Nostalgic

I just finished reading The Red Tent.  It was a wonderful novel that illustrated the sacred nature of relationships between women.  What I found over the days I read it was I felt so nostalgic for the days when I was a new mother and I had a tribe of my own.

Bella was born in Texas, a place where I felt utterly alone.  When we made the move to Florida, I vowed to connect with others and find friends for myself and my baby girl.  Bella was 5-months-old when we began our new life and I went about finding those friends I longed for.  I started at a group for breastfeeding mothers and met the first three women who would join my circle.  My neighbor rang my doorbell with her 5 month old in tow and at the community pool I introduced myself to another new mother who was also new to town.  From that point we gathered at Wemoon Spirit, a women’s community center, where we were joined by three more moms.  There we circled up, sang songs, nursed our babies, and joked about the vagina chair that sat in the corner.

In the end there were ten of us and we met like this again and again at different places for three more years.    We shared our birth stories, tales of sleepless nights, and offered each other advice on all that we were learning in this new role in our lives.  Over time there were new pregnancies and new babies joined the group.  Our nursing toddlers finally weened and baby brothers and sisters took their places at our breasts.

Soon enough our little ones were beginning preschool.  The hours in our weeks were becoming filled up with new activities and tasks.  Life was leading us out of the red tent we had created for ourselves.  I busied myself with meditation workshops, self-help books, and the resurrection of my writing life.  When the fourth year was over my friends, the women who’d held my hand through the early days of motherhood, were farther away than I had realized.

As I read the book last week, I was reminded of how blessed I was to have had those women in my life.  (They did so much for me, including stepping in and being the family that took care of me through a difficult c-section recovery.)  Though most of us are still connected in some way, whether through church, school, or our neighborhoods, we will never again be the tribe we were in those first three years.  Wherever my life takes me I will always remember them and those wonderful Oxytocin filled hours we spent together learning what it meant to be mothers.

My advice to new mother’s is to go find yourself a tribe and build your own red tent.  The love and warmth of those days will stay with you forever.

I’ll leave you with a deep bow of gratitude to my Tally Toddler Tamers!

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Politics Screw With Love

Almost everything that pokes at me and sends me out of my comfort zone these days originates from Facebook.  I think this window we’ve created for ourselves into the lives of people we know, but don’t really know forces us pull our heads out of the sand and admit that there are all kinds of other viewpoints out there.  If we can’t embrace each others’ differences, we at least have to learn to accept them because they exist and denying the existence doesn’t change that fact.

For me the button that is most often pressed is the one in charge of my politics.  I know that I am not the only one that could admit this.  Today a friend posted something that was so very true, yet left me feeling a mixture of angry, sad, and fearful.  I’ll try to paraphrase what she said:

Do you ever notice how when you find out someone’s political beliefs your opinion of them instantly changes and you no longer feel the same about them? It’s interesting that that happens.

Reading that made me sad because, after two years of being her Facebook friend, I know her political views and they are not the same as mine.  It was a reminder that the instant I am open about being liberal there are people who will think less of me and perhaps even write me off.  The comment made me angry because it means that all the respect and love that brings us to a relationship in the first place can be torn apart in one moment of categorizing ourselves.  Finally it made me fearful because, like I said before, it was a very true (for probably most people) statement.

I’ve been in both situations before.  I’ve been in the place where you’re hanging out with a new friend, you like them and see the potential for a great relationship and then the subject of politics come up.  They say something that lets you know their on your team and suddenly you feel those warm fuzzies.  In your mind you’re running through a field of daisies with some sweet song playing.  In one instant an alliance has been made, and yes, you like this person more than you did the moment before.  I’ve also been in the moment where the new friend expresses a political opinion opposite yours and the sound of a record scratch resonates in your head.  How could this be?  She/He can’t possibly be one of them!  And just like that, you’re not so sure you could ever find common ground with this right-wing/left-wing crazy (gotta love how our ego exaggerates)!

If there is something I want to transform about myself it is this reaction.  I want to see myself have these snap judgments and be able to take a time-out to pray for God to heal my thoughts and help me see what’s real.  In reality we all just want the same basic things.  We want to feel safe and loved.  It doesn’t matter what your political party affiliation is.  The negative reactions about our differences come from fear and that fear is used so well in politics to divide us, even from those we respect and love.

