Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Losing Myself Means



I remember in the 1990s I would often catch episodes of the Oprah Show and was always struck by how many women revealed that they feel as if they've lost themselves. Most of these women were mothers, and I listened as they painfully admitted that they no longer knew who they were, or what happened to their old vibrant selves. 

I was single at the time, with no 'potential sperm donor' in sight, and never fully understood the extent of what those mothers were talking about. I just remember telling myself that I can easily avoid this 'lost Self phenomenon' now that I know better, as if watching Oprah gave me immunity to this apparent epidemic. 

Now that I have a child, I stare at my face in the mirror and wonder about the person staring back. Do I still know her? How much has she changed, apart from the added wrinkles, strands of gray hair and weight gain? I can still see parts of the old me somewhere deep down, but it has become faint and something else seems to have surfaced. I suppose the best way I can put it is to say that it's just been dominated by that part that needed to take over the reins. There is now this new awareness that feels more adept at this important role and identity called Motherhood.

It's true that you lose your Self to motherhood, in so many different ways, over and over...

When you become a mother, your body ceases to be solely yours. Going through assisted reproduction, this realization hit me early on. With all the hormones and medication I needed to pump my body with, there was a clarity that it's no longer just about me—not my schedule, not what I feel like doing, not how I want to look like. And as the pregnancy progresses, the womb comes to outweigh all else as it's treated like a sacred vessel, helplessly dependent on you and yet holds power over you. Its needs cry out louder than any physical pain or discomfort you may suffer from such that taking pain medication you've relied on through the years is now thought twice about, or worse, banned for at least nine months. 

When you become a mother, your time is no longer yours. Forget about scheduling your days. Give up the illusion that you can block off time for your favorite shows. Don't even think for a second you will have total control of your basic bodily functions such as sleep or needing to use the bathroom. "At my own pace", "When I'm available", or "When I need to", are phrases that need to be stricken out of your consciousness for approximately four years, per child, at least. My son is almost ten and yet I still feel this way at times, especially when he is sick. Every parent knows that a child’s illness does not respect any level of maturity. A sick child regresses and only knows one thing: I need Mama.

When you become a mother, your thoughts will never again be solely about you—not your hopes, dreams, prayers. You will be hijacked and held hostage by fears you've never known before. You will wonder what happened to the calm version of you and ask why your brain can’t seem to stop worrying and imagining every possible scenario that pushes you to the depths of paranoia. Conversely, motherhood also forces you to learn to grasp at Faith with strength you never thought you had in you.

When you become a mother, your desires, even when they cry out, pale in comparison to the sense of urgency that leaps out of you when it comes to giving in to what is best for your child. Living near the fun part of town is no longer as enticing as living within the best school district. Your need for white linen tablecloth at a quiet restaurant that serves to-die-for duck confit and escargot is quieted by the need for crayons at the table and kid-friendly servers who will always know when to serve drinks in lidded cups.

To say that motherhood demands immeasurable sacrifice is an understatement. Accept that you will miss out on a lot of experiences. Things will drastically change, and at some point, you will ask what happened to the 'You' you've always recognized. Having a child enter your life will mean the exit of all that is familiar and taken for granted. It is a death within you that creates grief you can't put a limit on. It may ebb and flow, but if you embrace it and make friends with it, it will not drown you.

But just as much as you find a part of you slipping away or even dying, the experience of motherhood also demands that you birth a purer version of your Self. Don't expect the old version of you to remain or be resurrected in its exact form. That’s impossible. Deep love never leaves any soul unchanged.

Yes, there are days when I still reminisce about my old Self. But you know what? I still end up always smiling and feeling content. My life now is a never-ending stream of stress. Most days I feel sore and tired to the core. But I smile because I know that there is no experience on earth that could have brought out the most altruistic, most evolved version of myself other than motherhood. This is how it happened for me and though I'm certain there's a different path for every person, I'm eternally grateful that mine came in a cute package, with sweet kisses and warm hugs that make the grieving process for the old Me so bearable.


