The Dance Begins

Dana: I am a believer in allowing children a lot of free play time throughout childhood. But as far as organized activities go, I did make it a point to offer up a variety of options. Here’s how it went for my three daughters:

Girl Scouts: They all tried this, starting at the earliest level (I think it was called Daisies?) I recall all three children feeling pretty neutral about this and sticking with it until dance began to take up a fair amount of time, which perhaps was before my youngest reached the cookie sale stage.

Sports:  Between the three of them, the girls tried various sports. None of them lasted more than one season(and sometimes not even that long). Brittni found Tee-ball to be chaotic, Jill was stressed out on the soccer field (she was only five,  but it seemed everyone started playing at five!) and Bethany got a stomach ache every Saturday morning before basketball practice until I told her coach she was quitting.

Then there was dance. No one wanted to quit dance. Over the years, we must’ve gone through 100 pairs of ballet shoes collectively, and a zillion hours of instruction and many, many dance shows. There were close friendships and tears, blisters and heartache, drama and glory. There was discipline and structure and artistry and joy and summers spent dancing near and far.

During Brittni’s very first rehearsal at about four years old, she would not get on the stage. She’d practiced a dance all year long with her peers but never before on a stage. Once she sat out the first round though, watching the other girls up there, she was ready to try out the stage for the next number. And from a seat in the audience, I saw the look in her eyes when she successfully performed the dance. She was hooked. Dance would become her drug. Her obsession. From that day on, I would be living with an addict. I was both happy for her and scared at the same time. And that, I would later learn, was a very appropriate response.

 

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A Quirky Writing Residency

DanaI am posting this from a writing residency in Massachusetts. I’m only a couple hours from home, but it feels like the middle-of-nowhere-ish. Why do writers and artists do this? Why do we leave the comfort of our own home-which for me includes a writing room of my own-  in order to hole up in some other house to do that thing we do?

The short answer of course, is freedom from distractions.  Let’s face it, home holds a lot of distractions. From the people we love to the laundry and to-do lists, our attention can only be on our craft for so long before our brain starts to signal a “times up” alarm. I am so aware of the life and the needs around me, I can hardly get to work if I think a plant needs watering. The idea of focusing on writing for almost three days straight with nothing else to do- and trust me there is nothing else to do here- appealed to my need for focus and efficiency.

So I sent off the required application, resume and sample of writing- all the things the gatekeepers of the residency wanted to convince them I am serious about writing. They want to know their applicants are not coming here to, say, smoke meth, hide from the law, or hook up with random strangers.  And I passed their test. I’m here!  I’m basking in the hours and hours of getting words on the page, writing submissions organized, edits done; all the things that I often do in fits and starts at home. 

But here’s the thing about a writing residency that I did not entirely take into consideration:

There are PEOPLE here.

And the people here all use the same kitchen and yesterday when I was in my room writing, an overpowering smell of -I don’t know- beef broth? – but the fake, bouillon cube kind, not the good kind-  filled the whole upstairs. Call me sensitive, but I was a little nauseous after that.

Also, we share bathrooms.  It is a big old house with two huge unisex bathrooms. There are two sinks in each of these bathrooms and the toilet and shower each has its own enclosure. So it feels like we should leave the bathroom door unlocked while using the toilet or shower, so that someone else can come into the very spacious sink area to brush their teeth. But that would be weird because- did I mention we are strangers? When I took a shower, I felt like such a room hog. I mean, someone could have been waiting to brush their teeth, or wanting to pee, but they could not because I was in the back corner of this big bathroom, in the little shower stall and therefore had locked the door.   Clearly we could’ve fit a whole group in there at once, doing several different toiletry things. But like I said, that would’ve been weird. So no matter what someone might be doing in there- flossing, combing their hair- they get the whole damn room. 

Okay, TMI.

On to the bedrooms. Each one is named after a famous writer; mine is the Emily Dickinson room. There are several of her books in my room so that I might channel some of her inspiration or talent. 

