Know thyself

By 9:45 this morning, I was positively fizzy with overwhelm, and with hardly a backwards glance, I left to take a good run. I knew if I could just get to the gym and on a treadmill, I'd be OK. If I could just start pounding, one foot after the other, the burbling bubbles of anxiety would begin to dissipate and finally be gone. While I was warming up, my innards still a messy, seething mass rather like the pit of asps in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I concentrated on keeping my shoulders back and my core tight. Escapism 101. As my body settled into a rhythm, I shifted focus towards release. Arms, legs, chest, mind. All the to-dos and demands and questions that had spun around me like a furious cyclone since Friday lost speed and trickled away slowly like sand through a bag's minimally-ripped seam. That feeling of letting go, of something weighty leaving your being is thrilling and deeply comforting.

I stopped only because I had a meeting to attend, and I do not like to be late. It was a school meeting, an important one with a definite agenda, but with a wonderful group of people it's always a pleasure to see. We laughed and lunched and the very adultness of it continued to replenish me.

Before I returned home, I ran by the Bethesda Central Farm Market, a Sunday farmers market I don't visit often enough. My mission today was to meet Lynn Voight, one of the proprietors of All Things Olive, a local olive oil (and vinegar and salt) seller that carries excellent stuff. I recently ran out of Frantoio Grove's amazing olive oil and as far as I can tell, All Things Olive is the only source of it in the DC area. Frantoio Grove is a California producer and this oil is spectacular and peppery and makes so many things so much better. I bought two bottles and, while chatting happily with Lynn, tasted a terrific basil-infused oil from Terre Exotique and bought that too.

I felt like myself again, really, and thought about how terribly important that was.

You see, I relearned a valuable lesson this weekend, and that is the number of daily activities that tips family fun into overwrought mayhem. We didn't mean to overdo yesterday, but by waking at 6:30am, commencing fun activity #1 at 10:30am, and ending with an evening Wizards game which meant a 9pm bedtime, well, suffice it to say we were all frazzled and done. We never had quite enough time to eat properly nor did I do one thing restorative or just for me (like write, here in this space), unless you count detailing the refrigerator vents. I did find that awfully satisfactory.

Subordinating self is an all-too-frequent mom behavior. It happens because we love our children, because at the beginning and for quite a while they can in no way care for themselves. It easily and insidiously becomes habit. It is, in many ways, a must for any parent, but it's an important behavior to push back on whenever possible. And sometimes, perhaps most importantly, when it seems impossible. Those are usually the times a little self-love is mission-critical.

I've always been a journaler of sorts. Countless diaries and friendship notebooks and inspo quote books line my wake. Old daily planners are littered with encircled Es, noting the days I exercised, and all manner of quotidian minutiae. As I've looked back over those clues to my past and written my way through motherhood since I started this blog nearly four years ago, I have learned so much about myself. I've learned about my life cycles, both macro and more elemental. I've learned about my needs and what restores and straps me and uses me up and makes me glow. I've come to know that self and child satisfaction aren't always in sync and that many things really are "just a phase." For me and them. I see where we were were and are. That intimacy of knowledge is extraordinary, and I don't think it'd be nearly as great had I not written it (or about it) most every day for almost four years.

The benefits of journaling in any way that works for you (diary, letters, blogging..whatever you'll actually stick with) are so tremendous. I am, for example, much better able to inform doctors about my physical rhythms, to anticipate whether I need time with friends or time alone, to know what the real culprit behind any given expression of emotion is (when is sadness not sadness? when it's fatigue or rage or disappointment, actually.), to understand the boys and T. Such knowledge fosters a marvelous sense of peace and control, even when actual control is only an illusion.

The sense of control and the peace that results is in understanding myself and how to tend to me, even if that tending has to come a bit later.

I was furious when I left home this morning. Absolutely seething with rage. But it wasn't rage at all. It was fatigue and a need to quiet myself and think. My body knew that and took me to the nearest appropriate outlet. And I was so grateful and still am. I hope very much to teach my boys to listen to themselves so that they, too, can understand what they are feeling and how they might work through that. If understanding is too grandiose a goal, then perhaps they will at least know how to ask questions of Self, to sit with and reflect on any discomfort they're experiencing so that they can accurately and responsibly tend to that, to learn how to gain peace and fulfillment from within.