The Getting Up
It’s go time. That’s what the writing on my shirt read today when I mowed the lawn. That’s right.
This one time in high school, my dad made me mow the lawn, because he’s a good dad. All girls should learn how to do those ‘boy’ things, like changing the oil in the car, and mowing the lawn, and building furniture, and sawing boards, and hammering, and lifting heavy weights. Because this world is full of adventurous tales, any person should be willing to try any task at any time. So that one time I helped change the oil, switched out the tires on the car, helped build a pool deck, painted rooms, and mowed the lawn. I hated mowing the lawn.
I haaaaaated tugging that ridiculous cord thing over and over and over again to no avail. Just a tip, don’t make a girl tug on something over and over and over again or she will walk away. That’s a life lesson. Freebie.
But once I got the mower going, I mowed in straight lines and finished up the job, vowing that my job in life would be to not ever mow again, and the guy I ended up with would know it was his job to mow, OR ELSE.
However. These past few weeks have been rough. With summer gaining the heavy hand, my hurricane toddler able to talk back and come out of bed swinging, and with the shifting of schedules as school begins, I’ve literally lost my footing. After tripping over a cord of annihilation at the park, my hands have hurt all week, as well as my right leg, and I had to quit a workout early because I couldn’t bear the weight on my limbs. Bruises abound, inward and outward, but it’s time to get up. It’s go time.
Are you there? Are you fighting it too? Are you overshadowed, roughed up, and absorbing the thick humidity of the earth?
We watched the movie Creed last night. Since getting married, I’ve watched way more boxing movies than I ever imagined I would. Sometimes I enjoy them. I liked “Here Comes the Boom,” with Kevin James, and “Warrior,” with Tom Hardy. How do they get their neck muscles so bulgy? Anyway. What’s amazing about boxing is that these guys KNOW they are about to get hit. They’re swinging. They’re ducking. They’re dodging. They’re getting smacked in the face; they are pummeled by punches. And they get up when they fall down. They’re motivated to get up as fast as they can, or else the other guy gets the round, or even the whole shebang. Ain't nobody wanna lose the whole shebang.
As a girl growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I was taught that girls—proper girls—didn’t get their hands dirty or swear or sweat hard or wear too low-cut shirts. Proper girls walk gracefully, wrap their children in loving embraces with their soft hands caressing their children’s smooth, shiny, tendril-like hair, in their jean pencil skirts, while sewing jumpers for the family and matching everyone accordingly, right before cooking a homemade meal and tucking everyone, washed and dried, into crisp, neat beds that had been made that morning.
I’ve never one day of my life been able to be a proper girl.
And now that I’m in my thirties, feeling like maybe I’m doing everything wrong, because I use a Roomba instead of vacuuming, order pizza like a boss, love a heavy workout, and can’t sew clothing to save my life, I’m realizing I’m going to have to adjust my strategy. I have to take out the freaking trash. Almost every day. I have to gas up my car. I have to brush the kids’ hair, even if they scream. I have to dig in, carry on, push harder, climb higher, and walk onward, even when I don’t want to, even when it hurts, and even when I vowed I wouldn’t do it. I have to get up. I'm a mom. I'm human. I'm here, filling this space. So are you.
The getting up is the harder part of the falling down, yeah? Falling down is basically easy. You just allow gravity to win. The getting up, that’s the part where YOU fight the laws of nature, and overcome. Getting out of bed in the morning, standing from a sitting position, starting a new race, a new challenge, a new day, that’s sometimes the hardest part, because it’s engaging forward movement.
Sometimes even forward movement feels like a standstill. That standstill is where I’ve been treading these last few weeks, repeating the same thing at the same time with the same people and the same naptime and the same children who want the same cartoons and the same nonsensical language and the same stores in the same streets and the same samishly sameness of samity.
The thought of rolling out of bed yesterday almost seemed too much. I ate a plate of egg whites, two chocolate poptarts and a bag of Pirate’s Booty for brunch, along with three cups of coffee. I put my hurricane down for a nap ten minutes early. Both children went to bed half an hour early at night. I walked on a treadmill for forty minutes then got a movie from Redbox. And through it all, my palms and shin ached. And I need to potty train the toddler. Dead. Yall. YALL. #boring #thisisit
So this morning, when the hubs sighed and moaned, “I have to mow the laaaawn.” I put down my cup of coffee and was like, “I’ll do it.”
Yeah I did. I mowed that lawn like a boss. There are rules for mowing lawns, and you want straight lines and watch out for sticks and don’t go backwards and don’t cut off any limbs. Screw it. I’ve been editing papers and novels and eating a lot of salad and drinking a lot of water and walking 10,00 steps everyday and driving the speed limit and showing up places on time and wearing makeup and clean underwear and screw rules. I yanked that lawn mower all over that lawn, because tree roots, yall. And pot holes. Our yard stinks. We got weeds and random bricks buried in the ground and awful divots and I found this mega-long vine thing, I think it was lettuce. Yall, I think I was growing lettuce in my yard. Don’t care. Mowed it down.
