When I was a teenager, I had this dream every now and again.
In the dream, I would be walking along the grimy streets of Puerto Ayacucho, a small Venezuelan town.
Cars’d be whizzing by, horns honking, music thrumming; gusts of sultry South-American air would billow behind them and blow into my face.
I was always sweaty and tired, yet my arms would be swinging to the beat of my long strides, my head held high.
That is, until I noticed a strange sensation: the sweat wasn’t gluing any clothing to my body; instead, tickling and trickling, the wet beads were running unchecked down the curve of my waist, gathering speed as they rounded my hips and then petering out somewhere around my ankles.
And the dust! It was everywhere— in my belly button and under my armpits!
The dust, in fact, was in places it shouldn’t be, couldn’t be.
Unless, unless... oh horrors! Unless I wasn’t wearing any clothes!
And that is when I would look down and a horrible reality would overwhelm me: I was naked.
I was naked, and walking along the razor-edge of the busiest street in a populous little Venezuelan town.
I was naked, and striding confidently.
I was naked, and a long, long way from home. Yes, I was naked, and I still had miles to go before....a house and a room and clothes!
Then, to my surprise, it would occur to me that my nakedness was calling forth no honking horns, no squealing tires, no roars of laughter and nary a police siren.
I was naked, and no one cared.
In a city where catcalls and whistles were par for the course, my public nudity was completely ignored.
If you ask me, I’ll tell you I’m not good at vulnerability.
I don’t let people in, easy. I don’t share my weaknesses or my fears.
Sit me down across from you, interrogate me, and you’ll find me quickly changing the subject, cracking jokes, silly, or telling stories.
Ask me whether I’d rather be in a room full of people or at a table with a small group, and I’ll elect the room full of people every time. I don’t like to be the center of attention; I do like being in the middle of the muddle.
And yet. When I write, I write my heart.
I spill my fears, my desires, my secrets even, onto the page.
Then I share my writing, far and wide.
After that, I will be afraid.
Why, you say?
Well, it’s puzzling, really.
I guess I'm afraid of being completely vulnerable, aka walking naked down that street, and being ridiculed, or, worse yet, called a faker, an imposter (like, "you think you're okay looking? well you're not!" or, "why do you call yourself a writer? you're not even half good").
Yet, I’m equally afraid of being vulnerable, and then NOT being seen.
And I don’t totally get it myself, but my dream might help to explain it, because my horror at that dream was equal parts fear of being seen and fear of not being noticed at all.
Recently, in a Facebook group, a mom posted a picture of herself with her two children. In her caption, she admonished, “Love them for who they are, not for who you wish them to be."
Radical acceptance, I thought. That’s what that is.
Radical, as in fanatic, extreme, revolutionary.
Acceptance, as in, “The action or process of being received as adequate or suitable.”
And I realized, naked-teenage-me was really not so different from 39-year-old writer-me.
Because both have been searching for the same thing-radical acceptance.
Will we be seen without being judged, noticed without being mocked, heard without judgment, loved without expectation, the me's wonder?
But also, will we be seen? Like, if we put ourselves out there, will anyone even notice?
That is the question, really.
39-year-old me understands something teenage-me didn’t, though— radical acceptance? It begins with me.
And now, as the new year of 2021 unfolds, hard as shit is, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to make it a daily practice to radically accept myself, my spouse, my children, my circumstances and my friends.
Because radical acceptance, for me, means that I will accept who I am and what my life is. It means I will be open and real.
It means I will be happy being real, whether or not people see me, judge me, notice me or ignore me.
And here's how
1) I’m going to continue to use my writing-knife to slit my heart open, I’m going to bleed, and I’m not going to hide it. I’m going to be proud of myself for opening up, even if no one ever reads a word I write.
2) I will expect and accept the lies that assault me when I open up. I'm even going to name some of them here for all to see:
"That was a stupid thing to say.”
“You’re not very smart.”
“How could you give that advice when you’re such a mess yourself? Stop being such a hypocrite.”
“You are a fake; an imposter.”
“Stop trying to be someone you’re not.”
3) I’m going to look at myself in the body-length mirror hanging on the back of my bedroom closet each day, sometimes naked, sometimes not, and I’m going to tell that curvy body of mine “thank you”.
Thank you, biggish legs, for holding me up so sturdily.
Thank you, hips, for stretching out to birth those babes.
Thank you, long arms, for all the hard work you’ve accomplished, for the ways you’ve helped me love and hold.
Thank you, long nose, for the gift of scent.
Thank you, heart, for beating. I’ll take all you have left to give.
4) I always wish for more. More time. More friends. More money so I can travel. Instead of focusing on lack, though, I will choose to focus on what I have. To practice gratitude. To celebrate the little things.
5) I’m gonna bury all those expectations I have, for who my kids ought to be. I’m going to make it my joy and my purpose to discover, by listening, observing and sometimes playing, who they are.
What do they love?
What motivates them?
What questions are they asking?
