Category Archives: Connecting

Butterflies Are Resilient Creatures

The following was written just after a fight I had with my husband. We’ve been married 16 years and have gone through all manner of both terrible and wonderful moments in time. All couples have fights, and anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that you don’t always fight fair, nor do the angry thoughts you have at the moment necessarily represent how you feel in general. The following was how I felt at such a moment.

When I first published this post, I hurt a lot of feelings, so I took it down. It hurt me to do so because it was an honest representation of how I felt, but at the same time, it is not my goal to hurt anyone with this blog, but rather help. And sometimes being nourished by joy involves sorting through difficult feelings and emotions felt in the moment, so that they don’t take hold long term. Therefore, I hope you take from this story that it was just a portrait of a moment in time and not representative of the long term.

As I passed through the front door of my work building and into the sunlight-drenched afternoon air, I quickly looked down at the ground and slipped on my sunglasses. No use having anyone ask me what’s wrong, I thought.

I shuffled down the block towards the stoplight, my mind cluttered with the debris left by the argument we’d just had. I felt lost. No, not lost exactly, just perplexed and unsteady. Confused and hurt. The rock in the pit of my stomach was back. I hated that feeling. It felt clumsy and out of place inside me.

I let the anger rise and swell in my gut. The rock in my stomach was the last thing I wanted to have to deal with. I wanted to just skip over the immediate aftermath of hurt and frustration and back to the part where I realized I was okay again.

My thoughts drifted around through the film reels in my head that kept playing back pieces of the fight. I felt my fists ball up as the tears began to sting my eyes. It’s just not fair I whispered under my breath. He knew exactly how to push my buttons. Exactly what to say to pull me into the cloud that had settled over his mind.

I knew that for him, it would be a relatively short amount of time. Then he would inevitably move out of that looming grayness without warning, leaving me stuck in a murky fog of disillusionment and perplexity. For me, it wasn’t as easy to move out from the fog, once I had given myself over to it. I tended to brood in it until I was good and ready to come out, lashing at anyone who would dare try to pull me away.

As I sifted through that dense fog that had crept over my mind I felt the rock in my stomach swell up towards my chest, and I let out a cough, trying to clear it. I knew I needed to eat something, but I was too full from that damned rock.

I approached the bustling intersection and listlessly jabbed my index finger into the crosswalk button. It didn’t beep. I rolled my eyes and jabbed at it again. This time it beeped. I sighed as his voice ran through my head, reminding me how dirty crosswalk buttons were and, “How could you just touch them like that? Do you let the girls touch buttons like that? What else do you let the girls do when I’m not home? What are you getting away with now? What’s really going on, Christin Joy?”

I shook the voice out of my head and wiped my eyes. My conscience had been replaced long ago by this voice of judgment and accusation, and I wondered how much of it was actually him talking, and how much of it was my own projection of how I felt about him, and, more importantly how I felt about myself.

I had made mistakes in the past. Terrible, unforgivable mistakes. And yet here we were, 6 years later. Still together, and still fighting the same fights. The cycle was so perpetual that it made me want to scream out loud, except that I never could. In the moment, I always felt paralyzed. I wondered if he did, too.

As I waited for the light to turn, I noticed a little white butterfly fluttering across the intersection. It flew in a zigzag pattern, hovering about ten feet over the asphalt as it made its way across the street and towards the tree line on the opposite side. I gazed at it, watching its every movement closely. It was a welcome flood of relief for my aching brain to watch this pure, unhindered little creature as it made its noble trek in front of me.

I noticed the milky white color if its wings and its carefree movements, and I felt a little pang of jealousy creep into my chest. I wasn’t jealous of the freedom or the journey, just of the pureness and simplicity it had. The glow it seemed to cast on the world around it as it moved. There was no cloud hanging over it. No voice trying to creep in and tell it that it was doing everything wrong.

My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud whoosh and I watched in horror as a delivery truck came barreling through the intersection, smacking the little white butterfly against its windshield as it drove through, oblivious to the damage it had just caused.