It feels a little bit like freshman year of college except that no one is telling us to leave our doors open and make friends, because we are here to work after all.

But keeping my door closed did not prevent the sound of the loudest snoring I have ever heard from travelling through my bedroom  wall last night. All night. And by all night, I mean the guy slept from 9pm to 9am. It was like the snoring you’d hear on a cartoon. It was cartoon snoring. If I hadn’t been tired, and then wide awake wondering if he’s been tested for sleep apnea, it might’ve been funny.

Another thing about this house: I think there are more books here than  in my town’s public library. This place has books floor to ceiling every which way I turn. The house is cluttered with books. This is kind of funny because I intentionally left my books at home so that I wouldn’t spend any of my writing time reading. I’ve been known to read a whole day away, and I didn’t want the temptation.

I’ve resisted all the books though, and am pleased to have gotten a lot of writing done. All in all, it’s been time well spent. If my resident neighbor is still here tonight, it will likely be another loud night. But that’s okay- when I go to bed, his snoring will distract me from the creepy doll sitting in the chair right outside my room. 

There’s no place like home.

What Sensitive Children Can Teach Us

There is a philosophy about sensitive children that truly resonates with me.  This is how it goes: Sensitive children are the indicators of our species, like the amphibian, or the canary in the coal mine, letting us know about the health of our environment. Their discontent is letting us know what all of society would benefit from changing.

What do we need to change for the good of all? Look at the sensitives. What are they rejecting or rebelling against? What is making them sick? Sad? Overwhelmed? 

Sure, the more resilient seeming children of our species appear to be doing okay with the status quo. But doing okay does not mean things are optimal for the totality. So if the adults are brave or open minded enough to consider letting go of some of our rigid demands for conformity, we all stand to benefit.

Rather than figure out how to get these children into the mold of mainstream society in all areas, what if we changed the mold? What if the increase in numbers of children with attention deficit disorder or autism or simply high sensitivity served a purpose for all of society?

Perhaps they are here to teach us.  Perhaps each generation is raising the collective consciousness of all.  This would be great news! But to consider this, we have to be willing to change and to let go of our own rigid beliefs about how things are done. We have to allow the gifts and messages that these children bring, rather than treat them like a problem to be solved.

Let me give you an example that is etched in my mind. While in Kindergarten, my youngest daughter abhorred the cafeteria. So during her one full day of school per week, she dreaded going, knowing she would be there for lunch.

I reached out to her teacher, a woman who was firmly in the camp of “if a child is not conforming to what is expected, there is a problem with the child”.  Having no suggestions herself, this teacher referred me to the guidance counselor.  The counselor asked me to attend the next lunch day but to sit away from my child, and with the counselor.  Her thought was that my child would see me there, assume this was a “safe” environment, but not be allowed to sit with me.

“Better to have tears now in Kindergarten than later on in middle school”, this woman asserted as my daughter cried more, confused as to why I was there but not going to her to comfort her or sit with her. Children all around her gobbled down their food, shouted, jumped up and down, forgot about their food, or sat tolerant, sometimes attempting to speak above the noise, to a child nearby.

This was one of my regrettable moments of overriding my own instincts and sensibilities as someone else instructed me in how we would get my child to conform, or “adapt”.

When I look back on it now, I still cringe and take full responsibility for not overriding the – sorry, but – half-baked, cruel and counter productive instructions of this professional. Needless to say, it did not solve the lunchroom issue.

Anyhow, back to the amphibian philosophy.

What if cramming children into long tables with no elbow room, lots of noise, and a very short amount of time to eat lunch is not good for anyone?

What if there were smaller tables, perhaps some calming music, enough recess time before lunch so that all the energy would not have to be expelled during mealtime? What if there was at least the option to eat in a quieter, calmer environment for those who would choose to?

And what if my daughter, by being non adaptable to the current arrangement, was giving the adults an opportunity to consider something better for all. 

