My Beautiful Mess
Recently, my daughter asked, “If your life was a book, what would be the title?” I smiled. Tears started to fall as I answered, “My Beautiful Mess.” The tears did not alarm her, not this year. This year has been a period of painful personal growth. It has not been comfortable or easy or neat. It has been a mess. But as I always tell my students, beautiful things are born in the struggle.
I lost my mom this year. No, she did not die. I can still go see her and hold her hand. I can talk to her and give her a hug, but she is gone. Mom is not there behind her eyes. Her mind is gone. I have been through a whole range of emotions. I have felt anger that she is only 65, guilt that I should do more to help her, pity that I am motherless and pain that I can’t fix this situation. It is impossible to describe the roller coaster of emotions.
But throughout this year of ups and downs, I have learned an important lesson. I might feel broken, but that’s okay. I can be broken and keep going. I can go to work and teach students to use their voice to tell their story. I can actively and intentionally participate in my children’s lives inside and outside of school. I can laugh and dance on romantic dates with my husband. I can eat delicious meals and share stories with amazing friends. I can help athletes build better versions of themselves. I can put a heavy barbell on my back and set new personal records. However, I can still go home at the end of a long, productive day and sit on my bathroom floor and cry. I can bury my face in Brent’s shoulder, muffling my voice as I whisper, “I don’t want her to live like this.”
One of my closest friends, who also knows a thing or two about beautiful messes, sent me this quote after I had a particularly difficult mom day:
She made broken look beautiful
and strong look invincible.
She walked with the Universe
on her shoulders and made it
look like a pair of wings.
It was the most perfect thing anyone could have ever said to me. He got it. Grief is an ongoing, fluid, non-linear process. We don’t stop our life to grieve for a week or a month. It’s not like maternity or sick leave. It is a tenant that takes up a permanent spot in our souls. So, we learn to adjust. We get a little stronger each day and become accustomed to carrying it with us. Then one day, we realize we are much stronger than we thought we were! Wow, we have been carrying this big pile of grief to the grocery store, to the soccer fields, to gymnastic practices, to our book club and to bed at night. Grief is a big mess that we have been dragging along with us, but we made it our own. Humans are amazing and resilient. We adapt and carry on.
During that same conversation with my daughter, I explained the complexity of my beautiful mess. She knows I don’t have it all figured out, and sometimes I get sad. She will also experience situations that are beyond her control and maybe she will feel broken, but hopefully she will remember this lesson from my life story. My scars and losses do not outweigh all of the incredible opportunities I have to live and grow each and every day. As I get stronger, that grief will seem lighter. “My Beautiful Mess” is a work in progress.