Sitting at the edge of gratitude…

Tonight my husband and I spent over an hour sitting on a cliff, two feet from the edge, just being. We watched the sun as it made its way from its place in the sky, down, down, until it finally put itself to bed. We watched as it rebelled against the dark that would inevitably follow by lighting up the blue sky in a hundred shades of orange sherbert, buttercream, periwinkle, and pink. We watched to the east as a rainbow appeared. Then became a double rainbow. Both staying longer than I have ever seen. We saw the hills and mountains that border this valley turn into amber orange waves, blending layers of earth and sky into the symphony of twilight. We stayed. And we did nothing but hold hands and watch.

For once, no one was needing us. The five children who call me Mommy were safe at home with a babysitter. Our appetites sated, there was nothing we needed. No errands to run. No things that must be bought. No little people pulling on my clothes and heart. No place we had to be. No one expecting us or asking anything of us. It was a vacation in the truest, shortest, sense of the word.

We sat. At what seemed like the edge of the world. Falling in and out of silence. Revealing our hearts. Not just lovers, but friends. Comfortable in silence one minute and laughing heartily at inside jokes the next. Like they have since we met, other people came and went all around us, but none of them actually changed us. We sat together, high above all the comings and goings of those below. Removed from all the things we usually fill each hour with, I felt what I usually forget to feel. Gratitude.

Sitting somewhere between the streets below and the sky so open that if you lay back you feel dizzy with the possibility that you might actually fly, it welled up in me. Thank you. I have been given so much. A husband who is faithful and loves me. Healthy children who love and are proud of me. Beautiful artists who know how to love and are friends to me. A home. All my bills paid. Family. Adventure. Fun. On and on…

I daily live a life that I never imagined. It is beautiful and messy and busy and filled with stress and humor. I am almost always either making a to do list or trying to do the to do list. I lose my temper as often as I lose my keys. I sometimes drip with sarcasm when I open my mouth to speak. I drink more coffee than is medically advised, (but really, what childless, B12 popping ass, came up with caffeine recommendations?) And I fail, somehow, everyday. But it’s real. And tonight, sitting in a place where everything that usually weighs on me was small and literally beneath me, I finally had perspective. I am so thankful for all the beauty that is in my life.

 

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To All The Moms…. ( a love letter of sorts)

Dear Moms,

You rock. I could say it in a more flowery way, and I’m about to, but the bottom line is, you rock. And just in case you have somewhere along the way lost sight of how much what you do matters, let me remind you.

The world could literally not keep going without you. Human life would fail to exist. You are that important. You are a warrior. Of the best and most fierce tribe. Tribe Mommy. Whether it is written on your face in Ulta war paint, or only on your heart, you are a warrior. You are brave. You are strong. You can do this. You are already doing this.

You have the courage to give your heart away, asking nothing in return. You are fearless in love. You do not tremble at monsters under beds and in closets. You are the light bringer. The one who summons courage in the middle of the night to flick on the light switch and banish terror from sleepy eyes, and hearts, and minds.

You are the singer of lullabyes. The calming force at night. The giver of sippy cups and life. The finder of shoes and binkies, blankets, and favorite stuffies. You are the knower of favorites. The all-seeing eye.

You are the teacher of right. The corrector of wrongs. You are the standard of Woman for your daughters and sons. You set not only the tone for your house, but the pulse as well. You are the heartbeat and breath of your home.

No one will ever know your children like you do. In all the world, no one could ever love your children like you. You are Mom. You are more than you remember, more than your children and partner know.

You are the keeper of your children’s secrets. The guardian of trusting hearts. You are the soldier charged with protecting all that is sacred and right with those new to the earth. Your parenting is the fire that will refine your children and sweep the dross of foolishness away so that they are left with what is pure, and good, and golden.

You are the wiper of tears. The encourager of hearts. You are the builder of dreams and a foundation that will keep. You are the first safe place your children will ever know. You. You are home. No matter what address they hold.

Mommies are forever. Mommies are for keeps. On good days and bad, you are a part of something bigger than you alone could ever be. You are changing the face of the world with every selfless thing you do. You are underpaid, under appreciated, under rested, but not under loved. You are Mom. And life is good.

Listen

It’s ironic that I get to be in a show this weekend called Listen To Your Mother, because I didn’t. I mean, on some things I did. I didn’t play on the freeway, or get out of the shower without rinsing the shampoo out of my hair. I listened to her on the mundane things that don’t really change anyone’s life,( besides that whole playing on the freeway thing, that could have been a life-changer.)

But when it kind of mattered, I rebelled. Even when I didn’t know what I was doing or saying, other than it was the opposite of what she wanted for me. Or what she had chosen for herself.

We used to drive past a sex-toy shop on Sprague multiple times a week. From the time it was approaching us on the right side of the street, until we were safely past it, my mother would say, “Jesus is Lord, Jesus is Lord” or “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”. I didn’t know anything about this store, other than it had a kitty wearing a boa on the sign, and my mother was vehemently against it. I remember leaning over to my sister on more than one occasion when this was happening and whispering, “When I grow up, I’m gonna work there.” ( I did not keep this vow.)

