When You're Empty and Chocolate Won't Do.
Yesterday I had one of those days where I felt like I was suffocating. There were so many moments that I wish I could adjust. It felt like my day was running me and I was just being steam rolled. I had zero patience with the kids. Really, I mean zero. At one point my son said “you are being the worst mom ever” and I have to admit, it was kind of true. I complained. Then complained some more. To make matters worse, my lovely husband, for some crazy reason, doesn’t like listening to complaining. So when he came home and didn’t say the exact perfect things to appease me, (how dare he!) I felt even more defeated. Not only did he not pacify me, he called me out. Aughhh. Who wants someone to challenge them when they are happily throwing around their emotional shit all over the walls?
I felt antsy; unsettled, anxious energy. I found myself pacing the house looking for something to do. It felt like I was locked in; caged. I know this feeling well. It comes usually when my tank is empty and I’m scraping at the bottom of myself digging for some life. It’s so easy in these times to ignore what your body is trying to communicate to you. I was exhausted on all levels and the signals of breakdown were strong. Even though my spirit needed something, I was too tired to give it attention. I looked outside and thought of going for a walk – it was too windy and cold. I thought of visiting a friend – but I didn’t feel like talking. I considered sitting in a coffee shop with a journal – but I didn’t want to be in public; I looked like shit and wasn’t prepared to put the work in to be publicly presentable.
Usually when I am getting these ‘body alerts’ I do one of the Three Mindless Things: Get angry, Eat or Zone out to useless TV/social media. After all, when you are empty and exhausted choosing the mindless options is the easiest. However, since I am finally starting to learn, well, life – I knew that none of those would be the cure and I would carry the remnants of today into my tomorrow unless I made a deposit to myself. So just as I was about to choose option 3, I sprang up, looked at my husband and said, “I’m going swimming”.
Now, I’m a terrible swimmer. It’s not my workout of choice. But there was something about it drawing me in. The fact that I even considered putting on a bathing suit at 9:15pm was weird. I drove to the closest pool in my neighbourhood and as I walked up to the door I noticed it was specifically named the ‘leisure centre’ and I thought, “I definitely need some fucking leisure” and it was in that moment that I knew I was practicing self-care. I swam laps for 25 minutes surrounded by elderly people and you know what? It was glorious. It was exactly what I needed.
As I lay in the water, it occurred to me what was so great about this very moment, weightlessness. My body experienced what my mind needed. To feel the weight of nothing: not my marriage, my kids, myself, the plans, the dinners to cook, the soccer snacks, the belly fat, the slow-to-come-to-fruition dreams. I floated on my back looking up at the ceiling and started to cry. It feels so good when we finally start listening to the little signals our body sends us – when we choose to give ourselves medicine. Mindfulness is not always easy, is it? I've been alive 31 years and I'm only starting the practice. Sometimes we aren’t even mindful enough to notice until the signs are slapping us across the face. One of the greatest achievements in parenting is being able to consider yourself. The very nature of mothering requires sacrifice, selflessness. However, in order to offer those qualities day in and day out, we need to fill ourselves up. It doesn’t have to be huge. It could be a bubble bath, a phone call to a friend, 10 minutes with your legs up a wall – heck, it could even be zoning out to TV with a bag of kettle chips, but, choose it mindfully.
Giving to you is the only way to keep going in this marathon, and truly, parenting is a marathon that last for decades. Fuel up, my friends.