I can’t control my needs

I have a lot of needs. I need to tend to my son. I need to feed the dogs. I need to make breakfast. I need to get my son dressed. I need to walk the dogs. I need to write a paper. I need to be a loving wife. I need to be an attentive mother. I need to write a paper. I need to call my sister back. I need to feed the dogs. I need to feed my son. I need to play with my son. I need to play with the dogs. I need to write a paper. I need to do it all over again. I need to write a paper. I need to hide. I need a drink. I need to scream. I need to runaway.

I wear a lot of hats. I am a mom, a wife, a dog mom, and a grad student. Often times, I find myself tending to the needs of others and forget about my needs. Especially, when we are in the trenches. The past few weeks we have been on the sickness mary-go-round. First, it was the flu. Then my son gets pink eye. Then, I got pink eye. Of course, my husband is also working over time. When it rains if pours. Finally, it stopped. We come out on the other side of the sickness but life hasn’t stopped. The life of a stay at home mom and grad student doesn’t come with sick time. My schools work, along with the dishes and laundry, has piled up. The other day, my husband had worked the night before so he was sleeping. I spent the morning tending to my son and our two huge dogs. During my son’s nap, I spent the entire time working on school work. As soon as my husband woke up, I had to take my dogs on a walk because they had been jonesing for one for hours. Half way through the walk, I started to feel lightheaded. I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. I miss the days when I would get reprimanded when I worked through lunch. Although, I hadn’t eaten all day, I had drank four cups of coffee because I was tired from staying up late to write a paper the night before. At 5:00pm when I stumbled home, dogs in tow, I thought I was going to pass out. I sat down to eat and my son asks me to play with him. I lost it. I yell and tell him something along the lines of, “It isn’t my life purpose to play with you.” And “Can’t I just have a MINUTE to myself.” Later, I go to bed thinking if I am equipped to be a mother.

I wake up knowing I am equipped to be a mother, but I am not able to be a good and loving mother if I don’t tend to my own needs. But it is hard, because I have a lot of needs. I need to eat three meals a day. I need to drink more water and less coffee. I need to get a full night of sleep. I need to exercise. I need to do well in school. I need to spend time with my husband. I need to spend time in God’s word. I need to have a little fun. I need to write this blog. Sometimes, I need some me time. I need to remember the reasons why it is all worth it.

So, on Friday, I took some me time. I took my son to preschool, and instead of going home to do my schoolwork, I went and got a massage. Then, I went to the chiropractor. Refreshed, my son and I had a great rest of the day. Yesterday, my parents, GOD LOVE THEM, watched my son and gave me the entire day off. I went to one of my oldest friends baby shower. I went early and stayed late and I caught up with friends. Afterwards, I was able to help my friend unload her gifts and see her nursery. Then, I took another friend to a birthday coffee and got to play with her daughter. Later, I met up with my sister. We had dinner and deep conversations. Then we went to the Rodeo and saw the Aaron Watson concert. I spent the night at my sisters house and I slept in. I woke up and drank my coffee and finished my school work in peace. It was amazing. No, it was life giving. Because before I was a mom, to dogs and a human, a wife, and a grad student, I was a friend and a sister, and I loved going to Texas Country concerts. Sometimes, those parts of me get lost in the shuffle. It was a blessing to get a refresher course in, well me. Because, I have needs. I can’t control them. I can ignore them, sure. When I do, they always find a way to make themselves known. It’s never pretty. Instead, I can embrace them, lean into them, and fulfill them. It’s called self care and it is not selfish. It is needed and important. When I take care of my needs. I don’t feel the need to have a drink. Or the need to hide. The need to scream. Or the need to runaway. Instead, I am willing, with a joyful heart, and able to meet the needs of others.

Today, I was able to be attentive and loving to my son. I wasn’t distracted by what needed to get done or on what I might be missing. I had filled my cup and was ready to let the goodness overflow back into my life and onto my son. I wasn’t perfect but I was present. Obviously, the past two days were a rare occasion. Self care can’t always be an entire day off filled with fun events. It will always look and be different. That is the beauty of it. Some days it is stealing a second to apply my stress away essential oil and say a prayer for patience. Most days that’s all I need. Other times, it will be making sure I eat and have the strength to take on the day or at least the next meltdown. A few months from now, I don’t know what I will need. But, I promise myself, my husband, and my son, that I will meet my needs so I can meet theirs. So, if you are a mom, or a person, whose needs have been ignored. Lean into them, embrace them. Find your self care. We are worth it.

