The Brief Life of a Newborn

This month, our grandson, Wilder Owen Walsh, passed away at only twelve days old. While death is something I have experienced in many ways throughout my life, I have never experienced the loss of a baby. I had no experience with Neonatal Intensive Care Units. I wanted to share a few things I observed and learned in just a few days of his brief life.

The NICU world is a completely different realm. Time itself takes on a whole new meaning. Victory comes in small doses. You are literally in the moment. You live an hour at a time, one test at a time, one result at a time. The NICU staff are a group of amazing souls and frankly, I don’t know how they do what they do. The balance of education, knowledge and experience with love, compassion and sensitivity for the baby and family is impressive to say the least.

I was in awe of our physical bodies and what they can endure. Based on my previous experiences with death, I thought I had a deep understanding of the fragility of life. I don’t think I fully grasped it until I watched a newborn fight for his. The moment where Wilder was methodically disconnected from all support, and soon afterward took his last breath, is a memory that will never fade.

I was reminded that none of us are exempt from death, loss, grief. We will all experience our own loss of loved ones while we are here. I was reminded that while the pain of the loss can be shattering, each loss helps guide me in the life I want to live while I am here.

I spoke at Wilder’s service. While it was intended for the family and friends during that personal moment, I am choosing to share the eulogy here. My hope is that someone will find comfort, especially if enduring a loss of their own.

Much love,

April

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Wilder’s struggles and his passing away is tragic. It is a loss that will be felt by many forever. It’s normal to question why. It’s normal to want to know the purpose behind the tragedy. The reality is, we may never know the answers while we are here. Many of you may ask, “Where is God in this?”- “Where is the good in this?”.

I can tell you the good I observed:

The good was in his calm, easy-going demeanor after his birth. The bonding as his mother nursed him. The awe in his parent’s faces as they looked at him. The excitement of his sisters. The joy of his family upon his arrival. The love given to him through every person that held him. The concern from the medical staff. The tenderness of each NICU nurse. The knowledge of every NICU doctor. The strength and unity of the family. The relationships that were built. The hope expressed in every comment and message on social media. The support of friends, family and in some cases, strangers. The compassion of the NICU staff in is last hours. The comfort given with every hand held and every embrace given during his passing.

There was some aspect of good in every moment.

Wilder’s life didn’t turn out the way we wanted, expected or hoped for. His loss is heartbreaking. But each of us can honor him as we move forward in our lives. We can display the very traits he embodied and the traits embodied by those around him. We can honor his life and memory by freely giving the same love that was so easily given to him.

1 Corinthians 13:13 states, “And now these three remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

In Wilder’s brief life, one thing that impacted me was the amount of love he had while he was here. I believe he received more love in his few days than some receive in a lifetime.

For those of us here grieving, the pain is intense and the journey through it is difficult. While Wilder will never be forgotten, the pain will lessen. Be kind to yourself in the process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is certainly not a specific timeframe to do so.

I encourage you to focus on his beautiful presence while he was here with us, rather than focusing on his absence. I encourage you to focus on what we gained through him, rather than what was lost.

For me personally, I am honored and grateful that I knew him at all.

 

 

 

Know Thyself

At some point in our life, most of us contemplate who we are. I have often asked myself, especially in recent years, “Who am I?”. I have found that in order to conclude who I am, it is best to begin with the question, “Who am I NOT?”.

I am not my weight. I am not the size I wear. I am not the color of my hair. I am not the curly hair, or straight hair, or short hair or long hair or no hair. I am not the wrinkles on my face. I am not the fine hair on my upper lip. I am not the whiskers of middle age on my chin. I am not my brows, however thinning or well-drawn. I am not the cellulite on my thighs. I am not the stretch marks on my stomach. I am not my height. I am not the length of my nails. I am not the size of my breasts. I am not real boobs or fake boobs. I am not my skin color. I am not the straightness of my teeth or the broadness of my smile. I am not my past stitches or surgeries. I am not my scars. I am not my internal injuries. I am not my diagnosis. I am not my disease. I am not my posture. I am not my physical strength. I am not my muscle definition- or lack thereof.

I am not the brand of clothes I wear. I am not the high end sneakers. I am not the expensive purse. I am not the diamond on my finger. I am not the metal around my neck. I am not the height of my heels. I am not the makeup I wear. I am not the scent I prefer to spray. I am not the colors I clothe myself in. I am not capris or jeggings or boot-cut. I am not the stores I shop at. I am not the gown. I am not the sash. I am not the tiara.

