[A preview of my upcoming book, We Are One: How one woman reclaimed her identity through motherhood — Preorder Now!]
I woke up to a text from my assistant. “I know you’re on vacation, but I just found out that (her favorite couple in personal development) are getting divorced! I’m okay, but I’m shocked!”
My stomach dropped and I pretended not to notice.
That couple had been a source of inspiration for us over the past two years in building the business we were building. This feeling in my stomach won’t go away. I pretend not to know that I know it’s not about this couple.
I’m on vacation at a friend’s beach house in Virginia, right on the water, and one of the things I look most forward to about this place is the sunrises. They are absolutely epic. The birds are extra loud this time of day. Or maybe I’m just quieter so I can hear them? No, they’re louder. The sky is purple around the horizon, and then yellow tears a tiny hole in the center. It gets brighter and bolder as the sun rises. The brighter it gets, I keep wondering, “Is that the sun? No, not yet.” And then out of nowhere, the real light tips over the horizon and I think, “There she is.”
The water is calm, and as the sun rises, it lights up a narrow golden path on the water from the horizon, straight back to my chair. I’m filled with magic and awe, and it seems crazy in this moment that all of life doesn’t feel like this moment. Usually, I am completely swallowed by this magic when I watch a sunrise like this. But this morning, I am mostly swallowed by this magic, and there’s a part left out, unswallowed. That feeling in my stomach.
It’s fear. No, it’s dread.
I think about the couple. And I wonder how long it’s going to be before they are fully swallowed in the magic of a sunrise without any parts left out, unswallowed.
On the drive to the beach, we were listening to a book on the enneagram. I’m a type seven, the Enthusiast. On full surround-sound audio in the car, the author says, “Don’t be surprised if you need to set your hair on fire to get a seven to come out of denial long enough to see that there is actually a problem that needs solved. And then wait for the rationalization. If it wasn’t so frustrating, it would actually be remarkable how well a seven can talk their way out of anything to avoid the guilt they feel for being called out for being selfish or reckless.”
Sibe turns his head and looks at me, singed scalp, with a ‘Now do you see?’ expression.
We got into an argument the day before. I finally cleaned the baseboards in the house, and he came into the kitchen and cheerily remarked, “Oh wow! You’re finally doing it!” A small bomb went off inside of me, and despite all of the alarm bells ringing, shouting at me to just say, ‘Yep! It really needed it, thanks for the nudge!’ Instead, I said, “Yeah, and next time you want them done, just ask instead of passive aggressively joking about it for two days while you’re actually upset.”
“Give me a break, Vanessa. You ask everyone around you to change everything. The way they act, the way they think. But God forbid I ask you to clean the baseboards.” He waits. I roll my eyes to myself, preparing my defense. “And don’t say anything. Just own it.”
I didn’t own it. I spent the next few minutes defending myself while he told me that I didn’t value what he values but constantly ask him to value what I value. I explained why it’s hard to value something you don’t value, and how me valuing cleaning is different than him valuing his own growth.
In the shower a few minutes later, long enough to let the water soak through my ego and soak in his words, I heard them more deeply. “You don’t value what I value.” I heard, “I don’t feel valued.”
I got out of the shower and sat down in a towel on the chair across from him on the couch. Towel wrapped around my hair, I crossed my legs over the green velvet chair and my arms over my chest. I noticed that my body language was defensive, but I asked him to explain to me again what he meant. I tried to listen and I didn’t defend myself, but I still got up from the conversation defensive, and he left feeling unvalued.
The next morning, just after sunrise, I was writing on the deck and Sibe walked out onto the dock with Pepper. I followed him out barefoot, a coffee in each hand.
I got to the end and he asked, “Are we okay?” I attempted to choke back the tears rising to the surface. I didn’t want him to think I was trying to make him feel bad for me to manipulate our argument, a pattern I’d used to use in the past, and still have to fight. But I was sad.
“You know the couple that Sarah loves, the one we talk about as a model for our life?” I asked.
“They’re getting a divorce.”
His mouth parted just slightly, almost undetectable. He waited, unsure of where I was going with this.
And I let the tears flow.
“I just realized that even though we’ve looked to them as inspiration, something kind of always felt off about them to me. Now I see that it wasn’t really about them. It was about us. I don’t want to have some huge company that looks like it’s ours, but really it’s about me. My vision that I convinced myself (us?) was our vision. And then we wake up one day and you still feel unvalued and we split up and model this really loving split. I just don’t want to split.”
Sibe asks me often, “Do you wish I were more intelligent? Do you wish I made more money and was more like (insert a name of one of our super accomplished friends, one of my coaches, or someone we’re currently learning from)?”
My answer is always the same. “No, I love you because of who you are.”
But I can see in this moment, standing on the dock at sunrise, crying, that who I am being in our relationship doesn’t always reflect that.
Just like right after Pepper was born, I see a different default future unfolding in front of me that I want to get in front of to keep it from unfolding.
What I desperately crave in my relationship with Sibe is not for him to be more intelligent; it’s to feel more confident, to see how incredible he is, to accept people’s words when they tell him he is charismatic and funny and so observant.
