Emotional Dead Weight

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At some point in your life, you have found yourself in the presence of a personal growth vacuum.  Maybe it's someone you have known for a long time, or maybe it's the mailman who brings your packages to the door and all of his baggage as well.  When this happens, what do you do?  Do you offer an ear to bend and little time and patience?  Maybe you take a moment to lend sympathy to someone in need. But, when is enough actually enough?  Do you give until you have compromised your own growth?  Over the years I have found that for myself, I haven't always been able to walk away from something when it feels like it's leaving my emotional tank on "E".  I would continue to let it deplete me and leave me feeling dissatisfied when in actuality, I know I have such magic in my life.  I've always considered myself someone that is connected with living things not just based on time spent with them, but more on the fact that as living creatures, we all are connected.  I'm the one that sees a stranger in need and offers them my help or a mother that is frazzled so I offer an extra hip for their child to rest upon while she checks out her groceries.  The drawback of this is that often times I tend to absorb other peoples negativity and make it my own.  I have ultimately found that when life shows you what it has to offer and you aren't digging it. Turn that shit loose!  With that being said, my husband is currently stomping around the house (on his good leg due to a bum knee) because he can't seem to find clean underwear. Now,  I'm not going to turn him out to pasture because he is pissy. I'm just going to keep on enjoying my coffee and bringing life lessons to you guys because we all know that his underwear is hiding in the ever elusive closet.  Of course, everyone has a bad day from time to time and will find themself in need of someone to lean on, myself included.  The problem begins when they lean so hard that it begins to alter the way you grow.  Have you ever been hiking through the woods and see a mature tree that has managed to grow leaning completely to one side like the Leaning Tower of Pisa?  You think to yourself, how does this happen and why isn't the tree just collapsing under the weight of its own canopy?  The reason is that its roots are planted deep and firm,  and while the weight of outside forces caused it to lean, it doesn't fall but instead alters its growth.   As adults, we allow outside influences to keep us from achieving our full potential and we allow them to suck the nutrients right out of our personal soil.  Sometimes I look around and think about how grateful I am for the handful of friends that I have that are near and dear to my soul because we support each other's growth, no matter the direction, and we allow one another to remain upright without compromising the foundation.  Surround yourself with those that support your growth, and leave the bullshit at the door.  This is your journey, and deep roots will support you so long as the weight isn't too great.  If you need to let things go, it's ok to do that.  It's not being selfish to allow yourself nutrient rich soil in which to grow.  If you are a giving soul, just imagine all of the wonderful things you could do, if only you saved enough of yourself to allow for growth and stability.  We could do amazing things with an unwavering sense of who we are and begin to make magic happen.  Goodness knows we need a little more magic in the world.

What Is Unschooling, Homeschooling, and Waldorf education

When it comes to the topic of school, it's sometimes a topic I'd rather not discuss.  If you are a unschooling parent, you are often met with a look of disgust.  Hell, I've been in the middle of a grocery store trip mid day in the produce section with Charlie while he gathers his list and weighs his items, to look at me dead in the eye and ask me if I was "one of those homeschoolers".  That was the first year that I had taken on the task of teaching him myself, and I was very defensive of my decision.  Not only was I defensive, but I would think about where I was going and what I was doing during "school hours" because I knew that there would always be encounters with nay sayers who were determined to tell me that my child should be more socialized.  Now that I am 3 years in, I feel 100% confident and all of the questions or comments that I receive are welcomed.  I want people to know that I am in no way shape or form anti-public school system. What I am, is anti public school system FOR US.  I have a lot of people to ask me what type of curriculum we do or what curriculum we use.  The beauty of being in charge of his education is that I can decide what exactly it is that I want to teach him.  When we first began, I knew that it was important to me to use a Waldorf curriculum.  This meant that we did not have any screen time whatsoever.  Waldorf is something that you have to be passionate about, especially if you have not always been one to follow the Rudolph Steiner and his Anthroposophical philosophy.  It's most definitely a lifestyle.  Waldorf education puts traditional academic methods of teaching aside.  Instead, most of the programs that are the first to be eliminated by budgeting within a government controlled system, are the crux of Waldorf such as Art, Music, and Foreign Language.  We focus on things that required fine motor skills such as crocheting, knitting, drawing, and modeling.  Instead of having Charlie to memorize words by sight, and keeping a score on how many books he could read, we didn't teach reading at all.  