On a miracle

I’ve been off the grid for a wonderfully beautiful reason.

My daughter, son-in-law and grandson welcomed a new baby into their family on Mother’s Day!

My granddaughter is perfect and precious, and I’m so grateful to have been with them for this miracle, which puts everything into a new perspective.

As my friend, Jeannie, said, “It just reminds you how pure we are when we start …”

How hard it is to work our way back to that knowing without this kind of blessed reminder!

The ‘good girl’

So late last week, the Universe, in her infinite wisdom, presented a wonderful opportunity to practice “enoughness” — to notice my thoughts on that topic with curiosity rather than judging myself as lacking.

“Enoughness” is knowing and believing I am enough, without needing affirmation, confirmation, or even recognition from other people.

It’s a tough task for me. It has been my whole life. You’d think I would have it nailed by now.

The backstory. Without divulging too many details (for safety reasons — this is a small town), I recognized a “bad guy,” in the vernacular of my cop friends, at one of my workplaces. This individual was wanted by the authorities, but because of company policy and procedure I couldn’t alert them (or lose my job), and those in charge at the worksite didn’t seem to have any urgency about reporting his sighting.

As luck would have it, this person returned the following night, the police were called and they took him into custody.

It was an adrenaline rush, the kind I used to get at the newspaper covering courts, cops and fire. But more than that, I felt proud of myself for doing some detective work that led to his arrest. This initially was my payoff.

But in the days after, I wanted attention. I wanted recognition of my resourcefulness. I resented other people who inserted themselves in the arrest scenario. This is embarrassing to admit, but I told myself (and them in my head), “If it weren’t for me, there wouldn’t have been an arrest. This whole thing went down because of me (implied: and my brilliance 🙄).”

Now, I know that everyone loves a pat on the back, an atta-girl for a job well done, but this was something else. I craved it, as though my actions themselves would disappear if someone else didn’t confirm by praise … well, that I was a “good girl.” (See why it’s embarrassing?)

I struggled with staying open and curious about these feelings. This time, when I felt the fear or hostility rise up, I talked to myself gently. I reminded myself that I was enough, that I knew what I did was enough, and that although kudos are nice, my knowing was enough. I didn’t need anyone’s validation.

On a recent Writers Oasis audio, Jennifer Louden talked about practice and patterning. As it is with practicing a new skill or habit to get better at it, so it is with our thoughts — even the negative ones. The more we think those self-defeating or harmful thoughts, the more we’re “practicing” them, and the more ingrained they become as patterns of thinking.

What I am attempting to practice instead, with the goal of changing my thought pattern once and for all, is self-compassion, self-acceptance, and the belief, nay, the knowledge — that I am enough … and always have been.

‘Welcome to adulthood. Nothing is as you remember it.’

My daughter ordered a Cabbage Patch doll for her young son, so when his new sister arrives this month, he will have a baby to care for, too, and won’t feel left out.

A. had such a doll when she was small. The doll’s name was Edie; it was the moniker bestowed in the adoption papers that were tucked into the cardboard box by Edie’s maker. Edie had a chubby peach-colored cloth body and a soft plastic head that smelled perpetually of baby powder.

That’s what A. had in mind when the package arrived and she opened it. That’s the doll she wanted to give to her son.

A picture from EBay of a Cabbage Patch doll, not Edie but similar.

“The god damn cabbage patch doll is hard bodied,” she texted me.

I texted back, “Welcome to adulthood. Nothing is as you remember it.”

I’ve been thinking about that flip remark, and about memory itself, how fluid it is. How at times it can either smooth the edges like breakers on sea glass, or sharpen them into shivs.

Memory is both reliable and unreliable. It is a reflection of our experience of what has been, but not a soulless carbon copy of it.

Memories have so much padding around them (Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition: 1. Soft material used to fill the hollow parts of something; 2. The representation of something in terms that go beyond the facts. … Did I choose the right word or what?!)

I once heard memories, especially those related to intense emotions or trauma, described as like Post-It notes. How memories are organized in our brains is not into neat and organized files within file drawers, but as a pile of Post-Its of all different colors, shapes and sizes stuck together, one on top of another. Pull one, it’s attached to another.

That’s why one memory, when triggered, can ping-pong to this one and that one and then that one — out of order and not even necessarily related. (It’s why rape survivors, when recounting their experience, often can’t do so chronologically, so they are called unreliable or are accused of making up details. There’s a whole new law enforcement protocol called the Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview that takes into account what we know about how memory works.)

Back to A. and her disappointment about this 2019 version of Edie. She remembered Edie accurately, at least from my recollection. But the new doll, being not at all what the old one was, couldn’t preserve the past nor unravel all the good memories and emotions around Edie. That is what A. wanted to pass on to her son.

It’s for the same reason some of us hold on to stuff we’ve been given or have collected over the years. It’s not the stuff, it’s not the doll; it’s what we knew and loved and counted on in the past. That’s what is written on all those Post-It notes that we’re trying to recover and even recreate. It’s the memories and emotions tucked around those objects.

It’s the intangible padding, not the thing itself, that we’re after.

And there’s only so much of that you can pass on.