Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Gallivanting Mother

To see the world with eyes wide be a part.

Well, Friends, it's time to put my traveling shoes back on: this time I'm taking a solo trip to New York City! Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Bus, Subway, Walking and Boat... planning on doing it all between now and next Thursday. Speaking at a workshop. Touring the city. Eating the food. Visiting the MOMA. Yes, this country mouse is taking her city adventure very full throttle. Someone in my circle issued a reprimand to me about my being a gallivanting mother. It was exactly the kind of comments that my former "June Cleaver" head told me for years. "You have young children, you need to stay with them: always." Or, "A good mother doesn't go off and leave her family for a trip, and never, ever would tack on an extra two days for playing 'tourist'!" Or, "A good wife and mother would never, ever go on a trip without her husband and children. It is too selfish and self-centered." Those comments/thoughts/beliefs kept me home for many years, whether as a stay-at-home mom or a working mother. I quietly, remorsefully, used food and shopping as a pacifier. Stuffing my face and home in distress and disappointment and then in active addiction. They played in my head, full symphony, for decades. And yet, for me, those statements are just not true, for I AM a GOOD MOTHER. A FABULOUS MOTHER. And an AMAZING WIFE. I am all of those good things, but I am MORE. I am Erica, a soul, a woman, an individual. One day, my kids will grow up and have their own lives and adventures. My job of nurturing them, of guiding them, will be over. Will I forever love them? Of course, after all, I am the forever mother, but my "role" will not be the same now for Bear that it will be in 20 years. And I am more than a wife and companion to my beloved Hubbs. I am more than my duties and obligations, and I will not "martyr" my essence to be someone else's version of an ideal. It took me a very, very long time to understand that principle.

If you're a mama, you know the difference between you, the mother, taking a trip and Dad taking a trip are two entirely different things. Dad packs a bag, gives everyone a big hug and kiss and gets underway. Mom prepares the logistics for kids, Hubbs, and herself, and then tries to clean the whole house as well. All the food prepped. All the sitters lined up. All the phone numbers and other needed info. On and on it goes. And usually, that means that, as mom, I do not start to pack my own clothes/bags until after 11 p.m. the night before and then collapse into a fitful sleep, hoping that I remembered everything.

This time, I decided to do it differently. Yesterday, I packed my bags, instead of cleaning the house.
Two whole days early! They sit there nice and tidy, ready for me to add any last minute forgotten items (like band-aids), but I am ready to go. And it is such a relief:  a life-changing relief. I have been practically giddy with excitement since I zipped up that bright blue bag yesterday afternoon. One simple priority change. I put myself above the house being "perfect". I put my needs ahead of whether or not all the clothes got folded. I stopped trying to make the hole of my being gone less noticed by those I care about, by having everything I normally do "all done and taken care of" in advance. Reality: mama is going to be out of the nest for six days. That is going to make for some discomfort, but all will be well, and I am, God-willing, coming back.

So, what did I pack? Are you curious?
Well, my darling friend, Julie, stopped by and looked over my clothes and made a few lovely suggestions. She, actually, went beyond that: she even let me borrow two pairs of more NYC-appropriate shoes, two neutral scarves that will mix and match with my pieces, and an adorable deep chocolate CAbi coat. We put the LL Bean parka back in the closet. Yes, I know I'll possibly be cold, coming from Mississippi, but it is New York City, and a gal's got to look a "together" as possible (even on a tight budget)! I put back in the closet a lovely floral skirt that was deemed "off season".  Later, I also pulled out an extra pair of pants and a more bulky sweater. Everything is able to be mixed and matched, so they were not really needed.
Here's the final cull:
- 4 sweaters (dark green, bright green, royal blue, and a deeper blue short-sleeved one)
- 2 pants (one dark wash jean, one ribbed, off white trouser)
- 1 printed knee-length skirt (black and white damask pattern)
- 2 blouses (one citrine, one red)
- 2 lightweight "layers" (one long grey duster cardigan; one signature embroidered fall corduroy coat)
- 2 camis
- 1 coat
- pjs (as warm as possible)
- gloves
- red beret
- umbrella and flashlight
- underthings and toiletries
- Chromebook (because I will still be doing work, and it's easier than trying to do it off my phablet)
- phone (the lovely ZTE Max from T-Mobile) and earbuds
- food scale, batteries, and backup food ('cause that's what I do!)
- plastic "snack" and "sandwich" bags... for keeping all the little bits and bobs tidy

And it all fits in one carry-on and one purse! From the girl who took every single piece of luggage owned, including a tent, on her honeymoon, to now be the girl who is able to wheel around a big city for a week-long Fall adventure, this feels just great.

