Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I Have Earned My Face

So after reading the blog I shared in my previous post, I followed his recommendation and read this post by his wife about body image after she had her twins. I am still tearing up, because I know this daily battle she's describing, what it's like facing down a body so drastically changed. Because it's not just me who struggles to learn to love their skin again after a major life change. I love the phrase "The tiger earned her stripes" in reference to stretch marks, maybe because it's along the lines of what this brilliant woman describes in that mirror face down. You see these changes and try to love them for the badges of honor that they are. There is another quote, and for the life of me I cannot remember who said it, that at 40 a man has earned his face, and you can tell his story by the lines there. So I love this woman for her story lines.

And it does not have to be the marks of mother hood that may leave you struggling to love your new self. Maybe you dropped a lot of weight. Maybe you had surgery. Maybe you are just getting older. But she's right, it's all part of a story, and it made me think about my own mom. In a very different way, my mom has been going through just as much change as I have, one of new beginnings and sometimes painful endings. I watched her this weekend, and wished I could bring up the courage to say something as I saw her, in that same precarious moment that I find myself in now and then, when you want so much to let go and get back on the boat. It wasn't fear I'd upset her, or that I would look silly, but rather I was afraid to speak about something I personally was not going through. But the more I think about it, and reflecting on the words in the article above, I realize that while the details are different, we really are sharing the same tumultuous inner tube ride.

So here goes.

A Letter to my Momma,

I love you. I love you for every time you pick up the phone. For every time you listened to me bawl or bitch. For every time you held my hand. For showing me it was okay to cry. I love you for teaching me to nurture the world around me, from beans to my son to complete strangers. For showing me the importance of dirt and the healing power of soup. I love you for every time you lost your temper,and apologized. Every time you got knocked down, then got back up again. For every time you forgave others, and are learning to forgive yourself. How you treat others, and are learning to treat yourself.
 I love you for every milk weed pod and firefly, for every skinned up knee and walk on the beach. I love you for every line on your face, because they are a story of a woman who loved with every part of herself, who lost and got hurt and kept hoping.  I love you for when you are vulnerable, when you are scared or sad or in pain, because you remind me that these are part of life too and that it's good to know those feelings, and then to keep moving forward. I love your your laugh, which is infectious, and apologizes for nothing.I love you for you strength, both of your spirit and of your body because you taught me that I can take on the world with the right attitude and make my own way when there is none to follow, that I am capable of miracles.

I know right now it might be hard to understand or accept that this moment in time is but a moment, and the things we feel now are not forever, and who we are now is not all of who we will be. But the next time you look in the mirror momma, and you're heart gets heavy because you might be struggling in that moment, know that every day when your daughter does the same, she will remember where those story lines on her belly lead in part because of the amazing ones that proceeded hers. And while that will not always mean we can let go of our doubts and our fears completely, it will remind us of how sacred our stories and our moments are, every memory of the feeling of our father's hands, of our brother's scars, the smell of our newborn children, the heartbeats of the people we love.

In that moment, momma, neither of us are ever alone.



Say it Out Loud

Remember my war with Perfect Mommy and her confused friend science? This dad over here has got the idea.

Thanks man, it's nice to hear it out loud. <3

Now back to chasing my half-naked toddler who is running away with a bucket full of rabbit food.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wet, in Pain and STILL Hysterical

Points if you get the title reference.

When I was a kid my folks would pull a tube behind our boat in the summer. My brother loved it, and my dad would turn on the speed and he'd sail along the water gleefully and come away red in the face from sea water and wind and unadulterated joy that only a child in perceived peril can feel.

I preferred the front of the boat personally, wind in my hair and the roar of the engine myself. But when I tried to think of what it has felt like the last two years for us, that tow line seemed like a good analogy.

At first it's really exciting, your racing along, high off the ride,and while the water is cold and the wind bracing it just adds to the thrill. You could go all day right? Just towing along. But you can only go so long until your arms get tired, before the chill of the ocean sinks into your skin, before you start longing for a breath of air that isn't forced through your nose and full of salt water. Maybe the boat slows every once in a while, lets you get a brief break, rest, breath deeply while you can, and get your hopes up that you can get back in the boat and on solid ground. But then it takes off again, and you get so tired and sore and desperate for air you start contemplating letting go, even though you know it will put you in more trouble than hanging on did.

That's how it feels like to be under waves of stress like my family has been. Pay off the hospital bill, get a dental bill for nearly as much. Get settled in a new place only to find out you have to move in less than a year. Finally set down your roots and the car breaks down, the chimney needs repair, the dishwasher needs to be replace and lose your health insurance because you are 'not poor enough'.

