Some Kind of Peace

Royal Typewriter — Zeel Peddlers Market

I have so many post ideas swirling around—in my head, in my notes app, in the notes on my computer, in my myriad journals.

These days, half of my job is freelance writing, though, and so I spend a lot of time wondering if that idea will sell, if it’s pitch-able. I spend evenings holed up with one of those journals (or multiple? many have different purposes…) or working on my book.

But sometimes you just gotta get shit out. This might be messy, but so’s my life.

As I sat at my kitchen table just now with my tacos, it hit me: tomorrow is the date of the last day I had a real conversation with my mom.

It’s 19 days away from the first anniversary of my mom’s passing (I still don’t believe those words are real and am still waiting for her to come comment on my blog), and the flashbacks of this time last June are coming at me fast and furious.

Last week was a real shitshow in my brain, and, to be honest, I made some choices that were not very loving of myself. Like, that same night I wrote that post. I bathed and soaked in my depression, once again feeling like I’d feel like that forever, even though I know the opposite, after a few months of light.

But some key words at the right time yesterday from my best friend and my therapist were the perspective shift I needed.

Life is about loosening our grip. We suffer when we hold on… but it’s in letting go that we really experience who we can be. And life is different after something like this, but it’s just that, different, not awful, just different.

and

What would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?

Both of these quotes, at the wrong time, would have had me rolling my eyes, but back in the throes of depression and grief I’m so desperate to move on from, they had me thinking again about life after loss.

Grief wrestles you from wistfully remembering old memories and being angry at the ones you won’t get to create. I found a card today in my mom’s kitchen office from me several years ago that said “I don’t know what I would do without you.”

I didn’t know what I would do without her, and many moments of every day, I wonder how I am living life without her, but I am.

I am here.

And though grief has made me sad and lonely and not as good a friend as I would like, I’d be lying if I said it weren’t also transformational.

One of my dear friends—a friend who, from the outside, looks like she has everything and then some—told me last week that she was envious that I am getting to create this whole new life.

Losing my mom and getting laid off wiped the slate clean to give me room to figure out what was and what wasn’t working in my life. What I wanted more of. What my big dreams really were. Ending sentences with prepositions with wild abandon.

I’ve long been held back by trying to fit into our culture’s expectations of what my life should look like at 35: either the single-but-fab-career-woman or the married-with-two-point-five-kids-and-a-really-cute-dog. (I know it’s not that binary but stick with me just for argument’s sake.)

Guess what? By those measures I am a big fat fucking failure.

Guess what? Those actually haven’t been my own expectations for quite some time now, and I’ve made myself miserable trying to achieve someone else’s goals.

Climbing a corporate ladder didn’t go as planned. Getting married didn’t go as planned. (Maybe yet, maybe never.)

What if I let go of those expectations?

For months now I’ve been telling myself, all you need is already within you. (It’s really frustrating when I reach that conclusion after the end of an hour I’ve paid for.)

But it’s true.

My mom always told me to stop being so dependent on other people. It took losing her to realize that, and to realize that I can do hard shit, I can get through hard shit, and also that sometimes it can be as simple as I can see a movie when want to (Won’t You Be My Neighbor, SO GOOD) or take a trip by myself.

I was great at being by myself and with myself for a period of time, but I lost my way from myself.

And…

FUCK. All that shit people say about happiness coming from within are so right.

I’m getting on a plane to LA on Thursday because I was really fucking depressed last week and LA makes me happy. (I fully acknowledge the privilege of being able to do that and know how lucky I am.)

I’m doing a lot of yoga because it feels good right now. (NYC friends, I’m looking for somewhere to get a monthly membership, ideally near the Flatiron-ish area—any fun recommendations I’m overlooking?)

I’m run coaching because I LOVE helping people see what I see in running. (Shameless plug that you can learn more about my 12-week training program for your first or fastest half!)

I’m writing, because I haven’t called myself a writer in a long time. But that’s ridiculous. I have a journalism degree, I’ve written this blog for nine years, I have clips on sites like Cosmopolitan, Mic, Modern Loss, Bustle, Greatist (see my clips here, especially if you’re an editor! ha.)

I’m writing because it feels so fucking good when a lot of other shit feels so bad. (This amazing video from Write Doe Bay says it all.)

I’m writing because I abandoned that dream when I moved to NYC and worked for a legal magazine and then in social media because I didn’t think I could make it writing for some big site or magazine.

I’m writing because I’ve said since I was a child I wanted to write a book (I’m working on it, FINALLY! after years of saying “this is the year I work on it!”)

I don’t have it all figured out yet, though, does anyone?