Can’t we imagine that?

Pay attention to the sensitive kids.

They just may be on to something better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twins, Love & Transformation

Brittni:
I told myself my next post would not be baby-related. I was thinking I’d keep this blog separate from motherhood for a while and maybe write a baby update a little ways down the road.  Well it turns out that when you are a new mom of twins, nothing is separate from motherhood. This mom gig is all consuming at the moment. How authentic would I be if I forced myself to write about something unrelated at a time when I literally cannot focus on anything other than the two little nuggets that turned me into a mother? Of course I will find a bit more balance in my life as some time goes by and I fall into more of a rhythm. But for now I am accepting of the fact that there is not a whole lot of room – in my brain, heart, or daily life – for much else.

They are three months old. These tiny beings have been the light of my world for three months now. (Nope, I am not one of those moms who fell in love with her babies during pregnancy – I hated pregnancy to be perfectly honest. It was really quite miserable. So my endless mountains of love for my babies began three months ago at the moment they were born.)

 

It has been three months since I laid under those bright operating room lights, my husband by my side, waiting to meet the two humans that had been growing inside of me for eight and a half months. I was shaking like a leaf, terrified at the idea of surgery (Twin A was breech, which meant I was having a C-section). But the whole experience was surprisingly calm and nothing short of its very own kind of perfect.

 

Those first days were surreal. Suddenly our much-anticipated twins were real. They were here, in my arms, delicate and beautiful and helpless. And here I was – practically helpless myself in my post-surgery state of immobility. My husband scurried around selflessly. He and the nurses took care of me and the babies while I focused on learning how to tandem nurse, determined to breastfeed. We carried on like this for two days, me and the girls practicing our breastfeeding skills while my husband and the nurses did the rest as I was not yet able to stand or walk unassisted. By the third day, the pain had subsided enough for me to maneuver myself slowly around the hospital room. I was weak, tired, and overwhelmed, but oh so happy.

 

But that evening, just minutes after my husband left to go home to shower, get the mail, etc., Kaiya, my precious ‘Twin B’, decided to stir things up a bit.  She was sleeping peacefully one second and the next she was blue as a blueberry and still as a stone and I hope that I will never again in my life have to feel a fear as horrific as the fear I felt in that moment. My mom was with me in the room and we both immediately snapped into action. A thousand thoughts entered my head as I tripped over myself to get to the emergency button across the room, the most prevalent thought being that I am not strong enough to lose her; the second most prevalent being that  maybe I already had.

My mom ran down the hall with Kaiya in her arms and nurses rushed out of what seemed like every room on the ward to come to our aid. I couldn’t see or hear or think straight. The pain that had rendered me immobile just yesterday disappeared as I ran out of my room screaming to nobody in particular that I needed my baby to be okay. And then I remembered I had another baby in the room alone. So I turned around and ran back yelling the whole time, “I need her to be okay, she needs to be okay”.  A nurse caught me when I nearly collapsed as the pain suddenly returned to where I had been sliced open just days earlier.  In a blur, she brought me back to my room and a minute later, my mom came in to tell me Kaiya was okay. “She’s okay”, she said. “She’s okay”. It took a minute for those words to sink in, but when they did, a wave of relief bigger than anything I had ever felt washed over me and I could breathe again.

 

Needless to say, our hospital stay was a little more dramatic than we had anticipated. BUT Kaiya is healthy and strong now and there’s nothing like a little perspective to make a couple of new parents feel grateful beyond words and stop sweating the small stuff. After nine days in the neonatal intensive care unit, where Kaiya was closely monitored until she outgrew her newborn apnea (apparently this is a thing and is not overly uncommon; kinda wish someone had told me about it before ten years had been taken off my life), she joined her family at home and now here we are; wow has it been a fun/crazy/beautiful/exhausting/amazing three months so far…

Three months of nursing; tandem nursing, one-at-a-time nursing, multitasking nursing, nursing in bed, nursing in public, nursing on the floor, nursing in the rocking chair willing myself not to fall asleep. Always. Nursing.

