We Have Work to Do

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I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts for days. I’ve felt sad, lost and confused. I’ve been adjusting to the new knowledge that the world I thought I lived in was not, in fact, the world I did live in. For a while, the prevailing thought was “How did this happen?” I have obsessively absorbed media, trying to gauge the thoughts and reactions of everyone on both sides of the fence, trying to understand. I’ve been stricken and grieved by people I call dear friends who are afraid. They are afraid that those who hate them, those who are afraid of the different, now feel as though the majority of the country agrees with them – and that they’ve been given a green light to act on that hate. My immigrant friends, my gay friends, my interracial friends are all afraid for their safety, and it breaks my heart. I’ve seen hate groups coming out of the woodwork, like roaches and termites, to celebrate what they consider to be their victory. The most eloquent explanation I’ve heard put it this way: Not everyone who voted that way is a bigot. But all the bigots voted that way, and now they think everyone else who did is on their side.

A new voice is emerging in my head, and it’s much louder and more powerful than my own. It’s the voice of Seane Corn, a world-renowned yoga teacher and social activist. It’s her voice, powerful, raw and vibrating with intensity and emotion (if you’ve ever heard her speak, you know this is exactly what Seane’s voice conveys). It says, “We have work to do”, and it’s repeating in my head over and over and I can’t ignore it.

In the pantheon of yoga goddesses, the warrior goddess Durga is the goddess of social action. The energy of Durga rests, and waits, until called upon – or forced to action. And when the energy of Durga awakens, she waits no more. When the Durga Shakti fills you, you feel an urgency, a call to act, and do it now. We have work to do. There grows a fullness in your body, a tightness in your chest, and a restlessness in your heart – we have work to do.

It is not time to protest. What’s done is done is done. That is not the work. The work is to sit, and listen. Stop taking in media. Stop arguing with those who think differently than you. Nobody ever changed anybody’s mind by fighting with them on the internet. Be quiet. Listen. And in the silence, we will hear the answer. We have work to do.

I thought I was doing enough. I thought, as so many of us did, that setting an example was enough. I thought that teaching my children that we are all one, that teaching them love and compassion was enough. I thought that supporting and lifting up those closest to me was enough. I thought that loving my friends of all different religions and orientations and nationalities was enough. I thought that by being a quiet champion of acceptance and love was enough. It wasn’t enough. We have work to do.

I see now. I have to do more. I have to lead harder. I have to love louder. It’s easy to enclose ourselves in these little bubbles where we think everyone thinks, and sees things the way we do. I think it’s safe to say those bubbles have been burst. We have work to do.

For me, Seane Corn is the embodiment of the Durga Shakti. Brave, bold, passionate. She fights for what she believes in, and doesn’t give a shit if you like her or not. I’ve never actually met her, (but she did touch my arm in a workshop once), but she is my guiding light and it is her voice that I will follow as I search for my course of action. Her voice telling me, we have work to do.

I don’t know what my work is yet. I don’t know where is the best place to put my time, faith and money. It’s early yet. For now, I turn to my mat. I move, and breathe and I sit, and I listen. I invite the energy of the warrior goddess to fill me. I offer my support to those who are disheartened and afraid. I love you. I invite you all to join me. We have work to do.

 

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Looking at my Hands

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For most of my adult life, my self-worth has been intrinsically linked to the size of my body. My self-esteem would fluctuate in direct relationship to my body size. If my body was a size that I felt was “appropriate”, or “acceptable”, then I was acceptable and appropriate. Hundreds of pounds, over three pregnancies, my weight has changed. And now, something has changed for me. Inside of me. I still feel like it’s good to have goals and maintain a healthy size. However, my sense of self, my worthiness as a person – to be loved, respected, even admired – that is no longer attached to the size and shape of my body.

