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.

 

me, now

Turning 40 made me extra-reflective about everything.  This past year was so full of thoughts and plans and declarations, it makes me a bit tired thinking back to everything I squeezed into it.

In the middle of it all, I faced some some hard truths last year and had to make the time to decide what was really, really important to me.

How's my marriage?  What did I want for my children at this stage of their lives?  Am I taking care of my body?  Am I making myself available for God's calling?  Am I even listening for it?  What do I love, and what am I doing about it?

Addressing these is helping me re-order my priorities, rip off some band-aids and start this transition.

Here's what I know for sure, now (in no particular order):

  • I am an introvert who can no longer pretend to be an extrovert.  Large groups and busy gatherings exhaust me and I need regular periods of quiet alone time to thrive.
  • My marriage is both strong and tender.  It does not have an auto-pilot feature and must be a vessel through which our children and other couples can learn about grace, humility and the joy that results from them.
  • My children are getting older and may all leave home, quite plausibly, within the next ten years.  I cannot dillydally with the lessons I want to teach and exemplify.
  • I want to meet the world.  Travel outside of North America is a new priority.
  • I want contribution and generosity to be natural responses, with less calculation or hesitation.
  • I value hospitality.  I want to explore different ways to practice it.
  • I am not good at housekeeping, inside and out (you should see my backyard right now).  I am no longer a lover of baking.  I don't enjoy planning parties like I used to.  And that's all okay.
  • I love reading (memoirs, mostly) and I love writing (run-on sentences, mostly).
  • I want to figure out what foods, exercise regimes and general practices are best for my own health.
  • God is my Number One.  Jesus is my Example.  The Holy Spirit is my Guide.

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!

pro-ageing excellence

This ad stopped me in my tracks one night as my husband and I were enjoying a mid-week stroll around the city. "Complete age control". How a company could consciously claim that is beyond me. Even the word "anti-ageing" is a modification, surely to bring your attention to that evil, evil word age

But it's not, though.

You know that, right?

 

I am turning thirty-nine this fall. I'll say it again slowly so you know that I'm not afraid of it.

Thur. Tee. Nine.

My skin knows it and gravity reminds me all the time. My body certainly does not operate the same way that it used to. But it's the less tangible parts of me that are increasing in value. My growing hunger for wisdom leads me to make better choices with my time than the ones when I was young and invincible and stupid. My threshold for uncertainty is evolving as I embrace different kinds of risks and avoid others. The shape of my heart is changing, maybe expanding, to better accommodate the Holy Spirit, to include a greater understanding of the world and the people in it, and to squeeze out complacency.

I am a year away from my optometrist's kill-date for glasses, but the way I see the world is much, much clearer now and that could only have developed with the time I've spent on this planet. From some angles, the clarity is gray and blurred for the things that I now know I have to surrender my control and understanding of. From others, it is sharper, where absolute truths and the stories behind the stories have finally been embraced.

There is no drive-thru pick up for these things at twenty-nine. So don't dwell there. Be pro-ageing. I'm not saying don't wash your face. Just don't subscribe to the false idea that there is less joy, less wholeness, less awesomeness on the other side of youth. 

The silver-haired head is a crown of glory,
If it is found in the way of righteousness. (Proverbs 16:31)

Wisdom is with aged men, and with length of days, understanding. (Job 12:12)

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.