 

Three months of nights that feel longer than days. Grueling nights that are laced with beauty and awe as I rock, cuddle, and feed my two bundles of love in the dimly lit nursery, my husband slipping in and out to help me position them, change diapers, burp, and swaddle. We dance this family nighttime dance together until the sun peeks through the blinds and it is time to try to be thankful for whatever amount of sleep was had and embrace the new day.

 

Three months of diapers, onesies, and burp cloths. Binkies, little baby socks that get lost in the drier, and matching baby hats that hide the girls’ physical differences just enough to make me think twice about who is who.

 

Three months of baby-wearing. Of gliding around with a baby hugged tightly to my body in a sling. Of wishing I could wear both babies at once. Of trying to wear both babies at once at the expense of my back.

 

Three months of baby baths. Undress, wash, dry, lotion, diaper, dress, hand off to husband and repeat with the next baby. How might our routine feel if there were only one baby to tend to? How would all of this be different if I was easing into parenthood as a “singleton” mother? Would I be able to slow down a little? Indulge and enjoy each moment a bit more? And then, feeling guilty for occasionally wishing this were easier, ‘How hard would this be with triplets(!?)’.

 

Three months of Googling. ‘Infant sleep’, ‘twin routines’, ‘diaper rash remedies’, ‘binky addiction’, ‘baby growth spurt timeline’, and on and on and on. I have a whole new appreciation for my parents having had three babies pre-Google.

Three months of becoming more organized than I’ve ever been. I am a bit scattered and disorganized by nature, but as soon as these babies entered the picture, the need for order became notably stronger than my formerly disorderly ways. Looking for an alternative to ADD meds? Just have twins! JUST KIDDING. I mean…I wouldn’t trade my beloved twins for anything in the world, but… let’s just say I have ADD and twins and twins are way harder. I guess it’s for that reason that I have become a sudden queen of organization…
I put dividers in the kitchen drawers and assigned spots for bottles and pacifiers and milk jars. I have a bucket for dirty pump parts and a bucket for about-to-use pump parts. I put hooks on the insides of cabinets for bibs and towels. I have a bin in the nursery for burp cloths, a bin for blankets, a bin for sheets, and a bin for towels. I put a laundry basket in each bathroom and bedroom and do at least one load of laundry (AND FOLD IT AND PUT IT AWAY OMG) every day because we are going through so much laundry that I can’t afford not to. I set up a diaper changing station downstairs and one upstairs. I keep track of each of the girls’ nursing sessions in the baby app on my phone. On the whiteboard, I keep lists of chores to be done, groceries to be bought, thank you cards to be written, and questions for the pediatrician. Each morning, I set up a feeding station on the couch with fresh burp cloths, my tandem nursing pillow, and a full water bottle. Each night, I go through the house to fold spare blankets, take out trash bags full of diapers, and get the house ready for the next day. I do all of this, not because I am trying to be super mom (believe me I am anything but), but because if I leave anything undone, I will inevitably find myself caught soon enough in the sticky situation of having my hands full with two hungry or tired or poopy babies and no time or hands to spare to go looking for what I need in the moment.

 

Three months of falling even more in love with my husband. We have our struggle moments to be sure just as all new parents do, but in the end we are a team. Neither of us could do this twin parent thing without the other and there’s nobody else I’d rather do it with.

 

Yes, it has been one heck of a journey so far. I have been told by countless people to “enjoy every second because it goes by way too fast”. Well I can’t say that I have enjoyed every single second, but I can say that I am loving this with all of my heart. For three months now, I have been mom and not much else. The rest of me – the non-mom parts of me – will come back. They have even started to ever so slowly start to make their way back into my life. But I am not in a rush because, as everyone says, this does go by fast and I am all in.

