Alexandra Elle, AFTER THE RAIN

Alexandra Elle, AFTER THE RAIN

Zibby Owens: Hi.

Alexandra Elle: Hi. Hello.

Zibby: Hi. How are you?

Alexandra: I’m good. How are you?

Zibby: I thought we were waiting for naptime to kick in.

Alexandra: She went down sooner than I expected, so that’s great. My husband is now wrangling our two-year-old. Our twelve-year-old is upstairs on Zoom school. We should have some good chat time now.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry. I have four kids, so I totally understand how it goes. None of mine are that little anymore. Thank you for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” As is evident, you really don’t have time to read or to write. I feel like I need to whisper.

Alexandra: I have to make the time.

Zibby: You have to make the time.

Alexandra: No, it’s okay. You’re in my AirPods, so it’s okay. I can hear you up close.

Zibby: Very smart. The twelve-year-old you mention who’s upstairs, is that the one from the book who was — is that the one who was in kindergarten when you decided to — there was something you decided when she was in kindergarten, to change your job.

Alexandra: Yeah, to quit my job.

Zibby: To quit your job and all that. So now she’s twelve.

Alexandra: She’s twelve now, yes. Our two-year-old is Ila who is the — I talk about our TTC journey with her, and then Maximus is our third daughter who was our surprise, at the end of the dedication.

Zibby: Amazing. Can you please tell listeners what After the Rain is about?

Alexandra: Oh, my goodness. After the Rain is my fourth collection of work. I’ve been joking and saying it’s like my big girl book because while the other books are very near and dear to my heart, After the Rain really gives this memoir experience of the different lessons that I’ve learned throughout motherhood, throughout my life so far. I’ve been thinking about the words to put with, what is After the Rain? For me, it feels like a collection of hope and a collection of camaraderie. I want people to be able to see themselves in the pages no matter how different their experience is from mine, but just knowing that there’s this collective healing that’s possible throughout the book.

Zibby: It’s amazing. You talk a lot in the book about how you yourself have overcome trauma. That’s, in part, how you found all the tools that you needed to get through your life and that you’re now so generously sharing with the rest of us. You touch briefly on some of the ways in which you felt like you were not loved as much as a child, which broke my heart when I was reading, sitting on the steps and the gold flap of the mailbox while you waited for your dad and then he never showed up and how that broke your heart and made you feel like you were unlovable. Take me back, if you don’t mind, to some of the experiences that you felt were really difficult for you as a child and made you not feel like you could love yourself.

Alexandra: I always had this on-again/off-again relationship with my biological father. I have not had a relationship with him for the past, I would say, seventeen years. It’s been a very long time. In that regard, that’s just been the norm. Mostly what I talk about in After the Rain is my relationship with since she was my primary caregiver. She did the best she could with what she knew. Our relationship has come a long way. She’s an amazing grandmother to my girls, an awesome mother-in-law to my husband. We are now at this stage in our mother-daughter relationship that we can really lean into our relationship from two women’s perspective versus this mother-daughter dynamic. It feels really supportive. Also, good boundaries are in place for the growth of a healthy relationship now as a thirty-one-year-old woman. Growing up, she didn’t really have the tools to love me, I would say. I’m able to see that clearly now as an adult. Instead of penalizing her or judging her for what she didn’t do, I’m able to see that she had her own experiences, her own traumas, her own stuff that she was going through.

When we don’t tackle those things, it’s hard for us to love our children in the ways in which that we should. Becoming a mother, I knew that I wanted to — I needed to love myself in order to give my then one daughter and now my three daughters the best of me. Self-love was definitely a bloom-in-process, I like to say, but also, my greatest teacher in a way because now I’m able to not only mother my children from this place of love and understanding and attention and presence, but from a self-mothering standpoint, which I find is really important. We don’t often talk about how motherhood also gives birth to us in a sense. Being able to do that three times over now and really learning the different methods of care for self, I’m able to show up and care for my kids in a very different way and love my children in a very different way from how I was raised. That is really the greatest lesson in all of it. No matter the trauma I went through and the triggers and the hardship, what did I do with those lessons? It has spilled over into how I show up in my motherhood today.

