Hi. I’m sitting on my couch drinking a cup of water right now while my boys, both of whom are sick (again!) fitfully nap upstairs. They were up several times last night and we started our day at five am with some coughing, runny nose, cry time. I’ll let you guess which of us was doing the runny nose cry time. It’s been like this all week. I haven’t slept much or well. I keep forgetting to drink water and make myself decent food. I spent all day yesterday cleaning because the kids were a mess, I was a mess, the house was a mess, and I just wanted to feel like I’d accomplished something.
We’ve had a lot of easy, not great for you food lately, I feel like I’ve been phoning it in on every level, and still, I’m gripping the last thread of my sanity with both hands. On top of it all, I’ve been bombarded with writing ideas. Inspiration is coming at me like a spider monkey and I have no time to sit with it. When I do have time, I’m so tired and run-down, I can barely string two words together. All of that said, I just looked at my phone to post a funny dog video and saw an ad on my Facebook about how there’s an app that can help me balance my life.
And if heads could spontaneously combust, mine would have. I’m literally on my blog today in this slightly crazed state to write one thing: YOU CANNOT BALANCE YOUR LIFE.
Life is too big, too ungainly, too full of surprises. Just when you’re hitting that perfect mark in the middle, something will break, fall off, fall on, change, give, or grow and you’ll be teetering when you were just tottering to keep from dropping it all. And sometimes you will drop it all. Then, pick up most of it, leave some, and hop back on to keep going. We really need to stop talking about life like there’s something you can buy, a habit you can develop, or something about yourself you can adjust to balance it all.
Instead, I wish we talked more about how to find balance moment to moment. Like me right now, so tired, wanting to write, a little scatter-brained and a little dehydrated, knowing that what I have to do is take care of my kiddos when they wake up/get home from school, but also knowing what I want to do is write until my fingers fall off. It’s just a moment, but I’m going to take it, sit on this couch, drink this water, and write this post before I have to close my laptop with one last, longing look, and start digging around for a snack to feed two grouchy toddlers when they wake up.
My heart is still in pajamas. My grief hasn’t finished her morning coffee. My soul is not washed. Yet, my intuition is saying, “Now.” So here I am with my lipstick on.
I hadn’t planned to start with Intuition. It’s such a bold red. If I could have chosen any shade, I would have picked a much more muted, quiet color. A color that better reflects how I feel about myself and my life right now.
I had these letters all mapped out. I spent a year putting each lipstick word/color in order and planning the themes so I could show in each post how I came to this tidy piece of wisdom: Pain and loss are always the ultimate cost of loving and they are always worth it. Love is where all the good stuff is–the joy, the community, the laughter, the growth, the forgiveness, the strength.
But I never wrote any of it. And I should have recognized my intuition in that writer’s block.
Instead, I kept trying, kept seeking, kept shifting, and kept to myself. I started throwing out bags full of stuff we don’t want or need. I started cleaning out dark spaces inside and out. I started taking a knitting class with other women who say “fuck” a lot while they knit. I started making room for myself in my life again. And somewhere in the midst of it all–the things I was doing and not doing, I realized that maybe that tidy advice I thought was the end, is actually the beginning.
Now that I know the devastation of losing those I love, how do I knock down the walls that pain has led me to build between myself and others? How do I stay soft when hardening up dulls the hurt? How do I push through my fear and hold my hands out again knowing how it stings when they get slapped instead of held? It’s terrifying and anxiety producing to think about racing out into the world with my heart wide open and my soul on my sleeve. It’s one thing to have learned the lesson, it’s something else entirely to live it.
Yet I know that’s exactly what I have to do if I want more happiness, connection, fun, and satisfaction with my life and I do. I want those things so badly it aches. Maybe the Lipstick Letters are not meant to be about the what. Maybe they’re meant to be about the how.
With that trajectory in mind, I’ve thrown out the plans I had and maps I made. Actually doing this process instead of just thinking and writing about it scares me, but it’s also exciting and has me feeling the same thrill of inspiration I felt the first time I opened a box of fifteen lipsticks on Christmas morning back in 2020.
I’m missing something and my intuition is telling me it’s right on the other side of myself. So ready or not, here I go . . .
If you want to read previous Lipstick Letters, click here!
If you want to hear me read this one, click play below:
Hi. As many of you know, last weekend I booked an AirBnB for ONE. Just me. And me, myself, and I had the most quiet, peaceful, and refreshing weekend I’ve had in six years. I took the opportunity to sleep, to read, to knit, to think, and above all, rest.
But back to the thinking part. After this trip, I’ve realized I need to get out more. A lot more. Out, not as in to an AirBnB by myself, but out, ya know, where the other people are.
