Stretching. It promotes flexibility. Reduces stress. Causes changes in the body and the mind. Improves quality of life. Stretching. I’m not referring to touching your toes and stretching your hamstrings. But rather, the stretching that occurs when you face challenges head on. When you take a deep breath and allow yourself to truly experience hardship. The simultaneous feelings of tension and release when you allow yourself to surrender to the stretch. “The Stretch”. A practice that I have embraced in many aspects of my life, but an experience that I somehow have forgotten to seize during motherhood.

I have been feeling down. Exhausted. To be honest, even feeling sorry for myself. Being a mother is more difficult than I ever imagined. Postpartum depression hit me hard in a way I wasn’t expecting. It lingers. I haven’t yet been able to completely emerge from the grey cloud that seems to hover somewhere overhead. Just out of reach. Sleep deprivation is often the culprit. As much as I love our son and truly enjoy each moment with him, I just have not been able to shake this lingering feeling of self pity. Sadness. Frustration. Loneliness. Until today.

It is incredible how a two and half minute conversation with someone you love, trust, and are inspired by, can change your day. And quite possibly, your life. I called my aunt to FaceTime this morning. She was driving so our conversation would need to be put on hold for another day. However, before she hung up, she asked me a simple question, “So how are things? Good?” My response was also simple, “Things are great! Not easy, but great.” She responded calmly from her heart in a way that spoke directly into mine. Although she may not have been intending to cause a great shift within me, she did.

“I’ve found that easy isn’t always the best. The times in my life when I have been challenged, are the times when I have grown the most. Difficult times allow you to grow, to love, to STRETCH.”

Then she said something else, “you know all that, though!” She was right. I did know that. It is something I constantly practice in other areas of my life. It is a practice I have called upon to get through some of the most difficult times. Confrontations with friends, loss, depression, trouble at work, unrest or disagreements in relationships… I’ve embraced the stretch during many poignant shifts in my life. How had I forgotten to give into the opportunity to stretch as a mother? How had I let almost six months pass by without acknowledging this chance to grow? Without realizing that every sleepless night was a new opportunity to gain flexibility. Every failed breastfeeding attempt, a chance to expand my mind, to shift my expectations. Each helpless moment with a crying baby in my arms, an occasion to celebrate connection with my son and my own motherly instincts. Every sense of failure, a moment to feel the space within me, space to grow. I have allowed sadness and loneliness to cast a shadow without realizing that in order for a shadow to exist, there must also be light.

Two and half minutes. Four sentences. It was all I needed. I’m ready. Ready to take a deep breath. To fold forward.  Ready to surrender to the challenge. I’m ready to grow. To love. To stretch.

Thank you Aunt Nanci for all the ways in which you so effortlessly speak to my heart.

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