There’s been a lot of belly button gazing in our house this past week. My adolescent son told me on Friday, “I’m thinking a lot about my life right now,” my introspective husband is taking a class where he’s contemplating our relationship to the cosmos and having just returned from teaching at the ethereal Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA and the redwood forests, I’m reflecting on my how much my self-care practice has affected my relationship with my husband (read more) …. and myself.
My beloved and I are celebrating our 13-year wedding anniversary this Tuesday and while we still two-step with our respective issues, it seems we’re becoming more accepting and gentle with another, as we slowly become more compassionate and kind to ourselves.
But it’s been a long road.
I have a visceral recollection of the day, ten years ago, when my husband returned to work after being home with me and our newborn for two weeks. Sitting in our dark, quiet kitchen, holding my baby boy, listening to the kitchen clock tick, and blanketed in a postpartum haze, I thought, “This is it. I’m all alone.” It was a frightening and devastating realization, and I have never felt the absence of maternal nurturing more than I did then. But then, I heard a comforting voice whisper from within, “Renee, it’s time to start mothering yourself.”
That moment was a catalyst for me and the beginning of my journey to learning to both nurture and nourish myself.
For years, I didn’t even know what I needed (self-care, what’s that?!). I was so habituated to the seduction of productivity, to going non-stop, to value “doing over being,” to allowing my internal state to be dependent upon the external world and to tying my self-worth to my latest win. But as I began to tune inward and become reacquainted with my desires—my love of nature, my need to be fed by beauty/art and dance, my passion for nurturing my body through vibrant natural cooking—and watched my own commitment to my well-being grow each day, I began to see the ripple effect this had on my family, my friends and beyond. (Hear how this evolved.)
Learning to mother myself has evolved into a thirteen-year journey to not only becoming my own best friend, but to living a soulful, vibrant awakened life. At times, I am ferocious, radical and even willing to p*** people off in order to stay in integrity with “her”—what I call my Wise Self. And I found that once I opened up and walked through the doors of self–care, I was gently brought to the path of self-compassion, then self-acceptance and eventually to self-love. It’s been long and slow. But this deeply spiritual practice of self-care has changed my life more than any other.
Now as I move steadily into the second half of my sweet, unpredictable life, holding hands and moving forward–sometimes tentatively–with my kind, tender soul, I leave behind who I thought I was in order to fully welcome who I am becoming. Warts and all. And I watch my love and acceptance for this beautiful, sometimes controlling and perfectionististic usually compassionate and generous woman grow more each day.
Self-care has gone beyond learning to attune and respond to my physical, emotional and intellectual needs and desires—it’s how I nurture my soul—my very essence. And it’s how I not only celebrate the incredible gift of being in this amazing body and having the gift of this beautiful life— it’s how I remember who I really am.
Happy (early) Mother’s Day! If you live in Texas, gather your mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters, friends and colleagues and join me this Sunday at BookPeople in Austin on May 5 from 1:30-3:00 p.m. for Reflect & Rejuvenate: Mother’s Day Retreat & Book Signing (my last scheduled 2013 Austin event). Join women of all ages for an afternoon of community, connection, self-nurturance and fun: learn more here about this *free* retreat!