(Upon returning, we had a health scare that necessitated limited contact with anyone outside our family, so I was doubly thankful that we had made the trip when we could.)
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Friday, November 20, 2020
Self care has rubbed me the wrong way since I first noticed it. A search of the hashtag on instagram floods you with over 37 million posts, many of them containing candle-lit baths, women either being outdoorsy and active or conversely, lounging in their pajamas well past noon. Saying no to obligations (something I happen to fully support) and taking their "me time." Working out really hard or expending no energy at all and everything in between. Throwing an ax, buying flowers...there really aren't any activities that escape the possibility of being classified with this hashtag. You're reminded that "It's okay not to be okay" and that "Self care isn't selfish." But if you need a disclaimer like that, chances are that it might be. Trying to figure out why it bugged me, I googled "anti self-care" and also "self-care is bulls**t." I didn't find much, as anyone who is against self-care seems like a real jerk, right? Who could be against you taking care of yourself? Shouldn't we all do that?
As with a lot of popular, favored trends, there doesn't seem to be much of a counter-voice. Some of the "anti" articles I did find were actually in favor of self-care, but against the fact that it has become a 10 million dollar industry, with companies capitalizing on it by selling self-care kits. Or that influencers who are so good at self-care inadvertently make others feel bad about not taking the time for it.
What must others from a different time or place think of this self-care trend, I wondered? For the life of me, I cannot imagine my Mom engaging in self-care, let alone taking the time to post about how she was doing it, vaguely sending the message that you should be too and if you're not, then you're not managing your time right. Or her mother, or her mother before her. Previous generations were so busy and hearty, working sometimes both inside and outside their homes from before the sun went up until long after it set. And they didn't complain about it are act burdened. They just did it.
They worked hard for a better life for their children (and their children's children), so shouldn't I be grateful that I have have the privilege, luxury and ability to engage in these activities and extoll the benefits of them to others? It's not to say that they didn't sit and enjoy a cup of tea, go out with friends or go to bed early sometimes. It just wasn't a movement, a "thing."
I thought of women and mothers in current day who live in other countries and are concerned about feeding their children, obtaining clean water or not having access to medical care. Finally, I was able to put my finger on something about this self-care movement that irks me: Self-care comes from such an immense amount of privilege; so much privilege in fact, that the poster doesn't even recognize they have it (unless they also add the hashtag BLESSED, of course).
But there was more still. For me, it's the acute focus on the self; ourselves, to be specific. Something like this could only be borne from an individualistic society such as America, where myself and my needs and my possessions are placed above the common, greater good of society at large. Self-care is yet another form of individualism.
As one article in The Guardian puts it, "It's lifestyle advice for an age of diminished expectations, where most people have given up on getting to the top and the best they can hope for is to get through the day."
In our current culture, and in my own personal life, we seem to search for things that will fill a need, make us whole and make us complete. We temporarily fill the void with material possessions such as a new car or a larger home; the vacation or the next degree or a promotion but it only satisfies us for a little while. We are always chasing the next goal post but when we get there, it moves. In my own life, I remember thinking that life will "really" begin once I finish my degree, start in my career, get married, have children, buy a home. I have all of that now, and am happier than I have ever been and yet my soul still searches for something.
Could it be self-care that I am lacking? Self-care will fill this void that lingers and whispers to me in-spite of the fact that I love every single part of my life and wouldn't change a darn thing?
No way. I started to realize that perhaps we fill our lives with all of these things and not what matters most: God. The impermanence of this life is the one thing that prevents me from being at peace, and the idea of eternal life is the one thing that takes that away completely, leaving me feeling content and fulfilled. If only I knew that there was a God and knew that there was a Heaven, I would be fully satisfied and contentedly happy. But I don't, and that has been a life-long struggle for me. I admire and yes, even envy, those whose faith is solid. And so, rather than trying to fill my time with things like self-care, I am going to try and pour my free time into reading the word of God. The actual Bible, which embarrassingly I have attempted but never read all the way through. I am going to start with this one, which is in Chronological order (thanks, Drea!).
