Mother, Nurture & Wild
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Take a moment for yourself this Imbolc, Mama. Imbolc is a cross-quarter festival, marking the midpoint between the Solstice and the Equinox.  It’s a threshold time.  A time between time.  And in this way Imbolc can remind us...
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December.  Ah, season of twinkly lights, mince pies, massive long lists and over-giving.

I approach it with both a glowy warmth in my chest and an anticipatory tightening somewhere in my gut.  And I know lots of you do too.

From mid-November I started seeing a ripple running through many of my client sessions.  Or perhaps a clench would be more accurate.  One by one the wonderful women I work with were looking at the horizon and anticipating what December and the festive season were going to mean for them.

For those working on their relationship with rest and advocating for their needs there was the very real worry of ‘how do I keep tending to myself when Christmas expectations threaten consume me?’.

We've all gathered plenty of experience around what this season can feel like as a Mama and if we’ve been in the pattern of giving more than we have year after year it makes complete sense that we feel the need to brace for what’s coming.

Christmases past

The conversations I’ve been having got me thinking about Christmases past when (more than once) I ran myself into the ground doing all the things, making all the things, ticking the endless ‘magic-making’ tasks off my list.

I look back on that version of me who was unstoppable in her dogged determination of creating the Perfect Christmas and I feel a lot of feelings.

I’m not sure which was more to blame… capitalist patriarchal ideas of what a ‘good mother’ does at Christmas (you can almost picture the manual, can’t you?)... curated images of perfect Christmases on Pinterest boards and insta accounts... or my old over-working / over-giving tendencies which behind the scenes were being fed by not-enoughness.

A heady combination of all of it, I imagine, meaning my magic-making expectations of myself were way too high.

I knew this at the time on some level because, though there was beauty and joy and I’ve got some great insta-worthy pictures of it all somewhere, I was so tired that I was almost watching from a distance whilst being right there.

Everyone else was for sure enjoying it more than I was.

(If there’s a part of you that read that sentence and thought ‘well everyone else should be enjoying it more’… know that I imagined that to be true once too and now know it isn’t)

At the time I was sure it was coming from pure love for my family.  So much of it was.  But I now see how easy it is to get in the habit of over-giving – giving more than you truly have whilst side-lining your need to resource – and confuse it for piling on all the love.

Christmas present

These days I’m here for a slower and simpler December.  I edit both the list and my expectations of myself down to fewer things and find fewer means more special.

I hit easy buttons, noticing it makes little to no difference to anyone else and a huge difference to me.

I go gently with myself knowing I’m more present - my love more available somehow - when I’m taking care of me too.

I find the more I say no to, the more energy and capacity I have for what I say yes to.

If I could, I’d go back and give myself this knowing sooner.  But knowing it now is all kinds of good.

Finding slow

If in your heart you want simple and slow - giving within your capacity - but your list for the next week or so is saying anything but, here’s a place you can begin:

On your mammoth list or within your internal expectations of yourself for Christmas, find the thing that makes you heavy sigh at the thought of having to do it.  Or the thing for which each year the tiny spark of resentment you have for it grows. 

Imagine what it would feel like to just not do it this year. 

To take back the time/energy/money you put into it and re-direct those precious resources of yours to something you’d really full-body-feels love.

You get to make that choice if you want to. And you get to make it for all the other things that make you feel similarly.

Alternative lists

And let's make a different kind of list.  One that has a balancing effect. One that’s supportive, kind and reminds you that how you feel is important.  One full of self acceptance and self compassion.

Some ideas:

~ A list of all the slow, nourishing moments you’re looking forward to.

~ The ways you’ll take care of yourself over Christmas.

~ 3 ways you can settle your nervous system when you need to.

~ Ways to honour your capacity and say no.

~ 5 promises you’ll keep to yourself.

What would that kind of list do for you?

