Emotions are neither right nor wrong, they are just there. It is our reactions to those emotions and how carefully we choose those actions that determines the content of our character.
This is a mantra I have to keep repeating to myself. Over and over again. I wish I could say that I have conquered all and brought back the secrets of the perfection fountain, but I’ve done nearly the opposite. I’ve brought you the secrets of how to fall flat on your face. I think we’ve all done it. Especially as women. The messages we’re fed from childhood are so confusing… we’re told we should be feminine, while beating men at their own game. We should be strong and empowered, unless it crosses the line into “weird” because then we’re too independent or outspoken. We should embrace our bodies, but only if it’s to get an abortion or have never-ending consecutive pregnancies.
I’ve got news for you. They’re neither right nor are they wrong. This “1001 Ways to Be the Greatest Woman in the World”… I missed the handing out of that textbook in female academy. Do you have a copy? Or maybe you were a bad girl like me and played hooky that day? It’s okay. I did bring back secrets and I am finally ready to share, but first, I want to be honest with you. I’m not a doctor, therapist, or counselor. In fact, I never finished college and never received a degree. I do have beaucoup certifications, but I doubt you’re interested in that.
If you picked up this book and are actually bothering to read this introduction, then I’m pretty sure you are lost. Lost in whatever bookstore or library you are in, sure, but also lost in life... missing or misplaced the passion and drive you once had in your youth, trying to find some semblance of a vivacious woman you used to know, or just searching for a confidence you’ve never known, but have heard are all the rage with women who have their shit together, wondering why you can’t do the same? Maybe you’re disappointed with where you are in life since you figured you’d be ruling your own personal island kingdom by now… and, needless to say, you’re not. Whatever the reason, it’s going to be okay. How do I know? Because I’m there. Right now. It’s past 3 a.m. and I’ve been up Googling if I have Depersonalization Disorder. I know I don’t, but I’m having a freak out and guess what? That’s okay.
What are you feeling right now? Fear? Anger? Worry? Sorrow? Grief? No matter the emotion, take a deep breath. No, not just a sharp inhale with a loud, blowing exhale. Fill your lungs slowly and savor the exhale. Did you do it? Not so bad, eh? Now, tell yourself this: “my emotions are neither good nor bad… they are just there”. It’s true. Maybe you feel at peace or happy and a relative died… there is nothing wrong with feeling happy or content. Emotions are “present moment” kind of things. You know what isn’t? Actions. The second half of that mantra is basically that emotions do not have to dictate our lives. It’s actually pretty swell if they don’t.
I’m not saying to leave behind your emotions. They are an integral part of you, but you have to admit, they do inspire the occasional stupidity. I spent huge portions of my life both being a slave to them and nearly strangling them to death… call it payback for adolescence. It doesn’t work. In my case, it was downright toxic. Oh, yeah… you haven’t heard my story yet, have you? Okay, once upon a time…
When I was 19 years old I was raped. It wasn’t pretty… police were called, I had bruises up and down my arms, and it was the darkest point of my life. I actually went to work the next day. My poor employers thought I was drunk and almost fired me. Luckily, they were very understanding and were taking off early for the week (I was a nanny), so I had a four-day weekend to deal with myself. I curled up in my bed and kicked and screamed when no one was around. My mind and body were having a tantrum of epic proportions. I kept myself together at work, but when I was off-duty I was spiraling. Constant drinking, partying, alienating those who cared about me, and pushing all of my emotions to a deep dark abyss. Then it happened.
Five weeks later, I took a test in a Walmart bathroom stall. I was pregnant. The irony was palpable. I briefly considered abortion, but being pro-life, as I am, I couldn’t stomach the idea. I couldn’t see myself carrying a baby for nine months and then letting someone else raise them. There was only one viable option for me. I was going to be a mom. When people began hearing about my choice, it got even uglier than I imagined, from comments that I must have “liked it” to full disassociation from me. I lost so many friends. My heart was breaking and I started wondering how I was going to be able to parent and nurture the growing heart and mind of a young child when mine was falling apart? My wonderful mother kept reminding me that this was my baby too, but the pain was real and smothering. So I made another decision.
I couldn’t spend my pregnancy being miserable. I wasn’t going to survive like that. And what of this growing person? Did they feel all of the deep grief and sorrow aching in my heart? Did they have their own sorrow? I knew I had to embrace things… the pregnancy, baby, process, etc. I had to make up my mind to give my new mini-family its best shot. So I did. I bought books upon books, joined several online baby and parenting sites, and took several types of birthing classes. After having a few appointments at the local hospital and being treated like “yet another teenage pregnancy”, I looked everywhere for an out-of-hospital birth center. The closest one was three hours away, so I gingerly accepted the option of a home birth.
I went to the local hospital and took their labor class, took some regular Lamaze classes, read up on labor in Dr. Sears’ “The Birth Book”, and took the Bradley Method classes. I was prepared. I tried to improve my diet, according to the Brewer Pregnancy Diet, but as I know now, I didn’t know jack squat about nutrition back then. Luckily, it seemed to be enough and I had a, dare I say it, nearly perfect pregnancy… omitting, of course, the “citrus night” (I threw up so hard it splashed back at me and under my glasses). My pregnancy seemed to echo my labor and birth. My beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed son was born after six hours of painless laboring. It was the most tremendous thing I’d ever experienced.
Not the baby… though he was a pretty awesome bonus, but the fact that my body could do that! That it could do that all along! I felt a power I had never felt before… I knew who I was: I was Baby Alexander’s mother. Now, of all the preparing I did for pregnancy and labor, the Bradley Method classes were the most helpful and shaped my experience entirely. So, of course, when my best friend became pregnant and had no instructor near her, I became one to make sure she had the best education available. Thus began my career as a Bradley teacher and doula. Through the years I’ve attended births for students and non-students, alike, and the experience, though dynamic to each woman and couple, is the same… they are discovering a power they never knew was there, that they have more strength in them than they ever knew was possible. It was always there, even if they had never given birth… it was simply a distinctly female trait.
I proceeded to live my passion and pass on my knowledge to others. It was amazing to go back and visit them and hear their stories of amazement… and here’s the kicker… amazement at what their other friends were missing out on. It kept hitting me… so many women had no idea how wonderful they were. They were blocked by so many negative emotions, but usually it all came back to one particular emotion that I was particularly well acquainted with: FEAR.
I didn’t get it… I had looked fear in the face and had lived to tell the tale, so why couldn’t they? The old adage stands true: there is nothing to fear, except that which is fear itself. So there it is. What happens when you fall flat on your face, but you’re not afraid of the falling down, the getting back up,
or the whispers around you? You just do it. What happens if you are afraid, but because you’ve stood up to fear before, you can see past it to what is truly important? You just do it! Suddenly, you’ve discovered courage.
I know it’s hard and scary, but you can do this. I want you to have what I have a good life. A peaceful life. A happy life full of purpose and meaning. These things leave little or no room for fear and insecurity. This is how we release that inner power. Whether you’re a mother, a single gal, or a more mature glamourista, you have so much more inside of you than you know. Whatever you bring out into the world with you creates change. So let’s create a source of positive change!