Walking Tall

This month I’m traveling around the country to check out fellowship positions. It is exhausting, trying, lonely, and often confusing. Most of all, I miss my kids.

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how fellowship and moving to one of these places would fit into the current, ideal, little life of mine, but it’s hard to do.

This morning, as I walk to the clinic, I am in awe of my own strength. This is not an easy task

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MEternity Leave? Really?

Over a week ago, on June 1, I sat down to start writing a blog post.  I wrote one sentence of that post and I have not been back to WordPress since then.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to blog, and it’s not because I have nothing to blog about… it’s because I’ve quite literally had no time to myself – at all.

This phenomenon of having no time to myself, despite being home from my 80-100hr+ work week, reminded me of the MEternity fiasco from a few months back.  For anyone to think that a maternity leave is a “sabbatical” or “vacation” or anything that resembles an opportunity for “me time” has got something seriously wrong.  If I’m going to be completely honest, I would say that I haven’t really been enjoying my maternity leave that much.  Before I divulge all the reasons I’m not enjoying it, I’ll state the few things that I do enjoy about maternity leave (just so I don’t seem to be complaining all the time):

  1. I love baby El and I love to spend time watching her grow and change.  I want her to stay small forever, but I know she won’t.  I’m cherishing the time I get to spend with her now.
  2. I get to see my other kids more often than I did when I was working.

Yes, I think that’s about it.  Here are all the things I dislike about my maternity leave:

  1. I am always tired – I am lucky to get 6 hours of broken sleep a night, and the sleep I do get is far from quality as I am paranoid about my baby and her ridiculously low risk of SIDS (this is where I say that, contrary to all advice on how to reduce SIDS, I can’t abide by t all.  Baby El refuses to sleep unless she is right next to me, with easy access to her precious boobie – All. The. Time.)
  2. I almost always have a little human being attached to my body.  This is either in the form of breastfeeding or babywearing.  Baby El usually needs to be nursed to sleep.  And, she doesn’t really like to stay asleep unless someone is carrying her.
  3. I am always yelling at the boys: Either they aren’t listening to the Nanny, so I get mad at them for that.  Or, they aren’t listening to me, so I get mad at them for that.  Or they are too loud and running around every part of the house and waking up the delicate baby that I just FINALLY GOT TO SLEEP.  I feel like all the time I spend with my kids involves yelling.
  4. I miss adult human interaction.  You can only text message people so much before you get bored.  Plus, everyone is working while I am home, so there is no one to go out with during the day.
  5. I have fleeting thoughts of finishing that book I started weeks ago, or working on the cross stitch birth announcements (for E first, before I can start El’s), or blogging, or even getting some exercise.  However, those thoughts are vanquished by one of the three kids that are demanding my attention at any given time of the day.  If I’m lucky, I can get outside for a walk with the baby in a carrier (she won’t even stay settled in a stroller)… but not before getting the 10th degree from A, who wants to know where I’m going, when I’ll be back, why he can’t come, am I sure he can’t come, and what kind of punishment I will get if I’m not home when I say I’ll be home.
  6. I miss my job… dearly.  If it wasn’t for my baby, I would go back tomorrow.
  7. I’m sure there is something I’m missing.

So there you have it… My maternity leave is far from relaxing, enjoyable, or a life changing revolution.

And, I’ve gotta go… baby El is awake!

Taking One Day At A Time

“The only Courage that matters is the kind that gets you from one moment to the next.”
~Mignon McLaughlin

From The Old Blog, November 24, 2014:

I can only take my life one day at a time.  Getting through today is enough work and enough of a struggle. I lose confidence in my ability to survive when I imagine doing it all over again tomorrow.  Regardless, every time tomorrow comes, I get out of bed and survive once more.

It is a relief to know that having only enough courage for one day is all that matters.  I’ll worry about tomorrow’s courage tomorrow because likely in that next moment, I will find the courage I need to keep going.

That’s all I need, and that makes it a little easier to survive.

I really felt a string sense of peace with what I wrote last year on this day.  It was not *completely* about struggle, it was not about making good or bad decisions, it wasn’t about a friend I seemed to be over fixated on.  Rather, it was about me – the raw me – the true me.  While some days are better than others, I still days that feel like this post:  can’t imagine making it past this one day that I am living.  What is of ultimate importance, however, is that I just make it through the day I am living.  Tomorrow is another day.

