Tree from the ground, looking up.

How is your other half?

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by Brooke McAlary

Brooke is a writer, gardener, inappropriate laugher, and big-time siesta advocate. She lives with her husband and two kids in the Blue Mountains of Australia and is on a mission to help you slow. right. down...... even just for a minute. Sound good?

In our backyard stands a beautiful tree. A liquid ambar that is at least 20 meters tall.

She makes a heap of colorful mess for three months of the year, but bathes the back deck in gorgeous, dappled shade for seven more. So we forgive her.

Not long before we moved here, the previous owner cut half the tree off. Top to bottom, straight down the middle. Like splitting a piece of firewood.

Gone.

Like it was never there.

It always made me sad – this beautiful, damaged tree.

Last week I was sitting in the early sun writing procrastinating, when my eyes fell on the missing half.

And I was filled with a ridiculous delight to see that it’s growing back. Little by little, tiny branch by tiny branch, the balance is returning.

Gradually, and with the right amount of care – light, water and time – it is regrowing, rebuilding, reconstructing the part of itself that was cut away.

We all have a heavy half. The half that needs to get things done, that’s responsible, accountable. It’s the half that makes sure the kids get to school on time, won’t forget to pack snacks for the doctors appointment, pays the bills, turns up to work every day, sweeps the floor, mows the lawn and cooks dinner.

But what about your other half?

The half that is passionate, creative, spontaneous? The half that makes out with your husband, wears red lipstick, writes poetry, dances in the kitchen, dreams of great big trips, and reads for fun?

The half that fills you out and makes you balanced, well-rounded, whole. How’s that half going? Is it looking healthy and well-tended?

Mine? It could be better.

Heart-shaped tree cuttingPhoto by Brooke McAlary

Let me preface this by saying:

I really do love my life. I love my husband and I love my kids – wholly, completely, unconditionally. I choose the welfare of them over everything and keeping our family unit strong is my biggest job. I take it incredibly seriously.

But since our first child was born, I have been that tree. Half of me was unceremoniously cut off. Top to bottom, chopped down, thrown away. As though she never was.

My kids didn’t do this to me. I did this to me. Because I forgot about my other half. As though she never was.

I threw myself wholly into parenting. I didn’t accept help. I didn’t take time. I didn’t slow down. I didn’t give myself the care I needed to be a strong, protective, well-rounded, balanced tree.

And the years that followed saw me lean dangerously. Had the wind picked up, I would have fallen down. And a tree that has fallen down can offer shade to no one.

I’d cut off important parts of myself, pretending they didn’t matter. I pretended I didn’t need time alone. Didn’t need to write. Didn’t need strong, positive relationships outside my family.

But these things matter. A lot.

So here I am, tending the garden, working on my other half. And I’ve started to grow back. Different, but better.

And today I just wanted to ask you to check in with your other half. Maybe give her a little attention. Round things out. Let her know she is important.

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Comments

  1. What a lovely metaphor and reminder–well done!

  2. What I love most about this metaphor is that you have explained something that has been percolating in the back of my mind and heart for a long time. Thank you! I always felt bad thinking about losing a part of me and couldn’t explain it because I thought it always sounded like I was blaming my family for this loss. Oh, I just love this! I need to tend the half I lopped off myself. Thank you so much for clarifying my thoughts on this.

    • No problem, Catherine. It was such a relief to me too, when I was finally able to articulate that I was in control of both halves and it wasn’t at all my family who brandished the chainsaw (to put a dramatic spin on the metaphor ;) ).

  3. I felt for a long time that that part of me was missing and I’ve just recently rediscovered my love for writing. It’s a good feeling to have that outlet and not let that part of me atrophe.

    • Sarah, that is awesome! Writing really pulled me out of the dark too, and has helped (and continues to help) my other half regrow. It’s a powerful thing and I’m so glad to hear you’ve found something that works for you. x

  4. Oh my goodness… what a talented writer you are! This was beautifully written. I have five children and still work outside the home so, boy, do I get this. Thank you for writing!

