Fertility

A few months ago when I opened up about my miscarriage I was simply blown away. Not only from the out pouring of love and support but because of the sheer volume of people who opened up to me about navigating similar challenges around pregnancy loss, infertility, irregular cycles, lack of ovulation or just beginning their conception journey and wanting some tips and tricks along the way. We don’t talk about these things enough! And so often we feel sorrow in navigating them alone. In an effort to open the door and continue the conversation I wanted to check in on some things I’ve done the past few months to get myself back on track physically, emotionally and spiritually. We’ll talk therapy, fertility acupuncture, womb massage, castor oil packs, diet, exercise and more. Just as I support women through their pregnancy and childbirth experiences (check us out at Atlas Birth) I’d like to support you through the journey to get there. I also realize that not everyone has the same access to the services described below so I’ve included a set of resources that are sliding scale, low-cost or that you can do at home free of charge.

Let’s dive right in shall we?

Therapy

I’m not someone who ever feels stressed. I was raised in an environment and have experienced things in my life where many times stress and overwhelm simply weren’t an option. I needed to be an adult from a very young age and now when shit hits the fan I slip into a hyper focused “beast-mode”. Logical. Pragmatic. Compartmentalized. This may sound great but it can actually be a really damaging coping mechanism that requires me to push aside huge parts of my ability to process emotion- and that energy has to go somewhere. While I may not ever feel mentally stressed, for me it manifests physically. I often suffer from chronic back pain or i’ll get stomach aches/indigestion that effect my gut biome. When I experience these things, I know that I’m stressed. I’ve found out these emotional and physical triggers through… therapy!

A good therapist that you trust and feel you can be open with will change your life. The first thing I did when I realized I was compartmentalizing grief and disappointment after my miscarriage was make an appointment with a therapist that I liked and trusted. Just having a non-biased, well-educated outlet to meet with reminded me of who I was and gave me additional tools in my mental toolbox to process what I was feeling (or not feeling) in a healthy way. Stress effects our bodies in profound ways and can absolutely effect your ability to conceive. So first things first… take care of your psyche. Your mental health deserves check-ins just as much as your physical health. Keep yourself grounded, fine- tuned and resilient by building out strategies and mechanisms to weather whatever life throws your way. Conception, pregnancy and especially parenthood are the ultimate lessons in lack of control. The moment I let go of my need for control over getting pregnant, I no longer felt the need to hold onto any particular outcome. This has made a world of difference for me.

Know Thy Cycle

First things first- know your cycle. There are many different phases of a woman’s cycle. Days 1-5 are your menstrual phase (the day your period starts onward). Days 5-14 are your follicular phase (the egg is preparing for ovulation). Around day 14 is usually the day you’ll ovulate (get busy on the 4-5 days leading up to the day you ovulate). Days 14-28 are the luteal phase (you’re producing progesterone in the hopes of that fertilized egg making it’s journey from your ovaries and implanting in the lining of your uterus). Do your research! These time frames are different for everyone so it helps to order a kit off of Amazon ($20) that tracks your ovulation. I was using the Daysy thermometer as a birth control method prior to trying to get pregnant and once I wanted to use it to track my fertility it ended up being a waste of money. I’d recommend the manual testing strips and I wish I had listened to my girlfriends sooner!


Prenatal Acupuncture

After my miscarriage my cycle was all over the place. We’re talking no period one month, then random periods through out the next few only to not have a period again. My body was all out of sorts and I felt a total lack of control or ownership over my body. It was sad and disappointing (and was definitely something I talked through with my therapist). I am someone who takes great pride in the ceremony and ritual of my monthly period. For me it represents a connection to myself as well as the women who came before me. It’s something that I really value and honor and if it’s off it’s usually a sign that something is wrong. I needed to feel like I was being proactive in taking care of myself so I did some research and made an appointment for prenatal/fertility acupuncture to get my cycle back on track. I’m a big fan of naturopathic medicine and my naturopath/acupuncturist identified that my liver qi and blood stasis were off (super interesting if you want to google it!) Acupuncture has helped immensely in getting me re-balanced.

Acupuncture helps improve women’s fertility in the following ways:

  • Improves blood flow to the uterus and ovaries increasing both ovarian sensitivity to gonadotropins and the uterine lining for implantation (I really recommend taking the time to research and understand your cycle and the different follicular, luteal and ovulatory phases).

