[A preview of my upcoming book, We Are One: How one woman reclaimed her identity through motherhood]
I’ve been shark diving off the coast of Australia, hiked sulfuric steaming volcanoes in Chili, swam with hundreds of year old sea turtles in Bali, snorkeled off the coast of Kenya, discovered baby seals on secret beaches in New Zealand, partied all night on beaches in Thailand, and this is just some of what I’ve done in my life.
And while these were incredible moments, and I don’t want to diminish what I felt in those moments, they all have one thing in common: they’re all things I’ve done — and moments I struggled to experience. Looking back at each of those moments, I can recall feelings of excitement — and — in every one of them, a constantly lingering feeling that it still just somehow wasn’t enough, or what I thought it would be, or the vague feeling that despite all of it, and being everywhere, I still didn’t feel ‘there.’ Or anywhere for that matter.
I’d climb the tallest volcano and still find myself, missing myself, at the top.
I can recall a hike to the top of a volcano in Bali at sunrise. We started climbing at 2am in the pitch black. We climbed for hours. The closer we got to the top, the sandier, softer and steeper the ground got. With every efforted step, my foot slid back to just before it’s stepping off point, making the climb just before the top slow and arduous — but promising the thrill of achievement and beauty just beyond.
I arrived at the top, just before sunrise. It was freezing. Absolutely freezing. Our guide passed around hard boiled eggs and we held them to our faces for warmth. The sky was completely covered by clouds. We sat on the edge of the caldera in the freezing cold awaiting the sunrise, which came and went without our audience, as the clouds never cleared.
It’s a beautiful metaphor for how I’ve lived much of my life.
I’ve been willing to do the climb. Seeking out taller mountains. Enduring the effort as it got harder toward the top. Breathing heavy and increasing the steps as my feet slid back on top of the sand. Holding out for the thrill of achievement. Unconsciously hoping that this would be the one that I felt.
The truth is, clouds or not, I doubt I would have really been able to take in the beauty of the sunrise on that caldera. No doubt my eyes would have been fixed on the volcano just before the horizon, wondering how high it was, and if I would ever climb it.
On the way down, our guide pointed out a lava field. It was charred and vast, covering miles of hillside, a little green beginning to poke through on the edges. He shared that decades ago, it wiped out an entire village.
Another great metaphor. Look, I’m no monster, and I have little judgement and a lot of compassion for myself, but I can look back on all of those experiences and see a layer of charred black over the greenery and village that lies beneath. Covering and obliterating the experiences that were available to me in each of those moments.
But I’ve shifted profoundly in the years that have followed that climb, and all of the other adventures that I did, but struggled to feel.
In a meditation, not that long ago, a thought came to me: “You never want what you want. So what do you want?” For weeks, it confused me. “You never want what you want.” I’d repeat to myself. Finally understanding that what it meant was that I had achieved, received or accomplished everything I’d ever set out to, yet consistently felt unsatisfied. A trait consistent among high achievers.
When I considered what I really wanted, it was just to be happy. As simple and as complicated as that. Given that I knew I’d been able to achieve everything I’d ever committed to, I wondered what would happen if I just committed to that.
My commitment is to experience this ‘at all costs.’ Regardless of what my threats or disaster scenarios my ego (or overactive thoughts) throw my way, I am committed to experiencing happiness. At all costs.
I have come to see that there is one reality. It is happening now. And it is magic.
I just finished a four day trip in Mexico with my two favorite humans — my husband, Sibe and my daughter, Pepper.
The last morning, I woke up at 5am and sat on the edge of our pool in the dark, meditating. Truly, I was sitting and waiting to hear the jungle sounds wake up with the sun.
I walked down to the beach to watch the sunrise and was met with a feeling of gratitude as several other people strolled onto the beach to join me in anticipating the day’s arrival of the sun. I had to think of ancient Mayan cultures, who worshiped the sun. “An audience awaiting the arrival of the sun feels like modern sun worshiping,” I thought.
I was so moved by the gradually shifting colors of the sky. A dark blue that faded masterfully into brush strokes of watercolor pinks and purples. A pelican flew by creating a silhouette that literally brought tears to my eyes it was so beautiful.
“Have sunrises always been this beautiful?” I thought to myself. Surely God hadn’t sat back in his kingdom and thought to himself, “Hmm, I haven’t upgraded sunrises in a while. Maybe I ought to look into that.”
I walked back to grab coffees and bring it to the room for Sibe, wondering if my life had always been this beautiful, and I’d just never been able to feel the depth and vastness of it. I was sure that was it. I felt a slight pang of guilt and regret for taking so much for granted for so long. I took a breath and let it go, sinking back into the gratitude that I could see it now.
Sitting by the pool later that morning with our coffee (mmm, okay, 9am beers) a young French family jumped off the ledge into the pool over and over, smiling and shrieking with laughter. Sibe suggested we give them the free beach ball we got from the resort.
Delighted, they accepted, hardly skipping a beat in their splashing and laughing. We sat there, watching and enjoying how much fun they were having. Suddenly I burst into tears. Sibe, amused and accustomed to this, looked over at me with anticipation, saying nothing.
“It’s just so beautiful. They’re so happy. I’m so happy.”
He laughed. “I see that.” He laughed again and sipped his beer. “I’m happy, too.”
“We Are One” available Fall 2021. Get early access and be the first to know about preorder bonuses and excerpts.
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.