Wishing you all that you crave in these last weeks of the year, lovely x

*
Coach with me

I have openings in January for 1:1 coaching and I’m loving welcoming in women who want to… transform their relationship with rest, learn to advocate for their needs, invite in more of what they want in their life and see what lies on the other side of their self-doubt.

If you’re curious about how a coaching journey with me would support you, you’re so welcome to book in for a free call so we can have a cup of tea together and chat about it.  I’d so love to meet you.

There are seasons within motherhood. Nobody told me this beforehand and it took me a few moves between one season and another to really notice them.  And when I did, it was something of a relief to understand.

There are seasons where you’re needed more - more than you imagined possible sometimes, so that you wonder if you can continue meeting it all - and others where you’re needed less intensely. Or just differently. Differently can feel like relief and like loss, sometimes both at the same time.

There are seasons where you have less space or more space or just a different quality of space. Seasons in which how mothering looks and feels from the inside shifts and evolves into something new. 

Sometimes a new season gently rolls in, in a way that was predictable. You had time to anticipate and ready yourself. It arrives and it either is or isn’t how you imagined but you knew it was coming. 

Other times, you wake one day expecting everything to be mostly the same and inexplicably it’s all shifted. Without warning or agreement. 

Space for you

As a Mama there are seasons where you feel more diluted than you’ve ever felt. Your edges floating away almost entirely. For a time that's ok perhaps, necessary even in order that you can mother the way you want to. And at some point you long for a clearer, more separate sense of yourself. 

Sometimes a shift brings more space for you. There’s more childcare, less night duties, school begins, they’re a certain age now, perhaps with older teens you're anticipating them being busy with their own stuff or leaving home for university. When space looks set to open it inevitably comes with anticipation of what that means for you. 

Sometimes you’ve longed for this space - all the things you’ll do with it! - yet when it comes it’s more disorientating that you imagined. You might have become so used to not having space for you that it doesn’t feel like the exhale you thought it would straight away. Despite all the anticipation and future-forecasting you find yourself somehow not getting to the things you thought you wanted.

With less obstacles standing in your way it ought to be easier, right? But self doubt may have chosen this time to raise it's head. Maddening as that is, it makes sense. Bringing something to life in your present feels way more risky than daydreaming into a future time.

Or maybe it just all feels very odd. Did you even really want this, you wonder. You question whether you're ready for this new season you thought you wanted after all.

There's the kids too. They may sail into this new season, seemingly flying. Or maybe it’s a rough ride and you’re extra-needed while they transition.  In that case, you might not always get to be present to your own transition into this new season.

This opening up of space that seemed so simple from a distance feels way more complex up close.

I've learnt that

Seasonal shifts take time to bed in.

For me, at least. Even when my children barely blink before galloping on in, I take more time to look around and feel all the things. 

I see what we’re leaving behind. The joys and the trials. The grief, which is often present, even when I’m so ready for the change. Because like all thresholds I see that moving through also means letting go

I see who they are now. I know them so deeply and there are new things now to learn about who they are, what they need and how I mother them.

I see what’s now possible. For me. The excited catch in my throat of that! But it can take a while to be ready to really lean into that possibility. To trust it. 

With each seasonal shift, I learn more about me. I experience my edges differently, have big feelings to process. There’s the opportunity to become more myself if I take the time to honour what feels important and listen within. 

False starts...

There are plenty of false starts. One foot in one season, one in the next, not fully getting going. Going out thinking it’s sunny and warm and realising I should’ve grabbed a jumper. It’s different now. I’m not sure how to get used to that yet.

And that's ok. Transitions need space and compassion for ourselves.

...new normals

In time it all settles into a new normal. And I’ve learnt this new normal either happens of it’s own accord, with me as passive passenger. Or, anticipated seasonal shift or not, I put myself in choice as I navigate the beginnings of our new season.

Being in choice

In each new season, I can meet myself again: who am I here now and how do I want this to be for me?

I might not have a whole answer right off, but what do I know? Maybe I want more of something and less of something else. I remind myself more knowing will be revealed as I move forward.

