I’m sitting in a coffee shop with my laptop. Just me. And my laptop. This is the first time I’ve done this in…so so long. My phone’s on 1% and, aimless and feeling a bit lost, I spend that 1% looking at my old pics. And the weirdest thing happens: I start to remember who I am.
What does that even mean?? Remember who I AM?? I’ll get to what I don’t mean in a minute, and I’m not positive what I DO mean yet (I always find out what I’m writing about and why as I write it; that’s why I write, period. Right.).
Somehow though, I know for sure that someting important’s gotten lost.
Somewhere amid the baby, the sinus issues, the ringworm, the relationship, the housework, the dog, the organizing, the scheduling, the food prep…I’ve morphed into someone who meets others’ needs and does things, but often doesn’t really feel fully alive.
Sitting in this coffee shop I start to experience the blood running through my veins. It’s as if the world comes back into sharp 3-D focus. Awareness of my surroundings comes online—here, then there, like little lamps switching on. I notice music I didn’t hear before, and the whole picture begins to take on depth and shading, like a movie being colorized. I start to notice my breath, how the tea feels on my tongue, the temperature of the room…
Something’s been nudging me for awhile now to take another look at Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, so I finally Amazoned it this week and started reading the newest edition. The first time I read this I was in college. I was younger and I was a new mom, 30 years ago, and it made a big impact.
I’m a new mom again! For the second time. The book’s current introduction points out that when she penned TFM, Friedan was actually anything but a typical suburban housewife. She was, in fact, college educated and lived a full life prior to “giving it all up” to become a housewife. I’ve thought about this a lot since my daughter was born. I suppose for all intents and purposes, in the same vein as Friedan, this time around, I’m also an atypical suburban mom who also “gave it all up” to become a housewife. And it’s an interesting place to be.
This post isn’t about education or background or hopes and dreams. It isn’t about how much work it is to be a stay-at-home mom, and despite Friedan’s findings, it also isn’t about how fulfilling being home with my baby actually is. It isn’t about the “worth” assigned to being “just a housewife” in our culture, and it isn’t about defining, examining or debunking either of those extremely weighted terms, which could fill (and I’m sure does) at least 1,227 entire volumes. The same could be said for what it’s like to be a woman in our culture in this particular time, or a mother, or an older woman and mother. I’m going to let all that go right for this post—it’s not that those things aren’t relevant or interesting or important, on the contrary, it’s just that I want to write about something much more basic and universal than all that.
First of all, let me say all the prerequisite and very true things:
- I love my kids more than life itself
- I love my partner and my home so much
- I love being at home
- I love the freedom of unstructured days
- I love cleaning and organizing our home
- I love making food
- I love caring for a playing with my daughter full-time
- I love this new start, this new life
I wouldn’t want it any other way.
This is in no way a complaint; it’s a comment. It’s an acknowledgment. It’s a truth. That something, here, feels very lost.
What is it, though, that’s lost?
I don’t at all strive to return to my previous life. I’ve sort of done everything I set out to do and more, there’s nothing that feels left undone. I’m not itching to replay, over and over, what felt good or comfortable, or exciting or add skydiving or another degree or a different career to what I’ve done already. So it isn’t that. I know for sure. And I’m exactly where I want to be and beyond delighted to be a new mom again with an incredible partner and a life I really love so much.
So what is it?
It occurs to me, writing this, that maybe some part of what been lost is what my friend Mary labels being “on the table”. “I’ve got to put myself on the table more,” she says. Meaning that she wants to do what she loves, too. Not just managing the business, being a partner, maintaining a home. And this makes me tear up. Because it’s true. And while it’s true, I also know it’s only part of the truth.
Recently we’ve found a wonderful person who arrives to watch our daughter several hours a week. She’s been coming for a few months now, but instead of doing what I love with that time, all I’ve done is run to-do lists in my head as soon as she arrives (that keep running as I’m off doing whatever I’m doing)—work out at the gym, run this errand, drop this off, do that thing. Doing.
After a bout of illnesses and traveling, we’re back to having some childcare, I start to see what’s missing. As I find myself at this coffee shop, what’s happening to me here is that I’m coming alive. And I’m freaking missing that—feeling alive.
