This side of 35

It doesn’t really look different on this side of 35, I don’t know what I thought it would look like.  It is funny how I can pin a day or goal and then it comes and it feels pretty much the same as before.  It isn’t a bad thing, it just of emphasizes the importance of being present in every day.

I can’t say I was super excited for my Birthday this year.  I didn’t really rock out my Birthday month like I normally do.  It really didn’t have anything to do with being all annoyed with turning 35.  Honestly, I treat age a privilege not grated to some.  Wrinkles and laugh lines are a gift that comes with having more time.  To have lots of birthday candles means a longer life to experience more- more family, more adventures, more of all of it.  I think it had more to do with March being such a dark month, one with extra snow and lack of sun.  It was a cold March…

There was a lot of loss this month.  I know that every joy fills my bank and every loss costs something.  It is hard to put on a party hat and rock out a day that celebrates getting older today.  Maybe it is just this March but I am sad that Madeline never gets laugh lines and wrinkles and a chance to turn 16 or 20 or 40.  I am sad that many other lovelies don’t either.

I have to say though 35 feels pretty fine, an awful lot like 34 and 33.  I imagine it feels like 36 and 41, only with less adventures, wrinkles, joy and loss.  I liken it to the mileage I was so looking forward to on my Jeep- 150,000 miles.  I got excited at 130,000 and giddy at 140,000.  I was excited that she is still kicking with me- travelling on adventures, driving my girls all over and still pumping Taylor and Adele for our long drives.  She is paid off and has a rockin’ new set of tires.  I kept watching the odometer as it neared 150,000 and was on my way to visit my friend Jackie.  I freakin’ missed it, the turnover point.  I looked down at 150,001.  I felt oddly not excited, like 150,000 wasn’t really a big deal, just a thing I looked forward to and it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought.  So maybe 150,001 feels a heck of a lot like 149,980…

I am grateful to be 35, that is the best way to describe today.  I am thankful my time, for my girls, my life, my family, my Rick, my herd and my wrinkles.  I have a wonderful life, it is full beyond the brim.  God sends the best people to connect and be woven into my fabric.  I have a lot of missing, but I also know that those I miss are not far away.

This morning my girls came in excited and telling me to stay in the bathroom.  I walked into the kitchen to a super thoughtful gift with the cutest, kindest tiny cards.  I could tell they thought of me when they shopped with their dad, I am grateful we have a relationship that honors each other in this part.  I am snuggled in watching Moana right now, waiting to go to Church School.  I love my girls, all of them.  I miss Madeline like mad crazy but I see her in so much.  I know that someday I will be out of here, hanging with Madeline in heaven.  I will be enjoying cake and bagels in a place where calories don’t count.  There is no missing in heaven, no crying and grieving, that is for us left here.  I was 29 when Madeline died… and I have made it to 35, I am sure God has many more birthdays for me to celebrate ageing here on Earth.  I will celebrate my wrinkles, my adventures, my gifts and my time while I get to.

Today I am grateful for every smile and kiss my girls gave me, every hug my students gave me, every bit of steak I enjoyed with Sir, every word I got to read on my phone, every ‘Happy Birthday’.  It is an important day, I know.  It is a special day right next to all the heavy, even if I didn’t get my taste of a light and airy and bright month.  I love being 35, wrinkling and ageing… I do it for Madeline- and Devon, Ana, Tyler, Onja Rose, Myles, Ryan, Elijah, Kenzie, Kara Mia, Peter, Tabitha, Jillian, Naomi… and more.  I will let myself have a year that I don’t feel all ‘party like;, but watch out next year world…………………

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How we live…

Life isn’t about how we die, it is about how we live.  Our death is one day in our history, to be remembered only for that one day would be a lost legacy.  When death comes and we succumb and our body no longer wants to breathe… and our soul heads off for heaven the most important part of it all is how we lived.

