I wrote this post over several days during the last week. I wasn’t going to share it because it seemed so “dark.” Then I thought, well, so what if it is? God made the light and the dark. So here’s to the dark times that lead us to the light. There is always a sunset…and a sunrise.
Almost seven years ago, I was a newly married 28 year old bouncing around the country on fun trips with my husband, being phased out of a job I hated (the highly overrated pharma sales rep) and taking pilates certification courses. I was in love, traveling, enjoying friends and family, eating well, moving my body and feeling pretty balanced.
I remember sitting in my Pilates certification class focusing on anatomy and structure of the body. Our instructor told us, “You will have clients that literally have crooked spines. They won’t be able to lay flat like you do. They have probably been crooked so long that it feels right to them. This will be a process for the straight spine to feel normal-straight.” Their normal is crooked.
Around this same time a shift started in my body and soul. I knew we wanted kids, I knew I hated my sales job and I knew my husband was the best person on the planet and if I could just make little versions of his big brown eyes and long eyelashes, I would be in love with being a mommy. I had also just returned from our trip to Hawaii where Scott’s brother and his girlfriend had introduced me to this whole new way of eating. Eating clean.
Everything was coming together…if I could just keep it all this way, I would be in my shoes forever.
To retell the story of the last seven years would mean I have time on my hands like the last seven years didn’t happen. There has been endless amounts of joy and pride and learned lessons and ooey gooey human emotion. However, there has been so many shadows of self-doubt, lack of faith, comparison, misconceptions on what matters, false beliefs, battles of will and control and the crazy notion that less is always worse. A lonely heart in a sea of caring, present smiling faces of a village. So much crooked that it started to feel straight, even though it wasn’t.
I’m tired. Control sucks the very life out of your lungs. Control steals your joy. Control makes you think your wrong, not sometimes – but all of the time. So as long as you can find one or two manageable things to blame and then fix and then keep perfect, you are good. You’re back in the driver seat and you won’t have dreams about driving down a mountain without breaks. A sense of control can make you forget about all the little things that bring you joy, because as you focus with blinders on that one thing, that one tangible thing you have made real, you miss all the unexplained beauty that is floating right by your tired eyes.
When control flares up, nothing else matters.
I know because I have lived it. Living with the fury of a top-secret mission to hide what is really going on by making sure one little corner is so very neat and tidy create an illusion(delusion) all the other nooks and crannies don’t matter.
I lost most control when I couldn’t figure out how to force my body to be pregnant. I took all focus off loving my husband and being open to a family and put all the strain and pressure on me. Why is MY body failing me? What am I doing wrong? What could I do better? How do I fix this?
When we turned up pregnant with triplets, all the control was lost. At the time, I was finally ready to surrender and wave the white flag. It was almost 36 weeks of out-of-body experience. Scott still can’t believe how at peace a huge, pregnant lady that normally won’t eat French fries or miss a workout was content to sit in a hospital bed for six weeks, eat burgers and shakes and stare out the window like an old, peaceful woman in a retirement home. God had gifted me peace that surpasses all understanding, but even that came with a lesson of understanding. An understanding it doesn’t just stay floating on the surface of human emotion. Peace comes and goes, and in order to stay there and let God be in control, you have to turn it over again and again.
After the triplets were born I was in a bit of a euphoric state. People were there to help, meals dropped at the door, the babies slept like cherubs swaddled in their sweet, tissue like blankets. I held them on my chest and it all felt right. And then as months passed, it started to unravel. Piece by piece.
Anxiety crept in. Peace crept out. Eventually it was full-blown post partum, if you want to label it, and it was so out of control that here I was again.
