To my Son, Who Loves Me

April 17, 2019

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Today it’s been 11 years (note the date)

I know you love me, even when you say you don’t. I know you love me, even when you don’t say it. How could you not love me?? I love you more than anyone in the world and have given you my whole heart. I know you love me because I see evidence of your love for me every day. I don’t need constant expression of how and why and how much you love me because I can see it clearly.

We had only been a family for a few months, but had already been through a lot together. One night you were playing a game and asked me if you could play for another half hour before you went to bed. I told you, “Sure, no problem!” and you stopped playing and stared at me. I guess you had expected me to say no. Because you leaned over and patted me on the head and said, very sincerely, “You’re a good mom.”  Those words (and that head pat) meant more to me than 1,000 I love you‘s.

Every time you have vacuumed the couch or cleaned the bathroom or washed the dog or done the laundry I have felt your love. Every time a neighbor comes up to me and tells me how kind you were to carry their groceries or open the door for them I feel your love. When you serve you are speaking my love language; there is nothing that expresses love to me as powerfully as that.

Or when you started brushing my hair. I have tried to create rituals around bedtime because you always had such a hard time sleeping. We would read or talk or I would rub your hands and feet or scratch your head. Then one day I handed you a brush and asked you to brush my hair while we had our nighttime talk. And you didn’t miss a beat. You got to work and took it very seriously. “Does it feel better when I brush all the way to the ends? Or when I use a lighter touch?” You wanted to get it right because you knew how relaxing it is to have a bedtime ritual. And because you love me.

Lately, God has taken me on the craziest ride through love and heartbreak. I’ve mostly kept you out of it–I know it makes you scared to imagine someone else loving me that way. So when I’ve been elated I’ve tried to keep it cool around you. And when I’ve been hurt I’ve done my best to stay happy and faithful and not bring my pain into our home. But I know you saw it. And felt it. And when, after having been absolutely decimated by heartbreak, I decided to put myself back out there and open my heart to love again, I first asked your permission. I really didn’t want to do it if you couldn’t handle it because I knew it had been hard on you. But you looked me in the eye and said, “Mom, I just want you to be happy.” That was one of the most loving things I have ever been told. Someday, maybe I will find that type of happiness and we can share its benefits together.

And last night when my car broke down and I had to wait in the cold for an hour to get it towed to my mechanic which then meant I had to walk a mile home in heels, up a hill, with allergy snot running down my face and menstrual cramps searing through my body…you literally tucked me into bed, placing my favorite blanket over me to calm my shivering. And when you kissed me on the forehead I could feel your man-whiskers scratching my skin as I heard you say, “I love you, Mom.”

I have always heard you.

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Clone Me

April 9, 2019

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Not Purple

A beloved minister and friend used to describe this thing that happens in parenting. He called it The Sweet Spot. There are these moments, usually unexpected, when your child just really needs you. When they are totally open to you helping them and loving them and teaching them. They often happen when you’re busy or in a rush or have somewhere else to be, but he warned parents to recognize these times and whenever they happened, to drop everything to be there and experience these rare moments with your child.

My Sweet Spots with Rahul have often been when we are driving somewhere or walking together. He’ll just drop an amazing question on me or share something so vulnerable or big-hearted. Rahul is a very self-reliant kid, but sometimes we’ll have a Sweet Spot when he has experienced something upsetting and he needs comfort. When he got into a fight in school in 5th Grade he came home and talked about it with me, then just snuggled right into my arms and cried. Some kids do that all the time, but I can count on one hand the number of times he has done that in our 11 years together. All any parent wants to do when their child is hurting or when they’re celebrating is be there for them. To be present and be whatever their child needs in that moment.

Two weeks ago we learned that Rahul’s dream college would be releasing their admissions decisions on Thursday evening at 7pm. Applying to this school was an act of faith on Rahul’s part and in the process of wishing he would be accepted there he learned to hope for it. He hadn’t hoped for something in a long time, and although he knew it was a reach, he proudly shared with anyone who asked him that this school was his first choice.

