I used to babysit a little boy who would say (on repeat during his Cars movie obsession), “Oh no! Tow Mater’s stuck in the mud! Stuck in the mud! Stuck in the mud!” And it reminds me of the emails I receive from readers all over the world.
I’m stuck in the mud… I’m stuck in the mud… Again and again and again. Perhaps I wince because I know the feeling.
A few years ago, I shared a piece of my family’s story. Something about the peek into my real life struck a chord with people and it quickly went viral. My email and Facebook inboxes filled with messages of heartbreak, people relating to my story and sharing all their nitty-gritty details, ripped out chapters from their stories of their disappointment with the rocky journey in loving an addict.
I love connecting with my readers and cheering them on in their own journeys. But, honestly, it feels quite overwhelming on many days. Probably because I’m a fixer. I want to reach through the screen and send you some love, some motivation, some reminder that you deserve a life of learning to celebrate the small victories in ordinary, everyday life. You deserve a life of knowing yourself and finding a way to throw more and more pebbles into the “Good Days” jar.
Recently, I even tried to launch a sprinkles business. (I know this sounds ridiculous…) The man in the red flannel thought I had lost my mind. We stopped at three different stores to stock up on tools for the experiment. “It’s an investment,” I convinced him as the credit card swiped. Long story short, it didn’t work. My sprinkles recipe failed and I learned the value of the factory workers who work hard to produce those complicated and manufactured sprinkles. (Who knew sprinkles are dough covered in wax?!)
You see, I keep sketching out business plans because I want to give you something. I want to meet a basic need, like food, clothing, water, or shelter. I want a tangible exchange of goods and payment, something to brighten your day and give you a hug.
Because something about this love I have to give doesn’t feel tangible. I don’t know how to bottle it up and package it just right to make your life better. I don’t have an elevator pitch to sell you my product that you’ll not just love, but it will indeed change your life forever. Or at least until you need to buy more.
I only have stories to give you. Just a listening ear and stories.
LET’S GET UNSTUCK
Believe me, I’m the queen of throwing pity parties and then inviting everyone to join me around the smoldering fire to keep poking the burning coals for days. So hear me when I say that we’re wrestling through this together, building our collection of inspiration that will motivate us to start cleaning up this life that keeps getting messy.
Broken, I used to sit around and contemplate learning to knit while I never actually knit, but instead waited for the next sniper to attack. I see your anxious wheels spinning in the thick, sloppy mud.
Maybe the best thing to do is go to bed. Sleep changes everything. Wake up and buy yourself flowers, go buy a newspaper filled with colorful, global stories that you can hold in your hands and that crash your pity party of one.
I’ll admit I’m a bit of a journal pusher. Have a birthday? I’ll buy you a journal. Have a life regret that keeps spiraling in your head? I’ll buy you a journal. Something powerful happens on blank pages when you put the pen down and just write. You discover parts of you hiding, lost or maybe just floating somewhere between your heart and your brain.
Open the pages. See what you left behind in the lost and found bin.
I’ve featured my tattoo at least once on this blog. It says “Believe” and it’s on my writing hand to remember what I was made to do. Pre-permanent ink, I went through a phase where I would write a word on my hand every morning. The word went on the inside of my palm and the ink faded by the end of a sweaty palm day. Whatever word I had meditated on in the morning would keep me company through the quiet or noisy hours a day would bring.
Broken, try it. Write a word on your hand like “STAY” and look down at it when life feels hard enough that you want to run away to a tropical island where they promise the sun’s always shining and the golf balls just dance into the holes.
Write a phrase like “LET GO” when your thoughts spiral into an alphabetical list of all the ways that your loved one loads the dishwasher incorrectly. The emails I receive are always (and never) about the dishes. Years ago, I heard a couple in an addiction treatment center group counseling session yell for half an hour about which way the knives go. The knives go THIS way, they go up, they go down, they go inside my heart.
Let go of the knives, Sweet Broken.
Back before “self-care” started buzzing, my mom taught me how to bathe. She brought in movies on a laptop and created her own little steamy world. She taught me how to decorate for holidays, filling shelves with bunnies and budding reminders that spring brings happiness. She taught me how to write notes on napkins, inking her love inside my packed lunch every day.
Broken, these things might seem small, trivial or even trite. But they are just what we need.
Motivation can come in small packages—and they build up over time, piling onto each other, toppling over to inspire us to become the kind of people who celebrate. (It’s why I wrote this about how we’re built for repetition, the same story told over and over again.)
One day, we’ll look up and this celebrating will come naturally. We’ll be the people with real, messy stories still unfolding day-by-day. But at least we’ll have each other to remember how to make the bed each morning, how to turn a disaster into a fresh start.
We’ll stand together as the people caked in mud, hauling our ashes away to build something resembling a beautiful sand castle that the crashing waves will skim with a kiss—but never reach.