The Little Engine that Couldn’t

It would seem as if we’ve arrived at the end of an era. I have had a long run at this blog — almost 9.5 years. But it looks like it is time to close up shop in some form or another.

The heyday of vandermeander.com happened when I was pregnant with Olivia, when I was the self-doubting, frustrated mom of young children (who looked pretty good in a bikini at 9 months pregnant). When we moved to Manitoba for seminary blogging got less frequent. I think I was still saying some good things, but the blog was slipping on the priority list. By the time we got to Alberta it was almost off the list. (I’m not sure I even had a list anymore.)

I’ve blogged so infrequently these past two years, and even when I’ve been inspired about a topic, I haven’t bothered to sit down and write. Plus, what I write feels a lot more personal. Maybe that sounds funny since I used to share everything online (seriously, search any word in the side bar, you’re likely gonna find it), but the little bits I write now feel like a lot more of me is being exposed. Plus, now I am a professional and employed counsellor and having a google search of my name come up with pictures and stories about every area of my life just isn’t a good idea anymore.

So it’s time. And, on the one hand, I sit here on the verge of tears because this has been a good little place for me for almost a decade, I have made some wonderful online friends who’ve become real-life friends, and I know a lot of people have appreciated my words… but, on the other hand… all of those things I just said above. It’s just time.

And so today I sit here in my kitchen in Alberta (in a place I didn’t know I would be when I started this), and think about all that has happened over these years… So much has happened in our family — we’ve moved three times across three different provinces. Marc and I both got Masters degrees and professions. We’ve watched our kids grow from babies into school kids and are now counting the years before Madeline heads off to university. (Six more years. Six.)

And so lots has changed and we’ve changed. But in so many ways we’re all still the same. We still can’t really keep our house clean. The kids still get annoyed when someone else is chewing too loud (but almost all of them chew too loud). We’d still rather spend an hour in a bookstore than almost anything else.

And me. I know I’m not the same mother who started typing out her thoughts when Luke, her second baby, was just a few months old. I really didn’t know what I was in for. And, if I remember correctly, I was pretty sure of myself as a mother when it was just Madeline. And so this blog kind of coincides with the beginning of the mom doubts. And the doubts remain.

I had a rather insightful conversation with my boss last week. I told her that I hoped sometime I would stop driving to work and thinking about the day ahead and the people I would see with the thoughts, “I can’t do this” repeating in my head. I really hoped I’d find some confidence, or at the very least, not be plagued by lack of confidence. And she replied, “But, Dixie! That’s how you do everything! That’s how you parent your kids, that’s how you live with Marc. The point is that you don’t let the doubts stop you from doing what you do.”

It was the big Oprah “aha” moment for me: not the second part that she said, the first. It was the first thing she said: the simple statement that I do everything with self doubt. And that’s been true for a long time. Sometimes I’ve let that stop me from doing things, other times I haven’t.

What I’ve realized is that my doubt is internal and rarely influenced by the externals. People validating and encouraging me can lessen my doubts occasionally, but they are still there. I can do things that repeatedly prove that I CAN do things, but the thought process is still “I can’t.” How many times do I need to graduate at the top of my class before I will think that I am capable?!

And it’s the same with being a mom. I ran into a friend who I’d been close with when my kids were small and she commented that she always thought I’d have more kids because I was such a good mom. My thought was, “How’d I miss that memo?!” “Why didn’t somebody tell me I was a good mom?!” But the truth was I know some people did… I just didn’t (or couldn’t) believe it.

You see, I’m “The Little Engine That Couldn’t But Then Does.”

Does that make sense? Like I chug along, “I think I can’t. I think I can’t. I think I can’t. I’ll probably mess up. I’ll probably mess up. I’ll probably mess up. Oh. I guess I did it. I guess I did it. I guess I did it.”

Does that “I think I can’t” help me at all? Nope. But it’s always there. I can see it as a I scroll through the history of this blog.

My hope is that I can slowly start to be a little more kind to myself: “I’ll do my best. I’ll do my best. I’ll do my best.”

And I don’t necessarily want to stop writing. But this particular (very detailed, very public) part of my life needs to be laid to rest. And so, in the next little while, I will likely make it password protected so that it’s still there but secure.

Truthfully, in some ways, I feel a bit ashamed of who I was for a lot of those blog years. But I do recognize that I have just gone through a very formative decade of my life. And part of the growing up in that time is to recognize that who I was before, in the midst, and after all of those changes is okay.

My hope is that my own vulnerability in this space has helped you see that you are okay. Or at least know that you’re not alone. You can do it.

I guess I did it, too.

 

Posted in Blog, Life | 8 Comments

8 Responses to The Little Engine that Couldn’t

  1. Heather P says:

    I will miss your blog, but I’m glad we are real-life friends so that will always be. Love you.

