Alchemy in Body Work

I feel it is time to acknowledge some shame I have been carrying around because it is heavy on my heart and I am ready to set it down and heal with Love instead.

I have shared a little bit about how my husband and I are taking some time at the end of the year now to figure out what our relationship with food as a family will look like going forward. When little bubby started eating solids we realized real quick there would not be a point where we suddenly say, okay let’s feed him fat, sugar, and sodium. This means my husband and I, who are well meaning but not completely intentional, needed to make changes to meet little bubby where he is and join him in healthy eating.

In August I had a health scare. I had some kind of gastrointestinal episode that was very painful and found me in my doctor’s office the next day. Labs and testing done came back negative so I assumed it was something I ate and moved on. Two months later, almost to the day, I had another episode but this time it was much worse. I was debilitated by it. I will not get into the details but I was very sick. Again I found myself in my doctor’s office and more testing was ordered. Results have not come back yet, and based on these findings the spectrum of intervention could be from dietary change to surgery.

It is clear to my husband and I though that at the very least we will be applying the dietary change, in fact we already have. My body is literally telling me it is time.

I have gone full vegetarian with most of my meals being fully vegan. I have been off dairy for a while but I do still eat fish. My husband is practicing this with me for the meals he eats at home but for the time being still takes a sandwich for lunch that includes deli meat. Little bubby is eating this way with us because we are the ones preparing his meals obviously but we are not against him having lean meats such as poultry when we are with family.

So here is where my shame has been weighing on me; I caused this. I have been using food to hold my pain for most of my life. It started as the example set by my parents but as an adult I had the choice to parent myself better and that is not the option I have been choosing. I have been sitting in shame while I process the fact that now my body is struggling because of the damage I have caused with my choices. I am ashamed I did not Love myself better. This feels like self-harm. I knew better and continued to make these choices from a place of victim mentality, scarcity, and fear.

Love was always a choice here, and it still is, I just wish I had made this choice sooner.

Here is where I call in grace; I am here. The darkness that came before was then, this is now, and I am here, choosing Love. The pain that I experienced in that darkness still yearns to be felt which is why I think I was still having a hard time choosing Love. I recognize now though that I can go back and touch without actually being there. I am not there anymore, now can be different. It is my choice, I have the freedom of choice now and I am choosing Love. I am choosing connection. I am choosing me, and my family, and peace.

I choose gentleness and healing. I choose to be kind with myself as I pick all of myself up and walk my path home to Love.

I close this with gratitude. Gratitude for my body and the way she has always held me.

Thank you for all you have done to care for me, everyday, never stopping, never failing, no matter how bad it got, no matter how many times I abandoned you, no matter how unloved you must have felt. You have showed me the most unconditional Love just by doing exactly what you do, going on. I Love you. I Love you and going forward I am going to speak to you with Love, I am going to nourish you with Love, I am going to hold you Sacred with Love. It has always been you and me and it will always be you and me. I Love you and I am grateful without end for all the wonder that you are.

Being True

A few months ago my therapist gifted me a word of warning;

The bigger you get, the more you stand in your light, the more people will show up in shadow and try to take from you.

She said they will like my message so they will copy it. She said they will like my words so they will use them. She said they will like the way I make them feel so they will try to be just like me.

She said it will hurt.

When she told me this I cried.

I was particularly struck by the thought that someone else would take my words, my sacred words, the tools I have been using since the age of nine to find my way home to myself – and call them their own.

The very thought was devastating.

I know her warning is truth. I have already experienced this very thing multiple times in fact. And she is right, I am hurt when it happens.

Recently I have been feeling the niggle of this fear in the dark recesses of my mind.

My work right now is being True, being Love, and being in my Power. The closer I get to these goals the more I feel the niggle.

This is what I would like to say to the niggle today;

I will be okay. My Sacred Truth will still be True even if it is copied by others. Part of the purpose of living out loud in my truth is to allow my truth to help others find their own. If part of that process involves shadow work in this way, that is their work and I will leave them to it. My thoughts, feelings, actions, beliefs, identities – these belong to me. Nothing changes that.

