Authenticity

2019 is the year that I start reading regularly, for my self – I am not counting Green Eggs and Ham here! I set a goal to read a book a month and so far I have read seven books, so I am feeling pretty confident about meeting that goal. Good writers are good readers.  I want to be a good writer.

I try to mix up my reading.  I have as many as three books going at once – one purely for entertainment, one to make me smarter and one to make me healthier in mind and/or body.

I am finding that my three categories have a lot of overlap.  It probably says something about my taste in books and what I need in my life right now.

One of my biggest struggles has always been balancing who I am with who I want people to think that I am. It’s an exhausting struggle.  I can’t even determine if I am anxious and depressed because of this struggle, or if being so conflicted  about appearances is what makes me anxious and sad.

I weigh myself down with the pressure for all that I represent.  My husband.  My children.  My parents. My extended family. My Church. My gender. My size. My race. My country.  I feel so much shame and so much insecurity.  I have a remarkable memory for all of the ways that I have failed and fallen short of the standard that lives in my mind like an unreachable mirage.

From the latest book on my bookshelf – Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown, “Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.”

I am not brave.

 

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Data Driven Depression

Last week when my Psychiatrist asked me if I was feeling better about reducing a commitment from life I answered her honestly.  Yes, of course it feels nice to have less of a weight on my shoulders, but there is always something new to feel guilty about, that is just how I am.

So I guess I walked directly into a classic psychotherapist playbook.  Dr. M quickly pulled out her laptop and sent me a link to the first google hit for Cognitive Distortions.  I read the link, didn’t think it really made a lot of sense to me, but when Cory pointed out that it was the first hit he received when he looked up what are Cognitive Distortions, I decided to dig a little deeper to see if maybe Google didn’t have the utmost authority on the topic at the top of its list.  I came across a Ted Talk by David Burns.  Dr. Burns is one of the fathers of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which I had never really heard of before this week.

 

I realized a couple of things while listening to this talk.  1. Every self help book that I have read over the years is trying to get me to the same conclusion that this guy has.  2. I should just go to the source and read HIS self help book.

I about a quarter of the way through the book, and I have to say that I love both the accessible yet academic nature of the book itself, and I also really love the idea of using Data to understand, evaluate and maybe even cure depression.

I started my data collection nearly immediately.  I carry a small notebook with me, and every time I have a thought for a situational reaction that feeds my negative feelings, I write it down.  It’s been a day and a half and I feel like I already better understand the root of my problem.

This is my blog, so I intend to continue to share my experience, though the thoughts I have written in my little notebook will never see the light of digital glow.  I am very ashamed of my miserable, jealous and pathetic thoughts.  Progress comes slowly, and I am committed to it.

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Bad BadAss

It’s funny how change is what it is no matter how it happens. Change is change.  Sometimes it hits you like a ton of bricks.  One minute your reality is one thing, and then something changes and reality is forever altered. A death, a birth, an illness. Sometimes it happens so slowly that you don’t see it.  I am reminded of a proud moment when I felt like a rockstar at my job, a validated and accomplished professional. And then one day I didn’t.

Looking over the last several posts on this blog showed me that I am a couple of a months late on my bi-annual reflection.  The data tells me that I should have been feeling this restless need to emote outside of myself, and out into the open abyss that is the unread corners of the internet, in August.  Fall.

The older I get the harder I work to keep my chin above the water all year round so when fall comes around I am ready for The Great Dip.  That’s what I am calling it now.  It has a name and I know it’s there and it can’t hide from me. It can’t sneak up on me and it doesn’t own me.  Depression is a sleeping giant.  Sometimes it sleeps so deeply I forget what that dark cloud is like.  Sometimes it lingers like the cartoon rain cloud stationed directly overhead, soaking me to the bone while I look around in confusion while everyone else – even those that are fatter, poorer, and/or less validated by love and acceptance dance around in the sunshine directly in front of my face, taunting me with what I think I don’t have. It’s an ugly feeling.  The before and the during are so drastically difference that I can’t understand how I ever didn’t notice that cloud making its way overhead until I was caught in a rainstorm too heavy to see my way out.

I still get caught in the rain.  I am caught in the rain.  I am questioning myself everyday, and wondering if this is my own rain cloud.  in 2016 I was at a professional place that was stressful but challenging in a way that made me feel validated.  Overworked, not entirely fulfilled, but validated.  I don’t believe I have felt more than a tinge of that validation since that time. No longer overworked, even less fulfilled and no longer feeling validated I have turned to self-help books, personal reflection, walks down memory lane and speculation about alternative realities.  I am feeling tremendous amounts of doubt in my greatness.

