One Garden, Two Seeds

Wonder.  Awe.  Fascination.  That’s what I saw in my niece’s eyes when I pulled a tiny carrot from the soil like a magician does a rabbit from a hat.  Katarina was mesmerized by this root vegetable that was just her size while her sister Tessa taste-tested herbs, letting out excited shrieks.  It seemed nature amused them as much as their twin birthday cakes would an hour later.

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To celebrate the girls turning two, I coaxed the family into a little gathering at my house.  Last year, we had a big party for the twins in my backyard.   This Saturday afternoon would be low-key.  The day before, I picked cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, and lettuce from my garden and fixed a salad.  I’d dried oregano, parsley, and basil and added that to the pasta sauce with seasoned ground beef.  I unearthed a garlic clove and used it and the herbs to prepare garlic butter for an Italian loaf.

I started decorated the dining room while the cakes were cooling, figuring out how to fit seven adults, three kids, and two booster seats while leaving walking room.  A folding table from the shed fit nicely at the end of the great table, perfect for the kids.  A Happy Birthday banner hung over the piano above where the twins would sit.  I could see the girls laughing there long before they arrived.

Rather than bake one cake, I opted to make a small strawberry cake for each girl.  I frosted Tessa’s with pink vanilla icing, Kat’s with purple.  With a decorating tool, I used white icing around the sides of the cake to create a garden fence.  On the face of each cake, I’d used green icing to write their names, then added vines and blue flowers.  Kat’s said “Happy” at the bottom and Tessa’s said “Birthday”.

I was trying to create an underlying garden theme.  The kids would take home flower tattoos and the adults would get to pick a flower-framed photo of the twins that doubled as decorations.  There are dozens of canned party themes that would have looked great, but the girls don’t really recognize Strawberry Shortcake or Tinkerbell yet.  Granted, Tessa likes Cookie Monster, but that wouldn’t vibe with my girly color scheme.

A garden, though – plants, flowers, leaves – that’s something the girls understand.  I remember the first time Tessa stuffed a handful of grass in her mouth.  The face was nothing short of comical, the corners of her mouth turning downward and her eyes narrowing.  I don’t think it was what she expected.  While on vacation, I took Kat and Tessa out on the paddleboat and they picked flowers from the reeds.  Tessa kept throwing them back in the water.  Kat kept putting them in my hair, having seen me do the same to her.

At two, they are so distinctively different.  Tessa’s an early bird while Kat likes to sleep in.  Tessa assesses every situation.  Kat dives in head first.  Kat prefers purple and will tell you so.  Tessa can figure out how to get into just about anything (even leftover birthday cake, but she did share with her sister).  And simply because they are twins, growing up in the same environment with the same genes, they will be compared to one another for the rest of their lives.

Twins help simplify the controversy of nature vs. nurture.  They serve as control models.  Each child has the same schedule, eats the same food, and receives the same amount of attention.  They were born moments apart in the same delivery room with DNA from the same parents.  Kat kicked herself out first, and so for years to come we’ll be making bigger sister jokes.

That’s predictable.  We can say we won’t compare the two girls, yet it happens naturally.  I am blessed to get to watch these two tiny humans grow.  The same excitement I get when I see a ripe tomato on my vine seizes me with every new word and new skill the twins pick up.  A garden theme seemed appropriate for their second birthday as they are both blossoming in unique ways.

When I planted my first vegetable garden this spring, I had my doubts about its profitability.  I hoped I’d yield a bounty of fresh herbs and greens to enjoy fresh from the soil.  I dreamed of making salad and pasta sauce with items harvested from my garden, and I was able to realize that dream this weekend.  There was such a healthy pride in having grown my own produce and seasonings.

I didn’t know that we would venture out into the back yard for a little field trip before getting the party started inside.  I turned over leaves to unveil cucumbers, and my nephew J.J., nearly six, said, “Wooooow!  That’s cool.”  He’d seen me pluck the carrot for his little sister, and asked me to get one for him.

“Well, J.J.,” I explained.  “These carrots aren’t ripe yet.  If we pick them, they’ll die, they won’t get to grow, and we won’t be able to eat them.  Do you still want me to pick you one?”  He shook his head and went off to play in the herb garden with his daddy.  He’s older.  He understands life and death.  He wants Mommy to trap the spider and release him outside.

