Soft Spaces


Possibly my favorite children’s book is Angel in the Waters.  I received it as a shower gift when I was pregnant with Magoo, and I honestly thought it was creepy at first.  It’s about a baby in the womb who befriends his Guardian Angel.  Throughout his development, he starts to become more aware of all that is around him, and then eventually he is born.  Upon his birth, he gets confused because he realizes that Mom is a person when all along he had thought of her as a place.

It sounds weird, I know.

Just like Love You Forever though it grows on you if you have that unique mix of hormones and baby love.

Anyway, I was thinking about this about an hour ago.  Baby Tessie’s belly was hurting her a bit.  Usually when she is unhappy, I just nurse her and she is fine, but since it was heartburn, she didn’t want to nurse, and I didn’t think it was a good idea anyway.

And so I did the only other thing I know to calm her down.  I laid down with her on the bed, almost belly to belly.  She was all snug in her swaddle blanket, and she rested her little head on my chest.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  I watched as the tension eased out of her little body, and she drifted off into that gradual sleep in the way that only the newest of babies can do.

And I realized how much of me she was taking in.  She felt my body against her.  She heard my heartbeat.  She was inhaling me with every breath.  And I realized at that moment that I got to be a place to her again.  A source of comfort.  Home.  Peace.

And it’s moments like these that have always given me my greatest joy as a mother — the moments when I just get to be the something that soothes my girls and comforts them and brings them peace.

I think it’s perhaps that I’m always lacking in these things that I feel most honored to be them for my girls.  I’m often tense and anxious.  I lack peace quite frequently.  And when you are an adult, it’s not always easy to find equilibrium during those moments.  Reprieve doesn’t come easy.  But for a small child, especially a new baby, just a simple presence and a hug and maybe some kind words or soft music can restore that.

And I stand in awe of that gift – the gift of being able to give to someone else what you can’t always find yourself.  To heal the pain inside of yourself by easing it in another.  Of making the world of your child perfect if even for a moment.

Sometimes it feels so hard to make a difference in the world.  I guess it’s maybe for that reason that these moments are so special.  I can’t do a whole lot, but for these girls, what I have is sometimes enough.

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Overwhelmed about Labor

I love labor and delivery.  Those periods in my girls’ lives are some of my favorite.  Even though I always gave birth in a hospital, I remember those times as being intimate and peaceful and beautiful.

I get a bit protective about my labors.  I don’t want extra people there.  I’ve never even considered a doula because I’ve always wanted it to just be TJ, me, and any necessary medical personnel.  I had amazing experiences, so I never wanted anything to interfere with them.

But this also made me anxious.  It made me worry during the third trimester that things wouldn’t work out as planned.  That I would need a c section.  That I would never experience another one of those perfect birth moments.

And so I promised myself when I became pregnant with my fourth that I wouldn’t worry about labor and delivery.  If I need surgery, I would handle it in stride.  I would see it as just another way to bring my baby into the world.  I would find a way to make it beautiful.

And then I found out last week that my baby is oblique transverse, meaning she is lying at a diagonal.  And you can’t deliver a baby shoulder first.  It’s not one of those rare things or one of those things they just don’t think women are capable of doing.  The mom’s body is simply not made for it.

And so I started talking to my doctors.  They think I’m an ideal candidate for cephalic version which is where the doctor tries to manually flip the baby from the outside.  This doesn’t sound like a horrible option.  The problem with it though is that it is done on the day you are going to be induced, and at my hospital, they require you to have an epidural before it is attempted in case the cord prolapses and a c section is necessary.

I’m not a fan of completely sensation free childbirth.  I’m hoping the doctors would turn off the epidural after she would be flipped and I could go on with a normal induction.  But at this stage, I just don’t know.

And so then there is the option of other ways to flip her before we would get to that point.  My doctor told me about  So I’ve been trying those stretches to give her room to move.  And I spoke with a midwife at a natural birth location in my area and she hooked me up with a chiropractor who is supposedly amazing at flipping babies.  I see her on Tuesday right before my appointment with my high risk docs for my next ultrasound.

And that all leaves me here.  Right now.  Stuck in the complicated web of American obstetrics.

