Things You Might Learn by Standing Yourself Up

Have you ever shut the parenting door behind you, hanging a “Back in 5″ sign on it and walked away holding your breath in anticipation of the grand reunion with you?

I left my children for four days at the end of July to attend a much awaited conference. In the months leading up to it, I’ve been keeping a BlogHer mental vision board and pinned to it were notions of self-fulfillment, female friendship, “self-reunion” and occupying the remaining ninety percent – uninterrupted sleep.

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I’m trying to write this post through a residual fog in my head. When the fog lifts and before it sets again, I tell myself that I want to make it about motherhood and how it affects your identity and sense of self and more than that your sense of “all by my lonesome“. I want to make it about women and the ways in which they connect. I want to mention my marvel at finding that precise form of inspiration and support that I needed. Finding it in the most unexpected places and without looking.

Exactly two weeks ago I was plucked away from a daily routine of playgrounds, play dates and the state of emotional chaos that is parenting and found myself seated in a screening room at the Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, listening to Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black.

 

Piper Kerman, Author of Orange is the New Black speaking at Netflix Headquarters in Los Gatos, California.

Piper Kerman, Author of Orange is the New Black speaking at Netflix Headquarters in Los Gatos, California.

Women on TV are usually defined by their relationships to other characters surrounding them. They’re either mother, wife, friend, mistress or co-worker. It’s rare to find a female standalone character stripped of all social contexts and presented on its own merit. This is the gist of what Taylor Schilling who plays Piper, the main protagonist in Orange Is The New Black, said in one of the interviews I watched in preparation for this. Piper in the show is one such character.

The fog lifts again and I realize that much like on TV, women in real life are often defined or self-defined “in relation to”. Look at me, traveling for nine hours to temporarily shed “in relation to” and revisit the person that’s there when you subtract husband, children, residence, labels and circumstances. Traveling back in time to a different time zone only to be stood up. The me who DID show up is sporting some attributes which may lead you to mistakenly identify her as the missing counterpart: high heel shoes and a book in her purse. Her body smells like soap instead of ketchup kisses, stickiness, tears and other things that little boys are made of. It’s possible that she’s walking in a slower pace, but is all of that enough to magically resurrect her old self?

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Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the way to reconnect with myself is not through chasing a shadow but through opening my eyes wider to what’s here and now. And then lessons will start pouring in.

I’ve listened to Piper Kerman, Jenny Lawson and Arianna Huffington, three incredibly inspiring women, openly share their personal stories – each one involving a breakdown of sorts leading to a breakthrough – and realized:

Women connect through vulnerability. This is our way of reaching out to each other, our “I come in peace”.  Recognize it in others and embrace it in yourself. It’s your special power.

While defining ourselves solely “in relation to” could affect our sense of self worth, when we endeavour to get to know and redefine our new selves, it’s okay to look at other women for clues.

Sometimes they will remind you who you are,

Sometimes they will tell you who they are and you will learn from it.

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Emily Pate Austin, The Waiting

 

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Stephanie Sprenger, Mommy for Real and Natalie DeYoung Ricci, The Cat Lady Sings

 

Stream Team meets Piper Kerman at Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos Calif., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. ( Norbert von der Groeben )

Stream Team meets Piper Kerman at Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos Calif., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. ( Norbert von der Groeben )

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On the right Meredith Bland from Pile of Babies and sister Allison. (Photographer: Norbert von der Groeben).

 

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Clockwise: Stephanie Sprenger; Sarah Rudell Beach, Let Brain Buddha and Leah Vidal, Little Miss Wordy

Left to right: Lisa Nolan of Blue Lobster Book Co. and Stephanie Smith Sprenger, Mommy for Real

Left to right: Lisa Nolan of Blue Lobster Book Co. and Stephanie Sprenger

 

 

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Left to right: Kristi Rieger Campbell, Finding Ninee; Stephanie Sprenger and Sarah Rudell Beach

 

Sometimes the best way to silence that nagging voice in your head is to let other women do it for you.

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Stephanie Sprenger

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Sarah Rudell Beach

Even if it takes a whole bunch of them.

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The best tribe in the world. The Bloppys.

 

Sometimes you’ll travel for nine hours to reunite with sleep and yourself and you’ll discover that you might be wearing heels and that favourite top you could never ever wear at home because terrible things happen there to everything nice, but you brought your sleep deprivation here,

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and this too because this is who you are.

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Other women that I didn’t take pictures with but who made this non-reunion totally priceless: Aussa Lorens, Julie DeNeen, Arnebya Herndon, Rita Arens, Kylie Menagh, Molley Mills, Vikki Clafflin, Norine Dworkin McDaniel and Jessica Zeigler and Ashley Garrett. Sorry for forgetting anyone else. Fog.

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