What kind of statement is that? Not poor ENOUGH? Truth is, I don't think of us as poor. Honestly, we're very blessed, a roof over our heads, food on the table, no lacking in modern entertainment. But the pressure of every day living has grown, cost of heating the house, of healthy, fresh food, medical expenses, trash removal- it just adds up. I am serious, we have just lost our health insurance NOT because we started making more, but because the National Poverty Line dropped. Meaning, that the poorest got poorer, so they changed their standard for what makes a family economically needy despite the fact that actual economical need did NOT change. But it's cool, we don't need health insurance reform, right?

So I feel like my boat has slowed just a bit and pulled back up to full throttle, leaving me once again gasping for breath and feeling like I can't hold on much longer. Losing our health insurance (and thank GOD they are still covering my son, because Perfect Mommy does not need that tidbit in her arsenal of guilt) means losing my ability to go to my counselor, or the nutritionist or really anything I was doing to take care of myself.

We've signed up for my husband's insurance policy through work, which sadly may be up to $500 MORE than what we were previously paying and I guarantee not as good a plan. We have been told if we can send proof of cost to the state, that they may deem it is not economically doable for us, and reinstate our coverage, or pay part of it in assistance. This is good, but does not make up for the ludicrous state of things now.Welcome to the world of the lower middle class, to poor to make it on our own, not poor enough to get the help that could put us on solid ground. We're good, hard working people. We pay taxes, we're kind to others, we're educated and not wasteful with our money. But, we'll keep our fingers crossed because letting go is not an option.

But man... I just want my seat at the front of the boat and out of the water.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happiness, Goodness, and other kinds of 'nesses

We have a beat up slip of paper on our fridge that reads, "Today I Choose to be Happy". It first appeared on my husband's mirror in the apartment he was living in when we started dating, over eight years ago. The words specifically are from a book, he told me which one and I want to say Gift of the Magi but it WAS over eight years ago and I have trouble remembering if I put on deodorant in the morning. Even now. Maybe I should put it on just in case. Or I could sniff my underarms like a teenage boy. I'm sure that won't weird anyone out.

Anyways, this slip of paper and the idea behind it has traveled to all of the places we've lived together. The whole idea being that happiness is a choice, and every day, in fact every moment, we can make that choice. Simple enough right? But it can be hard, really hard. It's easy to be happy when the sky is full of sunlight, when you have a few extra bucks for a coffee or gas to see a friend, when your child is beaming and giggling and reminding you he is just too cute to get upset at for his mischief. Then there are the days you're covered in two different kinds of poop (Neither of which is thankfully(?) your own), you haven't had time to brush your hair let alone put on pants, your bills are due early but the pay is coming late and there's a slurry falling from the sky trapping you inside while your sweet little angel is using apple sauce to paint his highchair (and himself) while he screams "I'm Tired and I Want to Go Outside Despite The Fact It's Blizzard" aria #2. Those are the days even Buddha must be like; "It's okay lady, I think it's completely acceptable to eat an entire sack of chocolates and cry in a corner while your child rots their brain in front of the TV. Good for you for not drinking before 10 A.M.!"

But the truth is you need that little mantra. Once you've had your cry, you have to get up, change out of your poop/chocolate covered clothes, take a deep breath and say "I am going to choose to be happy now." You have to, because if someone else says it to you, you're going to have to fill out a police report. You have to take charge of your own happiness, because no one can give it to you or force it upon you. You have to make the choice to, as Daniel Tiger says, "When something seems bad, turn it around and find something good!" True, you may be stink between the poop fiasco and forgetting your deodorant, but the shower you'll get once he's asleep will feel like heaven. 

It's a small thing, but it IS something positive. And I know, here is the depressed lady telling you about happiness, but as someone who has struggled with her own on and off in a dramatic way, I CAN tell you what has helped me. I can tell you how much more I have treasured my happiness for all the stress in my life. It helps me not take my, at the end of the day, amazing life for granted. I love the sunshine because of the rain, so to speak.

Happiness in the midst of chaos takes faith. For some people that means religion, for me it's a little different. My faith exists in the world, more specifically in people. I made a choice when I entered high school- I could either hate the people who hurt me, who tried so hard to pull me to pieces, or I could put more love out into the world instead. I chose love. When I got older, I made an observation, that the people who were the nastiest to me usually had reasons that had nothing to do with me. I was just an outlet, one they were sure wouldn't push back. So I began to develop my faith that all people are good, but they can act cruel and violent when they feel threatened in some way, regardless if that threat is real or perceived. It's not always an easy point of view, especially when driving in Massachusetts. Certainly it also doesn't mean that I must LIKE everyone I meet, but it does mean I can try to accept them for who they are; "Sure she's a drama queen who is making my life difficult at this moment, but she's got a life beyond this moment and I am sure she too stares daggers at the 'skinny' jeans stashed at the bottom of her pants drawer."

