Swallowed Whole

By Friday, October 4, 2019 2 6

Oh hey, world! Wow, it’s nice to see you. Like, REALLY nice. You look amazing – have you been working out? Did you do something with your hair? Seriously, we have so much to catch up on.

Let’s just address the elephant in the room and allow me to sincerely apologize for not calling or writing or communicating in any way for the last four years. You’ll never believe this, but I actually lost my brain. I lost it somewhere between my first third trimester and my second third trimester if you can follow that math. I’m going to put it all out there because I need to in order to heal from having children.

I am aware there are many women who don’t lose their brains when they have kids. Some feel they were born to be mothers, some launch companies while having twin infants (ahem, my sister-in-law), and others continue to regularly shower (what kind of sorcery…?). 

I am not one of those women. Being a mother wasn’t innate to me, especially a stay-at-home mom, and I took myself to a numbed, paused place.

I was swallowed by motherhood. Like a whale to biblical Jonah, my Jonah swallowed me whole. And like biblical Jonah, while I didn’t perish inside and it was actually pleasant inside that blobby whale, it was also claustrophobic, suffocating, and wholly disorienting. You forget there is a world outside the whale and that you don’t have to stay there. You can leave whenever you want.

And then I had Isla. She is a redhead and that’s probably all I need to say about that. And post this photo:

“Have two kids,” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said.

Where once I had one shadow, I now have three. My children are right beside me every step and poop I take – yes I’m VERY comfortable talking about poop now, thanks for asking. And it’s never enough. All the attention, love, and special mama time, it’s never enough. Mama should always give more – or at least that’s the guilt I put on myself. I’m aware they didn’t give me that guilt, it was all me. It’s easy to think your needs don’t matter.

Even though I was surrounded by beings that need me and love me more than anyone ever has, as well as a more-than-your-average-bear helpful husband, I never felt so alone. Being a mom, in our village-less ways, can be the loneliest experience.

I found myself struggling to carry on conversations with the non-baby form of humans (I’m a great conversationalist with toddlers – hire me for your next ice-breaker toddler event!). When previously my brain was filled with fabulous discussion topics, an abundance of wit, and uniquely poignant contributions to our political landscape, now all I was capable of was sleep schedule calculations, the fascinating classifications of poop, and any question that starts with “why” – Why are you not sleeping? Why is the floor wet? Why do you need FOUR very specific spatulas? WHY did I volunteer for this??!

Everyone says to love it, savor it, and know how fleeting the absolute love of small children is, but that enlightened perspective doesn’t change the fact that these years are hard for many of us. I love my children more than I thought possible, but — a big ole BUTTT — I have struggled. And I’m here to say it’s ok to feel that way. You aren’t a bad parent if you agree with me.

This may seem horribly ungrateful that I’m complaining about being blessed with two gorgeous, healthy children, but I experienced very real, very scary, and potentially permanent mental repercussions from those four years inside my cute ass whales. More on that in this post.

I know it’s entirely my fault and all I had to do was take care of myself just a little, but I didn’t. Bygones. I martyred myself because I thought I was supposed to. I thought I had to pile more weight than I could carry until I fell down every night. I thought I was supposed to be numbed and on hold. I thought I was OK until I really wasn’t.

The most important thing is that entirely due to what I went through, I am woked, as they say. I am back, the blog is back, and my big girl goals are happening. I’ll never be who I was before my kids because I choose to be better. I’m thinking, writing, and showering again. I could launch a company.

This post is part of my healing process and rebirth. I need to shine a light on it so I can be done with it, so I can fully rejoin the world, and so maybe I can help other mothers from losing themselves to their children/guilt.

The light I’m shining is blindingly bright when you haven’t seen the world in a while. I am so grateful to be me again and to talk about something other than sleep, poop, and why. Yes, my first post in three years is mostly about sleep, poop, and why, but cut me some slack. I’m still relearning how to talk.

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Um, having kids is different than not having kids. They did mention that but not that it can be other-planet, time-warp, brain-eating-amoeba different. What they also forgot to mention is that you can leave the whale but you have to build the raft and detonate the dynamite yourself otherwise you could stay swallowed forever.

Cute little baby whale blob

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The Annoying Kid

By Thursday, July 2, 2015 0 7

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about callings – my calling, your calling, the call of the wild, the call of a child.  It made me remember the two moments in my life when my callings called to me (I sure do like the word call when discussing callings).  These calls were more like deafening screams in my ear from two inches away followed by swift slaps upside the head.  And still, while they made themselves rather obvious, it took me years to hear them.

