self-care

I am a contradiction

Sharing my story heals myself and others, and at the same time I am not my story.  Yes, my story is my past and has shaped who I am.  I am grateful for my past.  It has brought me to here.  Now.  This moment.  Yet my story doesn’t define or shape this very moment that may someday become “my story.”

How can that be?  I’ve learned from my story.  I’m able to fit life’s experiences into a nicely labeled box or manila folder to be tucked away into my memory.  Those lessons have been integrated and shape my view of myself and the world.

I am more than my story: than my past, than my teenage angst, than my mistakes, worries, future trips, to-do list, career, roles, and lifestyle choices.  Each part is not a stand-alone entity because for this moment it’s on the front burner of my psyche.

However, as with all contradictions, each integral part is a part of me, responsible for who I am, who I was, who I will be.

self-care

For the love of library books

I love to borrow books from the library: ones that inspire me to keep on learning; that expose me to new authors, and I love to try new recipes from the many vegan cookbooks available to borrow.  There’s a recommendation bookshelf at our local library that I like to check out.  That’s where I found Gabriel Bernstein’s “May Cause Miracles,” Austin Kleon’s “How to Steal Like an Artist,” and Carrie Bloomston’s “The Little Spark.”  Now I follow Gabriel Bernstein’s work and have bought most of her books.  I even attended a workshop she led earlier this year.

Last week I found “We: A Manifesto For Women Everywhere” by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel. The inside jacket read, “How much more effective and powerful would we all be if we replaced comparison with collaboration, cooperation and compassion?”  I was intrigued.  There are four essential practices that lay as a foundation for the nine principles in the book.

I am starting to incorporate the essential practices into my daily life: gratitude, gentleness, responsibility, and meditation.  I acknowledge that I’m just starting.  Doing the practices with perfection is not possible or attainable.  Perfectionism has been a roadblock of resistance for me.   I get so enthusiastic when I find a new book and gung-ho to follow the program.   And then I get sidetracked and that energy fizzles.  Or I absolutely love the library book, but once I actually purchase it, the interest has waned.  I believe there’s magic in holding a hard-cover book.  If I buy the soft-cover version, I instinctively know that there’s something missing.  Maybe it’s the texture of the pages or the weight of the book.  For example, in Dani Shapiro’s “Still Writing,” the book had thick paper with rough edges.  It had an earthy feel to it.  When I bought the paperback, it felt neutered and too perfectly smooth.  I was disappointed and couldn’t continue where I left off from the library one.  I seriously want to replace it with the original hard cover.

But I don’t feel that “We” is a program with concrete steps and rules. A manifesto is a declaration.  And the principles are the guideposts.  Although the nine principles should be done in order, it feels fluid and organic.  I can approach each one on my own terms.  There’s no set deadline or sense of urgency.

To help me incorporate the practices, I created a summary for ease of reference, so I don’t have to flip through the book for the main points. Although it seems like a lot to tackle, and I’m feeling a sense of overwhelm, I equally feel the desire, the necessity, and power and potential for change that is needed in today’s world.  To start, I have decided to focus on one essential practice a week, while incorporating the ones before it.  Then I feel I can move through the principles authentically.

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This week I’m focusing on gratitude.  I pasted the summary I created from the book below:

“When we focus on gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.” Kristin Armstrong, Olympic gold medal cyclist

Daily:

(Keep a small notebook or space in your journal for your gratitude list. Use it as a spiritual remedy to either kick-start your day or get a restful night’s sleep.  And you can always refer to it halfway through your day if you need an instant hit of positivity)

  1. Write down ten things in your life right now that you’re grateful for (find at least one thing you’re grateful to your body for)
  2. Read it back to yourself aloud and say, “Thank you for …..” to each item on the list.

Action: Today I will notice all the nice things that happen, and I will say thank you. (Find ways to say thank you to your body through your actions)

Affirmation: I am lucky, and I am blessed.  My life is full of wonder.

