On remembering to shower….

self-care

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently thinking about self care. It’s a term that I’ve only really heard of since becoming a mother, which is silly because everyone needs some amount of personal care at all stages of his or her life. I think it’s just that before I was a mother, I never really thought about it because I had (what now seems like) unending time to do whatever I felt like doing, whenever I wanted to do it.

Now it’s becoming a rather critical part of my routine. At least, it should be. This week, I’ve tried to be more intentional with the ways that I care for myself. This week’s challenge has been to shower ever day. I can’t even believe that’s a thing I have to remind myself to do. But it is. I don’t go to an office and I don’t really even see people every day, so there’s sort of no point. And then there’s that pesky toddler that lives with me. She requires so much of my time and attention that it sometimes feels impossible to do things to care for myself. I’m lucky I eat breakfast most days.

So how has it gone so far? Not great. I showered on Monday. It is now Wednesday and I have yet to shower. But I think part of the point of this is that I’m at least aware of what I need to do, what I should do, and what I haven’t done. I’m not yet at the point in my life that I can redefine myself as anything but a mother. I’m still growing human #2 and I have to get her out into the world and a year or two into her life before I can really start he arduous process of redefining who I am. I’m okay with that. I’m comfortable with the fact that – for now – I am simply Mommy. It’s a stage of my life. And like all stages, this one will pass (or wane, really) and my children will start to be far more independent and I’ll have the chance to look at who or what I want to be next.

For right now, I try to remember to shower. I try to drink a cup of hot tea or cider with my husband in the evening. I try to keep the house tidy. These are the ways I care of myself within my current construct. And that feels good.

On not feeling the love…

Bang head

One of the most frustrating feelings for a writer is wanting to write, but not knowing what to write about. Even more frustrating is what I’ve been experiencing lately: not caring about what I write about.

All the things on which I’d normally have plenty to say – motherhood, politics, religion – it’s all just gotten too…much for me recently. There are too many opinions and FAR too much judgment. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to it these days. I’m just exhausted. I try to invest myself in the things I enjoy or the things I tend to be well-versed in, but I keep finding myself annoyed or iritated every time I do.

I want to engage. I really do. When I see things that are interesting or thought-provoking, I want to share the information. When I see things that are odd or ill-informed, I want to add my two cents. When I see things that are rage-inducing or just plain stupid, I want to call it out.

But I’m tired.

I’m tired of being shamed for the things I do, say, think, enjoy, or believe. I’m tired of the sideways glances when I’m asked my opinion or position. I’m tired of everyone finding something to be pissed off at or offended by.

Sometimes I want to be the person that just says whatever the hell she’s thinking with no regard for anyone else’s feelings. But when it comes to certain topics, that’s just not useful and only leads to more contention and people believing certain stereotypes about “people like me.” I get angry enough that I have to walk away from conversations because I know it’s the most healthy thing to do…for all parties involved.

I’m ready to all but call in quits on the social media front. I get too upset and annoyed far too often. I want to write a huge blog, laying out where I stand on this topic or that and just be done with it.

But, of course, that’s not realistic. Not for me. I could walk away for a while (I do it a couple times a year), but I always come back. It’s where I find new topics or interesting perspectives.

So here’s what I do know: I’m tired of being mom-shamed, politi-shamed, religi-shamed, whatever-shamed. I’m sick to death of having my thunder stolen or having my thoughts and talents ripped out from under me, only to be either lambasted or paraded around like their someone else’s. I’m really tired of feeling like I’m not allowed to be angry about any of that.

On playing a losing game…

Gymnastics: U.S. Olympic Team Trials

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

I’m not a terribly competitive person. I love to play games, but I don’t really care if I win (well, unless I’m playing Catchphrase. Then, I must destroy the enemy). I just want to have fun. I was an athlete in high school, but it wasn’t a competitive sport…there was nothing to win or lose (except for the spot on the team…wherein I did sort of get crazy).

But with every game I’ve ever played, there’s been the option to win, the possiblity of succeeding. Even if I don’t care about winning, I want to know that my winning is at least possible. 

Life, shockingly, is not as simple as a board game or a soccer match.

Sometimes, it feels like there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that I’m going to win. It’s like I’m in the Olympics and I have to compete against Gabby Douglas every day, knowing I’m going to lose (and lose hard), but I still have to go out there and do my best. I can’t even somersault, nor can I just quit.

That’s what the last couple months have felt like for me.

It started when I decided to do a workout challenge. I loved every second of it. I was working hard, pushing myself to do things I never thought I’d be able to do. I was eating much healthier and feeling so much better. But despite all the work (and even losing several pounds), I never lost a single inch. In fact, I gained two inches (in my thighs. What kind of sick joke is that?!). All I wanted from this challenge was to drop a pants size. Losing baby weight is friggin’ hard, but I was 15 months post-partum so it was time to start getting healthy again.

