Friday, May 19, 2017

the wisdom of a ten year old

I’ve been having some enlightening conversations with my ten year old. The other day he said,
“Mom, the things people find to insult in other people are actually the things they wish to improve in the themselves.” Wow.

“Where do you learn all this stuff?’

“T.V.”

Huh. Points for TV.

More wisdom came from this ten year old fount...

“Mom, I am glad for the hard things I’ve gone through because they make me stronger.”

“Really? What do you mean by stronger?”

“They make me more powerful.”

I was pretty impressed and continued to inquire…. He let me know:
“When it’s happening I’m like ‘Why??!!’ But later I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s why.’”

Brilliant.

I could relate with the “Why??!!” right in the middle. And the, “Oh, that’s why,” afterwards. In all honesty, I would not trade the last eight years of suffering because it changed me. Pain changed me because my heart became one full of compassion.

I didn’t used to have a heart of compassion. I worked hard and pulled myself up by my bootstraps, and expected everyone else to do the same. And when they didn’t, I judged them. I just thought they were lazy and not trying hard enough if they couldn’t make their life happen. I had to learn. I had to learn that sometimes our life doesn't look like we want it to even when we're doing our very best. And that's okay.

And while the learning has been intensely painful, I wouldn’t trade the process. Now, because of the pain I felt, most of the time I can see into the pain of other people and give them grace.



Friday, May 12, 2017

a modicum of energy

I will own that it is easier to be happy when I have one modicum of energy. Which I didn’t have a few days ago. But let me tell you how I triumphed that day. I was kind to myself.

For the last many years of weariness, when what my body really needed was rest, I pushed harder. I pushed to my limit. Beyond my limit. And when I would finally collapse from bone-breaking exhaustion, I reprimanded myself.

“You suck,” I chastised.
“I know,” I replied.

As my deep fatigue morphed into debilitation, the voice in my head became crueler, more insistent.

“Look at you just lying there. There is too much to be done to lie in bed. Your worth is solely based on what you do, and what everyone thinks of what you do, and you are doing nothing, so you are clearly worthless. What if people knew? Hide.”

So I hid. What if people knew? Knew that I wasn’t doing?

Writing this down right now with the intent to share it, unmasking the times that I need to rest, is giving me the feeling of the beginning of a panic attack. But I will breathe deeply and press forward because it is important that I don’t hide anymore, and it is important that you know the end of the story….how I was kind to myself.

So let’s skip to the end.

A few days ago, after several nights of very poor sleep, I came home from dropping off my child at school, and… rested. I got super zen and said this to myself:

“Hey sweetheart, I see that you are really tired. Good job taking care of yourself.”

“Hey honey, I’m so proud of you for honoring your body by resting.”

“Sweetie, your body is going to heal because you are doing this important and worthwhile thing for yourself. Great job.”

The other loud, bossy voice, bold from long habit, tried to butt in. But I cut it off. Over and over I said these kind things to myself. Out loud. No matter how many times the voice interrupted, I returned to my kind words, like a mantra in a meditation. I said them during all the times I needed to rest, or take a break, or take a step back. I did what I could. And I didn’t do what I couldn’t do.

And instead of feeling like I was pond scum all day-- feeling worthless and like I needed to hide my miserable, glaring lack of value-- I felt tranquil. And a little bit delighted that I was so kind to myself.  At peace with the idea that today this was all I could do, recognizing that tomorrow was another day, and believing that perhaps that day I would feel a little better.

Can you feel the difference in those words? Worthless, miserable, ‘you suck’’ vs. honoring, kind, important, worthwhile, sweetie. Enormous difference. A rock-your-world difference when you’re saying them to yourself.

I allowed myself to rest. To reset. I honored my body. Without feeling guilty. Without feeling like a piece of trash. I just said, you will feel better later. And you will be able to do more. Right now, you need to rest. You’re okay. And it’s okay.

And it was.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

unweaving

I am genuinely happy. I have some good friends who really get my soul. I have a family that loves me. I care less about what other humans think about me.

