Lies mirrors tell

You may notice a lack of goal updates lately. This is not an oversight. I’ve dialed back the goal work recently. This is why.

I’ve heard the term “body dysmorphic disorder” bandied about quite a bit, but I never thought I had it. Not until I read Lindi Ortega’s Lenny Letter and recognized myself. The way I’ve picked apart my skin, my hair, every small feature of my body since I was old enough to start noticing the way I was different from other people. So, like, age 6 or 7.

So young, you say? Yes. Which is why I am dismayed, but not shocked, to hear my daughter obsess over her lack of a six-pack. I have no idea where she heard the term; I’ve never been fixated on having a six-pack. (I just want a flat stomach. It doesn’t have to have definition.) But I did learn, finally, where she got the notion that she, at the age of 6, should have one.

384517_2858208169180_112976356_nThis is me at Anya’s age. I did not do anything special to earn those muscles. I wasn’t especially thin — no thinner than my daughter, at any rate. I just have natural abs. I still do; I can feel them in there, above the endometriosis bloat and beneath the pregnancy-loosened skin and the breastfeeding pudge. I can make them stronger, but they’re already pretty strong; after months (okay, let’s be real — years) of inactivity, I can work up to doing 100 jackknives in less than a week. I can, if no small child decides to sit upon my back while I’m down, go do a 3-minute plank right this second, in my piggie slippers. I can’t do anything about the bloat or the pudge or the floppy skin, but the core strength is still there.

My daughter got a lot of things from me. Her hair, her eyes, her long legs, her smile. But she doesn’t have those abs, and she feels she should. Just as I, at her age, thought I should have a more feminine face and blond hair and more dainty hands and an even tan. (It was the 80s. Tan was a thing.)

When I got older, I fell victim to the Stridex and Clearasil marketing that was suddenly ubiquitous. So much so that I had Clearasilled upwards of 20 chickenpox blisters before saw one on my knee and realized they weren’t the world’s ugliest pimples. (I was 12, and I never really had acne. I didn’t know any better.) I obsessed over my (clear) skin at 12. And my suddenly thick, frizzy, wavy, unruly hair. I didn’t, at least at first, give a thought to my body.

Then I did, because boobs were everywhere. Except, it would appear, on me. I was flat until my 20s, when things shifted a bit to give me a somewhat balanced figure. But I still didn’t fill out shirts. And my calves were like sticks, no matter how much I exercised. I once did so many heel raises that I had to coat myself in Ben-Gay for days just to lurch to class. I had a flat stomach, slim thighs utterly free of cellulite, and a perky butt, but I had a small chest and tiny calves, so I felt hideous. I would buy clothes in the plus-size section, trying to mask my grotesque form.

The funny thing is that back then, everyone thought I had an eating disorder. I was in fact trying to gain weight; I was just unhappy, and when I am unhappy, I can’t eat. But the criticism I received from well-meaning people trying to save me from the eating disorder I didn’t have didn’t help my self-esteem one bit.

Such has it always been. I have picked myself apart my whole life, and people have helped me do it. But the loudest, cruelest voice has always been my own. And to watch my daughter start to do the same is devastating. Even more so because I’m still doing it — only now I’m comparing myself not to others, but to my former self. I put on clothes I wore before I got pregnant with Kai and look at the fat that bulges up around my waist and across my back. I look at the splotches on my face and wish for the skin I had at 18 — pimples and all. I look at my dimpled thighs and wonder why I ever thought bigger calves were such a big deal.

It’s not just my appearance, either. My house isn’t clean enough and I’m a horrible mother and a worse wife and daughter. I don’t work hard enough, and what work I do is laughably bad. I waste my free time doing things that don’t matter instead of finishing my book or working on Anya’s blanket or taking a class.

I will never live up to who I think I should be.

The thing is, I don’t want to. Not entirely. I enjoy setting goals and meeting them. I love always having a challenge before me. I’m not sure how I would derive any sense of self-satisfaction without that. But I also wish I could just be happy with me for five minutes. For my daughter. We can’t continue to compare ourselves to my former self and find ourselves wanting.

For starters, I never thought my former self was all that great to begin with.

But I Googled Lindi Ortega photos, and I don’t see any of the stuff she’s picking herself apart for, either. She’s absolutely beautiful. So it’s entirely possible that my mirror is lying to me, too.

