Tag Archives: joy

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YOU? You moms? You’re good moms. Each one of you. Each of us. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes anxiety and a racing heart get in the way of recognizing the truth. Sometimes guilt over just about anything steals the joy we think we should always be feeling.

That joy is OURS. We can own it. We’re allowed. We should. There is no guilt. We did not do anything wrong. It is not our fault.

We’re allowed to feel happy.

(Andrea Bates)

Permission

What’s the one thing we don’t give ourselves enough of?

Permission.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve, to hurt, to cry, to take the day off from things we need to – to take time for ourselves. So when we do try to unwind, this lack of “permission” to relax interferes with our ability to fully unwind.

Instead of unwinding, our minds race with what we should be doing or how we will get everything we need to get accomplished once we’re done unwinding.

We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve how WE need to grieve. It’s a process, an impossibly intimate and personal one at that. No grief is like the next. So instead, we “buck up” and move on, judged by those who think we haven’t done so quickly enough.

Then there are expectations, levels of impossible perfection. Yes, we should strive to be the best we can be at all times but you know what? Sometimes the best you can be is just that – the best YOU can be. Not the best she can be, or the best he can be, but the best YOU can be. It may not measure up to what you see in your head as the best you, but at the end of the day, as long as you’ve given it your all, that’s what matters.

The other thing we don’t do often enough is give ourselves permission to love ourselves or love those around us with wild abandon. We hold back a little piece of ourselves too often because we fear vulnerability. The act of blooming fully scares many of us because we have known pain and refuse to let ourselves get wounded again.

But here’s the thing about that – we don’t live if we hold ourselves back or if we let others change our sense of selves. Permission for truly being yourself is something only you can give. Realizing this is a huge leap forward toward healing any pain which may have frozen you in the past. As a popular Disney song commands us – let it go.

I’ve been growing into permission to be me. There have been days where I’ve been a wonderfully glorious blossom and others where I’ve been a wilted flower. But it’s okay because each day, I’ve been the best damn blossom and wilted flower I can be, which is what matters when the sun sets.

Then, in the evening sky, the moon rises. It waxes, it wanes, form changing with the twilight of every evening until it grows full then fades away completely.

My favourite is when the moon hangs low and grins down at us, like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat. Sometimes, I imagine there is a devious cat just behind the inky darkness, waiting to pounce on us.

Moments like these are what help me hold onto whimsy in the face of the craziness of daily living.

Focus on the little things.

Give yourself permission to be the best YOU that you can be.

Love with wild abandon. Laugh with your belly. Sing with joy.

Above all else, grin back at the Cheshire cat and never forget to hold onto the whimsical.

Whatever Wednesday: Doughnuts at the Carwash

Do you remember when you were a kid? The littlest things made us happy, didn’t they? Like those machines that you put quarters in and get tiny toys that break the instant oxygen hits them? They were fabulous for all of 1.5 seconds, right? Or how about sitting in your room, building things out of Legos or playing with Play-doh? It did not take much to put a smile on our faces. Ahhh, those were the days.

Flash forward to adulthood. Get up at the break of down to drink did coffee, run around like crazy to get ready for work and/or get the kids ready for school and/or both, ultimately forget something, have to go back for it, drop the kids off, go to work, or run errands, then finally get home at the end of the day, dinner, maybe a little time to yourself, and then bam. Bedtime. How the hell bedtime get here so fast? Close your eyes after setting your alarm so you can do it all again the next day.

Did you take any time for joy? Any little things tucked into your day that made you smile and giggle as if you were a 5 year old who just got the toy you wanted out of the quarter machine? No? Well, that’s a damn shame.

The key, as a lot of people will tell you, to staying happy, is to maintain a stranglehold on that childhood innocence and wonder. Pick up just enough common sense and cynicism to function in the grown up world but dear GOD don’t let that childhood innocence and wonder dissipate. Do stupid stuff. Let go. Have fun. Laugh inappropriately and loudly at everything, anything, and nothing at all. Do things that make you smile, often, with people you love.

Stuff like I do with J.

Stuff like what we did tonight at the car wash.

We ran to the grocery store to pick up a few things to finish off dinner. Then, we spotted the doughnuts. Lately we had denied ourselves this guilty pleasure but tonight they were salacious sirens nestled in a forest of sweet treats, begging to be rescued. We reluctantly (okay, not so reluctantly) rescued six of them, planning to take them home and hug them ever so gently with our stomachs after sending them for a ride down the esophagus flume.