Who are they becoming?
And I’m going to accept their answers, and leave it at that. I will allow blossoming without pressure and nurture courage without pushing.
6) With my spouse, my love, my friend, I’m going to love you, honey, for exactly who you are.
You don’t need to clean the house like I do; you don’t even need to have the exact same parenting style. I love when your opinions differ from mine. I know I'm not responsible for your happiness, neither are you, for mine.
Our love, our life, our relationship may look different than some, but I accept it, and, in fact, love it.
7) My friends. My friends are free to their opinions and life choices. They are free to blossom in their own ways; in fact, I hope my friends know they can be 100% who they are around me, wholly whole.
8) I will accept my inability to pull off events with anything close to perfection. When I see that Pinterest perfect birthday party you orchestrated, I will enjoy the beauty of it and be happy for you, but I will accept that, for me, parties will always be thrown together and a bit messy and full of big feelings and silly fun.
9) I will like me for me. I will accept that I may never completely “fit” perfectly anywhere, but that doesn’t exclude me from being part of a community.
In the words of Brene Brown, “True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
10) I will love the one life I have been given, and live it to the full. I may never have a perfectly organized house.
I may not be the minimalist I’d like to be, the homesteader I could imagine myself as, the world traveler I wish I could be.
But what I do have is a roof over my head, food to eat, a family to love and people to know and bless.
Also, I am privileged. I need to acknowledge that and set to work making this world a more just and fair place for everyone.
I know I am called to use my voice in big ways and in small ways. I refuse to hide behind my naked-dream fear anymore.
I want to end this post in a most edifying way: by sharing with you the best quotes I could find on nakedness.
“I love being naked. I’m a free spirit.”
-Alessandra Torresani of Big Bang Theory
“A thousand men can’t undress a naked man.”
“I do not trust people who do not love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
“It’s illegal to be naked.”
-Kanye West (I had to. I’m sorry.)
“My greatest moment of intimacy, was not when we took all our clothes off. But it was when you saw me at my most difficult state. Like how you witnessed the most unlovable parts of me. As I slowly unraveled each imperfection in front of you like a scar. And despite all of this, you loved me harder anyway.”
“I’m a little bit naked, but that’s okay.”
“Your naked body should only belong to those who fall in love with your naked soul.”
Now go out and live your life, bold, beautiful and oh so very naked.
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold it would be a merrier world.
I am a recovering natural health fanatic.
I have followed a “coffee and gum” diet. I have restricted calories and implemented intermittent fasting.
I have forced my family to follow the Gaps, Paleo and SCD diets.
And I know when you see me or my family, you will wonder at this. Why? Because we are a family made up of diverse body types, some thicker and some thinner.
I followed all these diets because diets and diet culture told me that…
If I was skinny, I would be acceptable. I would be listened to and deemed worthy. I would be pretty.
If I ate food with too many pesticides on it, I would get cancer.
If I ate food that was “processed”, I would get cancer.
If I ate too many carbs I would gain weight and have heart problems.
If I fed my neurodiverse son a low-carb diet, his neurodiversity would be “cured”.
My family was only acceptable if we looked a certain way.
If my children were “healthy” (aka slender), they wouldn’t be bullied.
If my children were “healthy” (aka slender), they would never hate their bodies like I did.
If our family fit into the overweight/obese category, we were doomed to suffer health problems.
If I fed my children too much sugar, they would suffer emotionally.
If I only fed my children “healthy” foods, then they would never like junk food.
Junk food and sugary candies were the epitome of evil and the cause of just about every known health problem in children.
In short, my journey into “healthy eating” culture involved three things: neurodiversity, health concerns and physical appearance.
There is a special kind of sorrow many parents of neurodiverse children walk through.
You see, the inception of a pregnancy long-awaited kindles a sort of imaginative hope.
A new person is coming into this world. Who will they be? What will they do? What sort of friends will they have? In what ways will they leave an imprint? What sort of good will they bring to this world?
Then the babe is born, that future hope embodied. And we parents become the ultimate oxymorons: active spectators, on the sidelines, but also essential to the game.
The neurotypical child figures out that game of life. Sure, they encounter bumps and get bruised, but the game itself both makes sense to them and holds space for them.
The neurodiverse child, on the other hand, finds this life-game to be at the least, agonizingly confusing and at the most, excruciatingly painful.
A playdate at the park? Too hot! Too loud! Too many kids! Too confusing! We have to leave within five minutes of arriving.
Nursery at church? Too terrifying. Too overwhelming. Not gonna happen.
Friends? They don’t make sense. They frighten.
Those parental dreams, the ones about having an ordinary life, about playdates and parks and fun? Well, they have to be let go of.
Everything will require modifications and methods, extra doses of love and patience.
Enter the diet promise: If you take these foods out of your child’s diet, here’s what will happen. They will advance emotionally and intellectually. They will be able to lead a normal life. How do we know this? Because these parents followed this diet and here are the miracles that happened with their children.
