Keep Climbing


Lately I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed. My little man and I both had the flu last weekend, and I spent two straight days in bed, fighting off the virus that had crept into my bones. I got down on myself because the two goals I had set for myself in January – exercise every day and write 500 words a day – both went untouched for a full forty-eight hours.

Even when I started feeling better, I felt paralyzed by the growing pile of tasks I needed to accomplish this week. Which led to stalling. And self-pity. And more procrastinating.

I am just stuck, I thought. I know there’s a way to get back on track. But how?

Not knowing whether or not it would work, but thinking it was at least worth a shot, I gave myself the day off. After dropping off my son at preschool for the afternoon, V and I had an impromptu Mommy/Daughter day.

Our first stop was the mall, where we returned a Christmas gift I had given my husband at The Gap. She had a ball hiding in the racks causing her mama anxiety, quickly indicating how much of a challenge shopping with little Miss Independent was going to be. So I decided to head back towards home to pick a different activity. But not before snapping a photo of my big girl and her new friend.

new-friend{Because this isn’t the least bit creepy. That’s her avocado from lunch on her sleeve.}

Every Mommy/Daughter day needs a special treat. We stopped in at Starbucks for a little coffee time. Caffeine and sugar are always good for igniting my writer’s voice. My mini-me picked a chocolate cake pop which pleased me since I know I can usually count on her to share at least one tiny bite. Her brother? Never.

From there we headed to the playground. As we drove in to the parking lot, I was relieved to find it empty, not wanting to have to make small talk with other moms I didn’t know. I just wanted to soak up the precious minutes alone with my little girl. Greedy for our one-on-one time, new territory as of recently. I’ve stopped fighting her on afternoon naps, reminding myself that her brother gave his up around this age.

She wanted to do everything. I watched, mostly, cheering her on from the sidelines while sipping my latte, admiring my baby’s fierce determination and squeals of joy in the little pleasures like riding the springy elephant to being pushed on the swing, her fine blonde wisps blowing in the chilly breeze.

My playground bunny asked for help scaling the rock wall. Putting my coffee down on the bench, but not wanting to give her more assistance than she actually needed, I placed a hand on her lower back so she could feel my presence. And instead of physically helping her with the climb, I used words to motivate her.

“Find your footing,” I said, as her toes tapped the ledges to find her next step forward.

“I can’t!!” she cried, ready to give up before she had even climbed a foot.

“Don’t say ‘I can’t!’” I chided gently. “You can do it. I know you can.” I reassured her. She wanted to keep going. It’s not like my little girl to give up on something that easily. I knew she was just testing me, making sure I was there to support her.

The climb was slow. She’d ascend a step, but would suddenly seem to get stuck, not knowing her next move.

Stuck. Like me.

“Keep looking ahead, Sweetie.” I reminded her. Her tiny fingers reached up to the grip above her head, legs stretched straight until she found her next step.

That’s it. That’s all my daughter needed and a few more reaches and steps and she was at the top of the mountain doing a happy little dance. Proud mama below, cheering.

We wrapped up our afternoon outing with a trip to the library before collecting her brother at preschool carline where she promptly fell asleep. In that moment I sat in the car waiting for my little boy to emerge from school, full of gratitude for a day spent hand-in-hand with my second child who reminded me how to get unstuck.

Find your footing. Don’t say ‘I can’t.’ Keep looking ahead.

My mantras for the rest of this year. Thanks for the tips, baby girl. Let’s keep on climbing.



  1. I’m a new reader, and I wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your posts. I’ve been battling a particularly bad depressive episode lately, and I have felt like giving up. I return to college in a couple of weeks for the second semester of my freshman year, and I feel like giving up. I’m afraid college is too much for me. I really appreciate your advice to keep looking forward. In order to be the writer and mental health advocate that I want to be, I need this degree. Much thanks to you and V for the perspective!

    • Jenna, thank you so much for reading! I spent some time on your blog this morning – you’re a great writer and advocate! Wishing you all the best in the future. Keep your chin up, you’ll get through this.

  2. Anne Marie says:

    Love this! Thank you. I’ll be singing “keep climbing” all day today.

  3. I’m also a new reader. i’m bipolar 2 and struggling to decide whether to have children or not due to my condition . . . your posts help. i think your show idea is wonderful! as a bipolar survivor and an actor, i’d love to participate. i’m in ohio, but i’m not sure how far away your auditions are . . .

  4. all I can say as I get ready to rush out the door to pick up my two little girls, is that I love reading all your posts! I mentioned you in connection to Jeff goins in my blog post yesterday titled “The Happy Medium”. (I’m not sure if what I wrote about your Tribe work was correct – if I’m wrong, I’ll apologize and I’ll change it!) Anyway, I am so, so glad you are feeling better!!! I need to have my “Bipolarmomlife” blog fix as much as possible and we can’t have flus getting in the way of that! ;)

  5. Jennifer, it’s great how you use your daughter’s climbing achievement both as a metaphor and a motivation for you to keep going. I’m s ure you can! And glad you and your daughter had fun.

  6. Judy Fryer says:

    As always, delightful, wise,inspirational, mature words Jenn…thank you.

  7. Thank you for this, Jennifer. I understand stuck. What a lovely way to simplify the clear next steps- children. One thing at a time. And just because you are stuck it doesn’t mean you won’t get there.

  8. this is great Jenn. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck myself lately and sometimes looking ahead is the best answer.

  9. Your blog posts are just what I needed this Saturday morning. I recently was diagnosed with bipolar 1 after admitting myself to a mental health facility for an eating disorder. I have three young children and a very loving and supportive husband. At first my diagnosis was VERy hard to take. Looking back to my teenage years, I can pretty much pinpoint when my illness first took hold. Twenty years later, I’m sad I didn’t know then what I know now. I could have lived a happier, less difficult life if I had only gotten help, and the proper medication sooner. I look at all the mistakes I’ve made and relationships I’ve damaged and I have a million regrets.
    I know regrets are useless and living in the past only adds to the depression. Currently I’m going through a depressive period and I’m finding it very hard to get out of my own head. What will life look like for me as I try to recover from a twenty year ED AND TRYING TO MANAGE A MENTAL ILLNESS THAT I KNOW VERY LITTLE ABOUT?
    Im pissed and I’m scared.
    I too believe that being an advocate is helpful for not only yourself, but for others as well. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Its comforting to know that I’m not alone. ❤️

    • Megan, I’m so glad my blog is a comfort. It’s definitely not easy, but try to remember to take each day one step at a time, and know that with every day that passes, you’ll gain strength and resilience. Sending supportive hugs and thank you for reading!

  10. It always amazes me how there are things that we instinctively teach our kids – but yet we are unable to apply them in our lives except for these rare “aha!” moments. Glad that you had one of those moments – keep ’em coming!

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