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I drove past you in the dusky light of a fading day. You were hanging onto your life – the life you long to live – but your face told me you’d reached the end of your rope.

An infant strapped to your chest, the handle of a stroller in your left hand, and the leash of your small and energetic dog nearly yanking your right shoulder out of its socket, your face said it all. Your face told me that you’re clinging to some sort of freedom you refuse to lay down, but your world is putting up such a fight that you’re not sure it’s worth it.

I’m sure you were stuck in the house all day. I’m sure the walls had started closing in and you grew weary of cleaning up the same 15 toys a dozen times. You probably started to wonder if all this mothering of little ones was making a difference or not, and you might have started to feel that you’d lost yourself.

You gave up your career, or at least the satisfaction of doing it well. You let friendships slip to the back-burner, and you can’t remember the last time you had a girls’ night out or ate with both hands in your very own kitchen. For that matter, you can’t recall the last time you actually sat down to enjoy your own meal.   

You sometimes wonder if you and your husband live on two entirely different planets. The most pressing household needs – hungry children, sticky fingers, toys strewn under the dining room table three minutes before dinner is served, poopy diapers – seem to complete elude his attention.

In addition to living in different worlds, he still holds onto pieces of his life that you lost years ago. He has time for Saturday morning golf, Friday afternoon happy hour, and career development seminars. He has time for football games, haircuts, and morning workouts at the gym.

Meanwhile, you’d like to know just where your individuality up and ran off to. You’ve laid down every hobby and every personal passion for this. You gave up your gym membership for baby yoga in the living room, and you now cut your own hair every six months using a complicated system of tilted mirrors. You’re not sure what you’d even want to do if you had three hours to yourself; most likely, you’d crash into a long and uninterrupted slumber.

I know these things, woman with two children and a yanking dog, because I’ve been where you are. I was there, and I lost myself 1000 times, but I’ve made it to the other side, and the woman I’ve found there is a woman I’d like to spend a day with. She’s a woman who I happen to like more than the single woman who had a thriving career, passion for travel, strict workout routine, and full social schedule.

When a woman learns to let go of the rope to which she’s ferociously clinging, she’s forced to jump into a new kind of life and, sometimes, letting go of the rope is the greatest gift. 

Letting go made me a bit gentler. It taught me that I don’t have all the answers and that, the longer I live, the fewer answers I seem to have.

Letting go softened me. It slowed me down. It invited me into a life that’s less about me and what I want in any given moment, and more about others and how I can invest in a way that brings joy to the lives of others.

Letting go taught me that I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to keep it all together or put on a mask. I simply need to show up.

So, lady with the kids and the yanking dog, I applaud you. I applaud you for trying, and I applaud you for showing up. I see it on your face that you’re barely hanging on, and I’m here to encourage you that letting go isn’t as terrifying as you thought it might be. Let go of all that’s draining you dry, and keep putting one tired foot in front of the other in all your human imperfection.

This season won’t last nearly as long as you expect, and when you emerge on the other side, the woman you’ve become will look back on the journey with a tender smile.

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