what love doesn’t look like.

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I’m not going to claim to know what love looks like. The older I get, the less I know (as they say). I will, however, claim to know what it doesn’t look like. It doesn’t look like making others feel small. It doesn’t look like superiority. It doesn’t look like shame. It doesn’t look like accusations with zero personal responsibility. It doesn’t look like not saying thank you. It doesn’t look like forgetting people’s names. It doesn’t look like not listening and always talking. It doesn’t look like wagging your finger in someone’s face. It doesn’t look like using your power to overcome the powerless. It doesn’t look like anger when someone disagrees. It doesn’t shut down questions. It doesn’t shut down opinions. It doesn’t make you afraid to be you. It doesn’t look like thinking you’re going to heaven and the other person is going to hell. I don’t care what anyone says.  It.does.not.look.like.that.

I grew up in the church and I grew up a republican. I grew up with a father who is a minister and I graduated from a private, christian school. At the ripe age of 19, I then proceeded to marry a minister. We did not live happily ever after together (I know, you’re shocked) but we are happy anyhow – with other wonderful people – and we love each other in that way that exes sometimes are lucky enough to.  So not all is lost.

Anyhow – I’ve been to the church and the christian school and the christian concert and the voting booth where I was all, “Yay, Bush!” and I’ve been in the conversations with my barista co-workers where I was, “I love the sinner, but I hate the sin” and thought I was super cool for saying it. How altruistic! How smart. How did I not stop and think, “I totally just called my co-worker a sinner?”.

And then one day I felt really unloving and unhappy and everything changed! Not exactly. Over time I started to question things. It started with one question, “What if I’m wrong about the things I believe?” That one question brought me to tears more than once. The next question was, “What if someone else is right?” That terrified me and made me feel out of control. The questions after that one were, “What if there is no right?”, “What if it’s all bullshit?”, and the ‘ole doozy, “What if there are no answers???” The content of the questions matter a lot less than the fact that there WERE questions. There were hundreds of them. I felt like a rebel for asking them. I felt like a rebel for THINKING them! God would never forgive me for doubting him. My family would never understand.

Somehow I overcame the fear and kept questioning. It was a bit like exercising a muscle. The more I did it, the stronger I became. I started to seek out people who weren’t afraid of my questions and who had the same ones themselves. That made me feel less alone and more sane. It’s not an easy thing to question everything you’ve always held as unquestionable.

So here I am today – some 15 years after my first question – and I have to say… I have no answers. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The major thing that’s changed is that I am not scared of that reality. Not at all. I’m actually kind of in awe of it. I don’t have to know. If people are honest with themselves then they know that no one really knows. It’s terrifying for some of us to not know. Terrifying or liberating. Sometimes a combination of both.

The other night I went to a philosophy thought group at a coffee shop where there were around 15 people sitting around discussing big stuff. It was respectful. It was interesting. It was diverse! All I could think was, “I wish I had this earlier in life”. I should have listened to my dad and gone to a liberal arts school when I was 18.

I believe that those kinds of discussions lead people to have a more open mind – a mind that’s exploring and curious and filled with possibility. A mind that accepts a myriad of differences. A mind that accepts oneself and others in ways that are not possible when you are stuck in, “This is it. I’m right. Everyone else is wrong.” I’ve learned that asking questions is important and loving myself and the people around me is powerful and as good as it gets. There’s a lot more room in my heart for love now that it’s not quite so full of “knowing”. I try to remember the names of people I care about. I try to listen. I try to hear. I try to avoid shaming people for being themselves as long as “themselves” is kind and decent. I try to consider those who are not like me as well as those who are. I try to stick up for people who can’t stick up for themselves. I try to use my voice to say, “That’s not o.k.” when something is… well, not o.k.. I try to give. I try to serve. I try. That’s the best we can do, right?

My exposure to christianity (and being a republican, for that matter) is limited and not entirely negative. I have a thousand beautiful memories and I cherish those. I did have to stop going to church though. It came to a point where I felt that my integrity was being compromised by going. It took time for me to separate and in some ways I never will and I don’t want to. What was painful for me is all wrapped up in what IS me. I don’t think I can untangle that beautiful mess with a thousand years of trying. Megan Witt is all that I am now and all that I was then (God bless her) and all that I will become if I’m given more days to become – and I hope that I am. I also had to stop voting republican. That pesky integrity thing came up again when I would enter the voting booth. I had to stick up for women. I had to stick up for minorities. I had to stick up for freedom of thought and love and equal rights.

In this current political season there is a lot wrapped up in the words “Trump”, “Republican”, “Christian”, and “Love”. Everything is loaded these days. Many of us are scared. Many of us are full of questions. Many of us are struggling to understand how people we love are not scared or full of questions or struggling to understand. I’m frequently confronted by people who say, “I don’t get it! I don’t understand!” in reference to the other side. My response is often, “I do.” I get it. I understand. I was there.