I Can’t Control My Body

My parents put me in gymnastics when I was 3 to try to harness my uncontrollable energy. And it did harness my energy an teach me control. As a gymnast I had to be able to control everything. I had to be able to control my emotions, my fear, my gravity, and most importantly my body. I had to learn to stretch, contort, and control my body in order to swing between and over bars, to flip on and off a four inch beam, to launch myself down a runway and over a vault, and to switch between being a graceful dancer and a powerful tumbler on the floor. The entire sport is about controlling the body to make it do things it was not intended to do.

After I quit gymnastics, I became a cheerleader. This sport was better suited for my extroverted nature and I enjoyed being part of a team but the premise of control pretty much stayed the same. I still had to control myself and make my body tumble, jump, dance, and stunt. During stunts, I not only controlled my body but I learned how to control your body while holding you over my head. Between gymnastics and cheerleading, I spent my first 21 years of life controlling my body. I have scars and all the aches and pains which prove my body was not intended to do all the things I made it do.

So when it became time to use my body for what it was intended to do I thought it was going to be this easy amazing experience which would leave me feeling empowered to be a woman. I have never been so wrong. Nothing went the way it is supposed to go. Actually, the first part of my pregnancy wasn’t bad. For the first 28 weeks, I was in this blissful denial that I was still in control. Then everything changed. At 28 weeks, I was in a car wreck. After the car wreck, my pregnancy went down hill. I spent 3 days in the hospital with swelling, contractions, and with my child in fetal heart distress. As my contractions stopped so did the fetal heart distress so we were given the green light to go home. We left the hospital but the swelling never left. It only increased week to week. At 37 weeks, I had to be put on bed rest. I spent the last three weeks of my pregnancy and the first three weeks of my maternity leave laying on my left side on my couch. Waiting. Waiting for the pregnancy to be over and to be back in control of my body. Wrong Again.

As soon as the contractions started my son went back into fetal heart distress. Every contraction his heart would drop. For 14 hours, the doctors and nurses tried different things to get his heart rate under control. Nothing worked. Eventually, his heart stopped. The nurses rushed in and shook my body until they got a heart beat again and then I was rolled away to have an emergency c-section. I have never been so scared in my entire life. As soon as he was born and I knew that he was breathing and healthy, I remember being so relieved to be back in control. Nope, not yet.

Breastfeeding came next. He wouldn’t latch. I wasn’t producing. We tried skin to skin. We tried a nipple guard. We tried a lactation consultant. We tried until he started peeing blood. We rushed him to the doctor. He was dehydrated. The doctor told me to supplement with formula. She said it would be fine. But, breast is best so we kept trying. I kept forcing breastfeeding first and then I would supplement with formula. I pumped in between feedings. I would cry when I would only produce one or two ounces. I would cry as I feed my son formula. No matter how hard I tried or how hard I cried I couldn’t control or make my body do what it was intended to do. I couldn’t feed my son. It was heartbreaking. Sitting here writing this, it is still heartbreaking. At eight weeks, when I returned back to work, I hadn’t been able to produce enough to have any milk stored up. So, we had to switch to formula full time. I was devastated. But, it was a gift. It was a gift to my son and it was a gift to me. It allowed me to feed my son and to feel in control while I did it. Finally, I was back in control and for good this time. Not quite.

Everytime we discussed having a second child, I clung to that control. I would say I wasn’t ready. We had a good thing going. Why change it. Finally, I reluctantly agreed. We would try for a second child but under certain conditions. I quit my job and went back to school. School was going to take two years and we could try for a second child during those two years. Two years was plenty of time to make, carry, and have a baby. All the things I couldn’t control before were eliminated. I wouldn’t have to worry about bed rest, or maternity leave, or trying to store up breast milk because I was home and I didn’t have a timeline of when I had to go back to work. I was in control so I could do it. In October, we were so excited to find out we were pregnant. I was determined to do it right this time. I ate healthy. I walked every day. I did yoga. I cut out caffeine. I rested. I didn’t stress. I drove carefully. I was in control. We moved to a bigger house. We were financially stable. We were ready. We were happy. We were in control. NOPE.

