A Resolution I Can Keep

Mama Kat ButtonA couple of years ago I was really struggling with a mix of changing hormones and over all stinkin’ thinking. I allowed turning 40 to be a burden rather than a time to celebrate. Whenever frustration or disappointment crept in my soul, I foolishly gave it a place to hibernate. The heaviness sat there day in and day out.

At the end of 2012 I started going to a yoga studio, mostly out of peer pressure. My best friend was studying to be a certified yoga instructor and there was a new-found peace about her that I had not seen in many years. She seemed more centered and more in control of her emotions. She just seemed more present. So I went to yoga, off and on, for months. More off than on to be honest. I’d buy a block of time since it was less expensive per session that way, and because I thought maybe by prepaying for something I would be more apt to follow through.

Not so much.

But then one Sunday morning in January of 2013, I dragged myself out and showed up at the studio in all my bed head and morning breath glory. I can still picture myself staring at chipped toe nail polish and feeling very far away. Electric heaters carefully placed around the room helped block out the bitter cold of our Michigan winter, slowly bringing my body to a more comfortable temperature. I began to settle in to the space.

I remembered why I came.

I remembered why I should always come.

With it being the first classes of the new year, our instructor was focused on helping us concentrate on finding a purpose or mantra to carry us through each day. I had never thought to do this before. I  had always given in to the socially acceptable, perhaps socially driven, idea of setting New Year’s Resolutions. Mine was typical: lose weight, be more organized, volunteer, write more. Unfortunately, most of these resolutions would either be abandoned early on or just cause anxiety. But the idea of a one word or phrase to focus on all year seemed possible. A resolution I could actually keep.

I chose the word Joy.

wpid-20150115_125100-1.jpgAnd from that moment on, instead of worrying about the how or why of anything, I just focused on finding the joy in each moment. I even had a leather bracelet made with the word JOY and wore it every day so I could remind myself constantly to find joy. It worked too. I found joy more easily each day and by the end of the year my heart and head was overflowing with joyful memories. It changed the way I looked at everything. The next year I chose the word patience, although I did not make sure to put it in my line of site every day. I realize now that I need a very visual and tangible reminder. I am a list maker, a poster printer, and a task oriented nerd. There were far too many times last year that I lost my patience, perhaps didn’t even look for it in the heat of a moment and got distracted. By the end of last year, I started wearing my joy bracelet and suddenly, I was at peace again.

So this year, I chose the word and phrase Be Present and yes, I just ordered my mantra bracelet to remind me everyday to be the person I know I can be.

Writer’s Workshop: Finding Joy in My Winter

A few berries still cling to one of our trees
A few berries still cling to one of our trees

Believe it or not, avoiding this blog has been as impossible as avoiding myself.

Not a word has been written for months. I’ve purposely found other things to do than write and yet, this blog has been on my mind, in my heart, every day. It was not my intention to disappear, but the longer the silence, the harder it was to find my voice. The deeper I buried myself in laundry, housekeeping, home school and other people, the easier it was to stop being accountable. Accountable to myself, anyway.

I could easily avoid the scale, the grey hairs popping up, the constant achy joints and lack of sleep. But the minute I thought about writing anything, I had to take a look at myself again, flaws and all. So I chose silence over honesty rather than run the risk of filling up space with ridiculous excuses.

The weight of winter is suffocating sometimes.

Joy is so much easier to find when things are going well, when our relationships are constantly blooming, when the seeds we plant seem to grow all on their own and certainly when we can physically feel the warmth of success. Joy escapes me when shadowed by dark thoughts, unexpected friction and lack of motivation. It becomes much “easier” to tend the gardens of others instead of taking care of my own. At least then, I can lie to myself, pretend I’m too busy to work towards a personal goal, and pat myself on the back for accomplishing something.

