Shifted

I may have mentioned my new nephew once or twice here.  If you stand still or next to me long enough you will hear about the kid. Babies do that to us, don’t they? They enter this world and, if we pay attention, we can feel a shift.

As an adult you hear the word “balance” used more times than you could possibly care to. We are absurdly busy people trying to navigate responsibilities to the people around us and our selves. We have it all up there on our scale, our families, friends, jobs, body, mind, soul…it all goes up. Some of us like our scales perfectly balanced. Even on all sides. Others, by choice or not, have more see-saw looking scales, in constant flux.

Then we have kids. Bringing a child into the mix will mess with any sort of balance we had previously come to terms with. For some, those even-steven scales are thrown completely off whack like you just dropped a bowling bowl on it. Once side dips way down, way too fast, causing everything else on the scale to go flying up in the air. You are forced to let go of what your scale no longer has room for. For those balance loving folks, this is a major ouch. It ain’t easy. For others, who were already used to a see-saw scale, this new baby adds some major weight to the equation. That up and down they had come to function in and love, may begin to even out. For those see-saw loving people, this new stillness can be terrifying.

Bringing a new kid home rocks our world no matter what. We try to prepare. There are baby showers and advice givers and books and more advice givers. Yet, any honest parent would tell you, there is nothing that can prepare you for the life altering experience of becoming a parent. Your heart does things that you didn’t even know were possible. Life is forever shifted.

I thought I knew what it would be like to see my little sister become a mom. Sort of like I thought I knew what it would be like to become a mom myself. Only to discover, I had no clue.

My sister, Mary Kate, has been an incredible aunt to her seven nieces and nephews and the countless children in her multiple friend circles. She is and has always been a giver, in every sense of the word. Her generosity, no nonsense truth telling, and enthusiasm for the life and people she loves are obvious to anyone who gets lucky enough to know her. She has always loved us all in a tremendous way. A way in which it seemed obvious what kind of mother she would be. I believed I had already seen the maternal side of her. Her having her own would be an extension of who she had always been.

Then came the kid.

Again, a baby entered the world and I was unprepared for what my heart was about to make room for. Watching my little sister as a mama?  Holy crap people. It is a new kind of beautiful.

This past weekend I watched her watch him. She holds him and I can see her memorizing his little face. She holds him and she breathes a newness I didn’t think was needed or even possible.  I feel like I can literally see her becoming more of herself.

Life just shifted once again. Balance Smalance. No scales needed when this kind of love takes over.

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She Remembers Part 2

You know how someone can mention a new car they are thinking about buying and you comment about how you have never seen that kind of car. Then for the next two weeks you see that kind of car every time you are on the road. You went from never hearing about the car to being surrounded by them .

This is how I feel about this new to me idea that our bodies have a memory. Even when our minds seem to forget or our hearts build walls to shut them out, our bodies hold on to them.

Recently while I was listening to a Kristen Tippet podcast, I was introduced to a man named Matthew Sanford. He is a yoga teacher who just happens to be paralyzed from the chest down. That alone can grab one’s attention. However what made me turn off the podcast only to get on Amazon to order his book, Waking – A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, was when he mentioned that he not only works with average people and physically challenged people, but also with eating disorder patients. I was both intrigued and skeptical. I couldn’t see the connection. Yet, I knew there was something I needed to learn from this guy.

His book did not disappoint. He tells his story with grace and wisdom. From the accident that changed it all and the intricate human struggles he was forced to endure, to the inspiring teacher he has become. I was in awe in entire time. He talks about his evolving relationship with his body. The disconnecting, the remembering and finally, finding a home within his body once again.

I began to see the connection.

My eating disorder got a firm grip on me when I was in my teens. I cannot say with complete confidence that I was 100% present in my skin the few years before that. However, I do know that I knew what it felt like to have that kinship with my body and what it felt like to lose it. My obsession/addiction to the food and the lack of, led to a numbness that kept me significantly checked out of life. Memories gone due to the fog I kept myself in or the protection from feeling discomfort that my addiction instinctively provided.