That’s J.J.’s growing conscience, and it’s sweet and inspiring.  Once, his cousin was disappointed that J.J. was offered a reward if he could help find a missing toy, so J.J. told his cousin he would give him the dollar if he found the toy.  I knew what I was planting when I sowed seeds in my garden.  Each little packet was labeled.

How do you sow kindness in a boy?  How do you nurture his character?  How do you help him thrive in a world not controlled like a garden bed?  Katarina and Tessa may be two seeds planted at the same time, and they’ll be raised in the same soil, but I don’t believe we get to know what we’re growing when we plant children.  They aren’t labeled beyond male and female.

They aren’t born passionate and inspired.  That comes in moments like Kat and Tessa had in my vegetable garden, playing with tiny carrots and basil leaves.  Moments when their eyes light up and they don’t need words to communicate their wonder and awe.  In this age of discovery, they’re forming their opinions and preferences about everything, familiar and foreign, in this world around them.  They respond to their environment with traits so unique they’ve been present since birth.

Someone asked me then why I had planted catnip, and I looked up at Charming as I answered.  I’d planted it for his cat.  I just sprinkle a little dried catnip on Charming’s carpet, and she responds by rolling around in it, purring in her herb-induced euphoria; I squeal with excitement when I watch her, like Tessa and the herbs.   Cat, child or adult, we all benefit from a therapeutic dose of delight.

That’s what I wanted to make when I planted that garden.  I labored in its soil, tilling it and turning it, planting seeds, pruning dead leaves, weeding the ground, training up vines, watering it daily, fertilizing on occasion.  I had to believe that that the work would be worth the reward if I would endure it.  This weekend, I found it was as I served pasta sauce, salad, and garlic bread prepared with its harvest.  It was a dose of delight.

That’s also why I hung the streamers and blew up the balloons.  I imagined, with great anticipation, how much fun everyone would have at the birthday party celebrating these precious girls’ two years of life.   As I baked the cakes, I pictured the girls with frosting covering baby faces smiling from ear to ear.  That happened.  The work is worth the reward with these therapeutic doses of delight that come so naturally to children and cats.

There were two cakes because there are two lives to celebrate.  They’re similar yet different, and there’s a more complete picture when they’re together.  That’s going to guide their lives.  Kat and Tessa will be compared because we’re not distracted by a nature vs. nurture dialogue.  We’re surprised and delighted, inspired and amazed by the girls’ differences, and we celebrate them more than the similarities.  They’re what makes Kat and Tessa who they are, individually and together.

I hoped that I would see a sea of vegetables in my back yard, and I knew what to expect if the garden thrived.  Who Kat and Tessa and J.J. will become is mere conjecture.  When we sow children, we don’t know what we’re going to get.  That’s where there are daily doses of delight for all ages.

Wonder. Awe.  Fascination.  That’s the response to a gift in the eyes of a child.  Or a cat.  Or me.

Sitting Still in the Storm

In an eerie twilight, the bright grey sky looming, lighting solos occasionally piercing the horizon, the writer in me is coaxed into a state of creativity which evaded me indoors only moments ago.  I sat still in the mist of the rhythmic rain, gaze averting from the computer screen to the evening glories sprawling up the porch slats.  Vines are doubling over; they need to be trained up, but that’s Wednesday’s investment.  Tuesday’s is writing.

And so I resist the urge to begin untangling vines and looping them around the fishing line strung up past the hanging baskets. While trying to find writing inspiration, my brain was visualizing the act of fixing them.  Rather than dismiss the evening glories, I saw, amidst their interlaced leaves, my greatest weakness.

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The need to fix things that are broken is almost palpable at times.  When my sister-in-law tells me her phone isn’t getting texts, I actually get excited.  When my brother needs to install software without a virtual drive, I’m energized by the challenge.  When my mom can’t figure out how to move a Google Drive folder, I drop the lawn mower and hit the computer.

I’m not sure why I’m driven to fix things. Maybe a little writing therapy can shed some twilight on what I get out of it.  The optimist might claim it’s born of good Christian charity or a selfless heart, but I know myself too well to let that explain the acts of service.  Something compels me to right ships, whether the vessels are technology, plants, or people.

My mind is flooding with images of living in my parents’ house after I’d left my husband.  I was existing with no job for the first time in fifteen years.  A family friend’s daughter was getting married, and she needed some technical assistance printing the programs.  The first visit evolved into weekly sessions where I helped plan and coordinate the ceremony and reception.  Though it was strange to prepare for someone else’s nuptials while I was signing away my own, it felt good to be useful.

