the measure of a human: when loving flowers was enough

Once upon a time, when we were young, what was liked was enough to define us. People would ask how old we were and then they would ask what we liked. Daisies, tv shows about builders, spinning in circles, slides, our parents, our siblings, cars and planes and trains.

These were the things we loved. These were the answers we gave. These were the things people talked about when they talked about us. What we liked, what we loved.

Then we grew up, and the questions started changing. Now we were asked what we were doing, what we were accomplishing. Had we gone to college? Gotten married? Had kids? Good career?

So we started to do that too. We started defining ourselves by what we were doing.  There is a moment in life when loving flowers is no longer enough, you have to be a gardener.

And that’s the moment when our soul takes backstage to our abilities. And abilities? They aren’t everything. They aren’t. Some people won’t be a track star, they won’t walk at all. Some people won’t give rousing speeches, they will have limited speech or no verbal speech at all. And because we live in a society where the doing is more important than the being we talk about these things as if they matter. Ableism is a term meant to convey the idea that our society wrongly measures the worth of a person by being able to do certain things. Things like walking, talking and even living independently. Worth can’t be defined like that

And this defining thing goes further,  because whole societal structures are developed around randomly chosen doings, these displays of your supposed worth. Do you have a career that people consider successful? Something like a doctor, a lawyer, something white collar, something with a big paycheck? Did you marry someone and are you making babies with them? Did you graduate and do you have a piece of paper meant to prove your smarts? Do you play sports? What do you DO?

You can’t just love looking at mountains, you better learn to paint them. Having a favorite tv show is no longer something noteworthy, maybe you have a screenplay you’re working on? Oh you like french fries, but do you excel at cooking? See, loving flowers isn’t enough anymore, you have to be a gardener.

But every time we fall for that lie, every time we tell ourselves that measuring up to some randomly chosen standard is our goal, we lose that part of ourselves who once upon a time rightly believed that what we love and not what we do is who we are. Souls are fragile things. We have to care for them, we have to tell them that loving is enough, being is enough. Because it is. Being is more than doing. Always. And society won’t help us remember this. So we have to do it ourselves. We have to be intentional at remembering.

Maybe we have to ask ourselves – when it all comes to an end, and our time in mortal, physical form is over, what do we need to be remembered for in order to feel that we were somehow, good enough? That we wrote a book or painted a canvas?  That we ran the fastest or grew the most beautiful hydrangeas in the neighborhood?

Or will it be enough

if people simply remember

that we were someone

who loved flowers.

doing being and loving flowers

Call this my New Year Manifesto. Because I want to be the person who believes these truths and who lives in them.

{{Picture of my son and his cousin, playing with a daisy, several years ago.}}

come sit with me in shadows (bearing witness to silent pain)

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come sit with me in shadows

Come sit with me in shadows, I can’t bear the light today.

The light’s a mockery, a mirage, it moves each time I get close. I don’t want to chase the light today.  Today I’m sitting in the shadows, and I need someone who will come and sit with me.

I need someone who won’t try to fix this unfixable thing. Someone who won’t tell me how the light means everything happens for a reason. Sometimes there is no reason.

I don’t need to hear about the light right now. I know the light exists. We all know the light exists. But here in this moment I don’t think the light can reach me. I know the light can’t reach me. And I need you to be okay with that.

I need someone who can sit beside me and bear witness to my pain. Not tell me I shouldn’t feel it. Not try to tell me it will be okay. Not today. Today I need someone to sit with me in shadows,  it’s the only place that I can be.

………………..

{{This is the post I tried to write all year. Shadows come and go. In this moment the light can reach me. That doesn’t mean the shadows weren’t real or that I won’t sit in them again. But when you’re in the shadows it’s hard to write exactly how that feels.

So today I write for myself but also for anyone who sits in shadows. Friends whose hearts can’t be all merriness and light this Christmas. I write because I want you to know you’re not alone. I write because I hope a friend can come and sit with you today.}}

maybe we should stop thinking we’re awesome just because we love people we consider different than us

I read another article a few weeks ago. By a white woman. She spoke, in lavish and poetic detail about the people she saw around her. Carefully pointing out all the ways they were different from her. Mostly skin color. And age. And then she spoke of smiling at a Muslim woman just after the world learned of the horror in Paris. She smiled. She loved. And somehow I got the feeling this was meant to be inspirational.