More and more these days I am finding friends on the other side of the fence whom I have so much in common with.  I am better for having them in my life and hope that in the future my political allegiances never keep me from connecting with people like these smart and loving ones I already know!

*A note to my FB friend if she is reading*

I hope I didn’t offend you by paraphrasing you here.  Thank you for inspiring me to look within at my own reactions.

For Heather

I have been friends with Heather since I was 15 years old (actually you could argue 11 years old, since we were sorta friends in 6th grade).  She’s one of the people I admire and cherish most.  I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the way, Heather attached an invisible cord to me and when I get too far away she gives a tug.  No matter how different our paths have looked throughout the years, her loving presence has remained constant.

When I think of Heather, I can’t think of a person in my life who is more genuinely considerate.  She always has the right words to say to lift you up.  She has always encouraged me in all my endeavors, especially my writing (going all the way back to high school and my dorky poetry).  Meanwhile, she’s one of the most talented people (and writers) I know, who manages to let her talent speak for itself.  Heather will never boast about being good at any particular thing, yet she is actually good at everything (ok, well except singing and dancing and she’ll tell you that).

Yesterday Heather called me to inform me that she accidentally missed me on her Christmas card list, so I will not be getting one from her this year.  She apologized and explained the mix-up.  It was that act of thoughtfulness (seeing as she could have just ignored her mistake and hope I didn’t catch it) that reminded me of the card I found in a drawer recently.  It is not dated, but I’m guessing it was written in the months after Mark and I got married and moved away.  Here is an excerpt so you can see for yourself how sweet my friend is.

“I pray every night for each of you (you probably don’t believe that, but its true) and when I pray for you I ask for you to be happy with yourself-I also pray to have you with us more often because I’m selfish and I miss you.  Please don’t lose touch with us-and know that I’m glad for you if you are happy-I love you Leslee-you are a beautiful person inside and out and I truly admire you.  I know you will be a success-please don’t forget about us peons. Love Heather”

Thank you, Heather, for your love, friendship, and support.

Cheerleaders

This is a topic I scribbled in a notebook before I even started the blog.  It was a fall-back topic if I needed something to write about.  Today I’m writing about it because it is genuinely on my mind.

Back in the Spring, after church one day, I stopped for a quick chat with our minister.  “Your spiritual mommies are so proud of you.”  She said to me.  Spiritual mommies? My mom had been in for a visit the week before, was that what she was talking about?  I can’t remember if I asked or the look on my face asked for me, but she announced the names of two women in church that I had been in book group with and had a strong connection to.  I thought of the encouragement they give me nearly every time I am in their presence.  I have to admit that sometimes when they compliment me I think to myself that surely they are confusing me with someone else.  I’m not sure that I’ve even met this person they describe.

So Rev. Jean got me thinking about the spiritual mommy concept and I actually think that within my church I now have four.  I sat with one of them on Sunday.  When the service was over she hugged me and said “I love being in your essence.”  Wow.  This wise, beautiful, loving, strong, spirit-filled woman loves my essence?

Aside from my “spiritual mommies,”  I have other cheerleaders.  I have a partner who quietly watches my success and then announces that he always knew I could do it.  I have my writing fairy godmother who sends me emails after our Wednesday meetings and cheers on my work, reminding me to keep going.  There is the occasional awesome soul who gets goose bumps when I share an idea I have or a project I’m working on.  There are those who read what I’ve written and express how moved they are.  There are those who hold a vision for my “career” that even I can’t conjure up.

I don’t know if in the past I really recognized my cheerleaders.  I think we often choose people in our lives that we want to support us and get disappointed when they don’t.   I’ve been there too, sharing my dreams and goals to no avail.  I’ve learned that I haven’t completely let go of a desire for approval from certain people in my life, but I have let go enough to see the loving support all around me.

My cheerleaders are wonderful!  They give me confidence when I am lacking in that department.  They hold the high watch of my dreams when I am feeling frustrated and rejected.  They see glimpses of the best in me and aren’t afraid to tell me so.  I am so very grateful for all of them!

Human Behavior

I’m laughing a little as I title this post because there is a Bjork song with the same title and Mark teases our dog by singing it to her.  Lilly is now pretty much conditioned to switch into attack mode as soon as she hears him belt out a note of it.  There was also a period of time where the girls would watch the video on YouTube and Bella found it quite frightening.  In most areas Callee is more like me then her father except when it comes to teasing.  For a long time Callee would say “Hey Bella you want to talk about human behavior?” and Bella would immediately get scared.

