Monday, November 21, 2022

A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E, the prelude

Adventure was the thing I’d been missing.

I wasn’t aware of the void until I filled it, the relief flooding through me like an itch finally scratched. 


I was kind of tricked into the trip, if I’m honest. A newer friend who I admire immensely sent me a personal text of invitation: “Want to do this with me? No pressure, but I’ve already signed up and I would love it if you were there too.” 


I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea for more than a half of a second, had it not been for her. I’d always been a tiny bit curious about backpacking, but my insecurities, and the fact that I owned zero outdoor gear, kept me from thinking about ever making a trek a reality. 


I don’t have a backpack.

I don’t even own hiking boots.

I have IBS. 

I don’t really do the whole no bathroom thing.


“I have all the gear,” she told me, “and you can share my tent.”


I don’t know what was in my water that day, but after a two second conversation with my husband and $30 later, I was signed up for a 36 hour backpacking trip for moms. I guess it was the hidden away part of me that longs to live a little on the edge, finally surfacing to see the light of day. My sense of adventure was making a comeback, poking its way out of the piles motherhood stacked over it. I wanted to live a little more wild. Provided I could plan for it. A reserved thrill seeker of sorts. 


As a kid, I always loved roller coasters. I went for the drop waterslides, the rides at the fair where they harness you in a contraption and pull you up to the top of a tower only to release you into a free fall until you soar through the air like Superman. I sought out heights and jumped off cliffs into lakes. I went to Brazil twice in high school, staying at a remote and bare-bones summer camp where we encountered a tarantula in our makeshift outdoor shower. At the end of my junior year in college, I traveled alone to Peru to meet a group of perfect strangers from Iowa and spent a month with them studying abroad. I wasn’t one to shy away from the wild. Though I was cautious, the wild lit something in me. 


This backpacking trip was to be led by our pastor’s wife and her daughter. A fun girls weekend of sorts, I thought. I pictured gathering around a campfire, clinking mugs filled with wine that we’d squeezed into our packs, toasting s’mores and giggling late into the night. In reality, the trip was an entirely different adventure, not at all what I expected, and yet there is nothing about it I would change. We met “together” three or four times on Zoom before the weekend of our trek. At each meeting, I learned a new piece of information that might have caused me to not sign up, had I known it from the get-go. Perhaps this was a well thought out strategy? Lock the buyer in before they see the fine print! Or maybe it was just perfectly orchestrated happenstance. Whatever the case, it worked! The first change in my mental plan was learning that there would be no tent-sharing, which had been the initial carrot that enticed me. The purpose of the trip was to spend time in solitude and prayer, and giggling side by side in sleeping bags would (theoretically) get in the way of that. Even though I missed the memo about the solitude when I registered, I’m an introvert always looking for alone time, so this was a fairly easy adjustment.



The new tidbit of information I gleaned from the second meeting was a bit tougher for me to swallow. Not only would we be in solitude, but we would also be fasting. I had fasted from specific food items or food groups for short seasons before, but the only time I had ever completely fasted from food was for a few hours leading up to a blood draw. And these periods of fasting usually took place overnight. I only had to make it until 9 AM when the lab was sent off before I could drink my coffee and have a bite. The fasting on this hike was much more intimidating. We would be allowed to snack on the way up the mountain and we would enjoy a picnic together too. But once we arrived at camp, there would be no more eating. We were warned that any snacks left in our packs would be a magnet for animals, so sneaking anything would not be a viable option (ok fine, I’m a rule-follower and could never cheat like this anyway…) Daydreaming of cheating aside, I was suddenly acutely aware of an unrealized fear of going to bed with an empty stomach. In my life of immense privilege, this was not something I often experienced. And it felt next-level intimidating to go without food on top of a mountain. I tried not to let my superficial fears show as I smiled and pretended on-screen that this new knowledge wasn’t causing me to seriously reconsider whether I wanted to do this anymore.

We were encouraged to practice fasting before the trip, both from screens and electronics, and from food. It became painfully obvious how little I wanted to go without these vices, as evidenced by my minimal willingness to practice any more than I had to. Embarrassingly, I fasted for one headache-filled day before the trip and called it good.

The last (and perhaps greatest though they all seem rather significant) surprise was learning that we would not actually be spending the night enclosed in the illusion of safety also known as a tent. Rather, we would be in an open-air fancy REI tarp shelter THAT WE WOULD HAVE TO BUILD OURSELVES. My mind proved incapable of picturing such a setup so I avoided spending even an ounce of time on the subject, trusting that we would be instructed on how to go about this once we arrived in the wild.  


