When Your Good Life Makes Others Feel Guilty

I’ve been seeing a lot of those posts on Facebook, where a person apologizes for loving their life too loudly, and reassures everyone that it’s not actually perfect. They explain that they tend to focus on the good for their own benefit, but then they might rattle off all the things that suck to assure others that they are not trying to make anyone feel guilty. Continue reading “When Your Good Life Makes Others Feel Guilty”

More thoughts on parenting a teenager

Birthday gaming #zeb #monopoly #play

Zeb woke up a little after noon yesterday, his 13th birthday. I could tell from the look in his eyes that something was unsettled within him.

For the next 90 minutes we walked softly, gauging his needs.

He was quiet, teetering on the edge of irritable. Not what we expected, but not uncommon either.

It was several weeks ago that we started talking about his birthday. He had made a list of everything he wanted (which was 95% Halo related) but his anticipation ended there. Or at least his excited anticipation.

When we asked what we wanted to do, I got a clue as to his feelings.

It is his 13th birthday so we had planned to do something big. After all, it’s not every year that your child becomes a teenager. I wanted to celebrate just as much as I thought he did.

So we asked him what he wanted: something big, something small, something with others or by himself, eating out or making something, going somewhere fun and adventurous, somewhere laid-back and low-key or nowhere at all.

His response was to hit the verge of tears.

I’ve seen him spiral down before.

When something gets triggered and he wavers between irritable and depressed.

Justin and I were surprised this time though. As he quickly left the room, we stood looking at each other in confusion.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in parenting it’s this: I have no idea what my child wants or needs.

I have no idea what exactly is getting triggered or when exactly we’re likely to trigger it.

But I do know how to respond.

So I quieted my own triggers (“this is MY birthing day too!” “he should be happy, not upset.” “I don’t have the energy for big emotions.”) and I went to his room.

Zeb’s room in the 5th wheel is a bunk house, which means to really connect I get to climb up on his bunk with him.

Which I did.

I laid beside him on the narrow bed as he stared off to the corner of the room.

I wrapped my arms around him.

And I told him the story of his birth.

How big I was on that day 13 years ago, when his “due date” was anticipated and how he had other plans, what his baby shower was like, how excited each person was to meet him, how his little spirit had told me his name from the very beginning.

I told him what it was like when his body entered the room, how each person was moved to tears at the sound of his cry, the sense of euphoria and joy that swept over me and his grandma and his aunt.

He slowly rolled toward me as he listened.

I told him what it was like when he was a baby. The first time the favorite people in his life held him. What he loved and what he would do that made him so wonderfully him. Then I recounted each birthday I could remember. And I reminded him what an honor it was to be his mother.

I could feel his mood shifting, but sensed he needed time. So I left him with a kiss.

(He came out later with uplifted spirits, which told me I was on the right track. I may have no idea what was going on within him but I still had a moment of Mama Success in my attempts at meeting his needs.)

So yesterday, I wasn’t completely off-guard when he wasn’t excited to see anyone or do anything.

Instead I just leaned into trust.

I walked to our friends in the next RV and let them know we were going to have a quiet day together (Zeb even decided to postpone cake until today). And I went back to spend my son’s 13th birthday without any fanfare, however felt right to him.

His request: Just hang out.

So we did. We played Mario Kart, and Monopoly, and laughed together like it was an easy Sunday afternoon, not the start of a new era.

We went out to pizza together, and laughed some more at the jokes he told us.

My handsome MEN. #birthday #zeb

Zeb's cake: Halo battle in the hill

His spirits lifted, we came home and met with our friends for a short time and he happily received their homemade cards and gifts. (We still have plans for cake as soon as I post this blog post.) Then we played Rummikub before heading off to bed.

It was a good day…and I’m proud of myself.

….

Can I admit something?

I’ve been worried about parenting a teenager. All his life I’ve held my breath for this right here. The strictness I leaned into when he was small was out of fear that if I didn’t crack down then, this era of our relationship I’m in right now would go terribly wrong. The changes I made as we shifted toward relationship-based, organic parenting was in hopes I could course correct and maintain an actual relationship as he grew.

I’ve worried so deeply I would lose him at this age.

And it’s through my triggers that I still can.

We all have so many ideas of what teenagers are like, what they can do or should do. What is right and wrong with each one we meet.

And the more I work to release those the better I get at parenting him and maintaining our relationship.

I mentioned to someone not long ago that as soon as we think we have their needs figured out, they change. I’m never really aware of what’s going on within him; sometimes he’s not fully aware of it.

