Accepting truth doesn't make it any easier to deal with, but it does bring a sincerity to every breath thereafter. It seems to really live is to live your truth. Sat Nam - Truth is my name. Truth does not harm, no matter how uncomfortable. Truth forces us to listen to ourselves and acknowledge where we are in this life.
I'm in a transitional phase as those who have been reading here already know. My world view is changing - expanding. I've become more empathetic. I'm accepting many truths without blaming myself for misunderstanding. Guilt has no part in my process. I'm unashamed. So many things I've realized have been very difficult. The way I am mothering needs to change in order to bring more joy to our days. I've taken action on that. How I am educating my children needs to be more fluid and I have begun to desire a broader experience for them. Action has occurred there. I want to release my creativity in a way that brings it outside of the hobby and into the professional. I'm doing it! I'm finding my voice, asking for what I need, and making new plans. I'm hopeful despite the darkness. I know there's a light.
The hard part about this new truth is that it may be for me only. It's so brand new that I haven't been able to discern what lesson I am to take away from the knowing of it. The fact that it might leave me very alone in the experiencing of it makes it that much more complex. It's just the way it has to be. We land in places in our own time and for our own reasons. It's very much like many episodes of Dr. Who with Amy Pond. Everyone has their own particulars and sometimes things become muddled as they try to glean where the particulars meet to form a clear idea where two or more experiences become singular.
I had to find the courage to admit truth and yesterday as I stoked the fire in the belly, I found it. I decided to lay consequences aside and use my voice. Accepting things as they are is the first step to being able to make things better. With acceptance comes understanding. With understanding comes the ability to build upon what is and transform.
The kicker is that I don't know that I am brave enough to see this truth completely through. As I said, it is one I'm most likely to experience alone. Having been so lonely for so long, going back to that place is a scary proposition. However, in typing that, I just realized, I haven't left that place. I'm still utterly alone on the peer level. I'm still there, grasping at the wind, hoping to catch a ride somewhere.
As exciting as renewing old dreams, discovering independence, reclaiming my womanhood, demanding respect, and shouting victory over concepts that no longer serve me is, I have seen that it would be so easy to just box some of these things up, put them away, and continue in some improved form of the way things were. This way I am not disruptive to others. This way no feelings are hurt. This way I'm not forcing my energies upon another's life inadvertently or otherwise. That would be the easy way. I know I can do that. I have my daughters. I'm writing again, and I have yoga. Those things can be enough to bring me joy from time to time. Yet, I know in my heart of hearts that the easy way is not acceptable if I want to provide the right example to my girls. I don't want them to be ashamed or hide themselves from the world. Therefore, I cannot consider that an option for myself. I have to process this truth in a healthy way. So, the new work begins.
Like running downhill full force...
No, I'm talking my basic personhood. I've taken detours and received certifications, a Master's Degree, and pursued side interests in hopes of making money that would allow my husband to not have to work so hard and free him to be with us more, but nothing that I felt spoke to the real me or allowed me to be fully myself in this world. When the girls were born, I took their education upon my shoulders because I felt there was no other good option here at home. To provide them with what I felt they deserved and to fulfill my responsibility to them in bringing them into the world, I gladly took on the traditional role of wife, mother, and homeschooler. While my husband took on the pressure of providing for us solely on his income, he was still free to pursue his goals in art and music.
Is being an adult claiming responsibility? As a kid, I had always been told this. Adulthood is about sacrifice and responsibility. I don't know though. It may just be my family's makeup, but I can't remember many adults around me that would have said they were leading a life that made them happy or that made them feel fulfilled. I saw sorrow, depression, heartache, and anger written on the faces of many of the adults who loved me so very much. It covered my world. Am I selfish in thinking it doesn't have to be that way?
My main goal is to show my daughters that the world is wide open for us. There is no role we can't accept or value we have to feel pressured to espouse. It is about following our heart and going forward from a place of love and respect for others. All else is a coin toss, and the odds of us winning are perfect as we are infinitely supported by the very stardust we were created from.
An independent, strong minded woman makes people nervous. A woman that seeks her own fulfillment so that her light can shine as brightly as possible in this world, can expect to be seen as scandalous. She may not fit in any box set out by society. She may take risks others see as unnecessary. It may be hard for those who feel the need to fit her into a category to be with her as she steps into this empowered place. The fact is, she isn't going to care. What she knows is that if you love her and want her, you will walk by her through all of it. If you cannot, it is okay. Both you and she will be okay.
It isn't about living in the shadows of another. In this mountain culture I've grown up in, the matriarchy is a hidden power. There isn't a person on this planet any stronger than an Appalachian woman. They've held families together for generations of rises and falls. Through all of this, she quietly worried that her best wasn't enough and it would all fall through her fingers. While all of her family knew it was really her that bound them all together, her effort wasn't pronounced except maybe at her funeral.
