Things You Might Learn By Standing Yourself Up

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August 11, 2014 by Katia

Have you ever shut the parenting door behind you, hanging a “Back in 5” sign on it and walked away holding your breath in anticipation of the grand reunion with you?

I left my children for four days at the end of July to attend a much awaited conference. In the months leading up to it, I’ve been keeping a BlogHer mental vision board and pinned to it were notions of self-fulfillment, female friendship, “self-reunion” and occupying the remaining ninety percent – uninterrupted sleep.

uninterrupted sleep

I’m trying to write this post through a residual fog in my head. When the fog lifts and before it sets again, I tell myself that I want to make it about motherhood and how it affects your identity and sense of self and more than that your sense of “all by my lonesome“. I want to make it about women and the ways in which they connect. I want to mention my marvel at finding that precise form of inspiration and support that I needed. Finding it in the most unexpected places and without looking.

Exactly two weeks ago I was plucked away from a daily routine of playgrounds, play dates and the state of emotional chaos that is parenting and found myself seated in a screening room at the Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, listening to Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black.

 

Piper Kerman, Author of Orange is the New Black speaking at Netflix Headquarters in Los Gatos, California.

Piper Kerman, Author of Orange is the New Black speaking at Netflix Headquarters in Los Gatos, California.

Women on TV are usually defined by their relationships to other characters surrounding them. They’re either mother, wife, friend, mistress or co-worker. It’s rare to find a female standalone character stripped of all social contexts and presented on its own merit. This is the gist of what Taylor Schilling who plays Piper, the main protagonist in Orange Is The New Black, said in one of the interviews I watched in preparation for this. Piper in the show is one such character.

The fog lifts again and I realize that much like on TV, women in real life are often defined or self-defined “in relation to”. Look at me, traveling for nine hours to temporarily shed “in relation to” and revisit the person that’s there when you subtract husband, children, residence, labels and circumstances. Traveling back in time to a different time zone only to be stood up. The me who DID show up is sporting some attributes which may lead you to mistakenly identify her as the missing counterpart: high heel shoes and a book in her purse. Her body smells like soap instead of ketchup kisses, stickiness, tears and other things that little boys are made of. It’s possible that she’s walking in a slower pace, but is all of that enough to magically resurrect her old self?

BlogHer14

Maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the way to reconnect with myself is not through chasing a shadow but through opening my eyes wider to what’s here and now. And then lessons will start pouring in.

I’ve listened to Piper Kerman, Jenny Lawson and Arianna Huffington, three incredibly inspiring women, openly share their personal stories – each one involving a breakdown of sorts leading to a breakthrough – and realized:

Women connect through vulnerability. This is our way of reaching out to each other, our “I come in peace”.  Recognize it in others and embrace it in yourself. It’s your special power.

While defining ourselves solely “in relation to” could affect our sense of self worth, when we endeavour to get to know and redefine our new selves, it’s okay to look at other women for clues.

Sometimes they will remind you who you are,

Sometimes they will tell you who they are and you will learn from it.

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Emily Pate Austin, The Waiting

 

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Stephanie Sprenger, Mommy for Real and Natalie DeYoung Ricci, The Cat Lady Sings

 

Stream Team meets Piper Kerman at Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos Calif., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. ( Norbert von der Groeben )

Stream Team meets Piper Kerman at Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos Calif., on Thursday, July 24, 2014. ( Norbert von der Groeben )

StreamTeam

On the right Meredith Bland from Pile of Babies and sister Allison. (Photographer: Norbert von der Groeben).

 

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Clockwise: Stephanie Sprenger; Sarah Rudell Beach, Left Brain Buddha and Leah Vidal, Little Miss Wordy

Left to right: Lisa Nolan of Blue Lobster Book Co. and Stephanie Smith Sprenger, Mommy for Real

Left to right: Lisa Nolan of Blue Lobster Book Co. and Stephanie Sprenger

 

 

BS

Left to right: Kristi Rieger Campbell, Finding Ninee; Stephanie Sprenger and Sarah Rudell Beach

 

Sometimes the best way to silence that nagging voice in your head is to let other women do it for you.

steph12

Stephanie Sprenger

Sarah12

Sarah Rudell Beach

Even if it takes a whole bunch of them.

bloppys

The best tribe in the world. The Bloppys.

