To My Coma Friend

March 10, 2016 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

We sat on her queen bed in her yellow room with the bay windows looking over the forested hill when we made our pact.

I was in my pajamas and she were in hers, and we neither looked nor smelled good, with our hair piled on our heads, day-old mascara adorning our faces, and early morning dragon breath about which we cared nothing at all, gleefully breathing in and out and adding to the halitosis nightmare with the coffee and cream we sipped and tried not to spill on her new flannel sheets.

It was morning on a weekend and we were roommates and good friends by that time; good enough for me to take the Big Risk and see if we might become Much More.

Not lovers.

Nope. More than that.

“You have to promise — PROMISE — to pluck my chin hairs if I’m ever in a coma,” I said. “I mean, you can wait a few days, but after that you’re going to have to sneak tweezers into the ICU and spent some quality time with my chin, OK? I need you to be… my Coma Friend.”

“Yes. Absolutely! No problem,” she said quickly. “I will do this for you, but I want something in return.”

“Anything. ANYTHING,” I replied.

And she said, “You shall SWEAR TO GOD and on your ETERNAL SALVATION that you will MAKE HASTE to my house if I’m ever in a coma and take the box of sex toys from under my bed before my mother comes over. There are things… things she should never see,” my friend finished in a whisper as I giggled, then chortled, then belly laughed.

I’m not sure if we were laughing at our frivolous demands or if we were laughing from wild relief. I suspect both. And we’ve renewed our pledge over the years, checking in here and there to be sure our pact is intact and that will not waver in our dedication to our plan.

Dearest Coma Friend,

Oh how I love you! More than a bestie. More than a sister. More than my morning cuppa, which is really saying something.

Dearest Coma Friend,

You are my FAVORITE kind of ALL the friends. Thank you for being more than a bestie and better than a friend. Thank you for being my Coma Friend.

Forever yours,

Signature

P.S. I’m not making light of comas. Cross my heart.

P.P.S. I don’t expect her to actually pluck my chin hairs when I’m in a coma, because I suspect that in a coma I won’t care.

P.P.P.S. I DO expect her to have the nurses call her, STAT, if I seem to be coming out of the coma, so she can haul ass to the hospital and wax the hell out of my chin hairs before I wake up. And then I expect her to LIE to me and tell me she’d been doing it all along. I feel like that’s what Jesus would do.

P.P.P.P.S. Do you have a Coma Friend? If so, please tell me about him/her and the pact(s) you’ve made. I feel like we should know what all of our Coma Options are. And also that if hospitals included this kind of thing in Advance Directive forms they’d be MUCH more successful at getting people to complete them. <<<Why I Should Be in Charge of All the Things

Are You Looking for the Elusive Village? WANT AD: VILLAGERS NEEDED

September 23, 2014 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

If you’re lonely, this is for you.

If you’ve wandered and searched and hoped for your Tribe, this is for you.

If you’ve moved and left your Tribe behind, this is for you.

If your Tribe moved and left you behind, this is for you.

If you’ve wandered the Jungle and called and called, hoping for an answer, this is for you.

If you’ve found your Village and want to welcome the wanderers – if you’ve found your Tribe and will let more in – this is for you.

And if you keep asking where that damn, elusive Village is, anyway, this is for you. 

WANT AD:
VILLAGERS NEEDED.
Friends needed.
YOU are needed.

I’m talking I.R.L. here, folks; In Real Life. Not in some kind of ethereal way, although you’re definitely needed in the cosmos and on the world wide webs, too. Right now, though, I’m talking about making Friends in the Flesh. People you can hug without the {{{curly brackets}}}. People you can hug with your ARMS. People who are hoping for a Tribe, too. 

ID-10065346Because as much as you long for community and connection, someone is longing for your friendship, too. I know it’s true, because I hear from dozens of you every day. Hundreds per month. We NEED each other. Online – this space and others – is an excellent, important start, but for many of us, it’s not enough.

We’ve talked here over the last few days and weeks and months about connection. Human connection. What it means to be authentically ourselves. And to share pieces of our hearts. And what it’s like to need a friend. An IRL friend. In Real Life. 

