,It’s spring and mothering energy is everywhere. We have a new baby in our extended family. She’s far away, so it’s a remote connection but the pictures and videos are profoundly sweet. Around us many species are nursing their young. There are new ducklings, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Blossoms push through concrete cracks. The easy flowering is such a contrast to the challenges our human species is struggling with now. It’s especially poignant as we shelter in place and search for ways to manage the solitude, to ease the interactions with our ever-present partners and children; to work and stay balanced. The old ways of taking care of ourselves may have shifted but they’re more important than ever. We’ll get through this, through all the quick shifts. It takes time and it’s hard, like the moments barreling down a hill on my roller blades praying I don’t wipe out. While juggling grief and discombobulation, I’ve begun reaching deeper for my inner mother as mine is long gone. It’s the only place that’s reasonably solid.
This post is illustrated with family photos to honor my wonderful, departed mother during this challenging time. I know that not all children have peaceful and happy relationships with their moms and if that’s the case, I suggest that you check out the inner mother work of Bethany Webster.
Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures on social media: A mother in her closet with a glass of wine for a few minutes of solitude and silence. Lots of cooking, baking, and recipe sharing. There’s the pull towards the couch and endless scrolling but I try daily to keep from surrendering to sloth. When I think of it, I do push-ups against the kitchen counter and leave the yoga mat out until I get down on the floor to work out for at least fifteen minutes each day. There are lots of options online and off. Jogging in place to a favorite song. Lifting babies or cans instead of weights. Over-walking our pets because we need to get outside.
We’ve seen the pictures on social media. A mother in her closet with a glass of wine for a few minutes of silence. Lots of cooking, baking, and recipe sharing. Staying strong, let alone the effort to stay in shape, is fraught when you have only yourself to motivate. I try daily to keep from surrendering to sloth. I do push-ups against the kitchen counter every chance I get and leave the yoga mat out until I get down on the floor to work out for at least fifteen minutes each day. There are lots of options. Jogging in place to a favorite song. Lifting babies or cans instead of weights. Over-walking our pets because we need to get outside.
Keeping it clean
This is the most surprising part of sheltering-in-place. I’ve never been big on housecleaning outside of the kitchen. My partner and I called a truce long ago and have had cleaners in twice a month – until now. Instead of resenting doing most of the cleaning, I’ve leaned in and embraced memories of my mom who insisted that chores be done. She’s melded with my inner mother and now, I split up deep cleaning tasks as breaks between activity and work. It’s so satisfying!
The sharing. The caring.
I’m lucky to have a partner to navigate the lockdown with. It has its challenges as well. Like adjusting the agreement we have about cooking and cleaning. He’s an intuitive cook and loves nothing more than concocting seafood recipes with sauces and lots of spice. He also cooks as though he had a prep cook ready to tidy up every spill, close cupboards and screw caps on spices. Now that I’ve been cooking more we share more of the duties. While I’ve got a long way to go, I’m fond of online recipes, dive into the cookbooks collecting dust on our shelf and reign over breakfast waffles. We’re working our way through the new normal. Sharing the tasks is keeping peace.
Doing what matters
Since jobs and income have evaporated for many of us while we shelter in place, there’s never been a better time to enhance skills or explore sidelined passions. With an abundance of online training available you can master most any new skill. My inner mother is nudging me forward to working on the back end of my blog, towards upgrading writing skills, and especially working on video editing. What have you always wanted to try? When will you have a better time to nurture that?
Your Inner Mother says ‘Go play outside!’
Yes, lock downs are still enforced in many places and we need to honor that but it doesn’t mean you can’t bring nature into your life. Sprout an avocado tree from a pit. Grow a cactus on a window sill. Get ambitious and set up a hydroponic garden where there’s light or install a grow light to nurture your plants.
Here in Southern California we’re blessed to be close to nature with oceans, trails and mountains nearby. Having that off-limits has been excruciating. I shouldn’t complain. My son lives in a high rise near DC. His nature hikes are limited to masked forays to the grocery store three blocks away. However, there are tulips at the base of light posts and a greenbelt detour he savors as he walks from his building to shop and back. Staying positive is the goal.
I’ve written about the importance of movement in our lives, especially since more of us are working from home than ever. While no jock, I want to come out of the lock down with some muscle strength! Cardio is the key as is regular stretching. I can’t get into a swimming pool but I have gone back to floor yoga for at least fifteen minutes a day. The biggest help is to incorporate small stretches into work breaks. Doing twists as I move from one room to the other helps. Side stretches are wonderful for boosting energy and easing pressure on the lower spine.
Stand and deliver
One of my best purchases in the last few years is a table top, standing desk. It’s been great for Zoom calls. No one will catch me yawning if I’m standing and you can adjust the angle for the most flattering angle. Am I right about wanting to show your best self online? The table top holder works well with my small laptop or my partner’s iPad. it’s great for cook books too. If you don’t have one, consider stacking books to the right height and using an external keyboard to keep your elbows and wrists from strain.
First, admit you feel the need to nap occasionally. Why power through fatigue if you’re home working? Taking a power nap can improve mental health and lead to fresh perspectives. It can also help to manage faling back on caffeine which can interfere with nighttime sleep. Pay attention to what might cause your energy to plummet. Sugar gets me and even, if I add dairy milk to my afternoon tea. What are your fatigue triggers?
If you’re going to nap it’s important to surrender to the feeling and set up a conducive environment. Close the door, close the computer. Put the phone on silent. Go to the bathroom and then take a sip of water. Settle down for 15 to no more than twenty minutes. Much more than that can interfere with nighttime sleep. I don’t make a habit of it but what a relief when I’m falling asleep at the keyboard!
Compassion and connection
There’s no denying that we’re living through an unprecedented time. All bets are off as to what’s going to happen next no matter how much money you do or don’t have. Plans are in disarray. Trips have been cancelled. All the upheaval is scary. We have to rely on ourselves and reach out as we can. Many of us are reconnecting with friends, family and acquaintances like never before. It may not feel like we have much to offer – but what a gift to be present, to share, to acknowledge each other. It begins with connecting with what we need first before we can give or keep giving.
Needs and wants
I feel immense gratitude to have many choices while so many are suffering through no fault of their own. This is the struggle of our age. It seems so but do we ever really have control of our fate? What we can adjust is how we handle it. While shut in our homes we always have imagination, and there the options are limitless. Indulge yourself and make a fantasy list of what you need and what you have. You may surprise yourself and find comfort in the task. I can’t get to the pool, but I can take a long bath or shower. It’s not my first choice as I love to swim but connecting with soothing water is a wonderful second best.
When all is said and done your inner mother may emerge with the idea of a scoop of ice cream or the chance to smell a new flower and all will be right in the world for a few moments.