the box of cards

Depending on our pack-rat personality type, most of us hold on to one thing or another that binds us to the miles we’ve travelled so far. As a sentimental human, there are a number of these things for me. Among these are some of the cards and notes I‘ve been given over the years, saved because they stirred something in me at the time I received them.

They sit in a box on a high shelf in my closet. A few times a year, I open the lid and add a few more. The odd thing is that I don’t look at them very often. They just sit there. A patchwork heartbeat stitched together by my history.

A couple of months ago, for reasons I can’t even recall, I decided to go through the box of cards. What I thought would take an hour filled instead the better part of an afternoon. I looked through beautiful Crayola renderings of ‘me’ through the eyes of children I’d taught. I read notes of gratitude from parents, people I’ve worked or performed with. I looked at love-notes I’d saved from years gone by, including the very first letter I’d received from the man who would later become my husband. I re-read words from friends inside carefully chosen cards.  – many of whom are still in my life and many of whom I have lost touch with – sharing laughter during good times, lifting my spirits during difficult times and offering their appreciation for our connectedness.

I relived my children’s youngest years through mother’s day and birthday cards and precious notes and artwork they’d spontaneously created for me. I found letters written by my sister that chronicle the sweetness of our relationship. I read notes from my brother and my mother, my nieces and my nephews. And felt a twist of sadness as I rediscovered gems from my father and two brothers, all of whom who are no longer living.

It was a tender afternoon of remembrance. As you might expect, I laughed, cried and sighed with gratitude as I travelled this hand-written road map of my heart’s history, so grateful for the wisdom that had guided me to keep all of this.

But it was as I was putting the cards away that an odd grace descended. A mental Venn diagram began to form, the words from the cards overlapping in a most affirming way, painting a picture I recognized as good, kind and wise. Loved. Loveable. And I thought, ‘Huh. Maybe all of those qualities are actually what people see in me.

I don’t have a negative self-image but I wouldn’t say that’s always been true. Faced with nine compliments and one negative comment, I’ve always felt a magnetic pull to believe the negative to be true. About myself. Not others. Isn’t that weird? Who would stand before nine glorious bouquets and one offering of judgment-yuck and choose the judgment? I would. I did for years. I believed the bouquets were false niceties and that the ‘yuck’ was the true reflection of how the world saw me.

I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me. We all have our personal challenges. Thinking the worst about myself has been part of mine. I squelched genuine feelings of self-confidence for years. It was my choice, but to be fair, I did have some ‘encouragement’ to do so along the way. Over the years I’ve gradually shed that self-deprecating skin and grown increasingly comfortable with just being who I am. A decidedly quirky gal just doing her best to live a full and whole-hearted life.

What does all of this have to do with a box of cards? My afternoon of sifting through 20 years of hand-written memories provided me with a piece of my puzzle I didn’t know I was looking for. Sitting amongst a small personal sea of kind words, I felt a new wisdom lock itself into place. Here is it:

Since I get to choose what I believe to be true about myself, why not align with the good stuff rather than the … well … other stuff.

Even from a sheer statistical perspective, this wisdom makes sense. The cards provided me with prevailing evidence that I am and have always been pretty ok. I’m not asking you to agree with me. It’s alright if you don’t. The power for me here at long last isn’t about what others think. The power lies in the choice. When some event/person produces a feeling of judgment (perceived or real) about who I am, how I approach my life or what I do, I can circle back to my box of cards and have my self-worth affirmed by the evidence that I choose to believe is the real McCoy.

Let the clouds part. Let the trumpets sound and the angels sing. What an exquisitely simple truth.

Here’s the other thing that has really moved me about this box of cards:

Don’t hold back on words of praise, written or spoken. They hold so much power.  Clearly, however (in my case at least), it takes a continual expression of kind words to penetrate the thick and insidious skin of self-doubt.

I want my words to be among someone’s ‘box of cards’ that s/he takes from a high shelf in her/his closet one winter afternoon. I want my praise and appreciation to be part of a person stepping into a knowing that s/he, too, is good, kind, wise, loveable and loved.

This is what I’m for. Seeing the best in myself. Seeing the best in others. And saying it all out loud. Because it matters.