Because in some ways, I feel like I have very little control.  I see a regular ob and I see a perinatologist.  They make lots of decisions.  They have their idea of how things should be done.  And while I obviously have rights, a lot is also at their mercy.  And while I trust them and genuinely like them all, I also feel a need to be informed myself and make sure our interests are aligned.

And then there’s the other side of the coin, where I have most of the control.  It’s my body after all.  I can refuse medical procedures.  I can insist on things done differently.  I can seek out alternative or conjunctive care.

But the two schools operate differently.  High risk obstetrics and midwives don’t frequently have the same protocols or perspectives.  And you go out there into the world or into the internet, and you’ll meet as many perspectives as you meet people.

And I’m a people pleaser.  I usually do follow what I believe is best, but it isn’t without dragging around the shackles of everybody’s opinions to weigh me down.

And perhaps what all of this is showing me is just how divisive childbirth is as a topic.  We all like to say that women should be able to be informed and make the best decisions for themselves.  We believe all women deserve high quality care.  We believe we should respect the process of childbirth.

And yet, we really, really believe our way is the right way.  And we really do judge others based upon the choices they made.

Did they follow the doctor’s directions?  If so, why would they put themselves at the mercy of big medicine?  If not, why didn’t they do what is best for their baby?  Why didn’t they educate themselves and advocate for themselves?

In the end, women are kind of left to feel like all the outcomes rely on their choices while really having not that much control over the process.

I hope I don’t have to have surgery.  I hope I don’t need the version.  I hope (and pray!) that she gets into position on her own, I go into labor, and we pull this thing off without a hitch.  I hope to have another beautiful birth experience.  I hope it is empowering and peaceful.

But I also know that if I have surgery, I will feel guilty.  Not because surgery is a sign of weakness.  It’s not!  But because I feel like so many people will think that I failed them by not making the right choices.

And so I am sitting here with my head spinning and dozens of Google tabs open trying to make sense of things.

But Google won’t tell me the answers because the answers aren’t medical and they aren’t quantifiable.

The answer is that this is my husband’s and my baby, and this is my body, and we can make the decisions that work best for us.  And if that turns out to be a cesarean, then it is.  And if that turns out to be an all natural water birth in our local pond while howling ancient chants at the moon, then so be it.

If my decisions lead me to surgery, then I don’t want to feel ashamed about it.  I don’t want to feel judged.  And i don’t want to spend the last week of my pregnancy with my brain muddled by a million different opinions.

I’m intelligent, right?  I can make informed decisions, right?  And I can feel at peace with those decisions even if they are different from those of other people, right?

We need to make childbirth more holistic.  We need to stop it from the steady progression towards being overly pathologized.  We need for the medical establishment to make choices based on best outcomes rather than based on the threat of lawsuits.

But we need to respect women regardless of their choices and outcomes.  Because bringing a baby into the world is about a lot more than whether she or he enters it via a vagina or an incision.  It’s about nurturing that baby in the womb and then outside.  It’s about being a loving home.  It’s about sacrifice and self giving.  And from what I can tell, that can be launched equally well from a  bed, a pool, or a surgical suite.

But please do pray for me because while I am trying to accept all outcomes, I would still really like one last magical experience.

Ha!  And perhaps there’s my answer.  Instead of praying for what happens, perhaps I should start praying for the appropriate eyes from which to see my outcomes.  Because who cares what happens when half our reality is created in our minds anyway.

Good night my friends!

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Feels Like Home

It was the type of morning that I don’t particularly look forward to.  It was dark and rainy.  The little kids kept telling me that I was tricking them by telling them it was morning because it was so dark.  In between the taunts, they took minuscule bites of their breakfast making the meal last approximately 75 hours.

We finally got to the point where we were ready to leave, and my dog kept trying to run outside.  She’s terrified of storms, and she refused to let me walk her this morning, so all I can think is that she was trying to come with us to school.  Mommy has a new minivan, so there’s a strict no dogs rule inside of it at the moment.

We ran to the car in the pouring rain as century old houses don’t have attached garages, and we sat in the driveway for awhile as Magoo tried to get Mae bucked in her car seat from the back seat so I wouldn’t have to stand out in the downpour and do it.

