Me.

Peace, she supposed, was contingent upon a certain disposition of the soul, a disposition to receive the gift that only detachment that only detachment from self made possible. – Elizabeth Goudge

Self-love, or lack thereof, has been the largest stumbling block of my life. I have constantly viewed my outside as too much and my insides as too little. If only I could shrink my physical size and grow some smarts on the inside, maybe I would like myself. Maybe you would like me too.

I need you to like me.

Please like me.

Once we’ve got that covered I’m going to need you to tell me exactly how much you like me several times a day. I’m not going to actually tell you that, I’m going to assume that you can read my mind.

Communication seems to be an on going issue as well.

Insecurity is as much of a part of my DNA as the color of my eyes. It’s been with me always, that loud voice screaming , “You will never be of any value.”

I remember as a child staring at my left arm and feeling embarrassed about the splotchy birthmark that spread out over top of my arm all the way down to my pinky finger. An older neighbor told me that it looked like a map of the world once. I wanted to cut my arm off right then and there. I didn’t want a map on my arm, I wanted a skinny arm. Thin. Long. Skinny.

I was six years old.

I remember learning about birth defects in 10th grade biology and suddenly realizing that this thing on my arm made me defective. My high school boyfriend traced the outline of it with his finger, saying he loved it. It was part of me, and he loved all of me. When he broke up with my shortly after to head to Boston for college my first thought was that he was probably the only man who would ever love me with this defective arm.

Defective and dramatic. Tragically dramatic.

Years later when I gave birth to my youngest daughter I did the same thing I did with the older two when they were born. I counted ten fingers, ten toes, and made sure I saw no birthmark. No daughter of mine would suffer the way I did. So much suffering.

For what? An arm? An arm that works perfectly well. An arm that has carried textbooks and children. An arm that hugs the people I love. What else matters?

When she was two weeks old, a red dot showed up on Lucie face. I asked asked the dr, I asked the nurse, I asked family members- Is that a birth mark?

Wait.

Is that one of those birthmarks that grows and grows and disfigures poor innocent babies all over the world?

Yup.

I watched day after day as it grew and grew. I cried at night when I was breastfeeding her, holding her hand, knowing that people would ask her, ” What’s that thing on your face?”. I imagined all the kids in school who would point fingers and laugh. I took my over dramatic personal experience with birthmarks and marked my daughter with a bleak future of isolation and insecurity.

Her birthmark stopped growing pretty fast. It was dark red and shaped just like a heart on her lower left chin. She was born on February 10th, and her sisters thought it must be shaped like a heart, because her birthday was so close to valentines day. She’s four now. Her birthmark is 99% faded, no one ever made fun of her, and when people asked what it was, it was never a big deal. She’s fine. She was fine.

I wasn’t fine. I was projecting my insecurities on a newborn. I hate that those thoughts ever crept into my mind. If her birthmark hadn’t faded, she would still be the beautiful, crazy, sweet girl that she is. Her birthmark has nothing to do with who she is or who she will become.

When I was in high school I used to spend hours on my Dell computer pretending to do homework. Instead, I was instant messaging this guy I thought was cool. He use big words. He talked about math and space. He quoted historians and famously dead musicians. He was interesting. I was boring. I would type out a message to him and before sending it, I would do spell check, use the thesaurus and double check to make sure I sounded witty enough. I signed up for dictionary.com daily emails so I could pull out a new word to spice things up if I started to sound too basic.

I’m not as smart as you. You probably think I’m dumb. Dumb and fat.

Even after treatment at fifteen for an eating disorder, even after countless appointments with therapists, all I saw was a stupid girl who still doesn’t have a thigh gap. I once dated someone who told me he liked having a little something extra to hold on to at night. I interpreted that as to mean he liked to spoon my belly rolls. Needless to say, we never snuggled again. Later in life, I spent hours on the couch of an older man talking about anything and everything. I felt understood, I felt smart, I felt appreciated and I felt worthy. I figured if this man thought I had something of worth to give to the world, I should start to feel that way too. That was all fun and dandy until he cracked a joke about me still carrying the baby weight from my last pregnancy several years before.

The hate just boiled and boiled until it became too much and the only thing I could shut it up with was a drink. Not one. Not two. No three. As the wine started to do its job, I started to feel better. I began to feel pretty and witty. I would look into the same mirror I had just been staring into crying and see a confident, beautiful, engaging woman who could do anything she wanted.

