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“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

Posts for ABOUT ME Category

Sehnsucht.

[sehnsucht]

I am going on a journey.

I’m taking a trip back in time. I am packing for me, my husband, and our toddler. We are loading up the car, and we are traveling back to a time and place when things were simpler – or at least seemed that way. I am thirty years old, and in a week, I will be thirty-one; but for this one trip, I get to go back and live in the past – be myself at 8 and 11 and 14 and 21. The past whispers to me, as we settle in the car and get on the road, following the lane markers up the interstate on this drive I have made a thousand times before. I feel all those memories, all the laughter and the mistakes and and the misunderstandings, brushing against me like the wind. Our history can be such a palpable place, just stepping foot in a building can bring back this oppressive feeling of presence, of a time gone by, of people who were once here, once important to us, and now are gone.

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Talking about family is difficult for me.

When I was younger, I thought my family was perfect. Spunky and a little loud and a little odd, but in all the best ways. When I was older, teenage years, early twenties, I thought my family was unconventional, maybe dysfunctional; but all the better for it.

In my mid-twenties, I thought the very existence of my family would crack me apart, from the inside, a great splintering, a great shattering. I wasn’t supposed to talk about it much, then, and I’m not really supposed to talk about it much now, for convention’s sake, for manners’ sake. So I don’t.

At thirty, I have decided family are the people we choose to be close to us, the people who may not always be related by blood, but have proven they will cherish us, and protect us. My chosen family is no less holy and divine simply because we are all friends who grew up in complicated families, with loss, with disappointment, with hurt and battered feelings. We are closer for it, because we know what it means to lose the familial ties, those traditional roles. We know what it is to be envious of a family whole, with two parents and siblings who get along, and grandparents and aunties and uncles who treasure your precious self, just as you are. We try to be that, for each other.

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On Turning Thirty.

ABOUT ME, Birthday - Emily - March 30, 2017

The thing about turning thirty is – we’re supposed to be scared of it.

Remember that Friends episode? The One Where They All Turn 30? Actual tears at the prospect of hitting that third decade – that was my idea of what turning 30 meant in our society, all the years I was growing up. We were supposed to dread turning 30, it was supposed to be this sort of Farewell to Youth tragedy.

And I sure don’t feel that. Not a bit.

My twenties were hard. For most of us: our twenties were hard – even if some of us don’t want to admit it. Your twenties are about learning how to be adult. We worked so hard, in our teenage years, to become an adult, and hitting 20, 21 – we thought we made it. Then we started to realize: holy shit, being an adult is teeeeerrible. And then – we spend the whole rest of our twenties having some sort of nervous breakdown, as we adjust to adulting, over and over again.

OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh — but when we were younger, our twenties were painted as this magical time when we would be youthful and full of energy. Our twenties would be the time we had it all, when that dream life everyone expects would be so easily achievable. Our lives were going to be so adventurous and fun, and finally, we would have that freedom we’d craved all the years before. We were all going to find our perfect job, right? Straight out of college – or at least a job in our field, with that potential to move upward. We were all gonna find the love of our lives, right? Get married, right? Maybe eventually have a baby, yes?  We were going to have that cute little starter house, and a dog that curled up by the fireplace. Or else, we were going to travel the world, experience everything, see everything, taste and smell and hear everything. We would go out and have big times with our friends on the weekends, throw cool parties, go to shows, work on our cars, network and socialize, enjoy this freedom and this freshness before we all inevitably passed into Old Age by the time we hit thirty.

You know what’s left out of that picture? Learning how to do your taxes, or how insurance actually works. Student loans – those were left out of that twenties ideal, BIG time. I think everyone I know had their twenties monopolized by student loans, and how to pay them off, and how to live the life they wanted while working a job they hated in order to get money to pay off those damn student loans from that degree they worked so hard for that was supposed to get them that dream job. Car payments – those were left out of that ideal twenties experience too, and medical bills, and negotiating a raise and what the hell a 401k is and aren’t we seriously too young to be worrying about life insurance??

You know what else was left out? Emotional trauma. Losing loved ones to fatal diseases. Learning to recognize abusive relationships, romantic or platonic, and figuring out how to get out of them, how to recover. Break-ups in general – break-ups with boyfriends or girlfriends, break-up with friends who just weren’t good for you. Realizing that family isn’t perfect just because it’s family. Learning which problematic relationships you can work with, and which are just making your life too hard, too painful. Loss – loss was left out of the twenties ideal. All kinds of loss; loss of innocence, loss of that very ideal we were taught to expect. Loss of love, loss of trust, loss of people and pets and all those tiny little hurts that build up to one big ball of pain that we carry around every day for the rest of our lives.

