The Thing About Motherhood.

The thing about motherhood is, you give up your body to grow your little human. You eat more vegetables. You run to the bathroom three times every night. You try to sleep while your little human moves and hiccups in your body. You are tired and swollen and fat and sick and yet, when we have a pregnant friend, we marvel in the miracle of it.

The thing about motherhood is, the second they lay that sweet, squeaky baby in your arms, your whole life, your whole heart, and every feeling you've ever had is right there looking at you with one hundred percent trust. And in that moment, you evolve into someone who no longer lives for themselves.


The thing about motherhood is, in the very first minute of becoming a mother, you are instantly aware of the magnitude of your own mother's love for you. Suddenly every situation you ever weathered with her makes perfect sense.

The thing about motherhood is, we eat second, we sleep less, we cry more, we worry the most, we try so hard, we cushion the blows, we kiss the boo-boos and hug the hurts.

The thing about motherhood is, we put those little humans first. We take less for ourselves so that they can have more. We sacrifice anything and everything to give them a life they love. We teach them lessons and have late night chats. We talk them through friend things and give them pep talks even when we want to scoop them up and hold them in our little protective bubble forever.

The thing about motherhood is, no matter what happens, we wouldn't trade our title for anything. There is nothing in the world that we would trade it for. There is no love stronger. There are no words to describe it. We push through the hard times. We hide in the bathroom to take a breath. We get frustrated and exhausted but then we kiss them goodnight and the magic happens...that magic moment where those little humans become perfect in our eyes and we can do it all again with the kind of love that only a mom carries with her.

Happy Mothers Day.

Ten Things I Learned in 2018.

Oh 2018, you have been a most welcome change from 2017. We did well, 2018, and I am proud of us.

Here are some thoughts and lessons from 2018.

1. When you stop saying mean things to yourself, you start to believe it. Stop saying you're fat. Stop saying you've always done that annoying thing. Stop saying you're not good at it. Stop saying you're unlovable. STOP STOP STOP. I mean it. Stop. Trust me, you will feel the weight of the world slowly lift off of your shoulders. When you get in the habit of cutting yourself off from all of those awful criticisms, you acknowledge the good in you and there is a lot to be celebrated.

2. You can change your life in the time between laying your head on the pillow and falling asleep. Sounds very Tony Robbins, doesn't it? I am not about to sell you vitamins or a self-help book. I promise. At the beginning of 2018 I started saying these simple words as I fell asleep..."Good things are coming my way. Good things are coming my way. Good things are coming my way." That simple practice kept me from replaying the negative scenarios in my head that had plagued this time of my day for far too long. I was tired of feeling emotionally exhausted as I opened my eyes in the morning. I needed to stop the snowball of this crazy life from rolling down the hill, picking up speculation, worry, and crisis on its way down. Its free, its easy, and you will start to tune into the small (and big) gifts that happen every single day.

3. Its time to be your own fucking hero. Sorry (not sorry) for the swear word. I wear a sort of unique perfume and, when you order, you can customize the label that goes on the bottle. I imagined lovers leaving sweet messages on that big beautiful bottle. Love notes of appreciation or lust or whatever. At the beginning of 2018, I decided I was going to order the big bottle because I am the boss of me. When I got to the part where it was time to write the note on the bottle, I laughed as I considered writing myself a love note from an imaginary admirer. At that time I really wasn't in the mood or the happy place for any sort of love in my life so I went with something a little different. The note I wrote to myself on my perfume bottle says, "My own fucking hero." I thought I needed someone to approve of me. I thought I needed someone to tell me I was ok. I thought I needed someone to validate me. It turns out, I just needed to figure out who I am on my own and be my own fucking hero.

4. You're going to be ok. My absolute, number one piece of advice for anyone going through divorce is just that. YOU'RE GOING TO BE OK. You just are. I can't tell you how and I can't tell you that it isn't going to absolutely suck, but you will be ok. You're going to wonder if you can survive and you're going to cry and swear and get angrier than you have ever been and you will hate...and then one day you're going to think to yourself, I'm ok. I'm good. I survived! Yahoo!

5. People are assholes but that's their problem. Healthy, happy, content people aren't assholes. Happy, healthy, content people are thoughtful and kind. They go out of their way to help people. They nurture friendships. They hope other people are happy. Happy people celebrate good things for people around them and want the best for them. I pity the sad soul who makes his mark on the world being an asshole.