We would explore fairy tales and literature and as his desire to read came about, it was encouraged but not demanded.  Under Rudolph Steiner's philosophy, children are to be in an environment in which they feel safe and nurtured, away from harmful influences of broader society.  I don't teach based on economic or political motives, but instead from the goal of producing a self-sufficient free thinking individual.  I could go on and on about Waldorf and all of the positive things that go along with this method of teaching, but I'd never even graze the surface in one post, so if there are any questions, I'd be happy to try and answer them, but keep in mind, I am no expert.  As we entered our second and third year, we began to explore a mixture of Waldorf in the home but more and more we discovered the positive influence of what some consider unschooling.  We do have a rhythm to our day but should we decide that based on the flow of things that our time would be better spent on nature trails or at the library, we do that instead.  Life is about being able to determine what your instincts tell you to do and following those instincts.  Children are very intuitive beings and while they may not be able to determine the exact cause of a feeling, it is my job as a parent to try and help Charlie navigate his own way through life.  Does that mean I let him decide if he wants to splash in the creek, or learn how to multiply?  Of course not!  It is as much my job to prepare him with the knowledge he needs to make his way in life and society as it is for him to follow his inner most intuition about the good, bad, and ugly of life and decision making.  Listen, this life isn't for everyone.  For starters, we don't spend money lavishly because I stay home to educate my youngest children.  There is also a certain amount of weight on the shoulders of a mother or father who take on the task of educating their child and being responsible for their continuing education once their job of teaching ends.  When we travel, we usually camp because the kids can use all the time they spend outside actually learning and exploring.  Charlie will make his own decisions as to how safe a hill is to climb that hill or hike that steep trail.  THAT counts for teaching hours on so many levels.  While we are having a fun family camping trip, we are covering Science, Ecosystems, decisions making, and best of all life skills.  Charlie will be in grade 3 this year.  We will be doing Americal Sign Language as our foreign language at least for this year.  We may switch over to Spanish next year once we have completed ASL.  We are now implementing small amounts of screen time for him to do his math work but that is all.  His reading is at the pace he chooses.  If he can read and he enjoys it, I'm not at all concerned as to how many books he completes.  Still, in 3rd grade, I will continue to read to him as well as encourage him to have an independent reading time of his choosing of book that he finds interesting.  When I teach him poetry this school year, I will forgo iambic pentameter, and instead, teach him that his soul will speak and he needs to follow that.  I am happy as a homeschooler or unschooler, or whatever you want to call it.  I learn each and every year as we continue our journey, that there will always be tweaks here and there, and I'm totally ok with that.  Its my life and the life of my roots, and we are growing just fine.  

Find Your Zen

What gives you balance in your everyday life?  For me, it's a myriad of things, some simple and some complex.  The labyrinth of my brain is often soothed by simply walking outside and looking at the glory of the sun or my garden or a cool winter night and a breath of fresh air, but sometimes there are days that as someone who suffers from a certain amount anxiousness or "worry gut" from time to time, it requires so much more.  When I started this post, it was simply going to be about a bracelet that I recently ordered from an adorable little shop on Etsy called Free Spirited Momma. As I began to write, I started thinking about what actually gives my life Zen.  When I began this website, I always knew that I needed it as a therapeutic outlet and that I wanted to share some things with people that were very important to me but also make me feel very exposed and vulnerable at the same time.  When I say that I suffer from a certain amount of "anxiety", I don't know that I can actually put the label of anxiety on what I have experienced. Truthfully, I have never experienced anything like it in my life, and so often I feel like that label gets slapped on so many people and it often becomes a crutch on which we lean, to keep us from having to dig deep and identify what it is that we are feeling, and why.  I am warning you in advance, that when I call myself a "writer", I do so in my head more than on this website.  I do not possess a degree in Writing, English, or Literature.  Hell, I don't have a degree at all, but what I can offer is my experiences in life so far and try to shed some light on some things I feel pretty well versed on.  There are going to be elements of this post that are all over the place, and to be honest, if Grammarly doesn't catch my mistakes, I'm at risk of run on sentences and misplaced commas.  Sometimes when I'm very passionate about something or I have a lot to say, my mind goes faster than my fingers, so bear with me.  When I had Frances who is now 2-1/2, it was a complete whirlwind of a delivery.  