Hello friends, in today’s post I am continuing on this month’s theme of exploring and celebrating the feminine by zeroing in on a common struggle for many women, especially mothers or those in care giving positions. For those of you stopping by for the first time, here is a recap of the first two posts.
I first began this theme by sharing a post on what femininity and masculinity mean to me, why this world is starving for more femininity and some unique ways to increase it in our lives. I then shared a post on a common struggle for women who find it hard to create and maintain self care routines . I offered them the distinct perspective that it’s not about them but instead about the contribution they BECOME to those close to them and the world, after having regularly and deeply refueled themselves.
Today I’ll focus more on this topic by expanding on the challenge of being in a holding pattern of starting and stopping and I’ll offer what helped me.
Habit Hamster Wheel
Have you ever been in that situation where the struggle of beginning and maintaining new habits feels never ending? What do we do when our frustration exceeds our desire to move forward with it?
I know I have definitely been in that headlock of a place! I have continually started and stopped in my self care attempts for years at a time. I remember the satisfaction and victory of having had an initial string of days of maintaining a scheduled time for my self care. I’d be so proud of myself and feeling great. Those initial efforts would last long enough for me to just start getting over that initial hump of awkwardness and move into finding my stride, then, boom! It would be thwarted by some unplanned situation and I was derailed, again.
Like a broken record I’d self berate and delay further my efforts to return to that daily reprieve. The more I delayed, the more work it was to start again. After a few repetitions of this, I began to doubt that it was even a possibility.
The Root Of The Struggle
I have observed 2 reasons for my having been locked in this pattern of starting and stopping for years at a time.
- I didn’t have the level of conviction necessary to uphold the new self care habit through the bumps and hiccups that life presented me
- Whatever I was doing for self care was not fueling me deep enough to WANT to protect it, in other words, the activities did not have enough verve-infusing clout, if you will, in comparison to the weight of the challenge that would destabilize them.
Tapping Into Those Reserves of Power
When something touches you on a deeper level, more intense levels of emotion are stirred and this provides you with the energy to see to it, that you repeat that activity no matter what.
A Powerful Difference in Dark Times
In this same way, I propose Friedl Dicker-Brandeis ( as I mentioned in the last post)connected with those deeper levels through her art. When told in a moments notice to pack her belongings for the Nazi camp, I believe, she had previously stirred up enough emotional energy, enough times for her to quickly prioritize those art supplies in her 50 kilo bag over the commonly thought of “valuable things” like gold jewelry, more clothes, food or identity documents.
Those art supplies were not mere art supplies, but in essence, they were the tools with which she connected with the divine.
When Roots Run Deep, Fortitude is Strong
She had grown her resilience roots so deeply through her habit of making art, that in those horrifically dehumanizing times, it was a natural instinct to not only do what she needed to do to ensure she continued that sacred expression, but also to share it with others.
In order to uphold and protect our sacred self care, the level of intensity at which it fuels us needs to match or surpass the intensity of the challenge we are facing. This is where we find our needed conviction.
Superficial Self Care Lacking in Deeper Nourishment
Let’s say we have been getting our nails done for years and prize all the details entailed in this act, like the color selecting, the act of having someone else serve your hands, the resulting shine etc. and then for examples sake, we unexpectedly enter the world of divorce and custody battles.
Self Knowledge =Most Sustaining Strength
That coveted self care will not hold a candle in the face of that kind of storm. Getting our nails done is nice, but I’m sure we can all agree that it doesn’t necessarily stir our souls and inspire us to act from a higher purpose.
We have to uphold our sacred self care as intensely as we’re being challenged.
Retrieving Our Needed Intensity
What if we haven’t found that thing that stirs our souls? Where do we find this intensity for ourselves?
In the most intense place…our childhoods.
Who Mothered You?
To find that level of conviction, I have found it helpful to inquire into the universal roots of self care, our own mothering.
Did you know we all mother ourselves whether we know it or not? I invite you to consider the question of what place mothering has had in your life.
I know how pivotal it was for me to release some old beliefs from my early experiences of being mothered. I was born to my mother at a time of blossoming ambition.
