Don’t Limit Your Worth and the Possibility for Expansive Growth

 

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For most of my life, I’ve wondered.

Wondered what more there could be, how much more I could be.

Wondered if I was wasting time, moment by fleeting moment

or investing in something, making deposits myself or someone else would one day cash in on.

12 years (almost) of marriage, 3 kids deep, 1 year into my thirties and I am still wondering.

I feel like my adult life has only really just begun.  That I am only now finding out what my strengths are and slowly discarding the parts that don’t serve me, that actually weigh me down.

It has a lot to do with expectation –

my own and others –

and the never-ending comparison of arbitrary milestones and lines we draw; a measuring stick.

But a measuring stick doesn’t leave room for growth. A measuring stick just compares to what we have known, a standard rule so we can all aim for something similar, because as humans we like order and to know how we stack up in society.

So we limit ourselves.

Instead of an expansive model of growth, one that knows no limits other than the ones we set against ourselves, we find ourselves bound to both inner and outer critical voices.

But I am learning to measure a little differently these days.

I’m inviting a new standard, an expansive one, like a never-ending ribbon

one that doesn’t say:

“you need to do more, be skinnier, be more beautiful, hold everything with strength, cover all your bases, live like everyone is watching your every move, never make a mistake, always find joy”

but rather,

“look at how you are growing” and “see the good ways you influence your circle” and “you made a mistake, but that means you are trying” and “you feel uncertain and are showing emotions that make you feel awkward, but that means you are being real with others and yourself” and “you don’t have to do it all”.

As we learn to extend compassion to ourselves, we create a new space in which we can flourish, where healing can take place and we can plant ourselves on a new trajectory toward unlimited possibilities.

I hope one day I will look back at where I have been and say, “I never could have imagined…”

Or maybe, I can.

-b.e.

 

 

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The Inspiring Devotion to Nothing

 

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Are you familiar with the Chinese Bamboo Tree?

Once planted, it doesn’t break through the ground for 4 years.

During this time, gardeners tend to this seemingly bare spot of earth – water it, fertilize it, nurture it – with no visible display of what difference their care has made.

But then, after 4 years of “nothing”, in the 5th year, the shoot bursts through the ground and grows at an amazing pace.  In just over a month, it will tower over you at 90 feet high.

I feel like this relates to so many areas of life.

It resonates so deep within me right now.

Because sometimes, I give up tending to certain things I believe in.

Sometimes, we don’t see the outcomes of our kindness, generosity, patience, grace.

Sometimes, the grueling, gritty, every day work just doesn’t seem worth it.

Sometimes, we fail and instead of learning from our mistakes, give up prematurely.

Sometimes, we look crazy devoting so much time to something that gives us so little in return.

Sometimes, I look at everyone else’s bamboo trees and instead of enjoying their beauty and celebrating the hard work it took to grow them, I allow envy to settle in my stomach.

Then there are those moments – days, weeks, years – where incredible growth takes place.  It was happening all along, but you didn’t see it.  You couldn’t.  Maybe it is all timing.  Maybe you just weren’t ready.  Maybe someone else came along who believed in you and even did the hard work and tended to your garden for a time when you neglected it.  Maybe there are a slew of reasons.  Maybe you were so busy tending to that barren ground that it just sort of changed overnight and things are suddenly happening at a dizzying pace.

I feel like I have experienced these stages at different times in life.  Sometimes I give up and move on.  Sometimes I wonder and doubt and second-guess why I am even doing the things I am.  Or I am just lost and don’t know what is next or what I should be doing at all. And then there are times when I stand back and see the outcome and feel full and satisfied.

But you can’t skip the seasons and you can’t get the lost years back.

There is so much going on below the surface that we don’t see.

As a mother, this feels poignant.

I sense that many of us with young children feel like we are just getting through these early years with our kids.  We have lost ourselves somewhere along the way and feel like every drop of energy is devoted to their care and nothing is left. We just have to get through these years and things will change. It is both joy and hardship, but I have never found myself more than through the experience of having children.

It has loosened so many lies I believed about myself and others, about where I actually find my value and what is important in life.

