{Dear Daughters} On being the first to crack

{Dear Daughters} On being the first to crack

Years ago not long after moving to Memphis, we met a new couple in our small group. They asked us over for dinner and that night while she was finishing up the meal she pulled the strangest contraption from her drawer. I had never seen anything like it, so I asked her what it was. She told me it was an avocado slicer. While she raved about this little invention, I jokingly gave her a hard time about how truly “difficult” it was to cut an avocado with just a knife. We laughed together and moved on to dinner with our men. But I would never look at an avocado again without thinking of her.

It would only be a short while later that we would both enter the darkest season of our lives to date. I remember vividly sitting on my guest bed (back when we actually had a guest bed) and talking to her on the phone. In between tears and some needed silence, we cracked. We said the hard, vulnerable words about what we were facing. Our situations were very different, but our pain was shared. We walked through those days together and many, many more. She now lives several states away, but we text daily and talk on the phone several times a week–usually with loud kids in the background. And every year Jess and I save our pennies and get on a plane (where I usually end up needing the little white baggie and poor Jess has to order ginger ale for me), so we can fly to the sunshine state and the three of us can sit around the same table and talk about nothing and everything and then some more.

What started with an avocado slicer became one of the greatest gifts of my adult life. But someone had to crack. Someone had to say the hard, vulnerable words. Someone had to listen. And someone had to return vulnerability with her own hard, vulnerable words. This is how true friendship goes.

It’s scary–a bit like walking into that junior high dance where boys are on one wall and girls on the other and you just want to go home and put on your pjs and watch Full House. But walk over to that wall of girls. Look for the one who makes eye contact with you but looks equally scared. Remember that the ones who look like they have it all together are broken too. We all are. Don’t even pretend like you have it all together. That just delays real friendship. Go ahead and let your guard down. Sometimes it will be a bust. You will have a nice conversation, but it might not be a forever friendship type thing. That’s ok. Keep putting yourself out there. Keep being willing to crack. Because eventually you’ll find your avocado slicers. And you’ll have found that rare and treasured gift of true friendship.

 

Transitions, Courage & No. 2 Pencils

Transitions, Courage & No. 2 Pencils

Over the weekend we bought school supplies. Me + school supplies = dangerous. My inner nerd comes raging out, and suddenly markers and Post-its and fresh pencils are jumping into my cart.  I just can’t help myself. At least weather wise, fall still feels so far away, but the school year is quickly coming. This is Lydia’s first school year, so the transition seems even more significant.

Charlotte is in the middle of a transition too, to the big girl room with her sister. Last night was the first night, and they got in bed at eight o’clock. At ten o’clock the giggling was still going strong. At some point both girls came out because light-up ladybug was blinking which meant she needed fresh batteries. Lottie looked around at us with eyes as wide as doorknobs as if to say, “I can get out of bed whenever I want?! Freeeeeeeedom!!!” At some point they finally drifted off and woke up this morning saying it was “the best night ever.” I woke up saying, “Where’s the caffeine?”

Transitions are an inevitable part of life. Some come with No. 2 pencils or feisty toddlers free of their crib. Others come with searing pain and a life that feels ripped apart. Transitions make us feel vulnerable and leave us grappling for control. It is in these seasons where we are tempted to retreat, to let the shell close around us so the crab can feel safe. It is during these times that our insecurities scream the loudest, where we put on a happy face and make it seem like we have it all together. It is in these moments that we glance through social media and mistakenly whisper to ourselves, “I’m the only one.”

On the shelf with all our school supplies is a small chalkboard where I wrote, “We can do hard things.” Hard things like math and reading, yes, but also hard things like vulnerability, truth and courage.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Brene Brown

 

 

 

 

What Vulnerable Feels Like

What Vulnerable Feels Like

There’s no graceful way to endure a skin exam. By definition, to exam the skin it must be… well, exposed. So, there I was in the exam room at my dermatologist’s office for my annual skin exam. The kind nurse left the room after instructing me to remove my clothes, sit on the chair and cover myself with the little sheet she left me. And by little I mean so thin I could have used it as a coffee filter. The chair she told me to wait in was also adorned with a veil of this single-ply paper.

