I used to think that balance was something that could be achieved. Something that I should aspire to find, create, force. But then….
When I try to make sense of the past couple decades of my life, it certainly does not follow one path. It does quite a bit of zigging and zagging, and has involved many fits and starts. However, as I get ready to launch my latest endeavor, I am realizing that perhaps all of the serpenining seems to have led me to exactly where I am supposed to be.
Anyone who has been following my writing/life over the past several years knows that I have written a lot about my first born and the difficulties I had in letting her go, especially when she left for college. Well, thankfully after nearly putting Kleenex out of business, I found my groove, and two years later sent her younger brother off to college as well (nope, not easier the second time). Fast forward another lighting-fast two years, and she graduated from college and embarked upon her new "grown up" life, which in her case involved moving to the Big Apple. More Kleenex, please?
Since Sophie and I are both writers, we oftentimes mark our own big life transitions with a piece of writing in the form of a journal entry, a blog post or an article written with the intention of submitting it for publication.
And here’s where the mother-daughter-writer-connection thing gets interesting.
On the evening of July 10th, Sophie sends me an email telling me that she has written a piece about her moving to New York and she wants to submit it for publication. I stare at the email in disbelief as just that morning, I had submitted a post to Grown and Flown about…you guessed it…Sophie leaving for New York.
Okay, now I understand that it is not that ironic that we both chose to write about the the fact that she moved to New York after graduation. But if you have a chance to read both pieces, you will see that even though her decision to move to New York and her actual move was a process that happened over many months, in both of our posts, we each chose to zero in on the the exact same moment within this process.
I won’t give anymore away but as my husband explains: you will be looking at both sides of the coin.
Click here to read my piece on Sophie flying the coop.
Click here to read Sophie's piece on flying the coop.
As always, would love to hear your thoughts!
Let’s check over here,” I motion to my 12-year-old daughter to follow me to the cosmetics isle. This is our fourth trip to Target in the last few weeks for the sole purpose of buying supplies for the new obsession gripping tweens all over the country—SLIME.
The current desired ingredient is a new one. “Baby powder is supposed to make the slime softer and less sticky,” my daughter, now an expert slime chemist, explains to me. She also assures me that she will be able to pay back the money we’ve spent on supplies with the money she collects from her fellow classmates (most of whom are also in the slime manufacturing and sales business) in exchange for her magnificently mastered mixture of shaving cream, glue, contact solution, and now baby powder.
Shampoo, body wash, lotions…I am not seeing the baby powder anywhere. My agitation rises as I curse myself for being sweet talked into this inconvenient trek to Target on a night when my son needs help with an assignment, my husband is at a work dinner, and I have to teach my teen writing class in an hour. I calm myself with the notion that at least this obsession, unlike other bygones like silly bands, does involve a creative process when mixing, measuring, and experimenting to form the germ-collecting balls of goo.
“Hi!” I find myself almost yelling to the young, exhausted-looking woman standing behind the nearby pharmacy counter. “Can you please tell me where the baby powder is?”
Before I even let the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me-lady look on her face throw me into a shame pit, I grabbed my daughter’s hand and led her briskly out of the pharmacy area murmuring, “Oh my gosh, never mind.”
We both erupted in giggles as we headed over to the “baby” isle for the elusive “baby” powder.
My internal Target compass paused as we pass the girls section, our usual go-to area. “The baby section is over by electronics, I am pretty sure,” I muttered, still smiling at the irony.
And then it hit me.
The baby aisle had completely fallen off of my radar.
I could not recall the last time I had even gone near the avenue of pacifiers, diaper genies, bottles and diapers. As I walked toward baby land with my baby, disguised as a 12-year-old, I realized that I no longer knew the layout of this section that for decades I was able to navigate with my eyes closed. I didn’t even recognize some of the items on the shelf.
How could this be? This was MY territory! And now, I had forgotten it even existed!
“Mom, here, I found it,” my daughter’s sweet voice lulled me out of my trance. “Let’s go! You’ve got to get to your class,” she reminded me.
I stood motionless, my eyes scanning the baby items stacked neatly on the shelves. “I miss this, “ I said. She tracked my gaze to the shelf full of diapers.
“You miss changing my diapers,” she said coyly with a playful smile on her face.
“No I miss my babies,” I told her with sincerity, ignoring her sarcasm. I miss holding you in my arms, your baby smell, and hugging you and kissing you as much as I want to.”
“Well, I don’t,” she quipped again, her smile growing even bigger. “Ugh!” I groaned and grabbed my belly in reaction to her verbal gut-punch.
