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Archive for November, 2016

Be who you needed when you were younger

Sometimes when I sit down to write there’s a heaviness sitting in my soul before I even get the first word onto the screen.

It’s not necessarily always a dark thing, sometimes it’s just this present feeling that I’m about to explore a place I’m so familiar with but I haven’t yet truly visited. And that can have unexpected outcomes so I delay it sometimes but I can’t shake the feeling until I explore it so, here I am.

I read a quote, years ago maybe, that comes in and out of my mind every so often. I see it shared on someone else’s page and kind of tilt my head and inwardly think “oh yeah, that. I need to explore why that always stops me in my tracks.”

It’s beautiful and haunting and a bit perplexing all at the same time.

 

“Be who you needed when you were younger”

 

Every time I have come across it I wonder why it reaches out to me in such a way, because when I was younger I had everyone I needed. On the surface I did at least.

I had and have loving parents. Parents who held me when I was sick, corrected me when I was wrong, clothed me and fed me, let me explore my own interests even if they didn’t align with what the typical kid was doing. I grew up in a loving home.

I had siblings that didn’t beat me up. They helped me clean my room, or let me give them a makeover, or invited me to play with their friends when I was left out of my peer group.

I had friends in various seasons of life that meant different and important things. Some that I laughed with, some that I cried with. Some that stuck around for the hard things, some that pushed me into the hard places and I learned from that just as much.

I think I feel a little guilty when I linger on this quote because it feels selfish to say I needed more.

But, then that’s where I kind of settle in on why this quote resonates. If I could reach out to younger Alyssa, I think I would be the person who tells her that sometimes you’ll experience things in life that are very familiar to you but unfamiliar to those closest to you. And that’s okay. And you don’t need to feel strange for feeling out of place, and you don’t need to hold it against those closest to you for not understanding the way you are or the way things affect you.

You can grow up in a loving, attentive environment inside of the walls of the places most familiar to you but the external world still exists beyond that and that impacts everyone differently.

When I was five I had an extended relative of mine tell me to “stop smiling so weirdly” and just be normal for a picture. It’s the first memory I have of not seeming good enough, feeling less than in my appearance, because – I was just smiling the way I knew how. It’s the same way I see my mini twin son smile in pictures today. Squinty eyes, crooked grin, full of silliness. Not a glamour shot, perfect photo op type of way. It’s the first time I felt let down by family that I remember.

When I was in middle school, a Sunday school teacher of mine casually asked if I’d mention my weight to a group of girls in my class because a few of them were struggling to feel confident in theirs and she just “knew (I) weighed more than they thought” so it might help them to not obsess about their number on the scale. When I was 13 I looked like I was 18 and a lot of adults spoke to me as if I was some adult when I was just a vulnerable adolescent just like everyone else. That conversation is the first time I remember being let down by the church.

There was a guy one time in high school that condescendingly told me I was so much prettier when I smiled and I needed to smile more often. I spent the rest of my time in school every time I saw him with a passive aggressive smirk instead of a smile. At the time I felt so violated by his words. Who was he to try and guide me to be a certain way when I wasn’t that way?

In all of these situations and countless others from growing up I think about the type of person I needed when I had a handful of good options anyway, why – as a grown adult reflecting on this – did they not seem like enough?

I think who I needed when I was younger was just the older version of me.

It seems too simple, or maybe too complex.

Either way, it isn’t something I have figured out yet but it’s something that’s caught my attention, for now, until I’m ready to make peace with it and tuck it away.

I needed to age into a woman who still struggles but who also overcomes, and learn the beauty of self-acceptance. It’s a continual acceptance, by the way. Or at least for me it is. I don’t think you reach a point in adulthood where you’re all the sudden just fine with everything and everyone, you sometimes daily, sometimes monthly, sometimes yearly have to choose that you love yourself enough to be okay with who you are even if you feel misrepresented or misunderstood.

I’m careful about the way I treat those younger than me because I know what it is to be treated a certain way. I know I wouldn’t be as mindful of that were it not for the various things I experienced in life.

I needed to experience all of those things to shape me into who I am today.

I’m someone comfortable with posting a selfie some days because I feel cute and it feels good to accept myself on that day. For someone that used to hide behind sarcasm and quick wit, it’s nice to feel fine enough to show my face, too.

I’m someone who doesn’t weigh myself often because the scale doesn’t let me know if I feel confident and if I feel healthy. Instead I eat healthy some and I indulge some. I take walks with the kids to clear my mind, and I run or workout in my living room for my physical heart. I don’t look at clothes and obsess over a size but contemplate whether I feel confident in the outfit, do I like the clothes or do I want them because they are “acceptable fashion” to society right now?