After the grocery store, we checked to see if the car wash was open. The past week and a half has covered the car in salt, snow, and other random ick but because of the frigid temperatures, we have been unable to wash it because well, the water would just freeze instantly.

The car wash was open, so we turned in after a horde of cars passed by. Two lanes were open, and we, we chose the one with the idiot. His driver side door was open, his feet on the ground, a cigarette hanging from his lower lip as if it were a man clinging to a cliff waiting for a stiff breeze to come along. He wore a hat, a fedora style hat, and glasses. He slid his card into the slot, tapped the screen, and stared curiously at the screen. One of the employees came over to help him, sliding his card in for him. As we idled behind him, we watched the vehicle in the other lane surge forward.

I evaluated the situation after we sat there for a couple more minutes, put the car in reverse, and headed for the other lane. We pulled up, I activated the screen, made my choices, paid, and moved forward as the winner in the other lane sat there, continuing to struggle with the machine.

An employee directed us onto the auto-fed car wash. As I popped the car into neutral, J grabbed the doughnuts.

“Which one you want? The cruller?”

doughnut in carwash“Sure! Just a minute.” I put my wallet away, then took the doughnut. I squealed like a little kid. Doughnuts. In the car wash. I took out my phone and snapped a pic. There was just something so gleefully delicious about eating a sweet donut whilst hidden in the soapy flaps and rollers of the car wash. It felt so wrong yet so damn good. Best damn cruller ever.

Joy in life is found in the simplest of things, the things we forget how to see when we get past a certain age. Just like Journey advises… don’t stop believing.

And now? I’m gonna have a doughnut at 10pm at night.

Because joy.

2014: Breathe, Yawp, Live

‘Tis the season to split oneself between the nostalgia of days gone by and the promising anticipation of sparkling new things yet to arrive. It’s the time of year we find ourselves inundated by “Best of” lists and the ever daunting “resolution” lists. December ends and January begins in an odd state of limbo swirling around us as if it were a beautiful and haunting blizzard threatening to swallow us whole if we stopped long enough to stare at the accumulating drifts of lists beneath our feet.

Is it okay for us to stop and stare at this vortex of nostalgia and anticipation? Will we be awestruck by the ferocity of the electricity dancing about in the overhead clouds? Or should we doggedly march forward, one right after the other, heads down, ignoring the invigorating storm?

Stop and smell the roses, we are told. But we are also told not to let the grass grow under our feet. Take the road less traveled, it will make all the difference. Do not go gentle into the good night, rage, rage against the light. We are all meant to meet that light one day. But until then, take the road less traveled and refuse to do anything less than rage against it. Yawp until you can yawp no more. Live life, don’t let life live you.

We seek, in life, a balance of joy and sorrow. We reach for joy when the sorrow shreds our soul to the bone, bleeding our hearts dry until there is nothing left, not even the marrow to suck out of life. So we are still, frozen, in grief, pain, whatever the reason, until joy surges forward and replenishes the marrow and our life force. With this resurgence comes the drive to rage against life. How do I know this? Because I have been there – splayed open for the world to see, my heart atrophied and hardened on the bare floor, aching for hope and love. It stayed there awhile, resigned to never finding love again, trapped in the penumbra of a hovel deep in the woods. Yet, it still beat and now, it is full of life-blood, dancing in the light of joy because of a daring rescue.

I wish that for those who read this. I know so many who have lost or faced difficult changes this past year. I am here to tell you that it gets better. The grey lifts, the sun rises, and the sky does fill with spectacular colour. It never stopped. It’s just waiting for you rise up from beneath the waves and see the tango of exploding soft oranges, pinks, and pale blues as you watch, breathlessly, the sun languidly traverse a cerulean sky until the clouds, holding hands, bed the sun beneath the horizon. As your feet find the shore, caressing the wet sand for the first time in eons, you exhale, letting go of the shattered soul which has claimed you for far too long. You slink out of your old soul and into your new one, the promises of joy filling your heart with a joy more beautiful than any fully bloomed scarlet rose covered gently in sweet morning dew.

Breathe.

Yawp.

Live.

This, this is your year.

Make it so.

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Finding Joy in the Dark

We recently moved. Believe me, I want to tell you why because it was hell, but I just am not ready to do so yet for a couple of reason. First, I’m still recovering, and second, we haven’t quite wrapped up the final details of the move with our former residence yet. Once we’re free, I really look forward to sharing everything. Because whoa.