I absolutely wanted to be there with Rahul when he received this news, because I knew no matter which way it went it would be a huge moment in his life. We had been through the whole college admissions process together and I was hoping too. I had been regularly going to the campus of this school to walk around it and pray about God making it clear where Rahul would thrive at college. And as that Thursday night loomed closer I knew I needed to be with Rahul when he logged into that portal to see the news. I knew it would be a Sweet Spot and I scheduled my whole work day around being home before 7pm.

I have a mobile hairdressing business and that day my work took me all over the city. I was already running behind schedule by the middle of the day, when my appointment was with a client who wanted purple hair. The process of making one’s hair purple is a long, but fairly simple process. First you need to make the hair blonde by bleaching it. Then you apply the purple (or other rainbow unicorn color) to the blonde hair. This client had dark brown hair, so I had scheduled a couple of hours with her to allow time for her dark hair to lighten enough. But when I applied the bleach to her hair something really strange started happening. Part of her hair turned Jolly Green Giant Green. It turns out she had some old hair color in her hair and there are a whole bunch of reasons why it happened and there are one or two solutions I know of to remove this type of color from the hair, but the point is, this was totally unexpected and I had none of those MacGuyver quick fixes with me. So there I was staring at her Four Leaf Clover Green hair while time was ticking away and Rahul’s Sweet Spot was getting closer. I longed for a Renée clone. I didn’t want to leave my client sitting here with Spinach Green hair, but I couldn’t see a way to get home by 7pm. So I texted Rahul and asked him to wait for me to get home before logging on. I had actually set up the login passcode myself, and I laughed as I told him I wasn’t sharing it with him so I could guarantee that I’d be with him for this big moment! Eventually my client and I found a solution (we put blue on top of the Peacock Green, creating a dark teal color that is quite lovely) but by the time I left I was hours behind schedule. I still had one more client to see that night and although I tried to get her to reschedule, she really needed me. And even though everything in me wanted to ditch her and race home to my kid and his big news, I couldn’t abandon her. I couldn’t not do my job. And as time was ticking by I felt like I was in a nightmare where you’re running but not going anywhere. There was no parking in her neighborhood because there was a film shoot going on. (I parked in front of a fire hydrant and prayed my car wouldn’t get towed.) Then, the moment I stepped into her apartment she ran out of it because the heat wasn’t working and she had to go tell the super. So I stood there waiting for her while 7pm came and went. She finally sat down for me to apply her hair color when a neighbor called her asking her to let a city inspector into his apartment next door. (He didn’t have heat either…) When the city inspector arrived I was literally painting haircolor on her hair while she was talking to him. She left to attend to him while her hair color processed and I sat in her apartment as her smoke alarm went off because of the potatoes she was cooking. At this point I would have given anything to have a clone. To be two places at once. To not be a single parent, having to earn all the money to provide for my family, but also be the sole nurturer and caregiver. While the alarm rang over my head I sat down and put my hands over my ears and just stared up at God incredulously. I. Need. A. Clone. Right. Now.

It was 8pm when I walked in the door. “Are you ready????!!!!” I asked Rahul excitedly. “Oh. I already logged on,” he said, as non-chalantly as possible. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. “I changed the login password and I already looked at it.” All the blood drained from my face as I realized he was serious. I had missed the moment. I hadn’t been here. He didn’t want to wait for me. I never hated the color green as much as I did in that moment. Cloning humans is not possible yet and therefore people like me–single parents, overworked business owners, busy New Yorkers–can’t be two places at once. So we miss things. We miss dance recitals or we have to turn down big clients or we are staring at Oscar The Grouch Green hair while our son learns he was not accepted to the college of his dreams. When he was so overcome with disappointment and had to experience it alone while you are parking your car in front of a fire hydrant and praying that the drug dealers on the corner will scare away the traffic cops for an hour so you don’t get a $125 ticket. When his heart broke while you were a few miles away stopping your ears and praying for a clone.