Get ready world, because here I come! Well, just wait a sec, let me finish this Pinot first.

I wanted more, more, more, more, more to feel less, less, less, and less.

Next came the tears and the blackout. The self loathing would continue to grow evry morning when I couldn’t remember what I did or said the night before. My pounding head would quickly remind me that if I pounded another drink with the sunrise, I would be able to reach that euphoric feeling of self worth, if only for a few minutes.

The same cycle over and over.

I’ve been sober for a few years. Sobriety has given me my life back. Sobriety allows me to be a present mother. Sobriety gives me a healthier perspective on how to cope with hard times. Sobriety has given me friends and love. I surround myself with other sober people and make a conscious effort to work on growth in my sobriety every day.

It’s a beautiful thing.

So, how come I still don’t feel beautiful or worthy? My entire outlook on life has changed, just like they promised it would. I have experienced happiness, tragedy, divorce, death, love and heartbreak with such a different perspective than before. I am the happiest I have ever been in my life even though some stuff really sucks some days.

When I sit down to write, I always hope that my experience may be able to help someone else. I write a lot about the positive changes I have experienced due to my sobriety. I do my best to make sure that the message I want to convey includes the miracle of sobriety.

This post is a little different. This post has been in my heart for so long, I just didn’t know how to share it. I have to be transparent and I have to be vulnerable to allow change. I know that things take time and every single moment of every single day is exactly how it should be. I know that I am not in control. I know that there’s something far larger than myself guiding me on my journey.

And yet- I still don’t know how to love myself.

I still want to apologize for being me.

Where does self love begin? How do I get there? The simple answer is prayer.

Someone out there must feel this way too. Perhaps just knowing that you’re not the only one struggling helps. By sharing this, I wanted to remove myself from the isolation in my mind that I have experienced with this.

This is me now.

I know that if I surrender, if I call myself out, if I stay honest and open- I can get through absolutely anything with a little help from a force larger than myself and the people who have always promised me that with a little work miracles do happen.

I’ve seen it in others time and time again.

I hope that I will see it in myself, with our without that mirror I stood in front of before.

A Womans Worth: A Letter to my Mama

Dear Mom,

I have been sitting on this topic for a few weeks. What worth do we as women have in this world? Do we acknowledge our worth, or do we let others diminish it?  Do we stay silent to hide our strength, because our strength is intimidating to others? A woman can’t be worthy in this world if she’s too much.

Too much or not enough.

Don’t appear too confident, too smart, too brave, too beautiful, too independent, or too successful if you really want to succeed in life and have a great husband.

0-2*Get it girl*

My dear Mama: you have raised me well. Some of the lessons I have learned from you have sat dormant in my mind for quite a while. I ran in the other direction. I made choices that kept me small. I firmly believed that a white picket fence would make me happy. It didn’t. I firmly believed that the only thing I could offer was giving birth to babies and emptying the dishwasher.

Don’t get me wrong- being a mom is the greatest honor I have ever experienced. I have the pleasure of watching these three wild, silly, strong-willed girls grow day by day and I get to be part of that. It’s amazing.

But is that the only thing I can be?

What about my dreams, my passions, my goals? It never occurred to me that I could do those things and still be the badass mom that I am today.

I let men silence me. I let society silence me. I let alcohol silence me. I let myself silence me. 

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When I think about your life Mom, I hear symphonies instead of silence. You have spent your entire life pushing yourself to be better, wiser and stronger. You worked hard for your education, your job, and your home with a grateful heart.

0-1*

I know that as you are reading this, you are going to be flooded with emotions. I mean, if we’re being honest here, you kind of always have floods of emotion! That’s good. Gotta let it out.

I know that you have spent hours replaying different memories from my life where you wish you could have done things differently or wish you had been at one thing or another. You tell me over and over how sorry you are for missing stuff. I know that your heart broke when I went into labor and you weren’t there. I know that you still carry that guilt.

Let me tell you something. If you had been around, you would have been ushered out into the waiting room as I entered the OR for that damn emergency c-section. You wouldn’t have been allowed in. You dropped a heck of a lot of money to turn around and get on the next flight back to me. Everything was such a rush. The first baby. Total beautiful chaos.

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I remember almost nothing about my c-section.