I had a miscarriage. The doctor said I didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing I could have done differently. There was nothing I could have done to control it. I will never know the reason it happened. These statements were meant to be comforting. To a control freak like me they were the opposite. They confirmed my worst fears. They confirmed I couldn’t control my body. They confirmed my suspicions were true. I was done. I was hurt. I was angry. I was at a loss.

There has been a lot of loss. The loss of the joy that comes with being pregnant the first time. The loss of experiencing childbirth. The loss of excitement and accomplishment during the first months of being a new mom. The loss of my second child. But, if I am being completely honest, with you and with myself, the loss I have felt the most is the loss of my perfect plan. The loss of control of the situation. It isn’t a good time to try again. I have less than 9 months left of school. If I get pregnant again, it will coincide with trying to start a career. It will interfere with my sister’s wedding. Or we could try again and it all could happen again. All the things I can’t control and all the things that could go wrong are too overwhelming to even think about. They are too overwhelming to talk about. They are too overwhelming to face. They are too overwhelming to try to control. They are too overwhelming to do alone. YES.

I may never know the physical reason why I swelled up so much during my first pregnancy. Why I had to be on bed rest. Why I had have a c-section. Why I couldn’t produce enough milk to breastfeed my son. Why I lost my second child. I may never know the why but I do know the purpose. If they hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have been brought to my breaking point. I wouldn’t have fallen to my knees and asked God to take control of my life because I can’t do it anymore. I wouldn’t have been open to going to counseling. I wouldn’t have written this blog. God used my body, the thing that I have been able to control my entire life, to show me that I am not in control of anything. To show me I can’t plan it. I can’t control it. I can’t do it alone. He used my body to bring me to a crossroads. Do I control my body and not try to have another child? Do I continue to try to control my life? Do I trust his plan for my life? Do I trust his plan for my son’s life? Do I trust his plan for any future children that I may or may not have? The answer is yes. I chose to let go. I chose to release myself from the burden of trying to control everything. I chose to transfer the burden of control to God. I chose to have Faith. And I chose to try again. This time knowing that I can’t control my body, or the situation, but that I can trust God.
*For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11*

I can’t control my son

As a young, naive, and childless, 20 something I remember being in the checkout line at Target and seeing a mom with a young child who was throwing the world’s loudest temper tantrum. She kept going along with her business, ignoring his screams and everyone’s annoyance, and I remember thinking I will NEVER be that mom. I will never be the mom to have a crying child in the Target checkout line. I will never be the mom to not be not be apologetic while my son screams. I will never be the mom who lets their child act out in public. I will never be the mom who can’t control their child.

Then, years later, I became a mother and the reality smacked me clear in the face. I can’t control my son’s behavior. I can love him. I can teach him. I can give him expectations. I can give him choices. I can give him consequences. I can explain to him that his choices have consequences. And I do all those things. I do them well. Still, doing those things does not give me control over him or his behavior. I can’t control whether or not he will have a meltdown in the Target checkout line. I can’t control if he will sit through an entire meal at a sit down restaurant. I couldn’t control him when he cried through his entire 2nd birthday party. There are so many things about him which I can’t control but I was serious when I told myself that I would never be that mom. So, I decided to control what I could. I started controlling his environment. I controlled what type of situations I put us in. I stopped taking him to Target. I stopped taking him to sit down restaurants. I stopped taking him to places that were unfamiliar. I stopped going to events unless he had gotten a good nap or unless we were with trusted friends. When we did go places and he had a meltdown, I started leaving. I started apologizing to everyone around us. I started saying no and choosing to stay home. Home is safe. Home can be controlled. As, I think back on the past year, we have had some great times. I am happy and thankful for each and everyone of those. But I am also sad. I am sad because we left your daughter’s birthday party early because he cried when he couldn’t help her open her presents. I am sad we dropped out of soccer because he had a meltdown the first three practices. I am sad we left an empty movie theater because he wouldn’t sit still. I’m sad we haven’t gone to Chili’s together as a family. I’m sad that I thought our only choices were to leave places early or stay home. I am sad that we have missed out on so experiences and so many teachable moments because I never wanted to be mom who couldn’t control her son.

