Amy Krouse Rosenthal died on Monday (March 13, 2017). Amy was 51 years old. She was a wife, a mother and a writer, filmmaker, storyteller, believer in magic. I didn’t know her personally. I only knew some of her work – the children’s books. Mainly, LITTLE PEA, which reigned as one of my children’s top five favorite books for a couple of years and a standout for creativity and originality. But Amy was also known for her memoirs and TED talks and most recently, a brilliant essay she wrote for the ‘Modern Love’ New York Times column entitled “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” which reads as an online dating profile for Amy’s husband who would be a widower only 10 days after the essay was published.
While Amy was busy dying on Monday, I was busy complaining about my life.
Mondays are hard for me. Boyd and I both work at home. This is a fairly new situation – one year – and while there are MANY perks to having my husband at home during the week (he cooks healthy lunches for us, he watches the kids if I want to go to 4 PM yoga, he can answer math homework questions), there is a certain level of TOGETHERNESS that robs me of that top-of-the-week-solitude I used to cherish when the kids AND the husband left for the day on Monday. This week was particularly challenging. Because I had been traveling back East the first few days of March, I felt it was important to stay home last weekend – log in the hours with my children, get rooted again. And we did that. Movies on the couch both nights – all day hanging out in the backyard, selling the last bit of Girl Scout cookies, going to Myles’ baseball game, having a beer with the neighbors, shooting basketballs in the driveway, walking the dogs, reading Nancy Drew books, cleaning out clothes to donate, baking cookies. It was awesome. Super fun. And also, you know, TOGETHERNESS – the part that is annoying, claustrophobic, DRAINING. It was all of it.
And by Monday, I wanted none of it.
I wanted to be alone. Free. But it’s tax season. And Boyd is organized and efficient and thank God but….you know, fuck off. But I don’t say that. I say, “I’m on it. I’ll get it. I will have it for you today.” He says, “That’s what you said last week.” I walk out of the room. It’s not his fault. It’s mine and it’s numbers and collecting data and it’s overwhelming because I should have been doing it all year and I wasn’t. So, in a nutshell, I am annoyed with myself (but it’s just way easier to be annoyed with the spouse, as you know). That’s where I was on Monday. And I call my friend Amy – not Amy who was dying, but My Amy – and I am venting and ranting and expressing all sorts of frustrations related to…well….marriage and family TOGETHERNESS. And My Amy is generous and compassionate and empathic, as she is – and she gets it and she understands and she makes me feel normal and a couple of hours later she emails me. She writes, “This is right up your alley” and it’s a link to Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s essay celebrating her husband. While the kids are brushing their teeth after dinner, I click on the link. I read the short essay.
And it’s beautiful. It’s heart-wrenching.
This dying woman wants Continue reading To the Lovely
I told them to wear red today. They asked me why and I said because it’s International Women’s Day. What kind of day is that, Ryan asks. It’s a day for you to be yourself – and celebrate your ideas and your abilities – and remember that people fought for your freedom to express yourself…so, you know, use it. So what do I do? She wants to know.
You get to be extra proud to be a girl, I tell her.
There are girls all over the world who don’t have the freedom you do – it takes a lot of courage to be bold and be who you are and you can do that, WE can do that, but some people can’t – they’re not allowed to or they’re too scared to do it. If we are confident and brave and share who we are with the world, it gives other people permission to do the same. It’s like, what the world needs – just you being you. You know?
Yep, she stands taller, got it. And then she leaves the room – yelling to Mimi to wear red today.
One moment later: Myles barrels around the corner, arms flailing – I want to wear red, he says. Then go find something red to wear, I say. Wait, what day is it? It’s International Women’s Day. Oh right – he turns to leave and looks over his shoulder and says, what does it mean? It’s a day to remember…
That women are awesome, he interrupts. I lift my hand. He squares up and slaps it. Hard. Then turns on his heels and charges down the hall. Super speed. To find something red to wear.
Because he knows — women ARE awesome.