I am not my job title. I am not my job. I am not my career. I am not my salary. I am not my bank account. I am not my retirement. I am not my investments. I am not my education. I am not my diploma. I am not the band member, sports player, art lover, theater performer, math enthusiast, teacher or administrator. I am not my credits. I am not my degree. I am not my university. I am not my alma mater. I am not the letters after my name. I am not the prefix before my name. I am not my instrument. I am not my sport. I am not my team. I am not my winning district. I am not my state championship.

I am not the car I drive.  I am not the house I live in. I am not my neighborhood. I am not my city or my state or my region. I am not the country I reside in. I am not the culture. I am not my ancestors. I am not my lineage. I am not my history. I am not my language. I am not my second language. I am not my mother, my father, my sisters, my brother. I am not my family. I am not my childhood. I am not the role of mother. I am not the role of wife. I am not how many kids I have. I am not how many kids I do not have. I am not where my child goes to school. I am not what my child does for a living. I am not my child’s choices.

I am not my friends. I am not my relationships. I am not my religion. I am not the church I attend. I am not my political affiliation. I am not who I vote for. I am not my sexual orientation. I am not my gender. I am not my sexual partners. I am not the person who was hurt. I am not the person who hurt me. I am not a victim. I am not a martyr. I am not a savior. I am not my trauma. I am not my abuse. I am not less than or better.

I am not what I drink. I am not what I eat. I am not my addiction. I am not my affliction. I am not the music I listen to. I am not the movies I love. I am not what I binge watch on Netflix. I am not the books I read. I am not the news station I select. I am not my favorite podcast. I am not the savviness of social media. I am not my hashtag. I am not an amount of “likes”. I am not the quantity of followers. I am not who approves or disapproves. I am not my circumstances. I am not my past or current choices.

Throughout our lives, there are so many ways we choose to attach to something we think we are. We identify with a topic or title, or we have been told we are a specific label. Today we live in a world where identification with surface level names sparks extreme emotions and often results in damaging outcomes. At the very least, unproductive. We are so quick to cling to our labels (usually unconsciously) and are willing to demean and harm others in order to maintain that box we chose to put ourselves in. Most people never even question why they are in that box in the first place. What would happen if every one of us stepped back and asked ourselves, “Why does this upset me so much?”… “Why do I believe what I do?”… “Why is it important for me to be a _____ or a _______ or a ________?” … “What would happen if I didn’t accept those labels?” …. “Who would I be WITHOUT those labels?”.

What do you identify with? What triggers emotional responses within you? Why? What labels do you claim for yourself? What would happen if you no longer attached to those labels?

Know Thyself. Not who thought you were, think you are, were raised to be, were told to be. Who YOU are beneath the names, titles, labels. Go deeper. Transcend the surface level. Explore the greater depths of your soul. Who YOU are- the presence that arrived on the planet. The part of you that knows a peace beyond all understanding. At that place is the greatest answer to “Who am I?”: I AM. And “I AM” is sufficient.

~April

Worrying

The day I told my mom I was pregnant, she said, “Welcome to the first day of worrying for the rest of your life.” She wasn’t wrong. By then, worry was a common thing for me. Motherhood just amplified it. Worry was a constant companion since I was young. What I worried about was always changing, but nothing was exempt. I think it’s very common- especially if you have experienced trauma. As I grow and expand, I view worrying differently. In fact, now it’s easier for me to just observe instead of react. Here are some thoughts about worrying that have come to me recently. The things worrying didn’t do for me.

Worrying doesn’t change the outcome. A common worry I have had since my early twenties is about finances. Well, I can tell you, worrying never put money in the bank. Worrying didn’t lower my debt. Worrying didn’t pay any bills. Worrying didn’t fix broken cars, put food on the table or clothe my family.

Worrying doesn’t change global events. If you watch the news at all, you will notice how we are completely bombarded with tragic stories and images. Worrying didn’t stop 9/11. Worrying didn’t stop wars. Worrying doesn’t stop ignorance, division, racism or inequality. Worrying doesn’t stop hatred,  crime or acts of violence. Worrying doesn’t change environmental issues or social injustice.

