Contained.

Alright, Jess. It seems you’ve hit something of a crossroads here. Something about your way of living this life isn’t working. You’ve spend so much of your energy studying who everyone else is and what they’re doing. You’re desperate to be loved for who you are—and in your best moments, when you let your own clouds part and you shine, you ARE. But more often than not you mope around, scrolling through social media, trying to figure out what you “need” to be so that you can somehow become that and then take part in everything you think you’re missing out on.

You are anxious, discontent, and bitter. And reading those words, you’re thinking, “No! I’m way more than that! That’s not fair!”

Honey, you are so right. It’s not fair at all. It’s not fair how often you don’t see the little miracles that make up every day of your life, because you’re worried about how social media may perceive them.  It’s not fair that you spend all your money on overpriced coffee and food to fill a void you created in yourself. It’s not fair that you deprive the world of so many of your gifts and talents—truly, some of the best parts of yourself– because you don’t think you’re thin enough, or cool enough for other people to appreciate what you have to give.

Girl, you haven’t worn jeans and a t-shirt in nearly a year. Yes, your body has grown and changed, and instead of accommodating it and decorating it with clothes that fit, you’ve worn leggings and sweatshirts, hoping they’ll stretch just enough to contain you. And you….you keep stretching too. You’re ripping apart at the seams with all you’re trying to hold together.

But what if—stay with me here—your body wasn’t meant to be contained? What if YOU aren’t meant to be contained? I mean, obviously you need to get dressed every day. But really, what is so wrong with a size large t-shirt and size 10 jeans if they’re what you need to feel okay right now? Why are you living in stretchy pants and flowy tops, or wearing actual indentations into your skin from pants that just don’t fit you anymore?

And more importantly, why are you blending in, holding your breath, and wearing tracks into your soul with a life that just doesn’t fit you anymore either?

It’s about so much more than weight. You must know that by now. You’ve known it all along, I bet. But you’d never be able to put your finger on what it really IS about. So you’ve gone back to the treadmill, back to the scale, and back to the fridge, willing just one of them to give you some mother-loving answers, or at least a little bit of relief. But the scale only gives you higher numbers. The fridge, empty calories. And the treadmill has most recently given you a mean case of shin splints. They have all leveled at you a heavy dose of shame.

FUCK. Aren’t you tired of this? Can we move on from this game you’ll never win? Please?

So okay, enough. But what now? Yesterday you sat in your counselor’s office, paralyzed by your inability to figure this all out. It comes down to two questions, he said:

  1. What do you want?
  2. Why do you want it?

Twenty-four hours and counting later, you’re learning that answering question #2 brings you to a fresh incarnation of question #1—so many of the things you think you want are merely empty promises. You’re still digging to uncover whatever it is you really need. Something that is real and sustaining. Something true. But you’re not digging down. You’ve dug yourself into holes before. It’s dark, scary, and flings dirt all over everything. This time, you’ll need to dig yourself OUT, until you can find solid ground to stand on again.

That’s bound to burn some calories, yeah? You DO need to be healthier. Go ahead and buy the next size up, but know that your physical condition IS important. And you’ll get to that—but not before you start the process of bringing yourself back to health in every other way—emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Grab a shovel. We’ve got some work to do.

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Ghost Town.

This morning was one of those mornings where everything is clicking. Through a glorious combination of waking up early enough and a toddler who slept a little longer than usual, I was able to work out, shower, and have her breakfast made before I retrieved her from her crib. We planned to visit my grandmother  in a rehab facility, where she’s been recovering from a stroke.

But since things were going my way and the sun was shining, I decided we’d leave early and take a detour to the beach in Edmonds, WA. “It’s an Edmonds kind of day”, I thought.

Edmonds is a sweet little town nestled into the beaches and hills on and above Puget Sound, north of Seattle.  It has a main street with cute shops, a ferry dock, and train tracks running right along the water. “It’s an Edmonds kind of day” is an ad slogan from the 80s and 90s, and many longtime residents still proudly display it on bumper stickers and faded, coffee-stained mugs. And in addition to all it has going for it, this charming little town holds so much of my history.

My grandmother grew up there, and her father worked as a baker downtown at the Edmonds bakery. She and my grandpa settled there after raising their six children, first in a giant house on Vista Way, and then a condo with a panoramic view of the sound, the Olympic Mountains, the ferry, and the trains. When they weren’t snowbirding in Arizona, they lived out their days together to the rhythm of foghorns and train whistles.  Her sister, a widow, lived just a mile or so away until she passed in 2010. My grandfather died four years later. In his living room, surrounded by his wife, his children, and me, while the trains and ferries kept up their schedules outside.

As my grandma recovers, their condo sits empty, but spring is in full bloom all around it. Driving into town today, I passed the Chinese restaurant where all 20+ of us used to crowd into the back room, stuffing ourselves with potstickers and chow mein, and my cousins and I would order Shirley Temples with like 9 cherries. I passed the ice cream shop my grandma would take us to, and the park where we held her 60th birthday party…26 years ago. I passed the churches where funerals were held for both of my grandfathers, and the house my uncle lived in until last year, where we’d spent the 4th of July with the best view of the fireworks in town, for so many summers. I smiled at the brewery my grandpa would take us to so we could make root beer, every Christmas. I passed the library where my cousin got married, and the hospital where I was born. I can’t turn a corner in that town without a memory of someone, or everyone, I love.

And for a few aching moments today, it felt unfamiliar and sad. The backdrop to so many of my sweetest days so far felt like a ghost town, empty of all of the people who made those days so precious. For a second I wanted to turn around. I didn’t want to face this place that wasn’t the same anymore, because that would mean that I’m not the same anymore, and I’d have to admit that those sweet days are over. But I glanced in my rear view at my tiny passenger. I’d promised her a beach today, after all.

Sadie Edmonds

 

And suddenly, like so many things do, this place so sacred to me became fresh again through her eyes. It wasn’t sad, and it wasn’t empty of people I love. The person I love the most in the world was standing right next to me, full of life and joy and exclamations of “Boat!” and “Choo-choo!” And just like that, I made a brand new memory in Edmonds.

We left the beach and visited my Grandma. My mom met us there, and I watched in awe as my tiny girl interacted with them both, and felt the blessing of four generations of women, still living and breathing in the same room, together. As I drove Sadie home, I made peace with my ghost town, somewhere in my soul. The apparitions of my past aren’t there to hurt me or make me feel sad. They’re there to comfort me, to make me strong and remind me of where I come from, and where I’ll always belong…where my little girl will always belong, too.

I hope I never fail to see them.

After all, some ghosts are friendly.

Edmonds