  • Regulates hormonal imbalances and FSH levels

  • Regulates menstrual cycle and ovulation

  • Improves quality of lining of your uterus

  • Increases libido

  • Improves the functioning of the ovaries to increase the number and health of the eggs

  • Assists in implantation

  • Helps prevent miscarriage and lowers ectopic pregnancy rates

  • Decreases stress in inducing parasympathetic nervous system dominance

I’ve been going to acupuncture 2 times a week for the past 2 months and it’s made an immense difference in getting me back on track and feeling at peace. I go in and consult with my naturopath on my cycle and what i’ve been feeling lately, she places acupuncture needles in different places on my body based on where i’m at in my cycle and I pass out for about 45 minutes of blissful relaxation. My naturopath also prescribes me herbal tinctures to help clear my body of any blockages.


Castor Oil Pack

Inflammation is a major cause in most bodily disfunction. Castor oil packs are an amazing way to cleanse your lymphatic system and get your body back on track. Castor oil packs can be used for:

  • Liver cleansing

  • Reproductive issues (Women trying to conceive should use these days 5-14 of your cycle or until ovulation-do not use on your period or if you think you’re pregnant-so knowing and tracking your cycle is incredibly important!)

  • Inflammation, pain and or infection

  • Chest colds

  • Breast infection or plugged milk ducts

  • Arthritis

  • Prostate problems


You can buy these as packs online or head to your local PCC or whole foods and buy a wool cloth and a bottle of castor oil. Soak the cloth fully in the castor oil and then apply to your belly with a warm bottle (I use one of those old fashioned hot water bottles for cramps), throw a blanket or towel over (castor oil will stain your sheets or couch) and relax for 35-45 minutes! Let your lymphatic system cleanse itself and give your self a little TLC and relaxation. Store the soaked cloth in the fridge and you can use it up to 30 times!

Diet

What we put into our bodies matters so much! The best way to take care of yourself when trying to conceive is to be mindful of cultivating a healthy and balanced diet. This includes supporting your gut biome! A great fertility diet includes:

  • Alkaline rather than acidic foods. The bulk of your diet should be from organic plant sources. Alkaline food such as non-citrus fruits, vegetables, sprouts, cereal grasses help to provide the reproductive system with the right pH for conception and implantation.

  • Get plenty of essential fatty acids. The essential fatty acids linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid are key for ovulation. Good sources of essential fatty acids are fish, fish oil, flaxseed, and pumpkin oils. You can eat eggs, soy products, raw nuts, dark green and winter veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, kale etc.

  • Eat organic foods and hormone free meats whenever you’re able (I am a vegetarian and cut out meat all together). Simply put, you’re eliminating pesticides, hormones and chemicals used to treat produce and animal products. A lot of these chemicals contain synthetic estrogen- like substances which occupy estrogen receptors and have negative effects on your organ and endocrine systems. (Not everyone has the resources to eat organically so i’ve included a list below on foods you can pick and choose from- Farmers markets also have notoriously cheap organic produce!)

  • Add more cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower to your diet. Cruciferous veggies contain di-indolymethane (DIM), a compound that stimulates more efficient use of estrogen by increasing a form of estrogen produced in the body.

  • Supplement your diet with a natural, high-potency multivitamin and mineral.

Dads hoping to conceive can eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin c, eat more zinc and increase their intake of calcium and vitamin D.

I’m nowhere near perfect but try my best to eat a balanced and healthy diet that follows the above principles. A big diet change for me is trying to cut back drastically on my alcohol consumption. I’m someone who is working on a balance of an all or nothing mentality when it comes to alcohol. I still find myself either not drinking at all, or going hard with my friends and ending up feeling hungover and shitty the next day. I feel intuitively that drinking has really hindered my ability to get pregnant so i’m working to find that balance. I also added in some red raspberry tea into my weekly regimen! Red raspberry tea is a great way to strengthen the lining of your uterine wall. Highly recommended!

Womb/Abdominal Massage

I went into my naturopath (info below) and scheduled a womb massage but this is absolutely something that you can do at home! Womb massage increases healthy blood flow to your uterus, ovaries and entire reproductive system. Womb massage helps to:

  • Improve fertility by increasing circulation to the uterus and ovaries

  • Bring nutrients and blood flow to improve quality of developing eggs

  • Help clear scar tissue or blockages that may be affecting the fallopian tubes

  • Ease digestive discomfort and relax the stomach

  • Help relieve cramping during menses

  • Support detoxification through the liver for more balances hormones

  • Increase nutrient absorption through the small intestine

  • Support elimination through the large intestine

Womb massage helps to break up any adhesions in the pelvis that may contribute to infertility and helps to position the uterus in the optimal way to support conception. Womb massage was such a great way for me to relax and unwind. It’s something you can do with your partner as well with some essential oils for some quality time together (comme c'est romantique!)

