Saturday, 27 July 2013

You Are Loved

Fifty times I traced the heart. Fifty times I cut along the lines. Fifty times I wrote the words, “You are loved.” Sometimes writing, “YOU are loved.” Sometimes, “You ARE loved.” Sometimes, “You are LOVED.” Over and over again I wrote the words like a benediction. Each one a blessing on the one who would receive it. Each time stamping a belief in the truth of the statement on my own heart. 

A week ago my sweet husband announced that I had an appointment with my friend Jess to go shopping. With a budget that I had to spend. To buy new clothes. So naturally...I panicked. Seriously. Why wasn’t immediately clear even to me. It’s been a long week. One that brought to the surface questions and realizations that have been a long time coming.

Like the realization that I don’t even know what I like to wear. I somehow missed that phase of life. Perhaps because I married and had kiddos so early in my 20s and was dead broke for the period of time that many women evaluate their likes and dislikes, their no-thank-you’s and must-haves, their favorite places to budget shop and their go-ahead-and-splurge places, etc. I never did that. My closet included mostly stuff that was either handed-down from my fashionista sister or happened to be on the clearance rack at Gap. Which isn’t even my favorite store.

There was also the realization that my closet was almost completely full of items for me to “fit in to.” This is I think what prompted Wanderer to call Jess. He was taking me on a date. A dressy one. Which I was stoked about. Except that I wasn’t. Because I had nothing to wear. He was gently incredulous. I have a full closet. How could it contain nothing for me to wear? He brought me in and I pulled things out. I had cute dressy clothes. A little black dress. A fun funky top and black pants. Except--like nearly every single item in my closet--none of them fit me. “How long have these not fit you, love?” he asked me. “Hmmm...,” I had to think about it. “Since before I got pregnant with Littlest” I answered sheepishly. “Love,” he was ever so kind. “That was FOUR years ago.” 

The problems with this were many. Why was I willing to buy clothes for every other member of our family when they outgrew things or wore things out? Why hadn’t I updated things here and there? The biggest question of all though was this: Why was I unwilling to buy things in my current size? My waiting to do so drawing out into multiple YEARS because I could not accept the size that I currently was/am? 

Many women, doula clients, and friends have heard my love and genuine enthusiasm as we discussed how birth and years passing and gravity itself change their bodies. How they must learn to enjoy what their bodies become. Feel comfortable in their skin--THIS skin. This right-now skin. Own their loveliness and lovable-ness and see that they have worth beyond measure. See the beauty in the marks the journey leaves on them. Except apparently not MY right-now skin. Not my journey’s marks. Not my loveliness and lovable-ness.

I could believe in the beauty and worth of all the other women in my life. Why couldn’t I love my own body for what it was?  A strong, warrior body that had housed, birthed, and breast-fed three, BIG strong baby boys. Boys whose sojourn has left my body soft and marked. Boys who themselves have no problem honoring it. 

In fact just in the last few weeks both of my younger boys have made sweet remarks of love for my body and its current shape--not the one I should or will or wish I had. Middlest said recently after asking if he could snuggle me and “lay on my belly” (even though he’s nearly too big to do so) “I love to lay on your belly. You’re so soft.” Littlest stood before Wanderer and I recently when we were watching a movie. His daddy offered to let him sit in his lap. “No, Daddy. I want to sit with Mama because she’s SO soft.” Not my skin. Or the soft T-shirt I was wearing. My body. Snuggled up against the curves and rolls that made my lap so soft and comfy to him. This body. This one. Today. 

This is a body I couldn’t bear. I said words to myself like “fat” and “out-of-shape” and “just needs to lose a bit more weight.” So I didn’t buy clothes for this body. I just daily looked at the clothes I wished fit and morning after morning, for the three years since Littlest was born I have reprimanded myself for not fitting into the clothes contained in my closet. 

I spent the week thinking and talking and crying about all of this. I shed a lot of tears. Which is good because I haven’t been crying much lately (which is a whole other blog). I cried body-image tears, not-feeling-comfortable-in-my-own-skin tears, lonely-for-my-close-girlfriends-who-are-so-far-away tears. I just cried. I realized lots of stuff. That I’m not kind to myself. That moving across the world so much has been awesome but has really taken its toll on my body and my spirit. That I’ve lost a great deal of “me” along the way and that clothes aren’t the only area where I feel a little lost and a little unsure. I cried for my lost sense of purpose and focus and how hugely that contributes to my being uncomfortable and feeling unsafe in my own skin. I cried for the sorry I felt to other women who I want to love their own bodies and selves so much and to whom my own unwillingness to love my own self is actually a type of betrayal. 

