How are you doing?
At every retreat we hold, we start with a simple question: how are you feeling in three words? It's a simple reminder to pause and consider ourselves - something we often forget to do. How are you feeling right now?
I'm feeling cold and hungry - because it's gone lunchtime and I've been working like a loony; and because I've been in the sea this morning - and that kind of cold likes to linger. I feel proud - for finishing a piece of work. And a little anxious - that familiar feeling that I've forgotten something, but I can't quite remember what it is...
The more I practice self compassion - which is basically, being kind to myself when I lose the plot... the more I become aware of how I'm feeling. And some days - usually at about 2.30 - I become aware of a feeling I don't like...
The quiet dread.
It's the point when I realise that time is fast running out before school pick-up time. I can feel the needs of others closing in. I can feel my unfinished workload, the jobs still to be done around the house, the tender listening and energy that my family are going to require from me. It all settles into my bones with a feeling of... ugh.
I can feel the hours of making dinner, baths, stories, all stretching ahead. The clearing up once they go to bed, returning to my computer to work, all while answering the late night calls to soothe fears. Sometimes, that's pickled too in the sadness of my husband working away.
It's no surprise that this is also the point in the day when I often find myself in front of the cupboard that holds the 85% dark chocolate from the Co-op...
I feel the quiet dread, and I try not to judge it - or myself for feeling it.
Because being kind to myself means letting go of my fear that the dread means I'm a bad mother, or a bad worker, or a bad whatever else I'm trying to be at that moment.
There is no rejection of my life in this feeling. It doesn't mean that everything is a mess.
It is simply a feeling of overwhelm.
So I listen to it, and I acknowledge that it feels hard. And that I am probably not the only mum sighing deeply, and feeling this feeling, round about now.
I know that even in this moment of dread, I love my family very much. I even - believe it or not - love myself: the mother in the grip of quiet dread. Noticing the dread, with self compassion, is always the first step towards moving through it. ...ideally, before eating all the chocolate. But the dread is more than that - it's also a call to take good care of myself.
Because the kids need to be picked up from school. I have to find a way to move through it. Maybe there's still time to pause and have a quiet cup of tea or a stress-busting dance round the front room to I Will Survive - and that will take me out of it.
But if there isn't, I have to call on my resilience. The great big bottle of resilience that I have carefully refilled, drop by drop, each time I've tended to myself before this moment. (No, this isn't wine - but that is also a strategy I've used of an evening... although less successfully than this one.)
If I only have a minute, I can transport myself back to a time where I felt joy instead of dread.
...This morning. In the sea. Full of crisp possibility, strength and hope. I remember the coolness of the water - that shut out anything but the beauty of the present. The three swans flying overhead. The oyster catcher and the turnstone. The moment of putting my face inside the sea, of the waves rolling me into my back. The rainbow. The laughter. The joy of sharing. The memory lifts my mood. It reminds me of the broader balance in my life - of all that exists beyond the to do list.
And then I go and get the kids. Or the chocolate, followed by the kids.
Each time we look after ourselves, take time to tend to what we most need in the moment, we're strengthening ourselves - giving ourselves the resources we need to get through those moments of emotional struggle when they come. We're refilling the bottle - so that we can carry it with us.
And of course you don't have to fill your bottle up with sea swimming. Maybe it's running, yoga, or kick boxing. Maybe it's writing, hanging out with friends, baking, crafting, singing, reading or sleeping. It's whatever you love to do, that lights you up, that makes you feel the way you want to feel.
The dread, when it comes, is an opportunity to transport yourself back to a moment of joy, possibility and flow - and a reminder to make more time to do just that. It's a call to let something else fall off the list because you're more urgent.
So... what are you going to do for you today?
Your needs matter - probably more than you allow them to.
Sending you love and a refillable bottle,
Pippa and Penny
May you feel JOY
Whether you find joy in the sea’s spacious beauty, its calls to playfulness, connection, freedom, faith or belonging, or in the exhilarating vitality of your own survival, the sea reminds you to pursue what lights you up.
May your pleasure be easy. May your smile be wide and your laughter fulsome. May your happiness cast joyful ripples, great circles of delight that journey far.
Monthly Retreat Party: Our next monthly #somum Mamas' Retreat Party in Mamas' Everyday Retreat will take place on Wednesday 13 February from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.
Mamas' Everyday Retreat is a safe kind space for mamas to connect and support each other. You can expect much me-time encouragement, compassionate conversation, gentle motivation, and surprise treats. If you're not already a member, ask to join the group and we'll add you.
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