10/11/2018 – On 10 Years of Marriage

The irony is, if given the chance, and a time machine, neither of us would choose the other if we could go back and do it again. Somewhere deep in our psyche we’re still holding on to the idea that there’s a better fit, a right fit. Not a soulmate, but someone who better meets our individual needs. A part of our brains whispering “This could be be improved, but not with him/her. Tear it all down and start over with a different model and see how that feels.”

The relationship isn’t everything, but it is enough. And that’s different from settling. I am not resigned. I am determined. I am resolute.

We tried marriage counseling for the first time this summer and the first thing she asked us was what we want to get out of therapy. My answer was immediate, no pondering necessary: I want to see this relationship through until the end. Whether that’s the end of our lives I’m not so sure, I have no illusions about what the future holds. But even when I’ve known that it’s not working, at all, I’ve also known that it could work. There’s just enough raw material there for us to reset and reshape and try again.

What will I write after another 10 years? There isn’t a lot of romance in this missive. Maybe that’s the biggest difference between the Jenna from a decade ago and the Jenna typing this out now. I’m missing that magical combination of hormones that cast a warm, rosy glow over the entire endeavor. I still want it though, and that’s what’s important. I want to get up each day and try again, try to do and be better for him and with him.

There is romance in the relationship though. What I’ve written here isn’t entirely fair, to either of us. It doesn’t look like flowers or diamond earrings or giggling a lot or constantly touching each other. Some of the work of marriage is the effort required to allow the positive manifestations of the relationship to morph over time, and to notice and appreciate the new ways romance is expressed. When we stand in the kitchen late at night, laughing and sharing about our day. Hugging me because “it’s been too long since we’ve touched.” Supporting my choice to get a giant cake tattoo on my thigh by telling me that it’s my body and I should do what I want with it.  Reaching for my hand as we drive together. Reaching for me in the morning, hungry to feel the heat of me. The days when I see how much he does for me and I take the time to tell him how much it means to me. The days when he sees how much I do for him and he takes the time to tell me how much it means to him. Withholding eye rolls when I make my life more difficult by staunchly sticking by my principles. Allowing each other to run toward what we think we want most (even if we have reservations about whether that thing we want is actually the thing we need.) Understanding that we can’t be everything to each other. Fiercely loving our children and marveling that we joined together and made something so magnificent. Always, always allowing the other person to shift and change.

Writing out that list has shifted me into that mushy mindset one would expect from a 10th anniversary address. Come home safely from London, My Love. We still have good work to do.

9/17/2018 – On Screwing Up

Taking on the PTA President position was a very quick shift from Solo Actor to Team Player. For almost a decade now almost all of my efforts have been self-directed and generally self-focused. Now I’m Team Captain, and I’m feeling not just the weight of tracking all the moving pieces, but also (especially) that of recognizing or acknowledging the many ways that I screw up. And learning to do so frankly, without dwelling, without excuses.

Yesterday, a Sunday, I began the day at my parent’s house in central WA. I photographed my cousin and her new husband in their wedding attire and felt confident and excited about what I created for them. Drove home, packed up, and made it out the door just after 1pm to get back to Seattle with some extra time to spare before a 5pm meeting with my PTA board.

Except I forgot that driving back to Seattle on a Sunday afternoon always stretches longer than anticipated because all of the other people trying to get back to the city before Monday morning.

And my meeting was at 4pm, not 5pm.

I had said “4pm? That’s great. I’ll be there.” I said those words out loud and then I wasn’t there. Everyone else made time in their weekend, arranged with their partners to handle the kids so we could gather, at my house. The meeting was at my house and I was an hour late.

My husband jumped right in and set up the team to work at my dining room table in my absence. I spent the last hour of the drive talking through the voices in my head telling me I’m a stupid idiot, that everyone else manages to juggle their life enough to be where they say they’ll be, that this particular indiscretion was egregious and outrageous and indicative of many faulty things about me.

This particular form of accountability, accountability to a demanding and complicated group effort, comes with a lot of opportunities to own up to the ways I fall short of my intended Self. Once I calmed down the Inner Critic I was able to think more clearly about what I can do to prevent a mistake like this in the future. This one, being an hour late to that particular meeting? That’s done. The roads are what they are and the speed limits are what they are, and there was nothing I could do but walk in my own front door to a team of volunteers diligently plugging away in my front room. I immediately apologized, they immediately reassured me that it was fine – but I wanted them to know that I don’t find it okay to operate that way. Integrity is one of my core values and I hadn’t lived up to their expectations of me, and my expectations of myself.