I’m not worried. I am not worried about the next generation. They are full of power and love and creativity and courage – they don’t even see the barriers that we see. They see wide-open terrain and it’s not a question of if they will run, it’s simply a matter of direction. If there is a closed door, they find the cracked window. Where we work with a fixed notion, they bring fluidity – so willing to change the course of things, so open to building a new way of being honest. For them, equality is not an ideal – equality is the reality of their mindset and as such, they will make it real in the world. I see the next generation and I am hopeful and relieved and inspired.
I see the next generation and I’m not worried – because I see the ones raising them.
I see you and I watch us and you know, it’s not easy but we ARE doing this.
In my work, I sit with mothers, and women mothering – not children but the world, and I listen and I lean in – not just to my calling in this career path, but to every single spoken and unspoken word. I get close to the phrasing of a woman’s heart, a human heart, so I can hear it loud and clear – the names of what she wants, the still pause in the silent not knowing of what she wants, that air she moves when she breathes deep and bravely whispers what she can hardly admit she wants.
I have been listening and learning and learning and learning and now, I’ve learned enough to know something about her and about you and about us.
It’s not something complicated, its not really profound or coming from the deepest part of who we are – it actually sits right there on the top, plain as day – so obvious that it shocks me when I notice it because that means that at some point, I had stopped seeing it. But then I land on it, right there, and it hits me in the gut, like an intuition – or it strikes me in the mind, like a remembering – or it washes over my whole body like the truth and it happens when she stops speaking and there is a slight quiet in the room – before anyone says anything, before I can say anything – this really obvious awareness lands smack down in the center of me: she is a badass.
It’s just that simple. She is BADASS.
You are a badass. Women are badass and I know it because I have listened and I have seen and I know we are willing to do all of the things that must be done:
She prays over a stillborn baby and still believes in god.
She picks up the pieces of a broken marriage and dares to love again.
She moves her family across town to be close to the special school where her daughter can thrive.
She shows up to her son’s bar mitzvah looking absolutely stunning in the midst of a full-on brawl with leukemia.
She sits on the edge of a bed and puts cream on her mother’s legs, and smiles when her mother calls her the wrong name.
She holds the dog that saved her life and just she when thinks she cannot bear to let him go she says it’s time now and he passes.
She quits that job, asks for a promotion, starts that business, cleans off her desk.
She intervenes to give him a shot at sobriety. She seeks her own sobriety.
She doesn’t leave. She leaves.
She picks up a paintbrush, takes a writing class, learns to sing. She creates art. She shares it with the world.
She has that fourth kid. She moves to the country. She becomes a Christian. She becomes a Jew. She learns how to meditate.
She devotes her life to her husband’s career, her children’s well-being – it’s not how she thought it would be, it is what it is and she finds a whole bunch of perfectly imperfect happiness in that.
She takes a shower and brushes her teeth the morning after she finds her husband dead.
She learns how to take care of herself, for the first time ever.
She finds out just how much she can do when she doesn’t know what the fuck she is doing – she does it anyway.
And it turns out all right. Because she is a badass. And so are you.
I am not worried about us. We can do these things – we can do all of the things and anything. And our children know it and respect us for it. And the only thing there is left to do is love each other more. Pick up the phone, write it in an email or a handwritten note – YOU ARE A BADASS – and send it to the women and men who give you every reason not to worry. And do it in the name of all of the women who came before you – badass women who didn’t even know the term ‘badass’ because they were too busy embodying it to sit around stating the obvious.
I asked the kids the other night at dinner about love. Boyd was out for work and I was trying to prolong the family dinner experience – I often have this thought if I can keep them at the table longer without crumbling beneath the pure weight of the EMOTIONS at the table maybe they won’t do drugs or get pregnant in high school or battle an eating disorder or plagiarize or ever be lost or heartbroken or assholes because they will feel so secure and connected and attached and sure of their place in the world – because you know, they had a place at the table. Truth be told, I can’t wait for someone to say, “Can I be excused?” Because it’s weird if the mother says it first. And once one person asks, I can see the light at the end of the sibling-rivalry tunnel and I relax. All of the sudden, I feel totally fine about sex and drugs and lying and suffering – because…well, it’s part of life – and I would love to live mine without so many young people arguing and vying for my attention and creating a lot of ANXIETY in this fairly small, circular space.
Mimi responds first, “Love? I got nothing….”
