in turn is more compassionate to a colleague in need, who is then more motivated to listen to their child with a little more patience, who then goes to school and befriends a lonely kid… then it's a ripple worth making.
There are no sandblasters here, only little chisels and scraps of sandpaper chipping away the calluses we’ve developed from staying in our same ruts, climbing the same mountains, pushing away the same calls to someplace higher. Little by little we can soften up, and ultimately, shine.
But I've gotten the sense for a long time, as I see more and more "Moms Are Amazing" posts going viral, that maybe we sort of need this kind of talk a little too much. Maybe we’re a little hooked on it?Read More
“Oh my… you should see Clayton run!!!” This text from Jon exhilarated me from out of the gray, 21 degree abyss outside my anxiety-inducingly cluttered apartment which I couldn't get myself to clean because...winter.
My boy had been winding up like a little toy for the past week, each day becoming a little more bouncy, a little more loud-spoken, a lot more restless. A kid who religiously took a two hour nap and had always slept 13 hours at night had started to play instead of sleep in his bed each afternoon, and was awake at 4 am every morning. This wasn’t going to work.
650 square feet had officially become too small for his little long legs. The legs on which he stood as a baby and would not bend to sit down.
I remember showing him one day, thinking maybe he just didn’t know how to sit,
“Hey look! You can relaaaax. See how nice? There’s the movie, and you can just sit in front of it. Like a lazy person. Isn’t it fun?” To which he instantly responded by jumping up to resume standing.
To play, he would pick up an object, any object, and run from one side of the apartment to the other, over and over, until I captured him mid-lap and took him outside to sprint.
This could be classic codependence, but it's my truth so hush your judgements: There’s an area inside me where I carry a sort of monitor for each child’s feelings. It’s like I have my feelings, frustrations, desires, and sense of equilibrium.
Then I have his. It's not a mind thing; it’s a gut thing. This monitor keeps track of tension and balance of his inner self. It’s as if when each day passes that he is unable to run until he is out of breath, a marker is raised on the monitor’s gauge.
If he’s gotten less sleep for a few days, a marker goes up. If he hasn’t had any time alone with either parent in awhile, up. Over time, I feel the unrest that he’s having and it makes perfect sense to me why he’s grumpy or hyper.
I feel the need to resolve that for him as if it were my own unrest and I don’t feel settled until I do. I can still feel happy myself, but there’s a mini alarm going off inside that’s saying
WARNING: CLAYTON NEEDS OUT! CLAYTON NEEDS OUT!
So that day when Jon took them to the enormous indoor playground that would only exist in the bitter Northeast and sent me that text, my heart soared. I could see Buddy’s little body shoot out of Jon’s arms like a rocket, bolting to the scooters and bouncy castles and laughing his freedom laugh. The unforced, impossible to contain elation that comes from exclusively living in the moment, something only a child can possess.
“They are soooooo happy”
In picturing it, I felt the incessant alarm turn off. Like the steam switch had been opened on a boiling pot. I could almost feel his energy burning off of him, propelling him forward, giving him that happy exhaustion that a full day of play and smiles does.
Living the City Life can be hard, especially when the city is cold and the apartment small. I write this from a one-bedroom apartment where we started with one baby and added another, where baby #1 resided in a Porta Crib in a nook in the kitchen and baby #2 stayed in our room.
The kids have graduated to sleeping in the bedroom, and Jon and I move our mattress out each night to sleep in the living room.
We eat meals, do projects, watch movies, and play Play-Doh from a tiny table in the corner of the living room, store our huge double stroller in the entryway, and host overnight guests on our fold-down couch surrounded by toy bins.
Whenever we want to go somewhere, we take our little parade a half block away to the car where they know to stay on the sidewalk while we get loaded up.
“Stay on the sidewalk” often means sprint up and down sidewalk, bumping into stranger’s legs while those strangers, unfamiliar with children in large quantities, sometimes look on with more than a hint of worry.
But mostly they smile and tap the kids on the head, saying things like, “Those were the days,” or my favorite, from a homeless gentleman watching Clayton run, “The future is safe.”
Our ground-level back window faces the entrance to the dumpsters, so to take the garbage out we send one of us (Jon) outside and the kids and I throw out bags to him to avoid multiple trips.
The kids look forward to watching the garbage trucks come, and to watching dad appear out the window. Sometimes we pass children through that window for efficiency in car loading, and talk about fast escape in case of fire!
Since we live across the street from Campus, our walkways and stairs are immediately shoveled and salted, and sometimes our street is blocked because a Supreme Court justice or the President are visiting the school.
Clayton learned to walk by stumbling, then walking, then running through the common areas of Harvard Law School, one of very few underaged voices heard in that building.
Living so close to the school is what keeps our rent high and our apartment small, but it’s also what allowed Jon to be home for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the grueling law schooling process.
It’s what has allowed us to make friends with fellow students who are too lazy to trek very far to come visit (just kidding, Millennials), and given us access to an array of people in stages of life different from ours.
