One of my favorite podcast hosts recently posed an interesting question: “How are you celebrating you today?”
I love this concept. We seem comfortable straining, striving, and pushing ahead, but what about stopping for a minute to give ourselves a pat on the back or to take a bow?
How often do you give yourself an extra dose of much-deserved credit for all the little and big things you do each day?
Right now, all for an audience of one, I’m pushing my shoulders back, settling into a poised stance, and preparing for a bow.
My accomplishment? Demonstrating courage and resiliency in a situation fraught with elements that previously would have sent me over the edge. The kind of situation that typically left me reeling and wanting to quit.
After a year at home caring for my daughter, Anya, I went back to work. This transition has included a solid mix of brave smiles and teary goodbyes for everyone. We knew it would be hard, but felt it was worth it. Even the most realistic expectations don’t lessen the hardness or the stress.
For instance, a phone call over my lunch hour the other day. Anya and her Dad were out adventuring when she began missing me. My husband video called me and handed Anya the phone. She looked longingly into the camera and cried, “Mommy miss.”
Some parts of parenting are full of mundane, everyday sameness. Along the way are these tiny turning points that arrive at a moment’s notice.
It’s as if we’re invited to speak soul to soul with our children.
Something inside kicks in and takes over, and there’s no choice but to do well by them as best we can, to love them as well as possible.
Back in my moment, it was all I could do to put on a brave face and hold back my own tears. I wasn’t having a great day either, but I wasn’t sure displaying the full range of my own emotions would be of much help. I assured her that this is “different” and “hard” (at three, these are the words she uses to identify overwhelming feelings) and that it’s okay to feel sad and cry. Then I asked her how I might help, what might we do to feel better, and together we resolved to talk for a while. From there her sadness subsided, she perked up and smiled, and we said our goodbyes.
With my shoulders back and chin up, I went back to work feeling like a queen because I was able to be the parent, and then the professional, and the person I wanted to be. It’s worth celebrating today because there was a time when I struggled in moments like that.
What has made all the difference for me is therapy. I had this “beach ball” of unsettled hurt that kept resurfacing in different parts of my life. One day I realized that little eyes were watching to see what happens, what we do when life gets “hard” and we experience overwhelming feelings or situations. With a fair amount of trepidation, I made an appointment and went. What I came out with months later was a bolstered toolbox for loving and leading myself and my child. Tools like:
- Acknowledging and accepting that some situations are simply stressful in nature, no matter what you do or how hard you to try.
- Recognizing signs of an “emotional avalanche” as it’s approaching and having a plan for what to do next.
- Radically accepting my feelings, sitting with them, and reassuring myself that in time they will pass as they always do.
- Calling up my resources, asking for help, and stating what I need.
All along the way is the commitment to all the little things that make a big difference in living.
I no longer feel guilty doing the things that keep me well, because now I know they’re not negotiable.
As a result, I’m spending less of my time diving deep into the fallout. When I do go there, I’m able to find my way out sooner.
Therapy has been an invaluable part of living the life I imagined for myself, and I don’t want to lose sight of it, so at regular intervals, I go back. For me, it’s meant gaining a third party perspective on my life, exploring new tactics, and holding myself accountable to using them. That’s what it took, and that’s what it still takes for me.
So do whatever it means to take good care of you. Keeping your own tank full enough to love your children well, to be good to them and for them.
They are worth every ounce of that love, and so are you.