On Fall and Long Goodbyes

by Christie on October 21, 2014

Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

Fall tends to be a somewhat polarizing season, I have noticed. People either love it. Or they hate it.

There are so many things to love about this time of year. Football and school routines. Bright red and orange trees. Pink and purple sunsets. Pumpkins and apples. Boots and oversized sweatshirts. The clean air and excuses to stay indoors under a blanket.

Fall is elegant and romantic and nostalgic. And I love it for that.

But…

There are so many things to hate about fall too. Homework and school nights. Cold and rainy football games on Saturday mornings. Leaves to be raked. The way wildflowers start to look like ratty weeds. The hassles of Halloween. The impending dread of winter.

Fall has a melancholy flavor to it, as well. A twinge of sadness, and an almost desperate fear. In many ways, fall feels like a long goodbye. And I hate it for that.

I absolutely hate good-byes and transitions, the moving on from one thing to something else. And yet, here we are, right in the thick of it, this transition from summer to winter, from warm to cold, from this to that. We are saying goodbye to leaves on trees and long, sun-filled days and sandals & shorts. But like all goodbyes and transitions, I suppose, there is kind of a sophisticated beauty to the timid sorrow of this season, too.

If there is one thing that is certain it is that life is filled with goodbyes, changes, and transitions. In fact, it has been said that parenting is one long goodbye. That as soon as you get comfortable, things will change. And as I wade my way through the murky water that is motherhood, I am finding this to be profoundly true. Parenting, I am realizing, is a clumsy and erratic – yet, at the same time, dizzyingly beautiful – dance that consists of a constant pulling away and coming together, a perpetual holding on and letting go. Jackson, my oldest son, turned eight a few days ago and this absolutely blows my mind. How did this happen? Where have the last few years gone? How is it that the days are so long but the years are so short?

It is almost as if the past few years were pulled up into the whirlwind that is the everyday – planning playdates and buying birthday gifts and cooking dinners and breaking up fights and reading bedtime stories and driving kids home from school and reviewing homework and worrying and wondering and hoping.

Fortunately, with an 8-year-old and a 4.5-year-old, we are in the sweet spot right now. We are still in the summer of childhood. We are in the popsicles-and-ice cream-and-running-in-sprinklers-and-walking-barefoot-and-watching-fireworks-and-catching-fireflies season of childhood. It is (mostly) bright and warm (okay, sometimes, it is downright hot and sweaty), sticky sweet, and full of possibilities.

But, believe me, I am all too keenly aware of just how suddenly things can change, just how quickly the years go by, and just how soon summer fades into fall and the long goodbye begins. Soon enough there will be curfews and desperate pleas for an iPhone and tween crushes and teen angst and locked doors and SATs and all these other things that I am completely unprepared for.

And what I have realized is that so often it is the goodbye, the transition, the moving from one thing to the next that is the hardest part. And not just with parenting, but with everything. It is the lead-up, the preparation, and the waiting that hurts the most. In some ways, fall, with its long goodbye, is the saddest season of all.

But we can’t just jump from one thing to the next; there is always a transition, a goodbye to one thing before we can say hello to the next thing. Whether it’s a new job, a new home, a new friendship, a new season of life, a home, or a new “normal,” there is always a goodbye to what we once knew before we can say hello to what will be. There is always – always – a goodbye.

And so here’s what I’m wondering: How can we make the transitions, the goodbyes a little less painful? How can I steady myself amidst all of the unknowns and uncertainties that swirl around in the transitions from one season to the next? And how can I move through the long goodbye with as much grace and resilience and peace as possible?

I don’t have any answers. I wish did. I wish I knew how to handle transitions and changing seasons and goodbyes with grace, resilience, and peace, but my default reaction is usually just a lot of tears and fist pounding and snapping at my husband for who-knows-what and yelling at my kids not picking up their toys.

But what I do know is that those times when I have rigidly planted my feet in the ground, when I have clung to what I know, when I have feared the goodbye, I have been much more battered and bruised by the winds of change than those times when I surrendered a little, loosened my grip a little, and let myself be carried a little.

And here is what I also know: Bad shit happens. Transitions are hard. The unknown is freaking scary. And life is filled with goodbyes, long and sad goodbyes.

But it is also filled with warm and happy hellos; it is filled with little gems of goodness and hope.

Sometimes they are just hiding deep in the weeds or the piles of fallen leaves.

********

Tell me: How do you feel about fall? And how do you handle change, transitions, and goodbyes?

********

This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge with Angie McMonigal Photography. She sends a photo; I write a post inspired by that photo. Please make sure to visit her website or facebook page. Her work is amazing.

{ 1 comment }

On Criticism, Kindness, and a Thick Skin

by Christie on October 14, 2014

thick skin criticism

Photo Credit: 123RF Stock Photo

“Some people have a thick skin and you don’t. Your heart is really open and that is going to cause pain, but that is an appropriate response to this world.”
– Anne Lamott

 A few weeks ago I wrote, what I thought, was a fun, sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek post about some of the unnecessary pressures that we put on ourselves as parents. Call it competitive parenting, or maybe comparative parenting, or just call it parenting.  In any event, the gist of the article was a light-hearted summary of some of the ways that we compare or compete with other parents – and ourselves.

Last week, Scary Mommy published that post and, well, let’s just say it struck a chord.