I looked at the letter he received and was filled with sadness. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. The night before I had told Rahul that no matter what news we heard he needed to know that he is a very special student. His mind is incredible and his resilience is unbelievable. And if a school doesn’t value those things over all else, it’s not the right school for him. So after 20 minutes of feeling sad, I was totally fine. I knew that God had a better situation for him, where he would truly thrive, and I haven’t felt badly about it since. And a few hours later, we had our Sweet Spot. Rahul knocked on my door and wanted to talk. We sat together while he told me how disappointed he was, but how proud he was of himself for hoping for something. I jumped on his bed when I realized that this decision meant he would be living at home with me for a few more years (the dream college is the only one he applied to where he would need to live on campus). We talked for hours and prayed and I accepted that maybe all the events of the day had played out exactly as they needed to. I couldn’t be in two places at once, but in the end I was right where he needed me to be.

 

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Oceans

March 28, 2019

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Sur la plage

Lately I feel swept away. Like I can’t find my footing and the current is pulling me all over the ocean. Like my throat keeps filling with water and I can’t quite breathe. I know God has hold of me and He won’t let me drown, that He’s spreading Himself out beneath me like a net, like a floor, like a foundation. I feel Him urging me deeper into Him. Urging me to dig down with my hands until my knuckles bleed, to stretch my toes all the way down into Him until I find true footing. Until I grip the bottom and the waves can threaten and shake me, but they won’t sweep me away.

I didn’t grow up with an open heart. I was a fearful child who became a hardened young women with a tight wall around my heart. It wasn’t until I was about to adopt my son that my heart truly opened. God had been working on me for years, chipping away at the death grip I had around my emotions, my vulnerabilities. As I prepared to become a mother all the walls just broke away and I was reborn with a soft heart. Raising Rahul was harrowing, and God kept me strong and tough skinned. But the new, soft heart He created within me was a wonder to me. I couldn’t believe all that I was feeling. I couldn’t believe how much I loved this child. I felt like I was truly living life for the first time.

And I loved mothering so much that I began to open my arms and my heart to other people around me. I cultivated a beautiful group of friends and have learned over and over again how to open my heart to the people God has put in my life. As a hairdresser I have the opportunity to connect with people on a deeply personal level, and I truly love my clients. I love learning about them and listening to their stories, their experiences. I love that they trust me and listen to my stories, too.

But one of the consequences of living life with an open heart is that it gets broken over and over again. I never want to go back to living with closed-off emotions, but sometimes the heartbreak is overwhelming. And lately it feels like wave after wave of pain. Oceans of pain. As I hold on to people I love while they are drowning in depression I feel myself being pulled under, too. As I hear them pour out their hearts in grief and remorse, I feel those waves knocking me around. As I give my heart to people who don’t want it, I feel myself sinking deep below the surface. Oceans of unrequited love, behind and afore, overwhelm and horrify me. Waves of humiliation break over me as I give my heart where it’s not wanted. I’m stretching myself as wide as I can, reaching out my arms, but they can’t steady me.

So I am trying to dig down. I’m searching for footing. Stretching vertically, not just horizontally. I’m pressing my toes down to the mud and reaching my eyes up to the heavens. A favorite song rings through my soul. I will call upon Your Name, and keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise…Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. Going deeper is finding surrender. Digging deeper is something I can DO. It is not passive. Deeper is safer. Deeper is grounded. Deeper is less me, more God. Going deeper allows me to stretch my arms out as far as I want to without toppling over. And God is there in the deep, calling out to me. “Deep calls to deep, in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Psalm 42:7

You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery.

In oceans deep my faith will stand.

 

(Here’s the song. Oceans by Hillsong UNITED)

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Usually when I meet a new client they will share a few things about themselves. Maybe they’ll tell me about their favorite haircut, their profession, their children…When I met Mary Ellen the first time she opened her eyes very wide, put her hand on her hip and said, very matter-of-factly, “I’m really into haiku, bookbinding and falconry!” My response was like, “Well! …OK! …Thanks for letting me know!” I could see right away that she was a passionate, creative, curious person, and I immediately wanted to know more about all of those hobbies. And her. What I didn’t envision was just how much this strange woman would weave her way into my life.

She was nearly 80 years old when I met her. And the best way I can describe her is tempestuous. She was a whirlwind and had boundless energy and passion. She would turn on you with no notice, then be singing your praises the next. Sometimes she would greet me at the door (I’m a mobile hairdresser) with a mouthful of vitriol about the doorman or her doctor or her neighbor; and sometimes she would fall into my arms in tears because she was frustrated and tired. She expected a lot from the people in her life, but she was also very grateful for her friends and loved ones.