One of the things that the last place we lived did to me, particularly over the past couple of months, was give me a case of near-agoraphobia. I hated going out because I never knew what I’d come home to and if I’d be able to make it from my car to our door without running into someone.

Now that we’re at the new place, we can go places. I can go places by myself. I still force myself to get off the couch and go, though, because the memories are so fresh and the fear is still bubbling just below the surface that if I go out….

But today I forced myself to get up and run errands. I needed to return a couple of things plus I needed to pick up a couple of things. So I got ready, gathered the returns and the receipts, and got in my car.

After I merged onto the interstate,  a car flew past me. One of the bumper stickers caught my eye.

It looked a lot like this:

dont postpone joy

The reaction was visceral. Tears welled, my heart raced (more than it already was thanks to minor anxiety), and I was MOVED. The car continued on its way and I realized that had I been even 2 seconds later, I would not have seen this perfectly apropos message.

And then I pulled into Sam’s Club for my first return.

I was greeted by this lovely sight:

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The owner came out before I got out of my car (the club wasn’t open for us non-business folk just yet). On my way in, I stopped and talked with her for a few minutes. I told her how I had just seen a car with a bumper sticker that said “Don’t Postpone Joy” and how shortly after that, I pulled in to see her van. She was very friendly and open to talking.

She said a lot of people smile at it. “Why not put it on the side of my van? It’s a free billboard!”

She delivers phone books, she said, and sometimes that can irritate people. But when they see the cheerful message, it kind of neutralizes her throwing the phone book in their driveway, etc.

Her inspiration?

Her son received a bracelet with the saying on it and she was quite taken with it. “Why NOT?!?” Her daughter also has a tattoo of the saying on her ankle. (Her son walked up whilst I was talking with her and made a point of telling me about his bracelet. They all seemed quite used to discussing the saying on the side of the van. SO grateful I had the opportunity to talk with all three of them.)

Live. Love. Laugh.

Spray painted on the side of a rickety old van parked in a handicapped spot.

If that’s not proof that there IS joy everywhere you turn…

Don’t postpone your joy.

Go out and live, love, and laugh.

That’s the message the universe sent me this morning.

What an amazing Monday.

Start your day with a #listof3

Last summer, I started doing something on Twitter I’d recommended to new moms fighting battles with Postpartum Depression previously. No, I wasn’t struggling with PPD again (it’s been nearly six years since my last episode), but I was low as I struggled to make sense of the world in the vortex of divorce.

Every morning, among my first tweets, there would be one which read something like this:

“This morning, I’m grateful for: coffee, hiking, and good friends. For what are you grateful? #listof3”

It picked up steam and others in the #ppdchat community (a hashtag based community available 24/7 for support & information and a moderated chat every Monday at 1pm & 830pm ET) began to use the #listof3 tag as well. Then it spread. It’s not a huge community but on mornings when things aren’t going quite well or weeks when I’m in the dark, the #listof3 brightens my day. It also brightens my day to see others randomly using the hashtag in the morning even when I’m not.

There’s a #listof3 for the evenings too – I don’t do it as much – in the evening, list three things which made you laugh (a small smile counts if it’s really dark in your life).

The main goal of this exercise?

To re-purpose your day, point your mind on a positive path, and allow gratefulness to become an intrinsic part of your daily morning routine. As gratefulness entrenches itself in your life, it changes your outlook.

Today, I’m grateful for good food, a good swim, and a good man in my life. For what are YOU grateful? Tell me in the comments!

Confessions of a Cleft Palate Mama

As an active blogger and Social Media participant, I choose to live my life out loud. In choosing to live my life in this manner, I open myself and my life up for comments and questions. Sometimes, these comments and questions hurt. Sometimes they are meant to cut. Other times, they are not meant to hurt but are instead posed with the best of intentions. The latter often catch me off guard. Such a situation occurred this past week. Instead of dashing off a quick and angry response, I called a friend and nearly ended up in tears as I described the situation to him. I let it sit over night as I thought about the best way to respond. Then I took to Twitter to vent about the situation. Once I took to Twitter, I realized I was not alone in my very justified reaction to the inquiry. Instead of a private response, I choose to handle this in a public manner. There are many other mothers of children with birth defects in this world and all of us battle the same thing deep down inside. All of us are consumed by guilt.

