I am not immune to the irony of the situation. I teach a class about waking up our truths and honoring ourselves. I value screen-free time and summer moments spent by the water, collecting memories and seashells with my beloved family.
And here I am, in the hospital, because of extreme stress and not respecting my own limits and boundaries.
For about a week my entire body has felt uncomfortable; like the muscle and joint pain you get with the flu. Everything, especially my back, ached from the moment I woke up to the second I fell asleep, and during the waking hours I was completely exhausted.
I blamed it on my unsupportive shoes, terrible tiny mattress, carrying the heavy bags of wet, lake-soaked clothes back and forth to the laundry room at the campground. These were all on-the-surface things that could be easily fixed, I told myself. Get some new sneakers, a good foam topper, a wheely-cart like the old ladies with curlers in their hair used to push back and forth from the grocery store in my neighborhood growing up.
And then yesterday, in one split second, it all came tumbling down.
I had just finished making breakfast for Lily, when I started to feel pangs of sharp pain in my guts. I put on a movie, hoping we could just relax and it would pass, but by the time Muppets reached their first song, I was sweating and clenching my fists. The pain was only getting worse.
I opened my computer to work and distract myself. (Hello! Red flag!!) By the third email the screen started getting fuzzy, and my eyes couldn't focus. My shirt was now soaking wet and my hair stuck to my damp forehead. I got up to go to the bathroom and splash water on my face but when I stood up everything started spinning. The pain was now shooting down my back and legs and I knew I was going to pass out. All I could think of was getting outside so that Lily wouldn't be stuck in the camper with me, lying on the floor unresponsive.
I opened the front door and let out the tiniest, wimpiest, "Help," and then the next thing I know I'm face down on the rocks and dirt.
The rest is a blur. I know that our camping neighbors rushed over. I know that Josh, one of the maintenance boys who has become like family to us, arrived within seconds. I remember everyone asking me if I wanted to move onto the picnic blanket instead of the ground, but all I wanted was to feel the cold Earth under my face. In those moments, in such pain, there was honestly no place that felt more comfortable, or comforting, to me.
They wanted to rush me off to the hospital, but I just kept begging them to give me a few more minutes in the dirt, under the canopy of trees. I know how ridiculous that sounds, but I knew everything was about to change, and move quickly, and I just wanted a few moments to prepare myself. I cried. I sent prayers up to the treetops, and rooted my fingers deep down into the dirt. Soon enough I would surrender, and I just needed these moments to get my heart in the right place.
Kidney stones. Ulcers. Low body weight.
Those were the medical diagnostics, and I was given a long list of medications and follow-up tests and specialists.
But here I am. In the silence of a morning not yet greeted with sunlight. And I know the real truth and the real changes on the horizon.
Though I have kept it a very closely guarded secret, I have been camping with my two children completely alone this Spring and Summer. Thomas stayed back in Austin to work at his new job and take care of our house. I knew it was going to be a challenge. I knew it was going to be difficult. What I didn't know, or perhaps what I wasn't ready to admit, was that it would be the bravest and hardest adventure, yet.
I work full-time. I own a business (or two or three!) that I love and take very seriously, and the Spring and Summer months are my busiest, by far. So there I was, camping, CAMPING, in a 25-foot capsule, in the middle of the woods with no internet, no phone service, with two children aged 12 and 5, in the beautiful and reckless tornado of wedding season.
I didn't want to tell anyone, quite honestly, because I was afraid of being murdered. I'm not sure I've ever felt so vulnerable for so long, sleeping night after night so open to the scary things in the world. With even the tiniest sound I'd sit up in bed, and on my best nights I'd get maybe 3-4 hours sleep.
I cooked our meals from scratch. We joined a local CSA and ate wholesome, healthy meals. But let me tell you, the cooking and washing dishes (with such limited hot water supply) seemed endless most days.
Everything is extra work when you're camping. While it seems like a dedication to the simple life, the irony is, nothing feels simple. The 'simple' act of "going to bed" means transforming the kitchen into a bedroom. The 'simple' act of flushing the toilet means sometimes sticking branches foraged from surrounding trees 'down there' to unstick the messiest messes, and scheduling someone to come pump out your tank when it gets full. Showers, for me, were twice a week. After long days spent being feral, the children needed to be seriously scrubbed each night, and by the time that was finished, there was no hot water left for Mama.
Listen, I am not here to play a victim. I know it sounds like I am complaining, but I'm only trying to keep it real.
There were so many gorgeous moments. So many incredible memories I will forever cherish with my little ones. Not many Mothers can say they had such a rich journey with their children, and I promise I am grateful with every cell in my body.
I captured hundreds of private black and white images that will all be collected and bound in an Artifact Uprising book. The practice of capturing these images forced me to slow down and pay attention to the breathless beauty in the middle of the storm. The new freckles on their shoulders. The swimming-with-all-of-our-clothes-on sunsets at the lake.
The blessings were everywhere at every moment. But sometimes, it's also OK to get honest. To step passed the sun-soaked snaps, and share behind the curtain.
Our days were heavily structured. Braedon helped out, perhaps more than any 12 year old should, but he never complained. Not even once. He loved building our fires and checking on our propane levels, and even reading his sister bedtime stories while I finished the nightly chores. Lily, being her sweet Lily self, filled the atmosphere with light.
Most nights after they were sound asleep, I'd whisper tearful apologies into their hair. "I'm so sorry Mommy was so busy today. I'm so sorry this summer is so hard. I promise I am doing the best I can."
Working. Without internet.
This was a whole different ballgame. Thanks to a few helpers/angels I hired, Julia and Margit, my work never missed a beat. All of my clients received their images within my average 10-day turnaround time. I have a workflow and routine down pat, and once the editing was all complete, I'd drive, once a week, to my mom's house 45 minutes away to send everything off, catch up on blogging, and update social media posts (always careful to schedule in photos of Thomas, to keep the creepy murderers away!).
There is just. so. much. to being a (temporary) single working Mama in the woods. I cannot tell you the new-found respect I have for single parents. While they might not be camping, they are still doing it all alone, and I hold them in the highest regard. I had a light at the end of the tunnel. Even on the worst days, I knew there was a loving husband and cozy home waiting for me. Not everyone has that and I seriously do not know how they do it.
Alone is no joke.
In all of this, there was so much that I let go of. Yoga. Twice-daily meditation. Smoothies. Al-anon meetings. Getting enough sunshine. Dancing in my underwear... The self-care things that, it turns out, I truly cannot live without. With my hospital bracelet still on, I now know that.
So, not even 24 hours since that time I so ungracefully got a reality check straight to the guts, I know it's time to make some serious changes. Time to reevaluate things and shift and recover.
Time to reflect.
This week I will begin packing up the Airstream (it's for sale by the way!) and getting ready to fly back to Austin. I'm sure as time passes, crazy amounts of wisdom will arrive, but for now I am grateful for this one indisputable truth:
I am strong. I am brave. But, I cannot do it all.
And my goodness it feels SO GOOD to finally admit that out loud.
The fog, is lifting.