Due to large amounts of snow and bitter cold, I have not left my house since Saturday evening. School was supposed to resume this past Monday, January 6th, but our area closed schools for three days straight. For the first few days, my house was filled with extra bodies. Both the girls had friends over to celebrate the snow days. I unpacked suitcases and cleaned while listening to five girls sing karaoke, tore down Christmas decorations while hanging up wet snow pants, and studied lesson plans I already knew from front to back.

But yesterday there were no extra bodies.

Yesterday was just me and my daughters. We made a short school day out of it and finished laundry. After dinner, I found myself staring out a window, getting lost in the white canvas. Everything looked peaceful and relatively undisturbed. I was mesmerized by the nothingness.

For a moment, I felt like a blank slate.

DW was gone for the evening. I called the girls into my room, asked them to grab a book or something and declared it “quiet time”. We snuggled under the covers in our pajamas, the dog squished between blankets and robes. The heat from our bodies quickly bound us together. Sleepy heads  rested on each of my shoulders as breathing sounds slowed to a soft purr. The Tortoise reached for my hand at the same time The Hare leaned over and kissed my cheek.

“I love you,” they each declared.

“We should do this more often,” they each proclaimed.

“I agree,” I answered.

Last night, I was reminded of the joy in my winter.

Mama Kat Button

I’m feeling odd and uneven

“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.”  (Sylvia Plath)

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I’ve been avoiding medical advice.

DW is anti-doctor and  my familiar doctor is at least half an hour away. Six years ago, she was close. It felt like cheating to change doctors after ten years, plus it gets harder to get naked in front of people you hardly know the older you get. But unfortunately, I have been feeling quite odd and uneven.

I fight fatigue all day, sometimes succumbing to a nap unexpectedly. My joints ache and pop. The worst though, is my left shoulder. A dull, constant throb that sometimes extends down to my elbow, causing my left ring finger and pinky to go numb. Occasionally it increases in severity, trickling down my whole back, keeping me from sleeping on my left side.

“Go to a chiropractor,” DW says, “take Advil.”

Being in constant physical unrest, and the added demands of a maturing family, have put my emotional and digestive health in overload. I feel unsettled. I feel needy and reflective. I feel critical and less patient. My stomach aches and cramps more often than not and I am constantly blaming the dog or nearest child for emitting toxic fumes.

And my favorite jeans don’t fit.

Since it’s time for my annual check-up, I finally decided to seek out a closer physician. This will also be the first year insurance will approve I have a mammogram. I also chose a doctor in our same hospital system, hoping it would make the transition smoother and my records more accessible.

When scheduling the appointment, I was very clear with the receptionist to provide adequate time with the doctor. Being a new patient, I had some questions.

“Of course,” she assured me, “Just come prepared with your questions.”

I came prepared. With a list.

  • Joint aches and pains
  • Fatigue
  • Dryness everywhere I don’t want to be dry (and I mean everywhere)
  • Excessive sweating everywhere I want to be dry (and again, I mean everywhere)
  • More frequent mood swings
  • Very irregular and infrequent monthly cycles
  • Weight gain
  • Trouble remembering simple things
  • Trouble getting “in the mood” spontaneously
  • And of course, my shoulder issue

The doctor took notes, smiling between each concern.

“Well, there’s a lot here to discuss,” she said slowly, “but other than your shoulder pain, everything else is right in line with Peri-menopause. It’s all perfectly normal. So let’s just focus on your shoulder today.”

Her best guess was a pinched nerve, resulting in a prescription of a strong anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer.

“Call the office back in a month if things don’t get better and we can set you up with a shoulder specialist.”

I stood there dumbfounded.

“Everything else will hopefully just even itself out,” she added quickly, handing me my mammogram paperwork.

So that’s it? Peri-menopause.

I’m stuck in the in-between.

I’m treading water in this season of hormonal imbalance.

If this is my new normal, then it is going to be a long, cold season.

