It’s almost October. Here in Virginia the weather is getting crisp and rainy. Fall will always be my favorite time of year. The cold makes me feel like I can breathe. I can wrap myself in sweaters and jackets, they make me feel protected and less vulnerable. More prepared for what is to come that day. I feel simultaneously more awake and alive, and yet cozy and protected.
I am in the middle of a big transition, as sure as the change in season. Very soon, I will leave my current position in student affairs and step into a brand new role with a company that I can’t stop raving about. I’m leaving the known and stepping into a new challenge. A few months ago, if you told me I would be entering an entirely new career with excitement and challenge, a place with a fast paced environment, established culture and yearning for relentless excellence- I would have called you a liar.
That’s not who I saw myself as. I’m the quiet, happy, contented girl that wanted to work in the same place forever. I told myself over and over again that I was okay with complacency, that comfort was my most important value. I lied over and over again to myself repeating the phrase, “I’m not good enough for more, I don’t deserve it.” We all do it. We have roughly 70,000 thoughts a day that play on a loop- for many of us? Those repeated words are, “You’re not good enough.”
I’m here to tell you that you are. You are so much more than you think. You are a child of the universe and the stars. You are made of love and light. That imagined ideal self you have always wanted to be? You have everything you need to become her. If you live in a privileged enough country to have choice then you have everything you need.
I used to tell myself that I was not that “go-getter” type. I told myself that I hated blazers and that anyone who was constantly reaching for more was greedy, or came from money, or some other lie that excused my complacency.
I think slow living and simple living have been mixed up and confused with laziness or living a life that is quiet or less than. Slow living is about being present in every moment you can. Being mindful enough to stop and play with your little one, noticing the sun coming through the leaves on the gravel road, sitting for five minutes to really smell and love and enjoy your herbal tea.
Slow living is not an excuse to not live your life. You can live intentionally, environmentally and slowly while still being a total bad ass.
When I picture my ideal self, the Bonnie I want to become I see myself in great boot cut jeans, a comfy sweater and a Patagonia winter coat, vegan work boots- taking Miles and our two other children around our farm sanctuary. We’re greeting the animals and feeding and loving on them. The ideal Bonnie is effortless and kind, she does not judge others- she uplifts and sees the best in everyone.
She is a warrior for Mother Earth, she is zero-waste and off-grid. She is hard working and sought after. People ask for her to speak at conventions about how you can save animals and the earth and be rich enough to travel, run the sanctuary, and care for friends and family. Money is awesome and supports my happiness and goals.
Ideal Bonnie puts her children and husband above all things- they are the great loves of my life. Ideal Bonnie hikes and camps every week. She’s outdoors more than she is in. I have a great team that cares for the sanctuary when we’re away.
I am on my way to becoming this Bonnie because I stopped telling myself I wasn’t good enough. I stopped repeating the lie that I am a quiet caretaker that exists solely as a support for other people. The world has told women for too damn long that we can’t strive for more. We can, and we are.
Take the time you spend tearing yourself apart and start telling yourself you are good enough. The universe is waiting for you. I promise if you believe in you, and you remind yourself every single day about the ideal, about the person you have always wanted to be- you will get there.
Change is scary and uncomfortable and your brain is going to work really hard to make you feel like you’re doing the wrong thing. At the first sign of challenge or failure we want to retreat back to where it’s safe, but safe doesn’t mean good. Comfort is not progress. Have the courage to try.
Let go of other people’s expectations for your life. Don’t allow your fear to cloud out every thing you’re doing so right. You’re already doing better than you think.
“First the breaking, then the rising.” Glennon Doyle
I used to tell myself a whole bunch of lies. I had this vision of who I was, an immovable personality structure that influenced everything. My partnerships, friendships, familial relationships, and how I moved through the world were in orbit around who I thought I was. I was fixed, learning and growing sure, but learning and growing as a particular person. A representative that was poised and polished and traditionally beautiful, and I would send her out into the world.
Who I was (my most secret, true, and honest self) was tucked away. Still there, always there, listening but not participating. My real self was too much for the world. Too emotional, loud, brave, wild, opinionated, sexual, passionate, angry, awake, happy and big- the world doesn’t like big and bold and passionate girls and women- so I continued to send my representative out into the world.
She smiled and waved, cared and loved, had good times and bad times. She lived well, but when she came home at the end of the day, in the quiet and truth, she was so tired. My true self would pat her on the head and thank her for getting us through another day in this world that doesn’t like brave, wild girls.