And I will tell you – I think about you every day. Every single day. Your stories run through my mind and rifle through my heart, and I ask myself over and over how I can help make connections. Because words on a page are my art, but YOU – your uniqueness, your value, your preciousness, your deep, abiding worth – YOU are my heart.

So we are going to try an experiment here. And it may go sideways or upside down; it’s hard to say. But we’re going to try a Human Connection Experiment.

Some of you have expressed over the past few days your wish for a “dating” site for friends. A place you can post a profile or a personals ad and call out online for In Real Life friends. A place to connect. And I believe sites like that are in the works! Coming to an internet near you!

The problem, of course, with the find-a-friend sites will be the profile. And the time to create the profile. And the monitoring of the profile. And the popularity contest inherent in looking at profiles and picking and choosing. And the questions – the ever-present questions: How authentic can I be, anyway? How messy? And will anyone see the magic in me? 

So I thought to myself, “It’s too bad we don’t have something like that here in this space. Because these people are already a RAGING MESS. Out loud! In our hearts. In our homes. And we LOVE it this way. This wild truth-telling. And we HONOR the mess in each other. Because we know it’s our path to the magic. To the magnificent. To the magic and magnificent, which are born not out of perfection, but from truth and terror and triumph and trying.”

And then I thought, “Why not, Beth? Why not at least TRY to connect these people you adore to each other? To set up, wherever possible, pockets of authentic friendship?” And I came up with lots of answers for why not: it’s logistically challenging; maybe no one really wants that; other people can do this better than me; there are forums for this kind of thing… and I’ll probably even set one up myself soon… a COMMUNITY FORUM… it’s better to just wait for a better forum, Beth. 

But I couldn’t come up with a GOOD reason why we shouldn’t try, because I’ll take logistically challenging if it means you get to meet a friend. 

So here’s what we’re going to do. IT’S EXPERIMENT TIME. We are going to use this space right here – this imperfect space that isn’t set up right for this AT ALL – to meet In Real Life Friends. 

I am going to write our profile.

And you – if you want a friend, if you need a Tribe, or if you’re willing to let people into your Village – are going to tell us if you want in. Instructions are below.

Here’s my part. Here’s our profile. This is who we are:

  • We are people who are imperfect.
  • We are people who are a mess.
  • We are people who are wild and wonderful and weird and wonky.
  • And we are people who are learning that we are enough and valuable and worthy as we already are.
  • We are people who understand that friends are made from humans; awful, awesome, horrible, heroic, endearing, irritating humans.
  • We are people who live in a mess and with the mess and through the mess, and we know that it’s knee-deep in the mess that we find the magic.
  • We are people who are weak.
  • We are people who are strong.
  • We are people who are weak and strong, sometimes all at once, and lost and found, which is where we discover grace.
  • We are people who rise above it all and put one step in front of the other and keep going in the middle of the madness.
  • We are people who can’t take one more step and sit, immovable, smack-dab in the middle of the mud.
  • We are people who cry at night and who need a Google Earth zoom-out button so we can see the other night-criers and know we’re not alone.
  • We are people who wave at each other in the dark and who hold hands while we wait for the dawn to break.
  • And we are people who need each other. Truly and deeply. Imperfectly and full of grace. We are people who need connection. And friends. And a Tribe like us.

So now it’s your turn.

Your part. 

Your chance to be brave and bold – if only for the minute it takes to make a comment, because bravery and boldness only happen a minute at a time, anyway – and raise your hand and say, “I want in.”

If you want to be part of this Experiment — this opportunity for connection and friendship, whether you’re looking for a friend because you don’t have one right now, or you’re eager to open your already established Tribe to new friends — please reply below in the comments section with three things:

  1. Your first name. (Last name is fine but not required.)
  2. Your email address. (As is normally required to leave a comment. NOTE: This will NOT be shared publicly, but WILL be shared via a private, group email with others from your region who sign up for this experiment. This is how I’ll put you into contact with each other.)
  3. Your location, like this: City, State/Province, Country. 

My comment would look like this:

comment

And that is all.

Over the next few days, I’ll collect your names and your regions. Broad regions, probably. Like states or provinces or small countries or large cities, because I won’t know how close, exactly, your towns are to each other. And then, on Saturday, I’ll start to email you as regional groups**. To say, “HEY! You’re all from Ohio!” Or “Hey! You’re both in Sydney!” 