Then I went to the doctor for my yearly check-up. Post-partum depression has really kicked my ass, but I’ve been wanting to wean myself off Zoloft for a while to see if I can do life and motherhood and marriage without medication*. So I talked to my midwife and  got a bit of a beatdown. “It’s not really normal to have to stay on medication this long, post-partum.” I didn’t really know what to say. I figured it was perfectly fine to keep taking Zoloft for as long as I felt necessary. So she put me on a plan to start weaning myself from the meds. I’ve done well, but there are definitely days that own me.

The final kick to the lady balls was my daughter. She’s amazing and I love her more than I could have ever possibly imagined. (Don’t all paragraphs about obnoxious, hellion children start this way?) But she’s been so mean to me lately. It’s like she legitimately doesn’t like me. She falls down and screams at me. I change her diaper and she shrieks. I pick her up and she flails to get away from me. I rock her before bed and she slaps my face and scratches my neck. I make delicious food and she throws it. I make boxed macaroni and she throws it. If she gets scared, it’s my fault. She has absolutely no desire to snuggle me or be comforted by me or even be around me. Some days, she looks at me with what can only be described as “contempt” in her eyes. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t even describe how painful it is.

I am playing a game I cannot win right now and yet, I’m required to get out of bed every morning and act as though the last 24 hours have fazed me in no way. I have to wake up, cook for, and clean up after a child that doesn’t (seem to) like me. I continue to eat well and work out. And I have to do all of it knowing that today may very well be just as bad as (if not worse than) yesterday. I can’t just say, “I really suck at this game, so I think I’m going to try another sport.” I have to just accept that I have to stay in the game with the knowledge that the opponents will sometimes get easier, but will most likely get more challenging.

I am not the first mother to experience any of this, nor will I be the last. But I am the mother that is experiencing this right now, in my own head, in my own heart, in my own home.  While I’m certainly not the only person to experience any or all of these things, sometimes I need to feel like it’s all unique to me. I need to be taken care of. And that’s a really hard thing for an intorverted, headstrong woman to admit. When you’re used to putting on a strong face and taking on any challenge life throws at you, it can be difficult to finally say, out loud, “I’m hurt. Please help!”

That’s where my tribe comes in. My crew of mama-friends quickly become my motherhood “alternates.” They take over the game (or, at least, part of the game) for a few minutes. They give me much-needed water breaks, they tape up my wounds (no matter how big or small), and they smack me on the ass, send me back in the game, and say, “Go get ’em, champ!”

Motherhood is a really hard game to play. We need to be on each other’s teams. We need to have each other’s backs. When one of us hurts, we should all hurt. That’s probably just true of womanhood. Choose your teams well. Choose women who will help when you ask, but who will also just show up without any prompting. Life hits us hard sometimes. But we don’t have to play any of life’s games solo.

 

 

*PPD is awful and real and hard. If you’re a woman that needs medication every day for the rest of her life to stay even keel and feel like life isn’t destroying you, stay on the meds. If yoga or running or CrossFit is your jam, do that. If you have PPD, please reach out to your doctors and your tribe…you’re not alone. 

 

On living motherhood…

11205151_10155525992150436_4889298622899320819_n

Probably my favorite picture of us. I think she was about five months old.

Being a mother is weird. It really just is. I spend all day, waiting for her to go to sleep and then spend the time she is asleep wishing she’d wake up so we can play and snuggle. Chaos and clutter make me incredibly anxious, but the toys and clothes and shoes spread around the house are reminders that she lives here. The very idea of eating spaghetti with my hands makes me cringe, but watching her do it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Some days, she talks so much and makes so much noise, I think my ears are going to bleed. But some days, I just want to sit and talk with her. Her little voice is so sweet…even when she’s being “mean”. I want her to grow bigger, but I desperately miss how tiny she was. Every single day, there are a million little things that prove motherhood to be a neverending dichotomy.

My emotions always come in waves, one right affter the other. That’s still how I experience my emotions about 99% of the time. Anger then peace, sadness then joy. But I never knew it was possible to feel two things so deeply, so purely, at the exact same time until I held seven pounds of squishy perfection in my arms. And yet, this is what happens to me every single moment of every single day. I move through my days in a cloud of overwhelming compassion and viciousness at the same time. I want my daughter to know love that has no bounds…but I also know that I have the capacity within me to destroy anyone who hurts my child.

It’s a strange thing, really. I’ve always had both of those in me. I have this sense of empathy that makes it very easy to relate to other people, but I also have a wicked mean streak that runs through me. I could verbally ruin someone if I wanted to (and I have wanted to). Fortunately, the compassion and empathy win out 9.9 times out of 10.

It used to not be that way. I used to let my anger get the best of me. I’d wish for awful things to happen to people who hurt me. I’d try to think of all the things I could or should have said in the moment or what I’d say the next time our paths crossed. I’d write emails I’d never send (except for the time or two I did actually press SEND).