I'm also going to make an effort to take a break from my steady diet of murder-mystery podcasts and audio books, and throw this one in the mix to read next:
A framework for escaping our culture of trendy narcissism—and embracing God instead.
We're told that the key to happiness is self-love. Instagram influencers, mommy bloggers, self-help gurus, and even Christian teachers promise that if we learn to love ourselves, we'll be successful, secure, and complete. But the promise doesn't deliver. Instead of feeling fulfilled, our pursuit of self-love traps us in an exhausting cycle: as we strive for self-acceptance, we become addicted to self-improvement.
The truth is we can't find satisfaction inside ourselves because we are the problem. We struggle with feelings of inadequacy because we are inadequate. Alone, we are not good enough, smart enough, or beautiful enough. We're not enough--period. And that's okay, because God is.
The answer to our insufficiency and insecurity isn't self-love, but God's love. In Jesus, we're offered a way out of our toxic culture of self-love and into a joyful life of relying on him for wisdom, satisfaction, and purpose. We don't have to wonder what it's all about anymore. This is it.
This book isn't about battling your not-enoughness; it's about embracing it. Allie Beth Stuckey, a Christian, conservative new mom, found herself at the dead end of self-love, and she wants to help you combat the false teachings and self-destructive mindsets that got her there. In this book, she uncovers the myths popularized by our self-obsessed culture, reveals where they manifest in politics and the church, and dismantles them with biblical truth and practical wisdom.
This. This summary hit the nail on the head for me, and gets to the root of what rubs me the wrong way about the #SELFCARE and #SELFLOVE movements. It's not that I don't believe in filling my cup so that I can pour it into others. Doing that should be a given. Taking care of ourselves should be something that we all do. I run daily, don't drink alcohol, try to eat right most days and go to bed early (well, sometimes) so that I am fully present for and to give to, my family.
I'm guess it turns out that I'm not against self-care, after-all. It's that no amount of self-care can fill the void of placing ourselves first instead of God and our families; of not caring for our soul. I'm not against us caring for ourselves. Rather, I am against it as a movement, as something to fill a void and as the answer to happiness. I'm against the idea that self-care is more fulfilling than serving God and our family. Self-care is a means to an end: something that we do daily so that we can do the more meaningful work of being a parent. Maybe those who suggest we have a "relationship" with ourselves are missing the benefit of not being the greatest thing in the universe; of believing in a power higher and greater than ourselves; of not being the center of our universe and of serving others.
As Stuckey explains in one of the first chapters: We are not victims of motherhood rather, it is a gift from God that we are privileged to own. It's not that our husbands shouldn't help watch the kids sometimes, or that we shouldn't get our nails done, she explains, but rather a shift in the viewpoint that we are victims who are burdened and entitled to those breaks. It's a shift in the perspective and our outlook. That we are weighed down with the care of our family rather than privileged be able to do it.
My Mom didn't care for my father and my brother and I out of obligation. Rather, the work of it was meaningful to her and she received more fulfillment and enjoyment out of it than anything else she spent her time doing. And I feel the same. No amount of "me time" is as fulfilling to me as reading to Chas before bed, cuddling and rubbing Aut's back before she falls asleep or exploring the back trail with them each day before sunset.
Do I have all the answers? Am I at peace and happy with the state of the world? Do I believe in Heaven without doubt or fear that it isn't real and that I won't see my Mom again? No. I have farther to travel along the continuum of faith than most, for sure. But I do know that my whole life, I have searched for something that can't be purchased or gleaned from psychology. My whole life - as long as I can remember - this whole not existing thing has not sat well with me, at all. It's not the process of dying that bothers me, it's the what comes next aspect and my inability to accept that this is all there is. I thought studying Psychology would help but receiving a Bachelor's and then also a Master's degree didn't do a thing for the fact that the impermanence of life is unsettling to me.
