Pausing in the Tough Moment, Learning to Nourish Myself

It’s amazing how quickly a day can go wrong and how, just as quickly, it can turn right around.

Before I get out of bed, today, before my eyes are even open, a parade of tasks march into my consciousness: a contract to be drafted, phone calls to be made, chores, office mail, bills, what to make for dinner? I throw off the blankets, stick my feet into slippers, then gather up the laundry baskets and start a load of darks.  Before the wash tub has even filled with water, before I’ve so much as thought of coffee, I commit a scheduling gaffe, misunderstanding my older daughter’s wish to deliver job applications first thing in the morning.

“I thought you meant around nine,” I say to her, as she pulls on her coat. It is 7:40 a.m.

“No, I meant first thing, Mom, as in: we roll out of bed and into the van.” She bends down to yank on a boot then looks up at me. “We’d checked that everyone would be open by 7:30 or 8:00 a.m., remember?”

Yes, I do remember. I reach for my car keys and coat.

And so I find myself walking out the door, without having eaten a thing, to drive a quick circle around town to drop off four resumes with her. I am happy to do this, glad to share this time and experience with my daughter, though admittedly I am a little jangled by the timing.

With daughter number one suitably taken care of, I return home to drive daughter number two to school, whereupon I make my second gaffe of the morning, not a timing error, but one of diplomacy. I inadvertently launch into a lecture about exercise, on a morning when, had I been more in-tune with her mood, I would have realized that she was feeling a little low herself, and a speech from her mother – however well-intended – was not the start she needed for her day. What she needed was a smile and a hug, and to know I’m on her team. Instead, I see her visibly deflate in the passenger seat beside me, and I realize: I blew it. I feel sick as I watch her close the passenger door and trudge up the steps to school. I feel like a complete failure in my most important job.

So, by 8:45 a.m. I have been almost completely hijacked by the twin fears I can’t get it all done and I’m blowing it, and all this on an empty stomach. Not a great start to a day.

I return home and flip on my computer, still eschewing the kitchen and the concept of feeding myself in favour of getting things done. Email arrives from all sides, including one from my least-favourite colleague, whose name in my inbox feels like a landmine in my path (when I open it later, it turns out to be benign, just going to show how much unnecessary trouble I can cause myself). My dad calls to ask kindly about my progress on the purchase of new snow blower (that I don’t have time to research right now) and to touch base about plans for his birthday party. I rush the call, because my inbox is shrieking at me, and then I feel bad because I didn’t take time to have a decent conversation with him.

I glance at the clock. 9 a.m. My shoulders are hunched, my chest is searing and my jaw is clenched so tight I have to wonder if I need a tetanus shot. Except for helping my older daughter get her resumes out the door, I’m hitting zero for four this morning.  My energy level is zero.

And then it finally dawns on me. Have I eaten anything yet? Have I had a shower or taken a walk? Have I closed my eyes for one minute just to breathe?

Of course not.

And in that moment, I realize what I need, and that is, to take care of myself for five minutes. Maybe even ten. Why not go crazy and take a whole half-hour?  After all, this is just an ordinary day. There’s not disaster here, no catastrophe.  Except for the fact that I don’t seem to know how to feed myself before putting on my cape and trying to take care of everybody else.

I push myself away from my desk and turn my back on my computer.  I walk into the kitchen and pull out my new book, Undiet, and following tip number one, I pour myself a big glass of water and flavoured with fresh lemon and cayenne pepper. Then I turn to the blue green smoothie recipe I’ve been meaning to try and take the 7 ½ minutes to chop fruit and vegetables and toss them in the blender. In the meantime, I spoon a few tablespoons of my new superhealthy quinoa and buckwheat groat cereal in a bowl with some soy milk and leave it to soak. So much good nutrition packed in there! Finally, I sit, actually sit rather than stand at the counter, and eat. Without reading.  Then, having nourished myself well, I flip on the radio to my favourite program and treat myself to one cup of steaming black coffee. I enjoy every drop.

These may sound like minor details, but for someone whose primary morning fuel is anxiety and black coffee, with a breakfast usually left abandoned on the counter if it ever gets made in the first place, this is no small thing. Feeding myself is really, really hard to do. How crazy is that? These days, observing other people, and especially women, it doesn’t seem unusual; it looks like the new normal.

To heck with normal.

I begin to loosen up, a smile breaks the tension in my jaw and I feel better. I call my dad back and enjoy a more relaxed conversation. I get out of the house and go loiter in the essential oil section at the grocery store. I stand there, twisting caps off the various bottles and just inhale. I take pictures of my favourites pink grapefruit, vanilla, lime and text them to my older daughter.  On sale! I type. Yaaay! She texts back.

Later in the morning, when I’m ready, I return to my computer to check my email and – what miracle is this? – there are no bombs in there.  And the rest of my day goes beautifully, better than beautifully (though that is material for another day’s post). So here’s the question: how do we re-wire ourselves to self-nourish, to wake up not with the to do list on the brain but with how do I best feed myself on the brain? How do I get the best start to my day without being hijacked with guilt over all the stuff I have to do and haven’t yet done? I don’t know the answer to that yet, but I am determined to figure it out.

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