6. "You are a Badass." Read this book. Please. Do it. Have your highlighter ready.


7. Do something the former "you" would never have done. It turns out, the former "me" wasn't really "me" after all. Turns out Me likes to go on all kinds of adventures and, when I'm free to do them, I am going for it. This year I jumped into a super magical unicorn pond (no really...it looked like a unicorn was going to come out of the woods), I stayed in a tiny house, I created art for some really beautiful homes, and I created a website that has my name on it (still cringe a little about that one), and some other cool things. After all my friends, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.

8. Dave Matthews, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Elton John, and Ray La Montagne can get you through anything. Enough said.

9. Take a trip with your closest friends. Don't apologize. Don't question your decision. Don't worry. Just do it. Getting away from the day-to-day and tapping in to your carefree self is so good for the soul. The conversations, the shenanigans, the insane laughter...my favorite "event" of the year.

10. I will never give up on my fairytale. Someone once told me that I would never be happy because I expected a fairytale. Absolutely I want a fairytale and I will never let that go. My fairytale isn't about knights and white horses. There is no sweeping me off my feet. As previously discussed, perfection doesn't exist. My fairytale has dreamy things like contentment, respect, honesty, and a good sense of humor. I see it in relationships around me and I know it exists, so yes, I'll take the fairytale!

So here we are at the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 and I am fired up. I will go boldly into 2019 excited to expand my art, see new things, love big, and take good care of myself and the people around me. I've got one shot at the rest of this life, and I intend to make the absolute most of it.

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Life is Real. Tell your Story.

As I grow up, I can see a desperation amongst my peers for sincerity and authenticity. Thanks to maturity we grow our circles in quality and are far more selective in quantity. There are a million different quotes about this, and Pinterest is bleeding with inspiration about the quality of our friendships. I am at a point in my life where, if you can't be real with me, I'm out. Is that harsh? Maybe. Its only harsh when you say it out loud because the majority of us, in my opinion, are operating at that frequency whether we speak it or not.

But then there are those who are not operating at that frequency. I promise not to tell who just popped into your heads. [wink] You know some, I know some, and just open any social media app if you're wondering. The Perfects were always a family out there but now social media has given them a platform to slather their inflated happiness all over us. I remember a story from my high school days where Parent Perfect was expounding on the dangers of underage drinking and how proud she was of her child who WOULD NEVER do such a thing. As she talked, the other parents knew that Parent Perfect's perfect child was doing just that, and in a most regular and merry way. Those were the horse-and-buggy days where stories only got as far as gossip would take them. Now we are faced with this almost bizarre idea that PERFECTION exists. That PERFECTION can be created in a photo and shared with the world to portray anything we want it to. We can be perfect mothers and perfect wives and perfect workers and, the sick reality is, we all have slapped our own hands when we find ourselves coveting the "lives" of those seemingly perfect images. I don't think that these people and their posts and photos are ill-intentioned. I think they boil down into three categories:

1. You are happy and want to share it with the world. The people who know you, know and appreciate this about you. You're not a bragger in real life, therefore, we know you are not brag-posting.

2. You treat social media like a photo frame. You're not going to put a photo of your kid in a frame when he is screaming his head off with spaghetti hanging off of his chin. I get it. You're selective and putting your best foot forward. In general, your social media matches your "real life" with a smidge of a spit shine.

3. Social media is your way of creating the life you wish you had. You are actively working on creating the perfect family with the perfect children and the perfect house and the perfect life full of lots of perfect things. Your "challenges" are humble brags. Your trials are trivial to 99.999% of the world's population. Your photo caption suggests that you face hardship with name brand clothing, bows in your hair, and a million dollar group hug. The people who know you best, know better. They secretly worry about what you are trying to portrait to the rest of the world.

Can I tell you something? Something real?

PERFECTION IS NOT REAL. Not even a little bit. You can't fake us out with cute pics and an IG story. We love you and we know you and its ok. ITS OK.

