mothering society.

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I don’t know about you, but I tend to deal with uncertainty by dumping all of the world’s problems on my own head.

I think that’s definitely a feminine way of existing in the world. We have a tendency to try to mother society, even when we’re critical of it.

And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I’m just saying. What is that- that almost impulsive drive to clean up someone else’s mess even before it’s made? Why do women feel so obligated?

I don’t see my husband doing that. He seems to recognize that other people’s problems are exactly that: other people’s problems. He isn’t unsympathetic. He will drop anything to help someone in need. But he has specific boundaries that he doesn’t let people cross. I, on the other hand, sometimes can’t tell where my crazy ends and someone else’s begins.

It’s almost as though I’ve been a little girl with a bunch of balloons.

Fearing the wind could snatch me at any moment, I grab on to the filthiest handrail and I hang on for dear life.  Then I spit shine it until the sun plays its surface and others can see it in a more beautiful way.

But I never let go of the balloons.

Ladies, can you relate? Or am I on my own here? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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on days like this.

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You know how sometimes when your mind is full and you search around for a distraction you notice that everything is full? Your schedule, your to-do lists, your inbox, your iCloud storage, and most definitely your washer because of course you forgot to switch that load over last night.

That’s how this morning was for me. I got up early to write. I stared at a blinking cursor for ten full minutes, decided I was too overwhelmed, and then shut down my computer. I glared at the news and drank three cups of coffee until my kids woke up.

Usually I can keep a cool focus to help guide someone else through a personal crisis, but when I face one myself I tend to respond in bizarre, counter-productive ways. I’m using the term “personal crisis” very loosely here. I literally mean being a tired, busy mom like you know, every other mom in the world. No big deal. But still,  when I’m stressed I do unhelpful things like hyper fixate on cleaning my tile grout and organizing my junk drawers, even though there are three baskets of unfolded laundry sitting on my unmade bed and little Shopkin-Lego-Barbie nests in every conceivable corner of my house.

On days like this, when even a full night’s sleep and that 4th cup of coffee couldn’t put a dent in my exhaustion, I know that it’s a different kind of rest I need.

Sometimes the only antidote is music. Here is a simple, soulful song that helped me get my mojo back today:

 

What about you? What songs can make you feel more like you when you have one of those mornings? Feel free to link a video or post lyrics in the comments.

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a legacy.

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Quilt handmade for me by my father’s mother, my Grandma Jeanette

I turned 26 this year.

Something about this birthday, or maybe it was the birth of my third daughter in May, has made me more sensitive to the way time passes. It almost makes me dizzy, the realization of how fast it all goes. And for what? That’s the question I started asking this year.

I’m not sure I’m a person who believes everything happens for a reason. I want to but I’m just not there yet. What I do believe in is learning from the things that happen, if you can. And I also believe in rolling legacies.

Monarch butterflies undergo a yearly migration that spans three to four generations. That means the great great grandbaby Monarchs who arrive in the Spring needed their ancestors to reach a certain point in order to make that happen.

Humans are not so different. If my great-great grandmothers had not been the women they were, then surely I would not be the woman I am today. And I know they must have left behind some unfinished business; a beautiful patchwork quilt that each new generation added some pieces to. I call that a rolling legacy.

From a young age I was keenly aware of two things:

  • My life is important. (self-esteem)
  • Some of what I’m here to work on didn’t start with me. (responsibility to others)

Self-esteem and responsibility to others. Those two beliefs have shaped me and informed the decisions I’ve made throughout my life. They remind me to wipe my nose and keep running when I start feeling sorry for myself and they remind me to reassert my boundaries when someone mistakes my caring heart for a weak spirit.

Sometimes, when I’m at my worst, my primal need to protect my own energy clashes with my soul’s need to be of service to others. I can be pretty mean when that happens. But the good thing about those very human moments is that you find out quickly who is really in your corner and who just likes the energy you bring. It never fails.

I know that my sense of equal responsibility to self and others was not something I figured out all on my own. It was my birthright, yes, but only because of the women who came before me. Had they not loved me so deeply, I might’ve never known how to love myself. Had I not witnessed their perseverance through a multitude of traumas, maybe I would’ve never figured out that I too have a strength that nobody can take from me. If they hadn’t shared with me the stories of some of their most vulnerable moments, I might have never known it was okay to heal through my own stories. The women who came before me are strong. They are healers. They are survivors. My maternal grandma may not have survived her illness in a physical sense, but she survives in so many other ways for me. I see her sparkly green eyes when my youngest girl laughs. I feel her warm hands on my shoulders when I need reassurance or maybe just comfort. I remember her voice and the way she would say, “Keep looking up, Sweet Dani.”

