It’s a Process

lunaAnother pomegranate martini lingered in front of me; its sweet red nectar glistening in the glow of lowered lights and laughter. Two of my girlfriends flanked the table and I was absorbed by their presence.

I’m realizing that everyone suffers from some level of loneliness or discontentment. The stay-at-home mom, the working mom, the mom with grown kids, the working woman with no kids, married or not married…we are all the same. We fill the emptiness with food and drinks, shopping, random busyness, excessive exercise or dieting, unfinished projects, sometimes absorbed in self-doubt and gossip. We sabotage our relationships by assuming our significant other innately knows our sadness, this unexplained emptiness, and we carry secret grudges that spill out in bursts of unexpected emotions.

We are surprised by our seemingly sudden lack of emotional endurance and struggle to get through each mundane task.

The first week of school I overheard a group of moms half-joking about their increased anxiety and chaos of trying to maneuver successfully through school schedules, carpool lines, after school activities, dinner, and homework while still keeping the household together and their husbands happy.

“It’s all a process,” one mom said to the other, “eventually it works itself out.”

But maybe it doesn’t ever really “work itself out”.  Perhaps what really needs to happen is that we work it out with ourselves, change our perspective and expectations of what life is supposed to look like in this moment.

There have been different moments in life when I felt content and filled with purpose. Some moments lasting weeks, months and years. Some simply just that, a moment. And then there have been all the “in-between”, the days where the world felt like it was suffocating me and abandoning me all at the same time.

So there I was, having dinner and drinks with a couple of friends last night. We were doing what we’ve done a thousand times before, venting about life and love. There was a fair amount of wallowing in self-pity too, swallowing up the conversation in “If only” and “I need” statements. But as I replayed the conversations in my head this morning, when I really listened to myself, it struck me that these feelings of discontentment are just strands of all the things about myself I don’t really like but could change with a little effort. My loneliness is also me digging in my heels, desperately trying to stand still as my children and my life  have marched forward.

It truly is always a process and a constant state of change. Life doesn’t just work itself out – we have to work harder at finding our own happiness, seeing our own worth and moving towards it every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Workshop: My house shall be a mast

Mama Kat ButtonI love when the jeweler cleans my wedding ring. Its renewed radiance resonates for days. It looks bigger and more brilliant than before and I am reminded of how it glistened in the summer sun after DW placed it on my finger over thirteen years ago. It’s easy to forget the beauty when it is dulled by the grime and dust accumulated day after day.

Recently, I have been painfully reminded how fragile relationships are, especially marriages. My daughters need to understand there are no perfect relationships. There are no knights in shining armor, no “one true loves” or perfect matches. These “fairy-tale” romances do not exist, at least not organically. After all, the word romance itself is based on feelings of exaggeration. It is associated with chivalric love and adventure. What can exist, I think, are two people who commit to loving each other and promise to spend the rest of their days actively courting and pursuing one another. One of the things I most value about my marriage is that we both choose each other. We both take care to affair-proof our relationship.

I’m not a follower of talk-shows, but I found this article by Dr. Phil to be pretty spot on. There is a lot of great advice, but here were my favorite points:

  • Don’t play games in your head. It is a short step from thought to action.
  • Don’t confuse reality with fantasy. We often forget that there’s a difference between falling in love and being in love. You can’t expect a love that grows to be like it was on the first date.
  • If you want to have a good partner, be a good partner. Put 100 percent into your marriage.
  • Work on your marriage every single day, not just during the bad times. Wake up each day and ask yourself, “What can I do today that will make my marriage better?”

There’s also a quote by Kahlil Gibran, from the book The Prophet, that found me this morning:

“Your house shall be not an anchor but a mast. It shall not be a glistening film that covers a wound, but an eyelid that guards the eye.”  – Kahlil Gibran

I can’t help but want to substitute the word marriage for house, because, after all, my relationship with DW is my comfort and my shelter. It is what I call home.

Often people say things like, “They are my rock and my anchor” when describing their closest friends or partner. However, anchors are heavy and cumbersome, aren’t they? They are large weights tied by chains that keep us from moving. The whole purpose of an anchor is so that you can’t drift, but that also means that when you have dropped anchor, you can’t go anywhere. You are confined to the same spot, your view does not change. Opportunities for growth would be limited. I don’t want to be DW’s anchor. I would never want to be what keeps him from reaching his full potential.

The idea of our relationship, our marriage, being more like a mast is much more fulfilling. In fact, it feels almost enlightening. Together we can be tall and strong; together we can hold each other upright, letting the air fill our sails and carry us anywhere we want to go. A mast towers into the sky, a backbone like structure, rising above the deck of a ship to support the yards, booms and rigging.

