Oldie but Goodie

Yesterday was my son’s 8th birthday. All of his birthdays kick up some emotional dust for me. I rejoice in what an amazing human he continues to be. I grieve that he is one year closer toward individuation and needing to know himself away from us.

I remember his eventful arrival and how it birthed a mother, father, grandparents, aunt, and a brand-new nurse (she was in the room and possibly crying more than anyone).

And I remember what I wrote half his lifetime ago, after his 4th birthday, that still rings true for me today.

So I will share it with you again: Birth and Rebirth. Enjoy!

So Maybe I Did Write One or Two…

If you recently read my Muse-letter that I sent out this week, you know that these last few days have been a celebration of life and loss. Maybe it seems weird to celebrate loss, but if you have been reading along with me these last few months, it’s really not so strange.

Loss, death, disappointment, or not getting what we want (even when we work really, really hard for it) shreds a layer or two. We feel raw and grated. Exposed and vulnerable. But what settles in its place are new cells, new skin, new life. The last three years have felt like an onslaught of loss, death, and disappointment. I won’t lie; even with my super intact ego, it’s been really hard.

One of the things that has been especially tricky for me is to not let the hard make me hard. I am actually a pretty trusting and loyal person. A ride-or-die sort. But when things keep coming at you, sometimes it feels like the best way to survive is to make a shield. A thick, crusty layer that I can see out of, but keeps the world’s badness out. Like my friend here, the Indian Star Tortoise. She’s got it down.

But those layers can get old, grizzled, weak, and are shed too. And underneath, strength still has to be built and sustained. Like muscle; well-formed but pliable.

So #whattodo? How do I stay protected and strong without getting hardened? These are my goals this year: to be strong and pliable. And here are the few simple things that I am going to work into my daily life more often than I do:

  • Water: to have force alongside fluidity, take it from the master. Literally, drink it in. That’s my plan.
  • Stretch: muscles are only as useful as they are mobile. And it also happens that I am aging, and so is my fascia. What isn’t softened can become brittle.

To make resolutions, we have to be resolved. RE-solved. Look closely at our problems, errors, misfortunes, or disappointments and be dedicated to the solution. Again. What are you resolved to work on this time around?

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One Long Night

As the days get shorter and the darkness much thicker, it sometimes feels like we are wading through one long night.

The other day my son asked me what my favorite shade of blue was. Sidebar- I love his questions. He didn’t ask me what my favorite color was, but rather my favorite shade of blue. I just love those little moments where you can see and feel their swift minds whirring.

So back to my favorite shade of blue. It’s twilight. You know that deep, resonant, silky, purply, dark blue when the sky moves from sunset to night. The world becomes more quiet; the crows have settled. But you are still very much alert and watchful. The mind is full. You are full.

This time of year feels like twilight to me. Rich and resonant. One full, long night.

Here’s to your long, luxurious night. Rest up for the new year, my friends; it’s going to be wild.

Is gratitude enough?

As we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season in the US, one of the things that gets tossed around is Gratitude.  The Big G.  gratitude

If you weren’t feeling that grateful, or even worse, were feeling whiny and self-deprecating, this is the week and the season to just snap out of it!

This is the season for good tidings, well wishes, thoughts, prayers, and plain ol’ cheer, right?

Don’t get me wrong; I love the concept of cultivating gratitude.  There is an intense and dark beauty in being a witness to and feeling appreciation for the ride-or-die friendships or miraculous children that we are even alive to experience.  In fact, this practice and experience of positivity has true impact on our health.  

And sometimes…we say a lot of things and don’t feel them.  We don’t witness and experience them.  Is that gratitude? Or platitude?

Does it matter?

I have a not-so-small request this week and this season: say what you feel.  It’s easy for us to get caught up in “I love my kids-house-car-job-husband”  like we are in competition for how #blessed we are.

Before you get caught up in gratitude guerilla warfare, stop and feel.  Rather than being grateful, consider what allows you to feel gratitude.  It’s a subtle but different experience.  More physical or kinesthetic than intellectual.  Something that feels like peace or joy.   (And maybe there is a better word than ‘gratitude’)

When I sit and really allow myself to feel gratitude, here is my list of what washes up (in no particular order):

