Winter has been a breath of fresh air this year. Summer was suffocating. The heat, the constant baby wearing in 30+ degrees, the walks to and from school with three kids in tow wore me down in ways I could never have anticipated. It was rarely cool enough to stop and say “Hey, you need a break. How about we go for a walk in the woods?” The woods, much like the ocean, realigns me. It finds my core and heals it.
So yesterday that’s what we did. We walked in the woods near our house and it was magic.
Self portrait at 37.
Mother, artist, wife, friend, daughter, sister. So many labels. Sometimes I forget who I am in it all. There are always voices talking and it’s rarely mine. There are hands touching, mouths drinking, my body always someone’s landscape. There are days, weeks, months I forget what I feel like when I am just me. What it feels like to just be. I am always on. Lifting, carrying, holding, soothing, teaching. So rarely still or at rest.
I have days I feel incredibly powerful. When I see the person I have become and she makes me proud. I see how I constantly strive to be better. I see how I push through no matter the obstacles and I feel stronger than ever.
I have days I feel like I am nothing outside my illness. That my darkness is all there is and that I am some sort of contagious disease. Days I fail to contain it. When the woman in the mirror is too flawed to show herself to the world. When I am all shadows and self loathing.
I have quiet days and loud days. Days I feel utterly alone and days I feel more loved than I ever have.
But through all the days I am thankful. Thankful for being me. At 37 I am better than I ever have been.
It’s crazy how fast time passes. I used to think a week lasted forever. That was before kids of course. These days I can hardly wrap my head around a month.
It’s been three months since we welcomed our new daughter, Arya, into the world. Three months. And I haven’t even managed to write her birth announcement on the blog. Writing has always been a release for me but at the end of the day now all I want to do is to sink into the sofa and hope I am lucky enough to get an hour without anyone needing me. And honestly in that hour all I want to do is to stare blankly at a screen before I get up and resume my parenting.
They say better late than never so here she is, our Arya. Born at home on November 27th, 2016. Caught by her dad in the bathtub. Perfection.
I don’t write much anymore. Not because I don’t want to but because time is never on my side. There is always something or someone demanding my attention. I must have written you a hundred letters in my mind already. That’s where I write these days while I juggle your siblings, work, house and the scraps of time that are left over for myself.
I swore I would cherish every moment of carrying you but time has gone by so fast and now we are on the brink of locking eyes for the very first time. I’m not quite ready. I’ve still so much to prepare, to process and to memorize about you right where you are. I already know I’ll miss feeling you move inside me, the way you start up as soon as your siblings wake in the morning as if to say “hi”. You’re the last one. The very last seed I’ll grow and there is a great sadness in that. I already know the double-edged sword I’ll walk when you’re finally in my arms. The indescribable joy of every first and the gut wrenching sense of loss for every last. I’ve been there before. I thought your sister was our last but fate had other ideas. And as terrifying as that has been (and is) at times I am nothing but thankful.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. I’m still finding my feet from last time and I worry that two arms will never be quite enough. I worry about the heartbreak that will follow for your siblings as they find me stretched even further. But I know we will have love abundance. I know there will be more smiles than ever before, more laughter and that my heart will positively burst with love for you all. I know that you will complete us and that there will never be any regrets. There are no regrets.
In a few weeks we will embark on a journey that will mark us for life. I trust you to know what to do. I trust myself to know what to do and this time I have placed that trust right where it needs to be. Right here, in the safety of our haven. We will be right here waiting, ready to catch you as you take your first breath of air.
Lots of love,
“There’s a house inside my mummy
Where my little brother grows,
or maybe it’s my little sister
No one really knows
My Daddy says I lived there too
When I was being made,
But I don’t remember very much
About it, I’m afraid”
(Excerpt from “There’s a house inside my mummy”)
I’m going to tell you a secret. As good as I am at taking care of other people (and I am damn good at it), I am absolute rubbish at taking care of myself. I will happily bend over backwards for people I love, I will go above and beyond to do nice things even for strangers to the point of stupidity, like working for free. (I mean seriously? What the hell? In what universe am I not worth paying for my professional services?) But I somehow just can’t do it for myself. It is as if I am blind to my own needs, or not even that because I see them, I’m just not capable of tending to them. Somehow it is ok for me to not be ok but it is not ok for anyone else to not be ok.
