The last couple of years have been filled with tremendous growth. By which I mean I completely came undone and shattered and had to figure out which bits of me I wanted to keep and which ones were no longer serving me. Eight-years-ago Me doesn’t recognize Today Me, probably doesn’t like Today Me. That’s ok.
I’m still probably getting a lot of the being a decent (Christian) person wrong. That’s a topic for another post, however.
One of the things I like most about Today Me is my greater capacity for genuine compassion. I’m more likely to give “people” the befenit of the doubt and assign to them the most charitable motives I can believe.
Of course, it’s always hardest with the people closest to us and I’m still learning. Isn’t it strange that the people we hope give the most leeway for our choices are the often the ones we are least able to do the same with. Of course, we always want to believe the best in each other, but practicing that is a lot harder than wishing it. I’m no exception.
When I look around me, I find myself more and more and more believing in the idealism of voluntaryism because at its core, voluntaryism requires us to be the best versions of ourselves and to expect the same from others. When we expect to see good, I think we tend to, even if we “disagree” with people’s choices or opinions.
It is in that spirit that I offer this:
I believe you are doing your best. Aren’t we all? Don’t we all just take the bits of ourselves that we feel good about and the bits that aren’t ourselves but we wish were and put them out for the world to see?
Here’s the thing: authenticity is messy and it’s all we make it out to be. It’s ok to save face and honor the space you’re in and to have to learn how to balance being all you and not scaring people off. We’re all trying to figure it out.
I believe that when you leave the cart in the middle of a parking spot, instead of putting it in the cart return, you’re doing your best. Maybe that seems silly, but I used to judge people like you. Then I had two kids and dealt with chronic pain. Funny how perspective changes things.
I believe that when you cut me off in traffic, without a signal, putting your life and mine at risk, you’re doing your best. Maybe you’ve succumb to the lie of urgency and you’re texting while driving. That’s dumb and dangerous but that ones a hard lie to ignore.
Please know that when I’m less than gracious, when I flip you off and lean on my horn, it’s because my mommy instincts immediately think of my kids growing up without me and I haven’t yet learned to trust that they’ll be ok. I’m doing my best too.
When you talk loudly on your cell phone on the back of the bus and annoy everyone around me, I get it. This is maybe the only time you’ve got to talk to your sister who lives across the country and who is impossible to get a hold of. Sometimes I feel like that about my own family and I love 4 hours tops from any of them.
When you yell at my family at the restaurant because we’re ready to order and you just want to bring us drinks, I’m going to look around the restaurant and see how busy it is. You have no way of knowing how much hurry we’re in. I’ve been there. I’ve never yelled at a customer, but I’ve yelled at coworkers, supervisors, and employees. We’re all human and we don’t always manage to keep our big feelings inside. It’s a huge bummer when an outburst hurts another or ourselves.
When you insist for the 40 billionth time that I have to be Izzy and call you Jake and play the game your way, I’m going to take a huge, deep breath and decide if I’m going to play with you or teach you, in the gentlest way possible, that you don’t get to just demand everyone plays the way you want them to. Isn’t it amazing how we expect so much out of our littlest people? When we take a step back and remember they are always doing their best, it makes us expect better of ourselves in dealing with them.
When you say “yeah, I just couldn’t get it together to get that done,” I’m trying really hard to remember that you are doing your best. You’re not intentionally making my life difficult. What I’m expecting from you is hard.
When you tell me you’re not paid enough to do the job I expect you to do, I get it. When you’re rude to me at the store, I get it. When you talk down to me, I get it.
When you say I’d better vote for your candidate because the other guy is worse, I get it. When you tell me how dangerous refugees are, I get it. When you tell me how awful women are who get abortions are, I get it.
Every last one of us are living the stories we’ve been given. We’re not all ready or able to move beyond them, to be better and do differently. Even when we don’t buy the story we’re living, it still takes work, and a heckuva lot of it, to make our best today be less than our best tomorrow.
By responding with grace, instead of reminding you how much your “failures” make my life hard, I’m helping set you up for future success. By seeing the most charitable interpretations of you, I also feel like I’m setting me up for more success. It’s easier to be kinder to me when I’m not in the practice of passing judgement.
Dear everyone, I’ve got your back. Keep working on your best self.
Of late, I’ve been contemplating the Eden Myth and particularly the Serpent in that story.
My upbringing initially gave me a single understanding of the serpent symbol – that of Satan, the devil and deceiver. However, reading the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites series in my teens (oh, yes, my Mormon is showing), introduced me to the Serpent-Messiah symbol, which adds complexity to the Garden narrative. In fact, it has left me wondering for many years if the “sin” Satan was punished for wasn’t beguiling Eve but stepping in where Christ should’ve been. This is especially true because God gave to Adam ALL the trees of the garden and Eve was never instructed not to eat of the one (having not been created yet when Adam was warned away).
