Non-linear living 

Have you been watching the bachelorette? This season has been awesome. According to Chris Harrison, it is the most dramatic season in bachelor nation history (as they all are!). But there is one contestant for love who truly resonates with me. His name is Dean. Now I do not want to pretend that I know his inner workings but from what I can see from the carefully curated snippets of him, I get him and I like him a lot (although Rachel did not like this young man too much and just sent my boy packing). So yes, he is dreamy and that dynamite smile is so captivating but this last week his emotional state was what was most attractive. Dean has had loss in his life (the kind of which I have not experienced) and his family is eccentric and these two things have shaped him. It was clear after watching his hometown that his life, health, understanding of himself, understanding of love, experiences, and what he wants from his future were shaped in the non-linear path of emotional turmoil. Despite his particular mix of life giving him every reason to be jaded or cruel, he is able to walk in his raw emotions but also step outside of them and be present in the moment and explore the future possibility of love. I get that. Some people might see it as compartmented but it makes a lot of sense to me, that one can occupy both spaces at once. 

David and I were snuggled up on the couch when he asked, “How are you doing?” After my emotional rollercoaster of a week, I said fine and he was unable to understand how I could be so fragile and broken a few days ago but seemingly okay today. It is hard to say, but I don’t want to live in the raw and uncomfortable always. I am not so consumed by that pain that I am unable to be like Dean and smile genuinely enjoying the present moment. I carry both of those worlds with me. Both are real, valid, and constant but neither has to dominate or diminish the other. I love my life, my husband, kids and the bubble of awesome we have created and I live here and occupy that emotional space with eyes towards future joys constantly and consistently. Sometimes I ache but feelings, even uncomfortable ones, make us human! I can only hope that by being totally open and honest about emotional health and well-being I become more and more comfortable in my worlds and that I model for my sons how to articulate their emotional spaces and needs. I want them to have the kind of love I have with David. One in which we can get real, get to those sticking places, and continue to love hard and truly because life is complicated but being able to verbally share one’s hardships opens up so so so many doors to beautiful, real joys that go so deep. For me, sharing that emotional space is important. It is what makes the difference in a marriage. It is what helps us become comfortable in our own skin. It helps us move forward without feeling like we need to “play nice” or pretend. It is sexy! And heck, Dean is sexy. So hopefully by the time my boys are ready to go searching for their life partners on a reality dating show or in the wild they will feel ready to be open, honest, and real about their own emotional spaces and draw in the kind of person who forever wants to learn more about them and their hearts, and loves them hard – bumps and all! (Thank you, David)

Thursday moment 

Things feel a bit hard today. The travel part of my Wisconsin weekend has tired me out. My luck was just not good with those flights (but, yes we landed safely and I am grateful for that, just not for the headaches associated). This helps contribute to the rawness of all things. And last night David got his official “zero” from the procedure and I feel a bit numb. It feels as though the progress I told myself I made in these past three months feels for naught now that the reality that the procedure worked was confirmed. I am not sure how I feel. I feel some relief that now we know and there is no more waiting game to play but I also feel alone, depressed, miserable and confused. I want to run away, I want to rewind and start this chapter of my life over again, I want to not feel like an ungrateful cry-baby. I feel like the decision was selfish on David’s part (but there is no real room for compromise, you cannot have half a kid). It just really sucks being the person to have to lose out on this decision. David gets what he wants, I get told be grateful, be happy, move on. I  want to stew indefinitely, I want to be taken seriously, I want to be left alone. I want to feel like if I shared these feelings my friends and family would not be tired of hearing me AGAIN complain about my “problem.” I want to stop feeling crazy and to be able to quiet my mind. I want to believe that two kids are enough but I just know in my heart I will forever be missing someone…be missing that little person from my life.

a marital tune-up & a happy weekend


We have a couple of spaces in our home that we don’t spend enough time in…yet. When the kids are awake we primarily exist in the playroom. A big open room filled to the brim with toys and chaos, we sit on the floor despite there being a couch in the room and just exist with the boys on their level. But, every now and then when the house gets magically quiet, we find our way into those other spaces and they are heavenly and help me center, contemplate, and appreciate. Right now Owen is napping upstairs, the laundry is folded, the dogs are resting in their beds, and David and Henry are listening to some kid music in the blue room. And I am occupying one of those little spaces: the book nook. Off to the side of the room, nestled in a corner with my feet up and my coffee beside me, I am enjoying this quiet-ish moment and the ability to reflect on some important things we are learning.

