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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Hot Loneliness and Hot Potatoes 

So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.  That’s the path of bravery– Pema Chodron 

Hot Loneliness.  It doesn’t sound like it’s actually something…hot, now does it, my wee girl.  

While I know that you haven’t known that deep painful ache that all of a sudden arrives, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere.  That pain that hurts so frigging bad that all you want to do is stop it, for a moment, by any means necessary, someday you will.  And so this post could very well be one of the most important posts I will ever write to you.  Because it’s the advice that I wish, so so much, that someone had shared with me.

Someday in the not so distant future, something will happen.  Perhaps you will feel out of sorts, like you don’t belong (*and in that case, refer back to Anne with an E, two posts ago).  Perhaps someone will hurt you in a way you couldn’t imagine, say words that don’t feel right.  Maybe, like what happened with me so many many years ago, you will feel emotionally abandoned, let down, and it will feel SO bad that you will do ANYTHING to stop it.  You will do anything just to belong.  

That ache? That’s the Hot Loneliness.  And it will feel as though you are the only one who has to carry around this weight inside of you.  

Except that everyone actually has it.  Everyone has pain.  It’s part of this thing we call being human.

The super duper tricky part here though, my darling girl, is what you actually do with that Hot Loneliness.

Most people you will come across in your life, myself included until very recently, will run from the pain by any means necessary.  Booze.  Drugs.  Shopping.  Gambling.  Endless Scrolling.  Endless Swiping left and right, looking for dates and warm bodies to distract from the pain.  

Or if you’re me, in an effort to stop feeling your own Hot Loneliness, in an effort to belong, you will take on the pain of others.  “Here, let me take that from you, if only you’ll keep me company.  I’ll take your Hot Loneliness if you’ll solve mine for a fleeting moment or two.  Let me belong to you.” Except…except this has led to nothing but trouble, believe you me.  It has led to hurt after hurt after temporary distraction from my own Hot Loneliness after hurt and hurt again.  And while it is nothing to be ashamed of, because almost everyone you will meet will do this at some point or other, it is not the journey of the warrior.

In fact, as a wise Mara Glatzel has often told me, not only is it not solving anyone’s Hot Loneliness, but now it’s a Hot Potato situation.

Remember that game, “hot potato pass it on” and you pass and you pass and whoever gets the potato is out? Whoever gets the potato loses?  Welllll…it’s exactly the same.  Because as I’ve come to learn, taking on other people’s Hot Loneliness doesn’t get rid of mine, nor does it solve theirs.  And then everyone is still hurting, (because the absolute only way to deal with Hot Loneliness is to sit with it yourself) except now I’m left dealing with the aftermath of holding onto all the hot potatoes, too.  

But there is an infinitely better way.  And since it’s taken me 38 years and a lot of broken relationships to realize, I’ll share it here:

Sit with it.  The Hot Loneliness will not kill you, even though it feels as though it might.  But all those other things? They could.  And they will never actually help.

So sit with that pain, that heartache that hurts so bad that it feels as though you’re going to explode.  Sit.  Breathe.  Cry if you need to.  Then shake it out. And I promise you, you won’t.  You won’t explode.  And you will, with time, feel something that Pema Chodron calls the “cool loneliness”, which feels like this dull little twinge. 

I like to think of it as a scar that reminds you of this incredible miraculous brave journey that you’ve just taken.  The Journey of the Warrior.  I couldn’t imagine a more worthy scar than that.

And, the even more incredible part? Once you sit with your Hot Loneliness, once you sit with your own pain? You won’t want to take on anyone else’s anymore.  You will, however, be able to do something so much more important: you’ll be able to witness their pain.  Hold space for them.  Hold their hand.  You won’t run and it won’t scare you, because you know that they’re on a warrior’s journey, too.

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On Losing Love

“Grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved. Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world: Look! Love was once mine. I love well. Here is my proof that I paid the price.”- -Glennon Doyle 

“Grief is love’s souvenir.” My darling wee girl, while part of me hopes that you never have to wave the receipt of grief in the air, hopes against hope that everything and everyone that you love will magically stay with you, always…another part of me knows that this is not possible no matter how hard I hope it might be.

And so, I wish for you instead that you will carry grief proudly, a symbol of loving hard, loving deeply, loving courageously with your whole heart.

And celebrate this love, whether it is fleeting or enduring.  

Living a life with an open heart is the biggest and most important gift we can give to ourselves. Loving bravely and boldly is the most important thing of all, because, as I’m sure you already know, “love wins. Love always wins” (Mitch Album).

I don’t want you to think back through your life and wonder why you were afraid to love. Afraid to hold love’s hand and dance, if only for a brief few moments. Afraid to open your heart to another, whether for the first or fifteenth or fiftieth time.

I want you to wave grief high up in the sky and say “look how deeply I loved. How deeply I still love, even and especially after all that I have already loved and lost in my life.”

The sun will keep shining. I promise you. The flowers will keep blooming because the rain that comes with grief makes it that much more possible for them to bloom even brighter.

And the stars? The stars will still take your breath away, as you wonder at the miracle that has happened: and even after all that, after every single thing that happened to you in your life, you were still able to take a leap when your heart said yes. And even if your heart never says yes to anyone else again for the rest of your life (although I believe this to be exceptionally unlikely), you can still hold your heart and your head up high and say “I listened when my heart said yes. I loved bravely and boldly even when everything in my body was so scared. I listened when my heart said yes”.  

Because that brave act of listening to your heart always, always makes all the difference.  And then, in the midst of grief, you can say to yourself these comforting words: at least I tried.  And knowing those words will give you the courage to try again the next time your heart says yes.

Because Love Wins, dearest girl. 

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