Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sense of Self

Lately, I've been experiencing a bit of an existential... crisis is the wrong word, it's more of a reflection, really.

It began when my "Dream Team" of healthcare providers, the Massage therapist, the Naturopath, and the Chiropractor, all made comments, independently of each other, regarding my gut, my center, my solar plexus chakra, or whatever you'd like to call my belly.  I've known for a long time that my body and mind are intrinsically connected, and that when I feel physically unwell, my mind suffers as a result, and when I am worried (or, ahem, have CHRONIC stress), my body suffers.  So it was no surprise to me to hear them all say that my belly is "weak."

But, what it means is a little more daunting.

My belly, the most vulnerable part of the body, the part a dog attacks on another dog when they intend to kill, the part that is quite literally at the center of the rest of the body, both a source of energy, but also a receiver or energy for and from the entire body- is weak.  This center is associated with the core - a sense of self, in its most vulnerable and aware state.   A proclamation to the rest of your body (and mind), and a foundation to build upon from the inside out.

And mine?  Is weak.

Self esteem, individuality, self-worth, self confidence, personal authority, I am

When I asked the massage therapist what I could do to help this weak center, she replied, "You are doing all of the 'self-care' a person could be doing... but I just wonder... maybe the 'care' is there, but the 'self' is not.  Perhaps you need to get back in touch with who you are, what you enjoy doing, find yourself, again."

Later that week, the chiropractor showed me how my spine was so extremely curvy that my center suffered as a result, and that she suspected I was the type of person who "leaned" and "bent" for others my whole life.

I had always considered myself to have a strong sense of self, a strong sense of right and wrong, and a strong sense of awareness.  But hearing this, letting it sink in, and then embarking upon my existential "reflection," I had to admit that I had lost myself over these past 8 years or so.  I spent a lot of time grasping for self-definition over the next few days, and it hit me all at once, like a hundred empty uteri:

I am a (childless) mother.

It's no wonder I have a difficult time recognizing my self, what with the parenthetical identity, and all.  But it didn't take long, after my discovery, to realize that I knew this all along.  I wasn't wrong about my sense of self, my sense of right and wrong, my sense of awareness - I have known that I was meant to be "A Good Mother" since the time I was in grade school, and I have known it all throughout my marriage, too.  And, I have been just that.  It was the strength that I lacked.  The strength to actually admit to myself, and to others, that I identified myself as a mother.  I mean, really, that would have to be some IMMENSE strength to be able to say, out loud... to people... with ears,... "I am a mother!"  I do imagine the follow-up question would be along the lines of, "How many children do you have?" for which the reply would require not only massive strength, but massive testicles,  "Oh... none!"

Seriously?  Nahggonnahappen.

And so, instead, I have convinced others through the years that my SELF is someone else, a woman without children, content to be so, and while I'm at it, how can I help YOU to become what I secretly already identify myself as?
And somewhere along the way, I not only convinced everyone else... I convinced myself, too.  And, I lost my self.

I'm not quite sure where I go from here.  I'm not sure how to regain that strength of self, or how to nurture this oft-neglected identity.  I do know that a good mother is born from a good wife, and have been truly committed to making my marriage healthy and fruitful.  But I also know that I often feel resentful to be working so hard, 7 days per week, when I'd much rather be filling the role of Nurturer for our family - I do enjoy my job, but I would love to work because I want to, and not because I feel that I need to, and furthermore, because I have "no excuse" not to.  My self has been stuffed away and hidden all of these years because I have assumed so many responsibilities that have not nurtured it.  I need to regain a healthy balance.

But I'm not sure how.


Kat said...

Thank you for being brave enough to write this! I went through similar thoughts and feelings about 1.5 yrs ago. I thought " if I am not meant to have children, then who am I?" I discovered that I am a mother in so many ways and I do consider myself a mother, even long before our miscarriage. I also thought I had to keep working at one of my jobs and do my CrMS internship because I had "no excuse" not to work, even though all I really ever wanted to do was be a wife and mother.

My husband was so supportive when I quit my other job after our miscarriage and just kept doing CrMS. I have been able to use my mothering skills so much in making good food for us, keeping our home the way we like it and have CrMS work around my schedule. Also, my husband and I have seen this time for me as an essential healing time in grieving our IF. I know not every wife who wants to stay home is able to but if you have a desire for it maybe trying it out or cutting back on some work hours to stay home if you are able. I have also been able to be available to babysit my goddaughter one morning a week and volunteer my time at places I care about.

Sorry for making this comment so long! I just really identify with what you are writing. I am praying for you!

the misfit said...

"I would love to work because I want to, and not because I feel that I need to, and furthermore, because I have "no excuse" not to."

This, times a thousand. I know it's the right decision for me to be working, because it would be wasteful of me to stay home (despite all the things I can think of to be doing there. My husband even says he likes it when I'm on leave for an extended period. I get the cleaning done pretty effortlessly and cook and bake and get projects done, too). But I hate the realization that from any fundamental analysis...I have nothing better to do.

(This may be one of those times when the voices in my head are nastier than those of anyone else who might be observing.)

I can't offer any concrete suggestions on finding and nurturing your authentic self. In fact, this may be a chapter I embark on at some point with my therapist; what I'm saying is, I know I have plenty of work to do myself in this area, and I don't even know where to start (you are already much further than I - as with most things, really). I recently started reading Feeling and Healing Your Emotions, which I've found very thought-provoking, but you may be ahead of that, too :). I wonder whether the life stress isn't the bigger issue for you - your self is necessarily lost because the stressors affecting you naturally tend to efface the person in service of the larger disorder. And finding your self again may require stepping out of the shadow of the problems you're facing. But I'm guessing you've thought of that, too.

Mr. M said...

I know how you feel. My sense of self was all off too just a few weeks ago. I don't mean to be self-publicizing, but I wrote down some of my thoughts over at eccefiat's blog regarding living infertility joyfully. (I'm her husband.) At the heart of joy is discovering your identity. Perhaps these thoughts of mine over on her blog will help a little to recover your true self. But I do know this: our identity has to start with just simply be God's beloved son or daughter before we identify with the mother and father aspect. He loves you so much, bask in his immense love. There you will find your self. I'm sure of it. Praying for you.

Amazing Life said...

Wow, I loved reading every word of this. Thank you for sharing.

Kat said...

Just to plug the book that misfit is talking about, my DH and I listened to the first book Born Only Once and have greatly benefited from it. We look forward to someday reading Feeling and Healing Your Emotions!

Rebecca said...

You've taken the first step to balance, in realizing you need to find it. I wish I had a better answer or a plan for you, but I will echo Mr. M's comment about remembering who you are - a beloved daughter of God.

Chella said...

Here's praying that you continue to open your heart to this new concept of who you are and how you can embrace it moving forward.

Stephanie Z said...

What has helped me has been thinking of myself not in the "what do I do" context or as much in a relational context, meaning that we often define ourselves by our work and our family. While certainly that's part of each of us, there is so much more. What do you like? What do you hate? What do you value? What are your dreams? What personal characteristics do you appreciate about yourself? Even our flaws help define us. Hugs and prayers that you are able to strengthen your sense of self.

Cecilia said...

I'm blown away by this post and also by the comments. I don't know if it seems this way to you, but the clarity of thought is so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.