A Page of One's Own

Epiphany

Aug
05

The last few months have been vulnerable for me. And as much as I say that I’m an advocate for authenticity and taking risks for connection, I hate being exposed.

I was very excited about a job opportunity about two months ago, but I tried to not let myself get too excited. I wanted to protect myself from being disappointed or hurt. With the second baby almost ready to party, Branden traveling for clinicals, and a busy 20-month-old, my options for employment right now are limited. Two months ago, I thought that I had found something that was a perfect fit. Anxiety followed the interview, along with self-doubt and the stress of trying to balance the needs of everyone in my family.

That day, I took Charlee to Petsmart to watch puppies. Her eyes lit up as she raced to the dog pen, planted herself in front of the cutest puppy, (who only wanted her for the graham cracker she held) and giggled and giggled. I watched her, untrained to mediate emotion and reaction, unaware of social norms like not getting too excited, too sad, too happy, too fearful, too much of anything–and I felt inspired. She let herself be joyful when she was happy, and tired when she was tired, and sad when she was sad. It seemed like a much better practice, the feeling what you were feeling out in the open, than protecting and faking. I watched her interact with the dog with pure joy, and I decided to lean into the discomfort of being vulnerable.

I decided to let myself be excited, joyful, disappointed, confused, or whatever else I needed to be, with the entire process of job hunting. 

I ended up getting the job and turning it down. I ended up having another offer and turning it down. I have interviewed for multiple jobs, been excited about a few, been disappointed a few times, been plenty stressed and overwhelmed, and felt extremely vulnerable the whole process.

Vulnerability is selling myself to a job.

Vulnerability is saying “I’m worth more than you are offering,” or “That’s a lot of money, but it is too much time away from my kids at this point of my life,” or “Thank you for the offer, but it isn’t going to bring me the fulfillment that I’m looking for in employment.” 

Vulnerability is saying “no” when I really want to say “yes.”

Vulnerability is telling people I am smart enough to do what they are asking.

Vulnerability is being rejected.

For me, vulnerability is a lot less about opening up, exposing myself through words, and a lot more about navigating myself. I have a husband who will probably be away when my second baby is born, and then I’ll have two kids, and I’ll be trying to make enough money for us right now, while attempting to remain sane and make time for myself–for my desires of personal fulfillment and growth.

I let myself feel this vulnerability, thanks to Charlee and her puppy friend, and it has been emotional. Self-doubt has arisen for me in interesting ways: Am I worth this amount? Am I being selfish for being picky? What if the best thing for me right now is to say no, to not work, and to trust that everything will work out?

A job recently came up that honestly would be perfect. I won’t go into details, but I have let myself feel thrilled with the prospect of doing the work that this job entails. I have gone through an extensive interviewing process. I have met with the owner of the company in person in Salt Lake. I have asked for a job to be open specifically for me, although they weren’t looking to hire. I have spent hours proving that my skill set will be an asset to their project. I have done my best.

Two nights ago, I sent in my last test after the last month of ups and downs working on different projects for this job, and I felt absolutely nothing.

After I hit send, my emotion was flat, and I had the epiphany of all epiphanies.

Although I will be blessed to get this job, I don’t really care. After hours of work and anticipation and hope, I am going to be fine either way.

Because no matter what I do, nothing will compare to the fulfillment I get from a moment with my daughter or my husband. Nothing could even touch it. 

And I don’t say this to be preachy, because I’m aware that each of our situations are different. Maybe that connection for you will be through employment (which I hope can one day be the case for me) or maybe it will be through loving on your pets or caring for some cool plants.

But as I woke Branden up at one in the morning to try to figure this out, I realized that human connection, for me in this moment with the people I love most, is infinitely precious in ways that no external achievement could be. My moment of realization came when the internal, finally settling in, became more important than the external.

I said out loud to Branden, “This right here is as good as it gets.” And as depressing as this realization could have been, it actually felt light and joyful. The day-to-day is difficult, and nobody cares, and being a mother and a wife most days leaves me doing all my nervous ticks and not sleeping well. I am tired. But this is as good as it gets.

I realized then that one day, I am going to miss my daughter waking up screaming “MOMMY, MOMMY, MOMMY” and then constantly saying “no” to everything I offer.

I’m going to miss Branden driving 30 minutes both ways to retrieve her “lamby” that I forgot, while I rock Charlotte, way past her bedtime, and she asks me for songs until my throat is hoarse.

I’m going to miss Branden falling asleep with exhaustion everywhere he sits down, and I’m going to miss buying everything we own at a thrift store and making homemade mac n’ cheese in an already-trashed kitchen, because that’s the only thing that sounds good to me.

