Be Yourself?

I was thinking about people.  I have a hard time when I meet people because I don't know how to navigate that stretch of time between all the initial information (name, job, life, etc) to when they allow me to really know them.  It's that acquaintance phase of friendship that is difficult for me.  I don't know how to act, or how much to share, or if someone wants to be friends or if they think I'm ridiculous.  Perhaps I just over analyze things too much.   

I am a pretty open person, yet I keep some things close to my heart until I feel safe enough to let people in.  I think everyone does this to some extent, and certainly some more than others.  We fear people seeing us just as we are.  That they might not like what they see.  It's that fear in us that makes us apologize to company when the house is a mess.  Or for how we look, what we say.  Deep within us lies an innate need to feel accepted.  To be truly seen and not judged.  There is a great amount of peace when a relationship reaches a point where you can truly be yourself without fear of rejection.  Sadly, these types of relationships are rare finds.

I came across this photo online today.  I thought it was so beautiful.  What if we could read the story of each person we meet?  How amazing would it be to have the instant ability to know another person's heart?  How many more friendships would we cultivate and how quickly would acceptance occur?  Instead of peeling back layers over time, we could cut right through to the core of someone.  So many of us hide our sorrow, our dark moments.  We all have pasts that hold our many mistakes.  No one has led a perfect life.  Yet we hesitate to share those dark moments with each other even though they are often the moments that shaped us the most.

Even our present moments are kept behind closed doors.  We don't want the neighbors to know that we can't keep a pristine house, or see that life has thrown us a huge curve ball and we have been in the same clothes for three days.  We don't want to be seen without make-up, or in our pajamas.  We apologize for our messy cars and our disorganized minds.  I once turned down some help I truly needed because I was too afraid to let someone into my mess.  By now you would think that we would all realize that perfection is as unattainable as unassisted flight. 

Over the years I have worked to fight off my tendency to hide who I really am.  I lived in the story that I am a perfectionist for so long that I was almost in denial that having kids had made my "perfect" tendencies almost impossible to actually live.  I have learned that the more I let people see me as I am, the more comfortable they are being themselves.  I have seen firsthand the relief in the eyes of someone when I claim or relate to their similar troubles.  Yet I still have a hard time trusting that the real me won't be shunned. 

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
Wendy Mass, The Candymakers

I love this quote.  I see it often on social media and it is an excellent message.  Wouldn't it be even better, though, to let people into our battles so they can help?  In this age of virtual reality it is so easy to connect to people across the world.  But I fear that this kind of connection will never be a real one as we all tend to only show our best selves in the virtual world.  I am not suggesting that we air our dirty laundry to the world, but perhaps if a neighbor came over and saw that I had piles of dirty laundry, they might feel less worried about their own piles, right?

Since I work from home and I like my own company, I tend to abuse social media and forget to go see people in real life.  Yet it is those solid and real connections that I crave.  I want nothing more than to have friends within walking distance who will just show up at my house anytime and vice-versa.  I love to talk real life with people and share worries, joys, burdens and accomplishments.  I like to truly know people and be trusted with their hearts.  It's just that long acquaintance step I wish we could skip.  So, if I am awkward when I meet you, just know I am testing the waters.  Throw me a rope in the form of something real about yourself and I will gladly grab on.

Does anyone else experience this?  I wonder if more outgoing people feel differently than me?  What do you wish people knew about you? 

How Do You Fill Your Bucket?

I always thought I had to lose myself in Motherhood.

Don't get me wrong, in a lot of ways, we do.  The hours, the demands, the putting another person's interests before your own and so many other facets of motherhood, it changes you.  But when I became a mother I found that completely losing myself didn't work for me. In fact, it didn't work for my kids either.
I spent my first year of motherhood completely devoted to my Zoe.  When you have a newborn this is necessary in a lot of ways. They are completely dependent on you.  As they hit milestones they look to you to navigate them through rolling over, crawling, walking, eating, and playing. Not to mention it had taken us over two years to conceive her.  She was my sole focus in life before she ever even existed here on earth.  So I gave her my time.  Matt and I almost never went on dates or she would often come with us if we did. He was not my focus, let alone me.

After the first year I started to feel human again. I was done nursing, I started showering in the mornings again instead of whenever I could find a minute, I tried to get out of the house more.  Yet my days were still centered around Zoe's nap schedule. Life was still all about her. Then I got pregnant with Paige.