A few minutes later the dermatologist knocked and opened the door. She had a gentle smile, and after introducing herself she told me she was going to lay the chair back and examine my front from head to toe. Then, at her instruction, I would roll over and she would examine my backside from head to toe. The moment she hit the button to recline the chair, I could feel the sweat beading up. Not just a few beads either. I suddenly felt like a thousand sprinklers had been turned on full blast. A few minutes went by and she told me to roll over. When I did, the piece of “protective” paper covering the chair was now plastered to my sweaty body in what looked like a million tiny pieces of toilet paper. I casually tried to rip off pieces while being completely mortified which, of course, was not helping the sweating problem. Keeping her certain horror and barely-controlled laughter under wraps, the kind doctor said, “Don’t worry about it! I know it’s hot outside.” Yeah, that’s what it was. The heat outside. Even though I had been parked in the frigid waiting room for an hour before going back to see the doctor.

My back looked like a molting chicken, and there was no longer anything between me and the plastic vinyl of the exam chair. Lovely. Somehow, my doctor managed to keep her composure and never once mentioned the little al fresco situation I had going on. She just asked me about running and told me she was also running the St. Jude and that I would have to look for her on race day. No offense to her, but I thought to myself, “If I spot you on race day, I’ll be running away as fast as my little legs will carry me.”

Being vulnerable feels a lot like being naked. The hardest blog I’ve written to date was When My Plan Fell Apart. After I hit publish, I immediately wanted to undo it. I wanted to reach into my computer and yank it back. Being vulnerable sometimes requires me to confront the parts I’m not proud of, the parts I want to hide, the parts that feel unlovable. Other times it touches a wound still tender and purple, forcing me to confront the pain, breathe deep and let healing oxygenate my soul. And still other times, it crumbles my wall, giving me permission to be honest, raw and unfinished like a snagged sweater with the yarn unraveling.

Being vulnerable has never been easy for me. I’ve expended much effort making it look like I have it all together, going after applause and titles and a glossy facade. In college, I pushed two of my closest friends away because I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable. I had worked hard creating an image of who I wanted to be, but they saw the real me. And instead of being honest and confronting it, I was defensive and pushed the blame on someone else. They knew true friendship didn’t work like that, and our relationship grew apart. I don’t regret many things in life because most of the time my mistakes have taught me infinitely more than my successes, but I regret my pride and the wall I built that cost me those friendships.

Vulnerability is painful, like being naked under fluorescent lights with pieces of single-ply paper stuck to your sweaty body. But the kind of friendships I crave aren’t polished and shiny. I want friends who see my home cobwebs, dust bunnies and all. I want friends who know me sans makeup and dirty hair stuck in a ponytail. Friends who know when you need to talk and when you just need time to process. Friends who know when to leave pastries on your doorstep just to say, “We’re here and we love you.” Friends who, when you ask, “Was I wrong?” say, “Yes, yes you were. Now, go make it right.”

I want a marriage where my husband can share his crazy dreams and where inside jokes create our own little language. Where “I’m sorry” isn’t a white flag but rather another strand in the yarn that weaves us together. Where I’m made more beautiful because I’m loved by someone who doesn’t just see what is but sees what could be.

I want the parenting relationship where my kids see me mess up and hear me say “I’m sorry.” Where they see me take risks and fail and be okay with that. Where they see grace and truth lived out, not perfectly, but courageously.

But in order to have those relationships, in order to be the type of friend, mom and wife I want to be, I must be vulnerable. I must open myself up and step out. I have to pick up the phone and whisper the words, “Hey, when you said this, I got my feelings hurt.” I have to go back in her room after losing my temper, hold her little hands and say, “I’m sorry for raising my voice. Will you forgive me?” I have to look my husband in the eye and believe him when he says he thinks I’m beautiful. These tiny moments, these are the moments where we feel naked, where the garish lights seem brightest and our flaws seem magnified, but these are the moments that define our relationships.

Yes, there is risk. The person could, in fact, run the other way. But there is more risk in not being vulnerable. For we might miss out on the greatest gift of all, to be fully known and fully loved.