Feelings from All Sides

I don’t know how to celebrate Mother’s Day anymore. And perhaps I don’t need to know how. I could choose not to recognize the holiday at all. I told a friend this week that I didn’t think Mother’s Day would ever feel happy again unless I was a mother, the one being celebrated. Without my mom here, it feels like a ruse—like all of the air has been let out of a heart shaped balloon. It doesn’t feel special or momentous or good. And so I struggle with the lead up to the day, and with the day itself. Usually that Sunday morning I hide behind a fake smile and wish a Happy Mother’s Day to the women at church. But it’s uncomfortable and makes my skin crawl. So in a weird way I’m thankful to be distancing socially on this Mother’s Day. I can just be me, and I can feel everything I’m feeling—whatever that is at the given moment.

Over the last few years I’ve highlighted other women who have been role models and mentors and surrogate mothers to me. Like my dear friend KSH who gives me life advice and words of wisdom, who always makes me laugh and reminds me it’s okay to dance to the beat of my own drum. She’s not my mom, but she sure does help provide comfort and confidence and so much compassion, all of which I’m thankful to have. I think about my mom’s two dear friends Rosie and Pam: how they’ve held onto us even after her passing—how we can share photos and memories, and how their love for her lives on in their love for each of us. It’s wonderful knowing their are others who keep a flame burning for her that we can call on if the need arises. I think of my sorority mom and all she’s been for me over the years. I think of my dearest friend who I call sister (as jokingly “mom”) who always has my back—through it all. I think of how each of them has helped mold me and I let myself momentarily slip into the land of “what if” and consider how my mom would react to my life decisions (the good and the bad) over the last few years. What wisdom would she impart? But that’s a future that will never be.

These last few months have reminded me that we don’t really know what the future holds. And that even though we should plan for the future, there is much anxiety and stress that goes into issues we can’t control—a reminder amplified by Mother’s Day. But worrying about the future is something I’ve done for years. There are somethings I need to just let be. There are somethings that I need to spring into action for in ways I never have. It’s a new balance that I’m hoping to embrace. So as we head into Mother’s Day, I’ll remember who my mother raised me to be (strong, witty, tenacious). I’ll embrace who I’ve become and who I continually strive to be (kind, vulnerable, eclectic, fearless). And I’ll remind myself to live in the now, takes risks, and celebrate even when it feels difficult. I may not enjoy everything going on around me. I may have a myriad of feelings at any given moment. I may not have (yet) reached all of my dreams for my life. But there is so much yet to come. And perhaps the way to celebrate Mother’s Day for me in this time is recognizing the big moments in my own life and knowing she’ll be here for every minute of it, in her own way. Perhaps that is the greatest gift of all.

Grey

I’ve been starting lots of blogs and not finishing them. Maybe it’s the current environment that is keeping me from wanting to complete them (or rather being able to complete them). But this thought has stuck with me the last few weeks. If this quarantine, social distancing world has taught me anything thus far it’s this: I can be comfortable living in the grey. That’s not usually the case. I’m a list maker, a planner, an organizer, a detail-oriented thinker. Though I am flexible and think quickly on my feet, I like to anticipate outcomes when I can.

What does it mean to live in the grey? Lots of things. It means not having all of the answers to my own questions or the questions of others. It means not knowing what the near future or distant future hold. It means going with the flow, not giving in to expectations, doing what feels right in the moment. It means intentionality, tentative but firm steps forward, it means listening to yourself and others. It means going deep, being in tune with your heart and soul, and freeing yourself from the constraints society places on you. It means being you, whatever that is at the time. Living in the grey is being comfortable with the unknown, the invisible, the unspoken.

I am grateful for this time to see and appreciate the grey spots in my life. And I’m learning to lean in to what they are teaching me. And I’m becoming more comfortable discovering and learning new things each day as they unfold before my eyes. The grey is to be appreciated. The grey is what I want because it brings strength, and courage, and grit.

Why I Won’t Wear Green

I can remember as a kid growing up the hullabaloo that circulated around St. Patrick’s Day. Folks pinching each other when they saw others were not wearing green. Or drawing shamrocks on their hands with marker to avoid the inevitable pinch. And it took me a while to realize it, but I align with the “I won’t wear green on the 17th” mentality. I’m not anti-holiday or anti-celebration. But I’ve come to learn that deeper meaning is important to me in my decisions and actions. So though I won’t wear green, you can find me proudly sporting orange each March 17th.

St. Patrick, a Catholic Saint (other traditions also claim him), is associated with Ireland though I do not believe that was his original country of origin. It’s disputed where in Roman Britain he was actually born. His association with Ireland brings about his association with the color green. In the Irish flag; the green, the white, and the orange all represent different things. 🇮🇪 Below you can see a picture from Wikipedia.

