Thursday, September 26, 2013

the shoes don't make the man {or woman}

Be a red boot in a world of sequins and feathers and tulle

Today is Western Day at my kid's elementary school.  They're allowed to wear 'western-esque' attire in celebration of our county fair, which not only opens tomorrow, but is acknowledged as such with a day off from school.  Apparently these Texans take 'the fair' seriously.  I love a good funnel cake as much as the next girl, but I'm still slowly absorbing the rodeo/livestock/mutton bustin' surroundings of a good ole' county fair {I can't help but hear the distinct sound of a tobacco-laden loogie hitting a spitoon}.

So, anyway.  Western Day.  An unfamiliar concept to someone who grew up on the outskirts of a big city. But I just so happened to marry a guy with a bit of a 'country kick' in his upbringing.   Throughout our years together, I've been exposed to some cliche 'country things' by way of pick-up truck drives through big open soybean fields, hunting 'trophies' hanging on the walls of my home, recipes that begin with the words "a scoop of shortenin'", and boots.  Cowboy{girl} boots.

Two things.
1.) I know that 'country' isn't just defined by those stereotypical 'things', but for all purposes of my point {and I swear I have one}, the cowboy boot is one of those unavoidable images that comes to mind when you think country or western.
2.) I don't actually own my own boots...not because I boycott the transition into a Southern gal, but because the styles I tend to gravitate toward happen to put my grocery budget for the next three month's at risk.  And, as much as I love a cute pair of boots, I love making sure my family is fed and happy and healthy just a wee bit more.

But there are some cowgirl boots that have found their place within the brick walls of our suburban home.  Both Brynn and Raegan own adorable cowgirl boots--red and pink, respectively--courtesy of my dad and the grand-parental desire to appease and spoil the offspring of their offspring.

So Brynn has these boots.  Darling, sassy, stylish red boots, the likes of which have clicked their way across our kitchen floor countless times, stomped their way throughout the living room to the tune of a Taylor Swift song, and been kicked off in angry fits after being told to stop using them as defense mechanisms against a hair-pulling toddler sister.

And, according to Brynn, these boots are an absolute *must* for Western Day.  My kid's school has a dress code, so they love those rare days when they get to alter their attire and add a bigger splash of their own individuality.  Brynn, being a creative and artistic soul, is no exception to the rule.  So her boots, her lionhearted display of vermilion pride, the very item upon which her entire attitude for the day would be based...were missing.  Well, not missing so much as misplaced.

I told you she was creative, right?  Well, that concept carries over into the way in which she 'cleans' her bedroom.  Without going into specifics, let's just say that the likes of her personal bedroom space are pretty reminiscent to my own childhood digs.  Those who knew me as a kid, you get it.  I've already begun mentally preparing for the disdain our neighbors will have for me as I throw her items out of her window and onto the publicly visible lawn below.  I'm even considering taking up donations for the fines I'm certain we'll accrue from our homeowner's association for the atrocity that will surely unfold as I enter into the depths of her generously-sized walk-in closet during the pre-teen years.

So yeah.  The boots are somewhere in the depths of that closet.  Actually, just one boot is, because I managed to unearth the other from a random assortment of clothing that had at one point transformed Brynn into an ornately dressed ballerina-fairy-cowgirl-princess, but after no longer serving its purpose, was discarded in a mishmosh pile of stuff.

However, with a limited time frame for our morning routine, locating her rogue boot had to become an item that fell off the URGENT agenda, despite her moody display of annoyance and foot-stomping frustration.  Shoveling Cheerios into mouths, taming a mangled pile of sleep-filled curls, packing fruit and cheese filled lunches, and filling tall water bottles took precedence and at 7:15, we were backing out of the driveway with a pouty Brynn donning her 'mommy, I've gotta have these golden sandals' sandals.  On any other day, these are perfectly appropriate and lovingly welcomed foot attire.

But not today.

Gavin, being a kind and sensitive soul, sensed that it was in his best interest to focus his attentions out the window, after an unsuccessful attempt at lightening the mood with a funny joke involving pea soup.  Silence beckoned from the backseat, and I am not a mommy who enjoys sending her kids off to school for the day in a mood that's anything less than 'moderately happy'.

So, I began a conversation.  I asked Brynn if she understood why I was frustrated with her.  I explained to her that when I ask her to keep her room clean and put things back where they belong it is not in fact because I have nothing better to do than make her life miserable, it's because I actually want her to learn to be a responsible and caring person who respects and acknowledges the many blessings bestowed upon her.  I told her that we would find the awol boot after school and while we were at it, would probably discover a lot of other items she had assumed vanished into the dark abyss of her closet.  I clarified that while I love her more than words could ever explain, I was not a fan of the way in which she let her carelessness overtake her ability to be caring.  She had spent the morning brooding and grumpy and angry at me, when in fact I discovered {upon what turned out to be the only time she spoke during my conversation lecture}, that she was disappointed in herself.  Hmm.  Not that I was happy she was feeling down on herself...but inside I was giving myself a high-five for having some of my words actually burrow their way through the mass of curls and permeate into her brain.  Maybe she does take ownership and responsibility for her actions {or inactions} more than I give her credit for.

