Insomnia

I don’t really have insomnia….. I don’t think. It’s 3:45am EST. I’ve been awake for 45ish minutes. I find myself doing this more often than not lately. I go to bed early (10:30pm) with intentions of sleeping eight hours and instead, I’m wide awake five hours later.

My immediate reaction is unfortunately to scroll the internet. I catch up on all social media outlets, double tap everything, read the news headlines, emails, check my eBay sales, bank account and then do it again. Sometimes I find myself on amazon or Facebook marketplace and a purchase is made (it’s awful and scary really).

When I have finally exhausted every possible mindless exchange, I sit. I stare into the darkness of my room. I listen to the sound of my husbands heavy breathing. The blue light of the TV power button distracts me for a bit. I get lost in the buzz of the fan we keep on. And I wonder if I’m awake for some real reason. Is something on my mind? Did I not eat enough food? Am I thirsty? Why do I have to use the restroom? Do I have diabetes (I know that ones not true but still, my mind goes to weird places).

With all of the trauma from my broken ankle and the pain my nervous system endured, is there something unsettled in me? Did something shift when that car drive through the house I was sleeping in and is my body still on high alert? Is there something on my mind that I need to wrestle with and resolve? Is my God trying to speak to me and I’m too busy trolling Instagram to hear Him?

Sometimes I imagine I actually get out of bed, take my dog for a midnight stroll and watch the sunrise. That there’s something I’m supposed to be experiencing in this timeframe when most of the city is asleep. That never happens. I never get dressed. I don’t go outside. Sometimes I feel an urging to just pray for hours but I haven’t found myself doing that either. And then I think about what would happen if I found the motivation to go outside or to drop to my knees. What possible revelation is waiting for me. I envision a holy interaction that changes my life. An encounter with God and the earth, that gives me clarity and insight into my whole existence. Yet I’m still in bed, blogging.

Why is it sometimes we feel the urge to do what we believe might be the life changing action we’ve been desiring yet we lay in bed and do nothing? I keep thinking if I just lay here a bit longer, my eyes will flutter and I will begin to sleep again yet I know I’m not tired. Why avoid destiny or what I perceive as a portion of my destiny? I mean, maybe I’m overthinking this and my brain isn’t working well because of the interruptions in my sleep OR maybe there is some discovery to be received and I’m being tricked into dismissing it.

So I’m gonna sit in this silence, and for the first time, ask for what I’m supposed to receive and just see what happens. If you wake up and the world is different, #yourewelcome.

To my son Matthew

Tomorrow you will graduate high school. You will toss your cap in the air and an era of youth will end. You will be an adult, entering a new phase of life, one full of greater responsibility and expectation. The pressures of growing up, the stress of taking care of yourself, the possible anxiety of making life decisions will all creep in. It may be scary. It will be challenging.

But know this: you are capable. You are equipped to handle much more than you know. You were designed for greatness and this world is a better place because you exist. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like a failure because we enter unknown territory and we feel ill prepared but do not give into that fear. Every moment of uncertainty is an opportunity to get better, grow stronger, gain wisdom and become a more complete and amazing version of ourselves.

When you were born, my life changed. The firstborn child among the five siblings in my family and the first grandchild. Everyone traveled to visit and dote on you. Our family began to grow closer with a new baby at the center of it all. You had no idea how much you mattered and I imagine, at times, you still do not understand the magnitude of your worth.

As you’ve grown, you’ve continued to affect our family, my life and the lives of those you encounter. You have a heart that loves so fiercely and cares so deeply that at times, you forget yourself in order to pour into others. When you enter a space, you bring pure joy with you. As someone recently told me, “you have a light inside you that makes others happy.” It’s true, there is something contagious and wonderful about being around you. It’s undeniable.

Watching you grow has been the single greatest experience of my life. You’re more amazing than any mountain I’ve climbed, any sunset I’ve seen and any adventure I have yet to embark on. You have taught me sacrificial and unconditional love. In raising you, I have learned to let go, to trust outcomes, to accept mistakes and to laugh at myself.

