The crying was relentless. And it kept getting louder. I pulled myself out of bed and shuffled myself downstairs, disoriented and angry. Why is she still crying?
I found him in the kitchen. Calmly stirring the milk on the stove and tasting it with a spoon like he was Julia Child. Violet, then six months old, was in her vibrating chair on the floor, deeply offended and bawling her brains out.
“Couldn’t you hold her while you were making the milk?”
“Can’t you make the milk a little faster?”
I wish I could say these were thoughts. They weren’t. They were statements I made out loud to my husband, who was simply doing his best. It was 3 a.m. And he was trying to let me sleep. My perfectionism wouldn’t allow it.
It took me over two years years to be able to look back at this event, and many others like it, with a fresh perspective. It took nearly breaking up my home, destroying my marriage, and obliterating myself to see what was right in front of me; to see what was there, all the abundance, instead of all that was missing.
And why did it take so long? Because in becoming a wife, entrepreneur and mother to twin girls in the span of three years, I had left myself back at the train station. The bullet train of my life was speeding ahead, and I wasn’t on it.
When you give birth to twins, one of the most common expressions you hear is, “But you had twins!” Still overweight by fifteen pounds two years later? “But you had twins!” Struggling to have intimacy with your spouse? “But you had twins!” Unable to get your business to grow beyond its plateau? “But you had twins!” The magic excuse for everything. And so for a while I accepted it all, not realizing that the problem wasn’t that I had twins: the problem was me (or the lack of me, I should say).
When I was younger, and free from responsibility, the through line that connected everything was passion. I was passionate. I knew what I loved, what made me come alive, and I pursued these things on a daily basis. From making music to traveling and writing, I did what my soul needed to do. And I didn’t need perfection. I simply needed experience. Rich imperfect experiences.
As I grew older and responsibilities mounted, two things started to happen: I became a perfectionist (which means I was not only hard on myself, I was extremely hard on everyone else), and I became a self-sacrificer. Now neither of these things was a stretch: I am the latest in a long line of superwomen who are adept at martyring themselves in service to others.
Take my genetic predisposition, and pair it with my inherent tendencies as an empath, and I really didn’t stand a chance. I went to law school because it was the right thing to do. I stopped going to concerts because it didn’t make sense to spend on them anymore. I had the girls and suddenly stopped doing anything that wasn’t in service to them. “But I had twins!” I exclaimed to myself. I may have gained two babies, but I wasn’t doing them any favors by completing losing myself.
The worst part about this new me, this perfectionist self-sacrificer, is that it made me an awful wife. I didn’t trust my husband to do anything right, despite needing him so fiercely. I stopped bringing myself, the vibrant passionate woman he married, to the table. I was a million shards of glass held together by a thin skin. One wrong move and I would cut you, and at the same time cut myself.
Eighteen months ago, I reached my limit. I decided to treat myself. A piece of jewelry I would wear to remind myself that I’m still here, despite the glass. And despite the lack of passion. And despite the extra fifteen pounds. I put a ring on my pinky and took a vow: I promise to choose myself, to honor myself, and to remember myself on a daily basis.
The change didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen without support. A personal trainer got me to connect with my long forgotten body. A therapist helped me connect with my long abandoned mind. Friends who understood sent me reminders to get blowouts. Friends who didn’t receded. My parents babysat every Friday night and my husband let me back in without question despite being shut out for years. And my daughters recognized that mommy is happier when she comes back from the gym or after a date night with dad.
And so I began to shed the weight ― both physical and emotional ― and used that freed up space to get to know myself again. Turns out I’m not the same woman I was six years ago when I got married. I look different (I prefer my hair to be short and blonde and my clothes to be black) and I read different books (more light fiction and less literary fiction) and I listen to different music (okay maybe not all that different since the music of my twenties is so much better than what is out there now).
The important thing is I’m getting to know her. I’m finding my me. And I’m honoring her through self love and self care. I’m on my priority list ― each and every day. And I’m excited to have created a company that helps other women make the same shift.
Loving yourself has an incredible impact on your ability to know and love others. It’s really an amazing thing. Self-love for so long was associated solely with narcissism. You would think self loves makes it harder for you to love others. But it doesn’t. Exactly the opposite. When you are full, you have a well to pull from in service to others. You’re able to listen, really listen, instead of controlling every conversation. You allow others to be ― because you finally allow yourself to be ― exactly as they are.
If I have another child ― and I hope I do ― the next time I hear the baby crying at three am and notice the bed is empty I will smile. He is there. He is handling it. He is letting me rest. Everything is okay. I am okay. I am lucky.*
Originally published in the HuffPost, June 2016
*I did end up having another child. And this is exactly what happened.