Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hey Me, Hey Mama

 I think it's probably every mother's desire to be the perfect mom.  Maybe if not perfect (for those geniuses who go into it knowing that's not attainable) then at least be the best mom they can be.  So we spend the pregnant months reading everything we can get our hands on, deciding what our plans are for raising the perfect child as the perfect mother in our new perfect existence. Then the baby is born, and our plan becomes revised, but we try really hard to salvage as much of it as we can.  We work so hard on breastfeeding that there are actual wounds (sometimes with blood!) involved. We cloth diaper because it's the best thing for the environment, the best thing for baby, so clearly...it's the BEST.  We spend countless hours researching new blends of baby food, shopping for only organic produce, and then standing in the kitchen all day steaming and pureeing and scooping and freezing.  After $95 and seven hours, we stand proudly in front of the freezer admiring the twenty jars of baby food we just made that might last the week if we're lucky.  "I did this...my baby is going to love ALL vegetables and snack on cucumbers and crave only healthy food." Pleaaase... So worth it.  We spend triple the amount of normal household products on all-natural, chemical-free "safe" cleaning sprays and liquids, scrubbing the bathtub with pride, knowing our bathtub won't be setting the stage for cancer when our babies hit their 40's.  Our good night's sleep gets sacrificed so baby can get a good night's sleep on our chest. Because baby has a big day tomorrow and needs his rest.  Me? I just have work, and work doesn't matter.  We spend our lunch hours attached to a breast pump, reading magazines about babies, and planning fun things for the weekend that will keep baby happy and entertained (but also educated, because it's never too early, right?)  Our laundry sits in a corner unattended while we painstakingly fold each one-sie just so and place it lovingly on top of a perfect stack in a well organized drawer, because baby needs to look nice, and know the importance of organization.  The Fresh Beat Band plays through the car speakers because baby likes them, and the TV is a constant parade of goofy characters that make baby laugh (or think...or learn math).  And at the end of the day, after finally settling in with a good book you just added to your Kindle App, a very small someone sees the iPad in your hands and demands their turn, and you happily hand it over.  Because this is what perfect moms do.  Right? 
     I'm starting to second guess all of this.  Well, not all of it. My chemical-free house and the food I feed my kiddos is always going to be high on my list, but the way my kids have been the sun, and I the planet that revolves around them...a moonless planet, I should clarify, because no one is hovering around me, is starting to feel a little tiresome, and I'm not seeing the reward in it.  My kids aren't light years ahead of every kid on the planet, they aren't craving healthy foods and snacks, or brushing their teeth every day without a fight.  H still poops his pants about once a week and he's over three years old.  For all the effort I have given, and for all the sacrifices I have made, my kids are still perfectly imperfect, and while I would not change a single thing about them (except for maybe sleeping habits and cleanliness), I feel we could have achieved this level of happiness and contentment without me having to lose myself completely.  It's no one's fault but mine, so I'm not pointing any fingers.  But I really no longer believe that the key to successful parenting is for me to be in last place all the time.  
     How are my children supposed to benefit from never seeing their mom as a person and not just "mom".  Who is going to teach them how to seek out dreams and goals if I set all of mine aside?  How will they know what to look for in a wife, if the only thing I am to P is the other parent in the house?  When are they going to become interesting, thoughtful people who have intelligent conversations if no one in the house is talking about anything other than what's for dinner and who wants to go to the park?  I am their mother, first and foremost.  That isn't going to change.  But I'm not being the best version of myself if that's the only thing I am. 
     I am attempting, these last few months, to climb out of my mom shell and do things for myself.  It is a struggle, because it means sometimes, I have to choose to be away from my family and before, I just haven't seen that as ok.  It meant I wasn't making them a priority. I see now that I actually am making them a priority by taking time for myself, doing things without them that only I want to do.  I am bettering myself, and devoting time to me so that when I am in their presence, I can stay sane and happy.  It is not the easiest thing for me, I've been a closed-off person for as long as I can remember, and I am only, at best, on the outskirts of everyone else's groups of friends. But even walking into a party in which I don't have a BFF waiting for me to make it all comfortable and easy is a big step for me.  I am reading books again, and going for runs, and taking up things that have nothing to do with my family, like the Susan G Komen 3 Day, and Plexus.  It's a start. There are other areas of my life that need desperate attention as well, but that's for another day. 
     My goal is to be able to look at myself honestly one day soon, and not see myself as the helicopter mom.  I want H to run over to a group of friends and forget all about me without me having to walk him over there and do the talking for him for the first five minutes.  I want my boys to play on the playground together while I just watch and enjoy their giggles instead of navigating jungle gyms one step behind them, trying to prevent every bump and bruise.  I want D to fall asleep in his bed, by himself, instead of having to look up every few minutes just to make sure one of us is still standing there.  I want them to need me and they will for a long time, but I want them figure things out for themselves when they can, and really experience all the scrapes and cuts and freedoms and carelessness of being a child.  I hope they can see me as more than just their mother someday, to know who I really am, and see the parts of me that existed long before they came along, because I was someone before them.  They may be the turning point in my life, but I was definitely not worthless before they came along, and in order to do that, I have to give my old self a voice again and find a way to balance being her, with the added role of being a (perfect) mom.  Just kidding about the perfect part ;) 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hurt Like Mine

