Inevitable Change

January 12th: Inevitable Change

Sigh…sometimes I take a very simple sentiment and muddy it up with too many words. I am going to attempt, for the 3rd time, to write these words in my heart this morning.

Human beings have a strange habit of expecting things to always remain as they are despite constant proof that nothing, and I mean nothing, does.

We look up one day to find our children inexplicably grown older. The sweet dimples on the backs of their hands disappeared, their heads smell sweaty instead of sweet, they won’t kiss us on the lips anymore.

We see our parents after time apart and suddenly we realize they are growing old. We look into the mirror and suddenly we realize that we are growing old.

People we love, people we cannot comprehend living without, die. Our lives are a series of events like this, before and after, and yet…we persist in our efforts to pretend like we have forever and ever to get it right, or to do better, or to be…whatever we think we need to be to feel satisfied by our efforts.

I am just feeling this so acutely right now, for a myriad of reasons, and I want to remind you- remind myself- that sometimes our priorities need to be revised. There are things that must be done, I get that, but make sure that you are tending closely to the things that actually mean something to you in the big picture. Be present. Make an effort to show up fully for the people you value. Not soon, but today. Enjoy the irritating little intrusions by your kids, because it means they want your attention, and that’s a gift. A gift with an expiration date, man. These moments are valuable.

At the end of it all, what you have left is love. Everything else falls away, and what is left is love. The love you gave, the love you were given, the love you wish you would have given more of, the regret of not loving enough. I promise you this is the truth. Every single thing in your life will change, except for this. So, do with that what you will…but try not to forget it.

Love Is Not Hard

December 21st: Love is Not Hard

Would you be surprised if I told you that I am far more vulnerable here, when I write, than I am at any other time? And why wouldn’t I be? It’s so easy to sit here and talk about what is in my heart and my mind to this blank page and to the people who might read it than it is to walk through the world that way- wide open, everything tender exposed.

I have learned, over time, that love is dangerous. That my picker is broken, that my choices are bad, that I am difficult to love in return, that things inevitably fall apart. I have learned by watching others that marriage is hard and generally unhappy. That people are seething just below the surface. That everyone longs to be free. I have learned firsthand that love doesn’t always protect you, that love can be harmful, confusing, and leave scars. It’s no wonder that it is something I struggle with.

Here’s the thing: All of those things I just wrote in the last paragraph are not about love. Those things are about people, and people are flawed. The love we want to give others, the love we receive, is always mixed in with other things, wounds we carry, fear, immaturity, thoughtlessness…If we have never been loved well, how do we learn how to love others? How do we learn to receive love? How do we ever stop hurting others because we don’t know how to love the right way? How do we stop hurting from being loved poorly?

I’m not sure I know the answers, exactly, but I do think they are worth seeking out. I had the craziest dream last night, where I found myself doing something awful and it was as if I were two people- one in a blind rage, and the other watching helplessly, knowing I was wrong. And then a voice came from somewhere and it spoke to me…I can’t remember the exact words, but the message was clear- you cannot teach love any other way than by loving, and love does not look like this. Love doesn’t scream, it doesn’t bully or belittle or make people afraid. Love doesn’t play games or withhold itself until it gets its way. That isn’t love.

Love is not hard. People make it hard- by fearing how it may hurt us or remembering how it has hurt us before. There are a million ways we can muck it up and make it seem hard, but love is as easy and natural as breathing. So many of us have just forgotten or learned the wrong lessons.

Today, I’m going to remember that dream I had and let it guide me when it comes to dealing with those I love. Am I really loving them, or am I letting my brokenness and unconscious habits get in the way? Because it matters. Not only for me, but for the little person I am teaching love to. For her, I want love to be easy, safe, and natural. I want that for me, too. And for you, and for those you love. All of you.

Love

December 13th: Love

Seems like, lately, I have needed to get the day behind me in order to look back and grasp the overarching theme that it held. Sometimes I know, right at the start of the day, what I am supposed to write about…others, as recently, I need to figure it out in review.

Yesterday was all about love for me. You know…my life is rich with love. I think, perhaps, it has always been that way, but I was just too busy with my worries, my inner battles, my self-obsession & self-consciousness to get it. It was right in front of my face, and I was blind to it.

And now…I am not. I see it, and I am awestruck. I don’t know a better word to describe it than that. Absolutely in awe.

I’m searching for the right way to explain to you the place where I find myself, and it’s hard. I talk a lot about healing and gratitude, change and growth. What I hope you understand is that I am telling you my story in real time. I am discovering as I go. I am finding new truths, glimpsing these beautiful things, getting struck by new wonders, every single day. I am just now learning so much of this.