Exercise

I’ve always been fairly active and enjoy to exercise but I tend to fall into patterns of going really hard for a few weeks and then falling out of routine. In my attempt to honor myself and get back on track I made a commitment to do some sort of physical activity for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week whether that’s biking on our stationary bike in the basement (garage sale find, holla!), going to yoga, going for a run or doing some at-home exercises. You’re “supposed to” work out moderately but I believe that listening to your body and intuition always takes precedent over what you’re told you need to do. When you feel like taking a rest, rest but sticking to more of a schedule has helped me to feel healthy and to break a sweat most days of the week. Exercise through out your pregnancy can also really help during labor and delivery. Increasing your stamina as well as strengthening your abdomen and pelvic floor can be game changing!

Talk to your partner

I’ll keep it real. About a month ago I had to have a come to Jesus conversation with my husband. He was so sweet and well meaning and every time we were babysitting or hanging out with our friend’s babies he would say something like “I want to have a 7 month old baby” and give me these sweet puppy dog eyes. It wasn’t intentional, but this made me feel a lot of pressure. Eventually I sat him down and told him that just as I wasn’t solely responsible for ensuring we didn’t get pregnant before we were ready, it’s not my responsibility to get us pregnant now. I told him if he wanted to have a baby he needed to educate himself on how that happens, because as you’ve read above, there are way more logistics than you initially think of when it comes to conception. I told him to do his research and take responsibility over the process. After our conversation, I didn’t feel the need to provide something for my husband or that I had something to prove to him, myself or our community and instead felt like we were partners in this journey together. Suddenly getting pregnant moved away from being stressful and the process of getting pregnant became fun again ;)

The funny thing is, when I first found out that I was pregnant I was instantly all about my health and wellness. I threw away all the chemical products in my home, threw out my acne face wash, hell I was about to toss out the microwave. After my miscarriage I realized how misguided I was. Why wasn’t I willing or interested in making these changes when it was just me? Was I not worth of prioritizing my health? The most beautiful part of this journey has been shifting away from the end goal being pregnancy, and shifting toward the realization that I’m worth this investment regardless. I’m just now feeling like I’m truly back on track mentally, physically and emotionally and when the time is right, I feel ready to officially start trying again.

Our conception journey is just beginning but I hope to share some of my learnings over the past few months in the hopes that if you’re navigating the same process you won’t feel so alone. Some of the above may or may not be the right approach for you so please take or leave whatever feels right!

Remember that what will be, will be and that you’re not alone along the way <3



Resources

Millennial

I laid in bed last night and caught myself googling “how to not be depressed as a millennial ”. The first link that populated was an article that stated that millennials (ages 22-37) have anxiety at nearly double the rate of baby boomers. That at least 30 percent of working millennials are classified with general anxiety disorder and 61 percent of college students experience it “frequently”.

I began to wonder who they’re polling and how many of that sample size were actually being honest. Because a multitude of my close personal friends experience chronic depression and every single person I know within my age bracket, no matter how secure or “together” they seem is battling a looming uncertainty about the future. Tales as old as time such as a tough job market, student and credit card debt, ambition addiction and career crisis. Unprecedented challenges involving constantly changing, toxic political and economic climates. Not to mention the literal climate and its effect on our planet as we know it.

To make it all worse we can read about it from 1000 contradictory sources while subconsciously comparing ourselves to everyone we know (and every celebrity and super model that we don’t). Every study and resource on how to help is different and equally as contradictory.

We’re shamed for not helping. We’re shamed for hopping on a bandwagon and co-opting a cause that belongs to someone else’s identity, some other well rounded, well educated and eloquently spoken individual whose level of expertise and level of “woke” you may likely never reach.

You need to be perfect: smart but not stand offish. Attractive but not conceited. Wealthy and highly successful but down the earth. You must be ambitious and innovative (30 under 30, are you familiar?) but don’t forget to be sacrificial and family oriented. You must be truly unique and individual but adaptable and universally likable. Build community but don’t care what anyone thinks. Relax but don’t drink too much or watch too much tv or escape into your phone…

I don’t know about you but some days I am fucking exhausted.

