Tag Archives: Mom

On Birthdays


I don’t like a lot of things other people love. I don’t like Christmas. I don’t like drinking. I don’t like loud, raucous parties or Game of Thrones (books, I haven’t seen the series) or M&Ms. I’m not interested in rock concerts, even for my favorite bands. Okay, maybe the Beatles, but only because it’d be a miracle since half of them are dead. I don’t care for fast food or Starbucks and I flat out HATED Hawaii.

And I’m not a fan of my birthday.

Hold on, you say. Join the club! Nobody likes their birthday after 21. Anyone saying otherwise is lying. And women aren’t even allowed to have birthdays after 29!

And, yeah, that’s all pretty true. But there’s still a weird pressure? expectation? implied societal contract? that I should at least enjoy my birthday. I should skip work, stuff myself with cake, buy myself presents, or do whatever it takes to fill that void.

What void? It’s the space that exists between everyone’s normal day and what makes it your special day. It’s the absense of change between yesterday you and one-year-older you.

As a kid, your birthday is a big deal. Or, well, it can be. Cake, presents, maybe a party. Maybe a party no one shows up for. Maybe not the presents you wanted or no presents at all. Maybe burnt cake or “the year Mom became a Vegan” cake. I can’t remember most of my birthdays as a child. I’ve seen a few pictures of the early ones. Regardless, I know what it’s supposed to feel like. I started remembering my birthdays because they stopped living up to that gut feeling.

That’s not to say I had an awful childhood or anything. Far from it. I had great birthdays, with slumber parties and pizzas and all manner of fun all the way through high school and then well into my 20s.

But you wake up the next day and think, so this is 16? 18? 25? 34? Doesn’t feel any different. I look back on some of my more recent parties and it looks like I was trying to capture that essence of BIG CHANGE that came with blowing out those candles.

I mean, it’s a lot harder to get that rush as an adult. Turning 10 is a big deal, but turning 34? I keep having to do the Math to remember my age. And that’s not an “I’m so old I can’t remember” thing. It’s a “this number has little to no significance in my day-to-day life” thing.

Plus, parties are so difficult now. It wasn’t so bad in our 20s, since most of our friends were also in their 20s and eager for weekend shenanigans. Now? Friends we’ve known for over a decade can’t find the time for lunch or miss our son’s birthday because their kids have competitions or games. Adults are busy. Adults with kids need sitters and 6 months notice just for brunch.

But listen, I could go on about how birthdays are always lacking. Even if all my Facebook friends and family post on my page, a sulky part of me will wonder why I didn’t get more calls or texts (which, yes, is super dumb and petty, but try explaining that to my Id). Or more birthday cards. My husband has an unparalleled record for amazing gifts, but somehow the fact that my family typically doesn’t go in for birthday gifts will still bother me. This is despite knowing that there are 5 adult kids in my family, plus 3 spouses, 1 girlfriend, and now 5 grandbabies, which is just a TON of people to keep track of let alone afford cards/gifts for. It’s actually kind of nice that there isn’t that pressure to get something for everyone for every occasion because when I do manage to get bday cards sent, I feel like a superstar and not like it’s some obligatory thing.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to go all negative about this so I hope you stuck with me through the moping. I wanted to approach this year a little differently to maybe alleviate that inexplicable post-bday let-down.

First, to address that lack of BIG CHANGE between 33 and 34. Let’s be honest, in the grand scheme of your life not a lot changes over a year. You, as a person, are pretty much set by the time 30 hits. But on the other hand, so much can change for you. This time last year, I had a newborn and I was clinging to sanity like Gandalf hanging off the bridge in Khazad-Dum. Did I let go to go fight the Balrog? No, because I stayed sane and didn’t have time for smoting my enemies and getting reborn with new threads. Now, I have a toddler who is mobile (understatement) and a daily/nightly challenge. Am I the same mother I was last year? HA, no. I am a little bit more confident even if I am still vastly intimidated by the tasks that lie ahead (17 more years of them, yikes).

And last year, I was still trying to integrate Mom into my personality. I recently saw a meme about how having kids doesn’t make the person you used to be disappear or some shite.

My friend (mother of 6) who posted it was pissed and at first I didn’t get why. It seemed like the normal inspirational drivel I usually scroll on by, but I’m new to the whole Mom game still and there was some context I wasn’t privy to. Anyway, the woman I was 2 years ago, before I was even pregnant, is kind of a stranger to me now. Weird, right? I mean, she’s still there, utterly confused by how difficult it is for me to get a pedicure on a whim. But I can’t seem to see her as me anymore? And I don’t want to go back to being her. I sometimes wish I could, on bad days or long nights. Just, not really. If I could get a full night’s sleep, crochet all day and still get my happy boy, that’s the deal I’d take. So yes, that person matters, but only because I couldn’t exist now without her. There’s no going back to her. No giving up Momming to indulge the illusion. Having a kid changes you because you must or they die.

