Privilege, Depression, Writing

It’s been a hell of a couple weeks. My heart is heavy with grieving on so many levels and my body is tired and heavy. There are all the events outside my little bubble bringing me sadness—the conflict in Gaza, the shooting in Ferguson, Robin Williams’s suicide— that I have been trying to process, while living in our own little bubble of frustration as our baby goes through another developmental leap (super sensitive, refuses to be set down or left alone for a moment, not getting enough sleep or eating much, many tears all around) and our daughter starts to (finally??) act out her own frustrations of not getting enough focused attention from her parents.

This morning I sat in tears on the floor, holding my crying son, begging him to let me set him down so I could eat “breakfast” at 11am. My frustration with not feeling able to participate in the many discussions about depression and white privilege because even if I could form a coherent thought, my hands are literally filled with children almost every moment of the day. Feeling frustrated that after promising myself I would #writeeverydamnday it hasn’t happened—the moment I wake to get out of the bed to write the baby wakes and by the time he is down for the night I am too exhausted to do much more than stare at a screen.

This too, shall pass, I know, all too quickly. There may come a time when I look back longingly on this time of their desperate need for me. Right now however, I’m in the thick of it, in the trenches, and at moments I feel myself drowning.

This drowning feeling isn’t helped by the events and chaos of the outside world. As innocent children are murdered, both here in the United States and across the world; as brilliant spirits decide to end their own lives instead of going forward one more day, my own pain and frustration seems trivial. Both of my children are healthy and safe, it is unlikely either of them will ever be the brunt of violence as seen in Gaza or Ferguson. And while they may have a predisposition for depression and anxiety, they will grow up receiving far more support than I did, which hopefully will help keep some of the worst demons at bay.

But we never know do we? We never know what paths our children will walk down or what dangers lie in wait for them.  I know I feel safer in my community than others do, I know I feel safer in my part of the world than others do. I know I don’t need to live in the darkness of certain fears. It is my luck, it is part of my white privilege and as such it is part of my responsibility to take these moments to write these words.

I don’t know what I can do to end all pain, all suffering. I don’t know what I can do create a world where all others feel safe. I know I can act in my little bubble though. I can do my best to raise my children to be compassionate, empathic, aware. I can offer smiles and hellos and kindness to the people I meet out in the world, at the grocery, the library, the park. I can write here that while I don’t understand what it means to be African American or an immigrant in this country, I am fully aware that I don’t understand. I can state that I too have suffered from depression and anxiety and while I haven’t completed suicide I don’t fault those who do and have deepest empathy for their survivors.

My words here in the blogosphere and my actions in my little bubble are all I have to try and bring some peace and justice to the world. My work in guiding women and working with families, I hope, also brings about more peace as the ripple effects of each action spread out across the universe.

No, I can’t change the facts of injustice in our world. I can’t waive a magic wand and make all mental illness disappear. But I can do my best in my little bubble, I can keep myself aware, and I can write, and write, and write.

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Creative expression

Writing is my main main form of self expression. Through words I am able to dig deep within myself, give my rambling thoughts a place to land, to travel and twist and perhaps be made sense of. I have been writing since elementary school, sometimes fictional stories with a heavy base in reality; sometimes I write about my reality which probably has a few dashes of fiction; always writing my truth and emotions and experience from my heart.

In the last few years I have discovered other ways to express my stories and myths and self through painting, multimedia art, collage, blackout poetry, meditative coloring, and zentangles. I have painted love notes on rocks and cardboard and canvas. I have colored mandalas, Day of the Dead skulls and abstract designs. I’ve transformed books and magazine articles into poetry. And I started to write again. Always, I come back to writing: on my blog, to my newsletter readers, in my Facebook groups and in my personal journal.

I’ve also learned what a visual-oriented person I am. Instragram and Pinterest have become as much of my daily life as breathing it seems. I’ve discovered how much visual beauty means to me, to my soul, and how much I express who I am in the moment through photography, be that pictures of my kids, my art projects, me or my surroundings at the time.

Through all these mediums I have been able to connect more deeply to me. Pieces of my past come forward through words and images for me to explore, to better understand. I am able to express who I am right now as I snap pictures with my phone or write out a blog post. I see the woman I will become as I leaf through magazine images and scrawl across my journal pages.

