Life Isn’t Chess: You Can’t Go Back, So Just Go Forward

In April of 2006, just before our sons turned 4 and 6, we traveled to Captiva Island, Florida, to give them a taste of beach life. Because we are a landlocked, mile high family, we waited to make the long trip to a beautiful island until we were certain the boys would enjoy the experience (and we wouldn’t lose it on a four-hour flight with them). While we were there, we shuffled between the resort pool and the shell-strewn beach. The boys loved racing from the surf and building sand castles. We visited the famous Bubble Room for one dinner, and another night we ate ice cream for dinner and chased it with salt water taffy and all-day suckers. We saw a couple manatees near the boat docks. We took a sunset cruise to look for dolphins. And at the end of the trip, my husband took an epic photo of the boys and I, which became one of my all-time favorites.

April 2006

During the lockdowns and the time spent at home during 2020, I spent my some of my time dreaming of returning to Captiva with the boys. We were desperate for a beach trip after being stuck in our landlocked state for so long. I booked a 3-bedroom condo at the same resort we visited last time. We were in a different part of the resort this time around, closer to public restaurants and to the Starbucks just outside the resort entrance, but the rental was bigger and afforded the boys their own rooms. We spent a lot of time at the beach, but didn’t visit the pools because the boys were a bit too big for the kiddie waterslide now. Instead, we did some kayaking through mangroves on nearby Sanibel Island. We ate at the Bubble Room again and loved it. We wanted to repeat our ice cream dinner, but didn’t have the right resort card to gain access, which was a total bummer. Still, we discovered another restaurant that we loved so much we ate there twice. We saw more manatees this time than last time, including a momma and her baby off the docks outside our condo and another one that swam by us while we were in the surf in the Gulf. And on one clear evening, we went back to the spot where we took my favorite photo and attempted to recreate it as best we could. The palm trees were bigger, the boys were bigger, but the beauty of the moment was the same.

May 2021

When you have young kids, people love to tell you that you should cherish those moments because they go by so fast. They aren’t wrong. They fly by like they’re on a Japanese bullet train. But parenting is, from day one, a growth enterprise. There is no going backwards, as it’s meant to be a forward endeavor. So don’t let anyone convince you that watching your kids grow, change, and eventually move on into their own lives is somehow a negative, something to be depressed about. It’s the greatest gift a parent can receive. If you don’t believe me, ask a parent who has lost a child. As memorable as our trip was in 2006, it was better in 2021. I’m grateful we’ve made it this far together, and no matter what happens from here I will cherish ALL the memories, not just the ones from when the boys were small.

Limitless

Let’s go back to the beginning when my identity was fluid and limitless

The best part about being where I am in my therapy journey is that many of the hardest moments of discovery and realization are behind me. I’ve faced that I was emotionally abused by people who I thought were looking out for me but who never were. I’ve digested the fact that I spent my entire life thus far trying to measure up to expectations that had nothing to do with me. I’ve mourned the loss of what might have been if the actors in this play were different. I’ve also grieved the loss of opportunities I was incapable of accepting in my past because of who I was at the time. I’ve accepted that it is unlikely that my relationships with these people will ever be anything other than what they have been or what they are now. I understand that many of the choices I made in my past were made to keep me safe rather than move me forward. I acknowledge that while I can’t go back and make anything different, the pressure of the sadness, isolation, and rejection I experienced hardened me into something stronger, more resilient, and better than I might have been otherwise. All of this is to say that I’ve done the work. And, while I’m sure I will continue to peel other layers from time to time, I think I finally have a pretty good handle on what triggers me and why it does, along with how I can do better for myself going forward. Progress!

My sister and I have been talking about this a lot. When you grow up being told who you are rather than being allowed to explore and follow your heart and interests, it’s a bit like arriving at adulthood wearing someone else’s cast-off, ill-fitting, moth-ball-scented coat. It’s as if you came into the world naked and instead of getting to choose your clothing, you got handed this ratty old coat and because it was all you were allowed to have you used it to cover your nakedness and protect you from the elements. Now, though, with so much work behind us, we understand that this coat is not ours. It was never meant to be. And even though we’ve been wearing it for years, we didn’t realize until recently that it never suited us and we didn’t like it in the least. It simply was what was, something we were forced to wear when we didn’t know any better and weren’t better equipped to advocate for ourselves.

