Category Archives: Courage

Learning to Speak

skates on ice

I find words to be clunky and imprecise. To communicate in words we first have to define a feeling then match it to a label that may or may not adequately express that feeling. Then we have to string those words together into some sort of cohesive and articulate sentence. It’s grueling.

Dance/figure skating bypasses all of that; you can take a feeling and go straight to expressing it through movement. For me, it feels much more sincere and authentic.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve listened to music and choreographed movement in my head. That’s how I feel the music and it’s how I express the words that my mouth struggles to form.

Watching figure skating on TV when I was younger, I was mesmerized. It was like flipping through channels in a foreign language and finally finding one that I could understand – I longed to find the courage to learn to speak it.

I took a few lessons as a kid but lacked the tenacity to stick with it and decided instead to stay with dance classes where I could trust my feet to stay, at least pretty much, where I put them.

Still, figure skating has always stirred my soul and I’ve loved to watch others soar on the ice with a fearlessness that I never quite mastered.

Over the spring, in honor of new beginnings, I decided to go back to the ice and as an adult, waaay past my prime, finally learn to ice skate.

And it has been everything. In so many ways learning to skate has been a metaphor for all of the things that I’ve been working to improve in my life.

Taking risks, letting go. Falling down & getting back up, again and again. Balance and centering.

Watch a professional figure skater on the ice and they look like they are flying, as if gravity isn’t even a factor. But, it’s exceptionally important to be in touch with the feel of your weight on the blades and the feeling of your blades on the ice. It turns out that you have to be well grounded in order to be able to fly.

Edge work, getting past the fear of going too fast, mindfulness & focusing on the moment. All of these things are integral to learning to skate and just as integral to my learning how to live my life in the way that I want to live it.

I can’t say yet that I’m fluent in this language that I’ve yearned for so long to speak but I’ve picked up some key words and phrases and intend to stick with it until I can recite an elegant sonnet.

And in the process I might just find the voice to sing the song written in my soul.

Advertisements

Tiggers are made for bouncing

 

tigger10

I sat on the crowded bleachers overlooking the floor at our local gymnastics center, leaning forward and cricking my neck so I could keep an eye on my little dude, one of 5 boys in the beginning gymnastics class and one of about 40 kids down on the floor at the time.

I marveled for a moment that we were even there, in such a large place which was completely unfamiliar to him. The concrete building echoed with the noise of so many kids practicing all at once, and although the chaos was organized, it was still busy and loud. At one time it would’ve been overwhelming for him to even be in the building, let alone willingly and happily participating by himself in a class.

He told me the night before how scared he was to go but when the time came and the instructors gathered up their classes he excitedly followed the rest of the boys into the gym, bobbing along with his goofy, enthusiastic bounce-walk.

A preschool teacher once described him as always having a “spring in his step and a song in his heart”. In taekwondo they told him to stand still and stop bouncing. Those are two things that my little guy just doesn’t do.

Twice a week for two years we shuffled off to taekwondo. We thought it would be good for him, help him to focus and burn some energy. And, he wanted to be a ninja.

But his mind was always somewhere else and he rather quickly lost his enthusiasm and got bored with it. Eventually I realized that the only reason we were still going was because I was insisting on it, which seemed silly, especially because I had started to dread going as well.

I had stopped watching him in class at taekwondo.  When I did I felt like I had to explain to other parents about his delayed motor skills and sensory processing challenges that make it hard for him to pay attention and learn and control his body like other kids. Then I would feel guilty for feeling embarrassed and I’d come down hard on myself for it.

Taekwondo felt like trying to contort him into a shape that his soul was never meant to take. Why force my joyful, silly, fun-loving, march-to-his-own-beat, little man to stop bouncing? So instead we decided on gymnastics where we could put a spring-board beneath his feet and see how high he could soar.

Also, he still wants to be a ninja and learn to do back-flips off of walls.

