Friday, 16 September 2016

Forty-ish?

Last month I optimistically wrote about embracing my wrinkles.  I really don't mind getting older. I've lived. I've grown. I've learned. So I decided I would wholeheartedly embrace aging. Really, I figured it was just a state of mind.

Maybe. 

Today I received another angle. I went for a physical. A routine pap to be more precise. And that is all I thought it would be. 

But I felt progressively older as each topic was addressed. Each age appropriate topic.

Do you plan on having more children? You are getting to the age where conceiving gets more difficult and the risks increase.

Have you thought about whether or not you would like a mammogram. The recommended age has changed from forty up to fifty but it is a consideration at forty for those with a family history. 

We even touched on permanent birth control measures and what may eventually happen with menopause. (Yes, I know that may seem premature but I was asking about postpartum issues and how they relate to aging.)

Oh my.

Watching the abundant energy of my four year old makes it very clear that there are differences between the young and the... older. She can bounce on the trampoline, bike across town, go for a swim, and then still ask for a play date. 

I do what I can to try keep myself healthy so I can keep up. I try to eat plenty of vegetables. Get some exercise. Manage my stress. Get enough rest. Um, okay, maybe not everything. Sleep? Do I really need that? Maybe after my "forty year old" doctors appointment I will put that into consideration. 

As my daughter gets older (and stronger) I want to manage the stamina needed to join her in things that interest her. Toss a football, mom? Sure. Go for a run? I'd love to. Bike a trail? Great!

I don't want her to think I'm too old. But just embracing aging and loving who I am is not going to cut it. I need to treat myself well. Make sure I have some take-care-of-me time. 

Sometimes easier said than done. Especially if I try to consider that always evasive thing called sleep. I catch up on so much during the late hours. It's hard to balance healthy meals, exercise, school, extra-curricular, work, church, family play time, reading, and, ugh, house work. Well, maybe not that. I'm quite good at taking a whole day for my daughter and neglecting the chores. I wash the bathrooms and do the dishes and then, well, on to something else. 

Oh, the balance. But I want my daughter to remember many things. Not just mommy cleaned. Or mommy loved daddy. Or the important mommy played with me. 

I want her to learn from my example. I am aging. And she should see that I'm taking the right steps to make the most of it. I'm embracing my wrinkles. Im rolling with the grey hairs. I'm choosing the fruit over the ice cream. I'm eating three meals and snacks even when I'm busy. I'm stretching. I'm learning new things to keep my mind going. I'm developing my hobbies. I'm keeping relationships a priority.

I'm thoroughly enjoying life but being aware of my limits. 

And soon (-ish), with that family history, I guess I'll get that dreaded mammogram. 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Embrace My Wrinkles

I will embrace my wrinkles. They are a blessing. 

They mean I have experienced the glorious outdoors. I am so fortunate to live in a beautiful place surrounded by numerous lakes, mountains, and forests to explore. My back yard is the very place others dream about and save up to visit. 

They mean that I have laughed. After struggling with debilitating shyness and anxiety for the first two decades of my life, I now know what it feels like to both believe true joy does not exist, and then to believe that joy is never proportionate to positive circumstance. Joy can be experienced, in abundance actually,  throughout the stressful uncertainty and lack of control in daily life.

They mean that I have worked hard. I have faced battles head on instead of giving up. I've accomplished more than I ever thought possible. I've overcome shyness, fear, abuse, rape, anorexia, alcoholism, and more and created a satisfying life in spite of where I came from. 

They mean that I have felt deeply. I have discovered the love that makes you care for others and want the best for them, even when you can't do anything about it. I have felt a mix of emotions, from the encompassing love for my own offspring,  to the unexpected empathy for complete strangers.

They mean I've had the unrivalled gift of aging. My family did not have to mourn the outcome of my leukemia diagnoses eleven and a half years ago. Instead, my family gained another member through me as I experienced the miracle of giving birth to a daughter after cancer. 

I will embrace my wrinkles.

Because if I do not I am going to waste time worrying, covering, hiding, reminiscing, and spending money, and not experiencing the freedom of loving who I am and where I am in the timeline of my unique life. 

I will embrace my wrinkles. 

