In addition to BlogHer conference recaps, one of the most popular memes flooding Facebook and Twitter is the experience of reentry. Or, readjusting to normal life as it is beyond the inspired confines of 2,000 women giving themselves time to connect -with self and others- and focus and learn. The fact that this is such a common thread is, I believe, indicative of three important things worth consideration:
- Many women do not generally feel that they have time to pursue and deeply cultivate the passions in their lives that are their very own. Children, marriages, jobs, other familial responsibilities like elder care ... in addition to the chores of daily life consume, often greedily, the limited time and space there is. We frequently must - literally - register for something and go away to enjoy such time for ourselves (the officialness of registration validates the going). When we do, it's as if we've found ourselves in an oasis of rejuvenating self-care. Leaving that can feel both jarring and difficult.
- Many women do not, in their daily lives, feel they have a network of camaraderie and support like the one they encounter at conferences like BlogHer. To be certain, one of the primary reasons I felt so inspired after leaving San Jose was because it's rare to experience, for two-three days straight, the message that not only should I be bold, live boldly and do both authentically, but also that I am appreciated for doing so.
Many women spoke of finding their tribe; I don't feel that I left with a new posse of support (though surely that's nice and would be appreciated). But, both last year and this, I met one woman with whom I really connected and will stay in touch, and I encountered and learned from a number of role models whom I will follow and continue to gain inspiration from. That's exceedingly meaningful and important and exciting.
- Many women do not, on a regular or regular-enough basis, feel the degree of stimulation, illumination and verve they do when immersed in a community of generally like-directed folks, e.g. bloggers, despite the diverse topics explored in their individual blogs.
This last point has been the toughest realization I've had since coming home. Was I happy to get back and see my family? Of course! Have I been able to maintain the lightness of being I felt in CA? No, not really.
I found my path to writing via motherhood. I finally unearthed that thing that makes me tick. And while I imagine finding that before becoming a parent and then having to figure out a way to balance it after the fact is a difficult and lengthy process, it's a different kind of bittersweet challenge to discover a love and never feel you really have the time to do much with it. It reminds me of friends who met their partners later in life and felt the need to immediately have children because of the timing; they desperately wanted their babies but also would have loved a bit more time to simply enjoy couplehood.
For me, reentry isn't just the fact that I'm no longer on a single girl schedule. I mean, that is lovely, and boy did I sleep well! It's also, and here the ache sharpens, the realization that some of those big ideas and bullet points and starred notes in my BlogHer notebook will have to remain just those things for now. Ideas and goals versus to-dos that come to fruition in the greenhouse built on thoughtful attention and commitment over time.
Does motherhood light my heart on fire? Regularly, yes. When one of my boys slips his warm little paw in mine, I want to hold on forever.
Does motherhood stimulate my mind and drive me wild with enthusiasm? Not nearly as often. The daily constancy of minutiae that feels both critical and inane is terribly wearing and sometimes dulls and dampens my spirit in discomfiting ways.
And the gap between those two is equally vexing. How can I feel so besotted and suffocated?
What I came away with after BlogHer in 2013 crystallized more permanently this year: that while my experience of motherhood is more challenging than it may be for others, that doesn't make me a failed mother or a failed woman. It means I'm human and that this job is a hard one for me, even though I'm good at it. When I think back over how energized I felt in CA, I'm reminded that limits are smart and there is no sense in draining myself in pursuit of someone else's conception of the A+ Mother. I'm hard enough of myself without those externals, thank you very much. I owe it to my family to suffuse myself with the happiness and support I give them. I owe it to my boys to model a fulfilled and happy mother/woman as best I can. And I owe all of that to myself, too.
And that is a nugget of authenticity of which I am boldly proud!