To me, a calling is that activity in your life that brings out the true you.  It’s the activity that when you do it, you are fully alive.  It could be a form of art, climbing a mountain, speaking in public, designing a room, analyzing stem cells…anything really that when you do it, you are engrossed, entertained, inspired, hyper-intelligent and hyper-creative.  Everyone is intelligent but we differ in how we are are intelligent, and our callings bring out those individual specialties.

I think if each of us looks for these calls in our lives, they will be like the obnoxious know-it-all in class always raising his hand way too aggressively with the answer.  Sometimes you don’t want to call on that kid ‘cause it’s super annoying when someone’s right all the time.  But, you have to call on that kid because no one else is raising their hand and you need to hear the answer.  You probably already know the answer, you just don’t want to know it for whatever reason.  The key is you have to be ready to hear the answer.

I’ll describe one of the moments when my calling made itself known so maybe you can relate to the clarity of a calling’s call.

My junior year in college I took a photography course and from the first few sentences the professor uttered, I bolted up straight in my seat, drooling like a pregnant girl near Dairy Queen (in other news: I am currently 7 months pregnant and think about the DQ a lot.  Like, a LOT).  Every sentence from the professor was sweet nothings poured like syrup on the pancakes of my soul.

The 90-minute lecture flew by and I remember being shocked when it was time to head to my next class.  To me, time simultaneously stood still, slowed down, and sped by.  To me, there was nothing besides what my professor was saying and what I could do with it.  To me, it was love at first lecture.

That class turned something on in me; it turned me on and not in a ooo, check out that hot babe way.  It turned me on.  I had always been a good student but this was a completely different level of scholastic focus.  The difference was I was completely motivated.  Anything related to that class gave me endless energy and I was incapable of getting bored or distracted.  It both consumed and fed all of me.  Every assignment was like playtime with a side of seriousness and desire to excel I had never experienced.

That semester I didn’t have classes on Fridays so I would wake up at 6 to get in the darkroom as soon as the doors opened and I wouldn’t leave until the day was done.  I didn’t talk to a soul, barely noticing there were people around.  The entire day, completely alone working this craft, I was thoroughly awake and entertained.  It wasn’t work to me, so I could do it all day long.  To this day, the buzzing amber darkness, the smell of those noxious chemicals, and the sloshing of the development process are some of my favorite things.

When I wasn’t in the darkroom, I wandered through Washington, DC, where I went to school, taking photos.  I would take several film rolls more than assigned (kids, a long time ago photographs used to be captured on physical objects known as “film rolls” that you had to develop to see.  You had to think and compose before you shot a selfie because there was no delete!  I feel like a cavegirl right now…).  There was a feeling of self-exhalation every time I clicked the shutter on a shot I knew was beautiful.  I would feel a spark that got brighter the more skilled I became, taking a piece of me but in a way that gave me more than it took.

Needless to say I did really well in that class and I was the obnoxious know-it-all always talking to the professor after class and crushing every assignment.  I became confident, happy, bold, and free the moment photography was around in any way.  I’m still that way and photography always brings out some of the best and most daring parts of me.  I get high off of it.  Pretty clear calling, right?

What is even more clear is that it is up to each of us to seek out our callings.  No one will hand them to us on a silver platter saying “here, this one’s for you.”  Callings are things we stumble across and it’s up to each of us to recognize when we’ve stumbled upon something worth paying attention to.  What you’ve stumbled upon is you.  Speaking from experience, if you don’t follow that call you will never feel fully satisfied, you will never feel fully you, you will always feel you’re holding back.  What’s so interesting is that for most of us, we are the only thing holding ourselves back.

I think we owe it to ourselves to ask this question: what turns me on? I’m not talking about ear nibbles or Ryan Gosling; I’m talking about what turns me on? What makes me come alive? What are the things I could do forever without getting bored? What makes me bold? What makes time go all wonky?

Think back to those moments when something truly clicked.  Maybe it called to you years ago and you weren’t ready to hear it.  I know that you can still hear that call today because the echoes will reverberate through your entire life.  The echoes are just waiting for you to listen for them.  If you listen, you ARE that annoying kid in class with all the answers.  You already know who you are, so heed that call and be that person.  Turn yourself on loudly, fill your life with it and let the world hear you.  We will all be better because of it.

your-calling

Things They Forgot to Mention:

When the annoying know-it-all kid calls, pick up the phone. That kid is you. It’s you that has the answer.