But quite frankly, human behavior is scary and I’m not talking about the Bjork video.  We’ve been watching the series The L Word on and off for the last year.  After finishing season 2 we decided it was too cheesy and melodramatic, but ultimately we got reeled back into it and just finished season 3.  During season 3, I just kept thinking and asking “is this how people really are?” The show is focused around a group of women who are all either Lesbian or Bi-sexual.  The real heart of the show lies in their human-ness and the way they react to their life experiences.  Sometimes it is just plain difficult to watch…which is what brought me to my question.  Are people really like these characters?

What seems to dominate the character’s lives is FEAR.  Almost every move they make comes from that place.  One character sees her girlfriend flirting with some men and she runs over to her ex’s house and spends the night.  When the truth comes out she apologizes by saying that this is just who she is.  Her MO is to be an insecure womanizer…change isn’t in the cards.  The girlfriend is terribly hurt but instead of communicating and forgiving she seeks revenge by also cheating.  You watch these two characters react, react, react until they have completely undone all the good between them and have no relationship left.

Another couple has a daughter and are deciding to split up.  They scream, yell, and curse at one another as the little toddler sits on the floor and watches.  They each threaten the other with getting sole custody of the little girl.  They can’t seem to find any peace, they are too busy blaming one another for the demise of their partnership.

In this show the characters make all sorts of decisions trying to make themselves feel better.  Each one seeks outside of themselves.  When faced with the loss of a friend they cling to the nearest warm body and make irrational commitments.  At times when meeting their fears they give up, too unsure of their ability to follow through.  When people challenge them they defend themselves with anger as their uniform.  They let every emotion lead them down a different road.  And still in the midst of the chaos, it is never their own choices that led them there…always someone else’s fault.

I do believe that the show illustrates what a lot of people are really like (although with some added Hollywood drama).  I know that I’ve been like this at various times in my life.  I have been guilty of seeking revenge.  I’ve been guilty of making assumptions about what other people were thinking or saying in respect to me.  I’ve been incredibly insecure at times.  I’ve been clingy after experiencing a loss.  I’ve lashed out at people who love me.  I’ve been a quitter and at times even a little self-destructive.  I’ve looked to the world to fix me.  And I’ve probably, at least on an occasion or two, blamed someone else when it didn’t.

Luckily I now have a tool that helps to lift me, even if in brief intervals, out of the madness of my humanity.  Because I seek within and find moments of silence, I’ve learned to see my old patterns and break them.  I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an MO that stays with me forever.  Life is about growth and change that cannot be found outside of us…

Paths

Now that I am a parent, I often think about the role I play in my children’s lives.  There is the obvious of course, that I will feed them, clothe them, keep them healthy, make sure they get an education and give them lots of love.  But when it comes down to my desires and vision for their lives, how much will reality match the fantasy?  What really decides our paths?

Facebook has been an amazing look into people’s paths and how they often go in strange and unexpected directions.  When we step out from the consciousness of our families, we attract to our lives the situations and challenges that test us and bring us into our own.   When I was in high school I became fascinated with all things “unique.”  I would take weekly trips to vintage shops and artsy/New Agey stores and just walk around, mostly looking at clothes I loved but didn’t have the nerve to wear.  I was attracted to guys with long hair and piercings (too young yet to be into tattoos).  When I met a perspective boyfriend, I’d often ask “What do you do?” with the hopes of an answer like write poetry, paint, or play guitar.  All of my serious boyfriends did one of those three things.  The sirens of creativity called to me, even if vicariously through other people and places.  These days the vision I hold for my life is a marriage of creativity and spirituality.  My path, with its odd detours and speed bumps, seems to have brought me to me.

I have a friend named Toby.  You will meet her tomorrow in the first in a series of four click stories.  For a short period, Toby and I walked our path together.  We spent weekends hanging out with boys with long hair and piercings.  I tasted artichoke for the first time in Toby’s kitchen standing between her and her mother.  We played soccer and rode in Heather’s convertible Firebird singing Hotel California together.  I took my very first college road trip to visit her at NC State our freshmen year of college.  We were both poets and loved to write.  She was a lot more outgoing than me, but other than that we were very similar.