It’s Always Okay

“‘It’s Okay’ is a cosmic truth.”
~Richard Bach

If there is one thing that I have learned from this November project that has taken me back over the last few years of difficulty, it is that this quote is truer than ever.

Perhaps it’s easy to say that when nothing absolutely “tragic” has happened.  However, despite the difficulty of this previous year, I am doing okay.  And, last year at this time, after a rather difficult year before that, I still said I was doing okay.

It’s all relative, I believe (and, isn’t that another somewhat famous quotation?).  So far in my life it seems like, even though nothing is ever perfect or what I would like it to be, everything is always “okay.”

And, that’s the truth.

My Backstory

“We are all special cases.”
~Albert Camus

From The Old Blog, November 21, 2014

We all have a story that makes us who we are.  I would argue that these stories are not always fun to tell or easy to accept.  It is these stories, however, that make us “special.”  My story is far from great, but I know it could have been worse.  I am the grown up child of a messy divorce, and this simple fact has made the “special case” that I am today:

My parents were newly divorced and were too busy hating each other and making each other miserable to really realize what they were doing to their children.  They provided the necessities and we never wanted for anything physical – we were clothed and fed, we went to school and we did well.  Emotionally, they gave us nothing.  I never felt special or like I mattered to my parents.  My accomplishments always seemed to fall on deaf ears and land in front of blind eyes.  I was a 12 year old girl with nothing to motivate me and no one to encourage me.
~From The Old Blog

Some days I go back to being that 12 year old girl, and I get angry at myself every time I do it.  I am embarrassed that this so heavily defines who I am and how I interact with people.  I fear that I will never be able to escape from that 12 year old me.  And, that right there is the problem: I should not want to escape from her.  Rather, I should want to open up my arms to her and give her that which she never had.  I should be the one to support her, motivate her, cheer her along, giver her advice, and be her best friend.  That is exactly what she has spent the last 20 years trying to find.  Now I can be that for her, I just need to believe it.

We all have stories that make us special cases but many of us are too afraid to go back and read those stories.  Those stories are what make up who we are and we need to understand them to really understand ourselves.  Going back to the beginning can also tell us how far we’ve come and, hopefully, allow us to realize how much we can help ourselves.

I an not a special case because I am the grown up child of divorced parents.  I am a special case because of what I have become as a result:
I am sensitive, kind, and loving.
I work hard, seek perfection, and achieve my goals.
I put others before myself and passionately give everything I can.
I am a loving mom, a sincere wife, and a good friend.

I am all of those things, even if I don’t always believe it… even if other people don’t always believe it.

Cynicism is The Opposite of Vulnerability

“I always think that cynics are really romantics who have been crushed sometime in their lives and have put up this cynical mask to protect themselves.”
~Jeff Bridges

Again I’ve decided to post last year’s post in it’s unedited form.  There is nothing more accurate and true that this post about vulnerability, in my opinion.

From The Old Blog, November 15, 2014:

This quotation makes me think of one thing: Vulnerability.
Actually, more appropriately, it makes me think of a lack of vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I believe that this quotation is more accurate than most of us want to believe.  Why, after all, are we cynical in the first place?  For me, cynicism is my coping mechanism: Why be serious and face reality when I can be cynical and detach?  Cynicism is also useful for connecting with other like-minded people.  In fact, I am pretty sure Husband and I bond quite a bit over our cynical nature (who doesn’t love a little late night snuggling while watching The Colbert Report???).

If we are all hiding behind cynicism, what are we not revealing to everyone else?  Are we afraid of reality? Are we afraid of being hurt?  Or have we all been hurt  just enough times to make us not want it to happen again.  I don’t really know the answers to these questions.  Regardless, it all comes back to a fear of being vulnerable.

As much as I love being cynical most of the time, I strongly believe that if everyone (not just me) was 1/2 as cynical and 2x as vulnerable, we would connect with each other in a much more authentic and meaningful way.  Cynicism is easy, it is funny, it is relatable, and it is common.  Vulnerability is the exact opposite:  it is hard, scary, uncomfortable, and very individual.  We are all vulnerable for different reasons, yet we all have one thing in common: Vulnerability itself.

As Brené Brown would say, “lean into the discomfort.”  We shouldn’t be so reliant on cynicism.  On the surface it might feel like we are connecting in a comical way, but every time we are cynical, we run the risk of isolating the people we are with.  There is no easy solution to this.  I wish I could say that I would stop being so cynical all the time.  However, I don’t think I am quite ready for it all at once.
Maybe it needs to start with one person – then hopefully it will spread.

