(Photo credit – I found it on the internet a while ago and am not sure who to credit :/)
Happy Labour Day, everyone! Today is a day to rest from the busy-ness of life, and a day to process.
Some thoughts to share with you, as I gather them to me with the intention of writing a piece for Medium.
Yesterday was a rough day. Conditions were fitting – grey, heavy, melancholic. The rain came down heavily and absolutely. The plans for the day did not materialize as I thought they were going to, and on the first Sunday in September, within the context of a life structured as I structured mine, last minute alternatives are hard to come by.
I felt so ALONE. That’s what the overwhelming theme of my life is right now; Not lonely – alone.
We women who choose to follow our hearts and our guts, who recognize that if we stay the sacrifice will ultimately be so great that we risk losing our lives, we women who don’t have extended families and who have lots of friends who are also in similar positions – we are alone.
The psychological implications of being alone are great.
A lot of us transition from being surrounded by people all the time to long stretches where no one is there. And when we’re first coming out of an intensive, all-immersive motherhood experience, having the breathing room can feel like a massive relief. The weeks of no kids balances out the intensity of the week of kids without a co-parent.
But then the reality hits and, unless we are people with well-established social lives that do not centre around partnership, we find ourselves truly alone.
Somehow, over the years, the message got communicated that we have to learn to be okay being alone, that the fact that we aren’t okay with it is a failing on our own part, that we have to walk through the darkness and find ourselves face to face with our demons. But being alone means being UNPARTNERED. It isn’t supposed to mean that we are truly alone, without social groups and family. And yet, we’ve all been conditioned to believe that the only way to not be alone is to be partnered. Talk about breeding ground for some pretty heavy cognitive dissonance, huh?
The popular literature these days is all about not placing all our eggs in the relationship basket, to cultivate distinct identities within our relationships, to resist enmeshment and co-dependence. But where are the real life models of what this looks like? It’s one thing to approach the concepts in a cerebral, logical way. It’s another entirely to try to live them when all the circuitry in your brain has been wired to understand otherwise.
When I was in my early 20s, life made sense. I had a plan. I had targets to hit. Career, marriage, kids, house…all checklist items I could set my sights on and reel in to me. Check check check.
Those are the things that were supposed to ensure that I’d feel safe, taken care of, seen, valued, part of something. So I did the work, I got those things, I checked off the boxes with ease.
And now, 20 years later, now what? I have my gorgeous, brilliant daughters who make me so proud on a daily basis, but motherhood has never been the thing that fulfills me. I have money in the bank, assets, property…tangibles that I am BEYOND grateful for and will never take for granted, but I can’t buy true connections. I have a business that challenges me creatively, but I’m not fulfilled by hustle. I have a beautiful man in my life who holds space for me in a way I never thought possible, and who I hope will allow me to walk beside him indefinitely, but who also will not allow me to put all my eggs in his basket.
And so, in the night, I wake up gripped by anxiety and the voice in my head reminds me that I am alone.
What’s the solution to this? Last night, as I cried in his arms, my man said, “You need your women and you aren’t spending enough time with them.” Just like that, he saw and called out the problem, which allows me to solutionize. Because it isn’t supposed to feel like this, so alone all the time, and I’ve been here before.
My impulse was to contradict. But that guy knows shit, and when he tells me something, I listen.
When I was facing the birth of my first daughter, I knew that I could not be alone. That I had to build a community around me. I was 27 and I’d spent so much of my life never feeling like I belonged, and it felt like my mandate to create the community that I was lacking.
So I built my first community. And it saved me over and over again from the severe isolation of early motherhood. Twice a week, come hell or high water, we met, and we held space for each other, supported, sympathized, loved.
For years, we did things together, kids in tow, the primary purpose being the community aspect, for our own survival, and, by extension, for the well-being of our children.
The thing with kids is that they grow up. They detach, we have to work and keep up our responsibilities, the kids go to daycare, to school, they form their own communities. They still need us, but not only us. They start to prefer the company of their day-to-day peers and we gather less in our mother groups, because somehow, without the motivation of needing to keep the kids amused and engaged, it starts to get harder and harder to find the time to meet, for US.
But we have to meet for us. A lot of us have just given birth again, to ourselves this time. For those of us who find ourselves responsible for our kids either a lot less than before, or a lot more than before, we’ve given birth to a whole new identity we have no clue how to categorize or make sense of. Without the label of full-time motherhood, who are we? Without the label of traditional partnership, who are we? For those of us who never belonged to our families, and who have no hearth to which we can return, who are we? The who feels impossible. The what, though, is alone.
The simple fact of the matter is that we put all our energy into not finding ourselves alone again, and yet, despite our best efforts, we are. It’s a shock. It’s disappointing. I’ve come face to face with my own inner child on multiple occasions this summer. I’ve cried more times than I can count, which is significant because I didn’t cry for the better part of the 14 years of my motherhood experience. I cried for me, for all the stories of safety I’d written for myself that I had to tear up, for how much it hurt to do so. And I’m not done crying.
But I’m done with feeling alone.
So now it’s time to gather again. Now it’s time to prioritize and the reality that being and feeling alone is extremely damaging to our psyches, that committed partnership is not the panacea we’ve been conditioned to believe it is, and that the best examples we can model to our children involve not only healthy partnerships if we are privileged enough to be involved in those, but we need to commit again to actively cultivating connection with our women friends.
Alone is not inherent to the human condition. It’s a by-product of skewed social structures and the trainwreck of the tragic social structure called the Nuclear Family.
What are we going to do about it, Sisters?