  2. Randall says:

    It has been quite a journey hasn’t it.

    I remember when you first started blogging, and that photo of you, top and centre. It was always enough to catch anyones attention. That picture was an example of how you did blogging as well, pushing back the demons of doubt and doing it anyway.

    It’s the sacrifice you now offer so that you can do the greater thing. That’s life coming from death, a seed falling to the ground. It’s good, in spite of the struggle.

    Well done and good work.
    Glad you’re my neighbour, so I don’t have to miss you here online.

    :)

  3. Simon says:

    I know that I’ve been in that kitchen. And I’ve sat in your dining room and eaten with you. Even ate some cake there that you baked for my wife, who was still a little too baked from her own birthday party the day before to show up for it. (Not that I’m still a teeeeensy bit angry about that… no ma’am!) And I seem to remember reading a blog post about a brief introduction on “how to drum”, but I can’t for the life of me seem to find it. Maybe it was in an email, but I can’t find that either. All I remember is tapping my fingers on the edge of my desk at work, and realising… HEY! This really is how you start to drum!

    So thanks Dixie. For everything. I’ve enjoyed ogling your belly in your bikini. (Totally NOT your ‘ready to lactate breasts’… nope, not those.) And your drum lessons. Your incomprehensible aversion to some reasonable semblance of self-awareness of your good looks, charm, and overall attractiveness. (Marc will know exactly what I’m talking about, even if you don’t.)

    And your awesome hospitality and graciousness. Too few people have that. Probably because you’re hoarding it all. Thanks. For all of that and more.

  4. Linea says:

    Going to miss this way of keeping up with you but also know the ambivalent feelings about blogging these days.

  5. Toni says:

    Had a feeling this was coming, and I’m sorry the day has arrived. An observation Randall made a while back (not in these words) was that it’s very difficult to have a ministry and work with people while at the same time putting yourself out there in front of them. It may actually be easier to do that in pastoral ministry than in the counselling side of things, where it’s important ‘you’ don’t get in the way. My blog went to sleep 6 years ago when we moved churches, and suddenly lots of people got really agitated when I just wrote what I thought.

    So let me say, I’m grateful for the friendship we have, that has grown from your blog time, and from knowing the both of you. I hope that will continue with our occasional trips across the Atlantic. Maybe one day you’ll also re-start, but a little anonymously and a little detached from your daily work.

    (((hug)))

  6. Claire says:

    Please stop pecking at your children. It was really sad to read about Madeleine crying because she had tried to get herself some clothes, and having none in her drawer, had taken them from the freshly ironed basket but disordered the pile in doing so and you had then shouted at her and made her cry – which you then put down to hormones. I think the reason your children get so annoyed at hearing each other ‘chew too loudly’ is not normal and is probably because your pecking at them makes them peck at each other. Intolerance and pecking people is like bullying in that the people who have it done to them will then do it to others. Madeleine has always shown signs of suffering from self-perfectionism and her attempts to meet your demands. I’m sorry to write this sort of message when you are leaving and would like to receive just nice messages of farewell. But I always kept my mouth shut before and I worry you will go off and continue doing it for the rest of their childhoods so I just wanted to point it out. I think the reason you may do it is the same reason you told Luke (when he reached out to you for help and told you he was being bullied) that he should ‘put the problem in God’s hands’ – because you tend to avoid things, candy coat them or dress them up as something else – instead of tackling them head on for what they are. When people do this they often end up with repressed anger and frustration which they then transfer to others through passive-aggression or pecking (for want of a better word) at them. Sorry, I do think you are an excellent mother in all other respects and I have enjoyed reading your blog for many years. You can be brave, insightful and have oftentimes been an inspiration.

  7. Toni says:

    Claire, I wasn’t sure whether to answer this or not (and I appreciate Dixie may decide not to let it show, and that’s OK) but I think you may have the wrong end of the stick, a little.

    I’ve spent a little time with Dixie and Marc and their family, and there’s been no obvious signs of anyone pecking at anyone. Sure they aren’t perfect any more than any other normal, healthy family is, but they’re good together. You need to remember that you’re reading from one particular viewpoint: the same viewpoint that can get the highest marks out of her class and then wonder what went wrong in the marking.

    Reading stuff online can be helpful, but what we read may not reflect reality because we’re reading through 2 sets of filters: theirs and then subsequently ours. Worth remembering.

  8. rebs says:

    Sad that you are done blogging. Makes me sad that many have left blogging and switched to FB and other things. I don’t feel super safe on FB so I don’t post pics really. And I miss being able to ready other’s like yours. It was fun to be pregnant together and due close to the same time. Blessings as you move forward.

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