Category Archives: balance

For Survivors…Some Lessons From A Garden

Lately, I have been spending more time in the evening outside with my garden…my plants, my flowers, the earth. I have a disease that is making it almost impossible right now for me to be in the sunlight.  I have been mourning parts of who I used to be, while fiercely trying to adapt…to acclimate and navigate what I may become. This is new to me and sometimes the grief is heavy.  However…there is a gift that seems to be an integral part of this painful process.  The gift is being alone with my thoughts (but not in a scary way…) I am in solitude, yet feel one with the earth…in my garden, in nature. Not in the sun…but in the quiet hours of dusk, through the stillness…through the quiet, gentle breezes…If I am able to quiet my mind and listen closely…I can sometimes hear the lessons being gently taught.

Lessons from my garden

Upon looking at a flowering bush that was all but  “dead” two springs past… The one I was being encouraged to  chop down and discard, and I ALMOST  conceded to, but did not, because…HOPE! This is what she whispered to me last night…(if you take issue with my plants metaphorically speaking to me, stop reading…like, right now…seriously… I won’t be offended. She had a lot to say! )

So She Spoke…

“Just because I “look” dead…does not mean I am dead!  Give me time. My own time. Not your time. Nor someone else’s ideas and pressures of time. Won’t you help me out a just a bit? I will have to do most of the work, (the really tough inner work)… but perhaps you can help brush away the dead leaves, the ones that are making it hard for me to grow. Might you even trim my branches? Just the ones that you know for a FACT are hurting me…for this will allow my other less fractured ones to grow even stronger. ”

Prior to this…She was hiding…resting…invisible…Branches barren and fractured, looking like there was no hope. In her own time, she became what she was supposed to.

“If it seems someone did not know how to care for me in the past or perhaps even harmed me by planting me in the wrong environment…maybe you can learn about how to help me take root in a new space. A space that might be more suited for what I need to thrive. However…once you help me move, it’s going to take me time to learn, time to learn about this new and healthier space. Perhaps… to even know I have arrived somewhere new. I beg you… Please, give me time to adjust, time for my roots to take hold…I am not used to being in conditions that are well-suited for my heath. I am not used to all of  this potential!”

“Just because It is good for me…and YOU know it’s far better…I will still need time to understand that I am really here…in a place with more favorable conditions for my survival.  In my own time, I may learn that sunlight and water and rich soil that is filled with nutrients, is in fact, better than the darkness I had  so grown so very accustomed to. I didn’t truly understand I was in the darkness, I even learned to like the darkness… don’t you see? I didn’t know my conditions were as unfavorable as they might have been…for they were all that I knew.”

“So my friend, just because YOU know it’s healthy and better….does NOT mean that I don’t deserve plenty of time to adapt and learn, on my own, HOW  and WHY it is better.  So please, PLEASE… don’t over water me just because I never had enough of it in my life. Give it to me little by little.  Don’t keep telling me how wonderful it is on this side…let me come to that on my own. Check on me from time to time, come and sit by my side every now and again.  You just might be surprised that although I may not be perfect (and who amongst us is?) and I may not always use or “appreciate” all of my resources like it seems the others do, Ya know…the ones that have always lived on this side of the garden? Even still…I will still grow. One leaf, one branch, one petal and maybe even one blossom at at time”

“And please remember this…winter will come again. The seasons will change, the ground will shift, the temperature and climate will not always be optimal for me. I will fade. I may be buried and I may even “look” lifeless. But as we know, it seems that things are just as they should be. And when that time comes again…just help me brush off the remains of  seasons past. Perhaps even honor those decaying leaves…for they protected me from the harshest of weather. Maybe, to you, they do not look pretty, but to me… those are the very things that kept me alive and warm through the storms.”

snowone

“Please don’t be discouraged by my reluctant pace or my damaged and misshapen branches or blossoms. Instead…Sit in AWE of my tenacity, my resilience, my remarkable ability to survive all I have. To have survived and still be counted amongst the living!  I am my own unique miracle. So THANK YOU…thank you friend,  for not giving up on me and for giving me the time and the space I needed to grow and to heal. It may not be how others would do it …but it is the way that seems exactly right for me.”

“I do like it here on this side of the garden and believe it or not…I am even teaching the others that were born in just the right place, a thing or two that they may need to better survive these harsh, unpredictable winters.  In return…it seems, they may be showing me a little something…like how to not be so very afraid of such an abundance of all of the things that I had always needed…but didn’t even know I had been missing.”

