to my dear, dear, sweet mamas,
So many of you reached out to me with your words of suggestion and encouragement after my last post, and those words, along with the words that coincidentally, and, I might add, quite spontaneously, kept finding me from the mouths of complete strangers, really rescued me last week. That and the “booster” medication my shrink added to my anti-depressant! Gotta love that guy!
I kept hearing over and over again that I can’t take care of anyone else if I don’t put myself first; that if I don’t love myself and accept myself first and take care of myself first, then I can never, ever really, truly love another. I’ve been hearing these things for years, but they went right through me. They never stuck. But then, one morning, I was having a conversation with someone, and the conversation was primarily about one of my kids, but she asked me, “What do you and your husband do as hobbies or do for yourselves?” I was very quickly able to say that hubs likes to go fishing, and every so often he’ll go out and go fishing and that really recharges him. Then she asked about me. I drew a complete blank. Not only could I not think of one thing that I do for myself, I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do for myself. Nothing, nada, zero, zilch. And that truly frightened me. I used to be a lover of life. I had a zest for living, as much I hate the fact that I just used the word “zest” in my writing. But that is the only way I can describe it.
So after writing last week, and reading all of your responses and comments and hearing it over and over again…something happened. Call it an epiphany. Call it whatever you want. But I had some experiences that flipped some switches that were waaaaaaaay overdue to be turned on, and I feel like, all of a sudden, I’m seeing things clearly. For the first time in a long time. Maybe for the first time ever.
Last weekend, hubs went away up north to hang with his college buddies for a few days. And Thing 1 went away to NYC with her choir to compete in a music festival and then see, *literally,* as much of New York City as a bunch of tireless teenagers can see in two days. So I had some time to do all of this thinking and let it all sink in. And I suddenly did make some serious change ups to my parenting. I started listening to the other side of my brain that had been telling me that boundaries had to be set up, because these kids weren’t getting it on their own, and I believed that if I started to set up boundaries that showed them that I was not going to continue to jump when they all said how high, then, and only then, would the time for myself start to appear. If I’m not running around wiping asses for these grown-ass kids, there will be time. There will be time to do the things that I couldn’t even think of when that woman asked me what I like to do. There will be time to walk and, eventually, start running again. There will be time for my yoga practice. There will be time to read. My God, there will be time to write! And there will be time to sit and be quiet and still with my thoughts because I will have established a boundary that says to the entire world, especially to my children, “This is my time. You can have me later. Go be a problem solver. You’ll be ok for a little while longer.”
That’s where I will find my peace. That’s where I will begin to find my truth. And, most importantly, that is where I will begin to find my identity again. The identity that began to slip away a bit, happily back then, the moment I became a mom. But now, nearly sixteen years later, at the age of 40, with some lines on my face and a bunch grays in my hair, which, incidentally, I have decided not to color for the now, and many other signs that I am not who I was back then, it is time to enforce those boundaries so I can get to know me in the here and now. Take care of me now. Spend time with my husband now. And show my children that I love them all, with my whole heart, always and forever. But that does not mean that I am completely expendable to their every demand and whim, regardless of their treatment of me, forever. To that we say, quite literally: “Girl, bye.”
All of these decisions turned into action in the past week, and there has certainly been resistance from the rebellion. They are not liking this change of heart. But I have found time to sit outside in my favorite spot in our yard. I got a job offer. I have taken several brisk walks alone, as well as with my dogs and hubs. And I have said, aloud, “That is yours to figure out. Go be a problem solver. I can’t do it for you.” I have also said things like, “The way you just spoke to me was unacceptable. I am not prepared to listen to what you want to ask me for right now. Maybe another time.” I am refusing to get sucked into the vortex of chaos that my one child creates on a daily basis because I am refusing to let my buttons be pushed. I’m fiercely protective of my buttons. Nobody better lay a finger on my buttons. And I realize that these are elementary motherhood achievements. But for me they are monumental. I live with three children whose demands and needs are very great and so very different. Trying to push them away in order to create space for myself has felt negligent in the past. Today, in the present, it feels like a gift from the Gods.
These are the winds of change.
So thank you, dear, sweet mamas who read my words and respond with consolation and encouragement. You have helped to catapult me into the next phase of my life. My serenity and confidence are intact. And I am loving me for the first time in a very long time. Maybe for the first time ever. Other than finding my truest love and building our family…figuring out how to love me, as I am, right now, might be the biggest accomplishment of my life.
Now, my hope is that my words will enable someone to find their inner love for themselves. Tell me…do you struggle with these things? Do you find that boundary-making with your children is essential? Are you surprised that you would have to create boundaries with your kids as part of your parenting? Would love to know about your experiences along the way.
With gratitude and love,