On Love…Part Two

“George, it’s not that it was hard to believe, I wasn’t ready to believe. Nothing I had met in that world had prepared me for your possibility”- Mama Day by Gloria Naylor



Sometimes life surprises you, Zoe. Actually, often life surprises you. Just when you think that it’s spring, you get a doozy of a snowfall in April (here’s looking at you-know-who-you-are who changed his snow tires already!). Just when you think Gilmore Girls will never be back on tv, Netflix announces 4 extra special Stars Hollow-filled movie length episodes. Just when you think your wee girl will love bacon (who doesn’t?!), she passes it over for olives and goat cheese (actually not so surprising at all).
But those surprises are easy to handle: pull out the winter boots (that you don’t ever officially put away until at least June); hunker down on the couch with a cozy blanket and your favourite GG for a Gilmore Girl-fest; and stock up on goat cheese (hold the bacon) at the farmer’s market.

But some surprises? Some surprises throw you for a complete loop, because they’re just so far out of the realm of possibility that not only do you not have the extra goat cheese, but you don’t even know where the closest farmer’s market is located to pick some up.  

And sometimes, life tosses you a curve ball in the form of perfectly imperfect genuine heartfelt love, and it is so outside your own personal realm of possibility that you might not know what to do. It is so far from what you’ve been expecting in your life that you’re left scratching your head as you laugh until your belly aches while dancing all over the crumbs on your kitchen floor with the one who has cracked your heart wide open.

Will it be scary at times? Absolutely, 100% without a doubt. Will it be perfect? Nope. Life isn’t perfect and neither is love. It will be messy, guaranteed. How could it not, because the beauty of life and love is found knee-deep in the muck. Will you be ready? Who knows…but I do know that we’re often more ready than we feel we are, and maybe less ready than we think we are. I also know that “being ready” or “not being ready” do not seem to matter with important things like love…because love creeps in when it is ready for you.

Almost two summers ago, I wrote to you about love. About how you are the star of your own love story. About how supporting players will come (and maybe go); about how there will always be another supporting character who will come along and join in your love, but there is only one You.

What I didn’t write about, Zoe, is how to know if the person who comes dancing along into your life is worthy of a supporting role.

First of all, are they dancing? And do they come equipped with rubber boots for wading through (and hopefully later splashing in) the rain?

Do they listen to what you have to say without judgment, even and especially if your words make you or them feel vulnerable or afraid? Do they trust you to listen to what they have to say, too, holding it close to your heart?

Do they respect the things you cherish, even if they don’t fully understand why (for example, your kitchen chairs that you painted kelly green and the glitter-dipped feathers that you hung on your wall)?

Do they pass the friends/family test: do you want to introduce them to your nearest and dearest and do you want to meet theirs?

Do they give you space to be yourself, loving you simply because you are you, never asking you to change but holding your hand if (when) you do experience growing pains (which inevitably happen when you are in a solid, substantial and loving relationship, be it with yourself or with another)?

Do you laugh, often and lots, until your belly aches and your cheeks hold permanent smile creases, reminders of the last words they said that made you smile?

I could go on and on and on, dearest girl, but I hope you will notice what’s missing from this list: the fancy cars or big houses or classic good looks or impressive profession or stereotypically attractive body or influential friends in high places. Flash is all well and good for Hollywood, but you want substance, through and through.

The long and short of it, my dear girl, is do you trust them with your heart? Do you want to hold their heart, too?

You will know, deep in your bones, when you’ve met your perfect (for you) match, at that moment, in that space and time. And just because it’s completely outside the realm of anything you could have ever imagined–because maybe love hasn’t been in your world ever before or maybe it has appeared already and you thought that you only had one chance at love–doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible, either for the first time or again and again. Nor does it mean that you don’t deserve it. On the contrary: we all do, just because we’re here, on this planet. So believe in it. And be sure to stock up on extra goat cheese and maybe some bacon, just in case (*and they may not like olives…but that just means more for you).

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The Cheese Grater Injuries…

We can do hard things–Glennon Doyle Melton

Dearest Wee Girl–

Read this quote again and again and again:

We can do hard things

Commit it to memory.  Repeat it under your breath.  Yell it out loud.  These five words are beyond important.  They are instructions for how to live the life you are born to live.