I was especially susceptible to this promise because I did not have any friends with neurodiverse children. I was lonely and oh-so-tired of the sometimes curious, sometimes outright hostile looks I received everywhere I went with my child.
So began years and years of on-again, off-again “autism” diets. I spent most of my days in the kitchen, cooking broths and meats, fake breads and pseudo-treats.
Every time we stopped eating according to the “diet”, usually because we were travelling, I noticed my neurodiverse child’s “symptoms” worsened. I used this as confirmation that our special diet was good and important.
Often, if my children didn’t like the “special” foods I cooked, they just wouldn’t eat. They were often tired and lethargic.
I was a homeschooling mom, and my children needed to be out playing with friends and exploring the world, but I was so tied to the kitchen and this miraculous diet that we were often no more than hermits.
I have always been a “moderately healthy” person.
I haven’t been hospitalized or in grave danger of death, but I have had some serious health struggles.
Childbirth was difficult and complicated for me. Suffice it to say, my husband is terrified of me ever becoming pregnant again.
I was sick for several years with a stomach virus that caused me to lose massive amounts of weight.
Later in life, I suffered extreme fatigue and weight gain, only to find I was on the verge of an autoimmune disorder, and in need of medication.
I tried to use special diets to cure my sicknesses. There are so many diets for autoimmune disorders and hypothyroidism. There are special diets for pregnancy and curing stomach ailments.
If you do even a moderate amount of “googling” you can find answers to just about any health problem, and piles of recipes and how-to’s for different “diets”.
I figured I could cure my health problems if I could just find the right diet and put my finger on the exact food that was causing my ailments.
Cancer is something I have always feared. If you do any dives into the “healthy eating” community, you will find there is a lot of talk about cancer cures and cancer causes. It all has to do with diet.
My oldest son also always feared cancer.
What irony, then, when, a few years ago, he was diagnosed with it.
Shortly after my son’s diagnosis, I received a letter from a friend. This friend exhorted me to understand the cause of my son’s cancer was the food I had been feeding him. The letter left me with the understanding that if I corrected my son’s diet, he would recover.
Somehow, in spite of my grief and terror, I saw right through this letter. I saw the fear underwriting everything, the desire for control.
Maybe it was because for most of my son’s life he had been on those diets that were supposed to cure or prevent cancer. And the diets hadn’t done shit to prevent the inevitable. Maybe it was because I was finally returning to common sense, looking for research to back the claims made by these miracle diets.
Cancer was the beginning of the end of “healthy eating” for me. Not only had diets done nothing to help me, but it was impossible to keep up with cooking special in the face of survival.
I recently had the opportunity to learn from certified Intuitive Eating Counselor Maria Scrimenti, who calls clean eating, “a type of eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa”.
Up until recently, I would have vehemently argued with this nomenclature. I would have told you that I was practicing “clean eating” in order to stay healthy and help with neurodiversity.
I would have said I loved my body while simultaneously scoffing at my reflection in the mirror.
I wouldn’t have told you that the reason I had been wearing the same clothes for years was that I had told myself I couldn’t have anything new until I reverted to a smaller sized body.
I wouldn’t have admitted how worried I was that people would judge my larger-bodied children.
I might’ve admitted that in college I drank coffee, chewed gum and ran three miles a day to maintain a slim body.
I may have even told you that I was okay with being sick or stressed since those things always thinned me out. (When I’m stressed, I don’t eat.)
I would never have confessed to you my anguish over the weight gain that had accompanied my autoimmune diagnosis and the hellishness of calorie restrictions and endless hiit workouts that did nothing to tip the scale lower.
I wouldn’t have told you how much it hurt to sit beside “fit” moms and have them look at me with disbelief when I mentioned that I liked to work out or told them that I, too, was a “clean eater”.
I may have told you that I was very careful with food purchases. You likely encountered this when you were at my house and I showed you my latest finds, reading off the labels. You would have noticed that I only purchased coconut sugar, did not drink cream in my coffee, and only cooked with avocado, coconut or olive oil. I would have admitted all of this to you, because this only showed I was health-conscious, not that I had an eating disorder.
Scrimenti explained to me that, “‘Clean eaters’ are highly nutrition conscious and may anguish over each food choice. They feel guilty for eating any food they perceive to be unhealthy. They scrutinize food labels and when they go out to eat, they have special orders and want to know exactly what is in their food. They take great pride in their interest in nutrition, to the point that it often becomes a sole part of their identity.”
What Changed my Mind
A few months ago, I took my son to a follow-up appointment after cancer.
For a little background, my son had not been allowed to walk for a year during his treatments. He had then received a new bone in his knee and been told by the surgeon he was not allowed to run or jump. It took a long time for him to get his mobility and his energy back.
When the doctor came into the room to discuss lab results, he began admonishing my son to exercise more and to eat healthy. He commented on my son’s weight disapprovingly. He went so far as to joke and say to him, “I can see you don’t have any issues with your appetite!”
