Friday, July 10, 2015

Pride, pain, and learning to suck it up and deal with it.

If you've read previous posts, you know that I have chronic pain.

If you know me as a person, you know I'm extremely proud.

I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that those two things can't coexist.

I'd always had minor aches and pains, but everything went downhill when I was pregnant with my son. They didn't get better like I had expected them to, and It took a very long time for me to admit that. One of my biggest struggles was admitting I needed to use the electric carts when grocery shopping. It took A LOT of pressure from my husband, but I finally gave in and started using them. I've been doing that for about a year and a half, and it has made shopping a lot easier on me. But my pain is only getting worse, because I have a toddler and I don't get enough physical rest. Tyler's latest project has been convincing me that I need a wheelchair, or at least a walker or cane. And my first response was, of course, hell no. I'm twenty years old. I don't want to be crippled. I don't want to admit that I can walk for half an hour on a GOOD day. I don't want to admit that I'm physically not well enough to live a normal life right now.

The thing is... that's all true.

Whether I like it or not, this is becoming my reality. And denying it hurts me, and hurts my family. Rather than finding excuses to stay home, I should be looking for ways to get out. I owe that to my son, who's been stuck in the house five or six days a week for the majority of his life.

So I'm getting a wheelchair, and a new set of goals.

I'm going to accept this, and learn to thrive in spite of it -- rather than pretending it doesn't exist.

I'm going to do everything I can to get stronger -- without denying that I'm weak.

I'm going to shrug off the stares and the self-consciousness -- rather than letting other peoples' expectations affect my quality of life.

I'm going to find a new way to define myself that isn't limited by my disabilities -- rather than trying to force myself into a mold I don't fit.

Because you know what? I'm a pretty decent mom, and a good cook. I'm a loving wife. A decent writer. I dream bigger than anyone I know, and I have the gift of optimism in the darkest of situations.

I'm going to suck it up and deal with this, because I'm going to be okay -- even on the days that I'm not.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On Fear and Poverty

Fear. It's an emotion we all experience at some point. Usually, it's an isolated experience; lately, that hasn't been the case for me. Fear has been breathing down my neck, wrapping around me like a blanket, and tainting every waking moment and restless night with its presence for months now. We talk about fear, and we talk about poverty -- what we don't talk about is how they're inextricably intertwined.

Maybe we made bad choices, maybe we're at the mercy of a broken system. It doesn't really matter at this point, because me family is doing everything RIGHT. We coupon, we budget exhaustively, we account for every penny -- and still, we live with the fear of losing everything looming over our heads. This month, we're going to be $68 short. Sixty-eight measly dollars are what stands between us and security. Pocket change for some, but the difference between making it and not for us.

So that fear, it becomes a driving force. I'm driven to work harder and longer, to find new ways to pinch pennies, to blatantly self-promote when I'm able. I stop sleeping, get dehydrated, forget to eat -- all over that $68 standing between having what we need, and losing something essential.

It's not something that's easy for me to talk about, and maybe I'm only putting it out there because it's become so all-consuming I can't think of anything else to bring to the table right now. But at the end of the day, I'm more than just scared. I'm bone-deep exhausted from carrying this burden. I'm tired of spending my nights wide-eyed, frantically searching for a miracle when I don't even believe in them. This dread, this terror, this realization that it all rests on me is something I crave release from.

Maybe someday this will all be a distant memory; hope for that day is what keeps me going, what keeps me running on fumes when I've slept twelve hours in ten days. But right now, the tunnel I'm in is long and dark, and I don't see a light at the end.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Cleaning With Chronic Pain

