Pregnancy Requires Us to Go Within

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Pregnancy Requires Us to Go Within

When I became pregnant, I expected physical changes and challenges in sharing body with a tiny human, but I DID NOT expect the invisible, direct download to my instinct that occurred at the same time and with the same level of expansion and growth. I was pregnant with a baby, I was pregnant with emotions, I was pregnant with new information. This pregnancy sent me in directions that felt nothing less than divine.

 

It is not in my nature to look for the sacred in only blissful situations. A shamanic and dialectic approach is more my way. Life experience has taught me that we reach new levels of awareness and empowerment in often the most uncomfortable, contradictory, and challenging ways.   Hence: PREGNANCY!

 

Pregnancy for me was not smooth or easy AT ALL. More like, peeling off layers of skin after a mega sunburn. Or being knocked over by ocean waves, being washed out to sea, and not being able to stand on shore until I addressed all the emotions, fears, and old stories that bubbled to the surface of my psyche. Yes, it was hard. work. To think, all this transformation occurred BEFORE the physical/mental/spiritual marathon that is labor and birth! At times I thought I would drown or get buried alive by the sheer magnitude of steady doses of unyielding change, I was fortunate enough to have pregnancy & birth mentors who reminded me (over and over again) that I was headed in the right direction. This was part of being Pregnant. This was the warm up to initiating into motherhood.

 

Knowing initiation as I do, this terminology helped me to experience pregnancy as sacred transformation. Initiation in my adopted tradition isn’t a quick fix or easy process (see bio). It’s a trial. Sometimes by fire. A complete 360-degree mind-blowing experience that shakes you to your core and leaves you humble, and forever changed. A changed person on a new life trajectory with new responsibilities bridging the old self with the new. Its wild!

 

Read the (contradictory) Symbols

Before we push out our baby (or baby is pulled out of us), we push through emotional barriers, like passing through steel gates. This post would be longer if I addressed each barrier. Since many incredible advocates for maternal support have already given voice to these, I won’t mess with perfections. The barrier I do want to give voice to is what I call Contradictory Symbols that a pregnant women is surrounded by, which constantly trips her mind into thinking that focusing within is NOT where the answers are! That her instinct is NOT to be trusted, instead, only follow the wisdom of "experts".

 

We are unconsciously pulled out of our natural desire to soul-search and contemplate and nest. We are given false hopes that if we follow the symbols laid out in front of us, we will have quick, pain-free births, and we will be happy, better moms, with safe & happy kids.

 

The symbols that surround us come in the forms of: advertisements, fashion moms, “I got my body back” adds, pregnancy & parenting magazine covers, commercials, HAPPY moms, unsolicited baby-formula deliveries, baby registries, parenting books with pretty covers, gender questions, gender colors, morning news shows, “baby bumps”, hospital maternity suite billboards, leading suggestive questions, “you must be so happy!”, strange looks, comments about your size, unsolicited advice, unsolicited “birth is scary” stories, social media, unsolicited “I know what you’re having based on how your carrying” comments, nursing covers, maternity clothing stores, baby showers, etc. Now, each one of these on its own isn’t terribly problematic. It’s the sheer volume of input surrounding us that creates the problem.

 

Symbol upon symbol leads us out of ourselves, out of our instinct, and into judgmental thinking of self-and-others which snowballs into shame, guilt, grief, anxiety, depression. Is it any wonder that 600,000+ women suffer from maternal mental health disorders during pregnancy and in the postpartum period? That’s 1 out of 7 women! How many of those do you think get help? How many attempt to harm themselves? How many are successful at harming themselves and others because nobody payed enough attention to get them the help they needed along the way?

 

I’m not saying that symbols lead to maternal mental healthy problems. I do however believe that they lead us so far out of our wise minds that we don’t hear our instincts asking for support. Asking for a bit of processing of this ginormous life change happening to us. Focusing more on buying the perfect stuff with our friends and family instead of sitting down for deep talks where we feel safe to ask the hard questions like, “Am I going to be alright?”, without fear that we'll be further invalidated by a response such as, “Of course, honey! Don’t worry! Be happy! Now, lets talk about your baby-registry?”

 

We don’t live in a culture that honors sacred transformation. We constantly go outside ourselves to find it. This is problematic when pregnancy REQUIRES US to go within.

 

Let me repeat that:

 

Pregnancy REQUIRES US to go within!!!!!!

