The first book I read after Nelle died in September of 2015 was Rising Strong by Brene Brown. It was exactly what I needed at that time. Brown talks about three parts of the rising strong process: the Reckoning, the Rumble, and the Revolution. Of the rumble, she writes: “The rumble begins with turning up our curiosity level and becoming aware of the story we’re telling ourselves about our hurt, anger, frustration, or pain.”
I had to rumble with myself this past week.
It was my birthday on Thursday, and much like last year, I felt my age more than I had in the years before I lost Nelle and Iris. Even more so this year. 35 marks entering a “new age bracket” in my mind. The boxes I check on demographic forms will now be “35 – 44.” It feels decidedly more like “mid-30s.” And more than ever, I began to question what I personally want to accomplish.
This identification of “what do I want to do?” began after Autumn was born, maybe a bit before. The focus had finally shifted from “wanting to give birth to a healthy baby” to “wanting to fulfill myself” in other ways. I focused more energy on writing. I captured some time alone on Sunday mornings for this effort – time alone, time uninterrupted, time without distractions. Autumn would wake early in the day and I would often sit, sipping my coffee and with my Surface while she fed herself a banana and Cheerios for breakfast.
The past few months have shifted dramatically. As the days grow shorter, Autumn wasn’t waking as early, therefore neither was I. Somehow that Sunday time became hijacked by other responsibilities. I had thoughts swirling in my head but could not find the time to capture them in any way. It became a funk that I was pulled deeper and deeper into.
Couple that with the strain on a space in the house in which I could dedicate my energy. We have been planning for months to add an addition, which would include an office that I could finally call my own. I could picture this space in which I could finally gather all of my materials and inspiration, rather than a pile in the corner of the bedroom, and a desk in the basement, and a chair in the sunroom. I felt sprawled and scattered, and as the project faced delay after delay, I became more dejected. Yes – I could force a space to work, but not being able to have a place that could fuel and harness my inspiration was hard. Especially when I knew what was on the horizon.
But this week, the application for a building permit was submitted, so that space has moved one step closer to reality. Turning 35 made me take a breath and look at how I am spending my day. A few months ago, I had achieved what I felt was a good balance, and now I feel unbalanced. Far too much time has been spent on making everyone else happy, at the expense of myself. No time dedicated for the things I love, like writing, yoga, and reading.
That lack of self-awareness and self-care hasn’t happened since before Nelle died. I spent a lot of time focused on myself, even to the detriment of others. That behavior only heightened after Iris died. I felt that if I didn’t take care of myself, I would fall apart. Which was likely true at the time. While pregnant with Autumn, taking care of myself did not help much, since I was so overtaken by anxiety, but I still tried.
And now? Falling into old, pre-loss habits, where I zoom around at a million miles per hour but feel like nothing is accomplished. That is on me. I need to remember the boundaries that I established for myself three years ago. This time, even more beholden to myself for making that happen. I don’t have an individual therapist to guide me, or a community of support as “overstretched human” the way that I did with loss.
It’s on me, and it started with a list of tiny, manageable goals for each day. For today, it was: read Brain Pickings, writing in my journal, read one chapter of a book, and write this post. I have larger, long-term plans of what I want to accomplish before I turn 40 – like running a marathon and publishing a book – but one thing at a time. If I can get a handle on my smaller goals, I can inch toward the bigger ones.
And I just crossed off the final thing on my list for today: write this post.