I have barely had any sleep in four days. I usually fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow at night, but recently things have kept me awake – thoughts, and emotions, and plans and worries – future ones and present ones– real ones and imaginary ones – for sure.
So there I am in the bathroom at 6 am. I’m knackered and exhausted, sleep-deprived, hair is a mess, wearing a milk-stained t-shirt from breastfeeding the baby, eyes still more closed than open. My three-year-old bouncing up and down in front of me: “Mummy, mummy, can I take this teddy-bear downstairs with me? Can I? Can I?” At that moment, some very sleep-deprived cells in my brain can’t take any of it anymore: “If you carry that teddy-bear downstairs with you, we need to throw away three others. I’m so tired – I don’t want to tidy and tidy and tidy anymore.” She stops bouncing and just stares at me. What? Wait. What did I just say? Where the heck did that come from? Keep that one – throw three others away?! Sweet lord! “I’m sorry baby,” I muster. “Of course you can take your teddy-bear downstairs. It’s yours. Mummy is just really tired,” I manage to say. Big hug. Faith restored.
My babies crack me open – they break me physically, mentally and emotionally every single day, and I love them with a love deeper and truer than I have ever loved ever before: with a wide-open, unguarded heart. So scary! I didn’t see this pain and mess, and beauty and love coming, but it’s here, it’s real. Sometimes the love I feel inside my body is so overwhelming that it spills out all over my edges – it expands beyond my body and seems to solidify in front of my very eyes into a big fat heart-shaped balloon that is about to pop and sprinkle stardust all over the whole wide Universe. A balloon so gigantic I can’t wrap my arms around it. A feeling so vast that I can’t put it into words.
I pray to God every day that my grumpy teddy-bear murdering moments won’t break my tiny babies’ souls before they get a chance to fully explore the world with all its beauty and pain. That they won’t think that I’m the mum from hell or worse, that there is something wrong with them that might have made me snap. Then at the same time, I’m thinking, “well wait – your children, their hearts, their souls, are much more potent and capable than you could ever know – how dare you fathom that you could ever break infinite spirits and their infinite souls with a ridiculous comment like that.” I know. I’m instantaneously humbled. I know people are so so capable and resilient –children all over the world have endured and are enduring famine, disease, wars, abuse, sometimes all at once, and they’ve survived. True, but people everywhere are also suffering from PTSD and need psychiatrists. So?! I’m still really torn.
There is always this tug at my heart – this desire to keep my babies warm and safe and whole – shielded from life’s horrors, tiny or real serious ones – and from “teddy-bear murdering me” mornings.
I want to protect them and be real at the same time. I want to be sweet mum all the time and yet allow myself to have shitty mornings and show it. I want my children’s world to be just perfect, but I don’t want it to be too perfect at the same time either to prepare them for all of what is “out there” and yet to come. The world is a “brutiful” place says Glennon Doyle: beautiful and brutal. I want my children to see that at times this brutiful world breaks me with fatigue, with worry, with decisions – the ones I can take and the ones that are taken for me – with loss, with death, but that it rebuilds me too – us – with friendship, with love, with support, with a random smile. I don’t want to be accountable for my children’s welfare, and at the same time, I just love being accountable for their welfare. All those thoughts and emotions – all rolled into one. I’m trying to be the very best version of me, and I am failing at it every single day. And yet I keep trying – insanity. I would have quit any other project by now under those circumstances, but this one I keep sustaining with all my might. I guess that’s what real love does. It keeps whispering into your ear to try and try again because it’s worth it. After all, you care. It makes you want to keep trying and trying and trying even if you know that you’ll always fall short – mostly falling short of the expectations you had of yourself. And actually, you know that in the end, it doesn’t really matter if you are your very best version or just any decent version of you, because this you that you are is the you that your children call mummy.
Glennon Doyle wrote something along the lines of “as long as you are in there battling, you are doing this living right.” The ones with no heart-break are already numb and dead. Well, seen from that perspective, I’m mightily alive with all those badass emotions and thoughts keeping me awake at night. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this tug at my heart and this inner back and forth leave me with no clue when it comes to being a mum – when it comes to being a wife, a friend, a daughter, a teacher, a woman, … – any and all of what makes me me, really. I’m taking one moment, one emotion, at a time and see where it will lead me – all of us, as individuals and as a family. That’s all there is to it really.