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Eating Cereal Isn’t Hard

By Thursday, October 16, 2014 2 7

I heard a report on NPR that said cereal consumption is on a decline and has been since 1996.  The reason was particularly special: we are eating less cereal because it takes too much time.  Instead we opt for alternatives like fast-food breakfast sandwiches or Go-Gurt® (for when you’re on the go with yogurt, Go-Gurt®!).  Here is a quote from the report I found regrettably true:

This exhausting ritual — pouring cereal into the bowl, pouring milk into the bowl, eating it — takes too much time.

The report goes on to say that since cereal requires using a bowl and a spoon that you have to clean, it has become too much work.  In other words: cereal is too time consuming and we don’t have that time to consume it.  I would guess that eating cereal, including the dish washing, is a five minute task so this means we don’t have those five minutes anymore.  Why not? Where did those five minutes go?

I am guilty of this.  I admit now in front of the world wide web that for years I ate my cereal while driving to work since I did not “have the time” to eat at home.  Yes, I ate cereal while driving a vehicle…on a freeway.  Don’t worry, I drove with my knee so I could eat my cereal while gazing out the window at the Pacific Ocean.  It was a win-win, minus the whole danger thing.

I have been thinking about being busy for a while.  No matter what I’m doing, I’m busy and have been for years.  We all have been.  The default answer to the question: “How are you?” is always: “Well, I’ve been busy…”  That’s what we all say.  Listen for it and you’ll hear it everywhere, you’ll hear it coming from you.  The conversation will go from there, both parties secretly comparing levels of busy.

We are all always busy, but the question I ask is: why are we so busy? Why is that our preferred mode? Why do we work so hard to keep it that way? Why do we think running from place to place without time to eat cereal means that we’ve made it?

In U.S. culture, being busy is something to be proud of, a symbol of success.  If you aren’t busy you aren’t accomplishing.  So we rush through our lives and abbreviate everything, even our experiences, into soundbites.  We don’t linger anymore, we don’t savor.  Our lives become as peripheral as a status post, outlines of real experience.  But we can point to it, check it off of a list, and therefore we think it counts.

I watched a TED Talk by Carl Honoré discussing the glorification of busy and he struck a chord by saying:

Slow is a dirty word.  It’s a word for lazy, slacker, for being somebody who gives up.

He’s right.  If someone, when asked “how are you?”, actually said they hadn’t been up to much, had free time, and sat on grassy knolls a lot, that wouldn’t go over well.  That person would be seen as wasting their time and ultimately their life.  Multi-tasking, resume building, a full calendar; that makes a well-lived life.

Honoré thinks our obsession with busy lies in how our culture defines time as “a finite resource…always draining away, you either use it or lose it.”  If we have that outlook on time, it makes sense that we race against something that is disappearing on us.  Every minute is one and done, so we cram in as much as we can and call it carpe diem.

I argue we stop carpe-ing that diem, at least in the way we carpe today.  I argue we do things that can’t be summed up because the entirety of sitting on a grassy knoll can’t be a soundbite.  Unless you manage to phrase it how they did in this hilarious/super deep moment from the movie, I ♥ Huckabees:

Doing nothing can mean doing everything.  How very New Age of me.

I think if we daydream, if we do nothing, if we do whatever makes our minds quiet, then we can really live our lives.  In a study on the resting brain, neuroscientists found “when we are resting, the brain is anything but idle and…downtime is essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill a code of ethics.”  Take that to your boss when you request a vacation.

Obviously there is a line between being slow and being lazy, but I’m not talking about lazy.  I’m talking about the opposite of lazy.  I think wasting time can be described as going through your day without being fully aware of what is happening around and in you.  Your time is wasted by focusing only on to-do lists and juggling acts, forgetting that it’s a beautiful day and it’s beautiful you’re even alive.  The fact is if we don’t have time for something, it means we value other things more than it.  I think about that in my life, the things I choose to not do and what I replace them with.  I wonder if the tradeoff is worth it…

I’m thinking about giving up being busy.  I could find a different answer to the question: “How are you?”  I want to describe my life with more detail.  I also want to live with more detail.  I want to highlight things other than how busy I am because that doesn’t describe me.  I’m going to sit on a grassy knoll, eat a bowl of cereal, and tell you all about it.

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, photo, grassy knoll

 

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve carpe-d my diem.  Something as simple as having time for cereal can carpe much better.

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A Sweetie’s Guide to Managing Jim

By Thursday, September 25, 2014 6 7

I recently had to deal with a very strong personality.  When I say “deal with,” I mean I had to confront an aggressive man with a peacock complex and questionable respect for women and get him to do something he did not want to do.

