It was a grey, cold, cloudy morning. One where it might as well have rained at any moment. Usually we have breakfast and are off on our morning adventure. Usually the Colorado sun is shinning. Usually I’m feeling optimistic and joyous. This morning, not so much.
I almost wished it’d rain as if it’d be an excuse to just stay inside, away from this mountain we love so much. Today, I’m tired. Today I’m looking at six different drafts on my desktop, with a notebook only waiting with more ideas. I’m sorting through paint scraps for illustrations to finish and imagining that vulnerable, proud, terrifying feeling of sharing when they are complete. Today I’m watching our sweet son recalling all of the shifts and changes which occurred for both of us this past year. His so visible and celebrated, mine, not so public. Sometimes the most significant growth happens deep inside ourselves, and only we know about it, and that’s ok.
I remembered this image I saw once, “be your own hero,” it read. I knew we’d feel better once we got out. We, I, got it together, the toddler, puppy, and myself, and although we were later than usual, we met up with our mountain for our morning appointment with its wonder.
On the trek up I kept hearing those words, “be your own hero,” at times finding courage in them at other times questioning this notion of hero. A profound accomplishment is often what we view as hero worthy. Yet, they stories of the trials and work towards a goal . . . we don’t know as much about those. It’s not simply personal or professional work, art, or writing. Even in science, it may take eighty-seven different experiments before the one which is considered noteworthy is shared. The one with visible change is what is known and remembered outwardly, yet, all the other easy, hard, frustrating, good, challenging, doubtful days, they all required something significant too.
Only a pocket of people knew (until now) that I’m writing children’s books, the ideas for them, and attempting to start a blog. I've heard how awesome and bold, and how courageous and great, as though this is glamourous. In many ways I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as lost or as found. As torn between keeping it all private until there is a feeling of “success,” until that noteworthy moment, or do I share the complete magnificent mess and uncertainty along the way?
Being your own boss is hard. At times I feel completely selfish and question all of it. At other times I feel empowered and know I have so much, all there, within the daily dance of mothering, of forgetting it enough to go off and play and be and read with our son. And yet, remembering and holding fast to it enough for the future I want with and for our son too.
It takes three years of hard work I’ve heard. I haven’t been at it more than a month and already feel it, that thick stirring of doubt. I look back at work generated pre-mothering, and think I knocked that out and hand bound it in a book, and added details on each page in one long weekend. And yet, I need to remember, that was one long weekend alone, coming off of a week living alone, and going into a week alone. Working then was relatively effortless, fun, and tasks seamlessly flowed into each other without sudden breaks or tugging interruptions. I know in my head and heart that comparison is the thief of joy. Although I’m as human as anyone, I try not to do so, deep down inside there is always a yucky residue after.
Yet, it hadn’t occurred to me really before this "be your own hero" bit, that in a sense, this past month I have been comparing, me to me. I've been drawing upon a memory of who I was and how I worked pre-marriage, pre-child, my most abundantly productive time, as my sense of being my own hero. If I could only do it again, like that, that was hero worthy. And yet, the irony is that within the underbelly of that prolific time of solitude, which created so much external “success,” deep inside, I wished and hoped to be anything but alone. I'd imagine my life very much as it is now, and hope for a partner one day, just like my husband, and a child, just as our son. Smiling, hand resting on cheek, this is life, and love, and living.
Today, I made meals for our family. We went on our exploration and had story time and puzzle time and drawing time. I've cleaned up countlessly; defeat may as well be defined as cleaning with a toddler. I am doing laundry. I called an old friend and am about to go to a playdate with a new friend. Our first playdate in a long time. Sometimes I forget to wash my face in the morning, and I certainly don’t wash my hair daily. Sometimes I make beautiful, delicious meals that are so Instagram-esque, other times I make cobbler using cake mix, because parenting is so much more wonderful and exhausting than we ever understand until we're in it. Sometimes I write drafts of posts and I wonder when I’ll publish them, or if a new idea will get released before. Sometimes I paint and illustrate, mostly I imagine doing so.
Each day I’m learning that I only have so much control over what is accomplished. Yet, each day, I get to choose how I show up. How I show up to a cold, cloudy morning, to writer’s block, to our son’s many varied moments, and to myself. Do I greet myself as my own hero, for who I am today, and recognize the beauty and strength of mothering and working and having the courage to still dream? Or do I let the thief win, and compare me to some other time?
Maybe success is simply and fully showing up, for the noteworthy parts, and the eighty-seven other times too.
And maybe, being my ow hero, is being gentle enough, to have the strength, to love myself, as I am, today.