Even those formative years in our children’s lives are like tending to a bamboo tree.  You might not see the outcome of what you pour into their every day, the sacrifices you make for them, for years to come.  And we bear the wrinkles and tired eyes from the laughter and frustration and sleepless nights and dim, early mornings.

But when I think about the bamboo tree and growing another year older and hearing the stories of others’ lives and the abrupt endings we can face…I also feel a broader call, an urgency.

Not to see change, but to work toward it.

Because sometimes, the work takes years and years and maybe I don’t even get to enjoy the shade that will one day come from the daily tending,

but

I can imagine who will.

And I wonder, what have I been tending to beneath the surface all this time?

-b.e.

Childless: The Unseen Mothers In Our Midst

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I posted this quote on Instagram this morning:

“Let us keep reminding each other to breathe, to smile, to treat ourselves and one another with kindness. Let us hold each other when we need support, and let us challenge and remind each other of what is truly important. Let us take care of ourselves so that we don’t hand down our unfinished business to the next generation. Let us laugh together, and never lose our joy…And let us take care of the children, our children, all the children. Let us mobilize our fierce and passionate mother energy on behalf of all beings on this little blue-green planet…” – Denise Roy, MOMfulness: Mothering with Mindfulness, Compassion, and Grace (emphasis mine)

A follower left the comment, “Although I am not a Mom yet, I want to read the book you’ve quoted! I believe I hold a strong mothering spirit with me everyday.”

And I caught my breath for a moment as I saw something I often overlook – the unseen mothers in our midst.

And I wonder, how do we be more present to those who don’t technically have children, but are mothers in their own way? There are so many women in this space for a variety of reasons – it may not be the right season in life, they haven’t “found” the right partner yet, fertility issues, health concerns, miscarriage, fallen through adoptions – this just names a few. But they still have this strong maternal spirit and yearning to mother.

And often, when someone is vulnerable enough to share this desire or their struggle in achieving “mom” status, we hurry to patch it up and instead of just sitting with it, helping hold a tiny corner of the weight of desire for motherhood, we offer unhelpful answers like, “trust me, you’re lucky to have your freedom!” or “you’re so young, don’t worry, you have plenty of time!” or “don’t give up, it will happen!” or even, “You just need to pray more”.  We might even begin to question their life choices or try to offer unsolicited advice and share how easily we slipped into motherhood.

How do we walk alongside each other and SEE one another for who we are and affirm the mother felt within each of us, even if our direct experiences differ?

Because maybe they are mothers also, but with a much different birth story.

I don’t have the answers to why.  Why some of us fall into our hopes and dreams and others don’t, why I conceived and birthed three children with relative ease, while others have losses upon losses and nights upon nights of prayers and tears and negative tests and enormous let downs and children they hold tight in their chest because they love them as fiercely as any mother would.

And I can’t speak to that experience, since it is not mine. I have watched friends give birth to their babies and I have seen them lose them and I have heard the hopes of trying and trying and trying and the piercing comments and heavy hearts and the joy and the sorrow all mixed together and it leaves me speechless with wonder at the heaviness of birth and death and motherhood.

And I have often not known what to say or do or how to be for those mothers.

But, at this moment, I see you.

And I am trying to look with wider eyes.

– b.e.

becca

Becca Ellis is an artist, writer, wife, and mom to 3 in Bend, Oregon where she works as a Director of Family and Children at First Presbyterian. One of her greatest joys is bringing women together and supporting mothers in all walks of life. This Fall, she will be facilitating Intentional Motherhood Circles in Bend, Oregon through the Mama Connect Bend community.  You can learn more about Mama Connect Bend here and follow along on IG: www.instagram.com/mamaconnectbend

 

 

 

Answer Their Questions – Even if You Don’t Have the Answers

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We all know this truth: the world is full of sadness and brokenness and atrocities our hearts can’t seem to comprehend. It feels like there is always another story, another group being marginalized and abused, another people displaced and suffering, another disaster striking and destroying everything a family has and knows.

Right now, with all the brokenness accompanying what is happening at our borders, I have been wondering, how do we raise our own children to stand for what is right and break the patterns history repeats? How can we help them understand their privilege and raise goodness within them?

