A Call to Womanhood: A Girl Like Me

A Woman Like Me I think sometimes we keep our eyes shut and our hearts occupied when we are moving towards a destination. I know I have been guilty of this in both the literal and metaphorical journeys of my life. Sometimes I find myself where I hoped to be and feel a bit empty. How did I get here? What were the moments that led to this?

I am working on it.

It took four planes to get me from America to the Dominican Republic last week. Four airports full of people leaving and arriving and hoping and sleeping. I kept my eyes open. I had one layover in the Vegas airport that stretched from its expected "barely tolerable" three hours to a "my goodness this beyond the pale, I don't care how first world that sounds" five hours. I had plenty of time to write little thoughts, eat big sandwiches and watch the people around me.

I settled into my gate with a book and even more food, when a woman with two dogs approached the counter.

She was what polite characters in fiction would call "big boned". Her clothes were wrinkled from travel and her spaghetti straps pressed into her shoulders. She wore white scuffed sneakers and a bit of lace sock peaked above their tops. She held her lips in a tight purse and her eyes were as creased and tired as her clothes. The dogs looked more well rested than their owner. One was large and white. His ears sharps and eyes curious. He rested his nose against her stomach. She held the other under one arm. A little bit of a thing with more fur than flesh. The man at the counter looked at her with confusion and expectation.

She stood defensively before she spoke, each white shoe planted firmly on the stained carpet.

"Hello, sir. These are emotional support dogs. I'm taking them out to Virginia and need to check them to come on the flight with me. I've got all the documentation and before you say anything, know that everyone has been giving me problems all day and in the end, they have all decided I can keep traveling."

He smiled and murmured something before typing into his computer. After a few moments he looked up,

"This airline must have different rules than the other ones you have been traveling with so far. I'm only allowed to let you take one dog with you. Let me call my boss. Until then please take a seat."

Her shoulders slumped and she led the dogs away, sitting them and herself on the floor next to the counter.

Over the next hour and a half, I watched documentation be disputed, phone calls made and superiors called over. The woman was on guard and terse. She was universally frustrated and dismissive with all the agents, even the ones that showed concern. The initial agent that helped her was always kind. The others were not. One employee would walk over every few minutes to ask her supercilious questions and then smirk at the people around him when she answered. Her flight came and went. She called her sister to cry.

"I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm trying to get these out to you, but everyone is being so mean."

I started crying, too.

The dogs were a bit restless. Wandering around her and whimpering when she wouldn't let them walk away. The agent with the smug grin walked over when the white one yelped,

"You are going to have to control those dogs. This isn't a kennel. Ma'am."

"You think I don't know that? I'm doing my best. They are just tired. I am tired, too. You ever been tired?"

A woman sitting behind me had been witness to the dog dilemma as long as I had. She was well dressed and her lipstick was fresh. The gold hoops in her ears swayed as she shook her head and leaned over to her husband,

"Enough with the dog sob story, already. Who is this woman. She is crazy."

He chuckled and circled his hand around hers.

The words to tell her off were tumbling  out of my mouth when I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye.

A woman and her two teenage daughters sat down next to the woman and her dogs. The fifteen year old started petting the big white dog, while the older one let the little dog crawl onto her lap. Their mom put her hand on the woman's shoulder.

"Tell me the names of your dogs."

The four of them talked about the dogs while the agents at the desk continued to call and type and look official. The polished woman with the chuckling husband chuckled about something else. And I sat in the middle of everything and let the lesson I'd just learned seep into my bones.

The passions and plights of our fellow sisters may not always make sense to us. Heaven knows, a lone woman demanding to get on a plane with a dog the size of a miniature horse and one the size of a mouse has the air of the ridiculous about it. But, she was trying to do something that was important to her. And my approval of her situation doesn't really matter one little bit. All that matters is my understanding of her heart. We've all got pursuits, hopes, problems that make no sense to outsiders. All of us will be the "tired woman with the dogs" to the women around us at one point or another. We've got no choice in the matter.

What we can choose is our reaction to our fellow sisters when they find themselves in that place of isolation. Will we shake our heads and laugh knowingly? Or will we get down on the floor next to them and ask them to give us the names of the things they care about?

I plan on spending much of my time on the floor. Want to join me? I'll scooch over a bit. There's plenty of room.

Want more information on the human trafficking sting I did after all these plane rides? Read here and here. And check back next week for more.


Your Dreams are Stupid (Time to Get Some New Ones)

Displaying it'stimemegconley.jpg

Fabulous hand lettering by the ever lovely Kelsey of She, in The Making

I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. If you believe the internets, instagram gurus and that meme your grandma keeps posting, your dream is just one “let’s do this thang” moment of clarity away. It would be nice if words set against filtered sunsets were true.

But much of the time, they’re not.

And, right now, if you're anything like me, your dream is probably stupid.

I used to want to be a country music star. I’d twang my way to the Grand Ole Opry and other less countrified stars would write my name into their songs to get more nashville cred. Singing from a stage in sequins and heavy eyeliner was my dream. But my voice is just alright, great for funeral solos and church service. I’ve never really wanted to live more than a few hundred miles from family, so Nashville was out. And I just couldn’t seem to take the time to learn to play an instrument or read music or understand the composition of a song because, you know, sleeping.

Nashville Meg was a stupid dream because it had nothing to do with what I’ve been given and I wasn’t willing to work to fill in the blanks. I didn’t really want it.