We were getting close to the school, so I wanted to shift the topic off the 'blame game'.  It would have been a perfect chance for a normal mommy to discuss ANYTHING else--planning activities for the day off school, a funny story about Raegan, the weather even.  But no-oooo.  I continued picking at it, like an itchy scab left behind from a mosquito bite.  I dug in my heels and set out to investigate why she felt she needed to wear the boots.  Her response?  "Because everyone else will be wearing western stuff, too."

Why does she feel as though she has to conform to the masses, shroud herself with something that makes her 'fit in', base the self confidence she carries with her today solely in the red leather that's formed around her splayed-toed feet?  In her five year old mind, the people who are wearing western attire today at school happen to take a bit of preference to those who are not.  Conformity.  Discrimination.  Counterfeit popularity based upon the outward appearance.  Defining value and worth and identity from synthetic and tangible items.

Oh, Humanity.  This facet of your complex display of colors is not the most inspiring.  It's scratched and ugly and marred by the falsehoods of a misguided and imperfect collection of souls.

Yesterday, I began a women's bible study.  As I settled in to my space, nibbling the streusel topping from a slice of coffee cake, I perused the notes that had been placed atop my binder.  An overwhelming feeling of joy rushed over me {and not just from the buttery, sweet, crunchy streusel} as I read the boldfaced header for the study guide.


An angelic little flutter caused a tear or two to prick the corner of my eye, and I silently thanked God for the circumstances which allowed me to sign up for a class that, up until that point, I knew nothing about aside from the rave reviews of the exceptional leader.  

As the class continued yesterday, two other questions were posed, the likes of which were not so rhetorical as the overarching question at the opening of our time together.  What two single words would you use to describe your life right now?  What one single word would you use to describe you right now?

Responses to these questions were requested--and not only that--they were shared and discussed.  Talk about barging through the doorway and tearing through the curtain of vulnerability from the get-go.  That is, if one felt so inclined to really, truly hone in on what descriptors could be placed upon their sleeve, bold and bright and in perfect view for others to see.

I didn't hesitate for a moment as I scrawled these three words: confused, halted, scattered.  As we went around our table, it didn't take me long to realize that my responses were farrrrr from the 'norm'.  While I don't at all discount the lives and daily struggles of those wonderful women with whom I look forward to spending many more weeks together, I took note of the way in which I was able to honestly and transparently describe the personal struggles I am currently facing, and what's more to share aloud things that I felt might put me in the minority.  I was about the eighth woman of ten to share, so I could have easily scratched out my words and put something broader, something ambiguous or vague that describes only the visible part of me {not at all to say that's what I believe others did}.  I could have hidden behind a screen, jumped on board with my table and said words that sounded more like theirs, felt more like theirs, connected more with what they were sharing.  I could have taken the easy road, conformed to the feelings and thoughts and struggles of another women so I didn't feel so exposed and vulnerable and naked.  And while I'm sure every.single.woman. experienced fears such as mine, I was viewing this experience through my own lens, using an ultra-sensitive scope that I tend to use when I feel that trembling sense of fear brewing up in the depths of my belly.  

The take away I had from yesterday, aside from an overwhelming excitement for the path on which I'm traveling in terms of this course, is that perhaps I'm not giving myself enough credit.  Perhaps in some ways I can actually step outside of my box of comfort, step away from the trend or popular response or style or behavior and actually make a bit of personal gain in my confidence.  Perhaps I am able to actually instill this sense of confidence into my daughter now.  Even in the midst of my confused life with my scattered self, I can teach her to begin to recognize and acknowledge who she is.  I can give her comfort in knowing that even if every single person in the whole entire school were wearing western attire today {based on my observation in the drop-off line today, is definitely not the case}, she has the strength and courage and bravado to stand alone.  To be a little unique.  To wear her 'gotta have 'em' golden sandals alongside a slew of cowgirl boots with the same confident stature she would have wearing her red cowgirl boots in a mass of Velcro-ed sneakers and Mary Janes.  To be who she really is, no matter who or what says is 'cool'.

And now...because I'm a momma who loves to see huge, amazing smiles upon my kids' faces...I'm off to find that rogue boot.  Don't worry.  I'll wear gloves, glasses, and a mask.  And, I've got a guide rope tied around my waist and secured to her doorknob for my escape from the piles.  {Go ahead mom, you deserve to enjoy this repetition of history with a good ole' chuckle.  I was a slob as a kid.}

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

faith in the seasons

Autumn is upon us.  Maybe not so much here in Texas, where the temperatures and humidity are still dabbling in what other parts of the country might consider a mid-summer heat wave, but seasonally-speaking.  Stores have been shrouded in fiery hues of red and orange and yellow, the flavor of pumpkin infiltrates our coffee, our Pinterest boards, and even our m&m candies.  There's a yearning for feeling the coziness around a fire pit as you sip hot apple cider you picked up at the orchard earlier that day when you and your loved ones plucked firm, juicy fruit from the neat rows of apple trees.  The pre-season to all winter-esque holiday gatherings that are just over a crisp and cool horizon that's dabbled with shadowy figures of all things Halloween-y.

