On not being okay…

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When people ask me how I’m doing, I respond “I’m breathing”.  It’s not a lie.  It’s not the story.  I’m tired of telling the story.  I’m tired of the story period.

I’m tired of how I feel like I’ve been written into this story against my will, forced to play a role I don’t want to play.  But no one is truly forcing me, are they?  Technically, I can cut the strings and say goodbye to this mess. But I don’t want to.  I’m still holding out for a miracle. I really want to believe in miracles.

I’m not good at change.  I know, you aren’t either.  Some people are; I’m suspicious of those people, for the record.  But I’m not at all good at this sort of thing. When you’re from a background where your life was full of land mines, you either get good at uncertainty, or you don’t.  I didn’t.

Uncertainty is scary.  Unfortunately, it’s also how life is.

What’s going on right now is really hard to talk about.  A huge portion of what’s going on for me is borne out of the what’s going on with someone else, and mostly what they’re doing about it.  Someone who I care deeply for.  Someone who I believe I was meant to meet in this life because I believe we have known each other in previous life times.

What’s going on for this person is his story. His journey. His truth. His stuff.

And because the Universe works the way it does (I’m starting to figure out your tricks you little vixen) I am coming to realize that my part in this is to figure out just which parts are actually mine.  Fine. Lesson time.  I get it.  Well, I don’t get it, but I will. Or at least I’ll keep getting bashed over the head with ‘opportunities’ until I do.

These lessons are painful.  They are confusing.  I do NOT want to do this work.  I don’t want to cry myself to sleep one more goddamned time.  I don’t want to feel shooting pains down my arms as I weep out of grief, confusion and loss.  I don’t want to have to tell my children “I don’t know” when they ask questions I can’t answer.  I want answers.  I want a crystal ball.  At this point, even a Magic 8 Ball will do.

My resistance to what is, is taking a toll. I’m not sleeping very well. I look forward to the distraction of going to work. I feel the familiar, and unwelcome, spin of obsessive thoughts, of checking and rechecking, of unfounded fears and worries. I know I need to get off the hamster wheel, there is no question. But I can’t force myself to do it, not yet. I can’t surrender hope. I can’t surrender to the possibility that in the end of this I may lose something so precious to me, something my heart and soul are invested in.

Maybe that’s the lesson, too. The losing. The letting go.

Whatever it is, I’m not ready.

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Sisterhood of the Traveling Hearts 

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I had some expectations going into the Warrior Mom Conference last weekend.  I expected I would meet some new people, meet people I had only previously ‘met’ in a little tiny box on my computer and that I’d be able to squash my social anxiety long enough to do those two things somewhat successfully.  Aside from getting super shy about meeting people I already ‘knew’, I was mostly successful.

I try to do a lot of observing when I’m in an unfamiliar and uncomfortable place – be that physical or emotional.  Kind of like watching things from a seat in the way back, trying not to qualify, quantify or judge, just seeing and feeling. That’s how it was there, and that’s how it’s been this week as I’ve tried to navigate life after the Warrior Mom Conference.

What I’m noticing is that there was so much more that happened at WMC that I didn’t expect, things that are slowly and patiently unfurling themselves in my consciousness.

It was an environment that was the most emotionally safe space of its size probably ever.  Not only was it emotionally safe, but vulnerability was everywhere, glistening like beautiful, prismatic jewels wherever you looked.

Wherever I looked, whatever I asked, whatever I felt, it was okay.

It was okay to be sad.  It was okay to feel grief.  It was okay to laugh.  It was okay to be messy and raw.

It was okay to not be okay.

One of the more surprising things I noticed was my connection to other women.  I used to be a practicing lesbian, so I’m all about ‘rah rah women’.  I took Women’s Studies.  I worked for a rape crisis hotline.  I swore I’d never buy my daughter a Barbie.  The prominent figures in my family are women.  I was raised by a young, single mom. I have one sibling, a sister.  I get women.