What I realize is this; these women I admire, Brene Brown, Glennon Doyle, Abby Wambach, Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, my therapist.. None of them are any less who they are because we are all out here admiring them and trying to be like them and even sometimes internalizing their messages as our own until our True voices emerge.

Their lights do not dim because ours start to turn on and turn up.

Their is enough light for us all.

So, little fear, niggling me from dark corners, please know that I hear you and Yes, our Truth is Sacred. I know you are scared and you want to protect it. Staying small will not keep us safe though. We are safe, I am the safety you are seeking. Our light can shine, we can be True, and Love, and Power AND be safe.

Farewell Tour Part 1

Friends,

A few weeks ago my therapist and I were talking about the healing work I am doing around my relationship with food.

Since Little Bubby has started eating solid food my husband and I have been mindful about what we expose him to. In short, his menu includes fruits, veggies, lean protein, pasta, wheat bread, and healthy fats from nut butter and skim milk cheese etc. We are steering clear of processed foods.

My family keeps asking, when are you going to introduce bacon, or breakfast sausage, or cheddar cheese, or biscuits, or juice.. My sweet grandmother keeps trying to give him goldfish and those cheese crackers stuffed with peanut butter that we ate as kids.

Our answer to all of this is the same every time, nothing processed.

At first we didn’t think much about all of the questions and suggestions about his diet because he was just being introduced to solid foods so we were clear that it would be what we consider whole clean foods only. Now that he is in the swing of eating solids the questions come more often. It is like everyone is waiting to stuff him full of fat, sodium, and sugar.

We know we do not want to go down that road. We Love him, we plan to feed him like we Love him.

Here is the thing, we are not modeling this Love for him in the way we eat. The idea of healthy anything (eating, exercise, etc) exists on a spectrum, we fall a little left of the middle. That is to say, we eat our spinach, but we eat our M&Ms too.

We agree that like all things we want to be balanced in the way we approach our family’s relationship with food. We are not going to deprive him from experiencing ice cream, AND we are not going to be an ice cream every week family.

What my husband and I understand is that it is not going to be Little Bubby who meets us where we are with food, it will be my husband and I who meet him over where he is. We will show ourselves Love through our relationship with food.

We are giving ourselves the rest of the year to transition into our new diet. This is a major shift for us and we want to be successful so we are allowing ourselves time to adjust.

So far that looks like swapping cereal for plain oatmeal decorated with nuts, seeds, and a bit of fruit; and swapping out jarred pasta sauce for homemade using fresh veggies only.

We will find our place between pizza and kale where our family feels balance and connection with food and the way we Love ourselves inside of that relationship.

There is more to this story than how Little Bubby inspired this change. More on that next week.

With my hand on my heart,

Jillian
Adding to Nine

Modesty Schmodesty

Last night I attended my first crochet and knitting social group at the library.

I have so many take aways.

  1. It was awesome to drive alone in the car, turn the music up (no little ears in the backseat to overwhelm), and be alone with my thoughts. It was awesome to be alone. I miss being alone. I love little bubby and my husband fiercely, AND I miss being alone.
  2. It felt good to see the world clearly. When I am able to close down all the momma tabs in my brain for a while I am able to see the world so much more intensely again. I m someone who pays attention; I see the variation of greens in the grass, I see the fake flowers sitting on the windowsill of the open window of the church. I SEE my surroundings and am  inspired by all of it. Motherhood has fogged my brain a bit, I am still paying attention but maybe not as closely and maybe not all the time. I felt so myself as I marveled at the long shadows on the pavement and the way the 6:30 sun turned the green leaves gold in the park.
  3. I was not afraid. This one is BIG. In the time before I was in my power, I was afraid. I was afraid of so much. I would have never gone by myself downtown in the evening to a meet up with a bunch of strangers. All of that would have felt scary and dangerous to me. Last night I was not afraid. I was not afraid of finding parking, I was not afraid of walking by myself on the street, I was not afraid of the men on the street around me, I was not afraid of the city, I was not afraid of getting lost, or being new with unknown people, I was not afraid of being accepted or not. I was not afraid. I was not afraid because now I know and believe that I am safe. Let me be very clear about what I am saying — I know and believe I am safe because I know and believe that I am the safety I am seeking. I am safe in the world because I am safe within myself.
  4. I was not afraid – AND, I was nervous. I felt it rise up as I was driving there. It was a little part of me, preschool age, she was nervous about being new and being alone. I told her, I am with you, I am not going to leave you, we are all going to together. That was it. That was all it took. She knew she was safe and the nervous energy immediately lifted. Again, I am the safety I am seeking. If I know that I am wholly connected to myself and have made a promise not to self-abandon for anyone or anything on the outside, I am not afraid to be BIG and there is no room for anxiety because I am safe.

