I am not a patient person. When I decide that I want something, I want it on my terms and on my timetable. I am a proactive, go-getter of sorts so when I set my mind to something, I expect to put in the work and then get the results. Which is why it is so hard for me to realize that there are certain things that are out of my control, that some things are on a timetable that is not of my making. It is been painfully difficult for me to be patient as I grow this blog and launch a writing career. There are days when it seems like there is no progress being made, and that I might actually be going backward. And there are other days when I feel like, inch by painstaking inch, I might actually be making progress.
Thanks to you all, my readership has grown significantly in the past couple weeks. Thank you all for sharing posts like this one about getting unstuck and this one about wishing time away and this one about dealing with miscarriage. One of my favorite things about writing publicly is the meaningful connections and re-connections that it has allowed me to make. I appreciate every single email, comment, share, Facebook like, etc. And a special thanks to a dear friend from college who forwarded me this lovely prayer at just the right time. (Thanks, Anne!)
Yesterday, I stepped out of my comfort zone in a major way when I led a worship service about the power of kindness. To say that the experience was both rewarding and transformative would be a huge understatement. I realized several things through the experience, including:
1. No matter how old we get, we still want our parents’ love, support, and approval. I hadn’t known that my parents were coming for the service, but there they were standing at the back of the room at the end of the service. They had driven down from Wisconsin early that morning, rearranging their plans, and stood quietly in the back, hidden so as not to make me more nervous. The fact that they were there to share the experience with me made it all the more amazing.
2. The essence of spiritual community is alive and well. Religion is so divisive these days (it always has been, and probably always will be), but it is important to remember that religion, ultimately, isn’t about theology or doctrine, it is about community. As the famous Unitarian minister James Luther Adams said, “Church is a place where you get to practice what it means to be human.” Within spiritual community – church, spirituality group, faith discussion group, prayer circle, or any group that feeds the spirit – we get to tend to those parts of our souls that sometimes get neglected in our day-to-day lives. Being a part of a welcoming church community, like mine, makes it easy for the essential purpose of spiritual community to shine through. After the service, I was hugged, warmly and enthusiastically, by people I had never met, and I had never felt so welcomed, safe, and whole. I am a person of faith – faith in myself, faith in my husband and our family, faith in God, faith in the inherent goodness of humanity, and (now more than ever) faith in the strength of my spiritual community.
3. We can do hard things. We can do things we don’t want to do. We can do things we don’t think we can do. We can do things that we think might break us. We can do hard things. We can do brave things. We can do scary things. And, like I said in my presentation, we can do kind things.
Today, one of my pieces for Huffington Post – “5 Gifts that Every Parent Actually Needs” – was featured on the front of the HuffPost Parents page and its Facebook page. You can read the article in full here, but below is a summary:
Since the birth of my first son nearly seven years ago, I have realized (the hard way) that there are actually only a few things that every child needs and even fewer things that parents need. And, fortunately, most of them don’t cost a thing other than love, patience and a little compassion.
5 Things That Parents Actually Need:
1. A free pass on thank-you notes. Few things are as stressful and guilt-inducing as looking at all those baby gifts and knowing that they require an overwhelming amount of thank-you notes to be written, addressed, stamped and mailed. While this might seem like an ordinarily trivial task, for the parent-to-be or new parent, it is all just so… exhausting. Give the parents-to-be a free pass on a thank-you note and you are not only giving them a few extra minutes to sleep, read, relax or cuddle their new baby, but you are giving them back their sanity.
2. Specific offers to help. Let me be clear here: There is a big difference between agreeing to help and offering to help. While they are both helpful and appreciated, agreeing to help once asked always makes the asker feel indebted in some way. An offer to help before the new parent needs to ask, on the other hand, is like a free pass. And the more specific, the better. General offers to help like “let me know what I can do” are great, but nothing beats a specific “I will be at your house tomorrow at 1:00 so you can go get a mani/pedi” offer to help.
3. Food. Casseroles, salads, cookies, granola bars, gift certificates, take-out menus, anything. All food is welcome. Preferably in disposable containers with paper plates and napkins included.
4. Your presence (not presents). Let’s be honest, being a new parent can be soul-crushingly lonely at times. If the new parent is at home with the baby, call in the middle of the afternoon just to see what’s new on “Ellen.” Take an early morning walk with the new mom and her baby. Come over in the middle of a Saturday afternoon to watch a Cubs game with the new dad while he bounces junior on his knee. Answer the mom-to-be’s middle of the night frantic texts about night sweats and crib bumpers. Your presence — consistent and relaxed — is more meaningful than any presents could be.
5. A judgment-free zone. Few things destroy a person’s self-esteem like parenthood. Just when I thought that I had this whole being an adult thing figured out, my son came along to show me just how little I really know. I was — and still am — overwhelmed, uncertain, frazzled and exhausted. All of this is exacerbated by the comparison game and subtle (and not-so-subtle) judgments. Give empathy, a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear — all without judgment. Believe me, most parents are judging themselves enough already.