The sky is dark and heavy, like a murky swamp. The wind picks up, whips our hair and
sends dust and dirt flying, biting our legs and stinging our eyes as it moves around
us in a chaotic rhythm. The world begins to spin faster, and faster. We can't keep up.
A few people have gathered at the edge of the storm like buoys on a lake, but they are
barely visible through the fog and debris. Their presence is not enough, people are missing.
We huddle together to take cover, to protect our own and wait out the storm.
That adequately describes what the Spring and Summer of 2015 were like for my family and me. We endured an incredibly challenging time with an infant and three small children and much less support than my childhood self would have ever imagined. I was enveloped by a dense, heavy fog inside that perfect storm and it was lonely. I knew that the sun could shine, but struggled to remember how it's warmth felt on my face and in my soul. Small talk was awkward at best and the well meaning friend or acquaintance asking, "How are you?" felt sharp and impossible to answer. Sometimes I'd just stare at them grasping for words. "I'm ok" was dishonest and I couldn't waste my breath to say it, but spewing my truth during a casual or brief interaction seemed inappropriate. After some quiet reflection, I developed a mantra that simultaneously lightened my load and provided some much needed perspective. I'm sharing my story because I think it's applicable to so many situations and periods in our lives and certainly during childbirth and the postpartum period and throughout parenthood."In this moment, I am ok." Think about it. Then say it out loud, in a whisper or a shout.
In this moment, I am ok. Oh, the relief. Once I had a prepared, yet honest response to this innocent, but often loaded question I could breathe easier. I had less fear of simple interactions and in the right setting with the right person it opened the door for deeper connection and support, which I desperately needed. I could share my whole truth or just part of it and that felt powerful. I found other creative outlets and ways to connect with the supportive women in my life, like this blog exchange with my dear friend Carrie Turner of Carrie Turner Photography.
In this moment, I am ok. I gained valuable perspective by both speaking and thinking this phrase. I became more mindful and less focused on what had transpired or what was to come. The storm had not dissipated and I still wrestled with the best way to get through some days, but by checking in with myself in any given moment I realized that while the storm was still raging, I didn't have to be in it all the time. I could seek shelter. I could find pleasure in everyday life and let the storm wait for me to come back to it. By constantly living in the storm I'd given away my power. In this moment, I am ok, allowed me to check in with myself and know that right then and there I was safe and I was loved. Those brief check-ins enabled me to take back control, at least in those moments, and it was a game changer.
In this moment, I am ok. That phrase helped me get through and still helps me get through the hard times whether it's a frustrating moment in a given day or a season of challenges. In my childbirth education class I talk a lot about this phrase and the idea behind the phrase. That even when things feel hard or impossible, there are moments, like between contractions, when you can find the calm and check in with yourself to remind yourself that you are safe, you are loved, and you are powerful. The same holds true for so many moments in our lives: when you're pacing the nursery with your fussy baby for the third time that night, when you've left your baby for the first time to return to work and you're not sure you can make it through the day, when your family is far away and you are longing for connection. We all have struggles, both big and small, and without the familial and communal villages of past generations, when the storms roll in we can feel isolated and vulnerable. Finding ways to stay mindful will help you weather the storm. You might get scraped and bumped in the process, but you'll also stand taller and stronger for having survived the storm.
Do you have a mantra? What gets you through the hard times?