  • My son: he is the greatest thing I have ever done and will ever do with my life.  He is everything I could have ever imagined in a human being.  His presence and his countenance has allowed my heart to be wide and strong enough for all of the turmoil, loss, and grief that has absorbed these last few years of our lives.
  • My family: my family is the fortress-like foundation that I was able to jump up and stomp on to make my way in this life.  What is most astounding to me about my family is their ability to pivot, start over, and crush it on the next thing.  Grit and resilience are our keystones.
  • My framily: this unlikely group of people sat down together at cafeteria tables 15 years ago and have never really been apart since.  Not even with death or geography.  Some beautiful thread wove us together and I will never stop being mesmerized by how random and powerful this life is because of it.
  • My other half: After 19 years, I can honestly say, I have no idea what relationships ‘should’ be.  It has been all the things; and really the only way I could have made it out alive and well.  I am thriving, not just surviving, because of this human.  That’s his magic.
  • Michelle: watching her wrestle with her life, her dying, the guilt, the grief, and the deep, eviscerating sadness flipped a switch in me.  She gave us the gift of allowing us to be part of it all, to allow it to change us as it changed her, and to keep her alive with us as we speak her name.

What washes over you when you feel gratitude?  #gratitudenotplatitude #tellthem

Would You Do It All Over Again?

This past weekend I got to spend some quality time with my Framily.  These people are my friend-family. My chosen family.  People who have literally been with me through some of the darkest days of my life thus far, and will also walk alongside me through the ones that await (cuz there’s always more).

So naturally we get into some murky stuff as we wade through the years and losses we have lived together.  We wondered aloud: do you have any regrets?  Would you do everything, as it has played out, over again?

We all felt like we were perfectly where we needed to be.  Even if where we are is uncomfortable or broke.  There are real teachings, gratitude, and self-love that we have cultivated from the time, money, opportunities, and people we have lost.  We wouldn’t be perfectly ourselves if we had chosen a different adventure.

For me-I may never have chosen myself otherwise.

And I will tell you what…now that I have, I am never going back.  I feel as well, as strong, and as on fire as I was at 21.  Half a lifetime ago.

Our greatest failures, heartbreaks, and losses can be our best medicine.

They may possibly be the only medicine that matters.

**As always, I turn it back to you.  Would you do it all again?**

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There’s a little more to this story that I shared with my Muse-letter followers.  You can join the conversation by subscribing here

Doing Hard Things Could Be Easy

Recently, I did something that was really hard for me.  In fact, I was completely unprepared for it.  And- some might say- unqualified.  They wouldn’t be wrong.  But other people’s opinions have rarely stopped me from doing what I believe in, love, or am just plain ol’ fired up to do.  #firestarter #changeagent

you can do hard things_Page_2

I realized a few things in the process:

  • I believe that I can do hard things
  • In fact, I believe that I should do hard things
  • And more importantly, I believe that I should do things that make me absolutely afraid and uncomfortable

I am already 15,443 days old.  The average lifespan is 27,375.  What the hell else am I going to do?  Sit around and wait?

What are you going to do?  #whatchagonnado

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It Should Have Been Me…

Have you ever flashed back to crazy, possibly dangerous, times in your life and thought: “holy crap, I should have died!”

You shudder.  Maybe you look over at your kid, your partner, your cat, or even at your own hands.  You feel your heart beating in your chest.  You feel your breath slide in and roll out of your body.  And in that swift and fantastic moment, you are so fully alive.

Recently I wrote to my Muse-letter followers about being not-dead-today, and being fully alive.  Digging deep and getting a little murky, as I love to do, while contemplating this: what moves you to step boldly from your comfort zone? 42974306_351407882270930_3416594696280501552_n(1)

I share some of my story and thoughts in my piece, and you can subscribe to my list here: Subscribe to My Muse-letter

Cleaning House: Are Chemicals Impacting Your Kids’ Health?

Over a week ago I posted on Instagram about cleaning chemicals and that they can negatively impact our kids’ microbiome.

The way that the microbiome was being assessed and studied was through the lens of childhood obesity.  Ultimately, kiddos who were exposed to more of the conventional cleaning chemicals (even a few times a week), had microbiome changes that seemed to also result in more obesity in those same kiddos.

Bacteria-on-Hands-Square_cropped-600x567Additionally, it seemed like kids who grew up in households with ‘greener’ cleaning products had less of these issues: fewer microbiome changes and lower incidences of obesity.

Some of the questions I still have and didn’t get into with that IG post are:

  • Is obesity really our biggest worry for our kiddos?
  • What does it mean to us that our kiddos are ‘obese’?
  • What does it mean that cleaning chemicals are ‘better’?
  • What other factors could be at play?

As much as I LOVE and appreciate microbiome knowledge-bombs, I admit that I have a knee-jerk reaction to the information- and even my own post.  One of the things that I have been challenged by through my entire clinical life is to present information and offer informed choice without fear.

