Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Parental angst

Apologies for leaving you all hanging.  It's been a couple very strained weeks with barely a moment to spare.

Not that it will get any better in the short term.  The holidays are officially upon us, and while I'm more than amply prepared with gifts purchased and decorations up, December is going to be all about execution.  Gifts will be wrapped mere moments before they are delivered all month long no doubt.

The snow is flying here, and it has been already colder than we got all of last year.  I'm actually watching the snow whip across my office window as I write.  It's chilly, and dark and dismal, and I am already wishing it were spring.  I do not want to deal with winter at all this year.  It likely has something to do with having to clear off my car to take my daughter to preschool in the mornings.  But I digress.

Other things that are triggering some anxiety for me recently are the fact that my child is having issues with a bully at her preschool, and I'm so hopping mad about it, I could spit nails and be sent to jail.  I can not believe I'm dealing with this already - my daughter is only 2 and a half!  It makes me want to quit my job and do things the way I know they should be done - but we know how that goes.

But I've also finally gotten the written notice of the orientation session at the hospital that will begin my journey through bariatric surgery.  I know I've said before how I couldn't believe how long it was going to take, but suddenly, it feels like it's all going so fast, and I'm getting terrified.

Today I went to see my doctor to get the requisitions for all the surgical work ups.  And to be honest with you, I suddenly realized the angst I've been living for so long relates directly to this thing that happens when you become a parent.  Some people call it guilt.  Others may call it a noose.  I don't know what's more accurate other than to say, that I've come to recognize that every single thing I say or do is delivering a developmentally critical message to someone I am now fully responsible for.  And this is why working creates such angst for me.  It's also why dieting and this surgery is creating even greater angst than I could have imagined.

One hand says: working shows my daughter a strong and capable way of managing one's life, supporting one's family, and being able to do and have it all.
The other hand says: you weren't my priority and I desperately needed or took more time than you should have had taken from you.

One hand says: dieting and getting healthy shows my daughter the value of eating healthy and exercise.  Shows her that making herself a priority is important to living a long, healthy and balanced life.
The other hand says: dieting and going to extreme measures to achieve something called "health" is self abuse, lack of self worth, and demonstrates a lack of ability to accept all of one's self.

One hand says that going to an extreme measure like having bariatric surgery should prove how much I love myself and more than that, my child for making such extreme sacrifices just for the opportunity to spend more time, more quality time, with my daughter.
The other hand says that it's extreme lack of ability to love myself, and that I'm a failure at every other method of weight management.

And the worst message I could imagine her receiving from any of this is that its even remotely better to over exercise, under eat, or do "whatever it takes" to never gain an ounce of weight (muscle, fat or otherwise).  I managed to catch a 5 minute snippet of the Katie Couric show the other day.  And it happened that the 5 minutes I caught was of a 15 year old girl who's battling back from dire situations related to anorexia.  She explained that it was her mother's dieting, exercise regimen and constant watching of her food intake that triggered her negative body image, and her approach to food and exercise.  She recalled her mother baking an extravagant birthday cake for her 5th birthday and noticing that despite slaving over it for days, that her mother had nary a bite.  Her mother looked healthy, athletic but not over thin and frail.  She looked strong and confident and healthy.  Her mother thought she was teaching her daughter how to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle and how to do things right.

Flip a coin and now that I'm on the precipice of starting this bariatric (the system wants to auto correct that word to "Barbaric") surgical journey, I am realizing that I am either acting on this way too late, or praise God, just at the right time.  With that image in my own head of hearing another girl recall how acutely she was watching her own mother, I recognize how I already struggle to get my child to eat a full meal.  She eats baby bird size portions and can often just graze all day long.  She is underweight for her age and has been since day one.  I've worked overtime trying to make sure I consistently deliver a healthy relationship with food for her, putting my own and my husband's health at risk to ensure she has 100% complete balance at every meal I can give her, and the example of parents who eat what is given to them and try everything on their plate.  But quantity and some varieties of food continues to be an issue with her.  Setting examples, we eat a healthy dinner before anyone gets dessert or treats after supper.  Admittedly, we have far too many treats in this household, and my daughter would quickly forego any meal of any kind to skip right over to our treat portion of any given evening.  So I'm wondering how in the world I'm going to cope when all I can eat, is really as much as she is currently able to eat, and that there will suddenly be things that my body can't digest or metabolize.  And I'm praying to God that it's early enough that it won't impact her relationship with food.

