When a dear friend called to tell me about a brilliant local event she wanted to plan around the theme of “drought,” I thought “hell yeah.” It was a particularly awful day, during what most of us might call the “apocalyptic period” of this last summer – so much smoke you couldn’t see the mountains in front you. I felt dry, my friend felt dry, and I think it’s safe to say we all felt a bit dry. So, the concept of drought felt particularly relevant, and you know, any excuse to gather and drink wine is 100% fine by me.
I used to do a little bit of speaking, and I write for a living, so getting my thoughts on paper has never been a huge problem for me. I can express my thoughts more accurately in an email than I can face-to-face with someone, so imagine my utter shock and dismay as the event date grew ever closer, and the pages of my mind remained blank about what to share. I don’t know if you’ve ever faced writer’s block, but I’d guess that most of us have come upon a situation in life where we don’t seem to possess the tools or know-how to move forward meaningfully. You search and search, but the ideas won’t come, the thoughts won’t flow, and you remain stuck in limbo, with no obvious way out.
I sat stuck for a good long while, until it dawned on me exactly why my brain was giving me so much pushback about presenting ways to overcome drought: you see, I’m in a drought right now. I have not overcome it, and I don’t know when it will end, or even if it ever really will. Let me just pause here for one second to apologize for talking about motherhood. Again. If you’re at all familiar with me, this blog, or my past attempts to misguidedly morph myself into a professional coach, you know that motherhood and parenting are nearly always the subject matter.
You know that friend you have who always tells the same worn out story about that time she dated the guy who blah blah blah blah blah? She finds opportunities to bring it up at any occasion, talks about it constantly, and now you have it memorized and want to splash vodka in her face every time she mentions it? We all have THAT friend. And I’m afraid I’m that friend when it comes to motherhood. Even I’M sick of talking about it. But, it’s my life. I’ve had the privilege and the misfortune to be home with my kids for the last four years, and as much as I love my babies and would forever take a bullet for them without hesitation, motherhood is my drought.
Everyone might have a little different perception of drought, so let me share mine: drought is lonely, empty, wandering through a dry and barren wasteland aimlessly, with no sense of time, or location. That has been motherhood for me. Granted, it has also been a great many other things: joyful, warm, beautiful, and hopeful. But, I have known a loneliness unlike I ever imagined, not because I’m alone – I have wonderful women in my community, and my husband to share the journey – but most days I am too drained or tired to engage with my community. I hold them at arm’s length, I don’t let them see the real, exhausted, honest me. And my husband, well, he can only understand parenting from a father’s perspective, which oftentimes is like night and day from my own. And wandering aimlessly? That is absolutely what motherhood has been. Uncertainty about what’s best for me and my kids, about the next steps for our future, and a deep sense of distrust in myself and my direction – it all came with the territory. Oh yes, my friend, if ever I experienced drought in my life, motherhood is it.
So, I don’t have any “5 Steps to Find Water,” or “3 Ways to Escape Drought.” I’m as lost and as parched as anyone. But I can tell you about three things this drought has taught me, and the gifts I hope to take with me moving forward:
- My dear friend, Megan, is a career coach in Portland, and she writes a spectacularly beautiful blog. Recently, she wrote about encountering darkness in our lives – darkness here can be a synonym for feeling lost, or in the midst of drought – and she notes that the scariest part is our inability to rely on the tools with which we’re most familiar in order to get us through it. In my case, whenever I have felt lost or lonely, I have moved into action mode: made plans with friends, sought advice from a mentor, taken tangible steps to get myself unstuck. But in the midst of this drought and darkness, I have to rely on senses that I’ve ignored for the better part of my life: my intuition and spirit wisdom about what I truly need at any given moment. Hint: it’s usually not wine, although that’s always Plan A. When desert winds are howling and sand obscures your vision of any way out, do the hardest thing: practice inaction. Practice sitting still, waiting, and listening to that inner voice that’s meant to guide you on your journey. Learn to trust that voice, and differentiate it from other sources like peer pressure, cultural norms, and your own mind flailing desperately to JUST DO SOMETHING ALREADY!
- Let yourself be seen. Brene Brown’s most recent book, Braving the Wilderness, dives deep into the courage that it takes to really be yourself, open and honestly, in all situations. It’s a difficult concept for folks like me, who struggle with people pleasing and the desire to be liked. But one thing the drought has taught me is that authentic relationships are life-giving water in the midst of the loneliest desert, and that 1 real, true friend is worth 10,000 fake ones.
- Recognize that everyone is in a drought of some sort. Most of us are wandering aimlessly in our relationships, or our careers, or our lives in general. Purpose and direction are difficult to come by these days, as the battle cries of “more money! Better body! Perfect hair! Flawless skin!” tend to drown out the small, quiet voice inside of us that says “I’m made for more important things, I can do much more with my life, I want much more from my life.” At first, the drought can make us angry, shaking our fists and punching at anything that moves in order to feel purposeful again. But if you sit in it long enough, you will find gratefulness in the drought, because in the midst of all the uncertainty and things you don’t know, there is sunshine, two healthy kids singing the “Gummy Bear” song, and Game of Thrones. And, if you wait long enough, there is also gentleness and kindness in the drought, because when you stop trying to fight the desert, you gain the patience to come alongside others who are out there wandering, too, and you can share the road for awhile, or at least feel slightly less alone.
I’m only a few years into my mothering journey, and God-willing, I still have a long way to go. I’m not sure if the journey will always feel like drought, desert, and fire, but my hope is that someday, the smoke will clear, the cool breeze and sunshine will arrive, and just like that, the drought will be over.