Now, though, now we get to start over. We’ve arrived at the fun part. We’ve ditched the coats, throwing off the mantle of what we were supposed to be according to someone else, and we’re standing here asking ourselves what we would like to wear in its place. It’s both exciting and stressful. Like a puppy let loose in PetsMart, we’re overwhelmed by the options. There are so many aisles to explore, so many shiny things to distract us as we try to figure out what most appeals to us. The only thing I know for sure that I want is to be a better mother to myself. I want to give myself love and acceptance and to feel comfortable in my skin. I want to feel safe and unconditionally loved just as I am right now. And after I get comfortable with that reality, then I will start figuring out who I am, what I want, what I like, and what I am willing to put up with.

The other day after therapy, I was driving home and the word “limitless” popped into my head. Limitless. I started to think, for just a moment, that maybe this is where I am at. If you remove the obstacles that have kept you boxed and trapped and there’s nothing holding you back, maybe, just maybe you are limitless. I’m going to need to sit with this because this is big.

Not All Little Golden Books Were Golden

(Editor’s note: I’ve decided to do a little blog work on memories. I am hoping to tell one story from a past memory each week. This post begins that practice.)

No idea why these little girls are wearing Victorian clothing in 1972

When I was a young girl, my middle sister and I shared a full-size bed in one bedroom. At night, my mom would read us a Little Golden Book. One book that sticks in my mind more than any other was called Good Little, Bad Little Girl. The story was about one little girl who sometimes was well-behaved and other times was not, just like most humans. The “good” little girl was depicted as being neat, clean, calm, and polite, the very ideal of femininity. The “bad” little girl was messy, disheveled, emotional, stubborn, and rude, everything a little girl was not meant to be. As I look back at the book now, I find it appallingly sexist. At the time, however, that is not at all how I understood the story. 

The good little girl in the story looked a lot like the sister I shared that bedroom with. She had lovely, smooth, straight, blonde hair that was easy to comb through and was held neatly in barrettes. She was sweet with her baby doll toys, compliant with parents’ wishes, and not any trouble at all. The bad little girl in the story reminded me of myself. She was depicted with unruly hair, sticking her tongue out, pulling the good girl’s hair, and acting like a tomboy. She was not at all what she was “supposed” to be. The parallels between the good and bad girls in the story and my sister and I were uncanny in my young mind. This story was about us.

When my mother read that story to us, I was probably 5 or 6. I didn’t realize the tale was about one girl. I thought it really was about two girls, one good and one bad. At the end of the book, though, the narrator says (spoiler alert): “If you would be happy, if you would be wise, open your ears and open your eyes. Make the bad little girl grow smaller and smaller. Make the good little girl grow taller and taller.” My understanding of that passage at the time was that I, with my less than perfect hair, behavior, and demeanor, was so bad that perhaps I should simply disappear. I had no idea that the girl in the story was one young female child who simply had good days and bad days and was alternately sweet and ornery. I didn’t understand that the book was meant to be a cautionary (if outdated and sexist) tale for young girls about how to best behave. Because my sister looked and acted like the girl in the book, because my mother often held up my sister to me as an example of a good girl (look at how nicely she holds her baby doll), I understood that I simply was the “bad” girl. I realize that my mother was just reading a story book, but we never had any qualifying conversations about the meaning of the book. There was no objective talk to break down the notion that most of us are basically good people with bad days and that, if we strive to be the best versions of ourselves, our bad behaviors may dissipate with time. Without that conversation, my creative mind was left to run wild. And run wild it did. I did not like that book, but it came to be the one I most identified with. It has stuck with me for 48 years.

I’ve discussed this Little Golden Book book in therapy because it is one of the earliest memories I have about how I internalized the notion that I was not a good, acceptable person deserving of love exactly the way I am. There are many stories about myself that I accepted over the years without stopping to question their veracity. I will continue to work on growing my self-esteem through self-compassion until I can put this book (and other stories I was sold about myself) behind me as false narratives that were never true and that I no longer need to carry.

While I am, in nearly all cases, against banning or destroying books, maybe someday I will get my hands on a copy of this book. Then I will burn it for the symbolic and therapeutic relief it will provide. Don’t worry, though. I will leave The Poky Puppy, The Little Red Hen, Scruffy the Tugboat, and Tootle in tact.

