This is a project that has been burning a hole in my heart. We all sing our pure and shaky and earnest songs, to ourselves, our kids, our pasts. We sing because we need to hear our voices out loud, because it gets lonely sometimes, because it hurts, because the joy cannot fit in our bodies. Mothers are always and never alone. I want to focus on the never part. I want to hear the voices together. I want to start a chorus.
(Never to be confused with giving up.)
The real fight begins the moment we surrender to the wrong ones. When we can’t let it go, but must let it be. When we see that brave faces disappear in dark rooms, and brave lives are born there.
On my daughter’s birthday, I learned about never going back. About your body saying there’s no chance of changing your mind. Maybe it was nine months earlier, on the sixth pregnancy test, but certainly that night became the great surrender. “Are you having the baby or aren’t you?” Who demands that? On repeat, in escalation that overshadowed my contractions. He had some idea of how much I could take, but would see that night. My one sided game of chicken, my trophy, he’d later take and brag about. When I said I was a four out of ten on the pain scale until the moment she washed out, I believed it. Whether I meant it or not wasn’t important to him or to me. I would never say how much it hurt, because it was just my body, being a body, feeling what bodies do. Especially not to him, for whom pain lit up the radar. Though he was at his best that longest, shortest night. Strong was our strong suit, and we danced in spotlights better than we slept. But the wave came with decades of ghosts of sailors’ tongues moving my own. Cursing as a blessing, the R-rated soundtrack to my daughter’s pure, miraculous, first moments. You could hear me outside the hospital I think, the veil forever lifted. Life, two, hers, mine, born at once. My water broke as she left me, came out clean and exquisite, as I fell on my knees, every single exhausted mystic cell of me, with her somehow in my arms. This man, now an outsider. I half believed him when he’d told me I always needed him with me. When really, I never wanted him to come home. Surrendering to the drop at the top of that first roller coaster hill. The powerlessness had power over me. His will, my surrender. Biggest illusion of my life, lived out and buried as she was born. Three years like decades. Given over, gotten over. Surrender can sometimes sound like “enough”, or a first, wailing, full throated cry.
I was born with white knuckles and a full tenacious heart. Told I had a death grip, by my dad, who carried me into the ocean before I knew how to swim. Could hang by my pinkies for minutes, and climb up any rope or pole or tree. Tiny Rapunzel, rescuing herself, all sinew and hair and will. A muscle memory to match fears like gravity. I spent years as a kid counting rhythms before I could take my next breath. Tireless and tired. The innocence in thinking I could hold our world on my fragile winged back breaks me today. “No” meant nothing unless I felt it in my gut. Deaf to someone’s shoulds. I’m still allergic to instruction. And when I love something, I’m all in, and turn it into fuel and other shapes to fill like water. I fight by nature. I fight nature. And have had a lot to fight. Making peace when there is none is human magic. I practice in my sleep. My sleeves are full of all the cards you might choose.
When we were nineteen, we wanted everything, and at forty we just need a space that won’t haunt us or hunt us down. Adrenaline to morphine. I wrote that down but won’t ever really mean it. ‘Everything’ means the love and the terror, not the end of the rainbow. I’ve learned the art of letting go like I was born to renounce, instead of forever hungry. It’s practiced and priceless and real as my spine. It’s knowing in your bones that you will lose everything and survive it. It’s being that living proof. Shedding the flimsy armor you know can’t stop a bullet, and taking the hit naked, into your soft pored skin, looking it straight on, feeling the pain and the choice at once. I used to think that after trials, we could expect a peaceful landing place, our karmic reward. If not forever, for a clean breath. But I’ve learned we have to become that landing place. Give in, give up, to ultimately grow. “Forgiveness is taking yourself off the meat hook lodged in your own back”, I wrote heavy hearted and lidded in a black hole night, about a person who won’t get any more of my angst or time. Punching air holes in my prison box that became stars.
When I can’t surrender to it, I move with it. I challenge it to a race. My legs have always been a vehicle, an escape hatch. My childhood self in my life lived skin, long breaths turned shorter, legs even stronger. We surrender to time by just agreeing to stay. On a run this week I was hit with the memory ache smell of honeysuckle and I became a fourteen year old on an East Coast summer night. Skin so hot and humid it has no business pressing itself against someone else. But what choice are we left with, born to devour and be known and invited in like soft animals waiting at the door. I will choose that surrender now for every time I didn’t. I will be love in a body because I can’t be just love. Not yet. I will take in time and the story it’s made, give it a blanket and a glass of water and finally let it rest.