At our final meeting, when the discussion moved to digging a latrine toilet and having to TAKE HOME any used toilet paper or feminine products in a ziplock bag, I began laughing as a protective mechanism. This girl has been on many-a-hike but apparently she lives under a rock. I had never encountered a situation in my short 38 years where it would be required that I place feces-covered paper products BACK IN A BACKPACK ALONG WITH MY CLOTHES AND MY TOOTHBRUSH. Honestly the thought had plain never occurred to me. The scales were coming off my eyes in a real hurry.


One of my fellow adventurers next brought up the topic of bears and I pinched myself when I realized I was zero percent fazed. I almost welcomed an encounter with a bear or something large and from the feline family over going without food and bagging my waste like a mother in the pediatrician’s office forced to return a poopy diaper to her purse because the sign says it can’t be disposed of there. 


But I digress. ;) All this to say, the mental picture I’d built of this “mom’s weekend away” was shifting rapidly into something else entirely. That said, though I had (a large handful of) fears and reservations, something in me felt drawn toward the ruggedness I was now picturing. I kind of wanted to do something hard and get out of my comfort zone. Check and check! Is that not more or less the bare-bones definition of the word adventure? 


I just Googled it and I’m not far off. Oxford says that to adventure is to “engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.” I love that the word hazardous is in there!


Had the trip been led by anyone else, I might have reconsidered, but I adored the two ladies who were guiding us and trusted that they knew what they were doing and that the experience they facilitated was going to be worth it. 


And it was. 



(To be continued...)

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Holy smoke

 

This week, when my small region of the globe officially took the lead as having THE WORST AIR QUALITY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, seems like a great time to do a check-in on mental health. 

Holy smoke (pun intended) - I lost it yesterday. I don’t know what came over me exactly, but I found myself suddenly crying, a spontaneous and unexpected onslaught of tears. I felt like I needed to hug someone or talk to someone or be with someone with an intensity I have never experienced. I was equal parts lonely and sad and I just couldn’t deal with being cooped up any longer. 

With such poor air quality outside, I found myself locked indoors, without the option of running off my angst (a guaranteed endorphin boost), or sinking my gloved hands in the earth, my other tried-and-true mood lifter. While I, like the rest of my region, is thirsting for rain to water the earth and put out all the wildfires that are smoking out our beautiful air, I could not handle the weather forecast before me: rain, every day, for as long as my phone was capable of predicting. We need rain. The earth needs a good soak. But endless moisture? Exchanging the darkness of smoke for the darkness of clouds? I lacked the ability at that moment to cope.

It goes without saying that I take the shift from summer to fall a lot harder than most. I love the changing seasons and a clear fall day in the Seattle area is pretty hard to beat, but the dropping temperature brings about a significant shift in how I spend my days. And it gets me every time, and fills me with dread. I go from spending hours outside in the garden to sitting inside and looking out upon the yard in which I toiled, watching it move toward a winter slumber. I transition from making regular bouquets and playing with flowers, to anticipating what the next growing season might bring. Floral requests come to a screeching halt, and its effects are jolting, as sudden as the first frost. Though I am learning to shift my focus toward growing things indoors (pictured above), I miss being outside in the typically-fresh air. 

Midway into the summer, I shared candidly about my struggles with overthinking. And then I almost instantly regretted it, a classic case of vulnerability hangover. If I lost readers, I’ll never know, but what I do know is that many of you so gently reached out to encourage and share your own experiences. This was so powerful. Even though these past few weeks of accumulating smoke are taking a toll on me (hello, sudden eruption of tears yesterday), I actually have been doing relatively well and wanted to share a few celebrations.

I don’t know who might need to read these words this week, but I’ve learned that when I’m feeling something, someone else usually is too. So I wanted to write a little update, in hopes it’s just the snippet of encouragement your ears might need. Since writing that post in July, I have made a whole lot of changes. I started with a new therapist. I changed psychiatrists, in hopes of finding a medication that worked better for me. I started a new medication. I am also changing to a new primary care doctor, as well as seeing an OB GYN who specializes in women’s hormones. I’m doing short, regular runs (minus during this smokiest of weeks, which brings us full circle yet again to that sudden eruption of tears..are we sensing a pattern?) 