Sometimes I purposely make messes to clean up messes

DW walked into our downstairs office a couple of weeks ago and unexpectedly found me rearranging furniture, bookshelves, and supplies.

Again.

“There is something seriously wrong with you,” he said without a smirk, climbing over the piles of debris and around misplaced furniture, “it’s like you have an illness or something.”

I have a plan, I thought to myself, one even better than the last time.

And the last time.

Some mornings I wake up and think, “why bother?”

Maybe it is a problem. A control problem. I never really thought about it as being something I did methodically. Until recently. When things seem overwhelming or chaotic,  I usually make changes. And they are almost always drastic changes. Instead of tackling the real issues, I tackle a drawer, a closet or a room. I cut my hair. I start a new diet or exercise routine. Those things I can control from start to finish. I can stand back after the dust settles and see real results, tangible accomplishments that feel satisfying.

On Sunday I was fortunate enough to run my second 10k race with one of my dearest friends. I’ve been silently mourning my lack of motivation and discipline to train this year. (OK, maybe not completely silently) Instead of taking spare moments to run, I’ve been reorganizing my craft room. There was a split second I thought about completely bailing on the run, but I knew my friend had been training and was counting on me for company. By mile three two I already knew I was in trouble and there were four miles ahead. My compassionate partner let me walk a few steps to catch my breath before running again, and then we set a new goal. Make it to the next cone. The next bend. The next road sign. I was tired, sore, hot and embarrassed, but I kept going. I put one foot in front of the other and stopped worrying about the next mile and just focused on the task at hand. We talked and joked the whole way without the distraction of kids, spouses, laundry, bills to pay and groceries to buy. We focused on breathing. We focused on reaching that next goal, and before I knew it, I could see the finish line.

But then I stopped.

My legs were trembling. My breath was shallow and I felt nauseous. I remembered how poor my race time was and wanted to just quit. I started thinking about the mess I had made in my craft room, my office and my kitchen. My hands were itching to organize, rearrange and clean something. Walk away from what felt like failure and create something I could be proud of instead.

“Just go on without me,” I gasped, “I’ll meet you at the finish.”

“There is no way I’m crossing without you!” my friend said.

She grabbed my hand and pulled me forward. We picked up the pace as finished runners lining the course cheered and shouted, “You’ve got this! Keep going!”

970580_612150448796317_1615874563_nWe crossed together, our names announced almost in unison, with a finish time of 1:18 (actually only 9 minutes slower than my race time last year surprisingly). It was hard not to feel proud in that moment, but it was also hard not to feel completely loved by my friend. She saw through my fear and frustration and made me keep going. She made me face myself and embrace whatever I had to give, flaws and all.

Hopefully I can keep this emotional momentum going for a while, set smaller, more manageable goals when things start to feel overwhelming rather than stop in my tracks and take apart something that doesn’t really need to be dismantled.

However, today, I do have to put my craft room back together.

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Five Minute Friday: View

5-minute-friday-1I stand too far away.

I linger in doorways, overwhelmed by the mess. Closing my eyes, I try to picture one thing at a time and listen for someone else’s voice. Listen for solace. But I am still fearful to enter, panicked where to start. Conversations merge, translations are lost and I am left with raw emotion. Everything looks like graffiti, sounds like white noise and I worry about the week, the month, the year.

I forget to enjoy the day, the hour, the moment.

I hear my youngest daughter say the same things, “what if I don’t get that last skill? What if I can’t move up a level in gymnastics? What if I don’t finish my lesson on time? What if?”

I want need to stand closer, speak in a whisper rather than a shout. I need to notice the details, rather than get distracted by the menagerie. I have friends being forced to look at every detail, their health and future unknown, and yet they somehow manage to find joy in the small things. They see a moment as a blessing and don’t wish it away by worrying about the next. I am tired of this bird’s-eye view. I want to be nose to nose, so close I feel cross-eyed. So close I can feel life’s breath hot on my face.

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.”
Chuck Palahniuk