I recently rediscovered the song, “In the Blood,” by John Mayer.
I’d heard it before, but it had never brought me to my knees the way it does now. Especially this part:
“How much of my mother has my mother left in me?-John Mayer
How much of my love will be insane to some degree?
And what about this feeling that I'm never good enough?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?
I can feel love the I want, I can feel the love I need
But it's never gonna come the way I am
Could I change it if I wanted, can I rise above the flood?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?”
I listen to the lyrics and think about my swimmer girl who didn’t get the best of me when she was young. And because of it, Natalie has the ability to see my deepest scars, my greatest vulnerabilities, and my weakest moments better than anyone else on earth.
Natalie sees me—all of me. Does she wonder what parts of me have been imprinted on her too?
Just last week, Natalie saw me clearly. The promotional requirements of my work trigger tendencies in me that I wish did not exist. Just when I think I have grown and healed beyond these triggers, stressful situations expose them. Natalie saw each and every sign of fear, vulnerability, and anxiety in me, and she addressed them with love and concern.
What have you had to eat today, Mom?
Slow down, it’s ok if we are a few minutes late.
You have done enough for today. Rest. Just rest, Mama.
Don’t worry, Mom. The people who are meant to be in your course will be there.
And this girl who does much not prefer hugs, prefers them from me. And quite like no one else, she knows precisely when I need one.
Throughout the demanding week of writing, creating, marketing, responding, and videoing, I used my tools of peace and positivity that I have worked hard to acquire over the years. I was also calmed and fueled simply by watching Natalie.
I marveled at the girl who set her morning alarm in time to make a healthy kale smoothie and then dove into a Big Mac afterschool.
I marveled at the way she asked her friend for help when she did not understand the new Algebra concept.
I marveled at the way she took direct criticism from her coach after a swim meet. “If I was doing everything right, I would not know how to improve,” she said matter-of-factly, as we walked through the parking lot.
I marveled at the way she took breaks to read from her favorite poetry book during her study sessions.
She is not me,
And I breathed.
A few days before the two of us traveled to Rwanda last summer, Natalie hit her head on the side of the neighborhood pool. She’d been hovering over the pool floor with a friend and ran right into the wall, resulting in a skinned nose and bruised forehead. While she laughed about it, I worried about it. After getting her checked out, I then wondered what people we met along our travels would think. I wondered what customs officials might think.
But the only people who said anything about the lacerations were the children Natalie and I bonded with at the Togetherness Youth Cooperative.
The children would softly touch the bruised scab on her forehead and voice concern in their native language, Kinyarwanda.
I’d watch as Natalie would pantomime a fall and then assure them, ”I am OK. I am OK.”
The children would smile,
In November, Natalie was elated to earn a spot on her high school swim team. As eager as I am to come and watch her events, I must walk through the locker room to get to the pool. Walking through the locker room—any locker room—elicits painful memories. I cannot count the number of times I was unkind, impatient, critical, and angry as we’d leave swim practices when Natalie was young. Instead of acknowledging the pain on her face, I always focused on the ring of moisture created by her hair, as I drug her little sister behind me.
“Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?” John Mayer sings.
The night before Natalie was going to swim in her first relay for her high school team, she panicked. With the flip turns, the dives, and the timing, there is considerable room for disqualification. I listened empathetically as she released her worries and angst about making a mistake and letting down her team.
Suddenly, she became very quiet, as if open to solutions. I pointed out that her coach did not want her to fail, and since there was a two-hour warm up before the meet, she could ask someone to review with her.
After her shower, Natalie came down looking completely at peace. “I am going to talk to my coach in the morning about getting some relay practice before the meet,” she said confidently.
The next morning, I received a text filled with happy face emojis. “I’m so happy I talked to my coach! There will be time to practice turns and dives before the meet. Thank you, Mom. Love you.”
She is not me,
But my anxiety-prone heart knows exactly what to say and do when her world is shaky… and that is good.
“I can feel love the I want, I can feel the love I need,” John Mayer sings.
