Posts tagged Mindfulness
Lost and Found

Just a note: I’m going to talk about my journey during the early days of motherhood and the struggles I had. If you find reading on that subject difficult or uncomfortable please feel free to close this window in your browser. I promise I’ll write more about crystals soon.

I often describe the time after I had my first son, when I became a mother, as the hardest time of my life. Crossing the threshold of pregnant woman to mother was something that nobody can prepare you for. I imagine that it’s the same for every woman who has ever carried a baby, or adopted a baby, or has been pregnant, or lost a pregnancy. Once you cross that threshold, there’s no going back. You simply aren’t the same woman that you were before, in small ways and in big ways, you know things and feel things and have unlocked a part of yourself that you can’t put back. I felt as if one night I went to sleep as one person and woke up as an entirely different person. I couldn’t even recognize myself in the mirror.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

I wasn’t prepared for that. 

I was the first of the “kids” in my family to have a baby. I have a group of cousins who I grew up with and am close to, I’m the oldest of the bunch. I was the first for, well, everything. From bringing a boyfriend home for Christmas, to moving away to a new city after college, to getting married, getting a puppy and then - having a baby. I asked my aunt, one of my dearest friends, if she thought I would be a good mom. “Of course you will”, she said plainly, “you’re good at everything you put your mind to”. 

At the time, I’ll admit, I thought she was right. I was good at everything I put my mind to. I got the roles I wanted on stage, I got the job I wanted in Chicago, and had the wedding of my dreams and a honeymoon filled with adventure. I was good at the things I put my mind to. In hindsight, I wish I put my mind to more things, but that’s a different blog post.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Then I had my son. After 30 hours of labor, I sat, terrified and in love with this new human. I expected to blossom into this whole new person, a loving miracle of a human who effortlessly took care of this baby. I did not. I struggled with everything. I felt lost in a sea of worries and uncertainty. The months ticked by and the feelings I had of being an impostor only intensified.

 

Quickly after I had my son, two of my friends had their first babies. I remember going to visit them in the hospital and when I walked in the room they were glowing. They looked so natural, so happy, so immediately at home in their motherhood - and I sobbed the entire way home. It only confirmed my suspicion, that I was not a natural mother. That there has been a terrible mistake. I was missing a piece of the puzzle and now my poor son is going to have to grow up with this frazzled, overwhelmed shell of a mother who can’t seem to do anything right.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

(Note: Of course, that’s total bullshit. The phrase “natural mother” is bullshit.) 

If I could go back in time just once it would be to comfort that version of myself. I would let her cry in my arms and say, “You are enough”. 

My problem was that I had lost myself. When you cross the threshold into mother an entirely new identity is thrust upon you. Lose the weight. Breastfeed. Keep working. Stay home. Music class. Swim class. Sacrifice. Don’t ask for help. Cook. Clean. Sacrifice more. 

I couldn’t check any of the boxes, I felt like it was all-consuming and a struggle, I was trying to live up to an ideal that I had created in my mind and failing at every turn. I had unknowingly set myself up for failure by creating a report card that was impossible for me to pass.  

When you stripped away my job, my body, my old hobbies - I didn’t know who I was. The version of “mom” I was trying to be was making me miserable. Like, cry-every-day-what-is-wrong-with-me miserable. 

I had to start from scratch with myself and my expectations. I started noticing what made me feel happy, and what made me feel miserable - and started doing more of the happy things.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

 

I know this sounds elementary but please believe me that it’s a big deal. I felt like I was building myself from the ground up. Waking up at night and pumping to increase my supply made me miserable, so I stopped. Going for a walk by myself made me happy, so I went for a small one every day. Trying crash diet after crash diet and drinking protein shakes made me miserable, so I stopped. Meditating made me feel awesome, so I did more. Watching TV made me feel like crap, so I stopped. Reading self-development and poetry and collecting crystals made happy, so I did more.  

I let go of the expectations I had for myself as a mother and tried to enjoy the small moments and, eventually, I found myself again. I swear too much and feed my toddler too many fruit snacks, but I dropped the guilt and try to do better everyday. I’ve gained 20 pounds since my wedding day and I’m just tired of beating myself up about it, so I don’t. I have fewer friends, but I surround myself with the most extraordinary and supportive ones in the world.

I wish it didn’t take the birth of my son as the catalyst to burn it all down and start from scratch, because I do feel like I missed a lot of time in those early days when all I did was worry and cry. But I can say now that I’m a happy, messy, mom-in-progress. Being mindful, looking inward, and focusing on my truest self has - to be dramatic - saved my life, and at the very least saved my happiness. And with this platform I only hope that it can inspire you to take inventory and find what makes you truly come alive. It’s not the ideal that society or your ego has for you, but the whispers of your heart.