There are those who don't view autumn with the same love-filled lens as others.  Those who look past the brightness and warmth of the color palette most often associated with this time of year, but instead prefer the newness of a dew-filled spring morning.  Those who crave the slow-growing warmth of a sun that's been 'just out of reach' when the Earth tilted her northern hemisphere away, as if turning a cold shoulder to a friend who is reaching out for an apologetic embrace.  Those who are awed by the freshness and renewal of flowering plants and trees and the greenness of life

Still others enjoy the starkness of a crisp and barren winter, or the blazing and squinty-eyed days of a golden-hot summer day.  Whether you prefer crunchy ice as it protectively shrouds the grass and trees, or as it floats in tart and tangy glasses of fresh-squeezed lemonade; you're enjoying the frigidness of a frozen mass that in its own unique, yet contradictory, way can warm your heart.

The 'four seasons' are inevitable.  Even for those of us who live a little further south and are not subjected to the harshness and bleakness of a frozen winter.  'Down here', we don't bundle ourselves into a human burrito to navigate snow-drifted roads to work or the store for the standard 'french toast' run {milk, eggs, and bread} before the next blast of arctic wind brings several more inches of crystalline water vapor.  But that doesn't mean that 'down here', we don't have store shelves bursting with pumpkins and turkeys and shiny gold garland {and now, even more than ever, thanks to the over-commercialization of practically *everything* holiday related, these items all inhabit the same space at the same time.  HallowThanksMas.}.  But really.  The differentiation between seasons may not be as obvious to some in terms of weather, but the consistency with which the Earth rotates ensures us that we will have winter, spring, summer, and fall.

Seasons of life are a little less predictable, however.  Not always un-predictable, just less predictable.  As in, they're {almost always} inevitable, however there isn't a calendar you can refer to that will tell you the solstice, won't give you a clue as to when to plan for the equinox.  Stores don't change out their displays, offering preparatory clues, and the weather forecast can be so varied that it would keep any meteorologist working double overtime.

Major life changes are often times a pretty good indicator of the journey into new season.  Graduations, jobs, marriages, children, moving.  All things that signify the departure from one atmosphere and gravitating toward a new one.  Even if some of those life changes don't find you physically in a new space, mentally you've made a paradigm shift in the way with which you view yourself, your world, and the interaction between the two.

Sometimes, however, there can be a gap between the life-changing event and the actual onset of the season.  We continue living life, we bask in a seemingly harmonious afterglow of a well-orchestrated life changing event and manage the random small, tweaky hiccups with ease and a level head.  We pride ourselves on how we've adapted, adjusted, and 'fit right in' to our new role, our new location, our new title.  As time passes, 'the event' becomes less of a worrisome or stress-inducing item on our agenda and transforms into something that says, "look what I've[we've] accomplished.  I[we] are awesome."

While I'm no expert by any means of the word, I have had my fair share of 'major life events', a large majority of which inhabited a relatively tight time frame on the timeline of my life.  Between late June of 2005 and early May of 2006 I became a wife, a resident of Colorado, a homeowner, a teacher in a new district, a friend to a whole new crop of fantastic people, and a mom to not only our sweet and sensitive son Gavin, but our {now} aging and loyal pug, Biscuits.  Talk about a flurry of activity.  It was a little bit of hysteria blended with excitement, anticipation, fear, and a splash {or more} of breast milk.

The events were coming toward me at such a rapid rate that I didn't quite have time to process before the next one showed up in my lap or on my calendar.  I was basking in the glow of a continual process of new.  Even if the new was scary {and most of the time, it was}, I was still enjoying it, embracing each event with the fervor of a ravenous beast after bringing down prey that was easily two times its size.  Sure, it was messy and crazy and at times seemed insurmountable; but the adrenaline rush that overtakes my soul kept me on the 'right side' of crazy, allowing me to keep devouring the beast, even if my gut was full of nourishment.

The afterglow of that gluttonous phase of life left me an over-scheduled working mom/wife/teacher/friend, but it didn't leave me with the same negative and piteous feeling I get after, say, consuming a half a pan of brownies.  Instead, I felt satisfied.  Pleased and happy and blessed.  Did I have times when I was overcome by the stress of a busy and emotional time?  Absolutely.  Did I take things out on the wrong people when really the person I was most frustrated with was myself?  Of course!  Did I find myself craving more, more, more because I'm an overachieving, people-pleaser who relishes in the beauty of a full and busy life? Um...hello?! You've met Raegan, right?  My sweet third munchkin who was my craving, my heart's desire to round out the sense of 'family' that Randy and I had grown in our years in Colorado.  'Selling' the idea of Raegan to my 'we have the nuclear family, what more do you want?' husband was a tough job.  A heart-to-heart-but-I-still-can't-quite-put-it-into-words kind of discussion paved the way for this effervescent personality to come charging into our world wearing her spry and tireless suit of armor that she {only recently} removes for periods of time at night when she {finally} rests.

But I digress.

When we moved to Colorado, I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that it would not be our forever home.  I found myself pushing that stirring deeper and deeper into the parts of my mind that house other nagging unpredictabilities.  The place I house my 'what-ifs' and obscure scenarios.  I found a hole in which to bury that feeling of we won't be here forever, and began filling it in with anything and everything I could that would take root and help firmly plant myself on the beautiful and majestic ground at the foot of the Rockies.  These roots followed a commonplace pathway--marriage, job, house, kids.  The 'other' stuff--the extra curricular, the baking, the projects, the groups, the more, the more, the more was just added security that my roots were deep and held firmly even if things on the ground above were less than stable.  I took delight in the years I spent rooting myself.