And those are the thoughts swirling around in my head at 6 am after 20 minutes of sleep all night – no coffee yet. “Damn, I can’t have a cup of real coffee, see: breastfeeding.” Fuck that. Break those parenting rules. I’ll have my cup of coffee—just one. So here’s to all the milk-stained mummies out there, to all the ones trying to be their very best – mummy or not – for the ones they love – failing and trying and failing all over again, to great books that keep you sane in the middle of the night and to friends who laugh at your text messages, also in the middle of the night, when irrational worries keep you awake, and you can’t fall asleep.
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If you are anything like me, you probably had a million plans for what you were going to do during the recent lockdown. I hope you accomplished to do what you set out to do because I did fuck all. On social media, I could see people baking bread and creating beautiful art and decluttering their homes, and I was confined to the sofa, frustrated that I had been robbed of my sovereignty. This pregnancy really hit hard, and while my previous pregnancies were all about only morning sickness, now the early stages of this pregnancy bore the title “all-day sickness.” All I wanted to do and craved was pizza and sleep, and being able to get up without fainting.
So talking about challenges and boundaries, currently being pregnant with baby number four has brought about a new level of challenges for me that I had never experienced before. I could barely get up off the couch and into the shower, for three months – now that’s confinement. During the summer 2019, when I met my dad for the first time after more than 30 years, I had one meltdown after the other for weeks – one moment I was thrilled and exhilarated. The next I was in tears, thinking about all the lies and secrets that I had been confronted with my entire life, and I felt heart-broken and betrayed. I couldn’t step out of my emotional turmoil back then, and this time around, I couldn’t fix my bodily pandemonium either. A body is so magical, and yet so fragile all at once.
– song from the movie the fundamentals of caring –
At the forefront, my pregnancy made me deal with my physical shortcomings heads on. But physical and emotional distress are intrinsically linked, so when I say that at first sight, I had to deal with my body’s issues, I have to say that I was also exposed to feelings of guilt and shame and feeling disempowered. I was so miserable those past three months – miserable because I had believed my whole life that if I’m not productive all the time that I’m a failure. Babies, when they are born, don’t contribute to a household either – they just demand care and food, and love and cuddles and human contact and genuine love and we give freely with full hearts. It makes me laugh to picture a baby lying in its crib, contemplating how unfortunate she feels for not being able to do the washing up or the laundry. It’s absurd to think of such a thing. And yet, what made me think that I am less than, because I couldn’t get up without feeling sick and fainting. I’m growing a tiny human inside my body – for the fourth time. That shit is epic, and it should be treated as such at all times. I hope that I will be able to help my babies preserve their innate feeling of being enough, of being a welcome contribution to the world. Also, I hope that all mothers reading this will be reminded of how lucky and incredibly strong they are and that they are allowed to rest whenever they feel like it, because I forgot to appreciate myself, but you shouldn’t.
you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. try approving of yourself and see what happens.
louise l. hay
As much as I resented my helplessness and pitied myself, and ranted, and cried, nope, nothing could take the sickness away and restore my productivity and vigour. So I started to delve deeper and to look closely at my symptoms and the possible causes of my physical ailments – and the state of the world in general because I had plenty of time 🙂 Inevitably, the thought crossed my mind that I admire those people that have been suffering from severe illnesses and limitations for years and that are still battling on. Man, I have utter respect for you, because, at some point, I just broke down crying and thought I couldn’t take this anymore – I couldn’t take it anymore, not being in control of my body, not being able to make myself feel whole and well again.
While writing this, I am watching the news featuring the current “Black Lives Matter” movement. I can’t even start to imagine what it must be like to feel powerless and not entirely in charge of one’s life from birth on, always being afraid of prosecution, because of other people’s twisted beliefs. I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact that there are people who believe that they are superior to someone else based on skin colour, religion, or background. And no matter how hard I am trying, I honestly can’t grasp this concept in no way whatsoever.
