Nakedness Dens and Food

My life with four little boys

The haunting rattles of things-I-used-to-do

on May 18, 2015

So. A *funny* thing happened to me recently. I received an Email from WordPress asking me to renew my Subscription for a blog called Nakedness Dens and Food. I duly searched the deepest crevices of my memory, dusted down the cobwebs in my brain and shone a bright light into the corners of my mind. And would you believe it, that there, right there, just sitting looking straight back at me like a Labrador eyeing up a biscuit in my hand, was a great big yet another something-else-I-used-to-do? I have lots of them up there, floating around amongst all the stuff – mainly things about my boys like birthdays, best friends, favourite Transformer of the moment, which day it’s ok to wear Toy Story underwear and when it has to be the Batman ones because that’s less embarrassing when you’re 7 and getting changed for PE apparently…

“Hmm…. ” I thought, as I read the e-mail. “I do vaguely remember this blogging thing I used to do.” And then I was faced with a choice; to resurrect or to bury. To renew or forget. To pick up or to leave be – along with all the other things that have fallen by the wayside during my years of parenting – and, let’s face it, just adult-ing. Oh yes, as well as all the boy-info, I have quite a few of these things-I-used-to-do lodged in my memory ready to taunt me at the earliest opportunity. They probably have their very own club where they all get together and support each other through existential musings: Guitar playing, Jogging (only did it once but I think it still counts), scrap booking, poetry writing (don’t laugh), reading anything other than parenting books or Aliens Love Underpants… And now, blogging, apparently. And did you know, they rattle? Only faintly. But if I ever stop long enough to hear my own thoughts, the rattling is there, rattling the rhythm of things-I-used-to-do; Moving and shaking to the sounds of a drum beat I once knew well, but one that somehow gets forgotten in the day-to-day. But here’s the thing, the thing that has compelled me to write again. This drum beat. It’s an important one. It’s a vital one. It’s the drum beat of my soul.

So, here’s my reflection about those things we often put down or decide we don’t have time for amongst the madness of family life (which, incidentally, is the only reason for neglecting this blog in recent months, nothing more dramatic than just that).

Fellow parents, as we go about our devoted care-giving and thinking of others and changing nappies and not enough sleep and endless school runs and culinary battles and taxi driving and general cheerleading and dealing with too many other humans’ bodily functions and… Did I mention not enough sleep…? Well, as we go about all of that, it’s so important that we also don’t ignore those sounds we try to bury during particularly the early years of parenting – all those rattles, rattling the haunting rhythm of things-we-used-to-do. To ignore the rattles and the drum beat they are trying to synch with, is to ignore the core of who we are.

Now, I appreciate that you may be reading this thinking it’s all very well, but who’s got time for Pilates, or PHDs when the biggest achievement of the day is to manage a shower, or an acceptable meal not involving nuggets and chips? I know. I really do. I know that it’s not easy to find time for “you” in all the mayhem. I know what it’s like to struggle just to get through the housework each day whilst simultaneously keeping a toddler from breaking his neck jumping off furniture, and then to collapse on the sofa at the end of it all exhausted and just in the need of S-L-E-E-P. And I know what the reality of having a paid job on top of all the parenting does to the levels of stress and the lengths of things to do lists just to get everyone out of the house on time. I know that the thought of fitting in anything else right now to your day, anything vaguely resembling a hobby or vocation seems laughable. But I also know the cost of not doing it is way higher than you probably think. Because it’s not just us parents who need us to feed our souls. Our children need us to do it too.

I read a blog last year which beautifully expresses, much better than I, the importance of what I’m getting at. It’s a piece by a woman called Shauna, now a mother herself, about the lessons her mother has communicated through her own journey of mothering. It’s written from the point of view of a mother to a daughter alluding to the gender stereotypical roles and assumption that women would in a sense put their own lives on hold to have babies. But I know that unless you happen to be getting paid for doing what you love in a vocational sense, rather than just finding employment to pay the bills, both parents whether male or female will feel this squeeze on their ability to follow their own passions whilst so much of their time is spent focused on the hum drum of family life and routine of *survival* (My husband would be the first to complain that he doesn’t go to as many gigs these days or play squash so much for example). So here, for the benefit of both mums and dads, as well as our children regardless of gender, are some of the nuggets shared in the wisdom of Shauna’s and Lynne’s journeys.

