Recently, I have found I’ve been warring myself a little thin. As a freelancer in NYC, I have many different job titles and relationships that are wonderful and also demanding. At the end of the day, its what I have chosen. Some days it feels like it pays off. Most days, I feel like running away to California and burying myself in the sand.
I love all that I do. But my restless energy has led me to not only a full plate but one I seem to keep piling full that can no longer hold all that I choose to participate in. I have been waiting and waiting, feeling as if I’m just about to a point where I can rest and relax. Maybe read a book or something. And the closer I feel to this point, the longer it seems to be drawn out. I am, however, beginning to experience brief moments or time slots where I finally have a free moment (which is new for me). Instead of relaxing and using it as a time for self-care, I am instead riddled with an anxious mind constantly afraid I’m forgetting something.
It’s the feeling you get when you’re about to fly out of town. You’ve packed your bags, you’ve checked them twice, packed extra socks and underwear, your toothbrush, the back-up outfit, the just-in-case-the-weather-sucks clothes, the little things you probably don’t need but “just might.” And you walk out the door, still with an uneasy feeling as if you forgot something important. You get through security, find your seat on the plane, they close the door and ding! You remember, you forgot the wedding present, or you didn’t leave the keys for the person feeding your cat, or you forgot your entire suitcase, whatever it may be. You are left helpless in your state of panic, secured and strapped down to your seat with nothing but a barf bag to comfort you. Maybe Sky mall magazine if you’re lucky.
Needless to say, over the last year or so, I’ve wired my brain not to relax. I’ve created my schedule, my routines, my responsibilities, without leaving any time or practice for self-care.
Why is it that we place self-care on the back burner? Why is it the one thing that we think we can put off, or go without, or do it “when we have time?”
For many women in my age group, this isn’t terribly uncommon. Throughout a woman’s life cycle, we travel through four main archetypes: The Maiden, Mother, Enchantress, and Crone. The Maiden is the young, adventurous woman, trying to find herself, trying new things, and figuring out where she fits in the world and where she wants her life to go. The Mother archetype is one of nurture and care for others when we outgrow the Maiden phase and become less self-involved. The Maiden phase is often (and rightfully so,) difficult to let go of. The Enchantress is a woman after menopause with an empty nest who finally has a chance to return to herself. And lastly the Crone, the woman who has traveled through all of these phases and has become a sacred source of ultimate wisdom.
As a woman in this day and age, having read my brief rundown of the archetypes, I’m sure we can each see these stages clearly and also acknowledge (even some of our own conditioned thinking) the shaming our society has placed on the transitions throughout womanhood. We force our wild maidens to stay in the lines, be polite and withhold any tools for defending oneself both verbally and physically. Instead of acknowledging the bringing forth of new life while sacrificing one’s own identity, we tell mothers they need to get back to their beach body after BIRTHING A CHILD. At the first opportunity to return focus to oneself after motherhood, we call it a midlife crisis and again, discourage a woman from freedom, dragging out the chains. And our sacred Crones of ultimate wisdom, we drug and place in homes for the deterioration of their minds.
Women need the support and encouragement from the world. Be part of that and offer your compassion.
'Returning to the initial conversation after some background info: The struggle of the Mother Archetype. Whether or not we have children or experienced the magic and sacrifice of physical motherhood, our minds and energetic body will still be in the Mother phase. The same as teenage pregnancy, more than likely the woman is still in the Maiden phase at that time. So it’s not uncommon to find ourselves exerting our energy by nurturing the other people in our lives, whether they are friends, roommates, significant others, or family members. Have you noticed yourself going above and beyond? Are you supporting your spouse in their career instead of focusing on progressing your own? Are you biting your tongue so as not to cause unease to your parents? Are you telling everyone, “I’m fine?”
Every coin has two sides. The self-sacrifice we perform for the sake of others is nothing less than divine beauty. It is also the reason by the time we hit the Enchantress phase that we spend all of our retirement money on our personal version of Eat, Pray, Love. Which is more than fine because it’s a fantastic book by the fantastic Elizabeth Gilbert.
The thing is, between the shift of the Mother phase, the conditioning of society, the pressure of the underlying American Dream translating to 'nothing is ever good enough,' and this strange false sense of pride millenials get from exhaustion and overexertion, EVERYTHING is directing us AWAY from looking out for ourselves.
I have realized that I can no long sit and wait for that moment of rest to come for me. I look back on the past year, or three, or five, and I realize, it isn’t just going to show up on its own. Our lives are actually our day to day. Our habits aren’t temporary unless we make the change in the NOW to transform them. When we succumb to what life is offering us without any of our own input, we become victims and give up control. If every day is looking the same, if you’re just waiting, your life isn’t going to look any different in five years. Even if you’re keeping your head down, waiting for that promotion, waiting for that new apartment, waiting for that one big break, your mind will have formed habits that keep you inside of your self-made jail cell. And you’ll ask yourself why that raise or promotion or marriage or new couch didn’t make you happy the way you thought it would.
Maybe instead, you’ll go out dancing. Maybe you’ll go to that concert in the park. Maybe you’ll quit your job without a backup plan! Maybe you’ll hitchhike, or jump on a freight train for a free ride to California (considered it). Maybe you’ll take a pottery class. Or climb a tree. Or have a food fight. Or jump in the pool with your work clothes still on.
I think about my mother and her sacrifice in raising my brothers and I; The ultimate nurturer and safe place. With hugs that make me feel like I’m still in the womb, still capable of innocence, still held entirely, nurtured, and completely supported. The woman I watched as a child once come home and… jump in the pool with all of her work clothes on. I remember being in complete shock as this beautiful business woman, mother and wife, just JUMPED. In those glimpses, in her silly jokes, her often goofy behavior, I see my mother. I see La Que Sabe. An inspiration. A wild woman at heart. A woman who deserves to be honored and respected.
I sincerely hope she one day gives the world the bird and checks into a spa for a month.
In fact, for all of the mommas out there, with little ones running around or teenagers trying your patience, I wish for you the sweetest moments of solitude, and a bubble bath, and a glass or three of nice wine and beyond. You are truly warrior women.
So mark it in your planner, ladies! Self-care is necessary. No one is going to give it to you. You’re boss isn’t going to offer you a day off for it. Your kids or your significant other or your friends, all well intentioned, are not going to replace it. Sacrifice for others does not add up to currency that eventually buys you the opportunity to love yourself. Plan it into your tomorrow. Construct your day(s) and week(s) to emulate what you want your life to look like in five years. Never underestimate the power of small actions: Go to a yoga class today. Sign up for another on Friday. Buy leafy greens at the grocery store and actually eat them! Schedule that therapy session. Pawn your children off on your parents and read or write or take a walk or dance naked in your living room. Whatever it takes. Whatever you need. YOU start now.
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