Every day we all encounter extraordinary people.  It is a given.  I feel like I often times get to know and love a larger number of extraordinary people and kids… or maybe I am just good at recognizing ones living life well.  I love the kids I meet at the hospitals, the families I work to support and the people I meet all along the way.  Every person, especially the kids who have been or are sick, become a part of my being- their colorful webs are woven into mine.  I love the beautiful fabric God is weaving.  All of those extraordinary kiddos and their colorful threads are part of my being, my fabric.

How we live says so much about us.  When we lose someone, we must remember how they lived…

Ana Dooley passed away last week.

 

One day last week Ana died.  She lived for the previous 5,000ish days.  Ana was a musician, her voice reminded me of a classic rock singer.  She sang so smooth and maturely, with no fear or anxiety in performing.  Her body moved with so much grace, a kind of musical grace.  The different genres of music she sang impressed me- from The Doors to Christmas music, not a common voice or talent.  Ana was an artist.  Her mom shared some of her work and it made me wish one of my girls had been born with that talent.

I remember when I took on Ana’s Bucket List adventure- a new bedroom, and I realized that pleasing a teen is so.much.harder than a child.  I was reminded that I am far away from teenage girl life, and had to pull in the help of a friend to design to her standards.  I had never heard of ‘Hipster’ style and could not figure out why anyone would want a platform bed (I stub my legs on everything).  I was so nervous that she would hate it when she walked in, but she didn’t.  She loved it.  It was unique and personal, with quotes and polaroid’s and record covers.  I didn’t know how much it would mean then, but it became her sanctuary, her space.

Ana was a normal extraordinary daughter; her mom gives me pointers on teenage girl life.  She struggled with normal friendship issues, and had two best friends that lived along with her these last few weeks.  Ana and her sister Emily had a regular sister connection, with much closeness these cold and snowy past few weeks.

Sunday I got to visit Jackie, Ana’s mom.  I listened to stories about her as a toddler and music in her life as she grew.  Ana was an independent chica… even in toddlerhood.  Her parents reminisced about a tantrum she had when they carried her upstairs around 18 months.  They could not determine why, until they walked her back downstairs- only to have her climb the stairs alone and go straight to bed.  I quite love that I.can.do.it.all.by.myself.attitude.  I may or may not have a lot of that in me too…

Ana lived right up until she couldn’t live the way she needed.  Her illness and tumors would have knocked a grown person to their bed, but not Ana.  I talked to her mom as she took Ana to dances, lunch dates and Birthday parties- things she should have been too tired for.  Instead Ana chose living.  She wanted to use her 5000ish days the way she wanted.  In her own way, she compared the cost of enjoying time with her friends or family with the pain it would pile on later.  She performed solos and recorded music with huge tumors in her lungs… with the smooth beauty of her soul.

 

lovely Dooley's
Ana and her Momma.’

 

Ana was a beautiful and smart teenager.  I will forever see her eyes, those just like her mom’s.  I will hear her voice as she sings a beautiful version of Stevie Nicks “Songbird”.  I forever remember getting to fulfill one small wish for her, a gift from Madeline and Kara Mia.  I will remember the way she lived her 5000+ days.

I don’t know why we get the piles of hard stuff that we do, but I do know that what we do with it means so much.  I don’t know why life is long for some and short for others, but I know that it is important and profound to live what we have the best we can.  Ana is an inspiration, a reminder to spend our days in the best way we can.  Death is only one day of our story… Ana lived for so many days… she only died one of those days.

Please know her, connect to her.  See her live and perform.  Remember her way, her light.  Watch her song, and help her family go through this…

If you can donate… please help Jackie and her smaller family get back to living…

http://jacquelinedooley.com/anas-wish-fund/

What will I do when…

This morning as I sent Lucy down the hall, at school, I had one of those moments.

I had that wonder of when it will all change.

