Nobody could have prepared me for this. Even when a cousin of my husband’s, upon finding out I was pregnant with my fourth child, commented to my husband and me, “You know, you can have sex without getting pregnant.” But even if Mr. Snarky would have tried to lay it all out for me, I would have been unable to comprehend the trajectory of my life with four kids spanning a decade. It would not have made sense to me, nor would it fit neatly in my brain. Because having four children with a large age span is not tidy. It is messy and complicated, exciting and surreal. It forces my brain to expand like a rubber band threatening to snap at any moment.
Yes, I am feeling it. The intensity of the holiday season is in the air and it is nearly impossible to escape the droplets of frenetic energy that invisibly dissolve into our pores this time of year.
For me, I notice that my thinking gets more scattered, I have a hard time writing, and a slight heaviness sets in as early darkness shortens our days, and it is so damn cold outside.
But the blessings…oh the blessings. So many of them. It is the deep gratitude I feel for these blessings that help me embrace the intense beauty and fragility of life and the increasing awareness of the passage of time. This week, I enter a new decade of life...
Two decades, three separate attempts, 10 zillion “I can’t”s, five zillion, “I/you never will” (a few of those coming from my beloved, well-intentioned children), and many of them coming from the naysayer, the self-doubter, the disbeliever who hangs out in my mind. The one who nearly every single time I sit down to write pulls up a chair next to me and asks me cynically, “who are you to…?” and “who really cares about what you have to say?” (Quick interruption: I hope that you do! And if you do, I want to let you know that pre-orders from Amazon often determine the fate of a book’s sales. You can pre-order The Self-Care Solution—A Modern Mother’s Essential Guide to Health and Well-Being today)!
“Well…umm…I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a deep thinker, a reader, a questioner, a truth seeker, and a writer…and I had to write this book. I have a story to tell. A message to deliver—a message of hope and inspiration to other moms,” I would respond, some days more confidently than others.
I could not, would not let that big bad voice win.
Because this time was different. This time I implemented all of the necessary self-care tactics needed to take me to the finish line. I sat alone in my office for thousands of hours, sometimes feeling lonely, sad, anxious, and thinking of all that I was missing on the outside, wondering if it was all worth it, especially when my writing was stale and the big bad voice would not shut up. There were days when I ignored friends, family members, the laundry, the grocery store, and sometimes even my children and husband because I needed that kind of focus—the block-everything-else-out kind of focus. I dug deep, practiced yoga, meditated, saw a therapist, was painfully honest with myself, faced my demons and my insecurities, and reminded myself of my gifts and strengths. I listened to voices of hundreds of other mothers who were willing to share their truths with me, and pored through hundreds of pages of research on physical, mental, emotional, and relational self-care.
And most importantly, after nearly five years of this behind the scenes work, I filtered through all the information, insights and advice I gathered from other moms, various experts, research, and my own personal experiences, and documented the most essential elements of self-care for moms in The Self-Care Solution.
“Aren’t you scared,” the voice would ask me. “Terrified,” I say, my voice shaking. “I reveal myself in ways that I never have. I feel uncomfortably exposed. I am petrified of being judged.”
The voice still doesn’t understand, “If it feels so scary, then why are you doing it? You don’t have to, you know.”
“Oh, but I do,” I say.
"Because it’s time. To trust. To believe. To let go. To release the thoughts, the feelings, and the words, and let them soar.
This is my self-care."
And it is my deepest hope that through your reading of The Self-Care Solution, you will find yours.
Go ahead and preorder your copy (and a few extras to give to your favorite mom friends and family members) from Amazon today! They will arrive in time for Mother’s Day 2016!
Last night, I did something that scared me. As part of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, my lovely and talented friend Jordana Green asked me to join her on her show to tell “my story” of my battle with anorexia nervosa that plagued me during my late teens. I had one goal in mind: Tell my story of survival to offer hope to those struggling with the disease and to those who have family members or loved ones who are struggling. I had discussed the details of my story with Jordana over lunch the week prior but chatting with her privately was much different than talking about it on live radio. But what I discovered as Jordana interviewed me on her show (with my incredible friend of 35 years, Laura, at my side for moral support) was that while I have battled with feelings of shame about my disease and have only shared the details of it with trusted friends, there was a sense of freedom and empowerment in sharing it with others.
