The Reward Is Great

You are only free when you realize you belong no place- you belong every place- no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great- Maya Angelou

Dearest Wee Bee,

When I first read this quote by the phenomenal Maya Angelou, right at the beginning of Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest For True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, I didn’t know what to think. Much like Brene herself writes about how she didn’t know what to do with these words when she first heard Dr. Angelou speak them during an interview, I have to admit that I, too, have been wrestling with them for well over a year.

I have known these words are important– quite possibly the touchstone to hacking away at my new path– but still…they are words that take a great deal of reckoning.  Because they mean the difference between fitting in and belonging, something that I am, at 2 weeks shy of 40 years old, only just starting to really understand.

The only way I can think of to accurately describe what this fitting in thing really means is to go back to something I use all the time as a teacher.  We have this thing that we teachers do, when we’re trying to get students to picture what “X” (writers’ workshop or readers’ workshop or math conferences or…you get the idea) LOOKS LIKE, SOUNDS LIKE, and FEELS LIKE.  So, fitting in, for me, if I wrote it on a piece of chart paper and turned it into an anchor chart, would be:

*it looks like everything from wearing the uncomfortable “cool” pants instead of the snowpants to stay warm to starving yourself with an eating disorder to make your body, quite literally, fit in with the “ideal”

*it sounds like staying silent when every cell in your body is screaming at you to speak out and use your voice

*it feels like…one tiny step away from falling off the edge of the tiniest tight rope in the world…like anxious to the Nth degree, because you question every single move you make or word you say or emotion you feel or tear you cry, because it might mean the difference between fitting in or being excluded

But you know, when you write it out in an anchor chart, it looks and sounds and feels…really icky.  While you might, for a moment or two or seven, fit in with everyone else, you lose belonging to your own self.  Fitting in never actually feels good- it only serves as a distraction to who you really are: complicated, messy, beautifully human.

And so each day, I wrestle a bit more with what Maya’s words might mean, with how this idea of belonging everywhere and nowhere all at the same time might look if I can use it in my own life. Because, wee girl, what she really means is that once you belong to yourself, and nowhere else, you actually find that you DO belong everywhere, because once you’re your own, no matter where you are or who you’re with, you’re always your own- that doesn’t change.  You become your own anchor.  You become your own measure of worth, as you stop asking yourself: does this make me fit in?  And instead start asking yourself each day: does this “belong” with ME?

It is deep change, way down to my bones, peeling back layer after layer of fitting in as I figure out who I am, so I can truly belong.  For someone who spent the better part of her life trying to fit in, instead of truly belonging to myself first and foremost without wavering no matter what– this is HARD.

And yet, in the same breath, easy.

Because, my wee beauty, when you belong to yourself you get to wear the super comfortable overalls instead of the gorgeous but circulation-cutting-off dress pants.

And while it took me to almost 40 years of age to figure it out, I have found, once I am wearing overalls, that I can do pretty much anything, even the hard (and easy) work of just being myself.

And I know that you will find this same truth, too. Because, my sweet girl, you already are You, every single day.


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Now You Are Six

When I was one,

I had just begun.

When I was two,

I was nearly new.

When I was three,

I was hardly me.

When I was four,

I was not much more.

When I was five,

I was just alive.

But now I am six,

I’m as clever as clever.

So I think I’ll be six now

Forever and forever. – A.A.Milne

My darling wee girl–

I have always, always, adored that A.A. Milne poem. While I know he is so well known for creating stories about a certain honey loving bear, I have always loved that poem the best. And yet…today I am filled to the brim with knowledge of something that has been creeping up on me, all week, all month, really the last few months: tomorrow, You Are Six.

As you have crept closer and closer to Six these last few months, I have been trying, even more than I usually do (and so you know that is saying a lot!) to soak up every last bit of Five. Because I have absolutely, positively, one hundred times infinity without a doubt loved Five. Even more than I loved Four. Even more than I loved Three. Even more than I loved Two. Even more than I loved One. And dare I say it, even more than I loved minutes-old Zoe Bee.

And no, if you had asked me the moment after you were born (heck, if I’m being honest, the moment after I found out you were growing in my tummy) if I ever thought I would love you more than that moment, I would have sworn up and down and sideways that you stole my heart from that moment on and I couldn’t possibly love you more than I already did.

And while that is sort of true, it’s also sort of not true. Because with each moment we spend together, each time you grab my hand walking down the street or indulge me in dancing to “Welcome to My House” by Flo Rida while we’re out for dinner (since you had just told me, moments before, that that was the only song you would dance to in public with me), each time you’re a compassionate friend or a brave soul who remembers that “[she] can do hard things” (Glennon Doyle), I love you a little bit more –even when I thought my heart was full past the brim with love for you, my wee beauty. And in fact I like you just that much more each day. Because you are this joy-filled, beautiful soul who makes me burst with pride each time one of your friends calls me “Zoe’s Mum.”

But back to this Six thing.

You see, Six is kind of a biggie. It’s a leap in clothing divisions (Six is not a toddler size anymore); it’s a leap in school (Grade One instead of Kindergarten); and, as I’ve noticed these last few months, it’s a leap from little kid to actual child.

