Badges of Honor

I have been practicing yoga for almost 5 years now – I began on the recommendation of my family doctor, when I was struggling with anxiety.   From the moment I started, I was surrounded by teachers I connected with and have missed very few weeks without attending a session ever since.  It has changed my life; it has made a tremendous difference in improving my anxiety and mental health.  It has also tightened and toned me up a bit, which is not my purpose for practicing but is a nice added bonus.

I practiced yoga throughout our struggle to conceive, and was lucky enough to be able to continue throughout the entire duration of my pregnancy with Baby Grouch. For as much as I practice, I oddly only have one yoga shirt, which I love.  It is long and fits perfectly, so I never have to think about it, adjust it or mess with it.  Or rather, it used to be that way.  I stretched out the belly from practicing while carrying the baby, but haven’t yet found a suitable replacement so I’m still wearing the same coral shirt I’ve had for years.

The only problem with this, is that now, when I’m in shoulder stand, my shirt, that used to stay snugly on my hips, now slides up to my boobs and exposes my belly. And there’s not much I can do about it, once I’m in shoulder stand, other than stare right up at my stomach, since my hands are pinned to the floor and turning your head in this posture can damage your neck.  So, at least once a week for the past year, I’ve had a few minutes to stare at my post-baby saggy pooch.  The fat underneath my belly button has been stretched out, so when I’m upside down, the skin sort of crookedly hangs a bit over my belly button.  It’s not very pretty.

I think everyone’s heard the cliché about mothers who are “proud” of their stretch marks, their flabby underbellies.  They’ve “earned their stripes” yada yada yada. It used to annoy me, and still does, a little.  I can understand being proud of your children, or proud of who you are as a mother, or the choices you have made.  But, what’s the deal about being proud of your inability to get back into pre-baby shape?  I didn’t get it.

And now I sort of do.  Except, I still don’t think PRIDE is the correct term.  You can’t really be proud of something you have so little control over.  The timing of your conception, how easy or hard your pregnancy was, and how long you were in labor are not anything to be proud of, in my opinion, since our bodies, for the most part, are going to just do what they do.  For the most part we did not earn anything, other than being able to truly appreciate a cold salami sandwich and a stiff drink after 9 months of abstaining.

Pride isn’t the right term, at all.  But, honor is.  What an honor it is, to have the privilege of becoming pregnant, to carry around your baby as he or she grows inside you.  What an honor to feel every kick, every hiccup, every movement.  What an honor it is to give birth to a child, no matter how laborious or exhausting the process.  And a stretched out pooch is my mark that resulted from me being able to experience all of those positive things.

It’s an honor to have a child, to be exposed to her freedom, to experience her joy and to witness her little personality emerging before me.  To be humbled and honored by the process and the person does not mean that conception, pregnancy, or labor are not difficult.  And we all know that parenting is hard…..really hard.  So, it’s okay as a mother to take a moment to honor myself, and my mental sanity, even if that means exacerbating the paunch by indulging in Doritos and wine on a semi-regular basis.  There’s something to be said about making sure to honor the part of you that demands to be happy and satisfied.

So today at yoga, I was reminded not to dwell on the pooch or be disgusted by the saggy skin.  But, to embrace it and remember that I am honored and lucky to have stretched out my favorite shirt, as well as my abdomen.

What’s your badge of honor?

yoga

On Gratitude and Compassion.

This is the week where we are reminded to reflect on what we are thankful for.  This year my biggest gratitude and thanks go to Baby Grouch.

She makes me happy simply because she is she.  I am grateful for her smiles, her snores, her little grasp on my finger, her cuddles and coos.  I’m grateful for her cries and her tears and for the exhaustion that comes from her waking me up at all hours of the night.  I’m grateful for every tiny bit of her being.

She is a really good baby, very content and calm most of the time.  There was one night when she screamed bloody murder – and nothing could be done to console her.  She continued to shriek and shriek for what felt like an eternity, but in reality was about 40 minutes.  Unlike the annoyance that I imagined I might someday feel when my child didn’t stop screaming, I surprised myself by feeling compassion.  I knew she wouldn’t be crying without a reason and I just wanted her to be happy again.  I wasn’t angry, and I just calmly did what I could to try to help.

Within my years teaching high school students, I’ve worked with upwards of a thousand high school students.  For all of those years, at least some of my students have been considered “at risk” and there is a substantial number of them have been said to have behavior problems in other people’s rooms.  From what I’ve heard, some of them have really been little fuckers, I must admit.  In my classroom, however, there are very few students I would have classified in that way.  That’s not to say they didn’t sometimes do things they weren’t supposed to, but by punishing the action and not the child – by approaching each outburst with compassion and empathy – I haven’t had to deal with too much – and I’d say that all of my students have been, and are, really great people.

Well, all except two.  Two of them I thought were pretty evil and beyond help.  During my second year of teaching there was Steve, and my 5th year of teaching there was Michael.  It’s okay to be honest here, right?

Okay, okay, in all reality, those two probably just needed help beyond what I was capable of giving. But, see how easy it was for me to put the blame on them? To say that there must be something wrong with THEM, when really it was ME who couldn’t help?

Unlike babies, teenagers (and adults) don’t always cry at the exact moment when something is wrong.  More often than not, this unhappiness manifests in some other form, and is often redirected at sources other than the real problem.  When someone lashes out angrily, or cruelly or even violently, we can condemn the behavior, but we need to look at that person with compassion and do what we can to help.  Maybe they have sensory issues, maybe they have a cognitive impairment, have poor coping skills, are dealing with depression or mental illness, have anger issues due to neglect or abuse, or were just never taught how to use good judgement.  We need to remember that good people can do stupid things.  Even horrible things.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions or that poor choices shouldn’t have consequences.  Not at all.  But, we sometimes need a reminder that it is incredibly easy for those of us who are so lucky to have support, love, guidance, strong role models, financial means and good health, to judge the actions of others who do not have the benefit of these gifts.  But just because it is easy doesn’t make it okay.

It’s so easy to sit back in our cushy lives, look down our noses and arrogantly scoff, “What is wrong with these people?”  Well, guess what,  there is probably a LOT wrong. And the reason we don’t act that way is because we are LUCKY, not just because we are so much better than everyone else.  Instead of judging, we need to all have a little more compassion.

This is why despite the incessant bashing of teachers – calling us lazy, calling us greedy,  politicians taking away health care, and pensions and our funding, and increasing class size – despite all of this, I still love my job, because, like so many of my colleagues, I choose my “core curriculum” to include empathy and compassion.

I’m so grateful for Baby Grouch, and the happiness she has given me, and for her reminding me what I already know, but what is so easy to forget.

Oh, and I’m also thankful for wine.  Very, very thankful for wine.

This post is a part of Yeah Write #84.  If you like what you read, vote for me on Thursday 🙂