The Sugar Crash

I wonder if the skeleton t-rex and vampire dog want any candy?

We moved into our current home in the summer of 2020. When Halloween rolled around, there were just five occupied homes on our relatively new block in this growing community. As I drove through our neighborhood last fall, I had dreams that Halloween would be insane because there were so many homes with young and school age children. I bought a ton of candy in anticipation of the throngs I expected. Whether it was pursuant to the pandemic or our mostly unoccupied block, we had two small groups of trick-or-treaters last fall. I consumed most of the candy that was leftover. Boo.

This year, with the pandemic concerns lessened somewhat and with all of the homes on our block finally occupied, I went to Costco and picked up two large bags of candy. Tonight, we had maybe 25 trick-or-treaters, all of whom were treated to a massive handful of candy. It’s almost 9 pm here now, and if I want to get rid of the ton of candy that is left in my house, I need to pray for some wayward teenagers to come and raid bowls I set in our driveway under a neon sign. What I hoped would be a sugar rush was actually a sugar crash. Sigh.

I am hoping that as the years go by, we continue to see an upward trend in little peoples darkening our doorstep dressed as adorable lions or scarecrows or firefighters or unicorns or fairies. Until then, I need to either stop buying so much damn candy or find a way to turn it into a fuel source.

In the meantime, I just saw a holiday ad on television, so it appears we’ve already moved on. Maybe I’ll just stuff the holiday stockings with leftover Halloween candy. Problem solved.

You Don’t Have To Let Go Of Everything At Once

Are you kidding me, Colorado?

For two decades now, we have gone to the corn maze with our sons before Halloween. It started in 2001, when we took four month old Joe to Anderson Farms. We have been when it was 80 and sunny. We have been when the temperature dropped and we were finishing the maze in the snow. We have been when we had the boys in Baby Bjorn carriers, then in wagons, and then when we raced as teams (boys versus us) to see who would emerge triumphant. It is one of the traditions we made and kept over the years. It was definitely different this year with Joe off at college, but we decided we weren’t ready to let this go.

The map Luke used

It was about 60 degrees at 10:10 a.m. when we entered the maze. The sky was full of cirrus clouds, and the leaves on the cottonwoods were amazing. Luke has a crazy good ability to read maps, so he told us we could finish both sections of the maze in 15 minutes. I told him it would take at least 30. With this challenge, he started leading us through the maze. In five minutes he had us through the smaller section of the maze. I was a little shocked. I knew he was good, but this was a little over the top. I started to suspect that this is why he and his brother have beaten us through the maze three years running. We did get close one year, but not close enough. I thought it was because Steve and I were old and slow. It was actually because Luke was Magellan in his former life.

Luke leading the way

Luke raced us through the second part of the maze. I kept complaining that although there are seven miles of paths in this maze, I was going to get in less than one mile of walking because he was so damn efficient. In the end, I wasn’t half wrong. We reached the exit for the second part of the maze at 10:36. I tried to explain to Luke that corn mazes aren’t about speed, but Luke told me I didn’t raise quitters. He thinks successfully navigating corn mazes it is about efficiency and speed. I tend to disagree. I think corn mazes are meant to be wandered through in awe, with a plan of escaping at some point but not until you’ve sucked every last bit of glory out of fall before dreaded winter arrives. But I was not going to complain about our difference of opinion because any time with our high school senior is a good thing.

I think that when both boys are gone next year, Steve and I will still work to keep this tradition alive, even if it is just the two of us. I can’t see giving this up. At its worst, it’s a cold, wet day in a muddy cornfield. At its best, it’s a beautiful morning walk in nature under a glorious fall sky.

You can’t keep your kids from growing up and leaving you, but you can keep some things in tact so that if they ever return (maybe with their own children) they know where to find you.

Thing Two and I

Out Of The Ashes, New Growth

It occurred to me today that I have next to no memories of the day I graduated from college. I have a fuzzy recollection of lining up to head into the arena where the ceremony was held. I have another vague memory of sitting with friends, but that memory is based solely around photos I took that day. I don’t actually remember sitting with my friends or taking photos. I can’t tell you which of my family members were there. My parents were recently divorced. My sisters were 20 and 17. I don’t know if we celebrated with dinner somewhere or if I spent time with friends and their families or if I spent the day with my boyfriend. It strikes me as odd, though, that there are no clear or warm memories of that day for me. It seems like the kind of day that many people might remember. An auspicious occasion. I was the first in our family to graduate from a four-year college. It feels like it passed as more or less an ordinary day.

