Lest You Think I Have My Sh*t Together

I feel like the theme of last week was the emotional version of what it feels like to walk on ice. You start out gingerly, slowly gaining a bit of speed…then BAM! Feet fly out from under you and you’re flat on your tush. Every time. Disoriented, you get up and start moving again – with a little more knowledge of the process – but still sore from the learning.

Last week wasn’t a bad week but it was a hard one. Lila switched daycare rooms, and while day one went off without a hitch (yes, she slept on the magical baby cots), days two through five were less good. Each day started with her losing her mind screaming as I tried to leave. The kind of screams where I furtively duck out of her room because the entire building can hear “that baby.” It’s a natural phase and it won’t last forever, but it kind of makes me feel like garbage to walk away from my screaming child. I choose to work, and I like to work. Some days I feel like Super Mom; others I want to cry under my desk and eat Rolos because it all feels terrible.

It was just a week of small struggles. Getting to daycare and realizing Lila has one shoe on. Getting to work and realizing my lunch is on the kichen counter and there’s somehow black grease all over my skirt. Driving across town for meetings before learning they were cancelled. Leaving extra early to get the baby’s medicine, only to realize your local Walgreen’s doesn’t open until 8, because of course. Small stuff, just stuff.

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Sometimes I think about the different views people get into my life, based on the snippets that are visible to them. Not in the sense that I’m censoring things, but purely as a matter of timing. In the midst of last week I got a few messages from friends with unexpected compliments or kind words. And I kind of felt like a fraud accepting them. And wanted to respond, “Heyyyy if you saw what was actually happening in my life at this very moment, you’d eat those words.” Says the mom who just watched her child fingerpaint the kitchen floor with vomit.

I almost felt defensive about not wanting people to think I had my act together, or that it ever feels easy for me. Not in a self-deprecating way – I just don’t think it’s fair to let anyone else think that my life is easier or better. We all struggle with our own stuff everyday. No one’s doing it better than anyone else.

I was exchanging messages with a friend about some of this and the other things we struggle with as women. Little things and big things. Body image, messy houses, time management (there really aren’t enough hours in the day, we know this). Nothing extraordinary, but things I think a lot of us worry we’re battling alone. And it’s not that misery loves company, but there’s something amazing in knowing that whatever you’re struggling with has happened to others. It makes you realize that: a) you’re not alone, or unusual for what you’re experiencing, and b) it gets better.

I was wowed again at how often the most reassuring words in the world are some variation of “me too.”

My friend explained her son went through the exact same stage with daycare, and that he’s fine now. And that I’m doing ok. She also reminded me that behind every challenge we pass, there’s usually another waiting in the wings, but just knowing others are making it is so powerful.

If you’ve ever run a race and wanted to quit toward the end, but then saw the folks who finished before you on the sidelines cheering you on – it’s that kind of goosebump feeling. We’re all in this together.

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The balancing act 

I think balance is the name of the game I struggle with the most in life. I tend to be a lover of structure — not in the sense of having a spotless home or color-coded calendar — but in terms of how I seek to understand things. If X is right, then Y is wrong. I’m open minded on most issues, but setting parameters in my own life helps me feel like I know what I need to do to succeed. 

Take money for example. I’m a saver, through and through. I’m not over the top (although my husband might disagree), but I worry about financial stability a great deal. Despite the fact that we are in great shape and blessed with a comfortable lifestyle. Despite the fact that we have lots of savings as a cushion. Despite the fact that friends and family would undoubtedly help us out if we needed it in an emergency. I know ALL these things, but sometimes it’s hard to treat myself to a nice haircut or new clothes, because there are more responsible things to do with the money. 

I’m expertly skilled at defying logic to find ways to worry. This comes into play with my health, too. I work out almost everyday and make healthy food choices the majority of the time. Yet when I see someone ordering a salad when I got a burger, I will often question my decision. 

It’s enough to drive you mad, the “shoulds” and the analyzing. Especially because I’ve seen what happens when people fall too far to one side of a behavior. They miss out on trips with friends because they can’t rationalize spending the money; they keep their houses uncomfortably hot in summer to save on the utility bill, they never see anyone because they are always working; they never order what they really want on the menu because of what the nutritional content  is, or they spend endless time in the treadmill that could be dedicated to family. 

Everyone has their own challenges and quirky “things,” and we must be respectful of and embrace these in others, but we also must reach out when we see someone we love losing balance. Because life really is too short to focus on the wrong things. It’s a tried and true cliche, but if you consider what someone on their deathbed* (*what the hell is a deathbed, anyway? Sounds awful) might offer up as advice, it won’t be to spend more time at work or running laps, it would likely be to fill your days with the things and people you love.