So this was all the internal processing that was happening before I ever stepped foot into the group. Here is what joining a new group looked like for me now from a place of deep self-love and connection.

I did not hustle, I did not prostitute. I am sure for some reading the second half of that sentence might feel icky. This is what social situations used to look like for me though. My insecurities would ride shot gun which would always lead to a terrible hustle to fit in and more often than not I would prostitute a piece of myself to try to experience belonging. This is what happens when I operate from a place of disconnection and shame. This is what it looks like when my trauma and insecurities run the show. This was not my experience last night. I walked in, made eye contact, said hi, found a seat and started crocheting. The library employee who hosts the group introduced herself and then introduced me to the group. Then I sat back and listened and observed while I worked with my yarn. I felt seen even without exerting any force or effort because I felt connected to self.

Something I noticed right away as I sat quietly working was that socializing does look different for me now. It has been years since I have socialized on a very human level, no healing or spiritual dimension present in the social group. My social group now consists only of other souls on their journey towards healing and purpose as well as a few close friends who I have known most of my life and who I can be emotionally and spiritually naked with.

The first thing I noticed was the difference in energy with this group. I felt really strong energy, I felt the hustle and insecurities of people in the group, I felt their wounds. I kept feeling triggered to comment on what I was hearing, seeing, and feeling. I held myself though because none of this was mine to hold and I was not going to set any part of myself down to hold what was not mine. I do not need to do that to belong, I already belong. After a moment of reconnection to my truth about where my sense of belonging comes from I was fine. I no longer felt triggered by anything or anyone around me, I was able to just be. It was pretty fantastic, I was super comfortable.

Overall socializing for me amounted to two statements; at one point to group was having a conversation about something and I felt comfortable sharing my truth that “we are allowed to Love what we Love”. My other contribution to group discussion came when the host shared that she was crocheting “booty shorts” for her son as part of his requested Halloween costume. This brought up the topic of appropriateness to which she replied “his body his rules” (which I fucking LOVED and agree with my whole heart!) so I said so and then said modesty schmodesty because the part of me who responded so strongly to her awesome feminist mothering is apparently a weirdo! Who am I kidding, to the outside world most of me probably seems pretty unusual.

With all of the energy flying around the room and the clear projection taking place I was  amazed to find myself feeling calm. More than that, I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed the group. When I stand in my truth of connection and belonging and allow all other beings to hold themselves without feeling the need to pick anyone up, my capacity to experience joy and Love expands, it is infinite.

I am growing. Everyday I am growing. I am becoming truer, I am becoming more powerful, I am LOVE, more and more and more I am the embodiment of LOVE.

I do not need a single thing from this group except for everyone to be just as they are and for me to be all that I am too.

It was good. It is good. There is so much goodness.

Seasons Always Change

Oh friends, I am in my struggle.

Little bubby and I are in a difficult season and some moments I feel like I am barely keeping my head above water.

He is betting busier and wanting to explore more, which is really exciting and fun for both of us, AND it is also leading to multiple meltdowns a day when I try to create safety for him in the process.

He is starting to experience some of his big emotions, like frustration, and due to the communication barrier I feel the best I can do to help him navigate these experiences is to nurture and support him in the moment and redirect when necessary.

I feel good about the way I am showing up with him AND my nervous system is feeling the impact of spending 12+ hours a day with a someone who does not yet know how to self-regulate.

