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On Pregnancy Loss

It is snowing as I write. It felt fitting to start a fire, so the ambiance is perfect – snow outside, fire and warmth inside, babes asleep. I get this quiet moment once a day. This morning as I prayed for a few moments before the house awoke, I prayed for grace. I’ve been struggling to get back into our normal routine after Christmas and travel and constant movement. It gets a little too quiet, a little too slow and numbing when I’ve become accustomed to busyness and movement. This snow, this spark to my soul, feels just like the grace I prayed for. It feels like a tangible miracle, a little magic to delight my heart just because I was needing a little “oomph” in my day. It’s already starting to collect on the rooftops. I haven’t seen snow in three years; I love how it simplifies and quiets everything. All you see is white, all you hear is muffled and silenced.

In the new year one of my goals is to write daily, not just weekly or monthly. As I was struggling with what to write about, it quickly became clear. We had a miscarriage over the holidays and I feel like I haven’t had a moment to digest it. With early pregnancy loss, it’s like you never quite got your head around the fact that you were pregnant, and then it’s gone. You wonder if anything is happening at all or if it’s all just in your head. It’s a complicated grief – at least, for me it is. I’m always a little terrified when I find out I’m pregnant – it’s terror and hope tangled together.  And with miscarriage, before I get the chance to untangle it I’ve lost what I was already coming to love.

 

At other times, I feel relief, knowing that I would likely be sick by now. It’s hard not to at least be thankful for that. But it feels weird to be thankful for that; I feel guilty that I’m relieved. I’m thankful that I can still be active and keep working out. And again, I feel guilty. I’m even thankful that I get to have a glass of wine; for that, I feel especially guilty. And it’s like someone is in my head saying “how dare you feel relief – a little life was lost!” as if it was my fault. And I must remind that little voice – it wasn’t my doing. Grief is never a straight path; it has varying degrees of complication. Grief jumps us and surprises us, scaring us at how big it is, and then it recedes for a bit, leaving us disoriented in its wake and confused about where it has gone.

Everything is white now. Cliché as it is, snow always feels like a fresh start. A new perspective. A little tingle of life and light. Today I am sad; I miss the little glimmer of hope and excitement that I lost in the pregnancy. Grief always feels unmanageable. I look at it and say, “I see you, but what am I supposed to do with you?”. I think, I think – grief wants us to accept it, to give it some space and place to reside for a while. And that is the scariest thing of all, because grief looks big and like he’ll take up all the space we have. But he won’t; just trust him, let him cohabitate for a while, and he’ll leave sooner than later.

 

So I’m letting grief have a little space today. And the snow reminds me that my prayers are heard, that suffering is redemptive, and that I am not alone.

Enough Is Enough

A Letter To Myself:

 

Enough with the body shame. You’ve been at it for years – for literally as long as you can remember you were feeling something bad about the way you look or presented yourself. It wasn’t always your fault, sometimes other people said things that made you feel this way. But mostly you learned it and adopted this idea as your own. And so now it is time to move on, to adopt an original idea, and be done with this.

 

You are beautiful as you are. You do not need to lose ten pounds, although you’ve nearly destroyed yourself trying. You do not need to have perfect skin – nobody does. Why are you so consumed with trying to look like an image that isn’t real? Why do you worship at the altar of unreality? You are already perfect! This is all in your head, this idea that other people will really care if you lose weight and start looking like a magazine.

 

This is all a big sham that someone or something has created to keep you from growing into your powerful potential. It’s a lie to keep you from living the life you’re called to live. It’s a game that you’re losing and if you lose you won’t fulfill your life’s obligations. Maybe radically accepting yourself right now and seeing the beauty you’re carrying around but hiding with shame is the way you learn to radically accept all those other people you don’t get or who are so different. This is where love starts: letting go of all this shame. It’s time to get on with being the beautiful creature you already are.

You Have Something To Say.

You have something to say. You may not believe it, or even know it yet. All I know is we’re all called to figure it out. It’s not something political, and it’s not something that sounds smart– it’s just a way to show the world that you’re participating. It’s not demeaning to others. It’s not to prove anything. It’s just some bit of truth that is springing up from inside you, and when it finally has the right conditions to sprout, you won’t be able to help but let it bloom out of you. It may be quiet, and maybe no one will hear you, but you still have something to say and it still deserves to be said. You know the story, a tree fell in the woods – blah blah blah – even if you think no one hears you when you say it, it was still offered to the world and you never know when the echo of what you said that no one heard might ping off of a distant wall and someone will hear it without you knowing it.

IMG_1874Because it’s really about knowing what you have to say, and then living what you have to say – the words aren’t so important to be heard out loud so long as you know them inside. They grow stronger and louder inside your own interior walls so that other people will hear them just because of the echo of your life.

 

I’m thinking about tattooing this on myself, because I keep forgetting. I keep forgetting to let my words out onto the page, I keep forgetting that I have something to say worth hearing, I keep forgetting that my story matters. How is it that the prevailing belief is the opposite – that what I have to say doesn’t matter, that my story is unremarkable, that no one cares – when every time I do share something true, not hiding behind facts and knowledge, but something from within myself people tell me it matters to them. Why do I keep believing those lies when the truth keeps telling me it’s true?

