Reclaim something as your own

Why it’s so important for you to reclaim something as your own, whether a vocation or an avocation.

reclaim something your own
Photo by Noah Buscher

Smart and caring women are good at swooping in and fixing things. It’s no wonder so many rely on them to get things done and put out fires.

At the same time, the day-to-day needs of our loved ones can absorb us. Necessary but mundane chores can swallow us. And while our caregiving roles are, of course, important, over an extended amount of time, we can lose ourselves.

Only having activities or roles associated with other people reduces us to so-and-so’s mom or the VP of such-and-such corporation. Those titles can be a source of pride, but they can also make even the most talented women feel small.

And, then, the chatter–negative thoughts and ruminations–about the loss of our identities can hold us back and make us feel even worse, sometimes even resentful.

How I learned why it is important to reclaim something as your own

I know because I have been there.

While on maternity leave after the birth of my older daughter, I was deep in a postpartum haze. I was taking care of my newborn but neglecting myself.

One morning before leaving for work my husband said, “Today you are going to find some help. I don’t care what you do, but I want you to be able to get out or do something without the baby, even if for just a few hours a week.”

If you know Kyle, you know he isn’t one to give ultimatums. So, I started making calls and a part-time caregiver. What he did was one of his biggest gifts to me.

Sadly, however, I forgot the lesson. Like my peers, I tried to do everything right–as a mother, as new business owner, as a wife and daughter.

Thankfully, as a coach, I coached countless women sacrificing their personal time and attention to be good employees or devoted daughters to their elderly parents. And, we learned together.

I witnessed the harmful effects of societal beliefs are for women. Women are expected to be the caregivers…even at work. Moreover, we are scrutinized for how we provide care–especially how we mother. It doesn’t matter if one chooses to stay-at-home or be employed. (I prefer the term “employed moms” since all moms are “working moms.”) For example, women should breastfeed their infants but also hide when they do it. Strangers feel perfectly comfortable scolding you that your baby’s feet are bare not knowing her favorite activity in the stroller is to pull off her socks. Imagine a stranger walking into a man’s office criticizing his subordinate’s posture, admonishing him for not teaching her to sit up straight. How absurd and unlikely that would that be?

Like so many of my clients, I found that I, too, had neglected my hobbies. So, I started gardening. Feeling guilty, I turned it into an activity I did with my younger daughter.

Then, when she got sick, I lost my gardening partner and I didn’t want to garden anymore.

Thankfully, I was slowly cultivating a different interest. When she was in the hospital I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t even read. There were just too many interruptions–too many things to take care of, too many new stressors. Knowing I needed something to divert my attention, I started listening to a podcast about writing. It gave me a community of writers, I could participate in while pausing it whenever I needed to. It prompted me to take tiny steps. I started jotting down short notes and observations whenever I could.

We were fortunate that she got better. And, as my schedule eased, I took my writing up a notch. I found I needed to write even as I struggled. It was a way to sort through tough emotions. Writing can be tortuous, but with a lot of help from other writers, it was also healing to get my stories out.

When my elderly parents in Seoul needed my help last winter, I again found myself unable to do anything. Caring for them was all-consuming. But, thankfully, I had my knitting. At night before I fell asleep, I soothed and lost myself with the easy stitches. And, again, when I came home, I wrote to sort out my feelings.

The key ingredient

For me, writing is that something of my own. I won’t deny that I jump up and down when something gets published, or that I am over the moon when people appreciate my words.

But, it is the doing, the process of becoming, that matters more than the achievements, products or results. The act of gardening makes you a gardener, not owning a garden. Knitting and purling are what makes you a knitter, not the scarves, sweaters or socks you create.

I have always wanted to be a writer. But, being a writer, means you write. I understand now that being published is something to aim for but focusing on getting published doesn’t bring you joy. For example, my most recent essay is likely to be one of my favorites because it took 6 rejections and over a year to get placed. But, the final piece is far better than the first version–and I learned so much from so many along the way.

Some might call this a passion, but I wouldn’t. That label has become loaded and meaningless. Most importantly, it is misleading because it is a noun and not a verb. Passion only becomes a descriptor after the doing.

I urge you to reclaim something as your own so you can experience and appreciate growth. Some call this flow, others mastery. It’s not about competition or perfection, but about challenge and progression. The action feeds our souls–which helps us to be better humans.

For me, it is writing, researching and coaching. For others, it’s performing, coding, playing an instrument, creating art, cooking, or running. Start small, but do it often.

You provide so much care, which makes you a caregiver. But, what might you do to reclaim something as your own?

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