For one terrible moment, my heart stopped. I sucked in my breath, my arms stuck at my sides, unable to move. I felt the rock in my stomach turn over as my brain attempted to process what my eyes had just witnessed. I prepared myself to see the little white butterfly drop to the ground.

But then I saw it. The little white butterfly, though perplexed and confused, was still fluttering around. I let out a huge sigh of relief, and watch as the poor creature swung itself around, getting its bearings. It then drifted upward towards the sky and continued its journey safely into the line of trees on the other side.

It had survived. It had been knocked off course unexpectedly, but had shaken it off and moved onward. My relief was replaced quickly by anger towards the truck. Who did it think it was, barreling over a poor butterfly like that? But then I realized that the truck driver hadn’t done it on purpose, obviously. It had no idea the butterfly was even there. He was just doing what truck drivers do, driving forward, staying the course that had been set for him.

And so had the butterfly. I had seen it as pure and fragile. I had seen it as this delicate and very breakable, defenseless creature drifting through its short life on this planet. But then I remembered, of course, that butterflies are resilient too.

Butterflies were only free and beautifully delicate because they had first survived an incredible transformation. Each and every one had been completely changed and renewed from the lives they had known before. They had been born again to a new life and given a second chance.

I breathed in and out deeply as the light turned green, signaling it was okay for me to cross the street. I felt the rock shrink back just a bit, and the fog in my head start to clear. I am resilient too. And I also have been given a second chance.

Wearing White Jeans Again Part III

Just catching up? Here are Part I and Part II

I remember the moment so vividly. It was just a fleeting glance, but it captured my manic body image frenzy as a new mom as perfectly as a photograph in my mind. There I was, a brand new mom of a beautiful baby girl, walking up the block of a café-and-office lined street towards the park on a sunny weekday.

I was with a group of other new moms with whom I’d started to form friendships, and we were taking our babies to the park because it seemed like a normal ‘mom thing’ to do. Forget that we were exhausted from lack of sleep. Forget that none of us had probably showered that day (okay week), and had telltale mom buns, no makeup, and nursing tops with milk stains all over them. None of that mattered to us. How could it, when we could barely form sentences at that point? We were all basically winging it, as all new moms do.

Anyway, I remember that as I was walking up the street in the middle of my mom-pack, I happened to glance over at my reflection in the glass of a dimly lit store, and saw myself staring back…only it didn’t seem like me at all. I didn’t even recognize the person in the glass. That person looked tired, worn down, disheveled, bewildered, and paunchy. I looked down at my belly in disgust, and tried to suck it in, like I had learned to do in dance classes. I looked in the glass again and saw that what had once worked to give me a slender profile through the stomach region, now offered very little change in bulk.

And I remember looking up at the new moms in front of me, wondering why and how in the heck their bellies appeared to be flatter than mine. Or were they? I didn’t really know for sure, but they were at the very least recognizable as the same people I had seen before and after giving birth. It didn’t seem fair to me.

Even more confusingly, I couldn’t really grasp why I was feeling that way. I knew as well as anyone that it takes awhile for your belly to go down postpartum. Never mind that I was at my pre-pregnancy weight less than a week postpartum. I was proud of that fact, don’t get me wrong, but it was my overall shape that took me by surprise. I looked…well…different. I didn’t feel normal.  And I didn’t feel like I fit in with my peers.

It harkened back to the feelings I had the fateful Day of the White Jeans. I wasn’t good enough the way I was. I should have been able to pull it together the way all the other new moms seemed to do. I should have been exercising more, and taking showers, and putting on some makeup at least. I should have at least done that much if I was going to have a belly like that, resting atop hips that had also seemed to have gathered some excess baggage along the way.

I remember longing in that moment for the days before my baby’s birth, when I could sleep when I wanted, exercise when I wanted, and shower when I wanted. I felt a fleeting sense of resentment, followed by guilt for having those feelings, because I loved my baby girl so much! I vowed that I would at least try to exercise more, if only for my baby to have a healthy mama.