The choice of a serpent is even more interesting to me when its symbolic meaning is evaluated against Jewish/Israelite and other cultures and beliefs. The snake represents rebirth, wisdom, fertility, intellect, and more.
But I digress. My thoughts of late have shifted specifically to wondering who let the snake in. Of course, this is assuming a literal version of events, but follow me anyway.
If God created Eden under any circumstances (as a haven, a place to allow Eve & Adam to learn and grown and “progress” to maturity once they were separated from Heaven, or a place for them to exist in the in-between as long as they chose not to progress further, of as a place for them to live in perpetuity) then God Themselves set the rules.
They could’ve kept the serpent out. They could’ve kept the serpent from beguiling Eve simply by keeping it out.
Think about that. The entire fall was completely preventable with a simple rule change.
The Serpent didn’t sneak past God. It didn’t get there without the knowledge and allowance of Heaven. God, all powerful and all knowing, could’ve prevented not only a fall, but the beguiling of Eve.
They didn’t. That tells me something.
I don’t believe in a God that sets us up to fail. I don’t believe that we are supposed to intuit the rules or receive them second hand.
Clearly, Eve was always intended to take the fruit. She was always intended to allow for our progression. Our Heavenly Parents have no desire to keep us from more light and knowledge. At some point, They let the Serpent in. They let the Serpent “get to” Eve.
To me, Eve’s fall was a carefully thought-out choice but that choice was available to her because God allowed it. To me, it’s a powerful message that we were always meant to progress (and transgress) beyond the boundaries of Eden.
God is not afraid of our rebirth. They are not afraid of our gaining light and truth, wisdom and knowledge, experience and understanding. They teach us line upon line and, in time, they allow the Serpent to appear in our lives. That’s not necessarily a sign that we should turn away (remember the Brazen Serpent and the Messiah-Serpent archetype).
Instead, it may be a sign that we are ready to grow again.
We are waiting for another baby in our house. I’m now “more pregnant” than I was with Miss M. I hope for all of my friends that they (you) always go longer with your first baby than with the second. Something happened in my brain when I hit that date and it kind of sucked. I have really great care providers and friends who talked me out of crazy, but it’s a difficult headspace for me to be in. (Side note: everyone needs at least two or three friends who are birthworkers! They’re the best in this kind of space!)
The reality is, where I’m at right now is a situation I hate to be in: I want to control the uncontrollable. I have to simply be patient, surrender and trust. That is SO hard. So hard. Often when I’m in this space, every bit of anxiety bubbles to the surface. Things I thought I’d resolved pop back up. It’s actually a really wonderful place to be, even though I hate it. It’s a space for growing and learning and making peace.
This space reminds me of the symbolism of a spiral and the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth: the path is essentially the same. There is only one way in and one way out. There are no choices to be made, only a journey to be taken. As you walk the labyrinth or a spiral path, you often come back to the same point over and over again, but with a different perspective each time. That perspective allows you to understand that point differently, to learn the lesson again more fully, and to learn things that we couldn’t learn before. It’s a powerful opportunity.
It also stinks, to be faced with how stubborn you are and how much the same lessons need to keep coming up. It can be frustrating to see how much you didn’t learn a lesson you thought you had. That frustration is another learning opportunity: one that invites you to be gentle with yourself instead of judgmental and that in doing so to learn how to be more gentle with the other flawed humans we are surrounded by.
A friend of mine commented that we are all smoothing off each others’ edges by bumping into them. We are also afforded this kind of softening opportunity when we bump up against hard boundaries and uncontrollable situations.
Surrender is hard. Trusting God, trusting fate, trusting others, trusting ourselves, especially when we have absolutely no control, is hard. But often it’s the hard things that teach us the best lessons.
Figuring out how to do that well is messy and I’m really ungraceful sometimes. But I’m thankful for that mess and the chance to learn to be more gracious and graceful. Life constantly invites us to learn more. Really the only question we are left with is not whether or not we will be thrust into the situation, but whether or not we will embrace it, even when it’s the last thing we want to do.
For me, that’s what surrender looks like and that’s how I learn.
I spend a lot of time thinking about Eve. Perhaps more than any other figure in scripture, except Christ Himself, Eve draws me in. Much of her story is obscured. Outside of Mormonism, she is often disparaged by Christianity. Even within Mormonism, I have heard people refer to her and her choice to take the fruit of knowledge of good and evil in very negative terms, despite our teachings that the fall was integral to the Plan of Salvation.