I’m going to miss Charlotte’s irrational fear of the sound of running water, and that her favorite color is very apparently green, and that her curly little hair is thick and wild and impossible to control.

I’m going to miss not being able to afford a gym, and I’m going to miss going to exercise classes every morning at a nearby church. I’m going to miss teaching myself to dance while 32 weeks pregnant.

I’m going to miss meeting Branden for lunch on days I have completely had it. I’m going to miss the inability to keep my house or car or self clean.

I’m going to miss date nights where we are both too exhausted to do anything, so we ask each other questions for hours with 20 fans blowing on us because we don’t have AC.

I’m going to miss him awake at 1 AM listening to me talk about this, when he has to get up at 5 to study for his test the next day.

I’m going to miss the little MMA boxer in my belly trying to break its way out, and I’m going to miss trying to craft a nursery out of things we already have, and I’m going to miss good friends helping me more than I can thank them.

Because one day, Branden and I are going to have kids all grown up, and we are going to have money and a comfortable place of our own, and it’s still going to be as much about connection then as it is now.

So I am relieved that I let myself feel uncomfortably vulnerable the last few months, because I let myself feel all the excitement and build-up, and then at the end, it wasn’t what I thought.

This is as good as it gets.

Good Enough Parenting

May
22

If I could go back sixteen months to the night my baby was born, when I had no idea what I was getting into and every idea of how to perfectly parent, I would tell myself only one piece of parenting advice, and it would be this: You are going to mess it up.

You are going to completely mess it up at some point and in some way and in some facet of your child’s life, so give up on perfection. Give up on not making mistakes. Give up on being the ideal parent and completely tune out the million things your kid should be doing before age one and shouldn’t be doing before age five. Give up, and let it all go, and accept that your kid will probably be in counseling one day because of something you did or didn’t do.

That’s what I would tell myself. I would tell myself that I am enough being me and being a mom. I would tell myself I am a good enough parent, and that being a good enough parent is exactly what is needed. I would tell myself that being a good enough parent is actually enough despite the mistakes I will make, constantly and for the rest of my parenting life. I would tell myself that being a good enough parent is enough.

So since I can’t go back sixteen months, I’ll tell you all that instead.

(Except for the people who give talks in church about parenting whose kids never rebelled, forgot to brush their teeth, talked back, threw a tantrum, etc…Just don’t talk to those people.)

I wrote this in my journal a few weeks ago, about my own enoughness as a parent. Your version of this will be different. We all bring our own fight to the table.

“I’m a damn good mom.

I’m not a squishy mom, like when Charlotte trips I don’t gasp or react–I let her get up because I want her to be tough. I don’t buy her all the toys. She can imagine.

But I notice things about her and I write about her. I think about her constantly. I choose her to be my person, my number one. And sure, I would do anything for her, but I don’t think that’s what makes me good.

I am very concerned with being the best version of myself possible. I work at it. I choose to be self-aware even when it is excruciating and I change when I need to. It has been and still is the longest journey.

But I am more concerned with being a better me than the best mom, and that’s what makes me damn good.”

I think that this is my biggest strength in parenting. I am an excellent communicator and empathizer, I am self-aware, and I want to live a life focused on the values I believe. But still, I have plenty of reasons to not feel good enough. We all do. I could write an entire book on the million things we could feel bad about as parents–ruining your kids’ lives and chances at happiness, for instance.

To illustrate, let me tell you about this week.

Branden had a conference in Las Vegas where he met interesting people, made meaningful connections, and participated in the political side of his profession.

Meanwhile, Charlotte and I almost died. She fell down cement stairs about an hour after Branden left, leaving her face scraped and bruised. She cried, almost non-stop, for five consecutive days. The only time she stopped was when we were around other people. Then she was adorable. I have tried everything to help her, to no relief or avail. I will save you the stressful details, but I had a pediatrician tell me this week that in his twenty two years of practicing, he has never heard of some of Charlotte’s symptoms and honestly isn’t sure what to tell me.

I am five months pregnant, without a husband, working, entirely exhausted and emotionally frustrated. The job I care about most in my life–the job I would give up all the others for–the job of taking care of my daughter–I often feel I am failing, or flailing through. So this week, she ate graham crackers (seriously) whenever she wanted them, I haven’t done her hair, and we have worn pajamas all day the last few days. I have chosen to let go of the expendables in order to save our sanity.

If there is one universal theme I have noticed with parents, both young and old, it is the feeling of shame that hits, almost initially after becoming a parent, that they are not parenting good enough–they let something go, lost their temper, let their kid fall down cement stairs (ahem), should be teaching them how to put puzzles together at six months, teaching them Mandarin by age two, teaching them business strategy by age four, creating competitive little humans in a competitive world, and feeding them only organic crap.