This man, Jim, was doing work on our backyard and he was large in every way: height, presence, voice volume.  He filled your space, stole your authority, and everything went his way.  His words were fast and forceful, leaving you with nothing to say except: “Sounds good, Jim.”  We found ourselves agreeing to contract changes that we should not agree to and then we found ourselves with a problem.

I have to mention what irked me most about Jim was that he called me “sweetie.”  I hated him calling me that, it was condescending and it filled me with a useless rage.  Not to mention, Jim calling me sweetie made me feel like a sweetie, like a silly little girl who did not need to be taken seriously.  It was his way of subtly putting me in my place and it was annoyingly effective.

I knew our confrontation was coming for 24 hours, so I marinated WAY too long in the anticipation.  I practiced what I was going to say, I bounced ideas off my husband, I imagined push-back scenarios.  The only thing this marinating accomplished was that I became more and more nervous, which made me more and more insecure.  I let it saturate me and I came out all soggy dog.  What a lousy foundation from which to confront Jim.  I felt like such a sweetie.

Then on my drive home to meet Jim something interesting happened.  I started thinking about energy and how because his energy was more overt, mine was diluted.  I realized this only happened because I allowed him to dilute me, I allowed him be stronger than me, I gave him my permission.  A simple sentence came into my head and shifted everything.  The sentence was: “You are not stronger than me, Jim.”  It was utterly true.  He wasn’t more powerful, he just acted like it.  I wasn’t a sweetie, I just acted like it.

For the rest of my drive, each time I said that sentence, I believed it more completely.  I became calm and certain, and now looked forward to our confrontation.

This time when Jim walked in the door I felt taller than him.  This time when he called me sweetie it did not dilute me.  This time I was the bigger presence.  Using advanced ESP, I sent him my sentence: “You are not stronger than me, Jim.”  I let him and his voice volume talk at me for a bit, filling the space with blah blah blah.  I smiled as he talked, I was cooler than a stoned Snoop Dogg, y’all.  When he was satisfied with the blah blah blah, I said: “Jim, let’s go take a walk.”  I saw him visibly taken aback, he stumbled over some words and followed me outside.

We walked through the backyard and I pointed out the issues we had with his work.  I presented him with two options to fix them, and instantly he agreed to one.  I was not bitchy, I was not pushy, but I was not a sweetie.  I was stronger than Jim and he knew it.  It was that simple to confront him.

Jim left agreeing to a lower bill and doing more work for free, and we were not enemies.  But, he did not call me sweetie as he left, he used my name.

I found there was difference between Jim’s strength and mine.  His was aggressive, contrived, and turbulent.  Mine was serene, steady, and gentle.  I didn’t have to resort to aggression to tame his aggression, I just had to be a strong me.

I wonder now about all the times in my life that I played small, that I played the sweetie because that’s where I thought I belonged.  How many Jims have overtalked me and dictated what happens to me? I always thought that since I wasn’t a combative person, that equated to me being weaker.  But that’s not true at all.  Strength is a personal choice and you choose its form, so choose one that fits.  Sometimes strength is a calm, kind approach.  And sometimes sweeties are the strongest.

Things They Forgot to Mention:

When Jim comes to your door, channel Snoop D-O-double-G and know that he is only stronger when you allow him to be.

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

By Thursday, August 28, 2014 3 8

Before my wedding, I asked many couples if anything changes by getting married.  The general consensus was no.  My husband and I, however, respectfully disagree.  We have been married for, like, eleven months so we know pretty much everything about marriage.  Feel free to ask us for any pointers.

I am moderately serious when I say that.  Something about our particular combination creates a superstorm of self-exploration that we cannot avoid.  I think it’s because we are both extrapolators, meaning we see small things and expand wildly from there, seeing that small thing through to its full, possibly exaggerated potential.  Because of this mutual trait, we went through years in the first three months we were married.

Here’s what happens when you get married: you suddenly realize that marriage is mostly about who you are, not who your partner is.  Your partner is obviously important, but we all know that; why else would we subject ourselves to first date cringing, red lipstick, or getting our hearts trampled? We take our search for our partner seriously, but once that search is over, it moves internal and you start searching for you.

You will find your partner serves as a brutally clear mirror that reflects back exactly who you are.  It’s like one of those magnification mirrors your mom used to have (and probably still does) with the fluorescent lighting specifically designed to show every pore and wrinkle.  Through this mirror, you get to see all your beauty; why your spouse loves you, how you are such a special bird.  But all your peculiarities show up too, all the creepy-crawlies you said you’d get to one day.  They all come front and center and ready for orders.

