Memoirs is moving!

If you are reading this—THANK YOU! 

Memoirs of Algeisha is getting a makeover!

Thank you for following along my life and blogging journey as Memoirs of Algeisha. I started Memoirs of Algeisha on Blogspot (who remembers the orange B logo and feed readers and the joy of the comment sections?) back in 2011 in the heyday of the personal blog when Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, and Jen Hatmaker were the QUEENS of the blogosphere. I moved from Blogspot to a few different iterations of WordPress and many of you stuck with me through all the evolutions. 

I just checked, and my very first post was titled “The Day I Stole a Haitian Woman’s Parking Space” on April 2, 2011. You have been with me through all my crazy titles, puns, and alliteration. You have let me share T.S. Tuesdays, my fervor and then burnout writing about the amazing work at Plant With Purpose, my questions about God and Love, my struggle with depression, my move to and then return from Guatemala. More recently you have read about my marriage, motherhood, alcoholism, and OCD diagnosis. 

Thank you for being a safe space to write and share and process. Thank you for reading and liking and talking about my words. Thank you for being here. 

The title Memoirs of Algeisha came from my dear friend and college roommate when I was writing a memoir about my time studying abroad in Central America for an Honors Project. 

“Are you working on your Memoirs of AL-geisha, again?” she’d ask as I tapped away on my laptop in the corner of our shared room. She would be bending and straightening her arm, feeling around for tendons and muscles in preparation for an anatomy exam. 

Soon all of my non-writer friends started referring to my Honors Project as Memoirs of Algeisha. 

When I started my own blog, I picked the name because it made me smile and feel known and loved like only a silly nickname can do. 

I did not think through the spelling issues or how hard it would be to read memoirsofalgeisha.com if you didn’t first understand my best friends call me Al. Or the difficulty in googling my site and only coming up with a “did you mean Memoirs of A Geisha?” and a link to the movie’s Wikipedia page. 

A lot has changed since 2011 and the world is a different place for writers. Pressure abounds to build platforms and there are Instagram algorithms and reel-making to contend with. I’ve never shared to build my numbers or get a book deal (although both would be nice.) I’ve always shared out of a place of honesty and vulnerability, believing that every story matters, including my own. 

I still believe in the power of words to connect, to shape, to comfort, to challenge, to heal. I still believe in writing for the few over the masses. I am still circling many of the same topics and wrestling with the same issues I would have hoped I’d have figured out by now – depression, aligning my life with my values, accepting God’s radical love for me. 

My writing grew more sporadic throughout my late twenties and early thirties. I now know that much of my anxiety towards and avoidance of writing came from OCD, which latched on to my identity as a writer. As I learn tools to heal from OCD, the dread and shame is getting quieter, leaving space for joy again. I am learning to let go of perfectionism. I am playing with words again. I am feeling excited, hopeful, invigorated even. 

For the first time in a long time, I have a vision of what I want my writing life to look like, not just a list of shoulds and failures. 

I will have a new website that’s easy to Google. I will design a blog that feels fresh and updated. I will start a newsletter and email list and try new things creatively.  I will write with consistency and joy. I will reclaim the title of WRITER. 

You don’t have to have a clean workspace to write, but it sure helps. I know I don’t have to change my blog name or build a new website, but it sure feels nice to be excited about a new creative project. 

I’d be so grateful if you could take a look at what I’ve been working on behind the scenes. I’d be even more grateful if you’d continue on this journey of grace-filled growth with me. 

Here is the link to my new website. 
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Permission to not have the best summer ever

I hereby grant you permission to not have the best summer ever

To have no writing plan or strategy

To stay in bed on the days your head pounds and another wave of lingering Covid fatigue crashes down

To not improve

To not be the best version of yourself

To be a flawed and barely scraping by version of yourself soaked in grace

To not punish yourself when you feel like you deserve it

When something doesn’t go according to plan

When you’re not as far along as you think you should be

When you yell, “I never want to see you again”, waste the day, devour a bag of goldfish at the kitchen table in the dark

When you back out of plans and don’t reply to texts

When you give in to the OCD spiral

Choose grace anyway

Choose something delicious and delightful and disarming to do with your time

Jump in the pool, take a walk, brush your teeth

Write anyway, send the text late, kneel down and apologize to the kids, grab their hands and kiss their soft cheeks, let grace spill down like tears

Start over

Start over

Start over

Choose the always-moving-on memory of a child

Practice loving the flawed and barely scraping by version of yourself soaked in grace

***

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Permission Slip”. Click here to sign up for my monthly newsletter, Growth-filled Grace.