And then it was time to go, and I looked in my rearview mirror, and I saw the most amazing three little girls grinning back at me.  The rain had made the whole morning an adventure for them and despite the lallygagging, for the most part everyone was listening and things were smooth and calm.  I turned on the windshield wipers and sat in the driveway for just a moment letting the storm wrap all around us as we stayed dry and cozy in our car in the driveway.

After we dropped them off at school, I turned on the radio, and “The Cowboy Song” by Garth Brooks came on the radio.  This was always one of my favorite songs.  I had the following lyrics from it in a picture frame on my desk in grad school.

“So when you see that cowboy, he’s not ragged by his choice.  He never meant to bow them legs or put that gravel in his voice.  He’s just chasing what he really loves and what’s burning in his soul.  Wishing to God that he’d been born a hundred years ago.”

It’s clearly not one of his most well known songs.  And my life has never even remotely resembled that of a cowboy.  And yet of all the lyrics of all his songs, this is the one that perhaps has spoken to me the most for many years.

You see, as an adult I never felt like I fit in.  I never felt like I was on the same wave length as the rest of the world.  I always felt out of place, and I always had a sneaking suspicion that perhaps I was more suited to life one hundred or even two hundred years ago.

I guess that I always felt that I was running myself ragged trying to live my kind of life in a modern kind of world.  The two just didn’t feel very compatible.

Outward, I didn’t look any different, but on the inside, I just felt like my pieces didn’t quite fit the modern puzzle.

And so when I heard those lyrics, my heart would flutter.  I would have an actual, visceral reaction.  They almost gave me a high.

And so when the song came on this morning, I was quite excited.  I hushed Mae in the backseat as I anticipated the words.

But then they came on, and I didn’t react the same way I had years ago.  They were still beautiful and perhaps universal, but they no longer seemed to fit me.

And I realized that perhaps for the first time as an adult, I feel like I fit.  I don’t feel out of place.  Yes, there are things that I would gladly steal from centuries past.  I think we would all do better if we lived more in communion with each other as opposed to parallel or even against each other.  But besides that, I feel like this life fits me.

Perhaps it’s just a product of being in my late thirties.  Perhaps we have paid some of the dues required to live life more on our own terms.  Or perhaps I have just found my niche.

I just know that for most of my life, when I would think about the future, I would look forward to it with anticipation.  I would look forward to more schooling or advancement in my career or a more authentic feeling career.

But these days, I’m just content where I am.  I’m happy with my little (or getting biggish!) family.  I’m happy using what little brainpower I have left over writing my words.  I miss helping others with their words, but I know the time to do that will come again.  And I love that my main goals in life right now are to seek peace and fulfillment and holiness while leading my family by example and by teaching.

My job right now is to literally make myself the best version that I can be so I can model that to my girls.  It’s to help mold and nurture the best little people that ever happened to me.  It’s to take my husband’s hand and move us all into the future with all its doubts and uncertainties and promises and wishes.

Life is full of ups and downs.  I’ve learned this the hard way just like we all do.  I just feel blessed right now to be in this phase of life with these people surrounded by the love and community we find all around us.

I pray that we all have moments and days and maybe even years like this.  Where life just feels right and we just seem to fit.

And since the title of this post just happens to be the title of our wedding song, I figured I would attach it for you all.  Complete with video from the movie, The Notebook.  Because as much as I might try to deny it, I really am just a sixteen year old girl at heart when it comes to movies.

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Election Despodancy

I don’t write about politics on here.  I think I might have written about something political once or twice.

I don’t really know why.  I guess part of me is afraid of sharing my views – afraid that people will reject them.  And I think it’s fairly certain that people will disagree with them because a) I am very passionate about them, b) I align with no particular political party, c) I’m very passionate about them.  Did I mention that already 😉

Eight years ago (and even moreso 12 years ago) I had a very clear idea of who I thought should run this country.  There was no ambiguity.  There were no questions.  There was no deliberation.  It was extremely clear.  I did not agree with the candidates on all issues, but to me, the better option was obvious.

But here’s the problem.

If you stay caught up on politics and if you believe that it really does matter and if you also believe in listening to both sides and weighing them carefully, then black and white starts to fade into grey.

We change.  We grow up; we evolve; we become, hopefully, more tolerant of ambiguity.  We look at other people’s opinions and consider their perspectives, and ultimately, some of what we believe will start to look different.

And that kind of sucks sometimes.