Zibby: That’s beautiful. I was going to get to your mom. I wasn’t only going to talk about your dad. I promise.

Alexandra: I just don’t have a relationship with him, so I’d rather not.

Zibby: I get it. It was just the disappointment. It was just that feeling of disappointment and sitting there. Parents always end up disappointing in some way or another. That was such a moment. Then your mom screaming at you in the car when you were trying to scooch away the day that she was in a bad mood. I get it. You’re only thirty-one, oh, my gosh. I’m forty-four, and I’m finally getting to a place where I’m like, okay, maybe it’s their issue and it’s not directed at me.

Alexandra: It’s not mine. Right.

Zibby: I feel like you have a full-on leg up on the world from a maturity standpoint, which is great.

Alexandra: It’s been a long time coming. That’s absolutely for sure.

Zibby: I don’t know. You still are ahead of most of the world in terms of that sort of self-acceptance and all that. What makes you want to share this? You’ve learned so much. You’ve reparented yourself, as a therapist would say. Why share it? Why give it to everybody else? Why not just go about your life? I know you love to write. You’ve been writing for your whole life and all the rest of it. What is about this message that you really want to just get out there, and why?

Alexandra: Community and letting folks know that they are not alone in their struggles and what they go through. I think it’s really important to share stories that folks can see themselves in or that they can feel like, man, I’m not the only one who went through that. Man, I’m not the only one who went through something. Now I can be on the other side of that. That’s the big messaging in After the Rain. What comes after the rain? The light comes. The rainbows come. The clouds part. We can see hope and resilience and triumph. Also, knowing that we’re going to have stormy seasons in life. It’s not just going to be after the rain and then, boom, we’re just going to have these sunny days. No, as human beings, we move through things. Our storms are what teach us something. While a lot of what I share in this book is absolutely personal to me, it’s also really pivotal to my growth and the type of woman I am, the type of person I am, the type of woman I continue to strive to be, which is one who is able to greet not only self with compassion, but others with compassion. To know that you don’t have to pretend to be perfect. You don’t have to pretend to have it all together. You can show up flawed on the page. You can show up flawed in life and still be worthy of moving through whatever it is you’re going through. I think that that’s really special and important. I find that a lot of times, we are chunked in this circle as women that we have to be strong and not have any traumas and not have any triggers. If we do, hush, don’t say anything about it. That is not supportive to the collective to hoard these stories that have shaped us and maybe that have hurt us, but also that have shown us the benefits of healing and facing things head on.

Zibby: I totally agree. I do feel like, and I don’t know about you, at least on social media, I feel like there’s been a shift to people sharing a lot. Some people are still caught up with perfection. Here I am on the beach. Look, I’m so amazing. I’m like, I can’t even look at this bikini right now. Other people, I feel like are really like, my husband just told me he’s gay. Now I have to live with that. Here’s how I’m crying on my pillow. I feel like there’s been a shift to sharing the most intimate. I don’t know. Do you feel like that? Not that your book is exploitatively sharing. It’s a perfect balance. I don’t know if you’ve noticed too, or just anecdotally.

Alexandra: I’ve noticed people’s vulnerability being more accepted. I think that that’s special. I do think there is a line in which we have to be mindful of the stories that we’re sharing because, yes, they’re our stories, but they are also other people’s stories. I let my mom — she read the first copy. I bookmarked every chapter about our story. I wrote her a beautiful letter. We had a really healing moment before anyone else got the book. I got my husband’s blessing to share about our hardships from the fertility to the infidelity that we faced prior to getting married. We have to be very mindful of the stories that we hold in our bodies, but also other people’s stories that we decide to walk into and tell. That is something that I find extremely delicate. It’s not something I take for granted at all, especially as a writer knowing that I have multiple stories that don’t just include me. It’s not just about me. That goes back to my work as being really centered around community and how it’s so important that we are mindful of what we say, how we say it, and what we share.

