It’s hard to think when you’re down deep in the trenches, “I’m going to be so proud of myself ten years from now!” All you’re really doing down there is just surviving. That’s why they’re called the trenches.
Ten Years Ago
Ten years ago I was 28, trying to get pregnant with a second child (after countless failed attempts and a miscarriage), trying desperately to be the wife and mother I thought I was supposed to be. Only she was not me. SHE was far out of reach. She was thin and organized and nearly perfect.
I was none of this.
I was stuck in the trenches of life with no idea what was waiting for me. There were two more babies on the horizon I knew nothing of. There was graduate school while teach and breastfeeding at 3am. There was a career change spurred on by an identity crisis. I was clueless to all of this..
All I knew was I was definitely and most certainly in the trenches.
Welcome to the trenches.
I define the trenches as those periods where you are DEEP in life that you can’t do much else other than what is directly in front of you. There are no deep breaths, no moments of quiet, and definitely zero bathroom breaks without an audience. There is no strategizing or self- exploration, or anything remotely indicative of reflection. Day are filled with things like:
“Is this the third or fourth time I’ve heated up the same cup of coffee?”
“I smell poop. Who has a poopy diaper? Oh gawd! It’s up her back!”
“Is it bad to reheat the chicken nuggets he didn’t eat for dinner last night for dinner tonight?”
“Where’s my razor? I haven’t shaved in over a week. Ah, screw it. No one’s getting any action tonight.”
The days are long, the nights are longer and everything is a matter of speed and convenience.
When you are deep in them, the trenches are a place of ignorance (without the bliss). You don’t know what you don’t know. You have moments when you think you should know but you have no idea where the time will come from for you to actually learn. You simply do. Then pray you make it through.
Ten Years Later
I am 38, with three children and the marriage of my dreams. My friends feel like family and I wake up with so much gratitude in my heart I sometimes wonder if this will end. Life is so, so good.
What’s interesting is NOT the status of my life - making more money, a different job, affording things I want. Sure, I acknowledge those things help (I’m aware of privilege). But here, on the other side, I see so much more than I ever knew. I have perspective. I see the struggle and how beautiful it was - how it beautiful it continues to be.
I see the lessons, the forging, and testament as they are being written and I’m thankful. I’m thankful for all of it.. I’m also thankful to no longer be in the trenches. They feel like a war zone.
They were exhausting and a bit hopeless at times. “How will I get through this stage, this day, this moment?” But I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Since those early days, I have evolved. I have embraced my Self. There is no SHE I’m working to become. No smaller, more organized, or nearly perfect version I’m striving for.
I am HER and she is ME. We are one in the same.
Now that I am out of the trenches, I am so incredibly THANKFUL for the lessons of them. I learned grit, perseverance, perspective, and prioritization. Now, I am free to focus on things like:
How do I navigate this conversation about boundaries with my daughter so she is empowered and in control?
How do I hold my son to a higher standard so he balances chivalry and respect without assuming women are inferior?
How do I bring intention into my intimate relationship with my husband?
How do I show up as my best self today?
When I was deep in the trenches, I couldn’t focus on any internal development, I didn’t have it in me.. Not for a lack of trying but I wasn’t there yet. It was basic Hierarchy of Needs - food, water, shelter, sanity.. I acknowledge Today doesn’t exist without the work of yesterday. They are rungs on the same ladder and I had to climb past Then to get to Now..
I write this because so much of the new year is about change - what can I do to change myself?
Change is good. But the route to change is often misunderstood. It’s not the victories of “I did this right!” that pack the most power. It’s more the struggle, the mistakes, the trenches that lead to change.
My friend and Functional Medicine practitioner, Lindsey Wells NP-C posted on Instagram the following and it really got me thinking:
“…often we forget the mistakes, the errors, or completely falling off the wagon along the way are like COMPOST to the land.. providing the medium and support for new growth… You gain richness of wisdom… Own the tribulations and play your role in making change. Stop waiting for someone else…”
My mistakes, my missteps, my falling of the wagon is where I really learned. It’s where I also found ME.
I’d love to hear from you. What’s something YOU learned by doing it wrong instead of right? Share in the comments below.