With everything we are supposed to do as parents, it is no wonder that shame is universal. Most parenting books, podcasts, talks and advice is laced with the message: You’re not quite doing enough. You’re not quite caring enough.

Well I’m calling that out. Because to be honest, I would have to hire a small army–at least twelve people–to help me raise one child doing all the stuff I should be doing. And I would have to have a mind-reader on hand to come in and tell me at any given moment what is wrong with my kid and exactly how to fix it.

I absolutely love this quote on “good enough” parenting.

Good enough parents do not worry too much about their imperfections. They strive to do [good] things, but they recognize that they will not always succeed as fully as they might wish, and they forgive themselves for that. Good enough parents recognize that even love is never perfect; it is always at least somewhat fickle. In Bettelheim’s words, ‘Not only is our love for our children sometimes tinged with annoyance, discouragement, and disappointment, the same is true for the love our children feel for us.’ Good enough parents accept this as part of the human condition. Good enough parents understand that nature has created children to be quite resilient. As long as parents don’t mess up too badly (and sometimes even if they do), the children will turn out OK, and OK is good enough. -Dr. Peter Gray

To me, this means that it’s okay to pick your battles. It’s ok to prioritize. It’s ok to say that you are sorry, to mean it, and to show willingness to change as a parent. It’s ok to not be an intentional parent 100% of the time, or even 50, depending on the day. It’s okay to try.

I believe in good enough parenting. I believe that it’s messy. I love my baby so much I would move the world for her, and I also was so frustrated with her this week that I was writing KSL ads to my friends (half kidding) about taking a free baby for a few hours (or years.) I believe that the reality of loving a child is hard, and giving up control slowly, constantly, is painful more often than rewarding. I believe that we all feel bad for being as frustrated as we sometimes are, and we all believe that we should be handling parenting with more patience, love, and general enjoyment. (Once again, except for some people who give the talks in church about parenting. Because they’ve arrived. Or they don’t actually have kids.)

So I don’t buy into the shame, and you shouldn’t either. It’s exhausting. You are a good enough parent, no matter what phases your kids are going through or what mistakes you have made. You are a good enough parent, and so am I.

And if you’re about to become a new parent: You are going to mess it up. Give up. You are good enough.

 

Being A Mother//Being Myself

Mar
09

There is a natural progression to what life as a middle-class, religious, conservative woman looks like: elementary school, middle school, high school with a boyfriend and a sub-par job, college, adventures–a medical or religious mission, a study abroad–, dating around, settling down with “the one,” a job or career, and finally, then, motherhood. Finally, then, you’ve arrived.

At least that’s what I thought. I have been taught from religion or society or something that motherhood is the grand destination to life. Once you have become a mother, you’re there.

A good friend said to me today, “Kaylee, you know there’s nothing wrong with being goal-oriented and ambitious?” and she said it like that should be the most obvious statement in the world, but it felt so good to hear and also so surprising that I have felt…lighter…all day. It feels like a strain has been lifted off of my shoulders.

I have been thinking all day about why this statement surprised me and have reached a conclusion, or rather, a question that might lead to a few conclusions: what if being a mother, arriving at what I thought my destination would be, does not “fill” me completely? And that question led me to another: why do I feel so incredibly shamed for still trying to be myself–one who desires achievement, who is rarely content but always hungry, starving for creating and trying and experimenting with  my talents– after getting married and having a baby?

I know that this is a touchy subject for probably every woman, so I want to make something clear: I believe that women are unique. I believe that many women find complete fullness from motherhood, from the very moment they first hold their first child. And this is not lesser in my mind. We are all different, with different needs and desires and ambitions and disappointments. This is not an argument against stay-at-home mothers or for working women. I anticipate being “filled,” being completely fulfilled as a mother in some future moment of my life. I admire and respect women who choose to stay at home–my mother was one such, and the blessings of what continuously come from her sacrifices are unparalleled.

And if what fills you the most is cooking dinner, doing crafts, creating beautiful gardens, meditating, reading, or focusing all efforts into your children–how wonderful! I appreciate that you are different than me. I need friends who can cook me dinner and teach me how to be organized and help me craft.

This also isn’t an argument against working mothers. I know incredible women who balance beautifully their many roles.

I wish as women we could recognize and truly appreciate that we are different, and what a relief, because we need Pinteresty women and lawyers and surgeons, humble, giving women and cooks and yogis and talkers and listeners. We need all sorts. We need workers and watchers. We don’t all “fit.” Maybe none of us fit.

I am a mother first and foremost. I would do anything for my daughter, and she brings me more joy than I can imagine anything else ever will. She is my world.