So – our twenties ain’t easy. Our twenties, to me, are all about learning lessons. Sure, we never stop learning lessons, our entire lives – and I think that’s the biggest lesson of our twenties. This is adulthood, kids, and it’s not going to change. Everything that smashed into us at 23, 26, 28 – none of that’s going anywhere. There’s no magical off-switch that makes the hurts and the challenges and the exhaustion go away, stop coming – there’s no magic Harry Potter spell we get to stay to make wave after wave of life stop crashing over us.

That’s where I stand, at the cusp of my thirties. Understanding that life isn’t easy, for anyone, and that’s normal. If anything, I stand grateful at the cusp of my thirties, because my twenties taught me that, and my twenties taught me resilience, versatility, hope even in the face of despair. My twenties gave me the tools to deal with my thirties, and my forties, and however many decades come after.

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Wrestling.

This week, I have been struggling with guilt.

Guilt is an emotion I’ve struggled with for years, one that I wish I could let go of and move on from.

I always worry about being enough. I want to be enough, for myself, for everyone around me, for everyone I love. For years, I have wrestled with being a good enough daughter, a good enough sister, a good enough wife or coworker or friend. A good enough writer or dancer or artist. Brave enough, confident enough.

We always tell ourselves that we don’t care about what other people think — and sometimes, we really don’t, and sometimes, we really do. And that’s where, I think, guilt comes in. I struggle with free time, with down time, with self care time. I work hard all through out the week to get enough done so that by Saturday afternoon or Sunday, I can take a nap, and then…that scheduled time comes around and I can’t sleep because I’m guilty thinking about all the things I ought to be doing. The housework I ought to be completing, the baby prep I ought to be doing. Did I exercise enough this week, did I food prep for the week ahead, am I prepared for dance class and projects I need to complete this week? I end up wasting more time tossing and turning, talking myself out of getting up and working, only to finally fall into an exhausted sleep just a little bit before I have to get up.

Anxiety and guilt, I think, go hand in hand. The anxious mind does not rest, the anxious mind can’t be convinced, there is plenty of time and I am handling all my responsibilities in baby steps, a little each day. The anxious mind is prone to panic, the anxious mind thinks all times are NOW, all deadlines are now. The anxious mind convinces us that we will be a failure if we don’t exhaust ourselves doing 100 million little things right this instant. If we are practiced in handling anxiety, maybe we can remember to take the time to stop and talk to that anxious voice — you are okay. You are doing just fine. Let this go, there is nothing we can do about this worry in this moment. We will handle this when the appropriate time arrives, and that moment is not right now.

The anxious mind is persistent, though, and it can take a powerful resolve and a powerful determination to keep having that talk and keep fighting that fight.

My anxiety (in case you couldn’t tell) has been particularly bad this past week or so. And the weird thing is? I’m not really worried about anything in particular. There are times when we have a sense of dread and unease over a particular issue, and that sense of dread filters through every facet of our life and we feel it everywhere, at work or home or in relationships — but we know what the cause is. Times when we’re short on money and know we won’t be on top again until pay day in two weeks — and until then, we just have to endure. Times when we’re struggling with a particular relationship that seems to be troublesome at the moment, and we can’t stop thinking about that person until the issue is resolved. We might feel that anxiety always, but we know where it’s coming from.

I can’t say that that is necessarily my problem right now. I’m blissfully happy, 70% of the time. Spring is here, the pear trees are blooming and the Japanese Magnolias are blooming, and the forsythia glows yellow, and we get these beautiful days of sunshine and blue skies. I’m wearing sandals pretty much all the time now, a couple times I’ve managed a dress. This is my favourite time of year, and I’ve been amazed by how much my mood has improved from the earliest part of the year. I love going on long walks around the neighborhood with Shaun after work, I love meeting friends for lunch or little get togethers, I love planning outings to the park or the homeplace for the kids. I love having packages come in the mail, and putting together  our cosleeper bassinet or her shelves with baskets for all her little clothes and socks. I love sitting outside with Shaun while he grills us a healthy dinner, I love feeling my sweet baby kick me any time of day, I love snuggling up against Shaun on the couch in the evening and having him kiss my hair and rub my belly, trying to feel the baby kick on the outside.

