To The Mom Who Thinks She's Messed It All Up

 

Dear Moms,

I don't know what it's like to be you. I've never felt a baby grow inside of me, I've never watched that much of my heart walk around outside of my body as a tiny person. I don't know how it feels to be called “mom,” or to pour eighteen years of love and labor into that tiny person before letting them leave my arms before I’m ready. As a 25-year-old without any kids, I simply cannot relate to you in this way. But I do know what it's like to be that tiny person. I know how it feels to search a crowd of chairs from a row of packed risers and find that face that always makes me feel calm. I know what it's like to be loved so hard and looked at with wonder. I know what it feels like to have roots inside a person to come home to when I try life on my own. I know what it’s like to be a daughter. And now that we’re all adults, I want to tell you something really important

You didn’t mess it up.

All of those times you look back on where you lost your temper and raised your voice to a kid who wouldn’t listen. When you didn’t say the right thing. When you forgot, broke a promise, hurt little feelings, or made us cry… you didn’t mess it all up. You were a mom, in a moment, doing the best she could. And you did really well. Because those aren’t the things we remember first, those aren’t the things that shaped us and turned us into who we are today.

It was the moments when you scooped up that pouty toddler after a time-out and said you were sorry you yelled that you taught us apologizing is more important than being right. The times you humored a head-strong ten-year-old and let her make her that choice you knew wouldn’t work, but were there to help pick up the pieces was the day you started laying the foundation of courage to trust ourselves for the launching pad that we’ll one day use to chase really big dreams. All because we know you’ll be there regardless of our success. The times you knocked on a teary teenager’s bedroom door to sit on her bed and try that hard conversation again, showed us that when you love someone you invest in their heart and try as many times as it takes to get it right. These were the things that shaped us. In these moments we got to see you as real people, not moms. We got to see the façade of “always knowing everything” we clothed you in break a little bit and see a woman just trying to figure things out as she goes, just like us.

When life got overwhelming, finding you standing in the kitchen and crying for a minute allowed us to see that sometimes letting it all out is the strongest thing we could do.

In the moments where you couldn’t take anymore little hands on you asking for things and you sent us to play we learned that taking time for yourself is as important as anything else.

All the times you were certain you were going to lose your mind we got to see that sometimes the things you love test you the most but when you love something you let it grow you.   

Now that I’m twenty-five, I get to see my own mom in a new light. Not only are we mother and daughter, but we’re both adults, peers in a way we’ve never been before. I get to see her as a person, not just as a mom. It’s an interesting thing when your mind folds up the superhero’s costume she always wore, packs it away in the closet, and looks at her woman to woman. It’s like meeting someone you’ve known your whole life for the first time. This new season has lent itself to a blend of the comfort I’ve always known with presence of a great friend. It’s shown me how people grow and guide each other into the best versions of themselves. It’s allowed for our lives to take on a different kind of richness I hadn’t expected before, one that feels like a long walk on a summer night when the sun starts setting off to make room for the moon. It feels like home with the windows thrown open.

Moms, this thing you’re doing, raising babies and sending them off into the world is the hardest work. It’s dizzyingly long days and never enough years. It’s more than you can take and always leaves you wanting more. But listen to me, Mamas, you’re doing such a great job. Whether you just brought home your first perfect-smelling bundle or you’ve just returned from your fourth empty-nester’s vacation, you are leading them well, you are loved, and you are not messing it all up.  

Breathe deeply, Mamas. You are enough.

 

Dear Little Boy: Your First Birthday

Dear Little Boy,

I've been thinking a lot about this letter and what I want it to say. I feel like it’s an important one because it's the very first of your birthday letters. I wanted to write it about a week ago so I could read it to you on your birthday, but here we are on April 15th at 10:30pm just beginning to put everything down on paper. I realized I needed to see you before I wrote it. I needed to hold your little self in my arms and breathe in your sweet smell before the words would come to me. I'm glad I waited, Little Boy, because even though you won’t get to hear these words on your actual birthday, I think they're the ones that really needed to be written both for now, and for some time in the future when you need a reminder of all that you are capable of.

When I first sat down to write this, I talked a lot about all the new things you were doing, your new tricks, and how insanely cute you are. I love those things and will remember them forever but I don’t want to write them here. Little Boy, I’m in a pretty tough season of life right now. Things are hard and I can’t fix any of it like I desperately want to. I’m having to go back to a painful past and deal with things I’ve tried really hard not to deal with. And the reason I’m telling you this not very happy stuff in your birthday letter is because I want to be honest with you so one day you can be honest too.  

