Wednesday, August 08, 2007

It's Okay to Take a Break. Really.

One of my favorite people and sister Birthing From Within mentors wrote this today:

Potty Break

Not only am I constantly astounded by her gentle, thoughtful mothering, her words today were an answer to prayer. I want to reach across the miles to hug and thank her. Truly, what a gift.

Just to let you in on what I've been going through. I've talked a bit here about the feeling I have that I really need to concentrate on my family and home, on building friendships and community and staying close to home.

In my desire to do this, what I really feel like I need to do is to just stop mentoring Birthing From Within classes, completely stop doing doula work. It would mean a cold-turkey, cut-and-run from some things that I am terribly passionate about and love very much. It feels like the right thing to do on one hand, on the other it seems completely unthinkable. It would be a bit like cutting off my left hand, or at least a few of the fingers on my left hand. I have not been able to reconcile this feeling that I need to take a break and let go with the passion I feel for this work, the way it has made me grow and blossom as a woman, mother and friend.

Then, I read my friend's post and it was just what I needed to hear.

It was both humorous and enlightening to imagine myself as an antsy 3 year old who doesn't want to stop what she's doing to go potty.

I can just see little Heather bouncing around and whining, "NO! I do not have to go! I don't want to stop what I'm doing! What if the game is all over when I get done."

And then, there's the sweet, mother Heather (in BFW language, we call her the love warrior), who is stroking my hair and saying "It's okay, sweetie. It will still be here when you get back and you can play then. And won't it be so much more fun to play with all of the other girls when you can put your full attention to it and not be distracted by the pain of knowing that you need to be somewhere else? Won't that be much more comfortable?"

And then Miss Judge comes in to protect me and says "Yeah, and you're not a lot of fun to play with right now anyway. I know you really want to be involved and helpful and great at this work, but really, you are just not able to put the energy into it that everyone wants you to put into it. You're probably bugging them and they might not even like you as much as you like them. After all, the other girls are really going for it, getting involved. And you. You just kind of hang around. You don't do much because you have to spend all of your time with your baby and your family. You're kind of a loser right now."

Mother Heather looks sternly at Miss Judge and wags her finger. "Now, now, we shouldn't use words like that with people we love. First of all, it doesn't matter what all of the other girls think. What matters most is that we're happy and that WE are being kind and good to others and doing what's right. And I'm sure that the other Birthing From Within mentors are glad for any contribution Heather can make, no matter how small. They're all exceptionally nice, loving and understanding women"

Miss Judge butts in here, slightly humbled but mostly indignant. "Well, if they're happy she's contributing, which I doubt, then they won't understand when she just stops teaching Birthing From Within for an indefinite period of time. They might even be angry. What if she even takes YEARS OFF? Nobody will even remember her then. Then, not only will she have been a sub-par mentor for a while, but she will have to start all over again from scratch. And what if everyone is just annoyed?"

"Oh, sweet Judge. You're so good to want to protect Heather. I hear what you're saying," Mother Heather, Love Warrior says with a patient, knowing look in her eye. "It might be different when she comes back. It really might. And some people might not understand her decision."

At this point, little Heather pipes up, her big blue eyes welling with tears. "Is that true?" She asks. "Is it true that things might be different? That some of my friends might not like me anymore or that they might not even be there or even remember me? What if Brooke and Isabel and Virginia and Linda and everyone else have gone on without me and I'm all left out? What if Pam forgets me, too? I'd hate that. I really don't want to go!"

"Oh, honey. I know you don't," Mother Heather says. "And yes, my darling. It's true. It might be different. Some of your old friends might be gone. But you can make new friends. And Pam might forget you. But, you can get to know her again. And think about this. Things might be different when you get back to BFW. They might be very different. But, what if they're even better?"

This time both little Heather and Miss Judge Heather cry out in unison, "But what if they're not!?! What if it's worse?"

"Well, then, we're pretty good at this stuff. If things are worse when we get back, and we've waited until we really have the time and energy to devote to Birthing From Within, then we can volunteer to make it better. We can do that. And if that doesn't work, then we can find something else we'd rather do."