My son came home with a lot of shame. He became obsessed with what his body looked like and didn’t want anyone to see him. He exercised daily and put himself on a restrictive diet.
We returned to oncology for another follow-up a few months later. Again, the doctors commented on his weight, and told him he needed to exercise and eat healthier.
My son’s obsession with food and appearance continued.
Simultaneously, another of my children, who previously had been incredibly social, was resistant to leaving the house and anxious about seeing people. After many conversations, I found that this child had been mocked openly in front of other children because of her body.
I was angry and upset. Somehow, in the midst of my daughter’s confession, an image of Lizzo popped into my mind. I showed my daughter pictures of Lizzo and we discussed how confident she was and how much she loved her body, just the way it was.
I began looking online for answers, and came across intuitive eating coaches, books, podcasts and groups. I was shocked by what I learned.
I had always valued skinny; I had always considered skinny people to be more intelligent, more disciplined and less lazy.
I had, though, run up against a brick wall when it came to my own ability to “lose weight”. I fed my children “healthy” and kept junk food out of our house, we only ate out once a week, and yet my children and I had bodies that were outside the norm.
I faced the hard truth that restricting my children’s food in the past might have slowed their metabolisms. Scrimenti explains that food restriction “... increases fat storage and slows metabolism. Putting your child on a diet sets them up for a lifetime of disordered eating.”
I realized how cult-like, overwhelming and indeed “dark” it had been to feed my children special diets. We had to stay in more so I could cook; without realizing it, I was avoiding groups of children and moms.
Not only that, but because many moms have their families on diets due to their own fears, most diet groups and gurus would blame you if you said a diet wasn’t working for you, shaming you, telling you you probably weren’t doing something right and to just try harder.
Diet and health groups were honestly like black holes, sucking in all ability to think logically or for yourself.
I was shocked to read multiple scientific studies which showed that, contrary to popular opinion, weight does not equal health.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Slowly, slowly, I am working through my disordered relationship with food.
I am embracing intuitive eating, which is really all about listening to our bodies and refusing to allow a restrictive mentality around food to dominate our lives or thinking.
After all, there’s not that much we can really do about our body size or shape. According to Dr. Lindo Bacon in their book Radical Belonging, "public health research into what affects our health finds that eating and exercise combined represent only about 10% of the overall impact of 'modifiable determinants' (things we can change, as opposed to genetics)."
Check out Maria Scrimenti’s blog and classes here: https://mariascrimenti.com/blog/5jakw259w107dlrhyl7ib58ir6fc81 and her facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/peacewfood.
I am embracing my body at the size it is. I bought myself new clothes. Sure, they may not be in the size I originally wanted, but I feel good in them. I am thanking my body for carrying me through this life, and nurturing it accordingly.
I am making my way through this wonderful, research-filled book: https://www.amazon.com/Diet-Eating-Should-Be-Easy-ebook/dp/B07C685Q6L.
I am having conversations with my children about them being more than their bodies, about how wonderful their bodies are, about how toxic people cannot accept others for who they are, but healthy people have no problem doing so.
I am feeding them well.
We are exploring new foods, expanding our pallets.
I am gathering resources and scripts to use with doctors. Scrimenti gives this advice to parents of different-bodied children: “... advocate for them at the doctor's office. Ask the doctor what they would recommend for a child in a thin body. Request that same treatment for your child.”
I found this helpful script: https://sunnysideupnutrition.com/a-letter-to-your-childs-doctor/, and am reading up on the Health at Every Size movement and book (https://www.amazon.com/Health-At-Every-Size-Surprising-ebook/dp/B003UBAWZY/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=health+at+every+size&qid=1607896056&s=digital-text&sr=1-1).
I will leave you with Scrimenti’s advice about recovering from an unhealthy relationship with food:
Firstly, it's hard to repair your relationship with food by yourself. There's so much misinformation out there and most people are going to need guidance and support as they heal. I recommend seeking out a qualified practitioner, especially if you're undoing decades of dieting. Consider joining an Intuitive Eating facebook group (like mine!) where you can find reliable resources and community. Secondly, unfollow or "mute" people on social media who post about weight loss, before/ after pictures, whole30, weight watchers, noom, myfitnesspal, optavia, macro counting, cleanses/ fasts, keto, beachbody, and anything else diet- culture related. This messaging is not supportive for a person recovering from disordered eating and will delay their recovery time. My advice to my clients is that they intentionally follow inclusive body positive, health at every size accounts. Thirdly, especially for those recovering from diets that were touted to be about natural health and healing... as you arrive at a more adaptive relationship with food, know that your health is likely not at risk as much as you might think. Diet culture makes us believe that nutrition is super high stakes. Sure, there is value in considering nutrition. However, nutrition is only one aspect of health. You are unlikely to suffer a nutrient deficiency by rejecting diets, even "natural, whole food diets". In fact, unrestricted eaters tend to have better nutrient intake than dieters. If natural health and healing is something you value, you can still incorporate aspects of that belief system into your lifestyle without it being extreme or interfering with a healthy relationship with food. Don't buy into diet culture's fear-mongering.
