One of my favorite memories of 2018 happened yesterday. It was unexpected, the way most memorable moments are and it was so rich with metaphor that I feel compelled to share it. I think you will appreciate the story but more than anything I believe that it has something in it for so many of us.
I come from a long line of fiercely independent, strong willed, difficult, creative, passionate and protective women. The women in my life are important. They provide a mirror for me and I am so proud of the tribe I was born into and the one that I have created. People often comment on how surprising they find it that given my connections with women that I don’t have a daughter. They wonder if I am okay with it. If it makes me sad. If I wish I had tried just one more time. The truth is I intuitively knew that I would raise sons. My firstborn’s name was picked out long before I knew I was pregnant. With our second, we considered a girl name but again the ultrasound revealed what I already knew. I have never grieved not having a daughter. My boys are my grandest adventure and while it may appear from the outside that I am the epitome of a “girl mom” I could not disagree more. I have been the recipient of so many lessons that I would not have had otherwise and turns out that being the only female in the house has it’s advantages too. And as love would have it, I have two of the most unique, intense, fun and spirited nieces ever created.
Yesterday, my oldest niece turned thirteen. And birthdays with my nieces are code for, “let’s go to lunch and let’s go shopping”. It’s wild and crazy and something that you don’t want to miss. But yesterday, I was struggling. For the first time in a year, I had a nightmare the night before. A bad one. And I haven’t had one of those since I left my job treating childhood trauma last December. I still wrestle with that decision and earlier that day I was caught up in a lot of what if’s? It’s like I suddenly forgot the host of symptoms that took over my mind and body for several years prior and started to wonder. And that decision to look back tossed a bunch of old images around in my head, mixed them into my doubts and it all manifested into a paralyzing dream. As I drove to meet my girls, I was in my head and completely hung over from the dream. I could not shake it and receiving the joy waiting for me at our shopping destination seemed incongruent with what was happening in my mind.
But we were celebrating 13 and I needed to rally and do what I could to be present. We ordered lunch and she opened her presents excitedly. When my mom gave her a ring that she had given to my sister when she turned 13, I had to hold back tears. The memories came flooding. I could see in my memory my little sister opening the same gift 25 years before. This is the power of the people who love you best. They just bring it and gently remind you who you are.
After a long haul in a super sparkly store my mom announced that she had a surprise. She walked excitedly ahead of everyone and directed us all into a grown up jewelry store. Now both of my nieces have a passion for Claire’s but this was the real deal and everyone was confused. My niece was absolutely dumbstruck when my mom walked to the counter and said she wanted to look at a pair of diamond studs. I saw two emotions register on her face….bewilderment and panic. Now knowing this particular niece, I started thinking, “it probably would have been better to have just bought them and given them to her. This is going to be overwhelming.” But sometimes in life, it is more about the moment and the experience. As the moment registered in her mind, we could all feel her doubt…”this is too much, it’s too much responsibility, it’s not practical, what if I lose them….what if….”
And suddenly I was swept away in the metaphor. She became more conflicted and stressed as she wrestled with the decision and I could also see the disappointment in my mom’s face. My mom was doing what she has always done. She was trying to create a special moment for her tribe but the moment was creating tension. As my mom conceded and my niece looked at the less “fancy” options it became harder, not easier. Isn’t that the way it goes for so many of us? We are offered something beautiful and wonderful and we attempt to shrink it. I had done the exact same thing the day before. We somehow feel undeserving. We question it and we worry. Let’s just go back to the way it was before. Here she was ready to walk away because, “what if I lose them”. I didn’t want her to miss the moment. I didn’t want her to look back with regret. I also didn’t want to make it worse by speaking up but my goodness I wanted her to get in the practice of receiving.
And this is what I said, “Granny wants to do this for you. It’s a gift. You only turn 13 one time and this is an experience you don’t get to have again. Sometimes it’s important to open your hands and simply receive. If you lose them it won’t be on purpose and you won’t be the first person to lose jewelry. And it will be okay. Receive what she wants to give you and enjoy this moment. Stop looking at all these other options and get over here and receive what she wants you to have.” It worked. Her whole body lit up and suddenly it became fun. After carefully and playfully considering three options, we all watched her confidently pick out the most dainty and precious diamond earrings I have ever seen. It was the sweetest moment for all of us. Especially my mom and my niece. What I loved most was the more important gift. We were all reminded about the power of letting go, releasing doubt and simply receiving the love that is being offered in that moment in time. Because that’s all we really have.
Don’t so many of us struggle in this same way? The act of receiving can be so difficult. Especially when our expectations are too low or too high. When we question our knowing or we are immobilized with fear, rules or limits. It can be so tough to sit in the pocket of what is and open our hearts and hands. I could have missed out on this moment because I was looking back and allowing my own doubts and fears to creep into a space that has experienced so much healing in the last year. I am in a new season. It’s a gift. It’s time for something new. And our tribes are there to surround and protect us and keep us in our knowing. Yesterday my tribe all received this experience from my mom. All of us have received these amazing little girls from my sister and sister-in-law. And yesterday I received from my niece and she received from me. And we all learned and relearned and remembered what we know. These moments are magic and it’s insanely important that we keep moving and looking forward and seize as many of them as possible.
And just to keep it super duper real… while all of this was happening I got a call from one of those amazing boys I mentioned earlier. You know the one’s who bring so much adventure to my life. Seems he had “forgotten” that his science fair project was due this Wednesday when he returns to school and he hadn’t started yet. Didn’t even have a topic. And we were leaving to go out of town the next day. Like I said, seize those moments ya’ll.