Stuck

I’m sitting in my car.

I don’t want to get out.

The heat is on high, just how it like it. I’m warm and cozy. I turned off the radio and the lack of distracting sounds is calming. All I hear is the whirl of the defroster and my brain.

But my brain isn’t comforting and cozy right now. It’s actually really sad and crazy and bipolar (not clinically but momentarily). This happens often. I finish work or an activity and I drive home quietly only to arrive in the parking space and feel compelled to stay, inside, safe. No one can ask me a question. I don’t have to entertain my dog (whom I adore). I don’t have to face bright lights or temperatures I dislike. I can’t focus on dishes in the sink or a dirty bathroom. I’m alone and at times, that’s all I want.

Sometimes I think I can just stay in the car and be productive. Technically, I can perform a lot of tasks from the safety of my Nissan and with the assistance of my cell phone. I can answer emails and listen to podcasts. I can read or write a blog post. I can daydream. I can just be.

And then reality hits. I can’t idle my car forever. I have to get out eventually. Even though I don’t like the wind and rain right now, I have to endure it. And solitude and silence is awfully desirable but I know the path that leads to and it’s not a good one.

These are the moments when I dream of running away. Moving or selling everything and just disappearing. Everything and almost everyone feels dispensable (even though I know that’s temporary and false).

Yesterday I witnessed a car accident and as the police were trying to back us up off the exit ramp, it was raining and I couldn’t see well. The office yelled at me and I immediately yelled back, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM DOING!” Then I started to cry. When I just want to hide away from the world, I definitely don’t want to be reprimanded like a child. Even my warm car couldn’t protect me from that unexpected hurt.

It’s weird to think about all the things that we see and feel and process subconsciously. The things that effect us and make us yearn for a hiding place. I didn’t imagine my reaction being so extreme (and maybe it’s not really). And why did that make me feel like a kid? And why did I cry anyway?

I weighed myself this morning (usually not a big deal) but today I felt annoyed by the scale. The number really wasn’t different than it’s been for the last six months but for some reason it made me angry. Then I looked in the mirror and thought maybe I looked a little heavier. I don’t know. Why do I even care?

I’m sure certain parts of this stem from my period coming next week (sorry if that’s TMI). But I know that some of these thoughts and feelings are deep inside me all the time. And if I just hide in my car forever, I won’t ever get through them.

So I’m stepping out into the rain….. again.

Woah

You ever think you’re in one place mentally/emotionally and then realize, “woah, I’ve got some serious work to do!?” You’re walking around feeling all healed from some wounding or confident from some childhood abuse only to be confronted with a new level of depth and shifting that needs to happen.

Welp, that’s me right now.

I’ve mentioned it before so if you’ve been keeping up, you would know that I have a lot of past hurts related to self worth and body image. You may also know that I’m in a way better space with those issues now. In fact, I’m in the healthiest mindset I’ve ever been in concerning my appearance and weight and fitness level.

So why the heck do I find myself crying to my counselor, trying to work through some issues I thought were other people’s fault and I realize, “nope, it’s me!” I’ve been annoyed and judgmental only to see that my own insecurities and issues are the true source of my sadness.

Let me break this down more clearly cause I see I’m kinda speaking in code:

When I gave birth to my son, I was 320lbs. I ate everything I wanted with no discipline or regard for health. If I wanted a candy bar, I would eat 10. I ate fast food daily. I had no sense of fitness. I didn’t workout. I laid around and did basically nothing. I was in a relationship with someone who also did nothing. He played video games all hours of the day and night. He smoked pot and ate a diet of junk food and alcohol. Together, we were a really great pair of unhealthy people.

When our relationship ended, I began a path to wellness. Some of my motivations weren’t the greatest. Some of my methods weren’t the wisest but all in all, I was moving in a better physical direction.

Fast forward to January 2018. I was maxing out all my lifts at the gym. I was running and skating and rowing at paces I’d never seen before. I felt great. I was in the best physical shape I’d been in maybe ever. I had a good handle on my eating, tracking all my macros daily and being “good.”

