Savoring the Slow Moments: A real-life Paradox

I’m a multi-tasker. I also don’t believe in multi-tasking. I am a conundrum in itself regarding this topic.

I get that butterflies-in-the-tummy feeling when I can do so many things at once. Like Friday, when I was able to put away the groceries, stir the cookie batter, preheat the oven, get an additional meal in the crockpot, check the traffic for the evening obligation, all while trying to keep the dog corralled and off the counter from snatching food every 3 seconds. Boom, roasted. In those moments where I can zip through tasks as fast as you can say “macarena”, I tend to take on a feeling of accomplishment, capacity, strength. There’s something about it that energizes and motivates me at the same time.

At the end of the same breath, I am the first one to say “Multitasking is impossible! It is literally your brain switching from multiple tasks back and forth very quickly, with an inability to be fully present and engaged in each task!” Oh, how truly educated and hypocritical I sound. Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me.

However, in this season of life there has been a shift. I am finding myself more and more taking increased stock in the slower moments; those moments that are less planned and more organic, the moments that allow for breathing room rather than a cram session, those moments that allow for meaningful connection to those I surround myself with daily, but sometimes struggle with that eyeball-to-eyeball contact that I love oh so much.

Those that know me well would react in this fashion:  “Huh? That isn’t you. Are you feeling okay? Do you need to tell me something?”

Oy vey.

Needless to say, slowing down and finding beauty in the slow moments is not something that comes very naturally to me. I’m the type of person that becomes irritated if someone takes to long to respond to my question, let alone allow for breathing room and silence on purpose. However, some of my most favorite recent memories have happened in the form of slow moments:

  • Going for coffee with a novel in hand and having absolutely no plan of when to return to the house
  • Crafting a beautiful and tasty brunch, sitting at the table with coffee and said brunch (and placemats people, placemats!), without interruption or talk of what is happening within the next few hours while gathering around the table
  • Going to an evening worship service without needing to be “on” in the form of contributing musically or having to be detail oriented for the service
  • Dinners with multiple courses in the form of salads, mains, and desserts without thinking twice about what time this might be cutting into
  • Blocking off an evening to be spontaneous (also, what’s that?)

Moments that used to seem like time-wasters are now seeming like time-enhancers. More than that, they are seeming essential, like breath into the schedule allowing space into the mind and the soul to be filled with what the hectic nature of this life cannot give us.

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Most significantly, God tends to reveal Himself to us in the silence rather than in the screams of this universe. We do in fact need to exchange whispers with Him before going out and immersing ourselves in the noise this world has to offer us.

Who would have thought?

Stay tuned,

-AF.

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Gather Around the Table

If there is anything my grandmother has taught me, it’s that people LOVE food.

My grandma is a 96-year old spitfire of an Italian woman with a knack for cuisine. I remember from a young age, wearing an apron approximately 6 sizes too large from me, standing from my vantage point and staring up at this woman who could whisk, chop, marinate, and tend to a cornucopia of food items at once and create them into a masterpiece. At that age, I could barely stir batter without spilling it all over our tile floor. Oops.

I remember the days leading up to holidays, baking torcheniels and patzel cookies with opera in the background, and slowly savoring the cooking smells as well as sacred time in the kitchen with my grandmother. During breaks, we would dance and spin like no other, and she would admire my 5-year old singing with joy in her eyes, clapping her hands together and asking for an encore. Those are memories I pray to give my children one day. Some day.

With young ears and eyes, I clung to the words of  “You will be ready to get married once you are able to have every item that makes up a meal be done and on the table at the same time”.

Dang it grandma, I’m still working on that one.

Moral of the story: My favorite room in the home is the kitchen. I also consider myself having the spirit of a grandmother: one who wants to nourish others with food, encouragement, spinning and dancing, joy in the eyes and clapping, begging for an encore.

If I’m a fraction of the woman she is, I’d be humbly grateful.

I’ve taken on a traditional love of food, company, and gathering. I consider myself an amateur chef (or one that is REALLY good at a set list of simple items 😉 ), but nothing brings me joy quite like gathering people into my home around the table, uncorking a bottle of wine while the food marinates its final moments on the stove, and encouraging my loved ones to “sit down, forget the cares and worries of the day, and make yourself at home”. I just love to love on people that way. It brings me a sense of capacity, nurturance, and simplicity that I truly seek during the hustle and bustle of what this world calls “living”. I thank my grandmother for passing down this love affair with the kitchen and the table, and have seen the table serve as such a beautiful artifact for connection and warmth.