When you are used to treading the water of your own mood pool, keeping all of your breathing holes out of the pit of self-pity sometimes the best of advice can feel impossible to employ.  You are a Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life (by Jen Sincero) was a great read.  So much so that months after I read it, I am still tormenting myself with the advice I can’t make myself follow.  The passage that has stuck with me is this, “You have to change your thinking first, and then the evidence appears.  Our big mistake is that we do it the other way around.  We demand to see the evidence before we believe it to be true.”

I haven’t decided if it’s because I am me – chronically anxious, depressed, distracted and pessimistic or if it is something else.  Maybe the universe is just not on my side. Maybe I really am justified to feel put upon the way that I do.  Or maybe it’s my own black cloud. Maybe I am expecting too much. Maybe all of the time I spend feeling jaded and sorry for myself and victimized by circumstances is what is keeping my fulfillment at bay and my greatness underwraps.

Maybe I need to find a new way to feel validated. I need to be a better Badass.  All of this treading in the waters of self-pity and loathing is exhausting and it doesn’t leave a lot of energy for concentrated badassery.

Just as my writing idol Kelly Corrigan shared on her Instagram account today – once again speaking directly to my confused and downtrodden  self – I know that the darkest corners of my mind don’t get to be the authority on what I deserve.  Now to start to believe it, even without the evidence.

Kelly

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When I was 20 years old my boyfriend gave me a promise ring.  We had been together for about 10 months, but we knew.

It was the first time that a guy had given me any jewelry.  I had dated a couple other guys before him, but nothing serious.  This was the first relationship that I had where I felt like I was part of a couple.  I wasn’t just me out there alone, someone loved me.

2 and a half years later, I married that man.

Fourteen years ago we were kids playing grown ups on our honeymoon to Jamaica, and last week we got to return to that beautiful island for a way too short trip, just the two of us. Aside from a weekend in Chicago that rained and cancelled our plans two years ago, this was our first vacation with just the two of us and it was AMAZING. There is a lot I could say about the excursions we went on, the wonderful food and drinks we had, the relaxing resort with the best staff, the fun couples we met. But what I most want to remember is how much we have grown from the kids on their honeymoon 14 years ago. The honeymoon when we celebrated loving one another so much that we wanted our whole family and all of our friends to know that we were committed to each other in marriage forever does not hold a candle to the 3 days I spent with this man who has loved me through my best and my worst.

The newlyweds were all over the island. I guess a lot of people get married on New Years, and I couldn’t help but think that these kids playing grown ups have no idea the roller-coaster in store for their next 14 years. I hope they are all as lucky as I am to be able to look across the table/hot tub/beach chair/relaxing hotel room balcony and think, “Wow, I thought I loved you on our honeymoon. Now I know what love looks like when your spouse coaches you through an anxiety attack, when you sit hopelessly in a hospital while tests are run on your partner, when you lose a loved one, when you celebrate new houses/jobs/babies. With the good and the bad, the love just grows and grows.”

I wonder if the couples there celebrating their 50th anniversary looked at us the same way. I hope they did.

This trip was the best thing for my marriage, and I really don’t want to make it another 14 years before we do this again.

Sorry about picture quality – the old ones are pictures of pictures, the new are screenshots of video.  They are both from some of the best days of my life. 

Look at these baby grown ups!

14 years, 2 houses, and 3 babies later 

If one gray hair shows, I’ll be fine
If my waistline grows, I’ll be fine
Even if time takes its toll
We’ll stay young for the rest of our lives

–  From Tim McGraw and Faith Hills Song, The Rest of Our Life

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Falling

Fall is always a tough transition for me.  I didn’t realize until a few years ago when I finally took the step to visit a counselor for a few short months when I must have been feeling the perfect balance of weak and brave all at the same time.  She helped me realize that when my mind gets rolling and the anxiety starts taking over, its always fall.  Armed with this realization I have tried to meet fall head on with my own survival plan.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it really doesn’t, but it always pulls me back into my own mind and causes me to truly consider my daily life. This is something that I love, but I get worse and worse at all the time.

