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A Balancing Act

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I’ve never had good balance. A fact I’m often reminded of in dance class and on the rare occasion I wear heels.

The facts I know. Self care is important. Tribe and giving to others is important. It’s not just because I think they “should” be, I truly believe they are vital to the person I am and who I want to be. But can you have both at the same time? I believe it’s possible, but I haven’t figured out how to make it work.. yet. My pattern seems to go like this: I get super focused on one and ignore the other, until after awhile I notice how much I’ve been neglecting the other so I switch all my efforts into that one- and the cycle continues. It’s a draining process and it leaves me feeling like I’m never doing enough of anything. I’m a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the other, somehow always skipping over the middle ground.

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I’m either all in taking care of myself or completely ignoring myself and giving to others. And not surprisingly, when I put myself on the back burner I end up burning out.  It’s this end of the spectrum I (as I’m sure the majority of you) have spent most of my life. Putting others first to the point of being self-sacrificing. Fueled by a desperate need to be viewed as anything but selfish, I chased this as if I was trying to make up for my shortcomings, for who I was. It’s the reason I spent my sweet sixteen in the emergency room pretending I had had unprotected sex to get Plan B for a girl I barely even knew. I was trying to prove to myself, even more so than to others, that I was worthy. Of course I didn’t know this at the time, and I certainly didn’t understand how ill-founded those efforts were.

a young woman walking in backshadow

Seeing self-care as a healthy priority, a necessity, for my own well being as well as my ability to help others, is a new outlook for me. Truths that I completely buy into and reflect back as much as possible to others. It’s putting it into practice where things get a bit tricky. I guess it’s no surprise that prioritizing self-care is difficult given that most of us have spent so much time on the other end of the spectrum; believing and even being taught that anything we do for ourselves is “selfish” and not in line with being a “good person”. This old story is so familiar to me that it’s almost as if I start scripting off the words before even realizing I’ve picked up the book.  

It’s the ease of falling back into old habits that makes this extreme so sticky to get out of. I get myself into this belief that “Right now I’m helping X which means I can’t be doing something for myself”. I recently caught myself in this mindset on the busy Thanksgiving weekend. I had a thought that it would be really good for my well being if I took ten minutes to meditate, but then I dismissed it saying “I’m not doing self-care right now, right now I’m helping X”. Solidifying this “either-or” mentality I have when it comes to who I’m helping. I caught this message in my awareness, and thanks to my knowledge of how important self-care is, I was able to see the flaws in it. Not enough to make me take a break to meditate, but enough to flag this as something I certainly need to work on.bethere

I don’t regret the things I’ve done for others; in fact I’m interested in finding ways to do more, so figuring out a balance is especially important to me.

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On the other end of the spectrum, when I’m focusing on self-care I find it easy to get out of the mindset of helping others, contributing, etc. When I first started to understand how crucial taking care of myself was, it was where all my focus went. For a few months I was rocking self care; my only goal during that time was to take care of my needs – everything else came second. I don’t think there was anything wrong with doing this, in fact I’m sure it was exactly what I needed to do at the time. Because giving to others comes more naturally to us, and we find it easier to prioritize then our own care, I think it’s necessary to take some time focusing on ourselves and learning how to prioritize it. The issue now is learning how to take the next step without leaving it behind.

I am a firm believer that we need to care for ourselves in order to care for others, one of the pillars that the #MyMaskFirst challenge was built on. However, during our month-long challenge of self-care, we only had one focus. Self care. As the saying goes- “it’s pretty easy to be good at work life balance when there’s no work to do”; what we need to be able to do is keep rocking self care when it’s not our only focus. Being able to care for ourselves and help others at the same time. Hmm.. maybe a new challenge is in order?

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As I said before, I haven’t figured out a way to simultaneously prioritize both in my daily routine…yet. (If you are wondering why I keep ending my sentences like that, I encourage you to watch this Ted Talk on the power of yet!)

I know I will get better at this balancing act, even if I’m not sure how I’m going to do it. I’m strapping on the stilettos and taking it one wobbly step at a time.

