Gosh Darn It, I’m Capable

I feel all kinds of capable right now. And DAMN, it feels good.

I know, I know. I’m a grown ass woman. I should feel capable, right?? But for so long, I didn’t. Not because of imposter syndrome. Nope. That requires actual achievements first.

I didn’t feel capable because I wasn’t. Full stop.

We could have a little chat about how I got to the point of believing I wasn’t capable and, therefore, becoming a stellar self-fulfilling prophesy. But it’s really not that interesting–besides, my therapist might get jealous if I started chatting you up about that.

What I do know, 100%, is that booze kept me in that place, that I am only capable of mediocrity place, for a long time. And I wanted it to. Not achieving much of anything felt pretty blasted safe. Trying… now that is scary. It involves risk. And failure. And, oh my GOD, so much vulnerability.

Getting sober didn’t make me feel capable. It made me a lot of other things: clear-headed, introspective, thoughtful, less scared of hard work. I was functional, sure. But capable is a whole new level.

Bringing my daughter, Jane, into the world gave me a giant shove toward living that Capable and In Charge Life. I mean, keeping another human alive is not nothin’.

Sweet Baby Jane.

Once she was in the world, and with me 24/7, I started thinking about how I wanted my daughter to see me (that was easier then than thinking of how I wanted to see myself. I wasn’t quite there yet). What did I want to teach her about being a woman? How did I want her to see me navigate the world?

With that in mind, I embarked on several trial and error adventures. My first job back from 3 years as a stay-at-home mom was as the Children’s Director at a small church. Let’s just say that job didn’t play to my particular strengths. And I had such a need to be validated that I suffered through some things I’d never countenance now.

And then… Simon & I took a trip to Paris. Something about that trip changed me. Maybe it was being away from Jane for 10 days–and having to reckon with my perception of myself as something other than her mother. Maybe it was having a real, honest to God, Parisian croissant for the first time in my life. Or maybe it was that O Magazine I got a hold of on the flight home (Lord have mercy, do I love Oprah). But I came back from that trip with a full, guttural understanding that if I didn’t pursue my calling (what I was meant to do, my big dream) that it would tug at the back of my mind, linger in all my what ifs until I gave it a shot. Dreams can’t be ignored forever. And we pay a very real price for trying to stifle them. So I quit my job as a Children’s Ministry Director (it was time, y’all)…

And I started writing. For literally cents per page. About things like luxury hangers (like, clothing hangers). I shit you not. Then one of my freelance pieces got published. And then I started contracting with businesses as a writer/consultant (quick shout out to women helping other women: all 3 of my initial gigs were because other women (friends of mine) took a chance on my inexperienced writer self). Something funny–yet probably totally predictable–happened. The more I wrote, the more capable I felt. I didn’t shy away from the big clients (even an international corporation!). I dove in. I tried. Full on hard-core tried. And s-l-o-w-l-y I came to believe that I could do it. Really do it. And do it well.

It took a few years before I was wiling to self-identify as a writer. It just felt so impossible that this thing I’d wanted to be since I was 8 years old… that I’d become that very thing. Because capable. And because I finally got out of my own damn way.

I’m not world famous. I don’t have a blog following of tens of thousands. In fact, I don’t even have a byline for most of what I’ve written. But, still, writing changed everything for me. It changed the way I see myself. The way I interact with the world around me. And as I get ready to open a used bookstore this Fall, I realize that I am in this place–this big, scary, exciting, risk-taking place–because I chose to admit I might be capable after all.


Who Put These Boxer Briefs In My Dryer?

Today, as I pulled pair after pair of boxer briefs out of the dryer–stripped, polka dotted, red, navy, Hogwarts, all manner of colors and patterns–I thought, “Huh. I didn’t sign up for this.”

Not the laundry part. That was, in fact, part of what I signed up for. I think it was in our marriage vows.

No, it was the boxer briefs that weren’t on my radar when we got married almost 13 years ago. But then I got to thinking: 13 years in, is anyone in the marriage they thought they’d signed up for?