As an integrative family medicine provider, I witness quite a bit of parenting fear.  Mostly it’s the usual fears of keeping kids alive, safe, and healthy.  But I also hear many fears of doing everything ‘right,’ being a perfect parent or having the perfect birth, not putting ‘toxic’ things into their bodies, or feeding kids a ‘healthy’ diet.

While these fears are also normal and common, they contain elements of elitism and also judgement.   In order to be perfect, right, healthy, or non-toxic, we have to identify what all of those things even mean.  And possibly denigrate or reject things that don’t fit the bill.  To be ‘perfect-right-healthy’ is somewhat grounded in privilege and access.

I can take a great example, sheepishly, from my own parenting.  Some years ago we drove by the McDonald’s near our house that has a giant Play Place.  My son asked to go for the millionth time.  I said “Nope, that ball pit is nasty” and made some reference to the food being poison. It was an off-hand, distinctly thoughtless comment made while driving, but definitely belied some judgement, right?

Months later some good friends came over and brought McDonald’s.  Their son wasn’t really up for what we were making for dinner, and they pre-empted the discomfort and brought something that they knew he would eat.  After they left, my son asked me in a quiet and worried-sounding voice, “Mama, why did they feed him that?  Why did they give him poison?”

Well, if that doesn’t guarantee me #1 Doctor-Mom Of The Year, I don’t know what does.  mom-of-the-year-image

While I appreciate all of the insight that we can gain into the mighty microbiome and into childhood metabolic disruptions (of which obesity could be a manifestation), what else isn’t being said?

Families who are prioritizing green cleaning chemicals may also be making different choices about dietary inputs, physical activity, and/or sleep.  They may have the privilege and access to make these choices.  And all of these choices can also affect the health of our microbiome, and could also be correlated with obesity or the lack thereof.

While it might be tempting to make the leap that green cleaning = less obesity, keep in mind that there are so many dimensions to health.  Let’s be careful and thoughtful about our goals, the meanings we make, the level of ‘perfect-right-healthy’ we think we have acheived or not, and whether they are proper companions in our walkabout to well-being.

Resources:

#wellbeingwalkabout #childhoodobesity #socialdimensionsofhealth #perfect #right #healthy #mightymicrobiome #parenting

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Why Does My Brain Feel Like it is Leaking?

An interesting article was published this past Summer on the very real, little-discussed changes that occur in the brain of a pregnant, postpartum, and/or caregiving person. Mommy-brain-2

There are a number of rapid and monumental changes that happen to the portion of our brains that control social-emotional processes or the “ability to atttribute emotions and mental states to other people- key to raising a human.”

“The more brain change the mothers experienced, the higher they scored on measures of emotional attachment to their babies, a finding that echoed past studies. And the changes in most brain regions remained two years later.”

Whoa.  Two years?!

What is even more fascinating is that this change was most profound in the parents who were also pregnant, but was not limited to them.  Caregivers other than the birthing parent,  including fathers, experienced some of these same changes that correlated with how much ‘exposure’ they had to the babies and children.

For many of us who have been pregnant, postpartum, and/or a parent, we already know that this is true.  It’s not just our bodies that change.  Something else changes that never goes back to its original configuration: our brains.  Maybe all the time we spend consumed with getting bodies back is more about getting our brain back; a more tangible and socially-acceptable pursuit.  All the while knowing, in the murky recesses of our changed brains, that the worry, the conjured scenes of certain death, and deep guilt over every imperfect moment will never leave us.

What if we better understood what was happening to our brains and not just our bodies?  Would it change our relationship to postpartum and parenting?  Would it reframe what we experience as depression, anxiety, or plain-old feeling like we are losing our minds?  Would we reach for help, talk more openly, or simply settle into it more easily?

Would you?

This spins other spirals of thought for me also.  Is it possible for this effect to be compounded?  If we have more than one pregnancy, more than one postpartum, and, truly, more ‘exposure,’ do our brains continue to change? Do the changes add up? Do these spaces in our brains grow deeper and wider?

I wrote a new installement of my Muse-letter, due to break later this week, before I even read this article.  Ironically, it touches upon parallel notes of exposure, changes, and leakiness of our hearts and emotional selves.  And, of course, I have to ask: what is the gift?

What new wild and remote expanses of our minds can we now saunter through that were not accessible before?  In what ways can we empathize, understand, or simply be with our fellow humans that were not as effortless?

Children and change have a lot in common. Endless. Relentless.  Generous with their gifts.

What are your favorite gifts?

#pregnancybrainisreal #postpartumbrainisreal #parentingbrainisreal #changeisreal #giftsarereal

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