I will always smile when I think about us singing songs and being silly during car rides. I love when you practice your music around me and feel grateful you filled my life with the beauty of your talents. Thank you for reminding me to be kind to myself and for teaching me about what really matters in life.

I pray that I have instilled within you strength to endure the tough times. I pray I have modeled love and kindness so that you never forget how to treat others. I hope you can always turn to me for advice and know that I will be here, without judgement, to share whatever wisdom I may have. Thank you for being who you are. I love you more than I knew I could love someone and am honored to be your mom.

Sunday

Yesterday was Sunday.

It also was Mother’s Day.

I am a mom. I’ve been one for 18 years now.

The thing about yesterday, Mother’s Day, is that I usually find myself particularly disappointed and dejected inside. It’s the same with Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and even Sweetest Day (which is honestly not a real holiday). I have some crazy expectation in my mind, breakfast in bed, flowers, romance, surprises, things you see in a movie. I see people’s lives on social media and it makes me believe that those days mean more because they include niceties. I have spent a lot of years believing that without those things, I wasn’t as important, maybe I wasn’t a worthy mom or person, maybe I wasn’t living up to the role of wife, friend, girlfriend, mother etc.

I also know a lot of people who find those days to be just as challenging; friends who can’t have children, whose mothers have passed away, who don’t have a significant other or who have been betrayed by their lover. These holidays, the cards, the decorations, the date night activities, the excitement, really can be nothing more than a build up to sadness and feeling alone or undeserving.

Now I’m not saying these holidays are junk OR that honoring others is a negative trait. I love celebrating people. I cry over cards at the grocery store and envision the emotion and sentiment being shared with a person I care for. I get excited for Christmas tree decorating and cut out cookies and I certainly enjoy a beautiful dinner and romance.

But when my whole day, my whole existence, my emotions are so tied to these grandiose displays of affection, I am setting myself up for hurt. Sometimes I think that no amount of gifts or attention would satisfy the day I can create in my mind. Who can compare to Ryan Gosling in the Notebook? That’s just not real life, at least not all the time (in fact probably not most of the time).

Relationships are tough. Pleasing someone else, considering someone else, selflessness, that’s really difficult. It’s not in our nature to think about others before ourselves. I’m not great at it and I’ve been intentionally working on it for at least five years.

Let me take a quick detour to clarify a few things: my husband is AMAZING. He’s patient and kind and loving and has the biggest heart. He’s talented and I am impressed by him and his artistic abilities every day. He is creative beyond what I can comprehend and is a perfectionist when it comes to his craft. He would die for me in a heartbeat. He cares about making me happy and he works hard to speak my love language. My son is also an unbelievable human. He is empathetic and generous and loves me with all his heart. When he sings, something stirs inside my core. Excitement pours out of his body when he anticipates something and he gives really great hugs. He’s genuine and respectful and makes this world a better place just by existing.

Now that I cleared that up, let’s get back to Mother’s Day….. nothing special happened. No card from anyone, no flowers, no surprises and IT WAS OK! In fact, it was totally fine. It was just Sunday after all. I didn’t feel sad. I actually told myself, “you’re a really amazing mom and this day doesn’t make you more of a mom”. In years past, I’ve cried, a lot. I’ve felt unimportant and angry. I’ve wanted something (I don’t even know what) to validate me. I compared my day to Instagram stories and Facebook posts and felt almost ashamed of the normalcy that ensued on all those Sundays in May.

Just because my husband and son aren’t great at proactive gift giving and surprises, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate me. They show me how much they value me in so many other ways throughout the year. It almost becomes unfair to forget all of those moments and base everything on those 24 hours labeled as a holiday for moms, or lovers or Jesus (Christmas is definitely not about me or gifts so let’s get that off the table right now).

In general, the thought process of high expectations in every situation, becomes dangerous. People will always let us down. Things won’t always be 100% perfect and just how we choose for them to be. Life isn’t a movie or a post online. But this year, my feelings were totally disconnected from that thinking and I was able to celebrate myself. I applauded myself, did things I enjoyed and never felt one twinge of resentment or discontentment. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of more amazing days with less focus on what someone is doing to celebrate me and more connection with how I can be my own best cheerleader.