Zibby: Very true. How do you stay so mindful? How do you keep all of these principles that you espouse in the book that are so awesome? Then there you are trying to get your kids down for a nap. Life keeps coming up.

Alexandra: Life will continue to come up.

Zibby: How do you keep it top of mind? How do you make sure that in the moment you’re remembering all the things that you know deep down and you don’t let it — I know there was a scene at the beginning of the your book where somebody at your office said something super rude to you that I honestly couldn’t even believe. You were on the street. You were trying not to scream back at him. You managed to pull it off in a very clever, awesome way, but you just wanted to scream and rage on the sidewalk. How do you pull it back?

Alexandra: How do I pull it back? I used to be really bad at pulling it back. It’s interesting. I think it’s important how we leave people and how we engage with people. Maya Angelou has a quote that’s along the lines of, people will remember how you treated them. They will remember how you left them feeling. Even when someone is like that boss in that chapter, Change, that you’re referring. I could’ve easily been just as awful back, but what would that have done? Nothing. It would’ve made me look like a jerk just like it made him look like a jerk. It’s not worth the energy. Linking this to holding it together while in quarantine, while mothering three, while also being a wife, while also working from home, it takes a lot of practice and self-awareness. I know when I’m on edge. Everyone in the house knows when mom’s on edge. My husband knows. He’s home full time with me. I understand the privilege there. I’m able to literally step away and say, hey, I need a moment. All of this really requires being self-aware enough to name what we need and putting some of our baggage down and letting other people help us.

In motherhood, that can really get challenging because I kind of feel like sometimes we just get it done. That’s what we do. We get it done. Also, our partners, if we are in partnerships — in my position, my husband, he can also get it done. I have to be able to name what I need. I think that that’s really special. That’s how I’m able to keep myself together. I can be like, hey, I need five minutes. Hey, I need ten minutes. Hey, I’m going to go take a drive. I need to go run these errands. Then also recognizing that in my husband too. When I’m working all day and he’s hands-on with the kids all day, making sure he’s getting his time. It’s just a community effort. Holding it together requires me to take care of myself so I can take care of others. I often say this in my work, self-care as community care. If we look at taking care of ourselves as an extension of showing up in our relationships, in our work, etc., then we’re really able to find that balance. It’s not always perfect. It’s not always pretty. It’s definitely a practice that’s worth leaning into.

Zibby: I hear about self-care all the time. I feel like we need a new name for it. Self-care sounds indulgent. Self-care sounds like I’m kicking it and being selfish, almost, but it’s not like that. It’s essential. You have to do it. I feel like if there was a different name, maybe I wouldn’t feel guilty doing it.

Alexandra: I’ve just been shifting to taking care. Then also, self-care as community care is how I teach it when I’m teaching workshops and when I’m on my podcast and when I’m showing up in these community spaces where it does feel like self-care is a selfish thing. Audre Lorde says it best. It’s not self-indulgent. It’s a political statement at that, especially for women, to be able to even take five minutes to go pee in peace, to go wash your face, to take a second to get back into your body. It doesn’t have to be a latte or a manicure or a face mask or a massage. There are these other means of refueling and renourishing that are also extremely important.

Zibby: It’s more like baseline emotional regulation.

Alexandra: Exactly.

Zibby: It’s getting back to basics. This is not an option. If you can’t pull your emotions together enough to finish bath time, then you need to do something, versus screaming at the kids. I feel like so often those intense feelings, snapping — even just loading the car up yesterday or whatever with all the kids and the dog and the bag and the this, I could feel myself snapping at everybody. I’m like, I’m losing my patience. Why? Where do we have to go so badly? We were just going home.

