Monday, April 20, 2015

A Lifetime of Longing - #1000Speak



I've written on here a hundred times that my mom died when I was 16. It's a topic I address a lot because it had a giant impact in who I became. I believe that one of the reasons the presence or absence of a mother greatly affects us is because (I think) we all have an innate desire to be nurtured. (I have not researched this. It's just my personal opinion.) So, I have spent most of the last 29 years longing to be nurtured.

After my mom died, I sought out some of the women in my life to be mother-figures. I yearned to be taken care of; to be a priority in another’s life like I had been in my own mother’s; to feel like I greatly mattered like I had felt with my mother.  

After my mom’s death, my aunt became my first mother-figure. Then, it was my boyfriend's mother. Later it became some of the women my father dated. I also found a mother in my sister (who is 16 ½ years older), when I lived with her for a few years. All of these women were excellent mother-figures and nurturers, yet I still carried that emptiness inside that none of them could fill.

I also longed for my boyfriend-turned-husband to nurture me as well. I remember sitting in the therapist’s office early on in our marriage, complaining that he didn’t nurture me like I needed. The therapist encouraged him to take on a more nurturing role with me. Of course, he’s always been an exemplary partner. The reason I chose him as a boyfriend/husband is because of how well he always took care of me and showed me immeasurable, unconditional love and nurturing. But again, it’s as though I had a bottomless well, that no amount of nurturing on his part could fill.

In 1999, three years after we got married, we began to try to conceive. I had always had a strong desire to be a mother. It was my number one goal in life…to be a mom. I am a caregiver by nature. In my teenage years, I was usually the “mom” of the group, looking out for my friends whenever we went out. In my 20’s, while everyone was intoxicated, I usually remained sober and in control, taking care of my drunk friends. So you see, my maternal instincts were huge from early on in life.


In September 2000, I lost my unborn baby, Gabriel, close to 16 weeks into the pregnancy. (That story is for a whole other series of posts.) Three months later, the doctor gave me the okay to attempt conception again and so began my obsession with becoming a mother. As the days, weeks, months, and years went by, my longing to nurture someone grew and grew with each passing minute that I wasn’t pregnant. My arms ached to hold a baby. The longing to be nurtured took a backseat, but the void in my heart grew even bigger. It was a double heartache…I yearned for a mother to nurture my broken heart over my inability to grow a baby to nurture.

After four agonizing years, we were finally blessed when our baby boy came to us through the beautiful gift of adoption. I finally had a son! My years of longing to nurture a baby were finally over! It was (and still is) an amazing feeling to have that desire and need met once and for all. (And in 2011, I had that need met for a second time with the adoption of our daughter!)

Although my quest to nurture a child ended, my longing to be nurtured never went away. I lived most of my life with a deep need to be mothered. When I was 38, I set out to find my birth-mother. I felt giddy when my detective skills paid off and I was able to figure out her name and track down an address and phone number for her in Texas. I felt in my heart that I would finally have a mother to love me and nurture me; a mother to turn to for advice; a mother who would listen to me; a mother who would make me feel that everything was going to be okay. When I worked up the courage to call the number, I learned that my birth-mother had passed away in 1988, 20 years prior. That phone call was earth-shattering and my dreams of finding a mother to nurture me died that day too. 

After I regained my composure from that call, I reached out to my dear friend Sandy. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the cruelty of life. How could God possibly do this to me? How could He have given me TWO mothers and take them BOTH away!?  I will never forget Sandy’s words: “It’s as though you were destined to live your life without a mother.” 

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In the last two and a half years, I’ve been on a new path of enlightenment. I have had a type of re-birth or awakening and I have learned to live life differently; to see things in a new light. One of the things I learned a couple of years ago is about the importance of self-nurturing. 

I did an e-course with Brené Brown for her book The Gifts of Imperfection. (Which if you read my blog regularly, you know that I reference her A LOT because it truly was a life-changer!) Anyway, what I learned through the book and e-course, was that one of the essential aspects of living what Brené calls a “Wholehearted Life” is to nurture yourself. (She doesn’t refer to it as that, but that’s what it is.) Some of the elements she says we must cultivate (along with quotes from the e-course and book) are:

Self-compassion: “Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love.”

Creativity: “If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing – it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.” 

“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes into grief, disappointment, and judgment.”

“Creativity and art are forms of self-care.”

Play and Rest: “The opposite of play is not work; the opposite of play is depression.”

“Play and rest is a basic human need.”

“If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, and about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.”

Calm and Stillness: “In our increasingly complicated and anxious world, we need more time to do less and be less. When we first start cultivating calm and stillness in our lives, it can be difficult, especially when we realize how stress and anxiety define so much of our daily lives. But as our practices become stronger, anxiety loses its hold and we gain clarity about what we’re doing, where we’re going, and what holds true meaning for us.

Laughter, Song, and Dance: “The Hopi Indians have a saying, 'To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.' I know how much courage it takes to let people hear our hearts speak, but life is way too precious to spend it pretending like we’re super-cool and totally in control when we could be laughing, singing, and dancing.”

“When we laugh and dance and sing together, we form community in a way that nothing else can do.”

I am happy to report that I have made great efforts to keep up the practices that Brene taught me two years ago. I do daily positive affirmations; I keep an art journal; I draw mandalas, I do photography; I cook; I write; I make time for play and rest; I try to meditate, read, and sit outside for a few minutes each day; I attend a Reiki Healing Circle; and I have never had a problem working in laughter, song, and dance into my life! In other words, I nurture myself!

