lessons i learned from a kid's book

Lana loves to pick a book and make me read it over and over again. Her current favorite is Are You a Cow? by Sandra Boynton. The book lists different animals and asks if that's what the reader is. In the end realizes that they are just them. The last page reads "You must be you! Now isn't that great!". It's a simple message, but after reading it twenty-five times a day I started to think about it a little more.

I've always struggled to know who I am. Some people are so confident in themselves they don't feel the need to find the perfect label, but I always did. I wanted to be something easily definable. I wanted to fit neatly into a group. Looking back I can see how much pain that need caused me and how much time I wasted chasing after it. It wasn't until Lana was born that I finally felt relief from the pressure to define myself. Suddenly it didn't matter who or what I was. I didn't feel the need to hide timidly behind a label. While pregnant I carried this fear that I would lose myself to being a mom, but that's the exact opposite of what happened.

Having Lana contradicted so much of what I saw in myself and my future. Telling people that I was pregnant felt like a betrayal of who they knew me to be. I had layered all these rigid labels on myself, and having a baby didn't fit into any of them. Yet there I was, about to have a baby. At first it was embarrassing. I felt like I'd let myself and those around me down. This wasn't who I was, this wasn't my path. And yet, it was. I'd carefully defined myself and my life as following a path to the right, and here I was making a sharp left turn. I felt so lost.

Looking back on all of this is heartbreaking. Lana is the most amazing gift, and I hate that I spent one minute taking that for granted. My friends and family have loved her so well. I hate that I didn't have the faith in them that they had in me. I sought out those labels to make my life easier, but in the end they made it more complicated. I felt tied to them more than to myself. Instead of reflecting who I was, they became who I was. Being forced to recognize that they no longer applied to me was such a relief.

I still carry labels like mom, wife, friend, daughter, but now they lay lightly around me as a reminder that I am not alone. Beyond that I'm comfortable in the gray area. Some days I'm creative, others I'm organized. One week I'm a neat freak, the next I'm embracing the mess. Just because I am something right now doesn't mean I still have to be that thing in a year. I align myself with people because of who they are, not what outward qualities we have in common. I'm finally comfortable just being me and not worrying about what that means or what people think about it. I'm certainly not perfect, I still have so many moments of insecurity and uncertainty, but the urge to pick a thing and wrap myself tightly in it is no longer there. As Sandra so eloquently says, I must be me and that's great.

We're all just figuring it out one day at a time. So let's give each other the space to grow and change, and let's allow ourselves that same grace.

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