how a little girl I never met is making me a better person.

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A little girl I never met is making me a better person.

She’s doing this through my best friend, who always inspires me to be a better person.

My friend is someone who knows how to be happy. It’s as natural to her as loving and serving and Science and being. She is deep in the way that is not always obvious because she doesn’t dwell in that space of shadows and monsters.

She doesn’t pretend the bad parts of life aren’t there, though. And that’s the thing. While the rest of us stand around arguing about who started what and who deserves the blame, this woman rolls up her sleeves and says, “What can I do to help?”

She’s a realist and an optimist. Which, I’m gonna tell you right now, is my favorite kind of person and everything I aspire to be.

So when she has something to say, I listen. Well, I do now anyway. When we were fifteen, I never listened to her even though she was always right. She’s patient with me though.

And as my friend celebrates the life and legacy of a young lady she knew, one who fought the bravest battle for most of her life, she shared with me this message in that young girl’s honor.

SEEK JOY.

Yes. Seek. Go find it. Don’t wait for it to show up.

But that’s hard, you say.

I know. Seek joy anyway.

Well, that’s probably easy for you to say…

Shhh. Don’t do that. Not here.

We attach so much fear and pain to joy. We resent people who seem to find it with minimal effort. We think they’re not paying attention to how insane the world around us is. We turn it into this thing we can’t metabolize because the thought that it can be taken away hurts too much. We haven’t earned it. We’re afraid. No, we’re terrified. Absolutely terrified. We’re exhausted. We have a million things to do and a million and one things we’re trying to be. Too much is out of our control.

Believe me, I know.

But I want to seek joy anyway.

Stubbornly. Aggressively even.

When people say, “You’re a fool. Life is hard.” I’ll say, “I know. That’s alright.”

Pain won’t spare me either way. So I choose beauty. I choose joy.

In every cobwebbed corner of every dark room of my life, I want to light a candle so that the shadows become part of the ambiance. I want to acknowledge that the darkness is there. I’m not stupid. But so is all this beauty.

And I don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

I don’t.

And neither do you.

 

 

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anticipate the waves.

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I might have shared this in some other capacity before. I can’t remember. But I wrote this over the summer. Enjoy.

 

 

“I just want to be bored.”

This is what I say to my husband as he helps me breathe through another panic attack. You know you’re wading in deep shit when boredom seems like Salvation.

He holds me close to him and gently reminds me that this is what happens when I try to numb a postnatal hormone fueled existential crisis moment with a cocktail of Facebook crazy talk and reruns of Supernatural.

He’s right and I tell him so.

He looks me in the eye and says, “You have to take better care of yourself.” I nod in agreement. “I will.”

“I’m serious. The world is full of bad stuff. Worrying yourself sick about it is not going to change that.”

This, of course, is something I already know but sometimes we need those reminders to interrupt anxiety.

I know that postpartum motherhood is a beautifully nuanced, delicate dance and I have to know the difference between necessary sacrifices and complete martyrdom.

I have to know that it’s one thing to keep up with laundry because I have a household to run even when I’m tired. But it’s a whole other thing to scrub the stove with an old toothbrush at six in the morning because I’ve lost my damn mind.

I have to be aware enough to call myself out on bizarre behaviors and unhealthy coping.

I have to be brave enough to face that sick feeling of dread that happens to people with anxiety disorders. Because I know that if I try to ignore or suppress that uncomfortable sensation, it will escalate into terror.

And sometimes it does that anyway.

But just like with labor contractions it’s always better if you don’t tense up.

Learn to anticipate the waves.

With grace.

Sometimes you open your mouth to scream and you swallow sea water.

Sometimes you take that deep breath in before you go under and push through quickly.

It’s painful either way. It can be empowering either way too.

And I’ve survived it every damn time.

 

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enthusiasm.

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When I sit down with a pen, words spill out of me that I didn’t know I was about to say.

I have no way of knowing what’s going to reach people. Sometimes I write something mostly for myself that I assume nobody will relate to and it turns out they do. Other times I have something important to say and it doesn’t really seem to land with anyone.

That is what makes writing exciting for me. And also a little intimidating.

I read somewhere that enthusiasm is a form of social courage. And I love that. I think it is much easier to be cynical. It’s more comfortable to find ways to make myself right and others wrong than it is to maintain my sense of wonder and mystery.

But, lucky for me, I’ve never been cool so I had no grace to fall from.

I just dove on in.

And as my body temperature adjusted to the water I learned that if you stick with enthusiasm long enough, it’s also a form of social liberation.

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yesterday I was ten.

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Somehow all three kids ended up in our bed last night and two of them peed on me.

With heavy eyes and slow movements, I went through the motions. I put the sheets in the washer. I changed my own clothes. I ran a bath for the little ones. I went about my morning routine. I got my oldest to school on time. Just barely. But we did it. When I made it back home and tried to unlock my front door with my automatic car key pod, I just stood there and laughed.

I had to laugh because I’m not playing house. This is real. My life is really happening. Every choice I make has a consequence. Every moment has the potential to become a memory. Nothing is wasted. It’s all magical. Even the boring stuff. Even the stressful.

