Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dutch Uncle

Apparently a Dutch uncle is someone who is painfully honest.

Here's an example:

Several years ago a mother at my school pulled me aside and told me that it was obvious I hated children and she suggested that I find another job. I think a Dutch Uncle would have been far more loving in communicating the truth, but they would have taken to task the expression of a difficult truth.

At the time I was furious with Mrs. So-and-so. But I also felt informed. Now, 5 years later, I am extremely grateful for her honesty because it made me pause and look at myself. Did I like children? No, not really. Did I want to be a teacher? Hell no. So...I had to wonder why I was teaching. And I had to decide whether or not to quit.

I decided to keep doing it. I found the fun. I found that I really do like children, but that I have an anger problem. WHAT? Yes, I HAVE AN ANGER PROBLEM. I haven't gotten to the bottom of it yet, but I am working hard to discover what pushes me over the edge and how to avoid it.

Thank you for your honesty Mrs. SandS.

And thank you, friend, for yours.

I'm supposed to write

This weekend I decided to finish my taxes instead of write about my feelings over a friend's death. I haven't ever submitted my taxes to the accountant in February, or in March for that matter.

My friend Jenn Bayles died from GIST (a cancer) last Thursday. I was very surprised at my reaction which was flat and apathetic. In therapy Thursday afternoon I described my feelings. Ever watchful, suspicious and wise, my therapist asked some probing questions. I admitted I was angry that Jenn hadn't handled her death the way I thought she should have. I admitted that I have absolutely no right to have an opinion on her death either.

More questions followed. Lots more. I realized that I am feeling very concerned about her boys. It came out that in my mind she was a terrific mother, and it makes me angry that she didn't get to stay and see her children grow into men. I feel sorry for the children who didn't get much time with her, and I envy them for the time they did have as it is ten times the amount I had with my own mother.

And that is, I'm ashamed to say, the focus of this whole event...me. It's always me. I pray every day to be relieved of the bondage of myself, and yet every day, this is whose skin I'm in. Jenn never seemed self-obsessed, she was generous and always serving or thinking of others. I don't know how she did it, obviously, or I'd be emulating her more readily.

Here's another fun fact, I don't feel apathetic at all. I feel ashamed of my true feelings, so I am suppressing them. You may be able to tell by looking at my body that I am a master of suppressing my feelings. It takes a lot of work and a lot of food to keep these feelings from surfacing, but I am an old pro. In fact, these days it's an automatic response to just flatten every emotion out into something acceptable.

Therapy helps me to see that not having feelings was essential to my success and survival as a child. I saw my role as "Cinderella" and therefore vital to family happiness. I saw it as critical that I stay quiet and hard-working. I believed I would get in trouble for having big feelings and so flattened out my emotions while simultaneously building huge resentments towards a sister who got to throw tantrums and be rotten (aka "normal"). I also created a myth of me being the good one. This was a lie, but it was comforting to have a fairy tale in which I was the heroine. It seemed so important to have a role and a responsibility. Now it just seems embarrassing. Now I am ashamed of all the drama I held inside or only released in small bursts of cruelty to myself and others. My myth was comforting, but it really was a big lie.

I feel icky right now. icky.

I am very sad that my friend died at the age of 42. I feel sad that I wasn't the perfect friend to her. I feel angry too. I am angry that she died. I miss her. Yesterday I was texting a friend (Jenny) and came across Jenn's name in my phone. I won't need that going forward and that makes me sad too. Death is always a time to reflect on life. Going forward I hope that mine continues on a trajectory of improvement.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


All that is human must retrograde, if it do not advance. -Edward Gibbon

So how do I get myself to advance? How do I foster growth instead of attrition and loss? How do I keep the forward momentum instead of backsliding?

The meditation I read this morning suggests that, "Growth begins with acceptance of myself as I am." This feels like a powerful statement to me. It demands honesty. Yesterday a friend was describing her self-talk as she stepped on the scale. She used the phrase, "who am I kidding?" when she was wanting to eat an unhealthy/unplanned treat. That's such a terrific question: Who am I kidding? And yet, it's one thing to be brave enough to ask the question and another beast entirely to ready myself to answer it.