And That Is What She Said.

So…as you can see…we all have something to learn. Lately,  it is me being the student and nature being the teacher. And that is just fine. As long as we remain teachable and open, you really never quite know, from where the lessons will come from.

beauty

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He Is My Husband Now…We Are Gay

We all gauge the multitude of so-called successes and failures of parenting moments by different variables. We (us parents) each have a different set of lenses in which we view our children, how we may “think” they are doing. Whether we are talking in general, like their grades, behavior or  mood or  we are looking at more of the minutia. Little snapshots in time, that sort of show you something unique in your child’s development or personality. It can simply be a look, a statement, a small conversation…watching them play, when they don’t know you are looking…those tiny moments that go on, but often are a reflection of who they are “right now” and even perhaps a foreshadowing of who they may  become.

Now…I have two boys. They are both vastly different in both looks and personality alike. They are five years apart. Despite their differences, I try to raise them in quite the same manner, with the same fibers of morals and values being loosely woven through our years together.

O.K…I will cut to the chase. One is a teen and one is in second grade…I am, what one might describe as a bleeding heart liberal. A heart on my sleeve kind of girl. I am a social worker by trade and by human make-up. For as long as I can remember, I have tried to be the voice for the voiceless. The cheerleader for the underdog. The advocate for the marginalized and oppressed…YOU GET IT.  My husband, is also a mental health professional  and is a Latino male, who despite his best efforts, still carries with him what I might describe as this  “semi” machismo  perspective. He has come a long way and is also himself, incredibly liberal but let’s just say when my boys were little and I bought them baby dolls and a stroller to push them in (which they did often and around the neighborhood) …he seemed kind of was perplexed, he “sort of”  tried to discourage me from letting them… (I wasn’t having it).  I would have to say that his reaction was rooted not only in his cultural roots and norms and gender and social norms but also…rooted in FEAR. ( we all know, having a baby doll turns you gay right? )

“Not my boys…not baby dolls? They are not GIRLS!”  As the years have gone by…he has softened a lot… has a greater understanding of why I would encourage that … and as for my boys, despite my best efforts…they don’t seem to really embrace there feminine side right now, and that is o.k. It seems, at least right now, they are kind of these brutish, loud, wrestle each other to the ground primate type of kids. (which does not mean they are not sensitive emotionally) But they are rough, crazy, sports nuts who are dirty and what societal/gender stereotypes may reference as or  consider “All Boy”. Whatever… I still send the message that it is o.k to cry, to openly talk about feelings, to be sensitive and most importantly to not feel pressured to conform to social norms “just because”.

One of the other things we do together, though I watch next to no television, is watch several weekly sitcoms. One is Modern Family…think what you may about the show, but it has allowed us to crack up together, to explore a vast range of family issues and also to have on-going dialogue with my kids about homosexuality. Questions come in many forms like…”why are those guys married mom AND they have a baby?”  Just one of the questions my younger one has asked. My teen…he kind of  get’s it already and knows I am open about  whomever people love they just  love. My little one has asked questions over the past year, and more recently, he seems to “get it” a little more. (not sex…he does not know what that is yet, outside of kissing) But he knows a girl can love and marry another girl…a man can love and marry another man. That God made us all different and amazing and that is o.k.

In a world where gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual youth have so many struggles, higher rates of clinical depression/ anxiety  and a significantly higher suicide rate, I feel it is my job as a parent to keep an open dialogue with my kids. To send the message that no matter who they are, whom they love or even if they were confused….they will always be accepted, loved and supported, at least in our home. Now, obviously my son is in second grade, so I don’t go into great detail. I just answer what he asks and try to communicate that however you are, it’s o.k and you will be loved.

It’s kind of hard to gauge how they are doing on that. My older son had a sleep-over…with a diverse group of boys. He mentioned one would be pretty late because he has dance. (now being most of his friends are on sports with him…I talked to him about this… just out of curiosity because I never met this boy…what kind of dance, how late will he be?) He answered without much thought…” he’ll be pretty late and he will be hungry…and ummm, I don’t know, he does ballet, jazz, hip-hop…yeah…he is  kind of feminine, but I don’t think he’s gay, but honestly…who really care’s anyway?” (For a seventh grade boy…to me this signals, he is getting it!)

