So we are a scant seven and a half weeks away from our third annual Listen To Your Mother show, Milwaukee!! I just gave myself a mini heart attack by counting down the days and weeks.
Alexandra, Rochelle and I are buckling in for what will be a whirlwind. We have chosen our cast, and our tickets went on sale this morning. Our cast gets to meet each other for the first time on Sunday. I cannot contain my excitement. My messages to my teammates are full of exclamation points and all capitals.
This is my favorite time of the season. We are in full on planning, editing and creating mode. I am so grateful to be working with such amazingly talented and kind women. Rochelle and Alexandra make me cackle and cry with laughter every day. Their words and their counsel on parenting, writing, storytelling and life is invaluable. I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing experience. I am looking forward to see the light in our cast’s eyes when they understand how each piece fits like a puzzle piece to the next, creating a tapestry of words.
I knew what kind of day we all needed after a frantic text at the close of Listen To Your Mother Milwaukee auditions Sunday afternoon. My youngest daughter Skeeter had succumbed to the same tummy bug that had kept up Munch the night before. This bug kept both my husband and I in a state of constant alert for each cough. Munch barely slept Saturday night, and so neither did my husband or I.
High on the excitement of listening to more amazing stories and caffeine, I managed to stay alert and present until that text. Rochelle and Alexandra hurried me out the door, so that I could be home with my babies. I knew it was the right decision when my sweet Munch asked me if I had to work the next day. I told her no. I told her that I was taking a whole day off just to take care of her and her sister. The delight in her eyes made that working mama guilt bubble to the surface. I squashed it down, and I knew I had made the right choice.
Our day was full of movies, snuggles on the couch, lukewarm Sprite, water, oyster crackers, chicken noodle soup, books and naps. I even got in a nap. We divided our time between the living room and our comfy bed. I even let them bring snacks into our bedroom and eat the dry cereal in bed. We needed that day of love and togetherness.
When I began my foray into Listen To Your Mother, I had no idea the stories that I would be privy to at auditions. Storytelling is a tradition as old as the human race. In our connected world, we lose sight of being present and really listening to stories. As a mom of two little girls, they can talk my ear off. I am a distracted listener and an habitual multi-tasker. This trait made me seem unkind and not caring. I also had horrible recall of stories and conversations. I simply was not present.
LTYM changed my life. The whole audition process made me a more compassionate listener. We see ordinary people tell extraordinary stories. It made me realize that I can never truly know a person’s story until I hear it from them. Everyone wants to be truly seen and heard. Each story touches my heart, and I leave auditions feeling grateful for this opportunity to hear these sacred stories. Stories are how we make sense of our world, and it is a blessing to listen to them, distraction free. It has made me a better listener to my little ladies. I ask them now to stop telling me a story if my attention is not focused entirely on them. I crave those moments of their day that they decide to share with me.
My sweet Skeeter,
My heart broke the first time I heard you ask where your baby photo album was. I felt like such a failure. Why couldn’t I have managed to put together a photo album for you? The truth is that I was barely able to function until you were nearly a year old. I was unable to make decisions; picking out clothes to wear or what to eat for dinner paralyzed me. The thought of uploading photos and printing them out seemed terrifying.
Flash forward three years later. The weather is frigid, so your dad declares it a day to remove the clutter from our house and get organized. I finally decide to pull out the mounds of photos and start to organize them. This task would have sent me running for the hills back when I was truly struggling. It is daunting, but I am reveling in this experience. I finally found the album that I had bought especially for my sweet Skeeter. We were able to put the first two photos in there. We need to figure out where the other ones are before we can put the rest of them. Your smile warmed my heart. You matter, and you were so wanted, sweet girl. Never forget how much your mama loves you. What pained me most by looking at some of those photos is how dead my eyes looked in those pictures. If you could see behind the mask of the happy mama, you would see anxiety, rage and sorrow. I also realized how few pictures I took of myself. I have a bunch of pictures of you and Munch. I could barely fake the smile required for the camera, so instead I delighted in the joy of my sweet, growing girls. I promise to take more pictures with me in the frame. I love the life that I live, and I want you to have pictures of me when I am gone.
After six weeks of no running, I finally ran this afternoon. It was a brisk 21 degrees Fahrenheit. I ran just under a mile and three quarters. The first mile is always the toughest, especially in cold weather. I regretted not putting on warmer mittens and not using my face mask.
Other than the wind I felt fantastic. I had forgotten how much of a meditation running is for me. It clears my mind. I do not run with music because I had to run in the street. I need to be able to hear. I use the cadence and rhythm of my feet to keep me going. Plus I spent the night before at a rock concert so my ears needed a break.
Winter running is not for the faint of spirit. The cold and wind took my breath away at first. Once I got through the first half mile, I was warmed up. No excuses for not getting out there unless the windchill is dangerously low. Running centers me. I need that in my life to ground me.
If you speak to any of my college roommates or my work colleagues from my pre child years, they will tell you that I am NOT a morning person. Motherhood reluctantly pushed me into becoming a morning person. My darling daughters are also decidedly not morning people. Skeeter in particular shouts at us to “turn off the alarm!”. I have written previously about my struggles with the morning routine here and here.
A major factor that has relieved some of the morning stress is that I only have one place to drop off both Munch and Skeeter. When school started this year, I heard the angels singing. The logistics of coordinating multiple drop offs and picks ups wore both my husband and I out last year.
I started off the year with high hopes of getting us out the door. I tried games and contests like my husband does. My girls do not like to be hurried, and my perfectionist nature manifests itself in calls to hurry up. Mindfulness does not come easy for me at all. I want to be more deliberate in my parenting.
I realized that I had an opportunity during breakfast with my girls. I could talk to them about the day, about current events, and about what I am writing. If I leave them unsupervised during breakfast, they end up teasing each other and neglecting to actually eat. I took charge and started steering our conversations. We have discussed everything from racism to body image to our #oneword for the year. My word is believe. Munch’s word is namaste. Skeeter’s word is color.
For me, depression does not manifest itself in sadness. My postpartum depression manifested itself as postpartum rage. I felt the weight of the depression like lead that threatened to suffocate me with a lack of energy. Any energy that I had was exerted in fits of rage. I felt like a monster who could not control her emotions at all.
Anything would set me off – dishes not being done, someone driving too slow, my baby wanting to play instead of nap, my three year old for needing me to lay down with her until she fell asleep. The rage ate at my spirit, threatening to destroy all my relationships in its wake. My husband took the brunt of my wrath. It is my single biggest regret from those months that I struggled. He is the love of my life, and he is my best friend. When I think of the burden he had to endure in silence, my heart aches. I am so grateful for the unwavering support and unconditional love he showed me. Even as I despaired that he would run for the hills once I started treatment and got a diagnosis, he reminded me that we took vows “in sickness and in health”.
Today on this #DayOfLight, I am sending out a message of hope to anyone who is struggling. You will get better. You are not alone. Never give up hope.