My husband remembers his graduation day. His mom and dad hosted a graduation breakfast for him and his friends. It was near Christmas and his birthday, so his mom had a Santa come to the breakfast. After the ceremony, his parents hosted Steve and some of his friends at a graduation lunch at their favorite college restaurant, the Rio Grande, known for their potent margaritas (limit 3 per customer). At the lunch, his mom had a clown arrive with balloons. Later, a belly dancer showed up and performed three songs for him in the crowded restaurant. He has told me he wished it had only been two songs (enough for his mom to get her money’s worth), though, because three was a bit much. Still, his accomplishment was celebrated and cemented with specific events that he carries with him and always will. It was a fun day for him.

Today we were at Luke’s last cross-country event of the season. There were some teenagers walking near us. One of them, noticing all the parents at this meet at one p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, remarked to his friends, “I wish I had a supportive family.” That comment struck me. I told Steve that young man has a gift he doesn’t realize is a gift. He has self-awareness at a young age. I didn’t realize until my mid forties that I didn’t have a supportive family when I was growing up, at least not supportive parents, to be sure. If you are young when you realize you don’t have a supportive family, you can work to piece together a supportive family of your choosing. You can work to change your narrative for more of your life.

I have done a lot of work trying to piece together memories from the first eighteen years of my life. I don’t have many, but the ones that stick with me and have to do with my parents are predominantly negative. I do have positive memories of my life growing up, but those have to do with friends or my accomplishments. My fondest wish as a parent was to create positive memories with our sons that they would have with them their whole lives. I hope someday they will remember their birthdays, graduations, and other important milestones. I hope they will also benefit from the little things, like dinner as a family every night and deep conversations on long car rides. I hope they will look back and not just know they had a supportive family, but feel the power of that support each and every minute. Moreover, I wish every child had a loving, supportive family because every child should travel through life with at least that.

“Never underestimate a cycle breaker. Not only did they experience years of generational trauma, but they stood in the face of this trauma and fought to say ‘This ends with me.’ This is brave. This is powerful. This comes at significant cost. Never underestimate a cycle breaker.” ~Author Unknown

“You are not the darkness you endured. You are the light that refused to surrender.” ~John Mark Green

Turns Out Dr. Spock Was Right

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” ~Dr. Benjamin Spock

Two little bears and one mama bear

Today I was thinking about the times in my twenty years as a parent when I was brave enough to follow my gut, to speak up for my children, to make the right choices for them in the face of opposition from medical professionals, family members, friends, and even random strangers who couldn’t keep from speaking up about something they knew nothing about and that was none of their business. Sometimes I made these bold moves with my voice shaking. Sometimes I made them unconsciously, simply changing a behavior without considering why I had. No matter how I managed to summon the courage in those situations, though, I trusted myself. And, as it turns out, I intuitively knew a lot more than I thought I did.

When most kids their age were starting first grade, I thought it wise to keep both our boys back a year and give them a second kindergarten experience. I simply didn’t feel they were ready. I just kept thinking that an extra year to be a child, to build basic skills, could never be a bad thing. It was odd watching boys they knew from playgroup jump ahead of them in school. It was odder still when boys who were younger than they were suddenly were in the same grade. In the end, both boys ended up being diagnosed with learning disabilities, and the extra year allowed them to fit in with their fellow students until we figured out what they needed. If they had gone to school “on time” with other children their age, they would not have been able to keep up. They weren’t ready then. Neither boy has suffered for the extra time we suggested they take to get to where they needed to be.