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

Photo: Chelise Renee Photography

How To Write The Perfect Love Letter (To Yourself) This Valentines Day
Write a love letter to yourself as the ultimate expression of self-care and self-love this valentines day

Valentines Day hasn’t imprinted itself in my memories like so many other holidays. I don’t feel a strong connection to the candy hearts or cheesy cards (although I do LOVE a good pun). My husband and I started a tradition when we first began dating that we would always make a fancy dinner and stay-in for the holiday. Now that we have two kids running circles around us all day, that fancy dinner morphed into a slightly-upgraded version of a normal dinner, and while it’s nice, it’s nothing spectacular.

Don’t get me wrong I adore my husband (hellooooo have you seen his pictures on here?), it’s just that we celebrate our anniversary on March 1st so Valentines Day just falls at a weird time and doesn’t connect us. Today I was trying to think of what the holiday REALLY means to me and all the different layers of love that I have in my life. Love for my husband. Love for my kids. Love for my life and all the blessings that go along with it. And finally, love for myself.

 I’ve always had a hard time with self-love. It seems as though my entire life I’ve been striving to leave myself behind and transform into a thinner, smarter, more successful version of myself. Up until this past year I’m not sure that I’ve ever really, properly, given myself the kind of self-care that I’ve always deserved. I’m making up for a lot of lost time, years of abusing myself for not being good enough. 

That’s when I decided to write myself a love letter for Valentines Day. If you’re feeling out of sorts, unappreciated, not your best self right now - I want you to write one too. You deserve to be absolutely showered in kind words, you magical babe, you.

Let’s aim for 750 words. It takes more effort than you would think but it’s completely do-able. Seven hundred and fifty words is three pages or so hand-written, and you deserve three pages of nice things. I also think you should check out https://750words.com/ if you’re trying to build a writing habit. It takes the ideas found in “The Artists Way” and makes it digital. Three pages also provides a nice framework to focus on three areas of ourselves and our lives that we can totally gush about.

Whether you are alone this Valentines Day or partnered, write a love letter to yourself as a mindfulness practice.

 Page 1: Our Physical Body

Go from head to toe and talk about all of your favorite physical characteristics as they are right now. In this present moment. Not what you hope they will be or what you’re molding them in to - but right now. This is a gratitude practice, so consider your body and what it has done for you and THANK YOUR BODY for carrying you through this life. Even though sometimes you give it too much wine and not enough exercise and definitely not enough sunscreen it still shows up for you everyday and makes your life possible. If you have had children, thank your body. If you ran a 5K, thank your body. If you like the dance or swim or walk in the woods THANK YOUR BODY and all of it’s imperfections for making that possible.

This Valentines Day, try writing yourself a love letter as an act of self-care.

 Page 2: Our Achievements

It’s easy to get stuck in the mental carousal of feeling like you’re not enough. It can feel like we’re surrounded by people doing more, making more, and making it look easy. You’ve done some amazing things in your life that you’re discounting, I promise. When I was fresh out of college I took a job in Chicago and moved there by myself - it wasn’t until this exercise that I really, truly, congratulated myself on how brave and incredible that was. You’ve made it this far which means that you are totally nailing this living-on-the-planet thing we’re all trying to do together. Go ahead and brag, you deserve it, babe.

 

Page 3: Our Soul

Every preference, every thing that brings you joy, is a little mini love letter to yourself. Whatever brings you into alignment is what makes you special and that deserves to be celebrated. We are all living on a rock hurling through time and space together in this moment and YOU, my dear Younicorn, are here for a reason. Write about your preferences and why you are grateful for them and all the joy they bring. Write about what makes your heart sing and how completely in love with yourself you are in those moments. Write about a time that you felt totally happy and at peace. For me, I’ll never forget drinking an Americano and watching the sunrise on our honeymoon in Queenstown, NZ. That moment is etched on my heart. Write about all of the things etched on your own heart, babe.

You deserve a love letter full of wonderful things and kind words.

 When your letter is finished print it out or tear it our of your journal and put it in an envelope like the love letter that it is. Give it a smooch. Spray it with some perfume. Address it with care. I’m going to keep it in my nightstand and save it for when I really need to see those words. When I stumble, or scream at my kids and then immediately cry out of guilt, or haven’t had a shower in a week.

In a world where comparison is constant and women are expected to do it all, have it all, and BE it all - let this letter be a reminder that you are perfect in this moment. You are incredible. You are enough. You are love.

 

Happy Valentines Day, my sweet friend.