  5. avatar
    Christine says:

    Exactly what i needed to read right now. Thank you for this.

  6. Loved this. Thank you for your honesty. x

  7. What a powerful perspective You hit the nail on the head…thank you!

  8. avatar
    Grace from London says:

    I am that tree. Pray with me that the gust won’t blow whilst the other half grows back….

    • Thoughts and prayers are with you, Grace. I know how tough it is when you’re leaning so hard to the heavy side. Just give your other half as much time as you can and take it easy on yourself. xx

  9. How desperately I need to simplify my life! Thank you for reminding me with your eloquent words and thoughts!

  10. How wonderfully you put this. And oh! how true it is! I can relate as well, I did that for ten years, and unfortunately for me, the wind did come and I did fall. But thankfully God in his mercy allowed me to see that and I’ve slowly started to rebuild my life in a totally different way. My creative self was awakened, I’ve started taking time to nourish that side of me, and in doing so…my life sings a new song..which is “slow”. And I have never felt more complete.

    http://aheartlikehers.com

  11. Thank you for this. I especially loved:

    “My kids didn’t do this to me. I did this to me. Because I forgot about my other half. As though she never was.”

    Sometimes I feel tired of hearing (for the upteenth time) that having children ruins you as an woman. That you will only be a shadow of your former self. A family requires sacrifices. There are stretches where you don’t feel like yourself (isn’t this true of any intense endeavor that takes energy and a long period of time?). BUT, as you so eloquently put it, we can choose to take care of ourselves. We can choose to nurture our souls and nourish our bodies in the ways that we need. Even if it’s just a little bit each day. A little bit can go a long way…..

  12. Thank you. I needed this today as I feed my baby son his breakfast and stare out the backyard at our beautiful tree.

  13. You have captured the essence of what so many of us feel! Thank you for the permission and reminder to tend our other half … even when it’s just a little fertilizer and sunshine from time to time. I needed to hear this today. I appreciate you pointing out that we do it to ourselves and that we can then take initiative to reverse our behavior.

    Wonderfully written!

  14. Lovely post, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And I realized that if I don’t do something now ten years from now I will be lonely, unhappy, and resentful towards my family even though it is my own choices leafing me down this path. I love the tree metaphor, simplifying a complex problem often helps find solutions that weren’t visible before.

    • It’s funny, I hadn’t been able to grasp the idea completely either, until I sat in the sunshine and saw that tree growing back. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in a long time.

  15. I ADORE this post. Oh my gosh, it’s just what I needed to read today. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. As moms, I think we all feel this way to some extent, but you beautifully conveyed it.

  16. This is amazing because immediately before reading this, I was lamenting the fact that I always seem to have tons of things to do, but I never have time to do those little things that are so important to me. Reading, writing, going for walks, experiencing utter silence. These are things that may not seem necessary, but, in the long run, actually are.

  17. Boy, you really spoke to ME today. This year, for 2014, I’ve been *trying* to tend to my other half. In small ways it is working. I’ve been writing most days. But my heavy half seems to be REALLY heavy. Really asking a lot of me. I feel as though I have to fight for my other half or for the heavy half not to take over the other half.

    Thanks for speaking to me today.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Dee. It’s tough, and honestly there are many days where, by virtue of its heaviness, the heavy side wins. I think it’s really important to take the time when we can, so that when we can’t we won’t be quite so overwhelmed and risk uprooting ourselves. You’re doing well if you’re already fighting for it!

  18. I did this to myself when my children were born. Now that they are older, I’m finding the need to find my other half and reclaim who I used to be.

  19. I love, love your message! I may go buy a new tube of lipstick today;)

  20. Beautiful article! I often forget to tend the other half. I made it my New Years Resolution to take care of myself more and do things I love, and then I got so busy with working, taking care of a family, and a home, that I completely forgot about my resolutions. Thank you for the reminder that without my other half, I’m only living my life at 50%.