I felt as those Matthew Sanford, through his own story, gave words to things I didn’t even know I needed the words for. Our stories so completely different, yet sharing something so true.

I experienced these words for myself recently as I went to visit my sister in the hospital. She was having her baby in the same hospital I had mine. Since having my youngest, I have been back twice. Once to bring the nurses who cared for me a gift and once when my other sister had her last baby. Both times I psyched myself up for the visit. It was a thing. I knew I was going and it may be jolting so I prepared.  This time I didn’t. I thought by now it  would be old hat. No biggie, I thought.

Then I walked in those front doors along with my father  and my little girl. As we approached the security guard I looked ahead at the lobby. The same lobby they had rushed me through as I left a trail of blood behind me. I saw the doors to the freight elevator, the one they pushed people out of the way to get on as the doctors and nurses around me were yelling things at one another. I remembered that once nurse, whose face I never saw, who just kept telling me that they were going to be doing everything they could to take care of me and my baby. I could hear her words clearly standing there at the elevator.

That lobby, those doors, the smell…….my heart began to race. Moments from that day, the day I almost lost my little girl and almost lost my own life. It was a day I had been so innocently clueless. Although I was scared and knew that losing this amount of blood was not “good”, I had absolutely no idea of what was really happening or what lie ahead. But that day going back, I did. I now know what the reality was. New memories, ones that haven’t been a part of the story I tell from this day, came back. I felt it.

Standing there by those elevator doors, I could hear my dad talking to the security guards “See those two over there? That’s my daughter and granddaughter. This hospital saved their lives. They are walking miracles.” My dad’s beautiful words slammed into my gut. Massive amounts of gratitude at battle with the unexpected physical reaction. My heart raced and the tears came without warning. Things I thought I didn’t remember, my body had never forgotten. My dad put his arm around me, my little girl held me hand looking up at me with those eyes of hers, and the sweet security gave me a huge smile saying “God is good.” Suddenly, through grace,  I was having a moment of unanticipated healing.

The only ground or foundation that I am interested in rooting down in, is truth. Without it, I am still making a choice to stay under the heavy weight of denial. Without it, I am inside the walls I built, still laying more bricks.

Rising is impossible without truth.

Matthew Sandford says our bodies are always for us, not against us as we tend to believe. They never give up on us no matter what we do to them or how we treat them. They are committed to our living up to that very last breath we take. Our bodies are always fighting for our truth.

Last week I did a flying belly flop out of my comfort zone and went to a ballet class. I haven’t been since my early teens.

……….As I stood at that bar and the music began to play, my body remembered it’s truth. I can complain about age, time, or circumstance but the truth is I love to dance. I haven’t done ballet since before my eating disorder asked me to shut out the honesty that dancing gave me.

The only reason I went to this class was because it was one of the only classes at the new fitness place in town that I could fit into my schedule. My obnoxious expectations were low. I thought it would be a very workout gym like ballet, less dancing more squats like. When I walked in and saw these grown women putting on ballet shoes, I panicked a bit inside. What had a gotten myself into.

The music started, I stood up straight and followed the teacher’s instructions. Tailbone pointed down, belly in, arm gliding up and out, shoulder down, neck long…….. I began to have a similar experience as I had standing by those elevator doors in the hospital. It was a physical reaction to the memories my body had held onto. I remembered a grace I thought I had lost and I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

For someone who spent years keeping things surface and avoiding deep, how encouraging to know what has always been here waiting for me.

Nothing is lost.

I hold within me a wisdom and grace waiting to be uncovered. I can remember who I AM.

A Day Off

Yesterday we hopped in the car, after 3 weeks of anticipation, to spend the weekend with our family. This crazy crew of ours grew three weeks ago when my sister had her first little guy. (The one in the absurdly cute hipster attire)  I have been literally weepy being so far away from this chunk of my heart.