 

Sometimes you’ll travel for nine hours to reunite with sleep and yourself and you’ll discover that you might be wearing heels and that favourite top you could never ever wear at home because terrible things happen there to everything nice, but you brought your sleep deprivation here,

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and this too because this is who you are.

top

***

Other women that I didn’t take pictures with but who made this non-reunion totally priceless: Aussa Lorens, Julie DeNeen, Arnebya Herndon, Rita Arens, Kylie Menagh, Molley Mills, Vikki Clafflin, Norine Dworkin McDaniel and Jessica Zeigler and Ashley Garrett. Sorry for forgetting anyone else. Fog.

43 thoughts on “Things You Might Learn By Standing Yourself Up

  1. lrconsiderer says:

    Lovely write-up. And I hope I get the chance to meet you ‘in Real’ one day. I don’t mind who you are when that happens. And I don’t really know who I would be, either, but it would be nice…

    • Katia says:

      I came to the conclusion that time, more than circumstances even, makes it impossible to go back to being the same person and regardless of that I know that you and I would have had a lot of fun, whoever we are! Thank you, my friend!

  2. Sarah says:

    Oh, Katia, this is fantastic. I wrote something similar last year about BlogHer, about how it hit me that I was just “Me” when I was there, not a mom or a wife or a teacher or or or…. That time for “grand reunion with me” is so important. You’ve written so eloquently about the power of these times to connect with ourselves and with other women…. Women gathered in sacred circles for millennia, and it’s a shame we don’t do it more often today. Miss you, xoxo

    • Katia says:

      I miss you so much, friend! I read your comment this morning while rushing out with the family and waited till now to respond but I carried it with me all day. As I told Steph, it means so much to me that this mumbo jumbo in my head took shape that made sense to you and that you agree with! Priceless.❤❤❤

  3. I love reading about BlogHer adventures because I just know I will never be able to attend one. I would love to meet any bloppy in the future though. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great post! I feel like, lately, I keep introducing myself as someone’s mom, wife or daughter and, every time I do it, it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t remember the last time I just gave my name! So sad to have missed BlogHer this year- hopefully next year

    • Katia says:

      Thank you!! My problem is that I don’t think I actually mind being introduced as that, but it’s when you’re all by yourself and everything goes silent that I (yes, I did switch from “you” to “I”) noticed I don’t think I know who I am anymore without being “in relation to”. I don’t know if I’ll be going next year (budget…) but I would recommend it to anyone.

  5. Jean says:

    Oh, oh, oh. Tears.

  6. I loved reading your perspective. I didn’t go to BloghHer, but I certainly have enjoyed reading the stories from those who did. Thank you SO much for the pictures. It was great to put faces with names of people I read…and discover many more I should be. Have a great fog-filled week😉

    • Katia says:

      That’s so sweet thanking me for the photos and the fact you were curious to see the faces. I’m exactly the same way. And thank you, the fog has lifted, I think, but I’ll be just as happy without it!😀

  7. Natalie DeYoung says:

    You are my favorite. I am a little teary reading this, actually. I’m not even a mother yet, but I’ve been terrified of losing my identity to being “in relation to;” it already happens a little in marriage. The beauty of being away, though, is that I rediscover myself. And I get to meet people like you, who remind me.

    • Katia says:

      My lovely, I have a nagging regret about BlogHer this year (actually a few, but I’d say the main one is) – not spending nearly enough time with you. Then I remind myself how tightly the sessions are booked but it still feels wrong. I really really want to spend more time together next time. Fingers crossed we both next year!

  8. This resonated with me so hard. We as women are constantly defined by who we are in relation to others. Maybe part of the reason why we blog is because we want to define ourselves for who we are…period. So glad I found this blog! Perhaps we’ll meet at next year’s BlogHer🙂.

