Jan 022012
 

I’m sitting in a quiet hotel room on the morning of January 1, 2012.

I wasn’t healthy enough for our annual New Year’s pilgrimage to Ohio, so Craig and I brought the kids and Theo to a hotel one town over.  Our plan was to commemorate the changing of the year together, to force some family memories, to celebrate life. We dressed up and ate at a restaurant with real silverware and white table cloths. We posed, because that’s what we do.

 

We came back to the hotel and danced, danced, danced, because that’s the other thing we do.

We’re on the right track baby, we were born this way.

I was asleep by 9:30, but Craig and the kids watched the ball drop at midnight. 2012. Twenty-twelve. Wow.

I’m feeling quiet and reflective this morning. The kids have been so teeny for the past few New Years that I haven’t had time to soak in the significance of a passing year. But this year’s different. 2011 was a Life Crash Course for me. 2011 decided that I was finally all grown up, so she pulled back the curtain and revealed to me some pretty harsh things about the Way Life Works.  Like Dorothy, I came to the 2011 curtain wide eyed and entranced and ready for all my dreams and wishes to be granted. What was revealed was not at all what I expected. But like Dorothy, somehow I still made it home.

A few days ago I read a New Year’s post written by one of my favorite writers, Kelle Hampton. If you’re like me, and you dabble in self pity and ennui daily, I’d bookmark Kelle this year. After I read her posts, I’m re-inspired and invigorated and awake for at least twenty minutes. She’s better than three Red Bulls and a kale smoothie.

Kelle wrote a wonderful list of what she’d learned in 2011 and I found myself nodding, yes, yes, yes along with her inspired words- as I always do. But then I got to one which read:  “Family is everything, everything, everything.”

And something forced me to pause and stop reading. Inside that pause I realized that after living through 2011, I don’t think that’s true.

2011 Lesson #1 – Family is not everything.

It can’t be. Because sometimes beloved sons die. And husbands leave. And daughters lose their minds for decades. And beloved babies are broken by broken men behind the wheel.  And fathers abuse and mothers neglect and sisters and brothers betray. And friends walk away.

Family cannot be everything, everything, everything. Because if it is, then everything can be taken away in the blink of an eye. Or maybe never offered at all.

If family is everything, everything, everything, then it follows that if my family was taken from me, I would have and be nothing. And because if family is everything, then I would need to parent my kids and love my parents and Sister and husband in a state of constant fear. And fear taints love. Fear makes the lover hyperventilate and the beloved suffocate. Fear makes love a cage.

Down past the terrified, ridiculous part of me that believes something terrible will happen if I acknowledge this- I know that family is not everything. It’s a lot. It’s a whole damn lot. If my family were taken from me, or never given to me in the first place, I would feel shattered. But I would still be something. I would still have something. I would still have the most important part of me, as a matter of fact.

And this is something I’ve learned only this year. At the start of 2011, I definitely would have told you that family is everything.

But a few weeks ago I sat with my friend Anna, who lost her Jack this year. She is suffering  through excruciating pain that I’m afraid might just morph and never ease. But listen- when I looked at Anna- I was not looking at a woman with nothing. And it wasn’t just because she has Tim and Margaret left on this side. What I mean is that I was in the presence of a woman who has the entire world in her hands.

Anna is a woman who has power to heal -herself and others. Because Anna has choices. She could curse God and die, and we would all understand. But she doesn’t. She’s alive. Anna’s decision to write, to stay open, to invite us in when she’s most vulnerable, to get out of bed each morning, to keep choosing hope and love and life and to face the horrifically painful truth instead of hiding – her determination that THERE WILL STILL BE JOY, DAMNIT – these choices are healing and awakening her family, friends and readers. A teeny, teeny bit at a time. And since the worst has already happened, Anna is a woman who, at the moment, is loving and living without fear. And that is something.

I know she’d trade all this in a hot second to get her Jack back. But the fact remains that she is still Anna. She is a new Anna. A very, very different Anna. And being with her right now is healing. She makes me less afraid. I just want to be with her all the time. I can’t explain how or why- but being with her right now feels a little bit like being with God. Even with the F-bombs we throw around. (Thank you, God, for curse words. Sometimes they are really all that helps). My friends, Anna has not lost everything. She is still Jack’s and Margaret’s mother and now she’s also mothering multitudes. She had no say in losing her Jack. But she certainly has a say in each moment now. And most days she’s choosing life. THAT is everything. Just mark my words, please. That precious Jack did not die in vain. Anna is going to help heal the world. They are going to do it together, Anna and Jack. One foot on each side.

Last week, I sat at my kitchen table talking to Chase about gratitude.

