As I sat in the chair for my $7.99 Great Clips haircut last night, it hit me.
I didn't really know this for myself until now. And that's because I was in the trenches and I couldn't yet look up from the nursing baby/toddler. I couldn't stop washing diapers long enough to see. I was neck deep in sensory processing research and controlling childhood asthma. I was all mom, all the time. Not for some kind of supermom competition but because that's where I was comfortable. See, if I stayed there, the panic wouldn't come.
For over four years I have given my body, my mind and my heart voluntarily to the two human beings that I grew from scratch. I knew the score before having kids. What I didn't know, though, was just how hard it would be to consider leaving them for even just a few hours, let alone a few days. It took a long time for me to see it. And for others it takes even longer. Some get there right away. All OK. But for me, its in just these last few months that I have started seeing it. And last night in the salon chair at Great Clips it came with crystal clarity. My little individuals needed me as infants, they still do and I know they always will, but the need changes as they grow. For them and also for me. My kids are OK if I leave for a bit.
And now, finally... so am I.
Before this summer, I would experience real panic when away from my kids for more than a few hours. My heart would pound. My thoughts would race. I couldn't focus or be present in whatever activity it was I was doing. I couldn't have fun. I tried so hard to have fun. To let loose. To have ME time. Everyone told me that I needed it. I knew that I did. But I had to force myself to try. I had a pretty decent game face (I was a theater major and all. But I suspect my Laydeez always knew). At gatherings, I was far away in my head. Spacey. Worried. Always thinking. Wondering, Are they, ok? Are they crying? Do they need me? It had me by the throat.
And I thought it would never end.
I worried that there was something wrong with me. I mean, I know full well that I am ten thousand percent empath. Being empathic and being a mother? That my friends is the perfect emotional hell storm. But even still, why couldn't I separate myself from motherhood without turning into a crazy person? Surely, I would go insane if I continued panicking like this. I knew I needed to let go. Ease my vice grip. Breathe in and breathe out. But I couldn't.
Then in January a Radiohead tune made me cry rivers alone in my car. So I took a few baby steps. Then some bigger ones. And then June came along and I went away with my Laydeez for three days and you now what happened? I had fun. The for real and relaxed kind of fun. No fake smiles. No masking the rising strangle-hold of my throat. No fear. It was a frignany miracle for me. And so liberating. And it just happened. It just appeared. It's because I was ready. Plain and simple. There is no forcing "ready". It just has to come organically. And for me, it has.
The light-bulb finally switched to on.
I don't have to separate myself from motherhood. It is a part of me now. A huge part of who I have become. The hugest part, actually. But the rest of me is still here and we all deserve to know that part of me, too. I deserve to be my whole self and my kids deserve to get to know the whole me. How do I teach them to be themselves and embrace their lives unless I show them that I do too?
And it turns out that the summer of 2013 is the time we are all ready for that.
So now I am about to leave them for three days for the second time this summer to head to Chicago for Blogher '13. That is more than I have ever left them combined. I know I will miss them tremendously. And they will miss me too. But I am not fearful to be away from them. I am excited. I am excited to go on an adventure. Sure, I am shaking-in-my-boots terrified to travel alone and nervous that I will get there and none of my clothes will fit but you know what? That has never stopped me before. And I'm not gonna start now. So I got a $7.99 haircut and my nails will be pretty. I borrowed some clothes from my wife. I got some new mousse and a hairbrush. I'm ready. As ready as I'll ever be.
They say over at BlogHer to come to the convention as yourself. Be who you are. Sounds like the best kind of life advice to me.
So that's the plan. I'm going as Colleen- a writer, a mama and a fancy laydee. I'll be nervous and excited and wide-eyed. And I'll try to mask my nerves ineffectively by talking too much. Or too fast. Forgive me in advance, ok? You'll probably find me singing karaoke on Friday night, too. And yes, I would love to sing a duet with you. Oh and I'll probably be wearing sparkle shoes and a tie-dye skirt at some point...so there's that.
I have NO IDEA what to expect or where to go or what to do. But the old me used to just jump right in and roll with it so I'm letting her out to play. Here I come, Chicago. Let's do this. I'm ready. I think.