I’ve lost friends suddenly –  lives cut short so unfairly and unexpectedly – and when I find myself struggling with balance I think of them, and what they’d urge me to do. Which is exactly why I just went and got a pedicure instead of catching up on work, going for a run or doing laundry. 

  

 

I was a square peg, repeatedly dive bombing into the round hole of motherhood.

I got “the text” today. The one you check for obsessively when a friend nears her due date. A chaotic, “water broke-this many centimeters-I’m so tired-yay for epidurals” text.

I read her words and tried to imagine what she was feeling, mentally returning to the day Lila was born, and it’s funny how much time edits history. Given a little distance to recover, I can start to believe the hard parts weren’t that hard, that the icky details were no big deal. I love that about the mind and human spirit.

In those early newborn days, clueless and emotional, I struggled. I wanted clear answers to unclear things, advice that would absolutely work, and sleep—oh, how I wanted sleep. There was once a three-day period where I didn’t sleep for more than a half hour consecutively, and things got downright ugly.

I had a million questions and a million more fears, despite the layers of kindness and support surrounding me. I was a square peg, repeatedly dive bombing into the round hole of motherhood. But, as with most changes, a new normal gradually evolved. What was foreign became routine, and fears grew into confidence. There have been (and still are) many ups and downs, sandwiched between laughter and tears.

Something that helped me when I was struggling the most was consciously accepting that my feelings were allowed, even when they were unpleasant. Not wallowing, but also not judging myself for what I felt. Because, well, it’s hard enough to feel bad; when you don’t feel justified about feeling bad, it’s even worse.

Reassurance and acceptance are empowering, even in the simplest forms. Just to hear, me toothis is normal or, you’ll be ok. Thanks to everyone who has been along for the ride. It’s now my privilege to pay it forward to my friend and her newborn bundle, who arrived safe and sound this afternoon.

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To be thankful

Thanksgiving begs for sappy gratitude posts, and I’m in no position to resist.

Family. We became a family of three this year and it’s been a heck of a ride. My highest highs, my lowest lows and everything in between. Babies bring you such an overwhelming sense of purpose and connection. They make you feel whole, and they make you discover the real meaning of love. I am thankful for the blessing of a happy and healthy baby, for access to top medical care for both of us, for the way the experience has challenged me and for how it has brought me closer to my husband. I’m thankful to have parents who support us and delight in being grandparents. I’m thankful for my brother who is a driving force in my life and sometimes the only person who can get in my head to help me sort things through.

Marriage. We’re past the 3.5 year mark since our wedding and are close to hitting eight years as a couple. We’ve grown up together and continue to grow in ways I appreciate and never anticipated. Jim, you are my better half and my grounding force in life. You are what makes me wake up happy each day and go to sleep feeling safe. I’m thankful for the love and balance you bring to my life, the wonderful father you’ve become and for your never-faltering integrity and kindness. There are lots of ups and downs on this ride but I wouldn’t want it to be with anyone else.

Work. I am thankful to work in a dynamic environment with people who truly have become a second family. It is a rarity to be able to say that, and to have had their support when I became a mom was invaluable. There are lots of frustrating moments and hard weeks, but I’m privileged to learn from all different kinds of people and to be pushed at every turn.

My body. Have you ever pondered how insane the human body is? Straight-up magic. I’ve always marveled at what my body is capable of and love pushing myself physically. The past year this awareness soared as I not only carried a baby (STILL blows my mind that people make other people), but also learned the value of functional fitness and training. I’m thankful for my health and what my body provides.

Friends. Friends are family, no way around it; life would be an incomplete puzzle without them. I’m thankful to have so many incredible, loving, hilarious and inspiring friends who show up when it matters most.

Stillness. It’s fleeting to have moments of stillness and quiet these days, so I’m especially thankful when they occur. Introverts rely on alone time to recharge and I’m no exception.

Dogs. My dogs have taken the inevitable backseat following baby’s arrival, but they’re as loving and loyal as ever. They’re loud and messy and wonderful.

Writing. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to think and share on this blog, for all the support and encouragement. And for the opportunity to truth-tell and help others feel ok.

I think beyond anything I could list here, I’m just thankful for the life I’ve been given and the places it has taken me. The people I’ve met. The challenges I’ve overcome. The love I’ve experienced and the losses I’ve learned from. I’m thankful for how it all weaves together.

