Posts tagged Self care
Rule Your Mind With Your Own Self-Love

Women, mothers, I ask you: what do you see when you look in the mirror? When you strip off your clothing, when you let your eyes fall upon your naked figure, what thoughts fill your mind? Do you scrutinize every dimple, every roll and every stripe with critical eyes, or do you marvel over each curve, each line, and each glowing inch?

It took me a long time and a lot of careful intention to get to the place I am today—to the place where I sit in wondrous awe of my body, and to lie in comfort with the driving passions that fill my mind. Even though I grew up under the wing of a strong and confident mother, and was taught by example to pay no mind to what others thought, societal norms and the mainstream media did not escape me; and as such, I fell into that deep chasm of self-criticism, -disdain and oftentimes pure loathing— particularly during my teenage years. We’ve all been there – we’ve all found ourselves at fourteen years old, wondering why our breasts are so small, our thighs so thick or our hair too this or too that—we think that if only we were six inches taller, that our weight would be more evenly distributed; or that if only we were six inches shorter, we’d not have to feel like we’re being gawked at everywhere we go. We conjure up just enough reasons as to why we’re not quite up to snuff, and soon we’ve descended into a mindset that envelops us in some true warped knowing that we come up short or that we’re not worthy of reverence.

Then enter motherhood: that season that throws at us a deluge of hormones, confusion abounding, a body perhaps sliced, ripped or torn to shreds, and a new little earthling to care for first and foremost. We see postpartum bodies being Photo shopped all over the media, judged left and right, and we can’t help but hold ourselves to the same unrealistic standards: why don’t our pre-pregnancy jeans fit yet? Will our breasts be this engorged forevermore? And in the years that follow, what we wouldn’t give to have those giant, leaky boobs back… because now they’re deflated and pulled down by gravity; and surely nobody finds these appealing, we think to ourselves. Not really, anyway.

I look myself up and down in the mirror and I like what I see—I need to make that abundantly clear. BUT: there’s a lot of fine print that accompanies that sentiment. I am not without doubt, hesitation or reservation. I wrestle with compartmentalizing the flaws in my body: sagging breasts are excused for having provided my daughter with life and comfort for three years. My soft stomach, though, does not get a pass. A pregnancy does not excuse me from looking exactly the way I do now, I think; that must be blamed on my occasionally poor eating habits, my regular consumption of alcohol and my lack of regular exercise. I allow only so much pregnancy-related fat before I put my foot down and blame the rest of it on myself. There’s no excuse for looking exactly like this, I tell myself. I am still beautiful, but I’m not treating my body the way I should. And that’s the truth.

The deluge of self-deprecating thoughts that fill my mind usually come around the time that I have my period, because I’m bloated and short-tempered; forgiveness is in high demand and in low supply.

I find myself swooped up by the hurricane of responsibilities and of day-to-day busyness; by the chaos of chasing after a three-year-old, and by being a partner to my husband. I feel regularly like I’m failing at both, even though the first thing I sacrifice in order to maintain order is myself—my desires, my priorities, my hopes and my joys. These things fall by the wayside and there I stand in the middle of a storm with nothing to show for it. And all the while, my hair just keeps getting longer, and my stomach softer.

These feelings wax and wane over the course of any given month, and before too long I find myself back to marveling over that naked body of mine in the mirror. I demand of myself to look at that work of art; to consider all that it has done—both for myself, and for my healthy and thriving child. This body of mine, I decide, is a temple, and my mind a raging fire.

Women, mothers, I ask you: how intentional are you in fostering a love for all that which propels you forward? To love others, we must first love ourselves; and that love is as physical as it is emotional. We need to nurture our desires, raise up our passions and hold tight our deepest desires. We must love our every curve, and eradicate the notion that we are to look a certain way in the days, weeks and years after having given birth. We must embrace all that we are, all that we have accomplished and all that we stand for.

Women, mothers, I implore you: give yourself every ounce of love that you pour into those around you. Allow it to multiply, and watch it flow freely from you once you’ve permitted it to pump fervently through your veins. You are worthy, you are powerful and you are a source of unremitting glory. You are everything, and you are so much more.

