The Pieces of Me

In all this talking with Mr. B lately, I’ve been thinking about those pieces that, taken as a whole, make up the person I am. These are the words that float around in my head and, when someone asks what makes me Me, they are the words I use (in no particular order, of course):

  • Mom
  • Wife
  • Reader
  • Writer
  • Nature Lover
  • Woman
  • Daughter
  • Sister
  • Driven
  • Friend
  • Optimist (though I’ll always be working at this one)
  • Music Fan
  • Lifelong Learner
  • Dreamer
  • Creative
  • Doer
  • Happy

But, as Mr. B and I continue to chat about such things, I realize I’m not really honoring my whole self. I’ve been falling down on the job when it comes to being an authentic version of Kimi Joy because I’ve been neglecting some of the things I know make me the best version of myself.

For the last several years, it’s been easiest to focus on being Mom (“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.”). And, if I’m being honest, I’ve let the other things fall away and, to a certain extent, fall apart.

Let’s break this down a bit:

I define myself as a “writer” but — until recently — I don’t write. I hadn’t even tried, bemoaning the disappearance of my muse. And I’m just recently finding myself nose-deep in good books, realizing how much I’ve been missing making friends with characters the world ’round for the last few years.

And Nature Lover Kimi Joy? She spends far too much time inside the four walls of her house — when all she really longs to do is be outside, barefoot and free.

The other night Mr. B commented that I don’t seem as driven, as dedicated, as I did when we met. Granted, when I met him I was training for a marathon and had a very specific timeline and goal. But — he’s right. I thrive on goals and improvement and measurement, and I’ve not taken the time to truly sit down and think about where I want to be and how I’m going to get there.

Let’s not even get started on where I’ve been lacking as a wife/partner, friend, sister, daughter … because that’s when it starts to hurt the most.

All this to say: I think we all have ideas in our minds of who we are — words, phrases, concepts that help us form our definition of ourselves. These are the parts of ourselves we should be nurturing because they are our Core. And I’ve been doing a piss-poor job lately.

Kimi Joy Picture

Can we talk about wearing maxi skirts all day every day, please? #authenticself

The words above? They help to make up the person I aspire to be — the person I want to be on my best days. They give my ship an anchor.

To be sure, I don’t believe I’m a fully formed, complete individual yet. And I don’t believe this list makes up the Whole of who I am or will be. There will always be a part of me that’s changing, that’s growing, that’s reaching toward the sun.

I will always be imperfect. And I am not yet Done.

But I do know who I am — I just need to get her back.

 

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Talking the Talk

When you have two toddlers, it’s hard to find time to talk — really, really talk — with your partner. I mean, Mr. B and I talk. We talk about our days. We talk about our budget. We talk about our weekend plans. But we don’t really talk about The Big Stuff. You know, the stuff we used to talk about pre-kids. Or, really, pre-marriage.

There’s a special kind of conversation that takes place when you’re in the first chapter of a relationship — The Big Stuff. Hopes. Fears. Dreams. Goals. These kinds of conversations are the stuff relationships and new love are made from. The results of these conversations are, to a certain extent, the reason you fall in love with someone.

At least, that’s how it worked for me.

Mr. B and I used to have the most fantastic conversations. Some of this was due to the way we fell in love with each other — online, through late-night conversations via text, chat, email and, sometimes, even phone calls. Working opposite shifts and living in different cities made conversation a crucial building block in our relationship. Looking at us now, I’m certain you’d never believe we once stayed up until 4 a.m. just walking the streets talking. (Shocking, I know! I mean, just yesterday we called it a night and went to bed at 9:30 after I woke up to the sound of Mr. B snoring on the couch next to me.)

Want further proof we used to young and fun once — staying up until all hours, playing dress up and just being plain silly?

All this to say that Mr. B and I have been talking lately — about more than what’s for dinner. But, to be honest, we do talk about that a lot. And breakfast, too. Because breakfast is really important.