Oh man. How could a shopping trip bring up such deep crap and pain?!? After all that crying and talking and praying I hoped I’d have it sorted, you know? That through the tears I’d wake up Tuesday morning and I’d love my body and I’d have had some sort of catharsis and be fine. Except I don’t want to be “fine.” I want to be ever so much more than “fine.” 

So I took a leap of faith. I went shopping with Jess on Tuesday anyway. I chose to say, “I love you” to the body I live in right this minute and buy it--and buy ME--some cute right-now clothes. Not clothes for the interim. Not a few things hastily bought until I “lose the rest of this weight.” Clothes. Clothes that fit. Right. Now. Holy cow. It was HARD. Hard to spend money on me. Hard because I wasn’t sure exactly what I liked. Hard because I had to try real hard to love the image in the mirror every time I put on a new item of clothing. Oy vey. When you shop--you have to look in mirrors and SEE what is really there. 

Guess what though? It was fun. Jess was super helpful. She took me to fun shops. She helped me pick out clothes in my right-now size. I actually look kind of cute when I wear my right-now size! Jeans that fit look ever so much better than tight I-wish-they-fit jeans or loose I-kept-these-to-wear-after-pregnancy jeans. Shirts that fit! A little fabulous flattering jacket. A pair of everyday flats--as opposed to the duct-taped Birkenstock sandals that I’ve worn nearly every day for about a year. 

Then...THEN?!?! Then I wore the clothes! Cause that’s the other thing I suck at. Not wanting to just return them all the second they’re bought. Or leave the tags on just in case miraculously a lose a zillion pounds in five minutes and they end up being too big.

The craziest thing happened you guys. Get this--somehow not being defeated by the first decision of the day--What should I wear?--it has totally helped. Going in and taking something that fits and that I feel cute in out of the closet and wearing it--it has helped me feel more cheerful about my days. I have even put mascara on every day this week to go with my cute clothes! Having that decision sorted has made me more able to live my day in a purposeful way. It has made me a little more confident in myself. A little more able to feel...well, ME. In a good way. In a way that even flowed out to those around me this week.

Like when on Friday I took Jess shopping--to the Farmer’s Market. I’m much more in my element there. I pointed out the good produce. I explained the benefits of sourdough bread on our digestion. I took her to the good free range butcher and delighted as the dairy-lady explained to us how much better the un-homogenized milk is for our guts. I suggested gluten and grain-free, kid-friendly packed lunch ideas. We talked about ways this thing that I am passionate about--healthy eating for our families--is part of my passion and therefore my purpose. It was fantastic. I was paying it forward to Jess who paid it forward to me. I was less distracted. I felt like I was carrying less pain. Not because I bought new jeans--though that was part of it. No, because I’d said, “I love you” to myself for the first time in a long time.

So I suppose when my assignment for our Sunday night church gathering came through on Thursday night I shouldn’t have been surprised. My job was to make 40-50 hearts with the phrase “You are loved” printed on them. Yeah. I know, right?

I also suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Anne Lamott posted these words as part of her Facebook status on Friday morning (read the whole thing here it’s so good):

I would tell people that no matter how awful their thoughts and behavior, God HAS to love them--that's His job. And I am Exhibit A--God has to love me, and this is not my fault. I didn't trick Him or Her, or hide the grossest stuff. God just loves; period. Go figure. It's a great system. 

She says in that status that we are loved and chosen. I am loved and chosen. Me. And this is the thing--I believed her. Not a lot. But I did believe her a little. For the first time in a long time. Maybe for the first time ever.

This morning I got out watercolor paper and paints and painted--something I have in the past done only in moments of self love and self exploration and something that I haven’t done at all for over three and half years. I painted. I painted color. I painted hearts. Then when I really got going I even painted words. Words like, “lovely” and “beautiful” and “chosen” and “worthy.” Then I traced 50 hearts on the painted paper. I cut around the hearts fifty times. I borrowed pens bought by my sweet friend Alex--realizing as I wrote that she is also a friend who reflects back to me that I am loved and valued. Fifty times I wrote, “You are loved.” Fifty times I prayed those words as a benediction over the person who would receive the card on Sunday evening. Hoping that when the person picked up that heart and read those words they would believe what the words said. Fifty times over realizing that I couldn’t very well pray that, believe that, for someone else and not believe it for myself. Fifty times in a row. Over and over for a couple of hours I painted, traced, cut out, wrote, read, and chose to believe the words, “You are loved.” 

