If you think that you are somehow alone in whatever you are facing, above all know this; you aren’t. I mean I am here; (Hi.) and others are here too. It is routinely told to anyone listening that when you are down you must surround yourself with people who can build you up. When you are turned around, people who can steer you clear of making further compounding mistakes always seem like a safe bet. But I disagree; you need someone to laugh with. You need someone who will set a fixed amount of time for you to wallow in your misery and then promptly remind you how big the world really is and how many, many people are in it. It’s the smallness that brings power back, which sounds counterintuitive, but it works. You will need to acquire your own maddening crowd – mine is occupied (it takes a village), but if you look for them you will find them.
My constant prayer, once I became a mother, has remained the same; please let me be all that they need me to be. But when I look at it closer, that has been my prayer onto myself; please let me be all that I need me to be. It takes a lot to be real – as the Velveteen Rabbit learns from the Skin Horse. “It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept’.” The becoming part unfortunately will morph into so many people’s undoing. It’s there where they will lose the fight to be uniquely their own man (or woman). They fall victim to self-doubt, or the opinions of others or life’s seemingly random obstacles thrown in their paths. But it appears to me that it is more of a universal test to see if you really really want what you think you want.
I thought for a long time that I would always stay in hospitality. I loved it, and I loved the specific place I was working. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to leave the field let alone the particular employer I had. There were nights, weekends, doubles, holidays and events that were easily spent in the whirlwind of work. But then we had our daughter. I went back to work after an accommodating maternity leave and I tried to will back how much I once loved it. I wanted to want it the same way I had months prior, it had been a large part of my life for so long beforehand and I thought that I would find my groove with a bit more time. But I wanted to be home. I wanted to be with our baby and not switching schedules around and around again. I wanted to be with our baby and my husband at the same time – not just trading the baby off between us. I wanted nights off and weekends and holidays too. I wanted a different life. Here’s the part where it gets uncomfortable – when you want something different you have to do something different (like, say for example, omitting a full time paycheck from the equation) and different reads a lot like H-A-R-D for the uninitiated. But I wasn’t alone. Even though I didn’t know them and I couldn’t see them I knew there were millions of other new mothers just like me and the kicker was that as hard as it was for us – we were the LUCKY ones.
Today I had the bright idea to start a 500 piece puzzle with the kids. It was raining and they were getting antsy and it was the only one we hadn’t completed in the puzzle cabinet. (Yes, that means I thought that I could remedy antsy children by having them work on a 500 piece puzzle and yes we have a puzzle cabinet – what else do people store in that baby cabinet over the microwave you can’t reach without using the salad tongs on your tippy toes?). Anyway, it ended in an epic meltdown and no we didn’t finish it before that happened. Eventually, it did stop raining and I agreed to take the kids to the park. I was irritated and stormy myself because I hadn’t let go of the whole scene I left by the time we got there. But I watched the kids climb and stretch (both on the mini zip-line and by talking to kids they didn’t know) as I talked to a dear soul on the phone who regaled me with stories I had never heard about people who weren’t me.
In the struggle and the angst I couldn’t have had the realization of the fact that we are all trying our best despite what craziness is going on around us. I was preoccupied with my own thoughts when I sat down to that puzzle (like how is school starting so soon when I have been waiting on it for forever and what the hell was up with the stove last night and where is the bank card I ordered last week when I thought the wallet went missing) – no wonder it was a disaster. I alone didn’t come to the table, all of my negativity and worry came too. I brought that into the mix and was bewildered by the kids’ reaction to it.
It was helpful and kind for someone to take time out of their day to be with me on the phone right where I was. But ultimately, the redirection was a choice I made. You can always try to turn it around. It doesn’t mean you will, but you could try. You could pray to be all that you need you to be or you can work as hard as possible to make that happen. We will do that puzzle one day, when the time is right, I have a hunch. Until then, I am going to remind myself that I am not alone in my attempts; and if you are still trying I hope you know that you aren’t either.