My soul was itchy.
When I think about what started my Year of Radical Wellness, that’s the best way I can describe it. There was nothing “wrong” per se. But just because nothing is wrong doesn’t mean there isn’t a different place to be.
I spent 7 years as a full-time stay at home mom with some part time self-expressions. Some activities or commitments started as self expressions and as my life and responsibilities changed, they felt more like burdens. At some point along the way I gave myself permission to let go of those things that didn’t serve me, so I could focus on those that did.
Over the last 2 years I’ve been shifting into part-time stay at home mom mode, re-entering the “outside of the home” work force, sending my youngest son off to preschool. Engaging in this process has been like finding a favorite pair of jeans from long ago. I love them, but they don’t fit. Or maybe they fit, but they don’t really look that good because after birthing two children my body has changed shape. Getting rid of them just doesn’t feel right because I REALLY loved them once, they were my favorite jeans, I wore them for many important (and not so important) milestones. But yet…they don’t work for me anymore, I don’t feel good about myself when I put them on, and let’s face it, life is different now. What am I trying to hold onto?
Going back to work after seven full years at home was kind of a big deal. The last time I worked in an office was in San Diego in 2006, the 2nd of two jobs I held in the mortgage business. You can imagine how that was going–in 2006 in Southern California, it was a good time to get out. I had never clocked in anywhere since I took on the responsibility of having children, and most of my post-college working life was spent in a climate where it didn’t snow. So many changes to adjust to!
As scary as it was to figure out what to do and where to work, being out of the game for so long came with its own blessings. I understood myself better than I did before I had children. I knew I wanted to spend my time somewhere that I could make a difference in the world. Although I was unclear about many aspects of the job I wanted to take, I was very clear about my need for flexibility and the ability to work for a company that supported my need to put my family first. I spent some time journaling and “creating” my job in my mind and on paper, and then I went looking. I was fortunate to have a friend who enthusiastically recommended me to his company, and they became my first employer in seven years. It was rocky at times, and uncomfortable. It took me a few re-workings to create a schedule that worked for all of us and didn’t make Jerry want to punch holes in the wall. I questioned my purpose there, created a purpose for myself, and when I felt I had fulfilled upon that purpose, I knew it was time to move on.
How did I know? Well, my soul got itchy. As Maya Angelou so eloquently said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” In the early years of my children’s lives, I gave myself permission to focus on the task at hand, to allow raising my kids to be my number one priority. I pushed non-essential activities aside and cut myself some slack. I tried to be at peace with the mantra “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once.” These adjustments came with their own learning curve and bouts of discomfort, and things sometimes unfolded in a way that I didn’t plan for or expect, but I knew that I would never regret those early years spent nurturing and raising my children…even if I sometimes felt like I needed a cocktail before noon, or like I couldn’t possibly push Percy around the track ONE. MORE. TIME.
As I tried on the role of “Danielle, working mother” I was both excited and nervous. I knew in my gut that I needed to be back out in the world, I needed an outside perspective on the skills I had developed and honed over my years at home. It’s easy to lose perspective on our skill set when we spend our days generating structure and scheduling activities for the discerning taste of two children under the age of five. But, just like those jeans I loved pre-pregnancy…how would everything fit? Would I still be able to rock them? Or would I find that, just like my jeans, life was different now and things didn’t quite work the same?
As it turns out, both statements are true. My years of creating a peaceful and structured home did translate into real skills in the marketplace. It felt good to have outside adults appreciate what I brought to the table. And yet, that could only take me so far. My inner story still had yet to be told. It would wait for me to get some external validation, enough to make me appreciate what I had been creating over my years at home and to see that the qualities I took for granted in myself were the very qualities I would use to make the difference I yearned to make in the world. Once I had fulfilled upon my purpose at my chosen job, that’s when I started to get uncomfortable. I could ease the discomfort with some well-placed wine and chocolate, but I’ve spent too many years cultivating my intuition to ignore it for long. And so I wrote. And when I wrote, it became clear to me…the time had come to start telling my story.
How do we do that? How do we connect to that which is our unique gift and purpose on this planet? What steps do we take? For me, it became about DOING more stuff that allowed me to BE. I believe the soul lives in the plane of being. The soul is not out on a Friday night, throwing back shots of peppermint schnapps and hitting on the bouncer, although I’m certain that my soul played a part in my body going out to do that; 17+ years later, the bouncer and I are still going strong. The soul is present in the quiet moments, in the times of reflection, self-awareness and peace. I’m a “do-er” by nature, and being still has never come easy for me. Fortunately, in my experience, those deep soul connections don’t need to take a lot of time out of our lives to be able to make a huge impact. I’ve been able to create a pretty fantastic life with spotty attempts at meditation and sporadic attention to harnessing the creative power of the Universe. Walking through this Year of Radical Wellness, I’ve become more aware of my actions, of my daily activities, and how they add up to the life that I’m creating. Through this awareness, I’ve also become aware of my penchant for “doing” and although that can be useful in many situations, I was clear that it wouldn’t help me to BE a more authentic version of myself. So I focused on DOING things that would let me BE. Here are the activities that allow me to be: cultivating my self-expression through writing; dancing to music that moves me; practicing Bikram yoga; and listening to guided meditations. As we enter the fullness of the holiday season, I know I can find peace through connecting with friends, cuddling with my cat, preparing healthy food to share, and spending time in nature. By choosing the right activities, I can honor my body’s need for doing as a way to access my soul’s need to be.
Just last week I came across those favorite jeans from so long ago. I pulled them out of a bag headed for the consignment shop (where they’ve been for about 3 years–clearly not one of my strengths). For the first time in 8 years they actually fit me, better than many of the pants in my closet do at the moment. BUT…. But. Life is different now. I’m different. Just because those jeans fit doesn’t mean I’ll choose to wear them. Just because a path is familiar doesn’t mean we have to keep walking down it.
May the completion of 2015 bring you peace, joy, an understanding of what makes your soul itch, and the strength to forge a new path.