the hardest thing i'll ever do

Being a single mom to an infant is the hardest thing I've ever done. That's not necessarily saying a whole lot, because I am not really one to "stretch myself" or anything like that. Nevertheless, it is by far the hardest thing I've ever done, and I'm hoping it will be the hardest thing I ever do. Lying awake at night, wondering how on Earth I will ever pull off a successful attempt at parenting this tiny person who needs everything and whose needs are my sole responsibility to meet...facing the prospect of the next 18 years rearing this child...possibly all by myself for the duration.... That's really hard.

But the good news is that I am doing it anyway. I am scratching out a life for my son and me. It's not always on my terms and it's definitely not the life I ever wanted or planned, but I'm doing it. He is healthy and he is very happy and bright and secure, and I still have most of my hair. The inability to cope has been more about the circumstance of parenting solo while battling crippling fear than the actual child being parented. I knew it the minute I knew he was coming along that this baby is special, and he really is. He is my gift.

But motherhood has been really, really tough. Through no fault of Gabriel's -- he is the easiest toddler I have ever met and I am not just saying that because he is my child and I am blinded -- it's been almost too tough. I am too hard on myself. I second-guess too much. I am sensitive to anything remotely less than perfect and I am quick to assign blame and failure to myself. Compounded by a chronic lack of sleep and an ongoing health concern lately, my resolve and capacity have been faltering. I've stalled out, emotionally. On the outside, I'm moving along; on the inside, my thought life is a wreck.

I went through a period this summer during which I doubted everything, most off all my ability to do this parenting thing. Everything looked like failure to me, from my inability to provide enough for myself and my son to be fully independent and autonomous, to inability to get laundry folded and put away within three days of being washed. I just didn't think I could do it. I set a high bar for "success," whatever that is, and then I vilified myself for not meeting that standard. No matter that the standard is tough for a fully functioning family led by two adults in a healthy marriage and I am doing it on my own. Nevermind that my kid is a great kid. Nevermind that I am doing a good job as a mom and anyone who knows anything about kids has made it obvious that they think so. I couldn't -- still can't -- escape the constant feeling that I am not good enough, that I most assuredly will fail, and that whichever decision I make in this moment will ultimately set the trap that will break my leg down the road. I expect to fail. I anticipate it. And I try to move forward despite "knowing" that, sooner or later, something will turn into disaster.

I'm starting to come out of that dark hole of despair. I caught myself falling, and I started asking for help. It's ok to accept help, sure, and I am getting better about that, but more importantly I am coming around to the truth that it's ok to need help in the first place. We all need help at some point. These days I might be on the receiving end, but then I'll get a leg up and I'll be able to turn around and help the next person. And as one sweet friend recently reminded me, there are people who want to be able to give their help, and I should let them have the opportunity to do so. Helping is a two-way exchange, not one-way.

Through deliberate effort, I am examining my negative scripts and imposing changes. People are rallying for me, giving me new lines, challenging my expectations, putting candles in the dark corners. I am hearing that I can do this, that I am doing it, and that I am smart enough and capable enough to keep doing it, no matter what. They are telling me this over and over and over, across the board, from every direction.

One day, maybe, I will believe them.

In the meantime, my task is to keep moving forward. One hour, one clean-up, one whispered prayer, one menu plan, one Pat the Bunny, one desperate plea to God at a time.


air plants: growing the family

Last winter, I picked up a few air plants and a burro's tail succulent at the Southern Christmas Show in Charlotte, NC. Most of the plants have survived (miraculously), but our journey together has been spotty at best and one of the air plants did bite the dust before I figured out whatever the heck I was doing with the things. Air plants, for all their claims of being low maintenance, have not exactly been low maintenance for me. It turns out they do need some care. But once I figured out a good spot for them (the kitchen counter where there's some shade, as opposed to hanging in the window where it was constant sunlight), we made our peace. We made peace like whoa. We are a veritable pack of peace-loving hippies, there's so much peace between the air plants and me.

One of the air plants decided to bloom a while back. I had no idea this was a Thing Of Significance on account of never having had air plants in my care before, so I didn't really take any pictures. But it was white with some yellow in it, if I remember correctly. So there was bloomage. Which I guess is kind of a big deal in the life of an air plant, or something like that. 

And NOW...there is puppage. When certain kinds of plants spawn, the new baby plants are called pups. Baby aloes are called pups, and baby air plants are, too. Word on the street is that when an air plant blooms, it means a pup is on the way. I knew that at one point, but the bloom was so long ago (maybe like 4 months?) that I completely forgot. Until recently, when I was watering my air plant and noticed a pup. Whoa! And THEN...I was watering the OTHER air plant, and I noticed ANOTHER pup! Double whoa! The other one hadn't bloomed (at least not since it was in my care) so I don't know if I am dealing with difference species here, or if pups and blooms aren't necessarily related occurrences. 

Either way, we are expecting. It's an exciting time to be a single mom of a toddler with two baby air plants on the way. 


insoles and beyond

One of the things I've been up to behind the scenes is my family's new venture, an online retailer of shoe insoles. It's called Insoles and Beyond, and I'd love it if you took a look.

I have been wearing arch support insoles and supportive footwear in various forms since I was maybe 16. My feet tend to hurt a lot, and I can really tell a difference when I have arch supports vs. when I don't. When my feet are hurting, pretty much the only shoes I want to wear are my Birkenstock sandals and clogs -- they are a wardrobe staple for me, and have been for years. Only maybe a year ago did I realize that I can buy replacement insoles to go into sneakers, dress shoes, etc. Birkenstock even sells some (and we carry them)!

If you have pain in your feet, you're uncomfortable or feel jammed up, or your ankle is really unstable, you could probably benefit from arch supports, too. You can visit our site to learn more, or ask me questions here if you'd like.

/end spammy self promotion



nouwen on alarmist tendencies

I needed to read this. Maybe you do, too. From Henri Nouwen, here:

Standing Under the Cross
Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in face of the calamities of our world.   The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling.   But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self-confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that "sky and earth will pass away" but the words of Jesus will never pass away (see Luke 21:33).
Let us be like Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood under the cross, trusting in God's faithfulness notwithstanding the death of his beloved Child.