How are your last days of summer treating you? Back-to-school season always puts an extra skip in my step. As I’m readying my son for the fresh, unwritten pages of fourth grade, I’ve been contemplating one of my own primary school memories.
Reproductive education started in 6th grade in the suburban New Jersey public schools where I grew up. Not-quite-ten-years-old, I sat stunned and stricken as I began to comprehend the trajectory of the adult female body.
What I remember most from that time was a cartoon of a naked boy standing on a naked girl’s shoulders. The caption coming from him said, “We took off our clothes. I got on top of you. When does it start to feel good?”
This cartoon has become one of my totems of the human condition.
Very few of us are taught how feeling good is done — or that it even matters. Women often end up with the idea that our happiness is the pot of gold at the end of the endless to-do list. That when everyone else’s needs have been met, we can finally attend to our own.
Flash forward forty years to (what I hope to be) mid-life, and most of us are still flailing around with the same mysteries we faced in sixth grade. We work hard. We do the right thing. We run the household, the business and the family. We contribute to our community, save for retirement, pay the bills and the rent or mortgage, fill the gas tank, drive the carpool, weed the yard, get the dog groomed.
We’ve got the whole family and maybe even community piled on our shoulders. When does it start to feel good?
This is the question many of the mid-life moms in my community are asking these days. Some are married or in relationships, some are not. Some work as employees or entrepreneurs and others work at home. Everyone is kicking butt in the realms in which they’ve sought success. But when we’re really honest, we’re not feeling good. Something essential to our happiness and wellbeing is missing. And we’re not sure exactly how or when we lost it.
When does it start to feel good?
I believe it starts to feel good when we take a first step toward feeling good. And I believe the most powerful (and achievable) first step is to put down something we’ve been carrying that’s not working. Then replace it with something better.
For example. Maybe we could replace going to bed at midnight with going to bed at 10:00 p.m. so we are more likely to sleep eight hours. Or we could swap the wine we’ve been drinking to mask our isolation with a quarterly girlfriends’ weekend away. Or trade the sweetness of marshmallows for the sweetness of an abandoned passion: a pottery or tango or memoir class. Or swap the grudge we’ve been holding since childhood with a Pema Chodron book that helps us breathe in life as it is.
When we acknowledge what we feel (exhausted, lonely, uninspired, hurt), we’re in a much better position to figure out what we really need. So we can go get it.
I have recently given up the sugar and flour I used to numb my grief for years. In their place, a fridge stuffed with vegetables. Why? Because I’m ready to let go of sleep deprivation and brain fog. I’m ready to start my day radiating energy and stay that way until I go to sleep.
Are you doing something that doesn’t serve you? What is the ache below the complaint, and how can you fulfill that need even better? What could you let go of right now, and what can you replace it with, to start feeling better today?
(I’d love to hear in the comments below.)
Need some support making a shift? I’m here for you! I’m offering a one-day live workshop in Portland, OR next month called Fresh Start.
Fresh Start helps mid-life moms (and others) release what’s robbing you of vitality—then commit to a practice to get your groove back. There’s room for only 15 people. I hope you’ll join us. Get all the details here!