My husband however, has less of an interest in working out and isn’t overly concerned with his eating habits. He’s honestly a fairly typical American. Some days he is more motivated and other times, not so much.

Lately, I’ve found myself annoyed a lot. I am constantly trying to not be mean or judgmental but my attempts fail. I know I want to be a kind and supportive wife but what ends up happening is just the opposite. My intentions are good but somehow, my actions are less than good. They are at times, downright awful. And I know I don’t like the way I’m feeling or behaving, yet I am unsure how to fix this situation. I keep thinking if he would just workout and eat differently, then I could feel differently.

Then comes the WOAH….

This is about me. This is because I see some parts of myself in him and it terrifies me. I want to believe that I’m so different and separated so far from that part of me that I become a mean girl. A conditionally loving wife. A borderline passive abusive human. I am all the people who made me feel less than growing up. I am the parts of my father that influenced my eating disorders. I am the words from my brother than caused years of pain and self hate. I am the very thing I have worked so hard to overcome. The change that’s missing is within my heart and it has to begin with grace and a deeper sense of love for myself.

Woah. Woah. Woah.

I spent a lot of yesterday crying. Full of shame. Sadness. Regret. How did this happen? Why would I treat this person whom I love so deeply in a way that doesn’t reflect adoration and unconditional love? And how was I somehow redeemed and accepting of some of the ugliest parts of my past, yet still hiding from this part?

Man, life is weird.

I know none of this current revelation negates my past growth. I do love and accept myself a million times more than I used to. I do not let the scale dictate my joy or value. And I do still believe that fitness and self care and health are important for myself and my husband. But my delivery and my heart in this matter are due for an overhaul. It feels somewhat paralyzing. How do I genuinely behave in a way that is supportive when I don’t have that within me right now? How can I be the person I aspire to be for him when I am struggling to be it for myself (and just now am recognizing it?)

Relationships are hard. Especially the one we have with ourselves. Growth is a never ending journey. Intimacy with ourselves is a continued process. What I love about this struggle though, is the surfacing of my thinking will only make me a better human and wife. This feels hard and sad and is unknown territory but I am walking into it confident of an extraordinary outcome. And I firmly believe that my marriage and life will only become stronger and become elevated higher as this plays out.

Praying for everyone who struggles with deeper layers of unconditional love. You are not alone. Keep peeling back the layers. Continue to tear down those walls. Keep becoming more and more intentional and dealing with the tough stuff. It’s always worth it and as you learn to love every tiny aspect of your being, you will surely be able to love everyone else better.

Selfies

I used to hate, I mean, HATE pictures of myself. Every photo was an opportunity for me to see all the unsightly parts of me. To critique myself. To dislike myself. To remind myself of how much work I needed to do to look acceptable or be “pretty”. I could spot the smallest hint of cellulite or a double chin. My gray hairs were so obvious to me. When I looked frumpy or my butt looked too big. Whatever it was, it was all I saw.

And I didn’t need a photo to see how unattractive I was. I felt it all the time. It defined me. Every person I met, I compared myself to. Skinnier legs, more muscular arms, prettier hair, nicer skin, better put together, more fashionable, stylish, you name it. It was the foundation of my life. How did I measure up to someone else’s outsides?

I never did…..

I never felt sufficient. Ever.

A few years ago, when God began shifting my heart to align with His, I started to see glimpses of my worth. I got a tattoo on my side, the Hebrew word for sufficient, meaning if He is enough, then I am enough. I thought I was beginning to really learn to like myself but I was just finding new ways to mask my disdain. I could lift a lot of weights and post a cool video of that. I could make intentionally silly posts to hide the fact that I was uncomfortable with myself. I could edit and filter things to only present my “best” self.

Or…. I could just be myself and share only who I truly am, and be more than ok with it. I could truly love myself and see all the beauty within me and not focus on my flaws. But that seemed like an impossible feat…..

