Thursday, January 17, 2019

Love Anyway

"Enjoy every minute!"
"Soak it all up!" 
"It goes so fast!"
"Treasure this time!"
"You'll miss this someday!"

These are all things I've heard, thought, felt, (but thankfully have never said) in regards to motherhood.

I can't stand these statements...but...I also understand the heart behind them. The moms (ok, probably the grandmas) who share this advice intend to encourage us younger mamas. They are trying to share their hard-earned wisdom and perspective, and remind us that life- the wild, crazy, sticky, stinky life we've found ourselves in- is all just a wisp. In the trenches of parenthood (or the thick of a meltdown) things can feel hopelessly bleak, and gut-wrenchingly hard. Bedtime sagas appear never ending, power struggles seem insurmountable. The trials of now seem like they may just go on forever. But these well-meaning women looking at the chaos of those behind them in life (and also the grocery store line) with a disarming mix of a sideways glance, and a twinkle in their eye...they don't mean to guilt, or pressure, or judge. (Well, at least I don't think they do. Most of them...) They mean to lift us out of our myopic reality, refreshing us on the bigger picture, beyond what we can currently see.

But it doesn't always feel like that, does it?

Not to me, that's for sure. When I am having a day with my threenager, or the baby kept me up all night, or my big-kid is serving up some sass I didn't know she had in her, I don't want to be told to ENJOY EVERY MINUTE. That feels impossible, and honestly, downright disrespectful. Enjoy those minutes? Not likely. Enjoy EVERY minute? HA, no.

We all know...we know deep down that our kids are going to grow up faster than we ever thought possible. And as much as we hate to admit it, we'll soon find ourselves standing solo in a checkout line enamored with the unruly cart-climbing brood behind us, and we'll pine for those days. Those days when our clothes were covered in a near proprietary mix of milk stains, stickers, and goldfish cracker dust. Those days when chubby little "rubber band wrists" reached out for us for their every earthly need. Those days when we heard Mama, Mama, Mama, Mama, MAHHHHHMMMM! so often and so loud it made our ears ring.

But when we're in those days? We're not pining for much more than the clock to strike bedtime o'clock. We're not interested in soaking up anything other than a bathtime for one (with the door locked, thank you). The idea of enjoying every single blessed minute...of...all of this? It's just. too. much.

So then what do we do?
Do we roll our eyes at these cliches? Begrudgingly accept the platitudes with an insincere nod? Silently seethe from the pain of feeling misunderstood? Internally promise we'll never be that lady doling out unsolicited advice and whitewashing the trials of our own past?

Well...maybe a little bit. Sometimes.
(Eye-rolling is a natural trait- bordering on gift- of mine so that tendency is hard to squash.)

But what I want to challenge myself to do (and mayyyyybe you too, because bossing is also one of my gifts) is to embrace the kind intentions and the spirit of the sentiments. To see the value in what they're saying, even if it's dang hard to actually do.

Because truly, I don't think we're supposed to enjoy every minute. Of motherhood, or grocery shop small talk or...anything. That's unrealistic. But I also don't think we're supposed to wallow in the struggle, excusing ourselves of the call to do more than just survive these (sometimes tough, often monotonous) days.

What I think we're supposed to do is: Love... anyway.

Love it. Love them. Love ourselves...anyway.

When it's hard. When they're annoying. When I'm tired...
When it's hopeless. When they're wrong. When I'm undeserving...
When this, when that. Even if, even though...
Love anyway.

Love despite all the reasons I don't want to. Love people who haven't earned it. Love in situations I don't understand. Love even before I think I actually can. Love long after I think I can continue.

I don't know why this version of the same bigger truth is easier for me to swallow. Am I any more capable of loving (all things and all people at all times) than I am of enjoying every moment? No way! I'm an imperfect mess whose ability to judge comes much more swiftly than my capacity to care. I'm critical of things, impatient with others and unforgiving of myself.

But for some reason, the idea of "love anyway" doesn't feel guilt-ridden. It doesn't seem like an unrealistic hurdle to (repeatedly) clear, or a utopian mindset that I have to will myself into feeling (or faking).
Love anyway is a statement with tension.

Love is the very best of the best. It's pure and transcendent and wonderful. Love is everything I want to be and feel, but beyond that it's a verb. To love is our calling.

Anyway is acknowledgement of context. It's recognition that love doesn't always feel possible. It's honesty that some stuff is really and truly, awfully hard. It's the "yes and" that pairs "I don't wanna" with "just do it". It's real-talk that hears and sees reality, but doesn't enable excuses.


This loving anyway stuff can get really heavy. It means we are to give grace to the least of these (and accept grace when we are the least of these). But it's also an invitation to lightness; an opportunity to smile not because we're ignoring or unaware of the pain but because we think it's worth it to smile anyway.

It's big love in big anyways (Supporting a friend even when I have no clue if I'm doing it right...and actually I am pretty sure I'm not doing it right, but I LOVE her enough to keep showing up imperfectly ANYWAY)

And it's small love in small anyways (Oh, Miller-buddy, you thought it would be fun to dot-stamp-marker your face? I'm going to laugh while we unsuccessfully wipe you down, because I LOVE your silly, disobedient self ANYWAY!)

I'm looking for all of the chances to love, in all of the anyways life throws at me, and I'm surprised that I don't feel pressured...I'm actually finding freedom as I shift my perspective.

I can't enjoy my kids running each other over with the library cart, shrieking and colliding through the supposed-to-be-silent halls. (Just a typical Tuesday!) But I can love them in it. I can love that they are fierce, determined spirits who want to try things for themselves. I can love the chance to bring them to a land where books are plentiful and free. I can love that most of the other daytime patrons are either dealing with similar rowdy mini-companions or are nearly deaf and don't seem to mind.

I can't enjoy squeezing my thighs into jeans whose "super skinny" label feels less like a style and more like an ironic taunt. But I can love my body...anyway. (Oooooh, this one is hard. Maybe right now I can try to love my body anyway...) I can love that my legs enable me to (usually) keep up with my kids' boundless energy. I can love that my belly kept them safe and sound for a collective 36 months, even if it's all a little worse for wear now. I can love that (worth every penny) blonde highlights keep the possibility that my hair is going grey a mystery to even me.

There is a lot in this life that isn't enjoyable. There are times we'd rather speed through than soak up. There are moments we will look back on and emphatically not miss. We're not capable of, or required to treasure it all. But loving anyway? Well that just might the very hardest, and simultaneously most marvelous thing to practice.

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