Monday, September 29, 2014

That Day This Chubby Mom Broke a Toilet Seat

We need to go back in time. There is no toilet seat to break on these things.
Photo credit: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/50/Bramah_water_closet.jpg


(This post is a little hard to write. But I'm going to take a deep breath and just do it. At the very least, I will have purged my negative thoughts for a little while. At most, somebody will have a nugget of wisdom to share that will bring about sweeping change in my life (but no pressure or anything.) And somewhere in the middle, I will probably get a hug or two. And bitches like hugs. So here it goes.)

I am a fat person.

And normally I'm pretty okay with being a fat person.

I don't love it, but I don't hate myself or walk around thinking I look terrible. I made the decision a long time ago to rock the shell I have. It encases a powerhouse of awesome, so it needs to be just a little bit bigger than average, that's all.

I have a sluggish thyroid and a hormone condition. Both those things = shitty metabolism. But I still work up a good sweat at the gym and go on walks and eat fairly well and feel pretty good about myself.  This is my body's current set point. It doesn't like to move much from here. Normally, I'm relatively comfortable with that. I have hope it will change, but I'm trying to be patient about the whole thing.

My sister is getting married next weekend and I am in her wedding party with a group of girls who are, like, ten years younger and ten sizes smaller than I am. They're gorgeous and make it look effortless.

I was feeling generally okay with that until I saw the pictures from the bachelorette party. And then I suddenly realized just how much I stand out. I am so much bigger. And now that's all I can see all the time: how big I am.

I'm the fat girl. And, suddenly, I'm not okay with that.

Then, while feeling pretty shitteous about the whole thing (preemptive pun intended), I went over to a friend's house last week and broke her toilet seat.

Yep. Broke. her. toilet. seat.

Snapped it right in half.

I'm nursing a hamstring injury and shifted my weight to the non-injured leg to stand up. I guess it put too much pressure on one side. The final blow to my ego was in the form of a loud snap! and the denial that came flooding in: Please don't be the toilet seat oh my god don't be the toilet seat I will be so embarrassed if it's the toilet seat I can't even look...

But I looked. And it was broken. And I was mortified. Shame poured over me like a good tar and feather. I couldn't just laugh it off like I normally would.

This was about the time I realized I'm too far down the rabbit hole to find these things funny right now.

I don't like it down here. Rabbits are smelly.

For years, I have actively refused to tie my self-worth to my weight. Not that I wouldn't love to be smaller, but I promised myself that dress size would not be what defines how I feel about me. I spent too many years feeling exactly opposite; viewing the numbers on the scale as a global representation of how well I was doing in life.

And now? Once again, I find myself viewing fit moms as more successful than I am because they do everything I do and look good in their jeans at the grocery store. Sigh.

But here's the thing: I'm pretty sure this isn't actually about weight. I mean, it is, but it's more than that. My confidence has been dragged through the dirt this year, and it's finally manifesting in the one place where I have a weak spot: my size. This is a symptom of a greater problem.

Weight is an easy target when you're a woman. The idea that we should be thin is everywhere. It's so much simpler and less frightening to focus on that than to point a finger at my parenting or my near-stalled writing career; two things that are infinitely more important to me than how I look in a bathing suit.

I'm raising a transgender child in a world where transgender people are still very misunderstood, and I'm still trying to figure out how to instill as much confidence in her as I can before I can no longer shield her from the bulk of that misunderstanding. That's the shit that keeps me up at night. 

I'm homeschooling her for the first time in grade 7, which is overwhelming, to say the least.  I never planned to homeschool and I'm not the world's best teacher. We're both learning how to do this. Meanwhile, she has two brothers who also need their mom, so I'm doing my best to give them as much of my time as I can, too.

Oh, and in case you didn't know, I love to write. It feeds my soul like nothing else. But I'm not writing much these days, as my time and energy are more limited than they used to be. When I do have time, I often can't get the words out. My inner critic likes to tell me I'm too uneducated to write (remember how I'm a high school dropout finishing her last credit right now?), and that nobody wants to read what I have to say. He's a bastard and I would very much like to throw a broken toilet seat in his direction. I have a book inside me that needs to come out. Like soon. And I swear if I hit my deathbed without having published it I'm going to be one pissed off ghost. I'll haunt the Starbucks and shit for all eternity. Trust me.

So what I'm really upset about is that I feel like I'm failing at life right now. This all came to a head a few hours after I broke the toilet seat, when I was driving on the highway and spontaneously burst into tears, sobbing my face off all the way home. It started with feeling bad about my fatness and quickly morphed into bigger things:

I don't know if I can do all this.