Fast forward to baby #4. I prayed to have it all turn out the way I wanted it. The way I needed it to be. A lot of pressure was put on the situation and it almost felt like every little stage was a test to be passed. We very much planned for a baby 4, but we very much didn’t expect it would happen. We got pregnant the first month we tried. Shock, yes - but a “big check in the box we had planned” happened. I did prenatal yoga, researched endless amounts of ways to stay healthy, birth naturally and breast feed, hired a doula and then waited. 41 weeks and 28 hours of natural birth later, the other boxes had been checked. I had so much joy I could have exploded. In a way, all I had ever dreamed of in this mothering chapter of my life had come true. The tests I set up for myself were passed and it was all handed to me…I felt safe and in control since my wants and needs were so perfectly met.
Then the wheels fell off again. I was tricked into thinking I would just turn to God in gratitude and praise. It’s easier to fret about what happened yesterday and to be paralyzed about how I’m going to survive tomorrow instead of taking a quiet minute, pray and give it over. I am really good at tightly closing my hands in prayer, offering gratitude with a hint of desperation that “He please won’t take it all away.” Where I’m lacking is the act of being still, really turning my mind off and then opening my hands to receive — the time where you hear that answered prayer and the spirit inside lands all of the answers on that open palm.
Funny, however, that all that work to stay on top of feeling in control sucks every last living piece of energy you have. Juggling balls and not letting them drop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – even when in rest – will make you weary to the bone, miss sunrises even when you’re staring at them and lead you absolutely nowhere except right where you don’t want to be.
Josie had a lot of digestive issues and reactions to foods I was eating her first year of life. I took that one and ran. I was committed for various reasons to breast feed her, so I barely ate for 9 months to make sure she was able to heal. And from nine months to about two weeks ago when we introduced milk I had a pit in my stomach that it would all come back with any new bite I, or she, took. At sixteen months we are still breast-feeding, so I’ve taken it all on – physically and mentally – the good, the bad, the ugly and fortunately all the beauty too. The triplets happened to all be 2.5 – 3.5 over the last year. As triplets happen, they were all 2.5-3.5 at one time. If you have kids or grandkids, there isn’t much else to say there. We built a new home over the last year. Like from scratch — not like cake from a box, the real thing. We built this mother. Picked out every last grout line and shower head. Which means we also moved. All six bodies and all of that stuff. And we still had to feed our kids, pay bills, wipe butts, shower and generally show up to the show of life. And there I was, chasing newly potty trained three-year olds with a baby on my boob, paint swatches in my hand, a cooler in my car so I could eat my “safe foods” and a beautiful life movie that I rarely got to see because I was busy directing the scenes. Yep, you guessed it, back to where I started.
It’s a win God’s grace saved me from completely breaking. The fog is lifting and I can say “Wow.” It was all so hard yet all so simple. And here I am sitting in it. What now?
So anyway, as dark as this may seem I PROMISE I have still seen a lot of those sunrises, breathed in life and celebrated all the little things that motherhood, wifehood and human being hood invites us to. It is because I have an inner spirit that never gives up, never fails and never lets go. It’s not my spirit. It’s the light that connects me to you and you to her and her to him. My light always reflects the light in you, if you stop to see it.
Like Quinn likes to say when he simply doesn’t know an answer to something … “Because God made it that way.”
The more simple we keep it, the less control we need. The more energy we have. The more sunrises we see.
I was looking in the mirror at my body. The bones are kind of sticking out and I can feel my ribs. The last year has taken a toll on me. I’m still breast-feeding, so 16 months later – it’s all just a little awkward, so I don’t stop and look at this body much. In fact, I never really look at my body. I am always on to the next, on to the next and why would I ever stop and look when I know what is there? For once, last week, I stopped and looked. Like really looked and honored the creation, the vessel, God gifted me almost 34 years ago. This body has done so much. My legs learned how to walk. My brain developed thoughts, then sounds, then words and eventually strung together sentences to tell others what I am thinking. My hands learned to write. My body recovered from countless flus, colds and strep throats. It danced. It was beat on with beer, late nights and pizza for four years and kept on loving. It has been deprived of meals when it cried hungry to fit in jeans, look better than the next girl or to just feel like I had control over something. It has also been floating in the clouds with not a care in the world, soaking up the sun, sharing bread and a little wine, feeling joy to the brim. It carried three babies. It carried another baby. It was cut open to let three lives make way to the light, ALL AT ONCE, and then healed again like nothing ever happened. It rode waves and a hurricane to get out-of-the-way for another baby to arrive and stood up in grace minutes after the miracle. It has nourished babies with milk. It goes when I need it too and it stops when I tell it to. It feels sorrow and joy and pain and adrenaline, sometimes in the same minute. It never makes mistakes. It is an amazing temple at which we could pray at every day. It is ignored and short-changed, yet it still loves and supports our every move.
