Meet Nikiya –
When I first saw Nikiyas picture on a social media platform, I instantly knew she was my kind of woman. Her face, her eyes, everything had such deepness, such strength. I wanted to know her story. I wanted to know what is behind all that. And now that I know her story, I love her even more. I am so happy and thankful she was willing to open up, answer my questions and share what's been on her mind with me, and now with you.
I can assure you - if you're going through a hard time right now, you will feel so much better after reading her words.
- Introduce yourself.
Hi there. My name is Nikiya (rhymes with Papaya). It’s a Pali name given to me by my mother, who changed the second vowel and sentencing me to a lifetime of mispronunciation. I think of her every time it happens. I live in a small community in the mountains of northern California. I’m a mama and an artist.
- Describe yourself.
I am a woman re-learning and un-learning continually who I am. The concept of describing myself is difficult for me. I don’t feel any one way. I feel fluid, changeable, on a daily path of discovery.
- Besides being a mother, tell us what you do.
That’s been another recent discovery. Before having children at age 30, I was pretty aimless. I didn’t know who I was or what I was supposed to be doing, let alone what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted children and I knew I wanted to be home with them while they were young. So now I am finding/redefining myself again, outside of motherhood. I do lots of things. I am firstly a designer. I have a lifelong interest in the world around us, how we live, specifically how we create our micro realities in a home. So I create spaces and help other people turn theirs into something they love. I also work at several retail stores and do some social media marketing. I’m working on a side project at the moment with my photographer friend in the hopes of publishing a book on the counter-culture generation and their offspring, their artistic contributions, and the unique way they have inhabited this area. I love to play in the river. I love to take walks in the rain. I enjoy reading. I have a long-term relationship with the world of Buddhism and meditation and psychology.
- Tell us briefly about your professional background and how you came to where you are today.
I don’t have a professional background, per se. For many years I trained with my father as a metal-smith and jeweler, a trade he learned from my grandfather. I did it off and on for a decade until deciding to go back to college for an undergraduate degree. I’ve done all sorts of other odd jobs, but have always been drawn to art and creativity as well as people and relationships, particularly how those things manifest in the world around us. I became certified in Feng-Shui and found it to be a wonderful adjunct to my existing love of space and placement and finding some meaning to what was an already intuitive sense of how things flow in our physical surroundings. My undergraduate studies began as Environmental Studies, but quickly moved over to the humanities. I needed up making my own major infusing Environmental Studies, Eastern Religion, Anthropology, Sociology which makes so much sense to me now. I am fascinated by how we form relationships to ourselves and our surroundings. Currently I do a fair bit of design work, but with an emphasis on what’s working and not working and how that relates to our inner world.
- What do you like most about your job?
I love transforming a space and equally working with people. I am endlessly fascinated with our humanity, how we struggle, what makes our hearts sing, the similarities and the differences.
- What does a typical day look like with your children?
No day feels typical lately. Since separating, there has been a disruption in our routine. I’m finding i do it a little differently than their dad does, but I’m also craving the routine again. During my week with them (we alternate week on, week off) we get up, get ready for school and walk over. They go to school in the same building I did as a kid for a few years, although their school is Waldorf Charter. They usually walk themselves home. Our lives are pretty seasonally oriented. In this warm weather, we are often heading off to the river and having late dinner. In winter it’s cozy time. Both of my girls are prolific artists, so there is a heavy bit of that happening or some form of dress up happening in our home.
- How are you different and similar to your own mother?
I like to think we are vastly different, but the truth is there are some core similarities that are undeniable. She has been a drug addict my entire life. She was 18 when I was born. She had no idea who she was or how to care for herself, let alone a baby. She had another child a little over a year later and that child, (my sister) and I ended up spending most of our time with my maternal grandparents. She is currently in a Women’s prison. I’ve seen her once in the past decade or more. She is not someone I am close to as a person or a mother. That said, there are qualities I inherited from her, qualities I admire in her, that also make me who I am. She is very sensitive and empathetic. She’s an artist and music was a huge part of her life. She was pretty poor, but she always made a cozy, beautiful home. She thinks outside of the box and even if she’s afraid of something, she will walk toward it. She was an outlier, an outlaw. I get a lot of my rebellious, unafraid nature from her. I am equally sensitive and aware of what’s going on with the people around me. And like all people our attributes the flip side of things we struggle with. Her empathic nature and incredible sensitivity play a part in why she needed to medicate herself. She was in a lot of pain and probably couldn’t handle it, lacking in much familiar support or understanding. She wasn’t able to raise any of her four kids and has more or less gone down a destructive path. I have those tendencies for sure, but I have enough of her fighting qualities and enough of an optimistic spirit that I am committed to seeing through my stuff and transforming it into healing. I struggled with aspects of early motherhood, attachment and vulerability, but I haven’t left my kids, and I’m working diligently at being present to myself and my life. I’m not saying I’ve aced it. I am very disembodied at any given moment, but rather than sailing off into sleep and oblivion, I want to be awake and alive.
- You recently posted a photo with a very touching and unusual caption on instagram – can you tell us more about it?
