March 14, 2017

Be who you needed.

I’ve always equated motherhood/parenthood a little to the grade levels in high school/college. Freshman, sophomore, junior, senior. Not that one level is “better” than the others (because all of them have their own unique issues and requirements/responsibilities), but in the sense that we’re on the same track, just different places along that track. (The track being: successfully keep your tiny humans alive and thriving and hopefully growing into competent, compassionate larger humans one day.)
. . . . . 

For example, my best friend Steph is amazing. I’ve always thought so, even though she deflects like a boss and never believes me. Her oldest son is one year older than my oldest son. So she’s “ahead” of me on the track. Her path is a little different from mine, considering she has three children (and I have two) and she has a little girl (and I have two little boys). There are certainly differences, but she’s always and forever been a safe place of mine - literally and figuratively. She’s a frontierswoman, she’s breaking through the snowpack and I get the benefit of following behind her. There are still plenty of times when I’m striking out on my own and carving my own experience along my path, but she’s always been there to commiserate, share her experience/knowledge, and pull me up. There’s never judgment. There’s never “I told you so”. There’s never “my way is right and yours is wrong”. She is my best friend since middle school for a reason.
. . . . . 

Life is freaking hard. Adulting is freaking hard. ALL OF IT IS FREAKING HARD. Add in the completely magical-yet-overwhelming aspect of parenting tiny humans, and it can often be too much.

Right now, I’m struggling with some of the things about life in general… but I feel pretty confident in myself as a mother. I’m always learning and growing (currently reading a couple of books right now about raising/parenting boys in particular), but I feel solid about my capabilities, my resources, and how to advocate for myself, my children, and my family. 

Not every mama feels her confidence - and not even I feel it all of the time.

I wholeheartedly believe that it is up to us to support each other, and particularly for those of us “upperclassmen” to lift up those behind us. We are done having children. We are no longer in the phase of expecting another pregnancy or child. We are more tenured than some of my beautiful friends currently expecting or just having welcomed their first child. We are less tenured than some of my inspirational friends who are dealing with middle school or high school or college aged issues with their children (or beyond). 

In any space, it is ridiculously hard to know what you need when you’re confronting something you’ve never dealt with. You don’t even know what questions to ASK, or what resources might be available to you when you’re operating in a vacuum.

No one’s life is perfect. No one’s freaking Facebook or Instagram feed is representative of a life entire. If you’re anything like me - when things get tough or stressful, you back away from the optionals, from the social fluff.

Life shrinks down to the essentials, and hopefully - the people who love you are still there when you rejoin the current. But we’re not all able to share the hard times, the challenges, the struggles in-the-moment. This can make it feel incredibly isolating to struggle with something in the moment and feel like it’s just you. That you’re broken. That you’re wrong.

It’s not. You’re not. 
. . . . . 

I struggle personally with deep doubts of my worthiness. Of whether or not my text or phone call or email will be an inconvenience or bother to someone. Whether I’m making up these emotions and struggles in my head, or blowing things up out of proportion, or whether anyone cares. We’re all dealing with our own shit, right? Is there anybody out there? 
. . . . . 

Here’s what I know. Life ebbs and flows. Gives and takes. There are seasons to it all, in the real physicality, and in the metaphorical aspect.

In some seasons, you are able to give back - to pull up the people below you, to serve others in the way you either were served, or you wish you were served. That service adds deep meaning and richness to my life.

But there are also seasons where you are on the other end. You’re taking from others, asking for help, receiving more than you can give. This might be literally, asking for help with money or meals or tasks. This might be emotionally, asking for space to vent or process or unload. These seasons are particularly hard for me - as someone who chases that “achievement” designation, that “perfection” of accomplishment, of doing it all myself.

I’m thankful to James and Thomas for helping me work through this (and it’s a work in progress). For helping me acknowledge that it’s okay to give myself grace. For reminding me that as much as I love to be of service to my loved ones… they might want to do the same for me in a difficult season.
. . . . . 

