Monday, April 30, 2018

Mothering and the after effects...

It's been a week since I last posted...a very tiring and painful week actually, especially Saturday and Sunday. Each day contained a measure of physical activity that over the course of last week left me unable to even get off the bed by Saturday afternoon. I didn't read the signs of extreme fatigue until it was too late and only later realised that spending two hours walking around a camping expo in the blazing 32C (90F) sun at the weekend with my beloved was the worst decision made in quite a while.

Blossom and her precious little girls came over yesterday and we chatted about the extreme exhaustion mothers of babies and toddlers experience, how endless it can seem when you're in the midst of it, yet you have to keep going, putting one foot in front of the other even when it seems the house is falling down around you, or the washing to be done and the washing to be folded have taken growth hormones.

Last night when the house was put back in order (Cully May is a whirlwind especially when Poppy and her are playing Thomas the Tank), dishes done and the animals tended to, I sat quietly to reflect on the many motherhood topics my daughter and I had covered in our relaxed Sunday afternoon conversation. It occurred to me that the topics which directly affect her life today indirectly affect my life too.

From age 17 to 35 I was either pregnant or nursing a baby/toddler. Through all those years life rarely stood still, I barely caught my breath, and as with almost every other mother on the planet my senses were constantly on alert. 
Life was always go, go, go or be prepared to go.
And I don't think that switch in my brain was ever adjusted, not even when our home became an empty nest. My activity/sensory/preparatory switch was permanently stuck on GO and it took a long conversation on various topics with my youngest daughter Blossom to highlight that point.

Sitting opposite each other on our old turquoise couches, me cuddling 20 month old Cully May as she drank a bottle and stuck tiny fingers up my nose, and Blossom nursing 2 month old Rafaella to sleep, I looked at her young mother life through the lens of my much older mother life and sensed the imbalance.

It doesn't take long to fall into a habit if you repeat the same pattern over and over, and this can be good or bad. Experts agree that it can take 66 days to form a good habit, such as walking for exercise or choosing a healthy option for lunch, but just 21 days to break that habit. 
But a habit created over two decades??

I think my 'be prepared now/get up and go immediately' habit simply became the normal way of approaching life and therefore I never stopped to consider that at this stage of life it was no longer valid.

It's like when you're used to cooking meals for a family and even thought one by one they leave home you still cook the same amount (my husband has had to draw my attention to this many times over the years), but it feels natural so you do not question yourself. Until we moved house last September I would simply pack up the extra food and drop it around the corner to Blossom, but after moving we usually only saw each other once a week and it fairly soon became clear I needed to bake less and cook smaller portions of our main meals to avoid wastage of both ingredients and dollars.

So with that example in mind I transferred this thinking across to my life as it is today.
No longer young and raising children of varying ages, it appears I'm still pushing my mind and body to function beyond it's limits. My brain is still set to GO and I'm naturally functioning in 'be prepared' mode. 
And even though I purposefully seek for pockets of peace in each day and have scaled back much of what I was doing a year ago, my 'natural inclination' is still to be on alert, not let anyone down, and be ready to go at a moment's notice. So there is this 'mental tension' day in and day out which I've not thought of as being an avoidable stress because to me it's quite normal. It's how I've felt for as long as I remember.

This gentle epiphany over the past 24 hours has turned my life on it's end. The striving, roaring, ceaseless tension which was as much a part of me as is eating, drinking or taking a shower, has an off switch and it was always in my control to use it.

Truly, I am so grateful for the Holy Spirit in my life. I am so thankful Jesus left us with God's Spirit to reveal hidden truths we, in our (too-busy) humanity, often overlook. I am in awe of the LOVE our Father pours out on our lives, into every nook and cranny, even when we are not aware we needed it.

I had no idea until yesterday that my life had become so burdensome with habits that were no longer needed. And today, well, it feels like a window was thrown open and a caged bird flew free - from being bound, to spreading wide it's wings on an updraft of fresh free air.

I wonder, are you living a habit, albeit once a good habit, that is no longer needful?
Is there a door before you that needs to be opened so you can fly free?
Pray, ask God to show you.

"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name,
He will teach you all things..."
John 14:26

This "Simply Love" stitchery pattern is my gift to you.
Perfect for Mother's Day, or maybe you'll stitch it for yourself as a reminder that God is LOVE and He loves you so much He wants to show you a better way to live this life and let go of what's no longer needed.

