Hormones are the worst.

It is three p.m. on a Friday afternoon and I can barely function. 

I’ve drank all the coffee. I’ve drank water. I’ve eaten. I slept last night. 

And it is still all I can do to stay awake. 

It’s PMS week. 

If you’re like me, and any part of your seventh grade health class stuck with you when you weren’t doodling in your Five Star binder, you probably used to think that PMS week meant your period. No. No, it does not. 

This is the meltdown prior to starting your period. 

We need a myth busters episode on this, apparently. Because my husband stared at me with a face full of perplexity when I broke this fact down for him, right before he scurried off to find shelter from my tirade.

I was very fortunate when I was younger. I barely noticed when I would ovulate. I might have felt a twinge. I may have eaten more chocolate unbeknownst to myself. But mostly? I was fine. 

It was when Aunt Flo showed up that my life came apart at the seams. 

Two day long headache? Check

Skin with more craters and marks than the surface of the moon? Oh, yea. 

Moody? In dire need of a cheeseburger or Dr. Pepper? Wanting to die during gym class? Scratch the eyes out of the fifteen year old girl next to me who always raised her hand in history class? Wanting to shave my head, paint my nails black and otherwise assume whatever rebellious appearance I could just to piss my mother off?

Oh, you bet. 

Now that I am older, like, twice as old, and I haven’t seen the inside of a high school auditorium or punched a time card at a college-age-part-time-job, I have discovered another kind of fresh hell that awaits me each month. 

Ovulation week. 

It happened sometime around my third child. 

I noticed that in the middle of the month, my emotions would spiral out of control. I would spend about five days barely making it off the sofa or through until dinner time. I also wanted to wrestle a puma with my bare hands but I was really worried about whether or not I should get bangs. Am I just sad or am I really crying at this Hootie and the Blowfish song on the radio?

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I realized that, for some reason after bearing three healthy children, my uterus wanted to make herself known. Even more than she already was. She decided, much like the Paris Hilton she is, five days of attention a month just wasn’t going to cut it. This is the age of 24/7 social media. Non-stop attention whoring is the ticket. The sky is the limit.

No, she decided that she would evolve into a Kim Kardashian drama queen of epic proportions. She now needed to occupy nearly two weeks of my life a month. 

The result?

The result is I cannot even anymore, people. 

 

Seriously, uterus, what do I need to do to show you that I take you seriously?? I already know what you can do. I know how powerful you are. I get it. Why do you need to strong arm my month even more?? 

I await my arrival from Aunt Flo each month just so I can have some relief. 

It’s like watching King Joffrey die on Game of Thrones, but now Cersei is on the throne and is this really any better or is it in fact much, much worse?

I don’t know what I did in my short life to make the universe decided to torment me. I just want to be loved. I just want a soft pretzel and a nap, but also I want Bob Ross to tell me that it’s going to be okay. 

In the words of my wise sister in law, women experiencing this should be allowed to lay around in red tents while someone else tends to all that they would otherwise need in life. 

I just need, like, two weeks off a month, people. 

Is that really so much to ask?

 

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Go forth. And mother.

You are she. 

 

The keeper of fruit snacks. The laborer of nine pound babies. The rocker of colicky babies, babies who won’t sleep just cause and babies who think night is day.

Her with sore breasts, and round, tired eyes. Aching hips and sore joints. You are she who is perpetually hunched over. With shoulders sloped over a crib-side, a kitchen sink, or a sheet of math homework. You could make a bottle of formula or change a Pampers Swaddler at 4 a.m. with your eyes closed, and you damn well pretty much do.

You are her of the frazzled hair, muffin tops and post-childbirth body. Her who lost her senior-prom hard body and driver’s license weight, her sanity, her car keys and her three year old in the grocery store.

She of the cottage cheese thighs, stretch mark bands on her once smooth places, and straw-like hair. She who both avoids the mirror because she can’t bear to look, and the woman who stares into the mirror and wonders where the person she knew went. You remind yourself that she is just in the other room, only a little out of reach. But you’ll find her again. Soon. Or maybe, you’ll hang out with this woman for a while more because you like how she is turning out. 

You are the woman who does not care. She who wanders Target in mom-jeans at 2 p.m., and the woman in Walgreens at 2 a.m. in food stained leggings buying motrin. And you aren’t even worried if you look like you have been partying at Coachella in the clothes you bought at Wal Mart. 