I know that my lack of understanding might come across as naïve and my pregnancy problems as trivial compared to what is going on in the world right now. However, I still believe that a link and universal truth are underlying all of those experiences. Our bodies instinctively and innately know how to set boundaries, when we abuse our bodies by eating unhealthy foods, or by overexposure to stress or to exercise. Our bodies sent us signals and symptoms that eventually develop into full-blown conditions if we are not listening to the subtle hints that are directed our way. Our human design makes us come to a halt and question our behaviour for us to be able to restore our natural health, which is what I have been experiencing those past few months.
When it comes to the current riots or the recent, still present, pandemic, we need to admit that there had been warning signs too, but we chose to ignore them. We chose to keep exploiting our natural resources and our immune systems; we chose to focus on our screens instead of building meaningful relationships with the people in our lives that are most important to us. We chose to engage in trivial activities like watching TV or mindless shopping, instead of taking into account how history is about to repeat itself, and how we can be part of the solution and not part of the problem. We all did it – me too. And I have to say this development scares me. And although the current political eruptions and revelations all around the world are frightening, they are also potentially healing our ignorance and restoring natural balance.
The early stages of a pregnancy feel like “nothing” and “look like nothing”, but behind the scenes, there is utter magic. I want you to remember this: we are evolving even though we might not be able to see or track our everyday growth. During the current health crisis, streets, cities, beaches in the outside world, in the visible world, have all been empty. Nothing seemed to be happening, but the people who are to the countries what our cells are to our bodies have all been evolving and growing and changing and dying and we have all come out of this lockdown different people. We might not be aware of our altered selves and still be hanging on to our habits and routines. Yet, on levels invisible to our eyes, we have undergone some substantial change, which we can either embrace and explore and develop or deny. So personal and global problems, although they might be fundamentally different, are still intrinsically linked with regards to the universal truths of boundaries, challenges, and natural balance that they carry at their core.
we are evolving even though we might not be able to see or track our everday growth
Two nights ago, when I was lying in bed, I had this awareness or this insight, and it made me cry. I was thinking about how much I love my babies and how overwhelming this feeling is at times. It isn’t something that has a beginning or an end – it just is. When you are lying in my arms, pretending to be a tiny newborn, I look at your curvy cheeks, and your long eyelashes and I see perfection in all of your features, and I am wondering how on earth did I get so lucky. Thinking of how fortunate I am, I feel for those mothers and fathers whose children were taken away from them, through the hands of all the injustices there are in this world and that are currently being revealed. My dear darling children, I hope that the future I am leading you towards will be filled with compassion and care and real sovereignty for every human being. And if I say that large-scale battles reflect internal battles, then I can say that I am not innocent when it comes to fighting battles and to contributing towards the hatred in this world. My struggles and fights are tiny compared to the global state of the planet. And mostly, I am arguing with other people inside my head, thinking about all the great things I should have said and how distraught I am because of something someone else said or did. Those quarrels in our lives might be internal, but they still contribute to the conflict in the world in their own way.
Some battles are easier confronted and dealt with than others, but we must look at what is irritating us and resolve it to contribute to a peaceful world. I can say, for example, that now I fully embrace being a mum but it took me almost two years to get to this point. No, just hear me out: you were welcome and loved right from the start, but I wasn’t ready for the isolation and confinement at home that being a mother had brought on for me. What the world is experiencing right now, I had to go through during the pregnancies and right after your birth. So staying at home with you now is not hard for me anymore. It’s what our everyday life looks like anyway – it’s peace. Isolation, over time, has turned into contentment, bliss, and gratitude for what is. Your birth and presence demanded and taught me how to stand still, observe and fully take in – serenity. On a global level, because of the lockdown, our species could observe and notice all that has been absurd for so long in our surroundings, our habits, our governments, and our leaders and rise to the occasion with stronger convictions and more gratitude, but fiercely beating hearts – could.