 

How Beating My Inner Bully Makes Me a Better Friend

During my second year of high school I became friends with *Ashley. One of the first things she admitted to me was how she didn’t like me the year before; she thought I was a bitch and standoffish because I was quiet and shy. I remember being surprised and semi-insulted when she told me this because her perception of me was so opposite what I felt inside. I considered myself a friendly, caring, open-minded person and felt unfairly judged. When I reflect on this now it makes perfect sense.

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When we invest in the belief that we aren’t worthy we are forced to live and act as though we are worthless. It’s pretty hard to act like a friendly, caring, open-minded person if you have to act like nothing you think or do means anything to anyone. I’m beginning to understand the true impact low self-confidence, self-worth, and self-love have had (and continues to have) on my actions and the way I come across to others.

Someone really helps me out and it means a lot to me. I want to tell them how helpful they’ve been, compliment them, and thank them wholeheartedly. But do I? In the past the answer would have been a resounding no. I’d hear that voice inside say “Why would they care what you think? A compliment coming from you is probably worthless to them, it might even be seen as an insult” so I kept my mouth shut. Now I’ve become better at seeing this voice as a reflection of that old “I’m worthless” story and I try my best to ignore it, or drown it out with my commitment to authenticity.

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It has been intriguing to learn how much my self perception is affecting my “friendliness”; a few scenarios I have noticed thus far have been a hesitation to give hugs, compliments, express opinions, and extend invitations. I’ve even heard this voice pipe up when I go to “like” someone’s facebook status. Oh, and eye contact… can’t forget that one *insert fake laugh* !

When I fail to make eye contact with others I’m sure the conclusions that are being drawn about me are not in keeping with who I truly am, but a mere reflection of the constraints my Inner Bully has me under. ~Insight on my semi-social nature walk

I’ve been practicing eye contact when passing strangers on my walks lately. It’s quite a funny experiment. The rush of self doubt and judgement when I see someone approaching is enough to make me laugh- I mean, they are strangers! People I will probably never even see again! Is there any better way to truly understand that this it totally my own shit?! It has also been interesting to see people’s reactions with the understanding that that’s all them. I admit that I have had moments where I was offended and even judged people as unfriendly for their lack of response – much like Ashley did with me back in high school. Understanding myself better has helped me understand others as well.  What’s true for me is also true of them; how others react to my some-what forced greeting is truly a reflection of how they feel about themselves.

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Realizing these consequences of having the “not worthy” mentality has made me even more motivated to tackle that old story. Being authentic and a good tribe member is vitally important to me – I refuse to let myself stand in the way of that.

 

Passing the Test and Sitting with Feedback

My solo journey was a test; I wanted to see if I could take care of myself, and if by doing so I could gain confidence and prove that I could be the dragon all by myself out in the big scary world.

Quite frankly I would have been proud of myself if I had managed to drive and stay in the hotel in Portland for a couple days. What I did was far beyond that. I didn’t just survive on my own, I thrived. I put myself in a situation where I was constantly pushing my boundaries and challenging myself to go outside way outside my comfort zone. I was stronger and braver than I knew I could be. And I even enjoyed it.

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I did have moments of panic, self-doubt, and times where I was absolutely sure I made the wrong decision. Overall these moments were a mere blip in the whole experience, and overcoming them felt more like a victory then had they not occurred at all. I realize I cannot escape from myself, no matter how far I travel, but I can handle it and hold myself with compassion as I continue to live my values. Therefore, I will say I aced the test.

I feel like it’s given me confidence I can apply to other areas. That it has shown me what I can do and that knowledge will make it more difficult to stay small and hold back. I’ve seen first hand what I am capable of so it’s pretty difficult to deny. Even if I choose to stay in the cell, I’ll know that I am capable of running free -it will be a choice. I know the secret now… the door isn’t locked.