Georgia

Tomorrow morning I am ending a five day trip to my hometown of Georgia. I came home to surprise my younger sister for her graduation party. It just so happened to be my nephews birthday so I got to also celebrate him. I moved away when I was 18 (20 years ago). It was actually more like I ran away as fast as I could and never looked back.

For the past 20 years it’s always been bittersweet to come home. I don’t have many good memories here. This state isn’t full of all my old friends. In fact, there’s only one person from school I still keep in contact with. At times, being home has been more stress and pain than it seemed worth.

Coming from a large family, it’s hard to always get along. I am one of five children and we are all married and four of us have children. Once we all had spouses and children of our own, our lives became even harder to intertwine. We now had to accommodate our significant others, our busy kids schedules and then maybe find time to spend with our siblings and parents. Sometimes our spouses didn’t like our siblings. Sometimes we had old issues from childhood that got in the way of us being kind to each other. Whatever is was, it has made family time challenging to say the least.

Living in Ohio, I think it’s been easy to disconnect emotionally and physically. Absence didn’t make the heart grow fonder. It made it easier and easier to convince myself that I just didn’t care. Missing birthdays and special events didn’t feel sad because I had let the hard parts of family become more powerful than blood. It didn’t hurt to be away from my brothers or sister or nieces and nephews. The distance wasn’t even a thought really.

Maybe it’s just getting older or maybe wounds have begun to heal or somewhere in between but this trip, this was important. This felt necessary. I wanted to show up for my sister. I wanted her to deeply feel my love and support for her. Even though we haven’t gotten along all our lives and as adults, we haven’t been very close that often, me showing up wasn’t optional. I don’t know why I decided this. What changed inside of me? I do know I am beyond elated with my decision.

When I walked in her house to surprise her, she was overcome with emotion. She began to cry and we hugged one of those embraces that you don’t ever want to let go from. We spent the day together with family and friends celebrating her. We didn’t fight. There wasn’t a moment of tension or animosity or discontent. We were two sisters, laughing and being bound together. I was able to share kind and genuine words in a card. I was able to show her in action just how much she means to me. And in that day, in this trip, I felt like years of struggling subsided. We were friends again. We were like we once were as children sharing a bedroom, staying up late and giggling with each other. We remembered why we love each other so much.

Then came a lunch with my sister in law and mother. Just that sentence can be tough for some families. Meshing so many different personalities can feel impossible. Attempts to be kind can fail miserably and tension can create years of avoidance and awkwardness. But today, today was perfect. Lunch was full of joy and common ground. Three woman in three different stages of life, bound together by blood and marriage, able to somehow put aside fears and insecurities and opinions to just enjoy each other, lift each other up and love one another. And somehow, in that meal, the beginning of healing began. The value of family was renewed. The desire to continue to work on things was recharged. And again, I was grateful for showing up.

Growing up in Georgia was awful in many ways. I’ve referenced some things previously and am sure I will explain so much more as my blog continues. I don’t have fond memories. I don’t often leave feeling sad and anticipating my next visit. This is the first time I’ve really had a heaviness within me. I don’t want to miss these moments. I feel so connected and joyful and I don’t want it to stop.

I’ve always felt like other families were somehow better or closer than mine. That mine was so screwed up and I almost wanted to just find replacements. That’s not been a constant feeling but it’s been a pretty overwhelming one at times. I am so glad that feeling is fading and being replaced by what I can only imagine will continue to grow into more love, more joy and more closeness.

In life it can be a simple switch turned on and off when it comes to friendships and I’ve always felt that it was that way with family. Once I’d felt hurt and betrayed enough, I didn’t have to open my heart to whatever or whoever the cause was. I could pretend the person didn’t exist and even imagine they never existed. I could harden my heart to the point that I truly believed I was happier without my brother or sister. What I’ve come to find is that isn’t the case. I craved connection from my family so much and felt so discouraged and hurt at times that I decided to protect myself by shutting them out and shutting myself down. Maybe everyone doesn’t desire closeness with their family. Maybe it’s a fantasy to believe that old scars can be healed and forgiven. I choose to hope in the opposite and open myself back up because one trip like this is way better than all those years of indifference.

