I want to talk about the symptoms that you’ve waited too long. You’ve waited too long to tend to yourself. First let me say, there’s no shame in this. Shame has no place for us as we come back home to ourselves. As Maya Angelou said,
we do the best with what we know, and when we know better we do better.
The key is to not forget…once you know, do not forget.
The first time I found myself at the trailhead of the path to coming home to myself, my children were toddlers. You see, I started a version of this practice when I was pregnant with my second child. I went away by myself for a weekend to sweet little bed and breakfast in the mountains with the intention of connecting to this baby growing inside me. I felt like my one-year old was drawing all my love and attention, and I felt guilty for not bonding with my unborn child.
Oh, the things we do to ourselves. Guilt is another feeling that has no place in our coming home. I was feeling as though I wasn’t a good enough mother and this kid wasn’t even born yet.
But when my three children were toddlers, and I didn’t have another human growing in my belly, I was able to feel that space. It was like a spiritual ache in the place where for so many years there were little fingers and toes being formed.
I wasn’t pining for another child–hell, no. My body gave birth to and breastfed three babies pretty much continually for almost 5 years. But this feeling was real. As real as the internal kicks that used to keep me up at night.
Outside of myself–from the moment I woke to the moment I dropped into sleep, my energy was drawn outside of myself. Three little creatures that required my care, my attention, my tending. A house. A husband. All the things that come along with this picture of what a happy family life looked like. And I ached. I yearned for something. Something more.
And then more guilt. “But look at all I have. Look at these gorgeous kids, and this wildly supportive man, and all these things that I complain about having to clean or organize or get a handle on–I should be grateful!”
And so the mask of gratitude was put on.
Don’t get me wrong–gratitude is a vital practice. But when you wear the mask of gratitude to cover up the true face of emptiness, it’s time to wake up.
Gratitude can live in your heart while passion and inspiration live and grow in your belly.
Months of inner stirring, a hovering feeling of discontent, and utter exhaustion led me to planning another escape to the mountains. I remember standing at the front door, one child hanging on my leg, a second crying in my husband’s arms reaching for me, and a third spinning in circles on the foyer floor. “This is the most thankless job ever!!,” I cried. And out the front door I stormed.
In my minivan I wept as I drove north, back to the mountains.
I wept for losing control.
I wept for losing myself.
And I wept for my kids because how on Earth were they going to survive without me for 2 days?
It was like there was a tether pulling on my heart, trying to drag me back to them so I could just crawl up on the couch and let them lay all over me. I could read them books and twirl their hair and kiss their little necks. That would feel good.
But I kept driving.
I rolled down the windows and breathed in the cool air. It was different. I let my attention land on the clouds in the blue sky, noticing the textures and movement as on the horizon I saw the soft rolling hills of the mountains. My shoulders dropped and my breathing deepened. I began to remember.
“Oh yes, beauty. I remember you. I think. Let me tend to you now. Let us tend to each other.”