String Theory

The baby is screaming.

She fell asleep during her bedtime feeding, exhausted from the non-nap she took, but woke as I dressed her in pajamas. Two of her sisters came to her crib-side to stem the tide of tears, only prolonging the cry-it-out of which she is desperately in need.

My husband has finally comforted her and there is silence. I’m not sure it will last once she leaves his arms.

I’m sitting in the living room in the dark. In a singular armchair in the corner because it’s the farthest away from couch command central I spend those hours of nursing/napping with the baby during the day.

I screamed when I saw the previously smooth comforter on my bed had been rumpled like the ridges of wet sand left by a receding wave. I swore when I saw that said rumpling slid most of the clean load of laundry I’d dumped on the bed for folding onto the floor.   I flung dirty, yet previously sorted, clothes back into their piles from where they’d been strewn across the hallway. I didn’t even know what to do when I found one of my few personal care products had been removed from the basket on my dresser and moved to the baby’s.

It’s all a violation. After a long day of doing everything for everyone, to have even one little bit of it undone is a slap in the face. Or a turning of a screw tightening my already taut strings into a discordant twang.

Especially in my room.

Do not take what little I have for myself. What little sanctuary I have.

That being said, if the sight of one misplaced purple hair care bottle disturbs me so, I think it’s safe to say I need a break.

It’s time to scale back. Sit apart. Self care.

However, I realized earlier today that, except for two, all of our weekends throughout the entire summer are booked. Summer hasn’t even started yet! A good number of those are family time and travel, which is, of course, good. But it’s a major weight on my ever-forward-looking and always-cognizant-of-what-needs-to-be-done mind.

It’s also a reminder that a place where I’ve fallen short is discriminately choosing what absolutely adds to the quality of our lives and what would just be nice if we had time; that I need to clearly and effectively communicate my desires and capabilities – for what works for me and us, not others.

Because I’m obviously feeling stretched to the limit tonight and stuff like this shouldn’t make me break.

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An Argument for Self-Care

Isn’t it amazing that we only engage in self-care when we have to, when it’s absolutely necessary.  When we’ve reached such critical mass we’re about to blow apart.

That’s usually when I get a humdinger of a sinus infection.  Agony.  Aches and pains.  Congestion.  Fever,  Chills.  As horrible as it is, it forces me down for the count.  To the couch.  To bed early.  To forcing fluids and taking it easy.  Would I think to dial things down when the first symptoms show up?  Heck, no.  Push on through.

This morning I happily scrolled through the WordPress Reader, checking in on some of my favorite blogs.  Catching up.  Touching base.  Doing what bloggers do.  When the hormones of early pregnancy unleashed a horrible churning in my stomach.  I tried to ignore it, but finally had to shove a snack down my gullet before breakfast came up.  Self-care had become an interruption, an annoyance.

Arriving home from my brisk walk to the bus stop, I grabbed a glass of water.  One would think the neutral taste would be good for someone trying to avoid the aforementioned ‘upping-of-the-gullet’.  Un-unh.  It just reminded me that hardly anything tastes good anymore – and that my long-overdue to-do of buying lemons or limes to slice up and put in my water may actually help.  Why should it take utter disgust to push me to finally make this small treat a reality?

What is it about humans – and women in particular – that makes self-care always an afterthought?  Guilt?  A Puritan ethic?  Not wanting to be self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish?  Lack of time?  Money?

I’m sure it’s all of the above.  But I’d venture a guess that it’s most likely a feeling that we’re not worth it.  We don’t deserve a reward – no matter how small.  Especially when there are others in the world who have so little; who suffer so much.

That last point makes an especially compelling argument.  However, there’s a reason flight attendants tell us to put our oxygen masks on first before assisting those next to us.  Mothers, care givers, partners, aid workers, samaritans, humans – none of us are good to those who need us if we’re laid out, dog tired, dead sick.  We can enact great waves of tenderness and care in the world if we start in our own little atmosphere.

That is all

Sometimes you just need to hide in your car for an hour and 20 minutes burning your cell phone battery.

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Self-Care: A Cautionary Tale

I didn’t eat breakfast.

I drank caffeine.

I didn’t take my meds.

I stared at the computer screen all day.

I reread a beautiful, but sad book.

I cried hand-clamping tears.

I had a late lunch.

I didn’t get dressed until 4 PM.

I fought with my husband.

I looked things up online by only the light of my phone.

I went to bed too late.

—————————————

I awoke at 5:45 to the crash of thunder,
the wind whirling,
the rain pummeling.
Mother Nature matching my disconcertment.
Trees torn from their roots,
leaves littering the ground –
a mess of downed limbs and debris.
But soon the sun is shining,
the water a glaze of calm.

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Jennifer Butler Basile

Still, my head is in a vice.
My stomach churns.
There is much recovery to be done.

Introverted Enlightenment

I never should have read this article.

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Surviving as an Introverted Mother by Kristen Howerton

Sure, it convinced me that I wasn’t a terrible mother.  That it was okay not to desire constant physical contact.  To crave down-time, alone time.  To require it.  For my mental and emotional well-being.

Wow.

What a refreshing and liberating concept.  And validating.

It told me what my soul already knew.  But that my conscience(?) told me was a fault, a failing.  A roadblock to caring for my children in the best way possible or giving them full affection.

All bull$h!t – except that the needs of modern motherhood don’t care about the stirrings of the soul.

Shortly after reading that resonant article, my children started summer vacation.

It’s all-kid, all-the-time.  My three little darlings with me and each other 24/7.

It’s an adjustment for all of us.  A change in schedule, company, routine. And no opportunity for down-time.

