A Lesson Learned From Walking In The Rain

I walked to the gym tonight to do some yoga. It’s about .5 mile each way.

I’d been in a funk and I needed to breathe. I realized once I got there that I only had about 20 minutes because of a cardio class that was coming in. That frustrated me but I carried on with my practice, feeling rushed. Not quite what I had imagined.

While I was there, though, a giant rainstorm rolled in, quickly, as they do in Florida. It was so rhythmic and calming that the storm actually brightened my mood. It made me slow down my practice. It made me breathe deeper and longer. It made me more mindful somehow.

There’s just something about a good, evening rainstorm sometimes.

As I finished up my practice, it was raining so hard that I couldn’t walk home. Only, no. It wasn’t that I couldn’t. It was that I didn’t want to. There was no lightening, so, no danger. It was simply that I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. I didn’t want to get wet and soggy and cold and uncomfortable.

So, I sat there. 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes went by.

I started to wonder when the storm would pass. I grew impatient because I was getting hungry. A gentleman sitting next to me, also waiting out the storm, looked at me and said, “I just looked at the radar and this storm isn’t going anywhere. Might as well make peace with it”.

What wise wording. Make peace with it. Make peace with the discomfort, essentially.

His comment sent my brain down a metaphorical highway and got me thinking…

Our species isn’t very good at making peace with discomfort- physical or emotional. We are beings that will do almost anything to avoid discomfort. We’ll pop a pill at the slightest amount of pain. We’ll write off friendships or relationships when things get complicated. We’ll guzzle alcohol at when life gets stressful.

We don’t want to sit with the lesson. We don’t want to learn what’s being taught. We just want to make things easier on ourselves and take the path of least resistance.

A very wise friend once said it so eloquently, though, “Nothing truly goes away before it teaches you what you need to learn”. And she’s so right.

Whether it’s a reoccurring bad dream about someone you’ve wronged, a romantic partner you can’t let go of, a friendship that you can’t seem to reconcile, a job that you know isn’t right for you but you stay…the lesson hasn’t been taught yet. Or more likely, the lesson hasn’t been learned yet. We must listen carefully.

And you have to be willing to be uncomfortable to work through it all.

That storm wasn’t passing tonight. So I took off my flip-flops, yanked up my yoga mat and walked through it.

It was simultaneously exhilarating and fun to walk through the rain. I felt like a kid walking barefoot through puddles. I was wet and soggy and cold when I got home. But the discomfort? It was momentary. It was fleeting. That feeling of freedom and airiness while I was walking in the rain far surpassed my discomfort. I felt really good when I got home. I felt lighter.

I needed that release of walking in the rain. That was my lesson. Right in front of me, yet hidden in my reluctance to be uncomfortable.

But. You just can’t get to the lesson without testing your comfort zone boundaries. Lessons are never easy. They’re never uncomplicated. There doesn’t seem to be much of an education in things that come easy.

It stopped raining five minutes after I got home. That storm wouldn’t pass until it taught me the lesson. I just needed to listen.

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It Takes Balls To Be A Woman.

“It takes balls to be a woman”. I saw this quoted somewhere and it resonated with me.

Sixteen days ago, two months into being 40, I evicted all of my woman parts. Full hysterectomy.

And yeah, I’m going to go ahead and talk about this because there are a lot of emotions tied to it. But I promise it will be empowering if you stick with me. Let’s Trump-style this conversation and grab it by the pussy. Pun intended. (Too soon?)

First, let’s start by stating the obvious as a gentle reminder- women are goddamn warriors. We are given the glory of all of the burdens throughout life: periods, pregnancy, birth, cramps, hormones, cysts, tumors, pap tests, and alas, menopause. I’ve now traded super-plus tampons and pads for hot flashes, bone loss, and (more) mood swings.

From a young age, we have historically been taught that period talk is taboo. It’s embarrassing and it’s gross, apparently. It took me, like, 20 years to stop hiding my tampons under my paper towel purchase at the grocery store. (You know you’re guilty of it.) Women are side-eyed if we’re in a bad mood, immediate accusations of hormones being to blame ensue, and rightfully so because this part of being a woman is fucking hard. And guess what? It’s life for each and every female alive.