We can all look at our friends and know when they are struggling. We can see that look on their faces when parenting is hard. We recognize the body language between two people who are slightly annoyed with each other. We know what you look like when you have had it UP. TO. HERE. We see the bags under your eyes when you need a nap and guess what? Your smaller circle loves you anyway. We want to help...thats our job! Please know that, as your friend, there is nothing I want more than for you to look at me and say, "I could use a little help." Talk to me and know that I am a vault with your frustrations. I will listen to you complain about how your husband refuses to put his dishes in the dishwasher and you're sick of it and annoyed and he's annoying and bugging you. I will listen and then hug you and send you on your way knowing that you are normal and still love him. Tell me that your kids are bugging you...mine are too. Cry about your extra fat roll on your belly while you eat a donut because you have PMS. Tell me how your budget is stressing you out.

And please please please, let us see your imperfections. They make you YOU. Embrace the parts of you and your life that are not picture perfect. The parts that don't look so good on social media. No one is perfect and that is the best club in the world. You can't fool us and we love you anyway.

(Don't worry...this isn't about anyone specific. Just an observation for the real world.)

Guest writer: Teri and the Fiery Angel

I want to share this message from my friend, Terri. She is a true warrior. She lost her husband at a very young age, with a young son in tow. Her husband was loved and adored as a teacher and as a human. She carried on. She fought hard. I painted the fiery angel with the intention of keeping her. She was me and she represented the new life I have fought for. But when Terri contacted me, I knew that this angel was also Terri and she belonged to her too. See below for Terri's words. Thank you for sharing a little of your story, Terri!


She is beautiful, she was made for me.

When I originally saw her on Jessie’s Facebook page, I immediately thought...wow, she completely resonates with me. Then, as quickly as my first thought came to me, my next thought was “mom loves angels, I will purchase this beautiful painting for her. The day went on and I had messaged Jessie about her. I had screen shotted her and various times throughout the day, I would peek at her. I was completely drawn to her, she took my breath away. And then I remembered the words underneath her on Jessie’s site; “The flames no longer burned as she rose from the ashes, wings still attached. Head held high, she became the light.”

“This is me, this is me! I cannot give her away, she needs to be mine, just for me, “ I thought.
Jessie had gotten back to me in the mean time and I read her reply:

“This message absolutely made my day. Every bit of my heart, soul, and inner strength went into that painting and there few people I would sell her to. When you said you wanted her, it was so obviously a YES YES YES. Life takes us on journeys we never dreamed we would survive. That fiery angel is you and me. For sure. ❤️.”

I became a new woman once again.

You see, I am always a giver, I love to give, almost to a fault. I think of others mainly before myself, how I can help them, make them happy. It was a huge moment of “I am worthy, I do deserve this gift, I overcame and conquered! I am this fiery angel!

Many of us women have been through really sad, painful, heart wrenching moments (or years) in our lives. Through mine, I have learned that I am truly capable of virtually anything. I have loved, lost tragically, birthed, loved more, birthed more, and learned to love again! I live a new normal! I finally feel and see that I “have risen from the flames, wings still attached.” That my “head is held high and I am the the light!” I CAN be a faithful woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I CAN overcome anything, still love, be a giver and be true to myself.

All of this, all because one day, I received this beautiful gift, that was made just for me.

LIVE A YES. PLEASE.

On December 19, 2012, a pastor said, "This little girl LIVED A YES." He was talking about Lily Anderson, the daughter of my friend Jennifer, who did her absolute best to kick cancer's tail until the very end...she was 11. I never knew Lily, but to know her mom is to know Lily. To live in Cumming, GA is to know Lily. To have your children attend Vickery Creek schools is to know Lily. That is as close as I will ever get, but I will take it.

On the back of my sweet minivan is a big ol' sticker that says, "LIVE A YES." I like the idea of it and I really love Lily's mama so I can absolutely get on board. All fine and good until you sit and wonder if you are really living a yes. I asked Jennifer what it means to her and her answer was this, "Means different things to different people. Some people deep meaning, some not so deep. Like putting away your shopping cart at Publix is living a yes but so is devoting your life to Jesus. Its a wide range. I will have to talk with you about it." We will talk about it, but the reality is, Lily's Run is coming up and long chatty lunches are probably not in the stars for a few weeks. So with her encouragement, I will tell you my version of LIVE A YES.