My body is amazing.
And about that mind.
Fortunately and unfortunately, is part of this amazing body.
Our gut, it’s bridge.
After six years of being drawn to making the body and mind come together in harmony – I am starting a new chapter that isn’t really new at all. Just one that has been waiting. I’m not closing the old chapters, because they are all part of who I am now — scars from life events that don’t go away just because the time period went away. Picking open scabs and then healing them with fresh air of acknowledgment instead of bandages of time.
Simply opening my hands to receive. Following my gut.
With the help of my family and village and a leap of faith, I am a student again. If you know me, you know I love knowledge. I just L.O.V.E. to soak up and share it with others. I love to learn about how we can feel our best. I also have this completely weird affinity to food, culture and the community that used to exist before McDonald’s and fast food and want to go back in time to a place where mamas raised babies with other mamas, when we ate from a garden and we spent time at a table. I think there is a healthy space where a woman/mama/man/papa can exist in using herself/himself as the measuring stick, not the parent next to them at the park. Parenting together with instinct, not apart in fear and legality. Feeding our souls and bodies well, accepting what we put in our mouth and minds. Letting comparison and judgment of ourselves and others go out like waves. Feeling joy – not guilt - from whole foods and a spark of life from treats that we bask in like sun. And in 2014, in middle America we can exist in a reality which includes wonderful places to teach kids about food like local farmers markets and meals made from scratch with love…but also with birthday parties and red food die and football games and beer. Just like our gut bridges our minds and bodies … reality always bridges what we hope for and the real world.
Living on one spectrum will kill your spirit. Settling peacefully on that bridge will erase guilt and unrealistic expectations. I am on quest to set up camp on that bridge.
I’ve lived many years worried about how I look to others, what I’m putting in my mouth or not, what they are doing, what we are doing together or not and so on.
I just don’t want my daughters or son to know this as reality. The cycle has to break somewhere. So if I do it for anyone, I have to do it for them.
I want to slow it down. All of it. And this is the start. In a lot of ways, I hope this is the end for things… but without those things, there would have been no beginning to breaking the cycle of self-doubt, fear and comparison.
I hope my daughters (and son) love their body, mind and the spirit that flows in and out of them. I hope they have faith in hard times and jubilant praise in the good times. I hope they look in the mirror and see an amazing work of art. I hope they look at a plate of food and see healthy and whole nourishment. I hope they look all around and see the light reflecting back at them as they shine just as bright.
So here we go. I am open to it all. I’m not announcing all of this because I have a resolve and it’s all figured out. I’m sending out an intention because good enough isn’t what we were made for. Not sure where the road leads, but I guess I don’t have to know. Usually the road is already paved if you pay attention.
Part of my road will be paved here — Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Their mission “…play a crucial role in improving health and happiness, and through that process, create a ripple effect that transforms the world.” In short, they are coaching us to coach others during this health and spirituality crisis. I love so much about the theories taught here, but my favorite thing, and what made me finally say yes, was their core theme of primary food. Primary food is NOT food at all — it is relationships, career, physical exercise & spirituality. The point is, it doesn’t matter what you put in your body if all these things are off. The body and mind need to dance like no one is watching, together – not separate.
So for the next 12 months I will be keeping up with the dance of child of God, Wife and Mom…hoping the bridges stay strong and short between them all. I’ll let you know how it goes.
The movie seems to always go on. Sunrises and all. I’m just going to try a little harder to wake up and see more of them. Hands open, not closed, in prayer.