When we first discovered that Nancy Netherland, mother and advocate for two chronically and complexly ill, school-aged children and founder of “Kids and Caregivers” was a Democracy jean fan, we felt an instant connection. We loved learning that Democracy jeans had become her confidence-building anchor, from hospital-infusion bedside to Washington D.C. advocacy. And, as we followed her jean journey of dressing with confidence, we found ourselves continually inspired by the lessons she and her daughters have learned about how to find joy and gratitude in times of uncertainty.
So, when we decided to reach out to someone from our Democracy Clothing community to write a guest post on navigating these challenging times, we thought of Nancy immediately. We’re grateful she was open to sharing her wisdom and hope you find comfort and inspiration from these suggestions Nancy shares with us.
“People like maintaining the status quo. Our bodies literally strive to keep things the same at a cellular level; stasis. We resist and even sometimes fear change. And yet, change allows us to find new worlds, to reach new goals, and to discover unknown talents and opportunities. I’ve learned a lot about change, some of it unwanted, being mama to a child with a chronic, incurable, potentially life-threatening illness. Her illness morphs and progresses and our family’s life changes to reflect those new versions of reality. And while there’s been more than one morning where I’ve literally prayed for “nothing to change”- change has been a constant and my greatest teacher. Change has taught me everything about resiliency, love, and acceptance.
One change that was hard for me, was letting go of distance running and Crossfit. I just couldn’t pull off being a single mama to two, working full time, doing health care advocacy, and being at the hospital with my daughter while staying on top of my old fitness and nutrition regimes.
I missed my old body and wardrobe and I berated myself for shapeshifting (my new non-judgemental language choice). Until, one day, I talked to my doctor who helped me accept that “for now” my body was bigger but still healthy, and I realized it was time for other personal shifts. I found yoga, I found hiking, and found Democracy Clothing. I loved that there were jeans (the itty bitty boot being my favorite!) that made me feel good and look good and could travel with me from the boardroom to the bedside.
So I learned that change is inevitable – and while we may not get to control what comes our way, we can control how we respond. Given our current reality, I thought I might share some of the things that have helped my family respond to a constantly changing world:
Literally every morning before I meditate I find three things I am grateful for. Then at breakfast, the kids and I do a collective moment of “gratituding.” You can hear more about how we choose gratitude here.
Lala (my 12-year-old) reminded me of that just yesterday. Do something special and luscious that you would normally put off or wait for. Do it now. Eat cake for breakfast on your birthday. Put on your favorite outfit – yesterday I wore my Democracy jeans with a crazy mumu and an unprecedented number of scarves to homeschool, my kids. Walk outside in your PJs to look at the moon. Grab that wooden spoon and sing into it along with a favorite song. Stop to lay on the floor against the wall in that yummy inversion pose.
Act - don’t react.
We have a choice. We always have a choice. When I’m scared it helps me to remember to choose love. I know, I am kind of a hippie that way, but it helps. I give myself five minutes and imagine sending waves of love to the people in and around my world. Or I text five people I know with an “I love you,” send a message through social media, post something loving on someone’s wall, pick up the phone, etc.
I knit, cook, and I paint. My kids build things out of boxes, design skins for the video game that shall go unnamed, and draw new worlds in notebooks. And late at night, we all pile into a single bed with the dogs and we either sing or tell each other stories. Like an evening fire amidst the pillows.
Love the now.
Sure, I am like *Oh My God* how am I going to pull all of this off – no school, and working, and so many bills, and Lala’s health, and Sarah’s education and, and, and, and….. But you know what? Right now- in this moment – it’s beautiful. Everyone is sleeping, the light is beautiful, I hear birds singing, I love my friends and family, I am baking garlic so the house smells amazing, and I am writing this post. And this moment is just beautiful. Write a love letter to the moment you are in.
Go outside if you can.
Yesterday I got up early and caught a snowflake on my tongue and walked among trees smelling the loamy earth. Today, I made sure to get outside and walk a few blocks to breathe in some fresh air and to notice the buds on the cherry trees and the shine of the rain on the pavement.
Reach Out & Connect.
Text, Zoom, FaceTime, write letters (remember those... You can buy stamps online), email friends and family members, join an online group (looking at you knitterinos), send smoke signals, and call your neighbors and loved ones. You don’t have to do this (whatever it is) alone. And it really helps to help others. Have your kids write notes and leave them in mailboxes for strangers, gift a bottle of hand sanitizer to an elder, or find someone who is sharing a struggle on social media and DM them words of support. Identify five people in your world (they don’t have to be friends nor family) and check in on them daily- asking how you can help.
Here’s the thing, I never know what is going to happen next with my daughter’s health. I’ve learned to live with the unknown and I’ve learned to find light next to the shadows. And I’ve learned that I can find joy and peace in a world that constantly changes.
I also know that I’m in no way extraordinary – we may prefer things to stay the same but we can ALL find unknown gifts during times of great change. I hope this post helps you discover at least one of your own."
Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your story and your wisdom with us. We’re so grateful that we’ve been able to support you as you’ve navigated your motherhood and advocacy journey and are honored to share your lessons learned with our Democracy community. We are delighted we could support you in dressing with confidence.
Do you have your own Democracy story? How have Democracy jeans impacted you? And how are you finding gratitude and grounding during these times? Share it on social media with the hashtag #ajeanjourney and tag us at Democracy Clothing...we’d love to hear how you are dressing with confidence!”
Illustration created by Nancy Netherland