Exploring Unprocessed Hurt*

In Rising Strong, Social Scientist, Brené Brown says, “Depression and anxiety are two of the body’s first reactions to stockpiles of old hurt.” Further, according to Brown, depression and anxiety, although have “organic and biochemical reasons…unrecognized pain and unprocessed hurt can also lead there.”

There was a time, many years ago, where I began experiencing intense anxiety. Eventually I was having daily panic attacks, sometimes several a day. This was making life difficult to enjoy. I thought there was something seriously wrong with me, which only made the anxiety worse. In a way, the anxiety was fuel for me to figure out what was wrong. This led to years of inner work where I experienced sadness and pain and discovered patterns that were connected to my childhood. There, is where I dug deeper into my unprocessed hurt. The more I dug, the more I understood the unrecognized pain and released the unprocessed hurt, which eventually led to less anxiety.

So, what is unprocessed hurt and further, if it has anything to do with our childhoods, why would anyone want to go back there? Who has time, right? I think this might be a tough sell, but I am going to try anyway: go back there. And, here’s why: many of us are there anyway, especially emotionally. Let me give an example. We are at work, or in my case, a classroom. There is a large group discussion. We raise our hand or attempt to speak up, but our instructor or boss doesn’t listen or respond to us. We quickly put down our hand or shut our mouth and look down awkwardly. How are we feeling— rejected? Embarrassed? What are we thinking— no one cares what we have to say? My ideas aren’t valuable?

Now, it could be that the instructor or our boss just didn’t hear our voice or see our hand. Yet, we have a story that says we’ve been rejected. This story gives us certain thoughts and feelings, and very often, anxiety, which moves us away from the present moment where we might see that we just weren’t heard or seen because of a simple mistake by the person leading the discussion. It wasn’t personal. If this is relatable, maybe we can think of similar experiences as an adult where we felt rejected or ignored. Maybe we notice a pattern. What if we went deeper? Are there any childhood experiences where we felt this way? At school? At the family dinner table? Maybe we notice a connection to experiences now and experiences then. Maybe this connection makes us feel sad for the child that felt this way. What if we felt that?

This is inner work. And yes, it takes time. But more so, it takes a curious mind and the courage and willingness to go a little deeper beyond our stories, in this example, a story of rejection. When we begin to move our attention beyond our stories, the story of rejection being a common one, we find patterns and make connections and begin to recognize our unprocessed pain, and we begin to feel the unprocessed hurt. The more we do this, we might notice our anxiety dissipate. When anxiety dissipates we are more present. When we are present, we see more clearly and breathe more freely.

Now, this is just a theory of mine. It comes from years of inner work, along with years of learning and reading about self-help, psychology and social work. This theory does not discount the organic and biochemical reasons for anxiety, some of which are often treated with medications. It also doesn’t dismiss the varying environmental and social issues that can cause anxiety. It only serves to offer another perspective, one similar to the psychoanalytic framework, which considers unconscious forces that affect our behavior and emotions.  In this way, connecting current emotional and mental patterns to childhood experiences and other unconscious pain, gives another potential cause of anxiety and how it might be relieved.

To engage in more inner work, I suggest beginning to notice your thoughts and feelings in your day-to-day life. I would also suggest using a journal to record experiences in your day that brought up noticeable thoughts and feelings. After a while, see if you notice patterns or triggers, which prompt noticeable thoughts and feelings. Be present with your self-inquiry and see where it takes you. There is a passage from the poem, The Sunrise Ruby by the Sufi poet Rumi that can be used for inspiration on the path of self-inquiry and discovery:

Work. Keep digging your well.

Don’t think about getting off from work.

Water is there somewhere.

 Submit to daily practice.

Your loyalty to that

is a ring on the door.

 Keep knocking, and the joy inside

will eventually open a window

and look out to see who’s there.

~Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi, p. 101

*Article originally published: The Volk, Fall 2017

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Practice your Inhaling.

“There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time, without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.” -Roshi Joan Halifax

Before I read this in Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness today, yesterday in the shower, I got irritated by the culture we live in. Equal to my irritation was concern for humanity. Brené says we are in a spiritual crisis. I’ve thought this for years and it’s origin is in the quote above.

