I am a mess.

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I am a mess.  If I were an artist, and could paint a representation of how I see myself from the inside out I would draw a girl; not the 37 woman that I am, but a child, curled into a ball and crying.  An ugly cry at that, not a sweet whimper, but the cry that makes you gasp for air and leaves you with snot running down your face.  A complete mess.

I am very aware each day that I am mere moments from losing my shit.  From bubbling over, from falling completely apart. And this mess has become my new normal.  (A phrase I have come loath by the way).    This inner feeling of breaking into a thousand pieces at any given second has become a way of living.  Not a pretty one, but one none the less.

However, on the outside I have a pretty sturdy layer covering my mess and helping me to make it through each day.  On this layer I am a mom, a wife, a teacher, a friend, a taxi driver, a cheerleader at t-ball games and school concerts.  This protective covering doesn’t take away from the mess but it allows me to feel joy, to laugh and smile.  This coating of normalcy and of strength is the reason I can get myself out of bed and enjoy my days.

If I had the ability to depict my outer layer in a painting it would be multi-colored and built with images from my childhood, times when I fell down and got back up.  When life didn’t work out and I didn’t quit.  There would be lots of pictures of my parents.  Happy times, memories and events that while maybe not significant as they happened, helped to sculpt me into the woman I am today.  My armor is vibrant and built with joy, love, faith and hope.

The problem with this picture is that I am using my armor all wrong.  Armor historically is worn to keep the bad out, to protect your most valuable parts from damage.  Not to keep the damage in.  To those closest to me it has become apparent that my armor is showing signs of wear and tear form the battering ram that is my innermost thoughts.  It is starting to splinter, and like light beams pouring down from the breaks in the clouds, or lava oozing up from from the fiery depths of a volcano, my anger, and brokenness are more frequently piercing its way through my once sturdy protective layer of joy, love, faith and hope.  These cracks, like any small break in something meant to hold tremendous weight may look like nothing to worry about.   But left alone, small cracks become gaping holes which can cause catastrophic disaster, a complete collapse in a structure once built to hold strong against any disaster.

As with any structural damage, an engineer has a decision to make; to mend the crack or mend the cause of the crack?  Most of the time the best solution is to do both to ensure the entire problem was fixed and doesn’t happen again.  But it is so much easier to fix the crack.  It takes less sweat equity, less effort and is so much faster.  A little putty makes the armor whole again and  you can return to your everyday life. It is faster just to patch the spot that is causing the bad things to seep out.  We can deal with the cause when we have more time, more resources, more of everything.  For now we patch and move on.  I think most of us a just menders of our armor.

For the last five and a half years I have only temporarily mended the weak spots in my armor.  I made it my mission to gather as many loving moments and snippets of joy that I can.  I savor my children, recognizing their sweetest moments and soaking them up, often bringing me to tears.  I cry (out of joy) at school concerts, and even at the boys’ first t-ball parade!  I kiss my kids a lot and hug them whenever possible.   I hug my husband more.  I tell people I love them, and I mean it.  I accept hugs from dear friends even though I’m not much of a hugger.  I make time for myself, to get together with girl friends and laugh and try to find alone time to be quiet.  These moments make my sturdy layer whole again.  They add new life and strength to my armor that is keeping me together.

And when I can’t gather any fresh moments of joy, love, faith and hope to mend the cracks I fill my days with “stuff”.  I move on from the weak spot, ignore the problem and plow through my day, my week.  I busy myself with “stuff” that needs my attention.  Papers to grade, kids to transport, dinner to make, laundry to do, errands to run…you know those kind of days.  These are the days that my brokenness inevitably bursts out of me in fits of anger, moments I am not proud of when I behave badly and am full of self-righteousness and contempt.   Or these are the days that I collapse and  cry.  Or end up in bed with a debilitating migraine.  Or lay on the couch watching episode after episode of mindless t.v.  These aren’t my best days, I am not presenting the best version of myself.  And they embarrass me.  And so, for the past few years, these are the days that I say my apologies,  wipe the running mascara from my face, take my migraine medicine, turn off the t.v. and put myself back together to take on life the way I know I should.  The cracks haven’t been fixed, and I sure didn’t take the time to address the root of the problem but I am back in the game and back to “being more like myself”.