And I was pretty good at wedding planning.  I’d done a few for friends and members of my congregation back in Nashville.  The stereotypical overachiever, I see what needs to be done and can usually do it.  I might have to cue up a few YouTube videos or tutorials, but organization, order, and structure are the Fort Knox that protects my sanity.  When chaos threatens, I have a knack for finding a way forward to resolution.

This need to fix things benefits others.  As I sit and write, all the while worrying that letting the vines grow one more night in the wrong direction will make the task more difficult tomorrow, why do I identify this need as a weakness?  Because I am unable to leave well enough alone.  Because this need is indiscriminate.  It knows not if someone wants to be helped nor if I have enough resources to meet the need without personal loss.

My high school boyfriend was from the wrong side of the tracks according to my mother.  He was rough around the edges, fighting a losing battle to the legacy of an abusive, alcoholic father.  His brokenness enticed me.  I saw his wounds, and I thought my love could heal them.  Despite my better judgment, I started a relationship with him hoping to bring him around to faith in God.  I wound up bruised and alone in the end.   I’m not sure I fixed anything, but I broke myself trying.

And my longest-lasting best friend.  Her exuberance, charm, and passion for living fully seemed to attract drama as a part of her lifestyle.  Whether sharing a couch or chatting miles apart on the phone, I gave her advice and counsel.  I always saw how her life could be better, richer, fuller, healthier.  The cumulative result after years of trying to help her fix life was that she ended our friendship in an email.  She was tired of having me judge her.  A decade later, I can’t blame her.

I started serving in the church during my early teen years, whether leading worship or working with children’s ministries.  While teaching fulltime, I spear-headed the audio-visual team for my father-in-law’s church.  They had many needs, and I never said no.  I designed and managed the website, provided equipment for the team, recorded services, and prepared the media presentations.  I led worship and taught the youth class.  I couldn’t sit in the service; I had to be in the AV booth where I had some control over resolving any problems.

Six years of that burned me out completely.  I operated at top speed, doing too much for too long, unaware of how depleted my reserves were.  I worry about the evening glories because I know I can do something about it.  I worried about my girlfriend, so I told her what I thought she should do.  I worried about my high school boyfriend, so I decided to be what he needed.  I worry that my sister-in-law won’t be able to reply to an important text, so I tinker with the phone.

I think I fix things because I’m trying to escape the worry.  There’s this vague cloud of anxiety that hangs over each of us, I believe.  Some people are better at navigating the distance of it, sending it out and reeling it in like a kite when they’re ready to deal with it.  Others, like me, can’t take naps.  If I’m awake, I feel the weight of things unresolved, and I can’t sit still longer than to make a plan or a to do list.

I maintain my order Fort Knox by preparing for each day like I did for my friend’s daughter’s wedding.  Think about everything that should happen.  Then, think about everything that could go wrong.  Finally, make lists, and cross items off as you go.   Basically, by anticipating future worries, I can avoid them.

For me, the desire to serve others has turned to weakness when it overshadows reason.  When I see what needs to be done, my instinct is to just do it, without regard to the cost.  Like with my girlfriend, I had my eye too close on the microscope to see how my helpful advice was hurting her.  Like with my high school boyfriend or the church, I squelched my own self-preservation needs in the pursuit of fixing things.

The rain stopped, but I still sense the clouds in the now dark sky beyond my evening glories.  Fixing them can wait until tomorrow.  Tonight, I was trying to find something in me.  I was looking for a reason.  I fix things so that I don’t have to worry about them.  The fewer items in the cloud, the greater the distance it is from me, and I can enjoy living after I’ve survived thriving.

I told Charming once that I didn’t feel a need to fix people.  I wasn’t lying then.  He helps me broaden my perspective, question myself.  I didn’t see it until the tangled vines began whispering, summoning me away from my writing to fix them.  In the chaos of leaves, I saw the need for boundaries.

It’s hard for me to surrender control when I know what needs to be done and can do it.  It’s hard to hold my tongue when I think what I have to say will help solve a problem.  Sometimes, facing a worry means not taking action.  You have to sit still with the evening glories in the storm for a few minutes before inspiration strikes.

On Closing the First Volume

Last week, one of my readers commented on my blog post, saying, “We all take different paths in our lives and those paths lead us to this exact moment, this exact place, for the reasons God has planned.”  Each weekly installment in this Word Doc entitled “I Used to Be” (simply because those were the first words I typed in it) has served as an attempt to map out those paths and see the journey that brought me to this moment.