Today, on one of the very last days of the summer break from our regular school schedule I was compelled to ignore my increasingly demanding job and take some time to slice up giant cucumbers in step one of the process of Grandma Dalene’s cinnamon pickles.  I stepped into my cluttered kitchen with the memory of having received the recipe in the mail from my Aunt Sandy years ago.  I wasn’t sure where to find it, but I knew I would have kept it.  I pulled open the cabinet in my kitchen that houses cook books, plastic straws, measuring bowls and a random collection of “kitchen stuff”. I ran my finger along the cook books trying to determine which one I would have been most likely to stick that recipe in. I grabbed a plain envelope and pulled it out from between the books.  Addressed to me, from Sandy Howard.  It was meant to be.  I read over the recipe, remembering going though this process decades ago with my Grandmother.  I had begged her to make them because they were one of my favorite treats from Grandma’s house.  After beginning the process today with the tedious work of coring the cucumbers to make perfect rings, I understand why I only remember helping once.  As it turns out, Cinnamon pickle making is a 50-some hour task, so it will be a while before I confirm the authenticity of the results, but the process is therapeutic.

Last week was not a good week for me.  It is so hard to describe why when the why doesn’t exist.  I found myself getting through each day using the same coping mechanisms that one would deploy to get through an amusement park ride that, though not necessarily scary, is not providing a welcomed thrill either.  It’s exhausting riding that uncomfortable ride all day.

Today my girls and I left our cucumbers to soak in the process of becoming pickles and set out on a bike ride.  There were several moments during our ride where I would have to encourage Thea to tough it out and keep pedaling up that hill, because on the other side was a nice breezy downhill to reward us.  We all dealt with the frustrations of the lead rider stopping or slowing abruptly and the uneasiness of crossing a busy street.  I marveled at their independence, and they helped me forget my uncomfortable ride.

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What Happened to Me?

I have been feeling the itch to write –  but I haven’t quite figured out what I’m itching to write.  I do know this; I don’t know what the heck happened to me.  Visiting my blog has become such a depressing event because I don’t know who this person is that has left so many pieces of herself and her family in this space over the last 9 years.

I mean, I kind of remember her.  She liked to take pictures, and to run.  She crafted and sewed and created experiences for her daughters.  Everything was pretty good for her.

Life got complicated.  Mostly good complicated.  Instead of having insightful thoughts to share about the good life, I find myself torn between not wanting to recount the mundane in paragraph form, and not wanting to share the not great things.  I don’t know how to get back where I was, or if I want to be there, but I am feeling the new year itch.  There are some things I know I want to get back.  My health, my fitness, my sanity.  They all tend to be bundled up together, and so when life gets busy, they all tend to go down in flames together. Busy isn’t bad, but the plummeting endorphins is bad.

Parenting has gotten to be a lot less fun and games, but a lot more though provoking and complex, in a way that I think I would like to write about it, except that it no longer feels like my experience to write about.  Potty training is one thing to blog about, but the struggles and joys of raising a tween don’t seem like appropriate fodder for the internet when it comes to your own very real, very complex child.

In fairness to Eliot, I should be writing about his ever adorable milestones, like how he will now say “cheese” for a picture, and he recognizes when the “fight, fight, fight!” is about to come up in the Iowa Fight song and he waves his hand and screeches along for the “go Hawks!”  Raising my third baby is already so different.  I am different, our lives are a lot different now, and I just hope that he understands why even the digital baby book that is this blog wasn’t appropriately filled out for him.

One thing that he will hopefully always know, is how loved he is.  This child has a couple of extra little momma’s who always want to steal his hugs and to dry his tears. His main Momma wants those things too.  I love to snuggle my big guy and tell him much I love him, I just don’t do it in text like I have in past years.

When Thea was a baby I was so sad for her growth and worried that it was “the last time.”  With Eliot, I am not holding on to the distant memories as I thought I would, KNOWING that this really is the last time.  I consider it both a blessing and a curse that most milestones are met with a sigh of, “thank goodness we are getting to the easier part.”  Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying this baby and his sweet soft baby skin, but I am also finally at that point that I always wondered if I would reach, where I am satisfied and happy to move forward.  I have so much to look forward to with this sweet family of mine, and I am thankful to not look back longing to do any of this over again.  I have regrets, but they don’t make me want to turn back time or make another baby.  I am complete, satisfied, and more than sufficiently challenged.  2016 is going be the real year after “the baby year.” I am taking time for myself, and for my marriage.  I am looking for opportunities to bring professional fulfillment without the loss of my sanity.  I am going to frantically search for the time I need to take care of myself, how ever that care needs to be taken from one day to the next.

I just don’t know what to put out there anymore. Maybe it’s time to let go of the URL and move on.

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On and On

I have a notes app on my phone that I sometimes record references to possible future blog posts, thoughts that I have run through my mind when I can’t keep the course of whatever it is I am supposed to be focused on.  There is always something, and its rarely something I chose for myself, but that isn’t really the truth.  Every bit of my situation is a result of a choice I made.

