Music for the Mood: “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter
Have you ever had a moment in your life where you just stopped….stopped texting, stopped running around, stopped worrying about your carb counter, stopped typing emails, stopped adding up bills, stopped comparing yourself to people in magazines, stopped wondering if your kids are going to turn out okay?
You just stopped, and for a few brief moments there was complete silence. All of the noise of your life faded to the background. All of the demands that people ask of you were muted. The continuous voice inside of your head finally shut up.
For a few moments there was quiet stillness.
And in that moment you looked at yourself, and your entire life, and realized that you weren’t sure who really were anymore?
That has been my entire summer.
How would I describe my summer? Tumultuous? Emotional? Relieving? Scary? Yes to all.
It was a summer of tears, growth, moments of accomplishments, and big, fat, scary, leaps of faith.
It was a summer when obstacles were placed in front of me that made me realize I had been pursuing so many things in my life that I thought were important to me…but instead they were just mere distractions that made me busy.
I wanted to be the woman who boldly, FEARLESSLY, stood up tall, looked my future right in the eyes and said, “Bring it! Let’s do this!”
I wanted to be that girl that could use “#confidence” on her Instagram posts with a selfie of me looking like a kickin’ girl boss…but had I done that I’d just have felt like another fraud on social media.
Instead I cried. I worried. I had moments of unwavering faith followed by waking in the middle of the night with sweat and panic.
Over the summer I have learned 5 important lessons that have changed my life. I will never be the same because of these lessons nor would I ever want to go back to the person I used to be.
Perhaps, after reading these, something may strike a chord inside of you as well.
1. LET REALITY SINK IN
This summer I had to deal with reality. Lots and lots of cold, hard, sucker-punch-you-in-the-gut, spit in your face and then belly laugh at you reality.
The kind of reality that you know, intellectually, is definitely going to happen and yet when it does happen you are shocked out of your mind and think, “How in God’s name could this have happened?”
Intellectually I live in reality where kids grow up, parents get old. I’ve listened to The Byrds’ song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” I know how the world works.
To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
Yet somehow the realization that my daughter starts high school this year and in four years my children will be grown, graduated, and out of the house hit me like a cement truck…..followed by a freight train…..followed by a fueled-up Boeing 747.
Somehow when my mother said the words, “When I die, for the love of God don’t donate all of these antiques. And don’t have an auction either. You won’t get the full value. You need to call in an antiques dealer,” I heard what she said, but I wasn’t listening past the words, “When I die.”
Yes, she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in January. Yes, she was undergoing chemo. Yes, she is getting better and God willing still has many years left ahead of her. But “WHEN I die….” WHEN, not if, WHEN.
It sounded so…..final.
The truth is that we know reality. Kids grow, parents die, seasons change, life continues on.
But KNOWING the truth doesn’t prepare us for it.
I was unprepared.
As a person who has habitually used planning as a way to (falsely) convince myself I can control life, I had to accept the fact that there are things that we can never fully prepare for….and learn to be okay with it.
2. LET IT BE
One night, as I headed to bed exhausted from the day, I logged into Facebook and came across James Corden and Paul McCartney’s Carpool Karaoke. I began to play the video and then realized it was 23 minutes long!
“Twenty-three minutes! No way I’m watching this whole thing!” I said out loud, to the two cats and one dog who could all care less about Facebook, let alone my life in general.
Twenty-three minutes later I was sobbing and singing at the top of my lungs to “Hey Jude.” It was 11: 46pm as I
sang shrilled, “Nah nah nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah, HEY JUDE!” as tears streamed down my face.
I made it to the end of the video, I wiped the tears from my eyes, I took a deep breath, and looked around.
The cats were not amused at my performance.
The dog is too old to hear or care.
I was too jazzed to go to sleep.
I picked my phone back up and I watched the entire thing all over again.
In the video there is a moment where Paul shares the story of his deceased mother (Mary) visiting him in a dream. He had been worried about things in his life and was tossing and turning that night. She came to him in the dream telling him to “Let it Be.”
In an earlier interview Paul said, “It was lovely. I woke up with a great feeling. It was really like she had visited me at this very difficult point in my life and gave me this message: Be gentle, don’t fight things, just try and go with the flow and it will all work out.”
In the video, James began crying from that story. Then I began sobbing in an uncontrollable state while watching the video. Paul’s mother came to him exactly when he needed it. This video came to me exactly when I needed it.