Marriage is a funny thing. You can get all swept away with the “for better or for worse” thing. But that shit gets real when life starts happening all around you. When you say “I do” you don’t get to pick from a menu of experiences you’d like to celebrate and endure together. Some of that is a roll of the dice. And some of it comes down to the friction (or chemistry, depending) that happens when two people with free will try to navigate the world together. And that can be hella unpredictable.

I love being married to Simon. But two and a half years ago I decidedly did NOT love being married to him. Because he’d exercised his free will, taken charge of his life, and changed it so that he could live into who he was meant to be. And I felt left behind. And duped. Because it wasn’t what I’d signed up for.

But it’s not logical–or even really interesting–to expect someone to stay exactly the same from the time you marry them until you… what? Die? Come on. You’d be bored to tears and so would they. Simon never promised me he’d stay exactly the same. And I didn’t promise that either. I mean, sure, I still resemble the girl he married.

THIS, in fact, was the girl he married. I’ve always had mad game. Obvi…

But I’ve had two careers (adjunct writing instructor and freelance writing consultant). He supported both, just like he’s enthusiastically supported my used bookstore dream (like real enthusiastically. It’s cute, y’all). He never rolls his eyes at my continual spiritual quest (he has to hear about it frequently over our morning coffee). And he only gets mildly irritated when I launch into social justice hour right before bedtime.

He’s a really great guy. And I’m super into him.

So, no I didn’t sign up for folding boxer briefs. But I couldn’t have dreamed up this life if I’d tried. And now I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Anxiety & Parenting (What a Fun Mix!)

I get real quippy about my anxiety sometimes. Because it’s easier to be glib and light-hearted about anxiety than to admit that sometimes it threatens to suck all the air (and joy) out of my world.

And, also…

I’m fortunate that, over the years, people (qualified, professional people) have given me tools to cope with my anxiety, to reign it in, to flourish in spite of it. Sometimes, it’s relegated to the dark recesses of my mind. And, sometimes, my anxiety lives much closer to the surface. Close enough to remind me what it felt like to exist under it’s really shitty, tyrannical rule.

Because, let’s face it: anxiety is an asshole.

And anxiety really likes to harp on one particular topic: Jane. Which is some unmitigated bullshit.

Parenting is hard enough as it is, without anxiety getting all irrational. But that’s what it does–plays on your darkest fears, destroys your peace of mind, robs you of your joy.

Unless you say, unequivocally, unwaveringly, NO.

When I was pregnant with Jane, I coexisted–decidedly unpeacefully–with the fear of stillbirth. I’d miscarried once. And it had taken us TWO years to conceive Jane (doctors visits, shots, blood draws, inseminations). And now I was absolutely terrified of losing her. My therapist knew these things. But she also believed something I didn’t–that I deserved joy. And that Jane deserved a mother who was ruled by love, not fear. She gave me this brilliant piece of advice that I’ve carried with me since:

“You are afraid of stillbirth. Then she’ll be born, and you’ll be afraid of SIDS, cancer, accidents… When will it stop? How are you ever going to feel the joy of being a parent, if you live in constant fear?”

And in that moment, it became clear as day to me: fear is the death of joy.

But she wasn’t finished yet: “Our children aren’t really ours. They are on their own journey, entrusted into our care. Our job is simply to help them grow toward who they were meant to be. The job of a parent is to start letting go the minute they are born. Because they are only loaned to us for a short time.”

Every time my anxiety tries to keep Jane locked down, without enough freedom, too close to me for her own independent nature, I remember that she isn’t mine. It would be tragic for my fears to impede her journey. Wildly unfair. And I won’t let it happen.

I’m letting Jane go on an adventure with one of her friends this coming weekend. And I’m hella anxious about it. Like my brain keeps screaming, “HOLY SHIT! I CAN’T LET HER DO THAT.” But I can. And I will. Because she deserves great adventures and joy. And so do I.

“The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.” 

― Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Bad things happen every day in this world. I am not naive. But I also know that fearing pain and loss don’t keep them at bay. Instead, they take the joy out of the NOW. Which is all we really have, isn’t it?

So, I’m gonna suck-it-up-buttercup & let Jane have a big adventure with her buddy. I’ll feel the way I feel. And I’ll let that shit go. I’ll keep my anxiety in its own lane, and let Jane navigate the world free from its fetters.

She’s so very worth it.