This culture demands we exhale constantly, and continually. Are we healthier for this? Are we wiser? Kinder? Maybe we think we are more productive, successful and cool. But, so what. We are losing ourselves— and essentially killing ourselves with all the exhaling.

For a week now I’ve been inhaling. I have finished my fall semester of graduate school, and I am in a break before my final semester. I’ve been pushing for four years to earn a degree, and although I anticipate this experience giving me discipline, knowledge and growth I could not have had otherwise, academic learning only uses a limited part of my mind.

Believe it or not, there was a time, before these four years, where I probably did too much inhaling. I used a larger part of my mind for introspection and self-study. I dug deep into internal spaces, many of them dark. But, in these years of inhaling, I learned so much about myself— some of who I am, but mostly of who I am not. This kind of introspection is brutal, and also beautiful, and is absolutely necessary to our growth.

In these several years of exhaling, and holding my breath through graduate school, I have learned what the university wants me to learn. I have gained skills and knowledge from books, projects and papers. I have pushed myself beyond my comfort level to finish the readings, projects and papers. I have become an expert at organizing my time, or more accurate, obsessing about my time. And yes, I have been more outwardly productive, and I will see myself as successful and cool once I have two degrees on my wall. But— I am going to be working with people after I graduate. People who will be struggling with mental health issues, and essentially experiencing their own spiritual crisis. The books, projects and papers of academia will only take me so far. Those years of introspection is what will be the core foundation of everything I have to offer.

This past week, I inhaled again. Next week, I will do the same. That small part of mind gave way to the larger and time hasn’t mattered. Projects and papers and textbooks haven’t mattered. I’ve read books I want to read. I’ve worked on my projects and writings. I hear my inner voice again. She’s still here. I heard her in the shower yesterday. She is concerned.

Now, that I have experienced extremes on both ends of the exhale and inhale I see how important it is for balance. I see how I needed the long time of the inhale to dig through the past, to face my demons and come out the other side. I see how I’ve needed this long time to exhale— to throw myself into this external world and learn about it, and at times be horrified and frightened by it. Right now, as a culture we are off balance. We are doing far too much exhaling. Our focus needs to come back to the in-breath, the inhale. Winter is a perfect time for introspection. To take a break. To check in with ourselves: how are we feeling? What do we need? Who have we become? Where are we headed? What small shifts can we make to change directions? How can we love ourselves more? Love each other more? What is in our dark spaces that needs to see the light? 

sunset

One of the inhaling practices I did this week was to begin a new journal, and instead of venting through the pages as I often do, I pasted some images that expressed my intentions for the coming year. Next to the images I wrote in present tense about how these intentions will unfold for me. One of my intentions is to lean into, with full heart and vulnerability, two primary relationships. I have spent years blaming, resenting and essentially fearing them. I have put up my armor and said: you will not hurt me. I have used the weapons of self-righteousness, manipulation and victimhood. These once, so I believed, gave me power. Now, I see their truth— they only create more distrust, resentment and therefore, further isolation.

Over the past several months, I have added a small movement to my yoga/mediation practice. I open my arms, roll back my shoulders, look up and say, I am open. When I was a little girl, trick or treating with my dad, I took off my Cinderella mask and said to my dad: I just want to be myself. This has been my journey— twists, turns and tangles of unraveling all that I am not to become who I am. To open up my arms, roll back my shoulders and say, I am open. This is the wilderness Brené speaks about. It takes courage and a hell of a lot of commitment.

To know ourselves, we must inhale- even if it just starts with one deeper breath in. If we do this continually, we will tip the scales toward truth and light, and this spiritual crisis will transform into a spiritual revolution.

The Soul Reporter

The Broken Place.

The Broken Place It’s from here where all of our distortions and dysfunctions originate. We will often, unconsciously so, create meaning and lives and experiences and relationships from these distortions, which originate from this broken place. In time, the meanings, … Continue reading

What it took for me not to give up today.

I’ve been going strong for some time. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Grad school will be over in May. I’ve been doing yoga and meditation since February. And for one solid year I didn’t bleed irregularly.