After our long car ride I went to bed thinking that I should get up early to do it. I woke up thinking I should have gotten up earlier to do it. I questioned leaving the breakfast table to do it. I considered having my coffee by myself in the other room to do it. I thought about staying home from pumpkin picking to do it. I wondered if I should go spend some time alone at a Starbucks to get it done.

I was driving myself nuts to say the least.

Then I sat in the corner of my sister’s living room holding this guy, the newest member of our crew, Frankie. While I felt his little body breathing I took in all that I was surrounded by.

I looked up to see my sisters living room packed with my favorite people. I smelled the pot roast cooking in my parent’s apartment. I listened to Christmas music playing in the beginning of October like only my sisters and I do. And I tasted the pumpkin beer out of cinnamon and sugar rimmed mason jar. This is everything.

I don’t want to miss a minute of it.

Today I am taking a day off here on this blog, to be where I am.

I will be back in writing action tomorrow.

xoxo

She Remembers Part 1

I stood at the bar with butterflies in my stomach. Well, let’s be real, they were more like pigeons awkwardly doing that back and forth thing with their heads while trying to find room to fly and crashing into each other. Before I could shut it down, the skin on my face was defying me once again by heating up and turning a fresh shade of pink.. As I tried to stand up straight and lay my hand nonchalantly on the bar, I was anything but casual. My body felt foreign. It was as if my legs were no longer mine but some loners I had picked up on the way over here. My hips were stiff in weird places, my back felt like it had not been awake or used in ages and my feet were bizarrely heavy. Whose body was this anyway? And why am I having to use it now?

Last time I stood at this bar I had a confidence that, although may have been young and shaky, was innocent. I wish I had been aware of it then but looking back now I can see that body as graceful, lean, able, and honestly beautiful. I stand there for a moment feeling the sting that this hind sight memory is bringing. Where was that body? When exactly did she leave me? How can I get her back?  I needed her right about now.  I am brought back to earth as I hear some other woman walking in the room.  Of course, in my self-conscious state, the first thing I notice is there ease walking into this room. They are ready for what is to come and I am jealous.

This is crazy. Why did I ever think it was a good idea? I am so not ready for this. I need to send out a search party for that graceful, lean legged body I am remembering. But now I am in too deep. Walking out now would raise the awkward level to heights I was just not willing to go. All my positive ju ju was far gone at this moment. Must have dropped it off when I picked up this new stiff and aged body on my way over because the only thing running through my head at the moment is, “Dude, this is gonna suck.”

Then the music starts. My head and heart are still racing but…….

my body remembers.

Let’s Just Lighten Up

I like to think of myself as a seeker. I surround myself with positive and uplifting messages and people. I practice yoga and meditation. I am a feminist. I am passionate about health and wellness. I enjoy an occasional green juice. I mediate what my kids listen to, read, and watch in an effort to keep the crap at bay. I believe relating, connecting and expanding all need to be a priority.  I am on a constant mission to evolve.

I also take life, and myself, so freaking seriously sometimes. Good Lord! I need to lighten up. None of these thing make me “good”. In fact, they make me pretty annoying sometimes.

This is why I want to talk about rooting in some very simple ways today. I was reminded of this last night when I put the kids to bed, poured a glass of wine and sat down to watch my favorite east coast ladies. I was very aware of how free I felt, how far I have come in this area, and how grounding the simple stuff can be.

I watch New Jersey Housewives. I look forward to spending an hour with them each week. I am attached to and have fallen in love with these ladies.  They make me happy.

I also adore Hallmark movies, especially at Christmas. A Sunday afternoon spent with some tea and a corny (the sappier the better) Hallmark movie and my heart is content. The girl needs a guy, they meet at Thanksgiving and are married by Christmas. This goes against all the things I am teaching my daughters BUT I just don’t care.  In fact, a Sunday spent on the couch ALL day with these cheesy movies, food that does not require much more than heating up and maybe even a glass of wine, is just about heaven for me.

