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

When you Lose your Shit

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Oh my God. There’s crap everywhere. I can’t deal with this,” I think to myself. “I have to take care of it right freaking now.” My heart rate starts to pick up. Every direction I turn my head, I see something else that requires my attention. Clothes that need washed, balls of Fozzie fuzz in the floor, stuff that needs put away, cleaned out, or organized. I see bins of clothes that I’ve dragged out for the girls to “shop” in as the weather has warmed up. I need to sort through it, put away and organize winter clothes for the next one to grow into. Re-load summer clothes in the drawers. I feel my breathing becoming shallow. “But what about my yoga practice? All the books I’m trying to read? What about the article I’ve been planning to write for the last month? How am I going to do it? Why don’t I have more time?”

How am I ever going to be anything more than just a mom?

My mind has officially taken over. I can feel the downhill spiral. I’m reaching full-blown anxiety attack. I look around. The kids are playing in the playroom. I look away before I can take in the mess in there. My husband is sitting, reading. I look away. I want to do that, but I just…can’t. I have too many responsibilities, too much to get done.  And it’s all my job. I’m responsible for all this…stuff. I’m turning circles, trying to do everything, and getting very little of anything done.

My chest heaves. My brain has basically devolved into a lovely chant by now: “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t”…and so on.

It’s at this point that I start to dislike everyone around me. Everyone who’s brain isn’t betraying them. Everyone who can just relax, play, read. Everyone who isn’t freaking the fuck out because they’re so goddamned overwhelmed by…everything.

I read so many books on the mind. So many books about using meditation to bring yourself back to center. They tell me that the mind is not me. They tell me that letting my thoughts run things is akin to having a really shitty, crazy roommate living in your head, giving you bad – not to mention conflicting – advice, twenty-four hours a day. “You don’t have to tell me that!“, I think. Shut up, Brain. They tell me that we have everything we need inside us.

So I meditate. I sit, I chant, I breathe. Ujjayi, alternate nostril, retention. Breath of fire, shitali. I listen to ancient, powerful chants: wahe guru, om nama shivaya, om gam ganapataye namaha, the gaitri mantra. I repeat my mantra. “You are enough, you are enough, you are enough, you are enough, you are enough, you are enough, you are enough, you are enough”…until it starts to sound weird: “youareeough, youarenough, yourenough, yourenough, yurenough, yurnuf, yurnuf, yurnuf.

I practice yoga. I move, sweat, and breathe. I try and focus my mind on my breath, on my practice, on the pose. Rarely am I successful. The dog comes and lays in my mat. The little one needs to pee, eat, drink, falls down. I wonder why I’m not as strong today as I was yesterday. Why I’m still carrying around 25 extra pounds from that last pregnancy. Why I didn’t practice five times last week. I know I would be stronger, more flexible, more zen – if I’d squeezed in that last practice last week.

And still. Still. Sometimes, I just completely lose my shit. One person asks me for one thing too many. I just can’t manage to squeeze in that last chore that I need to do. I have to tell someone to pick up their goddamn sock one time too many, or take a shower, or brush their teeth, or eat the dinner I just spent an hour cooking. And…KABOOM! I imagine what follows is the scenario my children will be relating to their therapists in about fifteen years:

and then, my mom would just…snap. Red face, screaming, cursing. ‘Get it together,’ she would yell. “Do you think I live to fold your laundry, to pick up after you, to cook your damn dinner? Do you think I’m having fun, that this is the way I want to spend my life?”

I call these “Bad Parenting Moments”. Because the fact is, this is how I want to spend my life, at least part of it. I like taking care of my family. I just want it to not be so freaking hard sometimes. I’ve managed to use my tools to beat back some pretty major depression. I get out of bed every morning and do what has to be done, and usually a lot more. I’m focused and driven. Still, I find myself falling behind. Every now and then, my mind gets the best of me.

I read a lot about how the mind rebels when we’re not living in a way that is aligned with our spiritual purpose, how things grow harder and harder the more we move away from our path.

What if you’re still looking for your path? What if you have several paths, and are firmly on one, but trying to find a way to navigate a bunch of paths at once? How do you live spiritually aligned in that case?

Life is so much more complex than it used to be. And as many guide books as I read, I just can’t seem to figure it out.

Posted in Philosophisizing, Yoga, You are Enough | 1 Comment