Brene’ Brown truly has it right when she says,
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
We all have our stories. Many of which we hide away from others, and even from ourselves. But if you have a story that you think could give someone a glimmer of hope, I would encourage you to allow yourself to be vulnerable, open your heart and let yourself be seen and heard. For me, although it has been 30 years since I found myself strangled by the powerful grip of an eating disorder, which could have taken my life, sharing this dark and troubling piece of my history combined with the message that recovery is always an option was a way for me to offer comfort, hope and light to others.
As discussed in the interview, I recently joined The Emily Program as a Friends and Family Support Group facilitator. Volunteering once a month to co-lead a support group for those family and friends of those suffering from an eating disorder has given me another opportunity to give back and provide support for those in need. If you or someone you love is struggling, please know that help is readily available at the The Emily Program. Do not hesitate to take action. You can also feel free to comment or send me a private email if you have any reflections that you would like to share about this issue that effects nearly one out of every five women.
Reiterating the message I gave on the radio when Jordana asked me what advice I have for anyone struggling with an eating disorder, please remember:
Never give up. On yourself or on someone you love.
To listen to the podcast, go here (podcast date: 2/25/15, 10 pm).
After recently reading “My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friendships," Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger's thoughtful and empowering collection of essays about friendship breakups, I was not only deeply moved by the raw truths about the challenging aspects of female friendships that come alive on the pages of this book, but I also felt a huge sense of relief. The honest and vulnerable accounts of friendship breakups helped me wipe away the shame of ever being involved in a friendship that went awry. While thankfully, I do not have many ex-friends and I am now at a point in my life where I feel beyond grateful for the amazing friends I have, both old and new, I certainly have encountered friendship stumbles along the way. I know how much it hurts to feel completely rejected by a friend and I also know how uncomfortable it is to be the friend who needs some space but doesn’t quite know how to communicate that without being hurtful. This book gets to the heart of why friendships can be so amazing and so complicated, how easily misunderstandings between friends can implode if not addressed, and how important it is to be thoughtful in how we treat our friends.
I like to call friendships “icing on the cake of life.” And while friendships are indeed sweet, there is no denying that they take effort, attention, trust and love. And like any relationship, if any of these four elements are missing or tampered with, a friendship will have a hard time surviving. And even when a friendship starts out with a bang and seems to contain all the right ingredients for a BFF scenario, just as people change, so do friendships. The essays in My Other Ex take the reader into the trenches of some extremely difficult friendship challenges—some of which were mitigated in the effort to salvage the friendship, and others were too great to overcome and led to the demise of the friendship. The essays speak to how exhaustingly difficult and excruciatingly painful these break-ups can be regardless if you are the one leading the break-up or the one being dumped.
I loved Galit Breen’s essay about being a “friendship abandoner” and how she claims that it took a close friend to teach her that, “friendships sometimes feel uncomfortable. Discomfort doesn’t weaken. In fact, when handled correctly, it strengthens. Because still being 'in it' after the discomfort will mean knowing that our friendship isn’t delicate or fragile, that it’s not going to break because of a problem.”
My biggest take-away from this book, aside from great inspiration from all the brilliant writing contained in it, is the essential message about how important it is for women to take care of themselves and each other in relationships. Women do this by creating healthy boundaries within the relationship. And for me, I have learned through some trial and error, that if something is not working, it is best to first take a close look in the mirror and try to figure out what role I could be playing in the relationship deterioration without unjustly blaming myself. As a people pleaser and one who does not sleep at night if I think someone is mad at me or that I did something to hurt someone, I do not like it when things turn sour with a friend and will go to great lengths to try to make a friendship work. However, there have certainly been times when my efforts fell short and times when I have needed to let go of a friend (at least for a time) in order to take care of myself.
Katrina Anne Willis nails it when she says, “I’ve let go of what was bad, what was wrong, what tore us to pieces. There were no answers, no explanations…Anger and disappointment and grief will eat you alive if you let them. When loss comes—as it often does— a journey through grief is inevitable. But it is no place to reside. I choose the other side, where love and forgiveness abound. And most importantly, even when someone else might not, I choose me.”