The birth of my second daughter at 35 weeks and 5 days occurred 42 hours after my first contraction. I pushed twice and her screams filled the air of the delivery room instantly as she emerged into my nurse’s waiting arms. Placed on my chest, she continued to scream and writhe about as most newborns do. At first glance, she appeared healthy. All fingers, all toes, you know, the important stuff. When she screamed however, her mouth gaped at the top where her palate should have been. I blinked and tried to check but blamed it on exhaustion. I tried to latch her onto my breast to nurse but it didn’t work. After several tries, on and off, her screaming, me almost in tears, we requested the Lactation Consultant.

The Lactation consultant came in, slipped on gloves, and swiped our 30 minute old daughter’s mouth. “She’s got a cleft.” A swarm of activity buzzed about our room and suddenly there I was, alone, in bed, freshly delivered and still numb from the epidural. No one to talk to, no one to explain to me what was going on. The thoughts started. I knew of a cleft. I knew it meant something was missing. But I didn’t know the cause. I didn’t know why. Then I thought. I thought some more. What had I done wrong?

Early in my pregnancy, I was unable to take prenatal vitamins because they induced severe nausea. Forced to choose between taking the vitamins or not eating, I chose to not take the vitamins. I even tried taking them at night but it was a no go. My depression from the birth of our first daughter also played into the decision to not discuss this nausea at length with my OB. Nausea continued well into the 6th month of my pregnancies. By the 6th month, though, I still was not taking my prenatals. In my depression delusional mind, I even wondered if it would truly affect my growing child’s well-being.

At six months pregnant, however, even if I HAD taken my prenatals, it wouldn’t have mattered. Most clefts form between 4-6 weeks, well before a woman is even aware of her pregnancy. Many clefts are even impossible to link to a specific cause. Our daughter’s specific cleft, a bilateral complete cleft of both hard and soft palate (meaning essentially, she had NO PALATE whatsover), was associated with a condition called Pierre Robin Sequence (pronounced Pea-air Roh-ban). Her jaw was also recessed, her tiny tongue was floppy, and her airway was narrow. In the 1920’s, PRS babies had a slim chance of survival. Today, however, the rate of survival is very high and surgery is available to correct these issues.

I was asked, several times, by several doctors, if I had taken my prenatal vitamins. I lied. Yes, I know I shouldn’t have lied. I should have been honest. But between depression, PTSD, and the guilt now whirring around in my head, rational behaviour escaped me. My partner didn’t even know I hadn’t taken my prenatals until I confessed while in labor with our son. (Hell of a time to confess, huh?)

Bottom line: I BLAMED MYSELF FOR MY DAUGHTER’S CLEFT.

Yes, rationally I know now I am not to blame. There is no family history of cleft. No associated genetic syndrome along with her PRS. It formed well before I could have done anything about it and even Mothers who take folic acid religiously still have a risk of giving birth to a child with a cleft. I know clefts are nearly impossible to see on a standard u/s unless you are looking for them specifically. Intellectually, rationally, I know all of this. and yet, the guilt consumes me. She grew inside me. She grew imperfectly. Logically I am to blame. If she is imperfect, there is something wrong with me. I failed my daughter before she was even born. I failed at motherhood a second time before I even held her. I FAILED.

Mothers of children with birth defects, with special needs know what I am talking about. We feel this every day. We fight like hell to not let this guilt eat at us. We fight against stigma, misinformation, judgment, and ignorance. We live with the stares, with the internal guilt which threatens to rip us apart every second of the day. We ferociously fight for our children so they may have a chance to live a normal life. A life of which they are completely worthy.

My daughter is nearly 6 years old now. She is beautiful. She is intelligent. She is determined, obstinate, and full of perseverance. She is happy. She is thriving. She is PERFECT. She is LOVED.

It doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do all those years ago. I cannot go back in time to change anything which happened. Even if I could, I would not want to go back in time to do so. Because if I did, I wouldn’t have a daughter who has taught me more than anyone else in my life about the importance of hanging in there, fighting for even the simplest things (like speech, breathing, and eating), or that the most important thing in life is to be happy and keep others laughing right along with you.

Whatever Wednesday: Finding your sunbeam

"DJ on a cold morning" by marymactavish @flickr.com

That dog looks mighty happy, doesn’t he?

Up on the table, warming himself in a sunbeam, not caring what anyone thinks of him.

Have you ever found a sunbeam and stood in it?

