No Time for Time Frames

As all aspects of life do, my journey with body image struggles and body dysmorphia have had an ebb and flow feeling to them in the last year. At times I have been far too (read: entirely) consumed by the tasks of mothering and me-ing to be all too concerned about how my body looked and if I was “getting that post-baby” body back. At others I have been bogged down by the very fact that no, I am not getting that.

But honestly, after nine years of pregnancies (I found out just after Thanksgiving, 2008 about the first and delivered the fifth just before Thanksgiving 2017), what does that body even mean? What exactly would it even look like? Does any 36 yr old much resemble their 26 yr old self? With or without child bearing and birth?

I think what’s getting under my skin right now (beyond the fact that my three oldest children are of that age and we are of that stage where they’ve maybe been trained to start expecting a pregnancy announcement sometime soon [nope; never again] and keep making ridiculous statements about my belly) is that Wilson’s almost a year old. That means I’ve totally passed the sort-of accepted “40 weeks in/40 weeks out” time frame in which we give moms out to “bounce” back.

Yeah. Not much bouncing around here, folks.

I could give you a laundry list of reasons as to why (laundry could be one of them, come to think of it) this is so. The one that interests me most currently is that as much as I still feel societal and internal pressure to be as trim/fit/what-have-you as I have been before, I also am working really, really hard to just be OK with what IS.

And this is me:

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For the last month, I’ve hardly worn jeans or real pants. It’s been leggings and workout pants and sweats on constant repeat [Full disclosure: it’s probably going to stay like that for a while because my littlest two littles keep sharing germs with each other and me]. So I don’t really have my normal markers of knowing how things fit to gauge how I feel. (I haven’t been on a scale and actually seen the weight on it in five years. I can’t know those numbers and also know my sanity). I have still been doing my 30 minutes a day of yoga, but even that hasn’t been enough to keep the negative thought spiral from happening lately. Clearly, I have to keep working on that, and part of that acceptance and moving through it is honesty.

That pants in that picture (in which my shirt matches the wall AND my phone)? Those are maternity leggings and I LOVE them. I bought them last year to get me through the end of Wilson’s pregnancy. They were a size bigger than I normally wear in maternity clothes. And I’m still wearing them now, just shy of her first birthday. And they’re not all that loose. And you know what? That is what is. Am I thrilled about it? Not really. But does it define me? Hardly.

My weight at my six-week post-delivery appointment with Baby Lincoln is what sent me to counseling in the first place for body image concerns. I just knew I couldn’t keep living with that pressure. While the pressure and the thought spiral both still exist and get worse some times more than others for me, I can look at these leggings that I love, that I never thought I’d still be wearing and say: OK. Here is where I am in this body right now. Time frames and pressure to be different be damned.

I know I won’t feel quite this OK with what is every day, but any day that I can get a little bit of that peace? I’ll take it, leggings and all.

 

 

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You Gotta Be

Recently I had to tell someone “no” to a request of my time. Full disclosure, I had already (many, many months ago) told them “yes,” so my “no” was totally a backing out which isn’t great to do, but sometimes it is just as necessary as it is shitty.

As has been pretty clear on the sparse, random posts of this month, 95% of October has kicked our butts. After the baby got sick and everyone else either recovered or maintained health, I got a full-on seven day sore throat that wrecked the majority of last week for me. I am just now, on the 29th of the month, sort of coming out of the fog of travel and sickness and pure on exhaustion. So no, when I got the call to remind about the thing I said I’d do darn near a year ago, “yes” could no longer be my answer even though I knew that was going to be displeasing and problematic for the asker.

I get it. It sucks when people leave you hanging. But it also sucks when you run yourself ragged for the sake of others. And I was honest. It would have been easy to lie and say that I had an appointment and couldn’t be there. But instead I straight up said we’ve had a crazy, draining month and that I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.

Let me be real for a second….

I have no day time help (minus the fact that Ben can alternate preschool pickup with me most of the every-other days). I run a shuttle service. I am a professional waiter (not of food, but of time during speech and before/after preschool). I provide all the food, play, naps, bathroom duties, and the million other jobs of a daycare provider/SAH parent. I also own a business and work a separate job from home (which is bonkers hard, y’all, when your little people are still in that same home with you all the live-long days). I survive on coffee, social media, uplifting and also snarky GIFs and messages with my girlfriends, and books. And yoga. Always yoga. I don’t get to go out for lunch because I can’t afford a babysitter, much less find one, and my sweet 11 month old baby still won’t let anyone besides B hold her, so no. I don’t really have much effort or energy left for commitments outside the home because my home sucks every last drop out of me.

