keeping count

IMG_3511I was too skinny and my mental health was suffering. I had just turned 18 years old. I knew little. I did know there were feelings I had never felt before and I sort of knew they were not what I wanted to be feeling. There were some major transitions coming in the summer of 2000. Two of my best friends were heading West to better their English skills, others were off to cool adventures with family or boyfriends. I was so lost.

When I loaded my life in a few luggage and embarked on that bus, I took 3 or 4 Gravol. I wanted to sleep the entire way to Toronto. Perhaps I did not want to wake up. But I did. I woke up. At Union Station with the content of my life spread around my legs and those of my mind spread across thousands of kilometres.

My children are nowhere near the age where they want to pick up and go on an adventure. In fact one of them claims he will never marry and live with us forever. At this point, I’m ok with that. I however understand how my parents must have felt. I was to be gone only a few months; a year maybe. Today marks my 16th year as an Ontarian.

It is nearly impossible to remember the first feelings. The first few months living in Orangeville with my aunt and trying to figure myself out. I learned the language and was hired by an airline. I worked, made money and began travelling. As time passed, the world opened itself to me and my views broadened with each experience.

I have found it helpful and encouraging to count each additional year since my big move. However, this time around, it doesn’t bring me as much joy. I am not sad or angry, simply indifferent. I am counting the 5 more years before I graduate, which will mean my eldest son will be 13… a teenager. I am counting 2 more years, where I will have lived here as long as I lived in my home town.

The thing is, those year are passing much too fast. The months, weeks, days, hours, minutes… There is always so much to do and not enough time. I want to hug my kids and play in the creek with them. I want to sit outside with my man and talk about our lives and our dreams. I want to spend time with my beloved friends and all the love they share with us. I want to read all the knowledge I can absorb. I want to make space for all the feelings I am digging up working so hard at becoming a psychotherapist and be able to help people some day. I want to write all I feel and think and one day, look back at this amazing life we made for ourselves and let my mind travel through the beautiful memories. All because I did wake up.

I woke up and the sun rose again. Some days are a little darker but one thing for certain, the sun will shine again.

From here on, I’d like to quit counting and revel in the days, bright and dark. Because I know now, after all the diapers and colic and sore nipples and scratched knees and tantrums and soccer  practice and piano and swimming lessons, I am fully and blissfully awake.

Love,

Maman M.

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i am fat

You see, I am fat. There are no other way to say it. I am not exactly curvy as standards would have it. I am not voluptuous

fat-catunless my husband is concerned. I am simply FAT. The scale says it. My BMI says it. Everyone one on my Facebook feed says it.

You see, I am studying to become a psychotherapist. Some of my work is a VERY intense training group which makes be dig up all the hidden ghosts in my imaginary closet. The thing about being a psychotherapist is having little to no judgement. AT ALL. Toward others AND toward yourself. FAT CHANCE! Thankfully, I have 3 more years of this work to do.

Let’s get back to the fat. I have been wired to feel that, the fat cells on my body, the ones people see and judge, are like penalty cards to my intelligence. My place in the world and my entitlement. Entitlement to opinions, feelings, bravery, etc. I am FAT therefore, I have less of an impact on others and the world.

In the last few years, I have had a few “free” passes. The last 8 years, I have been either pregnant or nursing. I suffer from a thyroid problem that makes it that much more difficult to lose the baby weight. I am on an anti anxiety/anti depression med that makes me gain weight. WHAT-eh-VER. I AM JUST FAT.

For my body to become smaller, I must starve, have emotional ups and downs, work out until I throw up and live like I am a different person. All because I need to be a certain way so I am seen a certain way!

My weigh and my appearance are a constant reminder that I am worth less than the common human being. People who bullied me had a right. People who didn’t like me were justified. People who looked at me differently were allowed.

My boys are 8 and 6. They know. They know that my stomach, which isn’t quite like the flat stomach of this other mom with 3 kids, isn’t “normal”. HOW. How do my children know and feel like my stomach should be flat and not protrude from the seam of my yoga pants?

Will my little girl know what it feels like to be FAT? Feeling fat is a complete other topic and please visit this article my friend Dawn posted which is brilliant and she is totally freaking gorgeous, inside and out.

