I am my own worst critic.

notsafe

I’m struggling.

I thought I was over it, but I’m not.

Is it because I’m a Gemini?  I truly feel like there are two parts of me.

My ‘bad’ twin is Elsa.  My ‘good’ twin is Anna.

Over and over in my brain I hear them singing in reprise:

Anna: It’s okay, you can just unfreeze it!

Elsa: No, I can’t.
I — I don’t know how!

Anna: Sure you can! I know you can!
`Cause for the first time in forever,
Elsa: Oh
I’m such a fool!
I can’t be free!

Anna: You don’t have to be afraid…
Elsa: No escape from the storm inside of me!

Anna: We can work this out together!
Elsa: I can’t control the curse!

Anna: We’ll reverse the storm you’ve made
Elsa: Anna, please, you’ll only make it worse!

Anna: Don’t panic!
Elsa: There’s so much fear!

Anna: We’ll make the sun shine bright!
Elsa: You’re not safe here!

Anna: We can face this thing together!
Elsa: No!

Anna: We can change this winter weather!
Elsa: AHHHHH…

Anna: And everything will be all right…
Elsa: I CAN’T!

I can’t.

I’m pulled so many different ways by this storm.  This damn depression that has me feeling like every day is eternal winter.

In attempting to find help in the things I enjoy, writing and, recently, using oil pastels, I am left dissatisfied.

Nothing lives up to my expectations anymore.

I am my own biggest critic… I can’t control the curse…

I am struggling to hear the good twin’s voice… there’s so much fear

I am looking for ways to take the good in my life to heart… you’re not safe here…

And I’m failing… I can’t…

I feel like I need to put some of my goals on the back-burner, but that reeks of failure.

I don’t want to be okay.  I want to be great.  Instead of trying and failing at being great, I do nothing.

Yet, I’m stretched so thin with hopes and dreams that every minuscule detail is magnified, and I can not look past the parts that need fixing to see a whole.

But how to appreciate the whole, without ignoring the things that do need to be fixed..?

I’m working on it.

But not well enough.

Good vs. Great

goodvsgreat

“Do you ever just get frustrated that you don’t have something you’re great at?  I know I’m good at a lot of things, and, given time and effort, I could be great at them as well…  But, I know myself.  I get bored easily, and what feels fun one week turns into a chore the next.  I am surrounded by such an amazing group of talented people and almost every single day I get jealous and depressed, because I haven’t found my ‘thing’ yet.  How do I narrow it down to one, five, or even ten things that I’d like to learn and become better at?  I’m sick of waiting for it to come to me, yet I’m so afraid of wasting my time, money, and energy on something that I will eventually not like to do…”

I wrote the above piece nearly 2 years ago.  Since then, I started running 5ks, Crossfitting, knitting, and became more serious about gardening and becoming self-sustaining.

Since then, we have also had our lives turned upside down by a sooner-than-planned pregnancy and last minute move for a new job for Captain.

Now that the proverbial dust has settled, I have to reevaluate everything.  What we can afford, what will be worth my time and energy (considering that we are in a temporary rental until our house sells and we can build our forever home), what will give me the challenge and satisfaction I need, what will keep me emotionally stable.

I’m finding that I want everything.  I want to run, get back into Crossfit, and try yoga.  I want a huge garden and animals to provide us with food.  I want a proliferate herb garden to make my own teas and fill my spice cupboard.  I want to learn how to paint, to advance my knitting and sewing skills, to refine some jewelry making techniques.  I want to relearn French and start learning Spanish and ASL.  I want to advocate for new and expecting mothers, create a non-profit for feeding hungry kids, and participate in cloth diaper pantries.  I want to improve my writing, have a flourishing blog, and write stories.  I want to plan parties and events, bake delicious treats, and have my crafts be coveted works of art.

And through all this, I want to be a good mother who teaches my kids that not only can they be anything, they can be everything.  I want them to know that you are never to old to learn, try new things, or become better.

I’m not interested in being a one hit wonder.

I don’t love my body, and that’s okay.

nolove

noloveIt’s hard to keep up with all the health and fitness movements that are constantly cycling in and out of popularity.  Yo-yo diets, Thinspo sites, conflicting reports on which foods burn the most fat where.  Diet groups, fitness clubs, television shows… Coupled with media sensationalized images and stories of extreme weight losses/gains, it’s nearly impossible to navigate the path to health without stumbling across something that makes you feel like you aren’t doing it ‘right.’