Tagged

Silence is Suspicious

Alternate title: You pay for every moment alone (but you know how I love alliteration.)

We are entering a new phase of independence. At three-and-a-half and five-and-a-half, my kids now play independently for a good portion of the day (am I allowed to say that out loud?) And I love it, do not take lightly, and most definitely pay for it in terms of mess and overall destruction of the house.

I want to be one of those moms who has taught her kids to put away toys as they go. To require one area to be thoroughly tidied before they move onto the next. To have labeled boxes and a working “system.”

Turns out, I am not that mom.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Don’t wake a sleeping baby.” My mantra is “Don’t interrupt happily playing kids”–even if that means they move from making robots with foam paint brushes and athletic tape in the kitchen to rescuing the fine folks of Adventure Bay on the living room ottomans to performing ninja moves on a pile of couch cushions in the loft (in a span of three minutes!)

Silence is suspicious, yes. Sometimes silence means they’ve found the adult scissors, are squirting tooth paste into a bin of dried beans as a science experiment, or have taken the cap off EVERY marker in the art drawer and left it on the floor (I’m speaking from experience here). But silence also signals independence. Silence is also sweet and silly and saving my sanity.

Below are some images where I tried to find the beauty in the aftermath of alone time.

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Still Motherhood”.

Tagged

Reflections on Choosing Gentle

Trial: I want to choose gentle when my default is critical.

@revkrunsbeyondocd posted about Choosing Joy when her OCD is shouting that she doesn’t deserve it.

She writes, “I often feel like “I’m the only one” who doesn’t deserve joy unless I somehow prove that I meet some arbitrary line of moral perfection… I tend to hold myself to a complete different standard…For me, the biggest exposure is choosing joy.”

I relate so much to the arbitrary rules. I feel like I’m not allowed to feel good about myself, my day, my life, unless I perfectly master a set of standards that are always changing and most often unattainable. I want to choose joy, but when I’m in the pit of self-loathing, joy feels too hard. Joy is too much to muster in many of the moments when I’m tired and overwhelmed and trying so hard to manage ALL THE THINGS.

But I can experiment with choosing gentle.

  • Can I choose a gentle tone with my kids?
  • A gentle tone with myself?
  • Can I choose to react to the unexpected with gentleness and compassion? Can I even be gentle with my own anxiety and view it not as something to fix, but as just another emotion to move through?

***

Reflection: Choosing gentle is hard, but worth it. (Also, OCD sucks.)

My son nibbles on his toaster waffle then jumps up from his seat to skid a stray Magna Tile across the floor. He sets the waffle down, asks a question about gravity, flicks a crumb off the table, then asks if he can paint. 

I want to yell, “No! We are getting ready for school! Sit down and keep eating!” And most mornings I do yell. And it works. He stops shuffling through the art drawer and takes another bite of waffle. 

He also stops smiling. 

For what? Maybe we get to school a minute earlier? 

But at 7am when the coffee hasn’t kicked in and I haven’t eaten breakfast and I’m resentful that I could be writing or sleeping or working out instead cajoling this kid, a gentle tone may be too much to ask for. 

The next morning I take a baby step towards gentle. I don’t yell at him, but I also don’t say anything. I am silent as he dawdles. I nod mmhmm as he asks another question about space travel or comes downstairs without his socks. I take a few breaths, trying to exhale the edge to my tone, “Aidan your socks,” I say as neutrally as possible. He playfully smacks his forehead and exclaims “Silly me!” (this has to be a mannerism learned from Blippi) and turns around to grab his socks. 

The days I don’t yell, we make it to school just as his teacher is closing the door to the classroom, the bell ringing out across the campus as parents clad in everything from business casual to slippers and pajamas whisper-scream to their tardy children. 