Although the response was largely positive (it even lead to an interview on Headline News!), there was a fair amount of negativity as well. Some people called me judgmental and insecure, others said I was lazy and didn’t sound like I was all that fun to be around. And those were just the mild ones.

I would be lying if I said that the snarky comments, the rash judgments, and mean words didn’t affect me. Negativity is sticky goo that is hard to shake, that’s for sure.

Don’t read the comments, some people recommended. Just ignore them, others suggested. Don’t take is so personally, others advised.

Honestly, this advice is nothing I haven’t heard before. Truthfully, people have been telling me that I need to grow a thicker skin my entire life. I cry easily, brood too long, and internalize criticism.

But how exactly does one grow a thicker skin? Is there a special potion for that? Maybe a cold cream that I can put on at night? A pill that I could take? An herbal supplement? A protein shake?

I have wished for a thicker skin for so long. I have tried to immunize myself from the hurt, tried to shield myself from this sticky goo, and tried to numb myself to the harshness.

But in all my trips to Sephora I haven’t found a magic ointment and GNC doesn’t sell bottles of thicker-skin capsules. And in my desperate search for the antidote, in my quest to find the solution to my thin skin problem, a funny thing happened. I finally grew into my skin. And I am finding that my thin skin isn’t all that bad.

Because the thing is, even though the negative stuff finds its way in, so does the positive. Have I cried hot, angry tears when someone left a nasty comment to something that I wrote? Yes. But I have also wept quiet, tender tears when someone reached out with words of encouragement.

Has the cruelty of strangers made me bang my fists and scream out in frustration? Of course. But the kindness of strangers has also brought me to my knees in gratitude and humility.

Did the rude comments from last week’s article make me feel a icky and a little sick to my stomach? Without a doubt. But the sweet comments and the outpouring of support that I received filled my heart to overflowing again and again and again.

Am I confused and disgusted and absolutely dismayed by the cruelty, violence, and general nastiness that is going on in the world? You bet. But I am also pleased and delighted and positively overwhelmed by the kindness, compassion, and gentleness of so many people. PEOPLE ARE GOOD. PEOPLE ARE KIND. We are doing the best that we can.

So often I am reminded of one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut quotes: “Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

I guess, like most things, you have to take the bad with the good. Fortunately, there is more good than bad. So much more good.

I would like to stay soft. I don’t want to be hard. I don’t want to become bitter. THE WORLD IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE INDEED.

So I think I’ll keep my thin skin.

As long as I’ve got a few special people who will hug me & stand up for me & pass me the Kleenxes & cry with me; people who will call me & text me & celebrate with me & jump up and down with me; people who don’t tell me to toughen up or grow a thicker skin.

You know, now that I think about it, maybe THAT’s the antidote right there. Maybe THAT is the magic potion, the special supplement to grow a thick skin: Softness, a box of Kleenex, and my people.

{ 0 comments }

Surviving Mondays and Showing Up

October 6, 2014

Let me just start by saying that I am generally a morning person. And I like to think that I’m usually a pretty optimistic person. Maybe not a Susie Sunshine, but definitely a glass-half-full kind of girl. But…there are some mornings that are just downright brutal and some days when everything – absolutely everything – […]

Read the full article →

Blinded by the Light

October 2, 2014

I don’t know exactly when it happened. But at some point –somewhere amidst the sleepless nights and the potty training, the playdates and the tantrums, the first steps and the last diaper, the frantic searches for blankies and the never-ending just-one-more-story bedtimes – my little boys decided to go ahead and grow up. They turned […]

Read the full article →

Good Enough

September 26, 2014

The post below originally appeared on Huffington Post and while it focuses on parenting – especially parenting young children – I think that it is something that can apply to all of us and to many aspects of our lives. (P.S. Sorry for the occasional swears, Mom.) ******************** “There’s no way to be a perfect […]

Read the full article →

The Stonecutter

September 23, 2014

[Author’s Note: I’m stepping WAY out of my comfort zone here with a rare piece of fiction here. I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship and struggle and some things that I can’t quite process yet. This seemed like a good way to try and make sense of some things that just don’t make any […]

Read the full article →

Today

September 18, 2014

Today was a very ordinary day. Nothing special or particularly extraordinary happened. I woke up early and exercised. I made breakfast (frozen waffles tossed in the toaster), cleaned kitchen counters, and prepared lunches. I broke up fights. I said “yes” to a few more minutes on the computer. I said “no” to a few more […]

Read the full article →

UU? What the heck is UU?!?

September 16, 2014

  When people find out that I am Unitarian Universalist, the question I get asked most often (aside from “why the confusing name?”) is “Unitarian Universalist? What the heck is Unitarian Universalist?” To which, my immediate answer is always: “Thanks for asking! Do you want the long answer? Or the longer answer?” Unitarian Universalism is certainly […]

Read the full article →

On Running in the Rain

September 10, 2014

“Human kindness is overflowing And I think it’s going to rain today.” – Lyrics by Randy Newman   Today is a rainy day. It started raining in the dark hours of night, rained all through the morning and now into the afternoon. The heavens, overflowing with emotion, have alternately sobbed thick sheets of angry tears […]

Read the full article →

Saying Yes to Less

September 3, 2014

“But, Mommmyyyy, you’re not listening to me!!!,” my younger son cried from the back seat. “I am listening, Teddy, I just forgot what you said,” I responded guiltily. I tried to repeat back the story he had just told, but I had absolutely no idea. Something about football and monsters and candy. I think? Maybe? […]

Read the full article →