"I don't know. I'm not sure I like that either," says little Heather. "I like Birthing From Within. I don't wanna do something else. What if I never do Birthing From Within again? What if that? That would make me sad."

"Sure. It might. But do you remember that time when you were absolutely sure you wanted to be a concert pianist or a choir teacher when you grew up?"


"And you're not a concert pianist or a choir teacher now, are you? And that's okay, isn't it?"

"Yeah. It is. I just don't want to do that anymore and I'm happy with what I'm doing right now. I don't really feel sad about that because that's what I USED to want to do. Now, I just don't. But, I don't really ever see me feeling that way about BFW. I want to do it again if I can't do it right now."

"That's great, honey. Let's plan on that. This will just be a short break and then you can come right back to BFW. And if it's different, with different people and whether it's better or worse, you most certainly can jump right back in and enjoy it and really make it work well, for you and for everyone else. And if you don't want to do it anymore, and that's the only reason you won't do it again, then it will be okay with you, just like it's okay that you're not a concert pianist. You'll still have just what you want. Sound good?"

"Yeah, I think so," Little Heather squinches her mouth to one side, like she's thinking really hard.

"You can't just think so! You've got to know so if you want to make this work. You'll never be happy otherwise," Miss Judge interjects.

"Miss Judge!" my Love Warrior Mama Self says. "You know I love you and appreciate you for all you do for us. You really want to protect little Heather and I am grateful for that. But right now, we have things under control and it's your turn to be quiet. Is that okay? Can you do that and trust me to take care of Little Heather? I promise I'll do a good job. Is that okay? Can you let us figure this out without you from here on out?"

"Okay. As long as you promise to do a good job and ask me for help if you don't know what to do. Promise?" Miss Judge looks at Mother Heather expectantly.

"Yes, my dear. I promise."

"Pinky swear?"

Mother Heather chuckles. "Pinky swear."

"Okay," Miss Judge agrees, folding her arms contentedly across her chest.

Mother Heather turns to Little Heather. "Do you think you can be okay with this now? With taking a break? I promise to come with you and to help you. And I promise to help you figure out what you want to do and how to get back into things when your break is over. Sound good?"

"Yes. That sounds good. You'll help me? You'll help me know what to do?"

"Yes, I will."

Little Heather runs off happily to take care of business and do what most needs to be done right now.

And so, here I am, left with my Love Warrior self to try to figure out how to make this work. That I need to take a break and focus on my family is a certainty. Now that I've talked to my sweet little Child and Judge sidekicks, I feel comfortable doing this. I know it's the right thing to do and I'm at peace with my decision.

So, all that's left are decisions. Do I make it a long goodbye? Do I take the time to finish up my certification requirements before bowing out for a while? Or do I plan on a very short break and a re-evaluation in a few months to decide whether to finish my certification? Or do I just stop for good and plan to start fresh in a couple of years? Do I keep my toes in, continuing to go to retreats and check the message board and listen in on conference calls? Or do I just say goodbye and trust that it will all be there when I come back?

I still have decisions and plans to make. But they should be significantly easier now. Up until the time I read my friend's post this morning, I had not recognized that my confusion on the matter was coming from the fact that the little child in me was in the driver's seat with my judge shouting criticism and advice from the backseat.

Things ought to go much more smoothly now that my wise, compassionate and courageous adult self (you know, the one who actually has a driver's license) is now behind the wheel.


bella said...

Oh Heater,
I've been stopping by your blog for a while now, lurking, not commenting. but I really MUST break my silence. From CA where I have travelled, I reach out to offer you my standing ovation.
I am here to tell you that you are loved, deeply, by many, by me.
That you are not alone. With every cell of my body, I get what you are saying and how you feel and where you are at and how tumultuous this can be. So many questions. And anxiety.
Know that you are trustworthy, that whatever you realize you must do, this IS exactly where you need to be. And though our involvment in BFW may take different paths, our connection will reamin.
How much I love you.

Heather said...

Thank you, thank you, Isabel.

Your words have made me feel so much better.