I took a break from social media, as some of you may know. I needed to step back, because the noise was too loud, the comments too heated, the threats seemed too real. I needed to step back and assess what I wanted to use the platform for. Was I going to just be “mom Sarah”, posting photos of my darling kids, writing antidotes on the wonders and challenges of parenting? Was I “artist Sarah” using social media as a way to promote and share my art and creative projects? Was I “activist Sarah”, connecting people with ideas and uniting us together toward solutions to the social justice problems happening around the world. The problem is, I am all of these things. And I am also a pastor’s wife. That mix is potent. It can be powerful, but it can also be detrimental. Its a fine line to walk, and one I have been walking for years.
And then, on Inauguration Day, I slipped, lost my balance, and leaned heavy to the activist side of things. And it got ugly, fast. I think part of what was shocking to me about the whole ordeal was how quickly and vehemently they slammed not only my character, but the character of my family. I was told I should be ashamed of myself, I was threatened to be quiet or else they’d tell my husband on me. It got worse from there. I wanted to say a hundred things in response, yet I held my tongue. I haven’t been the subject of so much vitriol possibly ever.
I had underestimated the anger bubbling under the surface of our country right now. I underestimated my ability to separate someone’s attack on the topic from their attack on my personal life. I felt violated, instantly. I immediately thought of every photo of my children, and how they were suddenly so vulnerably exposed to the anger of people like that. I shut it all down. I took down the post that held all those cruel comments, I shut down my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I cried and prayed and listened and waited.
Support poured in, comments and emails and messages from all pockets of the world. It was incredible to see how far reaching our social community had become. To hear ways words I shared had inspired others. It was humbling. The encouragement I heard over the next few days helped balance my heart. They helped me find my way in the dark, they were sparks of hope that lighted the path as I sought wisdom on what to do next.
For now, I want to maintain this writing platform and continue to practice balance. What I learned from the last week is that anything can be screen shot, altered, and used against you. Nothing is sacred so long as it’s public. (hello, terrifying!) So I may be a bit clumsy as I sort it all out and I’m praying for more grace than anger to follow me here. I want to write, I want to connect, I want to use my voice to participate in the global conversations that are happening now. I can’t challenge you to be brave with your life if I am unwilling to do the same.
So here I am. A little bruised and afraid, but showing up anyway. Hate can’t shut us down. Amen?
*artwork by Pierre Soulages – Peinture, 21 novembre 1959
I’m not one for new year resolutions, I don’t have a word or a goal or anything specific to direct my path for this new year. I have in the past, and sometimes I fear I’m just a slacker for not doing it again this year. But I just can’t. I just cannot find the energy to make it happen this year. Life is flying by, faster and faster as my children age, as my marriage matures, as my calling and character become clearer and more efficient. What I don’t have much time for is anything else.
I was talking with a friend of mine recently and said, “This year I just want to focus on being a great mom, a great wife, and a great friend. I want to be honest and true, and to stop making up for the ways I can’t be all things to all the people. I’m so done with feeling guilty for not being perfect.”
My words surprised me as they left my mouth. Its not that I didn’t mean them – in fact I think its really that I meant them so much. I’ve just not been that clear about it before. I don’t even want to know how much time I’ve spent feeling overly responsible for the choices of others in my life. I accommodate for other’s messes, for their missed deadlines, for all the misunderstandings. In my history, often I’ve been the one who fixes it, who makes it better. Basically I have assumed the role of Olivia Pope in my relative life. I’m her – minus the awesome wardrobe and expensive wine.
There is no medal for this, nor do I want one. What I want, all that I want, is to stop carrying the freaking baton. I just want to stop. I want to live small, and clear-headed, and wholehearted. I want to slow down and stop all the spinning.
Can you relate?
Here is what I want for 2017:
1. I want to make more art. Since I was little, way before the world told me what and who I was, I was a maker, a doodler, a tiny artist free and wild and completely unaware that art was something people could measure. I want to make, more. Simply for the joy of it. Simply because it makes me happy.
2. I want to see my kids. I want to really notice them. I want to put down my damn phone and look full into their faces as they tell me things. Because I know, deep down, that the days of spontaneous voluntary information sharing are rapidly coming to an end (hello, tween.)
3. I want to stop apologizing. From now on, you won’t get an I’m sorry from me (unless I’ve been an utter asshole and you deserve it.) But for every time I’m late to a lunch or phone date – I’ll say thank you instead. Thank you for waiting, thank you for being patient, thank you for letting me be human and imperfect. And when I say how I feel or what I want, I’m not going to be sorry I took up space in the dialogue – I’m going to be grateful I have a voice and the guts to use it.