I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was 14, so I bought the darkest lipgloss you can find and used it as an all-over makeup stick. My eyelids were tacky for all of fourth grade. But glossy! With a hint of sparkle.

I was only allowed to listen to Christian music growing up, so my friends snuck me mix tapes of New Kids On The Block, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston (how I longed to dance with somebody!), and Bryan Adams. These mix tapes were labeled Praise & Worship so that I wouldn’t get caught. I convinced my mom that M.C. Hammer was a pastor & teaching his congregation that they needed to pray just to make it today & for some reason, she believed me.

I had a million tiny rebellions in my 18 years at home. Some as innocent as the examples above, some not- hitch hiking in a mini skirt, among other things.  I thought that I was winning the war on parental terrorism. But now, I’m a Mommy. And I wish I had listened more. To my mom, yes, but also to myself. I spent so much time doing the opposite of what she wanted, that I didn’t figure out what I wanted. I spent my youth proving that I am not her, instead of proving who I really am.

We are different, my mother and I. We believe different things, go to different churches, see the world as different places. I no longer have to prove anything. I am not a child. But, I am her child still. And sometimes, I lay down my pride for long enough to call my Mother, and just listen.

Time Travel

The other day I watched a movie where the main character could time travel between the past and the present. Because of this, he could right what he perceived as wrongs in his life & in the lives of those closest to him, but only if they were a part of his memory. It has, of course, left me thinking. What would I change if I had the same power?

While I don’t believe I have ever stood in a dark closet with my hands clenched into fists, hearing my heartbeat loudly in my ears, and focusing on a single memory so that I can return to it, I have been filled with an ache of longing for a do-over. As far as I know, I can’t go back. But, if I could, the following is the letter I would leave somewhere my younger self would find it…:

Dear Jessica,
You are beautiful. Yes, you are. And you are loved. Even if the people around you forget to tell you or don’t really see it. You are lovely. You are not your parents. Your worth is not defined by how much money your parents do or do not have. Neither is anyone else’s. Do not believe anyone who would tell you differently. Money is just one sign of success. There are people who will always have more money than you, that have less to live for, that have never known the kind of love you will know in your lifetime.

On that note, eat less. The lack you feel cannot be filled with food, no matter how hard you try. Exercise. Everyday do something that forces your body to remember that it is alive for at least one hour. You are stronger than you think, both emotionally and physically. Use that strength now. The way you feel about your parent’s issues with food will be the fuel you need to either prove you are not like them, or to adopt their habits as your own. You are not too big, or too small, or too old, or too young to change your life. Do it now.

Feed your soul. Keep writing. Even if your friends don’t get it. Keep writing. Have the courage to write things that you wouldn’t show to anyone. You don’t write for them. Everyone needs something that they do just for themselves. This is yours. Never let anyone take from you your words. The boys who do not appreciate what you have to say, are not meant to stay in your life. They are just passing through. Let them go.

Keep acting. Someday all of your time on stages in front of crowds will pay off. Maybe not in the way that you hope right now, but in smaller, more meaningful ways. Every time you stand up and talk in front of others you are building courage in yourself. You will need it. When you are a Mommy, you will use your acting experience everyday. It will help you be silly, it will help you be fun, and it will help you assure your children that they are safe, even when you are scared or angry. Keep acting, so that your real life will be better.

Write one more letter to your Grandpa. He already knows how much you love him. But when he is gone, you will feel better knowing that you have done all you can to return his love. He will be gone someday, far sooner than you will want. Call him, appreciate him, hug him while you can. Bask in the way it feels when he laughs at your stories. Memorize the way his eyes twinkle when he looks at you. Surround yourself with others who believe in your worth.

Do not waste your time on people with the initials C.H. or N.J. They do not have anything to give you and only desire to take from you what does not belong to them. Trust me on this. Walk away.

Love. Love with careless abandon. Love God, love others, love yourself. There is truly nothing on this earth better than loving and being loved. Have the courage to accept the hurt that comes with giving your heart. Be trustworthy with the hearts of others. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. See yourself as worthy of being loved. Find things in others that you can love. Encourage those who are down, heal little hurts whenever you can. Give generously. Take the time to hear people’s stories. Listen.

Finally, relax. No one ever survived an accident by tensing their shoulders. Know that it is all going to be okay. Even if you don’t listen to a word I have said. You are going to have a beautiful life. It might not be the life you have imagined for yourself, laying on your bed, listening to mix tapes from Holly. But it will be real. Real is better. Breathe. You will not only live through whatever life throws at you, you will be better for it. Look around you. Appreciate what you have. It’s more than you think. Keep your head up. Shoulders back. Change what you can. Work with what you can’t. Trust. Keep going. Miracles happen everyday, but you have to be breathing to see them.