There are no accidents in life.
“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me.
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”
This summer I was reminded that when encouragement is needed, it will always be there. It may come from a friend, an email, an unexpected card in the mail, or a Carpool Karaoke post on Facebook.
3. LET’S BE GRATEFUL
On July 19th I sitting at the computer trying to get my work finished up for an early weekend. Alerts kept going off on my phone…bad weather was coming. Nothing new in Missouri. Severe summer storms come all of the time.
Living in tornado alley, we get too used to the sounds of sirens going off. In college I lived in house with three other girls. One was from California, the rest of us were from Missouri.
As soon as clouds would roll in, our roommate from California would start to gather her things together. The minute the meteorologist said there was a possibility of a tornado, she was in the basement calling her Mother to tell her this might be the end.
The three of us from Missouri?….we’d sit on the front porch, drinking tea, watching the storm roll in. “Ohhhh…did you see THAT lightening? Wow! Look at that cloud forming!” we would say to each other.
Anyone in tornado alley treats severe weather with the same sense of urgency as a fire department being called to get a cat out of a tree.
But the storm that was rolling in on July 19th was different.
Instead we were bracing for 60+ mph side winds that were taking down trees and houses.
Tornadoes are selective. They can drop down at any moment, take out a house or two and then lift back up off the ground. Winds though?……It hits everyone.
Sirens started going off at 6:10pm. It was still sunny. Birds were chirping.
By 6:20pm it sounded like a freight train was coming through the house. Trees were bent parallel to the ground from the crazy wind. (For those who follow me on Instagram, I shared footage on my InstaStories).
By 6:30pm it was gone. Those of us on land weathered the storm pretty well.
Those on the water…did not.
Seventeen people were killed on Tablerock Lake when a tourist boat capsized from the 7 foot waves. The victims were ages 1-76 years old.
Tia Coleman survived. However, her 9 year old son, her 7 year old son, her 1 year old daughter, her husband, her father-in-law, her mother-in-law, her sister-in-law, her nephew, and her uncle did not survive.
My heart physically hurt and I sobbed an entire night’s worth of tears for this mother that I had never met. This mother that is going to have to bury nine of her family members including her 3 children and husband.
There is no way for me to comprehend her grief. The community mourned together with these families. I hugged my children a little tighter.
There is nothing like death to put things in perspective.
This summer I was reminded that I have nothing to complain about. I am not having to plan a funeral for my children, my husband, and 5 other members of my family.
Suddenly, I could find a whole lot to be grateful for.
4. LET GO OF AVOIDANCE
Have you ever had that thought of, “What is my path? All of the successful people seem to have found their passion? Why can’t I find mine?”
This summer life shoved me around a little bit. The kind of shoving that kids do before they break out into a fist fight. The kind of shoving that says, “Hey, I’m not bluffing. Cut it out or this is going to get ugly real fast.”
It was a warning. While I’m not always the wisest person, I’ve lived long enough to recognize warning shots from life. When they come, you’d bettered take notice.
In honesty, it wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I ‘grow up.’ Over the years, I’ve learned that many people use the “I don’t know” excuse. A lot of us know but we’re just too afraid to go after it.
Many of us know what we enjoy, we know what excites us, what makes us happy, what brings us joy.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King
I said I didn’t know….but I knew. I was just scared to take the first step because I couldn’t see the whole staircase.
If we can’t see how it’s going to work out or we give the reasons why we don’t think it will work out (lack of education, no one can make a business doing that, no time to make it happen) then we don’t think it can happen.
Therefore, there must be something else we’re supposed to do. There must be another plan…something else I’m supposed to do or be to make me happy.
That was me. I was avoiding taking the first step because I wanted the whole damn staircase lit up before I’d be willing to move forward.
This summer, I was forced to take the first step up a dark flight of stairs. And it was effing scary.
5. LET IT GO
I am far from being a hoarder. In fact, I have OCD tendencies when it comes to keeping things tidy. I remember one time I had completely reorganized my entire bedroom. Every drawer, dresser, closet in my room was absolutely perfect.
Even the fringe on my pink bedroom rug had been combed with my fingers so that all of the threads laid perfectly in the same direction.