4. I want to dance more. I was constantly dancing around as a little kid. Music was always playing. I’m not musical myself, and I can’t sing a note to save my life. But, I love to move. Part of being a child and being an artist is that we move, a lot. There is no room for insecurity when you’re fully enveloped in the moment of something. I love the way dancing helps me get outside of my head and into my body. I want more of that this year.
5. I want to be a best friend to my husband. I want us to laugh more, to be silly and confident and fun and alive and free. Something about a mortgage and real jobs and kids and saving and all the things has threatened our ability to let go and not take it all too seriously. This year, we are fully committed to finding our way together, as us, and releasing the lie that we are supposed to look/be/act/do a certain way at this stage in our life. We will be us, as us, here and now. We against the world.
6. I want to breathe. 2016 is the year I finally stopped fighting the thing I’d been so afraid to admit was true. I have depression, and depression wasn’t something that just happened to me last year – it is a clinical, chronic, biological part of the way I’m made. I knew it for years, though the way it would affect me always came and went if I could hold out long enough. But the waves were exhausting, and hanging on, just barely keeping my head above water while insisting I could keep up with everything as if I was absolutely fine – I was tired of pretending. So one day I said it out loud. I said, “I feel sad, and I think its more than sad. I feel like I am stuck in quicksand and I don’t want to do it on my own anymore – I want help.” Those are such scary words, especially when I’m the one who is always supposed to be fine. But saying them, and doing something about it, was the beginning of a sea change for me. I want to keep breathing in 2017.
7. I want to say the true things in real time. Most of the time, what I feel in the moment isn’t clear, its not until later that I can figure it out. We women are especially prone to this, because what we think and how we think aren’t classicly accommodated for in the world we live in. It really is a man’s world in many ways. Our minds are made so complex and beautifully, and often if we can’t make ourselves work in the status quo, we’re shut down one way or another. I want to know what I want, to pay attention to myself like I matter, and speak up.
8. I want to live here. We’ve moved so often, and part of the consequence of that is that you find yourself constantly preparing for the next move. You store cardboard boxes from Amazon, you hoard the packing tape. You don’t let yourself get too attached to a new friend or place. It could all change, so we keep ourselves less invested. One foot in, one foot out. No more of that. I am here. Fully. I love the people in my life and I want to soak up everything about this place we live.
9. I want to love better. In all the ways. I want to be so brave and free that I can love without fear. And so often I realize I am still so, so afraid to love. I want to care about others, and to let their stories affect me. I want to love to the point where I wake up praying for my friends, where I call my dad on a Tuesday just because I want to hear his voice – because I am so grateful I have to option that I can. I want to hold my kids and my husband’s hand, and sit at the table of a friend and really let myself feel the love of the moment as we share a meal together. No more holding back. Only brave love.
10. I’m going to let things go. No more stories, no more spinning and winding tones and intentions and hypotheticals into the wee hours of the night. Let it go. I don’t want to hold onto past hurts. I don’t want past fear to destroy my chance at future joy. That stuff is old news, and once I’ve gleaned all the wisdom I can from it – I’m letting it go. Second and third and all the chances in 2017. Life is so short and precious. Let’s find our way, together.
So here is the deal: every year we commit to buying only four (three – but we will get to that) gifts for our kids. We’ve got a couple years of this practice under our belts and so far, so good. I mean, there haven’t been any revolts, riots, or complaints thus far. So I feel like that is a good sign, right? Are we awesome? Or are we in the running for worst parents of the year? Time will tell, people. Time. Will. Tell.
So, if you’re still reading, perhaps you’re interested in initiating this little practice into your own family, or perhaps you just want to know exactly how to avoid putting your children through a similar fate. Either way, here are the four gifts of our Christmas:
1. Something you want. This one is easy, in part because the want list is about four pages deep at this point and I just
randomly carefully select a favored item and viola! Checked box.
2. Something to read. This one tends to also be easy in our home. Emerson is an avid reader (last week he read a 500 page book in a day and a half. #nerdalert) and so his list of desired books is nearly as long as his list of toys/gadgets/technology. Mercy is happy with anything unicorn so again, done deal. CHECK.
3. Something to wear. I’m going to be honest. This one is tricky right now for us. It might just be our kids ages, as 8 and 3 year olds don’t tend to care too much what you put them in. Is it soft? Does it keep me warm/cool? FINE THEN. Carry on. (Check.)
4. Someone in need. This one is my favorite. It is all our favorites you guys. We present our kids with three worthy opportunities to donate a set financial amount to a charity/cause — and then we let our kids choose which one they want to support. We get to hear why they picked what they did, and then together we make the donation online. Sometimes its a service project, like last year when Emerson and I littered our city with coats for the homeless. It can be as awesome as you dream it to be! Best of all, it teaches our kids that the world is much bigger than them and also, spoiler alert – it really doesn’t revolve around them. Generosity and humility?! Check and Check.
