I’ve Been Reduced to Self-Help Books

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This isn’t a bad thing, necessarily. Reflection allows for perspective, and perspective is something I feel like most people often forget. I’ve always said shows like Jerry Springer are so bloody popular because you begin to realize your life isn’t so bad, after all.

I got a book last November entitled 40 Things to Do When You Turn 40 by Allison Kyle Leopold. Yep, self-help just when mid-life might just be creeping in. Is mid-life really creeping in? I’ll lie and say, “Hell no.” But, please do note, I’ve admitted my own lie. The first chapter addresses being true to yourself & thoughts, and the next discusses finding and following your passion. I think that’s what landed me writing this – I have to be true to my thoughts.

I chose to stop working full-time a few years back to better support both of my children’s athletic dreams. Also, my teaching position was cut to a laughable one-day-a-week job, which made me realize I was painfully disillusioned with education after being in the profession for over 20 years. I left because I said if I ever got as disillusioned as I was, it was time for a break. Three years later, I’m still on a hiatus.

I take you back to my opening sentence – I’m reduced to self-help books. I had to examine the place I am in during this professional hiatus. Let me take you down a more detailed path… I had to make the brutal decision to put down one of my beloved, very old dogs the week before Thanksgiving last year (she lived a wonderfully full life, but her back end gave out and she couldn’t walk any more), and when all was said and done, and I was alone in that room with my dear no longer alive dog, I completely broke down. Yes, we all likely would do this in such a moment, but when I say broke down, I want you to envision snot streaming, tears rolling, and spit flying, collapsing to my knees with my head on her paws, non-stop sobbing, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. God, I’ve just committed a sin. Please, I’m so sorry.” Think about an epic two-year old temper tantrum minus the religious begging. Somehow, I managed to collect myself before someone came in the room again.

Within moments, I began to evaluate my reaction. At first, I said, this was my precious family member, and today was tough and shitty. Completely OK to react how I did. Then, with tears still in my eye, and wiping snot on my sweater sleeve, I laughed out loud at myself at the thought of someone walking in on me and what they would have seen. Good gawd!! What would they have thought?!

And then I wondered why in Hell I actually cared.

I began examining why my reaction had been so violent. I’m sure we could psychoanalyze my reaction for hours, perhaps days; Hell, we could psychobablize it into its own self-help book. Then we’d be rich. Not my point. I took a break from working to re-examine where I am, and where I want to be. This brutally real moment with my dog made me stop and register how deeply I was struggling.

With a lot. A big move to help my children continue to chase their dreams. The feeling of loss – of my home, my dog, and my mind.

As a family, we made a decision to move to another state in a far more rural area so one child could be a day student at his new high school, whilest we pay that much more for the other child to board on the same campus, even though we live .25 miles from said campus. Yeah. Welcome to parenting. Sometimes you just do what seems right for your children. And it seemed right for us to move so the younger didn’t have to board when he wasn’t ready. And we didn’t sell our home, we just rented it, and locked ourselves out from being able to go “home” for 9 full months.

My kids are growing up fast. My house was temporarily not mine. And I was living in the middle-o-nowhere. And then there is my mind. 

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I feel like it’s atrophying without being intellectually engaged every day. I miss adult interaction. I actually miss the battles of work life, even the frustrations, and the grind. People have said to me, “You’re so lucky. I’d kill to be you.” Until you’re where I am, and you feel like your brain is mush. And I know I’m incredibly smart, and well-read, and educated. Yet, I can’t keep a complete thought some days.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

My stint in freakishly northern New England – roughly 30 miles from the Canadian boarder – has been an interesting one. I’ve baked. A lot. For this, I am completely fulfilled. Baking is my passion and my Zen. Also while I’ve been a pseudo-Canadian, I’ve embarked on a physical journey of getting in shape; it could be said this is a direct result of the amount of baking I’ve done; however, it started last summer when I just didn’t like what I saw when I looked in the mirror and didn’t really like how I felt. I started kickboxing all summer, and felt great. When we moved farther North, I managed to find a fabulous gym with a  totally awesome fitness guru who continues to kick my booty into shape. This woman has given me the Force, and helps it ever be with me.

Baking and getting in shape sound great, and please, don’t get me wrong, they are. I’m bettering myself and am here for my kids – it’s why I ever agreed to move North for this part of my children’s journey.  The journey to get in shape has been a literal salvation for me – without the physical outlet, I’d have slid down a dark path very quickly.  Those endless hours of quiet have afforded me a bit too much time to think, and perhaps begin to dwell, on things. I’ve found it easy to get wrapped up in conversations that quickly digress into complaints. We’ve all been there. 

After dwelling too much, I came to understand this reality…As women, we need each other to help put positive spins on things, even critical and ugly things, so they become things we do in the spirit of growth to be better women. We need each other to reflect out more light in otherwise dark times. We just need to come to a vulnerable enough place to ask for that support.

And there comes a time in all our lives when we need support. If we do not cultivate the relationships in the good times, then they will be even tougher to find in the bleak times. Look to value all women who bring any kind of interest, varied experiences and points of view, culture, humor, and that God-given female power we were graced with upon our entrance into this world. Start a book, cooking, or even a knitting club; create a girls night out – whatever your fancy – do it once a month, at the minimum. We can all carve out one day/night to meet, drink, be merry, swap our awesome female power, and talk.

wisdom-quotes-eleanor-roosevelt-quotes-gossip-quotes-Ops2Zz-quote(image attributionEleanor was spot on. I sure as Hell don’t want to be small, it’s one of those dark places I can’t go. I’d rather aspire to something more than average;  so as women, let’s all make a commitment to try to be great. Let’s find things that inspire us, and allow our conversations to revolve around our dreams, our aspirations, what makes us laugh, and feel good about where we are and where we want to go. Let’s find things that help us be better mothers, wives, lovers, and women.

Or become better friends with the women in your lives and function by the quote below. But maybe, that tells you more than you need to know about how I think sometimes. There are plenty of informational books you could read about gut health. Just a thought.

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Sometimes, in order to come back to your true Self, you have to go through a full range of rollercoaster emotions – sadness, some joy, loss, loneliness – and brutal self-examination. In that vulnerable moment when you reach out, you will find that support. There is no shame in being vulnerable. When we reach out, it actually shows how strong we are.

So, this is my reaching out to my fellow woman saying, “Cultivate those friendships in women you value. Make them a part of your regular life. They are your support system.” It’s a good thing.

Maybe Martha was onto something.

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