But I love Eve. Whether her story is an allegory, as much of the Bible is, or whether she is a real person is immaterial to me. Her story is amazing. Because we know so little it, there’s lots of room for interpretation and I spend a lot of time contemplating the space we don’t know, the “what happened” in between what the Bible and church teachings tell us happened.
One of the things I admire about Eve is how she wasn’t willing to “settle” or give up what she needed. Whether this was a good thing or a bad thing, I don’t know. I’ve contemplated it a lot without an answer yet. However, I admire her for it.
At some point, Eve decided it was time for her to progress. She was ready to move on from the Garden. I imagine that before she got to that point, she’d done a lot of walking with God, asking questions, learning what she could. Maybe she and Adam had had lots of conversations about this. I believe they learned a lot together.
Maybe at some point, Adam had said to her “Why do you want to leave this place? It is easy. It has everything we need. Why would we leave?”
Maybe Eve had initially said to him “I will wait for you to be ready, for you to understand why.”
Perhaps she waited patiently for him for eons, learning and growing as much as she could. Perhaps he was learning too, but more slowly or more cautiously.
I wonder if, in their conversations, Eve wanted to leave more quickly, but caution or fear or a lack of understanding made Adam hesitate. Maybe Adam was waiting to be commanded to leave.
Maybe one day, Eve said to Adam, “Our parents are not going to make us go. This has to be our choice, Adam. We have learned all that we can here. We have grown all that we are able. It is time for us to go.”
I don’t mean to make Adam less. Maybe he was right there with Eve. Maybe he was her partner in every way, learning with her right at the same pace. Maybe they were completely united in the decision. When Eve took the fruit, I wonder if Adam was there with her, standing by her side, waiting for her to hand him the fruit.
Perhaps Eve took the fruit first because that was her stewardship, her mission, and Adam couldn’t do it before she had.
Still I wonder: was Eve the driving force in that decision? Was Adam away somewhere, knowing that Eve had decided to leave and trying to decide if he was going to support her in her growth and go with her out of the garden?
What I do know is that Eve stepped forward and took responsibility for her choices, for her progression, for her happiness. She made an impossibly brave choice to follow her heart, her inner wisdom, her intuition and respect her needs and her wants. In pursuing her mission, in filling her cup, she gave us all life and a legacy as women that we should embrace.
Satan would have us think that sacrifice is always the right choice, that giving up what we want and need for someone or something else is always a good thing. That’s not true. Sometimes we need to say “This is what I need and I will honor that.”
There are many lessons that I have learned by pondering about Eve. This is one of them: It is good and it is right to fill our own cups, to not minimize our own needs and to respect our own progression. Even if caring for ourselves means that that our husbands or our children or our church have to sacrifice too, that is ok. Eve was not a martyr.
Perhaps Eve left the Garden for us, but I think she also left the Garden for her.
As Miss M gets older, I’ve been thinking a lot about free range parenting. That’s definitely my style and I’m loving the independence it’s building in my toddler.
So far, we’ve been really lucky to not have people freak out when they see my two year old running around without mommy right there next to her. In fact, we were at Lagoon on Saturday and she wandered a little bit away and just stood by herself while lots of people came and went around her. Eventually, someone knelt down at eye level to ask if she was lost (I think; I couldn’t hear the conversation), and while a part of me is a little disturbed that it took as long as it did, part of me is glad that I didn’t have to be right there to ward off strangers and she explored a little on her own.
It was so different than an experience I had several months ago.
We took Monkey and two “cousins” to a playground for a couple of hours while our friends went to a concert. While it was a glimpse into what our life could look like if we had had another baby sooner after M, instead of “waiting” longer like we are, it was also an experiment in hands-off parenting. With three kiddos under six, it’s impossible to play “hands on” with each of them. Moreover, grownup-free play is important to child development, even at a young age.
In fact, this situation was the perfect kind of tribal play that evolutionary developmental psychologist Peter Gray champions.
The play area was full of kids. It didn’t occur to me to count, but Mack remarked that it was busy. There were kids that were toddlers, a few who were older (8 and 9ish, possibly older) and most in between. From time to time, I would lose sight of a child as others would get in my sight line or they would climb into a tunnel or behind a structure. For the most part, I could see them, but they couldn’t see me.
These kiddos knew where we were and that we were there if they needed us, but for the most part, they were free to play independently.
We sat outside the playground, instead of on the parent benches within the enclosure where most of the adults were. This wasn’t a problem until Monkey got up somewhere she couldn’t immediately get down from. After only a few moments another parent jumped right in and helped her down.
