I gave birth six weeks ago and I’ve been a huge bitch ever since.
Pretty big bitch.
Possibly this is because I’m exhausted. Potentially it’s because I’m a milk machine. There’s also a good chance it’s because I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone to the bathroom alone since giving birth the first time over four years ago.
Because the life of a mother is awesome—it’s love, 24 hours a day; it’s joy like I never thought was possible; it’s built-in entertainment (which is great since my T.V. is still a big square box and I haven’t succumbed to cable, Direct TV or whatever).
Still, it’s also tears to laughter to tears to whining to hugs to following you to the bathroom. (That sentence, trust me, will make perfect sense to other mothers.)
But back to being a (big) bitch.
I had this epiphany the other day after my husband finally got fed-up with my post-postpartum, tired-mommy mood-swings—my life can be made challenging and even miserable by circumstance or by people, but I am the one in charge of letting this make me act like a bad person.
I guess it’s kind of similar to that whole “no one can hurt you with your permission” mindset, but I don’t actually agree with that statement that I just typed.
Because people can hurt us. A lot, in fact. But—big but—I finally had this “a ha” moment of clarity that how I act in return is where my power lies.
Because I can be hurt by a friend who stopped caring about me; I can be angered at another day with a squeezed-in yoga practice that doesn’t quite do the trick—but only I am responsible for turning my hurt into bitterness that, ultimately, becomes someone else’s hurt. Like my husband’s. Or my kids.
Do I want someone else’s rotten attitude to create my horrendous attitude which I then pass down to the people (who actually matter) that I spend most of my time with (my family)? No. Obviously, no.
So I can’t promise that I won’t be moody (because, truly, I am postpartum and tired). I can’t promise either that I won’t snap or say something snotty when all I really want to do is simply work out on my circa-1980-whatever Nordic Track (but I can’t because I’m cleaning up someone else’s poop for the five-hundredth time that day).
And my life is blessed. For sure. It’s also difficult at times—like everyone else’s.
We are all blessed and we are all challenged. Various places in our lives make one outweigh the other significantly before it’s brought back into balance again, but how we handle these imbalances is what makes us who we are.
It’s what makes us a good person—or not.
My life can be filled with total happiness and satisfaction—and that can make me callous to the suffering of others if I don’t remember that my life’s easiness could change at the drop of a hat; the whim of fate; the tipping of the human scales that we’re always seeking a reason for.
Similarly, my life can be filled with chaos or heartache or stress—and I have to remember that taking deep breaths, exercising to increase my positive-mood body-chemicals rather than drinking too much wine, and merely staying alert yet sympathetic to my difficulty is what will get me through this period as joyfully—and kindly—as possible.
Because, I’m discovering, it’s when I lose the kindness and sympathy towards myself that I become that big bitch.
I feel like a victim instead of the empowered person I really am and I give my power away to circumstance or to another person who hurt me when I react badly. But that’s just the problem—it’s a reaction.
So how do we change our reactions?
Well, I’ve been working on this for years. Years. Because, for whatever explanation, I tend to react coldly, angrily and harshly when I’m hurt, be it by person or environment. But I want to react with love.
I want to cry not scream when I’m hurt.
I want to be the sort of woman who shows her children that life isn’t always easy, but that I can always be kind, whatever circumstance is presented.
And that’s where the challenge of being a person lies—in being kind in the face of hurt, rage, fear and all of these uncomfortable emotions that inhabit human life with us.
And I don’t have all the answers—if I did, I’d be making large-sum deposits in the bank. But, I can share this: living a kind, generous-towards-others life involves a lot of deep breaths (a lot), a pretty good amount of “I’m sorry’s” and, most likely, a lot of hugs too. It also means surrounding ourselves with people who act a lot like the person we’re trying to best be.
Because much of life is entirely about choices.
I can choose to be empowered and not a victim (even when I feel victimized, I can still find my power). I can choose, also, to keep people who seek love (and deep breaths) close to my heart and close to the heart of my life. (I can’t pick assholes for friends and partners and wonder why I’m unhappy.) More, though, I have to recognize that my circumstances are often brought on by many previous choices.
I’m not talking about karma either.
I’m talking about the reality that I want to be a mom. And, not shockingly, this generally tends to mean that I’ll be dog-tired for a few years, that I’ll clean up a lot of poo and that I’ll have bathroom fellows even when I might want five minutes alone.
But I have to find my power and consider all of the many wonderful things that also came out of making this choice to have children: love like you wouldn’t believe, tears from laughing so much at cuteness and loads of free hugs.
And it’s only 9:30 in the morning as I write this—I have an entire day ahead full of choices and challenges and triumphs—and I think I’ll need more than luck to live as that person I want to be.
Because love is a choice.
And, over and over again, I choose it.
Photo: Author’s own; Flickr/Jesslee Cuizon.