Good grief, this is getting all over the place. This year qualifies as a BIG CHANGE year for me, but every year can do that if you just tally up all the little ways you have grown, whether emotional or psychological, or whatever. Every moment you are alive is BIG.

As for the gifts and cake and filling that void, well, I have a cupboard full of chocolate. My hubby got me the writing seminar with Neil Gaiman (SQUEE). My good friend is making me a super cool bag. My boy now plays by himself during the day so I can get crochet done again. And the universe has been plentiful with blessings.

To wit:

Tim Curry narrates the audiobooks for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

2 of my good friends just had healthy babies, one on Buddy Boy’s birthday.

I am alive and in shape (round is a shape, I checked).

I have a decent, caring husband who does dishes and vacuums and folds laundry and plays with his son.

Our tax refund is enough to pay for a flight home this summer so our boy can meet all his cousins and aunties and uncles.

Captain Marvel was pretty great.

I could go on. And so could you. The world is filled with awful, more every day. Take time to remember the good if you can. It won’t fix anything, but it can make things bearable for a time.

Now go forth and enjoy my birthday!

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You Cannot Hate Yourself Thin


Dear Mom,

You cannot hate yourself thin.

And I mean YOU, not the general you.

Lots of people hate themselves thin.  They have eating disorders, mental illnesses that distort how they view themselves to such an extreme that they torture themselves to reach an ideal that will never be achieved.  They will die before their twisted standards can be attained.

More accurately, no one can hate themselves healthy.  The difference between healthy and thin is not always apparent, especially in an image-obsessed culture.  Thin is an insignificant number on a scale.  Thin is visible ribs, flat stomach, stick arms.  Thin is fragile and weak.  Thin can’t raise five kids.  Thin is the opposite of Fat.  Fat=bad, Thin=good.

Healthy doesn’t rely on numbers to be true.  Healthy is how you feel.  Sleeping better, moving better, breathing better.  Being healthy is about loving yourself so much that you want to take care of yourself.  You’ve heard obnoxious people say how their body is a temple so they don’t want to eat that trash, right?  We all know them, so superior with their spinach smoothies and coordinated yoga pants.  Or are they kale smoothies?  Arugula?  Whatever.  Healthy is the opposite of Morbidly Obese.  Healthy is meeting great-grandchildren.  Morbidly Obese is “Mom, I’m afraid for your life.”  This is a new feeling for me with you.  I’m used to it with Dad.

Yes, obnoxious.  But right in an essential way.  Your body, yes YOURS, is a temple.  It is sacred.  And you perform sacrilege every day.  I grew up listening to you fat shame yourself.  I know you can’t help that.  I know your father contributed and that unburdening yourself from the judgements of parents (however well meaning) is impossible.  I know you hate being fat.  It frustrates you because it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, it doesn’t go away.  It doesn’t get better.  You’re still fat, you still hurt, and it works for everyone else, why the hell doesn’t it work for you?

I don’t know, because I’m too far away and way too busy to monitor you 24 hours a day.  But I have a few theories, because how could I not?

Regularity.  Do you work out consistently?  Same times and days every week?  Do you have sufficient recovery stretches?  Do you have established refueling rituals?  All of these things help.  Consistency means you can keep track of progress and regularly increase difficulty.  Knowing how to recover means making sure a good workout doesn’t knock you on your back the rest of the week.  And having rituals reinforces the habit.  Finish a workout, get an awesome protein smoothie to help repair muscles and boost energy.  And then have an ounce of dark chocolate, because damn it you deserve it.

I hate working out.  Hate it.  And I have excuses up to the moon to not do it.  I’m tired.  I work part-time, but the last few months I’ve have 30-hour weeks (part-time my ass).  And I have a migraine-a-week habit.  Migraine if I have a glass of wine.  Migraine if I have too much heavy dairy.  Migraine if I don’t drink enough water.  Migraine if I sweat for five seconds moving stock in the back room.  Migraine if I wake up in the morning.  Migraine if I wake up.  But definitely a migraine if I work out.  For the next day or three.  (I did finally talk to a doctor about my migraines and she gave me new drugs that make me a space cadet and don’t work.  I’m planning on following up soon for other options.)  Me working out happens under three conditions.  I’m angry.  I’m having an Up week.  I’m terrified.

You told us that Dad was skinny as a rail until his early twenties.  Dad is no longer skinny as a rail.  Your daughters have been living in abject terror of genetics for our entire lives.  I am not exaggerating.  I’m afraid that I will look at myself one day and see you and hate that I let myself do that to myself.

That is the truth.

And its not for the reasons you think.

This last summer, I had to help you get home.  I had to give you support when muscle failure trapped you on a public toilet.  I had to steady you into the shower and help you dress and undress.  You said I shouldn’t have to see you this way.  And I laughed.  You didn’t know you were insulting me.  I’m your daughter.  I’m the only one who has the right to see you this way (ok, me and the rest of your children and your husband).  From that body you hate came my life.  It’s not a duty to care for my Mom.  It’s a privilege.

