On knowing when to speak…

honesty

I don’t believe this. Not for one second. I used to think honesty was the best policy, but then I had some really painful, really honest things happen to me and I just can’t get on board with this anymore.

There are just some times when honesty isn’t going to do anyone any good. Sure, these instances are few and far between, but they exist. I assure you, they exist.

I can think of a million ways I’d like to be honest with people, to tell them what I really think, but I’m learning to take some steps back and consider: is what I’m about to say beneficial? Is it kind? Is it worthwhile? Is.It.True? If what I want to say doesn’t meet those requirements, it’s probably best to stop and think about it for a hot minute.

People don’t always need honesty. Sometimes, I think it’s better to be kind.

But even as I write this, I’m not sure I buy it.

Here’s what I think the problem is: Honesty gets confused with truth. And vice versa. The two are not the same. Speaking the truth comes with it the responsibility of speaking with love and kindness. Being honest? I don’t know…people can be really awful when they’re being honest. It’s a really easy way to cop out and say something horrible with the tag of, “I’m just being honest.” It doesn’t make it not hurtful.

Sure, hearing the truth can hurt, too. A lot. But if someone is really interested in telling the truth, it’s often coming from a place of understanding, of reasonability, of care.

So the next time you think you’re about to say something honest, stop and consider if it’s also true.

nablopomo_badge_2016

On all the things I’ve done…

brave-91Day 2 of my adventure in writing every day. Today’s prompt is about as exciting to me as yesterday’s (which is to say, not very). When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?”

I honestly can’t remember the *last* time I was brave. I haven’t done much in the way of exciting or noteworthy in the last several months. Ouch. That sort of sucks to write.

But I have a lot of experiences to glean from when it comes to being brave throughout my life. I’ve lived in another country (okay, it was Canada and it was for college, but it was still another country and I had to use different monies and learn new lingo, some of which I still use to this day). I moved out of the safety of my parent’s rent-free home when I was young (much younger than either of my siblings did). I  have quit toxic jobs without anything else lined up. I have gone back to university when I felt like I was too old and too broke and I successfully completed my courses in the time I allowed myself. I have ended a damaging marriage. I have bought and sold a dream home. I have run several half-marathons. I have moved to a new state and lived in a new place for the first time in 33 years. I have gotten re-married to the love of my life while people questioned my motivations and balked at my happiness (because it all happened so quickly). I have openly and unabashedly claimed to be a Christian, a liberal, a supporter of #blacklivesmatter, a friend to the LGBTQ community (*gasp* even so far as to say YES, they deserve the same rights I have) – all at fairly significant personal loss. I have given birth – vaginally and unmedicated. I have opened up about my struggles with post-partum depression. I have gotten pregnant again. I have said YES to moving to a very-much foreign country for the next three years in order to give my husband the career checks he needs and wants and to give our daughters the chance of a lifetime.

I’ve talked ad nauseum about all of these things. I could continue to talk about all of them (especially the marathons, divorce, marriage, and childbirth). But I’m not going to.

I think what’s making me feel the most brave right now is that I’m willing to demand of myself the time and space that I need. I need to take time to read and write. I need to turn off the television and immerse myself in life again. It feels oddly brave. My free time is very limited so what if I choose the wrong book to read and it ends up being a total waste of time? Will I still have gained something from that? I certainly won’t miss anything if I turn off Netflix. For a while, it felt like the bravest thing I could do was to let go and just be okay with messes and inactivity. I’m a champion at over-scheduling my life so when I gave that all up, it was hard and it felt really brave. And I got used to it. So now maybe it feels brave to start taking back all those things I pushed aside for the last 2+ years.

nablopomo_badge_2016

 

 

On needing to feel desirable….

nablopomo_badge_2016

Today is November 1 which means it’s the first day of #NaBloPoMo, a writing challenge I’ve attempted several times in the past and am hoping to be more successful at this year. It helps that I’m joined by two women who are both good friends and excellent writers. I encourage you to read their work as well!