And the cycle repeats.  And repeats.  I thought after my mom died I had a pretty good handle on the mending and the repairing of the armor I had come to rely on.  And then the boys were born, and my insides took another blow needing my armor to be stronger.  And then I lost my dad.  I lost him to cancer – a horribly tragic way to watch someone die.   This loss is the one that really put my armor to the test as I felt my insides crumble.  But I had a funeral to plan, an estate to manage, properties to sell, houses to pack up, a school year to see through…I needed my armor to hold strong.  To keep me together.  Just as a highway superintendent chooses to patch the road rather than rip up the whole broken mess and fix it the right way due to lack of time, money, resources I chose to patch and hope it would hold for another season.

I know this metaphor I am painting with my armor and my little girl crying in a ball is all really just a poetic way of saying I am depressed.  I know this.  I’ve known this.  I have felt this depression before, it runs in my family, its not new to me or those that love me.  It is something I have always been acutely aware of as I made my way through college and later in life.  I have written this blog post many times before and never hit “publish”. I kept my words to myself, too embarrassed to admit defeat or weakness.  To prideful to admit that my armor was failing me, that I was not the put-together woman I try to portray.  Even as I type this my hands shake because I know that people I work with may read this, and I like to keep it together at work.  I know that acquaintances will now see that I do not have it all together.  Pity is something that I detest.  I hate being pitied, and even though well meaning – I cringe when I read words of encouragement from “friends” on social media.  It is just how I am wired.  But I know that in bearing my sole on this platform will invite well-meaning loving people to leave me heartfelt words to cheer me up.  Thanks, but no thanks.  Even though I know these words are coming I am publishing this post anyway.

So why, after many attempts at publishing this post I am I finally hitting the “publish” button today?  Number one, because it is time for me to rip up the whole road.  Time to roll up my sleeves, put on my work clothes and get dirty fixing the heart of the problem. Patching is no longer an option.

But I could do the hard work it takes to really fix a problem without broadcasting my issues to the whole world.  I am publishing this today because I know there are others like me.  Whose inner child is wrapped in a ball, whimpering, crying, screaming.  Others who have spent countless hours mending their armor, putting off the real work until a more convenient time.  A “mom friend” of mine recently told me during a casual conversation that she struggles with depression and that she “feels suffocated in her own body”.   Friends of mine just started therapy to help cope with their lives at the moment.  I am watching others that I love mend their armor with temporary and unreliable materials.  I want them to know I get it.

Someone recently told me that while complaining about their day and struggling to see the positive in their life that they felt was falling apart they looked to me for inspiration.  Tongue and cheek they remarked, “but I thought about you, and how bad you have had it and reminded myself that if you can get through all that you have been given I shouldn’t complain about my small problems.”  This wasn’t the first time someone told me something like this.  While I am happy that I can be an inspiration, and I always laugh and tell them I’m happy to help, if only through my tragedy.  What I should have said to them –  what I should have screamed is; You don’t have to smile!!  You can fall apart, I’m barely making it.  It is totally okay to loose your shit! I won’t think less of you.    To my friend who told me she was suffocating, I simply replied, I totally get it.  And internally wished I was as strong as her for being so open and honest about her struggles.  To my friends in therapy I tell them I am proud of their step to do the hard work of really fixing the problem.  And then I remind myself to call a therapist of my own.  I am posting this because I know so many who are menders like me and I am doing them a disservice by setting the example that it is sustainable option to simply keep on mending, ignoring and filling the gaps.  Because at some point you have to fix the problem or the structural integrity of your armor will be lost.  When that happens not only will all of your bad “stuff” burst out onto the people you love most but you will have nothing left to protect you from having more bad things break in to your most valuable parts.  And the joy, love, faith and hope that helped to build you in the first place will be lost.  And that can damage can be catastrophic.

No more small repairs.  No more easy fixes.  Time to heal from within.

Closer to Love

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While getting ready this morning the song “Closer to Love” by Mat Kearney came on.  It was the first time I had heard it.  While I didn’t catch every word, the lyrics I needed to hear came through.  “I guess we’re all just one phone call from our knees…crying in her room , praying Lord, come through…You pull me closer to love, closer to love.” I can’t begin to assume what the song writer meant by each word – but that is what I love about music.  Great songs can take on different meanings for each listener.  They can provide words to feelings too hard to speak aloud.  This song did this for me.  Hence a new blog post, my first in years.