I know this is weird. I know it requires a measure of trust. I know it’ll work out for some and not for others. But it’s worth a try, don’t you think? And it’s a worthy experiment, just like all of human connection. A worthy experiment.

I hope you’ll join me.

Love,
Beth

**P.S. Everyone will be placed in a group. Those of you who have others from your region will be placed by region. Those of you who don’t have others from your region will still receive an option to be part of an online, email-based group. I know that won’t work for everyone, and that’s fine, but I want to be sure everyone has an opportunity for some kind of contact. OK? OK. Now get on with commenting. Be brave, just for a minute, but also know I’m waving to you in the dark and holding your hand ’til the dawn arrives.

UPDATE: Some of you want to know if you can opt to JUST be email buddies and NOT have regional contacts. YES. Yes, if this is how you want to participate and connect, YES, ABSOLUTELY. To opt into an email group, please follow steps 1 and 2 above (name and email address) and simply write “email” as your comment, instead of your location. 

UPDATE #2: It is NOT too late to join. As I mentioned on the Book of Faces (aka, Facebook), I HAVE sent out groups as of today, Saturday, September 27. HOWEVER, it is never too late for more members of the Village. You can still leave your info below and I’ll add you to a group as soon as I can.

Old and Young Women Holding Hand photo credit to worradmu via freedigitalimages.net

5 Quick Questions About Connection

September 22, 2014 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

It’s time for a new edition of 5 Quick Questions!

This is my opportunity to get to know you better, and it’s one of the best things we do here because it turns out you are very good at truth-telling, friends. To those of you who used the last few volumes to delurk, it’s wonderful to meet you! And to those of you who’ve been around a while, mucking about in this space and putting your feet on the furniture? You’re always rad. Thank you.

As you may know, 5 Quick Questions can be anything from the EVER IMPORTANT What Is Your Family Booger Rule? to the more serious (and my absolute favorite because you were so deeply honest) Questions About Faith.

Today, though, I want to ask you about Personal Connection because your responses to the story of Melanie’s 16th Birthday broke my heart wide open and made me feel humbled and sad and strong and weak because you so willingly gave us pieces of your hearts to hold. I treasure that gift. I do. And I ache with you. So many of us are lonely. And wounded. And have received the message that we’re not valuable or worthy of friendship. Which is a bullshit message, but still painful… and sometimes we believe it even though it’s not true.

I ended that story by saying Life Gets Better. And We Find Our Tribe After Too Much Searching. And We Discover We Are, After All, Deeply Worthy of Love, and Worthy of Celebration, and Worthy of People Who Show Up. 

I believe every one of those things. To my bones.

But sometimes it takes too long, doesn’t it? And it’s too much work. And it’s too much of us showing up and putting ourselves out there and feeling hurt when our efforts aren’t returned the way we want them to be.

Several of you asked important questions after that story. Questions filled with longing, like, “But where and how do you gather a tribe? It can be so very hard,” and “Where is that damn Village, anyway? I’ve been lost in this jungle FOREVER  

I wanted to answer you IMMEDIATELY with SOLUTIONS, because I’m a Fix It girl at heart, but I’ve lived long enough now to know there isn’t a quick fix to feeling lonely or feeling lost. It’s a process. A climb. A ladder with many rungs. A muddy path through a jungle. Or just Jungle and a machete to carve our own way.  

 

The problem with Tribes is they aren’t static. Tribes are evolutionary. They ebb and flow as people come and go, emotionally and geographically, and we don’t usually know who’s going to stick around until they’ve stuck, you know? And sometimes the same people stick and unstick and stick again, because tribes are made out of humans, and humans, as we all know, are just awful. And awesome. Horrible. And heroic. Steady. And unstable. Which makes seeking the Village so very risky. 

The good news is, we all come to the Village weary and wounded. And I know – that sounds like the bad news, but I swear it’s not. The good news is, we all come to the Village weary and wounded, which means there’s a tribe full of people who know how to lay down in the mud with us. How to look at the sky and just breathe for a while. How to offer a hand up when we’re ready to stand. How to let us heal slowly. 

