I can’t think of any super witty or deep way to start this post, so instead…I’ll just start. 😉 Sometimes I feel led to share bits and pieces of my private life in hopes that maybe someone else can relate and know they aren’t the only one, and, while this isn’t nearly the tragedy of something like the heartbreaking California fires going on right now, it is real in my little life. And maybe someone else needs to read this tonight. ❤️
Lately I find myself struggling with a surprising bit of anxiety, something that has never before plagued me for any extended amount of time. Like, at all. I’m usually a pretty steady, centered person…usually. However, the past few months, and really the past year, have given me a run for my money. At the risk of opening myself and my life choices up to (possibly) unkind judgement from some who would rather throw stones than extend open arms (the Internets can be brutal sometimes….but my buddies are the kindest❤️), I’m sharing my small experience in hopes that maybe hearing, “I’m there, too” might help someone.
(Headed to the airport!)
(A little light reading on the plane…so nice.)
Nothing hugely horrible has happened over the past year. In fact, it’s been quite the OPPOSITE sort of experience; a year of excitement, a year of creativity and challenge, a year of rediscovering pieces of myself that were put on the shelf for awhile in order to spend the last seven years growing our family. Yes, this year has been one of the greatest years of my life, and, actually, that very life looks nothing like what I thought it would after garnering the courage to put myself and my business out there a little over a year ago. What a ride of rediscovery it’s been, and this year has NOURISHED my creative spirit so very much!
(A few shots from the NYC Public Library…the obvious first stop for two book nerds on vacation together. 😉)
(Beautiful tree in the NYC library!)
(In the Reading Room…give me all the books!!)
And yet….lately….I’ve found myself overcome. Overwhelmed. Overbooked. Overextended. All by my own doing, and I did so with excitement! 😩 😂 Want to know why? Because I love the challenge, the creativity, the courage it takes to reinvent part of my life and physically chase down the dreams that seemed oh so lofty mere months ago. Because I’ve enjoyed this creative outlet of Cotton Stem with my whole heart, I didn’t realize just how stretched I had stretched myself…because I’ve loved every second so!
(My sweet friend, Lindsay!)
Boundaries. That one word carries so much weight, and I know that my fellow creatives who have strange work hours, who also possibly work from home (sitting in bed writing and working writing this, actually!), and those who create what they LOVE and are blessed to get to call that a job….you’ll get this. I didn’t see my stress and anxiety that I was churning up all around myself, because…I love it. My creative soul has been fed like NO OTHER this past year, and I sort of thought that part of me had perhaps been shelved forever. I’ve been able to connect with so many likeminded people who have passions and pursuits that align with mine, a rare find, indeed.
And, at the risk of sounding braggadocios, I’m not going to lie; it has been a surreal feeling to dip a toe into these new waters, risking much, and coming out on the other side successful, accepted, encouraged. Do you know how long it has been since it felt like anything I was doing was seen? Seven years of changing diaper after diaper, wiping noses, picking up all the same toys that would then liter the landscape of our home mere moments later…. Did anyone (besides my very supportive and heart-wrenchingly encouraging husband) see me? Did anyone notice? I know my people did, but you know what I’m saying. The work of raising littles can feel invisible sometimes.
🖐🏼PAUSE: I love being a mother. I love it so much, in fact, that I, Erin, a self-proclaimed “non-kid-person” in my young adult life had my heart utterly melted by my first little daughter and proceeded to pray for and be blessed with three more little ones. I love it so much that I shelved my career for a time, put aside my plans, my passions and pursuits that didn’t involve my children just so I could soak and soak and soak up my minutes with them that are fleeting, fleeting oh so quickly.
That didn’t mean Pre-Children-Erin shriveled up and ceased to exist, to dream, to crave to create. She was still there. Quieter, smaller, waiting. But still there.
(This show never gets old…and this was the ninth-ish time I’ve seen it!)
And so, when the season was right and I felt that nudge from Him that my time had arrived to dip a toe, I dipped. And it was so satisfyingly sweet and challenging and made me feel like that part of me that had gathered dust there for a bit had been reignited. But…I swung too far. I mean, I’d never done THIS before, so I leaned into that rediscovery too heavily. Who wouldn’t? To go from a seemingly invisible laundress, nanny/chef/butler to a creative entrepreneur meeting with success and soul satisfaction, all while still being able to stay home and raise the littles I created and gave everything to create…it was a trip, to say the least.
(I had a visceral reaction to seeing this show. By far one of the greatest pieces of art I’ve ever witnessed.)
And thus, in this swirl of feelings, I set off for a different kind of trip, a trip to New York City, packing in my luggage a bundle of emotions with no name to give them. Something wasn’t right, but what was it? How could I feel so utterly happy and satisfied and all the things, and yet…a mere few weeks before be found crying on the bathroom floor, feeling like I was drowning, heart racing, tears flowing, sure I was about to die right there next to the endlessly dripping shower? My second full-blown panic attack of my entire life, and I could NOT name the source of my anxiety.
It took running away on a last-minute trip to the busiest city to find my clarity, my peace…to name my struggle.
What I realized when I created the margin to actually REALIZE was that I’d given up any real form of self-care over the past year, all the while assuming that because I loved my new pursuits with all my heart that I was self-caring with the best of them. Creatively fed and yet part of my soul was hungry. Reclaiming a shelved sense of Self, and yet not self-aware enough to see the anxiety of being overextended creep in. Happy and hopeful and helplessly excited, and yet hyperventilating on the bathroom floor with my husband rubbing my back and whispering quiet prayers.
(An afternoon in Bryant Park…needed this moment.)
I live a charmed life that THESE are my struggles right now. I get it. The fact that I’ve found something so soul-satisfying that I’ve been drinking from it like water hose on full blast and wound up almost drowning in happy feels is a “problem.” But it’s not healthy to minimize one’s struggles, big or small. Other seasons of my life have been so very much darker, with tangible loss and grief, and that reminds me that each season brings its own challenges and mountains. I just needed the mental space to name this mountain. Not the highest peak nor the most frightening crag I’ve crossed in my life, not by a long shot. But I am thankful for that quiet afternoon amidst the absolute chaos of the city in which I found solitude, peace…and was able to name my struggle so that I can stamp it out. Naming it is the greater part of the battle, this I know.
And living life is always about reevaluating, taking stock, sizing it all up. What better time to do just that than as we approach a fresh new year, full of promise, possibility and empty calendar spaces.
My plan is to leave more of them empty.
And to, thus, fill up the spaces of my soul.
Not really asking for advice…just camaraderie. And perhaps sharing the struggles I face, no matter the size or circumstance, can provide camaraderie for someone reading tonight. I love that about the Internet; connection across the distance. And, from all the way over in Oklahoma, I’m squeezing your faces tonight, buddies. Thanks for reading and being so outstanding. Don’t deserve ya….but I’m keeping ya! 😘