It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I was four months postpartum, and I had a long drive ahead of me.
Typically, the idea of driving on the other side of town to visit my sister-in-law in the hospital is not something to which I would've been looking forward. Don't get me wrong - I certainly wished the circumstances for the visit were much better. However, as a new mama, I was ready to grab at any chunk of peaceful alone time whenever and wherever I could find it.
I kissed my husband and my son goodbye, and settled into the driver's seat of my Mom-Mobile preparing for some much-needed ZONING OUT on the open road. After a few feel-good songs had past, I remembered my sister had recommended I listened to a certain podcast.
Oh my gosh, Charlotte, seriously. You are going to LOVE IT. Her story will never leave you - especially as a new mom. It CHANGED me!
If there is anyone that knows my taste in books, film, or anything of creative nature, it's my sister. I searched for the title and pressed play. I LIVE for touching life moment and stories. I figured this one would be a good one, for sure, although I could not have predicted how much of an understatement using the word "good" to describe it would be.
The podcast is called Sounds Good and it is hosted by a brilliantly creative man named Branden Harvey. His guest on the show that week was a woman I had previously never heard of named Natalie Norton.
Have you ever read a book or a blog or watched a video or heard a song and fell in love with it instantly just to find out that they have been writing or singing or acting for a quite some time before you've discovered them and all of the sudden you feel like you've been totally missing out on something magical this entire time and why why WHY hadn't you discovered them sooner?
Yeah. That's pretty much how I felt about Natalie after just a few minutes of listening to her precious little gifts of hard-earned wisdom.
It was also only after a few minutes of hearing her compassionate voice on the podcast that an unwelcome guest decided to join in on my illuminating drive: TRAFFIC.
I mean serious traffic. Like, the busiest freeway during the busiest time of year on one of the prettiest days shut down going both ways forcing a bajillion cars onto crappy side streets kind of traffic. So much for my all new moms needs some peace and quiet time. UGGGH.
I looked up at the Simpson-esque, perfectly-puffed clouds and groaned, "Why, God? WHY today??"
No answer. I guess the universe had a little more on its plate that day besides my first world traffic jam problem - go figure. So, I tried my best to focus back on Natalie's words:
"I'm not going to shy away from owning how exceptional I am .. I don't want others to shy away from that either, and I don't think I am more exceptional than anyone else .. what I've learned through my experience and working hard to be the best I can be, is that if I can become exceptional then ALL of us can .. And maybe it's not so much about becoming exceptional as it is about recognizing that we already are."
YES, YES, YES - ALL OF THE YESES! This was exactly what I needed to be hearing right now. Her words are going to salvage this crappy drive! As I was thinking this to myself, a big ol' semi truck decided to wedge his big ol' nose into MY lane blocking ME from getting where I needed to be.
UM, EXCUSE ME MR. RUDE SEMI TRUCK MAN! DON'T YOU KNOW THAT I AM A NEW MOM TRYING TO HAVE A HEARTFELT MOMENT AND GET SOME MUCH-NEEDED PEACE AND FREAKING QUIET?? MOVE. YOUR. ASS.
I said all of this by laying on my horn, of course, followed by a pretty illegal pass over two very yellow lines. I know, I know. It was a jerk move. As always, karma was chillin' on the other side just waiting to sign my paycheck.
As soon as I pulled around the truck, a steady line of traffic was headed my way. I swerved to the side of the road, barely missing a truck that would have definitely won in my impromptu game of chicken. I pulled into a vacant factory parking lot, put my mom-mobile in park, and sobbed like the baby that waited for me at home.
These were tears of anger. I wasn't mad at the semi truck man anymore. No, I was mad at God for not giving me the peaceful drive I thought I deserved. And soon after that I was mad at myself for being mad at God and for thinking that I deserved anything more than anyone else. Then I was mad that I was mad. It was a vicious, postpartum hormonal cycle.
Then I heard:
"Would you like me to rock him for awhile?"
The podcast had not stopped playing and THESE WORDS, THAT SENTENCE - you guys, it stopped me right in my self-wallowing tracks. (Seriously, if you listen to the podcast and you get to that sentence and your cheeks are not being taken over by hot, salty tears, then I'm not sure you are even human!)
My tears of anger quickly cooled into rivers of compassion and the deepest empathy. They changed all because of the POWER that was in her WORDS. More than power, it was grace.
GRACE. Pure and undeniable grace boomed through the speakers of my car. And it broke me, then put me back together again and again and again.
Natalie's baby boy took his last breaths in her arms. I won't even attempt to summarize the details because, my God, only his momma can give that story even a whisper of justice.
Her words continued:
"..I had this newfound understanding of what love had the capacity to look like in others .. the way that me showing up for others could bless them and vice versa .. we can't wait around for opportunities to show love, we have to create opportunities .."
Despite going through one of the most horrific experiences a mother (or father or anyone) can endure, this incredibly resilient woman was still out there chasing her dreams, sharing her story, and SHOWING UP for life!
"Don't waste your life away waiting for the dust to settle before you get out there and live your dreams .. If you are not willing to give up your dream for your (many) excuses, then you need to figure out a way to show up for that dream here and now."
She was right. SO right. The dust of life is never going to settle.
If SHE was able to do it, then what sorry excuse did I have? I have no tragedies to hide behind. I had no truly valid reasons for quitting my writing and putting my dreams on hold. And if I can't go after them now when the air of life is clear, then what in the world kind of chance do I have of making them a reality when life's unavoidable dust storms hit?
The podcasts ended just a few moments before I pulled into the visitor parking lot. I sat in my car for awhile longer because I realized my sister was right: This story was never going to leave me. Natalie's perseverance and unique determination to see the good in life and others was not ever going to get too far from my mind much less my heart.
Her story lifted a veil and fed me a heavy dose of perspective. No matter how afraid we are, no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much it stings, we owe it to each other to share our stories. Because WORDS have the power to heal and we are ALL wounded in one way or another, so why not repair each other?
Natalie's words were so powerful that they healed wounds I had forgot were bleeding. The creative life that had kept me so vibrant before was slowly slipping away and I was too preoccupied with senseless daily frustrations like slow semi-trucks to notice.
I looked up at the sky as I walked through the parking lot and said a silent prayer:
I get it now. I see why I needed to be stuck in a lane long enough for the right words to hit that creative vein. It hit - It hit HARD - and I'm ready to let my own story flow again. Please, just give me a little time, a whole lot of grace, and a little less traffic.
Follow Natalie here:Natalie Norton
Listen to the Podcast here: Sounds Good with Branden Harvey - Sticking Around for the Miracle