Wednesday, October 24, 2012

fitting it all in

A week ago I woke up and my neck felt all wrong. Painfully, painfully wrong. Somehow in my sleep I managed to slip a vertebrae out - this isn't the first time this has happened by any means - and got some pinched nerves and shooting pains in return. Ouch.

afternoon in the arboretum

By Saturday I'd seen a new chiro near our new apartment and yesterday morning she gave me the results of her evaluation. Not good. I've got some degeneration, reduced mobility in a bunch of areas and some parts of my spine are even curving the wrong way. Lovely. She's given me a care plan that takes me through January. It's acute, it's's expensive.

I've been hoping to start dancing again. $
I've been planning to get back to my naturopath. $$
I've been really wanting to do get some coaching or do some e-courses with at least one of the amazing women I know online. $$$
And my clothes are rather threadbare and our laptop's on its last legs and I really would like to get a tattoo...


But my spine is pretty essential to, you know, everything. It feels like a rather clear priority.

It's hard. It's hard to prioritize self-care. Because on top of that list of hopes and plans is the reality that my children are going to need new shoes, they're growing out of their clothes, they need craft supplies. Peanut's in dance classes but we've thought about Kindermusic and art classes and outdoor adventuring and...and...

autumn colour
I struggle to fit myself into the list. Even if money were no object, the time alone needed to accomplish all of this is an obstacle to be overcome. Obviously I'm succeeding to some extent, but I've got a long way to go.

I had a night out with some wonderful, beautiful women yesterday. What a satisfying, sustaining night it was! But my aim, really, is to find a way to meet everyone's needs more or less at the same time. Instead of only caring for my self through time away from my family, I want to fulfill some of my own needs while meeting those of my family, while spending time with them. To stop effectively abandoning myself when I am with them. Surely there is a way...I just haven't found it yet.


And I truly believe it is important, not only to myself - because how good a mother am I if I've entirely fallen to pieces, right? - but to my girls as well. Someday they may be mothers themselves, and I never, ever want them to believe that the picture of good motherhood is a woman who has abandoned her own needs, who has poured everything of herself out to her family and taken in nothing for her own care. I never want them to have the misguided impression that they no longer matter because they have had children of their own. I want more than that for them. We all want more for our children than we ourselves have. I want them to succeed in this adventure of mothering better than I am.

Or maybe I really am getting the hang of it. After all, I did take the girls with me to my chiro appointment yesterday and I've written this entire post while they play independently. Perhaps, with a little innovation, I can find even more ways of incorporating all our needs. There is self-care in the acknowledgement of even a modicum of success.

my loves

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I haven't written a lot about my word for 2012 since I first mentioned it in January. In truth, it's been very challenging to put anything down about it simply because circumstances haven't been particularly "blossom-y". Ongoing struggle with post-partum whateveritis, food sensitivities, moving house... it's been a busy ten months. And while I certainly have been thinking about blossoming, about self-care and growth and direction and intention, the thought of actually writing about blossoming, right now, this year, with all that was and most definitely was not happening was positively depressing. So I didn't, because who wants to read (or write, for that matter) some downer post about things not being accomplished?


What's interesting about so many of life's journeys is that we often do not realize we are even travelling down the road, we do not see how far we have actually managed to come, until we pause and look back. In the past few weeks I've been glancing back and realizing that it is time to write about this, time to acknowledge my journey, because I have truly come much further than I thought. It's reason to celebrate, it's worthy of acknowledgement.

Back at the dawning of this year when I shared that my word for the year would be "blossom", I wrote:
I am in a season of change. In retrospect, it began over a year ago with dreading my hair, though I didn't realize it at the time. It is proving to be a season of spiritual change as I reflect and re-evaluate my faith and my vision of the church, of what the church is meant to be and how I fit into it and how that affects and effects my relationship with God. It's a season of emotional and existential change as I reflect on my identity, my role in our family, my role in society at large. I have been meditating on what and how I contribute, on the value of what I do, on balancing my desires for my children, my family, and myself. I have been struggling with how to balance what I do with what I think, my full-time mothering with my feminism.
Since then I've been largely focussed on my own sanity and health, but as things have levelled off, as I've started to gain a better understanding of what I need (sleep!) and need to avoid (corn products and peanut butter!) I've been able to investigate new possibilities.


