A little while ago, I woke up with a heavy heart. Everyone was still asleep. I laid there in the quiet, in bed, noticing what was on my heart. Tears started to well up: I had touched a tender, sad place within me. There’s a reality to motherhood that I haven’t gotten used to, and today I was feeling it.
My husband, Brian, was still asleep lying next to me. He is an incredible human being. And those of you who know him know what a kind and loving person he is. And yet there are times when I’ve pulled away and go at it alone. But this morning, I chose to watch him sleeping for a few moments, looking at his side profile, watching his chest and belly rise and fall as he breathed. Though I am usually up before him, I hadn’t just laid there next to him for a long time, admiring who he is, who WE are together.
Usually I get up and go downstairs. I have my own quiet time and I write. I feed the dog. I start to respond to emails.
Today I just lingered.
I started crying – a lot. I let the tears flow. For many years, I would’ve gone downstairs, I would have held it alone – by myself.
But I’m practicing something different now. There’s a new invitation growing within me. I have spent many years (decades) cultivating the inner “ability” to “sit with” what is arising within me – by myself, in my own mind/heart/energy – sometimes with the support of a teacher, guide, and healer. Through meditation and prayer, through my deep studies of mindfulness and compassion, I have honed the ability (and yet I am always, always learning) to “be with” the thoughts, sensations, and emotions within me in a skillful way. While I am always a “student” of meditation and how to traverse my own inner landscape, these days I am being called to something else now:
– Reaching out.
– Being in that uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability when you shyly knock at the door of someone’s attention and you ask, “Would you listen to me?” or “Would you see me and hear me out?” or “Would you hold space for me?” When we don’t know what we are feeling, when we are a mess, when we are right in the thick of uncertainty and raw vulnerability, when we feel naked and exposed – asking someone to be alongside us.
– Letting others accompany us. Letting others into the uncomfortable, messy, tender places within us.
– Risking being needy or appearing “not all together” and “imperfect.”
– And…letting love in.
Yes, reaching out to ask for the hand of another to be alongside us and LET LOVE IN. That’s been my “Word for the Year” – let love in.
Even just a year ago, I would’ve gone downstairs and “sat with” what I was feeling alone. And while there is a time for that and it’s an incredible ability to hone, there is also a time for us to reach out, to ask, and to let love in.
Reach out. Ask. Let love in.
There’s a time to learn how to “be with” what is arising within our own selves. There’s a time for inner solitude.
But there can come a time when “alone” translates into “lonely” and “solitude” becomes “being too alone.” And we need to reach out, ask to be with others, and let love in.
Most of us aren’t that great at reaching out, asking, and letting love in. I talk to clients – men and women – who tell me every week how tender and hard it is to “reach out”, to name what we need, to ask very specifically for what we need IN OUR MOST VULNERABLE STATE when our hearts are raw and open, and to LET OTHERS LOVE US.
We WANT to reach out, to ask, and let love in. But we’re afraid. And fear can be incredibly powerful. Yet the Holy Longing of our souls won’t stop nudging us in the direction of wholeness.
A year ago, I might have gotten up by myself, held alone what I was feeling, and mentioned something to Brian a bit later. I definitely wouldn’t have reached out to a friend. The feeling inside me was too raw and not something I could easily put into words.
But holding it all alone isn’t the skill I need to hone now. It’s not the experience I need to have right now.
What calls to me is to REACH OUT, ASK, AND LET LOVE IN.
So I laid there and then whispered to Brian, “Brian, I’m sad this morning.” Half awake, half asleep now, Brian moved closer to me and put his arms around me.
“Tell me about it,” he said.
Instantly I began to softly cry. When someone holds you and invites you to TELL THEM ABOUT IT — this is the beginning of a homecoming.
“There’s one thing in motherhood that I just can’t get used to,” I said. He knew what I was going to say. We’ve talked about it before. But this morning, it was hitting me hard.
“I go at it alone most of the day. I feel alone,” I told him. He knows that this North American culture of parenting doesn’t really resonate with me. As a culture, we all live in our own houses, we work long hours, many of us commute, we have busy schedules, and we are mostly going about our day by ourselves. Yes, we might have work companions. Yes, if we are home working we might see another mom for coffee or a playdate. But this isn’t REALLY how I want to live. I can DEAL with it, but it’s not how my soul knows it could be. I have always had a vision of going about the day with other women — not just seeing each other for an hour or so once a week. Not just seeing each other at drop-off and pick-up from school. Not just while our kiddos are in activities. I’m talking on a daily basis we work, cook, parent, etc. together. It’s an ache in me that my soul just won’t get used to. I’ve definitely made the best of it, but when it comes down to it, parenting in this culture can be isolating and lonely.
How many of us have had other women around us for several months after our babies are born? The reality is that many new mothers “go at it alone.” They have to figure it out on their own. Folks come to visit and can stay for a bit. But within a few WEEKS, dad is back at work and mom is home alone. We can DEAL — and we have survived. But it’s not the way we THRIVE.
A few weeks ago, I was being interviewed for a podcast on parenting. It was such a lovely time talking that we didn’t get to one of the questions that we had originally thought we’d talk about: my biggest challenge in motherhood.
I think I secretly didn’t want to admit my biggest challenge quite then: isolation and loneliness.
