Beautiful and Lethal
[A preview of my upcoming book, We Are One: How one woman reclaimed her identity through motherhood — Preorder Now!]
Nine months into Pepper’s life, Sibe and I were going to bed. He said, “This is life now, isn’t it? It’s not going to slow down, is it?” I told him my guess was that it might only speed up. He replied, “We have to connect more. I don’t want us to get lost in the busyness.”
My mind jumped immediately to a moment right after P was born that was the impetus to write this book. I was lying in bed facing Sibe, but all I could think about was P. She was in her bassinet, I wasn’t even holding her, but she was holding 100% of my energy. I didn’t have any capacity left for Sibe in that moment, and it scared me. I could see a default future unfold where I was incredibly close to Pepper, but Sibe became my errand boy. Our relationship was transactional, and the intimacy was gone. I’d be a mother, and Vanessa as a wife, woman and human would get lost.
He was right. But this time, I wasn’t feeling the fear and guilt that I was feeling the moment right after she was born. There is such unity, love and support in the way we parent Pepper. Sibe and I have always made the best team. “Can I do anything for you?” is a question we ask each other five times a day.
We also love to do everything together. We literally race each other into Pepper’s room giggling in the morning to wake her up together. She wakes up to the sound of laughter every single day. He gives her a bath at night in the kitchen sink while I cook dinner. He cleans up while I give her a bottle, and then we sit together before bed at night while he makes her laugh before putting her down to sleep. Then we collapse on the couch, exhausted for two hours before bed.
There is so much love in our teamwork that I almost missed something both beautiful and lethal.
Similarly to that night that I was lying in bed, all of my energy moving toward Pepper, I saw its innocence. This massive force packed into a tiny body swept into my life out of nowhere and instantly captured every drop of my energy, attention and presence. Laying in bed with Sibe that night, it occurred to me that we were back in that initial moment, together. Pepper was in her own bed in the other room, but all of our energy was directed toward her.
Becoming a parent is one of the wildest experiences. There’s a selfishness that I crave from pre-parenting. Everyday revolved around me. What did I want? How am I suffering? What do I need? I laugh as I consider a craving for my ‘old’ suffering. Once you become a parent, there is this tiny, adorable little black hole in your life that has such a massive gravitational pull that, like in space, pulls in everything that gets close.
Pepper has a massive gravitational pull, and she was pulling all of the love, attention and energy that Sibe and I had toward her. The trick is that it feels both necessary and good for it to go there… until you’re laying in bed aware of the little that’s left for each other.
Another moment to remind me what this journey is about. Expansion.
It would be easy to feel despair and fear in that moment, like I did that night. I decided to use this journey for expansion. But I don’t feel that fear and dread now. I’ve been practicing expansion for nine months, and I’ve learned that the moments where fear is most present and you feel most constricted, those are the moments to expand. And it’s a choice. The unmarked, barely visible path, easily overshadowed by the more obvious path of fear.
At that moment early on, I made a choice: I would expand into the experience of motherhood. I would grow my capacity to love. I would expand to fill my role as a mom, and I would grow enough so that that love wouldn’t detract from my love for Sibe and expand so I could still love my career and be even better there.
But until that moment, it hadn’t occurred to me that we’d also have to learn to expand as a couple. That we’d have to learn not to direct less energy to Pepper, but to expand our capacity to love each other more as we directed energy toward Pepper.
I shared all of this with Sibe (he is used to my deep, reflective, and somewhat manic stream of thoughts right before bed) and he sleepily, but appreciatively, responded.
Life has its own kind of momentum. Default futures are created by unconsciously getting caught up in the current of the life you created. You forget that your desires and actions were the creators of the thing you’re experiencing. Once you create something, you become less of the puppet master and more of the puppet to the very play you created. You fall into unconsciousness and make the same choices on autopilot day after day. One day, you wake up in a default future and aren’t quite sure how you arrived there.
When Sibe and I moved to Pittsburgh seven years ago, it was never our intention to stay. It was meant to be a short pause as we regrouped from three years of living nomadically all over the world. We made the conscious choice that we wouldn’t leave until we felt grounded, opposite of our previous habit of moving to a new city or country everytime we felt restless, which was about 15 countries in 3 years.
Now in Pittsburgh, we were dangerously close to waking up 20 years later wondering why we never left. This is the pull of the default future. It’s created by ignoring the moments like we were having in bed that night. Subtle feeling of disconnection excused by being tired, promising yourselves that you’ll address it the next day. You never feel like you’re sacrificing anything major until the culmination of those tiny sacrifices plants you in the exact life you swore you’d never live.
I was nine months into creating an intentional life as a mother and wife, and it had opened my heart and mind in ways I could have never anticipated. Laying in bed with Sibe that night woke me up to the reality that it was time to channel that same intention back into our relationship and into our life to create our combined future. And the only way to create an intentional future is to access choice in the present moment.
This is why, when we postpone paying attention to the subtle cues of disconnection for ‘tomorrow,’ that feeling of future resolution creates complacency in the present moment, allowing us to ignore the issue. Repeating this day after day doesn’t actually create a default future so much as it creates a repeat present that, somewhere in the future, you have finally had enough of. Only, it feels a thousand times worse because you’ve lived the same disappointing moment compounded over years, knowing all along, on a deeper level, it wasn’t enough.
I refuse to live into that reality with Sibe.
“Relationship bliss does not sit on a mountain top waiting for you to climb up to it. It sits on your shoulder waiting for you to notice it.” Another quote from the Tao for couples.
In the moments when we notice this disconnection, it’s so easy to get sucked into the logistics of our life. How do we organize our life to manage our energy so that there is some energy left to be connected to one another? If I’m not careful, I can put hiring a nanny, working with a new coach to increase my income to pay for that nanny, and moving into a bigger house so that nanny has space to watch Pepper, all as a path to making space — space to have more energy to connect to my husband so we don’t end up in a default future, repeat present, of a marriage with no intimacy or connection.
OR we could connect. In the exhaustion of the present moment. Slow down in the chaos long enough to marvel at the energy flying in a thousand different directions, all vying for our complete attention. We can give our complete attention to each other inside all of it at any moment we choose.
I choose this one.
“We Are One” available Fall 2021. Preorder Now!
📚 PREORDER BONUS BUNDLE 📚
In greatest gratitude, with every preorder, I am sharing a preorder bonus bundle that includes:
- early access to the first four chapters (both digital and audio)
- invitation to an intimate, virtual ‘Behind the Pages’ event with me (and Pepper!), that will happen live before your book arrives
Register to receive your Preorder Bonus Bundle here.
This book is not about motherhood. It’s a book about identity. It’s a book about using life’s unexpected circumstances as a lever to open you up to the most authentic, alive, powerful version you can create yourself to be. In my case, motherhood.
Motherhood, for those of us for whom it was never in the cards, can do no less than shift the tectonic plates of your being. In the process, it can feel like it levels the life built upon them.
Embracing this will rock you, shake you to the core, and catalyze an expansion that would swallow the life you left behind whole — and allow you to live the full richness of life, heal the deepest parts of you and emerge anew, not redesigned, but renovated. Brought back to your true essence to create magic in your life in a way that you never anticipated, and arguably, could not have accessed without this massive ‘disruption.’
Our culture teaches us that it’s about balance. Finding time for yourself, making sure you take care of your own needs.
I call bullshit. Balance isn’t going to cut it. While logistics play a major role in the daily challenges of parenthood, for the kind of women this book is written for, it’s not about time management.
It’s about energy management, soul management. It’s not about balancing your checkbook and budgeting your time, it’s about creating a radical shift in who you are. Shedding your old identity and shifting who you are at the deepest, most expansive level.