I hit a wall on last Monday. Long story short; my day started before 5am and ended after 10pm, and the in-between was trying to put it mildly.

Since then I have been giving a lot of thought to what needs to happen inside of my self-care to better equip me for these kind of difficult days. My husband and I have been talks about how we can both be making space for our own and each other’s self-care. This has been a priority for both of us, even before little bubby was born, but of course we are not perfect and sometimes we spread too thin.

My self-care has always existed inside gentle moments; sitting under the oak tree at the park near our home and being part of hum of life, creating through art and writing, reading, making space in my life to put myself in the way of beauty, and of course my daily practice of gratitude.

The gratitude practice is key and we feel it when we allow it to fall by the wayside, as it has over the last few weeks.

So for now we are recommitted to practicing mindfulness and gratitude as a family, AND while I figure out all the ways I want to step up my self-care game, I have decided to pack up my yarn and take my crochet project on the road! There is a group that meets up once a week to knit and crochet together at our library downtown so I have decided to join them this week to see what I think.

Truthfully I usually enjoy being enveloped in silent solitude when I am creating but I am clear that I need to have time away from the house and this feels like something I could slide into with ease.

I am feeling called to close with a little gratitude;

I am grateful for our home. I love where we live, I love all the life I get to share this home with – baby and husband and cardinal alike.

I am grateful for my healing, my awareness of my wounds and my commitment to loving myself wholly makes me the everything that I am.

I am grateful for each sweet silent moment of solitude I get to exist in.

I am grateful for the change of season and the temperate with that will accompany it.

I am grateful to be here, in this. Struggle or not, this is mine and I love it.

We Don’t Have to Rush

This post is inspired by a memory that surfaced from elementary school;

Sometime during 4th grade, after the death of my Nana, Mom and I had a hard morning.

We were running late getting me to school. I do not know if my Mom was working at the time, so I am unsure if this feeling of rush and force was bigger than just me not getting to school on time, maybe there was more at stake than I knew.

Let me set the scene for you;

None of the clothes I want to wear are clean so Mom has forced me into a pair of jean shorts I am mortified to be seen in and some dumb shirt I do not like.

Here is the thing about these shorts;  first you should know when I was kid money was tight so Mom got resourceful at times. She had a talent for sewing, she made both mine and my cousin’s first communion dresses and you would never have known they were not some expensive store bought dresses like the other girls. What my Mom created for me did not always line up with what 9-year-old fashion was at the time.

These shorts had been jeans that I ripped the knees out of while playing outside the prior summer. We could not afford to throw away clothes that still fit so Mom attempted to transform them into shorts and the end product fell short. I gave it little thought because I had another pair of jeans and a pair of shorts I could wear and re-wear so no one at school ever had to see my Mom’s creation anyway.

This particular morning my Mom had decided I would not re-wear my jeans for what was probably the 11th time in a row, with no other clean bottoms to wear she told me to put on the hacked up shorts.

So I was already sitting in dread of what the day would hold for me, I would surely be a target in these awful shorts, while I frantically tore up my closet floor looking for my sneakers as my Mom yelled we have to leave now!

My sneakers were no where to be found! How was I going to go to school shoe-less? Guess I would just have to stay home.

My Mom was having none of it. She shoved my fancy white church shoes (which were covered in scuff marks from climbing on everything in sight) over my colorful tube socks and told me to head for the car.

I was stupefied. What was she doing?! My protests were fierce and immediate; Mom I can’t wear my church shoes, I have to wear sneakers for PE or they won’t let me participate and I will get in trouble!

She did not budge and with that I was off to school in my rag tag jean shorts, dumb shirt, colorful tube socks and fancy white scuffed up church shoes.

My Mom dropped me off and left. I was so ashamed my eyes were burning before I got out of the car. I did not know how I was going to face the fourth grade, I did not know how I was going to survive the day.

This was my first walk of shame. I was late, the car ramp was empty. Alone I walked through the vacant halls, the little heels on my fancy white scuffed up shoes clacking an echo all the way to the brown metal door of my classroom. I peeked in the slatted window on the door, everyone was in their seats, class had started. I knew the moment I opened that door all eyes would be on me.