Little Boy, I have an anxiety disorder. Every day is a battle between the ugly lies in my head that scream all the ways that I will never be enough, and the small, quiet voice that waits it’s turn to cover the painful wounds those lies cause with truth. Sometimes the days are sunshine filled, and the demons stay quiet long enough for me to have coffee with a friend or write some words that make me happy, and other days are dark and I find getting out from under my covers to be impossible. When my mind is holding me hostage I look at the life I’ve built so far away from you and I can’t see anything but failure. I see debt, aimless wandering, purposeless-ness, and broken pieces. In the midst of this darkness, I curse myself for not having my life together, for wasting everyone’s time, and most of all for not running back home the second you were born so I could spend as much time as I possibly could learning who you are. Every mile of this distance hurts, Little Boy. Now as I get ready to move even farther to a new state for a new adventure, I think it’s time to tell you why I’m not on the first plane to having you in my arms.

My biggest hope is that you have the courage to explore every facet of who you are so you can be the youest you there ever was. I want you to be boldly, fiercely, fearlessly you in every single way. I want your heart to be wild in its rhythms, I want your mind to be untamed as it rests fully at peace in the freedom of contentment in who you are. I want you to be you.  

This finding yourself process is really hard. It’s painful, exhausting, scary, and uncharted. But Little Boy, every time I want to quit, every time it gets too hard and I think about coming home, I think of you. I think about how when we’re together, I want you to see someone you’re proud of, someone who chased her dreams down even though every step scared her to her core. I want you to be able to look in the mirror and see these same things in yourself. I pray that someday when you’re doubting your courage or your strength, that you find this letter and realize that even now, even though your whole body tips the scales at a whopping nineteen pounds, you’ve already moved mountains. You’ve inspired an entire future. You’ve changed a life’s course. In one year you’ve had more impact that you will ever be able to imagine.  

Little Boy, this alone is reason to never doubt what you are made of. To never for a single second doubt what you can achieve. You are mighty, you are brave, you are able, you are good. In your first year without even trying you changed everything for the better.

Happy first birthday, dear Little Boy, the world is so much better with you here.

Love,

Aunt Jo

 

Real Life Adulting

Those of us born between 1985 and 1995 are currently sitting amidst mess of struggle and success called "our twenties." And while we may have coined the phrase "adulting" it applies to all of us who have to schedule our own dentist appointments. Adulting describes the daily actions one must go through to be an adult; things like waking up to an alarm, working to pay bills, and feeding an army of always starving tiny people who may or may not look like us. So many of us are convinced that we are the only ones who dont have a single clue about how to do this successfully and are making a mess of life but that's just not true. Y'all, none of us, not even the wisest of us who have lived 70+ years have it all figured it. Let's take off the pressure and explore what Adulting really looks like. 

Adulting is waking up early, putting on pants, and going to work even when you don't feel like it. Adulting is taking a mental health day because you know you need one. It's even when your only cardio for the day is getting more salsa for the chips you're eating in bed. 

Adulting is consulting a financial advisor because you're terrible with money and only listening to what he says because he's funny.

Adulting is getting the dream job you've wanted since you were a kid at age 24. It's also working in a job you don't really like but it pays your bills. It's showing up everyday while working on your dreams even it if takes way longer than you ever thought it would.

Adulting is going to the gym and working out every day. It's also maybe watching a workout video once a week and only sometimes doing most of the exercises. 

Adulting is eating a perfectly balanced meal every day. It's also pizza.

 Adulting is brushing, flossing, and fluoride rinsing twice a day, everyday and making regular dentist visits. It's also Listerine because you ran out of toothpaste last night and don't get paid until Friday. 

Adulting is only getting your hair cut at a salon by a stylist who knows to ask what Crazy Sue from your office did this week because she's been cutting your hair years. It's also only getting it cut during the $7 haircut sales by a total stranger every time. 

Adulting is listening to NPR and reading credible news sources, staying up to date and informed on what's going on in the world. It's also Amy Poehler and Amy Schumer, and SNL because you really don't need a reason to love them, they're just that amazing.  

Adulting is doing your best. That's it. You are adulting well. You're not failing or behind the curve because there is no curve anymore. We're all in this giant 3 foot deep swimming pool of adulthood trying not to get our hair wet and maintain our cool while we pretend like we know what we're doing.

But maybe instead of working our hardest to pretend we have it all together, what would happen if when we showed up to life we talked about the mess of it? What if we allowed people to see our three days of dry shampoo moments instead of life under a filtered lens? How would that affect the way we see not only everyone else but ourselves?  

