INSIDE: The Brutal Truth of my Absence and How you Might Relate.
When I last posted, I didn’t know it would be my last post until this one. I didn’t realize the gaping hole that not blogging would leave in my world. One day turned into a week, then a week a month, then a year and then too much time had passed to just start writing.
I didn’t know where to start. Too much had happened. I had too much to say, but I couldn’t find the words. A dear friend of mine gave me good advice. She said, “Write from your scars, not your open words.” So that’s what I am doing- writing from my scars.
When I sat down today, I turned to music. The Grateful Dead Song Touch of Grey kept playing in my mind. The chorus goes like this, “…I will get by. I will survive…” that’s how the 2017-18 school year felt to me.
Not thriving, not getting by, not living my best life… nope, none of that.
Brutal, honest, and soul-sucking.
And utterly beautiful in all of its profound chaos.
My last post was written on the first day of the new school year in 2017. At that point, my oldest was off to Middle School and my youngest kids were still in Elementary School, but my life hadn’t changed much. My routine was the same as it was the year before minus potential hospital stays. I was still recovering from my BRCA+ journey of multiple surgeries, but the life I had been living was about the same with maybe a little less chaos since the kids were all in school fulltime (Finally! Can I get an Amen?).
I was still volunteering for my community, teaching preschool, carpooling every day, working out every day and drinking my Shakeology, making time to be with friends and other important people, and finding my way. I decided in May of 2017 that I would go back to teaching. I would learn and grow and get back to the elementary classroom, I knew I could. I submitted my application and waited to hear from the district. Fear could have kept me from hitting submit, but I didn’t let it.
As luck would have it, the stars were aligned in an unexpected way for me.
I was hired to be a substitute teacher and that was the perfect fit at the time. I could work every day, or not. I could get my feet wet and know if I wanted to teach fulltime, or not. I could give myself time to heal, reflect, and take the next steps forward that suited my future self. I was motivated, happy, and looking forward to the year ahead.
Remember those stars? Well, they burst into a beautiful and delightful cosmic shower of hope. One that I didn’t know I needed at the time. A dear friend of mine, who I used to work with many years ago, was in need of a long-term substitute for her upcoming medical leave. I was honored when she asked me to take over for her. I could not replace her in the classroom, but I could share the joy I felt of being in the classroom fulltime with her class. This meant a little shuffling of life and routines at home.
Ok, a lot of shuffling.
My kids had to get used to another new set of schedules and expectations. I was no longer able to drop-off or pick-up at school. I couldn’t help in their classrooms or pick them up for home lunch. I didn’t have as much flexibility when they were sick to stay home to take care of them. These parts of going back to work fulltime nearly broke me.
My identity was in transition.
Was I a Mom?
Was I a Teacher?
Was I a wife?
Was I a daughter and sister?
Was I a friend
Was I a blogger?
Was I an entrepreneur?
Was I a volunteer?
Was I a Previvor?
Was I still me?
I didn’t have an answer to those questions, but I knew that I wanted to keep working on me through this discovery process. So, I kept showing up. Even when I wasn’t sure I could do it all.
I was utterly shocked at how quickly and easily my teacher identity took over. It was like riding a bike. My passion and love for this important job came pouring out of me. While the joy of the work I was doing in the classroom filled the empty part of me that was longing for the right, next step, it was also emptying me of any time to heal my physical and mental wounds from the year and a half of hell we experienced from my BRCA+ related surgeries and the loss of both of my grandmothers.
In the midst of the wonderfulness that working fulltime in a job that is a true passion of mine felt, I still felt lost to the feelings of my BRCA decisions and complications. I held it all together at work until I tucked my kids into bed, and then I fell apart.
I didn’t know how to cope. How to cope with this change, with keeping all the balls in the air at the same time, with keeping everyone happy, with trying to fool everyone that I was ok, with trying to fool myself that I was ok. I did what I always do when I am drowning in self-doubt, in sadness, in the reality that my life wasn’t bad yet I didn’t feel whole and didn’t know how to fix that; I buried myself in my work, in my volunteer roles, in my kids.
You can probably guess what happened. My health, friendships, business partnerships, and worst of all…my marriage took a backseat to this downward spiral of mental madness.