***

Lynne and Shauna

She was an excellent care-giver. An attentive and gentle mother, a loving parent. But in her own words, she was not happy. We had a good, good mom. But we did not have a happy one. Seventeen years after she became a pastor’s wife, she walked into a counsellor’s office and said, “I don’t know who I am anymore. Something has to change.”

This is what she says about it: “What’s so sad is that when women fail to take their lives seriously, nobody wins. Our kids didn’t win. They got a devoted, conscientious mother, who picked up after them and made sure they got their homework done. They got a mother who adored them, prayed for them, always wanted the best for them. But they didn’t get a happy mother. They didn’t get a fun mother. They didn’t get to see, up close and personal, a woman fully alive…”

Little by little, my mom began to look inside herself, to consider for the first time in almost 20 years what it was she really loved, what she was made to do.

This journey she was on began when I was fourteen….Watching my mother while I as a young teenager gave me a front row seat to a hard, messy, important, beautiful transformation. I watched my mother become herself. I watched her come alive. I watched her discover her gifts… And as I watched her, I promised myself that I would follow this new example she was leaving for me, to pay attention to my gifts and passions. The life I was seeing in her for the first time was so inspiring to me. I loved it in her, and I wanted it for myself…

My mom taught me that it’s worth the hard work of rearranging the practicalities. It seems overwhelming. It seems easier, simpler, cleaner sometimes, to opt out entirely for a while, to put my own voice on hold for a while, to sort it out later. But my mom’s voice in my life and her example in my life would never allow me to do that… and part of her fire for that is because she knows first-hand how painful life is when you’re not living out of your passions.

She said, “Don’t wait the decades that I did—decades of depression and exhaustion… it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Just because in one season or another you can’t pour forty hours a week into creative work you love doesn’t mean you give it up entirely. Pour four hours a week into it—or four hours a month. Keep your dreams alive and they’ll energize you.”

***

And there’s the paradoxical truth we need to take hold of. Right there in the final sentence my friends. Just when we think we’re too exhausted to think about ourselves and what we want out of life, is exactly the moment we must do just that. Whether it’s coffee with a friend, reading a book by a favourite author, taking a course of study, dusting down our old guitar, volunteering in an area we feel passionate about… Whatever it is that makes us tick, whatever it is that feeds our souls, whatever it is that makes us feel more like us… It’s in that place that we find energy. Sure an extra 8 hours sleep wouldn’t hurt either. But the kind of energy that invigorates our very core, that is so explosive it can’t help but make our eyes sparkle and the love of life bubble out of us, could well be the missing ingredient in our parenting.

Shauna speaks so fondly of her mother’s example, but why wait until our children are teenagers? And trust me, I have not got this right yet. So this rally cry is levelled at me as much as anyone else. My boys don’t really know that I play the guitar (sort of!) and they know little about my passion for dance prior to getting married. Jogging aside, there are many things I would like to do that for too long I have let being a parent get in the way of. And this blog was in danger of becoming yet another one of those things. So I’m fighting back! This time I have taken notice of the rattling sounds echoing around my mind of something-I-used-to-do and I am seeking to live, at least a little bit, to the rhythm of the drum beat at the core of my soul, a part of which is this blog. I’m not sure if it is a gift, but it is certainly a passion.

Life is full of seasons, but it is never the season to neglect to be you and everything that makes you, “you”. That is not what our children need. As Shauna’s story illustrates, our children flourish in who they are when they have experienced parents who also flourish in all they are. For some that will be in the tending of the home, for others it will be in the court room as a hot-shot solicitor and for others it may be in the volunteering at weekends in a soup kitchen. Wherever it is, whatever it looks like, remember it, find it, do it! I promise you, far from being one extra chore to fit in to the madness, it will energise you for the ride. And it will show your children LIFE. The very best of our great big fat juicy lives! If you can’t read war and peace, read something… An article here or there, a novel downloaded onto your tablet for the night-time feeds. If you can’t volunteer every weekend, volunteer once a month. If you can’t throw as many parties any more, just throw the odd one (no, your children’s birthday party doesn’t count!).

The jogging I only did once. It turned out not to be me. It doesn’t need to be picked up again. EVER! But blogging… well the rattling has been heard and taken note of. The blog is back people! And the drum beat of my soul is a little louder already. It’s nice to have you join me being me. Now, go and be you!

Helen -x-

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