And I would also take a shower, for goodness sake.

Stay tuned for Part IV!

Wearing White Jeans Again, Part II

Just catching up? Read Part I here.

Yellow splotchy white jeans. Yellow splotchy white jeans. Interestingly (or not) enough, it was the perfect metaphor for my life. The white jeans were how I should have seen myself, washed clean of imperfections, forgiven, loved, with my whole life ahead of me. But all I saw were yellow splotches of imperfection, failure, and evidence that I was not enough.

With the tears still stinging my eyes, I tried in vain to scrub the stains off of my jeans. The splotches wouldn’t go away no matter what I tried. I took the yellow splotches as a sign that white jeans were for somebody slimmer, more popular, more wealthy, and for someone who could achieve it all without getting dirty. I threw them away in the garbage, and went on with my life, telling myself they just weren’t my “thing” and I still had plenty of other denim options. White jeans would be forbidden.

My body insecurities followed me well past my teens. I was a walking cliché of every young female with body image issues. Convinced my bottom and legs were simply too big, I fell into fad diets and exercise, protein bars and energy drinks, and “energy pills” to keep me going through full-time jobs and full-time junior college. I lied to myself, saying I was simply trying to get healthy.

Even after I got married, and my husband truly absolutely loved me and loved my body proportions, I still struggled under the guise of trying to “get healthy.” Fortunately for me, I never actually hit a rock bottom. In fact, each new thing taught me more and more of what NOT to do to achieve health. I could see the patterns emerging. I began to research in terms of health and nutrition as opposed to losing weight. I pushed myself through vigorous workouts, and dance classes, but really it was because I enjoyed them more than it was because I wanted to lose weight…losing weight would just have been a bonus.

Then, I got pregnant with my first daughter, and my view of my body began to permanently change. As I saw my body begin to change, grow, and literally expand before my eyes in such a new way, I began to feel as though the design for my body was completely out of my control, and out of my hands.

Pregnancy was new to me, and there was just so much information out there. Lists of do’s and don’ts and worries and frets of pregnant women all over the place. And there I was, wanting salted caramel ice cream one minute, and Granny Smith apples the next. The once chocolate and garlic lover couldn’t stand the smell or thought of it, and she even now liked mushrooms…MUSHROOMS!

I felt completely out of control and away from everything familiar when it came to my body. I was an emotional mess (well, okay, arguably that wasn’t new haha) and I felt like, based on stories I’d heard, I would never get my body back again. And there was a person growing inside me every day. Bigger and bigger, taking over control of my sleep, my movement, and my appetite.

I looked fine on the outside, buying up maternity jeans and tops, reading up on pregnancy health and nutrition, and listening to any podcast I could find about birth stories and the like. I even kinda liked my belly bump look. It was nice and firm and gave me an excuse not to exercise as much, eat what I wanted “for the baby” and dress in yoga pants and a loose top for work. But on the inside, I was starting to freak out about how I would look after the baby was born.

Stay tuned for Part III!

Morning Struggle

I wake you in the morning to say goodbye
A restless sigh escapes your lips
And I reach in for a kiss
A grumbling, a yearning, a toying with my heart
As you mumble back to sleep.
Our daughter, resting beside you
Curled in a ball of blissful slumber
The fan whispering a fervent melody
And I tuck you both in tight.
My heart skips a beat as I walk away
Yearning for one last stretch of sleep
For one more cuddle
One more inhalation of sweet-scented tranquility
Before I close the door behind me.
I go out into the morning dew
Out into the world without you
To share my morning with lonely calm
And a sky painted with pink-tinged sunlight.
The earth spins around me in monotone
A clockwork pattern of us early risers
My day winds up in a wakeful fog
But my heart remains beside you
Resting on the bed with those I love.

Wearing White Jeans Again Part I

I remember quite vividly a day back in high school when I had purchased a pair of white jeans from a thrift store, with my afterschool job earnings. I remember checking my backside in the mirror, trying to determine if they were flattering, or if they made me look fat.