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 When I work at school we walk in together, me with my arms full of a lunch, a coffee and my purse… Lucy with her untied shoes, hot mess hair and dino backpack.  We always stop at the entryway and I hug her, sometimes I go to kiss her and she slides her forehead down to block me… to which I stop mid kiss and tell her ‘lips bubba’.  I watch her, with her swagger, as she walks down the hall to her wing.  Sometimes she looks back, sometimes she just chugs down to her room to start her morning work.  It’s a good way to start the morning. 

Most mornings I walk Amelia into her school.  I park my car and she jumps out of her side and we walk hand and hand into her lobby… where she is mostly on time most days.  I tell her to enjoy her day, be kind to friends and listen to her teacher.  She leans in and gives me a big kiss on my lips and then heads in through the big doors, not looking back.  I run back to my car and jet over to Lucy’s school to start our day and watch her swagger down the road. 

I snuggle the girls on the couch and feel their hair… I poke them in the belly and tickle them.  I nibble them at wake up and tell them to get their butts moving.  I love when Lucy shares her morning breath with me, it sometimes smells just like Madeline’s did.  I love her giggle when I wake her, when she isn’t cranky.  That kid can be a bit of a terd at wake up… but even in her cranky she will ALWAYS kiss me goodbye.  She holds my hand and touches my cheek…

We burrow together and watch movies.  They lay on my chest, even if I am braless and they don’t even care.  We walk through the parking lots holding hands, for safety.  They perform elaborate performances, silly dances and sing songs that they try to mimic from the radio (sometimes in their underpants).  I am still the one they come to when they wonder about things… things they hear and want to know more about.  I am still the one they will deeply cry with, share embarrassments with and ask questions they don’t know who to ask. 

A few weeks ago, the girls and I went to one of their friend’s birthday parties, a party at a firehall with a karaoke machine.  No one was singing, no one would dance… I decided to just do it.  I made Lucy come out and twirl with me… to do our little ‘dancing with the stars’ bit.  I forced Amelia to dance and laugh and be silly.  I tried to get other little ones out there, some little, little ones joined us.  I most definitely danced to the Spice Girls with my ladies… and they weren’t even embarrassed.  Amelia tried to act like I wasn’t cool… but then seeing her laughing and giggling and not running away from me, I know that I was the coolest lady she loved. 

When will it change?

When will my girls stop wanting to hold my hand?  When will they stop kissing me in front of others?  When will my crazy extroverted self… embarrass them enough to ignore me or disown me?  What timeline am I looking at?  When do I become the one they need to separate from…

What will I do… what will I be?  I know I am so many things… mom, Erin, President of Maddie’s Mark, homemaker, Teacher Aid, Teacher Assistant, blogger, writer, self-proclaimed type B lady, ex-marathon runner, sister, daughter, friend… and a whole bunch more.  My most intense and important role is that of being a mom… what do I do when parts of that role change again… parts I don’t want to lose.  I know that motherhood never ceases or stops, even if our children die, but… it will all look so different again. 

What will I do… who will I be when they stop kissing me on the lips in the lobby at school.  What about when those girls don’t hold my hand?  What is it like when they are embarrassed by me when I get all crazy and silly?  What is the next step like…

Parenting is hard.  I have had a difficult relationship with parts of parenting… the world makes it look so easy and natural.  My most proud moments were looking at my three chicks God gifted me, in the middles of my Jeep buckled in safely and singing Justin Bieber.  In all of the hard I love holding their hands, kissing those perfect ladies and seeing them at their most vulnerable.  I have loved the hard and the easy in this parenting gig… even those stinky puking moments.  I even loved the wicked hard moments, even if it took time to know that. 

My brain today… wondered what about when this part changes?  What does the next part look like… what new roles will life hold for me as me, and me with my girls?  I know that asking does nothing, but living answers so much.  I know that my children get to grow and change, and that is a good thing.  Age is a gift.  Some only make it to 5 ½ years old… if you make it 15 or 29 or 40 or 52 or 75 you better have lived it up.  I get all of that.  I appreciate the growing and the changing… but I also miss the innocence.  I am fearing the missing of innocence, the missing of all of those things ‘when they were young’.  I think, for me, the hardest part of parenting is the moving forward and living on.