As the holiday season approaches, here’s what I have to say: Happy eating, friends! Enjoy!
These past weeks have been tough.
I wish I could say I was a really healthy, super disciplined person. The truth is, I fall somewhere close to the middle of the continuum between lazy, good-for-nothing and winner, winner, chicken dinner.
You see, I will be writing steadily, and then I will have these spurts of insight, of passion. I will heave myself out of the Swamp of Confusion and onto the mud-slick shores of, “I think I might possibly be heading somewhere.”
After which, I allow first life, and then thoughts, to drag me right back into that swamp.
Once I’m back in the Swamp of Confusion, all hell breaks loose. Some of that hell is mental, some of it is physical and then other little tidbits of it are spiritual and emotional.
Enough with this metaphor; I think I’ve juiced it dry.
Let me be more specific:
So this? This post? After so many moons absent?
This is me saying to that accusing voice, Fuck you!
It’s me owning what I’ve known all along: the margins of resistance in my heart, mind and soul, those are the places where I need to be. And for me, resistance happens most often when I’m writing, when I’m speaking my truth, when I’m cracking open the lid of my pinkish-colored, raw vulnerability.
Steven Pressfield warns, “How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumors and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip and compulsive cell-phone use, simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to?”
I am supposed to write. I know this.
And to do that, I must be honest, open and vulnerable. I must write both confessionally and ardently about the differences between who I am, who I want to be and who I’m actually becoming.
So here it is. A new beginning. Time to try again. To write, regularly and faithfully, and to write toward justice, goodness and hope.
I cannot commit to never failing. But I can commit to always trying again.
I cannot commit to getting everything right. But I can commit to being a good and humble learner.
I cannot promise I’ll always live out what I preach. But I can commit to using the sharp knife of truth to cut away the hypocrisy.
I cannot commit to never hearing shaming, silencing, warning voices in my head. But I can commit to calling bullshit on them.
These are really trying times, my friends.
If you’ve been similarly struggling, rise up, I say. Try again. Tomorrow’s a new day. Let's not allow failure to write our endings.
If you’re doing great and are super self-disciplined and successful, well, do you mind sending some of your magical blood, sweat and tears my way? I could really use the extra boost.
And now, in the words of my son at the heals of his chemo-wielding nurse, “Peace out!”
How many times?, I wonder.
How many times?, or, When will I ever be healthy enough to handle this?
Because, guys, I don’t do social media well. I just don’t.
I can either be feeling really really great about my life, hop on, and see someone whose good makes my great look inconsequential, or, I can be feeling like a gigantic piece of shit, hop on, and see what appear to be the put-together-lives of no less than ten friends.
A few days ago, my husband and I were chatting about the dilemma facing adults-seeking-real-friendship, and I mentioned we should create a find-a-friend version of Tinder.
“That’s what Facebook is for!” he said.
“No way, honey. Facebook is a modeling platform; not a friend-finding one.”
Please forgive my negativity, or ignore me altogether if this isn’t you, but damn!
My life isn’t hunky-dory glorious-beautiful, and yours sometimes really looks like it is.
The problem isn’t that you’re trying to make your life look better than mine, either.
The issue is that the one picture you or I post sums up only one small moment.
No way can a picture capture a whole day.
And life happens in long, knock-me-out, drag-me-down kinds of days, folks.
Ideas are good.
I’ve always been an idea person myself. They are really helpful, they are.
Fun is good too.
But we are all stuck in our houses right now, some of us more happily than others, but shut-ins we are.
House-bound people, whether doing life alone or in small droves, poop in their toilets at various times throughout the day.
And poop stinks.
Sometimes, the stench fills the entire house. It muddies the toilet water; it clouds the good.
Then, while we are choking on our family's collective stink, we open our beloved social media, and we see a picture, one that looks decidedly un-stinky.
Do they even poop?, we wonder. Ever?
Because I’m straining to see, but it looks to me like no one in that pic is holding their noses…
All silliness and sarcasm aside... Guys.
Some of you are so good at doing the things I suck at.
Like getting out into nature with your kids.
I really want to get out into nature...
Currently, however, I have one child who is terrified of bugs. And, as luck would have it, every time this child gathers her courage, chances out the door, she has a bad experience with a creepy crawly.
Some of you are doing this whole quarantine thing so creatively, with absolutely no tech. I’m amazed by you.
Not me. As a mom with no babysitter, I’ve come to appreciate tech.
It has its place in our house.
Some of you give the best parenting advice and the most stellar homeschool advice. I’ve always known this about you. And I love your wisdom.
Does it always work perfectly for you over there in your house, with your kids, though?
I’m happy for you. Truly.
It’s just that I’ve found sometimes the bestest advice doesn’t work for me over here, in this house.
After a while, I get kinda down and depressed. I shrink to half my size and my voice takes on a childish quality.