And it is through each of these mediums that I also find connection to others, that I find my tribe.  I read the words of others and feel less alone  in my struggles; I share my own words for this very same reason. I share images, snapshots from my day on Instagram and Facebook and start conversations with people I would have never met otherwise. We share our stories, one image, one comment, one blog post at a time, using the internet as our own backyards, calling across the fence to our neighbors; taking the moments in-between motherhood, business ownership, wifehood, to reach out and connect, seeing the glow of others as we allow ourselves to glow and be seen in these random moments.

Ultimately, that is what this thing called life is all about: community, being seen and heard and witnessed as we see and hear and witness others. Finding ourselves, sharing ourselves, all while constantly creating: creating strings of words, creating images of who we are and where we are in these moments of our lives, creating our homes, our communities, our families, our Selves.

For me, this is what Being and Becoming is all about: accessing our own innate (and perhaps dormant) creative selves—excavating and exploring all aspects of our Selves, in a supportive community where each of us can glow and expand.

So I write and share my words. So I click snapshots of my day and share with you.  This is how I step into my own being and becoming, how I am learning and growing and transforming every day, just like you.

As posted on IG and FB: My greatest frustration

As posted on IG and FB: My greastest frustration over the last two months has been not finding time to myself to write. Again, I am learning the lesson of compromise.

For three months I will guide you to connecting more deeply with your self, utilizing collage, blackout poetry, stream of conscious writing, visualization, photography and body centered mindfulness and self-care prompts. I will share the tools I have gathered together over the years and together we will build a supportive and powerful tribe. We won’t start until mid-September, but early bird registration is available now. For more information and to register, go to the Being and Becoming Circle page. 

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Ecstatic motion

stop acting small

Stop acting small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. — Rumi

 

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Gathering

When I started my business almost two years ago, I thought and dreamed and visioned about the people I wanted to gather around it: who they were, what they looked like. I knew the feeling I wanted for my programs and my business as a whole: I wanted it to feel like gathering for a celebration feast—multiple generations coming together, preparing a meal and beautiful table and sitting down together, sharing food and stories, laughter and tears, love and support. I wanted a feel similar to actual table I gather around each year with my family at the holidays, where the youngest generation is off playing and laughing while the three older generations sit and talk, eating delicious food and drinking wine, talking of our shared pasts and not-so-shared present and future. Learning and growing together, in those moments when the past year apart doesn’t matter because we are together in the now.

For each of my programs my goal is to have this feeling, this feeling of family and love, of unity and individuality. Sometimes I think I have succeeded and other times I think, not so much.

The Being & Becoming circle that gathered this past Spring, for me, had this feeling of gathering together at the table as women shared their stories, their creative explorations, pieces of themselves and everyone beautifully and generously supported each other as we traveled along, diverting off on this unworn path or that well known one. I was personally lit up every single day by this circle and my only regret is that we were not gathering in person so I could hug each one and look them in the eye when I told them how beautiful they are. These women from all parts of globe became a true tribe, where each person gave and received; where we all sat down at the table, sometimes together, sometimes just a few of us. It was amazing.

Being & Becoming: Come together

Our table awaits

When I sat down to vision the tribe that will gather for the fall circle, the image of the table became central. A table filled with food and drink, chairs empty yet inviting. Images of women circle the table: the maiden, the mother, the wizened elder; each filled with energy; each having wisdom and love and support to offer; each ready to take the next step into her own becoming, ready to receive the wisdom, love and support of others. Women from all walks of life and cultures, coming together to explore this shared journey.

This is part of the work I am called to do in this life: gathering with women, guiding them to deeper understandings of their past, present and future, building tribes of love and support. It is our work as women, I believe, to gather together in tribes, be they virtual or in person, building each other up, generously sharing our unique gifts with each other, each person an integral part of the whole. I am excited to meet, to know more deeply, the women who will gather together this fall.

Won’t you join the gorgeous tribe that is gathering right now?

To learn more about the Being & Becoming Fall Circle, click here or on the image below. We are waiting for you. xoxo.

Being & Becoming Fall Tribe Vision board

 

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Release

Each time I release a program for registration I ride a roller coaster of emotions. Days and weeks before the release I am giddy with excitement, proud of the work I have put together, knowing that I will help others along their journeys. The night before is usually a mad rush as I check and triple check the registration links and edit and re-edit the copy. In fact I tend to change the words, adding, deleting, for days after the release, trying to get the feeling of the program to come through my words on the screen. I write my emails telling my newsletter list and past participants that the program is open for registration and then schedule them to go out.

