That’s How Much I Love You by Julie Rudi

Have you ever read That’s How much I love You by Julie Rudi?

 

This morning my son wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me. Hard.

 

“I love you, Mama; if you were a sock, I’d be your shoe.”

 

My heart. Exploded.

 

I tell my son this all the time because it’s from one of our favorite bedtime stories.

 

Julie Rudi

That’s How Much I Love You

 

This was the first time he ever thought to say it to me.

 

Julie Rudi

 

I am so grateful and so full of love. In this moment, I am also overwhelmed by the haiku I wrote for my son:

 

HE’S NOT MINE TO OWN,

I WAS MADE TO PROTECT HIM…

BEFORE I WAS BORN.

 

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At some point during the whole becoming a mom stage of my life, I realized my protective capacity was off. Off like…I would kill myself to save someone else…from boredom.

 

My son saved me.

 

Before he was born, I was slowly dying…and I didn’t even care. I had toxic relationship poisoning. Were it not for my son, I never would have began my self love journey. My son taught me to rage against the dying of the light. RAGE. Don’t fuck with my son’s mom. I matter.

 

For someone who realizes that they were created to be a weapon of war, a tool of destruction, the very idea that you “matter” can be overwhelming…and confusing. When I started to ACT like I matter, I lost almost every single person in my life.

 

What’s up, grief?

 

If you are not on board with me loving myself,

 

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I’ll grieve you.

 

What did one year of boundaries do for me?

 

(1) Could not meet son’s teacher vs Had son’s teacher over for dinner

(2) Hospital every couple months vs No Hospital in 9 months

(3) Wanted to go to a support group vs Hosting a support group

(4) Could not stay asleep for longer than 2 hours vs Sleeping up to 5 consecutive hours per night

(5) Living in constant FEAR vs Only experiencing fear when appropriate (NEVER!)

 

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I have my health, I have my family, I have love and I am GRATEFUL.

 

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XO

~Rachel

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How to be a genuine rebel: wear your hair

Did you know that hair is rebellious?

 

I have always been struck by Patsy Cline’s Crazy. Crazy. Crazy for FEELING so LONELY.

 

I have a lot of thoughts going on at once, a whole encyclopedia per topic. I learned at a young age that all those words + feelings tend to make most others extremely uncomfortable; that it would be easier for other people if I toned myself down.

 

Unfortunately, I decided around 10 years old that I would rather be considered quiet than crazy. I became reserved, serious, observant…the duller version of me.

 

Well, I had a secret. A big secret. Tons of secrets actually, I was choking on them.

 

One huge encyclopedia set of secrets could be dedicated to the changes I noticed going on with my body. I’ll just come out and say it: boobs. They were glorious. They still are. I started to fall in love love with my body. I was my own private dancer.

 

Private being the operative word because it became clear at this time that my body required policing; shirts were not a suggestion, they were THE LAW.

 

Coincidentally, that shirt helped mask another developing secret…out of nowhere…from the pits of my arms….

 

Hair.

 

Whoa.

 

As an American girl of German/Italian descent, I knew this was a “problem” that I could easily solve. I got out the Lady Bic and destroyed all the evidence.

 

Destroyed being the operative word because those soft brown hairs were immediately replaced by screaming red bumps.

 

Ouch.

 

My 10-year-old armpits were scarred for life. I repeatedly shaved over the screaming red bumps every other day for 22 more years.

 

Why?!! Was everyone super into them?

 

No. I am aware that it is unheard of to compliment another person’s armpit. Are you aware that it is totally common for my armpits to be the source of ridicule? Seriously, I have received MANY grimaces and complaints regarding the black hole that is my armpit. Before my son could talk, he looked right at my shaved armpit and said:

 

“Ew!”

 

I pointed to my shaved armpit and asked: “this is ew?”

 

He nodded his baby head solemnly.

 

Sigh. Why didn’t the old faithful combination of grooming + pain = beauty?

 

WHY?!!!

