Time Off.

The sweetness of summer is so close I can almost taste it.

About three weeks until Reilly is out of school and we can begin our little adventure together. We came to a family decision that I would take the summer off since I hadn’t been able to find a full time job. It makes more sense economically, and I had actually been in need of time to myself in order to really heal and become.

It’s been nearly two weeks now, and sometimes I feel like I am staring out into an abyss. I’m not always sure how to constructively fill the hours, and I feel guilty if I take an hour or two to be still (and occasionally binge watch something if I’m being honest!)

One goal I have had for this time is to release myself from the need for structure. I’m a creature of habit, and I like to know what I am going to do from one moment to the next. Having the freedom to decide as I please in real time is uncomfortable for me.

It’s something I’ve desired though, giving up my need for this sense of control. I’m embracing it fully, and so far I’m settling into it rather nicely.

Yesterday may have been the most relaxed so far, with writing, yoga, and taking the best, most gentle care of myself. I released myself from the pressure to do so much in a day and to just go with the flow. That is something I know nothing about!

I have high hopes for this time though.

I’ve finally begun reading more for pleasure and connection. I’m slowly getting back into cooking now that I have the time for it. I am moving my body in ways that feel good for me both physically and mentally. Most days I don’t utter a sound to the empty house, and I am able to melt into the scents of candles and essential oils.

The time to reconnect my body with my spirit has finally arrived, and I am taking full advantage of it.

As for once Reilly is out of school, I think I am most excited about those days ahead. We’ve talked about swimming, exploring in nature, visiting our friends and family, reading some delicious books, cooking together, camping out with a good movie, and enjoying a few lazy days.

This past year since Reilly’s baby sister came into our lives has been an adjustment for all of us. There are times I feel guilty for not being able to give her my undivided attention. I’m sure most parents and caregivers feel that way when the next baby arrives. It’s a balancing act for sure, one I don’t think I will ever master. But I hope each kiddo knows just how much they are adored and needed. And I hope I am able to connect even more deeply with Reilly over the next few months.

In the weeks leading up to this change I was crazy anxious, stressed and depressed. I worried about money, how I’d find a job down the road, how I would actually make this work. Yet now in this moment I feel more calm and optimistic. I feel free to become someone better than who I’d been for a while there. I can take my time in deciding what comes next. I can dream really big dreams – and I can believe they will come true!

I know how fortunate I am to be able to take this time off, not just for myself but for my family.  I know it’s up to me to use this time wisely to break out of the mold that never suited me in the first place.

I’m a little more excited with each passing day, a little more relaxed and accepting of what is, what was, and what’s to come. I can’t wait to finally be more present in my life and enjoy the experience.

xx

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Use This Time Wisely.

If there is one thing any of us should learn early in life it’s that things often don’t go as planned. I’ve learned this simple yet valuable lesson a million times over. Though that doesn’t make it any easier to digest when plans take an abrupt detour.

There is plenty happening in life right now about which I feel equal parts happy and scared. I feel overextended in some areas as I completely neglect others. I am both starry eyed and drenched by a rain cloud. I take that one step forward to only take those two steps back.  And I am still struggling to find a calm and peaceful sense of balance in the midst of it all.

Since I now find myself in the eye of a storm with plenty of time to navigate these choppy waters, I’ve decided to move full steam ahead. Face it head on. Use this time wisely.

My main intention for this new year and new age was to reconnect with myself and the world on a more spiritual level. It’s no secret I’ve long felt disconnected from my body. I’ve felt disconnected from who I am outside of the roles I play for everyone else. I’ve struggled to make a tiny footprint in the world around me. All of this wears me down in the darkness of night as I lie in bed wondering what in the world I am doing with myself.

With this newfound freedom comes a great sense of responsibility to myself. If I don’t know who I am on my own as a whole person I can’t possibly find my way forward. The next few months will be telling, an adventure of sorts, as I blindly attempt to get reacquainted with myself.

None of this is ideal, and all of it causes great anxiety. But I recognize my need for space and time. My need for being alone, coming undone, and rebuilding myself.

I’m taking some time off from being someone to everyone else, and for once I am going to be someone for me.