It must have been bad because I lose my memory here.

I pick back up maybe 30 minutes later; I am at my teacher’s desk, I am crying, I am asking to go see the guidance counselor. I have become close with our guidance counselor this year, I have spent some time talking with her between Nana dying and my cousin and first best friend being removed from the family and living in a group home.

In the counselor’s office she listens as I cry. She knows my Mother and thinks fondly of her, she tries to balance my feelings for me. There is no balance to be struck, I am wounded and I have no room for whatever my Mother’s truth might be. In my mind she made me prey and then abandoned me  in the lion’s den that was the 4th grade.

The counselor has a pair of sneakers from the lost and found she offers me so I can participate in PE. They are only a small step up from my fancy white scuffed up church shoes. I see another pair, some black Keds with cool mesh sides, I ask for those ones instead – Maybe I can survive the day in those, maybe the kids won’t notice my Mom-sewn-shorts and instead they will just see my cool sneakers. The guidance counselor explains that those shoes are too small for me. I know she is right but I am desperate, I plead and she concedes. I wedge my tube socked foot into the too small shoe and blissfully ignore my cramped toes as I walk back to class.

I know that I do not know this story in full. I know what my scraps of memory tell me, I know what my feelings tell me, but I do not know what I am missing due to dissociation and I do not know what my Mother’s truth is. I can make conjectures and try to fill in blanks based on what I knew of my life at that time but to what end?

This was not one of my big traumas in childhood, it was a hard day. I think the reason this memory has stayed with me is to serve as a reminder now.

I am the adult, he is the child. What will moments like these look like for us?

There are so many times when I have a plan in my head for how the day will go, every minute for the next three hours planned out, then he wakes up from nap and takes an extra long time eating his yogurt because he really wants to work on holding the spoon today. Or we are going to the playground but a few feet outside the door he decides he would rather sit in the driveway and play with sticks.

Here are some things I know;

The first is that I have something now that my Mother did not have when I was 9, security.

Financial security that allows me to be home right now and not working on someone else’s schedule where our mornings would be rushed and potentially stressful.

Security in who I am as a Mother. I am so connected to my truth of infinite enoughness, his and my own, that no part of me can be shaken into believing we are less. Even when I get it wrong I know I am enough. When it is  hard, we are enough, this is enough, all of it is enough. This truth goes beyond my role as Mother, it is woven into every part of my being. This level of security within myself keeps me from falling into places of scarcity where I would value being on time over him or our connection in a moment. It keeps me from valuing “doing” over “being”. It keeps me right here where I am meant to be, in the moment with him.

Of course there are times where we make plans and try to keep a schedule and of course I balance what is going on with him with that schedule. I would not dishonor someone else’s time because he wants to continue playing blocks. What I am very clear on is this; if one day my nine year old child is having a hard morning because we are running late and the clothes he wants to wear are not clean, and he cannot find his sneakers, and maybe I am even running late for work or another important adult commitment… I will pause.

I will be with him, as long as it takes for us to find our way through and out the other side. We will take the time to find the shoes and we will talk about his feelings of anxiety or disappointment, if any, around not being able to wear what he wanted to wear to school. I will put everything else down if that is what it takes to hold space for him.

The way I, together with my husband, love him is the way he will learn to love himself. And if I am willing to do this for him, I have to be willing to do it for me too. That is the other thing I know, my Mother has never fully known how to hold space for me because she does not hold herself sacred.

We, all of us, you, me, our babies, our parents – we are ALL worthy of time. The world will continue to tick away while we exist inside of our pause taking care of ourselves and each other.

I am grateful that my inner nine-year-old has been sitting here next to me riding shot gun and guiding my heart as I parent this sweet soul who chose me.

I am grateful for all the ways my Mother failed me, therein giving me so much opportunity to build the resilience needed to become the human I am meant to be.

I am grateful for my ability to hold space for myself, it creates capacity for me to hold sacred space for those I love most, which is sometimes the stranger walking next to me and sometimes my sweet little boy.

