I have been issued a challenge by my therapist: “Take Up Space. Literally, take up more space.”
I feel I am not alone in being a forty-something mom, wife (though separated at the moment), professional, who considers a billion factors before getting around to prioritizing something for myself.
I grew up being alone a lot and never felt I was a significant part of my environment. Whether that be at school, home, with friends. I was sort of an outlier. Just being included in things felt like enough, so I did not dare have expectations or demands of the people I was included with. It was easier to “go with the flow” because apparently I’m a people pleaser. Being the laid back friend was a comfortable label. If you have no expecations, you have less disappointment. Also, if you don’t throw out ideas or preferences, no one can judge you.
When I had a family of my own, I took the role of Mom pretty seriously, but mostly because my firstborn demanded it of me as a natural progression of the process. I navigated therapies and insurance policies and schedules right off the bat and it never stopped.
As my husband’s work demands became more and more significant, I put my own career on the back burner as we moved from state to state for years. Re-establishing life in different states with kids and pets is no small feat. This further pushed my own ideas, plans, imagination to the bottom of the pile while the immediate needs took precident. Kids and family were always the priority and I don’t think this was unique to my experience by far.
But now what?
Kids are getting older and for right now I’m on my own until things in my marriage work out one way or another. So this is me taking up space. Writing is something that gives me clarity and fulfillment. Feeling like I have to keep my current place in life silent for the protection of everyone else was why I stopped writing when I likely needed it the most. Processing a separation is no small thing. When you throw in grieving and blended family dynamics, it gets even more complicated. My own family has not checked in on me, but thankfully I have amazing friends who have been helping me through the worst of it. My husband and I are on separate paths during an incredibly impossible phase of life. The loss of a child. His adult child.
For the last eight months especially, I have been literally the last person to take up space. Now I have to just snap my fingers and begin figuring out what I need and even more difficult, what I want.
I remember being in my thirties with a toddler and elementary kid and feeling absolutely lost when trying to figure out what my hobbies are. I had none. My hobbies at that time were laundry – which I hated – going to the movies, and naps to manage my untreated depression. Beyond that, I had stopped reading, writing, allowing myself to have anything that was mine alone. I found my way to volunteering with parrots, which brought me so much joy and enriched my life in so many ways. That led to me going back to work, and now work has led me back to school, ironically.
So now i’m supposed to consider taking up space. What does that mean? Do I get to gain weight now?!! I just lost 30lbs. I do not want it back, trust me.
How does one simply *prioritize* themself? I can’t stop considering my kids when I imagine doing this. Their mental and physical wellness is the top of the pile, and then my own needs now. This will be new territory, folks, and you just might get taken on the ride with me as I process through this. So far art has been my go-to. Cross stitch, painting, creating. Something I can do, but can also share.
Bear with me as I struggle through this chapter of life. It’s messy, but there are so many good things happening, too. I have never been closer to my kids. They are amazing, and they have helped me so much by just being the humans i’ve raised. Grace is something I do not give myself enough, and I guess that’s where I will start from.