It was as if all of those years of getting my body and mind ready for life-altering surgery never happened. My positive mindset shifted to a negative one when I was all alone in my own mind. I didn’t reach out for help. So, I just didn’t. Plus, I became a very unlikeable partner. I was withdrawn, crabby, and not able to explain all of the feelings circling in my mind. I would go into full-blown panic attacks, for no apparent reason. I didn’t give or accept love because I didn’t feel worthy of receiving it. There were nights of unexplained tears and lonely thoughts that consumed me until I finally fell asleep as dawn approached. I felt trapped in my body and didn’t have the words to express myself.
I was at a loss, but I didn’t lose hope that it could get better.
After the holidays wrapped up, my fulltime sub job was ending because my friend was returning to work. I was working partial days and some full days. This allowed me to pursue other personal matters, like actively seeking employment for the next school year.
I know, I know, I know. It sounds crazy, but it was a decision that Jeff, the kids, and I made together. We had a family meeting about it and everything. They all shared that the way my eyes lit up when talking about my class, digging into the curriculum, making lessons, and running into students at the grocery store was worth the struggle to figure everything else out.
Yes, my family saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself at the time. They saw the opportunity for joy to return to my soul. They saw hope. They saw me, whole and not needing to be fixed, rather put back together through teaching.
I trusted the universe and opened myself up to the possibility of a different path. One that allowed me to grow, shine and teach while being a mom and wife. That was the path back to me. So, when opportunity knocked, I opened the door and then jumped in with both feet. I threw hesitation and my over-thinking brain aside and stopped paralyzing myself through analyzing EVERYTHING. I just let go.
I so wanted to thrive, not just survive. So, while I waited for the prospects of an interview I took a step back and started saying no, by saying yes to what mattered most.
I realized the importance of focusing on one BIG thing at a time. I focused on myself.
I joined a coaching group that a dear friend and fellow blogger formed. I met women that had similar needs even though we had wildly different backgrounds and goals. That group was just what I needed.
We were all forced to dig deep and do the work to right ourselves. I came out of the group stronger and realized my full potential as the strong, female-warrior that I had become through all of my joys, trials, and brokenness. I no longer allowed my identity to be that of anything other than, me.
I no longer took on the roles in my life as my identity. I no longer took the titles that others gave me as my identity. I took back my own name. It was all I had left to root myself and let go of all the should’s, would’s, and could’s of my life. I couldn’t change the past. I couldn’t make the suffering of my BRCA complications magically disappear, even though those were at the crux of my mental mess.
But… I could influence my future by living today, in the here and now. I could decide to make a different choice and to step bravely into the light. Just like when I choose to empower myself with knowledge and take my future in my own hands instead of waiting for ticking time bombs on my body.
When I stopped and focused on that one thing, that’s when I could see the beauty in the chaos and started being grateful for my life again. I had been stewing in so many sad and bad feelings from my surgeries that I had poisoned myself with anxiety and lost sight of the wonderful life my husband and I had created.
I took more time for myself and my family. I stopped checking and posting on social media. I stopped worrying about my SEO and views. I stopped measuring myself against other bloggers, other teachers, other mothers, other wives. THAT. WAS. LIBERATING.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not put back together, yet. I don’t think I ever will be. I want to like what I see today, scars and all. I choose to love this version of me. Am I there yet? No, but I am working on it. I will get there, someday. And I am ok with someday, for now.
You see, that hope my family saw with the potential of me finding the perfect-fit teaching job, well it arrived and it’s better than any of us could have predicted. I teach 4th grade and it’s awesome.
Really, truly, awesome!
I wouldn’t have jumped in with both feet if it weren’t for the love, trust and support of my husband and our three little homemade humans. I have become more grateful this year than I ever have and I am better now that I have come back to the light side.
If you feel drawn to the dark side. Please reach out to someone. Focus on one thing at a time. Take small steps to improve your circumstances. Take a step back from social media and stop playing the comparison game.
You are AWESOME. You are AMAZING. There is NOBODY else like you and the world needs YOU.
My husband, three kids, friends, family and my classroom full of kids are my light side. They are worth the fight because I am worth the fight.
And so are YOU.
There are no happy accidents.