Will my girl OR my boys get my genes? Will they feel what it feels like to be FAT. Will I have ingrained enough power and self awareness into them so they know they are magnificent, regardless of size, color, race, gender, etc.

You see, we are not wealthy. We are not wealthy because my main focus is to ensure they know who they are inside. We are not wealthy because I spend, or my guy is willing to invest, 8 plus thousand dollars a year in my self discovery so I can help people one day  love that they are FAT and smart and compassionate and generous and aware.  That the size of their asses has absolutely nothing to do with who they are as people of this world. And we, can do anything and everything. We are worthy or everything and anything: Friends, husbands, children, no children, families, friends, network, communities, faith, God, love. LOVE. LOVE. We are WORTHY of LOVE. ALL THE LOVE. Your size is utterly unrelated to the level of love you’re able to give or entitled to receive. LOVE WITH ALL YOUR HEART. AND LET US BE LOVED.

LOVE,

Maman M.

 

 

 

 

 

that shameful thing

Mindsight_LGI think overall, I am a decent parent. I feed, I love , I clothed, I listen, etc. I question my every move. Each decision, each comment, every little compliment is weighed. Whether before it is verbalized or after. My eldest son’s favourite come back now is “we all say things we don’t mean when we are angry”.

A very important notion in our family is that emotions are allowed, granted and celebrated. Not only the ‘fun’ emotions. All the emotions. If my children are never angry or sad, they will never be happy. However, in spite of how strong an emotion gets, the consequences of our actions live on forever. An insult to a beloved brother or too much talking back to a parent. If it makes the journey from your brain to your tongue and is delivered, it is out there. We must all live with it. Yes, it is physiologically known that when we “flip our lid” (Siegel, 2011, p.27) as Dr. Daniel Siegel explains so well in his book ‘Mindsight’, the brain connections working to regulate emotions don’t exactly fire properly. Still, it has a 99.9% chance of hurting someone we love very much.

So, I preach. I preach kindness and auto regulation. I preach to them, but I mostly preach to myself. Because when I ‘flip my lid’ (Siegel, 2011, p.27) and the ‘limbic lava’ (Siegel, 2011, p.27) starts to boil, I scream. I feel I must put it out there for the whole world to see. I am a screamer. Those sweet babies whom I nursed and cajoled and baked for all these months, they get the worst of my hot blooded self. My  wonderful psychotherapist likes to remind me I have European blood and I am ‘unique’ in certain aspect of personality. However, accepting my failure in keeping cool is oh so difficult. After all the neurons reconnect, I look at their little tiny faces and my heart sinks. I want to cry and hold them tight. I apologize for raising my voice but maman is just so tired and a bit frustrated repeating the same thing 100 times. School has been on for 5 months and when I ask them to get dressed and brush teeth in the morning, they look at me like I have 2 heads and they have never accomplished that task before.

So, I put heavy blame on myself and my ability to raise these little humans. I put more money aside for the therapy they will one day need. I watch from the corner of my eyes all the other mamas dropping off their kids at school and whispering sweet nothing to them. While I get out of the car, weary and filled with guilt because of another morning I didn’t handle with poise and calm. And, I know I am not alone.

There, I said it. This mothering business is difficult. It is a test. When I kiss them in the hall and watch their little backs walking away from me in to a life of their own, I wonder if they are happy and if they remember the apology that came shortly after the loud words. I pray they remember how much they are loved and utterly brilliant beings.

I will try again. Every. Single. Day.

Love,

Maman M.

References
Siegel, Daniel J. Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation. New York: Bantam, 2011. Print.

learning to land

Scan 10There are so many elements of my training in becoming a psychotherapist. I attend lectures weekly and lecture seminars monthly. There are the odd days when graduates share their most recent papers on the Oedipal Complex or Winnicott’s concepts. A very important part of this program, which few people understand, is a very intense, 4-year, 440-hour Group Therapy session.

In order to be a therapist and manage to support patients on a daily basis, a clear and profound awareness of self is necessary. Not only to help others, but to maintain sanity and survival. As a first year student, I am learning the ropes. Sharing my trials and tribulations and being able to sit and hold myself while reaching places within I would rather not attend to. Often, others’ sharing is the most enlightening.