They don’t know it yet, but one day they’re gonna love you

The other day I watched The Greatest Showman. The title is a line from the musical. Spoiler alert (but not really): The main character is talking to the bearded lady about how the crowd will initially feel a certain way about her (scared, mortified, disgusted) but eventually they will learn to appreciate her and see her beauty. I got teary eyed (ask my son, that’s not surprising). Once I was the bearded lady (sans beard). Once I was scared of how people would view me. Once I feared rejection and avoided things because of that fear.

The day before I watched the musical, my church gave a message about the beginning of our stories and the danger of viewing our life from the starting point of what’s “wrong with us” verses what’s amazing about us. How our whole life will change if we begin from how inherently good we are instead of how flawed we are. How the story of Jesus isn’t about “fixing” ourselves or others but about seeing the goodness in ourselves and each other and living from that space. Loving people and ourselves above all because we are lovable even in the midst our struggles.

Man, the timing of those two messages really hit home and got me thinking. My story had always been about what was wrong with me. How could I be skinnier, smarter, richer, better. I always operated from a less than, always striving to change myself place. My relationships also always started with a “what’s wrong with them” thought process. It’s awful to say but it’s the truth.

And because my brain only understood how to see problems and flaws, I became a critical, obsessive person. I wasn’t able to see the talent and beauty in myself, my son, my husband, anyone. I wondered how others survived in the world. I judged everyone, everything. I spoke peoples liabilities and sins into life and in turn, that is who they were. I spoke my own negative thoughts into my own life and I continued to be that person.

Until a few years ago, I was still a 320lb drug addict who made horrible decisions (on the inside, in my mind). I fed myself the messages that I wasn’t good enough, I felt insufficient and I was motivated and influenced by a lot of external factors. I wanted people to like me, a lot. It mattered if I disappointed people, too much. I just wanted to make everyone happy, to fit in, to be accepted, to be cool. It was like every day of middle and high school over and over again. Constantly replaying scenarios in my head, over analyzing exchanges, punishing myself for being “lame” and editing myself to accommodate my “friends”.

I always thought that stuff magically went away as an adult. I didn’t realize that was much more about my insides than my age or surroundings. I brought that energy into my life. I carried that baggage into my work, gym, friend group. It was me not my circumstances.

As I write this, I think about years of poor choices in hopes of attaining love, status, any sort of recognition. Running a race to prove my worth, posting a video on social media and rechecking my likes and comments because it mattered so much. I recount the too many times I overextended myself for someone because I thought we were friends only to realize that I was mistaken about our relationship. The yes’s I said way too often because I was too fearful of the consequences of a “no”.

By nature, I am a kind, generous, loving human. I will always be that way. I will constantly care about people and deeply sense others pain. I will never be indifferent to suffering and I will forever want to be helpful. Sometimes, my decisions will disappoint people and I will care if that happens. But my intrinsic value exists because I was born awesome and so was everyone else. The five year old me, the most true version of me, the person I hid away and lost because of life, is so amazing and that doesn’t change just because someone doesn’t recognize it.

And when I sense someone not seeing my value, I just say to myself, “they don’t know it yet, but one day they’re gonna love you.”

Maybe everyone should break an ankle

I don’t even know if this is profound. Just some ramblings maybe. I had felt like these past three years had been a season directed towards something. I wasn’t sure what that something was. I’m still unsure what it is. I suppose we are constantly moving in a forward direction with some sort of objective but also not really knowing. Moment by moment, with every interaction, our plans can shift, our path can change. Sometimes we achieve our “end goal” only to realize that was a stop along the way. We desire more, we dream bigger, there’s never really a destination.

I kept believing that these past three years, where my husband and I continued to live a life of less and less, meant we would end up living like gypsies, in a tiny home, traveling the world. Maybe we would be long term campers, adventuring with only a tent and truck for our “home”. Was my future going to include mission trips and a minimal life in some third world country? Could we be moving to a tiny apartment in New York to pursue other business avenues? All these thoughts raced through my mind constantly. I’ve spent the past three years interpreting our situation and aligning it with different ideas I thought would be fun or make sense.

