“And they lived happily ever after…”
More like “and they lived with each other, in love, frustration, annoyance, effort, passive aggression, tears, 3 day tension, passion and quiet friendship”… and when they had kids, they lived in exhaustion, money-woes, what-are-we-doing-are-we-raising-these-kids-well, super quiet rounds, and “it’s your turn to change the nappy”. In those nyovadam days, especially when children are under 3 years old, happyhappy is just a song by Pharrell.
Happiness is just one of the many emotions and experiences of marriage and motherhood. And I don’t think it’s even necessarily the most important one. Not all the time, at least.
Maybe that’s just me.
Wait… let me explain – I don’t buy the idea of happiness as we are expected to consume, perform or experience it in this world, you know, in this age of mass consumption, instant gratification and self-at-centre isolating individualism…that thing.
Joy, peace, ubuntu, positive effort, …yes, I know all about these spirit places. Pooping butterflies and rainbows? Nah. This world can turn Sarafina into Maleficent.
Maybe because I’ve become so accustomed to the deep, still and sometimes heavy darkness of ubungoma, and I gave birth in flames of pain and “fuuuuccckkkk I’m gonna die”. I’m just not swayed. My lessons have come from unlikely places, so I STFU as a form of meditation now.
I’ve grown up afflicted in the way spirit mediums are afflicted by love, empathy and psychic sight. And then I became afflicted in the way of mothers who have taken on too much for others and too little for themselves. Imagine the combination. I invented umzwangedwa*.
Taking care of my mental health, in our marriage and my mother self is a delicate embrace-surrender-release balance. I need to (remember to) constantly check in with myself and my husband so that I stay present in our love and life, while honouring the tides of my internal seas.
I’ve blogged before about the importance of medical help, routine, spiritual practice and naps for my mental health so in this post I’d like to share my inner dialogue practice for when I hit a wobble.
1. What is the truth?
Anxiety tells me ugly lies about who I am and what is happening. This question helps me to find the truth, embrace challenges and surrender to the unexpected. It also helps me to release harsh self-criticism.
2. How does it feel?
My go to response used to be “I’m tired” when I may have actually been feeling sad, overwhelmed, frustrated or even just hungry. Scanning my body and heart before I answer that question helps me to embrace my vulnerability, surrender to my humanity and my limits, and release guilt.
3. What do I need?
This one is the most difficult question because it often means reaching out to others for support and help, which I must feel allowed to, to begin with (see 1).
When I am honest and vocal about my feelings, I can embrace my husband’s affection, tenderness and acts of service without feeling like Rapunzel. I can embrace my friends’ kindness and surrender to the generosity of my community. I also learn to release my sterring tendencies and be taken of.
On my bad days I only have one question for myself: “WTFWTFWTF?!” but it’s too late because I’ve freestyled my way into adulthood, did grown up things like marry a man, and now there are these two kids in our house looking at me like I know what I’m doing because I’m big and they want me to take my knowledge to the kitchen to make snacks.
* umzwangedwa – describes complex internal experiences and emotions that may cause a person to feel low/conflicted/isolated