It would happen almost every month.
“I wish I were someone else,” I’d cry. I wanted to squeeze small enough in my skin that I could be free of being me altogether. My husband would hand me tissues while I explained how I’d never get anywhere, being who I was.
It never lasted long: a day or two later, my hormones would stabilize, and I could go back to being me. But those nights always lingered in the back of my mind. Sure, it happened at that time of the month. But the hormones didn’t create a sense of self-loathing—they just uncovered it.
And so I’d wait uneasily until the next month, knowing I’d ache to shed my personality, my limitations, and my lack of bravery.
At the time, I resigned myself to the monthly crisis. I thought it was inevitable.
But a few weeks ago, I realized something. I haven’t said—or thought—those words in years.
This astonished me. And I wondered: what changed?
This is it: I became a mother.
Sure, as a mother you’re full of love, connected with the circle of life, yadda yadda, yadda. It’s lovely and all, but that’s not what changed me.
Here’s what did: I had no time and less energy.
How did this empower me? Well, at first it didn’t. But after a year of setting aside everything for sleep and diapers, I started doing anything I could to get my sense of self back. I started cooking new recipes. I found great books to dive into. I started writing again, and almost by chance found a group of mothers that were also writers.
I couldn’t do anything just for me for nearly as much time as I wanted, but the little I did achieve was because of consistent, intentional effort on my part. I began to see that the five minutes here and twenty minutes there added up to more than you’d expect. When I finished an essay or made a meal, I felt pride in a real accomplishment.
I also saw that there’s an ebb and flow to life—times when we can accomplish more, and less, and I started learning to accept the time I was in. Acceptance meant I relaxed about what I wasn’t accomplishing because I knew it simply wasn’t possible then. And it meant anticipating a time when I’d have my chance.
About a year ago, I got even more intentional with the practice of squeezing my dreams into small spaces. I focused my blog around little yeses, being a beginner, and pursuing joy in tiny steps.
I made the steps tiny because I’m a mother with two small kids. And also, small steps seemed less scary. I was baby-stepping my way to living abroad for a half-year. I was practicing small bravery with writing and marketing my work. I was scheming ways to break down the things I hoped to accomplish somedayinto tiny yeses I could say today.
Let me be clear: I am far from some of my wildest dreams: from publishing a book, say, or earning a living freelancing. Of homeschooling my kids through high school and having them thank me for it. Of encouraging and serving others.
I am still a beginner in all of those things.
But I’ve accepted being a beginner. I’ve started enjoying it. And that has made all the difference.
As a beginner, I must—by definition–try new things. I take risks, because it’s the only way to move forward. I know I’ll make mistakes. I ask for help, and imitate those who are further along. I’ve started seeing that beginnings are beautiful, full of promise and hope.
Photo courtesy Jusni Nasirun
I’ve started seeing that anyone trying something new is a beginner. No matter how expert they seem.
And I see now that the delight of finishing, of accomplishing, of reaching a goal is lovely—but that the pleasure of starting, of pursuing, of saying yes is—dare I say it?—even better.
I look back on the woman I was eight years ago and feel a tenderness towards her. A sadness that she didn’t know what she was capable of. A pride that she kept moving forward, trying, even when she was blind to her own bravery.
I know I’m not alone in being unable to see my own worth and beauty. In thinking that I’m too far behind to start. It’s a cry I hear everyday from people all around me.
So I’m here to sing out this challenge to you: just for today, let’s accept our limitations for what they are. Accept them, completely, without fear, and take the first steps towards our dreams within their confines. Any first step, believing that it—and we—are enough. Believing that our limitations could change as we test their boundaries. Let’s take the shaking hands and thumping heart we’ve been given and treat them gracefully. Let’s believe that we are beautiful women, capable of our wildest dreams if we move towards them at a slow, slow pace.
You are starting. You are brave. And it is a beautiful sight to behold.