I don’t know how to strike a balance between constantly having some goal to work towards and being forever uncomfortable in my own skin. But I need to find that balance, and soon. Because my daughter is watching.


The Year of Calm: February

Calm’s February calendar came on my radar at just the right time. The theme is cultivating compassion, something the world can always use more of. Especially me, towards myself. So I’m in.

The first two days were easy-peasy. I already tally up all of my daily gratitudes over on 43t (which will forever be 43t to me, no matter what they’re calling it these days). And as a mom of littles, I compliment daily; it’s like breathing. Today started with me complimenting my son for correctly naming (most) of the colors on our vaporizer’s nightlight. At 4 a.m. Because he’s 2.

Some of the others will be harder. I can tell you right now the odds are slim of me buying myself flowers tomorrow. But I bought myself some new bras before my last decent bra fell apart. It’s still self-love…just less Instagrammable. But the things I bought will bring me joy a lot longer than a bunch of flowers. And no amount of flowers can make up for your underwire stabbing you in the heart.

Sunday’s I can do. While there was a time I’d have found it painful, I think I can do so fairly easily. The trick is to spend that time doing something fun and fulfilling, not cleaning the house. I’ll, ah, do my best.

A lot of the things on this list appear to be geared towards single people, or at least people without kids. I can pretty much guarantee I will not find 5 minutes next Friday to lay down and listen to a song without being jumped upon as if I were a bed. So I’m going to have to make some modifications. That’s okay, though. A modified exercise still counts. It’s only the exercise you don’t do that doesn’t.

Ask me how I know.

Dear future me: Buy your own clothes

I’ve identified a major stumbling block in my thinking: I’m trying to live in the future. Again.

I caught myself on ThredUp during a lull in my morning work, favoriting shirts and dresses I can’t breastfeed in. I’ve vowed not to buy anything to fit future me, because a) present me deserves nice things, too, and b) future me may not necessarily want a turtleneck dress, even if present me would give anything to wear one.

Oh, how I miss turtlenecks.

Ahem. Anyway.

This theory can be expanded to other areas. I’ve been tying myself in knots trying to make morning meditation/yoga work with a clingy cosleeping toddler who wakes when I leave the bed and demands to nurse for 20 minutes upon rising. I’ve tried stuffed animals. Bribes. Begging. Getting up earlier. Getting up later. Including him in the yoga. Nursing while meditating. Doing yoga on the hard kitchen floor while he shakes the baby gate and wails at me.

The point is not how do I make this schedule work. The point is that I need to wait until the schedule can work. In a couple of years, he won’t want to sit on my lap and nurse for 20 minutes upon rising. He will want to watch cartoons, or play with toys, or eat solid food. He will possibly be going to school. So I should just shelve my vision of myself as a 4:30 a.m. meditating yogi and find a routine that works with my now.

What that may be, I don’t know. I’ve toyed with taking a yoga class at the local gym, which offers child care. I’ve toyed with resuming my brief cardio routine at bedtime, though it’s hard to squeeze in some nights (and Anya’s wanting to do more extracurriculars). Or dropping everything and exercising while he naps. I’ve also toyed with just stagnating physically for a couple of years, because it’s easy and the couch is comfortable.

The problem I’m having, the problem I’m always having, is the reconciliation of who I am and what I can do with who I want to be and what I want to be doing. It’s mindfulness, in other words. The same core problem I’ve had my whole life. I’m gazing at the horizon, and I need to be looking at my feet.

When he’s grown, and my arms ache to hold a baby, I won’t give a rat’s rear end if I have flat abs. And I have years ahead of me to wear turtlenecks again.


Meditation challenge, take two

My daughter said something yesterday that made me realize how desperately I need to emphasize this goal. The morning started as usual: I woke (late, because after the previous day’s toddler-driven sleep deprivation plus that night’s nightmares/anxiety attack I allowed myself to sleep in), got dressed and did my morning face/teeth/hair thing, fixed a cup of tea and started to work. Halfway through said work, Kai awakened and wanted to be nursed. Fine. We do this every day.

The problem arose when he finished nursing, but wanted to sit on my lap and twiddle. I wanted to set him down, because at that point I had roughly 2 more minutes of work to wrap up before I could take a break and get Anya off to school. He dug his heels in and refused, slapping me and screaming at me. I yelled back. We proceeded to fuss at each other for the next 20 minutes, while I tried to work with one hand and hold him off with the other. When I went to awaken Anya for school (late, now), I had no patience left; when she did her usual dawdling thing, I snapped at her.