Let’s get rid of the stigma and the un-sexiness of having reproductive organs that function. We have them. Sometimes they function in a healthy fashion but many times, they don’t. And it sucks. It actually sucks either way. Sure, we’re so fortunate that our bodies are able to do this. The miracle of life and all of that bullshit. Sure, it’s fucking beautiful and all but for many of us, it’s all hard.

It’s easily dismissed when we say we’re dealing with a lot of female issues. I feel like most don’t know how hard it can be, how debilitating these female issues can be. Fibroid tumors, chronic ovarian cysts, severe anemia, years of terrible bleeding and pain. These were all my female issues and my reasons for needing the hysterectomy. I needed my life back, physically and mentally. I was circling the drain, no exaggeration.

And I’m certainly not alone. Thousands of women need hysterectomies every year for issues far more intense than mine, even. Our bodies take a beating and it’s difficult and certainly under appreciated.

Solidarity, sisters. This is some tough shit to navigate.

All of this and in spite, here we are being head of household tasks, raising children, being cruise directors for the family’s social calendar, and many of us are career women.

I mean, shit. This is a lot. We are fucking warriors.

Self care immediately comes to mind when thinking all of this through.

I realized that, yes, all of these physical issues I was having were out of my control, of course, but what really struck me was that I was excited to have a major surgery…so I could rest. Isn’t that crazy? I was actually looking forward to an invasive, life altering surgery so I could actually self care and self preserve a little.

With or without said female issues, knowing the women in my life and what they do on a day-to-day, self care seems to be a far off fantasy for most. Some sort of unicorn. We just don’t do it because we can’t. We do too much, we take on too much, large in part because we have to but also? Because we don’t say no.  This is why we talk about living off of wine and coffee so much. Our lives are fucking crazy. This isn’t an illusion, this isn’t being weak, this isn’t being selfish. Being a woman is taxing, tiresome, and sometimes downright grueling.

So, here’s my plea: women, take some time. Any time. Make a plan. Hire the babysitter. Utilize the aftercare at school. Drink the third glass of wine with your girlfriends. Call in sick because yes, period cramps really fucking hurt. Explore your hobby. Or go bigger and take the trip. Shit, take the trip by yourself. Even sit down and schedule the time you need to be the best version of you. Stop making excuses. You need it, your kids need it, your relationships need it, your body, spirit and mind need it.

Don’t wish for a surgery to get some rest. Live. Don’t burnout.

Carry on, warriors. Back to your regularly scheduled chaos. Much love to you all for fighting the good fight of womanhood. It certainly does take a huge set of balls.

Parent-Teacher Conference 101

I had Lily’s first ever kindergarten parent-teacher conference this week. To all of my friends that have kids older than Lily, I am side-eyeing the shit out of you right now for not telling me how stressful this is.

I was really nervous, as in, I felt like I was going into a job interview.  It just felt like it was going to be a test of my character, a test of what kind of parent I am, what kind of parents we are, even though we’re not technically we anymore. I felt like it was judgement day, a meeting of first true impressions, a meeting where this teacher would predict Lily’s entire future based on what kind of mom I seem to be. I had this enormous battle in my mind about how this teacher was going to view this split life that my child is now living, since she was already aware of the impending divorce. Does she judge me for this? Does she know that I’m fucking up my kid? I’m assuming we’re all fucking up our kids somehow but surely those who divorce are doomed. All a bit irrational and dramatic, absolutely, but that’s how my monkey mind works.

This teacher, God love her, is a 35 year veteran of the field, which made my irrational fears even more pronounced. I was feeling as though she could smell the fear on me, like an animal would. She is by no means a scary woman. She is a sweet, southern belle from Tennessee with long blond hair that reaches past her butt, wears long flowing skirts, and has the most gentle voice I have ever heard. But knowing she’s been assessing parents’ and dealing with our shit for 35 years, she can certainly smell fear on us. I truly felt as though she could see right through me, knowing that I don’t even like kids, aside from my own. I was prepared for all the judgement… especially when I realized less than 5 minutes into the meeting that Lily’s dad wasn’t going to show up. Oh.My.God. Now we’re that dysfunctional of a family.