    • Katia says:

      Wendy, thank you so much for such a heartfelt comment. I absolutely agree with you about blogging. A while ago I wrote a post for a prompt about blogging and I titled it “closest to me”, because that’s how writing makes me feel. I hope I go next year and would love to meet you! Oh, and send me the link to your blog, I’d love to check it out.

  9. I love it!!!! I wish we had more time to sit together and talk. Like 2 or 3 months…. When can we swing that?? One of us needs to hit the lottery so we can buy an old hotel somewhere and have a permanent blogger retreat!

    • Katia says:

      Oh my goodness, yes please to all of your brilliant ideas here! I feel the same, there was simply not enough time to sit down and talk and too much jet lag (for me) to attend the late night parties.🙂 Fingers crossed that we’re both there next time and can properly catch up!

  10. Jenn says:

    This. Just…this. The hardest thing about motherhood, personally, has been losing who I “am”. Hearing “Oh, you’re Sam’s mom” filled me with pride…and with a bit of longing, too, for that person to see ME.
    I’m happy that my husband gets this important aspect of what the conferences do for me.

    • Katia says:

      That’s amazing, that your husband’s supportive. I’m so glad my husband encouraged me to go and I didn’t have to worry for a second about how he would handle being all alone with the kids, he’s really good like that. I think you’re so right and conferences are (despite everything I’ve written) a great reminder of what it feels like to be you, much better (and more expensive) than a day at the spa…🙂

  11. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    Oh my goodness, that “I’m Enough” selfie in the bathroom is exquisite! I am so honored to be part of your gorgeous gallery here- you mean so much to me, and your presence at the conference was one of the most important aspects of the trip for me. How did you manage to touch on such beautiful awareness and insights with this post? I love how you really peeled back the layers of what could’ve been another conference recap and instead you revealed something truly vulnerable, something we all could connect with. You put it all into words– what the trip signified, especially to mothers– so perfectly. xoxo

    • Katia says:

      My dear, I hope you know that I’m not only a friend but also a fan and the fact that this made sense to you and resonated with you is the best kind of reassurance. I WAS writing this through a fog and didn’t quite know how to convey my feelings so this coming from you truly means the world to me. And I fely exactly the same way about seeing you at the conference, xoxoxox

  12. Nina Badzin says:

    I’m so glad you wrote about the conference. Every year I want to and there’s always some reason I can’t. Weekends are oddly harder to get away than during the week. I know that’s weird. Anyway, I had read some recaps of A. Huff’s speech (still think it’s weird not paying writers was not addressed in some way . . . I would have been thinking of nothing else), but I had seen anything about Piper’s. I’ve loved both seasons and read her book. That would have been awesome! Thanks for sharing some of the details.

    • Katia says:

      Hey friend! I’ve been meaning to stop by your side of the blogosphere for ages, but I’ve been sucking at blogging. Piper wasn’t part of BlogHer per se, although it was part of my BlogHer. You know how I write these monthly posts for Netflix? Netflix threw a little get together for all its Stream Team members who were attending BlogHer🙂 Piper was super awesome.

  13. Bonnie Way says:

    Wow. I agree with you about the excitement about being “me” for a bit instead of mom/wife, and the hope for uninterrupted sleep that didn’t happen. That’s awesome you were able to connect with so many friends, as that didn’t happen for me.😦 Thanks for sharing!

    • Katia says:

      I’m so sorry you had a different experience in that regard (the connecting with friends part) and similar in the lack of sleep… I remember sitting next to you at the Peg Fitzpatrick session and you were super helpful explaining Pinterest to Kristi and me. When I attended my first conference last year I walked into a hangar size room filled with strangers and sat down at two random tables (not at once…) and it was difficult to put myself out there and make myself vulnerable. And then I attended another conference last year where I didn’t know a single person. I’m saying this because I know it’s awkward but if you go again next year (and I’m not there🙂 ) I’m sure that if you walk up to someone or someones and introduce yourself, a conversation will ensue and you can mention that you don’t know anyone and I’m sure you’ll be taken care of. I’ve done that and I’ve seen other people do it.🙂

  14. Lisa @ The Golden Spoons says:

    Ah! I felt much this way after BlogU – being on my own for a change and surrounded by so many women who are also friends. Although many of us and never met, it was as if we had know each other forever. I had wanted to go to BlogHer this year, but it was just too far and too much $$. Hopefully, next year, it will be closer and I’ll get to meet you in person, too!