I believe now, as many Christians do, that God places a desire in our hearts for Him. While our search for Him is often obscured by society's focus on the individual and the material, none of that "stuff" really helps or satisfies us beyond temporarily making us feel good at the moment. I think the #SELFCARE movement is another distractor; another shiny object taking us away from more important and meaningful work: God and family, in that order. God and family are the true keys to happiness. When we invest in these, they are not fleeting or replaced by something bigger and better the following year.
Uncertain about all this like me? Read or listen to Stuckey's book and see if it doesn't move you along the continuum of faith or change your viewpoint, even just a little. If you don't already have audible, I can send you her book for free. Just email me at: Megan 26.2 at gmail dot com. Thank you for reading all this. I don't write this to change anyone's viewpoint or to evangelize. My main motivation for this blog is so that my children can read about their childhood and so that they have some of my thoughts and viewpoints when they are older and I'm not around. If, in doing that, it causes others to reflect and look at things a little differently, that's a bonus.
"As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalms 42:1-2).
Saturday, November 14, 2020
September started off with record high temperatures, well over 100 degrees. It also ended with temperatures back over 100 degrees. We ran the air conditioning like crazy and worked in some beach days to stay cool. I had my annual physical with my primary care physician who recommended intermittent fasting back in December of 2019. I explained that I had hit a plateau and was not loosing any more weight, in spite of the fact that I average 30 miles every week, (running 3 miles every day, and also walking 2 miles every day). She suggested that I start adding in one or two 24 hour fasts in addition to my 16-18 hour daily fasts (which I have been slacking on the past few months). Reading about it, the benefits are far greater than just weight-loss. I won't bore you too much here, and may do a separate posting on it and bore you there instead. But autophagy and cancer-prevention are key. My first 24 hour fast was tough, but it got much much easier as the month progressed. By the end of the month I had lost three pounds, a huge victory for me. The more I loose, the fewer calories I need and so it gets harder and harder to loose the closer I get to my goal. I have to remind myself of this all the days that the scale remains stable (or up a pound) despite my best efforts.
Aut started back at gymnastics, which she loves. She's making friends in the class and making progress.
This month was filled with a impromptu tea parties and picnics at the greenbelt, exploring the tunnel under the road, planting, birthday parties, pumpkin pie and decorating for Halloween!
She continued her horse-back riding lessons and by the end of the month, she was fearlessly trotting!
My husband and I were invited on a three hour tour (duffy boat ride) which we followed with dinner at Ruth's Chris, our first nice meal out since March!
In anticipation of the sixth anniversary of Mom's death in October, I started feeling sorry for myself, once again, for not having her here with us, earth-side. This isn't just an annual event, because I carry a twinge of "she should be here" with me almost daily...but, it is more pronounced at certain times (such as her birthday, my birthday, the kids' birthdays, Easter, Veteran's day, Flag day...you get the idea). It's easy to tell yourself that you should be thankful for the time you did have and appreciate that instead of wistfully imaging how much fuller your life would be with her here. It's much more difficult to actually do that; to live in gratitude instead of in loss and what-ifs.
But during the thick of this, a retired woman/friend/former co-worker named Billie that I hadn't messaged sine June facebooked me:
Another thing we have in common is - I lost my mom at an early age (11 years). She never saw me do any of my stuff: high school, college, marriage, kids. I know it's hard for you not having your mom - but I'm hoping you are doing better with it each year. I have always wondered what 'our' relationship would have been like. You got to have that - you are blessed. Keep on enjoying your great life my dear!
She had no way of knowing how much I needed to be reminded of the fact that while I feel like Mom was taken too soon, there are many who are taken much, much sooner. Do I wish I had more time with my Mom who was also my best friend? Yes. But we always want more time, and I have to focus on what I did have and currently have, because of her. Her love and patience and gentle strength raising me made me who I am today. She came to this country in search of a better life for her and for her children and grandchildren. Although she didn't live to see the full extent of that, my hope is that she does se, and she knows.
