I am a writer, mama, bookaholic, and reluctant sailor who traded in motorcycle adventures for mommy adventures on the open seas.
Although I was not born free of the cage, I have always had a natural inclination to fight it. I was lucky enough to take to heart what my mother always said about jumping off a cliff if all my friends did so. It made me question groupthink from the beginning. That and having been bitten by the travel bug early in life meant I often chose the open road and adventure over more conventional paths of what most would term adulthood “success.” It helped me buck convention as I was exposed to so many cultures where the convention was always something else.
This is not me being smug about seeing my cage from an early age. As they say, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Or in my case, the freer they are the more trapped they become. I was one year into my self-publishing career when I simultaneously became a new mom and a start-up widow in a country with no family on either side to help.
Here is the thing about freedom thieves: they are insidious. They coil around the bars in our mind and have us convinced that they are the only thing standing between us and a certain slow, torturous death. Who wouldn’t believe the voice keeping them from a painful (and often public) death right? Before babies and sailboats, my preferred mode of travel was by motorcycle. I crashed three times in three different countries (Turkey, Iceland and Mongolia respectively.) You can even read about it here if you are so inclined: Arguments With Gravity.
Yet, all my sense of adventure vanished once I became a mother. I felt like I had my knees knocked out from under me. My bravery evaporated. Never in my life have I ever felt such overwhelming love and such helplessness. I could crash my motorcycle in the middle of nowhere Mongolia and get back on to ride into Russia. But when it came to my babies I will confess that I felt lost and incompetent. Everything I did wasn’t right or enough. It also took me a very long time to see I had allowed myself to fall into a locked cage.
2017 was the year the universe told me I could no longer hang out on the sidelines anymore.
It forced me into what I now call my Messy Middle.
If you don’t know the term, the Messy Middle is life.
The hard parts.
The not shiny parts.
And at its most intense you are on your knees unsure if you’ll ever get back up because your bones have liquefied.
You believe you’re not strong enough. How can you be when you are in fact drowning in what is your life.
This, my friend, is the caterpillar to butterfly phase.
Everyone loves to talk about that transformation. They focus on how the caterpillar can change to butterfly while completely ignoring that vitally important cocoon phase.
And maybe it’s due to its hidden nature we don’t want to share.
The truth is that inside that cocoon you are a dissolved goo. Breathing hurts.
You have been betrayed or perhaps you are the betrayer. No matter which way you look the only thing you are sure of is that there is no right way. Just dark corner after dark corner.
You can not stay where you are and yet you also feel like you can not move forward.
The thing that I was ignoring in my messy middle, just like my many attempts at diets in this lifetime, was that surface-level changes don’t create the lasting change I craved. That came from doing the grittier foundational work. The kind I’d rather hoped to ignore. But then and only then, could all the systems I craved be put in place AND stay there. Betrayal, grief and the realization that my time was finite spurred me into action. Life felt like an earthquake had ripped through me. And the worst part was that although on the inside I was going through deep emotional trauma my appearance to the outside world had stayed the same. My brain would often try to match up this deep pain of my destroyed world with the reality that the earth itself had never cracked open.
I knew I was standing at a crossroads in my life. I could choose despair rooted in helplessness that led to bitterness and a person I never wanted to be. A person I had fought so long not to become and a person I fell into as soon as I stepped into the role of mother.
Or I could choose to do the deep work to heal. Not to kill that scared part of me but rather hold her hand and help her transform from wounds to wisdom.
I decided to begin the journey back to recovery while accepting that it was not a straight line but rather a loop de loop of a rollercoaster ride!
I realized that the woman I was before children was still alive. I had just ditched her in a deep ravine and left her for dead. Somehow she managed to crawl out. Instead of walking past her, or even worse, kicking her back in, I called an ambulance. She was now on life support, but there was hope!
The road back to me has not been easy. And it was not immediate. Society puts a lot of pressure on women to be perfect. We find ourselves struggling and unless we know where to look when we reach out a hand for help we rarely get it. Instead, we get it slapped for ever-extending it in the first place. (How many of us have asked about the difficulties of breastfeeding and instead of loving support we get other moms talking about those cracked and bleeding nipples as badges of honor!) Thanks a lot for your help! #nofuckinghelpatall
Or sometimes we find help, but they rarely address the cocoon phase. I think of life as a series of cycles, and each one involves a caterpillar component, a cocoon phase, and a butterfly phase. The problem is no one likes to talk about the cocoon phase. You know that part where you are a bubbling, dissolved mess. We gloss that over. We talk about how we went from caterpillars to butterflies, and if the cocoon is mentioned at all it is the fact that it is a safe space to change.
And it is! Only I do not think that when you are in there you realize it. In fact, when you are in the midst of it you think it will never end and you have no idea how to even begin to do it.
That is where I come in. I want to help you out of the cage and into a life of joy.