Introspective Insights

Introspective - adj: Examining sensory and perceptual experiences. Insight - n: The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation.

Being the “Fat” Mom

Today’s post is from Caty Dearing who blogs over at www.catydearing.com. Caty is wife to Justin and mom to K and is a high school English teacher where she loves her job and says that it motivates her to be awesome every day. Caty’s blog is a safe space for her and her readers to stretch, grow, and live. She promises honesty in her posts, which as we all know is pretty hard to come by these days.

Being a mom is difficult. No one tells you just how hard it is. The pressure of raising a human being to be kind, intelligent, and gracious is a heavy burden to bear. I remember being pregnant and reading book after book about how to be a good mom. Now, my daughter is 3 years old, and I think that I’m just now learning what difficulties have been present for me as a person, removed from my kiddo and husband. One of these, and probably the biggest one (no pun intended), is my weight.

“Fat” is a no-no word. We use words like “curvy” and “voluptuous” to mask the negative connotations of overweight-ness. Being called fat would have completely broken me a year ago. I’ve spent a lot of time telling myself about my large bone structure and that the curves on my body are just part of who I am. I’ve also spent a lot of time spewing hateful words towards myself, avoiding cameras, and wearing oversized clothes. Years later, I’m finally at a place where I think I’m ready to face the fact that I am not healthy, and to do something about it.

If I’m being 100% honest, I used to judge overweight moms. You know exactly what I’m talking about: the cute child, dressed to the nines, the handsome and fit husband, and the mom who looks like she woke up 15 minutes ago and just barely pulled herself together to be out and about. I remember the condescending tone I used in my head, an almost smug self-declaration of “That will NEVER be me.” Now, here I sit, weighing more today than I did the day before giving birth, and I’m faced with a choice: how will I handle this issue, and what example will I set for the tiny set of eyes watching my every move?

I found the answer at Disney World.

If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you know about the Photo Pass feature. If a professional photographer takes your picture, you can scan your Magic Band and the photo immediately becomes accessible. I felt like there was a professional photographer every 10 steps or so! I packed the only clothes that I could feel comfortable in: Disney t-shirts and work out pants. It wasn’t my cutest look.

When we got to Magic Kingdom, a photographer offered to take our picture in front of the castle. She asked Justin and I to squat down beside K, which immediately brought to mind the image of fat rolls, awkward posture, and all of my other insecurities on display. I looked at my daughter’s face, smiling up at me, at the castle…and I smiled. Then, I squatted down and took the picture.

Caty Dearing picture 1

When my daughter is looking through photos of our family, she’s not going to care if I was overweight. She’s going to comment on the fact that I wore ridiculous Mickey ears the whole time, or the facial expression she made when we rode a fast roller coaster. I HAVE to continue to be present in photos, and to speak positively and full of grace towards myself.

At the same time…(here’s where it gets murky)

My body was falling apart the entire trip to Disney. My feet ached, my back hurt, my knees throbbed…due to the extra weight I was carrying around. I struggled to fit under the airplane seatbelt, and in a couple of the seats on some rides. People can argue all day long until their faces turns blue that you can be healthy at whatever weight, but there is no way anyone can convince me that being overweight and the symptoms that come with it are preferable to a less injury-prone existence.

Caty Dearing picture 2

It’s a delicate balance, brutal honesty and loads of grace. And, to be frank, this pairing isn’t an idea I see being preached. It’s not one or the other, people! You can love yourself and still recognize that you aren’t your best self. As a mom, I want to show K that it’s possible to live a healthy lifestyle and not constantly struggle with food or fatigue. But, even more so, as a person, as ME, I want to prove to myself that it’s possible to love myself at 270 without accepting it as my final reality. Because, to me, loving myself means pursuing my best self.

I was the fat mom at Disney World. But I was also the happiest mom at Disney World. Next time we go, I might not look the same, or I might. But I really hope that the changes I am making, both internal and external, are growing within me a person I can be proud of.