Some people may have seen this all-knowing mirror in other situations, and some people might not see it until years later, but I first saw it the minute we came back all lovey dovey from our honeymoon.  Then *bam! slap! whappo!* …hoooolyyyyyyyy sh*t.  I immediately felt the weight of what marriage truly is and I quickly went inside to hide.

I went through the shock privately, stunned by the news flash that marriage is kind of a big deal.  Over the next three months, the realization grew and transformed and haunted me like twin ghost girls in a hallway.  I panicked about being a wife and distanced myself from this amazing man I married.  All I could see was everything I had to combat in myself in order to be the wife my husband deserves (aw…).

I failed to discuss any of this with my husband until one night when we simultaneously collapsed.  Little did I know, he had been going through exactly the same shock and, per our similar personalities, we were ready to talk at exactly the same time.

So we talked.  The moment we started talking about the fear, it drifted away.  What replaced the fear was an intense motivation to stop holding back from everything, to be everything I said I would be.  I also had the delayed revelation of what a husband is, and more importantly for me, what it means to be a wife.  A marriage is a fascinating human relationship, the most intimate one you will ever have.  It is the scariest, hardest, most complicated bond you will ever have.  It is also the most self-aware, internal, beautiful place for massive growth.

What I know beyond a doubt is in order to have a good marriage, you have to be a good you.  Harder than it sounds, and such a gift if you think about it.  Marriage gives you an unbelievable opportunity to make each other better people, but it requires habit breaking (yuck), painful exposing (lame), and awkward vulnerability (no thanks).   The bottom line is: if you want a happy, “all in” marriage, you can’t hide from yourself anymore. You have to pick up each creepy-crawly you saw in that mirror, dissect it, research its origins and then figure out how to outfox it.

And now if someone asks me if anything changes by getting married, I will say: “Yes.  Everything.  It’s all a choice.  And you have to choose to fight for it.”

Things They Forgot to Mention:

Getting married means you marry two people: your spouse and, surprisingly, shockingly, yourself.

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Always Read Your Labels

By Sunday, August 10, 2014 1 6

The other morning I was making breakfast for my husband, a bacon aficionado, when I looked at the package in my hand and saw a weird phrase. The phrase was so weird, I took a picture.

Here’s the picture:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, bacon

And a close-up of the phrase in case you missed it:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, bacon

Wait, what? Is this really something we do now? Have we come to a point where something treated humanely is special enough to write home? Where it’s the exception to the rule? I’m not that naive and am aware of the reality of the livestock industry, but something about this printed as a marketing point for everyone to see was tragic.

Here’s how I imagine the company meeting went to come up with product points:

Boss: “So, what makes this bacon stand-out?”
Employee: “It’s organic! Pesticides stink.”
Employee: “It’s gluten-free! No wheat additive in something that should have nothing to do with wheat additives in the first place.”
Employee: “It’s Canadian!! Canadians are really nice.”
Employee: “It’s humane! The animals are raised in a stress-free environment that promotes natural behavior and socialization.”
Boss: “Brilliant! Let’s include all of that in our message.”

It honestly says the stress-free, natural behavior statement verbatim on the package:

Things They Forgot to Mention, blog, bacon

The more I stared at that sentence, the weirder it became. What an odd sentence to have to write. It made me mad that it existed. It made me want to stop looking at packages and go blindly about my breakfast. But no, I looked at that package and spiraled from there.

I tried to guess the Department of Agriculture’s official definition of “humanely raised”. I pictured the task force assigned to come up with the definition. Those poor people, what a crappy task. I bet they used the following phrase a lot: “Nope, [legally-sanctioned activity X] wouldn’t be considered humane, so that’s out.”

I wondered what is allowed for those that don’t meet the “humanely raised” definition. What levels of stress and unnatural socialization are acceptable? What’s the line they’re allowed to cross? Why are they allowed to cross it?

Let me be clear: I don’t mean to belittle this particular bacon company. I mean to belittle the companies that couldn’t qualify for the “humanely raised” stamp. While I understand the effects of bacon mania on supply conditions for the livestock industry, it’s still weird to me that being humane is an elective.

I’ll have you know I cooked the bacon that morning and it was delicious. I added a little maple syrup, some cayenne pepper and *muah*! Just as the package promised, my breakfast was free of stress, full of natural behavior and somewhat reminiscent of Canada, as all things should be. Well, not necessarily the Canada part, but definitely all the rest.

 

Things they forgot to mention:

Always read your labels because if you don’t…being humane is apparently optional.

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