For any high school girl, body image can be a tricky subject to navigate. Constant comparison to others is a given, and I was no exception. But when I coupled that with also being a ballet dancer, forget about it. My 5’2” and 115lb frame appeared to me to be all wrong in every possible way. I saw myself in a distorted way. My hips, thighs, and bottom seemed to me to be enormous as I compared myself to others in my dance classes. Why oh why can’t I just have a normal thigh gap? I would lament to my reflection in the mirror.

I knew even then that my distorted view of myself was because I spent so much time critiquing it in front of a mirror in nothing but tights and a leotard. It was inevitable that every possible flaw was illuminated before my critical eyes. But I just couldn’t help myself. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be the version of normal that only exists in the eyes of a teen girl who has no clue what normal actually means.

So as I stood that day in front of the mirror, I almost chickened out and changed my outfit. But I decided to brave it instead if only to prove to myself there was nothing wrong with my body. I wanted so badly to believe the truth that I was loved unconditionally and that the size of my backside didn’t really matter. So I held my head high, anticipating that I would receive compliments on my new fashion find.

That, unfortunately, was not the case. In Spanish class, I remember walking up to the whiteboard as requested by my teacher, and I remember hearing someone comment about a “fat @ss.” In retrospect, I am pretty sure the comment was about my poor teacher, who did indeed have a rather large bottom half and was regrettably a constant target of ridicule. But that day, as I struggled to find my self-worth in a pair of jeans that I was sure made me look fat, I was positive the comment was about me.

When lunchtime came, as I stood in the quad with my circle of friends, I remember asking if my jeans looked ok, explaining that they were new and I wasn’t sure if white jeans were my thing. My bestie assured me they were fine. But what happened next, to this day, I have never truly understood.

There was another girl in our group, one who also danced ballet at my same studio, who was standing across from me at lunch. Now, this girl was kind of a frenemy, meaning, she was kind of mean to me. She would tease me regularly about how I was short, or insignificant in some way. I would play along and joke back to her about myself, because it made her laugh, and covered up any hurt I felt and tried to ignore. I wanted to fit in, and I didn’t really know how to confront her about it.

So anyway, there I was, standing in my new white jeans feeling a little self-conscious. My bestie was just getting done telling me the jeans looked fine and I shouldn’t worry. Then out of nowhere, my frenemy stepped, nay stomped on a mustard packet on the ground in the middle of our circle, spraying yellow mustard all over my new white jeans. I remember looking down, horrified and embarrassed. My frenemy laughed a little nervously, exclaiming at the same time how sorry she was.

I don’t actually remember what I said, or what anyone else in our group said either in the face of such a high school horror scene. I just remember I rushed to the bathroom, trying to get as much of the mustard off as I could with paper towels and water, but it was no use. The mortifying yellow blotches all over my jeans were there to stay.

And I had to wear them for the entire second half of the day, covered in yellow globs of mustard. I played it off like it was no big deal. But on the inside, I vowed never to wear white jeans again. They had become a symbol of ridicule and unacceptance. They were an elusive privilege that I felt would never be mine.

I felt weakened, insecure, and insignificant. I felt the very things I had tried so hard NOT to have to feel while wearing those white jeans. In my head, I had pictured all my insecurities as a high school teen vanishing because of those jeans. I had unknowingly pinned my hopes and self-worth on a pair of pants. And now my dignity laid in blotchy yellow ruin on my bedroom floor.

Stay tuned for Part II!

Is It A Pink Panther?

“Is it a pink panther?”

“Nope.”

“A cat?”

“No. Think less obvious.”

Pauses. “How about a pink dog?”

“No, it’s a pig.”

“Really? A pig?”

“Yup. A really skinny one, I guess…”

“Oh! Um, okay then.”

And that’s pretty much how the conversation goes with anyone who asks about the watercolor portrait of the unfortunate looking pink creature displayed proudly against a background of grass-covered hills and a speckling of random flowers. It is currently sitting up in my bedroom. I am trying to convince my Honay it belongs on the wall in there, proudly displayed, despite how spectacular a failure it is.