Walking to the check out lane, I leaned in to the nostalgia where I saw the baby faces of my four children--their beaming smiles as well as their looks of terror and disappointment. I could hear their shrieks of laughter and their blood curdling cries. I remembered my feelings of joy, agony, exhaustion, uncertainly, and fear that consumed me as a young mom trying to figure out what I was doing. And I remember yearning for the days when I would no longer need anything from the baby isle.
“Beep,” the self-checkout scanner hit the barcode on the bottom of the baby powder cuing me back to the present. My daughter placed the powder in the white plastic bag and started toward the exit.
“Jo, hold up,” I said as I quickly caught up to her and enveloped her in a hug. “You’ve grown up so fast, girl,” I said in earnest. “I love you so much.”
As I prepared for her to immediately shake me off, per usual, instead I felt her body sinking into my hug. “I love you too, mom,” she said softly. “And thanks for taking me to get the baby powder,” she added.
Scurrying through the Minnesota cold toward our car, I felt grateful that our slime mission led me back to the baby isle and for all the memories that I found there. I realized that just like slime, the passage of time often slips through our hands when we are not looking. And without notice, we open our eyes and find ourselves in the next isle at Target.
Driving home, I take in that my youngest child is on the cusp of becoming a teenager but in this moment, she thinks of nothing other than how much baby powder she will add to her slime mixture.
And I am grateful.
Grateful for all of the memories of my children's baby years, and grateful for the fact that there is nowhere I would rather be than right here right now.
Slime and all.
Here we are in the third week and of January and under “normal” circumstances, this would be the time when I would put on my self-care hat and throw out the question, “Hey, how are your 2017 resolutions coming along? Do you need a little pep talk? Some suggestions for tweaking your resolutions to turn them into something that you could actually feel good about and experience success with?”
I tried writing the "Don't give up on your 2017 resolutions just yet!" post a few times, a few different way. But none of them felt quite right. Because asking people about their new year’s resolutions while so many of us are focused on much “bigger” issues right now felt trite, maybe even offensive.
Our country presently is in a bit of a cluster-**** (excuse my French) and I don't know anyone who is unscathed. Whether you are outraged, frustrated, scared, devastated, annoyed, or possibly even validated, I think it is safe to say that we all feel pretty darn uncomfortable.
For me, the most devastating aspect in all of this is the resurgent of hate. Hate has gone viral. It is the new normal. And it is not just hate between known adversaries. It is hate between friends, couples, neighbors, classmates, co-workers—hate where there was once love, acceptance, and understanding.
Maybe you recently returned from the women’s march in DC or maybe you are an overt or convert supporter of the new administration, but, my friends, there is a thread that unites us all. Something each one of us desperately needs right now. And that something—you guessed it—is self-care.
I must be honest with you. My body hurts. My neck is impinged and sometimes I have numbness in my hand when I wake up. I know this stems from spending too much time working on my laptop ( I just ordered a stand-up desk converter=self-care) but there is more underneath my bodily pain and discomfort.
For as long as I can remember, I have operated like a human barometric pressure reader, picking up the feelings of those around me and storing them in my body.
Too much tension in the house, I would get sick.
Too much tension in society, I can hardly move my neck.
I don’t claim to have the answer as to how we are going to get unstuck from our predicament. But I do know that the hated I feel around me is something I have never experienced in my life. And it is overwhelmingly sad.
As I take note of how people around me are fairing, whether it is my friends, family members, members of the Twin Cities Writing Studio, or my high school creative writing students I teach at the Minneapolis Jewish Community Center, where the building was evacuated and evening classes were were cancelled (mine included) last Wednesday because of a bomb threat, I know that I am not the only one experiencing pain in one form or another.
So what do we do about this pain? What do we do with these negative emotions that have so many of us reeling with fear and anger? How
Now, more than ever, we need extra large doses of self-care.
So, while most of us feel that we have bigger fish to fry than worrying about (or even trying to remember) our 2017 New Year’s resolutions, this would be a good time to think about how you are going to take care of yourself this year, given that the barometric pressure is highly elevated in our country, and within many of us right now.
This week, the third week of my "Seventeen Weeks of Sustainable Self-Care "series, will focus on resilience, which could not be more appropriate for what we need right now. Individually and collectively, we need to find a way to work through this time period and move forward without causing any more unnecessary pain to ourselves or each other.
