Not more than a few short minutes away from home I feel this incredible pressure on my chest. The further I drive from home the more intense it feels and all I could do is cry. I imagine the sensation of a defibrillator used to de-fibrillate the heart or when compressions are done because someone's breathing or heartbeat has stopped.
That might be at it. To breathe. I’ve noticed I’ve been sighing a lot more lately almost more than talking. Medically, Feldman's research shows sighing is an important part of maintaining proper lung function. Other experts say sighing is also linked to stress reduction, frustration, longing, and several other emotions. Sounds about right. Sometimes I have felt like I am struggling in the water and trying not to drown. Sometimes I'm above water, sometimes I'm under.
And as I drive further from the city towards the country I saw many towers. And the weeping started to subside and I noticed that the pressure feels lighter.
The towers make me think of all of the responsibilities things that I feel like I have people I’m responsible to and for. I visualize myself sitting at a command center and I can see all of these towers flickering on and off, every one feeling as urgent as the next.
When I’m asked how I am feeling, I give a surfacing answer because it's been a while since I stopped to really feel anything. And what if I do? What am I going to do with it? So the sighing starts and replaces word. I can’t find the words to share how I’m feeling overwhelmed? Panicked? At peace? Hurt? Exhausted? Disappointment? Loved? Failure? Success? Confused? Clarity? Lost? Lost? I don’t know.
I don’t stop long enough to feel what I’m feeling and I quickly swivel my chair over to the next blinking red tower that is in need of assistance.
Right now everyone is talking about self-care. You need to take some time for yourself. You need to make sure you’re doing self-care. You've heard the age-old analogy, "You need to make sure you’re putting on your oxygen mask before you can assist anyone else."
This advice is very true and valuable but there’s one problem. We as women and mothers don’t know how to push away from the command center and trust that everything is going to be OK. We don't trust that the world won’t stop spinning if we are off duty.
And it’s not because we think we are so important and that we are the only ones who can manage the command center (well maybe a little). The truth is we are so invested in the people we care about. If they feel we fail. If they hurt we hurt. If the project doesn’t go well we feel entirely responsible, even if it’s a shared endeavor.
One time when I was with clients at a birth, as a doula, and noticed that the expectant father would not leave the monitor. He watched it for hours anxiously. With every dip of the baby's heart rate he would shoot a panicked look at me. I would give him a reassuring look and he would relax and but still study the monitor. At that point nothing I said would pull him away from it. He was exhausted and desperately needed to get some rest as the baby's birth was imminent. He refused several times until I placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and said, "You need to rest. I will watch your baby for you." He eventually accepted my offer, laid on the couch and within a few short minutes fell into a overdue rest.
I truly believe this is may be the missing key to self-care. Knowing and trusting that someone is capable and willing to "watch your baby" while you go and take care of yourself. Maybe it is just overdue sleep, but maybe it is permission to step away from the command center and do what restores you. Start with the basics if you can't think of anything (rest, exercise, being outside, reading a good book, coffee with friends, etc.)
Whether it is your spouse, friends, family members or coworkers we need to have people in our lives that we can trust to take the wheel.
So I ran away from home on Mother’s Day and it was the best thing I’ve done in a long time. And next time I won’t be running and I won’t be worrying. I’m going to push away from the command center and trust that I have placed people around me who have my best interest in mind. I am also going to make sure that they know that I can be that to them as well. I encourage you to reach out to someone today.
All the best,