Mornings are my worst time of day. It’s been this way as long as I can remember, as long as I’ve lived in a house with other people. The problem is that people make noise, and I think I'm allergic to it. I just can't get used to it because mornings seem like the perfect time for slow, QUIET, creative happenings. To add insult to injury most nights one or both of the little people living in my house have done something to ruin an otherwise glorious slumber, after which of course comes morning.
I can make fun of the fact that I’m like this, but it doesn’t make the mornings any easier. When one of my kids is really struggling or if we’re facing another mysterious health challenge, mornings are particularly heavy. Sometimes however I get lucky and am able to connect with myself through the fog to have a conversation like the following one.
Higher self: “How are you doing today?”
Me: “Exhausted.” (pause to notice myself) “Sad.”
Higher self: “What do you need?”
Me: “Space for me.”
Higher self: “How can you get that?”
Me: (long pause) “I don’t know.”
Higher self: (Waits patiently.)
Me: “I think I need to move my body. I can go for a short walk in between morning clients and school pick up.”
Higher self: “What will you need in order to make sure that happens?”
Me: “Pack a change of clothes and shoes, and a snack so I don’t have to stop anywhere.”
Higher self: “Will that be enough?”
Me: “Yes.” (Breathes deeply.)
Higher self: “It’s going to be okay. I’ll take care of you.”
So many of us long to hear these words from someone we love, to be held and comforted in our sadness – by a partner, a parent, or a best friend.
But what about saying them to yourself? If that seems weird or self-indulgent just think about it for a minute. Here are a few reasons why it makes sense:
1) You are always with you, and are therefore available on short notice.
2) You understand what you mean.
3) You will get the immediate benefit of having your needs met while also practicing compassion.
4) You will begin a habit of noticing how you’re doing, and that goes a long way.
Holding healing for someone you love without losing yourself in the process requires heroic self-care efforts. If your high needs child came into your life before you’d learned the value in taking care of you, you may feel like you’re up the creek without paddles. Your little one’s needs will always seem more immediate, more urgent, or more important than yours, and the knee-jerk “I can’t” (take time for me… get away… ask for help, etc.) becomes a battle cry.
It does not have to be this way.
Incorporating self-nourishment, space, connection, and whatever else you know you need into your life as a parent is a very tall order but is completely possible. (I used to feel annoyed when people having more typical parenting experiences than I would say this kind of stuff to me, but I'm going to give myself permission to say it here because I am not having a typical parenting experience, and I'm guessing neither are you.) In fact vulnerability is the perfect place to practice paying attention and tuning in to what you need because those needs are in your face all the time.
Make curiosity your new best friend. Turn your focus inward and begin wondering about what’s going on, and where it’s coming from. Then try responding to yourself with just a little more kindness.
Taking care of you can start in small, subtle ways. It took me a long time, and lots of forgetting and remembering to learn to ask myself how I’m doing. Then it took a few more years to say “I’ll take care of you.” I’d been doing it for my children through illness, fear, and the deep dark unknown, and never once had to think to say it.
What if we all learned to greet ourselves that way in the morning? Can you imagine how much more compassion we could generate? It would flow right from us out to our families and out into the world. That’s some big healing.
As always, in love and community,
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