As we age it gets easier and harder in the same breath. To see that twisted gifts are still gifts. That losses are lessons. To forgive the trust you misplaced, and take it back with a background check. To release “The Mistake Years” I’ll never hold again as possibility, and bless the manic hunger they left in their wake. To accept the hundreds of tumors that want to grow in my brain and skin and bones every day as part of the whole. To know that embarrassment so quickly turns to badass strength. That my nature is not my fate – or yours, or anyone’s. To doing the scariest things to the point where little scares you. To the fact that insomnia will win so use it. That bravery means growing pains and bigger shells. To showing up at your worst to find your best. To the fact that finding your way is preceded by getting lost. To giving your body over but never your mind. To love a world I can’t construct to protect the people I love. To bless third and fourth and fiftieth chances and the levity that comes in shedding weight. To making room for all of it: ‘good vibes’ instead of ‘good vibes only’. To love that knows not to wait for an answer. To knowing there won’t be time for it all, but that you need to be exactly where you are right now. To the many, many well meaning friends and strangers who want to fix me up with someone wonderful, who see that thing in me. And to listening to my fine tuned heart, letting it love what I love, without expectation, only because I must. For the truth of it, at last. Surrender is confusing, and as easy as watching the night come in. It’s the hot poker at your back, one shot chance at telling the whole truth, and owning the freedom it gives you. It’s me telling my kids: “It’s only life,” while still meaning “your one and only life.”
There are people we brush up against, and those who pierce our skin. One of the biggest regrets of my life is not surrendering to that instinct. Listening to kismet whisper the first lines of the story in my ear and walking away from it. Following the jungle drum into the dark instead of letting the light fall on my face. The things I can’t change are tattooed up my arm in invisible ink, but I’ve bled for them. We move on but dreams betray our losses. Waking up with wet hair and a drop in your belly, missing the honeyed taste of someone you’d let go ten years ago. When everyone says you are the one who got away.
“You’ll be famous when you’re dead mama. No one says things like you do.” My daughter shoots laser straight, a conservative realist, a human litmus test. I was talking to my seven year old, emotional savant boy this week, about Everything, as we do. “Do the things that make you never want to leave,” I told him. And I got chills like music. I’m always going to surrender myself for them. And always will. And while sometimes it might feel like being lost, mostly it will feel like winning. And mostly, I think they know from the smile I wear through nightmares, that you must surrender to the Good. That despite anything, there will always be so much. I cry when I write, and almost only then. Like it’s the last thing I’ll say or feel. All love and muscle, tightening one more time and letting go of the diamonds I can’t afford to want in this world. Watching them walk away in other hands to other lives and places and beds and dreams. To perhaps find what I need to be.
Surrender is a hard lesson for me. I feel in the bottom of my soul that its my life lesson. That its what I will always be working on and never perfecting and its the goal of this life for me. As a codependent, its extremely hard. I want to control and organize the chaos around me. I want to make my kids make the best decisions and plan their choices and their lives and those of everyone around me. But I cannot. It doesn’t work that way and when I try to, the relationships fall apart. So letting go is my everyday lesson. Its the lesson when my teenage girls do their homework, its the lesson when I leave my younger son with my husband, its the lesson when my kids turn away from opportunities I wish they’d take, and its the lesson watching my 21 year old son struggle with drug addiction. There is a huge relief in the surrender, in choosing to let go. For me, that surrender must be paired with a faith that God (or some sort of higher power) has it in his hands. Its the faith that allows me to let go, that gives me peace in the letting go. Without the faith, I would have too much fear to surrender. So now, when I worry or feel the need to control, I surrender it and turn it into a prayer. A prayer that all will be well and a prayer that its in Gods hands, not mine. And I try and try and try to let it all my fear and worry just wash over me as I surrender.