Unfortunately, the bleeding from a women’s uterus is still a taboo subject. But I am going to talk about it. In fact, yesterday I talked about it with a man who I’ve only known a short while. He showed more compassion than the woman I told who had a hysterectomy- “Oh, I went through that. Got a hysterectomy. Glad that’s over.” Thanks, oh compassionate fellow woman……

Anyway, in July I skipped a period. In June I felt a change, almost as if I were drying up. I knew the time of bearing children was over. In August I bled for 10 days and my doctor prescribed Progesterone. I’ve been through this before. Two years ago I had a D & C for heavy bleeding, diagnosed with hyperplasia. Got an IUD, my body rejected it. Went on the pill, my blood pressure rose. Left it alone. One year, totally regular.

But now it’s September and I’ve been bleeding for 7 days. This isn’t just regular bleeding. This is insane bleeding where I can feel the hemoglobin dropping, where I actually thought I lost my uterus in the toilet yesterday. And now, I will now stop talking about my bleeding. Because actually my bleeding, at least the physical part of it, is not the point of this post.

After a hellish weekend of bleeding and cramping (okay, I promise I am now done with the bleeding part) on Monday I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was depressed. Anemic. Wondered what the use was to school and the future I thought I had. I was mad I was dealing with this issue again, especially now. All I asked was for a year to just focus on getting out of school. My uterus, apparently didn’t care.

I got out of bed eventually. But before I did, I decided I would take it slow. I wouldn’t cram in homework. I wouldn’t even go into my internship. I would putz around the house, slowly. No pressure. This helped. I went for a slow walk in the sun. I thought about my uterus and its connection to Mother Earth. I thought about how our Mother is erupting right now: hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, floods. I thought about my uterus erupting. Both are doing this to create balance. Both are doing this because they are wounded, and begging for US to change.

sunset

I became sad. I then imagined digging my hands deep, deep in to the earth. There it was cool and dark. The coolness soothed me. I understood that our Mother is warm, too warm. She is overheated. I understood that my uterus was also warm, overheated. Both carrying too much of the hurt, of the burden. But in the depths, she is cool and will always be.

How could this translate into the healing of my uterus? How can I cool it down? Take more walks. Breathe more deeply. Eat real foods. Drink water. Smile. Relax. Keep doing yoga and meditation. When I got back home, I pulled out Dr. Northrup’s book, The Wisdom of Menopause. For irregular bleeding she asks, where are you leaking energy? Funny, I was asking myself something similar already. My question was: What’s being neglected in my life, in my self? 

Northrup also discusses that menopause is the time for us to give birth to ourselves. For me, this is a self  less tied up in serving the needs of my family, as they are growing and learning how to serve their own, and more about moving into the world and serving there. It is about creativity also. The part of me I have neglected is the part that has deep passions and desires to be more creative, expansive and use the wisdom I have gained to help. I have a part that wants to write, learn music and draw. This part has been neglected through motherhood, and now through school, which really only utilizes the left side of my brain.

I do not regret my choice for school. I love what I am learning (most of it) and I understand that once I graduate I can actually go out and serve the world in a way that I may not have had the focus or energy for prior to school.

I put Northrup’s book away to get ready for an appointment. I had on my black sweats, which I wore for 3 days. Black is the color when I’m in the red. But I decided it was time to take them off and put them in the laundry basket. I also decided I would curl my gray, thinning hair and put on a little blush and mascara. I would make an effort even though the energy leaking from my body was trying to take me down. It was trying to bring me to a place where I am all too familiar. A place where I hide, where I give up. Where I think giving up is easier then putting on a little lipstick and a pair of jeans (still black) and making myself move in the direction of my dreams.

A few years ago, after recovering from a family trauma event, I coerced myself to believe that I had a second act. Ever since, I’ve been taking steps so really it wasn’t even an option to quit the other day. I am already in motion in the second half of my life. There is no going back to the part of me that gets so depressed and scared, she hides. But, she was triggered- triggered to come out because she felt defeated by the obstacle her uterus brought to her. The energy leaking depleted my mind and body and made me vulnerable to her. It happens. It will probably happen again. But, with each step forward I proclaim what it is I really want. And what I really want is to feel alive. To be free. To express my passions and share what I’ve gathered.

The Soul Reporter

 

I no longer fit it all in.

This summer I entered grad school. For years, while in undergrad, I knew this would be happening. It is a one year intensive program and because I knew, I intended to clear most everything off my list- even my job. This might be why I am surprised to overhear many of my fellow students discuss their new puppies, upcoming weddings, moving into new houses and taking Alaskan cruises. Yesterday, in class, a student said the schedule makes it hard to go to the cabin every weekend……

To this, I was relieved to hear my instructor say when he did this program he cleared away everything he could for the year.

