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Serene & Neurotic - the perfect combo

Recently I was invited to speak to a group of first time mothers about self-care and writing. I had visions of facilitating lovely writing exercises and imparting reams of wisdom I’ve learned in my two-decade stint as mom. Many of these notions arose while leisurely soaking in the tub or walking through the neighborhood with only my musings as companion. [Hmmm... it’s a good thing I’m so perceptive (ha ha), so I could sense this disconnect in the making...] I was going to be talking with women who very likely don’t get a three-minute shower each day (much less a 'leisurely soak') and probably feel like there is a new growth permanently attached to their hip and/or breast (and solitude has long disappeared). They would likely not be impressed with my well-rested serenity or wisdom. Writing exercises be damned! These women deserve practical, immediate relief that doesn’t require additional baby juggling.


my own madonna-like mom & meI simply adore new mothers. They are the perfect combination of serene and neurotic. One moment they are performing superhuman feats—pushing 9 lb. bundles of love through a canal normally the size of a Bic pen; operating on two hours of sleep or less while continuing to glow like a Madonna—and the next they are stressing out that they might not possess Consumer Reports’ Top 10 must own items to raise your baby if you don’t want them to end up destitute or married to an ax murderer. Like I said, the perfect combo of love-manifest and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Their hormonal-heightened examples showcase the extremes many of us continue to exhibit without the excuse of being “new” parents. My hunch is that I no longer qualify as a newbie, since my “baby” will turn 20 next week. Regardless, I still harbor an intense resentment toward crows, primarily because of their behavior when my now 23-year-old son was an infant. For months, those crows performed a persistent ritual of morning coffee klatches outside my bedroom window commencing at the precise moment mom and babe fell asleep. I spent so much energy fighting the crows during that era that to this day, I still twitch with a little bit of crazy when a crow lands outside my bedroom window. In my post-baby clarity, I’ve often wondered how things might have gone differently had I attempted to hear the crows’ caws as lullaby instead of cacophony?

So what words can be offered to someone who is sleep-deprived and likely has her shirt on inside out? Keep it Simple. Breathe. Rest. Relax. Trust you have everything you need. They are the same words I offer to each of us when we’re feeling slightly off kilter or overwhelmed. Keep it Simple. Breathe. Rest. Relax. Remember you always have a choice. While I no longer have to choose whether I’ll enter the bathroom by myself or carry another human being in with me, I can choose how I think about my time. Will I fly through tasks like my hair’s on fire or will I sink into the wonder of the moment? What if instead of panic, my thoughts shifted to something like this... I am capable of doing these tasks, but for 10 seconds I will pause and breathe to help squelch my flaming head. This feels so much better than shouting, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” as I go about the day. Serene and calm instead of panicked and neurotic. Madonna trumps Cuckoo.

my boy and meIt all sounds so simple in the light of day, but developing a self-care ritual is like strengthening a new muscle or learning to balance on one foot (or juggle a baby on your hip). It takes practice. We learn step by step. Trying. Falling down. Forging ahead. Remembering our choices 5%... 10%... 40% of the time until we ultimately find the tipping point and realize our new muscle is strong and has the ability to carry us through the challenging times without yelling, "Fire!" Ultimately we learn to embrace our “glow” on the days of conquering superhuman feats and chuckle at the times we turn up slightly singed around the edges.

Keep it Simple. Breathe. Rest. Relax. Trust you have everything you need.


If you're interested in learning more about developing practices of self-care and soul nourishment, I invite you to check out my upcoming online class, Live it to Give it, beginning November 5, 2012.

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