I remember sitting in a bookstore post 9/11 and reading a book of people’s quotes who agreed with me.  They were all so certain of the other side’s belief in their moral superiority.  I was certain in the other side’s belief in their moral superiority.  That’s all I ever heard – you are wrong and we are right.

And that pissed me off because in politics, there is no all right or all wrong when it comes to candidates.

But I remember being jealous of those on the other side.  I wanted their absolute conviction.  I was fairly convicted myself, but not on the level they were.  My convictions were intellectual.  They were emotional and moral as well, of course, and I still believe most of those positions are the moral choice.  But I didn’t have the absolute, dogmatic view that I was clearly in the right.

But now, over the past six years or so, some of my views have changed.  My views are more in line with those I believed had all the conviction.

But now I feel even more uncertainty.  Now I question even more.  And now I start to feel panicked and despondent.

What is a person to do?

In the end, I know who I won’t vote for.  And I know who I probably won’t vote for.  And which is which would probably be a toss up for anyone who knows me.

But it all makes me sad.  In a country the size of ours, with the talent and resources we have, with the intellect and passion and morality that shine forth every single day, why are we left to vote for two main candidates who almost nobody respects?

I thought I was going to share more specifics about my views of the candidates in here, but looking at it now, I don’t think I really want to.  I don’t think it’s necessary – I have nothing to say about them that hasn’t been said a thousand different ways.

I guess I’m just lamenting a world where being respectful isn’t a prerequisite for the highest office in the land.  Where character really doesn’t play a part.  Where candidates are forced to take specific stands on specific issues and we don’t really get any choices when it comes to any viewpoints that differ.

My girls aren’t allowed to watch either candidate speak.  I’m loath to think of what they might pick up from a single political speech much less a debate.

And that’s what gets me the most.  We do not have a candidate who I feel can speak for ten minutes without saying something disparaging about other people or groups of people.  I protect my children from politics just as I do from music and television with explicit messages and lyrics.

And I don’t think I’m odd in this.  I think many people feel this way.

And that’s our world.

Don’t we all deserve better?

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Well today, Labor Day, marks the end of the summer, and suddenly I felt the urge to write something about the impending end of us being a family of five.  I’m 35 weeks and 2 days today.  My earliest was born at 35 weeks and 5 days and my latest at 37 and a half weeks.  We could still have just under a month, but if that’s the case, this little missy would be the exception rather than the rule around here.

We took the girls to a park/farm this evening.  We had a picnic, they caught some Pokemon, and TJ chased them around the park for quite some time.  It was tiring and splendid.  It was the perfect way to end the summer.

I am getting really excited for this little one to come.  The more I get ready for her, and the more itty bitty outfits I organize (and organize again) the more real it becomes.

I remember this time during my first pregnancy.  It was late spring and the lilac tree outside of our living room window was in bloom.  There were tulips everywhere.  I would come home from work, TJ would grill, and I would sit in the rocking chair in her room and just stare at it all.

This is happening, I would think.  This is real.  One day, a very real little girl would be in my arms and our lives as parents would begin.

And now we get to do it for a fourth time.

Things are getting a bit better now, but for about 10 days there, life was a little bit painful with this little one.  Every step would send pain shooting through my legs and back and the contractions were getting stronger and stronger.  I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on.

And as I was groaning on my couch one evening, the miracle of it all struck me…

We had spent the majority of the years 2003-2007 trying to get pregnant.  I would cry before I would fall asleep, and I would dread waking up in the morning.  Things that I adored doing all of a sudden felt pointless.  I wanted a baby so desperately, and with each passing month, I was more and more sure that if we ever had a child at all that it wouldn’t be one that I would be able to feel growing inside of me.

I mourned that experience for many months turned into years.  It was a time of fear and uncertainty, hope and despair.

And then one random evening, the test turned positive, and everything changed.

That night was October 6, 2007.  And here I sit, September 5, 2016 waiting to welcome not my first but my fourth little girl into this world.

And I find myself trying to catch my breath whenever I think of that.  The blessings just seem too great, the gift too overwhelming to wrap my head around.

So I am sitting here in a flutter of excitement and nervousness.  The anticipation is starting to get to me.  And all I can feel is that I’m floating in a sea of bubbles composed of gratitude.

