I can't tell you how many emails I get every day from amazing folks (just like you) saying that they're frustrated with themselves for "falling off the wagon." They talk about how they can never finish anything they've started, that they aren't strong enough, and that they'll just have to begin again with The Hook when things are right. And so, I've been thinking about this a lot lately - the way we talk to ourselves, the expectations we have for ourselves, and the amount of punishment we put on ourselves for not being a superhero.
Let me start with this: I'm telling you, if you think anyone is a superhero, you don't know them well enough. It's a facade. We might have superhero-like strengths, but no one can do it all and do it well. The sooner we as women surrender this nonsensical idea, the better off we are. Because, guess what, when you surrender the superhero, you step into strength and clarity and adventure and flexibility and resilience.
Case in point: It's been super rainy here in Cape Cod, which is a total bummer not only because the beach is laughing at me from under dark clouds, but because there's not much to do in Truro with 6 kids (mine plus their gorgeous cousins) other than go to the beach. So. You get the drift. Thus, my older bro suggested yesterday that we go on a big adventure in the afternoon that would tire the kiddos out, an adventure involving a "strenuous" walk over a rock jetty from Provincetown to Race Point. Desperately ready to be outdoors and not inside playing referee, I jumped at the idea. Yet, I forgot that within the scope of my older bro's view of the world, Mount Everest might be labeled only one degree above "strenuous." I mean, shit, I didn't even bring a front pack for my 21 month old and even dressed the older kiddos in flip flops. Hello brain.
Let's just say it was in fact "strenuous" with a dash of dangerous, which is completely my kind of fun - minus 6 kiddos and their flip flops. But, it was also entirely, insatiably necessary. I mean, just imagine approaching the scene on a perfectly rainy, slightly foggy afternoon in which the air was just the right temperature, a static tepid moment between hot and cold. Visualize for yourself a landscape worthy of print on the most luxuriously produced postcards of tourist destinations from around the world. It was a combination of idyllic, stunning, and risky. Again, my kind of fun - minus 6 kiddos and their flip flops.
I started out right away without very much hesitation, even though I could tell the jetty probably stretched out over the Atlantic Ocean for a good mile and a half. With my wee one on my hip, my niece's nervous hand in mine, and my older daughter and my nephew bouncing up ahead like billy goats in training with Evel Knievel, I paid remained ignorant to the scope of the task at hand. I was focused and slightly intoxicated with the whole situation. And then, after getting about a quarter of the way down, I began to notice that people passing us by on their return jetty journey were staring at me and whispering with big eyes, some even laughing at me out loud, "You sure are brave," or "You certainly have your hands full!" It was my first insight that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew. But, alas. I'm a pretend superhero. Off I went.
I watched as the older kids went from cautious to ambitious, their little feet finally finding solid footing and the fear of slipping down in the deep barnacled cracks between the rocks ebbing with every leap. We even had some glorious talks about how to face your fears and that we should all focus on the beauty of our surroundings and not on the growing fatigue in our legs. I was like a rock star mom/aunt plus a self-help guru plus a superhero badass all in one. We cheered as we got farther along, extolling how amazing and worth it was going to be when we finally made it ALL THE WAY over.
Um. Yeah. About three quarters of the way across, it hit me. Holy crap. We have to walk all the way back. It was only after this realization that I started to notice immediately that my tiny tribe was starting to come unraveled. My wee one was thrashing around on my hip and cackling like Buster Bluth after too much juice (thank you Arrested Development) while my niece was having a pre-panic attack about a thunder storm that had not yet arrived, but was apparently "going to happen." And then my nephew, one of the Knievel billy goats, lost his flip flops down an especially deep and narrow crack and my eldest was having a mini meltdown because I started to suggest that climbing down slippery rocks to catch a fish or crab or whatever was down there might not actually happen.
Um. Yeah. It was then that I decided that we were going to have to turn around before getting all the way across like we had been determined to do.
And even though we did in fact turn around at that point, this meant that we still had basically a mile and half to walk all the way back over the rocky jetty, just me and three tiny tribe members losing their shit and definitely in danger of losing their asses down some dark rocky crevasse. And, so, I pulled my big girls panties up and tried to wrangle our tenuous fortitude by applying some diversion tactics by naming each and every rock as we lept and slid and attempted not to die. "Slide Rock." "Peter Rock." "Jonafur Rock." "Sassy Rock." "Poop Rock." "Penis Rock." "Jaggedy Rock." "Poop Rock 2." A lot of poop rocks.
Anyway, my diversion strategy worked moderately well (ok, not at all really) and we finally made it back to solid land, where we met up with my mom and sister and my other two nieces, who had straggled behind (and turned around earlier like smart people). Oh, my mom had lost a shoe too and cut her toe. Whew.
And even though I had a tinge of disappointment that we hadn't made it all the way across, mostly what I felt was satisfied and clear. Why? Because there was something that happened about three quarters of the way across, when my tiny tribe was falling to pieces and I finally realized we had gone too far: I chose kindness in the form of checking my expectations at the door.
Fuck being a superhero. Screw "making it all the way to the top," What about each of those rocks we named? And what about the careful tether of tiny hand holds over scary cracks? And what about that moment when my own kiddo looked back at me from 35 feet ahead and yelled, "This is awesssssssome!" And what about when my niece and I decided that we had a choice about dealing with fear by either solving problems and asking for help or by crying and withering in a paralyzed puddle? What about adventure? What about moving our bodies like that over the Atlantic? Or what about the fact the scenery was so incredible, that it didn't matter where the jetty started or ended?
The lesson here is to surrender the superhero. Surrender the expectation to get all the way across. You never know, you might make it. But, some days it'll be rainy or you'll be tired or you'll have a tiny tribe that needs your attention a bit more than usual. And instead of getting frustrated, why not change your expectations? I mean, shit, we don't expect watermelons to grow in a frozen farm in the winter, do we? Why can't we give ourselves the same cushion and allow for resilience to take flight? Why can't we just let things be enough, exactly enough?
This post is dedicated to each and every member of Momma Strong's tribe and all the badasses that are trudging along in The Hook who have ever for a second thought that maybe they were not doing enough and that maybe they needed to do better. Never. Just show up again tomorrow and show up because you are ready to experience the small things - the strength that matters. Show up for strength that matters and I promise, you'll show up a lot more and make so many more sweeping changes in your body/mind/heart/guts that you can imagine.
Next year: Mount Everest