I giggle. “I doubt that – give it a minute, I bet you’ll get some ideas.”
Myles slumps back in his chair, “Do we have to talk about love?”
“You can choose not to – I’m simply asking a question because I’m sick of hearing y’all argue and I am genuinely curious about what you think. I want to have a conversation.” He groans.
“First of all, love is a FEELING,” Ryan announces. “God made it because he felt something for us – and he made more people so we could feel it for each other. Love is about being together and you can love anything you want to love.”
“And…” Mimi raises her voice. “There are different kinds of love and love makes you happy. You can’t hold it – it’s not 3-D. You can see it and feel it and….”
“You can’t see it,” Ryan interrupts.
“Can I be excused?” Myles says.
“Yep, you sure can,” I say. He smiles. I feel love.
“Yes, you can see it,” Mimi insists. “…you can look at it. When I see Mommy on the floor with Luca (our dog), I am LOOKING at love.”
“Okay. All right. Before y’all get into an argument about it – you’re both right. Love is a feeling AND love is an action.”
“Love means you’re connected,” Ryan says.
“And love is friendship,” Mimi adds.
Myles throws a ball against the wall and Mimi explodes – “stop it!” which makes me jump in my seat it’s so loud. “Not okay – you cannot yell like that in the house,” I have my hand on my heart.
“He can’t throw the ball in the house,” she snaps back.
“Well, he can…” I don’t have hard and fast rules about balls in the house so it’s confusing. I am sort of soft and slow with all of my rules, actually. “…because I’m inconsistent about ball-rules.”
“I know,” Ryan says. I smile again. I feel like I’m about to get the giggles. Ryan would do great with a consistent mother. I think it’s funny that she didn’t get one. Life is funny like that – for all of us.
Mimi explodes again, “MYLES! Stop with the ball!”
“Okay, calm down, Mimi. Myles, take the ball outside, please.”
“Fine,” he stomps toward the front door and we hear it slam shut.
A wake of silence rolls through the room and Ryan says softly, “I have another idea about love.” I nod. “When you make things for people, that is love. Like I made a card for Daddy the other day – I wanted him to know I love him.”
“That’s right. Your creativity is an EXPRESSION of love – it’s an action you take to show love. Do you know the word expression?” I ask the girls.
“Yeah, of course we do,” Mimi says sort of sassy but I let it go.
“Mommy?” Ryan stands up and puts her arm around my neck, “I think love is the most important thing.”
“It is – love is the most important thing. I like to think of it as Continue reading Do It For Love
Let today be a march – let it be a big, sturdy step in the direction of who you really are. Let it be a slow and steady movement into the Faith, Hope & Love that is the foundation of your well-being. Go with purpose and believe in your own progress – go with fierce gratitude and radical commitment to what matters most to you now.
Remember love. Let every single thing – your victories and your mistakes – your certainty and your doubt – let all of it exist in the name of LOVE.
Decide that Courage is more important than Confidence.
And being alive means living life – not just getting life done.
Remember that you can bear the weight of your suffering – in fact, you must – you must actually feel it, name it, claim it and then it is yours and then (only then) can you lay it down. An offering.
This is the most precious gift you have to offer your family, to offer the world:
your own healing, the wholeness of your own heart.
You do belong here. Even when you feel unworthy or inadequate or afraid or alone – every broken piece of you belongs here. Isn’t that what you would say to your daughter? Isn’t that what you would teach your son?
Let today be a march – we move together steadily.
Keep in step with the women next to you. Friendship fuels the fire of what your heart desires – and we need each other to stay warm, to stay nourished.
A well-fed spirit changes the world.
Take every ounce of goodwill you feel and use it. Use it to build a bridge of Compassion that can carry you into the deepest truth of you – so you can recognize the truth in others.
And you can lead through Connection.
So, let today be a march and remember why we do this hard thing called Waking Up. Because on the other side of noticing, right there inside your close attention is the most sacred experience of your whole life: JOY.
This year is for being seen, being heard, and most of all for LISTENING. Listen to the wholeness of your life and be awe-struck, be rendered silent in reverence to the splendor of it –it is all so very broken and it is all so very beautiful. Can you hear it?
That’s the sound of your own heart, marching onward.