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She eats a cupcake when she wants to.

She walks around with the frosting on her glasses and face and could care less.

She wears what SHE wants.

She asks the hard questions.

Admits when she is wrong.

Knows Instagram is not real

Feels empowered in her decisions

Is not afraid to ask for help

Drops the “supposed to” and “shoulds” from her vocabulary

Knows what shame feels like

Doesn’t compare

Laughs a lot

Cries sometimes too

Searches for beauty

Works towards wholeness

Grateful I get to celebrate another birthday. Hoping I can continue this list and add more next year. It's not realistic to be doing all these things all the time, something always falls short, but awareness is key.

At the beginning of the pandemic of 2020, walking outside kept me sane. Every day felt like a rollercoaster. I'd wake up thinking how great it is that we don't have to hustle out the door. I felt excited to work on those art kits and science projects we never got to. But by 11 o'clock, the fear and worry about our future rattled me and the exhaustion of trying to do school with my older kids while my little ones interrupt constantly broke me.

Getting outside brought me back to the present moment. After a while the walk got monotonous, but we made up a game to search for something new we hadn't noticed the day before. It was fun seeing the excitement in the kids when they found something.

One day I stopped, dead in my tracks, at this beautiful, stark, pink flowering bush called a PJM. Pink is not my thing but this bush was a showstopper. My dark thoughts melted away. After our walk, I felt hopeful and inspired. I get worked up trying to get four kids out of the house, it seemed like someone was always missing a shoe, needed a snack, or couldn't find their helmet. But I felt this peace and calmness wash over me.

In a matter of days, the flowers started to wither. The pink melted away. I wondered why the plant couldn't bloom all summer or even all year. It made me think about our lives and our seasons of blooming. I wished those seasons lasted longer too. Most plants can’t bloom all year, just like we can’t continuously bloom. We need times of loss, dormancy, and growth if we want to bloom again.

Experiencing the pain of loss and being in survival mode is hard. Not realizing you are living in shame and fear is scary because I can still feel that deep sense of loneliness and isolation. I don’t want to go back there. I would rather stay in my comfort zone and avoid the darkness for as long as I can.

But we have to work through the hard stuff to flourish. Blooming after processing your pain is glorious. You'll experience life in ways you never thought you could. Its work, its hard gritty work, but when you have that feeling of clarity and you are no longer living in fear and can see the truth in your heart, it's worth it.

Sadly we can’t stay in the bloom phase forever. Old habits often creep back in before you notice, new problems arise, and we get tired of working so hard to hold it together. Shame has a way of taking over your life making you forget about your worthiness.

When my P.J.M flowers withered and the plant was a boring green bush again, I looked closely and noticed new growth on some of the branches. I also noticed something causing some of the leaves to turn red, trying to choke the plant. And so the fight begins again.

We will bloom again, we have to keep seeking the truth, searching for beauty, pouring out our gratitude, and being vulnerable enough to stay alert in the process. Keep holding on because pretty soon those buds will open up again and flourish.

The days of Covid-19 can be dark and suffocating. Most days I’m doing a monotonous task and my mind starts racing and fear settles in. I’ve googled "Coronavirus Rhode Island" almost every day to see the number of cases and deaths and the latest rules for social distancing. I’ve read a lot of ideas about what to do with my time at home, the projects I can tackle, the schedule my kids should be on. I've been bombarded with information and have tried to limit social media because it has an effect on me.

One morning, I was feeding breakfast to my one-year-old and the song Under Pressure, by Queen and David Bowie came on. Immediately that word pressure stood out in my mind. I'm feeling it. Not only is there the pressure of not getting sick, spreading germs, or being anywhere within 6 ft of a person. There is pressure to stay busy and perform. Overnight, people have been forced to follow this new way of life, social distancing, distance learning, and working from home, fighting for groceries, and being afraid. Many people are out of work since all non-essential businesses are closed. And so many are on the frontlines not able to be home, with the pressure to perform amid a pandemic. I sat with my daughter telling her to SHHHH so I could hear the lyrics searching for an answer to all of this.

Pressure pushing down on me

pressing down on you no man ask for.

Under pressure that burns a building down

Splits a family in two

Puts people on streets.

I listened on and I wanted to shout "watching some good friends screaming, let me out!" like I usually do. But those words hit me hard. Thinking of myself and friends, making the best of this situation, but most days I feel like screaming let me out, for real. The isolation takes a toll.

The song goes on and I hear, "These are the days it never rains but it pours." I thought, "wow, such truth." It's pouring every day with new guidelines, more businesses have to stay closed, more people out of jobs, and no end in sight. No answers to so many questions, that we may never have answers to. The pictures and stories in the news are heartbreaking, producing fear and anxiety.

As I listened on, my jaw dropped.

Why can’t we give ourselves one more chance?

Why can’t we give love one more chance?

Give love Give love Give Love Give love

Because loves such an old fashioned word

And love dares you to care for

The people on the edge of the night.

And love dares you to change

the way of caring about ourselves.

This is our last dance.

This is ourselves under pressure.

LOVE. The answer I was searching for. We can sit in the pressure and let our minds race, speak in a rude tone to our family, shout orders at our kids or we can give love.

We can let the pressure settle in, but it will take everything from us. It will allow the darkness to fill our hearts and build walls between our loved ones. That voice inside my head is strong right now telling me to stay quiet and that I’m not enough. But the answer is always going to be love. I am loved, You are loved, We are loved. And love will change the way we view ourselves and others. Love will change the way we think about a situation or someone else's. When I look back on the season of Covid-19, I want to remember the love.

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