Uncommon Sense: Wisdom For My Daughters - Jeanette LeBlanc

Uncommon Sense: Wisdom for my daughters

{This may be the longest post I have ever shared here – and yet it is just beginning, and the words keep coming in a way that tells me that this is a part of a much larger project that will continue to take shape over the next few months. It may be a book, or perhaps something I have not yet imagined. I first shared it over on Patreon – and have added another 1500 words since, shifting and changing and molding this further and further with each revision. I don't know yet what is next. But today is Mother's Day – and it feels right to share it now]

My Dearest Daughters.

My girls. You are growing so quickly.

Yes – that is such a cliche opener.

But you see, being your mother is every cheesy cliche rolled into this entirely ordinary reality tucked into these moments of utter brilliance in a way that leaves even me without all the right words.  

One minute you were babies, the next on the verge of this extraordinary becoming. Now, as bones lengthen and bodies change – as you both shift and change into beings that are less and less child, this separation is ever more present.

Even as I write this I find the fear rising. That I have not had it together enough for you. That I've not hid the struggle enough. That I’ve let you come too close to the reality of my humanity, as messy and raw as it it often has been. I should have protected you more from the harsh realities, from my own failings, from the way I’m messily making my way through the life I was given and the one I built from the wreckage.

God knows, I haven’t always done this clean. I’ve lost my integrity and I’ve stepped off the path and I’ve been so damn attached my own burn down that I’ve walked us all too close to the fire.

But still –  I want you to always know me as exquisitely and humbly human. As creatrix as much as mother. As ugly and dirty and real as much as calm and patient and loving. I want you to see my struggle as well as my bliss. My unmet longing as counter to my grace. My deep rooted insecurity and my deeply held knowing of purpose. My hard fall of tears as much the sweetness of my laugh. The way we all can storm and cry and flail and then fall into my big marshmallow bed, a tangle of limbs and heart and tears, and fall asleep intertwined, secure and at peace.

The knowing of what it is to mother that I want to offer you is not one lifted from hallmark cards and air brushed perfection. It allows for the all and the everything. The fight and the surrender. The grappling and the grace.

Even now you still both curl yourselves into me at night, just before sleep overtakes your bodies. Me in the middle, my arms wrapped around you both, your head on my chest and our breath synchronized. I wonder at how you have grown so large, so completely yourselves, yet also so clearly a part of me. The most favorite times of my entire life are when we are cuddled together, just us three. My heart and your hearts – they are not separate entities you know? And yet – they are. Separate and distinct and defined.

Because you are your own. Always have been. Always will be.

God – the miracle and wonder of that.

My girls. My wee family of three. My greatest thing.

A mother, of course, must always guard against a propensity to give too much advice.  It’s so easy to act as if I know it all – simply because I was once young like you. To presume that my knowing should directly impact your own. And because I often feel like a fumbling human, so very flawed and unsure – that I wonder if perhaps I have no right to offer advice at all.

Or perhaps it is this very humility that leaves us the most able to open up to our own deeply held wisdom.

I want for you to know what it is for a woman to live in fullness with herself. And want you to know that I have fought for it, that my goodness is not externally granted but rooted in my wholeness. And that wholeness has sometimes come at great cost. My integrity has been hard won and roughly delivered and that it has often looked different than what the world would call true. To understand that even fullness can sometimes feel dark and bleak and empty. And that it is true that even the regrets and unmet hopes – the rough gash of loss and betrayal, have brought untold richness to what was born.

And my god, my girls – have I known love and beauty. The kind of love that can only be held with a sort of reverence and awe – so much did it change everything that ever was or ever should be. So deep that it names all else as worthwhile, just to have brought me there.

I want, by the very root of my life, to show you a narrative that diverges from the one this world would have you live.

I am beyond blessed to make a life out of a pile of words. And I know it. The artistic angst does not ever take away from that knowing – but it took a while for me to learn that. And so you will also know me as an artist. To be sure, it can be a raw and primal thing, this unceasing drive to make something from within one’s self. Great art is birthed of both great pain and great joy and sometimes directly as we navigate the tenuous space between the two. We birth our art as we birth ourselves. Both, often, in the midst of struggle. And yet – I want you to know deeply that struggle is not a prerequisite for the bliss of creation. Not even close.