As you move through this week, remind yourself of everything you have been through in your life to get to this point—all of your difficulties and failures, times of outrage and defeat, as well as your victories and successes. Trust yourself that you have the power to keep moving forward, and show compassion toward yourself and your neighbor who, like you, is fighting her own fight (the details and origins of which you may not be able to understand).
“I fall into an immediate shame pit when I hear the phrase ‘self-care.’”
“Self-care is just one more area in my life where I am falling short.”
“Self-care is just not in the cards for me right now. I have too many other things on my plate.”
Most of you can probably relate to one or more of these statements, or have felt this way at some point in your life. I certainly have!
My goal for 2017 is to share the most effective self-care strategies that will help you reframe the way you even think about the notion of caring for yourself.
My hope is that you will get to a point where you cannot imagine going through a day without doing at least something that is good for you physically, mentally, relationally, or spiritually, even if it is just for 10 minutes. You will not feel complete without it.
Sounds far-fetched? You with me?
We are going to do this together, guys. Because we can and because we have to.
Why do we have to?
Well, because, as Brene’ Brown reveals, “We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history.”
I would say that we are in a bit of a self-care crisis.
And it is not because we are stupid. We know what is good for us. We know about healthy eating and exercise and the importance of sleep. We see it on the cover of health magazines and on Oprah.
But this strategy is not working (even Oprah struggles with self-care).
Why? Because society is giving us way too many mixed messages! We are pushed and somewhat dooped into thinking that we can have it all, should have it all, and that we should be able to do it all too!
You should be a great mom, wife, and employee/employer. Your friendships should be like Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Amanda’s of Sex and the City. You should have money (and if you don’t you still can…just open another credit card), a clean house, a cute figure, a fabulous wardrobe, and a great job (but not too great because that may impact your ability to be a great mom…so maybe you should stay home—you’ll have a better chance at doing it all perfectly). Oh and did I mention that your kids should be perfect? Yep, that too!
So, is anyone still unclear as to why so many head for the bottle, the shopping mall, the pills, the food, or the other woman or man?
It’s just too much! Society is setting us up to fail! And it is too damn painful and shameful to fail!
So pass me the Chardonnay please!
In order to make lasting self-care changes from a personal to a societal level, we need to flip-flop the self-care paradigm and move the focus from outside-in to inside-out.
Because self-care lies far beneath the surface.
Self-care is not fad diets and the new fitness trend (I heard Pound is a new one).
Devoting extra time and energy to your partner (possibly with the guidance of a professional) when your marriage gets really, really difficult.
Saying no to a person who is dragging you into his sea of despair and not willing to help himself.
Saying yes to your mother-in-law’s offer to help with the kids even though she doesn’t do everything exactly the way you like, and allowing yourself to take a nap or do something that you really need during that time.
Taking a moment of gratitude every morning when you wake up.
Asking the grocery store clerk how her day is going, looking her in the eyes, and actually listening to her response.
Self-care is not the easy path. But it is the real path. And life is going to kick us in the teeth every now and then no matter what so we are better off doing what we can to feel good within ourselves and within our relationships so that we can add true happiness and joy into the life experiences mixture.
We know we deserve better. We know we deserve to be happy. And yet we run around like chickens with our heads cut off, looking for something or hiding from something or someone (often ourselves), neglecting our true needs and our important relationships, deepening our shame pit.
Self-care is your permission slip to stop running.
To stand still.
To celebrate your internal beauty and the beauty in your life.
To love with your whole heart.
To smile about being alive.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are people who take self-care to a level that I am not talking about. Self-care is not about going to the gym and working out so you can boost your ego by showing off your chiseled body to anyone who will look. Self-care is going to the gym so you can clear your mind from a tough morning you had with your toddler, or so you can give yourself an energy boost that will help you feel happy and positive throughout the day, and that you can share with others.
Okay, so you pretty much get the self-care gist, right? Great! So now it’s time to put these words into action!
Over the next 17 weeks, I will be sharing 17 specific self-care strategies for 2017! I truly look forward to hearing your thoughts on them!
You can also look forward to a seeing few other self-care related items that I am working on this year—two gift books, a self-care workbook, and am noodling on another non-fiction book.
I can hardly wait to share them all with you and will keep you posted on their progress! I start working with my editor on the gift books and workbook next week!
And finally, as a new year’s gift and token of my appreciation to my subscribers, I would like to send you the first chapter of The Self-Care Solution absolutely free! Just email me at email@example.com with “SEND 1st Chapter” in the subject line, and I will send you the PDF! If you’ve already read the book, thank you! More giveaways coming very soon!