That article is the one that sent me over the edge but these articles are all over. Humans loving other humans who are “nothing like them” and then expounding on how wonderful they are for being able to do that. People who are differently-abled than themselves. Different race. Different religion. Different economic status. God is often praised for giving them this ability.

Newsflash: This isn’t a superpower. You were not bitten by an empathy-spider. This is basic, decent human-ship.

Maybe the real problem in the world is that we think this is special. That we think loving people we consider different from us is something so outside of nature’s laws it needs to be applauded.  It shouldn’t need to be. It should just be… normal. And if it isn’t. Somehow it’s become something to be praised and fawned over.

Love is special. Love is sacred. Love is magic. Love is the greatest power the universe holds.

But giving love to someone who you think of as an “other”? That isn’t special. And if we quit thinking it was maybe we could spend more time wondering why we think it should be harder to love those who “aren’t like us.” Maybe we could really look internally and admit that yes, we have internal biases. We have prejudices. We have things that are not lovely in there.

And then we could change them. Because you can. You can change those biases, but ONLY once you admit they are there. Like all problems you can only find a solution once you admit that yes, you have a problem.

If the world was a house and that house had a leaky roof and we went around pointing out that WE WERE CLEANING UP THE WATER and that made us amazing then when would we have time to actually get up on the roof, find the problem, and fix it?

Maybe Chicken Little was right. Maybe the sky is falling. But who cares about that when we can point out how much we care about the pieces

maybe loving people we think of as different than us really isn't that newsworthy

And I am absolutely  sure you could scour my blog and find me guilty of this somewhere. I’ll probably be guilty of it in the future.  But if faced with that truth I hope I can be human enough to admit it, own up to it, and change it.

 

…………………….

{{Comments are disabled on my blog. You are welcome to email me at wymsel@live.com

This is for multiple reasons: Positive comments freak me out. Negative comments freak me out. Those are things I’m sure I should work through in therapy. I hope to once I get through my 25.5 more pressing issues. But honestly the biggest reason is I feel responsible for anything that happens within a comment section. If someone posts something about agreeing with me but then adds their own spin on it I feel compelled to say “I’m glad you like it but that’s not what I really said and in fact I disagree with you” and that’s kind of obnoxious. And then sometimes people do it to each other which is even worse. So I disabled them. But I’m grateful for every email I’ve received. Even (usually, kind of) the negative ones. So that’s how it is and thanks for reading anyway.}}

I don’t want you to be grateful: a letter from your (adoptive) mother

I wish so many things for you – the children who have my heart for all of time:

I hope that you will know how to love and be loved.

I hope that you will be happy.

I hope that you will live the life you want to have and not the life anyone, including me, dreams for you.

I hope you will be kind.

I hope you will be brave.

I hope you can view the world as it truly is and still find the strength to believe you can make it better.

And along with all those things I hope with everything in me that you take my love for granted.

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"forever family" and other things I want to promise

I dropped Youngest off at a playcare center yesterday for a few hours. Oldest was at school and it was my husband’s birthday so he and I were doing a lunch date. Something we haven’t done since, well something we’ve never done since Oldest came home.

Youngest was excited to play with the trains, the slide, and all the other goodies they have to entice children away from their parents. But he also wasn’t keen to leave me. I talked to him on the way in and sang our little goodbye song that talks about how I’ll come back. (Sidenote: thank you Daniel Tiger for your parenting wisdom.) Then I signed him in and handed him over to the worker. She sensed his nervousness and said, as many care-workers do, “It’s okay. Mommies always come back.”

Except they don’t.

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motherhood is a competition and tomorrow is our olympics

I’m over Mother’s Day.

I love my kids. I love my mom. But I hate the over-complication of every.single.thing. in today’s culture. Especially the social media culture. Motherhood is the ultimate competition sport and tomorrow is our olympics. At the end of the day most people wind up feeling like losers when we should just be celebrating that we’re living at all.