 

The ‘Have,’ Not ‘Have Not’

I’ve heard it a million times: focus on what you have, not what you don’t. But the cliche saying couldn’t be stuck in my head at a more relevant time.

I’ve been stuck in what feels like my worst depression yet. I can go from high to low in a matter of minutes and then sink so deep that I cry so hard I feel as though I will collapse on the floor (sounds dramatic but true story! Happened last week.) Depression doesn’t just affect my mind, it impairs my entire body. My breathing becomes labored, my eyes are heavy, and I ache right down to the bone.

The more aware I become of my surroundings, my feelings, and my place in the world, the worse I feel. Some days it feels as though I have the weight of the world upon me, and I am terrified of letting everyone down. Terrified of not being enough (God, am I still dealing with this?!).

But worst of all, I am putting immense pressure on myself to be a certain somebody and to have a certain life. Not being able to do it all, be it all, and have it all is ripping me to shreds.

I have so much of what I never wanted, and with each passing day, the life I yearn to live is slipping farther and farther away from me. This past year has been forcing me to reconcile the life I have with the life I wanted. Because there is no going back. I’m woven into this new life, and like it or not I have to find a way to accept and embrace it. I have to find a way to merge bits of what I want into what I have now.

I’m failing miserably.

My biggest obstacle at the moment is time and space. Being a parent of two now is very time consuming. Kids are needy, on their time not yours. So creating boundaries can be challenging. Add in the appointments, activities, a relationship, and a second job, I barely have time to wash my hair let alone do anything “extra” for myself.

I do try in little ways to take better care of myself. I went back to eating a vegan diet and focusing on what will help my body feel good. I cut back on my caffeine intake. I try to get into bed at a decent hour most nights. I’m trying to read more and spend less time on my phone. I allow myself to cry and admit I am vulnerable. I connect more deeply with my close friends and allow myself to be loved by those in my circle. I do force myself to focus on all the goodness in my life instead of what I feel is missing. But it still doesn’t feel like enough to dissipate the longing.

Life is most definitely a marathon and not a sprint. The positive effects won’t happen overnight. And I know I have more work to do on my insides in order to feel better about the outside. Day by day, all I can do is continue making good choices and trust the Universe to lead the way.

Even with regards to self-care, it’s easy to want to find a quick fix, to be impatient for change to happen now and wanting it to unrealistically wave a magic wand over my head to make me feel right. Because after all, that’s all I want, is to feel settled.

I want to want this life while continuing to make it better. I don’t want to life in resistance, longing for what will never be, what never was, and what might have been.

The Hustle is Hard.

It’s been a while.

I’d taken a break from writing because it felt forced and inauthentic. I had been writing daily for over 600 days. But over time, I was writing just to write. It felt like a chore. It stopped feeling like a release. So, I let it go.

I’ve been allowing the thoughts and ideas and feelings to dwell inside of me without escape. I wanted to sit with it all, experience it a little bit more, and then decide what to do. Which has lead me here, just as I figured it would.

The days and weeks have been blending together at this point. So much of my life has changed in the last three months. I can barely wrap my head around it all. I’m often losing track of days and commitments. I’m spread a little too thin for my liking. And I feel more change is necessary.

As I write this I am sitting in the office of yet another new job. Surely not the last new job I will have in my lifetime (or maybe even this year). But it pays really well, the hours are flexible, and my boss is very easy going. Fulfilling? No. But none of the jobs I’m currently holding are so it’s par for the course for now.

Therein lies the struggle.

My life over the last few years has become less and less about me and more and more about others. We’re now two kids deep. I’m never working less than two jobs at a time. Someone is always sick or in need. The only real alone time I get is when I’m asleep, and I can’t even seem to do that right!

There really isn’t any form of escapism in my life either. All of my interests seem to have gotten away from me. I mean, who even has the time? I’m constantly going or doing. Hell, I rarely even sit down to eat my meals. I have no idea what lights me up anymore because I am so focused on doing and being for others that I don’t take the time to do a thing for myself.

This is why I swore to myself this would be the year I focused on my spiritual growth, getting to the root of who I am and what makes me tick, breathing more, practicing patience with myself and others, and finally letting go of the expectations I’ve long shackled myself to. It would be a time of beautiful, painful, and expansive transformation.