I want my house to be a mast, not an anchor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just once, I wish my husband would lie to me

A match made in heaven
A match made in heaven

Running, for me, is one of those things that takes a real effort to get motivated. People talk about a “runner’s high” and how they love to commune with nature on a solo trek. Not me. I can’t say I’ve ever hit an endorphin high other than the relief of seeing a finish line and the elation of knowing there was breakfast just a few feet away.  I have a drawer full of race bibs and medals to remind me of  proud moments and achievements this body has tackled. Unfortunately, the only real motivator, for me, is the number on our bathroom scale.

It does help that recently I partnered with a very dear friend who has similar struggles with athletic prowess. We don’t live close enough to run together on a daily basis, however, we do make an effort to be accountable. In fact, we have recently run a 5k Color Run, a 10k and a Mud Run together. She also convinced me to run a 10k with her in Toledo in December, while I pushed her to run a 10k with me in Chicago this coming September.

My friend and I are trying to follow the same running plan to get ready for our weekend in Chicago. We are also buddies on an internet application called “My Fitness Pal“. It is a free calorie counter, diet and exercise community and journal. She and I are able to see each others fitness and diet progress, give encouragement and keep ourselves accountable. My favorite part is watching the calories burned strike out the calories consumed, making it so much easier to pour that extra glass of wine knowing how many calories I can spare.

For about a month I have been really good about logging into my journal every day and being honest with myself about food and activity. I also started logging all of my exercise on a white board next to our treadmill. So you can only imagine how pissed I was getting on the scale this weekend and seeing absolutely no weight loss. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

“This is insane!” I whined crawling under the covers.

DW and I were spending the evening eating dinner and watching movies in bed while the kids were out doing their own things.

“I have worked out every day this week, and for what?” I said, waving my second glass of wine over an empty pizza box.

“Is that a rhetorical question?” DW asked quietly.

“NO!” I snapped, “It’s not rhetorical. I have exercised and watched everything I’ve eaten for a whole month and have lost nothing!”

DW said nothing.

“Well? Wouldn’t you agree I’ve been watching everything I eat?”

“You could say that,” DW said, “watching it go from your plate to your mouth I guess.”

“Seriously!?” I barked, “I’ll show you my fitness journal and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.”

I pulled my phone out and opened up the application. The whole week had been entered except that day, so I added the information, then hit “complete entry”.

Immediately I got this message,

“If every day were like today…You’d weigh **** lbs in 5 weeks”

Stunned, I realized I was staring at the same exact number I saw on the scale that morning. Quietly, I put the phone down. DW pursed his lips while turning the movie back on.

“Yes,” I said.

“Yes, what?” DW answered confused.

“Yes, that was meant to be a rhetorical question,” I said, “in fact, let’s just assume it is ALWAYS meant to be a rhetorical question.

 

First light kisses

Mama Kat ButtonDW teases me often. It’s never hurtful or mean, only lighthearted and playful. I can especially count on him to point out the obvious when I make a dumb mistake, finding humor in everything. His jovial personality keeps me from taking things too seriously or becoming wrapped up in drama and emotion. Sometimes, he doesn’t even have to say anything. His eyes are full of laughter.

“Stop looking at me like that,” I giggle back often.

Yesterday I absently picked up our toaster by grabbing the opening where you put the bread. Apparently the metal lip folded under is not smooth or finished like the rest of the shiny body. As I placed the toaster into the cabinet, my pointer finger slid across the inner edge. Immediately I dropped the appliance with a thud, pain shooting up my finger towards my hand. My arm felt weak, blood burned quickly.

“Go get Dad,” I croaked, “and have him bring the band-aids.”

The Tortoise was also in the kitchen helping me clean up before dinner. Without hesitation she rushed upstairs while I ran my finger under cold water. My finger throbbed.

“What’d you do now?” DW bellowed down the stairs.

I braced myself for a joke or two, still holding my finger under the steady stream. But as our eyes met, he silently walked through the kitchen. DW held my finger firmly in a paper towel, my arm wrapped around him while I hid behind his back. I leaned my head against him, waiting.

“There, all better,” he said, securing a band-aid and giving me a big hug, “you okay?”

“Yeah,” I answered sheepishly, “it just startled me.”

“I bet,” he smiled, “you looked pretty freaked out.”

There was no more talk about the incident.

