When I stepped out of the minivan and onto the sidewalk of the airport, I felt anxious and nervous. I was second-guessing my decision to go. I hadn’t been away from the baby for more than 24 hours before – what if she needed me? What if my husband couldn’t handle it through the night? What if something happened?
It was those moments on the airport sidewalk – peeling myself away from my husband and kids, taking it one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, further away from them – that was the hardest for me. After two years of putting everyone else’s needs before my own, I simply didn’t know how to choose to do this for myself and let go. Not anymore, anyway.
Until I met Lydia.
Lydia is a woman I accidentally met at the airport while we were awaiting word on the extent of the delay of our flight out of San Antonio on Thursday. At first, our delay was only 25 minutes. Then, as we waited in line to speak to the AA attendant, he announced overhead it had been pushed to an hour. Before I could even register the anger and disappointment over suddenly missing my connecting flight before I’d even boarded my first flight, Lydia exploded into tears before me. She wasn’t supposed to be here, on this flight anyway, she was supposed to have an earlier one. The AA attendant wouldn’t check her bags onto it, claiming she was late and “wouldn’t make it anyway.” Her husband had just died, and she simply had to get there, to her sons and her family. The attendant didn’t seemingly care about her plight, didn’t empathize with her at all, and now this stand-by flight was late. The tears that swept over her crashed over me, too, and suddenly it wasn’t about my lateness or my trip at all, all I could do was focus on her and her pain, and what she needed that second.
We sat together for over a little over an hour at the airport, first assessing how to fix this to get her on her way in the quickest way possible, then how to pass the time until the delayed flight finally arrived. I felt called upon to sit and comfort her in her darkest time because I know, if it were me, I wouldn’t want to be by myself. I simply could not bear what she had been through, and I wanted to help. I was grateful to have been there for her, one military wife to another.
I don’t know if she’ll ever read this or not, as I waited for her to board her flight, I awkwardly handed her my business card (the only thing readily and easily available with my contact info on it), as she’d wanted to connect with me when she returned, (seemingly as much as I’d wanted her to connect with me, too). My business cards are now newly designed and adorned with my children’s pictures on one side, pictures from our many stories, and it was stroked by her fingers as she smiled at me in gratitude for helping her the way that I did.
I cried after leaving her, knowing the huge layover she still had to navigate on her own as well as all the grief she would face when she finally touched down at eleven-something that night. But knowing how much family she had waiting on her comforted me – she, too, was a mom of many like me. I thought about her often during my trip, too. Little did I know just how much I needed her at that moment the same way she needed me. I now knew I was going to attack this trip with all the vigor and vitality I had in me, because, I was doing it for her, too. Life is so fleeting, and shorter than you expect. As much as I missed my family, I knew I needed this time away for my (much needed) mental well-being, too.
Postpartum depression is an interesting animal. I can go days feeling wonderful and normal, and suddenly it’ll creep up on me and kick my ass around. The past couple weeks had been a particularly harried and frustrating time for me as I mentally (and physically) prepared for the Mom 2.0 Summit. It had been almost two years since my last conference, and I didn’t handle that conference as well as I’d wanted to. In fact, the past two years have been a myriad of emotional roller-coasters as I tried to navigate this life with seven children in the best way that I can with a challenging, spirited youngest child. The trials and tribulations of our life here have often left me with little-to-no time to really focus on me as an actual person existing in this family, too (in like, ever).
I got a few new pretty things to wear for the conference this week (as shown above). I got my hair cut and styled (which had been a loooong time in the making), hair colored, nails painted, and I got to wear jewelry that wouldn’t be ripped off by my toddler in 2.4 seconds flat. Also, I got to do my hair daily, sometimes twice. (Do my hair? In something other than a side braid!? For real!?) And I got to sleeeeeeeep, as in, actually, through the night, and not be tugged at repeatedly for a sippy cup or to wipe someone’s butt. I… can’t even begin to explain to you how much I missed being an actual woman with her needs met and not just a sleep-deprived mother clinging to her coffee cup in hopes of surviving the day.