And I wake up the morning of the release, after all the emails have been sent and the posts have been scheduled and I start to feel the vulnerability I stepped into. I get scared. What if no one signs up? What if people look at my offering and think it’s dumb? What if this work I have poured my heart into doesn’t help or inspire a single soul?

Then the voice comes. The one who ask who the hell I think I am to offer this program, to think I can help others. The one who tells me how I’m not good enough to do this or don’t have enough experience. The one who tries to make me remain small, to keep my own glow hidden.

Next, I breathe. And remember my word for 2014: Release.

I acknowledge my fear and send it some love and then let it float away. I’m getting better at this with practice, and still the fear comes each and every time. Even when I know in my gut how amazing the journey will be, how this program is straight from my soul, how I’m glowing when I think of it and work on it and share it with others. Even then, the fear tries to get the better of me.

Each day I now pull a card from the Oracle Tarot, to give me a bit of focus for the day. Today’s card: Strength. Courage, open heart.

Ah, yes.

Stepping  into our vulnerability is stepping into our strength. When we open our hearts to the world, our own light shines out and helps others see their way. Courage is when we do the thing we are called to do, despite the voices and the fear.

Today I opened registration for the fall gathering of my Being & Becoming program. Starting in September, the week of the fall equinox we will explore and excavate who we were, who we are and who we dream of becoming for thirteen weeks, all the way to the week of the winter solstice. I will guide you to utilize creative explorations including collage, black out poetry and journal writing. I will provide visualizations, meditations, and body-centered mindfulness exercises to aid you in coming into your own body and soul. We will delve into your personal myths and stories, finding your strengths and bringing them forward for all to see. We will examine ritual and sacred space.

Most importantly, we will circle together. Our tribe will come together, building a community of support and love. Guiding and holding each other through this three month journey. Learning and teaching together, as we are each meant to.

I hope you will join the tribe that is gathering for this journey.

For more information about the program and to register, follow this link: http://gwynnraimondi.com/being-and-becoming-circle/

 

 

Being & Becoming: You belong here, where the wild things are

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Cleaning, Clearing, Shedding

I spent yesterday helping my daughter clean her room. We spent over eight hours cleaning, clearing, decluttering, putting things in boxes for storage, in boxes to send to a friend, in bags to give to a local thrift store. Her room is clean and organized and currently my favorite space in the house.

We are spending today cleaning the rest of the upstairs and then moving down to our middle floor. More clearing and decluttering will happen and I know we will fill more boxes and bags with stuff to leave our home, leaving open spaces, spaces for our home and family to breathe.

I find a special kind of satisfaction and relief when we do these deep clearings of our home. It becomes a sort of game to see just how much stuff I can release and let out of the house, recognizing it no longer serves us (if it ever did). My brain seems to function better when our home is less cluttered and I feel myself breathing easier; I’m able to write and paint and play more freely. I feel lighter and more joyful.

The frustration also sets in, of course, when the first messes and clutter start to reappear, none of us taking the five or less minutes to clear it up in the moment because of other distractions or simply feeling too tired and so I tell myself that I’ll get to it later. And then the clutter and piles build and grow because there is Never Enough Time until I finally can’t take it and end up spending an entire week at once cleaning and clearing and decluttering.

It’s my process. My own ebb and flow. Needing the time to focus on my home and having it just so and then needing the time to do other things and ignore our home.

As I write this our son is screaming with a tummy ache (we think) as my husband tries to calm him. I stopped writing to nurse him, text with a one of my best friends and then read Anne Lamott’s latest Facebook post. I now sit in our office typing and seeing the clutter of the room out of the corner of my eye, knowing I won’t be able to get to this space until Thursday or Friday. Wanting the rest of our home clean and cleared first so we can all breathe a bit better.

And to be honest I want to get these words down and out. In this moment it’s more important for me to write than to clean up the piles of paper on the floor or to sort through the pile of my daughter’s art that is on the shelf and needs to be either recycled or put into the box of saved art.

I feel as though there is something that is trying to push through me and perhaps this is why I need to clean and clear—to create the space for the next iteration of my own being and becoming. As I let go of the physical things I no longer want or need I feel the internal bits of myself that no longer serve me also disappearing. I can’t quite articulate what those internal bits are, only know that I’m finding myself able to breathe more, feeling more generous and understanding with each small bit of space that gets cleaned, each bag of stuff that is filled and ready to leave our home.