Now, my younger son…was snuggling with his big, muscular, Latino father (otherwise known as my husband) I walked in to his room and said jokingly “Hey you…You are always snuggling with my husband…you better give him back to me !”  He glanced up at me, with wild and sleepy eyes, as my hubby lye half asleep and boldly said “HE IS MY HUSBAND NOW…WE ARE GAY!”

Let’s just say my husband was no longer asleep…He gave me the look of “You did this” but then smiled… and I thought to myself:

“YES…PARENTING WIN!!!”  (yeah…I know…I may have clarify a few things as time goes on) but he was being silly and I thought to myself…So far, So Good!

The Self-Esteem Dream and Other Perfect Rhymes…

noonecanmakeyou

Wow…It is my first ever end of the week blog. It is Friday and I did not deactivate my blog due to the burden of poor grammar, no followers or the gross overuse of phrases and words I happen to love. *see the abuse of “Reckless Abandon” in ALL of my posts this week.

As I reflect on this huge accomplishment, and bathe in the glory of achieving my own personal best, by which I mean…living the dream of SELF-ESTEEM. YES. That rhymes and feel free to use that because I, for sure won’t use it again. “Living the dream of self-esteem”…what might I mean by that? Listen here…

I didn’t delete, deactivate or give up on writing. I hit publish with ya know (reck—-Ab–don) I’m done with that. I used poor grammar, foul language and really did not know what I was doing with this whole publish, draft, save…add media, visual etc. I still don’t know how to use the little boxes on top of this “writing square.” Yes…the one with the b. the I. the link, the b-quote, the del, the ins.

Those buttons seem important and one day I will know them and own them and they will know me, but not today because I DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING TO START SOMETHING!!!!

RIGHT? This is genius and as a mental health professional and consumer of mental health stuff (by “stuff” I mean years of being therapized), I think it is the freakin’ most important idea!!

You Don’t Have To Know Everything To Start Something.

I want to write…so I am writing. Embracing the mistakes and all. Loving my three followers and knowing they can leave or more can come and I AM STILL WHOLE and important and lovable.

MY Goal is to stick and stay and see what happens while I accept it all.

MY Anti-Goal (meaning what i hope i won’t do) is to start writing and feel crappy about it and leave and say…”Well that sucked and I should never put myself out there again, because me and actually, everyone, just blows.” Yeah, I don’t want to do that.

I am practicing the art of good enough in all things. Enough of the bullshit. I am learning what I so easily can teach and that is to TOLERATE WHAT FEELS INTOLERABLE. Yes people (or person) Distress Tolerance, Radical Acceptance…the whole lot of it!

I have moved through (yes through, not over or around, actually through) anxiety and depression and trauma. And it sucked and was scary but I did it. (with support of professionals and other stuff) And I struggle sometimes but most days are better, because I took the risks, I did the hard, painful work, processed the hell out of stuff and worked (and continue to work) my shit out. It doesn’t go away but it gets so much better and you learn crap about yourself that you never thought you would. And you use it and much of it helps.

So on to my new chapter and that is writing about being a therapist, being a mom, a wife, a human among humans…in the middle of the herd. Packed in tight but not afraid to stand out.

Risking my professional reputation and putting my human condition out there for the world to see. (sort of, I mean..I haven’t really linked my name to this blog yet for fear of my professional life going in the shitter) but wait for it. Till then I am o.k with “Pixiedust72 or therapyontherun or watchmewait…or no matter my screen name. I am human. I assure you that.

So seriously…Happy Friday Bloggers…Go do stuff that scares you and you think you suck at- because ultimately it helps you to LIVE your truth. That kind of matters.

OH…and Also, celebrate little victories…like eating one slice of cake instead of the whole cake. Or successfully sleeping on your left more than your right. OR…not deleting your blog.

Carry on friend. (friends?) I don’t want to seem cocky…

JUNE CLEAVER HAS NOTHING ON ME…

Right before I gave birth to my first child…I had just finished a thirty page research paper on Infant Mental Health. I got an A PLUS. Outstanding.
While I lie in my bed, in the hospital, staring at this little guy, all seven pound of him…I thought about that paper. I thought about the nurses trying to help me breast feed, I thought about the way they just expected me to know what to do. Cleaning his umbilical cord…diapering…listening to his what sounded to me like erratic and shaky breathing.(I was pretty sure he was in heart failure…i was wrong) YEAH, The knowledge I had so recently wrote about was simply put, not applicable to this child, in this moment. The information was just not accessible to me in any way that felt like it would help me be able to keep this little creature ALIVE.

