…On Beauty

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My Ugly Beautiful Feet

My feet are not deformed, but they’re weird. They’re definitely not pretty. I have bunions and then my middle toe kind of curls under. Bunions – even the word itself sounds ugly.
A friend of mine once asked while laying out…
“what happened to your middle toe? Is it cut off?”
An old dentist of mine said
“Wow, you have some funky toes.”
“Wow. Thanks.”

So I’ve hid them. I’ve had pedicures. I’ve cropped those piggies out of pictures.
I’ve had coworkers comment on them. My husband tells me (in love and humor) that I should be a foot model.
You get the gist.

Yet, all this time…thinking I’ve hated my feet and even considered cosmetic surgery, I’ve realized (more acknowledged) that I love my feet. All along. All this time.

I love the way they feel in the sheets. And I do this thing where I rub them together before I fall asleep. I love how when I get cold they kind of feel smaller, and I go put some fuzzy socks on to warm them up.

I was doing some humble yoga, laying on my back with my legs extended in the air. I was looking up at my feet. In that moment, I felt whole and happy in my own skin.

I was staring at them thinking of all they’ve done; part of my body, that’s part of my soul that belongs and is one with a gracious God.
God gave me these feet.

Learning to love yourself (or realizing that you’ve loved yourself all along but have allowed outside influences to make that illusory) isn’t easy.
We think we are supposed to look a certain way, and when we don’t, that it’s shameful.

But it’s us. It’s you. It’s me. It’s just how we were made. BEAUTIFUL.

Like my feet. These amazing, familiar, high-functioning, slightly-deformed feet…they’re mine.

And I’m grateful.

…On our 10 Year Anniversary

I love him so much. 

He has been this person in my life where all the things I wanted in a relationship (or thought I wanted) were dissolved and a new thing came about and started growing – one that I didn’t know I wanted; one that I didn’t know existed or was possible. 

Sometimes it’s the very thing that brings me to my knees or makes me feel like I might punch something. But it’s the thing that when it’s not feeling solid or good…I can’t breathe. I feel like I might puke. I have to back down and do my part to make sure I’m meeting him halfway. Sometimes it physically hurts letting go of my stance. But our okayness is more important to me. Sometimes I need to go more than halfway to help him keep going and many times he has to go the further distance to hold me up for a spell. 

He’s so strong. And warm. (Literally and not literally.) His love keeps me safe. I take refuge in it. Sometimes to the point where I forget my own strength and abilities and take advantage. He’s ok telling me to stop being a baby. He encourages me – because he believes in me. He reminds me of the very strength he fell in love with. Through his love and confidence in me, I am a better person. I persist in trying things I never thought I could do. 

I have a mini scary place in my heart and mind that is full of fear and anxiety. It doesn’t always come out, but when it does it really sucks. Many people might not know this about me. 

He knows because I trust him deeply and have told him everything. I’ve fought this place since I was a 9 year old girl.  I had to overcome it as a single mom and independent woman. He met me shortly after this victory. When it rears its ugly head, he doesn’t give up on me, but helps me through, and with God and him by my side, the fear dissipates. 

I will never stop believing in his love for me. Not just his love for our family, but his love for me. In my own fear, I have doubted him in the past, and for this I am regretful. Through his eyes, I’m able to see myself as a beautiful and capable woman and mother, friend and love. If only I could always see myself through his eyes, maybe I wouldn’t stumble so often at my own insecurities. I keep learning and trying, and I never give up. 

I’m not perfect. Nor is he. But ten years ago we held hands in front of God and our loved ones and said we wouldn’t let go. I feel immense joy in my heart that no matter the hardships we experience as a family or the weaknesses we experience as individuals and in our relationship, that our vows stand stronger than ever. 

Scottie, happy 10 year anniversary!

You will always be one with me in my soul. 

Celebrating Sisterhood

It was end of winter at the park. I saw three women walking – heads down, hands in pockets of their jackets. They were walking briskly. I passed them a couple of times. They were good friends, that much I could tell. It was plainly clear that one of them was crying.  

I was getting the stroller back into my trunk, and I unassumingly heard her say ,“I know.”, shaking her head. 

They breezed by.

The poignant look on her face; the tears in her eyes. Her two friends -they were right there; right there with her. In grief, fear, sadness, depression, anger, disbelief…it didn’t matter what it was, they were feeling it hard with their friend.