I surrender. To the false notion that anything will ever look the way you expect it to. To the beautiful and the hideous. To the endless shifting and bending and flexing and reinventing. To the truth that love isn’t always joyful or connected. And sometimes its downright torture. But that it is everything. That “happy” is what you make it. To time and the way it burns like wild fire. To the inevitability of growing pains. At every age. To the gray areas that are so rich with authenticity. To the fact that acceptance does not mean complacency or giving up hope but rather learning to be with *what is* in some semblance of peace of heart. I surrender.
I gave my dad his last dose of morphine in his in-home hospice bed, tenderly placing the dropper in between his cheek and tongue and squeezing the clear liquid into his mouth. I paused and told him I loved him. I walked away, caught in a surreal moment of “Did I really just have to do that?” Two hours later as I was dipping a tortilla chip in salsa around his kitchen table with my sisters and Mom, he took his last breath and passed. My sister, who was sitting with him in his bedroom, came out of his room, shaking her head, eyes welling up with tears, and stood before us at the table. We all stopped mid-dip, doe eyed and frozen, staring at my sister. We saw the pain in her eyes. Then, I went running to his room. It was a sprint to make sure there wasn’t one last breath he’d take for me to witness. I wanted to see him to the end. But, there he lay in his hospice bed, breathless. Still. Peaceful. His skin already feeling cool to touch. I had never been so physically close to death before. It felt eery, beautiful, surreal, shocking, and devastating all at the same time. Someone opened the bedroom window, and a warm early fall breeze came rushing in. What seemed like a hundred tiny birds were chirping and I saw them all fly away as the window was raised. We gathered around his bed, each of us touching him, holding him, crying, and my Mom, singing. I don’t remember the song she sung as she held his hand and I honestly don’t want to. It’s just too much. None of us expected him to go so quickly. Only a day before, hospice came and set up, explaining everything to us. Yes, he had been sick on and off for months, even years. Yes, it was his choice to go, to stop taking his meds that kept him alive, his heart beating steadily and lungs clear. He simply surrendered. He was done suffering and he wanted to “go home” as he explained. We honored that, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like he was quitting on us. I never thought he’d actually. Go. Home was with us.
It will be one year October 1st since that day. For the last year, I have been walking around in a griefy daze…my Dad? Oh. My Dad. Yeah…he died. I am a fatherless daughter, I think to myself. Only, I’m 44 so it feels ridiculous, stupid, and dramatic saying that. But at times, when the pain cracks my heart wide open unexpectedly by a simple reminder and suddenly takes my breath away, it feels like a freight train just pulled through my body. I am a nine year old kid again, happily clinging to his back in the water at the beach, on his bed after dinner playing Go Fish for the umpteenth time, in the living room watching Family Feud and shouting the answers into the tv speaker, at the cottage waiting for him to bring back Dr. Pepper and Lucky Charms from the A&P Grocery, (our rare cottage-only treat), at the dinner table kicking him softly under the table as we did and laughing. In his arms with a kiss on top of my head. My Aimee, he used to say.
After he died, I started practicing yoga daily and intensely. I’ve practiced for some time, but I really ramped it up. It was how I managed my grief and how I felt in control of my grief. It was within the four corners of my yoga mat I allowed myself to grieve. Work through my feelings. I gave myself mantras everyday while practicing like, “stay” and “warrior” and “fight”. There’s stages of grief, right? Maybe if I practiced yoga everyday, I could hurry that process along? Check them off? Get things back to “normal”. I could shut out the noise of our busy, daily life. Move my body. Sweat. Hurt and ache and begin again and again and again in sun salutations. I’d stay in poses shaking, saying to myself, I won’t quit. Nope, not like my dad. He gave up, but I won’t. I’m going to work through this until the end. But, as the months went by, I found myself easing up on my Dad and myself, easing up on my poses. Giving myself grace. Letting go of my ego. Finding sacred space in my heart to forgive while releasing the anger and the need for control over my grief dissipated. One morning in class I found myself standing in tadasana, or mountain pose, standing tall with my arms at my side and my palms pointed outward, shoulders back, heart open, exposed to the earth, to everyone around me, and with tears rolling down my cheeks, saying to myself, let him go. Surrender. My incredibly intuitive yoga instructor came up behind me, wrapped her arms around me, as if to say, yes, whatever you’re feeling and thinking right now, is truth. Let him go. That morning…I surrendered to grief to find my way through it and I felt immense peace. My Dad didn’t quit. He surrendered and I could too. One meaning of Yoga is “to join” or connection. I learned this only this morning. Together, through grief and yoga, my Dad and I join in surrendering.
“Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form the suffering takes. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Allow it to be there. Embrace it. Then see how the miracle of surrender transmutes deep suffering into deep peace.” Eckhart Tolle
i came to you in the night.
arms wide open.
and asked you to surrender. again.
deny the fear.
your arms. holding tight.
clawing at peace.
your trust — black with fear.
i called you.
i called you mama.
and you shed it all.
you surrendered yourself to me.
to light. and grace.
i chose you.
i chose you.
He handed me the cup. “Drink it” he said. He seemed shaky and nervous. I sipped the liquid knowing better than to chug. “Is it supposed to burn like this?” I asked. My mouth was raw. I couldn’t swallow.
Is it supposed to leave me in ICU for days, barely alive? I remember fleeting moments when I would become conscious. Moving my upper body was horrifying. Somehow I remember an unrequited crushes quick visit. And I remember having to call and tell my mom. I was sure I was about to die so I was terrified to tell her. I don’t think I even had a voice. My mouth was raw. My chest, oh god, my chest. I had no idea what was happening to me.
I finally woke up and spent the next two weeks in the hospital. I had been poisoned. He tried to kill me or I was a guinea pig for some drug called GHB made who knows where that was acidic and burned my whole insides as I took the tiny sip. My esophagus was burned and my stomach had ulcers. When my esophagus healed it shrunk closed but it was caught in time and held open with a feeding tube through my nose. I spent two years having my esophagus stretched back open slowly. I couldn’t eat for what felt like forever, because nothing fit down my throat. I became obsessed with cooking shows and recipes. I wanted a cheeseburger so fucking bad.
It’s been twenty years and I don’t remember his name. But my daily rituals and anxieties and fears are always there but I’m not angry. Because I just leaned over to smell my son’s hair and hold my baby girl’s hand. She’s turning five tomorrow. She asked for hot wheels and balloons.
I always hear people say you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
In the event you are as forgetful as me, it may be bad advice.
I had this radical idea:
limit my kid’s screen time
in my next breath
I would tell him to always question authority.
This is where you meet my Gemini twin.
One twin that hated high school, and failed miserably within my own father’s expectations
and the other twin that took on college as my dead grandmother’s wish, and finished with a 4.0
But school didn’t teach me about the things I loved
Nor did it help me become really good at them
It wasn’t democracy, and it wasn’t religion
It was like shooting spray into a wall of balloons
and my big prize was him, just as he is.
He felt this too tonight when I told him that he could choose just
ONE MORE BOOK
(lights out was an hour ago)
He chose, ‘The Little Engine that Could’
“Then all of a sudden she stopped with a jerk.
She simply could not go another inch.
She tried, and she tried, but her wheels would not turn.”
Maybe it is just a bad metaphor,
but I have always given him my oxygen mask first.
This photo is, to me, the strongest image I made while I was going through my unexpected and excruciating divorce.
This gorgeous (dinner plate) dahlia was a gift from one of my most loving, closest girlfriends, It was a gift given to me on the day we held a burning ceremony for the end of my marriage. My nucleus of women friends. The ones who have and will continue to see me through my blown out highlight joyful days and completely dark and fetal, tear soaked ones. The kind of days when they find me in my garage screaming primal sounds I’ve never made before, smashing dinner plates into fragments. Falling to the ground because I don’t know who I am in the world anymore.
We gathered at the lake not far from my house and lit a fire. We burned every photo and every letter, every card ever exchanged between him and I. It was cathartic. It was cleansing. It was beautiful. To be surrounded by the people who are closest to me and held by them as I let go.
This image shows me that there is hope. When I look at it, I see the dead falling away on the outer crown, but it’s still completely alive and fresh in the center. We have to allow the dead to fall away. Allow the beautiful surviving centre to be the focus, and to grow from that place.
It is not death I am afraid of, it is the end of living.
Hours flip past like cards in a fast deck. I will one to fall.
I was born soft as a fool, knowing nothing of roads, but a map of the fault lines held tight in my shaking hands.
I was born hard-edged, reading fences high as doubts.