Watching him down on the mat, practicing cartwheels, my heart fluttered with love and pride. Not because he was nailing them but because he wasn’t yet he kept trying, one after another, after another. I was proud of him for being him, for being there, for showing up and for trying even though it was hard. I reveled in his enthusiasm and how incredibly hard he works at even the smallest things that most of us take for granted.

And then he landed one, his face beaming with excitement and accomplishment and l wanted to stand-up and cheer – it was as if he had just stuck a perfect landing in an Olympic moment- because for him, it was that big.

After class he asked me, “Mom, did you see me do that cartwheel!?”

I told him, “I sure did baby, and I loved watching you!”

~“Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs.”

Muchly inspired by this post from the ever-wise Rachel Macy Stafford. ❤

 

 

 


Be Brave

Image

Quote from Katherine Center

Lately I’ve found myself drawn to the stories of others who have lived their lives with courage and authenticity. Those who have dared to live out loud and speak their truths or challenge notions or reach heights and do things that most of us would be too afraid to do.

I’ve never thought of myself as brave. I’ve never been a trailblazer or a risk taker. I’ve never quite had the confidence to draw that much attention to myself.

As a kid I somehow picked up the story that I wasn’t good enough and that’s a tragic little plot line that tends to end a good tale long before it even begins.

I don’t want to draw the wrong picture though. I didn’t suffer a bad childhood. I come from loving parents who have both always done everything in their power to support me. This wasn’t a line that they told me. If it came from them at all it was something they transferred to me unconsciously. Perhaps it’s a story that they were told, or that their parents were told.

Perhaps I got it up from other kids, or from a teacher somewhere along the line.

Who knows how these things get started or how many generations they get handed down.  I do know though that I don’t want it to be my legacy and I don’t want to pass it on to my children.

It doesn’t matter where I picked this story up; I’m not looking for blame. Tracing the origins is a game I play merely out of curiosity. What matters is that I believed it. I bought it and breathed it and lived it.

I can’t recall a specific event more than another. But I do recall a pervasive feeling, throughout my entire childhood, that I wasn’t as smart as other kids, or as good at sports (or anything else), or as talented, or as funny. I always had this sense that everyone else knew something that I didn’t or that they understood something that I didn’t understand.

It’s only as an adult that I’ve started to realize how misguided those perceptions were. I look back over my life and can see all the times that I got in my own way by not believing in myself and selling myself short. Decades of opportunities cast aside in doubt and fear.

The great part about a story though is that it can be rewritten. We can end them. We can begin again and start fresh on a blank page. I refuse to end mine with I could have, should have or would have… I want to look back and say, “I did.”  As long as I have pages left in my book I am determined to fill them with new stories about opportunities seized, connections made, and moments lived to their fullest.

I want to be brave and I want to inspire courage in my children. I want them to take risks, to have crazy wild dreams that they chase because no one ever told them that they couldn’t do it. I want them to grow up believing a story about how they could be whatever they want to be.  I want them to always know that they are good enough.

From this day forward I want to dare to dream, and then go make it happen.

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live, maybe one of these days you can let the light in…show me how big your brave is” ~Sara Bareilles


Beauty and the Beast (Part II)


lotusflower

Continued from Beauty and the Beast (Part I)

Less than 12 hours after giving birth to my beautiful baby girl we were back at home and I was so grateful and relieved. I felt immensely blessed to have this sweet little being who insisted on sleeping in a bundle on my chest.

Yet underneath it all there was a familiar and unwelcome feeling. Like the evil fairy that we “forgot” to invite to the party. It surfaced as a tightness that constricted my breathing and felt like a giant lump in my throat. I forced myself to swallow hard and I tried to push it away but it had taken root and the more that I stuffed it down and tried to ignore it the bigger and more powerful it became.

It was fear. Fear that I wouldn’t be able to love both of my children the way that they deserved to be loved. Fear that I would fail one or the both of them. Fear that I wasn’t patient enough or kind enough or resourceful enough. Fear that in the end, I wasn’t enough.