 

What does that mean? It means part of our pregnancy deserves time devoted not only to self-care but also to EMOTIONAL self-care. How much and how often depend on your need.

 

When something big happens in your life, don’t you find yourself having feelings about it? Don’t you find yourself sometimes revisiting life memories? Or ruminating over the ‘what if’s’ or ‘I shoulda’s? That’s how we make sense of change. We go through our own mental and emotional life files to figure out how to deal with the current situation. Why would we expect pregnancy to be any less emotionally stirring? In order to lower the number of maternal mental health issues, we need to add emotional self-care to the pregnancy regimen.

 

And, no, birth preparation classes do not count as the ONLY source of emotional self-care. I’d even say that most birth prep classes don’t qualify at all in this category as I’ve attended some that never address parent’s feelings but simply go through the steps of labor and delivery. ‘Birthing from Within’ birth preparation classes would be the exception as well as other birth preparation schools that use a more mindful approach to pregnancy and birth.

 

Trimesters Happen Emotionally Too

The body changes in trimesters. Meaning, emotions and mental focus change in every trimester as well. Most birth-prep classes occur in the third trimester. What about all the changes that occur in the first and second trimester? All trimesters deserve attention.  

 

Being pregnant in this country is hard. The resilient mothers I’ve had the honor of guiding through pregnancy and motherhood have taught me that. I’ve heard it in their stories of trials and triumph. My pregnancy and postpartum experience challenged me too.   

 

A Bit of My Story

Being a “different”, yet more conventional, art-therapist at that time, I knew that what I needed to do as soon as the pregnancy test came out positive was to find myself a therapist. My own decades long self-awareness journey made it even more apparent that, hey, being pregnant is going to bring up some (colossal) stuff! So, go get some help! I made calls. Booking appointments. Waited in cold (and I don’t mean temperature) waiting rooms. And guess what? No therapist would take my case. Why? Because I was “over qualified” as a therapist myself. And wanted to focus on pregnancy. So, after months of searching, I stopped. I was horrified and, yes, lonely. The professional me couldn’t shake the thought, “How many other mothers are falling through the cracks of the mental health system?”  

 

Thankfully, I found resources outside of conventional psychology practices to help me go deep within during pregnancy and ground me during my post-partum years.

 

(Disclaimer, I am not dissing Western Psychology as a whole. To do so, would be to point the finger at myself as I do adhere to many of its useful ways of helping people. It has its many limitations. Which is why I use a blend of psychology other methods for helping women and mothers in my practice.)

Who Supported Me?

My midwives nurtured me as well as attended to my changing body and baby. They gave me the time and permission to be emotional. They never rushed me and let me know, yea, this is hard and you can do it.

 

My Birthing from Within mentor helped give me the tools to navigate the journey through the pregnancy labyrinth to prepare me for giving birth. She didn’t cloud my mind with false hopes that my birth would go my way! She DID prepare me for, what if my birth doesn’t go my way. She made me smart about what to expect in birth and how to prevent trauma.

 

This support alleviated my family and friends to be there for me in the ways they could, instead of having to be my on-the-spot therapists!

 

Finally, with all the tools in place, the main person who supported me was ME. I did a lot of hard soul searching and looking at old, hard, memories. I made lots of birth art and came up with weird and wonderful rituals to help symbolically honor my process. There was lots of crying and then compassionate “zoning out on TV” when all the input and information got to be too heavy.

 

Unexpected things did happen and the path to giving birth reached an emotional fever pitch. But with my own blood, sweat, and tears, I did it.

 

As a highly-anxious mama, I was angry and disappointed that I didn’t have a trained professional therapist to guide me. But, I’ve been down many painful roads in this life, with scars to prove it, and I drew upon examples of my own resilience. That is how I made it through. I was very fortunate. It could have gone a whole other way. For too many mothers, pregnancy and birth don’t lead to happy endings for themselves or their families.  

 

The challenges of my pregnancy and birth journey are what changed the course of my life. Through the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum initiation I found my life calling.

 

I became a more authentic person unwilling to fit into the limited masculine constructs of western psychology. I decided to be bold and daring and put myself out there to support women and mothers in my own unique way, through all stages of pregnancy, through ALL their fertility choices, life transitions and losses. My goal is to help women discover themselves through their fertility choices. If pregnancy and birth are part of their life story, then I’ll dive into the journey with them to see what they can discover. Perhaps I’m more like an emotional diving instructor. If I hadn’t taken the transformative dive within myself, well, then what kind of guide would I be.

