I hope you had the chance to read last week’s Sunday Love. I shared a story about observing a woman in the lobby of the hospital where Ethan had been inpatient for nine months. That day I looked at her and thought to myself, “at least I’m not her”. I went on to invite you into others’ stories, especially of those whom you might say to yourself, “at least I’m not her”.
I head from several of you who wrote to me and said, “I’m her”.
“I’m the one that others look at and say, ‘at least I’m not her’.”
So, this week I want to write directly to you. To you who feel looked at in this way. To you who know life circumstances that are not easy or ideal. Perhaps these circumstances can make you feel like you live on the outside.
If you don’t fall into this category, I hope you will still read along. I think these suggestions have nuggets of wisdom for all of us. And you never know where you might find yourself and who you might be able to help.
Okay, sister, back to you. I see you. I get you. I am you. At least I looked at myself this way for a long time. Some days I still do. Some days I feel like an outsider. I see the freedom of moms without special needs kids. Who doesn’t have a legacy of heavy stuff that impacts their life in every way. (I’d love to unpack these topics sometime. Anyone?) I can easily feel a twinge of jealousy. But I don’t any longer look at myself as less than because of it all. So here are five ideas I want you to think about as a woman who might say, “I am her”. I’ll warn you, none of these are easy. But you weren’t created for easy, you were created to be a world-changer in your own sphere of influence.
#1 Offer compassion + be a teacher
When I push Bodey around in his stroller it is clear my son has special needs and is other-abled. No doubt about it. When I pushed Ethan around he was smiley, rosy-cheeked and super cute. No one saw the scars on his chest and belly, the g-tube, the list of doctor and therapy appointments, the fear I carried in my heart. You could pass me in the store and have no clue about my story. The reality is that everyone, if they are honest, has something painful they carry in their hearts. Many of our wounds and scars are unseen. My life with Bodey is very obvious and that stinks sometimes. But holding a fear in your heart and carrying the heaviness that people cannot see is hard too. Offer compassion to others. Be the one who “sees” them, even if they do not see you.
Your eyes have been opened. The masks are gone. You see the world in a way that so many do not. You are a teacher. So teach. Teaching and exposing our stories is really hard sometimes. But I believe it is part of the calling. I know you can do it.
#2 Most people see you as amazing
Here’s the truth, most people look at you and think, “she’s amazing. I don’t know how she does it”. And your reply is likely, “If this was you, you’d have to figure it out too”. Yes, this world needs more compassion. We need more people willing to crawl inside each other’s stories. Many are willing. Many are not. You cannot change that. Other’s opinion of you is none of your concern or business. But the reality is many of them look at you in awe. But I bet you if I asked those who observe you, they’d say, “she’s pretty awesome”. So, own your awesomeness.
#3 Seek community
We need community. We were created for it. When life happens and we feel “other than”, it’s so natural to want to go and hide. To retreat, to shut down and shut out. But we cannot thrive there. Every one of us desires to be seen, heard, known and loved. So seek community with other like-minded women. Women who know your struggle, your story. Social media has a lot of foibles, but it does offer an opportunity to connect with others living similar stories. We need people we can text or message when something happens who will get it.
You can also find community with like-minded women living different stories. That’s actually really cool because you will gain new perspectives. Ideally, these will be women committed to growth and learning amidst their story. Don’t get stuck with those who want to wallow in their story. Join forces with those who want to create beauty from it.
#4 Take care of you.
I know. I know. Another plug for self-care. Yep, I’m making it. First off, I know it’s hard to take care of yourself when you are doing life alongside grief, pain, and circumstances that make actualizing self-care difficult.
But you must fight for it. You must fight for you. Start small – journal, podcast, read 5 pages/day in a book that inspires you, do 10 sun salutations, take 10 deep breaths. Just do something. You cannot do what you have been called to do without it. You are so worth the time.
#5 Be a difference maker
I know it’s a tall order, but you were created for this story. I believe each of us has the tools we need inside of us to live the life we have. Sometimes we have to dig really deep. We often need rest. Go back and re-read #3 and #4.
You, my sister, were called to be a difference maker. I’m not sure what that looks like for you. For all of us, it’s different. But you are called. I’m sure of that. Use your perspective, your experiences, your heartache, your backache, and the fire in your belly. And do something. Create something, love someone better, teach, grow, learn, do. They say if you want something done, give the task to a busy person. It will get done. That person is you.
Yes, you have too much on your plate, but concurrently you’ve been given beautiful gifts, perspectives, and experiences that the world desperately needs to hear about. So get going, okay?
Do these ideas resonate with you? I’d love to know. I want you to know that I believe in you.
So, don’t give up. Okay? You are doing a great job.
Sunday Love to you.