The Art of Letting Go

Stanton, the girls and I moved into our new house here in New York about two weeks ago. About half of our belongings—possibly more than half—remain in boxes in the basement. We’ve broken in our new home, though. The girls’ favorite books cover the coffee table; various pairs of sneakers and flip-flops clutter the back porch; and loved ones’ greeting cards, along with Grace’s preschool artwork, adorn the refrigerator.

The first few days here, I cleaned the kitchen, made the beds, unpacked the girls’ clothes (how do they have so many clothes?). I thought I could get everything “all set up” by the end of that first weekend. Ha…ha…ha.

The delivery guys for the washer and dryer needed more time than they originally estimated to maneuver the appliances downstairs. A customer service manager from a local utility company stopped by to share information. And the girls called for my help in collecting dandelions for their backyard tea party.

Interruptions to my grand plans. Distractions. Or…life.

There’s a quote I like, and you may have heard it too: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (credited to John Lennon, and Allen Saunders). As I picked dandelions with my daughters, I acknowledged that I needed to let go of my “all set up this weekend” plan. I needed to be realistic, present, flexible.

The art of letting go.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become better—more practiced—at letting go. Letting go of unrealistic expectations. Letting go of past hurt, and loss.

Dandelion

The other day, I saw several deer—a family, maybe—walking through a neighbor’s yard. Big, beautiful deer. I thought of my Poppy, a hunter.

Four years ago, when Poppy passed away, I would have felt a pang in my heart. Today, I still feel that hole in my life—that emotional and physical absence—but time has tempered the pain, and has helped me feel, first and foremost, gratitude for all the time we did have together.

Everyone is different. Everyone feels differently, heals differently. People become who they are based on their unique blend of nature and nurture.

For many of us, we decide how we approach each day. We can endeavor to meet all the action items we bullet-point for ourselves, no matter what, possibly becoming impatient and irritable in the process…or we can roll with the punches, grace under fire.

We can keep mourning disappointments and heartaches…or we can find silver linings in those experiences, those lessons learned.

For many of us, we decide how we approach each day.

After Grace was born, I began recording my first-time-mothering “lessons learned” into a newspaper’s parenting blog, which I later turned into my first e-book, “Diaper Bag, Coffee, Let’s Go! 237 Tips for First-Time Moms.”

That’s right, friends: 237. It was an earnest effort, my hope to provide all the encouragement and positive vibes I could to new moms who maybe were uncertain and overwhelmed as I had been.

Years later now, I’m glad I wrote that book. Other moms still buy it and let me know it’s a helpful resource, which makes me happy. And personally, “Diaper Bag, Coffee, Let’s Go!” is almost a scrapbook of that season in my life, first-time motherhood. I’m glad I wrote that book, but I probably won’t write more tip books, especially related to parenthood. Because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to let go…of trying to do everything perfectly.

And, simply, of trying to do everything all at once.

Babies need food, diapers and a warm body to fall asleep against. Basically, that’s it. (Newborn Grace didn’t care that I’d spent hours researching the best crib mattress for her color-coordinated nursery, or the top-rated baby monitor that year.) And older kids don’t care that you haven’t yet hung up the window valances in their rooms. What they say instead is, “Mom, help us pick these yellow flowers!”

(“They’re called dandelions.”

“Dan-de-lions? Like lions?”

“Kind of…”)

Grace is 5; Anna’s 2. They play well together now and sleep (fairly) well at night. Stanton and I have powered through those early, oh-so-tiring years of parenthood. We’ve walked through some difficult times, together, and have made the journey through intact, with a deeper appreciation for each other. This chapter in our life feels so good, so refreshing.

Yet the thought flickered across my mind. When might the next tough thing, that we need to overcome, happen?

Just as quickly, I had to remind myself to stop. Enjoy. Live.

And let go of trying too hard, of worrying and fast-forwarding too much.

“Mom! We need more dandelions!”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Being There for Dinner

The boiling water bubbled over the saucepan. Sssssss! The stovetop hissed.

Grace screamed. Anna followed suit.

“Everything’s OK,” I said, grabbing the pot. I drained the just-cooked pasta in the colander in the sink.

The timer on the oven began beeping: the meatballs. The girls crowded into the kitchen.

“Girls, you need to move…”

The front door opened, then closed. “Dad!” The girls rushed out of the kitchen. Someone tripped and fell on the way; crying ensued.