Thus, as one who is of the Protestant faith, I will wear orange. It may not make sense to everyone. It may mean that people still try and pinch me (they will get pinched back). But it’s something to me that holds deeper meaning than just following what everyone else does.

Green wall, Orange jacket.

Too Much to Lift

I’ve put off writing this blog. There is so much going on right now, and so much of it feels very heavy. But thoughts have been swimming around my head and I think maybe the best way to calm them is to write them down, and here we are. So just go into this knowing there are a lot of moving parts, most of which are pretty deep. But I’m navigating and handling it pretty well.

The world feels like a very scary and unsure place right now. Whether warranted or not, we are living in a sense of fear, scarcity, and unknown. To say my anxiety is heightened feels like an understatement. Thankfully I’ve been able to limit my contact with others in large groups. This provides its own struggle as I am someone who gains energy from being around others. I’ve been lucky to talk to some of my closest friends via phone and text and know that they are safe and taking precautions in terms of their health and wellness.

On top of what feels like the biggest health crisis I’ve witnessed (feels like, I am not claiming accuracy to this statement) this week is one that bears its own weight annually. About a week out, my body sensed it before my mind. Then last night she was in my dreams. And my day was clouded in a bittersweet haze. Thankfully I have friends checking in on me, willing to listen and support me as I need (even when I don’t know what it is I need, they ask and comply when I can finally formulate words). It’s anniversary number three but it’s still a lot to handle.

At coffee with a friend last week we discussed dating and relationships and things we are looking for in life. It was nice exchanging notes and encouraging one another. It put my butt in gear thinking about dating and the weird world of dating apps and the like. I swear it’s the most counterintuitive process. I’m old school maybe. So who wants to set me up on a blind date? With the social distancing that people have been promoting, dating seems unrealistic and even dangerous in a way. Funny how the time when I feel pushed back into that realm, the world almost laughs in my face.

In trying to connect virtually with people I love over the last few days, I had the opportunity to chat on the phone with one of my best/longest friends. Along with catching up on life, sharing info about our families, and reminiscing about mom, she shared some exciting news with me. So much joy, but I had to quickly walk to my car before breaking down. When thinking of the joy of others, sometimes it reminds me of all I will not and cannot have Mom physically be a part of-and that at times is paralyzing. She won’t be at my wedding. She won’t hold her grandkids. Those were the two biggies that hit deeply.

So I did what I’ve learned is best: I forced myself to be active. I went to the gym and tried to run it out, to beat my feet against the treadmill track and hope that some of the bottled up, weighty emotion would ooze out of my body. I’m not fully convinced it worked. Even though I told myself it did, a little, that’s not how emotions work. You can’t just command them to go away and have that be successful. But moving my body is something I can do to try and keep my mind and body in check and healthy. And so I will force myself to do it, even when I’d rather wallow and stew on the couch.

There is a lot going on, but through it all I’m reminded of the awesome community around me. People from my cohort who sense something is up and reach out, people who promise to call, people who are direct in asking what I need, people who show up in a myriad of ways unannounced and unasked because they are the best and know I can’t or don’t always ask, people who are present, people who make me laugh, people who don’t get it but let me blab and freak out. To me it’s all about the people: that’s what keeps my anxiety and grief in check. And even when people can’t be physically present, I am ever grateful for the role technology plays in keeping me connected. It may be too much to lift, but carrying the load together makes it more manageable.

Say for Me, Love

There isn’t anything in this world but mad love. Not in this world. No tame love, calm love, mild love, no so-so love. And, of course, no reasonable love. Also there are a hundred paths through the world that are easier than loving. But who wants easier?

“March” by Mary Oliver

A Tuesday of Indulgence

For as long as I can remember Mardi Gras has been my favorite holiday.  It started long before I knew anything of beads or Bourbon Street.  Long before I knew where NOLA was or what debauchery was–it was an innocent affinity. Growing up our church always had a Mardi Gras party. There were pancakes, crowns/necklaces/masks, candy, and the best music around. The Naptown Strutters would always come and play–I really do miss Tom and his crew playing. And there was always dancing.

When I was really young, our Associate Minister’s husband always led the dancing. Whether a mambo-line/jelly roll, or what I fondly remember as “the broom dance”. All of the kids would run around and dance without fear. It was wonderful. This annual evening marks some of my favorite and earliest memories of community. When I was a teen, our Associate Minister has moved on. Me being me meant that I took up the torch of leading the dancing from then through High School. Once I left for college, I never really had the opportunity to go back for Mardi Gras. I miss it: the noises, and smells, and people. But I’ve found new ways to celebrate.

