As I mentioned in my last post, I recently returned from a weekend retreat. It was my first time being away from my family for an extended period of time since my daughter was born last summer, and it was a deep learning experience for me. I want to share a bit about what I’ve learned in hopes that it may apply to you too!
On the first day of the retreat, I felt extremely lost without my family. I realized how attached I am to them and how much I love them. I also started to really appreciate the sweet, peaceful life I’ve created with my husband and daughter. I started to notice that they have become my safe haven. While these are all wonderful things, it was also a little scary to witness how much I rely on them. It felt extremely foreign to me to be separated from my little family, and the first day I cried many times because I felt so unsettled.
As the retreat went on, I started to get more comfortable being by myself, and began to rediscover parts of me that I had forgotten. I connected with a group of brilliant women and I had plenty of alone time to do yoga, journal, and meditate. I got reacquainted with the goals I have for my life that have nothing to do with my family. And little by little, I started to get to know myself as an individual person, instead of labeling myself as “wife” and “mother”. I started to ask myself who I am aside from the labels I place on myself.
I recently heard an interview with one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon Doyle Melton, who said something like, “Ask a woman who she is, and she’ll tell you who she loves.” I found that so interesting and accurate. As women, it’s very common for us to wear our hearts on our sleeves, and to think of our identities as being intertwined with the roles we play and the people we love. We identify ourselves as being wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters. And while it’s amazing that we have the capacity to love so wholeheartedly, and that our love for others can seem so all encompassing, our identities include all of the labels we wear… but also so much more.
Before I met my husband, I lived alone for the better part of a decade and I considered myself fiercely independent. I had a very active social life, was very outgoing, and thought of myself as the life of the party.
Through the years, I’ve settled down a lot, becoming a quieter, softer woman than I used to be. When I look back on my younger self, it’s hard for me to relate to that person because I’ve changed so much through the years as I’ve devoted myself to being a wife and mother.
Being away from my daily responsibilities for an extended period of time gave me the opportunity to revisit all parts of myself. And I started to wonder what would happen if I started dropping all of the labels I place on myself? What if instead of viewing my younger self as being wild and carefree, and my current self as being older, wiser, and calm, I embraced that these qualities are all parts of me?
I can be independent, even though I am deeply attached to my family.
I can be eccentric, even though I have a conventional lifestyle.
I can be silly, even though I am sensible.
I can be free, even though I am settled.
I can be excitable, even though I am peaceful.
I can be easy going, even though I have responsibilities.
I can be self sufficient, even though I am completely supported.
It is all me. Being a wife and mother does not diminish the other parts of me. They are all still there, hiding underneath the labels, underneath the stories that I tell myself about what a wife and mother should be. There is freedom to be found in my daily routines and responsibilities. I just have to make the space to look for it and cultivate it.
What would happen if we all decided to un-label ourselves, and got curious about the parts of us that are hiding underneath? What if we stopped putting so much pressure on ourselves to act the way we think we are expected to act, and instead allowed ourselves to just be? We are not just one thing. We are many things. Un-label yourself and let all of your innate qualities shine through. They are what make you whole. They are what make you YOU.
Wishing you a week of self discovery.