I mean, I get it. I was young once and many of my fellow students are young. In my early 20’s I crammed everything into several months: built a new house, got married, went to Maui for my honeymoon, opened a business, had a baby and got a puppy. I had it all, or so I thought.

Now that I am middle-aged I see those years as sort of crazy making. I mean I am happy I have my baby, now 17 and my marriage, going on 20 years (the house and business is sold and the puppy became a dog that died). But, in my youth there was a sense of urgency that drove my choices that now, looking back, just doesn’t seem wise.

If I had to come up with a reason for this urgency, which of course I do, it is because I felt unfulfilled, and I felt pressured. I had to have experiences, driven by my own desires and the expectations of society. I wasn’t content, trusting or fulfilled enough to just be. I had to fill up my self and my life.

I no longer feel this urgency, and I find this incredibly ironic. If anything, with half my life over (at least I hope I still have half of it left) I should be trying to fit everything in while I still have time. Instead, I feel more at ease. I am not anxious about the cabin time I might be missing (of course I have no cabin). I do want another puppy, but I would never get one right now. And, moving would be nice, but I can wait. I guess that is what’s different— I can wait now. In my youth, I could not.

What else is different is I understand the importance of focused attention. To bring in too many experiences would undercut my learning, and therefore my future. I want to be a good therapist, or whatever I end up being after I graduate. I want to feel prepared and committed. I now know there is no reward for having a lot on my plate. Doing and having too much brings stress, anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.

I appreciate the experience of expanded time— of being committed and intentional about what can be on my plate right now and knowing that there is time— that whatever else there is, can wait. Before I close this post though, I do have a confession. I have one small regret and a subtle fear: will I have enough time to do what I still want to do? It took me 40+ years to finally follow my desire to be a therapist. When I sit in classes, I am enlivened and know I have found my calling. I think about the books and articles I want to write, the classes I want to teach, the people I want to serve, the groups I want to lead, the business I want to open. And with each of those desires is a quiet, yet persistent thought: will I have enough time…..?

In middle-age, the reality becomes more real- time is running out. Yet, there is still time. Perhaps now, with the diminishing of pressured, often inauthentic urgings to fill up space, the ability to focus my attention and living in this space of expanded time, miracles can occur.

The Soul Reporter

 

 

Let’s Not be Stress this Holiday. Let’s be Truth.

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I have a Christmas wish: can we please stop saying this time of year is stressful? Beyond the holiday, can we also please stop saying everything is so stressful? Most of us say this now- but is it helping? Isn’t it just a catch-all phrase that now doesn’t really mean anything?

What are we really saying when we say this? Are we really saying we need a rest? That we really don’t like what we spend our energy on? That our family dynamics (especially during holidays) makes us scared or resentful or not heard and seen? Or are we just trying to fit in with all the other stressful people and we actually feel good?

Whatever it is, let’s get to the nitty gritty of it and speak honestly and stop saying everything is so stressful. We are what we think, you know, so let’s not be stress. Let’s be truth.

Side note: after posting this on FB someone in-boxed me share the truth of what is going on  with them. This is the point of my post- to have us saying what is, not use blanket terms or just say something that we all say. It isn’t to make anyone feel what they are experiencing isn’t stressful. 2016 was rough for many of us. This is just a request for us to dig deeper. To seek the truth and share it, if so inclined. Share your truth here if you’d like.

The Soul Reporter

My Toxic Relationship with Trump

I made a mistake, and I’m probably not alone. I paid too much attention to Trump. It was fun to laugh at him. I was proud to get on my soapbox about him. And, if I needed a drama/adrenaline boost I could count on him to push my buttons. He was a captivating character who made me curious and also terrified. No matter how I tried I could not wrap my head around how this man got as far as he did on a campaign the pretty much divided many groups of people by making them feel like the “other” that they already felt so well.

My mistake in one way makes sense. It is a reasonable response for those of us who care about our country to pay attention to the candidates. But, Trump was no regular candidate as most of us know, and what really captured my attention was something far more unconscious and yet, oh, so familiar. I was entering into another toxic relationship with someone who is emotionally unavailable.