And I think it’s okay for me to be a mother and to still be myself, just like I think it’s okay for you to be a mother and be yourself, whatever that looks like. For the last year, I have been trying to “fit” and “fulfill my duty” to Charlee, to Branden and really to my culture. I have struggled with condescending comments from women like “being a mom is the best thing ever!” and “being a mom is enough; enjoy every moment!”

I know. I know it is. I love life with my daughter. I am a mother and I get it, and I would not trade it for anything. But how did sacrificing who we are as individuals, as women, somehow get wrapped up in our perceptions of what it means to be a good mother? (I can’t speak for you. Maybe it’s just me.)

When did it become black and white? Or is it? Why is it either a “stay at home” or a “working” mom? And why does it feel like there is a “versus” in between the two? It feels black and white.

But today I realized that it doesn’t have to be. I will be a better mother for chasing my dreams and filling myself daily, weekly, and monthly. I will be a better mother and actually, I will be a better person if I remain authentic to myself no matter what else is happening in my life. And the reality of what that will look like, I imagine, will fluidly move as I change throughout the years.

I’m an intense person who loves achieving and loves making and reaching goals. So that’s what I’m going to do, or at least, try to do.

I’m about 117 pages into my first book.

I decided today to become a health coach and teach people about intuitive eating.

I need room to explore how I personally can live what I believe.

I go to counseling every week because I like learning about myself, and I am passionate about self-improvement.

One day, I will get my Masters in Fine Arts and be a certified teacher.

And today I realized, for the first time, that this isn’t selfish. As a mother, I choose to sacrifice myself in certain ways and to hang onto myself in others. This isn’t selfish; it’s self-care.

I want to view motherhood as this forever journey in my life, not its final point, which at some times I will do full-time and at others I will share with other goals.

And that’s okay, at least for now.

 

 

 

Like a Girl

Feb
05

This morning, Charlee and I showed up at the church gym to cheer on daddy as he played a basketball game.

Branden’s team was down a player, and I can play basketball. Branden suggested that I join the team, and I watched as some of the men shifted, some accepted, and some grimaced. Playing with a girl?

One of the men, stooped over putting his basketball shoes on, said, “Well, if we can’t get five guys we might as well start trying to get girls to play.”

Oh, really?

I lifted my eyebrows, looked directly at him, and said, “might as well?” loud enough for everyone within the room to hear.

He caught on, laughing nervously and playing it off. I immediately said to Branden in Portuguese, “I don’t want to play with this guy,” to which he responded, “I get that.” There was an immediate assumption that I was going to play basketball “like a girl,” which phrase we can use interchangeably with “worse” in this case.

I ended up playing, because I wanted to play and I’m actually pretty good, not great but pretty good, and I played while my baby crawled around on the sideline. I asked the opposing team to play hard against me, and they did. I got swatted a few times, and I had a few great steals. I played good defense. And not that I was keeping score or anything, but I scored more points than that guy.

Women are as individual as men. Please do not make assumptions about me.

How does it make sense to assume that because someone is a woman, she cannot possibly play basketball as good as say, a middle-aged, out-of-shape man? And how does it make sense to assume that men can lift heavy things while women cannot? It doesn’t, but I’m still picked hesitantly to play for a team, and eyes still skip over me when looking for “strong hands” to help.

I am as individual as you, with strengths and weaknesses. Being a women does not make me weak and it does not make me strong. Let me decide what I am.

I am a mother and a creator and I like to play basketball. I can lift heavy things. I am a woman, a mother, a creator, an athlete, and I am strong.

In order to compete though, I need opportunities to compete–so give them freely.

And then if I am not keeping up, cut me from the team.

I want my daughter to hear the phrase “like a girl” and know that that phrase connotes strength and individuality, not weakness or inferiority. Because girls can do, well, pretty cool things.

See stats from basketball game today.

Soul Work

Nov
27

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetA year ago, I was stressed out of my mind. I was studying for finals, working on a heavy semester of school projects, tutoring 20 hours a week, going to 4+ doctor’s appointments weekly, and trying to keep a baby in my belly until I graduated college.

I had no expectations after graduation. I had no idea what the future held for either me or Branden. I literally didn’t think about what motherhood would look like for me. I was in survival mode until I had Charlee.

I have been pretty open with some of the struggles of motherhood. I haven’t, however, ever touched on the heart of these struggles.

For the first time in my life, as a mother, a college graduate in a creative major, and a wife, I could not do what I once did, and what I have done my whole life. I didn’t feel productive. I didn’t feel like I was contributing.

For the first time in my life, I lost all external validation. The performances that I had always been praised for disappeared. No one cared anymore that I graduated at the top of my class, that I could run fast, that I was smart, that I was capable, that I was (fill in the blank.) It evaporated into the air, and with it, my whole sense of being and worth.

