What I continue to learn about love is parallel to what I continue to learn about creativity — acceptance is the winning strategy we forget to use and:
the best way to increase your energetic capacity for all the things you want is to release any idea of how it is supposed to go.
This one takes vulnerability to share, but I believe the parts we want to crop out of our pictures are the most interesting parts, and one of my highest responsibilities to you is to walk my talk, even if my voice wobbles.
I am standing at the top of a water slide at an odd but strangely appealing midwest version of Disney Land + water park extravaganza, when it all of a sudden dawns on me that this Grandma thing is actually happening.
I look down at my loving, fiery, Grandson-to-be, his enthusiastic face brightening as we approach our turn.
He is four. I am 34. Becoming a grandmother before I became a mother was never a part of the plan.
I was my best supportive self when we got the news that Michael’s daughter was having a child. The situation was complex and the last thing he needed was my resistance.
Inside, a little girl in me screamed — THIS IS NOT HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO GO!
Right. Of course.
Her lifelong goal of having a normal family was, once again, being obliterated by circumstances outside of her control.
I had been dreaming about becoming a mother since before I could write my name. Grandma Liz is a fun thing to joke about but I had never planned on inheriting a kid—not to mention a grandkid.
Yet bonus progeny make an odd kind of sense because nonlinear family is in my DNA. I was raised in a wacky and non-traditional household by a gay dad and a straight mom in a for their time boundary-defying open marriage.
Now, my Dad is remarried to a man and we all go on vacations together—but, growing up, I wanted nothing to do with our non-conventional life.
I wanted to live in New Jersey—not Philadelphia—because I thought that was where the normal people lived. I wanted to eat white bread not hippie brown bread and I wanted my parents to be doctors not artists. I wanted to have our kitchen on the first floor of our house not the third (even the house was nonlinear!)
I dreamt of a mom who knew how to french-braid hair and a dad who fixed the leaks and not the other way around. I dreamt of parents who loved only each other and was convinced that I would grow up and right this wrong this by creating my very own very normal family--like Steve Martin and Diane Keaton in Father of the Bride. Like the perfect way those J Crew catalogue cover model families must love each other — which certainly did not include acquiring children that were not my own or Grandmahood before parenthood.
I look down at my Grandson-to-be’s tiny hand in mine and realize that I can be his bonus Grandmother or I can hold onto my little girl’s dream, but it's too exhausting to hold space for both.
We have to let go, I whisper to her, gently. We’ll be okay.
At the top of the water slide, a miraculous moment when I realize—for what feels like the first time in my life—that there is nothing wrong with us.
We are not any less human or wonderful because we don’t look like the J. Crew Catalogue. I can love my bonus Grandson before I love kids of my own. I can love my weird nonlinear family even though they don’t look like what I thought it was supposed to be.
Our turn is up on the slide.
My Grandson-to-be leaps into the raft.
Come on, Liz! He says, jollily.
I turn to my little girl. Are you coming?
She doesn’t leap like he does.
I get it. Letting go of an old dream takes transition time and we are not in the last five minutes of Father of the Bride.
But I make a bit of room and to my surprise, she hesitantly gets in the raft.
I have never loved her so much.
She doesn't know this but by jumping in she is helping me grow up — I look down to the inside of my heart and notice a greater capacity to love.
There is room for everyone in this raft and there is no one way to family.
I say to all of us.
Let’s do this.
I'm not going to tell you how to love today.
But my gentle invitation is this:
Wonder about the parts of your life or yourself or your story that you may have labeled less than or unacceptable because they don't match what your childhood self thinks of as normal.
My hunch is that freedom, capacity, and more energy awaits when you invite her into your raft.
(And she might be more willing to jump in than you think)
What would it take to welcome into the fold the parts of yourself you have historically tried to crop out?
Acceptance is the #1 time-management hack.
Forgiveness is more effective than 100 how-tos.
Maybe leaning in to all of who we are is the most effective and high-level strategy around.
Keep me posted on what unfolds.
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