My daughters, growing up is all experimentation and mistake making and learning, both gentle knowing and with the kind delivered with harshness that will break a heart. Oh god yes, this learning will break your hearts – again and again. But it will also build and strengthen and grow them – the breaking and the becoming and the tender grace of the in between.

This is the way of this living thing that we’re here to do.

At the risk of imposing my life lessons on lives that are all your own, I will tell you these things that I want you to take into the world with you.

Please note:

  • Many of these lessons I am still working on. In that case I can only say – do as I say, not as I do.
  • You might not agree with all of them. In that case I revert back to the most famous replies in this history of parenting. BECAUSE I SAID SO.
  • The note above was a joke. I have raised you to question and speak and never blindly follow. That extends to these bits of wisdom as well. Anything I tell you is never more than a starting point for your own exploration. If I give you anything – let it be my trust that you will always find your own way. That means you get to take these lines of mine and twist and alter and morph them as you will, to suit your own knowing and your own lives.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I wouldn’t have YOU any other way.

Here, my girlies, though it could be said that I am the least qualified to advise anyone on life – I gift you with my somewhat insensible and hopelessly uncommon sense:

  1. The older I get the less I know. Where I sound the most sure, I also know I may be entirely wrong. In fact (as you both willingly remind me) I am often wrong. You may not understand it now, but that lack of knowing – that willingness to be entirely wrong – is both the greatest wisdom and the greatest freedom I possess. More than any of the lessons awaiting you below – my wish is that you are never so certain of your own knowing that you miss the brilliance of this, of the lack of certainty, of the gift of being wrong and admitting it and starting over. I want you to know that is is okay, more than okay, to exist from the spacious center of this. In the novel ‘Truth and Beauty’ author Ann Patchett says “My experience only left me smart enough to comprehend my own stunning lack of comprehension”. May you be – in all of this – just be smart enough to comprehend your own stunning lack of comprehension. From here, you will we have somewhere to begin (and, you’ll be much likely to act like an asshole. See #2).

  2. You will, at times, be the most selfish asshole you can possibly imagine. You will step out of your own integrity. You will do things you thought you would never do. The temptation is there to let your actions define your being. To carry the weight of your own failure and to live in a state of perpetual penance. Do not. Learn the art of self-forgiveness. Know that there is a difference between acting like an asshole and BEING an asshole  – and it has to do with the amount of time you spend in the space and what you do once you realize you’ve gone there. Make good choices here.

  3. If you are going to love someone, love them as is. It took 41 years and my badass friend Lola for me to finally get this one. I’m sometimes a little slow on the uptake, but she was dead right. Exactly as is. Right now. As if they will be this way and only this way forever. Can you live with that and thrive with it? Good – hold on tight and love them with everything you have. No? Then let go. You can try to change someone but will likely only earn yourself countless tears and long, sleepless nights.  And in the end, they will be exactly who they were and you will be who you are, still wanting something different. Your time is way too valuable for this.

  4. You are not too much. You have never been too much. You will never be too much. The very idea is preposterous. Because you were born to be you. All of you. Not a tiny acceptable sliver. Not a watered down version with colors dulled and edges softened. No. You were meant to be every last pulsing-bleeding-loving-crying-feeling bit.

  5. If someone says you are too much for them, they are likely not near enough or you. Choose accordingly.

  6. You will always be your own best lover. Do not wait for anyone to write you a love song, sing your own, loud and clear and strong. Know your heart and mind and body and desire and offer the sweetest and kindest love to yourself, first and last and always. Only by loving yourself in fullness can you move forward into loving another. So spend some time seducing yourself. Drink the good wine when you’re alone. Buy the highest thread count sheets you can afford. Wear your most beautiful outfit when nobody will see it but you. Take yourself on dates and find pleasure in your own company. Travel alone, to places with rich food and different culture and mystery.  Spoil yourself. Then, when you are ready to invite another to join you, you will know how you deserve to be treated.

