The Unmuting of Me
One of my life's most unspoken and often taken for granted luxuries was the love and support of my mother. I joked during a podcast interview that only Disney prepares one for life without a mother. And even then you're never ready. I can’t talk about what self care and womanhood mean to me without acknowledging the woman who taught me the importance of self care. You see, my mom didn’t stop at basic hygiene skills when she was teaching my sister and I the importance of being not only a woman but a black woman. She went into detail and took very seriously the charge to show and model self care for her girls. Brush your teeth! Wash your face! Wear clean and proper fitting undergarments! Keep up your skin and hair care routines. These are all the things that come to mind when I allow myself to wonder about yesteryear and replay all those teachable moments. But at 36 and preparing to walk into month 12 without my personal self care guide this year has been a long string of the 1st of many. This year magnifyed that my mother was a part of my self care routine. Having a safe place to land when the world feels to hard. Or simply having our morning talks, sharing inspirations and mood boosters as we start our work day from different campuses.
When I think about my mother and how she modeled self care as an adult I’m drawn to the very thing that has kept me sane this year. Especially now as I'm greeted with holiday decisions I never wanted to make. As many around me are finalizing how to put a new spin on one of the years most celebrated meals, and catching all the shopping deals to knock out those gift list early. I'm trying to grasp how we went from me finally being allowed to make a dish for holiday Dinner and the hardest choice was what can I do, to me wanting to fast forward through the next three months because most days I feel like I am unable to can. Sisterhood and friendship were important to mom because so was family and the fact that most of my mothers adult life was lived with multiple state lines between her and her biological sisters and family, she took on the responsibility to still show her children how to show up and nurture important relationships at a distance physically while also fostering and creating bonds with women who would become family. During the holiday season I'm most greatful for the gift of family. Both ones of birth and ones of choice. In teaching my siblings and I to stick together and show up for each other, we watched my mother spend hours on the phone with her sisters, laughing, catching up, telling all our secrets or planning the next family trip. I watched my mother and her sisters effectivly do life, take care of their parents and each other all from just their phones, sprinkled with one or two big trips together each year and a few weekend getaways when able. But the distance never had an effect on my aunts showing up for us. I owe being able to effectivly be an amazing aunt to my little broke best friend to my aunties. I've never lived in the same state as them but our bonds were and continue to be unbreakable. My aunts prepared me to be an aunt who doesn't live in the same place as my niece. All produced from the work my mom and her sisters did to stay connected.
How well my mom took care of her family was a part of her own self care journey. My mother wore many hats which taught us all balance. But it was her passion for people and the love God poured into her that she so freely poured into anyone she met that made the difference. I use to wonder how my mom did it all. Because if you knew her she was always doing something with her children telling her to sit down following behind her. But in her absence is when I really have been able to see just how much she did. Over the years I've learned one of the biggest threats to a womans mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health is her unrealistic obligation to do and carry it all. Not taking away from the fact that things need to be done, I am simply thankful for having the ability to take a step back and see that things getting done don't always have to come at the expense of self.
At 36 I find myself embracing the growth which produced need to changes in what I feel necessary for self care. What I needed at 16 or even 26 are vastly different than what I need and require now. Life has a way of making you explore your self care options. Weather you just get a feeling that something needs to change or something in life makes you change whats needed to care for ones self, the change is there. Now if we acknowledge it is a whole other thing. My mentor said it best, "we turned self care into selfishness and not accessing what self needs." We get so caught up in our right to say no and do things we think feel good in the name of care when in reality some of the things that don't always feel good just so happen to be the things one needs to do to care for self. Being able to recognize the change in your needs as well as seeing one's self as a whole and not only attending to the needs of your current state of self has to be the hardest personal self care lesson i've been learning. If you break your leg and only focus on the needs of the broken leg, you have then disregarded the needs of the rest of the body because you chose to only focus on a fraction of your current existance and not your self as a whole. We often fragment ourselves and carpartmentalize so we can deal with life. But as easy as it is for us to divide parts of ourselves up it's never as easy to find let alone put all those pieces back together.
In this season I wish I had all the answers. But, I am simply here to remind you to not make the choice to fragment yourself. I know life's obligations don't stop and for most there isn't help to get it all done. But, take time to measure how you take care of self. How has it changed or how should it change if it hasn't? Give yourself grace. We are ever evolving beings, and with that growth comes different maintance requirements.