“Are you staying sane?”
A neighbor asked me this from her car, after she stopped alongside us when we turned back into the neighborhood at the end of our nightly family walk.
I was wearing Nettie, who’d fallen asleep against my body and the big kids were off their bikes, screaming and chasing one another in the street. They were throwing fistfuls of small rocks at one another, just to add to the chaos in the moment.
“Not really,” I said with a smile.
I couldn’t quite see her face, as she’d only rolled her window down part of the way, but I am fairly certain her expression was one of surprise.
Most people expect moms to grin and bear it, saying that we’re fine, even when we’re not.
I’m over that.
I’d rather be honest, which feels a lot healthier.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be healthy lately.
Especially as we deal with the ongoing health crisis that has us isolated and homebound, most of the time.
I’ve been thinking about it in the context of motherhood and what I want to model for my kids as healthy adult behavior.
And I’ve been considering it from the angle of a military spouse, which has its own set of expectations for healthy behavior.
In the media, health is generally defined by a size. For example, if your body shape and size fits a certain ideal, you are considered healthy.
Healthy runs so much deeper than what we look like on the outside, though.
Mental health, emotional health, and physical health are more complex than the squares on someone’s instagram feed can show.
In my opinion, health begins with honesty.
Be honest with yourself.
Listen to yourself, without judgment.
Hear what your body has to say.
Being in conversation with yourself, honest conversation, is key.
This is easier said than done, but without this step, there is no capacity to be healthy.
Once you’ve started an honest, judgment-free conversation with yourself, the next thing to do is to consider your needs
These can be basic and broad or very specific.
The idea is to tap into what you actually need to feel healthy instead of just doing what you think you are supposed to.
This is kind of next level stuff. It requires a deeper awareness and intentionality.
You have to listen deeply and pay close attention to yourself.
(See we’re back at listening again. It’s always going to be that. It’s never not going to be that.)
In the past few months, I’ve had to redefine what it means to be healthy.
There are a few things that I do everyday for my health, no matter what.
I am super protective of my mornings as prime time for self-care. Every morning, without fail, I write and meditate and move my body.
Those 3 things set me up to feel healthier and give a baseline for overall health by tending to my body, mind, and heart.
There are other things I feel are essential for my health, but I want to get back to redefining what it means to be healthy.
I think we need to start considering truth-telling healthy.
As in, “I am feeling like trash and I don’t that shit stay inside.” I let it out for the whole world to see. Or for my partner to see. Or my therapist or my parents or my best friends.
I also think that we need to start talking more about how necessary rest really is. Working out at the gym is generally considered to be one of the pillars of good health, but maybe can we bring getting enough rest up to the same level?
Then there’s the whole negative self-talk issue. This is one of my personal downfalls when it comes to health.
During this quarantine combined with deployment, I’ve had a lot of people compare me to Wonder Woman. They’ve told me what a good job I am doing and how amazing I am. But most days, I don’t feel amazing.
I feel guilty because I’ve had to give up any pretense of trying to homeschool my kids as a matter of survival. I’ve yelled at my kids more than I wanted to. Most days I crawl into bed feeling like a complete failure.
The standard I’ve been holding myself to is flawed. And instead of acknowledging all of the good days and the sweet moments, I get stuck in the “bad mom” moments. And then I feel entirely unable to dig myself out.
Good health isn’t perfect. Being healthy is being in flow.
This means that some days I might not get into bed as early as I want, but I don’t beat myself up for it. I just try to readjust the following night.
That means I have hard days and I talk about them, openly and honestly, trying to limit my own judgment.
I ask for help when I need it. Or I try because this one is hard for me, too.
I apologize when necessary, which is often.
Boundaries become my best friends. Or they will be someday when I get better at them. But we keep getting reacquainted, even as things shift and change.
Mostly, I keep inviting myself into deeper conversations with myself.
I aim for honesty with myself and with others, because without it, no relationship can survive.
What does healthy mean to you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.