The following was recently sent to me by a friend. I was originally going to use it as a jumping off point for a blog post, until I realized it IS a blog post, all on its own. We all have our purple nail polish stories. Or at least I know I do. Multiple stories in fact. As an adult, I’m currently trying to wear all the metaphorical purple nail polish that I can, and to shed all those old negative ideas and beliefs and stories that were never even mine to begin with. And as a parent? I’m currently trying – with all I’ve got – NOT to be the reason that my children avoid wearing… or trying or thinking or experiencing… anything, based on my own personal biases. I want them to wear their purple nail polish. If they so desire, I want them to wear ALL the nail polish.
I’ve decided to wear purple nail polish as often as possible and I’ll tell you why.Because one time when I was 13 or so, I wore purple nail polish. Around this same color but minus the glitter. Anyway, my grandma and cousin made a really UNUSUALLY big deal about how ugly it was and it hurt my feelings.
So a few days ago we were at the store and my daughter asked for this purple nail polish. My gut reaction was to say no because purple nail polish = bad in the ol’ subconscious. Then I realized what my brain was doing and I was like, “You know what? F*** ALL Y’ALL.”And that’s how something you say to a 13 year old kid can stick around until they’re 36+.Do the thing. Whether it’s nail polish, or a nose piercing, or writing that novel, or singing that song, or taking that trip, or wearing those damn pants that you love that your mom said made your hips look big.
Do the thing.
“You aren’t scared to do the thing, you are scared to let go of your old story.” ~ from Kyle Cease
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~ Henry David ThoreauUp until a couple of weeks ago, I’ve never been alone. Is that weird? I mean, yes, I’ve been alone in my house of course, and my car, and a million and one other little ways, but it was always within the context of my other responsibilities. I went from my parents’ house, to having a roommate in college, to getting married at 19, to being a stay-at-home parent for 20 years (20 YEARS. Is that right?)
Which brings us to now. I’m 43 years old, and I’d never been alone.
Earlier this year, I decided that it was really important that I get away. Just for a couple of days, all by myself. It was almost painfully difficult to describe why I needed to do it, but I just knew it was something that had to be done. And it specifically had to be done around April or May, as the pièce de ré·sis·tance to my year of self-care and self-discovery.
I had to be alone.
I had to give myself total space… to think, to feel, to grieve, to celebrate. I had to know, beneath the mom and the wife and the homemaker and the blogger, I WAS ALSO STILL ME.
I went into it with no expectations, other than to let it teach me what I needed to learn. I brought books (but it was okay if I didn’t read). I brought my laptop (but it was okay if I didn’t write). I brought journals and crafty things and sketch books (but it was okay if it all remained untouched.) I brought hiking shoes (but it was okay if they never made it out of my suitcase.) If I needed to cry, that was okay. If I needed to sit outside and drink coffee and watch the squirrels, that was okay.
As it turned out, I needed all of the above. I had no phone, no internet, and no outward distractions. It was just me… alone with nature and alone with myself. It was intense, and it was scary, and it was important.
From my journal, on the first night:I’m sitting alone, in my little cabin. I feel… I don’t even know what I feel. I feel overwhelmed, and yet relieved at the same time. Broken, but so strong. Lonely, but empowered. I am crying, and don’t remember when I started. Crying for the girl that so badly needed this, crying for the girl that was so, so broken for so long. Crying for the woman, who needs to know, perhaps more than she’s ever known anything, that she is enough. Not enough as a mom, or a wife, or a daughter, or a sister, or a friend, but just ENOUGH. As a person. Stripped of all those other labels. I’m enough and I’m crying and uncomfortable and I needed this.
I’m not sure what made me think to do it, but I decided that first night (in the midst of a rather severe mental health crisis) to make a little video diary to chronicle the experience.
The rest of my story will be told through those short videos. They’re self-explanatory, but a couple of notes on the first one: It’s real and raw and not especially pretty. Also, notice how I have trouble catching my breath? That’s what the end of a panic attack sounds like. Or the beginning. I don’t even remember. To be honest, most of the first evening was one long panic attack.
Did I learn something new? Am I a new person because of my little 48 hour excursion? Well, no. The thing with life is that it keeps going, no matter how much we’d like to stop it sometimes. No sooner had I arrived back home, I was thrust back into responsibility and errands and obligations. Real life called. But I lost myself in those woods, and then I found myself again. And what I did realize is that that momentary peace I felt, that brief grasp of ataraxia (look it up) is something that I can work on feeling in the midst of the busy. In the midst of the chaos. In the midst of LIFE. And if I’ve learned anything in the past year – anything at all – it’s that life and relationships, even (or especially) relationships with yourself are not something that you can just anoint with a 48 hour balm and expect to be successful. They need constant, mindful, attentive care if you expect them to thrive, and expect them to be healthy and rich and fulfilling and worthwhile.
And as for myself? My little trip reminded me, more than I’ve ever been reminded before, that no matter how much I fight it, no matter how many times and how many ways I keep having to tell myself… no matter what society says or anyone says:
I am me.
And that’s enough.