Since the big bump of our reproductive divide almost two months ago, things have returned to our normal existence. Life feels easy, loving, and attentive which feels good and in some ways having had that epic divide was important for our marriage. David and I never really had fights or arguments that lasted longer than a fleeting moment and so when our rebound time was so extended and emotional rawness was too real for what seemed too long, we needed to turn in and figure out what were the strategies we could cultivate to make sure that if big life things happened we would be able to address them more readily and get that rebound time back!

No one wants to sit in an emotional funk and our strategies for reconciliation were awesome for the little things we were used to dealing with but it was clear that they were not quite enough for this bigger things. So a tune-up was needed and thankfully David agreed. We headed off to a few sessions of marital counseling and it was really helpful to get to know our individual selves better and to get to know our marriage better by taking a step back. It was clear from the beginning of these sessions that love, trust, respect, and communication were present and healthy in our marriage and it felt good to be reminded of these foundations and to celebrate them together. But we also learned something important. David and I both experience emotional flooding and in those moments we flood differently and therefore need different things. When I flood, my emotional state heightens and like a turkey in the wild I puff up, engage, get louder, and get defensive. In the fight or flight survival dynamic, I “fight.” David though is my opposite, when a confrontation occurs, he acts more like a big cat, he watches the situation, takes a step back, and flights to protect. As you can imagine when the conflict is small this difference between our defaults is small, but when the conflict is big (like this one) then is is hard to get back to a calm place where we both are ready to re-engage, share and work: where we are able to rebound easily.

But, this marriage tune-up was so important because awareness seems to be half the battle, it has brought attention to the small moments when this happens (like when the kids are tantruming and David and I are both feeling overwhelmed) and as a result we are tackling those moments so much more effectively. Our little tension points are so much easier now, because we are both caring for ourselves in those moments that escalate AND are then better able to engage with each other by staying focused on the issue and not using unfair techniques that deepen any of the tensions. We exist more in the moment together in our marriage, we are taking more time for each other and dating, and we are genuinely learning more and more about each other and therefore finding more emotional closeness (which to be honest, I did not think was possible!). I am really glad that all of this happened because it helped us have some really real conversations, got us to the same page for our family future, and has us working together better than before. Things feel fresh, exciting, and playful because we took time to explore some hurts, heal them together, and work together.

 

So while I sit here and watch Henry and David, I cannot help but think about how much I love this moment, that man, these kids, this life and how taking that step together to tune-up our marriage was so painless, so invigorating, and so important. I truly hope that more couples do it because long-term relationships need us all to reflect, work, and love more authentically and to quiet the busy world around us for a bit in order to dig in, sit down, and to finally occupy those quiet places where the real growing occurs.

Even when we are ghosts

My morning commute is LONG. If all goes according to plan, we leave the house promptly(ish) at 6AM. Some mornings Owen gets a daycare drop off and then it is out on to the main road for at least 45 minutes of stop and go traffic, until I finally arrive to school sometime between 7:35-7:45AM and I say all the prayers for a parking spot before hustling it into my classroom to teach at 8AM. Some mornings I am accompanied by the voice of my bestie from Wisconsin who despite me telling her “you don’t have to do this,” chats all the way to school about everything and anything, other days it is listening to NPR to get the headlines and to listen in to a few microcosm stories about life, and then on a rare morning I flip through the radio channels skipping about through the top 40s. This morning was one of those latter ones.

In the warm, fuzzy afterglow of our sixth wedding anniversary, I listened to “Say you won’t let go” by James Arthur at least three times on my radio station line-up and it just felt like exactly where I am in my love for David. So yes I am going to share some of those lyrics here:

I’ll wake you up with some breakfast in bed
I’ll bring you coffee (if you drank it, David!) with a kiss on your head
And I’ll take the kids to school
Wave them goodbye
And I’ll thank my lucky stars for that night
When you looked over your shoulder
For a minute, I forget that I’m older
I wanna dance with you right now
Oh, and you look as beautiful as ever
And I swear that everyday you’ll get better
You make me feel this way somehow…..
I wanna live with you
Even when we’re ghosts
‘Cause you were always there for me when I needed you most
I’m gonna love you till
My lungs give out
I promise till death we part like in our vows
So yes, this is a super cheesy post about my super cheesy love for David, but if you cannot share these feelings on your own blog then where can you?  Six years has felt like a lifetime and minute. When I look around there are so many signs that time has moved along side us, but when I look at David time always does feel like it is still.

actions speak louder

That old cliche “Actions speak louder than words” is totally my mantra. Not sure why, but if I had a “love language” it would be this.  Of course, praise is never discouraged. I love words but to really  get me, one must know that actions matter beyond any discourse. And because of this, I have to take a minute to love on David. This past month was weird for our relationship. We have naively never really had a “hard time.” When we were dating we would dreamily say, “can we be models of love” for a job? But, seriously, we partner really well with each other. And with 10 years (almost) together, it still feels fresh, exciting, loving, and also comfortable, safe, and home. I get excited every night that David is coming home and I delight in our ability to be in cozy clothes in bed watching shows and laughing on a “date night.” This morning, I messaged David and said I was devastated, immediately he asked if it was the Dancing with the Stars results. He just knows!

So with this “hard time” we had it was hard to know what to do. We needed to figure out how do we process differences when we have always been so in sync with one another. We needed to figure out how to move forward but also acknowledge what just happened? We needed to figure out how to give weight to this experience but not give it so much that is holds us down or pushes us apart. David’s answer was to dig in with me. My biggest fear in any relationship is that when things get hard and I don’t know how to respond or am like a deer in headlights and just freeze up emotionally that the other person will fly off. Instead David’s response was crushing!

He was so actively engaged in working together that it helped me dig deeply into my confusing emotions, jolted me out of my rut, lifted my eyes to the beauty around us, hugged my soul, and helped me to not take everything so dangerously seriously. And as a result, our Mother’s Day weekend was SIMPLY the BEST. We did so many things together as a couple and as a family and we also napped and lounged. It was an amazing mix of all the things I needed to remember: that our love is an easy love even when stuff gets hard (as it will inevitably when you tie yourself for life to another) but that our actions help each other. Gosh do I love this man! So Thank you David for being active with me, for loving me, for knowing that I always want to walk with you into these adventures and that no matter what challenges we face you will also be my pick for reality show challenges! xxoo

 

 

Rituals

5AM the alarm goes off. David is the first to get out of bed. We have approximately 60 minutes to both shower, dress, take the dogs out and feed them, wake up the kiddos (if they have not already gotten up on their own), dress them, and get breakfast in before it is time to head to work and daycare drop-offs. Our morning pace is maddening. Everything feels precisely timed and like soldiers we move through our stations accordingly. But everyday after David takes a shower he comes back to bed and for what feels like an hour we just cuddle in. Sometimes we don’t say anything at all and just breathe and hug and maybe drift back to sleep a bit and sometimes while cuddling we talk up a storm about the latest news, our upcoming days, our weekend plans…..

Since  last month’s onslaught of a thousand transitions, I have been thinking a lot about the rituals we have as a couple that allow us to bring in some “slow living” into our busy days. It might seem silly but I am realizing that these slow moving moments are actually the pulse checks of my marriage that remind David and I about the primacy of our relationship. It wasn’t like we sat down one day and said, “Okay every morning we will do X and during the afternoons we will do Y,” but gradually overtime we initiated a few life pauses,  and these check-ins and moments bring in some physical touch and pace change. And without them, the day feels off-kilter. It was hard when I was reeling with emotion from our “reproductive future conversations” to want to be physically close, but it was precisely in those hard, HARD moments that those little marital tune-ups became critical reminders of why David and I chose to do this life thing together in the first place.

Why bother to do little rituals? It feels grounding, it feels comforting, and it is a mindful decision to become closer as partners. We aren’t obsessed with them, they sort of just flow naturally but I can tell the days in which we do them and the days in which we do not. During the day that slow pace moment is often a crushing hug. David and I will snag each other. It tends to be when one of us sees that the other is having a challenge: maybe a kiddo is screaming, maybe a pot of sauce just fell on the ground, maybe someone is so fixated on an activity (productive or not) that they cannot mentally break free from. In that moment, David will grab a hold of me or I him and just squeeze with all the might. It is hard in that kind of an embrace to not let go of the tension or fleeting anger. To not give in to that moment and to re-calibrate. So that is why these rituals are so important to me and my marriage.

They slow me down, they remind me that current tensions or challenges are fleeting, it brings back a physical touch when the business of life gets in the way of life. And most importantly it reminds me that we are partners and with love and communication and a little touch we can work it out (hug it out) and feel stronger together on the other side of our slow-living pause.