There may always be suffering and people choosing to inflict pain and oppress others with their power in the world, but there is something deep in each of us that knows we can’t allow ourselves to just get used to it, to begin accepting it as part of life as long as it doesn’t impact us personally. It is easy and natural to want to shield our children from it completely, to allow them to keep their innocence and not have to worry about what is happening in the world. And while I agree that discretion should be used in determining at what age and how much is appropriate to share with a child, I also believe it is essential for us to be preparing our children to take a loving and compassionate stance as they age and enter adulthood.

Many of us, as we watch our children grow, have hopes they will learn to navigate life with good judgment, choose to stand up for what is right, defend the weak, and speak out against injustice.

But how do we even begin to grasp at such a large task and how do we do it in a way that honors their emotions and sense of security and current developmental stage?

I think one of the biggest gifts we can give to our children is to answer their questions, even when we don’t have the answer.

We have probably all been hit with that unsuspected moment when your child asks you a question like, “What happens to people after they die?” or “Why would someone want to shoot someone?” and for a moment eyes freeze and lips numb, as our mind races to come up with the “right” answer.   Many times, as adults, we bring our own baggage with us to these questions. Personally, I have had sift through many dogmas and beliefs I was taught growing up and have often responded hastily, distracting and essentially shutting down the question, out of fear of indoctrinating my children the same way.

Yet, many times, children just need to know you are listening and holding space for them. Lisa Miller, author of the book, The Spiritual Child, writes how often parents respond with “I don’t know”, when we dont know what to say. But this can actually halt the discussion and dismiss the question. What if you really don’t have words? She suggests responding with a “what do you think?” and see what comes next.  The important thing is to not cut off the wondering, invite the questions and be willing to sit with the unknown.

As a parent, I have felt at times inadequate and poorly equipped to answer these big questions, teach empathy and work toward instilling the values in my children that I believe will allow them to care for others, contribute positively to their communities, lead others toward goodness, and be the most amazing human beings they can be. It has taken intention and work and listening and trying again and having grace for myself as I take this task on, to nurture and encourage their spiritual development, as an essential part of raising my kids.

But often, I find myself surprised by how much depth and understanding even the youngest souls offer when presented with these big and hard and complicated issues that adults can’t seem to wrap their heads around or find solutions to. Somehow, they manage to find the simplicity, point out the profound.

So, when they ask the questions, I have learned to do my best to invite more curiosity, to help them find the answer, or at least, enough for now.

They might answer the question for themselves,

or

you might offer just the right words,

or

there might be no words at all.

Maybe You will learn something from them,

and

maybe you will have to look into the answer together and continue the discussion.

But, answer the question and affirm the importance of your child’s thoughts, feelings and curiosity.

I am in this journey along with you and have no claim to expertise or perfection (far from it!), but I have found that in our life, we are given endless opportunities to nurture our children’s spirituality. They are found in the margins, in the every day and ordinary moments, we stumble upon these sacred moments and spiritual encounters.

While the way these opportunities present themselves and how we each uniquely relate to our children will be different depending on our own family dynamics and values, personalities, and where and how we live, every parent, regardless of their beliefs and background, are the ones with the greatest influence on the development of their children. 

So, I may not have specific how-to’s to offer, step-by-steps or concrete examples – I am no expert.

I am just a parent, like you, trying to remind my children of their privilege and grow in them a heart of compassion through practicing gratitude and learning about other cultures and imagining what it would be like to live in different shoes and giving up something to help others and learning stillness and sitting in silence and staring up at the trees and speaking truth and goodness and love and praying and allowing our hearts to be broken and knowing we have a responsibility to do more and love harder and look with intention outside of ourselves.

So, remember to breathe and that

  • It’s okay if you don’t have all the answers
  • If it feels like you have no time for anything more, you are not alone, breathe
  • Try and look for space in the margins of the day, even if it is just a few minutes here and there
  • No one is perfect
  • Some days it will feel hard and like you failed
  • Some days you will have all the right words
  • We can only do our best in each moment we are given
  • This is such important work you are doing, don’t give up
  • You are exactly who your child needs

-b.e.