You Are To Be Celebrated

ICYMI: The United Methodist Church has been busy imploding lately.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently wrestling with the very real hurt and trauma this conversation the UMC has on the regular about the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ folks brings up. I felt like I should say something profound and moving about the whole hot mess. But I couldn’t find the right words. In fact, I couldn’t even find a place to start.

Fortunately, there are folks who are brilliant and loving (like Nadia Bolz-Weber & Glennon Doyle) who not only found words but put them out into the world in the spirit of love & healing & GOODNESS:


It took me a long time to stop conflating God and the church–and to ask for my God to-go, please. But on this side of things, there is healing and freedom. Not everyone has the same path. But I do know definitively that you don’t need church to have God. In fact, I’ve begun to see God everywhere. In the little interactions I have with other flawed, miraculous humans. In the (rare instances of) sunshine in Atlanta. In the quiet moments of peace (no matter how fleeting) when I feel deeply the love of the divine.

One of my best pieces of advice in times like this: find your people. It doesn’t have to be the church (but it can be! There are plenty of churches that will celebrate you for who you are. Never accept less than that). Find a community who will stand by you in the daily struggles and the existential ones. And if you can’t find a group of people like that (a running group, a book club, a knitting circle, a writers group), create an ad hoc group of folks you’ve gathered along your life journey who love you to your core (even when you’re annoying, or cranky, or a tad irrational). Lean on those people. And be there for them. Create community. That’s the best and hardest part of being human. Dive into it.

Know that the Universe has only love for you. And it will keep nudging you along your path. I think God is constantly rejoicing over the beautiful, messy creation that I am–all while being just a smidge exasperated at how complicated I try to make everything.

Because the truth is simp]e: We’re all divinely created. We’re perfect just the way we are. Me. You. Your annoying AF neighbor. All of us. We’re valuable.

God doesn’t love us in spite of who we are. He loves us BECAUSE of who we are. Gaiety & all.

**Photo by Robin Benzrihem on Unsplash

Vacationing in The Land of the Mouse

Life lessons abound… even in the the most magical place on Earth.

I’ve got a confession: sometimes vacation, as welcome & lovely as it is, throws me off a bit. I am a creature of habit, for sure. So vacation adventures can chip away at my emotional reserves a smidge. Especially when the vacation involves 3 days at Disney World. That’s a lot of hustle & bustle & MAGIC packed into 3 days. And the walking… GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY. We walked 10 miles each day. TEN. MILES.

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We’re lucky because we’ve Disneyed a lot. We lived in Florida for a long time (where they offer some pretty great discounts to visit The Mouse). The Magic Kingdom is one of the most familiar places in the world to me. No, I’m not kidding. And, yes, it’s still magical. There’s something very special about being with Simon and Jane at the Magic Kingdom that I can’t quite quantify. I guess it feels like, for that moment, everything is right and perfect in the world. It’s an escape. And, for us, it really is The Happiest Place on Earth.

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This year, in addition to the Magic Kingdom, we did the 3 other parks, too: EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. And it was at those parks that I learned the most about being human… for better or worse.

I’ve written before about how expectations (especially at Disney) are the death of joy. I still stand by that little nugget of wisdom. But I also discovered a new truth on this trip: passive aggressiveness is the fastest route to NOWHERE. Look, I’ll go ahead and own up to the fact that I spent the first 40+ years of my life being passive aggressive AF. But kind of had to reassess that strategy when my passive aggressive response to some very real pain almost imploded my marriage. So, you know, I’m trying different life strategies now. Like being straightforward. Speaking my truth. And SAYING what it is I want.

What does any of that have to do with Disney? Just be patient. I’m drawing things together here. In the meantime, here’s a cute pic to tide you over:

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Okay, so where was I? Oh, yes…

SOARIN’. I was in line for SOARIN’ at EPCOT. Here’s the deal, in case you don’t know: EPCOT is a nerd’s paradise.

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“An amusement park for nerds,” Jane calls it. Which I think is pretty accurate. And SOARIN’ is the very best part of this nerd delight. It’s like hang-gliding over the WORLD. It’s a popular ride, and you kind of get herded into the cue for it like cattle. Mooooo.

