Truth Tuesday: My Mother is a Unicorn

I’m going to speak from the heart today. And I won’t lie by saying that it’s easy being cheesy. It’s not.

But, screw it. I’m only here as you are here.

I will also say that I am scared of confessing what I will confess today, as I assume folks will respond as good-hearted people in our lives often respond when we cry over a long day with kids and deadlines. They say, “Why don’t you just hire a babysitter?”

Let it be known that for what I will say today, as it is with kids and deadlines, I don’t need or want a metaphorical babysitter. I want "my kids and my deadlines." I love it all. I love it with all my soul. Today is just an illustration of the thing we call life and I invite you to hang with me for a second and consider it wholly in your own lens. Here goes.

I am addicted to depletion.

It’s a grand old drug, depletion is, that uses - instead of external substances - a cocktail of internal substances, manufactured from my own nervous system in the form of adrenaline and cortisol. I know my drug dealers well: Staying up too late, saying yes to too much, not asking for help, complaining, giving without limit, engaging in the drama of others beyond mere support. These dealers supply me very well. I know which ones to hit up and when, and sometimes when the going gets tough I reach to all of them in a single day.

And like every other addiction, this one gives me the slimy gift of numbness, of escape, of invincibility, of entitlement, of isolation. By being depleted, I don’t feel the things that rest might yield, oddly enough. When I’m depleted, stress blankets anxiety and knowing as effectively as the very best drug on the market.

I’ve stared down other addictions before. I’ve made private choices for myself in health and sobriety that I protect with all my life every single day now. But, as it so happens, I’m here facing this one, the winding tentacles of the need to exit and feel secure all at once finding their way into another open source.

The reality is that this addiction is pervasive. I hear and see it in many of my friends and my colleagues. I see it in a majority of companies as a whole, in how they treat their employees and stand for the profit above the human. I see it in our social media behaviors. I read about it in op-ed pieces under titles like “The Virus of Being Busy,” all of which call for us to stop doing so much. And I see how we’re all missing the boat, because it has nothing to do with being busy or establishing work/life boundaries or needing a break, but rather it is hinged on the anesthetizing payoff of depletion.

The anesthetizing payoff? If we're depleted, then we don't really feel the brunt of our truths and we create an amazing buffer from having to be held responsible for our failings and weaknesses. No one is gonna walk up to a stressed and burnt-out mother and say to her, "Hey, you're being a real shit and you need to something." And that's why I've decided to start considering depletion as an addictive substance, because it's vastly more protected and vastly less criticized than other substances. I would say perhaps that it's even become a cultural value.

The good news is that I see it. I can name it. I can hug it. I can then escort it out of my skin and my world. This way of living has a time limit. My body and my spirit can only do the dance of depletion for so long before they both shake their fists at me and say, “I told you to listen.” And, fortunately, as I have had the privilege of saying so often in my life: I have the grace to stop engaging before those fists come down.

Underneath this whole thing is a throbbing place where mothering and everything sacred collide. And what I know at this point in my life is that we all will lose our own mothers either literally or figuratively at some point in our life. Some of us maybe lost them the moment we took our first breath, some of us may not meet that experience until we are old and gray. In either case, we are all grown ups now, walking around with our hands squeezing the tiny clasp of our own children, reminding them to not let go when we cross the street. And, so, whether we like it or not, and no matter the status of our own mothers, we are set forth with - what I believe to be - the hardest heroic path to take: Mothering ourselves.

Having the grace to do this. What a gift. What a fucking trial.

Do I know what this looks like yet? Hell no. It feels to be a unicorn to me right now. But, am I willing to figure it out, even if it’s species seems extinct? Totally. Do I have expectations for how it will feel or what it will yield? Certainly not. I’ve been through this stuff enough to know that expectations are instant death to forward movement and to true, gritty, palpable, lasting growth. The kind of growth that drops you face first and feet muddied into Joy.

And, so, as I take myself down this path while loving fully "my children and my deadlines" exactly as they are, I have one request of you: Look at everyone around you as an adult child as often as you can. Maybe it’s the woman on the phone who can’t answer your question about your bank account or the cashier who has a terribly crappy attitude or the coworker who made your life more chaotic. And maybe it’s the world all around us - maybe the ground we stand on is like a huge giant adult child, waiting for us to state our numbing dependencies and start choosing first to Take Good Care, no matter the pain of awakening.

Now, don’t think for a second that I’m gonna surrender the fighting passion for the stuff I’m here to do. And if you ask me to fight less hard and less loud, I’ll beg you realize you’ve dodged the point. Because this is my life and I'd choose it again every day. The trick is that while I fight this good fight, I’m gonna learn what I need on the bench in the dark, quiet locker room, when all I’ve got is my own maternal instinct. How then am I am gonna move into the opposite of depletion (expansion)?

#1, take a deep breath.