When you were born, I stayed home and all the diapering and feeding and doing the laundry felt so monotonous and repetitive. I observed you develop a bit more every day, and rejoiced in it, but I didn’t have many people to share my newly found wonder with. I didn’t call any of my friends, because I figured they were all busy – they didn’t call me either – I guess they figured I was busy. In hindsight, it hurts to think that we didn’t reach out to each other, but the Universe knows what it is doing, and my loneliness back then helped me grow into being comfortable with my own self, my own thoughts, my own company. And it also helped me to now come to the conclusion that I chose to withdraw into my own little world, instead of strengthening loving friendships. Remember to reach out when you feel like removing yourself from your circle of friends.
remember to reach out when you feel like removing yourself from your circle of friends
Now, after having read Dr Henry Cloud’s book “Boundaries”, I have realized that my lack of healthy boundaries didn’t allow me to “keep the good in and the bad out.” Recently reading this book has been a real eyeopener in so many ways for me. Despite my many years into personal development, this book has helped me gain genuinely new insights into why I have been and am operating in the ways I am. Feeling so sick for the past few months has made me look at my boundaries and the ones that I have and have not been setting. The barriers I had not been setting have depleted my energy, and the pregnancy has not been the reason for my physical breakdown, but just the final straw that broke the camel’s back. And in the current crisis, people have subconsciously or consciously, but still ignoring their truths, been avoiding limit setting, but now we can’t avoid it any longer. On a personal scale, there are many injustices and boundary trespassing that I have endured without saying anything. Internally, I used to get angry, but instead of expressing my anger and addressing the problem, I used to bottle it up and avoid conflict. On a global scale, what we are experiencing now is centuries of repressed anger and battles that have been fought for way too long internally instead of out in the open, where they can be discussed, cleared, and healed.
So, how do I choose to contribute to restoring small scale peace? Well, for one, I am telling myself that instead of allowing anger to fester in my guts, I am going to express it and to address those people that have crossed my boundaries. At the same time, I am willing to be more careful and understanding when it comes to other people’s boundaries, meaning that I am trying not to be offended or feel rejected when a friend of mine cannot make it to a night out or a cup of coffee. I was once rebuked for not attending a dinner and cancelling last minute – rebuked for setting boundaries when I needed to. We should remember though that it’s our healthy boundaries that preserve our sanity and allow us to steer clear of bottled-up frustration and resentment for being forced to do something. When we crave something else, like a quiet night or solitude instead of a social gathering, we should be allowed to express that freely. If we manage to respect our boundaries and each other’s boundaries, then those boundaries will add up to collective boundaries and strong internal values.
supporting people and still letting them have control over themselves builds limitless potential. it is the recipe for greatness.
the power of the other – the startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond – by dr henry cloud
For most of my life, I didn’t share any of my thoughts with anyone. (read the power of the other, by Dr Henry Cloud and find out about the four major ways in which people relate to each other). I very quickly learned that when I shared my hopes and dreams and aspirations that the world didn’t embrace all of me, but that I had exposed myself to the possibility of jealousy, cynicism, or ridicule. Soon enough, I stopped talking about what mattered most to me. Probably that’s why all those words are bursting out now. While being engrossed in my little world, books and stories had become my friends. Reading and studying psychology books and all kinds of specific and non-specific literature has helped me to make sense of my and other people’s behaviour and to see how differently our psyches choose to deal with our experiences and realities. So when it comes to positively contributing to the world and keeping “the good in and the bad out,” then I feel that learning and insight aren’t of much use if we keep our ideas solely to ourselves. Let us educate each other and allow each other a glimpse of our experiences and struggles and how we managed to overcome them.
Let us invite each other in and encourage each other to shed light on our shortcomings and darkness so that together we can face our inner demons and alter our ways of thinking and being in this world. At least that’s what I hope. And I wish with every fibre of my heart that you, my babies, will be able to define your boundaries based on your core values and universal laws of love and compassion. I hope that you will manage to protect those fiercely and lovingly, contributing one step at the time to the bigger picture. I am currently learning how to do that. There will always be limitations in and to our lives – limitations because of choices we make and constraints that we can’t influence because other people or circumstances place them on us. So don’t limit yourself when it comes to the things you feel passionate about. Go and freely explore, access, and express, because you never know when some outside force might come and limit you and confront you with boundaries that you didn’t know existed, like viruses, racism, hatred, jealousy, or unexpected illnesses. Choose to set your boundaries and set them firmly and lovingly. Keep the good in and the bad out.