My favorite thing right now is the Body Image Movement.  Loving your body, despite its flaws.  Seeing your shape/weight, not as something to be changed, but something to be proud of at every stage.  The message is a wonderful one: You are worth loving.

And yes, we are.  Every single one of us.  Because we are a person, not because of our body, or our acceptance of it.

For those of us on a path to getting healthier, it can feel like no matter how hard we try, we’re doing it wrong.  Because if I’m still unsatisfied with that 5 sticky pounds, I’m not loving myself enough, and that’s bad.  If I’m struggling to accept and love the stretchmarks my kids gave me, I have to change the way I think.  If you think your body isn’t good enough, you’re wrong. It’s your thinking that’s not good enough.

And having that burden placed on you by someone that isn’t you?  Is bullshit.

YES, there is a ton of ridiculous propaganda out there to make people feel like if they don’t look a certain way, they’re less than worthy.

YES, there is a lot to be said about self respect.

NO, you shouldn’t base your self worth on how others perceive you.

But in all of these DOs and DONTs, the implied message that If you don’t love yourself, you’re doing it wrong, honestly just makes me feel worse.

When I was 35+ pounds overweight and trying to get pregnant with our 2nd child, the words “If you can’t love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?” were devastating.  I was head over heels in love with my husband and my life revolved around our daughter.  Was my love for them not good enough, because I didn’t love myself, too?  Was I undeserving of their love because I just. couldn’t. find a way to love my self as a whole?  And that made me feel worse.  How can you get on the train to loving yourself if everything said to motivate you makes you feel like you can’t do anything right?  I can’t even love myself properly…

Properly.  That word means different things to everyone.

When I was at my healthiest just before my last pregnancy, properly meant taking time to eat right, dressing in a way that made me feel good, exercising in a form that I felt confident doing.  When I was in that dark place before our 2nd baby, taking care of myself properly was just making sure I ate something everyday.  Sometimes, that something was cookie dough.  I can look back now and see exactly what my problem was then.  But back then?  I didn’t see a body worth caring for.  I saw a young woman marked by pregnancy, unable to control her horrible eating habits, dealing with secondary infertility, and incapable of loving herself enough to get on the right track.  Yes, I knew what I should do to get healthier, but untreated depression trumps know-how.

Now, as I’m sitting here 3 months post partum, 20 of my 50 pregnancy pounds still sitting around my midsection and thighs, all I can think of is getting back into shape.  Because, while I love what my body did on the inside, I DON’T LOVE the outside anymore.  I loved my body and my self most when I was pregnant, each and every time.  Because when we’re pregnant, we get a pass.  We can eat what we like, dress however is comfortable, and laze around without much judgement (until Kim Kardashian came along, apparently).

Comparison is the thief of joy, as the saying goes.  Comparing myself now, 3 months post partum after my 4th baby, to when I was at my peak of health just a short year ago, isn’t fair.  But it’s what we’ve been trained to do.  Even when we are barely treading the murky waters that are new or renewed parenthood, we are held, not only in the shadow of our pre-pregnant selves, but in the shadows of all the pregnancy weight loss stories that came before us.

Among those shadows are the tales of women who get help in achieving their goals.  Surgeries to limit eating, to get rid of fat, to tuck away stretch marks, to enhance breasts.  There was a time, when I was my least self assured, that those practices upset me.  I was self righteous to the nth degree, declaring that if my body couldn’t do it naturally, then it wasn’t meant to be and SHAME on those women for thinking so little of themselves that they need surgery.  I hated my body, so every other woman who hated hers just had to wallow in the misery of it with me.  And guess what?  I felt no better.

On the flip side are the women who scream that we shouldn’t feel the need to have these surgeries to feel good about ourselves.  And there was a while, when I was healthy, but not necessarily fit, that I was in that camp as well.  If your body isn’t that way naturally, it wasn’t mean to be.  And I still do feel that way, to an extent.  Barring extensive reconstructive surgeries, I will never look like a runway model.  Not from lack of drive or trying, but because GENETICS.  My genes come from workmen.  The women in my family are broad, tall, and strong.  Petite and fae-like though I’d love to be, it will just never happen, and I’ve accepted that.