Or so I thought.  At WMC I felt a connection with other women that I’ve never really felt before and I didn’t even realize it until I got home. Earlier this week, as I went about my normal(ish) life, I noticed I was seeing other women in a different way.  I started really seeing these women… moms I didn’t know, moms at Trader Joe’s, moms at work, moms at the gas station. I felt this connection I hadn’t felt before.  It hit me like a brick; when it comes to relationships with other women, with other moms, I’m guarded.  Even with my friends who tell me about their messy, I still keep some walls up, it still doesn’t feel safe, I still carry shame around my illness and how it plays out in my life.  I still judge myself very harshly for things I did (and do) when I’m most unwell.

But last weekend I sat with 100 other women who knew, who got it, who felt the same shame and said ‘it’s okay, you’re okay, we are OKAY’.  They said ‘even though these illnesses have made it scary to look in the mirror at times, it’s not your fault, you are fighting, you are healing, you are (or will be) okay’.

Surrounded by that love and truth, the final fragments of the wall I’d been hiding behind came down.  I saw these amazing women in ways I have never been able to see myself.  And because of that, because of the connection we share, I could finally see in myself what I saw in them – beautiful, whole, loving women and mothers.

I feel so blessed to finally feel a true sisterhood with other women.  It took 100 women traveling from all over the world for me to get there, women like me who dragged their anxiety along like a pissed-off, boneless toddler, to show up, to open their hearts, to show me the truth, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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What I Want You To Know

As soon as the Warrior Mom Conference was announced I knew I had to go and bought a ticket the minute they were available. The few moments of doubt that I had were quickly silenced by a visceral knowing that I needed to be with these women, my people, my fellow Warrior Moms. Some of these women I had known online since I first realized I was spiraling down again after my youngest was born, 4 years ago.  Getting to know them through social media, participating in #ppdchat, and reading Postpartum Progress, helped me get the right diagnosis and helped me get better treatment.

This past weekend I got on a packed bus, navigated myself and my suitcase through the steaming subway and emerged from the underground of Boston into the arms of the most beautiful, brave group of women I have ever had the gift of knowing.

It wasn’t easy.  It was full of joy and emotions and deep truths.  I will be processing the gifts and struggles of this weekend for quite some time.  I feel most called to speak my truth, finally.  Not just here in my tidy corner of the internet, but out loud, out there, in my life.  I need to tell my story for myself, as part of my healing, and for other women, so that they may know that there is hope, that they are Warriors, and that we are in this together.

Though the truth is, before this weekend, I didn’t really feel authentic calling myself a Warrior Mom most of the time.  I’ve come a long way… a very long way… but there’s a part of my brain (a very obnoxious part of my brain) that tells me I don’t get to call myself a Warrior Mom until I’m there.

But where is “there”? This weekend showed me where “there” is.

Right here.  Right now.

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Even though I wanted to quit, really quit, many times, I’m still here.  I’m still in this fight.

I am a Warrior Mom.

And so are you.

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With Intention

I didn’t choose any particular word that I wanted to set the tone for this year, but one seems to have chosen me.

Intentional… being mindful with my words, my energy and my actions… doing things with intention… not just because it’s the socially or culturally accepted thing to do… not because it will make someone else happy… and not avoiding things out of fear.

I have spent 40 years on a kind of auto-pilot, with so much of what I do borne of thought patterns and ways of being that were cultivated in an environment of uncertainty, conditional love, chaos and narcissism. Because my being is rooted in this tainted soil, living with intention is a lot harder than one might expect.

I’m not discouraged, not yet anyway.

This pull to do things with intention, to get off the co-narcissism hamster wheel, to live and breathe and think and speak in alignment with who I am, has far more to do with the upcoming culmination of my 40th trip around the sun than it has to do with the imaginary beginning of a new calendar year.

It’s been building, especially these past few months.  I find I have so fewer fucks to give – and the fucks I do have to give are genuine and deep and, well, intentional.

My ability to see the truth in the blinding bullshitstorm of this culture is improving.  So much of our media and healthcare system and political system is circus run by people who operate solely from a place of fear and narcissism.  No change will ever happen as long as the people in power, regardless of their moral compass, perceive they have something to lose.  That ‘something’ being money.  It’s astounding really.

