Remember Who You Are

The other night, a man told me he loves killing people and wishes he was back in Vietnam. He was sitting on a bench in downtown Oakland. Probably homeless. Definitely disturbed. I was already anxious, walking back to my hotel from the subway after a day-long photography workshop in Berkeley {more on that later!}.

The day had been lovely, but I had nothing planned for the evening ahead. The more I thought about it, the more it scared me. I’m not used to being away for so long from my boys. I’m not used to being alone, fending for myself in a strange city, or even just eating dinner alone. I’m not used to walking past people who are sleeping on the sidewalk or holding their hands out with hope for spare change. My heart ached. My mind raced. My stomach turned. With every block I walked, I felt more anxious. Even though I knew my route, I felt totally lost. And, as you might imagine, having someone declare his love for killing people didn’t help matters.

I know my place in the world when I’m in my own corner of the world. And if I’m traveling, I always do so with a label and purpose: as a mom, a blogger, a speaker, a consultant – always with places to be and people to meet. Walking down Broadway in the middle of Oakland, with nowhere to be and no one to meet, my throat tightened and my eyes started to sting with tears. Who am I in this place, I wondered? Who am I, really, in any place? I started to make a list in my head, answering the question as I walked:

I am still strong here.

I am still brave here.

I am still a mom and a wife and a daughter and a friend here.

I am still compassionate here.

I am still creative here.

I am still intuitive here.

I still matter here and everywhere.

I reached my hotel, feeling my spirit rising. As I turned the corner, I noticed this wall covered in street art with these words: Remember Who You Are. It was like a neon message from the universe, validating all that I’d just honored about the core of who I am. Turns out I did have somewhere to go and someone to meet during that long and anxious walk. I’d been coming home to me.

{Pssst! Quick reminder that the How To Build a Blog You Truly Love eCourse kicks off a week from today – May 21st. Join bloggers and bloggers-to-be around the world – we’re going to have such fun!}

Surgery Ahead: Everything Will Be OK

Last fall, we learned Ryder needs to have surgery. The news felt like a stab to the heart – not just because it was unexpected and worrisome, but because this operation is to fix an issue stemming from his birth. HIS BIRTH, people.

Many of you know my precious firstborn’s birth threw me into a huge tailspin nine years ago. The delivery was traumatic for both of us; Ryder arrived in the world beaten up and blue, with a collapsed lung and his heart on the wrong side of his body. Our miracle boy survived and thrived, but I fell into a black hole of depression and PTSD. It took a long time to feel whole again.

That’s why,  at first, it felt like a cruel joke to learn that we need to return to the hospital with Ryder – nine years later – for an issue related to that monumental day he arrived on the planet. I don’t see it as some random oddity; I believe everything comes into our lives to help us grow. I just couldn’t imagine what the universe still wanted me to learn after all those years of therapy!

That is, until I told a friend about Ryder’s upcoming operation and heard myself say, “I know he’ll be okay.” And I meant it. I later traced those words over and over in my head to make sure they were real and true. I know he’ll be okay. I know he’ll be okay. I know he’ll be okay.

This was huge! For years, I frequently panicked about anything and everything potentially hurting Ryder. I couldn’t even walk into a hospital for two years after his birth – convinced that if I did, disaster would strike. I didn’t have the wherewithal to recognize the insanity of that fear at the time. That’s why it was a big deal to realize I’m now strong enough and wise enough…that my heart has healed enough…to trust my “baby” is going to be okay this time around.

Surgery is tomorrow. I’ll be able to walk into the hospital with him and Brad…and be truly present for him afterwards. It feels a little like a do-over. Though I wish my brave boy didn’t need to go through this, I’m grateful for the opportunity to prove to myself – and to Ryder – that everything and everyone will be okay. Mommy is here. Really here.

P.S. The Little Bliss List will still appear here tomorrow – but with a super special twist since I’ll be gone. Be sure to check in!

Writing With My Dad

I feel closer to my dad when I see his handwriting, when I can touch the lined legal notepads onto which he poured his heart and soul and survey data. Maybe it sounds crazy, but holding his handwritten words feels a little like holding his hand.

 

My dad was always making lists, scribbling notes in the margins of book pages, or writing reminders to himself on the palm of his left hand. He rarely went anywhere without a felt-tip pen in his shirt pocket, just in case inspiration struck – whether it was his next great idea or an addition to the grocery list.

 

All my life, I’ve thought I had inherited my mom’s handwriting – a casual version of her elegant penmanship. But in the four months since my dad’s death, I’ve run across so many post-it notes that I thought were mine, only to realize they were my dad’s. I’ve found myself mindlessly {or mindfully?} tracing over the letters with my finger, surprised at how each stroke and swoop comes so naturally. How did I not notice this before?

 

We had dreams of writing together, my dad and I. Now, when I put pen to paper, I realize maybe we still will.

 

 

The Mother Lode of Aha Moments

Silver Town and Country Minivan

{how the hell did that get there?}

 

Yesterday, I opened the garage door and was flabbergasted to see a minivan parked inside. Utterly shocked. I shut the door quickly, hoping it would magically disappear. It did not. Turns out the giant silver bullet is mine.

 

This happens every few weeks: moments where I’m stunned to realize my house has been taken over by toys, I’m wearing the same thing I did the day before, there’s a minivan parked in my garage and two kids who look vaguely like me keep calling me “mom.” It usually only lasts a few seconds, but it feels like I’ve been plunked right into a life I don’t recognize and never planned on.

 

Oh, please tell me this happens to you, too.

 

I vividly remember standing in my boss’s office about a dozen years ago, telling myself I would never wind up like him. He had three young kids, hadn’t been to a movie with his wife in ages, and couldn’t even be persuaded to attend an after-work happy hour {“too many family commitments, blah-blah-blah”}. I remember him saying someday I would understand. I wholeheartedly doubted it. At the time, I was on a different plane to a different city most weeks, creating PR events and babysitting celebrity spokespeople. Life was good…and fun…and easy…and I figured someday I would have a family, too – just not the kind that takes over your life and keeps you from going to happy hours. And no way, no how would I ever own a mom-mobile.

 

Fast forward to 2012 and looky here: I’m knee-deep in that life I was once so sure I’d loathe. Every now and then, I have a multi-second freak-out, like yesterday’s “oh-my-god-i-have-a-minivan?” moment. I also survived yesterday’s “take that fruit snack out of your nose” moment, several “stop hitting your brother” moments and approximately 127 opportunities to say, “do you have to go potty?”

 

But I also had a great big a-ha moment. Just after making a bagel-and-cheese-and-chocolate-milk lunch for Tru, I was invited to a last-minute happy hour. With grown-ups I like and big girl drinks and no one wiping their mouth on my sleeve.

 

But I said no.

 

I could have gone – it was on the one night of the week when nothing was scheduled {no basketball, no choir, no play dates}. But I knew in an instant that I’d rather be at home, chilling with my family, than out on the town. I didn’t want to miss bedtime stories, pajama snuggles or sharing favorite parts of our day. Right then and there, I realized someday had arrived: the day my boss predicted, when I would finally understand why he steered clear of happy hour, why he was constantly carpooling kids from here to there, why date nights took a backseat to…well, everything else.

 

This is my someday…and it’s nothing like I’d planned. It’s way better.