May 24, 2015

Awakening

Almost three months ago I took part in a photo shoot with the wonderful & talented Jade Beall. It was a nude & partially nude breast & bottle shoot. I was joined by a group of lovely women and their sweet babes. The photo shoot was to show solidarity in that it doesn't matter how you feed your babies--breast, bottle, formula, breastmilk, donor milk--we all love our babies the same. It was an amazing experience. I wasn't nervous, even knowing that hundreds, maybe thousands would see my softened body, filled with lines that I'm still learning to navigate and explore. My non-photoshopped image. Just me. In my pure physical form. I did this for self growth, newfound self love. I did this to show other women that it's ok to look just as you are, in this moment. You are you and that is enough. And you are beautiful. I did this to show my girls that their momma IS glorious and perfect just as I see them. I left the photo shoot feeling confident and elated. I also made new friends:) I couldn't wait to see the photos of me and my little sweetie, sharing our special moment. I needed to see myself in a new light, outside of what I see in the mirror. When the photos finally arrived to my inbox, I was ecstatic! Slowly I looked through all the glorious images of my fellow mommas and I teared up often. I smiled from ear to ear. Each photo of these divine Goddesses oozed love and grace and strength and happiness. I was so proud to have shared this moment in our lives with so many strong women. Then I saw my photos. And I cried. I cried myself to sleep on this night, that happened to be oldest daughter's birthday.

photo by Jade Beall
How the fuck did I get here?! My whole life I've been showered with love and affection from my mom. She's always tried to make me feel and realize that I am beautiful and smart and unique. But I remember from a young age not agreeing. I remember feeling that she was saying it because she was my Mom and HAD to say such things. Where did this come from? Is this natural? I would like to think not. I hope not. I remember in 4th grade watching Miss America pageant with  my mom and then crying myself to sleep because I felt I would never be as beautiful or talented as they were. In high school I was never the pretty girl or the popular one. I had friends and fun but no real boyfriends. I was skinny and flat chested. I was made fun of a few times for lack of womanly breasts.

Then adulthood came. And I blossomed a little. However, I never felt fully like a woman. I compared myself to others and down the rabbit hole I went. I've had company with many, myself included, that batter ourselves while looking in the mirror both internally and outwardly vocal. I guess we all feed off one another with our self image. Through my 20s I fluctuated weight, went through a marriage, boyfriends, lovers, and lack of feelings of self worth. I was shortly medicated for depression. And I self medicated with alcohol, sex and other things. Looking back, even in a size, shape and weight that I'd LOVE to be in right now, never once was I completely comfortable in my own skin. I had days of like, but many moments of dislike. I liked my nipples but loathed my lack of breast tissue. I liked my feet but not my dimpled thighs. I liked my face but not my wrinkled hands. But. But. But. Why couldn't I see that those breasts would someday nourish 2 children, that those legs were strong and carry me through this world, that these hands feel softness and show the life I've lived. Why are there any BUTs? Why can't there just be love for this body that's carrying around my soul? I am intelligent and loving and caring and nurturing. I am human. And I am beautiful. Why isn't this enough?

photo by Jade Beall

This past year has been a journey for me to take control. I don't know where this self hate stems from but I need to shut that shit down! I made a promise to myself and silently to my girls that I would not outwardly show them my disdain. I don't poke at my "flaws" or berate myself in front of them. "I'm so fat" has never been muttered. I threw away the scale a while ago. Becoming a mother has been the most natural and right thing for me. I was born to do this! Being in my new mom skin, however, was harder than I imagined. My negative view was taking a toll on myself and my sex life. So, last fall I did a photo shoot with a friend in hopes of beginning to peel away this layer of loathe. I was clothed, but along with the shoot I voiced all my thoughts to my husband. It was more healing that I could have imagined. He has subsequently caressed my scars and kissed my sagging belly skin while telling me they are his favorite part of me; they are a sign of my strength and our children. I've since started to focus on my stomach less when looking in the mirror. I don't cringe when my stomach is touched. The marks are here to stay. They tell a part of my story and the beginning of my children's.

I was ecstatic to take part in the shoot with Jade. I have been following her for a while and have been so moved by her work and all of the women that have bravely shared themselves with the world. I have been touched by every photo that has crossed my eyes. I feel as though every woman that has shared their story, their image, has slowly helped me become more confident. My sisters! My tribe. So when I got those photos back, I was appalled at my reaction. I thought I was better. I thought I was stronger. I was upset at numerous things in the photos, all of which were my doing and nothing to do with Jade's artistry and vision. I barely smiled. I stood awkwardly while nursing. I have finally become comfortable with  my breasts (or so I thought)...they've grown and I no longer hide under layers of padding. I even go sans bra now. As baby girl slowly starts to slow down on nursing, they are changing size once again. I'm lopsided now. And I'm trying to find peace in that. After a month of it eating at me, I let Jade know how I felt and then I thought the photo would be buried and I could forget about my crazy feelings.

Then she posted my image on Facebook and Instagram. Jade, if you happen to read this THANK YOU for doing that! You gave me courage that I needed and at the time I needed it. I can't express my gratitude for all the wonderful words from strangers around the world. In the photo I'm not smiling and I'm standing, but so many see greatness in those two things, where I could only see flaws. They've opened my eyes. I know, more than ever, that I'm not alone in my feelings. The past few days I've been thinking about what everyone has said; what those close to me have always said. And I hear you. I believe you. I want to be a strong, confident woman and when my children grow older and hear me tell them how wonderful they are, I want them to believe it too! I want to be the role model for them and for them to know whole heartedly that they are amazing for their character as well as their outward appearance. I don't want their life to revolve around what others see. I want them to know they are just as perfect as they are in my eyes now. I want to see myself through my children's eyes. I'm awake and I'm ready for new beginnings!

photo by Jade Beall

May 10, 2015

Progress

Someday we will list the house and start our RV adventure. Someday. That's what I keep telling myself.

I guess I'm just too antsy. But honestly, it's taking us longer than we'd like to get things sold and the house show ready. We've downsized to where everything is gone except either what we're bringing along, or essentials until we move out. For instance, our bed, couch, kitchen table, play room furniture is still here and will remain until until we having a closing date. I'd prefer we aren't sitting on the floor and sleeping on an air mattress for a year. Who knows how long the house will take to sell. So those things will be last to go.

We've boxed up artwork & photos we want to keep and are storing those at my mom's. Plus extra kitchen items (like some of our pots & pans, kitchenaid mixer) are in storage at her place. Other than that, everything has been sold or donated. Selling has been challenging and time consuming. I'm active on numerous Facebook sale groups, we've had a few garage sales and sold at the swap meet. We've also donated a bunch to a few organizations in town. We've made a lot of progress. But it's just not happening quick enough for me.

Some deep cleaning has commenced as well as repainting a few walls. I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to actually paint while the girls were awake. I envisioned foot prints of paint across the carpet. Luckily that didn't happen, though there's still time for that. However, Violet took it upon herself to get artistic with our gray wall and painted some white on it. Thank goodness we still have some of that color.

Going from 1800sqft to 300sqft is challenging. All these years of collecting stuff and then deeming which of the stuff to keep or sell vs give away... is so daunting. But we're pretty much done with that portion. The front family room is empty (unlike the photo), the office has been cleared, furniture in the girls' room is gone. Progress. Now, if we can just knock out the painting, touchups, carpets and overall cleaning we'll be ready to list. And wait.

Repainting
Chaos before uncluttering