Worrying doesn’t lessen the blow. I have worried about numerous things in my life. Most of those things never even transpired. But there were events that occurred for me personally, that I never saw coming. Worry did not stop these events from occurring. And I can tell you, if I had worried about those events, it would not have lessened the blow it dealt. Worrying did not help me when I found my stepfather dead. Worrying did not help me when my brother-in-law was killed in Iraq. Worrying did not help me any time I experienced the loss of a loved one. Worrying didn’t lessen or stop any ounce of pain surrounding these life experiences.

Worrying doesn’t quicken the process. Often I just want to get through any discomfort as quick as possible. Responsibilities, bills, illness, car trouble, house maintenance, insurance issues, details, home management, etc. No matter the subject, worrying doesn’t help me move through it faster. In fact, I noticed it just prolongs the discomfort.

Worrying doesn’t help me move forward. Joyce Meyer once said, “Worrying is like a rocking chair….always in motion but not going anywhere.” Worrying expels tremendous energy but has no positive result. Worrying holds you in place, keeps you stuck, diminishes growth and often evades positive outcomes.

Worrying doesn’t help me make good decisions. I think the root of worrying is fear. I’ve lived long enough that I also think making decisions out of fear aren’t always the best decisions we can make. Fear, like worry, is completely made up in our head. Thankfully, we have control over what we think.

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27. NOPE. Not one. Worrying is a thief. It will steal your time, your energy, your focus, your dreams, your hope. Worrying will kill you if you let it.

Worry still creeps up within me. But at this point in my life, instead of a close confidant, worry has become a brief visitor. I observe it as it makes it’s appearance. I acknowledge it, then firmly dismiss it, as it no longer has power over me. One of my favorite quotes that helps me usher out my unwelcome guest: “Stop worrying about what can go wrong and get excited about what can go right.” Amen!

~April

Am I Doing This Right?

When you are becoming a mom/are a mom, there are a lot of people that are more than happy to give you advice. Some you take, some you don’t. My mom gave me two valuable pieces of advice that I clung to: 1. Nap when she naps. 2. Just when you can’t take a certain phase any longer, the phase ends and another will begin. So try to enjoy each phase, no matter how difficult it seems. Truer words were never spoken!

In the beginning there was pure exhaustion and a lot of fear. Feedings, not sleeping through the night, crying and you don’t know why, fevers, teething. A lot of questioning- Is this normal?, Am I doing this right?. They move on to toddlerhood, becoming mobile in ways you didn’t even think about (for example: climbing EVERYTHING). Falling, tripping, cuts, bruises, even a broken collar bone. Hitting her head- More questioning (Does she have a concussion? How do you know if a two year old has a concussion? Am I doing this right?).

School starts and things change again. A clear personality has emerged. There is now structure that she has never experienced, a ton of kids and their personalities to adapt to, learning, exploring, rules, sight words. I loved her elementary school years. I felt I was a good teacher for her, as well as good support for her teachers. I remember it as a fun time. Challenges didn’t really hit until third grade, and even those were minor in my eyes. I was a steady presence on campus, volunteering when I could, even holding PTA board positions. The questions were still there, though a little different (Does she know what she needs to know? Have I prepared her enough for the state testing? Am I doing this right?).

Middle school was a completely different story. It was difficult because my daughter was changing. Changing in ways she didn’t even understand, let alone myself. Learning who she was in the midst of many voices. Even as she was always very much her own person, I watched her stumble and fall in a few ways that first year. We had many tough discussions: Internet behavior, sexual harassment, sex, school violence, mass shootings, terrorism, self-harm, sexual identities, labels, etc. I felt like I was also learning from her, even as I was trying to teach her. My questions lingered (Did I explain that right? Did I inform her enough? Should I have told her that? Am I doing this right?).

High school began on solid footing. These years are interesting because there is a shift that happens. While she was still a child, she was also becoming a young adult. Some people love to say “Be a parent, not a friend.”. But these years, the boundaries become a bit blurred. My daughter needed me to be real. I needed to prepare her to become a woman- not play a power role. The subjects we discussed remained the same, but became more detailed and in-depth. At this age I share a lot of my life experiences as I feel I need to. Truthfully, raw, no bullshit, life I have lived. She has her first love, she learns to drive, she starts her first job, she continues to learn and grow as a young woman through her own life experiences. My questions continue (Am I teaching her enough? Am I sheltering her too much? Am I doing this right?).

