Over the years, I’ve derived my identity from a lot of illogical places: the size of my house, my title at work, the places I travelled. I was great at piecing together all the parts of a full life, but it was never all that fulfilling. I was sort of like a paint-by-number piece of art where from a distance I was pretty impressive, but up close things were messy and awkward.
You hear people say it takes losing everything to realize what really matters, or experiencing a rare sense of enlightenment to discover their true purpose. Whatever it looks like, being stripped down to your bare-bones self is a fast track to figuring out who you are.
For me, this didn’t occur after a magical yoga retreat or hike in the rainforest, it happened during maternity leave.
Forget all the pain and hormones and general madness (I’m serious, forget about it, or no one will ever reproduce again). Consider going from life with a 50+ hour work week, full social calendar and time to do whatever the hell you wanted…to the complete opposite. Once baby arrives, the very ways in which we’ve defined ourselves are snatched away, replaced overnight with this hard and amazing and Most Important Duty.
Color me clueless, but I couldn’t wrap my head around how to use a swaddle blanket, let alone the fact that I’d created and sustained a life. And the crying. Oh, the crying.
Adjusting to this new life can feel hard and sudden, no matter how much you thought you prepared. At first, you might fumble about in resistance, but you’ll surrender everything as you’re gently immersed into your new world.
This 12-week period was the most time in my entire life I spent alone. And while I wasn’t really alone (come on, I was with the baby! I could text! I was occasionally awake when my husband was!), there often was no one to talk to, and summer in Phoenix meant I was pretty much on house arrest. It was me, the baby and my thoughts.
When you take away everything you’ve used to build your identity, you spend a lot of time realizing what parts of yourself you like and those you less than like. You get to live in this distraction-free bubble where you can peer out at how you’ve been living your life “out there” and see if you want to change anything.
Glamorous enlightenment? Not really. But just as effective and no sweat lodge required.