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Joanna Rose Health and Wellness

The Next Layer

Posted on June 14, 2015 The Next Layer

April 2015

Some days, when all is going wrong and I look around at laundry piling up and rooms that look like a cyclone went through them, and no food in the fridge (the end of the week when all the prepped food is gone) and I'm tired because I was woken up hourly the night before, I start to go to questionable places. "How do other moms keep it together?" "How is it I work a part time business and still can't keep up with everything?" I say questionable because overwhelm is definitely a trigger for me. It's in those moments I have to stop what I'm doing and go do yoga or go play with my son, Alex basically go do something physical that has nothing to do with the things that need doing. Something bigger is happening though.....and if you don't want to get deep I urge you to close out the browser now.

Lately, it's becoming very clear to me as I reflect on my own Mother. The one who I used to be hard on by thinking "why didn't she make sure I brushed my teeth or get to me to bed by a certain time? Why didn't she spend time with me? Why were my feelings always brushed aside? Why did she spend so much time talking on the phone to her own mother each evening?" She worked full time and drove one hour each way as she commuted to and from work. She single handedly cooked dinner each night, and not just any dinner, but one with (usually) pasta, fresh veggies, and some kind of meat. Not processed. From scratch. We sometimes didn't eat dinner until 8:008:30. Then she single handedly cleaned up everything while she talked to her mom on the phone. This might sound pretty common compared to many moms around the globe right? Something more was going on....

My house was one of unrest, dysfunction, and abuse. My Father was a ticking time bomb. He could be loving and happy one minute and the next be set off with his face turning bright red while white spit formed at the corners of his mouth, flying in every direction. The receiver of his rage was berated and called every name in the book or much worse. Dinner times at our house were often filled with screaming or worse complete silence (the calm before the storm).

How my mother lived on a daily basis has me thinking about her current health a lot. My Mom has COPD. For those who don't know that basically means she has a really hard time breathing and therefore doing anything physical requires a great amount of effort on her part. Many would say she got COPD from smoking, and it wasn't just a pack a day, but upwards of 3 packs a day for many many years. If I think about what my Mom did regularly, it was work, cook, clean the house, and cut the grass (until my brother was old enough to do so) of at least 2 of our 11 acres. Never did she do anything just for her. She did not have hobbies or friends that she went out with or even talked to, and she certainly never took a break. On Sundays, she cooked a dinner for our extended family. And not just once in a while, but pretty much every single Sunday. Once divorced, she went out with work friends a handful of times, but by then she was used to not taking care of herself. Instead she focused on taking care of her aging parents and any family members that underwent surgery and needed to recover. She had her hands full with one adult child who lived rent free and ran up the bills. another who was a budding teen who was defiant every step of the way (yours truly) sneaking out, sneaking people in, having parties, cutting school, etc. She did not do down time. No dinners out, no movies with friends, no focus on her eating habits, sleep patterns or anxiety levels. No attention paid to what her body, mind, and spirit needed.

The root cause of lung problems, as I initially learned from Louise Hayes, is the inability to fully take in life. Sure my Mom did a lot, but none of what she did was life building....for her. The cause of her COPD may have been smoking, but smoking did not cause the initial problem. The initial problem was caused by not knowing how to handle the stress of her chosen life, not taking time for herself, and going back even further, the grief she experienced from other life events that resulted in her not feeling worthy of lovemost importantly from herself. I can see this clearly because I went on to repeat the same pattern and some of it we've discussed and I confirmed.

The heart and lungs represent compassion. Compassion for oneself and others. We cannot have true compassion for others without it starting with ourselves first. For how can we give without expectation and fully if we can't start with ourselves? Even if those expectations aren't laid out for others, they may come in the thought form of:

"I feel unworthy, so therefore to become worthy I must do this or take care of so and so..."
"I have to do such and such because *insert name here* can't do this for themselves or not as good as I can." 

"I want to be liked, so to feel included and loved I must do this because I'm not lovable as I am."
"I will do xyz for *insert name*, but when I don't get proper thanks I'm going to cut them off."

Of course, these thoughts aren't actually conscious ones. Many people wouldn't choose to think this way and keep it going, but if it's happening on at a subconscious level than that's (at least partly) what's driving the behavior of not taking care of oneself. It's coming from a pattern of thinking that came from (take your pick) traumatic events, one's past, family patterns, society patterns, past lives, or even our own thoughts that were part of coping when we were too young to know better.

So, going back go my own feelings of overwhelm. I am intentionally gentle with myself when I notice the feeling of overwhelm springing up, and I allow myself to go play or move or cry or whatever I need in that moment. Recalling how my Mom lived has taught me that I must take the time. Time to take care and to slow down....making room in my life for me is needed, if I am to break my own unhealthy family cycles.

Later in the month
I am writing this because my Mom is going to die and I'm feeling sad because I never got to know her. I mean really know her. And you know why? Because she never really got to know herself. I longed to spend time with her when I was just a little girl playing with my dollies. I'd take them to her in the kitchen while she was cooking and ask her to play with me. "I can't" she'd say, "I'm cooking dinner, but I can babysit them while you play." I'd leave them with her for only minutes and then rush back in to see what she was doing. As I grew older, I asked to spend time just her and me, mother daughter time. She'd be so busy caring for my grandmother or having to deliver her work to her drop off location or having to do a number of her chores that she didn't have the time to spend with me.
My heart aches because I find myself starting the same process over with my son. I have to grocery shop, cook dinner, make a call, prepare client paper work, etc. I don't have time to play with you. I don't have time to play. Not with you and not even with myself.
I don't want that for him. I don't want that for me. And I don't want that for you and your families either.
I see so many people rushing from one task to the next. I have neighbors who aren't together spending time as a family, but instead mom is with daughter and dad is with son at their separate sports events. These kids are 7 and 8 and they spend every night of the week separated. On weekends? Same as during the week, just further travel.

I want to impart the message that it's important to develop oneself by creating play time, by making down time, by slowing down and savoring. If we're rushing from one activity to the next how can we connect with each other? How can we get to know one another? How can we build community together? How can we get to know ourselves and all our unconscious driven behavior (that is, if we care to understand ourselves on that level)?

Yet I myself am not doing this. I have noticed this week I am not heeding my own advice. What I'd like to do (while being supported financially with no added stress to Matt in relation to this) is be a full time Mom, present and loving and patient, and helping others by documenting what I'm incorporating into my own life via a membership fee based website and when I'm ready help more people individually as needed. I'd like to continue writing. I'd like to continue improving on my levels of self care, both for myself, for my family, and for the world.

Today, Alex did a typical toddler thing. He got up as soon as the diaper came off and ran around the living room laughing. At first I laughed too, but when I needed the new diaper to go back on and he wouldn't I became impatient and frustrated. I attempted to hold his arms down with my feet and his legs with my arms all while snapping his diaper closed. This resulted in several attempts and him screaming and crying to the point of when I was done he ran into my arms sobbing. What am I doing? 

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