It has given us the chance to stop by all kinds of holiday celebrations, marches, peaceful protests, sit-ins, and birthday parties and baby showers happening across the street, spontaneous ventures we stumbled upon while walking through on our way to CVS or Shake Shack.
Life feels very colorful, very random, and often requires creativity to get what used to be basic life done. The image that comes to mind while trying to organize a closet or fold laundry or put together a new piece of furniture, is one of those little puzzles where only one space is open and you have to move all the other pieces one at a time into the free spot temporarily until you can maneuver them into their correct spot.
To think that some people in Texas live life with ROOMS THAT ARE EMPTY ALWAYS is actually hard for my brain to imagine right now. How would you ever have a disorganized closet??
We keep very little stuff- like, very little. For two kids we have two bins of toys. For two adults’ clothes we have two single door closets. Every time we leave for the summer and take just a couple of suitcases full of stuff, I decide I’m going to get rid of everything we left at home because obviously I didn’t need it if I went without it all summer. Then winter comes...
I’m not going to go into all of the “but on the other hand, we are closer together because of our closeness in proximity.” Sometimes that is true, other times it’s not. But what is true is that we chose this life.
We want it this way. We are so, so lucky to get to want it rather than it being how it HAS to be. Because let’s face it, choosing to go without (which we rarely feel like we are doing) is a lot different than having to go without.
Choice is always, always something for which to carry immense gratitude.
Because of this choosing, I have a few words of support and encouragement for anyone struggling through tight quarters with little ones and not so little spouses.
Listen: When you are feeling like your baby’s nursery isn’t decorated beautifully, and you worry that somehow she will be deprived of the ideal amount of stimulation that will get her to that key milestone early enough to get her into that Ivy League college,
or give you both the opportunity to bond in the sweet reverie of a white nursing glider under soft recessed lighting,
or that there’s simply NO WAY she can sleep well without a mobile and twinkly stars on the walls…
Just do this: picture my son in a Porta Crib in the corner or a five foot wide galley kitchen, lodged between the pantry and the back door, facing the dishwasher, with a box fan on the counter for white noise and a sheet acting as a curtain between his “room” and the living room.
Then know that he has slept soundly there for 2 years, going to bed at 5pm.We didn’t cook past that time, and I think it was good for our figures. He is well-adjusted by all medical accounts, and he's progressing normally in every way, or so they tell us.
When you find yourself worrying about your bare walls, or your “lacking” table settings, think about my apartment I’ve lovingly labeled 'Dorm Room/Church Nursery Chic'.
Anything and everything that I allow into the living space serves a purpose- a functional, childproof purpose, and photos on the wall and table cloths on the table don’t fit that description.
If I’m already spending several moments a day blocking baseballs from hitting my head or chipping cereal off the chairs, I don’t have the time to waste repairing shattered picture frames or doing extra laundry.
Playtime is learning time for kids, and rest time is savor time for parents. When I rest from tasks that will only reappear immediately after I do them, that’s when my joy in my children has room to re-blossom.
When I look at the babies instead of at the things I’m trying to keep them from destroying, I remember why I’m here, on this floor, playing this "game".
When I put my mind on the tower we are building instead of on the moment they will go to sleep, I get to cash in early on all the investments I’m making in them. They notice; I notice.
My children nor my marriage are in perfect form at all times. Well, maybe perfect, because 'perfect' means complete, and they are complete- always.
But they aren’t always tidy, well-behaved, happy, and scream-free (my kids nor my marriage). But they are doing fine; we have everything we need, and pretty much everything we want.
Anything that we don’t have that we do want, wouldn’t be found in a bigger apartment or more stuff or a nursery for the baby. So please let me put your heart at ease: it’s going to be okay.
Delete Pinterest and Instagram for a week, and you’ll see just how amazing your messy, puked on couch feels then when your partner and your tiny ones pile on top of you at the end of a rough day.
Remember what it’s like to see them “soooooo happy” and remember that stressed-out you has a hard time creating that, seeing that, and worst of all, feeling that.
I can promise that the tasks that take up a huge part of our Mom days can only assist minorly in creating that feeling inside.
Trying to stick with the minimum in low-yield areas and the maximum in intangible, unrepeatable areas is my constant aim and struggle.
The minimum to keep the house uncluttered and peaceful (which in my experience is most easily done not in the house, but in the store or on Amazon. If I never buy the stuff in the first place, I never have to make decisions about whether I’ll spend my time taking care of my stuff and space or whether I’ll be with my kids and my husband).
The minimum to keep our bodies healthy and well fed (unless prepping and cooking food brings me great joy, which sometimes it does).
The minimum to create beauty and cleanliness that allows me to walk into my home and feel peace and comfort, photogenic or otherwise.
The minimum dollars spent to provide safety, warmth, and space for each member, without adding more stress with increased rent or mortgage.
When I look back on things, I only remember their general vibe. I don’t remember how long I procrastinated emptying the Diaper Genie or how many three-course meals I prepared, or likely didn’t prepare. I just get a sense, a feeling, of what that time in my life was like.
