Sometimes I find that day-to-day, doing the school run, shopping, taking kids to gymnastics, rugby and various other activities, I’m on autopilot. Going through the motions, smiling, nodding, functioning as I should do, but inside I’m all angsty and full of turmoil, my brain a cauldron of emotions and thoughts, not all of them positive. I exchange pleasantries with the moms at the school. I smile. I probably give a good impression of an emotionally stable and normal person. But behind it all, there’s the stuff that’s unsaid. The stuff that we all, for the most part, normally leave unsiad. And I don’t know that that’s a good thing. Many of the times I responded to “How are you?” with “Grand! Busy…sure you know how it is,” I might have said instead
- “I’m actually feeling a strange and unfamiliar anxiety. I’m not sure where it’s coming from but I feel it as a tightness in my chest and an occasional shortness of breath. I don’t know what I should do about it.”
- “Thanks for asking, but I feel quite down today. Not depressed, but just heavy. Like there’s a dark, thick and foggy cloud around me, slowing me down, holding me back from doing or feeling anything with vigor or enthusiasm.”
- “How am I feeling? Well, I’m feeling very unsure of myself. My self-esteem is low. I feel like I’ve lost confidence in myself. I’m questioning everything. I know it will pass…..but there you go, that’s where I’m at.”
- “I’m angry and restful. I love my kids. Of course I love them, but I’m really struggling with motherhood these days. I’m not the mother I thought I would be. I don’t ever seem to have enough patience. I fly off the handle with them too easily. And there are afternoons at home when I feel trapped and resentful, sapped of energy.”
- “I feel lonely. It’s stupid, I know. I have a wonderful husband and kids, and family and good friends. But I just feel lonely sometimes.”
- “I’m overwhelmed. I can’t get a quiet moment to myself. There is so much noise around me. I wish I had a quiet room to go to.”
- “I’m full of existential angst right now. I sometimes wonder what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it. And I question choices I’ve made.”
- “I’m feeling sort of disconnected….like I’m here, physically, but I’m not really connecting with people around me. All I’m hearing is noise and I feel as if no one is really hearing me. It’s a feeling of apartness I guess, of being on the outside.”
- “My libido is low these days and it scares me, to be honest. It’s something I always took for granted and I’m really struggling with it, and the fact that I’m teetering on the brink of perimenopause.”
But these are not the kinds of honest answers that people usually expect when they ask you how you are. Such is life. Anyway, I had coffee with a friend this morning and we spoke about all of the above, all of the fears and the dark stuff, and by the end of the chat I felt a lightness of being I haven’t experienced in a while. It was the sharing, the real connection, the empathy and understanding, the unloading and the realisation that I’m not alone. That I’m understood. That’s it’s okay to sometimes not be okay, and that most of us experience difficult emotions from time to time. It was also hugely comforting to me to be reminded that I am not the only woman who sometimes finds motherhood very challenging.
What matters is really tuning in to what you are feeling, and respecting that. I think it’s only when we really pay attention, we can see clearly and experience wisdom that will guide us in moving forward. The other thing is knowing what resources you need to be well, that idea so succinctly put by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett when she said “We can’t sustain our work if we are not diligent about our own needs.” We can’t sustain anything really if we don’t mind ourselves. And after spending time with my lovely friend this morning, I was reminded of who I am and the resources I have within myself to work through life’s challenges.
“Looking deep within and facing myself, my truth,
my uniqueness, feeling, gifts and failings.
Knowing I am loved, loved and loveable, I am
released from fear, healed of my wounds, I am free
to be myself and I know it brings peace at night.” Sister Stan.