Six Likes

Six? Only six likes? I hit the refresh button. Stare at the result. 

Me and five others like the post? It’s even worse than I thought. I’m one of the six. How depressing.

I close the app in frustration, running my hands through my hair. 

I don’t get it. Some days it’s dozens. Heck, at times it’s over 100. But six? What is wrong with this post? 

What is wrong with me?

It’s an illogical leap but an increasingly easy one to make in a world where the number of likes is a currency of value.

I set my phone down, pick up my curling iron and attend to the task at hand–prepping to see Oprah speak at a nearby stadium. My mind churns through possible reasons for a low response as I work. 

I bet Oprah has never had a single post with only six likes. 

My inner critic loves moments like these, when a simple fact can be twisted into an assault on my character. 

My friend stops the unraveling though, calling from the other room– “Ready?” 

“Absolutely,” I call back. “Let’s go see OPRAH!”

As we walk to the stadium, we merge with groups of women, picking up a couple here, a small group there. With each block, our group grows. I feel an odd solidarity with them. We don’t know each other, but together we move towards the inspiration we hope Oprah will provide. 

Settling into our seats at the top of the stadium, Diet Coke and snacks in hand, I pull my phone out of my pocket, queue up a couple photos, and post them to social media. Out of habit, I check my notifications. 

Seven likes? Honestly. It’s been an hour. Only one more like? People hate this post. Maybe they hate me too.

Then, a deafening cheer interrupts my thoughts. “Hello Calgary!!!” Oprah calls over the din, sparking an even greater frenzy. 

About halfway through the show, she invites Gary Zukav, author of The Seat of the Soul, to the stage. One part of their discussion catches my attention. 

“We live in a world that tells us that external power is what matters,” Oprah says. “People measure their worth and value by how many followers, likes, and little hearts they have. How do we deal with that?”

I sit up in my seat. 

“If you’re looking at the number of likes you have in the world, you are giving your value to someone else,” Gary says, “or more precisely, you are asking someone else to tell you how much you are worth. As long as you do that, you’ll be in pain. But when you contribute instead of consume, you experience a new way of being in the world. Likes and dislikes will not be important to you. What will be important to you is following your heart and giving the gifts you were born to give. That creates authentic power.”

He’s right! Suddenly my tormented thinking of an hour before is embarrassing. Likes don’t matter. What matters is what I feel when I write my story and share it with others. What matters is the personal power I’ve uncovered and the positive responses I’ve gotten. What matters is the freedom I have found creating this blog and living authentically without shame. 

Six likes? So what! Maybe people are busy. Or maybe it did fall flat. But I was true to myself. I was vulnerable. I was willing to let others in and to connect with them. I was willing to be brave, not perfect. 

That’s worth far more than any number of likes. 


Some days words flow. Other days they don’t. Today is the latter. I can never pinpoint the difference why it goes one way some days and another way other days. I’m drinking the same iced tea with lemon, sitting in the same sun spot in the same chair at the same time of day, with the same overstuffed brain of thoughts and yet no writing topic is demanding attention or volunteering to be explored today.

They say that’s the life of a writer. Some days the words flow like Montana spring run off. Other days they dribble, or worse, dry up altogether. The advice is always: “just start writing, something will come.”

But today, I have fleeting thoughts on heavy topics. They dance in and out, not staying long enough for me to find a pattern or a point to them:

  • Do I ever hear God? (A leftover musing from a small group gathering last weekend.)
  • Will I ever consistently get this stepmomming thing right? (A lingering thought after a family meeting yesterday.)
  • Is it possible to ever feel free of all my life baggage? (A constant thought.)
  • What could I possibly ever write that would have value to others? (A nagging persistent thought that pops up each time I sit to write.)

Generally, I am frustrated on days like today. I want to explore my memories, discover an important lesson and capture it on paper.

But strangely, today, I feel calm, unhurried. Maybe today is different because of the soothing sound of my neighbor washing his driveway alongside the consistent, rhythmic chirp of a bird in a nearby tree. Maybe it’s the hum of an excavator working half a block away. Or perhaps– I’m tired. Emotionally tired by a recent hard conversation with the people I love. Physically tired from sleeping poorly because of it.  

Whatever it is, I’ll take it. In fact, I’m choosing to see it as evidence of growth. Not long ago, if I had nothing to say as a deadline approached, my perfectionist thoughts would have panicked.  They would have hounded and berated me endlessly until I had a blog written, edited, and queued for release.

