I know deep down that I’m yearning to find a way to articulate the last four months of my life since my second baby was born but I’m unsure what to write about or how to speak it. It is like trying to describe the sun and the darkness all at the same time and my mind is so overwrought with feeding schedules, sleep coaching, discipline techniques, fears, judgments, to dos, that I can’t catch a moment to gain perspective.
Flipping through my worn out copy of “The Power of Now” that is earmarked, underlined, filled with fluorescent pink post it notes, I trust that my fingers will find something that will somehow make all of this translatable.
And I come across it. Of course I do.
“The most important relationship you have in your life is your relationship with the now…If you have a dysfunctional relationship with the now, it will be reflected in every relationship and situation you encounter.”
Okay, damn Eckhart Tolle. I get it.
In a flash, it comes to me why I have been struggling in the last few months, why it has been so difficult to fully see the beauty before me. I have been treating the present moment in a way that is deadly to joy and to presence.
I have been treating the present moment as:
a means to an end
It has been easy to do because the last few months have been uncomfortably challenging for me. Since my baby girl was born in September, I have felt underwater to a certain extent, in a lot of ways unable to swim with the waves this season of life has tossed my way, fighting and flailing and feeling like I was being sucked into the undertow of constant frustration, exhaustion and irritability.
My husband even worried that I had postpartum depression. In some ways, I hoped that was it, that it was just that something was chemically off but I knew deep inside it was not. I knew this season of life was a real challenge that was making me stronger, better, more patient and more loving, but in the moment, the waves came with a barrage of darker emotion. Instead of welcoming it, letting it carry me to see what it had to teach me, I was choosing to fight against the current, and I was losing.
I knew, I KNEW on a logical level that I was so fortunate, that I didn’t actually have any problems and that everyone was healthy. We were about to buy our beautiful first home (a dream we’ve had for years) for crying out loud! Yet, there were still quite a few days where tears would come cascading as soon as my husband asked me how I was doing.
I loved my toddler. Of course I did and do. The love exploded in my chest some days many times, and yet, I did not want to be around him a fair amount of the time. My profound feelings for my new baby were coloring themselves in like a sunrise peaking over the clouds and yet, sometimes I just wanted to hand the baby off to someone else and go take a walk by myself. Like a REALLY long walk, that maybe took a couple days.
Whenever I woke up, I knew the day would bring many, many tantrums and boundary pushing. Some weekdays. I would be counting hours, minutes, sometimes seconds until my husband got home from work. I was exhausted, trying to deal with the baby and I would often give in to my toddler’s demands, and then his behavior would just get worse. I didn’t know how to handle his strength, his vivacity, his passion. I didn’t always (and still don’t always) have the tools.
My coping mechanism was to put my head down and say “this will be over soon.”
This phase will be over. The baby won’t need you this much forever. Your toddler will outgrow this phase. It will all be over soon.
Beth, you just need to get through this. On the other side is happiness. Then you can breathe.
Then you can be present. Then you can have a moment. Then you will sleep again.
Our words create our perception and they weren’t working for me. The “just get through this” thing wasn’t working. That story shifted my body and mind into warrior stance against the present moment and everything it had to offer me.
It came to a peak a few weeks ago when I got the news that we had the third snow day in a week in Maryland, so my son wouldn’t be going to preschool again (a time I get a much needed break where I’m only in charge on one child). Pre-school has been my saving grace. The panic that rose in my chest was NOT in proportion to the actual event, and it brought on a huge cascade of shame.
You should want to be with your child if you love him.
Judgments came roaring in like a freight train. My body would brace. Time to hunker down, go into warrior stance and get through this day.
Thank the heavens above, that day, some tiny little voice in the corner of my heart whispered to me.
Let it go. Let go of the story about this time in life. Let go of the story about yourself as a Mom. Let go of the story about your beautiful toddler. See what is actually there. Soak the NOW in. Let it be ugly. Let it be uncomfortable. Let it be brutal. Let it be beautiful.
When I hear the whispers, I listen. They have never led me astray but require so much more attunement than the screams of ego.
This moment is not a moment to get through. This moment is life. This moment is asking for my surrender.
I don’t need to get through the baby cries. I don’t need to get through the tantrums. I don’t need to tolerate playing with my son. I don’t need to rush through the late night feedings and pray for her to go back to sleep quickly. I don’t need to get through the season of life at all. I need to lean in and feel it all, all the light, all the darkness. I need to let this grow me.
Parenthood has been the most intense and rapid personal growth boot camp I have ever experienced. It is not leisurely. It is not on my terms. It is in charge and maybe that is a good thing because I always stop when things get too hard. I am trying to trust that this force, this desire inside of me that beckoned me to motherhood has bigger plans that my current consciousness can hold.
My children are teaching me just as the snow days are. I don’t need to rush through the lessons. They are teaching me how to give beyond what I thought was possible of a heart, of a mind, of patience. And I am bendable. My capacity for that grows every day.
They are teaching me to ask for what I need, to stop trying to do it all, to stop being a victim and a martyr.
They are teaching me to stop trying to do it all at once and see what I have created, to really see it.
They are teaching me to slow down and accept my limitations.
They are teaching me that my emotional life is like smoke. It is gone in a moment unless I keep the fire burning with my thoughts.
They are teaching what love really feels like and demands, and that it is not always easy.
When we tense through our discomfort, we don’t fully experience it. It is in the surrendering that we can see the truth underneath the discomfort and gain the perspective our soul is asking for.
That day, even if it was one day, I played with my son with more laughter. I gazed into my baby’s eyes and actually saw that there is brown starting to infiltrate the blue and take in her toothless gums (for they won’t be toothless for long) and her coos alongside her tired shrieks. That day, time actually passed much more quickly because I made friends with the present moment.
Even when there were brutal moments, I breathed into them. And then they were gone and we were on to the next adventure. I trusted that this day was as it was meant to be, and dots are connecting in ways I can’t see yet.
I made FRIENDS with the present moment, with this season of life and started to ask “What do you have to offer my soul?”
It is a daily practice friends, but it is a game changer.
I’ll mic drop this:
“How do you go beyond a dysfunctional present with the present moment? The most important thing is to see it in yourself, in your thoughts and actions. In the moment of seeing, of noticing your relationship with the Now is dysfunctional, you are present. You are the arising presence. The moment you see the dysfunction, it starts to dissolve.”
Damn Eckhart Tolle.
Thanks from a tired but happily surrendered mama.
Rock On & Be Well,