This moment, on my front porch, evening glories climbing the slats to my right, a bluebird picking at the tea kettle feeder to my right, dim porch light spilling over into twilight.  It’s calm and still in stark contrast to the organized chaos of circumstances surrounding last week’s entry.  Amidst the bustle of ten adults and six kids sharing a lake house vacation, I struggled to find an inward peace to write.

Though I’d thought it some of my worst writing, I was proud of delving into some psychoanalysis despite feeling dehydrated and spent.  My gym mentor Chuck promptly texted the affirmation, “Your blog was by far the BEST yet.” Alright, so it wasn’t a waste of time.  Then, Deb posted her comment, and I’ve been mulling over it ever since.

See, Deb has a different insight on my blog than most of my Facebook friendships which were born in adulthood.  We attended the same church when I was a little girl.  Her mother was my AWANA leader.  As a teen, Deb invested time in me, taking me on outings.  I thought of her like the perfect big sister.  Though our lives took us on different paths and we haven’t spoken in over a decade, we reconnected on Facebook, and now she has daughters about the age I best remember her from my childhood.

Deb’s comment also included some advice: “I think it’s time for you to close the first volume in this book of life.  Put it on the shelf for reference, but you’ve come way too far to keep looking back at earlier, more painful chapters.”  She’s seen these chapters only through the eyes of seventy WordPress posts, and yet I feel she “gets” me.   So what would it mean to close this first volume?

Back in my gym with my workout buddy yesterday after ten days absent, all was finally right with my world.  Chuck gave me some of his thoughts one what it would look like to close the volume and stop looking back at my past.  He gives me advice some days, but most of the time, he’s like a shrink, asking me questions that get me to come to my own owned conclusions.  It’s a lot like my life – I don’t see how things relate, but when the dots are connected, it all makes sense.

As we chatted, I remembered a poster project I had made at school when I was five or six.  In a home movie, Mom filmed me doing a little show and tell of my all about me poster.  I’d drawn my family: six varying sized triangles with stick figure legs and arms.  I’d listed three wishes, my favorite colors and foods, and there was a box for a picture.  I’d included a photograph of Deb and me.  In that season of my life, when I was surrounded by boys and competing for attention, Deb made a lasting impact on my life.

She wasn’t family, but she felt like family, and so Deb needed to be on that poster.  Like my blog, that poster was a little snapshot of my current paradigm, the way that I take in and see life.  In the bottom left hand corner, I’d drawn a smiling woman with outstretched arms.  In the video I read aloud, “When I grow up, I want to be… TEACHER!”  That part of my journey, God had set me on early.

When I was at Belmont studying education, I took under my wing two little Hispanic girls.  For five years, I brought them to church with me, bought them clothes, and spent time with them.  We’d go to the pool or the park in the summers, and I’d attend their soccer games during the year.  Their mother and I had a falling out that brought our friendships to an end.   The older girl recently found me on Facebook.  She’s a mother now, and it surprised me that she wanted to connect at all.

Looking at that picture of Deb and me on that childhood poster, I realize that God had used her greatly in my life for a season.  She’d modeled for me the same investment I’d made in those little girls.  There were times in the years after those relationships ended that I’d wondered if it had all been a waste, if the conclusion would sour the rest of the chapter.  It took almost a decade before social media allowed me the chance to learn that one of these girls felt I had positively impacted her life.

I’m not sure I’m ready to stop writing about the past.  It’s on the written page that I make sense of it, learn lessons from it, find clarity, peace, and answers in it.  These weekly entries have been plotting points on a map that makes more sense with each connected dot.  In a way, my writing time is when I take the past off the shelf to reference most frequently.  When I reflect, I regenerate a memory with relevance and purpose.

I started blogging by recounting everything I used to be.  My metamorphosis has been catalogued.  I’ve seen the themes change.  Hope conquered fear.  Grace conquered shame.  Perspective conquered regret.  Where I once identified with the dead old oak in my back yard, I now identify with the vegetable garden that the absence of its shade allows to thrive.

I agree with Deb that this volume of my life is over – the one before “I Do” and after “Happily Ever After”.   Those little Hispanic girls were part of that volume. I was a part of their family for years, and I’m grateful to have a Facebook window into their lives now.  Time changes the conception of a memory.  I don’t remember their faces the night I walked out of their lives… I see them smiling on the swings behind the public library my first summer in Nashville.

