I have started new phases, be it middle age, time to focus on myself for the first time in twenty years, both, but I am growing into myself.
I still bicker when I feel I must speak up, but I feel I don’t actually care. Not usually. I muster some semblance of non-passivity but more & more, I just don’t care. Having come from a long line of the strongly opinionated, this is new. I like to pretend I care, but frankly, I don’t feel this pressing need to have my opinion validated, or to argue yours, or theirs. I’m still trying to care, because I was some how once taught my opinion mattered, and must be heard. But, I don’t feel that way these days. I feel like I force myself to express in certain instances but mostly, my opinion is becoming just that, another random unimportant thought that passes by and no one cares for it other than myself. So, who cares. Why share it. I can’t think of one reason to share it usually. I don’t feel defensive. I don’t feel there is some war of ideas that must be fought. Nope. It’s all pointless. I have my views and beliefs as strongly as ever, don’t get me wrong, perhaps stronger than ever. I continue to add and form new ones. I believe I am correct in them. I’m not really able to form uneducated opinions. I research. I am severely introspective. Always was. I have a high, truthfully too high, degree of empathy. I literally experience pain when other people show me their wounds or tell me their tales of injury. Literal pain. Emotionally, I’ve had to learn to turn this down several notches out of pure survival. It’s been a very excruciating thing all my life and now, finally I’m becoming more able to regulate empathy quite intentionally. To hand it out a little more discretionally. Not very many people earn or deserve your empathy. Many people do not feel pain when I speak of mine, tho I confess, I choose not to speak of it, and so, I’ve become an empathy miser. Seriously, years upon years of shutting this side of myself down and hardening my actual internal self so as to not experience this to that overwhelming degree is a self discipline. It effected everything—my health, my moods, my ability to not be over anxious. It was shutting me down and worrying me unnecessarily. Guaranteed, other people were not losing sleep thinking of me. So it was a silly over drive issue that needed to be geared down. I feel it is more balanced now for the first time ever.
I feel I have the right to not be everyone’s perfect idea of what is, a mom; a wife; a sister; a sister in law; a daughter; a woman. I have the right to stop worrying that I’m not a great cook, or housekeeper. I’m just me. I’m not a slob. I try but I will not sacrifice who I am to be ‘your’ ideal of a good woman, whoever you are.
I am slowly awakening after years of very thick murky trenches of motherhood. People think they understand this; most don’t. Most have not just emerged from nearly twenty years of preschooler parenting. Preschooler stay at home parenting is isolation. I could go many weeks without leaving my house. Sometimes days without talking to adults for more than a few moments. Blips of basic adult human interaction. My life literally for years was servitude. I did not have the luxury of leaving it behind and having a break until five years ago, I took my first ever four day break from my kids. Since then, I’ve squeezed in five more breaks from my kids. None more than a week. In twenty years of parenting. For some people that might be a ton. But for me, I am someone who always needed alone time to get my head straight, this has taken a toll. Kids are beyond demanding and exhausting and I’ve always believed you need to give it all you’ve got. Especially before the school years take hold. I love them like crazy and once they are at school they aren’t quite as much yours. Anyways. These days, I feel a different human emerging out of my mothershell (read that as you will).
Once upon a time I did cross country running. I was strong and farm wiry. I was bold, talkative & social, imaginative, inquisitive, confident, in down times, independent, alone, introspective, pensive. I never had issues with either solo or group activity. I loved being with my friends, loved it. But I also often went to afternoon matinees by myself, comfortably. It was one of my favourite things to do. I suppose that was before Netflix. But I enjoyed time in a group and alone equally.
When you parent in the stay at home capacity, you are never alone but it is crushingly lonely. Truthfully. It is grueling. Some of my kids didn’t sleep through the night until they were four. It was years of painful emotional and mental fatigue. My brain felt like it had become like my body, a mushy piece of bread that was ready to fall apart. My emotions felt raw and neglected. My internal everything was sapped beyond sapping. Everything I once was, was lost and had been sacrificed for the care of my children. Everything beyond ‘mom’ was gone. Truly gone.
These few months since my youngest has started gr 1 have been a slow emergence of myself. I still do a ton for my older kids and actually really look forward to the two oldest growing even more independent of my help. They are getting there. Tho they are 18 & 19, they are young in many ways. I’ve over parented I suppose. Plus they get the advantage of my cooking and whatnot that the younger ones may not get as much of by that age. Anyone with a large family gets what I mean. You have to do certain things for the younger ones, so the older ones are still, even if residually, gleaning excessive parenting, and you’re pushing them out of the nest a little but not too forcefully because you’re still full blown parent to the littler ones. Anyways. With so many kids, parenting is still very much a full time job.
One thing I’ve learned I’ve really needed for my mental and emotional health has been the working out. It has exponentially helped my physical self, my whole self is so much stronger I am blown away in unexpected moments by it. The other day, Costco shopping, for seven, it’s a full cart, trust me—and it was a breeze physically. My body is coming back alive. I don’t think I realized how dead it was. I’ve never been a really chunky build but I was getting pretty squishy for me. Lately tho, I’m not so squishy, and I’m not prone to showing myself off at all, but seriously, I have muscles! This is actually super exciting for me after feeling so weak, especially since my fourth. They do say after age forty your body begins to lose muscle mass quite drastically too. So I felt so weak.
I’m still continuing with Barre class, have begun a weight lifting class, doing running/ walking on the track & as of today am beginning one more lower body workout class, all three have a strong lower body components. I really have needed the strengthening for my hip health but I’m enjoying just feeling strong and flexible for the things I do everyday—honestly, everything in daily life is less difficult, even laundry, but certainly, just walking, stairs, bending down, lifting stuff, all of it.
But the mental benefit too and how feeling stronger makes me feel happier; less pain in the hips too means less snappiness, I’m like an old dog some days; plus the ‘alone’ time on the track, why do I love that so much—me, my music, my footfalls, my breath—it isn’t quiet or alone but it is so alone & so zoned out of the things around me, it is so internally quiet. I need that.
I am asking: who is this person, every time I get into my workout clothes and excitedly head to the gym. I can’t believe I’m sweating and pushing my body to do one more shaky rep. I can’t believe I’m smiling and out of breath and exhausted and pushing more. Every time I step out of an argument because I realize i just don’t care I wonder who I’m becoming. Every time I tell my kids to get it themselves, do it themselves, or I just refuse to be too attentive to them, because it isn’t helping them anymore, I am asking, who is this person? Don’t get me wrong, I feel guilty for letting them take over when I could be doing it (whatever of the many ‘its’ this may be) but I’m forcing myself to be stronger and then to be stronger. Why the guilt of motherhood. Why?!
But yes. I’m trying very hard to focus on me. Selfish as that even feels to type. I’m trying, for them and myself, to focus on me. They will hopefully have me around longer, healthier, stronger, more even tempered. It’s a win/win. I have the time now to establish new habits and work towards new goals and get set towards new and different things. I still have no idea where this all is actually going, but I have faith that time answers most questions.
For now, getting healthier emotionally, mentally, & physically is necessary to tackle the next phase of my life, whatever that may be.