I was sitting on the couch with Magnus sleeping in my arms, my bum making a permanent indent in the couch for sitting on it hours and days on end staring at entire seasons of Friends. My body hurt. I could literally feel my body turning into the shape of my couch. My shoulders were rounding forward, my hip flexors were cramping, and neck was always aching.
My ass would get numb because I’d sit so long that my couch was breaking down beneath me. I felt heavy, not just physically, which I was from giving birth a few months before, but heavy in my energy, and heavy in my mind.
I had this beautiful little miracle in my arms and I was joyless.
There are many reasons I had PPD. I had a traumatic birth that left me with PTSD, I also had a beautiful baby that did not sleep, and I didn’t have a lot of support. I also learned through my family of origin that asking for anything would be too much for them. So I learned how to never ask anything from anybody and be entirely self reliant, and it was destroying me.
This was not what I imagined for myself as a mother or for my life. I didn’t want to be a lifeless zombie staring at a screen to kill the endless hours of the monotony of my day.
When I imagined myself as a mom, I saw myself as an active woman who was outside, active with her baby, happy and smiling. I saw her as actively going after what she wanted and living on her terms. I saw sunshine and swing sets and running with a stroller. I saw mom and baby yoga, meditating while he was sleeping, and working on my business to help other women.
My wake up call was when Dave walked up the stairs and stood in front of me while I was rooted to the couch with Magnus nursing. He looked at me and said, “Nioka said you’re drowning. What do we need to do?”
Tears flooded my eyes and streamed down my cheeks. I had been denying this to myself and everyone else for months. I was drowning and I was scared I wouldn’t make it out of the dark murky water that was sucking me under. I had been in denial about PPD, and then told myself that, “I can’t do anything about it.” Believing that I would just had to wait it out.
We all know what we need to do to feel better, at least to some degree. We know that we need to get to bed earlier. We know that we should eat less packaged food. We know we should move our bodies more than we do. This is why the 3 pillars of health are: sleep, diet, and exercise. Even the smallest change in one of these categories has the potential to be life changing.
For most of us, no matter what your circumstance, any of these 3 can easily be changed in your life. Everyone is busy. EVERYONE. What gets us to make the change isn’t our circumstance, it’s our perspective and it comes down to two words: can’t and won’t.
How often have you said to yourself, “I can’t go to bed earlier because then I’d miss out on having a few hours of adult time” or “I can’t work out in the morning because I’m too tired and I need my sleep” or “I can’t meal plan because I don’t have time” or “I can’t meditate because my mind is too busy.”
Now reread all of those sentences and replace the word “can’t” with “won’t.” “I won’t go to bed earlier because then I’d miss out on having a few hours of adult time” or “I won’t work out in the morning because I’m too tired and I need my sleep” or “I won’t meal plan because I don’t have time” or “I won’t meditate because my mind is too busy.”
Most of the time when we say we can’t, what we really mean is that we won’t, and what “I won’t” means is: I’m scared, I’m not willing to take the risk, I’m not willing to do this, I don’t want to work that hard, I’m not willing to move around my other priorities.
But the reality is, when you want something bad enough, you will do anything to make that happen and will overcome any of your excuses. We’ve all had times that when we have wanted something bad enough, we have moved heaven and earth to make it happen. This is how powerful you are when you really want something.
So, the next time when you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself is this a can’t or a won’t.
It doesn’t make you bad or lazy, it just makes you honest, and in that honesty, you create space. That space allows you to see your priorities clearly and let go of the “shoulds.” You can stop saying that you “should go to bed earlier” or “should eat healthier” or “should exercise more.” It just feels bad, so just stop, accept it as a won’t, and move on knowing that you totally have the power to do this when you decide you are ready to do it. Really, you’re kind of like Dorothy with the red slippers, only yours are better because now you know you’re wearing them.
There is power in clarity, and that’s why knowing the difference between a “can’t” or a “won’t” can be so transformative. It might be exactly what you need in either getting motivated to do the thing you know will help you feel better, or in being more compassionate and gentler with yourself and letting it go…even if it’s just for now.
I’d love to hear your thoughts now: what have you been wanting to do but have been saying you “can’t” do? And are there any that you can now let go of because it’s a “won’t” you’re not willing to do right now?
Tell me all about it in the comments below.