I stare at the mirror, smile and always end up whispering, "Thank you. This person that stares back is who she needs to be."




*This post was originally published on March 31, 2016 on Catharsis, and has been edited and updated. It remains to resonate with so much truth and is definitely one of my favorite pieces. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

When the Pain Haunts You





"You hurt me". Those were the last words I spoke to him as I walked away. It was to a man I had never met before in real life but in my dream, he wooed me until I found out he wasn't sincere and that he was seeing someone else. 

I wasn't planning on being so honest. In my dream as I would have done in real life, I was set on choosing pride over transparency. I'm not sure what propelled me to blurt it out but those words of admission poured out as magma would from a volatile core. 

"You hurt me". As soon as the words escaped me, I woke up, as if thrust to reality by the power of those words. The heaviness I've felt since waking up from that dream has held me hostage for hours now as I wonder why and how such simple words can carry so much weight to them and release waves of complexities.

I suppose the weight of admitting to someone that they've hurt us lies in the fact that doing so is also an admission of the power they have over us. Vulnerability assumes that we opened ourselves to someone else, brought our defenses down, and allowed another person to wield some degree of influence over us. 

It's not easy to admit we're in pain, and owning that someone cut us deep is a truly humbling experience. I can't even remember the last time I explicitly admitted to someone that they've hurt me. Mostly, I choose some passive-aggressive route until I'm over it and just move on. This isn't exactly the healthiest approach and I am, by no means, recommending it. Clearly, not saying it out right is a way of taking the easy way out, because the truth is, inasmuch as the admission of our pain is a difficult task, the real work and challenge is what comes after the admission...

Once you say you're hurt, then what? To me, there is only one thing more powerful than saying you are hurt, and that is, "I forgive you". To say you are hurt is passive. To say you are ready to forgive is a manifestation of your own agency. One is a voice of empowerment; the other is a surrendering of your power to another. Both, however, take real courage and strength.

The man in my dream hurt my pride. He misled me and broke my heart. I surprised myself by having the courage to expose my pain. But I wasn't strong enough to finish the dream with forgiveness. Perhaps the dream is a call to think back and realize that I may have moved on from a past pain but have not completely forgiven. Perhaps the dream ended where it did and left me with a heaviness as a plea to my heart to find a way to truly unload and release...the past, the pain, the transgression. Perhaps the real ending was in my act of waking up. And yes, the dream has woken me now. 





Thursday, March 9, 2017

Life is (Still) a Cliché





***If you haven’t read the original Life is a Cliché, (or Part One), click here.***

Life is too short. You only live once so you have to take the bull by the horns. Don’t be afraid of challenges, of the road less traveled. Jus live and learn. For crying out loud, please don’t be a worry wart. True, you need to look before you leap. It’s not like you’ll only be horsing around and dig yourself into a hole. But the truth is, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette. Even Rome wasn’t built in a day. The trick is to learn how to make lemonade out of lemons. Keep moving forward and let bygones be bygones.

It’s true you’ll walk through countless rough roads, so keep your eyes wide open, and chin up! Don’t ever rest on your laurels. Sometimes you’ll get the short end of the stick but save the drama for your mama. Just keep on trucking and believe that slow and steady wins the race.

Get your feet wet. Go out on a limb and get hitched. Fight like cats and dogs. Work hard, play and love hard. Your heart will break and love is never easy as pie. But love is kind, and love is patient. You’ll soon see that when you put your heart into it, true happiness is just a hop, skip and a jump away. If things do go awry and you’re at the end of your rope, just take a breath and remind yourself that karma’s a bitch. Somehow, you'll get your revenge. Besides, time heals all wounds and before you know it, you'll be back in the saddle again!

You might think this is nonsense. Or things you’ve all heard before. But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and I don’t want to see you closing the barn door after the horse has gone. Mine are timeless words of wisdom and I know someday, you’ll thank me for this! And I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again...

Please don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger!