May the Fourth Be With You

Today is Star Wars Day. The grand celebration for good geeks everywhere.


May the Fourth be with you!

(And all the liturgical Star Wars fans say: “And also with you!”)

Greg and I found a light saber on our bed last night. It was the perfect May the Fourth Eve present. Greg considered arming himself with it for work this morning. He’s a software engineer; arming themselves with light sabers on May the Fourth is what they do. It’s what they live for.

Actually, that’s not true at all.

As far as I can tell, software engineers live for the rush of triumphing over complicated algorithms. And for Wired magazine. And for programming Android phones. And for telling the rest of us that we can use Android phones. And for being puzzled when we really can’t use Android phones.

And now I will tell you a story about complicated algorithms and May the Fourth.


Here we go.


May the Fourth

Once upon a time, exactly nine years ago, my software engineer and I were in a hotel room in Guatemala City awaiting the arrival of our 2nd and 3rd kids… 3-year-old Ian and 1-year-old Aden.

May 4, 2003 was the culmination of a lot of HARD, INTENTIONAL adoption work. Months of meetings. Mountains of paperwork. Piles of money. YEARS of proving to governments, lawyers, agencies and social workers that we were able and ready to be Super Parents. That we were capable of taking on two toddlers. That we were fit. That we were sane. That we were eager. That we were called. That we wanted this… oh, so desperately wanted to grow our family this way, with these kids, at this time in our young lives.

On May 4, 2003, our dreams of becoming parents for the second time were realized.

You can image how we felt that day. Deliriously happy. Ecstatic. Fulfilled.

Only we didn’t feel that way at all. Except perhaps for the delirious part. Because no matter how well you plan, things don’t always go just the way you expect. And no matter how ready I am one minute – how well I know my mind, how thoroughly I search my heart – I am a raging mess the next.

On May 4, 2003, I was still actively mourning the loss of one of my friends who died seven months and thirteen days earlier, accidentally and without my permission. I missed her terribly because she was the one who taught me how to smoke, which looks ridiculous when I see it in black and white on the typewritten page. But our two-cigarettes-a-month habit was A Great Rebellion, and it was somehow freeing to sit with her late at night on my front porch, smoking Camel Lights and talking about Jesus. The nicotine always made me sick. Jesus and Glo always made me happy. It was, somehow, very human and very divine, and I missed her when she was gone, as though she mistakenly took my soul to Heaven and not just her own, and selfishly left me to go it alone, an empty body walking the Earth without her joy.

On May 4, 2003, my marriage was deep in the crapper. Deep deep. Deepity deep. Greg and I were missing each other completely and utterly and on nearly every level. We were, both of us, destroyed. Partly by each other, partly by ourselves. But destroyed nonetheless.

On May 4, 2003, I was clinically depressed, trying my 2nd depression medication, and it wasn’t working. I was in counseling, but not on that day, because my counselor said that traveling with me to Guatemala was sort of out of the question what with her boundaries and all. And so I sat in the hotel bathroom and didn’t cry because the darkness in my soul was too deep for tears. I stared at my medication and I wondered if there was any other way out.

On May 4, 2003, I didn’t change out of my pajamas or comb my hair or put on make-up, and still the social worker called from the hotel lobby to tell us that our children had arrived.

On May 4, 2003, I was the opposite of ready for two toddlers. I was less prepared to become a mother than at any other time in my life.

On May 4, 2003, I became a mother to the two children who needed the most from me when I had the least to give.

On May 5, 2003, I put one foot in front of the other, and I made it through the day.

On May 6, 2003, I put one foot in front of the other, and I made it through the day.

On May 7, 2003, I put one foot in front of the other, and I made it through the day.

And I did the same thing on May 8.

And I did the same thing on May 9.

And I did the same thing on May 10.

I didn’t live, exactly. But I survived. And my kids survived. And my husband survived. And my marriage survived. I call it the Miracle of Survival.

And things improved. With better medication and years of counseling and an involved husband and time – oh, sweet time – things improved.

Today, here we are. On May the Fourth again. On a good, good May the Fourth with all of its blessings and mixed feelings and baggage and hope.

May the Fourth is a day I feel deep and abiding guilt. Guilt for being less for Ian and Aden than they deserved in a moment when I wish I could have focused only on easing their tremendous bewilderment and unsettling transition to us. I wonder, sometimes, if I’ll ever be able to fully forgive myself for being less than the mama they needed.

May the Fourth is a day I feel sad. Sad for me that I was so very broken. Sad for Greg that I couldn’t be whole for him or for us. Sad for Abby that she had a mommy who was so very lost.

And May the Fourth is a day I feel triumphant. And celebratory. And grateful. And strong. For my family. But even more importantly, with my family. And with lots and lots of help.

Now, perhaps, you’ll understand why I say with such feeling,

May the Fourth be with you!

Because May the Fourth is the day of complex algorithms. The day of sorrow and joy. The day of insufficiency and enough. The day of failure and victory.

May the Fourth is the day that reminds me that the dark side is real. And that there’s a stronger, bigger, better, brighter Force to conquer it.

And so, I say to you…

May the Fourth bring you healing.

May the Fourth bring you rest.

May the Fourth bring you peace.

May the Fourth bring you hope.

With one foot in front of the other,

May the Fourth be with you.



Moon Hand image credit to Idea Go at

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. Thanks for looking out for my privacy, and thanks for your beautiful words. I’m so proud of myself for where I am now, and that is what I hold onto. But I still want to cry when I think I almost left her alone.

    1. Today’s blog post is for you.

      x’s and o’s. to infinity.

      1. I think back and realized… How much my life has changed.. I shut down at times and feel so alone. Even now I have these days that I just want to stay in bed and sleep. But I know my kids need me. I remember on my daughters 4th birthday. I had a break down, I just started thinking… About everything in my life and what kind of a father they have. In reality they don’t have a dad. It’s all on me. I do it all. Mom dad doctor nurse, good cop bad cop. Everything… I tried so hard to get along and be civil. But I truly hate him. For leaving us the kids and never thinking of them. He cheats them of that father figure. Everyday.. He only calls them around there birthday, that’s if he remembers. I just feel like its never gonna change, that i will forever be the one. That has to fix my broken kids. There dad is never gonna be in there life’s and I see the it affect my oldest. And my youngest doesn’t even say the word daddy. He doesn’t even know what it feels to have one. So I need help.. How can I make it better? I don’t want to do this alone, I need him to be in there life. But he is such a bastard. And so out of touch with the kids. I’m just alone. With no help..

  2. I’m late to reading this. I want to say I can forgive myself for giving in, but I can’t. I was so deep in the dark side that I did swallow that bottle of pills. Ambulances came, and my daughter, little at the time, had to explain to the neighbors at the bus stop that I was in the hospital, but she didn’t know why. My marriage was a shambles. I had to take months off work, leaving a classroom with no teacher. But the thing I can’t forgive myself for is that I almost left my daughter with no mother. I did put one foot in front of the other. I changed my meds and went to marriage counseling and saw my shrink regularly and I came through, my marriage survived, I survived, my family survived. I’m a better mother now. My daughter doesn’t remember that day, but I do, and I’m not sure I’ll ever truly forgive myself.

    1. I changed your name to “a fellow mama,” friend, and I cut a couple of specifics from your comment. Your words are so compelling, mama, and SO TRUE for so many of us that I want to share this with our community. I want them to weigh in. But I didn’t want to blow your anonymity or betray your trust in the process. If you’d like me to convert your comment back to the original, just say the word.

      Forgiveness, though, and forgiveness of SELF. Oh, mama, this is one of the hardest things out there. And I wonder… how do we do this? How do we forgive ourselves when we consider ourselves unforgivable? Because I believe to the core of my being that you are worthy of absolute love… BOTH the you who lived in the dark and breathed desolation and drank despair and acted on the absence of hope AND the you who survived and found enough of the light to live and love again.

      I don’t have enough of the pieces of wisdom for forgiveness. But I do have one piece, and it’s this… I keep working to forgive myself because I want to see my children free. Free from shame. Free from beating themselves up. Free to throw their shoulders back and hold their heads high and accept the fullness of the light despite the inevitable time in the dark. And I don’t know how to teach them relief without setting an example of living in full freedom myself. I’m not there yet. I haven’t arrived. But I’ll set my feet on the forgiveness path as many times as it takes. Because forgiveness doesn’t just free ourselves. And a world of unreasonable grace is where I want to live.

  3. Just read this for the first time.. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who feels like a failure of a mother! I struggle and feel so rotten so often, like I should have all the laundry neatly folded and the bathroom immaculate, and it just doesn’t happen as often as I think it should.. and then my little one comes up and says, “Mommy, you’re the best,” and I think that maybe I’ll be okay after all.

    Thank you for sharing this. I love your posts. They bring meaning to my day.

  4. […] often ask me how we do it, though. Marriage is hard, they say. And I will tell you what: this marriage gig has not come easy for us, so I believe them. Marriage is hard. But I’ve been married long enough, I think, that […]

  5. I’m in my pajamas at 5PM, holding my sleeping 5 month old, reading this for the first time. I laugh just as often as I cry reading your blog! Thank you for being so real. We’re all hot messes from time to time just putting one foot in front of the other. But the world usually only gets to see the brave face. Brava.

  6. […] look more awful in that picture, circa 2003. It was our first holiday season after we jumped from one kid to three. My hair. My ratty sweatshirt and jeans at dinner. My oh-dear-lord, I have to try […]

  7. When my kids were young I went through my “hottest mess” season. Hind sight it 20/20 and I see that God was merciful to let me go through it when they were young. They really have no recollection. Mercy.

    I’ve considered adoption. Considered it then unconsidered it because I think I fear becoming a hot mess again… but then there are times when I think I’m made for it, I want it…but then I think what if I don’t have it together with kids who didn’t come from my retired uterus?

    Praying for God’s leading.

    1. Thanks, Denise. I, too, have been grateful my meltdown was when the kids were small. Here’s hoping I can keep my poo together as we all get older, eh?