When Joe was 7 and finishing first grade, I remember him crying and telling me he didn’t want to go to second grade. He hated school. He actually said to me, “I’m the dumbest person in my class” (that story here). That broke my heart because 1) I knew he was not dumb at all and 2) how do you fix the shattered self-esteem of a 7 year old? So, I went out on a limb and took him to Children’s Hospital in Denver to be evaluated for ADD after Joe’s occupational therapist suggested it. It took less than an hour spent with two child psychologists and one child psychiatrist before they took me aside and told me they were positive Joe had ADHD. They suggested trying him on a low dosage of Concerta, the slow-release version of Ritalin. Joe and I agreed he should try it. Several friends thought I was crazy. How could I put my young son on a Schedule II drug? Three days after he started on it, Joe, then 8, told me he finally felt like himself. That medication changed the trajectory of his life. It allowed him to focus at school, to trust himself, to make good decisions, to grow his self-esteem. It allowed him to graduate high school with a 3.8 GPA and gave him the opportunity to be accepted at a well-respected, private liberal arts college. He and I have zero regrets about this decision.

When I told Joe’s pediatrician at his next appointment about his new prescription, he read me the riot act for not consulting him first. Didn’t I know that he could have evaluated Joe? Why wouldn’t I consult him first? He was his doctor, after all. I looked that doctor square in the face and, with a voice rising from somewhere in my gut I did not know I had, told him, “Yes. You are his doctor. You should have diagnosed this already based on all your visits with him and all the forms we filled out for you and the tests you yourself gave him in your office.” He huffed out of the room. Joe was horrified. I told him everything would be fine, and we would be finding another doctor. Ten minutes later, to his credit, the doctor returned with Joe’s chart and admitted he should have caught it. We found another pediatrician anyway.

The next pediatrician came recommended to us by a couple friends as well as Luke’s dyslexia tutor who knew him personally. The boys were at that office for six years. During that time, they became teenagers. When the doctor conducted his physical exams of the boys, I stayed in the room. I never allowed them to be alone with the doctor during the physical exam when they were undressed, even though they might have felt it invaded their privacy. To combat that, I would turn to face the wall when the doctor checked their genitalia. My main reason for remaining in the room was that the boys were not great at sharing information, and I didn’t want to miss out on what the doctor was saying or finding. My secondary reason was that when I would ask the boys on the way into the office if they wanted me to stay in the room, they always did. I knew it made me seem like a meddling, overprotective, helicopter parent. I did not care. As it turned out, that doctor was one day no longer at the practice. He was being investigated regarding claims made by other parents of inappropriate sexual touching during exams. We dodged a bullet because I stuck with my gut.

If you are a new parent, a soon-to-be parent, or a parent who is constantly questioning your decisions about your children in the present moment, I’m here to tell you that what Dr. Spock said is true. Trust yourself. Trust your intuition. No one knows your child as well as you do. Listen to them. Listen to your heart. Meet them where they are and not where you hoped or wanted them to be. And then do whatever the damn hell you want to raise your child(ren) the way that makes the most sense for your family. Ignore the naysayers, the comment makers, and the nosey Bakers. You know more than you think you do, even when you aren’t aware of it.

My pride and joy…both of them

I’m Banana-Seat Bicycle Years Old

4th grade: Linda, Taryl, Me, and Christy

When I was a kid, back in the Dark Ages, we didn’t have the Internet. There was no YouTube. No Nintendo. No TikTok. No Snapchat. We couldn’t text friends. We didn’t even have answering machines or voicemail, so if you tried to call your friend and they didn’t answer you had to ride your banana-seat bicycle blocks to their house to talk to them. We didn’t have homework that took hours. We walked to the local school by ourselves, walked home with friends, and hung out. We didn’t spend our nights in front of screens. Instead, we ran around with our neighbor friends playing Hide and Seek or Kick the Can until our parents yelled from the front door or flickered our porch light to signal they wanted to go to sleep so they were required by law to make sure we were home safely.

With all that free time and parents who really didn’t care what we were doing or where we were just as long as the house was quiet, we were “free range kids.” We would yell that we were going to ride our bikes, the screen door would slam behind us, and no one would have a clue where we were for hours on end. No one had an app to track us. They did not care. So, we did stupid things. We made mistakes. We were creative. We had endless hours of unstructured play and not a parent around to check up on us. It’s how you learned about life in the days before you watched “content” from the security of your bedroom while your parents yelled at you to get off your iPad, monitored your electronics usage, and turned off the Wifi to get your attention.

Here are a few things I did between the ages of 9 and 15, which should illustrate how innocent life was back then:

I would walk to the end of the block to see my friend, Amy. In the basement of her split-level home, we would listen to Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves by Cher. I am pretty sure we made up a dance routine to that song. I have no idea why we chose that particular song, but I’m going to hazard a guess it was because her parents owned Cher’s record. I believe it might also have been at Amy’s house where I sang into an ice-cream-cone-shaped candle that served as a microphone. Sadly, we sang was Barry Manilow’s Can’t Smile Without You.