Today is my son’s 3rd birthday. We threw him a huge birthday party. We bought him a cake. He got presents. In fact, he got so many new toys we could stay home and play with them the entire year. But, we won’t. This year, my real present to my son is to accept that I can’t control him but I can be that mom. I can say yes to your child’s birthday party which is scheduled during his nap time. I can decide not to drop out of T-ball. I can take him to the movies. We can do unfamiliar things with unfamiliar people. If we are feeling really crazy, we can even go to Chili’s on a Friday night. Not only can we do those things but I can choose to stay. Even if he has a meltdown. I can be the mom to wait out the tantrum in order to discuss the lesson. Because if we don’t, how will he know if he is good at t-ball? How will he learn how to act at a restaurant? How will he learn to persevere when he is tired? how will he learn that he can work through hard things? How will I learn how to overcome my need to control everything. So, if you see us in the Target checkout line and I am unapologetic while my son is mid meltdown, shoot me a smile and give me some grace, because I am trying to be THAT mom who walks by Faith.

I can’t control my dogs

I can’t control my dogs

About four years ago, me and my friend had a brilliant idea. We would meet at a trail to walk our dogs. She had two dogs and so did I so we thought it would be fun. She walked her dogs with confidence and her dogs rarely stepped out of line while me and my dogs were a fumbling mess. We kept getting tangled, the dogs wouldn’t listen to me, my feet kept getting caught in their leashes. By the end of the walk, I was in tears and felt so defeated. That day I resigned myself to think that I couldn’t control my dogs and so I won’t walk them anymore. Walking the dogs would be Matt’s job because he was bigger, stronger, and the dogs listened to him. So, instead of making my dogs listen to me, I just gave up and gave that task to my husband.

Now, let me stop right here and tell you about my dogs. My first dog Astro is a yellow Lab who weighs 115 pounds. He is a BIG dog. He is loud. He is loud when he walks, he is loud when he breathes, he is loud when eats, somehow he is even loud when he sleeps. Everything he does is loud. On top of him being big and loud, he craves attention and to be apart of the family. Most of the time, this is annoying because this means that a big and loud dog wants to be on top of me or sitting right next to me ALL THE TIME. Sometimes, being around Astro and hearing him breathe loudly all day long is so annoying that I have actually said, “Astro, go away and stop breathing”. I don’t mean for him to stop breathing and drop dead, I just want some space and some silence for five minutes to gain my sanity back. I tell Astro to go away so often that my sweet innocent son now tells Astro to go away more times than I care to admit.

My second dog Ranger is the exact opposite. Ranger is smaller, he only weighs 78 pounds. Most of the time, he is calm and quite and likes to be left alone. I constantly have to tell Luke to get off Ranger because as much as he wants Astro to leave him alone, he wants Ranger to play with him. Ranger is so quiet sometimes, that I forget that he is here. UNTIL, a car drives by or the wind blows and all of a sudden Ranger will BARK so loudly that my heart jumps out of my chest and I prepare for the home invasion I am sure is happening because why else would this calm and quite dog be barking with so much vigor.

Another thing which Astro does is he will eat anything in sight. If you are making a sandwich and you turn your back to put the bread back in the pantry, Astro will jump on the counter and eat your entire sandwich before you turn back around. If my son leaves his food on the table, or the counter, or the couch for just a minute Astro will get his food. This happens AT LEAST once a day, some days it happens at all three meals. Every time it happens, Luke cries in agony saying Astro got his food and lately he tells me Astro needs a time out. I agree, and I need a break from him, so I put him outside. The minute the door shuts and Astro is outside he starts barking. Remember, everything he does is loud so he is barking really LOUD the entire time you leave him outside. It could be five minutes or it could be three hours. Yes, we have tried shock collars, we have tried giving him his own area, we have tried to let him bark it out but in this battle of wills he wins everytime. I live in a constant catch 22 because I can’t have the dogs inside because Astro is always too close to Luke, or eating Luke’s food, or Luke is on top of Ranger, or Ranger is barking out the window at the comings and goings of the street. I also can’t put them outside because Astro will bark for hours until you break down and let him back inside which starts the entire merry go round all over again.

Oh and did I mention they also dig, or that Luke is allergic, and Matt is trying to sleep because he worked the night before. Just writing all of this down makes me remember why I hid in my closet and screamed HELP! I’m being held hostage in my own home by my own dogs and by my own fear. That day I asked God for strength. For the inner strength to set myself free and the physical strength to take my dogs on a walk. And he did. Even though I had told myself that I could never walk our dogs again, I put my son in his stroller and leashed up all 200 pounds worth of dogs and we headed out the door. To my surprise, we survived that walk. It wasn’t the most graceful walk we had ever taken but we did it.

