It’s been such a long while since I wrote here that I feel I should get you all up to speed. Below I have bared 6 months of my life, and my soul.
In the fall we moved from NYC to Northern California. The transition was surprisingly challenging on many fronts, mostly that we were essentially homeless until Christmas. If it weren’t for Airbnb we might have been shacked up beneath the Bay Bridge! Now we are settling into a beautiful home. The unraveling of this giant move is taking place for each one of us as we seek to ground ourselves and find our place in this new time and space. Amidst all the disturbance and utter uprootedness, Veda has been also moving through the 18-24 month passage. For us that included her becoming potty independent and acquiring a fairly sophisticated capacity to communicate verbally. I have likely wasted a lot of time trying to differentiate between what was just typical TWO behavior and what was a result of her being disturbed and uprooted. In the end it doesn’t really matter. We’ve all, (not just Veda!), needed a lot of extra TLC, compassion and empathy from one another. Our little family is in this giant stew of transmutation, as outer changes usually provoke or require mountains to move in our inner landscapes. It would be disingenuous to say it’s not been intensely challenging at times. TWO can be tricky territory with or without a major life move, and given our own vulnerabilities and exhaustion, this time has been what we may later in our lives refer to as “the dark time”. For while its been drenched with a crazy amount of joy, gratitude, laughter and excitement, it has also been bubbling with the heat of exhaustion and deeply unmet parental needs.
Veda is passing through the stage of attachment and into exploration. Our dance together, which was once a sort of beautiful, chaotic, symbiotic whirling dervish kind of a flow, has now become this kind of ‘come here, go away’ staccato ensemble. I want you, I need you, no I don’t, yes I do. I am me, not you, wait, no, boobies, are you still there, are we still we? No! I am me. Am I? Ah, so many feelings and impulses… hitting for happiness, bitting with anger, kicking, pinching, throwing, jumping for joy, … I wanna do it myself! Life is so grand and yummy and fun and scary at times… Yeah, it’s been more like some abstract modern dance piece with just a primal rhythmic drum pounding.
Within this primitive toddler dance of ours there has been a raw pulsing emotion of my own that I have been feeling and containing. The move, Veda’s shift into full blown toddlerhood and all her new needs, my husbands intense business boom, it’s all been happening so fast and below the surface of it has been a quietly spoiling guilt and pain and shame and confusion. With all the groundlessness we’ve experienced and the effects of our prior and prolonged sleep deprivation, its been hard for me to even language what I have been feeling. And not being able to wax and wane about the nuances on my emotional life is rare. I’m a famous feeler and take great joy in sorting and processing.
I was thinking for a while that her being TWO was what was getting the best of me. There are moments where the mere decibel of things really makes me want to crawl into a corner and rock myself. And there has been a lot experimentation with aggressive behaviors and how they are reacted to which really gets old fast. And then there is our recent cross-country move. It was intense and is still unraveling, but it’s all essentially good forward moving energy. Even Veda’s behavioral snafus are just the energy of growth and motion. So why do I feel so stagnant when everything is flowing forward around me?
And then I got it. In the dark musty quandary of my dis-ease I realized that I am dark and musty, period. This is not about TWO, not about moving… it’s about ME and the fact that I feel like, “me who?” I feel like a dimly lit flame. I have no dimensionality and its getting harder and harder to cope like this.
Two years later I am having postpartum depression.
Suddenly I’m waking up within the push-pull of Veda’s beginning search for Self. It’s as though her journey for self identity is slowly freeing me from our shared one. And instead of feeling free per say, I’m actually for the first time feeling trapped and lost. I feel longing for my centered and vibrant self, the self I was before I conceived. I have brushed up against this sentiment before in my mothering career, this sense of missing my center within the orbit of another, but the joy, duty and honor of being Veda’s mother has carried me past those fleeting feelings. We’ve been like one person for three years now, and today as she starts to try out the being-her-own-person-thing, I am left in the slipstream of a faded lady.
I haven’t slept in two years. TWO YEARS, people! If you have been following this blog you may be familiar with the challenges that this has presented us with for the past year plus. Sleep has gotten SO much better as of late, but that period of deprivation changed me. I think it’s fair to say that in many ways it has eroded me- my health, my sense of self, and my mental wellbeing above all else. I have become “the devil’s workshop”, as the saying on idle minds goes. And while my mind in not idle in the sense that, I’m not staring quietly out of a Victorian era tower window alone in my corset thinking about what the meaning of my life is. I have been alone in the tower of nuclear parenting. The echos of TWO are loud, screeching, far reaching and piercing; and the incessant chatter, the questions, the “why’s” and the constant opposition are anything but “idle”, but there within the mother of me exists a woman- a smart, thoughtful, complex, needing, breathing, intellectually under-stimulated, energetically repressed to the core woman- who is crying and screaming too. Whose cries have been muffled by the sounds of delightful squeals and raging tantrums and endless needs and giving and tending and cooking and cleaning and empathizing, oh the endless empathizing…… and I am needing more.
