I used to think I was somehow ‘above’ needing time out. That it was a badge of honour to keep going, continually moving at a frantic pace, doing it all, doing it myself. I’d smile politely when anyone suggested I consider putting the kids in care for a few hours, thinking that was for ‘other people’, not for me. Most of these thoughts were barely acknowledged even to myself but they were powerful, silently governing my way of being.
I drove in the dark last night to the accompaniment of the compelling interview between Pico Iyer and Krista Tippett in her podcast, On Being. Iyer champions the importance of learning ‘stillness’, a way of being that allows us to connect with ourselves and the world around us in increasingly meaningful ways.
He proposes that “we’ve lost the ability to live at the speed of life” and that “whether you’re a mother raising kids or somebody going to the office…you’re extracting the meaning only when you’re away from it. And I sometimes think, we’re living so close to our lives, we can’t make sense of them.” He goes onto say that “I think we all know our outer lives are only as good as our inner lives. So to neglect our inner lives is really to incapacitate our outer lives. We don’t have so much to give to other people or the world or our job or our kids.”
I mean, I’ve harboured suspicions about the importance of slowing down, but to hear Iyer put it so eloquently and to link the two was inspiring.
To wear the garbs of a martyr, cloaking myself in exhaustion and self-sacrifice only led to frustration and hidden angst. The constant pace masked the emptiness to some extent, but it was always looming behind the next shadow, never completely out of mind.
One of the toughest things I have found about motherhood is the relentlessness. Pouring yourself out over and over again in the course of a day, often to little thanks or tangible reward. I think that there is little done to prepare us for that function. Our entire framing as humans in the Western world is around climbing ranks, seeking affirmation, completing goals and tasks.
Motherhood is the antithesis to this.
Of course, we have tried to fashion it in the same vein – turning the sacred relationship into a weapon to wield against those who ‘do it differently’, gaining our identity and belonging from the choices made to feed, clothe and educate our offspring. And it seems to me, that this twisting of the story keeps us on a very facile playing field. Our very beings cry out for meaning, for connection and true intimacy, but we limit the story to the shallow surface. What a tragedy.
I am but a few steps into this journey of reconciling truth with my experience but I feel as if Someone has flicked on a switch. The universe is a enchanted, mystical place and we are permitted existence, suspended in a vast expanse of galaxy.
Today, I’ve marvelled at a rosella perched upon our crab apple tree, breathed in the beauty of the first orchid flower blooming, savoured the cinnamon sugar coating of a crunchy churros, practised ‘ocean breath’ while moving fluidly in poses of celebration, and reflected upon the incredible function of the eyes to translate 2D information to the wonder of depth and perspective that we take for granted every time we blink open our lashes.
If, like (former) me, you think that you should be the exception and that going it alone will pan out in the end, I urge you to consider the alternative. I feel as if I’ve passed over a threshold and discovered this amazing place where you can see again, breathe again, and be refreshed to pour back into others again.
Come. Make room. Be.
This piece was inspired by Cara Meredith’s post ‘What Do You Do in Your Spare Time?’.