Let me back up here to a few weeks ago when you, my “potentially would only eat cheese if I could” girl all of a sudden started requesting no cheese, specifically no grated cheese.

“No cheese on my pasta”

“Can we make nachos without cheese?”

At first, I wondered if you were having some kind of hate-on for cheese, which occasionally happens when you eat one food too frequently…but this felt different.  And so I asked why you didn’t want grated cheese, and you replied:

“Because you keep grating your finger”(which is too true- I am nothing if not a distractable multitasking klutz who grates her finger about eight out of every ten times…and I’d been on a roll with injuring at least one finger per grated cheese meal for a while).

And so we talked.  About how when we injure ourselves or take a risk our bodies can always heal again, after.  About how we can’t live our lives without grated cheese simply because I may (okay, will) grate my finger, and look! It’s already healed!

Some injuries take longer to heal from than others.  But we always always heal, in fits and spurts and spirals and cha-cha-chas.  

And in the meantime, I’m using the box grater instead of the micro plane grater because, well…if there are simple things we can do to minimize the smaller injuries, then we can focus on doing the bigger, harder things.

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The Bottle

If you don’t have your heart, you won’t be yourself- Zoe Bee

Dearest Girl of Mine–

The other day, we read the book The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers.  (Sidenote: as a teacher-librarian I am shamelessly in love with most any and all children’s books and hold them in incredibly high esteem as the shining examples of brilliant literature that they are…yet even I have a difficult time explaining the magic of this book and so all I can do is insist that everyone ought to read it, whether you have wee folks in your everyday lives or not)

We read this book, poignant to the point that I wasn’t sure I would get through it without crying (which, wonder of wonders, I did).  And then something you said made me cry.

In your infinite wisdom, darling girl, as you were trying to make sense of this story and why someone would put her heart into a bottle to avoid getting hurt, to avoid the pain and grief that come from being a part of the world, you said:

If you don’t have your heart, you won’t be yourself.

And all I can do is nod through my tears as I say, “yes, that’s it, exactly.”  Because you, at the very unripe age of four, know already what it has taken me thirty-seven years on this planet to learn.

I put my heart away because some folks inside of our world hurt me, badly.  And I am fairly certain that this is quite a common reaction when one is hurt in this way…

Except, sweet bee, when you put your heart away, not only do you not really stop the pain but you can’t feel others’ love, either.  You miss the magic in the world.  The wonder.  The joy.  And yes, even the heartache.

And so someone or something or some bit of wonder will come along and you won’t really feel any of what you’d like to feel because your heart is encased in this bottle.  And just like the girl in the story, you may have to ask someone small, with nimble hands and brilliant thoughts for assistance and direction and guidance in getting that heart out again, because you’re worthy of feeling all the feels in the world around you.

And at times it might feel scary.  Downright terrifying.  

But those other times?  Pure joy and wonder and delight at the love around you. 

I guess what I’m saying, darling girl of mine, is that even if you have to put that heart away for a tiny while, there is always always always a way to get it out, again.  And you will always feel like yourself, again.  Because, dearest Zoe Bee, when you’ve got your heart, you’re yourself💗

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May You Learn

Dearest Wee Bee–

As you embark upon brand new, sparkling adventures tomorrow (and for every September to come for a long while), I can’t help but think about all of the incredibly important lessons that you are about to learn.

And it’s not mathematics or reading or science or social studies or visual art or music or physical education (but shhh…you didn’t hear that from me).  Don’t get me wrong- all of those subjects have their place, and will serve you well in years to come.  But there are oh-so-many things that are oh-so-much more important.

You will learn about yourself.

You’ll learn how to climb mountains while conquering monkey bars.

You’ll learn how to be flexible when you have to miss your favourite class to go to an assembly (and then you’ll learn to listen and pay attention at the assembly, even as those around you may squirm a bit).

You’ll learn how to stick up for yourself if someone tries to get you to play a “princess” game when you want to play “ninja turtles” (and believe me, there will always be folks who will try to get you to play their game; to say yes when you really want to say no so that you can say yes to what your heart really wants to do).

You’ll learn if you like painting or music or co-operative games in physical education…or if you don’t.

You’ll learn if you like quiet time or outdoor play or making really loud noises with the big blocks.