JOURNALIST: Sandy Jorgenson

Home Sweet Home
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When we moved into our new apartment I was really excited! We downsized so that I could quit my job and become a stay at home mom. I have always loved the idea of city living with a small space for our family of four. Much different than my upbringing in typical suburbia, in a house where I had my own bedroom and shared a bathroom with my siblings.

This ain’t suburbia. Our kids share a room and we ALL share one bathroom. But it is our sacred space; home sweet home.

In an effort to cut costs and get creative with our storage space, we have embarked upon quite a few DIY projects. By we, I mean my husband. He is quite the handyman thanks to YouTube videos, Google and a tool kit from my dad. As his projects come to an end we are finally feeling settled. 

Summer has taken her warm breeze and officially moved on and with it, I find, so has my excitement. I look around our quaint space, I see pots and pans hanging from a pegboard over the stove, clothes neatly folded in baskets on shelves, books stacked in their book case, my art table tucked away with paints and canvas in the corner. The toys and in their toy box (or hidden under the couch). But something in this sacred space is still in need of some TLC.

I’m too tired to think about more projects. The babies are crying because I am taking too long to make their breakfast. I still haven’t brushed my teeth and am probably wearing yesterday’s clothes. Again.

Then it hits me like a smack in the face.

I need TLC. I am the next DIY home project.

Let’s be real, how much do I invest in my own TLC? How often do I prioritize self care? When is the last time I have looked on Pinterest for ideas on how to maximize the space I live in every day?

That space being my own body.

I need to start thinking of my body as my home, remembering it is my babies’ first home. This was their sacred space.  So sacred that I sacrificed my wants for their needs.  I changed up my eating habits and cleaned up my lifestyle to maximize their development inside my body, their home.  So now, again, this sacred space needs TLC every now and then--more now rather than then. How can I be fully prepared to engage with my family in a meaningful and present way if I am constantly feeling gross and covered in baby slob, this morning's breakfast crusted on my shirt and I may or may not have on yesterday’s deodorant. Did I even put any on? Wait, is it still in the bathroom cabinet? When is the last time I took a shower? Have I had a conversation with another adult besides my husband today? What was I doing again…?

I start to wonder how my mother was able to take care of herself while raising five kids under one roof. Husband at the 9 to 5 Monday through Friday with Law School crammed somewhere in between. There had to have been many times when she was overwhelmed. I get overwhelmed with just two.

She took care of her sacred space; her body, her home. My first home. She found time for herself, outside of being a mom, and even outside of being a wife. When I visit my parents I always stare at the framed picture of her newspaper clipping, where she is running with her two best friends who also happened to be mothers with the same first names. I am sure they had stories for miles. She enjoyed herself, by herself. No kids. No husband. Friends or no friends. Perhaps she even forgot about being a mother and a wife for just a few moments.

I deserve to self care. My family needs me to feel good when I look in the mirror. My family needs me to wake up ready to take on the day with them. They need me to enjoy this thing called life once in awhile. They don’t want to see their mama and wife run down, barely hanging in there. Not to mention, I don’t feel good barely hanging in there.

I paint and practice yoga in my home day after day. I go for long runs along Lake Michigan. Sometimes I even paint my fingernails. Isn’t that enough? No.

The DIY self care I am talking about removes me from the space of being a mother and a wife. Self care that involves getting in the car or on the bus or taking the train and venturing out of our little world. Saying bye bye to our typical family friendly chicago neighborhood for just a few hours. Self care that has me feeling like a powerful and magnetic woman again. Or for the first time. Either way, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I honor who I am by taking care of myself. Remembering that it is ok to put me first.

I want my children to have the memories of home and their mama like I do. Remembering what the air smelled like when mama opened the windows on that first crisp Spring day. The way her skin felt as I would crawl onto her lap after bumping my head. Or getting a hug from her just because... because she had energy to hug me. Home sweet home.

I want my husband to never forget who he married. A strong and vibrant young woman who lived life to the fullest. Ready for whatever adventure was in front of her. If I am able to put down a dirty dish to take a longer shower to feel sexier for my husband who knows what adventure may be there once the babies are in bed.

I have the ability to take care of myself just as I did when I carried my babies. Held them in my womb, their first home. This was their sacred space, so sacred I sacrificed my wants for their needs.