Now that I’ve been on both sides, hating myself throughout and totally loving myself as a whole, I find myself in a new camp: The ‘Do Whatever Makes You Feel Good’ camp.  We surround ourselves daily with the things that attract us: aesthetically and emotionally.  I am attracted to things that I find appealing.  I can say with confidence that I am not attracted to my body.  I do not find it appealing.  So why begrudge myself being attracted to the one thing that will be with me always: my body?  Why is it WRONG to desire having a body that I myself find attractive?

Because “society”?  Because “self esteem”?  Because “the man”?

Everyone finds different things appealing.  Where there are people who love full figured, curvy women, there are others who prefer slim, willowy women.  If my desire to replace my flat, post-nursing breasts with full perky ones puts you in a rage, that’s your problem, not mine.  If I’d like to get a tummy tuck to get rid of the shelf of skin left behind by 4 full term pregnancies and you just can’t understand why I can’t accept and love what my kids did to my body, that’s your issue.

If you’re happy being a size 24, OWN IT.

If you’re satisfied with A cups on your broad figure, CONGRATS.

If you can look past stretchmarks and still find yourself attractive, YOU ARE AWESOME.

But I’m here to tell you that I am OK with not attracted to my body and I look forward to changing it.

I owe it to my self, my husband, and my kids to be confident in myself.  If I am constantly waging a war with my body and skin, how can I be the wife and mother they need me to be?  If my nonacceptance of my body the way it is makes others insist that I need to adjust my thinking, that’s one more thing on the plate of issues I have to work through.

YOU are the person on this journey.  Not the diet gurus.  Not your Dr.  Not your mother, your sister, your best friend.  Not the motivational speakers.  Not the fitness bloggers.  YOU.  So OWN it.

Own it.  Go work out.  Find a relationship with food that works for you.  Talk to a Dr. about getting a lift, or a tuck.  But do it for YOU.

No, I don’t love my body.  You may not love yours, either.  And that’s okay**.  It’s inherent in our nature to be dissatisfied.  But just because you don’t love something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind to it.

**I am in no-way saying that you should be living with untreated depression or body dysmorphia.  If your problems are more than skin deep, and you’ll know if they are, please seek help.  Just as not loving your body is OK, absolutely hating yourself is not OK.  Call someone, send a message, reach out, and ask for help.

We Become

webecome

Surround yourself with beauty.

Surround yourself with people who make you happy.

With people who build you up.

Surround yourself with positivity.

And you will become; Beautiful, happy, uplifting, positive.

But, those of us surrounded by the constant mayhem that comes with having children?

The ones who already live with the threat of depression ever on their minds?

When the simple act of going to the bathroom alone leaves room for the unmitigated destruction of the rest of the house?

When the people we care for do nothing but whine, bicker, and fight?

What do we become?

We embody that which surrounds us.

Chaos.

Disorder.

Noise.

Destruction.

Like the poor who can’t make a long term financial plan, because an extra $10 saved won’t matter in the face of three overdue bills, we, the depressed, struggle to see the point in doing just one thing for ourselves.

Why should we?  We’ll only return to the same old environment.  Hear the same complaints.  Clean up the same messes.  Fight the same fights.

That 30 minute run is our $10 bill.  The toys thrown everywhere, the lack of well-fitting clothing, and the meal that will take too much energy to prepare are our delinquent power, utility, and phone bills.

Once those bills come in, that $10 won’t matter.  Because we’ll still be so overdrawn, so in debt, that the $10 becomes a drop in the ever growing bucket.  We can try to squeeze out every drop we can, but the bucket grows into a tub, the tub becomes a pool, the pool turns into a lake, and the lake suddenly morphs into an ocean.  webecome

 

The urge to purge: staving off bulimic relapse

bulimia

We’re trying to be frugal right now.  Trying.  Switched to cloth diapers, didn’t get the advanced cable package, returned to a cash budget to keep our spending in check.  It’s working, for the most part.

Until this morning.  When I got a Kohl’s credit card to take a further $93 off of my $320 purchase…

Typing that makes me feel awful.