Nothing in particular is bothering me, and yet my anxiety seems to be on a hair trigger, and any little thing can set me off. I miss a call from a loved one, someone at work says something I don’t agree with, Shaun has to go to work, I indulge in eating something other than vegetables and lean protein, the baby hasn’t kicked in a couple hours, I decide I want to stay home and have some quiet time rather than accept an invitation somewhere. BAM, there I am. Heart pounding, mind busy worrying if my loved one thinks I hate them/if I will keep the house clean enough/if I’m not being social enough/if I’m not being healthy enough/if everything is OK with baby girl.

I think with anxiety, and the guilt that follows; at first, it seems we really only have to options: wallow, or power through.

Wallow usually seems like the easier option — I cannot get out of bed, I cannot put on clean clothes, I cannot do the little things that would make me feel better. We have to lie here, on the couch, binge watching a show we don’t even like while we think about how bad we feel, how behind we are, how much we have to do. The mental weight of all these worries crushes us, and we are too heavy, too exhausted to get up and deal with them.

More often than wallowing, I find myself on the alternate path — powering through. And while it might seem like the better option, I’ve found it can be just as harmful to my emotional state in the long run. Sure, on the surface, it seems like the better route — I force myself to get up, I force myself to clean, to correspond, to be social, to take a walk and do some crunches, to food prep. I visit people even when I’m tired, I offer to take on projects I don’t want to — I strive to be that Perfect, Impossible Woman I still somehow believe I can be. I seek to prove to myself that perfection is possible, when it isn’t. And the thing is? After I’ve exhausted myself, and exhausted every possible task I could set before myself in order to validate that I’m an OK employee/daughter/wife/sister/mother-to-be — I’ve still not dealt with the anxiety. I push myself, I drive myself forward, in fear of failing, in fear of disappointing myself yet again. I arrive at those scheduled rest periods at the end of the day or the end of the week — and I still cannot deal with myself, I still cannot still my unquiet mind, and I find myself no better off than if I had stayed on the couch and wallowed.

The truth is — sometimes we have to just stop and stare Anxiety and Guilt in the face. I see you. Hiding from anxiety, whether through inaction or over-action, doesn’t solve anything. In ignoring it, in wishing that an anxious mind were not the reality we are saddled with — we allow it to grow and fester. We allow it to take over our brains and take control. We allow it to seep into every moment and every step of the day — and sometimes, we don’t even realize it. Sometimes, we accept these frantic, obsessive thoughts as normal — I‘m just busy. I’ve just got a lot on my plate right now. We make excuses, and we keep getting wound up tighter and tighter.

I sometimes wish I had a life coach to be with me constantly, always validating me and reminding me I’m OK and doing a good job. Then I remember that life coach is me.

When faced with anxious periods, we forget we can be the ones to stay stop. We don’t want to admit that we’re anxious or that this sick part of our brains has such a strong hold of us. But today, as I kept crying after Shaun left for work, as I kept making lists of Things I Had to Get Done Today on Sunday, my Day of Rest — I realized I wasn’t dealing with my anxiety, I was avoiding it.

Sometimes, the only thing that works is being that life coach for ourselves. Stopping, and sitting still. Turning off the TV and putting down the phone. Not hopping in the car and speeding off to buy something to distract us, or creating a social environment to buoy us through for another hour. Cultivating stillness. Cultivating quiet and calm. Sitting still and really talking to ourselves, telling ourselves, I am doing OK. I am working hard. Forcing ourselves to see our actual reality, and not the version our anxiety would have us believe to be true. Reminding ourselves that perfection isn’t possible — that we could clean every moment of every day and the hamper would still fill up and the fridge would eventually empty, because that’s how life works. Reminding ourselves that we cannot be everything for everyone, all of the time. Reminding ourselves that we have limits, and that we are only human. Reminding ourselves that if we let ourselves become obsessed with an idealistic version of ourselves, and only work towards that — then we will be missing a huge part of life, the most important part — the actual living.

Anxiety makes us fearful, and being fearful makes us forget what joy feels like. If we cannot stop and look at the little lives we’ve built, these beautiful, tender lives that we are lucky enough to be living, we forget our joyful selves, our true selves.