Think about it. Imagine a dear friend who confides to you that they are struggling deeply with something. They are wracked with shame and fear and frustration. They say, “Never mind, I don’t want to bother you with this.”

What’s your reaction?

Now imagine - giving yourself that same grace and room.

I remember being very pregnant with Thomas, having two year old James in tow, and carrying a casserole to a friend in need. She was fairly astonished and mentioned “I don’t know how you do it - help me when you’re so busy yourself.” But at that time, I was in a place where making and dropping off a meal wasn’t just that - it meant so much more. It meant being heard. Being a friend. Being present to someone who needed my presence. It meant showing up. In that time, I was able to do that.

Shortly after Thomas was born, I found myself back on the “taking” end. It was frustrating for me as I’ve mentioned, but it was easier to ask for and accept that help this time around. Knowing that it wouldn’t be permanent. That the people who were in a position to help would be able to help, but some folks would be in their own season of taking - unable to give back to me. And that soon enough, I’d find myself with the ability to serve others once again.
. . . . . 

It’s a back and forth. I think so many of us are stuck in the belief that one day, we’ll hit the milestone. That all of a sudden, we’ll win the race, get the trophy, be an adult and forever more know what we’re doing and so will everyone else in the world. But it doesn’t work like that. We’re all doing our best, groping through this life and each obstacle that presents itself to us is novel. Perhaps not unique to the human race, but certainly to us as individuals.

I’m so thankful to the women who came before me, who are willing and able to help pull me up. To help me see with clearer eyes that this too shall pass, that there are resources out there for support, that I’m not alone. That there is room enough for all of us and our unique abilities, visions, talents, and voices. That her success does not diminish my own. That her choices do not diminish my own. That we can love and support each other, even when that looks different from what we expected or envisioned.

I am particularly passionate about this today, as I hear from a dear friend being shamed and disregarded by other women for her struggles. I'm at once both heartbroken and furious about this. How are we still pulling each other apart? It's mindless, cruel, mean. I choose instead to invite empowerment, love, authenticity, and vulnerability into my life. 
. . . . . 

I encourage you to defy this mindset. Reach out today to one person in your life. Check in. Encourage them. Remind them of their value and worth. Be the person that you needed. If you’re not in a position to be that person for someone else in this season of your life, consider reaching out for support. Let your people love and support you. The daily noise of our lives gets so loud that we can get lost and distanced from each other without intending to. Sometimes we simply need a reminder.

My commitment is to honor these seasons not just for myself, but for my loved ones and friends. I will certainly never be perfect, or be everything to everyone, but I hope to be a positive influence when I’m capable of giving back. I hope you can choose to do the same.

(Spring is coming. These images were captured just yesterday in our front yard.) 

February 21, 2017


How desperately difficult it is to be honest with oneself. It is much easier to be honest with other people.What is true is invisible to the eye. It is only with the heart that one can see clearly.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

After my last post, I realized how much this authentic self can resonate with others. It's freaking terrifying (desperately difficult indeed), and often I need to sit on things before I can feel "brave" enough to put them out there. Maybe this bravery isn't the same kind of bravery that you see on the battlefield, but it's bravery nonetheless.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.
- C.G. Jung
So I guess I'm going to keep on keeping on being honest, authentic, and real. This is good for me, for my head and my heart... and if it helps someone else, awesome. Even if it doesn't though - even if this is my barbaric yawp over the rooftops and no one cares or hears... it's important work.

Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.
- Eckhart Tolle
With that, I wanted to share something I wrote. Often, it's hard for me to articulate until I've had a chance to think, write, and ground myself. In this current life of tiny urgent beings, that's hard time and space to come by. But this was truly important, and I'm thankful that I not only prioritized this, but that my partner in this life is truly listening. He is able to hear my heart, even when it's hard for me to hear him.

written feb 13, 2017 

I’m sorry to have yelled at you this morning. I heard you say you don’t want “I’m sorrys”, but there are still a couple inside of me that need to come out. Bear with me.

I also need to write to express some of the hard stuff inside my head and heart right now. No obligation to read this right this minute - but hoping it helps you understand a bit more.

