I am not a finished product.
This includes fitness, relationships, how I look at the world, how I move in the world, what I do with my time, EVERYTHING.
I will keep marching on.
I will collect experience and wisdom and smile lines and I will carry them like trophies.
I will hit re-set on my anxious thoughts and behaviors more times than I can count. Because they are there. Always ready to come back. They are weighing on my chest and shoulders now, but I will eventually throw them off with enough reminders of beauty and good and consistent decisions to MOVE FORWARD and leave dead weight behind.
I am still not all I should be or will be, but I WILL keep pressing on.
I did it! I worked out in that section of the gym that always seems full of big, loud guys and really heavy weights and where I never, ever went since I joined my gym (until today!!!). It was me, in my undeniably pink tank top and a bunch of guys. I was intimidated, but I did it, and I'm feeling proud of myself for that.
About two months ago, I was gifted a 2-month. Child care was $10 a month, unlimited, and it was (is!) awesome. Nolan and I fell in love, so when my two months were up, I decided to join if I could get the price I wanted (I did!).
Lately, I've been on a mission to "get my groove back." I'd been doing too much stress eating and not appropriately taking care of myself, and I just had enough. I am a capable, intelligent, creative, thoughtful, and loving human being. I can and should take some time to maintain the body I live in. I can find clothes that fit properly (and preferably, that I feel great in). I can let myself walk through tough spots instead of trying to numb them with all!the!food!.
It's been sort of a zig-zaggy path, but I'm on it and I'm moving.
Today, I decided I'd like to add some focus to my fitness. I like a good plan to follow; I like to see progress. I also like to feel strong, a feeling I haven't felt for awhile and when I DID it was with the help of a DVD or a group class.
I don't know how to navigate a weight room on my own. I don't understand terms beyond barbell, dumbbell, and bench press. I don't understand what a person would do on a "leg day," and I'm not entirely sure how so many people I see can just hit the weights without carrying around a written plan (like I did today).
It's a steep learning curve, but I want to move past just doing whatever I already know how to do- cardio, whatever I can think of to do with a dumbbell, some push-ups. I don't want to rely on machines. I want to learn how to use weights.
I want to feel strong and be strong. I want to sleep better and feel great about how I treat my body. I want to be able to help friends move or climb rocks or not have to ask for help every time I encounter something heavy.
After a little research, I decided to try out a plan somewhat loosely (I didn't buy the book) based on the old Body for Life plan. It's 12 weeks. After that, I'll reevaluate and decide where I want to go from there.
I'm getting my groove back and conquering fears.
Tim got the job he was hoping for! It gives us a little room to breathe and ask more about what we want for our family and for ourselves individually, too.
"What would I do now if I can do what I want?" is a strange and exciting and sort-of-kind-of terrifying question.
We are settling into our lives for this next bit of time, excited to host more meals, make more connections, be more involved in lives and stories, take time to prepare for a possible foster child, spend more time as a family, all that jazz.
We're not going to be rollin' in dough for a while because I don't need to work and because I want to be home and there are quite a few things my family wants to be involved in that are a whole lot more feasible if I have the hours to make them happen. I'm excited to just be where I am for a moment and be involved in more stories.
I'm happy, but I also feel....weird.
Weird because this simple life of meals and stories and being and sharing is a little bit of what I lost months ago when we had to work more, more hours and I hardly saw my husband. I already mourned that loss and "got over" it, but now that thing I lost is back, and actually it's better this time because everything really seems to be working out for us right now. I really didn't expect that, but especially because I believe life happens in seasons, I'm just going to be grateful and enjoy it (mostly- I have that whole restless spirit thing going on, so just enjoying is a total practice for me).
Weird because I come from a conservative Christian background, where somewhere along the way, I got the impression that the expectations of a woman who loves Jesus is first and foremost to be Suzy Homemaker- great mom, great housekeeper, great cook- and work was really an afterthought. I thought it was part of how a woman is made or something. I've been on quite a journey (haven't we all?) and I've since come to believe that every single being is made individually, uniquely, which different purposes and talents. I believe the saying that "comparison is the thief of joy" because we all have our own beautiful stories to live out and not someone else's. We are not cookie cutter beings.
I thoroughly believe that everyone should explore their own unique make up and then embrace it. That includes jobs (paid or unpaid), hobbies, and generally how time is spent. I am spending a lot of time "at home" (I use that term loosely because some days I am hardly at home at all) because it seems to fit who I am and the interests of my family best during this season of our lives, not because it is what every mother should be doing. But because of the assumptions I carried with me for a long time, it feels like my actions might be suggesting otherwise.