Cheers to all of you and to #selfcare2017!
Yes, I am feeling it. The intensity of the holiday season is in the air and it is nearly impossible to escape the droplets of frenetic energy that invisibly dissolve into our pores this time of year.
For me, I notice that my thinking gets more scattered, I have a hard time writing, and a slight heaviness sets in as early darkness shortens our days, and it is so damn cold outside.
But the blessings…oh the blessings. So many of them. It is the deep gratitude I feel for these blessings that help me embrace the intense beauty and fragility of life and the increasing awareness of the passage of time. This week, I enter a new decade of life...
I stared intently at my husband last night as he read a story to our 10-year-old daughter. Something hit me hard. I was unexpectedly filled with intense emotions—joy, love and gratitude flowed freely through my mind and my heart. I realized at that moment, as I looked deeply into his ocean blue eyes that were fixed on a page of the book, why I married him 22 years ago.
Hands down, this is the best piece of marriage advice I have ever received:
Every single day is a choice to stay married.
On any given day, either partner can walk out the door and choose not to come back.
Half of us walk.
Half of us stay.
Pretty daunting, right?
So, why is it that between you and me, statistically speaking, one of us, or our spouses will walk, and we will get divorced (or we already have)?
Truth: I feel really uncomfortable asking for your social media support because I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it myself. I go from feeling like it is the most incredible thing in the world and wonder how I ever lived without it, to being quite certain that it is the biggest, most obscene popularity contest that ever existed.
Upon my return from visiting my daughter two weeks ago, I came down with a case of “the crud,” which started with the swallowing razor blades feeling in my throat, then moved into my head with a pounding, ferocious headache, then moved into a seemingly never-ending flow of that grossness that clogged my sinuses and rattled in my chest.
Okay, I will stop there and promise you that the purpose of this post is not to complain about my nasty sinus infection. Not at all. In fact, I have absolutely nothing to complain about right now as I sit poolside looking at the Sea of Cortez with six girlfriends for a special birthday celebration. I am all good.
But in looking back on these the past two weeks, one of which my husband was working in London and India, I noticed a few revealing aspects about myself that clearly illustrate how self-care is a value that is developed early on, and the patterns of behavior that we form around these values are very tough to break.
Here's what these "old" patterns looked like for me: During the time I was battling a nasty cold and my husband I did the following: I said no to offers of help when I actually needed to say yes. I said yes to meetings and other commitments that could have waited. I did things for my children that they could have done for themselves. I stayed up late at night to work instead of going to sleep early. I told people I felt fine when I didn’t. And all these actions most likely doubled the amount of time I was sick.
Why did I do this? Why do we push through our self-care needs when we know better? Because I did not want to stop, or even slow down. I didn’t want to listen to my body’s signals that it needed a rest; that maybe the stress of Soph’s accident, and the sleepless nights I spent worrying about her, and the impromptu trip to see her had weakened my immune system.
I didn’t want to admit to anyone or myself that I couldn’t do it all; that I was "weak.". I didn’t want to let anyone down.
Except that I did. I let myself down. And spent two weeks feeling crappy, which led to this: I snapped at my kids, and my husband when he arrived back home. My mind was foggy, which caused me to move at a much slower pace. I was late to my son’s doctor’s appointment that had been scheduled for three months. I banged on the steering wheel and maybe dropped a few f-bombs after being caught in rush hour traffic for 45 minutes because I didn't leave on time and upon finally arriving at the clinic, we were told that the doctor could not see us for another hour, which was the exact time I had to pick up my daughter’s soccer carpool. I looked at the nurse flabbergasted and started to cry, my son watching me in dismay, still recovering from my meltdown in the car, as the nurse tried to apologize. What she didn’t realize is that my tears were not because I was upset with her.
I was upset with myself that my not taking care of myself was causing a negative ripple effect on those I love.
And it does. And yet, we still tell ourselves that we “don’t have time” to time to heal from or even deal with illnesses—physical or mental. We don’t have time to deal with dysfunction in our relationships our partners, our kids, our friends, or ourselves. We don't have time to exercise or to eat well, or to get enough sleep. There is too much to be done. We gotta keep plowing through. We gotta be "strong" and just keep it together.
But the real work of self-care is to challenge those thoughts, which most of us battle periodically throughout our lives. Those internal (and sometimes external) messages that pull us away from our innate need to care for ourselves are not based in kindness or love. In fact, those messages actually steals pieces of our joy, health, happiness, self-worth, and self-esteem. They need to be overpowered with the following messages:
We are born to be happy and to feel good. Everyone has a right to want that and to strive for that. When we do honor ourselves and are honest about how we really feel and what we really need, we give ourselves a fighting chance! We increase our level of happiness and the quality of our lives, our relationships, and our overall well-being and the well-being of those around us.