You’ll learn the importance of cleaning up after yourself and putting things back where they belong (as much as I try to teach you this, it will never be more clear than when you lose your left mitten because it didn’t go back in your cubby and ended up in the lost and found with twenty seven million other left mittens).

You’ll learn about you.  You’ll learn about who you are and who you want to be and who you don’t want to be.

And you’ll also learn this lesson, which is, I think, the most important one of all:

“When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together”- Robert Fulghum

Life is just better when we hold each other’s hands, my sweet girl.  So do it, often, and proudly.

I can’t wait to hear all about your very first day tomorrow at dinner.  (Hopefully we both won’t fall asleep into our dinner plates after our first days at school!).  

Big big love always from your mama

(who will always share the first day of school with you, just at different schools!)

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My Gilmore Girl Turns Four

And I would go/ To the ends of the earth/ ‘Cause darling/ To me that’s what you’re worth/ Where you lead, I will follow/ Anywhere that you tell me to/ If you need, you need me to be with you/ I will follow where you lead– Carole King

My dearest girl,

Now you are four.  Or rather, as I write this, it is 53 hours before you turn four (yes, your mama remembers the exact minute you whooshed out into this world), and as you lie curled up beside me, hair all filled with mousies or kitty cats or puppies (or whatever other imaginary animal that you decide made an imaginary nest in your tangled bed head curls), eye lashes resting peacefully on your flushed cheeks, I am typing away on my phone, as fast as I can with one hand, trying to write your birthday blog post before you wake up.

I am struck by how some things never change, even as others spin faster or even out of orbit, falling by the wayside.  Yes, some things do change, and yet I am still sneaking in blog posts during stolen early morning moments, typing on one hand, with you curled up beside me.

I think back to other birthday posts, where I offered up sage advice (or what I hope is still sage advice by the time you read it), and while I know all of those things still to be true, there is something I want you to know:

On the day you were born, my world shifted.  Tilted.  Really, since we’re talking about you, I think we could even say it twirled.

And I have never been the same.

Becoming a mum to you, my wee bee, has been the most amazing thing that has ever happened in my life.  And it’s not just because you’re my wee girl, and I’m your mum.  It’s because you are You.  You are this incredible little bee-ing with wings on your heart and a rhythm in your can’t-stay-still toes.

And so when we spin, around and around and around, dancing to the Gilmore Girls theme song (on repeat), I am reminded of all the amazing-ness that you have brought into my life.

I didn’t really know who I was, until you came along.  I didn’t know how strong I could be; how much courage I had deep inside; how much joy and love and laughter were waiting in my heart; how much I love the colour pink; and how much I love waffles for dinner (oh I love them an awful lot!).

I thought I knew, but I didn’t.  I didn’t know me, until you.

And so, on your birthday, I just want you to know how grateful I am to be going through this life with you, my wee Gilmore Girl.  I could not imagine a better dance partner if I tried.  Happy Birthday to the girl I love more than anything in the whole. wide. world.

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This Little Light

You do not heal from trauma, and nobody heals you either.  You simply reconnect with that sacred place in yourself that was never traumatised, never broken, never damaged in the first place; your true Self, absolute and ever-present, innocent and free…You are not broken; you are Unbreakable.- Jeff Foster

 

My dear bee,

A friend posted this quote on Facebook the other day.  (*I wonder, as you are reading this, if Facebook is still a “thing” or if all the cool kids have moved onto different ways of communicating…like picking up the phone or mailing a letter with an actual stamp).

A friend posted this quote, and it makes my heart scream “yes” each time I read it.

A friend posted this quote, and it makes me hopeful.

A friend posted this quote, and it makes me a little terrified, too.

Because, my sweet girl, through this process of peeling back layer upon layer of armour, of the things and thoughts and actions and “stories” that have served me well in keeping me at some functioning level of safety (although, as I peel them back, I am quickly realizing that while it was a functioning level of safety, it was not, truly, feeling safe deep in my bones), the question that remains is…”what’s left beneath the layers?”

What is left, my wee bee, way down deep in my heart?  In my soul?

The stories that swirl through my head, shoved deep inside both by me and by others, want me to believe that I am not worthy.  That I am undeserving of the light that keeps threatening to pour out of my heart, seep out of my soul.  That the love that I have for the world around me, and especially for those in my world, and especially especially for my own self, is unfounded.

