Not in a Panic.

I’m leaving soon for my second vacation this summer and I am not panicking. Last year, when headed to this same destination, I was terrified that I would not be able to restrain my shopping. I even blogged about it. The year before that, all I could think about was trying to schedule my retail outings.

I visited family a few weeks ago, and realized halfway through the trip that I wasn’t anxiously figuring out how I could ditch my kids and sneak in some shopping. That was always my vacation MO before: planning when, where, and how often to shop without arising suspicion. Even though I’ve been working on this for over a year, that trip this month was the first one not consumed by thoughts of retail. This next trip will be the second one. I imagine that unless I go to Paris, all future trips will be like this.

It feels so…uncomplicated. Relaxing. I look forward to enjoying my vacation rather than worrying or getting upset over shopping.

The odd thing is that I still have a wishlist of too-big items that I need to replace. If I come across them when I’m away, great. But I’m not bending over backwards and planning my days around the hunt. There will be no search, no agenda. I will be free.

I think I am free.

Connecting the dots.

For the past few years since my youngest son was born, I existed just to connect the dots between things that dictated my schedule. Constantly floating and dragged along, I was just trying to make it to the next thing so I could call it a day and slip into my favorite state of sleep. I was not an active participant in my life and didn’t try to be. I let myself be run over by my apathy.

Last fall, I hit what I consider to be rock bottom, finally admitting that I wanted life to pass by as quickly as possible without me taking an active part in it. Everything was a dreadful chore that I wanted to avoid. I wanted to crawl into a cozy shell and sleep until my kids were grown after having raised themselves. I wanted to close my eyes and open them to a magically clean house…but instead opened them to tears and panic that shut my body down. I kept digging deeper into the cool sand on a blazing hot day, but there was no relief. I couldn’t escape.

Therapy, not the retail kind, helped me turn the corner. With lots of work and determination, I took control of motherhood again. I started running my household. Life didn’t run me ragged anymore and my kids were happier because I learned to find joy. I couldn’t say this 10 months ago, but I can shout it now: MY KIDS ARE AWESOME. I remind them daily, in what I do and say, that I am so glad to be their mom. I would say that they are completely different kids now than they were then, but the truth is that I’m the only one who has changed. We’ve had a Dog Whisperer moment.

My health also reached a new low at the end of last year, and I had started a string of tests and lab work, possibly heading to surgery. But after a few months of actually living my life, I was in a position to tackle my deteriorating health. I started tracking my calories without changing the content of what I was eating, and that was a huge eye-opener! My portions were enormous, for both meals and snacks. Easily two or three times what my body needed. No wonder I felt sick all the time. I even craved that sick, overfull feeling and would eat more. It was a bizarre circle. I never thought of myself as using food to cope, as I clearly used shopping, but in hindsight, food was another crutch. It was a crutch that I didn’t recognize because I didn’t eat outside the “usual” times (breakfast, lunch, dinner, morning snack, and afternoon snack). My crutch was hiding in plain sight.

Along with tracking calories, I started running, because that’s what fit people do, right? But a couple of months into it, I knew that what I really wanted was to be STRONG. I instantly fell in love with weightlifting, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since (no more running!). It’s much easier to do stuff around the house now. Things like going up the stairs and pouring dinner out of heavy pans are as effortless as breathing. Best of all, I haven’t had any more of the pain that sent me in for testing. And there’s the lovely side effect of burning fat, speeding up metabolism, and dropping sizes.

The fitness level I’ve gotten to this year has changed everything. Life used to dictate the dots for me to connect, but now I’m drawing the picture. I’m making the schedule and I’m enjoying all the stops.