But the one constant, the one thing that hasn’t changed in parenting him for 13 years…is that it all hinges on how well I tune out my barriers and tune into him in each moment.

Tune into his unique and ever-changing needs.

Tune into where he is and what he wants to share or do (or not).

Tune into trusting him and my ability to love him in the way he tells me (or hints to me).

It’s the one skill that never changes, despite their age, despite their unique selves:

Our ability to meet them where they are and help them figure it out.

It’s fucking hard.

Yesterday was a win for me. I dropped my ideas of how I wanted to do things, how I wanted to celebrate, what he “should” be grateful for and why, and as a result we had one of the best days we ever have. We connected, played, laughed, and left him feeling as though it was a wonderful day with the people he loved.

But sometimes I totally fail. I lean into my own fear, my own stubbornness, my own insistence that I know better than he does. I refuse to see his point of view, to connect with him on a deeper level, to trust him. And it’s always terrible.

13 years ago I thought the hardest thing would be “getting through” the teen years without losing him…

Now I know that the hardest thing is getting through my own ideas of who (or where) he should be.


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Organic Wisdom :: Opportunities for Anger

Every Friday I intend to share some of the quotes I post on Twitter and Facebook, with some of my expanded thoughts and feelings on it here.

“Organic Wisdom” is what I have found speaking to me in those quiet moments, that guides me and that echoes Truth in my life. Please feel free to download, or share this image in any way you’d like.

:: “He made me so angry!”
:: “You are making me angry!”
:: “Stop what you’re doing before you make Mommy angry.”

How often have we each heard those words coming out of our mouths? 🙂

No one can “make us” angry. They just can’t.

They can only trigger the anger that is dwelling within us, allowing us to experience the pain we’re burying beneath the anger.

Sure, they can give us the opportunity to create anger.

But that’s a choice too and we make ourselves out to be victims when we don’t acknowledge that we have much more say over the way we want to feel than anyone else.

Just because we’re given an opportunity to be angry doesn’t mean we have to take that opportunity.

Just because you could drive backwards on the freeway doesn’t mean you have to risk your well-being. Just because you could stick your hand in the flame, doesn’t mean you’ll risk pain. Just because there is an opportunity to eat shit, doesn’t mean you’re crazy enough to do it.

Choosing to take an opportunity for anger is a lot like playing chicken with a Mac truck, or BBQing your flesh, or eating out of the litter box.

The opportunity to do it doesn’t make you justified in your actions. It makes you crazy.

Blaming our anger on anyone else is a scapegoat we use to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions and reactions.

(The irony of this is when we want our children to take accountability for their choices while simultaneously telling them they are responsibility for ours. Oh us messy humans and our contradictions. 😉 )

How do you want to feel instead of angry?

What would it take you to feel that way, regardless of the opportunities around you?

Anxiety, Overwhelm, Sorrow :: And All I Heard Was Love

It’s Sunday evening and my spirit feels spent but at peace.

It started Thursday, as we were driving the 5th wheel through the hills of Tennessee, reaching Knoxville during rush hour traffic, when the engine began to struggle for the power to pull 16,000 lbs up the steep incline.

We were on our way to surprise our family, who was gathering in Nashville to celebrate six generations, and my heart wanted to be there, not broke down in the parking lot of a Toys R Us.

It started there, but it didn’t stop there. Our weekend looked a little like this:

  • Stress: The feeling when you send the truck up the hill on not much more than prayers.
  • Anxiety: What creeps in when you almost don’t make.
  • Frustration: When it’s 6:20 but everything closes at 6pm and you realize you’ll be sleeping in the parking lot right in front of the No Overnight Parking sign.
  • Overwhelm: When the part you need is 24 hours away and you’re not certain it’s the right one anyway.
  • Disappointment: When you have to cancel clients and the Organic Tribe.

And then it shifted into something like this:

  • Sadness: When you see the stress on the face of your niece who is a new, young mama.
  • Heartbreak: When she cries in your arms from exhaustion and the loneliness that can come after having a little one.
  • Helplessness: When you see the unhappiness written on your brother’s face and peppered through his words from overwork and under-joy.
  • Hurt: When you recognize that the only way the people you love know how to connect is through sarcasm and criticism
  • Worry: When you see the lack of light in their eyes and the resistance to fun in their lives
  • Concern: When the people you love are struggling to love themselves or their lives
  • Powerless: It’s difficult to know the joy and love that are a part of your life are hardly a possiblity in the hearts of those you love.
And then the weekend hit me with this:
  • Sorrow: When I discovered that my paternal grandfather has passed away weeks before.
  • Frustration: That I heard it through the grapevine, instead of through my paternal family.

