Fall: Reset

It feels like it was just July – my favorite month this year – and now it’s October, the start of a season of holidays and celebrations and a little bit of sadness because it won’t look the same as last year. It’s a season of beginnings – baby boy’s birth and becoming a mom of three – and endings, too – the close of 2018 and saying goodbye to 31 for both me and my husband.

Probably one of our last photos as a family of four.

Probably one of our last photos as a family of four.

I listened to a podcast recently that talked about the things that people do to retain a sense of calm and structure when the rest of the their lives are chaotic with travel schedules or significant life changes. For some people, it’s not missing a workout, even if they end up jogging in place in their hotel room. For others, it’s eating the same thing for breakfast every day – one less decision to be made. The craziness doesn’t last forever, but the practices stay constant.

Another thought I’ve been mulling over: “Our souls have seasons,” Adam McHugh wrote. “I want to let the seasons, and their inherent gifts, rhythms, and offerings, teach me how to live and to be more human.”

Yes, and yes.

In these #last90days, I’m embracing both the discipline of sticking to ways of living that remind me who I am at my core and the practice of paying attention to the unique rhythms and experiences of this season. I am not the same person that I was three months ago, and also, I am more me than I have ever been.

I believe in letting the seasons refine us – through what we shed, and what we adopt; in the ways we grow together or apart; in the beginnings and the endings; in each choice: bitterness or grace, anger or love, disappointment or hope, what changes or what stays the same. I believe that the way things end matter as much as how they begin.

The direction I’m headed:

Mind

I have a huge list of books on my reading list (no surprise), with a memoir trend happening:

I blame it on reading Kelly Corrigan’s book, Tell Me More, especially these quotes:

“Maybe you can still be a decent-ish person, a person with a personal mission statement, a person who aspires to be someone habitually good and highly effective, and fuck up.”

and

“[on I love you].

The first time the words pass between two people: electrifying.

Ten thousand times later: cause for marvel.

The last time: the dream you revisit over and over and over again.”

Body

If this boy is anything like my first two, October might be my very last month of being pregnant. I’m more than halfway through my goal of finishing my 60-day spinning streak. I screen workouts based on their playlist, so I put together my own playlist for Peloton. I’m working on a Fall playlist, but I’ve only added three songs: Best Shot (on repeat – the perfect song to slow dance to on the rooftop of the Ole Hanson Beach Club at sunset), Reckless Love (the promise I hold onto), and Damage (because it is so hauntingly sappy, and sometimes, a girl just needs some of that in her life).

After baby comes, my “workout” plans involve walking: for five minutes a day to start, then increasing by a minute each day until the end of the year.  Two weeks after baby’s birth day, if all goes well, my plan is to begin this 8-week Core-Floor Restore program. Can you tell that I’m terrified of “abdominal separation” and “pelvic floor prolapse”? I’ve generally been a secure person in all parts of my life, but pregnancy can throw you for a loop.

Heart

More than anything, I want to be a better mom and wife this season (and really, every season). I’m prepping for labor and postpartum with daily mindfulness and meditation practices, an evening gratitude list, and working through the MomStrong study with one of my girlfriends. This is the first time I haven’t been at the same stage of pregnancy with close friends or sisters – it’s strange and a little lonely – kind of like life in general, depending on the season you’re in. My goal is to spend as much quality time with my boys as possible, especially once I’m on maternity leave. There are so many fun things we haven’t done yet or lately, like storytime at the local library, Pretend City, and Little Lido Kid’s Club.

I’ve gotten back into podcasts, also along the mom/wife theme:

I may physically be waddling my way through this next month. Or rolling, maybe? (Front heavy).  Even through the discomfort and likely sleep deprivation, I want to be present to the miracles, tangible and otherwise, that this season has to offer and to end 2018 well.

The Transition.

I thought the summer of 2005 was hard, when I had to pack up for college and leave all my best friends. I went to a small, Christian school, which was like its own world – a bubble – hard to really understand unless you grew up in the same environment.

What I know now is that there is leaving what you knew, and there is loss of what you believed to be true. Those are not the same. That summer was an emotional rollercoaster, but this summer is soul-searching heartbreak and confusion.

Necessary change and sudden loss are so entirely different. One is like being in water that is turned up so slowly, you don’t realize that it’s boiling until you’ve spent some time simmering in it. It hurts, but you become acclimated. The other is an amputation, quick and irreversible, so abrupt and shocking that you wake up in the morning still reaching for that phantom limb.