While I might not recommend making ALL the changes all at once, I will say that making these moves has been so beneficial for me. I worried about how hard it would be to start with a new therapist and tell my story all over again. This barrier has kept me from making an arguably needed switch for years. In reality, this was almost a nonissue and my new therapist has equipped me with tools and a new angle for addressing my thought life. We have been able to jump in and get to work almost immediately, combating some common unhelpful thinking patterns. The other day I had an intrusive thought pop up and I actually told my husband that I would need to pause life for about five minutes but that I would be mentally present again shortly. While sitting with him at the lunch table, I pulled out my therapy notebook and worked through the problematic thought and was able to reframe it all on my own, before I informed my husband that life could once again proceed. :) A longer term goal perhaps might be that I am able to address these unhelpful thought patterns without pausing life and jotting things down in my notebook, but hey, progress is progress and I’m thrilled. 

Changing to a new psychiatrist has also been so helpful in bringing a fresh perspective. She has asked really great questions that have helped me identify my root challenge. Is it depression? Or OCD/anxiety? It’s kind of like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, because they are both so interwoven. But determining that intrusive thoughts are my primary challenge (which has led to depression because it’s so dang exhausting to deal with intrusive thoughts all the time), has helped us choose a medication that better treats the symptoms I’m experiencing. She restarted me on the medication that helped me when I was in 8th grade, and, not surprisingly, I’m having positive results once again. 

There’s so much more I could say but in the interest of time, I’ll try and wrap it up here. I would be lying if I said it was easy making the changes I listed above. It took so much mental energy and time to find new providers that both accepted my insurance and who were a good fit for me. It felt like nothing short of a totally unfulfilling way to spend my kids-in-school hours in the short term. But in the long run? That effort is paying off. Movement is movement, and hopefully eventually it will be in the forwards direction.

I also want to say that if you too are looking at the weather forecast and getting that sinking feeling in your gut, I get it 100%. At the recommendation of my doctor, I dusted off my therapy light last night and you’d better believe you’ll be finding me puzzling in front of it in the early hours of the morning as I drink my coffee and tune into my favorite podcasts. It’s a win-win, really: I get to sit still and do something I love for a full 30 minutes. Every day. Doctor’s orders! (I’m pretty sure your doctor would recommend it too). ;)

Lastly, I’ll share this tidbit that my doctor shared with me: sometimes as humans, we just have blue days. When we struggle with things like anxiety or depression, we tend to hyperfocus on categorizing how everything in our lives fits into those diagnoses. But sometimes we might be blue because we haven’t connected with friends in a while. Or because it’s smokey outside. Or because we are spending so much time doing active work in therapy and we just need a little bit of time sharing our feelings. We might need some downtime. Sometimes it could be hormones. Blue days happen. But so do days filled with sunshine.

Until then,

XO  


Monday, October 17, 2022

Mr. Crozier

I’ve often written about the challenges in our relationship. Today I want to jot down some of the perks. Living with Mr. Crozier is surely one of life’s finest adventures!  


I love this man who will don a makeshift beekeeper outfit to save me and my bare feet from the yellow jackets that have established residence in our yard. I love this man who will take a bite of the miniature Dutch Babies I made this morning for breakfast and try to hide the fact that the look of horror on his face was indeed in response to the taste of my baking (they basked in a VERY smoky oven and absorbed all the flavors of smoldering).


I love this man who can belt three part harmony while rocking out on an electric guitar.



I love this man who goes along with all my flower whims and buys me a new one when I declare that I would like a “treat.” I love this man who goes swimming in the lake in October, who tells the truth, who rocks my twenty-two-year-old-stolen-and-recovered Honda and parks it at work amidst the Teslas of his colleagues.



I love this man who gets out and runs the pre-game soccer drills to get the boys warmed up when the coach is running late. And who can blow that hand whistle like a boss when he plays referee. 



I think it goes without saying that I love this man who is for sure the hottest dog I've ever seen.



All antics aside, one of my favorite parts of the past 18 months has been watching this man that I love take in the offspring of strangers and welcome them into our roost. I love seeing him snuggle and rock and read to and teach these sweet kids who are innocent bystanders in chaotic situations. I love that this man volunteers with Strong Families, serves at church and then works in a caring profession and still wonders if he is doing enough. 

We've done a lot of work, endured a few growing pains, Mr. Crozier and I. I've been struck lately by the sacredness of the covenant we made as we were declared husband and wife. In good times and bad. When we show our worst sides and our best. When we are easy to live with and difficult. When we are in hysterics from laughing or pure frustration. Praise Jesus that we didn't quit when times were tough.