(Note: In addition to Jessica and Stephanie’s fantastic book, they also offer a friendship advice column where you can submit your friendship questions, and friendship expert Nina Badzin will offer her thoughtful and sensible advice.)
“Show it who’s boss. No pain, no gain. Muscle through it. Just do It. Quitters never win” are some of the many messages that the majority of type-A, driven, perfectionistic people like myself tell ourselves on a very regular basis. For better or worse, this is the approach we often take in our jobs, relationships, parenting and often times, in our approach to physical fitness. We want to be strong, to be fit. We want to stay young, vital, mobile and maybe even flexible.
As we get older, many of us, out of habit or necessity, desperately cling onto this forceful drive and continue to fuel it even when it may not always serve us well: “This is what I do, this is what I have always done, and nothing is going to stop me.” Or, quite possibly, it is fear that propels us to keep pushing past our limits—fear of losing our shape, fear of letting go of activities that we have always enjoyed, or fear that we are inching closer to the inevitable time when our body will refuse to do what our minds ask it to do.
Throughout my life, I haven't met many sports or physical activities that I didn’t like: gymnastics, tennis, golf, running, biking, hiking, skiing, basketball and softball. I loved the sense of thrill and accomplishment I felt in completing a marathon, triathalon and biathalon and in summiting Pikes Peak. The desire to share my passion for fitness and movement with others led me to become an aerobics, spinning, pilates and yoga sculpt instructor, and I have loved teaching all of these classes periodically over the past 25 years. Being physically fit and helping others keep their bodies and minds strong have been a big part of my identity. "This is what I do..."
Over the past few years, however, my body has begun to raise some red flags that have signaled to me that, much to my dismay, it is time for me to make some necessary adjustments, physically and mentally.
The above-mentioned, “muscle through it” theory has allowed me to chase many aches and pains away over the years, and even more recently has worked to fake out this 40-something body into thinking it was 20-something. But now, as I am knee deep in discovering the true meaning of self-care for my upcoming book, I find it harder to ignore the sizzling pain that begins in my lower back, shoots down my leg, prevents me from sitting for more than an hour and sometimes keeps me up at night.
It is becoming clear that I must grapple with the following question: What happens to me if I do indeed listen my body’s plea for me to back off?
Who am I if I can’t still jump in the lake on a whim and pop up on a slalom ski? Who am I if I can’t swoosh down the double black runs on the ski mountain? Who am I if I am no longer able to teach my high energy yoga sculpt class or lace up my running shoes and head out for a long run on a beautiful summer day, let alone train for a marathon or a 14,000-foot mountain hike?
My self-critical brain tries to persuade me of this:
I am washed up. A has-been. A former. An “I used to be…”
But then I decide that is pretty harsh so I tone it down a bit:
I am a middle aged, peri-menopausal, color-my-grays, can’t remember where I put my keys (or my cell phone or my readers…) mother of four children, two of whom are almost adults and believe only half of what I told them I’ve done. I am woman of 47 years and a wife of 21, who sometimes yearns for the “what was” and is slightly terrified of the “what’s to come.” I swim in a sea of ambiguity— neither young nor old. But if forced to pick one, I would have to pick old, because it’s tough to categorize inching closer to 50 as young.
I continually remind myself that getting older is definitely better than the alternative (yes!), and that aging is an "I've earned my stripes (in the form of wrinkles and age spots)" privilege, not a curse. "Embrace it,” I say aloud to myself, as I decide to go out for a walk instead of a run.
On my walk, I wrestle with feelings of frustration, nostalgia and fear, and nudge myself to open up to gratitude and compassion. I ask myself the truly important questions—questions about self-love, self-care and self-acceptance. I find answers when I flip some of my initial questions on their sides: Who am I if I do not take care of myself? What will I become if I continue to ignore my body’s signals?
I find answers in the realization that my body is guiding me right now and I am listening—really listening. And by letting go of what was and accepting what is, I am allowing my body to heal, and am creating new, exciting pathways for my body, mind and spirit.
This is my new mountain to climb.