Maybe it was a feeling they had experienced themselves. And instead of going into a downward spiral with her, they knew their best role. The palpable pain – they would feel it with her, let her know it was ok for it to exist and feel it, and remind her that she’ll eventually release it. In this, they’re carrying some of that burden and lightening the load on their friend’s shoulders. They’re gradually lifting her up. 

Each time I saw them, it was only a glimpse, but what I witnessed in those fleeting moments was something I’m grateful to know well…the blessing of sisterhood. 

Regardless of how much you love your partner or how close you are with your kids, there is nothing like that friend who just knows. You don’t even have to say anything. You just cry and she says “I know”, and you say “I know”, and you walk.

And you know she really, truly DOES KNOW. And there doesn’t have to be an explanation for your feelings or your behavior or your need to cry. And there doesn’t have to be a solution. What? There doesn’t have to be a solution. You just put your hands in your pockets on that chilly day and walk. 

For as long as I can remember my mom has cherished friendships with women that honored and exemplified sisterhood.

One group of friends, in particular, go back to high school. They went to an all-girl Catholic high school called Ursuline Academy, graduating class of 1971. They even formed their own singing group. Ironically, they called themselves “Old Friends” from the Simon and Garfunkel song. MaryJane (Maj), Mom (Norma), Nancy, Pam and MaryJo. Pam played guitar. Someone, somewhere has video of their singing. They were awesome! The picture below…that’s them! My mom is in the front on the left. Not awesome quality on the pic, but they were all strikingly gorgeous.

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Every Christmas in the early 80’s as a little girl, I remember sneaking down the hallway to get a glimpse of them sharing wine and laughing. Their laughter!! They would laugh till they cried. Dad would sometimes be hanging out with them. I could never blame him. 

They still get together, and they still honor one another. Their friendship as a group, and their individual relationships are something I’ve admired throughout the years. 

Their love for one another even transcends politics! (Ha! Yes it does! I’ve seen it firsthand – and recently!)

Their love for one another transcends the frailty of life. 

When I saw these three friends at the park, what can I say?  It struck me. Like sometimes out of nowhere, you’re just walking along minding your own, and BAAMMM…get knocked over the head with something. It was like that. 

These women today – they had each other. No matter the pain. They were ok admitting they needed something. And in one another were able to (maybe even temporarily) fill that need.  

It struck me with gratitude.  

I was catapulted to a time as an eight year old girl when I didn’t yet understand what it meant for my mom to have Pam or Nancy. It raced me through my years of growing and building my own cherished relationships. And now as an almost 40 year old woman, I can appreciate and celebrate that gift in my own life.

That little glimpse today caused me to pause in my busy tracks and think about all the times I’ve needed my friends or they’ve needed me. And how by being human and open and sharing our weaknesses with one another we were able to avoid traps of jealousy and incited competition and be nothing but a soft place to land and a warm safe-house for one another – no matter what. 

All while loading my toddler into the car, my nose burned a little bit and tears dropped and I felt this deep love and thankfulness for the women in my life and what they mean to me – what we mean to each other. 

I love you girls, and you know who you are. 

Some things really are that simple. 

featured image credit: judasblack.tumblr.com

‘Peacing out’ for a Spell

It’s not that I don’t enjoy a light/easy girls’ night out with friends – ones I hope to get closer with down the line, ones I’ve not seen in awhile that I genuinely miss. 

It’s not that. It’s that I’m ugly-tired and time alone is really scarce, and I don’t even bounce back these days. I need to get focused on some things that will help me feel better – from the inside out. 

I’m over the guilt of not making it a priority right now. I’m in that mode of survival with my family and kids’ ages where I’m getting extra choosy about how I spend free time. 

If I feel a pang of obligatory guilt or a fear-wave “what if they stop inviting me?”, I’m out. Plus, I know they won’t stop inviting me. They’re my friends. 

So right now? It’s family. They’re the priority. I feel like I rarely even get to hang with them! Just hang out. They so rarely get all of me. And me them. 

So it’s ok. Ignore all other social obligations if you must. 

Sister-friends know you’re there. Even though you’re not ‘showing up’ as of late, they know you. They know if they need you IN ANY CAPACITY, you will be there. They don’t accuse you of being selfish when you make a five-scroll-down text string all about you for a few because you needed to get it out (and not on your kids). 

They are the ones you can share your deep shit with. The next day you don’t wake up pulling covers over head  “crap, I said too much” because you know these women on a level where they get your nuttiness; they are likely just as nutty in their own way, and never (not ONCE) is there a worry that they will talk about you negatively with others or stop loving you. 