Mr Crozier, it's a joy and an honor to be your misses. Thank you for loving God and loving me. You just get better with age.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

I'm not ready

 

We did it! They are off. My heart is walking outside of my body, taking the form of my three children, off to school again.

I would like to say it gets easier. (But it might not).

I would like to say it’s at least smoother. (But it might not be).

Or perhaps that you can count on them being more independent. (But that might not be factual).

This isn’t sounding encouraging. My heart goes out to you parents, and particularly you mamas, who just did something big. Maybe your launch day isn’t for another week or two, but it’s coming. And I have news for you:

YOU WILL NEVER FEEL READY.

I had that realization this morning, as I walked home from dropping my baby off at his bus stop. I could have done all the preparation in the world (which, by the way, I didn’t) and still I would not feel ready. There is always more. Can I just make peace with this fact?

My firstborn was up this morning before anyone else. She took care of her own breakfast (after I stumbled out of bed to tell her I’d bought a new, unfamiliar brand of milk which she failed to locate in the refrigerator without my guidance). She was showered, already dressed in her volunteer t-shirt and had her lunch made by the time I even poured my coffee. She was the one telling ME what her schedule looked like today, what time she needed to be where. Her first day isn’t technically until tomorrow but she is showing the ropes to a group of 6th graders today, my responsible little leader. I actually watched her stop herself from leaving for school 20 minutes early because she was that ready to go.

She’s ready, but I will never be.

My middle was next in our series of wake ups. We bought her very first alarm clock yesterday (no time like the present!) and the singsong tune it rang out this morning marked it’s maiden voyage. This kid has never been awake before 7 AM, with the exception of the time we were boarding a flight for Disneyland. The learning curve with early mornings is going to be a steep one. But she made it out of bed and was ready with her priorities straight-ish. Her outfit was set out last night and she slept on top of her covers (no bed to make!) She ate a good breakfast and was the one of my trio with the most intricate first day sign. She’s all in when it comes to arts and crafts. We might actually be late to her first day of middle school BUT HER FIRST DAY SIGN IS GONNA BE BEAUTIFUL GOSH DANG IT. 

She’s ready, but I will never be.

My son is the last one up. He was up late last night watching his dad play softball because, priorities. He’s the baby of the family and late summer bedtimes are a hard habit to kick. He wakes on his own and is as cool as a cucumber. He’s not at all nervous because he’s “been going to elementary school for 3 years.” He tells me the summer has gone by too fast and he’s not pleased when I ask him to make a first day sign. He’s even less pleased when I refuse to allow a full 20 minutes for our 10 minute walk to the bus stop. He’d rather play it safe and be early. Always. 

He’s ready, but I will never be.

Sure, I’m ready for a break. But I'm not ready ready. I’m elated for a quiet house that only gets as messy as I make it. But I’m not ready. I still have so many things I wanted to do this summer. I’m not ready. I wish I spent more one-on-one time with each kid. I’m not ready. I still haven’t bought Isla an umbrella. I’m not ready. I wanted to stock the freezer with grab-and-go breakfast options. I’m not ready. I didn’t create a morning routine chart to help with the flow of school mornings. I’m not ready. I haven’t brainstormed new lunch items to stock. I’m not ready. I haven’t mapped out how I’m going to spend my time while the kids are away.

I’m not ready, but the day is here. No amount of preparation and organization would have made me feel fully equipped. Were my kids sporting new clothes from a recent back-to-school shopping spree on their first day of school? They sure weren’t. But were they wearing clothes? Thankfully, yes! And shoes? Yes! (A rare miracle in the Crozier household). Did they change their underwear? If I were a betting woman, I’d guess maybe we were 1 for 3 here. Did I remember to pray for each of them and their days the way I’d wanted to? Nope! Thankfully Jesus is always available and accepting prayers. 

I’m sure you get my point. The pressure we endure to get everything “just so” leaves us forever feeling inadequate. You won’t ever feel ready, physically or emotionally. And therein lies the challenge. Can we make peace with our unreadiness and simply lean in? 

As I think of all you parents sending littles out into the big, wide world today and in the days to come, my hope is that you will know that whatever you manage to bring to the table, whether it's messy and chaotic, or smooth and organized, it is good enough. 💛 (And it's ok if you don't feel ready. No one else does either).

