Am I thriving or am I surviving?
Happy Wednesday my loves but more importantly happy day 19 of our Dry January Journaling series. You have made it so far, I'm so proud of you.
Here is today's prompt:
"What mode do you feel like you are in at most times? Are you thriving or are you surviving? Do you feel like you have room to participate with life?
This question comes from a few things on my mind at the moment. At the forefront of my thoughts is this show - Yellowjackets. It's on showtime and it's about a high school soccer team who's plane crashes in the middle of the forest. It highlights how quickly decision making changes when you survival is threatened. How quickly your priorities shift when it is literally life or death.
On top of that very fictional show getting me very existential (I do that with everything) - I am also reading Unicorn Space by Eve Rodsky. It's a book about carving out creative space in your life. She mostly talks about how women struggle the most when it comes to doing this. We aren't taught to ask for time away from our kids and when we do get it, we feel guilty and we rarely spend time alone doing things that fulfill us - mostly it is groceries or errands. Add on to that - a 3 year pandemic and I would say most moms/caregivers/parents/humans are more likely living in survival.
I am a year and a half into motherhood and if I'm being honest, the first year felt like a plane crash. It felt like I dove head first in parenting and even though I got my oxygen mask on in time, it didn't help with the pain of impact. Motherhood at first is 100% surviving. Thriving was lost on me. At all times.
Even when I was away from my daughter, I felt guilty about it. When we had childcare, I would drop her off late and pick her up early because I didn't feel like I deserved the time away. All of that guilt all the time even though I was up in the middle of the night with her constantly. I was stuck in a cycle of shame and guilt that never let up because I was always so tired.
Thriving felt impossible. From the bottom of my heart, I didn't even know how we were surviving. I still feel heroic about it. Kind of like how no one wants to survive and live through a plane crash but knowing you did it probably feels wild. The strength and mental will it takes to overcome traumatic times in our lives is the same strength and mental will that will get us to thriving in our lives as well.
In order to move from surviving to thriving - I had to ask myself what I was willing to change and more importantly, what I was capable of changing. In that moment, I could afford a therapist. I wasn't going to quit drinking or start some crazy work out routine or take walks but I would start therapy.
Slowly (and I mean slowly) - I let my therapist in. I trusted her and I felt safe with her. Even though it was only one hour a week - I started to notice changes. All it took was that one non-bias person listening to me as I talked through stuff and then helping me through that stuff in healthier ways. As I trusted her more, I was able to implement new changes in my life and I was able to do trauma techniques that she suggested.
As fate would have it, 4 months after I started with her - I quit drinking. It was supposed to be Dry January but we are still here over a year later. As I put down the wine, I all of the sudden had hours more at night. I had mountains of energy and my anxiety was getting lower by the day. I started to come back to life and I felt the some joy enter my bones again.
It wasn't perfect or tidy. I still had blowups with my husband and I occasionally lost my shit with my kid and I didn't always hold my boundaries BUT I started doing all of those things less and less and less. Because every time our house had an explosion or I got triggered, I didn't just have someone to help me through them, I had tools other than alcohol to work on them. I had my therapist, yes - but I also had yoga, meditation, journaling, painting, dancing, walking, breathing, and reading.
There's a common misconception that in order to change your life and go from surviving life to thriving in it that you must rip your life to shreds and start all over. Burn it all down. But most people don't have the privilege or the money to do that.
So start small. The first step to thriving is by doing one small thing for yourself. Email a therapist like me. Ask for a babysitter. Sign up for a class on something you need help with. Research books that deal with what you're experiencing. Call a friend and tell them you're struggling and need some guidance.
A really beautiful but really hard lesson I learned in therapy is that sometimes we have to be our own parent. We have to offer the help that we wish someone else would. Our people don't always know we're struggling and on top of that, they don't always know how to help us.
My husband had wondered for years why I was struggling with depression but he never forced any one solution on me. He never asked me to quit drinking and he never forced me to go to therapy. Once I did those things though, we both saw our relationship change. Not only was parenting so much easier for me, getting through the day was easier for both of us.
I had to look at myself with some honest kindness and ask which reality I preferred - the one where I got to be drunk every night but couldn't stand myself and my life or the one where I had to do the hard work of showing up present 24/7 but loved my life?
When I looked at it that way, it became so easy. Sometimes the very things we think are helping us survive are actually the parts of our life keeping us from thriving.
Lastly - we're in the middle of a fucking pandemic. Half the country isn't vaccinated so parents with small kids really don't have a lot of options right now. If you have zero way to thrive right now - give yourself a break. These words are meant to help us find direction, not shame us into a corner.
Sending you all my love.