Today I am able to see a lot of the ugly parts of myself--I can list them, but will spare you. Fortunately, today I am also able to see a way out of "the uglies." I can see how helpful it is to say to myself, yes, Kristen, you are afraid and worried, but you can ask God to change that fear into faith. I say, yes, Kristen, you owe money, but you have a plan and you are working it, and your debt is evaporating. Today I said, yes, Kristen, you have a lot of weight to lose, but you are up and exercising and working and changing, and you are seeing the results of your work--4 dress sizes down in a year is so great. And guess what, Kristen, it doesn't matter how long this takes you, it just matters that you're honest and that you face it.

Bring it on!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Where is the Fun?

We are always getting ready to live, but never living. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here's one thing I know for certain: life does not happen between diets. It happens all the time. I have a friend who is always telling me, "I'll wear the cute shoes when I've lost a few pounds." "I'll stop wearing ugly clothes when I'm down to my goal weight." What I hear is that she doesn't think she's worthy to have fun or be cute unless she's at her perfect weight. This makes me very sad.

I just want you to know that you look super cute right now. You look adorable when you smile! You look wonderful when your heart is happy and your soul is at ease.

And I think it is important to point out that there is not a single outfit darling enough to hide when we are self-hating, self-loathing, self-effacing, or unhappy.

So I've decided to get happy. I've decided to put on the cute clothes and buy the awesome shoes (although I recently found a beautiful pair of shoes that I literally could not walk in because my center of balance was off--a side-effect of being overweight), put on the great jewelery and the sparkly eye-shadow. And if you just don't feel comfortable being as fabulous as possible, then it's time to work on the insides.

Here's what I do for my insides--and the recipe has to be repeated daily:
1) exercise until I sweat (except on Sundays where I practically fall into a coma),
2) read something uplifting...a quote, some scriptures, a book...
3) pray/talk to my Heavenly Father for 5 to 15 minutes (I always feel better after I do this--it helps me see myself how He sees me).
4) meditate or pause for quiet time of 1 minute or more,
5) make a gratitude list of any length,
6) do something kind or thoughtful for someone else, preferably without pointing it out to anyone!
7) write.
8) review my day asking if I need to apologize or make any amends, and then quickly make the amends
9) identify any feelings that I can't put a name on.
10) report to someone (God, a friend, spouse, letter) about my "state" of being.

It seems like a lot, but it is worth it, because I love cute shoes and bags and I especially love sparkly eye-shadow.

Let's stop planning and just ENJOY!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Nest

I'm trying to live in the moment. However, on Friday my youngest child will turn 18. In June he graduates from high school, and in August or September he will move into the working or college phase of his life (TBD, and not by me).

I realized that this is bothering me. Not in the sense that I don't want him to grow up and experience the world, but in the sense that my time as a mother the way I've defined it so far, is ending. I will always be a mother, but I don't know how to do this next piece.

Here's how I've been dealing with it so far. Jason graduated from high school in 2006 and Clarke in 2008. I've been a mother to flying birdies for almost 4 years now. I rely on friends as examples of what to do with and for their adult children. I discuss it with a therapist. I discuss it with friends whose children are married and becoming parents themselves. I talk about it with friends whose children are still at home. I am sending care packages to Jason and Clarke all the time. I always wanted to be the kind of mom who sent letters and gifts in the mail, so this is really enjoyable for me. I am liking my husband more than I thought I would. I am thinking of "adopting" a family or two at church to sit by them and help with their children. I am trying really hard not to freak out.

The people who sit without children at church are old. I don't think of myself as old yet. Of course, as a Mormon, there are people far older than I who will be sitting with their children far longer than I, so the data are skewed. I really am young compared to the group of people whose children have all left the nest.

Todd is starting to freak out too, but in a different way. My take on it is that he and I are both runners. We run from problems as quickly as we can. His version of running is to sell the house, rent a smaller house or buy an RV and live in it, get rid of the dog and the cat and everything that ties us down. I am definitely not in favor of this. I thought I was, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like I want to keep my roots as deep as possible as the saplings go off to start their own forests.