“This is a place of beauty. A place for me to find out who I am. I’m free to explore and be whoever I want. But am I not free anywhere? Isn’t it only my own limitations that stop everywhere from being here?” ~Insight at Earthdance

Which brings me to the feedback. Being at earthdance was an eye-opening experience. I may have been on a trip to prove to myself that I could take care of my needs, but what was interesting was how much I discovered what those needs are. It made me very aware of a whole new realm of needs that need to be addressed. On one hand the trip made me more confident as a caretaker, but on the other hand it actually made that job more difficult.

I’ve been unsettled and uncomfortable since I returned “back to reality”. Awareness is a double-edged sword. I’m happy for the insight and excited to strive to fill those needs, but the reality of living with unmet needs is frustrating. I got a taste and now the cravings are relentless, but I don’t know how to feed myself, and I’m starving.

“As I walked through the woods I could feel my perception change. I was concentrating on the trunks like i usually do, but then I noticed the branches. Once I focused on the branches they were all I could see, everywhere. Like a cat’s whiskers. They are always there yet somehow invisible. And then there’s a shift, a change in light, and you notice them. They aren’t just there, they’re overpowering. You can’t believe you couldn’t see them before. You wonder if there’s a time when they will fade out of your awareness again.” ~Insight at Earthdance

As uncomfortable as I am, I hope it continues until I can make a change. I don’t want to lose this ambition for more, even though it’s making my skin crawl. I don’t want to feel restless or caged- but even more so I don’t want those feelings to become so normal I don’t even notice them. So normal it feels fine. Everything is fine. Everything is not fine. I hear Dr. Wilson’s voice clear in my head as validation to sit in this discomfort; when it comes to your life “‘good enough’ is not good enough”.

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This journey gave me a lot of insight into who I am, what I need, and what I’m capable of. At the same time it showed me what I don’t have, what I’m yearning for, and that change is paramount.

It’s a gift I’d never return, like a surprise puppy dog under the Christmas tree.

“I feel like I’m a different person here. Maybe I’m not a different person. Maybe I’m me – with less limitations.” ~Insight at Earthdance

Utterly Transformative

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Wow.. where the fuck do I even begin. I feel like one of those debit machines that just keeps flashing “processing..processing..”. I’m sure I’ll have much more to say later, and it may be premature to write about this before I’ve had a chance to truly reflect, but I feel compelled to share some of my raw, unrefined thoughts so please bear with me.

I spent the last four days at earthdance exploring free movement, sounding, contact improv dance, and much more with a group of wonderful, free-spirited people. I did things I never expected I would do; that actually make me laugh when I recall in my head because it’s so absurd that I actually did these things –ME!?!

To give you a taste of what I’m talking about – I participated in improv sounding and movement (one example being jumping up and down yelling “ka-kaw” pretending to be a crow), performing improv monologues and dances IN FRONT OF PEOPLE, literally hanging out with trees (I’m an actual tree-hugger now), as well as contact improv dancing (which is basically rolling and flipping over people..and those “people” being strangers on the first night). So yah, I did that.

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I dove in. I took risks. It’s not that my insecurities vanished as I arrived at this place, although it is magical. I felt my insecurities and inner bullies bubbling up, especially in moments of intense vulnerability.  At times I felt them tying me down like I was on a leash, and although I can’t say I fully broke it, I pulled it so taut that I was able to meet the challenge anyway.

I made many choices this week. The choice to go, the choice to keep going, the choice to participate, and the choice to seek out even more opportunities to participate. As I sit in my hotel room, half-way home, I am feeling proud and extremely empowered.

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One choice in particular is sticking out to me about this weekend. In this one workshop we had just finished our monologue performances and I was shaking with the shock of being so vulnerable and witnessed. It was time for the next activity, which was picking a “status” from 1-10 and acting it out. At this point, I was naturally feeling very 1ish and I felt compelled to write down a 1. I paused, staring at the paper with the 1 on it. That 1 stared back at me as if it was reprimanding me with a “you know what you need to do” snort of derision. That’s when I added the zero.

