Dandelion blower woman

I don’t know exactly when it happened.

I definitely felt it building, but I couldn’t exactly grasp what was happening until they were gone.

And I didn’t even know they were gone until I was smacked in the face with the reality of it.

The fact that I’ve lost hold of my dreams. And that I don’t know how to dream anymore.

And it is painful how much I miss it.

I didn’t even realize that this was something that I was dealing with until my husband approached me with the simple question, “What do you want for your birthday?” In that moment, my mind was blank. Completely blank. Not in the way of, “Oh I can’t think of what I’d like right now, but I’ll keep you posted.” It was a blackness and nothingness kind of blank. I was struggling to grasp even a simple thought behind what I like, what I don’t like, something I’d like to do, somewhere I’d like to go, something I would like to see… I had nothing.

Seconds later I felt a snap, sort of like being electrically shocked awake, and what followed was what can best be described as a venomous, ranting verbal explosion on my poor husband that sounded something like this:

“I don’t know what I want because I don’t know anything about myself anymore. I don’t know what I like. I don’t know what I hate. I don’t have hobbies or interests or free time to even do those things if I wanted to. I don’t have any dreams for myself or for our lives anymore. I’ve forgotten how to dream! Or to hope for or want for anything. My entire life consists of taking care of you and the kids and working HARD and everything else, and I come last, if there even is a spare moment to take care of myself or even get a simple hot shower. So yeah, I’m turning 35 years old and I can’t even tell you one single thing that I want because I’ve lost myself in the last 4 years!”

I regret that it came out they way it did, and on my clueless husband, but I don’t regret in essence what was said. Because even through the ugly uproar, there was so much truth and such a reality that has been brewing in the back of my mind for YEARS now that I didn’t even realize was happening. In a way, I spoke it to life and opened my own eyes to the way I was feeling, without even knowing I was feeling it.

I sat down that night, notebook in hand, with the goal of trying to really self-assess and figure out what was really going on. I started with baby steps. Write down something you dream of doing, seeing, going to, buying, experiencing… anything. I  wracked my brain trying to come up with something and it felt like  cruel game of tennis in my head, where I would toss up an idea and send it on its way and negative thoughts, self-doubt, guilt, shame, and general ugliness would sock it right back, laughing at me and saying, “Oh come on! You can’t do that. It will never happen! You don’t have the time. You don’t have the money. You need to be a better wife, a better mom, a better employee. Don’t be selfish! Don’t even waste your time thinking about it.”

This happened over and over and over until I was in heaving, breathless tears. I can’t dream anymore. I am defeated.

Somewhere in the years of growing and birthing two babies and changing jobs, losing a job, starting a new job, supporting my spouse in a new job, buying and maintaining a home and every other curve ball that adulthood throws at you… I lost myself.

Mothers are the hardest working women. We throw every single ounce of our being into our families and caring for everyone else. It may be our role, our duty or whatever you want to call it. But I sincerely do not believe that God had it in his heart for a women to cease to live, thrive, grow and dream at the expense of raising a family. How did we get here?

Even as I think through this and type it out I feel like I’m being selfish. Like a little girl stomping her feet and exclaiming, “What about me?!” With so many influences and voices in our life telling us what is right and wrong, good and bad, valuable or not, it’s hard to seek out the truth. We live in a society of impossible standards. Impossible standards that we are all absolutely drowning in.

It’s been weeks since my birthday (yikes I’m 35!) but I’ve been mulling all of this over in my head almost every day since my husband’s fateful question. I don’t have total clarity yet but I do know that something has got to give. Something has to change. Because I DO MATTER. My dreams DO MATTER. And that a life without dreams, without passions, wishes, desires, is hopeless. I’ve survived two years of the darkest, ugliest depression and anxiety I could ever imagine. I do NOT want to live a hopeless life anymore. I deserve a hope-FILLED life.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”      – John 10:10

This verse jumped out at me the other day. Jesus didn’t say that he came for us to sort of exist and to do our roles and duties and just “be”. He came for us to have LIFE and to have it to the FULL. I love the version that says to have “life abundantly”. Oh my goodness, I could use some abundance right now. Couldn’t we all?

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how I’m going to make the changes. My guess is that it’s going to take all the small steps in the opposite direction of where all of this started several years ago. Carving out 15 minutes of quiet time each day to being to reprogram my thoughts and to spend some time enriching who I am. In effect, I am learning how to dream again. And that brings me so much hope. And hope certainly doesn’t disappoint.

What inspires you to dream?

Loading clothes into the white washing machine

I’ve received a lot of parenting advice over the years. Some bits, solicited. Others not. Some have been helpful. Others not. Some have “worked”. Some have not. Some in fact, have backfired. There have been certain tidbits that I have downright ignored. Some that I maybe even took for granted.

Just recently, one of those items came back to bite me.

It had been a long, painfully boring, yet somehow stressful weekend. Alone, for yet another stretch of days as my law enforcement husband was off at work. For a long period these times had fallen on weekends, which was starting to take its toll, to say the very least. After 40 hour work weeks and mounds of stress, the prospect of long weekends being the sole parent to two boys under the age of 4 was less than exciting.

On this particular day, my nerves were fried, my patience was gone and my emotions were running high. I knew it would take just the smallest thing to completely break me. So when our “smart” washer decided to flash up an error message (which never make any sense to me) and then proceeded to shut me out of actually doing anything about said message, like just shutting it off and re-powering (isn’t that the solution to everything?)… I lost it.

