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Every year when January rolls around, I realize how much I love this month. It is so fresh and full of new resolve.
I spent the first day of 2015 cleaning out a terribly disastrous email inbox and knocking a few of those long standing items off my to-do list. Some wondered if I was nesting that day, but I think the first week of January consistently provides me with a new rush of energy and drive, year after year. I can’t help but want to start the new year off right.
Everywhere around me, people are vocalizing their resolutions. Or, they’re claiming that they don’t make “resolutions” but “goals” instead, which seems like semantics to me, but whatever. Blog posts are written about how to get organized. We’re encouraged to start scheduling our lives better and to stick to it, waste no more time, live better lives.
I’m over here doing none of that.
I tend to roll my eyes when suggestions for how to live a better life get too prescriptive. I wonder if those people making the suggestions understand that we all live different lives with different schedules and with different expectations on us. Our priorities are different. I suspect this is especially true when it comes to women. I take every suggestion to “wake up early and take some time to yourself before the children wake up” or “clean your sink before going to sleep every night” with a grain of salt. Those nuggets of advice have worked for me at different parts of my life, but no matter how hard I try, sometimes they just don’t fit.
I remember reading a novel in a woman’s literature course in university that dealt with childbirth. At that point, I hadn’t experienced anything like childbirth in my own life. I saw my life progressing steadily in a very linear timeline. One foot in front of the other. One milestone leading to the next. Goals helped keep my focus straight and hard work was the key to keep things going in a linear progression. When things failed, when I slowed down on that straight and narrow or veered off on a new course, it felt like failing.
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But then I read this book. The novel was about women and childbirth and it was the furthest thing from linear. It was circular. It was rhythmic. We had an interesting discussion about how women’s lives are often experienced in waves. Menstruation and contractions and childbirth are the most obvious examples. Like so much of our in-class discussions in university, I was interested but skeptical. I still experienced life in a very linear way. I was in university. I was going to get married. I would get a job. One thing to the next and the next. Linear.
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Motherhood changed me. I don’t think motherhood is needed for this paradigm shift, but it was the catalyst that caused the shift in me. And really, I am only starting to understand the beauty of embracing this non-linear life now that I am well into my motherhood journey.
For the last few years, I’ve progressed through cycles. Phases. A 9-5 Job to Pregnancy to Contractions to Maternity Leave to Push And Breathe And Push to Breastfeeding to Sleepless Nights to Sleeping Nights to Running to Weight Loss to Working Again to Pregnancy…
I wonder if some might look at my life and see very little “progression”. I haven’t made much progress in my “career”. I let writing application deadlines pass month after month. I seem stuck in a cycle that I’m not getting out of. One that takes me in and out of the workforce, has me speeding up and slowing down, and gives me a constantly changing body.
But I’m starting to see how beautiful it is to go with this flow.
I’ve been experiencing contractions for months now – since my second trimester. Just so you don’t get worried, these are Braxton Hicks contractions. Practice contractions, if you will. When I was pregnant with Cameron, I didn’t know if I would know what a contraction was. I worried about it, concerned I would miss knowing if I was in labour all together (ha!). Now, as I am about to give birth to my third baby, I know contractions intimately. They are waves of tightening and loosening. They move my baby and prepare my body. They come and they go, ever so slowly getting stronger and more frequent as the months progress. Soon each contraction will come with its own pain, and each break with will provide relief and deserved rest. These waves coursing through my body are a very natural and tangible progression. It may take months, but each contraction brings me one step closer to having this baby in my arms; one contraction closer to fulfilling my goal.
Our society isn’t used to working this way. There is no “path to success” that includes starting and stopping, going forwards and back. We celebrate the pushes. We don’t see the value in the breaks.
I get it now. I understand the theme of that women’s literature novel. There’s a difference, a beauty, to living within these rhythms.
And it isn’t just my body. It isn’t just the menstrual cycles that lead to pregnancies. It isn’t just the tightening and the loosening of my abdomen. It isn’t only the pushing and the resting that will come in a few days when this baby is ready to enter the world. It isn’t the flow of breastmilk.
It is my life. It is the stages and the chapters that I keep revisiting and how they all require different things from me. Until I find myself once again on a forward facing, single directional path, I will always need to consider where in the cycle I am before I can commit to resolutions and goals. I need to ease into each new stage, understanding what is required from me first.
Giving myself permission to do this is so freeing.
So here I am, in the first month of 2015, sitting on the cusp of something new. It is bigger than a new year. It is a new baby. It is a new stage of life. It is mothering three children. It is maternity leave. It is sustaining a life with the milk that I make. It is sleepless nights. It is a house to care for. It is a growing family. It is big brothers (two of them this time). It is a busy, working husband.
And I don’t know what I’ll have to give yet or what space I’ll be able to make in my life.
So this year, there will be no resolutions for me. I won’t make goals meant to last through the whole year. I know there are things I want to do more of: take photos, write, read more novels, read my bible daily, be patient with my children, run again…
But I’m not committing to anything. Right now is one of those breaks between the pushes. I’m waiting and watching and finding out what will happen next. I’m resting. And soon, I’ll ease into this new life. Soon, I’ll make rooms for goals and commitments again.
But not today.
Today I’m pushing to complete my last week of work. Today I’m waiting for a little one to make an appearance. I’m riding out these contractions, and watching my body work and move in cyclical, rhythmic ways. In and out. Tight and loose. Push and rest.
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