Exhausted, I stared at my computer with nothing to say. Taylor Swift’s song, “This Is Me Trying,” played in the background, insisting, “I just wanted you to know that this is me trying, / At least I’m trying.” I set the song on repeat and turned up the volume, her words settling in my gut as they became my own. It was the New Year, and the weight of December’s obligations, expectations, and social events had crushed my introverted soul. A knowing in my body nudged me to write to feel again, so I breathed deeply, then let my thoughts flow:
The exhale to my inhale,
The calm after the storm,
The balm to my introverted soul,
The reset of my becoming.
I love January with its fresh beginnings, but this year, I watched the ball drop while feeling overstimulated, overworked, resentful, annoyed, and fatigued. I was experiencing a January hangover, as my friend jokingly said, and I was paralyzed by overwhelm. But then, while reading Anne Lamott’s book, bird by bird, I came across these words: “Sometimes the human stuff is slimy and pathetic…but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.” I knew instinctively her words were true—that for me, the only authentic way through was to admit it, to write openly about it.
In my desire to be more, do more, and go more last month, I silenced my needs — and I was miserable. If January was going to be the reset of my becoming, I needed to change. Since then, this is what I’ve striven to do:
Allow others into my “messy middle.”
One of my favorite times of the year is when the dozens of tulips I planted a few years ago bloom. I become giddy as the first bulbs sprout, and I cherish the colors of spring they bring to our home; even then, I quickly forget they’re there after their beauty fades and the plants die. As a gardener, however, I know something special happens during those ugly winter months when only dirt shows: those bulbs become.
Recently, I was inspired by Glennon Doyle’s term, “messy middle.” The messy middle is the part of our lives when we’re in the thick of it, before we have it figured out. It’s when we’re like the bulbs in the ground with only dirt exposed, and things are downright ugly. It’s the unresolved, the shameful, the many in-between moments we desperately try to hide before we present our shiny ideal.
I have many messy middles: the toys I stash away as guests arrive, the yelling before I apologize, the bone-deep exhaustion from bending down to wipe yet another spill—and recently it was my desperate attempt to not collapse on the couch and give up. However, instead of hiding my mess from friends, I’ve pushed aside my pride and allowed others in, and I’m so grateful. As I’ve shown up, tired and vulnerable, my people have stepped up. They’ve watched my kids, nourished my soul, and most importantly, given me the space to say no. They’ve been what I’ve needed to keep becoming.
Respect where my energy comes from.
I distinctly remember the feeling of shame that propelled my obsession with my personality type. I compared myself to someone I admired, and an ache crept from my belly up my neck. As my skin turned sweaty and my heart began to race, I wondered what was wrong with me, why others could do what I could not. I’ve always experienced the world a little differently than those around me, and it seemed what enlivened others made my soul die.
Curiosity won, and I took a quick personality test. The results showed I’m an INFJ-A (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging-Advocate) who requires substantial rest, deep relationships, and meaningful work. Knowing what makes me tick helped tremendously, and I realized the way to become was to confidently move forward. I hung a quote from Jamie Martin’s book, Introverted Mom, on my fridge — “Make peace with your purpose” —and now, whenever embarrassment starts to churn in my gut, I read that quote and remind myself that my introversion is a gift, that to keep becoming, I should love myself, quirks and all.
Set boundaries as a form of love.
My friend recently told me that, to her, boundaries are a form of love; she can trust someone with boundaries because their yeses carry weight. I loved that idea and immediately put it into practice by setting boundaries with call-ins at work. A couple nights ago, my co-worker exclaimed, “Tara, you’re so happy! We love happy Tara.” I believe that people will remember how you made them feel, not what you said, and as happiness radiated from my heart to my toes, she felt it, too. Saying no to what didn’t align with my values allowed me to more fully show up to my yeses, and, in the end, everyone benefited.
Rather than creating results-driven New Year’s resolutions, I prefer to pick one word that embodies my desires for the year. For me, 2023 is the year of becoming. As James Clear said in Atomic Habits, “You should be far more concerned about your current trajectory than with your current results.” Like tulips in the ground, may we trust the process to become all that we hope to be.