And I hate this, because it keeps me from living and loving like I want to.
So lean forward, friends, if you're at all like me; I want to tell you some things that have set me free.
There is never ever enough time in one day to do all the things.
I mean, by the time you’ve successfully mixed the right amount of glue with the exact right amount of contact solution, you’ve also hurriedly and simultaneously wiped zillions of little glue trickles off the floor and harriedly de-glued someone’s suspiciously clumpy hair, and you are completely and totally WIPED out.
Time to go play in your room guys. Enough projects for the day. We’re done.
I'm admitting right now, in front of everyone, I can't do it all. I just don't have that level of energy.
Now, where’s the wine?
Are you honestly telling me your kids don’t fight?
No way could I ever claim this.
No fucking way.
If we're all getting along, compromising, enjoying the day, someone's abrupt burp is sure to get on someone else's nerves and spoil the mood instantly.
The one perk of my kids’ nattering fighting is that it gets ME out of the house and into nature. Just saying.
You can’t expect all your kids to like all the same things.
They are unique little critters.
They like. They hate.
They do. They don’t.
It’s okay to do those separate little things that each kid likes with each kid, separately.
There is this myth of the perfect family that always does everything together, and likes it.
That’s not our family.
We are miles above mythical.
And by the way, while you’re hanging out with one kid at a time, it’s okay to let the other kids tear up the house, or even play a few video games.
Technology is a thing just like anything else.
Overdo it, and yes, everyone may develop a case of grouchiness.
Or, they may not.
Not all kids react to tech the same way.
Some grow up to be professional gamers and YouTube reviewers who lead surprisingly balanced lives.
Some young uns, cough cough, will be inspired to cook or learn history because of their love of the game.
Treat tech like any other hobby. No need to feel guilty about it.
It’s okay to need space.
It’s okay to go on long luxurious walks all by yourself.
You can even tell your spouse you need time alone. And by alone, I mean, "I’m going to close the door and stay in this room for the next few hours," alone.
Just because advice is good doesn’t mean it is good for you.
Your fam is unique, one-of-a-kind.
So are you.
So is your significant other
Yes, we should all be spending time working, playing, socializing, resting, learning, and exercising.
But that can look however it needs to look for you cocooned there within your own four walls.
Maybe it will be a day or two of rest followed by two days of learning followed by a day of exercise.
Maybe socializing-from-quarantine, for you, looks more like Marco Polo than Zoom.
Perhaps you’re in survival mode and it all just looks like survival.
It doesn’t have to be perfect or the same for everyone.
Simply ask yourself...
Are my kids happy? Why and why not?
Am I happy? Why? Why not?
What are my values?
What are my kids’ values?
Do I agree or disagree with them?
Why or why not?
How then shall we live in this one imperfect house so as not to kill one another? Good. Then that is how we shall live.
If you find yourself getting upset when you take social media excursions, like I do, will do, and have done, now’s the time for some introspection.
Why am I upset by this post or that picture?
What unspoken rules am I trying to follow?
Do I agree with those rules? Why or why not?
Do I have a list of good resources to go to to find answers to the questions I have?
Am I judging someone else, either for being too put together or for being too strict or not strict enough?
What does that say about me?
What pain am I trying to heal with judgements’ ineffective balm?
You have permission to ignore all the ideas, mine or anyone else’s.
Go ahead and give yourself permission.
It’s okay to cry a little.
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed.
In the voice of Elsa, “Let it go…”.
I value freedom, guys. Can you tell?
These are weird, hard times. And we gotta survive.
Some of us are extremely privileged middle class folk, though we’re not above job loss and pay cuts.
We really ought to stop trying to be so perfect (or at least I do) and start looking at the very real needs around us.
There are those among us facing job loss and financial ruin.
Some are struggling to find new ways to make ends meet.
This means that right now we will not be perfect parents, lovers or friends.
Because, food. #priorities
Some among us are facing a multitude of crises, piled atop each other like shitty scoops of ice cream: illness, death, tornadoes, etc.
I can’t even imagine.
These are the times to let go of all the rules and the learning opportunities and the projects and to-do’s and just live and love the best we can.
Let your kids eat ice cream for breakfast and veg in front of the tv all day if that’s what helps you get through this.
If that does not help you and yours, then stick to a routine.
You do you.
Do what you gotta do.
All right, now, rant over.
Now I need to take a dump.
Three years ago, if you would have told me my son would soon be diagnosed with a dangerous form of cancer, I would have…
Just to name a few...
But that cancer, it morphed and grew right here, in our own house, beneath our collective naive nostrils.
When the diagnosis came, it was the last thing we ever expected.
And honestly, there is nothing we could have done to prepare ourselves for it.
We simply had to walk through it.
I remember wishing it all away, wondering, hoping that maybe, maybe it was all just a nightmare.
Yet, we had to wake each day and face reality's glare.
And, we survived.
Have we been traumatized? Yes.