While we were being herded, I guess my family inadvertently passed another family in line. Truly, I was paying no attention to who was in front of or behind me. Because it’s a huge ride that loads dozens at a time. So, it doesn’t really matter. I did notice a young woman edging up on me to try to pass me. But I just found that hella annoying. I couldn’t figure out why she was lurking like that. And why she didn’t just say “excuse me.” I’d have been happy to let her pass, but not if she was going to invade my personal space. (I am way protective of my personal space, which often works against me in an amusement park setting. I try to let it roll off my back like a duck. Quack.)

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It wasn’t until we all paused at the entrance to the loading zone that I understood what had happened. And even then, I only understood because I “overheard” a conversation I was clearly meant to hear. Apparently, the girl edging up on me was part of the family who had been in front of us. I discovered this because I heard the girl ask why “those people” had gotten in front of them. Huh. I didn’t respond–which I realize may have been petty. But no one was talking to me. So I just stood there. Then the mother went on to make some WILD assumptions about what kind of people we are and how we move thorough the world. Well, now I was just PISSED. Which was so dumb. Because if she’d just said. “Hey, we were in front,” I certainly would have let her pass. But her passive aggressiveness made me want to dig my heels in. So I did.

I’m not saying I was in the right. In fact, it doesn’t interest me in the least who was right & who was wrong. Jane and I raced in and out of a crowd at Hollywood studios trying to get to the Slinky Dog Dash (we didn’t get to ride. The wait was 2 hours right after the park opened) and really burned some folks up. We weren’t technically wrong, with our zigging and zagging. But we made people’s day less magical by annoying them, and I felt bad about it later.

And that’s the crux of the thing for me: how do I feel?

Passive aggressiveness makes me feel both angry and impotent. Because there’s nothing to directly respond to. I don’t want the onus of having to parse out someone else’s feelings. I have a tough enough time parsing out my own damn feelings. But the whole experience was a good lesson in speaking my mind and addressing issues head on. And also on not doing things that are unkind or thoughtless, just because they aren’t technically wrong.

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I mean, Donald isn’t WRONG for not wearing pants. He is a duck, after all. But boy was he embarrassed when we pointed it out. Then we all got a good laugh out of it.

Draw whatever metaphor you will from that one.

 

 

Eight is GR8!

Elizabeth Jane (Lizard, Lizzie Jane, Janiepants, Bug, Bear, EJ, Chicken, Monkeybutt Jr, etc…) is 8 years old today!

Honestly, I have no idea how my favorite human in all the world is 8 years old today.

It both seems like I’ve known her forever and like she just got here. I do know that she changed my world forever the very moment she entered it. And that I love her more & more with each passing day. Which I would’ve sworn would be impossible as I stared into her sweet little newborn face. But here we are: I love her infinitely more today that I did on the day of her birth. Because now I know her. And she is breath-taking.

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Jane really sees people, in a way I think most of us have forgotten to. She finds the very best in people, and she holds it up for everyone else to see. She reminds people that they are good at their core. She believes it.  And she’s made me believe it again, too.

She loves without condition. Even when people are difficult. Because, hell, aren’t most of us difficult some of the time? She offers a lot of grace–room for mistakes, space for second chances. She’s quick to forgive. And always 100% ready to help someone feel better.

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Jane’s primary resting state is happiness. She’s enthusiastic beyond measure. And she’s silly. She’ll totally walk up into her classroom strutting like a chicken. NBD. She’s a stripes-with-polka-dots-and-a-tutu-just-because-she-likes-it kind of kid. I love her willingness to simply be herself. She often tells me she enjoys being herself–that she likes herself. I hope that remains true for always. There’s just so much about her to like.

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She’s not perfect, this kid. Not by a long shot. And, if she were reading this, she’d say “Nobody’s perfect, Mommy. There’s always room for improvement.” Amen to that. I think what I admire so much about her is that she really grabs a hold of opportunities to improve. Oh, not right away. But she’s willing to ponder situations where things, let’s say, could have gone better. And, after an initial blame shuffle, she’ll quite often own her part in the meltdown of situation normal. Good Lord, I couldn’t do that until my mid 30s. Sometimes I struggle to do it now.