If you’re reading this, you’re more than likely an anxious person. You’re more than likely someone who knows what it feels like to let your brain drive itself out of control — and what I want to say to you right now is you are doing fine. It’s hard to trust your gut when your gut is currently set to Panic Mode, but please listen to me when I say — it’s OK to believe that you are doing good enough. It’s OK to believe that you are doing the best you can right now — because you are. It’s OK for you to take a nap, it’s OK for you to get a milkshake, it’s OK not to listen to other people’s advice, it’s OK to do things the way you want to do them. It is OK for you to live your life the way you want to, and it’s OK not to make anyone else’s priorities yours. It’s OK to tune out the world and tune out Facebook and Instagram and stop worrying about whether your house is decorated as nicely or if you can run a single mile, let alone five. It’s OK if you fed your kids chicken nuggets and applesauce because they won’t eat anything else. It’s OK if you think high heels are stupid and you’d rather not wear them for anything less than a wedding. It’s OK to let that phone call go to voice mail and call them back later when you’re feeling calmer.

Let’s try and help each other remember — we don’t have to wait until we feel terrible. We don’t  have to wait until the crushing worry is so bad we can barely function. Let’s help each other remember to stop, to breath, to give ourselves permission to be whole and human and imperfect, and therefore, perfect, just as we already are.

 

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Adjusting to Expecting.

ABOUT ME, Baby Weeks, Emi, First Trimester, Laureny, Life, Pregnancy, Shaun - Emily - January 7, 2016

This is a very honest, and therefore, very vulnerable post.

I always imagined that when I got pregnant, all my feelings and words would just burst forth from me, perfectly, without effort. I thought I would be Mary with her Magnificat, that all my emotions would be crystal clear and lovely and poetic. It was a post that I looked forward to writing, that I dreamed about actually having the opportunity to write. After another disappointing month when I wasn’t pregnant, as I worked through my feelings, I thought about how I would phrase this phase of our journey. I tried to see every minute of our time waiting as important, and linked to the whole grand experience of being pregnant and giving birth.

Turns out – from the instant I found out I was pregnant, I felt – for once in my life – kind of speechless. I wanted to write this post. I thought about it, a lot; from day one of actually knowing. And yet, I couldn’t write it. I couldn’t fathom where to begin, what words to peck out. Even as a couple weeks passed and things became more concrete, as we gathered more experiences and knowledge – I still didn’t feel like I was quite ready, like I quite understood what I was feeling. I sat down at the computer once or twice, with the intention of at least starting this post – and I couldn’t quite. I’ve actually written huge chunks of this post, two or three times, and always rejected them. Deleted it all, and only kept these first two paragraphs. Everything else didn’t quite hit the right note, they didn’t quite capture the emotions — or else they just seemed fake, forced.

The first thing I need to tell you about finding out we were pregnant is that I completely and absolutely did not expect it.

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Two Years, Six Years.

My love, my husband, my boy —

I’m sitting here, writing this a few weeks early. The way life has been going lately, I know if I don’t take advantage of a few still moments to write, I might not have time for it later.

Evening is just starting to settle in, the light pouring in the big windows in the den is sharpening, taking on that amber hue that lets me know the sunshine is fleeting. Our fur baby, your kitty-daughter is snoozing on top of a stack of our stuff, some T-shirts, a few scraps of paper — because why wouldn’t she stake her claim on all of our stuff, mark us as hers?

You’re at work, and I miss you. It feels like we haven’t seen a lot of each other lately, although I’m proud of how we work to make time for each other, and each other alone. Maybe it’s just grabbing lunch in between both of our work shifts, maybe it’s the five minutes we nestle together in bed before I drift off. Maybe it’s those fifteen minutes on the couch as we’re winding down from the day — my favourite time of day, when I snuggle into your chest and you wrap your arms around me, scoot lower in the couch so you become my body pillow. How you pet my hair, drop kisses on my forehead. No matter how hard either of our days were, no matter how stressed or drained we feel — those fifteen minutes seem to cure it all, or at least make the pain and the exhaustion fade long enough to get up and do it all again, the next morning.

So, I’m writing this in the few quiet minutes I have, because our anniversary is in two weeks. When the actual day comes, we’ll be in Florida, our first vacation since our honeymoon, hopefully riding horses or walking down to Blackwater River. I hope we are holding hands, I hope we are laughing, I hope we are breathing easy.

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