Last fall I found myself musing about falling in love. I felt it was something I unearthed deep in my heart as I let it flow towards another. I even mentioned this to him, part of my brave badge for the year 2020. But after the soul lesson shine lessened I began to realize the love I felt wasn’t for another, but a conduit I opened up within myself to allow love to flow to, through, out and back around to me. Bathed in love. Basking in love. I felt the shifts needed in myself to keep walking towards my dreams- the ones I hold close to my heart. The ones I was afraid to even utter aloud to myself. I met someone in late 2019 who challenges me to my core. One day in the gym he casually mentioned that I’d never reach my goals if I didn’t push myself. Granted, he meant knowing and feeling the difference from pushing myself in weight lifting versus playing it safe. But I heard him, felt him, deeply.

 

It’s easy to play it safe and comfortable and tell yourself you’re actually going for it. But just like I realized my mistake in how I was feeling toward someone,  I started to see other projects I’d been working on for years fall away. They didn’t measure up anymore. They didn’t feel right. While glimmers surfaced about other, deeper truer more beautiful expressions for me, we fell into a pandemic.

 

In one fell swoop I became a full time single mother, healthcare worker juggling normal work on top of training at the hospital for a surge, and somehow helping my daughter with distance learning. Chores became infinitely more difficult as I was, and still am, continually exhausted. I can’t seem to catch up or rest up.

 

I haven’t been able to do the things I normally do to help. It’s been an unraveling of my life as I built it. I don’t really go anywhere, for safety. I’m stuck at home for all the days. To say it’s been a whirlwind of ups and downs would be an understatement. While I have many things to be thankful for, it’s still been a difficult transition and I allow that grief of the life before to co-exist with the gratitude I have for my daughter and my health, the food in the pantry and the roof over our head.

 

I had become accustomed to my life BC (before COVID): up at 6, breakfast and daily commute, drop my daughter off at school then head to work. Oh, and coffee, always coffee before the day can officially begin. Then it’s a run during lunch, or a Starbucks run, the gym and time with friends or collapsing exhausted on my couch on a Friday night. The weekend chock-full of errands, grocery shopping and meal planning, writing (maybe) and rest.

 

During COVID the coffee and dinner with friends is relegated to FaceTime and to go orders. The sweating it out and connecting with my body in the gym is now home-based workouts that help but aren’t the same. I became a single mother in a moment’s decision figuring out how to work as a busy healthcare worker amidst the pandemic, while helping my daughter with her school, clean our home and make healthy meals.

 

Suffice it to say, I couldn’t juggle it as well as I hoped. But, perhaps, that’s the point. The distilling down of what is truly important. What matters above all else

 

I’ve battled my weight my entire life. From age 8 on I remember feeling chubby, undesirable and ugly. This was mirrored in the taunts from boys at school tandem to freeze outs from the girls my age. I eventually found a rhythm and made life-long friends and settled into my padded body not really looking at the depth of why, but the surface of what I put in my mouth and lengths I’d go to shrink and sweat to exhaustion.

 

I remember the first time I passed out. I was jumping rope in the driveway of my childhood home. Next thing I knew my dad ran out as he heard me hit the ground with a thud. I didn’t know what happened but played it off as “falling”. I didn’t want him to worry. I wasn’t worried just trying to fit a standard that I felt would help every last missing piece of me fall into place. I can look back now, after years of inner work, living and letting go to know so much more matters than simply what I put in my mouth.

 

My body, my being, is a dynamic of systems all designed to work together in harmony.

 

My negative thoughts, my desire to control, my constant focus on every bit of food I ate, weren’t harmony. They were the by-product of looking outside for answers for the “how”.  Somewhere along the way I began distrusting my inner self, my knowing when I’m full, how to move, how to love and how to satisfy my curiosity. I shape shifted to fit into a mold placed upon me from others versus breaking the god damned mold and being who I already am when I let myself be.

 

It’s taken a few decades, but I feel I’m finally there, or at least in a place to understand why I am the way I am, the patterns I’ve reinforced time-after-time in relationships with anything and everything. It all boils down to trust.

 

Do I trust myself?

 

Aka, do I love myself?

 

Love while often given a rose-colored glasses hue, in my experience, is anything but. Sure, love is one of the most life-giving, life-affirming feelings we can access as human beings. But in my experience, when I became a mother, when a fissure split in my heart and I connected in such pure love with the wailing alien like baby, my heart burst.

 

The person I was burst as I made room for this new identity. Sure, it would take years to realize mother wasn’t who I am at my core, but a reflection of relationship for me to learn the magic and power of love. What I view as spirituality.

 

After becoming a mother, I couldn’t breast feed well. For a type A achiever who almost always got A’s, this was earth shattering. Something didn’t go according to plan. I’d cry as I tried to feed my daughter. I blamed her and her lazy eating. Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t produce enough milk, but that wasn’t a failing, that was my body responding to what it could do. The added pressure I placed upon myself, didn’t help. I would pump and pump, drink non-alcoholic beer and drink milk inducing tea. Finally, one day my then husband, pleaded with me to just ease up. That it wasn’t worth the pain. He saw what I was putting myself through and through his love, I was able to relax. A bit.

