“Mommy” – this has been my moniker for the last four years of my life. Even though I hear this everyday, the name still hangs on me like a piece of ill-fitted clothing. You know the feeling, the one where you see something on the hanger that you think might look great on you, but you try it on, and well, it just isn’t comfortable. Most days I have no clue what the hell I am doing. When Dustin walks in the door, I am not a shade of my former self. This describes my life since the word “yes” appeared on the stick. My days revolve around my child – there is no time for “Stephanie” at the end of the day. “Stephanie” seems like my favorite shirt that no longer fits and has long since been sent to the thrift store. In raising a son, I have lost me. A process I am not sure I have been that great at dealing with.
The truth of the matter is, once you become a mom, part of you dies. It really does. I could share something flowery here and tell you that you become “complete” or “more beautiful” or a “better woman” or “simply more”. I know I should say I celebrate the miracle that is life and the miracle of my body to produce life. I should say that my hopes and dreams suddenly became clearer. I should say my life now has purpose. For some women all those things are true. Yeah, for me, not so much. I only became lost. I have no clue who I am and I find I am not happy with myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son. He is beyond awesome. He is happy-go-lucky, smart, funny, and a true old soul. I am lucky to be his mom. I’ve simply handled the transition poorly.
A volcano of uncomfortable emotions sits below the surface, threatening to explode at anytime. My self worth disappeared long ago. Hard conversations I need to have with my partner and with myself are never began. Self care, or “me time”, comes with a helping of guilt. The guilt consumes me. I never take the time to explore my thoughts or come to terms with my reality. I don’t take the time to figure out what style fits me the best. At night, Dustin falls asleep or becomes a TV zombie while I put Drake to bed. Night after night of lost opportunities for connection. While I feel content with the job I have done as a mother, I find that I have not figured out how to put the outfit of being Stephanie, partner, and mom together. To use a pair of pants as a metaphor for our relationship, they are a size too small. I want to get them off and find something more comfortable. Intimacy is different now, and neither of us has figured out how to wear it. To be honest, it is probably me that hasn’t figured it out. I have never been the affectionate type. It is exacerbated now. At the end of the day, all my love has been given. I don’t have one ounce left. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want any noise. I want quiet. I want a moment where I am not needed.
I have read articles and talked to others about how to wade through this mess of strange feelings. Join a mommy group, they say. My socially awkward self floundered in those. I would rather have a moment to read in silence than discuss parenting tactics or gossip. In all the mommy groups I tried, I found one person I could identify with. I am sure it was no coincidence her daughter was a lot like Drake. Living in Colorado Springs is like living in the Twilight Zone. It is strange here. There is nothing in this store that is even close to my size! Go back to work, they say. Interviews with people in my profession left me disheartened, defeated, and confused. They said I have not worked in four years and could be out of touch with natural resources. The out of touch with natural resources was a total gut punch. Haven’t worked? Yeah, that one didn’t sit well either. Take more time for yourself, they say. I try, but end up frustrated because it never ends up happening. Outside of mommy groups I have made friends on my own, but life keeps us from enjoying time together as simply women. Conversations are had over zooming car noises or miles separate us. I repeatedly go into the fitting room with armloads of clothes, but have yet to walk out with anything. The moral of the story, I have not let go of the old me.
As I listened to the rhythmic click clack, click clack of my hiking poles hitting rocks on the trail, the concept of me being lost and letting go came to me. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to healing, right? It was only fitting that I discovered how suffocated I felt when in the wide open air. Perhaps it is more than just the wide open air – perhaps when outdoors I reconnect with the part of me that has been wondering aimlessly the last five years. For a moment, the grief of losing the former me was overwhelming. It took everything I had to not stop in the middle of the trail and collapse in a puddle of tears. It was a hard realization that the outfit I had loved would no longer fit – it only clung to my lumpy bits and made me uncomfortable. Yet, it is so hard to not want to fit back into that beloved ensemble. To be that person I know so well and have missed so much. I am not her anymore and I cannot wear her clothes. Letting go. It is hard.
After we returned home from the hike where I experienced my silent epiphany, I happened upon a post on the Hike Like A Woman Facebook page. It was a call for Ambassadors for the website and the brand. As a long time follower and strong identifier with Rebecca’s philosophies, I took the plunge and applied. Belts can tie an outfit together (I am no fashionista, but I have friends that are!) Knowing that my life is now one of a stay at home mom, I felt this was a way to sneak in the belt from that great outfit of me. It was a way for me to bring in my love for the outdoors and inspire others. Instead of wearing an agency uniform, I would be armed with only a computer. No script. No agency rules. No filter. I had the idea that being an Ambassador would be cathartic – a way to let go, yet be found. Somehow the planets aligned and the universe worked in my favor. I was chosen to be an Ambassador.
For the next year, I will make a concentrated effort to contribute here on this blog in addition to my posts to the Hike Like A Woman community. The contributions of myself and 36 other women hope to inspire, inform, and connect women from different backgrounds, places, and ages. My aspirations were to be an Environmental Educator. My new reality may keep me from that, but Hike Like A Woman provides me an opportunity to do just that, but in a different, yet perhaps more profound way. Through this, I hope to foster a love of the outdoors in others, educate about the nuances of the natural world, throw out my opinions on gear, and share a few places to “get lost”. After all, I have discovered that getting lost is all part of getting found.
Thank you for participating in my pity party and following along on my journey.