Our midwife didn't show in time for her to enter earthside, and it was my first experience with natural childbirth and having not planned on things happening in such a quick fashion, it felt very much out of control.  After she came into the world, I was felt so wonderful.  It was definitely a different experience from what I have been privy with the previous two.  I felt as though I could immediately get up and shower and nurse and do all of the things I needed to.  I literally felt like superwoman. People came to visit and I sat "crisscross applesauce" on the bed and everyone seemed pretty amazed that I was so energetic.  Like anyone being doted on by family, I was soaking it all in.  Here I was with my 3rd child and felt better than ever, and I had all these wonderful people coming to help me celebrate my accomplishment and see the fruits of my labor.  Literally.  I struggled a bit nursing, but I was doing ok and the next day I was all set to go home.  After being home for a day or two, the struggle to nurse became more difficult, and I truly had very little to no support to stay the course, and I began to supplement.  It crushed me, to be honest, but I had many people telling me that I wasn't a failure and I powered through.  Three days after bringing my little bundle of perfection home, It was getting dark and Shane being the amazing man he is, suggested I go relax in the tub for a bit.  I couldn't at the time think of anything I needed more, so I took his advice.  Up to that point, I still felt very good.  I had some regret over the breast feeding issue, but I didn't feel as though it were lingering on my mind.  I turned on the warm bath and about 5 minutes into my bath, something happened.  When I tell you that something happened, I mean it was as though a light switch had been flipped.  I began to hear things differently.  The running of the bath water became like that of a heavy waterfall ringing in my ears, and I was getting tunnel vision.  I was sitting in a warm bath but I felt very cold and I wondered if I was about to faint.  About that time, Shane came in to ask me if I needed a towel because this is a problem I have always had.  I always forget the damn towel.  When he walked in, I could tell by the look on his face that he didn't think I looked like myself.  I told him I didn't feel right but was having a hard time elaborating on that fact.  The only way I could explain it was that I felt unsafe.  To say it out loud or in this case to type it out for the world to read is still very upsetting.  The word "unsafe" meant so many things.  Shane was so confused and knelt down by the tub and asked me what I needed him to do.  I had no fucking idea because I myself had no idea what was going on.  I decided to get out of the bath because the room seemed to be closing in on me.  Like a zombie, I walked into the living room and there was my new precious baby girl, my son, and my big girl, and I felt nothing.  Just like the light switch I had felt just moments ago in the bath, my emotions were gone.  I felt nothing. Shane held Frances for a while and when he offered to hand her to me, I told him I didn't think I could hold her.  What kind of monster was I?  I grew and gave birth to this precious human being, and I didn't want to hold her.  I wanted to want to hold her, but I literally felt nothing.  I went to my bedroom and I laid down and hoped that maybe this very foreign episode would disappear.  It didn't.  I almost instantly became not just nauseated by the smell of food, but I couldn't even sit in the room and watch anyone else eat.  Everyone would eat dinner and I would hold Frances with a bottle in another room, and I felt so weakened in my mind, that I hoped she wouldn't move because I didn't know if I could catch her.  Luckily I had wonderful neighbors (you know who you are) that brought dinner for us, otherwise, Shane would have been taking care of all of the children as well as feeding them.  Unfortunately, everytime someone would bring food or even just stop by, I would cry....and cry....and cry.  On a couple of occasions, I was met with the sweet sideways glance and reassuring words.  "Oh Jessica, you are having some baby blues".   I wanted to believe them, but the truth was, that I couldn't be left alone with my own children because I wasn't sure that I could care for them.  It never crossed my mind that I would injure them in any way, but I just didn't know if I would do anything other than sit in that same "crisscross applesauce" fashion and glance off into the distance.  By day 5, I realized I started to think I needed some help because we couldn't keep doing this.  I couldn't eat, I had lost 25 lbs in 5 days from not eating or drinking, I had terrible mastitis from not nursing and Shane was completely scared to death.  I sat on the side of my bed on day 5 and I said to him "I had it all.  I had everything I wanted with 2 healthy happy children and you, and I have ruined it all."  I knew that I wasn't going to be able to pull out of whatever it was that was going on in my mind, and I began to realize that I was seeing the new baby as the reason for the feeling of doom.  That was the first moment in days that I realized that there must be something skewed in my reality because there was no way in the world that this new piece of perfection in our life could be the reason I felt so dreadful.  I was able to get an appointment with my midwife to discuss what we felt like the issue was.  Lucky for me, I couldn't have asked for a more understanding individual.  She was so open and honest with me and made me feel like it wasn't crazy for me to feel the way I felt.  