After a full day’s work I was exhausted, but happy. I threw on my pajamas and walked across the room to climb into bed. As I walked, my toe caught the fringe on that pink rug so that a few of the threads weren’t laying the same direction as the rest.
I looked down at it and paused.
“Go to bed,” I told myself, “It’s not that big of a deal.” I deliberated for a moment. But realizing how exhausted I was, I opted to crawl into bed.
I laid there thinking about that stupid pink fringe…for an HOUR.
Pissed off, I finally climbed out of bed, flipped on the lights while cursing at myself for being so obsessive, squatted down to the pink rug, took 5 seconds to re-straighten the fringe, slammed my hand on the light switch to turn it off, and angrily got back into bed.
I was 8 years old at the time.
Fast forward to this summer.
While the realization that my daughter is starting high school made me want to day drink straight bourbon, there was a bit of a sweet aftertaste to that gut punch.
I am a single mother + I can work from anywhere in the world + My kids will be in college = in 4 years I am free to go anywhere.
Suddenly I had visions of Elizabeth Gilbert putting her entire life into a storage unit and traveling abroad for a year.
I saw myself eating pasta in Rome and making eye contact with the hot Italian sitting at the table across from me. He’s probably a soccer player…because, in my fictional, single-mommy world all Italian men are soccer players with 6% body fat.
I saw myself taking cooking classes in Paris, going on safaris in Africa, and studying meditation in Indonesia.
Snapping back to reality, I realized that I have 4 years left in this house and then I am a free woman!
Around this same time, I accidentally stumbled upon “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”
I watched it. The next day I watched it again. Two days later I watched it again with my daughter.
It resonated with every bone in my body and everything I had been going through this summer. The big, “What is all of this for? Why does Mom have so many antiques she never looks at and now we have to sell when she dies? What do I want to be when I grow up? and What have I been chasing after all of these years?” questions I had been asking were being answered.
That’s when my 8 year old, obsessive compulsive self kicked back in and Operation Minimalism began. The kids and I went through every cabinet, cupboard, closet, drawer, file, box, and basket. We cleared out everything under each dresser, bed, and couch. It took two full weeks.
With each item in our house we asked the following questions:
- Have we used this in the last 90 days or will we use it in the next 90 days?
- Can we replace it in under 20 minutes or for under $20
- Do we LOVE it?
- Is is something my kids will want when I die?
- Is is something I am okay with boxing up and putting in a storage unit for God knows how long while I’m in Rome with my Italian soccer player?
We were cut throat. If it didn’t fit any of these qualifications it was tossed, sold, or donated.
We let go of furniture we had bought because we felt the space “needed” something rather than because we loved it.
We removed wall hangings that we had purchased simply because the wall looked bare.
Seven carloads of “stuff” were donated. Four trash bins were filled. Several hundreds of dollars worth of items sold.
In the end, I felt like 1000 pounds had been removed from my shoulders.
Now, everything left in our home is stuff we absolutely love or we need. Nothing unnecessary, mediocre, or “just in case someday….”
There is space to breath, less “stuff” to worry about, and more freedom by enjoying less. (Keep an eye on Instagram for future photos. We are currently repainting, but I will share pics when everything is complete.)
But it went beyond the “stuff” and began to seep into every area of our lives.
The kids and I began to scrutinize everything from time in front of the TV to food we put into our bodies.
My 16 year old son (who has an 8 pack due to a great metabolism rather than a hard core workout routine) came to me and said, “I really want to start eating more healthy.”
I began to re-evaluate everything with my business: the processes, the amount of time I spend on work, the systems I have in place.
I slashed hours of work each week with higher productivity and run everything much more effectively.
More doesn’t mean better. More just means more.
This process of evaluating everything in our lives and in my business is not complete. In fact, we are just at the beginning of this journey.
But in a matter of weeks, everything has changed and I have discovered that it is possible to feel completely petrified and excited at the same time.
No matter what your summer has been like and no matter where you are on your journey…whether you are feeling lost or confused, if you are feeling hopeless, if you are dealing with death or empty nests, or reality has just kicked you in the ass, I can PROMISE you it will not go on forever.
Be patient, go easy on yourself.
There will be an answer, let it be.
PAY IT FORWARD
Have any insights or “ah ha” moments? Share them in the comments below. You never know how you might change someone’s life through your words.
Know anyone who needs to hear this? I would love it if you took the time to click the share button and share it with them.
So grateful for you!