And my goodness does that sound corny, but are there any real words that can capture the blessings of our miracles?

Life will change in innumerable ways over the next couple of months.  TJ and I won’t be able to sit on a park bench relaxing while watching the girls run around.  We’ll be bounced back into the days of constant feedings and sleepless nights and round the clock doing.

But to be able to do all of that for all of these people is the greatest blessing of my life.

So many times people talk about children and the sacrifices they require.  People wonder why we possibly wanted to do this four times.  And all I can think is that the sacrifice is the joy.  We must dedicate our lives to something, so why not lay them at the feet of those we most adore?

I don’t know if it will be one day or one month from now, but soon I will get to hold my baby girl, and my heart will burst just like it did with her sisters.  I can’t wait for that moment.  But in the meantime, I guess I should rest.  Because one thing that times 1-3 taught me is that rest does not come easy to a new mama.

God bless you all, my friends!  Please pray for a safe entry into the world for my baby girl and a safe delivery for me.

Posted in joy, Motherhood | Comments Off on Transitions

These Kids Break My Heart

Today was Meet and Greet at my two older daughters’ school.  It’s always chaotic.  Of everything school related there is, nothing triggers my craziness like bringing 575 different school supplies to school and then trying to sort them into all their respective receptacles along with dozens of other kids and parents.  Oh, and I get to do this all while trying to stop the wee one from destroying things.

Fun stuff.

But as stressful as it is for me, it is very exciting for my girls, and I always try to stay cognizant of that.  I try to hide my level of overwhelm until we get into the car and I can silently shudder all the way home.

Today I got home and I had five minutes to kill before I had to turn around and take Magoo to softball.  So I spent that time looking through the photos I took and posting them to Facebook.

A little while later, I was sitting on the bleachers during practice, and I went through those pictures again.  This time, they almost took my breath away.

Because this is Goosie’s kindergarten year.  Her first year as a big kid, complete with lunch box, fancy nap mat, and more glue sticks than your typical kindergartener can count.  And I knew she was excited, and I knew Goosie excited gives a whole new meaning to the term, excitement.  But still… when I saw those pictures, I was overtaken by the sheer amount of joy in her face.

And it broke my heart.  And it brings tears to my eyes even as I type it.

And I don’t know why I feel this.  I don’t know why my proudest and happiest parenting moments are also sometimes tinged with the slightest bit of sadness.

But they are.

I think it has something to do with their excitement and their innocence.  It has to do with the joy that can only come through childhood.  It’s born of the knowledge that one day markers won’t excite them, and a brand new sharpened pencil from their teacher won’t make them giddy.

Like everything with parenting, these moments of pure joy are reminders that this time is fleeting.  It’s a snapshot.  A whiff.  A deep breath.

Things here today will be gone before we know it.  Times will change and they will change. And as much as I desperately wish I could build a shield and keep in all that is beautiful and innocent and childlike about them, I know that they are meant for the metamorphoses their lives with take them through.

So I might mourn a bit in these joyous times.  But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying them.  It just reminds me to hold on to the present.  And it reminds me that when your heart stretches beyond its known limits, it’s bound to hurt a little.  But that’s how it grows.

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Lost in a Panic Attack

I’ve read a lot about panic attacks.  The racing heart, the fast respirations, the feeling that one might be dying.

And when I do have a panic attack, I do get those first two symptoms.  In fact, I’ve been struggling with them for two days now.  I don’t think my heart rate has been anywhere near normal since yesterday morning, and I’ve been shaking since then as well.

And the physical symptoms suck.

But for me, at least, it’s the interplay of the psychological and the physical that creates this whole wonderful experience that I call panic.

I started out today in bed.  My youngest woke up and I took her downstairs and got something to eat.  But the what if questions started going through my head as I was waiting for the toaster to pop.  My brain was urging me to solve a problem that I don’t have all the information for right now.  And since I can’t solve it because I don’t know enough of the details, my brain decided that I must just think harder.  That if I think harder, something will come.

But you can’t think when you are shaking and your heart is pounding, so my anxiety convinced me that I needed to lie down.  If I lie down, then I can control my breathing and relax and then I will be able to obsess about it the issue more effectively.