The last time I was with Amy we sat on her bed (she was on bed rest) and looked at each other’s Facebook pages.  Amy was so excited to share that she had found Toby.  I honestly don’t remember the exact connection but Amy and Toby were also pretty close friends.  Amy was the first to tell me that Toby had been a heroin addict.  When Toby and I finally connected on Facebook she was quick to share with me what she had overcome.  I also learned that she was a proud new mama who was finding her way back to writing.  Despite how drastically different the past fifteen years had been for us, we were now on similar paths…maybe even inching our way onto the same path.

Toby has now sent me four of her stories and has started her own blog.  As she put it on Facebook the other day, she is “writing furiously.”  I read her stories and am greatly aware at how simply and easily our lives can be changed…but also how we at some level create these challenges.  In one of her posts, Toby shares how she was always fascinated with heroin.  She read books and watched movies about addicts and fantasized about her own relationship with the drug.  And just like she always knew, the drug found her, was even presented to her as a birthday gift.  She made a choice that day and it was the only choice she could have made in the moment.  It brought her to where she is now.

What I think is that we are here to choose our on paths and make our own destinies.  Our parents will raise us, teach us, and love us but in the end who we really are will find it’s way through.  Sometimes we are just like our parents and families, sometimes we are not.  There are many crossroads.  Sometimes we make choices that could be described as selfish, careless, or just plain fucked up.  And sometimes it is those very choices that ultimately bring us salvation, even if that salvation comes after a long and hellacious battle.

My Twitter-Free Challenge

Tonight (Tues.) marks the end of my one week Twitter-free challenge.  It has been a liberating week that has allowed me to reconnect to my real life and discover something new about myself.  It’s safe to say I had a problem with the internet in general and especially Twitter.  It’s not unlike drugs or alcohol in that it offers you highs and at times leaves you flat on your face.  Depending on how you use Twitter and the road it takes you on this may look different to different people.  For me it was about validation and feeling “liked.”  If I tweeted the right thing people would reply and show interest in me.  Conversations would start and I’d get the warm fuzzies of a new friendship without having to leave my living room.  But what you realize about Twitter is that it is saturated with people and those people are using it for all sorts of reasons, mainly to get noticed themselves.  People move on, find new followers and engage in more interesting conversations.  For me, I was always on Twitter (logging in and out almost constantly), but not always getting that validation.  In those down moments I would feel the urge to sign off and stay off, but then someone would mention my blog or tweet about my “lovely smile” and I’d be sucked back in again.

For weeks now I have felt this pull to spend less time online and especially less time on Twitter.  I have met such great people there though and when I would think of taking a break the fear voice would pipe in.  What if my Twitter friends forget me? And of course the logical answer to that is if they do forget me they are not actually friends and if they are friends they will not forget.  But that damn fear voice is not logical, it just panics and clings.  So I decided I would present my predicament to one of the sweet souls over at Owning Pink.  I happened to find her on gmail chat last Tuesday evening.

I asked her if she spent a lot of time on Twitter.  This was a question I already had the answer to.  Yes, she has an account, no, she doesn’t really use it.  I told her that I was beginning to feel like it was draining me.  It was making me feel like the regular girl trying hard to be the popular girl.  I am an introvert at my core and that huge part of me aches at these attempts to be an extrovert.  I joined Twitter for the sake of my blog.  It’s what people do when they have something to publicize.  She asked if it was helping.  I told her I thought it helped but really could only see about 8 hits a day that come from Twitter.  The fact is out of 1400 followers I have on Twitter, maybe 20 of them read my tweets (or at least that’s how it seems).

Then she suggested this challenge…Take a week off of Twitter or for the next week limit the time you spend there.  There it was, one of those wonderful clicks. I thought OF COURSE, I’LL DO IT.  A minute later I left my last tweet for the week (other than the daily post that goes to the FB fan page and Twitter simultaneously).

So what have I done this week?  I read a book.  I meditated more.  I bought a sketch pad and started drawing.  Inspired by Bella’s homemade Valentines, I’ve started making greeting cards.  I put 5 handmade and handwritten cards in the mailbox to friends and loved ones today.  I’ve played Wii with Mark.  I’ve spent time with the girls.  I’ve wallowed in the beauty of my real life.  I’ve breathed in gratitude that these three people are here in my world loving me so completely and wonderfully.  I am full and blessed and happy.

I’ll sign back on to Twitter tonight.  I’ll say hello to the friends I’ve missed.  Maybe I’ll find a few mentions of me, or maybe I won’t.  I have learned that I can earn the same validation by listening to my soul when it demands a change.