Upon realizing it’s all gone to hell around here.

“I’m hitting rock bottom I think.” 

I wrote to my best friend tonight. Our friendship is in a place where I can randomly send such a one-liner and she will know everything I mean. 

I don’t need to say that today I got on the scale hoping to see improvement but instead saw a number I haven’t seen since I had an almost full-term baby growing inside me. I don’t need to say that my oldest child is struggling in school and feels like she’s dumb and brainless and her teacher doesn’t seem to care. I don’t need to say that my youngest baby is almost seven years old and doesn’t seem to need snuggling as much as he used to, and that I am simultaneously crushed and yet proud of his new independence. I don’t need to say how much I hate my haggard, saggy, dull, flabby reflection and how I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror. She is proof of how far I’ve fallen and how much I have ignored. I don’t need to say I am starting to avoid leaving the house because I am so embarrassed about who I have become. I don’t need to tell her that my house is such a wreck that it looks as if someone turned it upside down and shook it. That between the overdue library books, the laundry, the endless dishes, the constant vacuuming of tufts of cat hair and dust, and the cheese sticks I made an extra effort to go out and buy today that are “too hard” and “just not the same as the other ones” and therefore inedible, that I am slowly losing my mind. She already knows there is no new status on my latest job application, that my marriage is in pieces, and that the income from such a job is necessary for my independence. I don’t need to tell her that my husband is still sleeping in my guest bed even though we separated almost four years ago, and that I can’t seem to get away and be happy, even for an hour. She knows I worry. She knows I am lost. She knows I am lonely. I don’t need to say that one small jam jar of pinot noir sometimes turns into three, or that I took the first few quick sips at 4:30pm because I needed it and couldn’t wait. 

She sent me a heart, which burst into lots of little hearts and made bubble sounds come out of my phone. Tomorrow I will make changes, but for now knowing someone is listening is enough.  

Those other moms.

Those other moms. They are so impeccable. They park their shining Land Rovers outside the school and their stylish children tumble out laughing. They have trendy, cool haircuts and time to maintain them at the salon every four weeks. They wear good shoes and expensive coats. They wear blazers and interesting glasses. They walk on high heels through the playground holding fancy coffee and confidence.

They wear absolutely no makeup because it’s toxic and they can’t allow it in their house. Also, because they happen to have flawless skin. They have naturally shining, voluminous hair that looks fantastic in a pony tail. They volunteer every week and work on their knitting while they wait. They will eagerly share their Pinterest pages with you, and aren’t fazed a bit by the antics of the new puppy. He’s just perfect for their family! They are always early for school drop off and pickup, and their children will sit quietly with a book while they talk with a friend or with an iPad while they get a massage.

Of course they haven’t forgotten anything. They meal plan. They have a household binder. They wake up an hour before the children, to do yoga and have “me time”. They work out and drink smoothies for breakfast. A nice salad for dinner of kale and pomegranate jewels, with homemade vinaigrette, which they’ve taught their children to prepare. They have time to shop for fresh produce. They never crave a staggering amount of pasta and one hour away from their children.

They own real bras and remember to put one on in public. They often resemble a Patagonia ad and look fresh faced in the wind. They have so much to say about what they heard on NPR this morning or their political activism or the amazing concert or book reading or lecture they recently attended. These sentences come out of their mouths, articulate and complete. They have PhDs and law degrees and somehow own their own business on the side, while they cheerily take their children to cello lessons and skiing lessons and trapeze club. They, as well as their children, are always in bed early.

They have a back up sitter in case the nanny or the main sitter cancels. They would never miss a date night. Their husbands are fantastic, athletic, help with the laundry, and drink only the good whiskey. They get away on trips to the wine country with their best girlfriends and take pictures of the dozen of them getting a pedicure together. They are composed, dignified, and sure of themselves. They never say too much. They happily stay in their circle, and rarely make eye contact. Those other moms. They never talk to me.