 

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Dear Exhausted Ones

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To the full-time working parent, giving countless hours to taking care of your family, sacrificing your own self-care and desires just to get through another day, while the laundry and bills pile up and the fridge is looking bare and you’re trying your best to give your kids what they need and show them your love, but you feel the stretching and hit your limit more than you wish to admit. Exhausted you still pull yourself up after finally sitting down to help with that last minute school assignment and get your daughter to those piano lessons you stretch your grocery budget to afford.

You matter and life might be so different than you ever imagined it to be and not slow down anytime soon and all you do may never be noticed or appreciated like it should be, but you are seen. Remember to breathe and take even the smallest moments of rest as they appear.

To the postpartum mom in the thick of taking care of the littlest humans with the biggest needs and only experiencing life through a constant fog of exhaustion, you glance in the mirror and try to unsee the dark circles under your eyes and the extra rolls and marks you maybe know should be acceptable to be there after having a baby, but you just want some remnant of normal to be back in your life. But there is too much and so little time and the days go so slow and yet, every milestone your baby reaches has you wondering how so much time has passed.

You are doing such important work. It is hard, and some days you will want to quit. They say nothing lasts forever, but it’s not true – the impact you are making now will follow your child throughout their entire life.

To those still wrapped up in bedsheets hours after the sun has risen, paralyzed by something you can’t find words for, broken and afraid and overwhelmed with a sense of unworthiness and uselessness. Maybe you are surrounded by people who care and you can’t seem to show them the love you know you have for them. Maybe you are wondering if anyone ever thinks about you and just wish someone would show up at your door. The new day doesn’t bring the light you are missing, even when the sun is shining directly on your face.

Maybe no one will show up for your today, maybe not even yourself, and I can’t imagine that pain. You are enough. Time may pass, but even if it takes days and months to get out of that bed, to silence the voices that say there is no point, I hope you know that you are a gift and the party isn’t complete without you.

To the one who has been left in silence and unknowing, without any answers as to what the heartbreak was or how it happened, a relationship torn. You are left only with the interrogating voice in your head placing blame and the never-ending questioning, a self-inflicted torture. Your heart is longing for resolution and wholeness, but wonders if it should hold out or move on.

It is hard to not allow one person to determine your value. Maybe you were wrong, maybe they were wrong, too. Maybe we are all human and navigating conflict in love is one of the hardest things to learn. We all have the chance to do better, be better, love better.

To the under-served and unprivileged who I often turn a blind eye toward and don’t take the time to understand or immerse myself in your world, I am sorry for the way things completely out of your control – when, where and how you were born, the unfounded fears of our society – have been held against you, holding you back from flourishing, to support the convenience and wellbeing of others.

You would think we would stop to listen, that the crying out and deep brokenness would shake something in our bones to finally give up our comfort to do what is right and just, but instead we brush it under the rug and rearrange the furniture and rescue dogs and shake our heads, so disconnected we don’t really know how to change anything.


We all have a story, we are all journeying through life and doing our best and being our worst and letting tears fall and wondering if we are broken and why we don’t care more and how life can be so wonderful and how there is darkness around every corner.

Truth is, we can all do better, be better, but “being better” doesn’t change our worth.

If we don’t accept the basic worth of another human being, of life itself, the world will never change.

We will continue to hate the people that threaten us and draw lines around “us” and “them”.

It all seems too big and impossible, really, when you think about it.

But even in your workplace and as you care for your family and as you raise your children and as you reach out in love to those who have never experienced it and as you navigate your relationships and go to Thanksgiving dinner and get to know your neighbors and wash dishes and read board books and embrace your art and remind others of beauty and replace dignity and tend to the earth and hear the stories of those around you and see the sunlight filter through your bedroom window and say a prayer of thanks

remember that small things matter, too.

You can’t do it all and you definitely can’t do it all at once.

We all know there are big things going in the world and it is a matter of privilege when our problems hardly stack up to the devastation many individuals and families are facing.  I hate that I don’t have the answers and don’t know what to do. My heart seeps over the Palestinian deaths this past week and the families being torn apart and the countless atrocities all across the globe, and yet, I don’t even know where to begin.