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So say something from inside you – true, and kind, and you. Share yourself today. It’ doesn’t have to be packaged or pretty or polished, just true.

Joie-de-Vivre: Texas Style

Many other cultures, maybe even most other cultures, have a different set of values they prioritize in their daily life. You can tell what they value because of what they make room for in their schedules: slow meals with friends and family, coffee and tea breaks, walking, delicious food.

While many other cultures prioritize beauty, pleasure, and relationship, we tend prioritize values such as productivity, efficiency, and achievement. We run around trying to do everything, unwilling to trade any of our ambition for a more beautiful life.

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We all know this. We’re all working on it, or at least I think many of us are. I’m learning to give myself permission to live a beautiful life, in part so that my kids know that it’s ok to enjoy life, and in part so that I know it’s ok to enjoy life. Of course we should work hard, of course we shouldn’t be lazy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t savor our lives.

I’ve been feeling this pull to enjoy life more, day to day. To take time to sit down for a coffee and croissant at the coffee shop with my girls, to allow myself a nap or daily glass of wine. I think it requires slowing our pace, not trying to accomplish so much but really changing our priorities to enjoyment instead of completion. It’s like we have this collective angst, all of us in the modern western world, where we’re running from something – trying to get everything done – and only then can we truly live. I do this all the time – I tell myself, just fold the laundry and then you can take a break. If I would just take a break when I need it, then the laundry would’t be such a burden! When will I learn?

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So, even though I’m not surrounded by the beautiful architecture, fashion, style and culture of Paris; even though I’m not living in the warm, tropical environment of Costa Rica where they admonish each other with “pura vida”; even though I live among plain strip malls, too many parking lots, and risk being misunderstood by living a bit slower – I’m making an effort to cultivate a little more “joie-de-vivre”. Texas Style.

The Road Less Traveled

Are you at the liberty of choosing the thoughts that cross your mind? Do you struggle with mild anxiety and melancholy, or lack of focus or depth? I promise I’m not selling something. I just think this is an increasingly common problem. As a culture we’ve lost any sense of mental discipline. We don’t cultivate silence, we think we are the victims of our brains, and have no control over our thoughts.
Many people believe they are at the mercy of their brains and thoughts. Of course, in some ways you are. What you have been given in terms of the physical apparatus of your brain as well as the experiences you’ve had are the machinery you’re working with, but you are the engineer, the mechanic. You can change a lot, tune it up and improve it. You are more than your brain, and therefore, and you can start exercising it to shape up the way you want. That is, there is a method to the madness of pruning your thought life.pathway-to-cloud-computing
Basic neuroscience has taught us that our brains respond to repeated behaviors by pruning the neural pathways that aren’t used and reinforcing the ones that are. If you think of it as a highway, the lane that is most heavily used develops ruts. Your tires easily stay in the lane in the rut, and sometimes it can take a little effort to get your car our of the ruts. Heavy traffic reinforces these ruts. It’s the same with your brain – if you repeat a thought or habit it will develop a “rut” and you’ll sort of automatically go there. It may even feel as if you don’t have control over it – you can just set up cruise control and go.
It’s pretty simple, really, to change thought patterns and behaviors. Simple, but not necessarily easy. Your brain is going to want to keep going back to the well traveled rut, not because you’re a weak, lazy idiot – but because that is what’s normal and easy. It will just take some initial effort to start smoothing that out and creating new neural pathways.
Now think about this in terms of changing a thought pattern or habit. It feels so hard because it takes a little effort and mindfulness over an extended period of time to make the change. But it will start getting easier as you develop new habits. To add complexity to the process, your brain also rewards you with a hit of dopamine when it’s something you want – say, sugar or getting on your phone. So that makes it even harder when you’re trying to change the habit, because your brain is enticing you with reward to just go the easy route.
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The point of all this information is just to illustrate that even though at times it feels we are victims of our brains, we aren’t. Believing you are a vicim of your brain is just a lie to keep you small and stuck. I’m not promising that lifting mental patterns – especially anxious and depressive tendencies – is easy, but knowing that you have some control over the process is crucial to healing. Knowing that it will take time and smooth out the ruts is essential to not getting discouraged. Some of these patterns are learned from an early age, so think of the time you’ve spent traveling those roads. It will take time and patience and a large dose of grace to change them. Some of these patterns reward us with pleasurable feelings and emotional comfort, so they require grieving and envisioning a new way of life. Sometimes the path to healing doesn’t feel like healing. It feels like torment and it feels cold and lonely. We’re letting go of all these hindrances, but they were like little friends that are hard to say goodbye to. Throwing off the old man is painful, but it’s the road to freedom and joy. I know it is, it has to be. I’m on the road now, too – just a fellow traveler. But I keep working to throw off the things that are unnecessary and my load is getting lighter. We’ll get there together friends.