I’m a person who is very comfortable saying “no” to people. I have a very intense life and I need to create boundaries around certain parts of myself, especially my work. I have hundreds of clients and I travel to several of them each day, usually at least 6 days per week. I don’t have time to dawdle between appointments, so as much as my clients sometimes want to visit with me or feed me or tell me their stories, I’m usually not able to fit that into my day. I love my clients and I really do enjoy spending time with them, but when their hair is finished, mama needs to be on her way! But somehow Mary Ellen pulled me into her life and I found myself scheduling time after her hair appointments to visit with her. Her stories are some of the most amazing I have ever heard. She lived a fascinating life and we found a lot of similarities between us. We both have had to hustle a lot to raise our kids and we both have given 100% to everything we put our hands to in life.

One day I got a call from her telling me she had broken her hip and was in a rehabilitation hospital and asking me (telling me) to come see her. Of course I came right away and somehow I soon found myself overseeing her bathroom renovation (she needed a walk-in shower). So much for my boundaries! Soon after her hip started mending she discovered she had cancer. And she knew that was going to be the thing that took her down, as it had to almost everyone else in her family. She was resolved to make the most of her remaining days and I found myself helping her hire a companion to take her to her second home up in Canada one more time. And once she got back from that trip she declined fairly rapidly. I was no longer doing her hair anymore, but I would go see her every few days, just to hang out and talk and help her with whatever I could around the house.

One day I arrived to see her, not knowing if I would be permitted in. She was at the very end and I assumed only family would be with her. But I was invited in and told she had just gone to bed and was pretty sedated on pain killers at the moment. When I went into her bedroom, there she was sitting on the edge of her bed. She turned and saw me with glassy eyes and a slow smile crept over her face. “You came!” she said. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I helped her lie down and cover up for her nap. I lay my hand on her shoulder as she drifted off to sleep and felt an enormous wave of gratitude wash over me. What a gift to have known this woman. And what a gift to have a brief, lucid moment with her at the end. She passed on a few days later.

That was over a year ago, and tonight I got to share about her and lead a prayer at her memorial service. Her family generously invited people from all the areas of her life to celebrate her and share about her. Mary Ellen had a lot of special items, decorative or useful in her home, and her sons brought many of them to the service for guests to choose from so each of us could have something to remember her by. She had given me a special gift from her collection before she passed, so I didn’t have in mind to take anything. But then I saw something that reminded me of the first thing she ever said to me about her unique hobbies. And I took a book she had bound. I plan to fill it with prayers and drawings and the contents of my own tempestuous, passionate heart.

 

To read and experience Mary Ellen’s amazing stories, check out her unique memoir:

https://www.flywaystories.com/stories

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Imagine Dragons

February 25, 2019

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Rahul and I, imagining.

When my son was 7 1/2 years old he was unable to imagine anything. He didn’t understand what people meant when they asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He didn’t play games with imaginary friends or made-up worlds. His world was extremely literal. He had known more loss that any human should have to know and had already lived 1,000 years of sorrow by the time I met him.

I remember the first time I heard him imagine something. We were driving in my Jeep, listening to music and he requested that I repeat a Sarah McLachlan Christmas song over and over. The music, he said, made him imagine. He had conjured up a scenario where he was riding a dragon through space, free and powerful. I loved hearing his fantasy and played the song over and over to let his little mind open up.

Dragons became a common theme in his imaginary worlds. After his bff Justin and he saw How to Train Your Dragon, I remember Justin and Rahul conjuring up an imaginary playmate in Toothless, the dragon in the movie. I remember feeling so grateful for Justin one afternoon when the two of them were battling the monsters of Riverdale with Toothless at their side, something I don’t think Rahul could ever have conjured up on his own.