I’ve even been failing myself in this endeavor. Any ‘free’ time I can seem to muster, usually at the end of the night, is reserved for work or other commitments. Then I stumble into bed only to do it all over again the next day. I’m led yet another step farther away from who I am and who I want to be. I’m not sure how to say ‘no’ to others more often and ‘yes’ to myself.

I haven’t given up on myself yet though, and that has to count for something, right?

Caffeinated Confessional #1

Our household was unfortunately struck down by a really nasty virus over the weekend. My birthday weekend of all times. What a lovely gift to be given. A test of health.

We survived.

But something more happened to me. And it may seem silly to some people to think something as simple and common as a winter virus could throw me into such a tale spin but it’s happened.

Not being able to eat much for days, the pain of even trying, the nagging calls for satiation, they were so familiar. So longed for. Comforting.

Something I’ve tried to swear up and down about is never going back to my eating disorder. I’ve thrown out every cliche reason you could think of. I’ve talked an incredibly good game.

I never believed myself.

So when the numbers slowly start to tick in the opposite direction and the silent thrill zaps deep into your bones, it’s not easily ignored.

It’s been four years, entering the fifth, since I defiantly made the decision. Thousands of days, even more hours. Tripping and falling and getting back up yet never quite regaining the same steam.

Then these easy entrance ways open up, and the aroma of that sweet poison washes over me like a cloud. And I’m trapped between two doors. Going back to what is comfortable, disastrous, alluring and exciting. Or staying in this cycle of will I or won’t I, am I or aren’t I, can I or can’t I.

And my body starts to shake, expelling any good sense I’ve got left trapped inside of me. It hovers over me as though I’m in danger of taking my last breath. Choose wisely.

I feel:

I tempted fate.

I tested myself. I tasted that sweet sweet hunger, and its calls were deafening.

I’d be lying if I said I never prayed to fall back on it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the anguish, the tremors, the incessant pangs. No, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it, if I didn’t call on it, if I didn’t kneel down and grovel for just a touch of it.

As far away as I may run, it’s still right behind me. As much lightness as I keep near to me, its darkness is never far.

I hear it whisper in the winds. I hear it under every footstep. I feel it coursing through my veins the longer I go without.

And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.

I feel as though I’m faced with an impossible decision. Sheepishly cower backward into the arms of my deranged former self. Or stand in who I am in this moment. Unsure. Vulnerable. Missing and incomplete yet forward facing.

To anyone who’s never been strangled by their own mind the decision would seem clear. Cut and dry. But when something promised to love you so, never to leave your side, never to abandon you the way anything or anyone else ever has, it feels weighty.

I’m looking over my shoulder longingly. I want to cry out. I want to keep it locked safe inside of me.

It’s always been mine. Mine to keep.

I’m not sure what to do with all of this.

Intellectually, sure, the ‘right’ decision would be to root deeper into recovery. Allow this to teach a lesson about self love, distance and depth, forgiveness, resistance.

No one ever said people who’ve suffered eating disorders always think rationally.

This certainly won’t make sense to most people but it makes perfect sense to me.

xx

Learning to Leap.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

There have been major developments in my life in the last two months. Exciting, scary, expansive, hopeful, challenging changes.

Finally.

For a very long time now I had been in search of something. What that was I couldn’t quite place my finger on, but I knew it had to start with change. Still, I couldn’t figure out what to change, how to go about seeking it out and then how to implement it into life as I knew it.

Then, the election happened. And don’t worry, I’m not going on a political rant here. I will simply say the outcome of the presidential election shifted something in me. I was angry. I felt fearful. I felt excluded. I felt betrayed. But mostly I knew I wasn’t doing enough.

I happened upon the Pantsuit Nation movement on Facebook, and I finally felt the ground moving underneath me. While our action based group name has changed (we are now Action Together NJ), our motives and drive have only amplified. And I’ve found myself included in something wildly progressive, inclusive, energized, and motivating.

By putting myself out there and making a few connections, which seemed like nothing special at the start, I’ve now become part of something so much larger than myself. I am heading up my county’s group. I have already put together one successful meeting, two newsletters, and my partner and I are about to embark on some local grassroots efforts to affect change in our community.