Because the world has enough ill-informed info graphics and angry old ladies with shopping carts, I might as well add a tick under the 'good' column in someone else day, and in turn it might make their choice to be happy a little bit easier, which may in turn help someone else and so on. As for me? I am at least making an effort to take charge of my view of the world, and while there will be days where I comment on the likeness between the gentleman on the cable customer service line to that of a bottom feeding sea slug, I can take a deep breath and remind myself ;

 We're in this together, and I might as well choose to be happy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Self Awareness or How to (not) do Yoga with a Toddler

1. Remove Disney dvd and insert new yoga dvd since you had to replace the previous one when it mysteriously vanished and reappeared in the toy box.
2. Lay out mat.
3. Remove toddler from mat.
4. Warm up breathing.
5. Remove numerous MatchBox cars that have appeared on your belly.
6. Floor stretches (with added benefit of said cars now appearing in your outstretched hands, for resistance)
7. Standing poses, accompanied by toddler needing to held at that exact moment.
8. Also, he needs a drink.
9. Child's pose, which you discover is called that because your head is at the perfect level for a toddler butt to sit on.
10. Bridge pose.
11. Become jungle gym while trying to do bridge pose.
12. Cool down routine.
13. Take previously mentioned MatchBox to the temple and wonder how you ever relaxed without yoga.

Toddlers are amazing in that they can pour water down the back of your pants and run cackling away into the night, then steal your heart with good night kisses.

Tonight's discussion became about oversensitivity. Something was bothering me, and I had not spoken about it with the parties concerned because I wasn't sure if what I was feeling was 'real' or if I was just being, well, oversensitive. She asked why, and I thought about it.

I love a lot of people. Love for me is easy, since the 8 year old inside of me decided a long time ago that I would love the world and everyone in it. It's harder for me to dislike someone, which sometimes mean I end up in situations not always healthy for me. But that's hard. Someone shared on the old FB the other day that "You don't always trust someone you love, but always love someone you trust" and boy howdy is that ever right. Deep trust, the kind that says that even when this person may hurt me, I know they love me and don't mean to, that they will be there at the end of the line, the last day on earth, with beer and a seat saved for you. I trust a lot more folk than I used to, but I got hurt a lot, betrayed a lot, and it means for me to truly embrace that this person actually likes me takes time. I can count on one hand the number of people who I knew from the birth of our friendships I could trust, and I married one of them. I know this about myself, I know it sometimes makes me paranoid, a lot more so since the depression got bad, and the constant questioning of my relationships is something I am aware is often an over-reaction.

So I ask myself "am I being paranoid and reading incorrectly what's going on here'? My counselor says not really, at least in this case, and that I should give myself more of a break. Not that I should be paranoid, but that I should remember that my feelings are legitimate, especially where my  adult relationships have become ten times as important as pre-baby. She noted how I seemed to be very aware of my friends lives, in that I tried to understand what might be effecting them and their actions, and give passes even when they throw up a red flag. (It stems from the super optimistic ideal I have that all people are inherently good, and act otherwise when they feel threatened in someway) So I should deserve this same kind of awareness too, right?

So tonight I am feeling a lot less worried, and even put myself out somewhere uncomfortable to ease those worries and was rewarded. Tomorrow I will attempt yoga during naptime, when the Matchbox traffic is low, and my water will not be pilfered for nefarious purposes.

Monday, March 11, 2013

In which I cease to exist

One of the most common things I have had other moms tell me is that moment when you cease to be you and become 'mom'. It's a wonderful accomplishment, like becoming a doctor and ceasing to be a Mr. or Mrs. But with none of the training or pay and all of the bodily fluids. I have heard my own mom talk about finding herself again after years of having us in her home. She, she never stopped being mom, but when we became adults (in only the most general of definition) she suddenly found herself facing down a reflection that was a bit of a stranger. I read something my grandmother wrote, describing looking forward to her empty-nest years as if they were a brand new hat tucked away under a bed that she was excited to wear. We as mothers put our selves as individuals on hold, almost exchanging one person for another. It's not a bad thing, our children make us better people, help us grow as we nurture others, help us see the world in new and beautiful ways. But even with all the amazing ways motherhood will change who we are, especially at first I think, it's traumatic. We look back on who we were before we were mom or dad like we're in an alien movie. Who is in my skin?