One evening, Rahul created a “luxury experience” for me in his loft bed. He mounted a small video screen on his ceiling with duct tape, brought all his stuffed animals up to his bed and invited me to squeeze up there to watch whatever movie I wanted and while he fed me and snuggled with me. I chose Monsoon Wedding and we watched a few minutes of it before he grew bored and switched gears. He turned it off and then he turned off most of the lights. As we lay in the dark, he told me we were going to imagine together. He created a scenario where we each had dragons and we got to assign them super powers and we listened to music as we imagined them fly us into outer space. Tears rolled down the sides of my face as I lay there with him imagining our dragons and understanding that he was healing. He was expanding and evolving. The freedom he loved to imagine with his dragon was the freedom he was beginning to feel in his life.

My little boy is 18 now. He knows exactly what he wants to be when he grows up and is well on his way to achieving it. This weekend the third and final installment of the How to Train Your Dragon movies came out and we were there in the same theater where we had seen the first and second ones on the first night it came out. Even though he is practically a grown man, he still loves his dragons. His favorite video games are ones where he can ride imaginary creatures and fly. And he has learned to fly for real! He is on his way to getting his pilot’s license and regularly gets to fly a real dragon (in the form of a Cessna) through the sky.

When we were on our way to the movie the other night I reminded him how dragons had taught him to imagine. And I remembered another special time we shared when he was younger. We travelled to South Dakota to dig for dinosaur bones, and after we found them we camped in the Badlands. One night the winds were blowing our tent sideways and rain was starting to fall and we had to abandon our usual post outside the entrance to our tent playing monopoly and hunker down inside the tent for the night. I was struggling to come up with something for us to do in there together when Rahul’s eyes lit up and he pulled out his Kindle. He had downloaded How to Train Your Dragon and we snuggled up in our sleeping bags for the rest of the night watching one of his favorite movies. Everything about that night felt so perfect to me. The winds were howling all around us, and all we had was a flimsy tent to protect us from the elements. But we were so content together, hundreds of miles from home, huddled around a small screen, imagining dragons.

 

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Healing

December 14, 2018

When I woke up one morning 7 years ago, I knew something was wrong. My neck ached, but in a different way than I had ever felt before. By the time I stepped out of the shower, my pain was gone, but the next morning it returned. Each day it stayed a little longer and strangely, it moved around my body. One day my neck would ache, the next day it was my left knee. Then the next day the bottom of my foot, followed my my right shoulder blade. I have a very high pain tolerance, so it didn’t slow me down at all, but it was beginning to worry me. After a few weeks the pain was widespread and never dulled. I would wake up in the middle of the night because both my arms were inflamed with pain. I would feel vomit rise to my throat as I worked, the pain washing over me in waves that made me nauseous and breathless. I thought about my life: I’m a single mom who only sleeps a few hours a night as it is. Losing any of that sleep could break me. And I’m a hairdresser. Without the use of my hands I can’t make a living. I worried that the extreme stress of raising my special needs son on my own had created a crisis in my body that I wouldn’t be able to outrun.

I went to see my doctor, an amazing woman who really listens to me. She tested me for all the suspected culprits of this type of pain, but found nothing. She continued to think about my case and would check in with me every few days, letting me know she hadn’t given up on me and was committed to figuring out what was wrong. One day after driving for a few hours I looked down at my ankles and they were swollen to twice their size. I stopped by my doctor’s office and drew her a picture of what my ankles looked like and the next day she called me with her diagnosis. After looking at my picture she had me tested for sarcoidosis and the test was positive. It’s an auto-immune disease that can be deadly, but can also go away in a short time. I went to 3 or 4 rheumatologists in the next year to seek treatment, with varied results. One told me I was perfectly healthy. “Good news!” she said. “I’ve tested you for several things and there’s nothing wrong with you!” Another sent me away with a prescription for steroids, which did wonders for my pain and enabled me to keep working and sleep through the night. And one walked with me through the illness, teaching me how to step down slowly off the steroids, advising me that one auto-immune disease can easily morph into another. (He was sure I was developing Lupus).

After several years I had still not been able to ween myself from the steroids and I was gaining a lot of weight. My face had the tell-tale moon shape that prednisone gives you and my body was lumpy and swollen. I still had pain–enough that exercise was excruciating–but could manage to sleep and work. I felt like I was always bracing myself. I was afraid to turn my head too fast or run or put too much weight on my ankles or wrists. I felt fragile and puffy and tentative.

