Several months into my pregnancy with my son, I was fighting what I rightfully ascertained as the slow and steady ebbing away of any sense of control I had over my life. I had not planned to become a parent. From all angles, it did not appear that it was even a responsible thing to do. I was seized with worry.
Then I remember the day the grand epiphany came to me that this experience had the capacity to transform me into a stronger, wiser, gentler and more compassionate version of myself. And the letting go of control is what would allow this transformation to unfold. I felt like a like a door was thrown open and I felt the breeze on my face. It was a moment of metaphorically falling to my knees. (Which I would inevitably do again and again and again.)
I knew as much this experience was not going to be some magical metamorphosis, despite images of parenthood depicted in the media, with soft lighting and coos and sighs, all moments precious and touched with fairy dust, but I hadn’t an idea of how permanently inside-turned-out my world would become. That no, it isn’t an “event” along the trajectory of life and there is no going back.
Precious moments, yes. But fairy dust? Not here. I didn’t get the Disney version.
Parenthood is mental, emotional, physical and spiritual fucking bootcamp. There is no fairy dust in bootcamp.
Keeping a baby alive as it turns out, is relatively easy. Billions of people are doing it all over the world every single day. You can do it well or poorly but generally, we animals are wired to meet the basic needs of our offspring. Feeding and changing are the easy parts. It is everything else in between.
To say that early parenthood is “hard work” is like saying building a Trans-Atlantic railroad while the train is motion is “strenuous”. The amount of strain still depends on many factors: how fast the train is going, what the weather conditions are, whether you are doing it alone or have a team and work in shifts, and if you have regular food and water while you work. It makes a difference if the train whistle is blasting in your ear continuously for a good portion of the day, a great matter if you are struggling with significant physical or mental health limitations and a whole lot whether you get to break to rest for the night (most us don’t for a good while).
I’ve never shied away from “hard work”. But that’s not a good way to describe this.
I had an idea, and I imagine I am not alone, that through parenthood I would finally shed some of these layers of insecurity, fear, and self-centeredness and my most light-filled, authentic self would finally be revealed.
Ah, but instead of those rough and unbecoming layers gracefully falling and drifting away with the breeze as I emerged in my swan-like transfiguration, finally embodying the woman and mother I had always wished to be, I arrive day after day to face head on the wearisome shadows that have followed me for too long. How disappointing.
And what a miracle. Now that there is no escape, I see that the shadows are not enemies after all.
I began today with the intention of just noticing, meeting the feelings and thoughts that arise without judgment, without feeding them or pushing them away.
I watched my mind as it lept forward and back, my body restless, my mind unsteady. I was acutely aware of the increased sense of urgency to be DOING something, which is exactly the reason I am choosing to practice stillness. “To be” – to combat the doing. The constant nagging of tasks still undone and the allure of squeezing in more and more into each hour is the very thing that has brought me to my mat. At the very top of my endless to-do list and the even longer, intangible “should be doing” list exists one most important thing: Practice doing nothing. Practice what it feels like to breathe in a moment where nothing is asked or demanded of you…except when you hear your toddler getting into the bathroom trash because you forgot to close the door…okay, but now come back. Practice coming back again and again and again.
“The mind rambles, complains, and thinks about anything else except for what’s actually happening. So what do we do? We let the thoughts go, without further engaging them, without believing them. As we become aware of our minds and let them relax, as we stay aware of the moment, of our breath, and of sensations, purification just happens. The mind releases.
This is how transformation happens—through conscious presence in the moment. Through awareness and acceptance of exactly what is happening, the bodymind adjusts itself and opens up with perfection and grace.”
Transformation Happens: The Yoga of Change, Aruni Nan Futuronsky