I think about my mom’s words about phases. I’ve thought about them a lot through the years. It is true- just when you think you can’t take it, it changes. When she was a baby, I was so ready for her to fall asleep on her own, to sleep through the night, to not bite me as I breast fed, to stop crying, for her to not be gassy. As a toddler I wanted her to not fight going to bed, to stay in her bed, to eat all of her food. As she got older, I wanted her to be obedient, disciplined in her learning, stop talking back. As an adolescent, I wanted her to remember who she was, stop trying to be like other people, value herself, stop talking back. As a young adult I want her to love herself, honor herself, follow her curiosity as she grows. Every phase had it’s own difficulties. During every phase, I questioned myself as a parent. There are things that I loved in each phase, and things I didn’t.

This week my daughter received her drivers license. I remembered the excitement I felt when I received mine. Watching her as a woman, I was excited for her, too. Watching her as a mom was a whole different feeling. When I was pregnant with her, there was a comfort knowing she was safe within my belly. When she was growing up, there was a comfort knowing she was in my care. Even as a young adult, I was still driving her from location to location and there was a comfort knowing I could get her places safely.

It was difficult to be so tired in her youth. It was difficult- even painful- to nurse her. It was inconvenient to continuously clean up food on the floor. It was stressful to work and still be present for her as a parent. It was difficult to have discussions about tough subject matter. It was difficult to embrace her every step of the way, whoever she was in each phase. But the day she drove off in the car alone with her brand new license was the most difficult mommy moment for me personally. As I watched her drive down the street, I began to cry. Through my tears, the thoughts came: Have I taught her enough? Have I prepared her enough? Have I done this right?

~April

 

Podcast Conversation

In September of 2018, I had a conversation with my friend Thomas for his podcast: RISE/Inner Monologue. The story I chose to speak about was my most life defining: finding my stepfather dead from a prescription drug overdose when I was 13.

I’m not afraid of public speaking, to talk in general or to tell my story. Over the past thirty years, I’ve talked about it with numerous people. But to talk about it in this forum made me nervous and anxious. How many people would hear it? Who would hear it? It would be out there FOREVER.

I chose to do the podcast with the intention of helping others. Maybe my story or something I said would resonate with someone. I wanted to be open and honest and (in spite of the fear). The episode (162) aired yesterday and I am so happy I did it! I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to share. I did what I set out to do- I showed up and shared authentically.

If you haven’t listened to his podcast yet, I encourage you to do so. He has a different guest every week. Awesome people of various backgrounds making a great impact in the world!

~April

http://www.risephoenix.org/

 

What I Wouldn’t Know….

If I didn’t have my life here on earth, I wouldn’t know….

The smell of the rain
The warmth of the sun on my skin
The comfort of a hug
The chill of a winter
The beauty of blooming in spring
The vibrancy of a sunrise
The peace of a sunset
The intensity of passion
The depth of love
The contrast of life experiences
The joy of motherhood
The pain of loss
The shadows of grief
The sweetness of a bird’s song
The scent of a flower
The giddiness of blushing
The challenge of relationships
The ability to heal
The fulfillment of giving
The honor of sharing
The expanse of the ocean
The strength of a mountain
The value of a smile
The power of learning
The gravity of language
The resonance with music
The fragility in living

There are numerous challenges we face in the physical world. But in the midst of the challenge, the fear, weariness, loss, confusion, heartbreak or disappointment- In the midst of elation, accomplishment, satisfaction, happiness, bliss- In every breath- There is possibility.

~April

 

What I Didn’t Know About Being a Mother

I had my daughter in 2001. She will soon be a legal adult, and make her way in the world at a completely different level. Here are some observations I am reflecting on lately, specifically the things I didn’t know:

I didn’t know how an invisible force would take over my body. Seriously. Obviously, I knew there would be changes and reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” helped me. But I didn’t realize the amazing ways your body knows what it needs and doesn’t need. My aversion to red meat and eggs, my hankering for refried beans and Hawaiian punch. The discomfort in my tailbone while my spine adapted to carrying her. The headaches because of my changing hormones. The way my belly button felt as it began to protrude. The nausea, the exhaustion, the ankles swelling, the NOSE swelling! I also didn’t know the seriousness of a C-Section. I didn’t know I would have internal body parts taken out of me, and then put back in (never to be the same again, by the way). Or staples, stiches, scar tissue. I also didn’t know the amazing feeling of your child kick within your belly. It starts as a flutter, then one day she’s stepping on my bladder with a vengeance.