Holding space for myself tonight meant writing this story down because this is the moment it was ready to be shared. Holding space for myself tonight meant asking my husband if he would be willing to hold a little space for me tomorrow by getting up with little bubby so I could catch up on the sleep I will miss to be here with myself and share this story.

As I close I am holding the energy of deep gratitude is for my husband, who holds space for me with so much love, and for every other person in my life who holds space for me and allows me to feel what it is like to be held sacred.

A Kick to the Throat and an Onslaught of Memories

A few weeks ago little bubby and I were tumbling around together tickling and giggling and having the best time. While playing, he zigged when I zagged and he accidentally kicked me in the throat. My PTSD reaction was immediate. My eyes welled with tears as pain across my entire body came crashing over me like a wave.

My throat is my number trigger one area in terms of the physical trauma I have experienced. I have others as well but my throat is absolutely my place of vulnerability above all else. I paused and tried desperately to stay inside myself and the moment long enough to allow my husband, who was standing near us, to take over while I cared for and comforted myself.

Once little bubby was with daddy I scooped up all the parts of myself that had risen up with stories to tell and I listened. I listened to each part as they shared their truth with me, and with each truth shared I repeated to myself over and over – I believe you.

These three words have been so powerful when it comes to my healing. They have been an emotional salve, mending all my wounds. They are exactly what I needed to hear in the moments when my wounds were created, I say them now each time I am repairing a hurt with myself.

My body tells me – this happened, and I say – I believe you.
My inner 5 year old tells me – this happened, and I say – I believe you.
My inner mother tells me – this happened, and I say – I believe you.

The healing starts here.

After I listened and validated all parts of myself in these resurrected stories of hurt, I took a shower. It was time to care for myself and honor my body for what she has been holding for me. It was also time for release, which I did in the form of a heavy cry under the warm water. I allowed the water to hold me while I held all the pain of my truths.

I was strangled, his hands on my throat, until I blacked out.
I woke up to see him walking away from me, leaving me alone, still choking, on the floor.
My father found me.
I was not comforted.
I was alone.

After my shower and my cry I found little bubby and my husband in the kitchen having dinner. I kissed little bubby on the head and checked in with him. I told him I was sorry that our playing ended the way it did and that I bet that was confusing for him and maybe even made him feel sad. I told him I loved him and he did nothing wrong. I told him mommy accidentally got hurt and had to take care of herself. I told him accidents happen and mommy is okay now and is ready to play when he finishes dinner. I thanked him for the way he shows up as a teacher in my life.

After little bubby went to bed I made myself some lavender chamomile tea and painted to finish releasing anything related to this incident as well as the original trauma, my body re-experienced what it was like to suffer a throat injury and it brought up a lot of other physical pain from the original trauma – my back hurt, my shoulders, my pelvis.. My body was telling me that when this happened it was not just my throat that experienced it – I was held down, there was intense pressure on all these areas. Now that all of this had risen back up to the surface, I wanted to make sure to acknowledge it all and release it from my body. I do not want this pain trapped in my body any longer.

At bedtime I processed with my husband. While it was a difficult night, I was immensely grateful for the clarity and information I gained from the experience. When this trauma originally took place I dissociated to survive, I not only literally blacked out from lack of oxygen, I blacked out many of the memories as well. This is how I have survived all of my traumas, through disconnection. Reconnecting my dots as I heal has been challenging; the more Love and acceptance I show myself the more I get back, I don’t know if I will ever know my full story though.

What I am the most proud of is how I mothered myself through this PTSD episode. I did not disconnect, I did not shutdown, I did not numb. My pain came on swift and fierce and I held all of it. I held all of myself and loved myself and I stayed present with everything that was happening inside, even when the truth was awful. I did not abandon any part of myself.

I am also proud of how I handled my repair with little bubby. My commitment to owning my imperfections and staying in my connection with myself while in my relationships with those I love makes me a better everything – a better partner, a better mother, a better friend..

In moments like these I know this truth for certain – this little soul and I, we chose each other. I am so grateful for that. So so grateful.