It is undeniable that I have been through a lot in the past six years.  I watched my mom go through sickness, die, planned her funeral, and still grieve her loss.  Then I watched my twins struggle to survive for months, learned a whole new world of medical terms in order to parent them and adjusted to a world with kids who need more.   I took deep breaths for a couple of years before I stood with my dad as he battled and lost to cancer, and again, planned another funeral.

Now I learn how to survive, to carry on, to grieve, to examine life as I never have before in my new world of “normal”.    All of this has irrevocably changed who I am.  Some changes have been or the good, others have not – I am working on those.  I have always been a reflective person and I find myself, in my quiet moments, while they may be few and far between, reflecting on my life as it has turned out so far.   These moments sometimes lead to me asking “why?” or “how?”  – I sit stuck in wonder of how my life ended up the way that it did.  I never saw any of this coming.

This line of thinking never helps.

It is what it is.  I can’t change it.  I can only learn, adapt and move on.  Hopefully for the better.

Today, this song, “Closer to Love” brought on a revelation for me.  The message was so intense that I found myself sitting in my driveway writing on every scrap of paper I could find before heading off to run errands.  Many blog posts have popped into my head since losing my dad.  I haven’t written any of them down.  I don’t think I was ready to, to really examine my thoughts seemed scary to me.  I couldn’t be sure where it would lead me and I wasn’t brave enough to pick up my pen and find out.  Today, this post idea, these words gave me a sense of hope.  Dare I say, of joy? An emotion I can admit I have been avoiding over the past year.  Joy, as the opposite of sadness  is just as difficult to experience for a person going through grief.  When you feel joy, you can’t help feel the juxtaposition of the sadness you normally carry with you each day.   This idea of being closer to love became so clear to me, and became a positive twist on the obviously negative moments of my past six years.

This morning I came to realize that each struggle, each death, each trying time has led me closer to love.  Not the “I love you because…” kind of love, but the love that one feels with every inch of their being, down to the core of a person.  Gut-wrenching love that can make a person feel connections with people that wasn’t possible before the true meaning of love was truly understood.

I knew I saw the world differently after my mom died.  I knew I became infinitely more empathetic to the people around me after the boys were born.  Since my dad died I find myself more forgiving, more considerate and more loving.  This morning I realized these changes are because I now know, and have learned to recognize in my life, true love.

Before these turn of events you may have heard me say, “I love you because you make me laugh.”, “I love you because you…(fill in the countless things here)”  I know we have all said it, been to weddings where brides and grooms profess their love for each other in terms of the “becauses”.  These reasons are sweet, they are nice compliments to give a person, but they can’t be the basis for true love.   With real love there is no room for because – in real love – you just love.

Telling someone “I love you because you make me laugh.” will make them feel good that you appreciate their sense of humor but what happens on the days, or months when they don’t make you laugh?  Does your love diminish?  Professing to your partner that you “love them because you know they will always be there for you.” is a comforting thought.  But what happens when you don’t see eye to eye during a difficult time and your partner isn’t standing in your corner defending you?  Does your love weaken?  These prerequisites on your love are only natural, but fragile in their existence and all too reliant on all things remaining the same as it was on that first day you fell in love.  An acquaintance of mine is completing research for her doctorate on effects of trauma on a marriage.  She shared with me that statistics show an alarmingly high rate of divorce among parents who find themselves dealing with medically fragile children in the Neonatal or Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.  Is that because they shared the “I love you because…” kind of love?  A love based on what a person does for you?  For how they make you feel, who you are when you are with them?  In times of trauma partners do very little for each other and  instead focus their efforts and attention on just getting through the day.  Each one struggling just to keep themselves from falling apart, with little energy left to check on their partner.  The “becauses” come less frequently and a couple prerequisites for love are pushed to the side. Well, at least that is how I see it.  I am not a doctor, a psychologist or an expert on love.  I could be totally wrong – I can’t presume to know why marriages fall apart.