I'm breathing again, my expectations have shifted, and my heart is lighter. 
So what's ahead now I've let go of that mental tension? 
Not sure, but God knows and finally I'm in a clearer state of mind to find out.

Bless you heaps,


Mimi said...

Dear Jenny, this post really resonates with me. But I suppose you already knew that. The habits of a lifetime, even the well intentioned, self sacrificing Maternal ones, are a difficult thing to break. We are after all, Mothers to our dying day. I do not think there is an easy solution except to be aware of it, and day by day, tweak the habits to suit the new life. Tweaking is in fact, my best strategy. That and making a huge lasagne and a humongous baked egg custard and inviting the entire family to dinner. I still haven't managed to work out how to make a 2 person version of either of those things. Cest la Vie! Love, Mimi xxx

Cyndi said...

God has been working on my heart concerning what sabbath rest is, the last 4 month have been a forced rest due to one illness after another. With my Mr Ed being gone almost 2yrs now, I have tended to fill the time with too many things, all good in serving the Lord, but am now finding myself asking am I serving or running to hide behind my service to avoid the hard work of grieving and allowing God to heal me. I am also trying to learn what it means to be silent before the Lord, so I can hear His voice.

Praise our loving, gracious and merciful Lord He does not stop loving us and allowing the HS to teach us when we submit to His will and allow him to transform us.

Well said my sister!! You are so articulate with your words and bless and challenge me to new spiritual ideas!
Blessings on your week, Cyndi

Fee said...

Hmmm lots of food for thought there girl. We are never to old to learn life's lessons. But as we get older we become slower learners LOL and get very good at giving advice to others but not taking it ourselves (regarding rest and fatigue) You must rest my darling and listen to your body. I too need to learn this lesson xxxxx Love you xxxxxxx

Julie said...

Quite a timely reminder post today dear Jenny. I think we live so much of our lives on "auto pilot" as wives & Mothers that we forget how to reduce our load & listen to our bodies. I was telling my son on Friday how behind I felt on everything & he reminded me of something he read in a book "Remember that when we pass away, our inbox tray will still be full of things to be done". I wondered how he got so wise with a Mother like he has !!!!! Take care Jenny Xxx

Marian said...

Hi Jenny,

thank you for your quiet and insightful words. From 1999 to 2009 studying at tertiary level, raising my son and looking after my Dad who was all lost because Mum died. In 2014, he was ill and in hospital for 3 months then transferred to a care centre and at the end of the year decided to stay there. So the house was sold, and I moved to a much smaller flat. In that time I have had 3 different lots of counseling and the intervening year, I had surgery. Not sure how this happens, but whenever I have a general anesthetic, lots of anxieties etc drops away. I feel so much better, rested and at peace with myself and so not so angry at - and at odds with - the world.

Thank you also for your lovely pattern for this Mother's Day. I shall be cutting that out tonight, and tomorrow, when there is a better Winter light through the window.

Regards, Marian xo

Allie-oops Designs said...

WHAT???? There's an off switch? Good heavens so there is.....oh girl you have blessed me beyond measure today. Thank you for such a timely post!!!! And for the gorgeous project!!

Vickie @Vickie's Kitchen and Garden said...

Wonderful post and so true. I noticed my husband has a great art. One that I can't seem to grasp a hold of most of the time, the art of doing nothing. He knows when and how to relax after working hard all day. You know his blood pressure is way lower than mine too. I remind myself all the time that it's ok to watch that movie or read that book and not be on the go all the time. Have a blessed week.

Queen Of The Armchair aka Dzintra Stitcheries said...

Great post Jenny! Unfortunately no door to freedom here especially for us at retirement age! We are still doing bedtime and bath time like parents half our Age for our Beloved girl with a disability. And she still gets up at night.....didn’t start to sleep at night till she was 12. We stick to routines here as it works best that way. It’s extra hard if we are sick, or not well or just worn out! No date nights for us without trying to get a Carer in which can be hard But She has chosen us so we just keep going on! Love and Hugs xo

Unknown said...

Having raised 5 kids, with the 5th almost ready for college, I hear you. I've set a new routine for myself. I get up in the morning and spend time with God. Then I take time to stitch or knit, just for fun. They I do things that need to be done. Or I don't!!! I'm spending more time putzing in my studio, because I can.

