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Mothering yourself — A Different Kind Of Mothers Day Contemplation

14 May

My mother died almost 12 years ago. But long before that i had to take on mothering myself and making sure that my needs were met. Have you learned this skill?

Mothers make sure that the needs of their children are met. Mothering yourself, to me, means to make sure that your needs are met. You may call it self-care—but do not confuse it with what is generally considered to be self-care for a woman: getting a massage or a facial now and then. Self-care is more than that. It includes all that is necessary to make you blossom.

Self-care is not taught in schools and it’s not necessarily a part of our upbringing either. And if you grew up to be a “good girl,” chances are that you have a hard time with mothering yourself. The more you are trained to focus on the needs of others, the harder it is to make room for your own needs.

Here are some tips for self-care on a daily basis:

1) Be kind to yourself. Don’t allow your inner critic to put you down constantly. Cut yourself some slack. Treat yourself with as much kindness as you would extend to others.

2) Trust your instincts. Allow your inner voice and your gut feelings to have a say. Don’t talk yourself out of what intuitively feels right. Learn how to cultivate the connection to your inner voice, which leads to:

3) Make time to get in touch with your inner voice. To hear your inner voice, you need to cultivate quiet time. A great time to cultivate the connection to your inner voice is just after waking up in the morning. If you can, make time to write down your dreams or any streams of consciousness. Another way to connect with your inner voice is to go out in nature—go for walks or spend time in your garden. It really helps to turn off your cell phone when you try to connect with your inner voice. Try to take time out every day for quiet moments, even if it is only 10 minutes.

4) In order to implement 3) you need to learn this fundamental skill: to speak your truth and say ‘yes’ when you mean it, and ‘no, thank you’ when you choose not to do something. In order to say yes to yourself you have to learn to say no more often. Being a people pleaser has only very short-term advantages. They appreciate you for a moment, and then continue with their day. Learning how to say ‘no’ to others and ‘yes’ to yourself will be a game changer.

5) And lastly, stay away from the word SHOULD. It represents a cultural or collective imperative, that force that created the ‘good girl’, and rarely has to do with you and your needs. Become aware of your own use of the word ‘should.’ If you can replace it with ‘I want’ or ‘I will’ do so. If you cannot replace it with ‘I want’ or ‘I will’ it’s a word that presses you into something that has nothing to do with you. And, stay clear from those who tell you what you should do.

These tips are a starter kit. I’d be happy to help you as you implement this kit and move from striving to thriving.

If you find this article inspiring, please pass it on to others. Thank you!


Self-care does not come easy to many of us. If you would like to explore working with me and getting me on your support team, contact me at eva_at_evaruland.com.

© Eva Ruland, May 2017

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11 years later — a true story about consequences of loss

5 Sep

I am back from Germany and had a great time. The biggest blessing i experienced in Berlin was community, and the greatest gift i received was the support of a very capable friend who offered to help me and my four siblings sell my mother’s house which has been empty for many years. We siblings have dragged our feet—my sister local to the house who was my mother’s caretaker and is the main heir has been too emotional, and those of us far away did not feel in charge, as we are only secondary heirs. But after years, even from the distance across the globe, i have become upset about the situation. It feels disrespectful to my mother’s memory to not deal with the estate (the house has been neglected and is in disrepair). So, when i set off to go to Germany, facilitating a settling of my mother’s estate was my major objective, next to spending quality time with my 5 year old niece Stella, my sister Anne, and some other people close to my heart.

I tell you about this not to cast blame on anyone but to share a story of loss and its consequences. Underneath my sister’s procrastination (the house was left to her) was an overwhelming sense of loss with which she was left more or less alone. It may be that my family’s situation is particularly extreme as we siblings have dispersed in all winds, living on three continents, in time zones so different that talking to each other on the phone regularly is almost impossible. But i know that my sister’s pain and isolation is not an uncommon occurrence. Major losses are super tough challenges. And it does not matter much whether it is the loss of a parent, a friend, a partner, a close family member (including pets), or the the loss of one’s long-term relationship, one’s health, or one’s youth. The shock of death and separation, the scariness of major health problems, and the depressing cultural implications of dwindling youth are not only hard to face—we are usually not prepared for them and most have no support structures to help. When this loss is the death of a loved one there might be a lot of sympathy, but there is usually little capacity to be in the presence of grief. When the loss is that of one’s youth, often there is not even sympathy.

For the last two years i have been offering Midlife Alchemy. My intention with it has always been to offer a structure that provides the space to reflect, process, and find support in times of loss, impending loss, or during a major redefining of one’s self. I want to fill the cultural gap around loss and offer a place that encourages authenticity and trust, inspires self-reflection and sharing, and becomes a place for emotional healing and transformation. With Midlife Alchemy I am offering the kind of space and support here that i wish my sister would have in Germany.

Midlife Alchemy is not just about loss. It is about embracing what is and connecting with your inner strength in the face of what life presents you. It is about reconnecting with your true nature so that you can gracefully unfold and be the beautiful being you came into this life to be.