One of the greatest fears of my life was that time was running out for me. I feared time flowing so quickly as I just sat watching opportunity escape me. Somehow, I found the courage to determine that my life, my dreams, my ambitions and goals, the love of my children was worth the struggle, the courage, and the bravery to blaze my own trail. From the moment the fog cleared, I can tell you with every ounce of my being that I have been living a yes. I want to share several life-changers with you...times when YES was scary but I did it anyway.

Truth be known, I am an extrovert who occasionally suffers from a bit of social anxiety and fear of commitment. When one of my dearest friends from high school asked me to meet her several hours away at a place I had never been with people I had never met, it would have been so easy to say no. I could have come up with a million (lame) reasons why it wasn't a good idea, but I didn't and that weekend turned out to be a once in a lifetime experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. I jumped into a crystal blue, fresh water spring from 10 feet in the air...the same spring where President Roosevelt would float to help his polio. This water glowed with the magic of unicorns. I can't explain it but I will tell you that I cried when I saw it. I jumped big and had a hard time bringing myself to leave. Did I want to get in? YES. Did I want to jump? YES. Once in a lifetime and - ABSOLUTELY - I was living a YES.

I am an artist. For a very long time I said, "I know there is a painter in there. I just don't know how to let her out." It turns out that life-shaking personal events, more courage than I ever knew I had, and the need for creative therapy is exactly what she needed to make her appearance. My inner artist is still emerging like a slab of stone at the hands of Michelangelo, but it took a few crazy curveballs to get me here. The YES I had to live to get to this point has been ridiculously uncomfortable. Creating art and putting it out there is the equivalent of standing naked in front of a judges' panel of supermodels. I read artists' bio's all the time that say, trained in this or that, featured in this gallery or that magazine, and God, am I envious. But maybe I just need to live the yes now and the rest will come. I literally wanted to die of embarrassment when www.jessieelson.com went live. The idea of having a website that was my name as if I was something important was enough to kill me. Oh God, take me now. But maybe my YES is the way my art speaks to people. Maybe my gift to people is the accessibility of my pieces. Maybe I am able to connect a message with the art I create from the very depths of my soul. Maybe my art is the physical representation of living a yes.

My point is this...whatever your YES is, please PLEASE live it. Be brave. Be bold. Believe in your YES because I just don't think you will regret it for a second. If that sweet little girl was brave enough to fight the beast and still showed everyone how to LIVE A YES, you can do it too. What is it? What are you waiting for? How will you LIVE A YES?

To read more about Lily, read her mom's book, Glitter.

Ten Things.

A quick reflection for today...

1. When you make yourself vulnerable, people feel safe with you.

2. Life is hard, but you are stronger than you can ever imagine.

3. When you walk through the light at the end of the tunnel, it is worth every minute of pain.

4. Own your mistakes with every ounce of bravery you can muster up.

5. The happier you are alone, the more open you are to loving someone else.

6. The frequency you send out into the world, is the frequency you attract back in.

7. Give compliments. Say them right to that person's face. They mean more than you will ever know.

8. Be kind to yourself. Don't talk badly about You. If you say nice things to You, you just might start to believe it.

9. Find "your thing" and do it with foolish abandon. Whatever it is, make it happen.

10. The greatest thing anyone can ever tell you is, <i>YOU LOOK SO HAPPY</i>. It is the true reflection of what you feel on the inside, beaming out of you for others to see. Hold that compliment like it is the whole world.

Love, Jessie

You Are the Doors You Open.

This blog post is inspired by Cheryl Strayed's book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. If you haven't read it, please do. It is worth every minute of precious time.

One of my dearest friends recently wrote me an email. Her email matched most of our conversations that I will describe as "meaty." We talk about things that matter and then we go beyond matter and hit the how and why with a vengeance. She challenges me to think far beyond what I think I know and understand so I always feel a sense of honor when she asks me for my thoughts. In an effort to respect our friendship and her thoughts and feelings, I am going to answer her email here in a general way that might apply to others as well. I like to write about things that I gather from lots of people during lots of good conversations and I think this is another one of those. Here goes...

