As if…

Years ago, I spotted a Maxine or Cathy cartoon where the main character (Cathy or Maxine) was slumped dramtically on the couch, perhaps there was something like chocolate just out of reach, and the caption read, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  I think I am Cathy. Or Maxine.  And I bet a lot of you identify with me. 

Yesterday, a good friend and I took our boys on a field trip.  The field trip involved some driving time and so we had an opportunity to just let conversation unravel (when does that happen?) and take us wherever our (my) sometimes non-sequitor thoughts wanted to go.  And I finally placed my hand on the pulse point of something. 

First, some background…

A few weeks ago, I was on the phone with a woman who was asking me to speak at an event.  Sure, I said, and we went through all the details.  As we went to get off the phone, I said, “Thank you, David.”  Now, do any of you know any women named David?  Me neither.  I apologized all over myself and all I could think of as we were getting off the phone was, “I bet that gave her a lot of confidence about having me speak at her conference.” 

A few days later, I was talking to a woman that I don’t really know about African hair.  She was asking what we do for Happy’s hair and telling me that her friend who had adopted a child from Ethiopia was having a hard time finding a barber.  We have a friend who has adopted an Ethiopian boy who lives in their city, and they, too, had a hard time finding a barber but, finally, did.  I mentioned that I would be happy to help link the two families up as her friend might finally be able to find a bartender.  Yep, you read that right.  I suggested a bartender for that woman’s problems and not a barber.    

I’ve never been flakey and yet… the tiredness I feel since becoming a mom is unlike anything I’ve ever known.  While I love being Happy’s mom (because, seriously, how could I not), I do miss the effervescene, spirit, pluck, efficiency, focus, generosity, thoughtfulness that I once had.  Especially because those traits weren’t just ones that I enjoyed, they were ones that I felt really defined who I was, how I was in the world. 

Fairly often, I get an email inviting me to do something.  Half the time, it’s something I want to do, I feel called to do.  Half the time, it’s not.  When it’s not, it’s not so hard to say no.  I mean, I have a finite amount of time available and already can’t do what I want in it, how can I say yes to something that I don’t want to do.  You all know this situation, too.  But when it’s something I want to do, I struggle.  Because I want to do it, I feel called to do it, it’s something that jives with who I am as a person.  And so I say yes.  And then, often, the night before, I think, “Why did I get myself into this…” and that’s the tiredness talking.  Because they next day, I do it, and I love it and, just for a moment, I see a glimmer of the girl I used to be.  And I am so happy to see her, to see a shade of myself, that I almost want to cry in joy, relief, and maybe a little sadness, too.  And I am so happy to have had a moment where I could most be the person that I want to be.   

As my friend, Jen, and I were driving down the road on our field trip, I said, “I want to be the woman after the event who is excited and happy that she did it, not the one the day before that is dreading why she signed up.”   

Sometimes, I wonder if a week at some spa with early bedtimes, late wake-up times and loads of self-care would solve the problem, would bring me back to myself.  But I think all that would happen is that I would return home to my life of working at home while raising a child at home and the depletion would just return.  I thought that going vegetarian might help, but not really in any dramatic way.  I think it just is what it is for the duration, ya know.  It’s a new normal that I have to adapt to, that so many of us have had to adapt to over generations. 

Earlier in our drive, Jen and I had talked a little about Beautiful You and some of the exercises in it.  She asked if I do them now.  And some I do and some I don’t– but many of them I have had to do over time to get to where I am in terms of understanding that my body’s appearance doesn’t define me.  But, over the years, I have so confidently come to understand that the person within defines me and now, with the exhaustion and with the busy-ness, I am not quite certain about this person within.  When Jen asked me about using the Beautiful You premises, I was reminded of what I need to do to cure what ails me internally.  I want that spark back.  I need that spark back.  And, sometimes, just acting “As If” can get you there.  So today, tomorrow, next week, next month, I am acting as if.  As if I already have all the energy I need.  As if I already have all the rest I need.  As if the personality that used to come effortlessly to me still does.  Because the only way I can get it back is to be it.  I have decided that instead of missing the woman I used to be, I am just going to be her. 

How about you?  Any ways that you are acting as if these days?

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4 responses to “As if…”

  1. Jennifer M

    Good topic, tough topic. I’ve been a mom for 3 years now, and for me it’s gotten easier. I definitely struggled early on. REALLY struggled those first 6 months as a matter of fact. What I found that I’ve had to embrace (and this is not to say that it’s right for everyone) is that I’m NOT that person anymore. Just like going from high school to college, and then from college to a career, then single to married all changed me, so too does motherhood. My core values remain the same of course, but my interests, my responsibilities, my environment, and my time all change and evolve. They are all chapters of my life and each were valid and meaningful at the time, but in order to move the next chapter, I have to close the previous one. Fighting to hang on to the last chapter or to bring pieces of it with me is a battle in which I will never fully win. Do I miss those old chapters? Of course I do at times. But the lesson I’ve learned in looking back is that I need to fully embrace the current place I’m in. Imagine if I lived the college years holding on to high school. Or lived my married life while still hanging on to the freedom of singlehood? I would be unsatisfied at best, and never fully living for what currently is in all it’s different and new glory.

    So yes, I do struggle at times with not being the person I once was, and even in some ways feeling incomplete because I feel like I sacrifice a little bit of my spirit for the life I have now. But at the same time, I know that life right now is so full and rich and it makes more sense for me (again, not saying this is true for everyone) to embrace my new identity, and dare I even say learn my new identity, than to go back and hold on to what once was. Learning the new me and the new identity and all that I can do with my new knowledge and experiences of motherhood is a fun challenge that satisfies that itch.

    Don’t know if any of that even makes a bit of sense. For me it was totally a process. Not a flip of a switch (though that would have been nice!).

  2. Jillian

    “Fake it until you feel it” the post adoption motto for those with challenging children….but it truly applies to many things when you are “blah” about somethign ro during something…doesn’t always mean you shoudl jump ship….a marriage for example, parenting a child full of trauma….or just pretending you had 5 MONSTER energy drinks to make it to when the kids crash at night….

  3. Elyssa

    Thanks for this inspiration. Tomorrow, I’m going to live as if I didn’t have anxiety. How freeing that will feel!

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