Yesterday I was questioning if this call to clean and clear is a symptom of my resistance to write. Today I see that it is part of my process. I find a certain meditative calm in folding laundry and putting it away; a peace is having a clean and clear floor; a joy in having our shelves and counters organized and neat. The act of cleaning and clearing for me is a both a meditation and a shedding process—while I am physically busy my mind is able to wander and ponder and I’m finding myself needing to have a notebook next to me so I can jot down my thoughts to explore or expand upon later. Ideas for blog posts and ideas for my fall offering are starting to bubble up all as I decide whether to keep this thing or that and while thinking of the coming weeks filled with busyness and fun and living.

The cleaning and clearing is living too, but in a different way. It is quiet for me, solitary even when my daughter is helping me and we talk. We now take breaks while I stop to feed or change her brother. Yesterday while he was sleeping we took a break to sneak downstairs for some ice cream.

Life is made of these simple moments. Folding laundry. Packing away extra lovies. Cleaning toilets and bathtubs and dishes and countertops. Of conversations about the Barbie Dreamhouse my daughter desperately wants for Christmas this year and her telling me how her dolls will live in it. Of cooing and giggling with our little guy. Of stopping to hug and kiss my husband as we are passing each other in the hall. Of sitting down and writing about how cleaning and loving my home is part of my own creative process, part of my own being and becoming.

I often hear or read a person stating that their life will begin when this or that big thing happens. That they will finally find happiness in the future. That they will truly begin to enjoy life when X and Y come into alignment.  And I wonder, what do they think they are doing right now, as they wish and dream of the future? Do they truly think they aren’t living? Aren’t breathing? Aren’t being?

I understand how in hard times seeing the beauty of our lives can be more than challenging. I admit that I have said in the past how if only this or that THEN life would be truly beautiful. I’m grateful for my own growth and change through various practices that has led me to see how amazing and beautiful my life is right now. Right now even though we struggle. Right now even with sleep deprivation. Right now even with a messy house. Right now as I write about folding laundry and cleaning and the simple moments.

So these layers continue to shed. A new way of being in my home, my world; a new way of connecting with my family and friends. I find myself stepping out of my shell a bit more and into the loving arms of those who matter to me, realizing they have been here all along. And through my process of cleaning and clearing I am able to process my thoughts and feelings and eventually write them down or release them or both. I am learning about taking the first steps, reaching out, asking for what I need, allowing myself to be more deeply vulnerable.

All of this from cleaning a small space in my home. I look forward to what the clearing of the next few rooms will bring.

 

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The evolution of becoming

It’s already the end of the July. We’ve had our traditional week long heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest and are now dipping back into the temperatures that make this the perfect place for me to live. Already I am noticing the light begin to shift from the brightness of summer to the softness of fall. Our mornings are chilly and the fog settles in for a few hours while we slowly wake and start our days.

This becoming time of year is my favorite. It’s still technically summer, yet hints of fall are starting to appear. The leaves are already starting to shed from the trees in our little backyard fairy forest and I’m finding myself dreaming about the cozy sweaters and sassy boots I’ll get to wear in a month or so.

While I love the chaos and non-routine of summer, day after day of play with friends in our backyards, last minute trips to the beach and spray parks and fountains, I am also looking forward to the settling that happens in fall when we have the routine of scheduled classes and work and life is somewhat predictable. I find comfort in that routine just as I find a certain giddiness in the unpredictability of summer.

And while I love the ends of the spectrum—the chaos and the rountine—I love this inbetween spot where we are still in one and yet I see hints of the other. I have been catching glimpses of what this routine will look like now that we are a family of four and now that I am in clinical training out of the house. This slow evolution of our family moving to our next iteration has met resistance from each of us: my daughter expressing her displeasure at my being out of the house without her for a few hours a couple times a week; my own frustration with the pull between needing to care for our infant son and needing to work on my writing and my business; my husband showing his own bits of resistance to the constant ebb and flow of our family life. And yet though we resist, the evolution continues.