Then, without {a lot} of warning, came 'the news'.  Like I said, I always had an inclination that Colorado, in all its illustriousness and magnetism, was simply not the place where I was going to stay rooted.  So, even though 'the news' rocked me to my core, left my pillow case and my friends' shoulders tear-stained, and, frankly, made me incredibly nervous, I knew that I was embarking upon a new season and at the core of this move was better opportunity for not only my husband, but our family as a whole.  And so, the plans began to take shape.

Ironically, the leaves were falling {and even some snow} on our final days in Colorado, crimson and amber and carrot-colored pages from the book we had written in our seven and a half years there.  The pages scattered across the streets on which we drove, piled high in the lawn in which we played, and danced in the wind around the parks in which we frolicked.  Each representing a moment, a memory, a time of the season of my life where I enjoyed my blessed and busy life.

I spent so much of my time in Colorado piling responsibility and commitment on top of responsibility and commitment until the pile became so daunting there seemed to be no other way to attack it than with a spread-eagle belly flop deep into the heart of it.  I was like a child, jumping into my own proverbial pile of leaves.  And when I was called back in, called to depart from that pile, I spent the last moments sinking in and savoring the comfort of 'busy'.  I wriggled around to make the crunchy and prickly parts less abrasive, and was determined to keep the pages of our Colorado story as pristine and meaningful as possible.  

Was life in Colorado always flowers and bunnies and sunshine and roses?  Not by a long shot.  But I know those challenges, that time of gluttonous life changing event after life changing event were all put into place long before I even knew I'd one day be a Coloradan.  Brynn's memory verse at church for the month of September in testament to that fact.  "For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord.  Jeremiah 29:11.

That's the funny part about God.  He knows the plans, He knows what we're going to do, what is going to happen to us...yet He doesn't let us know.  It's the faith we have in Him that tells us to keep on keepin' on, regardless of the season, regardless of the storm, regardless of the struggle or the worry or the fear or the sadness we are experiencing at this time in our lives.

My season in Colorado ended last autumn.  A whole year has passed since we began preparations for this life change.  While the stores didn't carry decor and the weather didn't signify anything indicative of the heat we'd soon discover exists in the sub-tropics of the United States, the calendar did bear dates.  The Realtor coming to take pictures of my haphazard home-staging, the moving company's arrival encircled in red with an accompanying sad face, and then 'D-day'.  Departure from our children's home state and my own adopted home state as we headed south for greater opportunity for our family.  The dates marked the end of a season.

And then we arrived.  We temporarily settled in our 'home' while we anxiously awaited settlement.  Life began to take on a sense of normalcy, albeit starkly different from that with which we were accustomed.  Soon enough, we found ourselves learning the light switches and sounds of our new home, relishing in the wide openness of the spacious floor plan, hem-hawing over the placement of furniture and decor.  I was refreshed by the 'newness' of everything.  Found myself busy and intrigued by my new title of Stay at Home Mom.  'The event' of moving became less of a worrisome or stress-inducing item on my agenda and transformed into something that said, "look what I[we] accomplished.  I[we] are awesome."  {Sound familiar?}.  I began to take pride in the way with which I'd transitioned into this new state.

But then there's this.  "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."  Proverbs 16:18.

It's time to meet my 'fall'.  My recent feelings, emotions, and personal struggles are all 'normal', I know.  I've heard this from a number of well-meaning souls who were kind and brave and sweet enough to reach out to me as I bared my vulnerable heart and soul in the wide world of the blogisphere.  I've heard it face to face from those few caring individuals I've begun to connect with down here.  And while the sentiment behind the word 'normal' is put forth with a range of tone--from deeply concerned to simply compelled to give forth their own two cents, I have come to find a bit of discontented by the actual word.  I don't want *this* to feel normal.

For me, I feel like I'm just steps into a new season in my life.  I'm dabbling at the threshold of a cumbersome and overwhelming doorway and am not quite sure how large or big or intense this season will be.  I feel the warmth of my Colorado season still faintly embracing my shoulders and the brightness of a spring-time like sun that shone during our 'transition to Texas'.  But the light from that transition is dimming as the routine of life takes over and the words 'settled in' escape my lips when responding to the question, "How are you guys doing?".  Along with that, I also feel a chill.  An unexpected and surprising chill for such a southern-lying state.  I look ahead with blurry vision and am hesitant to leave the comforts of that large doorway that lets me lean up against it for support on days when I'm wondering how in the world I wound up here.

I don't want this uncertainty to feel normal.  I don't want to be faced with a living with unfamiliar 'bigness' in a state that prides itself on the the very word.  I want to feel rooted.  I want to feel ingrained, planted firmly in the spongy, clay-like ground of this new community.