“Mask, backpack, have a good day,” I say as I drop my son at the classroom I have never been inside because of Covid restrictions. Would I prefer my kid is not the last one to hang up his Paw Patrol backpack on the hook outside, that he’s not the last one to pull out his folder and find his desk next to Layla or Emorie? Of course. Is yelling more effective in the moment?  Also yes. 

I have to ask myself the question, “What do I want more?”

I want home to be a safe space. Where my son is not scared of getting yelled at or tiptoeing around my mood. Where relationship is valued over punctuality. 

Choosing gentle with my kids is not easy to carry out, but it’s an easy goal to strive for. 

Choosing gentle with myself is a harder choice for me to justify. 

How can I be gentle with myself when I “fail” (or don’t meet the arbitrary, ridiculous standards I set for myself) and when I actually do fail to be the mom or wife or friend I want to be? 

My kids are so quick to forgive when I mess up. “I’m sorry, I made a mistake,” I tell them and they move on. Why can’t I? 

With each mistake, perceived or real, a seed of discontent, of shame is planted. I’m a bad mom. I can’t do anything right. Every choice I make is wrong. Always. These are cognitive distortions of my OCD–I know that now. But oh how it feels so true. 

I have to ask the question again, “What do I want more?” 

I want my mind to be a safe space. I want to model self-compassion. I want to model the ability to move on, to not let one mistake ruin my day. 

My therapist asked, “What do you want your students to do or feel when they make a mistake?” 

I want them to be able to face it and move on. It’s the same with my kids, or a friend. Why can’t I allow myself to move on? It feels like I don’t take my failures seriously enough unless I dwell on them constantly and feel bad for an extended period of time. Where does that come from? I believe in a God who forgives instantly, my kids forgive instantly–why can’t I? 

This week I’ve learned that in order to choose gentle, I need to build up my tolerance for disappointing myself. 

The recommended treatment for OCD is called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). 

What that means to a non-psychologist is that the only way to break the OCD loop of shame I find myself in is to purposefully trigger that shame cycle (exposure) and refrain from my typical compulsions (response prevention). In OCD, compulsions are what feed the anxiety cycle. They are automatic actions that provide temporary relief, but ultimately tell my brain that my obsession or fear is real, deserves my time and attention, and is something I should worry about. 

My typical compulsions (or the actions that I do automatically in response to this feeling of disappointment or shame) are mental compulsions. That means I’m not washing my hands or checking door locks. Instead, I am replaying and rewinding my mistakes, I am listing all the reasons I deserve to feel bad about myself, I am paralyzed and avoiding simple tasks, I am self-sabotaging by purposefully acting against my values because I feel so bad about myself anyway. Somehow it feels safer to feel shame about a thing I did on purpose versus the fear of being blindsided by a secret sin or mistake I haven’t thought of yet. 

Here’s a recap: 

Obsessions/trigger

  • I failed in some way, disappointed myself or others
  • I am overcome with a deep sense of shame (I am bad vs. I did something bad)

Compulsions

  • Mentally replaying my mistakes
  • Listing all of the mistakes I’ve ever made
  • Trying to figure out how to stop making mistakes or pinpoint exactly why this mistake happened this time to prevent all future mistakes
  • Purposefully making more “mistakes” or avoiding tasks so that I continue to feel bad about myself

OCD Treatment: 

  • Experience the thoughts (exposure), refrain from compulsions (response prevention), and move on with my day by coming back to the present moment. 

A strategy I’ve learned to help with ERP is to say “Maybe, maybe not.” Maybe I failed. Maybe I didn’t. Either way, I am not going to spend my time figuring it out OR beating myself up. 

This is so, so hard for me. It feels URGENT that I figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it. It feels IMPOSSIBLE not to spiral down into a loop of shame. It feels IRRESPONSIBLE not to berate myself for my shortcomings. 

I am also learning that feelings aren’t facts. OCD’s greatest trick is to make the worry, the fear,  feel real–physical anxiety symptoms are triggered: my heart pounds and my breath quickens, I feel a pit in my stomach, my jaw clenches. The physical response is real, but the danger is not real. I don’t actually have to figure out what went wrong. I’m not actually a terrible person or mom or teacher. 