I am a really late bloomer. I was stuck in a certain pattern for many, many years. What I am learning now is that my little efforts to be more…just, more– reward me in ways I could never have imagined. Because I had no expectation of getting anything back, maybe. Maybe that’s the trick. Again, circling back to what I touched on the other day, the more I give of myself, the more my heart is filled.

Today, it is overflowing. I love my life. I love my children, so, so much. I love my friends. And I love myself. I am so grateful that I found the things I needed to save myself, so that I could live this life.

Here is what I know: I did not get here by myself. Without the love and kindness of so many people over the years, without the help of people who didn’t have to give it, but chose to, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this right now. Though it may have seemed a wasted effort to them at certain times, I am telling you right now that every bit of it mattered. The cumulative effect of the kindnesses shown to me built a bridge that carried me here. I will never forget that.

Love is the ONLY thing that means anything at the end of it all. Love is at the bottom of every smile, every kind word and gesture, every selfless moment, every hug, every tear. Without love we would never laugh, we would never bend, we would never grieve. Love is never wasted. It is the whole point of this human experience, and I hope you remember that. I hope you believe it. Love changes everything it touches…which means you can change anything by loving it. Wow. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.

Give

December 10th: Give

This time of year, we are bombarded with requests to give what we can to others. We have a United Way drive at work, the Salvation Army dudes are out ringing their bells, our mailboxes are filled with envelopes asking for money. And you know…if you have it to give, it is a nice thing to do. But not all of us have it like that, especially around Christmas time. We have families to travel to, gifts to buy, dinners to plan.

You know what you always have to give, though? Yourself. Your time. Your ears and your arms and your love. Just by virtue of being the beautiful person you are on this planet right now, you are a small but mighty giving machine.

A girlfriend of mine is going through a terrible time right now. I know she is scared and sad, lost and confused. There’s not a lot I can offer her that will make anything better…but I do have time. I have that. So, I went and sat with her for a while the other night. I promised to keep my ringer turned on for her, and I have. I keep checking in with her several times a day.

A young friend of my daughter’s is also really struggling right now. Lots of heartache and hurt, all the pain of growing up compounded by feeling abandoned by their family. I spent a good hour just talking about stuff with them yesterday. Offering the wisdom I’ve gleaned over the years, and letting them know that they are doing an excellent job. And that I am here, always.

Yesterday, I helped an elderly woman pull her garbage cans in. She had a really long driveway, and she was trying to pull in the cans while walking with a cane. I was running super late and I had yelled at Camryn for going so slow, and I sat there at the stop light, and it hit me- this was one of those moments where I could just go on with my day- no one would ever know the difference, right? Or…I could do something decent. I pulled up, jumped out, asked if I could help. I put her cans by her porch, said goodbye, and went on my way. It took less than a minute.

The thing is, acts of service feed our souls. These things do not feel like chores by any means. I love being there for my friends, I love having this young person turn to me and feel safe talking to me. It makes me feel useful and connected and…loving. The love I give somehow fills me rather than takes anything away. Giving fills me up.

I don’t know about you, but that five or ten bucks they take out of my paycheck doesn’t make much of an impression on my heart. Showing up for people always does. Always. Without fail. If you don’t think you have anything to give, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Give a smile, a hug, a moment of your time. Make someone’s day a little brighter. Make someone feel seen, heard, acknowledged. You have so much to give…if you are feeling a little empty, try to give a little of yourself. See how that feels.

Wrestling

December 4th: Wrestling

You know, I often catch myself doing the most useless thing- I wrestle with myself over my very nature. This evening, for instance. I had hoped, once I was off work, to go to this thing the next town over. It became very apparent to me, however, as the day wore on, that this would be unlikely. It’s ten after five here, and it’s already dark out. I’ve been feeling worn out and exhausted since one or two.

Yet…still, I want to wrestle with myself about going. Even though I know I’m too tired tonight to bother making dinner, let alone go traipsing through the dark and cold to do this thing. If I did go, all I’d be thinking about would be getting home, to a hot bath and a warm bed.

So…why in the world would I contemplate going? Sigh. I do not know. And there’s another thing to wrestle with myself about- why am I like this? Again, don’t know.

Yesterday, it occurred to me that there will never be a time in my life where I am any less ME than I am today. There will always be the good with the bad, the light with the dark. There will be days when I am too tired to participate, and times when I excel at everything I touch. This is just who I am. Courtney, for better or for worse, always, always, me.