We look at the history of the world and we see time periods, I see the differences and the next stages.  Time is impersonal.  Life is personal.  Parenting is super personal.  Life is hard…

Part of me knows that I know I will be just fine, okay with all of the changes… we will all get used to the newness when my girls don’t want to hold my hand, or hear my ideas… or dance with me.  I also know it when it is gone… when my role changes it will be hard, painful and positive.  We will reach another layer in relationships, but reaching it means they let go of other layers. 

My heart is going to miss all of those connection moments, maybe more than my heart, my soul will miss it all.  I need to remember to love that missing… that is the parenting part.  I need to remember how special it is the have had these moments, these handholding moments.  I need to carry it. 

Today I watched my little Lucy swagger down the hall and wondered how long I had to have that moment… how long she would care if I was there at goodbye.  Goodbye is hard, hardest part of parenting, in every different way that goodbye fits.  I will miss the lack of hand holds, the lack of kisses on my cheek or lips… I will miss when my dancing is an embarrassment.  All these changes…

What will I do?

Live on.

Build better.

Dance embarrassingly anyway.

Kiss those girls on the forehead (once lips are a no)

Hold those hands when I can…

Smiles when life is crazy….

Who knows maybe this next part will be worthy of the missing that losing this part brings.  Life is a series of getting through layers and seasons, some are hard and I think some are easier (though I can.not.for.the.life.of.me remember an easy part)… all of it is worthy of the missing, worthy of the pain and the beauty.  I will remind my brain in these moments of sadness or future anxiety of just that… to miss those moments but love the next stage. 

Relapse and FEAR.

Relapse and FEAR = Childhood Cancer Bully’s

I remember the moments when I heard the news that one of the children I follow and support has reached remission, or NED.  It is a powerful bubble of joy that erupts from in me… almost a giddy.  It is compressed and makes me feel so excited.  I am excited for the life that those kids and parents get to LIVE now… not be in and out of the hospital, no longer rushing to the ER for a fever and losing that last physical hook up to cancer- the port.  I feel relief for their families and for myself, I don’t have to worry for them so much.  I get to see them get on with ‘normal’… well as normal as you can be after having the experiences that come with childhood cancer. 

I guess mixed into that bubble of joy and giddy… is a big chunk of relief.  It is physical the release when I hear that news… like I carry of those children and parents and siblings inside my being and then when they achieve remission I can let go of the worry part.  I can honestly only imagine what it feels like to be the child who hears the words “You are in remission” or “We find that there is No Evidence of Disease”.  I imagine that their joy bubble explodes; that joy and excitement and relief fling out of their inner being.  I can only imagine what a momma hears when she hears those words, and feels that bubble explode.  For the first time in so long she can see some semblance of future, of plans.  All the world that was put on hold for this family during this time of fighting and hurting and living in that very moment… looks different now.  A family can start in that new and dusty territory of living right then and moving in the ‘normal’ world.

I also know with those words comes some anxiety… there are no longer constant check-ups and labs, tests to know the status of your child’s health.  You are on your own… out there in that world of ‘normal’ that so many just live every day.  Overtime though some of that ceases… and your family melds back into ‘normal’ society.  I love seeing these kids at sports games and creating amazing art, singing at concerts and going away to college.  I have seen these kids when cancer was keeping them tired, sick and in the hospital… it is amazing to see them grow and change and become. 

