I won the lottery when it comes to grandparents. I don’t know how I got so lucky to have 4 grandparents who, not only loved me and my brothers unconditionally, but whose wisdom and love reached so far that it became part of my framework in life’s toughest times. And there were many tough times. Family trauma. Loss. Loneliness that took away my ability to breathe at times. Depression. And a general feeling, no matter how successful I appeared on the outside, that I never really knew what I was doing and am one step away from being homeless or a crazy cat lady. But, like most people, there was one thing that nearly broke me for good. For some it’s the death of a loved one. Or an illness, or unspeakable trauma. For me, it was a simple thing that brought on such deep grief and shame that I lost who I was for awhile – a permanent inability to have a baby. At first, I focused on how I should feel – grateful for having access to clean water and medical care. Then, at the urging of many well-intentioned but grief illiterate loved ones, I told myself it was time to move on. The problem with moving on from babies is that there is baby shit everywhere. And, in a time when our people can finally get married, people I know and love have the audacity to make babies of their own. (Pssshhh!). So while my inner voice told me to buck up and move on and never ever reveal how broken I felt, externally I went about my days doing what we all do when we don’t know what to do – going through the motions of status quo -working, doing the laundry, socializing, and writing about anything and everything except the very thing that was most on my heart .
Then I got pissed. Like really, really pissed. As women we’re told our value lies in our youth, beauty and ability to reproduce. In one surgery, I felt like I became irrelevant over night. I told myself over and over that I was more than this. That I still add value to the world. That I am still feminine. That, despite my deeply maternal side, motherhood isn’t my path. Nothing seemed to work. I couldn’t feel better. I couldn’t seem to get my head right. And to top it off, despite exercising and avoiding junk food, I kept gaining weight, couldn’t run anymore, had brain fog so bad I was worried I’d make a mistake at work and lose my job. (As if enough hadn’t been taken away!) I thought of my grandmother a lot during this time, and would often dream of her offering me a giant hug. I always woke up feeling better and would cling to this comfort as I went about my day.
As life would have it, because my body wouldn’t tolerate any other kind of exercise, I stumbled into Buti yoga, a type of yoga that integrates traditional yoga, tribal dance, and focuses on femininity. It seemed so awkward at first – and I sucked at it so much it was comical. But refusing to believe that it was my destiny to be sedentary, I kept at it, subscribing to the workouts online, and committing to a 30-day challenge. I went grain free and dairy free and my brain fog began to lift almost instantly. As my head cleared and I began to let out the tears of grief I’d held in so very long, I noticed I was practicing more self-love and less self-judgment. And so, after one particularly intense Buti workout, I lay on my mat, drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. It hit me with such clarity that I felt instantly calm: it wasn’t losing the ability to have a baby that was hurting me, it was how I was relating to it. It was the meaning I gave it (or the meaning I took away from my purpose in life). It was what I told myself about who I was and wasn’t that caused my suffering (loser, failure, not deserving of a family, broken). I couldn’t help but wonder how many other things in life I suffered through believing it was about the incident (a breakup, a layoff, a friendship ending) when in actuality my pain was about how I was relating to it.
In that moment I began to feel better. I committed to disregarding any more well intentioned clueless people who had advice on moving on and instead to dialing into my body. Going into the feelings – even the grief, when it arises. Now, when baby shit comes on TV, or appears out of nowhere in random conversations, I stop myself from worrying so much about what other people think and let it all come up. To my amazement, the most odd thing happens. The emotions come up full force for a minute and then subside. And I finally. Feel. lighter. I finally feel like I am myself again, rather than wading through the deep heaviness of unresolved emotions.
One upside – I now feel genuine joy and love for people I care about who have babies or are expecting a baby. Looking back, it seems so obvious -the simplicity of letting emotions arise without judgment is the best way through them. But the biggest upside of all is that in every single moment in life these days I feel into my body rather than shutting down to avoid pain. And while I’ll remain polite externally, when well intentioned fools are insensitive or judgmental, I’m silently (and lovingly) telling them to fuck off. Because that’s what fierce self-love has taught me – we’re all on our own journey and our job is to take every moment and use it to make us better. In this way, the darkest period of my life became the best thing that ever happened to me – without it I surely would have continued status quo – tuning out instead of tuning in, judging instead of loving, and worrying more about social graces then authenticity. Here’s to being fierce and authentic in 2018, no matter where you are in your own journey.