      Adoption is a messy, glorious, horrible, amazing process. Kind of like all of life. Wishing you all the best as you work through your decision.


  8. I’d never seen this one before Beth. Very moving, heartbreaking, touching – all of the above.

    What an inspiration you are! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your heart!

  9. […] The well-dressed kids weren’t facades to hide her disordered life; she would’ve told the messy truth to anyone who […]

  10. Wow! This post is very touching and you’re such a great inspiration to us. You’ve gone and made me cry again! I know it’s a little late, but I’m glad you had a good May 4th this year.

  11. I’m jumping on the gratitude bandwagon here. I can not forgive myself for being a young, stupid, ill-prepared mother to my first few kids. The only thing I can hang onto is that no mother ever loved a child more than I loved them, even if I wasn’t good at it. It is this inability to forgive myself that chokes me up incredibly when I consider the grace of God. This is what I struggle with the most, and it actually thrills me to know (and not in a sadistic way) that others have gone through these things. I have to stop now, because I am literally crying here at work, and I am the RECEPTIONIST!

    1. Cathy, I’ve worked my way from receptionist to now Executive Assistant to the CEO. Let me tell you, I’ve cried many many times. Just remember, there are others out there that have been through it, that are going through it, and will be faced with it. You are not alone. 🙂

      1. Such a good message of camaraderie, Devvi… thanks.

    2. Love this, Cathie, because what you write is so, so TRUE. (And isn’t crying in public just the worst?? ;))

      Sending you x’s and o’s, fellow complex mama.

  12. This made me laugh and cry.

    1. P.S. and I don’t even LIKE Star Wars.

  13. Thank you.

  14. Thank you ALL SO VERY MUCH for these kind words. I am so incredibly grateful for your graciousness, your kindness and your wisdom.


  15. This is such a beautiful piece of writing. Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerablility, even to internet-land and those of us who don’t know you in real life. I love reading your blog!

  16. We celebrated Adoption Day with Aden! It is an important day for her and she was happy to tell us that it was her Adoption Day! 🙂 We feel very blessed to get to spend time with her! She is a blessing, as well, to many.

  17. Ah, Beth….God moves in awesomely scary ways. I have been in the same deep dark pit, struggling to unmire myself from the stench of my bad choices, not seeing a way out. I too, was able to make it out, with just my teeth and claws to emerge a better mother, partner, yea, person than I had been before. And I too, am racked with guilt, although I don’t have a set date for it, it pops in uninvited out of the blue. With the following wisdom that was shared with me, it has been shown the door a bit more easily:

    During one bout, I apologized to my teen daughter for being a “bad mom” and her having to suffer through my issues and poor choices. Her response (along with a hug) was, “If you hadn’t gone through that, you wouldn’t have become the awesome mom you are now.” (Seriously? Where does she come up with this stuff?)

    A dear pastor in San Diego: “The most important act of forgiveness is forgiving yourself. If God, who sees every blemish on your soul, even the stuff you don’t see, can forgive you unconditionally, then who are we to continue to hold judgement on ourselves?”

    So, dear Beth, who voices my thoughts and feelings often, forgive yourself. Let go of the judgement you hold and love yourself, for you wouldn’t be the awesome mom that you are if you hadn’t gone through such a dark time.

    With love (and a huge cyber hug),

    1. Thanks for sharing pieces of your story here, too, Devvi. And the wise things you’ve learned about being awesome and finding a way toward forgiving ourselves.


  18. And also you. You are a brave and beautiful woman and I love your heart and your healing. You speak words that I’d like to speak but can’t always find. I find healing and refreshment in those words. Thank you for that gift.

  19. Beth… Thank you for sharing this. We each have those times… We are are the opposite of ready, when instead of 100% we are 0% or even -100% … And can we EVER forgive outselves for not being superhuman and able to do every little thing our children NEED US to be able to do? Like Nemo’s dad in Finding Nemo, who didn’t want ANYTHING to happen to him. But then, oh then, NOTHING would happen to them – and do we not want for them to fully experience the misery and triumph of being alive and human. And then there’s the ability to pay for their own counseling 😉 May the Fourth be ALWAYS with you! And me. And our loved ones. Loved loved loved this post.

  20. i just love you, you are so deeply human 🙂

  21. Such a beautiful post. I’m teary-eyed and can’t think of anything else to say.

  22. There is so much about this blog that I love, but I think one of the things I love the most is your honesty, even, no, especially, when you are talking about the hard things. May the 4th be with you, too. 🙂

  23. And this year May 4 is the National Day of Prayer. For us this year, a prayer of giving thanks for Ian and Aden, and for the strength and wisdom God has given you and Greg in these 9 years.
    And I do remember that Mother’s Day came while you were in Guatemala. And some lovely long-stemmed roses came to me at work from you and Greg. You probably did not know that they came at a time that I was so stressed that I nearly burst into tears when I was called to the office to claim them. So even though you may not remember it that way, you WERE thinking of others even then.

  24. Wowee. And also with you. Thank you so much for your honesty and bravery here. Love you xo

  25. And also with you my friend. And also with you. Love you. Thanks for being so vulnerable in this post. I understand.

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