Mowing the lawn took over two sweaty hours, tidal waves of salty water pouring into my eyes and down into my socks. Don’t care. My hands, they are numb sacks of squishy soreness now. Thumbs won’t stop shaking. Don’t care. Mowed that lawn like a boss, yo. Fist bump; let it explode.
One of my friends ran by on her Saturday jog. I waved with a big, goober-y smile. I weren’t none embarrassed. Many people over the years have helped us with our lawn, being some awesome friends from church and my brother-in-law. Bless them and their putting up with our stupid, holey lawn. (It’s a very large lawn.) Single mom friends who do this all the time, you rock. Way. To. Rock. It. Most of my neighbors pay someone with a trailer and a riding mower to landscape. All those guys who whip out their trailers and forage through the neighborhoods, you change lives and you don’t even know it. My next door neighbor probably puts everybody to shame—she’s in her plus seventies and mows her lawn every other week, all by her onesie. She inspires me. She inspired me this morning. If she can do it, so can I.
See, I wasn’t afraid of mowing the lawn, I just didn’t want to do it. Don’t let those self-imposed limits stop you. If you’re feeling the pain of falling down, or even sitting down, well my friend, get up, and do something you think you don’t want to do. Maybe I was afraid. Afraid of getting dirty, of having to wash grass out of clothing afterwards….maybe even of getting really sweaty (I’m lazy, yall), maybe trepidation hunkered into the picture, dressed as snobbery. But it was a limit and I thought I was too good for it. You’re never too good to explore. Exploration is what brings the adventure back to your own realm. Rule your realm, make your own rules, and knock it out. Get up. Fight for your life. Fight for what you want. Fight for what you don’t know you want. Fight for the adventurous spirit within that crippled soul of yours. You are magnificent. Maybe it will take getting sweaty and dirt-covered to find the strength, the fire, that you need. Don’t be afraid of the dirt, or the rocks, or the maybe-lettuce. Don’t be afraid to make a fool out of yourself. Ain’t no real rules for mowing, anyway. It’s cutting grass.
If you need a takeaway on how your creator feels on this issue, here’s one: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9b). I mean, it was said to Joshua, but I think it applies to us as well. God doesn’t need quivering ninnies. He can use them, but it’s easier when we’re willing to get up and get our hands dirty.
Maybe you need to learn how to sew, to cook homemade meals, to brush your children’s hair (no judgement), or wear higher cut necklines. Maybe you need to take out the trash, change the oil in the car, fix a flat tire, or build something with splintery boards. Maybe you need to get your hands dirty. You probably do.
Let’s do it. Like a boss, son.
I’m right there with you, and, if you notice, your patient Creator is too. There it is, in the way the wind lifts the sweat from your neck, and in the hushed quiet of the evening sunset, in the soulful hug embracing you, to the spoken words and inspiring actions, and in the way your lungs continue to fill with air. It’s in the getting up. Time to crawl, time to scrape those knees up from the dirt, time to swing those fists. It’s go time.
The Falling Down
We are never more human than when we fall down.
I’m not the faller downer. I’m a person who perseveres, kicks it into gear, sweats it out, and quite often stumbles because I’m one of the clumsiest blondes you’ve ever met, but, on the reg, I keep my feet below me.
Watching people fall down is a knee-jerk, gut-busting laugh reaction and then I run to see if the person is alright or not. Yeah? You too? Don’t lie.
I’ve even had a friend who I saw bust it hard a few years back in the same park where I found myself this morning, staring at the jagged, rumpled ground. Y’all, there are some jerk fence-makers around, and they need to be told a thing or two. And the first thing is not to make fences out of a single piece of wire.
After some work-out/kid run time at the park this morning, I loaded the toddler into her airy seat, with the radio playing some bumpin’ tunes, and readied myself to pass over the wire “fence” aka “deathtrap.” I mean, I saw it. I knew it was there. Not moments earlier, I’d warned said toddler not to trip over it. So, in raising my foot up, somehow the force of my electromagnetically radiating personality drew the “fence” aka “hell cable” toward the toe of my shoe. As if the booby trap knew I wanted to start my day off awesomely, it adhered to my laces. For some reason, the oxygen under my foot didn’t let me use it as a step, jerk oxygen, and my other shin hit the wire, and folks, we were going down. Simone Biles or Gabby Douglas might applaud my feet-over-headsing. It’s possible my feet, like, I don’t even know what they did. I think I blacked out with embarrassment.
Palms hit the white rock gravel with a crunch, and my right shin rocketed into itself in red-hot, molten pain. Rolling onto my side, I crammed my eyelids shut. Hopefully no one saw and no one was running over, or laughing hysterically across the playground. They probably were.