Truth time. I gained a lot of weight with my pregnancies. The last four months or so of my pregnancies, I refused to even look at the scale during my prenatal visits. I just scrunched my eyes together and listened to the chink, chink, chink….chink of the bar as the nurse slid it higher and higher up the numbers. No matter what I ate, the numbers kept going up, so I just let it go, honey. I was deliciously round and voluptuous and had perfect, healthy babies. With the first two, it was pretty easy to drop the weight. Cut the carbs and sugar, and I was back in “shape” in no time. This third one, though. Shit, this third one. I’ve done low carb, with dedication. The weight absolutely refuses to come off. Three years later, it is still with me. I think low-calorie diets are bullshit. I’m not going to eat a tiny, pre-made packet of five tasteless chalk cookies because it only has 100 calories. I’m not going to eat low-fat crap from the store. What do they put in when they take the fat out anyway? Nothing I want to eat, I promise you.

I refuse to be hungry. I will not starve or compromise my health to be a size that, for some reason, society (and formerly myself) deem appropriate for my body. Evidently, my body deems its current size appropriate. So I eat for health. I eat for nutrition. I pay attention to how certain foods make my body feel. If it makes me feel bad (sugar, white bread, brussels sprouts- sooo much farting), I avoid it. If it makes me feel good (green smoothies, healthy grains, proteins and vegetables), I eat more of it.

Sometimes I touch my body. Not in a Divinyls kind of way (necessarily), but in a “Hey, this feels ok!” kind of way. I’m soft, but I’m strong. My stomach has a bit more give on the outside than it used to. But it’s really what’s inside that’s important. That’s where the real stuff happens. That’s where my food is digested, how it nourishes my body. Lower down, where I have what I call my “baby roll”, under that, that’s where my babies were formed. That’s where my body carried them, nourished them, loved them, before they were birthed – spectacularly – into the world. I put my hands over my breasts. Holy cow, there’s a lot there. And gravity has really taken its toll. But they, too did their work. They fed three little ones, for months and months..and months, until the little ones got old enough that they didn’t need or want Mommy’s milk anymore. And underneath that, my lungs that work so fantastically, taking in air, sometimes easily, sometimes heaving with exertion when I practice yoga, or run, or bicycle, or swim, or do any of the other awesome things I can do with my body. I put my hands on my legs, and, yeah, they’re soft too. But they’re strong and reliable.

And I feel good about myself. I can do a lot. I plan to do a lot more. I know that I’m so much more than the shape of my body. I feel confident and proud to be who I am. Most of the time. But sometimes…sometimes I feel insecure. I feel less-than because I’m not a certain size. I feel like I should be better.

When that happens, I look at my hands. My mom always says they’re like smaller versions of my dad’s hands. They’re small, but they’re strong. Strong enough to hold my whole body off the ground in handstands or arm balances. I like to think about all the things they do, all the things they hold every day. The vacuum cleaner, the mop, the lawn mower, the weed eater, the leaf blower. My steering wheel. Pots, pans, silverware. The dog’s leash. My yoga mat. Bicycle handles. They hold little hands, when little voices ask, “Can I hold your hand, Mommy?”, and I say, “Yes! I love to hold your hand!”. I use them to brush wispy hair out of baby faces, and to hug my loves very, very tight. Sometimes I put my hands on my husband’s chest just to feel his strong heart beating.

And I know that I am worthy. That I am wonderful. That the shape and size of my body doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the person I am. The things that my hands do, that is who I am. That is my life. Looking at my hands reminds me that I have way better stuff to do than spend precious time and energy worrying about what size pants I wear, or that my middle might be a little softer than it used to be.

Looking at my hands reminds me that I am enough.

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My Bucket got Dumped out Last Night

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One of my eternal life struggles is knowing when I really need to lie back and take a rest, and knowing when it’s time to push myself. In the past, I’ve not been too great at making the distinction between actual tiredness, and just…laziness. Especially when it comes to things I don’t really want to do. Shocking, I know.