I’m someone who smiles but who also is comfortable crying and showing emotion, because I don’t owe anyone a happy face just because it might look good on me. I’m attentive to my emotional needs so that I can be mentally well to take care of my sweet children and love on others well, too.

 

“Be who you needed when you were younger.”

 

I think I am learning to be that, every day.

I think if little Alyssa saw me, she would dig that I still very much carry a lot of her with me: cooking up various concoctions, appreciating art and words, rocking out to unpopular music, wearing a sweatshirt from ten years ago, and feeling confident enough to rock red lipstick sometimes.

I had a lot of people on my side when I was younger, it did make the difficult times easier, but I’m learning to have myself on my side now, too. And it feels good.

Whoever you needed when you were younger, be that for yourself, now.

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wilderness

I’m forever searching for inspiration. I find it in thought provoking quotes, stupid memes, intellectual conversations, TED talks, things my kids say, stuff society does. Whatever.

 

I’m always considering things around me. I love to take ideas and concepts and perspectives and figure them out from the inside out.

 

I’m trying more recently to consider myself, though, as a source of inspiration.

 

It’s hard for me to turn inward and look for inspiration but sometimes I’m like “hey you’re good enough to inspire someone, even your own self.”

 

It’s sometimes a weird thing to feel as intensely as I do. I get the idea that most people care about things on a gradual scale from caring not at all and caring a lot. My scale seems to have the same two sides I just mentioned but with no gradual climb or decent. It’s like a light switch, it’s either on or off. That’s what brings me to writing most often, I can’t turn the switch off of a certain topic or idea or feeling.

 

It makes me feel a little bit immature that I can’t get over things or process things like others, but it also makes me feel empowered sometimes that I’ve got this ability to stay with something (like considering depression and how we view it and how I’ve experienced it) and not abandon it just because it’s awkward or hard to talk about.

 

I say that as honestly as I know how but it still makes me feel like I’m exposing some scandalous truth about myself. “Hi, I’m Alyssa and I am weird.”

 

I’m at home in my weirdness mostly, but it was just a decade or so ago (and then again several times over the years…peaks and valleys, you know) where I wasn’t and I think about that younger girl and the type of person she needed in her life and so in some ways I’ve already been inspiring myself all along. I learned to write because I needed something to read.

 

I’m sure there are those of you that are thinkers and feelers, if you are one then you know it feels like a lonely boat to sail sometimes.

 

I’ve always been a loner, and not in a negative way. Or at least I don’t see it as negative like I used to.

 

I can spill five thousand words onto a page in a day but I struggle to say three sentences out loud.

 

Small talk is painful to me and I usually avoid it at all cost.

 

I struggle with eye contact, I’m 28 years old – usually people figure this out by like age 7 or something. I don’t really know how to talk about the weather unless we’re going to write a poem about it, I’m not really sure how to carry on a conversation about what’s on sale at the grocery store this week but it feels like a work of art to cook a meal for you and given a pen and paper or screen and some spare time I could explain the ingredients going into the dish in a way that would make you love a dish you hate and hate a dish you love. Although I’m getting better at it I have been known to avoid social gatherings like I’m getting paid to do it. And it’s not the people, really. I love people. People are wired to want to connect with other people.

 

People are naturally inclined towards relationships.

 

Social situations intimidate me more so because of me than because of others. Strange thing to try to to learn to not be what’s expected of me and just to be me, especially when “me” is someone who doesn’t like to “be” in the sense of being out and about and on display.

 

I’d rather sit quietly here usually.

 

So, it’s kind of an interesting balance to navigate if you feel and think a lot of things and want to share those things but also are sort of fine living under a rock. Maybe I would just like to come out occasionally. But not as much as most of you.

 

It can feel equal parts therapeutic and incredibly silly to type away on this screen. I go back and forth between feeling like I’m writing for me (therapy) and I’m writing for you (so silly).

 

Silly because, why are any of you reading this? Sometimes I do not know. Yet, some of you are and some of you enjoy it and that moves me in a place I haven’t always been able to peg.

 

Recently I’ve had multiple people randomly shoot me a message or pull me aside in person to mention something on my blog and at the time these little thoughts or suggestions here and there were coming my way I hadn’t even written a post since four months ago.