There is nothing as useless as a kind heart, though this is our only hope.
In the morning the dreams are gone, leaving my jaw brittle as chalk, leaving the feelings but not the heart.
Rain is an invitation to stay,
And sea wind, an invitation to breathe.
There are no happy accidents, only lies we tell our tired selves.
You have to put your arms out, to catch or to give.
Alone is a luxury. I dream of it sometimes. If given the opportunity I would drive myself to a hotel room and sit alone in the dark and just think. I would think in wonderfully complete sentences instead of interrupted, nonsensical, sing-song befuddlements. There would not be Mickey Mouse Clubhouse blaring stupidly in the background. There would not be banana slime wiped across my breast and (strangely?) the back of my calf. There would be nothing. Silence. It would be dark and quiet and my mind would say calmly to itself, “I know exactly where I put my keys today and I am wearing identical socks” and then it would congratulate itself and ask, ” Would you like to read a book today or ponder something new?” I would do this for days with a zen smile on my face. I would eat all the gluten and drink all the wine. I would spread myself out like the Vitruvian Man in my bed and fall fast asleep, without ever thinking about parent-teacher conferences or the girls who bully you on the bus, or what would happen to you if anything were to happen to me. Before you, alone was grief. I wasn’t going to have big family Thanksgivings or spend my nights rocking anyone to sleep. I wasn’t going to get to share my bed with little, slimy banana-hands. I was going to think in complete sentences forever and each one would be as dull and as uninspired as the next, ending with the same lonely period. The same kind I had every month no matter how hard we tried. I would not have you and you would not have me and we would never know what it is like to share ourselves, our rooms, our bed, or the water we bathe in. These are the luxuries we would have never known we needed much more than alone.
I have resisted the title of “stay at home mom” since the day I became a mother. To me there was something dirty of shameful or even sad about it. The promises of going to a good college, and the master’s degree, and the crazy traveling, and making a difference in the world would somehow save me from that mundane existence. That somehow I would escape the life of a worn out mother. I didn’t escape…I am a tired mom with three crazy kids. But the beauty of these kids…the beauty…the beauty is beyond anything I have learned in my travels or education. John O’Donohue wrote, ” In the experience of beauty we awaken and surrender in the same act”. So here is to surrendering to the beautiful title of, ” Stay at home mom”.
Dust lingers in the air, the pace of the vehicle increasing as though I’m trying to outrun the past, outrun the future, who I was and am, who she was and is – or could be. My jaw is tight and knees are weak as I step lightly and choose my words carefully, trying to be kind to her, for her, to be silently louder than the voice. But the air in the room crushes us both and tries to take us down in anger. I try to fill her in hope and guidance but her hard shoulders keep her tightly sealed. I cannot save her. She must be for her own saving. I, she, must learn to release to protect each other, ourselves. I have stepped back while she fights, for she is not yet ready to surrender but my support will never waiver. We will never waiver. We will both die wrapped in the love of one another.
exhale night sky
houseplant no window
a tree suspended
birds flying backwards
hand held open
the tide always rises
life in focus
not out of choice but out of necessity
wanting to live each part to it’s fullest
she can wait
but not forever
she won’t sleep
she will burn
Growing up is a series of surrenders. Letting go doesn’t mean giving up, but accepting that what’s done is done. It’s a gift to yourself and NOT an acceptance of defeat. Chaos gets calmed, and in return you give yourself some freedom. Besides, it’s part guilty pleasure mixed with a dash of comic relief when you realize that, despite all your best efforts, for all the mature things you’ve done up to this point (and all the future endeavors that will require you to put your best adult face forward) nothing will ever make you feel as grown up as you did that night you were allowed to stay out and play spotlight past 11pm.-
By uttering the word “home”, does that mean we know what it is? Does anyone know what it means? And if we don’t know what it means, is it a form of dishonesty to say it?
Everyone, to me, all the time:
Where do you live? Where’s home?
I live out of my suitcase.
I split time between here and there.