So I listened as the obedient little anxiety prey that I am, and I lied down.  And I slowed my breathing for about two seconds, but then a car would drive by, or my AC would kick on, or I would actually think a thought about the current problem at hand, and then I would have difficulty breathing again.

And this continued for hours.

Finally I convinced myself to get out of bed which is not an easy task when the anxiety is screaming at me not to, and now I’m sitting in my living room doing the same thing.  Trying to calm my body so my anxiety can percolate more effectively in my brain.

My anxiety and every single (erroneous) instinct that I have tell me that this will help me.  That hidden somewhere in my brain is the answer and all I have to do is worry about it enough and I’ll find the answer.  A decade of therapy is trying to tell me that this is how anxiety perpetuates itself.  That the only real way to get over it is to actually not listen to it and its promises of peace and instead just accept that right now I cannot do anything about the issue, so I should focus on what is in front of me and what I can do and what I can control.

And here is where the battle plays out.  I would like to think my brain stands a chance against the emotional luring of anxiety.  I would like to think that I’m mentally strong enough, that I’ve learned so many hard won lessons, and that I deserve to find peace even in the midst of struggles.

But it’s hard to hear the whisper of hope in a stadium of jeering fears.

And as I sit here now, desperately trying to win the battle of peace, I’m reminded that life isn’t perfect.  The promise was never a smooth ride.  And challenges will always peer around every corner.

The trick isn’t to live a life without a thing to worry about.  That will leave us anxious and failing.  No, the trick is to find the peace amidst the suffering and the trials.  It’s to count what is right rather than what is wrong.  It’s to take challenges and find ways to overcome them rather than let them bury us.

And my anxiety never promised me a smooth ride.  No one ever said it would go away.  No one ever said it would come easy.  No one ever said the battle wouldn’t be a long one.

But I’ve also spent decades of my life trying to search for perfect circumstances so that I could experience the slightest modicum of peace.  And I turned up empty handed enough times to know that I deserve peace even in the middle of the chaos and commotion and hard times.

And then again this all feels like some kind of joke because just as I was talking myself down, I let my guard down, and within an instant I was back to trying to figure out eventualities and panicking at worst case scenarios.

But I’m not going to give up and I’m not going to give in to this anxiety.

And I have a house full of little girls.  And maybe one nice thing about having children is that even if I can’t give myself peace of mind, maybe I can make their little lives safe and warm and peaceful.

It sounds a lot more reasonable than making my own life that way at this moment.

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Today I Broke

And today I broke.

I just walked in my backdoor, closed the bathroom door, got in the shower, and started crying – that big, ugly, guttural cry that is so very unattractive and yet so very necessary at times.

There was nothing wrong.  Not really.  Nothing Earth shattering or life altering.

I’m just tired.

One of the aspects of parenting that gives it some of its beauty is the constancy of it.  There are no breaks.  There are no time outs.  There’s no punching out at the end of the day or taking a vacation.

And I love that.  I love the sacrifice it requires.  What better to take us out of ourselves and our own messes than the life and health and love of someone we helped to create?

And yet at times, I can feel like I’m drowning.

I don’t like saying it out loud.  It makes me feel like I’m whining or complaining, making my life out to be harder than most.

But deep down, that’s not what I feel like I am doing.  I feel like I am acknowledging and giving voice to the sometimes draining nature of it.

I’ve been thinking about self-donation a lot lately.  About how the love we have as a parent or a spouse is called to be sacrificial.  We are meant to give ourselves away as a gift.  We gain our fulness when we pass on pieces of ourselves to others.

And this is a beautiful thing.  I believe it’s the only way to really find true joy.

And yet sometimes, the giving can feel less like a donation and more like a seeping or a pillaging or a leeching.  We can stop feeling like we are consciously giving ourselves away and instead feel like something is being taken from us.

And I don’t believe this happens because of selfishness, or at least not fully because of selfishness.  I think, for many of us, this happens because we don’t fill ourselves up.  After all, we cannot give away that which we don’t have.  And lately, I haven’t had a lot to give.

I’ve been getting so angry with myself lately.  I’ve been cranky and irritable.  I lack patience.  I’m failing at what it is that I most want to do well.

And when I try to find patience or I try to pray for patience, the idea that keeps coming back to me is that I simply cannot give that which I don’t have.

And honestly, I don’t know how to fill myself up when there is almost no time to do such.