This moment was a crucial one for me. I realized that I had never developed myself, absent of performance and achievement. I realized that I had been using busy-ness as a defense from feeling empty. This moment has lasted months. It has been my first real identity crisis. It has been an unraveling. All of the unwanted, hidden emotions and behaviors unraveled right before me as the next step of my life was no longer provided. How incredibly uncomfortable. What an opportunity. img_2134

I wanted to share with you all a few valuable things that I have learned, through months of counseling, relapse, and amazing joy–I wanted to share with you all the value in the soul work that I am undergoing.

I have learned that fulfillment comes through creation.

I started to paint a few months ago. I don’t do it super well. It is so good for me to do something I don’t do perfectly. I don’t get praised for painting, and I don’t want to–I do it for me. When I finish a painting, a painting authentically mine, I feel creative and fulfilled. When I start feeling depressed, I create.

I have learned that to feel joy, I must do things that fill my soul; things that make me feel.

Walking, running, reading, writing, painting, creating, playing, singing, talking, exploring, hiking–these are my soul-fillers.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetMy default is to numb–to watch Netflix so there is noise around me, to make a list and check things off, to clean and shop and do the things that must be done and take care of the people that must be taken care of. But as I have tried to let myself feel, to really feel what it is to be alive and to experience a day and a moment, I have felt connected to myself and people around me.

I have learned about rest.

Rest is this uncomfortable thing I do to take care of myself. I have been working on giving myself permission to take breaks. Emotions like guilt and discomfort always accompany the rest for me, but I keep doing it. In a culture that says GO, I try to rest. In a culture that says sacrifice self, I try to practice self-care. It isn’t indulgent; it is necessary.

I have learned that perfectionism is not a badge–it is destructive.

I am a recovering perfectionist. For years, almost my whole life, I used the word “perfectionist” as a shield against people who talked about self-love and acceptance. As I have worked to let go of black-and-white thinking, pretty cool things have happened. Relief flooded into my life in realizing that I am good enough, healthy enough; a good enough mother and good enough wife and a good enough person to live life well. Enough is my favorite word. I am not perfect. I am enough.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

I have learned that I can feel joy when life isn’t perfect.

img_2094The word “joy” at its root means the good mood of the soul. As I have worked to let go of perfectionism and stop defining myself by that label, I let go of having a perfect life. I let go of trying to control the parts of my life that weren’t “fitting” the way that I wanted them to. Then, joy came. I feel joyful. I don’t always feel happy. I struggle with all the hats I wear right now–of mother and wife, financial provider of our little family, member of the community, bill payer and grocery shopper and laundry doer and cook and etc… Some days, I don’t feel very happy. Some days I feel sad, or mad, or disappointed, or empty. But let me tell you, I feel joy pretty often. I know that I’m okay and that I’m going to be okay. My soul is in a good mood about it.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetI have learned that joy stems from gratitude.

Practicing gratitude in concrete, verbal ways has set the tone for what I see in my life. If I look for aspects of my life to be grateful for, they appear. I’m not one of those people who is grateful for everything. Some things make no sense to me, and I hate them. But I am grateful for sweet potatoes, because I love them, and mustard yellow, and Charlotte’s evil cackle, and baby pajamas. Tender mercies have started to flow, when I tried to find them.

I have learned that my validation has to come from myself.

This is hard for me. I know myself very well. One gift that I have been given is the gift of awareness, of myself and other people. I have a microscope of insight that allows me to really pick apart my thoughts, actions and words. Sometimes I don’t like what I see. Because of this, I have tried my whole life to get validation from other people. I don’t come across as an insecure person, but I have learned that I have been secure only because I have been liked.

Being liked runs out. Being pretty runs out. Being anything runs out, because we change. And then we are left with ourselves. So if I’m alone with myself, I better have enough self-compassion and forgiveness and understanding built up that I can still feel joy and gratitude in my life.

I have learned that humans can change.

Not just their behaviors, but their thought processes, their beliefs, their perception. Addicts can change. I can change.

This was devastating for me at first, owning every part of myself, because that meant that I couldn’t squirm out of my mistakes and wrongdoings. I struggled with the thought that I could really change my core.

I believe it now.

As I work to own my story, my body, my beliefs, my words, and my actions, I can then be empowered to own what I do today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. And you know what that means? I get to decide how I react, how I feel about myself, and how I treat others.

How cool is that, guys? How cool is that.

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Election, 2016

Nov
10

13603258_1218904074816653_2650555217071578330_oBranden loves to teach me everything he is learning about in PA school. A few days ago, he brought home a blood sugar testing kit. (Sorry. I don’t know the real name.) He pricked my finger and tested my blood. Altogether, it was very dramatic, and I have increased empathy for people with diabetes.

