One Day She Realized
By Lisa McCrohan
One day she realized that
the person she needed to tend to the most
was her own self.
Even as a mom, a lover, a healer, a friend,
she understood that where she needed to
put her attention – every single day –
was on her own self-care.
So she decided
to take charge of her schedule, time and energy –
and let the world think what it wanted to.
For she knew that by deeply nourishing her own self,
she would teach her children how to do the same,
she would start a revolution of radical self-honoring
with her soul sisters,
she would embody her power
and ask very clearly for what she needed –
at home, in her relationships, and in her work –
and she would be a
powerful source of healing for this world
because of her radical commitment to
Lisa McCrohan, MA, LCSW-C, SEP
Last year, my baby started kindergarten. After I dropped off both of my children at school, I came home and laid on the ground in our family room. It was quiet. I had needed the quiet for so many years. My senses were frazzled. I had given my everything to nourishing and tending to my babies. Lying there spread out on the floor – closer to the earth, listening to the silence – I fell asleep.
I slept for two hours. I had work to do. I had plenty of things that needed tending to at home. But I slept. Months ago, if I had elaborate plans of what this new season of motherhood would be like and all the projects that I would do, in that moment of lying on the floor, I admitted to myself that this year would not be about tackling them.
This year would be about nourishing me. It would be about creating the space to honor what needs tending to within me. It would be about feeling replenished. I would renew my sense of aliveness.
And that would take time.
I would not jump into taking on new and big projects. I would not commit to new collaborations.
Oh don’t get me wrong! I had ten years worth of ideas and dreams built up. I wanted to jump right in! But I knew my nervous system needed to settle and to find its new rhythm in this new season of motherhood. And that would take time and rest.
How often do we “jump right in” from one season to the next when our bodies and spirits cry out to honor a period of transition time? How many of us allow “down time” for our nervous systems to settle before rushing into a new phase?
Early on in motherhood, I used to KNOW that “caring for self IS caring for others.” But the voices of our patriarchal culture can be strong and pervasive. Often I felt guilty for taking time out for myself – to go to the Y, to see a friend, and to give attention to my dreams. My spirit knew it was nuts to feel guilty caring for myself. But yet the guilt was there.
My sister used to say, “Lisa, you should hire a nanny or a night-nurse or a mother’s helper.” I quickly dismissed her suggestion. Why?
Brene Brown talks about this underlying belief that is weaved into the psyche and culture of being a woman: “I have to do it all, do it perfectly and make it look effortless.”
This belief can stealthily sneak into our psyche and influence our behavior – and how we see ourselves.
And even though I taught and practiced mindfulness, I had to admit that this belief was in me, too. I would say to myself, “I have to do it all myself” and “If I had help, that translates into I can’t handle this and that would mean I’m not a good enough mom.”
I did what so many of us do: I took it all on alone.
Now, yes, I have an incredibly loving husband. But this belief about motherhood was often driving my actions and made me the controller and the responsible one – which often translated into me being the anxious one, the freaking-out-getting-it-all-in-order one, and the frazzled one.
And when I would freak out? I’d think there was something wrong with ME. And when I’d yell or react out of frustration? I’d think I was bad.
That’s shame, folks.
And shame kills aliveness. It kills our inner sense of vibrancy. It keeps us locked in a cycle of shame-blame-regret…and isolation.
I recognized this was happening in these early years of parenting. So I brought as much awareness, kindness and compassion into my everyday life as I could.
And last fall, when I dropped off my babies at school, I saw how they were ok. I had done a good job. I had given them my everything. And now “the person I need to tend to the most was my own self.”
It meant putting my attention and effort into my own self-care. Just as I had tenderly tended to the needs of my children, I needed to tenderly name my soul needs and tend to them.
There were a hundred other things that could take my attention off of deeply nourishing my own self. And that was just in September. There were voices in my head that said, “This is selfish” and “what kind of mother are you?”
But I knew in my inner most being that “in nourishing my own self, I would teach my children how to do the same, I would start a revolution of radical self-compassion with my soul sisters, I would embody my power” and I would get reallllly good at asking “very clearly for what I needed”…..so I could be a “powerful source of healing for this world.”
Far from selfish, taking on this posture of radical self-compassion is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children and this world.
I sit with women in counseling and coaching. I hear the stories of self-neglect. I hear the frustration coming out as “sensory overload” and reacting over the smallest of things. I hear the judgmental words we use with ourselves. I hear the shame. And I feel the volcano of rage building up.
And starting last fall, I decided to tend to that frustration, that sensory overload, in my own self in deep, deep ways. I decided to soften those judgmental words. I decided to give myself permission to deeply focus on my self-care.
I started with this question, “What would delight my heart?”
Because I KNOW asking this question “makes contact” with the Divine Within – that deeper Wisdom within us. It makes self-care more about more than a task that we “should” do. It brings us into contact with that Holy Aliveness within us.
Instantly, I answered, “Piano lessons.”
So I started taking piano lessons.
I asked again, “What would delight my heart?”
“Rest,” I heard.
“Less commitments,” I heard.
“Being around soulful people who can hold space for you the way you do for others,” I heard.
“Writing,” I heard.
And so that’s how I’ve spent the last five months – resting, saying “no” to more commitments, naming the folks in my life I wanted to be around and SCHEDULING time to be with them, and…writing.
Now in January, I see how in my resting I began to forgive myself – for any and everything. I allow so much more room for being human. My nervous system feels soothed. There is a growing lightness to me. There is a growing sense of aliveness.
Friends, readers, colleagues, clients: It goes against the grain of our parenting culture to take on a posture of radical self-compassion. Most of us won’t – until we have to. Until we are sick or something happens and we are forced to focus on our self-care.
That’s not how we want to live, folks.
Love starts here, as I wrote in a previous post. It starts with this commitment to radical self-compassion.
Begin by asking yourself, “What would delight my heart?”
Is it a nap? A chat with a friend?
Is it something deeper – like making that big decision you’ve been wanting to make?
Is it practicing forgiveness?
What would put you into contact with the Holy Aliveness within you?
Do that now.
Do that in the very next breath.
Take one small step.
And do it.
THIS is how we practice radical self-compassion.
In this very moment.
And in doing so, we inspire our families. We start to change the tides of parenting in this culture. We change up the “shame game” we’ve been playing. And we become a powerful source of healing for our communities and world.