Article by PPPSS Counselor Shealagh Davis
I was talking to a mom the other day on the phone and the subject of self-care came up as it usually does. She said that her old self wouldn’t have allowed her not to take care of herself. That the old self (pre-baby) knew to take a shower, brush her teeth and eat when she was hungry. As I listened to her share it occurred to me that her old self wasn’t sleep deprived, dealing with grief from the loss of her old life and transitioning through one of the most profound life changes you will ever go through.
After calls like this, which are many on our support line, it often makes me pause and reflect on my own self-care. When I was a postpartum Mom the word “self-care” sounded like “selfish.” I had no idea what it meant or how to incorporate it into my life. With a lot of support, love, boundaries and practice I learned what it meant to me and it has become a part of my being that I can’t imagine living without.
As of March this year I am in Menopause. This change has been challenging for me, my self-care seemed out of reach, all the old ways of me taking care of myself just didn’t seem to be working. I had worked so hard to have a self-care routine and it had worked for years. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was that I was entering into another profound life change, one that I had no experience with.
My old self wanted everything to stay the same, not adjust to my new way of being. Eventually I became so uncomfortable that I felt forced to re-discover who I was now and what this new self needed to take care of herself.
What has helped ease my discomfort? It’s the memory in myself of when I was so uncomfortable in my postpartum period that I had to surrender to a new way of being. Its like a muscle memory, I know that I will get through this because I’ve done the work before, I know there’s a beginning, a middle and an end to this next phase for me. As I know myself I know I’m one to fight change. I used to hate the word “Surrender”, now it is a word that brings me ease and peace. With a lot of support, love, boundaries and practice I know I will make my way, taking inventory and adjusting my self care tool bag.
Reflecting on this time I’m reminded of one of my favourite poems, “Joy and Sorrow” by Kahlil Gibran
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.