The Choice to Drown or Breathe

Living in fear and panic is not the answer. When we are under the waters of life such mindframe and actions fueled by dark feelings only fill our lungs with muddy waters rather than the fresh breath that can set us free. The COVID-19 virus is so much more than a bug at this point, it’s a reflection of how we choose to live life. 

How each of us treat the illness and respond to the outbreak says something about the person we are in life, what we direct our focus and energy on can not be hidden as we have nothing to hide behind … our vices stripped, our job titles gone, our bank accounts and retirement funds bleeding. Stripped of what covers our true colors we can either choose to shine or shroud ourselves with fear and panic. 

With the news changing each and every morning about the pandemic, I too change with each day. I’ve had feelings of peace, exhaustion, gratitude, sadness, love, guilt and the list goes on. But when I stop in stillness and push away the curtain of fear and panic the world becomes clear. 

I’m almost ashamed at my behavior only a week ago. I can’t believe where some of my focus was directed at. The little things I took for granted, the foolish items and actions that I was holding as a priority.  I was drowning my authentic self in muddy waters that I was CHOOSING. I was choosing WHAT to be stressed out over, those stressors weren’t choosing me. 

Though I have too many vices and anxieties to name, I can name my comforts that I find myself turning to in this time of turbulence. Finding peace in writing, baking and cooking, being close to my children and connecting with my friends. A week ago I rarely found time to actually put my thoughts to paper. A week ago I despised being in the kitchen out of the time suck that I felt cooking was. A week ago I barely got to spend real quality time with my children since the time we were together was either to and from an activity or getting school work done or running errands. My friends and I were always “busy” with the activities of our kids or some time suck that we chose over one another. It’s almost heartbreaking that only a week ago I chose to devote my time and energy to things that really don’t even matter, things that didn’t even bring real joy, things that just filled my soul with muddy waters rather than letting my authentic self breathe. 

Yes, this virus is causing real pain, real death and real loss – but it’s also creating a second chance, a restart button on life. A restart that doesn’t involve what others think of me. A button that goes beyond grades and the score of a game. Energy that’s fed to the soul rather than to being busy. Care that’s devoted to relationships rather than things. 

The entire world is still under water as we fight against a tiny germ that has an enormous grip on our lives. But will we bust through the waves breathing freely or will we drown in muddy waters? The choice is ours. 

Mud

It was only weeks ago that my hot yoga teacher referred to the time between the end of January and the late middle of April as a “muddy time”.

Often during this season of mud we find the animals struggling to make the transition between hibernation and actual daily exploration; the struggle of the flowers bursting through the ground that had been frozen for so many months; the blocks of snow melting and mixing with the brown grass and dry dirt creating mud pockets in our front and backyards.

We find this muddy time in our children and ourselves, the struggle with the time change, the full moon and that feeling of wanting the gray skies to just disappear over our homes and bring the warm sun of late spring and summer.  Muddy times with March coming in like a lion and leaving like a lamb come April. Muddy times of renewal and hope that the muck will wash away. Now here we are with some really muddy times. Quarantined to our homes and away from what feels normal. A virus that seems to be picking up the mudd of the season and throwing it in our faces so we can do nothing but face it.

A couple of weeks ago the “muddy time” reference held a different meaning for me. I always feel out of sorts during this time of gray and muck, always struggling to find routine in the mud and also a sleeping routine in the change of time. Berating myself for that struggle when so many seem to have been embracing it with ease. But now with all this epidemic stuff gone wild, the more I think about muddy times the more I see the sun, warmth and growth that comes afterwards.

It was muddy spring season when my parents divorced and my grandmother passed my senior year of college.

It was the muddy times when Erik and I found out that I couldn’t have children naturally.

It was the middle of February mud when our son, not even two yet, was diagnosed with amblyopia causing his eyes to turn out and as a result go under a trying eye surgery. It was during that same diagnosis that I found out that our infertility cycle wasn’t successful.

It was spring when we found out that we had 2 weeks to find a home and move with 3 kids under the age of 3.

It was March 11th when we moved back from Texas to Illinois leaving all we knew behind and starting all over again.

It was late muddy January when our 3 year old son had an epileptic seizure leading to a diagnosis of epilepsy that left a future of uncertainty.

