The Momastery Guest Post (Seriously, Bring Champagne)

On set of AWCC’s video trailer, 2013

This is a big day.

A break out the kazoos, call a babysitter and uncork the champagne!!! kind of day. (Or it would be if I had kazoos. Or children. Or champagne on hand … )

Today, I have a post live on Momastery. Momastery, created by Glennon Melton, “is where we practice living bigger, bolder, and truer on this earth. Where we remember what we already know: We can do hard things, love wins, and we belong to each other.”

How do Momastery readers (“Monkees”) do this? Through sharing stories, telling truths, and helping others. A recent Momastery Love Flash Mob raised over $120,000 for families in need … in 10 hours.

When I tried to explain this whole ‘guest post on Momastery’ thing to my Mom, I said, “You play tennis. It’s your thing. You’ve been playing for years, because you love it. One day, you walk out onto your humble, everyday court, and Martina Navratilova walks over and says, “Hi! I got your invitation, and I saw you play. I love your style. Want to rally?”

After which you hyperventilate, because things like that don’t happen in real life … except when they do. G (aka Martina), thank you for inviting me to be a part of the beautiful community you’ve created.

Writing this post broke my heart, and made me whole. It’s hard to share it, because it’s so personal, and it’s easy to share it, because it’s not about me. It’s about a beautiful friend I was privileged to know and will always, always miss.

The post is live here: What We Have Left: A Letter

***

GREETINGS, fellow Monkees!

Welcome to A Wish Come Clear, where we share stories to help each other find meaning in our most challenging relationships. We’re all about choosing love, losing fear, and finding home in one another.

As such, I’d like to invite you to receive posts via email and two FREE digital books, Your Creed of Care: How to Dig for Treasure in People (Without Getting Buried Alive) AND Love’s Subversive Stance: Ground Yourself & Grow in Relationship.

Your Creed of Care contains 50+ pages of true stories about balancing the responsibilities of caring for another with caring for yourself. Love’s Subversive Stance is a 90+ page collection of stories centered on this question: in caring for others, how can we become more fully ourselves?

I hope you’ll enjoy both. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go acquire some kazoos.

Love,

Caroline

Tempted to Throw in the Towel? Read This.

I love hearing about the times they almost gave up.

Field of Dream(ers), 2013

And by ‘they,’ I mean our heroes. You have your own examples: how Albert Einstein was considered a slow learner in grade school, how Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. As a writer, I take heart every time I hear about a literary great who almost threw in the towel.

I love reading about how the Bronte sisters almost didn’t submit their novels for publication (or claim authorship after they were published under male pseudonyms), or how Madeleine L’Engle tried to give up writing on her fortieth birthday, after a decade of rejection slips  and just before A Wrinkle In Time was published.

And one of my favorite posts on Glennon Melton’s phenomenally successful and beloved Momastery is an obscure one from back in 2010, in which Glennon admits to thoughts of giving up writing online, “… because I’m really, really scared that I’m going to start sucking and [readers aren’t] going to like me anymore.”

Can you imagine? Can you imagine what the world would look like if these women had given up?

All right, I admit it, my world would be rocked more than most, because they are among my favorite writers and my bookcase would be barren without their work. But our heroes don’t have to be famous to matter. Far from it.

I often wonder, in an It’s A Wonderful Life sort of way, “Where would I be without my friend Tammy’s encouragement? Would I ever have learned to drive a stick-shift or self-published two books if she hadn’t believed in me? And what about my friend Brooke? Where would I be if she hadn’t been brave enough to follow her dream of going to Vassar? How would I carry on, stay sane, and keep the faith without my husband, my family, every beloved friend?”

We owe so much to the courage of others.

***

All this is on my mind today because I’ve been waiting on some (potentially big) things in my writing life to move forward. After flying through a series of green lights, I’ve been waiting at a long yellow one.

I need to speak in metaphor for now; I promise to give details when (and if) things come together. But I tell you this to say that, if you’re discouraged and down about your dream, I get it. It is hard to keep the faith. It is hard to wait and work and hope for a dream that might never come true.