So, it seems prudent to me that I get back to what I am always telling everyone else to do- accept the truth, and just love my little self exactly as I am each day. I certainly deserve my own affection. As you deserve yours.

Today- stop wrestling with yourself. Just give yourself a break. Love yourself exactly as you are, give yourself a little grace, a little tenderness, a little kindness. Who cares why you are the way you are? You just are. And we’re both gonna be just fine.

Friendship

December 1st: Friendship

I know a lot of people. Like, I am a friendly girl, and I’m always good for a laugh. I’m not hard to talk to at all.

But I would not say I have a lot of friends. Knowing a lot of people is not the same as being true friends with them, you know what I mean?

There is one weird little caveat for me- I have lived in this little town for about thirty years, with a few departures here and there. I have had some friends for so long that they aren’t really even friends anymore- they have become like family to me. So, we might not spend a lot of time together or see each other much, but when we do hang out, it’s easy and natural. So that really is a blessing.

But I have two or three girlfriends that I always enjoy spending time with, and when I can, I do. Today, I drove through a storm way out into the country to go to a tree trimming party at my friend Mary’s house. I was late, because I had to wait for Cam to get home, and I didn’t want to drive in that weather, but…I really wanted to see my friend. And I knew that I would feel better after hanging out with her and her family.

I wasn’t wrong. I got to laugh really hard two different times, I got to talk and be with people I like and have some fun. And now my spirits are lifted and my heart is happy. Simple little things, just being around people you genuinely like and enjoy, makes such a difference. Such a wonderful difference.

I hope you take these words to heart: Life is not long, it is sometimes hard, and in the world we live in, it can get very lonely sometimes. For all of the technology helping us “connect”, we forget the value of seeing the faces of people we choose for ourselves in real life…the value of sharing a laugh around someone’s kitchen island. And that’s a shame, because there is just no replacement for that. If you get a chance to be with your friends, you should take it. It might be just the lift you need to make it through the week. Make time for your friends. Make time to connect. Make time to laugh, and talk, and be in the same room with people. It’s a wonderful thing.

Bound

November 30th: Bound

First of all, I missed another day…I didn’t forget, I was just busy with my family. Sometimes we must prioritize.

Today, I am coping with the silence of this house after everyone has gone on their way. For someone like me, who generally enjoys being alone, I find myself a little bit out of sorts. There is nothing quite like knocking around in an empty house after everyone you love has left.

To remedy my loneliness, I called some people I love in hopes of cheering myself up. Instead, I found myself leaving each phone call more worried and sadder than I already was. These are people who are close, very close, to my heart. Both of them are making decisions that I don’t understand, and I know, I just KNOW, that if the situations were reversed, they would be equally as concerned and worried about me.

I hung up the phone and sat in my dark, empty house…unsure what more I could do. There is no one I can call to share these things with, there is no way to help. So, what do I do?

Here’s the thing: Life is hard sometimes. No matter how old we are or what we think we know, there are yet more lessons to be learned. I have often thought that it is more painful to witness someone we love going through a tough time than it is to be going through it ourselves. At least when you are in it, you can do something. When you are a bystander, all you can do is sit helplessly by and watch and wish you could think of the right words to get through to the people you love.

We are, all of us, bound by love to others in this world. It is what gives life to our lives- even someone like me, closed off as I can be, knows that. Sometimes that means sharing in the good things, and sometimes that means…just standing by, ready to be there when you are needed. It means checking in, reminding people of how much they are loved, and how much they matter. Sometimes it means telling hard truths, saying the words “You don’t sound like you’re okay, and I think I know what’s going on.” Sometimes it means rocking the boat a little bit. Sometimes love asks us to be a little more brave and speak up a little louder…even if it makes people defensive or angry. When you love someone, you need to recognize what is needed, and show up.

Today, if there is someone you love who is struggling, I hope you can see it for what it is. Rather than wonder, pick up the phone and let them know you are here. That you see them. That you love them. That even if they can’t talk right now, you’re gonna call again tomorrow, and the day after that, until they can. Life is hard, sometimes. Don’t let your loved ones think they are alone. And if you are hurting…open up when someone reaches out. Even if you’re ashamed or scared. Let someone in. We need each other so much more than we think.

I Almost Forgot (AGAIN!)

As you can imagine, and I’m sure plenty of you can relate, I have been very, very busy today!

I had a regular work day, had lots of housework to finish up, then my mom came and we visited here at my house for a while before going out for dinner- I seem to have forgotten to buy food that didn’t directly involve Thanksgiving, so…And I am not one to be going to the grocery store repeatedly.

