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Not that long ago, I walked past a novel on display at the library called Today Will Be Different—the title phrase clearly more a plea of desperation than a statement of fortitude from the main character, whose hands covered her face.
Although this was a work of fiction, it struck me as all-too-familiar, and a version of the silent incantation many women (and surely men) occasionally have running through their minds at the beginning or end of the day.
It’s all fun and games being Superwoman or Supermom, getting all the things of busyness done, being everything to everyone, and zipping from place to place like our pants are on fire.
Until of course, we realize that it’s not all fun and games, that we’re running on fumes with a serious burn on our bums, and we have nothing left to give.
And worst of all, that we are setting an example for our daughters and other girls and women in our lives that this is what they should aspire to. That they should need caffeine to get through the morning, stimulant or anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants to get through the day, and alcohol or sleeping pills to fall asleep at night.
This is not a judgment or personal attack. It’s a loving gesture of outreach and concern from me to you, asking if you’re okay.
Really, truly okay—not just the usual, “I’m fine,” or, “I’m making it through each day, but just barely and I don’t want anyone to know that or judge me.”
I was just telling a friend recently about an incident that happened in college a few months after my mom died. Prior to this, I had always been a good student, even when I wasn’t putting forth my best effort.
Needless to say, I wasn’t putting forth my best effort when it was a struggle to just get out of bed every day. Let alone trying to focus on and participate in my second-year Spanish class. So when I got a test back with an abysmal grade and big red letters from the professor asking, “Are you okay?” I wanted to scream, “No! No, I am not okay!!”
But seeing as how I didn’t even have the wherewithal to translate that silent agony and fury about losing my mom into actual spoken words, let alone into grammatically correct Spanish (unfortunately, this was many years before Google translate came into existence), I did exactly what I’m advising you not to do. I told everyone I was fine.
It took a long time, but I finally came around to the idea that life is not meant to be lived as a flat line, at the fringes of just barely making it through the day, or at the top of the scale, where everything is puppies and kittens and joyful exuberance.
On second thought, if you add ponies to that, the latter doesn’t sound so bad.
Nonetheless, we will all go through occasional hard times. Days (sometimes weeks, sometimes months, hopefully not years) where everything has turned into the un-emptied port-a-potty at the end of a fiery food festival. How do I know this to be true? Well, I live in New Mexico for one, the spicy green and red chile capital of the world. Just saying, avoid the actual port-a-potties if you can.
But also because devastating things happen in everyone’s life at some point. Usually at multiple points, and even to the people who tend to live at the upper limits of joyful exuberance.
We are all going to face unexpected challenges, heartache, and losses. And if we go into these challenges or losses already running on empty, how can we possibly expect to cope? To be resilient in the face of what could possibly be the worst thing that’s ever happened to us?
That is when the proverbial cookie crumbles, and we really can’t put all of the pieces back together.
No matter how hard we try to reform the dough, shaping and molding and pinching everything tightly between our fingers, all we end up with is a big pile of crumbs.
When we don’t have the knowledge, ability, or even awareness to operate from a foundation of resiliency, desperation to escape emotional pain that can feel acutely physical in the body can cause us to reach for addictive substances like numbing medications (prescription or otherwise), extreme exercise, excessive amounts of sleep or sex, foods that satiate the pain short-term but are destroying our health long-term, and/or copious amounts of time scrolling online so we can avoid engaging with the outside world.
Not sure how close you are to snapping like a dry twig when the next internal or external demand is placed upon you? Not sure if your existing habitual patterns, even if self-care is a priority for you, are fortifying your resiliency?
Examine how close you are to the edge with this visualization:
Close your eyes and imagine your young daughter (or niece, or friend’s young daughter, or even yourself as a child). Put yourself in her shoes, seeing things through her eyes.
How would that child interpret your day-to-day activities?
Would she believe that growing up is something to look forward to or something to dread?
Does she see you doing things that light you up, that help others—from your heart and not from a sense of obligation?
Does she see you taking care of yourself? Talking kindly about your body? Resting when you need to, and not soldiering forward into some invisible, never-ending battle?
This is not an experiment in judging yourself, putting yourself down, or berating yourself for setting a terrible example.
And yes, as I ran through this exercise myself multiple times, I inwardly cringed and recognized why the title, Today Will Be Different, jumped off the cover and resonated so strongly. As we often say in yoga, “It’s practice, not perfect.”
It’s not about punishing yourself for being a bad mom or a bad person. Let’s face it, there are plenty of other people out there who will be happy to point out your shortcomings if you allow them to.
Why? Because they have their own pain points, and if they push on yours, it takes the pressure off of theirs—momentarily anyway.
Instead, let this exercise be about bringing awareness to how we all let critically important things slide in the busyness of life. Things like fun, curiosity, gratitude, love, hope, and imagination.
Things like maintaining healthy friendships, strengthening familial bonds, and making genuine connections with people who are in your corner, who have gone through what you’re going through and who can help you build a strong platform of resiliency on which to stand.
I refuse to believe that you ended up here, as one of seven billion completely unique individuals, to just grind through each day as a cog in the wheel of someone else’s machine. That you cannot find the time to truly live and not just exist.
It’s okay to put down the Supermom or Superwoman cape from time to time.
To do something that is solely for you, because you want to and most importantly, because you deserve to.
After all, today will be different.