Fast Forward to another part of childhood cancer- relapse.  Hearing that word evokes a totally different part of me.  Imagine the part that deeply wails at the missing of my daughter… this is the part that is activated when the word relapsed enters the ‘normal’ of these families.  Instead of a bubble of joy that is released, and relief follows… I carry a big ball of different emotions.  I am angry that cancer interrupted life AGAIN.  I am sad that all of those terrible treatments and painful experiences will happen again.  My heart hurts for the child and their family… for the college that will be missed, the concerts, the sports games, the proms, the friends… the holidays.  All of the things we all live and enjoy pretty regularly are again set aside for treatment and hope…

I hate the fear that comes with childhood cancer.  I hate fear… it is a bully.  Fear holds us back from so much, and mars our time.  Imagine fearing that every.single.bruise is cancer, every stomachache, every headache… that is part of the ‘normal’ of childhood cancer families.  Fear infiltrates all of life for these families.  The weeks before a scan is hell for families- Scanxiety.  Fear that on this scan they will find something, that this ‘normal’ is short lived and cancer is still waiting. 

I can only imagine a child hearing the words relapse… of a momma knowing the fight that is ahead of them again.  Relapse goes along and steals the ‘normal’ and regular that their child was building.  After all of the work and time and energy that our child put into fighting cancer and getting better… and relapse brings back the nightmare.  It breaks me to my soul… and fear takes over many of my thoughts.  I hope and pray that relapse will be followed by those coveted words… remission.  I pray that ‘normal’ can return and all of that messy becomes a thing of the past- like way back in the past.

Last week one of ‘our kids’ relapsed.  I guess ‘our kids’ is the wrong term… she really is a lovely young woman.  She was in college, in Canton, NY, the first time she was diagnosed.  Markel isn’t exactly a child, but she is an amazing and inspiring young woman.  Markel missed lots of normal… college and parties and cramming and summers off.  She instead got a port, trips to the hospital, chemo that took her energy and a STEM Cell transplant that gave her a new ‘birthday’.  While her friends were out building lives, and getting coffee… graduating and moving on she was trapped in hospitals and home keeping germs away from her immune weakened body.  She and her momma shared much of her journey and the ‘normal’ they were living at and around Albany Medical Center.  I loved seeing her dimpled smile… I know it was hard to smile so many times.  Her bravery at sharing her journey and her lovely bald head was inspiring.  Cathy and Markel were quite a team, working together at fighting cancer and living and raising awareness…

I was elated when she was done with her STEM cell transplant and treatments.  Seeing her hair grow back and her smile remain was such a positive reminder of the type of people this journey creates.  Markel lost friends to cancer, she has such a young body and mind to carry such grief… but she does she carries it and she lives for those friends.  I loved Cathy, her mom’s, super normal and regular posts about birds and cats and humorous memes.  I got to taste a bit of their ‘normal’ this past year.  My bubble of joy and excitement was fulfilled…

Relapse.  Normal has changed… all of the normal she built is different.  All of the sudden instead of coffee with friends or enjoying dinner out; it is back to the hospital for a long stay.  Stupid Cancer.  I hate how it hides and creeps back… how it continues to take time and energy from these families.  I hate how in moments life changes again… it isn’t fair.

I am reminded, though, that nothing in this life is fair.  We all have different journeys, different hurdles and adventures.  We don’t often get to understand the ‘why’ only that we need to trudge through and climb on… enjoy the time we get to walk and look around and smile.  My world is forever different because of childhood cancer, so is Markel’s.  Her journey is altered and different… it also includes the bully’s childhood cancer and fear.  My adventures, hurdles, mountains and beautiful views are different than Markel’s and Dante’s and Devin’s and Tyler’s and Catie’s… all of them.  Nonetheless childhood cancer took our ‘normal’… instilled a fear in many and changed our pathways.  I will never hear the words relapse… DIPG doesn’t relapse.  The plan and journey are different for all… I just wish I could make it easier and take that cancer away. 

Relapse has struck again… I will hold on to my pile of grief and scared and angry until I hear the words remission.  I will pray for relief and that bubble of joy and excitement for the normal… send love and support and positive energy to our Markel… to her dimpled cheeks and lovely mature self.  What grace that chick has…

Regrief Rollercoaster.

