There’s a powerful and funny thing about comfort zones: they can have you believing a delusion that the grass is greener on another side, even when that grass is dead, frozen, and buried under nine feet of dirty plowed snow. No salt.
I recently caught an episode of the sitcom Modern Family where the character Mitchell, an environmental lawyer, stood up to his overly demanding boss. Mitchell had given a clear boundary: “I will not work overtime Sunday; family day.” Boss gave him the ultimatum: “Come in or don’t bother coming back at all.” Without a word, Mitchell took off his badge, handed it to The Man and walked out.
At home, moments after he finished rehashing to his lover the triumphant tale of maintaining his personal power, the fear of the new unknown blank slate took over them both and the melodramatics ensued. “But dear God, I like nice things!” Cam shrieked, running around the living room with his hands in the air.
“I have to go back,” Mitchell cried, freaking out and ready to go kiss his ex-boss’ butt. “I can lie, grovel, and debase myself; I’m a lawyer!”
It happens to the best of us: we work toward goals, desire and attain certain things, and then find ourselves feeling uneasy when what we ask for manifests. And that anxiety can have us compromising our very essences and crossing our word.
It’s mid-February, and this is officially the longest stretch of time (4.5 months) that Dread and I have consecutively been in Trinidad together. Although we have spent the majority of the last couple years here in Trini, it has always been in 90-day stretches, as that is the default time allotted on one’s passport without asking for an extension or applying for a visa. Our usual routine: we’d be in Trini for three moons; jump back to the States for a few strongs (weeks) to pick up supplies; come forward to T&T again, spend a next three moons; head stateside to do a summer tour of festivals; come forward to the island again…back and forth; on and on.
Knowing I would soon give birth to my child, this time coming here the “plan” was to stay longer in T&T and do another stateside cross-country summer tour once the weather became warmer. I never had the intention of bringing a 2-moonth new baby Eleven to Chicago in the dead of winter.
Eleven is the brightest Star and has brought so much joy to our lives, but making the transition from maiden to mother without an empathic support system (other than my husband, of course) has been the most challenging experience of my life. By far.
Despite my initial intentions to be here in Trinidad longer, my ego jumped at the opportunity to remain in the easy, familiar status quo. I found myself feeling so lonely and frustrated at the lack of familiar reflections, especially in terms of the sisterhood and my fellow mamas.
It was a combination of feeling alone in a foreign country with a newborn baby and dealing with post-pregnancy hormonal fluctuations. To reduce it to “baby blues” or “postpartum depression” would have been too simplistic a diagnosis to describe a feeling so multi-faceted, complex and quite natural.
I know I’m projecting, but I think we’d be hard-pressed to find a conscious woman who didn’t feel tremendously transformed after bringing forth a life, especially for the first time. You can’t remain the same; something about us MUST shift with that experience. The culmination (childbirth) of 10 moons’ worth of energetic, mental, and bodily investment is no small occurrence.
I started rationalizing a January trip to the States primarily because I missed my beloved village of friends, family, sistren, and kindred something FIERCE. Besides, our 90 days would be up on the 11th of January, so why not keep it simple and do what we’ve always done?
Because it would have meant crossing my word, and believing that my inner peace could be ratified by something external.
We can’t run away from our struggles, because everything stems from within. Even though there have been some tough and depressing moments, leaving the tropical paradise to touch down into Chicago’s polar vortex wouldn’t have solved anything. And that’s how the ego works—self-doubt creeps in to make us think we can’t handle radical change or being pushed further than we ever have been.
Running back to Chicago for “support” would have been a complete cop-out. The implication was that my inner peace was dependent on other people.
The thing is, we have technology. It’s not as though my people aren’t an email, phone call or text message away! Besides, knowing myself, once we reached Chicago I’d have been irritated by the subzero temperatures and more huddled up indoors instead of venturing outdoors to brave the cold.
Integrity is doing what we say we shall do. Running backwards would have been a blatant cross of my own word. I’d clearly declared I would not subject myself nor Eleven to a Chicago winter when I didn’t have to do so.
Inner peace is not geo-specific. It’s possible to feel miserable on a Caribbean island, believe it or not, but I have every reason to be at peace. Truly, all of us do, regardless of location, because nothing external or circumstantial can bring it about.
Being an entrepreneur, I’ve such gratitude that I didn’t have a mere job-sanctioned three-month maternity leave, or any other restrictions on being with my daughter every day. Everything I’ve declared for myself continues to come to fruition so easily and effortlessly, in ways I’d never imagined—but we certainly worked for it. We hustled our tails off to the last possible minute in order to set ourselves up to be able to breeze out—and be PRESENT—once Eleven arrived.
It’s almost as though the uneasy feelings stemmed from the real manifestations of a lot for which I’ve worked. I’d declared in February 2012 that I would start my family in no place other than Trinidad. After a pregnant 2013 summer of nonstop busy-ness and cross-country road trips up to my ninth month, I wanted to be able to not have to hustle. I wanted our lovely family to have our own space. I wanted to be able to live in a hammock and live leisurely, for a while, without guilt. I wanted the freedom to focus on writing, and art, and creation.
When you’re so used to life being a fight and struggle and climb, reaching the summit is a totally new and foreign sensation—then you realize you were only battling yourself all along.
The ego is the most valuable tool we have, but it’s a helluva trickster. So when the struggle is “over,” what does the ego do? It gets bored, looks for drama. It’s not used to there being no epic battle or huge undertaking; it enjoys the hardship and pain because that’s how it remains alive. Once all the “fights” had been “won,” there was nothing else to do but just BE. That’s where the self-doubt began. Am I really able to make this transition on my own?
And as I let go of the false notion that the dead, frozen, buried Chicago grass was greener than the lush, abundant Trinidad bush, everything continued to come into place. Our chartreuse house manifested. Income continues flowing from multiple streams. The embassy processed Eleven’s passport the day after we applied for it. Immigration extended our time in the country without batting an eye.
My desires are all at hand. There’s always more to go, but I Am grateful for the tangible progress that has been made. Of course, the potential heights always increase, revealing even more goals for which one can strive, but to have shone light on certain karmic lessons is radically unchartered territory.
The slate IS blank. The story is unwritten, waiting for us all to put pen to paper as the authors of our lives.
“We rising up now; you gotta deal; you gotta cope. Will you be electric sheep? Electric ladies, will you sleep? Or will you preach?” –Janelle Monae (feat. Erykah Badu), Q.U.E.E.N.
Frozen or thriving, the grass ain’t greener on any other side. The green grass grows all around.
What have YOU experienced lately, in terms of being pushed outside of your comfort zone? And to the mothers, how did your first childbirth experience shape you?