Perhaps we should say “I love it when you make me laugh.” or “I love it when you make me feel safe and supported.”  This way your love for a person isn’t tied to their actions.  You love their actions in addition to the deep down love you feel for your partner.  You can love an action, you can love getting flowers, love getting love notes…just as long as these aren’t a stipulation for the love that you give a person.  Because, I can tell you from too many periods of trials in my life, that getting flowers, love notes and being the center of someone else’s world gets put on hold when you face a time of life and death.

True love accepts.  My parents were flawed.  I still loved them.  I still love them.  I love them regardless of their flaws, and I don’t need to ignore their imperfections in order to keep my love alive for them.  And since they are now gone, all of my “becasuses” have to be thrown away.

As my mom lay in the ICU, already passed on, I held her hand and kissed her forehead.  In those moments I have never felt such intense love.  In those moments I had to stop loving her because I knew I could always count on her to be there for me.  I couldn’t love her because she would always support me, or always be there to help me raise my kids, or give advice or listen when I needed to vent.  In those moments, all of those things my mom had previously done for me ceased to be a possibility for the future.  As I sat by her bedside and rubbed her hand, I sat there and cried and just loved my mom.  Gut-wrenching, down to my core kind or love.  That moment brought me closer to love.

During my dad’s final weeks things were awful for him and for us.  And that is about as much detail as I can bear to explain.  It was just awful.  In spite of it all, in the midst of it all I loved my dad more fiercely than I had ever done before.  His time of doing things for me were over, and still I loved him.  In those weeks I felt more surrounded by love, as my closest family members sat beside him and poured their love for him out for him to hear.  Witnessing this kind of love changes a person, and now I can say that those weeks absolutely brought me closer to love.

In the same way as losing my parents helped show me the true meaning of love gaining my boys, with their rocky beginnings, also brought me closer to love.   The first few weeks after Griffin and Carter were born and they struggled to survive in the NICU my husband and I sat at their bedsides.  I examined their translucent skin, the wires and millions of dollars of machinery attached to them to keep them alive, we couldn’t be sure if they would make it through the day.   I hadn’t even held them, I’d only touched them briefly with the slightest of pressure a handful of times.  And still I sat there, day in and day out thinking about how much love I felt for these tiny little boys.  There was no room for prerequisites, there was only room for true love.

This revelation on love has also taught me a valuable lesson on how I view my own self worth.  Like most people I know I want people to like me, and some to love me.  Throughout my whole life I have gone to great lengths to ensure that I would be worthy of a person’s love and approval.  Sometimes, my desire to be loved would lead me to bend and break myself down in order to prove just how worthy I was of their love.  All these changes to my own sense of self just to show how lovable I was.  However, just as walking through the life that I have over the past six years has brought me closer to the true meaning of love I feel for others it has also taught me to recognize the true love I share with others.  Love without prerequisites, love given to me, not because I: make them them laugh, boost their self esteem, buy great gifts, have the right look…the list of prerequisites go on.  But the kind of love given to me just because I AM.

Recognizing this love around me brings me joy.  It also gives me permission to let go of those in my life who loved me with a love full of prerequisites.  I lost family this year, and not because of death.  But because I now understand love and this understanding gave me the strength I needed to let go of relationships based on me bending and ignoring my own self to prove my worth to them.  I now know I don’t need to do that.  I am worth love.  SO I can walk away.  It still saddens me to lose even more family when I feel like I have already lost so many.  However, I now know I deserve to be with those who know me and love me in spite of; not because of.

And so here I sit in what I believe is a pivotal time in my life.   This day has given me a gift of a small sense of understanding during a time when I find myself questioning.

If nothing else, I can say that these years have brought me closer to love.  And for that, I am grateful.

Listen to “Closer to Love” here.

 

 

 

I am not promised tomorrow…

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No matter how true this statement is, it is one that I easily forget.

About four and a half years ago, on the night before my 30th birthday Tim and I folded a lot of laundry and left it all around our livingroom as we went to bed. Every couch, and surface was covered with what seemed to be a year’s worth of clean clothes. But we went to bed, folding had done us in, I was seven months pregnant and I was tired. Nevermind that my brother Jeff and his girlfriend (now his wife:) were flying in the next day and staying with us for my birthday weekend. We climbed the stairs anyway and told ourselves we would put the clothes away tomorrow, when we got home from work.