Friend: I know who I am - or at least who I want to be and think I am - but the life I am living doesn't really match that. I am a mom figure (a stepmom) without maternal instincts. I carry a camera but I am not a photographer. "Deep down it feels like an untruth about me and my identity, and it doesn't even matter how good I get at it. Even when I take an awesome picture, I am still not a photographer - now, I'm just a girl with a camera who took a great photo." I run but I am not a runner. As a perfectionist, I struggle with not doing things perfectly and, if I don't feel a connection to what I am doing, then it is not me. By calling myself a photographer or a mom or a runner (among other things), I am telling an untruth about who I am and who I always thought I would be.

Dear Friend,

Maybe one of the reasons you like to talk with me about things like this is that I am brave enough to tell you some of your own truth. I truly believe that deep down we all know our own truth but hearing it out of the mouth of someone we trust makes it real. Thank you for trusting me with your truth.

Here is some of your truth:
1. You take amazing photographs (I've seen some of them).
2. You are an amazing female role model/mom-type (I've seen that too).
3. You have legs that will carry you at a faster-than-walking pace.
4. You ARE a writer and a farmer and a wife.

I know you agree with me that you are a writer/farmer/wife and maybe its because you are good at those things and you take pride in those parts of your life. I am a mom and a friend...I'm pretty good at it so lay those labels all over me. At some point in your life, you decided who "Friend" was going to be and [DEFINED] and confined those things to your parameters. Those puzzle pieces fit right into place without force and without gaps. But at the same time, and observing from the outside, you have chosen a life that is filled with surprises and challenges and weirdness and uncertainty. There is a puzzle piece life waiting for you but you would never take it.

It is not difficult to figure out why we humans are so drawn to Frost and his road not taken. Because, what if? It is no wonder why we are intrigued by fate and faith and chance. We meditate and ask for signs and recite mantras of good fortune and you, my friend, have already opened yourself up to it. It is laying at your feet begging for a hug. For some reason, you found yourself with a camera in your hand. What is the worst that can happen if you call yourself a photographer? SO VERY FORTUNATELY, you already are what you are fighting so hard not to call yourself. If it sounds like a duck and walks like a duck...you know the old saying. Open your arms, Friend, and give your talent as a photographer/mom/runner a big hug and thank the universe for giving you the gifts. Your camera is part of your voice that I know you are doing important work with. Your path includes that small human who you are doing yourbest for, just like the rest of us.

I have a giant universe-size fear of how quick time passes and how I am spending my time and how satisfied I will feel at the end of my life. What will I have done? What will matter at the end? I have yet to be to a funeral where the message is, "Poor Friend...she lived too full a life. She stepped outside of her perfectionist comfort zone and regretted it for the rest of her life and now we are all burdened with her beautiful photographs. She did her best to raise a great human - and he is a great human - only to fall short of the Perfect Mother Trophy (which no one has ever actually won). Her body was healthy which kept her on this earth longer for her to love and be loved but we just wish she would have actually loved the brutality of carrying her body at a fast pace when she would have rather eaten donuts (duh...no shit)." No one ever wishes for fewer opportunities. No one ever wishes for fewer experiences. No one ever wishes for less of a voice in the world. There has never been a flower with too many petals.

The doors have always been there and you have answered them, my sweet Friend. You answered the wife door and the stepmom door and the runner door and the photographer door. They are all part of your place in this world - a world that I know you appreciate for its vastness and diversity and craziness. Thank the red door and the giant Chinese temple door and all the doors that lead you to your amazing life. As hard as you try to fit through that one simple opening, you were never meant to walk through that one plain door.

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Answer this Simple Question.

About three years ago I went to a new doctor. We went over all of the usuals and then he asked me something that was incredibly personal and made me squirm and sweat. He said, “Outside of taking care of your kids, what do you like to do?” In that one question, there was an implosion of my mind, body, and soul and I sat there absolutely silent. I think I squeaked out an “ummm” and then an “oh god…I don’t know.” Maybe I was thinking too hard. Maybe I was caught off guard. Or maybe, I really didn’t know.

There were so many ingredients to his question.

“Outside of taking care of your kids…” Based on my age and a million conversations with other parents my age, he knew that keeping my children alive required 97.4% of my time. He acknowledged it and that was nice. I think I was busy feeling all warm and fuzzy that he knew that about me when he hit me with the zinger.