  15. Yvonne says:

    I’m trying to leave a comment through a fog too Katia – the TV is blaring as husband and daughter watch some cop show. Motherhood, identity.
    Your comment about. “travelling back revisit the person that’s there when you subtract husband, children, residence, labels and circumstances” and then being stood up is profound. I love that you realised it was better to open wider to what’s here now.
    Years ago, when I was pregnant with my first daughter, a woman whose daughter was 18 said she felt as if she was just getting her life back then. It surprised me and seemed sad somehow. Of course our lives change when we have children, and I did probably put ambitions on hold because I chose to stay home with my frequently sick children. But it has never felt as if I lost my life the way that woman described, so I feel fortunate.
    I suppose this isn’t quite the same as identity, and I’m not even sure what my point is in this ramble of a comment! It sounds as if you made a good job of opening your eyes wider and enjoyed the Blogher! How great to meet so many lovely Bloppy bloggers.

    • Katia says:

      My dearest Yvonne, I got your comment a few days ago, but I always like to find a quiet moment to sit down and really delve into your comments as they always make me think. I Don’t feel as though I’ve lost my life either, but I feel like certain parts of my identity were lost and I don’t even necessarily attribute this entirely to parenting, but also to time and immigration the result, though, makes me a little sad and nostalgic. I do think that I’m on to something here and I should accept the fact that the “me” I think of when in an “all by my lonesome” contexts has to evolve.

  16. Lovely post – looks like an amazing bunch of women! I’m on my 2nd maternity leave and am also ‘finding myself’ again, having recently discovered blogging. It’s wonderful to be reminded that so many others go through similar struggles and emotions.

    • Katia says:

      These women are incredible, honestly.

      And that’s when I started blogging, on my second mat leave🙂 It’s a good time for that and I’m so glad this resonated with you!

  17. Roshni says:

    Hope to meet you like this some day, Katia!!

  18. Candid Mama says:

    This looks like it was so much fun! Glad you had a great time.

  19. I recognize so many of these faces and names! We have intersecting tribes.🙂

    Also, just wanted to tell you that you’re beautiful.

    • Katia says:

      You’ve warmed up my heart and not just with this comment. Thank you so much for talking to me after the grammar clinic session. I wish we got to spend more time together, you are absolutely lovely.

  20. Dana says:

    The next best thing to being there with you and the other Bloppies is seeing these wonderful photos and reading about your experiences – I love it. I had the privilege of meeting some of my tribe at Blog U in June, and I understand how powerful it is to be sharing air with women who have touched your life in so many different ways. So glad you had that opportunity, Katia!

  21. mak068 says:

    i love this article (and pics) not yet a mother but can relate to the roles that can define certain aspects of you, and slowly claim you that everything you are (friend, lover, daughter, sister) ends up overshadowing simply “you” irrespective of everything else but weirdly keeps you anchored to an identity at the same time. Just started reading your blog and so far really liking the post.

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, it means to much to me that despite the family status difference between us you still found something to relate to in this text which meant a lot to me. Thank you so much for following the blog!

  22. […] 4.I Am The Milk well written posts partly focused on the authors children with posts that also tackle feminism and Gender topics. […]

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Tired. Going from 10 months of staying at home with the kids to full time work is disorienting.  I have to redefine what my involvement in their lives looks like. I have to go dig for my creativity, it's not readily available. I have to make room for friendships that were already pushed to the outskirts of my mommy life. What was previously inaccessible, existing in the "so near yet so far" category - books, blazers and heels - became a staple in this old new reality in a matter of days. Tired and disoriented but also content, supported and appreciative. #momsofinstagram #random #randomthoughts #changes #workingmom #tired #tgif
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