But a year out from knowing I was going to lose my mom, I have a seed of inner peace growing, and I’m going to water the shit out of it. I’m finally opening myself up to learn how to play big, the way my mom would have wanted me to. She’d be proud of whatever I did, but I can’t wait to make her really proud of her little girl. To dedicate a book to her.

I had my first non-scary dream about her last night since she passed. She and a friend were driving to meet me at a race. My number one cheerleader is still watching, and I’m going to make her proud, even, ESPECIALLY, if she wouldn’t agree with all of my decisions.

The Story of How I Started to Love Myself

Getting help taught me I’m worthy of giving myself the kind of love others give me.

That’s how I end an essay of mine Women’s Health is publishing next week about my own experiences with getting mental health help. The celebrity suicides in the news last week hit close to home with me on the idea of high-functioning depression and not all objects are as they may appear. The human experience contains multitudes; the week before I was hospitalized, I attended a charity ball. Two weeks after I left the hospital, I attended the life-changing Write Doe Bay. Yet sandwiched between the two was the nadir of my experience, my own rock bottom.

Starting this blog, having it be successful-for-me early on, running marathons—all of those were amazing for my self-confidence, and I stopped attempting to deflect compliments and really took them to heart, instead. I wear my heart on my sleeve, though, and it didn’t take long for that thick skin to become thin and stretched out from a number of things that were going on in my life. As hard as I tried, I took those negative words to heart, too. All of them, not just the constructive ones.

And for years, really, I’ve been looking for that La Mer of moisturizers for my soul, to nourish me back to that thick, supple skin. But I’ve been putting that balm together, one ingredient at a time, learning to love and be gentle with myself.

They say depression lies, and so I’ve done so much work on thought restructuring and reframing, to help my brain tell me more helpful thoughts than “I hate you, you’re incapable of accomplishing anything, nobody will ever take you seriously” and the always-helpful “none of this fucking matters and will never change. Life will never get better.”

And that restructuring starts with treating myself with love.

I am broken. I became this way officially on July 8 last year, but anticipatory grief is a real thing, y’all, and the breaking started last spring as she slipped away from us. But I’ve been fighting my ass off to put myself back together and to learn how to love myself, how to self-mother.

I’ve been working with an RD, Kelly Hogan, for the past month or so. I started working with her because I was frustrated with how I looked, how my clothes were fitting, I needed accountability. She told me at the outset she didn’t focus on weight loss, and I nodded along, saying I assumed that the healthy changes would result in weight loss.

I kept feeling like I was “failing” at working on my nutrition, not eating as “well” as I wanted to thought I should be. “There’s no failing at this,” Kelly told me.

But at some point last week, this quote popped into my head. (After running social for four years for a fitness brand, I sometimes think in inspirational quotes.)

Work out because you love your body, not because you hate it.

 

For a while after losing the weight, after being so conscious about everything that went in my mouth, I haven’t cared what I ate (and it shows.) But, finally, after making lots of mini-goals with Kelly, it dawned on me (and I know how obvious this may be to many of you): to eat because I love my body (or, uh, fake it till you make it?). I know dairy bothers me, yet I keep eating cheese because I love it. I know iced coffee on an empty stomach is NO BUENO, yet I keep drinking it because it’s so good. I don’t have to give up these things, but when I reframed my frustrations to focus on what would really make my body feel better, it was much easier to make those decisions than making them from a place of I “shouldn’t” have those things.

And as I mentioned to my doctor yesterday, my energy levels are low. I’m trying to follow my own advice for working out through depression and thinking of my mental health like physical health. You wouldn’t tell someone struggling with a physical malady to just do their damn workout, right? So why am I telling myself that? I realized that pushing myself with low energy was resulting in lots of tightness and creaky joints—or maybe that’s just 35?! I’m focusing my workouts on lots of yoga right now. When you’ve worked out at a high intensity for years, it’s honestly a really hard shift to make, but I know it will serve me long-term. And coaching is just as rewarding to me right now as running harder myself was in the past. (Speaking of—I’m running a 12-week half-marathon program for the first time ever. I’m so, so excited. You can sign up here or you can always email me at theodora at preppyrunner dot com for more info!) 

tl;dr, 35 years in, I’m learning to love myself, to mother myself (in both ways Carol would want me to, and in the ways she would freak out about, like giving in to the four surprise days in Colombia, which she would have thought was too dangerous.) And I’m learning a real adult, holistic, healthy, non-obsessive approach to my health that’s meeting me where I am right now.

How has your approach to health changed as you’ve gotten older (or as life circumstances have required more gentleness)?