Last weekend, I pulled this tree out of my front yard with my bare hands.*
ok…I admit to a bit of help from my thirteen-year-old…but still – it’s a tree!
Since I got divorced and starting living alone (I have my kiddos every other week) I’ve had to become much more self-reliant. It’s been a process, but I’ve learned to pay my bills (usually on time) hang pictures (ok, I had A LOT of help on this one from my friend Ali) take out the garbage (most weeks) and even pull trees out of my yard with my bare hands.
Living alone is a great opportunity to learn how to do things you’ve never had to do before. Which is good for your self-esteem and self-growth, but is also extremely frustrating and sometimes terrifying. Before a year and a half ago, I hadn’t lived alone since just after college. Things are harder now than they were then. There are children, a real job, a mortgage.
I’ll admit that sometimes when I am doing something alone that is particularly hard – like the time the propane tank on my grill got stuck closed and I couldn’t turn on the gas to make dinner – I cry. I’ll even admit that I sometimes get angry and throw things, usually in a frustrated rant that involves temporary anger at everyone and everything in my life. I run through the mental list of others I can “blame” for my situation hating every one of them. Why am I alone? Why couldn’t I have worked harder to make my marriage work? Why didn’t I marry someone else to begin with? What exactly is God trying to teach me and why does He repeatedly test me?
But sometimes, like with this tree, I experience such an amazing feeling of empowerment. I feel mighty and strong and capable of anything and sometimes I even find myself humming the song I sang to my brothers as a kid “anything boys can do…girls can do better… I can do everything better than you.” It’s at those moments I’ve learned to make a note on the calendar that I can reference later – See! There was a day, not too long ago, when you felt like you could handle anything!
I guess life is a series of tests for all of us. As much as it might look perfect from the outside – no one has the perfect life. I’ll admit – I can’t imagine what could be wrong with Giselle’s life. But there has to be something.
I think, as women, we need to support each other through both our triumphs and failures. We need to let each other in on our secret – none of us is perfect. I know, I know…there is always a mom that seems to have it all together. You know her. Her children are perfectly dressed and well behaved, she always looks like she just walked off a magazine cover, she makes edible homemade baked goods for every school bake sale and she never forgets Brownie Day – her kid always has the uniform on and permission slip signed. But you know, maybe someone looks at me and thinks I am that woman. Just like maybe, someone is looking at you the same way.
I am sitting in the airport on a business trip as I write this. I have a suit on and my hair and make-up are having a good day. When I am in work mode I typically look confident and put together, like now, sipping my latte as I type away. A woman just sat down next to me with her two small children. The older one has what looks like chocolate all over his mouth (it’s 9:38 a.m.). The younger one hasn’t had her hair brushed this morning and is crying. The woman is carrying her purse, a baby blanket, a half-eaten bagel, a backpack, a Barbie Doll and her boarding passes. She practically fell into the chair beside me and is now frantically rummaging through her bags, apparently looking for baby wipes, which she has just found. Once the chocolate is gone off the boy’s face she shoots me an apologetic glance before trying to stuff some more of the bagel in her daughter’s face and having a little crumb herself. I lean over and say “Man, I’ve been there”. She looked at me like she might cry.
She, of course, has no idea that I hit something last night on the 405 and blew a tire on my car – or that I just found out is going to cost me $3000 I don’t have. She doesn’t know I forgot my ten-year-old’s end of year project on the kitchen table this morning causing her such disappointment that the look on her face broke my heart in half. Or that I am wearing the only clean suit I had in my closet because I’ve haven’t had a minute to pick up my dry cleaning. She, right now, is a little reminder and God’s gift to me. We all struggle. None of us is perfect. We are all one bad Monday away from tears.
And so, once again – I remind myself. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. It takes a village. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to panic, get angry and not always have all the answers. But it’s also ok – even necessary – to celebrate that moment when you rip a tree out of your front yard with your bare hands!
*The tree did have to go. It was planted right next to my front door in a 12 inch wide strip of dirt between the sidewalk and the house. When you walked out the front door the branches slapped you in the face. I mean really. Was there any forethought when this tree was planted? So, please don’t get all tree-hugger on me because you’ll miss the point of the article.