So I must now, again, sacrifice my wants for their needs. I WANT to put them first ALWAYS, but they NEED me to put myself first SOMETIMES. They need me to take care of my body. My home, their first home. This sacred space of mine.

My self care, my self preservation has to become more of a priority. Not because I am doing a bad job. But because I deserve to put myself first more often. Embracing that my sacred space IS worthy of tender love and care. A little DIY for MY home sweet home.

I am trying my best, DOING my best. The days of removing baby slob with baby wipes, looking for a shirt not crusted in this morning's breakfast and reapplying fresh deodorant over yesterday’s are far from over. But putting my self care up on a shelf only to be pushed behind tonight's leftovers must come to an end.

I smile as I pick today’s lunch out of my hair and get ready for a shower. I have scheduled a night out with friends in a couple weeks. No babies, no husband. Just mama, taking care of home sweet home.

Journalist:  Shea 

A Talent For Daydreams

Once there was a woman who breathed in the gleam of a girl’s eye. She sailed on fancy, and though her face was never entirely clear, the corridor towards her looked clear. She was a woman who glided from room to room effortlessly, her hair poured knot-free across her shoulders, and settled into one kind of curl. The woman had a voice like honey, which would not break when tested, remaining sound and solid. This woman had a figure which beckoned paramours to her gate, and she was the chatter of other fantasies who envied the ease of her being.

I have a talent for daydreams; the churning within me is silent, a revving motor propelling me forward, often opening doors to new realms of possibility and creation. And yet, this woman I sought was pure figment. I designed her to punish myself for some unknown deed, to silence the voice which said I might be enough. She was smooth and fine, not like my ragged, struggling self. Child, I chased her madly, recklessly, forsaking at times the woman I was naturally becoming. I was fixed on a faint target and absent in the moment. I desired to know her so I might rival her. As I chased her, she broke into a thousand pieces, and the world became littered with versions of who I ought to be. That wicked word, that minimizing beast, and this was my youth.

And so of course I never caught her. I longed for her always, and perhaps still, for there is a certain peace in naïveté which allows for the seeking of something outside yourself to replenish a well perceived as empty, and in need of filling. Oh, how I failed to see how full I was. How long it took to recognize the weight lying upon my heart, it was not emptiness but the heaviness of my worth. The woman of my dreams dripped in bits out my fingertips and toes, down my cheeks, and soaked pillowcases. She blew like dust between the cobblestones and grates, until the memory of her was pure whimsy. I am glad to have known her slightly, and proud to have let her go in the sunset of my youth.

I suppose I left the pieces of her in my wake, and in so doing I found myself, bit by miraculous bit. I cannot touch the moment I fell into myself fully. I have only the memories of who I longed to become, the burning pit of doubt, and flashes of authenticity.

And then there was you.

A jagged, fatal adventure towards a destiny called Mama. Pressed against you, the ghosts of the women I’ve released fall silent. In your eyes I see a reflection of immaculateness, and in the moment we were born I found a raging peace. I imagine we mothers are stars, and between us exists a string, which draws the constellations of our days, and stitches us together within the great fabric of the sky. But there is no shape without the lone star, and you have made the cloudy nights enchanted, for you are the moon that lights the darkness about us all.

It is imperative that you make space for this dispensable woman, for you will have one or five. She may be known to you, in boxes on a screen, or in the boxes of your mind. Let her haunt you, and dare you, and defy you. Feel betrayed by existence, and weep in the night as she dances off into the distance like a mirage. Someday, you will look up and find you are your wildest dream, for you became a most magnificent creation, and the drafts of your soul will shape your spirit into an inevitable magic. It is crucial you create her so you may know the truth: there is no aim so riotously exquisite as your purest self.

I have a flair for reveries, but your reality is beyond my imagination. Do not become the echo of a dream, child.

Burn matchless, you singular soul.

JOURNALIST: Adrienne Oliver

Tiny Rituals
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The faucet drips methodically… tink, tink, tink. Mama is in darkness—other than a still, steady flame within the blackened glass of a candle.  A blanket of bubbles—the dry, satiating scent of lavender.  Tink, tink, tink.  Beyond that, the muffled sound of cartoons.  Her children are settled.  Satisfied.  Safe.  She exhales and sinks into the warm water, could be 10 minutes, maybe 20 if she's lucky.