What has been your most challenging moment of introspection? How did you respond?

 

 

Tell Me Something Good

I’m tired, y’all, just tired. I’ve been listening to you talk about your husband / kids / friend / sister and if I’ve met them before, my opinion is starting to slide and if I’ve never met them I’m convinced that I don’t want to anymore. And it’s because of that one sided story you’ve told me…your venting. And I want to be there for you and nod and understand, but I’m so very tired of hearing the bad and the ugly. You see, I just want you to tell me something good. Just one thing, if that’s all you have about your husband, your sister, your daughter. Because I want to know all about them. I want to have a full rounded opinion about them. I want to know deep down, do you really even like them? Much less love them? Because right now, I don’t think you do – your words tell me you don’t – over and over they say rejection and anger and irritation and maybe even just a little hate. And its hard to listen to that over and over and not think the worst.

So let’s start over today, friend. Today, tell me something good and I will do the same and maybe, just maybe we will start to remember the good that is already there in those people close to us. It could help us change our minds and our hearts about them. And tomorrow, there will be another good thing and we’ll see it and speak it and there is power in our words and we can live in this good thing we’ve spoken.

Today, right now, about THAT person, tell me something good.

Kid Fog

I’m having trouble right now – trouble making goals, realizing dreams and generally completing projects. For years, I worked in corporate America everyday – finishing projects on time or ahead of schedule and always looking for ways to learn and improve. For nearly three years I have been home and somehow I’ve lost my ability to create goals and achieve them. At first, the reason seemed the result of being home everyday and the constant needs and distractions of the kids. Yes, that was part of the problem. But to get down to the root, I had to look back further to nearly nine years ago.

My first pregnancy and birth reshaped my mind and priorities – as it does for everyone, I suppose. But I wasn’t too happy about it. I went through a period of mourning my old life gone and a new life I didn’t know what to do with or how to understand. At first I was sad, then angry and then all of the other stages of grief set in. I was not angry at our sweet little girl, just frustrated at how everything I had known was different, unfamiliar. As my younger sister wisely said, I needed to find the “new normal”.

I eventually did find the new normal of constant baby care – diapers, feedings, up in the middle of the night, clothing, bathing, playing – repeat. As each child became more independent, the next one was born and the cycle started again.

My baby turned four a few months ago and I started to realize that now, finally, after all of these years, I was coming out of the “kid fog”. I thought for sure I had already emerged – knew where I was going, what I was doing and had reclaimed the confidence to do so. But the reality is that the determination, drive, and assertiveness to make life and career goals was shattered. I could barely grasp the shards of those ideals. Instead, fear took over – deep-seeded, subtle, nearly subconscious. Tasks that I could easily complete back in my “professional” days seemed overwhelming and unattainable.

I knew I needed to make goals, track progress in order to reach my dreams. But what I realized is that I didn’t even know what my dreams were anymore. For so long it felt as though I needed to put those dreams on hold or scrap them altogether. I avoided and put off until one day, in despair I collapsed under my restlessness.

I realized that I had gone with the flow for so long – accepting each day as it was that I had forgotten how to dream, to expect, to long for a fresh direction. While my kids were small, this was necessary, but now as the sky cleared, I knew that I was meant to forge a direction instead of be pulled along by the current.

Fear still envelopes me daily, often, but hope rises and I’ve dared to dream and believe that God is for me and I’m beginning to take small steps. I can see through the fog – rays of light and a path ahead of me. I don’t know where I’m going, but I know Who goes before me.

Captured Thoughts

I’m avoiding writing. Days slip by unnoticed and just when I think it has not been that long, I realize that weeks and even months have passed since I’ve poured out words. And in that quiet time, I’m restless and wanting and immovable. A nagging, a twitch, a grumpy demeanor that I see and feel. It affects everything I do, yet I scarcely acknowledge it. It builds and heaps and festers.