     Well looky here, I've been inspired to write again.  And it may take the turn of a rant, but sometimes that's just the way it goes.  You need to be passionate about something to fill up a bunch of paragraphs, right?  

     I got an email last night.  An unexpected, pointless, out-of-nowhere one-liner from my ex-fiance.  You know, calling him that just turns my stomach because he has no right to be put on the same level as Mr. Current (and final) Fiance.  So he says to me, he says, "You gotta check out the new Black Keys Album."  Oh really? You interrupted my really wonderful, normal life to drop that nugget on me?  Let me tell you something about the Black Keys, sir. I was listening to them long before you came along and sent my life on a downward spiral, and you did not know who they were until I began to enlighten you on many, many, many things that your tiny little existence filled with wasted space and thoughts had not even come close to discovering.  "You gotta check out the new Black Keys album." Because I must be reminded.  After no contact for several consecutive, glorious years, he needs to pop up out of nowhere and fill me in on something very publicly promoted.  What irks me is that it is my own fault this gets under my skin. It is my reaction that, yes, HE caused, that is now getting on my own nerves because I am allowing myself to be bothered by someone so incredibly unworthy of moment in my brain. So I'm turning it positive. Take that, ya giant parking lot-sized 1-inch deep puddle.  (I'm saying he's shallow, in case you're dumb). 

     Once upon a time I was at the heaviest weight I had been in my life, when suddenly one month, I dropped 10 pounds, seemingly for no reason.  I was excited about it, but also somewhat concerned because 10 pounds do not just fall off of your body for no reason, and I was not giving them any healthy reason to.  I decided to start eating better and working out.  A couple of months later, I was laid off, so I had time to fill, and spent more and more time hiking the trails at the nature preserve near my house.  My weight loss increased to 18 pounds.  I was happy, and I had found something I loved doing, and I loved the feeling of my muscles getting harder, my clothes fitting more loosely, and just looking in the mirror and not hating what I saw.  It was around this time, I met DA. (I'll protect his name because he tends to internet stalk and I wouldn't want him to know who I'm talking about - that would just be rude).  DA seemed to share my recent experience of dropping a significant amount of weight, and my passion for hiking.  He even suggested we start running as well.  And so we did - every single day, for hours at a time.  In the heat of August in Texas, we would arm ourselves with a giant bottle of water, run and hike until we were drenched, and my weight continued to come off, although more slowly as I built muscle.  He wasn't the most exciting person I'd ever met, but it was nice to be with someone who was willing to move, which I was not used to. Over the next few months, we continued our routine, but then I found a job, and long daily hikes were no longer an option. I ran on my own after work, but we were not eating so well and I wasn't getting much sleep, so the weight loss hit a plateau.  

     Now THIS part is just the highlight of my life. We stayed up way too late one night and drank way too much, and found ourselves arguing.  Then fighting.  Over what, who knows? I probably didn't like the same song as him or something earth-shattering.  It ended (or started, however you want to look at it) when I stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind me. But not before I heard something that stopped my heart.  I could not have just heard that.  I opened the door, and quietly asked, "What did you just say?" He said, "I said, you're a fat ass."  I waited for the part where he says he didn't mean to say that, and he's sorry, but instead, he just kept going.  He told me I was fat and that he couldn't understand why I had been running all this time and stopped losing weight.  He told me the whole reason he went running and hiking with me all those months was to help me get in better shape because he was embarrassed to be dating a fat chick. My heart broke.  Not because it was him. He didn't matter to me that much.  But because I felt like a total fool for believing someone else was seeing in me what I saw in myself.  Improvement.  Beauty. Strength.  And because he had just stolen from me.  He stole running.  