Even if you don't. I have dear friends who are 20 years younger and who are 20 years older than myself. Age is only a number and everyone has something individual to offer. If you find my aging appearance hinders getting to know me, that is your own loss.

It should not result in a loss anywhere, at anytime. Ever. Because if we all embraced our wrinkles, then they would not be seen as a hindrance or embarrassment. 

They would be a blessing.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Door Number Ten

I opened door number one and saw all the undesirable housework that demanded to be done. And hadn't been done the last ten times I opened this door. 

I opened door number two and saw my precious daughter sleeping soundly. I longed to cuddle next to her, for I didn't know how many more times I would get a chance to be that close to someone who once felt like an inseparable extension of me but now was becoming her own autonomous entity that had a mind as imaginative and untameable as my own.

I opened door number three and heard the music calling me to sing loudly and freely with no inhibition. Song after song begged to resonate out of me. 

I opened door number four and saw the pencil and the paper. Exploring faces, loved ones, in a moment in time. Bringing them to life to share with others in a way I never could if I did not enter that door. 

I opened door number five and saw the words in my mind recklessly flowing in all directions, looking for some comprehensible connection that would bring them freedom. They called me to write them down and permit them to purposefully become. 

I opened door number six and saw the beckon of a welcoming book. A story that reminded me there were lives glaringly stranger than mine. Sorrows dreadfully deeper. Opportunities better grasped. Secrets more hidden. 

I opened door number seven and my mind longed to aimlessly calculate. Finding numbers on autopilot as its thoughts actively wandered but had no mandate to commit.

I opened door number eight and felt the exhilaration of running and heard my heart pounding methodically like my feet hitting the pavement. 

I opened door number nine and felt my spirit long to embrace unconditional love. To bask in humble thankfulness for all I am able to experience and to supplicate for all that is to come.

But...

I entered door number ten and lazily sat wasting my time flipping from one internet page to the next curiously looking at topics I would not rightfully give priority to at the end of another busy day.   

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Sometimes Life

Sometimes life means realizing you've made an error and determining that the mistake won't be made again, and ending up consciously walking straight down the same inglorious path. 

Sometimes life means setting priorities and standards that resolutely must be met, and acquiescing in walking away from them temporarily.

Sometimes life means judging the motives of the inconceivable mistakes of others, and finding yourself in the same deplorable circumstances. 

Sometimes life means having a set schedule and following a solid plan, and somehow turning down an antithetic road.

Sometimes life means holding back how you really feel and taciturnly keeping emotions in check, and watching it all burst from the seems exposing your true heart. 

Sometimes life means confidently declaring your views and being strong in your convictions, and receiving an epiphany on the other side and humbly having to apologize. 

Sometimes life means letting go of the certain good in search of the promised better, and diffidently wondering if the good had actually been the best.

Sometimes life means expectantly taking a chance that you cannot afford, and learning how to apologetically scrounge for the pieces that are left.

Sometimes life means searching for souls who will know you as deeply as you desire to be known, and having to jump over your own foggy-eyeglass perceptions of those who are already within your reach.

Sometimes life means exhaustingly wanting to be it all and hold it all together, and eventually finding contentment in honestly letting it go.

Sometimes life means having faith in a path that leads to an unknown destination, and being grateful you listened to your heart instead of reason.

Sometimes life means trying hard to make yourself into the person you imagine you are meant to become, and finding who you really are when surrendering your preconceived labels for a successful you. 



Monday, 20 July 2015

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON (For Her)

The slogan KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON appeared on a motivational poster in war times more than 70 years ago. Lately it has popped up as a widely used meme covering umpteen topics, from movies to politics to parenting to Internet culture. 

For me, today was the epitome of KEEP CALM. It seemed that my day had the faculty for turning sour at each and every turn. But what eventually followed continued to be enjoyable, if I let it. Which I did. Simply because I had an impressionable three year old watching me. Me. This painfully wounded and deeply scarred me. My motivation for Carrying On is that she won't also have the tendency to have fear as a default or to unremittingly stress or to desire to give up or to struggle not to judge.