Back in the days before caller ID, my best friend, Kerry, and I would call the house of a cute boy we knew. He was a mall rat we also knew from church. He had brown, curly hair, and we thought he was adorable. We would ring his house repeatedly, hoping he would answer. He often didn’t. So we would hang up. Sometimes, though, he would answer. We would still hang up. We just thought he had a cute voice. After a while, they stopped answering their phone altogether. One day we discovered the number was out of service. His parents had changed to an unlisted number because they had grown sick of getting hung up on.

My sisters and I would walk to the local swimming pool, which was two miles away. We would stay there for hours, swimming with friends. buying Cokes and Big Hunks from the snack shop. One time while we were walking home, we got caught up in a heavy thunderstorm with lightning. As we were running through the park parallel to the road, a police officer pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride. He drove us the last few blocks to our home. Our parents worked, so no one was home when we got there. No one saw us arrive in a squad car, so there were no questions.

In elementary school, my friends and I all had Drooper dogs. They were toy dogs with soft, plush fur, stuffed heads, plastic eyes, black pompom noses, and bean-filled bodies. My friends and I had many of these dogs, as they were one of the “in” toys then. When Grease came out, we decided to recreate the movie using the stuffed dogs as the characters. We used fabric scraps to create dresses for the female characters and vests for the male characters. We had an 8 track tape of the soundtrack, so we choreographed dance numbers for the dogs and worked out the entire performance.

A lot has changed in thirty-five years. Kids are more carefully watched. Parents are more vigilant. We have phones that can track everywhere we are. We aren’t really free range people anymore.

The Power of Storytelling Without Fear

“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you DO choose.” ~Michelle Rosenthall

Everything changes when you finally decide to divest yourself from a toxic relationship.

Some people judge you for your choice, especially if the relationship you leave behind is one involving a parent, spouse, or sibling. Those people tell you to reconsider because “life is short and you might be sorry when they are gone.” Those people used to get to me. They would reacquaint me with the gaslighting I have experienced my entire life. I would feel guilty and small and cruel for choosing myself. With time and practice, though, I’ve learned to listen to those voices less because those people don’t and can’t understand the emotional damage I have worked so hard to grieve, dismantle, reassess, and then release. They don’t know that every day is a battle to trust others, to feel safe in my skin and like myself, and to move forward carrying less baggage. They can’t understand how much it hurts a child to have a parent tell you multiple times, “You have a face only a mother could love,” only to realize she doesn’t love you or she would never say things like that. Birthdays, holidays, and family events are not joyful, but instead produce physical symptoms of anxiety. Walking away is not what you want. It’s not what you ever wanted, which is why it is so difficult. But, in the face of acknowledging there is not now nor will there ever be true acceptance and appreciation from the people who made you question everything about yourself, the best thing to do is move on and do better for yourself.

I still feel guilty sometimes about putting myself first, about choosing to skip out on that toxic person’s birthday party or holiday gathering. I never want to feel I am acting intentionally to hurt another because I was constantly told that I was selfish and thoughtless. Looking out for myself only proves that hypothesis. But what if I test that hypothesis against the reality of what happened rather than the illusion of what I was told happened? Then, magical things begin to occur. I have learned to have empathy for my abusers, to feel sorry they were incapable of doing better, to be grateful they taught me what not to do with my own children, to feel sad they will never know the truth about love, and at the same time to understand I do not owe them a relationship at the expense of my own mental and emotional well being.

For decades, my brain protected me by blocking awareness of the abuse. It had me believe that I was treated the same way everyone else was by their parents. It wasn’t until I started talking about my youth and seeing the shock and horror on other’s faces when I told them stories about my childhood that I understood what I knew as “normal” was actually neither normal nor healthy. It was a shocking revelation. My brain had for so long worked to legitimize the abuse to protect me that I was unable to comprehend that what I experienced was abuse. When I finally could not unsee the reality any longer, I began to grow. I have fought since then to tell my story more often, to give voice to what I was conditioned to believe was only my imagination, my “over-sensitive” nature.