 

Honestly, I blamed my body. The problem with my armpits was that no matter what, my freshly shaved armpit revealed a five o clock shadow. You could always see black beneath the surface because, honestly, just beneath the surface of my delicate skin was thick bold black hair waiting to burst through.

 

Awhile ago I noticed this Instagram page dedicated to showcasing ladies with hairy armpits (@ladypithairy). I scrolled through all the pics with my jaw dropped and my eyes darting back and forth from armpit to face, armpit to face, armpit to face. I could not believe that armpit hair DID NOT diminish their beauty whatsoever. In fact, something about the rebelliousness, the unapologetic look in their eyes was SO attractive to me.

 

Dare I?

 

Somehow I gathered the courage to stop shaving my battered armpits. Not somehow. I remember now. There was this tween Vine star who shocked a lot of his fans by making a statement about how girls should shave their armpits. My 14-year-old goddaughter was a fan of his and I just could not do it anymore. It is exhausting to have your natural body policed for over 3 decades, especially when you notice the new batch of police officers are less than half your age…

 

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I went crazy. I stopped shaving my armpits. Previous to this article, only 7 people even knew about my indiscretion. My social experiment is rather introverted in nature, but I can easily disclose the results from this closed group:

 

(1) Mild concern. “OMG, you like it?!” or “What does your husband think?” (Ha).

 

(2) Dissent. “Stop.” “Don’t do this.” “At least trim, stay groomed. “

 

(3) Confusion. Mainly there was confusion. “Why are you doing this?” “When will you be done doing this?” “What is that?”

 

The last question came from my toddler and it was beautiful. He noticed my armpit hair, pointed to it and said: What is that? I told him that it was my armpit hair, that I have it because I am an adult, that Daddy has it too because he is an adult and that, one day, when he gets bigger, he will also have amazing armpit hair.

 

His face was priceless. He actually didn’t even believe me. “Daddy has hair here?” I took my son by the hand and walked him to the bathroom where his Dad was getting ready for work. My husband and I stood side by side and revealed to our son that we both have basically the same exact armpit hair situation (mine is actually a little bit fuller and more awesome). My son was clearly thrilled, it was written all over his face. He can’t wait to get bigger and have glorious adult armpit hair.

 

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The combination of the above 3 reactions resulted in the certainty that I had to keep it up. I am a rebel by nature.

 

I was on to something.

 

Personally, I could not get over how aggressive I perceived myself to be. Aggressive. The word was constantly popping up in my mind. I wasn’t just scratching my head, the presence of the armpit hair turned it into an aggressive head scratch. I wasn’t just reaching for the cereal on the top shelf, I was aggressively reaching for top shelf items. It was weird. I talked about it a lot. Why do I feel aggressive?

 

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My dear friend gently pointed it out to me: maybe you are aggressive.

 

WHAT?!!!!!

 

She’s right. Upon reflection, I know that it’s true. I am aggressive because I have been “managing” the fear that I already am aggressive since about 10 years old. By managing I mean that as part of my thought process, I would determine that my first idea for how to achieve an objective was “too aggressive” and then I would pick from plans B-Z. God forbid someone think I was a “bitch.”

 

And so the cycle of burying who I truly was began. At age 10. By the time I was 16, I knew I was full blown crazy but instead of letting the real Rachel out, I buried her deeper. She’s so aggressive…I hate her…I wish she was dead.

 

This was my mantra. It kept me out of trouble. Neglected children should get a handout for how to parent themselves better. I remember when I was 22 how my older brother called me bipolar and punched my bedroom door off the hinges. I remember how I went into my closet and cried on the floor.

 

I am not bipolar. I am an emotional creature. I am a human being who is reacting beautifully to a lifetime of oppression. I am grieving. I am a survivor of PTSD. I am healing. I am INFJ and an empath. Knowing who I am has brought me right back to the beginning: I am aggressive. I will fight for my rights. That’s not crazy.

 

Rolling over and burying yourself alive is crazy.