And then at 2:30 in the morning my water broke. After hours at the hospital we learned that would be my home for a while, and that the next time I would set foot in my laundry covered livingroom our family would have grown by one. So there goes tomorrow. The laundry stayed strewn across our couches until Jeff and Dawn so kindly put it in baskets and out of sight while Tim and I made a new home on the 5th floor dealing with what as the time the scariest medical drama we had ever faced.

Nearly three and a half years ago I was trimming the bushes out back and looking at all of the toys littering our yard like plastic land mines, thinking I should really pick them up when the phone rang. It was my dad, my mom had a “spell” and as he talked to me from the front patio of the hospital he was watching Mercy Flight take her to Buffalo General. I put the trimmers down, told Tim I had to go, and I left. The days and weeks following were filled with anxiety and real-life problems much bigger than the plastic toys now collecting rain water in my backyard, or the trimmers, forgotten and left to rust. “Tomorrow” didn’t happen the way that I had planned it. It was only a split second before my dad called that my head was reeling with my list for tomorrow. All the things I would be sure to accomplish – tomorrow.

I am sure the day that my mom died I was making lists for my tomorrow, but I don’t remember. That day has been swallowed up by grief. Even so, if I know myself, there was a list somewhere.

When I was pregnant with the boys I had a better handle on the fragility of my days that I thought were promised to me. Maybe it was because I was still recovering from the loss of my mom, the lesson in the fragility of life still fresh on my mind. Maybe it was because I was fully aware of the fragility of my current state. Everyday those boys stayed in my belly was a win in my book and frankly I was too terrified to even consider what may lie ahead in a pregnancy I was repeatedly told was fragile from the start.

But as time as passed and the experiences that I have lived through fall farther into my memory so does the lesson that I am not promised tomorrow. And I don’t mean this in a morbid way, although the statement itself does lend itself to that line of thinking and that too is true, I do not know when my time here is up. More so I mean it in a sense that I am not promised the time, the current feeling of comfort or same level of stress or happiness from one day to the next. I am not promised the tomorrow I have planned. And yet, I spend my time planning for and worrying about all that I must do or all that might happen, tomorrow. You would think I would learn.

So why I am writing all of this now, I haven’t blogged for months and while I have wanted to I just haven’t found (or worked hard to make) the time.

Here is why: I recently went back to work unexpectedly. Long story short after being laid off I was called back at the very last minute. I love teaching, and of course a paycheck, so in that regard I was thrilled. But I was used to being home, to planning my days around the needs of my children and working life in accordingly. I now have to answer to the clock. I am scheduled in a very different way than I was a year ago at this time. And I find with this new demanding schedule that there is a lot in my life that is getting left until tomorrow. All of this putting things off and unfinished jobs is taking a toll on my stress level. That was until two days ago as I made my daily 40 minute commute to work. That is when this blog post popped in my head (I know weird, I think in terms of posts). It came to me as the title. “I am not promised tomorrow.” After which I said to myself – “so stop living like that has more merit than today.”

So my house is a mess. There are toys and lone socks, dust bunnies and books, dress up costumes and backpacks in every nook and cranny of my house. And of course, laundry – that is still there. And it drives my husband and I nuts. We pick up, our kids pick up, but it never seems like enough. But you know what – if my tomorrow doesn’t come like I planned the mess of it all will be the least of my concerns. As Tim and I sat in the hospital preparing for the arrival of our first preemie we weren’t stressing over the piles of laundry. We were embarrassed, but it wasn’t high on our list. And I never thought once about the yard of toys as we sat in the cardiac ICU waiting for the results of my mom’s heart surgery. Life happens and the details fall where they may – life has a way of sorting out what matters. While I would LOVE for my house to be completely clean, it is a detail that doesn’t rank high on my list.

Playing, reading, snuggling, laughing with my family. Being the best version of myself, and showing love. That matters. If tomorrow we face another emergency I will feel grateful for the time I took today to do what matters. Just writing that, and rereading it on my computer helps me to let go of the stress I am already preparing for tomorrow.