Here’s what I found: I was totally wrong. We just signed a lease on an apartment. We are not jet setting to Haiti. We turned down the New York offer. While we will always adventure, travel and camp, there’s no Airstream in our future (yet). All of these years of letting go, giving up, selling things, minimizing had accomplished two conscious things and I’m sure bunches of unconscious things that we will discover in the years to come.

The first thing that’s happened is I have become a less controlling, more laid back human. I don’t feel so emotionally attached to things or processes. My anxiety doesn’t increase thinking about things breaking or being ruined. The couch cushions don’t need to be perfect. My husband is allowed to load the dishwasher however he wants. The groceries can be put in the fridge in a hodge podge, disorganized way. My medical bill for $42k didn’t even freak me out. I have thus far, totally detached from my idea of what is valuable, what’s worth stressing over and what I should cherish.

The second, and even cooler thing to happen is that my husband and I have to furnish our new apartment. We have nothing but beds and clothes and our camping gear. We have to buy a couch, nightstands, kitchen items, trash cans and bathroom items. We have to decorate and coordinate things. We get to pick out a whole house full of items. All the things we sold or donated we need to replace. But this time, we get to do it together.

My husband and I didn’t live together before we were married and when we did say our vows, he moved into my house. It was totally furnished and everything was mine. We lived there for three years before we moved in with his grandma and then into our house sitting situation. I’m six years, we had never had a home together that was ours. We had never shopped for our things. Neither of us realized we had missed out on such a fun and intimate part of being married. We didn’t know the joy of picking out plates and dishes. We hadn’t shared in establishing our home and life together. It had always been my stuff or his stuff.

I think it’s interesting how we just transitioned into a life that made sense and didn’t see the lack in our decision. We never got to feel excited about sitting together on a couch that we handpicked. We didn’t know the happiness that came from discussing vacuum options. The investment that happens when you share in decisions. Its more than just buying things, it’s creating a foundation for a home to live in, to host people in, to feel proud of, to feel wrapped up and cozy in unity.

And all of this began when he broke his ankle three years ago…..

Forever changed

Today is a remarkable day. I received the word from my orthopedic surgeon for “no restrictions!” I am six weeks and two days post surgery. I broke my ankle in three places only six weeks ago. I have two plates and nine screws in my ankle yet today I put on two shoes and walked out of my appointment with NO PAIN.

How the heck did that happen? It seems unreal. The doctor was beyond surprised. He said, “you are ahead of the game!” I am just sitting here at home and crying. I am overwhelmed by the miraculous and speedy healing my body underwent. I keep wanting to say, “I am shocked” but I am not really surprised. I am grateful. I am joyful. I am forever changed.

Remember all those time you drank too much, or stayed out too late or insert bad decision? Remember the regret the next day, the promises you made to yourself? The declarations of change you firmly believed only to see yourself back in that spot days, weeks or years later.

I spent the last six weeks in that space. I felt rocked physically and emotionally. I saw my life halted and I felt the heaviness of reflection in my heart. I made declarations of change, I re-evaluated my time spent, I mulled over relationships and dissected my attachment to things. At the end, I felt like I had come home for the first time. I felt fulfilled. I found a deeper sense of my true self and a higher respect for honoring that person. I am forever changed.

As I sat in my room, alone, blasting Hillsong’s new album “There Is More”, tears pouring out of my eyes, I heard a voice in my head say, “you’re never going back.” And so I want to clearly and abundantly profess that truth. I want everyone to know that I AM NEVER GOING BACK! I refuse to give in to my old life, full of busyness and distractions. I will not neglect myself and put my happiness at the bottom of the list. I will not exhaust every muscle in my body to prove something to someone. I will not succumb to the expectations of others. I will not forget this experience. This will not become a distant memory. My feelings through this, the revelation of my value, the friendships that matter, I will not let slip from my memory.

I am forever changed.