I JUST KEPT THINKING; HOLY CRAP IT IS MY JOB TO KEEP YOU FROM DYING!!! I felt love that was deep and wide and unexplainable. I felt fear that I never knew existed. The research paper and seminars and my clinical background offered about as much comfort as soaking wet jeans on a freezing and rainy day. My love for him felt GIGANTIC..but this little being seemed so incredibly and unbelievably “breakable”. So Fragile. Like he could just stop breathing or choke or come undone just as easing as a pair of frayed, thread bare shoelaces.

Again the two prominent thoughts that took up residence in my brain were… GOD, THIS LOVE IS UNREAl,I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE HERE and HOLY SHIT I HAVE TO KEEP YOU ALIVE. It was a loop that repeated every four minutes for years…I kept it to myself. At least for a while.

So it goes…baby goes home, we adapt the best we can to this amazing little dude and BOOM; fast forward… I have NOW spent the better part of 13 years PERFECTING the art mothering. I am a psychotherapist…I specialize in women, children and adolescents. I am a freaking expert people! An EXPERT on the human condition and our emotional health. Right?

When raising a child…and experiencing a newborn, an infant, a toddler for the first time. Do you know how much comfort my knowledge base has brought? I will answer…sometimes (a tiny bit) but most of the times…it would be none. In fact, I think it made me feel worse because there was the whole “you should be fine with this, you should know this ” thought process that was incorporated into my thinking…and that just added to the baffling nature of becoming a parent.

NOW,Let me enlighten you further (and by you…I mean ME) enlighten by way of brief,(doubtful) yet salient list of my…(Cue Leave it To Beaver Music)

TOP MOTHERING TIPS I WISH SOMEONE GAVE ME 13 YEARS AGO… BUT DIDN’T. SO I AM GIVING THEM TO MYSELF NOW, IN THE FORM OF A LETTER TO MY PAST SELF FROM THE CURRENT AND FAR MORE SELF-AWARE AND SEASONED MOTHER OF TWO. (clears throat and read’s aloud to invisible self of the past) Feel free to read aloud with me…

1. Dear YOU, you ROCK STAR of a brand new mommy…first of All. Let me start with this, congrats on that childbirth thing. First order of business, that no one is going to let you know…your lady parts are going to hurt like a motherfucker for way longer than anyone prepared you for. Bring home that foam donut thing to sit on. You won’t be sorry. And ice packs . And Tucks pads. And the water squirt bottle in the bathroom. And don’t feel bad about “borrowing” changing pads and baby supplies from the hospital. You know…that thing they have that is all filled with supplies for the baby? They have a ton of that shit, you don’t… and you are kind of on the brink of crazy. take it. (turns out they want you to have it anyway and it is not STEALING)

2. I know you are terrified and think your baby will DIE. Babies can and do die and it is heart-wrenching, mind-blowing and horrendous. However…You will spend the better part of the first five years worrying in excess about the possible impending death of your child. Here’s the Good news…thirteen years later…that fragile, tiny, breakable baby is still alive and doing kind of remarkable. (not that there haven’t been challenges, but nothing to the extreme you have imagined) IN FACT…he did so well you even did it again! The really important message I want you to hear is this; even though bad things do happen…BABIES AND CHILDREN TURN OUT TO BE WAY MORE RESILIENT THAN YOU THINK. THEY ACTUALLY DON’T DIE AS EASILY AS YOU HAD IMAGINED…

3. PARENTING is hard. Parenting with postpartum anxiety and depression is even harder. Good for you for getting help. Managing your own anxiety and depression turn out to be one of the most important parts of being able to take care of these crazy little men who are living in your home, sleeping in your bed, eating all your freaking food, messing up your shit and stealing your heart. (side note…don’t go off your MEDS even if you feel a “little” better) As it turns out, Serotonin is something you can’t simply “imagine” or “will” into your brain, but I digress…

4. You will not be the BEST MOTHER…You will make mistakes. Your kids will fall out the crib, get stung by bees, fall off chairs and need x-rays. They may even suck the helium out of a balloon and “kind of” faint, they might tear their cornea, fall on the steps and need more x-rays. of their face. OH BOY…a lot more unexpected and terrifying shit happens. But: SPOILER ALERT…They SURVIVE. YOU are not going to be the “best mother!! “WHY?”…Because it does not exist! Even if you buy organic food and read every parenting book or have “Waldorf style” wooden toys that you can’t afford. Even if you commit to a certain “style” of parenting…family bed, cry it out, Ferber, attachment, helicopter, tiger-mom, WHO GIVE A #$%@!!!!! FYI. For your sanity and self-esteem and quality of life, it simply does not matter what “parenting theory” you cling too…You will still fuck stuff up. And your kids will still be awesome and think you are awesome and will love you.