Nothing motivates change as effectively as hungering for more for your child. I want more for her than what I experienced with my self inflicted years of loneliness and the struggle with relationships. I want more for her than the expense I had to invest into counselling. I want more for her than the incessant negative self talk I had to reprogram. I want more for her than I am even capable of imagining due to where I started from.

So when she was buckled into her carseat today and got locked in the car I kept my calm trying to get her to un-click a buckle she has never been able to operate. I feared the temperature would get too high and I felt like throwing up. I wanted to go home and hide. But I smiled at her and encouraged her and assured her help was coming. She cried. Of course. But I had to KEEP CALM AND KNOW IT WILL BE OKAY. And it was. And she cheerfully went off to play. 

And when she ran ahead and placed her hand next to a sliding door and it opened on her arm up to her elbow I pushed the door back and hugged her tight. I wanted to be so angry with myself for looking away and letting another incident happen in the same day. I wanted to give up on my shopping list. But I asked her to wiggle her fingers and bend her wrist and wave her arm. She cried. Of course. But I had to KEEP CALM AND BELIEVE I'M A GOOD MOM. And I am. And we continued into the store where she happily asked questions and straightened shelves and helped me locate items. 

And when ten o'clock rolled around and she had just got into bed because of a late bath from playing in the mud I still read a story and said our prayers. I wanted to cut everything short in frustration with myself for ending up in this situation yet again. I wanted the day to end. Tomorrow she will cry from lack of sleep. Of course. (And maybe I will as well.) But I will KEEP CALM AND HAVE PATIENCE. Because she will also laugh and smile. (And I will as well.)

KEEP CALM AND HAVE PATIENCE.

I will have patience with her because she is unceasingly learning and growing. I will have patience with myself because I am still learning and growing. I will have patience with life because then, and only then, can I concede to letting it make us who we are actually destined to be.

KEEP CALM AND LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST. 


Monday, 8 June 2015

That Humbling Thorn

I just had my 20 year grad reunion. (I know, I know, hard to believe.) I'll tell you, I was pleased as punch it wasn't in 2013. Only two years difference. But I am certain the whole venture would have been incomparable if I hadn't gone through the recent struggles that seemed to cement the journeys that began nine years ago with marriage and intensified with motherhood, with all the roller coaster rides in between through to this day. 

I've probably changed more over the years than the average person. Though I'm sure I need to give others more credit for their improvements and their growing up. I'm not saying I'm anything special. To say I needed plenty of work is an understatement. 

Two years ago I was finally learning to love who I was and what I could do. This was following a very rough year of postpartum depression. My search for a path out of dismay led me through diet and activity changes that really augmented my influence on my own health. (Really, there was a time I thought healthy meant adding veggies to Kraft Dinner.) I became physically fit and gained energy. And as I felt better about how I looked I realized that I had actually criticized who I had been too much (like everyone else does to themselves). I went from feeling that I used to be ugly to maybe thinking that I've been acceptable, or even more than good enough, all along. (Maturing is so nice. Imagine having confidence in high school?) 

But pride is a very slippery slope. I began to become obsessed with my workout routine. Sure the endorphins were exhilarating. And quite stress releasing (I am married, after all). But so was the weight loss. If I had stayed in that state of mind I would have become quite fixated on how I would look to those who attended my 20 year grad reunion. I would have compared my weight to the other ladies. I would have probably had a melt-down trying to choose appropriate attire that I would feel comfortable wearing that would show off the efforts that I had made to be trim and muscular.

With all that personal focus, what else would I have been worried about? I know that 20 years ago I thought proper grammar use was an indicator of all-encompassing value in a person. And I was controlled by the idea that admitting any shortcomings in any area was announcing that one was a complete failure. And we won't even get started on past hair issues. 

Would I have even attended? These anxieties were enough in the halls of high school. Who needs them in their late thirties?

Maybe my tremendous insecurity was actually rooted out of my judgment of everyone else?

But I now know that value comes in all forms. People have many different purposes. Many. Different. Purposes. And in order to fully serve those purposes they can't be everything. 

I can't be everything. And that's okay. And because of an injury, I couldn't be that girl who competed in mud runs and races. I couldn't brag about my ability to do push ups or run steep hills or climb the monkey bars. Those were things of the past. That thorn in my side had humbled me. 

