Mothering Myself

Mothering Myself

How old were you when you sat back and reflected on your life and knew that you were fully capable of taking care of yourself? 16?  20?  25?I was 37.  As in, about two weeks ago.  Stop laughing. Yes, I have three children.  Yes, I have a house and a husband, and a full time teaching job and student loans and a car payment.  Obviously, I’ve been taking care of myself for quite some time.  But, only very recently, have I started to truly CARE for myself.
When you are all those things I just listed, or really, ANY of those things that I just listed-wife, mother, teacher, etc, you have responsibilities to someone other than yourself.  When you have a life, and that life has stress, it’s natural to seek comfort.  Some people seem to be able to comfort themselves in completely appropriate, healthful ways.  These are the people who naturally give themselves early bedtimes, eat nutritious meals thrice per day, enjoy their time at the gym and (usually) make me more than a little bit angry.If you’re like me, you’ve learned to seek comfort in maladaptive ways.  Your comfort is quick, and easy, and it feels good. You stay up late because you want “me time” (which, when your alarm goes off at 5:30am is really biting your nose to spite your own face).  You have another glass of wine, when you should really talk about what’s bugging you.  You eat a double fudge brownie sundae, without even tasting it, because in that moment you feel peace.
You see, I’ve been there on that back burner, simmering on low for years now.
I’ve always struggled with my weight, and my self esteem.  In my over-imaginative mind, WEIGHT and SELF ESTEEM have permanent barcaloungers in the deep recesses of my mind, from where they have always thrown sharp objects and heavy obstacles into the path of my life-movie.  Starting back when I was very young, my weight has been the first and last thing on my  mind, every single day.  I remember being in seventh grade, and having to go to the nurse for a “sports physical” or something of the like.  I remember getting on the scale and being acutely aware of what it said, for the first time ever.  I remember bringing the form back to class with me, and stealthily changing one of the numbers written in under “weight”, so that I was automatically thirty pounds lighter.  I remember feeling ashamed.
While that may have been one of the first experiences I had with feeling that way, it would be a theme that would recur throughout my adolescence, and throughout my adult life.  I never liked what I saw in the mirror.  I would focus on what was wrong with my body.  I would perseverate on my belly, especially after I had children.  I would try to lose weight.  I would try to change my habits.  I always failed.
 Looking back now, I think that I failed because I never addressed the reasons I ate in the first place.  I used “deprivation” models (i.e. I can NOT have that cake because cake is bad) and “moderation” models (I can have a little of that cake because a little of that cake is fine), but I never really thought about why I needed (and yes, NEEDED is the right word here) the cake to begin with.  And so, inevitably, my old habits would come back.  I felt a void, and I comforted myself with food.
In my adult life, my inability to make good choices for myself could almost be considered comical.  Comical, because I am so good at mothering my children, and so AWFUL at mothering myself.  In one breath, I could deny my kids a scoop of ice cream… “No, honey, you had ice cream yesterday and your body needs something healthy to keep it going right now.  Let’s make a healthy choice,”  and as soon as they left the kitchen I could cram a half cup of the shit down my throat because “ICE CREAM!” and, because “I deserve it!”  Comical.  But not really.
So, it was about November of this past year that I came across the blog of an acquaintance of mine.  That acquaintance was Kelly Coffey, and that blog was  I had had it.  I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.  I knew that I deserved more than what I was giving myself.  And I knew that I had tried and tried to do it on my own, and failed miserably.  I reached out to Kelly, and it was a pivotal moment.
The rest of the story is a work currently in progress, but I have already learned so much.  Self comfort does not equal self care.  What feels GOOD will not automatically make you FEEL good.  Sometimes, you need to give yourself tough love.  It helps me to think of myself as I would one of my children.  I put myself to bed when I’m cranky, I talk when I’m upset, and I eat healthfully and mindfully (this, for me, also means severely limiting sugar and starch, which trigger old habits).  I exercise.  I buy myself new (smaller) clothing.  I DON’T GET ON THE SCALE.  The number I would see is not important.  It doesn’t define who I am.   Every night, as I’m falling asleep, I lay my hands on my belly.  I think loving thoughts, instead of negative ones.  It’s squishy, and jiggly, and it was my babies’ first home.  It will never be flat, or pretty, but it’s beautiful.
So, I’m on this journey.  And now, you’re on it with me.  How do you take care of yourself?  How do you mother yourself?  I’d love to know.

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