Essentially I’ve decided I’m not going be a team player anymore; at least not in the culturally accepted ideology of “team”.  I’m going to do the best I can to be real, REALLY real.  To be honest about my struggles and my joys, but not be defined by either.  To honor, REALLY honor, who I am.  To be, just be, without excusing or apologizing for my imperfectness.

We are all imperfect.  All of us.  Every person on this planet is inherently fallable.  That is our humanity.  That is what makes us beautiful multifaceted prisms of light.  If we stay hidden in the darkness of fear, the fear of imperfection, we never get a chance to reflect the vibrant richness of our souls onto the world. We never get a chance to sparkle.

My intention is to stop apologizing for my humanity, to live fully, to accept and occupy this body completely, to own my thoughts and feelings, and to stop waiting for permission and looking for approval.

It’s time for me to sparkle.

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“So don’t be afraid to let them show, your true colors,
true colors, are beautiful like a rainbow.” 

~ Bill Steinburg and Tom Kelly, sung by Cyndi Lauper

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Le Fin

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Today has sucked I’m too many ways to count. I’m tempted to analyze this sucktastic day and these 30 days of blogging, but I just ain’t got it in me, y’all.

I did this for one reason and that was simply to get in the habit of writing again. Mission accomplished. Now if I can keep it up that will be even better.

Thanks for being along for the ride.

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Recipe : Dairy-Free Spinach Artichoke Dip

One word: delicious.

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Dairy-Free Creamy Spinach Artichoke Dip

gluten-free. dairy-free, nut-free

Ingredients

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1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

1 package Daiya Cream Cheese Spread, plain

1 8 oz package Daiya Mozzarella Style Cheese Shreds

1 can artichoke hearts, I used Trader Joe’s

1-3 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (or a mix)

1/2 medium onion chopped

2 med cloves garlic

Sauté onion and garlic until onion is clear.

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While that’s cooking, put cream cheese in a non-reactive bowl. Add lemon juice/acv, 1 tsp at a time, mix until smooth and tart to your liking. Although the Daiya Cream Cheese contains no sugar, it has a sweetness to it and the lemon juice/acv help counter balance that.

Add onion/garlic mixture.

Drain artichokes, chop. Add artichokes, spinach and cheese shreds to the cream cheese mixture. Fold in until combined well.

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Scrape into pie plate. Bake in oven 350 degrees for 25 minutes. When it comes out, take a fork and gently stir to combine the melted cheese shreds.

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Serve with rice crackers, gluten-free toast, or fresh vegetables.

If there are leftovers, they are amazing in an omelet with leftover ham.

You’re welcome.

Unwound

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I’m not well. In so many ways and for the past few days. It seems I have not yet learned how critical it is to put my needs at the top of the very long list.

When my body is screaming at me to stop and be still and take care, I need to listen very very closely. Today, I did not. Today devolved fast and hard and I had an epic unraveling the likes I haven’t subjected my family to in a long time.

It was ugly. Very very ugly.

I hate that this happens. With all the work I’ve been doing, especially lately, I thought I was in a good place. And I was. But I expect that good place to keep me there, to protect me from falling again.

It’s sort of like a relapse in a lot of ways; out of control, painful, and dripping with shame. Just without the dopamine euphoria of addiction.

I’m not addicted to melting down, though. When it happens I feel trapped, I feel powerless, I’m on the defensive and I feel stuck in this caustic, irrational mindset I can’t get out of. I feel like I’m circling the drain. I feel very much out of control. There is zero secondary gain.

I hate it so much.

I hate apologizing. I hate how it brings shame like bile up the back of my throat. I hate struggling so hard to keep myself together only to shatter into a million pieces throwing words like shrapnel.

I feel like I’m never going to be free, no matter how smooth the water seems, it can happen. So when, again, and how to I shield the people around me? How do I shield myself?

I know there are factors (germs, hormones, unrealistic expectations) that were dry brush and made this fire burn fast and hot. I know I deserve grace, too, but all I can seem to lay my hands on is more shame.

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