I stumbled onto some music that moved me, just this past week, a band called The Stray Birds. Their songs have been on repeat, filling our house as we move rather clumsily through these recent days. Three girls... one newborn, two starting to find their own way, in small ways, as little people. John is away at work for a good part of the day. Normally Piper would be in school and Larken would be at Arrow, but this week is spring break, so it's been the four of us girls. Five, actually, counting our cat, Willa. To be honest, I'm feeling overwhelmed. I realize that there are women out there with much harder circumstances and those with possibly more manageable circumstances, but this is not a competition, and I need to acknowledge the state I find myself in, personally.
I am hopeful; I know that we will get through Faeren's newborn days, though I will be sad to see them go. I know the two older ones will be at the same school next year, and there will (probably) be some balance. Some measure of predictability, a rhythm. I know this is a season. But right now I am overwhelmed. For me, lack of sleep, postpartum depression and anxiety, the needs of a newborn which are so physically demanding yet still so treasured, wanting to look into the eyes of my other two girls and see that they know they are loved by me, that I am there for them... all of these factors (and more) create an internal state that doesn't know how to rest.
A friend and colleague recently posted this beautiful, vulnerable, courageous work about her experience living life while suffering from anxiety and, as a result, trichotillomania. She is so brave. She is so beautiful. Her words and photographs reminded me, all over again, that one day there will be a time and there will be words for me to do what she had the bravery to do. To share my story, in full, because there is a lot to share. Her piece gave me hope. I encourage you to read it, if you have the time and emotional energy.
But I am not there yet. I do at least feel free to say that for now, when I am weary, the hardest, darkest, most lonely hours of my life haunt me most. When I feel like I am failing at everything. When I feel that I am constantly letting down my beloved people. When I feel like I have lost my voice as an artist. When I fear I will never work again, not fearing loss of approval or fame or whatever, but for loss of the satisfaction and joy in making something beautiful to share. When I fear the very thing I love and am giving my life's energy too -- family life, motherhood -- is something that I am not convinced can be done well by me. This kind of tiredness and weariness reminds me of times past when I was very lost, in my younger years, when I felt the same but for different reasons. This state of mind brings up memories and pain that are in one sense past, but in another sense, are always part of me.
I see juxtaposition happening within me that is striking and presently, seems difficult to reconcile. I sense myself growing as a woman, a wife, a mother, an artist, in so many ways that I value as components of my identity. But those very same roles are what come into question in this vulnerable time. My identity, it seems, is contested, not by the outside world, but by me. Yet -- I have an instinct that I will see all of these elements one day converge, no longer partitioned. The hard as well as the good. I believe that this is happening now, even when I can't see it. My past struggles and loss now give me the gift of empathy. My shame and failure make me able to forgive and accept forgiveness. So I muster hope, hold fast, and -- this is important -- learn over time to extend those gifts to myself. I cling to the 'invincible summer'.
For the record, I need to say that what I am writing may make a reader feel uncomfortable, as if they should encourage me to get help, etc. Please know that I am aware of the dangers of postpartum mental health issues, how they can affect me and the children in my care, as well as how those same health issues exist and need care entirely unrelated to childbirth, motherhood, gender. I am taking appropriate steps to care for myself and my children. This post is not meant to be a cry for help. It is rather asking something that needs to be asked, again and again -- 'What is the point of anything I post, anywhere, if I can't be honest?. This is me being as honest as I can, publicly, for now.
One of the most healing things for me in my process of growth has been, and is still, working with my hands. The small, repetitive movements carry a calming effect; bringing order out of chaos soothes my anxiety and gives my obsessive tendencies a healthy purpose. The end result reminds me that I have worth. I have value to contribute. I have the ability to make things that enrich my life, my family's life, the lives of others. Only I can make these things because of the life I've known, which has shaped my aesthetic and appreciation for beauty. So therapy, for me, has happened this week. It has been rehabilitating thrifted mom jeans into my favorite new pair (I suppose that still makes them mom jeans...). My loving and attentive man gifting me with tools to learn a new craft, one that can be done at home while the girls run around, much like sewing. Photographing at home and including at least one little girl, my Larken... Piper is camera shy these days, and Faeren, the youngest, is either asleep or in my arms.
Which brings me full circle to The Stray Birds. If you've had the patience / empathy to read this far (bless your heart), I'll leave you with a lyric written by my new favorite musicians. It's from a song called 'Never for Nothing'.
"I'm dripping from rivers I never meant to cross. But I like the things I'm learning more than anything I've lost, and oh, I have lost, oh I have lost. But not for nothing. Never for nothing."
p . s. My other two favorite songs are 'Sparrow' and 'Dream in Blue'. I put together a small sample of their music which you can listen to here. xx