Years ago, I was in a really tough job. I was seeing 2-3 families per day whose children were diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, driving all over NJ, sometimes driving 5-6 hours in one day to hit all my families. I loved my work and loved the opportunity to connect with families and kids on such an intimate level - I was in their homes, for chrissakes, and I never for one second forgot how much respect I needed to hold. My families were trusting me to design and lead their children's home education programs. I never took that responsibility for granted.
The work was glorious, the schedule was a beast. Sometimes, I didn't see my daughter in a day other than dropping her at daycare. Sometimes I felt resentful that I spent so much time with other people's children, and hardly any with my own. My husband, daughter + I were almost never together as a family. When I wasn't driving + serving, I was in the office as the Clinical Director of the agency, building a sound model, providing customer service, dealing with insurance, supervising up and coming behavior analysts, and overseeing any personnel issues. Between 8-9pm at night, I'd come home to my parents' house, fall into bed, do it again, relentlessly.
Y'all, I was tired. I was also suffering severe postpartum depression, and there were days I felt like I could not serve another family. I would pull up to the curb, a few houses away from my appointments, hang my head, and contemplate canceling. I couldn't imagine ringing another doorbell, drawing up my most compassionate + intelligent self, answering questions, reassuring parents, training staff, modifying programs, and doing it all while giving 100% of myself - because no matter my situation, these were families who needed me more than I needed myself. Families who were taking out second mortgages on their homes to pay for behavioral services. Who was I to have a tired day? Who was I to be less than my best?
I was so busy burning myself out that I failed to realize I was becoming completely translucent. In my time between families, I held my daughter, fed her, nurtured her, put her to bed, tried to shower love on her because I didn't have much else to give. I hoped that it would be all that mattered - she had a mother who loved her. I had nothing leftover for my husband or myself, or my precious parents who were letting us live with them at the time. No social life, no self-care, I couldn't get to my therapist or even my follow up OB appointments.
I definitely was in full on victim mode. Life was pulling me around by the ponytail, and I felt helpless to stop it. While I sought a way out, a new job opportunity, I fantasized about getting hit by a car so I could spend some time in a hospital (I KNOW! I KNOW! And don't lie- you've done it too), I was absolutely going bat-shit crazy looney. In the end, I spend time in the psychiatric ER. A woman can hold up half the world, even all of the world, and I had just held it too long.
In the weeks leading up to my stint in the psych ER, you can imagine how I was drawing up the very bottom of my reserves to serve my families at full capacity. I was starting to feel in conflict with a lot of my families, who were "demanding" and "mean" despite "everything I was doing for them". (How's THAT for labeling people?)
One day, I sat there in my car, mustering up the strength, kindness, bravery, and intelligence to keep an appointment at a family's home with whom I had a longstanding history - and who often became argumentative, accusing, and "difficult to work with". I bowed my head, put my hands on the steering wheel, and stared into my lap. I was beyond tears, beyond frustration, beyond dread, beyond the long dry terrain of emotions. And I prayed my heart out. I begged the universe for strength. I begged the universe for perspective. I begged the universe to deliver me into my own body, to help me serve this family and my staff and most importantly, the kid. I asked the universe how I could step forward, literally and metaphorically, at that very moment. I asked the universe to wash away all the negative feelings I had towards these parents and to help me see this moment in fresh light, with beginner's mind.
I asked for all these things wordlessly, in silent prayer, in the prayer that happens straight from the heart to the ears of the divine.
And back to me in perfect calm clarity came: "I am becoming the person I am".
I am becoming the person I am.
By forging myself in the fire, by surrendering to these life circumstances, by pulling myself up to serve over + over + over, I was not becoming someone else, evolving, or faking it 'till I made it.
I was becoming the person I already was. Nothing was left for me to live into - no one else's expectations of me mattered. I was too tired to pretend to be anything other than exactly who I was.
An exhausted new mother who was headed for the looney bin who drew herself up to serve authentically. Who understood that the "difficult to work with" parent was just a parent like any other, scared to death for her child's future.
Exactly who I was, was actually amazing. Even in the throes of feeling like a victim, helpless + alone + raging on the inside, I could drop into the higher perspective that this "story" we were playing out - me, my families, my staff, the agency, the whole picture - was just a story. That I could, over + over, despite the story and the history and the meanness and the demandingness, despite all the words I had already deflected, that over + over I could show up, human being to human being, as though the story never happened.
Why am I telling you this story? Not to brag.
I'm telling you this story because today, I still drive the same car. And on the visor, from that day, the words "I am becoming the person I am" are written. And every sunny day, when I put the visor down, I am reminded that we are all enough, more than enough, that our circumstances don't define us, and there's nothing to strive for. Even at our worst, we are plenty, valuable, perfect. And at our worse, especially, we are becoming who we are - because we don't have it in us to be anything else. The iron is forged in the fire.
And I am reminded of the ease, joy, love, and humanity that flows from really and truly getting this message - we are only becoming who we already are. That the absolute truth of who we are, and always have been, and always will be, is brilliant.
Since that day, I have never again "tried" to be anything else than who I actually am - because I learned, in the fires, at the bottom of the well, in the heat of the desert, and under duress, I was still enough. More than enough. There was nothing else to be except exactly who I was.
All I had to do was become it. Let go of all the other pieces, stories, expectations, anxieties, "not enough"s, "shoulds," and inner "could have done better" voices. Let go of what I thought a Clinical Director should look and be like, what life "should" have delivered to me by now, let go of what I might come home to, let go of the pain of not seeing my daughter every night...
To become, then, meant not to strive, evolve, try harder, or even "show up how I want to be". It meant only to be the person I am.
This is the un-work, the un-becoming, and the letting go.
This is the discovery of our own personal truths, the truths of who we essentially are.
We do not need to decide who we want to be. All the personal development, evolving, striving, and deciding how to show up in any moment point to the same thing: not to become something or someone different, but to settle into the truth of who we already are.
We are becoming the people we are.
What do you need to let go of to begin to unwrap the onion layers, to discover the luminous person you already are?
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