An Epiphany.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It was 1.5 years ago. Fall of 2011. Lucy was just coming out of that crazy colic season, and I was finally facing my less-than-healthy state of mind and beginning to see Jamie, my counselor, for the first time. I was finally at a point I could dig out of the trench of Difficult New Motherhood and begin moving forward... could finally focus on ME a little. I felt light beginning to try to seep back in.

It was a fruitful and rich time for me, self-awareness-wise. Talking to Jamie and shrugging out of the too-tight cloak of negative thinking from the Summer of Colic felt freeing. I began to feel epiphany and insight again. And so many of the epiphanies I experienced were so profound, I desperately wanted to come here and share them... explore them a little further within my online community of friends and readers. But while my mind was feeling lighter and more inspired, my hands were still always full, and at the end of the day, it just never happened. I never found the right time to sit and really write about these experiences I was having. 

And now it is 1.5 years later. And I am on the cusp of some new big changes, as well as drawing close to leaving (I think) the trench of Difficult New Motherhood yet again, and so I'm having some deja vu... some parallel experiences. And it is reawakening one of those past epiphanies to me again. 

And tonight, my heart and my head all jumbled with thoughts of change and growth and chapters closing, new ones opening... I am back in 2011 suddenly, and poignantly remembering those thoughts that came to me then. 

It was an average day. And I had managed to find a minute to read some Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach (if you know me at all, you know this book is so dear to me). In the excerpt I read, she was talking about money. About how we think if we just made a little bit more money, we would be happier... we could do X, Y, Z, etc... 
Except, she said, the hard truth of life is that for most of us, in order to make MORE MONEY, we had to invest MORE TIME, more energy. And reading this, I knew that to be true for me. As a photographer, I could certainly ramp up my business and begin taking on more sessions. I could push and market and aggressively seek to work, and I COULD double my income and contribution to our family's finances. But the cost would be great: I would have to lose some things, some very dear things, in order for that to happen. In her essay, Sarah BB asks-- what is it worth? Is more money REALLY going to bring more serenity? Security, maybe. But serenity? 

I stopped and pondered this. Because I was definitely guilty of thinking that just a little more income would make life SO much better. But of course, for us to make more money right that moment, it would mean ME working more. And was that something I would want? Of course not. I had NEVER wanted to be a full-time photographer. I quit teaching to be a mama, and having the time I did to be at home with my babies was precious to me. So it rang true: more money might equal SECURITY, but that didn't necessarily lead to more SERENITY. I needed to shift my thinking about what mattered more: security or serenity. 

And right then, a Big Question popped into my head. A Big Question I know in my heart I was meant to hear with my heart and my spirit. It was a seemingly simple little query:

What if this life RIGHT THIS MOMENT was all you ever had? What is THIS was it? Forever? 

I remember the moment this Big Question came to me. I was in the upstairs bathroom, in a quiet moment of the day. Periwinkle walls, white tile, Simple Abundance book closed in my hands, staring at the wall. And as soon as the question came to me, a flurry of sub-questions followed:

What if you and Joe never made any more money than you do right now? Just this small income from his job and the even smaller contribution from your photography.

What if you never had any more kids? Just Noah and Lucy.

What if you never managed to buy your own home, and you rented this little white house from Kate forever?

What if your life stayed here-- small home not your own, two kids instead of a brood, Joe working at UMSL, living in this blue collar neighborhood, working at photography but never growing it any bigger? WHAT IF THIS WAS IT?

I remember then, the flood of images of what life looked like to me RIGHT then.

