Peace

I found out I was pregnant with our second child in early July, just a week after I wrote Lean In: Year End. We had tried for just over half a year for Jackson, and while in hindsight it is clear that is not long at all, I will never forget the aching pain my heart felt all those months. In striking comparison, this time Glenn and I were looking at that second beautiful pink line just three weeks after we began trying. Three weeks when I had been preparing myself mentally for at least a year’s worth of disappointment. Needless to say, we were both absolutely and thoroughly delighted (if not thoroughly shocked. Did I mention we were shocked? We were shocked.)

Despite my joy the sudden pregnancy really threw me through a loop for months and only recently have I finally felt like I’ve caught my standing. Part of it, I think, is that I now feel my little boy kicking inside me. He has a name, Jacob, and he is mine. However, I would be remiss to not acknowledge that I’m still transitioning mentally with who I am as an individual. In the beginning months this was much harder- I felt sick and bloated and I didn’t have tangible proof of his existence. Instead, planning to take off work during a busy time, knowing I wouldn’t be able to attend two semesters of classes since my due date was right in between them and could go either way, and eating only what I could stomach (often unhealthy) and less exercise (and the resulting weight gain) made me feel like I was sliding back on everything I had worked towards this past year and all the achievements I’ve made. At the end of the day I was struggling to just make dinner and do dishes before putting Jackson (and myself) to bed. I had just found a balance where I could take time to do things for myself, like read a book or do a yoga class, but now I didn’t have the will nor energy. I felt like I had just barely grasped a sense of personal freedom and then lost it as soon as my fingers closed around it.

This is in no way whatsoever blaming my child. However, I felt almost instantly transported back to how I felt in the early days with Jackson, at least mentally. My body, heavy with hormones and other people’s expectations, once again was strongly affecting what I could or could not do.

And at the very beginning of this whirlwind is where I began my search for this year’s theme. The theme that helps me gain focus every year and gives me drive to do more and better. I’m going to be honest, I just barely feel like I’m on stable ground right now. It’s like I’ve been spinning in circles, have just stopped, and am expected to run straight forward. I now can feel the whomps and kicks inside of me, have an obvious baby bump so that I and those around me know the weight gain has been put to good use, and am more prepared for this next year- but to be honest, I still feel like I’m looking forward to at least a year of just making it. I don’t know if it’s because of my experience with Jackson or that I don’t know what to expect from a life with two, but it’s definitely daunting.

I know all the wonderful things I will experience- the life changing, heart gripping love for my child, the soft little fuzzy head, watching my son become a brother and his relationship flourish- and this is what keeps me grounded when I get nervous or scared about anything else.

All this to say that this year, I’m going to dedicate myself to just three intensely personal goals. I also strive (and do not always hit my goal) of being a dedicated mother, wife, and worker- but these are for me as an individual.

  1. Eat Healthy: I’m going to be honest here that I texted my husband at 9pm last night to bring me a burger and fries. Not my smartest moment (albeit wonderfully satisfying), but since I entered the second trimester I have been making healthier choices on a daily basis. There are still numerous pastries and junk food being eaten, but I at least know that I’m nourishing my body for the most part. Looking forward I hope to keep up this habit, and if possible become even better at it (aka- no late night burgers).
  2. Do What Must Be Done: This one is pretty broad and applies to pretty much anything. Dishes, looming projects at work, life insurance, etc. Over the past year there are various things that I’ve been really good at keeping on top of, and then there’s the living trust that has sat unfinished for three months now. I need to stay true and just finish these things so they don’t get that power of hanging over my head.
  3. Accept My Body As It Is Right Now: This is, by far, the most difficult for me at this moment. I know, this sounds horrible. I’m creating life- it’s beautiful! Except I don’t feel that way when I’m looking in the mirror. The feeling of the little boy kicking inside my stomach is mind blowingly wonderful, but the reflection of my enlarging and yet still flabby belly is hard to look at sometimes. I know, that’s pretty much heresy in today’s world. Having worked so hard and so long at losing weight last year, it was so difficult to watch the numbers creep up on my scale every week. At least now it’s obvious that I’m pregnant and people don’t just think that I’m eating too many cookies (which I am too, admittedly.) It is also likely that I’m feeling partially this way because I stopped doing much of the exercise I was before the pregnancy, so I will make it a point to start reintroducing these slowly. But if I can’t fully, I still need to accept my body at the moment, and that’s certainly a goal I will have to work toward.