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I decided that what I really needed right then was a boost of confidence, even if I didn’t feel it. So I made my 1 a 10 and took it overboard- I decided I would not just be a super high class woman, I was going to be a superhero. So I proceeded to fly around the room with a huge smile, yelling “I’m awesome” “I can save you!”. It was just a silly exercise, a mere moment in the realm of the whole weekend, but it feels monumental in the grand scheme of my transformation journey.

 

 

 

The Beginning..and Dodgeball Apparently

The beginning. I guess it’s too early to say it was the hardest part, but deciding to go and actually leaving felt like a huge hurdle. And not a hurdle that was cleared gracefully like the skilled hurdle jumpers do, but rather one I was trying to climb with one leg still planted on the ground that I ended up straddling until I fell in a heap on the other side.

Leaving was painful; the voice that is all too good at convincing me to stay home in bed continued in full force long after pulling out of my driveway. The whole drive through Nova Scotia felt easily erasable, I was playing the indecisive game until I reached the half way point of tonight’s destination. Once I reached the point where going back home would have been as much, if not more difficult then continuing onward, it felt easier. There was a relief in it, a finality to the decision to actually go through with this plan, for better or worse.

IMG_1292I made myself a rear view mirror hangy-thing (if there’s a term for this I have no idea what it is, and google wasn’t fast enough for how tired I am). I like having my dragon girl with me; she’s right there reminding me what I want to be – what I can be.

To stay would have been to stay small, and that can’t be me anymore. Even though it’s familiar and still so ingrained that it’s formed a weave with my identity, I know it’s time to let that go.

While driving I had a flashback to playing dodgeball in grade school. There were a few boys in the class who threw the balls with such ferocity they would leave bruises, and had enough force behind them they’d knock over classmates who ran by. I was scared of getting hurt. I was afraid of them. In order to secure my safety I made a deal with these boys; whenever I caught a ball I’d hand it over to them, and in return they wouldn’t hit me.

Red Ball --- Image by © Lawrence Manning/Corbis

I sacrificed any chance of winning. My only goal was to keep the dodgeball bullies happy so I could be safe. I literally gave away my power. Driven by fear, I made myself small to survive gym class – I never won, I never really even played, I simply existed until the bell rang.

This pattern didn’t end with gym class. I’ve been perpetually making myself small, giving away my power to outer and inner bullies, so I can exist.

But what’s the point in just existing? Sure, I felt safe in my small role – at least at times, and the method of keeping others happy did seem to work. But what did it do to me? Putting on mouse suit over mouse suit for so long, it’s no wonder that after a certain amount of time I didn’t remember there’s a dragon under there.

I’m done. I no longer want to simply exist while waiting anxiously for the bell to ring. I can’t frantically scurry around chasing an elusive form of safety. I can’t give away my power.

It’s time I pick up the ball and throw it myself. I might get hurt but at least I’ll be playing, and who knows, maybe I’ll take out a few of those motherfucking bullies while I’m at it!

I’m off into the great unknown tomorrow, my only plan is to end up somewhere between here and my final destination in Massachusetts, everything else is up in the air.

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More inspiration on the dashboard. The pic on the right is the dragon and the little girl, and the yellow thing is my hook card 🙂

 

To Go or Not To Go

..that is the question that has been plaguing my psyche for weeks now.

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A few months back I discovered a three day dance/creativity workshop retreat. It takes place at the end of this month, a 12 hour drive away from here in another country. When I discovered the retreat my heart leapt out of my chest with excitement. I was intrigued and energized about the possibility of going. The idea of driving there alone, finding places to stay, experiencing the workshops and people put this huge dumb smile on my face. It felt right.

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The closer it gets the more that sense of “right” is turning into uncertainty, excitement into fear, and intrigue into wishing my passport would magically expire overnight.

I felt empowered about the idea of travelling solo and proving that I can take care of myself; showing myself that I am stronger, braver, and more capable than I think. The hope was that this trip would make me more connected with the dragon, but now I’m worried it’s going to do the exact opposite.