For me it means donning green, purple, and gold each year. It means engaging in some sort of frivolity for myself (whatever that looks like in the moment). It means preparing myself for Lent. I love Mardi Gras, I’m sure I always will. I’m thankful for the community and lessons it has instilled in me over the years.

Laissez les bon temps rouler.

Photo of me and Dale, said Associate Minister.

Life is Cyclical

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about changes in life over the course of time. Our surroundings and experiences shape us each and every day. And sometimes we don’t even see it or realize it’s happening—but it is. Think for a moment about the person you were growing up. Think about the person you were ten years ago, five years ago, six months ago. Those iterations of you were different—maybe not starkly, but they are unique from one another.

Growing up my family would have described me with the following words: outgoing, talkative, extroverted, popular, preppy (that’s from my dad—but his thoughts on being a “prep” were very different from adolescent culture when I was growing up). There was, and maybe still is, a running joke in our family that no matter where we went, I would know someone. My dad would say “people lean out of bus windows yelling your name”. Even on vacation, in different cities, or traveling to remote areas—my family would still bet on me being recognized or finding someone I knew.

In high school I was often busy. Extracurriculars, church, hangz with friends, babysitting, family time, etc. staying busy fueled my soul, and even though it was exhausting at points, I needed to be around people more often than not. Often that was attributed to me being the youngest. I’m not sure if that’s exactly accurate. But needing people and social settings and activity has always been a part of my being. It’s why I crave the various types of community so much. And though he wouldn’t readily admit it, some of it is learned from my dad. He has a knack for making friends wherever he goes: he knows no stranger.

College brought new changes as I was out from underneath the keen and watchful eye of my parents. It meant managing my own schedule and my whereabouts only being accountable to me. It meant trying new things, making mistakes, and being adventurous. It meant working hard and playing harder. It meant the freedom to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.

Fast-forward to my senior year. I had a great core group of friends: people who understood me, supported me through hard times, and embraced my weird (just as I embraced theirs). But something changed. Whether it was the reality of soon being released into the “real world”, or quickly and suddenly being over drama—I pulled way back from my social activities. I stuck close to my dearest friend and her boyfriend and his best friends. And we all just existed, apart from the rest of the college scene around us. It didn’t seem strange at the time but at points now I wonder why that change happened.

I spent time post college with ASP, wrapped up in that staff culture. And then even had a short time in Admissions at OWU. And there were close friendships at both of those that survived for the season they were meant to be. But I moved back home, found a job and started living into the role of Youth Minister that I had been longing for for a long time. At that point most of my high school friends were not living in Indy. I made friends through work, and church truly became my community. But I didn’t really know how to function socially in that role. My sister and I moved in together eventually and our habits started wearing off on each other: she became more social and I yearned more than usual for time at home. And it was a good rhythm: supporting one another, often being inseparable, and being able to read one another like no one else could. But there was something missing. The majority of my friends were older than me, married, and had kids. I’m so thankful for that in many ways. Those friendships have taught me a lot about relationships, family dynamics, and priorities. They’ve made me evaluate how and why I chose to do certain things and pushed me to challenge myself daily.

But I struggled (still do) with not being around people constantly. It made me wish for the college days when I could just pop into someone’s dorm room to hang, or find people in HamWil or in the ZookNook at all hours of the day. The “real world” doesn’t work like that though. I had become more introverted, it made me wonder if that was my own suppression of my true extroverted nature. Was I overcompensating (consciously or subconsciously) and catering to my sister instead of myself? Im not sure I know, or will ever know, the answer to that. What I can say is that life has bounced back, and I’ve circled back to enjoying, needing, and appreciating time spent with various groups of people. Have I changed? Sure. Or maybe I am just allowing myself to live into more fully who my true self is, without hesitation and regrets. People often talk about “finding themselves”. I think that process is something we do every damn day. Becoming more and more ourselves—allowing ourselves to be more open and vulnerable and showing the grit we have that helps us get through.

Time spent is for sure one of my love languages, probably my top one. Sometimes that means parties with people, making new friends, boisterousness, and laughter of all types. Sometimes that means one-on-one coffee dates, cooking dinner with a friend, walking to get ice cream, or talking over FaceTime. Sometimes it means birthday get-togethers, dinner parties, book clubs, game nights, or binge watching television shows with close friends. Sometimes it means Italian nights, dressing up for cultural celebrations, or going to hear live music. Sometimes it means road trips, retreats, sporting events, or taking in the theatre. It means lots of different things, but they all have in common time with others and a schedule that fills up quickly. It can be a lot with full-time work and classes for my Masters. But as I live more fully and honestly into who “me” is at this point in time and space, I’m thankful for the ways in which my life feels full, the way it makes me feel loved, and the people who show up time and time again.