  21. Well said! I feel so blessed to have a hard working husband that makes it possible for me to stay home with my kids but I feel we are needing to make a change in our lives so that HE can work on his other half. Thanks for this encouragement!

  22. This is me. Sadly. I devoted everything and every ounce of being to my children, ages 8, almost 6, and almost 3. And two weeks before Christmas my husband walked out on me. Now, I am picking up the pieces of my life, and trying to reconnenct with the whole person that I used to be so that I can go forward and try to find another partner to share this life journey with me. Thank you for sharing. It means the world.

  23. THANK YOU! I’m now excited to work on “my other half” AND I’m so happy your tree is growing!!!!

  24. “I didn’t accept help. I didn’t take time. I didn’t slow down.”
    How often have I done the same, even without kids yet. Thanks for this reminder.

  25. This was beautiful. You have a true gift with words. What a great reminder that we have the choice (and responsibility) to care for our whole selves. Thanks for this!

  26. Oh my goodness. Thank you so much for this article! Just like everyone else has said, this article totally spoke to me and hit me right where I am. I’m in my first year of homeschooling my six-year-old son, as well as trying to keep my three-year-old daughter involved and entertained. Also, my husband has been working from home a lot and keeps having to ask everyone to be quiet when he’s on the phone, usually when the kids are going bonkers and want to get outside. Oh, and did I mention I’m pregnant with kiddo #3?
    All this adds up to me feeling like I have to push my needs and wants to the back burner while I try to keep this crazy awesome family organized and moving forward. Rarely do I take time just for me to bring that balance back.
    Thank you for the reminder that it’s way past time to reconnect with my other half. The half that loves taking walks when it’s windy and drizzling; that wants to read Pride and Prejudice for the twentieth time just she can yell at Elizabeth; that wants to finish writing that book I’ve been working on for the past ten years. It’s time to be sure I take care of myself so I can take care of my beloved family… and put some makeup on!

    • OK, you have your hands full there Kristen! And walks in the wind and drizzle? Now you’re speaking my language! It’s incredible how something so simple can really fill us up when we need it. Here’s to you taking a tiny bit more time for those drizzly walks. x

  27. This is so beautiful! My husband and I are both in a season of discovering that we have each let our other halves be sacrificed for the “heavy half.” As we have recognized that, God is providing us space to tend to the suffocated other half of ourselves. We are beginning to dream, imagine, and be alive once again.

    • That is all kinds of awesome, Katie May. My hat is off to you and your husband, because it’s not an easy thing to rectify, but oh so worth it in the moments we get it right.

  28. I think this is the most important thing I’ve read this year. Wow, wow, wow. I have been craving “something more” for quite some time and your words have left me wondering if the thing I am craving is really the part of ME that’s been sacrificed. Whooh. I’m going to have to let that percolate for a while. Thank you…

  29. You totally followed me around for the last 3.5 years and wrote this piece just for me, didn’t you? This spoke to me so deeply. Time to check-in and evaluate.

    • Would it be awkward if I said yes? It’s amazing how many of us are on such similar paths, isn’t it? Yet so often we feel life we’re going it alone. It’s so awesome to see that we’re definitely not alone!

  30. Thank you so much for this!

  31. Hi Brooke! Loved this. I’ve been drafting a post that follows along similar lines, talking about the many selves we have and what we’re offering to our families. Best of luck to all of us as we tend to our other halves!

  32. I feel as though I just read the pages of my journal. Thank you for posting. What a great reminder!

  33. Oh, so beautifully written about what happens so often to us Mommas. My other half is slowly rebuilding/rebudding…and yes, I think it will look a bit different with a new shape to it. Thank you for this encouragement! Loved the photo too!

