You're doing great, and I love you
Monday morning, after a packed weekend that included writing an 8,000-word chapter about conservative Christian athletes and sports figures and the Trump presidency; preaching two services, nearly arriving late to church due to a closed highway exit with no signage, saying goodbye to a beloved mentor and lead pastor at our church, and waking up several times a night for Josh (my 2-year-old's) molars to come in - I headed to, naturally, my yearly woman doctor appointment.
If you are a man reading this, you may not fully comprehend the indignity and vulnerability that goes into an annual woman check-up. If you don't know, ask a woman in your life.
Hint: it involves stirrups.
That wasn't the worst part, though. The worst part was being weighed on a Monday morning at the end of my monthly cycle and seeing a number in the tens column that I didn't think I'd see again after Josh was born, when I had gained something like 70 pounds.
This was a number I thought I'd waved goodbye to when Josh was six months old, when I'd forced myself - while nursing - into a somewhat masochistic diet and exercise regimen that involved completing workout videos and burpees on our Southern California paver-covered patio at 5:30 a.m.
Nonetheless, there it was again - staring me in the face - reminding me of what I'd neglected in the months before.
My mom, God love her, had been nudging me for months now.
Take care of yourself.
Take time for yourself.
And I interpreted her well-meaning comments as side jabs about losing weight and going to the gym, and so like any good eldest daughter - I resisted following my mom's advice and instead jumped on the treadmill of more and more and more work.
In March, April and May I worked as a part-time pastor (while the church was short-staffed). I also served as a quasi-adjunct professor for a Preaching course at Luther Seminary (with another beloved mentor). I wrote magazine articles and blogs - and I completed four book chapters, in addition to research trips to Florida, Houston and El Paso.
I also completed Sunday school curriculum for a local publisher.
At the end of May, the kids finished school; we completed Jake's kindergarten registration; I did two research trips to the East Coast, did a quick family trip Up North, and extended my church contract two months.
I would write in here and then I collapsed, but every time I wanted to collapse I found myself wide awake instead, stressing about one thing or another, scrolling through Facebook, reading countless news articles. I got engrossed into a book and couldn't put it down.
My work was generally going well but my body, which had been accustomed to getting fairly regular exercise, sleeping and eating decently well, was starting to rebel against me. The travel, the stress eating, the bowl of CheezIts next to me as I wrote book chapters, the doughnuts and cupcakes at church staff meetings. My clothes were still fitting, so I hadn't thought anything of it, really - but when I went to the doctor I realized, finally, that something was wrong that had to do with much more than the number on the scale.
I was running myself ragged. I wasn't enjoying the things I usually did; I was short-tempered with my husband and kids. I was constantly medicating with caffeine for energy; Ibuprofen and Benadryl for terrible migraine and allergy symptoms; a glass of wine or beer before bed to finally relax.
And so sure, I felt the self-loathing so familiar to me from years of obsessing over my appearance, when I first contemplated the number on the scale.
Then I looked inside further. I realized that the number was merely a sign that something inside had gone awry. I had to start caring more for myself. That's really what my mom was saying; it was only me that had interpreted her words as something about how I looked. She's my mom, she always thinks I look beautiful ...
As so many of us who become moms realize, it's very easy to neglect yourself as a person - and cram yourself into a smaller and smaller box until when someone asks you what you did for yourself lately, you'll respond - as I often did - with an answer about going to the park with the kids or visiting a library. Or buying clothes. Or succeeding in your work/your passion.
I was doing great at all of that, but I was deeply unhappy as well. And now it was showing in my body as well as my mind and my spirit. For me, someone who grew up playing sports, it's always been important not to neglect my body. I need to be able to dwell within it fully; to feel that sense of freedom and strength that comes with a summer jog or paddleboarding the ocean or flying through a hot yoga vinyasa series and caring not about the veins on your legs or the size of your thighs or the post-pregnancy (years post-pregnancy) stomach pooch that no one else in the class seems to have.
So this week, and admittedly it's only been a few days, I've decided to recommit to taking care of myself, as well as taking care of my kids and my husband and my work and my church. I'm going to make time to move my body, make time to eat healthfully and care about brushing my teeth at night instead of retreating to the fog of a glass of wine or the intensity of nighttime caffeine.
I can do this because I am loved by my family, because I can call up my best girlfriend after the appointment and tell her how freaked out I am - and she'll get it, totally, even without many words - but most of all I can do this because I believe in a God who loves me first: whose love is not dependent on what I accomplish or how good I do but because I am who God created me to be.
I was driving to work the day after my doctor appointment and I still felt crushed by the mountain of overwhelming feelings. Our babysitter came, and I wasn't ready - again. I was running late to work - again. But instead of the crushing loathing and self-abasement that was always at the ready, I heard the small, still voice of a God who loves me no matter what I do or what I weigh or who I know.
You're doing great, and I love you.
That's what I heard God say. And even as it repeats and I hear it again and again, I'm ashamed because who - especially women - is able to really think you're doing great, without thinking of all the ways we aren't doing great - and all the ways we should really be ashamed because it's not good enough.
If you're reading this, and you can relate, and you have a list of about 50 million things you want to do better - feel free to cross out your list and instead hear this voice.
You're doing great, and I love you.
It was only once I knew I was loved for who I was, that I was motivated once again to care for myself as I cared for others and for my work. That's the incredible gift of Jesus: of a love that comes without a price, and a love that can do nothing else but spawn more and more love.
It begins with you - and loving yourself.