I’ve been so overwhelmed lately with responsibilities.  I can’t even take care of myself much less help others stay above water.  I’ve had to cancel the only dental appointment I’ve been able to make in years because they wouldn’t let my children come with.  We’ve been out of groceries, shopping only for days and moments at a time, because I can’t find the strength and patience to go to the grocery store for an hour with three little people who all run in different directions as soon as we get anywhere.  And I haven’t been out on a date with my husband in twenty months.  I’m ashamed of that last one.

I need a break.  I need a breather.  I need to be able to get my head above water if only for two breaths so that I can go back down beneath and pull others up with me.

I want to keep us all afloat.  I want to keep us safe and happy and peaceful.  But I find it so hard when I’m down there desperately kicking about trying to catch just one breath.

And I get that this is life.  This is what I happily signed up for, and this is what I wouldn’t hesitate one single moment to jump into again.  It’s my life, and it’s beautiful.  I just feel like sometimes we have to acknowledge the struggles if we want to be able to release some of the tension.

And that’s all I’m trying to do.  Again, I’m not trying to complain or moan about my very blessed life.  It’s just not real if we only share the good parts.  And some times I think it’s the struggles that unite us more than the joys.

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Messy Feelings

I’ve been sad lately.  Quite sad.  A lot of things, honestly, have been making me feel this way, but I haven’t had pretty words to dress the ideas up in, and so I’ve let them slide past.

Unfortunately, ideas and feelings never seem to slide past me too well.  If I don’t take them out and dig around in them a bit and get a tiny bit lost in them, they tend to fester.  I can use all of my wonderful coping strategies to get around them and live a normal life.  But then at night, in my dreams, they’ll come out.

Like most dreams, they don’t come out in the ways that I experience them when I’m awake.  Dreams seem to get the facts wrong but the themes right.  And so if I’m afraid of secrets, I’ll have secrets in my dreams.  If I’m afraid of loss, I’ll experience loss in my dream.  And if I’m afraid of hurting people I love, I will hurt them all, in all the ways, in all my dreams.

And while the details and characters in my dreams don’t reflect the details and characters in my daily life, the guilt lingers around for awhile after I wake up.  I might be dreaming that I’m a pregnant chain smoker in my dream, and I’ll wake up in a cold sweat and I’ll lie in bed, writhing in guilt for what seems like an eternity until I realize that it didn’t happen.  I didn’t, in fact, spend the evening sitting on top of a red barn in some field chain smoking Marlboros while talking to other farmers with my big old pregnant belly in the way.

In other words, I didn’t do what I dreamt that I did.  I can let the guilt go.  But by then, my adrenaline and cortisol are pumping, and the hill is an uphill one for the day.

And this is all incredibly draining.

And it’s incredibly absurd.  The things I dream could make top ten humorous lists if they didn’t make the fears I have of hurting those I love the most so acute and so painful.

But it’s not just the dreams that are making me sad.  After all, it’s not the dreams affecting the world; it’s the world affecting my dreams.

Every day I wake up and try as I may to stay away from the media, it seeps in.  And I see people dying.  And I see people protesting.  And I see many, many people using race and the police to make money through sensationalized stories and political influence.  And if this wasn’t enough to cause nightmares, I also feel personal indictment.

Where do I stand on these issues?  Are my opinions well informed or are they the product of insulated communities and privileges that I am barely even aware that I have?

Right and wrong is right and wrong, but sometimes situations and and systems have triggers and effects that are more complicated than pat answers.

And so I lie in bed and I think these things through, and the more I try to make sense of it all, the more lost I feel, and the more lost I feel, the more guilty I feel

And then I hear about politics.  And how do I possibly choose between one candidate who I believe has some of the most horrific positions in modern history on a handful of extremely important issues and another one who might say the right thing on those issues but who espouses such hatred and bigotry and close mindedness and ugliness that to vote for him seems to vote for a perpetuation and an exacerbation of all the evil that has been brought into the world since the very beginning of it all?