As she started diving into the gigantic stack of paperwork she had to go over with me, the anxiety in me shifted from my own insecurities over to the metrics she started slapping in front of me. Computer generated assessments with Lily’s name stamped all over them that truly looked like they were written in Japanese. The teacher was feverishly explaining each piece of paper, what it was assessing, how Lily faired based on “standards”, where Lily needs improvement, what grade level Lily is preforming at for math and reading, what a 1.25 in math meant versus a .78 in reading meant, what they will assess each quarter. I’m pretty sure I stopped listening at one point because this was so overwhelming. The whole dynamic of the meeting began to shift as I slowly began to realize, this teacher does not have time to judge me. All she has time to do is “assess and reassess”, in her own words.

I watched her as she was relaying all of this “necessary” information to me, as she is almost breathless because there was just so much to go through and surely we were in a time crunch because she needed to get to one of the other 17 parents in the class right after me. It started to become clear as day that the only judging she’s doing is on herself because that’s what the government is telling her to do. Assess and reassess. These kids are supposedly just a reflection of her in the state’s eyes. This poor teacher, along with all of the other public school teachers, have a ridiculous amount of stress put on them with all of these assessments and standards.

All of my original questions went by the way-side because honestly, at this point, I just wanted to know why the hell my five-year-old needs to know what a trapezoid is. I do not even know what a trapezoid is, for Christ’s sake. Seriously. Screw wanting to know if my kid is well behaved because I doubt that this lady has one second to truly focus on a student’s behavior, as long as it’s not extreme, because she’s too busy with these damn metrics. We spent approximately 25 minutes discussing assessment results and 5 minutes discussing Lily. That is beyond backwards to me.

So, I did what every obnoxious but well-meaning parent would do: I stopped her mid-whirlwind discussion and said, in the nicest way possible, “Um, what happened to kindergarten?? Isn’t Lily just supposed to learn her ABC’s and 123’s? What IS all of this? They’re FIVE!”. The teacher took a giant deep breath and paused. “Well, I know. I agree. I really dislike what we have to do here. My first kindergarten class in 1978 had nothing more than a kitchen, some books, and a playhouse. None of this”, she explained, as she looked down at the pile of paperwork that was now accumulating in front of me.

Listen, I already had a tremendous respect for teachers before this meeting. This is one job I could honestly never do. First and foremost, I hate kids, but for what teachers get paid compared to what they have to do is nothing short of obscene. Paperwork, grading, lesson plans, puking kids, behavior problems, shitty parents, the list goes on, but then to have these Core Standards, or whatever the hell they’re calling it now, dictate how these teachers are required to teach? It’s complete bullshit.

As a society, we’re all sitting around scratching our head’s wondering why ADD/ADHD is on the rise? Why are mental disorders such as depression and anxiety showing up more often in childhood? Why are our kids getting sick so much more often than in previous generations? Why are teen suicide rates climbing every year? I will tell you something, this academic pressure that begins at the age of five is not helping any of these issues. I will even be so bold to say, in my unscientific opinion, that it is probably one of the most severe contributing factors to all of what I mentioned. How can it not be? No matter how this work is being presented to children, it’s still work. There’s no rest time, very little extracurricular time for things like art, music, and science, there’s no pretend play anymore. It’s mostly work. Hard work for these babies. The work Lily is doing in kindergarten is what I did most likely in first or second grade. Why this pressure? I honestly would like to know why, because let’s face it, America is extremely far behind when it comes to education. We don’t even crack the top 20 in proficiency in math in reading globally so don’t tell me that these government mandates are working.

So, what was my lesson learned in my first parent-teacher conference? Well, first I learned that it wasn’t about me, which was shocking, but more importantly? Our educational system is failing our kids and teachers. Getting back to basics and taking some of the pressure off would benefit everyone. Let’s go back to rest time, playing house, doing more crafts and less homework, talking to our kids about how things work instead of letting computers assess how our kids work, playing puppets instead of looking at active boards. Kids need to be kids. Let’s not force them into the rat race and monkey mind so early.

As for Lily, yes, I learned she’s pretty smart…but I knew that without having an assessment tool. And right now? She’s playing on a playground with her dad, not doing any one of her 20 pages of homework. I wouldn’t have it any other way.