“Hey Cori, YOU are loved. You ARE loved. You are LOVED.” 

And so are YOU. For reals.  

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bus Stop Dementors

Surely Dark Chocolate Toblerone would ward off the dementors we both were no doubt battling. I know the icy chill had gone to my heart when Alex called from the school. Middlest was at a preschool, across the Roseville Bridge and several kilometers from his school bus stop. He didn’t cry on the phone, and Pippi the preschool headmistress was so sweet, but gee whiz. He’s only 8!

Not one to wallow he had set himself to making paper airplanes from the book Pippi had lent him. He had a pretty good stack going by the time I arrived. I wanted to swallow him in a mama bear hug, but I restrained myself and honored his manhood while he completed the final airplane in his fleet. Cocooned in the back seat of the car together he allowed me a hug and told me his story. 

Apparently when he had realized he’d missed his stop he’d alerted the bus driver who had explained he couldn’t stop the bus in the middle of the bridge. “I crossed the street to the other bus stop--a girl helped me--and I looked at the bus schedule just like you showed me, but there was no 136! Only a 280! and then I didn’t know what to do!” Then finally some tears and he let me snuggle him up. He’d kept his head though. “I remembered our routine, Mom.” When he couldn’t find a policeman he found a parent with a child and asked for help. They took him to the preschool, who found the name of his school, who called me, who brought chocolate, and snuggles. 

Sometimes I think they’re not listening, but they are. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Sifting Sand

I stood on two sandcastles today. Don’t get the wrong idea. I did not go down the beach with a maniacal “Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!” destroying children’s creations. We were there after hours. After all of the castle creators except my own had gone home. There were only some training lifesavers re-enacted their emergencies. An older couple with hip 1970’s attire batting a ball back and forth with beautiful teak ping pong meets badminton paddles. A couple of joggers--a young man tall and skinny and an old man short and hugely muscular. A hard bodied woman trainer in her pink “Bring It” shirt and her sweaty recruit looking like she wanted to beg for mercy. A mom not much older than me stopping to collect her not-much-older-than-mine sons. Flagging them down in the surf, arms waiving above her head, shaking her head as the older one signed “One more” several times then disregarded her head shaking and paddled back into the surf. She didn’t seem annoyed. Her boys were only maybe a year older than mine. Tan. Long haired. Well worn wet suits. Such a good microcosm of Australian life. 

The beach was quiet but the water was full of surfers. Waiting all in a line. They look a bit like ducks when you watch from the shore. Mine were in the water too. Not quite as far out as the experts. Managing their unwieldy styro boards. They stood up a few times. Huge grins on their faces. Then came in and spent the rest of the time jumping off sand dunes and covering themselves in sand. Wanderer and the Littlest played in the surf. Hilariously cute in their matching wetsuits.

I was too cold to brave the water. So I walked along instead. Picking up seashells. Watching seagulls. Glad to be free of the house--which was Wanderer’s point in bringing us here so close to bedtime of course. Tears put aside for a few minutes. The frustration and anger with inflexible landlords. Negligent management companies. Frustrating exchanges. Written and re-written then tweaked and re-written again emails trying to be firm, but not put anyone off. A seventh week gone by with a dysfunctional oven. Kind of an important feature when you can’t eat anything from packages and cook nearly every meal at home. A nagging feeling that originates from old wounds of being trapped, of not having a home.

Near the rockpools at the edge of the beach I spotted the sandcastle. Already partially reclaimed by the tide its ramparts were softened, towers brought down to size. So I stood on it. Feeling strangely connected to this soft and slowly disintegrating piece of art on the sand. I was a small island raised slightly above the waves as they rolled in. The clear truth of ‘what’s wrong’ hitting me somewhere near the lump in my throat, the tears just behind my eyeballs. 

Lately my homes feel much like sandcastles. There is the joy of their creation. Hard work shared among our little close family. Friends invited to add bits here and there. The  chance to enjoy our handywork for a few fleeting moments, but knowing that the tide will come in soon. Not sure when or how quickly. It will come though. Sometimes gently and slowly washing away our work. Sometimes crashing in and taking it back all at once. Then on we go. Pack our things and move to the next space. Not too discouraged to attempt a new masterpiece, but perhaps making things a little smaller, a little less grand. Enjoying the feel of the new materials. The new view. But knowing that the waves will come and wash us away to another location. Wondering where it will be. Who will share the new adventure. How long we’ll sojourn there.