In order to discover this I had to endure the crushing blow of our break up last night and not for the reasons you might think. As I sat down for the long election night the anxiety set in. Florida. Florida. Florida. I needed some licorice to chew on. I wished I could knit. I wanted to go back to smoking cigarettes. I was not emotionally regulated. Then California was called and Hillary took the lead. I could breathe. No longer did I wish to knit and eat licorice.

Then Florida was called. He won it, and it looked like he would win many other key states. I imploded and when I go on emotional overload, I shut down— all the way down. Now I was numb. Numbness helped me take the final blow when Hill conceded. Then, the fear hit like a five-ton truck. Goodbye women’s right to choose. Goodbye Planned Parenthood. Goodbye Universal Health Care and Free college tuition. Goodbye Earth. Goodbye rainbow lit white house. Goodbye diversity in politics. All of what is progress going, going, gone. If this weren’t enough, then fear showed me the violence that could come upon my multi-racial family.

Three hours of sleep later, I was resigned. Bitter. Depressed. But, Hillary spoke and then spoke right to me and my daughter as we both sat there and listened. She opened up my woman soul and it hurt. It hurt so bad. I felt slammed by the patriarchal structure. Then Wolf Blitzer went in for the kill and said, “Hillary Clinton: Very, very emotional speech. You saw her holding back, choking back those tears. She is, uh, well known for being very, very emotional at these kinds of moments. Clearly, a sad moment for her.” I grieved. Why don’t we understand and care for the female soul?

So, now what?

For one, I have broken up with Trump, officially. I have decided I will not watch the inauguration. I will not watch any state of the union. I have deleted my news apps. I will turn down the volume when I hear his voice on the radio or turn the channel when I see his face. I won’t add President in front of his name. And, I won’t worry about my patriotism in regard to any of these choices.

Here’s what I also won’t do anymore because of these actions— take care of him emotionally or be his moral center. Why did I take this on?  Because I sensed he had no emotional IQ or moral center so I assumed the role as many women do and made up for it within my own self. I became his moral center. I took on his lack of emotional depth and fed him mine, even if it was hate and anger. Trump didn’t care what emotion I gave him because he fed off it. It invigorated him. Considering the results we know it wasn’t just my energy and emotion that invigorated him. Many of us gave him our energy and emotion and right now it is all he has. Without it, he fades into the darkness. We, my women, and I’m sure men, have kept him in the light. And, this is extremely unhealthy for us and essentially for him.

We do this with our fathers as young girls. We do this with our husbands as young women. We do this with our children, I am sure especially our sons, but I can’t truly speak to that because I have daughters. We take care of the emotions people can’t take care of for themselves. We give morals and character, even if we just hope for it or bitch about it, to people that don’t seem to have them. It’s deep.

I kept our union going by resisting his ways. By bitching about his lack of emotional depth. By feeling hate and anger for him and fear of him. And, here’s what made this union even more toxic— the man is unstable. He is unpredictable. He is insecure. Oh, what hell for women when we find this in a partner. What hell for a nation when we elect this kind of president. But, it could not be helped. DT is “their” Barack. He’s their change master, the Savior. And, we know how powerful that is.

But guess what’s going to happen, in my opinion? His people are going to abandon him, just like I feel I did, and probably countless others did, to Barack once we elected him. I went to bed on those two election nights with a smile on my face and a happy tear in my eye and woke up the next morning and did my safe, secure life.

Trump will also be abandoned by many others who didn’t want him as the president, who like me won’t give him that title. The big T will be left all alone. Alone with everything and everyone that is our nation and he will do this alone with not only little, to no experience in our political establishment, but also without sound character, emotional stability and mental fortitude. Holy. Friggin.’ Cow. At least Barack, where he lacked in experience, he more than made up for with character, stability, fortitude and a healthy dose of grace and cool.

I am grateful, though, that I invested in this relationship with Trump. It has changed me for the better. It has made me care more for the poorly called “others” that were brutally brought to attention by his campaign. It has clarified what I really want for our nation, for our earth. And, it has brought me back to a core learning: never emotionally engage with an unstable, unpredictable, insensitive, insecure person.

