Becoming Woo

I started doing yoga when I first moved to the Bay Area right after college, but only for the exercise. Sometimes there were breathing techniques or meditation, but I’d tune them out. When teachers said things like, “Acknowledge and thank the people you’re sharing this class with,” I would just wish that there were fewer people crammed into the small space and jockeying for a good spot. When, at the end of class, a teacher would bow and say “Namaste” or (worse!) “The light in me honors the light in each of you”, I would bow too, but only because the stretch felt good on my back. Mentally, I’d roll my eyes.  (read more…)

Post-PhD Blues

I sometimes joke with friends that I gave birth twice during grad school. Once when I delivered my son at Queen’s hospital in Honolulu, and a second time two and a half years later when I successfully defended my dissertation.

Both births were intense, simultaneously filled with joy and anxiety.

Both events bestowed on me complicated identities that regularly felt incompatible with one another.

When I formed each sentence of my dissertation, I wondered what my son was doing and whether I should be playing with him instead of his daycare teacher. As I read my son to sleep at the end of his day, a list of chapter edits scrolled through my head.

There was rarely a moment when I felt settled in either role as academic or mother.

And yet, when the identity of one threatened to consume me, the other swooped in to remind me of my wholeness. There was security in the tenuous balance of juxtaposing these major life roles.

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Who are we? a new Small Answers season on Identity

Dear Readers,

We’re back with a new season of Small Answers! We so enjoyed focusing our last selection of pieces on the topic of parenting, that we decided to keep the idea of a theme: this season’s theme is Identity.

Many of the big life questions that we’ve wrestled with on Small Answers can be distilled into questions about identity: Who am I? What makes me worthy of love, friendship? Am I competent at work? Do I fit in and belong? Who am I becoming? We construct these ideas to make us feel safe, secure in our understanding of ourselves as competent, good and likable people. However our identity — who and what we are — is never a fixed set of things. We grow, age, and mature; our notions of ourselves evolve.

Sometimes, these changes are ones we get to choose; we decide to let go of an old identity that no longer fits. We can shed a part of who we were like outgrowing an old shirt and growing into something new. Other times, identity shifts with circumstances outside of our control– losing a job, getting sick, becoming an aunt/uncle or grandparent, or political and cultural changes around us. In these situations, we can only accept and work with the changing tides.

It’s been six years since we started Small Answers and the best part of aging has been growing into ourselves more and more. And yet, life is not a steady upward trajectory. We continue to navigate the peaks and valleys of both our chosen changes that come with unintended side effects and the changes we’re forced into. So much of our angst and worry comes from the ways that we try to firmly hold onto things that are actually always changing, even ourselves. We like to cling to something firm, especially the stability of ourselves, even though we can look back and see that we are different than we were several years ago. We know that we are evolving beings and personalities.

To explore the many facets of identity and our shifting understanding of ourselves, we have a series of wonderful pieces coming up for you covering topics from post-PhD blues, to a loss of confidence at work, to getting in touch with our spiritual selves.

Thank you to all of our guest authors who have contributed to this series! As always, we’re excited to share a variety of voices and stories on Small Answers. We’re still accepting pieces for this series or in the future — if you’d like to contribute please contact us.

As Maria Popova has described: “Life is a continual process of arrival into who we are.” We hope this season shares some of the inner workings of this process. Thank you for continuing to arrive with us.

With love,

Leda & Steph

 

Image: Yayoi Kusama : Infinity Mirrors

My Postpartum Body

There is no good way to get a baby out of a body. That a woman goes through childbirth and then has to immediately collect the loose bag of marbles that is her body and begin the exhaustive, relentless work of taking care of a helpless newborn is bonkers. This is true even for the best, easiest births (I did not have one of those).

The state of my postpartum body felt (and was) irrelevant compared to the health of my daughter, and as correct as this was I sometimes resented it. Every time I log rolled out of bed, winced my way down the stairs, and chided my husband to slow down as I shuffled around the block, I was reminded of just how secondary I was. (read more…)

The Word “Mom” Didn’t Feel Like Me

A year ago, the label mom meant something very different to me. For whatever reason, it conjured images of a woman defined solely by her role caring for another, and that meant messy hair, unflattering mom jeans, and sunken eyes from constant fatigue. I had known for years I wanted to have a baby. But to become a mom – I wasn’t so sure, or frankly excited, to assume that title and everything that I figured came with it. When friends asked me how I felt about the transition to becoming a mom, I shied away – it didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like me, and it didn’t feel like something to be desired. I couldn’t quite identify why I had this reaction, and so I brushed it aside and focused on what I was looking forward to – how I was excited to be having a baby! (read more…)