Because “shower” really shouldn’t be on my to-do list & 21 other reasons why I’m taking a blogging sabbatical
Please note item #15.
Good thing my hair looks fuller and more vibrant when it isn’t freshly washed. And when things get really busy, thank goodness for dry shampoo. My favorite? Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo, but in a pinch the economical Batiste Dry Shampoo works well, too. I don’t mind its stronger smell, but I’m not sensitive to strong aromas (probably because I’m knee-deep in my children’s waste products).
Baby power does the trick as well, but you have to be careful to not leave white residue on your scalp because then people will be on to your laziness.
What’s the deal with talking about something as random as dry shampoo?
I opened with a small, everyday glimpse into my life and then switched gears to product placement simply because I don’t know what else to say. Or what’s really more accurate is this: I don’t know if I want to say what needs to be said and just be through with it already.
I mentioned to a dear friend the other day that I always felt like I was really good at time management, but lately I’m having trouble keeping all the balls in the air. That’s an understatement. Sometimes I don’t even know what balls are swirling above me, and I’m ducking my head afraid one is going to fall down and thump me on the head.
There are a lot of things I can’t drop, but some of the things that are keeping me feeling flustered are non-essential. Like blogging. Like engaging in social media.
My mind is churning over a lot of what-ifs lately.
What if I disappeared from the online world (with the exception of email) and just focused on building relationships with my husband, my children, and friends I can regularly hang out with at the park?
What if I used all the time I devote to blogging, promoting my blogging, and connecting with others in social media to exercise, to move my body, and to get those happy endorphins flowing?
What if I stopped making excuses about not having time for prayer and showed up to listen to God half as much as I showed up to blog, send a tweet, or check in with Facebook?
What if I never published another thing in Cyberspace and just wrote what I wanted to write when I wanted to write it in old-fashioned journals?
What if I just worked on my short stories and that novel I’ve been wanting to write for so long?
What if I completely ignored the siren song of all those chirps and beeps from my Smart Phone and showed my children I’m smarter than any phone because I know what’s really important in life?
What if I just went cold turkey on it all – blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. – would I miss it?
What if I stopped thinking of God as my Xanax in the sky and really talked to Him instead of reading about Him or reading about how others relate to Him online?
Yesterday my husband encouraged me to get out of the “what if?” limbo and just take a sabbatical. Try it. It doesn’t have to be permanent. You might find your life is fuller. Or you might discover how much you miss blogging and the like. Either way, you’ll put an end to all the “what ifs.”
Okay. I’ll do it!
Last night I was all fired up, folks. Today not so much.
When I was getting therapy for my eating disorder, one counselor told me if I wasn’t obsessing about my weight, I’d find something else to go all OCD about. Sometimes it’s been my parenting. I must do everything right because if I don’t my kids will turn to drugs, promiscuity, hate, eating disorders, anything to fill that void my poor parenting left in them.
Right now it’s blogging, which is ridiculous on one hand but also a lot less stress-inducing than sweating the small and big stuff in the trenches of motherhood. Still, the fact that I’m giving so much thought to something like blogging is absurd on many levels. What a pampered life I live if a stressor in it involves deciding whether or not I should be logging on to my computer as much as I do.
There are mothers who are worried about what they’re going to feed their children tomorrow, and I’m struggling with deciding whether to blog or not to blog? C’mon, Kate. Get a grip. Get some perspective. Go eat a brownie. Do something other than worry about blogging!
Ah, but my blogging sabbatical decision only (not surprisingly) spawned further “what ifs?”
What if the publishers interested in having me write a new book ditch me?
What if the friends I “met” online – the ones who are really and truly in-real-life friends even if I don’t yet know their physical embrace – forget about me?
What if when I come back and return to blogging – and I will come back, right? – no one remembers me and there are no more relationships to build or moms to encourage or friends to laugh with or share only the most flattering photos of my progeny with?
What if it’s just back to my mom reading my words and I’m writing into a black hole?
What if, what if, what if…
But there’s another “what if” that’s nestled in my heart. What if I find my life is richer, more peaceful, fuller, less noisy, more present, and less hurried when I step away from this online life? What then? Will this hiatus turn into a permanent good-bye?
I don’t think so. But maybe. I just know the only way to make peace with these “what ifs” is to close shop for awhile.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m listing the reasons a blogging sabbatical is necessary for me right now. This list isn’t only for me – to help me sort things out and feel better about leaving such a big part of my life behind (even if it’s only temporary); it’s for you, too, because some of you have been with me since I first started filling this blank, white screen with my ramblings (and typos) way back in 2007. Some of you are new readers who loyally read my random posts. New or old, you have blessed me with your comments, your emails, your prayers, and your insight. You’ve also blessed me with your oversight, looking past typos and things that don’t make any sense and posts that were most definitely NOT Spirit-led.