I have been running on empty for almost 2 years now. I live off the fumes from the few drops that somehow make it into my cup. I stumble, I fall on my face and I get back up again. Life has a funny way of piling on the chaos and even when I can do something about it, when I have the power to open my mouth and say “I am not ok with this. This is not good for me.” Or to voice what I need or accept an offer of help, I don’t. My space is not important. My welfare is not important. (But of course it is.) Somehow I have lost myself along the way or perhaps I was lost some time ago.
I remember when I was a little girl, or even when I was a teenager, I would come home shattered because someone I considered a good friend had done/said/or neglected to do something. My mother would ask me time and time again why I let these so-called friends walk all over me and treat me like rubbish. She would say “these people are not your friends. This is not what friends do to each other.” I would curl up and hurt for a bit and then find my feet again. I would patch myself up and open my arms back up to the very same people. Time and time again. Someone I used to know told me “You see the world through rose-tinted glasses.” I knew even then that this wasn’t true. I’ve never seen the world through rose-tinted glasses, I’m a harsh realist but I’ve somehow been able to cling onto this hope that people will do for me what I would do for them. “Do onto others” right?
I could tell you a long and heartbreaking story about how and why I became this person convinced that I am not worthy of the care I give others but I’ll let the details be and just give you the bigger picture. Just know that I know why. To that I am not blind.
Imagine that there’s a person in your life that keeps telling you, in one way or another, that you are not good enough or worth taking care of. You are not worthy of their unconditional love. To this person you are resistance. You are not folding or scraping the floor before them. You are not ‘easy’ because you have thoughts of your own, ideas and opinions. You are different. Though you still take every blow given, you somehow still get back up, limp on and won’t stay down. For years you seek approval and love, time or simply attention but… You are not worth it. You still have people telling you that you are but there is this one constant voice telling you you’re not. If you know anything about how the brain works you’ll know that your brain will latch on to the negative and interpret it as truth. These negative views become your own. You find yourself in relationships with people who treat you the same way, it’s like you seek them out but after a while even your stubborn brain has to admit that something isn’t right. So you start trying to fight it. You figure out that you don’t deserve this but you can’t make it stop. But because your brain is now in conflict you find yourself at war, a war with yourself. It’s an endless battle that will rage on and on, a battle that has many consequences and leaves many scars. And it’s more or less silent and invisible to everyone around you unless they look closely and know exactly what to look for. And all the while this person is still there to lash out under the false pretence of “caring”. And you take it. You say “oh but it might still change.” And you hurt. You cry more than anyone knows that you cry because it just won’t stop.
I bet you’re asking why I’ve held on, why I didn’t just shut the door, cut my losses and walk away and I’ll tell you. In my mind that would make me no better. And I know I am better. I am bigger and better. I am more forgiving, I have the capacity to love above all hurt. I am nothing like them. I believe in second chances, I believe in redemption. I don’t believe in cutting people off and I don’t believe in burning bridges. And I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried so hard to protect myself as well as stay open. And it doesn’t work. It isn’t working.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about taking a time out. Time for me, away from everything. I am tired, no, I am beyond exhausted and soon I will birth another baby who will need everything from me on top of what my other children do. For days I was looking at hotels and saying I was gonna book one. But I didn’t. I tormented myself because I found it more difficult than you can imagine to just do it because it was for me and only me. “It’s too much money. We can’t afford it.” I kept going in circles. “You need this. You need a break. If you don’t do it now it will never happen. But you’ll be lonely. You’ll get depressed. But you’re already depressed.” It was relentless. I sought approval and permission from my husband. Of course when he immediately said “Book it, you deserve this.” I still didn’t do it. After a horrendous half hour one afternoon that had me mopping up a couple of litres of water off the floor, changing a dripping wet toddler and trying to salvage the laundry all the while I had two hungry kids on my hands, dinner was running late, an achy pregnant body and a husband in Korea for a week I finally did it. I booked a hotel. I booked the one I really wanted, the one bedroom apartment in a hotel with a pool. Just for me. And I was immediately struck with guilt. Then a little bit excitement. And then the war began again.
I went to bed that night torn to pieces. I had to face head on why I was struggling so much to just plan a simple weekend away. The first one ever away from my kids. That there was the first hurdle. I’m an attachment parent. It doesn’t feel good or natural for me to leave my children when they are young. And Isis is still a baby in my eyes. Too young to leave. I sleep next to my children every night. It’s where I find my peace and that’s where I belong. But even I have had to admit to myself that I am not being the parent I know I am. They need me to take a time out too. My ghosts came creeping back out. Old ghosts that never stay away long enough to gather dust. Some time long after I went to bed a thought suddenly struck me. It hit me hard, clear as day amongst the raging chaos.