Thank you for your text this morning. I hear you, and I hear your frustration.

I’m kind of thinking about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs - you mentioned not being as considerate as you could be, which I appreciate hearing. But at the same time, if your basic needs of being listened to and being able to trust me aren’t being met - some of those higher level functions might not be as easy to access. Like being considerate.

So while I’ve heard you every time we've talked, and wholeheartedly want to do/be better in every possible way - my anxiety and avoidance behaviors have been louder/stronger. I’m fighting within myself, repeatedly.

More often than not, my mind feels like a wind tunnel where I have to pluck thoughts out of my head. Like that silly activity at Chuck E Cheese where kids try to grab tickets. It’s disorienting, distracting, stressful, frustrating, loud, and I’m rarely successful. I’ll have brief moments where I feel accomplished, like I’m making progress, and I’m trying hard to be kind to myself and remind myself that even if it’s not ALL done, or not done PERFECTLY, it’s okay - because I can try again.

Focusing on the lack/gap of what I have achieved without acknowledging/encouraging all that was done successfully or well is incredibly challenging and demoralizing for me. It makes me want to give up altogether - that all of the effort and struggles I went through to get to this point have meant nothing and are worthless.

I’ve started keeping a bullet journal that seems to be helping me manage the wind tunnel a bit. I was really excited to learn about it, because it seems like just what I was looking for (I just didn’t know how to get it started on my own). I’d love to share it with you, and I’m working to make it a living part of my life - not just something that I start and abandon. It will take time to cultivate this new habit, but I’m trying to be mindful of the fact that even if I fall off the wagon, so to speak - it’s okay to pick it back up and keep going. Not just shame myself out of trying again. Habits and routines take time, encouragement, and persistence to develop - it's unrealistic to expect immediate, accurate, consistent change from myself.

I’ve been working over the last several years to be less sensitive or knee-jerk when we talk about tough things - because I want to hear from you, and I want to have productive, meaningful conversations.

But did you know that my internal dialogue is pretty terrible? I will get disappointed with myself, but instead of being able to be disappointed, assess, and adjust behaviors - I jump immediately into shame-based thoughts and it’s a very steep/quick slope from “doing okay” to “hating myself” and kind of wondering if I should even be around - if you deserve someone/something better. Because deep down inside, I'm pretty sure I'm not worthy during these hard moments.

Here are some examples I’ve been working on with Gretchen.

“I never follow through on anything, and that means I’m a failure/don’t deserve to be loved.”
“I should look a certain way to keep up appearances with society, and when I don’t it means I’m too stupid, doing something wrong, and I’m a failure.”
“I need to have this all figured out, and I don’t, so I’m letting everyone down and shouldn’t even try.”
“I can’t get or stay caught up, because I’m too stupid to figure it out.”
“If you’re not going to get it all done right, you shouldn’t even try doing it at all because you’re worthless.”
“This is not hard for everyone else, why are you struggling with this?”

Along with these thoughts come paralyzing emotions of anxiety, fear, overwhelm, despair.

So while my intentions are solid and true and positive - I’m fighting against these massive concepts, and I’m desperately trying to dig out from under. I’m not trying to disregard you. Or hurt you. Or not listen.

I’m trying not to drown.

Gretchen is helping me be able to identify these moments and work through the triggers and how to balance them and then reframe. So instead of shaming myself and sinking into those thoughts (which lead to those frustrating behaviors), I can attempt to step back from the catastrophic edge, acknowledge and normalize my thoughts and feelings so that I can put in place those behaviors to take positive action.

This is fucking hard. I’ve never done this before. It’s not something I’m able to shake off and snap out of. I can’t just get over it - these feelings/thoughts are so deeply embedded that I’m finding myself well into avoiding and it just feels like getting carried away in a strong river current.

So it’s kind of like now - I’m waking up to it sooner - more quickly after the current starts carrying me. I’m taking this as an accomplishment - a win. I’m still struggling, but I’m not just giving up. I’m awake. I’m realizing and saying out loud what I’m struggling with, seeking answers. I’m fighting. I’m trying to ask for help, even if I don’t know what I need. I know I need something, but I don’t know what it is. I’m not trying to not let you in - I just don’t even know how. I barely even know how to articulate to myself what I want and need because of the wind tunnel.