Five months later and I still haven’t been able to find a word that sums up what I want to strive for myself this year. Dedication? Determination? Acceptance? Nothing applies to everything I want to accomplish, and moreover the things I want to accomplish are pretty vague compared to the last year.

Perhaps Peace. Work hard to accomplish what I want, but finding peace when I’m unable to. Peace with where my life is right now and the fact that it’s about to get a little crazy. Peace that my body is changing but for the very best reason. Peace that sleep will soon be very limited and personal time even more so- but knowing that this is the briefest period of time and one that I will want to return to for the rest of my life. Peace with where I am.

Lean In: Year End

Summertime has always been my period of “newness.” New Year’s Day doesn’t hold much meaning to me, I like the celebration but the resolutions seem ill placed in the year (though fun things like bucket lists are totally acceptable). It’s likely because my birthday falls in July, but I have found over the years that this is the perfect time to reflect on who I am in that moment and take stock of the good and not so good. It is also when I set a plan for the next year.

Fitting, then, that last year is when I took a good hard look at how I was living and decided that I was not happy with where I found myself. Jack had just had his first birthday, and Glenn and I discussed trying to conceive again by his next birthday. To say I was not ready is an understatement. I had carried so many issues through the years, and while Jack’s birth brought infinite happiness and love to my life, frankly- I still needed to deal with my personal shit before I could be ready for another.

So one night, while holding a sleeping baby in my arms, I made a list on my phone of everything that was plaguing me. Everything that quietly troubled me when everyone else was asleep. And I decided it was time.

After weeks of reflection, I was finally able to give that list a name, a word that helped me face it all and finally deal with it. “Lean In” became my motto. Lean into everything that scares me, Lean into the hard things, Lean into the things that will take time, Lean into it all.

And I can honestly say with 100% certainty that this year has been one of my personal best years in a very long time. I have not been perfect this year, I am still learning, I have taken things up and then set them down after a time, but I am happy with where I am standing- far further along than where I was last year.

So, for my personal record- I am putting here the list I made that night with a much smaller boy in my arms. And then I’m going to delete it from my notepad and close my 31st year all the while looking towards the much brighter one ahead.

Before I have another baby:

1. Lose weight and get in shape; find a way to fit exercise into my daily schedule and learn to say no again to things I don’t need and don’t really want.

This time last year I felt absolutely unhealthy. I had spent my “birthday month” eating and drinking too much, and my body felt gross. I was lethargic and greasy and felt like I had no control whatsoever. So on July 31, I decided it was time. I wasn’t going to go crazy on a strict diet and exercise routine, I knew that it wouldn’t last. Instead, I started in the laziest way I could possibly start because I knew that’s the only way that would stick. I calorie counted, though most days I would eat enough calories to just hit maintenance, not actually lose weight. But I started adding more vegetables and healthy foods to my day, and as time progressed I got better at eating a calorie deficient. In fall, I finally asked one of my coworkers if I could join her in walking the stairs. At only 15 minutes a day, it was a far cry from the recommended daily exercise, but it was more than I had been willing to do before, and that was one more step in the right direction. As of July, I am down over 30 pounds, just shy of a weight (and my final goal) I haven’t reached in over a decade and completed a long-term goal to do a week of yoga classes every day. I still have to practice saying no to things I don’t actually need, but I am so much better than I was last year, and I’m grateful I built up that ability over time. I am happy with my body today.

2. Define my career: Apply for jobs, look into possible classes, and decide my five-year plan. Do I want to go back to school? If so, shall I stay where I am for the second baby and go to school so I can start a new career after the child is 1? Do I try to continue in editing? If so, what direction should I take?

Coming to terms with my career is the most important thing that I accomplished this year. While my health is number one physically, I spent over a decade questioning and worrying about what my life would be like career wise. I also spent so much of that time constantly engaged in this concept of being an imposter, with this terror that someday someone would find out that I’m not good enough and my life would be ruined.