Some moments I’m more tired than I’m resilient. More irritable than kind. More anxious than perfect.

And some days that’s okay.

Miscarriage

On February 10th 2019 I found out that I was pregnant. On February 17th 2019 I lost my baby.

Finding out that I was pregnant was a whirlwind surprise. Although my husband and I had been together for years previously, and had consciously removed barriers to conception, we were recently married and were not expecting to conceive so quickly.

Although it was short lived- I really loved being pregnant. I felt like a goddess. I felt apart of an ancient club of women who had come before me. I was instantly at peace and had a deep intuitive sense that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I’ve always been a “mother” through various roles and dynamics in my life, and am most at peace when I’m caring for people, plants and animals, so the natural progression into an identity as a pregnant woman felt like an incredibly beautiful and sacred next phase of my life. I felt excited and prepared.

As a birth doula I spend a lot of time thinking about womxn and babies. I spend hours and hours in trainings, watching prenatal and postpartum videos, reading books on pregnancy and solidifying a well-rounded arsenal of expertise so that I can best support my clients down whatever route their pregnancy and their newfound parenthood take them. I spend a lot of time with pregnant families and try to always make myself available to friends who are trying to conceive or who are navigating their own experience with pregnancy, childbirth or caring for a newborn. As a professional I’m an unwavering pillar of support and factual knowledge. I know that miscarriage happens in at least 1 in 4 pregnancies (likely more). I know that many womxn struggle or take a while to conceive. I know that these are not indicators of your ability to see a healthy pregnancy to term in the future. None of this matters when it’s you.

Miscarriage hurt. And I don’t just mean mentally or spiritually. It physically hurt. Heavy blood loss, cramps and “contractions” that I had never experienced previously along with hours of tests; prodding, poking and probing in the E.R. just to find out that what you thought was right and real is no longer your current reality. After our ordeal I was exhausted and eager to move on. I was pregnant for 5 weeks and thought that it couldn’t be that big of a deal for me emotionally given it was such a short period of time. My husband was kind, loving and gracious and I assured him it wasn’t a big deal. I compartmentalized my emotions and packed them away into a perfectly packaged little space in my mind, tied a bow around it and wrote a quaint little instagram post that received likes and affirmations of support. I decided that anger, resentment and sadness simply weren’t my M.O., I “moved on” with my life and that was that.

For the past few months since my pregnancy loss my body and cycle have been all over the place. No period for months, a few that were super late and then eventually when I think it’s all starting to re-regulate and return to the same general schedule, the next cycle is just as unpredictable. With regulation I thought- this is it! I got pregnant so quickly the first time, I’m sure it will easily happen again! And although it hasn’t been long, with every month that passes, the emotions, self-judgements and fear of failure and the unknown re-emerge.

Both miscarriage and the journey to conceive have been isolating. The majority of my close female-identifying friends are not in a period of their lives where pregnancy is on their radar. Despite their endless love and support, they can’t relate to my experience and it doesn’t always feel like the most comfortable topic of conversation. The other portion of my friends are currently pregnant or have recently given birth and are navigating their own challenging and beautiful next phase, unknowingly simplifying my feelings with kind, and well meaning advice like “it will happen when you relax”, “let go of control” or “my pregnancy happened exactly when it was supposed to”. These are all true and beautiful concepts (and are the same advice I would give to any friend going through the same experience) but they don’t make me feel better.

Talking about the sadness and anger from my miscarriage makes me feel vulnerable and weak. I worry about boring my friends or making them uncomfortable, but the more I hold it in, the more alone and frustrated I feel. The longer I stress about it and hold onto my emotions, the harder it is for my body to navigate a new pregnancy. The reality is- it’s no one’s job to “make it better”. This work is mine and although pregnancy loss is universal, my journey toward healing is mine and mine alone.

So what to do? I only recently admitted to myself that this experience is still heavy on my heart, and with that realization comes a renewed commitment to honoring myself and what I need.

It’s time to slow down and rest, sleep, eat well, go for long walks with the people I love most and ultimately take care of my mind and my body. It’s time to make an appointment with my favorite therapist so that I can continue to add the necessary tools to my toolbox of mental health and process my emotions and experience in a proactive, safe and healthy way. It’s time to confide in and lean on my community who hold me up to the light and who love me dearly.

It’s time to give myself a break, because perfection is overrated and the journey has just begun.