The alarm clock woke us up at 5:45 this morning. My finger still throbbed, probably from being tucked under my head all night. I slipped quietly out of bed to make sure The Tortoise was up and make a quick potty stop. We wake up in the dark. The first light of the day peaks out under doorways and around hall corners. It is found in tiny patches of illuminated numbers and blinking machines.

I decided to slip back into bed, snuggle under the covers between DW and Luna. The heat from DW’s body felt good against the cold. He stirred slightly and reached for my hand, placing a hot kiss on my bandaged finger, pulling me even closer to him. I don’t think any joke or sharp wit could have made me smile any bigger than that moment.

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

*This post was also inspired by today’s WordPress Daily Prompt: First Light

 

This is NOT 40

Cover of "Knocked Up (Unrated Widescreen ...
Cover of Knocked Up (Unrated Widescreen Edition)

Consistent hard laughter gave me serious bladder control issues while watching Knocked Up a few years ago. DW and I went with another couple, considerably younger than us, and they didn’t seem to think it was as funny. Perhaps it was all the 80’s references, or the fact that the movie highlighted the pettiness and selfishness of 20-something-year-olds trying to pretend they are ready for adulthood.

I’m quite sure it was also easier to laugh at the ridiculous and overly dramatic antics of the dating scene, living pay check to pay check and the condescending family members pointing out all of your flaws when we were well past that season of our life.

Been there. Done that.

From a more mature perspective, I could laugh at myself.

So, when previews of the “sort of sequel”  This is 40 started sprouting up, I couldn’t wait to park my rear end and watch another hilarious take on life, especially since I am turning 40 this spring.

DW and I went to dinner and a movie last night to finish out the week. We had a wonderful time talking about how our week had gone, what was coming up the next week, and what important things the kids were participating. Then we moved on to what books we were reading, talked about our perspectives on a few world events and family dynamics. I even believe we rounded out the evening making each other laugh at silly jokes and casual flirtations. By the time we got to the movies, the quiet between us felt like a comfortable embrace, as we walked hand in hand through the crowd of Saturday night movie-goers. We snuggled into our chairs, shoulders touching, anticipating a good laugh.

The theater was packed with a myriad of age groups. It was actually quite surprising how many twenty-something-year-old (and even younger) were present. Suddenly the opening scene jarred the audience to attention with the sounds of the main characters having sex in the shower and ending in an argument over Viagra, an argument that was not particularly well written or even remotely humorous. As the movie progressed, it only became less witty and more absurd. I think the entirety of the dialogue could be written on one piece of paper, if you omitted the word f**k. With each poorly written scene, more and more young people left the theater, and more 40-something-year-olds sunk deeper into their seats.

The movie was quite depressing, actually.

Every relationship orbited around selfishness, dishonesty, disrespect, pettiness, and a lack of contentment. Perhaps I am naive, or just incredibly lucky, but my circle of friends does not look like what this movie portrayed. Being 40 is not about using the *f* word as frequently as we take a breath, speaking inappropriately to other people’s children (or even our own for that matter), letting our kids talk to us like trash or planning the untimely deaths of our spouses. This movie completely missed an opportunity to embrace something other than dysfunction. There are things I chuckle at daily in my life.

For me, being 40 means being able to keep your knee socks on during sex so you don’t have to shave your legs every day. It means it’s okay to giggle when a spouse toots or burps in the middle of an intimate moment. Funny includes embarrassing our kids by wearing our pajamas while driving carpool or singing in the car to 80’s rock ballads. At 40, respectfully teasing our spouses about their idiosyncrasies, dysfunctional family members or pre-marriage antics is humorous. Eating off each others plates, sharing bathroom routines and hiding potato chips in the garage can be laughable. And yes, even vent sessions with our best friends about dirty underwear left on the floor, bras hanging over the shower door, unexpected hair growth or hair loss, unwanted changes in our bodies and even our insecurities about getting older is relate-able and funny. Now that I am 40, I realize how smart my parents were, drinking doesn’t make me funnier just louder, exercising isn’t so I can get noticed but so I can eat dessert every day and have no one notice. I appreciate at 40 that I can choose my own friends, say no and not feel guilty about it, spend money I actually have and say things like, “Because I said so” and “When I was your age“.

If this movie is really what the average person thinks 40 looks like, then no wonder there is such a negative stigma. Instead of highlighting the humor in moments of maturity mixed with youthfulness, showing how we deal with confidence versus aging and insecurities or joking about how to balance accomplishments with the conflicting desire to re-invent ourselves, this movie made 40 look depressing, undesirable and altogether immature.

“Life begins at forty.” – W. B. Pitkin