Take a deep breath, dear one. From one clueless, messy, anxious adult to another, you're doing just fine. 

An open letter to my tribe

Dear You,

This letter has been in my heart for a long time. If I’m being completely honest, all the other letters I’ve written lately have been done in procrastination of this one. This one is harder because I’m writing as me, as the me who really doesn’t know how everything is going to work out. The me with the shaky faith. The me who comes home and sits on her bed with the door shut for hours because she can’t take any more people that day. The me who hasn’t been there for you in over a year.

It’s not unusual that several weeks, if not months pass in between our hangouts or talking. Those weeks are filled with the flip flop of unanswered texts and “we really need to get together’s” but without any real commitment on my part. When we finally do get together I see my answer of “I’m really busy” doesn’t quite sit well with you because, well, you are too.  But it’s really hard to say, “yeah, I know it’s been forever. I’m sorry I’ve cancelled plans a million times and flat out didn’t show up several more. I promise I’m not this shitty of a friend normally, I just have anxiety, and I’m struggling to learn this new normal while trying to find ways to get rid of it completely.”

Over the last year I’ve been experiencing a sudden onslaught of panic attacks and near constant anxiety. I’ve felt like a stranger in my own head and I wish this new me would go back to wherever she came from. I’ve missed out on so much and have grown distant from so many of you. I miss getting coffee and playing volleyball, and doing daily life with you. I miss rollerblading and discussing life, sitting around bonfires having good conversations, and driving around in the wide open Jeep just because we can. I miss celebrating you. I miss being there for you. But the time I’ve spent tucked away in the quiet of my room has been in an effort to come back. I’ve tried so many things, and the things that have proven to give me relief I’ve allowed to fill my time and be okay with being away.  

In earlier drafts of this letter, this is the part where I apologize for my absence and promise to do better, but I’m not going to. I've changed it because I can’t apologize to you for fighting to get my life back and I don’t want to make another promise I can’t keep. Instead, I want to say thank you. Thank you for always welcoming me back with open arms and a big smile on your face when I’m able to show up. Thank you for not forgetting about me and reaching out when you can. Thank you for accepting my answer of busyness and not pressing, but knowing I’ll tell you the truth at some point. Thank you for not being upset that it’s taken me a full year to tell you these things even if you don't understand it at all. Thank you for continuing to invite me to celebrate your joy and celebrating mine with me, too. Thank you for allowing me the time and the space I need to figure everything out.

But most importantly, thank you for staying. The way you’ve stayed proves my most painful anxious thoughts wrong. You continue to knock on the door even when you know the deadbolt won’t move. I appreciate you, and am so incredibly blessed Jesus built a tribe like you to surround me. You are a gift both collectively and individually. I am excited to see the other side of this battle and fall back into step with you.

But until then, thank you.

Love, Jordan

 

Dear Girl, You Are Not A Failure

Dear Girl,

You spent $40,000 to make things happen in the field that holds your passion, and you work part time for minimum wage wondering if your bills will get paid this month. You moved to a big city where you're sure all your dreams are going to come true, only to move back in with your parents a year later. All your heart desires is to be married but here you are ending the year single, again.  You had a vision for your life, you worked so hard to make it happen, but it seems like you're always falling short.

Dear Girl, do you feel like you can't escape the constant barrage of proof that everyone else is adulting with ease while you're taking up permanent residence on the struggle bus? Social media is a never ending stream of proposals and babies; promotions and vacations; people who made it-people your age. You do life everyday with these flawless creatures who seem to have it all together, and you feel like some kid sister tagging along just hoping to not mess it all up.

I know your heart is heavy, mine is too. I know you're mad because it wasn't supposed to be this way, I didn't think so either. I know the dialog in your head is a never ending loop of "What's wrong with me? Why am I not good enough?" Mine is too. But dear Girl, stop. You are not failing. Your life is not one of disappointment. You carry with you a story of success so deep within your bones your heart can't help but to pound out its every syllable.   

Hear me when I say: her success does not make you less. Her years of work paying off only mean that yours will too. All of this hustle and back breaking labor is building, it's working. It's teaching you the things you never thought you needed to know.

I know you can't see past the giant obstacles in your path but there is a way for you to get to the success, the love, the place you dream of. You are not the only one who feels like she's working so hard to stay in one place; the air is thick with the dust kicked up from the feet walking along side you. You're going to make it; Girl you are making it. There is a place for you in this world right now, there is a need for who you are in this moment.

You are not a failure, dear girl, not by a long shot. You are all kinds of success. 

Your timeline is not hers. You are exactly where you need to be, even if it's not where you thought you would be.

Love, Me