Do we now live in fear of the next bad thing that will happen? You bet.
I would never want anyone to trivialize, sugar-coat, or glaze over our experience: “but look at how you’ve grown,” or “at least xyz didn’t happen”.
That would suck; it would not help...
What I am amazed by, though, is that we DID walk through hell.
You see, shit happens.
You cannot stop it.
“You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it... "oh no!", you have to go through it!”
We all fear lots of things.
And I think, beneath it all, what we all really fear is death.
Some of us dread the finality of it.
Some imagine walking through the suffering and the grieving involved and do everything they can never to go there.
Most all of us fear the witnessing of death, from either the side or the front lines.
And now friends, we are facing an unexpected sickness that is spreading faster than wildfire.
We cannot predict who will become sick when, for how long, or how severely.
We are frantically clearing shelves in grocery stores, hoarding resources and fretting over the news.
And the news?
How sweetly it alerts us to every new death.
How thoughtfully it stirs up new fears within us, ones we had not yet imagined, like “Will the internet break, since everyone is now working from home?”
And guys? We are scared.
We are the generations nurtured on sci-fi and fantasy, the children who imagined zombie apocalypses and planets ruled by apes.
The empty grocery store shelves, those people wearing face masks garbed in hazmat suits standing precariously in empty subways? These images conjure fear, fear and more fear.
We are scared, yes.
But I want us to remember.
I want us to know.
We stand on the backs of our ancestors, ones who weathered plagues and wars, who survived holocausts and depressions.
Shit is happening again, just like it has so many times past.
We didn’t have time to prepare for it, and we don’t know how bad it will get.
But here’s the truth: we really can’t control shit. Not any of it.
We cannot control the invisible. Not at this time anyways.
And we, the collective world community, WILL PASS THROUGH. We will see the other side.
One day, our children’s children will read all about it in their history books.
“My grandma told me about that,” they will exclaim.
Now that we have settled that, what do we wish to be remembered for, when the proverbial storm has passed?
How we protected ourselves at all costs?
Anger and vitriol, the spreading of lies and rumors, frosting shit with shit?
Or, how about as... the people who pulled through, they who were resilient?
They who stolidly accepted life for what it was and dug deep for the courage to do the right thing, the loving thing?
Because there really is only one element in all of this we can control, and that is our own thoughts, words, attitudes and actions.
And when you stop, take that deep accepting breath, you will see the single mother struggling to feed her kids, suddenly without a job or school lunches, the horrendous endless suffering in Syria-what will those families do if they contract the virus?-, or, heaven forbid, the lonely death of an elderly man or woman.
We have a job to do still, friends, in this world God loves.
Let’s focus on controlling that-which-we-can-control, and leave the rest to rest.
Are you a yes person?
I certainly am.
On a healthy level, I’m an optimist, and my kiddos certainly don’t complain about my yes-ness.
On a not-so-healthy level, though, saying yes has become a way to keep the unhealthy people in my life happy. You see, I hate conflict; saying yes has felt like a solid way to avoid all that complicated shit.
Also, have you ever noticed, when faced with a decision, there are usually a myriad of choices? And when various choices are presented, my FOMO kicks in, big time.
In college, if there were two events scheduled at the same time, I didn’t say “no” to either; I merely left one event early and arrived at the next one late. Missing out was not optional.
Even as I write these words, I see how egocentric this yes-habit has been.
Looking back, I notice that saying “yes” was also an intrinsic element of my spiritual DNA.
Recently, I was visiting with a person who was raised Mormon. He mentioned that if someone held a gun to his head and said, “Choose, Christianity or Mormonism?”, he would pick Mormonism. His reason? Mormons are genuinely “nice” people, but Christians, in his experience, are two-faced.
Saying yes to everything made me flat as paper and, yes, it also made me two-faced.
Because deep down, I had likes and dislikes, and there were certainly people I ought to have said no to but didn’t (usually because I was trying to be kind and loving).
Eventually, I tightened the lid on my container of flatulent no’s and gassy tempers so much it would all quite suddenly, and nastily, erupt. This came as a surprise to everyone, myself included, because I was supposedly such a “nice person”.
Two-faced? You betcha.
In my current favorite self-help book, lovingly deemed the “fuck book”, Mark Manson says, “...we need to reject something. Otherwise, we stand for nothing. If nothing is better or more desirable than anything else, then we are empty and our life is meaningless. We are without values and therefore live our life without any purpose.”
“We need to reject something.”
I recently said yes to lots of things that weren’t in line with my true passions. And some of those things have been “good”, bringing extra income into our household.
Yet, there’s something we don’t always realize about increasing our cash flow— living just to make money may cost us time, energy, relationships, and sometimes, even our dearest values.
I have been feeling as though a part of me had died, or at least was comatose, these past few months.
Now, I am looking through all the “yes’s” I made which led up to this point: Do they line up behind my core values? Do they lead me closer to being who I want to be?