What followed was a loud, rage-filled, embarrassing display that included me banging my fists against the washer door, screaming, “Come on you stupid thing. Work! I hate you!”, kicking it repeatedly and then subsequently crying. Yes, I cried. Over a washer. 

What I wasn’t aware of was that my precious little then-3-year-old was watching from just a few feet away. He didn’t seem to react and instead just innocently asked, “What’s wrong mama?” I recoiled at scene that had just played out, and the fact that my child had just witnessed my outburst.

I tried to whisk the thought away and worked to distract him, likely by an episode of Paw Patrol or encouraging him to play with his little brother. But I was embarrassed beyond belief.

Weeks passed and I thought nothing of it, until I caught sight of my 3-year-old playing with his lunch box one day. He opened it, placed a few items inside and closed it. What followed was a loud, rage-filled outburst that included banging his fist against the box, throwing it on the floor and screaming, “Come on you stupid thing. Work!”

(Insert extremely wide-eyed embarrassed emoji here, right?)

I was horrified. In that moment, those sage words passed down by parents before me flashed through my mind. “Be careful of what you say. Children are always listening. They will repeat everything you say. They are little sponges. And they have an affinity for ‘the bad stuff’. Oh…. my…. gosh.

I couldn’t believe it. My children WERE listening. They WERE watching. They were starting to REPEAT. And it wasn’t good at all.

#ParentingFAIL

I felt like a terrible mom. I felt like a terrible person. I felt like a terrible everything. I couldn’t believe that was even a representation of me. And yes, these moments happen. It happens to everyone (please tell me it happens to everyone?). But it made me weigh out the way my children see me, and I truly believe that 80% of what they see is really and truly good, kind and respectful. But even 20% bad is not good enough and I must work on my words. I must work on my actions. I must be the best kind of water that these little sponges soak up.

As cheesy as it sounds, they are the next generation. You’d have to be living under a rock to not think that our society needs some pretty serious work right now. I hope I can contribute to making it better. To making them better. I have to.

Because, they’re listening.

 

Menschen mit Kinderwagen und Hunden

“It takes a village to raise a child”
-African proverb

We’ve all heard the quote and probably uttered at some time when seeing a throng of friends and family surround and support their band of children. I’m not sure I really understood the quote until I had my own kids, and promptly realized… I am village-less.

As a working woman and an older mom I never quite got the time (or the rhythm) of making “mom friends”. I was disconnected from that world until I entered it and by then, it was probably too late. I tried, but always fell short and sort of decided I was better off on my own. I’m not sure I still stand by that decision, but… why is making adult friends so dang difficult?! That’s like a whole other blog post right there. 

I was born into a small family and married into a small family. We are spread across the state and now, even across the country. The grandparents are still working for the most part, save for my father who is ill and not capable of care. A few short weeks after I had B, the hubbs went back into law enforcement and so commenced the long shifts, opposite schedules and physical and mental exhaustion. So it has been left to me. To mother, to parent, to raise, rebuke, correct, educate, cook, clean and every other task that composes life. And it is hard. Immeasurably hard and lonely.

I don’t have a sister to drop off the kids with so I can get a quick hair cut. Grandma isn’t around the corner to snuggle the boys while I get some room to breathe. There are no play dates, park outings or coffee dates with girl friends. There are long hours of work which are immediately proceeded by chaotic daycare pick ups, a wrecked home, empty fridge, endless To Do lists, frenzied bedtime routines, collapsing in exhaustion and starting all over again at 5:45 the next morning. The hubbs fades in and out like a ghost who can sometimes lend a helping hand, but more often then not, is headed to bed or out to work himself.

Weekends are not filled with rich family time, but instead attempting to re-set my wrecked home, about 100 loads of laundry and dirty dishes and entertaining the little monsters long enough to squeeze in an overdue shower. There is no free time. No hobbies. No interests. No me time, or “self care” as it is now being called. Oh, how I desire some self care time!

Though this is not meant to be a long, feel-oh-so-sorry-for-me post and I am sorry if it’s coming off that way, it is my commentary on this village concept we are so quick to throw around but so short sighted to accomplish. Motherhood is part of that American Dream thing that everyone talks about. It was that thing that I longed for and that our society told me I needed in order to really accomplish anything in this life. But was it meant to be alone? Was it meant to be so lonely.

I read an article fairly recently that summarized what I feel on a daily basis, “Having It All Kinda Sucks.” Though my day to day experience is a bit different, the sentiment is very much the same. Except, I’m a lot less organized in my thoughts and I pretty much think this having it all stuff is complete BS. Yeah, I have a job, but we still have no money. I have a great husband, whom I rarely get to spend time with. I have two beautiful kids that I adore, but have lost my identity as I have tried to enrich theirs. I have a loving, wonderful family, but they are all managing their own crises’. I have a career, but don’t have the ability to dedicate myself to it because the greater responsibility of holding my family together. From the outside, I may look like I have it all. But having it all sure can seem empty at times.

I do think it takes a village to raise a child. It should take a village. I think that’s how God designed it to be. It’s just really hard to swallow that proverb when the actual model is not available to you.

I beg you, if you have the time, the availability and the compassion, lend a hand to a mother bird you see alone in her nest. She could really use a village. Be her village. And don’t ever take your village for granted.