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Power Shifts & Leadership Calls

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Power Shifts & Leadership Calls

I've been asked recently, "Hey, when are you going to write about our new reality?" 

Here's the thing.

Many wise (and otherwise) voices have been speaking. Sharing thoughts and advice. To add a voice is sometimes deafening. These past two months I've been called to listen, listen, listen some more, and look for that crossroads moment when inspiration and timing align. 

Now's the time.

What I share below is a dose of my deep thoughts to (hopefully) inspire, assist, and unify, along with ways I am called to serve you in these challenging times. Please share with those your heart calls you to. 

 

Shift of Power

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"Shift of power": to cause a country, group, or person to have more power than a competing one.

When I heard this term in reference to our new political reality, I was sad, afraid, and angry. (Heck yea I feel those feelings too!)

The contrast between the presidential inauguration and the Women's March on Washington was palpable. DC felt noticeably different from one day to the next! This experience revealed just how meaningful power shifts are in our lives, particularly in the lives of women. I choose to reclaim the notation of a “shift of power” so as not to let the concept leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

A power shift in our life can be that moment of transition and transformation within us physically (body), emotionally (feeling), and spiritually (wise mind/intuition/divine).  We are constantly experiencing power shifts, but we rarely (if ever) recognize them unless they are massive shifts, like birth and death.

During the Women’s March on Washington, I experienced a shift of power on a global scale. Mass amounts of voices, bodies, and energies. When women’s power is threatened, we will engage in a massive tug of war to take it back! And we'll continue to tug when we see injustice in our communities.

The power tug of war is in full effect! Are you ready?

The universe (call it what you will) sends out a "Call" to a new shift of power within each of us. A grand inner uprising. A personal evolution that effects how we each contribute to changing the world.

We all must answer that Call!

What does the "Call" mean for you?

What I hear is an invitation to step-up your leadership. To notice and accept a shift of power within you in order to become more of who you're meant to be in this life. This is important for yourself, your community, and your world.

Leadership means different things to different people. Now is the time to get clear on what makes YOU a leader!

Quick example: Are you a stay at home parent? Doubtful that leadership applies to you? What would be different if you began seeing yourself a leader for your family. Where your focus is in mindfully directing your power to create a safe and comfortable environment for your family? That’s LEADERSHIP. And that’s just one example!

This is how you tug back! Stepping up your leadership is like intentionally grabbing the rope!

(I’ve got tons of ideas on how leadership applies to you. Need help figuring it out? I can help you. Don’t hide in the shadows of doubt anymore. The world can’t wait.)

 

River Water Healing Responds to The Call

 I recognize that there is a whole lot of fear being stirred up. As my super tuned-in friend said to me last night, "Everybody is transmuting some heavy shit these days." She's right!

Your feelings are valid! If you didn’t have anxiety before, well...maybe now you are getting to know what that feels like.

Humbling isn’t it?

We are all experiencing a tide of emotions that leaves us feeling worn out, wondering, “Do I have it in me to fight this fight?”. "I mean, its only been two weeks!"

I have confidence, you do. Self-awareness will help you there.

Friends, we have no other choice. We might as well stay sane in the process of resisting an oppressive tyrant who seeks to undermine our progress. 

If nothing else, this political and social earthquake has broken down the walls we kept so tightly around us. The walls that kept us looking only at those who resemble us for comfort. Those that only kept us believing that there is no room for change as long as we are comfortable and safe. We are now left uncomfortable, and rightly so. As those who have and keep experiencing generational discomfort, this is a rare opportunity to sit with our own. To look in the mirror and actually accept the hard parts that make us who we are. That self-awareness will get us far. Maybe those walls are meant to be broken for good. 

 

Calling All Community Leaders & Healers (Artists, I'm looking at you too!)

We are all working overtime to meet the tremendous need.

The world can’t afford for you NOT to get your own shit together, friends. We need you to be okay! To not be exhausted, and not drown in emotions, or triggers, or fear. To not leave little left for yourself because, simply put, that’s not sustainable. This is not a dress rehearsal. This IS the show!

We are the pillar of support our clients, students, community, friends, and family are leaning upon. And pillars get tired of holding everyone up! All that energy expenditure leaves little left for you.

Artists, I know your minds are buzzing with rich concepts to put out into the world. Art, in all its forms, is of *massive* importance, specially during power shifts and revolutions.