Instead, I was able to just enjoy being with people I went to school with without worrying about what they thought about me. I wasn't the smartest or slimmest or prettiest or the "est" of any category. But that wasn't even on my mind.

(Seriously. It wasn't. Tell that to 18-year-old me.)

And as the weekend concluded I was kind of thankful for the injury that put my daily exercising to a halt. Maybe one day I'll be healthy enough to get back into it to some extent. (For sure. I gotta get running again.) But I won't be comparing the results to how anyone else appears.

Life isn't about being pretty enough or smart enough or having nice enough hair. It's about enjoying people. Sure, it's easier to do certain things with those who are like minded in a particular area. But I like having people in my life who encompass all the different ways this universe can be experienced. 

Experienced with people. Not in comparison to them. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Day in a Continuum

It's a new year. A time when people pertinaciously attempt those changes that they've pondered making... again. A time when the scale is distrustfully worshipped. The fridge is decisively analyzed. And the lists are valiantly declared.  

The goal is to set a course that will result in finishing the year in a more estimable place than at this beginning. Thinner. Healthier. More organized. And happier. Definitely happier.  

The planned method to reach that goal is often a lofty one. A self-depreciating, rule filled regimen that requires unwavering determination. Without taking into account the amount of road blocks. The nostalgia over such a previously insignificant part of a memory. The salivating glands at the idea of something forbidden. The it's-not-fair cries inside when observing simple day to day rituals so innocently taken advantage of by innocent bystanders.

Until finally, it's enough. You can't take it. It may only be New Year's Day, but next year you will be stronger.

But probably not. Not out of motivation to win the battle of a day that gives so many the illusion of a new beginning when the world just keeps ticking on the same as before. Not out of worshipping this commercialized event calendar that tells us when to love, when to fantasize, when to give, when to change.

I thought about following the routine. Marching out my own acceptation of this yearly affair. 

But the tumultuous path the last year took has left me with too much of a new acceptance of the way things have become. And more importantly, are naturally becoming. Change is in my every day and so this season isn't a break in my steps at all but merely a part of the continuum that means I must be getting somewhere. I hope. 

Simply put, a New Year's resolution just doesn't fit two aspects of my current journey. One is my ever changing opinion of the world around me and the way it should be and the other is that same phenomena subjectively applied to my own life, my own home, my own body. 

I am 30 pounds heavier than this time last year. And I don't care. I have a family who loves me. I'm healthy. I'm beautiful. Take away the cellulite and I think I would actually like this current form better. (A new wardrobe would increase the comfort.)

I don't stress over my hair anymore. And I don't regret it. The more I worried about it the more I hated it anyway. (And hate is an understatement as I think my hair has resulted in an embarrassing amount of tears and tardiness.) I've grown to love the natural look. I think it adds a softness. An air of contentment. Definitely more contentment in my daily routine. 

My floors are gross. So what? I've got two dogs, a toddler, and a husband. And I enjoy their company. I'm enjoying my child's presence to the fullest. That's more valuable than the opinion of someone who doesn't have her heart on my sleeve like my little one does. Anyone can critique the hair balls and foot prints. I don't care. I'm going to the library. Hiking the surrounding forests. Testing the coffee shops. Going bowling and swimming. Visiting family. Watching the mind of an inquisitive toddler expand. The floor can wait. (I don't even think I cringed writing it that time.)

These declarations may seem mundane to you. But not to someone who this time last year would have found these ideas far fetched. The opinions of others has always mattered too much. The fear of failure has always clouded my choices. 

I didn't resolve to change these things a year ago. Most definitely I would have chosen the distinct opposite. But it was many events over the last year that broke things. The forgiveness I had to give. The black and white I finally had to see. All while busy raising a child. It adjusted priorities. It helped me see what will matter in the end. 

I'm not saying someone resolving to lose weight is erring. I'm not saying someone determined to be a better house maker is on the wrong path. I'm just saying the desired growth isn't from a day pronounced to be the catalyst. It's from opening up to the miracles of revelation available every day. The stories of strength from each struggle. The recognition of what matters in the hustle and bustle. The taking responsibity for oneself that has to be adopted as a lifestyle. 