And then I look at my girls.  And they are so beautiful and kind and smart.  And I love every moment that I get to snuggle them and protect them and fill their hearts with warmth and love.  But parenting is a bittersweet journey, and for all the longing I feel to shelter and protect them, their hearts were born with a desire for this world created for them.  And they want to run out and explore it and make it their own.  And it’s their right and their privilege and their responsibility to do so.  And it’s my right and my privilege and my responsibility to watch them soar.  Even when all I want to do is pull them close and lock the doors and keep all the bad out and keep them in.

And then for every moment that I spend cherishing my kids and mourning the loss of their infancies, I’m reminded that these losses I feel are normal and healthy and God-given and God blessed.  And then I remember that the losses other mothers feel aren’t bittersweet.  They aren’t normal or healthy.  For some mothers, the losses are brutal and bitter and forever.

And I can’t reconcile those two things – my feelings of joy over my children that I hold close and the empty arms of mothers who can no longer do the same.

And I don’t know how to live in that world – a world that can hold so much pain and so much love, so much beauty and so much brutality all at the same time.

It’s enough to crush.

And so I use my coping strategies, and I become productive, and I get on with my days.

And then at the end of the day, I close my eyes and I dream and I’m back to the miasma my mind creates of light filled with darkness and love filled with hate, and I wake up in the morning breathless from the journey this life gives us.

So yes, I’ve been tired.  And I’ve been sad.  And I have no pretty words or easy lessons for it.

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The Slippery Slope of Anxiety

For pretty much my entire adult life, I remember living in fear.  And my greatest, sharpest, most all encompassing fear was of myself.  I was afraid of touching the world.  Both literally, figuratively, and any and all ways in between.

It started out that I was afraid of making a mistake.  That one was simple enough.  I could protect the world from that.  I was vigilant.  Hyper vigilant.  And I overthought and underacted and berated myself mercilessly for any perceived misstep I could find.

Then it grew.  And I became afraid of my words.  I was afraid of my words touching the world and damaging it in ways unfathomable.  I wasn’t really worried about my current words because I had silenced those in the name of protecting the innocents.  So I started worrying about past words.  I started to think of everything I had ever said to anyone that could end up causing harm.

Then, when I had cleansed my conscience of any of those errors, I decided that there must be more.  And so I started making up things that I maybe possibly could have said that could maybe possibly have hurt someone.  And then I atoned for those.

And I started feeling I was going mad.

Then it moved on to germs.  That’s where OCD gets many of us.  But I never fully fell into the germ stereotype of OCD.  I was terrified of touching people, or having anyone touch me, or having anyone touch anything of mine.  I still get a bit antsy at times when people enter my house.  But I wasn’t worried about getting contaminated.  I was worried about contaminating the world.  So while many people with OCD will sit around protecting themselves from perceived germs, I would spend hours researching symptoms in an attempt to protect anyone around me from any affliction I could have possibly contracted.

And then, never content, the OCD moved on, and I started to be afraid of my thoughts.  Intrusive thoughts suck.  It’s almost impossible to describe how terrifying it is to be terrified of your own thoughts, some of which you can control but many of which you can’t.  Afraid that my thoughts would get out there into the world and tarnish it and ruin it and destroy it.

And it’s hard to figure out where to go from there because once you are afraid of your thoughts, the OCD pretty much has you cornered.  You can get lost in it (which I did for quite some time,) or you can fight back.

I thank God every day that I was able to fight back and I was able to find adequate help in that fight.  That I had people on my side.  That I didn’t do it alone.

I would like to say that all of this is a thing of the past, but my weekly therapist bills and the prescription bottle in my cabinet will tell you that this is very much not the case.

But I am happy to say that it’s under control.  It’s manageable.  It very rarely any more consumes me.

But sometimes a worry will make its way in past my defenses.  And it will try to nestle.  And I’m slowly starting to see that once one nestles, it’s never alone.  There are always more with it.  And it’s really scary to know how quickly one little thought can open the flood gates and all of these years of anxieties and fears will come pouring out and threaten to consume me.

But I’m stronger now.  I understand my enemy better.  And I understand myself better.

Yes, in many ways I am still afraid to touch the world.  But the small little part of me that is hope holds strong.  It may be weak, but it’s defiant and persistent, and it says that I will not be silenced.

And my writing is that proof.  It’s proof to myself that I can go out into the world and I can touch the world.  I can allow myself to be seen and known and the world won’t crumble around me.

That’s what writing is most to me.  It’s proof that I can be exist.

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