I’m not going to dwell on my mistake, that doesn’t do anyone any good. I’m checking my calendar morning and night now to make sure I firmly understand what I’ve committed to the following day. I’ll be budgeting four hours for the Sunday afternoon drive back to Seattle from now on. I’ll extend grace and compassion when others are late or absent. I’ll extend that same grace and compassion to myself.

9/10/2018 – On Living Absolutely

When I chose this new title for my web presence I was asking a question. I naively thought I would find the answer written down somewhere. Like the kid who works up the courage to climb the stairs into the attic, and waiting at the top of those stairs is a treasure map with a giant X marking the spot. Fame! Fortune! Wildest dreams achieved!

There is no map. More like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces scattered across literature, lived experiences, and snippets of wisdom gleaned from opening the mind and listening to what others have to offer.

Here’s what I’ve figured out thus far: Living Absolutely is living out your own life. Living for yourself. Making the most of what’s available to you. Making peace with what’s not.

9/8/2018 – On Inner Representations of Self

This morning during my meditation, a guided course led by Sarah Blondin, I realized that I can’t imagine myself in my own mind without Bad Body Thoughts disrupting my zen.

Should I picture myself as I currently am, and sit with the revulsion I feel over my overflowing belly, wobbly chin, sausage arms, flat rump, massive thighs?

Or do I think of some form of my idealized self, me when I was thinner, me when I was younger?

No, that won’t work either. It always leads me back to Option A, distracted by all the things that lead me to feel like a piece of shit. Because instead of being some form of my idealized self I’m… me. As I am.

I work hard to keep these feelings inside. I never say negative things about my body in front of my children, and when my daughter grabs my belly fat and tells me it’s BIG and SQUISHY I focus on making sure that I don’t create negative associations. Genetics being what they are, it seems likely she’ll have to deal with a squishy belly someday herself, but even if she manages to do what I haven’t been able to (stay slim, master impulses, prioritize output over input) she’ll face down situations throughout her life where she has the opportunity to be an ass to someone who is fat. She’ll know that’s not how her Mama raised her.

I give myself a solid A on this area of the parenting report card, but that’s not enough because I’m more than Mother, I am Me.

There is no on/off switch for this, at least not one that I’ve found. I read the BoPo articles and follow the Instagram accounts and admire the women who have made progress toward loving what is. I know what I want to feel, and it isn’t too difficult for me to play the part and project outward. I can do the selfies, and put up some Instagram Stories about self-acceptance, and it does help. But it’s still more of a band-aid than a cure.

Do we become what we think or do we start with action and the thoughts shift from there?

09/05/2018 – On Blogging

My first encounter with blogging was a Livejournal account of college life, focused mostly on the highs and lows of an early 20s relationship. The year was 2004. Outwardly, I mocked the writer with my friends (we trolled the writer before we knew what trolling was – something I deeply regret after my own extensive experiences with such behavior). But internally I was processing the idea that I too had access to this particular form of self-expression, and I wanted to try it for myself. That was the first wave of blogging. No one was a brand. There were no sponsored posts. It was raw, startlingly honest, and there were no pictures because digital photography hadn’t reached the masses yet.

 

The second wave is where I entered the fray. Posts began to transition from diary entries into tutorials and topical anecdotes. Writers put their real name and photos up as part of their profile. Blogger took care of the HTML and our sites morphed into personal spaces. I moved from bride blogging to wife blogging to mommy blogging. I challenged myself to blog every day for a year ,and writing posts then responding to comments became a part-time job. It wasn’t about the money (we didn’t yet know this thing could be a full-time job!). I worked as an assistant in a lawyers office and constantly refreshed my Google Reader tab to see if my friends and favorites had posted anything new, similar to the way I turn to Instagram now. We followed others, we developed a following, we delighted in this new way to form community.

 

Then the third wave. Writers became brands, posts became sponsored, mobile phones killed off our comment sections and with it went the sense of community. Pinterest combined with stories of six-figure blogger incomes whipped up a frenzy. How to go viral? How to get pinned? What’s the magic number of followers necessary to start pulling in sponsors who will pay cash so the day job can be quit and the living of the dream can commence? It’s prettier now, quick to digest in our snippet-obsessed society, but it’s fast food. I’m overstuffed and unsatisfied.

 

I don’t know what the fourth wave will be, or if there will be one. I’m tired of this overcrowded beach. I want to write because I like writing. Sharing feels good to me. Someone might benefit from something I have to say, and that’s a nice thought too but it isn’t essential. It’s worthwhile because it’s mine.

 

“One of the whys is because I can write. And writers write.” – Dr. Maya Angelou.