 

Lately I have been riding my rollercoaster up and down, around and around.  Some days there is lots of sunlight others are filled with blech and blah.  I was sitting Tuesday afternoon, snuggled into the chair in the living room, feeling that 500-pound person sitting on my lap holding my arms down.  The weirder part of that feeling is that I sit in a chair and a 500-pound person is definitely sitting on me, but there is no one there.  Grief and missing were sitting on my lap, holding my arms down… making me feel so tired and worn down.

It has been an emotional few weeks for me, I don’t even know what the triggers are.  I think there have been many big BOOMS lately… a friend’s child was diagnosed with DIPG, a close friend battling a mystery disease, a ‘best day ever’ young lady relapsed and a friend’s brother went to heaven.  I am normally so much better at navigating these messy waters… but this time I am doggy paddling to just get to a dock. 

I keep fixating on the darker part- Life is Hard.  Life Hurts.  Life is messy.  It isn’t like me.  I am not a sunshine and rainbows lady, but I know that light shines through darkness, life is a beautiful mess and in all of it’s hard- life is good.  I work to see the light in the darkest niches, the spots where it is believed no light exists.  I embrace my grief, it is a piece of me that I don’t want to lose.  If I lose that part, will I remember she existed?  My heart is feeling all of the missing, the brokenness.  I hear a song, I cry.  I talk about Madeline to teachers she had and I choke up… I sit in my lazy boy with the 500-pound person on top of me, holding my arms down.  I am not normally like this, but for now I am. 

I didn’t realize it would hurt to read studies of promising DIPG research.  Why would it?!?!?!  I have used everything I have, as have so many other parents and patients to change this for others.  I feel elated that things have changed since 2012, in fact almost all of the work that has altered the understanding has been done since Madeline died.  In only 5 years… so many pathways, genes and ideas have developed; it is amazing.  Why does my heart hurt? 

I am slightly trapped in the ‘what if?’ stage of grief.  I am in the part where I wonder ‘what if she were diagnosed in 2018, would I have had more day with her?’.  I feel inside me that much is going to change for these families and soon (though not as soon as we hope) DIPG will not be a terminal diagnosis.  I feel a lot of guilt for this feeling… for feeling sad that she isn’t going to be here to live longer, better or achieve NED.  I think I might even feel jealous that others get this opportunity… not in a way that I am sad for progress, but in a way that I am sad that progress didn’t help Madeline. 

This darker part is exhausting.  The last week plus has been exhausting.  The girls had competitions to prepare for and I, as per normal, ran around like a crazy lady grabbing quick food everywhere.  The temperature dropped, the wind picked up and the sun hid away… the ultimate builder of darkness inside me is surrounding me with gray darkness and really freakin’ cold winds.  I have been over worked, over busy and just ready for a break.  So… the promise of sunlight and losing an hour this weekend is encouraging.

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Most of the time I am fully aware of the costs of joy and love.  The costs of joy and love are directly related to the pile of pain loss those can bring.  I am aware that all of my joys have been worth their pains, whether I am reflecting on Madeline or the friends who lied and had relationships with my then husband.  The joy they brought into my life is directing related to the pain, which was immense on many levels…but it was worth it.  Knowing someone, loving them and experiencing life together is ALWAYS worth the pain of when they are gone.  Only lately, I just feel a lot of the pain and not so much of the joy.  I chalk it up to a regrieving period, one that my brain goes back over things and refocusing on the missing differently.  Watching my 2 girls work hard and compete in Odyssey of the Mind… but there were only 2.  There is a whole team that Madeline would have fit on, Amelia used to create with them.  Seeing them grow right next to Amelia and Lucy takes a bit of toll on this old momma.  We are preparing for Lucy’s First Communion and once again my girls here on Earth tackle one of Madeline’s last’s.  Madeline would be moving up to middle school next year… a whole new world.  I remember how excited she was to ride the bus, I imagine she would hate getting up an hour earlier and catching a bus for middle school. 