But ever since that wee human came screaming into the world, my sense of compassion has taken over in ways I didn’t expect it to. I hear and read about all the awful the world has to offer and I am, at once, ashamed and angry and…heartbroken. I read stories of people hurting other people, doing horrible things to each other and while there’s a part of me that wants vengeance for the victims, there’s a huge part of me that thinks, “That’s someone’s baby.” And I weep. For the victims, for the perpetrators, and for their mothers…who have to watch and know that this is what has happened to their babies.

Motherhood has changed me. I find myself increasingly subscribing to a philosophy of non-violence (which is often frustrating, given the fact I’m married to the military) and with that comes a strange sense of knowing who I am in my faith. I find myself falling deeper in love with Jesus…His mercy, His grace, His compassion. And because of that, I’m finding myself more and more drawn to living that in my own life.

I’ve said it a million times over…no one is beyond the reach of grace. No one. But if I’m completely honest, I’m usually talking about people I’ll probably never come into contact with…ISIS, racist cops, evil dictators. So yeah, it’s really easy to say that about people who don’t personally affect me.

But what about the people who have impacted my life in awful, horrible ways? What about the people who damaged and broke me like I never thought possible? What about the people that I want(ed) bad things to happen to? That I want to see get their due?

Yes. They deserve grace and mercy and compassion, too.

Never in a million years did I think I’d be able to say that. I thought I’d always harbor hatred and ill-will…that there would always be some kind of black smudge on my heart because of how badly I’d been hurt.

It took seven pounds, sixteen months (or eight years, depending on how you look at it), and one podcast to finally be able to let go of the anger and to truly let compassion and empathy take hold. Sure, it’s important for my spiritual and mental well-being to be a more compassionate person, but what I really want is for my daughter to grow up to be a compassionate and merciful and graceful person. The world needs more of that. And she’s going to learn how to be a decent person at home first.

She’ll grow up and her heart will get broken. Her body may even get broken. I want – no, I need – her to know that even if I am capable of viciously defending her, I will always default to compassion. I need her to know that when (yes, when) someone hurts her, being compassionate does not mean bad behavior is okay…it means that we continue to value people beyond measure. I don’t have to trust people who have hurt me. I don’t really even have to like them. I don’t have to welcome them back into my life. But I do have to believe and honor that they have unsurpassable worth and they deserve love and joy and peace.

I will probably always live in this dichotomous state where compassion is constantly trying to take over the viciousness and vice versa. That’s the problem of being human. But I firmly believe that it’s easier to live in compassion…and it’s absolutely worth the effort.

Every. Single. Time.

 

 

On raising my monster…

12742136_10156569480365436_1400167768708964335_n

Day 3 of Becky’s writing challenge. Wednesdays are always my easiest days to get writing done. Godzilla is usually in daycare and I spend the day investing in myself. It’s also maybe the hardest day of my week. Why? Because as much as I love my solo time, I absolutely cannot wait to see those chubby cheeks again! I start missing her after about an hour. It’s ridiculous.

So that leads me to today’s topic: My favorite quote.

“A Mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually VACCINATES her daughter against low self-esteem.” ~ Naomi Wolff
This has been one of my favorite quotes for pretty much as long as I can remember. I mean, I listed it as a favorite quote on my MySpace page (hi, I’m old!).
Now that I actually *have* a daughter, it’s an even more important quote to me. I look at her and all I see is sheer perfection. Literally nothing is wrong with her. She has bright blue eyes with eyelashes that likely won’t ever need mascara. Her hair is this incredible golden straw color that has volume for days. Her nose is perfect. Her cheeks and lips are unbelievably kissable. Her tiny tummy is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen (especially when it’s full of peanut butter tortilla roll-ups). I mean, seriously. She is objectively the cutest human alive!
But she’s also fierce. Man, that kid is a firecracker. Ain’t nobody gonna tell her what she can or cannot do. If she wants something, she’s going to get it. She’s determined. She’s capable. She’s funny. She’s wicked smart. She’s kind and gentle. She’s brave. She’s everything.
Eventually she’ll grow up and someone will say something mean to or about her (because the world is a harsh place), so I have to do whatever it is I can to vaccinate her against unbecoming self-talk.
I’ve stopped talking about how chubby I am (well, okay, I don’t say it in front of her, but I laugh about my post-partum gut with my husband). I never say the word “diet” in front of her. I will not say that something I’ve said or done is stupid. I won’t talk about feeling lazy. We go on walks every day and eat fresh produce all the time, because these things are important to me and I want them to be important to her. I want her to know that taking care of herself – emotionally, phsyically, spiritually – is something we should do. The best thing I can do to vaccinate her is to treat myself with the same respect I’d expect someone to treat her with. Sometimes, it’s a “fake it til you make it” situation, but eventually it will become my reality and then she and I? Oh, man…watch out, World. We’ve got things to do.