A day after I wrote that paragraph I quoted above, I wrote this:
I need to exist in relationship with others. Too often I've heard truths about myself - about what and who I am, from the people who surround me, who love me, who see my own realness - which I had not seen before. My first step on this existential journey is to acknowledge that I cannot do this alone. I cannot merely reflect on myself: I need to see myself reflected in the people around me. 
And, beautifully, that is precisely what has happened. Before this summer I received a phone call from a dear friend, a member of my circle of fellow birth-minded women. This dear friend is not only a kindred soul but served as our doula at Bubby's birth last year. We first met in 2009 and instantly connected. She is a wise, funny, Christian (but not drippingly puritanical) birth-worker. And back in the late spring, she asked if - nay, she told me - I was ready to start attending births formally. To put myself out there, hang out my shingle, and no longer call my self an aspiring doula, but just a doula, here and now. I said, "I don't know" and she told me: yes, you are. You really are.

So I am. I'm a doula with Nativity Birth Services. Cool, eh?

And then one evening after we moved I was playing with some henna and I did my foot and my hand because, hey! pretty! and the next morning I was out with the girls and went into a shop to buy a wallet. The shop was very quiet and the girls were particularly funny so the shopkeeper and I ended up talking for quite a while and she noted my henna. She said, "That's beautiful: did you do it?" and I replied yes, and she said, "You should give me your business card: I always have people asking who they can get to do their henna." This lady was Indian, and I was absolutely floored: a woman from India - where they know good henna work when they see it - thought mine was good enough for fellow Indian women to wear at their wedding. So I gave her a Nativity business card with my info on it. Nice. But it seemed like I should do more, since one doesn't automatically think "henna" when one hears "doula".

So I declared myself a henna artist and call myself Red Tent Henna.

But because I've seen mother-blessings go oddly, and have spoken to women who have wanted one but lacked a circle of friends and family who understand what it is, I decided I'll lead mother-blessings, too. And then I thought, "Hey, I love a good rite of passage for all sorts of reasons: why limit myself and the community to only mother-blessings?" So I don't.


So I've done some blossoming I didn't really expect to do because I opened myself up to the reflections of myself in the people around me, the people who see my capabilities clearly without the fog of self-doubt and worry, without the nagging weight of past struggles.

And isn't that exciting?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

how my children teach me to forgive

Child of God. We hear these words often enough. "You are a child of God" we say to one another; "I am a child of God" we describe ourselves. But as I've meditated on how we live, on how we relate to God and to each other, on how we enter into our relations with God and the Church, I've come to the realization that we may be only paying lip-service to these words. Child of God.


Or perhaps we do believe. Perhaps we truly do see ourselves as a child of God. But not a "child" child. An adult child, a child who has grown up. After all, don't nearly all parents say of their grown children, "Oh, you'll always be my baby" despite the practical evidence to the contrary? But while I know my mother looks at me and can see me as the infant, the toddler, the dimply-kneed ringlet-headed girl I once was, our relationship has most definitely changed. Now myself a mother twice over, she and I are more peers than we ever were before. We understand each other in more fundamental and complex ways than was ever before possible.

Is this true of our relationship with God? Jesus calls us "brother"; Jesus calls us "friend". But it's extremely dodgy theology to in any way suggest that we are now in a peer relationship with God. Jesus removes the barriers of sin that divided us from God, the salvation of Christ lifts us up to the beatific radiance of God's glory, but it does not make us peers with God. 

We need to start taking these words at face-value. I am a child of God. I am a child. Not a post-child, not a former child, but a child here and now. I do not understand what is before me. I do not see what God sees. I do not act with Christ's maturity, understanding or grace.

But look at children! Look at the kindness of children. Our four year old has a habit of antagonizing our one year old. She's been known to use her considerable advantage in size, pushing, body-blocking, grabbing, and pulling her younger sister around. And what does our one year old do in response? Rather than returning in kind, more often than not she cries out in alarm, in distress, only to reach out to her sister once again. She's more guarded, quicker to protect herself, but bears no grudge. She reaches out, again and again and again to her debtor. And how does her older sister respond? With further torment? No, instead she learns from her small sister's kindness, takes her by the hand, embraces her, laughs with her, plays with her.


Their relationship is a true, human microcosm of real forgiveness. It isn't blind or self-dismissing: there is room for self-care and protection. But it is never ending, it is repetitious, it is kind and it is healing. And my children understand it. They do. And while their father and I have tried to manifest that forgiveness for them, it seems far more innate than learned. So if my children can naturally fall into Christ-like patterns of forgiveness, being a true child of God isn't such a bad thing, is it? As Psalm 8:2 reads,

Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.

Approach God as a child, free of pretence or self-importance, of self-aggrandisement or pride. Approach Her in wonder, in awe, in complete lack of understanding, in utter confusion. Lift up your voice in joy, in laughter, in glee, in spontaneity, in total disregard for propriety. Fall on your knees in dependence, in reliance, in need.  She doesn't call us to be strong but to embrace our weakness, to accept and acknowledge our brokenness.

Scarlet autumn in the park

Like the child that you are, let her "cover you with her wings; you will be safe in her care; her faithfulness will protect and defend you."


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