The past year has been the most challenging of my working career, and the year of post Eliot employment has just closed out and I have reason to be reflective and consider the future apart from the past.  The current state of my mind is focused on taking back what I can of my time and my energy while trying to maintain the level of focus I need to do the job I have.  It’s one of those moments that builds the lump in my chest, one where I feel I am at a crossroads.  I can take my bad feelings and push them away and evaluate my life and my values and how to best maintain them and move forward, or I can gnash my teeth and furrow my brow in indignation over the injustice of it all.

If you know me, you know that I will stew and analyze all while maintaining a positive attitude while I work on my plan B.

The only time I get really upset, is when I think about all that I have given of the first year of Eliot’s life.  I have spent a disgraceful amount of time in a state of stress and distraction  that has kept me from truly enjoying my last baby.

I have missed an entire year of blogging.  A good portion of a year of sleeping.  At least half of the year of exercising.  Now I just need to decide what I need to focus on bringing back.

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And Just Like That…It’s Over

Yesterday morning I pulled up to daycare and handed over my precious son to his caregivers. I walked away with tears in my eyes and the feeling that I was leaving a piece of myself behind. We joke around in our house about how Eliot and I are BFF’s, but the emptiness I feel when I know I won’t be seeing him all day is no joke. the 11 weeks I spent at home with Eliot went by in a flash, but it was also excruciatingly slow. It seemed like it too forever for him to feel solid and secure in my arms instead of the skinny little rag doll I brought home from the hospital. I spent my days staring down at his little face just willing him to smile at me. I rocked and bounced and nursed him to get him to happily nap. I struggled with balancing time spent holding my baby that I knew would be grown and uninterested in my snuggles before I am ready, with the need to pick up my house and take advantage of time off work to organize closets.

I could go on a long rant about our culture not taking care of new moms and not valuing the importance of babies being fully bonded into a family before leave balances are expired but it seems so worthless, as nobody really cares about those things, at least no one that can make a difference. I will try to focus on what I did get, and try to get past the bad feelings I have about what I am not getting. Just like I tell my children, you can’t have everything you want. I just wish I didn’t feel like I wasn’t getting what I need. And people wonder why postpartum depression is such a huge problem.

I can’t even get into all of the reasons that yesterday was such a horrible day for me, suffice it to say that handing over my sweet baby that I know isn’t going to take well to days without to me, was not the worst part of my morning. We have some real issues in our family that I don’t think it is fair to blog about, because it isn’t all my story to tell. I love my children, all of them, but sometimes I have to remind myself of that fact. It hurts to not always like the ones we love, and I am hurting badly.

So there. It’s not rosy and it’s my reality right now. Maybe I can follow up with a happier more grateful post later, but right now I am choking back the bitter taste of anger and sadness.

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I read an article yesterday that was about the nursing relationship between a mother and her baby. Any mom who has nursed a baby can tell yup that there is a very strong and unique bond. He tells my body what he needs and I provide for him. It is a beautiful thing, but it’s also hard. A lot of pressure on an exhausted, still recovering and stressed out mom.  I adore my baby, just as I did, and still do adore my big kids, but I am ready for this bond to start stretching a bit. I could really use a haircut and coloring. I would like to have the energy and time to put into healthier eating instead of making food choices bases on what I can eat with one hand.  I would like my body to finish up recovering so I can run.  I am trying hard to live in this moment, but I keep looking around my dirty house thinking about what I should be doing while I hold my baby and try to stay awake.  

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One More

Back in September I was in the best shape of my life and I when I found out that Cory and I would be welcoming one more little Coobs baby into our family.  I very smugly assumed that I would continue to work out and eat healthy throughout my pregnancy, which would be easy of course, based on my past two easy pregnancies.  As September came to a close, so did my career in Crossfit, as I hurt my back doing kettlebell swings.  No big deal, I would still have running to keep me on track.  As October rolled on, I did complete a relay run, but that was about that for me and running.  Every attempt to go for a run resulted in an evening of sore hips and pelvis.  By November, I gave up.  In many ways.  I was getting fat anyway, I couldn’t work out anyway, and so the downward spiral of my health set in.  I was lucky that the real problems didn’t start until after our family trip to Disney, at which point I found that I could no longer lift my legs independently, and so the act of putting on and taking off pants became the chore that swinging weights and running laps had once been.