Resolution Dinner

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For years, like everyone else I have made a New Years resolution – most the time of the healthy persuasion.  Like the never-ending line of people waiting for treadmills at my gym every January I always went right to the fail safe “lose weight” promise to myself come the strike of midnight.

That was until a few years ago.

Those of you that have been following my blog know that the past few years have been nothing short of rocky for me and my family.  Having Addie early, losing my job due to budget cuts, losing my mom, getting my job back, having the boys REALLY early and then being laid off again…I don’t know anyone who could go through such an a time without becoming more aware of what is important to them.  Or as my latin teacher used to say to me as an often unfocused teenager “getting their ducks in row.”  

In the past few years Tim and I have created a tradition in our family that may just be one of my favorites of all of our holiday traditions.  Each New Years Eve we sit as a family and talk over dinner about our new resolutions, and we help each other come up with resolutions that matter, that keep us focused on what is most important to us.   (For example, Addie started with “make paper dolls of the boys,” but ended with “be better at sharing” and she was very helpful in creating Tim’s resolution with her suggestion of “love more butterflies”) During our “resolution dinner” I sit with the coming year’s calendar where I record everyone’s promise.  And then later I write them on our chalkboard wall in our kitchen ( I will add a picture of our wall to this post soon)  where they stay for the entire year for us to see each and every day.  We were a little late getting to them this year as we were out-of-town on New Years (hence the late post) but thanks to Kennedy’s reminding we finally wrote our “revolutions” as Kennedy calls them – an appropriate word substitution if you think about it!

However, this year was different from me and I blame it on the general state of happiness I find myself in these days.  I know it sounds sappy, but I can’t remember a time that I was more at peace with my life as it stands than I have been in the last six months.  It goes without saying that my life would be exponentially better if my mom were here. but I have come to place of peace with her absence in my acceptance that my longing for her will never go away.  And of course, life would also be easier if we had more money.  But whose wouldn’t?  I would like a time where I didn’t worry about bills but I am guessing that even millionaires worry about paying bills.  And when it comes to money this is where my ducks are all lined up, the money duck is toward the back of the line!  But I digress…  Overall I spend most of my days feeling grateful and blessed.  And to top it all off I feel good about myself, well, generally.  Each year I try hard to develop a meaningful resolution.  To create a promise to myself that will, in the end, make me a better person.  Two years ago it was “to be less judgemental.” and last year’s was “to enjoy more of my days and embrace more moments.” But up until today, until I sat at the salon at 7:30 at night getting my hair cut for the first time in six months, could I for the life of me come up with a resolution that met the requirement.

So here is what I wrote in the calendar during our resolution dinner – prepare yourself for lame.

“Be more efficient at completing laundry.”

Yep, you read it correctly.  In my state of contentment with my life all I could come up with to make myself a better person was to do laundry more efficiently!!   I live in a house with five other people, laundry, like dishes, is a never-ending problem!  But if I am being honest – I’m not good about putting clean clothes away.  So I thought 2013 should be the year hone my skills of laundry.  Lame.  I know.

And then tonight happened.  Tonight I took time for myself and I paid a professional, in a nice salon like I used to go to in the olden days (a.k.a. before I was a mom) to give me a great haircut.  And as she cut my hair we talked about how I dye my hair from a box these days because the time and effort and cost that it takes for me to go to a salon was just too much on all three fronts for me to take on.  Her response to my excuse, as she touched my brittle and cracking hair; “trust me, a lot of my mom clients tell me the same thing.”  In that moment I made a decision.  Next time I need my hair colored I am paying Suzie to do it, because darn it, I am worth it.

It was also in that moment that I finally came up with a resolution that has some heft to it.  I am erasing my lame laundry resolution and writing a new one.

Here it is.

“To take more time for myself.” 

It sounds so simple, yet I know it is easier said than done.  It is easy during days of laundry, dishes, sippy cups, diapers, cooking, homework checking, carpool, baths and bedtime stories to forget to take just a moment to be yourself and not a mom.  Maybe it is as simple as taking a moment to listen to a favorite station on Pandora, or paint my nails,  or go for a run… I’m thinking it doesn’t have to be grand but it does need to be a priority.  Hopefully having it on my chalkboard will remind me to make it so!