Communication can be tough — marriage can be tough. And I think Mr. B and I have had to work at it harder in the last six months than we ever have. (It certainly doesn’t help that I’ve been dealing with mental health issues of my own.) So much about our life together has been about the kids — what’s going on with them, what they’re currently getting into in the other room, what they need — that, not only have we neglected ourselves as individuals, we’ve neglected ourselves as a couple.

We’re working hard to change that. And part of that is talking more. Real, purposeful talking — setting aside time to actually have a conversation with each other that can’t be interrupted by a needy kid (or one who’s so stinkin’ cute we have to drop everything we’re doing and just marvel at our little creation).

Some of the conversations are ugly — because no matter how much I try to work on my emotional intelligence, all of my feelings look like tears. And some of the conversations are really, really beautiful — how life-giving is it to have someone open his soul wide up and share his biggest, pie-in-the-skyiest dream with you?

We talk about how we can do better as partners, as parents. We talk about where we want to be in five weeks, five months and five years. We talk about our next chapter, our next home. We talk about reindeer and children’s books and coffee and hammocks. We talk about what our future together looks like — and what our future as individuals looks like. And, yes, of course we talk about our kids.

As we spend more time talking — and making real conversation a priority — we’re getting better at it. We’re rediscovering that warm feeling we had in the beginning when we were connecting on a different plane. Communication is starting to flow more smoothly and happen more spontaneously. But, like everything, it’s definitely taking practice and a little patience as we dust the rust off.

I can already tell that things between us are starting to click a little better. We’re reconnecting to the “we” we used to be — with the addition of at least one fun new topic to add to our conversations:

The kids

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An Admission — and a Soapbox

I feel like I should start this post by admitting some things about myself — true confessions style. So, here goes:

  • I am a do-it-myself, charge-on-through kinda gal, and I hate asking for help.
  • I have a terrible fear of failure, of disappointing people and of not being “enough” — whatever that even means.
  • I talk a really good game when it comes to “happiness is an inside job” and “choose joy,” but some days I struggle to see the glass half full and recognize all the good I have in my life.

Now that that’s out of the bag, let me get into the real reason for randomly interrupting your social media and blog scrolling today: depression and anxiety.

The other day I shared a post I saw on someone’s social feed: “In my deepest darkest post-partum depression, I would have personally never called a phone number. If John or my doctor never reached out, I would have never even known. It really can be a lonely hole. Watch the people you love and don’t be afraid to speak up.” (Source)

When I shared that — and commented my agreement, it didn’t mean I think suicide call lines are a bad idea — they are so important, and we should have even more resources like this available. What it meant to me was, I personally wouldn’t have called a phone number. On my saddest, darkest of days, I would not have picked up a phone to dial a number to talk to a stranger about what I was feeling. Because … (see bulleted list at the top of this post).

If Mr. B hadn’t talked to me in loving but honest terms about what he was seeing (“You just don’t seem happy anymore.”) or my therapist didn’t encourage me to share my real feelings even though they made me feel like a failure as a mother or my friend didn’t call me to make sure everything was OK when she saw me struggling, I probably never would have even considered post-partum depression (and anxiety) as what was going on with me. I mean, after all, it was several months after Little Man was born — how could it possibly be post-partum depression?

Even now, after writing this post in my head 1,000 times over the last few months, it feels weird to see it in black-and-white. It still feels like I’m going to be judged for it, like it reveals something nasty about my true nature, like there’s something wrong with me. Like maybe, just maybe, I’m not a good mom or wife because some days I feel completely overwhelmed trying to do it all. And, damn it, shouldn’t I just be happy because I get to hold my living, breathing, thriving, beautiful children when so many other moms — myself included — had to bury theirs? Maybe I’m not feeling as hashtag-blessed as I should be?

