“You have to mourn the person you used to be.”
She was talking about the women we were before becoming mothers, but when Janelle Hanchett of Renegade Mothering said that sentence out loud at the MomCon last weekend, they resonated with me for reasons that had nothing to do with parenting.
I’ve been swimming in murky waters for a long time now, struggling to make sense of my surroundings in the swampy in between, and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t pull myself onto a new bank. Even patience and time failed to clear the mist.
This was not to be a passive passing. Of course not.
A huge, meaningful, defining chapter of my life has drawn to a close, and that calls for an intentional acknowledgment.
I’m not even sure what to call the chapter. Blogger? Writer? No, those are things I did before and will continue to do long after this page has turned.
It’s the chapter in which I went to conferences and attended press trips for work. A lot. The line from travel to check wasn’t always clear, but it was strong enough to justify trips all over the country – and even out of it a few times.
It’s the chapter in which my front door was a constant depository for free stuff, sometimes from friends but more often from ginormous companies hoping to coax a little influence their way.
It’s the chapter in which I appeared on lists and on stages and was recognized regularly by strangers at certain events.
It’s the chapter in which I joked about being famous on the Internet and paid many of my bills because it was at least a little bit true.
My kids tell people I’m a blogger when they’re asked what I do. My husband says he doesn’t know but I get free stuff. Neither of those things are really true anymore.
I finally corrected Jared the other night when he said it while we were watching Master of None. Dev was trying to explain his girlfriend’s PR job in music and finally admitted, “I don’t really know what she does, but she gets free tickets to concerts.”
“That’s what I tell people about you!” Jared laughed.
And I remembered Janelle’s words about mourning. This was a moment to do exactly that, or at least to start. This was a chance to say out loud what I’d been feeling for over a year.
“That’s not true anymore,” I told him. “It hasn’t been for a while.”
“True,” he shrugged, taking no notice of the significance of the moment.
But the relief I felt was instant. The fog dispersed and in it’s place the present shone clear. Finally I felt a comfortable distance settle between where I had been and where I am.
I’ve been so resistant to let go, because man were those good times. I found my soul in those times, and my voice and my backbone and what I was absolutely certain was My Purpose.
I found a tribe for the very first time. I finally knew what it felt like to be accepted and even loved for who I was, to walk into a room and not be the weird one. That love made it easier to go back to places where I’ll always be the freak. Would admitting that tribe was no longer bring a return of the loneliness I’d endured before?
I got to be part of something special, to be in on a secret the world would eventually discover but that would in part always belong to those of us who knew it first. I was part of the primordial goop from which fame, fortune, innovation, and major cultural shifts emerged. Granted, my name isn’t tied to any of those things (except in the acknowledgements of a few best-selling books), but I’ll never forget what it was like to be there when it all started. Does easing my grip on those good old days make me irrelevant again?
I don’t want to give up my membership card in the cool kids club, even if I haven’t been to the clubhouse in ages. What will make me special now? Where will I belong? What will I be a part of?
Who’s going to pay for my vacations?
Seriously. My family and I went on our first ever non-subsidized, just-for-fun vacation this summer. I had to ask a friend how much I should expect to spend because I had no idea. I’m super disappointed to give up that particular ignorance.
The absence of all these hard-to-quantify benefits have left me with an easier to read balance sheet. That’s scary as fuck. I can’t say that I’m pleased with what my personal worth amounts to when it’s boiled down to dollars and cents or number of meals cooked. I’ve been questioning lately what my contributions are now, and the answers are less than inspiring. I do a much better job justifying the ambiguous.
Maybe I’ll be able to take a closer look at that now, to fully commit to creating a present tense that fits as well as the past once did. Maybe now that I’ve been able to let go of the old comforts I’ll have a better idea of how to start filling the new holes. Maybe, as they say, the best is yet to come. At least now I’m ready to find out.