They may tell their husband how utterly insane you are, but then they’ll both laugh and fall asleep…still loving you. 

And as far as ‘girls night out’ with people you don’t really know yet? Trying to fit in to something new? Feeling pressure to get yourself out there? 

Stop worrying. 

Unless you’re new to a community (it might be necessary in that case), just give yourself a break and let the fear and guilt fall away. 

We all need and often really want to get out, but for those times when you’re forcing it out of ‘fear of missing out’ or some social obligation and then feeling like an actual turd the entire next day and being rude to yourself and your kids, give yourself permission to stop this beast of futility! I mean not that I’ve ever done this.

The facebook photo of those four friends together, the one that stopped you in your tracks and made you wonder about the last time you went out for girls night…

Don’t let it bug.

Who knows what they’re sacrificing to be there and who knows if they themselves even feel it to be worth it, despite how much they love their girls. 

Maybe in that very moment they’re standing there smiling and worried about if they’ll be posted somewhere in a bad light. I know I’ve had those fears. Then again, maybe they just made a memory to last a lifetime and you tooooootally missed out, lady. Haha! 

In all seriousness, if you need to take better care of yourself and your babes for a spell, just remind yourself that things aren’t always as they seem. You’ll get back to worrying about that bad angle and/or ‘memories to last a lifetime’ *later*. 

And as far as dressing to impress (and I don’t necessarily mean attire) – I guess I’m in that window period where I don’t want to get dressed for other girls/people. I don’t want to position myself in a certain way that causes someone to question their current place in their own life. I’ve inadvertently been on both sides of this scenario in my lifetime, and both sides suck. Plus, it’s all moot anyway. This comparison thing we try not to do but keep on doing – that person is in their OWN place, in their life, in their time. 

And sister-friends…they don’t feel jealous for any accomplishments I’ve made in life. They see my raw-ugly-beautiful-difficult-easy-daily-blessed life and they know my story. All of it. They know all of it. 

They jump up and down with me for my small victories – even if it’s a virtual jump over text. They love me on a deeper level because of my “the uglier the better” cards lying on the table. It takes the pressure off and allows them to be openly human. 

Right now at this point in my life, if I can’t talk about some real stuff, what is the point? 

I made a choice a couple of years ago to stop investing in the superficial. I don’t want to use up good energy and precious time and genuine thoughts and feelings into one-sided relationships that sit on the surface to portray something not real. 

So when I do get a moment to myself away from my family (and not yearning alone-time), I want to be with my sister-friends. 

And someday soon, I will. 

Maybe tomorrow if I feel like it! If not, I won’t force it. It’s 10PM, and I need some sleep in order to be a decent mom tomorrow. 

Fact.

This one’s for you, mama…for you and your 20-year-old child.

You thought you cut the cord. You didn’t. He’s 19, almost 20. You thought you ‘let him fly’ when he moved in with his dad senior year. It was the worst pain of your life. That had to be it!

No.

Dropping him off in his dorm room. This is it! I’m doing it! I’m really letting him go! No, mama. You’re not (despite your guttural sobbing all the way home amidst flashbacks of his tiny grip while crossing the street.)

He tells you he wants to quit college and move to Chicago to pursue his dreams because the fire in his gut for acting and theatre is so overwhelming that he can’t (won’t) focus on anything else. He wants to work and save money and move to Chicago as soon as possible.

Mom, this is it.

All those times you thought the rubber was meeting the road, you were still hovering. Now those tires are back-to-the-futuring down the road leaving flames.

You know you need to loosen that grip. You can’t. You keep clutching…tighter and tighter until your knuckles are white. The follies of youth have gotten to him, and it’s your job to keep him in line. But realizations that the tighter you grasp, the harder he fights flow in like waves of nauseous fear; fear of someone taking advantage of his gentle giant spirit; fears of him getting crushed when rejection feels like dark heavy hopeless bricks on his shoulders; the looming fear of the fire in his gut quelling.

Where is your optimism?!

That’s what he would say.

“Why so gloomy, Mama?!” cracks joke in an Irish accent, and you laugh through tears, and he puts his hand on your shoulder and slowly says, “I need chips. And laundry detergent.”

Where is your faith? Where is your belief that he can not only do it, but be the best?!  Where is your faith that he will find his way? Even in this big world!

It’s not so big. There is more than darkness. There is light!

And he’s one of them.

Let him shine.

Let him go.