She had already grown the grit of having had saved up her factory working money from the age of 15 in the hopes of one day buying her own home. Upon marrying my father in her twenties they did just that on those very same savings. Upon needing to meet those mortgage payments and having quit her last factory job because they wouldn’t let her take a day off to take me to the doctor as an infant, her ambition took on a whole new level.
Nurturer Vs. Boss Lady
I experienced the struggle my mother had of feeling pulled to be that nurturer for me, while also being pulled to be the tenacious entrepreneur she needed to be, to make money on her own terms, language barriers and all.
The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease
I remember feeling disoriented as a child in care centers where no one spoke Spanish. I couldn’t communicate and was already a shy child so, as is typical in those situations, those that don’t’ speak up, don’t get noticed. I felt very vulnerable, scared, ignored and confused much of the time.
Shedding Light on Our Roots
This carried into my adulthood and I had to face it when I came to a crossroads of deciding I wanted to do more for myself then just drink water first thing in the morning but wasn’t ready to wake up earlier.
I read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and decided to take up her suggestion of writing streams of consciousness, what she also called, morning pages. I began them whenever I had the chance with the intention of shedding light on this holding pattern I was in. In those pages, old inflamed memories came up, were faced, felt and released. I was able to see connections between my past and how I had recreated old experiences by not having learned to create the necessary boundaries I needed.
When mothers are fully supported and available, they naturally instill healthy boundaries in us as children.
Upon releasing the weight of those held memories, I dived back into my early morning efforts with renewed energy. My initial motivations to wake up earlier to only exercise and “be skinny” had been revamped into exercising only part of the time and the rest of that time developing myself through books and journaling. I was able to release that start stop pattern and continue cultivating my practices of sacred self care in the long run because I found a deeper reason to fuel my conviction
I invite you to dive into deeper self care by inquiring into your story of being mothered and your initial experiences of the feminine. Free writing in morning pages is what I did but looking back I would of liked to have addressed this more succinctly. Perhaps doing so would of taken me days instead of months. I offer you some questions I feel I would of benefited from answering back then.
Here are some questions for your own self inquiry.
I suggest you set aside at least fifteen minutes of undisturbed time before you begin answering the questions. Keep in mind that when I say mother I don’t necessarily mean your blood related mother. It could be your foster parent, grandparent, maybe even your father was a mother figure for you. Even if you walk around like many today, with the aching absence of being mothered, I encourage you to recall who has crossed your path (counselor, teacher, mentor, friend) that has given you even a glimpse into what it means to mother.
Take a deep breath into your belly and relax your muscles before you begin to read through them. I encourage you to first scan the questions and select the ones that stand out to you the most.
- What do you remember most of how you were mothered?
- What is the overall feeling you get when you think of the way you were mothered during your childhood?
- What challenges did you witness your mother navigate through?
- How did she navigate them?
- How has witnessing that, influenced the way you navigate challenges?
- What was the mothering style you received the most, was it negligent, critical, overbearing, smothering, fickle, distant, unpredictable, encouraging, embracing, tender, attuned, responsive?
- What parallels do you notice in how you were mothered and how you now mother yourself? I.e. take care of your health, your grooming, your internal dialogue and your living space?
- What things from your past experience of being mothered, have you as an adult intentionally made sure to avoid?
- What things from your past experience of being mothered, have you as an adult intentionally made sure to continue?
- There is always a child within you with needs, it needs sleep, nourishing food, comfort, encouragement and a comfortable place to call home. How do you show up for those needs? Do you complain about having to do it? Are you a martyr to yourself about having to take care of yourself or do you enjoy it?
- In light of this inquiry, what would serve you to begin to do differently?
What is Your Inner Momma Like?
Whether you like it or not we are always mothering ourselves. We are either doing it poorly or skillfully. We either treat the soft underbelly of our vulnerable selves with the firm and loving touch of a wholesome mother or not.
May these questions be of use to you in kindling your sacred inner verve or at the very least protect the delicate beginnings of your exploring it.
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