I am hitting the sack, gonna finish up this book I’m reading, snuggle with my kiddo, and get some rest. Tomorrow will be hectic.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, make sure you get some rest tonight. Prepare yourself for family interactions, if you’re having them tomorrow, and remember that your loved ones are only human- just like you. If they are hard to be with, try to remember that someday you might not have them around and you’re gonna miss this stuff. Be grateful for whatever you do have, and know someone, somewhere, would probably love to be in your shoes.

And for the LOVE OF GOD, leave the politics off the table, unless you are all on the same page. Life is just too short for that stuff. Wait until Friday to alienate everyone you love. LOL.

Talk to you tomorrow, kids.

Two Sides

November 26th: Two Sides

There is a me that I love, and a me that I struggle with. The side of myself that I love is quick to laugh, lighthearted, funny, and warm. The side of myself that I do not enjoy is cynical, angry, quick to take offense, difficult and sharp. She is always ready to fight.

I understand that the circumstances of my life, over time, have made both sides of me necessary for one reason or another. When times were hard, the darker side of me was my protector. Anger was easier than fear and kept people from getting too close. But the danger of living this way for too long is that it becomes a habit, and habits are hard to break. Times are not hard for me anymore, and I don’t need protection. I am not afraid, and I want those I love close to me. I don’t need to hide behind anger.

This morning, I have made a decision. It is time to remove the walls I have built around my heart. I will do it brick by brick if I must, but I am ready. I have done all this work on myself, and I sense that it is time to open up and start the work of repairing and strengthening the relationships in my life. Time is precious, and I’ve taken long enough.

I know that this is very specific to me, but I wanted to share it anyway…because I’m sure that there’s a part of you that you love, and a part of you that you wish you could change. Well, you can. And so can I. But it is going to take time, resolve, patience, forgiveness and love.

That’s what it boils down to, I think. Love. I want to be the part of me that I love, because that’s the part of me that understands how to love. And, even though love is at the core of every single thing I write here, it is still not always the easiest place in myself to access. I let too many things get in the way. Today, I am going to start dealing with that.

If you are reading this, I want you to think about the side of yourself that you love, and the side of yourself that causes you trouble. Which side has been in the driver’s seat? If you don’t like the answer you come up with, don’t despair- we become who we are for a reason. Be kind to yourself and see if you can get closer to the part of you that you want to be. Be patient with yourself, but firm. Let go of what no longer serves you. It’s time.

Extra Help

November 25th: Extra Help

Late post today- as is so often true around the holidays, I am busy doing all of the things I normally do, PLUS getting ready for Thanksgiving this week. Which I foolishly insisted upon doing at my house. Yikes.

Anyway, I had a scheduled appointment with my therapist today, and I almost didn’t go, but…the truth is, it was too late to cancel on her, so I just went ahead and got down there. I felt kind of blah and didn’t think I had much to talk about…I had my mind on the million other things I needed to do.

HA! Turns out, I had quite a bit brewing in this little head of mine, hiding beneath and behind all of my busy-ness.

We talked a lot about things I could control (my attitude, my responses) and things I could not control (how my mother feels about my housekeeping, how my daughter chooses to show up, or not show up, in the world) and a little bit about stepping back and getting perspective. All things I already know, things I talk about here all the time, but…you know, I’m human. I find it easier to look out than look in sometimes. Aside from these little moments of inspiration and clarity I try to grab onto as they slide by, I’m just a bumbling little soul in a skin suit, freaking out because I have no idea what the hell is going on.

I love my therapist. I have been with her for a long, long time now, and I will tell you this- there is no substitute for a therapist that you click with and have built a rapport with over years. It can be hard to find that, but I think it is truly worth the search. I see her more often when I am struggling, and sometimes as seldom as once a month when I am doing well. She has been with me since before I finally got clean, and through the darkest of dark times. She reminds me often, when I am nitpicking myself, of how far I have come and how much I have grown. She knows alllll of it.

Today, I want to remind you that the holidays can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. The minute you hit adulthood, the holidays aren’t just about seeing your cousins and staying up all night trying to catch Santa coming down the chimney. There are awkward questions, hurt feelings, dry turkeys and drunk uncles. Or, you know, some rough equivalent of that. Don’t hesitate to carve out time for yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for extra help. I know not everyone has access to therapy, but I hope there is someone you can turn to when you need to vent. The better you feel, the more likely you’ll be to create magical memories instead of awful ones that you’ll need…well, therapy, just to get over.