The truth is, it used to bother me how awful it was. I have grandparents on BOTH sides of the family that either were or are great artists, actually. So art ability should be running in my blood. In me, however, the artistry gene came out of more of a musical medium in general, (dance, singing) rather than a paintbrush and blank canvas.

The infamous ‘Skinny Pig’, watercolor on paper portrait was created at the end of the day at an art class my mom brought me to when I was about 7 years old. I recall the teacher told us to find a quiet spot on our own, imagine something in our heads, and then express it in watercolor form. I remember crawling under a desk in the corner of the room, shutting my eyes tight. I was taking the whole thing very seriously. I didn’t want to just draw the cartoon-looking concentric circle version of a pig my mom drew. I was trying to be a very serious “Arteest.” What resulted for me was an epic failure to depict a real-life pig from memory. My poor 7-year-old brain just couldn’t grasp the proper imagery necessary to create such a masterpiece.

For years, the unfortunate pig was taped to the wall behind my dad’s desk. I really don’t know why or how it survived. I think my mom thought it was cute how I’d tried. It also made for a great conversation starter. In the years that followed, I was able to hone my art skills enough to win ribbons for my art at the local County Fair, yet none of those items made it to the wall. The pig stood alone, mocking me with its beady little black eyes, reminding me of my artistic shortcomings.

When my parents moved to Japan, the ‘Skinny Pig’ moved to my Grandma’s house. There is stayed until she passed away last year. I found it in her bedroom closet, taped to a silver frame with white matting. I took it home with me, even though I didn’t really know why I was saving something so silly.

Yesterday, my Honay and I decided it was finally time to hang up the artwork in our townhouse. I took on the task of separating the artwork into different collections by room. I pulled out a beautiful scattering of oil and mixed media paintings my grandfather had done over the years, as well as the ones my grandmother had done. Beautiful examples of artwork that were well deserving of a place on our walls.

Then I came across a familiar silver frame with white matting and grimaced a little as the unfortunate pink pig came into my view. It was so pathetic looking with its long tail and nonexistent nose. My Honay teased me about how awful it was. My daughter joined the ranks of those who had come before her, trying to figure out what the heck it was. (She guessed a lion.)

But then I thought back to how many other artistic things I had accomplished over the years after the ‘Skinny Pig.’ I was able t boast countless other drawings, dance recitals, ballets, hip-hop shows, and choir and band performances. I had successes and failures, but I kept on trying regardless. I have a beautiful collection of memories of all the hard work and performance opportunities I have pursued so far.

The important thing is that I didn’t let the shame of an anorexic pig stop me from moving forward and pursuing my dreams. I want the picture on my bedroom wall to remind me AND my daughters that in order to accomplish your dreams you’re going to have to move past your failures and learn from them, no matter what the medium. No matter what anyone says about your skills (or perhaps lack thereof). You have to start somewhere and just keep moving forward.

What’s In A Drink?

What’s in a drink. What’s in a drink. What’s in a drink? The thought plays over and over again like an echo in my head. So random. Why drinks?

Hmm. My mind skips all over the place on the metaphors that could correspond, shattering the echo into a thousand pieces. Do I mean an alcoholic beverage, perhaps? Those can be tasty…or toxic…or both. Stories, lots of stories there. Lots of pictures of happiness and destruction to be painted. Sure, that could be it.

Or maybe a health tonic? I’m big on those. I keep up with the latest trends, for sure. Right now it’s matcha instead of coffee. Matcha lattes made with almond milk of course because dairy is bad.  I get them on the daily from the trendy hipster coffee shop near my work. I pair it with a vegan almond chocolate scone. My brain is trained to make the word ‘vegan’ synonymous with healthy. Even though I know it has processed flour and sugar. It must have those things because it just tastes too good.