Clearly I feel guilty for backing out. You see that, right? But I’m writing this to remind myself of two things: 1) it is 110% OK to put my own air mask on first by saying “no” to something I don’t want to do. Even if it doesn’t feel that way, it IS. And 2) when I am no longer in this stage of parenting, may I please forever remember that when I ask something of a mama who IS still in it, that I always, always lead with, “How can I help?”

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Dissent

In the two weeks since my trip to DC, which happened to be roughly two days in which I lived at least three lifetimes, we have had non-stop child sickness in our house which has made this October the longest of Octobers in the history of ever and not in a cute pumpkin and scarf/boot kind of way. Truman took 13 days to recover. Raegan is on Day 6, and Wilson is on Day 1.5.

It has been an intense month.

And, needless to say, the sleep deficit around here as of late has also been bonkers, which hasn’t helped how any of us are feeling about this October to end all Octobers.

Also cast to the wayside with my sleep, really, has been my time to recover and process all that went down in DC. In fact, I am still dealing with the intensity of emotions surrounding my experience both in DC and that which led me to be part of that trip. The 48 odd hours that I was actually gone were packed with so much effort, on so many levels, that I legit had nothing left to give when it came to anything outside of our lobby tasks.

No sight-seeing. No souvenir shopping (except for keychains for the children at the airport). No friend/family visiting on the East Coast. No protests or marches even because just to do our prep work and meetings was enough to take it out of this first time advocate.

And that’s OK.

It was a matter of self-care to give myself permission to set all else aside and just be there for what was asked of me for the trip. (Have I mentioned yet how incredible and trauma-aware the ACLU folks were before, during, and after our Senate staff meetings? I know that part of my empowerment and strength those two days came directly from them being so supportive of and sensitive to their audience. From the language they used in emails to the pre-Hill trainings and stress-management techniques they shared with us, they has us covered. And you know the yoga teacher in me loved the breathing techniques they shared with the group.)

Why I still don’t really feel recovered two weeks later, though, is because life carries on. Especially when you have little Littles still in the picture, you don’t get to go off and be an adult only and then come home and still be an individual, too. I dove head first into advocacy and then head first back into parenting, and the super exhausting kind of parenting, too, where you are worried about and tending too a million extra germ-induced tasks each day. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t still been fighting the good fight.

Contrary to what some folks seem to think, I did not go in to this experience under a false assumption that it would definitely yield the results I wanted. Not at all. I knew, based on my Senators’ voting records and tendencies that neither I nor the group I traveled with would be likely to change their minds. But that was no reason not to go and I am glad I did not let that likelihood keep me from saying “yes” to the offer.

Using your voice, even when it shakes, even when you know it is likely to fall on deaf ears (which are often quite synonymous with closed minds)? That is dissent, my friends, and it is good and right to still let your voice cry out even when you know the decision has already been made.

Semi-side note: In case you can’t tell, I have been obsessed with Ruth Bader Ginsberg lately. As in, read a book, located a documentary, and ordered my very own version of her dissent necklace (half of the proceeds of each one sold go to some pretty rockin’ charities), all in the last two weeks. So this, along with a wall print of the shot of our lobby group that was taken on the steps of the Russell Senate Building after our meetings, is how I commemorate my trip and the use of my voice, even when it turned out ultimately to be one of dissent, not (yet) direct change.

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Four Weeks

Tuesdays.

Oh, Tuesdays.

Historically, these are my challenge days. Sometimes I meet them with grace. Sometimes I meet them with chocolate. Sometimes meeting them with chocolate IS meeting them with grace.

Today is rainy (again) and cold (again) and it seems that Mother Nature is really feeling me on this Tuesday.

It’s been one week since I found out that I was going to DC to lobby and in that week I am fairly certain I have lived 1,000 lifetimes. I have certainly experienced 1,000 emotions, and continue to do so on this Tuesday that feels weepy and a little bit hard and a whole lot gray.

But here’s the deal. You know I am all for feeling all the feels. I am a firm believer through my yoga teaching/practice, through my therapy, and through my parenting, that you can’t live without ALL the emotions, even the difficult ones. It is what you do with them, how you move through them, how you use them that matters, and you are not a failure for experiencing the hard ones.

