Always Stretching

Over the weekend a friend of mine and I were talking about yoga. He told me how he and his wife joke around and say, “Why is Jessica always stretching?”

I thought about it and they’re right. I am always stretching!

If I’m hanging out with friends or family in my home I’m most likely sitting on the floor doing some forward bends. If I’m sitting on the couch at a friend’s house I’m probably sitting cross-legged and doing some twists. I don’t really think about it. I just do it. It’s second nature.

Ever since I was tiny I’ve always been a mover. First a jazz, ballet and tap dancer. Then a modern dancer. Then a yogi. Almost every job I’ve ever had has involved moving my body. I tried a job sitting at a desk once. I lasted one month.

This past weekend I began filming a video for my childhood dance studio. It’s the 30th anniversary of the studio’s opening and I’m honored to be creating a tribute video for the occasion. I was deeply moved by the teachers’ performances of heartfelt solos. Something inside of me stirred as I watched them, and it continues to stir.

I’ve since began editing the footage and it bring tears to my eyes every time. The purity of it all. The movement. The music. The beauty. The passion. And it’s all there because of the amazing success of my childhood dance studio. And guess what? That’s the place where I learned how to stretch.

I can’t help but cry as I think. Yes, I am always stretching. And it’s because of where I came from.

 

 

What does self-care look like today?

Here I am, sitting on my bed. The window is open and the spring-like air is flowing in. Emily is out at the park. I am alone. Oh, except for Romeo snoring at my feet.

I moved at a snail’s pace, but I finally asked for help. I sloshed past all the guilt about needing some time for myself and asked a babysitter to come for a few hours this afternoon. Now I can just focus on my work. I can just focus on me. It feels good AND weird!

Next week I’m teaching a class on Yoga and Self-Care for a group of parents. When I began preparing for it, I realized I needed to practice what I preached. If I was going talk to parents about the importance of taking care of themselves then I should probably make sure I took care of myself too.

Part of my self-care this week was taking the initiative to book a babysitter this afternoon. It feels very freeing (and foreign) to have three hours in the middle of the day to do whatever I want.

This week I also managed to get in some yoga while Emily napped. I’ve included that video below. It’s blurry which seems pretty fitting since it feels like my focus on myself is pretty blurry these days too!

Mom Hair

Today I got back from a nice afternoon out with Emmy. I thought I was pretty put together. Then I saw myself in the mirror.

You see, Emily loves holding onto my hair. Every single time I hold her she grabs a piece. It’s almost like my hair is the equivalent of a security blanket for her. So I guess at some point she grabbed a chunk of hair out of my pony tail and held tight. I somehow didn’t notice that I had a large strangly piece of hair and continued on my merry way.

I guess this is my “mom hair.”

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See What’s in Front of You

I’ve learned a whole lot in my first year of motherhood, and there’s one big lesson I want to share.  I’m learning to see what’s in front of me rather than getting carried away with my worries.

This past year with each big change in Emily’s development I found myself getting overwhelmed and even scared. A few milestones that stand out in my mind are switching her from her bassinet to her crib, introducing her to solid foods, giving her supplemental formula, and teaching her to fall asleep on her own through sleep training.  All of these changes seem small in hindsight but seemed insurmountable at the time.

I found myself becoming obsessed with the BEST way to do things. I told myself if I made the “wrong” decision I would cause serious damage to Emily. I’m not kidding when I say I would run away to crazy places in my mind.

The thing is when I look back I see that even if I did things differently, Emily would be totally fine.  There’s really no best way to do things. What’s most important is really seeing the human being in front of me rather than getting caught up in the “shoulds” of parenting.

Case in point the latest “problem” I’ve been pondering. In the past month or so Emily has gotten into the habit of falling asleep while drinking her last bottle of the evening. For a few days I found myself in a dark cloud of worry while I gave her that last bottle. I would tell myself, this is a very bad habit. I would tell myself, this needs to stop ASAP. I would run the phrase, “You should always put your baby down awake” over and over in my mind and convince myself I was somehow failing. I would feel shame.