Coffee is out right now. Unless of course, the coffee is cold-brewed and in a fancy little overpriced bottle. Then you bet I’ll snap it up, dump it in a cup on a Sunday morning and drink it cold in practically one gulp. I keep a bottle of turmeric ginger pressed juice in my desk drawer. It says to consume within 20 days of opening. I haven’t opened it yet. I can’t decide what to put it in…or do I just drink it straight up, like a shot?

Maybe I’m just talking about my kids’ juice boxes, and a picture flashed through your mind of a slightly anxious, tired, blond woman standing in the chaotic center of the local Costco with her agitated young daughters, trying to read the side panel of a small Tetra-Pak box to see how many artificial fillers are contained, and is it worth all the sugar? Is that what you pictured? Nope, that’s just my mind? Okay then.

Maybe it’s not an actual drink at all. Maybe it’s more like, as the saying goes, “drinking the Kool-Aid” of an ill-intentioned idea. Perhaps I am trying to backpedal as I analyze the consequences of a recent decision I made, wondering if I did the right thing. Or did I get sucked in (again) to something I shouldn’t have? Was it a purchase from an ad I saw last week? Did I watch a video about something that upset me, and then lash out at my children? At my husband? At myself? Hmm. So many possibilities.

Let’s go back to the alcoholic beverage though, for a minute. I’ve recently been getting these delicious little peach flavored wine in a can four packs from Trader Joes. I bring them to small group Bible study on occasion and drink one, sharing the rest with the others. Is that wrong? It sounds wrong. Everyone is OK with it, and enjoy it, but…am I making the right choice, or clouding everyone’s judgment?

Speaking of alcohol, my husband came home past midnight with the cripplingly pickled sour smell of drink on his breath. I could smell it from across the room, and it made my stomach turn. I told him to go brush his teeth before he came to bed. This was after I worry-texted and called him after shivering alone in my bed for a couple of hours. He said he was at his friend’s house. Another friend he hadn’t seen in years was over and they were hanging out. He apologized for not calling. For making me worry. But I was already mad, and I couldn’t let it go by the time he walked in the door.

I hadn’t wanted to tell him about his breath. I had wanted to hold him. To tell him about my day. Talk about how fiercely cute our daughters were, and what they had spent their afternoon doing. To marvel with him over how grown up our almost 2-year-old was getting, and what I wanted to do for her upcoming birthday. But I didn’t say any of that. I simply commented on his breath. He said he would brush his teeth and come up to bed in a little while. But I woke up alone in the bed. He had fallen asleep on the couch downstairs, watching TV.

What’s in a drink.

So much is in a drink. More than I can unpack in one sitting. Lives are shaped, bodies filled, emotions muted. One can drown their sorrows, and their dreams right along with them. One can shatter their entire world, glue it, and then fill it up again like a tank, with liquid dribbling out at the seams. I am reminded of the picture of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the crack in the dam. He looks so worried. He is stuck in place. He cannot move or the whole dam might break.

Am I already drowning, or is my finger just stuck in the dam? The thought comes forward and dissipates like a phantom. Out of nowhere. It takes me by surprise because I am generally filled with hope and joy and possibility. I am saved. I have Someone to cling to. But right now I am exhausted. And my head is full. I feel almost drunk, even though it’s 9 o’clock in the morning and I’m sitting at my desk. I drink in the notion that maybe I am stuck. Not because I am without hope, but because I need to make some decisions about how to move forward with my life.

Why am I here, God? What would you have me do? The question pleads as I stare at the metaphorical dam in front of me, the finger of my negative thoughts firmly in place, sealing it all in. “My cup runneth over.” The Psalm repeats in my head from memory as a reply. I look again at what I have. All that I have. A quick inventory is run. As it turns out, I have much to give. My glass is pretty full. I have been given many blessings, haven’t I? So why am I not sharing them? That’s the real problem, isn’t it? It’s not what the drink is made of. It’s that my glass is full to the brim. I have more than I need and I’m stuck in place because I’m not sharing.

Here I am, holding my finger in a dam, worried about removing my finger when the thing I actually need to do is to let it all go. I laugh out loud.

I have much to give. Much to say. Much to do. So here I go. I am starting with you.