In those sporadic and unpredictable quiet moments when my son is sleeping and my daughter is engaged in her own play I work on the details of my fall offering while remembering to take a few moments to breathe and nourish myself. What I used to be able to accomplish in a couple of hours in one sitting now takes days or weeks. I find myself unable to focus even when I have a couple hours in a row to work: instead of being able to settle in to write I’m called to fold the laundry or straighten up a mess or declutter a shelf or closet. My monkey brain has me jumping all over and coherent streams of thought are almost impossible.

So I settle into my resistance and ask if that is what it really is. Or is there something in the folding of laundry or decluttering of our home that helps me settle, helps me find moments of peace? Is there there something to be found in seeming distractions that will bring light to my soul, that will offer inspiration for me to write, to guide, to create?

Perhaps.

So while our sunlight transforms from the being of summer to the becoming of fall, I too find myself  in the inbetween place of settling and nesting and creating and discovering. I am learning more about my own ingrained values, the importance of family, letting go of control, and asking for what I need.

This last one—asking for what I need—is perhaps my greatest challenge. I have been known in the past to allow resentment to build up while I strive to make sure everyone else’s needs are met and I am left crumbling, depleted. It is not easy to ask for help or to state that I need a certain amount of time each day to work on my business when I know my husband is as sleep deprived as I am and struggling to keep our family running too. I find myself feeling guilty for needing time away from my newborn and daughter, time to breathe and center. How selfish of me when they need me so much right now.

Perhaps.

The reality is that if I don’t take this time, time to write, time to start my yoga practice again, time to shower and put on clothes that haven’t been puked or peed on, time to breathe, I will start to unravel. I will become less and less of the mama, wife, woman I am called to be and more the one I detest, the one I vowed I would never become. Asking for this time is so challenging, and when I am quiet and ask why it is a challenge the response is clear: I don’t feel I deserve this time.

And to that response I say: Fuck you, yes I do!

Many of us have this ingrained in us: that our own self care, our own needs, are less important than everyone else’s. We have been shamed into not asking for quiet moments to go to the bathroom by ourselves; we have been convinced that our work—whatever it is—is less important; we have internalized that our need for creative release is selfish. We have been told over and over—by our culture and ultimately by our selves—that we and our work doesn’t matter, is a waste of time.

I am taking this time to step back into my rebellious self, to talk back to those internalized voices that my work, that I, don’t matter. I am learning to ask for time to do this work beyond motherhood that I am called to do. I hand over the baby, I close the office door, and I sit down and write, create, express.

And I find myself able to breathe with every word that comes up on the screen, I find myself smiling as I scrawl words across the page of my journal. I am slowly coming back into my body again, feeling able to connect with others now that I have finally connected with me. It is a constant evolution, a constant non-duality of being and becoming and while I find myself at times struggling, it is an amazing journey.

a daily transformation

 

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Here and There

This month I’m facilitating a discussion in the Mama Scout Readers and Writers Tribe of the book Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson. I’m only three chapters in (reading is slow going for me right now), however I’m finding myself nodding and underlining and resonating with the experiences of these women who came before me.

In the last six months I’ve found myself having time (and energy) to devote to my writing. As my daughter has grown older, her independent play has increased and it has left me at times wondering what the hell to do with myself. I found my way back to writing and was spending more than an hour a day (sometimes up to three or four hours a day) journalling, blogging, writing academic papers, and waxing poetically about life via the written word on social media. It was certainly a taste of heaven.*

(The asterisk are the times I had to stop writing this very post to meet the needs of our family or more accurately, our new little tyrant ;) )

That has all changed of course since our son was born a little over a month ago.  We have each had a lot of adjusting to do, and I’ve had the physical recovery from the birth to contend with as well as nipping postpartum depression in the bud. This has meant no time to write in over a month and it has been frustrating and heartbreaking for me. I have yet to write out our son’s birth story–with our daughter I had her birth story written out within a few days–** or write about how we came to his name or about how amazing his big sister is and has been since his arrival or really about anything that is important to me and that I want to get down on paper or screen.

I have yet to master the fine art of nursing at the keyboard*** (nor do I know if I really want to) and so time to me is both sparse and sporadic. Even though my husband happily feeds our son the expressed milk I supply, there are times our son refuses the bottle, only being satisfied with milk straight from the tap. This of course means I drop everything I’m doing, including writing (or eating or peeing) to feed and calm our baby boy.

I want to note I am not complaining. I love our son, and love that I am a source of both comfort and nourishment for him. I do find joy and fulfillment in motherhood and yet there is more to me than being a mom.  I am giving very real life examples of how our work as women is sidelined for our families. Our children, especially when very young, always come first. Many of us also sacrifice our own needs or desires in order to make life easier or more accommodating for our spouses–often without even discussing with our partner that we have needs or wants or are making any sort of sacrifice.

This sacrificing our self for our family is true for women without children too. Our parents come before our own needs, as do our partners, our nieces or nephews, even our cats and dogs. Or worse, we allow a job or career we find no satisfaction in take precedence over what our souls long to do. We put our own creativity and nourishment on hold, on the back burner and often never get to it.

It is culturally ingrained in us to put our own needs aside as women. Be this as it may, we do have a choice to follow that path or not. There are consequences to any choice and honestly I don’t believe in balance (as in the myth of the work-life balance). We choose our children or parents or spouses over our selves over and over without thinking about it, and we do, as individuals and as a women as a group, suffer for it. How many great memoirs or paintings or architectural or engineering designs have been lost because we have been so accommodating to others?

This is not to say there is not a time and season for everything. I know that I am  in the season of the young child (again) and this means that time for my writing will be limited, but it doesn’t mean it comes to a stand still. I am conscious of where I am in my life and where my family is. I consciously and mindfully find chunks of time here and there, pump out bottles of milk and say a prayer that our little tyrant will accept it so I can do the things that fill my own soul, those things beyond motherhood that I am called to do.

And so the ebb and flow of life continues.

It would be easy to say that I can’t write now. That I can’t focus on school or my clinical training. That I can’t continue to build my business. No one would fault me and many would say, of course, that is how life is. But I’m not willing to accept that. Yes, we have a very young infant and an older child who need my attention and love. Yes, my husband is our main bread-winner and so certain accommodations need to be made so he can work. And none of that means I can’t have time for my own pursuits. Perhaps I don’t get three hours a day at this point, instead perhaps it is three hours spread over a week. But it is still time I take for my own creative and intellectual outlet.

I invite you to do the same. To step away from the convenient excuses that life offers you to not shine, to not glow, to not be and become the person you are called to be. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to write or paint or doodle or daydream. Fifteen minutes every day just for you to do something just for you. Break it into three five minute breaks if you need to. Meditate, stretch, make yourself a yummy nourishing snack, create a quick blackout poem, read a couple paragraphs in a book or write a list of things you’d love to write about later.  Whatever it is that fulfills and replenishes you, make the time for it. Make yourself a priority.

You deserve this time for you. The world deserves to see you glow, to see you nourished and replenished. Take this summer to create the habits to support you becoming the person you want to be. Release the convenient excuses and your fear of your own glow. Step into being and becoming the person you are truly called to be.

Last week I released a program – Mid-Summer Glow – for registration. I have decided not to offer the program this summer after all, instead focusing on my writing and creating my fall program (Being and Becoming Circle). This decision is a step into my own self-care and releasing of some “shoulds” that have been circling in my brain. If you are looking to work with me this summer, you can still register for my free summer-long program Glow Wisdom by clicking here.

If you are interested in joining the discussion of Composing a Life, simply ask to join the Mama Scout Reader + Writer Facebook group here. We’d love to have you as part of our tribe!!

*Stopped to feed our son and then once he was asleep put diaper laundry in the dryer
**Stopped to feed our son and get him back to sleep
***Stopped to change our son, add time to the dryer, pump a bottle and hand son over to Daddy so I can try to focus. (and look, it worked!)
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Frontlines and Trenches

A social worker once said to me that parents are in the trenches until their youngest child has turned seven. We are mostly at the beck and call and whim of these young people, who need us to help them develop emotionally, psychologically, physically. It’s thankless work (mostly) and we get precious little time to ourselves for our own endeavors and loves. We have to fight tooth and nail it seems to get five minutes of downtime to allow our brains to have some quiet and we get little support from the outside world. Yes, being a parent is endlessly rewarding, but let’s be honest, it’s hard fucking work.

I saw the truth in these words, how we parents are in the trenches for the first seven years of our children’s lives, with my own daughter. In the last year as she approached and became seven her independence expanded exponentially, to the point of me finding myself on several occasions staring blankly at a wall having no idea what to do with myself: she was contently playing on her own and didn’t need or want me to join her. In the last year I’ve had the space to reconnect to my love of writing and to develop my business in a way I didn’t know would ever be possible being a homeschooling mom. I have to say it’s been bittersweet, watching her grow and not need me or want me as much as, or in the same ways, she once did.

I’ve had time to find me again, and dear gosh, it has been amazing.

And while those first seven years I would agree we as parents are definitely in the trenches, I have to say that for the first month of their lives we are on the effing war-torn front lines.

I hadn’t remembered how hard that first month with our daughter was. It was over seven years ago, and after that first month passed she became the propaganda baby we all remember and talk about: totally zen and calm, easy to soothe, a great sleeper, etc. What followed her first month of life erased the horror of those first four weeks. Four weeks where I was sure we should just give her up for adoption because we were the most unfit parents on the planet and where I questioned myself every moment and constantly had a critical voice telling me how I was screwing her up.

The last month with our son, his first four weeks of life, have brought back some of those traumatic memories. We have relived the sleep deprivation and I had several moments of deeply regretting having a second child. I’ve been in tears and felt like a total failure as a mother, not only to our little guy but also to our daughter who has been truly a young saint in the making as we adjust to life as a family of four. I have snapped and yelled and cried and screamed more than I care to admit and I have felt such deep guilt for all the change in our family. The critical voices came back, along with the intense anxiety and depression and I felt myself slipping into the downward spiral I lived through with our girl.

We seem to be at a turning point now. In part because our little guy’s brain is forming the pathways it needs; he’s becoming more interactive and awake during the day, allowing us more sleep at night. And we’re all figuring out his cues and cries and are able to get his needs met a little faster. He’s becoming the zen propaganda baby his sister was and let me tell you, this is a great relief for everyone in this house.

And while his growing and changing and developing is a part of it all, I believe a major part of the turning point is I recognized I needed help and with the support of my husband and some close friends, I got it.

You see I experienced postpartum depression with my daughter. For over two and a half years. At first I didn’t recognize the symptoms and signs, but eventually I did and then became too proud and stubborn to do anything about it. I also was suffering from hypothyroidism and my adrenal system had all but stopped working, which I found out when I finally did go to my doctor. But it was over two and half years of suffering: mine and my family’s, before I started seeking help and then it was at least another six months before we were able to really start seeing any changes as my body and mind started to heal.

At the beginning of our little guy’s third week of life I knew that I was back on that path of suffering. I had promised my husband before we even got married that I would seek help immediately if the postpartum depression symptoms came back and so after a couple days of feeling the depression and anxiety seep into my core, I told him I needed to get help. He supported me in calling my midwife and last week I started medication and supplementation to alleviate the symptoms.

I’m not 100% yet but I’m sure a hell of a lot better than I was a week ago.

I’m sharing this for a few reasons. The greatest being the shame that surrounds postpartum depression. I had so much shame with my daughter and a desperate need to prove that I could do it all and handle everything. I’ve stated before how this lead to me having a near psychotic break. My husband almost lost his wife, my daughter almost lost her mother. It was the darkest time of my life and while living it I would never admit to anyone what was happening inside my head and body, now I feel the need to share the story.

One of the greatest lessons my daughter has taught me is the importance of self-care, self-love; the necessity to take the time for my own replenishment and renewal. Or more to the point, that my survival depends on the ability to care for myself, to seek help when I need it and to release any misplaced shame around our need for help. That I don’t need to be “super mom” or to “do it all” and that I need to care for myself and allow others to help me with that care. That taking five, ten, twenty minutes to myself is not selfish, it is necessary for me to live.

Babyboy  is giving me the opportunity to practice this lesson. It has been a hard month, not only because of sleep deprivation and learning the nuances of a new little person and stepping into caring for him regardless of what I think I need to be doing in the moment; but also because I am stepping into the practice of lessons learned and allowing the space for me to need, ask for, and receive help and remembering that even little bubbles of five to fifteen minutes for me can offer a world of renewal. Taking five minutes to make a phone call for a doctor appointment or to stare out the window daydreaming; or ten minutes to make a yummy refreshing summer drink;  or twenty minutes to make a replenishing and nourishing easy meal.

This in-my-face reminder of the need for self-care inspired me to create a two week program that will start at the end of July. Mid-Summer Glow is about the little things we can do to refresh, renew, and replenish. It is recognizing the importance of giving time to ourselves and knowing that by taking this time we are able to become and be the people we want to be and allowing our own inner glow to burst through.