Wish me luck <3

Ownership

I recently read a quote by Jim Rohn that said “the greatest gift you can give to somebody is your own personal development. I used to say, ‘if you will take care of me, I will take care of you.’ Now I say, ‘I will take care of me for you if you will take care of you for me”. The older I get- and the more finite my energy becomes- the more this statement resonates.

My best friend told me the other day that I seem to be more focused on self than ever before. That I’ve always been an advocate for the underdog- quick to express a righteous opinion- and the first on the scene as an ally for anyone in need. The more that time passes and my experiences compound on one another, the more I’ve come to see things in less black and white binaries. The more compassionate I’ve become toward the human condition and our inherent fallibility. I still consider myself an ally, but more deeply understand that life is hard and navigating it without bumps and bruises is even harder. Judgement doesn’t help.

Professionally I tend to spread myself thin. I get bored easily and enjoy jumping around from one project and idea to another, almost always finishing, but rarely producing a truly and fully realized product. Moving onto the next sexy idea instead of iterating and improving on the last. I would always be the first person to suggest a new and (what I believed to be) innovative idea or solution and would be mystified when everyone didn’t immediately jump on board with what was sometimes an overbearing leadership strategy. Exhibiting an unwillingness to see the project through for myself first, leading by example and providing tangible data to support my ideas.

Lately I’ve been focusing on finding my True North. Slowing down in order to speed up. Staying quiet and looking inward in order to focus and ground myself in what is true, meaningful and fulfilling to me in the hopes that I can better show up for others when called. Taking a step back and rooting myself in humility while attempting to remove as much ego from the equation as my 27 year old self will allow. I’m seeking to understand as much as I’m able and forgiving myself for the ways that I’m not quite there yet. I can’t take care of or fix everyone- but I can certainly care for myself.

So if you need me- i’ll be here- cleaning up my side of the street.







Manifestation

Manifestation.

4 years ago I was going through a multitude of changes. I had graduated from college, left the comfortable nest of Bellingham and moved back home to Seattle. I was in an unhappy, long-term relationship that although loving, well intentioned, and comfortable was both limiting, stifling, and ultimately regressive for both partners. I was in a job with a recruitment agency that was wearing away at my soul; entirely money motivated, systemically sexist, racist, and capitalistic- run by rich white men in the south with a "trickle down" ideology that hinged upon taking advantage of those who needed a job, and bargaining down contractors into less than they were worth in order to yield a higher profit margin for myself and the company I represented. I was gaining weight (not in and of itself a bad thing) but my skin was consistently breaking out and when paired with eating poorly and a lack of exercise or self-care the stress on my mind and body was wearing me thin.

I had spent the previous 4 years since high school in a whirlwind of chaos. At 16 my grandmother had passed away and my mother, without my grandmother as her life-long equilibrium, had slipped into an extreme and long lasting bi-polar episode, paired with manic highs and cripplingly depressive lows. Self medication through severe drug use and chaotic thought processes led our relationship to fits of violence, the loss of our home, the loss of our business and ultimately, our stability.  I only knew the unknown and despite my desire for stability I began to learn how to THRIVE within that chaos. I ran non-stop, working 4 jobs at a time (often half-assed but in a desperate attempt to make ends meet) while trying to maintain fun and healthy relationships, a full college course load, and keeping my family alive and above water. In many ways my life was a whirlpool. I'd enter into the fray and try to stay as grounded in myself, my relationships, my goals, and my values as possible and pray that i'd be thrown out the other end in one piece.

I prayed that I'd be better for it. 

By the time I found myself back home- I wasn't entirely sure what the word "home" even meant anymore and the lifestyle I'd carved out for myself was simply no longer sustainable.

What do you do when the coping mechanisms of the past no longer serve you? It was time for some re-evaluation of what was keeping me sustained. I initially fell into and found my solace in a bi-weekly hot yoga practice. My roommates and I had moved into a condo near Green lake and I would walk the length of the lake to the studio, clear my mind in a meditative 100 degree practice (a practice that at the time was clumsy and shaky at best), and with a renewed perspective and newfound humility, I would walk home- utilizing the time to reflect on all of the stagnant shit that had resurfaced during the previous hour. I left my long-term, "marriage-destined" relationship which in and of itself turned out to be a terrifying yet incredible catharsis. I sat down and unashamedly wrote down every wish and hope I had for a future partner- from personality, to passion, to appearance. I spent hours thinking deeply about what career I needed to be sustained. What relationships I needed to remain fulfilled. The person I needed to challenge myself to be. The grace I needed to allow myself in order to reach these goals.  I wrote this all down on a slip of paper and tucked it away in a safe space- allowing my hopes and dreams to manifest and reveal themselves when the time was right. In my mind I was going to and wanted to be single for YEARS (funny how you attract what you want as soon as you no longer NEED it to complete who you are in the present). I began eating better and investing in my health and wellness holistically and consistently rather than intermittently and with shame and anxiety. 