Which brings me to the present moment where I am incredibly grateful to be feeling good again, and for the fact that for the next three days, I get to focus on friends, fun, and decompressing. And while I am well aware that this kind of get-away does wonders for my physical and emotional well-being, we all need to be mindful of how we take care of ourselves amidst the stress and pressures of our every day lives.
So, I will make you a deal: I promise to send you some relaxing Mexican vibes this weekend if you promise that you will do something for yourself that you know you need but you just "don't have time for."
Deal? I would love to hear what you decide to do to honor yourself!
I just finished reading your book The Self-Care Solution generously given to me by your mother-in-law.
You shared with the world the challenges you experienced not just as a mom but as a person trying to be the best you can be in an imperfect world.
Your suggestions for “self care” are reminders of how we can all be better advocates for ourselves and those we love.
To be a mom is to continually manage the fierce mama bear feelings that make us want to sprint to our child’s rescue, kiss away their tears, and band-aid away their pain. How do we know when to act on this instinct? And when to push our internal pause button in order to and give them the space they need to pick themselves back up when they fall and as they get older, lean into other support systems they’ve developed.
We don’t always know. But our hearts will guide us if we really listen.
Truth: Just a few years ago, public speaking and panic attacks went hand in hand for me. And I still feel a bit of terror, which can feel like I want to throw up cry or die, or some combination of the three before every radio or TV interview, book talk, workshop, or book club that I do. But each time the fear sets in, I engage in some very serious stare-downs with my insecurities and move through it because I have to. Because I have experienced incredible changes over the course of writing and launching The Self-Care Solution, changes that need to be shared with as many mothers as I can reach. So, I will keep doing my own work so that I can share the messages of hope, healing, self-love and self-care.
The Self-Care Solution journey has been and continues to be life-changing. I have met so many incredibly bright, brave, and thoughtful people throughout this process, who inspire me every day to live my life with more kindness and passion, which goes hand and hand with showing kindness and compassion toward oneself. Through sharing my own story, I have connected with people who are more willing to share their truths. Like the woman who sat in my living room on a Sunday afternoon as she told me about how she raised two boys as a single mom, working three jobs to put them through private school. She shared her view on self-care, “Self-care doesn’t have to cost money. It doesn’t have to be about getting a massage or going to the gym. When my boys were young, my self-care was talking on the phone to my girlfriends I’ve had since high school and bitching about our kids or whatever was on our minds. That kept me sane." She also told me that leaving her husband was also an act of self-care.”
Doing this work makes me more acutely aware of myself and of those around me. It makes me feel like I want to reach out and hug every mom I see and tell her, “Do the self-care work. Really. You will surprise yourself with how strong you really are, and how strong you can become. You may need to make some changes in your life. And it won’t be easy. But you are SO worth it! And your family needs you to believe that!”
But as with most things in life, self-care is a continual work in progress, and it is rarely a smooth, straight, or easy path. As I work to better secure my own boundaries (my biggest self-care challenge), I have experienced push-back from my kids (and just a tiny bit from my beloved husband). My kids are less than amused with my new mantra, “There is a new sheriff in town.” But behind their eye rolls, I can see that they do understand the necessary shift.
They get that I expect them to step up to the plate of their lives, and that I need to step back from them a bit so I can step more solidly into my life, my work, my relationship with my husband and friends. And while they probably can’t fully comprehend the importance of this type of movement, they trust me, and they trust my love for and devotion to them. I assure them that even though this shift may feel like the harder path, we all will be happier, healthier, and more compassionate humans if we can stay the course and support one another along the way.
So, as we move through this back to school transition, and I say goodbye to my college kids (btw, if you are looking for me on Friday, I will be binge-listening to books on tape and Ted Talks during the 10-hour drive to Michigan with my daughter), I know my heart will ache and tears will flow with those excruciating last goodbye hugs.
But now more than ever I feel exceedingly grateful that my kids know how to take good care of themselves. There is nothing more rewarding and comforting for a parent than to see your child treating her/himself and those around him with love, respect, and care.
And who better to teach them how to do this than you?
And what better way to teach them than by showing them how it’s done?
Wishing you all a smooth back to school transition that is, of course, filled with lots of self-care and self-love!