I am grateful to the wonderful Jessica Halepis of Nourished Mom for inviting me to take part in the series of blog posts in which bloggers reveal the details of their writing process. Jessica and I connected through our blogs as we realized that we are both very deep thinkers and feelers. I was immediately drawn to the rawness and the “reach out and touch it” feeling so prominent in Jessica’s writing. I know if we lived in the same city we would be having weekly coffees to discuss writing and life. But for now, we support each other from afar. What am I working on?
In addition to posting weekly blogs, I also write for various other publications and take on freelance writing projects from time to time. Sometimes the pieces I submit to publications are accepted and sometimes they are rejected. Sometimes I get paid for my writing, and sometimes I write for free. As challenging as I have found this writing world to be, the more I put myself “out there,” the more I learn about myself as a writer and as a person. The process has forced me to confront my deep fear of failure, and to actually reframe what failure means to me. To quote a relative of mine, “It’s not really about the failure; it’s about the recovery.” So I keep trying.
My most prominent work in progress is my book on self-care for moms. This book has been both a labor of love and a true test to my patience and resiliency. Devoting time, energy and attention to gathering information on a hugely important issue for all mothers has been an incredible undertaking. However, sometimes I feel like I have a MASSIVE final research paper hanging over my head and I that I am not going to graduate or get my degree until it’s published!
And I am committed to making that happen. I am passionate about empowering mothers to take care of themselves while they take care of their families and I know first hand how difficult this can be. My passion for this issue fuels me to continue my work on “Love Your Family Without Losing Yourself” and I am excited to be able to share it with you...eventually. For now, I continue to edit, revise, reframe and rewrite the hundreds of pages housed in my laptop. It’s all part of the process...
(The bet I made with my oldest son that this book will be published by the time he graduates high school next year gnaws at me daily. Tick-tock…)
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
For the most part, my writing is the touchy-feely, pull at the heartstrings kind of writing, but I am certainly not the only one who writes from a place of vulnerability. I have learned from so many talented writers around the blogosphere about how to write with honesty, depth and sincerity. What is unique to each of us is our own voice. Since starting my blog just over a year ago, I have realized that the writing that ultimately feels the best to me and resonates the most with my readers is when I am most deeply connected to my inner voice—telling the story that only I can tell without worrying about being judged or trying to write what I think people want to hear. It has taken me a while to cultivate and trust that voice and still feel a moment of panic every time I expose myself in my writing. However, I have found great encouragement and clarity from my most influential “go-to” writer and thinker, Brene’ Brown, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” –Brene Brown, “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead”
Why do I write what I do?
In truth, I write what I write because I have to. And why do I have to? Well, this beautiful, spot-on quote by Jessica Halepis explains the why to a tee. “What I have learned over the years is that when I am not writing, I feel like a central valve has been sealed, my blood flow constricted, essential parts of me gangrene and wither. There is also, when I am not writing, the unnerving feeling that I am hiding from myself, which in essence I am doing, since I am unable to think through even the smallest matters unless I write them down.” Yep, me too, Jessica. Exactly.
Growing up, I was a pleaser, a perfectionist and a feeling stuffer. I always knew I loved to write but had trouble finding my own voice because when you are busy pleasing, perfecting and stuffing, your voice gets lost. Hiding from my true self (as Jessica mentions) is no longer an option. Writing is an essential tool for me to make sure I connect with myself and others in a meaningful and genuine way. Exploring the certainties and uncertainties of motherhood and womanhood, in a space filled with so many interesting and authentic moms and women, continues to inspire me daily.
How does your writing process work?
The how’s and when’s of my writing process are pretty simple: Ideas hit me randomly, and oftentimes, I write about issues I am grappling with or reflections on situations with my kids that elicit a strong feeling or reaction. I write whenever I can (except for the early morning). I admire my early morning blogger friends who wake before the sun and write for a few hours before the kids get up but after trying that for a week and being brain dead by 3 p.m., I realized that was not my thing (especially because I don’t go to sleep until after midnight). But I do block out big chunks of certain days to write, when my kids are at school, and I am not volunteering, teaching yoga or doing all the other stuff that moms do. I also write at night after the kids go to sleep. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to “squeeze in” a few minutes of writing here and there throughout my day but have found that this strategy doesn’t really work for me either. I need time to sit with my thoughts, to hash them out on paper. And then, to rework, rewrite and edit, over and over again. I am a painstakingly slow writer. I am a putsy editor. I will spend embarrassing amounts of time on one sentence. I overthink. I second guess. But like anything, the more I practice, the more the writing flows. Except when it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, I know there is some kind of blockage and I either need to take a yoga class, go for a long walk, meditate, or go out and do something fun and unplug for a while.