Here is why this is so hard to really stick to: because we want to spoil our kids. They are awesome. We are awesome. WE ALL WANT TO BE AWESOME. And Christmas becomes some sort of strange vortex of validation of the awesomeness that is us. So when your kids only get four (three) gifts and their friends get twenty – thats hard. It will trigger something in you. It will make you want to binge-purchase ALL OF THE THINGS on Amazon on a late December 23rd night. But the secret is – you are enough. You are enough!
The gifts are a bonus!
Your kids know you love them. Their security and validation isn’t dependent on a Christmas morning that looks like Santa threw up all over your living room. Trust that the love and affirmation and little “just because” gifts you give them throughout the year will be enough. Your love is enough. And when they open each carefully thought out gift, and when they get to push “send” on a gift for someone who otherwise goes without, their little hearts will grow tens sizes. I promise.
So here is to saying No Thank You to the Christmas machine. Here is to saying Love Matters Most to all the commercials and stores hungrily shaming you into giving them all your money. We got this, friends. Lets raise decent, humble, generous humans, shall we? At Christmas, and always.
I don’t mean to write a political post. Honestly I am still too used up and empty to summon the right words for it. I don’t know how to string together the perfect letters to form the perfect refrain that honors both sides, exposes the pain that exists in the wake, and finds some way to cast vision for unity and peace. I want magic words and I fear that might not be possible.
All throughout the election cycle I assured myself that his supporters were fringe – his hate speech and endorsements by such hate mongering supremacist groups as the KKK surely provided enough cause for concern to reconsider him as the party nominee – right? Surely we don’t want a man leading us who has multiple accusations of sexual assault, including facing trial for raping a 13 year old girl. He summed up in one vulgar sentence why it is so scary to be a (person with disabilities, a woman, Muslim, Latino, Black, or LGBTQ+ person) today. That is not someone we want representing us.. Right?
And as I watched the numbers tally and collect all night long, I realized that I might not actually have a clue what more than half of our population wants.
I went to bed sick to my stomach. I woke up and felt like I had a horrible hangover, achy and slow and spinning. November 9th is a blur, I could barely find motivation to get through the day. I felt the weight of it all. A shift of cosmic proportions began the moment we picked him.
I feel the weight of it because I am a woman. Because I am raising one. Because I’m also raising a son, and I don’t want him to think its okay to shame, exclude, bully and make fun of people who are different.
Because I still hope to adopt our boy in Ghana some day. And because I am terrified of what his future might look like if he comes home in the next four years.
Fear is the catalyst to all of this mess.
Make no mistake – this is war we’ve been thrust into. And it isn’t other people we are fighting. It is fear masked as hate and fury. It is fear masked as control, as power, as supremacy.
The only remedy is love.
Not the trite kind. Real love. Humble love. Honest brave welcoming love. The kind that takes a deep breath, rolls up its sleeves and volunteers to be step up to the front lines of this war.
I see you, brother. I see you, sister. I see you with fear on your shoulders and I see through your hate. I’m fighting for you, really. I want you to be free. It’s better to be free. It’s better when you can let go of your agenda, stop holding onto the slithering tail of fear and let it go. I’ll be brave and stand up to the fear you throw my way, because I want you to be free.
I see you, brother. I see you, sister. I see you feeling like you are worthless. Like your skin has become a threat to your very life. I see you unsure if it’s safe to walk through your neighborhood anymore. I see you shaking as you try decide if you should forgo the hijab today. I’m fighting for you. I want you to be free. I want you to be safe. I want you to stay strong and stay away from hate. Don’t go there. Be brave and hold the line with me.
I’ve asked for book recommendations that will help me understand what it is like to see the world in a way that differs from my experiences. I want to know, because I want to find that common ground so we can walk together, arm in arm, advancing on enemy lines every day. No matter how tired and scared and wounded we get. I’ve got your back, love warrior.
*I will add another post with a list and links to the books I’m going to be reading. Please feel free to recommend more.
blink and we’ll miss it, but for these precious few weeks here in chicago we get to enjoy real true fall. the kind that makes jeans and boots and sweaters feel fun, not a total necessity and not yet buried under piles of winter coat layers. I’m still living in capsule world, and here are my top picks for the season.
1. vegan leather jacket; 2. green army jacket; 3. stripe shirt; 4. cream sweater; 5. petite gold earrings; 6. wave hair spray; 7. vegan leather skirt; 8. city bag; 9. charlie boots (similar less expensive); 10. straight leg denim; 11. ex-boyfriend shirt (similar less expensive)