It sounds like a difficult, unhappy weekend.

Six months ago it might have been. 2 years ago it certainly would’ve knocked us off course. It wouldn’t flipped our switches to anxiety, fear, and frustration, leaving us feeling sabotaged and unhappy and reeling for days.

But it wasn’t any of that.

It was beautiful. It was full of joy and connection and wonder.

Because we had love.

Love we received when I sent out a text to friends and family and received support in the form of prayers, Reiki, and kindness.

Love we found ourselves surrounded by on the side of the highway, with family and offers of help just 2 hours in one direction and three in the other.

Love I gave myself when I was about to snap in frustration.

Love I found within myself to give to my husband as he struggled with overwhelm and frustration.

Love that became awe and appreciation when he turned misfortune into miracles and rebuilt the part we couldn’t order to get us into town.

Love and gratitude we gave each other in a dozen moments, in the parking lot, at dinner out, before we got back on the road.

Love we found in the form of peace as we reminded ourselves that we are safe, that we all is well, that we are exactly where we’re meant to be, even if we can’t see why.

Love that gave us the ability to access peace, lean into Trust, practice mindfulness and patience and radical acceptance.

Love that reminded us to choose fun, gratitude, and beauty at every opportunity.

It seems only right to hang our blessings up after being showered with travel blessings <3

Love that I called on and found within myself to shine light and joy into the hearts of my family.

Love that I found in holding my great-niece, dance her to sleep and watch her eyes as they tried to tell me the secret of the Universe.

She is an incredible woman this little one

Love that I saw all over my brother’s face as he held and kissed and lit up around his beautiful granddaughter.

My brother's a grandpa!

Love I felt between our hearts as I hugged longer and listened deeper and offered hope and support where I could.

Love that I continued to receive from my circles of friends in the form of texts and messages and emails and energy and prayers that I felt all weekend long.

Love that I dwelled in at the celebration of six living generations and the wonder and growth that this new little girl is bringing into our lives.

Six generations

Kisses

Nieces are just incredible

Granny's Fingers

Love at the sound of laughter from my nieces as we hula hooped, visited the zoo or went horseback riding.

Love I felt with the dozens of small heart connections Justin and I would continue to make with a touch, a hug, a look, a reminder of one another and our support for each other.

Love for my husband as I saw him inspiring fun and laughter, silliness and playfulness for his nieces and the whole family in the ways that only a juggling, kilt-wearing, bike-riding-inside-Target uncle can.

Love for my son as he held my hand as I cried for my grandfather, or told us how luck he was to have parents like us, or made the whole family laugh.

And love for myself. As I acknowledged my own growth. My own strength. My own ability to remove the barriers to love I’ve held within myself and the beauty and joy accessed when I do.

My ability to continue to shine my own real self, not the person my family has known me to be in the past. My ability to continue to make my own joyful noise to fill the quiet spaces. To inspire fun and connection. To reach out. Love deeper. But not deplete myself.

I can’t tell you exactly why Life is so tough at times.

I can’t explain why we were meant to break down, why my niece gets to struggle as a single mama, why my brother has gotten to experience so much hurt in his life, why any of us have.

Except maybe that it’s so we can discover that love can still be found in those moments.

That joy can still be accessed when stress is threatening.

That beauty and wonder are always present, not despite the heartache, but sometimes because of it.

That the Truth of what is can overcome the fear of what might be.

To discover that fear needn’t be “pushed through” but simply loved on.

That peace and Trust come from within, not from the circumstances in our life.

I can’t exactly show you how all the dots of my weekend are being connected in my spirit, how the contrasting emotions played themselves out moment by moment; I can’t tell you exactly what it all means and why.

I’ve barely had time to process it myself…except to say that when I close my eyes in stillness all I hear echoing is the power of love.

And that sounds about right, the purpose of all of these messy bits of our lives – to understand what is and what isn’t love, and how and where one can and can’t access it, and how this incredible force of Nature is like the air, waiting to be breathed in or carried away on.

Where I Am

First, thank you all for the numerous comments and emails and love. I’m sorry I haven’t (and won’t) reply to them individually, but that doesn’t mean I’m not rereading them daily.

ladybug convention

I’ve been a walking dreamer these past few days. Keeping up with conversations and chores and obligations and trips out and play and life in general, but with a pervasive and ever-present ghost hanging behind each thought or action. Not just my sadness haunting me, but also the presence of a big, fat “What If”. But that is more depth and questioning than I feel I can (or want to) do justice to at the moment.