I have never, ever, ever spent that much money on clothes for myself all at once.  I have never felt the need to go out an buy myself half a wardrobe on a whim.  But when I got pregnant with The Kraken, I was the smallest I’d been since high school.  I had proudly donated all of my XL and XXL clothes.  I had gone shopping through clearance racks throughout the 8 months previous to slowly build up the adorable wardrobe I felt so good in.

Now, here I am, switching between 2 pairs of ill fitting pants.  Wearing a few shirts that I had kept, just in case.  I don’t feel good in any of them.  I feel dumpy, and, yes, fat.

I’m 2 months post partum.  I still have 20 pounds to lose from my 50 pound pregnancy gain.  I know that I can’t expect to be back in those purple size 10 skinny jeans so soon, but it really sucks having clothes that I love and just can’t wear.

The past few days the feeling of discontent has gotten so bad that I’ve felt the urge to purge on multiple occasions.

I can’t go back to that.

I can’t raise daughters with a healthy body image and sons with respect for a woman no matter how she looks if I can’t respect myself.

THIS body is as worthy of nice clothing as my former body.

THIS size 13-16 body deserves just as much love as my size 8-10 body.

I am worth looking and feeling beautiful, no matter what numbers the tags bear.

And the money for those tags is worth 10x the price that returning to bulimia would cost me.

stavingoffbulimiaImages from ETF Spotlight and Life is Not a Diet

A Place of Serenity

water

Do you have a safe space?  A zone in which, even with kids surrounding you, you just feel good?  I do.

It’s the shower.

I know, I know, it’s nothing amazing, or glamorous.  Some days it’s not as clean as I’d like it to be, other days it runs out of hot water much faster than I’d like.  But there are several reasons the shower just does it for me.

If I can’t manage to be in it alone, it’s a place to connect with each of the kids.  To get the skin to skin contact that becomes harder to come by as they get older (and, honestly, more awkward as their questions become more pointed).  A place to focus on each child, and be able to marvel at their uniqueness and how their personalities are developing.

Cabin Girl has been asking me to sing her lullaby to her lately (which is really not a lullaby, but that’s a topic for another day).  She loves resting her head on my bare belly and wrapping her arms around my waist while the warm water runs through her hair.

Cabin Boy loves to sit on my lap with my arms wrapped around his little chest.  He’s forming such coherent phrases and opinions now, and making up the funniest things.  He gets super freaked out by the idea of The Kraken moving around in my belly though, so he always asks if the baby is moving or asleep before he sits with me.  I’ve had to lie a couple times to get him on my lap.

Mr. Monkey is my water baby.  Since he was born in the water, it’s no surprise, but watching him put his head under the stream of water and giggle, or fill his mouth up and spit it at the shower walls is so funny to me.  He’s noticing the differences in our bodies and loves rubbing his hands on my belly.  He’s also discovered that the shower drain makes a perfect target for pee practice.

When I do manage to get some solitary shower time, I find it easier to let go of the millions of stray thoughts floating around in my head.  It’s easy to imagine that the droplet that just left my finger is a worry that I shouldn’t be carrying anyway, getting sucked down the drain and taken out of sight and mind.  If I enter the shower in a foul mood, it’s somewhere I can ugly cry and not worry about tissues or frightening the kids.  It’s cleansing, literally and figuratively, to have a good, ugly cry in the shower once in a while.

water

© Ktavee02 | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images; Edited by me.

Though I’m an air sign, I feel a connection with water.  Maybe it’s because I grew up going to the lake every weekend, I don’t know.  But something about water soothes me, down to my core.  When I’m upset or depressed, I find my serenity in water.

Since I’m not lucky enough to have a lake or river in my backyard, the shower is my place of zen.

Where is your favorite place to let go and just ‘be’?

Family dreams, Gender hopes, and Terror, Anxiety, and Guilt

As many of our friends know, we keep the gender of our babies a surprise until birth.  It’s been a wonderful experience with all of them.  That moment when the announcement happens:

“It’s a girl!” echoed by my mom yelling for the rest of my family out in the hall, “IT’S A GIRL!!!”

“Here HE is!”

“It’s another boy!!”

It’s amazing.  It’s something I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Except, this time, there’s something I would trade it for.

This guilt.  This terror of being disappointed in the gender of our last baby.  The anxiety I feel about bonding with a baby I may be disappointed in from the beginning.  And, back to the guilt for feeling selfish for being picky about something that so many of my friends wish they could have.

