Thursday, February 23, 2017

Here's to 27

What a year.  The year I did not birth a child!  (Calm down, I want more babies.)

26 was solid and wonderful and weird and challenging.  I dyed my hair blonde again.  We went to the Portland zoo. We traveled to San Diego.  Our son was baptized.  I began taking fitness seriously.  We paid off our car 2 years early.  My depression resurfaced.  I (finally) won my fight with agoraphobia.  I drove by myself again.  I had a couple really bad panic attacks.  Our good friends from college came out to visit us in Portland.  My best friend made a trip out West to see us.  I went back on anti-depressants.  We lived in a basement.  We drove and moved across country.  Tim and I got to go on our honeymoon.  We moved into another apartment.  I got to see snow (and a lot of it).  I experienced the crisp, fresh air of a Midwestern Fall.  I got to eat my favorite ice cream on the planet.  I dropped a pant size.  I got to celebrate my best friend's birthday with her.  I was complimented on having a positive attitude.  I took my kids to a cider mill.  I took a full-time job.  I got to lay on Haystack Beach in Oregon and eat dinner as the sun set in Idaho.  I saw Wyoming and Montana.  I witnessed one of my good friends get married.  I gained perspective.  I smiled at someone who was not kind to me.  I sent a 'thank you' to someone I hadn't spoken to in years.  I accepted an invitation to be interviewed for a podcast.

My life has always been a series of moments to be thankful for, but it was only during this past year that I chose to look and live my life through that lens.  My birthdays have become a mini-New Year for me.  They've become this annual internal marker for asking myself the question what can I do now?  How can I challenge myself now?  How was this past year?  When we lived out West, we were consistently working to move East and that always posed a challenge for us in some way.  Now that we've reached our goal, I don't want to become stagnant in growth.  I want to keep moving forward.  I want to take a kick-boxing class and bike and roller blade.    I want to pay off more debt.  I want to up my writing schedule and plan a vacation.

I look back on this past year and think I'm just grateful.  I'm so thankful for what we have and what we wanted and didn't get 'cause all of it led us here.  365 days of adventures and new chapters have closed.

Let the next 365 days begin.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Spring in February

Oh hey, Spring.  Your due date isn't for another...4 weeks.  In my lifetime, I don't think I've ever experienced a 60 degree February.  I've been rooting for snow days ever since October, but even I couldn't resist the warm breeze and sunshine over the weekend.  Like everyone in the neighborhood, we ran outside.  Unlike everyone in the neighborhood, I ordered iced peppermint mochas all weekend.

This early Spring stuff is great and all, but I'm still pullin' for snow on my birthday.

Ella was with my best friend for a majority of this time, hence her lack of appearance in pictures...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Balancing realism and optimism

Angsty at 20 :P (on the streets of L.A.)
Happy at 26.
When I was younger, I'd run around, and, loudly and proudly claim, I'm a realist!  Not a pessimist as negativity silently dripped from the words leaving my mouth.

I often took issue with those overly-cheerful, chipper, happy types.  You know the onnnees...Everyone did (or does).  We all knew someone in school, at work, on our soccer team, who always, always had a knack for finding the silver lining or the rainbow on a deary day, that you sometimes just wanted to punch them right in the face and say, aren't you ever pissed off? Everything is not always unicorns and daffodils, lady (or dude).

I was the one pissed off.  And I don't know what about—100 different things, I guess—some of which had happened years ago (it's amazing what the brain is capable of) and were now completely irrelevant.  I was in my late teens and early 20s, what the hell did I know?

I just didn't buy it, that someone could be that joyful all.the.time.  It wasn't real, so I labeled those people as fake or slap-happy or naive.  Little did I know, conducting yourself in such a way was a learned discipline and was far from anything naive.  It was a higher way of living, a way of courage, humility, and bravery.