It feels even harder to resist these compulsions when I’ve made a real mistake: I’ve yelled at my kids or said the wrong thing in class or made a careless, critical comment to my husband. 

Again, I ask myself, “What do I want more?”

Do I want to let OCD steer the ship or to move forward in self-compassion? To be trapped in my own mind replaying perceived mistakes or to be present with my kids, my work, my life? 

In my quest to choose gentle, I first need to sit with discomfort. To tolerate my own failings.

Maybe I did something I wish I hadn’t. 
I hurt someone’s feelings. 
I wasted my time. 

I can feel that very real (and sometimes valid) feeling of disappointment, AND I can refuse to take the bait. 

So my next #expearymint is to practice sitting in the disappointment without seeking to solve it or wallow in it or ruminate on it. But to allow the disappointment and MOVE ON. Like I would want my students or kids to do. 

Maybe I could take the same gentle approach with myself as I do with my kids. Maybe it’s too much to ask that the shame cycle doesn’t get triggered–that’s just the nature of my OCD brain. But I can practice a new response. I can pause, wait, take a beat before I engage. I can refuse to get in a shouting match with my OCD. I can respond calmly and neutrally.

Instead of “Aidan, your socks,” I can remind myself, “Aly, your thoughts.” And maybe one day, like Aidan and Blippi, I will be able to playfully smack my forehead, exclaim “Silly me” and move on.

I’ll be the banks for your river

God used to speak to me. And I used to write about it on this blog. 

I use the past tense here because lately I’m not so sure. I don’t know how to be sure that it’s really God’s voice that I heard. 

It’s not that I believe I never heard from God or that I was wrong about it all. I’m just less…certain. More cautious. (16-year-old Aly would have been horrified by this “lukewarm Christian” talk and wishy washy faith). 

I’m currently in treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and one of the themes of my obsessions and compulsions is Moral Scrupulosity. 

“Scrupulosity is an OCD theme in which a person is overly concerned with the fear that they are doing something that goes against their religious beliefs or is immoral.”

Simply put, I have a deep and distressing fear that I am not living out my values. And I have developed compulsions to alleviate this fear. I have been convinced that I must find the right answer–the right action–in every situation and God will make this known to me through signs and certainty if only I pray hard enough, believe earnestly enough, and am faithful enough to figure it out. (Spoiler alert: this is not actually figure-out-able.)

I didn’t know this was part of a disorder until six months ago. To me, the anxiety and the fear and the worry and the rumination and the second-guessing was just my normal experience of faith. Or more accurately, an indictment on my failed faith.

So now I find myself asking the disturbing question, “Was it the voice of God or a mental disorder?” 

Before recovery, I would have rushed to find this answer. I would have NEEDED this answer to be okay. I would have rejected all the good and beautiful and redemptive things I learned about God.

I am learning to live with uncertainty. To hold space for the messy.

I can believe God loves me and also be confused about how He chooses to speak or not speak. 

I can embrace my belovedness even if I don’t know all the answers. 

I can be bewildered by violence and war and racism and still believe that God is good and there is goodness inherent in all people. 

What I cannot do is be certain that my faith or my politics are right. That my way is more holy.  And conversely, I cannot be certain that the other side is wrong.

If God is as big and powerful and loving and grace-filled as I believe, won’t He* understand that I don’t understand? That prayer might be hard right now? That grief lingers in the corners of my recovery? 

Needtobreathe** has a beautiful song called Banks. Some of my favorite lines go:

I wanna hold you close but never hold you back

Just like the banks to the river

And if you ever feel like you are not enough

I’m gonna break all your mirrors

I wanna be there when the darkness closes in

To make the truth a little clearer

I wanna hold you close but never hold you back

I’ll be the banks for your river*

Maybe God’s not judging me. Maybe He’s okay with my ebbs and flows. Maybe He’s the banks to my river. 

*you can see I’m still scared not to capitalize He for God 😉

**Don’t worry, I haven’t backslid too much–Needtobreathe is a Christian band!). 

***

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Lyrical”.