There, I said it. I need more. For while my mind isn’t idle with quiet hollow landscapes, it is idly trapped inside a Mother who needs more then being a mother because I am too complicated, dark and multidimensional to be single faceted. It’s dousing my flame. Here in lays the wellspring of my shame and guilt and struggle to reclaim myself- my singular, autonomous, soul in a body self. As my daughter is slowly in her own divine time finding herself, I am desperate to do the same. Watching her unfold in her own time is magical and quite likely healing to the child in me who was probably not held through my process with that level of awareness. I don’t want to rush her. I will not hurry her process. But I have been ready to move on to the next stage before she is, and that has been my struggle for many months now. I want to be my own person again but she is just in the early stages of that process. Smeared over with the shame that mothering isn’t enough for me or that I couldn’t hack it all on my own because I don’t function well without my medicines of yoga and dance and mediation and working and purpose and teaching and using my voice out loud. Even though I know what a warrior I have been, so isolated from support, even feeling like a single mother at times. Add to that the guilt of knowing that my unmet needs have been acting out by struggling to remain in connection with my daughter throughout the course of our days these past weeks or months. Finding myself uncompromisingly trying to cook a meal or check my email or something else unnecessary when normally I would let other tasks fall into second place when my daughter was clearly expressing her need for connection or play. Because her needs, when gone unmet, fester immediately into behaviors that create even more disconnection between us thus making me more annoyed with her when she is only trying to tell me she needs me. But the shameful and sad reality has been that my unmet needs have been festering for so long that lately I’ve become rigid and dare I say resentful towards her need for my constant attention. I have even noticed that I am energetically checking out at times, which is so much how my own mother coped when she was overwhelmed with the challenge of mothering amidst her own life issues. So we can add bumping up against my own childhood conditioning to the shame spiral I was in before I could grasp what was unleashing inside of me.
Yes, I feed Veda from my breast and even still offer her one night feeding.. I play with her each day and cloth her and empathize with her and do not spank or punish or anything like that. We spend so much of our time exploring the world, playing together and with friends. I am a good mother. I should say this more often. For real. But I think it’s important too to acknowledge this lapse in the quality and integrity of my connection because it’s not been fun or fair to either one of us. I have been lacking the dimensions to contain ALL of her needs because I’ve become flat. My needs are in such a state of abandonment. When she is really acting out I realize that she needs me and I eventually drop down to my knees and meet her upset eye to eye, heart to heart. I want to do the same for myself right now.
These unmet needs alone are not my only source of strife, as I mentioned the devil has taken hold of my idle mind and things are getting dark up in here. The complex, creative, all too thoughtful and often murky nature of my psyche has been idle too long and states of guilt, shame, confusion, depression, paranoia and anxiety have taken up residence where they haven’t been welcome for a good while. This is where my work (as an integrative life coach and writer), and my yoga and meditation practice would normally be doing their due diligence in keeping my mind crystal, vibratory and clear. Meanwhile, my mind has started to look the way a pool might look at Grey Gardens. Muddy, troubled and overcast at best. I have to face the fact that I require a lot of mental upkeep!
When I can find a quiet moment for my soul to speak her soft resounding truth I keep hearing the Gnostic gospel quote, “If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.” Like an eerie shadow this truth has always spoken to me. There is a reality that my soul is here with a greater purpose then mothering alone. (Though I can’t help but wonder, what could be greater then mothering your child?) I have always known I was here for more. Guiding others on their healing journey and writing are where I find my bliss and when I am not pouring my energy into those channels, my energy stagnates.
We are told “Women can have it all!” but I have been grappling with this as it feels to me like a myth. It’s been gnawing at me like a betrayal, confounding the part of me that can hardly figure out how to cook 3 meals a day and keep my house clean, let alone have a career AND Mother my child with actual presence. WHO IS THIS WOMAN WHO DOES IT ALL? I would gladly accept coaching from her though I don’t know she exists.
And so I am here on my knees, eye to eye with myself (and with you), bearing the complexity of being a woman and a mother. I have been working towards greater independence for myself without overstepping Veda’s readiness. We have a very part time mothers helper and have applied to the local Waldorf preschool for this coming September. Its a part time program that will give me three mornings per week to have some time immersing in my passions again and to continue repairing my body and mind from the savages of prolonged sleep deprivation.
Veda and I will continue the dance of attachment and separation, and I will help guide her through with patience and love. Slowly I will recover and revitalize the self that is waiting for new life to be breathed into her. It’s been a splendid and sometimes wretched couple of years pouring presence, time, love and milk (lots and lots of milk!) into my girl. It has taken its toll on me in some ways, and yet its built me up and fortified in so many other ways! I can’t say i’d do it any other way other then to wait until we have more support, be it family or community, before inviting in baby number 2!
The merging of two beings and then the process of splitting apart while remaining deeply connected/attached is a delicate and emotional journey that we mothers get to make with our children. It’s been a challenge for me to even articulate this sticky growth edge that we, mother and daughter, seem to be moving through because its so nuanced and personal. While I have multidimensional needs to be met as a human, as a woman, there isn’t anything else under the sun that captures my heart quite like the glimmer in her eyes do. Her laugh is healing as an angels harp and I don’t want that sacred sound to begin falling onto the muffled ears of a fading woman. I want to be embodied and spacious enough to contain every precious and fleeting ounce of her. And so it is. To new landscapes…