By Louise Gleeson
I was recently asked if I’ve found my bliss, which technically translated means “perfect joy.” It’s a loaded question because joy has shown itself in my life many times and in many ways. A hesitant kiss, trips to the ocean, seeing my parents’ tears as I graduated, falling crazy-in-love, skinny dipping under the stars, being chosen by someone, double lines on a plastic stick, the thumpity-thump of a miracle baby’s heartbeat, the feeling of warmth and weight as my children were laid across my heart and then first smiles, first steps, first days of school—four times over.
Joy also comes to me without bells and whistles; I find it in the quiet moments, too. Like those rare mornings of uninterrupted coffee and the paper. Or Post-it love notes my husband leaves stuck to our always-sticky counter before he leaves for work. The thrill of seeing my name on something I’ve written and knowing that someone I’ve never met might read it. The shy sideways glance of a tiny ballerina as she looks through the observation window of her class and the sweet relief on her face when she finds mine there.
But these are all experiences or moments. And I think to find bliss in them means accepting that even with my many imperfections I am worthy of them.
I was a gangly, awkward girl who has given a very bad haircut at age 10 that had many people mistake me for a gangly, awkward boy; which only served to heighten my awkwardness as I tripped into the teen years, braces and glasses in tow. I worried what people were thinking of me. Or I worried they weren’t thinking of me at all. Second-guessing myself was a full time hobby.
But I left for university determined to banish that girl. I went to parties and made a lot of friends. I joined clubs and tried new things. I even learned to flirt. I met the perfect guy and got married. Then I became a mother and it all came undone. My baby screaming inconsolably at the mommy-and-me class, what are the other mothers thinking? Did that well-rested looking mother just say her kid is sleeping through the night? I have to stop nursing my baby to sleep. Will my husband ever find me attractive or interesting again?
Hours and weeks of pushing a stroller with a wailing, colicky baby inside or marching up and down the stairs while loudly shushing. On and on it went. Until the moment we quite literally stumbled past a mirror in our hallway. Exhausted and drowning in self-doubt, I crouched low and popped up to show my daughter our reflection. She saw our faces side-by-side and the most beautiful sound was heard—a first deep-from-her-belly giggle.
Greasy hair, dark circles, worry lines; all of that and I was enough. And motherhood has taught me I always have been.
Louise Gleeson is a mom of four kids under age 10 and a freelance writer, editor and researcher. She blogs about family life at latenightplays.com.