It manifests in all things turning against me. My mind, emotions, the kid’s behavior towards me, perceived hostility on all sides. I crumple internally, I shirk away from the everyday. My limbs heavy with the thought of any action. A child’s voice no different than any other day screeches in my ears, the hair on my neck rises. I want to run away. I yell back, roll my eyes, sometimes attack with vicious words.

Nothing soothes, nothing smooths over, nothing lightens up. My usual tactics – music, gratitude journal, reading, prayer – all fail. I leave the house for awhile. I look for perspective. I try to function and be polite to strangers. This helps. I write in my journal. And when I write, I search frantically, scribbling, scratching the page. I’m not resolved, but I’ve stepped forward in a direction.

Fears envelope, irrational, ever taunting, freezing my steps, my thoughts, my actions. Yet inside me is a fire that smolders and flickers, blazing through the cold. I continue to fight with this page. Words blur to blue swirls and I wonder when they will release their grip on me.

I turn the page, I read, I press rolling ink into paper. The page curls up and I push down. I wonder if this scrawl will travel from page to keyboard and I fear that I will fail again, again, again. Yet, I continue. Relentless, yet cringing over the garbled mess. Can these raw ideas ever make sense?

I grit my teeth, bow my head, close my eyes, searching for words and finding and transcribing them slower than I can think, but faster then I can comprehend. Searching and searching and searching for the answer to the question. Why do I write? Why can’t I stop? Why does this act or avoidance of it – both – keep me up at night?

The longer I try to sleep, the longer I roll and mumble and peek out from eyelids and covers hearing birds singing. Will these thoughts go away? Can I push them down ONE MORE DAY? Today, the answer is NO. Bouncing off my fingers, slobbering and incoherent, they drip down to the page. Can I capture them today? Or will they bounce around in my head and flit away with dust flying hither and tither? I grasp for them and capture enough, for today.

I look outside, hoping inspiration is more than this swirl of blood and air and water in me. I see green and orange and pink and branches swaying. Quiet typing next to me and mumbling behind me. I smile at her and she seems too surprised to smile back. I look down at my bag and rustle in it, still looking.

Slurp from straw, keys out, journal ribbon in place, rubber band snapped, pen clicked, sunglasses swept, sweater stuffed, all gathered and walking. Captured thoughts clutched in pages waiting in the dark for their unveiling.

Reflections on the M-14 Overpass


Driving home tonight on this familiar stretch of road I’m
tempted to give into the highway hypnosis…allowing my car to go into autopilot…to
ignore the journey to home.  But as I
begin to crest the M-14 overpass, I’m struck by the memories that overtake me
of this ordinary stretch of pavement.
 
Sheryl Crow sings that “every day is a winding road…I get a little bit
closer” and every time I hear that song, I am sure that life is preparing to
change drastically.  

As I crest this apex of concrete, all four seasons flash in
my mind recalling 17 years of driving this road every day.  Winter’s blinding unearthly white, spring’s
deluge clouding my view, summer’s much too orange brightness, and fall’s
blustery winds blasting my car. Night
moon rising on my left, sunset in glorious splendor on my right.
  

My car hugs the road, crowning the overpass, embracing this well-worn
path.  I’ve often ignored the route from
one place inching closer to the next and I realize that these last few years
have always been about the drive, the road, the seasons changing outside, that cityscape
sunset best seen from the top of the M-14 overpass. 
 

There is beauty in the driving, discovery in the delay.  I am finally enjoying the journey…this road
of life.  I’m okay with not knowing what
I’m getting closer to because I can celebrate the way I’m getting there.
 

Do It Afraid


I’ve been paralyzed lately – unable to write, unable to look
back to process and deal with painful experiences.  My fears have overtaken me enough that I’m
not doing the things I want to do and even love to do.
  It seems I’m frozen in this place because I’ve
chosen to accept a cheap, plastic view of my life in a lame attempt to keep
from failing or changing for the better.