My second pregnancy was completely different from my first. I was down and out. If I was upright I was unbearably nauseous. Plus I had to take care of a 16 month old and still work. I was exhausted all the time. I felt like I could barely function.  As the pregnancy progressed, things got a bit easier, but it was a hard pregnancy and by the end of it, I was so completely done.

When Paige was born, I made her my world again. At the expense of Zoe and my marriage and especially myself.  She was a very sleepy baby, but only during the day. At night she was hard to get to sleep. Plus, she had acid reflux like her sister- making life with a baby and a two year old even harder. At the time, I was in survival mode. I felt I was barely hanging on, but I made it through the days and we found a routine.
Two months later my marriage fell apart.  

Now, there were many reasons for this, but what it really boiled down to was that we had not nurtured our relationship in a very long time and communication was not something we had worked at.  He had his faults and I had mine.  To say it was a difficult time is a massive understatement.  I was broken and in pain.
Almost overnight I became a single Mom with two small children and a job. I would stay up late at night and examine myself and my life.  I lost a lot of weight in a very short time.  As I stared into the mirror at the face that then looked so much like the face of my youth I realized I had no idea who I was anymore.  I was so lost in motherhood and in my image of myself as a wife that I had forgotten to hang on to the things that made me who I was.  My kids didn't know how much I loved music and writing.  Zoe had such a hard time gaining a sister because I had made her my whole world until that wasn't possible anymore.  I had given my family everything I had except what they really needed: Me.

It was at that moment that I discovered the most important lesson I have learned so far:

Motherhood doesn't require us to give up who we are.

So I made some immediate changes.  I started doing things that made me feel like myself.  Things I enjoyed.  I shared them with my children.  I let them hear me sing aloud in the house and play the piano.  I pulled out my flute.  I started writing again.  I thought for so long that doing these things, taking "time away from them" to do things I loved would be selfish.  I learned that our children need to see who we are.  They need to see what makes us special. 

Our children were sent to us for a reason.  We have talents and gifts that are best suited towards raising them to be the best people they can be.  Putting aside things we love, losing ourselves in our children, not remembering to care for ourselves is not a service to them or to us.  How will we raise them to have self confidence, to love who they are, to believe that they can be anyone or anything they choose to be if we don't set the example?

Matt and I fixed our marriage.  We learned the hard way what happens when a relationship isn't properly nourished.  We learned to communicate and to help each other become our best selves.  We learned that the best thing we can do for our kids together is provide them the stability and example of a good marriage.  Similarly, we must properly nourish ourselves so we don't fall apart.

The last few years I have explored this concept further.  I started running and got into fitness and healthy eating and really started paying attention to my body and my spirit.  I now know that in order to give my kids my best self, I have to take care of me, too. 

I have learned more about myself.  I know that I need to recharge after being around a lot of people.  I know that my temper is triggered by lack of sleep, stress, and feeling rushed.  I know that I feel more powerful and in control when I get a workout in every day- not to mention the endorphins, energy and the stress relief that gives me.  I know that when I provide my body with good food I have the energy to accomplish my tasks AND give my kids what they need from me.  I know that too much sugar makes my emotions less stable.  I know that reading scriptures, saying prayers, and allowing myself moments of silence throughout the day helps me to get my mind, body and spirit working together and in the right place.  I know that some days I just need to curl up with a good book, do yoga, write, or get in a good, mind-cleansing run.

Knowing all these things doesn't help me to be perfect, but it does help me to be a better Mother, wife, and person.

I look at it this way.  I have a bucket.  From this bucket I give my kids love, basic care, a listening ear, playtime, taxi service, help with homework as well as trying to teach them to love our Heavenly Father and be kind human beings.  Also from this bucket I love and support my husband and give him what he needs from me.  The bucket provides the means to fulfill responsibilities to my job and in my home.  It is where I find my ability to fulfill my church callings and my ability to serve others.  The bucket is how I remember to nurture the important relationships in my life.  Or do necessary things like buy the groceries and pay the bills.  The bucket allows me to do everything I need to do in my life.  If that bucket is empty, how can I possibly accomplish all these things?  I have to fill up that bucket regularly if I am going to keep using it.

My little world needs that bucket...and that bucket is ME! 