When Mr. B first started talking to me about it, I admitted that there had been a couple of times I thought to myself “I could just get in the van and drive away from all of this.” I never got as far as trying to figure out where I might go — although a nice, comfy bed and eight hours of sleep may have been at the top of the list. And, no, I didn’t really want to leave my kids or my husband — I honestly, truly love them and the life we’ve built together. It was the cloud of depression talking; it wasn’t me.

So, why am I sharing this? Why now, when I’m starting to feel happier and healthier (at least emotionally) than I have in some time?

#blessedIt’s because we have got to do something about the stigma attached to mental health in this country. I shouldn’t feel like sharing this puts at risk everything I’ve worked so hard my entire life to have — no one should. I want to build a home — a world — for my children where their emotional, physical and spiritual health are all considered important. I want them to feel confident and comfortable enough to admit when they’re struggling. And if the first step to that is admitting that some days I stumble and other days I fall, then that’s what this is.

This is my admission. It is not a call for help or sympathy (although a little empathy always goes a long way), as I’m finding the help that works for me. We all struggle and we all need help sometimes. So check in on your people every now and again. And, for crying out loud, remember to be kind — it’s the most important thing.

(Here’s some more info about post-partum depression in easy-to-ready and -understand terms.)

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My Muse is in Waiting …

I’ve been quiet. Like reeeeeeally quiet for quite some time. For a while, I couldn’t figure out what happened to my muse. Honestly, I thought she died with Penelope Joy.

Then, she peeked back in every now and again — just to make herself known, I think. So I knew that wasn’t the case.

“Maybe she’s on vacation,” I thought … hoping she was somewhere less gloomy, drizzly and cold than here. But, no, it wasn’t that at all. I know where she went — where she is.

She’s simply been waiting.

You see, lately, I’ve been struggling. Struggling with a lot of things that I won’t really go into here. At least not right now. Let’s just say that I’ve not been feeling like the truest, best, most authentic version of myself for a while. And, if you know me in real life, you know that’s true. Don’t worry — it doesn’t offend me when you say that. We all need people in our lives to tell us the ugly truths about ourselves. I mean, if you can’t tell me when I have spinach in my teeth are we even friends? 

Last night Mr. B and I took some time to talk. To really talk. That, in and of itself, was a gift. Because we don’t really get a lot of quiet time these days where we can focus on anything other than what bookshelf the younger one is climbing and what tantrum the older one is throwing.

Even more than the pleasure of Mr. B’s company, I had his ear. And I finally opened up a bit about how I’ve been feeling. And he opened up a bit about how he’s been feeling.

I told him I’m not the best version of myself right now. He said he knew.

I told him I feel like I’m not really my own right now. He said he knew.

I told him I need to do more for myself. He said he knew.

(See where this is headed?)

He and my muse knew something I hadn’t been able to vocalize for fear of being weak. Of being seen as a failure. (Ask me what my biggest fear is, and I’ll tell you: failure.)

I’ve been trying to pour from an empty cup and that cup has finally gone dry.

Spinning

I’ve been struggling because I’ve been feeling like I’m not my own right now. I’ve either been pregnant or breastfeeding since January 2013* — which means that not only has my life changed significantly in that time, but my body has also not been my own for more than five years. And because of that, I’ve put myself in the backseat. I’ve not been doing the things I enjoy and the things I need to do to live my authentic life.

It’s no one’s fault but my own. Mr. B is an amazing supporter and encourager in the “me time” arena. He’s looking out for me in ways I don’t look out for myself in that respect. Regardless, I’ve been neglecting myself and my own needs. Not just at my expense, either; an exhausted and struggling me rubs off on everyone I come in contact with — especially my beautiful little family.

My muse is always the strongest when I’m my strongest. And I’m my strongest when I’m giving myself some attention. So here goes nothing …

*Please don’t think for one second that I’m not grateful and amazing and blessed that I’ve had these experiences. Because I am all of those things and more. I know that some people would give everything they have for them. But, that doesn’t make what I’m saying any less true. Because momming is hard, y’all.

