Sweet Sea and Life’s Ocean of Emotions

 “Mom has only cried twice before,” Grace told the boys in the car the other day. 

  “Mom has cried more than that!” Noah said.

  “I cry sometimes, Gracie,” I told her looking at her through the rearview mirror.

  “Well, not as much as I have,” Grace muttered. 

  I smiled. “Well, I didn’t just fall off my bike yesterday. I’m sure I would have cried too.” She seemed satisfied with that answer. But as we drove on, it got me thinking.

 It’s interesting how my generation had far less access to technology and yet, in spite of our more frequent interpersonal communications back in the day (passing notes in class was our version of texting), we were much more stigmatized about opening up and sharing our feelings. I remember back in high school, if you cried or flipped out, you were accused of being dramatic or being a “spaz” or “psycho.” Those last two insults have always pushed my buttons. 

  I was talking to my kids about this today. I enjoy having these conversations with them because it fascinates me to see how they are perceiving the world now versus how we did twenty years ago. Talking about feelings is so commonplace to them now and I actually love that. It wasn’t that way when I was a kid.

  For example, if my parents wanted me to clean my room, I was just expected to do it. There was never an explanation. The answer to “Why?” would have been, “Because I said so.” We really didn’t have conversations about our feelings or things that bothered us. We laughed off a lot of the things that made us upset (you didn’t want to “spaz” out about it). 

  I recently told one of my favorite childhood stories of my doll Sweet Sea to a few of my friends. And while I grew up believing this story was wildly hilarious, and my friends also found it funny, they were also slightly horrified by it. So I would love to share it here. It’s one of my favorites meant to equally horrify and entertain you. 

  When I was four, I had a beloved mermaid doll that I received for Christmas one year. She had 80s mermaid hair of wild blonde curls and a cherub-like face. Since she was a mermaid, obviously she needed to go in the bathtub with me. The problem was, when Sweet Sea took her first dip, her synthetic hairstyle was ruined. It no longer looked like the mermaid in the commercials (when I told my kids this story, I had to explain what a commercial was). After my bath, I asked my mom to fix Sweet Sea’s hair. The ponytail she twisted it into was unsatisfactory. So was the next style, and the one after that. Try as she might, she couldn’t get the hairstyle the way it had been. She was getting frustrated. Her lips were getting thinner holding in her fury, as was her patience. My dad heard my mom’s voice raising which rarely happened. So he came into my room and grabbed the doll from my mother’s sweating fingers. Looking at my dad’s vice grip hands, even in my four-year-old mind, I knew where this was going. My dad made the worst attempt yet at styling fair Sweet Sea’s mane. 

   I must have screeched, “No! You’re ruining her!” Or something to that effect, because the next thing I knew, Dad was wrenching Sweet Sea’s entire head from her little defenseless mermaid body, wound up for his hardest fast pitch, and pelted Sweet Sea’s head at my bedroom wall. Then he picked up her head and jammed it back onto her body rendering Sweet Sea neck-less for the rest of her plastic life. I wailed and Dad suppressed fits of laughter handing me back my doll and cackling, “Here’s your precious Sweet Sea.”

  Now you have to admit, if you have children, you know you have been pushed to the point of similar insanity whether over Legos or drawing a picture that “was supposed to have a green cat, not blue.” I’m sure that my dad must have been experiencing something similar in that moment. Maybe you’ve even acted on it—No judgement here people! But you likely were so wracked by guilt (as parents of our generation often are), you later had a conversation with your child and somehow expressed an apology to them, whether in the form of a cookie or actual spoken word, you would have attempted to make things right. 

  My dad took a different approach. He usually did on most things. That infamous story simply became one for the history book in our family. I’ve heard it many times growing up and I did eventually learn to laugh about it, because A. It is hilarious and B. I saw how silly I was being about my toy’s hair. But I still remember the incident. I never got an apology. Such a thing wouldn’t have entered my dad’s mind because he was fully justified in his reaction to my “ridiculousness.”

  People from my parents’ generation may attest to the idea that people are too sensitive now; no one has a sense of humor about themselves. And I do agree with that on some level, we need to lighten up and learn to laugh at ourselves and our hang ups, but I also love how honest people are becoming with their life journeys. Everyone is talking about their feelings and I think that’s a beautiful thing! It’s refreshing to pick up a book and see someone laying out their vulnerabilities bare for all the world to see. I am loving writers like Elizabeth Gilbert, Glennon Doyle, Rachel Hollis, and Jen Hatmaker who do it with humor woven into their very personal stories. 

  We have to laugh. We have to stop and look at life sometimes and ask, “How in the hell did I end up here?” When I do, I find myself either laughing or crying, or sometimes both depending on the day. But I know I am learning from everything I’m going through. And oddly enough, I don’t feel as angry anymore. I am making my peace and accepting where I am, where life has brought me to. I am accepting who I am becoming, broken bits and all and in spite of what anyone thinks of me, or what I used to think of myself, I like myself much better being real about who I am. 

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Sweet Sea in better times. She was so beautiful…How did everything end so wrong?

 

 

Summer Beautification Program: Assignment 4

  About this time last year, I was battling depression and anxiety in a big way. I wasn’t motivated to do anything. I wanted to sleep all day. I had no patience with my kids. I remember buying a potted plant for our porch and laughing at it cynically as I watched it droop and eventually shrivel up and die because I didn’t even want to take care of that. I did everything without joy in my heart. I would then think how ugly and awful I was because I didn’t care about anything anymore. I’d put on about twenty pounds and even though I was working out, I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted. My sister was so thin and I asked her what she had been doing to keep her weight down. She said she was doing a portion control diet. She lent me her brightly colored containers and showed me how the process worked. 