Anya, being my insightful girl, asked me (once she was dressed and ready to go; she’s no dummy) if I’d slept okay the night before. Because she’s learned that when Mommy doesn’t get enough sleep, Mommy is cranky and low on patience. I told her that no, I hadn’t had enough sleep the night before. And that’s when I realized that nothing that had transpired that morning was actually that bad; I was just tired and headachy and lacking the resources to deal with conflict.

I apologized to Anya. Then to Kai. The morning proceeded much more smoothly after that. (Though not 100% smoothly; Kai is still nearly 3. And when he is tired, he acts out. Imagine that.)

A second example: Later in the morning I realized I had been rubbing my nose for hours. Earlier, as I was in a hurry, I used a lotion I know upsets my allergies, because (a) it works quickly and (b) it was there. I washed it off after dropping Anya at school, as I had been hacking my head off ever since I put it on, but apparently I didn’t get it all. So I scrubbed my hands and forearms, and used the nose spray (Flonase, otherwise known as my nose’s BFF) to boot. No more itchy.

This type of allergic reaction isn’t a huge deal by itself, but we’re fast approaching one of my worst allergy windows: Soggy late winter mold plus tree pollen. If I am to avoid getting a sinus infection, I need to keep a tight rein on my allergies. Which means not blowing off minor irritations like postnasal drip. It’s all cumulative.

I need to be more mindful, in other words. Little things snowball into big things — but if they are caught early enough, they can be dealt with easily and much misery can be averted. It’s a whole lot easier to grease the squeaky wheel than to replace it.

Coupled with yesterday’s thoughts on calm, I think the solution is clear: I need to meditate more. Every day. I need to make it a habit, as I’ve made brushing and flossing twice a day. (And look, I never thought I’d be a morning brusher; it took me years to train myself to floss consistently.) So I’m bringing back the meditation challenge, and I will stick with it until the meditation habit sticks. This is more important than the sugar thing (nobody cares if I kick sugar entirely if I’m a bitch), so I’m bumping that down the priority list for now.

I’m also going to track my mindfulness work so I don’t let it slide. (Yes, another goal. It’s who I am; I’m hardly going to change that now.) Simply meditating every day isn’t enough; I need to pay attention and act on what I observe. squeaksqueaksqueak

I may not have gotten the daughter I expected, but I think I got the daughter I needed. I’d do well to be more mindful of her wisdom, too.


The whys behind my goal list

“Who will free me from hurry, flurry, the feeling of a crowd pushing behind me, of being hustled and crushed? How can I regain even for a minute the feeling of ample leisure I had during my early, my creative years? Then I seldom felt fussed, or hurried. There was time for work, for play, for love, the confidence that if a task was not done at the appointed time, I easily could fit it into another hour. I used to take leisure for granted, as I did time itself.”

– Bernard Berenson, Sunset and Twilight, from the Diaries of 1947-1958

Another well-timed Moment of Happiness quote from Gretchen Rubin. I remember having so much time. I remember time dragging. I remember wishing time would hurry up. And while I won’t say I never experience that feeling these days — when I’m in the throes of an anxiety attack, for instance, or in the dentist’s chair, or one of my kids is having an epic meltdown — for the most part time whooshes by me at an alarming rate. The best I can do some days is hold on.

Which is where my goals come in. By setting the goals I do, I’m trying to maximize my time. I can see now how much time I’ve wasted, how much time I continue to waste — I wasted half an hour lollygagging in bed this morning, for instance, and as a result probably won’t get my yoga time — and I’m trying to do something about it. Because my kids won’t be little forever. Because I won’t be able-bodied forever. Because I won’t be forever.

However, I do tend to get caught up in the hows and lose track of the whys. So I wrote this post to remind myself why I am doing (or trying to do) the things I am. There is some overlap in the whys; for example, my goal to be able to run a mile is both a challenge to myself and a step in improving my overall fitness level. I want to take professional development courses both to grow my career skill set and thus increase my earning potential, and also just to learn cool stuff. And I like that — I like taking care of multiple goals at once. But the single-focus goals are also important. They’re all bricks in the structure that is the life I’m trying to create.

