I think I was twelve years old when my dear friend showed me her Hope Chest.
She had mentioned it and I had no idea what she was talking about.
She removed a handmade blanket that was draped over the top,
flipped the big clasp
and locked the hinging arm.
I cannot forget that smell. It wasn't old or musty, just...cedar.
My friend, nineteen at the time, proudly showed me inherited items and new dishes and towels that she would someday use when she got married.
The idea's not dead: I prepped for my oldest child to move out,
though I used a Rubbermaid tote with matching lid.
Not quite the same drama or anticipation factor.
And he wasn't getting married, he was moving six miles away,
an incremental step towards increased independence.
If you can witness a teensy emotion this morning,
I didn't really prepare anything for my daughter moving out.
No dowry, trousseau or hope chest. Not even a tote.
No preparation. No anticipation. No plan.
"Surprise!" Life says.
Hope chests were for the oldest daughter, replacing the cow and dowry.
A dowry was payment to the husband-to-be, to make the woman more appealing.
In ancient Rome, a dowry would include land and slaves, jewelry and clothing.
Quite the deal, if you're the man.
Today, the most traditional in our culture, including the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish,
still fill these sometimes beautiful boxes with items
throughout the oldest daughter's childhood--
anticipating the day she will marry a man.
My sharing friend was Mormon, another culture heaped in tradition.
I am on a path now that is truly my own, taking steps toward a future that is
unknown and full of possibilities.
I am excited to create my Act 3.
After my stages of grief, I began to see that there was much more space
to move forward than there had been when I was married.
This is a perception--not fact: my thoughts were blocking my actions.
I was blocking myself.
We don't know what is around the many corners,
so how do we prepare for it?
Most of us just want to be happy. Isn't that what we say?
"Oh, I just want my kids to be happy."
I just want to be happy.
Life is about more than feeling one emotion all the time.
It's not realistic, it's not scientific. It's not even spiritually possible.
It is not possible.
But pivoting is very possible.
If I could find a lovely chest to give to my daughter,
who has set up her household without an ounce of help from me,
what would I put in there?
Maybe I'd pack her thready blankies or her baby blessing gown.
All the photos of her life so far.
I'd put all my love in that box. With a blanket she could wrap around her shoulders,
like a hug from me.
Because the rest she would figure out.
She doesn't need to get married. She doesn't need to sweeten the deal.
If she chooses to get married, he'd be lucky to have her.
If I could go back in time, I'd add some things.
More time looking in her eyes, storing up how that feels
for days like today when I miss her.
I'd get out of my head and forget my own troubles
so I could see her more fully.
The past is gone. We have zero influence on the past.
We can reframe it, to think better of it.
The past is so factual.
We may understand it better as we gain our own wisdom,
but no amount of tinkering will change it.
Today's Deep Breath: here's a practical juju nugget, a collective next best decision.
What is POSSIBLE.
Today. and Tomorrow.
I have a Brita pitcher to filter my water for drinking and cooking.
It's one pitcher, and I drink a lot of water,
so I am filling it at least once a day.
I keep a few travel bottles of filtered water, in case I forget to refill the pitcher.
Part of my routine is to fill the pitcher, every morning.
I do this, so that in the future, 6 hours from now, I have clean (ish) water to drink.
In the minutes it takes me to fill it, I am preparing for my future.
And future-me loves clean water.
Future-Me also likes to just eat a meal, and not have to cook it on the spot.
So I prep most meals in advance, so I can heat and eat.
Future-Me has some basic needs, but also some wants.
What I do today either moves me forward on that path to getting what I want,
or holds me back.
Of course, you know this.
But I would add that what I think today, and feel today,
either preps or hinders.
Because what I think affects what I do.
I met a new friend, and she wants to feel proud on New Year's Day.
Like many, she set a goal for the year, and
she wants to feel proud about how far she's come in 2021.
We've been there.
If she wakes up on NYD and doesn't feel proud, she'll probably feel like
she let herself down.
Regret, shame, for letting another year pass without accomplishing what she wanted.
My take: if she wants to feel proud on NYD, she has to practice feeling proud today.
Much of today is tomorrow. The future is in this afternoon, and this evening.
What would that look like, practicing proud?
We've got to start small, right? If I want to feel proud at the end of TODAY,
how could I accomplish that?
#1 My plan for the day is not crazy-unrealistic. I plan for success.
I make decisions about what is truly important and let the rest go.
Sometimes this means removing things that feel like Have-Tos.
I have to be Room Mom for my second grader, right? Because then
he'll know that I love him and
I'll be a good enough Mom.
(What? is that true?)
The truth is, if you don't volunteer, someone else will do the job. That space will be filled.
Everything we choose to do will move on without us.
Oh my gosh, that's so true.
Even the really big things.
And if this is true, and I believe it to be,
ALL WE HAVE IS CHOICE.
What do I want?
I really want to show love.
This is a stretch for me. I'm much better at receiving it than I am at giving it.
Which is just a thought. There's plenty of evidence that I do know how to show love.
I'm actually really good at showing love.
I'm just at a place where things have shifted so much, I'm hyper-aware of all my details.
I really want no housing payments in retirement. I really want that.
Those are two things I'm putting in my hope chest.
What's in yours?