“Mama Bear One, this is Mama Bear Two, check in”
This is how it is in my head, most days. No, that’s how it was.
I am Mama Bear One to a child who is growing up faster than I can handle, and I am Mama Bear Two to all the other aspects of life that need to be managed, tangled, assuaged and confronted.
Here’s the thing though, that I’ve realised during this self-enforced holiday I am sad to bid farewell to: Mama Bear One and Mama Bear Two need to be nicer to each other. In fact, they need to be the same person.
The duality that exists between being a parent and being a person is something I used to think I had snapped up and zipped in pretty well. I lived a very compartmentalised life, which saw me living it up in a number of ways but it left me exhausted. Talking with a friend this afternoon, I realised that I lived a lot of years on auto-pilot, and constantly forgot to apply self-care to my life. It’s no wonder to me now that, looking back, I was really very horrible to myself.
During the holidays, I realised that when Mama Bear One is in control, I am happy. I feel like I’m kinda winging it, but I’m happy. I love that home life we’ve created, and I live for those little moments where a smile spreads across the dinner table like spilt treacle. Slowly but significantly, and then it sticks.
When Mama Bear Two is in control, I’m a different kind of happy. I feel effective and aware of the world around me, even though it’s often not a very happy place to be in. It’s that which irks me, that keeps me compelled to do better, be better and… the thing I’ve realised is that I need to – again – redefine my own version of success.
For a long time, I used to think that Mama Bear One was a successful single mom with a happy kid, while Mama Bear Two was a career woman who was both committed and energetic. Living that life where the two had to be constantly maintained left me feeling particularly unsuccessful though. It stressed me the heck out to try and keep the two at good levels of success.
Finding and sticking to the place where I could feel successful took work. It took setting boundaries and sticking to them, unashamedly. It took, in large part, turning away from all my pre-conceived notions of Mama Bear Two’s success and focusing more on how and when Mama Bear One felt happiest. At some point, Mama Bear One had to win, otherwise I’d have lost all this magic forever. I’m glad she did, but in some ways I (selfishly) miss a bit of Mama Bear Two. She’s gone now, for good, but her ideas and busting-pokes-at-things have reapplied themselves to Mama Bear One’s life, which is how we ended up playing Speed Monopoly on Saturday evening and showcasing the best strategy for bankrupting your opponent to a ten year old.
Letting go of Mama Bear Two had to happen so that I could live a Mama Bear One life that wasn’t lacking, it was just expanded. Bashing down that mental wall – those compartments between the two – is something I had to do.
If the holidays taught me anything, it’s this: That stopping to gain some perspective is an essential part of this funny life journey, but when that train comes round to pick you up, it’s up to you how you choose to step on again.
My friend Stacey wrote this about her New Years Resolutions and having a theme for each year. For me, my theme is to let things happen as they need to. Things either fall in place or fall away and, while I can go out and get the things I want to have fall into place, what falls away needs to be left alone to live (weirdly, since consciously making an effort to apply this to my life, it’s happened more easily, more perfectly and ended up in really beautiful ways). No more energy wasted on trying to make things fit into these compartments I created. It is what it is, and what’s here is so damn beautiful, that I should stop and look at it now and then.