If any of you are feeling “crazy” consider you did what I did. Consider you made it your job to give him what he doesn’t have. Consider you protected him emotionally by giving him your emotions. Consider you got too emotionally involved and attached. It happens to the best of us. In fact, I think it only happens to the best of us because we want so much for people and we expect so much from ourselves. Now expect yourself to get free of it, and not just with Trump, but in any or all relationships where this is occurring.

We too easily become emotional surrogates for others, often without knowing. It will and does drag us down. I think many of us became Trump’s emotional surrogates. I really do. We took care of what he couldn’t. Now, let’s not do it for him as President. He wanted this and now like good old tough love (and right now I use the word love lightly) it’s time to let him go and see what he can do with the power and the shoes he wanted to fill. There’s no excuse with a Republican majority.

Now, we can breathe better. We have space in our souls. We aren’t taking this on anymore. We can self-care and start to heal and mend. As we feel stronger we will get back to the business at hand, whatever that is for us and what we care about. As long as we remember we are not here to take care of anyone emotionally. We are not here to protect grown people from their lack of character and integrity. We are here to do our part, run our race. We get back to our core, our center because this helps everyone, even those inept emotionally. And when we lose perspective and get drained by this news and whatever is to come, we might step outside and look at the stars or feel the sun on our face and know we are a part of something larger than what goes on down here. As much as what happens here matters, its a blip on the totality of what is the Universe. When we touch back down to earth and then to our country, in this case, the United States, and we realize this presidential decision did in fact happen, we can realize it is a part of a larger framework that we are a part of, but that we don’t fully control.

The only thing we are in charge of is our mind. This is our domain, and responsibility to do the upkeep inside this domain is ours alone. We must work to keep it as clean and clear as possible and this is NOT an easy task. But, the rewards are plentiful. A clear mind is an open mind and we need this now. An open mind gives a clear pathway to our heart and we crave this connection now. With this connection we see with both heart and mind and come to understand this is the only protection we need, especially from forming toxic, unhealthy relationships. And we need protection now.

A clean, clear, open mind and an awakened heart is our only direction, and we need direction now— so let’s get moving.

Nikki.

 

You Belong. You Exist.

You belong. You exist.

This is important to say. You belong. You exist. Exist means: to have actual being.

Very often we don’t receive these messages as children. You belong. You exist. The yearning to belong and exist is deep, deep within us. I might argue this yearning creates everything we have experienced in our lives so far. There comes a point, if we are reaching for it, where we realize we actually do belong, we do exist. This occurrence happens even if our experiences have shown us the opposite.

I just had this experience. I was listening to Day 5 of Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation, Experiencing, Creating Peace from the Inside Out. Oprah said, “If it is intimacy and connection you resist, it is love you crave most.” This struck a chord and is a theme that’s been surfacing lately.

Moving into the meditation, the centering thought for Day 5 was, I only feel a need to connect. Instead of closing my eyes as I normally would, I looked up at a picture of me, probably 4 or 5 years of age, sitting at on a chair at my grandmother’s house. I’m wearing light bluish-green pants, a dark blue-green turtle neck and what look like Buster Brown shoes. My hands are folded in my lap, my shoulders are hunched over and my head is slightly tilted to the side. My eyes are bright, yet distant, I have a soft smile and I envy my thick, wavy hair. I think: this little girl only feels a need to connect.

I cannot hold back what’s inside of me. Pain and hurt for the yearning of this little girl. I began to speak to her. You are not rejected. You aren’t rejectable. You are sacred. You are connected. You are loved. You are safe.

I cried throughout the meditation and continued to speak to her. I imagined myself holding her to my heart, giving her a kiss on that thick, wavy head of hair. After the meditation I picked up the framed picture and kissed her face and held her image to my chest and said, “You belong. You exist.”

The word exist felt like truth ringing inside of my being. I made the connection to my pattern of hiding to this fear I don’t exist. I keep this pattern going by continuing to hide. But, now, I know~

littlenikkiI do belong. I do exist. I don’t need to hide anymore.

I look at her now, and smile.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

Rethinking Self-Care

Self-Care……..What do you think and feel when you read those two words?