My representative isn’t here anymore. Slowly but surely over the past few years she has been unraveling. Each blow to my representative, to who I though I was, who I thought I should be, gave way to the real me hiding underneath. As I allowed pieces of the forward facing me to fall away, it would leave a spot for my truest, deepest self to step into the light. Graduate school, losing my dad, coming out, finding my life partner, having my beautiful baby, transitioning jobs, listening to podcasts, reading books, having conversations with amazing, real people- all separate moments, smaller parts of a greater whole.
The universe was speaking to me, asking the question, “Who are you when all else falls away?” That is, after all, who we really are. At the end of things, after this beautiful, brutal life- we’re all that’s left. The me that’s here now? Inside and out? I like her. I really like her. Love her even. I love who I have become, who I am becoming- I’m not done.
Small change over time becomes big change. What lies are you telling yourself? What is your representative telling the world about you that isn’t true deep in your heart, in your gut. Our representatives protect us, they keep us safe in times when we need them- I don’t need mine anymore.
Disclaimer: This post is very personal, I hope it will be honored and respected. Trigger warning for references to sexual assault.
“Women are enculturated to be uncomfortable most of the time. And to ignore their discomfort.”
I consider this post to be a part II to my Me Too post, if you haven’t read that one yet it will give my current thoughts and writings more context.
In the past few weeks I have read Like a Mother by Angela Garbes, listened to the Podcast episode of Bodies called “Sex Hurts”, read “The Female Price of Male Pleasure” and talked with countless women through Instagram message, text and phone about how comfortable the world is with women being uncomfortable.
We, as a culture, do not consider women’s bodies. We do not think about, study, understand or consider biological realities of women. To exemplify and personalize this reality, here’s my story.
I grew up with a strong mama. A mama that taught me self love, waiting for sex until I was old enough to understand it, and honoring myself and other women always.
What my mama was unable to teach me about was pleasure. Taking time to discover what is pleasurable, what feels good and right physically, is not granted to women. My mama was not taught. She like all the other women before her was taught that sex is shameful, and then when you’re in a marriage it’s not shameful because you’re giving something to your partner. We’re always giving of ourselves aren’t we?
This isn’t what the world tells little boys. Boys are encouraged to explore their pleasure. Male masturbation is a part of our culture. It’s normal, it’s exemplified, it’s in every movie or TV show I’ve ever seen. Women’s masturbation? Oh no no we don’t talk about that, how could we?
Back to my story. Even though my mama wasn’t taught about healthy sex or women’s pleasure (because so few women are) she did a wonderful job teaching me about my body and to love it. But my mama’s words and love couldn’t overtake the patriarchy. Our world, our taboos, our gender “norms”- they were too strong. High school and boys and friends told me I was nothing if I didn’t have a boyfriend. How could I be worth anything if I didn’t have a crush or wasn’t attached to a man?
And so I made them up. I pretended I had attractions to various boys in my school. I “dated” the same boy from kindergarten to about 6th grade and I hated it. Nothing tied me to him except the pressure to like someone, to have a boyfriend. Boyfriends kept you safe. They legitimized you and made you popular. I have a visceral memory of everyday after school when my then boyfriend would expect a kiss before I went home. We would stand there for almost an hour with me moving away from him and trying to get out of it but I wasn’t allowed. I was his girlfriend after all, he was owed this.
I felt sick after. I didn’t want to kiss boys. I wanted to read and write and be the weird, awkward 13 year old I was at home, where I was safe. I fantasized about a different life out in some distant countryside where I wouldn’t have to wear makeup or bras or talk to anyone. I could live an Emily Dickinson style life where I wore white floaty dresses and didn’t have to pretend. I could just write and read and breathe and live, but that was not an option for me. The world didn’t like that.
Eventually, puberty hit and I did have some interest in boys. I also had the biggest crush on a girl a year ahead of me. I didn’t know it was a crush at the time, I wasn’t comfortable with my bisexuality. I was interested in boys too so how could I like girls? Sexuality wasn’t seen as fluid then, it was one or the other and I picked the more socially acceptable one.
Then started the succession of boys not listening to me. Boys that weren’t okay with just kissing. Boys that demanded more and if I gave less they took it anyway. My pleasure was derived from being desired. I did not consider what I wanted, I only thought about how much pleasure I could give them. And they accepted this because the world told us both that this was the only way. I thought it was okay to always put myself second, and so did they.