Ironically, the article that liberated me only a few weeks ago has imprisoned me in a summer cell now.

Maybe I wouldn’t be feeling such ennui at the equinox if I hadn’t received that introverted enlightenment.

If I thought that running roughshod with constant company, arts and crafts extravaganzas, beach days and late nights was status quo, maybe I wouldn’t be feeling so full – and not in a fulfilled way, but in an I-ate-a-little-of-everything-on-the-buffet-table-at-the-cookout-and-then-went-back-for-seconds sort of way.

But that enlightened author, in touch with her inner introvert, showed me a glimpse of eternal bliss and I can’t unsee it.  If only I could see some quiet time in the future.

Help Yourself

“If you do become depressed there are several things you can do to help yourself and make the illness as short-lived as possible.”*

I read this in a book preparing women for pregnancy and childbirth. It is meant well. It introduces a section on self-care and avoiding or alleviating depression (including medical help), which goes on to dispel the myth of the ‘perfect mother’, but the tone of this statement rankled me.

Self-advocacy, expectation, and positive outlook do play an important role in mental health, but they only go so far.

If a woman is clinically depressed, no amount of happy thoughts will pull her out. No amount of pampering will soothe her. Strong and mighty though she may be, bent but not broken, she still needs more. Some sort of medical and/or therapeutic intervention.

Statements like this perpetuate the feeling of failure that women suffering from mental illness already feel. That there is something they failed to do, some step they missed or didn’t push hard enough to save themselves. To embrace life and joy.  And the idea that they’ve prolonged their misery by not making it as ‘short-lived as possible’ – argh!

Maybe I’m just cranky because it didn’t work for me. I know I’m reading this not as an objective observer or researcher, but as a severely chipped shoulder. But a lot of the literature I’ve found reads like it’s written by someone who’s too objective, like someone who views depression as a clear-cut, easily addressed condition.

Like someone who’s never been there.

from I’m Pregnant by Lesley Regan, MD; no disrespect to the author, this post represents my own subjective opinion on the topic.

Rejuvenation

 

bleach

scrub

shave

sleep

supplement

maintain

refresh

 

want

need

require

 

refused

 

Only YOU can prevent Burnouts

 

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Read this article for tips on how to do just that . . . Peace to you.

 

Would you change a thing?

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Just as I bowed my head today at mass, to honor and reflect upon the bread becoming Jesus’ body, my three year-old, who was gathered up in my arms and perched on my knee, looked up and kissed me.  My first reaction was that she was distracted at a solemn time.  Then I realized, remembered that she’s all about love.  Jesus became the bread, a sacrifice, gave His life, out of love for us.  Or at the very least, for His father, God.

Did I receive that kiss upon my nose at that very moment to teach me that I, as a mother, must lose myself to them out of love or in love?  That is my sacrifice since Jesus gave his life for us, I must give mine for them?

But, though I am a stay-at-home mom and mothering is a vocation, is not my husband called to the vocation of fathering?  He is not asked to give up his life.  Or is not having the struggles I am.

Or is the kiss a reminder to surrender myself to a life of love?

To serve others and fulfill God’s will by helping them – and through helping God, receiving all I need through Him?

Happiness?  Fulfillment?  Peace?  Well-being?

Am I being selfish balking at the idea of giving my life over to my children?  Or does God want me to preserve some parts of it for me?  Why would he have made me how I am if not for me to find some pleasure in it?  Parts of me must have been made with successful mothering in mind, but there are other parts I get to develop for me, right?  But then, it’s still for others, right?  Which then, isn’t it all for God?

I do need to stop thinking of my children as burdens, though.  I can be of service to them just as I can to others.  I need to see the needs right under my  nose and not take them for granted.


 

The above reflection is taken from a piece I wrote in February 2013.  Maybe it’s because I was/am an only child that I find it hard to relinquish my individual needs for the collective.  For me, the jury is still out as to whether self-care is a right or a privilege.  Where does self-care end and selfishness begin?  Are modern societal mores at odds with Christian teachings?  And I was worried about breastfeeding!  I always feel a certain sense of guilt when I see memes like the one at the top of this post.  But should mothering negate personal desire?

Self-Aware

Has a massage ever brought you to tears?

Tears that spring out of nowhere at the release of tension you didn’t even know you had.

The line between physical and psychic stress often blurs.

We often operate at such a high level of continuous stress that it doesn’t even register unless we disturb the flow.

A few months ago, my father and I attended Tai Chi classes.  It was something he had wanted to try for quite some time.  I found a class offered at the community center in my town and we went.  I was used to the gentle flow of yoga, which the instructor told me is a cousin to Tai Chi, but this required an even higher level of calm and restraint.  With my high-strung, perpetually-on-a-treadmill ways, it was a stretch of a different kind.  I told myself to slow down as my cloud hands swept across the room, but it was something long since foreign to my body.

At one of the sessions, our teacher led us through a meditation we’d never done before.  I didn’t know how relaxed I could get without lying prostrate on the floor, but I dutifully took my breaths and moved my hands – and started to cry.

It was not a bad day.  I did not feel overly stressed, anxious, or upset.  And yet, once I allowed my body and mind to slow, the pressure slack, the excess overflowed.

I wanted to kiss this little old lady for releasing my five elements.

But I need to channel my own little old lady.  I cannot look outside for inner contentment.  I must make the time to stretch in the morning, to adjust my posture, to make a mental scan of my body and release the tension.

I need to be more self-aware and body-aware so that a small chink in the dam doesn’t lead to a crazy rush of water I didn’t even know was collecting.  It shouldn’t take a breach to make me notice the physical, mental, and emotional stress I’m holding.

My mental and physical health should be about maintenance, not damage control.

meditation

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