It's times like these when I really do wish I could have some of my teenage angst back.  It pissed a whole lot of people off when I was going through it, but the only one it really impacted was me.  I'd take back a whole dose of my teens to alleviate some of this angst I have today.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Setting Examples

So I've seen a lot of articles recently that speak to being a better example for our children when it comes to perceptions of our own appearances.  They're poignant and absolutely true.  But the thing is, I've never had the same affliction that some of these women describe when they speak about how the envision themselves, and how the speak about themselves and their appearances in front of their children.

The core point behind the articles is to resolve the nagging voice inside your head that says "you're fat", "you're ugly", or worse "you're stupid", and demonstrate to our children that we in fact feel differently by virtue of how we actually speak out loud in response to those inner voices.  The articles highlight how we envision the absolute and perfected beauty in our children, and fail to see any of that in ourselves.

I read this and suddenly, I feel pretty awesome about myself.  You see, I have those same nagging voices.  Truth is however, they are both true and slightly inaccurate.  Because in my mind, beauty isn't what is outside.  It really never has been.  Nobody's ass is beautiful.  It's an ass.  And those old sad statements of "she has such a pretty face, if she'd only lose the weight" when you actually can't disassociate the two.  At least not in my mind.  If I have a pretty face, well then, c'est touts.  It's a pretty face.  That doesn't change because the size of it is larger or smaller or somehow related to the size of my very ugly ass or the belly that carried and nurtured my child that never somehow went away.  I can honestly say that I never look at an actress or a model on a magazine and say - yep I'd die to look just like her.  I have plenty I'd like to change on my body, don't get me wrong.  But I don't really want to live up to someone else's distorted objectification of beauty - ever.

Beauty, in my mind, is entirely in one's character, which can manifest itself in the brightness of a smile; the twinkle of one's eye; the peak of one's eyebrow; or for that matter, the absolute perfection of any other feature.  But to be clear, none of us are Shakespeare, and one arm is not generally any different than another.  No foot is any less footy than someone else's.  But spirits and characters are either made better or worse by the life experiences they've had.  The outward features of their faces and bodies, are mere reflections of how life has affected the spirit within.

So with that, yes.  My life has worn on my face, my hands and my body.  They take a toll, and if you saw a photo of me without my child in my hands, you would probably see a weary, tired, and less than exuberant mom type person who spends no time cherishing herself, or wearing nice clothes.  In a close up, you would see wrinkled, blemished skin, saddened and heavy eyes.  You would see the subtle downturn at the corners of my lips and a furrowed brow - probably because my mind never stops.  I'm planning and juggling a million thoughts in my head simultaneously every moment of every day, and trying to keep them all straight with one another.  Motherhood represents a level of schizophrenia you could never possibly imagine if you weren't a part of the same sorority.

But if you saw a photo of me with my child, with my husband, with the two people who make my furrowed brow and headache worth wearing every day, you would see exactly what I see.  Infinite beauty and happiness.  Gentle kindness that speaks louder than any wrinkle, blemish or fat ass could yell.  You would see the serenity of a woman who has devoted every breath to sustaining a happy, somewhat healthy family, and who is so very happy, glad, and proud to do it.

And then again, if you were to look at a photo of my husband or my daughter you would see my own beauty.  Because what makes me beautiful, is the light and unparalleled love that I breathe into them every single day, and the light, power and radiance they breathe into me.  And so yes, just like those other bloggers, I see the infinite beauty of my child every single moment of the day, but I also see that it's already a reflection of me.  I see in the way she looks at me, that she feels that way too.  And it never hurts when you're snuggling with her before bedtime and she looks at you, tweaking your cheek and says "you're so cute" of course, either.