If it's been an intense time and you're feeling overwhelmed, let your answers be simple and small to begin with. You can allow this to be a really gentle inquiry. For now, just be curious and wonder.

Things that help

Having navigated a few of my own seasons so far, I want to offer up the three things that have helped the most when I'm transitioning:

1. Self compassion

You can’t always choose or predict a new season of motherhood, whether it drifts in on a Summer breeze or blows in with an Autumn storm. But you can always choose meet yourself in it with massive self compassion. 

~  Understand the disorientation - it makes total sense that you don't have a handle on it all yet. Whichever way a new season arrives it can take a while to adjust.

Allow for the confusion, you’re figuring out this new territory. If there are decisions to make in this new place, it makes complete sense that you feel uncertainty around them to begin with.

Offer yourself space for the grief if there is some - space for all the feelings this shift brings up. They are important. 

Give yourself time to acclimatise - take your time breathing into this new season and getting the lay of the land, don't expect yourself to be aceing it the moment it arrives. There's time.

Put the stick down - it’s ok to not have it all sorted immediately, for it not to feel how you thought it would or how you want it to. It's ok to need time or some kind of support.

If self compassion isn’t easy to access, think about how you would hold space for a beloved friend who was navigating a transition and feeling all the same feelings as you are. How would you speak lovingly and supportively to her? And how could you extend that same compassion and holding to yourself?

2. Nourishment

Transitions are taxing on your system, even if they're wanted.  Be mindful of what you’re needing to give mentally, emotionally and physically.  Know that you'll always feel more resourced if you can find ways of feeding back into the pot.

Reach over and over for your favourite ways to take care of yourself.

3. People to bear witness

I wonder how you could feel supported as you navigate this shift and who could be the best support for you now.

It might be a partner, friend or trusted loved one or maybe others who know your children or understand this place you're in well.

If self doubt, confusion or paralysis are present when you really want to be moving forward, you might find working with a coach supportive.

And if this is a tough transition which is bringing up unresolved stuff from the past, a therapist might be worth exploring.

You are so worthy of the support you need.

And finally...

Shifting season is a process. A messy and imperfect one most often. The best gift you can give yourself is to meet yourself just exactly where you are within it. Allow yourself be on the journey - in the process of becoming - in each and every one of your seasons. Call in the support, speak to yourself gently and take as much care of yourself as you can.

*
Coach with me

I love to work with women who are moving between seasons on their Motherhood journey - or wanting to feel more established in the season you're in. If a new season has you confused, self-doubting, disorientated or excited for what's possible here but lacking direction, you might find the support of a compassionate coach really helpful.

Take a look at my coaching journey ‘the Unfolding’ where I walk alongside you for 3 or 6 months to help you root into your next season, create more of what you want for yourself and feel more full you. 

You're so welcome to book in a virtual cuppa with me here to talk about what's happening with you, what you need and see whether we’re a good fit to work together.  I would love to meet with you x

The more I lean into the direction I’m taking my work, the more I see the possible places and depths I can take it to. It’s exciting and enticing to see the roads I can travel to better understand what’s going on for the people I work with and master the ability to help them makes the shifts they need. A vision is forming from all these lovely possibilities. The potential of a big body of fascinating work that’ll take me 10 years or more to create.

But shit, 10 years or more? I’m only just getting started!

The thing with possibilities, potential and big visions is that awesome though they might be in one sense, they have a shadow side. Standing where I am with mine at the moment, I feel like there are a few different ways this can play out.

Scenario 1

(not desirable)

I can let my perfectionism run amok and spend 10 years feeling crappy and lacking because I haven’t yet created entire said body of fascinating work. I can feed my self doubt with endless looping stories of not enough, never enough, not me, ‘may as well quit because you’re so not ahead’. And even if I can overcome my internal warning system that wants me to give up before I get hurt, these perfectionism-driven stories could continue to be a demoralising soundtrack keeping me company on the journey. Completely hampering my ability to pursue any of it with clear focus and stealing the joy from the process entirely.