A Confession.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been hiding the fact that I am a fraud. I have been trying to write this blog about self care and healing, and yet for many months now I haven’t doing either of those things. I haven’t been able to write because I’ve been busy being a fraud. I haven’t been working out. No yoga, except for a little at home that was prescribed by my movement therapist. He was so fantastic that I just couldn’t go back for more sessions, because I felt like I was failing him and wasting his time. No kettlebells, even though I had a regular thing going for several months and began to feel stronger. No more than five or six hours of sleep per night. My headaches and nightmares are coming back with the vengeance of a toddler given the wrong color cup. Breakfast on more than one occasion has been a handful (or two) of chocolate covered almonds sprinkled with sea salt and turbinado sugar. Many days I eat more pasta than vegetables. A glass (or three) of dry, red wine quiets the anxiety in my head at night. I stay up until 2am watching Seth Meyers, Anderson Cooper, Stephen Colbert, and Rachel Maddow on YouTube and feel sick about the world my children will inhabit. I am stressed, sad, and certainly not taking care of myself. I have headaches and body aches. I have gained obvious weight. My back injury has flared up more than usual. I’m tired all the time and snap at my children. It doesn’t bode well for that long, horizontal wrinkle across my forehead. I am failing myself and wasting my time. These feel like the toughest bad habits to break.

I am embarrassed to come here and write under the heading To Bounce Not Break, because so often I feel broken. I am losing my body as well as my mind. I’m missing time with my children and holding onto negativity. I have been attempting to escape and ignore myself with food and wine and mindless, endless television. I have been pushing through the days with my head down, afraid to look up and see the world I am in. I have been afraid to try, feeling as if I am so low that I cannot get back up. I am ashamed and alone, with so much work ahead of me. I am back at the bottom and must take those first steps yet again.

I Did Cold Yoga. Slow Yoga.

I’ve been feeling lost since my beloved bikram studio closed. I cannot use hot yoga towels for anything other than hot yoga, damn it! And I have two rolled up at home eyeing me, clean, ready to go, and silently shouting, “Use me!”

Alas. No more bikram for this mama. For now. I had a choice. I knew I could easily weep, gnash my teeth, and rend my shorty shorts, but I decided instead to try a yoga studio quite close to my house. But it was regular yoga. Flowing yoga. Probably with silk eye pillows and sun salutations. Likely with music and poses that seemed more like a soft dance than a workout. I wanted to sweat. I wanted to work. I wanted to push and growl at myself in the mirror and flex. Yet the class descriptions online listed “Yoga for Athletes”, so I figured I’d give it a go and bought a Groupon for an unlimited week.

Mistake number one: I must have mixed up the calendar. I showed up expecting to find Yoga for Athletes and found myself right on time for Restorative Yoga instead. The teacher was gracious. The space was cold and dark. Several students were already on mats, each with at least two Mexican blankets, foam blocks, round bolsters, and a long cotton strap. One student was wearing a cardigan. Oh Toto, we’re not in bikram anymore. We stayed in each pose, completely supported by the blocks and bolsters, for several minutes. No need for the muscles to do anything. Relax, muscles.

Mistake number two: I wore bikram clothing to cold yoga in December. When I should have been breathing and otherwise restoring myself, I spent my time envious of the girl next to me who knew enough to wear sweatpants, wiggling my cold toes, and making sure the blankets were tightly tucked around me.

Inwardly I dubbed the class “Sleeping in Yoga Poses”. The studio was clean and well appointed. The teacher and students were welcoming and kind. But I have been using yoga to figure out my life, or to escape it. I have been searching for answers. I need yoga to be a strong presence at a time in my life when I don’t feel strong. I need it to move through me and make me change. This particular style wasn’t for me.

My husband rents a little house nearby so he can still see the kids. They are happy and loved, but I know they feel the effects of the separation. He travels for work, and they miss him so. As much as I need restoration, I think I must do it the hard way.

 

 

 

Day 16. Yoga Girl and the Mirror.

A very young, very pretty, very good at bikram girl put her mat down so close to mine today. Sigh. There were plenty of open spaces available. Why must she put herself in my back pocket?!

