Dark Depths and Awesome Things

Wow. It's been quite an emotional return to New Hampshire. If that sentence doesn't make sense, click here and read this first. It will bring you up to speed.

It felt really good to write and share what's going on below the surface for one simple reason: I don't have to keep it inside or hide any part of my reality anymore. I don't need to reveal every detail but I can say what I want to say, and giving myself that permission is freeing. Not having to internally bury stress is the most important freedom, because I don't have the energy or strength to do so anymore. It's a relief that I can now, as the tattoo on my little sister's wrist says, "Just Be."

But it was as terrifying as it was freeing. Throwing that kind of big, big news out into the knowledge-sphere, even with My Love's support and blessing, made me feel protective and defensive of us and the future we are working toward with hope, communication, space and self-love. I shared the background but not the nitty-gritty details, so I preemptively braced myself against the pity, judgments and projection I expected would come from folks filing in the blanks for themselves.

Instead what I've received so far is overwhelming support and kindness. You've sent me emails and texts and blog/social media comments using words like, "inspiring" and "strong," and that has taken me aback. I feel I am seeking external inspiration and strength right now, and here you are, telling me I am those very things. It's been eye opening and uplifting, but also shows me how far I am off the mark. Yet in another sense, that I may be much closer to the mark than I think. In short, it shows that a delta still exists. 

I've enjoyed wonderful high moments since I arrived back in New Hampshire, soaking up time with my parents and watching them interact with my daughter — a threesome quite obsessed with each other — and finding peace and comfort in the pace of life here. 

I've also had crushingly low days that were barely functional and full of tears. The frustrations of the distance and space, and the pain of not waking up to the doting gesture of My Love making me a coffee and us breakfast throb in my heart. Not falling asleep to him shooting zombie-like cockroaches in the Commonwealth next to me (a little Fallout humor to lighten the mood, if you're not a gamer or married/partnered up to one) is strangely rough. I miss the three of us exploring new places together all day or dancing in a 2x3' space after dinner at night. But the greatest difficulty has been the pain of facing the emotion I've needed to deal with for a long time now.

The reason I'm home for this break is to walk straight into that fire alone (my choice, supported by My Love) instead of seeking a comfortable way around, over or under it. But even I know that there are absolutely no shortcuts available here, I subconsciously still look and hope for them. I'd take anything that would make this easier or quicker. Sadly, this one falls into the old adages, "Only time will tell" and "time heals all things." 

I feel progress, though. The crushingly low days serve the purpose of sifting and sorting through those feelings that need sifting and sorting. Each time has shown light into a dark place, helping me to understand a little more about myself, and what I want and need right now. That's as much as I could expect.

Slowing down has allowed me to pause and just be in the tiny moments that feel good, and to acknowledge that they feel good is an accomplishment in itself. I've allowed myself the indulgence of pride, noting any small point of progress and achievement. 

In that spirit, here are five awesome things that have lifted me up through the past two weeks.

  1. A Fresh Commitment To Moving My Body
    I've restarted a workout routine more times than I can count since my daughter was born, but each time I waited for myself to fail; I suspect as an excuse to give up again, on the routine and on myself. This time is different. I'm finally in it for the long haul and for myself. I don't see falling off the wagon for a meal, a day, or even two, as failure. I see it as reality, and climb back on to that wagon as soon as I can muster. I have a long range view and can visualize myself strong and grounded again. Even if my workout is the only thing I manage to accomplish in a day — and I've managed to stick to five per week over the past two weeks — I feel satisfied and proud of myself. Any such tiny moment really helps the cause these days.
  2. Hot Showers
    It's not as though I've been deprived of a hot shower at any point nearly ever in my life (except when I was in Africa five years ago). But it seems that each time I step into the shower since I've been home, I think to myself with relief, "This is like a tiny visit to the spa." I've been so enjoying the few moments to myself under the hot water, letting my mind leisurely work as it does so uniquely in the shower, while using the products I love and have selected so deliberately over the past two years to protect myself from ingredients that do our bodies more harm than good. As with any opportunity to feel proud of myself, I'm grateful for any moment that simply feels good. And I'm making an effort to pause in those moments and really feel it. 
  3. Getting Back In The Kitchen
    The first thing to go when I'm feeling overwhelmed is my desire to cook (along with any and all domestic duties), something I otherwise love and find relaxation in doing. I've enjoyed (and been saved) by my parents' support in serving us warm, comforting, flavorful home-cooked meals since coming home. But after a week here, I finally snuck out to the grocery store and into the kitchen one afternoon to make a chickpea and cauliflower tikka masala for all of us to enjoy together. The next night, I was craving beef stroganoff, but substituted and modified a vegan recipe made with portobello mushrooms in lieu of beef. In both cases, I experimented with cashew cream in place of dairy to practice recipes that address my body's preference to go without dairy. I'm grateful to practice properly taking care of myself, and find success in the practice. Sounds a little out of body, I know, but, gratitude toward myself hasn't been around much lately, so I welcome ushering those positive vibes into the picture with pride and plain ole feeling good.
  4. Learning Survival Skills
    Every year, usually around Christmas or the beginning of winter, I begin (and sometimes finish) knitting a scarf, then put the tools away for the year. My mom has to re-teach me the basics year after year, going on ten years now. This year was no exception, as I was called to make my annual scarf and I think I've finally got it. It has felt so rewarding and relaxing to sit in front of my parents' fireplace and quietly focus on nothing beside my stitches. I even learned how to make the fire itself! I don't know how the skill of building a fire has escaped me for 33 years, but it has. Until now, when I can build a pretty damn gorgeous crackling fire! Who knew that knitting and making fires was so calming for the mind? I do now! 
  5. Bonding Time
    Among the most amazing feelings over the past two weeks has been that of reconnecting in a different way with my daughter. She's already a mommy's girl, as I've been her primary caregiver day-in and day-out since she was born. However, she sees Papa as her play pal and me as the one who covers the basics. I love to watch her play with her daddy, and to see them bond, but she hears me say far too often, "Sure I will do that in just one minute after I finish __<insert domestic duty here>__!" I have hated that she doesn't see Mama as someone who plays with her, so have made a special effort to stop and get on the floor with her, to make quick crafts or to stay at the playground extra long. It's done both of us a world of good in a short amount of time.

Again, your words, feedback, encouragement and support have meant as much as any of the above. I don't particularly love to discuss the subject face to face, it's too personal for anyone's advice to apply, but I have very much appreciated the sentiments of love and support. 

I realize that this journey is going to be longer than I might have thought or might like, but small moments and simple things like these fuel me to climb the mountain, and move me one step forward when I'm otherwise frozen in place.