Other than Freud’s Psychoanalysis Lexicon’s MANY terms and definitions, psychotherapists employ a jargon of their own. Much like educators or administrators, we develop a language of our own. For the actions of our work carry such meaning, they need terms or expressions. I am quickly learning my way around them. Although cerebrally processing words like “coming in” or “taking it in” and “holding” isn’t too difficult in the context of daily life or group, applying them is another challenge in itself.

This week, I had an epiphany on the word “Land”; to land or landing. Obviously, landing could mean arriving somewhere or at something. In this case, landing grabbed my attention in a way I have always wanted to understand and reach.

I detest conflict. I have difficulty facing a situation which may result in anger toward me. I rather walk away when I notice others heading to an argument, heated or not. I immediately reach flight reaction and fear danger. When faced with adversity, I have a tendency to hide. It is more comfortable to take the blame or pretend than having a needed conversation with someone. My fear of rejection wins. This week’s session shone a very bright, concert worth, light on my issues facing negative feelings and conflicts.

Landing. Making space for emotions, conflicts, etc. Allowing all these to land somewhere allows one to take ownership; to hold these situations in the basket with all the other parts of us.

I have noticed myself become increasingly assertive. The fears associated with speaking on uncomfortable topics or situation are slowly, very slowly dissipating. I have even been able to say “no” at times.

Amazingly, making space for all these things to land some place safe, instead of keeping them in, deeply nestled in my super critical self, has allowed the better parts of me to take more space. Clearer, neater and safer mind.

This is going to be a journey. A winding road I am learning to face. Small steps toward feeling worthy and entitled to those ugly and terrifying confrontations. Because, most times, the outcome is made so much scarier in my mind, than it actually is.

I want to make space for a smooth and bump-less landing of self. To grow to the best and most wholesome self I can offer my future clients. Much work; much work.

With love and hope.

Maman M.

 

 

 

when happiness weighs

fcf244d29dbe49f11c01b4ceaa970bb4A new year brings on all the feelings of a fresh start. At the beginning of January, I go on a cleaning, sorting and organizing frenzy. I pull out the fridge and stove to clean behind, clean out cutlery drawers, turn the kids rooms around, sort through book, etc, etc.

Many of my friends were afflicted by death, separation, moves and other difficult situations in 2015. The stroke of midnight brought fresh new hopes. For us, 2015 was filled with new challenges, a move, ups and downs.

Throughout the year, I noticed many social media posts on Happiness: “10 ways to live a happier life” or  “Routines to bring happiness”. The trend has been around for a while but it has been on my mind lately. Social media gurus teach us to build platforms and run wild with them. Gratitude and happiness seem to be many bloggers and motivational personalities’ focus. It is almost as if, unless one is perfectly happy, content and grateful for all of the events in one’s life, there is something “wrong”. As if we are missing out. When did it become acceptable to feel “wrong” for a lack of happiness. Whatever happened to having a good ol’ shitty day?  This great article “The Case for Melancholy” by the New York Times, appeared in my News Feed.

As a mother, wife, friend, student and, firstly, as a woman, I want to embrace melancholy. (If you haven’t watched Disney’s Inside Out, go do it.) I want to be able to live in the days where, in spite of having a wonderful husband, three marvellous little children, food on my plate and a roof over my head, my heart sinks. I was that girl, always happy and bubbly. If I didn’t smile one day, people thought my dog died or I was terminally ill. Reality is, most of the happy and bubbly was just my way of dealing with the emotions I couldn’t let out. The anxiety and the depression and the sadness. These feelings are bad and ugly. No one really wants to see them, but it does not mean they aren’t there. And one day, when I ended up at Toronto General thinking I was having a heart attack at age 22, the feelings, they began seeping through. Then they all came flooding out of my eyes, my heart, my life and I could no longer ignore them. I had to learn to hold them. Like I hold a baby. Today, I walk about life, holding all the feelings of anxiety and depression and loneliness in the same basket as I hold all the joy and love and gratitude. It is all a part of who I am. I do not want to love sadness any less than I love joy or anger (reference to Inside Out here… seriously, go watch it).