“What do you like to DO?” First of all, what do I like? Hmmm…I like cheese and leggings with the high rise suck-me-in, my dog, a comfortable bed, and a sunny, warm patio. I mean, I LIKE a lot of things. That was the easy part, but what do I like to DO?!?! Suddenly I felt like I was standing there naked, appalled, wilted, disgusted with him (but really me), and I was instantly holding back tears.

He was asking me what I did for myself to encourage happiness and fulfillment and I had no answer. I suppose at different times in my life I would have had different answers. For example, when I lived in South Africa, I would have told you that I took long, lovely meet-ups with my friend Kelsey where we would meet for breakfast and stay through lunch. It was indulgent in time and great conversation and it was only for me (although I would argue that we solved many of the world’s problems, thus having a positive impact on all of humanity). Pre-smart phone, I loved to sit and read magazines. I suppose that was something I liked to do. I liked to decorate our houses but at some point, you run out of rooms or money.

Suddenly I pictured myself as a liquid, poured into this very basic square box and taking its shape and dying a little bit. That one tiny little question had me spinning so I started asking other people, especially moms.

What do you like to do? For you.

There were so few sure answers and lots and lots of “ummms” and “hmmms.” Without thinking too hard, how would you answer the question? What do you do for yourself that makes you happy?

In this new chapter of my life, I can tell you how I answer this question. I love to paint and I love to go exploring (even by myself). Painting is my healing therapy. I find that most times I don’t even have the end result in mind as I start a painting. It is born out of process, mood, randomness, a thought or idea from weeks or months ago. It is the part of my day when all of the other stress becomes blurry and weak. I feel it move to the back for those hours that I put my heart onto that wood panel.

And days like today are pure gold. I am sitting in one of the coolest parts of a very cool city, trying new food, watching new people, walking new places, all by myself. In a former life, I took a whole bunch of confidence in navigating huge international cities all by myself and I remember that on days like today. I remember what it feels like to be the leader and not the follower. Oh, and I LOVE sitting in a restaurant all alone, watching people and thinking. Let me know if you’d like to join me.

What do you like to do FOR YOU? What calms your thinking head? What fills you up? You must know the answer to this question, in my opinion. We lose ourselves in others, our roles, and what society expects of us. And then, at some point, either it is pointed out to us or we wake up on our own to realize that we have given away absolutely everything and we can’t answer that very simple question. You are more than the roles you play. You have gifts and talents and so much to offer the world around you. Take care so that you can never be poured into that basic square box.

To Hold Space.

It was a couple years ago that I first saw that little saying that registered so deeply with so many people. It went something like, “Be kind always. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” I remember reading that and thinking, holy shit, YES. I probably shared it on Facebook like everyone who saw it and felt that deep down agreement with such simple words. It is simple and brilliant and universal. We all know that feeling of wanting to say to someone, “DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW?!?!” Any time in my life I have experienced any sort of tragedy, there is that eerie feeling when you look around and everyone seems to be going on about life as if everything is ok and you just want to stop and scream at the top of your lungs, EVERYTHING IS NOT OK!! It is the loneliest island, isn’t it? But this simple little concept - the one where we are all fighting battles - reminds us that we are sharing this giant island, fighting next to each other, doing our best.

A few weeks ago I read an article about “holding space.” I know at some point I heard about this concept, but I’m not sure it registered with me or intrigued me until just recently. You see, when things go all kinds of wrong, you read and read and search and watch and, most importantly, talk and listen. You analyze your feelings 937 times a day. Your mind races and goes places that don’t even make sense. You think the worst, you think the best. Things are up and then down and then up again before you can take a breath. And then there are the people who can slow, and even stop the rollercoaster for you for a just a few moments. The people who hold space for you.

What does it mean to hold space? I am not a psychologist or a doctor or a yogi or a Buddhist, but I am a friend, sister, daughter, mother, etc. and I have needed all kinds of space held for me. In my opinion, to hold space for someone means that you love without judgment, you care without rules or limitations, you leave the door cracked for new ideas, and you are open to understanding outside of what you have always thought to be truth.

When you hold space for your fellow human, what you are really saying is:

- You are a hot mess but I love you anyway.

- I can’t imagine how you feel so I am just going to listen.

- I might not say the right thing but I am here no matter what.

- It might not feel like it, but you’re doing just fine.

- After hearing your feelings, I can see how you got here.

- Put on your big girl panties and let’s go drink wine.