Results: A medium job of trying “meduimer”

Results: I did a medium job of trying mediumer (and it was excruciating)

I scan my faculty ID card, bink, and enter the silent building. I breathe out cold puffs of air and adjust my face mask. I don’t know how long it will take. All or nothing Aly would stay all day if I had to. I would not eat or break until my portfolio was perfect.  

This time I set a time limit: 2pm. I will submit whatever I have completed by 2pm, I tell myself.

Thirty minutes in, my pulse is racing, butterflies swirl in my chest, what if I miss something? What if I’m doing this wrong? What if I mediumer is actually failure? What if I get fired–or worse–what if my performance evokes something less resounding praise?  

An hour in, I’m talking myself out of the project completely, scrolling Instagram instead of compiling documents. 

This is taking too long. I will never finish. Trying mediumer sucks. 

I try out one of my favorite OCD strategies: maybe this is taking too long, maybe not. I keep working. 

The adrenaline still pumps. I notice a typo on a PDF I’ve already created and uploaded. I leave it (gasp!).

By 1:30 I’ve compiled and submitted my materials for 2 of the 4 courses I’ve taught in the last year and a half. 

At this point, sticking to my time limit would be actual sabotage. I’m disappointed I’m not excelling at trying mediumer. That my portfolio will take more time than I budgeted. That my medium isn’t..perfect. 

I head home at 2 and get ready for a church barbecue. I can’t stop ruminating about the last two class materials I need to curate. I’m crying in the car as the kids listen to Blaze and my husband drives us to meet with friends. I make it through the barbecue but OCD is still sucking me in more than I would like. If my goal was to free up mental space to connect with the people in front of me, I am failing. But I am there. 

The next morning, I let my anxiety, my need to finish, get the better of me. I stay home from church to work on my portfolio. I work through the final two classes doing “mediumer.” I let myself re-use my materials from my last evaluation. I have trouble downloading a file, so I just scrap it. Is this mediumer or irresponsible? I honestly don’t know. Will this all bite me in the butt later on? 

I submit my portfolio at 10:53 on Sunday morning, over 24 hours before the deadline, which I have never done. Usually I am tweaking, strategizing, solving until the very last minute. It would be irresponsible not to use this extra time, wouldn’t it? I submit anyway, go for a walk, take a bath. 

The real results won’t come until mid-March when I get the feedback from my evaluators. But that’s not really the point. I let OCD pull me in, but I also fought back. And that’s worth celebrating. 

Experiment 1: Try Mediumer

Experiment: Try Mediumer⠀⠀⠀

Introduction: I’m a lecturer in the Linguistics department at San Diego State University. I teach writing to students whose first language isn’t English. As a non-tenure track instructor, I’m required to complete an annual evaluation where I compile a portfolio of my work. I’m asked to submit major exams and assignments, sample activities, syllabi, student evaluations, and peer observations. I’m supposed to highlight my “best work.”

In my 5 years at SDSU, this assignment has never failed to make me miserable. I spiral into What ifs? and lament that my “best” could always be better. I avoid avoid avoid until days before the deadline and then I work for 72 frantic hours compiling, clarifying, and convincing myself (and hopefully my supervisors!) that my work is not one big heap of rubbish.

I have checked and double checked my files, my explanations, my exemplars until I have accounted for every type of activity, answered my evaluators’ every question before they even think them. I have worked until the portfolio feels JUST RIGHT.⠀⠀

In OCD recovery, I am learning that this need to achieve “perfection” is actually an Obsession, and my actions–avoidance or overachieving–are actually Compulsions. Rigid rules of perfection that make me feel in control, but actually perpetuate my anxiety and fear of failure.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I am learning to ask, what do I value MORE than perfection?⠀⠀⠀⠀

I want healing, self-compassion that spills into grace for others. I want to be proud of my work, but not a slave to it.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

So here is my Research Question: Can I purposefully submit work that does not feel JUST RIGHT, but GOOD ENOUGH? Can I give myself the grace to Try Mediumer?

I’ll post my findings on Thursday. Do you have any experiments you’d like to try? Comment here or use the hashtags #exspearymints and #trialandreflection on Instagram.

These are the days of experiments

“The best, perfect way of doing things: There is no such thing,” my therapist texts me. “There is only trial and error.”