These stories tell me to stop; to pull back; to push away.  To give back the love others so readily share with me.  To hold back my light, with every ounce of strength that I have, because, as I had so quickly learned, my light and my love were no good, were unwanted.  My light and my love served no purpose, helped no one.  (*as an exceptionally important aside, my dear girl, this original sentence read: “my light and my love ARE no good.  My light and my love SERVE no purpose, HELP no one” but then I remembered that that was then, and this is now).

These stories kept me safe, in a world that felt so terrifying for so long.  “Stay awake,” “Stay alert,” “Hold fast,” “Hold tight.”

These stories kept me safe, once.  But no longer.

Now, as I peel back each layer, feeling more vulnerable than I have in the longest time (if I’m being honest, at times it feels as though my actual skin is raw, new, exposed), I know that all the world wants of me is to let that light and that love go.  I am serving no one by holding it back, and I can serve everyone, most especially myself, by letting that light and love free.

The moral of this story, my dear girl, is that beneath it all, even if we have been deeply, deeply hurt; deeply deeply afraid; and wrapped ourselves in all kinds of stories in an attempt to stay safe…beneath all of those layers, all of that hurt, all of that pain, all of that fear, our light and our love are still there, fighting with every ounce to shine out in the world.

And yes, it is terrifying.  Yes, it is awe-inspiring and yes-inducing.  And most of all, it is the greatest act of hope that we can ever dare to share with the world– to believe, even after all the hurt and pain and fear, that our love and our light still exist deep inside our hearts, and, just as importantly, that not only do they belong out in the world, but also that there are those out in the world who will greet our love and our light with joy and celebration and dancing.

Because they’ve let their light out, too.

And while it might not be pretty (in fact, in my own experience, it is messy and murky and downright muddy), it just might be the most important task you will ever do in your one sweet life.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

 

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Learn to paddle your own canoe

Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe

Dearest wee girl,

I feel like I first came across this saying when I was at camp, ironically enough, and terrified of having to stern a canoe.

(*those who went on canoe trip with me will tell you with much certainty, that I was a middle seat sterner.  But refused, time and again, to sit in the back and steer…)

I honestly don’t know why, Zoe.

Actually, I do.

I was terrified of not doing it perfectly.  Of messing it up, not going in a beautiful straight line, using the wrong stroke (a sweep instead of a j-stroke…).

And most of all, afraid of steering others in the wrong direction.

Zoe, the piece in all of this that makes no sense whatsoever is that I absolutely, positively, love canoeing.

I loved camp with my whole heart, my whole soul.  I grew there in ways that I never would have grown otherwise.  I have the dearest friends from camp, folks who I can go years without visiting and then we do and it’s like we were sharing a platform tent only yesterday. I loved going on canoe trips, coming home (aka back to camp) filthier than I ever thought possible, full of gorp (good old raisins and peanuts) and good cheer and wearing slightly damp runners. And yet… I was filled with dread every time we had to go across the lake to our island for our overnight trips or Sunday BBQs or even going out canoe tripping solely because I might possibly have to stern, or even more scary, solo a canoe.

I think back to how much my worry crept in and it makes me so sad for that girl who didn’t want to let others down because she was afraid she wouldn’t be perfect.

Honestly, Zoe, nobody cares if you’re perfect.

No one cares if you don’t make the zucchini bread from scratch (or at all!), or if you steer the canoe in a slightly crooked line, or even if you steer them in a slightly offbeat way using the wrong stroke.

Folks just want to be your friends, and sit in your canoe with you, crooked lines and all.

I finally solo’d a canoe for the first time just a few years before you came along, at the ripe old age of thirty, seventeen years after learning all the different steering strokes (yes, seventeen years!!)

And I can tell you that there was no greater joy than taking that canoe out by myself, on a beautiful, still lake, at Grande Zia and Grande Zio’s cottage.

Actually there is one greater joy…having gained that confidence in steering imperfectly so that I could go out in a canoe with you, my dear girl, not just once but twice this past May long weekend.

So learn to paddle your own canoe.  Learn your “stuff”…the things and skills that are important for you and to you. Learn them well, but don’t worry about the perfect.  I think, no, I know with all certainty, that I worried enough in my past for many, many, many years to come.

Now it’s time to just hop in the canoe, life jacket buckled up, and get paddling.

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