And so, if I seem a bit wistful it isn’t because I doubt, for even a millisecond, that I won’t love Six. Because I have seen it peeking out from behind Five’s shadow for quite some time and I see all the incredible things it brings along with it. I have seen glimpses of the person that you have always been and yet are still growing into and my gosh, wee girl, You Are Love.

So no, it’s not Six that is making me wistful. It’s just that once in a blue moon your mama wishes she could hold onto a little teensy piece of Five.

Except that as I write this, I realize that that’s exactly the point of writing this blog-maybe I write these posts not just for you but for me, too, so I can keep the teensiest bit of Five and Four and Three and Two and One and Just-Born Wee Bee tucked away in a corner of my heart, right next to where Six is sneaking in tomorrow.

I love you more than anything in the whole wide world. Happy Day You Are Six, Wee Bee.

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The case for being a lobster

Lobster 101: Molting

Lobsters don’t grow the way people do. Unlike humans, a lobster has a rigid exoskeleton that it must get rid of before it can grow any larger.

During the molting and post-molt period, it is vital for lobsters to stay hidden because they are unable to protect themselves when they lack a hard exoskeleton. There is no definite period for how long it takes the new shell to harden…

-the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance

Dearest Wee Bee,

I have to be honest. When I first started thinking about just how I was going to write to you I had been thinking of calling this post “the case for being a turtle”, instead of the much more compelling title of “the case for being a lobster”.

(The turtle post might still be coming at you in the (near) future, but in the meantime did you know that when part of a turtle’s shell is injured or sick it sheds that part of itself so that it can heal?)

Animals do allllll of these incredibly fascinating things all of the time, just going about in their daily lives, that we miss if we don’t pay attention.

And sitting here, writing this blog post to you, so early in the morning, I remembered back to our very first trip together (first time in an airplane! first time touching the ocean! first time tackling a new part of the world together!) last summer in Prince Edward Island when we did a lobster fishing boat tour.

There were an awful lot of firsts on that trip. And mostly I remember being simultaneously elated and excited and ridiculously exhausted the entire trip.

And…I also remember mentally knocking myself down for the ridiculous exhaustion part. I remember thinking to myself: this is your first trip with your beautiful wee beauty- ENJOY IT- don’t be overwhelmed with exhaustion.

You know what I was forgetting, dear girl? I was forgetting that by taking that first trip together, we were growing. You were learning and growing in the bigger world around you, and I was learning and growing about what it’s like to be a single mama on vacation with a small child.

Because the truth is…maybe humans are more like lobsters than we realize.

In order to grow, we have to shed our too small shells. And I think, for the most part, we know this. But I don’t think we honour it. We don’t give ourselves as much time as we need in a quiet, protected place while we grow our new shells. Because “there is no definite period for how long it takes the new shell to harden”- not for lobsters, but also not for humans.

And so, my wee beauty, when you hit points in life where you get uncomfortable in your shell, when it feels small and too tight, like it doesn’t fit right, do yourself a favour and give yourself protected time to shed your shell and grow a new one. Because having the capability to recognize when we’re in need of changing and growing, and being able to actually change and grow? That’s an incredible gift we have, just because we’re humans. And with this gift comes a responsibility to take especially extra good care of ourselves so that we CAN do it.

With so much love as we learn and grow and shed our shells together,

Your Mama

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Then The Waiting …

First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising- Glennon Doyle

Dearest Wee Girl–

I haven’t written to you in so very, very long. I think, mostly, because I’ve been caught up in the twirl of life itself. Reaching outwards, reaching in; teaching in the dirt and rain; watching you learn how to tie your shoes; laughing…crying…overcoming.

And there have been so many freaking times over the past almost year where I have wanted to write to you, but I just couldn’t. Couldn’t figure out how to put into words the magic and the triumph and the sheer exhaustion or even the life lessons of what’s been going on.

Sometimes (often) life doesn’t translate into words, as much as we want it to. Sometimes (often) we have to cross our fingers and toes and hope that we remember, when we happen upon a familiar situation, that this isn’t our first rodeo.

And while every challenge we face in life is not necessarily the same, there are a few things that will always, inevitably and without question, help:

Water– drink lots of it. Cry buckets of it. Drink more to compensate for crying buckets. Shower or bath or swim in a lake. Repeat frequently.

Sleep – or at least rest. Or even restful things, like rereading your most favourite book over and over again.

Declutter – give away the things that clutter up your life so you can see what’s truly important.

Turn outward – remember others are there. Volunteer. Take action.

Turn inward – remember you’ve got this. This isn’t your first rodeo.

And perhaps most importantly, remember this:

First the pain, then the waiting, then the rising.

The pain won’t break you. Neither will the waiting. But they might feel like they are going to, especially the waiting, as you think over and over “for gosh sakes’…I’m done growing! I’m ready for the good stuff.”

Except…Rome wasn’t built in a day. Every butterfly waits in a cocoon for a seemingly endless amount of time.