I want to throw up.

//

While cleaning the kids’ bathroom I encounter the usual suspects: Marshall and Skye toothbrushes bristle down on the cold tile, a capless toothpaste tube leaking child-approved anticavity gel, even wet Q-tips and a size 3T sticker disintegrating in the sink.

But this is a new one.

“Aidan, what is this?!” I scream loud enough to interrupt his imaginary rescue efforts in the loft. “AIDAN!!”

“What, Mama?” he shuffles in.

“What. Is. This??” I roar as I thrust my discovery into his face: a tiny Tylenol cup meant for accurate dosing (that I have been trying to find for weeks) is filled with soapy water and, what is this,  a metal screw?

I don’t know why I’m seething, why my jaw is clenched and my stomach sour.

“It’s an EX-pery-ment,” Aidan beams, pronouncing the word like it’s a former brand of spearmint gum.

“A what? Where did you find the screw?” His shoulders slump as he realizes I am not impressed or amused.

“I don’t know.” His eyes dart away and I force myself to take a breath.

One-two-three-four in. One……..two……..three……..four out.

I soften as I picture his kindergarten science class, five-year-old researchers masked and wiggly, disassembling defunct coffee pots and erecting structures out of toothpicks and mini-marshmallows.

“What are you testing?” I ask.

“I wanted to see what happens to the screw in soap and water,” the twinkle returns to his eyes.

“And was your hypothesis right?” I query, noticing a control group of dry screws huddled by the baseboards.

“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “Nothing changed. But that’s okay!”

He scampers off to save Adventure Bay as I ponder his scientific method. To him, science is a game like Paw Patrol or hide and seek. There is no pressure for right results. There is only play.

I toss the wet Q-tips and scrub the toothpaste, but leave his soapy beaker on the counter, wondering what he’ll discover in the morning.

//

I tuck my kids into bed and replay my workday. I am there with my kids, but instead of noticing their sweet faces or delighting in the familiar routine of books and teeth and snuggles, I rewind and relive every anxious moment from my day at work. I scrutinize my students’ facial expressions. So and So seemed bored, that question about too much homework means I must be giving the wrong workload. I simmer in the memory of the silence when I tried to elicit a response to a question they should have known the answer to so I just kept rambling and said something stupid and then ran out of time at the end. We didn’t get to _____ or _____ or _____.  I should have explained ____ differently. I should have been more prepared. I should have known that activity would take longer. I should have planned it out differently. It’s my fault I failed. I failed. I failed.

I must figure out what I did wrong and adjust accordingly. I must prevent this future failure. I must be a better worker, a better teacher, a better planner. If I could just arrange my tasks in the perfect order, follow a sequence of success, this wouldn’t happen again. Surely the answer, the formula, the fix, is just around the corner.

Then I think of Aidan and his EX-speary-mints. His nonchalance at insignificant results, his joy in the process of discovery. His love of the game.  What if there is no perfect equation for my work day, what if I tried something to see what happened, what if I PLAY?

When my kids’ breath lengthens and limbs go limp, I sneak out to my office. I chop up my to-do list, cutting each item written to ensure maximum efficiency into rectangular strips that I place in a basket. Tomorrow I will not plan, strategize, overanalyze. I will pluck a strip from the basket and do it. Then the next and the next. A Task-list Lottery, a Wheel of Workflow.

I will see how it feels.

In the morning, my anxiety has transfigured into excitement. I have forgotten the failure of the day before.

My mind is quiet.

I reach into the basket, wondering what I will discover.

//

“Ninety-seven, 98, 99, 100!” Aidan counts from the backseat of the minivan as Bruno-no-no-no blares.

“Whatcha countin’, bub?” I ask as I signal to turn into the parking lot.

“I was testing if I would make it to a hundred before we got to Target.”

“Ah,” I reply, “And was your hypothesis right or wro…”

I stop myself before I finish the word. I am learning there is no right or wrong; not in science and maybe not in most areas of life. Each experiment can yield a useful result, a learning opportunity, a catalyst for growth.

Instead, I ask him–and remind myself:

 “Okay, what did you learn?”





