Friday, December 19, 2014

My Grown-Up Letter to Santa

Dear Santa:

Let’s be honest, 2014 was a very hard year. All you need to do to realize this is look at a few Twitter hashtags (#yesallwomen, #blacklivesmatter). Never before in my life have I seen one year packed with so much sorrow and so much beauty. So many people grieving over what has been lost and so many people coming together to reclaim it.

2014 was the year that many gay friends of mine could and did get married. It was also the year that I felt genuine fear for the future of my biracial boys. I suppose this is the way of life, we cycle through sorrow and grief and joy and so much love. And it is perhaps better for us to experience the lows so that we appreciate the highs, but that is very hard to tell mothers whose children have been hurt or killed.

If I am allowed to indulge in a Christmas wish this year, it is for humans to focus their energy on building each other up instead of tearing each other down. For us to come together more as a community instead of ripping each other apart. It’s a very adult Christmas wish, but I still believe in miracles. I still believe in my kids and their future. I still believe in the deep wells of human compassion and the ability to find within us understanding.

May everyone have a wonderful holiday season. Thank you to all my readers for your letters and your love this year. You have kept my head above water more than you could ever know.

All my love,


Monday, December 15, 2014

What It's Like To Be Left Behind

I lost my friend Michael two years ago this week. Of course, I wasn't the only one. We all lost someone when Michael died. Even those of you who didn't know him. The world grows a little dimmer whenever anyone decides to take their own life. It all seems a little more hopeless. And those of us left behind ache for more time with them.

Whip-smart and thoughtful and funny and sarcastic as hell, Michael figures so prominently in many of my best memories about college. When I returned to Grinnell earlier this year, there wasn't a place I could go on campus where I didn't recall a story about this amazing man. And I know I am one person of many. My college friends talk about him to me often. Not stories of college shenanigans, but stories of deep emotional connection. Of Michael being kind and compassionate and thoughtful and so understanding.

I have blogged before about the guilt I feel for not staying connected with him beyond Facebook messages and social media. The shame at not knowing how much he was hurting. The worry that this is how people slip away from us. That we see a status update from them and think that means they're okay. These feelings haven't gone away in the past two years.

I don't like walking around in a world where Michael doesn't exist. I feel like that about so many people who I've lost. I told a friend the other day that sometimes I feel surrounded by ghosts. Memories of people who I want to call back to me. At the end of his life, Maurice Sendak said, "I have nothing now but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more." That is how I feel about my ghosts. I want more time with them. I want them not to have left me. It's a tremendously selfish thing to say, but I'm saying it anyway. I want them back.

I wanted to write this post because I have so many people who are struggling in their life right now. So many people who are hurting for one reason or another. Who feel hopeless or isolated or filled with sorrow. And I want you all to know what it feels like to me on the other side. That I wish I could build all of you nests and take care of you and make things better. I wish I was more. I wish I could keep you all here forever with me. Remind you that you are loved and the world is better with you in it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Mother Journey

Last night, my 12yo had her first middle school dance. It was awkward and adorable and all the things someone would want for a seventh grader. She came home glowing (literally, they handed out those glow-stick necklaces), and I was so happy for her.

A dear friend of mine asked how *I* felt about it, and I realized how easy it is to dodge that question. It was her dance, after all, not mine. But it did make me have to consider myself as a mom. Sometimes in the day-to-day existence of being a mom, we forget that we are not just managing the life journey of our children, but we are on one of our own. A mother journey.

I have long held on to the idea for myself that having something outside of my kids is important. That I get too wrapped up and worked up about things to be exclusively a stay-at-home mom. For all that I'm frazzled and overwhelmed sometimes, I am overall better as a mom when I'm working. I give my kids more breathing room to grow without my constant feedback. I give them space to stumble and fall and pick themselves up without me jumping in to rescue them.

Still, it is often easy to forget about my mother journey because of my focus on my publishing journey and my kids' individual journeys. It is easy to forget that I actually have feelings about these things my kids do and what I have done as their mom. And when I step back and really look at how I feel, I mostly feel proud. I feel proud of myself as a mom, proud of my kids for the paths they've chosen and the work they do, proud of the partner I chose to take the journey with me. This is a strange feeling for me. I rarely feel pride in anything I've done. Sadly, I usually demur over my accomplishments, filter the positive things out of my brain, and explain away success as "luck". (Which frankly, it really can be).

My failures and flaws are so abundant and in your face that it is hard to own pride in a real way, except, it turns out, when it comes to my mother journey. Don't get me wrong, I am quite certain my kids will be in therapy one day complaining about various parts of me, but I don't think those complaints will include anything about them not feeling loved or protected.

It can be a very hard world. It is difficult (especially in this ever-darkening month of December) to find hope and light in anything. And yet, if I close my eyes for a moment and think, I find that hope and light in my mother journey. In my 12yo telling me "you're the best mom in the world for me" every night and my 7yo asking me to sing him a lullaby to help him fall asleep or my 10yo standing in front our hipster church during the Hanging of the Greens service reading like he's thought about what it means to have faith.

I think most of the people who knew me in my late teens and early twenties would have suspected I'd never have children. I'd said as much and hadn't really considered any of it until I met Julio and he declared his intention to have a baseball team of children (um, no). But this life we've created, this navigation through difficult things and beautiful things and mundane things, this is everything to me. And I'm so grateful to my kids for helping me realize that in mothering them, I found confidence in myself. I reclaimed some of the lost pieces of me and put them back to rights. And found a way to love them, Julio, and me, in a way I'd never experienced before.