When I think about the trip, I honestly cannot even picture doing it. Maybe that’s perfectly fine, but for some reason it scares me. Maybe it means I’m not ready. Then again, maybe the only way you really get those clear pictures of yourself is by doing the things you are trying to imagine. I certainly have no issues imagining myself panicking 😉

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I haven’t felt particularly strong lately, certainly not as strong as I wanted to feel before taking this trip. I want this to be a good, healthy, empowering experience, and I’m worried that if I go and end up feeling like shit that it will only perpetuate the belief that I can’t do this. I’ll never be able to travel again. I’ll never be okay alone. I’ll never be able to take care of myself.

Is this just fear that I should push through or a sign that I’m truly not ready that shouldn’t be ignored?

Not To Go. What does that accomplish? As much as I can wish that I never found out about this retreat or had the idiotic idea to sign up for it, the reality is that it is already in my mind (and now you all know about it) so at this point it would really feel like I’m backing out of it. And doesn’t that also prove and perpetuate the belief that I can’t be alone/travel/all those things I’m worried might happen if I go and fail? Doesn’t backing out just mean I fail before I even try?

..or is it protecting me from a bigger fall?

This incessant game of mental pong is driving me mad. I don’t know what the right answer is, but it seems my only option at this point is to go.

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To Go.

Take the leap and see what happens.

 

 

Playing in Murky Water

I haven’t written in awhile; admittedly I’ve been pretty caught up in my inner world lately. Sometimes in a productive way, other times purely lost in the muck.

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I’ve been working hard on being a good protector for the Little Girl, and I’m proud to say I’m getting to be a much more reliable caregiver. Whenever I feel myself getting overwhelmed or feel a rush of anxiety, I give myself a time out. I try to get somewhere I can be alone, use self-soothing, positive self-talk (“I’ve got you” “You’re safe”), and do a calming activity (colouring, meditation, listening to calm music, etc). By responding with compassion and giving myself the attention and space I need, I find I can decompress and return to whatever I was doing in a much calmer state. On bad days it has also helped me realize when returning to the activity isn’t the best option. At these times I try not to beat myself up for failing to return, and instead acknowledge that I’ve had all I can handle right now and be proud that I am doing what is best for me in this moment.

Developing my self-compassion has proven to not only be helpful, but absolutely necessary for wading through life of late and allowing me to delve deeper.

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And deeper I’m starting to go. The “self-project” I’ve been trying to work on is addressing repressed emotions that I’ve been told could be destroying my life, as well as my intestines. Since I’m so beyond sick of being sick, I’m more than ready to try anything, including playing in the murky waters of my subconscious. It’s been slow going because I honestly wasn’t sure how to tackle this. I felt so oblivious I even resorted to googling it (hint; healthy tribe are much more helpful). I’m still not sure exactly what needs to happen to be successful in this endeavor, but I’ve started trying things anyway and it feels good to at least be taking a step.

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I’ve been having a rough time with the physical and mental effects of anxiety. Half the time I’m consumed by symptoms and stuck evaluating what they mean, and the other half is spent trying strategies to deal with them and address root causes.  In other words, it’s been murky.

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I can feel myself slipping back into that place, I picture it when I close my eyes. I’m inside a water slide, desperately trying to grasp the sides to keep from falling down. The water keeps rushing into me and my hands and feet keep slipping. All I can hear is that horrible noise that happens when you rub too hard against wet plastic.

My panic rises. I know I have to keep trying to grasp this impossibly slippery surface. The wall sends electric shocks as I get close, taunting me with the futile connection that exists between us. Each time I lose my grip I fall further into the darkness, closer to the water below.

Pleading that this water stops rushing into me, pleading that I come across a chip in the wall so I can get a better grip. But the water is relentless, and the inside of this tube so dark that even if there was a chip it’d be too dark to see. I keep slipping further down. And the scariest part is not that I’m falling, but knowing I can’t swim.

The scent of plastic and chlorine flood into my senses so vividly I close my mouth so I don’t choke. Right then I open my eyes and wonder, are the memories of drowning enough to prove that I can’t swim?

It’s those small moments I keep finding, those light bulbs that flicker in the darkness, shining clarity or beautiful doubt into my awareness.

