*name has been changed to protect privacy
I recently went outside my comfort zone and made a ninety-minute drive in unfamiliar territory to hear one of my favorite authors speak. My hesitations about leaving the comfort of my home on a Friday night at rush hour in the pouring down rain all were abruptly silenced by three words, “I need this.”
You see, my friend Glennon writes words that offer me refuge. With hope spreading like my grandma’s arms, I feel understood and unalone in her space. I knew that hearing her speak her truths would be like an I.V. of pure goodness flowing straight into my blood stream.
Sure enough, the experiences and revelations Glennon shared from a comfy couch, shoes tossed to the side, made me laugh out loud, clap enthusiastically, and cry unashamedly. But when Glennon was asked what advice she’d give people trying to be the best parent, person, or human being they could be, I became completely still. Glennon said, “Find something that fills you up and then do it.” During a painfully low point in her life Glennon followed an intense urge to sit at the edge of the ocean for hours and hours. She realized that sound, that smell, and that feeling was vital to her ability to thrive. She knew that she needed to sit by the water’s edge once a week and so that is what she did … that is what she does. “Find beauty that is just for you … find beauty that will fill you up,” she encouraged.
Much to my dismay, the program came to an end. I began heading for the exit when someone tapped me on my shoulder. “Excuse me, but my friend loves your blog and was wondering if she could talk to you.”
Behind this beautiful woman I’d never met was another beautiful woman I’d never met—and she had tears falling from her eyes.
“Do you read my blog?” I asked as I held out my arms. She nodded, and for several glorious moments we just held on to each other. As I hugged this stranger who didn’t feel like a stranger, I thought to myself: I need this.
My two new friends and I ended up talking for quite some time. I felt an instant ease in their presence as though I could just be me—no hiding, no explaining, no apologies—just me. With them, the laughter and truths came easy. We were delighted to discover that we all lived fairly close to one another. We made a date to go walking—my version of “Filling Up” that Glennon spoke about just a few minutes prior.
On our second walking date, my new friend felt compelled to tell me why she cried when she first met me. She explained that she hadn’t had the kind of parenting that I describe in my blog. Then she used the word mother in way I’d never heard before. “I come to your blog for mothering,” she said.
Mother as a verb … as an action … as a gift we can give ourselves sounded so powerful … and so hopeful.
I immediately thought of the desperate message I’d just received from Sarah* a bright and courageous seventeen-year-old reader of my blog. She said her greatest hope was for her mother to treat her like a human being with feelings, thoughts, interests, and opinions. Her mother’s constant comments on her weight, grades, hobbies, and short haircut had withered her down to her “almost breaking point.” It was through my blog that Sarah came to realize this was not the way all mothers treated their children and that there was a better way to live. She asked me what to do, and this was a portion of my response:
I completely agree with you that your mother's treatment of you does not have to be ignored or accepted. You are worthy of love, acceptance, kindness, respect, and encouragement. But even if your mother does not say encouraging words to you now or ever, you can say them to yourself. You are seventeen and you can take ownership of that little voice inside you. Your inner voice does not have to be your mother's harsh critical words. You have the power to silence that negative voice with the voice of a loving encourager. Start by saying these empowering statements to yourself:
I am worthy.
I am a good person.
I am enough.
I am strong.
Write these messages on sticky notes and place them inside your dresser drawers or inside your school folders. Keep repeating these soul-building words to yourself until they become your inner voice. Only love today, sweet Sarah.
All at once, Glennon’s advice, my friend’s admission, and my encouragement to Sarah came together to form a tangible anchor of hope that I felt needed to be shared with as many people as possible:
We can mother ourselves.
No matter the degree of emptiness we feel, we can be filled.
No matter the lack of response we get, we can answer.
No matter the extent of brokenness we see, we can build.
No matter the weight of the burden we carry, we can move forward.
No matter the level of condemnation we face, we can rise above.
No matter what we did not receive, we can still provide.
We can mother ourselves. It is not too late for us. It is not too late for our children … nor is it too early. This last and final realization occurred to me when I took my daughters and their friend to the park—the same rustic park where my new friends and I walk.
We were only two minutes down the trail when my older daughter, Natalie, unexpectedly exclaimed, “I love this day!” She then stretched her hands towards the sky as if trying to collect sunbeams in the sleeves of her shirt. “Can you believe how the sun is shining in February?” she asked truly amazed. “Doesn’t it feel good?” she asked her companions. I noticed the other two girls agreed, but not quite with the same enthusiasm.
We finally reached their designated hut-building area. Two of the girls got right to work searching for fallen limbs and heavy rocks. As they chatted and collected, I watched Natalie crouch down next to the small babbling stream. She found a place where a small dam forced the water to trickle down like a mini waterfall. She closed her eyes as if in meditation or prayer. A few minutes passed and she turned back to me, suddenly remembering I was there.
“Do you hear that, Mama? Isn’t it beautiful? I wish I had the sound of this stream in my room. It sounds so soothing.”
As I promised my child we could come here anytime, celebratory tears filled my eyes. She’s learning how to fill herself. She is learning what soothes her soul. She’s learning what she needs to thrive.
There have been many gifts I’ve wanted to give my children, but knowing how to mother themselves was not one—until now—and now it makes so much sense. Given the state of the world we live in, perhaps it is the most important gift we can provide. We live rushed lives. We are bombarded by distractions both obvious and subtle. We are surrounded by critics. We are pressured to conform. We are stretched and depleted. There is little time for nurturing, soothing, and nourishing our inner needs. There is little time for meeting the inherent longings of our souls. But it doesn’t have to be that way—not with the gift of mothering. Take a look:
Child, let me mother you.
Let me take you to running streams.
Let me walk with you at your pace.
Let me play this beautiful song for you.
Let me fill your ears with soul-building words like: I love you just as you are, exactly as you are.
Friend, let me mother you.
Let me pray for you.
Let me bring you hot soup when you are sick.
Let me tell you how remarkable you are in a note you can read again and again.
Let me sit beside you in your despair—you don’t have to talk.
Self, let me mother you.
Let me take time to read the pages of this riveting book.
Let me visit this blog where I find hope and understanding.
Let me cry—I don’t have to be strong all the time.
Let me encourage myself: Who I am becoming matters more than who I once was. Today matters more than yesterday.
My friends, start paying attention to that little voice—the one that says, “I need this.” Listen and give it what it craves. There will be voices trying to dissuade you from this gift of caretaking, but do not listen to them. Those voices of negativity, pressure, and perfection will bleed you dry, steal your joy, and leave you hungry. They will not nurture you. Mother yourself so you can be the best version of you.
It’s not too late; it’s not too early. It’s the perfect time to fill the longings of your worthy soul … and possibly inspire others along the way.
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, how do you mother yourself? And if you are lacking in that area, please share how you plan to start filling yourself up. The comment section of this blog always offers a wealth of inspiration and understanding.
- In addition to Glennon’s soul –building space called Momastery, I’ve been soaking up the authentic, uplifting truths written by Beth Berry at Revolution from Home for many years. I am thrilled that Beth is now sharing her wisdom and insight through wholelife coaching for anyone feeling “Motherwhelmed”. She can help you get clear on why you’re here, align your gifts with what the world desperately needs, and get those gifts out there. The first session is free. Perhaps this is your first step toward mothering yourself.
- The Only Love Today bracelets have proved to be highly effective in helping people change their critical inner voice to a more positive, encouraging one. There are leather and non-leather options available. My wonderful sister-in-law will be selling the bracelets when I speak at the Indianapolis event on March 14. Indiana, please come see me in Carmel or Batesville! There is so much filling up that happens when we gather together!