Welcome to the end of the weekday in many families’ homes, right? Mine. Maybe yours too.

For a while, I would finish making dinner around 6 o’clock. Stanton usually would be home by then. I’d set the food on the dining room table, encourage my family to help themselves, and then retreat to the kitchen to begin cleaning up everything that had gone into preparing the meal.

And, I won’t lie: I often would enjoy a few minutes’ peace to eat by myself without one of the girls climbing into my lap or grabbing from my plate.

Then one evening, about a month ago, I glanced at the dining room table. Anna was sitting on Stanton’s lap, snuggling against his chest. Smudging his dress shirt with her sticky fingers, but they looked cozy and happy nevertheless. Grace was talking about her day at preschool, her eyes wide and excited.

I glanced at that dining room table, and…I missed my family. I wanted to join them. Pots and pans and even some Play-Doh littered the kitchen countertops, but I ignored the chaos in the kitchen and sat down with my family for dinner.

Such a little thing, such a Captain Obvious moment—to sit down for dinner with the people you love the most. Probably not even worthy of being written about, right? But I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed doing it. Clearly, I hadn’t done it all that much, because it resonated with me. Sitting face-to-face with my family, instead of standing alone a room away—what a difference.

Pots and pans and even some Play-Doh littered the kitchen countertops, but I ignored the chaos in the kitchen and sat down with my family for dinner.

A couple of weeks later, I was at the library and came across this book title: “The Surprising Power of Family Meals” by Miriam Weinstein. It was calling my name; I checked it out. During the next few days, I read through it. This book has a wealth of insights, but the ones that most struck me were these passages in which the author quotes theologian Bill Huebsch:

“‘Things work out when you cook and wash dishes together. It’s hard to sit down to table with someone you haven’t forgiven…In most of our lives, meals are also memorials. Almost everyone, when they speak of their lives, they speak about meals’” (pages 146-147).

Wow, I thought. And, yes.

Family, food, forgiveness, memory, life—all intertwined.

When my daughters are older, I’m not sure what they’ll remember about their childhood, or our family dinners. Like all parents, I hope they have many happy memories. I do know, though, that I want them to remember that I was there, at the table with them, instead of missing in action in the kitchen.

I’ve been trying to make this happen. Not every evening…but more often than not. Because life can get hectic. You can’t always be the ideal version of yourself.

Yet.

Being There for Dinner

“Don’t Blink” was a hit country song by Kenny Chesney, about 10 years ago. I heard it just the other day, and these lyrics have been replaying in my head ever since:

“…When your hourglass runs out of sand
You can’t flip it over and start again”

The theme of the song, of course, is that time goes by in the blink of an eye.

When I’ve been sitting down with my family now, I’ve been looking at them, really seeing them. There’s something beautiful about making eye contact with someone you love, and holding that gaze, and connecting. Really connecting.

“‘It’s the facing each other that’s important’” in how we eat, according to scholar Witold Rybczynski in “The Surprising Power of Family Meals.” “It’s the fact of sitting face-to-face, inviting interaction, give-and-take, that matters most” (page 87).

Family—food—face-to-face. Pretty simple.

Something I’ve learned, as I’ve gotten older, is that the simple stuff is the good stuff. This past Sunday, I made Hamburger Helper for Stanton and the girls for lunch—Stanton’s request. “It’s been years since I’ve had Hamburger Helper,” Stanton said.

“Huh, I wonder why,” the foodie in me replied (the foodie in me can be a bit stuck-up, and not much fun).

For years now, I’ve been experimenting with gourmet and/or novel recipes for my family—herbed lamp chops with homemade ketchup, lime chicken tacos, everything I wrote about here. Why would I bother with Hamburger Helper, when I could prepare something amazing from scratch?

…the foodie in me can be a bit stuck-up, and not much fun…

I made the Hamburger Helper. Sat down with Stanton and the girls. Anna took a bite: “Mmm!” Stanton was ready for a second helping within, it seemed, seconds. And Grace declared that she liked my Hamburger Helper almost as much as the frozen pizza I “make.”

The simple stuff is the good stuff. Family. Food. Face-to-face. Hamburger Helper or herbed lamp chops with homemade ketchup, it doesn’t matter.

As long as you’re there.

I want to be there.

What about you, friends?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.