I sense whether I was worried a lot about what others were thinking of me, or whether I was often stressed about the state of the home (spoiler alert- my house usually looks the same whether I’m hyper-vigilant or relaxed, but the comfort of the home is deeply affected by which one I am).
Whether my marriage was creating synergy or tension, and whether I was stopping to soak in* my children.
*Sidenote: “soak in” is not code for how many art projects I did with them or outings I was planning and taking and on and on. My kids are 1 and 2 years old. To keep my wild ambitions and mom-guilt in check, “soak in” has to mean for me, to just be with them.
In Shonda Rhimes' book she talked about her decision to “always say yes” when one of her children asks her to play with them. She says that although that sounds impossible to both working moms and otherwise, she defended it by explaining that most of the time, a child will be more than happy with even 15 minutes of purely focused play. No phone, no hopping up to do “just this one thing”, no wiping the snot from their nose (I added that). I have found this to be true.
Just see them. They are almost grown. Be here now.
But just as importantly, be you now. There is no waiting for another time or place where you can fully thrive; such a place doesn’t exist anymore than this place does.
Create a space within your tiny space, figuratively or literally, and crawl into it and create. Search. Read. When it’s too small for even that, get out. Connect. Serve. Breathe.
No place is too small for that.
How many times did you argue against the very side you are now on, swearing up and down that you would “never” think like “them”? “Them” being your parents, your teacher, your neighbor, your religious leader, your coach?Read More
I have been having this feeling in my heart lately… almost a warming where I had been chilled into complacency or apathy for too long. I’m trying to identify if it’s empathy, in an expanded sense that I haven’t before experienced. As if I’m finally mature enough to have earned it. Or mature enough to have nurtured it. It’s not an entirely comfortable feeling. It’s an ache, but a loving ache. It’s different than sadness or anger at a tragedy. It’s different from compassion. It feels divine, like it’s coming from another place, a most true and real place.
The only clues I have as to what it is are in the moments in which it appears. They are moments of heartbreak, but not mine: only heartbreak in the lives of others.
I think it started in moments of heartbreak for those close to me, but quickly began showing up while reading fundraising requests on Facebook, until it greatly piqued my interest when it fluttered through while I watched the news. I have always felt so distant from those scenes, or so bombarded by their frequency that I failed to see them any longer.
Perhaps I have been exposed to this sensation before, and quickly stifled it because I was not yet comfortable with the vulnerability required to feel the longing helplessness by which I identify the onset of this feeling.
Even now, the feeling is fleeting. Encouraging it to stay is a most delicate effort; I must be unafraid of the feeling's power. Although it seems light at the onset, I can sense that the feeling has deep roots, capable of turning my life in all new directions.
It’s somewhat strange, 31 years into life, to be experiencing what feels like a brand new emotion. I’m unfamiliar with how to sustain it, how to interpret it, what to do with it.
So for now I simply feel it. I like it, even with its tinge of discomfort. It makes me feel connected; human.
I can see why I shut it out. It isn’t pleasant to have to care about the news. If I care about that car accident, then what is going to hold me together when an entire busload of children are injured?
If I break the seal on my heart for the man shot in an everyday burglary, how will the contents of my soul spill over when 49 people are murdered in one night?
If I allow myself to shudder at the thought of the panhandling woman at the gas station going hungry that night, how will I ever be able to sleep with the awareness of the millions of starving children across the world?
It’s uncomfortable, all that caring. But somehow, without knowing what has changed, I have begun to creep past the discomfort into the gentle expansion of my soul that increasingly accompanies my awareness of these heartbreaks.
This feeling has given me a glimpse as to how there can be people in the world who give their whole lives to help others. Literally, give it all away: time, talents, resources. Who feel as deeply for the life of a stranger as they do their own brother or lover.
I guess I always thought this was a “type” of person, someone other than me, a “better” person, gifted in empathy and compassion and rescue.
I’m beginning to see how “that person” could eventually be found in me. But I’m also seeing how much heartbreak and feeling and pain it will require. It feels daunting to take that all in, to ask myself in every situation,
“Can you imagine?”
The infrequency with which I ask myself this is enough to expose just how afraid I am of the answer. Because each time I ask it of myself, regarding any person in any heartbreaking situation, I am brought down, through my imagination, to depths I have never personally had to endure.
Thank God, thank God, that my Savior has paid for it all, lest we all become paralyzed from the collective heartbreak of the world. Allowing me to be able to empathize, to feel on another's behalf, and know that somehow, somewhere, peace, mercy, and justice will prevail.
As I write here, the obviousness of this whole thing strikes me and I’m embarrassed that it took me this long to realize. The feeling I’m having when I see another suffer, and I choose not to look away but rather to imagine their heartbreak… to mourn with them and rest in their pain...
"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." -Moroni 7:47
In college, I studied behavioral science which covers psychology as the central science. I could list the symptoms of depression off the top of my head.
And yet, the signs escaped me when they were mine.Read More