Learning to Love Myself Again*

I’m turning 35 at the end of June.

I don’t feel old, and I’m actually really excited about what the next phase of life holds for me, but 35 feels like a bit of a milestone. It feels like it is a good point to take stock and reflect on the road I’ve taken to get where I am.

I’ve been doing lots of big thinking lately. I always do in January. There’s something about the birth of a new year that inspires reflection and an honest look at myself. Not in a negative way, but in an “eyes really open and really seeing” kind of way.

A few weeks ago I gave a lesson in Relief Society and we talked about the difference between being “awake” and “alert”. You can be awake and just sort of go through the motions of life. Moving and doing and speaking without really thinking about it. For me, being alert means doing those things with purpose. With intent. With an awareness.

I think I spent most of the last year just trying to survive. First I was just trying to survive the first few weeks of exhaustion that come with a new pregnancy. Then I was just trying to survive working full-time + family life + pregnancy.

Then when I realized that I was losing the pregnancy, I was just trying to survive the aftermath of my miscarriage.

A few short weeks later, I was just trying to survive the grief that came with sudden death of my friend… plus working full-time and mom-ing full-time.

For much of last year, I was awake… but I wasn’t alert. It was just how I grieved. I went through the motions, kept putting one foot in front of the other and doing whatever I needed to keep those big feelings at bay.

Most of what I did… was eat.

I haven’t had a very healthy relationship with food for a long time. Oh, I’ve gone through bouts where I’m super disciplined and focused and watch all the documentaries and commit to all the good things.

And then life happens and the train derails… and I’d eat. Then the guilt and the shame roll in and it’s such a vicious cycle. If you’ve been around for a while, you know this is something I have struggled with for a long, long time.

For the past several months, I quieted all those feelings and I indulged in whatever I wanted. I was tired and sad and I ate all my feelings and I didn’t feel guilty about it.

…but it didn’t feel good, either.

It didn’t feel good when my kids would come home from school and ask for a cookie from the batch I had just made the day before… and I would have to say no because I’d eaten them all. So, then I’d make some more… and eat those too. It didn’t feel good when I quietly ate half the chocolates M had been given as a special treat, just because I was stressed and battling a craving. It didn’t feel good when my body was heavy and sluggish, and I would have to sit down and really think about whether or not I had eaten anything healthy that day.

It doesn’t feel good being the mom in those memes–you know, the ones where they joke about having eaten all their kids treats when they weren’t around. Except this isn’t a joke. I’m that mom. And that’s not fair to them.

Or to me.

It doesn’t feel good writing this. Facing it and sharing it is making my stomach ball up into a million knots and I kind of want to throw up.

But the reality is, none of what I’ve been doing over the past few months feels good anymore. I’m done with just being awake.. I want to be alert. And I know myself… when I’m really ready to face something, I need to say it out loud. I need to own it.

So here I am.

A few months ago, someone “introduced” me to Sarah Landry’s Instagram (aka The Bird’s Papaya). I don’t typically follow influencers or people I don’t know, but she drew me in. I don’t necessarily agree with everything she posts, but she has one underlying message that has really resonated with me.

All she wants is for people to love themselves for who they are. To be the best version of that self, whatever it looks like. She is a huge advocate for body positivity… and I feel like a lot of that is rooted in taking the time to really know yourself. To see yourself… and to love yourself. Unconditionally.

What I’ve been doing these past few months has not been loving myself. It’s been hiding. Coping. Surviving. It’s what I think I needed… but I feel like I’m really waking up for the first time in months. For the first time in a long time, I feel… alert.

I want love myself better than I have been lately. I want to love myself enough to choose healthy foods. I want to love myself enough to take care of my body because it feels good to move it and strengthen it.

I want to listen to what my body has been quietly trying to tell me for a while now because I’m finally ready to hear it:

That’s enough now.

This isn’t about dieting or losing weight. For me, it’s about learning balance and control. I haven’t felt like I’ve been in control of my eating habits for a long time. I’ve been eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it… and let’s be real. All I wanted was sugar. And that just doesn’t feel good.

It’s about loving myself enough to choose better. About being mindful of what I’m putting in my body. That doesn’t mean denying myself foods, but rather trying to strike a better balance with it.

(I’m definitely sitting here with a big ol’ hot chocolate while I ugly cry my way through this post.)

This is one of the biggest areas where I know I need to listen better. And I know that I can do it… I just needed to be ready to.

2019 was a hard one for me. It was a year of survival and let’s be honest: it wasn’t pretty. I want 2020 to be so much more. I know that I have some work to do, but I feel full of hope. I feel ready to take back some of the pieces that I felt were stripped away last year.

I finally feel ready to love myself again.

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