I am not saying that we should be selfish.  I am not saying to ignore your baby's screaming to finish a workout.  I am not saying to lock yourself in your room with a book for a whole day and let your toddler run freely.  Or that being a devoted Mom is a bad thing.  I am not saying that a newborn baby doesn't take every ounce of time and energy you have.  I am not telling you to exercise!  I am not saying you aren't enough because you ARE!

I am just suggesting that by taking better care of ourselves, perhaps we learn to better care for others.  Or, at least, we offer the best of what we have. There will come a time as a person, a wife, a mother, a parent, a friend, or even an employee that you will feel depleted.  You will feel like you can't stay upright, you cannot give another ounce, you cannot take another step, lift another finger.  Your bucket will be empty or close to it.  When that time comes you will need to know who you are and what you need to do to keep going. 

How do you fill your bucket?


Quieting the Chaos

Often, after I settle my girls in bed, my evenings are spent working or laying on the couch watching television or cleaning the kitchen.  Tonight as I sat down to turn on the TV I hesitated as I noticed the calm peace that had settled over my home.  Not wanting to disturb that peace, I turned here instead.

Lately my family has had a difficult time getting along.  When I say my family, I mean every single one of us.  I have been tired and grumpy and stressed.  Matt has felt similar feelings and also has work issues he carries home with him.  The girls and I are desperately trying to get back into our normal routine after a difficult month in March.  They are fighting a lot more, arguing with us, being disobedient, lazy, pushing our buttons harder.  I told a friend today that I sometimes feel like my kids have been replaced with rude aliens.  When my kids are acting up and I am not at my best and most energetic, well, let's just say that my attitude probably doesn't help much.

Tonight we were having another rough evening.  Everyone's tone of voice was on edge.  There was so much contention going on!  Matt and I were both exhausted and trying to get dinner made.  My home felt chaotic and unsettled and I felt like we were all going to either explode or kill each other if I didn't do something to change our environment and our attitudes.  So I took the advice my Mother gave me as a small child when we talked about what I could do when I was angry or scared or unsettled: I turned to the Hymns. 

Thank goodness for technology!  I opened up the Pandora app on my phone and plugged it into the speaker and bathed my home and my family in Hymns.  Within moments I felt more peaceful.  Within minutes, my kids were getting along and laughing as Zoe worked on her math program for school as Paige watched.  Matt calmed down and got a bit of rest on the couch as I finished up the dishes. 

I have a strong belief and testimony of the power of good music in our lives.  I have always felt the Spirit of my Heavenly Father strongest through music.  It is through using my talents that I am able to most fully express myself and my testimony.  Maybe it isn't that way for everyone.  I know that music speaks to me in a different way than it does to others.  It is almost as if music is my most innate language.  Music skips words and thought and just goes directly to my heart. 

The music flowing through my home this evening changed our environment, softened our hearts and allowed the Spirit to calmly reside here.  That one decision changed the entire course of our evening.  No, my kids weren't perfect, but they were better and I was far more patient and understanding.  We ended the evening with scriptures and prayers, a song for each of them and a few giggles and I feel so much better about how the end of the day played out.  I was able to stop and really appreciate them for who they are.  I was able to really enjoy them.

I know I have been so blessed every time I look at my family.  We are so fortunate to have a roof over our heads, to have our basic needs not just met but exceeded, to have insurance and good jobs, but most of all to have each other.  When life gets hectic and busy it is so easy for me to get frustrated with the attitudes of my kids.  Or when they get really needy when I am doing something.  When I am tired it is easy to say I don't want to play house right now.  But the thing is, it really is just as easy to do the opposite- if I can bring peace to myself and my home.

I need to always remember to stop and take the time to invite peace into my home and into my heart so that I can always give my children my best self instead of my crazy, frustrated self.  Tonight those Hymns helped me to do that.  Tomorrow that may look like 10 minutes of decompression and meditation in my room.  Or yoga before bed to quiet my mind and my soul.  It could be five deep breaths in the pantry.  I have plenty of tools before me.  I have learned these lessons.  I just need to remember to put them into practice every day.

Now I'm off to get some work done as I enjoy this quiet I have created in my space.  I hope you all have a peaceful evening!

I know that Hymns may not work for everyone.  Especially those who believe differently than me.  What do you do to bring peace to your home or to yourself?  What quiets the chaos in your life or in your heart? Follow my blog with Bloglovin