That post was a public show of acceptance that while my life has not turned out with the fairy tale ending we are fed to believe will come to pass, I am happy. I love the father of my kids, more so all of the time. I want them to see that love, to feel it most importantly. I want to encourage them, others, an ultimately myself, that the human heart is capable of an immensity we sometimes can’t imagine when we are in pain. It was a way of rejoicing in the reality of my life from this place of acceptance, which is not resignation. I am excited to parent in the way we are. I am relieved to feel warmth and good will return to a situation that felt volatile and hopeless. Seeing my girls adoration of their father, in turn, increases my adoration.
- Did you ever had a feeling your marriage wasn’t going to make it? Can you recall those feelings at all?
Yes, from early on. Maybe always. Our relationship was not a fairy tale. We didn’t get legally married until a little over a year before we separted, after 16 years. From it’s beginnings it was fraught with confusion, on both of our parts. But we also loved each other deeply and didn’t question that we had some kind of karma here to work out. When we got pregnant with our first daughter, an act of intention, we really surrendered to the relationship. Through the birth of the second we just kind of settled into the routine of early childhood some pretty traditional gender roles, something I do not recommend, but don’t see still how we as women are encouraged or able to be creative and independent people and also the primary caregivers of our young. Anyway, somewhere around the toddlerhood of our second child, it was obvious we were slipping into a state of despair around the relationship. We tried all kinds of things to make it work, but in the end, decided parting ways was our only real option. The irony is that there is no end and there is no parting ways with someone with which you share children, at least for us.
- What was/is the grieving process like and the ebb and flow of emotions?
Brutal. I really thought leaving was going to kill me. I spent the first year living in my own house crying, shaking, enraged that this was my life. I never wanted to be away from my kids. It felt so unfair to have invested so much and then to have to give up the thing I love most in the world to a life of half-time parenting. I had weeks where I wan’t sure I could carry on. But they need their dad, too. And he needed to be a force in their lives the way I had been. He’s an exceptional father and human being and it never felt right to fight over them. I have had to figure out how to be a totally different kind of mother and woman. I’m not out of the woods. Every transition day when they go with him is difficult. But it’s gotten easier. And now he and I learning who we are outside of the stories we had of each other and the ways our dynamic was getting in the way of our connection. I still miss him, miss being in a family unit that lives under one roof. Our resources are spread thin. There’s nothing efficient about having two households, but the emotional cost of continuing was greater than we could afford, so here we are. We love each other in a way supersedes what’s gone on. We’ve watched each other have other lovers and move about in each other’s lives as separate people. I like it like this. I appreciate that we have these two little beings that makes opting out of the difficulty a non-option. I feel happier now than I had in years in our relationship. It’s not anyone’s fault (though I remain a skeptic about the nuclear family and it’s success rates), we are just finding the path that feels right for us.
- Was/is there anything that helped you through the pain? Anything that didn’t help?
I am a firm believer (having spent the better part of myself attempting the opposite) that the only way through something is just to be in it. To let it rip. To allow the pain to be felt as deeply and thoroughly as it needs to be felt. It’s never as bad as we imagine it’s going to be. It passes. It shifts. People that supported me being in pain without trying to change it was immensely helpful. We also both went into therapy and I cannot say enough how helpful it was. We found someone who supported alternative lifestyle options, that didn’t see separation as a failure, and who supported us in each becoming the truest versions of ourselves, and most importantly, to trust our own inner knowing and let the voices of fear and failure become background noise instead of the lead. What didn’t help was trying to hold on, letting the cultural values dictate our decisions, or listening folks who said we were destroying our children. I couldn’t disagree more. I have seen a marked and positive difference in each of my daughters as they witness their father and mother find their own happiness.
- What words of advice would you offer to a woman suffering from a divorce/separation?
Be kind to yourself. As trite as it sounds, loving ourselves is the greatest gift we can give our children or anyone. Allowing them to see our grief is powerful and allows them to trust their own process and feelings. If there aren’t children, treating ourselves like we would a child is usually a good rule of thumb. In my experience the pain of separation had so much more to do with my own childhood wounding around abandonment and fear than it did with my adult reality. As I healed those wounds, I was able to walk through it and see it for what it was. There’s a loss, but there’s also a gain. So much is gleaned from heartbreak. It’s really one of the most tenderizing things we go though. I read “Broken Open” over and over. I needed to know that my heart wasn’t breaking, that it was opening. And I feel that now.
- Any advice you’d offer folks who would like to support a friend through such a time?
Be there, without judgement and without you own ideas as much as possible. Trust the process and the incredible human potential to heal.
- Especially during such times, it’s important to take care of yourself. What is your beauty & wellness routine like?
Sometimes it was as basic as taking a bath. I would do it multiple times a day when the going was really rough. I struggle with this one. Things I know would help I sometimes avoid, sleep, exercise, dance, mediation, making and eating whole foods. Really basic stuff ban go a long way toward health and wellness. Lots of time outside. That’s my salvation.
- What’s up next for you, career wise?
I’m not sure! I know I need to jump into another career stage if I’m going to be able to support my family and myself as we age and our needs increase. I am debating going to graduate school but in the meantime am focused on my design/lifestyle project, putting together a book from a project I am working on locally chronicling people in their spaces. I’ll do whatever I need to do to make ends meet, but i would love to say one day that I make decent money doing work that is rewarding.