So, here's to adventures big and small.
Here's to putting priorities in perspective.
And here's to possibly getting that pile of laundry folded, now that my mind is at peace over "what to pack".
Yours ever,

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Gap between the Spaces

It is the quiet moments between activities here at the Robinson home. The middle children have caught the bus and are headed for school. Bear is still sleeping. Our houseguest is not yet up, nor is Hubbs, who worked long into the night to complete a pressing work assignment.

It is a time, where I could do something productive: clean the kitchen, sweep the floors, carry out the recycling to the curb. There are any number of things that I could be doing. Instead, I am choosing to be mindful of the "gap between the spaces" and taking the moment to be still and just enjoy being. Just sitting here on my front porch and watching the daybreak. The sky, once streaked with pink is now a feathered blue with soft lemon light just above the trees. There is a crow making noise and some Canadian geese, native now, who honk by in flight. Mother and daughter walk past on their way to school. The cat comes out, curious as ever. There are sounds to creatures that I do not know how to match: is that a squirrel? Some odd bird?

The world is waking up, gently shaking off the evening with each passing moment.
And I will sit and breathe and know a few minutes of stillness; relaxing into this moment and not requiring of myself to even have thoughts.
Just breathe.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Where there is breath, there is hope.

When it is your child, or a spouse, or a dear friend, it is so hard to watch them suffering in their addiction.
It is hard to trust God.
Hard to stay calm.
As an food addict, I know that no amount of "good intentions" or "policing me" ever helped. It only fueled my resentments, and I became a closet eater and even more fat. I was a sneaky eater. Someone who never, ever, ever ate large quantities of food in front of ANYONE, including myself. Like all addicts, no matter the addiction, I had to hit my personal bottom all on my own. When several years ago, someone said to me, "it might be something (the eating) more than any simple (or magic) diet could fix", it burned me up inside. It also though, planted a seed. A seed that took root and grew, so that when I was ready, when I did become truly desperate, I could give up and trust something greater than my own abilities. And for that seed, I am truly grateful.

Tonight, I wrote a short note to a anguished mother who so anxiously wants to help her daughter. The daughter is not there yet. She's still, where I was, mad at the world and fueling that hate. I've mildly edited it and copied it below, just in case you need a seed to grow in your heart.

Also, Al-Anon is a safe place if you are involved with an addict. (Please understand I am not encouraging anyone to jump into a relationship with an addict... that is like willing walking into HELL: don't go there, because you can't save them. Only they can save themselves, with God's help.) But if you find yourself there, Al-Anon is where you can go and learn the tools to live your life, without being co-dependent. Whenever other dear people of my own are acting out, I am told by my closest supporters just one word, "al-anon". Another Darling has said, "consider it free therapy." So look there. And therapy. Not for your loved one. For you. Consider it a tool.

Hi Friend,
Thank you for reaching out on behalf of your daughter. My name is Erica and I am a compulsive overeater. For me, sugars, grains and most carbohydrates have the same affect as alcohol does on certain people with a sensitivity to alcohol. In 2009, when someone close to me suggested that dieting might not ever be the answer for me, that I might in fact be a compulsive overeater and need a program like AA for food drunks, I was highly offended: I just hadn't found the right diet (or pill)!

Later, as I was eating/binging that same friend, when I asked why couldn't I change, encouraged me to "pray for the willingness to be willing". I am a stubborn girl. And was full of anger and resentments about a lot of things, especially how unfair my life was: that other people could eat and be thin, yet I couldn't. It took three years for me to become willing. During that three years, my weight crept up to 296# and I threw away my scale, so that I would not see myself at 300#. When I started this program in June of 2012, I weighed 273#. Today, I weigh 167#.
You can read a part of my story here, if you'd like.

My suggestion, caring mama, would be that you pray for your daughter more than anything. Talk with her, if you can about addiction and food addiction specifically. Or talk to her doctor, if they are open to that. My experience is that recovery is only possible when the individual themselves is ready to do whatever it takes to be free of the addiction. And that "whatever" usually involves facing a lot of feelings. It can be done, bravely, simply, just by taking it one day at a time. One day, one meal, not harming one's self with food; trusting that it will be enough and that we will not die of starvation before our next meal. 
In peace,