Posted in gardening, hope, meandering

New year’s should be in spring

We put in some fruit trees about a month ago. They were mostly bare at the time but are starting to flower, grow leaves, grow branches.

The growth is wonderful!

So much joy in the greens and pinks!

So much hope for fresh fruit straight from the back yard!

(So many exclamation points!)

It seems to me that spring, the season of new beginnings, should be when the new year begins, when we decide to renew ourselves.

If you skip all that BS in January, maybe consider it now. Beginning with a resolution to get outside more. (Pending weather in your area.) It’s invigorating and wonderful!

Posted in about me, hope, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

I don’t know what happens to healthy people

I have no role model in my family to show me what life looks like as an aging healthy person. I don’t know what life expectancy is.

I know one of my great-grandmothers lived to somewhere around 100 (she edited her birth certificate when she immigrated here so she could get work, so we’re not totally sure of her actual age).

I knew, to some extent, all four of my great-grandmothers, though three of them died when I was young. I don’t know how old they were. Their lives were so much different than ours, but at least I know there’s a bit of longevity in the gene pool somewhere.

And then you get into the people I knew.

There are no people in my parents’ or grandparents’ generations who kept themselves healthy.

“Vegetables” usually meant potatoes, corn, sometimes succotash. I don’t remember ever eating a salad unless it came with a meal in a restaurant.

Limited vegetables, but unlimited refined carbs (bread, cereal, pasta, white rice) and multiple servings of sugar daily (cereal, dessert with lunch, snacks, dessert with dinner, soda, other sweetened drinks).

Both grandfathers and one aunt smoked. Both grandfathers died of smoking-related cancers; my aunt died of a heart attack in her sleep in her 40s.

Everyone was relatively sedentary. One grandma never learned to drive and so did a lot of walking. When her vision started to go, she got rides to do her errands and didn’t walk any more. Her heart stopped before she was 80.

My dad played basketball and softball when I was a kid but stopped before I got to high school. We took family bike rides when I was a kid but those ended, too. He occasionally rides his bike in the summer and often takes the dog for a daily walk but that’s all.

Everyone was/is obese.

My dad’s side has the heart problems. Meds, stents, death.

My mom’s side has the auto-immune disorders and lifestyle-related health problems. Lupus, MS, Type 2 diabetes. Breast and ovarian cancers thrown in for good measure.

No one is healthy. No one has good energy. No one can go out and do stuff. And the ones who are alive aren’t that old. None have lived to be 80 (though my grandma’s twin sister is well into her 90s).

So I don’t know what happens in my gene pool when someone takes care of themselves.

Now … I’ve had cancer and treatment for it, which is a huge detriment. More than that, I’ve had chronic stress (like so many of us) and had depression on some level most of the time since adolescence. I grew up overweight and sedentary, eating Pop Tarts and Apple Jacks for breakfast, having ice cream or cookies or both for dessert after lunch and dinner. A diet of meat, bread, and sugar.

While I’ve substantially changed that, my formative years were unhealthy. That takes a toll.

So I know I’m not going to be the model for good health. But I hope I can still do better than the paths I see forged ahead of me.

According to my mom, diet has nothing to do with weight—weight gain comes from not having enough time to exercise.

My dad didn’t get a fire lit under his butt by his sister’s death, his mom’s death, his stent put in.

I’m fortunate to be an apple that did roll from the tree. I recognize that I have a huge part in how well my body works, and whether that gives me extra years or “just” lets me be active in the years I’ve got, it’s worth it.

Spending the time and energy to eat well, spending the time and energy to exercise regularly, to get enough sleep (I’m still not the best at this, but improving), to manage stress (I’m still terrible at this but working on it) are worth it.

Because I see my path without it, and I choose to Robert Frost it and take the path less travelled by.

 

Posted in about me, hope, know better do better, mental health, parenting, vulnerability

“Michael would be proud.”

That’s what I wrote on Facebook eight years ago.

I had traveled to NJ to present at a conference. (I love doing that!! Public speaking is fun scary.)

I had spent several sessions with Michael, my therapist, working on a scripted conversation with my mom. (This is several years after starting with him.) To put it mildly, she and I had never had a good relationship (“You’ve been a problem since you were in kindergarten!”), and this conversation was intended to try to set boundaries — both for her (“I feel disrespected”) and for myself (not accepting the invitation to the argument—keeping myself within my boundaries and not blowing up).

I told him the conversation was unlikely to last as long as two minutes.

I was right.

But I maintained my boundaries, stayed calm, didn’t accept the invitation to the argument.

It ended with her stomping up the stairs and slamming her bedroom door.

We’ve had very few conversations since then. None in the last several years.

I can’t explain to you how much it hurts to be rejected by your mom, to be told explicitly that you are decidedly not OK as you are, especially repeatedly, especially as a child. (Tears welled just seeing the post pop up in my “memories.” I remember that small chunk of that evening well. Because even though I knew how it was going to go, there’s always that little bit of hope…)

I can’t quantify all the little places that this comes out sideways.

I can’t fully explain the combination of shame and defensiveness that washes over me when someone says that hurts done to us when we’re children have no effect (or should not be blamed) for how we act as adults.