We need you to uplift us and call us out. You are our emotional barometer.

We need your mind clear of clutter to get that vision to manifest on the canvas, in clay, on stage, in the street (you name it!). I mean, they threaten to take away our funding so, what do we do? You better believe we make more art!

 

We need self-care and emotional release now, More. Than. Ever. (Pssst.....That’s where I can be of service to you.)

My life-purpose and mission is this: to give YOU the emotional relief and support you need to can go back out there and LEAD! That is how I lead. 

I encourage you not to wait to get emotional support, from me or someone else.

Your unique issues, doubts and fears will probably be triggered by this government, if they haven’t stirred in you already. Pick an issue resurfacing & get to work!

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Unlike the leaders of yesterday, today we have *plenty* of avenues for emotional self-care. Those who's legacy we model and honor didn't have this privilege.

Imagine what can happen when a leader is not only charismatic and effective but also has their emotional wellness in older - POTENT! 

Stepping up your leadership means stepping up your self-care.

You know this to be true.

Don’t have the time? Yea, I’ve used that "reasoning" too…. When I noticed that my cronic lack of self-care was about me valuing giving to others more than keeping some for myself, well, that changed things for me. My 'savior urge' was revealed so I could transform it. I work on that every single day. 

What’s it about for you? (I want to hear from you. What are the obstacles in the way of your self care. Please share in the comments bellow.)

 

If you feel called to reach out to me, I will make the time for you. My clients and friends know this: 

 
“If you need to reach Denise for help, she makes you feel like there is nothing more important than you.” -S
 

You can reach me via email, text, phone, and in-person (or right here). Visit my Healing the Healer  & Artist Mirror pages for more information.

 

Flow Mama Responds to The Call

Last year, Flow Mama’s purpose was to create a safe sisterhood support circle to creatively serve the emotional needs of Mama’s passionate about leading mindful lives.

We are kicking it up a notch.

In addition to a creative support gathering for mindful mothers, Flow Mama is a place for Mama’s to come into their personal & unique power. Where you can explore the power shift within!

We are leaders, each in our own way.

You may be leader in your family.
You may be leader in your community.
You may be the next leader in government. Or a movement. Or a revolution.

Flow Mama recognizes your leadership power and potential and will actively help to integrate that power into each and every one of you sisters.

It takes a village to make a leader.

We are that village. You are that leader!!!!

 

With love and respect for the power within you,

Denise

 

 

 

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Finding Empowerment in the Fall

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Finding Empowerment in the Fall

I woke up today and noticed my posture was different.

My shoulders, normally more vertical, were slightly slumped over. I felt like I was dragging. Awkward. Didn’t feel much like playing well with others. Had I acquired a small internal weight as I was sleeping?

Looking outside, I realized why. It was dark. It’s been dark for two days… and rainy… sweater weather…

The calendar provided further facts. Fall is here.

 

Lets go back...

 

Years ago, when I was but a fledgling mother, I (unintentionally) developed a mindfulness practice that involved awareness of how my body, mind, and spirit changed with the seasons.

 

Lets go back even farther….

 

My ancestors, my mother’s people, come from the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, South America. If you know anything about high altitude, fog, chilly weather, and surviving on mountains, you know that you carry yourself differently in that environment than you might, say, on a tropical island.

Knowing this part of my history helps me understand that one of my innate tendencies, when the weather calls for sweaters, is to walk slower, slumped over, quieter, and a bit melancoly. Decades ago, a less-self-aware me would be sent into the throws of depression and self-pity when the days got shorter.

Over time, tired of the seasonal roller coaster ride, I started to put two-and-two together. I began waking up to the transitions within me and noticed that the weather played a HUGE role in my behavior. Most importantly, I stopped flippantly writing it off as, “its just what I do” and blaming the weather!

 

Here’s what happens:

 

Fall weather (similar quality to that my ancestors were used to) triggers my body’s natural tendency to go within in a specific way that is pertinent to ME. I used to hate it! because I didn’t understand it. Now I’m like: bring it!

 

Fast forward to today’s posture situation.

 

 Do I wish I wasn’t slumpy, yes!

Would I rather wear flip-flops, yes!

Does having this knowledge mean I’m all of a sudden peppy and cheerful when the days get darker? Nope.

What will you discover about yourself this season?

What will you discover about yourself this season?

But I DO see a deeper purpose to these changes. I DO feel a deep connection to the world around me.