Yesterday I was ten. I went to my dad’s every other weekend. I used sticky tack to cover my bedroom wall with photos of my friends. I had my own bathroom and I lit lavender candles and I pretended I was grown. I used face cream that someone gave to me. I remember it came in a green glass jar. I poured pickle juice in champagne glasses and borrowed my mom’s makeup. And I tried on womanhood. It fit in all the most awkward ways.

But when I would put my pretend womanhood on a shelf and go back to being a kid with bad dreams, my mom always left her door open just a crack so that I could feel safe again. I spent many a night on a soft palette, listening to the whirring of her fan and dreaming about my future.

I used to think I grew up too fast. But now I think I grew up just right. And I just keep on growing. I had enough freedom to make some mistakes but not so much freedom that I didn’t have a place to land.

I hope when my girls are older they can say the same thing. That they grew up just right and never stopped.

I hope I am their safe landing place.

But also the one who encourages them to fly.

 

 

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what my election year babies taught me about self care.

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I know the universe has a sense of humor because every time I’ve had a baby it’s been an election year.

So, every four years like clockwork, I get to absorb all the joy and cheer that abounds pre-election on top of healing my body and mind and nurturing my growing family.

Don’t worry I’m not going to talk politics here. I’m only mature enough to crack bad jokes about them on Facebook. If you want serious political talk, there are at least a million other blogs to satisfy your urges. But you’re on my blog, so we’re going to talk about me.

My postpartum experiences tend to be confusing and intense, to say the least. I have three kids, so I’ve picked up some skills along the way and I try to work Self Care like a full time job now.

It fascinates me (and terrifies me) how selfish we can be when we don’t take care of ourselves. I know for certain I am a better mom when I make my wellness a priority.

Self Care is more than bubble baths and yoga.

It’s about meeting my spiritual needs and being super honest with myself when I get a funky attitude.

It means being especially caring and loving and softer and quieter when anxiety kicks my ass.

It also means I have some pretty strict rules for myself. One of those is I don’t get to wallow in self-pity for very long. The other is that I can’t pretend I’m okay when I’m not.

If you think those rules sound conflicted, you’re right. I mean for them to be because it keeps me in line. It forces me to deal with my stuff. It makes me responsible for my own well-being.

It’s not a perfect art and I definitely have my moments, but I know that I’m way better off than I was in the past when I wasn’t paying any attention to my needs.  I was much more careless. I acted out in embarrassing ways. I said things to people I can never take back. I was always waiting for time to rescue me. And when it didn’t, I burned out.

I think it’s easy to find excuses not to be good to ourselves. The main one for moms is we don’t want to be selfish. I get that. I’m the same way. But, the thing is, the needs never really go anywhere, no matter how many excuses we stuff them under. They surface at our most vulnerable moments, making us bitter and resentful for all the unappreciated work we put in.

But it doesn’t always have to be an either/or thing.

Since I started this post three hours ago, I have had to put it on pause several times so that I could feed my baby, help my preschooler wipe, pick my oldest up from school, cook dinner, eat dinner with my family, feed my baby again and put her down for bed.

Ideally, I would sit down to write without interruption because it feeds my soul and I need it to understand my place in the world. Sometimes I get to have that precious time. Today was definitely not one of those days.

I could’ve thrown in the towel. I could’ve whined about how I never have time for myself. I could’ve given up on this project altogether because, y’all, it is hard sometimes to come up with meaningful content. It’s slightly harder when I have ten other things begging for my attention.

But I am committed to Soulful Simplicity and this mission of making room in my life for what is important.

I know I’m going to backslide. I know there are going to be days when I blow up because I just need a friggin minute to myself and please stop talking and touching me and asking for stuff for the love of all that is good and holy in this world. That’s an inevitable introverted mom thing. But I’m thinking I’ll have less of those moments if I continue to pay attention to how I spend my time and what I give my energy to.

I can’t really pinpoint the moment when I began to understand this so that I could heal and transform it. It was like one day I just woke up and I actually knew the person I saw in the mirror. And I knew I could never put her last again.

And it’s a damn good thing I felt that way too because a lot of things started to change about the way I related to the world. I needed to know I’d have my own back no matter what.

I don’t necessarily recommend having babies during political turmoil, but if it happens you may as well milk it for all the spiritual healing its worth. At four months postpartum, I am still trying to be gentle with myself. I know my limits and I have to constantly remind myself not to push past them, no matter what my pride says.

Motherhood is the gift that came with the personal growth that would’ve most likely happened anyway because I needed to grow. I was ready to shed old layers and really learn to take responsibility for my life. One messy moment at a time.

 

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for when the answers are far from simple.

 

Please enjoy this post by my friend, Ingrid Neil*.

She bravely shared these thoughts with me and gave me permission to share with you.

Her words are an exquisite reminder that hope is something nobody can take from us.

 

*name has been changed out of respect for her privacy.