Being a writer is a dream come true. I am grateful to be able to do what I love every day and to be able to share this passion with others. I have met such incredible people in the writing/blogging world I am excited to introduce one of those great women whose work I admire and whose strength inspires me. My meeting Emily Mitty Cappo was a complete fluke but also b’sherit (“meant to be” in Hebrew). I tweeted “Go Blue” last fall during a University of Michigan football game, as my daughter was a new freshman there. Emily randomly responded to the tweet from across the country because she had gone to college at Michigan and was a huge fan. Through back and forth tweets and eventual emails, we would come to discover that she was a college friend of my husband’s AND she dated a guy in college who was also from Minneapolis and who took me out on my first car date. There is more irony to this story but maybe Emily will share it some day. I feel blessed to have gotten to know Emily even more through her writing at Oh Boy Mom.
As I delve further into the rewrite process of my book on self-care for moms, a friend introduced me to the work of Renee Trudeau, who has devoted much of her career to helping moms find fulfillment and balance. In the spirit of honoring mothers this month, she is offering a-year-of-self-care retreat giveaway at Omega Institute ($2,700 value) that I could not pass up sharing with you. As I reflect on how I have struggled at various times to incorporate self-care in my life, I realized that the only true obstacle I face in my effort to take care of myself physically, mentally, emotionally and relationally...is me.
This admission is not a way of being hard on myself, which I so often am (and self-blame is NOT self-care!). But the truth is, all moms have a multitude of valid reasons for not carving out time in our busy schedules to prioritize our needs. Some of the biggest stumbling blocks for prioritizing self-care are:
Guilt: I can’t go for a walk with a friend after work because I haven’t seen my kids all day and that would be really selfish of me.
Money: Self-care involves spending money: purchasing a gym membership, getting a massage, manicure or pedicure, or hiring a babysitter to have a date night with my husband. I can’t afford these things.
Time: I can barely find time to go to the bathroom while taking care of two young children full time, when am I going to find time to do something for myself?
Yes, yes and yes. We all certainly subscribe to some or all of these beliefs at various time, and they all may have some truth to them. However, instead of accepting these obstacles and allowing them to control our actions, it is our job to challenge them and to find creative ways in which to weave in self-care so we are better able to love and nurture ourselves and those who need us. There is no getting around it, as challenging as it is to make self-care a daily habit, it is truly an essential element to living fully and being able to be the person and mother that most of us strive to be.
My achilles heel, and real barrier to practicing self-care (specifically mentally and emotionally) is GUILT. I am GUILTY of stockpiling my children’s feelings. When they are stressed, I am even more stressed. I subconsciously subscribe to the idea that if I energetically take on their stress, then they won’t feel it. I am GULITY of telling myself (and my girlfriends) that I must miss a fun gathering because one of my kids has a project due the next day and I must be available to help him.
I neglect to ask myself the imperative boundary securing question, “Wait, whose project is due— mine or his?”
Much of my work in the self-care arena has been to draw better boundaries around myself, to understand that I am a separate entity from my children and to trust that they will be just fine (maybe even better sometimes) without me. This work is ongoing…
The first and most important step for moms to take on their self-care journey is to make an honest (but not overly critical) assessment of where they are at on the self-care spectrum and where they want to be: what ways are you practicing self-care, and what areas could use a little more attention? And then to determine your plan of action?
In order for most of us to make lasting changes in our lives, we have to find value in what we are doing. So, in the spirit of Mother’s Day and bringing awareness to the importance of moms practicing self-care, please describe below (or in Facebook comments) what self-care means to you. Of the respondents, I will draw one name that will be submitted to Renee’s giveaway drawing, which will take place on Mother's Day.
Look forward to reading what self-care means to you and good luck with the retreat giveaway! And most importantly, Happy Mother’s Day!