Over the past several months I’ve learned how to rise early
in the morning for mediation and quiet time (and good coffee, of course).  And the last few weeks I’ve allowed trivial
changes in my routine to keep me from getting up – choosing to believe that I
can’t do it and that I should not do it. 
So I’ve slept in – missing that important time alone for
reflection.  “I don’t reflect well, so
why try,” I think.  

I’m notorious for walking away from the past and shutting
the door hard.  While in some degree that
is good so that I’m not missing the present and allowing the past to skew my
world view, I’m also not allowing it to help me learn the lessons of
today.  I walk away to not deal with the
pain and hurt, but also not allowing myself to accept the good memories in the
middle of the pain.  

I’m a runner – or at least I fancy myself to be one. Yet
lately, I’ve allow even the most minor negative mindset to keep me from
running.  “It’s too humid, too late, I’m
too cranky.”  It’s summertime and pretty
early in the morning – I’m sure that is how it is going to be just about every day.  Yet how can I call myself a runner when I
barely run two days a week?

And then this writing gig – I know that I am called to
write.  I can sit down and write
something at the drop of a hat.  I
suppose that it is not always good writing, but I can do it – something that others
struggle with.  Yet I’m avoiding it – not
really believing that what I have to say will impact anyone.
  Watching others in my writing class making
great strides on their blogs, writing books, and getting the recognition they
have been wanting for many years.  I look
at their work and I think, “That could never be me.  Why try.” 
So I refuse to write – or if I do – I don’t publish it.  I can’t stand the painful thought of
publishing something that no one reads.  

Clearly I’m hiding from something or someone or denying
myself some experience that I must have. 
So today, I’m deciding to do something different – I’m deciding that I
need to do it afraid.  

The sun has risen on this day and I know that I will suit up
in my running gear and take that route that frightens me a little bit because
you never know what you are going to encounter when you are running. 

I’m going to push the publish button on this post and hope
for the best and ignore the statistics knowing that this is what I need to do,
what I’m called to do – regardless of the response.

I’m going to look through and organize old pictures –
searching faces and experiences for knowledge and reflection and memories of
other times and pray that I learn why those things have made me the person I am
today.  Even if painful, even if it means
that I face the fact that life has shaped me into this tattered soul and that I
must acknowledge that children are growing and moving away from me ever so
quickly.  

I will do it trembling, shaking, tear stained, afraid.  Because if I continue to hide, I’m not really
living, but merely surviving.  And surviving
is a shell of a life and not the life I want to have.  

What can you choose to do afraid today?

Watercolor

Fall colors are just about to peak here in southeast Michigan as they do roughly around the first to second week of October every year…typical. But there is something about this year that is just so drastically different. This transition from summer to fall was so slow and deliberate for me this year. It was as if I was watching the world in slow motion. But one day last week it was as if the trees were painted overnight. Everywhere I looked was breathtaking color. The most brilliant reds, oranges and yellows I have ever experienced. It’s as if I woke up one morning to see that God had finished painting unbelievable watercolors.

Every day I’m searching and looking hard at the trees as they change. I’m in awe of what I see. It is almost as if I am witnessing individual leaves changing right in front of my eyes. Why didn’t I notice last year? Were the colors not as vibrant? Surely that can’t be true…

Maybe the answer is that I’ve finally figured out how to slow down – to weigh down these moments with my full attention. To accept the grace of this moment…Sara Groves one of my favorite singers says that “grace is an invitation to be beautiful”. If this moment with my full attention is all grace, given by God, than isn’t extraordinary beauty possible? Even expected?

When I observe the splendor right outside my window, yes, grace…here…a gift for all of us. I don’t always get it right…I move too fast. But right here, this season, I’m all here.

When We Don’t Understand


It seems as though I have entered a season in my life when God is asking me to change, but the reason for the change is unclear. I am sitting here in the middle of things and changing each thing in my life one-by-one – knowing that is what He wants and yet not understanding why. Little glimpses confirm my decisions, but the overall plan is fuzzy.