Lucy, blond fluff hair, sleeping in her sweet robin's egg blue room. 
Noah, napping with books and Old Mai in his toddler bed in his light green room. 
The light-flooded dining room, serving too many purposes and therefore too cluttered.
The couch that is not ours that is not my style... ugly, even... but indescribably comfy. 
Our bed, just a mattress and box spring, in a room not designed or styled at all, but rather a catchall for everything... but quiet... comfortable... well-loved. 
Joe- satisfied in his work, wearing his corduroy slacks and dress shirt and taking his laptop case out the front door every morning, a kiss for me, a kiss for the babies. 
Me, boho messy mama, just trying her best with these two kiddos... making lunch, driving Noah to preschool, sewing and baking a bit, working after kiddo bedtime... 
A white picket fence outside, literally.
A clothesline in my teeny yard. 
Our orange double-stroller and the walks we'd frequently take.
Our two silver Civics, Sylvie and Slick... sturdy consistent cars with a bit of character. 
A little extra weight on my body.
A little extra weight on Joe's.
Clothing in my closet getting a little old, a little tired. (So much more fun to buy new things for the kids, am I right?)
A kitchen that was cluttery, not very functional... 
A sun room used as a makeshift photography studio, with great light and a really good little supply of backdrops and props. 
My sewing corner, with so many projects yet to do that I'd never run out of inspiration.
My family-- my parents coming at least once a month to hang out... my siblings and my in-laws and their presence in our life. 
Books. Books for the kids, books for me (I was reading "Gift of An Ordinary Day" and seeing my life with so much more tenderness)... Books as priority in our family. 
Music-- always something or other playing on Pandora or iTunes, always some singing, mostly from me.
Memory-keeping: photos being taken, journaling the old fashioned way and journaling via blog, video-taking...
No accolades from the big wide world.
No giant promotions in our future. 
No bought home of our own. 
No status-symbol car or shoes or handbags.
No chance of any trans-continental vacations anytime soon.
No option to get out and eat at fancy restaurants weekly. 
Not a great deal of financial cushion. 

But Lucy. With her fluff blonde hair. 
Noah, with his constant stream of chatter.
Joe, solid and loyal and content and strong.

And me. Messy boho moody artist mama lover dreamer memory keeper basket case wisher.

And the little white house that was not ours. 

What if THIS was all we ever got to have?

It sounds like this internal Big Question and subsequent little questions and visions took a while to transpire. In reality, it was maybe two minutes. Two minutes from the time the question came to when the flood of images and thoughts completely took my breath away. 

What if THIS was all my life ever contained? No more. Just this?

And then the answer, pure and true and resounding:

THIS--- well, THIS isn't bad. Not bad at all.  

In fact, I LOVE this. 

Gosh... you guys, it may not sound that profound. But it WAS. It still is. 

To face your reality in the mirror with no softening of the edges--- to look and REALLY ask if this would be enough---- and to come out the other side knowing with soul-deep knowledge that is IS....

Well, that's powerful stuff. 

And it ushered in one more Big Question, immediately afterward:

If THIS was all you ever got to have, what would you be doing differently?


I'm going to end here tonight... It's 11:45 and I'm pushing my bedtime like crazy... And besides, I honestly hope some of you guys are accidentally asking yourself the same questions. And I'd love to know what you are thinking right about now. What WOULD you be doing differently if this was all you were ever going to have? I'll come back and tell more of my story... but stew on that for now. I think it's a BIG QUESTION, and it deserves to be considered. 

For now, to close, I just need to say-- 1.5 years later, I still love this. All of it. The messy, hard, not-fancy life I've been given... the kids, now three of them... the husband, still cheerful and strong... the house, still not our "dream house"... these extra pounds on my body, the basketcase-ness of my heart and mind... I love it. I am grateful for it. Every speck. Good and bad. This life brings me deep joy and deep satisfaction, and I am grateful for it. I am grateful, I am grateful, I am grateful. 


  1. Oh my gosh, Emily. You took my breath away with this post!

    This was so beautifully worded, and profound! And so so so so true. It speaks to me in leaps and bounds. I remember asking myself that same question last March, in the throes of a deep depression and at the time I can't remember what my answer was because it was so clouded with sadness and hurt. It makes me realize now, that nothing should EVER be taken for granted. That all of this is on loan to us anyways and can be taken away at a moment's notice. So yes, stop whatever you are doing today, in this moment and be thankful and grateful and cognizant of everything we are kindly allowed to have in our lives.

    And, dare I say you are back with this post? :) So happy to see so much of you shining through with your words.


  2. And those three beauties and loyal Joe are lucky you belong to them because you are enough, more than enough for them.

  3. Thank you. I needed to read this today. I have been struggling/wrestling/fearing the opportunity to grow my photography business...literally lease in hand to open a 'real' studio. My husband and I were talking about it last night and I just kept saying that my goal was to "make more money" but it was going to "cost" too much to do that and I didn't choose to stay home so that I could grow photography and send my kids to daycare. And you're right, what we have is pretty great. It would be even greater if I appreciated it more. Thank you again for a perfectly timed post.

  4. I am so glad to read about your epiphany. I often worry about new mothers who may have limited contact with adults. Do new mothers stay sane? Do they know that what they are doing is important? I am comforted to know that you *do* know this.

    You are doing an amazing job! Keep up the good work...


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