Just say what you want to say, then, and say it with all your heart. Share whatever you are driven to share. If it is authentic enough, believe me–it will feel original. ~ Liz Gilbert
I know that I have long been absent here on the blog, with little to nothing said about why or what has been going on.
Life has taken a turn down a new road for me, and with that turn came an insanely busy season that I am just now feeling a reprieve from.
Turns out working a part-time retail job through the holiday season can turn into you working almost full-time given the consumer-driven nature of the season.
Turns out that researching and writing a Master’s Thesis is really a lot of hard, often tedious work.
It also turns out that being pregnant for the first time, and trying to accomplish all of that primarily during your first trimester and early second trimester is also quite the undertaking.
These past few months have been trying as I found myself working a job that I felt drained the very life out of my soul with its drudgery and utter lack of connection to anything that inspires me.
I never knew what monotony existed behind making the every day workings of a retail store go on, from the constant flow of inventory and product, to the constant rearranging of visual displays all intending to catch the shoppers eye, to the ever demanding vicious cycle to sell, sell, sell as you prey on every soul that walks through your door to buy, buy, buy.
Don’t get me wrong, it has its entertaining moments as you see every kind of imaginable type of person come through the door. Many days as a sales associate you almost feel that you become as invisible as the inanimate fixtures around you. Customers and people will walk by you having conversations with each other, or on their phone, or even with you and say things you would never expect people to normally say around or to a perfect stranger. Then there is the oddity and amazement of what you see shoppers consume on a daily basis. Don’t even get me started…
These past few months have been overwhelming as I have sought to breathe creative life and intelligence into perhaps my largest and most important academic research project to date.
I found myself feeling very unprepared for how pregnancy itself would affect even just my mental capacity to think, reason, write, or research. There were many days where I felt like I was trying to work with only half of my brain’s normal energy and capacity. A few short hours of work that in the past would have energized me for a long writing session with few breaks, would exhaust me so much that the number of times that I literally fell asleep on or next to my computer or research materials became a rather funny, but common occurrence.
There was also the fact that I found myself identifying with my work in a way I had never expected to.
My research, in short, had me studying media coverage of military spouse employment for the past twenty years. As I combed through my data reading countless articles from the past twenty years about other military spouses and their ventures with gaining, maintaining, losing, or struggling to find employment — I saw how much of myself and my own journey with employment was reflected in their stories.
Military spouses do not just struggle with a high rate of unemployment, but they also largely struggle with underemployment–namely working jobs for which they are over-qualified, over-educated for, and thus underpaid for what talent, skills, and experience they bring to the table. This exists for a number of reasons, but two primary reasons are the remote locations military spouses often find themselves in and the frequency with which they have to move and start their employment efforts over.
The irony was not lost on me as I continued my research that I too was currently in a remote military location that offered little in terms of employment for a military spouse only scheduled to live in the area for less than two years. My job daily reminded me of the frustrating fact that even though I am in my third and final year of obtaining my masters degree, it doesn’t mean at all that I am guaranteed to find a job that inspires me or draws on all my skill sets, or pays me perhaps as well as I should be for the education and experience I already bring to the table.
All that said, I know that underemployment or having to work a job you don’t like to just help with paying off student loans as I was doing is not unique to military spouses. However, given that is what my research highlighted–it often made my job feel like even more of a cross to bear. But perhaps that is just the way life goes. Or perhaps there was an underlying purpose of my research needing me to identify with it in order to be able to authentically communicate and create the final product. Probably depends on how much you believe or see events happening in your life for a reason versus as random and uncontrollable.
Finally, these past few months have been a time of pulling away and hiding new and exciting and wonderful and scary and crazy, exhausting emotions and experiences that one feels during pregnancy.
Suddenly, and perhaps for the first time in my life, I found a resolve and a contentment in that pulling back for a time and managing to only accomplish what was good enough to get me through the day was not only ok for a season, but necessary. Rest and downtime and lots of grace and kindness for myself, my body, and my emotions was vital to this wild and new process. Suddenly my body is involved in this great, largely unseen creation of another human being. All I can do on most days is trust it to know and do what it is supposed to do. It is all very strange and wonderful.
For being both a recovering perfectionist and a people-pleaser, in the sense that I have struggled with those two dreadfully exhausting slave masters for a long time–I have realized more than ever that their voices do not have mine or my baby’s best interest at heart.