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I have recently started therapy for assault and emotional abuse that has happened within my past. For the first time in my life, I have finally found the one professional who understands the way I think, the way I feel. She urges me to never feel bad for the way I feel, that I am a strong, beautiful and smart woman. Not a girl. A woman.

 

I want to gain my independence back, but, unfortunately, I am afraid that this may never happen. I will never be able to live on my own again, especially with a male landlord because I will always be cautious of what I say and always wondering if my being nice will give them the wrong impression that I wanted something more than a tenant/landlord relationship. Unfortunately, this experience is something that I experienced when I lived in my first apartment. I want to trust men who are my age and older without fearing that they want to use me. I want to be in love, but these walls are high. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have love in my heart, but I don’t give my heart freely.

 

So with this heart that is full of love, but inhibited by distrust, fear and hurt, I take these words that my therapist reminds me of every session, and make sure that I remember them. That I may have had a past where I have been used for my body, and my intelligence has been belittled and my emotions shoved aside, I am still a woman.

 

And I can do anything.

 

My strength may not be where I want it to be, and I may not be me anymore, but that is the thing. I am me. I have healthy goals of someday having a positive, loving, and trust filled relationship with someone who takes, but also gives as much as I take and give. An equality within a companion.

 

So with me, I keep hope, strength, friends who offer support of my journey and my healthy goals.

 

 

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confessions of a lukewarm feminist.

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I’m not sure what this says about me, but up until the other day I thought my peers were being a little dramatic about public breastfeeding. I know, I know. I’m sorry. But it’s the truth. I just didn’t think anyone really made a big deal about a woman feeding her baby in public.

It’s fair to mention here that I typically use a cover so (duh) no one has ever said anything to me. But I always assumed that if I ever went somewhere and forgot my nursing cover, I would be the only one uncomfortable in that situation. I figured that although people might not cheer and throw 1st place ribbons my way, they would at least graciously look away and let me do my business of feeding their future president.

Now, benefit of the doubt, I will admit that there could be numerous reasons this woman might have given me the meanest, most disgusted look imaginable when she pulled up next to me in that parking lot while I fed my angry ass kid cover-free.

Top Ten I came up with:

  1. My resting bitch face
  2. Her resting bitch face
  3. Global warming
  4. Maybe she was hungover
  5. Maybe she thought I was hungover
  6. This election year
  7. Last election year
  8. Nixon’s election year
  9. The KC Chief’s near shut-out in Pittsburgh
  10. Toxic algae in Lake Afton.

It could’ve been anything. But something about her attitude tells me that it wasn’t.

And, perhaps most importantly (and the point of this post), my first reaction was not anger or defensiveness. I know many of my friends reading this would’ve told the lady off.

But my first reaction was not to ask what her problem was. My first reaction was to ask what mine was.

My gut reaction, you guys, was to feel ashamed and apologetic; to figure out what I’m doing wrong; to do better next time.

She had teenage sons with her. I had some grace with that. I hoped she didn’t think I was trying to show off my boobs or something. I wanted to be like “Lady, I promise, I usually am a super modest person!”

And then I remembered something that Dr. Christiane Northrup said. “Do you ever notice how often women apologize?”

Women apologize all the time. Not so much in words, but in action and decorum. We self-correct. We restrain. We make our self-judgment fashionable and become exclusive. We use that to put down other women. And we call that having class.

We are embarrassed by our own emotions. We make fun of ourselves when we cry for no reason. We feel bad if we have an emotional outburst. We medicate ourselves to calm those waves. But we never really clean the oil spill in that ocean, do we?

We are forever explaining ourselves, lest anyone think we were seeking attention/feeling sorry for ourselves/being a bitch/etc.

And when we’re not apologizing, we’re mean spirited and aggressive. When we are finally fed up enough and completely done we make these big bold declarations about all the things we are that other women are not. And we call that feminism (not to be confused with actual feminism, mind you).

Now this is the part where I’m supposed to say I’m done apologizing for my femininity. That this constant internal struggle between being too sexy and not sexy enough is tired and archaic and I’m over it. That I’m not going to feel bad all the time for taking up space and being a woman who has kids to feed and bills to pay and a husband to love and a body to cherish, despite and also for its imperfections.

This is the part where I’m supposed to make my battle cry.

But I know this issue is deeper than that and bigger than me.

This Soulful Simplicity series is about letting go of spiritual clutter to make room for more of what matters. A huge part of that is dismantling ideas I had about myself and who I’m supposed to be; digging through the debris to find misplaced treasure; finding out why I feel the way I do about things.

That breastfeeding incident was mild. It could’ve easily been something I shrugged off. I almost did. But it opened up a bigger problem for me that I can’t ignore.

I have to laugh anytime someone says I’m a feminist. I mean, I suppose I am one. But only incidentally.

Only because I see myself as a fully capable person and I speak out against violence directed at women sometimes. I guess that makes me a feminist? Truthfully though, I don’t have any street cred. I don’t rally against the patriarchy. I don’t deserve the title.

I’m just a young woman with some ideas about respect, trying to get by in this world and raise three daughters in it.

And people actually call me a hardcore feminist. Ha!

We have a long way to go.

 

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