Which is why I’m coming to all of you today with 5 Quick Questions about Personal Connection. Because we are wiser together than I am alone, and this question of community needs all the wisdom we can muster, and our stories, too.

And so, without further ado, here are:

ID-100400665 Quick Questions about Personal Connection and Finding the Elusive Village

  1. When in life were you the loneliest?
  2. Do you have a Village? Have you found a Tribe?
  3. If so, who are they, and WHERE, EXACTLY – with GPS precision instructions, people! – did you find them?
  4. If you could give any comfort to our friends here who are lonely, what would you say?
  5. If you could give any advice to our friends here on how to find the Village – how to seek out your tribe – what would you offer?

Here are my answers:

  1. You can find my answers here and here. Both times upon becoming a mama. And I was pretty lonely when Greg and I first got married, too. Change is hard on the heart. Go figure.
  2. Yes.
  3. Precisely, I’ve found my tribe in my family, my church, my town, and here online with you. My parents are excellent tribe builders. My brother, my cousins, my sister-in-law — all of us have done a huge amount of hard work to choose each other, over and over again. Also, my church – North Valley Friends Church – has had a huge impact on my tribe. Our little town in Newberg, Oregon, has been an amazing place to grow our family. And THIS SPACE HERE has changed my life immeasurably because you are the world’s best at letting me and each other be REAL. 
  4. I would tell you that even though you’re lonely, you’re not alone. I would tell you there’s someone out there who needs you to be part of her tribe as much as you need her to be part of yours. I would tell you there are seasons of life that are hard. I would tell you there’s light, not just at the end of the tunnel, but along the way, and I would tell you there are people here to hold your hands in the dark until you can see the dawn coming.
  5. I know this song is about falling in love and wasn’t intended necessarily for friendship, but I love the song Try, by Pink. I think it speaks so beautifully to the risks, the reality and the richness of relationship.

    Ever worry that it might be ruined
    And does it make you wanna cry?
    When you’re out there doing what you’re doing
    Are you just getting by?
    Tell me are you just getting by, by, by?

    Where there is desire
    There is gonna be a flame
    Where there is a flame
    Someone’s bound to get burned
    But just because it burns
    Doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
    You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
    Gotta get up and try, and try, and try

OK – your turn. 5 Quick Questions, friends, because I only have a small piece of the puzzle, and we need your piece, too.

 

Open Hand With Glove image credit Ambro via freedigitalimages.net

On Holding Pieces of Each Other’s Hearts

September 15, 2014 in But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

She waited on the front porch on her 16th birthday. She waited for her friends to arrive and for the party to begin.

Instead, the calls came in, one at a time. 

The “sorry, I can’t make it” calls. The “not coming, after all” calls. The “oops, I double booked” and the “something came ups” and the “I have to wash my hairs.”

In the end, no one came.

No one.

And she left her porch to go practice driving with her mom.

Party abandoned.

Heart… well, as you might imagine.

I don’t know how long it took my friend Melanie to start telling the story of her 16th birthday. How long it was before she talked about what happened and what she thought it meant about her value as a person and a friend.

I remember she told me last year, at the beach, in her quiet voice as we watched the waves crash, their magnitude powerful and overwhelming. And it’s a funny thing about stories; when you listen to the true ones, they crash over your heart. Powerful. Overwhelming. And my heart broke for 16-year-old Melanie, even though it’s been 30 years since she lived it.

I knew it was a gift Melanie offered. The vulnerable things always are. The ways we unpack the pieces of our soul and hold them delicately in our hands, like the small, wild things with nervous eyes and twitching wings and hearts running away in their chests. We hold them carefully, trying to communicate they’re safe. That we won’t hurt them, at least not more than they already have been. And then we whisper to our most trust-worthy friends, so softly we can barely be heard, “Come look what I have,” and “Shhhh… don’t scare it.” The best friends look. And are gentle. And say, “Oh, sweet thing.” And try to help.

I don’t remember what I said to Melanie when she told me the story of her 16th birthday. Probably wow. Or I’m really sorry. Or that sucks. Or some other inadequate thing to acknowledge that 30 years may pass, but it’s still important to nod at the pain. To hold the vulnerable pieces. To communicate, somehow, “This piece is precious. Do you know it? I’m so sorry it was broken. You didn’t deserve this. You should’ve been treasured.”

