A difficult woman: Some days it’s challenging to swim against the current. Some days the waves of tantrum after tantrum are too heavy.
“I pray for the man who marries you some day,” I mutter under my breath as I witness yet another episode of my 3-year-old daughter kicking and screaming over having to eat the bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios that she had asked to eat with such glee and excitement just 15 minutes ago. I have been awake for less than an hour and already the waves have formed and I can see them rolling in—one after another– far off in the distance.
I take a deep breath and channel my inner Bob Marley. “Rise up this mornin’, smiled with the risin’ sun,” I gently sing while making my coffee.
“Noooooo!” My daughter screams back at me. I continue singing as I wrap both hands around my warm cup of freshly brewed coffee. “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
“STOP SINGING, MOMMY!” My daughter shouts as she forces her body to slide from her chair to the floor.
My hands grip my cup of coffee tighter. This is just the beginning; the first wave of water brushes sand over my clean, dry feet. Within another 15 minutes, my daughter will calm down and she will let me wipe the tears off of her face. We will hug, she will smile, and she will giggle after her first bite of breakfast saying, “Mmmmmm. I love Honey Nut Cheerios, mommy!”
This is just the beginning, though. The waves are coming; I can see them getting higher. Let’s see how well I can swim against the current today.
These waves are heavy as they crash against my body. I try to plant my feet in the sand and stand strong in the rip current. But some days I lose my footing, and the water carries me farther from shore. The water carries me farther from you.
Oh, child. I love you with all of my heart, but these waves flood my mind from time to time. These waves make simple things so difficult. And I begin to only see the difficulties these waves bring. I begin to focus so intently on keeping my head above water, and I forget that you are trying to swim, too. The waves are crashing against you, too.
“Are you approaching your relationships with love?” Our pastor asks during his sermon this morning. I glance at you, and you are coloring quietly. You look up at me, smile, and point to what you are working on. The waves begin to recede.
Have I forgotten how to approach these waves with love in my heart? Am I letting the waves pull my love under the current? When you change your mind, and refuse to get dressed, and cry because I put your shoes on wrong, do you feel my love receding with these waves? Do you see that I love you? Or do you see the waves, too?
I glance at you again, and you look so calm coloring. Love floods my heart, and I feel the weight of the water pull away from my body.
I lift my feet out of the wet sand, one at a time, and I rinse them off in the calm water. Perhaps you are not the difficult one, my child. Perhaps I’ve been the difficult woman all along.
How to find courage, strength and happiness in 24 simple ways.
Hi. I’m Aimee. I’m almost 30.
I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a writer. I am a dreamer.
Twenty-four months ago I would not have introduced myself in this way. Twenty-four months ago I wrote this. I was scared. I felt like a failure. I was lost. Twenty-four months ago I chose to quit my full-time job. Well, at the time I felt like I was a quitter. I felt weak. I was disappointed in myself for not being able to suck it up. So I started this blog to pick myself up. I started this blog to put myself back together. Twenty-four months later, I now see that leaving my full-time job had given me the opportunity to fight to become a stronger woman. I am braver. I am accomplishing goals that were once long-forgotten. I am proud of myself. Damn, I’m proud of myself.
Twenty-four months. In twenty-four months I went from working about 50 hours a week to working about 9 hours a week. My oldest child is months away from starting kindergarten, my daughter will be turning four in one month, and I am 22 weeks pregnant with our third child. In twenty-four months my husband changed jobs and completed four more semesters of grad school. We sold our first home and purchased and moved into our second –maybe forever—home. In twenty-four months I went from no blog to publishing 62 posts and having 3 (and soon one more!) posts published by other websites. I have met some amazing local bloggers, and I recently joined a writing group. In twenty-four months I went from feeling lost to feeling more alive than ever.
Leaving my full-time job was the craziest thing I have ever done, and it has brought me back to life. These past 24 months I have been slowly putting myself back together. I have been learning more about who I am and what I want and who I want to be when I grow up. I am learning. And I will spend the rest of my life learning.
Before sitting down to write this, I took a couple of weeks to reflect on everything that has happened these past two years. I could share with you how my life has changed since becoming a stay-at-home mother. I could share with you how I survive a typical day at home with my spirited 5-year-old son and my strong-willed 3-year-old daughter while my husband is at work from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (is he home yet?!?!?!). I could share with you how I have been trying to make more time for my writing goals and making new friends. Yes, much has happened in my life these past two years, and many things have changed for the better for my little family. But I am more than a stay-at-home mother. I am more than a part-time receptionist at a hair salon. I am more than a wife. I am more than a blogger. I am growing. Well, literally, my belly is growing to make room for this sweet little girl who is growing inside of me. But I am growing. I am learning to take care of myself. I am learning to take pride in what I do as a caregiver, an employee, a partner, a friend and a writer. I am learning to make my goals higher priorities in my life. I am learning to put myself first, too. These past 24 months I have given so much of my love and attention and care to my family and others around me, but I have also been learning to do this for myself as well. While much has changed around me, I have changed the most.