For all the mamas out there, I know how hard it is. It is hard to love your children so much yet not being able to be in the same room because you can’t even cope with yourself. I’ve been there. I held it. It took a long time and it was hard. I still hold it. As a part of who I am as a mother. If the world claims you can be the happiest person on earth in 10 simple ways but you just can’t pull it together, it’s OK. We’re not Disney World. We are only humans. If we can find a small place in our hearts to hold and accept the sadness or any other feelings non-happiness approved, we are already ahead. Because all we can do is hold ourselves up. You. Me. Us. If you don’t feel grateful today. It is OK. Try again tomorrow, or next week or whenever you can hold that feeling. No pressure; no deadline.

I bet the people writing about all that fun, bubbly, happy stuff sit behind the computer screen at times with ache in their hearts. If there is never any aches and suffering, how do we know we are happy? My happy is different than your happy. Because my sadness differs from your sadness. There are no scales or measurement. Just the size of our own baskets, where we hold all of the feels, all the time.

Here is to a Feeling New Year!

Much love,

Maman M.

Hips

body-shapeSince the day I slipped on the navy jumper over my white polo shirt and tights and headed to grade two, I have always carried a little more weight than any of the BMI calculator consider “healthy”. My face is as round a a soccer ball. I am one of those girls who would politely be called “big boned”.

I am trying to be witty. Believe me, in the body of a 14 year-old, nothing about this was a laughing matter. It caused me much pain to be different. My body has never, in my thirty three years, looked the way I imagined. The person looking back at me in the full length mirror was not the one reflected inside my head.

Needless to say, when I became pregnant with my first child, at the age of 25, I had no idea what was coming. It is as if God was trying to teach me an important lesson. I gained 75 pounds, was left with an unrecognizable middle section and hips I wished I could have shaved away.

Then I had a second child. And a third. The last one was born weighing nearly 10lbs. There was no recovery.

Since birthing all those little humans and nursing them for over three years, combined, I have come to appreciate this body. This home with which I was blessed. I still don’t like all the parts and pieces but it is a fine tuned machine. By some miracle, it grew life. Five times. Two little lives didn’t make it, but my body tried. It baked and delivered, with much effort, three little souls. It has kept on running, with so little sleep and tremendous demands.

Recently, I have been focused on hips. Not exactly my best features.

My grand-father is very ill with diabetes and other health problems. He needs a new hip, badly. Because of diabetes attacking his lower limbs, a hip replacement is risky. When I saw him over the summer, my heart pinched each time I watched him stand up or sit down. The human race is able to stand straight and walk thanks to our pelvis and hip connection.

I stood in the bathroom one early morning, when my youngest child walked in. Crazy haired and sleep in her eyes. The arms went up and, even at nearly three years old, she wants to be carried. Her little legs wrapped around my waist, her head nuzzled in my neck and her little bum, resting in perfect unity with my hips. As if her body and mine were a puzzle. The pieces fit. The boys were and are still the same. At almost 8 years old, when a fever strikes or a knee gets scraped, the hip is the place of choice for a teeny broken heart.

My hips are bigger than they once were. My body will never be the same but it is the only I have. I don’t wish for another. My hips have been a place of comfort for almost 8 years. They have allowed me to climb the playground, run along my babes, lean over them at night and a place for my Beloved’s hands to rest when we kiss.

Here, here! To hips everywhere. Any size or shape.

Much like our hearts, they carry so much and until broken, we don’t quite appreciate them enough.

Love,

Maman M.

Neighborhood Sadness

A friend posted this VERY moving story about a man who committed suicide. The first thought I had was: He is no longer suffering! I could be blamed for such thought but, the pain, darkness and desperation brought on by depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses is quite comparable to debilitating diseases like cancer. The suffering is tremendous yet, no one can see it. We can never stop talking about mental illnesses. We need to hear it loud and clear.

Deciphering Life

Oct. 17, 14-d In October, I was walking my dog practicing our loose leash walking lessons.  We passed a stout young man with shaded complexion and grouchy face.  I found him scary!  Not sure if I uttered the normal, “Hi!” or not.  He certainly did not respond if I did.

Since my office is the front room of my house and my desk faces the window to the street, I noted him walking by my house, usually multiple times per day.  It wasn’t long before I noticed he was losing weight.  As the weeks went by, the pounds dropped off him too fast.  Soon his pants were loose on his hips.  He no longer looked scary to me, but he was definitely melancholy.  As I repeatedly saw him pass by, I wanted to run to the door and congratulate him on his amazing weight loss.  But I didn’t.  If I had encountered him…

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