They are the gems hiding in the murky water.

Ghost Ships and the Sand Beneath My Toes

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I’ve been thinking lately about how my life would be different had the children plan worked out, if I had made different choices, or had opportunities been open to me that never were. These lives that could have been, these are what Cheryl Strayed refers to as “sister lives”. The lives that never became a reality; the possibilities of what our life could have been had we chose the alternative or had circumstances unfolded differently. She explains that we can never know what those lives hold, that there is no comparison between them because we only know what is held within our reality. There is nothing to do but accept that those lives were not ours and live the life we have.

“We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” Cheryl Strayed

What I’ve noticed is that my relationship with these “sister lives” has changed significantly over the last year. I still have moments where I compare to what I imagine life would be like on those ghost ships, but I no longer live every moment peering into the horizon, seeing my entire life through the lens of “what-could-have-been”s. I’ve come to accept that those were the lives that will never be mine. They will always linger in the mist off the shores of my real life, always exist within my imagination just outside the perimeter of reality. I can acknowledge their presence as i bury my feet within the sands of my reality.

As I let myself sink into everything this life is, feeling the warmth and grittiness of the sand beneath my toes, a sense of peace washes over me. In this moment of clarity I realize that this is acceptance, and raise my hand effortlessly to salute the ships on my horizon.

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The Dragon and the Little Girl

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There’s a little girl inside me; she’s petrified and desperate to be comforted.

It’s become clear to me that the dragon has to fiercely protect this little girl.

So I’ve been trying to be better, making sure I’m responding to my own needs so that little girl feels safe. Being compassionate, patient, and comforting. Making the commitment to her over and over, and keeping my promise by protecting her from bullies (most of whom live within my head). It hasn’t been easy, I’m far from a consistent guardian yet. I often get caught up in old habits, going along with the bully as she beats on the little girl. Or I end up fusing with the little girl’s fears to a point where I find myself joining the petrified child under the covers where we try to hide from monsters. I forget that I’m a dragon. I forget that I should be protecting her. I forget that I even can.

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I’ve said before how committed I am to be the dragon, but what I’ve come to realize lately is that in order to be the dragon, I have to pay attention to the little girl. She needs to feel safe. This has to be my first priority.

The problem is that she doesn’t believe the dragon has her, and she is convinced she needs other people to take care of her. I don’t blame her of course, I don’t have a good track record of taking care of her. In fact, it’s a pretty shitty record. It’s no wonder she feels so strongly that she needs someone to nurture her, someone outside to protect her. It makes perfect sense to me, so I understand how I got here, and why she’s putting up such a fight to convince me that we’re not strong enough to cope. It’s hard not to believe her. It’s hard not to crawl back under the covers and wait for someone to come turn on the light and settle my fears. But I know that game, I’ve played that game my whole life, and it’s never gotten me out of the bed.

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I know I have to be the dragon even when the little girl doesn’t think I can. I understand now that a big part of making her feel safe is going to be building trust. It sounds funny to have to build trust with yourself, but there’s certainly no one in this world whose trust I’ve damaged more than my own, so it actually makes a lot of sense.

I’ve started by acknowledging when the little girl gets overwhelmed; placing my hand on my chest and saying “I’ve got you”. Though, like any trust building rebuilding, you can’t just say things and expect the other person to believe it. You have to do things that prove you mean what you say. This is where being mindful of how I respond to her fears come into play. Responding to myself with compassion and giving myself whatever I need to feel safe.

I’ve also started a notebook of “Dragon Tales” where I write down everything I’ve managed to do on my own – all the times I’ve been my own hero. I’m hoping this will act as concrete evidence that “I, do in fact, got this” when I doubt my own resilience.

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One thing I have been trying to work out is how “I got my own back” fits with our very real need of healthy tribe. When I think about the importance of tribe it’s difficult for me to grasp why it’s so important that I learn to stand alone. I don’t quite have it all figured out, but what I keep coming back to is love versus fear. Am I living out of love, or living out of fear?

