William Butler Yeats wrote a poem titled "The Second Coming" at the end of WWI, as his pregnant wife struggled to recover from the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. In the poem, he wrote, "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold," as it must have felt to him, at the time, that the world was falling apart.
In college, I studied English and Creative Writing for my BA and MA, and I read Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem during each. She borrows the title from Yeat's Poem, beginning the book with the poem in its entirety. She then writes an introductory essay about how lines from the poem have been touch points for the past several years of her life as she battled depression and how Slouching Towards Bethlehem is not only the book's title but one of her pieces within it.
She tells about how the world she knew no longer existed and shares all the ways the center wasn't holding.
In November 2020, I read an article about how it was the 100th anniversary of Yeat's poem. In a year when everything was falling apart, it felt fitting that The Second Coming was getting so much attention. In my journal, I wrote this quote from the article, which has stuck with me all this time,
"When the center will not hold, the question remains how do you pull things back together again?" ~ Roy Peter Clark
I haven't been able to stop thinking about that line for four years. I think about it in terms of learning your child is transgender, and it takes my breath away.
The second time I read Yeat's poem was after I learned my son Leo was transgender. That line about the center not holding felt like a lifeline into my year. I was trying to hold everything together and be strong for my family and friends, but I was falling apart behind the scenes.
As parents, we think we have to keep it together when our children come out. We have to navigate our emotions and protect our children from other people's thoughts and feelings, and then there are all the things that come with our children's transitions. We believe that as long as we are in control, we can keep ourselves from falling apart, which doesn't benefit anyone. We couldn't be more wrong.
Falling apart is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign you are a person navigating a complex situation.
Having strong emotions about something, feeling like you can't handle everything on your plate, or being unable to participate in your usual activities doesn't mean you are failing. It means you are overwhelmed and possibly on the brink of burnout.
We aren't designed to do everything for everyone. There's a reason why my catchphrase is helping you support yourself so you can support your child. You have to take care of yourself first so you can then do what you need to in order to be there for your child. It doesn't work if you go in the reverse order.
If you feel like things are falling apart and your center isn't holding, it's because it wasn't designed to.
What can you let go of to get things back to a more grounded place? How can you add self-care activities to your schedule to better care for your loved ones?
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