Extraordinary takes time

You’ve got this– we all do

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On Turning 39 and 10 all in the same year

Dearest Wee Bee–

I’m feeling just the teensiest bit sentimental here so please permit this newly 39 year old lady’s ramblings for a moment or two…

I keep thinking about turning 29. About how at 29 I woke up wondering how much more of a battle against ED (anorexia) I would be able to fight. About how I bundled up in layer upon layer to try to keep out the cold. About how I prayed not to slip and fall on the ice since my bones were brittle and might break. About how I whispered to myself: you’re not going to die…because the cold felt so cold, and my body was so weak, and my heart was beating too slowly.

But this? This is 39. This is ten years later…this is 9 years and almost 11 months post-ED (soon to be ten years post-ED on February 15th). This is picking up yummy delicious nourishing food to eat on the way home and dancing with my miracle of a wee beauty in my living room. This is planning celebration after celebration after celebration to honour the stretch marks on my hips and the grey hair on my head when I didn’t think I would make it.

This is being grateful for the laughter and the tears; the pain and the rising (to quote Glennon Doyle); the box of darkness that I am realizing has been the best gift of all (to quote Mary Oliver) since it is precisely because of all of the dark things that have happened in my life that I am able to shine my light brighter than I ever thought possible.

This is 39. And this is saying thank you thank you thank you. To everyone who has held my hand and danced in my kitchen and iced me a cake and loved me fiercely, through it all.

This is 39. I am so glad it’s here💗

(Repost from Facebook)

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Ice Cream is most definitely a breakfast food

We start our lazy holiday Monday morning together, cozied up in bed.  And then you stretch and smile and start listing off what you’d like for breakfast, including ice cream and lemonade and pasta made from sweet potato and peas, with lots of pecorino cheese.

These details are important to me, because I know you are still choosing foods based on what you love to eat, instead of what you think you ought to eat.  You are still listening to your tummy and your tongue, and then actually not only asking for those foods for breakfast (even if neither one is considered a traditional breakfast food), but giving yourself permission to eat them and enjoy them.

This is a miracle to me, because by age five most children have stopped eating intuitively (if I’ve got my stats right, it might even be by age three).  Somewhere along the way, we begin to replace listening when we’re hungry with diet books, caloric calculators, the shoulds and the shouldn’ts..because somewhere along the way, we begin to believe, falsely, that we can’t be trusted.

Somewhere along the way we begin to believe in a diet industry worth billions and billions of dollars that tells us we are not worthy, simply because we can’t twist and turn and contort our bodies into their rigid, narrow moulds.

But beautiful wee bee, please know that this is BULLSHIT.  

The diet industry tells you these lies in order to make more and more money.  And the worst part is, they are so successful because it is so frigging hard for people to feel worthy, to dance in their own sunlight. We’ve been told to play small when we ought to be playing as big and bold and beautiful as we actually are.

And so, you eat that ice cream for breakfast and enjoy it, every last bite.  Because life is meant to be enjoyed and savoured and gobbled up, one delicious bite at a time.

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And how did you get to be Five?

After changes upon changes we are more or less the same- Simon and Garfunkel 

I am making Birthday Eve special waffles for dinner, while you play in our living room.

And once again, as I crack the eggs (from the farm that we’ve supported for four years at the farmers’ market that you’ve been going to since you were bumbling around in my tummy), once again I am struck by how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

We’re still eating celebratory special waffles with berry sauce for special and not so special dinners (not really ever breakfast– blueberry pancakes for breakfast) on our incredibly well loved white couch from Tita Meg that we’ve been cuddling on for years, even though a certain friend keeps threatening to drive to IKEA and pick up a new one for us.  (*as a side note, you just hopped into the kitchen and said: “I love my birthday! Every time when it’s my birthday are you going to make special waffles?”…well YES…and also…it’s like you knew I was writing about your birthday waffles while cooking them).

Your art table, while a brand new lovely proper wooden desk, is still covered with tissue paper, colouring book pages torn out of random colouring books, twisted pipe cleaners, a mountain of crayons and glue and washi tape that you continually “borrow” from my art corner.

You even still have the same imaginary giant as a sidekick.  And while it may have been news to me today that Fred is actually a girl giant (we had never discussed gender since I found it so charming that you imaginary friend is a giant that I hadn’t ever asked til you offered up that piece of information today) Fred still travels everywhere with a ladder so that you can reach the stars, together.

I think the lesson in all of this, my dearest Zo Zo, is that while people and places and things may grow and change, may come and go, the core things stay.  In fact, the core things stay AND grow, just like the beautiful ever growing pile of art on your art table.

Who you are? Well, that grows and grows and still stays exactly the same, because from the moment I laid eyes on your nose (your daddy’s nose) and your chin (my chin) in that ultrasound, and saw that sleeping baby face that I still see when you fall asleep in my arms, I knew you were meant to be here.  I knew you were meant to change the world.

And you have.  You make this world the absolute best place to be.  And there is no one else in the whole wide world with whom I would rather eat special waffles for dinner on a white couch, on the day before she turns five.

Love you more than anything in the whole wide world.  Happy Day You Joined The World, Beautiful Wee Bee.

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