Then there is chocolate. Need I say more?

I get that these are some pretty tame (maybe even lame) examples but, again,  I am going for light today. We often refer to these as guilty pleasures. I would like to suggest we scratch this phrase from our vocabulary if we ever want to be true to who we are.

Guilt is not joke. It is a heavy downer with exactly zero pleasure attached. It is something we use to give ourselves a good knock around. There is nothing motivating about it. We like to think it will be. We think if we feel guilty enough, if we “feel bad” enough, we will suddenly have a magical shift into all we deem “good”.

It doesn’t work. I’ve tried.

I want to feel free.  (When I say this it’s with the understanding that discomfort and sometimes pain are necessary feelings for growth and being a human in general. That is not my argument here.) I mean free as in peaceful, comfortable in who I am, grateful, connected, and light. It’s safe to say that if I am feeling guilty in any way shape or form, I am not feeling free.

I have had a long and lengthy Good/Bad list. It was ingrained in me, passed down for generations with a few addendums of my own. I used that sucker to judge the living hell out of myself. And what always follow judgment of self?……judgment of you.

Ugh….this is such a dead end street people! It is ugly stuff.

No more guilt. No more rationalizing. No more pretending it’s “bad” out of fear of judgment. When you go to eat the cookie at work, please don’t say “Oh I am being so bad.” Enjoy that scrumptious piece of goodness. When you talk about the latest episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, please don’t whisper and apologize for thinking Courtney is funny. She is! If rock out to Justin Bieber, own it. I am a Belieber too, rock on.

But for the love of all things Holy and cheesy, if that stuff is making you feel like ass, let it go! We have no time for extra crap to weigh us down. Life is heavy enough. I say, let’s leave room for the things that lighten us up but if it adds weight, drop it like it’s hot.

Here’s to choosing what feels like freedom today.

My Third

This third kid of mine. There was a time I didn’t think she would come to be. I gave birth to my first and adopted my second. My first pregnancy was a breeze. I was a blissfully innocent first time mommy. I just didn’t know what was possible. I had zero clue about complications and when my doctor told me to throw out the What to Expect When Your Expecting book because it would only scare me, I listened. I ate crunchy cheese doodles and mint chocolate chip ice cream and I still felt fabulous. Like I said, blissful.

Then came loss. You find out you are going to have a baby and the dreaming/planning and heart growing begin. The abrupt end to the future and soul you became so connected to instantly, are gone just as fast. My heart broke in places I didn’t know were a part of me. I literally ached all over. My innocent bliss turned to a real life heartbreak. And it sucked.

Adoption is a hard one for me to explain. The why, when, how…..it’s different for all. Just like becoming a parent is no matter how you do it. For me it felt like I had a huge rope around the inner most parts of me. Something or someone was pulling it, hard, from where? I had no idea. It was as if I had no choice but to go where it pulled. Tugging back, which I tried many times, only heightened the ache that I had now grown so familiar with. It was a deep guttural knowing that there was a baby and I was the mama. I get that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet it does.  I knew I had to bring this kid home and I was going to bust my ass to make that happen. Just like when you go into child labor and your body takes over. There is no backing out, giving up, or choosing to go another route. That baby is coming and you are along for the messy ride. This is what adoption felt like for me. Something took over and I just had to stay present to it. My baby needed me and I needed my baby. End of story.

 

Being a woman who got to experience traditional pregnancy and physical child birth for one baby and then cross an ocean for a second baby, was a unique gift that has never been lost on me. Honestly, it has always left me in awe.  I believed this love and this gratitude was all my heart could hold. Two little ladies and I was done. I said it multiple times. I got rid of all our baby stuff. I thought my sister and sister in law were nuts for having a third. I was so very done.

 

Then I had a dream. in this dream I was walking into a room and there was a baby in a crib. I walked over to see the little one and looked down to see a rosy cheeked, messy haired, warm and snuggly chunk of love. I woke up teary eyed and doubting everything I thought I believed. I wanted to know this little soul. Was I supposed to have another? Was that even possible?

 

After struggling with these questions (and talking about them nonstop with my people) it was suggested to me to say this prayer –

 

If this is Your will God, please let my desire increase

If it is not Your will, please decrease my desire

 

Within weeks, I knew this little stinker was meant for this world. My prayer then changed to a simple, Please.

I believe she was always meant to be. I just got to be the lucky one to fall in love first.

 

How I carried her and her birth were, amazingly,  just as unique as the other two AND that’s a story for another time. What I will say is that she came when we least expected. It wasn’t how I wanted but was what I needed.

 

Today I want to talk about who this kid is and why I can’t talk about rooting and rising without talking about her.

Last night as I was climbing into bed I was praying for a sense of peace. I was feeling overwhelmed with fear. What I can laugh off or rationalize away in the daylight becomes massive and terrifying as the sun goes down. I go through times when this is a non-issue. Last night, it was a right there and then issue. All the “stuff” throughout the day, all the craziness the world is in the middle of, all the personal hurdles I am jumping, all the worries and what ifs, what would I dos, and it’s just too much…come crashing in. The wind seems to get louder, the creaks of the house get louder, and my fears get louder.

 

I was getting myself ready for a long night of tossing and turning when this third little lady of mine walked into my room. All groggy and messy haired she stumbled over to me. Can I sleep with you? Those eyes squinting as she waited for me to respond. I patted the bed next to me and with a sudden burst of awake-ness (probably moving fast before I would change my mind) she hurdled in, threw the covers over her and immediately snuggled in. Warm and rosy cheeked. I could feel myself being covered with a sense that can only be described as  sweet peace.

 

This morning she was singing ridiculously loud over the rest of us as we all tried to rush out the door because she is 7 and she is the third kid and you just gotta pump up the volume to get us all to listen sometimes. I was just about to let out a “Pa-leaze stop singing!” when I stopped. That face, that stinker. I bent down to kiss those chubby cheeks and took in who she is.

She has always been this not so very but so very obvious reminder of what is true and real. She is warm and rosy. She is loud and giggly. She is strong willed and perceptive. She is goofy and graceful.

She brings a peace that I haven’t felt before. She roots me in that peace. She is why I rise.

She is an answered prayer.

Alley Way

I was a senior in college when I studied abroad in London. This was one of the absolute best times of my life. It was the first time I began to see my own possibilities. I was braver, smarter, more adventurous, and cooler than I ever knew. I liked this person. This was nothing short of mind blowing.

My boyfriend at the time came to visit me for the lest leg of my time there. One of the first weekends he was there we decided, along with a few flat mates, to take a weekend trip to Dublin. On our first morning there we set out to find some breakfast. While walking down the street right outside our hostel we hear someone calling my boyfriend’s name. Shocked and confused we spun around to see a guy he played lacrosse with back on Long Island. He was also traveling with his girlfriend. Her and I quickly hit it off, because why wouldn’t you right there on the streets of Dublin on a random weekend in May. It was a fun twist of fate and we knew it would be a great story to tell as they ended up becoming part of traveling crew that weekend. We did all the touristy things together and, as fast friends, talked nonstop along the way. Had we met on a Long Island street, it’s pretty safe to say, the friendship would have taken a lot more time to blossom. But while together there in Ireland it was friends til the end material from the get go. I am pretty sure we all shared a few tipsy “I love you man” s as we danced with Guinness in our hands.

When the weekend was over, we made plans to hook up when we were back in the states with our new BFFs and parted ways. I was off to finish my school program and they were setting their sites on spending the rest of the summer traveling throughout Europe. We all walked away with a cool small world story and that was that.