My whys:

  • Be fit and healthy, with sufficient energy to do the things I need to do.
  • Stress less. Yell less. Laugh more.
  • Challenge myself to keep learning and growing.
  • Keep my family healthy and happy.
  • Create a close and loving home environment.
  • Help my children learn and grow.
  • Create mementos of this time for the kids to look back on when they are grown.
  • Make our home a pleasant place to be, as it’s where I spend nearly all of my time.
  • Create routines and habits that allow me to fit everything in.
  • Stabilize our finances so we can afford the things we want and need to do.

My biggest why, of course, is my family. I want my family to be happy and loving and close. I want my kids to have a wonderful childhood. I want them to like me enough to still want to spend time with me as adults. I get along with my parents, but the rest of my family is dysfunctional as hell, so I know the alternatives and I’m trying my best to not replicate them.

(And at the same time I’m trying not to lose sight of me and what I want and need, because if I don’t take care of me I get very, very cranky.)


Okay, 2018. Let’s do this.

I made the executive decision this year that resolutions don’t start until the tree comes down. Around here, the tree comes down on or around January 6, Little Christmas. (I was raised Catholic.) I don’t typically start resolutions until Monday, simply because it’s easier for me to start routines on a Monday. So today’s the day.


Goal in focus:

Cut back on the sugar. I’ve been really going overboard with the sweets. Granted, a lot of that is likely due to the progesterone I’m taking, as it turns me into a PMS monster. (Provera especially. Had an anxiety meltdown over the weekend.) And the fact that there have been cookies and candy on tap nonstop since October hasn’t helped. But I want to get a handle on it. (I ate all but I think 3 of the ninjabread men, for example.) When I lived alone, I didn’t buy cookies or candy and thus didn’t eat them often — only when someone brought cake to the office, or when I ate dinner out and we got dessert. I would like to get back to that. It’s just going to be harder now, because kids.

Also challenging is my current hormonal state. I got my lab results back; my FSH is in the menopausal range, but again, that doesn’t mean anything until I stop breastfeeding. All my other test results were good, though. (They always think I have a thyroid problem. No, I’m just naturally cranked to 11.) So I will finish out this round of Provera, hopefully have a period, and take it from there. Until that happens, I will cut myself a little slack — but I will try to be good. At the very least, I will stop making cookies, cakes, and pies for a while, and restrict my grocery shopping to ClickList. Lead me not into temptation…



Watching Kai grow. He is speaking so much now, though you have to understand his dialect. “What happy?” means “What happened?” “Ah-bye” means “tabby” (what Anya calls her tablet). Many words are abbreviated; “wah” is “water,” “joo” is “juice,” and “choc” is “chocolate milk.” (He calls all candy “canny,” though he prefers the chocolate kind.) He is also observing and interpreting; he asked me to play “dog hug” the other day, referring to a Charlie Brown movie featuring Charlie Brown and Snoopy hugging on the cover. It is still such a thrill to ask him a question and get a response. Even better when he asks me a question. “More-een, Mommy. How you do-een?” he’ll say when he wakes up before me.



The Obsidian Chamber, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I usually read my to-reads in the order they came in, but I just finished The Crimson Shore (the book immediately preceding this one in the series) and wanted to keep going before I forget what happened. (My reading time is stolen, and limited.)

I also read The Giving Tree for the first time, out loud to Anya. I received it as a Secret Santa gift — Santa gave me a stack of books, some for me and some for the kids. (Santa has my number, does he not?) I knew the plot beforehand, but had never read the book (odd, as I am a huge Shel Silverstein fan). And I should not have read it in my current overly hormonal state. I sobbed through it. Which made Anya, my little empath, sob with me. I will have to revisit it when my emotions are more level, because it’s such a beautiful story.

I had the same reaction to the new animated adaptation of The Little Prince, by the way. I still can’t watch it, and Kai was a tiny baby when I saw it the first time. I haven’t decided if motherhood has made me more emotionally sensitive or if I have some raging imbalance that causes me to be extremely emotional. Either way, pass the tissues.



I’ve not had quite the time for writing as I’d hoped, so I will likely not finish my book by my original projected date of February. But I still have hopes that I can wrap it up by May. With school starting back full time this week, perhaps I will fit in an hour or so a day to write. To help ensure that, I will start prying my sleepy self out of bed early again — probably 5 at first, but hopefully working my way back around to 4:30 by the end of the month. I want to resume meditation, too, and ideally morning yoga, and the only way those things will happen is if I do them before work.