Decluttering Christmas

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Dana: I hope I reached you before the frenzy swept you away. Chances are, the holiday madness doesn’t have you in its grip quite yet. And just what is The Madness? It is Everything You Must Do in order to have a great holiday. It is fulfilling grand expectations, your own or those of someone else.  Does the thought of that grab you at the sternum and trickle down to your gut? Does it excite you or hit you with a twinge of dread?
If you are anything like me, you are plenty stimulated without the extra holiday hoopla, thank you very much. Here’s my suggestion: Change the goal from having a fabulous holiday to having a mediocre one. Mediocre holidays are much gentler on the psyche. Declutter your Christmas. You know the saying, what goes up must come down?  The holiday mood- anticipation, excitement, chaos. It all has to come from somewhere and it has to go somewhere when it’s over! The time, money, and energy it takes to create an amazing holiday is likely siphoned out of your daily life, leading up to the festivities. Afterwards, the crash.
What if you decided not to steal from  whatever it is that makes your daily life good?  Your exercise routine, time with loved ones, alone time, your creative endeavor – whatever it is that keeps you sane and happy- you could guard with your life. Because every ordinary day IS your life.
Here are just a few things I am not doing in preparation for Christmas:
          Baking
          Sending out cards
          Going to a mall
     Here is what I am doing:
          Downsizing my tree to a mini one
          Making a simplified shopping list and sticking to it
         Going to yoga class
         Writing
Women have been complaining loud and clear about the mental and emotional clutter we carry that is causing all sorts of stress and fatigue. Then when the holidays come, we take on more. I don’t see many men stressing over decking the halls, do you?
Stop.
Simplify.
Rejoice.
Which brings me to this: Maybe you welcome the chaos.  Maybe you prefer not to simplify your holidays, and you make that choice with a happy heart, and skillfully, too. If that’s the case, then I think you are amazing. I bet you are one of those people who multitask with ease. That is not me. While writing, I might forget to take the pumpkin pie out of the oven. If I am deep enough in thought, I may or may not notice if the smoke alarm goes off. I really shouldn’t do two things at once. But the upside of that is, I can be really present for the one thing I am doing.
I look forward to strategically placing a few holiday decorations in my home. I love candles and clear Christmas lights and fern across my mantel. I want to be with family, with some good food and a few presents. I want to enjoy them before the holidays too, though. And after. No rushing, no stress, no frenzy, no crash.  There’s something to be said for being a holiday underachiever.  I’m saying No to the high of an amazing holiday season, and yes to the peace of a simpler one.
Merry Christmas!
Happy Holidays!
Peace.

Uncluttered

Dana: It has indeed occurred to us that we have not posted in while.  Since Brittni’s identical twin girls (my granddaughters) have been born, things have been busy- as in all-hands-on-deck busy.

Let’s just say Brittni’s hands are a tad full. And so is her heart. And mine. And all the hearts of all who love these precious babies. 22555514_10214107010612056_8322138864080415592_o

Somehow, in October, Brittni managed to design a pumpkin for her fantastic seasonal art job with the JACK-O-LANTERN SPECTACULAR.  (I don’t have the photo of this years pumpkin; this particular photo is from a previous year’s drawing but is a favorite).  Have you heard that highly sensitive people are often also highly artistic? I’m kind of blown away by the creative work of the pumpkin artists, year after year. And one of them happens to be my daughter.

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Other than that artistic escapade, it’s been pretty much all babies all the time for Brittni, as is the case with new twin parents, and especially for nursing moms.  Double the joy and love and cuteness – and half the rest! The sleep deprivation is real, people.