My friend Melanie turned 46 recently, and I was invited to attend her birthday party last weekend.

Her friends threw her a Sweet 16 Party.

Another shot at a Sweet 16, except they called it a Sweet 16…+30. 

And here’s my guess: I bet there was a part of Melanie that was afraid. I know a part of me would have been. Because what if no one shows up again, you know? After they’ve seen the piece of her heart, held carefully in her hands. They have the power to hurt it. 

But Melanie said yes to the party. 

She took the chance at having her heart handled with care, which is the most trusting move I know, to say, “This part was hurt, and I’ll let you hold it with me.”

photo 2 (76)We brought Melanie little, ridiculous gifts, like Hello Kitty loot. And nailpolish. And candy and socks. And sparkly bags. And cards that said stuff like, “I’m so glad I got to come to your party! My mom is such a bitch. It’s not like she said I couldn’t take the car to go out with Jake. I thought I’d be grounded forever.

And we laughed and played and laughed the night away… until we got tired and went home before midnight because we’re old.

And we sang happy birthday, the twenty or thirty of us who came. The twenty or thirty of us LOUD women who came. But first, to the light of a birthday candle already lit, my friend Leslie asked Melanie to tell us about her 16th birthday. And so, in the candle-lit kitchen, with the lights dimmed low and all of us crowded around, she did.

She held out her heart. And she let us hold it with her.

And then we sang happy birthday. Loud. Because that’s who we are. And because we meant it. And Melanie buried her face in her hands and wept. And laughed. And wept. 

And I know I say this every time I talk about authentic, compassionate community. I know I do, but I mean it.

It was a holy moment.

A holy, redeemed, painful, precious, beautiful moment.

And then someone yelled, “FUCK THOSE BITCHES who didn’t come to your party!” And the rest of us chorused, “YEAH. FUCK THOSE BITCHES.” 

And we laughed and laughed. Not because they were bitches, necessarily. But because we were together. And life gets better. And we find our tribe after too much searching. And we find out we are, after all, deeply worthy of love, and worthy of celebration, and worthy of people who show up.

And that was holy, too. 

……..

In honor of Melanie’s birthday,
and in honor of holding pieces of each other’s hearts,
please use the comments to let us hold a piece of yours.

What’s your story?

If you need a gentle friend, this is your space.
I’ll monitor the comments section closely, but I have a suspicion, based on the kindness you continue to show each other here, that I won’t have much monitoring to do.
You are some of the very best heart-holders I know.

Once Upon a Time, I Cooked Breakfast. Naked. At Someone Else’s House. This Morning.

September 9, 2014 in Beth, Funny by Beth Woolsey

Once upon a time, I cooked breakfast.

Naked.

At someone else’s house.

This morning.

Dear The Internets,

Please don’t read this if you are a) modest and horrified by immodesty or b) sweet and therefore easily shocked.

You’re going to have to self-select, here, friends. Do your best.

If you are a) modest but giggly about immodesty or b) only apparently sweet but secretly, deep down inside, a little bit rule-breaky, feel free to continue.

If you’re immodest and/or a lot rule-breaky, ignore this whole introductory letter, because you won’t understand it at all. Like, at all at all. And I think your latest piercing is rad.

Love,
Beth

Have we self-selected for this post now?

Excellent.

My friend turned 50 today.

FIFTY!

Which, I think we can all agree, is old.

Practically dead.

Or it’s the start of a freer and fuller life. One more comfortable in our own skin. A life in which we’re more willing to be ourselves.

I mean, I don’t know for sure, since I’m still a decade away from 50, but so far, so good, and I’m sure hoping the trajectory continues.

In my family, we have a tradition among the women. When you turn 50, you’re officially inducted into the Aunties. And, I’ll be frank here; the Aunties have all the fun.

The Aunties swim naked. Sometimes when it’s not quite dark.

The Aunties can have a splash of bourbon with breakfast.

The Aunties make ribald comments and have a Devil May Care attitude, and they’re cheerful and dramatic and reckless in all the best ways.

The Aunties are opinionated and annoying and a little smug and full of themselves, because they know down to their toes that they’re just fabulous – and right – exactly the way they are.