You are the late night sentinel- both consciousness and unconscious, the mid-afternoon chauffeur and maid, and the twilight storyteller

You are the woman in line at school drop off, at the dining room table sweating through homeschool assignments and waving young adults off to college. You are she who drops off casseroles when new babies come, soup for the person who needs a pick me up and the check for the electric bill. 

You are she of late nights, early mornings, long afternoons where hours move slow as molasses, and children ripen right under your watchful eye and also draw on the walls when you aren’t paying attention. You are the woman who draws with sidewalk chalk in the driveway and puts Neosporin on bee stings on lazy summer days. 

Go forth. And mother.

You are the woman losing her mind when the husband is home late from work. You live fifteen lifetimes in that hour as you watch the clock, stir rice-a-roni and peel crying children off your legs. 

You are the woman who doesn’t even care anymore. Let people talk. Let them stare while your child has a meltdown in the produce department. 

You are a work in progress, a tapestry unending, a Mona-Lisa-smile even when it’s hard old soul who has lived a thousand lifetimes through her children.

You are the woman who has only just begun.

You are the mom who doesn’t need to watch the clock. Who doesn’t care that the dishes are piling high and who knows she needs to run a load through the washing machine, but fifteen more minutes, please. Fifteen minutes more to snuggle, rest your head on your pillow, to sit and just be because one day it will be too late.

You are the person who thinks she is always getting it wrong, so much more wrong than anyone else has ever gotten anything wrong. She who never feels like enough, never believes that her good is good enough.

You are the mom who can’t remember what eight hours of uninterrupted sleep or her bed are like. What it’s like to be out at ten o’clock on a Saturday and not feel tired on a molecular level. You don’t remember what it’s like to feel like you aren’t always forgetting to do something but you do remember the name of every dinosaur from the cretaceous period and My Little Pony there ever was.

You are the person who rests her head against the steering wheel. Who turns on cartoons for her children and leaves the room to sit on the edge of her bed. Who lays awake at night. And cries. Oh, boy. Do you cry. Did you even cry this much when you were a baby? Did you know that you would cry this much ever again, and that it would be because you were raising babies?

You are the woman in the bleachers on a Saturday morning, in a seat in the bright orange high school auditorium with nine hundred other parents, but you’re sure that you are the proudest one there. The mom who shows up even when she is bone-tired because she knows that every moment from this one to that is worth it when she sees her child succeed. 

You are the mom doing it all alone. Homework. Parent teacher conferences. Moody teenagers. Cold and flu season. Missed school buses and difficult conversations and making ends meet. You’re carrying more than twice the load while you bear the stigma of single parenthood. 

You are the mom of a child with disabilities and constant health scares. You love them wildly. You worry about what they will do when you are gone, if anyone will care for them like you do. You manage appointments, critical and condescending doctors and medicine dosages. You would rather pull your eyelashes out than sit in one more waiting room or schedule one more appointment. You wonder where self-care has gone, and when your next date night will be. But you are sure that every step forward, every milestone, every life event that they are here with you is beyond a gift.

You are she who dances with her husband in the living room when the kids go to bed. You who squeezes in romance when you can because you have figured out that romance is not about roses and brunch, it’s connection in its most intimate form.

You are the girl who stands on the back porch when she kisses him goodbye and bids him head off to work. And you watch him climb into his car and you’re sure, while those kids are still sleeping, while you’re standing there in your pajamas with a mop of hair on the top of your head, and you are both exhausted, that life will never be this simple again. 

You are the mom who works. You pack lunches, and make it to soccer practice while your lungs want to burst out of your chest from hurrying so much to be in two places at once. You are the woman who bears the scrutiny of other moms who either wish they could go to work or who think you’re compromising everything to pursue your career. And you bear the brunt of coworkers criticism when you duck out for the pre-k class party and the school play. 

You are the woman who simultaneously wishes above all that she could just give up because it’s all too much to ask. And the woman who would never. Never ever. Ever. Let go. Because hope builds the bridge between not good enough and faith.

You are the woman on the street. The woman sitting on the other end of the line at her desk working customer service. The woman in the department store. The woman in Starbucks. The woman in the church pew. The woman down the street. 

You are all of us, and we are all you. 

