Some would say our daughter was conceived some time in March this year. But to me, it was in the summer of 2014 when I committed to breaking my habit of losing myself in unhealthy relationships and instead began focusing on being a reliable, organized, and hardworking woman who would be able to support another life (i.e. a child); that I could depend on myself to provide what I needed for true happiness and fulfillment.
I used my future child as a motivation to work hard to be the best version of myself that I could be. Instead of making excuses of being too tired or too drained by a toxic relationship to do my best at work, I decided to stop dating someone when I discovered that they were in fact hampering my work performance in anyway. I put getting to work on time as my number one priority. If someone began to take a hold of my mind such that I would get distracted and/or melancholy at work, I knew it was time to find someone new (or better yet, focus on enjoying spending time with myself).
I held this image of my future child so deeply in my heart. I loved her. I longed for her.
No more would I be relying on a guy to get me to this point. Guys were so darn unreliable. I had focused so much energy on finding the perfect guy, that I had none left to grow my ideal self. To clarify, when I say “perfect guy” I am talking about the nice, cute, funny guys that I dreamed of dating. For some reason they pretty much never asked me out and many of them turned me down when I asked them out. I was left feeling rejected, inadequate, and frustrated! That is why I turned to the guys with whom I was in toxic relationships. To me, anything was better than being alone.
Then in the summer of 2014, I finally realized once and for all that it was an illusion that dating someone meant I was getting closer to finding my life partner and starting a family. I had fooled myself with each guy I dated that maybe, just maybe, he could end up being “the one.” I used that thought to rationalize the heartache and pain I was feeling during these toxic relationships.
I thought I was getting closer to starting a family, but really I was getting farther and farther away.
In fact, just a few weeks before I met the guy who would end up being my future husband, my very own therapist told me that with my struggles with low self-esteem and toxic relationships he thought it was likely I wouldn’t get married for 3-5 more years. I had a lot of self-work to do! I suppose that is why I so strongly poured myself into working on my second book, First Comes Self-Love, Then Comes Marriage within a year of getting married. I knew I still had a lot to process and a lot of self-growth to accomplish. Just because I had hit the jackpot and found my life partner, didn’t mean I left behind my internal psychological struggles.
When I look back to the summer of 2014, I feel great warmth in my heart, as I remember coming home to myself and falling in love with myself. My frequent trips to the beach (that 1.5 hour subway ride each way was worth it—to arrive at such a vast and open expanse of water), taking time each week or so to create and choreograph dance videos to some of my favorite songs (which I posted on my YouTube channel, Joy Faith), living in my own space without roommates for the first time in almost a decade (I told myself it was worth investing in renting a studio. I had been saving money for a family, but deep down I knew if I didn’t invest in myself first, I wouldn’t have a future family to invest in down the road.)
In addition to the summer of 2014, this morning I realized another time of my life that proves significant. As the holiday of Hanukkah approaches, I have memories of that Hanukkah years back which followed a difficult break-up of my very first toxic relationship. I was commuting to grad school from home at the time, and I remember it was around Hanukah, because I would listen to Hanukkah songs in the car. But not the happy, cheery ones—the ones with a mood that matched the weather outside: dark, cold, still, and deep.
Every Hanukkah, my heart and soul feel that same feeling that I felt when listening to these Hanukkah songs: the raw feeling of vulnerability in my heart matching the bareness of the trees in the night. Then, this morning, it hit me. That was the year of 2007—I had broken up from this toxic relationship on the first weekend of December in 2007.
My daughter, the one whom I knew deep in my heart long before she was physically conceived, was born on the 10th year anniversary of my breaking free from this first toxic relationship (her due date was the exact date, she was born a few days later.).
Sure, it would have been “better” had I healed from this toxic relationship enough to stay on a path of healthier relationships (which I did have for the first few years after this initial toxic relationship). In a perfect world, this first unhealthy relationship wouldn’t have planted the seeds for many more like it in the years to come.
But the fact remains that my ability (with the help of G-d, therapy, and, of course, good friendships) to break free from the reigns of negative self-talk and low self-esteem that led me to seek out and stay in toxic relationships, is what brought me to this moment.
I suppose my “labor pains” far preexisted the day my water broke.
Welcome to the world, my beloved child.