You look at yourself with loathing and shame.  Because you’re fat.  I see my Mom.  I did not feel disgust or shame when I saw you.  I saw my Mom.  And I love my Mom and wished she loved herself more.  That is what I’m afraid of.  I’m afraid I will look at myself and see a fat, ugly slob instead of the strong, intelligent woman YOU raised me to be.  I won’t see a loving mother or a successful business woman or a talented leader.  All I’ll see is FAT, UGLY, WORTHLESS.

This is why I think you fail.  You work out because you hate being fat and nothing changes.  So when it comes time to eat, you either don’t or you eat whatever because it doesn’t matter.  I know you try to make smart food choices, because I read your blog.  But under everything you write, I see the self-hate.  Dieting is punishment.  It means you can’t eat.  One piece of pizza.  Half a glass of soda.  No cake.  And then you accidentally have bacon, eggs, and grits for breakfast.  Oops.

That’s not an oops.  That’s a choice.  And I am tired of your choices.

Your body is a temple.  And the startling change you expect from working out will not ever happen, not if you keep sh*tting in your temple.  Eating healthy is an act of self-love.  It is not a punishment.  Food is sacred.  It is magical and wonderful in so many ways.  It brings people together, builds families, makes friends.  And it should never be a loathsome experience.  Not ever.  Not even when you are surrounded by people you hate who are all arguing over religion and politics and the latest family scandal.  Food is how Jesus explained to his disciples how they could remember him.  Within you is the body and blood of Christ.  And it has to share space with junk food.

You want extreme change, you have to start with extreme change.  Which means NO pizza, NO soda, still NO cake, and ABSOLUTELY NO accidental bacon, eggs, and grits.  No baked potatoes or clam chowders or bagels or sweet tea.  No seconds.  Hell, no complex sugars or salt or red meat or starches or processed foods.  Just bread and water, with the part of bread being played by steamed broccoli.

Which sucks, sure.  But it isn’t hell.  It isn’t even Limbo.  You stayed with me and ate my food.  Did you suffer?  Did you starve?  No.  I am a good cook and I like good food.  I would never feed someone bad food.  It would be sinful.  I am also a realist.  I have weaknesses.  Bread is a big one (all those empty carbs).  And pasta.  And potatoes.  Lots of things cannot be in my home because I can’t trust myself to always make the right decisions.  (The list is one that my husband and I made together, since marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship.)  I still indulge in all those things, but it happens much more rarely since I don’t have easy access.

There are a lot of things I don’t miss.  Excess salt and sugar in my diet is one.  Making a lot of my own food means I control what goes in it and I like being in control.  Sometimes this involves using slow cookers to make a week of meals in advance.  A hassle, yes.  But better than eating at Panera for the third day in a row.  I don’t miss the stomach bombs from fast food or the sluggishness from greasy chips or being bloated from over-salted premade dinners.  I don’t miss chain restaurants or drive-thrus.

I love myself.  So I taught myself that the foods I used to love just make me feel like crap.  And they don’t even taste good.

I slip up, true.  Five Guys, a piece of pizza from the grocery store, SO MANY DONUTS.  But when I sit down to steamed veggies and a chicken breast, I don’t wish it was a Big Mac and fries (vomit sounds).

I’ve noticed something, though, with your menus.  I don’t think you know what “healthy” food is.  A sandwich is not automatically healthy, nor is soup.  I think you need to have a nutritionist give you a full run down on the type of diet that would best suit you.  Which includes portion size and a template for daily meal planning.  Regularity is key here, too.  Keeping to a schedule, tracking your water intake, planning ahead so you can’t deviate from your diet.  And having cheat days.

One day a week, or maybe just one meal, where you can ignore some of your rules.  You can go out for dinner.  You can have seconds.  You can have bacon.  That one day breaks up the monotony.  Nothing kills a good habit faster than boredom.

And on your birthday you eat whatever the hell you want.

Then you go to the gym.  Not because you are guilty about what you ate, even if you did slip up.  And NOT because you hate yourself.  But because you want to be strong and healthy.  Because you want to be independent, not imprisoned by a wheelchair or walker when your body starts giving up.  Because you want to feel better.  Ask your trainer why she works out.  I bet she won’t say it’s because she’s a fat, ugly pig who deserves pain.

I know it isn’t easy to give up, that hate.  After a while, it’s your best friend.  The only one who has stayed with you, who knows the real you.  The rebukes come naturally.  FAT.  CLUMSY.  STUPID.  WORTHLESS.  UGLY.  A regular chant I have memorized.  I say those things now and it shocks me back to reality.

The fat doesn’t make you ugly.  Hate makes you ugly.  Especially to yourself.

I LOVE YOU.  I don’t see Fat.  I see Mom.  And I want to help you.  I just don’t know how.

I can’t make you love yourself.  I hope you’ll try, though.

Your loving daughter,

Me

 

P.S.  Dad, this goes double for you.

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Filed under Ramblings, Rants