Thursday, September 3, 2020
August was ushered in while we were in Oregon. We celebrated Cha's 2nd birthday there, with an impromptu family party out on the dock. He was quite suspicious of the birthday candles but otherwise had a great time.
We returned from Oregon and hit the ground running, work-wise. Both my husband and I are starting with distance learning, as is Au. She has a 30 min Zoom session every morning for attendance, pledge of allegiance and roll. This is followed by activities posted on SeeSaw, some of which require a video response, or a picture.
While it can be tough working alongside her, I love and appreciate being this involved in her education. It is such a unique opportunity that I will surely miss once all of this is over. We were very proud of her on one of her first class sessions when she answered a math problem. The teacher said that she had 6 items, and asked what needed to be done for her to only have two. Au raised her hand, unmuted herself and answered "Take away four." I was proud not just because she got the answer correct, but because she had the confidence to speak up.
Once home and in the swing of things, we held a proper party for our Big Man, complete with large water slide. This time, he was more adept at blowing out his candles.
Wanting to make sure that his birthday was memorable, we rented a large water-slide. And, as you can see in this video, we certainly achieved that goal.
He's saying so many new words these days that I have stopped keeping a list. But this month, he his first name, minus the 's' at the end. Once again, my over-enthusiasm scared him, and he has not said it since!
We ended the month with a fun birthday party at the Lil Chef in Irvine and a beach day at Little Corona in Newport. I didn't loose any additional weight this month. Nearly defeated and about to give up on my goal weight, I instead came up with a plan! Next month will see results, I know it. Giving up is not my style, and the harder something is to achieve, the more we value it.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
In Oregon, Au became comfortable swimming in the lake! This was a huge step, because now she is truly water-safe there. She went in almost ever day, and was even able to swim to one of the little islands, and also the water fountain. I continued my daily 3 mile runs, and started taking both retrievers with me.
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
When we returned to California toward the end of the month, my Mom's birthday was looming.We were supposed to fly to Krakow that day, but travel restrictions are in place. Mom died in 2014, far too young at only 63. Each year on her birthday, I try to plan something with A that Mom would like. For now, it's about getting through the day. But hopefully in the future, happy memories can eclipse the sadness and it can turn into more of a celebration. This year was the closest I've come to that so far. I booked a private appointment at Le Petite Princesse for A and I. We had a spa treatment and tea party, just the two of us. And I told her some stories about Mom, and how much she loves her, even now, from Heaven. But it's tough, no matter how I try to re-frame it. Mom loved children more than anyone I know, and would have relished being a Nana. Whenever A tells me I'm the best Mommy, I tell her that it's because I had the very best Mommy, which I did. Mom was so loving and kind, never speaking ill of anyone, yet listening with a smile when I did. She always made me feel loved and accepted and was always so proud of her children. If and when my brother or I fell short of what would make a parent proud, she loved us just the same.
Back in California, we resumed our daily walks, often hiking the trails behind our house. We made the tough decision to enroll A at a free public charter school that we applied to on a whim, before learning that it aligns with our values. It was a tough decision because prior to that, we found a private school that we loved, with amazing facilities including an art studio with a kiln, small class sizes and multiple 3-D printers. It was a school that C could also attend. But the $20,000 a year tuition would need to be paid even if governor Newsome once again closes the schools. That made us nervous because we don't want or need distance learning for kindergarten. And by the end of the month, we realized that we made the right decision because as COVID cases started to rise, it was announced that all schools would begin with distance learning.
I continued running 3 miles every day all month, but added in weight-training nearly every day too. With gyms closed, I use our weight set in the garage and YouTube videos. Most of the videos are only 10 minutes, so it is hard to find an excuse not to fit them in. Remember that I ran and walked 173 miles last month without loosing a pound? That was pretty frustrating, but with adding in some short workouts, I started seeing (small) results, with a two-pound weight-loss by this month's end. Here's my favorite: