I am currently treading water during one of the most exhausting times of my life (so far) and when I reached my limit last week, I realized something had to give.
Since passing off the kids wasn’t an option, I considered what else I could shed. And it was there that I found it had nothing to do with what I needed to surrender and everything to do with what I needed to give myself: grace.
In the past 7 years, I have gained and lost 35 pounds FOUR times.
I have carried and nursed four babies for more than 75 months.
I am currently parenting a 5 month, 2, 4 and 6 year-old, while sorting all of that laundry, making meals, potty-training, attending doctor’s appointments, playing taxi for piano, soccer, music class and ballet, exercising, maintaining friendships and working to keep my marriage healthy and strong.
I keep adding more and more and expecting myself to continue keeping on as if nothing has changed.
What was I thinking?
Eventually, something has to give. If not my sanity, then my expectations of myself.
I step outside of this time and look at my life as a whole, recognizing this as one of the most challenging phases.
I pat myself on the back for the monumental accomplishment of growing, birthing and rearing four children.
I congratulate myself for partnering with an involved and fantastic husband and father.
I hug myself as I would a friend enduring a tough time and say,
I was so thirsty. So tired I cried as I trekked through the hot sand that seemed nothing less than an insult at the time. We’d hiked nine miles into the Canyon and had just one mile to go but it felt like another 10.
Worse yet, I could actually *hear* the water. Taunting and teasing me. Letting me know it was right there, just out of reach.
I sobbed and stumbled. He grabbed my hand and walked alongside me, pulling me to the finish line. I was tired. I was done. I didn’t want to do this anymore. But there was no other way than forward and he was right there with me.
So along we trudged, until we caught sight of this. In the desert. In an instant, our skin was saturated with moist air. Our eyes delighted with sight and our ears blaring with the roar of Mother Nature in her rawest beauty.
We’d known it was there all along and yet it still came as a glorious surprise.
Drowning. Funneling. Spiraling out of control. Down the tubes I go.
This is something that happens to other people, not me.
I’m highly self-aware. I go to counseling. I write about my feelings. I am immune.
Or am I?
How far down must we go before we reach out for help?
I hit my lowest point a few weeks ago, when at 1 AM, I looked out to the water and wondered what would happen if I just slipped in quietly, and disappeared.
It’s hard to admit, even harder to type, but that thought went through my sleep-deprived brain. Followed immediately by the remaining tiny fragments of my healthy mind reminding me that by doing so, I was only transferring my hurt and pain to my loved ones.
So instead, I wrote. I typed out my deep, dark thoughts on a sticky note in my phone as I entered the fifth hour of non-existent sleep and waited for morning to come and save me.
How far must we go before we set aside our pride and shame and liberate ourselves by calling it what it is?
I’ve suffered in silence but now, I am reaching out. Recognizing I cannot do this alone. Holding the hands of others who suffer and holding onto those who lift me up as I sink.
Making it through breakfast. Making it to lunch. Making it to dinner. Through bedtime. Until Midnight. Repeating until I rise again, from my bed, from this darkness. Reclaiming my stride, my identity and my purpose as a writer, wife and mother.
I checked the bag three times before I left: Extra diapers, wipes, water for me, a burp cloth and even a nursing cover. I was ready to head to the doctor’s with my eldest and my newborn, or at least I thought I was. That is, until I realized, too late, I had forgotten my nursing pads. Milk saturated the right side of my shirt while the baby nursed in the waiting room. I positioned her to burp but before I could get the burp cloth situated, she vomited an entire cup of spit-up on my stomach and lap. Hot, sour milk saturated my shorts and coated the inside of my thighs. It was then that she exploded from her other end and it was then that I laughed and laughed.
Because, seriously. What the hell else are you going to do in a situation like that?
If I had a dollar for every time my mother preached about “choices” during my childhood, I’d be rich. Bottom line, no matter what life hands us, we all have a choice in how we respond. As a young girl, “She made me feel” was met with “You chose to feel” and “I can’t”, “You choose not to”.