I don’t like change – even small change. Moving my seat at the dinner table unnerves me a bit – I have a habit of putting things in the same place over and over even if it doesn’t make sense after a while. I eat the same thing for breakfast nearly every day and the absence of coffee in the afternoon could undo me a bit.


Yet so many of the new things I decided to try after I started staying home with the kids are slowly being stripped away. I don’t understand why it is happening, but I know that He is asking me to do a new thing. He is asking me to give thanks – He’s telling me I don’t really get it. One night in desperation I cry out to Him – He tells me to open “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp – p. 30. Here is where the core idea of the book is expressed – that eucharisteo – a Greek word meaning grace – thanks – joy is the secret to the full life. He compels me to read this and He says, “You don’t get it.” It is true, I don’t. So I sign up for a new Bible study to reread the book. I go to the first meeting – the leader says, “I don’t know why you are here, but God knows and I’ve been praying for you.” And He knows and I know that what she says is true and we don’t really understand how it is all woven together.


I do not pray well and if praying is talking to God then I guess we don’t talk as much as we should. So I am reading – 6 chapters in 1 week to keep up and I’m writing new gifts – because 1000 written down over a year and a half haven’t left their mark on me. And Ann says in the book that to become a praying woman I must give thanks. That to get rid of ingratitude we nail it out by nailing in thanksgiving and it is physical and it isn’t a blanket of thanks, but a moment-by-moment physical act – it is NOW – when we give thanks and doesn’t that make sense? Grace is not for yesterday or tomorrow or even for an hour from now – it is NOW. Grace is given in this present moment – not thrown as a sugar coating over the past or iridescent hope for the future. It is the humility of the breath of life still present in this moment – knowing that we continue on because our purpose still has validity and that understanding, while grasped for, doesn’t matter. But this moment does and He is with us and we can choose to be fully present in this moment no matter what.


No matter what – when kids scream and things break, and we bleed from that cut and lack of words fester and our expectations fall short again. Grace is present here in this moment. We choose the gratitude or we turn away from the full life.


I’m in the middle ground…in a very slow, confusing, and aching dull transition that I don’t understand. But I pick up grace and thanksgiving and I go forward anyway knowing that His ways are best even when we don’t understand.

The Lilies

I’ve always enjoyed wandering in the yard of my childhood home discovering new things. I’ll never forget those first couple of years living in our current home and learning about the plants in our yard. I was excited to find one tiny lily of the valley plant that second summer. Such a beautiful little plant with tiny bell shaped flowers. Each year after those first couple I’ve looked for them, but for some reason missed the flowers.

Imagine my surprise this summer when I walked out and found at least 12 plants all in bloom. Breathtaking!

Kayla insisted on picking some and I put them in a little vase. I could not help but study them marveling in their micro perfection.

My life is in chaos right now – both personally, professionally, and in many ways spiritually. Changes have finally come for me at work and I’m very thankful for the change, but even change anticipated and embraced is still hard for me. I tend to follow rules and get stuck in my ways because I’m afraid to do something new. Tomorrow represents that something new and even though this is what I have wanted for so long, I am still afraid; I’m worrying about tomorrow.

And then I look at these lilies and think – were these the ones that Jesus talked about in Luke 12:27 when he said 27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” In that chapter Jesus talks about how we worry about what we are going to wear and eat and God knows that we need these things. So if we know that God will provide us with these basics, why should we worry about anything else? Yet, I worry…anxiety my biggest weakness in this life.

So I take this weakness and I try to break out of this valley of anxiety and what I’ve found is that through all of these changes, overall I have been at peace. So maybe I’m learning, but I don’t fully get it right and I’m grateful for God’s mercies new every morning.

Enjoy these lilies as I have and remember the promise they bring that God is there and knows what we need.

I Don’t Do Resolutions…

…but I decided to resolve with my good friend / brother-in-law Kal (check out his Moblog and Kal in Space) to starting writing in the blog more often (detailed goals – a closely guarded secret). So for those of you who are still lurking around (thanks!) look forward to seeing new posts here soon.