Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Beautiful Day

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Today started in a very ordinary way, and as I sit here close to bedtime, reflecting over the day as a whole, I have decided that today was beautiful. Not beautiful as in the best day ever. Nothing particularly marvelous happened. In fact, normally I’d be tempted to call today a disaster. A sucky day. The day from hell. But I’m changing my perspective.

Today contained a lot. My first Facebook post of the morning was, “Morning huggles and Handy Manny. Life is good.” Because Romeo and Jubilee crawled in bed with me first thing. And as I reclined there with their warm little bodies pressed against me, one fuzzy head on each shoulder and my arms around them, it was bliss. I sniffed their heads and squeezed them and just reveled in their closeness and their littleness.

A few minutes later, Romeo decided he wanted more Cheerios. And Jubilee had forgotten to lock the pantry. After a few minutes of silence, I went to see where he was to find the entire box of Cheerios in a pile, on top of a full bowl in the floor. I was aggravated. And I cleaned it up with aggravated body language. Which started an avalanche of cranky for all of us. And my ears hurt from the cranky screeching of hours (well, AN hour) of toddler attempts at communication and me not understanding.

So after my coffee, I decided that we would take a walk and get some fresh air. In an attempt to flush out the crankies, we got dressed and headed out to a walking trail near our house. Those of you who follow me on Facebook know that aside from approximately one minute of peace and deep breathing and calm, the walk was an utter disaster that brought me back to the house with a sore body and a bruised spirit.  I was definitely not less cranky than when I left. I gave Romeo a bath and put him down to nap, bandaged Jubilee’s poor bloody knees (really, read the Facebook account) and sat down to attempt to “veg” until it was time to pick Melody up from school. The rest of the day continued on in the ordinary. I made a fairly decent dinner and left to go to therapy.

My therapy session today was grueling. It was the first time ever that my emotions were so big that I literally considered walking out in the middle and never coming back. But it was also very productive. And it started my realization that something can be hard and horrible yet productive and beautiful all at the same time. That bad does not cancel out good. And that even though today had truly horrible moments, it also had moments of beauty. Moments when I savored the love I feel for my children. Moments when I breathed deep and felt the air fill my healthy lungs. Moments when I shared a family meal made with nutritious food with the 4 people I love most in all the world. And if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, my today was beautiful. Not perfect, but beautiful. And for the first time ever, I feel ready to embrace it. The fact that there is no perfect day. That today was full of love and frustration and beauty and near disaster and health and pain and growth. And that at the end of this day, instead of looking back over the last 24 hours and saying, “Man, I’ve had a horrible day,” I can look back over it and feel full. Full of emotions and hope and beauty. And the sense that working hard to embrace imperfection is worth it. And may tomorrow be equally full of beauty. <3

Love, Handprints

A New Take On Beautiful

My dear, sweet Jubilee,

You are such a free spirit. It is one of my favorite things about you…and it challenges me probably more than anything else about you. You see, I crave perfection. In the very core of my being, I long for a perfect moment, a perfect day, joy without the shadow of pain, happy without a hint of sad. And on this journey of becoming, I am grieving my way through the very hard realization that perfection does not exist on this earth. The grief that I am experiencing as I walk this out shocks me. It is a deep and all-encompassing pain that feels like my very soul is breaking. And maybe it is. And maybe that breaking is the path to making my heart and soul more whole than I could ever have imagined.

This week, you had your first day of preschool. It was harder for me than for you. I took pictures every step of the way. You were ready for me to leave right away, excited to start your new adventure. I lingered a moment and then kissed you and left, fighting tears as I walked to the car. I knew I would miss your smiling face all day, but also knew this would be sooo good for you, and for me as I was able to focus more on school time with Melody.

When I picked you up that afternoon, you were super excited to show me all your artwork from the day. My favorite was a picture you drew of our family. Daddy, Melody, Romeo, our two pets and you and I in the center together. It was a beautiful 4-year-old representation of our family, drawn on your very first day of preschool. At home, I wrote your name, the date, and “first day of preschool” on the back, with the intention of putting it into our keepsake bin after a few days of display. And I gazed upon it smiling again. Because in my heart, it was perfect. A little slice of perfection in the chaos. Our sweet little family drawn with all the love in your little heart on your first day as an independent preschooler. Absolute perfection captured with a box of crayons.

This morning, you brought me your drawing again, beaming with happiness. You opened it and showed me how you had added two more people with a marker, right in the the center of my perfect drawing. And I did not respond as you expected. To put it bluntly, I freaked out. I asked you why on earth you would draw on the picture with a marker. You said you thought I would like what you did. I lectured you about adding to things that were already finished and given to me without asking me first. I watched your little face go from pride and joy to fear and sadness. And still I lectured. Daddy tried to intervene by explaining that you added a drawing of your cousin after you talked to her on the phone after your first day of preschool. I didn’t listen to his attempt to explain your 4-year-old reasoning. I was angry. And I railed and lamented the ruined picture and told you that you must never ever do something like that again without asking. And your already sad face fell even further. Your lip began to quiver as you told me how sorry you were and then you began to cry.

I was reeling with the weight of my own emotions, but your tears suddenly made me realize the severity of my overreaction. We were on our way out the door, heading to church so I didn’t have much time for damage control. We sat down on the porch steps and I gathered your sobbing frame against me. I told you I was sorry I overreacted. . .that your picture as you made it in preschool was perfect to me and that now it wasn’t perfect anymore and that made me sad. I told you that I still loved you very much and lied that I still loved your picture, even though it wasn’t perfect anymore. And you settled down a little, but we were both still sad. We got in the car and sat in silence, listening to music all the way to church.

In the front seat where you couldn’t see me, I sobbed all the way to church. I cried because my brokenness hurt you once again. I cried because my perfect picture could not be recovered. I cried because my anger and sadness made your precious joyful face change to sadness. I cried because perfection is not possible.

When we got to church, I still felt raw, but I knew we needed to talk some more. I sent your siblings on into childcare and called you to the side. I pulled you into my lap and again told you I was sorry for the way I reacted to the changes you made to the picture, and that maybe I was sad because I didn’t understand. I asked you to tell me why you added what you did. The worry on your face relaxed and you began to explain. You said because you love your cousins and they are a special part of our family, you thought I would be so happy that you made the picture even more special by adding more of the people that we love. You said that made it even more beautiful. I thanked you for sharing your heart with me. I told you I understood now and that you did indeed make the picture more special. The beaming smile returned to your face and you said, “Oh, Mommy, were you just sad because you didn’t understand?”

I smiled into your face with tears in my eyes and said, “Yes, sweetheart, now that I understand why you added to the picture, I do like it very much.” You hugged me tight and scampered away lighter in the knowledge that I love you, love your picture and now understand your heart.

I am still dealing with my sadness as I write this letter. But I am also trying very hard to embrace the change that you bring to my heart, my little free spirit. I truly believe that God gives us the children we are meant to have. That each of you three are in my life to teach me something that will change me for the better. And in your full-of-love, happy, carefree, impulsive way, you are challenging me to open my heart to the possibilities. Your picture represented a slice of perfect to me. The reflection of a perfect moment. You added to the picture because you don’t look for perfect around every corner. You love with your whole heart and without fear. Every joy that touches your little soul is a celebration to be commemorated. You don’t live life in my categories. You don’t see the need to protect the little “perfect” moments, because to you, all of life is a big adventure. And it’s nothing to be afraid of, because love and sadness and joy and disappointment and beauty and anger all seem normal to you in the same moment.

So while I am sorry that I caused you pain over this, I am so very grateful to see that you are not broken by my imperfection. You simply take it in stride because you know that I love you. You see beauty in me just because I am your beloved mama. And I will learn to see beauty from your perspective even when it’s hard for me to let go of my expectations. Because there’s freedom in it. And because we’re worth it.

Love, Mama

The Freedom in Imperfection

The last few weeks, I have been struggling more than usual with anxiety and sadness. I’ve tried to go toward the feelings but all I can seem to find is this deep longing. A longing for moments of pure joy untouched by sadness. A desperate wishing for days filled with happiness without the shadow of anxiety or what if’s.