I know I’m leaving behind a good thing here. Remember that. And please pop in here every now and then to see if I’m back or at least to share your intentions in The God Box. This site isn’t going anywhere, and your intentions will still be prayed over.
Ironically, a few hours after I published this breastfeeding post I discovered a huge, hot lump on my breast. Not long after, I felt as if a Mack truck had plowed over me, and a part of me was regretting I was still a nursing mama. I had the chills, nausea, and I ached all over. While I’ve had clogged milk ducts before, this was my first experience with full-blown mastitis. I’m on antibiotics now and am feeling much better, but I’m still supposed to be taking it easy. Thankfully, we have a great babysitter and a generous Pop who is outside playing with my kids as I write. (If you’re reading this, Nana, don’t worry. I’m resting on my side while typing.)
Mastitis is no fun. My breast is inflamed and when I nurse on the infected side, it feels like fire is leaking through my nipple. The slightest bump or touch sends shooting pain through my body, and yesterday it hurt to lift my right arm.
A probable cause of the infection involves a blow to my chest. My 3-year-old accidentally elbowed me hard in the right breast on Monday. I had a lump there, which likely led to a clogged duct and it all kind of snowballed from there.
As I rested in bed yesterday with a hot compress, I received an email from a friend who is a new mom to multiples. Reading her honest words pierced my heart because I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed and to find yourself in a dark place instead of basking in baby bliss. Postpartum depression robs you of the joy of those sweet early weeks of motherhood. Yet, even when you don’t have to deal with depression or even the baby blues, if you expect to be happy every day during those early weeks of motherhood – or during any phase of motherhood – you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
“Being a mom is so hard,” my friend confided.
No doubt about that, thinks the mom with the achy body and hot breast.
We’re fooling ourselves if we try to make being a mom out to be all sepia-toned all of the time.
I had another new-mom friend ask me a few years back why no one had ever told her how hard those first few months would be. She felt like she was on a never-ending cycle of feeding, sleeping, and changing diapers, and she felt cut off from the rest of the world.
Then there’s a friend of mine who is way beyond the baby stage and is actually pining for those sleepless nights because at least she could comfort her whimpering wee ones by holding them close. Now that her kids are teens they’re often aloof, and she feels like she can’t connect with them.
Finally, one of my friends is pregnant with her first and is due any day now. (Please keep her in your prayers. She really wants to avoid induction, but she may be induced if she doesn’t go in to labor by tomorrow morning.) This pregnancy has worn her out, partly because she’s been working long shifts as a physician. She has this week off and what she really wants to do is rest, but everyone keeps telling her to have fun and to do things she won’t be able to do after she has a baby. “They say I’ll never be able to go to the store again,” she says.
Recently, another dear friend confessed to me that she just seesaws between feeling listless and angry when she’s dealing with her boys.
I ache for all these moms. And it’s not a physical, mastitis ache, but a visceral one. No one had to tell me how hard motherhood was going to be. I discovered it all my own.
It’s a different kind of hard, too. It’s not brain surgery hard, though I’ve obviously never performed brain surgery. But motherhood isn’t about perfect precision or highly-specialized training or expertise, although the way so many of us moms are as focused on our children as a laser beam you might have you think differently.
It’s no marathon hard either. I do speak from experience here. Running a marathon is hard, but you can train for covering all those miles. Your body miraculously adapts, and it’s only yourself you have to convince to move forward. You’re not dealing with one or more humans with purpose who frequently offer nothing but maddening defiance to thwart your every move. And, yes, 26.2 miles is long, but after a little less than four hours you’ve crossed the finish line. It’s time to celebrate. You finished the race. Labor might be like a marathon but not day-to-day mothering. That’s different. Harder.
Is there ever a finish line to cross as a mother? My mom says even though her children are grown and all on their own, she thinks about them throughout her day. When one of us is hurt or faces a disappointment or a health scare, her mama bear instinct kicks in. She wants to protect and heal, but she’s often powerless to do anything. That’s an altogether different kind of hard than the sheer exhaustion I face being a mother to little ones.
I thought about my post that denounced People magazine sensationalizing extended breastfeeding by labeling it as “extreme” along with the practice of pre-mastication and encapsulating your placenta, and I realized something.
We’re all extreme parents.
Motherhood is the ultimate extreme sport. There’s potential for danger. Toddlers constantly trying to kill themselves. Babies scratching your eye in the middle of the night resulting in a corneal abrasion (one of the many casualties I have suffered as a mama). There’s the risk of loving and not getting much or anything in return.