As I’ve grown and maybe matured (a little bit), I’ve come to a place where I like to be busy. I love going to bed at night with a sense of accomplishment, and knowing that I did the best I could that day. This is a very fortunate turn of events, because having children creates lots of chores. Lots of errands. And everything takes longer. However, as I’ve mentioned before, my to-do list can become quite a compulsion for me. A race against myself, to see how much I can do before…my head explodes, I guess.

So my tendency these days is less toward laziness, and more in the direction of attempting to do everything all the time. Even my self-care can take on a compulsory quality, like “Ok. I have to get in at least one hour of yoga today, or I didn’t succeed,” or, “Ok. I didn’t get up at 6:00 this morning and do my meditation, so I’m already behind for the day.” And just like that, the things I do to make me feel better become just another item on my list, something else I need to check off.

Lately, I’ve been crushing it. Chores done, errands done, yoga done, meditation done. Bicycle rides, walks to the park, special time with the girls, I’ve been making it all happen. Even more, I’ve been doing it without my miracle Dr. Murphree Fibro/CFS vitamins, because I ran out and there was a delay in shipping my new tub ‘o supplements. Yesterday was no exception. I ran errands, cooked, made homemade protein bars, practiced yoga, cleaned house, cooked dinner, fed and washed children. Too much stuff. And then, night came.

Last night, the tiny one was in our bed by 10:30. I wasn’t even asleep yet. Squirming. Kicking. Turning sideways. And her bigger sister waking up. “I had a bad dream”. “Ok, let me tuck you back in.” Then it was, “I heard a noise!” “Ok, let me tuck you back in.” Over and over again, all night long, ’till time to get up this morning.

And it was just too much. Today, my body is done. I hurt all over. Literally, all over. My head hurts. My feet hurt. My hands feel like two misshapen petrified dragon claws. My legs feel as though they weigh 2,000 lbs. Apiece. Neck, back, spine, hips – all aching. I am exhausted. Done.

So now, the real work starts. It’s all well and good to talk about self-care when everything is fine and we’re all feeling good. But what happens when, all of a sudden, you find yourself with an empty bucket, where either you’ve poured out more than you’ve put in – or your children maybe dumped it out beside your bed while you were trying to get some sleep? It’s easy to fall into the trap here of “should”. I “should” feel better. I “should” not be so tired, achy, sleepy, etc. I “should” be able to do what this or that person can do. That last one is a biggie. We always want to compare ourselves to what other people can and do accomplish. But you’re not that person. They, and you, have your own unique set of challenges, struggles, goals, strife, whatever. Because of this, your needs will not be the same.

What do you do, when your body needs care? How do you know what your body needs? How do you give it what it needs, when you figure out what it is? My go-to is yoga and meditation. I’ve found that these tend to be the most effective in making me feel the best I can, along with taking my vitamins, religiously. Some days, though, the body just says “No.” Not just “no”, “Hell, NO!” It tells me, “I will not yoga today. I will not bicycle today, I will not walk to the park today. I might wash dishes and fold laundry, but only because your children think they need to wear two months’ worth of clothes in a week and if the laundry doesn’t get done they will surely be nekkid by tomorrow. I will also cook dinner, because, apparently, you have to feed them. But nothing else, so DON’T ASK!”

So you have to listen, because your body is forcing you to. You send the girls off to school, and rather than immediately starting laundry, you get in bed (your bed), with the littlest girl. You snuggle up to her warm back, and feel insane happiness when, as you are the first thing she sees as she rolls over and opens her eyes, she smiles and hooks her sweet little arm around your neck, the same way she does with Grover all night. You sit at the computer, with a heating pad on your aching back, and write about caring for yourself, because it makes you feel a little bit productive. You vow to spend a day doing just what needs to be done, so tomorrow you can do what you want to do.

You try and remember that you can spend a day not doing everything. You can spend a day doing just enough.

Posted in My Crazy Family, Philosophisizing, Uncategorized, Yoga, You are Enough | 1 Comment