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

I've been (over)thinking...

 

I made a deal with myself. As I type this very sentence, I’m trying to convince myself I don’t have to keep it. I said I would write something and post it. Not because I have something monumental to say, but rather precisely because I feel I don’t have much to offer. I’ve been existing in this space for half of a year already and it’s becoming a rather convenient excuse to quit pushing myself, waiting for words to strike or content ideas to feel more palatable and comfortable. But those days ain’t coming. So I’m showing up and pushing through. She asked me this morning if something happened. To be honest, I had the very same thought as my feet pounded the pavement on my run, mere hours earlier. I almost wish something happened. That would feel easier. It would be more logical. It would explain in a more universal language why I’m at the place I am. But the reality is, nothing has happened that I can pinpoint that tipped the scale and caused my recent bout of anxiety and depression. I didn’t have a clean and neat answer for my therapist. I’m just anxious. And sad. Let’s edit that. I’m not “just” anxious. Heaven knows anxiety is minimized enough in our culture! I don’t need to shrink it down in significance even further. I am anxious. Take away the “just.” When most people think of anxiety, they picture palms sweating and legs trembling. Mine isn’t like that. I don’t have many of the outward symptoms, which, I might argue, makes it a whole lot worse because no one knows it’s happening. Mine looks more like constant, intrusive, negative thoughts that hound me. I wake up sad and filled with dread. I often begin the day working my way through a mental checklist: Am I okay? Am I in trouble? Who have I upset? Who have I disappointed? Do my kids and family know how much I love them? Have I done anything that I should feel guilty about? And this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Thoughts like these pummel me from the moment I wake up. I rise with an intense feeling of obligation to pay penance to someone. I do not know where this idea stems from, as it goes 100% against my theology. But the thoughts still plague. I try to get up before the rest of my house so I can wrestle the negative thinking into better submission. I read a devotional. I journal prayers. I meditate on promises in Scripture about who I am in Christ. I plead with God to help me know I am free and complete in Him. And the thoughts continue to pummel. It’s exhausting and defeating. It takes so much physical and mental effort to get myself to a semblance of “baseline” where I am able to function and take on the day. My morning exercise gives me a much-needed boost of endorphins that helps soften the blast of the intrusive negative thoughts. I found great encouragement in Brene Brown’s most recent book, “Atlas of the Heart,” where even she, a well-renowned and respected professional, shared that she has to exercise daily to get to a healthier baseline. Maybe I’m not crazy after all? Back to this morning. My therapist asked if something happened. She has watched me fall apart this summer. These struggles are not new. I have wrestled with intrusive thoughts for over 2 decades. But they come in waves and I have bouts where they are less impactful, and bouts like the present when I feel stuck and nonfunctional. Is it overstimulation? Exhaustion? Lack of alone time? Cumulative effects of raising 3 kids and trying to preserve a healthy marriage in a never-ending pandemic? Some past trauma coming to the surface? Maybe someday I will know. But I don’t have a nice, logical way to explain myself to others: “Because of ________, I’m struggling.” My therapist also asked me this morning if it would help to know that others have thoughts like mine, that most moms, for instance, worry about whether their kids know how much they are loved. I wanted to push back, partly to validate for myself the severity of these thought intrusions. At the same time, it was so very helpful to be reminded that I’m not the only one. So here I am, sharing where I am at outloud, in case you too are feeling alone in a mess of thoughts. I don’t have great solutions (yet), but I’m showing up here and (mostly) willing to be vulnerable. It’s always hard for me to write hard stuff without wrapping it up with a nice and pretty bow. But I’m leery about saying something that feels like a “Jesus bandaid.” I have often been handed these harmful words by well-intended, fellow Christians: Just believe more and it will get better. You aren’t trusting enough. Frankly, those sentiments can be added to the intrusive thought pile that only serve to make the problem worse. What I will say is that it is possible to love Jesus, long to live free of anxiety and have more faith AND YET STILL BE ANXIOUS. I may not like it, but this wrestling of mine is keeping me closer to Him and I am committed to keep bringing this burden to the feet of Jesus, praying for a clear way forward. One last thought. If you are reading this and you don’t personally struggle with anxiety or depression, but you love someone who does, here are some helpful words you might consider saying to encourage them: You are doing a good job. I’m thinking of you. I love you and care about you. I am here. You aren’t too much. You aren’t crazy. They don’t need your solutions. They just need your presence, prayers and care in the midst of the mess. XO.