I didn’t know the fear I would feel. Here is this tiny human that I had to keep safe- keep ALIVE!  I was sitting in the hospital room waiting to be discharged. All I could think was, “How am I going to do this?”. I found myself in fear like I had never experienced before. The fear of being in charge of someone else’s life experience. Everything from what she ate to what I taught her. From what detergent to use to how tight should she be swaddled. My whole world changed instantly. Every choice, every decision- revolved around her. The biggest fear was (and still is): Did I do the right thing?

I didn’t know she would become part acrobat and stunt woman at two years old. As she approached the toddler years, I knew about crawling and walking. Nobody warned me about climbing! Dresser drawers become stairs. Shelves become a ladder. A basket of stuffed animals becomes her way of escaping her crib. She slipped, she tripped, she fell, she hit the back of her head, she broke her collar bone. She got bruises and scrapes and cuts.

I didn’t know what a joy Kindergarten would be. I knew it was a big deal, but I didn’t know how much fun it would be for her- and me! She had a fantastic teacher and made friends quickly. She learned basic information and tough topics, too. Kindergarten was the kick off to a pretty successful elementary education. She stayed at the same school through fifth grade. She was smart, excelled and stood out. Although it was a uniform school, you could count on my kid being the one wearing wacky socks or bright yellow boots. She was a bright light, bold, funny and practically fearless.

I didn’t know middle school would be a difficult transition. My daughter was strong- a leader, not a follower. I thought she would be exempt from the difficulties middle school presented. I underestimated the pressure of so many teachers, so many classes, so many expectations. I underestimated the need to figure out who she was and how she fit in with her peers. She learned tough lessons and moved through her experiences. I braced myself for high school.

I didn’t know how fast her time in high school would go. She will graduate in 2020 and I am in awe. Everyone tells you raising kids will go quickly- and they didn’t lie! High school has been a pretty good experience over all. She lives in a different world than I did, though. She has concerns and pressures that I didn’t have. While some issues are the same, a lot has changed. She already lost a friend to suicide and her school repeatedly has “active shooter drills”. Her spare time is filled with acting and singing and watching her on stage has become my ultimate pleasure as a parent!

I didn’t know my daughter would serve as the biggest mirror in my life. I would have to re-visit painful times in my life in order help her with hers. I would have to go back to difficult ages and ask myself what I needed then in order to give her what she needed. I would have to move through my personal traumas in order to help her through hers.

I didn’t know that raising her would test every ounce of my maturity. Anybody can be a controlling mother. But it takes the utmost patience and maturity to be a conscious one. In the world we live in today, spanking or “Because I said so.” doesn’t cut it. It takes a level of vulnerability I wasn’t prepared for.

I didn’t know that she would be such a cool human. She is a beautiful young adult that will make her own mark on this complex world. I love her world view and I’m impressed by her passion. I look forward to watching her grow into a beautiful woman.

With so much information available to us now, there is always so much that we won’t know until we experience it ourselves. Being a mother has been a challenging, difficult, uncertain, painful, exhausting, amazing, beautiful, rewarding, healing, nurturing, loving experience for me. What I DO know: I wouldn’t change any of it!

~April

 

 

Legacy

My husband and I recently ate dinner at the local Cracker Barrel. I’ve always enjoyed their simple meals, the friendly staff and of course, the post-meal gift shop perusal! However, one thing has always bothered me about the restaurant- the décor on their walls. Don’t get me wrong- I love looking at vintage ads. I enjoy the antiques and guessing what they are and what they were once used for. But there are always pictures. This is what bothers me.

Usually you are sure to find a black and white photo of a stern-faced woman or a serious looking man that clearly lived well over a century ago. Sometimes they are vintage photos of people enjoying fun activities, or maybe even a group family photo in an antique frame. No matter what the subject, they are there. Staring at you as you eat your southern meal.

These pictures bother me because to me, they represent life. Life lived, life over. I stare at the faces, wondering why in the world they are hanging in a local eatery. Where is their family? Were these photos sold in bulk at an estate sale? Was there nobody to pass these wonderful photos to? Who are these people? Where did they live? What was their life like? What happened in their life that this would be the final resting place for their picture- that at one time was important enough to someone to be documented at all?