When I think of self-care I feel enthusiastic. But, I realize this is not the case for everyone. When the word self-care is mentioned, I have heard people (mostly women) ask, “What is self-care?” I have heard women say, “I am not good at self-care.” I’ve heard other women say, “It’s not realistic to take care of myself. I am a mother. I work full-time…” For some women, self-care is just one more thing to do and if it’s not done, it’s one more area in their lives to feel badly about. This is not the point of self-care and so before self-care becomes even more of a hot topic, let’s be careful not to taint it with shame and false ideas of what it is. Instead, let’s take these concerns and questions and expand our idea of it so we can easily and effortlessly fit it into our lives. My guess is self-care is already a part of many of our lives.

What is self-care?

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Self-care is any act that we do that promotes well-being. I highlight any because self-care doesn’t just mean yoga and meditation, although these are good self-care practices. I have had long stretches where I didn’t feel like I took good care of myself. When this has happened, I would usually have an impulse to give myself a pedicure. First, I use a foot file on the bottom of my feet. Then, I use a handmade scrub of either salt or sugar with olive oil and scrub. From here, I rinse with warm water and massage my feet with lavender foot lotion. Before I start walking around I make sure to put on soft, comfy socks to keep them smooth. This is self-care.

Here’s a (partial) list of other self-care rituals:

  • Baths
  • Reading
  • Walking /Hiking
  • Physical activity
  • Therapy
  • Lunch dates with friends
  • Coloring/painting/drawing
  • Journaling
  • Decluttering
  • Pedicures/Manicures
  • Massage
  • Mindful breathing
  • Music
  • Dancing in your living room
  • A few minutes soaking in the sunshine
  • Lighting candles and sitting in the dark
  • Lighting incense
  • Silence
  • Crying
  • Making a cup of tea

 But, I’m not good at self-care

 As you can see from the partial list above, many of these rituals do not take up a lot of time or may be things we are doing already. I first learned the ritual of self-care (before it was a trend or had a name) spending weekends at my dads. There, I listened to classical music, drank hot tea by the space heater, took baths in the claw tub and drew pictures. These rituals still bring me comfort today. When someone says they are not good at self-care my insides crumble a little bit. What I hear is shame and doubt- as if self-care is something we have to be good at. We don’t. We just simply have to do it or recognize the many ways we already are doing it.

When we want to change our eating habits one of the ways to do this is to begin a food diary. This kind of documentation facilitates self-awareness and change doesn’t happen without awareness. In the same way as changing our eating habits, we can start a self-care diary to become aware of how we take of ourselves or how we don’t. If I were to begin a self-care diary today, here is what it might look like:

Ways I took care of myself today~

  • Slept in
  • Picked up the house after having a big dinner last night (and for me staying organized and keeping a clean house makes me feel good)
  • Did 25 minutes of yoga
  • Started Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day meditation program
  • Finished writing this article

What I think is important to understand is self-care is anything that gives you some space and room in your life, in your body, in your mind, and in your self. We all need space and thrive in it. Without space in all of these areas we will feel overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed is unmotivating and so of course, just the idea of self-care will make us angry or fill us with shame because we just can’t seem to do it.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes said in her book Women Who Run With the Wolves, “The modern woman is a blur of activity. She is pressured to be all things to all people.” I have a feeling most of us (in this case, women) resonate with this, which brings me to the next common obstacle about self-care…..

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Self-Care is not realistic.

 Self-care is not realistic for many of us if we are looking at it through a narrow lens. As previously stated, self-care is any act that promotes well-being, or if that’s too overwhelming of a definition—any act that just brings us a tiny bit of peace and space so that blur of activity stills for a moment. Recently, I listened to a woman share an example of how self-care is not realistic, especially for women with children. Sometimes her son needs help with homework and for her, helping him is important—more important than taking time out for herself. What I heard from this example was the conflict behind the experience. The issue here is not taking care of our child or taking care of our self. The issue is the mind creating a conflict between the two. We, as women, do this a lot. When we have conflict we are not at peace. We are in distress. And, why do we do create conflict in our minds? I think it’s because of what Clarissa said above, we try to be all things to all people— and, now the world also wants us to be all things to ourselves. Many of us respond, Oh, hell no.

But, you know what. We know this is what we have to do and for some of us it’s what we want to do. It’s time to take that old metaphor we know so well about putting on our oxygen masks first and apply it directly to our lives. We, especially have to do this if we are in conflict about what we do for others and what we do for ourselves. And, here’s a twist— we don’t have to pick one over the other. We can have both at the same time. Returning to the example of the woman wanting to help her son—if helping her child is her commitment, then there is no need for conflict. The way to not have conflict is to be mindful about our commitments. When we are mindful and conscious about our choices and commitments we are at ease. This is self-care. What is not self-care is beating ourselves up about what we should be doing when we are doing something that is important to us.