I can look back at my rough year, the stressful year of 2014, and label it's denouement as a successful year. It stressed me out until I let go. Day by day it worked on me. Improved me. Helped me to walk into what will be an amazing 2015. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

I Will Still Wash Her Feet

My daughter refuses to go barefoot. Not even for a minute. She wants to wear socks to bed. She begs to keep them on in the shower. She panics when we change them. Her socks stay on at gymnastics even though it hinders some activities. Cutting her nails is torture, if I even get a chance to see them. 

My sweet girl has been traumatized by a cut to the foot and now she wants to keep her feet safely covered.

I understand. I have struggled to rid the aftereffects of many terrorizing experiences. After a hard and unexpected smack to the jaw I hated having hands anywhere near my face for years and years. After totaling my car on a winter trip nine years ago I have remained unable to drive on a snowy highway. I even have a silly habit of storing my bread in the freezer because I'm afraid of accidentally eating moldy bread again. The moldy bread incident was 17 years ago. 

I know that life includes unfortunate events. My daughter is going to have to deal with some. It is part of learning. Hopefully, oh hopefully, not too many ordeals will be inflicted by me.

You see, I was the one who cut her foot. Yup. Me. I sliced her foot. 

Totally by accident. But still, she sees my hands near her feet and she can't even hear my words of reassurance through her worry. She asks over and over if I'm going to cut her foot. Her dad is astounded by her fear. It pains me to know I caused this stress. That her mother's loving touch induces panic if her socks come off. 

I caused her anxiety. And I inevitably will cause more. Not to this extent. But in general it is something I probably try too hard to avoid. I've barely punished her for doing wrong. I worry too much about my words. I even question my facial expressions when I respond. But everything in me wants her to enjoy life and not be traumatized by growing up. I so much want her to not be traumatized by me.

I would label my own childhood as very stressful. It had too many objectionable twists. It made me an insecure, fearful, untrusting, judgemental, indecisive, procrastinating worrier. And most certainly, the majority of incidents or situations were not planned or intentional or preferable in the eyes of my caregivers. Some repercussions were likely not even realized.

Like most parents, I try to avoid duplicating the scenarios that I deemed frustrating in my upbringing.

But I'm starting to see that it won't guarantee an ideal path. There will be regrets, no matter what. There will be mistakes, no matter what. And most importantly, there will be times where my actions won't be perceived as I intended.

Of course, the blade in my hand wasn't supposed to cut her skin. I went to scrape a rough spot on her other foot and she panicked and kicked the blade. And instantly saw blood dripping from her flesh.  

Mistakes. Misunderstandings. Set backs. That's life. There is no such thing as doing it right. There is no such thing as the perfect upbringing. It is about trying. It is about learning as you go. Developing trust. Refocusing when life gets off track. And re-building that trust when something unfortunate happens to break it. 

I'm praying it won't be years of having an issue. Hopefully it will only be short lived. Something I will mention to her later and she won't at all recall. But, if not, life will go on. Add it to the things she will need to work on.

I can't undo mistakes. I can't let worry block moving forward. 

I'm still going to wash her feet. Hopefully, not with too much anxiety. 


Friday, 29 August 2014

Now Said To Then

Now said to Then, "Don't worry. It will change. Really." Now knew how utterly impossible those words sounded. Now remembered how terribly deep and unimaginable the pain was daily. 

Then asked, "Do you truly remember? Can you empathize any more? Do you recall how all-encompassing the pain felt?"

How could Now forget?

She reluctantly walked down the hall. Her head painfully pounded in fear as she felt completely ignored by the crowd in her invisibility. Yet she simultaneously felt mocked by each set of eyes that happened to look her way. Shoulders slumped, she shyly kept her eyes gazed on the bare floor, avoiding any contact. But longing so much for some positive connection. 

She looked disdainfully at her clothes. Embarrassed at their lack of contributing to any acceptable status and hoping that nothing would bring her any attention. Attention that brought hot blood flowing to her face and made her dizzy and confused.

Why couldn't she appreciate any acknowledgement? Why couldn't a smile or question pierce the loneliness and bring her out into the moment in her crowded surroundings? Instead she was left behind this huge wall that blinded her from seeing any relational opportunity. It suffocated her. Her every muscle ached. 