I’ll be (mostly) following the prompts from BlogHer. Today’s prompt wasn’t all that exciting to me: When you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?”  I’ve written about self-care before. It’s not new territory for me. I sometimes feel like I’m whining when I write about it. 

But maybe there are parts of it that are new territory.

A lot of times when I think about self-care (especially as regards my mental health), I consider it a solo activity. I like to spend time by myself. I enjoy being alone. But as a wife and mother (mostly as a mother), taking care of myself means requiring the help of other people. I need babysitters or I need my husband to be home so I can leave the house. Oddly enough, it’s frowned upon to leave a two-year-old on her own for four hours. But it’s not just my husband’s help I need. He provides so much for me and for our family. He “gets” that I need to be not-Mommy for a few hours a week in order to even adequately care for our marriage and family. It’s something I deeply appreciate and all-too-often take for granted (that’s a whoooooole other blog post).

I think I’m getting to a point where I need the rest of the world to cut me some damn slack when it comes to self-care. Okay, not the rest of *the* world, but certainly the rest of *my* world. Motherhood is a deeply sacrificial experience. Every time I turn around, I feel like I’ve given up something else, some other piece of myself, in order to be a mother. And just when I think I have nothing left to give, someone or something finds a piece of me I forgot about or didn’t know I had and that gets taken away too.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for me to be angry about that. And I swear on everything I (still) own, I will lose it if even one person tells me, “Yeah, well, you chose to become a mother!” Screw that noise. I’m well aware of the choice that I made. We should all be very aware of our choices. I think I’m angry because I’m sitting her, waiting for the moment when someone or something decides am worth sacrificing something for. I had absolutely no idea the concept of sacrifice until I became a mother. I thought I knew. I’ve given up a lot in my life. I’ve had to choose between two very difficult paths a number of times. It’s not a new concept. It’s a far deeper concept now.

So when I get asked to chip away just a little more of my time or my energy or my talent for this thing or that event or whatever it is that needs my attention, I start to ask myself, “When will I get a little in return?” Not in smiles and hugs from my daughter. Not in kisses and kind words from my husband. I get those in spades. Those are the things that keep me from lighting my own fuse and completely blowing up.

I’m waiting for the world to offer up some small gesture to show me that I matter, that my time is valuable, that my presence is desired, that my opinions count.

On not having a clue…

I’m gearing up for NaBloPoMo in November (with a friend…hopefully the accountability will help keep me more on track than I have been in the past). So I figured it’s a good time to try some random writing based on prompts that I find on the interwebs. I’ve been struggling to write anything of substance, so I’m hoping that just writing will spur me on…

A list I found suggested to write simple answers for the “Phase One” questions and then go back and elaborate withe the “Phase Two” questions. Some of them are pretty heavy, but here goes anyway:

Has a book ever changed my life?  Yes, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Has a relationship ever changed by life? I feel like the obvious answer is yes. It’s the choosing which relationship that will be hard.
Describe a friendship I wish I had: I wish I had the lifelong friendships that one of my friends has with her “Queen Bees” from back home. But then I think about it and I have three very good friends whom I’ve been in relationship with for 25, 17, and 14 years respectively. That’s pretty damn solid.
Describe a friendship I wish I’d never had: This will lead into my next answer, but I can think of exactly one person I wish I’d never met, never known, never even seen.
What is the angriest I’ve ever been? The weeks and months following the night I found out my (now ex) husband had been cheating on me. I can still summon that rage if I need to.
At what moment in my life thus far have I felt the most powerful? Giving birth for the first time.
At what moment in my life did I feel a sense of wonder and awe? The first time I ever went to Japan…in 2008
What would I like to most change about myself? I tend to get really excited about doing something and then the excitement fizzles and I never follow through.
What would I most like to change about the future world? Umm…all the things? I want people to be kinder, more appreciative, less prone to bitching and complaining, happier, stronger…
What would I most like the change about the world’s past? Is it appropriate to again say all the things? I feel like the obvious answer is to ex out the World Wars. But that’s a very recent event in the world’s history. There’s a lot of crazy to choose from.