  7. On that note – know your body intimately before you give it to another. Yes – I’m talking about masturbation and orgasm. Learn your body. Know your pleasure. Understand how it works and what it likes and what you need. Make your own pleasure a practice of holy devotion. Ultimately, a good lover will approach you with the same sort of reverence and dedication to your physical bliss. The better you know your body, the easier it will be to discern the difference.

  8. Do not accept shame for your desire. Your want is holy. Your pleasure can move you to a state of breathless worship. Do not deny yourself the self-respect to be found by answering the call of your sacred longing. We are often, as women, fed stories of shame. Always remember that these are not your stories to hold. They never were.

  9. If you ever come to a crossroads between losing someone you love and losing yourself, always choose to walk away from the love, no matter how painful it may be or how impossible it may seem. Your infinite spirit is the most precious thing you will ever possess. Guard it with everything you have.

  10. Choose a partner who is fully sovereign unto themselves, this way, they will only accept you if you are fully sovereign as well. Choose a partner who requires that you rise into your own truth. Choose a partner who loves you so much that they see you both as you are and as you might become – and holds you in grace in both of these spaces. Choose your partner well.

  11. And if you don’t. If you make bad choices, and let’s face it – most of us do – do not be afraid to say goodbye. Sometimes staying seems like a kindness. It is not. Staying where you know you do not belong is a gift to no one. As Cheryl Strayed wisely said: wanting to leave is enough.

  12. One day you will break someone’s heart. And one day you will get your own heart broken. Both of these will likely happen many times. Both will hurt. The experience of the later can directly impact your ability to walk with kindness and integrity during the former. There is a difference, after all – between leaving and losing. Between grief chosen and grief trust upon. But they are both grief. The ending of love, regardless of its specifics, is a loss – honor it as such.  And when you are the one losing, every bit of kindness matters – try to remember that when you are the one making the choice.

  13. If you feel like this time you won’t survive the pain, remember that you will.  You may not like it. There may be times when you don’t even want to, but survive you will. And thrive.  And love again. This I know to be true.

  14. There is no shame in feeling broken. In seeking help. In searching for healing. Sometimes it is the breaking that leads us to the source of our own becoming. But we need not suffer alone. When you feel trauma or shame, if you feel depressed or alone – speak your truth, ask for help, insist without ceasing on the support that you need. You are not alone. As long as I am on this earth and forever after – you will never be alone.

  15. Evolution is eternal. Don’t ever be fooled that who you are now is who you will be. Be open to that which seeks to transform you. You are a work of art in continuous progress. We all are. Your becoming is the most beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. Remember this.

  16. Butterflies are beautiful, but the process of emerging from the chrysalis and spreading your wings can hurt like fucking hell.  But still, you will survive the transformation (over and over again) and you will fly. Remember this when it hurts the most. This is the metamorphosis, the going down to liquid, and the rising again. It’s no joke – but damn, it’s one hell of a journey.

  17. Do not be afraid of fire. The burning down is a sometimes necessary prerequisite for rebirth. The word needs your fire. From the ashes you will rise brighter and stronger than ever. Trust this.

  18. Just the same, know that you don’t ALWAYS have to burn in order to rise. Transcendence does not inherently require suffering. Much of the prolonged pain of my life has come from my own stubborn insistence on clasping tightly to my own misery. Turns out, this trajectory is entirely optional. The universe is actually conspiring towards your ease – but it does need you to actively participate in its manifestation.

  19. Security and stagnancy are easy to confuse. One is safe and good, the other will hold you captive to a life far too small for your gigantic spirits. Notice your breath – does it feel expansive or constricted? Your body language – do you shrink down or expand to fill the space? Are you continually looking outside the confines of your life with longing or do you play with the boundaries from a place of fluidity and freedom? Pay attention to the differences. Staying in a life that is too small for you serves no one.