Do you know what I do remember? I remember you basically sprinting into the room several hours later. You dropped everything and made it back in record time. Maybe you don’t remember this, but by the time you arrived I was tired. More than tired. Emotionally drained and emotionally full.

 

What I’m trying to say here is that I needed a nap. I straight up just needed to sleep for a minute. You have no idea how deep the exhaustion is after birth until you’ve actually experienced it. You came in and walked right up to us. You picked up Fiona and held her to your heart. You sat down in the rocking chair and introduced yourself to her. I said something about being tired, and you told me to take a nap.

Nap.

Nap?

Moms are allowed to nap? I heard that was a myth.

0-12

You rocked that little smooshy face for almost two hours while I zoned in and out of an unusual sleep. You never sleep the same after a human being exits you. You have to be on call 24/7. I remember the wave of calm that came over me when you walked in there and I closed my eyes. I had spent the past several hours absolutely terrified when my *natural* birth plan didn’t work out. I felt guilt, as if my body had failed her. I don’t know how, but your presence helped calm those emotions.

You’re my mom. You knew I needed to sleep. Moms know everything.

Let me repeat that: Moms know everything.

You would have missed her birth if you had been one mile away or across the country. You would have had to sit and wait outside for who knows how long. I was ok. I did it. I had a baby. I needed you, but not right there at that moment. I needed you to come in like Wonder Woman, sweeping the sleeping baby out of my arms and into yours. I felt my shoulders relax. I felt my eyes getting heavy.

You were there when I needed you. I didn’t need you in the OR, I needed you right then and there in my hospital room. That’s what I remember. Not that you left, but that you came in at just the right time. 

We joke around a lot calling you a *workaholic*. You work. You work really hard. It’s easy for me to sit here on this couch and say you do too much. But I wouldn’t have the damn couch if you hadn’t worked so hard to make sure that we all have always had everything we’ve needed.  You work your ass off even when it seems impossible.

0-9

Being a mom is much like walking on a tightrope. It’s hard and almost impossible. People constantly ask, “How do you do it?” And the answer is simple: the love that we have for our children gives us no other choice. If we have to move a mountain, we will move a mountain. Moms are incredible.

0-5

The past year I have heard you say a lot of things about divorce. Your own and mine. At times you seem to believe that if you raised me differently, that perhaps my marriage wouldn’t have ended. You also seem to believe that you have some kind of control over this situation.

Let me tell you right now-You, your life, your family, your everything…not one single part of your past makes you responsible for what I’m going through, or what my kids are going through.

This isn’t your fault. 

You have brought me back from the ledge of the bridge too many times this past year. You have picked up every phone call. You’ve read every text. You’ve let me go on and on about superficial things while you are mourning the loss of your father. You put me first.

A few months back my marriage ended. I didn’t know what to do, who to turn to, how to make it through one more hour of the misery I was consumed with. A few days later you flew out. Dropped everything, got on a plane, and came out to give me a break. My house was flooded with sewage water. It smelled like a porta potty. You took care of everything. EVERYTHING. You changed your flight home, because you knew I needed more time with you.

You put your own exhaustion aside and sat by me when I needed you the most.

We lost Grampie. You lost your Dad. You had to be the one to call me that morning. Your voice didn’t even tremble. You knew you had to be strong for me in that moment.

I hope I can be strong for you too someday. 

Even when circumstances have been less than ideal, you still do what you need to do for us. You don’t give up. You push. You push into the right direction as much as you can.

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I have spent my entire life watching you soar. You aren’t just a mom. You aren’t just a successful business woman. You aren’t just a loving and kind Grammie. You aren’t just the shoulder your daughters cry on. You aren’t just the mom who has pulled her daughter out of financial and emotional ruin. You aren’t just a devoted daughter. You aren’t just a beloved sibling, leader of the pack. You aren’t just a woman who has a deep love of twizzlers and diet pepsi. You aren’t just the mom who has sacrificed sanity to drive across the country with my three screaming kids in the back. You aren’t just the big promotion. You aren’t just the woman who has helped your daughter stay sober. You aren’t just the woman with a new car or a new house. You aren’t just a hallmark movie watching junkie.

You are Susan. 

You don’t have to be anyone or anything else, just being who you are makes your worth in this world and in my heart immeasurable.

You are enough. You are worthy. You are loved.

 

Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.

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