Strongest supporting evidence for this conclusion is that time (four days ago) when I went out by myself to order a sandwich for lunch. And I failed, friends. You could even say I failed spectacularly. Maybe some of you are thinking, But how can you fail at all, much less spectacularly, at ordering a sandwich? And if that’s what you’re thinking, read on and let me introduce you to Awkward Girl.
I’m an introvert (I know, I’m awfully outgoing if you’ve met me in person, but I assure you, I am an introvert), and as such, I made a point to pull up the menu online before I set out for the restaurant so I could plan my order in advance and not get anxious at go time. The way it looked, you could either build your own sandwich from a huge list of ingredients or you could choose something like a BLT where it was decided for you. I chose an Italian cold-cut from what I thought was the “done for you section” and then thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful, ten minute walk to the sandwich place.
When I got there, I went up, full of confidence, and said, “I’d like a six inch Italian cold cut.” The guy behind the counter said, “Okay.” then continued staring at his notepad with his pen out. So I continued, “I’d also like to make it a combo and get a Pepsi and chips.” He nodded, then waited again . . . kept waiting until it was painful. . . then finally looked at me expectantly and said with just a hint of impatience, “Whadya want on it?” I stared blankly. So he more kindly and slowly continued, “You picked the meat. Now what bread and toppings do you want?”
I looked down at the jumble of fifty-ish ingredients listed on the menu, my brain went into instant hyper-drive before the engine exploded and everything went dark for several of the longest seconds of my life. Then, I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “That’s too hard. Ummmmmmmmm, I’ll have a BLT.”
Yes. I said those words. I, an adult, who is currently raising three, small people, an adult who, at one time, ran an eleven million dollar budget and had twenty plus staff and was a director, said to another adult in public that it was just too hard to pick sandwich parts. So hard, in fact, it could not be done.
Soooooooo, yeah. I’m going to need to get back out there (as in, the world) ASAP before I lose my ability to process speech altogether. Although, to be fair, looking at my history, there’s only so much improvement I’m likely to make as it relates to being awkward.
Anyway, it was a great BLT, so I guess all’s well that ends well, right? Image below is not the actual sandwich, I was too busy enjoying it in a lovely gazebo to think about getting a photo. But it was as delicious as this one looks and I at least had the presence of mind to swap out mayo for mustard!
I’m off for a weekend completely by myself. Let me type that again: I’m off. For a weekend. Completely by myself. Alone. No one else. Just me and some books and some knitting and some coffee and some wine and my favorite writing utensils. And, of course, my fleece-lined leggings and coziest, fuzzy socks.
When I first planned this little trip, I made a list of goals to complete with all this time to myself. I haven’t been alone for more than a few hours at a time since my five year old was born. I’ve daydreamed about what it would be like to have hours and hours to do so many things. But yesterday, I was starting to make lists of what to pack and I realized I don’t have the mental or physical energy for a to-do list right now. I’m behind on literally everything and everyone I care about, including myself, in a way that a weekend is not going to be able to fix.
I felt pretty disheartened when these thoughts crept in. I have a lot of guilt piled up from all the things I haven’t been able to do, things I haven’t had time or headspace to write, and all the lovely people in my life that I haven’t been able to connect with the way that I want. My cup runneth over with blessings and is somehow empty at the same time–a feeling I’ve become well-acquainted with since becoming a mother.
Then, just as I was setting myself up for a nice, long guilt trip, a favorite poem came softly and gently and quietly to mind. It’s by Walt Whitman and it goes like this:
A Clear Midnight
This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best Night, sleep, death, and the stars.
Now, all I hope for the next few days is to step away from lists, away from goals, and to give my soul a free flight into, well, probably not the wordless, my soul really likes words, but you get the idea. : )
Short for Southern Comfort because my identical cousin in Tennessee shipped him out to me 11 years ago and since then, he’s been a little part of my Southern home I get to keep with me wherever I go. He is the sweetest, most snuggly pony and has a heart that needs closeness.
When Tris (my horse of 18 years) passed away, I pulled back fast from any kind of connection—human, horse, or otherwise. And now, four years later, the love is still right where I left it, but I’ve got some big work to do on rebuilding our trust and partnership.
We’ve gone on a few, short rides but mostly, I’m focused in the round pen, on the lunge-line, and on taking naps together—communication and being a warm, happy, reliable presence in his life.
Picking up the pieces after painful losses can be almost as heartbreaking as the losses themselves. I’m still working through my guilt at how I all but deserted this precious pony when he’d just lost Tristan, too. And he’s clearly working through a fear of putting faith in me and being left in the cold again. It hurts but I can’t go back and change it. I can only start where we are now and go forward showing him I’ve grown, I’ve learned, and I’m back for good this time.
