The journey of my mombbatical brought unexpected reflections and experiences, but what was perhaps most surprising was that it was a renewed journey to self-love. I had spent years on the self-help train, reading everything from the Bible to Iyanla and all that fell in-between. I had been to therapy, forgiven those who brought me pain and drew strength and self-appreciation from the many hats that I had worn–mother, educator, leader, etc. Little add-ons like becoming a Crossfit addict at 47 or earning an executive masters degree helped shore up my self-esteem for sure.
But, my mombbatical time–time away from my greatest love, my son–revealed a new dimension to love that I had not fully understood before. During that time, I was stripped of all the identifiers that fortified my ego, including mom. Often, I was forced to sit in my solitude and get comfortable with just being in that moment. While at times I relished the freedom and lack of demands, I also felt purposeless and of no use to the world. I kept questioning the decision I had made because there was no external evidence of how to define my life. It was disorienting and downright frustrating.
Then, I came to understand that that was the point. Real love does not reside in our accomplishments or labels or the number of people who know our name or come to depend on us. It exists in the quiet spaces when we are alone, independent of the things or people we hold hostage to our happiness. It is in the touch of a cool breeze on our skin and the blazing reds and oranges embedded in the clouds as the sun sets.
One day, I sat and listened to a friend air grievances about their partner and the looming end of their relationship. I was struck by the tit-for-tat dissatisfaction they shared with each other for simply not acknowledging or supporting the accomplishments of the other. Over time, resentments had piled up as they both expected the other to provide the external validation that would make them feel whole, feel loved. I had no judgment on either side. I was just saddened by what seemed like their insatiable appetites for love and recognition and the destruction it had wrought on their union.
It’s an exhausting endeavor, seeking the external to fortify the internal. We are conditioned to believe that this is our quest. Our entire society is built on this idea. Yet, that has never been the charge of the Divine. Alice Walker says it best in The Color Purple, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” Of all of the sadness, brutality, and triumph in this timeless classic, it is this simple notion that is the lesson for us.
In this week’s final Mombbatical Mindset conversation, we will discuss love and where it resides in our lives and how we can live more fully in love even in the midst of the storm. Some questions we will cover are:
- What did love feel and look like for you growing up?
- In what ways do you conditionally love others?
- In what ways do you conditionally love yourself?
- Take a moment and reflect on a time when you could feel and embrace the love that was in your present experience? Was it something you saw? Heard? Tasted?
For details on how to join this week’s conversation on Sunday, September 13th at 11 am PST/2 pm EST/8 pm CET, click here.