I know I’m only supposed to look at myself in the mirror. We are all on our own unique paths. But damn, my self esteem got the better of me today, with this perfect girl so close to my wobbly reflection. She is lean. She is flexible. Her thighs are golden and smooth. She wears the short shorts. She is unwrinkled. Untroubled.

I am a back row beginner. Advanced students usually take the front row, so they can be good examples for the rest of us. I don’t know if I will ever feel confident enough to put my mat down in the front row, directly in front of that mirror. I like hiding, as much as one can possibly hide in front of a floor to ceiling mirror that spans the length of the entire room.

It’s a funny thing, that mirror. It doesn’t lie. I am almost 35. I’ve had two kids. I can see that fact in my hips. I never had hips before, and suddenly, BAM. There they are. I wear capri pants. No, you can’t hide from the mirror. You must confront yourself, and sometimes that mental work is harder than 90 minutes of sweat and strength.

Day 8. Looking at the Floor.

I’m stressed about comparing myself to others in the room. I can’t focus on myself in the mirror for the standing bow pulling pose, because it makes my balancing leg wobble. I have to look down at the floor, which tells me I suck, which makes me wobble even more. The teacher offered advice. Don’t look down at the floor, or that’s where you’ll end up!

I’m so frustrated.

Day 4. Drinking the Kool-Aid.

Maximum effort, maximum stillness.

I love this. Something about this workout is clicking for me. It fits me. I love that we do the same 26 poses each time. I can measure the days. I can compete with myself. (And I can measure the time left in class…)

I wasn’t going to go today, but I felt the pull once again and left feeling tired but energized. I think I’m at the beginning of a slow but important change.

I am grateful.

Maybe someday I’ll even love the locust.

Day 3. The Girl Who Cried At Yoga.

84asanas

I’m not going. I’m too sore. I should drink water so I’m hydrated for class. But that isn’t necessary, because I’m not going.

Where is my towel? I should stay home and rest. Where is my pink sports bra? I’m dressed, so I might as well go. It’s going to hurt. I’m standing in the hallway examining a poster of the 84 classic asanas to avoid going into the hot room. Maybe I could sneak out now and go home.

The room is packed. The sun is on the floor, but it’s not as hot in here today. I wonder if the furnace is working correctly?

The routine is more familiar today. I can anticipate. I can synchronize my movements with the dialogue. Almost. Noticeably better, though. I can focus on my breath a little. I can correct my reflection. Right hip forward. Left shoulder forward. Chest up. Sometimes I am so wobbly, but today I smile and laugh at myself. I try again.

Today I use my breath to push further. I want to phone it in, but I can’t do that to my reflection. There is a difference between laziness and knowing your limits. I focus on form and then I push. I can hear the sweat dripping and hitting my towel. I like it. It feels like I’m working.

Today I didn’t bring a washcloth to wipe my face and hands. I think it keeps me cooler to just let it be. I’m all for avoiding excess movement. But I’m actually not dying. This is a relief. It’s hard, but I feel strong.

I smiled several times today. (Except during that damn locust pose—my elbows felt like they were being twisted in a medieval torture device.) During the final few postures, I felt like I could keep going. What is happening to me?

During the final savasana, the instructor talked about the absolute importance of taking the time for yourself. Yes. I was there for me. I was making myself stronger. As she kept talking, my heart starting beating hard and my eyes filled with embarrassing hot tears. I realized I was, at last, finally doing something for myself after four intense years of ever constant motherhood, sleep deprivation, depression, and feeling alone in my marriage. It will make me a better mother if I take care of myself. Rushing to the grocery store alone doesn’t count as “me time”. It’s been a long time.

So on day three, I cried. I cried in yoga. My usually Type-A, control freak self decided to let those tears fall. They rolled down the sides of my face and into my ears and were eventually absorbed by my special yoga towel. I didn’t dare move my arms to wipe them away. This is a time of change. It hurts and feels amazing. (Even if I’m now the Girl Who Cried At Yoga.)

I left that hot room feeling so unbelievably good! I stood up a little taller as I walked to the changing room. I couldn’t believe I almost stayed home and missed such a great day! I’m definitely coming back.