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Some goodness

So many things are happening that make me want to use exclamation points! I want to remember them all!

1. Arizona now recognizes marriage equality. Finally. My heart is so happy.

2. We got an Honest Company gift certificate from Anna and Josh after her wonderful visit. I’ve always loved this stuff but never wanted to splurge on it. As Anna noted, “Products that are good enough for Jessica Alba are good enough for us.”

3. We survived taking the baby to a brewery event and a tailgate party. Minimal crying. Great teamwork.

4. Ally is about to have a baby! I am WILDLY excited about this!

5. Michelle is coming to visit.

6. Dan is coming to visit.

7. Our new AC was installed and new roof is almost complete after July’s crazy storm damage.

8. Jennelle and I took the kiddos to the zoo. The weather was beautiful and it was an unexpected workout. And we both mastered stroller assembly, so we’re basically certified engineers now.

9. Baby is mostly sleeping through the night. I want to skip through a meadow shouting with glee. Actually sleeping for more than two hours at a time makes me feel like a super hero.

10. I successfully cleaned out the laundry room, which previously looked liked a natural disaster took place within it. It’s much less embarrassing now.

things that make me happy

1. Nesting. Jim put the entire nursery together as a surprise. And by that I mean he stayed up til 5 a.m. one night painting, hanging art and curtains and assembling furniture. I had everything ready but didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, and love that his input and thinking created the layout.

2. Endorphins. The guy who scans me in at the gym and always says encouraging things about working out while pregnant. And working out while pregnant makes me feel less round.

3. Cleanliness. Just got our carpets cleaned. It’s the next best thing to new floors and it feels like the whole house had a spa day.

4. Poop. When I called a friend in a crabby mood this week she told me a story about poop to completely distract and entertain me.

5. Thinking in new ways. This article was captivating and made me reevaluate some of the ways I think.

6. Smartphones. For all the bad things we attribute to an addiction to technology, I love how it allows me to stay connected with so many people that are important to me.

7. Take out. Tonight it’s Oregano’s. All the joy of eating out and I can wear pajamas.

8. Anniversaries. Jim proposed four years ago today.

9. Decluttering. I’ve sold a ton of stuff through craigslist and Swip Swap lately and have had surprisingly pleasant experiences. I’m always fascinated by the people who want my stuff and the process feels like community recycling.

10. Drunk History. Watch it. Trust me.

High school makes me laugh and shudder.

Lately I’ve become convinced that one’s life can be separated into wholly distinct segments, much like a DVD is divided into chapters. There are tons of vivid, action-packed sections of life, each a pivotal part of your plot line until preempted by the next big event.

I feel this way when I drive past my college campus every so often. I’m aware that I spent a solid four years there, full of chaos, learning and relationships, but I can’t actually place myself there among the classrooms and dorms. Instead I feel like I’m passing through a movie set of memories where things simultaneously seem eerily familiar and slightly artificial. It’s the same feeling I get looking at pictures of myself as an infant; I don’t remember the clothes I’m wearing or whatever I’m doing in the photos, but I know these things happened.

Tonight my best friend and I spent the better part of two hours reading aloud notes we’d written each other spanning from middle school through college. I found a 15-page document she gave me after an apparent heartbreak, full of advice, song lyrics and inspiring quotes, but I can’t for the life of me remember who caused me such grief. I was in a place so emotional that it warranted a 15-page typed correspondence from my best friend, yet I can’t remember why. It’s maddeningly hysterical. She read emails (AOL, of course) from boys we haven’t heard from in 15 years. Things that once really mattered are nothing but confusing memories.

Lately we’ve been sorting through notes chronicling some serious stuff we experienced during high school for a project she’s working on, only to realize things about ourselves and these events that never dawned on us before.

“Yeah, he really was a huge asshole.”

“I idolized her. I had no idea she was jealous of me.”

There’s also the great aspect of high school notes and year book descriptions of the honorary-yet-emotionally-fueled commitments. What if we were to redeem these offers in present-day, knocking on the doors of former classmates, demanding the offer was still valid?

“Hey, it’s Jess. Yeah, I know it’s been more than a decade since we spoke, but see–right here in this note from 1999–you said you’d always be there for me, and right now I could really use you.”

I shudder. I mean, I enjoy the option of occasionally sorting back through past chapters, reminiscing about what the most important things were at different stages, but it’s also a relief to be able to return to the present. It’s refreshing to know that no matter how intense these epochs appear to have been, we got through them. We persevered. And we made more good decisions than we thought.

No one should have to relive high school, but a periodic visit is a trip.

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