These naps and snuggles are some of my favorite moments and fill me with hope for where we’re heading. No matter what kind of relationship it is, love isn’t enough to sustain it, but love can sometimes hold you together while you work out the rest.
I went to feed the horses this morning but the sliding barn door that almost blew off its hinges yesterday actually blew off its hinges today so heavy I almost fell underneath it but these arms and this back these legs and this core this body that holds my children while we dance in the kitchen that throws bales of hay from the loft to the ground that carries buckets of water from out back to the stalls that moves the furniture for sweeping that carries the over-loaded laundry baskets that catches my wild babies when they jump off their beds or the rock wall or the end table . . .
this body caught it and even against the wind was able to set it down without breaking it or getting hurt.
Such relief heart racing I closed my eyes and took a shaky breath.
Such gratitude for this body this vessel that holds me and my life together that holds my children and the laundry and the hay and the buckets and the sliding barn door that blew off its hinges.
My Sunshine is five and since she started school, she comes home most days a little maxxed out. It’s no good asking her for details about her day, she usually needs to eat then move her wiggly self as much as possible whether that means running up and down the stairs and through the hall with her brothers, heading outside, or dancing in the kitchen. But after dinner, when the boys are in their bed, and all is quiet, she’s ready to talk.
For a day or two back when she first started school, I discouraged this. I worried she wouldn’t get enough sleep if she was up chatting too long, but by day three-ish, I decided it was more important for her to have a time when we can just talk about whatever she wants.
Now, nighttime conversations with my girl are one of the best and most interesting parts of my day. She asks me questions, tells me what she’s been thinking about, and I get a glimpse into the inner workings of her busy and complicated mind.
A few nights ago, when we were done with books and had moved on to the snuggle portion of her bedtime routine, she said, “Jane got purple glitter and I got silver.” It was clear from her tone that purple was far superior to silver and she was quite disappointed.
I responded with, “But silver is so beautiful! Like the silvery snow glittering in the moonlight or your silver, mermaid necklace.”
I knew I’d headed down the wrong road when she replied, “I know, but silver is just boring and it’s not what I wanted. I really wanted purple. Purple is more beautifuller and I didn’t get any purple.”
This was my moment to pause. Lord, it’s tempting to make everything sound great to young children. And I’m so lucky to have a firstborn who regularly and without hesitation speaks her truth. She didn’t want silver, folks, she wanted purple and purple didn’t happen for her. My unintentionally toxic positivity was not helping. So after a moment, I changed my tone to match the bummed out tone she was using and I said,
“Girl, I’m sorry. Purple is so beautiful and I wish it had worked out that you got the color you wanted. Sometimes things go the way we want them to and sometimes, they just don’t.”
“Yeah . . . Wait! Did you ever not getted what you want?” she said.
Ooooohkay, I was feeling really good about switching gears and as quickly as I felt like I’d made it to solid, parenting ground, I was back in over my head. I decided to stay the course and said,
“Yes, lots of times.”
What followed was an amazing conversation about disappointment and how life can be unfair. We shared a few secrets, a few giggles, and lots of snuggle hugs; nothing too big or deep, she’s wicked smart, but she’s still five. And when we were all talked out, we concluded that some moments in life just suck, we can say that they suck, and we don’t have to like them or pretend we like them. No buts.
And I’ll just leave you with what I’m always left with after these moments with my wild child: Whatever it is I think she can do, she can do more. Whatever it is I think she’s capable of understanding, she understands more. And I only ever find out her capabilities and growth edges by giving her a safe place to explore (be that out in the world or in her mind/heart) and following her lead.
this wine tastes like forgetfulness with a hint of plum and i can’t imagine anything more perfect i love plums and horses and forgetting and carl and my dog. EE cummings wrote poems with the punctuation all silly which was brilliant the first time he did it but after that wasn’t he just repeating himself? i repeat myself all the time tell the same stories over and over just like a dog barking at passing cars. this wine tastes like i’m drunk and i can’t imagine anything more perfect than that other than tiramisu although it creeps me out to eat something called lady fingers. lets not talk about eating
i miss you and i wish you were here wine tastes better on your lips and you’re right about goldfish not being the same
i hate the sound of your phone and by your phone i mean my phone on your plan that you gave me because you were tired of my mom answering the phone at 2am is the phone you gave me like the ring of our cell phone bill marriage? everytime i hear it its supposed to be you but its not and every time i hear it i think of you coming home from work, but youre not i don’t want to wait for summer to sleep by you every night i’m going to sleep by you every night I ever can you’ll never spend a night on the couch because i’ll never take the feel of you breathing against my back for granted with so much time together slipping through our fingers while we wait for our five year plans to line up i could never waste a second of