The insomnia returned and sleep deprivation made me weepy and detached. I was anxious and irritable and all of these things only reinforced my personal myth of failure and unworthiness.

My little girl was only happy when I held her or carried her so I wore her in a carrier constantly. This was supposed to be calming for both of us but instead of being this beautiful bonding activity it made me feel over-touched and over-taxed. I felt like I was suffocating or drowning, I needed to breathe but couldn’t get any air.

Then the guilt of wanting to get away from my baby weighed me down even more. My older boy, not much more than a baby himself clung to me more than ever, he needed reinforcement of my love, reassurance that everything was okay. I worried that my connection with him would suffer so I did everything that I could possibly do to maintain his routines and to continue to be there for him. But in all of my caring for my children I completely neglected to care for myself and suffered for it.

The fear and the guilt led to panic attacks. At my best I was tense and anxious and worried, at my worst I was afraid to leave the house. It got to the point that even going as far as the backyard was a panic inducing event.

When my daughter was 4 months old, my grandmother, my mom’s mom, passed away and I was unable to go to the memorial service. I could barely make it to the mailbox so getting on an airplane was a feat beyond comprehension. I was so devastated by not being able to go that I finally broke down and sought help.

It took 30 months. Two and a half years of living with some degree of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety before I finally reached out and said, “I need help.”

I had been stubborn but mostly I had been deeply ashamed.  It was like admitting that all of my fears were true. Admitting that I needed help felt like a confirmation, “I’m not good enough.” The truth is though that asking for help when you need it isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s an act of strength and courage. Getting help didn’t mean that I wasn’t good enough, it meant that I was good enough.

At first I didn’t want to take medication but I felt like I was falling down a dark and scary chasm and I needed a way to find my footing so I reversed my long-held belief about not taking meds and agreed to start on anti-depressants.

I hated taking them yet in many ways I feel that I owe my life to them. They provided me with a net. They caught me in my fall.

I didn’t feel like me again yet but I was finally able to get my feet back under me. I sought counseling; I improved my nutrition and started on a variety of different vitamins. I started doing yoga again and learned to meditate.  Then I started weaning back off of the medication. It was hard. One of the hardest things that I’ve ever done but I wanted to be me again, I wanted to feel again. I wanted to let the pain back in, to feel it and let it wash over me and know that it was okay. I was okay.

By my daughter’s 2nd Birthday I was completely off of  medication and celebrated my birth as much as hers.

I wasn’t perfect. I was messy and raw and some days were definitely better than others.  I discovered that it’s okay to be a beautiful mess. I learned that I was both the beauty and the beast and neither needed to win or defeat the other. I embraced both aspects of myself and learned true self-love.

Note:

I am publishing this story on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, in solidarity with the brave warriors at Postpartum Progress as they climb out of the darkness from shame to pride.

In the courageous words of Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery, to all of those celebrating having overcome postpartum depression or anxiety or any other profound personal struggle and to all of those still fighting to overcome whatever battle it is that you fight, “carry on warrior!”

By the way, if you haven’t seen Glennon’s  Ted Talk about coming out of hiding to tell the truth about being a messy, honest, fully human being, it is so worth your time! 


Putting myself out there

I’ve been meaning to write more often but I find that the pressure that I put on myself to “be creative” rather nips my creativity in the bud long before it has a chance to bloom. Here I am blogging about imperfection and yet I agonize over every post that I make wondering if it’s good enough!

I can come up with a whole list of excuses as to why I haven’t been more active with this whole blogging thing but honestly I think it really only comes down to one thing: courage.

I love to write, in my younger years I scribbled out spiral notebooks packed full of pouty poetry and journals teeming with teenage angst. When I was dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of my kids, writing helped me sort out my feelings and ultimately led me in the direction of seeking the help that I needed to get better. Writing is a therapeutic outlet that helps me to keep my head on straight and well, I rather like myself with a straight-ish head. I’m much more useful that way.