It was only a year ago that our newly renovated basement was flooded and human waste shot out of the drains of our new bathroom as all I could do was watch and cry.

And now here we are again in muddy times as a society.

But what matters most about those times that fill my memory with the stench of their muck is that there was so much light, so much warmth, so much love and growth after the mud washed away.

Erik and I moved in together shortly after the divorce and passing of my grandma, starting a life together that would be forever. It was the spring season after the mud had been washed away that Erik proposed.

After the muddy times of infertility we were blessed with our first born on April 27th 2010 with the sun shining and the warmth of the sun glowing with promise.

That same first born was under the care of amazing doctors and came home from his eye surgery 100% healed. Then two months later he turned 2 and also became a big brother times two as we came to find out we were pregnant with twins.

The spring after that two week period of moving found Erik and I in a rhythm of parenting and marriage that only showed us how much of a perfect match we were and are.

After moving back to Illinois I came to find one my best friends in June of that year. A photographer who captured my heart and understood my mud and we still continue to wash one another’s mud away today.

It was the spring after my son’s seizure that I ran my first 5K followed by my first half marathon that fired a love of running that came to slowly heal my low body image and disordered eating of 20 years. It was in spring two years later after that seizure that we found out our youngest son was completely cleared of his earlier diagnosis and was taken off meds.

It was the muddy times of spring that one of my closest friends and I decided to start bringing our two families together to bask in the sun of summer during duel family vacations filling a July days with laughter and memories.

And a year ago as I waded through water in my basement, it was my close group of friends and my loving family that helped us wipe up the muck of the mud and come out into the sun at the end of it all, showing us who cared.

So this too shall pass.  This muddy time will wash away. The sun will come out. Our connections will be strengthened. We will grow and we will flourish. The mud maybe shit coming out of your drain at first glance, but in the end it’s only the foundation of better times to come.

 

The Jig Was Up

The jig was up …

Someone that I love very much has called me out on a problem that I have come to recognize as a lifestyle. A lifestyle I deemed as a success, that I gave many names and adjectives to except the correct one.  For dignity purposes let’s say health nut but it’s one of those nuts that fell on the pantry ground 10 years ago, was kicked into a dark corner, forgotten and is now rancid.

I have disordered eating. No, I’m not a 17 year-old girl trying to fit in with the popular crowd. I’m a grown woman with kids and an adult life full of responsibilities, friends, love and family. I wasn’t beaten or grew up neglected. But here I am at 33 without knowing how to really eat because, well, my eating is disordered.  Even worse my self-image is an extension of that disordered eating making my seemingly normal lifestyle perfectly disordered.

I feel full of shame and embarrassment as I even write this.  I mean for god’s sake this is the problem of a teenager, not a grown ass woman.  The thoughts in the back of my head tell me that people will judge me thinking that such behavior lacks common sense and willpower. Surely people will say  to just get over it. But I surely cannot be the only one that thinks this way. To say aloud or at least in words that I really do have a problem.

The jig was up ….

I started to look into the dark corners of this reality on my own and what I found was darker than what I had hoped. But where there is darkness there is always light, as long as you have faith.  I searched the all knowing internet, the books offered through Amazon, the library and online. I rifled through blog searches and chat boards. I found plenty dealing with mothers of those who had an eating disorder and I found a book here and there about women with eating disorders but the actual mother with an eating disorder that was a straight shooter and not part of a research project was pretty far and in between. Why was is such a secret? I have a feeling that I’m not the only one. After all, most women I come across are body bashing, talking about the newest diet or skipping a meal here and there to hopefully make up for that cookie eaten four days ago.

I began to look at the ways in which my behavior mirrored the inner workings of my mind. A control freak. A perfectionist. My self-image and body image crumbling with each new diet I latched onto or a day of eating that I deemed “bad”. My exercise regimen stressed like my body and mind were. I was caring and nurturing three little ones but when it came to caring for the one who loved those little babes the most … the word that comes to mind is anything but care.

The jig was up …

I was pouring so much time and energy into diets and rules surrounding my eating, molding my body and my mind frame of what was right and what was wrong. I spent lengths of time reading books, surfing Pinterest, sifting through blogs about achieving the ultimate clean eating and body. But in my mind I had never been to that point of perfection and I would never get there as I ultimately didn’t believe in myself. A reflection of so much more than just my disordered eating.