So even though today feels like it landed on the heavy end of the emotional spectrum, that doesn’t mean all is lost. I know that I’m going to feel a million different pieces of life today, and if some of them – many of them – are the processing and purging of all the intensity I have lived in the last seven days, so be it. Like so many others, I have been re-traumatized by recent national events and I am doing all that I can to give myself grace right now, as I hope you are, too.

I thought that grace might look like stepping away. Away from social media, away from the public, just away.

And while we did take some much needed buffer/family time over the weekend, I have not gone in to complete hiding mode. For one, I am not ashamed that our trip did not result in the changes we hoped to see, and I am for sure not letting that defeat silence me. For another, I know that we have – from this very Tuesday – only four weeks left until the mid-terms elections, and I don’t know about you, but they feel like the most important mid-terms of my life.

So I am here and I am going to continue to show up here and other places online (and eventually in public when my introverted heart feels ready to do so) to remind everyone of that important, impending deadline of November 6. And I am going to encourage you – all of you – including those of you who don’t agree with my politically (which, if you’re even still reading this, thank you, because the need to see each other as human even though we differ in public policies is so necessary right now) to vote. Educate yourself on your candidates. Ask questions. Mark your calendars. And use your (in many cases, hard fought) right to case your ballot in four short weeks.

Because not all Tuesdays have to suck and we CAN be the change we do desperately desire to see in this world. We just have to show up for it.

Side note: this was clearly not taken on this particular rainy Tuesday.

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Called to Action

So sometimes, when you put yourself out there in big ways, you are presented with big opportunities in response, and such is my experience this week.

First of all, let me begin by saying thank you for all the love, support, and kindness that you all showed after my last post. Your comments and private messages made me cry – in the good way – and filled my heart to the brim. Thank. You.

One of the messages that floored me the most came almost 24 hours after the posting and was from a friend I know via the yoga world here in Nebraska. In it, she asked me if I would be willing to share, via the ACLU of NE/ACLU national office, my story with our state’s Senators, Deb Fisher and Ben Sasse. At their offices. In Washington, DC.

To be perfectly honest, I had to read the email more than once to comprehend what it was asking of me. Fly to DC? Meet with members of Congress on The Hill? THIS WEEK?!

But of course it is this week when such meetings are needed, and because my support system here at home – Ben, my friends, my family – is amazing, I said yes.

Even though I have never done anything remotely like this before.

Even though I am 99.9% sure that I will cry at some point during the meetings.

Even though I have to leave my still nursing, Velcro baby for 48+ hours.

Even though I don’t think much will change because of my doing all this.

I am going to go.

If my horrible experience and anger can be turned and channeled into a force for good at a time when the ACLU is willing to help me do that (weighing in on judiciary nominees is not their normal tendency) in the hopes of effecting real change, the change I want to see for my children, then my answer had to be YES. There was no doubt.

I will be honest when I say that I am nervous and I will be honest when I say that I don’t believe sexual assault is a political divide, even though our country seems to be trying to make it into one here recently. Survivors come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and political parties; that much is clear. So, no. I am not traveling to DC as a member of a political party, even though it is a political action I seek. I cannot speak for all survivors when I speak out against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh because like all other categories of humanity, we are not all the same. But given the opportunity to use my experience and my voice to speak out for those who do not wish to see that particular judge confirmed for a lifetime to the highest court in the all the land? I am taking it.

Of course I cannot control the responses or words of others, so how people choose to react to my choice is up to them. I would ask that if you’re going to comment, you do so in kindness or please keep it to yourself. My bags aren’t packed yet, but we’re working on that and I am going where my heart is called to go. As always, for those willing to extend it, your support is greatly, totally appreciated. After all, it is for their future that all this is worth it:

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#WhyIDidntReport

Although I wonder more than ever if I will hit publish on this post, I have to remember that I write this blog for myself and my own memories, so what others have to say to it, if anything, is secondary to why I feel the need to write.

I feel the need to write because lately I have been pissed as hell at the world in general and you need only look at the national news to figure out the why of that.

So much of this “talk” about sexual assault in the last two weeks since the Christine Blasey Ford allegations came out against SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been literally painful to observe, both on TV and social media.

Why didn’t I just turn it off? Tune it out? Because I am a sexual assault survivor and triggering as the recent days have been, I can’t turn it off in my brain, so why should I or anyone else be able to ignore it in the news?