Their sly underlings of comparison, and fear, and insecurity are always ever near trying to drive you mad with anxiety and predicting nothing but a terrible future of doom and failure. You see, I don’t know about you, but for anyone who has been a parent or entered the process of becoming a parent–parenthood and motherhood themselves stand as this whole realm of uncertainty, risk, and a barrage of constant opinions. Opinions both unasked and sought for–that constantly feed those never ending voices of “what if” and “you are and will never be good enough.” I thought navigating the world of being a woman and my own, independent person were hard enough — and then I got pregnant.
Its all so very complicated trying to navigate this new world. Exciting and wonderful too, but challenging and terrifying nonetheless.
My greatest comfort is knowing that I am not alone in it.
My husband and I were beyond excited to learn we were pregnant. We had planned for it and prepared as much as a couple probably can for this new season in our lives. So having our own little secret for the longest time and then sharing that with those we love has been a wonderful experience. We are now half way through my pregnancy, having just reached 20 weeks, and we are looking forward to meeting our little peanut in June of this year.
My family and friends have been the best support system I could have ever asked for. From the daily phone calls, texts, group text messages, pictures, and gifts already showered on us–I am beyond grateful for the world of love our baby is being born into.
Even this blogging world I fell in love with has provided hope and comfort and guidance along the way, as I have seen even from a distance where other mamas out there share their experiences and help me feel that I am not alone.
What about my Writing?
In terms of my blog, there have been many moments in this unplanned but necessary break, where I have questioned my abilities as a writer, my purpose here, and where I want to go with this blog.
You see, this break also came at a time where exhaustion did not just consume me because of pregnancy–I had also grown oh-so-tired of the constant whiplash one finds nowadays in the blogging world and social media. The politics and ever pressing societal needs and events seemed to never end. It just all started to sound like lots of noise and I began to seriously doubt that any of my contributions made a dent in it at all.
I daily questioned how to keep up with it all, and if I even really wanted to anymore?
But maybe the expectation that I somehow have to in the first place, is what was driving me more to exhaustion than anything else.
Despite my doubts and questions, I am learning that writing is not only something I love, but something that loves me too.
Even when I feel dry and empty of anything worth writing and start questioning whether I should continue or why I ever tried to start in the first place, ideas still come to me and I read other people’s writing that inspires me to not give up.
Elizabeth Gilbert writes about this in her new book, Big Magic. How can you not just love her work? She has helped me remember more than many why I love writing and how easy it is to miss creative opportunity when we attach all these expectations of success and perfection to our creative attempts at making and sharing something with the world.
So in the spirit of Big Magic and the fact that it is still January, I have one new resolution for this year for my writing.
It is just this:
I am going to keep writing.
I am not going to promise you a regular writing schedule, because I have just learned that I am still figuring out the exact line between diligence and consistency versus demanding perfection and exhaustion.
In my writing, for now my goal is to not make it my career–so my blog isn’t going to be about ads, or hits, or numbers, or book promos because honestly I have career aspirations I am working towards in other areas and I just want to enjoy my writing as something that fuels me creatively without me demanding pay off or financial support from it as well. There are plenty of other better and more successful bloggers out there who can tell you how to build an awesome website or better craft your blog to an audience or write more consistently than I will. It is enough for me right now to just be here, sharing my voice and what inspiration comes to me.
I will be doing my best to not get caught up by the temptation to feel that my worth or right to speak or write or create is somehow attached to how often I do it, how well I do it, or how it is received.
I also do not have just one overarching theme or writing purpose to offer here. As many of you know, I have written about a lot of different things here on the blog. A lot of it started with my backstory of growing up home schooled in a conservative, Christian faith that I was struggling to find my way forward with.
I will still write about that, as my journey with faith, is and was and will always be an important but ever-evolving part of who I am.
I will also still love sharing about my childhood experiences, as they were a formative and shaping force in my life–but I will also not feel that I have to just write about those experiences as they have not been and are no longer the only defining force in my life.
I am also a military spouse who likes to write about the many experiences and challenges that ever present aspect of my life gives me.
I am also a student, although graduation is just around the corner. Hallelujah. But my love for academia and research, will not be over, so I imagine my writing will still include that.
I also plan to work and develop a career. I will be writing more about this as I figure out my way forward, whether that means navigating it as a military spouse, a woman, or as a mother–as all will prove to be challenging I am sure.
I am also a mother-in-the-making now. Brand new. So please bring grace and kindness and any support you can offer as I bring this new aspect of my life into my writing.
In reality, my writing is just always going to reflect me and my stories–the imperfect, complicated, messy, learning-to-love-all-that-life-brings-my-way ME kind of stories.
If you haven’t already guessed by now, with that comes wordy too.
I have just learned to embrace that aspect of my writing self–even as I try to tame it.
So if you are in for that sort of writing…
Please feel free to keep joining me here this year for some more
Untold Stories About Us.