If our argument is that self-care is not realistic, but on some level we do sense the value in taking care of ourselves then we need to make it realistic for ourselves. We need to find the space to fit it into our lives, even if it’s 5 minutes of coloring. Any action we take toward taking care of our self will not only benefit our selves, but our families, our friends and any one or thing we come in contact with.

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Why is Self-Care Important?

Just like self-care is more than just sitting in meditation or doing yoga poses on our mats, self-care is important for reasons we may not fully comprehend. Sure, our self-care practices will make us start to feel better inside our bodies and minds. But, what is really happening is we are building a relationship with our selves, which can be the best relationship we will ever have. I see self-care as an opening into the deeper world of our souls. Our souls know who and what we are. Our souls carry what is true and real about ourselves, and I believe we can consciously live here in our souls, which means we will live in a more authentic way—the ultimate in self-care. For this to happen we need to start digging our tunnel inside of ourselves and create a self-care plan for our selves. This is a good start.

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Creating Your Self-Care Plan

I am available to help you develop a self-care plan starting with taking a self-care inventory. I am also available to help you stay with your plan and help guide you deeper into your relationship with your self. If you have questions or are interested in setting up a time for your self-care assessment, call/text @ 612-405-8053 or email me at nikki@nikkidivirgilio.com. For more information, go to the Self-Care & Discovery Consultations Tab on this site.

 

 

 

Seeking the Warmth

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Today was a sad and contemplative day. It was also a little stressful. My computer was acting funny so instead of doing homework as planned I went to the Mac store. Fortunatley my old 2007 is still going to get me through for a while. I had my bike in the car so I went to a lake, but I couldn’t yank my bike from the back.  I was getting pissed, which means I am going to break something and make it worse. Instead I took a deep breath and took off the front wheel. When I finally got it out of the car and the wheel back on my anticipated quiet ride was infilatrated by something that went clickety, click from somemthing I probably broke.

Six miles of clickety-click I put the bike back in my car. I grabbed the blanket from my backseat and walked to a massive tree by the lake. I stretched out my blanket, bunched up my sweatshirt for a pillow, put my hands on my belly and moved my face toward the soon-to-be-setting sun. And there it was— something familiar—warmth. In the warmth of the sun, my body cooled. Whatever I was irritated by calmed. What I’d been angry about vanished. But, there were tears. This warmth I was feeling— I determined is love.

There was a man and his dog sitting on the bench nearby. I didn’t pay him too much attention until he got up and started walking toward me. At first I was uncomfortable. I would have rather been left alone. But, he stopped and asked, “Are you doing alright,” as if we were old, dear friends. I didn’t answer truthfully, of course. I said, “Yes, I’m doing alright.” He replied, “Well unfortnatley for me my bike tire is flat.” I empathized and we agreed on what a beautiful day it was (despite his flat tire and my tears). Then, he was gone. My previous tears turned to sobs. I sat there until it passed.

When I get home, after I dinner I opened up to where I left off in Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Love Warrior. She is talking about drinking whiskey. She says, “The whiskey warmth starts in my mouth, travels down my throat, pools in my belly, and now my insides are also wrapped in a blanket, hushed, quieted, rocked gently to sleep.” I realize I had the very same experience as Glennon, but not with whiskey, with the sun, and that man. How often does someone ask us geunuinely, are we alright? I think we are all seeking the warmth.

I recall all the warm spots I have found. I found it with my dad as a kid when I’d stay at his house and drink warm tea and sit down next to the big heater that blew out warm air. I found it snuggling up to my husband on a cold, winter’s night. I found it when my dad rubbed my temples when I was young girl with a headache. I found it in the smiling eyes of my aunt when I walked through her front door. I found it in books. I even found it with my mother (who I often don’t feel nutured by) when I was sick and she snuggled me up in a blanket on the couch and handed me her famous pb & j with the big chunks of butter. I found it at the sunny spot by the lake. I found it in the question of a stranger.

Once I find it my insides are quieted. My mind is calm. I know I am loved. I am restored.

The Soul Reporter