Before having a baby, I was busy every day creating, actively pursuing my dream to become a writer and published author. I felt it was my calling and I was obsessed with it. I guess I still am. Each dream I envision for myself is like a fragile ornament, safe in my arms, but likely to break eventually if I put it down.
Then, I became a mom.
Today has been a rough day with my newborn, Lucy. At one point I was convinced someone broke in and gave her a Red Bull laced with laxatives, and Rob and I went back and forth on whether we should call the cops. Then my mom tried to comfort me and said it’s just how newborns are sometimes, and I was like, “Oh, cool” and then laughed in an awkward sort of way that gradually turned into quiet sobs.
A feeling similar to foreboding has lingered over me all day. The shiny bliss of newborn romance is still present, but a little less shiny, like how wearing this robe for the 8th day in a row has felt a little less adventurous as it did the first 7 days. The worry settled in, like it always does if I feel like I’m not measuring up to my own made up standards. What if tomorrow is like today? What if I can’t find time to write? What will happen to what I’ve built if I can’t get my crap together? What if … what if …
“What if” is just fear, pretending it’s all cool and relaxed and just asking a sensible question.
We live in a global world now. For those of us blessed enough to have first world problems, the world is at our fingertips. Our options are abundant. We can earnestly seek our purpose and a fulfilling life that has meaning because our entire world isn’t centered on literally surviving the day. This is a blessing that can often feel like a curse. Abundant options gives us the lingering feeling like we’re missing out on something. That’s the main reason why I wear sweatpants to buffets.
The feeling of missing out, losing grand opportunities and having to sacrifice something we worked hard to build snaps us out of the present. We’re mourning the time lost while pining over the state of our future. It’s constant striving, even if it’s just in our minds. Instead of accepting the moment and enjoying it, we’re daydreaming about when the next big moment will be, then worrying we won’t ever have the time or opportunity to make it come true. Something has to give and it can feel impossible to let go.
Some of us struggle with letting go of material things. I know this because I can’t seem to let go of an extremely unsatisfying show called Hoarders. I struggle more with letting go of ideas and dreams. If something has my sweat equity then letting go feels like death or divorce. It’s scary. I avoid scary things, like poisonous snakes and those period cups trying to take the place of tampons.
Sometimes letting go feels like losing.
So, instead of feeling like a loser, we keep striving. Just saying the word taxes my spirit and exhausts me. I’m also beginning to resent the word “hustle.” A lot of music moguls and online business gurus like to use the term. It implies if I’m not staying up all night typing furiously like I’m on crack, then I’ll never be able to compete, let alone succeed. I can tell you one thing, if I am staying up all night, night after night, then I definitely won’t succeed. Unless you think people in a weepy, slurry, catatonic state can accomplish their dreams? Then maybe, I guess.
For years I carried around my precious ornaments, and then my baby was born. My arms were full, there was no room for her. Something had to drop. I don’t like to let things go, but babies have a way of prioritizing things. So, I had to do something drastic. I practiced the art of letting go.
That’s a dramatic way of saying I surrendered.
No, not giving up – opening up. The knowing that sometimes the forest thrush needs to be cleared out and burned, so new vibrant life can grow.
Can we pursue a dream while also making parenting a priority? Of course we can. Will it look like how we think it should? Probably not.
Letting go doesn’t mean letting it die. Sometimes it simply means, “Not right now. If you’re necessary I trust you’ll be here when I return.” And if it isn’t there when we return, trusting that the fulfillment of our destiny isn’t so flimsy that it can be lost simply because we were up all night with the baby and needed to sleep in instead of “hustling” at 5 AM.
This is all easier said than done for someone like me who gets an idea and needs it to manifest before I’m finished thinking about my idea. But, there’s a reality I have to accept. I can only carry what my arms can hold. Multi-tasking has limits. Juggling has limits. Balance can become tipsy in the blink of an eye. At some point, something will drop. It may even shatter in a million pieces. Even though we may resist it, sometimes the only option is to surrender – to lay down something we love and have worked hard for to protect what is most important.
Sometimes we have to take two steps back before we can take a step forward. Sometimes we can’t have a newborn and a promotion at the same time. Sometimes we have to wait.
That’s why I was drawn to something inspirational author Danielle LaPorte wrote the other day on the principles of active waiting:
“Regard the waiting period as an opportunity! This is major. This is IT. Decompression time, ebb to the flow, calm before the storm. Extra time to get in better shape, clean out your closet, get your finances in order so when the bigger money comes, it’s put to best use. Make room for the love that’s sure to come.”
Sometimes letting things drop to focus on what’s important is exactly what we needed to accomplish our heart’s desire. Surrender is taking off the shackles of our expectations, the burdens of instant gratification. Surrender can be a blessed time of waiting, preparing and burning the thrush. Right now surrender looks like living in the present and what I can see is my baby, held by husband, smiling and cooing and kicking her little legs with joy. I love her so much I could go scream in a pillow. That’s what surrender now feels like to me.
Today, on this difficult day when I feel a burning frustration that I can’t get anything done, an article I wrote previously for Babble showed up in my newsfeed again. I decided to read it while rocking a sleepy baby that kept punching her pacifier out of her own mouth and kept getting super pissed about it. As the content of the article began to jog my memory, I thought, “Of course.” Somehow, I managed to write an article to myself. Somehow, it showed up for me to read again. Right on time. The universe is a big fat show off, man.
I wrote it when I was still pregnant, worried I was too selfish for motherhood. Worried I couldn’t let anything drop and make room for her. Then I said, “As for who I am as a woman, living my life with purpose, cultivating what I’ve built to pursue those dreams – it’s not lost, just enhanced. Life changes, it’s supposed to. It’s part of the deal. What I do with life’s changes is up to me. What I leave behind, what I keep and what I delay are decisions I still get to make even when it’s a 5 a.m. and there’s a baby screeching next to me feeling wide awake and FAB.U.LOUS!”
Sometimes we worry. We’re afraid. We feel out of control because the future is uncertain. Maybe we’ll lose what we gained. Perhaps we’ve lost our way and think we’ll never make it back to Kansas. But deep down, the truth has always been within us. In the words of Glinda the Good Witch, “You’ve always had the power my dear. You’ve had it all along.”
I’d like to think so. But in order to truly know it, I had to master the art of letting go.More On