I am sorting decisions, putting lots of crusty old “yes’s” in the “I-don’t-give-a-fuck-anymore” pile.
In my relationships, I am removing the sticky tape from my lips, voicing all my “no’s” and “I don’t want to’s”.
I am outlining myself in reddish-no’s: “...if we reject nothing…, we essentially have no identity at all.” (Mark Manson)
As I’ve been voicing my vehement no’s, I’ve been struck by how afraid I am of some sort of vitriolic anger or ugly retaliation from the people I am saying no to.
I’m not sure why this is. It just is.
Maybe it’s because of entitlement, I don’t know.
“The desire to avoid rejection at all costs, to avoid confrontation and conflict, the desire to attempt to accept everything equally and to make everything cohere and harmonize, is a deep and subtle form of entitlement.” Why? “Entitled people...feel as though they deserve to feel great all the time, avoid rejecting anything because doing so might make them or someone else feel bad.” (Manson)
Whatever the reason, I see now how my refusal to say no in the past has hurt both others and myself.
I am becoming a yes person to freedom, to healthy, spirited living.
And, yes, for me, that often means letting out some big ol’ lusty “No's!”.
It’s been a while, I know, since I’ve written a post.
There are many reasons for this, chief among them being that my son had yet another surgery and the Christmas season is busy.
Another reason is that I still feel as though I am trying to really dig in and find my voice for this blog: Who am I, and what am I about? Who am I writing "stuff" for?
And, what’s the point of writing on a blog in 2019 when most everyone feels far too busy to be reading articles?
The voice-for-this-blog dilemma is a microcosm of my current life.
Who am I? What is my purpose in this world? Am I living my best life?
These are questions I have been wrestling too, which have also stalled my writing.
I am one of those people who can envision myself in a variety of careers, wearing a variety of different hats.
In other words, I have a great imagination.
When I was a child, I had endless ideas.
I remember exploring a new career each day (usually one employing creativity), imagining myself becoming “great” in that area. Then, I would either become bored or disillusioned with my lack of natural talent, and move on to exploring a new idea for future-me.
I always dreamed of being great and making an impression on this world.
I also love children.
I love being a mother.
I have loved playing with my babies and watching them morph into tiny human beings.
Lately I feel as though I am straddling an imaginary line between the small beautiful world of my own little family and the great big world of possibility.
Children do not choose to come into this world. They are much smaller than us and ridiculously powerless. They grow and change every single day.
I am not sorry I have focused on my children for these years of their young childhoods. I believe I will never regret this choice.
Now that the little ones are getting bigger and more independent, I have this burning desire to figure out what I want to do with myself, though.
I want to inspire my children by working hard at something.
I want them to see that men and women can wear many different hats throughout their lifetimes.
I want them to see that choosing themselves and choosing their children are not mutually exclusive: different phases of life might require more of a focus on one or the other, but everyone in a family (as in life) is equally valuable.
I know I am rambling here…but can you empathize?
A few months ago, I decided I wanted to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree. Returning to the classroom as a teacher is not something I want to do, though I loved my years of teaching.
After exploring my options, I have tentatively landed on a master’s degree in applied anthropology.
I have always been fascinated by culture, and I also have a heart to help the immigrant and the marginalized, which applied anthropology would give me excellent tools for.
While I am literally clawing at the starting gate, other pressing matters have reared their heads: I don’t want a bunch of debt when I’m finished getting a degree, my family could currently use some extra income, and I have to take the GRE, which I won’t finish on time for next fall.
Following that thread of reasoning has led me to the decision to build a business teaching online and writing curriculum for fellow homeschool parents.
Sometimes I get excited about all of these "things" I want to do.
My husband, thankfully, believes in our equal partnership and will be there for our kids as I become busier.
Other times, doubt makes an appearance, warning and condemning me to failure.
How will I find the time to do all this?
What if I spend lots of precious time trying to build a biz, and then it all falls apart?
What if going to school “takes me away” from my ever-evolving children too much?
What if our family can’t handle all the stress this will bring?
What if my son’s cancer returns or another one of us gets sick or something costly in our house falls apart?
But I know I have to proceed, one step at a time, making the most of every moment as I go along.
What is my point in writing this post?
First, to say to other friends who are looking at big changes in their lives, "I'm right there with you".
But also just to process where I’m at and why, and to say I will absolutely keep blogging...it may be sporadic, but even if no one’s reading, at least I’m getting in some great writing practice.
And eventually, I think I will begin to iron out what my voice in life and on this blog is, as well as my purpose.
To anyone out there reading these posts, thank you for hangin’ in there with me.
If you don’t mind adventure, incongruence and wild random thoughts on life that connect in strange or surprising ways, then definitely stick around, ha!
Finally, Merry Christmas to all.
If you are feeling more heartache than joy this week, I get it. Just know that you are not alone; reach out to others, let them carry hope's torch for now, know you are deeply deeply loved.
Hey, you. I'm glad you dropped by...
I'm a busy mom of three asking hard questions about my faith.