Who knows who I’ll be in 6 months, 5 years, or on my 65th birthday. But I can’t wait to keep discovering and staying true to every form of me as life forges ahead. It’s cyclical but being back at the beginning doesn’t mean you’ve started over. It just means that you’ve realized where and who and how you want to be.

Many the Miles

I’ve been running. I’ve done it before and haven’t stuck with it. In the 43 days that have made up 2020, I’ve worked out 41 days. Most of those have included running. I’m to the point where I actually really enjoy it. Sometimes I crave it. I started only enjoying running outside. But with the weather I’ve had to resort to treadmill running. Ugh. But..after repeating that process I’m better at it and it is way more enjoyable than before.

My sister and I participate in a 5k each year that supports the Indiana Parkinson’s Foundation. I’m hopeful this year that Incan run the entire thing. If it doesn’t happen, that’s okay. But it’s the goal I’m working toward. Tonight I ran 20 minutes straight, with a pace that is okay (not my fastest but possibly for that amount of time).

We have several friends who will join us for the 5k. And I’m thankful for that. As my birthday approaches I think of ways I can keep giving back and feel like sharing this link is what I can do for now. If you feel so inclined, you can donate here.

The Shadow

It’s tradition. Grandpa always gets a birthday shout-out. I don’t know how to not recognize him and his influence on my life. People often tell me how much I look like my mom, it’s something you just can’t miss. But what they often don’t say is how much she looked like her dad. You can see it in pictures over a range of ages if you compare photos. You can definitely see it as they aged and deteriorated. It’s a mixed blessing to see them in me, and to recognize how time will take a toll on me.

But in more than our looks, there are points that tie the three if us together. My grandpa had an amazing and unwavering faith. He traveled to Jerusalem, always had a Bible by his side, and believed in the simplicities of life that it spelled out. He gave to charity, kept himself physically fit until he couldn’t anymore, and held his children to a high standard.

My mom followed in the footsteps of her dad in her firm faith, her love to travel, her passion for giving back, and her care for self and others. Though she wasn’t convinced she’d get married or have children, both ended up a part of her story and she was committed to providing for her family in a myriad of ways. She loved the three of us girls with a fierceness that couldn’t quite be grasped when we were young. She was strong, and tenacious, and carried the silliness and wisdom she learned from her dad into her own parenting style.

I remember more of my grandpa’s life in a car facility than I do his time out. But some of the earliest memories I have, come from days spent at his apartment: doing laundry in the machines and playing on the playground as he and Herb folded clothes. I remember fig newtons, and smiles. I remember the way he’d squeeze your hand in a way that you thought he might never let go. And I remember in the moments we couldn’t communicate (because I was too young or he was too old) the winks.

I often wonder what he would think about the person I am today. What words of wisdom he might share for my current vocation. And how he might support me if he was still here. Happy (almost) 110th, Grandpa.

I will be with you…

I have often wondered why timing plays out the way that it does. There are moments I wish would slow down and last forever. And moments I’d quite rather speed right through. Three years is right around the bend. And I can’t help but thinking, these days, that my pain and grief had place and meaning so that I would know how to handle the pain and grief of others.

I’m a sucker for finding meaning in things. I’m known to overthink, analyze until the subject disintegrates in my mind from wear. It’s a double-edged sword but it’s a gift that I don’t think I’d want to live without…it’s part of what makes me, me. Since mom passed there have been several moments and experiences where I’ve walked alongside others who have experienced their own grief. And what once felt like an unspeakable time and situation has morphed. I’ve been able to add perspective, experience, and a type of grace that only comes with having walked a similar journey.

I never would have wished my own grief on myself, but there is a silver lining, a way that I use the memories of those I’ve lost to move forward and help others. With the unexpected passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and several others this week I’ve been reminded that life is a precious thing we often take for granted. It reminds me that telling people you love them is important, letting people know they have an affect on you and a very real place in your life is something not to overlook. No matter how silly it seems, or how repetitive it becomes, it’s important to appreciate and values those around you–you may not always have the same opportunity to do so.

In a world that feels unknown, scary, and as if we have no control at times–I believe there is still good, light, and love when we are courageous and vulnerable enough to share it. In a world where we second guess, worry, stress, and concentrate on “failure”–I believe there is peace, grace, hope, and growth. Things aren’t as grim as we make them to be. And if we open ourselves to sharing, really openly and authentically sharing, our lives with others we will know happiness and joy.