Just minutes later the door creaks fully open; a blonde haired, brown eyed boy pops his head in, already pulling at the sleeves of his shirt. “Mama, I come take bath you!”  

“Of course, baby.” And as he runs in, Mama’s Me Time runs out.

~

This idea of “Me Time” is actually a source of contention in my busy, maternal mind. 

I’m told that I need to take time to myself often; that I have to take care of myself too.  And its difficult to come up with a socially appropriate response for that.  I nod, agree, and then just as quickly, dismiss it to my emotional vault.  I don't have time to even consider this “Me Time” thing and frankly, it feels like just another chore to have to actively take care of myself.  Its so much easier to neglect myself.  My husband and children need me, and whether I like it or not, I thrive on feeling needed.

As a working mother, with an older son who has hit this magical age where soccer practice lasts until bedtime, I barely find time to satisfactorily my address household responsibilities.  And in our brief respite of a weekend, I do my best seek adventure and fun, as a family.  Taking time to take care of myself is taking time away from them.  Perhaps it can be argued my Me Time primarily consists of We Time. 

The truth is that when I do find myself in moments without my children, the initial sense of excitement and freedom is followed by a growing wave of discomfort.  I quickly realize that I don't know how to act without my children present.  I don't know how to carry myself without a child on my hip.  I don't know how to hold a conversation that isn’t quickly interrupted by the needs of a little one.  My entire identity has become that of a Mama.  I barely resemble my former self in a physical sense and in character—nor do I want to.  I resent the idea that there is life beyond my little bubble of a family.  Because my life is full and fantastic within this bubble.

But through the forced moments of solitude, I admittedly experience a very obvious and positive shift.  My body physically relaxes significantly in ways it simply can’t when doing 3rd grade homework or chasing a booger coated toddler around with a tissue. My mind becomes clear and my mood pleasant. I notice the lifting of resentment that I didn’t even was there to begin with.  And best of all, reuniting with family is an exciting circumstance, wether its a night away or grocery shopping alone.  

And so I regress. Me Time is beneficial and it is necessary.  I’ll admit that.

But how? I always come back to “How” do I add Me Time to the chaos of my big, beautiful life?

Me Time is so often represented in my mind as a grand event that involves mascara, kissing the kiddos on the forehead and driving off into the sunset while daddy stays home to feed them an unreasonable amount of Oreos.  These circumstances are a rarity and usually involve the solitary-induced awkwardness that I described above.  

So in attempting to secure space for myself, in pondering what satisfies my heart beyond my family, I have found that I already do things that involve this self-care that I am am seeking.  Finding time for myself comes naturally and without notice when I engage in the smallest of tasks, the Tiny Rituals I do for myself that are for me and only me.

~

I begin each day with the spark of a match.  A flame kissed upon the blacked wick of a scented candle.  It burns through the madness of the morning. 

 Such a graceful ceremony it is to select jewelry and adorn myself to my own liking.  Upon the necklaces and bracelets, the names of my husband and our children— those alive as well as those never born. A reverent process that takes 60 seconds but they glimmer throughout my day.  

No matter how late we are running, I make my bed. The loving placement of pillows and the smooth stretch of the blanket makes me feel accomplished and clean.  

After the kids are secured at school and I’m off to work, Mama’s music comes on. Loud. Joyful. Expletives. 

Freshly picked flowers arranged artfully throughout our home.  

A bath full of bubbles… not the tear free kind.  

Four, maybe five, olives in my dirty martini.  

Pre-motherhood, these are things that are just part of life.  But for a Mama, these are gems.  The glistening necessities of our existence.  The Tiny Rituals in which we save space in our time to secure a sense of Self.  

My Tiny Rituals are unique to me.  Some are shared and some are sacred.   Pre-motherhood, these are the things that exist as a part of life.  But for a Mama, these are gems, the glistening necessities to our soul.

When we surrender to complete sacrifice for our family, we are satisfied enough knowing that they need us and the undying truth that we can give them something no one else can.  At the same time, there are some things that only we can give toourselves… the happy times together as a family, the brief moments of solitude, the off into the sunsets, the little choices we make for ourselves, the space saved in our time and tasks in which we secure our sense of Self through our own individual Tiny Rituals.

Journalist: Kelly Estrella