 

Truth is I was equally enamored and afraid of motherhood.

 

So much is placed on the mother. I remember decidedly having him change my daughter’s first diaper. I was afraid I’d do it wrong. He didn’t know what the hell he was doing, but he did an amazing job and became expert at swaddling her. Wrapping that love baby in a burrito became one of his contributions. I changed her diaper after the oxytocin wore off and epidural analgesia abated. But I had felt my first pang of being a bad mother. I’d wrestle with this when I didn’t produce enough breast milk, when I went back to work full-time—her dad left work to be a stay-at-home dad. That lasted for about 6 months, and I was always jealous that he could do that. As the breadwinner for the family, it wasn’t even an option. I felt betrayed by feminists. I felt I would not feel any sort of confliction in being a mother and working full-time. That’s what they had fought for, right?

 

Even in this system of feminism I had missed the point that feminism isn’t about what works for another, but what works for me. Eventually, I settled into a rhythm with my daughter. I lovingly made all her meals from scratch for the first few years. It wasn’t a burden, it wasn’t riddle with pain, but a joy in making what she would eat. I reconnected with her after about 3 months of wrestling with feeling overly emotional (likely postpartum blues) and not knowing who I was as a mother with this maelstrom of feelings.

 

Yes, you read that right. Emotions and feeling what I truly felt was new for me. So much was new and ushered in the possibilities for change. Fast forward a few years and the idea to write a story came to me. I pushed it down for months telling myself I was a pharmacist, a mother, not a writer. But the idea was insistent and shook me to my core. I won’t go into that more here but it’s what I think of as a spiritual awakening and reckoning.

 

What one is awakening to, many will argue. I’m not here for that argument. The reckoning happens when you sift through all that truly aligns with you versus what doesn’t, and likely, hasn’t.

 

 I will say in my experience I have multiple conflicting truths existing in this human being I call myself.

 

A paradox wrapped in mystery. I grew to know one aspect of myself, beginning seeing the world through my own lens, until it became clouded with the lenses of others. I lost my way, abandoned myself and then found myself at a cross roads with a story about angels leading me out.

 

The moment my pen hit the notebook, I felt different. Similar seismic shifts resonated like when I connected in love and became a mother.

 

There’s a lot to unpack, but when my daughter was two and a half, I told my partner I wanted a divorce. My love for her was what finally gave me the courage to leave an unhealthy marriage.

 

We were not a healthy fit. I can only take accountability for myself, but I was ready to break patterns and cycles.

 

I was ready to make my own choices born from deep inside that shouted, “no, not this!”

 

That’s my understanding of love. The strength and courage to rise up in the face of adversity and be exactly who you are—making choices born from the inside out and unshakable faith that you can trust yourself. Even if you fall. Even if you fail. Even if you stumble. Even if you succeed.

 

Success should be your terms for what truly matters in life. In your life. Not another’s. But yours.

 

You have one blessed sip of life, allow love to flux and flow helping guide you, even amidst the difficult parts.

 

One day while obsessing about what I would eat during this pandemic, home bound, reckoning with life as I had built it since filing for divorce and embarking out on my own to find myself again.. I ruminated about whether or not I should eat jalapeno chips with my turkey sandwich.

 

While my thoughts ping ponged the pros and cons of some chips a small voice inside whispered, “What would love look like?”

 

One small phrase stopped my mental circus and tunneled deep. I knew what love looked like, I’ve looked into her eyes before when I allowed myself to flow in life versus white-knuckle every moment. Tears rimmed my eyes. One sentence and I felt the complete unraveling from depths I didn’t realize were habitable in the human heart.

 

While I left an unhealthy relationship with my marriage, and worked on the one within me that allowed such to flourish in my life rather than allowing my own self flourish, while I had waxed and waned in allowing myself to dabble with what love would look like as it unfolded in my whole life, I knew at that moment I called to really examine my life and allow what love would look like permeate my being. Then, and only then, to move forward, to love forward from there.

 

What would love look like for me?

 

Finishing Glow, the angel novel I began over a decade ago. Sharing my story about how my mind cracked open to possibility when I was given the final nudge towards writing, one of my soul’s form of expression. To help guide others on similar journeys within as they learn to unfold and allow the lives waiting to come to and through them. Teaching the language of soul.

 

More belly laughs, snack plates and jalapeno chips. More hikes, more nature, more skinny dipping. More kissing, more making out, more making love. Opening my heart to romance and intimacy again as I dance my way towards my partner. Loosening my grasp on the known, the tried and true, and opening the sails to charter my own waters through the mystery of the unknown.

 

I know that love trusts myself in all facets of life. That it’s not about perfection or getting it “right” but allowing myself the experiences to learn, grow and unfold into who I already am when I let myself be.

 

What would love look like for you?