Get Small

get smallWhen life is at its most excruciating, most painful, at its most “I can hardly deal with this minute much less imagine how to deal with the next one,” I get small.

Small like wind tightly around your very core, curl up, tuck in, get low kinda small.

It’s a strange dichotomy. If you know me, you know I have always been drawn to living a big life. In J-school in college I realized I didn’t want to be a journalist because I couldn’t stomach the thought of having to write day in and day out about what was happening right next door. Like, in my town? Blah, blah, snore, BORING, save me. To this day I never watch the local news unless there’s a tornado warning. I’m all about 30,000 feet. Big Picture. National, if not INTERNATIONAL. I don’t want to travel in my state, I want to CROSS THE SEA. I don’t want to work in the field, I want to SET THE OVERALL STRATEGY.  I don’t want a few people to read my blog, I want it to be MILLIONS. “And my heaven will be a big heaven, and I will walk through the front door …”

This isn’t a value judgment, it’s simply a statement of what I I found interesting and what drew me forward.

Yet when life slams me square in the gut I’m driven to get as small as I possibly can. I want nothing more than the most smallness that small can be.

I don’t care about social media. I couldn’t give a flying fuck about Donald Trump. Or what’s gone viral. Or what everyone is going on about today, or the next day, or the day after that. Go on loudly if you must. Rant and rave to your heart’s content. I can’t manage international, country, state, or county. Not municipality, suburb, or even street. I’m focused on square footage about the size of the skin I’m in. Over here in the quiet. In the corner, with the Strugglers.

You don’t get to judge the Strugglers. You don’t get to tell me what I should be doing. What I’m supposed to be speaking out about. Or caring about. Taking action on. Feeling. You don’t get to decide anything at all about me because you don’t matter. Not a single iota. What matters is breathing.

I care about breathing right now. Can I breathe today? Can I not spend the day crying, and if and when I do cry can I allow myself that moment, embrace it and then move on? Can my feet feel the energy radiating out of the sun-baked earth? How thinly can I slice this radish and what are its nutrients? How long will this laundry stay toasty after I take it out of the dryer? I am 100% the wide, embracing foundation of the pyramid of needs, thank you Maslow. Air. Food. Safety. Warmth.

I move slowly. I talk less and to fewer people, if almost none. I notice small movements and the littlest sounds. Early every morning I get up, make myself a cup of coffee and go sit outside on the patio. I just sit there. I look at the trees. The sky. I watch the breeze flutter Bentley’s fur. I listen to the birds and I wonder about them. Thirty minutes pass by while I contemplate everything and nothing.

I got an app on my phone called Calm and I sit there and do the daily meditation even though I’m terrible at meditating, honestly, but I don’t care. I don’t care how good I am at it because I’m not about achieving a damn thing right now. No my breath work isn’t that great and yes there’s all sorts of stuff coming into my head and hell yes I’m going to scratch that itch, and screw it because, whatever, I’m sitting here trying right?

I’m achieving nothing other than living and providing care and love to my children and that’s it and that’s cool. It’s as big an achievement as any other. That’s my entire assignment, the one I’m giving to myself right now because NO ONE ELSE is allowed to make any assignments for me but me. I am no longer in your jurisdiction.

I’m sorry that I’ve let you down by not focusing on you and making your life better. I’m sorry I’m not doing or saying whatever you think is important. I’m so sorry I can’t save your life today. I’m just super busy over here trying to save mine.

For the longest time I believed I had no value in the world unless I saved as many lives as possible. And so I did. I don’t regret that for one second. I’m so glad and grateful to have been able to dedicate more than a decade to other people’s health and welfare. Some people will scoff at me saying that because they like to scoff at things, they love scoffing and grumbling and sneering and snarking, and well, those people have a whole different set of problems and I see you shaking your head because you know exactly what I mean.

My set of problems, a different set, has had a lot to do with focusing on everyone else. What I could achieve for everyone else. How I could make sure others were happy. Because then? Then, I will be okay. I will be worthy. THEN, my biological mother will love me. It will happen THEN. I will earn a place.

THEN, I’ll be enough.

Now, though, I’m at a place where simply breathing is more than enough. And as bad of a place as that is, it’s also a very good place. A strange and wonderful place. Because breathing is … enough. What?!

If you’re in the Strugglers’ corner right now, and if you’d like to, you’re welcome to breathe with me. Get small with me. Come look at the way the sun casts shadows in the afternoon. Listen to the fly buzzing in the kitchen. Ignore the phone calls and the shoulds and the listicles and the cacophonies and just breathe with me. Live. Just live. Just be. Exalt in the expansive BIGNESS of the smallness.

And to those who can’t stand when the Strugglers turn away and focus in? Get over yourselves. Your sputtering self-righteousness is honestly the only thing we find utterly hilarious at the moment.

Right now, almost nothing is everything. Living is enough. Breathing. Seeing. Walking. Sitting. Sleeping. Feeling your heart beat inside your chest. It’s more than enough.

To the Warrior Moms

It’s been a tough couple of months. I’m still feeling it and I imagine you are too.

I know many of you are disappointed. Deeply. That makes me sad. Take whatever amount you are disappointed and raise it to the 537th power and you might get an idea of how disappointed I am. So I guess we can all be disappointed together. There’s no way around that, only through. You did great work. We did great work. We all worked so hard together. You have every right to be disappointed. It sucks. So much. I acknowledge and share in your feelings about that. Sometimes life doesn’t keep going the way we think it will, but it doesn’t mean even better things aren’t to come.

