This has been a rough week or so, emotionally. So many bad things have happened in my city, in this country, and in the world. Too many things to process. I have been more emotionally invested in things not related to my family than I can remember being in a long time.
It's hard to know how to recover from that. How to process it and hear things and adapt opinions and learn and grow, and continue to hold your heart safe. I'm weary, to be honest.
Yesterday, Momastery had a holiday giving match up, where people who need, ask, and people who can, give. I cannot give much this year, financially. This is not a giving year for me, unfortunately. But I signed up for a few things, and to be honest, it helps.
When there is a fear or sadness or anger, I find the best thing to do is something positive in response. No matter how small.
A little girl at our school did not have winter clothes, so I packed her a bag, a big Dora bag, of things. Hats, gloves, blankets, socks, books, clothes. That girl being so close to home hit hard. I hope she takes delight in her Dora bag. And that she is warm. And that her mama can worry a little less. I wish it were more.
Today I sent coloring books, colored pencils, and some of our old costumes to a family in Texas, who have been adopted into an extended family of at least 20 people. My heart is warmed by the thought of these strangers opening the packages. Of the adopted Grandma and Grandpa who continue to open their home and their hearts to non-biological family. Of the love that grows there.
I am working on a letter to a mama who is having hard time dealing with her baby's diagnosis. She feels guilty, and tired. Lord knows I've been there, too. That will be a hard, and easy, letter to write. Because I'll be writing to my past self.
I tell you this not for accolades. Just to profess that sometimes healing has to come from giving. And this is making me feel better, knowing that I am making a difference, even if it's very small.
This morning, I sat down and wrote a letter to a boy in a group home, described to me as a "prison like" setting for boys ages 10-18. I want to share it here. I didn't have a lot of details, and the lady requesting letters only said that she wanted us to give these kids hope. To let them know that they have a chance. My problems seem very small in comparison.
Hey there kiddo,
I hope you don’t mind me calling you “kiddo.” See, I don’t know your name. I don’t know much about you actually. I know that you are in Florida, you are a boy, and you are young, and you are somewhere you probably never thought you’d be. That’s it.
You may be wondering why you are getting this letter from me, and who the heck I am. My name is Becky. I am a mom to 3 kids, one of whom is a 10 year old boy. He may be a lot like you, maybe not. I imagine him when I type these words. I am saying what I would say to him, as a mom. I think maybe you need to hear it, too.
I am writing one letter today, and you got it. That means something to me, that out of all the people who could have gotten this letter, it was your hands that opened it, and your eyes that are reading these words. To me that means that YOU were the one who was SUPPOSED to get it. I hope that means something to you as well.
I feel a little unqualified to be writing to you, because I don’t know your situation. I feel like I could imagine it, though. I know that to get where you are today, things were done. Things that you may regret, maybe not.
I imagine that you are tough, but maybe also scared. Brave, but maybe also sad. Fierce, but maybe also timid. Maybe you’ve made up your mind about how the world works. It may be that you don’t like what you see. Maybe when you look in the mirror you are proud. Or maybe disappointed. Maybe unbelievably angry.
I’m guessing here. I don’t know.
But you do.
I could give you plenty of well-intentioned advice. I have a lot of it stored up. But there are only a few things that I want to say to you today, and my deepest hope is that you will hear them. That you will read this letter today, and put it somewhere safe and pull it out when you need the reminder. That the letter will become frayed and the words faded, until you know these words by heart. Until you believe them.
I don’t know if you have been told lately that you are loved.
You are loved.
You. Yes, you.
You are loved.
Again, I don’t know your exact situation, but I can guess that some mistakes were made. Maybe some by others. Maybe by people you cared about and trusted. Maybe by you. Only you know what happened.
Can I tell you something and have you really listen? Please?
Every single person in this entire world has made mistakes. All of us.
Some people let their mistakes define them. They think that the mistake was so bad that they can never go back. Is that you?
Or, they think that their situation is so bad that they just want to give up. That it’s not worth it to even try because the deck is so stacked against them. It’s easy to understand. It’s so hard to overcome a bad situation, why waste the effort?
I want to tell you a quick story about my husband. Maybe you can relate.
He grew up in a household that didn’t always have love. In fact, most of the time, it felt the opposite. When his two older brothers left, he was alone there in that house. He could have easily rolled over and given up, but he didn’t. He got a college degree, and a master’s degree, and he has a good job and a family that loves him very much. He did this by himself, for himself.
When people who knew him back then see him now, they talk about how great it is that he and his brothers made something of themselves. Nobody would have blamed them had they taken the same road that his dad did.
He told me a story once about how he was crying and feeling sorry for himself about his situation, and he saw himself in the mirror and decided right then and there that he was done with that. He was done being sad, or mad. He just wanted to GET OUT. And so he did what he needed to do to get out.
Have you had that heart to heart with yourself yet?
Because, my husband? He’s a great guy. And he could have let life happen to him and accept that this was his life and he had no control over it. But he didn’t do that.
And you don’t have to do that either.
You are so young, even if you feel so old. There is so much world yet to see, kiddo. Don’t you want to see it? I hope you do. You have the chance to be great, you only have to want it. Do you want it?
One of my favorite authors, Cheryl Strayed, told a story about some advice she gave to a girl in a group that was similar to the one you’re in. I feel like it pertains to you as well…
“I told her that it would likely go on and she’d have to survive it. That she’d have to find a way within herself to not only escape the shit, but to transcend it. I told her that escaping the shit would be hard, but that if she wanted to not make her mother’s life her destiny, she had to be the one to make it happen. She had to do more than hold on. She had to reach. She had to want it more than she’d ever wanted anything. She had to grab like a drowning girl for every good thing that came her way and she had to swim like fuck away from every bad thing. She had to count the years and let them roll by, to grow up and then run as far as she could in the direction of her best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by her own desire to heal.”
Do you have happiest dreams, kiddo? Have you let yourself do that?
When you go to bed tonight, take a few minutes to think about that. What would a happiest dream look like to you? What happens when this is all over? Where do you want to be? WHO do you want to be?
Don’t look back at what’s happened so far. That’s all done. You have survived it. It’s ok to be mad and sad and confused about what’s happened. Take that time and do that. It’s important to do that. But, at a certain point, look in the mirror and make that choice to let that go. It happened, and you survived.
There is only one person in charge of where you land, and that’s you. That may be hard for you to believe, but there it is. You always have the chance to change, you just have to make that choice. And once you’ve made that choice, the one where you change, where you grow, where you hope and dream and believe in yourself, you have to REACH. You have to reach harder and farther than you ever thought you could.
This life is not easy. For ANY of us. We are all going through something. Maybe you know that. Or maybe you think that your “something” is worse than everyone else’s. Maybe it is worse. My heart breaks for you when I think about what you’ve gone through. You are so strong.
Are you strong enough to reach?
I think you are. I believe in you. You are loved, even if you don’t always believe it.
You got this. Seriously. I believe it, do you?
All my hopes and love and good thoughts and mojo and prayers to you,
So, by giving this boy my heart, I am beginning to heal my own. And that feels right to me.