These feelings have me pausing and crying periodically. I don't want to break down in front of Brandon or his siblings, because this is such an important and brave thing that they are doing. It is critical! Even I did it! This is where my faith is being tested, and I do trust God to take care of them, as He always has. I am not eating over these feelings today (or yesterday or Tuesday!), and that is my way of allowing God to take care of me too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


This morning I was a zombie when the alarm went off at 5:04. Zombie, as in, living dead. I woke up, I fumbled in the dark for the workout clothes (set out the night before), I made it to the bathroom, and somehow I drove myself to boot camp where Adrian tried to kill me with the "run 40 steps and do 20 push-ups," then round 2, "run 40 steps and do 40 rows with your weights." Followed by 10 iterations of running and using my arm muscles in some way. I told friends I felt like I was running through jello...emphasis on the preposition, because sometimes I feel like I am running with jello affixed to my lower abdomen and upper arms. What is it about being 44? My sight is also starting to peter out/aggravate me...but that's a topic for a different day.

On the near-comatose drive to boot camp I thought, "I will take the day off of work today." Then I remembered that at least 3 of my fellow campers are moms at my school. What if word gets out that I'm able to exercise, but not go to work?

After boot camp I came home and debated getting back into bed. Decided I'd make that decision after taking a shower. Decided to wash my hair...I should have known then that I would be going to work. I dragged myself to the closet, found some clean clothes, and dressed. I even wore a necklace. It seems I was destined to go to work, even with some congestion *cough cough*

So here I am, and I even taught Excel today!

As I drove to work this morning, and dragged my carcass out of the car, I heard the parrots. I love these birds! Last year there were about 9 of them and their bodies were about 6 inches not including wings or tails. This year there are 7 of them and they grew 2 inches! Their heads are red, their wings are bright green until they fly and then there is a brilliant patch of red. They positively glow in the sun with their near neon green and red. And I thought, wow. This is the reward for bringing myself to work. For doing all the things--the good things that are becoming good habits--that I whined about not wanting to do yesterday, I am rewarded with a rare glimpse of these gorgeous birds who live in a colony and love each other, talk to each other and look out for each other.

I have a colony too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Last week I when I described my feelings of agitation and aggravation, frustration, anger, etc. to my therapist she told me that it might have something to do with "the pull." She described "the pull" as an almost magnetic force that wants us to slide back into the old life and old habits.

I like this idea. Rather, I like the way she described it to me, but not the event itself. The gravitational pull I feel is akin to hiking up a steep mountainside and hitting a patch of loose gravel. I am sliding and scared, and don't see any way to brace myself or stop my free fall. It is frightening to think of all the progress I've made as I slide past it on the way back to what I fear may be my starting point. It seems I need to be rescued by a solid patch of ground, by some hope that I won't slip all the way back down, by some perspective that I've really only lost a little ground relative to the journey.

Part of me desperately wants to move forward and change physically, lose more weight, become a faster runner, a stronger athlete, a happier and more grounded person. Part of me is afraid. This is where I am learning to pray that my fear be replaced with faith and hope, that my self-pity be changed to self-acceptance, and that my self-obsession will morph into caring for others.

Here's a quote I found yesterday: "To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no, even if saying no means death." - Jean Anouilh

Doesn't that "hands into life up to the elbows" sound like reaching into gore and helping someone give birth? It does to me. Giving birth was the hardest thing I've done besides being born. And every day, according to this French playwright, I have the opportunity to say yes. Today it strikes me that saying yes frees me from negativity and all of its anchors (fear, self-pity, shame, guilt). Saying yes to myself, to improving myself, to eating well and exercising, to just getting out of bed in the morning (this morning for example), that's not what comes naturally to me. But I'll confess a secret, it is becoming second nature. I am moving toward doing things like eating well because I WANT to eat well. I am in the gloriously fabulous habit of waking up at 5am and working out! The good habits are here and growing stronger.

A dear friend's nephew died last week. He was 19 years old. The circumstances break my heart, this boy was so loved. Just by breathing in and out I am using up whatever amount of time on earth is allotted to me, I want to make it the best life.