This one feels really bleak and spirit-sapping.

Scenario 2

(even less desirable)

I can bust a gut, run myself ragged and squeeze 10 years of work into 5 years just so I can get the big tick in the box that says ‘finished’. Missing the various opportunities for growth a longer period gives, many interesting and rich twists and turns, much of the rest of the my children’s childhood and all of life’s daily pleasures. Creating stress. Choosing overwork over all else. Feeding my self doubt with the lie that I am only my achievements and since I haven’t achieved the entire thing yet I haven’t achieved anything.

This one makes me feel like I’ll burst into hives.

Scenario 3

(I choose this one)

I can see and accept my wonderful reality. That I’m working on something I love. That inspiration is calling. That there are many possibilities and the journey will be so fun. That it feels like I’m just getting started and I get to be in the process of creating this body of work. Learning and growing as I move along the path at whatever speed feels right, following my interest as I go. Whilst not running myself ragged. Being in these precious days with my children where they are right now. Being with myself where.I.am with my needs mostly met and a regulated nervous system. Soaking up the daily pleasures (and frustrations) of life. And who knows what it’ll look like at the end of it. Maybe – surprise! - there is no end point. So maybe I give over to the process and allow myself to be here. Inside it. Instead of standing outside of me judging all the bloody time.

Doesn’t that sound like a relief? And yet, so often we find ourselves wrapped up in our stories of perfectionism, heading down scenario one or two.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a sneaky form of self doubt that can masquerade as high standards, ambition and beautiful compelling visions. It sometimes gets tangled up so closely with inspiration that we can’t quite separate the two all that easily.

It whispers enticing stories of how ‘perfect’ it will all be when it’s ‘finished’.

Think about your house

As anybody who has ever decorated a house knows, there is never a ‘finished’ and there is no ‘perfect’.

With house renovation (as in life) there’s a lot more ‘close enough’, ‘did the best we could with what we had’, ‘changed direction’, ‘found something better’ and ‘shit, that plug socket right in my eye line is going to forever incense me but I cannot face another wall being ripped up so I’ll live with it’.

And there’s a whole heap of messy and imperfect along the journey plus the deep satisfaction that it’s YOUR journey. Your home.

It doesn’t look completely like the Pinterest board, it took an AGE and you’re going to re-do that part at some point but you love it anyway.

Not forgetting - thank god you couldn’t get it all finished within a week of moving in because you’d never have realised how the light falls so beautifully just in that spot there and you’d never have had that idea to do that thing that made it all so much more awesome.

It's the same in life

House, big life vision, body of fascinating work… we can get so hung up on the finished article that we forget to allow ourselves to be in progress.

I hear a lot from Mamas I work with that they can’t begin because it’s too big. They feel they’re failing because they’re nowhere near finished yet. They’ve started but berate themselves for not being further along. Their self doubt has rocketed because they compared themselves to someone years further along a similar journey and made the perceived gap mean something about their worth or ability. They can’t really see how far they’ve come because they’re disappointed to not be ‘there’.

the Antidote

I want to offer that whatever this speaks to in you - it’s ok not to be finished. You likely won’t ever feel finished and that is ok.

It can be so freeing to allow yourself to be IN THE PROCESS.

Instead of berating yourself for not being there yet, what if you allowed yourself the experience of being just exactly where you are on the journey.

This kind of self acceptance invites ease, perhaps opens you to the joy of where you are and allows you to be more present to the experience.

Trust that you are in progress. Even when it feels slower than you imagined it would be.

Allow yourself to absorb yourself in the next part without the incompletion hanging over you and enjoy it for what it is.

It’s safe to be in the process.

You and your story are still unfolding.

You’re not meant to be finished.

Photo with grateful thanks - Annie Spratt via Unsplash

© 2022 Lisa Mabberley
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