I’m also sorry that many of you still feel confused and in the dark about what happened. That sucks too. But I know that it wouldn’t have helped anyone or made a single thing better by me calling people out and sharing lots of screenshots and shouting back. In fact I’m quite sure it would have made things even worse. When people are willing to say anything and everything, how on earth are you supposed to fight back? I know many of you wanted me to engage, think I should have, are mad I didn’t. Some of you tried to fight back, and then you got hurt too. Somebody very important to me taught me that when you find yourself involuntarily in a horrific and even vicious tug of war the best thing to do is drop the rope. You don’t have to keep pulling. When you drop the rope they fall backward and you can remain standing with at least some of your dignity still intact.

I’m sorry some of you feel split between “sides.” I’m sure that hurts. I hate that what was a gloriously beautiful community arrived at that point, and I have a lot of faith in a lot of people that many of those rifts that should be healed will be healed. I’d like you to take a minute and really think about the fact, though, that I didn’t ask you to choose sides. I never, ever, not ONCE, asked you to choose between anyone or anything. Not ever. If other people asked you to, told you to, and you chose to do that, then that is between you and them.

If you’re waiting for me to apologize for things that didn’t happen, please know that I’m not going to. Ever.

I will not apologize for knowing that we were working our tails off to figure out how to serve as many mothers as possible in as many ways as possible, including marginalized ones. There are people on our team who know exactly what we were doing. How much we talked about it. They know, for instance, that our second largest program budget — second only to the Warrior Mom Conference, because conferences are hella expensive — was our program budget directed solely at minority and marginalized moms. More than the Climb Out of the Darkness budget. More than our online awareness budget. More than our research budget, offline awareness budget, fundraising budget …

A couple of weeks ago I got word that Postpartum Progress won a federal grant, our very first. The grant wasn’t in funding, it was in technical assistance and partnership with the government. I found and I wrote that grant because I wanted us to learn how to better work with states to support women in programs like WIC. I cried when I found out we got it, because of course now it won’t be used. Postpartum Progress wasn’t perfect, of course, because no one ever is as they do the important work of growing and learning around inclusivity. But if someone wants you to think that we didn’t care or weren’t trying, well, I don’t know what to tell you.

I will not apologize for the decision we made to shut Postpartum Progress the nonprofit down. As unbelievably excruciating as it was, we made the right decision at the time. I know that and those who have more information than you know that. We’re not happy about it, but we still know it. I couldn’t let Postpartum Progress be held hostage. And if you ever held even the teensiest microbit of trust in me, here’s what I want you to do your very best to try and believe: If we hadn’t shut down and had capitulated, what you loved about Postpartum Progress would have gone away. Postpartum Progress wouldn’t have been Postpartum Progress anymore. The things about it that I and you and many others worked so hard to create and protect, which made it feel the way it did and accomplish the things it did, would have gone away. You can think you know otherwise but I swear to you on my life that you don’t.

I saw someone say at one point during the whole affair that Postpartum Progress was just a brand and that anyone can do what we did. I would submit that perhaps that person doesn’t understand the power of branding. A brand becomes successful, makes an impact, for a reason. It’s not out of thin air. It’s not a fluke. It’s because you create something that does a great job of filling an unfilled need and creating a feeling that makes people want to be part of it. Makes people feel like they can (which of course they can, but they just need to feel it first to know that they can) do something. Be something. Feel something. Be understood. Be supported. Be a part.

Coke is a brand. In today’s advanced technological age anybody could likely break down the chemical properties of Coke and recreate it and sell it and have it look and taste the exact same way. But it would never feel the exact same way because it wouldn’t be Coke. There are billions of dollars worth of goodwill wrapped up in that brand’s value, and that’s something that cannot be replicated. Period. There are people who didn’t like some of the values of Postpartum Progress. Who openly made fun of some of those values, actually. Who wanted to change the mission of Postpartum Progress and make it a different organization altogether. Well, I believe we had the right mission and good values and were doing our dead level best to do the right things and the right work. And if we weren’t going to be allowed to do that anymore then how on earth could we have continued to be Postpartum Progress?

That doesn’t mean other organizations don’t have their own set of values and focus and brands too, or aren’t doing good work. Go and experience working with those other organizations out there already doing the work in maternal mental health, like Postpartum Support International. Or, like I did, you can create your own organization. And you get to choose how you want to do it. And what your mission will be and what your values will be and how you will go about the work. And you get to make all the decisions and believe me there will be a zillion decisions to be made every single day, and sometimes you’ll make good ones and sometimes you’ll make bad ones and I hope the world allows you to be imperfect because you will be because we all are. And some day, when you are in the position of being the person sitting in the chair where all the bucks stop, and making all those decisions and answering to all those many needs, you may know what it feels like to make the right, but searingly painful, decision. Or maybe you’ve already done that in your life, so you can relate. Judge me if you like. And be mad or sad. You’re allowed. And I’m allowed to believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that given the horrendous circumstances I did the best I could and so did our board.

There are so many of you I love. Respect. I’m sorry that you are hurting. None of this ever should have happened, yet I can see now very clearly that it was going to happen no matter what.

Now you get to choose how you go forward. Now I get to choose how I go forward.

Just as I did the best I could at the moment I’m guessing you did too. And now we go on.

You Don’t Have To Be Fearless To Be Fierce

fearMy parents were 20 and 22 when I was conceived.  They were just dating, and I was an unplanned surprise.  My mother placed me for adoption, which I completely understand now that I’m grown.  I went home with a family from Texas I believe, though I don’t know their names.  I was there, I think happy and safe, for several months.

Then my dad decided to get me back.  I don’t quite understand how it all happened, because no one likes to talk about it, but he went to court, at some point punched out a bailiff, and in the end my two young, inexperienced, unmarried parents regained custody of me.

I’m told the first night I was home with them in their apartment they had a party with the prostitutes from across the street.  Then they put me to bed in the bottom drawer of a dresser, because they had no baby things.  And that was the beginning of me. [Read more…]