I think more often now about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind for my daughters to continue working on. I also try to consider what stuff I need to work through so that they’re not left to inherit that unfelt pain.

My girls. Each one clearly her own unique person already. Yet so similar in all the ways sisters usually are. I pray I’m teaching them the right things.

I want autonomy to be their native language. It should be the most natural thing in the world for them to establish and respect their own personal boundaries and to assertively deal with people who ignore and cross those lines.

Which is why I teach them manners with a fine print footer that says “but never at the expense of your own well-being”. Contrary to popular belief, people really can fuck off if you want them to.

I want my girls to know that you can be strong and also feel pain. In fact, you probably cannot have one without the other.

I want them to govern their lives with integrity. To do the right thing and look out for others and to never expect the world to take care of them.

I also want them to know that sometimes you have to avoid people who do expect the world to take care of them (a lesson I’m still learning).

I try to teach my girls to value spiritual connection over material possessions. I think that’s an annoying lesson for them right now but one day they’ll know why we don’t buy many of the things they ask for and I have faith that they’ll be better people for it.

I want them to see that competition can be healthy and that sometimes we need to feel ashamed when we do the wrong thing. The anti-shame movement of today is definitely on the right track but that does not excuse complacency and shitty behavior. At least not in our house. (Thank you, Mom. Several of our recent conversations helped me come to this understanding).

On the other hand, I need them to understand the difference between that and someone trying to make them feel small. I want them to stand up for themselves, even when it’s confusing and hard. Scratch that, especially when it’s confusing and hard.

I want them to know, without a doubt, that their father and I are always on their side. Even when they’re wrong, we’ll be there to help them figure out how to make it right.

I want them to sense God’s mystery throughout nature and to know that they are an extension of that magic.

 

If nothing else, I want my girls to carry on the most basic, essential knowledge that built the foundation for my life:

Your life is important.

Some of what you’re here to work on didn’t begin with you.

And it won’t end with you either. So leave this world with a meaningful legacy.

 

Written with love and gratitude for the women who came before me and the ones who come after me.

 

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not sure what I’m looking for but here I am.

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I take the messy parts of myself and I write them until they make sense to me.

So a lot of time my writing won’t paint me in the prettiest light. And that’s okay with me.

I think it’s important for everyone to have a creative realm where they can roam a little.

But I do understand that this makes some people uncomfortable.

So if you’re looking for 7 Happy Steps to Make Your Life Look Perfect and Blame Everyone Else, my writing is probably not the tea for you.

If you are offended or annoyed at all by people who use the F word unnecessarily, you’re gonna have a bad time here.

If you were hoping I may have some ancient wisdom hidden up my sleeve, I hate to disappoint you.

I’m just a girl with a camera,

Filtering the world through a personalized lens.

I believe in what I’m saying but I want to be clear that this is not an instructional blog.

I’m not an expert on anything except messing up,

A lot,

And trying to do better the next time.

I think I’m a pretty good listener

But I lack both the answers and the patience to fix other people.

Because I know I got this.

I don’t know what you got.

So,

If what you’re looking for is someone who gets how absolutely terrifying it is to show up

But just keeps on showing up anyway.

Maybe,

Just maybe,

I’m that girl.

 

 

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when strength is your crutch.

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I threw a tantrum yesterday.

I do that sometimes and my poor husband just listens and nods along before calmly repeating back to me all of the irrational, crazy things I just spewed out. Then he offers helpful suggestions of rational, non-crazy things I could say instead.

Oh and then he reframes the entire situation so that I can see how perhaps it’s not even the other person who is the problem, it’s me.

Which, in this case, made me tantrum even more because he doesn’t even like the person I’m complaining about.

“You’re supposed to be on MY side!”

“I am on your side. But I also know this happens a lot for you.”

“Oh, really? Okay. Well maybe it happens a lot for me because people like that always come suck the life right out of me. They use me as their sounding board and then when I’m completely drained, they’re all charged up and too distracted to talk about anything that’s meaningful to me. Or…OR…oh, this is a good one, they circle the fucking conversation right back around to whatever stupid fucking drama they were talking about as though we hadn’t just spent the last two hours on that topic. I can’t fucking take it anymore. I can’t have people like that in my life. It’s killing me.” (said loudly with lots of elaborate hand motions)

“Then stop listening when they talk to you.”

“That’s rude, I can’t do that.”

“Stop offering them advice and encouragement. Stop giving people your energy.”

“That’s not an option.”

“It is an option.”

“No. You don’t get it.”

“I get that you can’t handle it if someone doesn’t like you.”

“Yeah, but this person doesn’t just stop liking people. This person will run my name through shit and then fertilize their lawn with it. You don’t understand what I’m dealing with here.”