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In response to my post about finding my dad, after I had been looking for him for over 30 years, someone asked me “so, are you finally happy now?”
At first, I was taken a bit aback – are you finally happy now? – it sounded almost like a reproach, although I know it wasn’t meant to be.
After my initial response, I chose to allow the answer to that question to find me – am I fully happy now? Yes and no. And that is the truth – my truth right now.
Yes, hell yes – I am happy to get to know my father, to pick his brain and to discover and uncover who he really is and what he has gone through and experienced all those years – with me, when I was little, and without me, all those years leading up to now.
So yes, that part of our story does make me incredibly happy.
But, there is a “but” – there is a reason why my dad hadn’t been part of my life for such a long time and there are a lot of facts and realities I need to come to terms with right now. Truths that hurt.
For one, I want to point out that there will never be that one magical event that will make a person instantly happy – you might glow from within for longer periods of time during the day, or weeks, or years, because a vital spark within has been rekindled by that sudden turn of events, but a person’s overall wellbeing and happiness comes down to so much more – we have families, friends, jobs, and so many more factors that make up our identity – so a sense of genuine calm and serenity in all those areas is what contributes to an individual’s overall happiness. It’s not “the one life-changing incident” that turns you into a glittering happiness mirror ball over night. People would rather think you have gone mental if it did ☺️🙃
So, “am I finally happy now?” – spending time with my father and being able to gather the missing pieces of the puzzle has certainly contributed to me finding my place in this world and consequently allowed me to access and retrieve a significant amount of childlike happiness and wonder that had been hidden away for so long – but –
– but having to face the circumstances and events related to our story has also been unsettling on so many levels and in so many ways. That’s where the “there is still room for happiness improvement” comes in – That’s why my – our – journey doesn’t end here ☺️ I believe a new chapter has only just begun 🥰
– allowing and accepting the glorious and the painful and dealing with the pieces of the puzzle one bit at a time ❣️☺️
“choosing to remember the love instead.” ❣️
Understand that as you sit here right now, no one has ever thought what you are thinking. No one has ever occupied the space you occupy. Really try to comprehend what philosophers call “the existential aloneness”—that you are alone in the universe, and you must experience that aloneness in such a way that you never allow yourself to feel down or depressed by it. Nobody can ever get behind your eyeballs and feel what you feel and experience what you experience, except for you. You can be in a room full of people and still be alone. You could be making love to the person you adore more than anything in the world, and you’re still alone. You are always experiencing things in your own unique and special way. In all of time, no one can ever get to an understanding of themselves, of the universe, of what it means to be a no-limit person, unless they get to this point called inner peace—and that is something you can never obtain but can only feel inside. Learning to tune in to your own specialness and consult your inner signals will help point the way to lasting and genuine success.
Dyer, Wayne W.. Happiness Is the Way (pp. 81-82). Hay House. Kindle Edition.
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I can distinctly remember a time when I was walking on the beach with my cousin. I must have been about seven or eight at the time, and he was at university back then. While all the other adults were busy talking, he was simply holding my hand, while strolling down the beach. I can vividly recall this memory as if it happened just yesterday. This simple act of my hand being held made me feel seen. It was an act of caring, and to me, it mattered. I mattered. I mattered to another person so much so that he held my hand and silently walked a part of the way with me while everybody else was busy with their own thoughts and chatter. I have never shared this memory with him, and he must have long forgotten, but at that moment I felt protected, and it meant the world to me, and obviously, after all those years, it still does. Now he has a family of his own, and when we visit, I often recall how I felt in his presence as a young child. In those moments, I smile to myself in the knowing that he is a great dad to his girls, because real deep caring, the kind of caring that can be felt by simply holding someone’s hand, is genuine. At least that’s what I believe: I believe that when you feel someone’s greatness by their mere presence, then they are the real thing, and I feel fortunate and privileged to have made that experience at a young age.