Psst …A few weeks after reading my box of cards and roughing this blog entry together, I turned 50 years young. In typical goof-ball fashion, dubbed myself ‘KFiddy’ – a shout-out to Caucasian, middle-aged mini-van driving wanna-be-gangsta mothers around the globe. A joke that I continue to find hysterically funny.

As a gift, my husband asked people to use a ‘digital pen’ to write birthday wishes to me in a blog he and one of my lovely friends created for me. This will forever more be my digital box of cards. You don’t have to read it … but if you’d like to, check it out here. Kfiddy.com.

Word.

 

happy birthday to you, sweet girl.

I’m not the only gal in our family celebrating a big birthday this year. My daughter also just turned 13. Gah. I remember turning 13 like it was yesterday. I remember feeling like the world had suddenly opened the top of my head, tossed in painful seeds of self-doubt and buried them deeply in hormone-infused soil. Then the slow and mind-boggling experience of junior high fed the concoction with a continual, powerfully toxic trickle of ‘not good enough’.

Okay, retrospect makes this all sound a bit dramatic, but there’s no doubt that ’13’ presented me with very fertile ground for a skewed sense of self-worth to take hold. I clung wildly to every negative belief (lie) about myself that sprung from that period of my life for years. For years. So as my daughter enters this phase of her life, I want to fill her with the antidote to the cultures that can take hold in the Petri dish of adolescence and junior high. When the top of her head is opened by her world, I want to be the first to toss in seeds of esteem and cover it with rich soil that grows beauty and blocks self-doubt. Then I want to feed it with a continual stream of ‘so much more than good enough’.

So while she was sleeping away the last few hours of being a 12-year old, I wrote her this letter:

My sweet girl,

13 years ago – at precisely 3:54 in the a.m., you shot into this world, bringing with you rainbows of love and GOODness that have transformed my life. From the moment you were placed in my arms, I knew you were special. I remember so clearly staring into your eyes with wonder. You looked back at me with a heart-flipping depth of truth, knowing and love that seemed to say, ‘Here I am. I know you’ve been waiting for me. I am here to heal your heart.’

And heal my heart you have. It’s not your job to heal my wounds but you do. The soft kisses you plant on my head, cheek or lips, the love-infused tone you use when you say ‘mama’, the way you check in with me when you know things aren’t quite right. Your giant love makes me feel seen. It tethers me to this world when things are hard and it makes all of the goodness of my life shine brighter. You are a miracle. 

Your entrance into the world 13 years ago gave me a deep certainty of who I am and who I wanted to become. You also added a beautiful symmetry to our family as well as a permanent smile to your daddy and brother’s face. You infused an already happy life with a whole new level of laughter, joy and wonder. You also set a place at the table of my heart for your sister’s eventual arrival. 

You set things in motion. You set them in motion with your love. You continue to do this every day in every arena of your life. You are a powerful force, my darling girl. You are a force for good.

I think the true miracle of you is that you don’t know this about yourself. And you don’t even have to try – your gentle energy just makes people feel better. You cast a spell of goodness that makes people feel lighter when they’re around you. I know that I feel this every time I’m with you. I’ve seen it happen with your dad, your grandma, your brother and sisters. Your cousins, your friends, my friends, your aunts and your uncles. People are drawn to your loving presence. You are a gentle, undeniable force of goodness.

So happy birthday to you. Happy 13th birthday. My wish for you is that the year ahead brings you all that you bring to me every day: 

  • a knowing that you are loved and loveable
  • a belief in your deep worthiness
  • belly laughter and joy
  • connection with what and who matters
  • moment after moment of ridiculously wonderful fun 

I love you with all of my heart. Mama.

I share these words with you because feeding my sweet girl – all of my children – with this kind of certainty is at the deepest heart of what I’m for. Sometimes I fail at showing or expressing it. Sometimes I don’t offer it up in moments when it’s most needed. This is my journey as a mother, filled with lots of sweetness and just as many ‘let’s have a redo, shall we?‘ moments. I want the scales of my children’s self-belief to tip heavily toward the ‘I’m good enough’ side. It’s what I’m for. Every single day, this is most what I’m for.