I think there’s more inside, but I don’t have the energy or ability to figure it out right now. I’ll keep working on it, and I'll come to you as soon as I can. I hope that's okay.

Please know that I believe I am capable. And I think I’m worthy. I know for certain that this life of ours is a gift, and I’m grateful beyond words to have you as my partner. I’m fighting hard right now, and I think it will be a fight I’ll be working on for a while. Please continue to let me know what you need, because you deserve to feel safe, trusted, confident, worthy, and loved.

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
- Mother Theresa

February 10, 2017

Update: Mental health is health.

This morning I had my second appointment. Again, I felt nothing but profound relief and a sense of eagerness approaching my appointment.

In the 10 days since my last appointment, I’ve started to feel more like myself. There are many factors at play to this, and while I’m not “healed” or “fixed” or “all better”,  I certainly feel more capable and confident - and like I have a partner to help me think through some of my current stumbling blocks/hurdles.

In our previous meeting, we talked a bit about what was weighing most heavily on me (and to be frank - that first appointment was a little rough and colored by exhaustion). We narrowed it down to four major things, and turns out - those thoughts were riddled with shame and fear. She helped me talk through reframing those thoughts to unload those paralyzing emotions - and when I look back - it seems so simple… but I couldn’t do it myself.

I wrote the reframed versions in my bullet journal to refer back to. It’s going to take some practice and revisiting, because I have nearly 33 years of practice shaming the hell out of myself - thinking differently is certainly a challenge.

During the week, I wrote down ideas for things I specifically wanted to work on and address. Like noticing when anxiety and avoidance behaviors begin - what can I do to address them and start working through them? We worked through three particular scenarios that have been particularly triggering - thinking through the feelings/thoughts/behaviors/and situation… and then reframing those thoughts. Again, reading back what we worked on - it seems SO simple… but it’s damn hard to see the forest for the trees when you’ve been berating the trees for how much they suck for decades.

I’m very thankful to have an objective, knowledgeable, licensed partner to help me tackle these intense, unhelpful feelings and behaviors. While the insights I’m gaining don’t equal immediate change… they position me well for change. For being more mindful and aware and better able to take care of myself (and better care of my family).

There is much to think through during the next week, but I’m looking forward to the opportunity.

February 1, 2017

Month 1: 2017 365 Project

This year, I'm doing my first 365 project - committing to taking (at least) one picture a day with my big camera.

It's tough - especially with some of these short days, long work hours, and general craziness. But I also love being more mindful and nimble with my camera. I'm capturing moments I wouldn't have captured last year, and trying new things that I wouldn't have tried.

Folks have said that their 365 projects have helped them improve their photography, and I never understood how that could be. Okay, take a picture once a day - big whoop. But it's only been a month, and I totally get it now. It forces you to think differently and more intentionally, and even more... it's the old adage. "Practice makes perfect." And while I'm not in it for perfection, the practice is making me even more familiar with my camera, with light, with the art itself.

While I might not be able to share the final edited image every day, I'm shooting every day.

Here's January, all wrapped up. So happy to have completed my first month, and looking forward to the rest of the year.

January 31, 2017

Mental health is health.

I’ve started seeing a therapist. Or counselor, or whatever you want to call her.

I’ve debated writing about this for days, feeling on one hand that’s it’s very necessary - and very much a part of my real life right now. I’m a huge believer in being authentic and cutting through all of the pretend crap. But I’m also feeling like - what do I have to complain about? There are so many people out there with much larger problems… and yet. There are also many other women in a very similar position to mine, so I’m going to push through the feeling of “Why would you/how dare you” and as always hope that my heart speaks loud enough to be heard.

