Month

December 2015

Wtf?

Wtf as in Where the Eff did the last six months go? I blinked and suddenly I hadn’t written for months.

Hashtag parenthood, amiright?

MONTHS.

So. I’m still here. I’m going to go think of something to write about now.

Later.

Have Courage and Be Kind

 

We went on a mommy/daughter date to see the movie Cinderella.

It was actually a pretty good movie. I don’t really want to get into picking apart Disney movies regarding the unrealistic love stories or why everyone’s parents always have to die. They probably have a lot of “hidden” messages, maybe even some I’m not aware of.

Instead what I’d rather point out are the obvious messages. The first is a theme throughout the movie, Cinderella’s motto, “Have courage and be kind.”  Any movie that has my daughter whispering that to herself on the way out of the theater is a winner in my book.

The second was slightly less obvious, but still plainly stated. Cinderella was locked in the tower when the prince came to try the shoe on all the ladies of the house. By chance, they discover her. On her way down to face the prince for the first time as a “plain”/”servant” girl, she catches sight of her ragged clothes in the mirror and wonders out loud if the prince will accept her for who she is. She says the following:

“This is perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take. To be seen as we truly are.”

And that’s the whole reason why this blog even exists. Because if authenticity was easy, it would be the norm rather than something we have to strive for and if that were the case I might as well be writing about something as common as brushing your teeth. Being yourself in a world that is full of opinions about how and what you should be takes more courage than anything else. Letting other people see you feels like a risk that even the bravest of us shy away from sometimes.

Why is that, I wonder? Do we need other people more than we need our true selves? But if the relationship is based on something other than your true self, it is rarely fulfilling. Perhaps it’s a little of both. We need our true selves in order to find the kind of people we need. We need authenticity in order to create the authentic connections we crave.  We need both. To have courage and be kind.

As a parent, we not only have to figure out how to do this, we also have to figure out how to teach our children how to do it.

Unless they are the ones teaching us…

Broken

 

Years ago, I met a teacher of mine who taught the mantra, “You are not broken. You don’t need to be fixed.”

At the time, it was a profound message for me. I had spent a lot of time in my “younger” years trying to fix myself. Making endless lists of what to do to be better, setting unattainable goals. Always trying to fix myself. Focusing on the flaws that needed to be corrected.

That phrase released me from the battle with myself. I stopped trying to fix myself. I stopped focusing on my flaws. Instead, I focused on what i was creating, who I was becoming. There were still plenty of times where hard lessons about things I needed to do differently would smack me in the face. But I didn’t feel stuck in an endless cycle of fixing anymore.

“You’re not broken. You don’t need to be fixed.”

But somewhere along the line, the phrase became a threat to the peace it had oNce created. Instead of a message of encouragement, it was a statement on how I should feel. Which, sometimes, was different than how I actually felt.

You see, I embraced the message “not broken”. I believed it with all my heart.

And then life happened, as it usually does. There was no crisis, no devastating turn of events, just a gradual shift, a slow wearing down. Life cycles like this. At the high point in the cycle, I was “not broken” and free. At the low point in the cycle, I felt broken.

Not only does it suck to feel broken, it sucks to feel like you’re not supposed to feel broken. Like you’re supposed to know better.

I was living a wonderful life. I was blessed beyond belief. I had no reason to feel anything but gratitude and joy.

But I did. I felt confused. I felt tired. I felt sad. I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt like every place that I had ever felt like I belonged was gone.

In short, I felt broken. And I felt broken for not being able to stop feeling broken.

What do you do?

Honestly? I don’t know yet. But here’s what I do know:

Sometimes people feel broken. Sometimes life is confusing and hard and it hurts and you can’t help but wonder if you can handle it all. It doesn’t make you wrong or bad or “broken” to admit to feeling broken. In fact, I think it does the opposite. I think being able to walk through every part of the cycle, the highs and the lows, and be honest and present in each part, makes you whole, not broken. I think it makes you human.

It’s ironic in many ways: the act of allowing yourself to feel broken actually means you’re not broken.

This is what it means to be human. To feel joy, hope, enlightenment. To feel sorrow, hurt, betrayal, regret. Feelings are every color of the human rainbow, a rainbow that isn’t complete without all of its colors. To deny our human feelings is to deny part of this rich and vibrant experience. For we all know it to be true: you can’t understand sorrow without joy, you can’t understand hope without fear, and you can’t appreciate wholeness until you have been broken.

“You are not broken. You don’t need to be fixed.” It’s still true. You are not broken. When you feel broken, you are simply experiencing one of the many phases of being wholly human. You are not broken, you are whole.

And you don’t need to be fixed. You simple need to be you. Perfectly imperfect. Wholly human. When you find yourself in the dark nights, the lowest point of the cycle, you don’t need to be fixed. You simply need to keep going.

The Real Truth

 

Years ago while working in education, when I first began planning curriculum/activities for students and teachers, I had a revelation. We always had a “goal” or an intention we would use a teaching strategy to accomplish. A basic example would be to have children repeat something in order to remember it.

At the same time, we were skirting the edges of the educational reform movement, questioning the status quo and tearing down old assumptions about the way things had to be done. Our goal was to help students become self-directed learners, so they could take charge of and responsibility for their own learning. Naturally, one of the first questions to address was how to motivate students.

Sometimes repeating and remembering information can be quite dull. It’s not necessarily something children love to do naturally, so we looked for ways to make it fun. One day, in an idea brainstorm during which we were trying to come up with strategies to “use” on the kids, I thought, “What is stopping us from just letting them in on the process?” If we explain that we repeat things to help us remember, they will learn something about how their brain works and they will understand WHY we are doing something. It’s my belief that people should always understand why they are doing something. Always.

I wanted teaching to stop being something we do TO them and become something we do WITH THEM. It wasn’t necessarily a revolutionary idea to the more experienced teachers around me. But it was to me.

And the revelation stuck with me and carried over into other parts of my life.

The other day, I had a friend who had been in a confusing situation. I’m a pretty passionate person, so it doesn’t take much to get me fired up. I ended up doing more ranting and sharing of my opinions than listening and supporting. Afterward, I felt crummy about it.

I was thinking through how I could be better. And then it occurred to me: why not just be open about the process of trying to be better?  Instead of waiting to be a finished product, why not just be a work in progress? After all, friendship is something we do together.

So I sent her a message and explained that I felt like I hadn’t listened as well as I thought she deserved and that I didn’t feel good about it and that I was working to be a better friend. Because I valued her friendship and I wanted to be kinder, more respectful, better in the friendship.

Sometimes I feel like we do too much “manipulating” each other. We want others to see us a certain way, we want others to believe something or do something or change. We want to teach people something so we strategize about how to say it and how to present our case.

But there’s such relief in just saying clearly, “This is what I want to do but this is where I’m at.” I want to be a good friend but I didn’t feel like I succeeded just there. I want to be a good mom, but I feel like I lost my temper and I wish I hadn’t. I’m trying to be more patient. I want to teach you how to do this but I’m not sure what the best way to do that so you can learn it is. I want to be a good boss, but I don’t know how to handle this situation.

Or when I’m in an uncomfortable situation, saying, “I’m not sure what to do here. I’ve never been in this situation.” When I don’t know how to help, saying, “I want to help but I’m just not sure what to do.”

Really, it just comes down to saying my truth.

Because I think we all feel a little awkward and vulnerable sometimes. As teachers, as parents, as friends, as family members or coworkers or neighbors. We all have situations where we could choose to be a little more transparent, a little more human with each other. Where, instead of digging for the “right” thing to say, or worse, saying nothing at all, we could simply say the real thing.