For a while I would try to shift my thoughts. Whenever I judged myself, I would say nice things in my head to combat the negative. There’s this guy, Gottman, and he did a study about relationships. Apparently, for every 1 negative statement, you need 5 positive ones to balance out. This is true for all relationships, even the one with yourself. If I looked in the mirror and said I was ugly, I would immediately force myself to say something kind. And if I found myself judging others, I would muster up a compliment and hand it out as fast as I could (and it had to be genuine). I would remind myself of how I ran a half marathon or how I loved deeply or served others well. I tried to find ways to convince myself that I was attractive and “good”. As much kind words I said to fight my mean self, it was never enough. I couldn’t convince myself to see anything differently.

My husband is a photographer and I have always forbid him from taking pictures of me. Professional cameras would capture my hideous appearance with even greater detail. I had no interest in seeing all of my skin and body with such great design. That decision always made me feel sad inside but my sorrow was not stronger than my dislike for myself. I don’t know if it’s me approaching my 40’s or the heart shift with my ankle break or just God revealing things to me, but something recently has changed. Maybe you just stop caring so much about this sort of thing at some point. Probably some people never cared much about comparison. Not only do I like the way I look, but I don’t even have to convince myself to approve of my appearance. Somehow, I actually see myself and see the beauty in me. My belly, which often times is fuller than flat, reminds me that I grew a human and it makes me smile. Sometimes it even makes me laugh because it’s so stinking adorable. And my legs, which are softer because of my ankle break, don’t gross me out even with some stretch marks and cellulite. I can’t even explain why it doesn’t matter, but it just doesn’t. My hair is in need of some fixing, my grays are showing through horribly and the fuchsia color has faded to show dry, blonde-ish ends but that’s ok! I genuinely still like myself AND see a deeper elegance than all those things.

I used to think I needed to present myself as perfectly as possible to be ok. In order to be alluring and like myself, I needed to strive for model type, high level athlete, unattainable fashionista, perfection, well groomed, organized super human. Now, I see true beauty in the authentic, sometimes messy, not always put together but always working hard and loving version of me. The one who puts people before things, who accepts and loves others as they are, who encourages and supports friends in their darkest moments and cheers on strangers in the day to day.

I will probably never be someone who constantly is obsessed with myself, posts selfies all the time or even checks the mirror a bunch. I don’t think I’m in any way giving up on caring about my appearance or going to quit working out to improve my physical health. It just doesn’t mean as much to my value anymore and that feels really good. Seeing myself for the first time, as a fascinating and lovely being, is so strange yet freeing.

I can’t believe I wasted so much of my life focused on something so insignificant. Imagine what I could’ve been doing with my time if I hadn’t been so preoccupied. I hope to inspire others to see their true beauty and value

because it’s there…

Undeniable

It’s 4pm in Moab, Utah and I’ve already hiked almost 9 miles up to a huge arch in the middle of no where, through a sand trail that traversed a stream multiple times. Wait, let’s re-read that sentence…

Didn’t I break my ankle just four months ago? I know, I know, I keep talking about it but seriously, how did I do this crazy slanted slick rock hike? How did I navigate sand and algae covered rocks? And with NO PAIN? No swelling?

We can go over the first part of that sentence also and be in awe… I’m in Moab, adventuring with my husband. A month ago this was not our reality but now we have plans to travel every month for the rest of the year and maybe even longer. Oh, and let’s clarify, we aren’t paying for our trip, it’s all work related and my husband is actually being compensated for these amazing adventures.

Here’s what’s even more crazy: three years ago we wrote this down as a dream we wanted to see fulfilled. My husband aspired to be a full time photographer, traveling the country and working enough to support our family. I aspired to be working less and traveling with him, helping in whatever way possible and having time to write more. And if we travel back in time to when I was 18, I said all I wanted to do as an adult was travel around the country even though I had no idea what that would look like.

The path to get here was full of two broken ankles, a lot of moving around, some really emotional and tough situations and unending trust and faith. We spent a lot of time praying, making decisions that felt guided by our God, attempting to discern our path through the mess. We had so many opportunities to give up but I am so glad we kept going.

