In Pursuit of Joy

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As of late I have been feeling…unmoored. If I’m being honest, it’s been longer than that, but the past month has sort of frayed the rope with which I was bound (although at times tentatively) to my deep belief that things will just work out.  There are so many horrible things going on in the world to fear- war, guns, climate change, never-ending COVID, sexism, racism, astronomical gas prices and supply chain crises, the demise of a somewhat decent society (and certainly government).  And this would be enough to drive anyone mad with worry and pessimism. But for women and mothers, I think we feel this doubly.  And for those of us with anxiety? It’s just TOO much- truly and deeply.

IT’S. TOO. DAMN. MUCH.

It’s exhausting to think about what we have to do to fix this (all the things??), and if a fix is even possible. I for one am so irate about the gun issue after the Ulvade shooting (and all the other shootings), and have tried to throw what energy and voice I have behind the cause because, in my opinion, it’s my duty to do so as a “public figure”. And while it feels really good to make an impact through donations and fundraising, events and making calls- it’s also a lot to take on as a person, a mother and a boss. And I for one, am already full to the brim with responsibilities, pressure and unchecked to do lists. My cup is actively running over.  And it’s not just time wise- it’s also emotionally and mentally.  I think we’re probably all on the brink of a national burnout.  I know I am (and I am quite privileged on many fronts, so I know it’s much worse for so many).

For me, the combination of motherhood, marriage, work and the world has left very little breathing room in my life at a time when I really need to take a breath. I’ve been talking to my therapist a lot lately, as these feelings have intensified, and while our 40’s is an amazing time to be a woman, it’s also a time of a lot of change, self-awakening and coming to grips with what you want (or for some, figuring out what exactly it IS you want to begin with). But it’s hard to do that when you feel like the world is imploding around you and you don’t have time to fully fold ALL your laundry never mind decipher your life goals. It’s a bit easier to stuff it down, walk away and say “another day” or “another year”. But as we’ve seen so acutely in recent weeks, those years aren’t a guarantee.

It’s also hard to feel such self-reflection is justified during such hard times- it’s feels indulgent and selfish.  As women I think we are taught that our whole lives- we should put others first, always, as dutiful daughters, giving mothers and non-threatening co-workers and bosses. I for one, am a brutal “people pleaser”. I’ve been that way my whole life- always chasing approval of others and basing all my self-worth on what others think of me, outside applause and accountable achievements. While my work ethic and desire to please has made me successful, it also has made me unable to see and enjoy that success. A double edged sword, if you will. I honestly didn’t know there was any other way of going through life than to be constantly chasing someone else’s definition of perfection. And while I have certainly done some things for myself and created an amazing life that is wildly beyond anything I could have ever imagined, most of my choices were made”under the influence” in one way or another. And this realization has rocked me a bit.

This is the first time I’ve had the headspace to reckon with this behavior now that I’m done with child bearing. The 7-8 years I spent going through fertility treatments (3 rounds of IVF, 8 pregnancies, 6 losses, 2 full term births and post-partum depression) did more of a number on me than I realized. But I am finally at a place where I can start to focus on me and sift through what I’ve been through. And that’s not to say I have not been wildly selfish about some things, I have, without argument. But the overarching theme of my existence has been pleasing everyone else. Even you- complete strangers on the internet- I’ve craved your approval more than my own.  I never really have asked  myself “what will make ME deeply happy” because honestly, I don’t think I have any idea. I’m not entirely sure I know how to be happy. And if there is one thing I want to teach my kids, it’s how to be HAPPY. Because without it, the rest is kind of pointless.

So this summer, my goal (beyond getting common sense gun laws passed -DUH) is to take a breather.  Sit with myself, not in pursuit of anything but the truth about what I really want in this life, both big picture and small. I miss a lot of the little things by being to focused on the “big things”- and I think the little things is where the magic is at. In order to do that, I need to feel the ability to step away from work here and there. I’m talking taking a day off every couple weeks this summer with no agenda other than doing whatever it is that will make me feel restored (not like a sabbatical or anything)!  To do that I’m doing all the “yucky” work I tend to avoid which is a deep dive into the financials, operations and assessing how to best move forward with my business in a way that can allow me to do more of what I love and less of the stuff that is not a good use of my time. I really hate talking about money, but I have to put on my business owner pants and deal with it. The only way out is through.

The other thing I have to work on is feeling less guilt. About things I’m not doing and doing. Guilt ruins everything- if I take some time off, I should ENJOY it, not fret it away by feeling BAD that I’m not working 24/7 (which you pretty much have to do when you run a business/ brand with your name on it). And the mom guilt- oh it’s a doozy! Yes, maybe I missed Field Day last week at Henry’s School- but my job is allowing me to take him to a really special night at Fenway Park next month for his first Red Sox game in style! No, I can’t take Emma to music class every week, but I sure can model what a hard working woman can accomplish.  Letting go of what I think my life “should” look like or be is the ultimate goal here. For me and for those around me. I’m of no use to anyone who counts on me if I’m drowning. And I’m not performing at MY personal best if I’m constantly comparing myself to everyone else and trying to find joy in what brings THEM joy instead of defining it for myself . So turning my gaze inward is actually less selfish than it may seem.

Basically it comes down to making room for more “fun” and enjoying the hell out of this one life I have.  Creating clear definitions of what I have to do but leave room for things I WANT to do too- on all fronts. I’ve always been super responsible (fine- some would say “uptight” LOL) and now, at almost 43 I want to be more fun. More joyful. More open to things. I feel younger and better than I have in a decade- I feel like it’s TIME. Even though the world is literally imploding and everything is scary and sad…

Because if not now, when?

P.S. Also, if you are feeling like I am, I highly recommend listening to Glennon Doyle’s podcast about “Overwhelm”

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