Mindfulness In The Rain

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining, is to let it rain.”

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I love the story I told in this post from last year.  For that reason, I decided to again share the entire, unedited post.  This past year I have spent a significant amount of time “letting it rain.”  Perhaps not with the same thrill and intensity that I describe below, but I have allowed myself to be there in the rain.  I have felt the wetness soak into my hair and my clothes.  I have wrapped my arms around myself and tried to calm the shivers.  I let the beauty, often lost in the storm, come through: the sweet smell of the shattered and broken atmosphere, the sun attempting to shine through the clouds where they are thin, the edges of the rainbow as it starts to form and take shape…  I am learning to be present with the moment, especially when it is stressful and anxiety provoking, and this has made me realize that my experience of those storms will pass faster that they otherwise would if I tried to prevent them from soaking me.  My exercises in mindfulness, I know, have made a difference and re-reading this post made me realize that I need to get back into practicing my mindfulness on a more regular basis.

I may not be at that final endpoint of “finding what I had lost” as I describe in the post below.  However, I’ve come to realize that the endpoint may just be different.  I will never be able to experience I storm like I did when I was 13 years old, but I can experience them in a different way than I used to and that makes them so much more tolerable.

From The Old Blog, November 7, 2014:

When I was a kid, I loved the rain.  I remember a particularly gloomy day when I was in grade 7 or 8.  You could tell from the look of the clouds in the sky that it was going to rain at some point that day.  During class (maybe it was Language Arts, or Social Studies) we could hear the thunder off in the distance.  An electricity was starting to build, both in the air and in the classroom.  I was always drawn in by the energy of a storm – and it seems that my classmates were as well.  We gathered around the windows as the thunder became louder.  Bursts of lightening began to fill the sky and we started counting the mississippis between the light and the sound.

The quality of the air changed as the storm moved closer: It was chillier, but not cold, and it had that smell that only ever comes with a thunder storm (is it true that the smell is actually a result of lightening splitting atoms of ozone?).  The excitement intensified, and even the teacher didn’t seem to mind that we weren’t working anymore.

And then the rain came.

It pelted hard against the window panes and flooded the uneven tarmac of the school yard next to where our portable classroom sat.  I was high on the frenzy that was mounting within me and I had an insatiable urge to run outside and feel the rain against my skin.  We asked the teacher, who didn’t seem to care anymore, if some of us could go out in the rain.  He dared us.  And we did.

I ran outside into the storm with nothing to protect me.  The rain was thick and heavy, cool and unforgiving.  It hit hard on my skin, but I liked it.  It didn’t take a minute before my clothing was soaked and my hair was pasted down on my face.  Still, I looked up into the sky and spread out my arms.  There were no more mississippis left and the lightening and thunder came together.  For a moment it felt like the earth was shaking below me.  In that moment I loved the rain more than I loved anything else: I was wild, I was refreshed, I was cleansed, and I was at peace.  All of this, amidst the chaos of the storm.

Now when it rains, I still feel that little electrical surge of excitement, but I would never run out into the street to take it all in.  I don’t want to get soaking wet – I don’t want my hair to get frizzy. There is usually so much going on that it would seem odd – if not, inappropriate – to just stop everything and frivolously frolic in a rain storm.  And, what if I have no choice but to go out in the rain? Where is my umbrella, or my rain coat, or my rain boots?  Why, as adults, do we try so hard to avoid the rain?

The storms are going to come; there is no way to avoid them.  We expend so much energy and effort on staying in control. We are satisfied if we can prevent the rain from ruining our plans.  But what if we just stop for a moment and feel that electricity again – experience it like we did when we were children?  It seems as though we lost something along the way into adulthood and instead of finding the beauty in the storm, all we feel is the mess.

The rain will stop eventually.  The clouds will clear, the sun will shine, and our wet hair and clothing will dry.  So why not enjoy the rain? Rather than fight it, we should experience it’s fullness and feel it’s power.  We should emerge from the storm refreshed and transformed, not exhausted and defeated.

There was a reason I used to love the rain: it is something that I must re-discover.  When I can freely let the rain come down on me again, I will know that I have found what I have lost.

Hope is Unchanged

“Hope is the thing with feathers –
that perches in the soul-
and sings the tune without the words-
and never stops – at all”

~Emily Dickinson

From The Old Blog, November 6, 2014:

I initially picked this quotation because I like Emily Dickinson: She was such an interesting person!  While she was alive, and even afterwards, people thought she was just some crazy house-bound lady with irrational fears about leaving her house.  But then after she died, they found all her writing.  She was known for a few pieces of writing before she died, but it is her posthumous publications that have made her the literary classic that she is today.