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I would love to meet up and chat with other women as they are working through the book. I am going to blog my progress in a later post to check in.  My hope is to inspire other women to join me as we “replace unhealthful habits with a more positive, peaceful, and rewarding way of living.”

Will you join me on this journey?

self-care

Waiting for baby girl – part 1

My new niece is about to be born. As her mom, my sister-in-law, is nearing the 24-hours in labor mark, I’m reminded of my two baby’s births.  Each one was as unique as they are.  Today I will focus on my oldest.

My five-year old was a breech baby.  I tried every available technique to get her into the ideal position: acupuncture, chiropractic, even the manual version, which I don’t recommend to anyone ever.  There was a ton of pressure and painful twisting, not to mention the uncomfortable hallucinogenic medication I received.  My baby girl wouldn’t budge.  Each day I felt her hard head pressed against my ribs and little flickers of her feet near my pelvis.  Her head was close to my heart.

A home birth was ruled out and a cesarean was scheduled. But just like my little headstrong five-year old, she chose her own birthday.  On a Friday at 4:30 in the morning, my water broke.  I rested a while longer in bed.  I had a small breakfast, and then we headed to the hospital later that morning.

It was a blissful birth experience. Her fetal signs were strong and I was relaxed.  It was kind of amusing and annoying when the nursing staff kept putting the fetal monitor on backwards. They were actually putting it on the “normal” way, but she was a breech baby.  I was surrounded by my husband, doula, midwife and rockstar OB-GYN.  It was a “gentle cesarean.”  The lights in the operating room were softened.  I had my iPod playing my birthing music.  We welcomed her around 2 p.m. that afternoon.  Everyone in the operating room stopped performing their job for a moment and welcomed her.  It was heartfelt and special.  She was hungry and began to nurse immediately while they sewed me up from the operation.

When she was a young toddler, every night she would rest her head against my chest and fall asleep while I gently rocked her. It was a cozy time, and I still have fond memories of it.  She will forever be close to my heart.

self-care

I am still fragile

Like most people, I come from a dysfunctional family.  My older brother was addicted to drugs and was physically abusive toward me and my younger siblings growing up.  It was like walking on eggshells whenever he came home.  You didn’t know who was going to walk through the door.  Was he going to be in a good mood today?  Was he going to be belligerent?  Was he going to blame me for his bad day?  And boy was he mad when he didn’t have any drugs.  It was a moment of uncertainty, where you suck in and hold your breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

We were raised by a single-mom who couldn’t control her son.  She had her own physical disability and pain to deal with.  You don’t know any different growing up in that environment or that it is not okay.   My brother probably has borderline personality disorder.  He was not in treatment and he was abusing drugs.  We celebrated the day he moved out and felt anxiety whenever he would visit.

I’m amazed and grateful that my story didin’t follow a similiar destructive path.  I surrounded myself with my friends and I journalled a lot.  I worked part-time and enrolled in college as a commuting student at Johnson & Wales.  I wanted more to life than this.

During the hard times, I focused on school and had a very supportive boyfriend.  I moved out when I was 20.  I graduated summa cum laude with my bachelor in science degree in court reporting.  I found a rewarding career, and I’ve been fortunate to work in that field for the past 19 years.  I found my amazing husband at age 29, and we’ve been in domestic bliss since.

But I’m still fragile.

If I run into a hostile environment, if there’s an aggressive driver, if I encounter a very drunk person, if I’m confronted by an angry crazy maker, I’m re-traumatized all over again.  It will bother me for days.  I cry.  I feel wounded and defeated.  I hit my bottom.  Then I find my way once again.  Talking to my husband and his support has been my bedrock.  I journal.  I go out in nature.  I take deep breaths and try to meditate.  I try to play and engage with my children and their sense of wonder and joy.  I try to read something inspiring.  I start to re-emerge again.  I feel stronger.  I feel that I’ve learned the lesson from the encounter.  I vow to be better equipped next time.

But I’m still fragile.