I always used to tell my mother-in-law that you can do what you want, when you want once your kids are out of the house. Now I'm learning that too.

Enjoy your newly found "off" button!!!

Rosemary said...

You mean there really is an "Off" button? Your words today were so meaningful to me ... more than any others in a long time. At 80, amist a major move to another state with my oldest daughter and health issues, I find I still can't press the "off" button. My daughter constantly tells me to slow down and enjoy this time but it is so hard (almost impossible) to stop and not go, go, go! I raised 5 children between my ages of 19 to 32. Busy, busy, busy constantly. Time to slow down ... but I can't completely stop. I am blessed with a wonderful family. I love to quilt, create and share. I am blessed!
Thank you so much for your message!

Farm Quilter said...

I am perfecting the art of doing nothing! Caring for my dad takes little time as he is relatively self-sufficient, so I can spend most of my time doing anything I want. I think I need a little of your go-go-go to get more quilting done, but right now the pace works for me. I do have a problem with cooking only for two, so I am grateful for freezers that allow me to cook a few times a month and have good dinners for my dad every day. At home on the farm the four freezers are always full of food...truly blessed!!

Sherry said...

Thanks so much for this post. It was timely for me. I also want to say thank you for the pattern, it is lovely.

Anonymous said...

Hello Jenny
It has taken me a long time to learn to slow down as well.Complications with both births then a hysterectomy has meant that I have spent a large part of the last 20 years with mobility problems and using a stick to walk with. I am currently using the stick again due to a flare up aggravated in part by arthritis as well now. But I have learnt to say no to things, accept help from family and colleagues and have realised I do not need to be superwomen at all times. It is ok for me to say, 'no thanks I am not feeling at my best so I am staying in' and just spend quiet time stitching and watching TV. It is not a sign of weakness or failure on my part to say 'no, at the moment I can't do that'.
Love Alison xx

Brenda said...

Hello Jenny; I am constantly learning and then forgetting due to my brain injury. My life is at times like a merry go round, I get on at one point off at another and the cycle repeats only the points to begin and end always change. I always appreciate your posts and your direction towards Our Lord. I am so glad that he holds you so close and shows you what you need. Thank you for always sharing your inner most areas of life and how you put it in Gods hands and gives you the strength and the path. God Bless You Jenny I will continue to pray for you

Debby said...

Jenny your posts are so lovely and enriching! I forget that our Lord has everything in his plans, and does not need my help! I believe it is built into moms’ DNA to want to fix things. I also agree with Farmquilter- freeze the extra for some “no cooking” days!
Debby in Upstate New York

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jenny. These are good words to ponder and reflect upon. You know you teach in parables, right? =)

Ondrea said...

I have only just found this post so apologise for the delay with my comment. So sorry to hear that you are unwell again. It is interesting what you have said about habits and how difficult it is to get out of them. Fortunately life has always presented itself to me in phases which I seem to have adapted to yet I have merely substituted one stress for another each time. I guess that is what life is about and I think my lesson has been to stop and ask myself ' what is the worst possible thing that can happen if I ......'. We all make choices in life which can easily become personal road blocks. The trick is to identify where we went wrong and change it. It can be quite challenging and sometimes scarey to change habits of a life time but we do have the power and strength within us to do so. Many angel hugs.

MissesStitches said...

Wow, Jenny--how wise you are! I really need to do some slowing down. My kids are grown, but I still manage to fill just about every minute of every day with things I "need" to do. One thing that I've done positively, though, is to take 30 minutes to sit down and read a book almost every day after lunch. I set the timer for 30 minutes, and usually have a few m&m's while I'm reading! I had realized I wasn't getting very much reading done. I still need to slow down further, though. Thanks for the encouragement.

Janice said...

I shared this post with a good friend of mine. It rang so true with her. After suffering from a stress related illness she is endeavouring to slow down and is really finding it hard not to be on the go all the time. She is also a recent empty nester. I hope you both can find the peace you are searching for.

KingsailK said...

Hi Jenny,thanks again!!Yes so important to retire and be quiet with Our Heavenly Father first and foremost.I can relate to a lot of that,as I get older I realize I cant do it all in one fellt swoop!!Blessings and Thanksxx