It’ that time…already. My daughter is coming home this weekend after finishing her freshman year at college. I am truly in awe of how quickly the year has gone and how much I have learned over this past year. I wanted to share a few insights about how this life transition has not only propelled my daughter to adapt, change and grow, but surprisingly has done the same for me.
As most of you know, saying goodbye to my daughter was extremely difficult and I felt that I had lost a part of myself when she left. But thankfully, over time (even though I still don’t like to go into her empty room), I have adjusted to our new normal and have realized that her departure served as a bit of a wake up call for me.
To sum up my mothering of Sophie, I would say that I had an extreme case of the “first-child syndrome.” I wanted to do everything right and to be an all-star, all-knowing mother. Upon her birth, I quit my job as a public relations account executive, and decided that she was my world and that everything else paled in comparison to the joy I felt in being her mother.
Three more kids and 19 years later, I realize that some of my initial new mommy thoughts were on par, but I have also discovered that throughout my motherhood journey I have struggled with defining myself as more than a mother to my children. I have, at times, found it difficult to stay true to myself while taking care of my family (which is the basis for my upcoming book!).
I have had several “hit me over the head” moments (which usually came in the form of mini-breakdowns) that served as reminders that my children could not MAKE me happy, and that my happiness and fulfillment needed to start from within. Sophie leaving for college was definitely one of those moments.
During this past year, I have regained parts of myself I didn’t even know I had abandoned. I realized how much energy, emotional and physical, that I poured into that wonderful, brown-haired, blue-eyed girl. I don’t regret any of it, as I know it was part of my journey and that I experienced a great deal of healing in mothering her the way I did. However, since her departure, I am grateful that I’ve experienced a newfound sense of peace within myself, as well as within my relationship with my daughter.
I now understood that the relationship Sophie and I built while she was living at home was only the beginning. We laid the groundwork for what would continue to be a solid and indestructible bond. Throughout this past year, Soph and I found our rhythm in how much we talked, or didn’t talk; how much she leaned on me for advice or support and how much she tried (or I urged her) to figure things out for herself. I realized that when I missed her, it was okay for me to call her, and when I missed her A LOT, I could even grab my little one and go visit her.
But equally as important, I realized that sometimes when I was lonesome for her, I needed to not call her. I needed to be present in my life and focus on what was in front of me— my husband and three other kids, my writing, yoga, faith, friends and family. Doing so provided me with an amazing sense of comfort and fulfillment and reminded me that while my kids will always be a huge part of my life, I have many other passions and interests that make me who I am and make me feel whole.
This sounds dramatic, but I found that Sophie’s departure made me look at my life in a “big picture” kind of way. It has taught me that while I initially thought of Sophie’s leaving as a “loss,” it turned out that after I shed all the necessary tears, it actually felt like a gain for both of us. The cord was cut, once again, and we both were thrown into unknown territory where the 650 miles that separated us caused us to be less dependent on one another, and provided us extra freedom and space to grow and explore our individual passions.
As I anticipate her homecoming tomorrow, I am well aware that our strengthened relationship will be tested as she is expected to live under our house rules again. This experience may add an entirely new twist to our mother/daughter “absence makes the heart grow founder” love story. More on that to come…Wish me luck…
I was late (per usual) for my writer friend's book launch. I had debated about whether or not to brave the sub-zero Minnesota temperatures that night but something inside me told me that I really needed to be there. I walked into the Melrose Center and took in the hospital smell. Christmas decorations adorned the walls and the greeters were cheery but I noticed a sinking feeling in my stomach. A woman directed me to the room where Lee Wolfe Blum was reading from her memoir and I gingerly opened the door, hoping it wouldn’t squeak and that no attention would be drawn to me and my lateness. I sat down in the back row and took in the scene. Lee was reading a powerful excerpt from her book (which I read in two days and put it down only when I had to) to a room full of people. I turned and within two seconds I recognized her husband Chris from Lee’s Facebook page. To me, he was somewhat of a hero in her book and I wondered what was going through his head as he sat and watched his healthy, confident, beautiful wife and mother of their three children recount her nearly fatal struggle with an eating disorder.