I don't know if I can figure out this new life plan.

What if I totally suck at it?

What if I'm a terrible mom and the world's least successful writer at the same time?

So yeah, I'm fat. It's not fun. I'm dreading the wedding photos next weekend. And I owe my friend twenty bucks for breaking her house.

But more importantly, I need to climb out of this rabbit hole and figure out that I'm awesome again in other respects, because The Maven is not behaving very mavenly these days. 

I don't want to have to rebrand myself.  That shit's more expensive than toilet seats.

So figuring out how to come back from this starts right now. Right now. 

After coffee.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dear Judgmental Mom

Waves of Change
Image credit


I just want you to know we're cool. 

Yes you, with your eyes that won't meet mine these days, the one who ignores me even when I speak to you, the one who seems to tell everyone but me how strongly you disagree with us supporting our transgender child in her transition.

The thing is, I have to let you have your opinion. I don't have to like it or agree with it or think it's at all based in the twenty-first century, but it's your right to have it. Sure, it may go against logic, science and basic human rights, but it's yours.

Ok, I'll admit I was hurt. A little. Not because you disagree with our parenting - that's entirely your call - but because of the way you've chosen to go about it. We're not close friends, we're not even Facebook friends, and I'm pretty sure you don't even know I have a blog. But nobody likes to feel ignored or ostracized, dude. And for a while - a very short while - I contemplated avoiding any place you might be because it made me uncomfortable.

I contemplated it for, like, two milliseconds.

That would have been needlessly complicated and my life is complicated enough, so I'm glad I talked myself out of that one. And you know what else? I don't want my daughter avoiding places because of what other people might think, so I'm definitely not going to set that kind of example.

I want her walk tall, hold her beautiful head up, and be fabulously fierce. I want her to part the proverbial sea wherever she goes, and those nearby can either choose to be where she is or swim away. She doesn't need to be avoiding people, ever. And neither do I.

My child is undergoing a huge transformation. It's something you or I could never fully grasp, but I might have a slightly better clue on account of being her mom and actually researching gender dysphoria before whacking at it with the judgment cane. This was a kid who hid in her room for years. This was a kid who hated who she was. This was a kid who wanted so desperately to be anything but miserable.

And when she discovered what was going on, this was a kid who was terrified of what that meant in a way I can't even begin to imagine.

But she came to us; she entrusted us with this secret she had been holding onto so tightly. She is the bravest human being I know, and probably one of the bravest you know too - even if you can't see it right now. You may never see it, but that doesn't make it any less true.

As parents, we did what unconditional love insisted we do: we supported our child. What else is there to do, really? Have you seen the statistics on LGBT kids who aren't supported by their families?

Sky high suicide rates.

Homelessness.

Poverty.

Misery.

And trans people have the worst of it.

But our daughter had some key advantages: open-minded parents, wonderful brothers, an amazing extended family and network of friends. She has access to specialists and time on her side. And, as this study shows, trans kids who start the process at her age thrive. Their puberty is suppressed before irreversible and traumatic things happen to their bodies. They get medical support early so they can transition as completely as any person can.

They thrive, lady. That's what we want for her; A rich and full and wonderful life. Isn't that what every parent wants?

So, if kids who are supported in their transition thrive and kids who are not supported have the highest suicide rates of any group, who is rocking the shit out of this parenting thing?

Oh, that's right: This girl. The one you're judging.

Funny, that.

Today I took my daughter to get a really cute haircut. She also got her first purse and a necklace and some cute shoes. She looks totally adorable and about as girly as a girl can girl. I can't wait for you to see her.

Because we will be around, my daughter and I.

We won't be avoiding any place or any person.

We will be standing tall and making waves.

We won't ignore you like you do us.

I'm going to be nice and polite and cheerily engage you whenever possible. I'm going to teach my daughter how to deal with the difficult people, because there will be many in her lifetime. There are haters everywhere. You aren't the first and you won't be the last.

So expect smiles and great shoes and one amazing kid and her mom all up in your business. In the nicest way possible, of course.


See you around.


Monday, September 15, 2014

In Defence of Downtime: A Parent's Near Burn-Out Survival Guide


Rule #1: Downtime begins with yoga pants.


I feel a little panicky lately. It's like being a lot panicky, but with a bag of cookies. The feeling comes on, and you can slip one of those bad boys in your mouth to block the screaming sound.

Don't judge. It's a system that works.