My life is not perfect. I still have really bad days, sometimes. I still deal with physical pain, and the emotional baggage that comes with it, in particular the inability to do, which I think is the thing that turned my pain to hell. That was mostly because my sense of self worth was unequivocally linked to what I could accomplish, and by extension, what other humans thought of what I accomplished.

As my ability to accomplish lessened, the less others praised my accomplishments, and thus, the less I thought of myself. And this created agony. “I can’t do!” the madwoman inside screamed. Really what she was screaming was, “I can’t be! My sense of self does not exist outside of my ability to do. Therefore I am more than miserable. I am in agony.” I could hear her calling, wailing. I couldn’t hear her clarity, I could only hear, “I can’t do.” And I could feel her pain. So to appease her, I tried and tried to do more, even as I grew weaker in body, weaker in spirit, higher in pain. I tried and tried, because the tricky, woven in, pain in my heart was unbearable.

But as I am learning to unweave, I feel relief. As I care less about what others think about me, the madwoman’s pain is eased. As I hear her completely, and can pick apart the strands of her cries, she feels relief. And I feel relief.

And I know this sounds weird, especially after 8+ years of being miserable in physical pain, but presently, I am happy. I’m not happy in the middle of a pain spike. I’m crying then. But when the pain is at a manageable level, my heart feels really light. And I’m getting better at noticing when what I’m doing physically, or emotionally, is leading me towards a pain spike, or a bed day the next day, so I can ease off, honor my body and what it needs. Because the wailing woman inside me needs to wail less often now. I listened. I heard her. I honored her wisdom, and she is more at peace. Less mad, from being honored. And I’m just happy.

The the other weird part is that I can create, and be really productive, from a place of joy, instead of this driven place. “They run as if the whips of their masters are behind them,” says Legolas in Lord of the Rings (love!). That was me. Before. Before the pain. During most of the pain. But now-- it’s just different somehow. I was working so hard to prove that I wasn’t lazy, worthless. The harder it became to do anything, the harder I tried to prove that I wasn’t lazy by over extending almost every moment. So desperately trying to prove my worth to everyone. To myself. To the madwoman.

But now it’s just ok somehow. And I can create beautiful things, at an agreeable pace. Without the whip. Without making it so darn hard.

I have been thinking about this idea, in growing depth and intensity, for years. And I wonder now how I am changing. How the idea went from head to heart. I think the key, somehow, is caring less about what others think. And I’m not sure how that happened for me. Part of it was I just didn’t have the capability to run the hard race anymore. People kept asking me to do more, and when I couldn’t they stopped telling me that I was awesome. That was painful enough to crack me open and make me start examining what I really thought and felt, and I began to see that my worth was not based on what they thought about what I do. Later, I read in the book The Four Agreements (so worth reading!) that what other people think about you is all about them, not about you, and a big shift happened for me with that one. More recently, a friend said to me, “You just care so much about what people think,” pointing out that it was really running me. I knew she was right, was grateful that she said it, and was surprised it was so obvious. And I prayed that God would change my heart into a heart that loved, and didn’t care what people thought.

I’m not saying I’ve arrived, because I haven’t. But I am progressing. It feels different. It feels amazing, frankly.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Pelvic Pain Series: Part 2

We must understand the world around us, and so we make up stories.

People make up stories based on their own experience, on their own pain. I can’t tell you how many people have approached me over the years as I’ve sat in my camp chair in the aisle of some store... “Oh, do you have back pain?” or something similar.

Usually I’d just smile, give some non-descript answer, and they’d move on. Once, though, when I was really trying to get authentic, honest about my feelings, un-shamed. I opened my mouth in a bookstore. And told some brave friends about it.

Ok the craziest thing just happened! You know how I decided to stop lying and just say how I feel?...