I just want to shout from the roof tops:
MY CHOICES ARE NOT AN INDICATOR OF WHAT YOU SHOULD DO. BE YOUR BEST SELF (NOT YOUR IDEA OF SOMEBODY ELSE'S).
We need a world of best selves.
I firmly believe that.
My dad told me a story about a couple who cared for about 50 foster kids in the span of about 20 years.
The family got a call one day, asking if they could take in 2 more kids- both three and a half years old. The couple was already at emotional capacity, but the kids just needed a place to stay for 6 weeks and were all set after that. They ended up saying yes.
That first night, the 3-year-olds were in their rooms for about a half an hour. Not a sound came from that room, so either the husband or the wife when to check on them (I'm not sure; maybe it was both); their pillows were soaked. They'd learned to cry silently, because crying meant beatings in their last five "homes."
The kids were tested, and that couple was given the list of things those kids would never be able to do because of the life they'd lived so far.
Those kids stayed about 3 1/2 years. They were disciplined, but that discipline was coupled with love. And guess what? Both of them ended meeting and passing every single milestone they were never expected to meet and went on to thrive.
Because they were loved.
I am angry that any child has to learn to cry without making noise. I want to grieve what they should have had. It's been a process, but I know I am a mother to a child I will not birth.
I want to wrap him (or her) up in my arms and rock him and hold him and sing to him until he can breathe a sigh of relief, until he can feel safe. I know it won't be easy and it won't be lovely and wonderful and fun all the time, but real love never is. I just want somebody to bring me my baby.
A thousand years ago, I met a boy. A guy. A man. It's hard to tell when you're 18.
I made him work for my attention because I had thick walls around my heart. Some of them are still there, but he got around them eventually. Sort of quickly, actually. He's got skills.
He won, I guess.
Well, I won.
We both feel pretty lucky, and that works out well when you're committed to living out life together.
It doesn't make life easy, but maybe richer. Free-er. When you know there's another person who will love you always, no matter what, some chains are broken.
A thousand years later, I have TWO heart-stealing guys in my life: my husband and my son. I'm pretty sure I'm the luckiest woman alive.
There was a while there when the three of us were mostly sleeping through the night and spending much of our evenings and weekends together. There was a LOT of laughing and playing and soaking up life. You guys, I loved my life. I was a big pile of gush.
(Of course there were spots I did NOT love, but I'm not here to talk about those today.)
Money was really tight (I laughed inside when I was given tips on things like how to eat out more cheaply; we couldn't eat out at all or really do anything non-essential), so we lived super frugally, but I didn't care. I had everything I really wanted: a healthy family, a job I love, great friends. I was rich, as far as I was concerned.
There is still all of that, except.
Eventually my bubble had to be popped. Because as frugal as we were, our lives weren't sustainable. We have to work quite a bit more to make ends meet, to pay bills, to avoid credit card debt.
I missed my simple, happy little life.
I really did. I wanted it back, even if it meant never getting to go on vacation or all my jeans having holes in them or having to eat mostly rice and beans and peanut butter.
I didn't get it back. I might not ever get the same life that I loved so much.
But what I did get is a stronger relationship with my husband because we had to work as a team more than ever. I learned how to better accept help that was offered and be honest about myself and all the processing I was (am!) doing- and I got some really rich friendships during the process.
Tim and I have said to each other that we know that when we get out of this particularly tight spot in life, we'll be glad to have gone through it. I don't think we're quite done, but I am already glad for it.
Last winter, I saw homeless people near my house on a regular basis.
They were far enough away that I could avoid them if I wanted to, but they were there. They stood with cardboard signs asking for help, for food. They thawed out in the local McDonald's in winter coats spotted with holes that deny the wearer to ever be completely warm or comfortable in the cold and rain.
I'm not sure when they started showing up. I'm not sure if there ever was a beginning. I saw them before, handing out a sandwich or a snack I just happened to have. I'd think of them for a couple of hours and then go about living my life as usual.
Eventually, though, they burrowed their way into my heart and took a seat, weighing it down.
I don't know their stories, I don't know if them standing out there in the cold and wind is "their fault" or not,
but I saw people I love in their faces.
What if someone I love were in their place? What if I didn't know about it, if somehow they felt they couldn't tell me, if they were too ashamed or whatever it may be?
I would want somebody to love the people I love for me.
They wiggled their way into Tim's heart, too. What we chose to do is really no big deal: we made up care packages to cover basic needs. We look for those guys until they were scared away with threats of fines (all guys; I haven't seen any girls); We wanted to get to know them and what kinds of things would be useful to them. We handed over supplies and a smile, a it's nice to meet you.
About a year ago, Tim and I started meeting weekly with 4 of our friends and their little boys. We share meals and child care. We have a "we can talk about/work through anything; you better tell me if there's a conflict so we can hash it out" policy. We work through books together and explore who Jesus really was, what loving people looks like, what community looks like.
I think the Jesus I am getting to know would have made friends with the guys with the cardboard signs, the ones who are easy to ignore and move on from, the ones who are asking for help.
Tim and I don't have a lot of money. I don't say that as a complaint. We knew when we decided I would stay home with Nolan that money would be tight. And it is tight: going out for coffee or taking Nolan to a local play place is a bit of a splurge for us. But I will tell you this:
I have never felt so rich in my life.
Just a few scenes from the day:
It was a really good day.
Yesterday was just...too tight around around my neck or something. Not bad, just ill-fitting for the most part.
I still feel a little "rammy," as my husband would call it, like I'm waiting to arrive, but I lived my day. I was there. I didn't walk through the time and then think Was I even awake? Did I notice my son? It was pretty beautiful, actually.
I woke up, after too few hours of sleep (I really need to change this not-sleeping-enough thing soon), and in yoga-speak, I set my intention for the day: I'm going to go to bed early, but until then, I'M GOING TO LIVE THIS DAY.
There were no grand gestures. Just me and Nolan, for the most part. We took our time at home in the morning and mostly read books (he hadn't had enough sleep, either). We took a walk, watched the cars, played at the playground, and then sat on the porch eating frozen pineapple and watching more cars. We visited a sweet friend.
It was good.
I've been writing more, too. I actually published a post at The Social Eater for the first time in months. I'm not sure if the published thing is going to happen anytime soon, but I'm practicing. I starting wiggling my way back into it and eventually, maybe it'll be formal (or not), but either way, this little bit feels like me.
There are cells of insecurity that still live inside of me. They show up in moments and days. Sometimes I am able to shove them aside long enough to OWN what makes me me, with no apologies, and in enough comfort that I'm not defensive or abrasive. I'm practicing.
Nolan and I have a bit of a guilty pleasure.
We watch Glee music videos and sing and dance. (Sometimes we mix it up with Macklemore. He loves the official "Can't Hold Us" video- particularly the beginning, because there is a plane in it.)
I've been finding the voice that I think I once had, the one that belts out songs, because I love it and because Nolan smiles the best kind of smile when I do.
Today, as we were watching side by side and I was singing, he wrapped his little arm around my neck and pulled me closer, beaming.
He is tearing down all kinds of insecurities in me. I can't throw or catch, but he hands me a basketball or a baseball and insists it's my turn. I'm learning to throw. I'm learning to try again because what I tell him to do.
I'm confident I'm going to learn all kinds of things I previously said I'm not good at in this life as Nolan's mama.
1. I've discovered I actually crave simplicity in my life.
2. Free entertainment is usually what we can afford right now; I've discovered it's some of the best. We explore the local trails. We go to the playground regularly. We go for walks and take our sweet time taking notice of what's right in front of us (Nolan has certainly helped us out with this one a LOT). We talk to our neighbors and occasionally make treats to deliver to them.
3. We've eaten more meals in homes (ours and otherwise). You know what? A little bit of self-made walls need to come down in order to have someone into your home. It's a beautiful thing; certainly part of the community-glue-at-the-table I'm so fond of.
4. We are at least a bit more empathetic towards people in more difficult situations than ours. We would certainly be having a much more difficult time without the help of our family. How does anyone get through tough situations or raise kids without support? Somehow they do, and they deserve my support if I can give it.
5. We discovered SWAN adoptions. Both Tim and I want to adopt our next child, but we know there's no way we can afford it. We've been introduced to some great foster-to-adopt programs that will make adoption possible for us. I'd be proud to be involved even if we did have the cash we need to bring our next kiddo home.
6. Tim and I have had to work as a team in a different way. Of course, there's been some tension and some tough spots. But I think we're continuing to grow stronger as a team.
There is good in every day. Look for it. Life is a whole lot richer that way.