The Aunties laugh louder than anyone I know. And sometimes they fart as accompaniment. Accidentally, you understand. Except when they let one rip on purpose and then try to blame it on someone else.

I feel like I’ve spent my entire life wanting to be an Auntie. But NOOOOOOOO. It’s an exclusive club, and one cannot – absolutely cannot – gain entry until age 5-0.

But I can still act like an Auntie. And train to be an Auntie. So that when I am and Auntie I’ll have all my Auntie muscles stretched and flexed and ready to play.

And so this morning, when my friend turned 50 (FIFTY!), I woke up at 5:30am, and I grabbed a frilly apron, and I snuck in the side door of the kitchen to cook a surprise breakfast with a partner in crime.

And, clad in aprons and jewelry and make-up, we cooked and giggled and wished our friend the happiest of birthdays…

Painted in Waterlogue

…with indelible marker on our butts.

And I know this is nuts.

Believe me, I know.

It’s just… I really doubt when I’m 88 that I’ll regret cooking Naked Breakfast.

Or making my friend laugh like a loon on this Day of Celebration.

Or turning a mundane morning into one of Mirth. 

Does it shock you if I tell you Naked Breakfast felt like a small, holy ritual? To be exposed and giddy and goofy… and to glory in it?

The longer I live, the more I know we’re all in the process of healing. Of becoming. Of being lost and found all at once, which is grace. We are, all of us, stretching — reaching throughout our whole lives — to become our truest selves and learn somehow not to merely accept, but to revel in our weirdness and our wildness and our wonkiness… and to discover in that place, eventually, that we’re wonderful.

I guess I’ve decided to be weird and wonderful now, instead of waiting for later.

As a sacred act.

And an Auntie in training.

And I’d like to wish my friend a very, very happy birthday…

…with lots of bass.

…..

P.S. If you’re wondering if it’s ever hard to tell you this much about myself… and whether I question the wisdom of sharing so much… and whether I wonder if it is too much… the answer is yes, absolutely. But Naked Breakfast was a thing of joy, and I guess I’ve decided I’d rather be me out loud – including Naked Breakfast Me – than hide joy. I think we all face this question: how much of myself is it OK to be? I’ve picked All of Me as my answer.

P.P.S. If you’d rather read about Jesus, you can click here or here or here.

P.P.P.S. If you want to read more about body image, you can click here or here.

On Messing Up and Finding Grace

July 22, 2014 in Beth, But Seriously, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

We’re on Day 2 of 5 Days of Day Camp which obviously means we barely made it to the buses this morning.

And, by barely, I mean the buses were rolling, friends – engines sputtering and PULLING AWAY from the curb – while four of my kids ran at the front of them, following the directions I’d barked in the car on the way there.

“If the buses haven’t left yet, lady and gentlemen,” I said, “we run for them as soon as we park. We RUN. WHAT DO WE DO, kids?”

“WE RUN!” they chorused.

And that’s what they did. Pell-mell. With enthusiasm. Drawing on all those late-to-school, jump-from-the-van, “Go, go, GO” rehearsals we conducted this year. And totally heedless to their mama who was behind them hollering new directions, too late, like, “WAIT!” and “STOP!” and “YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO GET RUN OVER!”

Which is why I thank God for Erin, our excellent, wonderful, awesome, BEAUTIFUL camp coordinator, who saw my kids coming, stopped the buses with one hand, waved a door open a la Moses parting the Red Sea, and ushered my littlest two aboard while, with her other hand, she directed my middle schoolers to their seats in two other vehicles. All while deflecting my “I’m so sorry… I’m SO sorry…” apologies with smiles and those most soothing words of mamaraderie, “I barely made it here with my kids, too.” And I don’t even care if she was lying, friends. I do not care. I just want to make it up to her. Although I do feel that NOT throwing my arms around her ankles and washing her feet with my grateful tears and then rising to kiss her on the mouth is, perhaps, thanks enough. (You’re welcome, Erin.)

I want you to know, we were going to be on time this morning because I was on it. I mean, sure, I hit my 9-minute snooze button 3 extra times. And yes, I was mostly naked until 24 seconds before we walked out the door. And of course I shoved my mascara in my purse and carried my shoes in my hands on the way to the car. BUT. But. But I did a good job getting the kids ready. I did. I did. 