     I didn't run for days.  I couldn't.  I couldn't make myself do the thing that he had just ripped all meaning from. I felt like if I did, I would be asking for his approval, which I had thought I already had.  Suddenly, it was something that belonged to him, was FOR him, and every time I took a step, I would feel his judgement. This is the part where I left him, right?  I tried.  I really wanted to, but at the same time, every ounce of self-esteem I had ever had was gone.  So as I drove down the highway with everything I owned in the back of my car, his mother called me.  She wanted to know what had happened because he had just shown up at her house, sat on the couch looking miserable, told her only that he had screwed up really bad and probably lost me.  I told her what he had said, and she talked me into staying.  She had put up with the same thing from his father.  It was terrible, but he didn't mean it, so she always stayed.  That's just what you do.  You love someone during the bad times too, and you stay.  So I stayed.  
     I could barely take a bite of food in front of this man for weeks.  I couldn't laugh, I didn't want his hands on me, he couldn't give me a compliment, both of us knowing that we wouldn't believe the words anyway.  It was horrible.  But I pushed through and kept at it and stayed, because that is what you do.  I ran again.  I didn't stop for long out of fear of gaining a single pound.  But I loathed it. I felt obligated to it.  I felt like I was being watched, even though he was usually gone when I ran.  I would run alone in the dark, through the empty streets of the brand new neighborhood and I would cry, but I wouldn't let myself stop running.  When I had to walk, I'd curse myself.  I overdid it sometimes and when I just needed a break, and felt like I wasn't allowed one, I would turn the treadmill in the living room on and let it run on its own while I rested on the couch.  Then I'd leave my run stats on so that when he got on the treadmill next, he would see that I had run, just like I said I did.  He is the worst person I have ever known. 

     For him to steal 5 minutes from me last night is inexcusable.  He took enough from me before, didn't he?  I had already planned to go for a run last night.  I'm getting back into it again, and it's been for me this time.  And for P, and for my kids.  But not so I can have their approval.  So I can be healthy, and energized, and so I can live a long, active life with them.  Yes, I want to look good for P, but he's never once complained at any point during my roller coaster ride with the scale these last few years.  Maybe I'd like to fish some compliments out of him, but he doesn't give them freely, and I'll know that when does, he means it.  And if it boosts my self esteem, great - he has my respect and my love and is my best friend, so he has the right to affect it.  So I ran anyway last night, and a couple of times my mind did drift to places it shouldn't go. I found myself feeling watched again, but I was able to push it out of my mind, and focus on the thing I am doing for myself.  

     So how am I turning that ridiculous little mind-game of an email into something positive?  I'm letting myself remember what I should never, ever forget.  That when I don't love myself enough, anything at all that is important to me can be stripped away at any moment.  If I let myself believe I am not worthy of something or someone, there are terrible things and people just waiting to pounce.  Miserable people want other people to be miserable.  It has taken a while, through several years of having babies, finding a rhythm, learning to be thrust into situations and a life I never got to decide if I was ready for, but I am finally finding myself again, loving who I am, realizing my potential and seeing that I have a lot to offer this world.  I don't have to be in perfect shape to be loved, or to love myself. But I want to be in perfect shape, that's my goal to pursue and no one else needs to give me permission.  I am so incredibly grateful for the life I have now, because I in no way thought I deserved it when started raining blessings on me every single day. The only person I'm not good enough for these days is God, and I know He loves me no matter what.  I am proud of who I am, I am proud of giving birth to two beautiful boys, stomach pooch be damned.  My kids are beautiful, and I know part of that came from me.  I am proud that I finally decided to love myself enough to walk away from a situation that tore me down every single day.  I wouldn't change the way I handled it at all.  The timing was perfect to set the stage for what was to come and I am light years wiser for having been through it.  

     My health is important to me again, more so than ever. It belongs to me now, and to the people that matter.  People who want me to be healthy so I can LIVE, not so I can look good on their arm.  And the funny thing is, DA was the ugly one all along.  Not wasting another thought.  

Can't wait to run tonight. 

P.S. The blog title is a Black Keys song, of course.  I just had to be ironic.