After taking some time to reflect on the past 24 months and the two-year anniversary of this blog, I decided to share with you what I have learned about myself and becoming a braver and happier person since quitting my full-time job and starting this new adventure. I still have much to learn and there is always room to grow, but these 24 lessons have given me back my strength and happiness and my ability to dream:
- It’s okay to process things emotionally before logically. Sometimes you need to sort through your emotions before you can make a logical decision. It’s okay to feel. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to let yourself be angry. But when you’re done, piece yourself together and allow yourself the time you need to think.
- Change is good, even if it scares the hell out of you. Something has to light that firecracker under your behind every now and then.
- It’s also okay to stay right where you are. You may be right where you need to be for the moment.
- Letting go does not mean that you are no longer in control. Letting go means that you are willing to open yourself up. You are willing to invite others and the universe to teach you something or show you something new.
- When you are kind to yourself, you feel happier. When you are kind to others, more people feel happier. Choose to be kind. Our world needs more kindness.
- Take chances. You never know what opportunities may come when you do. Even if you make a fool out of yourself, you will gain something new from these experiences.
- Make new friends with people who share similar interests and goals. They will inspire and motivate you.
- Reach out to old friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while. They will inspire and motivate you, too.
- Do something that is out of your comfort zone. And after you do this, do something else that is out of your comfort zone. You will surprise yourself by what you can do in these situations.
- Understand that you are more important than you realize. Others will surprise you with their desire to encourage and support you.
- It’s okay to need other people. You are not alone, and you should not and cannot always be as independent as you would like to be. Allow others to help you. You are part of a community, so help to build others up, and let them build you up when you are down.
- Be patient. Be patient with yourself and others. Allow yourself time and space to grow, and allow others to grow on their own as well. Take your time. Take up space.
- Allow yourself to breathe. Goals and priorities are important, but so is living. Enjoy stillness. Enjoy lazy days. Enjoy silence. Enjoy the little moments. Breathe. Enjoy this gift of life. Breathe. It’s good for the soul.
- When taking care of small children, lower your expectations. Your children will not be as obedient and well-mannered as you may have envisioned them to be prior to becoming a parent. Lower your expectations. This will surely lower your blood pressure, and your body and mind will thank you.
- There will always be something you can learn from your children. Open your eyes and let them show you how they experience the world around them. Let them lead you. Let them make up silly rules to their games. Let them play. Let them play a lot. And play with your children. Play often.
- Embrace creativity. Let yourself brainstorm and daydream and free associate. You will learn more about yourself and others around you. You will open your mind to new ideas. You may see something you never noticed before.
- Go on walks. Go on walks with your partner, with your children, with a friend and by yourself. Walks are peaceful. Walks will calm your mind. Walks will stir your heart. Walks will move your soul.
- Be a dreamer. Live life with hope. Live life with goals, even if these goals seem silly. See all that is magical in your world. Dream up fairy tales and happy endings. You never know what may happen in the end.
- Wake up. Wake up early before everyone else in your house. Wake up late. Wake up so late that your children have to tickle you out of bed. Wake up. Wake up each day and see that it is good –see that you have been given a new gift. Wake up and go on your adventure.
- Let go and press the reset button. Don’t let your stubbornness paralyze you. Even if you are as stubborn as they come, learn to let go and press reset. You will do yourself and others a favor.
- Quit planning everything. Yes, plans make everything seem right and orderly in the world, but plans are not always necessary. Get wet, get sandy and get muddy. Immerse yourself in the experience.
- Love your family, and never stop reminding them how much you love and appreciate them. Make it a priority to attend family gatherings, to keep traditions, and to create new family adventures. Your family is your first community.
- Love yourself. Care for yourself just as much as you care for others. See that you are good, and believe that you will do great things. Give yourself a break when you fail, and take pride in your accomplishments. Smile and remind yourself daily that you are here for a reason.
- Be yourself. Never stop searching your heart and soul for happiness and peace. Don’t worry about what others think of you. Be yourself and own it. Be yourself and you will find your purpose. Be yourself and you will find your community. Be yourself and you will find the strength you need to become all that you can be. Be yourself –that is all you need, and the rest will fall into place. Be yourself, and you will never cease to discover what this world has to offer.
I have learned how to breathe. I have learned how to open my eyes. I have learned how to grasp the world with my finger. And like my two children who seize each day with passion in their hearts and limited concepts of barriers, I can’t wait to see our baby girl do the same when she is born. I can’t wait to feel her hand grasp my finger, and I will show her the world is hers to hold.
I take a sip of my Corona Light and let my body sink into the patio chair. I breathe in the muggy July air and cool my forehead with my beer bottle.
Solitude. I’ve desired this very moment of being alone, yet the need to take care of someone else never ceases to tug at me. My almost three-year-old daughter is napping in the cabin while the rest of my family is fishing off of the dock down at the lake. I’m surrounded by trees and blue sky. Acres of woods and the cabin door separate me from everyone. I try to shut down, but I also know that I will have to be on at any moment’s notice. This is good enough for me.