Isn’t it interesting how much beauty and emotion she had in her writing – that she kept to herself for so many years?  I mean, she even asked her sister to burn all of her writing after her death (and thank goodness she didn’t!).  I think it relates somewhat to the idea of “isolation” that I mentioned on Nov 3.  How would Ms. Dickinson have been viewed by her peers if they read her writing while she was still alive?  Would it have made a difference in her life?

Anyhow, back to the quotation.  I like Emily Dickinson because her writing has so much insight.  I’ve never really taken the time to think about what “Hope” is.  Here, Dickinson characterizes it a bird in the soul that sings a song and never stops.  I’ve often wondered what it is that makes me get out of bed in the morning, even when I feel like there is no point.  What makes me wipe the tears off my face and move on to the next task at hand?  Surely it can’t be my own consciousness and willpower; Most of the time I lament the circumstances in life and wonder why there is any point to doing anything.  Regardless, there is something – some reason – I am able to rise up from the floor, steady my shaking knees and put one foot slowly in front of the other.
Maybe it is a song that plays deep down in my soul. 
Maybe it is the one thing that is always present and always constant.
Maybe this is Hope.

Hope is a feeling that what we want is attainable or that whatever is happening will turn out “for the best.”  At the worst possible moments we say that we’ve lost all hope – But somehow we still go on.  As long as we’re alive, we have hope.  Even if we don’t feel it, it’s there.  And as Ms. Dickinson says: “it never stops – at all”

I decided to present this post unchanged from its original state because I feel that it stands true.  Hope, as I described above, is a unique entity that will always stand the test of time.  Not much of what I wrote about in this post last year has changed, except maybe for the part where I talk about “lamenting the circumstances” in which I find myself.  I certainly do not feel that I lament my current life situation, even though I do sometimes questions my choices and my sanity.  Regardless, it is interesting to notice that hope, regardless of where we find ourselves in life, is unrelenting and unchanged.

Reflection is a Powerful Tool

There was never a quotation for November 2nd.  Instead, I talked about my gift to my friend: What was in it, how I assembled it, how I delivered it, and how she would get the first quotation the next day.

Today, there is still no quotation.  There is, however, still a gift… a gift for me.  This gift is the tool of reflection.  I have been going back through the posts from last November and I have been making some interesting discoveries about myself and how much has changed in the past year.

I thought things were difficult for me now.  But, they were much worse for me then.  While it’s sad to think that I was in such a low place last year, it is reassuring and affirmative to realize that I have overcome so much and that my perspective on my life and my choices has changed.  I won’t elaborate too much on this for now, as I don’t want to spoil what’s to come in the next few days.

Even though I am only 2 days into the project (and only a few nights into re-reading and pre-scheduling posts), I am quickly realizing that reflecting on this part of my life was probably a very good decision.  I can already feel that my perspective on my life at this current time is changing.  I have overcome so much, and I can continue to overcome everything ahead.

Throwback: The Past is Never Far

…And scars are souvenirs you never lose,
The past is never far.
Did you lose yourself somewhere out there?
Did you get to be a star?
And don’t it make you sad to know that life
Is more than who we are…

She was 13.  She sat in the corner, on the back bench of the city bus.  She held her new Sony Discman in her hand, the headphones circling her head like miniature ear-muffs.  This was supposed to make her cool, make her fit in – but it didn’t.  At least she didn’t think so.  She may have only been 13, but she was older than that, really; she was older than she was supposed to be.  Life was tough and tumultuous for that little girl.  It hurt.

It was a long bus ride to school.  The other kids got on the bus and she looked at them from her seat in the corner.  They were supposed to be cool, too.  She thought they were.  But she just sat there, holding her Discman, watching the white CD spin round and round and round.  She only listened to one song, over and over and over.  Repeated, day after day after day.

“Name” by The Goo Goo Dolls.

It’s been 16 years, but that song still plays.  And, every time it hits the radio, she goes back to that seat on the bus.

Life has changed but the song stays the same.  The hurt feels the same.  A prophesy come true.

…We grew up way too fast
And now there’s nothing to believe,
And reruns all become our history.
A tired song keeps playing on a tired radio,
And I won’t tell no one your name.

**Originally posted Feb 2013 on The Old Blog