But what I’ve come to realize in this season of waiting is that nothing is wasted. I’m coming to see that, even if what I hope for never comes to pass, I will still be so thankful to have tried. I will not regret telling my stories, because — regardless of outcome — telling stories is what I was meant to do.

***

Here’s the thing: we can give up on our calling. We can quit 50 times a day if that’s what we need to do, if that’s how scared we are. But even so, our callings will NOT give up on us.

Whoever it is you’re supposed to be, whatever it is you’re supposed to do? It follows you around. They don’t call it a ‘calling’ for nothing — it does have a voice. A really, really persistent one.

So for all of you who sense a calling — be it to parent or sing or write or build or teach — please, don’t give up. We need you. We need your specific contribution. You may not see how or why, and that’s okay. Just stay faithful. Just keep on. Just for today.

Because even if it’s just one person that needs what you have to offer … well, that’s everything. Giving hope to one person is more than enough. And you know this already, don’t you? You’ve seen it happen. When you put your heart on the line and one person is moved, everything changes.

In that instant — when someone looks at you through tear-filled eyes after hearing you speak, seeing you dance, or listening to your song — you see that your dream wasn’t really even ABOUT you at all. Instead, it was about that one person who needed you to be exactly who you are.

The value of your gift was never measured by whether or not you had your name in lights. It was always about the people who would have been bereft without it, without you. And when you realize that?

You’re home free.

***

Tempted to give up on a dream? Join the conversation in the comments!

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Our free offering has grown to include a second digital book! Receive posts via email, along with both Your Creed of Care: How to Dig for Treasure in People (Without Getting Buried Alive) AND Love’s Subversive Stance: Ground Yourself & Grow in Relationship. [Click to Tweet.]

Fellow Perfectionists, Come See Me

Recently, I received a message from the moderator of a Facebook group of which I am a member. It read: “Caroline McGraw, please inbox me…I need to ask you something.”

There was a plummeting, zooming feeling in my stomach. I clicked away, thinking: This isn’t the first time I’ve felt that the ax is about to fall.

***

All at once, I was back in first grade. My teacher, Mrs. Sanosi, had just returned our assignments. I was a good student, accustomed to seeing “Excellent!” atop my worksheets. But this particular paper had See Me written in red ink. Dear God in heaven. What had I done?

Scary, right?!

See Me meant lining up beside Mrs. Sanosi’s desk and waiting my turn to talk to her privately … in front of everyone. For a shy, introverted girl like me, this was not a good system. In fact, it was a fate worse than death.

I’d never had a See Me before, and I thought it meant that one had Royally. Screwed. Up. My neurotic six-year-old self could not handle it, nor could she hide that she could not handle it. (I have never been good at hiding my emotions. I have what a former boyfriend of Liz Gilbert’s refers to in Eat, Pray, Love as, “ … the opposite of poker face … miniature golf face.”)

When it was my turn, Mrs. Sanosi took one look at me and said, “Caroline, dear, what’s wrong?”

I handed her the paper and waited for the death blow. It’s possible that I was crying at that point; I’m not sure. But what happened next is very clear in my memory: Mrs. Sanosi said that she’d written See Me on my paper because I’d done a really great job, and she wanted to tell me so in person.

A tidal wave of relief swept through me. “Really?” I squeaked. She gave me a hug.

Oh, and that Facebook message I mentioned earlier? Turns out, the moderator wanted to affirm my work and invite me to speak at an event. All that fear. All that worry. All for nothing.

***

Running into the waves, Lido de Jesolo

Have you ever had this happen to you? Have you ever walked around waiting for the ax to fall, only to find that it was never really there?

If so, then you know the feeling that rushes over you when you realize your mistake: it’s the purest kind of relief. It tastes like liberation, like running headlong into the ocean with your friends at your side.

And with that relief comes the realization that even if what you dread DOES happen – even if you DO get called out or criticized – it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t define you. You’re not your perfect grades or sublime Facebook record.

You’re more than that. Much, much more. So you get to take a pass on being terrified of imperfection. You get to forgo freaking out when you make a mistake. You get to be free.

