I remember the woman in these pictures. She was confident and less anxious even when she had every reason to be at the time.
She loved to laugh, take risks and hated to be alone. She was deeply sensitive, but it didn’t own her. She was self-assured and aimed to please even at her own detriment. She was driven, successful, inquisitive and believed in herself. Life wasn’t perfect, but she seemed to persevere despite it.
How many of us can relate to grieving parts of our identity that either took a back seat, were put on hold or changed? For me, it feels like life shifted and the change quickly necessitated my cry for control, disillusioned acceptance and a lack of compassion for the ways I would inevitably fail like we all do. I no longer identified with the woman who was in control of her own reins.
Then came motherhood.
I’m convinced this was a crucial turning point in which my anxiety grew quicker than the babies growing inside of me. I questioned if I was capable, if I could be what they needed and deserved. I was anxious all of the time and my way to manage it was to control as much as I could around me. Not because I preferred it, but because I was afraid. Being “fun” took effort because it requires us to relax and let’s face it, most of us mothers don’t find motherhood relaxing. Those of us who are honest anyway.
Then came marriage.
The woman I was changed even more when I became a wife. The woman I see in the pictures has pieces of herself tucked away somewhere. Parts of herself were put on reserve for someone else. Truth is shocking because it’s the best kept secret, but I don’t believe my truth isn’t in solidarity with millions of women. Many of us become shadows of themselves for the sake of what everyone else needs and expects. Before we know it, who we were is now a distant stranger. The expectation to be everything for everyone is culturally ingrained into our heads. Our support network and social circles let us know what they expect of us too. Us women do it to one another all of the time. We dishonor one another by casting judgment, shame and comparison without even realizing how it makes our roles even harder than they already are.
My children are the arteries to my heart, but I can’t lie and say that parenthood doesn’t change a marriage too. Just as there are moments I don’t recognize the woman I was before becoming a mother, there are moments I don’t recognize the woman I was before I became a wife. Whether it’s the stage, season, circumstances, exhaustion, opposite schedules, finances and lack of time with one another, it’s hard to stay connected when you’re raising dependent children. By the time 8 o’clock hits our house, we enter the battlefield of bedtime and we just pray they surrender before we eventually do.
Why is it we don’t talk about how difficult it is? After taking a hiatus from social media, I returned only to find that it was still a social arena of individuals and couples fighting to preserve their place on the social ladder. It’s the war of comparison and active bid for who has it harder, who “knows it all,” who has it better and who is living the fairy tale. It’s as if we’re afraid to tamper with the illusion that doesn’t exist despite killing ourselves to sustain it anyway. I’m not excluded from this either. Who wants to admit when you’re barely hanging on by a thread? We all want the dream which is why we’re constantly chasing after it. I just wish more people shed a necessary light into the dark corners of parenthood and marriage so that the arenas we immerse ourselves in were actually real.
Finding people to share in the truth with is hard. Sometimes I wish I could put a billboard up that reads, “Flawed Truth-tellers Wanted.” If you’re lucky enough to find a tribe of people, hold onto them and don’t let go. Chain ’em up if you have to. Since becoming a parent and wife, I have had to take inventory in my relationships to surround myself with circles that were honest.
I have moments when my anxiousness, fear, exhaustion and failures seek to set me back another round. There are moments when I privately grieve the woman I was before becoming a mother and wife. Sometimes there are moments when it seems like she was buried and laid to rest. I wonder if parts of her will revisit me again. I feel the same way about my marriage sometimes. There are seasons when it feels like my marriage was in route somewhere and took a pit stop. I just hope it’s waiting for us when we’re finally able to make our way back to where we left off before life continually occupied its place.
Not many people talk about this and it seems that if we do, it’s always easier with strangers than the company we keep (and see). While many are probably thinking I should keep quiet, let me assure you it’s likely this won’t be the last time I choose to speak loudly. While I believe there is a purpose for boundaries just as there are sacred spaces meant to be reserved, I also believe silence is what prevents us from honoring the parts of ourselves that existed before we believed we had to be someone else.
If I found that woman, I don’t even know if I’d recognize her. She tries to visit me from time to time. We reminisce on comparing what was to what is. It might be nice to sit in her place from time to time. Life was lighter and less complicated, but it was void of everything I wanted and currently have. The minute I think about who she was, I am also reminded of how that woman was desperately running towards this woman. So although there are moments I miss her, I don’t want all of her back because she has changed. I am resting on the hope that someday I will look back and realize there was room for us both.
In Love & Truth,