Then I noticed the two rows of young girls/women sitting in the front rows listening or not listening to Lee share some excerpts from her book. My attention veered slightly from Lee’s words to these girls, whose scrawny wrists held their hospital wrist bands, and I knew at that moment why I didn’t feel so cheery. As happy as I was for Lee and her success with her book, walking into Lee’s place of employment, a hospital/treatment center for children and teens struggling with eating disorders where Lee is a Health Educator, triggered some very uncomfortable memories in me.
I found myself studying the patients in the room. The faraway look in their eyes was all too familiar. I knew first-hand that this detached, empty, fearful look was the result of a combination of starvation, and the need and desire to disconnect from reality and from the self—the desperate attempt to escape inner pain. Lee’s book, A Table in the Darkness, explores Lee’s pain and her path of self-destruction, and ultimately her healing journey to recovery. She does this with such articulation and honesty that I felt like I was right there with her. Lee’s book also allowed me to take a closer look at my story and my memories without feeling shame. Lee told her truth—she exposed her soul and her imperfections. She revealed the gritty details of a person who fought a heart-wrenching, yet inspiring battle with depression and anorexia; wherein food became her vice to mask her pain and to “control” and her demons.
My 17-year-old self was very familiar with this method of demon fighting. Like Lee and the patients sitting a few rows in front of me, I used food to try to numb, control and expunge the self-loathing and perfectionism that plagued my psyche. Thirty years have passed since my three-year battle with the disease began, and although it seems like a life time ago (and I find myself wanting to go back and talk to and comfort that 17-year-old girl), I remember so vividly what it felt like to be one of those patients, sitting in a hospital, trying desperately to hold on to my control over food and my emotions. I thought this control was the key to my survival, and yet, in actuality, the desire to control was pulling life out of me, and pulling me away from the people I loved and who loved me.
My heart ached for the patients in front of me as the memories of my long, difficult road to recovery flooded back to me, but I also felt hope for them and wanted to share with them how much I learned and grew in the process. I wanted to hug them all and tell them to choose life, to do what it takes to recover—to allow themselves to let go, open up, be vulnerable and imperfect, to trust the people around them; to believe that they can and will be helped and healed, and that they are loved and are worthy of happiness and self-love.
But I didn’t have to. Lee, with her strength, conviction, powerful connection with G-d and her faith, and her willingness to document and share her story of sickness and recovery, did that and is doing that for all of us. Her book allows readers to fully immerse themselves in Lee’s world of darkness, and to root for her as she finds her light. Lee bravely marches the reader through the agony of living (or barely living) with depression and anorexia, and the havoc it creates for her, her family, her friends and for all of those who care for her. She does not shy away from exposing herself in a way that most people, myself included, would have a very difficult time doing. She then pulls the reader into her courageous and inspiring recovery process. As a Jewish person reading this book, in which Lee's strong connection to her Christian faith is woven into the fabric of her life story, I was moved by how pivotal her belief in G-d was to her recovery and how her faith continues to guide her and her family. Her journey inspired me to look more deeply into my own faith and connection with G-d.
After Lee signed my book (“You’re next” as I recently completed a manuscript for a book on self-care for mothers) and I hugged her tightly and told her how much I appreciated her book and how proud of her I was, I walked out of the hospital and back out into the cold. Tears began to fall and by the time I got to my car, I felt myself release all the uneasiness that began the moment I walked into the hospital.
I, like Lee, am a survivor. I survived the terror of anorexia—and trust me when I tell you, it truly is a terrifying disease—terrifying for the diseased person and terrifying for those who care about and love her or him. Like Lee, the battle with the disease and the victory over it is something that will always be with me, but it does not define who I am.
I sat in my car and prayed for those girls who sat in the front rows and who would not go home to their families but would spend the night (and probably many nights) in a hospital bed feeling lonely and afraid. I prayed that they would find their light, and would let go, stop fighting and allow themselves to heal.
Then I went home, hugged my husband and kids, and found an even deeper feeling of acceptance of and compassion for my 17-year-old self, and my 47-year-old self.
Lee’s book is a truly a gift for anyone who has suffered or is suffering from an eating disorder, or any kind of addiction, or for someone who loves and cares for someone who has battled or is battling an eating disorder or addiction. It is a valuable tool that can provide healing and hope for every reader.