The jig was up …

One writing exercise in a self-image workbook that made me truly sad was one in which you were to write down all the eating rules you followed. After I completed my list I counted each one resulting in 26 different rules. That’s right 26. I can only imagine all the time and energy that went into upholding these rules. What’s even worse and more time-consuming is that each time I broke a rule I would mentally and emotionally beat myself up. I was a failure. Breaking a rule broke my vision of perfection which broke my spirit which broke my day which meant that I wasn’t living or enjoying life to its fullest all because the nutrition content of what I put into my mouth or the numbers on the scale or what time I had eaten my least bite of the day.

I fixated on these feelings of out of control fatness. That if I didn’t get up and move each and every second I was nothing but a sloth. That if I didn’t workout each day that I would blow up over night. That if I wasn’t thin than I was uglier than I already was. If I wasn’t the number I wanted to see on the scale then It all mattered so much. The skin that I wore on my body meant more than the soul that my body held. What had I done? The jig was up …

Exploration of this so-called clean living fixation that I associated will power and healthy habits is leading me through a dark journey of what I’m reflecting as a mother and how I’m acting as a woman and a wife. However, where there is dark there is always light. You gotta face the storm before the rainbows and Care Bears appear.  Let the journey begin.

The jig is up and now it’s time to share. Sharing to heal. Sharing to find. Sharing to let others know they aren’t alone. Sharing so other moms begin to realize that starving isn’t healthy, working out until the body aches is not natural, that we are not the number on the scale or the cookies we eat. Most of these fixations are only skin deep. What really matters are attributes that cannot be contained by the body, the scale or the rules we apply to foods and exercise.  The jig is up …

Who Arrrreee Y-O-U?? 6 Steps to Finding Out.

Who are you

You ask a girl in college who she is and she’ll be able to tell you. She’ll also be able to tell you who she’ll be in the future. Odds are if you find that same girl ten plus years later, she won’t be able to tell you who the hell she is or what the future holds for her. Take me for example. Jumping in my time machine and watching my 21 year-old self, I knew everything and had the confidence times ten of my present day self. I had a plan. I believed there were no life obstacles. I literally had the world serving me what I wanted on a silver platter for the taking.

Now, I’m not so sure . I’m well aware of who I used to be and pretty sure of who I want to grow up to be, but I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea who I am supposed to be this exact moment.  I’m not alone in my feelings, it turns out the majority of women, especially moms, are in the same exact boat.

It’s all too confusing. Who arrrreee you??  As a mom I’m supposed to act one way. As a woman in her thirties I’m supposed to be interested in certain things. As a wife and stay at home mom I’m supposed to feel a certain way. But what happens when NONE of these guidelines within the handbook of woman, mom and wife doesn’t match the way I feel, act or take an interest in … am I an outcast? Am I “wrong” or possibly not fulfilling my full potential?

#1.  ASK. Ask yourself, ask your husband, ask your fiends, ask your relatives, ask your children. What stands out to them? What is one word that they would use to describe you?

#2.  TAKE A TIME MACHINE.  When did you feel at your best? Why? What was it that gave you that reassurance and confidence? To balance your knowledge, when did you feel your worst? What or who makes you feel less?

#3.  F-U-N. While in your time machine be sure to visit your carefree FUN self. What were you doing? Where were you? What were your hobbies that made you feel alive where clocks didn’t matter and consumed you?

#4.  TEST THE WATERS. Is it the same? Do you still enjoy the activities you found on your time travel? Or have your tastes changed? (I used to like shots of Tequila topped off with Tabasco, I’m pretty sure I don’t like those anymore.)

#5.  INTRODUCE YOURSELF. Studies have found that the majority of the population identify themselves with their title within employment. However when I say I’m a stay at home mom, there are many that are not parents that don’t understand what that career even is so … What do you do?  I learned from a fellow mom to follow up the SAHM thing with your hobbies or interests. For example I would say, “I write a blog and study yoga.” (Or A.K.A I share my feelings through written word for FREE and do weird movements while breathing rhythmically). You are a mom but NOT just a mom >> Spark that conversation.

