Just be yourself is a phrase that has always left me more confused than grounded. When I strip away all of the things that have been sprayed over me like a coat of paint… how to be a woman, how to be polite, how to say nothing because no one will listen…
When I peel away the layers of expectation, I always expect to find my true self, yet each time, I’m surprised to find someone I don’t enjoy. I’m whiney, I complain. I am greedy and selfish, and I live according to the laws of safety. My true self is young and inexperienced, and she childishly relies on her ego to get her through it all. So I typically just cover her back up and carry on. I recognized it this time.
Since our latest addition was born two years ago, I’ve been on a journey of personal growth and discovery. Childbirth leaves me wide open. It digs up old wounds and gives me permission to weep over them. It’s a marvellous time to put in some hard work, to notice repeating patterns, to reflect on where I’ve gone wrong, when I’ve been wronged, and how to take responsibility and let go.
I’d like to change the status quo and say that it takes longer for a woman to heal after birth than a mere 6 weeks, or even 1 year. Both in body and spirit, I’ve begun to notice true healing at the two year mark, after the birth of three humans.
Here is a smidge of what I’ve learned this time around as I approach year two…
1.Intuition is wise and should be listened to, but sometimes my inner child wears Intuition’s cloak. I can usually tell because she is begging for me to remain in safety. She likes to rob me of new energy, bountiful ideas, and adventure.
2.Personal growth is just work. It’s all work. It’s the equivalent of forcing yourself to go outside because you know it’s good for you…you’ll notice the benefits once you come in and hang up your coat.
3.Connection is always what I’m seeking. When I feel sad or grumpy or anxious, I’m running up a connection debt….connection to purpose and to people who are special. There is no replacement for the value that connection brings us.
This week, for the first time in 9 years, Papa Bear and I spent a night without children. Yes. This statement is the truth. 4 children, 9 years, 1st night alone…
When I first gave birth to Wildflower, people repeatedly told me not to ‘lose myself’ and not to ‘forget about my relationship’. Although there is truth to both of these statements, I always found that focusing on these ideas alone, left me in a self-centred state and made me increasingly unhappy with trying to keep up. After all, I became a parent to dedicate the majority of my energy to raising good people, and that requires meeting their needs.
I’ve always found that the longer I leave our home filled with life, the more difficult it is to reintegrate. The noise becomes louder, my patience become thinner, and I notice the exhaustion more. The same goes for our relationship, and even though I always try to prioritize what we share together as number one, there are times when children’s needs just come first. Of course, full-term breastfeeding has kept me close to home for quite some time.
But we’ve nearly made it to TWO. Next month, our youngest of four will turn twenty-four months old, and I can already see the changes. It felt ceremonial, almost, to enter this new phase of life together with some time with just us. It’s been entirely worth this long and difficult journey. Yes, I still have sadness over having had the last baby, but I’m also excited about growing into the next phase of us.
I can remember our first Christmas in this house after Papa Bear and I packed our little family and all of our earthly possessions into our vehicle only to drive 4 hours away from our life.
I can remember how tough it was.
How work was scarce, and how our plans hadn’t worked out the way we imagined. I can remember the worry over how we’d make magic for our children while we were just starting out, again. But we did. There were valuable lessons learned here.
I was so eager to return to this homestead, where I remember family gathering together as a child. I can remember the familiar sound of the back door, and the buffet with the tiny Nanaimo bars that different family members kept passing to me, likely thinking it was my first one of the evening. I remember the smell of toast and coffee in the mornings while my grandparents were visiting…that’s the smell of joy!
I can remember the long walk up the laneway from our home across the street. I remember the cold air and the snow fluffing at my feet. I remember the quiet. I also remember the feeling of being pulled behind my mother on a toboggan. It felt a little unstable at first, but it was alway better than walking.
I remember the way my Great Aunt would greet us at the back door, leading way to the cookie jar in the kitchen, the same kitchen I prepare our daily meals in now (only sadly, with fewer walls as our home has an open concept to it. There was something special about that tiny room. There was a legitimate reason to kick extra bodies out of the kitchen because it simply was too crowded).
These moments are magical to me now as a grown up. I remember very little about the gifts I received at Christmas. There were some spectacular ones, for sure, but what I remember most were the times that I was made to feel special. And sometimes just the normal moments of time together, that no one else likely recalls, but they were important to me.
Perhaps the magic we give our children requires a whole lot less than we think?
