Loss of confidence
I remember telling my dad that I had lost all confidence with writing, which was especially frustrating because I couldn't bring myself to compose a harmless blog. Finally finding some courage today to look at the back end of my website, I'm shocked. This loss of confidence has lasted for near on 2 years. When my son was born I clung onto the idea that I must be able to function as before.
My tiredness finally won, and I let go. I let go of all the 'musts' and 'have tos' and 'should dos'. Because, the simple truth was that it wasn't possible to function as before. In fact this realisation, the pure and delightful seeing of the truth, has only just hit me in this very moment. The reason why I could not carry on as before, was this: every cell in my body had adjusted focus to the new small human in my care. A struggle took place between my expectations, and my reality. I couldn't meet my expectations, I failed dismally. So naturally I felt like a failure. It took all my strength to get to the end of each day, focusing on one day at a time. I have driven my partner nuts with my inability to tell him what is happening in my performing/teaching/course schedules, until the night before the day in question. My brain couldn't compute any more than that. The (unessential) information was a foggy abstract, until the thing I had to focus on, second to baby Drake and Wren, was right in front of me just a matter of hours away.
I remember a very painful evening when the knowledge hit me (I had fallen asleep next to Drake and woke up very confused) that I had no manuals printed for the teaching course the following day. Had I forgot there was a course happening? Had I sent out the pre-course information? The realisation hit me with a stinging pain, and I promptly got out of bed (after midnight) sleepily and blindly felt around in the dark of my bedroom for printer paper, printer cables, binding machine, comb binding spines, and of course had to unplug and carry the printer, to set up office in the living room. My worst fear at this point was not that I was sacrificing a precious night of predictably broken sleep (never can hope for more than broken sleep when breastfeeding) but that I would wake up my family with the noise of the printer. I attempted to muffle the printer chugging with a dressing gown and cushions. That was not a fun night. No. Somehow I managed to deliver a course the next day.
I did not have much fun stretching myself in 2017, from January to July, between performing in 3 opera productions, running teacher trainings each month, keeping up with 20 classes a week (when they didn't clash with rehearsals or shows), launching a crowdfunding campaign, driving forward a project alone that required a team of 15, and being there in as much time was left over, for my family. I became so exhausted that by August I had decided to drop classes, not schedule upcoming courses, and instead hang out with my kids. I think it was a week or two before it hit me that I couldn't cover the bills, so promptly hustled for classes again, took on any extra cover that I could get, and the rest of the year was a blur. No blogging then.
2018 began with teaching a 7 day week. Courses once a month, and from May to June that increased to once a week. The official 7 day weeks finally stopped in June, but my partner was right, I always managed to plan something extra on my day off. July was a course in London, another course abroad and a two week event teaching kids. Coming home in August it was the beginning of full time rehearsals for ROH's The Ring Cycle. That's when my long suffering partner announced, 'Hester, we have a problem'. I knew it too, but like I told him, I had commitments. The kids saw me for half days at a time. I was in denial of the fact that I was out more than I was home.
The only change that has happened now is in the past week, which has I'm sure given me an ability to reflect, is that I stopped breastfeeding my toddler. Less than 2 weeks before his 3rd birthday. I'll have to write a separate blog just about that one day. Breastfeeding for so long increased my risk of injury during training, slowed my body's ability to repair, and also the continued pregnancy hormones created a 'fog' clouding my ability to reflect on what was going on. The result was a very low mood, feeling that rather than keeping all the balls in the air, they were crashing to the floor out of my field of vision. One of the worst days was an afternoon when I was leading a course. I looked at my watch randomly at 4.30pm, then was hit with a realisation I'd made no arrangement for my daughter to be picked up from school!!! Frantic calls and texts ensued. Of course my partner had got to the school as soon as they called him. Wren had waited in the school office for no more than 20 minutes, but her feeling of abandonment was real.
It's hard to write this down and finally admit that much of what I found difficult, too difficult to even put into words or construct as thoughts, was of my own making.
My loss of confidence to write resulted from of all the above. I imagine it to be like a clogged up hose pipe full of debris, which no water can pass through. Creativity stopped, blocked by the rubbish. The hosepipe imagery is from one of the books I read this year on Yin Yoga. An analogy for prana flow. Yoga poses clear out the blocked energetic and physical matter in the body.
As well as this writing breakthrough, I finally began to do some clearing in the flat recently. Not by any means complete, but a good start with a noticeable difference to the energy in each room. Again, my long suffering partner had asked me for years to do certain things, move things, get a better system together for other things. My response was a big fat blank. I couldn't. Just didn't see how to. I wasn't being deliberately stubborn, I just tried to begin and would freeze with overwhelming despair. Close friends on several occasions offered to help me, and I'm finally going to take them up on their offers. I couldn't even accept their generosity at that time!
Something has finally budged, moved, shifted. There are finally months ahead that I can see in view, rather than only days ahead. There has been a lot of tears, and frustration, and shutting off, and sleeping in the kids room. There has also been the often toxic fixation on social media feeds which compound a feeling of inadequacy and failure. Despite having things around me to lean on, tools like meditation, my yoga practice, inspiring books, good music, good friends, the past two years feel like I only just made it - just made it through without getting found out. My fear is that one day I'll be in over my head and then it will all come shockingly to light, I don't have things in my life together at all, I'm just faking it.
A friend kept reminding me when I went through something similar between my daughter's second and third birthdays, that nobody has it figured out. Other peoples relationships I idolised, the careers, the achievements, behind each image of perfection I had put up on a pedestal was some kind of heart ache or heart break. I confided in my dad at some point this year or last year that I felt I should be writing but I had nothing of worth to say. He told me that when something is important enough that it has to be said, I'll find a way to say it.
It could be the utter exhaustion I experienced that laid waste to creativity. It could have been the grieving of my sisters death this March. It could be having small children and a chaotic home. Overall it could be called depression.
Nothing spectacular has changed of course. I still grieve my sister everyday, I still care for two small children and battle the wonderful chaos they create, I still work long hours some days and hurt from physical exhaustion, I still have unnecessary mis-communications with my partner which result in both of us feeling frustration and despair, I still worry about money and the other tonne of stuff that gets us all down. The change is that I can write about it (smiling). And like the water which starts to find a way through the blocked hose, my confidence or energy flow (all a version of the same depending on your philosophy) is starting to push through and clear a channel for reflection and creation.
Thank you to Dickon, Wren & Drake for being there for me. Thank you Wren for letting me use this picture.