as a mother

Comedian Ali Wong has a short bit about hoarding and helping her mom clean her house.  Tensions ran high when her mom wouldn't let go of a calculator manual.

"You never know when you might need this!"

"Buuuutttt, I do know that I'm gonna have to clean all this $#&@ up when you diiiieee."

It was funny until I thought about my own basement.

I pictured my kids, many years from now, standing trapped in the middle of my crap, still in shock from learning about our financial situation, feeling totally duped.  And then pitying me because I must have been shamefully hiding problems and bad habits and baggage all these years.  Eventually it would all rot into annoyance because cleaning everything out was taking forever.

The last thing I want for my children is to not know the real me.  Ben and I have worked too hard to make our family and our home the safest places for them to be and dream.  

I want them to have a broader, more accurate world view.  I want them to know that owning and renting are both respectable housing options.  I want them to be thoughtful about their choices.  I want them to be unafraid of vulnerability and course-correction.  I want them to make the time to know and love themselves as their Creator does.  And hopefully these things will all converge to create the authentic lives I desire for each of them.

Encouraging them to be brave or be responsible or to confidently be themselves in a resistant culture will have no traction if I'm not doing the same thing.  So here I am, owning my crap, taking big steps to fix things, and staying true to my values regardless of how upstream they are.  All in quite plain view.

 

graduation day

I passed Adult 1 swim class recently.

I was exhausted and my muscles ached all over, but I can now do the back crawl for about 12m and the front crawl for 10m (with the world's worst form).  But all the bullets have check marks and I have the beginnings of a life skill I have pined over for almost thirty years.  Now I have to practice over the spring and summer, before I forget to point my toes, relax my knees, keep my hips close to the surface, fully extend my arms, keep my ear pinned to my shoulder when I turn to breathe, breathe and not drink, all at the same time.  It's so automatic and instinctual for all the young kids on the other (deep) end of the pool, but we adults have so much fear laced in this whole process that tying all that together is so difficult.

At one point while trying to perfect my back crawl, my rising right arm splashed water onto my face, breaking my momentum and opening the door to flailing panic.  Staring hard at the ceiling, my mind switched to the scene of Jesus asking Peter to step onto the water.  In the second half of that instant, I realized something. Get a grip Leah, you're learning to swim on your back in four and a half feet of water at a community pool in the 'burbs, with two qualified lifeguards nearby.  Save your nerves for the heavy stuff, for, well, Peter's sake.

So, when our instructor suggested we go into the deep end for the final five minutes, I yawped YES.  And then when he said the life jackets aren't out and do you want to try jumping in without them, I swooshed my foot down in the water and declared yes once again.

And in I went.

There's something about my time in the deep end that is making me want to go back.  A kind of freedom, albeit for only about five seconds at a time.  There's no floor immediately below andit feels mysterious-therefore-scary but exciting and warm and enveloping all at the same time.  Plus I had my two child leader-lifesavers standing by, telling me as I'm launching off the big foam island thing to go for it.  If young J and A had my trust for my survival at 7:58 on Sunday night, then surely I could try harder to place it in God's irrefutably more capable hands for the bigger and bolder. 

 “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”” ‭‭(Mark‬ ‭9:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

 

My report card!

My report card!

check list for the fortieth year

I am turning thirty-nine this week.  I want to use the coming year as a launching pad towards a more beautiful, whole, authentic me when I officially reach forty next November.  Here is what I am assigning myself to get there:

Decide what I believe is truth and not be afraid to believe - This is an existing work-in-progress.  As I continue learning more about living as a Jesus follower, I want to come out of this year firm in what it means for each facet of my life.

Familiarize myself with my body - Its strengths, limitations, what makes it thrive and what doesn't.  This should probably start with a physical and a reconnection with a few paramedicals.  Things already don't hang, grow or spring back the way they did when I was in my twenties.  In addition to learning general best practices for healthy living, I want to know exactly what foods and activities work for me specifically.

Discover what my genuine interests are, independent from my family members, friends and peers – I was all over hand lettering earlier this year, but I discovered I don’t love it enough for the ten thousand hour journey it will take to become Lindsay Letters.  Which I kind of put on my list of goals for 2015.  I know that I genuinely love Adele’s new album because I cry that hurts-so-good-put-it-on-repeat cry every time I listen to track 10 and not because all things her are viral right now.  I want to identify things that I will lalalalove after they stop trending and that I will comfortably agree-to-disagree with others about.

Establish best responses at difficult moments – When I walk into a funeral home, if a loved one announces their engagement to the dude you hoped was a phase, when someone tells you their unfavourable diagnosis, when encountering someone with physical disability, when she is in anguish or he is aloof, I want to respond with intentionally crafted words and/or actions that speak love and compassion.  Only.

 

Friends, let me know if you decide to tackle any of these yourself in the months or years ahead, or share how you have grown into a more authentic you!

the "oh ya? well i'm sadder than you" habit

If you want to witness something shake-your-head-foolish, get within earshot of a group of women sharing labour and delivery stories.  It doesn’t take long for it to escalate into a tug-of-war of hour-counts, staff abandonments, epidural horror stories and most dramatic water-breakings.  I myself have been known to bust out my early-morning petrified cab driver bit when I feel the attention waning in my corner. 

Found this gem at Hallmark.

Found this gem at Hallmark.

Years ago I shared the story of my mother’s illness and death with another woman and she responded with “So?…”  It was devastating enough that the story she proceeded to tell is little more than a Charlie Brown teacher schpiel, but I can still envision the scene when she spoke that hurtful and invalidating word to me in full detail.

Not only do we compete for (or lament the loss of) the titles of Most Capable, Most Beautiful, Most Fabulous at Anything and Everything, Most Postable Life – sometimes we compete for the Most Miserable too, we must admit.  (Just listen to people in Toronto this month talking about the effects of the PanAm Games traffic control measures on their daily commutes.)  The more pathetic we look sometimes, the better.  A sort of cheap imitation of martyrdom.

I can play the victim, but I have dished it out too, though.  I am not proud of it.  For the exact reason that I was proud of it in the second I spat out my two cents.

I am listening more now than I used to, holding back a response and simply receiving testimony, and only creating a dialogue when it can offer the mutual comfort of common ground.  It gets easier, resisting the temptation to one-up in favour of empathizing, the more I come to know that I am who God says I am.  Not more this or less that than anyone else.  Just enough.