Today, this moment, in the present, since right now, I’m embarking on a gestation journey toward the birth of my Future Self. The cosmic due date is December 12 for a couple of reasons. The first is practical—it’s very close to nine months and this baby is going to need some time to develop. The second is pure whimsy and goes back to the year 2000 as I was shopping for a Mother of the Bride dress. That’s all my oldest daughter Angie was asking of me. It sounded simple enough but so began the nightmare. After years of languishing on the couch with my boyfriend Haagen Dasz and driving a standard transmission for exercise, the image in the dressing mirror was....well, there are no words. Sag, pucker and droop maybe, and that’s just my arms in a sleeveless dress.
Week after week, my two youngest daughters joined me on this increasingly demoralizing quest. Sifting through racks of dresses. Running for larger sizes. Picking me up from the dressing room floor when I collapsed in utter despair. At one point, Katie brought in a gauzy floral number that was especially attractive on the hanger. When she pulled back the dressing-room curtain, she immediately cupped her hand over her mouth and ran. The entire women's section probably heard me shouting after her, "GIVE ME A BREAK! IT WOULD TAKE GWENETH PALTROW TO LOOK GOOD IN THIS!”
Lizzy had given up the struggle and was off exploring but Katie was still loyally strolling beside me when I spied the Motherhood shop. Oh my God, that's it! Clothing artfully designed to camouflage a lumpy figure with grace and style. As I made a beeline for the formal attire, Katie just stood there at the store threshold. Did she think I was joking? Was she worried about being seen in there? Was this just too embarrassing? Whatever the reason, she caved in when she saw me grab something off the rack and disappear behind the dressing room curtain. It was perfection. Perfect lilac color with splashes of metallic silver for that dressy touch. Perfect fit, perfect empire style, perfect price. And flattering. This thing actually made me look amazing.
As giddy with excitement as I was over my find, the nervous tension of our youthful clerk was palpable. And so many odd questions. I mean, who asks for your home address at checkout? As slow as my brain can be to connect the dots, I glanced over at Katie the moment the light bulb flashed. Now both of us were stifling hysterical laughter. Which literally exploded the moment we left the store and hit the mall hallway.
ME: So now what? I’m on every maternity and newborn mailing list in the nation?
KATIE: For sure, and your due date is December 12.
My due date? According to my oh-so-observant daughter, the clerk tried to bypass that entry three times but the computer program kept beeping ERROR! ERROR! ERROR!
So how will this gestation journey unfold? I have no idea. But I do know one thing for sure, this time it really IS about the journey. As much lip service as I’ve always given to that cliché, it never rang true in my bones. I’m a born and bred instant gratification kind of person who catches on fire and burns hot then fizzles out. The sounds of a magical mystery tour, a gradual and growing process, a deep dive into uncharted waters—none of it ever seemed real much less appealing. Where’s the fast-forward button to the results I’m after? How long will this take before it feels really good? Can I take breaks? Is there any way to bypass that miserable beginning part?
Few things in life demand less effort than developing a habit that doesn’t serve us or an actual addiction to something or someone. It’s positive change that calls for massive faith, hope and raw courage. Not to mention an eff-ton of perseverance.
One of the most touching places in Laura McKowen’s new book We Are the Luckiest are the words she used to describe the time of early, very wobbly sobriety. Laura spoke of wanting to protect the tiny pink new life growing inside her—a life she couldn’t really feel or even envision. She just had to keep the faith that if she was true to the process, the promise was alive and it would keep growing.
As someone who knows the biological experience of having “a new life growing inside me,” her words rang tender and true. I wasn’t one of those Earth Mother pregnant ladies who has a growing relationship with her fetus, talking and singing to it, constantly stroking her belly with great love. Even in the delivery room, looking over at the nurses working with precision on that still-wet newborn, my small incredulous brain could barely wrap itself around the fact that an entirely new person had appeared out of nowhere. Nothing at all had changed, no one had walked in or out. Just a few seconds ago little Kathryn was not even in the world. She was a thought in my head, a dream in my heart—and a bowling ball-sized sensation inside my body.
I can’t imagine a more perfect analogy for the beginning of any transformational journey. We have no idea how long it will take to break free, heal, recover, unblock, grow new wings, or feel radically alive and fully expressed. That’s why Laura also spoke of her need to work on patience—lots and lots of patience. A few people were watching Laura’s lengthy, difficult pregnancy unfold in real time. But most of us just know her as the luminous, grace-filled, humble leader she is today. Not only in the recovery community but as the founder of The Bigger Yes, a program she crafted to help others claim, honor, and devote themselves to their soul’s deepest callings.
In a recent podcast interview with Dax Shepard, Sean Penn referred to his youthful experience with nicotine addiction as the moment he fell from master to slave. Up to that point in his career, he had left smoking behind the moment he walked off the move set that required it. But this time was different. Driving along the coast, he felt the pull, the craving for the first time. And Sean added that it’s something he still struggles with today. Few things in life demand less effort than developing a habit that doesn’t serve us or an actual addiction to something or someone. It’s positive change that calls for massive faith, hope and raw courage. Not to mention an eff-ton of perseverance.
“People often say they don’t know how to move forward. But we do know. We can all name one thing we need to do less of and one thing we need to do more of. Every journey begins with those two small steps.”
One of the most mind-blowing glimpses into the discomfort of change happened when Katie and Lizzy came home from college and we spent time each evening watching reruns of Frasier. Multiple times per episode, as in we knew the dialog as well as the actors. And it was the only TV we ever watched, the occasional movie came from Blockbuster. So why waste money on cable? We agreed that our evenings could be so much richer, maybe even reading a great book. And yet, for the little pleasure if any that we were missing, Frasier had become a habit. That first week of being cable-free, we all felt the pangs of withdrawal. Out of sorts, lost, like we had an itch we could no longer scratch. Over a silly TV show? My thought exactly, but check out The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Growth is seldom linear, and the beginning of most transformational journeys will be strewn with fits or even pits of discomfort. Our brains rely on habitual patterns for efficiency. Start making a list of all the things you do in a day that leave your mind free to wander. Most things, right? That's what makes change so difficult. Pulling away from an old pattern and laying track for a new one gobbles up tons of executive brain power. It can feel exhausting and discouraging and "just not worth it" because the "change" part of our brain is much smaller. It's the stuff of insight and miracles and creativity and solutions to tough problems but capacity is limited.
Of course, the good news is that baby steps eventually lead to bigger steps that lead to giant leaps. Momentum builds and turns into flow. The motivational speaker Les Brown spoke a mouthful when he said: “People often say they don’t know how to move forward. But we do know. We can all name one thing we need to do less of and one thing we need to do more of. Every journey begins with those two small steps.”
Holly Whitaker, a fiercely feminist voice, activist, humanitarian, and founder of the revolutionary Tempest, describes the beginning as the place “where you start to learn who you are, why you are here, and how to access those parts of you that you thought died along with the belief in Santa. This is where YOU begin. This is a WILD, life-altering, soul-shaping, awakening. Everything you ever longed to be, to feel, to know, to have starts here.”
Stay tuned. Miracles are afoot.