The warmth floods your body, brings light to your heart and your soul, and sends a smile to your face.

We don’t do that enough.

Sure we’re supposed to take time to smell the roses and all that, but when was the last time you intentionally found and stood in a sunbeam?

I’ll wait while you mull that over.

I sit in a sunbeam every day the sun is available.

Do you?

You should.

Find your sunbeam.

(the original photo was sourced here)

Whatever Wednesday: Finding Happy

When I was 5, my Aunt died. Then several other relatives passed away at an alarming rate. Much of my childhood filled to the brim with memorial services or talk of how yet another relative succumbed to the ravages of cancer. Some relatives I was very close to yet other relatives, like a distant cousin named Keith, I barely knew. But still. Death. Always peering over my shoulder. Always there.

School wasn’t any easier. I grew up in a small mostly white town at the Jersey Shore. On the walk home, it wasn’t unusual to see a Lotus, Ferrari, Porsche, Maserati, Benz, or BMW. And yes, I mean on the same day, not throughout the week. We had a Dodge Ramcharger and a Datsun. The Ramcharger was rusted out. It’s special feature was that we could watch the pavement slide by as our parents sped up and down the Turnpike and other badly paved roads. This was awesome unless.. roadkill. Then EWWW. The other kids weren’t nice to me. They teased me. Called me “Corroded” whatever the hell that was supposed to mean. Yeah, I was even bullied with intellectualism. Awesome, right?

In the 6th grade, we moved to VA. Given the opportunity to reinvent myself, you better believe I did. I had friends the first day. Things were awesome until High School when I bloomed. Yes, I mean BLOOMED. The ensuing sexual harassment sucked. I endured it until I graduated because, well, I was a kid, and my memories of bullying as an elementary kid came flooding back.

Then? College.

Wow, college. No more sexual harassment but there was that time in my dorm room when an acquaintance tried to force something on me. Thankful for strong legs and a good aim, I survived. He did too, but believe me, he never spoke to me again.

During college, I drove a lot. I sat at a local state park and made friends with ducks. I stood in the middle of a lake during a thunderstorm and let the rain beat down on me, praying for a lightning strike just a month or so after my grandfathers died within 19 days of each other. Clearly I survived.

I found myself then, deep under all my pain, all the crap which had been buried on top of me. Strong. Beautiful. Amazing. I promised never to lose myself again.

Only I did.

I fell back into a hole, dug by myself. I sacrificed myself for what I though I wanted. For the life society trained me to believe was mine. Only it wasn’t and I was drowning just like I wanted to do that day when I waded into the lake.

I needed to breathe.

I’m breathing now. It’s taken me 9 years and a few months to get here, but I’m breathing. I’m smiling. At the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t smile. Once I started smiling, my face hurt. For two weeks. Yes, my FACE hurt from smiling. That pain, though, the pain in my cheeks, my jaw, my head, was a pleasant and welcome pain. Yeah, this summer has hurt. It’s hurt like hell. But I’m welcoming the pain. Because the pain means I’m feeling again. It means I’m no longer numb. It means I’m living. Loving. Embracing.

If living my life requires that I go through periods when walking on shredded glass would be preferable, I’ll take it… and I’ll smile despite the blood and tears. I’ll take the pain. I’ll take the happy. I’ll take the joy of finally exhaling surrounding it all.

In this moment, no matter what, my life is beautiful.

It’s beautiful because I am living it.
No more apologies. Just me. Living. Outloud.

Whatever Wednesday: Embracing Life

Life is capable of handing you some extremely sour lemons. They crop up when we least expect them to and carry the ability to completely ruin our day.

But life is also capable of throwing some really sweet fruit your way too. Like ripe juicy strawberries on a summer day. You know the kind… the ones that make you sigh and sink down into your chair when you take that first bite. You don’t even realize there’s juice rolling down your chin because you’re hopelessly lost in Strawberry Blissville.

I know it can seem like all life is tossing you is sour lemons. I’ve been there more than once. But I’ve also had those super sweet strawberries. Learn to enjoy them while they’re around regardless of the stains they may leave on your heart. There is no larger sour lemon than missing out on a handful of joy simply because you were too worried about the what if’s and the consequences.

Live life. Don’t judge it. Don’t wait for it. Don’t miss it, regret it, shun it, or critique it. Live. Embrace your joy. Embrace the pain. But live no matter what. We deserve nothing less.