There is so much that I’ve learned recently in the most painful way. So much that I wish I knew even a few months ago. There were feelings that I thought I buried, unchecked assumptions, and unmet needs that all came bubbling to the surface like a science project volcano. The gasoline was everywhere, but I was still convinced that no one would possibly dare to the light the match that would set everything on fire.

I learned that even good intentions can get complicated, something I only knew before cerebrally – it’s the number one takeaway from the field of international development. Proverbs 18:21 (MSG) has never rang more true: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” Honesty is bittersweet, and even things that are true are sometimes better left unsaid. We never really know what’s lying beneath the surface that can resurrect into the perfect storm of human error.

I find myself trying to do everything possible not to sit with the grief. My coping strategy is to read a million books (currently on my nightstand: Bittersweet, The Meaning of Marriage, Becoming Mom Strong, How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, The Eternal Current, What Comes Next and How to Like It, Be the Gift, The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted, You and Me Forever), to move the ache from my heart space to my head space, because it’s easier to understand up there.

I made new goals, new lists – everything is a task. If you’ve listened to the most recent Typology podcasts with Claire Diaz-Ortiz, that’s me, right now, in a nutshell. I have appointments lined up, a wardrobe refresh in progress, birthday parties planned, and my postpartum exercise regimen researched (yup, still 7 months pregnant). I even signed up for the Sprouted Kitchen Cooking Club. I mean, good food heals all, right?  I was operating at 60%, and now it’s time to bump it up to 100, because it’s easier to forget what’s broken when you keep moving towards the better and the best. The record playing in my mind: what’s next, what’s next, what’s next, do better, do better, do better.

Spoiler alert: Move on and move on fast is not a strategy that works. There is no fast-forwarding. There are no shortcuts. If you’re lucky, there are second chances, but no do-overs.

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I’d rather have all the sunshine and iced lattes, but I’m learning that the layers of love and loss, lessons and let-it-be’s are moving me closer to wholeness. Shauna Niequist wrote: “Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.”

Fall is a season of layering, of falling leaves and sweater weather. Even as I prepare for it – buying cardigans and faux leather leggings (that in reality, I won't be able to fit into for six months), I don’t wish for it to come sooner. There’s still healing to be had in the long days and golden hours and warm, beach nights, but even those days are coming to a close. Now is the in-between.

There’s a point in childbirth known as the transition. It’s the absolute worst. (I’ve had two unmedicated natural births with the obvious impending one on my mind). It’s the lowest point in all of labor, the point where it feels like the contractions are never going to end. They hit back to back, and there’s no relief. It doesn’t feel like dying. It feels like you are very much alive, and what you want is to not feel everything quite so much. Like, right about now would be an excellent time to go numb or pass out until it’s all over.

That’s the point when you know that you’re close. You just need to hang on a little bit longer. You need to breathe deeply and hold tightly to your husband’s hand. Time will pass at the slowest rate possible.

And then, your baby comes.

The time that seemed to pass at a snail’s pace, stops. Completely.

Not every real-life transition ends with something as transcendently beautiful as a newborn baby. But there’s hope in that. The cross was not the end of the story. It was the in-between, the transition, the slow passing of time. The story is still being written.

I came across an Instagram post recently that said that sometimes the wisest and kindest thing you can do is walk away. Part of walking away is giving up knowing how the story ends. Uncertainty about what comes next has never been easy for me, but I hold onto the belief that the ending is always about the deepest, fullest kind of life and that the transition is what gets us there.

forty.

I can do anything for 40 minutes.

That's what I tell myself when I'm teaching, when I'm doing CrossFit-esque workouts, when I'm paper-writing. And I'm usually successful.
Forty is my magic number.
This week, I'm starting a new workout plan: Slim & Strong in Six.... a six-week online Pilates program with four 40-minute workouts a week. I'm a person who needs the structure of an online class, who needs structure in general. This program is so perfectly timed: right before and through the holiday season/ busiest part of the semester when stress relief is so necessary.
Then tonight, I listened to a message by one of my favorite writers, Shauna Niequist. Her message on friendships, on trust and truth, on becoming more and more like Christ, was so dead on.  In the message, she mentions giving up negative words for lent. For forty days, she gave up gossiping, complaining. About anything or anyone. She talked about how hard it was. Negative words are sneaky. I've noticed in my life, how prone I am to negative words, how easily I complain about work, waiting in line, taxi drivers. How easily I can use sarcasm and assign blame. I think this is a good a time as any to begin to change that. So here's to forty days of no negative words, starting today.

I'm excited about these baby steps towards improvement. Physically. Spiritually.