Sometimes I can be a little slow to learn.
I haven’t been doing so well lately. My lupus has been flaring a bit. Stress can trigger it, and I’ve been cowering under a heaping ton ‘0’ that lately.
I can’t get my mind to stop racing; it just ping-pongs from one issue to another, all day and all night long. Even my dreams are laced with oddly unresolved scenarios that leave me feeling tired and unsettled when I wake.
The adoption is more stressful than any pregnancy ever was. This has been my most trying year teaching the boys since we started homeschooling six years ago. I don’t know how my husband puts up with me, as he gets almost zero attention from his wife anymore. He is sweet and understanding, but I miss him.
I miss us.
Those are the bigger issues. I could rapidly fire off another ten issues, most of which interlink with the above, but I’ll spare you because rehashing them doesn’t do any of us any good.
It’s just been….hard.
Really hard lately. I haven’t told anyone how hard.
And has always been my history, I self-medicate with solitude and food.
Not gobs and gobs of food, mind you. I’m sure if you see me, you figure I’m one of those who sits around eating a pound of bacon and a box of donuts in one sitting, but that’s never been true of me. I was cursed with PCOS, and with it, the metabolism of an 80-year-old sloth. It doesn’t take much veering off the healthy food path for me to gain weight at lightning speed.
After half a dozen failed memberships, I finally figured out the reason Weight Watchers has never worked for me: they give me far too many calories to eat. Unless I set my calorie intake significantly below any normal recommended range for my age and size, I can’t lose an ounce — not even with exercise.
Since January, the stress has been piling up and so have the pounds. A few months of late nights, spent watching “Four Weddings”, “Downton Abbey”, “Chopped” and a handful of other shows on the DVR while having a bowl of ice cream, or some wine and cheese, and I’ve put on over a dozen more pounds without doing anything particularly outrageous.
It’s odd that I look at those late hours as something I’ve earned after these stressful days, some time to escape with something I like, while everyone else is asleep and no one is bugging me. Somehow I’ve managed to make myself believe that I’ve earned that time, that I deserve those treats and I get pretty irritated if I miss that time alone. But the reality is that even those non-extravagant snacks completely undo any good I might’ve done, diet-wise, during the day.
I hate gaining weight, yet I gain, despite knowing this truth about myself — that if I am not being extraordinarily mindful and committed to fitness, I blow up like a puffer fish.
And I haven’t had the mental energy lately to be mindful about anything except putting out the fires from the major issues I mentioned above.
There’s always a “but”.
I had some prayer time tonight. Now, that sounds all holy and proper, but let me tell you — it wasn’t like that at all. It wasn’t as it should be, a time that I planned for and set aside for God. No, it was after a harried shower, when I sat down on the bed to put lotion on my feet and I just cracked, my face crumpling into the Ugly Cry, stress just suddenly boiling over, oozing out all over the place before I even knew what was happening.
As if the force of sitting down on the bed made something snap and all of a sudden, I’m a blubbering, snot-dripping mess.
Sometimes God does that to us. If we run long enough, if we try to hide after we’ve committed our lives to him, He comes and finds us. And renders us helpless to do anything but sit there and listen.
After a good, long cry (my face so frozen into the Ugly Cry Crumple that my forehead actually ached) and some time with my Father, I came away realizing a few things.
One, that TV and snack time at night is never going to be enough self-care to make up for all the ways I neglect myself the other 22 hours of the day. It’s pretty ridiculous to think that it ever could be.
It’s like when you fly, and the flight attendant tells you to put your own oxygen mask on first and then help those around you. If you’re not breathing right, it’s not going to be long before you go from the role of Helper to the One Needing Help. In other words, if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not of much use to anybody.
And yep, that would be me right about now: Utterly useless, from self-imposed causes.
Two, I thought of the things that should be my non-negotiables; the things I do each day so that I can be the best wife, mom and friend I can be. Here is the list I made:
- Get enough sleep.
- Feed my spirit (prayer/Bible).
- Consume healthy fuel for my body (food).
- Get an hour of physical activity.
- Make meaningful marriage connections (communication, hugs, etc.).
- Solitude (because, as an introvert, I truly have to have some quiet time alone to recharge).
I can’t be the only mom who struggles to provide herself with these things on a daily basis. But look at it — that list is so simple. Really, almost shockingly simple.
Note that the kids didn’t make the list. Neither did my work. Of course, most of the time, the kids are my work. They don’t need to be on the list because they are always there, front-and-center, making their demands on me as they should. There’s no need to prioritize them on the list because like the air I breathe, they just ARE.
Finally, the third thing that struck me is to realize that there really is something to that old Serenity Prayer.
Because if I do what it says, I can put an end to that game of mental ping-pong that plays inside my mind 24/7.
Change the things I can. Release the things I can’t. Ask God to help me understand the difference.
I can’t get my daughter here from Uganda any quicker by worrying about it. I can’t possibly know what it’s going to be like to be in Africa until I am there, and fretting over that trip now isn’t going to change a thing. I won’t always meet everyone else’s deadlines or expectations. I can’t make things perfect for people who don’t want to do their part make that perfection happen. I can’t take on other people’s worries, or overcommit myself to causes that I don’t have time for, or in any other way take on problems that God himself isn’t asking me to bear. When presented with a problem, I need to look it over, and then release it back to God — however many times it takes to do truly, genuinely release it.
That list of six things? Those are things that I can do, things that I truly must do, and they don’t have to wait til Monday. Or even tomorrow.
Starting tonight, I can go to bed instead of sitting in front of the tube with a cup of ice cream.
And that, my friends, is exactly what I’m going to do.