So I’ve kept busy. Hiking, taking photos, working around the house and yard. I even took a yoga class.

many many ladybugs

But to write about any of it doesn’t seem to want to happen. I think this is the first time in my life when I simply can’t write. But I’m not ignoring it – I don’t think I could if I wanted to. It’s there and I’m with it. And maybe it will lend itself to articulation sometime soon. Or maybe I’ll just float through it all until some supposed solution arises from the ashes. Resolution would be a beautiful place to write from.

I can say this: Today was Justin’s first day back to work in two weeks. And I have never before been so grateful that he was laid off. I can’t imagine trying to pick myself up off the floor without his arms to crash into.

bugs on my shoe

Slow Dancing

Darkness

This week marks the second pregnancy I’ve lost in six months. Both times I felt early on that something was amiss and braced myself for the worst. But no amount of bracing can prepare your heart for such a devastation as this.

I’ve dealt with the awareness of secondary infertility for six years now. It’s been a tender bruise on my heart that I’ve masked from most of the world. Wrapped up in disappointment after disappointment are the feelings of guilt and failure. Of being less of a woman; incapable of giving a brother or sister to a little boy who’s learned how sore the subject is; unable to give a birth child to the man who told me of his only heart’s desire on our second date. I’ve railed against (what I know as and call) Gd and fate, my own body and my own choices for what feels like an eternity. I’ve held resentment and anger towards mothers I viewed as ungrateful for the gift they had and wasted or took for granted. I’ve held onto dreams and names and hope only to see them turn into someone else’s child. I’ve screamed in my husband’s arms over the injustice of our losses and cried myself to sleep too many times to count.

And all this time I’ve separated these bitter pains from the rest of my life. Hiding away our attempts, our desperate prayers, our broken hearts. I’ve tried to create spaces in my life that reflect happier things; things that don’t reverberate my bones in agony or despair. Things that allow me to appear – to myself and the world – as if there is something within my control.

But this most recent wound has torn open old scars as well and I’m finding myself unable to hold back the gush of bleeding that has followed. I’ve been riding a rollercoaster of emotion – heartache to resolve, anger to acceptance and back again. In that one moment of truth it all changed. And now I’m standing here with the cold, hard facts of my entire life before me. This event has shaken me awake and made me stare into my own eyes; made me question everything I think I know. Made me ask what is really going on and what really matters.

I’ve looked back over my last several posts, over all the supposed soul-searching and saw what I haven’t wanted to see. I wasn’t trying to do anything but control, manipulate, and force what it is I think is right and wrong in myself and my life. I rearranged and rehashed and reworked ways to be the ruler of my universe. I’ve been fighting and pushing and pulling against what IS for what I think should be. And all it gives me is a short sense of accomplishment, quickly followed by the same feeling of sadness.

I am sad. It is so hard for me to admit that openly. I am sad for what I cannot seem to have, for what I perceive myself as having become, for what I feel is lacking. Joy and laughter, creativity and peace. Another soul within our home. And I carry this ache within my heart and constantly judge my actions against my dreams. I’ve become unhappy not only with what I have or lack, but with who I am.

What if the question is not why I am so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?

I stumbled across a book at the library – my only place of quiet solitude – with that question sprawled across the front. The book is called The Dance: Moving to the Rhythms of Your True Self and it’s title had jumped out at me, perhaps because I had seen this blog about dance earlier in the day and its means of expression through movement had resonated with me. I sat down in an armchair by a warm, sunny window and began to read. And it was as if every single word on every single page was being directed solely at me. And because my heart is no longer allowing me to hold it back, I cried right there. This is an unfamiliar place to be. Frustration and anger have been emotions I’ve become comfortable sharing. But aching sadness is a foreign territory and all I want to do is crawl away and hide myself from curious onlookers.

Chapter by chapter I was reminded that through all my attempts to control or “create”, I’ve lost touch with what I once knew. That this world is just a dream and I’m a dreamer curled within the hands of Gd; that some things cannot be explained and somethings happen beyond our control. And that in all my attempts to micro-manage every corner of this existence, I have betrayed my ability to simply trust Gd and experience the divinity of letting go. And now my soul has been exposed and what is flooding out cannot be held back. I’m no longer trying to ignore what Gd is whispering in my ear and my broken heart is in need of a healing I can’t manage on my own.

So forgive me if this blog veers temporarily as I use this space that has meant so much to me as a sounding board for my internal and emotional acid trip. This may all become too raw or too personal or too wacky for you to follow and please know that I understand whether you choose to duck out the backdoor or pull up a chair. My only hope is that I can emerge from the other side with some sense of understanding or well-being I don’t currently own. Gd help me along the way.

~Tara