She bit her lip to keep away the tears. Her stomach continued to cramp as always. She could think of many excuses to leave. She had run away so many times. But where would she go? The solace from one pain would only bring her face to face with another. Then, she would ultimately be expected to return again.

She realized at that moment she wasn't breathing. She felt faint. Every sound shamefully accused her. Every laugh felt directed at her miserable presence. She couldn't take it any more. 

What if she didn't come back? Would anyone notice? Would the daily routine followed by any other human being have to be adjusted for her absence? 

No. Their lives would only continue. Oblivious to those who's eyes desperately cried out in pain for fellowship. Who's hands mortified her as they again trembled in self doubt. Who's feet plodded forward despite the distraction of anguish that never left.

Then knew it would never go away. The tormenting shadow followed her every moment, clouding her eyes and pushing weight onto her shoulders with every thought of mistakes made and assumptions proven and heartache cemented and embarrassments endured.

She piled on the shame with every effort to cope. Every attempt to drink away the timidity. Every effort to puff out the inner turmoil. Every trampish grasp for affection. 

Why was it like this? How could she stop caring? Stop thinking? Stop failing? Stop worrying? Stop snowballing? 

There appeared only one solution. It lingered in the back of her mind always. A permanent solution. The accusations would be gone. The misunderstandings would become unnecessary. The pain would disappear. 

Or would it? What if the anguish remained for eternity? If it followed her to the other side?

"No!" Screamed Now. "It will change! The pain will lessen. The heartache will fade. The doubt will decrease. The confusion will subside.

"And in their place hope will grow. Love will bloom. Appreciation will creep in. Faith will strengthen. Joy will present itself. Healing will begin."

But Then could not hear. Would not hear. Instead, she had to discover the new life slowly. She had to actually attempt her escape. She had to cry her tears. She had to call out in desperation. She had to learn to forgive bit by bit by bit. One impossible step forward and two difficult steps back. 


Your Later sees your Today. Trying to dry your tears. Attempting to give you a glimpse of what will be. Cheering you on in your battle. 

You don't hear Later. Just like my Then didn't hear my Now.

Just believe it exists. That will be enough to help you keep going. You are heading toward something.

There is a future. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Because I Told You So

"Why, mommy?"
"Because I told you so!"

It is the easiest answer in frustration. It is the quickest answer when busy. It is the simplest answer when we don't want to reveal our own insecurities or weaknesses. It is the finite answer when there are just too many questions.  

But what does it really say? It says not to ask questions. It says not to seek understanding. It says to never try to persuade or debate. 

Of course, I don't think it's right for a child to push continuously when they've been told something. And questions can easily turn into an argument that a child shouldn't have with an adult. (I remember my mom telling me I argued too much. We'll see how I feel faced with the same resistance.) I know in some situations an explanation is not needed and in other situations our tone should get prompt obedience because of safety issues.

But "because I told you so" is a very closing response. 

Fast forward to adulthood. Why do you do what you do? Work the way you work? Believe what you believe? Because someone told you to. 

The last thing l want is for my child to go along with something she doesn't agree with and not question whether it is right or wrong. I want her to be open to thinking about what she is doing and why she is doing it. 

I don't want her to be afraid to seek understanding. To open up a dialogue and talk about anything.

You could think that as a result she would be less likely to successfully work under authority. But I think it would do the very opposite. It would be easier to respect leaders if one has confidence in their own ability to be informed on making a decision. I am more comfortable working under someone if I know I can clarify instructions. It is stressful to work under someone when this kind of dialogue is not permitted.

There are many who struggle to do what they are told because they had no freedom. Sometimes people stick to something because it is the opposite of what was forced on them previously. I don't really like to wear slippers because my step dad insisted, saying that I would ruin my socks. I figure there are other acceptable options. Like cheap socks. 


In my current household it appears that stalling is a growing tactic. Getting from the car to the house or vice versa is taking so much longer. But as I have my agenda in my mind and it is halted by an inquisitive follower, I'm hoping to be able to recognize those opportunities in which I can take a moment longer and help her expand in her discernment of her world and it's never ceasing "why". 

Now, "Get in the truck!"
"Why?"
"Because we are running late. Again."