 

About three weeks later, after I had completed my studies, my boyfriend and I had decided to do a European bus tour with the little amount of money and time we had left. We had heard that this could be a big party of 20 somethings hanging together. Not so much on our bus.  We were about 30 years younger than the average traveler for those couple of weeks. We also happened to be on the verge of a breakup. After dating all through HS and college, it was coming to an end. We both knew it.  It was a only a matter of time. We were on edge and life was getting more awkward by the minute.

This was what led to a quick decision to ditch the over 50 crowded tour for an afternoon in Florence. We needed a break from the polite conversation and fake smiles. As we took on this old and incredibly romantic city, we began slowly, and then more rapidly, to drive one another nuts. We were lost. In more ways than one. Loving someone and knowing you need to say goodbye can bring our the worst in us all. We also were literally lost. No clue where we were or how to get where we wanted to go. We ended up walking down some way too quiet alley way. My boyfriend quickly passed the sure of himself stage and entered into where I had been for quite some time, annoyed and concerned. We were opting for some serious eye rolling and stay the hell away body language.  We both had our heads down, letting the fact that we were in Italy get completely lost on us, like only 21 year olds can do. We had no clue where we were headed in any sense. We were frustrated and fear was creeping in.

Then we heard footsteps.

 

We looked up, completely unprepared at the doozy life was about to put before us……

 

The two people walking towards us? That same lacrosse playing guy and girlfriend. ?!?!

Our Ireland Guinness dancing friends just happened to get lost down the same small alley way of Italy. On the same day. At the same time. And, as I later found out, doing the same thing, arguing with their heads down.

We hugged and laughed and hugged again all quickly getting over all the tension we had all been carrying just moments ago. Life just came out of nowhere in the oddest moment it could find and made us gasp. What?! How?! Oh. My. God.

Of course we spent the day together once again. We walked and talked and ate and more of the same. Being so long ago, it is all a little blurry. My memory is selective. I remember snapshots. Those snapshots I remember in detail but then the hours/days/months/years between snapshots…..blurry.

There was one moment of that day though, that became one beautiful snapshot.

We had walked over a bridge to go to a magnificent park where you can look back and get a fabulous view of city of Florence. I don’t remember the name of the park, I don’t remember the name of the bridge. All blurry.

 

What I do remember was the sun, the flowers, a statue of Buddha, a stone bench, the smell, the absence of time, the comfort level and connection we had with these people who were recently strangers and now momentary soulmates.

I remember, in that time, with all of the out of my element energy it brought, feeling a totally new sense of who I was. I was seeing and feeling a part of me that I really liked. I was in my skin. My feet were firmly planted yet I was full of possibility. I was 100% confused as to where my relationship and life were headed, but there was an undeniable assurance that I was going to be OK. I would be better than OK.

I would be someone, like I was in that very moment.

I was someone who could be surprised by life and by herself. Someone capable of becoming more than she dreamed possible. Someone who could stay open to what life was about to wow her with and who could love bigger than she ever knew possible.

I was rooted down into my higher self.

We parted ways with our BFFs after our day together in Florence. We, sadly (and totally appropriately), never saw them again. Both couples broke up shortly after our European adventure.

 

I wish I could say that I stayed rooted in that place of self confidence and faith. I didn’t. I even choose to put that snapshot of the park on a shelf for awhile. When life looked so different than my expectations, it hurt to remember.

 

Now here I am, 20 years later, and I am re-learning how to get grounded, to root down. It goes against so much of what we believe as adults to find grounding in a foreign country with people that were so very obviously temporary, at a time when all was in question. Yet Life showed me this to be my truth. And I’m going to choose to believe Life. As I find myself lost in new alley ways, I choose to look up and allow myself to be surprised.

Today I am choosing root down in who I have always been and who I have forever been becoming.