Today is one of those days.
One of the days I carry crippling fear, sinking dread, a heavy dose of shame and an incurable heartache.
I flip eggs for breakfast. I pour coffee. Pat heads. Dole out kisses and hugs. I push on, despite the heaviness of carrying the crippling fear, the sinking dread, the heavy dose of shame and the incurable headache.
At 9 a.m., we start our school day. We hide our table under piles of books, lined paper, and pencils. We recite poetry, read aloud, and practice spelling.
“Shoulder. S-H-O-U-L-D-E-R. An upper arm joint. Something heavy to carry.”
Something heavy to carry . . .
I throw in a load of laundry. And wipe the bathroom counters.
I quiet my mind so I can feed and rock my sweet niece for her morning nap. I close my eyes and hum a simple tune. And I ask myself questions, to find the source of this anxiety, this stale and looming anxiety . . .
“Where are you from? Why are you here?”
And the blurry memory floats to the surface. A young mother, typing away at her computer. Trying desperately to be quiet and get some design work done.
Her mantra pounds in my head as she pounds the keys:
“Do not wake the baby. Do not wake the baby. Do not wake the baby.”
In those days, in my postpartum haze, I lived in modern day sackcloth and ashes—grey sweats and dirty hair. My unworthiness showed on my body. Those grey sweats protected me, they padded me against the outside world. I hoped that if I disappeared into this grey garb, it would be cozy and soft inside.
It never was.
The world felt unbearably harsh—like lights too bright, conversations too sharp, beauty so distant.
I feel compelled to ask my younger self:
“Why am I back here? What do you need?”
She looks at me, bewildered at being seen.
“I need a nap and a shower.”
But what she’s really saying is that she needs bottomless rest, grace, and self-care.
In my mind, I lead her far away from that little room. I gently tell her the story of us. How she grows up to be ME. And how we emerge from that room. I promise her she will leave that room. She will throw away those sweatpants.
Her and I move forward. We sit and examine each stage of our life. Gently, slowly, we traverse our joys and sorrows. I show her how strong we are. I implore her not to run and hide.
“I need to rest,” she says.
So I mother myself and tuck her into my bed. Crisp, cool, clean sheets and a soft, white quilt pulled up to her chin. Hair smoothed back. A deep sigh.
“Who has the baby?” she asks.
“He’s safe. He’s grown into a little man who cares deeply for himself. You’ve raised him well.”
And I breath the warm breath of rest into all of my former self.
And I am back, rocking my niece in my arms, humming. I imagine that baby is my former self, the one in sackcloth and ashes, and I rock back and forth, watching my former self slip into a deep, sweet sleep—while being held by the person she has grown up to be.
And the fear, dread, shame, and heartache lift.
Mary Arteche, Founder & Editor-
Mary Arteche and her family live a small life in a vibrant way in Sky Valley, California. For her day job, she homeschools her kiddos and is a nanny to her niece. For her side gig, she’s a website designing, marketing consulting, art directing ninja. She’s passionate about the outdoors and making life an adventure. She loves printmaking, hiking, photography and finding the best cup of coffee. She just completed the Yosemite Half Marathon. Really.
Shoot me an email, I’d love to talk to you! liveintobeauty (at) gmail (dot) com