I’m living the new volume, the one where I’m like my vegetable garden.  I came home from vacation to find all forms of new life in the herbs, bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, garlic, carrots, and lettuce.  Chuck had watered them for me while I was away, and he even sent me photo updates.  He knew I was feeling a bit like a mother away from her newborn for the first time.

I’d hoped to bring a fresh cucumber to my sister-in-law’s tonight, but I can’t really control the ripening process.  Each plant seems to be maturing at different rates.  You can’t rush progress.  They’ll be ready when they’re ready.  And, I suppose, I will be, too.

I can’t say that I’m ready to stop writing about the past because I’ve found that, every week, without fail, when I task myself to return my consciousness to painful past memories, that they’re not so painful anymore.  That they always teach me something now that makes revisiting them worth my time.

I am ready, however, to change the name of this Word document from “I Used to Be” to “I Am”.  It’s a new volume now, representative of a different paradigm.  Just as New York and Tennessee had an abundance of pins on my life map in the first volume, Virginia started with a new map entirely.  I hope, as Deb suggests, that Charming will play a leading role.   Like my writing, he helps me see routes I didn’t know were there.

Regardless of the number of volumes featuring Charming, my life will have been better for his influence.  God used him to help redeem me.  Deb invested in me.  I invested in those two Hispanic girls.  Decades pass, and those acts of love and service are not forgotten.

I’m delighted to be in this exact moment, in this exact place.  My garden will yield bounty; I don’t know how much or when, but it happens a little every day, and that’s enough for me to see that volume two of my life is going to make for an inspiring read.

What I Think of Me

There is only one reason I’m writing tonight.  One of my young bloggers has been faithfully publishing her blog every week.  Her most recent post was so inspiring she had me wiping at tears.  Her writing is raw, honest, and a glimpse at the gifted, brilliant insightfulness of a teenager exposing worries that burden me still at twice her age.  I’m writing because it’s who we are, not just what we do.  It’s how we process brokenness and make sense of it.

This bright young girl is no Disney princess.  She writes under her own pseudonym: Star.  And a star she is.  This week, my parents rented a lake house so that their children and grandchildren, normally scattered along the eastern coast, could find respite under the same roof and make memories together.  While driving to play golf with my father, one of my brothers, and Charming, I read Star’s blog, and these key male influences in my life faded momentarily to the background.

Star admitted that she worries what others think of her, that she wants them to see her as beautiful and smart.  In her blog, she tells stories about the characters that she’s created in her books, and how those characters reveal varied parts of her own personality… the star qualities and Achilles heels.  She owns her passion and her temper, her power and her weakness.  She concluded this post by asking, “What do you think of me?”

I commented on her post with something my mother has told me time and again, something her mother used to tell her.  Eventually, people will see you for who you truly are.  I wholeheartedly meant to encourage her by passing on this bit of wisdom; yet, when I turn the advice inward, I realize that what I am most afraid of is that people will see me for who I am.  Hot-tempered and impatient.  Broken by past hurts.  That in the time living alone since my divorce, I’ve already become an old maid.

I cherish my routines and my solitude.  My house is spotless, not because I am a neat freak, but because clutter distracts me from accomplishing what I need to get done.  I’ve become accustomed to living by my own agenda, and you can set your watch by my sleep schedule.  In the comfort of my own home, I am at my best.  No children to invest in, I tend instead to my garden.  To put it plainly, I’m used to being alone and calling all the shots.

Again, I’d say it’s not because I’m ultimately controlling, but rather that I’ve been forced to make decisions that, for others in my family, are shared ones.  My three brothers are all married now with children.  Their choices, made as parental units with their wives, reflect the needs of their families.  They share the responsibilities of life and financial decisions, as it should be.

But I’ve been on my own for a long time now.  Even during my marriage, I found myself faced with the reality of making the tough decisions.  When I finally told my husband that I wanted a separation, he responded, “I trust your judgment.”  Our divorce wasn’t even a choice we made together, and he may have trusted my judgment, but I rarely do.

This week at the lake house, I see only too clearly what I have become.  There weren’t enough bedrooms for everyone, so as the only single child, I was awarded a creaky futon.  It’s the kind of choice made for the good of the family that makes perfect sense.  My brothers, their wives, and their children need space and privacy.  And truth be told, I wouldn’t want a room of my own if it was at the expense of any of these cherished family members.