This trip is covered in blessing and prophecy. It’s clearly meant to be, undeniably a gift from God. Even up to our departure, we acted out of faith and received confirmation. Ten days ago the bulging discs in my back flared up. I could barely walk. I couldn’t work. I was miserable. I saw a chiropractor, got my back dry needled, was put on steroids and muscle relaxers. I attempted everything I could to heal. I thought for a moment maybe I was going to have to cancel going and send my husband out alone. But I also knew I was supposed to go and so I trusted that somehow, my back would feel better…. and it did. Almost 24 hours in the car, which would normally ruin any a human, was exactly the process my back required to be restored. That makes no sense……

So here I am, living seriously my best life, with my body functioning and feeling amazing against all odds. And while this season is oh so good, I will remain faithful, hopeful and positive whenever this peak becomes a valley knowing that if it’s not good, it’s not God and it’s just not the end yet. I hope those who are also enjoying moments of dreams becoming reality take a second to feel ultimate gratitude for the journey that they took to get there. And for those facing struggles and working hard to stay positive, I pray for the perseverance to keep your head up and the belief in the goodness that surely will come.

Steroids and ownership

My grandparents are from Italy and Venezuela (maybe Argentina but I’m pretty sure Venezuela). My brother is very dark skinned and although I’m kinda olive toned, I’ve NEVER had an issue with sunburns or not tanning nicely. I rarely lather on sunscreen, I never wear sun hats and I have yet to experience sun poisoning.

On Wednesday, the high was mid 70’s and the sun was out but mixed with clouds. I invited two friends over for some poolside hangs and was so elated to just relax and have some downtime and enjoy the vitamin D therapy. We sat around for maybe an hour before we were warm enough to embrace the barely tolerable, ice cold pool water. Once in the pool, after our squealing and whining subsided, we chatted for another 30 minutes or so. Our afternoon of fun was over, we had things to do and adult life to return to.

I noticed a severe burn line form my bathing suit and sent a text to my friends stating, “don’t worry, it will turn to tan by tomorrow.” Confident in my statement because I had never seen a burn on me that didn’t turn to tan and I was sure my 90 minute sun exposure wasn’t enough to kill me.

The next day, my burn was still evident, no brown tones had set in, my shoulders were tender and my chin felt burnt. I’m not talking about hot, but actually burnt. I felt perplexed but continued to believe (with slightly less confidence) in the tan tones coming shortly. I began applying home remedies of lavender and oils and lotions and creams in an attempt to coerce my skin into tanning. At minimum, I was hoping to alleviate the redness and bumps that were beginning to form.

Enter Saturday night…. I woke up to itching skin, bumps all over my chest, neck, face. I wanted to rip my skin off. I was placing ice packs on myself. My face had a similarity to an orange peel and my chest was on fire. I couldn’t sleep (which is somewhat a regular occurrence these days) and began scouring the internet for sunburn rash websites.

I found myself wondering what had happened? My skin had never been so unpredictable. Was I now so sensitive to the sun that I couldn’t adventure without sunscreen? I mean, maybe I’m dumb for even thinking that but when you experience minimal to no issues for 38 years, it’s definitely confusing to suddenly have your body react in a totally opposing manner.

I ended up being put on steroids to reduce the inflammation and rash and had to spend Memorial Day hiding out from the terrors of UVA/UVB rays. I’m bathing in aloe and drinking water obsessively. I’m itchy and red and irritated but most of all, I’m aggravated with myself. Why did I care so much about wanting a tan? Why did I ignore everything and person that suggests sunscreen is important?

All of this got me thinking back to my ankle and how I knew my right ankle was weaker before I broke it. I had right knee surgery 11 years ago and have had trouble activating my glute on the right side for a little while now. My right leg has been my less stable, weaker side ever since my surgery in 2007. I have known this and seen it as a problem anytime I do single leg exercises. I started seeing a therapist for my right knee maybe six months before I broke my ankle. I was doing my therapy exercises but pretty lazily, not with a huge level of commitment.

After breaking my ankle, I HAVE TO FIX MY RIGHT LEG ISSUES. If I don’t activate my butt and track my knee/quad correctly, my ankle hurts where my plate is. Maybe this is too technical talk but the point is, I could’ve been proactive and possibly fixed this issue a long time ago and maybe, just maybe, avoided an ankle breaking. So why didn’t I? Why was I not fully committed to proactive care of myself? Why did I not take it seriously? I see this all too often with my clients also, they come in with an ache or pain and we discuss a protocol for fixing the issue yet the true motivation for change usually doesn’t come until they’re desperate and non functional.