I can remember my best and most intimate conversations with others happening over a warm cup of coffee, hands cupped around mugs and enveloping one another in secrets, hopes, pains, and compassions. I hold fondly my most encouraging words shared amongst friends while passing around heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, digging into savory plates of chicken parmesan, and laughing over spilt green beans almondine. I remember my most painful and bittersweet conversations happening over half-finished glasses of wine, with the candle at its last flicker and flame, while being held by someone who wished they could take my pain away from me, with all of their might.

All of my most deep, most intimate, most memorable moments in conversations involve gathering around the table.

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So naturally, when my husband and I moved into our first place together, I made it my mission to find a large, oaky, worn, ready to be lived-in table.

It’s now at this very table that my husband and I shared our first meal together in our home as husband and wife. It’s at that oaky table that we made the decision for hubs to switch jobs and be closer to home. It’s at that distressed table that we gathered those closest to our hearts and filled them with nutrients and love. It’s at that very table that I sat and drank wine after my husband and I’s first argument as husband and wife, cherishing the fact that he has a true heart of forgiveness. It’s at our sacred table that we fold our hands in prayer and bow our heads in gratitude to our Maker and Redeemer.

And it will be at this very table where laughter, encouragement, heartbreak, compassion, and green beans almondine will be shared in abundance with one another.

I wish I could have each and every one of you have the ability to be seated at this table, to receive the food that’s prepped, and to have someone in eyeball-to-eyeball connection with you and speak compassion and authenticity to your heart. And to have your compassion and authenticity be received.

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Until then, don’t underestimate the power of a table with four legs, pasta overflowing, aprons 6 sizes too big, and spinning and dancing in the kitchen. The simple joys in life.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF

Saying it Out-Loud

Boy. It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?

It’s definitely been several weeks since I’ve sat down and allowed my fingers to glide along the keyboard in the form of one of these blog posts. We all have those seasons, don’t we?

Truth be told, my absence from writing for the past few weeks had nothing to do with the jam-packed nature of the weeks that have completed (in fact, things have slowed down quite a bit in the past few weeks-IMAGINE THAT). If anything, it was because I was feeling consumed by something I couldn’t quite identify until recently.

These past couple weeks have been difficult. And I mean difficult in a different kind of way than I’m used to handling. I found myself experiencing emotional sensations and behavioral changes that I tend to rarely see in myself. It wasn’t anything super intense-but then again, here I go already with “diminishing” that this could actually be a reality for me. Typing this out signifies that what I’m feeling is real, and while it is not what I’m used to experiencing (almost at the other end of the spectrum for me), it’s still my reality, pure and simple, at this point in time.

If you’ve been following my blog fairly closely, will will know that I’ve identified with experiencing anxiety for many years-dating back even further the more and more I examine it. I was at a place where I was proud of how I was managing this, and even got as far as experiencing little to no anxiety during the wedding planning prep (which is HUGE!). However, I find myself today facing a completely different battle, one that I didn’t think I would be facing at this time in life. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is just mearly not what I expected.

Depression is gripping me right now.

What I’m experiencing right now can be described as this (and maybe it’s not what you’d typically think of when you think of depression):

  • Finding it hard to care about…well, anything at all.
  • Low motivation for even the most simple of tasks, such as doing the dishes, checking my e-mail, taking a shower (I promise I’m following through with the last one 🙂 )
  • Extreme pitfalls in energy. I’m talking waking up feeling like I only slept 10 minutes. Falling asleep on the couch at 8pm sort of exhausted.
  • Wanting to just “lay around” or engage in numbing behaviors (mindless TV, eating crappy foods, no conversations, drinking, etc)
  • Feelings of powerlessness-like I’m feeling rooted in my circumstances and there is nothing I can do about them (while I know this is not true to reality)
  • Low sex drive (and extreme guilt over how this may be affecting my spouse. Especially since we are newlyweds. I feel a lot of shame over that right now.)
  • Weight gain (I’ve gained back 25 pounds of my 83 pounds lost. The internal dialogue I’m having with myself over this right now is not pretty)
  • Irritability/easily angered (enough for loved ones to notice and wonder what’s happening)

I’ll say one thing’s for sure: I’m not feeling sad. In fact, I’m not really feeling like I’m feeling anything at all. I’m feeling numb. 

And honestly, I just want to feel something. 

I’m not feeling unsafe. I’m not having unsafe thoughts-it’s not to that degree. But truly, I’m feeling numb. And right now, that’s the reality.