  20. Do not settle for living a version of your life designed by another. You are not meant to be gatekeeper or the holder of secrets and shame. You are here to live free and clear and into your own wide open truth. If you are spending too much time around people who expect otherwise you will begin to notice a feeling of constriction. Sometimes the life we create can be come a cage of our own making. Sometimes we stifle our truths to make others comfortable. Do not sacrifice your own comfort and freedom for that of another. The price you pay for this is too high. Define your own space. Remember your own divinity. You have a responsibility to this existence to live in fullness of your truth and art and purpose. Do not be diminished by circumstance or opinion or judgement. Your story is your own; nobody can write it but you. You hold the paper, you choose the pen, and you write your life story the way only you can.  So, if someone tries to build you a box, rip that fucker apart and use the wood to build yourself a stage, then ditch your indoor voice and sing it loud. People are not meant to live quietly in small containers no matter how beautiful. A gilded cage is still confinement. You are a wild child – only the open air of freedom will do.

  21. On that note – use your outdoor voice. As often as possible. Get loud. Question authority. Yes, even mine. Push back. Go against the grain. Be unique and weird and disruptive. Don't accept the status quo. Get big and then get bigger. Take up as much room as you want. Nobody wins when you play small. Nobody. Make your mark, your way. Remember, I raised you for this.

  22. If you feel trapped or small or lost at 20 or 30 or 40, take the freedom to run for the sea and to heed her wild call. Hear the whisper through mountaintop pines speaking ancient truth and knowing deep in your bones that the forest will hold your sacred vows. Burn sage and creosote and speak ancient incantation and call forth the goddess. Splash paint on canvas under full pink moon while the coyote howl and the fire rages. Do not fear the wild power that wells up from within on such a night. Embrace it. It has the power to save you.

  23. There is very little than cannot be made at least somewhat better by laughter, chocolate and singing loudly to 80’s music (or Patsy Cline) especially in the company of good friends. Also – The ocean heals. So does the open road. Whiskey burns the path to truth and candles light the way home. Those are my answers for curing what ails me – make sure you take the time to find your own. And insist on them as a regular part of your existence.

  24. If you find – as I believe you might – that this life calls to you in service of an artistic gift, please know that there is no rule that says artists must starve, but yet there are many starving artists. Don’t be afraid to monetize your gifts. This is not pimping or prostitution. It does not cheapen your art to charge what it is worth.  It is a glorious claiming of the purpose of your creative soul. I am 41 years old and I am still fighting tooth and nail to untangle this starving artist myth inside of me. Do yourself a favor by never taking it on.

  25. My battles are not your own. My burdens never yours to carry. My mythology need not be handed down. Ditto my limitations, my fears, my triggers, my trauma. Reject the notion that you must hold the weight of my becoming. My karma is mine alone. You came here clean.

  26. Embrace the hustle. You don’t have to call it hustle, but you do have to show up and do the work. It may one day keep you alive – in ways you cannot quite imagine right now. Sometimes your people will find you (and your art) effortlessly. Sometimes you gotta work it hard so that you will be seen for the light that you are. Do not let your own resistance to your own brilliance keep you hidden. We are all here to shine.

  27. Less talk, more do (you can thank your auntie Marybeth for this one). Ideas are wonderful, but if you don’t follow them with some hard-core action, you will never move past where you are right now. If you ever want specific illustrations of this truth – ask your mother. Not because I’ve mastered this – but because it is a lesson I’m still working on every single day.

  28. The muse can be a tricky bitch. Court her with respect. She deserves it. She demands it. She’ll show up for you though. Remember – you are here to create. In some way or another, no matter what that looks like or if the rest of the world calls it art –  we are all here to create.

  29. On that note: If you one-day find partnership with a creative soul, I wish you luck, you may need it. The connection will be intense and full of passion and fire. But the rewards will be great, greater than you know. Through the love of an artist you will learn to see the world through eyes for which everything is fodder for art, including yourself. And through this you will be forever changed.

  30. The art of a sincere and heartfelt apology is one of the greatest skills you will ever learn.

  31. Everything is ultimately moving us toward redemption.  And still, even in the truth of this, there are some things that cannot be redeemed.

  32. When someone says “I am sorry” you do not have to say “that’s okay”. When someone says “how are you” you do not have to say “everything’s great”. When someone asks you what you feel or who you are or what you want – you can and should tell them the fullness of your own truth –  if you want to. This is an ongoing practice and far more difficult than it sounds. If you want to know more about this – ask your other mother Jen Cody – she taught me.