This “other mother” looked around and then at her friend and said something like “where is her mom?”
It struck me then (once again) how much I am not a helicopter mom. I definitely would’ve stepped in if M had been seriously stuck, but she hardly had a chance to try to work it out herself. It seems that we’re robbing our children of important opportunities to learn.
Free range parenting has come under a lot of scrutiny and even resulted in CPS and other “legal” action against parents who subscribe to it as it’s gained popularity. The crazy thing is, in many ways our lives are safer than they’ve ever been. We’re just extremely risk averse.
One of my many-greats aunts wrote in her journal about their trip across the plains to Utah. She and her friend would depart early, ahead of the handcart company, so they could play on the trail during the day and not get left behind the company. Agnes was nine at the time. It seems a little unbelievable to me that a nine year old could just be trusted like that. Even in my very free range parenting, I’m not sure I’d be ok with my child heading out on her own across the plains of the US unsupervised (and I’ve been out there; there’s still nothing there).
Sometimes I wonder what the cost is. Do we overparent our children into a perpetual childhood? Am I raising a child who will be unable to cope in a society of adults babied first by their parents and then by their government? Am I running a great risk of losing my child to a CPS worker because I admit on a public blog I let her wander even a little ways off at a crowded amusement park? I really worry about all these things.
No doubt we’re all doing our best. Even the other mom was just stepping in to make sure my child was ok. I want my kids to be empowered and independent (age appropriately so), not always looking to me for rescuing. I think a more free range attitude does that. As I’ve let go and let M explore, I’ve been amazed to find out how capable even a 2 year old can be. It’s exciting to see. I can’t wait for more to come!
We have a terribly bad habit in my extended family: we don’t really keep personal records. I have an aunt who is a professional genealogist, but she “married in” and is not related by blood. Beyond that, I don’t think any of us are really good record keepers (I took an informal survey of my family on Facebook and most of us admitted to “trying” and doing it in stops and starts but not with real consistency).
In some ways, it’s not our “fault” as this bad habit has been passed down from our ancestors (and, yes, the irony in that strikes me), according to my mother. For example, Elizabeth Caldwell, a grandmother of mine, who came to Utah with the Willie Handcart Company, wrote little to nothing of her experience. Meanwhile, her sister, Agnes (who is an aunt), was much more prolific and her stories have been told repeatedly in LDS general conferences, the movie 17 Miracles and elsewhere. Elizabeth was one of many who passed down bad habits.
I come by this weakness doubly cursed. My father’s family kept very few records and most of the little I know about my ancestry on that side comes from government records and the occasional story from a long lost cousin (who could share about my ancestors because his ancestors mentioned them in journals). My grandfather saw so little point in family history, he threw away boxes of it (a thought that still makes me want to throw up).
This lack of family record keeping makes me sad, especially as I try to get to know my ancestor better. I want my own children to know more than I do about who they are and where they came from and I want to know the angels who surround me better. I’m also a writer and I feel like if anyone is going to do a decent job of keeping a written record, it “should” be me, the writer.
More than any of that, though, I want to remember my own life better and keep better records of my children as they grow. I want my children and grandchildren to know who I was and how I became who I am.
I recently purchased a “one line a day” journal in an attempt to help me along. I’m finding that it’s helpful to have, although it definitely doesn’t automatically make a habit. Rather than doing it daily, I’m finding time every week or two and while I remember “big” things, I’m left with a lot of holes.
In fact, that’s bee the most disturbing thing to me: there are many days I don’t remember a single thing that happened and that those days I’m forgetting are just a week or two prior. There are literally huge blocks of my life which I have completely forgotten.
It’s a horrifying thought to me.
It also leaves me sad as a mom because that means that there are blocks of my child’s life I’m forgetting. There are things I want to remember, but can’t because there’s not space in my brain and I’m not writing them down.
I even have a journal for Little Miss because I wanted to keep track of “things” and I wanted her to know who she was as tiny human person. I write in it rarely and while I’d rather spend time with Little Miss than write in her journal, I know when I have time, I’m choosing to make other choices. I’m trying to let go of the mommy guilt on that one, but I’ll admit I sometimes feel like a bad mom because of it.
As I’ve been evaluating my own record keeping, I’m learning that I want to keep better records as much for me as for anyone else.
I’m trying to keep track of my life better. Photos, videos and journal writing – even one sentence journals – are some of the ways I’m trying to do that.
Maybe one day my great-grandkids won’t curse me the way I curse my great (great, great, great, great)-grandparents and perhaps I’ll be able to hold onto the fleeting moments a little better.