“There’s a buzz happening in Beverly Hills over a group of women who call themselves the “Marijuana Moms.” says a recent Huffington post article. These women make no bones about the fact that they smoke pot, regularly. One mom admits to smoking five times a day.
Read the full article on SheTaxi.Com.
February 12, 2013 By Julie Burton
As I’ve heard people talk about the latest diet trend, the Paleo diet, it got me thinking about going back in time to find other methodologies that can lead us to a more healthy and balanced way of living. As a full time mom of four, a part time writer, yoga instructor and active community volunteer, I understand the challenge that so many women face as we try to find time to incorporate exercise and just plain old movement (other than turning the steering wheel) into our daily routines.
See the full article on SheTaxi.Com.
Julie's article published on Chris Freytag.com appears below: Taking care of yourself is one of the most important gifts you can give to your child/ren, and of course, yourself. As a mother, taking care of your children is one of your highest priorities, and sometimes, taking care of yourself gets put on the back burner. Putting others’ needs in front of your own may work for a while, but eventually, it won’t, and most likely will carry negative consequences. The hazards of neglecting yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally can include health problems, anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. These issues will not only have an adverse effect on you, but your children will feel them and most likely be affected by them as well. Therefore, taking care of yourself is an integral part of taking care of your children.
Self-care is a daily struggle for so many busy moms today. Some moms develop the habit early on in their motherhood journey, and intrinsically understand that self-care is an essential component of being a competent mom. Other moms are more apt to become swallowed up by the pressures of motherhood and find that taking care of themselves continues to slip down on their priority list. It is essential to realize that securing the sacred time you need to nurture yourself will take effort, planning and even some creativity.
Many moms feel that they have to fight too hard to carve out time for themselves. Between jobs, spouses, children and other commitments, it is not easy to find spare moments in the day. Sometimes you may have to miss a baseball scrimmage or leave the house even when your toddler is crying for you to stay with her. But the importance of establishing “me time” is as important as spending time with and nurturing your children. As one mother of two children recently shared with me, “I’ve had to realize that sacrifice is a normal part of parenting, but there has to be a limit. I must set boundaries and set apart time that is just for me in order to be a healthy enough person to parent well.”
To be a clear-headed, strong mom, who can be a good role model for your children, you need to be healthy in mind, body and spirit. The only way that is going to happen is by making sure you are nurturing all aspects of yourself, which involves carving out necessary time for YOU.
The zillion-dollar question that so many moms ask is, “How in the world am I going to take care of myself when there are some days that I barely have time to go to the bathroom?!” There is no clear-cut, fail-proof way to do this. Yet very single day, you must simply ask yourself, “What am I going to do to take care of myself TODAY?”
Here are some helpful tips for you moms struggling to carve out time for yourself:
1. Figure what kind of self care you need most today. Do you need exercise (would be great if you could do some kind of movement every day), extra sleep, time alone, with a girl friend or with your partner?
2. Figure out how you are going to make at least one of the above ideas happen.
3. You may need to be creative:
• Ask for help. Call grandma, a neighbor, a friend to come over to watch your child/ren so you can sleep, workout, meet your husband for lunch, or do whatever you need for you (not run errands for the kids!)
• If you work outside the home, plan a walk with a girlfriend over your lunch hour or during a break.
• Take the kids to the childcare facility at your gym to so you can workout and/or enjoy a nice long, hot shower without the fear of a child interrupting you.
• Go for a jog or walk when your spouse gets home from work, or get up early to meditate or get to an exercise or yoga class.
• If you have young kids and it is too difficult to leave the house, make sure you have a few good meditation or exercise dvds for you to do when your baby or toddler is napping.
• Do you have a flight of stairs in your home or apartment building? Use them!
• Keep some hand held weights by your desk at your office.
• For additional tips on exercise, nutrition and overall self-care, check out Chris Freytag’s Live Fit: 101 Tips for Your Fitness.
There is no doubt that as a mother, taking good care of yourself requires you to be intentional in making sure you will have that time to do so. And even with good planning, you still may encounter grumbles from your spouse or tears from your child when you leave to go do something just for you. The big picture? There is no question that doing so will make you a happier, healthy woman and mother, and a wonderful role model for your children.