***

Sometimes I wonder what it might be like to meet Love (or God, if you prefer) face-to-face. In my imagination, She hands me a paper magically detailing my entire life story. But there’s no grade on it; instead, two old, familiar words top the page: See Me.

Though I receive this paper with trembling hands, I’m not afraid anymore. Because in Love’s presence, See Me doesn’t look like a condemnation. Instead – how could I not have seen this before? – it’s an invitation.

See Me, and see that I’m so glad to see you. Always have been, always will be.

See Me, and see that where you feared judgment, you’ve found only mercy.

See Me, and see yourself as I see you

Perfectly.

***

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Join the conversation in the comments!

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Our free offering has grown to include a second digital book! Receive posts via email, along with both Your Creed of Care: How to Dig for Treasure in People (Without Getting Buried Alive) AND Love’s Subversive Stance: Ground Yourself & Grow in Relationship. [Click to Tweet.]

The Work That’s Never Done

There’s one item in our house that always catches people’s eyes.

The item in question? A photo collage that my husband Jonathan received when we moved away from the L’Arche community where we met.

Farewell collages are a tradition at L’Arche DC; they feature the faces of every person that was a part of L’Arche during the years one lived there. In Jonathan’s case, that means five years of faces, five years of relationships.

When we first moved, I hesitated to display the collage. The goodbye was still raw; there were (are) so many people we love and miss. And some faces triggered feelings of grief or discomfort, in the wake of try-as-we-might-but-alas-still-unresolved conflict.

Even so, I sensed that putting it out in the open was the right thing to do.

***

Ever since we moved, that collage has been an excellent emotional ‘gauge’ for me. If I pass it and my heart aches with missing beloved people, I know it’s time to let myself grieve, to send them love and light. If I feel old hurts stirring, I know it’s time to pray in the words of the Wailin’ Jennys in their song Beautiful Dawn:

Teach me how to see when I close my eyes / Teach me to forgive and to apologize

Show me how to love in the darkest dark / There’s only one way to mend a broken heart.

Our work of forgiveness is never done (not in this life, anyway). I will always need to return to this prayer. But more and more, as I look at those faces, all I feel is love.

To be sure, I’ve had to do hard things to get there, like cleaning up messes I made or participated in, and admitting where I was wrong. I’ve had to write:

Dear friend, I have eaten some humble pie since last we met, and it has helped me to see our time together more clearly. I thought I understood everything, but I understood almost nothing at all. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I gave you the cold shoulder rather than the benefit of the doubt. 

I’m sorry I didn’t fight harder for our friendship.

I’m sorry I was too scared to tell you the truth.

I’m sorry I couldn’t let you go your own way.

Could you forgive me?

When I’ve sent such messages — difficult as they are to compose — I have never felt so free. And don’t even get me started on people’s replies. When I consider how so many people forgave me before I even knew I needed their forgiveness … I just lose it. Things get undignified. Holy tears.

Heaven, I believe, is simply a place without barriers, and I’ve never felt this as strongly as when I see walls between us fall.

***

A still from A Wish Come Clear’s new trailer (coming soon)!

So here’s what I think when I look at that collage now: the people who love and forgive you are your family … and so are the people who resent you and hold things against you.

Because we’ve all done both, haven’t we?

In the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

And so I pray for every face on that collage. Even if we never meet again, we will always be connected. We are part of one another’s stories, pieces of one another’s hearts. We’re family, and family isn’t simple or easy or get-it-right-the-first-time. We have to keep falling down, and getting back up together.

It’s like what happened when I was trying to take a picture of the collage for this post. At first, all my shots came out blurry, with too much glare. Finally, it hit me: I have to sit on the floor and look up from below. I have to, quite literally, get out of my own way. 

And then – only then – will I be able to see clearly.

***

How have you experienced forgiveness? Join the conversation in the comments!

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Our free offering has grown to include a second digital book! Receive posts via email, along with both Your Creed of Care: How to Dig for Treasure in People (Without Getting Buried Alive) AND Love’s Subversive Stance: Ground Yourself & Grow in Relationship. [Click to Tweet.]