Over the last month I have learnt quite a lot about myself, particularly in the 30 Day Self Portrait Challenge, but sometimes life lessons come in smaller pieces. Mine surprised me in hindsight. I thought I would share them with you as I can imagine both are pretty common.
Firstly, I have been re-learning how to be social. Speaking online with a friend of mine I mentioned that post-depression (especially with a few pregnancy/post-partum dips back in) was like re-learning how to talk to people, how to act, how to even be around people again, however awesome they were and however much you might miss them when you haven’t seen them for a while.
This month I feel as if I’m the closest to being normal socially than I’ve been in a very long time. I was first diagnosed with depression around 2010 which just goes to show how long recovery can really take, and if you put it into physical terms, imagine breaking your leg and still learning how to walk again 5 years later. Within a week I had attended a dinner with Bear, our friend N and her partner (who we hadn’t met before), welcomed an old University friend after not seeing him for a year, and gone for a full family Sunday lunch to new Church friends. A year ago I would’ve been having a panic attack and cancelling half of it, or at least debating whether I could say I was ill and stay home (it was still tempting). Even visiting friends in Manchester at Easter was hard and that was seeing 3 couples whom we adore and know every dark scary part of our story in detail.
But I coped. I still wasn’t completely comfortable but I could feel myself re-learning how to get conversations going, how to laugh, and when to hold back on mocking poor Bear (he copes with a lot). I talked, shared, asked, and laughed, and actually enjoyed myself. It has been an aim this year to try harder with long-distance friends and closer friends equally, to try to be a better friend even when life seems overwhelming. Re-learning how to do that, and in some ways re-learning who they are and who I am and how our friendship works, is still hard work but it’s also great. I am FINALLY getting back to normal, and I’m finally feeling my minor extrovert abilities returning to me.
Since then I have had a handful of Facetime conversations, written letters and notes to old friends, planned more dinners, attended a Theology Symposium (more on that to come) ALONE, and will be attending a TedX event plus a couple of weddings this summer. It’s going to be fantastic!
Secondly, I have begun to relinquish my control as well as my overly ambitious plans. I think this is something my husband will be increasingly happy about as for a long time I have been overwhelmed by my own expectations. I am finally coming to the realisation that just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I need to or even that I should.
Let me explain…
Almost exactly a year ago was Cub’s baptism and I had all number of plans about what needed to happen. Of course the important bit was actually the service but around it had to be the most amazing food, cake, decorations, music, and then there was Cub’s gown. It was an incredible day full of love and God and people, but it all almost killed me and despite having an amazing photographer capturing the day I still look slightly crazed and as if I couldn’t be bothered to brush my hair.
Ergo with Bear’s birthday this week I was of course planning out how to make a home-baked, hand-decorated Minion cake of his childish dreams, as well as a ridiculous pizza pie* with healthy side dishes to balance out the sugar/cheese birthday explosion. And then the light dawned on my sleep-adled brain:
I didn’t have to. Of course, I was going to plan something great for Bear, I love him, but having a icing-splattered, exhausted and grouchy wife alongside a late and potentially poisonous dinner wasn’t really on his wish list. I found a brilliant (if overly-sweet) Minion cake, picked up 6 freshly-made bake-at-home pizzas in a wonderful variety of flavours, grabbed some packet mix cupcakes and some extra decorations, and somehow miraculously also found the perfect baby-to-Daddy birthday present (Avengers t-shirt and hip flask) to go with my wife-to-husband present (two bottles of whisky). It was my genius moment where a lightbulb came on, when inspiration whispered into my ear, and life suggested it could be easier than I had previously thought.
Needless to say we all ate too much and the Minion cake was removed to Bear’s office to spread the sugar so that no one person would suffer a crippling and immediate diabetic coma – they’re good like that!
Thirdly, dancing. On top of starting Zumba with my dear mother in order to boost some healthiness in my life, I have also tried to relax about dancing randomly through life. Practically speaking this means a number of dance parties between Cub and I in the kitchen pre-/post-dinner, in the living room to whatever horrendous kids program theme tune is playing, and particularly in the car on long journeys. We have memorised the lyrics to many a pop stars most recent hit and don’t care who might be watching through the window.
Seeing Cub dance side to side to the beat and tap her little toes is a complete joy, but more than that I want to know one day that my child is confident enough in her own skin to dance to whatever music picks her fancy and not care a jot about whoever might be around or what they might think of her. She doesn’t need to be world-famous, or even highly-graded (although her Mamge would approve), but I would love for her to have the self-confidence to be able to stand infront of even a few people and not feel like she was lesser or inferior, because she’s not. Simples.
I realised that a lot of how Cub will start to see herself, and what it’s like to be a girl and woman, is based on how I treat myself, girls and women around me. If I start acting embarrassed by my body as I dance or start holding back in something I enjoy just in case someone might judge me, of all people my daughter will notice. I couldn’t bear to have that effect on her and so I will dance. I will be healthy so my body functions correctly not because of some idea about fat or the number on the scales. I will walk and explore and run because they are good things for being able to spend time with my family. I will cook good home-cooked food because it’s fun to cook and good to know what is going into our bodies. I will also enjoy ice cream, sleep, a good book or film, and the occasional extravagance because life is too short to only ever work for perfection which will never come. I will dance for joy and my daughter and because music is really incredible, even when it’s just the latest bouncy beat from Taylor Swift (specifically this one because it’s just pretty amazing).
It is great to know I am still learning. I am only 26 years old but sometimes I feel decades older and a little stale and stuck. Learning is for life, and to know that you have grown from last year, last month, or even last week is a really wonderful feeling. I only need to look at my husband, daughter, and giant puppy to know that learning and growing is a wonderful thing, and every moment is to be treasured.
* PIzza pie (see below for image and link) is something we found on pinterest (where all ideas lurk in wait to pounce on some poor unsuspecting woman with ambitions for “the best *fill the gap* day ever!”) which is basically layered up pizza, cooked together like a cake. They seemed to do this from raw dough but this seemed risky and so our par-baked shop-bought version seemed a better idea, even if it meant not having a crust around the outside. Truth be told, the entire thing lasted less than 24 hours in a house of five.