There’s a difference between holding it and holding it together. It’s something I’ve come to know intimately over the past couple of months, as my life has become filled with more than I have the capacity to hold. On the one hand, it’s totally true that what’s being asked of me right now is more than I can hold, and on the other hand, it’s also true that I am continuing to hold it anyway. I can’t hold it all, and yet I need to, and I am learning those two things don’t need to be at odds.
Without going into too much detail, over the last couple of months, I’ve navigated the financial, physical and emotional turmoil of the being suddenly evacuated by the California fires, moving house for myself and my two children out of our home of 7 years, moving in with my partner and the implications of this on our intimate relationship. At the same time, I shepherded my mother through spine surgery, and helped her move twice in less than 3 months. On top of running my own business, and what it takes everyday to parent a 7 and an 11 year old, this has been too much for me to hold. So I am learning to hold it, without holding it together, which so far has meant:
Throughout this time I have shepharded myself, my children and my mother, but it didn’t mean I held it together all the time. Sometimes I lay down on my back on the floor and cried. I have pressed my forehead and my belly to the earth, and just let go. I have asked my partner for more help and support than I am comfortable with, and I have let myself be physically held by him. My children, my partner, my friends and my colleagues have all witnessed me in tears. I have let go of the need to hold myself separate in these ways.
Taking it day by day and moment by moment.
Every day I wake up and I think, what do I truly need to do today? What is the one thing that’s right in front of me that I can manage? Today, I’ll make these phone calls. Tomorrow I’ll do some admin. Right now the garden needs watering. The very next thing is making dinner for the children. While I may have 10 billion things on my running to-do list, I have become a master at doing The One Thing that needs doing. And then moving on to the next thing.
Letting go of Judgment.
I’ve battled my internal fear gremlins about people judging me for not being a good daughter or mother, for not being with my mother all the time and giving my kids more attention, which I cannot do financially, logistically, emotionally or energetically. To admit these limitations is hard. It’s been a beautiful crumbling to honor the things I cannot do and the ways I cannot support my mother, or be everything for my children, because they are true for me, regardless of whether people are judging me (which they probably are not). I had to let go of those judgements of myself. I am taking the best steps I know how and putting my time, attention, resources, and love towards the best things I know how. This is how I can live right now, and I continue to step forward and hold to the best of my capacity even when it’s beyond my capacity.
Asking For Support
The beauty of these moments is they push those of us who have the enormous capacity to hold to our limit and to our breaking point – to allow us to hold without holding it together, and to hit a breaking point without actually breaking. They teach us that we can’t do it alone, that we are incapable of holding everything on our own, because so many of us feel like we can, or should. To not only show up for myself, but my children, and to move through my life in the way I’m committed during this time, has required that I ask for support.
Not only am I asking for help – I have had to be willing to receive it! Part of the journey has been overcoming my habitual deflections to people offering help. I am learning to just to say, “yes, thank you, that would really help.” One of the pieces that’s been particularly hard is with my partner. He just shows up and offers help and it’s very hard to not feel like I owe him something in response. Sometimes, he’ll just bring me breakfast, and of course, I want to support him in return, but to not make it a tit for tat, that because he bought me breakfast, now I need to repay him with dinner, has been a practice. Real relationships happen in reciprocity. The true love that gets to bloom when I just say thank you is wild, generous and untamed, and I’m grateful, which brings me to my next point.
Having Immense Gratitude
There are two older ‘mother’ figures who have shown up for me over the last couple of months and who have offered me the deepest support by doing something very simple: they tell me I’m doing a good job. I didn’t realize how much I needed that, but right now, I really, really need that. To have reflected back, however hard it is and however imperfectly I’m doing it, that I’m doing a good job has been profound. Each time I have heard these words: “You’re doing such a good job” I break down in tears. Being willing to receive it without deflecting, and honoring that I really needed to hear it has also been freeing.
The other piece of immense gratitude I have is for the earth. I’m grateful for having such a deep, lived experience of the mystery of the planet, the creatures, the life the growing here. In these times where there is more to hold than I can hold, I am consistently supported by things like going outside at night and looking at the stars; by the daily visitation of hummingbirds in my front yard; by the moon, in her beautiful waxing and waning. It’s less about making my problems smaller and more about – “here I am” – amid the vast mystery of life on earth and there’s something about being inside it and fully part of it, that gives me courage and strength.