  33. Learn the art of silence until you can fully articulate what you feel. More damage has been done by speaking before full clarity is present than by the act of not speaking. You get to decide when and where and how to speak your truth.

  34. You alone own your story. Do not let another tell it, and if you find yourself in the company of one determined to rewrite your words or own your narrative, fight like hell until you hold it again. There is little in life that is solely ours.  Your story is one of those priceless few things. It is beyond precious. The people meant to be In your life will only strengthen your voice, not take it from you.

  35. If you are a man, this world will raise your story and your history up as absolute truth. If you are woman this world will rewrite and limit your history – all to convince you that your story must fit into a narrow narrative. Soft. Nurturing. Confident but not overly so. Don’t be too emotional. Never air your dirty laundry. Don’t talk about sex. Don’t get angry. Don’t be ridiculous. Don’t be weak, or proud, or sad or bitter or judgmental or confident. My daughters, I beg of you. Do not go quietly into this prescribed narrative – rage against it with all you have. We are here to tell our stories. Our real stories. Stories that are bloody and powerful and full of heat and sweat and sex and a sweet, holy joy that is owned and chosen. Stories of grief and teardown that are owned just as fully. Stories of an autonomy of self that rushes from within our centers, told loudly with voice that rings true. These stories are the key to our collective survival. And these stories can be lived and written and told by no other voice but your own.

  36. You own your body. You own your body. You own your body. Your center and your edges are yours and yours alone. In this world – this world of rape culture of ingrained misogyny and violence done against girls and women – you will encounter and absorb messages your entire life that place you on trial for the crime of existing as female in this world. That will question your right to wear or speak or move through the world in the way that you do. That will seek to harm you in ways large and small. As a woman, you will hold stories that sometimes feel too painful to hold. As your mother, that brings me to my knees. I grant you the strength to know that this too, you will survive. I promise you I will protect you with every ounce of life in my body. And where I cannot protect you from this world, I will love you inside of it – fierce and holy and precious beyond all knowing.

  37. You are women. We were made for shifting times and changing roles. We are the paradigm shifters. We have evolved and changed and demanded and embraced new roles since the beginning of time. No matter how much the ground shifts beneath your feet, draw yourself up into your power and remember that your balance is inborn.

  38. You hold the collective story of all women in your body. The muscle memory of generations past. This is your legacy, but it is not a prediction of your reality or your future. The difference is both delicate and profound and worth exploring. Pull in the wisdom of generations upon generations of witches and wild women and pioneers and mothers and lovers and midwives and subversives. And then forge your own path. The way only you can. You were born for this.

  39. My girls – you will quite likely encounter the notion that we create our own reality. This can be an empowering idea and also true is so many ways. But it is also entitled and arrogant and can quickly move into a dangerous form of gaslighting. When this happens it is an act of shaming and a violence done. Because fucked up things happen. Fucked up and violent things. And to say that we create the entirely of our own realities is a way this world will have people- especially marginalized groups of people –  hold responsibility for the circumstances in which they were without power. Guard yourself against perpetuating this, and hold yourself tenderly and solidly if it is ever pushed upon you.

  40. Even at the farthest reaches of empathy, we do not and cannot share the lived experience of another. We can never fully know the pain or betrayal a body and spirit has been made to hold in this life, or the way the universe articulates itself through the living of another. And in the knowing of that truth, we cannot ever say what anyone should or must forgive, or how they should handle something or what it takes for them to survive or the way they should heal or when or how or who or why. This this journey is an individual one, and should only ever be exactly that. My girls – do not ever be tempted to project your own knowing onto the experience of another, or to prescribe your path onto their own.

  41. Learn what it is to be in alignment with yourself. With your body and heart and mind and passion. Balance is tricky and mostly impossible –  but the movement toward alignment is a practice that can change everything. Often, the angst that pushes us to tear down and break things is one born of misalignment. Often, the things we break don’t address the root. The easiest way to move into this space is to pay exquisite attention to those small moments where everything lines up perfectly. Memorize how this feels in body and bones and heart and spirit. You won't always be in alignment. You won't’ always be happy. Life is not all goodness and bliss. But knowing what it feels like is the clearest path to return to this state. And to return to this state is to return to yourself.