Life will continue to be moments of bliss, love, and contentment.  Life will be a series of ups and downs.  There will be crazy makers in my path.  They can’t be avoided.  Just like housework, clutter, a roadblock, or a detour.  It’s how we cope with the setback.  It’s a reminder of my power, my grace, my stamina.  It’s my ability to bounce back and to accept the inner wisdom of each difficult encounter, to not be sucked into other people’s bad day or drama.

But I’m still fragile.  And that’s okay.

self-care

When a comment becomes your story

straight hair

I have naturally curly hair. When I get my hair cut every couple of months, my hairdresser will straighten my hair.  She uses a straightening iron and tames my locks into a sleek, smooth style.

Coworkers or someone usually comments on my hair.

“New hair style?”

“I like your hair.”

Or even, “I didn’t recognize you with that straight hair.”

Instead of acknowledging, Yes, I just had it done. I usually say, Well, I have to get my hair straightened every time I get my hair done or else my husband will say – and I deepen my voice – ‘Why did you spend money to get your hair done when it looks the same?’

He may have said that comment to me once a couple of years back. Ever since, it’s been my go-to-response when someone comments on my hair.  I had the revelation that his comment is now my story, my truth.  Even though it was said years ago, I’m keeping it alive and present by repeating the speil.

Today I’m going to change my story. That inner dialogue from a comment way back when will no longer have such a prominent place when I respond to a compliment.

I can think of other examples of compliments that tend to get brushed off.

“Nice dress.”

“Oh, it was on clearance.”

“Thank you” is not always the first response.

Next time someone compliments me, I’m going to accept their compliment with grace and gratitude.

self-care

I am not my mood

All this weekend, my 16 month old was driving me crazy. Changing her diaper had become a wrestling match.  I would pin her down across her waist to stop her from rolling over and off the changing table, while she protested, “No! No! No!”  You’re only 16 months old.  You’re not supposed to be telling me “No” yet.

She’s a happy, content, cuddly baby most of the time. Now it seems like she thinks she’s a big kid, wanting to be like her older siblings.  She almost climbed up the ladder to the top of the bunk bed within seconds of leaving the girls’ bedroom door open.  I was exhausted from chasing her.  I kept repeating to myself, “This kid’s gonna be the death of me.  I’m going bonkers, bring me to Butler.” Not in all seriousness all the time, but the thought was ever present.

Last night around 4:30 a.m., my baby was crying. Not the usual, I’m half asleep whimper to a cry.  This was full-blown hysterical crying.  My husband brought her to our bed and she just sobbed and sobbed for a good thirty minutes.  She slung her body across my chest, almost like she had me pinned down, with her face close to mine.  I rubbed her back and took deep breaths to silently demonstrate calm breathing.

The crazy making self-talk melted as I held my sobbing child. I realized I was the only one making myself crazy.  She needed me to be there for her, to make her feel safe and loved.  She had me pinned down. And while I held her, my heart widened to that truth.

self-care

First blog post – What motivates you?

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As a mom of young children, who recently transitioned from the freelance world to full-time employment, finding the time and motivation to write has been a recurrent theme.  I want to set myself up for success by starting healthy healing habits now before I get too entrenched in the day-to-day, 9-5, monotony.  There’s family-life-work balance.

Connection, clarity and compassion.  My three C’s are my inspiration for writing a couple of paragraphs daily in my journal.  Starting is the key.  Keeping my pen on the page and avoiding distractions.  Some planning helps.  Staying focused on my intention, and consistently showing up at the page will make my goal a reality.  And importantly, being gentle with myself when priorities shift and my writing doesn’t go according to plan.

My life experiences have brought me to this moment:  The good, the bad, the muck, the ugly, and there’s the beauty, the breath to stay centered in the chaos.  As I’ve entered my 40s, I finally realize that I don’t have to prove myself anymore.  I can be true to myself and inspire others.

I’m going to honor the journey of this transition.

What motivates you?