I was in a book store. On the counter there was a little yellow book sitting face down. It said "you were meant for a joyful life". It was distinctly different from most of the store. I thought "that sounds like Brave Girls" and I turned it over and it was Melody Ross's book Choose Happy! http://my.bravegirlsclub.com/product/gift-book-choose-happy/  I started smiling. I felt like it was a little message just for me. Then the girl ringing me up asked me how I was doing. Usually I would respond something thoughtlessly positive. But I had decided not to do that, right? And here was a little yellow book giving me courage to not tell lies. And so I actually thought about how I felt and then said "a little tired, but happy". And I sat down in my chair. It was odd, and strangely elating.

She had seen me sitting earlier, and now asked, "do you have pain in your knees?" And RIGHT THERE AT THE COUNTER I SAID,

"No, I have pain in my pelvis."
Blink blink. This was almost an out of body experience for me. No lying, hedging, making up stories. I could tell she flinched inwardly, but then surprisingly she asked,
"How long have you had that?"
"About 7 years."
"Hm."

And that was it. I couldn't believe it. I'm driving home in wonder. I feel so unmasked somehow. And like a layer of shame has lifted from me. Why is talking about your pelvis not acceptable when you can talk about your knee or back or elbow or shoulder pain all day long without flinching? Why is my pelvis this dark, shameful, unspeakable part of my body?

I hardly know what to think about this experience-- that I chose social awkwardness over lies.


As I think back I remember feeling Soaring Freedom.
Freedom to speak my truth. “Yes, this is really what’s going on in my life. This is really how I feel.” To actually speak how I feel. Recognize how I feel. Feel how I feel. Honor how I feel. And make new choices. Smiling if I feel like smiling, rather than smiling to hide what I’m feeling.

Being Real Real Real. Instead of Fake Fake Fake and Hiding. When I am real I deepen into myself. And give others the permission to be Real.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Emergence

in this moment
my Wings touch the water as I fly
the chrysalis stretches and groans
Spent
as I Emerge

in this moment
i Sing
and Dance
and Wonder

in this moment
my heart re fibrilates
my soul re Anchors
and i Suck In Air
Stunned
and Free

in this moment
i begin again
and Weave the Precious Strands
of Agony
into Gold
with deft knowing fingers
though i've never done it before

i sleep the good sleep
i dream the good dream
i breathe the good Breath

and Laugh

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

liquified

I want to tell you about PainDay #1. I mentioned before that I was doing MomStuff that day. Like meals. After eating with the kiddos, or let’s call it post-tornado, there was infinite debris scattered on, around, and under the table. Every. Single. Time. Thus I found myself sweeping...infinitely.

But I really didn’t sweep just because it was a disaster. I swept because I lived in mortal fear that the other moms in the neighborhood might just drop by unannounced and SEE the table from the front door. I felt enough anxiety over this that every morning after breakfast, while one child peered through the window by the door, waiting, yearning, shouting, “The kids! The kids, Mom!” as the million children of the neighborhood emerged on their bicycles, I swept. Every day. I never said, “Ah, heck, I’ll just skip it, enjoy the morning with the kiddos, do it when I come back in.” I had to finish it first. I swept and swept and swept until it was done, while his little heart stuttered in its beating with anticipation.

PainDay #1 found me about the same morning routine, but with a bit of a twinge in my pelvis. Unusual, unplaceable. But I was unstoppable. After all, I had sweeping to do. As the morning progressed, the pain did too, until, at about 4:00 in the afternoon, when I was, you guessed it, sweeping...again... I thought, “Wow, this is just really bad. I just don’t think I can do this any more.” And I set down the broom. Never to pick it up again at that house.

It makes my heart ache to write about this. Because, sweeping? Really? Because, why didn’t I take care of myself when I was hurting? Because why didn’t I care what my body was saying to me? Because why did I care more about what the other moms all around me would think of an unswept floor, more than I cared about myself? Or my kids?

The inability to sweep was just the beginning of the humiliations to come. In the coming SurgeryDays the moms in my circle would do more than sweep. They cleaned everything. They made meals. They watched my kids. Some were incredibly compassionate and loving. Some were achingly, humiliatingly judgemental. But at that point, I couldn’t leave my bed, so there was nothing I could do about it.