At the end of the day however, whatever I do, to modify the way my life's experiences are reflecting on my outward appearance, are always an example of how I'm choosing to live my future.  Not my past.  And this has nothing to do with superficial opinions that what is on my outside is what is "beautiful" or "ugly" or "nondescript" for that matter.  And when I speak to my daughter about what is beautiful, it will always be approached in terms that define it as smart, kind, happy, and wise.  It will always be in terms that help her understand we are all beautiful, even if we don't sometimes see our physical appearance the way we feel it inside.  And I plan to be honest with her that the nagging voices should never have a power over one's view of one's self.  The nagging voices belong to people on the outside who don't have enough self awareness to see the beauty of this world in it's entirety.  They can't appreciate true beauty, because no one's ever shown them their own.

I work to show my daughter every day that her beauty is inside her heart and her mind, and it's in her smile and her laugh.  And I remember every single day that I'm beautiful like that too, even on the days when it's harder to do it.  And the fact that I can proclaim that level of self awareness is something I'm truly grateful for.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The role fate plays

When it comes to forgotten dreams, or plans that never panned out, and the general dissatisfaction one feels about their lot in life, it can sometimes be very easy to blame fate, and things outside our control.

I struggle with this, and as you already know, if you're reading frequently enough, one of the major components of my depression and anxiety comes from not living up to my own potential.  Everything is triggered by not feeling good enough, or feeling satisfied with what I have.

And the more I struggle with it all and think about it, I have come to understand that if the fates can be at fault for not giving us what they want, why can't they take credit for helping us avoid larger failures and pitfalls?

There's an old saying that failures or mistakes are simply lessons to learn from.  If you take a more positive spin on how things naturally evolve through choices we and others make in a situation, then however things wind up, is basically how they were supposed to.  If the fates have a role to play, why does their job have to be about thwarting our progress and reversing our luck?  Why can't they actually be working overtime to make things turn out better for us in the long run?

Here's where it all boiled down to this understanding for me.  For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a teacher.  Everything I did in my schooling and extra curricular activities was bent and designed to drive me in that direction.  I volunteered at my old highschool as a TA (absolutely voluntary - no extra credit or pay involved), I worked part time at a tutoring centre, and did a co-op placement at a french immersion middle school...EVERYTHING was a choice to pave the way for a teaching degree.

It came time, and I applied for Teacher's college - I even applied to school's way out in the sticks with the hopes if the larger more prominent schools rejected me, then at least I'd have an ace in the hole.  Well, as good as my GPA was, it wasn't good enough for even my third choice school.  I was faced with finding a job  and making a living with the urgency of a car slamming on it's brakes to avoid colliding with a brick wall...

Turns out that wasn't such a bad thing.  I made a great career for myself, started earning great money, did a lot of travelling and got to live in another country even.  But I never had let go of my dreams of being a teacher.  So when an opportunity presented itself to write a curriculum and partner up with someone to start my own private event planning school, I jumped at it.  A year into the process everything unravelled.  I had toiled, sweat and worked through the first half of a well deserved maternity leave trying to give this school wings, and my partner screwed me over.  A classic situation of someone in way over their head, with more money than they really know how to handle, and a really big fear of success.  She lied, that lie caught up with both of us, and in a screaming second, my teaching dreams were snuffed again.

I still have the dream, and if I ever had the opportunity to retire and teach for fun, I think I'd jump at it.  BUT in the meantime, I'm closer to retirement than I may have been if I'd been a teacher full time.  And perhaps I live in a nicer house than I would be if I were a teacher.  And now I'm able to work from home and have enough flexibility that I get to spend just about as much time with my kid as I would if I were a teacher, or possibly even more.  And I watch the teachers dealing with back to work legislation and I see their rights are being violated by our own government and I think - at least I'm not dealing with all that.

But even better than all of this, I've realized I'm teaching people everyday.  Just not out of a book.  And best of all, I'm teaching myself.  I'm learning lessons by living my life, and observing others.  And the best teacher of all is my child.  She's showing me the beauty of this world all over again and it's incredible.

So do I believe that the fates have a role to play?  Sure.  I'm fanciful enough a thinker to believe there's something solid about plans meeting up with the right timing and circumstances.  But I don't think they're always out to get us.  And this has helped me cope with my depression and anxiety to some degree.  If there's always a reason for why things happen, the reasons may not always feel good at the time, but in the long run, if you're doing everything the best way possible, then you know that the way things work out are then for the better.  So thank God or the Fates, or Mother Earth (whomever) for the unanswered prayer sometimes.  She may answer a few more if you do.