As soon as I leapt from the bed, I started issuing orders. From the top of the stairs in a loud, booming voice, to the kids somewhere on the floor beneath me, I bellowed, “SHOES! Do you guys have your shoes and socks on?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

And I clarified because I am no rookie, “ALL OF YOU?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

Five minutes later, I hollered down the stairs, “BREAKFAST! Did you guys eat breakfast?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

And I yelled, “ALL OF YOU?”

And they yelled, “YES!”

Four minutes later, I belted, “BACKPACKS! …”

Three minutes later, “SUNSCREEN! …”

Two minutes later, “SWIMSUITS! …”

And then, with juuuuuusst enough time to get everyone in the car and to the bus before it was scheduled to leave, and right after I threw yesterday’s clothes back on my body, I yelled, “OK! EVERYONE IN THE CAR.”

And you guys. You GUYS. THEY DID IT. With their shoes on and their tummies full and their backpacks in hand, they trooped to the car. And just before the littlest one closed the door behind him, he yelled back up the stairs, “Is Aden coming, Mom?”

And I said, “OF COURSE Aden’s coming. Why wouldn’t she be coming?” Which is when it dawned on me that perhaps he was asking that question for a reason. Which is when it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard her voice in the chorus of bellows from below. Which is when it transpired that I popped my head into her bedroom. Which is when I discovered her asleep in bed. Sweetly asleep. Soundly asleep. Sans shoes. Sans socks. Sans breakfast. Sans backpack and sunscreen and swimsuit. Sans mommy who keeps track of her kids.

Pfffttttttt.

And so we scrambled. And we rushed. And I threw a breakfast bar which barely missed Aden’s head. And my kids didn’t get run over by the bus because Erin has Moses magic.

After the bus left, and after I chattered at a friend about all the mama crimes I’d just committed, and after I hopped back in my car and laid my head on my steering wheel and shook the noggin back and forth and back and forth, I headed to grab a quick coffee before my morning meetings. And I sat in the coffee line rehashing what a dumb dummy I am because I’m still working on positive self-talk and loving myself and accepting that I make mistakes, and some days that’s harder work than others. 

I ordered my usual cappuccino, I added a muffin to the mix, and I pulled up to the pay window where they waved me through.

“The car ahead of you paid for your order,” they said. “You’re good to go!”

And I pulled away and cried at the stop light. Like a dumb dummy. Because it occurred to me how great a gift it was to screw up and be met with mercy. And then to have mercy compounded with kindness. As though I didn’t need to be punished or to pay. Just loved. And enough. And worth a smile and a warm cup of coffee and grace. 

And that’s my wish for all of us today. That we’d know we’re worthy of the deepest love. And that we’d recognize that love when it finds us. 

Grace, friends.

xoxo

On the Fear of Drowning… and Blowing Bubbles Anyway

March 19, 2014 in Beth, But Seriously, Family by Beth Woolsey

Today was a Slumped in the Kitchen Corner kind of day, even though I wasn’t in the kitchen.

And an I’m Not Sure I’ll Rise Again kind of day, even though I wasn’t literally down.

And an It’s OK, Go On Without Me; Save Yourselves! kind of day, even though Ohana means Family and Family means No One Gets Left Behind or Forgotten.

But you guys. Guys. Not to be dramatic, but it was the moment in the movie when I’ve got my hand pressed to my gut in a futile attempt to staunch the excessive bleeding, because the tiny hits were just coming from everywhere today, and no matter how fast I dodged, I couldn’t avoid the blast pattern.

The prescription for the new meds for my kid – the first thing that’s made a substantial difference in his ability to function without extreme anxiety in 11 YEARS – costs $270 per month. PER MONTH. Out of pocket. POW!

And another kid’s having surgery next week. ZING!

And the dog – oh dear Jesus, please help me not kill the dog – the dog gifted our floors with decorative footprints using mud and probably poop as his medium. BOOM!

And No, Kids Do NOT Stop Wanting to Sleep in Your Room When They Become Teenagers, and all those people who say they do are lying liars who LIE.

And the 1st graders can’t find their shoes, EVER.

And I can’t find my undies, EVER.

And ALL THE THINGS, you guys. All the Things. 

