Wednesday Feb 17 2021 | 10:04 am
Rain drops landed on my cheeks and the tops of my feet as I walked to the mailbox, letters in hand. I lifted the little red flag, lowered the door, and stood the letters up, leaning against the left side, waiting with ease to be lifted and carried on the next leg of their journey. I walked back inside, tidying as I went, always tidying as I go. I closed my eyes and imagined the kind of smile that I smile when I get surprise mail, stretching across the faces of my beloved ones who will receive letters soon.
“I am a good friend,” I thought to myself. I imagined writing those words down. And those words blanketed me, and then instantly the paper I imagined was up in flames. Somewhere, some time, I have not been a good friend. I can’t say I am a good friend, because I have not always been a good friend. The standard of everything for me, is only perfection. Anything less is utter failure.
Someone we love died on Monday. I marked the date and time that the text message arrived. I sat with my tears, a pen and a page, and I let my heart ache as I prepared to tell my children. I steadied myself to catch their tears and hold them stable, and as I did, I saw a glimpse of it, so clearly: this is the time that I am a good mom. I wiped my eyes and cheeks and neck and I took deep breaths. I joined them at the dinner table and made sure they had full bellies before upending their world with words of loss. I held them as they trembled, as their ache came out of their eyes and mouths, as they lamented, as they held silent, as death came closer to their lives, I made sure they were held. My touch was constant in hopes they would never have to wonder if they are alone with their grief. I held until the waves calmed just enough, and I told them how water cleanses not just dirt from our skin but ache from our hearts. I ran water warm from the tap to fill the tub for soaking their bodies. I boiled water and poured honey, preparing sacred tea time to soothe their souls. I snuggled them close in my bed, our wet heads huddled together, and I read them stories. I tucked them in and kissed them extra.
When I was alone again, I said: I am a good mom.
But the next day, I yelled. And I served microwaved lunch on a paper plate. And I put a movie on when I needed a break. And the toddler got out and down the street before I could catch up with him and bring him back. I scrolled my phone instead of listening to a story my daughter was telling. I cursed at a kid who broke a promise. I threatened instead of engaging. I emptied my rage into the air of the kitchen when I couldn’t just nourish us with ease. I ended the day with regrets.
How could I be a good mom with all those failings? Don’t they just wash away the momentary good from before?
I can look at anyone else — everyone else — and see their overwhelming good through any and all shortcomings… but why do I withhold this freedom from myself? Why don’t I step outside of my grind and see how beautiful I am? How tender my heart, how earnest and persistent my smile. How precious, even, are my worries. How big my heart for people, how holy my value of truth. How radiant my moments of joy that cannot be contained. How delightful my attempts at holiness, how sacred my perseverance to exist. How honest my striving toward wholeness. How heavy and holy my vigilant doing, how fragile and perfect my morsels of being.
Lee Anne, you have oft felt like your name doesn’t fit you; the syllables don’t feel quite right. The long E sound leaves you feeling hard when all you want to be is soft. But the meaning is there, and it is true to the beauty of who you are: you are a whole meadow of grace. A wide open field of love and understanding where people can come and be their whole selves, take a deep breath, see beauty, and be cared for.
You are a glorious human being who will thrive and love being alive as you learn to honor the limitations of your humanity, as you learn to speak the language of self care and mark the boundaries that will give you space to call your own: your identity, your home.