 

Shortly before I started growing out my armpit hair, my husband and I went to the movies to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I was not familiar with the storyline going into it and was very struck by the character named Groot. There is a very magical moment near the end of the film where Groot’s tree-like body expands into a protective sphere, saving the lives of all his friends, at the cost of his own life. It was beautiful. My heart was aching because I knew it was going to happen…because I would do the same thing.

 

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If I were a superhero, my powers would be related to my ability to grow amazing hair. Everywhere. If I had to, I know that I could, in a similar magic moment, expand my hair growth into a protective hair sphere around my husband and son, to save their lives. It would be beautiful. And so gross. Obviously.

 

Fortunately, I decided at 32 years of age to stop toning myself down. Patsy Cline’s Crazy has taken on a whole new meaning. I still feel lonely, but I don’t feel crazy about it. I feel able to connect with like-minded individuals because I uncovered that girl I buried alive. She’s stronger than ever now…angrier and more aggressive, too. Good thing. Life’s a bitch.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

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long hair don’t care

Positive Mantras & Parenting: you is kind, you is smart, you is important

{originally published January 14, 2015}

 

Shifting from negative mantras to positive mantras was probably my greatest success of 2014.

 

I pushed myself through every day of my life, all the way to 2014, using hateful, terrorizing, emotionally crushing negative mantras. I was not always aware I was doing it. It was habitual to say the least.

 

The only reason I decided to stop doing that was because of the look on my therapist’s face when I told her that’s how I got myself through high school, college and law school (and the bar exam, my wedding planning and pregnancy). The look on her face suggested that was not a good idea.

 

So, I agreed to try out positive mantras. It was tough at first because I did not realize how huge the shift was going to be. I had to care about myself for real. I had to be sorry when I slipped up, which was tough because, at first, it felt very natural and almost soothing to just allow myself to tear into myself. But when I was finished, it wasn’t soothing at all (obviously) and I regretted what I considered to be “backsliding” into old bad habits.

 

Over the course of the year, I found myself doing many things to solidify my shift into positive mantras. Research, reading, journaling, mixed media art (#hellosoulhellomantras), meditating, EMDR, self hypnosis, yoga, etc.

 

Want to know what the single most helpful activity has been?

 

Parenting.

 

By far, the easiest and most effective method for my shift was to use positive mantras on my child.

 

When I was pregnant, I read the book The Help and was very moved by the mantra that the nanny uses on the baby (“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”).

 

you is kind, you is smart, you is important

“You is kind, you is smart, you is important”

 

My big pregnant self was sobbing thinking about how helpful that would have been, if my parents had used mantras like that on me when I was a child.

 

Ever since my son was born, I have told him this every day:

 

You are kind. You are smart. You are important. You are my son. I am your mom. I take care of you. You are special. You are an angel. You are made out of stars. I am so proud of you. You make me so happy. I love to be your mom. We are a family. I love you.

 

I tell him this, without fail, at nap time and at bed time. I also tell him that when he is cuddly, or sad, or when I just don’t know what else to say. This is my filler.

 

At the end of this month, my son will be 3 years old. For the past 6 months, he has been whispering the mantra along with me. I could not be more proud. I know he believes every word of it (why wouldn’t he? It’s all true).

 

What’s even more amazing—I am beginning to believe every word of it about myself. I am kind. I am smart. I am important. I am a mom. I will take care of myself. I love myself. I am special. I am an angel. I am made out of stars. I am so happy. I love to be Jackson’s mom. I have a family.

 

It’s hard to totally change certain core habits. I know. I did it. Through, research, reading, journaling, various forms of therapy, art work, blogging, meditating, yoga and parenting.

 

I don’t care how old your children are, start the positive mantras with them today. Do it for them and for you. Do it every day.

 

XO

~Rachel

 

Haiku by Rachel VanKoughnet:

 

He’s not mine to own.

I was made to protect him

before I was born.

 

you is kind, you is smart, you is important