The rest of the world celebrates Women’s Day. I like that idea. I like the idea of celebrating who we are and not just who we are to someone else.

My social media feeds are full of articles on Mother’s Day. There are articles sharing how infertile women feel about the holiday. About how churches could handle things better in their services tomorrow. There are articles about being an adoptive mom. About being a mom after loss. About choosing never to have kids at all.

To me they all have a common theme: I want to matter. I want my existence to be validated. I want to feel good enough during a holiday that can bring out the insecurities in almost everyone. Am I a good mom? Am I a good daughter? Am. I. Good. Enough.

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how to kill a blog, part one (or guilt about becoming part of the noise that drowns out the voices we should be listening to)

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I abandoned this blog to wither for several reasons. The first has to do with guilt.

Last summer I had a post that went a little “viral” in some adoptive parent communities. It was about waiting moms. I should have put “parents” because I got so much grief for leaving the dads out. For the record I wrote it about myself and a few moms I’ve become close too. It wasn’t meant to be the end all be all of explaining things. It was a deeply personal reflection on the life I led for three years.

I still like the post. A lot. The mistake was agreeing to let Huffingt*n Post republish it. And then not objecting when they put it under the tagline of “12 things everyone should know about adoption” (or something like that) and took off the postscripts I had made. Looking back I should have complained to them about the tagline and not allowed the changes. To be fair to myself it happened the day my husband had oral surgery and we ended up waiting for hours in an emergency situation because they thought a piece of metal might have gotten into his lungs. I had a barely 1-year-old and barely turned 2-year-old. I thought we’d be out for two hours, we ended up being out all day. We were exhausted and tired and I was stressed out of my mind. So I didn’t handle it like I should have. And then the noise became overwhelming and I ran away emotionally.

For awhile I couldn’t figure out why this one post gathering so much notice bothered me so much. Of course the attention was a bit overwhelming to someone with a teensy tiny blog, I actually had some mild panic attacks over it. When the post hit 5k views an hour after I published it I texted my husband and said I was going to delete the entire blog. I meant it too. If there was any doubt I was an introvert this is the moment that laid it to rest.  But then when the attention faded away, when I realized most of the 60k-some people who loved *that post* weren’t interested in anything else I had to say my pride stung a little. That post isn’t my favorite. It doesn’t even make my top five.

It’s also the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever written.

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when you’re bad at that thing you thought you’d be good at

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Yesterday we were at Gymboree when Thane got his leg stuck between two wooden dowels in a rocking toy. It was amazing how my mom instincts kicked in and how quickly I got him out…. I’m kidding. Actually my claustrophobia and panic kicked in, after pulling at the leg with no budging I started frantically looking around for a freaking ax to chop that sucker apart with, and all I could think was “in the movies there is ALWAYS an ax, always. It’s right next to the fire extinguisher. Where is the fire extinguisher? Oh my dear heavens there is no fire extinguisher, if there is a fire right now how will I get all three of us out of here?!! ” Because that’s a normal place for your mind to go.

At this point Tal came over to try to rock the stupid rocking toy. This was not as helpful as he imagined it to be. And as I sat there (for SECONDS!!) trying to figure out what to do and trying to hold Tal off, another mom calmly came over, offered to help, pulled up Thane’s pant leg, twisted things a little and rescued him. And me.

And that’s when I realized two things: we’re hardly ever actually alone. People are almost always willing to come give a hand when we’re sucking at whatever we thought we’d be good at. And second: it had happened. I hadn’t been capable of doing something my kids really needed me to do. I had failed. And the world hadn’t ended. I had really blundered at this whole mothering thing and the sky hadn’t come crashing down around us. In fact, looking around the room everyone was calm and happy. Including my two kids who were now at the top of the slide enjoying themselves.

I thanked the mom and she told me a funny story about leaving her car door open. And that was it. Everything was fine. Except for the fact that the toddlers were thirsty now and I had forgotten the sippy cups. But that’s why God made Starbucks.

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{{Pictures from the park last week.}}

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