This summer at a neighborhood party, a friend offered me prosecco. As she furiously searched for a champagne glass, I waved her effort away. “Please don’t go to the trouble,” I said. “A juice glass is fine…”
From across the kitchen another friend piped up. “Oh no!” she said. “You give her a proper glass. That Meg she is always settling…”
At the time, I have to admit I was quite shocked. I smiled as I accepted my drink but inside I began a silent response. “Settle? Really? How about–That Meg–she is flexible, laid-back, grateful! There are a thousand other stories to tell about my willingness to accept a juice glass. Settling is NOT one that fits.”
And yet, I have learned that when there is that much charge for me, there is something hiding, wanting to be danced with. So as the summer languidly rolled on, I questioned whether my friend had uncovered something in me, something begging for attention.
Could it possible be true that sometimes, just sometimes, behind the smiling laid-back gratitude of this woman, is a girl who is happy to take what she can get because maybe, just maybe she wonders if she asks for more if she will get it? Because asking and not receiving feels too painful? Because she has gotten practiced at making do?
Truth be told, I could care less what kind of glass I drink my bubbly wine in, but this summer I allowed my friend’s words to be a bell, calling me to attention, about where I maybe WAS settling unnecessarily. Where I gave in or gave up too quickly out of habit or worse still, out of fear? Whenever I felt smug for my willingness to just roll with it, I began to ask myself “Is this truly flexibility? Or am I just afraid to ask?”
Since I was in college, I have been very lucky to be gifted with hand me down cars. As a young person working in the non-profit world, I felt so blessed not to have the burden of a car payment, felt so grateful for a functional car that came cheap. I don’t really notice what cars look like, have no opinion on features and only notice a car’s size when packing for a camping trip. In short, I have been an ideal candidate for this kind of saving in my life. And for a long time it served me well.
But somewhere along the way, that gratitude and flexibility turned into a kind of habit. A habit of thinking of myself as the kind of person who just drives whatever. I took pride in not spending my precious budget on a car–even though I was paying more at the pump and putting my mechanics children through college. When I started secretly wishing for a more energy efficient, non-scratched, or dare I say more reliable car, I shamed myself. “What happened to that flexibility girl?” I forgot that as a 43 year old professional woman who carries precious cargo called children that maybe my car needs had shifted.
This summer when my used wagon began to become unreliable, breaking down not once, not twice, but three times on the highway, when the mounting car repair expenses became burdensome, I started to ask whether maybe, just maybe, I was in the name of gratitude and flexibility settling for something less than what I needed. And maybe, I could open to the possibility that if I named it, I could find a way to have what we needed- a reliable, safe new car. One that came with a warranty. One that I could count on functioning not just for months at a time, but for years.
I began to do the research and discovered much to my surprise that for the same money I was investing in repairs, I could bring into my life a new, reliable and safe car. I was shocked. I had never asked a question big enough that even allowed me to see that I could both have everything I need without busting my budget. Settling was not required.
It was simply a matter of changing the question from “What do I think I should have?” Or “What have I always had?” to “What would serve us in this moment and how do I bring it into my life?” Its not a black and white/either or question. I can be grateful for all those used cars that saved me cash during truly hard times, for the joy and wonder they brought us with their quirks and their gifts AND I can open up to the fact that life shifts and that sometimes new shifts mean new needs and then new possibilities.
Every since I was a baby, you have loved me with a no-big-deal, unconditional kind of love–the kind of love I never doubted. No matter how nerdy I got, no matter how I failed, no matter who rejected me, you held me as dear, never questioning my worth.
As a matter of fact, I think you are the only person whose love I never doubted. Even during the most insecure moments of adolescence when everything was swirling and I questioned everything, you were never a question in my mind. I was always sure of you. I was always sure that you were sure of me. I could be steady in your presence. I know myself to be as strong as an oak when I am with you.
When I was small you held my hand when I got scared and guided me back home. Even now, I feel safe with you. Always sure you have my back. Always sure that I am everything I need, that nothing more is needed You hold me as cherished with all my rough spots, and quirks.
You are my sweet gypsy rose, who will sing with me when life is getting rocky, who will laugh with me because you know all the things that could make me cry. You are a beacon calling me home to myself whenever I wobble. You remind me that I have always been this wise and that it is simply a matter of remembering. You teach me grace, reminding me that love is simply the act of putting one foot in front of the other, pouring the coffee, walking around the lake, talking to strangers, doing the chores, making guacamole, pulling the kayak out to see the sunrise and singing in the kitchen.
Life waxes and wanes, filling up and emptying and yet you, you are still there, a light that guides me back to myself.
My prayer tonight is that you know this love and that it call you home to the wisdom you have always had, the wisdom that allows a 3 year old to love her baby cousin so fiercely, the wisdom that holds us all so steady in your presence.
May you know that you are the north star we all sail by. The one that tells us we are already home. No matter how far we quest, we are already home.
For Leenie, my cousin and hero, who has always loved me and who inspires me to be brave.
On this day 11 years ago, a sun rose in the sky and shortly after you were born. The world has been brighter ever since. You illuminate things.
Every birthday is more poignant for me, your mother. I look back at the year and can see this slow march to adulthood you are taking and I am bursting with pride and aware of how little time a mother really gets with her child after all. When they put you in my arms 18 years seemed like an eternity and now…well now…I can see how it comes in a blink of an eye–a blur of moments. You are teaching me to pay attention to each one, each miraculous one.
This was a blossoming year for you–a year of stepping into your own and really showing what you were capable of. This was the year you ran for student government and became school vice president, when you took a leadership role in school as a patrol. This is the year you inspired so many of us by doing a “goals for charity” program and raised over $2000 for Back on My Feet. This is the year you surprised all your swim coaches with your hard work and determination and burst into an advanced practice group, striving and pushing yourself and making meets.
More than all of your accomplishments I am proud of your resilience. Proud of the moments when you failed and found a way forward anyway. Like when you were trying to qualify for Junior Olympics and your goggles fell off and you had a bad race. You got back in the pool and wowed us by qualifying in the very next event–the one none of us saw coming, squeaking in by one-hundreth of a second. I was more proud that day than I would have been had you made it in every event. You know how to step up even when things aren’t going well.
You are exploring the world and discovering new ways of looking at things. This was the year you discovered that newborn babies are really cute. This is the year you discovered that a break-down of the car can be an adventure. That there are few things better than a cozy fire, a good book and a nice warm cozy blanket. One day you shocked me when you told me that you are kinda glad that Papi and I are divorced because you realized you are learning life skills your friends aren’t learning because there are just two of us in the house. You are seeing the opportunities in things others might call difficulties. I tell you how special that is. Most adults don’t know how to see life as gift, but you, you are my bell calling me to recognize that each moment–it’s all gift.
I love you so much Max. From the minute you were born you have been teaching me–teaching me to take myself less seriously, teaching me to slow down, teaching me to keep going, teaching me to appreciate every minute together, teaching me that life is constant shift and change.
I am so grateful you were born to me. It is a privilege to be your mother and hold your hand through this time. Thank you.