  42. There will come times where you will hold contradictory contracts. Times where your promises and commitments to self will come in direct opposition to those you have made with another. You will feel a pull that threatens to divide you in two. When this happens, be as kind as possible, remain solidly in your own integrity – and remember, there is nothing more holy than your contract with yourself. Nothing.

  43. You are ALWAYS in choice. Choice is not a finite action, but a way of being. It is fluid and expansive and conscious. In each and every moment. Even when all the doors appear to be closed and you can’t identify any options or a pathway through – I promise you, you are still in choice.

  44. When all the doors are closed. Break a window. Slide under the walls. Blast that shit down. Doors are only the easiest way in and out. Not the only way.

  45. If ever in this life, someone attempts to remove that choice from you – from your voice or your mind or your heart or your physical body – leave. Leave as swiftly and as powerfully as you can. Do not look back.

  46. Grace. This is one of my favorite words. For me, it is always the flip side of the word choice. Just as you are always in choice, it is your responsibility to find a way to move with grace through that choice. To rise up within in – and to extend yourself around it. In the biggest crashing down moments of my life – it is by finding my way back to grace that I have carried myself through the wreckage.

  47. Never get too attached to the first draft of anything – this includes writing, art, homes, love. You will revise and revise and revise. We are always in the midst of our own becoming.

  48. Choose kindness – except when it comes down to saving yourself. Then choose whatever is necessary to survive.

  49. Your life will likely fall apart. Probably more than once. It is good to know your lifelines ahead of time. This is where you need your tribe like you’ll need air. Find the people who will hold you on the darkest nights and treat those relationships with more care and respect that you can possibly imagine. These people can and will likely save your life. More than once.

  50. Speaking of tribe. We are not meant to live in isolation.  Not in nuclear families or bubbled existence. The richness of life is found in community, in cooperation, in becoming a part of a greater whole. Expand your bubble, drop your shield. Invite love in. Do not attempt to do it alone.

  51. As much as you may congratulate yourself on your open-mindedness and your lack of prejudice or judgement, never be too sure of yourself that you fail to see where you are acting closed minded or carrying the very prejudice you rally against. Do not hold a mirror to the rest of the world until you are willing to first examine yourself.

  52. You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. There are no bystanders who get to claim no impact. What mark will you leave on this world?

  53. You are privileged. You are white and middle class and attractive and intelligent and American. Your privilege is so seeped into your existence – just like my own –  that untangling it will sometimes be the most difficult thing you can do. But you must do it. You must never fail to be aware of what you have been given. You must work to dismantle it, in yourself and in the society into which you have been born. It is some of the most important work you will ever do.

  54. None of us do enough. Transform that reality into the spark of motivation that leads to action, not the kind of guilt and shame that leads to apathy. The second is easier. The first is the only way you’ll do the work you’re here to do.

  55. Politics is a responsibility – not just entertainment or propaganda. You have a responsibility to those less privileged than you to speak loudly, to show up, to get uncomfortable and to do the good hard work in the world. You have a responsibility to yourself and to your legacy to create the world you want your children and their children to live in. If you’re not sure how to do this – go and look for people already doing the hard and necessary work.They are there. In every community and group. They may be hard to find, because they rarely seek accolades or attention. The ones you want to learn from are quiet and work behind the scenes in a way that creates immediate impact. Be humble, pay attention. Follow their lead.

  56. The world is kind and good and beautiful. The world is hard and terrible and full of violence. Always err on the side of the beauty – but do not wear blinders to the rest. It is is the terror and the horror and the hard that the real work lies, and where the power of love in action is most needed.

  57. Before you speak – ask yourself if it is kind, necessary or improves upon silence. If it is kind, it need not be necessary. If it is truly necessary it may not always be viewed as kind.

  58. In cases of injustice, your voice always improves upon silence.

  59. Your great-great grandmother always said “never tell a lie, but do not always tell the truth”. If you’re confused about what this means – re-read #57 or come and talk to me. This is one to make sure you’ve really got down.

