The Art of Goal Making

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I’ve been thinking a lot about goals. What they actually are. How we achieve them if they are dependent on outside forces. Where we draw the line in our pursuit and shift the goal so we can find success. I’ve been thinking a lot about it because, from the outside, it looks like I must have a lot of goals. But recently I realized, I don’t.

Before you roll your eyes and point to my Instagram, listen.

Eleven-years-ago, I was a receptionist at a title company in Texas. I vehemently despised this position. People irritated me. Having a boss irritated me. Making cookies for house closings, irritated me. I was irritated about getting up in the morning, and irritated about going to bed at night. The job was a means to an end. My husband was in school full-time, and we needed the income until he graduated.

What I really wanted was a baby. I didn’t actually know if I could ever want anything more.

It was an all-consuming desire that turned into an unachievable goal.

Every month I wasn’t pregnant, my mind whirled with fear. All the trying in the world (and believe me, we tried A LOT) wouldn’t make it happen. I did everything right. I ate well. I cut back on caffeine. I was active. I spiraled and spiraled. All around me, friends jubilantly announced pregnancies, sent photos of sonograms, cried happily into the phone. I wanted to be happy for them, obviously I did, but there was a tiny, barren place in my heart where true joy for them, and real hope for me, went to die.

And, oh yeah, I still really hated my job.

During that year, I began working on a screenplay I’d had in my head for years. And even though I still had the desire for that baby, and even though I still wanted to burn the cookies and tell off my boss, I began to want something else, too. I didn’t yet have the words for what it was or the courage to say it allowed, but I was changing. The goal still mattered, but it wasn’t the only goal.

Ten years ago, I was fired from my job as a receptionist. They were downsizing and looking for fat they could trim. I literally volunteered — I might as well have been Katniss. My husband was about to graduate, we had some savings, he’d get a job — whatever. We agreed it was the right time.

Free from my desk job nightmare, I threw myself in writing. I finished the screenplay. I began planning something new. And the week before I found out I was pregnant, I had a straight up gin martini and told my husband I was glad I hadn’t gotten pregnant when I wanted to.

I had found peace in the pursuit.

At no point in this journey did I consciously alter my goal. Never did I make a declaration— privately or otherwise — that I didn’t care anymore about being pregnant. I never stopped pursuing it, even though there were times I really believed giving up would at least lead to some inner peace. I continued to do my part, which, let’s face it, was super fun, and somewhere along the way I stopped holding so tight to the when.

It wasn’t until my son was two-years-old, that I genuinely started to imagine a life as a writer. I’ve talked about this before, but I made some serious missteps in my goal setting there. Because, I made the goal something totally outside my own ability to control, and I have spent years undoing that. I’m still undoing it.

The goal is the work — the creative life. Everything else is external, and in case you didn’t know, you have no control on the external. You cannot make an agent love your book. You cannot make a publisher buy it. You cannot make readers run to bookstores or download it on their Kindle.

You cannot make anyone give a shit about you. It is more important that you give a shit about yourself.

Love the hell out of your work. Write the book, the screenplay, the poem. Take your time. Do all the work. Learn all you can about the work. Love every minute even when that particular minute majorly sucks. Then, take a seat, have a gin martini straight up, and thank God you didn’t get it when you wanted because look at all you have learned along the way.

You never know when it’s going to change.

Momness

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An Open letter to those looking for their Momness:

There is nothing safe about motherhood. If you choose it, you will never feel peaceful again.

You may not enjoy pregnancy. You will probably have back pain and knee pain and boob pain, and at some point you will stop being able to hold it to the end of the movie. You will not like the weight you gain regardless of how good it is for the baby. You will hate your face in pictures and your pregnancy glow will actually be a sheen of sweat. Take this opportunity to eat dessert everyday. Peruse the candy aisle. Have a plate of french fries. Kale is important, but enjoy the abandon of finishing the whole milkshake. Pregnancy is about you stretching out, giving up some control on your body, and learning to tell people to back off.

You will feel pain. There is pain in labor no matter how you go about it. There is no way, actually, to give birth to a baby without it. Embrace the pain. Then defy it. Whatever you do, be you in that hospital room. You is who the baby will need. If you lose your way in there, but sure to have someone that can help you back to it.

You will feel everything. When the baby is here you will be exposed. Your body, your soul, the shortcomings you were worried about, they will be on full display. If you let that train wreck happen, you also might just win the whole world. Your baby’s whole world anyway. It is terrifying to be everything to another human being. No matter how in love you are with your significant other, you have never actually been the sun he revolves around. For this brief interlude you are the entire world for your baby. You are perfection. Accept that. Let it give you strength.

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Later, when you are home, you will feel alone. It will not matter how much support is in place there will be these silent, still, shaking moments of aloneness. Of baby and only you-ness. When the sun starts to set and you realize you are going to have to face the nighttime again you will maybe freak the hell out. Do that for a few minutes because it is always better to acknowledge the fear than to ignore it. Then pull it together and go to bed as soon as you can for the night is long and full of feedings.