It wasn't baby blues at all.  I was experiencing something a bit more harsh than that.  Sometimes when you feel so out of control during the birth of a child and then a sudden euphoria of the emotions following, it can throw your thinking process into a serious whirlwind.  My brain was going a little haywire to begin with from such a violent birth experience, and then when I was so vulnerable, I became unable to nourish my body properly which further exacerbated the problem. To sum it up, my nerves were so screwed up and I needed some help to find my way out of the darkness and back to being the mother I was before.  My midwife explained to me that I had several options.  I could try medication, therapy, or a more natural approach, but without a doubt, I was going to have to nourish my body, or nothing was going to get better.  This would go down in history, as the first time ever in my life that I would need to be told that eating was essential.  I slowly came out of the woods and into the light.  It took a few days for me to be able to comfortably leave home and take my children and feel ok, but as I did small tasks, I gained more and more confidence.  My biggest regret with the first two weeks of Frances's life is that I truly feel like I wasn't able to bond with her.  Rest assured, I have bonded with her 10 fold since then, and even though the first days of an infants life isn't something you can get back, it isn't something I dwell on.  If the universe allows, I will have a lifetime to show her my love.  I will never hide what happened from her because I want her to know that if there is a time in her life that she feels she is drowning, I am here with a lifeline.  There were no support groups available in my area for postpartum issues.  I have a wonderful family, and everyone was there for me, however,  when you are in the place like the one I was in, you need someone that has been there and can tell you, there is light at the end of that tunnel.  You need a group of people, a doula, a midwife, a friend who has experienced it first hand to be more than words but be the example that you aren't crazy and you aren't alone.  There is such a huge spectrum of things that can go askew both during and after pregnancy that can cause you to feel a sudden onset of what some would consider anxiety.  As I said for me, I didn't feel anxious or nervous.  I just felt this impending doom and it happened suddenly.  Nothing led up to it or was the icing on the cake of what seemed like a meltdown waiting to happen.  I am certainly not a doctor and I have been told by a few, that anxiety isn't something you always see coming, and it can come in many forms.  I think for me, the biggest struggle was knowing that I had to give something over to someone else to control for a while, in that I didn't have the option to just "nut up" and put mind over matter.  I can tell you now, that I am great.  I have created for myself an outlet in the way of a garden with both vegetables and herbs where I can go and plant my feet solidly in the Earth and feel safe.  It's where I go to feel what is real and what isn't.  I wish I could say that the imbalance that I felt that day never happened again, but it did.  About 2 years ago, I had one that hit pretty hard and unexpectedly after what was, until then, shaping up to be a lovely day.  The difference was that I was equipped with some fantastic support in the form of what I would call an angel.  She isn't local to me anymore, but all it took was a phone call, and it was a complete game changer.   She knew exactly where I was coming from and was going through something similar at the time, and she was a bit ahead of the curve as far as solutions, and she gave me so much hope for being able to come out ahead of this thing.  As it turns out, I can, and did come out of it and relatively fast.   Sometimes it's so much easier to go to someone who isn't so immediate to your life, or at least for me it was.  I added the photograph below because it was a very important moment for me and for Frances.  It was Christmas Eve and she was 1 month old.  I sat there having finished playing "santa" with Shane, and in that moment I realized that I was ok.  I still had everything I ever wanted and I hadn't ruined anything at all.  Today I enjoy life and everything it brings.  I have come to a crossroads in my life where I realize that I don't have to be anything other than me.  My entire life I have always been a bit odd and was so afraid to embrace that part of me for fear of what that would mean for those around me.  Then I woke up one day and I said: "fuck this".  I can't keep doing what looks right, and instead, I'm going to be in charge of me and do what feels right instead.  I think for me, the biggest things was how it would impact my children.  I can tell you first hand, that my children respect me more for this growth and the confidence it has given me, and while I don't need their approval, it is my job to be an example of forward free thinking so that I can empower them to be who they are born to be.  Am I everyone's cup of tea?  That's an emphatic NO, but what I am is a strong, confident, badass mom that is passing on this strength to my roots.  So what exactly brings Zen to my life now?  Light, essential oils, meditation, the moon, a fantastic book, my husband's strength, smudging, and the knowledge that what I am is enough for both myself and for those around me.  I hope that knowing others survive this, help you to find your Zen.  Peace, Love, and Light.