Chase is my one. It’s never been spoken aloud, but he knows it. He’s the one who believed in me at my worst. He came with great faith – certainty, even – and he grew inside of a broken woman. Then he was born and he saved me, he gave me a vocation and a role to play and a life. He believed in me, so I became me. He made me proud to be Glennon, to be Chase’s mother. Then he started growing and began to take care of me in the way no child should.

It’s okay mommy, it’s okay to yell sometimes-  we know you love us. Girls, let’s go downstairs and play so mommy can rest. Mommy- are you thinking about the adoption again?  Our family is just perfect mommy, whether the adoption happens or not. Mommy –thank you. Thank you for taking care of us. I know it’s hard to be a mommy. You do such a good job.

Chase knows what I’m thinking. He always knows. He knows what I need. He is a hundred years old. He is gentle and wise and patient, the way I want to be. He is my son, but he’s also my role model and friend.

And yes, I know I’m not supposed to say any of these things aloud and yes, I am sure that this is confusing and a whole lot of pressure for an eight year old, but it is what it is.

Which might be why that day at the kitchen table, Chase looked me in the eye and said,

“Mommy. What would you do if I died?”

And I needed a moment so I said, “What did you say?”

But he didn’t repeat his question, because he knew I’d heard it. Instead he said, “Would you kill yourself, mommy?”

I swallowed hard and said, “No, baby. No. I wouldn’t. I’d probably want to, at first. But I wouldn’t.”

Chase said, “Because you’d still need to take care of daddy and the girls?”

And I said, “Well, yes, but that wouldn’t be the only reason. You dying would be the worst thing I could imagine. It would be my nightmare. But I hope I wouldn’t stop being me. I hope that eventually, I would wake up each morning and choose Life. I hope that I would still choose to love, and still allow God to help me find joy. In a way, I’d still be choosing you- because you are Life and Love and Joy to me. But I’m also sure that I’d spend part of each day dreaming of when I’d see you again.”

And Chase said, “Right. In heaven. Sometimes I wonder if believing in heaven is silly.”

I smiled and said, “I know. Sometime I do, too. But remember that picture you showed me, that picture that tried to put into perspective how teeny tiny our little earth is compared to the humungous universe? I guess I think it’s silly NOT to consider that there might be more out there. I just think there might be. Sometimes I wonder if we’re really just a little speck like Who-Ville on Horton’s flower. I don’t know what it looks like – but I just know there’s more. Because the love I have for you –It’s too big to end. It won’t end no matter what happens. No matter what. I just know that.”

And that was it. Conversation over. Chase smiled. He just smiled. Smiled big.

Chase is my caretaker just as I am his- so maybe he was truly worried about what I would do without him. Or maybe Chase was really thinking: “If you died, what would I do? What could I do? Would I have permission to go on? If you disappeared, would I have lost everything?

And I hope that what I told him was this: I am not your everything, sweetheart . And you are not my everything. I am not sure what everything is, but I know it’s not something that can ever be taken away.

If you are still breathing, you still have your everything, and if you aren’t breathing, then you have everything, too.

On this side, maybe everything is just a long, deep breath and the will to choose life and love- again and again and again. Maybe it’s just the power to do the next best, loving thing.

I don’t know what everything is. But I do know that family, friends, money, health –  they are not everything. Because everyone doesn’t have those things.

But everyone does have everything. Everything is inside. Everything walks with you. Nothing can separate you from your everything. Everything never, ever leaves.

More 2011 lessons to come.

Before I forget, let us take a moment to appreciate my new leg warmers.

Jan 042012
 

Don't Carpe Diem

Every time I’m out with my kids – this seems to happen:

An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, “Oh- Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast.”

Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.

I know that this message is right and good. But as 2011 closes, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life – while I’m raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.

I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that  most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.

And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers – “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!”  – those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.

Now. I’m not suggesting that the sweet old ladies who tell me to ENJOY MYSELF be thrown from a mountain. These are wonderful ladies. Monkees, probably. But last week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: “Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast.”

At that particular moment, Amma had swiped a bra from the cart and arranged  it over her sweater, while sucking a lollipop undoubtedly found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. A losing contestant. I couldn’t find Chase anywhere, and Tish was sucking the pen from the credit card machine  WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, “Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you.”

That’s not exactly what I wanted to say, though.

There was a famous writer who, when asked if she loved writing, replied, “No. but I love having written.” What I wanted to say to this sweet woman was, “Are you sure? Are you sure you don’t mean you love having parented?”

I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.

Every time I write a post like this, I get emails suggesting that I’m being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times – G, if you can’t handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth?

That one always stings, and I don’t think it’s quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing it right…in her own way…and she happens to be honest.

Craig is a software salesman. It’s a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don’t ever feel the need to suggest that he’s not doing it right, or that he’s negative for noticing that it’s hard, or that maybe he shouldn’t even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he’s ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: “This career stuff…it goes  so fast…ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? THE FISCAL YEAR FLIES BY!! CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!”

My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure.  I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.

But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here’s what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:

 “It’s helluva hard, isn’t it? You’re a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She’s my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.” And hopefully, every once in a while, I’ll add- “Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up- I’ll have them bring your groceries out.”

Anyway. Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn’t work for me.I can’t even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.

Here’s what does work for me:

There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s staring down the clock till bedtime time, it’s ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it’s four screaming minutes in time out time, it’s two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.

Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. Kairos is those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day, and I cherish them.

Like when I actually stop what I’m doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is.  I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can’t hear her because all I can think is – This is the first time I’ve really seen Tish all day, and my God – she is so beautiful. Kairos.

Like when I’m stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I’m haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I’m transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles of healthy food I’ll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world’s mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.

Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to  them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.

These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don’t remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.

If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.

Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day.

Good enough for me.

Jan 092012
 

 

 

So . . .

What’s up?

Anything new?

Nah . . . nothing new over here, either.

Kay.

I’ve written this “Response to the WOW post three times and deleted it each time.

First, I was going to tell you about all the fancy things that have happened in response to Don’t Carpe Diem and all the fancy people from whom I’ve heard. I was going to review the insane numbers and future opportunities for us and yadda yadda yadda.

But yesterday I remembered: None of that really matters.

Here’s what matters. Remember this?

We Monkees are not successful if we make it to Oprah or the Today show or start creating serious revenue or traffic or what HAVE YOU.

We are successful because chances are that tonight some tired and lonely mom will click on a friend’s link and get lost in our essays and our comments and our love for each other. And she will ignore her husband for hours and she will cry a little and laugh a lot and she will read on and on and on. And it may take her months to rally the courage to comment, but she will meet us here every day because she has finally found her people! She has finally found a group of women whose only motive is to love and laugh together and who are NOT FOR SALE. And this will help her believe and be peaceful and feel a little less suspicious and more comfortable and safe and brave on this Earth. And so she will be full of joy. DONE. REVOLUTION WON. 

So there we have it. All that’s happened is that there have been thousands of these moments for thousands of grateful mamas all around the world. During the past four days, mamas galore (and plenty of dads, too!) have been full of joy and relief because of Momastery. That’s all and that’s enough.

My Dearest Old Monkees:

I know this expansion of our family is bittersweet. Family expansion always is, isn’t it? We’re in love with the new members of our family, but we are nostalgic for the way things used to be. And/ Both.

The important things won’t change. Some things will.

Clearly, from now on we’ll receive some nasty comments. And comments from people who kindly disagree with my perspective. I need you to know that I am okay with this. I can handle it. Remember- I’m little, but mighty, like the mouse.  Criticism – it’s not a bad thing. Bubba always told me, “You’re never as good as they say and you’re never as bad as they say.” So I try not to be swayed TOO much by the praise or the criticism. I’m still GDo from the block.

Momastery is a living and breathing thing, and she will change and grow and shrink and it’s all okay. Like Bob Dylan said, “he not busy being born is busy dying.” So we will stay busy being born.

I’ve been silently repeating Joan of Arc’s paraphrased mantra before she began her journey through dangerous territory:  “I am not afraid. I was BORN to do this.”

I bet she was peeing in her pants a little when she said that, like I am.

The important things will remain the same here: I will keep showing up, and so will you.  I will keep speaking straight to you and you will keep responding. I will keep telling my truth, and so will you – no matter how much trouble it gets us into.

Listen, Monkees.

This song is for you: I’ve been listening to it all weekend and I believe it to be Momastery’s song. You’ll get it. I know you will. Please listen several times. And loud.

Here it is. Henrietta’s Hair.

Thank you to my ladybugs and mosquitoes and creepy crawly things and birds with colored wings. I love you. Stay close, I need you now more than ever.

My Precious New Monkees:

Welcome home! I have read every single one of your emails. All seven hundred sixty eight of them. I have been filled to the point of overflowing. I am just –  I’m just stunned by the love and joy and pain and Truth and redemption stories I’ve read from you. Your stories…they are my comfort and fuel. Absolutely.  This is your home now, as much as it is mine.

I’ve planned two weeks of “The Best of Momastery” posts. I will post one each morning and another each evening. They are little gifts from us original Monkees to you Newbies. We hope you enjoy them. Share them, if you’d like, and at the end of the two weeks, the dust will settle and we’ll have our Monkee family in place.

Then we’ll take it from there. Who knows what’s next? Who cares? Let’s just keep showing up and cherishing the Kairos along the way.

First Best of Momastery will be on the way at 3 pm.

The second will follow this evening.

So much Love.

GDo

 

 

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