Finding an old writing entry is a little bit like finding a lost treasure. Coming across my own words and hearing my own voice can often pull me out of an unwanted emotion or the depths of anxious thoughts like nothing else can. I came across this today…it’s an old entry for the Las Madres newsletter (my local Mom’s group) on the topic of Time for Myself. Reading it today really helped me put things in perspective and again recognize the importance of taking care of my own needs. While the Paleo Lifestyle has clearly been my base for better health, it’s important for me to remember other experiences and components that have guided my journey.
Here’s a little background–this was in August of 2009. Charlotte was a year old and while she was struggling with Sensory Dysregulation, we were not aware of it and had not begun the Paleo diet or any other intervention (you’ll notice this in the chicken nugget reference).
Time for myself….
Today I got a pedicure. This one was different than any pedicure that I have ever received. After my polish was applied and I was left alone on the tan leather bench to dry, I cried. Well, maybe more than cried…silently sobbed into the blue single-layer tissue from a box next to me. I went into Lavender Day Spa with the intention of switching my toe nail polish to a more autumn-like hue and became captivated by the solitude and the voice of Ray Charles on the speaker.
On July 12th of this year, I learned that my dad passed away. Many of my closest Las Madres friends know that this has been a difficult summer for me. I have been dealing with the death of my father while my mother stayed in my home for 6 weeks, recovering from her ankle surgery (my parents divorced 6 years ago). It was during this difficult period of time that I began to put my children in daycare 1 day per week and take the time to get through my personal challenges. It was on one of my sacred Tuesdays that my need to sob became real and public.
I would love to say that PMS or hormones played a part in my emotional overflow, but sadly not. It was in this quiet and safe place that I opened a hand-written, unfinished letter from my father to me. Just a few days before the pedicure, my sister, my husband and I traveled to Texas where my dad resided, to retrieve his ashes and become the legal guardians of his estate in a Texas courtroom. As a shocking gift, the letter given to me was found by one of dad’s closest friends. In the letter, my dad granted me permission to let go of any angry feelings I still held toward him and to use his mistakes to grow as a person and be the best I could for my girls.
One of my friends suggested that I read the letter once and then place it in the drawer with other important documents in file called “Dad”. While the burying of this letter and my feelings has been tempting, I know that the healthiest action for myself and my family is to come to terms with his death and the fountain of emotions that have followed.
Is this feat possible with a 19-month-old who climbs like Spiderman or a 4 ½-year-old that asks “Why?” to just about everything? Where in my day between nuking chicken nuggets and folding endless baskets of clean laundry is there time to properly acknowledge my feelings and grieve my parent? Yes, his death was messy and so is my grief. Do I save my outbursts and pouring over his letter for my children’s naptimes and bedtimes? Unfortunately, life doesn’t stop so I can grow and learn and be a better parent than my father was to me.
In order for me to answer to my father’s dying wishes and heal from this pain, I need some time away from my children. Most of us may think of time for ourselves as a luxury. Grocery shopping without screaming, a massage at Splendid Foot, or the irresistible monthly Mom’s Night Out are any mom’s necessary vices. However, my experience today at Lavender Day Spa taught me that time for myself is crucial. Without it, I cannot rest, recover and grow as a human being. Leaving my time to myself to the schedule of my children will only allow me to be as good to myself as the length of my daughter’s nap.
I encourage us to find deep, meaningful time for ourselves on a regular basis to refuel our souls, feel fulfilled, and find ourselves. Just as we learn from our children, we want our children to learn from us. We want to be great models of love and respect, and portray the values most important to you and your family. I think most of us would agree that beyond all of these lessons and values, we want to give them our truest and best selves. Taking time away from our children helps us to reconnect to the values, interests, and new and old experiences that make us who we are while we continue to recreate ourselves. For if we lose touch with ourselves, we may be writing letters to our children asking them to be better than we were.