Still, it feels like a sledgehammer to the defeated sense of what I’ve built with my thirty-three years of existence.   Even with Charming along for the family adventure, I still feel like the odd woman out.  And my unexpected post-divorce solitude served as the breeding ground for that old maid I fear I will become to rear her ugly, selfish head.  I’ve become far too used to space and privacy, to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, to the comfort of knowing what to expect because I live alone and make all the expectations.  Sharing a house with five kids and even more adults, my normal approach to daily life was naturally challenged.

As soon as I’d posted my comment to Star’s blog this morning, we pulled in at a country club for nine holes.  The four of us packed our clubs into two golf carts and started out par for the course.  On the first hole, I outdrove the guys, and they made sure to encourage me with that little fact as I finished the hole at least four strokes over.  My ex-boyfriend taught me how to golf, and we had our own system for attacking a course.  We’d take our time, usually nursing a hard lemonade and a cigar over a few greens.

My father, my brother, and Charming are much better golfers than I.  I only know the rules that my ex taught me, and I found out today just how little I know about golfing etiquette.  Emerging from my inexperienced golfing bubble found me floundering.  It was more than a little embarrassing, stroke after stroke, trying my hardest to apply all the techniques I’d learned only to top the ball, miss it entirely, or feel the full force of my swing return angrily to my shoulder after hitting a chunk of grass several feet.

The worst moment came in the fifth hole when I squared my shoulders over an iron and Charming told me that I should center my feet around the ball.  “But I was taught to put it in the back of my swing,” I retorted quickly.  It occurred to me then that I’d been doing it wrong for three years.  In that moment, I wanted to surrender the club and just give up.  I wasn’t good enough to be on this course with them.  I should have stayed home with the ladies and helped with the kids instead.

Charming was not swayed by my bad attitude or my discouragement, and he put the pressure on.  I followed his advice.  “That was your best swing yet!” he told me.  The game improved after that.  On the sixth hole, a Par 3, I drove to the edge of the green, chipped it in, and set myself up for a putt just a few feet from the hole.  For the first time in my short golfing career, I had a shot at making par.  I lined up carefully, took my time, processed a mental checklist, and went for it.  The ball went straight into the hole, then rounded the rim and landed on the other side.  I was disappointed, but it was still my best hole, and I felt good about having come so close.

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We all start out in life par for the course.  We all have the potential for a perfect game before we start.  Life happens, and we do our best with what we’ve learned to make it a good game.  Sometimes we end up in a rut and get used to our ways and our methods, often finding out we were doing it wrong all along.  If we’re lucky, we get mentors that care enough about our wellbeing to help coach us out of the sand trap.  If we’re lucky, the people we look up to are willing to take the time to teach us the etiquette lessons we missed somewhere along the way.

Like Star, I care what other people think of me.  Like Star, I want them to see me as beautiful and smart.  I’m afraid that all these years on my own have hardened me into a self-centered old maid of routine independence and that a week in a lake house with my family will blow my sequestered cover.

A five hour game of golf taught me a life lesson I desperately needed today. With our clubs secured in the trunk as we headed back to the lake house, my father said, “Laura Joy, in golf, we only remember the good  hits.”  Like Star, I have my faults, and I try to own them as much as my strengths.  Writers are inherently self-aware, and our words are most effective when they’re honest ones.

I didn’t want to write tonight, but I needed to process my own brokenness.  And right before I did, I opened up to Charming down by the dock about this fear that I have become a girl whose family loves her because they have to.  He didn’t just tell me it wasn’t true.  He reminded me that I would Star tell it wasn’t true.  And I would mean it.

Because when we commit to loving another human being, and that love is real and grounded, we choose to focus on the good hits.  That’s the secret.  And maybe for me, the most important take-away from today’s nine holes is that I need recognize the good.  In spite of all my botched attempts, I need to love myself like I do Star and all my other young bloggers.  I see the best in them, and I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the rest of the world will see them for who they truly are the way I do.

We all have the potential for a perfect game before we start, but we have the shared human experience of falling short of perfection early on.  If all we see when we look at our lives are the times we swung and missed, like me, we’ll be tempted to give up on the fifth hole.  But if we expect that failure is a part of the game, and we listen to mentors like my dad and Charming, there’s a perspective shift.

The people who love us have a way of looking past the faults at the good hits we make. Self-acceptance might begin by doing the same for ourselves.