I wanted to tell you about PainDay #1 because it is such a clear illustration of my past life, of my prior priorities, of the things I want to change about myself.

I want to listen to my body. I want to not care what other humans think about me. I want my kids to be more important than the floor.

I have been forced to slow it down. And though it has been, quite frankly, hell, there is a gift in that hell. The gift is unhideable awkwardness. The gift is inability to do. The gift is being forced to choose. The gift is learning to listen to my body. The gift is having to go inside. The gift is all my bones being liquefied in the chrysalis and coming out a butterfly.

Monday, May 1, 2017

choosing SuperMom

I’m drinking my son’s smoothie. Usually that grosses me out. But I decided to let it go this time because it was such a good one. I made it this morning for his breakfast and lunch, because he bit his tongue really hard last night and can’t chew anything. I threw a thermos of it into his backpack and baby-wiped his mouth at least once on the way to school while he spooned in the the other one from the cup. “Have a great day, make great choices, I love you” and kissed the top of his head as he dashed, careening up the front steps, attempting to avoid a tardy. I felt a little like SuperMom. Why? Because today I chose to.

Most of my MomLife I didn’t choose to. Now as I type, slurping smoothie on my front porch, I feel a little like SuperMom and Mr. Rogers combined, having just changed out of my stiff leather jacket and into a zip-up hoodie. I choose to feel like SuperMom. Not because the dishes are done, because they’re not. Not because there is not laundry to fold, because there is. Always. Not because the bathrooms are sparkly, because really, they could use a scrub. But because I choose to.

Part of wanting to create excellence in MomLife for me was because I just like things being done well. It brings me joy and exhilaration. But if I’m honest, there was always a little voice inside me, ever increasing in volume, gnawing at me to prove myself. Whispering that I wasn’t enough in MomLife. That all the girls who would have graduated along with me with all our gold stars would be on “career path” now and would be secretly judging me, thinking me less-than, for taking a walk on the stay-at-home-mom side of life. (I kind of think we should rebrand for accuracy-- something like “stay-in-the-car-mom” or “stay-at-Target-mom”...)

I worked harder and harder in MomLife to prove my valor to these invisible foes, who were really just my sisters doing the best they can just like me. I could hit Walmart for a grand, heaping pile of groceries, with a toddler in the cart, a baby on my hip and talking on the phone all at the same time. And prequel it with a trip to storytime at the library. These were the pre-Pain days, of course.

Even as the PainDays began, once I healed from the surgeries, I was up, albeit more slowly, still trying to prove my valor. Back to story time at the library, sometimes with my own chair. Enduring stares from the whisperers as I sat on my camp chair in the aisle of Target with little children all around me. Who does that? A highly motivated stay-at-Target-mom, that’s who.

But I could not validate myself. In pain. Out of pain. I was not enough. What I did was not enough. What I thought other people thought about what I did-- not enough. Ever, endless, non-validation.

Until I chose.

To even write this blog, I’ve had to choose that my life is valid. I choose to validate myself and what I do in the great wasteland of invalidation that is MomLife. Because honey, there are no gold stars here. (Though, to be honest, I have often secretly thought of making myself a gold star chart…) The only way to truly feel like SuperMom-- is to just claim it for myself. And weirdly, that actually works. For the first time, it works. And it works even when I’ve let go of so many commitments and obligations so that I can heal, meaning, I’m doing less than I was doing before. But with more joy and deliberateness.

And it was the only way I could choose healing. About a year ago, I committed (finally, good grief) that my health came first. Very first. For Reals. But the only way I could make that happen was to begin to let go of the validation from other people. All of those nameless, faceless, or named and faced, fellow humans that I believed had the time and energy to scrutinize my life and find me wanting, or not.

And the less and less I care about their validation, the happier I am. The more I get to choose SuperMom for me, even if nobody else happens to think so. It’s kind of Rad.