 

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When a picture’s more than a picture

We live in an age where people are increasingly over-sharing, over-posting, over-exposed. And — I admit — I’m as guilty as the next person. I am an open book. Too open? Maybe. And, my greatest weakness is posting photos (upon photos … upon photos … upon photos) of my family’s adventures. I’ve heard, more than once, from people in various areas of my life to “put down the camera” and “just enjoy making the memories.”

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And I do that — sometimes. As I vowed to Mr. B in that day we officially joined our lives together in 2012, there are some things I save just for us. But, there’s lots of other stuff I share, quite often.

There are a lot of reasons I take — and share — as many photos as I do.

  • I’m super close to my family — just not geographically. It hurts my heart to know they’re missing out on so much of my kids’ lives (and that my kids are missing out on experiencing the true, crazy joy that makes up their Up North family), so I share lots of photos in hopes that it makes up for a tiny bit of the distance.
    whole family
  • I know, all too well, that there’s going to be a day in your life that you only have pictures left. As I was updating our family photo wall the other day, it struck me — directly in the tear-makers — that I’m regularly going to be changing out our family photos and updating pictures of Little Miss and Mister Mister, but I’ll never have new photos to post of Penelope Joy. All I have of her are the pictures I took in the (way too short) time period of 38 days. And, I’ll tell you what, I should have taken more.

    Family Photo

    Our final family photo with Penelope Joy.

  • I think, perhaps one of the most frustrating things I’ve heard (and read) is that “you should put down the camera and just enjoy making memories.” Here’s the thing — memories aren’t forever. And they certainly aren’t guaranteed. My dad died at 63, having no idea who most of us were. Literally, all he had were pictures — and all we have, now, are pictures. My kids won’t know their Papa except through the stories I share and the photos I show them. Younger onset Alzheimer’s disease stole my dad’s memories — and so much more — from him, and from us. But, I’ll be damned if it’s going to take my pictures.On my wedding day with dad
    So, next time you’re looking at my feed or my page and you think to yourself, “geez, she takes a lot of pictures,” maybe your second thought will be “isn’t it great that she’ll always have those photos to help her treasure those moments.” If that’s not your second thought, I invite you to close that tab and look away — you don’t have to look at them. And you also don’t have to worry if I’m living enough in the moment. Trust me I am. I’m savoring every single, beautiful second.

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These Shoes Are Made for Running

This is a post that comes from a deeper place than my post the other day. But … first … let’s start with shoes.

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These are my work walking shoes, my “second string” because they’re old and worn out. The big toe on my left foot peeks out at me as I lace them up. And the heel on my right foot is pretty much rubbed through.

I keep these well loved shoes under my desk — a tool for my lunchtime walks, when my (super-casual-cuz-I-don’t-do-heels) dress shoes won’t do. They’re also a reminder to myself to use my lunch hour for my health. Mental. Physical. Emotional. I’ve found that making myself/my health a priority has been really tough. And some days, my lunch hour is all I have.

Take this morning, for example. Mr. B moved my spin bike upstairs for easier access. (Which, by the way, was no easy task — have y’all ever tried to lift a remarkably heavy spin bike up two flights of stairs?) I was so excited for my 4:45 alarm so I could get in a ride before work. But, as soon as I rolled over to turn off my alarm and get out of bed, Little Man also rolled over — and attached himself firmly to my nipple. So … no workout for me since I was busy serving breakfast.

That’s why my work shoes are so important. Some days, that’s the only Kimi time I get and the only exercise time I’m able to make for myself. At least in this season.

“So, Kimi,” you ask. “What’s the real deal with the shoes?”

These shoes are a reminder of something else for me, too. They’re a reminder of “when I used to be a runner.” Most importantly, these stinky, worn-out, probably-shouldn’t-be-wearing shoes are a reminder of Penelope Joy.