I know for my girls there will be many regrieving periods, moments that they are more aware of something Madeline is missing from.  I imagine their accomplishments will remind them of their missing sister.  I have never lost a sibling, I am very lucky.  This is their journey though, and I hope they can stand in those regrieving times and remind themselves that her joy and love is worth all of the pain.  I don’t know why I forget that this could be a regreiving period for me… I have found that I am much better at being aware of my girls and keeping up with their feelings… I sometimes forget about mine. 

I was sitting in the teacher’s room the other day, talking a little about Madeline.  I had left tee shirts from an event for her teachers in their mailboxes.  She was thanking me, and I felt it.  I felt a tiny bit of my regrief surfacing at a moment I didn’t expect it and didn’t want it to.  I balled my eyes out on several occasions this week… it has been a strange week.  I felt for those mommas who are headed back into the cancer battle, I felt for those mommas who have a child with DIPG to guide… and for the ones who babies went to heaven this week, we are not supposed to outlive our kids.

I walk this journey of losing Madeline, my daughter, with many others.  I know in myself and am reminded my amazing counsellor that losing a child(ren) is the HARDEST thing we can have happen to us.  It doesn’t matter the how’s or how old’s… our children own a piece of us from the moment they are conceived.  If their heart stops beating and they head to heaven at any part of their time here… it hurts just the same, only different.  There are moms who never get to meet their lovely before they are gone, moms who never got to say goodbye, moms who watched their child fight and hurt, moms who had to let go… it all hurts the same only different for each of us.

I am regrieving, not that I ever stop, but I imagine some trigger pushed me to feel some things much deeper.  I am trying to stand in it and ride the rollercoaster… to lean into the turns, put my arms up when I’m falling and let myself scream or smile.  I don’t know why I am living in a Hallmark commercial right now, but don’t be crazy surprised if my mascara looks crappy.  Life is hard.  It is so very hard… but it is so very good too.  Lean into the ones who ride the rollercoaster with you… the ones you know hold a piece of your grief and your lovely.  Cry.  Remind yourself that life is good, even when it is hard.  Steer closer to light, chose a rollercoaster that stays light… the more dark you let in the harder it is to see all of that light, to remember the value of joy and love.

The Definition of Success

What is Success?

Last week I enjoyed an event that focused in on success.  Beyond being a great night it got me thinking… thinking about the individuality of the definition of success.  I generally live in my little bubble of what success is.  My mind sometimes travels to the fact that come see success as lots of money, a fancy car or maybe a new big house.  I guess I never pondered what my definition of success was, more than the fact that I don’t really care about having lots of money, fancy cars or big and fancy new houses.  I am more simple than that.  I would like to have enough dollars to pay my bills and enjoy adventures… I love that my Jeep is so freakin’ close to 150,000 miles and I want my someday house to have lots of patina and be smallish and comfortable.  I want people to just feel welcome to walk up and be a part of my home and life.

I was standing in my lovely black dress, my curled hair and my red lipstick, when an intern college student asked me “How do you define success?”.  It knocked my brain into a different set of thoughts.  I hadn’t ever thought of ‘My Definition of Success’.  It got me thinking…

As I listened to my friend, JoDee, speak about what success is to her I saw how different and similar our success goals are.  I bet many of us have different and similar definitions of success.  She spoke about success and what it is for her- her family.  The thing is it wasn’t like she got all corny about her success being that she HAS a family and is proud of them.  JoDee shared that her definition of success is that she builds her children to carry what she is teaching them, even if it is only a sliver of all the work she puts in.  Seeing her children grow to be confident, kind, helpful in their communities and carry the things she and her husband are teaching their children.  Success to her is what she is building in her people… that makes me smile.

I had the opportunity to think and answer that question that night.  I tried to get it all out while being recorded, but in true Erin form I talked A LOT.  I had a few key points I wanted to make in my many words recorded, I can only hope I made those points during my chatty moments.  I am sitting here reflecting and trying to think out my definition, my whole definition, of success.  I think I got it.