I saved what little money I could and then quit my job without having any backup plan- something that I thought I would NEVER do. I resolved that I would literally rather mow lawns than continue to sell my soul for a company that I didn't believe in. I trusted that I'd always been a hustler. I trusted that I would find a way to make money-- and just like that, I took another leap of faith.

Before I knew it I was no longer a victim to the whirlpool of my life, but an individual standing at the epicenter of my own existence- picking and choosing the people, places, and things that would serve me out of the fray, and letting the rest fly away. Those years felt like a centrifuge, forcefully separating the positive at play in my life from the nuanced negativity that I was inadvertently attracting.

In the end the resilient manifestation that surfaced was the simple notion of feeling the fear, and doing it anyway. Knowing and investing in yourself enough to trust that you can face fear and the unknown head on- and prioritizing your mental and physical well being above. all. else. and that the rest would manifest itself in due time.

In the words of Rich Roll "motivation is temporal, it's temporary. it's not a sustainable source of energy. What you need is purpose. Purpose is harder, purpose requires that internal journey- that deep profound level of connection with self to understand what makes you tick, such that the external manifestation of your life is the journey of pursuing that. And that's hard."

 

Value

I've found myself, through my teens and early twenties, faltering back and forth between self-consciousness and unapologetic confidence in certain personal relationships. Do you like me? Am I annoying? Have I said the wrong thing? Am I understood? Is my social media presence too much?

Simply put, it's exhausting. 

There are so many people in my life who are and have always been loving, kind, and incredibly supportive. These people are solid, self-assured, and want to see nothing more than my (and their own) happiness, success, and fulfillment. They show up to events and show love when I put myself out there and try something new. These people know that I'm flawed but well intentioned and give me constructive, non-judgmental, and honest feedback when they feel I've fallen off track or overstepped my boundaries. These people know that these aspects of our relationship go both ways. That I love them, appreciate them, will show up for them when they call for me, and show up for them when they don't.

Despite these relationships, I've found myself investing in and seeking the approval of people with whom I don't always know where I stand. Sometimes they're warm, sometimes their cold- sometimes I feel like I have a hold on our relationship, sometimes I have no idea. Their approval and investment is so clearly conditional. And I find myself asking... why do I care?

I think a big part of my personal journey has been maturing enough to realize that not everything is always personal, and that the overwhelming majority of the time it's simply not. That although it feels good to feel appreciated, you're not always going to be seen for who you truly are by everyone you meet. This is such a cliched notion and one that's so easily brushed aside. But when it finally sets in... phew! The freedom is unreal. 

If someone tells you that their relationship with you is forced. Let them go. If you always feel like you're swimming upstream, utilizing and investing your energy in convincing someone that you're worthwhile, let them go. Let them go with love, and live your life with the freedom of knowing that you are all that is needed and moreInvest in the people who see you for who you are, the relationships that lift you up, and for those that don't, my love, you gotta let them go.

Can I get an amen?

Grief

Grief.

What a beautiful and unpredictable bitch. You think it's been put to rest and then years later you find yourself silently crying on the bus on your way to work. Logically, everything in your life is fine- wonderful even. You feel good, healthy and happy- and yet you're overcome. An interaction overseen on the sidewalk, the way the light filters through the trees on the first day of spring, or my personal favorite- the smell of a stranger's cologne. And just like that, like a ton of bricks, you're back to that place; tears streaming down your face, a longing that's laid dormant in your heart, bringing you back for the first time in days, months, years- maybe a decade. 

In my experience, grief is something that never really leaves us. Like the memories of those we've lost it stays in our heart, making a home in the subconscious, reminding us of the complicated nature of love, and life, and the things that we've "lost". The beautiful complex mixture of what makes life worth living- the inevitability of the inverse. 