- You look beautiful in those clothes you’ve been wearing for three days. They coordinate perfectly with the comforter on the bed you can’t get out of.

I am a bit (ha!) of an open book. There is a good chance that, if I’ve had more than three conversations with you, you probably know my life’s story. For better or worse, that is just me, and it has taught me to take stock in those people who hold space for me. They are the people who can look at my face and know, oh shit, she needs a hug. Words aren’t going to help this one. They are the people who cry with me. You know your people…your space holders. Think of them right now. They are a relief, aren’t they? But what about the space we hold for people we don’t know? As mothers, we tend to hold space for the mom on the plane with the screaming toddler. We hold space for the people we see who have clearly been crying, even though we don’t know who they are or why they are crying. We hold space when we say, I don’t understand but I am here and I will try.

I recently received a message from a friend I haven’t seen in years. All it said was “Was just thinking about you. Want you to know I love you.” In that moment I realized that, despite not seeing her in person, I hold space for her and in her message I knew that she holds the same space for me. It feels good to hold space for people and it feels really good to have it held for me too.

To hold space…to be on call with a gentle and sincere love that has no rules. Try it.

Small Gifts.

I hate to keep bringing it up, but the last year of my life has been less than desirable. Devastating. Soul-crushing. Tear infused and physically painful. Confusing. Exhausting. Debilitating. But I learned that, unless you are literally dying, your are not actually going to die. Less than desirable, devastating, soul-crushing, tear infused and physically painful, confusing, exhausting, and debilitating will not actually kill you. At times you wish they would, but they don't. That means you only have the option to survive...and God, survival really sucks sometimes. It is ugly and crude and unshowered and baggy-eyed. It is misspoken words and polite, self-preserving lies. It is smiling with a broken heart. And even when you wish Survival would suck the last shallow breath from you, you will find gifts.

SMALL GIFTS.

At the very lowest point of the last year, I decided to pay attention to the things that were going on around me. There were ten bazillion bad things happening that were each trying to take me down. However, in every single day, there would be a small gift for me if I just stopped to notice. I have a huge box of notes and cards from people I love, each a small gift. Messages and hugs and unexpected contact with people...THE SUN WOULD SHINE. Anything. And looking back now, I realize that, even when 37 bad things happened, the one small gift outweighed them all. I can't tell you the specifics of the shitstorm, but I can tell you exactly how I felt when I got that one note or the unexpected knock on the door or the salad in my mailbox (no seriously). There were times I really had to stretch for it but it happened nonetheless. There was a Wednesday - nacho day on the school lunch menu (a day hated by my middle son) - when I looked in the frig knowing I had blown off the grocery store for my couch and a box of kleenex and seriously wondered how I would pack a lunch with mustard, questionable wilted vegetables, salad dressing, and Coke Zero. Here comes my little Benny out from his bedroom and says, "Mom, I think I want to give the nachos another try." SMALL GIFTS, PEOPLE. In that moment, my sweet little Benny saved me from feeling like the worst mom in the world because I had neglected lunches for my sadness (because Mom Guilt is a real thing even when we don't suck all that bad).

I just typed in the words "small gifts" to search through my email and found this. This is what I wrote to a rather unexpected friend - a small gift in and of itself.

"One more thing…I have to tell you about the “small gifts.” "...I started also noticing that, no matter how bad things felt, something good would happen to me every single day. One day my favorite sheets from Target were on sale. One day I had lunch with a friend whose sister knew a good attorney. One day I got a message from my best friend from South Africa (we used to live there). Every single day of this long, ugly process, something good has happened and I keep calling them the “small gifts.” No matter what happens, they are there. They find me and keep me from feeling like this is all too hard. Your note was my small gift for that day. It made me realize that maybe writing a blog - this thing I love to do - might do something for someone other than me. Maybe I should keep doing it."

There are signs everywhere that point us to positivity if we are open and willing to see them. "Small gifts" has become a theme of this trial in my life and I'm not sure I'll ever give it up. No matter how bad things get, when you open your mind to the good, you will see it more and more. Take stock in the things that remind you how precious this life is. Look for the things that remind you that you are a warrior. Watch for the signs that point to all the good in the world. The universe is cheering for you. You'll be ok. Just keep your eye on the SMALL GIFTS.