But first, writing. I am so close to being done with the first draft of this book.


Listening to:

I am back to scoping out good workout tunes. Less angsty, more uplifting. I’d like to find music to listen to while walking, jogging, and practicing yoga/meditating, as I plan on rotating through those three things this year. (I will be creating a playlist or three as I go, of course.)



A recent Moment of Happiness from Gretchen Rubin provided one of those helpful flashes of insight:

“We lived the whole of our early lives under the rule of postponement: life was not in the present, it was always ahead of us. Somewhere in the future we would be the people we intended to be.” — Diana Trilling, The Beginning of the Journey

This is how I’ve lived pretty much my whole life. In tomorrow. And I don’t want to do that anymore. I’ve had better successes, greater happiness, and far more growth living in right now, tomorrow, next week than I ever did living in next month, next year, next decade. I don’t want to save my happiness for retirement; I want to enjoy my right now, too, or else there may not be anything to enjoy in retirement. (Indeed, I may not make it to retirement.) Now that isn’t to say that I will [insert verb here] like there is no tomorrow; that is not me, nor could it ever be. But I will stop looking to the future while slogging through the present, and work to make my present so enjoyable that I’m too busy to look so far in the future.

I’m slow sometimes. But I can learn.


Working on:

Last year we celebrated Chinese New Year as a way to fill the holiday lull between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day; January is a slow month around here, celebration wise. But this year, Chinese New Year is on February 16. So I am making up a holiday. January 19 has been declared the Celebration of Light. Okay, I just want an excuse to hang lighted Chinese lanterns and decorate my cake stand with mini lights. But January is a dark, cold month; it could use some light.



I am really looking forward to exercising again. I feel so stiff and sore and bloated and slow.


Making me happy:

Lice aside, we’re starting the year healthy and happy. That’s a small miracle in itself.



A new year, a new approach

As I mentioned in my last post, I am changing my approach to goals. No longer am I using them as a means to a gold star; instead, I view them as tools to get me from where I am to where I want to be. And it’s working.

I did one of those silly quizzes on FB recently — one that scans your recent posts and shows you in a nifty graphic what words you use most. I was amused that in mine, the word “cake” was way bigger than the word “work.” It would not have been that way 10 years ago; my Timehops pre-Anya are pretty much nothing but work rants. All I did, all I thought about, it seems, was work. And I was miserable at work, so I was miserable most of the time. That’s no way to live.

I’m not replacing work with cake, of course. For starters, I highly doubt my landlords would accept cake in place of rent. Also, I’m trying to cut back on the sugar. But as far as priorities go, I’d much rather focus on cake. Cake is tasty, usually present at celebrations, and is beloved by young and old alike. Work, if it’s good work, allows room for creativity and personal growth, but it usually is woefully short on frosting.

It’s a good litmus test: Cake or work? Which would I rather my life be full of? On my deathbed, when I look back at my life, will I feel worse for passing on a gig or passing on a slice of cake?


I mean, it’s a silly question, really.

But this isn’t just about cake or work. It’s about what I want my life to be full of. Do I want to look back on my life and see weeks full of work and weekends full of house cleaning and grocery shopping? Hell no. I want a clean house and a fridge full of food, of course, but it’s not enough. I want adventures. I want walks in the woods with my kids, and museums, and science experiments, and days spent daydreaming on a blanket under the trees. But there are only so many hours in the day, so I’m going to have to kick some stuff to the curb. The filler. The stuff that doesn’t add to my vision of what my life should be like.

Therefore, I present to you the theme for my 2018:


I treated myself to this shirt as a reminder. (It’s a v neck, so I can even nurse in it.) To acknowledge the fruitless, the frivolous, the time sucks, the butthurts — and let them go. My energy is much better focused on what I can do, on that which will help me progress, and the rest is best left on the cutting-room floor.

Let that shit go.

My first step towards this, blogwise, is to re-evaluate my Monday list. I’ve felt for a while that the categories didn’t really fit what I am trying to focus on. So here’s my new list:

Goal in focus:




Listening to:


Working on:


Making me happy:

I’ll start using this list next week to track my progress. Here’s to a happy and productive 2018!