It’s all about perspective.
So when I announced to my husband that I had shaved my legs for the first time in a month last night (my modern day attempt at foreplay) and he looked at me as if to say “Do we have to?” I laughed and announced, “You’re not hurting my feelings if you want to take a pass!” He chuckled a sigh of relief. We’ve had four children in 6 years. We’re, understandably, exhausted. Our energy focused on soaking up every moment with our children during the days and surviving the nights.
We will make time for one another again sometime soon, but the baby is only 8 weeks old and God willing, we’ve got a lifetime ahead of us.
I could have cried (rightfully so) in that waiting room and I could have been offended at my husband’s less-than eager reaction but instead, I listened to what my mom has been teaching me all along- I made the choice to make the best of it and I’m happier for it.
A solution is what we seek. Diagnose the condition, and prescribe the cure. Black and white. Case closed. A temporary disturbance, a minor annoyance in the grand scheme but please, not this. Not a problem that has no “fix”. Continue reading →
Welcome to the world, Elizabeth Joy! Our fourth daughter arrived two weeks ago, abruptly ending months of anticipation and successfully shifting the dynamics of our new “norm”.
We’ve experienced this change before. Beginning with the dance of labor, the rocking, lunging, swaying back and forth. The sensation of extreme heat immediately followed by chilling tremors of apparent sub-zero temperatures. The digging-in, the roaring-out. My arms, wrapped around my husband’s neck. My doula’s steady hands, applying counter pressure to my spine; propping me up, when all I want to do is fall.
Yes, we’ve journeyed along this road many times. When one is too weak to stand, the other is there to hold. And yet, what do we do when we are both weary, unable to withstand the weight of another in addition to the weight of the things we already carry?
My husband and I found ourselves in that position just a few weeks before Elizabeth’s birth. I, carrying an extra 30 pounds on my front-side, preparing for our fourth child’s arrival while trying to maintain a sense of normalcy for our 2, 4 and 6 year-old daughters. My husband, juggling pressure from work and the sense of urgency to complete any and all major house projects before the arrival of our newborn.
Our tempers were short, our stress, high. We refrained from burdening the other with our concerns, afraid that our additional weight would throw the other over the edge.
Withered and worried, along we trudged until we simultaneously erupted, hurling accusations and proclaiming “I’m doing the best I can!” Our molten lava seeped from our mouths until there was nothing left to say except, “I know.”
Too weak to stand alone, not strong enough to carry another, we leaned-in. And it was there, forehead to forehead, hands to hands, we discovered that together, we were strong enough to hold.
It amazes me how much we take for granted on a daily basis. It isn’t until we injure our toe that we recognize how much we failed to appreciate it fully-functioning. The same could be said for a heater in winter or a dependable car. But perhaps the thing we take for granted most is our voice.
Recently, my girls and I visited a children’s play place. I typically only frequent these madhouses during “off” times- anyone interested in a 3 PM dinner? See you at Chick-Fil-A. My strategy is part small-talk avoidance combined with reduced noise level and chaos for my 2, 4 and 6 year-old girls to navigate. Nonetheless, there’s no way to totally avoid socialization unless we stay home and since I’m not trying to raise my daughters in a bubble, I embrace these encounters for what they are: learning opportunities.
So when an 18 month-old recently took particular interest in my social-anxiety-ridden 4-year-old, I prepared my lesson. To any outsider, it was adorable. A little blue-eyed, towheaded boy recognized himself in our Harper’s similar features and grabbed a hold of her hand. To her credit, Harper attempted to roll with it until he refused to let go and followed her no matter how far she ran. With pleading eyes, she looked to me for help.
A few weeks later, in a different establishment, I was alarmed to hear my two-year old crying for the third time in twenty minutes. Since the play place was three stories tall with covered tube slides too small for my 9 month-pregnant butt to crawl into, I couldn’t figure out what had happened during the first two instances, but at the third outburst, the sibling of a child explained her sister had pinched my little Emma, for no apparent reason. Later, in the car, after discussing it with my older two girls, it was revealed that this same child had hit my four and six year old on the head at the bottom of the slide.