I’ve known it was coming for a while, but in an unusual fashion, I found myself scrambling when the snow finally began to fall this weekend. I’m unprepared for many things, but winter is never one of them. There were still toys in the yard to be put away, a laundry list of chores for Papa Bear to tick off the list, and even cold- hardy produce left to harvest….which made for an interesting afternoon, while we, and by we I mean, he, shovelled carrots from partially frozen soil.
But of course, no one enjoys a fresh foot of snow like our youngest three. Sparrow is fascinated and equally disgusted by the ‘no’ that has covered the ‘eees’, which, of course, are trees. To watch him discover the snow for what feels like the first time was really, quite emotional. I can’t remember feeling this way with the other kids about the first dusting, but the last baby has brought many new sentimental feelings.
The snow- ventures have been plentiful these past few days, alongside with the need to retreat indoors to warm drinks and snuggling fireside. Ultimately, I can’t wait until we can turn inwards completely, working on creative endeavours inside of our home…. I can feel the holiday spirit starting to sneak in wherever it can…more on that to come…
A little bird landed in the palm of my hand. At first, I admired its beauty. I noticed the sheen of its black cap, and I fell for his little eyes, flitting back and forth. I could tell that he trusted me.
Quickly and momentarily, my adoration crossed over into greed, and for just a split second longer than I’d like to admit, I wished this bird were mine. I imagined scooping him up, and carrying him home with my hands closed tightly.
This was until I considered the view from his perspective. How would he feel, squeezed between my human-scented grasp, in the darkness, alone? How would he get along in my home, in the best, sweetest little cage I could find? Would he grow to love me the way he loves his little mates?
And then he flew away.
And I realized just how many times I’ve applied this theory to people, trying to save the best out of them by squishing them too tightly. I haven’t always set them free. And then I thought about all of the times that I have because I am learning and evolving.
My children are my greatest teachers.
May you always know freedom,
Connection is on my mind almost all of the time.
How can I find time each day to connect with my children? How can I carve out a few minutes that feel genuine, rather than offering ten minutes that work for me to cross ‘connect with kid #3’ off the list? You’d think it would be easy, having all day everyday with these incredible humans, but often things get in the way.
I’ve also been working tirelessly on connecting with my own purpose, especially since my years of growing babies have come to a close. Mothering is my jam, and I hadn’t planned much else. To me it is Everest– alluring, challenging, and rewarding. It’s almost enough, but as much as I will always be a mother, I will also be a woman who needs to do, to help, to contribute as my children move out of our home. As one little bird hovers on our doorstep, about to take flight, I’m reminded of this….
And then that leads me to my partner. After months of his working over time, and then there was winter prep (still), and the needs of our kiddos…before we knew it, our connection had been stretch and pulled and weighed down by all of the moments of missed opportunity…
So it’s traditional for us with November days, when we turn to each other and promise to take a little better care of this foundation that everything is built upon. We remind each other of things we likely said to each other last year, but they help to bring us back to what’s important….to ask each other for help when needed, to offer up a little more than the other expects, to feed this fire first…something that is difficult with babies running around stealing acorn squash from the front room and flushing the toilet for fun.
So if you haven’t had the reminder in your own life, lately, here it is…tell your spouse you appreciate them, love them, listen to them, hold them, spend time with them…whichever language works in your favour.
Autumn months bring the chance to retreat, to circle around the fire together and reflect. What can I do to improve my family life, my relationships, my self? Work upon the latter typically helps in all other areas.
I’m appreciative of time spent indoors, despite being a lover of the natural world. Colder, darker days give a busy woman permission to pursue projects with her hands, projects of sewing and of needle work, or making new clothing and creative writing. The gardens can wait.
The darkness gives way for work on our inner foliage. What have I neglected during life’s busiest season? How can I ensure to keep all areas nourished, moving forward, and what signs are going to present themselves to let me know when that balance has tipped? After all, a balance isn’t a very stable thing.
Here’s what we’ve been balancing lately:
Our ceiling will never be free of cobwebs
The idea of being caught up on the laundry is actually impossible, unless we become nudists.
The floors are maintained at a level of ‘clean enough’, which to me means, go ahead and eat that strawberry you dropped…
There will always be smudges on the cupboards, even though I wipe them
There will always be bathrooms that could be cleaner because we use them
There will always be toys on the floor because we play here
I might not always make the best choices or say the right things
I might not always be the ideal role model
And while these things are important in running a home and raising children, focusing on them too intently, takes my eye away from the prize.
Sometimes it’s important to remind myself what that is….