I have found myself full of gratitude for these forced behavior changes even though they come with some extreme discomfort. I’d prefer to learn from these experiences and become better at taking care of myself BEFORE I’m broken and itching and on medication or in the hospital. Yes, it would be nice if I could just magically be healed or if I could function better without any effort but the line says, “get up, pick up your mat and walk!” There’s an active part involved in our healing. I am to partner with my God whether that be in prayer and faith or in tangible behaviors like putting on sunscreen and doing physical therapy exercises. Whatever it is, whatever it looks like, I play a part, or it’s better if I participate.

So tonight, I am grateful for my sunburned rash and itching skin and my butt that doesn’t fire well because they are going to be my motivation and reminder anytime I want to be lazy or irresponsible. And any other thing I want to accomplish in my life, will be better because I will know that I ALWAYS have a choice to make smart decisions and I am never truly a victim to circumstances. I challenge anyone reading this to trace backwards something in their life and find the areas that could be improved and just maybe, see how life is trying to discipline you to be the best version of yourself. And then be grateful for those broken bones and failed attempts because they are way more of an asset than liability. ❤️

Oh, and here’s just a magical picture of my dog playing in the snow.

Sunday

Yesterday was Sunday.

It also was Mother’s Day.

I am a mom. I’ve been one for 18 years now.

The thing about yesterday, Mother’s Day, is that I usually find myself particularly disappointed and dejected inside. It’s the same with Christmas, birthdays, Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and even Sweetest Day (which is honestly not a real holiday). I have some crazy expectation in my mind, breakfast in bed, flowers, romance, surprises, things you see in a movie. I see people’s lives on social media and it makes me believe that those days mean more because they include niceties. I have spent a lot of years believing that without those things, I wasn’t as important, maybe I wasn’t a worthy mom or person, maybe I wasn’t living up to the role of wife, friend, girlfriend, mother etc.

I also know a lot of people who find those days to be just as challenging; friends who can’t have children, whose mothers have passed away, who don’t have a significant other or who have been betrayed by their lover. These holidays, the cards, the decorations, the date night activities, the excitement, really can be nothing more than a build up to sadness and feeling alone or undeserving.

Now I’m not saying these holidays are junk OR that honoring others is a negative trait. I love celebrating people. I cry over cards at the grocery store and envision the emotion and sentiment being shared with a person I care for. I get excited for Christmas tree decorating and cut out cookies and I certainly enjoy a beautiful dinner and romance.

But when my whole day, my whole existence, my emotions are so tied to these grandiose displays of affection, I am setting myself up for hurt. Sometimes I think that no amount of gifts or attention would satisfy the day I can create in my mind. Who can compare to Ryan Gosling in the Notebook? That’s just not real life, at least not all the time (in fact probably not most of the time).

Relationships are tough. Pleasing someone else, considering someone else, selflessness, that’s really difficult. It’s not in our nature to think about others before ourselves. I’m not great at it and I’ve been intentionally working on it for at least five years.

Let me take a quick detour to clarify a few things: my husband is AMAZING. He’s patient and kind and loving and has the biggest heart. He’s talented and I am impressed by him and his artistic abilities every day. He is creative beyond what I can comprehend and is a perfectionist when it comes to his craft. He would die for me in a heartbeat. He cares about making me happy and he works hard to speak my love language. My son is also an unbelievable human. He is empathetic and generous and loves me with all his heart. When he sings, something stirs inside my core. Excitement pours out of his body when he anticipates something and he gives really great hugs. He’s genuine and respectful and makes this world a better place just by existing.