The spark I longed to feel has been lit.

I spent so many years advocating from the sidelines, behind a computer screen, in conversation, but I felt too timid and alone to join in the real, nitty gritty work. Until now.

This all happened by chance. I am completely inexperienced. I am truly learning as I go along. Yet I feel incredibly excited to be in a position to bring people together for a good cause. As an introvert I have always done my best to shift responsibility onto others. I was happy to follow along and be told what to do. Now I find myself actually wanting to step into a role of leadership. It may be on such a small scale but it isn’t a responsibility I take lightly.

I’ve said it’s a shame it took this election, at the age of nearly 33, to force me out of my comfort zone and into action. But maybe it had to happen this way. Maybe this was what I needed, to finally feel enraged enough to use my voice to work tirelessly for change. For once I feel enthusiastic about the future and about change, change I hope to take part in making.

My professional life is also about to take a sharp turn in a completely different and unknown direction. One of my nearest and dearest friends approached me with an offer to work side by side with her as her personal assistant. It took no real convincing on her part as I was in desperate need of change.

I had been feeling pretty flat professionally. I would grasp at straws hoping something would pull me up but every single idea fizzled out. It hurt to feel directionless. It was dizzying not knowing where my life was heading or even in which direction I wanted it to go. All I knew, with extreme conviction, was something had to change.

When she approached me, it felt like a breath of fresh air. It’s completely new territory for both of us, but we believe with our deep commitment to each other, professionally and personally, we can make this a prosperous opportunity for one another.

To be able to work for and with someone who values me, who understands me, who respects me and who genuinely wants to see me succeed is going to be life altering in itself. I haven’t ever had someone advocating for my growth, and I know this is going to change me in more ways than I can even imagine.

On top of those grand perks, the flexibility to be able to care for the girls more, the lack of stress, the fun and laughter that is sure to ensue, how could I turn down an opportunity like this?

I can’t.

It was really that easy to decide. So with the support of my family and my friends I am taking this leap. I am letting go of any fears popping up questioning just how this will play out (trust me, they are frequent). I am letting go of the fear of the unknown, of the constant need for control, and the panic over learning something new.

The opportunity to expand my area of experience and learn so much more about the behind the scenes of running a business (which I have always dreamt of doing myself) will no doubt be invaluable.

I have always believed everything happens for a reason. For this friend to come back into my life when she did, for us to reconnect deeply, and to be offered something as life changing as this, it strengthens my belief.

So, 2017, I’m coming for you!

Life Lately: Letting It Out.


I had a good cry the other morning. It isn’t something I do often. I don’t handle vulnerability well. But I couldn’t hold it in, couldn’t hold it together. I walked out of Reilly’s school and it all came pouring out of me.

Life with two kids is more challenging than joyful on some days. I am not one to put on airs about parenting. I love raising two wildly different girls, but there are days I wish I could hide in a closet for a little bit in an effort to preserve my sanity.

All families have their own set of challenges, and we sure are not short on those around here. Everyday it seems we are learning something new as we navigate these waters. Each child has their own strong willed personality, their own special needs, and both require nearly constant attention during waking hours.

I constantly feel pulled in every direction but forward. I constantly feel as though I am falling behind in my own life in an effort to always be present in theirs. And I constantly feel like I am falling short in providing for them what they need emotionally.

To me, there is no sacrifice too great for those girls. Things I may want to do for myself pale in comparison to the mutual joy of spending time doing what they want to do. I may not get to go out for dinner, go to the gym, or even pee alone, but as long as they are happy in that moment it’s worth it.

As independent as these girls are they still yearn to be noticed at all times. They need constant security that we are going to be there for them, and obviously I see it more in Reilly as she is getting older. She wants so badly to grow up and make her own decisions, and we are working on negotiating the latter, yet she needs to feel the security of having one of us nearby.

At times it’s difficult for me, as an introvert, to constantly provide what they need emotionally. I cherish my alone time. I recharge by settling into the comfort silence brings and, needless to say, that is hard to come by these days. It can feel daunting and draining to fill up their cups without adequately refilling my own.