This pattern repeated itself through high school, through college, through grad school. Then I met my now husband. Before we were intimate together for the first time he asked a simple, “Are we doing this?” He asked for my consent. I had never been asked before, I nodded vigorously and proceeded to have the first mutually pleasurable sexual experience of my life.
As our relationship continued and the honeymoon phase of our relationship passed, I became angry. My partner no longer desired me every waking moment, so what did he want? How could he want me for anything other than my body? If I wasn’t physically desirable then what was I?
I was a self-proclaimed feminist and strong willed woman, but the patriarchy was louder than I was. I listened to the world when it told me I was an object. Thankfully, Chase combated this notion at every turn. It almost broke us. Daily he had to remind me that I wasn’t just a body to him, I was so much more. I was funny, and weird, intelligent, and kind- I was everything he ever wanted.
I finally listened, and then I fell pregnant with Miles. My body went and did something so big and beautiful and wonderful that I could no longer deny it’s beauty, it’s worth, it’s biological needs and wants. It took an amazing, patient, loving partner and the most beautiful little boy to teach me that my body was mine. That I am not supposed to ignore my thoughts, my feelings. My wants and my discomforts.
Just a few days ago my wonderful husband hugged me as I wept and said, “I didn’t know sex was supposed to be for me too. I didn’t know I was supposed to listen to it, to myself.”
“I wish we lived in a world that encouraged women to attend to their bodies’ pain signals instead of powering through like endurance champs. It would be grand if women (and men) were taught to consider a woman’s pain abnormal; better still if we understood a woman’s discomfort to be reason enough to cut a man’s pleasure short.”
“Talking details is hard, and it’s good we’re finally starting to. But next time we’re inclined to wonder why a woman didn’t immediately register and fix her own discomfort, we might wonder why we spent the preceding decades instructing her to override the signals we now blame her for not recognizing.”
And don’t even get me started on what our society does to mothers, I’ll save that for next time.
When I was pregnant with the little Miles chickens, and for the first three months of his life, I was obsessed with routine. I needed a bit of structure that’s true, but I also got caught up in what everyone else was doing. So many parents had sleeping routines, eating routines, and we worried about keeping baby on a schedule.
Then one night in the middle of trying to get Miles to sleep in his crib I picked him up and brought him into bed with me. Based on nothing but gut feeling, exhaustion, and mama instinct I stopped listening to the bloggers and the online experts and I listened to my heart. We’ve been co-sleeping ever since.
Life and little ones do not follow a schedule. They have no need for time, they aren’t worried about your itinerary. Before Miles, I didn’t have a routine. We live a slow, intentional life where we follow the rhythm of the day without strictly adhering to a clock or a schedule. Sure, we have loose guidelines like when we need to be at work and when Miles should be in bed, but they aren’t so rigid that we beat ourselves up.
I’m not saying that schedules and routines are bad if they make your life better. If having a routine and sleep training your baby bring you joy and make your life better then that is beautiful- and if they don’t? There is another way.
If you’re spending more time stressing and thinking about routines, milestones, sleep training, and eating schedules than just being with your little one or doing what you love most, maybe it’s time to shift. To slow down. To hit the reset button.
I have adopted rhythms over strict routines. A routine can make you feel like you’re failing because you’re not meeting high standards you’ve set for yourself. A rhythm is more fluid. It moves with you, adjusts as life does- as your baby does.
My favorite blogger & podcaster Brooke McAlary of the Slow Your Home Podcast writes beautifully about rhythm and how to suss out the rhythm of your life.
If it’s time for a shift, ask yourself the following questions.
What are my priorities/values? Is it exercising before breakfast, or taking the time to eat dinner as a family every night?
What do other people in my home need? Does my husband need time to study? Perhaps you want time to write or have a bath?
What feels positive? What makes me feel vital and happy and energetic? Make this a priority.
What can change from the current situation? It’s always possible to get up earlier or go to bed later. Similarly, if there are areas where a lot of time is wasted, this can be shifted elsewhere.
What can’t change – no matter how much I’d like it to? School times, bus and train timetables, meetings and appointments can’t change. Make sure these are taken into account and allow some wiggle-room for the inevitable delay.
Since shifting from routine to rhythm I have found forgiveness for myself. I am less stressed and more present. I have stopped comparing myself to other mamas.
Why set ourselves up in a routine that we can fail at when we don’t have to? Instead of asking yourself what you should be doing embrace the flow, choose your pace, let go of the expectations and the pressures our world creates.