A Mother’s Day Story

Last Mother’s Day I begin opening the Pandora’s box of what would become a complete life breakdown. If I had any clue as to what the year ahead would hold I doubt I’d have poked such a beast. But I did. I awoke something deep and stirring within — and it fucked shit up, no doubt.

Last Mother’s Day was so intense and out-of-character for that fairy tale version of my life then that I wrote a blog post about it titled Trapped in My Life.

What is wrong with me?

I sift through my mind and my heart and the pit of my stomach. Assess, assume, connect, compare, infer. I have no control over my life. I’ve worked it, built it, merged it, made it. One obstacle, anniversary, accomplishment, opportunity at a time. And now here I am living it. And I can’t get out.

And I meant it. I meant it enough to publicly declare it. My life had me tied up in it, operating like an exhausted marionette with neither a leg to stand on nor a hope of eventual freedom. The future stretched out before me in monotonous and all-consuming chaos.

The year between then and now may take me a lifetime to digest, understand, and integrate into my identity and day-to-day reality. It’s been that intense. That overwhelming. That humbling. That daunting and freeing and, at times, repelling.

I had to go back to therapy for the first time in nearly a decade.

I had to take of leave of absence from the job that was killing me. And then decide I couldn’t allow myself to return.

I had to check myself into the psych ward.

I had to watch my daughters watch me disappear right in front of them.

I had to walk away from my ever-present pursuit of thinness and fitness and instead embrace understanding my own unique and ever-changing hungers and satiety, radically expanding my ideas of what being fed looks and feels like.

I had to brave couples counseling with my life partner, co-parent, and best friend.

I had to go back into my past and dig up shit that I wasn’t sure would see the light of day ever again. I had to remember walking through hell. I had to hold (even briefly) pain I’d have thought unimaginable to live inside my highly functioning body.

I had to leave friends near and dear to make space for more, for growth, for change, for opportunity.

I had to change. I had to change dramatically and painfully and excitingly.

I had to talk about it. I just did. I just do. I had to write. I had to write like my life depended on it (maybe it did). And, when the words built up and weighed too heavily, I had to share.

I had to tell my story.

Thus, I had to be seen. I couldn’t go through this transformational year alone. I needed people by my side. I needed to know others knew. I needed to be encouraged and inspired and acknowledged in the struggle. I need connection. I tirelessly built community wherever I could find it, create it.

Wouldn’t it be cute if I could say everything is roses and rosé? I’d like it to be. I’d like a lot of things right now that aren’t possible. I’d like not to be struggling to decide between medication side effects and mind-numbing depression. I’d like to not wonder about my identity and future well-being based on a mood or an errant thought. I’d like to have that body I worked so fucking hard for back; I’d like my clothes to fit like they do in the catalogues; I’d like to outsource my confidence in that general direction. I’d like to live a life that doesn’t cost so much just to reach a baseline level of general okay-ness.

I’d like it to be easy. I’d like it to be fair.

But it’s been hard as hell and life is never fair. Truths.

Yet, today is Mother’s Day. And, one year later, I can honestly say it’s better now. It’s messier. It’s less predictable. It’s so vulnerable it makes me need to numb. But it’s still better. Because it’s real now. Because it’s true. Because it’s out in the open. Because it’s bigger than me. Because it’s authentic. Even if sometimes it’s authentically a total shit show.

When I look back at what I wrote about Mother’s Day last year, I find a lot of solace in my words. I knew something was brewing. I knew there was somewhere I’d need to go — soon. I knew there was more to come. I just didn’t know what yet. I couldn’t.

Sometimes I do feel trapped in my own life. I’m trapped in my head, trapped in my choices, trapped in my successes (haunted by my failures), trapped in security and predictability and comfort. Trapped in the rat race and unrelentingly polished (worn?) by the stream of society.

It’s like a bad suburban, white girl, housewife, #firstworldproblem, privileged and predictable sob story. I know that. But it’s my story.

On Mother’s Day I had this epiphany that I am trapped in my life.

What followed was a teary conversation with the one who is committed (possibly sentenced) to walk/fly/skip/hop/crawl this life with me. Elaborations on much of what was written above (but the concrete versions: messes, maintenance, money, managing, moving). Followed by McMenamins.

Mother’s Day 2015.

It feels like more than a funny-or-not-so-funny family story. More than an unexpected answer to “How was your Mother’s Day?” It feels like a precursor. I just don’t know to what yet.

Mostly, I’ve had to trust.

I’ve had to trust there are things we may know but can’t explain. I’ve had to trust people I’d preferred to run from. I’ve had to trust a process that could only unfold one day (sometimes minute) at a time.

But mostly?

Mostly I’ve had to trust myself.

I’ve had to build that confidence in me. In my desires, in my tendencies, in my fears, in the ways I show up (or don’t), in my parenting, in my partnering, in my needing, in my feeding and — mostly — in my feeling.

I’ve had to build so much that is so paramount to living well. I’m far from done and trying to embrace the understanding that I likely will never be done. But I’ve made progress. I’ve done hard things and done them well. I’ve survived, again. And I realize now that ways that I always have and the whys that seem to mean I always will.

Mother’s Day 2016 — a whole new story to be told.

Ashley Lewis Carroll

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