I pray that my daughters don't take a lifetime to learn that they can speak up about what they need and not feel guilty for needing it. I want them to know that if their current situation is not making their heart sing that patience, a fearless heart, hard work, and their empowered voice will change that. They aren't obligated to anyone but those who they choose to be obligated to and those who call them mother. I want them to be brave. I want them to know they are worthy of the type of love that wants the essence of them so hard, their every breath is like a song, and that when they give that kind of love, they should expect it returned to them.
Our lives matter right now. I've decided for the sake of myself and my daughters not to wait for mine to begin anymore. I'm surrounding myself with the people who feed my spirit and want to know me for me. I'm talking consistently with those who already have shown me that they do. I've went out on a limb and decided to return to the game plan of my youth modified for what I know now. I'm excited. One day, I will be able to type here that I am healthy, happy, and fulfilled most every day. It's coming.
There, at the top of the world, as I took deep breaths crouched over that ageless rock, the coin was tossed. The butterflies in my stomach set free for a time and I felt whole again in the silence. One day, my Ivy will know what she's capable of because her mother did her best to show her. It might not come easy to either of us, but she will know.
I've had chronic migraines since I was thirteen years old. The only times I haven't had consistent headaches were during pregnancy. Since giving birth the third time, my headaches have become so bad and often that there have been days when I felt that not being conscious would be better than experiencing another second of pain. I've been brought to my knees by these suckers screaming, "God! Help me!" I'm in the process of getting medical help for my headaches and have been to a few different doctors in connection to them. I've only treated them with medication one other time while I was in college. At this point, if I cannot rely on medication or some other remedy (I've tried many) to make them less frequent and more tolerable (dare I hope for them to be eliminated), I will be devastated. The migraines exacerbate some other health and emotional issues that I have and it has created a feeling of being broken.
I turned 36 last month, and I have been confronted with the fact that I'm "older" on many occasions, including trips to the doctor. I've never considered myself "older". The word "old" doesn't even register to me until 70 - maybe. I don't mind the passing of years, and I am so happy to be an adult. You couldn't pay me to be a kid again. Yet, I'm frustrated that at a time in my life when things are comfortable and I am secure in so many areas, that I feel so physically and in turn emotionally down.
Once I get over the fact that a situation has occurred, I am generally very proactive about changing or improving it if it doesn't suit me. I've been doing so much to create health and well being in my life. I eat a diet of whole and properly prepared foods per the recommendations of the Weston A. Price Foundation. I have a daily yoga and meditation practice. I take walks. I'm at a very healthy weight. I'm physically strong. I strive to stay spiritually connected. I don't jump to easy fixes when lifestyle adjustments would produce healing derived from within my own body. In fact, I'm a little obsessive about healthful living. I work hard at it.
Because of my effort, I am often embarrassed or incredibly sad on the days when I feel so sluggish, depressed, or when a migraine has been triggered and I lose a whole day of productivity or forbid I need someone to help me get through the day. I get angry when the pre-headache feelings create within me a mood of less patience and irritability. Having a chronic issue like this isn't something I have invited to stay, or something I want to allow me exceptions to living a full life. I want it GONE. Now! I'm a homeschooling mother of three under age 10. I'm a wife. I'm a writer and spiritual counselor. I'm busy, and striving to be at my best - the way Creator intended me to be.
At age 33, which I referred to as my Jesus year, I gave birth for the third time in an experience that was incredibly profound and blessed. Jesus was the man in the red cape that year. A constant reminder that I am loved, supported, and that my highest good was being written as much as I wanted to seek it out. If age 33 was my Jesus year, then almost three years later, it is time for a Resurrection. A rebirth. Creator saw Jesus through his physical torment and blessed him with Divine life. I still believe I'm loved, supported, and that my highest good is being written right at this moment. I believe in purpose - Divine purpose - and a Love that surpasses all turmoil. I know there is a plan for this. A reason.
I'm tired though. Really tired. And on the days when it feels as if my brain is pressing against my skull with a force that will explode it all into a mush and 1,000 little pieces, I have a hard time reminding myself that there is something more to this issue than pain. I don't want to be embarrassed at needing to spend the day on the couch, or worried that I'm appearing slothful or weird because I can't function normally through the pain. Pain is very misunderstood in our culture. I am also finished with trying to muscle through or pretend the pain isn't there in order to not be a Debbie downer. I have important work to do. I'm not a pill popper and I refuse to go that direction in terms of medication as a band-aid. Where do I find the willpower to keep at this until I find the answers and life in there?
I don't know where this path leads. I think of everything in life in a journey metaphor. A walk through the woods. I don't know where this path leads, but I'm going to chronicle the steps. I'm going to be resurrected and able to feel bliss again.