The gap between the event and the launch of this season gave me a false sense of hope.  It made me think that I would naturally take on the life of a stay at home mom without reverberating pangs of guilt and sorrow for the abandonment of a career that can only be described as a lifelong passion for the art of it all.  It made me think I'd fall seamlessly into a regimented schedule of laundry and dusting and story hours and Pinterest projects without the nagging desire for a bit of spontaneity or a day of lounging around watching Disney movies and Food Network.  The gap of time was glittery and shiny with the newness of life here in Texas.  The exploration of the area, the decoration of our home, the concept of palm trees as part of our local vegetation {sounds silly...but that was a huge deal for a while} and living in a place once again where the beach was just a relatively short drive away.  Sparkling.  New.  Sand and BBQ and humidity-soaked excitement that placated me long enough to ensure my kids would become acclimated quickly and fall into routine.  And they did.  In record time, it seemed.  I knew they are resilient that way.  I found {and still find} myself jealous of their adaptability, their transparency and acceptance and ability to move forward with life.

I know God planned for that bright and shiny newness as a way to distract me from seeing this current season.  I know He didn't want me to see that this time of struggle and uncertainty would be one where I was faced with a catalog of emotions and feelings and soul-seeking moments.  Personally, it's hard.  This season isn't the gluttony of responsibilities and commitments with which I had ensnared myself in Colorado, but perhaps that's His way of telling me to lessen the burdens, to clear the path for growth in a different way.

While my calendar doesn't give a clue as to the length of this season and my field of vision does not reveal the inclination of a threshold somewhere on my horizon, I know this is just a season.  This time will pass, these pages will be written.  And from them, growth will occur.  Change will happen.  And life will continue to march on.  For I walk by faith, not by sight.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

speak your mind...even if your voice shakes {maggie.kuhn}


What images come to mind when you hear{read} that word?  With it being the anniversary of 9/11, perhaps its images of first responders who fearlessly entered into the burning twin towers with the goal of rescuing those trapped hundreds of feet in the sky.  Perhaps you picture members of the armed forces, who face immeasurable dangers as they protect the freedoms on which our country was built.  Maybe you picture someone battling an illness, and are awed by their courage as they face not only their treatment but the uncertainty of its effectiveness.

But a stay at home mom donning yoga pants, a messy bun, day-old mascara smudges, and an extra large coconut mocha latte?  Hardly.

However, after my post last week, the word courage became associated with what I had written.  Not by me, but from the various friends, family, and random readers who reached out with words of support, similar experiences, and communication of love and admiration.

It was pretty humbling to think that my words reached the number they did {albeit a small number...but still}.  When I sat down to write that day, I knew my friends and family would find an element of surprise in my words, considering the way in which I masked my inner battles.  I didn't know what the response would be, but I knew is that I had words--a story--to share because I was tired of succumbing to feelings shame.

When my doctor first said the words 'depression and anxiety', I was pelted with a barrage of feelings.  But overall, I felt guilt.  I mean, really.  I knew my original intentions for making the appointment; as I had sneaking suspicions that I'd be hearing those words.  But when I actually *heard* them?  The brick wall I'd built around my mind and heart and soul began to fill with graffiti.

You've got to be overreacting.  Your life isn't *that bad*.  Just 'snap out' of it.  What could you possibly be depressed about?  People are going to think you're being dramatic.

When I looked at that graffiti, the penmanship used to deface my protective barrier looked familiar.  On second glance, I recognized that I was the one filling my wall with such words.  Words of guilt, words of disbelief, words of shame.  I was feeling flawed in some way.  Labeled as something that didn't seem to fit my otherwise open, chatty, friendly persona.

Feeling confused, misrepresented, and seeking a less-intense response from my doctor, I began to back pedal a bit; telling her that maybe I just needed to 'get over it'.  Woman's intuition, a dedicated and genuine bedside manner, or just perhaps the ability to see through my sudden 'change of heart'; my doctor and I engaged in a visceral conversation that helped me acknowledge her words and concern as truth and my {current} reality.

I recall the look of concern in my doctor's eyes during the latter part of my visit whenever I feel overwhelmed.  This woman, essentially a stranger, began breaking through my brick wall; first removing those bricks marred by negative, shameful, hateful words.  She bore holes through the structure, weakening its integrity so that as I began to rest on the other side of her 'diagnosis', that wall may begin to crumble.  I left her office feeling an odd blend of confusion, validation, frustration {how did I allow myself to get into this space?}, and, oddly enough, renewal.

Each morning I arise from bed, set my intention for the day {or morning, or next hour}, and begin to fall into my morning routine.  Life-giving coffee brews from my Keurig, breakfasts are served to sleepy-eyed munchkins, and my medication is swallowed with a large glass of water.  Some mornings I recognize that along with the pill, I am swallowing my guilt, my disappointment, my shame.  Every so often, I discover that Issac Newton sure knew what he was talking about when he said "what goes up must come down" {although, in my case...what goes in, must come out}.

The guilt, the disappointment, the shame...finds its way out.  Those gaps in my brick wall have become spaces through which negativity flows; streaming into my heart and mind like a flash flood, rendering me exhausted and empty and useless for long periods of time.  This past weekend was one of those times.  Visions {dreams, really} of crawling into the comforts of a giant fluffy bed and sitting still and numb and empty filled my head as I made valiant efforts to participate in life.  With the support of my understanding, yet concerned husband and the intuitive nature of my young children, I was able to have spans of time that were low-key and required nothing more than just being.

It's funny.  After writing on Friday, I felt free.  Even in the vulnerability of sharing such personal information in a public forum, I felt a sense of calm and peace.  I felt that now that it was 'out there', I would be able to find sanctity in my writing once again.  I began writing this blog on the premise that I would share stories.  Honest, real, genuine stories from whatever space in which my mind rested when I wrote.  However, as the symptoms of anxiety and depression began to take up residence in my body, I felt too overwhelmed and too shamed to write from a completely vulnerable and open space.  So, I withdrew a bit.  I kept up an appearance here, a comment or two there, and maintained a level of Facebook posts that kept those people {what like 5 of you out there?} who actually read/look at what I've posted under the impression that things were sailing along upon the generic choppy seas to which every mom is akin.

In the meantime, my insides have been drowning in the floods.  I've thrown my pill down my gullet each day as a means of a lifesaving technique.  Some days it reaches my outstretched hands, while some days it bypasses me completely and feels like its been washed away by the raging waters.  But those days, the latter ones, are becoming fewer and farther between.  Perhaps that's why this weekend threw me for such a loop.  The *high* I felt Friday after breaking down the brick wall and sharing my story with so many became null and void by the fall that followed the next two days.  I was grateful I still had my bricks laying around, because I found myself mixing mortar, arranging them neatly, and retreating inside the safety of stable{ish} walls.

Today I still feel like hiding.  My yoga pants are still on, my hair an unwashed, messy bun atop my head, and mascara smudges from a lackadaisical effort to wash my face still remain.  I am in the middle of a phone tag-sort of game with my doctor and insurance company in an attempt to approve the prescription for my medication.  Up until now, I've been using the sample packages provided to me by my doctor.  I've finally figured out which dose is the proper amount for my body, and am ready to continue on that dose for a few months to allow opportunity for a valid assessment of its effectiveness.  So, my desire to ignore phone calls and avoid conversation with anyone {other than my 2 year old, who keeps things *just interesting enough* to stay on this side of a major withdrawal} is being disrupted by logistics and regulations.  Frustrating, yes...but I'm viewing it as the 'thing' that is going to keep me participating, keep me fighting for what it is that my body and mind currently need.

So, rather than retreat into the corner of my couch, I took up residence in front of my laptop.  I opened a blank blog post.  I stared.  I typed.  I deleted.  I stared some more.  I had the words, but did I have the courage?

Apparently, many of my readers think I do.  Their comments and messages are filled with kindhearted sentiment; giving me solace in knowing that my words were taken as they truly were meant to be: genuine.  honest.  real.

At the time, did I think I was showing courage by writing?  Not really.  The word I gravitated toward is vulnerability.  Dr. Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors/research professors says in her book Daring Greatly that "vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences".  I have an adoration for the human experience.  Even in my introverted times, I find myself drawn to reading books and stories that inspire connection, exploration of passions, and the introspection of emotions.

Glennon Doyle Melton states in one of her three defining mantras, "We Belong to Each Other".  I believe that...but my fear before writing last Friday was the reality that not everyone does.  Writing something like *that*...something so...definitive yet not completely's scary.  Backlash, judgement, shame, exposure.  I worried about what others would think, what they would say, how they would respond.  I was suffocating in those fears, and they *almost* kept me from sharing, from {momentarily} tearing down my wall.

But, today I was scrolling back through my highlights from one of my recent reads, Daring Greatly, I came across these two passages:
Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it's a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.  ~Dr. Brene Brown
and this 
Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage{!}.  Truth and courage aren't always comfortable, but they're never weakness. ~Dr. Brene Brown

And suddenly I realized that my audience, those kind souls who reached out to show support and concern, just might have been right.  I showed courage.  While I might not be running into a burning building or facing enemy forces overseas, I am battling an illness.  I am receiving treatment {albeit in the form a small, easy-to-swallow pill}, but am uncertain of its effectiveness.  My badge of courage is by no means comparable to those who risk and give their lives while saving lives, but I'm still wearing it.  I'm not worried about those who will judge, for Albert Camus wrote in his novel, The Fall, "people hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves".  Earl Nightingale has said, "when you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself".    The judgement I feared was replaced with feelings of compassion, empathy, concern, and camaraderie.

The cloak of vulnerability is one I wear every time I write.  Sometimes it is gossamer; it makes my writing light and easy, like when I share funny stories from my tales in the trenches of mommyhood.  Other times, like now, like what I have been experiencing for the past few months, that cloak is more like chainmail.  Heavy, burdensome, limiting my mobility.  But with the recognition that I am capable of demonstrating a bit of courage as I share my story, some of those metal links are removed, the burden becomes lessened, and the flood waters inside begin to flow free from my fingertips.  I become free{er}.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Monsoon season

Hi there.'s been a month today since I last posted.  What-the-what?  A month's time...melted into a big mushy puddle by the heat of a Texas summer sun.