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Lessons in the Almost

I have said many times and I am sure will say many more, that my daughter is one of my greatest teachers. My son is proving to be one of them too.

From my daughter I have learned perserverance, rule-breaking (again), unconditional love, that the “authorities” don’t always know what they are talking about, and that deeply feeling one’s emotions–all of them–is the way to find true connection: to one’s self, to those we love, to the world. She has also taught me about creativity and individuality and what it really means to be a rebel.  And her greatest lesson to me: You can never be fully prepared for what life has to offer.

She’s patiently taught me these lessons since she was in utero–when we were told at seven weeks pregnant she probably wouldn’t make it; when my water broke at 34 weeks and we hadn’t yet put together her changing table or even packed our hospital bags. She has been at least five steps ahead of me for the last seven plus years and by knowing her and mothering her I believe I have become a better person, coming closer and closer to the person I am meant to be, called to be.

I expected a similar pregnancy with our son: one filled with scares and unknowns. We (myself, husband and medical team) expected him to arrive early, like his big sister. I spent the first half of my pregnancy holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the bad news and obstacles, and yet they didn’t come.

My son is teaching me patience and to truly embrace each new day as it comes without expecting the worst, allowing space for the best. He has taught me to love my body again, its working parts and non-working parts. And his greatest lesson so far: settling into the becoming, the inbetween, the almost.

I’ve been pregnant more than three weeks longer with him than I have ever been before. I’m learning the nuances of aches and pains and contractions. I’m learning to embrace the uncomfortable: not only literally being uncomfortable because I have a 20 pound bowling ball of fluids and new organs and baby where my stomach and intestines once sat or because my hips and pelvis are spreading in ways I can’t believe are actually natural. No, the real discomfort is in the not knowing, the inability to plan, the wanting him here already and having to release any sense of control I may think I have to make that happen now.

He’s forcing me to rest in this place of almost: Almost a mama of newborn; almost the mama of two; almost the mama of a son; almost a family of four; almost stepping into this next iteration of my, our, life. I don’t know when BabyBoy is going to decide to enter the world and so all plans we make now are consciously tentative, made with the caveat of “unless he decides to make his appearance before then.”

The reality is all our plans are tentative, whether we acknowledge that consciously or not. A million different things can happen to change our course, from the big and dramatic changes like the birth of a child or the death of a loved one, to the more minor, everyday things like coming down with a cold, or a car breaking down. Life happens, and we can plan all we like, and yet the reality is we don’t have control.

So we are all living in this space of almost in many ways, in this space of constantly becoming. We make our plans and have our dreams and go through our lives. And how we deal with the changes in course, I believe, speaks volumes of who we are, who we were and who we will become. Do we resist and fight and demand the illusion of control, or do we step into the moments, embracing the pains and pleasures as they come to us?

I say we all do a bit of both resisting and embracing. I know I do.

When I sense the resistance however, when I become aware that I am fighting something I have no power or control to change, I breathe. I step into my body-centered mindfulness practice. I become curious about why I am so resistant, what is the fear behind the fight, behind the temper-tantrum. (And it’s always a fear that lingers there, trying to keep me safe, trying to keep me from shining.) What am I ready to release, what is the lesson that is sitting here for me to see, to breathe into?

She was becoming herselfOver the last week or so I have had more than a few temper tantrums. I have told BabyBoy he won’t get any birthday parties if he doesn’t make his appearance soon. I have been snappy and mean to my daughter. I have been angry that we aren’t moved into the next step of our lives. We have been ready for weeks now, with hospital bags packed and in the trunk of the car; infant supplies all procured; feelings of readiness and anticipation over-analyzing every twinge from my uterus, every mood shift, every food craving. I have researched every possible way to naturally induce labor and tried many of them.

I have tried to push us forward, when the lesson is to sit back and release and allow life to unfold as it is meant to. To open space for the becoming, to be in the being now: this almost, this “in-between.” I fall back on my breathing and body-focused mindfulness practice and explore my fears and hesitation and embrace this little boy and his lessons for me, allowing more space for the unknown and the almost. And knowing I cannot plan for tomorrow, I allow myself to live in today.

 

Savoring SensualityTo celebrate BabyBoy’s eventual entrance into the world, I have revamped my self-study program Savoring Sensuality and am offering it at a 30%+ discount. For more information and to register, click here

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