I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I started listening to Brené Brown’s talks at the same time that my financial and weight crises came to a head. It’s not that I think it was “meant to be,” but something, subconsciously, pushed me to click on a link to one of her talks, and it was my deep need to hear what she had to say about shame and vulnerability that kept me listening.
I needed to hear what she had to say before I could honestly track my spending, or quit breastfeeding and take my medicine again, or allow myself to see how much I’ve gained and therefore how much I need to lose.
If I had not learned what I did about shame and vulnerability, I wouldn’t be handling any of this in the ways that I am. Each of these experiences would be a lot more difficult.
That being said, shame work is no walk in a park. Thinking about it is hard. Writing about it is harder. And feeling ALL THE EMOTIONS that all this brings up is even harder. I know that eventually everything will be easier, that I’ll be in less pain because I did this hard work. But right now? It’s hard. Really hard.
It’s like extracting a splinter. The act of digging it out can be excruciating–and the dull ache of that skin healing after the fact isn’t all that pleasant–but you need to do it or that sharp pain of a foreign object under your skin could sear through you at any time. The discomfort of extracting it and the healing that follows may be more acute than the pain of leaving the splinter where it is, but they are shorter lived. And by removing the culprit, you allow yourself to heal completely.
Right now I’m in the healing phase. I’ve faced the realities of my shame and what it’s done to me. That hurt. It was excruciatingly painful. But now that it’s over, I’m able to heal. I just need to do the work of keeping the wound clean and dry, giving the time and attention it needs to get better.
This healing phase is hard, but I’m trying to thinking of it as an opportunity. I want to live my life more intentionally and being financially responsible and living healthily are two important parts of that. I want to teach my children that we don’t need, or get, everything we want. I want them to learn how to wait, and work, for what is important to them. And I want them to see that many times sacrifices have to be made. We’re the first generation of Americans who will most likely be worse off than our parents (Mi.Vida and I will most certainly both have less than our parents at the end of our lives), we don’t know what kind of future our children will face. I want them to have these skills because we modeled them, AND made them develop these skills themselves. (My parents absolutely modeled financial responsibility, but they both came from very little and wanted to give us a lot, so they didn’t actually TEACH us to do it for ourselves. I wish they had.)
Even more importantly I want to teach my children what healthy, balanced meals look like. I’ll also teach them that there is a time and a place for special treats, and we will practice moderation. Healthy eating is the thing I feel I fail most at as a mother (hell, I fail at this as an adult). Again, my parents absolutely modeled this, but I wish we had been given more opportunities to learn it for ourselves. Maybe some things just need to be learned as adults. I’m disappointed it’s taken me so long to really make these good choices.
Now is a great time to overhaul our spending and eating habits. We’re transitioning into a new life with a new way of doing things. It will be easier to create new habits now, when everything is on the brink of major upheaval. We can either let ourselves settle into patterns we ultimately don’t find productive, or take the time to create new, better patterns that we want to fall back on for the rest of our lives.
Here is one concrete example: We’re using the ideas of baby-led weaning with Monito, which means we need to be eating what we’d want him to be eating. This weekend I realized there was very little in my kitchen I’d want to feed to my six month old. This was a wake up call. Right now Monito is not awake when we eat dinner, but I want to be comfortable giving him the dinners we eat, by the time he’s old enough to join us.
As for spending habits, what better time to get a handle how to live within our means that right now, when we’re faced with a new financial reality. If we can make it work now, we can make it work in the future. And if we figure out how to live on a tight budget with two small children, we may have more choices down the road.
Yes, I’m trying to see these set backs as an opportunity, to mold my life into one I can ultimately be proud of. One that I can hope my kids might some day be proud of, and appreciate.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. In fact, I suspect we’re going to be pretty stressed out, and generally less happy, in the coming months than we have been previously. The day to day is going to be more grueling, and we’re going to feel like we have far fewer options than we’ve enjoyed in the past. But I hope, after the initial learning period, we’ll find a way to make this more restrictive life feel more comfortable. Maybe some day, living this way will actually bring us joy. In the meantime, we’ll do it because we know it’s the right thing to do for us and our family.