I wear a pendant that says First, keep the peace within yourself. Then you can also bring peace to others. Some guy in the 1300s said it but many people have said before and since.
- Peace begins within.
- Put your oxygen mask on first, then assist those around you.
- Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
They all boil down to one thing. Take care of yourself first. I remember my mom saying this very thing to me in the first weeks of my baby’s life and I thought she was off her rocker. I was holding a tiny baby! Who needed me! All the time!
It’s been five years now and her words are starting to sink in. How do I manage to keep myself happy when I’m busy helping those other little folks be happy?
Well, I’m still trying, but the first thing I did was stop thinking that there was some finite amount of happy, and that it was either me or them who was having it. This involves partnership thinking, and it involves therapy.
The second thing I did was decide that it is not selfish to focus on self-care first. If peace is my priority and bringing peace to others requires peace within, then hello? It’s all about me, baby.
The third thing is learning to take time for myself. In addition to sanity-saving time away from my kids to write and meditate, I’m talking about time on the micro level.
Taking care of everyone else first or bearing down and plowing through unpleasant situations are hard habits for me to break. But I’ve started taking many mini breaks throughout the day — especially when I am feeling upset, resentful or frustrated. I close my eyes and take a few breaths while relaxing my stomach. Or I ring our mindfulness bell. I try to listen to what is going on inside myself, and become tender to that.
When Orlando was born, I felt I had entered a new world, with an open heart. I wanted to find ways to stay in touch with that openness and ease, though I now realize that I had completely underestimated how much effort and transformation would be required of myself to do so.
After five years of being a mama, my mother’s words are resonating throughout my life. Now, each time I feel myself in inner turmoil, I think of the circle of mothering — my mom, my self, my children — and of how we can all take care of each other, and ourselves, one moment at a time.