Like many people, I've lost, and gained a great deal in my young life. My father, my grand parents, in some ways my mother, and most profoundly my home. My relationships have evolved and changed through out the years. Lovers have been gained and lost. Relationships have had to die only to be reborn with a new sense of healing. 

I remember being 17 years old. My father had passed away when I was 11 and my dearest friend, my Grandma Jane had just closed her eyes for the final time. Her body had been so frail and I had spent our last moments together wetting her lips with a hospital sponge, whispering all the things I wanted to tell her in her ear as she drifted in and out of consciousness. I used to lay in my bed as my world was spinning out of control and I would envision all of her love and wisdom, all of her strength, and that of my father- being passed over to me. Filling me up with an all encompassing energy, everything I needed to move up, and move on and be anything- everything- that I wanted to be. I would envision a protective golden blanket being drawn up from my toes to the crown of my head, woven together with the love of my ancestors; protecting me from anything that life would throw my way.  

And I was no longer afraid.

Grief. 
It can be both debilitating and empowering, cumbersome and cathartic, and oh how it changes over the years. Growing and breathing with you the more time passes. Grief has been my greatest gift. Through fear of loss, through suffering i've been granted the gift of living my life without fear, and I'm now able to feel- really FEEL- the pain of the world, without it defining the lens with which I filter that world. Channeling it into good. Taking care of others. Seeing the world as so much bigger than myself and SO much bigger than the fleeting moments of pain. Grief has allowed me to be human. 

 

And that is the most beautiful gift of all. 

Limitations

Other people's limitations are not your own. Isn't that a beautiful truth? I can't tell you how many times in my life, whether personally or professionally, by a friend or manager, that i've been told that I can't do something. That it's not within my bandwidth. That it's outside of my scope. That I'm too young. Too inexperienced. Too... something. 
 

The reality is that people set expectations for others based on what they believe they can or can't accomplish themselves. They set parameters for themselves based on an ingrained and nurtured fear of inadequacy.  We allow jealousy to cloud what we believe others are capable of. "It took me 4 years to get that promotion, there's no WAY that you could do it in less time". The fact of the matter is- you are a different person with a unique set of skills and a perspective that is entirely your own. You are an individual who is a complicated mix of biology, psychology, and sociology, whose environment and experience have shaped you into the person that you are NOW. You network differently. You approach problems with a varied perspective. You've lived through both beauty and horror in a way that no one else has before you. And you've made it through.

Today is a different day than yesterday, and you are a different person than the person who tried before you.

As well intentioned as they may be, if you allow other people's limitations and expectations to cloud your sense of self and shadow what you believe you're capable of- you will forever remain in a state of limbo. Unsatisfied and un-satiated by your relationships and life's experiences.

Other people's fear, self-doubt, and internal struggles are not yours to take on. Other people's limitations are not your own and just because something was done one way last year, doesn't mean that you need to approach the problem with the same perspective today. 

Consistency

My Gramma Jane used to tell me that the only thing you can count on in life is change. It's the way you react to that change that ultimately defines who you are. 

The older I get and the more I grow professionally, the more aware I have become of the importance of consistency. Consistency in friendships, consistency in working relationships, consistency in community, consistency with yourself.  

There's nothing more valuable than the trust that someone will show up when they say they will. That they will get things done right the first time and will treat you with respect and kindness regardless of the changes and pain that life inevitably throws their way. The consistent trust that they will apologize and take accountability when the expectations above are undershot. I've learned this by falling short one too many times.

Consistency, like balance, is a funny thing. How do you show up for everyone in your life, show up for your work responsibilities, your social responsibilities, your community- and still care for yourself? Care for yourself in the way that will continue to fill your cup enough for it to overflow into the aforementioned pools and pillars of your life?

When is consistency key and when is it burn out? When is self-care consistent and when does it border on self-indulgence? How do you care for yourself and find the strength to care for the rest of the world? How do you provide for and compromise with those around you, while still maintaining an unwavering sense of self?

This seems to be an age old conundrum (all the more relevant in the current American political climate) and I'd be lying if I claimed to have all the answers. As of now my belief lies in the idea of consistency through faith and prioritization. The idea that with change, comes growth. First you prioritize yourself, holding yourself accountable in the trust that the rest, with action, intention, and good communication, will fall into place. You maintain faith in your instincts, your endless capability to perform and the distinct feeling when you lay your head down at night that the Universe has got your back.

Saying yes to what you can, setting boundaries around saying no when you've taken on on too much, and trusting that the rest will fall into place.