Seriously...I don't even have a 'good' reason for neglecting this corner of my box of passions.  Face it.  It's been summer time.  In Texas.  For's not like we've been hanging outside doing all sorts of 'fresh-air-and-vitamin-D'-type things.  With all three kids home, I was trapped in a world of Legos and Barbies and movies, baby dolls and board games and imaginary games where the rules change all.the.time., causing fights to break out all.the.time. because it's impossible to keep up.  'Outside' time consisted of molasses-like trudges between air conditioned house to air conditioned truck to air conditioned store and back again.  There was no 'good time of day' to schedule our errand-running, because it's *hot* all the live-long day, and most of the night.  And yes, I know.  It's Texas.  Texas in the summer is hot.  And I also know the majority of the country has been under intense heat waves this summer.  But with it being our first 'Texas summer', my native Coloradan children found the adjustment to hermit-hood during June, July, and August a bit of a challenge {and my native Pennsylvanian/quasi-Coloradan self wasn't too happy with it either}.    To cope with our cabin-fever, we did go swimming and found the lukewarm pool water gave us a false sense that our insides weren't in fact cooking to a perfect medium-rare.  However, we even got to a point where it was too hot {and/or too tedious, exhausting, boring} to go swimming.

So, what's with my creative outlet hiatus?  Ugh.  Trust me, I've spent time beating myself up about my complete withdrawal from something that brings me a little bit of sanctity and solace.  It's not like I haven't had the opportunity or time to type.

I guess I was afraid of the storms.

Every mom, every woman...every person experiences change throughout their lives.  Some change feels like bright and sunny, cloudless skies of a Colorado fall while some change is like being stuck in the midst of the Arizona monsoon.  I've lived {literally} in the former, and while I haven't experienced the Arizona monsoon {or any monsoon, for that matter} first hand, I have enough background knowledge from which to draw a parallel that makes sense to me.

Monsoon storms range in intensity from dust storms to violent thunderstorms.  A typical Arizona monsoon starts with heavy winds, which can cause a visible wall of dust to envelope a large area of land.  Thunder, lightning, and heavy rains follow; the likes of which can cause flash floods that damage property and could re-sculpt the natural shape of a landform.  What remains after a particularly violent monsoon season is the altered facade of a landscape.  Water and wind show their immense power, rendering humans defenseless.

Safety precautions are put into place, but when dealing with Mother Nature, avoidance is common practice for staying safe when storms are on the horizon.

Which leads me

Those who know me {my husband included}, would not typically attribute my personality to descriptors such as sadness, emptiness, extreme fatigue, the inability to concentrate, extreme frustration and anger over 'the little things', complete lack of motivation or interest.  Hell, even I couldn't wouldn't acknowledge that those ongoing feelings and thoughts had infiltrated my daily life to a point where my 'usual' self wasn't fully functional.  I kept thinking I was over-reacting.  I was spending too much time feeling sorry for myself, not going out 'there' {where ever there is} and making the effort to connect more.

These little feelings and thoughts pestered me, kind of like an onslaught of dust that keeps reappearing on the same mantle I dust twice a day.  And so to avoid the impending storm, I packaged all of that negativity into a box in which I had labeled 'LAZY--SNAP OUT OF IT', and put it on a shelf in my mind.  But it wasn't long {a matter of a day or two} that the shelf succumbed to the weight of my dusty 'box of blah' and the contents spilled, enveloping my heart and my mind. Only this time, I recognized a new guest to my pity party.  Guilt.

How is it that a mom of three happy, healthy, well-adjusted children, the wife of a devoted and loving husband, and the friend & loved one of many dear, sweet inspiring souls be feeling this way all.the.time. {on the inside}?  The blessed life I have been given is not without its troubles, this I know.  But really.  What in the hell could I *really* find so tragic that I'm justified to feel this way?

The truth is, I couldn't find anything.  Aside from a physical relocation for the betterment of my husband's career and our family life, along with an interlude in my own career, I couldn't seem to pinpoint what it is that had brought on these overwhelming and suffocating feelings.  And so, I continued to try and box them up.

Instead of placing the box on an unstable shelf, I stacked it in a corner of my mind, only to be {not so}surprised when the box simply burst and the feelings flooded me, a deluge of emotions that drown me and left me exhausted and spent, filled with emotion yet empty at the same time.  Migraines and physical pain filled my days as I struggled to find the energy to get out of bed let alone care for the three children who exhibited varying degrees of awareness and concern for the distortion of the person they so lovingly referred to as 'momma'.  A downward spiral that left me going through the motions of life, mommyhood, wifedom, and friend and family interactions.  On the outside, I might seem 'okay'--'normal'(ha!).  But the innerworkings of a human heart and mind can house an enigmatic labyrinth of emotions.  I kept so much of what I was feeling trapped inside my mind and my heart and only succumbing to the emotions by way of unfair and unwarranted surges of anger {mis}directed at my children and husband.

The landscape of my heart was being reshaped by the flood of negativity that continued to pour out from an unknown source.  I wasn't liking the reflection that stared blankly, painfully, tiredly back at me.  I was reading a variety of devotions each day, seeking solace in the scriptures.  The stack of books towering alongside my devotionals boast countless highlighted passages, scribbled notes in the margins, and Post-It notes adhered to pages of particular interest for easy referral.  I was, in no uncertain terms, trying to 'fix me, myself'.  I wanted a name, a cause, an answer that would drain the deluge of negative monsoon-y waters away; leaving a dry, 'normal', more familiar landscape in its wake.