  I followed the steps and in about a week, I noticed the weight was coming off rapidly. By the end of the first month, I’d lost ten pounds. By the end of the second month, I was down fifteen. And the more weight I lost, the more determined I became to lose more. I no longer used the containers. I just ate very little. Without realizing it, I had become a train-wreck waiting to happen. I wasn’t anorexic, but I was close. I was eating one large meal a day and snacking in between, basically to keep from passing out. Remember DJ Tanner in Full House when she was eating a carrot stick and then torturing herself on the treadmill to get thin? I was a thirty-six-year-old version of that. I was working out every night at the gym and then running at home after each grueling workout. On the weekends, I was going out and drinking to try to feel something other than empty and hollow.

  I had lost sight of who I was. No one knew how bad it had gotten. I didn’t open up to anyone about this part of me. I was always angry, tired, and lonely. I thought I was in control of my life because I’d finally gotten control of my weight. But I was doing it in an unhealthy way. 

   When I finally realized the path of self-destruction I was on, I woke up terrified and humbled by how far I’d fallen. I had to face many hard truths. The control I’d been seeking was not healthy. I surrendered to the simple fact that I wasn’t going to make it much longer looking for meaning in my life through outside validation. Because the truth is, self-worth doesn’t come from others’ opinions of us, it comes from within. 

  Please listen to me. If you never read another blog post that I share again, I want to make this so clear to you: YOU ARE AN ABUNDANTLY BLESSED AND BEAUTIFUL SOUL. Your beauty doesn’t come from a number on a scale, the flawlessness of your complexion, or how trendy your clothes are. It doesn’t come from how many people love you. You are so much more than what anyone sees on the outside. Your beauty is in your unique and divine energy, your life force. You were created by divinity and whether or not you are religious or even spiritual, I’m telling you, you are living and breathing in this world with a divine purpose that was born in you. It’s something that no other human being can give to you or take away from you; it’s yours alone. 

  Now, that being said, treat your body the way you’d treat something sacred and beautiful because YOU ARE! From the tip of your big toenail to the topmost hair on your head, you are WORTHY.  You are ENOUGH. No matter what you’ve done, or how far off the path you’ve gotten, start treating yourself with kindness, tell yourself every day. I actually took a dry erase marker and wrote it on our bathroom mirrors so that we are all seeing that message every time we look in the mirror.

  And now you probably know where I am going with this. For Assignment 4 of our Summer Beautification Program, take a dry erase marker to your bathroom mirror and write, “I am loved. I am worthy. I am enough.” 

  Read it aloud to yourself every morning. I don’t care if you have hellacious morning breath, puffy sleep eyes, and wild bed-head. You are loved. You are worthy. You are enough. 

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This is me after a rigorous morning  sweating and pulling weeds and I haven’t even done a tick-check yet. Flawed and still worthy. 

 

Summer Beautification Assignment 3: Focusing on Today

Happy Monday, beautiful friends! This is the last week of school for my boys. Grace graduated from kindergarten last week which was a bit emotional since she’s my last baby. She wanted to wear a dress and “high heels” which were actually little open-toe booties with a chunky heel. She looked so grown up as she was smiled at her reflection in the mirror.  I finished brushing her hair and she spun in a circle and watched the layer of tulle on her dress flare out slightly. I imagined her doing the same thing when she goes to a high school dance or even her wedding day and had to blink back a few tears. But I was trying so hard just to savor each moment of Friday morning with my sweet girl, focusing on the second I was in, not jumping ahead to the next thing. 

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Don’t blink! She was a baby only a minute ago.

  It’s hard to be in the present, isn’t it? It’s hard not to dwell on the past or worry about future and just to be in this moment right now. I think most of us are guilty of that. We are living for the weekend or we are ready to put the kids to bed so we can veg out in front of the T.V. or check our phones. We don’t find our jobs stimulating or fulfilling all the time so we get lost in daydreams about the what-ifs of life. 

  Dr. Seuss is quoted as saying, “Sometimes, you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Wow, spot on, Seuss…from the profound depth of The Lorax to his many philosophical musings, he never ceased to say it right. So to live in the present means you’re appreciating the value in more of your daily moments instead of wishing your days away, looking to leap-frog to the next big thing. 

  For this weeks assignment, I am channeling one of my all time favorite movies, “About Time.” If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should–It’s free on Netflix. We are going to exercise focusing the mind on living in the present. You will need a notebook and a pen. That’s all. I like to get mine from Marshalls; they always have pretty ones, but really anything will do. I’ve just always loved fresh office supplies and writing utensils. Place them next to your bed and before drifting off each night, take a minute to write down something that made you smile, laugh, or touched your heart that day. Go back to that moment, if you can. Try to write down the colors you saw, the sounds you heard, if there were any smells…how did all of it make you feel. This is something you can continue for the rest of the program (or even beyond), if you like. Maybe you don’t do it every single day, but maybe you will capture some really beautiful moments that will become memories if you do. The point is to notice The Now without skipping forward to the Next Big Thing you think you want to live.   

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Image by Creative Market.

If you already journal, this will be easy for you. This just gives your reflecting a little more focus. And remember, not all of the moments have to be happy! They might be sad but we can’t shy away from our feelings. Sometimes the most valuable lessons are born from pain. The important part is to simply be present. Life isn’t a dress rehearsal. It’s happening in real time. We only need to show up and exist in it.