Then tonight as I held Emily in my arms while she drank her bottle, she played with my hair and her eyes began to close. I looked down at her sweet serene face and I thought- SEE WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU. Right there in my arms was my sweet baby girl playing with my hair and falling asleep in my arms. I mean, she still fits in my arms. How amazing is that?

I reminded myself that the beauty of that moment was fleeting. Emily won’t always fall asleep in her mama’s arms and want to play with her mama’s hair. This was a moment for me to cherish NOT a moment for me to run away with fear, worry and shame.

If I push aside all of the “shoulds.” If I stop comparing myself and my child to other moms and children. If I really sit down and feel what my instinct is telling me, I know we are okay. I know when the time is right we will take the bottle away. I also know Emily is a capable human being who can fall asleep on her own just fine when we decide to make that change. She’s okay. She’s more than okay.

Moms and dads out there- please hear me when I say this. SEE WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU. See what’s there today and try not to get carried away with the tomorrows. I know how easy it is to fear that you’re somehow failing or doing things wrong. But if you can pause, breathe and see the human being in front of you, you’ll remember that nothing else really matters except that deep love you feel inside. Enjoy the little moments of today because they pass by and become the big moments of tomorrow.

You’re doing great. Just keep on seeing what’s in front of you.

 

 

 

Get out!

Today while Emily was napping the contractor who has been working on our apartment came by. He wanted to check on the floor he had recently fixed in Emily’s room. He had given me no advanced warning. When I told him she was napping in there he said, “I’ll be quiet.” I paused a moment in disbelief and said, “No. Sorry. She needs to sleep.”

He’s a very nice man and certainly didn’t mean to piss me off, but come on!

What strikes me most when I reflect on this now is the fire I had inside of me in that moment when he said, “I’ll be quiet.” I pictured Emily taking a serene nap and a man she doesn’t know suddenly entering her room. No way! My internal mama bear instinct was screaming “GET OUT!” I didn’t say this to him, but I was definitely thinking it.

Mama bear instinct is real. This past year I’ve been stuck by how loud it is and how protective I feel of Emily. I never knew I could feel this way about another human being! In the past a weak point of mine has been creating clear boundaries with others. My need to people please often came before my ability to take care of my own needs. That’s not the case with Emily. I have no problem saying NO if it’s not in her best interest.

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care lately. I’ve been reimagining what it looks like and how it feels. I’ve been asking myself- what if I were to offer myself the same love, attention and respect I offer to Emily every day? Today I’m thinking that sometimes the ultimate act of self-care may be to just say,”GET OUT!”

 

 

 

Where I came from

Today my cousin had my family over to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. Grandma’s been up in heaven for five years now. It’s been a tradition for us to gather around her February 23rd birthday each year. 

I have to admit this year Grandma’s birthday hit me harder than past years. I actually didn’t allow myself to fully think about it because I knew I just couldn’t deal with it. Having my own daughter now who I love so deeply makes the loss of my grandma sting more. 

I wish Grandma were here to snuggle Emily, tell her how adorable she is, and squeeze her cheeks and say “I love you sweetheart.” I imagine she would tell me how gorgeous Emily is and giggle at all her cuteness. I would visit her just to see how happy she got to see Emily and me and I would feel loved and seen. I’d call her often and update her on everything. I’d say “Grandma- Emily said car today!” and she would say “Oh my God she is SO smart.” And then she’d call me back five minutes later to tell me how proud she is that I called her.

There’s something about losing all of my grandparents that makes me feel like my childhood is gone. My Grandma, Nonno and Nanna were all incredible forces in my life and now they aren’t here anymore. It feels like they were the connection to baby Jessica and now that they are gone that baby is also gone. 

Yes, I do believe they watch over us. I do feel their presences often. And I feel blessed to have them around. It’s just not the same as having them physically here sharing these moments with.

I miss them so. My heart aches. I am so proud that they are where I came from.