The waves have completely reclaimed my sandcastle island. I cry a bit. Then walk along until I find another one and enjoy the view from atop it until it too is reclaimed by the waves. 

Monday, 14 January 2013

more laundry therapy

Shorts and underwear, towels and tshirts, a few napkins and socks and miscellaneous items from the top of the counter. Whites and darks and reds and whatever was in the pile all getting thrown in together. Today I just couldn't be bothered. I just want it all clean. Done. Over with. So I threw everything in haphazardly, picked a nuetralish temperature and hit 'go' on the washing machine.

My dryer is sitting on my porch. As my sister will tell you--we're half redneck.
I suppose it shouldn't surprise me when metaphors arise--as they often do--out of the stack of laundry in my baskets. I spend a great deal of my life doing laundry after all. Sorting, inspecting, scrubbing, washing, moving around, folding, putting away, repeat. How could metaphors not arise?

I think sometimes I come off as too deep. I think too deeply. Feel too deeply. Talk about things that others maybe find a little too close, a little too deep to share or talk about. I'm kind of messy sometimes and I don't shy away from messes and well, I think some people it bugs and others it makes uncomfortable and it leaves me holding back a lot of the time. Not wanting to cross a line I'm not very good at seeing. It's hard in the "making friends" place for me. Maybe not everyone is a struggle-through type? I'm cool with that. But every once in a while I wish I was different. That I didn't find a lesson in the school run, or grocery shop, or the pile of laundry.

Like today when a laundry metaphor smacked me in the face. I just wanted to throw it all in and push a button and have it done. "It" you know? I want "it" done. The messy pile of stuff.

We're doing a cleanse of sorts. The Whole30. It's 30 days of totally clean, paleo eating. No grains. No sugar. No dairy. Just clean protein, loads of yummy veggies, and lots of good fats. It's actually going really well. Several annoying everyday symptoms passing by the wayside. I'm too holistic to expect that cleaning out the toxins in my body isn't going to kick up toxins in my heart, mind and soul though. Or the hearts, minds, and souls of my compadres on this journey--the fellas.

I expected it would happen. A cleanse with several weeks off together. With a first major holiday in a new country. With a visit from family from far away. With homesick boys and heartrending loneliness and loads of new adventures and the culture shock of beginning to get comfortable with location but not yet with culture. It's bound to kick stuff up, and it has. Old, yucky toxic crap that has clearly been making me deeply sick and exhausted. Other less entrenched stuff that has become just a frustrating nuisance. All of it piling up a bit in a big smelly mess. And today, I just want to throw it all in together. Just toss it in, push a button, give it an hour or so, and hope it comes out clean.

Except just like the laundry if I do that some stuff will shrink that needs to stay big. Colors will bleed or fade and won't be as vibrant. Things will be ruined. Things won't get properly cleaned and later on it'll just make for more work and more mess. So I'm trying to be brave and even a tiny bit organized. I'm trying to pluck up the courage and gumption to sort it. Inspect it. Scrub at pre-treat and wash away the toxins, move things around a bit, then put away what needs to be kept and learned and gleaned from the process. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat some more as long as necessary.

starting from scratch

I'm lonely. I don't know how else to describe this feeling. This emptiness. This sense of longing. It's not without hope or expectation, but still this loneliness is defeating as well. It's hard to be lonely.

Loneliness is a byproduct of a life lived the way we live. It's bound to happen when you move as much as we do--especially international moves where you're dealing with a new culture and not just a new place. We all feel it. Deep in our bones. It makes us a bit frantic sometimes. At least me and Biggest. Biggest and I get frantic. We want to call people and make playdates and we hope no one is mad and we want to invite everyone over all the time and we hope we'll do the right thing and they'll like us and we'll be 'friends.' But I'm not sure either he or I are all that realistic about what this means. "Friends." We try hard to lower our expectations but try as we might we know they're still so high.

