On Saturday we celebrated Elle’s 3rd birthday, which brought with it a swirl of emotions, memories, and gratitudes. Because Elle was born in Bahrain, her birthday — for me — is intertwined with our time and experience there and so I found myself thinking of both her birth and the fact that WE HAD A BABY IN THE FREAKIN’ MIDDLE EAST (!) all day Saturday. At the time, it was the most normal thing in the world. It’s time to have a baby. Let’s go have her.
But looking back the whole experience feels profound and nuts and significant and otherworldly, too.
So Saturday was about celebrating Elle and all the incredible joy she has brought us these last few years. What a feisty, funny, delicious-dish gift she has been. And it was also about celebrating a long journey of returning home to San Diego and creating a life for our family of five back here.
Saturday was about commemorating the struggle and it was about gratitude, too. Because too many of us have internalized the idea that if we are struggling then that means we aren’t grateful. And so we count our blessings and stuff our struggle, and no one wins.
Over the last six years — since becoming a mother — I’ve asked myself one hundred thousand times, “Why am I struggling when this is what I’ve always wanted?” And the answer is: Because life is hard. Motherhood is hard. Anything worth doing in life is usually . . . hard. So I had to come to terms with the fact that I could be so very grateful for the mess and also so very irked by it, too.
In God’s economy we can be both struggling and grateful and I don’t think that throws him off in the least. Complicated emotions can coexist.
As I stood in my kitchen on Saturday, preparing food for Elle’s party, I felt so grateful to have the energy and space to make food to nourish people I love. I felt grateful for our home and the bubbling fountain in our courtyard that was serenading me while I worked. I felt grateful for my kids and my husband who are the very essence of my tribe, my place. I felt grateful for all those who gave us such a soft place to land when we returned from the Middle East. And, also, I was very aware of the long journey, the lingering dis-ease of transition, and the countless days when I felt just totally and utterly out of energy. When my body literally hurt and my mind was full of Brain Vultures and I was paying for lunch with baby wipes instead of money.
Today, I’m sharing all this because I think we need reminders that things can be both hard and good, disorienting and orienting, deeply imperfect and also soulful.
I’m wondering if part of my own personal journey is to become more and more accepting of the coexistence of chaos and beauty and to LET IT BE. (Ughhhh, practically impossible, if you ask me.)
But — and this is seriously strange to me — I’m more at home in my own skin, I’m a tiny bit clearer on my own voice, I’m more accepting of myself as a mother, and I think I’m even letting go of some of the ways I have chosen my image over my true identity.
My spiritual director talks to me about my “Inner Fundamentalist,” that voice inside our heads who is constantly telling us how things should look, should feel, should be happening. She reminds me that there’s no grace in the Inner Fundamentalist’s system.
We shut that “I.F.” up by allowing and embracing the complicated paradoxes, by living in the imperfect mess, by letting go of the shoulds on the exhale so we can take in grace on the inhale.
Giving you permission today to be both struggling and grateful — no matter how much you wanted what you have, no matter how long you waited for it, and no matter how great it is . . . It’s OK if it’s ever-so-slightly impossible, too.
Grateful for grace,