I asked what they did in response and they said they ignored her and kept on playing.
Although I’m proud my girls aren’t tattle-tales who cry over the smallest infraction, I immediately thought of the #metoo movement and recognized how imperative it was for me to ensure my girls knew that it is OK and IMPORTANT for them to use their voice.
I could see it in Harper’s face- she didn’t want to hurt the little boy’s feelings by asking him to stop holding her hand. And I knew my eldest didn’t want to disrupt the balance of play by complaining about the head-hitting but isn’t this what the #metoo movement is all about? Women afraid to speak up because of the potential repercussions?
I recognized right then and there that being encouraged to use their voice was something that had to be explicitlytaught at a very young age. I was struck at the realization that I had assumed my girls would know what to do in those situations and cringed at the thought of ever telling them to “ignore” or “get over it” and keep playing.
I looked at my girls square in the face and explained, “Your body is YOUR body. It belongs to you. If someone ever hits you or touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, you must use your VOICE to tell that person to stop.”
I continued with an example.
“When that little girl hit you, you had every right to say, ‘That hurt me. Do not do that again. If you do, I will not play with you.'”
Simple. And yet why does it feel so hard to stand up for ourselves? I explained that if the girl or hand-holding little boy continued, then my girls should find an adult to help, just as a woman in a workplace should seek the assistance of her boss.
These things we take for granted must not be overlooked any longer. I feel so fortunate that my daughters are growing up in the midst of the #metoo movement, when women are empowered to come forward after years of silence. The fact of the matter is, though, many of these women did go to their bosses and were punished as a result, taught to remain silent.
No more. No longer. We will teach our children to use their voice so that silent acquiescence becomes the thing of generations past.
“Another thing,” I told them. “We are a family and we stick together. If you ever see your sister in trouble, you stand by her and help. You are not alone.” With this, my 6 year-old’s precious lips turned upward into a knowing smile. Empowered.
The water is wide
I cannot cross o’er
And neither have I wings to fly
build me a boat that can carry two
and both shall row my child and I
I’ve been singing this lullaby, from the “Triangle Collection” by Music Together, to my two-year-old for weeks now. It’s a beautiful tune, but the meaning of the words didn’t resonate with me until I sang it to my middle daughter last week, consoling her over the loss of her beloved pacifier.
She’s four, two years older than I swore I would ever allow a child of mine to use a pacifier. We’ve gradually diminished its presence – from the stroller, car, and now only to be used at night. She desperately wanted to nap this past week, but found herself unable to without it. I, currently 7 months pregnant, wanted to sleep, too and yet found myself lain beside her in her twin bed singing the song over and over.
The wide water represents sleep without her comfort object. I, acting as her boat, was helping her to cross. I reminded her that she was not alone in her journey, that I would walk beside her to overcome her attachment.
And that reminded me of the poem, Footprints in the Sand, in which author Mary Stevenson suggests that Jesus carries us through our most difficult times.
The Sicilian, Taurean, stubborn part-of-me constantly challenges every word I read or hear, but the more I learn, the more I find myself reconsidering my staunch resistance. Whereas “softening” used to be synonymous with “weakening”, I now feel the strength that comes from opening my heart and mind to allowing Jesus to lead.
I was always searching for someone to explain to me how to get there. Surrounded by believers, church was too intimidating. The bible, too overwhelming. It seemed you were either a believer or you weren’t and I felt lost in the middle.
Randy Singer’s sermons and these books became my boat, leading me across the great distance that separated me from Christianity. Like most things in life, they did not fall into my lap. Amidst all of my doubt, I continued to search and seek, gaining courage along the way.
I realize now that this journey will last my lifetime but oh, how much richer my life already feels. I have so much more truth to uncover and to expose my children to but finally, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” Philippians 4:7 is mine to behold.
Jesus once was a man I misunderstood, but has gradually become the man I seek to carry me across the great divide.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” – Matthew 7:7