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.

The Attitude You Bring to Life

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Over Christmas break I had the unexpected pleasure of having lunch with one of my Facebook friends. For those of you that blog or Facebook, you understand what kind of friend this is, predominately an on-line relationship. We occasionally chat, message, exchange comments and pictures. But as a whole, our conversations are limited to  cyberspace and our real-life paths rarely cross, especially since we live states away. My brother-in-law is close friends with her husband, which is how we were introduced in the first place a few years ago. Motherhood is probably the thing we most have in common.

I remembered seeing on Facebook that she was involved in a group called Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), a program that I spent years participating as an observer, a leader and at times a guest speaker.

“How’s MOPS going?” I asked casually.

She sheepishly smiled and then sighed that all too familiar sigh of mixed emotion.

“Oh boy, ” DW joked, “you sound just like Emily did all those years she volunteered in leadership.

We started to exchange stories of joy and frustration over being part of an organized group of women. It was wonderful to see her in a different light, and connect on a much deeper level. MOPS served an important purpose in my life for many years, providing me with intimate friendships with other moms, a place to feel needed and serve my community and a much needed break from my young children. But after a while, I outgrew the program, both spiritually and mental.

Listening to my friend talk excitedly about her group made me miss MOPS a little. I missed having scheduled time with girlfriends. I missed sharing the bliss and burden of motherhood. I even missed the potluck breakfasts, opportunities to be silly and stolen moments snuggling someone’s sweet baby so they could finish their meal or project. But most of all, I realized that I missed having an annual theme. A yearly mantra. I missed living each day with an added goal. Every MOPS year begins with a Bible verse and theme that determines the focus of each meeting. This theme is woven into the speaker topics, decorations, outside activities, and even the crafts. The hope is that by providing specific daily inspiration, women will propel their lives in a positive direction, resulting in being a better wife, mother, and woman. It’s a way of giving both the program and the mothers purpose.

This year, I’ve decided  I need a theme. I have big goals for 2012 and there is no way I will achieve them if I don’t stay focused. It’s early enough in the year that I am still excited and optimistic, but the realist in me knows that a few months from now I could be burned out and tired. I don’t want to find myself second guessing my abilities or allow other people’s negativity to influence my decisions. I want to be prepared to combat mental exhaustion.

I want to remember that I am who I want to be.

My top three goals for this year are:

  1. run a half-marathon (already registered for the Champions of Charity Half-Marathon)
  2. create and coordinate a monthly writing group
  3. learn how to play the guitar

And I’m going to achieve these things by reminding myself of the following:

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.” – Kahlil Gibran

What are your top three goals for 2012 and how are you going to achieve them?

How do you plan to face 2012?

I feel a little bit like Lucy Pevensie when she walked through the wardrobe for the first time. Narnia felt exciting and mysterious. And while Lucy spent hours in this mystical land, when she returns to the Professor’s country house, time seems to have stood still. Two worlds existing at the same time but never coinciding. She is filled with equal parts astonishment and confusion.

Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was the much-needed sunshine, maybe it was not being in my usual environment,  or maybe it was the holiday excitement that propelled my mood forward for the last few weeks, allowing me to find the joy in the season. But, whatever the reason, I was more present this year than in years past. We spent two weeks in Texas with DW’s family for the holidays. It was good to be able to sleep in, lunch with old friends and watch my children play with their cousins. There was also a sense of peace rather than anxiety since I wasn’t staring at my house, with its laundry list of “to-do’s”. And, amazingly, having a smaller wardrobe even made the days simpler. I basked in the sunshine, relishing the feel of freshly painted toes and flip-flops, forgetting it was the middle of December.

But as the vacation drew to a close, my anxiety reared its ugly head. I started to panic about all the days I had missed blogging. I worried about all the projects left undone at home and I felt overwhelmed by all the friends I had not been able to see.

On the last day of our vacation, January 1st, I ran in the SARR Cobweb Chaser 5k with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law. I had always planned to run this race. It seemed like a fantastic way to start the new year, full of fresh air and attainable goals. Plus, it was one step closer to my 2012 goal of running a half marathon. However, the closer the event came, the less I felt excited about the run and more desperate. Now I needed to run. I needed to push myself forward into the new year and not look back. I felt desperate to be stronger both physically and mentally. My hope was to break my personal best of 37:31 and run this 5k in 36 minutes flat. DW took pictures and waved as the three of us started our Sunday morning trek. The chilly wind nipped at our heels. My brother-in-law is an athlete and my mother-in-law runs/walks miles a day, while I, on the other hand, would still consider myself a novice runner. I haphazardly get my weekly workouts in between carpools and housekeeping, and yet I wanted so badly to keep up with them.

Our pace was consistent and rhythmic, our feet hitting the pavement simultaneously. My breath felt hot against the cool air.

“How are you feeling?” asked my brother-in-law.

“Great so far, ” I said between breaths. “Do you think I’ll meet my goal?”

He looked at his watch and laughed, “Yeah, I do. You just finished the first mile in 11 minutes.”

I looked at him dumbfounded. That time seemed impossible. Soon my mother-in-law moved up a few paces and left our side. I watched her move with ease and grace effortlessly while I felt breathless and sweaty. My heart tightened. My mind wandered as I started to hear that all too familiar voice in my head say, “you can’t do this, why are you bothering?

“If you want to run with your mom I understand,” I said. ” I don’t want to slow you down.”

Without hesitation my brother-in-law responded, “I’m running this with you. We’re going to finish together.”

I continued to pump my legs and focused on the path in front of me until our pace sounded more like one again. One foot in front of the other.