“I understand that you don’t know who you are if you’re not helping someone.”

 

Ouch.

Sometimes a loved one has to nudge you along. But when you finally feel it, you feel it.

We talked on Day One about what we need to let go of. This is mine.

 

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let’s talk about anx;ety.

*content warning: panic/psychosis; suicide*

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Anxiety. It’s a club. You’re not in it til you’re in it. And you pay a lifetime membership at the door.

Even if you don’t attend the meetings, they’ll still send you mail and ask for donations all the time.

I’ve shared my initiation into the Panic Sisterhood ad naseum so I’ll try to be brief here for those who haven’t heard it fifty times already:

Four years ago, I had just given birth to my second daughter. I had a healthy pregnancy. I was in labor for like an hour. It couldn’t have gone more smoothly.

I was overjoyed, completely in love, and felt like I was in a good place in my life. At about one month postpartum, my husband was offered a promotion, so we began preparing for a move about 120 miles south of where we lived in Louisiana. It was exciting. I was looking forward to it.

And then out of absolutely nowhere, I woke up in the middle of the night and I completely cracked up.

Just shattered into a million pieces.

I jumped out of bed and threw my clothes off because I felt like I was on fire, so naturally I assumed I was having a flashback to that one time in my past life when I was burned as a witch.

And then it got even weirder from there. I had what I thought were seizures and heart attacks multiple times a day. I was later informed they’re called panic attacks. Oh and nobody takes them seriously unless they actually have them.

Good times.

I did get medical help. And we did move. To a cute little house on a piece of land that made me so happy. Til I had nightly visions of throwing myself down the well in the back.

So I got some more medical help. Even though I thought they would take me away to an asylum and perform horrible medical tests on me and I’d never see my family again. Because obviously it’s 1930.

But I got the help anyway.

And my husband loved me through it and still does.

Once you’ve experienced this there is no going back. You’re never going to be the person you were before anxiety. You will feel the world in a different way. In a deeper, more soulful way, yes. But in a scarier, less grounded way too. And there’s no way around that. It can be painful.

And I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. Because even though I try to make fun of myself and laugh about my own experience, postpartum panic (depression, anxiety, psychosis) is not a joke. Good people really do end their lives. They don’t know what’s happening and they feel they’re a danger to their loved ones and they need the pain to stop, so they cease to be.

An important distinction here is that I have never been actively suicidal. I was terrified out of my mind that I would lose control and become actively suicidal. And there’s a very real difference between the two. I have to clarify that. I don’t know what it’s like to experience the kind of despair that leads someone to end their life. And I pray every single day that I never do.

You might be wondering what all this has to do with Soulful Simplicity. My sincere apologies if you thought we were going to talk about yoga and closet organization for the duration of this series. I’m not that writer. Sorry. Panic attacks are my constant reminder that life is precious. That people, myself included, are amazing and strong and resilient and also undeniably fragile. That I won’t get these moments back, not ever, so I have to cherish them now. My little girls keep growing and my husband and I keep aging and it’s beautiful and bittersweet and it kind of breaks my heart in all the best ways.

It’s a universal pain, and also an individual experience, to find what matters and cling to it like hell.

 

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what soulful simplicity means to me.

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Maybe this should’ve been my first post. But shaky starts happen sometimes. Besides, day one’s post felt right for the mood I was in when I wrote it. So I’m just going to keep on moving forward. Because what else can you do besides that?

I chose to write on Soulful Simplicity because I really need it in my life.

I’m so far from a minimalist, it’s not even cute. Anyone who has had to share an office or a house with me can attest to that.

I do keep a clean home, but stacks of books and half written stories tend to follow me wherever I go. I can’t help it.

Anti-minimalism is a genetic gift that has been passed down my maternal bloodline right along with a solid work ethic and an adoration of gaudy jewelry. We’re not messy people. We’re soulful people. And we like pretty stuff.

But the art of minimalism appeals to me for some reason. I like the clean lines and spaciousness of it. I love the way I can breathe a little deeper in a room that’s filled with only the things that matter.

So this is what I want to do this month:

  • Surround myself with beauty so that there is less room for crap.
  • Fill my mind with meaningful thoughts, so that there is less room for crap there too.
  • Show hard lessons the respect they deserve.
  • Finally forgive myself for the mistakes I made before I learned those hard lessons.
  • Make peace with the passing of time.
  • Let me just say that one again…make. peace. with the passing of time.
  • Remember what matters.
  • Let go of what doesn’t.
  • Love people in their humanness.
  • Love myself in my own.

Basically, reconcile my gypsy spirit with my neurotic suburban mom spirit to see if they can find a boxed wine they both enjoy. It’s a quiet call to action. But a call no less. And I call it Soulful Simplicity.

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