Anyways, he also has been learning about sleep disorders. A big rule in “sleep hygiene” is to avoid screens in bed.

I 100% broke that rule yesterday.

Social media was on fire. The more I scrolled through my feed, the worse I felt. Still, I could not put my phone away. I read countless opinions on the United States of America electing Donald Trump as President. I read a lot of angry people venting, a few people stringing thoughtful observations together, some people trying to shine positivity or humor through the muck, and everyone, everyone, finding offense with whatever anyone else was writing.

I went to bed feeling sick. I truly felt awful.

This morning I woke up feeling exactly the same way. I decided to try to work through what was bothering me the most by running and thinking. I put on my jogging shoes, borrowed a really nice jogging stroller–wow, someone buy me a bob stroller–,  and ran until I had finally put my finger on it.

Yesterday, I felt afraid. I felt silenced.

I wanted to join the discourse on who our new president was. I wanted to give my input, my opinion, and my thoughts. And I was too afraid to say anything, because people are too busy blaming, shaming, and bashing whoever doesn’t think like them to stop for a moment and listen.

I ended up posting a picture of my baby with the caption “Just doing our thing.” I don’t generally experience high volumes of social media anxiety, but I wrote and rewrote that caption six times, each time thinking of how someone would find offense in what I was saying. Would someone take “just doing our thing” and make it political? Would I lose friends? Would someone call me names because of an unassuming post on a very heated day? It might sound ridiculous, but I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised.

I do not want to make small of peoples’ fears following this election. I cannot fully comprehend how minorities may feel with Donald Trump representing our country, but I think I have a taste after reading and re-reading comments he has made about women.

After a day of thought and struggle, I have decided that I do not fear Donald Trump. I believe there are enough good people in the world to stop him from doing irreparable damage. I fear what is happening with us, all of us.

Yesterday, I saw people bashing each other, people unfriending those who thought differently from them, people shaming each other for the way that they voted, and people hating democracy–and America.

I felt silenced. I felt too afraid to speak what was on my mind. As a straight, white, privileged female, I felt silenced from voicing my opinion, for fear of someone shoving it in my face that I was a straight, white, privileged female and thus had no understanding of what was going on in the real world.

And that, that, is what I’m afraid of.

When people stop discussing and start raging.

When we can’t stand for people to disagree with us because we are too angry to consider an opposing point of view. When we generalize, calling people bigots or liars or cheaters because of their point of view. When we base our friendships on if people agree and support what we hold dear?

I understand that disagreement is uncomfortable. It means that instead of pointing the finger at someone else, we take a hard look at our own deeply held, long-developed, even sacred beliefs and consider what adding or subtracting from those would like like. It’s uncomfortable. I get that.

But disagreement is what begets democracy.

Disagreement itself is sacred.

I have never seen so many of my friends polarized against each other. That is what I’m afraid of. Donald Trump will come and go, hopefully surprising me and doing a decent job. I pray that he surprises me. But either way, he will come and go.

I also pray that as a limited human, I stop to consider how I treat people who don’t agree with me. Do I dismiss them, or do I really listen? I will try harder to listen better. We all need to be heard.

Yesterday, I tried to take a little longer on articles and posts from people who have differing opinions from me. I deeply appreciated people expressing any opinion with respect and an earnest desire to put that out in the world. Expressing a sacred opinion is vulnerable. Bashing someone else’s is not.

I do not want to come across like I know it all. I don’t. Every time I have a political discussion with someone who disagrees with something I say, I admit that I get a little butthurt. I generalize and stereotype. I am a human, and I only have one life of 23 years to base my opinions around. They are constantly evolving as I grow and come to know different things. But despite my imperfections, I work hard to be kind and to fight against stereotypes, to respect people and to validate struggles that I feel are real, including racism, homophobia, and sexism.

I just don’t think that the way to treat one form of hate is with more hate.

This morning on my run, I vowed to take responsibility for my part in  (what I have seen) as the two worst candidates running up against each other. Next election, I will do more to be better informed and involved in the election process.

I don’t want to feel silenced, so there’s my two cents.

 

 

 

You’re Doing Alright, Mama

Sep
30

14238246_1291013377605642_1927252795496066075_nLet me tell you how to parent.

Exclusively breastfeed. No bottles in the house. Bottle-feeding creates attachment issues.

Dress your baby in soft, new clothes everyday. Spot them immediately when they get food on them. They’ll stain quick.

Feed your baby organic food from the start. They’ll be addicted to refined sugar by the time they’re 7 months old.

Don’t lose your cool. They’ll remember. Other parents don’t lose their temper.

Be a stay-at-home mom, or welcome round two of attachment issues.

Don’t let your baby cry. You can’t spoil them.

Thirty minutes of tummy time a day. It is crucial for their development.

