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For a mom who never really stayed home during the day (I worked full time corporate then ran our family retail business), my ME time went away almost entirely when my first child was born, and disappeared completely when the other two came about. There simply wasn’t any! Every minute was filled with caring, working, producing, assisting, and with great pleasure. I knew that was what I chose and that was my life now. I did not know that one day I would miss ME and no longer recognize ME inside this stressed, busy, not present, aging woman that I have become. And that finding ME again would be an option once I recognized that ME was gone, or hiding for that matter. To discover ME again, I started a morning routine. I know, I know, you already don’t get enough rest, you are not a morning person, you have too much to do in the morning, you need to give that time to your kids, you significant other, your pets, your hair, your job, the gym…but really, do this for you. I started getting up one hour earlier than usual. Make it 5:30, sometimes 6 AM. My daughter needs to be up between 6:30-7AM for middle school so I based my time off her schedule. Was it hard? Yes, it was, especially in the winter when I started this, and the darkness outside made it seem like I was getting up in the middle of the night. But I did it and I am so, so grateful for that choice. The very first part of my routine is Meditation. After listening to many different choices available, I have settled on one that Maria Popova recommended in one of her interviews, Tara Brach, a wonderful soothing spiritual teacher, who provides mutliple wonderful guided meditations on her website http://www.tarabrach.com/audioarchives-guided-meditations.html. She always invites you to smile from the inside of your mouth and to continue your silence with a smile, which feels really amazing and fills your entire being with light and joy. I have to admit sometimes I feel sleepy and sort of doze off during this, but forcing myself to sit upright and straighten my spine usually helps matters. Tara Brach has meditations from 10 to over 40 minutes so you can pick whatever your heart desires. Of course, there are many other great guided programs available on youtube. After meditation, I most often do my affirmations. These are very personal of course, but for me they have to do with self-esteem, independence, writing, and fearlessness. I believe your affirmations can be chosen based on your goals and also where you feel your weaknesses are in achieving them. I loved Lawrence Block’s book on writing, which was actually a writer’s seminar made into a book, and he has many wonderful affirmations that will suit anyone, not just writers or aspiring authors. Such as, “I am perfect the way I am right here, right now”, or “I now receive full assistance and cooperation from all forces and persons necessary for my success”. After affirmations, I do some sort of exercise, like a 10 min pilates video or a pop sugar fitness workout, or I just do some squats, leg lifts and arms raises with free weights. After that, I sit down and do my writing. It is usually either a blog post, an extra paragraph or two added to the novel I am working on, or perhaps a few pages of my upcoming non-fiction book. This is the time to do what you love, and if writing isn’t your thing, perhaps you can read or just keep a journal where you can set your goals for the day or the week. Then I go and make our morning coffee and let the day begin. I find that my days are now much smoother, I accomplish more, I worry less, and I feel more fulfilled and joyful as an individual. When I miss my morning routine for a day or two, I can clearly tell the difference and it isn’t a positive one.
If google were a person, she would replace me as a mother in so many ways. James Altucher romanticizes google in one of his books, praising her transparency and humility. She answers your questions by sending you to other competitors (they are websites like she is) who know more about the topic, at the same time letting you know that the ones that show up on top paid her to be the first ones you see. We google directions, movie actor whose name we forgot, if it is ok to make bulletproof coffee with coconut instead of MCT oil, if other people sneak in third children into hotel rooms, whether the tick that was just extracted from my groin area can be a lyme carrier, and what to buy our 98 year old grandma for her birthday.
My friend told me over lunch today that her 5 year old asks google pretty much any of the questions he has. You want to know why? Because google always has an answer. And not just one, but many. And for every why, it is not “because I said so” but an actual legitimate, possibly scientific explanation followed by images, videos, graphs and any other stuff she chose to throw at you. I used to pride myself on showing my kids that I am not perfect by saying, “I am not really sure, but I will find out” to some of the questions I really was not sure about…but now there is google. So now we can be certain and positive on just about any question a child can throw at you, actually why would they even bother throwing it at you when they can throw it at Mother google, the one that has ALL the answers?
Let the lines on my face be the memory markers of belly laughs and smiles at my babies’ first words (Broom!), and happy, drunken nights with friends, and angry looks at my husband, and worries about the kids and the job and the traffic and the bills and the weather and whether I will get enough rest to be up again tomorrow to fight the battles the day will bring… Let the brown spots above my left brow be the memory markers of that time in Tijuana, before the kids, before all the big worries, when we were free and took the rented Pathfinder illegally over the border and hung on the beach sans sunblock because our cares were only in each other… Let the new gray hairs be the memory markers of enormous stress when my son was kicked in the belly at wrestling and we spent the night at the ER worried sick and the feeling of enormous love and affection for this kind sweet handsome boy and praying, praying that he would be okay. Let the not so white teeth be the memory markers of glass cups of coffee that my husband and I make for each other every morning, our one tradition that we now have for years, before the day starts and the kids wake up, extra cream and no sugar always for him, and the everchanging mine with stevia sometimes, or agave or coconut creamer or regular, will he get it right, and yes he gets it right, every time. Let the stretched skin on my belly be a memory marker of what it means to be a mother, of having that abundant womb filled with miracles over and over again, feeling the flutters of first movements inside it, hearing the music of that first heartbeat (is it fast or slow, boy or girl?), late nights of contractions, is it coming, are you sure, do we go yet, let’s go…My memory markers I am told are signs of aging, that I need to fix, cover, dye, whiten, tighten, erase, firm, remove, renew…and yet they make me who I am, they are proof that aging is beautiful, natural and life itself.