Between her swimming events, Natalie looks for me sitting in the spectator area. She always comes over to touch base before going to sit with her team. On Saturday, after her relay team won first place, she stopped by to tell me about it. As she excitedly described the close race, she yanked off her swim cap.
What I saw beneath the bright aquatic center lights surprised me.
The scar from the pool incident this summer was still there.
The words Natalie repeatedly told the sweet children came back to me.
I am ok. I am ok.
Those were the very words I said to Natalie just days ago when I fell down the stairs in the garage.
“Natalie!” I’d cried out. “I fell!”
I heard her scream and come running.
“I am ok. I am ok.” I assured her before I knew if I really was. “I just… just don’t want to be alone,” I cried.
Natalie sat down on the steps and wrapped her arms around me. Her small hand covered mine, and she rested her cheek against my face.
Part of me was expecting her to rush me to get up, like I did when she was little.
Part of me was expecting her to ask how it happened and blame me, like I used to do when she fell.
Part of me was expecting to endure the pain all alone.
But that is not what happened.
My child simply held me in healing silence for as long as I needed.
She is not me, I thought.
I am ok too.
These are the profound realizations I came to while huddled with my child on the cold floor of my garage.
I am not perfect. I am flawed. I make mistakes, and I have regrets, but I am trying… and learning… and growing… and becoming the mother and person I always wanted to be: resilient… compassionate… honest… authentic… brave…. wise… loving… and strong—the kind of person I want my child to be. The kind of person she IS.
As I waited for the pain to subside in my ankle, the pain in my heart eased too.
It’s time, I thought.
It’s time to stop focusing on what I didn’t do then,
And focus on what I am doing differently now.
It’s time to stop wondering what’s the worst I’ve left in her,
And focus on the best practices we’re both learning together.
It’s time to stop speculating on the damage I’ve done,
And focus on the tools I’m using to get unstuck when triggered.
It’s time to stop wondering if my issues will wash out in the water,
And focus on the tears of redemption—the ones that spring to my eyes when I watch my child swim… soar… live… and love.
She is not me.
She is ok.
And I am ok, too.
Neither of us expects the other one to be perfect;
We simply expect that when we cry out in angst, pain, or fear, we will come to each other’s side.
This is the kind of love I’ve always wanted to give…
This is the kind of love I’ve always wanted to receive…
This is the kind of love I’ve always wanted to leave as my legacy.
We are ok.
Friends, thank you for allowing me to be authentic… to openly share my struggles and triumphs… to show up messy, scared, sweaty, and full of hope. When I did a free live teaching last week called “A Beautiful Response to Big Feelings and Everyday Challenges,” I became choked up several times as I spoke. It was comforting to receive a note from a viewer and member of Soul Shift afterwards. She said, “You did fabulously today! Why? Because you showed up as you—you, as a real person, emotional, in the moment, AS IS! That is the part if you I connect with, love, respect, adore, and appreciate. A polished, well-rehearsed Rachel would not be the Rachel that I need to walk next to me as I learn and grow. Onto Soul Shift!”
Next week, the Soul Shift journey begins, and I have decided it is best for my health and wellbeing to step away from my blog and Facebook page to give myself the space, time, and energy to lead and participate in this life-changing journey with the other members. I am overjoyed to see so many new faces, as well as many returning Soul Shifters. If you are still wondering if Soul Shift is right for you, I will be hosting a live Q&A with three past participants tonight if you would like to hear about their experiences. Sign up here to watch or receive a recording afterwards. Click here to watch my LIVE teaching video from Friday. Registration for Soul Shift closes tomorrow (1/16) at midnight. You can find all the details about Soul Shift here.
During my absence from my usual online writing spaces, I encourage you to pick up one of my three books (HANDS FREE MAMA, HANDS FREE LIFE, or ONLY LOVE TODAY) or follow me on Instagram where I enjoy sharing little glimpses of my life and heart.
I look forward to reconnecting in this space in a few months. I know I will have many profound discoveries to share with you. Love you dearly.