For a long time, I thought I’d grown out of foolish dreams. But then I took a long hard look at where I put my aspirations and time. I was still dreaming..it was just in a series of pinterest sized boxes instead of big, grand storyboards. As we get older, so many of us think we’ve matured past the big dreams that take up time and money and energy. But really, we keep dreaming...we just do it on a much smaller, less ...well…inspired scale.

“When I was a kid I used to want to be a princess that could build robots that killed dragons. Man. Isn’t that ridiculous? I mean, the kind of thinking I used to put my energy into is hilarious. Hey, can I smell your cupcake? I’m off sugar for the next 282 days because I saw an article that said I’ll look like a Victoria’s Secret Model by the time I’m done. Do you mind if I do crunches while we talk?”

Oh, yeah. That's a  MUCH more rational dream.

Adulthood is not a time to abandon dreams, it is a time to honor them. But first, we need to figure out what the heck is worth inhabiting our dream space. We need to clear out the stupid to make room for the golden.

Get rid of the dreams that distract. Whether we are talking a perfect reign of domestic goddessness, the chance to dance with N’Sync on stage (am I the only one that wants this?) or absolute and complete mastery of your craft, it is time to abandon the impossible.

The beautiful thing about abandoning the impossible is that in doing so, you generally realize it is also the unnecessary and even unwanted. Who wants a Stepford wife when you can have a real live woman that laughs about the spaghetti sauce on the floor or the dirty babies dancing in a puddle? Dancing with N’Sync sounds nice, until you realize that JC Chasez would be up there right along Justin Timberlake. And complete mastery of your ever-loving craft? Can you imagine the tedium that would follow? What are we without our desire and ability to move ever upward?

These impossible dreams are poor stand-ins for the real thing. They keep you dreaming rather than achieving and they negate the real value of your efforts. You are worth more than the inflated paper on which they are printed. Get rid of them.

Stop dreaming other people’s dreams. Let HER cultivate her IG following. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. Let HIM drive the car with the price tag of two vacations and a new roof. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. Let THEM eat #whole30nodonutsnomatterhowmuchyouwantone. If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. If those things are really part of your dreamscape, great! Make them your own. Emulation can only take any of us so far. And every once in awhile, take a step back to make sure they are still making you happy.

True happiness is a deeper and more abiding experience than any of us are willing to admit most of the time. Let’s start seeking that kind of joy and let’s stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.

Figure out the stuff of which lovely, lovely you is made. Listen, YOU are worth getting to know. Remember that awful movie Runaway Bride? Julia Roberts plays a hardware store owner (riiiiigghhht) in upstate NY who has spent the last several years leaving a half dozen men at the altar on their wedding day. This is breaking news, so, of course, Richard Gere shows up to investigate the story.

Why Richard? Why is she breaking hearts? Answer! Our Julia has never taken the time to know who she truly is - she’s always just conformed to be like the person she is with at the time. How do we know this? Well, her horrendous pick of wedding dresses for one. But also, because in every relationship, she’s ordered her eggs just the way her partner did. Girlfriend didn’t even know how she liked to eat eggs! And if you don’t know that, you don’t know nothing. Fast forward to the “find herself” montage, where she eats 25 different preparations of eggs to figure out what the heaven she likes. ( I think it ended up being eggs benedict? Which is not much better than not knowing in the first place. Yeck.)

You know what kind of eggs I’ve been eating? My kids cold, leftover scrambled eggs. Both literally and metaphorically. And it’s enough.  We can each wake up 30 minutes earlier, go to sleep 20 minutes later or run away from home/work long enough to take some time to figure out who we are and what we want. Read. Pray. Meditate. Talk to yourself in the mirror. Get in there.

Who are you? What makes you happy? What are you doing when you feel the most fulfilled? Are you with your children? Are you creating? Career making? Cooking? Writing? Giving parking tickets? A mixture of a few things in different ratios?

Answer those questions and you’ll be closer to discovering what your souls been dreaming of than you’ve ever been.

When you’ve gotten to know yourself - to appreciate the hopes of your soul - even seemingly small dreams hold a great and sparkling weight. So often, my most held dream is simply the act of a day lived well. Children loved, husband kissed, a good book read. So often, somewhere between the apparent smallness of my dream and the fulness it lends to my heart, I glimpse something grander. Beauty begets beauty and dreams beget dreams. As you move through the grace of your day to day hopes, you will be given insights and understanding of the bigger aspirations that make up the locomotion of your soul. Write them down as they come and visit them from time to time like the good friends they are.

Once you’ve found something that lights your fire, don’t forget to stoke it. You want to write a cookbook? Then cook. You want to create a loving family? Then love. You want to build a new life? Start living. You want to be on the world’s stage? Don’t wait for anyone to invite you up, build the damn stage yourself. So often we look at the groundwork of our dreams as the preliminaries, but it is really the frame upon which all the trimming rests. Without it there is nothing but a heap of good intentions. So honor it, respect it and sweat like hell on its behalf. It will repay the favor. Tenfold.

Here’s the thing about your stupid dreams - the ones that are safe because they keep you from trying for what you really want - they’re a dime a dozen. Anyone can come up them and most of us have. You weren’t sent here to be predictable and cautious. You were sent here to be YOU. And YOU is so, so good.

Dream bigger. Dream bolder. Color outside the pinterest sized boxes. Fill up the storyboard of your life.

It's time.