A new in-person Midlife Alchemy group in the Bay Area is forming this month. We will meet on Thursday evenings. You can find more information at http://evaruland.com/MidlifeAlchemy. Please don’t hesitate connecting with me if you are interested but have any questions.

Wow, I have become my Mother

1 Jun

In a couple of weeks it will be the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death. The dull feeling of grief is not there anymore but I still miss her. Recently, i have been thinking of her more, perhaps because i was taking stock of my own life.

Peonies
Peonies remind me of June in Germany.

I started coaching the summer my mother died. Soon, it will be 10 years that i have been a coach. I love my work and i love my clients. It makes me happy to know that i make a difference in their lives. The acknowledgements i receive for my work are ambrosia for my soul. I feel deep gratitude that i have found what i was looking for for many years: my calling and my passion. And, it occurs to me that, interestingly enough, in many ways i have become my mother, something i actively rejected as a teen and young woman.

My mother was generous, big-hearted, and never stopped championing her children. She was intelligent and a free-thinker, and in her life prior to motherhood she had been a respected professional. But, growing up, my mother was more of an anti-role model for me. She did not care about appearances when everyone else did. She believed in authentically being yourself even when doing so brought you into trouble. She was kind, and i saw that others-—her children included—-could all too easily take advantage of her. I loved her with all my heart, but, as a teenager, i wanted to be anything but my mother. I wanted to be in control of my life and craved the power needed for that, and i also wanted attention and admiration from others, things that my mom did not seem to need at all. She was a Mother Theresa, seemingly without any need beyond caring for others and doing good.

Growing up under my mother’s protection i was allowed to have my own reaction to situations and people. But i was not immune to the judgement of others the way she was. She seemed to shrug it of and continued with her life. I was far from having that true independence from others’ approval. I remember that when i was 11 and had recently started at a new school, my mother invited a classmate to come home with me, hoping to help me cultivate a new friend. To my mom’s delight, the invitation was promptly, reciprocated. And that is when the girl who was groomed to become my friend—but with whom i never bonded—introduced me to the power of comparison and judgement. While her mother asked me friendly questions, my classmate noted to her that my mother wore neither lipstick nor nail polish, and later incredulously asked me why my mother’s appearance was so generally unglamorous. I hated the girl for being so shallow, and i hated my mother for not making efforts at glamour at all. How could it be that she did not care?

I loved beautiful things, followed the latest fashion, and enjoyed adorning myself. I wanted splendor and beauty in my life-—things that later motivated me to become a fashion designer. As a teenager i suffered much frustration being surrounded by schoolmates who mostly came from wealthy backgrounds and had everything beautiful that money could buy, while i had to be creative to bridge the financial gap between them and me. I came from a family with 5 kids living on one retirement income. My parents shopped at the cheaper stores to make ends meet. The clash between my family’s financial limitations and the material circumstances i was surrounded with at school was difficult for me. It was not only the reason for my frustration, it was also the cause of shame. I did everything i could to hide my family’s meager means and to pretend that i was like the rest. I worked hard tutoring younger kids to earn the pocket money i needed to afford hanging out in cafés with my classmates and living the bohemian life they did. I began to sew my own outfits to save money and still be fashionable.

In these years, appearance mattered a lot to me. Plus, always having to be the understanding one who has to share and make room for her needier younger siblings, left me frustrated. I craved attention. My mother’s model of self-sacrifice in the name of family did not suit me. I wanted a different life for myself. I defined myself and what i aspired to in opposition to my mother. I wanted splendor, attention, and bohemian carefreeness.

Yet, when i look back today, i notice how much of my mother is in me. Yes, beauty is still one of my core values and i still care how well my top goes with the rest of my outfit. But, i realize that many of the things my mother did for me i now do for others. During my formative school years, when i learned to step into my power and to change my frustrating reality, my mom was the one who sustained me, cheered me on, and celebrated my achievements with me. She supported me and held my hand, while letting me take on responsibilities and walk my own path–which i realize now are some aspects of my work as a coach.

I give myself credit for the good work i do. And i know that i would not be doing any of it, if it hadn’t been for my mother and her strong ethical values. I now know that the financial limitations i experienced early on, and the juxtaposition of my lifestyle with the lifestyles of my classmates was a blessing in disguise. I learned that favorable exterior circumstances make life easier but are not necessarily soul-nurturing. And, as much as it would shock my younger self, now i don’t need to hold up the appearance of being ms. perfect anymore. I did that for much of my life. I now know that i am worthy with or without lipstick, and that my worth is not measured by how well i am put together. Now i appreciate my mother more than ever, and i am proud of the things i have in common with her.

I’d love to hear if you see your mother in yourself too. Or did you have another strong role model? What did your role models look like when you were a teenager? Who did you want to become and why? How has that formed the person you are today?

© Eva Ruland, May 2015