The Journal Diaries 1: Letter to Mycelia + Herb Class Notes (26 years old)

This is the first in a new blog series, sharing some of the hundreds of journal entries I've made over the years. I started journaling at age 12 and have kept up with it, more or less, ever since. I have a shelf full of old diaries and notebooks; it's the first spot I'll run to if there's ever a fire. I have learned so much about myself and my neuroses and patterns and, more than anything, my strengths and my enduring interests by re-reading my journals now and then. Writing down my thoughts has been perhaps the single most important practice in my life.

I remember being a teenager and thinking "Maybe after I die someone will read my journals and realize they're not alone." A decade later, blogging came along, and I realized that I could use this new medium to share my deepest, most secret, most shame-inducing truths with others so that they, and I, would know that we're all in this together. And blogging did open up a whole new world of connection for me, and has empowered me to share and trust my voice, no matter how vulnerable the subject matter I'm writing on.

Through this series, I hope to realize the dream I had 20 years ago of sharing my private thoughts in order to normalize, comfort, and connect...

This one was written in the journal I used throughout my year-long herbal apprenticeship program called Cultivating the Medicine Woman Within with Kami McBride. I started when my daughter was 7 months old, and this was written 10 months after that in January of 2008, alongside notes on the digestive system.

Dear Mycelia-

I'm sorry. It's been so hard. It shouldn't have been like this. I won't let it be like this for you when you have your own. Papa went back to work four days after you were born. Grammy was back home by then too. Auntie Lacey loved you so much, but she didn't understand how hard it was for me and how much help I needed. How much help all mothers need. So I ended up frustrated so much of the time, and that frustration was sometimes projected onto you. Especially when I was tired. Especially when I AM tired. I need help. Papa helps. But I don't get as much help as if we were living with extended family, in a community, in a tribe. Not nearly, not even close. 

And that is how humans have evolved. If people had been trying to raise children in isolated nuclear families since the beginning of time, humanity never would have survived. It's not your fault. You are my joy and my pure love. I relish in your presence, your growth. I can't wait to watch you unfold forever.

But I can never again go through what I have these last 17 months. I have literally lost my mind at times.

My hope is that, if we are still living alone when we have another one, you my darling will be my help. Already you are so motherly. You nurse your dolls. You even nurse puzzle pieces. And you say "mama" and/or "baby" as you do it. You hug and kiss and rock and sing to and pat your babies. This makes me so happy, because you are modeling me. I have done a good job nurturing and loving you, even when I was losing my mind :-)

And I was the same way as a child. I loved dolls and real babies, and was very much Auntie Lacey's caretaker. But I want to wait until you are older than I was at Auntie's birth (28 months), so that I can, say, leave the baby with you while I shower. And I think you'll love it too. And you can learn, can know more, can get mothering knowledge in your cells. Not everyone gets that today.

But I'm sorry, I'm sorry I haven't been better for you. I'm working on it.

Yeah, this one is hard to read. That first year or two was really the hardest time in my life. I was so alone. I hadn't started making close women friends in my new town yet (we moved to Grass Valley/Nevada City when Mycelia was 6 months old). In my mind, looking back, it was all struggle. But when I see photos or videos from that time I see that I was happy much of the time, and that I was doing a good job figuring out this new mama thing.

Thanks to that herb teacher, Kami (who is amazing, btw, and if you're in NorCal you should seek her out), I had switched from a vegan diet to traditional nutrition a few months before I wrote this. That shift led me to studying the lifestyles of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and so I was acutely aware that the way I was parenting- alone, not in community- was an aberration for our species, even though it's all we and our own parents and most of their parents have ever known. The book A Natural History of Parenting by Susan Allport especially fascinated and enraged me.

We were hunter-gatherers for 95% of human history, and physiologically we are still those same people. I had made as many parenting choices around that knowledge as I could- natural birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby carrying and, more recently, herbal medicine and traditional foods. But societal structure was something I couldn't change. One of my best friends has a two year old and is very into studying the primal lifestyle, and I have actually seen her cry angry tears over how our unnatural modern style of living in isolation has made her mothering experience harder than she'd ever imagined. Adorably, she vents her anger through embroidery. I did it through writing. And lots of sobbing too.

It's also hard to remember how badly I wanted another child back then. How I always envisioned having at least two, and never dreamed my child/ren would grow up being shuttled between two homes. I didn't even question it. I would do what my parents had done. But I didn't. We broke up. She kept growing up. She's eight years old now and beautiful and strong and centered in herself and pouring us egg nog while complaining about the fact that I'm on my computer right now.

If I lived in a tribe, even if it hadn't worked out with daddy #1, I could have had more children without worrying if I would be properly supported so that I, in turn, could support my baby. Biologically, I want more babies. But I know that my family, my friends, my community can't support me in a way that I would feel truly empowered and happy as a mother with a young child again. I'm doing all I can to survive with the one I have now, alone in our sweet tiny little home.

Since this personal entry was made in a notebook filled mostly with awesome herbal information, I thought I'd add a few more short entries here with some juicy tidbits from Kami's awesome apprenticeship-

Our bodies understand water, when an herb is infused in water the body knows what to do with it & can easily digest and assimilate it

Oiling the body calms the nervous system (babies, children, trauma, exhaustion)

Mugwort- very penetrating, delivers- good in combo with other oils to help move them into the body [ahem], nervine, anti-bacterial/fungal/viral, opens psychic centers of perception, muscle relaxant

Echinacea & elderberry will prevent illness if taken at first sign- create a parameter around the bacteria/virus to prevent it from spreading 

Bone broth- regenerative, immune help, rebuilds immune system. In Traditional Chinese Medicine they say bone broth "raises the dead"

Stay away from oranges/orange juice when sick! Congesting and high sugar content

20% blood volume is in skin, 25% of waste is excreted through skin, millions of nerve receptors on skin, lymph/immune system right beneath skin. If skin is dry and scaly lymph isn't moving and immunity is compromised

The whole journal is like this- priceless info about the body and how it interacts with plants alongside entries about my struggles with motherhood. 7/8 years later, much of that knowledge has become second nature and I have very much settled into my life as a mother. As with probably 95% of the mom guilt we induce in ourselves, the things I worried over turned out to have no ;sating repercussions for my child. She's incredibly healthy, happy, and well adjusted. And you know what? So am I.

The only way out is through.