This fall, life is full for me. I have four children, and this year, they’re each in different schools and involved in their own passions – music, soccer, speech and debate….
So my life is often a comedy of errors, and I’m doing my best to find the humor in the chaos. But for the first time in a long time – my youngest started kindergarten this year – I have free hours during the day. I thought I would have all this time to relax, go to yoga, and to wade through my to do list with amazing speed. (I even thought my house would finally be regularly clean. It’s not.)
This comes at a time when I’m wanting lots of spaciousness to give birth to what’s arising inside. There’s a shift inside, and I feel it. My message is growing in momentum. (Thank you, thank you, thank you!) My desire to share this message is expanding – burning, like a passion for a lover – and I want to be a very vocal voice for radical, unconditional self love.
Some days I feel excited by this shift. Some days I feel exhausted. Some days I feel, frankly, terrified.
Jung said we all walk around in “shoes that are too small for us.” The too-small shoes that I have worn throughout my life have said this: You can’t handle this. You’re not capable. You’re too sensitive. You’re too fragile. You’re a flawed mess. You’re too much. (Just who do you think you are?) You’re not enough. And worse: you’re unworthy.
This summer, I voluntarily put myself in the hot seat of transformation when I wrote a program on compassionate habit change. (It’s the 30 Day Lift, and I invite you to try the free trial.) In writing and doing this program, I’ve been slowly growing bigger shoes.
Each day I wake up and wonder, do I feel big enough to step into them? Or more importantly, what helps me feel big enough to step into them?
One answer, I’m finding, is simple, but not easy.
What helps me feel big enough to step into my shoes is regular, rhythmic, radical self care so that I feel abundantly nourished physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I call this grounding. When I ground myself, my entire being relaxes. I feel whole. Every cell of my being receives the powerful message of, “I am deeply loved and cared for. I have what I need.”
My mentor, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, says that all growth comes from a state of rest. When we have what we need, we can grow. (On a brain level, grounding moves us out of fight or flight and into the parasympathetic nervous system.)
I know this. I get it. I’ve lived it. And yet when my life gets full, it’s very tempting for me to revert to an old pattern of not giving myself what I need.
When I don’t give myself what I need, I create emotional pain and suffering in my life. I make war against my own heart.
When I listen to the inner voice that tells me I don’t have time to take care of myself (like meditate, go to yoga class, stop and eat lunch, or, heck, even go to bed!), I can push through this self neglect – at first. But after a day and a half, I feel inside out and spent.
It goes much, much deeper than mere exhaustion. It breaks my own heart.
On a deep, somatic, bodily level, I feel like a neglected child. It hits something primal and deep in me, and I feel completely lost, like a baby bird that’s been kicked out of the nest, left to fend for itself.
If you’d like to see a map of how this works, here’s a flow chart:
1. I feel tired and depleted. I feel oinky with my kids. I feel oinky with my husband. I feel oinky with everybody.
2. This feeling of being depleted and exhausted – like even my basic needs for sleep, food, connection and rest aren’t being met – leads me to that neglected little girl feeling.
3. I don’t like myself. I don’t like my irritable, exhausted self.
4. I don’t like how I feel either – this neglected, ignored space.
5. This self judgment hurts like hell. I feel cut off from my own heart – small, separate, sad, ashamed. I feel like there’s something wrong with me.
6. I am really, really, really attracted to sugar – my false refuge (Tara Brach’s term) and shadow comfort (Jen Louden’s.) And/or I spiral into feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, despair.
Ouch, ouch, ouch.
This “neglected child” trance is so intense and painful that it’s easy for me to get stuck inside its emotional space. Sugar calls my name. I isolate. I feel anxious and insecure. Once I’m at step 2, 3, 4, or 5, no amount of compassionate self talk will soothe me.
For what I’m truly needing is action – to care of my sweet self. To go to yoga. To sleep. To reach out to others. To open and allow myself to receive conscious pleasure.
When I move to take good care, I put my precious heart and mind and body to rest. It’s as if I become my own Italian grandma and lover in one – to dote on myself so thoroughly, so tenderly that I sigh in my own arms.
Once I’m in this space, stepping into those new shoes feels possible. Doable. I find the courage to take the leap. All the emergent energy that fuels new life, new growth, bursts forth, and flows.
So dear one, if you’re feeling wonky and inside out, come to rest. If you’re struggling with food or sugar, and you’re tempted to go on a diet or detox to “fix” yourself, come to rest. If you’d like to step into bigger shoes, come to rest.
Drop the whip. Quiet the voice that says, “There’s not enough time” and “you’re not enough.” Stop the war. Stop breaking your heart.
Simply treat yourself like the precious object that you are – where you feel fully seen, heard, adored, ravished, prized, loved, nourished…..Oh, let yourself imagine feeling this treasured…..
And offer this love to yourself.