It’s not anyone’s fault or devious plan that I often don’t feel truly alive. It’s not because I’m a mom or because I’ve got too many things to do, or because I need a girl’s night out or have my colors done or a makeover or go shopping (although tweaking things can be supportive for sure). It’s also not that I’m “remembering” or reconnecting with some old identity. And it’s not about getting me-time so that I can finally accomplish this or that thing on the endless to-do list, or make progress on this or that goal, or even talk to a friend; it doesn’t have anything to do with circumstances or doing anything at all.
Feeling alive means that I’m re-membering and experiencing life in my body without my head getting in the way.
And this is what the “lost” is: living from mind, out of the present moment.
Does everything, everything, always, always, always come back to this?? It would seem so.
After decades of retreats, meditation, therapy, counseling, books (oh the thousands of books), after all of the intensives and trainings all aimed at living with my awareness in the moment, I find that under this new set of circumstances, these new challenges and new life, I’ve again defaulted to living, so much of the time, in my head; it’s become, embarrassingly, an ugly habit.
So this is my next-level—being here when I’m living with a partner, when I’ve got a sinus thing, when I’m taking care of my baby, when I’m occupied all day long with tasks that need to happen. In other words, in my current life.
Why be here though?
Because I don’t enjoy living in my mind. My awareness is gone, in outer space, or I feel really stressed out or elated based on circumstances—on what I’ve accomplished or how I compare, if not to someone else, then to myself, years ago or yesterday or to how I think I should be—this isn’t how I like to live and not only that, it’s not actually living. My mind doesn’t know about music or magic, about joy, about fun, about love, except as an accomplishment, as a thing, as a do-ing and a circumstance. And sitting in this coffee shop, I notice that no doing needs to happen at all for me just naturally slip into the pocket, for my awareness to fall to the here and now, and in the true sense of the word, not just to exist, but to be, to be alive.
Sitting here, I realize I’m no longer willing to give up feeling alive.
I suddenly find I am willing, however, to let everything fall apart, and in the same moment, I’m aware that the baby will be exquisitely cared for and what needs to get done will get done, better, even, if I’m really alive, if I’m really really really present. I know this from experience, and at least I know that. More than anything, I want to show my daughter what life can be like when we’re living from our hearts, from our intuition, in the moment. I know what that feels like, and I miss it. I want her to grow up that way and not need to unlearn conditioning that puts her in her head.
Here’s where my mind comes in to structure the “how” of it, and I’m grateful! This is where my mind excels—carrying out the Knowing’s orders. It’s too much to ask it to also live, love and intuit. The mind can do none of these things, and all that comes of burdening it this way is a simulacra of life that I’m oh-so-weary of.
So here we go:
- Because it’s often challenging and unfamiliar for me to stay fully present when I’m outputting, outputting, outputting, engulfed in baby’s needs, etc,. I will use my childcare time to recalibrate and just BE (thank you Beth!). To, when I’m ungrounded, bring my awareness back to here, back to now, back to being alive. Much of this time will be spent by myself, but I’m also looking forward to coming back to pure presence with Kyle. When I’m with him, I’m often focused on what must be done, what’s going on with the baby, how to solve this or that dilemma. Sorry, Love.
- Practice (and it’s always a practice, don’t I know it, and I’m out of practice) training my attention to the Here and Now (meditation, yes, and also always—while feeding the baby, making a snack, wiping down the highchair).
- Be fully myself. I’m not sure, still, entirely what this means (how exciting!), and I’m ready to be back on the path of finding out in every moment.
- Allow the mind to be the food prepper, but never ask it to chef. It simply can’t chef. This means throwing out mind-derived agendas, to-do-lists and stressing out over what I think SHOULD be happening but isn’t and noticing what’s actually there. This means replacing mind stuff with inspiration and intuition and Now, which also includes inspired plans and actions.
Fully enjoying this one life in this body is something I actually have access to—looking at these old photos on my phone, I remember distinctly what this feels like—it feels like freedom. It feels like being in love. But my default is to the mind’s idea of what “enjoyment” and “freedom” and “love” means. For the moment, in this coffee shop, I’m actually enjoying my life. And being just me, just here, right now, I’m in love with life and I feel free, truly free.
I’ll let you know how it pans out 😉 LiveLove&BU