Two years ago I lost my health insurance for good and at the same time I began to notice the tell-tale butterfly rash on my face that indicates Lupus. I started getting sores around my hairline and on my wrists and when I Googled them, I saw they were also symptoms of Lupus. I knew I had to do something about my health and I decided to reach out to a client of mine who is an acupuncturist. I have known him and his family for many years and I trusted his expertise. We decided to barter acupuncture treatment for haircuts and I resolved that even though I knew very little about Chinese medicine, I would do whatever he advised me and I would trust him.

I faithfully followed his dietary suggestions and saw him every few weeks for 3 months and I noticed that I was beginning to really feel better. I felt like energy was moving through my body again, I wasn’t always bracing for injury. My daily pain level had been cut in half. We decided I would try again to slowly step down off my steroids, and in another 3 months I was feeling even better. My acupuncture treatments were really painful and I had no idea what he was talking about when he described the energy channels and yin and yang and all the other Chinese medicine stuff he tried so carefully to explain to me. I really didn’t care. It seemed to be working, so I was like, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do! And if you need to twist that hot needle around in my leg until I scream in pain, carry on!  As long as I keep feeling better, do whatever you need to do!

Then last December, a year ago, he suggested that I try intermittent fasting. I had no idea that it would do me any good, but he advised me to drink only water or plain tea all day, except for 3 hours in the afternoon, when I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. For 3 days. I hated it, but I did it. And for the first two days I felt horrible. Then halfway through the third day I began to feel better than I had in years! It was amazing. It really felt like my body was healing itself, becoming whole again. Energy was flowing through me and I felt very alive. I began to make it a regular practice to fast intermittently several days a week, and I was quickly able to completely stop taking prednisone. I dropped dozens of pounds and began to practice yoga again. I would stare at myself in the mirror in yoga class and couldn’t believe that I could bend and stretch and stand on one foot–all my weight on one ankle–with no pain. My body got stronger and leaner. By the summer I added running to my routine, something I hadn’t been able to do in years.

When people noticed my weight loss, they would ask me my secret. Was I dieting? Oh, I was fasting? Maybe they should try that, too! Acupuncture? Did that help you lose weight? I had no idea. I really could care less about my weight. How could I explain the gratitude and the relief I felt at not being in pain all the time? At not constantly worrying that I would only get worse and worse, compounding illnesses until my body wore away? I have no idea how to help anyone lose weight. I have no idea how to explain why acupuncture and fasting have worked for me. I don’t know how to help anyone heal. I don’t understand why it worked for me. But I do know one thing: I have never been so grateful for this amazing, energy-filled, yoga-praciticing, regenerating, shrinking body of mine! I don’t know why I healed, but I know that I did. And I am beyond grateful for what I consider a second chance at life. I feel blessed and I feel lucky.

If you ask me to explain sarcoidosis or fasting or acupuncture I can’t. If you ask me why I healed when so many others only fade away, I definitely can’t. I know it’s not because I am more faithful or more good or more blessed that I have found healing and renewal. It’s not because I found the best acupuncturist in the world or because fasting is a cure-all. I can’t explain what has happened to me, I can only tell you how I feel. When I work a 14-hour day and have no pain in my hands or cramping in my feet or swelling in my ankles if feels amazing! When I practice yoga and watch my body bend and stretch and strengthen I can barely contain my surprise and awe! As I run around my neighborhood in the middle of the night or through the woods in the middle of the day I literally hold my hands up in the air in praise to God because I can’t believe how alive I feel. I appreciate my health every day. I do everything I can think of to maintain it and celebrate it. As I pray for my friends who have lost their loved ones to terrible disease and for my friends who’s bodies are wasting away from illness, I also thank God for the gift of health.

I didn’t earn it and don’t deserve it, but I will appreciate it every single pain-free, healthy day.

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Me and George Bailey

November 29, 2018

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

George Bailey is my hero. He is my favorite fictional character (followed by Jean Valjean and Lorelei Gilmore). Every time I watch It’s a Wonderful Life I discover a new part of his story that resonates with mine.