Crying out in utter silence:
Sometimes I’m at my mom’s; helping her out in her late life transitions. Her appointments, shopping, transportation, taking out the garbage. To walk in the door, I walk into a life’s length of painful past; death that’s happened, death I’m afraid of, mental abuse, depression and mourning. To say hello, I fake contentment and “fine”-ness or risk bringing her even further down. My things are all in boxes on the perimeter of “my” room and there is enough space for me to get to the bed, a small section of hangers in the closet, and to the window. If I need anything, I have to unstack boxes and search – every single time.
Sometimes I’m at my boyfriend’s house. I invite myself over and I let myself in because that’s the way of things. To walk in the door, I lug as many things as I can carry and see him watching the tv or staring at his phone. I clear a space on the dirty floor or or just pile my things on top of other things. I bring my suitcase, my pillow, my toiletries, my mobile office for work meetings, my clothes and shoes for any occasion (gardening, beach, hiking, biking, night gatherings, regular bed clothes, intimate bed clothes and just jeans and t-shirts). When I don’t I always end up unprepared (because there is never a plan).
Sometimes I’m at one of several friends’ houses or AirBnB’s. I work as a “local” in my freelance life in a city 6 hours drive from my mom’s and boyfriend’s houses. I pack my car with all the possibilities. My work gear bags to satisfy all the variables of the particular job. My pillow, hanging clothes, bags of road trip food and food for my work days, laptop, cables, papers and books. My suitcase: rain gear, swimwear, towel, hiking shoes, formal shoes, work shoes, driving shoes. To walk in the door, I lug all of this up and down varying stairways, through security gates, and strange living rooms. I bring my camping gear and sleep on the floor because it feels less imposing that way.
Every time I go back and forth, I clean, collect all my things and pack. I shower and dress, finalize pending tasks, do office work/banking/emails, check in with mom/boyfriend/hosts, wash dishes, water plants or garden, harvest what will go to waste if I don’t. And when I get back in the car, note the mileage, plug in my phone, stage my headset, water bottle, coffee, snacks, and sunglasses, get gas, change oil? When I start to move; what I am I moving toward or away from? Toward unpacking, toward laundry, toward watering plants or a garden bearing fruits I barely know. Toward more layers of tasks, more layers of insecurities and hiding my pain, and always toward someone else’s home.
I’m older than anyone ever thinks and I’m still “homeless”.
I want a home. A feeling of security. A life. When someone asks me where I live, I want to have an answer that I feel at peace with.
Do any of these things exist? Does anyone who “has” these things actually feel “at home”. Am I worthy of a home?
Can I find joy in telling the world I live out of my suitcase?
What is the truth? What can people “handle” in an answer? What do people have time for? Does anyone actually want to know? How will they judge me? Will anyone that reads this ever want to hire me or be my friend? Will they still love me?
I surrender to the questions, to the shape of my suitcase, and the changing light on the long drives.
To the foreign and familiar tangled into one. Our nest was a place of around the clock nurture. Eleven years of loud. Now the quiet rises, a sound that’s been drowned out for ages. My thoughts take center, amplified and heard…and the guilt from sitting and listening begins to fade. Empty can feel lonely, or make space for a new full.
Twisted and untethered,
she left behind what was,
To make room for what could be.
It was 11th grade, I’d finally finished going through most of the awkward chubby stage of adolescence, and managed to feel mostly anxious free (4 years later) about entering high school each day. I remember being completely blindsided by it. I sat down for English class, and without notice from my teacher, he mortified me in front of the class with words. I probably should have done more about it, but instead, I wrote him off as a loser, was rude to him (rightfully so,) and honestly didn’t listen to a word he said for the next 600 days of school. It was my Christian way of giving him the middle finger, and I spent many English class hours being kicked out in the hall and feel I took home nothing from those two years, where some English lessons could have done me some good. This has left me feeling very nervous to write even to this day, when I thoroughly do enjoy it. Yet, here I am. Surrender.
I’ve spent half of my life hating/obsessing about my weight. That really hit me this year. HALF OF MY FREAKING LIFE, what a waste. I’ve focused so hard on things that fade, beauty, firmness, and less time thinking on virtue. This has hit me like a frying pan to the face, as my weight has continued to rise this year, and my wrinkles deepened. I am more than this I know, and that has been the extravagant thing about entering the decade of 30. I now truly know it, but learning how to feel it is another thing. I feel the invitation from God that I could finally feel rest in this area of my life with him, that he is enough for me, because the world and my body will never live up to my standard, or the worlds. Surrender.