Let me tell you how I parent.

I gave my baby a bottle about three weeks in; I needed sleep.

She wore pajamas for a solid three months.

She eats cheerios with all her meals.

Sometimes I get so mad I have to walk away.

I work.

I let my baby cry. Some days she really screams.

The most tummy time I ever gave my baby was maybe ten minutes a day.

Along with becoming a parent came a host of struggles that I expected: exhaustion, anxiety, fear. But one emotion that I didn’t expect, but which has stuck to me longer and harder than the rest has been guilt.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate unsolicited advice. I hate people telling me what to do, even if it is well-intentioned. But with a new baby, I found it impossible to escape the advice, which advice one way or the other would destroy my child. No matter what I did, it was wrong by someone.

This last week, I have talked to at least one friend every day who has expressed to me the ways that they are certain their kids will be forever ruined by their imperfections.

I just wanted to write you a quick note today: You’re doing alright, mama. You’re doing alright, dad.

You certainly are doing a host of things wrong. I certainly have already made enough mistakes to ruin my daughter. But here’s the thing that advice does not and will never account for: You love your kid. They don’t.

You’re doing alright. You fight with each other. I like to think of that as the work that goes into creating a relationship. You lose your temper. I like to think of that as a reminder to kids that their parents were once very much like them. Your kid doesn’t agree with you. Your house is a wreck 90% of your life. You missed a soccer game.

And you’re doing alright.

The only proof that I have of that, and the only comfort I can give you today, is that my baby learned to give kisses today. She claws my whole head with her tiny fingernails, pulls me in close, and lands an open-mouth slobber bomb right on my mouth. She’ll only kiss me.

Your proof will look different. Maybe it will be tucking in your two-year-old, who tells you for the first time he loves you. Maybe it will be an honest moment with a child learning not to lie, who trusts you with her guilt over anyone else. Maybe it will be when your teenage daughter comes to when she needs to breakdown, even after years of fighting. Maybe it will be a college-bound student missing you. Maybe it will be your oldest, now an adult, telling you a sincere thank you.

I just wanted to write today and tell you, that mama, you’re doing alright.

 

Deeper Than That

Sep
14

1927675_66806986825_2756960_nYou sit down and you think.

Your mind is your own. It moves when you moves; it makes you move. You think about something, or everything. You think through school, you think too little or too much. You think about how to fight life the next day, or the next hour or even the next moment. You think your own thoughts. Sometime when you get stuck, I can slip you a thought or two of the ones I have stored away.

You sit down and you grow.

Everything either grows or shrinks–you, your soul, your mind, your body, your curiosity, your contentment, you. Everyday when you sit down and think, parts are growing. Parts are shrinking. You change, because life changes and your mind changes and you change. When you shrink too far for too long, I will tell you and we will build a piece of you back up together.

You sit down and you bleed.

Under the surface, your blood. It pulses through you. You sit down and you bleed, on paper or in art, in prayer or in silence, in a plea or in nothing. The blood you have is different than mine. If we are alike enough and you find yourself in trouble, I can share. I will share what is under my surface, and it will keep you alive.

And in the middle of you bleeding, thinking, and growing in the human interactions that take place deep under the skin, the world worships or criticizes your surface.

Few people would argue that we live in a appearance-obsessed world. What I want my daughter to know, and what I want to believe myself, is that I am more than how I appear.

People starve themselves, take drugs to get bigger, change their face or body with plastic surgeries, wear thousands of dollars worth of gold jewelry and name-brand clothes. People do not care. People care too much. You care about something I have never thought about; I worry about something that has never crossed your mind. Magazine scream about “healthy eating,” childhood obesity, how to erase wrinkles and look 30 years younger.

What I want you to know is that you, what makes up you, the million decisions and quirks and struggles and moments of triumph, the blood and the mind and the growth which is extraordinarily unique, could never be contained or defined by a body.

No matter what you chose to do with your body, you are infinitely more than how you appear.

160820-elizabeth-smart-mn-0930_dcc9f5673e7f0d54fb62c50a318fcc98-nbcnews-fp-360-360Elizabeth Smart touched on this in a recent article. After experiencing brutal months full of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, she discusses how difficult it was to return to a religious, conservative society. She states that “people need to realize that there is nothing that can detract from your worth,” including mistreatment inflicted by self or others.

Nothing. This includes having lifelong health issues, being a victim to demoralizing abuse, having the “wrong” shape, hating exercise, or being obsessed with yourself. Your worth cannot be touched.

Whether you chose to mold your body, respect it, nourish it, enjoy it, hate it, struggle with it, build it strong, keep it weak, let it go or keep it close, you are not confined by it.