Some of us can and will step out and do something that directly rescues those across the globe from us. I am so thankful for you.

Some of us may never have the resources or the opportunity to do something at a global level. But right outside of your front door, in your very neighborhood, even in your own home, there is so much good to be done, waiting to rise out of the cracks.

-b.e.

 

 

 

 

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to name the things that often go unspoken

 

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One of the paradoxes of writing is the desire to be known and yet, at the same time, allowing others to interpret who you are however they choose. There is no controlling the outcome. I share my thoughts and you take it as you will. And that’s okay. For me, writing is about growth and wonder and questions and process and naming the things that often go unspoken and maybe even stringing words together that resonate with some other soul somewhere, too.

I have gone through a season where I have kept writing, but I haven’t been sharing much of it. Something about where I am and who is watching me (whether it is only in my head or not) has made me become more worried about how I express myself – which I already had enough anxiety about to begin with.

How do you release those fears and be who you are?

Because really, what is there to lose, anyway?

Perhaps a false expectation someone has of who I am, but I would rather lose something that wasn’t really mine to begin with than to never respond to the pull I feel to put words to what is difficult to name.

Like how lonely it feels to suddenly not know what you believe and wonder how you lived so much of life going through empty motions and begin to question who you are at every level. What did any of this actually mean? What was it for? What kind of person has it made me? How blind have I been?

The days that follow it all begins to taste so stale and like nothing more than meaningless words with hollow hope and no action to stand up for anything that actually mattered.

And for some reason, you feel like you are doing something wrong, you are something wrong, and no one knows quite what to do about you.

There have been moments where I have faced the void where I had always felt God before and wondered what would happen if I just cut myself off from it and never looked back. But I could never do it. I could never dismiss entirely this mystery or stop questioning the divine or neatly tuck in a box with hard parameters the many experiences and things that have happened to me along the way.

Instead, I felt stuck in a sleepy faith that maybe made me feel something, but hardly appeared to make any visible marks on the world for good.

Until one day, quietly and without much effort, I woke up.

And the colors around me seemed less dull and there was a hint of dewey hope hanging in the air and maybe, just maybe, I thought I had found myself or some remnant of faith or spirituality again.

And again I was faced with this Jesus fellow, the one thing I couldn’t let go of entirely about the faith I was brought up in. I have always believed that if we lived out the subversive, messy, heart-centered message of this eccentric man who invited us to be radical peacemakers and reach out – not just in charity, but in true relationship – to the ones no one wants to hang out with, the world would experience a new surge of hope, starting with the those who need it the most, those found at the lowest rung of the social ladder.

And now, I am here, working full-time at a church. I don’t know exactly how I got here. When I think about it, it feels like an unexpected wind came through and whisked everything into place and dropped us here.

But slowly, I am leaning into this reality and seeing something new – something like hope or purpose – growing inside. I wonder if it has always been there, this ember, just waiting. Waiting for the Wind to come and fan it into a blaze. Hardened layers from years of learning to hide so as not to disappoint is giving way to a soft and moldable human that wants nothing more than to receive grace and let it flow outward to others. It is a breaking that is good, a rawness that breathes hope.

I always have further to go in this journey. I am thankful for the mystery and for knowing that I am not required to have all the answers. There is nothing to lose and I am learning to keep a looser grip on the things that I can’t control.

-b.e.

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a mother’s poem

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Some days
my dreams amount
to nothing,
Just wisps
in the air
A list, a chore,
a task
check the box and
move onto
the next thing
the sun still shines somewhere
and the world turns

Oh I am tired
and the eyes
do not lie
I could sleep for
days uninterrupted
but I settle
for mere hours
because a mother’s life
is ever revolving,
so much sameness –
the rub is felt
over and over,
raw and defining.
I come out of it,
this fog of young ones,
still knowing I am
better for it,
but lessons remain
to be learned.