I first felt like some semblance of who I was as an individual return when I was able to cook my first real meal again after having my son. It was my epiphany chicken. Everything about that meal was orchestrated, like I should have been doing it in front of a studio audience. I was confidant in my spices, beautiful in my apron. I think it is one of the reasons I now struggle with my weight, food is the ultimate comfort because in my kitchen I am myself again.

I've always been a bit 'mom', I am without a doubt a caretaker to the core. But becoming mom for real isn't just a change inside you, and I find it's the reactions of my surrounding universe that make me feel the most lost. Someone, in the most well meaning and complimenting manner, compared me to his grandmother. I could care less about my age understand, numbers are numbers, but that analogy felt like I had suddenly gone from mommy to matron, like I ceased to exist as a being with any sex appeal. I feel like I don't exist at all sometimes. No one flirts with me for the fun of it like they used to, and sometimes even avoid me because all I have to discuss is baby stories. I fear I have become boring, part of the scenery. My boobs have softened, my wit has dulled, my hips and waist have widened, my world has shrunk.

This gets better with time, so I have been assured. I want to wear those mommy pants with a little more grace and a little less drool. I want to be the nurturer I was born to be, but still be the woman I grew to be, who had friends both male and female because I was fun to be around. I want to be me.

I miss me.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Hardest Job You'll Ever Love

So today I met my councilor, and happily I think we're a good match. Today was a 'state your issue and sign these papers' day, but it still managed to catch me by surprise for a few reasons.

One, OH MY GOD I COULDN'T STOP TALKING. Everything at once tried to come out so there was a verbal fist fight over what got to be said first I swear I must have sounded like I couldn't decide on a channel and was just surfing through random topics. My brain has always been a bouncy castle of thinking, a derailed train that went in whatever direction it chose and on a whim could go from discussing women's issues in politics to dinosaurs and their comically short arms without a hiccup in conversation. But this was a whole new level of-OH LOOK A SQUIRREL.

I was disappointed when the hour went by, and I realized how badly I had needed to voice some things. It just kept coming and coming. I almost started crying when I admitted how angry I was with myself over so many day to day things. How angry I was that I could not cut certain toxic people from my life without severing others that I care deeply about, and how it made me feel helpless. She noted that these people were bullies, and that their behavior drug out old feelings and anxieties from way back when I couldn't walk a hall way in peace.

All I want to do is be an adult, without the drama. Some people will not let me do that without a fight. And all my magic with warmth and trying to understand will do just as much now with these sparse few as it did back then with kids who lacked the ability to face their own bullies. They seem so much bigger when you're already feeling vulnerable. Ug. Well, it's interesting to say the least.

We talked about Perfect Mommy. She's one of those said bullies. She's a mom too,so she had some of the same confrontations with PM. She thinks that my depression is less hormone related (though it is a factor in my rougher days) and more a reaction to a huge amount of stressful things that have occurred one after the other (and often inside and through) each other.

1. Had first child. BOOYAH.
2. Moved. Twice. Less than a year apart. With a baby/toddler.
3. Lost a family member. Had another have major surgery. Another fight cancer. Another make a life changing choice for a parent, and suffering the guilt despite it being the right choice.
4. Buy first home, finance said home, all on a single income.
5. Lost a pet suddenly. Another required expensive treatments to save his life. Adopted two new pets.
6. Yeah, that baby? Still here through all of the above and his needs change daily.

All of these life events require huge pulls on your body, mind and heart, so no wonder my cope packed a neat little suitcase and skipped town. Essentially: Life is hard, even when it's good, and depression thrives where stress his high. There's some relief in that thought though. It says that this moment where I feel like crying until I puke/running into the woods to live with the bees/screaming until I pass out is just life with depression turning the volume up so loud I can't always think straight. I haven't failed or let my anxiety regain ground in my life, shit is just happening at an amazing rate and it is COMPLETELY OKAY to feel like falling apart as a result.

It may seem small, but I walked away today allowing myself to feel sad, without feeling angry at myself for it. It's a step in the right direction.

The last thing we did is I showed her a video of my son dancing in a cook pot in a collared onesie and little leg warmers yelling 'cheese' with his 'cheesiest' grin. And I was so filled with pride at my goofy munchkin as I told her about how he would take my face in both hands and plant a big ol' Hollywood style kiss on my lips and steal my heart before turning to do the same thing to the cat, that I knew without a doubt that I loved being his mom more than anything else in the world.

The hardest job we'll ever love, indeed.