Happy 2013 –  may yours be one that gives you all that you need and makes you feel proud of yourself at the closing of the year!

A quick video update!!

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You know when you haven’t talked to a good friend in a long time but you want to?  You put off picking up the phone to call, afraid it will be awkward – given the time between your last conversation.  Where do you begin the conversation?  Do you give a quick summary of the past few months?  Do you pretend like you have been in contact all along and just pick up in the present?  When you do finally getting around to calling them it  is like you never lost touch.  And you feel silly for not calling sooner.

That is what this blog has turned into for me over the past several months.  It has been so long since I last posted anything (9/22 to be exact) and so much has happened since then the task of catching up was daunting.  Friends and readers keep asking if I am going to keep blogging but I didn’t know where to begin.  So here is my answer to such a problem – a video update!  This should catch you up – so I can get back to regular writing as if I never took a break!  Enjoy and I will be back soon with a real blog post- I promise!

 Click here to watch the video :)

Oh, Oprah, I Miss You So!

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It wasn’t until I was driving in my dad’s car a few weeks ago that I realized how much I could have used a little Oprah in my life these past few years.  Dad came to babysit while I went to an unemployment meeting and I happily took his car (equipped with satellite radio) my messy mini van and I needed some time apart!  And oh I how loved the satellite radio.  Poor Griffin, who was tagging along for the meeting (I was hoping an antsy baby would speed up the process at the unemployment office ;)) had to endure me belting out one broadway song after another on the way there!

However, after a painful meeting hearing that “there isn’t much they can do from me” from a young 20 something woman, I was in no mood for show tunes on the way home.  In a horrible, disheartened and over all angry mood I searched the radio for something that fit the bitterness that had taken over my mind.  And then I heard it, the calm, logical, caring voice of Oprah as she led her life class on forgiveness.  That voice of reason and compassion was exactly what I needed to get me out of my angry funk as I drove home.

I always liked Oprah when she was on the air.  I admired her spirit and integrity as she approached guests and offered support.  Call me crazy but when I heard her talking on the radio, sitting there in my place of self-pity, it was like hearing an old friend.  In this life class she was using clips from old shows and stories from guests to examine the difficult task of forgiveness.  I listened because it was her, and since true forgiveness is hard I was interested to hear what she had to say.  But I wasn’t listening because in that moment in the car I thought my issue was a lack of forgiveness.  It is funny how advice and guidance find you when you need it.

Oprah’s first guest was a woman who was married for several years to man who turned out to be gay.  When he came out to her, she exploded, he in turn sued for alimony and most of her riches.  She of course, stayed angry.  They both came on the Oprah show, she still harboring lots of anger.  Oprah explains that during the show she kept thinking that she was in over her head.  That this anger that was festering in this woman seemed to be untouchable.  Years later the guest came back on the show – with her ex husband, to discuss her journey to forgiveness.  She explained that it came to her after she realized that all the anger she was directing at her ex husnabd did nothing to hinder his life, only her own.

Next, Oprah talked to an expert of some kind on forgiveness, maybe an author, a psychiatrists?  I don’t remember the particulars as I was driving, and busy self-reflecting as I listened.   She talked about how it was in that interview that she changed her entire view on what forgiveness means in a tangible sense.  Her guest explained to her that “forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could be any different from what it is.”  And in her “Oprah way”, she repeated the statement over and over again, changing a word or two each time to help us understand.

“Forgiveness is letting go of the chance that the past will change.”

“Forgiveness is accepting the fact that the past cannot be anything other than what it was.”

“Forgiveness is understanding that the past will not change.”

As she spoke, I got to thinking.  Why am I mad?  What about this unemployment meeting got me so fired up?  Here it is, I was mad that I had to go there at all.  I was mad that this young woman didn’t know what to say, or how to help me change careers.  But I was really mad that I lost my job.  Losing my job is in the past.  It cannot change.  Until I can forgive my district, the decision makers that decided to shrink staff to save money , I was still going to be angry.  My anger wasn’t going to change what happened months ago.  And so, as I drove I forgave them.  Not because they asked for forgiveness, and like Oprah’s first guest – not because my anger was bringing my district down – but because it was bringing me down.  I didn’t forgive them for their peace of mind – but for mine.  What is done is done, there are no “take backs”, I must forgive.