Here I am, June 6th, the day that I had been scheduled for an induction had little Eliot not decided to come on his own. Bless his heart for ending my misery before the 42 week mark.  For that I will try to forget the last couple weeks of pregnancy where every night I went to bed wondering if these contractions were going to do the trick of sending me into real labor, or if they were just going to keep me awake and make going to work the next day a miserable experience.

On the night before Eliot was born I was feeling pretty desperate to have my baby.  I had cried to my doctor that day at my appointment, basically begging for an induction and I went home defeated.  I put on my running shoes, that had been neglected for months and decided to put the pain my pelvis aside and go for a long walk in the miserable afternoon heat.  This was a last effort on my part to force this baby out.  My walk was followed by a long bath and then a sudden shift in the pressure in my pelvis.  Something was going on, and I wasn’t sure what that something was.  I had told myself early on that I would not go to the hospital until I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand it, but times were desperate and if i could just get to a point where they would keep me and start pumping in the pitocin, I was going to see the end to this miserable pregnancy and the beginning of getting to know my baby and starting to work on getting myself back to myself.  I made a call to Labor and Delivery and when Cory came home from work we headed in to get checked out.  at about 7:00 the on call doctor checked my progress that showed that I had progressed from a 2-3 cm status at noon that day to a good 4 cm and that the baby had dropped down, which explained the shift in pressure that I had felt.  I was told to walk the halls for an hour and come back to see if any progress had been made, or if the results of the test indicating whether or not my water had broken had come back positive.  If either of those things were the case, I would earn my ticket to labor and delivery admission.

After an hour or so of walking I told Cory that I didn’t hold out much hope and we might as well go back and learn my fate.  To my surprise, I had progressed from 4 to a 5-6 cm and was told we were staying!

We got checked into our room at about 10:30 at night.  I told Cory that he should get some rest while he could and I decided to try to keep the progress moving by pacing the room.  At about 1:00 I decided to labor in the whirlpool tub. This had been the key to a comfortable drug free labor with Thea and I was sure that given my last labor, I could handle it again.  Again my smug certainty based on past experience proved me wrong.  Lets just skip ahead to 5:00 AM when my contractions had basically stopped and I had given up on the tub, as it was likely a bit too relaxing to keep my already lazy labor moving.  I had figured that by 5 I would have a baby, but as it turns out, 5:00 was the time that the doctor decided to break my water to get things moving again.  I was given a short deadline to make some progress or the pitocin would be started.  Pitocin is often the end of a natural labor so I was once again walking the halls to try to move things along.  In my broken water there was meconium detected, which was a small worry for all of us.  It meant extra doctors in the room for delivery in case the baby had adverse effects from the meconium.   After more walking and then some laboring in bed with the stronger contractions post water breakage I was fully effaced and 7-8 cm at 7 AM.  The next 4 and a half hours were the most miserable of my life.  I had natural childbirth with Thea, but my labor was half the time and I did not lose an entire nights sleep.  By about 10 AM I was crying and wondering if I would be able to survive.  11:30, it was finally time to push and I had never felt such relief as I did at that moment.  Eliot was born at 11:48 after a fast trip down the  birth canal.  I wasted no time getting him out of my body and as a result, he didn’t really get the squeeze to clear out the amniotic fluids that I new baby needs.  When my girls were born they were both plopped right onto my chest.  With Eliot, Cory was able to cut the chord and the Doctor passed him in front of my face so I could catch a glimpse of him, but he was wisked away and checked over before I got my hands on him.  After a quick trip down the hall to the Transitions nursery in the NICU Eliot began to cry like a newborn should and was brought back to me for my first opportunity to hold my baby BOY.  Cory and I were both a bit overwhelmed by the moment…and I had tears in my eyes as I inspected his sweet little face that resembled his Daddy so much, or his little hands…the exact miniatures of Cory’s large hands.  All of the miserable memories of pregnancy and the long and uncomfortable labor melted away as I looked down at my boy.  My last trip through labor and delivery was a fruitful one, and our family is completed with a sweet little prince.

For a week now I have woken up to his beautiful brown eyes looking over at me.  I know newborns don’t smile, but there is undoubtedly a feeling of love and happiness in his eyes as he peers at me and waits for his morning nursing session.  I could not be more in love with my one last baby, and my completed family.  As we begin the journey of the last first time, I am drinking in every moment.  Memorizing the way he smells, the sweet little baby faces he makes for me, the adorable way that he stretches his little body.  I am spending my days in the recliner, holding my sweet boy and cuddling him every moment that he will allow it.  One last time I have the honor of nursing a newborn baby from a tiny helpless being into a strong and chubby baby and I am enjoying every minute of it.

 

photo

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