–          Get scared and Do.It.Anyway.  I used to let the scared allow me to say ‘No’.  I try to live past the scared and the NO.  I was terrified to speak in public before Madeline left us… but then I started to do it anyway.  I live for that scared now… I love overcoming it and sharing her and our journey.  I love the feeling of taking that scared and doing it…

–          Build others right along with yourself… success isn’t just building yourself but building around you too.  Success is all about building, we can’t be successful if we only build ourselves better.  I also know that building others is SUPER important.  In parenting I think this is a big one, when one of my daughters puts the other down the first thing I ask “Is that building or breaking?”.  We don’t break people, we build them.  I want them to carry that right with them, when they do well bring others along.

–          Be sure of yourself, even when you aren’t sure of yourself.  Confidence is a MUST… but sometimes you just have to fake it until it comes more naturally to you.  Remind yourself that you have so much to offer and listen to your confident self.  We each have important jobs while we are here on Earth, we have to be confident and brave enough to embrace them and build ourselves to do those jobs.  Remember it is HARD to be confident when we let ourselves be unsure- but do it anyway, remind yourself that you can do hard things.

–          Being honest and open, real in all of it- the broken and the building.  Success is inside of each of us, it is, in our own definitions, what we strive for while living on this Big Earth.  Working for this life goal requires you to be honest and real to ourselves and those around us- for authentic success.

–          Forgive your failures.  Life is hard, we fail… we let ourselves down, we let others down.  Walk on, chin up and do better- but let yourself off the hook.  You are right where you are supposed to be, at this very moment.  Let yourself grow and let your mistakes go.  We all make mistakes, accumulate failures… but we have an opportunity every single moment to choose to grow from it, build better and different.  Oh- and never forget what you learned from your mistakes and failures, how much easier this journey will be if you don’t repeat the mistake.

Success is all of that combined.

How will I know if I am successful?  I think success is something we should keep in our peripheral awareness all the time.  The challenges and experiences will be different at all different stages of life… it is important to keep up with our definitions of our success.  I look back and know that I have been doing the best I can in all those different stages of my life… sometimes there were many failures- I carry the lesson and forgive myself.  I see myself as successful right here and now… I parent the best I can, I try new things and get scared, I forgive myself and love myself always and anyway… I am lucky enough to see some of the gifts of my success.

The gifts of my success are plentiful, not in the way many would see.  My success doesn’t include a fancy car, bog house, lots of purses and well planned vacations… though my success is exactly right for me.  I have 3 girls, one of which just happens to be an angel… and I work and have worked my butt off to build them into strong and kind people.  Since one of my girls is an angel now the parenting work looks different, I share and advocate and support families because that is where Madeline guides me.  I have overcome many scary and unplanned life events… and I have found and built better.  I have learned to love myself even with all of my mistakes and failures.  I have said yes to so many adventures and scary opportunities; I have learned that I loved things I feared.  I love that feeling when you are so scared and shaky, so unsure… then you stand up and do it anyway.  I love that feeling of accomplishment… it makes me feel so confident and able.

When JoDee spoke at the Launch Party she spoke of her definition of success. I felt that our definitions overlap, even if we use different words to explain.  We both know that our success is very entwined with raising our children.  It is an amazing gift to see your child build others, take care of people and ‘hear’ those things you tried so hard to teach them.  I get that… our children carry our legacy… how the world will know us after our Earthly journey is done.  I think she has it spot on… that is such a valuable definition of success.

I am grateful for the gift that I gained that night… that bit of awareness that ‘My Success’ isn’t everyone’s success.  Sometimes we all need that reminder that what is going on in our own brains or lives isn’t the same as others… that there are plenty more definitions are more individual than we let ourselves know.

I would really enjoy reading what Success means to you… is it a car, a home, an adventure… family, accomplishments or something altogether more amazing to you?  Would ya, could ya… reply or comment what you think Success is in your journey on this great planet?

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