At mile two I started to feel a cramp in my side. I’ve never experienced such a sharp pain during a run and wondered if I was just dehydrated already, so I guzzled a cup of sour Gatorade. This put me a few steps behind my running mate. I watched his head dart in between other runners as I worked hard to catch back up. As we rounded that last bend together, the cramp ached and pinched my stomach. I worried the Gatorade would come back up, spilling over my resolve, slowing me down. I stopped abruptly, doubled over to catch my breath. I could hear DW and my brother-in-law calling my name.

“EMILY – don’t stop. You’re almost there!”

I looked up and spotted the orange cones and flags marking the finish. I ran again, and as I caught up to my brother-in-law he shouted:

“Don’t slow down, sprint to the finish.”

So I did.

I sprinted in long graceful strides, crossing the finish line in 33 minutes flat.

It’s hard to explain the kind of joy and relief I felt when I saw my time, it was somewhat dreamlike. DW seemed as excited as I was as he came bounding up to me, grinning, and embraced me in a tight bear hug.

Unfortunately that feeling was short-lived, disappearing mile by mile as we drove back across the country for two days. Walking through our kitchen door yesterday it was clear that reality stood still while we were gone. The piles of chaos and disorganization bred this year while I have been battling depression were still waiting for me. I could feel my chest tighten and my shoulders tense. The memories of sleepless nights, camping in the hallway between my children’s rooms, because I was convinced someone was going to break into our house came flooding back. Thoughts of crawling back into bed after everyone went to school and work, sleeping and eating away the hours, taunted me. I immediately started worrying about reliving months of melancholy.

But then I read this post by The Blogess, The Fight Goes On. Usually known for her crassness and raw humor, this post is an honest portrait of her battle with depression. She says,

Regardless, today I feel proud.  I survived.  And I celebrate every one of you reading this.  I celebrate the fact that you’ve fought your battle and continue to win.  I celebrate the fact that you may not understand the battle, but you pick up the baton dropped by someone you love until they can carry it again.  I celebrate the fact that each time we go through this, we get a little stronger.  We learn new tricks on the battlefield.  We learn them in terrible ways, but we use them.  We don’t struggle in vain.

On January 1st I ran through the cramp. I didn’t drop the baton that day. I continued to push forward and run the race I pictured. I ran it with conviction. When I crossed the finish line I felt a little stronger. I did not struggle in vain.

And that, is how I plan to face every day in 2012.

Posting a Day in 2011 Won’t Make Me Skinny

Today is the first day I have been home since December 22nd. Literally.  We spent the holiday season in Texas visiting family and friends. It is a two-day drive. A long two-day drive, like almost 25 hours in very tight quarters with two kids, loads of suitcases, presents, books and blankets, a dog and a sometimes grumpy cabin-fevered husband two-day drive.

So when I read about the Post a Day Challenge on the 30th, I started to laugh. It just seemed an impossible feat, especially since I was going to be at such a disadvantage right from the start. Do you know how hard it is to sit down and write anything in someone else’s house while four kids run like banshee through the halls, football games  blare in the adjacent room, and family members randomly pop-in from time to time just to ask “what are you doing”? Then of course there is the whole no-internet thing while on the road for two days. And the thought of trying to catch-up on any writing while balancing my laptop on my knees in the closet sized bathroom at the dingy Motel 6, so as not to disturb any of the other family members who are trying to sleep, made my stomach turn. (Or maybe it was just the thought of using that dingy bathroom at the Motel 6 that made my stomach turn.) Either way, not exactly how I would want to start a challenge for the new year. Behind.

I’m slightly competitive too. If you were to look up the top 5 scores on any given Wii Fit game at our house you will find my name listed over and over again. I practice while everyone is at school and work just so that I can have the high score. I look at the person next to me on the stair-stepper at the gym to see how fast they are going just so that I can try and beat them in our imaginary race. While at Zumba class I get jealous of the 20-something former highschool dance teamer that actually looks like she is dancing to the music rather than the 30-something duck out of water flapping her wings to random beats in the mirror.

When the alarm went off at 5:30 this morning all I could think about was the piles of laundry that needed attention, the grocery store run that needed to get made so that we can eat something other than peanut butter and jelly for dinner, and getting the Christmas decorations down before our tree spontaneously combusts. The last thing I was thinking about was blogging. Especially not joining a challenge that had already begun. But then, somewhere between school drop-off, getting Luna’s nails trimmed and putting gas in my car I remembered something my mother-in-law said to me this week:

“In order to stay healthy, it’s important to take time out for yourself.”

Now to be perfectly accurate and keep this statement in context of our conversation, you should know that she was talking about diet and exercise, two things that are of utmost importance in her life. She takes great pride in keeping the calories low and the activity high. And her efforts definitely do not go unnoticed. I find this very intimidating, and I told her as much. But for her, diet and exercise are the things that make her feel complete, fuel her happiness, and stimulate her self-esteem. For me, it is just work. I have to literally approach diet and exercise like a job that requires scheduling and self-discipline. No amount of increased adrenaline or firmer thighs will give me a sense of happiness or fulfillment.

What struck me this morning, is that I think I really am okay with that difference between us. I recognize the value of physical health and know that the only way to achieve that is through a sensible diet and consistent exercise, however, in order for me to be healthy, the time I need to take for myself is not at the gym. Writing, music, being creative – those are the things that make me complete, fuel my happiness and stimulate my self-esteem which, of course, makes me more pleasant to be around. That kind of mental health rejuvenates my relationships with my children and my husband because I am not distracted or bitter.

So, although I am a few days behind and blogging might actually make my butt bigger, I decided it was still in my best interest to participate in the Post a Day Challenge. Now if only I could make myself work-out everyday.

*One small victory though – 4 days and counting without salt & vinegar chips.