I think there’s a lot of fear driving both sides. We’re just afraid of different things. One side is afraid of losing their money and their rights and their guns and their religion. The other side is afraid of losing their voice and their peers and their diversity and their intelligence. Obviously these fears cross over party lines, but you get what I’m saying. We are all afraid when you dig down a bit. We are all operating from a place of fear. How do we shift that? How do we come from a place of love instead? How do we know when to stay connected to those who are not coming from love and when to draw a line in the sand? What does that even look like? That’s the conversation I want to be a part of.

Love is not shutting down the healthy conversation or the questions. Love is not telling people to “Sit down!” when they disagree with you in a fair and respectful way. Love is finding every kind person a seat at the table and pouring them a glass of wine. And sometimes love is saying, “I love love too much to let you stomp all over it. It’s time for me to walk away.” Sometimes love is found in resistance to it’s opposite.

xxx

PS – Illustration by the incredible Mari Andrews.

hey babe (16).

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Well, hello there.  It’s been another year and I can’t even believe I’m typing that out.  How does time pass me by like a jet plane?  We just celebrated your 4th birthday and you are such a perfect mix currently of questions and sought confirmations, “Right, mom?  Right?” and random outbursts, “I don’t want to leave the playyyyygrouuundddddd!” and sweet and thoughtful gestures, “Hey, come meet my mom.  She’s really nice” (to a friend at the museum the other day”.  You talk our ears off.  Really, truly.  You never, ever stop talking.  I try to get you to play “the quiet game”.  You’ll say, “O.k.!” and then after about 20 seconds you’ll say, “Mom, I won!  I was quiet!  I won!”.

You begin your second year in the children’s house at your Montessori school in two weeks, but before you go back I’m going to take a full week off with you at home just to go to the beach and the Natural History Museum and the playground and soak up as much of you as I can before we get back into the school year routine.

It’s been a wild year so far.  2016 has kind of kicked our butts.  I think we’ve done a really amazing job of remaining flexible and open during all of the changes, but it hasn’t been one bit easy.  My relationship with your dad is taking on a different form and that has had it’s fair share of complexities to navigate these last 7 months.  I feel so grateful that we bonded together during my pregnancy and gave it our best shot these past 5 years.  I needed that.  You needed that.  We all did.

And we have a connection now that we’ll have forever.  We have a history that goes back 10 years and we have YOU.  We have put your first in every way we know how since the moment we found out we were pregnant with you and ever since and I’m proud of that.  I’m proud that we’ve been (mostly) kind to each other in our communication throughout these difficult months and that we’ve had talks that have led to disagreements and then, ultimately, agreements so that we didn’t have to fight in the courts over this and that and who deserves what.  Just the thought of that kind of war is enough to keep me under the covers.  It’s really difficult to practice kindness and empathy and listening and all of those things when your heart is shattered and I know we’ve both found that to be the case at times, but we’ve taken it one day at a time and time is on our side.

So here we are:  on separate paths that are forever linked by you and we love each other and we love you and that will never, ever change (not even for a second).  My greatest hope is that you look back on this season, if you remember it at all, with ambivalence.  I hope you remember that there was a time when some big things changed, but that we kept your life as steady as we could in the midst of that change and that you felt loved and taken care of each step of the way.

The biggest goal, for me, this next year, is to stay focused on you and making sure you’re happy and content and have boundaries and feel safe.  I want to connect with other moms and work amongst the people I love and read a lot of books that bring me joy and cook dinners and stay home where I feel calm.  I want things to be simple and 1,2,3.  I think we both need that right now, so that’s what I’m committed to.  I’m committed to reading stories with you and taking you around the block on your new spiderman bike and teaching you things and listening to you and giving you more hugs than you ask for because I really can’t help myself and my-god-if-your-ears-are-not-the-yummiest-thing to nibble!

Currently you love superheroes (Spiderman is your favorite), Legos, your stuffed shark, “Toothy”, going to the farm to visit your grandparents, spending the night with Nanny & Papa and going to “B Sweeties”…  watching kids YouTube, playing at playgrounds, going to The Natural History museum, visiting The Lego Store at the mall, eating “Fruity Petals”, pushing around mini shopping carts at the grocery store, and going to the movie theater.  We also recently discovered Squaw Rock and you LOVE it there.  You love people and play dates and bouncy houses and blow up pools and riding in the ranger with Grandpa.  You’re social and friendly and opinionated and moody.  You’re curious and talkative and funny and have a really cute way of saying things.  L’s and S’s and Th’s are tough for you so you say “White” instead of “Right”, “Shwim” instead of “Swim” and “Toofy” instead of “Toothy”.  🙂

Here’s the deal:  I’m really proud of you.  I’m really proud of how you’re adjusting and learning kindness and how to share.  I’m really proud that you find the beauty in so many small things when we’re together and how you are brave and big around people instead of timid and small.  I’m proud that you love so hard despite the difficulties of transition and change that I know are giant mountains in your world ~ and in anyone’s world.  You don’t shut down.  You open up.  You don’t get angry.  You get curious.  Your light is not dim when things are tricky.  You are brighter every day.

Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for being amazing.  Thank you for being my anchor.  Who I am at 34 years old is so wrapped up in who you are and in who we are to each other and it is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

xox

Mama

 

 

 

 

 

hey babe (15).

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I can’t believe this is the first blog post I’m writing so far this year.  It’s almost June!  This spring has been a whirlwind of school and daycare and work and wedding preparation.

We decided to start sending you to daycare…  we call it “school”…  a few months ago and it’s been a difficult transition for you.  Some days are better than others but overall it’s not your favorite thing to do.  You have fun once you’re there, but you’re very attached to us and would rather stay home and play.  You’re only there two days a week but in some ways I think that’s made the transition harder.

In two months you’ll turn 3 and this fall you’ll go to a montessori school!  We’re very excited that you got in (you did so well at your interview!) and we think the montessori style will be perfect for you.  You’re very independent and curious and we know it will be a solid foundation for your education.

Instead of taking two courses last semester, I opted for one so that I wasn’t too overwhelmed leading up to the the wedding.  Unfortunately that means I couldn’t graduate in May and will need to either test out of the final course (by taking the CLEP exam) or take it this summer so I can graduate in August.  The end is sooo close I can feel it.  It was always a goal of mine to finish school before you started and it looks as though that will still happen.

Your dad and I have talked about me getting my MBA but decided two of us in school at the same time is a pretty stressful way to live and maybe it’s best to hold off for now.  He still has two years left in his doctoral program in physical therapy and is now talking about staying on another 18 months for his PhD.  This would give him the option of teaching at the college level if that was ever something he wanted to do later in life.  He’s so smart and such an excellent student.  I’m proud of him.

You are 29 pounds and so tall for your age!  Your vocabulary is off the charts.  You talk a million miles a minute and have been since you turned two.  Two and a half, however, saw a huge leap in your words and sentences.  You ask us questions and tell us stories and understand so much of what we tell you.  Last night you were getting ready to go upstairs for bedtime and your pacis (yes…  you still use them at night…) were on the kitchen counter.  You asked me why they were there and I told you I washed them for you.  You said, “Oh!  Thank you mom for washing my pacis!”  We just shake our heads at how smart and quick you are.  When we run into strangers at the grocery store or playground they say, “How old are you?”  and you say, “Two and a half!”  You also tell people your full name when they ask, “Moses Lee-Jennings Nelson”.

You’re not in love with the pets.  They’re more of a nuisance to you than anything.  I’m guessing you get that from your dad.  You love balloons.  We currently have a giant mylar fire truck in our family room that cost $10.  Your dad can’t say no.  Neither of us can.  You also love puzzles, books, “cooking” and the playground.

At night you sleep with about 6 stuffed animals all around you and you ask us to cover them up when we’re tucking you in.  You love to sing and you’re not afraid of anything.  Except hand driers.  And haircuts.

Your dad and I got married a few weeks ago in the park and had a little lunch reception afterward with family.  You weren’t thrilled with the whole experience.  When you saw me getting my hair done you screamed, “I don’t like you fancy!”  Fair enough.  I don’t usually either.

You also had a meltdown as I was coming down the aisle so I had to pick you up and hold you at the alter while Papa gave his sermon.  Poor Moose.  You just like things to be normal and routined.  That day was anything but.

We went on a honeymoon in Asheville for a few days and you stayed with your grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa Nelson first and then Nanny and Papa) and you did really well.  They kept you busy and you only asked about us once.  When we came home you said excitedly, “You came back!” and hugged us both and then asked, “You were at Honey Hut???”

For those of you who don’t know…  Honey Hut is a local ice cream shop.  He had been to Honey Hut while we were gone and someone had told him we were on our “honeymoon”.  Hence the confusion.

We’re looking forward to this summer with you.  Your dad has six weeks off.  There will be trips to the farm and perhaps some time at the lake house in Michigan.  We didn’t go last year as we went to St. Augustine instead.  It’s always fun to kayak and swim and relax up there.  Your dad has joked that he’ll need to get a job.  Six weeks without school is a long time!  I assured him we’ll have plenty to do.

There are days were you test the limits of my patience with your almost-three-year-old logic and your independence and opinions (sometimes shouted) but then you wrap your arms around my leg and say, “Awww…  I love you mom!”…  or I ask you how you are and you say, “I feel great!”…  or you run and “crash me” in a fit of giggles… and I am so overwhelmed with how special you are and how blessed I am to be your mom.

Right now you’re on a toddler journey and it’s a roller coaster ride with the most beautiful, wild and crazy dips and twists.  We’re buckling up and throwing our hands in the air because with you, everything is an adventure.

I love you.

xox