I write this now
with eyes slowly battling,
begging to be closed,
a heavy load
bearing down on my lashes

Sleep is calling, but as I drift off
I know in my bones
it will be short –
a mother is always on call
even in the dark hours
but for now, in this moment
I will rest
and trust the world
to keep turning
and know the dreams
will still be there
when I awake

-b.e.

the most frightening and truest freedom I could ever know

The morning light creeps through the window and gently nudges me awake.

I breathe in that quiet morning space, folded into the warmth and safety of my sheets, and slowly my eyes open and close as I feel both weightless and heavy at the same time.

All at once, I begin to list in my head the many tasks to accomplish and places to be: our children’s needs, my own, our home, my job. And I wonder how in the midst of all of that, what light I have to offer, what light there is to receive.

I wonder why my body suddenly feels so heavy and round and how will this day be any different than the one before it? How can I carry myself – and everyone who depends on me – through it?

And then, I remember a simple, beautiful, profound truth: I matter. And I am loved.

The things I do are an overflow of who I am and the love that is in me, but they do not define me.  You can strip them away, the titles and stereotypes and relationships and there I will be, naked and vulnerable and simple and plain and absolutely, wonderfully beautiful and fiercely loved.

But, in that moment of complete vulnerability, I question whether I will be able to accept it. Can I look past the shame and failure, see myself for who I am without any of the stories I use to present myself and only be reminded of the ugly chapters I choose not to share, and still believe in such an incomprehensible and wild love? Will I be able to embrace the most frightening and truest freedom I could ever know? To be seen and valued for who I really am?

And, grace. Will I extend grace to myself?  What about to those who don’t see it – especially those who also can’t see or accept their own intrinsic and God-given worth?

Because what do we really think about the ones who don’t have the pretty stories to wrap themselves in?  The marginalized and different-from-us folk who we write off and push out of our focus so we can continue comfortably indifferent, pretending we aren’t judging them as harshly as we really are.

I don’t have the answers.

But I will start by choosing to accept my worth and stop trying to prove it. I am creating a new practice, so that when the morning light first pulls me out of my sleep, instead of reminding myself of the to-dos I need to complete to receive my worthiness, I am simply going to breathe in and welcome the sun and say,

“I matter. Thank you, God, for your light. There is light and life for me to offer and receive in this day.”

Because I deeply believe that once I accept the source of my own worth, I will begin to live and love from that place inside of me, which will spread to everyone I come into contact with.

It is a daily action. An intentional choice to make myself stop and accept this truth over and over again. To refresh my soul and let myself become smaller so that God’s love can shine brighter and spread farther through me.

Surviving, Thriving, and New Year Resolutions

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There have been many different seasons of my life.  Some have been times of intense focus, joy, anticipation, change, sameness. Some have been easy, others hard.

Some have made me feel like I have just been surviving.

Three young kids and little sleep contribute to this feeling. The life of a mother is ever revolving, there is always another need, another small hand tugging on your leg or calling out for ‘mama’, a rubbing, rawness that is constant and reminding you of who you are and the life you nourish and give to those around you.

There is even more to it than that, though. More a question of purpose and whether I am living to my fullest potential or not.

I have been able to find great joy in the mundanity and simple everyday moments seeping through the cracks of routine, but there is something different and life changing about living in a way that makes you feel the most alive.

Around this time of year, I feel drawn toward a word for the upcoming season. This morning while I was running, I felt the sun warming my skin and I found myself closing my eyes for a moment, imagining rays shooting out from me and an incredible joy fill my soul – I felt like I was doing something I was meant to do: thrive.

Which makes me wonder, how do I thrive when I am doing the mundane tasks that must be done? How do I infuse my life with meaning and light in a way that ignites passion and life into others as well?  What practices do I need to put into place to create an attitude and environment that brings about that change?

Is it something I do, or just a choice I make?

A resolution?

So often our resolutions are about fitting into an expectation of who we should be and how we should look or act. I am tired of vowing to become smaller or more fit, to just be a better friend or wife or mom. No more attempts at vague goals like writing “more” or being “more” generous.