I took this observation with me into therapy this week. The session that followed was one that I did not expect. In our last time together, we touched on my need for perfection. The drive I feel to attain something perfect. There is a voice in my head that says it is possible. That if I just try hard enough, I can attain perfection in some area in some way. It affects every single thing in my life. It leads to “all or nothing” thinking, in the way that if something seems too hard, I don’t want to even attempt it because there’s no way I can do it perfectly.

As my therapist and I worked through the different life events over the last several weeks that felt triggering to me, we came back to rest on my drive for perfection. And we uncovered that the longing I describe above is really a different spin on my need for perfection. When my kids misbehave, they are acting contrary to the picture of perfectly obedient children I hold somewhere in a fantasy in my heart. When I suddenly end up with a migraine headache at the end of an otherwise awesome day, it mars the perfection of that day in my mind and makes me anxious. At my very core is a feeling that if I just. try. hard. enough. . .perfection is possible. That I can have the perfectly clean house if I just clean enough. That I can have the perfect day if I just plan it right. That I can have perfect kids if I just raise them “right.” And this is where we landed. I commented on a situation with Romeo and a tantrum and felt good that I had managed to sit with him as he dealt with his sadness and anger about something that didn’t go his way. And I commented to my therapist that I hope I did it “right.” She stopped me.

“What does it mean to do it right?” She asked.

I stopped and thought a minute. And I didn’t have an answer. Because in most things in life, there really is no “right” way to do something. I’m not talking about sin, or morality. Clearly I do believe that there is a right and a wrong in that regard. . .I mean in my daily life, right or wrong can sometimes depend on the situation. And that is where I forget to offer myself grace.

At the very center of who I am is a picture. That picture is of this huge multiple choice test that represents every decision I have made and will make in life. And in my mind, there is a single right answer to each and every question. In my journey toward wholeness, I have learned to offer myself grace and forgiveness for the ones I get wrong, and that has relieved a lot of my anxiety. But that place that keeps keeping me stuck is the place where I cannot wrap my mind around the part that there might be multiple “right” answers. . .or that sometimes, all the answers are equally okay. . .or that sometimes each of the answers might offer certain benefits and consequences, and while I have to own those, they are indeed mine to own and don’t equate to choosing the wrong answer.

The drive for perfection has held me captive for too long. And as I sat in my therapist’s office this week, I began to sob. I mean cry ugly. That deep kind of cry that wrenches the whole body. I cried as if a loved one had just died. But in a way, the loss that I am now grieving is one of the the biggest I have ever experienced. Because perfectionism has become a part of who I am. And it feels impossible to change. But I am taking this first step. And while the grief and the sobbing was painful, it was also cleansing. And as I stepped out of my therapy session, I felt a tiny sliver of hope dawning in my heart.  That just maybe. . .

I can find the thread of perfection that winds through all aspects of my life and start to detangle it from reality.

When I feel anxiety start to rise, I can stop. I can look at what craving for perfection is being violated in that moment. And I can remind myself that perfection is impossible. And I can start to search for that place in the situation that I can define as “good enough.”

Perfection is an illusion that we create when the world around us becomes too painful to be present in. And it can help for a time to live there in our minds. For me, it became something I was convinced was real. A place where I knew I could get to if I just tried hard enough. Because that put me in control in times when I felt completely powerless to control anything around me. But I serve the One who controls my destiny. He doesn’t put is finger into every step I take. But He is the ultimate author who is writing my story. He is the artist, painting my life onto a beautiful canvas so big that only He is big enough to step back and see the whole picture. And the decisions I make in my life do not mar the picture, they simply change it. And because He has promised to work ALL things for my good, because I love Him and He has called me according to His purposes, I can relax into the knowledge that He will make my canvas one of marvelous beauty.  Because He says I’m worth it. And for the first time in my life, I am choosing to believe Him. And as I let go of perfection and learn to embrace the beauty of “good enough,” I enable Him to call me to bigger things. And I’m excited to find out what those things are.