This leads me to the subject of legacy. I’ve been pondering this concept for awhile. Often, we think of legacy in terms of it’s first definition: a gift by will especially of money or other personal property. I know I have. I know I have thought about what my legacy will be. What will I be able to leave my daughter, my family, upon my death? Will it be enough? Will I have anything to leave at all? I believe most people want to leave something for their family when they pass away. Many believe this is their legacy.

But there is a second definition: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. This is the definition I’m leaning in to. This is the definition that has been speaking to me. This is the definition I believe is more valuable than any dollar amount, bank account or piece of property. This is the legacy that is less tangible, yet more impactful.

Maybe our legacy is emotional. Maybe it’s how we teach our children- or WHAT we teach them. Maybe it’s the way my child learns how to have fun from her Grandma, how to be strong like her aunts, how to be kind like her uncle, how to be loving like her mom. Maybe it’s the learning of how to continue to move forward even if you want to fall apart. Or how you can face adversity and still be grateful. How you can have a passion for life in spite of hardship. How obstacles will exist, but it’s all about how you overcome them. How pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. How to remain hopeful. How to make their mark on the world, showing up authentically and living their best life. Maybe our legacy is tied more to life experience and life lessons than material stuff.

I don’t know what my legacy will be. I don’t know what, if anything monetarily, I will have to leave my daughter when I die. I DO know, she will be left with everything money can’t buy. I know she will have inherited knowledge and wisdom from generations of life experiences. Strength, love, hope, perseverance, positivity, authenticity.

My sincere hope is that my photo doesn’t end up on the wall of a Cracker Barrel. But if it does, maybe someone will look at my face and ask themselves the same questions I once did. Better yet, maybe they will come to the realization which definition of legacy is most important to them. You know, thinking about those pictures on the wall- maybe that was their legacy all along.

-April

Reason, season or lifetime

Tonight I found out a former co-worker passed away. We weren’t close and our contact over the years after we worked together was only on Facebook. The news of his loss reminded me of the years I was at this job. It reminded me of the many people we come in contact with through life and the impact we can have on one another. Gregg and I weren’t very good friends, but his placement in my life at that very time was important and pivotal.

Shortly after being promoted to Supervisor, my husband and I separated. Our daughter was a toddler. I was the only female Supervisor on our leadership team. I was excited and nervous. I was eager to do a good job and please a boss that had high expectations. My family was falling apart and I was juggling the emotions of all circumstances in my life.

Gregg spoke with me often about our religious beliefs, often referencing faith and quoting scripture. He referred me to a counseling center at a local church that had been helpful to he and his wife when they were struggling. I made an appointment and began therapy. As my husband stopped attending the appointments, I continued solo. I worked through layers of issues that I didn’t even realize I had.

This is what I thought of tonight. As quick as I was to say that he and I weren’t close, he also gave me one of the greatest gifts in my life. Because of his referral, I began a path of healing. Tough inner work, exploration, acknowledging difficult truths- that continues to this day as I show up daily as authentically as I can. A path that has led me to who I am today.

Sometimes we think we have to be close to someone for them to have deep meaning in our life. My knowing Gregg at this moment on my timeline of life is a perfect example of how false that assumption is. Back then I used to say, “People come in to your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” Today, I realize people have the potential to be all three. I’m grateful for him and the many people I worked with in those years. Thank you, Gregg. RIP

-April

Other Than

I want to be younger.

I want to have better skin,

I want to have better hair.

I want to be trimmer,

want to be thinner.

But none of these things matter

to the power within her.

I want to poised,

want to be classy.

But what comes out when I speak

is curse words and sassy.

I want to be cool, calm, collected.

But when I speak,

my inner fire is resurrected.

I want to have an education from a university.

But my degree was earned

by surviving and living.

I want to have less wrinkles,

I want to look different than me.

But I know my power is in

my authenticity.

I want to be eloquent,

I want to be poetic.

But I’ve learned the best thing I can do

is silence my inner critic.

In so many ways,

I want to be other than what I am.

But I realized the world has enough “other”

and I can take a stand.

I stand in my power,

I stand in honesty.

I stand with my arms wide open,

in vulnerability.

I stand in confidence,

knowing in every moment I have a choice.

With my age, my truth and every part of who I am,

I decide my most valuable attribute is my voice.

-April Stanley