I still am a realist.  I will never sugar-coat a situation unworthy of sugar-coating.  There are some situations that are simply bad and need to be recognized as such.  Neither will I lie to you about a past situation telling you how wonderful it was when in reality it was truly awful.  Here's what I will say, though.  Instead of holding a scowl and letting out a, it was total bullshit, I'll take pause, and tell you I learned from it.  I would have rather not gone through it, but I grew.  I now know what to do (or not to do).  I'm a realist whose words now beam with optimism and hope.  And that doesn't make me slap-happy, or fake, or naive.  It makes me Tough with a capital "T".

I can go through something or look at something and say, that isn't right or that wasn't right, speak my mind (or when unnecessary not speak my mind) and let it be.  In growing this discipline of not taking my mood out on other people, and not bringing people down and not always stewing in the negative, I've learned if you're overly and externally "tough", you're internally weak.  You may appear to be courageous, or humble or brave, but you're not.  You're overcompensating for the severe lack of all three.

(Have I had too much therapy?)

I of course reflect on topics like this now that I have kids.  (It always comes back to them.)  I want them to see a Tough Mom, not a mom who screams at all those who she disagrees with or is annoyed with.  I want them to see a mom who listens and then speaks.  I want them to see a mom who is willing to tread in uncomfortable waters and smiles while doing so.  I want them to see a mom who carries herself with a demeanor of gratitude (as every human should, really).  I want to show them what being tough, what being strong, what being "right" means.  And, more often than not, as much as we don't like it, that means shutting up, not saying a word, and extending a joyful smile (see above).

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How toddlerhood changed everything

If you've known me for a little while, you know that I battled postpartum depression.  If you've been there, you know it's a kind of pain that is only understood if you've been there; if you haven't, it's the kind of pain that is devastating in nearly every way.

Something I distinctly remember thinking when I was going through it and taking care of Ella was maybe it'd be easier if she could just react or talk to me (and at the very beginning) laugh or smile. Maybe if she gave me the littlest of mom affirmations, a drop of that internal storm would clear.

Of course, as an infant, she could only offer little, but I held out hope that every giggle, or half-smile, or yawn would be enough to take away my pain.  I remember looking at her as she kicked in her Snug-a-Bunny and thinking what I am supposed to do?  The only feelings I felt were detachment, loneliness, and isolation; I'd tend to her as I needed, and then I'd hide myself away and cry.

I've had a lot of therapy, medicine, and another child between now and then, so much has changed, and no one single thing is to credit for getting me out of that low-point.  But one thing has helped significantly over the course of these past couple years in my healing process and that's the development of Ella's personality.

The first time Ella said something hysterically cute, my heart took off and I remember pausing and thinking...there it is.  Since then, every time she sings, dances, repeats a line from her favorite Mickey Mouse episode in a situation that makes absolute no sense (like "the dinosaurs won't get you" when I'm putting her to bed) my spirit is lifted no matter the circumstances of that day.

I'm proud of myself for making it through that time, because I think it's the most sacrificial love I'll ever offer to anyone.  Every day, I woke up, fought against my body and mind and made a choice that I was going to love my daughter even though I wanted my own existence to disappear.

I write on this, because Ella is talking more and more...and more as of late and, on more than one occasion, it's taken me back to that place on my couch in our first apartment with used tissues crumpled all over the floor and me, a new mom hunched over longing to feel connected to her little girl.  Recalling this, I can't help but to physically ache for anyone out there who may be facing a similar experience.

If you're hurting and happen upon this post, know you're a total warrior who is loving in the purest way even in the face of immense trial.  You're going against every definition of love our current society has given us and offering your service and self for the good of the most vulnerable in your life.  It's commendable, under-appreciated, and brave what you choose to do.  If you're waiting to feel like your days are worth something, the moment is coming.  I promise.

One day your little one will throw her arms around you as she lays in her toddler bed and whisper in your ear the dinosaurs won't get you and you'll think every damn crumpled tissue was worth picking up off the floor.