But there’s a different kind of danger, too. There’s the danger in telling yourself being a mom is only hard for you. Or worse, that this mothering business is tough work because there’s something wrong with you. Don’t believe you possess some personal defect because you’re feeling alone, sad, angry, frustrated, frazzled, burned out or because your kids sometimes get on your nerves or because you didn’t instantly bond with your baby or your teens roll their eyes at you.
Being a mother is hard for us all. In different ways perhaps, but it’s not all roses and sunshine for any of us. Not all of the time anyhow. Being a new mother is hard. Being a mom of one or three or seven is hard. Being a mom of tiny tyrants is hard, but so is mothering teens and even young adults (and older adults, too, I imagine!).
Sacrificial love doesn’t come easy for any of us. Neither does letting go of our own power, our own agenda as well as our old life. Mothering requires us to do all of these things and to do them when we’re often skimping on sleep or even good nutrition (surely our bodies deserve more than grazing on our children’s leftover bread crusts).
Motherhood also requires a hopeful heart. A heart that harvests hope that our children will grow up in spite of us. And they will. Bet on it.
Clinging to shreds of hope helps us hold onto our sanity. There’s hope that we can find healing for our depression. There’s hope our children will one day sleep through the night. There’s hope we can get some help and have a break when we feel ready to call it quits.
Staying in the moment will help worn out mamas, too. When we’re suffering, we can’t start to wonder if things will always be this bad. That would crush us. Nor can we dream about when things were easier. We have to look at the now. We have to figure out a way to seek out joy right where we’re at. It’s there. I promise.
Sometimes it shows up in the most unexpected places like when you inform your 3-year-old that she is not the queen of the world, and she says emphatically clearly not believing you, “Don’t tell me that!” You can’t help but chuckle.
Or, when you have to will yourself out of bed so you can go pick up your oldest child from an activity, and you’re sitting at a red light and it feels like your breast is on fire and you’re shivering with the chills despite the spring sunshine, and you hear the loud blast of a car horn and look over to see an adorable, old man who is sitting in a low-riding red sports car. He looks over at you, waves, and smiles a gummy smile that’s clearly missing a few teeth, and you find yourself thanking God for that sweet, old man and that if you hadn’t had to go pick up your daughter you would have missed someone who clearly sees age as a meaningless number.
So to all moms, I’ll say this. What you’re doing is extreme, and it demands exceptional energy, love, and faith.
And to brand-spankin’ moms who feel hopelessly overwhelmed. This too shall pass. To the moms of twins, I’ve never had two babies and I can’t imagine the juggling act it requires. But they won’t always be feeding constantly or always in need of mama’s soothing arms. I use this adage a lot when I’m feeling like I can’t endure a certain stage one day longer like how ever since turning 3, my Mary Elizabeth has started throwing titanic tantrums daily. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.
But if you’re waiting for something that doesn’t feel right to pass or there’s something sucking every ounce of happiness out of you, or if you’re really hurting and unable to climb out of a dark pit, seek help. Now. Don’t be ashamed. This doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that you’re not a super mom. You just may need some help to feel super again.
This goes for my mama friend who is tired of her “crazy emotions” (her words, not mine). Jesus – God Himself – cried out to his Father and begged, “Take this cup away from me.” In my life, it’s more like me crying out, “Please let me sleep for more than five fragmented hours!”
When we’re faced with mastitis, when we’re suffering from the blues or full-blown depression, when we feel alone and unsupported in our roles as mothers, when we feel hopeless and like we’ve ruined our children for life, when we lose a child to miscarriage, sickness, or an accident, remember this: You are in a passion. Don’t feel any need to apologize for bleeding. God doesn’t ask that of you. Neither should anyone else. Like Jesus, you are in a position of powerlessness that you did not choose but in which God asks you to be faithful. Jesus fell physically. As a mother, you’re going to fall, too. He yelled, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You will, too. But when you do, that’s when Simon of Cyrenes and Veronicas will step forward to help you. When they do, let them help you.
Mothers must give, but you do not have to live a martyr’s life day after day.
As for my friend and mama -to-be who is eagerly anticipating the birth of her child but who is also just a little fearful of what’s to come, here’s the honest truth: Everything you’re so afraid of about having a baby is probably true. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to stretch you (in more ways than one, I’m afraid). Your life will be different, but different isn’t always bad.
Yes, you will lose a little. But you’ll gain a lot. Not just a sweet baby, a child to nurture and love, a vessel of hopes and dreams, but you will gain a new life, a new purpose, a new joy.
“When she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.” John 16:21
Oh, and you will go to a store again. Young babies are actually very portable. Tote them everywhere with you while they’ll still fall asleep surrounded by noise and activity.
Everything won’t always be peachy. As a mom, you’re certain to acquire some hurt, some aches, and bruises.