“You are worth loving.”
Suddenly something in me just clicked. Suddenly I realised that I have to close that door and it won’t make me anything like that person. I have to because I am worth loving. I deserve better. And if they really, truly want to know and love me, I am worth breaking down that door for. I am worth fighting for. I am worthy of unconditional love.
I won’t lie. I almost cancelled the whole thing. Because we can’t afford it. But I’ve held on. I’ve had to rationalise it all to myself again and again. My kids deserve this. They deserve a mother who can come back and really be present. Perhaps limping a bit less and most likely with a new spark in her eyes. But most importantly I deserve this. Not only the weekend away, but to walk away from years of emotional abuse. It’s about so much more than sleeping in a different bed for two nights. So. Much. More.
It’s time to admit that it’s ok to start loving yourself. I’m doing it for me and I’m doing it for them. Because nothing and no one matters more than the family I have right here, right now with my husband. I owe it to them and I owe it to me.
And it’s ok to say enough is enough.
Sometimes life throws you a curveball. Sometimes a voice in your head tells you it’s coming even before it’s possible to really know that it is. Sometimes you ignore that voice because you’re not entirely sure you’re ready to hear what it’s saying. But that ball is still soaring through the air headed straight for you. And then it hits.
I could tell you about the doubts, the weighing of options or the long talks. I could tell you about the pure exhaustion and the gut wrenching fear. I could tell you about the paranoia, the chaos or the loneliness. The physical pains, the weight of growing yet another life in an ageing body.
But I’ll tell you about the unconditional love. The quiet excitement, the humble joy I feel for this growing baby. The pride I decide to carry this rounded body with. How i look forward to birthing, to meeting this beautiful, brand new person, to our first touch. But first to cherish these weeks and months ahead. The very last. An unexpected surprise.
Made from love, born into love.
Baby, you are wanted.
I’ve been a bad blogger. I dropped the ball. Not just fumbling at bit, just dropkicked it way out in the bush somewhere, out of sight. Time has kicked my ass the past 17 months. In all honesty life, the universe and everything has kicked me in the teeth the past 17 months but I’m still here trucking away. I’m like that weed you just can’t kill. Unless I self-destruct I seem to be able to survive just about any shit that comes my way. So much has happened. We built a house, we moved to a new city, my husband became a commuter, our son turned into a prepubescent thunderstorm at 4 and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Oh have I got stories for you… Anyway, I’m not here to whine, just yet… I just thought I’d check in just in case you were still there wondering what the hell happened.
So in short, I now have 2 kids at home full-time, a husband I see on the weekends and sometimes briefly at night. (Except the past 1,5 week when he was at home recovering from surgery. It may sound funny but it was a luxury for us to have so much time together.) I’m still trying to run a handmade business on my own, get some form of freelance photography going, navigate and integrate in a new city as well as take care of my little banshees. I’ve been a snot covered, bug infested wreck for the past 3 weeks but if you’re a mum you’ll know that none of that changes anything. You still get up and do the shit that needs to be done you just do it feeling like you have the plague.
And the 52 project? I suppose it’s still going. The photos are there, unprocessed mostly, just waiting for me to sacrifice something else to get to them.
But the new house is great. There’s a huge difference between having a hard time living in a mold infested shithole (no joke) and having a hard time living in a brand new house that’s yours. Somehow the hard times don’t seem as hard. Transitions are always tough. Once it gets better, once we get the hang of this new life, it will no doubt see sunshine it hasn’t seen in a long time. I can be patient. I can hold out.
Pass me a tissue, I’ve got work to do.
A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.
Anakin: Practising your “baddie” face with remnants of Darth Maul face paint.
Isis: Always happiest outside eating sand or dirt.
A portrait series of my children, once a week, every week, for the next year.
Anakin: Those moments when the two of you make each other laugh, when you play together, when you so sweetly tell her “I love You, Isis”. When you hold her hand in the dark at bedtime and whisper “mummy, I’m holding Isis’ hand so she won’t be scared.” Those are moments I live for.
Isis: Those little chubby legs. The roundness still left on the body of a baby. Soon they only be sweet memories. I wish I could bottle you up just like you are right now to savour for later.