So many events from this year have helped me get to where I am now. I broke down in front of my husband one night and confessed how terrified I was about it all. He had never heard me talk about it, so deep was my shame and anxiety, but once he did he put my fears to rest by his sheer love and faith in me. My son, who had witnessed my breakdown, toddled over and rested his hand on my cheek. I felt even worse for a second, having made him concerned, but Glenn even took this moment and changed it into something special- relaying that it was good for Jack to see me deal with my emotion and life challenges, that in doing so he would also learn to deal with them.

Having my husband’s and son’s faith in me, I turned outward. I finally took the steps to talk to people in the area I believed I would work well in. I reached out to family friends, including a manager of the department I would want to work in and spent much needed time asking everything I could about the position and how I could work my way into that career. The manager suggested a program I had already been looking into, albeit reluctantly at first, and it gave me the drive to begin it. I am now in my second class and doing quite well. I still have two years to go, but I am happy to do it- I’m developing my skills for the future at the same time as I’m learning new things to help me in my position now.
Finally, I began therapy (3) and this also led to a huge breakthrough in January. I relayed my same fears to her over a couple sessions and it finally came to a head when I realized that I was worth it. That the imposter syndrome was in my head. I am still young and still learning, but I am willing to learn, and that makes all the difference. I still have days when I question myself, but so often now I am reminded that my work is valid and useful.

I am so lucky to have the job I’ve had for these past five years. I don’t want to go anywhere, and if given the choice- I won’t. I love my job and those I work with. But I won’t fear (as much at least), the possibility that one day I will have to move on. The economy has become harder to find a job, but I am hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. As of today, I enjoy my work and am making myself better with every action I take.

3. Go to therapy and get over this I’m not worthy shit and the whole hospital trauma. Deal with this once and for all.

I can’t say that I am at peace with what happened to Jack, nor what happened to my dear friend and her son. I don’t think that it’s something that I will be able to resolve completely, truthfully. The difference is that I have taken this year and talked about my experience. I talked about it so much, and with everyone, that was willing to listen. And after a year, I am willing to go through pregnancy and birth again- something I could not have done last year. Not everything in life is able to be tied up with a pretty bow at the end of the day. I still smell hospital soap and cringe, I still feel a deep ache when I think of that time, and I still fear what this next birth will be like- or whether we will have to face any number of heartbreaks. But I am willing to try. Jack is worth all that ache and more, and my next child will be worth it all too.

4. Become the best editor I can at work so I can be confident that I’m a hard worker. Don’t allow myself to screw around and be diligent about all my duties so I know that I am a vital part of my group. Push myself to be aware and learn new things.

This was very much part of #2 in retrospect but also focused more on my day to day activities and how they worked in conjunction with my imposter syndrome. I am not perfect, and I want to continue to strive to be better. This year, however, has been a great one. I’ve accomplished so much, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done. And this next year I will learn even more and become even better. I have so many people to look up to, mostly my own mother and mother-in-law, and I want my own children to see me and respect who I am as a worker just as much as I respect them. That is my long term goal and one I know I will reach.

5. Get yours and Glenn’s finances into order. Grow up and stop spending so much on shit we don’t need.

This is one that I took over in March of this past year. We went on a massive financial diet in April and May, though in June I let go (it is the month of celebrations, as everything in our lives occurs that month pretty much.) July has been better, but admittedly, I do need to pick this up again. Nevertheless, we’ve saved enough for a new roof, and this is a major accomplishment.

6. Redirect your want of recognition to wanting it from yourself. You don’t need to show off.

This is definitely something I’m still working on. I have always been someone who likes to know that I’m doing well, getting an “A” in life. But slowly I’m learning that it really doesn’t matter what other people think, it’s how I know I am doing. Nevertheless, this is definitely one of those things that will take me longer to put into practice.

7. Breathe in Jack as my only baby for now.

All day, every day. This year has been the year of toddlerdom- and the tantrums that come with it, but I love every day with him. All I can think is how big he seems, yet that he is actually still so small. I try to soak it in every moment I can.

8. Suck it up and go back to school if necessary. Your kid needs to be able to look up to you and see a confident woman that feels like she’s good enough.

Again, part of goal #2 and something I have begun the very long process of. I am happy that I got the drive to begin, and I know it is worth it, even if it’s just the experience.

9. Continue to be a bad ass.

*After writing this post I realized I had first written about “Leaning In” exactly one year ago today. How’s that for timing?