DSC_3813Reach out. You do not have to know what you are doing. Mom’s are not superheroes. If you find yourself in the dark, tell the truth. There might be people that judge you. Learn to tell those people where to stick their judgement.

Find a time to feel like yourself. Drink wine after a feeding while the baby sleeps. Watch trashy TV. Read read read. Nap like a cat. Take a walk. Listen to birds. Listen to yourself.

Write down how you feel. Write it out because later you will wish you had. You will think all kinds of crazy, hair-brained, brilliant and borderline insane things and the fog of two am feedings and diaper changes and trying to get the breast pump to work and I need a break and will my body ever stop looking like silly putty, is going to make you forget that you are powerful and cool and you have an idea. You will forget the love you feel later when you are fighting with them about what they’ll wear to school or eating broccoli at dinner. You will forget the bravery you showed by getting up again to swaddle and soothe when you just want to sleeeeeeep.

Write it down. All of it.

Yes, take pictures, but more importantly feel the moment with your body. Make memories and then make a photo. Be there first.DSC_4445

Hold on. Tight. Long. Forever.

Listen to your own instinct. You reserve the right to tell everyone to piss off. You get to scowl and scramble. You get to ignore every guidebook and piece of advice. This baby is yours. For a few lightning fast years, you are the moon and stars and ultimate authority. You are the chosen one. You are the beginning, the end. No single human being alive on this planet is better equipped than you to make your child’s life magical. You decide what that fairy tale looks like. It might not include Pinterest crafts or breastmilk, staying home with him, going back to work ever. You might not be the same kind of mom as yours, and that is okay.

You might try for years to have a baby, and it might never happen. It will tear you up inside. The grief will be unmatched. Your desire will feel unfulfilled. It is okay to be angry. It is okay to mute your friends with children. It is okay to let it go someday. To put that dream behind you and move on. To find peace in your journey.

You may get to an age where you know the chance to be a mom has passed you by. You may be too afraid to try. You may think you will fowl it up. You may look at the world around you and wonder why bother bringing a baby into something so completely messed up. You may feel the loss of miscarrying and everyone around you might not understand why, for you, Mother’s Day makes you want to hide.

Momness is a battle. It is waging war against the world for your child, but it also waging war against the fear inside you. Momness can mean loving a baby, but it can also mean advocating for a child that has no mom. It can mean stepping in when you see a need. It can mean listening and paying attention when you realize no one else is.

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You will find your momness in moments of extraordinary bravery. Because momness isn’t just in the having and raising of your own baby, it is in the daily battle for the future. The willingness to look at this frantic world and try to create moments of peace. To fight for someone smaller, less capable than you. To be around when you need to be. To prove that though they be small they can still be fierce.

With love,

A girl still finding her Momness

Mothers

What is mother? Am I one? I have a child, I carried him and gave birth to him. I am raising him. Sometimes I am not raising him well, and sometimes I am a lioness stalking those who would try to harm him. Sometimes I feel like a wounded bird when I look at my son, all fluttering wings unable to fly.

My mother is a woman who seems to be cut from the cloth of a mothering shawl. She is wise and daring, she is a world within herself. I would endeavor to be like her, if not for the fact that I don’t seem to be cut from that same shawl. I am good at being mother when mother is who I see in the mirror, but many times I see someone else entirely.

My mirror shows me a girl with wisps of blonde and clear blue eyes, staring at her mother, perplexed by her strength. I am a child who still wants to be held, kissed, and tucked into bed to dream of the woman I’ll be.

My mirror shows me a teenager, slim and lost, wearing a black t-shirt and jeans that don’t fit. I am still her, still finding strength to stand tall in the midst of my changes.

My mirror will show me who I become, it will show me the wrinkles coming slowly in around my eyes. The ones from smiling so big and laughing so hard, the ones from squinting in the sun and searching for my destiny. That woman is wild, she’s brave, an undaunted warrior. She holds the hand of a child, but that child can run ahead of her too, letting her hand fall to a keyboard.

When I see her, looking back at me with green eyes now, hair darkened by age, I’m reminded even mothers are not only mothers. My mother lives in dirt now, her fingernails lined with the dark, rich brown of fertilizer. She is still my mother, still wise and protective like all mothers should be, but she’s changed in my eyes. She’s become something new. A creature who lives for herself and for me, for my brothers, and these children who gave her a new name too. She is more than my mother.

She reminds me with gardening gloves and a hoe, that we can be all of those reflections we see — child, teenager lost, woman aging and proud — each one in the right time, forever. We aren’t one thing perfectly crafted, but a many faceted prism. We reflect the light in our lives, shining even when that hits a piece of black glass.

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