***

With the hopes of stretching my researcher muscles and learning together, I am a starting a new (well, more like first ever) series on Instagram: These are the days of experiments. Every Monday I am going to share a new experiment I am testing out and every Thursday I will share my results and reflections.

An experiment with experiments (oh, how I love to be meta).

I would love to have you join in and share your own experiments and discovery process.

Together, let us be objective observers, open to wonder, and as curious as my sweet boy swirling soap in a medicine cup.

Love Looks Like Maybe

Ryan, your love looks like…

pouring your curated craft liquors down the drain
ordering Rachel Held Evan’s book
scooping kitty litter and braving Costco on a Saturday
meeting with a Life/Dad coach
learning to regulate your emotions and reframing narratives with kids

refinancing the mortgage, consolidating car payments
taking out the trash and setting the coffee
sneaking in late night workouts
planning a trip to the Olympic Trials, learning all the gymnasts’ names (Go Mykayla!), and immediately watching replays in the hotel room
organizing a trip to visit friends in Idaho
foregoing a trip to visit friends so I could fly last minute to my grandmama’s funeral

encouraging me in AA
hiding the BMI scale
reaching out to your people
sharing my blog posts
building me a new website (coming soon!)
re-engaging after tough interactions

stacks of crustless peanut butter sandwiches
a Pielogy box with my name on it
preschool drop offs with the threenager
quesadillas and gyro meat sizzling on the skillet
shoestring fries and dino nuggets humming in the airfryer
his and hers yodels (IYKYK)
Dada “nuggles”

calling the kids downstairs when I’m trying to finish a workout in peace
scheduling family photoshoots–and enduring them!
binging Dexter and Top Chef and Ted Lasso
cringing with me at Covid misinformation videos
waking up at 3am to watch Simone
printing family calendars for the grandparents
designing the yearly Christmas cards

willingly participating in a child dedication where the five-year-old crawled around on the stage and the three-year-old grabbed my crotch during your heartfelt prayer
giving grace when I’m angry, critical, self-righteous

saying I’m sorry 
saying I love you to the toddler who screams and stomps at your mere presence
saying nothing and everything with your hand on my shoulder
saying great! to my decision not to cover up my gray hairs
saying I’ll pick up Aidan, I’ll run to the store, I’ll give you some quiet

***

Love even looks like saying *Maybe* when I want to know if I’m fat, failing, defective.

Love looks like refusing to feed my OCD cycle with reassurance. When asked if I look fat, I want you—no, need you–to answer Maybe

And though you are an Enneagram 9, a peacemaker, a non-rocker-of-boats and follower of Unspoken Rules of Men Everywhere, you do say Maybe, and we move forward together.

***

This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “Love Looks Like”.

Maybe is my way forward

I am a bad friend because I didn’t text her back.

I am a bad wife because I didn’t read his mind.

I am a bad mom because I didn’t keep my cool.

           Maybe.

I am irresponsible because I went to the pool instead of answering that email.

I am irresponsible because I fell asleep without brushing my teeth.

I am irresponsible because I did not wake up with my alarm.

           Maybe.

I’m the worst friend that ever existed.

I ruined her day, her weekend, her life.

I am the worst teacher that ever existed because I did not grade 

their assignment the moment they turned it in.

I let my students down.

I ruined their semester, their careers, their lives.

           Maybe.

I mismanaged my time.

I didn’t maximize, prioritize, optimize.

I am squandering my life.

           Maybe.

I have failed.

I am failing.

I will fail.

           Maybe.

I will feel disorganized and defeated no matter how much I prepare.

Every choice I make is wrong.

           Maybe.

I am not living my values.

I will always feel stuck.

I am failing at recovery.

I am not the perfect parent, the perfect teacher, the perfect person.

I am messing it up.

I am messing them up.

           Maybe.

I can’t concentrate.

I am performing a compulsion.

I am compulsing about compulsions.

           Maybe.

I am the only OCD patient to ever fail the program.

Every choice I make is wrong.

Every choice I make is wrong.

Every choice I make is wrong.

Every choice I make is wrong.

Every choice I make is wrong.

           Maybe.

I am failing.

I am failing.

I am failing.

I am failing.

           Maybe.

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