In November, I had a panic attack. Severe enough that I couldn’t finish driving out of the parking garage at work. I pulled over on the first floor and called my mother. Thankfully, Alan was picking up the boys that evening and they were safely at home - I was alone. It took me about 45 minutes to calm down enough to take deep breaths and feel confident enough to drive home. My mother is in Austin, and was understandably worried that she couldn’t do more. She called a dear family friend who is local in Denver, and she also called me to ensure I was safe to get home. I’m very thankful to be surrounded by folks who love me dearly - not just when things are good and easy.

No other attacks came, and in the bustle of the holidays, life just kept going.

In January, Alan & I had some ideas of changes we wanted to make for the better. Not truly “resolutions”, but hey - a fresh new year is an undeniably great time to implement change. It was important to me to start taking better care of myself now (especially since we’re done having babies and we’re done nursing), but fitting in the gym after work wouldn’t work for us. That meant getting up early to alternate days, but it was so worth it.

For 4 days.

Since the beginning of January, Thomas has been… not sleeping. Generally speaking, he’s been a pretty easy kid - even though he often spends the second half of the night next to me in bed. Wake up, bring him in, go back to sleep.

All of a sudden, something changed. We were getting maybe 1-2 hours a sleep before Thomas would wake up, and he was super grumpy. Even after bringing him into bed and addressing his major needs (hungry? diaper? paci?) he would toss and turn for hours, sitting up, moaning, draping himself on top of me, fussing. We were getting something like 4 hours of sleep, if we were lucky. Night after night after night.

There was no telling when he would wake up or when he would sleep. So all plans of a structured “I’m waking up at this time to leave the house” were shot to crap. Instead, we were trying to maximize what little sleep we got, often from 4-5:30AM. Then leaving the house to go to work, then coming back home to start it all over again.

Not only was I exhausted, but every other thing became so much harder - either literally or figuratively. Laundry was clean, but we couldn’t find the time or energy to haul it upstairs to put it away. I cleaned out the boys’ drawers of too-small clothes, but that pile took weeks to be figured out (put in crawl space?) and was still on the landing. Dishes? There are literally always dishes. The pantry needs cleaned out/organized. The 3rd bedroom needs to be cleaned out and organized. The crawl space is full of outgrown baby stuff that needs new homes. The floors need to be swept/mopped/vacuumed. Our closets need to be cleaned out/organized. We are often eating convenience food because I cannot for the life of me figure out how to both meal plan and grocery plan/list at the same time (which sounds ridiculous typed out, but I just can’t figure it out). And all of this isn’t even the “big progress” stuff we want to accomplish someday - like moving the gravel out of the backyard so we can get our wooden fence fixed. Refinishing the deck. Figuring out how to turn our dirt pit yards into yards. Insulating the garage.

It’s good stuff, don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful to have our house, our boys, our jobs. But it’s overwhelming. Paralyzing. Hugely impossible and demoralizing. Couple that with exhaustion, and it’s too much even for me to reframe.

I like to be in my own head. To know why I think and feel the way I think and feel. But recently it’s been too much. I’m treading water - just barely. Less and less able to find my energy and natural positivity and motivation. I haven’t even been able to reach out to my circle of friends for help and support - I just can’t even find the energy to know where to begin. I don’t feel like myself.

My company offers mental health benefits, and while I’ve been employed with them for several years, I truly haven’t felt like it’s a benefit I wanted or needed to take. On a particularly tough day earlier in January, I decided to try to find someone again. I worked with a therapist for awhile in college during some dark times, but not since. It almost feels like a relief to reach out - because there is truly no shame or fear or discomfort at this stage of my life. I need help? Let’s find some help. After connecting with my benefits company and receiving a list of possibilities, I found a woman that I thought I could connect with and eagerly anticipated our first appointment.

It’s pretty much one of the fastest hours in my life - and not in a bad way, but in a “we covered so much ground but also barely scratched the surface” kind of way. And being completely overwhelmed by everything makes it so hard to do what I normally do for myself - reframe my thoughts from negative to positive or grateful.

There isn’t a one size fits all or immediate “answer” to what I’m going through right now. But I’m not alone. I decided to reach out for help, and I’m so looking forward to what this will bring to my life.