Love Me Like This

What is your radical act for today?

Today I woke up and knew I needed a better day than yesterday. 

Yesterday was not a good day. 

Yesterday was a day of going on a walk to yell at the universe.

Yesterday was a day of rummaging through the pantry to figure out a meal at the last minute rather than putting together a meal plan and going to the grocery store with two kids and being creative. 

Creativity wasn’t going to fly yesterday.

And then today I woke up and my pants didn’t fit. And my shoulders hurt. And my right pinky is sore again. And my right hip is tight from where my daughter sleeps. And my scars were bright red again, which hasn’t been the case for years. 

Sometimes I need the reminder to live into my body as it is. Whatever it is doing at the moment. It does work. I need to thank it for the work it does. 

My imperfect feet

Sometimes my body is asking to be loved as it is. Just like this. She whispers gently, as if she isn’t sure she’s allowed to ask for things for herself. “Just like this, please. For now. Before we begin the checklist. Start with love.”

And then, sometimes my mind is lying to me, telling me that I am unable to do anything. Telling me that the world is beyond salvation. The family is too much to handle. The house will never be good enough to live in. 

The time is too thin for any… time… to breathe… 

Caring for my self begins with loving my gentle edges and soft curves as they are. But sometimes, I need a glass of water and a sandwich. Or an orgasm or a hug. Sometime she cries out because I have forgotten to care for what she needs: the yoga, the water, the protein, the fruit, the caffeine, the sleep, and the movement that keep my emotions stable enough for me to be able to love those who live with me. 

The poem isn’t saying those things aren’t good. They are good, but they are not an end to themselves. 

Loving my body as she is, like this, is an end unto itself. But it’s not all I need. I want more than what the gentle animal of my body wants. I need more. To feel my body do all that she is capable of. I need more. 

 

This piece is a response to “Today I asked my body what she needed” by Hollie Holden. I ran across this a while ago and my writing partner, Heather, shared it with me again as our prompt. I love how someone else’s words can spark and influence my ideas and creativity. I find it valuable to hear what someone else needs and to consider my own needs. Reading poems like this gives me permission to need things for myself. Not that I don’t think I need things for myself, but often I feel guilty for needing things for myself. I am reticent to allow myself the space to dream big. 

It’s better to not feel guilty when I dream. It’s better to let go of the “should”s and limits when I set down to dream of what I need to give myself. And it is better to see where I need to give myself permission to do the things that are healthy when I can let go of artificial restraints. 

Sometimes all I can give myself is the ability to ask for what I need from someone else. But that is so terribly huge. It is not something I have been able to do very well. I’ve had to learn how. 

And now I’ve learned how to ask in a way that healthy both for me as I ask and for those from whom I need help. It’s a give and take, of course. A partnership. And it is still in flux. I don’t have it all perfect. But I don’t need perfection. I simply need something I can live with. We cooperate together to create a life worth living. It’s worth the work. 

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Growing in Change

We change. We grow. We collect scars. We mature. We make mistakes. We learn. We carry wounds. We heal. We build relationships. We burn bridges. We hurt. We ignore. We decay. We develop.

We change.

I believe everyone changes. I don’t believe that the change is necessarily healthy or good, but all of us change. We can change into people who become more and more caustic and hateful, or we can choose to be people that grow towards health and wisdom.

I believe people can change because I can see the change in myself and the people around me.

I have grown wiser, more cautious, more outgoing, and occasionally more judgmental. I have become a better parent, wife, and pastor. I’ve developed my patience. I’ve learned to center myself in something besides myself.

I’ve seen my relationship with my husband, John, change over the past eight years we’ve been together. We’re still learning how to communicate with each other. I’d have thought I would have gotten more of it down by now. Apparently we keep changing and learning about ourselves, and keep bringing more to the relationship than we are aware of. This has been helpful to learn and challenging to navigate.

I’ve especially seen my daughter change. It’s easier to see: she adds a new word to her vocabulary each day. Her change is in greater increments. But when she reaches kindergarten, puberty, high school, college, or adulthood, she won’t stop changing. I’ll keep having to get to know her as we each keep changing.

I’ve even been able to tell that the daughter I am carrying is changing. Her kicks are getting stronger. She moves within me and listens to me sing. She grows.

I had a terrible migraine this past week thanks to Hurricane Irma that lasted four days. I cannot remember the last time I had a four day migraine. It was before I started trying to conceive our first child. The bonus is that I cannot take the usual medication I take to handle my migraines. I had tylenol and the ability to relax my body. After three days I got a rescue dose that knocked me to sleep and kept me out of the emergency room. When I am in the midst of a migraine that long, I have a hard time believing that I will never not have a migraine. I know, logically, that this is not the truth, but I feel like I will hurt and be exhausted forever.

What amazes me is that I lived through a season of migraines like this for a year and a half. I survived them hitting me in waves every single week.

What astonishes me is that it has been over three years since that season. I’ve gotten twice as far past that time than the time I spent in the midst of it. I’m far healthier now. I know my body better. I am more resilient. I enter centering prayer more easily. I am more able to relax my body through the pain, so that it doesn’t hurt as much.

As I spent hours upon hours mindfully relaxing my shoulders, jaw, hips, and neck, I realized I was receiving a small gift in the midst of the pain. Relaxing through an unmedicated migraine is not unlike relaxing through natural childbirth. The technique I use for coping with the pain of migraines is the same that I used for my first birth.

However, the pain itself is different. The experience and purpose of it are radically diametric. Migraines hurt because they hurt. Birth works the body in order to deliver a child.

Birth ushers in a radical change. The labor of childbearing, though intense, is productive.

Change in our lives will hurt. It either hurts because it is producing something new, or because we are caught in a cycle of trying to stay the same while change happens around us. I often get a migraine when a major weather system blows past. My body struggles to catch up to the change in the pressure around it. The weather eventually changes, and I eventually stabilize. But I am changed.

Every day, I change.

Building Family

In about a month, my family is going to go through some significant changes. We are moving to a new place, both my husband and I are getting new jobs, and we are welcoming a baby into our lives. Any one of these things would not be a small thing. Together, they are going to be huge. We are grateful that we are allowed time and space to live into the new identity of parents before we both jump into our new ministries feet first. Not many folks who have so many life changes at once have the kind of support that we have. I am amazed at the number of women and men who have to choose between keeping a job and spending the first few weeks of a newborns life caring for the child. I’m glad the United Methodist church has provisions for leave for new parents. It’s probably not enough, but is much more than what most workers in the States have access to.

Not only are our new churches providing space for grace for us in our transition, our own families are anticipating the new changes and providing good help to us. My parents have come to help pack our house, my in-laws are helping to make sure we have everything we need, and my sister is helping to make sure we all get to the house in one piece (and that I eat like I should). And there will be much more good help from them once our daughter makes her appearance as well.

I really don’t know what I would do without them. We would manage, of course. But my husband and I would be under a considerably larger amount of stress, probably take it out on each other, and our relationship would suffer. That’s why we need support. Because we rely on our relationships with others to build and maintain our own relationship. We are stronger when we work together. We are healthier when we allow others to participate in our lives, choosing not to do things all on our own. And in the midst of it, we have folks who can call us out on our mistakes, our quirks, and our shortsightedness.

I wouldn’t trade my family for any other. We are far from perfect. We have our failings and blind spots and times when we don’t get along. But when it really counts, when I desperately need someone to come and help me, that’s when our love shines through the brightest. We work together to build each other up. We become a new creation in the process.