Wanderer and I feel it too. A dance of close and yet far away. Only each other to talk to--really TALK to. So we share a lot. But it's difficult to be the others only sounding board. And so we say too much or not enough or the wrong thing and getting it wrong is a much bigger deal. There's no other substitute or surrogate so when we get it wrong then there's NO one to talk to about that and we're far away again. Sometimes we stay far away for while. Meandering and stumbling and blazing through our lives and feeling unsure when to try again. Interject. Reach out. Having only one person as your go-to for community is not very wise. Sex, parenting, friendship, laughter, just the inane talking that sometimes a girl like me needs to do. Only one person should never be expected to absorb all those things. The good news is I try very hard not to make him. The bad news is much of it gets kept inside. Words. Dreams. Thoughts. Questions. Hurts. Fears. Worries. Exultations. And somehow they get dulled inside. And sometimes they get sharper and all I know is that it feels very lonely to carry them around by myself. But I don't have anyone else to share them with yet. So. I feel ever so excruciatingly lonely.

I hate moving. I hate it almost as much as I love it. The exhilaration of a new city, country, continent full of new adventures in direct proportion to the heartache of having to start again from scratch.

Scratch is a funny word for it actually. Like cooking from "scratch." I prefer that. I almost never buy things in boxes or pre made packaging. I prefer to wing it with what I've got. Adding a little of this and a little of that until it's yummy and just right for me and my fam. I guess that's what one does with a new locale as well. But the same hard thing is true of building a life from scratch that applies to a recipe--you can never recreate the same yummy dish twice. And when you have a yummy dish of a life going it sure is hard to leave behind.

Our last two locations were by no means perfect, but they sure were yummy. I'm only four months in here--I've got plenty of time--but damn it if I'm not down in my belly longing for some of the yumminess. I'm gathering ingredients. Some of the basics are in place: a great Farmer's Market for weekly shopping and an identified regular grocery store whose aisles and products I am beginning to shop with ease. Two close fantastic coffee shops. Even a fun boutiquey shopping area for girlish afternoons. I have the house all set up the way I like it and enjoy being here. I haven't found a regular doctor we like yet. I haven't even attempted finding a babysitter. School was set, but it's been so hard I'm not positive we don't need to switch that one out. Plus the most important ingredients of all--we have some people we've hung out with. Perhaps-ish ingredients in the settling-in recipe. We enjoy being with them. They invite us back--which seems to mean they enjoy us too. We do play dates and family dinners and it goes a long, long way towards cutting the loneliness down. Early though. Four months isn't quite long enough to say whether we'll be FRIENDS friends or not.

FRIENDS are the ones who come over when you're sick and take your kiddos somewhere so you can nap and try to get better. Or make you a cup of extra sweet tea and cry in their kitchen with you when your brother-in-law dies or even just when you've had it with your kiddos and need a moment with another adult. FRIENDS plan girls nights and breakfast mornings and remind you and ask you again and then again because they know you're an airhead or at least very distracted with everything going on and they don't get mad or at least they never tell you they are. FRIENDS sit around fires and chat long into the night about all things wrong and right and good and hard in the world and they don't try to fix you, they just let you talk but they do say hard things if you need to hear them or kind things and they MAKE SURE you hear those too. FRIENDS walk in the woods and pick through flea market finds and introduce you to their favorite breakfast place. FRIENDS rescue each others cars from the sea and tents from the wind and hearts from the gutter of despair or depression or just a really bad week. FRIENDS love your kiddos and are fiercely loyal to them and let you be to theirs. FRIENDS are the ones you call on Friday night at the last minute and say "I don't feel like cooking" when what you really mean is that you feel like company and you all order take-away or throw something together--together--and bring wine and chocolate. FRIENDS.

I'm just so lonely. The thing is I have those FRIENDS. Those lovely precious ingredients in such a yummy life, but they're all so damned far away. They're not gone. They're only a phone call or an email or a Skype or FaceTime date away--and I do reach out into the distance for them often and am often comforted. But the thing about a new place, a new neighborhood, city, country, continent is that you have to start over. You must. You have to set out again on a road to making friends into FRIENDS. You need those folks 2 doors away. A short drive away. You have to find someone to cry over a cup of tea with. To walk, and eat, and explore, and laugh, and hang out with. You have to make FRIENDS nearby. It's essential. That process takes time, and energy, and the willingness to be vulnerable and brave and make mistakes.

In fact it's part of the beauty and enormous blessing of moves--that each time your heart swells to take in new places, people, stories, FRIENDS. It's just that the swelling often occurs after the heartbreak of leaving your delicious life behind. You know the new recipe will emerge, but damn if you weren't quite done enjoying the one you left behind.