Most of us were raised in a culture where we are taught to dream big, chase success, work hard move forward. This is great in so many ways. I was taught to be ambitious and I was raised believing that I can do anything, that I can change the world, that I can be successful, that I can change my situation and that I can provide comforts and successes to my own child(ren) that were not possible for me. This are all great things.
But there is a downside to this culture. The culture of success.
I have realised at many times in my life that I find myself wondering “what’s next,” that sometimes I find myself going through the motions of my day as if I’m waiting for my real (dream) life to begin. As if when I do succeed at whatever it is I am working towards, as if then, in the future, my life will have the meaning that I crave. The success. The fruits of the labour. And I find myself wishing these days away so I can get to that end point faster.
When I was younger I worked as an actor, and I used to believe that when I scored that big break, then life would be wonderful. Then my real life would truly begin. Then it was travel. The next place I go… the next trip… the next adventure… the next party… the next boy… the next… the next… the next… you get the picture. I was so busy chasing that I didn’t often take the time to just stop. To exist in the tumultuous, amazing craziness that I was living. I was in such a HURRY. There were so many places to go, so many people to meet, so many parties calling my name. So I ran through my teens and through my early twenties… in hot pursuit of the next big thing. Living forever on the edge, ready to leap. But not really appreciating the ledge on which my scuffed converse where balancing. Not really appreciating the freedom or the youth or the glorious unknowing.
It reminds me of labour. When I was in labour with Bo I was so keen to get to the end. So keen for the pain and the work and the intensity to be finished so I could have my reward. So I could hold my child. My beautiful doula said to me multiple times, you have to exist right now, you have to feel what you are feeling, breathe in the pain. She was, as she so often is in her advice to me, so very right.
Because even the hard moments are beautiful. I look back on my 42 hour labour with fondness. Crazy right? But it’s because my doula reminded me to exist. She reminded me to feel. To be with my child in the very last moments that we were one. To listen to her. To talk to her. Because never again would Bo be inside my body. This was indeed the beginning of something beautiful, but it was also the end of something beautiful and that needed respect. And so when I remember my labour I remember feeling Bo’s body move as she shifted lower into my pelvis. I remember hearing her heartbeat on the monitor. I remember talking to her under my breath. Wishing her safety. Whispering love. I also remember the burning pain and the long hours and the backache and the bathtub and the tears and the vomiting… but those are all part of the experience. And although hard, they could never destroy the beauty of it all because they were so intrinsically part of it. Part of us.
The other day I found myself wishing away time again. Wishing that I could fast forward until I had my life sorted out. Fast forward to a time where Bo and I had our own home, our own space. Fast forward to a time where the stress of a broken relationship isn’t so debilitating. Fast forward to a time where my husband and I had decided once and for all what is going to become of all this. Fast forward to a time of no more argumentative text messages or painful Skype calls. Fast forward to a time where we are surrounded by love instead of excuses. Fast forward to a time where I had regular work and I had already achieved the mini-goals I have. Finishing my masters. Growing the blog. Signing more freelance contracts. I began wishing away time. And I heard my own voice in my head saying, I wish I could just… and listing about a thousand things as I stood in my food stained track pants scraping dried who-the-hell-knows-what off the side of the couch.
I was shaken from my thoughts. There was a little girl tugging on my shirt. Looking up at me with these amazing dark eyes like deep, endless pools where little secrets hide. Her little tongue poking through two newly formed top teeth. Her cheeky grin. Her grubby fingers. Her amazing-ness.
And then I remembered.
It’s NOW that matters. Yes it’s shit and it’s hard and it’s bloody frustrating some days. Some days I’m running on no sleep and incredible stress and hurtful words are being thrown my way. Some days I’m just so sick of being treated like a doormat. Some days I just want out. Some days I just want to get on a plane, alone and fly far, far away and I want to throw my hands in the air and give up and go to a bar and just let loose. But that’s OK. Because I don’t. I take a deep breath and I keep going. For me. For Bo. For our future. In the future things will be different. We will both be different. And as hard as it is right now. It is also beautiful. As far from perfect the now is, the future will be imperfect too. And there is beauty there.
It’s a terrible thing to wish away your days. Because we never know how many days we have. And each day brings little joys. Like bear hugs and baby kisses and new words and amazing discoveries through the eyes of a child. Each day however monotonous (and that is one thing no one ever tells you about motherhood… the monotony of it all… each of these days is just like the other) is also spectacular, even if just for a minute. And that minute, that minute has to count for something.
I watched her today, my Bo. Fearless. Launching into the little community babies music play I take her to with such joy. Leaping onto other children with giggles and smiles and kisses. Holding hands with total strangers and dancing. Laughing with people she had never met. So eager to play, never questioning her worth or her ability to love or be loved. And I thought. I used to be like that. That used to be me. Fearless. Joyful. Unwavering. It’s amazing what these little people show us. She sees what she wants and she goes for it… there is no looking back. No hesitation. Just strength. And when she falters? She just picks herself up, and goes again… climbing higher still.
So I’m going to try to embrace the now a little more, to remind myself every day that although it’s great to strive for future greatness… it’s even more important to enjoy the greatness that is right now. The beauty that your past created. Because the earth it keeps on turning… and if you spend too much time looking forward (or backward, I might add) you might miss what’s right in front of you. And for me, what is in front of me is new prospects and this child. This perfect in all her imperfection creature. This little person who just wants me. Who needs me. Who relies on me. I am painfully aware of my every move and how it has the ability to shape her.
I have to stop making excuses. I have to stop feeling shitty and start looking up. I have to rebuild my own self esteem after allowing myself, a strong, independent woman, to be treated like a doormat for so many years – after letting that destroy my self worth. I have to believe in myself again. Not future me, but right here, imperfect, messy, now-me, in all my flaws. I’m going to be better for her. For me. For us. Because damn it, this life
will be is great. And my real life has already begun and even when it feels like shit… it’s not shit… it’s just what we make of it.
Screw surviving. Let’s flourish instead.