I got to eat actual hot meals (not shared with terrorist two-year-olds who like the very same thing on your plate that’s on theirs), and enjoy tea time (something on my bucket list), and eat beautiful food. Heck, I was able to linger over my meals with actual grown up discussions (!!!!) without having to rush because a small person or persons needed me for the umpteenth time.
On the last night, I got to dress up real fancy-like (shown above) and I got to dance! OMG! One of my most favoritest things to do, and I did it for a couple hours that last Saturday night with many friends surrounding me. In fact, I may or may not be crying right now at the mere memory of it, because I got to dance the night away to some of my most favoritest tunes on the planet, and take eleventy-billion selfies with so many new and old friends on the dance floor. My grin was about a mile wide in each shot, simply because I FELT LIKE ME! For the first time in I can’t even tell you, and I REALLY MISSED MYSELF!
Shortly before the epic DJ dance party, when they announced Katherine Stone’s name as the winner of Best Philanthropic Work for the Iris Awards, I cried. I’d already shed a few tears earlier as other winners had been announced, but Katherine’s award felt more close-to-home to me - her site is about postpartum depression, anxiety, and more. The work she does saves people, literally. (Me, included.) She helps us to know that we are not alone – I am not alone, even though there are days that I feel that I’m the only one on the planet that feels this way, I now know I am not. Bless Katherine and all that she does for people just like me.
Beyond the wonderful takeaways business-wise was the realization that things have to change for me in order to survive and thrive here at home, and Dove’s “Beauty Is” campaign was a huge part of realization, too. Everywhere I turned, I saw such smiles and self-assuredness with these amazingly strong women (and men) walking around and genuinely owning their confidence, so happy in their zest for life. It’s a zest I try to attain daily, but one that’s often beaten out of me by my own self-sabotage. Dove encapsulated this and then only accentuated that feeling by giving us ‘pamper’ time in doing our hair, our nails, and indulging our often ignored needs for “me” time – needs we often shuffle aside for the needs of our families. We are all beautiful, even as homemakers, caretakers, and wives with hair in a bun and zit cream on our chins, we just need to remember that once in a while, and it was tough to forget, they had it printed on every mirrored surface in the hotel.
Our lives as parents can’t always be about the kids and the home and with no concern about ourselves. My love for my family is unending, but I can’t forget to love myself, too. I can’t keep shuffling myself aside for everyone else and not do anything for me, not anymore. I sit here before you, typing this right now, in pure exhaustion from a soul-fulfilling weekend and yet, the to-do list is daunting because of things I have to do because I’m the mom and caretaker, but I will also be sure to ALWAYS ensure there is “me” time, too. I have to – for my sanity, for theirs, and for the health of our familial unit. This time off was the time I needed to realize just how important this fact is. That “oxygen mask” theory is real, and it’s time I start living that.
Thank you to each and every person who indulged the crazy lady with seven kids this weekend in a hug, a handshake, an extended talk, or a dance on the dance floor. I shook what my momma gave me until it nearly fell off, laughed and sang out loud until my voice went hoarse, and my head is still pounding from the speakers and consumption of celebratory champagne.
Thank you to Carrie and Laura for, once again, executing an amazing, mind-blowing conference that left me in a puddle of tears in awe and appreciation of its magnificence.
Thank you, Mom 2.0 conference go-ers, for accepting your wayward friend back into your arms and for holding me close, even though it’d been a couple years since we’d seen one another last.
For those long-time friends in attendance, thank you for loving me, for the unending hugs and laughs, and for continuing to believe in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.
For the new friends I made, thank you for your spirit, your smiles, your adventurousness, and for being you – I’m looking forward to getting to know you better in the coming days and weeks.
To all of you – I wholeheartedly miss every one of you already and am counting the days until we’re together again in Scottsdale, 2015.