One night a few weeks ago, I told my husband “I really do want to feel better”. And for the first time in months, tears slowly trickled down my cheeks. I nuzzled my head into his chest and just rested with the hope that he knows I’m trying to do the best I can. And that I want to do more. For him. For me. He’s the most understanding man I’ve ever met. It was the most connected I’ve felt to him in weeks due to the depression.

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A couple weeks ago I had a thought while I was sitting in my office: “What if I just quit my job? Maybe I should do that.” I found myself wondering where is this coming from?love my job.

It was at that moment where I felt like someone else. Like someone not me. 

I e-mailed my therapist-the one that I have so much gratitude towards for helping me thrive above my anxiety. I described what I was experiencing, and her words confirmed what my heart was believing to be true:

“Hun, this sounds more like depression to me.”

Saying it out-loud makes it real.

 

And it’s okay. It’s okay to identify. It’s okay to keep coping. It’s okay to recognize that brokenness is part of our common tie to humanity.

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I was hesitant to publish this post; in fact, I had written this post several weeks back and kept it in my drafts folder, just sitting there. I think there will always be a part of me that leans away before leaning into vulnerability. Since I have written this, the past few weeks have appeared to look a bit “lighter”. We’ve had some unexpected challenges come our way, financially, medically, and work-wise. However, I still find myself able to stay afloat (some days it sure ain’t pretty), and for that I have to thank my Savior as well as my spouse, loving in-laws, and friends.

Sometimes the heavy weight is a reminder of the only One who can lift that from us. As well as the reminder that we are not meant to shoulder burdens alone.

Don’t allow yourself to feel alone in the pain-that is so far from the truth. It may not seem that way sometimes, but we are tied to something and someone SO much greater than ourselves.

 

And, people-if we truly let them-can surprise us with how much love and care they pour into us.

Always chugging on,

-AF

 

When We Aren’t at “Our Best”

Sometimes, my mind goes to the most random places.

Like on my commute to work this morning, for example. I can’t even truly explain what the exact string of words and images were that got me on this thought, but there it was, bare and exposed in my mind:

  • “What if something happens to my husband on his drive to his meetings?”
  • “What if I don’t find out about it until hours later because I’m at work?”
  • “What if he gets hurt and they can’t identify who he is, and then I don’t find out for hours and HOURS later?”
  • “I can’t even remember what he was wearing this morning….And what if that’s what they ask me to identify him by when he is found hurt?”

oh my good GOODNESS!! What an absolutely turbulent and horrible place my mind decided to go to this morning as I was making my way down the highway to get to my ever-familiar place we dub “the office”.

That’s one of the ways my anxiety likes to spike within me: getting me on a train to rumination-station, allowing my mind to explore areas that have no reasonable grounding and get me all up in a tizzy.

Leading me to worry

Leading me to doubt.

Leading me to feel desperate.

However, what stuck out to me about this (even more than the “my mind is tail-spinning in a million directions and there is absolutely no reason to be thinking this way”) was the fact that I identified with not being able to recount what my husband was wearing this morning as he walked out the door for work.

Look at me, two posts ago writing about how important it is to be “eyeball to eyeball” with someone, and here I am unable to describe what my husband was wearing this morning.

This blog humbles me. I pray it humbles you, too.

What an absolute BLESSING of a man my spouse is. It pains me to say that I don’t think he has had me at “my best” the first few months of our marriage: tired, run down, sick a few times (why does this happen in summer?!), all that jazz.

Why do we feel the need to constantly apologize for not being at our “best”?

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I mean, isn’t that a natural part of life? Isn’t that one of the absolute realities of relationships and marriage, is that we can’t always be at our best, even for those we love the most? 

Instead of faulting ourselves for constantly not being “at our best”, can we embrace the unconditional nature of the love we are given by those who can see us at our worst and love us as if we are at our best?

For example, me not looking up at my husband for an entire morning to know what he is wearing because I’m running back and forth to the bathroom being sick, trying to get ready for work, and have the dog barking her head off at absolutely nothing?

(This is nowhere near my worst, by the way. Oh hunnies, stay tuned.)

What I’m trying to say is, yes we can recognize our shortcomings, yes we can aim to improve upon those, but do we constantly have to berate ourselves for not being “our best”?

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There is something truly healing about embracing our brokenness rather than feeling shamed by it. It truly can give someone the privilege of “going second” (words of wisdom), meaning, allowing them to be vulnerable as well through paving the path with your example that we, too, are encouraged to embrace the authenticity of brokenness.

Because we are human.

Because we can’t always be at our best. We won’t.

And thank God that we don’t have to be.

 

Stay tuned,

-AF