A long time ago, in a life I’ve nearly forgotten—the one before kids—I had a one-dimensional view of self-care. It involved calling in sick to work for a “mental health day.” Or, “spa day.” It was all the same to me, really.
One other time, someone told me I should schedule some “white space” into my planner. (Waaay back in the days of paper planners zipped into leather-bound binders!) The idea was to pencil in some “me” time. I was never very good at it.
Even when I was responsible only for the care and feeding of moi, I didn’t get far with self-care. I piled on the stress and worked too much and got really snippy with the people who tolerated loved me best. I didn’t think too much or too deeply about the personal experience of things like “self-compassion” or “nurturing.” I was busy!
It wasn’t until 2 years into motherhood that I figured out that I needed something more. (Please, please!, don’t wait that long! If you’re pregnant, start now!) I needed a lot more, actually! I lived in Minnesota at the time, and I kept reading about a personal renewal group with Minneapolis life coach Sarina LaMarche, who worked with The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal by Renée Peterson Trudeau.
[With daily self-care] it feels like I finally have a gateway to experiencing true compassion—something that, before, I understood in a thinking way, but had a hard time really connecting with in my bones.
It sounded amazing, but I didn’t sign up. My baby and I were never on the “right” schedule to make it to one of Sarina’s groups. And then, we moved away.
I still wish I’d signed up for self-care with Sarina, back in those earliest days of motherhood.
Thankfully, the idea of a group of mamas getting together on a regular basis–that stuck with me. Another year went by, and I finally got my own copy of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. It looked like something I could really work with, and enjoy, so I sent some emails and made some phone calls to a few mothers I knew. I asked each of them to reach out to a mom or two they knew. And that way, we made our own personal renewal group. We weren’t formal about it, other than that on the fourth Tuesday of every month, we knew there’d be a circle of support waiting on the details of our lives, from the sacred to the mundane.
Simple self-care practices—one minute of meditation, a single deep breath…—bring me instant comfort and joy. Gratitude underpins each one of those self-compassionate awakenings.
Most importantly, there’d be wine and chocolate. And The Mother’s Guide, to give us truly helpful and easy-to-follow directions for experiencing more balance and joy in our lives.
For the first time in my life, I had consistent, intentional self-care that I absolutely cherished. And it was so, so much better than feeling like I had to be at the gym at a certain time, or that I’d need to come up with extra money and time to head to the spa (not that I don’t love spa day!). That group, those women: So often they were my tether to sanity in the mad mad world of motherhood, and every time we gathered, I smiled, I laughed, I felt lighter.
After a year of once-a-month intentional self-care, I upgraded my effort and added a once-a-week women’s circle. That was powerful in ways I can hardly explain, other than to tell you to get yourself a copy of Birthing Ourselves into Being and invite a few friends to read and experience it with you. After a year of that kind of self-care work, I’m starting to get the hang of the hows, whys, and what-fors of self-care as part of my everyday life.
This year’s grand experiment is inviting self-care to become a daily practice, even a moment-to-moment breath-to-breath practice. It feels like I finally have a gateway to experiencing true compassion—something that, before, I understood in a thinking way, but had a hard time really connecting with in my bones.
Simple self-care practices—one minute of meditation, a single deep breath, reading a book for the pure pleasure of a story, savoring fine chocolate, embracing my husband, the crown-of-their-heads scent of my children, letting the soft animal of my body love what it loves—bring me instant comfort and joy. Gratitude underpins each one of those self-compassionate awakenings.
I’d love to see and hear how you connect with the simple ways you fill your life with comfort and joy, too.
Meet up with me in Athens GA the weekend of May 5! In the morning, we can chat about moment-to-moment self-care at the La Leche League Breastfeeding & Parenting Conference. At 10:30 that morning, we’ll cover at least 35 ways you can be deeply, lovingly kind to yourself.
And in the afternoon, 2pm – 5:30pm, there are a few seats left in the Spring Renewal Self-Care circle I’m facilitating at womanspace. We’ll practice yoga to better connect brain to heart to whole body, jot a few personal notes about how self-care shows up—or doesn’t—in our lives, and craft some truly beautiful vision boards, like the ones you see here that were done by women at our last self-care retreat.
I love vision boards, and this bunch struck me as particularly beautiful. And for me, that’s been the reward of this winding path into the embrace of self-compassion:
Heartfelt loveliness blooms from a fine focus on self-care.