Monday, July 18, 2016

when buying furniture renews your faith in the world...

I have been having all the feelings lately. All the feelings, all the time.

Terrorism works on me. Let's start there. My eyes get wide and well up with tears shortly before I start rocking and attempting to soothe myself every time CNN anchors fill up that screen and let me know that in the latest "breaking news," some number of innocent people died.

Forty-nine people in Orlando.
Forty-five in Istanbul.
One unarmed black man.
Another nonthreatening black man.
Five armed police officers.
Seventy-four unsuspecting adults and ten too-young-to-die children in Nice.
Two hundred and sixty-five people in Turkey.
Three more police officers.

The news is relentless.
(And that's just what they take the time to report on national news, waking up and listening to local news in Chicago quickly reminds you of that.)

The terror I feel, is relentless.
(Not entirely unlike CNN's "breaking news" text graphic on the screen that NEVER goes away, no matter if we are three minutes or three weeks into a news story...)

Several weeks ago, a day before the wifey and I were supposed to take the little bambinas on a plane, the Istanbul airport was bombed. I stood in the kitchen and cried. How can we take our children to an airport? On a plane? What are we doing?

The wifey asked me if I was willing to live my life in fear. She asked, what was I going to do, just stay home the rest of my life? Keep the girls contained to our .16 acre square lot?

I answered yes. Obviously that was EXACTLY what I intended to do.

(She had to have seen that answer coming, yes?)

We went. While we were there, two black men unjustly died at the hands of police. I cried some more. I sat in the pain that is cause by the systemic and structural racism in our country. I questioned my fear of foreign terrorism when I was reminded of the fact that my friends, colleagues, students, and neighbors of color don't have to go to the airport or be in large crowds to have to feel unsafe and vulnerable. American citizens are killing each other because we have been raised to be fearful. To hate.

We went. We came home. We are safe.

But I'm scared. I have been privileged to live 30 years of my life without a general sense of fear. Yes, I've had night terrors since I was four, but that somehow now pales in comparison to these fears. At seventeen I took my first plane ride less than one month after 9/11, and even then I was not scared. It all felt so far away. It doesn't anymore.

I worry for my daughters, I worry for my wife, my family, my friends, my neighbors, and myself. I worry for everyone. I worry for the little babies waking up on the other side of the world whose mom fears for their life every second, even when they are in her own home. I worry about the little babies here, in America. I worry about adult men and women, here, in America.

It feels silly to say, to admit it.

The worst part? This is the fear little ol' insignificant and privileged me feels. My heart breaks. My head hurts. It's painful to think what that means for others. But I have to. It is truly and literally the very least I can do. The absolute, bottom of the barrel, very least I can do. Hear it, try understand it, try know it, and sit in it.

This all connects to why at 12:24pm yesterday, with two babies excessively hungry, overdue for lunch, and about to lose their shit in a furniture store, I had a happy, full-of-love (but ridiculously insignificant) moment that gave me back a little bit of faith in the world, but it's for another day, I'm realizing as I write this. Sign me up for a part two.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

peace and butterflies

I've struggled to finish my blog posts lately. I have several sitting unfinished. Anxiety and an inability to focus are what is causing the unfinished-ness, and the unfinished-ness is causing anxiety and an inability to focus. The joys, right?

Three weeks ago I started this one:
"Unsettled and anxious. These are my two go-to words for the last several months. They fit me too well right now - and almost 100% of the time. I was on a three mile jog this morning and even as I was running - something that usually puts me at ease - I was anxious. All day. Everyday.  
I used to be like this all the time. Days, months, years of my life spent anxiously navigating the world. I'm not anymore. Well, that's obviously a lie. I am right now. But this is not normal anymore. I put in some really good years with a head doctor and came out on the other side as someone who could handle her anxiety... practicing mindfulness, exercise, and music (sometimes all three at once) have allowed me to live a life free of endless anxiety.  
Work. Career. Job. Passions. Finances. Children. Ungrateful. Joy. Family. Friends. Loss. Unknowns. Time. Death. Goals. Job. Career. Pride. Self-worth. Appreciation. Affirmation. Goals. Children. Role model. Karma. Children. Finances. Children. Job. Goals. Time. Family. Loss. Grateful. Children. Hope. Passions. Job. Self-worth. Finances. Career. Children. Role model. Passions.  
That's a snippet of my current loop. When I am anxious I operate on loops. Dizzying, destructive, and claustrophobia-inducing loops. It makes me want to crawl out of my skin.  Usually I can get a handle on it - stop the feeling of life swirling out of my control all around me. It's been a challenge lately. I feel a little too much like teenage me. Or even twenty-five year old me. But I'm grown now. (right?!) 
I shouldn't be anxious. I think that is precisely the problem, however. I feel like I have everything I could ever want, yet I am so, so unsettled.  Enter anxiety, stage left. WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE? 
This weekend the wifey said, "maybe you need to write, writing always make all that [she motioned at my head and twirled her hand around like my brain was stew] feel better." I know she's right, but the loop - that awful loop - has gotten so LOUD and INCESSANT it's hard to concentrate on anything. I've started several posts over the last few months and I cannot finish them. TOO LOUD. 
Today I got home from my little jog (I've decided I run too slow to use the word "runner" and have settled on "jogger" - I'm comfortable with that) and saw a little reminder that this week is national infertility awareness week. Right. (Cue loop... Ungrateful. Children. Grateful. Loss. Pain. Dreams. Children. Grateful. Grateful. Grateful. Loss. Bitter. Children. Grateful.) 
Almost exactly two years ago, I thought I would never have children. Thanks to the miracles of science, today, I have two amazing little humans that are almost a year old."
(Given the subject matter, not surprising I wasn't able to finish. That INCESSANT loop.)