Alexandra: It’s a balancing act. It’s hard. It’s not easy. It’s not pretty. I know Instagram makes self-care look so beautiful, but it’s really the nitty-gritty is when you’re deep in it.

Zibby: Tell me a little more about writing this book. Tell me about how long it took and where you wrote and your process and all of that.

Alexandra: It took me a year and a half, two years, to write this book. I was eight months pregnant with our youngest when I turned in my manuscript. I remember my editor saying, “We will try to give you some time so you can be in postpartum.” I was like, “I’m putting a boundary. After I have this baby, y’all cannot email me for like a month.” It’s just funny. We laugh about it. Not only was I writing this book, I was growing a baby. I was giving birth to two things simultaneously. I did a lot of writing here at home. I also had to get through. I kind of got stuck in the middle. It was really hard. My husband was home with our two. I went to a hotel, back when you could do those things, not in COVID. I went for a weekend. I just knocked it out. I remember feeling really, really accomplished that I was able to do that in a quiet place, in an unrushed place. Writing a book from home is really hard when you have kids. Our middle child, she was still very little. My two youngest are twenty months apart. It was very intense. I needed that time. To be able to go and finish in peace and in quiet was really amazing. It took a while. Then once I was in flow, it was just like, boom, here it is. Then by eight months pregnant, I was ready to turn in the manuscript. It was great after that.

Zibby: Wow. I love how you sprinkled in quotes. It’s such a great book, inspirational. Even if you don’t have time to sit and read every single word, your quotes, even just getting a quick dose every time you open it is just fabulous. And a great cover, which always helps everything.

Alexandra: Thank you for that. Isn’t it beautiful? I love it.

Zibby: It’s beautiful.

Alexandra: They did so good. It’s so beautiful.

Zibby: It really is.

Alexandra: Funny story about the cover. We went back and forth on the cover, oh, my gosh. We finally got it to where everyone was like, “You know, I think the first one that we looked at was the one.” It’s just hilarious, the things you have to go through when the manuscript is done. You still have to get the little things together like the cover. Where is the gold foiling going to go? Is it going to be debossed or embossed? and all those things. Then you get it. It’s like, oh, it was worth it. The one we first started with was the one that we ended up going with after like twenty other mockups later.

Zibby: Your first books, you self-published. Now you’re in the traditional publishing world.

Alexandra: My first two books, I self-published. Then I was with a different smaller publishing house for Neon Soul and Today I Affirm. Neon Soul was a collection of poetry. Today I Affirm is a journal. Then I got picked up by Chronicle for this, for After the Rain and then a partner journal that’s coming out. It’s called Encourage. It’s really amazing. Being self-published at first was definitely wonderful. I learned so much. I was able to build my audience and build my readership in a really authentic way. I’m four years into the traditional publishing world. I really love who I landed with for After the Rain. Chronicle is just — they’re wonderful.

Zibby: That’s great. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Alexandra: Write the story. Just write. I tell this all the time to the folks in my journaling courses and who come to my workshops. Just write the story. Just put it on the page. Everything else will fall into place. Something that really supported me when I first got into publishing my work eight years ago was a friend told me, “Stop hoarding your story. You never know who’s going to need your story.” I remember thinking, no way. She was like, “Yes way. Just put it on the page.” Since then, I keep that at the forefront of my mind, especially when I’m sharing things that are intertwined with adversity and uncertainty because we never know who needs our story and who will benefit from it. We’re never alone in our struggles. I think that that’s really important to center in our work.

Zibby: I’m literally writing it on a sticky to put on my computer right now. You never know who needs our story. I love that. I’m putting it right here next to you. That’s great. Alex, thank you. Thank you for using your precious naptime moments to chat with me today. Thank you for your lovely, soulful book that I’m sure will help countless people out there. Thanks.

Alexandra: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Zibby: My pleasure. Take care. Buh-bye.

Alexandra: Bye.

Alexandra Elle, AFTER THE RAIN

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