So there’s that. I still have nothing new to say, but I do have a monster headache and a double-shot dirty chai that need to get handled.

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 losing steam…

It’s been easily a month since I’ve written. I used to have a goal of writing something once a week. And not just nonsense…I was supposed to be writing something worthwhile.

I just don’t feel like I have much to say lately. It’s incredibly frustrating. I feel stuck. I’m not sure how or why, but I don’t like it. I spend my time fiddling on my phone or binging on Netflix and Hulu. I don’t even read all that often anymore. It’s depressing.

I’ve heard that many things in life are like breastfeeding. The more you do it, the better you get. Demand is based on supply. So maybe if I read more or wrote intentionally more often, I’d have both the desire and ability to do so.

I’m also kind of tired of not working. I wish it were easier to find a part-time or temporary telecommuting job. I’m very selfish with the time I have with my daughter. I don’t want to ignore her, but I also wish that I could contribute to our home without actually leaving it. I want to be able to sit with my laptop for a few hours a day and just use my adult brain while Godzilla plays with her blocks and her kitchen toys.

I’m just lacking motivation right now. In a perfect world, someone would just drop work into my lap and give me money to complete it. Of course, that’s not a reasonable way to approach life. I know that. I’m not an idiot (most days). But I think we all wish from time to time that we could have what we want without having to do all the legwork ourselves.

I need to be more proactive. Hell, I need to be more active.

On facing down the future…

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately. Maybe more than I should. I tend to do it a lot. I’m the person that plans so far in advance that I often forget to stop and enjoy what I’m doing right now. It’s been a point of contention in various relationships and friendships throughout my life.

I digress.

I’ve been out of the corporate game for three years now (Facebook has been reminding me all week) and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what would happen if I ever wanted or needed to rejoin the work-force. I loved working. I was good at working. It helped that I loved my job and was as appreciated as I was good at it. But now that I have a huge gap in my resume, I have to think about how, exactly, I’ll make myself a desireable candidate once again. The one thing I keep coming back to is…grad school. I’m going to have to get my Master’s.

It’s actually exciting to think about. My husband has recently started his undergraduate work as he starts to think about his future, post-Navy. As much as my undergraduate experience was whacky and stressful, I sometimes really miss being in school. (As an aside: I wonder if that’s a family tic, loving being a post-graduate student? We all seem to really enjoy it, especially my brother, whom I’m convinced is just going to be professional student for the rest of his life.)

But then I think: what will happen to the stay-at-home-mom that I’ll have become? As much as I try to make sure that facet of me doesn’t consume every other part of me right now, I worry that if I go back to work, the working girl facet will consume everything. I worry about missing field days and field trips. I worry about not being home when my kids get home. I worry about having to work overtime and missing games or concerts or meets. I worry about babies getting sick and not having the time to take off to care for them. I worry about not being able to take quality vacations as a family.

I know that parents do it all the time. In fact, I’d wager to say the majority of parents do it. It’s a select few that are able to stay at home and be 100% invested in their child’s life from sun up to sun down. I consider myself extrememly lucky to be among the even fewer that are able to stay at home by choice. But it doesn’t stop me from worrying about how I will do it. I’ve long said: “You can have it all; you just can’t have it all at once.” And I believe that. It’s just that, now that the statement applies to me, it makes me angry. It sort of makes me regret ever saying it to any other mother struggling with this very issue. It’s another crappy platitude in the motherhood universe that doesn’t really help the situation at hand. So, apologies to the many women I’ve said this to in an attempt to help you come to terms with your family situations.

However, I also don’t think any of that should stop me from pursuing my educational goals. I still think I should get my Master’s. I still think I’m going to re-enter the workforce at some point in the next 5-8 years. I still think I need to make myself as valuable and as marketable as possible.

And I kind of think everything else is a bridge my family and I will cross when we get to it.

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.