In fact, for those who are sick of hearing about this headline and would rather hear something – anything – else, imagine being raped or assaulted and living with THAT the rest of your life. And then, imagine the nation turning in on itself and making jokes and memes at the expense of survivors and having opinions on reporting shared when they themselves have never been faced with the tragedy of needing to report….

You, too, might be pissed as hell.

I know, I am supposed to be all yoga. All peace, love, and namaste, so why all the anger? Because I can be all those things AND be mad and sad and ready to stand up and scream: ENOUGH. For the sake of my children, ENOUGH. And I fear that if more of us don’t start screaming, the change we all desire and deserve is never going to come.

You see, this is me:img_1685I am 21 in this picture, the age at which I was date raped by someone I thought cared about me, someone I trusted and put myself with repeatedly, both before and after the assault.

Why didn’t I report it? Because for TEN years, freakishly almost to the date, I had no words for what happened to me. I couldn’t call it rape because I blamed myself for being in his proximity. For wanting to be with him. My brain, my memory, could not attribute the correct language to what he did to me until I was thinking one day about another incident at a house party where a male friend kept another male from following me into a bedroom and doing God knows what to me while I was drunk.

Yes, you read that right. It was my relief of “Oh my God, I could have been raped!” that made me realize that rape actually was a part of my story anyway, because I did not want to have sex the night I lost my virginity to the boy who took it.

Yes, you also read that right. My first time having sex was not my choice.

Imagine how I felt telling my husband that. Imagine what it was like to sit in my therapist’s office and lose it over what happened to me and how my brain hid it from me for so long. Imagine telling my family and friends. And imagine how I feel when I think about talking to my children about sex someday. About consent. About waiting for “the one.”

For me, that’s a shitty bag of emotions and just like it is hard to see sexual assault so flippantly discussed online right now, I know it is going to be incredibly hard to have that conversation with my kids someday. To lay my shame before them.

But again, I say ENOUGH. Enough hiding, enough pretending, enough bullshit. If we do not lay words and language to this, we will never correct it. We will never heal from it. And if it takes a bunch of anger to get us, collectively, to a point where we can have these awful conversations, with each other and with our families, then so be it.

I will take my anger and I will channel it in such a way that brings about what matters most to me in all this – a different outcome for my children, and yours.

To the Melting Mamas amidst Meltdowns

By the end of church every Sunday, I am undone. I am sweaty. I am covered in drool and Goldfish remnants. I am also usually so taxed from sitting through 1 hr and 15 minutes of controlled time with my herd of children in the pews that by the time we get home, I am cranky and/or want to curl up in Child’s Pose and not move for at least 1 hr and 15 minutes (which, PS, is never, ever possible).

I am a literal and figurative mess on Sunday mornings.

And you know what? I attend a church that loves kids. They and their noises and their antics are welcomed on a regular basis and often I get mad props and big love just for being there with my five.

The last couple weeks, though, when I have had to wrestle a baby who can’t be put down and won’t go to anyone but her daddy (& even then only for short bursts of time) and monitor four other Littles who are busy, busy, busy in the balcony where we sit (and because summer won’t die, sweat), I find myself questioning why I bother.

Wouldn’t it be easier to stay at home with the baby? To watch the service on FB and let Ben take the kids to Sunday School? To only go to service when one of our crew is singing or playing bells?

Well, yes. That would be much easier. But we started attending this church as a family and we feel that the church is part of our family, so bailing and watching from the sidelines doesn’t feel like a real option. We want our children to be part of this community and they aren’t going to get that if we ourselves are not part of it.

That being said, an innocent enough comment got tossed my way after service today (ironic giving the sermon on “Taming the Tongue”) that took a self-deprecating joke I had made and shot it down with the message of: nope. not good enough. you’re not doing enough. And I lost it.

Not in immediate response. I held my tongue in the moment and bailed out a side door so no one would have to see my tears, but I share it now because are you kidding me? Even in jest or innocent jokes? Just as the sermon said today, words matter. And I am literally sweating my way through every service like it’s a gym workout to make sure my kids are there but not too distracting, that we are a part of it all, and the absolute last thing I need is to be made to feel like I am somehow failing. Because trust me, it’s easy enough to think that on my own.

So, please: mad props and big love only, OK? I’m doing my best to extend grace, to others and myself, and if you are one of the mamas melting and trying to tame meltdowns every week at church, I see you. No jokes about it. You are enough and your efforts are of value.