The results from my new lifestyle have been extraordinary. I believe I have found the true meaning of what it is to live a gratitude-filled and joyful life.

**********

As I pondered over what I would write about for this topic of Nurturing for 1000Speak, I remembered that comment my friend Sandy made so long ago and suddenly, I got it! I think she was right in saying that I was destined to live my life without a mother. I’ve said before that I believe life is school for the soul and that we are here to learn the lessons our soul needs in order to grow. What I realized the other day is that one of the lessons I needed was to learn to nurture myself.

While preparing for this piece, it dawned on me that my longing to be nurtured diminished greatly ever since I started on this new path of enlightenment. The only explanation I have for it is that I have been nurturing myself more than I ever have before. I spent so much of my life longing to be nurtured. I spent so many years longing to nurture someone. But I never realized until now that the one who could nurture me and the one who I could nurture were one in the same – me.

Keep being brave,
Jackie


On the 20th of each month, the 1000 Speak for Compassion movement is publishing blog posts on important worldwide topics. This month we are speaking out on Nurturing. I am so honored to be a part of this group of bloggers from all over the globe, flooding the internet once a month with kindness, compassion, wisdom, inspiration, insight, hope, and love. Please share and spread the word using the hashtag #1000Speak. 

If you're interested - these are the other 1000 Speak posts I have written.

Let Your Self-Compassion Shine

Forgiving The Bullies of St Callistus 
 

14 comments:

  1. Hi Jackie,
    What a moving piece! I'm so sorry that you've lost both of your mothers.
    I can really identify with a lot of what you wrote. Like you, I was "born to nurture." And like you, it took me a long time (10 years!) to reach parenthood.
    I love Brene Brown :)

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    1. Hi Amy - Thank you. And I'm so sorry you endured 10 years of IF. I totaled 7 because I stupidly re-visted that dark, ugly road a second time after we adopted our son. So glad you finally got your miracle!! P.S. Brene Brown Fans Rock! ;)

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  2. Jackie this is so sad but also so inspiring. What an amazing transition in thinking. Brene Brown is BRILLIANT, there's no doubt about it. But I love how you've taken her words to heart and made them into lifestyle choices. That takes character and determination. Bravo :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Lizzi. It's been quite the journey, but I'm so glad I finally got "here". It's a good place to be. Being in my 40's made a big difference to me, mentally. It made me feel like a grown-ass woman! Lol! xoxo

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  3. I can't imagine losing my mother once, let alone having to deal with those emotions a second time. So sorry to hear about your losses there.

    I have never heard of Brene Brown, but I love much of what you've written of her here. The need for play, and rest, and creativity, and calm. Oh yes. Please, I'll take more of that. And will work for it :)

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    1. Hi Louise, thank you. I highly recommend Brene's work to everyone and anyone. It is all so logical and makes so much sense wheh she explains it. And awareness is key in making changes! I admit, the most challenging change has been "Rest" and "Calm" for me. It's hard to be still or to feel like I deserve to do nothing. It feels weird. Lol.

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  4. Great piece Jackie. As hard as life seems sometimes I believe it all leads us to the places we need to go. It's clear that your heartache has turned you into a wonderful woman and endowed you with compassion and caring. You've chosen growth from your experiences instead of self pity and bitterness which was also an option. Kudos to you and all who will benefit from the love you radiate.
    My favorite kind of cookie is the one I get to eat while no one is watching. Those have no calories! :)

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    1. Thank you, Anita for such kind words! It hasn't been easy, but I'm glad I'm "here". I definitely agree that we choose who we become. (Those types of cookies are the BEST!)

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  5. Thank you for sharing your heart here, Jackie. I definitely empathize with being a nurturer. I was the same way with my family and friends--still am. Sometimes, the curve balls that life throws are cruel, yet they allow us to go a level deeper, then another, then another...until we finally begin to understand how truly layered we are.

    Being human is hard. Thank goodness we don't do it alone.

    Thinking of you, dear one,
    Dani

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    1. Thanks Dani, so much. Although I don't actually know you, I can completely see you as a born-nurturer. Doing the work of being human is definitely hard, but the rewards we reap if we take in the lessons are worth the heartache and tears. I always say I'm grateful for all of it because it made me who I am today (And I happen to like her!) Sending you love, hugs, and blessings.

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  6. Oh Jackie!! This is just such a beautiful and powerful post!! Your story of loss breaks my heart... and I love your transparency in longing to be nurtured- something I believe we all feel and many desperately need, much like you because of losses of nurturing people in our lives. I'm just so sorry you have had to search for that significant mother figure, but I absolutely adore that you have grown and discovered you are the power to love and nurture yourself!!

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    1. Thank you Chris!!! Your kindness is always so palpable and your words are like a big hug. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I'm happy to finally be in this place of love and goodness. Life is truly good.

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  7. What a great self-nurturing post :) I love your list of self-care actions. I am definitely learning the hard way that I need to do more self-care. Like you used to, I think I often project my own need for self-care onto other people. I care for others more than I care for myself and I have been feeling the effects of that on my physical health lately.
    Brandy from Brandy's Bustlings

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    1. Hi Brandy - Sorry it's taken me so long to get to this comment! I hope you've been making some changes in the self-care/self-nurturing department. I notice that when I stop doing the things I thoroughly enjoy for longer than a few days, I get cranky and moody. It's important to keep "me" at the top of the priority list!

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