By: Melissa Wert
I remember always hearing about how hard marriage and motherhood is. How difficult it is to put another being ahead of your own wants and needs. How easy it is to lose yourself in roles, that by their very definition, are defined by someone else. How painful it can be to transition from an individual to a unit, and all that comes with that change.
And all of that is true. But there is more. There is beautifully more to hardness than difficulty and loss and pain.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I got into an emotionally heavy argument. In our almost five years of marriage, it was the first time I had hurt him enough that I let myself feel that he just might walk away. That, just maybe, he had had enough of my inability to put him first. That, just maybe, I had failed at the hardness of putting another being ahead of my own wants and needs. That, just maybe, I'd have to face the reality of what life would feel like if the best part of it walked away. That hardness hit me right in my chest and, for more than a moment, it felt like I couldn't breathe.
Eighteen months ago, I became a mother and instantly fell into the hardness that is caring for a new, tiny life while clawing for your own through postpartum depression. I failed at feeling like I could, every day, put his needs before mine. I felt selfish for grieving our old life. I was angry at simply being known as a mother now, and not knowing - even to myself - what came after that word. I was terrified at being responsible for helping a baby turn into a toddler turn into a boy turn into a man. For the first time in my life, I felt like I had made the wrong decision that was absolute. That, just maybe, I had gotten myself into something I couldn't undo. That, just maybe, I had wildly underestimated my ability to love. And that, just maybe, I wasn't cut out for this thing so many other women seemed to be able to instantly embrace. That hardness took up residence in my heart, and my mind, and it took away from the joy that new motherhood brings.
Marriage and motherhood are difficult. They are relationships that are defined by others, but they also define who you are within yourself. They are filled with hardness, and with difficulty, and with loss, and with pain. But that hardness brings vulnerability. And if you let it, that vulnerability brings understanding. And that understanding brings strength. And that strength brings resolve. And that resolve brings comfort.
And that comfort is the ultimate gift of relationships. The ability to melt into another in a way where your lines blend and meld and form new lines is what makes that hardness worth it. The ability to feel another person as a part of your very own heart and physical makeup is the biggest blessing of all, and while it's not often talked about, it very often is the aftermath of hardness.
But it's hard, isn't it? I don't think anyone I know, especially myself, naturally embraces the hardness. It's easier to become defensive, to let it hurt, and then to let it remain there, as a weight you have trouble mentally lifting off of you. I have always found myself burying it beneath the surface, praying it would eventually just be swallowed up and that it would go away on its own. I'm sad to report, however, that in my 30+ years of attempting to bury it, that's yet to happen - the pain always, at some point, crawls up the surface and returns. So I made the choice to learn from it.
If you're ready to embrace the hardness and to get to the vulnerability, the understanding, the strength, the resolve, and the comfort, but you're just not sure how to get past the initial pain and fear, here are some things that you might try, that I have found have made a difference for me. First, acknowledge what you feel. Wishing it away, or telling yourself it's silly or stupid or unwarranted will only hurt even more. You are allowed to feel how you feel. Acknowledge it, and accept it. I promise that you feel it for a reason. Say it - I feel hurt. I feel scared. I feel angry. I feel less than. I feel not enough. I know I made a mistake. Then, ask yourself what you need right now, in this moment, to feel differently. Do you need your feelings acknowledged? Do you need to talk about your fears, and have them heard? Do you need to admit that you made a bad decision, and get that weight off of your chest? What is really driving that hardness? What is the real cause (hint: it's not the overflowing dishes in the sink or the fact that you're the one playing "bad cop" parent ... again.)? Finally - gather up your courage and say it. Say it to yourself. Say it to whomever you're feeling the hardness with. And if you can't say it (and even if you can), write it down. Write it in a card, or in your journal, or on a scrap piece of paper you have lying on your dresser. There's a better than good chance that whoever is on the other side of this hardness - even if that is just yourself - doesn't realize that you feel how you feel. Writing it down makes it real, and it's a helpful step in both embracing the hardness, and remembering this journey the next time hardness strikes.
So embrace the hardness. Dive into it. Dig into it. Embrace the messiness of change and emotions and feeling like you can't. Acknowledge it. Talk about it. Talk through it. Remember it. Write it down. Write it out, for each other. Embrace the hardness, and embrace the beautifulness that comes with it. I promise it's always and forever worth it.
Co-Founder & Creative Director, Print Therapy
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