You see, I wore these shoes in the last half marathon I ran. In April 2013. I was three months pregnant — and clueless about the path we would soon be asked to walk.

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Crossing the finish line at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in Grand Rapids

I had spent several years getting myself in the best physical state I’d ever been in for my entire life. I had run a number of half marathons; I had happily trained for and completed a full marathon; and I was working out regularly.

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Three months pregnant and just starting to bust out of my running jacket — about 7 miles into the race

Then the bottom dropped out. And we heard the worst news any expectant-parent should hear: “I have bad news.

Soon after that, I was told not to run. I was told to keep my physical activity more limited — walking and swimming would pass, but that was about it. Because to do anything more vigorous could risk the baby’s life. So I stopped.

And, I never really laced up my shoes again. I tried. I really did. I tried to find my legs and I tried to get back out there. But it never stuck. It became increasingly clear that it’s more than a time issue — although, as I’ve said before, I’ve pretty much been pregnant or nursing since January 2013.

In the years before getting pregnant with Penelope Joy, I had spent a lot of time and effort getting myself healthy enough to carry a baby without risks. And my body betrayed me and I was classified as “high-risk” with a baby who was given a pretty low chance for survival. In a small way, I blame myself. I blame my body for not providing a healthy growing environment for Penelope Joy. Even after therapy and two very healthy, happy babies, I’ll probably always carry some guilt — warranted or not — for what happened to Penelope Joy.

To be honest, that mental barrier has been really hard to get over. And something as simple as running carries with it some painful emotions. For anyone who says your mental, emotional and physical health aren’t linked, gimme a call — I have a lot I’d like to share with you.

I will tell you this — I’m getting the itch again. My legs want to run. My heart wants to run. I just need to get my brain on board. I know it’ll be a long, slow road back. I am in no shape to hit the trails like I used to. It may not won’t be tomorrow — or even next week — but I’ll be back out there. Because, inside, I’m still a runner.

But I think I’d better get to the shoe store first.

 

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My Self — Myself

Mr. B and I were talking last night after Little Miss and Mister Mister went to sleep. We don’t spend a lot of time talking talking. I mean, we talk, but we don’t talk like we used to — you know, before kids, when we used to have time to sit and discuss the big things like dreams and wishes and goals and … well … life.

So, last night we did that. And it was nice. We talked about our life and the chapter we’re in right now and how life is with two (three) kids. And it was a great conversation that ended with some tears, as B.I.G. conversations sometimes do. (My tears, of course, it’s always my tears.)

They weren’t sad tears. They weren’t happy tears. They weren’t mad tears. They were … contemplative … tears, I suppose.

Because as we were talking, I shared with Mr. B how hard things are some days. It is hard balancing it all: work, family, friends, “self-care,” home, responsibilities. Mostly, it’s hard because I feel like I haven’t been myself since before I was pregnant with Penelope Joy.

I really, truly love the chapter of our story we’re living right now. But, if you think about it, I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding since January of 2013. There was a 3-month break between Penelope Joy’s death and when I got pregnant with Dottie Lou. But that was filled with fresh, terrible grief. And now, some days I’m left feeling like my body, myself, has not really been my own for four-and-a-half years.

Now, please don’t get me wrong: I love being a mom (way more than I thought I could). I love being a wife. I love every choice and sacrifice I’ve made that has brought me to where I am right now. I look back with no regrets, and I look forward with no doubts. But, man, this chapter can be hard.

Sitting here, staring at the screen and listening to myself type, I don’t really have a solution — or know if I really need a “solution.” I don’t have any deep thoughts about it. Actually, I don’t really know the point of this post, other than both kids are sleeping and I haven’t really made time to write for a really long time. And, for me, writing is one of the first steps to feeling like myself again — to feeling like I belong to me.

Now, please enjoy this picture of my family or, as Dottie Lou says, “all the silly monkeys.”

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