But here’s my conundrum.  Blogging is just so…public. It scares the crap out of me because I’m an introverted private sort of person and also because I’m terribly thin skinned. Inevitably when you stick your head up, someone is going to throw a tomato at it and I really don’t want to be hit in the face with metaphorical flying fruit. Truly, I take criticism very hard and so I have a difficult time “putting myself out there” particularly when “out there” is the blog-o-sphere where any asshole with internet access can…well…be an asshole.

My other option is to write for just me and not publish it to a blog, but writing is about storytelling and stories are best when shared. Even when just writing stream-of-consciousness style to wrap your head around something, half the beauty of having one of those “A-HA!” moments is sharing it with someone. Especially because it might lead to a similar “A-HA!” moment for them too and then, “Yay!” the world is a slightly brighter place! Also, it’s helpful to have feedback from others when you’re grappling to understand something and the internet is full of people who have been wherever it is that you are and can help guide you through.

So there it is, I can either not write at all which is what I’ve been doing as a means of completely avoiding the whole thing, I can write for myself but ultimately that just seems so, unfulfilling. Or I can be brave and open myself up for public berating but also open myself up to an amazing opportunity.

This post being in existence obviously means that I went with the whole opening myself up and being vulnerable bit or that at least I’m going to give it a go. Going for the go. Here I go. Yep.

I’m going to try to post to this blog now on some sort of regular basis, hopefully monthly. That seems a modest and reachable goal.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

~Maya Angelou

 


What makes you special?

I’m so proud of this little guy and I don’t even know him! This is courage. Standing up and speaking out about his condition, advocating for himself…if only we all had such strength and bravery.

He’s only in the 4th grade and understands something that many of us do not, that it’s okay to be different. I love that he embraces his Asperger’s syndrome and recognizes it not as a handicap but as a gift.

I came across this video at the perfect time.

This morning I dropped my son off at Kindergarten and, as I usually do, stood and watched him as he and his classmates ran around the schoolyard prior to going inside.

The other kids played tag and chased each other back and forth. My son did his own thing. He threw himself down in the gravel repeatedly, rolling around and laughing with his little sister. Occasionally he would turn around and watch as a classmate ran by, once or twice he tagged along behind one of them for a moment, not really engaging in their play, then he would split off and go back to the gravel.

At one point a girl came up to him and stood there watching him. Rather than saying “hi” or making some other form of civilized conversation he spit gravel out of his mouth, spittle running down his chin, laughed, did a silly dance, and threw himself back down into the gravel. The girl shrugged and ran off to play with the other kids.

Determined not to hover or intervene I watched from a distance with my heart in my tummy and a lump in my throat. Every fiber of my being wanted to go over to him, wipe the drool from his chin, tell him to stop playing in the gravel and coach him on how to play ‘appropriately’ with his classmates. But I knew that would only undermine his confidence and bring even more attention to his differences.  So I stood with my feet planted and I quietly wilted inside.

I came home feeling depressed and defeated. I had visions in my head of him going through school as an outcast, being made fun of by other kids who don’t understand him, not being invited to birthday parties and being the last one picked for games in gym class.

My heart ached for my sweet boy who doesn’t fit in. I determined that I needed to find him some social skills classes and get him involved in some activities at the recreation center.

Then Hartley Steiner of Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys posted the above video on her facebook page.

This little boy reminded me that the things that make us different also make us special and helped me to realize that I shouldn’t try to squash them out of my son in order to fit him into a mold to be like other children. Why in the world would I want him to be just like everyone else anyway!? After all, isn’t it the imperfections that make us beautiful? How can I celebrate a crack in a vase but not celebrate my son for his Sensory Processing Disorder? Sure, he may never fit in but I would much rather him stand out – no, stand UP and proudly proclaim that YES he is imperfect and that’s a good thing.

I will continue to advocate for him and help him build the skills that he needs to get by in the world but I believe that it’s now time for me to also teach him how to advocate for himself and to be proud of himself and own his limitations so they don’t end up owning him.

So ask yourself, what makes you special?

“There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.” ~ Leonard Cohen