I constantly fear being authentic in my own emotionality will cause negative repercussions in their behaviors and their sense of security. I worry that by sometimes showing my own negative, human emotions I will cause this negative ripple effect that will somehow shatter them from the inside out.

How do I find balance in that? How can I express myself, and teach these kids to always express their wide range of emotions, without making them feel less loved, less cared for or less secure?

In recent months we have taken action in helping Reilly learn to better express herself, to manage her emotions in a healthy manner, and doing so without compromising who she is innately. It’s tricky territory and all very new. And it forces me to face more of my own emotions and how they cause me to react in relation to hers.

I have my own struggles with vulnerability and verbally expressing myself. For so long I would shut down, shut out the world, and go about my business stone cold. I can’t do that now that I have children to take into account. The old ways have no place here, and so I have my own growing and expanding and expressing to do.

How does one do that though? Well, I’ve started by being a lot more honest, with myself and with others. Stuffing down how I feel about someone else or a certain situation does not serve anyone well. It creates unnecessary strain on the relationship and adds to my already accruing amount of stress.

I’ve learned to buck up and say the things that are hard to say. In the past I have had a tendency to ignore or keep quiet in an effort to not hurt other people but I knew deep down I was only adding to the problem. So I started opening my mouth. Respectfully, of course.

I have started to weed out who and what isn’t serving my life in a positive way as well as what I am no longer serving. I say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ a lot more, and I mean it each and every time. I am no longer interested in giving into what other people want from me. And this is most definitely a lesson I am trying to teach Reilly at a young age. I don’t want her to ever feel pressured to conform to other people’s expectations. I did it for far too long, and it hasn’t ever gotten me anywhere.

My writing has also expanded over the last nearly 600 consecutive days during which I have written at least 750 words each and everyday (see: 750words.com). It went from just wanting to write more and more consistently to venting, to digging, to expanding, and creating. I have used it as a tool for growth. I have used it as a means to express myself. I have used it as a means to hold myself accountable for my actions and feelings.

So much good has come out of my writing. I have dug deep into my subconscious and I’ve dragged out to the surface so much that has been repressed over my lifetime. It has been and continues to be a transformative experience for me each and every time I sit down to write.

Which leads me to expression. I encourage Reilly to use her words, to use her emotion cards we made together, to let it all out but in a way that is healing and productive. It’s a tall order for a seven year old. She has already had to deal with so much in her short life. I can completely understand her frustrations and outbursts. They are justified.

But they are not healthy. They are not the best way in which to ‘let it all out.’ I want her to learn that, yeah it’s ok sometimes to scream and cry and throw a fit. That should not be her go-to method of expression though. It isn’t constructive. It won’t help her to work through her feelings. She then becomes a slave to her emotions instead of being in control of them.

So how do I work with her to make sure she feels more in control and understood?

Well, I like to think of myself as fairly progressive when it comes to self care and self expression. I may not have mastered it but I have sure done my fair share of research with plenty of life experience to back me up.

I know what it’s like to feel erratic and misunderstood. I know what it’s like to feel as though there is an overwhelming amount of emotions swirling through my head. But I also know it’s possible to regain control of how I react to the world around me. I don’t, however, know how to teach that to a child.

I read plenty. I ask the right people. But that only goes so far because children are by no means cookie cutter. What works for some doesn’t work for others. What professionals suggest doesn’t always work. It’s a cat and mouse game. You win some, you lose some.

I won’t ever give up trying. I know I will never be a perfect parent. I will never be the parent I envision myself to be when I close my eyes and breathe in deeply. That is something I work daily to make peace with. It is another bullet point on my never ending to-do list.

This is all part of my human experience though. And while at times in writing this it doesn’t feel as cohesive as I want it to, I want to convey to other parents and caregivers that not a single one of us has this figured out.

We are all doing it right and doing it wrong at times. It’s ok to be a little messy and scatterbrained and not know what day of the week it is. It’s ok to be a jumble of emotions. Because we are all human. And we are doing the best we can.

So let’s cut ourselves a little more slack. Let’s offer up a tired yet genuine smile to one another. Let’s have each other’s backs. And let’s vow to always forgive ourselves and wake up the next day with a little more love in our hearts, for ourselves and our kids.