I believe there is a memory we carry within our DNA of how it was to have other women gathering together on a daily basis. Our harsh current reality has created harshness in moms. I see it. I hear about in counseling and coaching. Like Brene Brown says, “We believe we have to do it all, do it all perfect, and make it look effortless.” Such “going at it alone” goes against our nature. And when we “go against our nature,” we become harsh, controlling, angry and…bitter.
I hear the resentment. I hear the rage. I hear the self-blame. That’s what isolation and loneliness do to a person. It’s not YOU, dear heart, I often tell clients. It’s our messed up culture. There’s nothing wrong with YOU. What we each must do is learn to LOVE ourselves enough to see that we can’t do this alone.
Brian listened and we talked about ways, once again, to see more people. I was glad that I didn’t hold this alone, that I gently woke him up, and that I let love in.
But as we rolled out of bed, I looked at my phone. I had the desire to reach out to one of my dear girlfriends in Boston. I started typing out a long text. I wasn’t going to beat around the bush. I wasn’t going to let the fear of appearing needy or “not all together” stop me. My heart was aching. I wasn’t going to define “being strong” with “going at it alone” and not reaching out. I typed out the text.
“M., I am alone most of the day. And today, I feel really lonely.” I went on to tell her how my heart is aching this morning – just tired from the harsh reality of motherhood right now. She knows that when we moved to our new town 11 years ago it was tough for us. She knows that I have many dear friends here now but she also knows that I struggle with the busyness of everyone’s lives and how little “togetherness” and accompaniment I have with other women on a daily basis. But I still hesitated pushing “send.”
And then I started really crying. I had a choice: would I continue to “go at it alone” or would I risk vulnerability and press “send”?
I pressed send. And I didn’t regret it.
There is a freedom in choosing vulnerability. There is a freedom in speaking our truth. There is a freedom in REACHING OUT, ASKING, and LETTING LOVE IN.
My girlfriend’s response was soooo incredibly beautiful. We went back and forth about how our world seems harsher and more isolating these days.
She SAW me. She wasn’t trying to fix it. She was accompanying me. She was resonating with me.
One line she wrote made my heart burst wide open and reassured me that, yes, risking vulnerability to REACH OUT, ASK, and LET LOVE IN was worth it. She wrote, “This life is hard – we have to do it together.”
This life is hard – we have to do it together.
Glennon of Momastery calls it “Sistering” each other. Yes. Sistering each other. Being alongside each other. Risking vulnerability to reach out. Ask. Let love in.
And when we do it together, we are more resourced. We are happier. We are connected to our true nature. Our cups are fuller. And we have more to offer our dear ones and this world.
This is the invitation I am called to respond to right now in my life.
The isolation in our culture is harsh. It’s not right. The disconnect wears on our souls. The isolation and disconnect of our current culture breed “going at it alone”, NOT asking, and pushing love away. And this creates harshness, anger, meanness, and bitterness.
I’m not living like that. And I bet something holy within you doesn’t want to live with harshness, anger, trying to control everything, and feeling like you could turn bitter.
The invitation of my Soul right now is to risk vulnerability, to reach out, ask, and let love in. And then to let that abundance of love flow into our world.
Dear Ones, we are often really great at “going at it alone.” We are quite capable, intelligent and resourceful. But I believe we weren’t meant to “go at it alone” how we are right now in our culture. Isolation is a form of torture.
Life is hard – we have to do it together.
And that means risking vulnerability. That means reaching out. That means asking. That means letting love in.
THIS is the kind of “revolution” we need right now.
My tiny way of revolutionizing motherhood is through writing my truths and sharing them here. My tiny way of revolutionizing motherhood is accompanying women in coaching and counseling with a posture of “I see you” and “I am alongside you.” My tiny way of revolutionizing motherhood is practicing a radical self-compassion and learning to reach out, ask for others to hold space for me, and let love in. And in doing so, I hope that others see how the harsh, isolating reality of our culture shifts through vulnerability, presence, and going at this TOGETHER.
Sisters, I am betting that something Holy within you feels the call to risk vulnerability. Something Holy within you knows that we are to be in this together – alongside other women in deep and tender and messy ways. Something Holy within you wants to say, “I feel so f-ing alone! This is not right!” And wants to let love in – in abundance.
Here’s to ALL OF US risking it. Here’s to all of us revolutionizing how we go about motherhood. Here’s to all the ways, together, we can change this culture from one of isolation and harshness to one of togetherness and compassion.
Dear Ones, At the start of every new year, a word or phrase comes to me to be my “word for the year.” For 2016, I didn’t publicly share my “phrase.” I needed to hold it close to me until it was time. Over this past winter, I created this card. The watercolor background in all my cards is mine. My daughter and I sit and paint together to create these lovely gems. I put this one up in our kitchen in my counseling space at home as a reminder to risk vulnerability, to reach out, to ask, and to let others love me.
Today I want to share it with you. If this resonates with you, you can find it in my shop. It’s blank inside. We’ve lost the practice of writing a handwritten note and then sending it IN THE MAIL to a dear one. Try it!
And Friends, recently when I saw one of the practitioners I go to, I said to her, “There’s only so much I can do alone” (meaning the healing practices we both know so well). She said to me, “Lis, we aren’t meant to this work alone.” No, no we aren’t, friends. The kind of coaching and counseling I do is all about accompaniment. You don’t have to “do this work alone.” The work of motherhood the work of creating space for wounds to heal, the space for allowing your creativity to flow. Check out my services. I am here for you.Blessings,