I'm juggling, you guys. I'm juggling like I have never juggled before. I'm juggler - a really, really bad one, but with a cute outfit on because you shouldn't take on something if you can't look good doing it. (Exceptions: giving birth, being constipated, and most bacterial infections.)

I have a ridiculous amount of balls in the air: Support the teenager through his graduating year, support the little one who is still behind in French Immersion, support their sister through the biggest change of her life (and ours), and support my husband in his new (and more demanding) role at work.

Homeschool Gutsy, attend a host of medical appointments and support groups, finish high school, volunteer a little at Spawnling's school, shop and cook on a budget, score some work contracts to help with said budget and find time to do them.

Oh, but don't forget to keep writing the stuff you love, work out, spend time with friends, enjoy a hobby or two, hang out a bit on social media, and look totally fabulous. Don't lose yourself, Maven. Don't spend your entire life being everyone else's support. Be amazing for them and be amazingly you.

Do all the things. Clean all the things. Cook all the things. Be all the things.

Holy Hannibal, that's a lot to bite off.

When I look at my sizeable list of responsibilities, I'm not surprised that I'm constantly dropping balls. I'm an epic ball dropper. Actually, it's a wonder I got pregnant three times.

So I maybe kind of snapped yesterday a little bit. Not in a bad way, but in a much needed one. I decided that, for an entire day, I would just say, "fuck it."

Fuck responsibilities.

Fuck productivity.

Fuck getting dressed.

Fuck checking my phone, which I normally cradle in my arms like a little baby and practically coo at as I carry it from room to room with me. I threw it on my bed and ignored it most of the day.

Fuck being a good parent. Kids, stay in your PJs and eat Fruity Pebbles and watch YouTube videos to your heart's content. I did not insist they play outside and did not insist they eat all their fruits and vegetables. I was too busy not doing anything.

Fuck doing smart people things. I love documentaries, but keeping up with theories about what's beyond the universe or discussions as to whether or not the Amish will ever join the 21st century sounded like too much work. So I binge watched terrible reality TV. Awful stuff. I got wrapped up in other people's drama and I loved every minute of it. All the fights. All the hookups. All of it.

Fuck watching carbs. You know what? I like carbs. And yesterday I ate tons of them. Toast. Chocolate. Chips. A fucking sandwich. And it was delicious and so awesome not to care what I was eating for one whole day.

And you know what? I found myself feeling almost human by the end of the day. It made me realize that I don't unplug and decompress nearly enough. I'm always on. My adrenaline is always going. My mind is always racing. I'm always worried. I'm always a breath away from hyperventilating.

And let's face it; you can't be attractive when you're hyperventilating, people. If anything, I need to get it together in the name of vanity.

It sucks to feel buried under a mountain of obligations. I've been there for months. But in many ways, it's a self-imposed prison. Yes, I have stuff to do. Lots of stuff. I have responsibilities I can't even begin to wrap my head around yet. Helping a child switch genders? I could write a book about it (and, actually, I am.) But my expectations of myself are high, and the worry that I'll let everyone around me down by not performing at my best is completely unfair.

I can't do it all. I can't. No one person could.

Some of the balls are going to drop some of the time. I will be mediocre at best when it comes to certain tasks so I can rock the ones that really matter. Some things will fall off my radar completely so my mind can focus on the crucial things. People will get upset with me sometimes for not returning their phone calls or texts fast enough, or for saying no to an event or twelve. That's life. This perfectionist attitude I've been holding onto only leads to tears - and cookies. So many cookies.

So yes, I had a moment. I was entitled to one and I'm entitled to many more. And I will take them when I need them. There's an abundance of bad reality TV out there.

Why am I making my moment public? Because we all have them, that's why. Moments like these are part of the human experience. They're when we're standing on the precipice and we either veer off in the direction of a day of carbs and PJs or we fall into the burnout abyss. I've fallen in there before and it's not pretty. The humidity does terrible things to my hair.

I want people to know that no matter what your situation is, it's ok to lose your shit sometimes. It's ok to not know what you're doing and be scared about it. It's ok to worry that you're making huge mistakes. It's ok to feel like you're taking on way too much, because you probably are.

And it's ok to throw your hands up and say fuck it. Today, just fuck it all. I declare it slippers and cookies day.

Just not too many cookies. There's such a thing as too many. Trust me and my pancreas; we know.

Today I am going to do what I need to do, a little bit of what I want to do, and absolutely none of the things I tell myself I need to do but don't actually need to do at all. It's time to slow it down a little. The abyss is still only a step or two away.


I'm off to hang up my juggler's outfit and put on some yoga pants. This bitch loves some yoga pants.