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The other day, she came home proclaiming, “Mommy, we’re so close, it’s almost like we’re sisters instead of mom & kid.” Sweet, but wildly untrue. I’m Mommy 100% of the time. Motherhood is no fucking joke. Even with the sweetest of kids, it’s a job fraught with tears, frustration, and meltdowns (mine as much as hers). But what IS true is that there is no other kid on this planet–in the multi-verse, even–whose mother I’d rather be.

My favorite thing to tell Jane is that she was worth the wait. It took us 2 years to conceive her.

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I’d definitely given up hope by the time we found out we were pregnant with her. But that struggle made me appreciate her brilliant presence in our lives all the more. I can’t imagine a world without my sweet Elizabeth Jane.

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As far as I’m concerned, I am the luckiest mother in the world (8 years running).

Why do they call it “The Birds & Bees” talk? Way to make it even WEIRDER.

I want to control the narrative that my kid receives about sex. And I CERTAINLY don’t want her friends explaining it to her…

My (almost) 8 year old knows more about the female reproductive system and how babies are made than I knew when I started middle school. Let me tell you, NOT knowing about sex puts you at a distinct disadvantage in recess conversations. Because if your parents don’t tell you about sex, some kid is going to. And, most likely, they’ll get some pretty big parts of the equation completely wrong.

I want my daughter to understand her own body. I want her to know sex is not shameful. I want to give her knowledge.

And I have. Kind of.

In a theoretical sense, she knows how babies are made. Or, more accurately, she knows how SHE was made. She knows that making a baby requires a girl part (the egg) and a boy part (the sperm)–and that’s true no matter who is making the baby. But, she was conceived in a doctor’s office. While I looked up at star garland that had been placed along the ceiling for just such an occasion. But what she DOESN’T know is how the vast majority of babies are conceived.

And, you have to admit, compared to her conception story–where a doctor is strategically placing the sperm it has the very best chance of connecting with and fertilizing the egg–sex is just WEIRD.

I mean… come ON. A penis goes WHERE??? Can you imagine receiving this information as an 8 year old?

I can’t. Because no one ever talked to me plainly about any of this sex stuff. In fact, like so many other girls my age, my mother just handed me a book about sex, and the body, and puberty and told me I should report back with any questions. I grew up conservative Presbyterian. You can imagine that the Focus on the Family book she gave me wasn’t exactly sex-positive. It was homophobic, masturbation-shaming, abstinence preaching bullshit. But it shamed me into ever talking about or fully exploring my desires as a teenager. So, I guess mission accomplished?

I want something different for Jane. And that involves arming her with facts. Before the other kids try to “educate” her.

I think she’s gonna be pretty mad if I don’t explain the whole penis/vagina thing before someone else does. It’s a pretty big piece of the puzzle to leave out. But, wow, is that an odd conversation to instigate.

The other stuff has come so naturally. We want Jane to know her conception story. It’s an important part of who we are as a family–in part because we’re an LGBTQ family and in part because I just think people should fully understand their own story. So, telling her about the egg/sperm connection was easy. And, since she’s my constant sidekick and nothing gets by her, she asked about tampons at an early age & I told her what they were for. No one in this house is period-shaming. It’s just a thing that happens. No shame. No stigma.

But, you know, sometimes it takes more than one conversation for all the relevant info to sink in. The other day, I got my period and needed a fresh pair of underwear. So I shouted for Jane (who was standing right outside the bathroom door—because motherhood). She got me a pair… then she asked if I was okay (she was probably pondering why her perfectly capable mother seemed incapable of getting her own damn underwear. At least, that’s what I would have been thinking). I said all off-hand like, “Yeah, I’m just bleeding. NBD.”

Her eyes opened wide.

“It’s okay. I’m not hurt.”

She was still staring at me. “You are bleeding? From your VAGINA? Mommy, I’m not sure your vagina is supposed to do that.”

I laughed. Explained periods again. And we moved on. She’s still skeptical about the bleeding part. I mean, again, it IS kind of weird. In the way that the WHOLE human reproduction thing is weird. You should have seen her face when I explained how babies come OUT…

So, yeah, it’s time to explain all the weirdness of sex without making it, well, weird. Fingers crossed that the S-E-X conversation isn’t the first thing she brings up in therapy years from now…