There will be tears, tantrums, wayward children, and crying jags (from you and your child). There will be days you wish you could erase. There will be holes in your children’s lives – some of them gaping – that you alone cannot fill.
But like a seed buried beneath the wintertime earth, it in the dark spaces where the growth begins to happen.
You will never be the same. Loving your children will cost you.
It’s okay to be afraid, but it’s also necessary to recognize this giving and changing and becoming as a good thing, a beautiful thing.
We become parents not only because we are creatures of love who possess an innate desire to love and to be loved, but because we need to be taught how to love. And learning lessons in love is not easy. Growing into our mothering shoes is hard because this love does not always come naturally. It’s messy. It hurts. It’s terrifying. It is indeed extreme. It breaks you only to build you into the woman you were meant to become. A woman who is neither too hard nor too soft. An exceptional woman who is strong without having sharp edges. A woman who will always be called a mother.
This hasn’t been the greatest Lent. That’s an understatement, actually. In all honesty, I feel like an epic failure. I set the bar low, and I still couldn’t meet any of my spiritual goals.
Yet in spite of me and my failings, Easter will come. In the face of my sins and my foibles, there will be hope. New Life in Him is not dependent on my performance. Thank God for that.
Dying on the cross, Jesus thirsted for souls. He went to all this trouble and endured great suffering. Yet, there are so many, myself included many times, who don’t really appreciate his sacrifice. We continue to crucify Him with our own sins – no matter how small. How awful that must feel not only to God, but to His Mother, too. She stood at the foot of the cross and watched her only son suffer and die. She accepted everything with trust and grace. And here I am, unable to even make some pitifully small sacrifices in honor of Him.
Oh, Mary, it would be a lot easier to hate those who hurt Him, wouldn’t it? I bet it would even feel good – at least for a fleeting, pleasurable moment – to hate all of us who betray your Son with our actions (or our lack of action – say, being too tired to pray to Him).
Instead, Mary and Jesus chose to forgive again and again and to look beyond our weaknesses and our repeat offenses and to love.
I haven’t been very good at loving anyone but myself lately.
But I refuse to be a Judas. I refuse to give up, to cave in to despair. I cling to hope, hope in a God whose mercy is endless and who loves me even when I don’t deserve it. Like Peter after he betrayed Christ, I long to look into Jesus’ eyes, into Love itself, even though it might be easier to look away.
Easter is coming. I keep reminding myself of that. It doesn’t feel like I deserve an Easter after such a pathetic Lent.
I have some loved ones who not only deserve the joy of Easter but who will be living it on Sunday.
My cousin has been fighting leukemia for 3 1/2 years, but on Easter day he stops taking his oral chemo. Isn’t that beautiful? A priest will be offering a personal Mass in their home to celebrate this new beginning for him. Entering the phase known as “survivorship” on Easter Sunday takes the whole idea of “new life” to a new level, doesn’t it?
This Easter will be the first day of the rest of his cancer-free life. Deo gratias. He was 15 when he was diagnosed. He’s spent most of his teen years fighting cancer. Whereas my Lent has been too short, his has been far too long.
My aunt understands, more than I, what it means to stand at the foot of the cross. She understands what it means to be faithful in everything and every circumstance. Come Easter, she’ll embrace the new life in Him, in her own son, just as she has taken up the way of the cross for so long now.
This Easter is for my cousin. It’s for his mom, his dad, his entire family.
It’s for my dad who recently said he feels a lot like Mary sometimes having to helplessly watch his wife suffer with grace and endurance and to standby and witness his mom – who lives with my parents – have to face the realities of old age. He can help. He can pray. He can trust. But he can’t take my mom or our nana’s crosses completely away.
This Easter is most definitely for my sweet mama who despite failed surgeries and medical treatments clings to hope and gives thanks for a beautiful life.
Easter is for you, too. It’s for me. It’s for those who believe and those who don’t. It’s for those who suffer as well as those who seem to glide through life with nary a care in the world.
It’s for us all.
Imagine that. You don’t have to. It’s the Truth.
We are all God’s beloved children, and we are all capable of being raised in glory.
Today there is darkness. There’s sadness. There is pain. There are lowly bodies that fail us. There are broken hearts and spirits.
In this world, there is suffering, disease, disaster, hate, indifference, neglect.
In my life, I get it right some of the time. Sometimes I don’t.
He is there through it all.
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
God says the word with the cross. Each nail driven in deeper and deeper drives His love into us.
And on Easter, whether we’ve kept all of our Lenten promises or not, whether we’ve suffered from cancer or another sickness, whether we’ve had to watch a loved one endure pain, whether we’ve held grudges, whatever our past, on Easter morning our souls shall be healed.
Our future is in Him. How can we not be full of hope and new life?