Love-or-Fear

Am I in this relationship out of fear of being alone, fear that I can’t survive without you? To me this place of fear rings true when I feel like I need others, as if our connection is serving a purpose of survival. Having you in my life because my safety depends on it. This isn’t where I want to be.

I want to connect out of love. I want to connect with others based on want. I want to want you in my life, not because I feel I need you.

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It seems to me that if I felt stable enough on my own two feet, if I was able to ensure my own safety, that it would open up much more room for me to live out of love. To connect with others out of love. Connecting even more genuinely because there wouldn’t be this angst underlining (or upholding) our bond; it would be purely from a place of genuine desire to connect with one another. And isn’t that kind of connection actually what we mean when we talk about needing tribe?

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It’s time to stop living out of fear. It’s time to prove to the little girl that she doesn’t have to be afraid anymore. That she doesn’t have to depend on others to turn on the light. It’s time I tear off the covers and meet those monsters head on, showing that little girl the dragon can kick some serious ass, even in the dark.

 

 

I’m just going to put this here..

youI’m not sure this is the right place for this, but I felt a need to share this to mark what a meaningful day this is to me, and didn’t know where else to put it.

It’s been a long day of ploughing through with a fake smile, hiding what today really means to me. To share this is to honour the very one its about.

Kept up with a heavy heart I typed away in the darkness of my bedroom. This is what my heart had to say..

June 4th

Two years ago today was the day the stick turned from reading positive to negative. I lost you.

I was devastated. But it sickens me when I look back and know that the only baby that will ever grow inside me -even for the short time it was- wasn’t fully appreciated, never truly grieved. I was devastated, torn apart, but there was a part of me that held this baby as a beacon of hope, that saw their worth as a sign of “better things to come”, as a stepping stone to being a mom someday. How little did I know that that baby was all there will ever be.

I regret that I couldn’t fully acknowledge your life and the loss of it as meaning everything, carrying its own worth, not as a means to an end. I lost you and comforted myself with the idea that the pain of losing you would be worth it someday because I’d have someone else. How horrible a thing to reduce my only to-be child’s life to. To act as though it did not have enough worth and love to simply let it stand alone. If I could go back, I would have let myself know the pain was actually not worth it because of something someday, but rather the pain was simply a true indication of my love for you and who you may have been. You were not a small glimpse into the motherhood I would fully experience someday, you were it. You gave me a few days of elation and excitement, a few days to breathe, to have my husband treat me as the future mother of his child, to caress my belly in wonderment as I had wished to do for so many years, to feel the sense of miracle, to feel as though possibility was true and not far away. You stopped my heart when “pregnant” stared back at me from the stick. You made me believe that the impossible may be possible. Losing you taught me a lot, it just wasn’t what I thought at the time I lost you.

You weren’t insignificant. You weren’t a means to an end.

There are no stepping stones to your life, there is only life. Life is lived right there on the rocks. You can’t wait for a stick to stare back at you like a magic eight ball, you can’t put your life on hold until it’s time to start living. You are missing it. Living like this isn’t living at all..the way I grieved you wasn’t grieving at all. I have to accept what is for what it is. I have to lean into all of it. The bad things don’t have to have some greater meaning, the pain is meaningful all in itself. You didn’t need a silver lining to make you beautiful. I know now that you were not significant for any other reason than the fact that you were.

You taught me that letting go isn’t something you do to reach for something better. It’s fully accepting what is and grieving it with all of yourself. Moving on only comes from fully letting go, and to let go you have to fully know what you are letting go of. I didn’t know what that was at the time. I feel like I let go too quickly, except I realize I never actually let go until now because I failed to see you for what you were. You were there so short of a time that you were hardly living, but you taught me more about living than I learned in the 27 years before you.

I’m not letting go because I want to move on to better things. I’m letting go now because I know you now, and I love you for everything you are. I am so thankful for every ounce of pain I feel because that is my love for you. And without you I wouldn’t have had that either. I thought you were going to be the beginning of my life, and in a way you were.