Are we responsible for our actions? Yes.

Are we unaffected by everything that has happened to us? Absolutely not.

I’m better than I was when I wrote that post eight years ago. I’m better than I was when I started this blog six-ish months ago.

Why?

Therapy. Lots of it. Intentionally ripping open old wounds and helping them to heal properly. Like breaking a bone so it mends itself the way it should.

Intentionality. Being aware of how I’m reacting, why I’m reacting, and working my ass off to fix it. Finding home in “it’s not me, it’s you” in situations where 1-that’s true and 2-I can’t get out of it.

Patience and love from close friends who maybe understand that when interpersonal relationships go wrong, it affects me in a way that seems to be abnormally intense.

(Or maybe they just chalk it up to “That’s Heat.” Either way, patience and love.)

Patience and love from close friends who maybe understand that friendships are more important to me than they seem to be to those with a solid root system.

It’s one of my top life priorities to be a good mom, to do better for The Kid than my mom did for me. For him to know that no matter how many times he leaves his Legos and backpack and socks laying around or how well he runs his races or what grades he gets on his report card or what activities he wants to participate in or how much I like or don’t like his dating partners, he is loved and I am a safe place for him to be.

I am especially mindful to tell him that I love him, that I’m lucky to be his mama when I’m angry. Or when he’s sad. (Or both.) We snuggle and talk when he’s upset. You are loved, just as you are. Even when you don’t feel lovable. Especially when you don’t feel lovable.

I might not like your actions, and we might need to work on changing them, but I love you regardless.

Working through all of my baggage is a lifelong journey (I assume, at this point). I am constantly handed new situations in which I can learn to make myself better, healthier.

Honestly, I’m tired of them. (“Builds character.” I have enough character, thanks.)

Honestly, I get angry sometimes that more people don’t do the same. (If nothing else, I wouldn’t have to work so hard if other people would pick up their share of the work.)

My request to you, if you have children: be a safe place for them to be. Own your baggage. Don’t take it out on them. It’s hard to own some of the stuff that’s in us, some of the ways we’ve acted as a result. It’s easy to blame the kid. But ignoring or deferring just perpetuates it.

And your friends who had traumatic childhoods? Give them some extra love. They might still be running a deficit.

Posted in ebb & flow, hope

Everyone is tired

The political climate is sucking the life energy out of us.

There is too much to fight to be able to do it all.

There is too much going on even to stay on top of it all.

There are too many giant steps backwards, undoing decades of work.

There are too many people whose humanity we’ve forgotten or have further degraded.

But on a personal level, as a person who is not immediately impacted by any of it (see: privilege), it’s impacting: people are tired.

Not tired from being too busy—that’s always been a variable.

Tired from all the stuff.

Tired in that “I need an evening to myself” kind of way, but it’s now a relentless fatigue, even with quiet time or fun time or whatever time built in.

People are in touch less. Harder to talk with, even just about day-to-day stuff. Harder to get together with.

I don’t have an actionable solution.

I don’t know how to shift energy expenditure.

I don’t know how to spend the day at work and have energy when I get home, how to give to work what I end up giving to family.

(I’m saying “I” but it’s not just me—I’ve had this conversation with at least half a dozen people—initiated by them—in the last two months.)

I don’t know how to be aware of what’s going on in my country, my state, my town, my school district, my and my son’s schools without it draining energy at every level.

I want to talk to people about health, about diet and exercise and nasty chemicals in common household items, about raising kids to be mentally healthy (to the extent that we guide that), about cooking and playing and painting and writing and on and on and on…

…but who has energy left to examine their habits, much less change them, when it takes all the energy just to make it through the day?

How do we fix this, friends? How do we reclaim our energy and connect with the people around us?

Posted in hope, motivation, tips

Resolutions?

Please, if you are going to make the effort to make a New Year’s resolution, please take some steps to make it more likely to be successful.

(If you have no intention of keeping it, don’t bother making it.)

Some steps:

Make it something in your control: “The garage will get cleaned out,” when what you mean is, “My spouse will clean out the garage.” Make it something you are going to do.

Make it one thing. You can’t focus on three or four or five things at a time.

Make it realistic. If you’re not already in pretty good shape, you’re not going to run a marathon every month.

Make it concrete. “I want to be healthier” is vague and can mean a lot of things. Weight? Sleep? Stress? Food? Drink? Interpersonal interaction? Mental health? Exercise?

Make it actionable. “I am going to cut dessert down to once a month and go to the gym three times each week” is more useful than “I’m going to lose weight.”

Put it on paper. Make a chart or use a notebook (or the electronic versions thereof). Write it down. Put it where you will see it every day.

And if you start to avoid the paper… figure out why. What guilt or shame is stopping you from actually doing this thing? It is something that someone else wanted for you? Is it tied to so much emotional baggage that changing this thing unleashes a cascade of other issues? (For example… I heard a bit on a podcast a few weeks ago where women in one particular study lost a substantial amount of weight and gained it back because they were getting male attention that they didn’t want; they liked the invisibility of being heavy.)