#6. ACT HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL and ACT HOW YOU FEEL. Pretty simple steps >>> right?

How do these 6 steps work? Well, I am your guinea pig. I tested these 6 on myself and will post the suburban scientific findings in the next post of The Funny In Mommy!

 

Passion doesn’t age. Tap that …

As I was leading an open table discussion during a MOPS meeting, the topic of mothers knowing who “they were” once their children left the nest came up. It was only a point of topic for a brief moment in the larger scheme of our conversation on friendship. It was one that we all knew was important but had yet to fully dive into as to why and how.  A few days later the topic came back to mind as I waited for my daughter’s dance class to begin.  On the flat screens displayed on the walls I watch two women in their late fifties fully enthralled in a tap class. Tap shoes slapping the grown as their voluptuous bodies and boobs bounced with each step they took across the floor. It was freaking awesome to watch. Thinking,why the hell not? I commend those ladies for living out their passions and diving into their interests. These women knew what they liked, in turn they knew their selves. Tap on ladies, tap on!

Knowing ourselves. Living out our dreams or feeding our curiosities. Whether it be in the form of an adult dance class, writing a blog, running a race or even fully emerging oneself into a season of “The Bachelorette”.  Taking part in an expression where we are caring for the person we are, not worrying about the type of mother we are.

“Tap on!”

I don’t question what I will do with my time or my thoughts when Erik and I have an empty nest.  I tend to plan for it on a daily basis.

“Tap on!”

Putting myself in the shoes of my children, I try to imagine what they see when they look at me – not physically but as a person with interests.  I want to write books. I want to visit different cities and experience other cultures. I want to taste exotic foods. I want to cook difficult recipes and create amazing cakes. I want to start each day with a yoga class. I want to help others when they feel as if they have lost their way. I want to dive into the pages of the book to venture through the minds of other dreamers. I want to conquer so much while experiencing the brilliance that everyday life has to offers. Who says I can’t just because I’m a mom?

“Tap on!”

As a perfectionist it’s easy to get lost in the ideal outcome of my goals. Even easier to not acknowledge the milestones I hit and surpass. Taking a moment to acknowledge the efforts and time I put into my passions and interests today, I realize that I’m living out all that I want to do. I may not be making fists full of cash in the writing I do but I’m writing. I may not be taking classes from Dali Lama but I’m making it to my mat at least three times a week. I’m seeing new things and tasting new foods. I’m experiencing fresh ideas and technology through the eyes of my children. I’m learning and growing each and every day as a mother, a wife, a leader and a friend. Though they may be small acts and tasks, they be mighty. I have faith that it’s all preparation for the time when my little ones will push off and fly on their own. I’ll always be their mom but when I’m alone with my thoughts and my time, I’ll know exactly the direction that I will take and how to transform baby steps into long legged leaps.

“Tap on!”

The only way we end up failing as mothers isn’t by the acts that we do or the dreams that we follow, but rather the ones that we don’t do and that we don’t follow. A person will never meet their full potential if they don’t try reaching for it at all.

Be brave and “tap on”. Passions, interests, hobbies, dreams and goals never age they only grow wiser and more precise.

 

 

 

Mom Anger … the struggle is real.

I’m a natural-born control freak. I’m a mom of three. The words control and kids are not two that tend to blend well.  The combination of these two means I get angry a lot.

I get angry when I can’t go to the gym when my kids are sick.

I get angry when no one eats the dinner I made with complains of being hungry an hour later.

I get angry when it feels as there is constant squabbling in the first hour of my little ones emerging from their beds.

I get angry when I just want to watch a television show with guns and sex for entertainment but can’t.

I get angry when I have the flu but no one cares.

I get angry when I just want to eat a meal in peace rather than be asked for something every time I attempt to put a fork to my lips.

I get angry when all I want to do is read a book in silence for 10 minutes.

I get angry when I just want to take a shower but everyone needs to poop all at one time.

I get angry when i want to eat a piece of chocolate without hiding in a pantry or separate room.

I get angry when babysitters cancel last minute.

I get angry when I want to leave the house without it taking 30 minutes to get everyone out the door.