“You own everything that ever happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ~Anne Lamott

Six years ago, I composed a blog post around the above quote, asking other writers for permission to tell my stories even if doing so would potentially hurt someone else and cause rifts in long-standing relationships. Six years ago, I wasn’t yet brave enough to speak my truth. But, six years of weekly therapy and hard work have at last brought me to the place where I am able to choose myself and let others deal with their emotions about that their own way. I’ve learned that if telling my truth is problem for them, maybe they should address that in their own heart, that I don’t owe them protection when they didn’t protect me, that I don’t have to put them first when they didn’t put me first. It’s a powerful place to live when you finally decide that you are not responsible, despite what you have been told, for other people’s reactions to your choices. It’s not vindictive to tell your story. It’s life changing to give yourself permission to protect yourself from the people who have hurt you and to tell your stories because if they wanted to be remembered warmly, they should have behaved better.

I am not afraid of my past anymore. I’m not afraid of people being angry with me for telling my stories about it. I’m only afraid of living another day bound by tales about myself that were passed down to me by others that don’t define me and never did. Tell your stories, especially when they are controversial and difficult. Eventually, they will set you free.

I had been deceived. The only thing that was ever wrong with me was my belief that there was something wrong with me.” ~Glennon Doyle

Get Out Of Their Way And Oh The Places They’ll Go

“You’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~Dr. Seuss

KWCW 90.5 Walla Walla

Yesterday I wrote about how freeing it is to let your adult children find themselves. It’s not easy to step back and get out of their way, especially if they have been your full-time job for twenty years, but it is a game changer for them and for you. After finishing my post last night, the universe provided proof of this to me.

On September 30th, the day I left Joe at Whitman College to begin his second semester, he attended the Student Activities Fair. When I asked him what activities or clubs he approached at the fair, I was a little taken aback when he told me he was submitting an application to be a DJ at the campus radio station. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Joe has long been aware of and interested in music. In May 2005 when he was not yet four, I put on some classical music for him to listen to and he listened for a few seconds and then said, “I don’t like that song. I just like to listen to Green Day in the car.” Since the day we brought them home from the hospital, our children have been exposed to alternative and indie rock, with the occasional 80s or 90s song thrown in for good measure, because that is what we listen to on satellite radio. Joe’s interest in Green Day grew into interest in The Killers. In his early teens, he acquired a side affinity for Asian pop music due to his love of anime, but ultimately he landed back in the alt rock genre around his sophomore year of high school.

Joe asked me to look over his application. He was putting in for a slot for a program he was calling Breaking Down Alternative. He was planning to go by JC (his first and middle initials) on the air and his show would go behind the music and delve into the artists’ influences and their personal stories. I told him it all looked good and took a “we’ll see” approach because I had no idea what kind of competition there might be for DJ slots. Lo and behold, a couple weeks later he casually texted it was official. He was going to be a DJ on Wednesday nights at 11 pm.

So last night, Steve and I stayed up from midnight until 1 am to listen to our son the DJ through a link he had provided to us. After a little fumbling at the beginning of his time slot, where two other DJs could be heard helping Joe get set up before realizing with a laugh that they were live, Joe finally came online. We heard him introduce himself and his show and then play his first song. With each passing song, the seamlessness with which he spoke and then started the music increased. It was amazing to be part of his first on-air experience. We could hear his smile through the radio, and it made us smile. We texted with him throughout the program. He was relaxed and happy and stunned by the quality of the music through the radio headphones. Our son blew us away, not because we thought he wouldn’t rise to the occasion but because he was out there, pursuing something that he loved and taking risks to put himself there. And this is why I said yesterday that he is a joy. He continually surprises us with his adulting, his knowledge of himself, and his choices. Like any college student, sometimes he misses the mark and stumbles, but he has proven that he learns from his missteps and then improves with the freshly acquired knowledge. Isn’t that exactly what a parent hopes for when they launch their child into the big, wide world?

This is why giving them a strong foundation and then letting them go to see what they will accomplish while they climb their own mountain is rewarding. The things we want or choose for them might pale in comparison to what they choose for themselves. What do we know, after all? As much as we tend to see our children as extensions of ourselves, they aren’t. They are completely different animals with their own ideas and talents. If we get out of their way, they might teach us something.

Joe introducing his second song on air last night