Hearing Oprah repeat this statement, now another mantra for me, led me to think about all the other things that I have gone through in the past few years.  Have I forgiven myself for choices I had made, things I did or didn’t do?  Have I forgiven people close to me for saying things that may have hurt, doing things that I disagreed with? While it is unfair to blame her, in the early stages of my grief I was mad at my mom for dyeing.  Have I forgiven her for leaving me?

I think when life gets hard it is easy to be angry.  I think it is easy to play the blame game, to look for scapegoats.  Sometimes others are to blame.  Sometimes things happen that deserve anger.  I think it is fair to say that I have gone through some of those things.  But anger is cantankerous, left alone it could fester.  You have to address its cause.

What a freeing feeling it was to drive along, listening to the ebb and flow of Oprah’s easy conversations on forgiveness and examine what it was in my life that needed my forgiving.   I felt a release, as corny as it may sound, of a weight that I had been carrying around since the bubble that protected my world a few years ago started getting holes.  I was holding on to those hard times not always as badges of honor for a battle hard-won but sometimes as excuses to play the victim for all the unfair things that I have had to endure.  As I thought of each one I heard Oprah repeat, “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be any different from what it is.”  And as I heard her say those words in my head, I let go.

So thank you Oprah!  I needed to hear this.  I needed to be reminded that my anger does nothing except hinder me, I needed to be told to let go. 

25 by the 25th – Merry Christmas to Me!

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Tonight it happened.  (I feel like we have been through a lot together, so I am not too proud to share.)  Tonight, as I unzipped my “go-to” jeans, the pair that a few months ago were a bit baggy, but still cute, tonight those very jeans left a bright red imprint of a button on the mush that has become by mid section.  And so the time has come – time to get back to the me that I was before the babies, the stress, the life that has unfolded over the past 14 months.  Time to stop hiding behind my Spanks and feel comfortable in my own skin again.  At a time in my life when I feel like I have no control over anything at least I can control myself.

My goal, lose 25 pounds by the 25th of December.  What a better Christmas present to myself than to feel better, to not cringe and squirm when the camera is pointed at me, to feel like my old self again (at least physically).  And it is a perfect Christmas gift for this year as my immediate family has adopted a “homemade Christmas” approach (more on this later).  What is more homemade than a body I feel comfortable in, that I worked on myself?!

Step 1: Establish A Goal: As I said, 25 lbs by Christmas morning.  There are 17 weeks until Christmas, so this is an average of 1.5 lbs per week – totally doable!

Step 2:  Establish A Plan:  Goodbye hamburger rolls, second helpings, late night ice cream, beer…wait lets not get carried away!  I’m not a big dieter, I prefer to look at it as being healthy.  Being mindful of my choices.  And then of course there is the gym, I think I remember how to get there!  18 months ago I would have considered myself a regular there – not so much these days!  I have to be more greedy with my time and let go of that “mom guilt” I have every time I leave the house to do something solely for myself.  Hopefully when my endorphins kick in 15 minutes into my spin class they can kick that guilt out of me and remind me why I once liked being there!  I can only hope – because as I sit here today the idea of going back to that spin class, where my legs hurt, my sweat makes it hard to hold the handle bars, and I feel like I can’t peddle one more rotation and it is only the first “hill” – makes me want to crawl under the covers!

Step 3: Don’t Give Up!  While getting started is hard, I think staying on track is harder.  That is why I am writing this blog post.  To help me hold myself accountable.  I figure if all of you are waiting to see how I do on this challenge I will be that more motivated to keep going!

Step 4: Throw out my “go to” jeans because they are too big! 

This proclamation of taking time to do something for me is me “dancing” in my rainstorm that seems to never end.  It comes down to control, control of my own choices and so I choose to dance – besides, I hear it is a good calorie burner😉

So who is with me?  Who else wants to give themselves a Christmas present this year?  I’d love to take this challenge with you, to cheer you on if you do the same for me!  Share your goals in my comment section if you like and we can all celebrate our success together!

I wanted to upload a “before” picture but I’m not brave enough to pose for one. So here is one of me and the boys, there were 10 other pictures like this – but I deleted them because I didn’t think they were flattering.