If you have chronic pain (and especially if you're a parent with chronic pain) it can be extremely hard to keep your home clean. Messes pile up, and it gets overwhelming. I've dealt with this issue in my own home. I'm a work-at-home mom, so I have the time to clean most days, but I'm often in so much pain (or have no energy because of that pain) that even simple tasks seem impossible. I've come up with a few strategies that help me get the urgent tasks done, and I'll share those below. I'm lucky that I have a great husband who understands my limitations and helps as much as he can. But for the days where he doesn't have the time or ability and I have to choose between cleaning through the pain or living with a huge mess, these tips have helped a lot.
  1. Try to do as much as possible sitting down. It takes a little creativity, but I've found ways to do a lot of chores from my bed or a comfy chair, which keeps my joints from screaming at me for the rest of the day. A high stool to wash dishes from is a must-have for me -- otherwise my husband is stuck doing them every night when he gets home. To fold laundry, I sit on the bed with a pile of clean laundry in front of me and a basket beside me. As I fold each item, it goes in the laundry basket to be put away later. I sit at the table to prep dinner instead of standing at a counter chopping. I sort my laundry before washing it by piling it all on one surface, sitting down next to it, and tossing each load into a separate pile.
  2. Work in bursts. What I've found helps me the most is if I don't do the overly physical tasks all at once. I try to do ten minutes of hard physical chores -- scrubbing countertops, picking up clutter, putting away dishes -- and then rest for at least twenty minutes. To keep from wasting time, I'll do sitting-down chores in between hard chores. For instance, in ten minutes I can unload and reload the washing machine, then hang clothes to dry and gather clean clothes off the line to fold. I then take twenty minutes to fold laundry and possibly sort out a couple more loads. My next ten-minute blitz is putting up that basket of folded laundry. In this way, I can be productive without straining myself too badly.
  3. Take preventative measures. In order to make it easier to clean the house, I try to keep it from getting as messy in the first place. When I'm making dinner, I have a trash bowl on the counter to toss everything into so there aren't packages and vegetable scraps sitting around after dinner and I don't have to run to the trashcan every ten seconds. I try to keep a trashcan in almost every room, and I love clutter baskets. It's where we dump all of our clutter instead of leaving it laying around -- it's much easier to carry a small basket through the house putting things away than it is to pick up clutter from every surface and place it individually.
  4. Take days off. Listen to your body -- when your pain level gets to be unmanageable, it's time to let the chores slide for a day. When I refuse to take down-time when I know I need it, one day of overworking myself often leads to three days in a row of barely being able to stand. I much prefer to take a day off when I need it -- which is usually every two or three days for me if I'm being careful the rest of the time -- than to ignore those cues and become physically unable to do what needs doing. In the long run, your house is going to be messier if you run yourself into the ground because the recovery period can be so long. So don't take out the trash, use paper plates, and toss something in the microwave. It helps a lot.
At the end of the day, this isn't just about taking care of the house. It's also about taking care of yourself. If you have chronic pain, there WILL be days when you can't even manage ten minutes of cleaning. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory. Don't let those days make you feel useless or hopeless, and definitely don't push yourself beyond your limits. Love yourself and realize it isn't your fault. But on the days when you have just a little bit of energy, a few modifications to your routine can go a long way.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Being a parent without letting go of my dreams

When I was younger, I had high aspirations. I wanted to be an engineer or an entrepreneur. After I got married, that vision changed a little bit, but never went away. When my son was born, everything changed. I was consumed by Parenthood with a capital P. Being a mom was my full time job. I lived and breathed it. Dreaming of my future turned into plans and hopes to give him a good life by any means necessary. Now that he's a little older and I'm getting some sense of myself back, my dreams are starting to return to me, and I've been thinking about the balancing act between Jodi the person, and Jodi the mom.

My ultimate goal is to have a boutique, online and possibly with a physical location. That, and I want to keep writing. Eventually I want to settle into a couple of niches with that, namely parenthood/finances/entrepreneurship. I don't have a hard business plan, but I want to be successful enough that my husband and I can work from home together until the kids are grown (at which point we might open a physical location).

That looks a lot different from what my plan looked like a few years ago. I wanted to get rich off of some wildly successful business that also helped the environment. I wanted to travel, and be important. I wanted to be queen of my world.

So things have changed a lot. But honestly, what's most important to me is that I'm still dreaming. I'm reclaiming my identity from Jodi the Mommy, and realizing that I can and will be a person all my own, with dreams and hopes and aspirations that fill my soul with happiness. When Colton was born, I lost that person for a while. I just know it's really great to have her back.

If I could give any parent out there one piece of advice, it would be not to stop dreaming just because there are kids in the picture now. Don't let your identity as a person be devoured by your responsibilities as a parent. When you are whole and fulfilled, that's when you can be the best parent. A parent that exemplifies confidence, drive, self-love, and working for your goals is the best kind of parent I can think of.