I might not be able to remember phone numbers or impress by recalling historical facts, but I accurately remember what people’s hands look like and what their handshake felt or feels like for both speak volumes. It’s the first thing I notice about a person when I meet them – that and their eyes. The state of your hands shows the state of your life. Are you hardworking? Are you taking care of yourself? Smoking? Being artistic? It might sound very superficial to assess a person’s self or self-worth based on what their hands look like, but to me, it makes all the difference. Hands matter. Holding hands matters. To me, holding hands is one of the most intimate things you can do – it states: we belong together; you belong to me, and I am proud to tell the world; you matter and I care about you. How lucky are you if there are people in your life who are willing to make that statement. How blessed will I feel if at the end of my life I can sit with my loved ones, hold their hands and share mutual understanding without any of us having to say a single word? How great would or will that be?
Makes me think of a book I once got from a dear friend of mine: The hand that first held mine by Maggie O’Farrell. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have always liked the title: The hand that first held mine… I can think of many moments in my life when I found myself in unfamiliar situations and when I needed someone to hold my hand to calm my nerves and to get me through to the next day or to the next stage. Makes me smile to recall those people who have supported me; who have steadied my nerves by placing their palms on my hands “and heart”. Linked to that truth, I also remember holding my friend’s hand in primary school when we were away on a field trip. We were away for the night, and we were sleeping in bunk beds. From the top of the bunk bed, I was reaching down to her, and we were holding hands until we fell asleep. I adore thinking back to that day. It sounds so innocent and naive, but I find that the most mundane and most naive experiences in life are those that really stick around. In our most unguarded moments, we don’t have any hidden agendas, we don’t try to impress, or comfort, or become, we just simply “are” and back then, in my memory, we simply “were” – we were two small girls holding hands, steadying each other’s nerves, when being away from home for the first time in our lives was a quite scary thing. As adults, our handshakes leave a first impression, but often enough we try to influence the impression we give or “inform” that handshake with a particular “message”: we want to convey to the other person “I am your boss,” “I am the one in charge,” “I got this,” or “I am stronger than you,” or even “please be kind.” What if we all came from a place of innocent, childlike, or heartfelt intention when shaking hands. What if?! What would it reveal?!
So listening to the line “Mi mano en tu mano” – my hand in your hand, in Perdo Capo’s song, makes me think of all the hands I have been lucky enough to have held throughout my time here on earth – the hands of small babies, – some of them my babies-, the hands of dying people, -some of them people I loved and still love fondly and would have preferred to never let go of-, hands of loved ones and sadly enough also hands of people that have later betrayed me. At the time, I was furious, when I found myself in a situation of betrayal or when someone I loved was dying or leaving, because I had shared with them part of my time and showed them affection and all of a sudden they were gone, often without any real explanation or without any means to stop them or prevent them from leaving or moving on. I wish I could say that I have outgrown those distressing emotions and that separation of any kind now doesn’t affect me anymore at all or to that extent, but the truth is it still does. “Having to let go of someone’s hand” still makes me feel very emotional, and it probably will continue to do so for the rest of my life. However, I have come to the realisation that some hands you are holding today might be gone tomorrow without an explanation, either through death or betrayal or for another reason. That realisation in itself is no profound revelation, but as a consequence to that truth, I have chosen to consciously reach out to my loved ones and other people even more, instead of allowing potential heartbreak to make me more fearful, weary, or cautious. The fact that people I appreciate might be gone in the blink of an eye, or that strangers I don’t know yet might turn out to become really dear friends, just makes me want to “hold hands” with those I love and enjoy having around more than ever. And by “holding hands” I don’t necessarily mean physically holding their hands, but I mean a text message, a quick hello, a postcard, a bunch of flowers, or even a careful thought throughout the day, for I believe that even the most humble acts of kindness matter. Even in busy times, small, mundane acts of “holding hands” can mean the world to someone and they might remember your simple act of caring even twenty years later, like in my case, without you being aware of it.
“Tu mano en mi mano” – I know I am not the only one whose memories and emotions are triggered by a line in a song, but it still always amazes me that people can profoundly affect each other without them even being aware of it: Pedro Capo will probably never know (or even care 🙂 ) that his “your hand in my hand – tu mano en mi mano” made me reflect about my first love, my babies, my dead relatives, my loves, my friends, and teachers in life and wonder about the people in his life who inspired that song or whom he must have met when recording or making the video, but it did.
Feel free to share if you found meaning in those words