[A preview of my upcoming book, We Are One: How one woman reclaimed her identity through motherhood]

Recently, I’ve been thinking that I wanted to delete some of the pieces of this book. Part of me is embarrassed for sharing them. At the moment, they felt so intense and so real. Looking back, ten months later, I judge them as dramatic. But when I can sit with that with more curiosity and have more compassion for myself, I see something completely different.

What I see instead is that I am actually evolving. I see that I am really embracing this role of ‘mother’ (a word I still can’t type without deleting and retyping at least twice before leaving it).

The biggest challenge I face these days is managing my time better and getting more work done. We still need to hire regular childcare, and it feels like I barely get anything done. This is partially a logistics issue and partially an energy issue. A lot of my energy would still rather go to hanging out with Pepper all day, and when she is sleeping, I have very little energy left.

But most days, I feel really fantastic. Despite not having much of a flow between parenting and working, I feel incredibly happy. Sibe and I literally race each other into Pepper’s room to wake her up in the morning, and we laugh and laugh all day and before we put her to bed together. It’s so enjoyable that I almost can’t remember why it was such a challenging transition.

But this is a testament to how important it is to be present with your challenges when you’re having them. My willingness to be with my actual experience when it was happening — understand it, feel it fully — is what allowed me to move through it instead of carrying it with me into the present.

My willingness to not want to be a mother and to struggle with it uncensored is the very thing that is allowing me to enjoy being a mother and not have to censor.

It also occurs to me that my past challenge was my past evolution, and my current challenge is my current evolution. And evolution is always about identity, about who you’re becoming.

My past challenge was that getting pregnant and becoming a mother threatened my identity to the core. Your identity is a definition of who you are, but it’s also sometimes even more a definition of who you are not. I ‘was not’ a mother. I was an entrepreneur. A high level coach. Successful. Driven. Hardworking. None of these things could co-exist with a mother in my mind.

In the earlier months of Pepper’s life, I was both struggling so much emotionally with all of the nuanced and complex emotions of motherhood, and at the same time, mourning the loss of the part of my identity that was ‘not a mother.’

Moving through that and ‘accepting my fate’ allowed me to really embrace and fall in love with the idea of being Pepper’s mom, and I really just allowed myself to be so fully in that that I really didn’t care about work, productivity, or what was coming next in my career.

It felt like a vacation from myself.

These days, as I struggle to get anything done (or enough to satisfy whatever ‘enough’ is), it occurs to me that this is the driven, successful entrepreneur coming back online.

In other words, it’s time to integrate my old identity with my new one.

And not the way my driven self wants me to. Rather, time to evolve.

The driven part of me wants to come back online as the only part of me. But that’s not possible anymore. It’s obsessed with success above all else and has an insatiable need for productivity.

Years ago, my coach asked me a question that haunted me. “What motivates you besides money?” I couldn’t answer that question. And it really bothered me. I didn’t see myself as some money hungry, shallow person. But the truth was, I was really living a kind of shallow pursuit. Aim for success, make money. Aim higher, make more. Repeat.

I have a lot of gratitude for who I’ve been throughout my life, and I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved, the life I’ve led, and the way I’ve been driven and have created everything I’ve ever wanted. But this part of me always wants more, is never satisfied, and under the surface, my major achievements haven’t felt that much more satisfying than my earlier achievements. In other words, achievement always just feels like achievement, no matter how much bigger I make it.

So despite how much I resisted being anything else but this driven person, you couldn’t pay me to go back. In fact, in the two year process of evolving into who I am becoming now, I’ve made less and achieved less than any other time in my life. And I’ve been happier.

Ask me to stay at this level of earning and achieving, and we’ll be having a different conversation. But this new, emerging identity experiences life in a much richer way.

I sit for longer doing nothing. I hike more, something the old part of me always put in the future. I laugh more, I care less, I can shut off, I’m more social, more spiritual, more compassionate toward others and myself (which is like another whole level of compassion). I’m actually a better coach, better sister, better wife, and better daughter. I’m better at asking for help, I’m more grateful for the help I receive, I’m more creative, I can think less linearly and more creatively, I’m more patient and more realistic (a word that my old self used to equate with pessimistic), and I’m also more at peace with reality.

And I haven’t lost any of the qualities I’d cultivated my entire life. I’m still driven (perhaps too driven), but I’m much better at not being swallowed by my drive. I’m fiery and intense. I’m smart. I take risks. I’m a visionary, courageous, radically honest, real and raw, confident and bold. And I’m still hungry for more.

But I’m not starving.

And I’m hungry for more success, but also for more of what I can experience out of each day, and the learning available in my pursuit of more success. I’m more curious about my failures and less judgmental. I’m more aware of my flaws and how I impact people. I’m more aware of my reaction to be so quick to anger and defensiveness, and I’m more open to the complaints the people I love the most have about all of those things. I can see people more clearly than I could before, and I can see more of what they need from me — not only what I think they need from me — and I’m more willing to give that to them.

So despite the old part of me wanting to come back online as the sole part of me, it’s just not an option.

That’s how evolution works.

Sometimes it feels scary. Sometimes I crave the days when my only responsibility was myself.

But getting pregnant, despite how terrifying and devastating it was initially, saved me from the default future that I was sprinting toward.

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.

Vanessa coaches high achievers and coaches to create beyond what they imagine as possible. She believes in CREATING clients vs finding them. Ask her how.

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