Now. Go forth. And mother. 

 

 

Maybe it’s time to be alive again.

This might sound morbid. But, I am going to be honest.

In the months following my dad’s death, I waited to die, too

I’m not sure what logical reason I could give for such a morbid concern. I don’t know if I will ever have an explanation. I think it came from seeing my world crack in half like an egg.

I observed it, like I was a spectator. But then I lived it in realtime, over and over again.

Any pain in my chest or shortness of breath or vague ominous feeling creeping up the back of my neck sent me headlong into an inner torrent of worry. 

My husband and I were laying in bed one night, and I revealed this to him as I lay staring upward, eyes never leaving the slant of the ceiling, for fear that I might look at him and his face would betray me as the lunatic I felt like I was. 

“You aren’t going to die,” he reassured me. I didn’t know if I could believe him.

Maybe it's time to be alive again.

It took a while for me to notice the uptick of anxiety in my every day life, and for me to understand why even the simplest tasks suddenly became challenging. 

We live near a gigantic bridge that stretches the width of the Chesapeake Bay, and even now I can barely stand to cross it – even if I travel in the middle lane. For a while, I was certain that someone would slam into us from behind, and we would all careen over the railing into the choppy water below.

Even merging into everyday traffic became an unnerving ordeal.

The fear that my children would somehow end up in the street pervaded my mind every time I let them play out in the yard.

This is the aftermath of what losing someone suddenly can look like. You learn to not automatically trust in certainties and probably not’s.

My mind raced to fill in the negative space left from losing my father. It filled it to the brim with worry and depression, my mind oscillating between the two like an old, rusty fan. 

Each new day, I wondered what burden would I carry around with me today. Untold grief or strangling worry? Door number 1 or door number 2?

Meanwhile, as an avowed middle child used to disguising her feelings, I operated in my day to day life around other people as normally as I could. I smiled, cracked jokes, made light conversation when necessary, then retreated swiftly when I sensed I was running out of the energy to be both sociable and guarded.

I was “functional,” as I described myself numerous times over texts to the people who intermittently checked in with me. 

Meaning, “I can stand here and make dinner and wash dishes and run the washing machine, but don’t ask me how I’m feeling. Don’t ask me for more than this. Don’t you dare ask me to tell you how it’s really going because I can’t stand to tell it.”

Just like I didn’t notice how much grief was controlling my life as it was happening, there was eventually something else I didn’t notice. 

The part where I started living again. 

I waited so long to turn a corner. In fact, I tried to force it many times. I would concede some millimeter of myself to God, when I even wanted to talk to Him, and think I was cured.

I used to be believe grief was something a person sloughed off, like a butterfly from its chrysalis. 

We believe this lie that we can shed off the things that hurt us, the things that damage us, and never feel the weight of those things again. That we never have to return to this dark place again.

But I’m not sure that’s true. 

I think what is true is that this pattern, this journey toward finding peace, isn’t linear. It has high points and low points. And you never see it coming when you round the bend to what lies ahead when life takes hold of you again. 

Joy, loss and hope. I am a keeper of all three.

You never see it when hope seeps back in to your life. When the joy creeps in. I didn’t necessarily make a conscious choice to be over my pain. It’s just that life found me again. And by the time it did, I was unknowingly at a point where I was ready, despite myself.

My wonderful husband assured me many times of how my father would want me to be happy. He would have wanted me to carry on. For so long, those words hurt. I wasn’t ready for them yet.

Maybe I felt guilty for knowing that eventually, life would carry me further away from the memory of him, the sheer existence of him. It would fall prey to the mechanisms of time until it was just a thing that happened long ago. 

I worried one day, Lord willing, I would be in a rocking chair on my porch, gray and weathered, and it might take effort to recall the sound of my father’s voice, and that thought broke me. And, what if my life can’t be spent building a temple to him and his memory?? What if nothing else feels good enough to honor my grief? 

Does it mean I’ll forget if I carry on, that I’m leaving him behind? 

It was eventually I realized that if I carry on, I can carry my father with me. 

And I could start living again when I realized that my sense of loss could coexist with joy if I was brave enough to trust God that the two could abut each other.

I didn’t need to build a temple to my father and my grief. I realized that I was the temple. And between the chasm of joy and loss is hope.

And somehow, with the Lord’s help, I can be a keeper of all three.