Remember that little ditty from your childhood days? So there I was in the midst of the frantic morning rush to get my two boys to child care and then rush home to start my “work” day and I hear my five year old singing this in the back seat. I pause and then it hits me, “Oh, that’s what happened!”
Seriously. It all made sense to me in that moment. Suddenly, I felt validated and no longer insane. After all, they wrote a song about it at one point in time, so it had to have some kernel of truth, right?
After giving this some more thought, I think I’ve found the kernel of truth (for me, anyway): My head didn’t “pop off” – those of you who know me will attest that it is firmly rooted to my body – but it was replaced by a bigger, much heavier head. It’s not the self-inflated sort of “big head” that comes with the big ego or delusions of grandeur. It’s more like the size has stayed the same, but now it’s filled with a heavier material – a “mommy head” that’s chocked full of those weighty buckwheat hulls, like the soothing microwave bags you buy at new age stores, only minus the soothing.
The result? I realize that I’m responsible for carrying a lot more weight with this heavy head. No wonder the notion of achieving “balance” in my life continues to be so elusive; my equilibrium has been forever altered. Don’t get me wrong. I love all that in my life that has caused my “mommy head”, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I just feel validated now. Like I can give up the fight to return to “normal”. As my dear friends put so aptly after making their way through the countless emotions, tests, and treatments when they learned their five year old daughter had leukemia, there is a “new normal”.
What this little ditty my son so graciously brought back into my life also reminded me was to not take myself so seriously. Indeed, the very notion of my “head popping off” made me howl with laughter when it hit home with me. The gift of this realization invited me to throw up my hands and recognize the fact that I can’t do it all (perfectly, no less) and have it all (immediately, no less). I must choose, be clear what I want and learn how to say no.
Whether or not I give myself credit for it, I have been doing just that. I have consciously chosen not to write in my blog for the summer (feverishly sweeping aside well meaning comments reminding me, “Lael, you haven’t written anything since May 31st!!!?”). I also have chosen to loosen the boundaries on my work, allowing myself to make some much needed calls on my “home” days while I’m playing with my boys (again, fervently battling the feelings of guilt, “if I die tomorrow, will my youngest son think this phone is actually part of my head?”).
So now I move forward, as we all ultimately do. To my “new normal”. I’m learning to say no with more confidence. I’m learning to lower my standards a wee bit and to manage the distractions that inevitably come-a-callin’ when I’m trying to focus.
And here’s the cool part: I’m not alone. One of the benefits of coaching and consulting with primarily women and women’s businesses is that I get lots of insight into their lives and their experiences. I also am affiliated with a number of women’s organizations and am running a women’s retreat this October so I get to come into contact with and hear from amazing women all the time! I hear their stories and I see my own reflected in them. In those instances, I get the validation I am longing for: I am not alone.
When my head popped off last week (one of the three times…), I serendipitously had a friend come over. I recounted to her my story of the week: accidentally assaulting another car (turned out it wasn’t mine – oops!) when my key failed to unlock it. All the while, I was holding a baby, gripping the hand of my five year old in this busy parking lot, and answering a call on my cell. By the time I had relayed the story, we both had tears in our eyes from laughing so hard at this absurd and outlandish tale that was my life
Another time, a neighbor overheard me “holding the line” with my five year old at breakfast during an incident which has come to be known as the “yogurt standoff”. I was beating myself up about how I handled it when I got a call. She quite simply said, “I just want to let you know, I heard how you handled that this morning and I think you’re a good mom”. Needless to say, I sobbed with relief. Validation.
Here’s what’s been born out of this realization: an unwavering commitment to gather women for just this purpose. To sit in circles and tell our stories and have ours reflected back to us. To laugh, to cry and to be validated. Sometimes, it feels as simple as getting your parking garage ticket validated by a local vendor – you’re looking for the stamp to get you out for free. Some days, I hear myself cry out, “stamp me, sistah”; “tell me I’m not crazy and I’ll tell it right back to you.” It’s on those days I am reminded that no matter how far fetched or unique our circumstances, there will always be another woman in the crowd who will say, “I hear you. You are not alone. I get you.” And then you breathe and begin anew.