When I became a mother for the first time, I was initiated very quickly into how difficult parenting can be. I had no idea prior to experiencing it firsthand. Now, having three children and working with mothers regularly, I can definitely say that it hasn't gotten easier. I believe that most parents would say the work of parenting is exhausting and emotionally draining. Yes, I said it. Parenting is not all laughter and sunshine. Admitting this seems to be very taboo in our culture, and parents who do admit it or ask for help can be made to feel guilty for feeling the heaviness of the calling of parenthood even by the most well meaning of people.
As a new mother and multiple times since, I have been given the phrase "this too shall pass" or some form thereof when reaching out for advice or solutions to real parenting issues. I have come to notice as a birth professional that many parents are also being given this phrase when reaching out on parenting forums, Facebook, or even in person. I have to confess. I, too, have said this to many mothers and fathers. However, as of today, I vow to not use this phrase any longer. I also will not remind parents that this stage is but a moment in their life and one day they may wish they had it back.
Why? I no longer believe it is appropriate. As well meaning as we might be when we offer this "consolation", in reality I think it is a cop-out for offering real commiseration, advice, or tangible help to parents who have braved the possibility of ridicule and embarrassment to publicly ask their community for assistance in this sacred calling. It is in a very real way another way of saying that right now - the feelings, the worry, the tiredness, the confusion - is not important, but trivial. That the immediacy and the ache of right now doesn't matter as much as the fact that it will pass. If they can just hang on, this stage will be over. Add to that the caveat that this parent may wish themselves back to this place as an older person, and you are inadvertently placing guilt upon the shoulders of a mother or father who is asking for support, help, or solutions. This guilt can grow into the fear of seeking out the experience or time of others in their parenting journey because somehow it means that they couldn't "let go" or "hang in there". Somehow, they have failed at that which others have come through as a rite of passage. I have come to believe that this response is actually a failure to those who are in the throes of parenthood, who have done exactly what they should have done in seeking our awareness of the state they are experiencing.
Parenting in our culture has become increasingly isolating. With nuclear families and very insular ways of being, we have lost the communities of loving related or close adults that were once involved in the raising of children. Here in Appalachia many of us grew up running the "hollers" all day long with siblings, cousins, and close family friends as each household of adults watched out for our well being. In a time, not so very long ago, we resided in multi-generational households where those retired and more experienced folks could lend a hand in child rearing. Now, parents are largely expected to go it alone as we have spread out and lost touch.
Mothers and fathers hold down jobs, keep their home repaired and cleaned, and raise children with not enough hours in the day. So many of them are giving from empty wells without the opportunity for the self care necessary to offer their very best at parenting or their work. This is failing our children. It is failing our society.
So, what can we do instead of offering the "hang in there" we have all offered to parents in all forms of distress.
I challenge everyone of us to no longer use the phrase "this too shall pass" in the context of sharing it with a parent who is hoping for tangible help. Instead, reach out with something that you can do to show them that you appreciate their effort in parenting the next generation. Acknowledge their effort, and congratulate their accomplishments.
For more information on what modern parenting can be like for many see - The Trauma of Parenthood by Eli J. Finkel in the NYTimes.
My third daughter will be two this month. She is what we mountain folks call "high strung". I have seen others on parenting forums call it "spirited". As one of my friends told me just yesterday, "I don't think they could pack any more personality into such a little person." She keeps me busy, and is demanding. She is also very funny and can be pretty sweet. However, when you are trying to find time to breathe, eat, relax, and pray, having a spirited toddler can make those times seem few and far between.
I'm an introverted person who loves public speaking. Despite my best efforts to thrive in 24/7 mothering, I know that I need down time. I require time with Creator. I require time in silence. My husband is a very hard worker and the hours he keeps means we see little of him through the week. There are days when I don't know how I'll last until bed time, and there aren't any alternatives. No ways out. Motherhood is a lifetime commitment with very few breaks.
I have to say the last two years of adding a third child has not been easy for me. It has taken much adjustment. It has taken me a while to find my stride. A few months ago, I think I finally found my sustaining spiritual practice again.
I am now up to eight repetitions of the hill. On Mondays, I run until I get to the steepest part of the hill and then I climb. The rest of the five days that I take for self care, I do the Body Weight Workouts at StrengthReliance.com. I'm so thankful for that free service. I'm slowly lifting myself back up and reminding myself that giving to my family from an empty well is not really giving. I'm reminding myself that as a mother, I have to learn new ways of being. Right can look so many different ways. So, when my baby is climbing all over me and I feel tapped out, I can be thankful that I had time to listen to the still small voice, and I can be present for her.
Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. She is a writer, weightlifter, yoga and movement instructor, chakra reader, and Reiki practitioner.