The lie that he continually believes about himself is that if he were more intelligent, he could be more accomplished. And if he were more accomplished, he could be more confident, more lovable.
And what I can see in this moment is that I have been helping him live into this lie. When he is incredibly down and being incredibly hard on himself for failing to take action in our business, or gets paralyzed in fear or failure from something we did that didn’t have the result we wanted, or we discover an area in our relationship that needs work, I quickly suggest that he hire a coach, join a men’s group, schedule a session with our Shaman.
In the moment, it comes from a good place. I want him to achieve what he wants. And he does want to grow and evolve, and it’s important to create a network and be invested in yourself. I want him to grow, I want him to change, because I want him to feel more confident. I want him to feel lovable.
But something about this couple splitting has me see that I’ve started to believe his lie, too. When he is frustrated by our lack of progress, I reassure him that our company is going to be huge, that we are going to have exactly the life we want. Full of success, wealth and achievement. What I’m really saying energetically is, “Don’t worry, you will be lovable.”
And that is where the dread comes in.
Because what I see in that moment, standing barefoot on the deck at sunrise, crying, is that if we build a company and a life on that lie, if I drag him along with me by pushing him into the arms of coaches, men’s groups, and shamen so that he can achieve more (and thus feel more confident), then I will love him more. And if we build a company or a life and allow our relationship to stand on that foundation, we too will be waiting for a sunrise where we are swallowed by magic, with no parts left out, beautiful photos of us on our Instagram page, asking for privacy as we navigate the hardest time in our life. Just as we part, still great friends, parents, and business partners.
When I help him achieve more so he will be more confident, so I can love him more, I effectively say, “You’re right. You’re not enough to feel my love. Let me help you earn it.”
This is a trap. Quicksand. A black hole.
I’ve spent the past ten months expanding so that I could love myself more; so that I could love Pepper more, and Opi more; so that I could serve and create more. But somehow, I got lost and helped Sibe achieve more, instead of expanding to love him more.
Or maybe I needed the expansion so far to be able to see this.
I keep trying to make him bigger so he can see how big he already is. To help him reach his potential so he can finally relax into achievement. Maybe when we’re standing on a big stage together, and we’ve done it, he’ll finally feel it. But this is like me trying to be more successful in order to feel safe. Instead of telling him to swim, I’m helping him run faster.
And it’s not working. And it never will.
Later on the trip, Sibe was standing with a beer in one hand, hose in the other, baseball cap on, watering the garden for the owner of the house. He looked like he was in heaven.
“I need this. This is what I need. I just want a yard, a house, a garden.”
His words from a few days earlier returned to awareness, “You don’t value what I value.” I heard, “I don’t feel valued.”
I always put something else in front of buying a house. Because it’s not important to me. Do I want a house? Sure, I guess so. But as long as I can love my life, live somewhere beautiful and travel, I don’t really care if I have a house or not.
So I keep working toward the beautiful place, nicer things, travel, more investments, and I put the house perpetually next. I guess somewhere in my mind down the road, the entire thing comes together. But when I envision our future, I imagine all kinds of incredible things — but a house with a yard is never in it.
Part of me is afraid that if we buy a house, we’ll settle, never leave Pittsburgh, and I’ll wake up 20 years from now with gut-wrenching regret saying something like, “We’ve always talked about leaving, but in the end, Pittsburgh isn’t so bad.”
I’m like fucking Moana. Begging for seashells on the beach to tell me where to go.
But the truth is, Sibe’s vision of a house has scared me. So I think deep down, I keep putting my vision first. House later. Me first, Sibe later. My values first. Sibe’s values later.
None of this has been conscious. In fact, I would have vehemently denied it before. But that’s what expansion does. It wakes you up, helps you see more granularity in the way you think, feel and act, revealing inconsistencies.
I’ve also learned something about Sibe in our life (especially Sibe) as he relates, or responds, to me. I can unground him. Mostly because I have the tendency to be really ungrounded. And when I keep pushing our vision bigger and bigger without allowing any ground under his feet to settle, or for him to feel like he is moving toward what he values, then we struggle. And when I do a better job honoring him and what he wants, then we thrive. He expands and becomes more and more expansive.
I must remember this. When I am judging him for being too small and holding me back, I must remember that it is me who am actually holding him back. Like an energetic tug of war. But most of the time, the thing he wants actually makes the most sense to do next and more effectively sets us up for the bigger expansion that I’m reaching for.
When we settle, he expands. We expand.
Fear is the opposite of expansion. The same fear that had me worry that motherhood would turn me into an emasculating, disconnected and martyred woman (but instead has opened me up to the deepest level of my authenticity, by choice), I could also choose to expand by leaning into Sibe’s vision and values and let it open me up to the deepest levels of contentment and growth in life.
It’s like I keep saying, “More, more, more!” and he keeps begging, “Here, now, please.” And when he feels inadequate because he’s not achieving enough to feel like enough, he whispers, “More, more, more,” and it triggers my “more, more, more.”
He’s begging me to whisper, “Here, now, please.”
“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.