Instead, I want to stop apologizing for feeling so much and allow myself to be seen. I want to set specific goals that expand my love and not be afraid of stepping out and offering that love to others. I want to live into the wild, radical and relentless love I see in Jesus and offer it to others without hesitation. I don’t want to just survive on this earth – that is not what we were created to do. Death is too much a reality and our life is too uncertain for that. There are limitless things outside of my control, but one thing I can choose is to be present and mindful of what I am doing, to bask in the joy or the sorrow or the boredom or the newness of every moment.

I want to thrive.

On summer, motherhood, dreams, and being seen.

I wrote this post several months ago, but failed to publish it. So much has changed in our life since last summer, but still, this holds a part of my story and heart and as I read this post it seemed as if I was transported back to the space where I felt these thoughts deep enough to actually write them down.


 

 

There is a leaning, a gentle swaying and arch of my body and emotions that happens when I just stop.

Stop my whining and dragging of feet and annoyance and let my step become lighter and open my eyes wider so light and love can enter.

When I see my children clearly for who they are and the needs they have and stop rushing and criticizing and reminding them of their shortcomings.

There is always so much.  So much I want to accomplish and balance. So much attention I need to give. And in the “so much” I miss out on being available.

Available to sit and snuggle and make space to listen to their hopes, dreams, desires, interests; to feel their body against mine and allow our rhythms to align.

The summer goes by without rhythm. We wake up, eat breakfast, and mostly have no plans for the day. Maybe we will go to the beach or a park, or just stay home and sit in underwear all day. We just see. I have stopped being a homeschooler who tricks my kids into home schooling in the summer.  We read books, but no intentional science experiments or “strewing” has taken place. We aren’t practicing our alphabet or letter sounds. We are being bored and finding things to do or people to engage with (or poke). An endless vacation.

Some days it makes me feel like I am accomplishing nothing in all this nothingness.

Laundry may be caught up and the kitchen clean by the end of the day, but in all of the housework and cooking and cleaning and taking care of the baby and mopping up water and dirt tracked in from happy sprinkler feet, it is never finished and I rarely get to the deeper things I ache to do.

Music has lost its presence and I as I type this I feel a physical ache in my heart. Piano is a balm for my soul. When I sit and play, I instantly feel a melting inside, like broken jagged bits softening and solidifying together again.  I am whole.

Music shakes my insides like nothing else can and loosens things in me. Playing guitar and singing with all my being reconciles worlds to me.  This has been my lifetime therapy. And I miss it. It is something I do alone, mostly.  I sing strong when no one is listening to me.

Because when no one is listening or looking I am free to express myself however I choose. No criticism. No applause. No attention. I am a wildflower, able to bloom whatever way I am meant to and not hide my brilliance or dullness out of obligation.

It is harder when there is an audience, an expectation. I go rigid. I feel like I don’t belong here. Like I am not good enough to be in front of anyone doing anything. I feel this way about everything.

Sharing my words? Not good enough. Sharing my art? My photographs and videos and songs and creations? Who cares?

I share it, anyway, because I believe in doing things that scare and stretch me.

But then, anxiety. Why does it matter?  Why does it stop me?  Why do I worry about the attention? I become overwhelmed and step back from it all and lean into silence again. Lean into my own world.  I devote myself to making kombucha and not eating sugar and keeping the floors cleaned. I find contentment in simplicity. Which is good, but it is also an excuse.

An excuse to keep from being seen.

Some people know this about me, but I occasionally worked as a fine art model for a couple of years. And I was seen by the eyes of artists. They all interpreted my body differently and it was fascinating to see the variance in shape and size and angles and curves.

When you put yourself out there and allow your heart to be seen, everyone will see it differently. You can never be everything to everyone and you will always be too much or too little to someone.

But for now, I am wading through the simplicity and the tasks summer presents for mothers of young children. I am keeping my longings and plans tucked neatly against my chest as a secret. My mind is never at rest and all day I compile and organize lists and dreams.

The song, Dream by Patricia Ahn has been resonating with me and makes me burst with the desire to dream like a child again and think things are more possible than my grown-up mind would like to believe.

How I hope my children will always believe in their dreams. How I hope I will lean into my own and have the strength and confidence to be me.