It’s no secret we’re hoping for a girl.  All through our pregnancies and discussions of what we’d hoped for our family, I made it clear that my biggest dream was to have two of each.  Two girls.  Two boys. 

Well, we have two boys.  And one girl.  

 

http://trishandrusphotography.com/



This baby is my only chance to make that dream happen.  And I feel so incredibly guilty for putting pressure like that on this tiny little life that has no say in helping me make that dream come true.

I am so terrified of being disappointed of the words, “It’s a boy” that it’s making me sick.

I don’t want to waste any of this precious baby’s life in this world by being disappointed in what he’s not.

We had our anatomy scan last night, and The Kraken looks picture perfect.  In the later part of the scan, Cabin Girl and I decided to take the plunge and ask what the gender was.  But, the tech didn’t tell us.  Either she knew I was on the fence and made the decision for me, or she just forgot.  I don’t know, but it was frustrating.

So, at my midwife appointment today, I will talk to my midwife, and I will go from Team Green to Team Blue or Pink, even if it means sobbing and begging for a quick scan in the office.

I want time to get used to the idea of having 3 boys, if that is indeed what the Universe has in store for our family.  If I am to be disappointed, I want it to happen when it won’t potentially affect my ability to bond with this tiny being that will need 100% of me.

Captain doesn’t completely understand.  But even without understanding, he knows that I need time this time around.  

I don’t know yet if we will make the gender public knowledge.  Those that are close to me will undoubtedly find out shortly after my appointment today.

Cabin Girl is eager to know if she will finally get her little sister, so she will be one of the first to know. 

For now, I will force myself to eat.  And find something to do until that clock hits 10:15 and I can take the boys to my best friend’s house so I can go to this appointment alone.

Whatever the outcome, this baby is wanted and loved.  Whatever the outcome, this baby will complete our family.  Whatever the outcome, I will continue to be grateful that we did not experience a loss before this baby like we experienced with each of its siblings.  Whatever the outcome, I will breathe easier knowing that I will no longer need to be afraid.

**Update:  No gender report and I’ve gained too much weight… yay! I think, for now, I will meditate on my fears and pray for my hopes but I will finish this pregnancy expecting a boy. We’ll just keep our fingers crossed for a sweet, pink surprise come delivery time.

Learning to let go

The Kraken is at 19 weeks gestation this week.  We’re almost halfway.  Time has been flying and there are so many things I had hoped to have done at this point.  There are still so many plans up in the air.

I’m trying to focus on my family.  The kids, Captain, and The Kraken.  I’m trying to keep up with everything.  But this 2nd trimester isn’t feel-good anymore.  I have more bad days than good now.  More limitations than strengths.

This isn’t what I expected.

My body was becoming so strong.  My endurance was climbing.  My outside was finally starting to reflect my inside, and I was happy.

I had expected to continue down this path of fitness through my pregnancy.  Maintain a higher level of endurance.  Keep seeing progress in strengthening myself, even if only in tiny increments.

But my body, instead of concurring, is revolting.  Braxton Hicks is upon me already; I sleep, but restlessly and uncomfortably; my sciatic bring me to tears while doing basic housework.

This isn’t what I wanted.

I had hopes to be like other Crossfitting women, who worked out up until their due date.  I had hopes to be exclaimed over, like many other pregnant women who refuse to let pregnancy get in the way of their goals.  I so wanted to impress Captain with my ability to grow a child and show the world that I could move mountains at the same time.  He had expressed the same hope; that it would be HIS wife our fellow box members would be in awe of.

Disappointment is a bitter friend, and it is becoming my constant companion.  With every morning that I wake up and feel lightheaded from just walking to the bathroom.  With every muscle twinge I feel when lifting Mr. Monkey.  Each time I get a blinding headache.  Or wake up exhausted.

I’m trying to keep in mind that this is our 4th baby.  That my body has never gone through a fit pregnancy like this.  It is both old and new territory.

The point isn’t to reflect those around you, but to be the best you that you can be.  I’m having a hard time reminding myself of this.  I am not those women who work out until their tanks are empty.  I am not those women who can bust through a WOD without taking a break to catch their breath.  I am not those women that can do anything and everything they want through their pregnancy.

But I want to be.  And I have to let that go.

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