Monday, November 14, 2016

So This is How You Swim Inward

I like a good story. By that, I mean a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

But my story? I'm (hopefully) smack dab in the middle and I'm feeling stuck. 

I thought my story was anorexia. I thought my story was marriage. I thought my story was postpartum depression. I thought my story was chronic pain. 

Can I take a moment to say, I'm SO THANKFUL that none of these have been my sole life-defining story for more than 2, 5, 10 years? 

That being said, it means life carries me on to another plot line while the previous one is yet unfinished, and it drives. me. crazy. It brings me to despair and to my knees, alternatingly. These days, the despair is more prominent. Except thankfully it's not quite despair. It's more like this low buzz-hum of irritation. The "are we there yet" drones in the back of my skill constantly. 

Nothing brings that hum to a dull roar more than motherhood. I want my kid to BE potty-trained already. I want my unrelenting, (mostly) kind, patient, deadly calm, consistent discipline to show an inkling of paying off. I want to find my GROOVE. My routine. My sweet spot. I want it to be easy and I know it isn't supposed to be easy and I feel like the tension of this reality is squishing my brain out my eye sockets and my heart into a box two sizes too small. (I don't know, but I swear it's also making my jeans too tight?)

I see my impatience, and I want to focus on the times my toddler IS obedient, the many many many times he's incredibly sweet, the moments in which he's just hilarious.

But then my husband has a work deadline, or someone gets sick, or LIFE HAPPENS and to drown out that little voice of annoyance, I turn to distraction. Social media, of course, which is louder than ever. Books, which are much more profitable, but still not healthy when I stay up too late to finish a novel I just started, or read in the afternoons, ignoring Noah's pleas for more interaction with his mom. Driven to distraction. 

Sometimes, when I really muster up the energy, exercise can help quell the anxiety. A doctor told me last winter after a year of near-daily panic attacks, that if I can't use my mind to calm my body, I might be able to use my body to calm my mind. This is true. Except when it isn't and I'm trying to do a workout video while my kid is sleeping and our house feels too small as my husband tries to sneak back and forth from the garage to the bathroom while I'm bouncing around in a body that's still a bit awkward to me and a sports bra that's definitely too old.

By this, I mean I'm over this drought. Words crowd my head, but when I sit down to write them down, they're stifled and awkward and I don't like reading them. But the worst part of this drought is, it's SELF-IMPOSED. My self-care habits? Nonexistent. My effort to carve out regenerative alone time? Minimal, at best. My expectations? Possibly unrealistic. 

In my grad school glory days (OMG all of my co-workers found out I have half of my Master's and they basically all told me I was stupid to not just finish and my hours expire a year from now and what's happening here?!) I wrote a paper on Mercer's Maternal Role Attainment Theory. You know, before I was a mom. The process used in this theory helps the mom develop an attachment to the baby, which in turn helps the infant form a bond with the mother. 

I looked it up again the other day. The Maternal Role Attainment Theory follows four stages of acquisition: anticipatory, formal, informal, and personal. The anticipatory stage involves the social and psychological adaptation to the idea of the maternal role. The formal stage is the assumption of the role of mother. Early behaviors are often guided by others in the mother's social system, and she relies on the advice of others in her decision-making. The informal stage follows, in which the mother develops her own method of mothering and finds what works for her and the child. Finally, the personal stage is the joy of motherhood. In this stage, the mother finds "harmony, confidence, and competence in the maternal role." In some cases, she may find herself ready for or looking forward to another child. 

I kid you not, when I read this last week I was like, DONE. I'm THERE at long last! I was thinking, I'm ready for another kid, and I'm super confident in my parenting, and even though we don't have a fall routine, we could have a routine if I put the effort in!

The next day, it all went to sh*t, literally. Potty training regression. Sudden mourning of my toddler's independence, after it took us so so long to bond in the first place. Commitments every day of the week. I was feeling so frantic, that self-care became indulgent dismissiveness and removal from reality, as opposed to actual care of the self. I say this like it's never happened before, but let's be real. I came out of the last spin cycle long enough to read the summary of that mothering theory, and now it's all lather-rinse-repeat over here. 

My counselor asked me a few months ago, how does it feel to know that this is God's story, and not yours? I was like, oh! yeah. I'm starting to see that instead of this phase or that phase, this is just how life is. But have I let that sink into my bones? Nah. I mean, I know it to be true more than I did 5 years ago, for sure. But it's really hard to shake that feeling of if I could just ___ then ___.


I started reading my Bible like a book. Every time I want to "read the Bible in a year," I get really psyched to learn, and really into the footnotes, and then all of the sudden it feels unattainable. I feel like I don't really know who God is, after all this. But the wonderful thing is, I WANT to. I know what he's done for me. I know where he's turned darkness to light. I see the miracles he's worked in my life. But I don't know him for the sake of knowing him, and I want to. 

I want to step outside every morning and evening just to step outside. To look at the sky. To stand for 3 minutes and feel what the day is bringing, or reflect on what it brought.

I want to get out of bed early. I mean, I don't, but I do. I'm tossing and turning after 5:30am anyway. Why not get up and journal or read or do some other quiet activity (and NOT mourn the fact that our house is too small to do a workout while someone is sleeping)?

I want to buy a chair or couch that's comfortable. Seriously, the only comfortable spot in our house is our bed, and you can imagine that's not conducive to much, besides spending naptime on my phone pretending to interact with other people.

I want to do my physical therapy every single stinking day. I used to be so good at this, because I'm paying some legit money for it! And the exercises do help a bit, but I'm so out of the habit after my last "graduation." (And also, a little frustrated that they basically said there was nothing more they could do for my pain last November, and the pain drove me back to a whole round of doctors this summer, before leading me to physical therapy again where they were like, sure, we have tons of stuff you can do!)

I want to work out again.

I want to close all the stupid internet windows on my phone, and just check Facebook and email once a day on my laptop. (Okay maybe not Facebook. I hate it.)

I want to make a dent in my to-read list, instead of grabbing any old book at the library.

I want to paint a chalkboard wall to WRITE on, instead of taking screenshots of words that tug at my heartstrings.

I want to make a best friend. Like where we mutually understand that we are each other's best friend. It's been way, way too long.

I want to care less what others think, and care more about the people I'm seeking communion with.


Five A.M. in the Pinewoods
by Mary Oliver

I’d seen 
their hoofprints in the deep 
needles and knew 
they ended the long night
under the pines, walking 
like two mute 
and beautiful women toward 
the deeper woods, so I
got up in the dark and 
went there. They came 
slowly down the hill 
and looked at me sitting under
the blue trees, shyly 
they stepped 
closer and stared 
from under their thick lashes and even
nibbled some damp 
tassels of weeds. This 
is not a poem about a dream, 
though it could be.
This is a poem about the world 
that is ours, or could be. 
one of them—I swear it!—
would have come to my arms. 
But the other 
stamped sharp hoof in the 
pine needles like
the tap of sanity, 
and they went off together through 
the trees. When I woke 
I was alone,
I was thinking: 
so this is how you swim inward, 
so this is how you flow outward, 
so this is how you pray.

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