 

 

 

 

Permission, Support, Courage


On Friday, I went to a SoulCyle class because it had been a year since I last hopped onto a bike and I finally felt “ready” to get back in the saddle. Clicking into the pedals, the nerves hit and I started to think that I made a mistake. Was I ready to really push myself? Was I awake enough to make this session “worth” the price of the entrance ticket? The instructor came in and started doing that thing that SoulCycle instructors do where they positive talk about goals, body image, and motivation. It may seem sappy but it was exactly the message that resonated most with me. As she turned out the lights and turned up the music, it hit me that almost a year ago to the day, I took my last SoulCycle class and I was not alone. Tucked inside  was baby Owen who seemingly slept through the rigorous class. I remember taking that final class and thinking about meeting my baby soon after, about what he would be like, what he would look like, and when he would arrive. It was hard to be on the bike with a bulging belly and it was weird to be back on that bike without one. That class had been for Owen. It was to give him a fit pregnancy, healthy environment, and ideally an easy delivery. This class was for me. The instructor Charlotte started to talk about three words: Permission, Support and Courage. And, I am not going to lie, I might have teared up a bit in class as she shared her message and as I reflected on all that happened in those 365 days since I last saw Charlotte.

After baby, looking in the mirror can be a little tough and rough. A deflated belly is hard to process. Shouldn’t everything just go back into place upon the little one’s arrival, no?  It was hard the first time with Henry to see the transformation that occurs in the postpartum period and it was just as hard the second time even though I had my previous knowledge. This is where Charlotte’s message about permission hit most. We don’t give ourselves enough permission to heal and be and recover. Often when grocery shopping, I will see a magazine cover that says something like “So and so is back to pre-baby body in just 2 weeks!” and she is lauded and praised and touted as the norm. Good for her! Seriously that is some impressive sh*t! But, I have learned for myself that I need to give myself permission. Permission to soak in all that just happened: I grew a human. This baby took over my entire body cavity. He moved all of my organs, he stretched out my skin, he took my nourishment, he grew strong and fat and pushed my bones to their limits. This is a point of pride! It took 9 months to get to that point and I need to give my body permission to heal and slowly return to a settled place. It is also so important to give permission to just be in awe: WOW.  And permission to not exercise until my body really feels ready to tackle that. And you know what, it might always be a little soft and a little “flabby” or it might always look like I have a “baby bump” but then again I did have two babies and my body will wear those experiences because I am only human.

Charlotte also shared a lot about support. When you are on a stationary bike you can let the wheel fly. This means not having any resistance and just allowing your legs to rotate freely and quickly as though you were sprinting along. This feels good but it is not always productive as you coast. When you add that resistance by turning the knob, Charlotte calls out “add support!” and then you feel the tension on the wheel and your legs have to work to rotate around that axis. You feel the support as though the ground became thicker and you muscles start to say hello. Mommying can be very isolating. Some nights when you are awake 3 or 4 times in the night with your baby you know that you need to be there for them and comfort them but you ache for sleep and I ached for someone to help me.  “What happens if you don’t stand in your own way,” Charlotte asks  “what would happen if you actually pushed yourself?” It took months for me to really ask for help with Owen’s sleep. I thought that with baby 2, I should just know how to get him to be comforted and to sleep. Working full-time and having a toddler on top of a new baby was a new equation. When I finally really let David in to support me at night, we all started to sleep better. Yes, David woke up and yes he cradled Owen and rocked him as Owen screamed into David’s face for what felt like hours, but Owen learned to be supported by David and I learned to be supported by David and we learned that we are WAY stronger when we work together than when we think “we got this” alone.

The class ended with Charlotte talking about courage. She had us working our way up a hill and adding more and more support to the bike when she said, “Are you giving it all you got? What would happen if you didn’t hold back? Maybe you would fall but you would learn something. You would learn how strong you are and how strong you can be!” Owen is working on walking. He fearlessly let’s go of the coffee table and takes a few steps. He falls a lot, he smashes his face sometimes on that table, but he smiles and tries again and again and he is getting better. You can see his balance improving, his steps becoming more confident, and his legs getting stronger. He is one courageous little dude. And sometimes we have to remember to take those steps too in life. To get out of our comfort zone. To give ourselves permission to try and to be courageous enough to get back into that saddle!