***

My husband and I got away for our anniversary- 30 years! – and had a fabulous time.  We are pictured here holding superfood smoothies from Newport Rhode Island’s JUICED cafe.   Just as some people like to scope out the brewery or best restaurant in a city, I like to find the cold-pressed juice and smoothie cafes. The one I am holding is called their Turmeric Turbo and is made with turmeric, pineapple, carrots, lemon, ginger and banana. It was delicious and left me so energized. You can bet I’ll be trying this recipe at home. IMG_20171104_111216_322

Last month I wrote about  Priorities  and this month I am more committed than ever to keeping my focus on my top three: Family, Health, and Writing. Honestly, that is all I have time for. These three areas of life keep me busy for sure, but in a clear and satisfying way. They are all interconnected for me- when I feel healthy and vibrant, I have more to give my family and my writing flows as well.  When I spend time with my family, as well as adequate time alone, I am inspired to write and to stay healthy. And when I write, I naturally fall into healthy habits. My life feels busy right now, but it does not feel cluttered.

And for me, uncluttered is a must.

How about you?

 

Priorities

Dana: Happy October! Fall is in full swing now.20141010_100545 lake pic turning leaves

My two granddaughters, identical twins, were born on September 19th and I could not be prouder of my daughter and son-in-law as they lovingly and whole heartedly take on their new roles as parents.  They have doubled the size of their family in one fell swoop and change is in the air, to say the least.

There was a temporary scare with one of the babies, leading to a nine day stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and perhaps Brittni will want to share more details of this at some point. But for now, I can happily say the baby is doing fabulous and has joined her family at home!

And speaking of family, I just sort of naturally narrowed down my top priorities quite a few years ago which is about as freeing and clarifying as any decision in life could be.  As human beings, I think that we are both limitless and limited. We are limitless in what we can dream of and create and do in our lives. And we are limited in the amount of time and energy we have to spend. Not many people can truly focus on more than three priorities in a single lifetime. Choosing wisely, in my opinion, is key to feeling satisfied, living in integrity, and sidestepping regret.

Health, Family, and Writing are my top three. Every choice I make either supports one of these priorities or it does not.  I choose accordingly and my life reflects this nearly all of the time. When it does not, I know I am out of alignment and need to readjust.  In this age of abundant distractions, this is not always easy. But it has become all the more important to choose what to focus on consciously, so that the distractions do not choose us.

I like to reflect on my priorities at the start of each season, so here is what’s happening in my top three right now:

 

Health/Well-being:  Not a lot is new here. I am in my typical exercise routine of walking/jogging and yoga. I eat healthy most of the time. When I don’t, I feel lethargic and just plain icky.  I know that how I feel viscerally is of huge importance. For example, too much sugar, though it tastes good in the mouth, feels bad in my body. If I don’t get enough sleep, I have trouble focusing on my writing the next day. If I spend too long in a loud environment, my energy is drained. I rarely skip a day of meditation because, well, see the research. It works magic. I find managing energy is just as important as managing time. And I want all the energy I can muster do the things I want to do and to love all the people!

Family: Welcoming my new granddaughters into the world feels amazing! Love truly does grow in an instant. Our capacity for love is bigger than anything else. Oh, the anticipated joy of seeing these babies grow, one day at a time… Bring. It. On.

Writing:  I am excited to see how this blog grows and changes with the passing of time. We don’t know where it will take us, but I hope we can reach other sensitive souls out there, with our words, our memories and our present-day experiences. We are all sensitive beings and we do ourselves a great service to pay attention, every single day- every moment even- to how we feel. Because if we stop feeling, both the good and the bad, physically and emotionally, then we shut down our bodies, our hearts, our authentic selves.  And that is a tragedy.

I am also excited to send my updated memoir proposal out into the world of literary agents, and to move forward with other writing projects as well. I look forward to whatever new speaking engagements the end of this year and next year bring.

***

   I cannot imagine living without creating. We are all creating something, almost all of the time- our day, a meal, a list, a relationship, a career, a song, a home, a family.  I am so often mesmerized by the creativity I see around me, in others, in the world. We are creative beings for sure, and that in itself is amazing.

What are you creating now?

What are your top priorities?

Bring. Them. On.

The Heart of a Sensitive Child

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Daughter:  One of my biggest fears going into motherhood is that I might find myself helpless against the world’s determination to shape and reshape my daughters’ views of themselves. That I might have to stand by and watch as they are told who they are and who they should be, and that it won’t line up with their own truths.