When I created this blog, many years ago, I had just adopted my son and I was looking for some medium where I could tell my story. I was learning so much and I wanted to share my experiences and reach out for support at the same time. When I was trying to encapsulate what the theme of my life was, I kept thinking of George Bailey. The journey I had taken to motherhood was not what I planned at all. I had a completely different life envisioned for myself! But God determined my steps and gave me things I didn’t even know I wanted or needed. I was full of gratitude for my unexpectedly wonderful life!

George Bailey is a man who knows what he wants from a young age: he wants to travel and explore and see all the things he reads about in magazines. But each time he is about to set off on a journey, a crisis occurs that presents him with a choice. Each time he can either choose to follow his heart and go traveling or he can stay home and take care of his family and his community in some way. He always chooses the unselfish path, but he pays the price by becoming bitter. When he finally becomes so discouraged that he wants to die–when he sees no other way out than to kill himself–an angel intervenes and shows him the magnitude of all the difficult choices he made in his life. He gets to see what the world would be like if he had never existed. And it’s pretty bleak. It turns out that even though he felt like his life was small, he had an enormous impact on his community. Seeing this helps him to be grateful for the life he has and stop yearning for the one he thought he wanted. He understands that he has lived exactly the life that God wanted him to live, and it’s actually been pretty wonderful.

I knew from the time I was very young that I wanted to leave my hometown, move to NYC and become a Broadway actress. I had a clear path to those goals and no one ever stood in my way. I moved to NYC when I was 17 to go to NYU and found a lot of success in the musical theater department. My senior year I held the lead role in both the school opera and the musical and by the time I graduated I had sung for top casting directors in the city and had an agent who was submitting me for Broadway productions. I started getting job offers in theater, and I began to be overwhelmed by the choices I was being asked to make. Each job took me away from home for months and over the years I turned down work because the jobs were too small to warrant leaving home, or they didn’t pay enough. Twice I turned down good jobs to stay in NYC and be the Maid of Honor at friends’ weddings. I didn’t know how to choose work over friends or responsibilities and after a few years I had turned down more jobs than I had accepted. Eventually, the job offers dwindled and I pursued a different career altogether. God opened the door so wide to my hairdressing career that I ran through it and have never looked back. I have found success and happiness and every corner of the business. I had never seriously considered doing any other kind of work than performing and was so surprised and grateful to love my work and have success come so easily to me.

I had always intended to get married. My parents got married when they were 22 years old and that seemed like a good plan to me. I did have a serious boyfriend at that age, but at just the time when we would probably have begun thinking about getting married he went through a very difficult crisis and I saw clearly that I needed to give him space. I couldn’t explain to him why I was breaking up with him, but I was 100% sure it was what I was supposed to do, not for my sake, but for his. And he did recover and flourish. And move on without me. The same thing happened again and again with other men until I began to realize that maybe I was supposed to be single. I didn’t stop dating, but I did start to really appreciate all the awesome things about being single. I had intended to marry, but I loved my independence more than I loved any of those men. (To be honest, there has been one man I really wanted to marry. But that’s a whole other story…) Looking back on my life now I can see that God knew exactly what would be make me really happy and fulfilled. He created me and He knew how much I would love adopting and raising a child on my own, owning my own home, owning and running my own business. I have had a really wonderful life and I’m grateful that God wrote a special story just for me. I know He is still writing my story and believe me, He constantly surprises me.

Becoming a mother was never a dream of mine. Until it was. And then I adopted Rahul! And being his mom has been the most unexpected, wonderful blessing of my life. Who knew I would love mothering so much? I dream of adopting 10 more children and who knows? Maybe God has that in store for me as well.

Some people may watch It’s a Wonderful Life and wonder why someone would make the choices George Bailey did. It might seem like he chose his own failures by not following his dreams. He always had them in his reach, but he constantly makes decisions that he knows are the right thing to do, but probably couldn’t explain them to other people. I know what it’s like to be a disappointment to people who shared your big dreams. I know what’s it’s like to be so boxed in and lost that you want to give up your life. But I also know what it’s like to find contentment by following unexpected paths and to be fueled my a greater gratitude than you even knew existed.

Basically, I’ve given up trying to write my own story. God has such better ones written for me! I’ll just document what I learn along the way, through this wonderful, George Bailey life.

 

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