I get angry when everyone has clean clothes and I can’t find a pair of socks for myself.

I get angry when other moms say that they never get angry. I get angry when getting angry as a mom is taboo. Getting angry is part of the job of a mom, how you handle that anger is another factor in the equation. I have no fear of my anger, no shame either. I face my anger straight on, I accept it and recognize it. I express it to my spouse, my mom and my friends. As a MOPS Coordinator I share it with my members to let them know they are not alone in their anger. “Mom anger” isn’t just for control freaks, it’s a reality for all moms. Rather than denying that it exists, I embrace it, I deal with it and I use it to motivate happiness and solutions to bad days and terrible mommy moments. Without anger you can’t have happy. Deal with the anger to get to the happy.

81%

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A little over a week ago I was presented with a figure … 81%.

Eighty-one percent.

That’s the percentage of time that we spend involved in activities  NOT present. Not mindfully living the moment. That means we are somewhere else in our minds, whether that be in the past or in the future, rather than in the present. We are thinking of something that happened or predicting something that will. Not giving our complete selves to the person and/or activity we are engaged in at that exact moment.

I can only wonder if this number is behind the increased divorce rate. Or behind the lack of committed relationships and actions we all exhibit. Our minds and thoughts being pulled in a million directions by the pings of emails, texts, Facebook alerts and the technology of our world.

Yoga has taught me so much about being in the present moment but I have to admit that though I am focused on the moment in class and mindfully living out each pose, it’s difficult to extend that mindfulness into my daily life. Especially when it comes to my marriage.

Inside the walls of my marriage I take the “mindful time” opportunities we have for granted. Like many couples in the throes of raising little people, we find ourselves talking about the events of our children’s day or planning out the events of the following day to meet their needs as parents. Then the other part of our time is dispersed among chores, work, bills and then zoning out after our greatest treasures are fast asleep.

I don’t want to be part of that 81% statistic and I certainly don’t want my marriage to be within the grasps of that number either. In order to escape the villain of 81, I searched my mind for mindful moments, to identify and understand them in order to make sure I acknowledge those moments as they come to play out in my present moments before they passed by without a mindful thought.

The evening of Valentine’s Day we put the kids to bed and found ourselves on the couch just talking. Not watching the latest Netflix documentary. Not checking off the DVR list. Not a Smartphone in hand or a laptop on a lap. Just us, just talking. Mindfully talking, completely in the present. Before we knew it two hours had passed feeling like an instant. For me, such a talk is equivalent to a diamond ring. I’m a planner, a person with so many ideas filling the nooks and crannies of my brain. Sharing all these thoughts with the man I vowed my life to, makes me feel complete and cared for.

The act of teaching lead to another opportunity where I found ourselves immersed in the present moment. Completely focused on one another, my husband recently gave me my first tennis lesson. To be taught such a craft, the teacher and the student need to be in sync. My husband needed to be focused on my needs and my body movements just as I needed to be focused on his words and his movements. Being focused mindfully in the present lead to an encounter that was loving and tender.

I love the gym. I especially love the gym childcare. But I really love it all when I find myself in the lounge with my husband, just talking. Just he and I, coffee cup in hand. No televisions to be watched, no phones pinging away, no children competing for attention.  Our attention mindfully on one another as we talk about everything and anything … mindfully.

I’m grateful for the fact that I’m lucky enough to have my husband home for lunch and dinner most days of the week. When we sit across from one another, talking about the day. Or rolling our eyes at the dramatic tendencies of our children.  Or laughing at the weirdness and innocence of our household. Or sharing in the stress of whiny children who seem to be able to get along with everyone BUT their siblings while asking for a glass of milk or seconds each time we raise our own forks to our lips.  Eating our meals, not so mindful of our food, but definitely mindful of one another.

81% is just too much of life to let it go by quickly and without full acknowledgement.

I need to make my mindful presence in my marriage more often.  Rather than waiting for the moments we are alone I need to start taking advantages of the opportunities that pop up on a regular basis. As hard as it may be when children are screaming or dogs are scrambling under our feet. We vowed through richer or poorer in sickness and health and well past death do us part, so why not live all these vowed moments, good and bad completely mindfully.

How will you spend your 81%?