But I wasn't enough.  And trust me, I knew deep down in my heart that I would never be enough.  Everything I read and believe in the core of my being tells me that I need not rely on anyone other than God in times of trial and tribulation.  So, when I made the decision to go to a doctor, I knew it might not be a popular one, and therefore kept it to myself.  I feared judgement.  I feared the backlash, the advice, the way in which I would {or would not} be taken seriously--because, {even for those who know me}, you probably would have never put the puzzle pieces together.  I feared the labeling.

But, in the end, I discovered I feared the dusty, dark, and flooded path I was heading down a little bit more.

And so, I made an appointment.

I knew in my heart what her words would be.  I had researched quite a bit to find a doctor with whom I could instinctively build trust, despite our lack of previous doctor-patient relationship.  Prayers were answered as I engaged in a congenial discussion with a compassionate and concerned listener.  Rather than a checklist of question as a means to an end, my doctor put my file aside and faced me directly.  Her eyes were warming, inviting, and open.  A comfort washed over me as I, for the first time to anyone, put in to words the thoughts and feelings and emotions that had been smothering me for so long.  While I didn't get deep into specifics {the woman did have other patients, afterall!}, I felt as though I had shared enough of myself for her to gain a bit of perspective into my reasons for my office visit {which really, felt more like coffee with a new friend--minus the coffee, add the crinkly paper that made noises each time I shifted my butt}.

With some further conversation, a few standard-practice type of questions, and a big hug of reassurance, I was headed out the door and home to begin a regimen of medication used to treat anxiety and depression.  I know the statistics.  I've done my research.  I'm aware of the stigmas attached to diagnoses such as these.  I'm also familiar with how these terms can be loosely thrown around, as well as the way in which people believe medication for the treatment of depression and anxiety can be misused/overused/abused.  Do I fall into the latter?  Am I really in need of a giant kick in the pants, being told to 'snap out of it'; or do I really reap benefits from the medication I have been taking?

In all honesty?  I still think it's too early to tell.  Four weeks since having started my medication; I am climbing the ladder to an 'appropriate dose'.  Have I noticed any changes so far?  In short: I have.  Night after night of sleeplessness are {thankfully} a thing of the past--and I hope they stay that way; however I do have the occasional late night 'stare at the ceiling for two hours' session, or the 4 a.m. 'well, I might as well start my day'.

The physical exhaustion and pain I feel should {only} be attributed to the love/hate relationship my husband and I are currently having with Tony Horton and his P90X crew, as we begin physical transformation.  {Although, hopefully this time we won't allow pain--or pregnancy{!}--to interfere with our continued progress.  Also on our side this time: his work schedule is not nearly as obnoxious unpredictable as when we lived in Colorado.}

Have I made a complete turn around?  Not in the least.  Just yesterday, I spent my day curled up in the corner of the couch, moving only to heat up a big bowl of leftovers; the likes of which I fed to Raegan as well, simply because it was *too much* to put an entirely separate lunch together.  I knew I had to be 'on' at a school function last night; so I conserved my energy and resources.  That way, I could function with a smile, only to return home to my couch corner with a bowl of cereal and a book.  Tonight, Randy and I are meeting with a small group from our church for the first time, so I'm spending quiet time with my blog while sipping imaginary tea and 'eating' plastic treats that Raegan is cooking up in her Little Tikes kitchen.  In all honesty though, my frustration just reached a tipping point when she spilled every.single.little.piece. from the Battleship game into a large bin of teeny.tiny.little. collectible dollhouse toys that we inherited from the grandfather of a sweet neighbor.  Abnormal reaction to something that will inevitably take 20-25 minutes to sort through? {seriously.  you should *see* this large bin of stuff.  miniature spoons.  scissors.  books with pencils.  tea cups.  I'm getting twitchy...}  It's probably a natural thing to experience a bit of frustration...but my response was pretty unwarranted for 'me'.  {Don't worry.  I'll go talk to her in a few minutes.}

So.  Are my skies clearing and the storms subsiding?  I have faith and hope that, yes, I am seeing things through a 'better' lens.  The degree to which that lens is 'better' has yet to be determined.  Somedays, I can absolutely see the difference, like when the optometrist asks you if lens A or lens D is better.  You go from one insanely blurred and tear-inducing view to that of nearly perfect vision, allowing you to distinguish the E from the G from the O on the opposite wall.  Then, there are days like yesterday and today.  You're presented with lens A and lens B.  At first glance, they seem pretty equitable.  No change, no difference.  So you ask to see them both again; only this time you will your mind to find even the slightest difference between the two discs of glass.  You might even ask for a third or fourth glance {an optometrist's nightmare...that's me} because you are just that convinced that something has to be different.  In the end, you wind up choosing at random because for the life of you, you can't notice a discrepancy.

Sometimes, that's me.  A third or fourth glance and I still can't tell the difference between 'pre-meds' and 'on-meds'.  But, the good news is that those 'times' are no longer days.  They're just 'times'.  My moments of non sequitur are being overshadowed by the return of my moments of clarity, of fairness, of sanity.

My landscape is being reshaped; the flood waters are washing away the muck and dirt and blurriness that kept me from navigating my path with confidence.

The path is long, the flood waters may still be flowing, even slowing to just a trickle in some places; but sunny skies will be left in the wake.