  60. Read. Read and read and read and read and read. Never stop reading. Inside the world of words you will find escape and truth and a home than can never be taken from you. You will expand your view, and live lives and lifetimes beyond your own. And don’t just read the words of people like you. Seek out the stories of those who are nothing like you, the people you don’t understand, the stories of lives you will never live. These will teach you the most.

  61. For the love of all that is good and holy, put down your phone and pay attention to the wonder that surrounds us each and every moment of each and every day. For the love of all that is good and holy, remind me to do the same. Let’s start today.

  62. You will always be my teachers, just as much or more than I am yours. Do not think – nor let anyone convince you –  that because of your age or your lack of experience that you do not hold wisdom beyond comprehension. You are wise enough to change the entire world in this movement, right now. Just as you are.

  63. Your body is your home on this earth. Oh, sweet girls, be kind to it. Give it the food it needs, move your limbs and your joints with joy. Dance. Make love. Twirl in summer rainstorms. Touch this body of yours with holy wonder. Speak to it kindly, especially the spaces where it is tempting to label it with harsh words and harsher judgements. It has taken me four decades to begin to get here. On this one, as with many others, try to be a little faster on the uptake than your mother. This body is a gift and a temple and it deserves your infinite kindness. If you only knew the perfect wonder I see when I look at you, perhaps this would become the easiest thing of all.

  64. I did not raise you with religion. It has always been for me that either all of it is true, or none of it is. That humanity always comes before dogma. To me, this feels beautiful and wide open and respectful of all. Your view right now is just as expansive, and for that I am grateful.  But still, even in the absence of organized religion – I hope you do not ignore the necessity of spirit and invocation. Of belief in that which cannot be named or seen or even truly known. In the power of prayer. Anne Lamott says there are three prayers that we pray – Help. Thanks. and Wow. In whatever form your own spirituality takes, be willing to ask for help, remain rooted in gratitude and never fail to express your own astonishment and awe and wonder – because my girls – this life is brilliant and holy beyond all belief. And perhaps that – at the root of it – is my religion.

  65. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Dance carefully here.

  66. Every single time you say “I will always” or “I will never”, especially in regards to parenting and romance – you will likely be proven wrong. If you learn this earlier, you may have fewer humbling moments than I did. May the force be with you.

  67. If you choose to have children, one day you will likely hear me speaking through you – saying words you swore you would never say.  Yes, this will be freaky and to will be beautiful. This is how we parents get our revenge. And hopefully, how we live on in you.

  68. When I am old and gray, and the tables have turned and it is you caring for me. Always remember, with every breath I take, you are my greatest contribution to this world. My most holy and sacred responsibility, and a gift that has taken my breath away every day and in all the moments since your birth. You are the truth of my own becoming and I am profoundly grateful you chose me to mother you.


This list could have stopped pages ago – or it could keep going forever. In the end though, I am going to leave you not with my own words, but with the words of my dear friend Latisha Guthrie. Words I have kept close since the day she wrote them to me, on a day when I deeply needed council.  If I could take all of the words above and filter them down to one paragraph, it would sound almost exactly like the words she gifted me that day.

“My wish is that you live your choices true without the littlest wonder what anyone else thinks. In the end you only have your heart to answer to. what will it say of you at the end of days? That you lived in the shadow of someone else's inquiry or that you lived in the light of your own?”

Always, my girls – live in the light of your own inquiry. This is your life. It is a gift and a sacred responsibility. And it is yours.

Go now, and live it.

And when this life breaks you down, or confuses you, or makes you question all that you thought that you knew – always know that you can come back to me, and I will wrap my arms around you and you can lay your head on my chest. I will play with your hair and our breath will once again synchronize and we will both find some much needed peace.

Remember, my darlings. You can always come home to me.

With every last ounce of love in my heart.

I am always,

Your mother.

Uncommon Sense is an ongoing series where I respond to comments and questions that stir my heart. They arrive by email, by text, by comment. They speak to something universal in me, and my response comes quick and sure. If you have something stirring in your heart and would like me to respond – please send me your message. I cannot respond publicly to all messages, but I do promise – with everything that I have –  that I will honor it and keep it safe.

Uncommon Sense: Wisdom for my daughter - Advice from a mother by Jeanette LeBlanc
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