Could it be that through this journey I’m getting taking hold of my perfectionism after all?

I can’t be sure. But what I do know is life is more peaceful without them. Life is more joyful when I extend myself the same grace I give to others. Life has a stillness and satisfaction to it when I simply let a bit of writing unfold, without expectation or force. And in that stillness, I’m discovering my ongoing questions are easier to answer:

  • I may not audibly hear God, but I feel him in the breeze around me and sense him in the connection I feel with that chirping bird.
  • I will not always stepmom perfectly, but I admire that I keep trying.
  • I may never be free of my baggage, but I can be grateful for the lessons I’ve learned because of it.
  • And just maybe those answers are what someone needs to read today. And if not, they were what I needed to write. And that is enough.


I made the last turn, headed up the driveway and pulled into the garage.

“We made it buddy,” I said to my golden retriever Barkley. “Finally.”

We had set out from Seattle ten hours earlier, it felt good to be home.

I opened his door and watched as he bounded from the car and began sniffing the yard, curious to uncover who had come by in our absence. I stretched as I watched him, my muscles aching after a long time in the same position.

After my father’s brain cancer diagnosis, I’d been making the trip back and forth monthly, anxious to soak up as much time with him as I could while escaping tension at home. Things hadn’t been going well in my marriage. When my husband’s mom died the year before from cancer, his grief lead him down an unexpected and destructive path. As I started to unpack the car, I replayed the conversation I’d had with my husband earlier in the week.

“I always wished for more time with my mom,” my husband said. “You need to spend as much time as you can with your dad. His prognosis isn’t good.”

“That’s what I am doing. I am getting here as often as I can,” I replied.

“But you keep coming back to Montana for me. I need to set you free– from me and this marriage so you can stay with your dad.”

“That isn’t what I want,” I sighed.

We’d been in this moment before. Many times. He’d been home less and less, certain he didn’t deserve me after all that had happened. He had talked of divorce a few times, but we’d managed to keep pushing on. Sometimes I thought I was holding it together by sheer will, terribly afraid I was going to lose both of the men in my life; one to death, and one to divorce.

Back in Montana, I grabbed the last couple bags from the car, yelled–“Let’s go Barkley”– and headed for the door, not noticing my husband’s truck wasn’t in its usual spot.

Inside, I habitually tossed my keys to the small dresser inside the door–but they clattered to the floor, landing in a pile of dust bunnies. The dresser was gone.  

What is going on?

I walked slowly up the stairs to the main floor, my heart pounding. Barkley raced ahead. I could hear him taking a long drink from his water dish as I crested the last step into the living room. Everything appeared normal.  

I set my load down and walked cautiously from room to room. Everything seemed in its place, and yet my hairs remained on end, alert.

In our bedroom, I slowly opened the closet door. Please no. Please no. Please no.

Inside, half the closet was empty.

No. No. No. No. No.

I rushed to his dresser, yanking drawers open. Empty.

All his things are gone. There’s nothing left of him in this house. His clothes. The dresser his grandpa made him. Everything personal to him is gone.

He’s gone.

My knees buckled and I collapsed to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably, rocking back and forth as months of fear and grief crashed in. I felt Barkley lay down next to me, giving me a tentative lick. I clung to him, making his coat wet with my tears. As day turned to night outside, he remained steady, comforting.  

I can’t do this. How am I going to survive this? I was barely hanging on before.

My phone chimed, startling me. I reached for it. Its bright light cut into the dark room as I opened the message.

Oh that’s right, gratitudes.

Every night for months, I’d been sending three things I was grateful for to my accountability partners. I have nothing. My world is shattered. My husband moved out and my father might be dying. What could I possibly be grateful for today?

Barkley’s tail thumped nearby. Our eyes met and the tenderness of his expression melted me. Gentle, loving, steady Barkley. I could start there.

I typed his name.

Two more.

I read the gratitude lists my friends had sent, realizing their consistent and punctual arrival had interrupted my grief, providing me with something positive to focus on.

I typed their names.

One more.

My grief headache pounded at my temples, but the tears had dried. The calm that follows crying had descended. I didn’t know what the next day, or week or month would bring–and I didn’t know how I would survive. But in that moment, I knew, somehow, I would.

I typed out my third gratitude.

I am still here.