I just kind of lay there, absorbing the hurt and the slicing apart of confidence in my ability to tread upon the earth one step at a time. Both palms burned, instant bruising welling up. Surprisingly, only a little blood eeked out. As I rolled over to look at my shin, the urge to melt into the earth at that point began to take over. But, not being a stick of butter, I sat up, and cringed at the insta-welt on my shin. The line from the wire shoved into the skin, forcing the golfball-sized lump of skin above the indention to stick out, red and fiery. Jerk fence-makers.
Toby Mac’s catchy bass rhythm played next to me in the car, and I figured I’d best get into the car before some stranger drove by and wondered why I sat on the ground on the gravel. I hobbled into the driver’s seat. My toddler immediately asked in a soft, concerned voice, “Fall down, momma?”
“Yes. I fell down.”
“Yeah. I’m alive.”
“I give you a check up.”
“We’ll do that at home. That sounds good.”
Honeybuns, there are four kinds of people when human be humans: the fence-makers, the faller downers, the laughers, and the fixers. Every one of us falls down, no matter how careful you plan your steps.
On my journey to getting published, I sent out 61 queries to publishers, agents, and authors. Sixty-one. After twenty, you begin to think you don’t have it in you to take another ‘no.’ After thirty-five, you wonder if you speak the same language as they do, if they actually read your email, if you have wasted the last ten years of your life, and if you want to ‘really do this.’ After forty-five, I stopped for several months. I didn’t send out batch emails to whom it may concern, but researched each recipient, spending hours upon hours of time over the course of nine months working on these queries. Then I attended an event called a Pitchapalooza and spoke with over twenty agents and editors, face-to-face, pitching my book. Some straight-up told me after two sentences they were uninterested and I should move on.
And honestly, I think if I hadn’t gone to the RT Booklover’s convention in Las Vegas, I wouldn’t have gotten a contract.
So if you think about it, I pitched my book to about eighty people and got straight-up rejected. Speak to the hand. Hands on the gravel.
Rejection gets to you.
It may not be right away, because if you get into some kind of career that you KNOW is HARD, and EVERYONE tells you it’s HARD, you expect it to be hard. But. You come out on the other side of it a different person. No one can say just what rejection will do to another person. It can make a person bitter, hard, strong, quiet, poor, broken, hopeless, angry, drunk, smoothed out, squashed, fat, hyper, totally flippin’ sad, or cooled off. Rejection is falling down. I know, I know, that old waaaaaay overused analogy about falling down and getting back up, blah blah.
But today when I ate gravel for brunch, my palms took the brunt of the pressure, and now they’re scarred. Hopefully not too much. They hurt. They’re shaking. They’re sore. That is falling down. That is rejection. And on the other side of falling down, in the laying down in the gravel, under the open blue skies, another person stands up. She’s humiliated, she’s actually hurting, she’s cut open. She doubts her own feet. She doubts her fellow human. She doubts the jerk fence-makers. She wants to crawl into bed.
But she drives home and has some coffee, and then with trembling hands, moves on, even if that means falling down again eventually.
Don’t be a jerk fence-maker, because that is everybody. Everybody is a jerk fence-maker. The mass of blank faces, they are the meanies and bullies who pronounce limits and deadlines and clichés and comments on political articles. They are the people who say it can’t be done. They are the people who point out the flaws. They are the people who come up with half-witted, cheap, wrecked solutions. Seriously, a single wire for a fence? Jerks (#edited), all of ‘em!
And the laughers, that’s a lot of people too. I’m a laugher, I raise my hand. But then I'm always right there, ready with a cup of coffee and a wipey.
But then there are the fixers. My little girlie’s few words expressing her concern brought me back to goodness. If you love someone, you don’t want her to fall down. You don’t find joy in her nosedives. You rush to her side, you bring some coffee, you find the nearest, hugest bar of chocolate and pink bandaids and get that swelling down. Be the fixers. Because, since we all fall down, we need the fixers to remind us that the falling isn’t all there is to it.
I don’t know if you are trying some new skill or career or hobby. Maybe you’re not doing anything different at all and still fumbling around. After all, a walk in the park is supposed to be………
Watch out for the death cables, yo. Close your ears to the laughers. Shake off the cuts and the broken pride. Rise up fearless, rise up shaking, rise up a little scruffier and more resilient. Slough off the rocks embedded in your aching skin. After one agent told me to my face she didn’t want to represent my book, I took several spinning steps away from the line, absorbing in the ruckus of pitches happening around me in that conference room. I walked up to the next agent, shaken and stirred, a little more hopeless, a little hardier, if not entirely lost for confidence. It’s not fun. It’s not funny (at the time). It’s falling down.
But it led to the publisher who glowed with excitement over my pitch. And that was gold. That was the fist pounding the sky in resolution. That was the win.
That was the next step in a series of hard steps.
But it’s life, and the bent of vocation. So we follow that burning desire, carrying with us some wire-cutters, a first-aid kit, and the hands of those who focus on the fix in the midst of the falling down.
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