Ten days ago I celebrated my 31st birthday. I am firmly "in my thirties." When I blew out the candles on my cake, I wished for one thing, and it brought me to tears. I have spent the last several years wishing for BIG things - life events and miracles that needed every bit of wishing and magic birthday fairy dust they could get to come true - and they did. My wish this year was big, but for the first time in years it was completely within my locus of control. Since I already told the wifey and ruined whatever superstition that holds, I may as well share publicly.

Peace. Peace for myself, peace for my heart, peace for my crazy, restless, soul. Peace with my life.

So, that's what I'm working on right now. I've spent my life refusing to learn any lesson the "easy way" and thankfully that has instilled in me a firm understanding that things don't magically happen in life (although depending on levels of privilege in one's life, certain things do come more magically for some than others, but that is clearly a conversation for at least another paragraph, if not another post altogether). So, it's an active pursuit for peace. Well, as active as it can be in the midst of a ridiculously chaotic ten days since I made the wish (which is really more like a commitment than a wish, because as I just stated, I'm a realist, people).  However, even in the midst of an unforeseeably chaotic time, I'm focused on being mindful of what's in my control and trying to squeeze every moment until it bursts into millions of butterflies. Yes. Butterflies. Millions of them.

I have immense amounts of gratitude and appreciation for so many people in my life and aspects of my life. I'm trying to slow down and really feel that every day. I have so much to be grateful for, but it gets lost. It gets lost in the massive giant and tangled web of yarn, string, and tiny chain necklaces that no one can get unknotted (maybe a little barb wire thrown in for good measure, too), inside of me. The knots and tangles always ruin it for everyone. I need to fish them out so that I can give the good stuff some space to party like TRL and boy bands are back on the scene (I mean, please? I didn't even have cable and I miss those days).

What's unsettling me? Why? What can I do about it? 

Problematically, when I get to that last question, I want to take action IMMEDIATELY and when I can't, cue the spinning out of control. But, that too, is something I'm working on (if you are one of those people who can say "I need to work on/do that" and are content knowing you will "get to it" TELL ME YOUR SECRETS). My to do list must be empty. If it's not empty, I shouldn't be idle. With that as my constant state of operation, it's tough to find peace.  My to do list has big dreams and goals on it, some of which have seemed more out of reach than is tolerable lately, and it's maddening. It's also humbling. It's also the reason why I am deeply in need of peace.

Some good news? I know I need to focus on rainbows and puppies whenever I can. And thankfully, my health and body, something that bulldozed my peace for a huge portion of the first thirty years of my life, is one thing not topping the anxiety hit-list for the first time ever. I'm actually proud as pigeons about my body - and that, more than anything, given our (my body and I's) sordid past, is inspiration that I can find peace elsewhere in life. I mean, seriously. Who would have thought?

While I knew the critical importance of portraying myself as confident in my skin and loving of my body, no matter its shape and size, I was actually terrified that I would fail miserably at that with my daughters. I have spent my life doing the opposite, how could I possibly be a good role-model for my daughters on this? Maybe it was respect for the fact that it managed to grow and give birth to two children at once, maybe it was utter exhaustion, I'm not sure. All I know is I have some serious respect for my body, something that is very new to me (I'm sure the fact that I gained almost fifty pounds while pregnant and now weigh less than when I started has helped an exorbitant amount, to be clear, but nevertheless).

So, there's one giant, untangled necklace I can be proud of and hold up as inspiration as I seek to find peace on other fronts. Victory.

Another victory? The fact that I finally finished writing a blog post. Check. Check.

Two down.