POW! ZING! BOOM!

One minute I was standing and pulling my weight and being a team player and the next minute I was propped against the cupboard watching the blood leak through my fingers, looking up at you, my fellow momrades, wondering what just happened.

You slid down next to me, and you held my hand, but you and I both knew there was nothing we could do, and so, momrades in arms, we stopped, and we made eye contact, and we nodded once, ever-so-slightly to each other in the middle of the fight with blood spatter everywhere, because it was over for today.

We loved each other well, and we did the best we could, but the fight was over for me.

We knew my fate.

Done in. Kaput. Finé.

I just looked at my tag line up at the top of this blog and thought, Optimism, HA! Optimism can BITE ME. But I feel OK about that because I’m not the one who said I was optimistic, anyway; that was one of you, and today we’re just going to assume it was one of you who’s delusional, and I want you to know, that’s fine. Delusional is fine. Delusional is welcome here, always. Delusional is, in fact, AWESOME because it can give someone like me something to shoot for – or shoot at – and right now Optimism has it coming, and Authenticity is just the tool to take that smiling a-hole down.

Also, I might need to adjust my meds

Or get a tiny bit of sleep.

Or read a trashy novel.

Whatever.

Look, I know what to do in situations like this when the days are overwhelming and I’m done. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude. Which makes me want to harf, but I have an Attitude of Gratitude anyway, and I can prove it:

  • I have floors on which my dog can track crap.
  • I live in a place where my kid and I have access to the medications we need, and I can probably even figure out a way to pay for them.
  • I have children who are alive and who have shoes somewhere and who want to sleep close to their mommy even though she loses her undies as often as she loses her poo.

But I just hate it when people say “things could be worse,” even when I’m one of the people who says it, because our ups and our downs and our feelings needn’t be comparative, and because it’s OK – it’s always OK – to long for things to be better. 

The truth is, we’re all drowning sometimes. Underwater and not sure where the next breath is coming from. And there are a lot of people who will tell you that’s the time to sink or swim.

Sink or swim, they say. Like it’s that simple.

Make it or break it.

Succeed or fail.

But life is not sink or swim. It’s just… not.

Life is sink and swim. And sink and swim. And sink. And swim.

 

My friend, Heather, is afraid of the water. 

Not a tiny bit afraid. 

Like, IMPENDING DEATH afraidTotal panic. Outright terror.

Heather did something this week, though.

She got into the water.

On purpose. 

Because there’s something important about casting off the things that hold us back and hold us down. Something powerful in learning to be free, even in the water that can drown us.

And Heather was scared. Which you can see in her pictures. 

HeatherEspana2

Like, not-messing-around SCARED scared. This was hard for her. 

HeatherEspana3

But she had a goal, which was neither to sink nor swim, but just to breathe. For now, to breathe.

Breathe in with her head above water.

Breathe out with her head below it.

Blow some bubbles.

And breathe.

Why are we so afraid of drowning? Probably because the water can kill us and we’re not stupid.

Why do we even enter the water, then? Because there’s magic there. In the sinking. In the swimming. And in, simply, learning to breathe.

Friends, I don’t know how your day was. I don’t know if you skipped through your day, whistling at the sunshine and hugging puppies, or if you, like me, were fighting for breath for whatever reason.

The truth is, we’re all drowning and none of us is getting out of this life alive, but we’re here, in the water, on purpose anyway. Sinking and swimming and sinking and swimming and sinking and swimming and learning to breathe.

And we are, all of us, very, VERY brave. 

……

HeatherEspana4P.S. All photos credits to Heather España. Photos used with permission.

P.P.S. Heather España is the artistic genius behind Puttering. Check out her modern miniatures work on Etsy and on Facebook. She’s amazing.

P.P.P.S. Heather’s not affiliated with this blog, didn’t pay me to promote her work, blah, blah, blah. She doesn’t know I’m putting that plug there. I just love Heather, I think you will, too, and I’m very, very glad she allowed me to publish her photos and story. I only had to beg a little. 

P.P.P.P.S. For those of you joining me for 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects, you can find today’s project – sort of – here on the 5 Kids Facebook page. I promised you photos. I’ll post them eventually. This story felt more important than that one today.