Silence. Everything is still around me, yet I anticipate the initial cries of a waking toddler or the shouts of my four-year-old son as he runs back up to the cabin to say that he is done fishing. The air is still and all I hear are the chirping of birds and the buzzing of flies. I listen to the melody of the woods and tiny creatures around me, all while keeping an ear out for a familiar voice. This is good enough for me.
Peacefulness. This moment is so few and far between, but it is good enough for me.
I take another sip of my cold beer and embrace the solitude, silence and peacefulness as I sit on the deck. It’s time for me to accept this moment. This stillness lingers longer as each minute passes, and I need to learn to acknowledge this truth. The truth is my body will no longer nourish another being. The truth is my children choose to flee my arms more than they choose to be carried. The truth is my children are closer to being ready to have their own adventures. I need to acknowledge the stillness, because this stillness is beginning to fill more moments in my day.
It’s not that I’m afraid of this type of solitude, silence and peacefulness; I simply wonder whether all of this will fill more minutes and hours of my day before it’s supposed to. My heart is so very full, but it still aches for someone else to fill these moments and space before me. My husband and I have discussed this aching in my heart, and every time this comes up in conversation, the ache becomes more of a sting. We are lucky. So very lucky we are. My husband is logical and explains that we have already replaced ourselves. We have a son and a daughter, and when we die, they are the two beings to take our place on Earth. We are past the stage of late nights, early mornings, breastfeeding, diapering and potty-training. We can move on and begin to enjoy new activities as a family. We can save more money for our future and our children’s futures. We can move on to the next stage and be a few years closer to having more time to pursue our personal goals. This is all very logical and responsible –but it stings.
My people are my family, and I feel that my family is not yet complete. I am full, but are we complete?
Yes, I miss the newborn scent and the quiet and still cuddles. But it’s more than that. It’s looking into the future and seeing that someone may be missing. It’s holding each other’s wrinkled hands and wondering what life would be like with a few more grandchildren. It’s knowing that there is another human being we could meet –another human being who has the power to turn our lives upside down and around with a love so great we could have never imagined living without his or her presence. I do not fear solitude, silence and peacefulness. I simply want to meet this person with every fiber of my being.
But I’m learning to let go. I may never let go completely. I’m learning to live with the sting. I’m learning to acknowledge that the stillness will come sooner than I’m ready for it to. I’m learning that there is peace in stillness. This life is good. This marriage is good. This family of mine is good. It is all so very good enough for me.
And, in a moment, the stillness is gone. I take another sip of beer as I watch my husband walk up the steps from the dock, making his way toward me. He grabs a beer from the cooler and sits next to me. We cling beer bottles and sip our Corona Light in silence, acknowledging this rare moment alone while our daughter naps and our son continues to fish with his grandparents.
After a few minutes, my husband breaks the silence and asks, “What would you name our third child?”
A lump forms in my throat and I immediately feel tears welling up in my eyes. I’m angry and heartbroken. “You can’t ask me that,” I snap. How could he ask me this? For three years he’s been content with having two children. For three years I’ve been learning to be content with having only two children. For three years I’ve been trying to ignore the lingering sting, and now this question makes me ache more than ever before.
“I mean it,” my husband says. “I want to know what you would like to name our third child.”
The lump dissolves.
The sting disappears.
I am full.
I am empty.
Another month goes by and my body is empty. The leaves fell weeks ago and the once lush grass in our backyard is now covered in a hard layer of snow.
“What am I missing?” I ask my husband. “Do I not know how to count correctly?”
“Maybe it will happen for us, and maybe it won’t,” he says. “All we can do is keep trying.”
This is not what I want to hear. It makes so much sense, but I never considered the possibility that another pregnancy may not happen. I’m impatient. I thought I would be through my first trimester by now. I thought we would get pregnant as quickly as we did with our other two children. I’m frustrated. I know other couples have waited so much longer and are still waiting, but the disappointment each passing month brings continues to build. I’m heartbroken. I’m upset with myself for being heartbroken when I already have two beautiful children. I’m upset with myself for being so selfish when other women have had to experience this disappointment, frustration and heartbreak for years. I’m full, but I’m empty.
I wonder if my body is broken. I wonder if this is a sign that God has already given me more than I can handle. I wonder if this means that I am supposed to move on. I wonder if this means that I will never meet you.
“Am I a good mom?” I ask my husband. “Maybe this means I’m not a good enough mom.”
“You’re a great mom,” my husband assures me. “Don’t punish yourself for this. Be patient. Give it time. Don’t think about it so much.”
I try to be logical. I try to set my emotions aside. But I can’t stop looking up names for you. I can’t stop researching ways to conceive you. I can’t stop looking at clothes that I could dress you in. I can’t stop thinking about you. Will we ever meet?
I tell myself to stop looking at the calendar. I tell myself to stay positive. I tell myself not to be too hopeful. I stop peeing on sticks.
I pee on a stick.
I thank God.
Our family can’t wait to meet you and welcome you into this world. Your heartbeat is strong. You are about the size of an orange now. You are a part of us, and we are a part of you. I see a future filled with my people, and I’m so happy to see you there too. I’ve been wanting to meet you for so long. I’ve been thinking about you for years.
I have my three oranges, and I feel so full now.