Now that I cleared that up, let’s get back to Mother’s Day….. nothing special happened. No card from anyone, no flowers, no surprises and IT WAS OK! In fact, it was totally fine. It was just Sunday after all. I didn’t feel sad. I actually told myself, “you’re a really amazing mom and this day doesn’t make you more of a mom”. In years past, I’ve cried, a lot. I’ve felt unimportant and angry. I’ve wanted something (I don’t even know what) to validate me. I compared my day to Instagram stories and Facebook posts and felt almost ashamed of the normalcy that ensued on all those Sundays in May.

Just because my husband and son aren’t great at proactive gift giving and surprises, doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate me. They show me how much they value me in so many other ways throughout the year. It almost becomes unfair to forget all of those moments and base everything on those 24 hours labeled as a holiday for moms, or lovers or Jesus (Christmas is definitely not about me or gifts so let’s get that off the table right now).

In general, the thought process of high expectations in every situation, becomes dangerous. People will always let us down. Things won’t always be 100% perfect and just how we choose for them to be. Life isn’t a movie or a post online. But this year, my feelings were totally disconnected from that thinking and I was able to celebrate myself. I applauded myself, did things I enjoyed and never felt one twinge of resentment or discontentment. I’m looking forward to a lifetime of more amazing days with less focus on what someone is doing to celebrate me and more connection with how I can be my own best cheerleader.

Maybe everyone should break an ankle

I don’t even know if this is profound. Just some ramblings maybe. I had felt like these past three years had been a season directed towards something. I wasn’t sure what that something was. I’m still unsure what it is. I suppose we are constantly moving in a forward direction with some sort of objective but also not really knowing. Moment by moment, with every interaction, our plans can shift, our path can change. Sometimes we achieve our “end goal” only to realize that was a stop along the way. We desire more, we dream bigger, there’s never really a destination.

I kept believing that these past three years, where my husband and I continued to live a life of less and less, meant we would end up living like gypsies, in a tiny home, traveling the world. Maybe we would be long term campers, adventuring with only a tent and truck for our “home”. Was my future going to include mission trips and a minimal life in some third world country? Could we be moving to a tiny apartment in New York to pursue other business avenues? All these thoughts raced through my mind constantly. I’ve spent the past three years interpreting our situation and aligning it with different ideas I thought would be fun or make sense.

Here’s what I found: I was totally wrong. We just signed a lease on an apartment. We are not jet setting to Haiti. We turned down the New York offer. While we will always adventure, travel and camp, there’s no Airstream in our future (yet). All of these years of letting go, giving up, selling things, minimizing had accomplished two conscious things and I’m sure bunches of unconscious things that we will discover in the years to come.

The first thing that’s happened is I have become a less controlling, more laid back human. I don’t feel so emotionally attached to things or processes. My anxiety doesn’t increase thinking about things breaking or being ruined. The couch cushions don’t need to be perfect. My husband is allowed to load the dishwasher however he wants. The groceries can be put in the fridge in a hodge podge, disorganized way. My medical bill for $42k didn’t even freak me out. I have thus far, totally detached from my idea of what is valuable, what’s worth stressing over and what I should cherish.

The second, and even cooler thing to happen is that my husband and I have to furnish our new apartment. We have nothing but beds and clothes and our camping gear. We have to buy a couch, nightstands, kitchen items, trash cans and bathroom items. We have to decorate and coordinate things. We get to pick out a whole house full of items. All the things we sold or donated we need to replace. But this time, we get to do it together.

My husband and I didn’t live together before we were married and when we did say our vows, he moved into my house. It was totally furnished and everything was mine. We lived there for three years before we moved in with his grandma and then into our house sitting situation. I’m six years, we had never had a home together that was ours. We had never shopped for our things. Neither of us realized we had missed out on such a fun and intimate part of being married. We didn’t know the joy of picking out plates and dishes. We hadn’t shared in establishing our home and life together. It had always been my stuff or his stuff.

I think it’s interesting how we just transitioned into a life that made sense and didn’t see the lack in our decision. We never got to feel excited about sitting together on a couch that we handpicked. We didn’t know the happiness that came from discussing vacuum options. The investment that happens when you share in decisions. Its more than just buying things, it’s creating a foundation for a home to live in, to host people in, to feel proud of, to feel wrapped up and cozy in unity.

And all of this began when he broke his ankle three years ago…..