That was about a year ago and I continue to walk both our dogs every day. Have we had some bumps in the road, of course. There was the time when Astro’s leash came off and he ran away. Or the time when I let go of my son’s stroller to keep Ranger from attacking another dog and the stroller, with my son strapped into it, went tumbling down a hill. But we also survived those walks and, fortunately (or do I mean unfortunately), Astro found his way home. Then, there were other days when we stopped at the park and played so hard the dogs were so tired they slept the rest of the day. Or there are walks like this morning, when we stopped to look at the pond and noticed a rainbow. And so this daily ritual which was born out of survival is now my daily outlet and sometimes our daily adventure.

Now, there are still many things about my dogs which I can’t control. I can’t control how loud Astro breathes or stop my heart from jumping out of my chest when Ranger starts barking out of nowhere. I can’t control how my son continues to lay on top of Ranger several times a day no matter how many times I tell him not to. And I can’t control that Astro eats Luke’s food. But, I can control if my dogs get a walk. I can free myself from the stress and anxiety of navigating all the chaos they cause by getting exercise and fresh air while I walk away their crazy. Walking my dogs empowers me to do other things I never thought possible. It empowers me to write and share this blog. It empowers me to keep going, even when I am a fumbling mess. Because, there is so much I can’t control but I can overcome if I have the Faith to step out and walk.

Control Freak

It has been brought to my attention that I like to be in control. My husband has been saying it for years but what does he know…right?. But then other people started mentioning it. Co-workers, friends, my sisters, my father in law, my dad, the sermons on Sunday mornings. Some in subtle ways, others in not so subtle ways. I would dismiss them all as not understanding me, not liking me, or not caring as much as me. But then my counselor said it. After only three one hour sessions, my counselor said some words that hit me like a ton a bricks. And this time I heard it. Maybe it was because she doesn’t know me AT ALL. She didn’t grow up with me, she didn’t raise me, she doesn’t work with me, she doesn’t live with me. She only knows the things that I have chosen to share with her in our first three sessions. And from three hours of talking to me she summarized my ramblings and reflected back their interpretation. She said, “It sounds like you like to be in control.” WOW. Could it be true?

The reason that I have had such a hard time acknowledging and accepting this fact about myself is because I used to be the exact opposite. The girl that I was 15 years ago couldn’t wait to lose control so surely 33 year old me and that girl can’t be the same person. But we are. There was a time when I had no real sense of control and I loved it. I was fun loving, care free, funny, I spoke before I thought, and yes I was the LIFE OF THE PARTY. Sure, I did what I needed to do, I went to class, did my school work, showed up for cheer practice but if there was fun to be had or chaos to be found, I found it. I found it a few too many times. The chaos that had become my life was slowly revealed to me as I floated down what seemed to be the longest and slowest river while holding my third Minor in Possession of Alcohol ticket up out of the water the entire time while everyone around me continued to drink themselves into oblivion. That day, I told myself that I needed to get control of my life. And I did. I walked away from that river changed and I never looked back.

Thirteen years later, I build a great life. I’m a wife, a mom, and a graduate student. I have already accomplished some incredible things in my first career and I have a whole slew of things that I plan to accomplish in my next career. From the outside, it looks like I have it all together. That I have it all under control. Clinging to that control makes me feel safe and secure but lately I haven’t been able to control anything and I feel anxious about everything (Hence, why I started counseling… wait for it there will be an entire blog on this subject). Over the past four years, I have become acutely aware that I can’t control anything. It makes me dizzy just thinking about all the things in my life that I can’t control. I don’t want to feel this way any more. I know that the first step to working through a problem is to acknowledge it, so here it goes:

Hi, My name is Faith and I am a control freak.

The irony of that statement is not lost on me. The fact that my name is Faith yet I have none. I haven’t walked by Faith in so long that the thought of giving up control and trusting God with my life terrifies me. Except, I have no other choice. I need Jesus. I need to lose control. I literally need to let go and let God. So that is what I plan to do. I plan to take Rachel Hollis’s advice and no longer keep everything hidden. I plan to write it down and release it so that the things that I can’t control no longer have control over me. I plan to embrace my chaos. I plan to walk to by Faith and see what happens.

So join me on my journey as I lose control and walk by Faith. I invite you along with me on my journey because it will help me. It might help you and because we all need a little bit of Faith.