My middle son started Kindergarten yesterday. He has always fascinated me with his creative nature and I’ve enjoyed his company so much in the afternoons while his sister napped. He would hum away while building lego, exploring outside, or spending hours on the swing, just content as could be in his own little world. This past year has left me feeling very aware of the fact that I don’t have a baby anymore. A few months spent aching for just one more, and then pulling myself back to the reality of already being overwhelmed with the three I have. I really don’t know what to do, or who I am as I turn 35 in a few weeks, and I’m finding myself truly reflecting on the rush of motherhood, and crossing my fingers that I raised them well through my anxious, tired, overwhelmed heart these last 7 years. So many of my questions won’t have answers for another decade or so, so here I stand wondering. Surrender.
I’ve had my photography work featured, I’ve placed in international awards, and yet, I struggle to get locals to hire me. I have truthfully come to terms with the fact that the client side of my business may fail, and I’m honestly ok with it. It’s been a time of becoming comfortable with what I’m creating, knowing what I want to capture, and realizing my worth will never come with being busy. In fact, I don’t want to be busy, I want to be with my kids as they grow faster than weeds. Hitting this point has been the most freeing thing, and I only wish I would have come to this realization sooner. I can fail, resulting in success in more important areas. Surrender.
When Amy asked if I wanted to contribute with the theme of Surrender, I couldn’t say no. I truly feel like this has been the theme of my life the last handful of years as I grow into my thirties. A time of closing doors on hurts, struggles and grasping hold of real, hard truths. Surrender.
Two weeks ago, what now feels like months, we received a warning to prepare for Hurricane Irma; a strong category 5 storm that was forecasted to directly hit our home state of Florida. We had recently returned from an almost two week out of state vacation and had resumed our homeschooling schedule. We noticed a panic feeling seemed to overtake our small town as we began speaking with friends and family about the storm. For days, I resisted the feeling of panic and told myself that it was much too soon to worry. As the days went by, it became more evident that this storm would affect our town in some way. We began preparing. We began praying without ceasing. Thoughts raced through my mind. The best and worst case scenarios. Ultimately, I knew this was out of my control, like many other things in life. I made the choice to trust in God and His provision and I found a peace only He could provide.
The night the storm came through will forever be in my mind. It became evident that the eye of the storm would come directly over us. As it approached, we all took shelter in a small bathroom under our stairwell. Power was lost. Four children in the care of my husband and myself. Our 100-year-old home seemed to shake and the winds roared over us in ways I had never experienced. Our precious 21 month old screamed and cried for two hours; nothing could console her. I felt helpless. My only choice was to surrender everything to the Lord. I prayed for His peace and protection. Everything else fell to the side at this point. What mattered most was clearer than ever.
The next morning, the sun came up and we praised God. Little did I realize all we would experience in the days that followed. Our home had minimal damage but we lost power for 8 nights. We learned how precious our normal daily routine truly is. There were shortages on gas and food throughout our county. Everyone within the community began to rely on one another. The days got hot and seemed to be so long at times. There was no option but to surrender to God’s will. So much was out of our control. Yet, through all of the days, I saw light in ways that I will never forget. Community, love, and sharing were in abundance. Faith and strength was evident in the most beautiful ways.
I can think of so many other examples of surrender in my life.
Years of praying and dreaming of a fourth child. Failed infertility treatments. Surrendering my own dreams, yet finally finding His peace, regardless of the outcome.
Two pregnancies ending in pre-eclampsia and premature births. So different from the way a mom plans to have her babies. Bedrest and monitoring. Having to leave our new baby indefinitely in a NICU. This was never the way I had dreamed things would unfold but surrendering to God’s will I found light in the darkest of hours.
A husband sent off to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not knowing what he was often doing but understanding the threats he faced. Wondering if I would get that knock at the door, which all spouses fear. Notification that he is not coming home. How could I maintain my sanity with the unknown and continue serving and raising the children. Through surrendering to Him, I found a strength I never knew existed.
As I lay in bed at night, fatigued from the day. Feeling I was not enough. Dwelling on all the ways, I could or should have been more. I surrender. I let go of this idea of perfection. This unobtainable and so unnecessary ideal of motherhood. Surrendering those feelings and grasping towards His grace.
When worry takes over and my mind cannot relax. Surrendering control and trying to live faithfully knowing He will provide my every need.
It is a daily battle. Leaving everything at His feet and ultimately asking Him what His will is for my life. Every time that I have found the courage and strength to truly surrender, I have grown. I have learned of His love at its core. I have learned about His grace. I grew to know Him more intimately in my sufferings through surrender.
For me, this is the true goal of life. To surrender it all to Him.
“These are magic beans,” I whispered to you in the spring, placing the large, speckled red beans in your hands – scarlet runners that I had hoped would bring more hummingbirds into our back yard. “A beanstalk…” you said reverently. Your eyes were wide as we pushed them into the dirt together and placed the bamboo stakes in a teepee form.
What joy it is to have three little ones who believe, who revel in the wonder of everything, who are weightless from worry. The vines grew and twisted over the following weeks and our summer burst like a ripe berry – full, luscious.
The world is not so weightless to me. The worry that is at turns my silliest or most serious is that we will run out of time together. Flawed and filled with too many crumbs and shouts as it might be, this life now is as close to perfect as I know how to get to. Sometimes, I can’t stand the thought of it changing. Between the exhaustion and frustrations, I hang tight to the abundance of joy and whisper into the universe. Thank you. I surrender to this moment. Come what may because I have this right now.
All things must end. When the season turned, we picked your beans, so long on the tall vines, and split them open. “My favorite color!!!” you squealed with delight. “See,” I told you. “They are magic.”
Tell me what lost feels like,
of the loneliness and fear.
Tell me what chaos feels like,
how it tore the windows from you.
Tell me what drowning feels like,
about the days you spent gasping for air.
Tell me what hope feels like,
when you saw light again, and it hurt your eyes.
Tell me what laughter feels like,
that it’s a beautiful purge.
Tell me about surviving.
Tell me about being alive.
Tell me you feel it too.
It feels like I’ve been writing this story my entire life.
The unspoken attempts to understand this game of my life are some of my earliest memories. Yet, it was never going to be a simple journey. It wasn’t until I found the path marked home; the path of sacred connection humming under my feet and up my spine. It’s been with me all along.
Singing a song I’ve always felt the rhythm to yet never known the words. Where a sigh of relief can finally escape from my ribs. And although the peeling of the layers has just begun, I have never truly known the starting point and what must be given up as the admission price.
The path was always longer than I could have imagined. Distraught with light and shadows, twists and turns, highs and lows. More shades of color revealed than I could have guessed.
But it is here where shedding begins. An endless path asking for trust and faith. Demanding capitulation in order to continue. There are no maps or guides for guidance. No paint by numbers or self help books lining the shelves of your favorite book store.
Surrender asks for your authentic unveiling. Every struggle and reveal with it’s own words and cadence. Sometimes truth is required as you chip away at the facade holding whats left together. Others…holding your heart open wide no matter what and feeling it all the way through to the ends of possibility.
I’ve learned the only wrong answer is to stop treating myself with love, compassion, kindness and strength. But to keep my sword sheathed but handy. And to never allow myself to turn away from my own authentic self.
Surrender has many layers and facets to it. It does not care what we think of its process, so long as we take the path back to our true selves marked home.
You are my Hiroshima. My Nagasaki.
I try to shield you from the blast that is coming.
I place my body in front of yours and watch the bright incendiary light flash, the echo of a mushroom cloud, thunderclap across the sky. There, in less than a second, I know there is nothing I can do.
You are my Hiroshima. My Nagasaki.
Before my body is reduced to ash, I return to that moment when I first met you.
When I pulled you from my body, and saw the dark brown of your eyes, and felt your small fingers clasp at my heart. I knew then as I know now, I had known you since before the universe was made.
You are my Hiroshima. My Nagasaki.
I surrender. I thought I knew the path to victory.
But in my last sharp intake of a half-breathe, I see the path of destruction left in my wake, the blind folly of a mother’s love. It is a land of giants and ghosts, where warriors fail, and heroes fall into a chasms beyond time and memory.
I see the path that led us here to this moment. To the ash, and heartbreak, to never knowing if there will be a Phoenix that rises from it.
You are my Hiroshima. My Nagasaki.