“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” – C. JoyBell C.
A year ago, my birthday started like any regular day. The morning involved my normal routine as a mom of two, with the wonderful added stress of car troubles.
After dropping my son off at school, I went to the YMCA to work out. As I ran on the treadmill, words started popping to the surface. With every stride, the words gathered momentum, until they were pulsating just below the surface of my skin.
I felt as though the words were living things inside of me, clawing their way out to breathe air on the outside. I know how dramatic this sounds, but it’s 100 percent the truth. If I am anything, I am honest.
I got home, put my daughter down for a nap, and let the words pour out of me on to my computer. I realized I wanted to share the words on my personal Facebook page. I’d been writing for months, but this is the first time I’d share any of my words publicly.
My face felt hot with anxiety and my heart was racing. Part of me didn’t want to share my words, but for the first time, the part of me that wanted to share my words was stronger.
I had the desire to lay all of my cards on the table for the world to see, regardless of the consequences. I hit the publish button.
I felt raw and exposed, but I also felt brave and alive.
My Facebook post:
I’m 35-years-young today. The day started with the usual chaos of trying to get Parker out of the door for school. Once in the car, a warning light came on. Awesome. Car trouble before we are supposed to go out of town. I thought the stress of the morning was causing the pit in my stomach, so I risked driving the car to the YMCA to get a work out in. I’ve been replacing my 4 glasses of wine per night habit with exercise in an effort to get healthier. What I wasn’t expecting was all of the emotions that come bubbling up when you’re no longer self-medicating them. I stared out the window while I attempted to run from my anxiety on the treadmill, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t stop looking at the huge sign in the gymnasium. It reads “The Y”. And I kept thinking about that in the form of a question. Why am I here? This birthday might be triggering an early mid-life crisis, but Why am I here? Does my life matter enough in the lives of others? Am I living up to my potential that God/the Universe/the powers that be had in mind for me by keeping me here for 35 years?
I started reviewing my life. I’ve played the role of wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend, and I’ve felt both like a failure and a rock star at different points in each role. I’ve had my heart broken into a million pieces and loved so hard I thought my heart would burst, and you can’t have the former unless you’ve had the latter. I’ve seen many babies born, including two of my own beautiful miracles of life. And I’ve seen loved ones die. I’ve even seen a few that were born after me die before me, and as you all know, this is the toughest one to grapple with.
I’ve worked full-time in the corporate world, part-time in the corporate world as a mommy, and been a stay-at-home mom, and I will be the first to tell you that each experience is both great and sucky in their own ways. I’ve tried to strike the delicate balance between being kind and being a martyr, between being loving and setting boundaries with others, and I have a tendency to error on the side of kindness. Some might view that as weakness, but that’s because we live in a culture that so often mistakes kindness for weakness. Love is my religion, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I, along with so many of you, have done a great job at pretending that I have the whole life thing all figured out when in reality it’s a daily battle to let my thoughts go and stay present in the moment.
I’ve lived long enough to know that some people feel they are above me, and some probably feel they are below me, and the world is set up in such a way that unless you see through the bullsh*t you can easily fall into that trap. I’ve lived long enough to know that we all just want to feel like our lives matter, that our words matter, that we matter, because “We are more alike my friends than we are unalike” – Maya Angelou.
I’ve lived long enough to know that every day, every breath, every moment is a blessing and an opportunity for growth if we will let it be. I also know that a lot of work needs to be done on myself before I don’t care how many likes this post gets or how many people tell me Happy Birthday today. But if my words mattered enough to you that you took the time to read this in its entirety, please know you mean the world to me.
The response on my Facebook page was overwhelming and mostly positive, though I think I freaked a couple of people out.
It was official. Not only was I a writer, but for better or for worse, I was a writer that shared my words.
I cringe when I read over some of these words because I can feel my anger in this post, but my anger was really directed at myself. I was angry at myself that I still wasn’t the person I wanted to be, and the truth was that I had no one else to blame for that other than myself. It reminds me of the quote by Gloria Steinem, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
This post was the first step towards using my writing voice and led me down the path to starting this blog. Each of you that have read my words on this blog have contributed to helping me believe that I have a voice worth using, and for that, I bow my head and say, “mamastay.”
Since a year has passed, and birthdays are a time for reflection, I thought I’d consider the ways I’ve grown over the last year.
If I could compare growth to something (because you know I love myself a metaphor) I’d compare it to aging. On the one hand, it’s painful, but on the other hand, it’s wonderful. It’s also inevitable in life, though some people go out of their way to avoid it.
I had a year of a lot of personal growth, so it was painful, and wonderful, and I’m not the same woman that wrote the above Facebook post. Dare I say that I am a braver version of Kristen.
In many ways, this blog is like immersion therapy for me. In order to get over my fear of judgment, I had to allow myself to be judged, and in order to get over the fear that my voice doesn’t matter, I had to use my voice. I’m not nearly as nervous as I was a year ago to share my writing voice, and I’m not nearly as hesitant to share the truth of who I am. That marks progress.
My fear still speaks to me, but my writing voice is that much louder. This is where I have grown.
One of fears’ favorite things to tell me is that people are thinking, “Who does she think she is with starting a blog?” The pain of others thinking that question pales in comparison to the pain of me incredulously asking myself the same question: Who do I think I am?
Well, a year later, I’m still a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, but I get to add writer to that list. If I’m feeling extra stingy, I’ll add scared in front of that list. If I’m feeling extra generous, I’ll add brave in front of that list.
The thing about growth on the inside is that, just like with aging, and time, I don’t think it ever stops.
Therefore, my writing voice wishes to loudly proclaim to my life, bring on the pain, bring on the wonderful, and bring on the growth.
Happy Birthday to me.