Losing myself was surprisingly easy and excruciating. Harriet Cabelly, a social worker, life coach and writer, quotes a women in her care as saying, "I am so overwhelmed and I’ve lost myself." This could have been me after my second child.
Before kids, I had a thriving career as an engineer. I was a traveler. I had friends and a community. And then I had none of those things. Oh how I ached for my old life. Was that former life totally gone? Lost and adrift, I fell into depression. Ms. Cabelly wrote, "How do we reconnect with ourselves when we feel squelched and obliterated by all our obligations, responsibilities, and an overwhelming sense of drowning?"
I mourned the loss of that old life. I remember attempting a restaurant get-together with kids in tow. It was extremely cold out and I could not find parking within a 10 block radius, so I gave up after circling for 45 minutes and called my friends, tearfully explaining that I was just going to head home. That moment was crushing. I cried the whole drive home. Where had that person gone? I missed her and felt like she had just died.
Travel helped me reconcile my past self with my current situation and even gave me hope for the future. There are of course any number of ways you can reconnect to yourself, but my most effective has been traveling. My road to reconnection was in two major steps.
Step 1: Traveling by Myself
The first time I found the old me was on a ski trip to the French Alps with my sisters. My gracious husband agreed to watch the kids and allow me this marvolous experience. I found joy in how easy it was to travel without my kids. All I had to do was take care of myself, no small people depended on me to keep them safe, fed and minding manners. It was luxury. It took a few days before I even missed them. I felt the old me resurrected.
We skied, went out to eat, laughed with friends and family and generally I was able to act exactly like I had before my kids. It was dream-like because that reality had been removed from me for years. But it proved the old me was still there. So I took that knowledge of my reawakened old self home. But did I have to leave my husband and kids to find her?
Step 2: Traveling with My Family
Traveling with kids is complicated and messy. More then one person has questioned why anyone would ever want to travel with kids. But like the me-before-kids, I like my kids too. I was not willing to leave them behind most of the time. Traveling with my boys worked a miracle. Part of finding joy in this life is being content with the place you are at right now. Longing for the past or the future is a recipe for bitterness. So what happened when I took my children with me traveling was that I got to reconcile that rediscover old me with my current life situation.
First we took our children skiing in Banff, Canada. I worried that they would get upset on the flight or not sleep well in the condo or just complain and be generally unhappy. Comments were made to me aimed at the burden of bringing my children on a trip like that. The miracle for me was that it was exactly what I needed. I AM a mom, I love my children and they are my new reality, good, bad and messy. So, to put my new life and my old life together in a way that I can share with my children just how much I love to travel, it healed the rift between the old and the new. I needed to integrate all of those parts of myself together and I found that it traveling with my kids.
My solo trip was to rediscover that old me, to feel her still living inside of me. The new me needed to find her place in that joy from the past. The integration of those two selves has lead to increased contentment and even freedom. Freedom to enjoy the change and let go of the bitterness. My past will always be a part of me, as I move forward I will embrace the changes life gives.
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