5. About that sanity thing…You could seriously CLAIM the shit out of some peace of mind, IF AND ONLY IF you remember the following…even when the house is a mess, the sink is full, there is dog hair everywhere, the kids are SCREAMING…YOU ARE SCREAMING…YOUR HUSBAND IS “NAPPING” THROUGH IT… You are still a good mother. Your children feel inherently safe and loved. NOT Because you didn’t yell or you bought gluten free, organic pumpkin bread or you had “family game night” or “taco freakin’tuesday”. Your children feel safe and loved because you LOVE THEM. As it turns out…kids really don’t care if the house is messy or their bed has no top sheet or if they have frozen waffles for dinner sometimes…they DO care that you go to their Lacrosse games and get snacks for the team. They care that you read books at school and show up for “MY FIVE SENSES” THE MUSICAL! They care when you let them snuggle with you at night, even though you honestly don’t want anyone in your “personal space” (about that…you won’t have that for awhile)

They forgive you more than you can imagine. They don’t hold grudges like grown ups. They mess up. They are loud and wild and wrestle and break your furniture. They GET SICK, SCARY SICK AND THEN…THEY GET BETTER. THEY ARE RESILIENT. So don’t spend too much time doubting, second guessing and emotionally beating the crap out of yourself down that long road of parenthood.

6. I must reiterate to you the capacity that these little dudes have to show you forgiveness and how they will crack you freakin’ heart wide open to be able to LOVE WITHOUT CONDITIONS. Mamma…being a mom is so incredibly hard and that is something no one person could possibly prepare you for. You are terrified…I know. BUT I want you to understand, that 13 years out…I think you are a rock star and you are doing a bang up job. NOW, LISTEN UP. THERE is a thought that you seem to have that will continually haunt you for the better part of this journey…it is this: ” IF I AM A GOOD MOTHER I WILL DO__________FILL IN THE BLANK” AND you fear that if you don’t do _____________, you may fundamentally fuck up your kids and they will spend 15 years in therapy talking about the suck-fest known as “MOM”. HERE IS THE TRUTH, AS YOUR 42 YEAR OLD WISER SELF BELIEVES. (see NOW..#7)

7. No matter how “good” you do, Someday’s your children think you suck. No matter how bad you do, your children still love and want to snuggle with you. No matter what “approach” to parenting you take or how infrequently you change the sheets or wash the floors, at the end of the day…if you have loved your kids (despite them being a huge pain in the ass sometimes), IF you have shown up despite being bone crushing exhausted and tucked them in at night even though you wanted to hide under the covers and look at Facebook…If you have made the frozen waffles for dinner and somehow convinced them this is an incredible dinner; well it seems that all of the mistakes seem to gently fall away. THEY LOVE YOU WITH THE SAME RECKLESS ABANDON THAT YOU LOVE THEM AND THAT IS SOMETHING YOU CAN’T IMAGINE. Not when you first see those little eyes of a seven pound newborn staring up at you. It is something that permeates your soul over time. They love you in spite of yourself. They accept your hugs AND your apologies. They mess up, they scare you…you mess up and scare them and at the end of the day…even on the worst, the messiest, the sickest, the scariest, the busiest, the WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING HAVING KIDS’ kind of days (yes those exist), you still all end up being each others favorite people in the whole freakin’ UNIVERSE.

8. AND Lastly…carry on sweet mamma. It’s all a series of learning and there is no “figuring it out”…Just hang on, reach out, don’t judge yourself, other parents, your husband or your kids…and you will be FUCKING FINE. YOU will be GOOD ENOUGH…you are not a perfect mother, but you are THE PERFECT MOTHER FOR YOUR CHILDREN. CLAIM THAT SHIT AND WEAR IT WELL. (and tell some other parents along the way what an awesome job they are doing, because you would be surprised how many feel just as shitty or terrified as you do)

xoxoxox