I know this is largely unavoidable. Doesn’t it happen to all of us? Life seems to be a process of knowing, forgetting, and then relearning what sits at our cores. Perhaps that process of forgetting and then remembering ourselves is all part of the game. But it’s a relentless game and some, I think, are especially prone to getting caught up in its depths. I hope that my girls can be a little hardier a little less yielding – than I was. I hope that somehow I can help them dig their heels in and stand their ground against the confusing whirlwind of molds to fit and cast descriptions to fill.

I was never inauthentic per say, but I certainly paid attention and what I saw and heard taught me that perhaps I was wrong about a few things. The funny thing is though, I think the earliest version of me – the four and five and six year old version – knew much more than I gave her credit for.

I knew back then that free time was my favorite thing and that home was my favorite place. I knew that loose comfy leggings were the obvious clothing choice because dresses and skirts and constrictive jeans did not lend themselves to free, spontaneous cartwheels. I knew that my body was perfect because it let me run and play and dance and climb trees.

I knew that daydreaming was not only acceptable, but a wonderful creative escape that fully deserved my time and attention. I knew that there was nothing more beautiful than a well-illustrated children’s book. I knew that I loved to make art and that someday I would be an artist. I knew I didn’t like to sit still unless I was reading or making art.

I knew that I didn’t like church because I had to sit still…and listen to stories I did not understand and because it made me angry that women could not be priests. I knew that girls were just as strong and smart and worthy as boys and I knew that it was okay for boys to wear pink or play with dolls or cry.

I knew that being myself was more important than being accepted; despite hating to attract attention to myself, I flat out refused to follow the trends of my peers for fear that this would make me “fake”. I knew that bottling up my frustration, excitement, anger, sadness, joy, and fear was not worth it.  Well to be clear, I did not consciously “know” this, but rather I did not yet know how to not wear my heart on my sleeve.

I knew that it was wrong when an adult at school yelled at a student who was just confused and distracted and scared. I knew that it was wrong when a teacher exasperatedly took a book away from a little boy who was “not ready for that level of reading”. I knew that it was wrong when another teacher grabbed me by the hood of my jacket and yanked me backward when I was rushing down the hall at the end of the school day in my eagerness to get home where I could feel safe and free. I knew a lot of things that happened at school were wrong. And I think those early school years were when I started to forget some of the important things I had known.

I started to let the world around me teach me new lessons. I learned that it wasn’t okay to be shy and reserved. I learned that comfortable clothes were not always the right clothes and that daydreaming was not a wonderful creative pastime, but rather a recipe for getting in trouble at school.

I learned that, after kindergarten, art was only worthy of forty minutes out of the seven-hour school day one day per week. I learned that sitting still was a very good thing that teachers praised. I learned that boys and girls were separate and that if I was friends with a boy I would be teased by my classmates.

As I got a little older, I learned that my body was supposed to look a certain way and I learned how to hide what I was feeling. I learned that being accepted was at least as important as being myself, if not more so.

I had gathered a whole new body of knowledge that I found rather difficult to live with. If only I’d had thicker skin, had been more oblivious to the subtleties around me… Had I been somehow immune to the new and peculiar life lessons I was learning, I surely could have saved my unsuspecting family – and myself – the strain of endless meltdowns, physical illnesses, anxiety disorders, and other futile embodiments of a child caught off guard by a world she didn’t easily fit into.

As I’m sure many a like-minded, soul-searcher can attest to, it is no small task to sift through the layers upon layers of oneself in order to find what is real and worth keeping and what is not. As I sift, I am seeing more and more that the la

yers worth keeping – the real layers – are the ones that have been here all along. And I want more than anything to watch my daughters grow and dream and thrive with a level of trust in themselves that will allow them to hold onto what they know.   I want their own truths to be so solid, so illuminating, that the rest just falls away.