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Updated: Feb 14

milk spilling

I've been waiting to share the gift of Ayden with the world, like a pregnant pause where you know that you are carrying something so special within yourself but have yet to announce it publicly to the world. Ayden was my firstborn son, born on Valentine's Day sixteen years ago. He gifted me with so many firsts, falling in love instantly with a heartbeat that wasn't mine — daydreaming about what could be possible with his presence and the expansion of my family. Giddy with the idea of becoming his mother, protector, nurturer, teacher, and biggest supporter as he navigated life and love.

Redefining Hard. . . Is this Ayden Hard?

Ayden's powerful birth and death gifted me many firsts and continue to transform, shape, grow, and drive who I am becoming. This lived experience has given me a critical anchor for four important lessons and impetus for my repeatedly asking in every setting and relationship, "How can I be of service?" As I embrace my commitment for 2024 and beyond, I am sharing my intersection of grief, loss, and interruption- all critical parts of the "messy middle"- as a partner with you in this transformational work.

See, I used to be that person you would often see with that big pocketbook with everything but the kitchen sink packed inside, filled to the brim, and spilling over. I have a girlfriend who would often ask," When are you going to clean out that pocketbook?" I would always pause with a smile, laugh, and say I had no time to do it. She would say you have to make time because it reveals and represents the state of your life and what was going on at this very moment. You know she was right...the numerous receipts represented all the traveling I was doing and the places I had been. The baby diapers and Cheerios represented trying to stay on top of my second son Caleb's needs and anticipate what he may want as we ventured out from the house and moved through the world. The numerous change coins at the bottom of my purse represented when I needed to slow down to acknowledge and use my resources wisely. There seemed to be so little time, so much to do, and so many obligations I had and continued to juggle.

On one particular day, as I ventured out with Caleb and his father, we stopped at a restaurant to eat. I had my purse packed to the max, including my son's diapers and his sippy cup full of milk; I was preoccupied with helping my son, so I left the sippy cup in my bag, and before I knew it, there was milk everywhere inside my pocketbook. Yes, all the receipts, papers, and who knows what else were now full of milk. As I scooped everything out, put it in another bag, and then wiped down my purse while upset, I became aware the bag was more accessible to carry. It looked more flattering without all that stuff sticking out the top. I could close it, and when I put my keys and credit cards back in it, I could organize them where I could find them, and they were easily accessible.

An image of Tracey Greene-Washington

Purposeful Alignment

4 Critical Lessons


Lesson#1: Interruption and disruption is a necessary first step.

Interruption and disruption is a necessary first step. Forcing the essential and challenging introspective conversations that are necessary to be in alignment with our daily walk, purpose, and why. I realized that Ayden's gift was a powerful course correction for my life. Like the milk in my pocketbook, it was the essential catalyst that forced me to be still, pause, and grapple with difficult questions regarding my hopes, dreams, and values to examine alignment and misalignment regarding the reality of how I was moving in the world. I asked myself why are you holding on to "that" stuff? I began to realize that through this process, my purse was representative of the clutter, the lack of time I had, and the overwhelming feelings that I felt every day as I worked to take care of my son, remain professionally present and impactful, and take care of my home and responsibilities. But even more profound than that, it forced me to name the necessary personal work I had been running away from and hiding from every day. This work required me to be reflective on the impact of my son Ayden's life and death, the trajectory of my life, and the decisions at that time that I was making and would be required to make going forward. The purse was holding all that in its heaviness.

The purse was holding all that in its heaviness.

Lesson#2: Clearing the Space is Necessary

Clearing the Space is Necessary. When disruption occurs, letting go is critical in the readiness and change process. Ayden's gift permitted me to say I didn't know and understand that I had moved into a space/experience I had never had before. The papers and receipts in my pocketbook created a level of familiarity for me, safety- representing experiences, people, relationships, and information I had gathered over time and that I thought I needed to take with me in every space. The spilled milk in my pocketbook created a powerful clearing that offered a different value proposition for me. If I stayed present, acknowledged my fear, and gave in to my vulnerability - the space cleared, supported, and nurtured what was just for me. As I released my fear and mask, it let others see me with fresh eyes and let me see myself. These fresh eyes allowed me to trust my center compass, usher in an abundance of new opportunities, shift my relationship with trust, courage, and authenticity, and anchor deeply in trusting relationships.

Lesson#3: Acknowledging Feelings and Grieving are Necessary.

Acknowledging Feelings and Grieving are Necessary. The tremendous labor required to stay present, feel all the things that create pain, and surrender to the realization that you may not be able to articulate, define, and speak the words to describe your grief entirely has been my story and process. But when I began to surrender and stop fighting -to embrace the flow- unknown and mystery, I truly started to understand the invitation a coach gave me years ago: "Get comfortable in the gray." The space where things may not be clear invites patience with self, the forgiveness of self, and time. This space created discomfort and disequilibrium - allowing me to "see" differently and in multiple ways, embrace curiosity as a superpower, and embrace numerous ways of knowing that involve trusting self, instincts, and healthy muscle memory that could help me forward—also helping me to understand that other tools, thinking, relationships and resources are available and often offered.

Lesson#4: Redefining Hard... is this Ayden Hard.?

Redefining Hard... Is this Ayden Hard? Ayden's conception and birth created a catastrophic event that forever changed me and the lens through which I saw myself in this world. His conception, birth, and transition continue to inform how I define hard. I used to think everything was and had to be challenging and urgent, between an 8 to 10 on a 10-point scale, before spilling the milk in my purse. Ayden's gift helped put in perspective what is hard and grapple with explicit language and a definition of what is challenging versus complex. See, Ayden hard is a ten on a 10-point scale, and everything else is a challenge and lives at the .0-3 level. This perspective has created a critical prompt and allowed me the gift of resisting being paralyzed, embracing the gift of noticing and understanding patterns without judgment, making decisions and pausing when necessary, and continuing to do my work to know and have awareness regarding the difference. His gift is present when faced with a challenge, providing a critical prompt and reminder to ask, "Is this Adyden Hard?"

As I continue to celebrate the gift of Ayden, I can’t help but harken back to the moment I was holding my empty pocketbook. I continue to understand that Ayden was my beautiful course correction and a reminder that I must be courageous, heal, forgive, and have continuous gratitude for the spilled milk in my purse.

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