Whether you are cancer-ridden, have deformities, eating disorders, diseases, or inabilities; whether you feel shame or guilt with how you look, whether you self-harm, whether you struggle with your nose or acne or plain hair, whether you bounce back after a baby or you never feel the same–you are not what you look like.

Darling, you are too complicated for that.

 

 

 

What I Do On The Bad Days

Sep
12

Day 9: What do you do on a bad day?

First things first: I put on my bike shirt. I got this shirt for free in someone’s yard. It was a leftover from a yard sale. No one wanted it, so the owner gave it to me for free. This is what it looks like:
14232580_1291177570922636_1944568900448257571_nI like to wear it with purple knee-length spandex.

Anyways, enough about what I wear.

After I’m in my bike shirt and spandex shorts, I eat chocolate. If I don’t have any, I get some, or I steal some, whatever it takes.

I take a bath, and I do yoga.

I pick out a movie to watch; either a romantic comedy, an action, or a history/documentary type-of movie.

But really as I write this I feel like I’m lying, because what I actually do is go to work, take care of my baby, eat eggs for dinner, cry about something dumb, and put myself to bed early.

Brittany and I often play the “I hate” game, where we take turns listing to each other what we hate. Anything from the trivial to the deep. Brittany actually is now in Uganda, and when I think about that, it makes my bad days feel worst. I have no one to play the “I hate” game with. But really, I always feel significantly better after I play the “I hate” game, because I get all the built-up negativity out of my system. And Brittany doesn’t tell anyone what I say, so I don’t have to be careful about hating things for a moment.

I talk to a friend. Just not the peppy ones. I talk to them on the good days.

Most of my days are pretty good. I have a pretty good life, and my bike shirt really carries me through the bad ones. I mean, look at it.

The Day I Changed My Name

Sep
07

Day 8: Describe your day today, no matter how ordinary it was.

14231350_1285312341509159_8298606525394261170_oCharlotte has a cold, so I spent my morning trying to help her feel comfortable, giving her all the food she wanted and cuddling her good. Her little voice was raspy from the congestion. It broke my heart but also was the cutest thing I have ever heard.

Once she woke up from her morning nap, we headed to the Social Security Office. This (and the DMV) are the places things go to die. Why is everyone so grumpy? Some lady there parked her car in the middle of a lane. Granted, it was incredibly dangerous and idiotic. But the cop in the office stormed out, took one look at the car, and yelled at her in front of the 50 other miserable people in the office: “I’m going to tow your car, and it is going to cost you!” Why couldn’t he have just asked her to move it? Like I said, things go here to die.

I had Charlotte on one arms, my diaper bag in another, cheerios spilling on the floor behind me, and a fat folder full of all my important papers under my chin. As I tried to fill out the application to have my last name changed to Heath, a kind woman asked if she could help. I hate Utah for a few reasons, and I also love it for a few reasons. I love that people are incredibly understanding of fussy kids. She helped me with Charlotte as I filled out the paperwork.

I decided that I would be ultra productive, so I headed to Smiths as I waited for my number. After grocery shopping, I ran back to the Social Security Office, and everyone in the room became my friend. Charlee smiled and giggled, and everyone wanted to talk to me and play with her. I love that she makes peoples’ days better. I met some awesome people.

I changed my name legally today. It made me sad. I have fought it for over two years, for so many reasons. Mainly, because I am a Brooks and I have always been a Brooks and I always want to be a Brooks. It is a part of me and as much love, admiration, and respect I have for Branden, being married doesn’t mean that my “Brooksness” is gone. But after fighting it for so long, I think I just got tired. So I changed my name.

As I left the office, I felt like a grown-up. Those are the worst moments. But also I felt happy knowing that now I will be tied forever in an external way to my husband.

I went to change my name at the bank. The banker who helped me told me all of the struggles of his life. It was quite the conversation. Did you know his wife only has partial control of her fingers because of a car accident and he married into a family of four? He became a husband and father at once. It was quite overwhelming.

I taught piano for an hour. I learned the theme song to Minecraft. I made homemade tomato soup.

I watched a documentary on poverty and felt guilty for having everything I want. I can’t imagine not being able to feed and educate my child. I truly can’t imagine, and I feel that anything I write about poverty will be hypocritical and shallow. I have no real understanding. I hope one day to be able to speak of it with reverence because of sacrifices I personally have made.

I skyped Brittany to tell her good-bye as she heads to Uganda tomorrow. Charlotte showed her how she can bear crawl now.

I just made pecan pie mini muffins, scheduled ACT tutoring for the week, and put my baby down. She put both of her hands on my shoulders and nuzzled her face in my neck, and I felt profound gratitude that I had the means to feed, clothe, and educate her. I’m glad love doesn’t cost a cent. That makes me feel a little better.