I don’t know if you’ve ever done the extremely dumb thing that I did recently: Read my journals from when I was 16, 17, and 18. I was assuming I’d find old thoughts and ideas that had evolved in my adult life into fully formed thoughts and ideas, or at the least that I’d not recognize “that girl then”.
Alas, I fully recognized myself and saw many many many many many of the same half cooked thoughts and ideas that I have today. Sure, I’ve experienced a ton of growth. I am more mature. All that is there, yes. BUT ALSO, whew, so much of the angst is the same. The road blocks and the insecurities, the same.
Perhaps this is normal. Perhaps this is the thing we realize even at the end of life. Perhaps it’s the way the world scoops us up in adulthood onto some conveyor belt of busydom, where the sort of stillness we need to transcend our adolescence doesn’t exist. I really don’t know the answer to that, but – after reading those journals – it became clear to me that I’m a bit stuck right now. Depressed? Weathered? Still hopeful? Yes. It all belongs when I consider the last 4 years.
Oh, the last 4 years. The birth of my third child, the onset of postpartum depression again, the abrupt unexpected end of a marriage, single parenting a newborn and two older kids, the pandemic, and now the burnout after the pandemic. I find myself in a spin cycle, wanting to hit reset and do over and omg someone give me some boots with some traction. The mud feels deep.
The mud is deep.
That is an exact sentence I found in my journals from an entry in which I was trying to make sense of being 16 year old dancer living on my own, desperate for a way to feel inspired AND secure. Reading that sentence reminded me that the work in my life 26 years later remains the same. I feel this way now, but I can promise you that I don’t want to spend the next two decades not dealing with it.
My work in recovery from substance abuse has taught me one main thing: Nothing changes if nothing changes. You can live your entire life in an optimistic feud over “I’ll do that tomorrow” and “Nevermind.” I sure did. But, I also actually did change, the sort of change the boomerangs you back to a recovery of your full, true self. I feel its presence every single day, etched inside me alongside awe and gratitude as well.
The key factor in that change was – plain and simple – ownership of my shit, without excuse or explanation. Just a full blown honest view of all that I had become when substances took hold of my life. The result of this honesty was something unexpected: Freedom. To love yourself and be loved through this experience changes you. As Beyonce says, Show me your scars and I won’t walk away.
I’m curious about what happens when I apply this ownership to my work here, in MommaStrong. I’ve been lackluster in spirit here, doing the tasks I need to do, putting out fires, doing what I’ve done before – but I’ve kept myself an arm’s length away. Why? It’s easy to label it burnout, but when I do what I know to do with the hefty excavator of honesty, I see that I never dealt with my own postpartum experience 4 years ago. Not in my body and not in my mind and not in my grind.
The result is that I feel like I need to stay on the down low, keep myself hidden until I can figure things out without anyone seeing. The consequence of hiding is that I also bury my light and my passion for my work in the world. And the reality is that my work demands (thankfully) the exact opposite or else it suffers. Of course it suffers.
Owning my shit like this has lit a spark of something I haven’t felt in quite a while: Agency. I like to think of it as that traction on those boots that I want in the deep mud right now. It’s the thing that grips so sturdily into the ground that even if the going gets tough, I can trust my feet.
I’m curious where others are. Am I the only one? Have you all had these boots all along?
This is where I get to invite you to the May Hook here in MommaStrong, which is focused this month on Baggage Claim: Owning Your Shit and Forgiving Yourself. It starts Monday, May 1st, which is basically like tomorrow holy cowabunga.
After you register, all we encourage you to do is to listen to one short episode of our mini podcast each week, then comment or discuss as you like in our community. OH, and you try to show up for 5-15 minutes of exercise as often as possible during the month.
I’ll see you there, angst optional.