  34. Sweet Mary in the morning! I was actually holding my breath while reading this. Before my suprise baby started school 5 years ago I was an avid scrabooker and spent lots of time singing with my music writing husband. About the time of kindergarten it all stopped. My blog is really for different reasons that I wont go into, although creating the art work is super fun sometime, but man do I miss working with all that glue and paint, paper, metal elments, earth elements. I just loved the challenge. I wanted to be a famous scrapbook artist! It sounds so ridiculous, but it really made me happy. Where on earth would I find the time now? I am sitting here staring at all my recently purchased Zentangle books that have not even been peeked at. How do I get that time… time for my other half? My other half… absolutely brilliant!

    Peace,
    pam

    • Not ridiculous at all, Pam. I think it’s about making it a priority, but also recognising that the heavy half can be just that – heavy sometimes. Good luck with your creations!

  35. Beautiful! Thank you for the reminder that taking time for me is important and not selfish, that there is more to me than being someone’s mom and wife.

  36. Ah….just this:

    “…a tree that has fallen down can offer shade to no one.”

    Indeed.

    Growing with you,
    Kate :)

  37. avatar
    Christina Judd says:

    Wow. Thank you very much for sharing your heart. I am 44 and the blessed mother of just 3 year old twin girls, and resemble almost in no way whatsoever the woman I was before they came. I begged, prayed, cried, and paid a lot of money for help getting these little souls here, so I feel I have zero room to complain that I am below empty and look like h@ll all the time. I feel you have let me know its not them, its not my husband, or mother who won’t help, or anything or anyone else who is responsible for taking baby steps to reconnect with my other half. I’ll pray God show me each day how to get a few minutes of quiet so I can hear what that do (or not do better yet) each day to find some balance. Motherhood is the most beautiful expression of God’s existence in this world, and they need me in one piece, not so fragmented as I have been for 3 years now. God bless you today, and all of these wonderful mamas here who strive to create wonder in their homes and in the world. Thank you again.

    • We also struggled with infertility. It seems like once you’ve tried SO HARD for something that comes so easily to others you tend to feel like you’re not allowed to say that being woken throughout the night is hard or that you sometimes would like to have 20 minutes to yourself for a shower…you know, being human. It’s easier said than done but can I encourage you to realize that your journey to motherhood doesn’t in any way minimize the fact that motherhood is just hard sometimes. No one is going to think you’re ungrateful for having human needs and feelings. :-0

  38. What a wonderful reminder! You have inspired me to get a sitter for this weekend and paint the town red with my husband, I may even paint my nails and throw on some lipstick :)

  39. This resonates with me deeply. Thank you for describing what every mom faces…with such eloquence. I started the mom years at 22 and feel like I never had time to discover my own adult self prior to that. As they are getting older and more independent I am carving out more time for myself…to figure out what my interests are, what do I enjoy doing in my free time, and being adventurous to try new things. When I turned 40 I wrote a list of 40 things to do before 50 and have been checking things off…it helps so much to have it written down and posted on the wall to read it each day!

  40. This is an amazing metaphor. It really spoke to me. Thank you Brooke from sharing, for voicing the words that I sometime struggle to get out.

  41. Brooke – I just LOVE this. Thank you!

  42. Beautifully written and the perfect reminder. Thank you. I’ve been very conscious to make sure that being a mother has no become my one and only purpose in life, but I fear (for the moment) that I’ve gone too far the other way and work is taking over my life. I’ve forgotten to have fun, connect with friends outside of work and family on a regular basis and do more things for me.

    The balance is often so hard to achieve, but this metaphor will be great to remind me at time that the other side(s) will grow back if I tend to them :) Thank you.

  43. Just so so good Brooke. We do do it to ourselves, don’t we? I did the same. I once remember having some time to myself to go shopping. I was completely lost. The light side of me didn’t know who she was, let alone what she wanted. Never have I felt such a disconnect from myself (not that my former self was a shopoholic or anything!).

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