Mulling over those interactions I think it’s helping me flesh out what starting this blog nine years ago has meant to me and through that I better understand that hard-to-peg part of me that feels a certain way when someone seems to like what I have to offer here.

 

In all of these posts – over 100 posts I’m pretty sure?! (and the first one referencing a Nickelback song no less, #cringe)– this space has given me a community I’ve needed. I type my heart out and I feel alive in the most real way. (usually with Explosions In The Sky – Your Hand In Mine playing in the background..I ditched Nickelback long ago)

 

 

In school you’re structured to be a certain way: group projects, oral presentations, team sports.

 

But then there are people like me. I can do those things. (K maybe not the sports…) But I don’t thrive there. No amount of what I’m “supposed” to be like is going to quell the person that I actually am.

 

I thrive in a quiet room, with loud headphones. I can lower my guard when no one is around, and then share that vulnerability with you in the most pure way I know how: words.

 

I might not be great at coming up to you and talking about our weeks, but I can type out my wonderings and help us learn about ourselves. I say us because every time I feel like I’m writing for you, I’m really equally, if not more so, here for me, too.

 

I’m not too good at a dinner and a night out with girlfriends, but I can post about my depression in motherhood and weave a bond through dozens of you that have quietly reached out to me feeling the same way and instead feed a part of our souls that are hungrier than our stomachs.

 

I may never have (or want, eek) a crowd before me listening to all my musings, but I can sit quietly with you on this side of the screen and offer my words to you in solidarity as we face the same questions and answers and problems and solutions.

 

The book that I’m writing that I’ve shared about with several of you has made a lot of progress recently and I’m excited to share it with you one day. So much of it has roots tied back to this blog that I started once because I was feeling some way about some thing. Strolling through this path that doesn’t always seem to look like the general population has at times felt like a wilderness but it’s been in the wandering of that wilderness that I’ve discovered so much purpose to press forward in exploring the goodness of the barren places of life.

 

This book… I owe so much of its existence to some of you who have encouraged me over the last almost decade to continue writing and continue sharing.

 

I’m going to keep doing that and I hope you’ll keep reading.

 

Until next time… ❤

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Dear Brantley

I need to take a minute and reflect on the fact that I’ve gotten to love on you in the outside world for a year now.


The first night we were home this picture was taken and I couldn’t believe what a sweet baby you were. Being a mother for the third time I knew that a fussy period was going to start eventually so I wanted to soak in your sweet disposition while I could.

You never had that phase though.

 

You have remained the happiest baby for an entire year and my heart leaps when I’m around you. 

Each baby I have reaches down into parts of my heart that I’m unaware exist until your three tiny souls discover it.

Your sister helped me fall in love with the ordinary things, the day in and day out messy, beautiful parts of motherhood. 

Your brother stretched me to take care of myself. I throw so much of myself into taking care of you three that I sometimes need a reminder that mommy is a person too. It was a hard lesson to learn and I still learn new parts of it every day. He showed me it was okay to not be okay.

When I came out of my depression with Timothy that’s when I learned a side of wellness I hadn’t known before.

When I felt happy again, after being sad for so long, I didn’t really know how to handle it.

I had learned how to cope with depression and so when I came out of that nightmare I was hesitant to let myself dream again.

I was so anxious when I was pregnant with you. I felt like I would quite literally die if I had to soldier through postpartum depression again. 

When you finally arrived I kept anticipating all the hard parts hitting me again. The sleepless nights, the endless crying, the raging hormones, the self doubt. 

But you have smiled at me every day since you learned how.

And you could never know how badly I needed that. I needed to learn what it was like to dwell in the freedom to live happily.

  

You, sweet boy, you make me happy in the most genuine of ways. The joy you display is infectious. 

When you were tiny up until you were ten months old you coslept with me and those will always be some of my favorite memories.


You would fall asleep instantly when you were nuzzled next to me. I took the above photo because I never wanted to forget how much it moved me to find rest, literally at night but also in my personal life, and that you found me safe enough to rest beside. ❤️






When I have hard days, your bright eyes and big smile are like the loveliest winter fire after coming in from a snowy storm. 



Now that you are changing so much from a baby to a toddler, I know you will start to need me less and I will make peace with that. I see you try new things and I’m so proud of you when I see you figure something out all on your own, but then I’m also relieved when I hear you calling out for me at night and you just need me to rock you and hold you.


When you wake up in the morning you’ll be a one year old.

I feel so privileged that I get to have a front seat to all that life has in store for you.

Happy first birthday Brantley Griffin, I love you so much 

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