All the Hats

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Wide brimmed and narrow, some tall, some not, some fancy, some colorful, some plaid, some plain. She doted on changing hats at every opportunity. When she met the Prince, she was wearing one hat, when he asked her for a stroll, she excused herself, shortly to return wearing another, equally flattering.
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride

Oh the hats. I am two months in to this new church. Some downs, mostly ups, but adjustments. Always adjustments in the land of building a new community, of tending to a newborn. I am where I’m supposed to be, the call is real and true and alive. I am navigating my way through the many hats – in no particular order: mother, sister, wife, citizen, pastor, woman, daughter, neighbor, friend. I am thankful for the work I’ve done over the years to integrate my many roles into one mostly friendly, high expecting, somewhat suspicious (reserved for children and teenagers, and a few grown-ups), often inappropriate, adult human.

I’m not much of a hat wearer. With thick hair, my head sweats too much and I overheat. But sometimes I need a hat to catch the sweat and block the sun, keeping the number of skin cancer surgeries to a total of 1. Hats can be decorative or functional, defining an outfit. Hats can be commonplace or obnoxious, making statements with slogans and style.

We all wear hats. We can’t be everything to everyone all the time. We have our roles, how we portray ourselves in the world. Hats provide boundaries and protection, chosen proportionate to the level of accumulated trust.

My hats are all me – authentic and true me. Switching up our hats with circumstance and people and mood does not minimize authenticity. Switching up our hats builds trust as we navigate our roles in community.

I like visors for when I’m feeling risky, when I know vulnerability is needed and I have to reveal some honesty. I like the adequate protection of the visor – protection from the sun and elements. The bill reminds me to be respectful and generous, curious and kind. I am always aware I’m wearing a hat, but the visor allows me to reveal myself in ways other hats won’t allow. I have fewer restrictions and can show up in a true and authentic manner. I prefer to wear visors all the time, but I am not always afforded this luxury.

The cowboy hat is donned when it’s my job to be on the job, when I’m preaching or speaking or connecting or hosting. Wit and wisdom and hospitality are the name of the game and this hat reminds me to show up, to bring it. The hat doesn’t come off until everyone leaves and I get to put my hair in a ponytail while I do the dishes, with my three-sizes-too-big sweatpants.

When I wear my striped stocking cap, it means I’m being kind to myself. Comfort and self-care are at the top of the docket. In this land of aches and hurts, I show up real and ready to grieve and lament and process pain. In these empathetic spaces, tears flow with the wine. And these spaces demand all of me, ready to give and receive love and comfort and hope.

My baseball cap is a little ratty and frayed. This is my “get down and dirty” cap, my long-hiking cap. We have work to do, let’s do it. Roll up the sleeves, let’s figure some shit out. I don’t feel attractive nor do I look attractive, but it doesn’t matter. The baseball cap is for cleaning out closets, inspecting the nitty gritty, finding the needle in the haystack. When I wear this cap I am all about discovery and curiosity and listening and engagement. It might be over coffee or it might be over beer, but we get work done. I may get a little inappropriate – to relieve tension – and I might tell you what to do.

My cinched hood on my puffy down jacket just means I don’t want to see past what’s in front of me. I have blinders on. I can’t take in anymore. Get me home to my bed, I’m close to tears. I am sad. I want to be warm. I’ve become too cold in the vast land and need comfort and safety and release.

When I wear my floppy sunhat, it just means I’m happy hanging in the sun, maybe we can do a little gardening together, inspecting weeds and plants. I don’t have a huge agenda, I’m just happy to be with my people.

We all wear hats. We all switch ourselves around to protect us and to protect one another. I can’t be all myself with everyone, the cost is too high, not to mention irresponsible. But whoever I’m with, I am myself. Every hat is me. Some of my hats are more comfortable than others, more worn in. But we’ll get there, each hat will get worn in and used.

But no matter what, whatever hat we wear, we are ourselves. We show up. We do the work. We get sweaty and dirty and find our way in the world.

What hats do you wear?

Sliding into Lasts and Firsts

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Mothers are all slightly insane.
― J.D. Salinger

It’s the time of day that drags and hustles at the same time. I await the front door’s slide across the tile with high schoolers afresh with afternoon plans – or a return to bed – either is an equal possibility. And the seventh grader’s text outlining plans with friends, or screens, or both. It’s the last slide to myself, and I might get time back, or I might not. Seems these days are rife with moving parts and pieces with few certainties.

When they were little we had our routine. Morning activities and meals, followed by naps, an hour or three of screaming, dinner, bath time, and bed. Now, the comings and goings, the routines, happen without me. Two drivers equals freedom for all.

The oldest graduates from high school in a bit under two months. I’m dragging my feet. He’s not. Seems there are parties and such for these sorts of things. And family visits and gifts and ceremonies. While I love the kid I dislike required party planning with invitations and clean houses. I prefer last minute party planning when everyone brings their favorite leftovers, with concessions made for dust bunnies and dirty bathrooms. But I do long for his accomplishments to be celebrated. And thankfully I’ve hitched my wagon to two other dedicated party planning mothers who seem to have the ability and follow through to actually make this thing happen.

Spring break is done and summer plans are blooming. There is an equal mix of anticipation for summer’s long days and dread for summer’s long days. The thumbs always get a hefty workout, it’s a wonder my children can function for the over-development of this particular digit. I’m counting on hand-eye coordination, or some fortunate diagnosis to emerge from the hours of video game battles.

And I’m still pastoring and planting a church. Stay-at-home-mom-turning-pastor has not been a delicate and natural process. Most days I’m unsure which end is up, while praying for a nap, and a release from my churning thoughts. I’m still on the steep learning curve, where every “yes” elicits a true and severe crisis of vulnerability, alongside an equal and opposite desire for pajamas and pillow. Yet, I love it. I love the stretching and the relief of accomplishment. The exhale is sweet and so is the beer. I have surprised myself.

Prom is this weekend. Then senior ditch day. A season of lasts followed by an equivalent season of firsts. Motherhood is a constant management of the anticipation of regret. If I choose this one thing for my career or myself or my partner will I regret the cost to my children? It’s a balancing act unlike anything I’ll ever experience. Is it a function of guilt? Shame? I don’t even know. I don’t know if I need to know.

I texted with a friend yesterday. We’ve raised our kids together. She said her daughter is on a short leash with severe restrictions. I responded with sympathy and sadness for the difficult time they are in. My friend surprised me, happy and relieved, grateful for the resulting sleep.

And every day is a new day with little predictability. Funny how their moods determine mine. Never did I think they would wield so much power over me.

As I press into a career, doing that which I love, I must navigate the momentary costs. And there’s a price for everything isn’t there? We will never know the perceptions of our children. We only do the best we can based on what we know, how we were parented, what we perceived as flaws in the system.

The pendulum swings. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes the swings are violent, but one hopes with therapy and time and maturity the swings settle, drifting across mid-point. They say (the older people in my life who’ve done this before) parenting never ends. I tell them to be quiet. I choose ignorance. I choose my assumptions.

My parenting story has been typical and normal, so far. My youngest is thirteen – we’ve still got potential for the wheels to fall off this bus. But I’m grateful. Their lives are my greatest teacher. Their pushes for independence have revealed my weaknesses. Their pulls have revealed my determination. Their differences have revealed my capacities for tenderness and patience (or lack thereof). And their growth has propelled my own.

I’ll get to the graduation and I’ll plan a party and I’ll continue to pastor and I’ll remain married. Somehow.

But this season is real and I’m not sure I can master the management of regret. I suspect regret is a byproduct of loving.  And loving well is fraught with unknowns.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.