Today, I can hear nature telling me shift my focus to introspection. A door is opening inside me, and its calling me to sloooooow doooown and migrate within. It is innate in me as it was to my ancestors. I no longer have to fight it off! Now, I see power in that posture!!

 

Self-awareness = personal empowerment

 

The land will effect our mood. Climate, will effect the way we move in the world. Temperature, will effect our speed. So when we go from hot summer sun to dark, rainy sweater weather – WE CHANGE!!!

And we often fight against and distract ourselves from these changes instead of mindfully entering into a partnership WITH nature.

 

 

Why this matters

 

Tuning into the changes in nature will help you better understand your place in the world. Paying attention to how nature affects you will help you learn to embrace the power within those transitions. Add to that your unique history plus your ancestry, and you have more pieces to the one-of-a-kind puzzle that makes you who you are.

 

Do you know what Fall weather does to you?

How did your ancestors handle cooler, darker, weather?

If you don’t know, maybe its time to investigate.

If you DO know, maybe its time to take the awareness to the next level.

 

Want extra support as the days get shorter? Contact me anytime!

Want to learn more about how Creative Medicine Workshops can help empower you as the seasons change? Take a look

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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9/11 Was My First Day Of Work

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9/11 Was My First Day Of Work

9/11 was my first day of work.

Yup.

The day that we experienced communal and collective trauma was my birthday as a therapist.

 I landed my first internship as primary therapist for severely traumatized children at an elementary school in downtown Washington DC. On September 11 2001, I walked in the front doors of the school at 8:30am. Met my supervisor, fellow staff members, and the children at 8:40am. The towers were hit at 8:45am.

 Televisions were wheeled into the hallways of the school. As my supervisor explained my job obligations, the television screen behind her showed plumes of smoke and incomprehensible scenes. All of a sudden, everyone was glued to the set (unfortunately, even the children). As the towers were falling we heard sirens outside (again … this was DC) and heard rumors that the White House was hit. But it was actually the Pentagon.

 Social workers, teachers, and staff (all within earshot of the children) started dropping to their knees, crying, wailing, running outside. Panic from professionals. I was in a state of shock and disbelief. I stayed very quiet and still. My supervisor said, “Sorry, I’ve got to go!” and ran to her car. I was left standing alone in the hall and I had no idea what (TF) to do. 

 For a few hours I thought that my life as a graduate student and fledgling therapist had come to an end. That this horrific day had done me in. It was sink or swim. And I chose to stay and swim… albeit reluctantly at first. How I did it is a story for another time.

I've thought all night about how to end this blog post. To find a "great" way to tie this all together. To tidy this story up in order to make some amazing point that will leave all of you feeling good. After meditating by the ocean this morning, I realize that some stories are best honored as is. We—even healers—should sit with stories too and not try to add a positive twist to everything.

 

There is no positive twist to the stories of 9/11. In the aftermath? Yes, we can find many. But our stories—the wide spectrum of them from that pivotal day—should be honored for what they are.

Today I will honor the decisive role this story had on my life. It propelled me to feel an odd sense of comfort in the realm of trauma and become the type of therapist and healer I am. And I will mourn and cry and feel amazed at my own resilience.

I honor your stories of that day. I wonder how you will honor them today. One thing I learned from that day is that our stories will come forth in hopes that they are shared. Aired out. Seen and venerated for the impact they had on our lives.

That is how we heal. 

 

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Flow Mama: A Creative support group for mindful mothers

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Flow Mama: A Creative support group for mindful mothers

A Supported Mama is a Happier Mama

Be a part of a brand new village of support for mothers where your voice is heard and your story honored.

Finally, a chance to have your unique needs met in community with others! We will delve into the labyrinth of motherhood and illuminate all its unique twists, turns, highs and lows in a safe and supportive environment.

Our First Gathering Begins in September

It's not just a place to vent! Make lasting change through guided exploration of feelings using art making, guided visualization, ritual, journaling, and sharing with the intention of achieving deeper self-awareness to enhance our life.

You inspire me!

Let me know what topics are close to your heart as a mother. 

The topic of our first group in September is

Tugging At Heartstrings: Sending Your Child To School

Whether your preparing to send you child to preschool, kindergarten, middle school or high school, sending them off can tug at your heartstrings ... or lead you to full blown feelings of anxiety, grief, and loss. What's going on inside mama? Let's figure it out together. Join us!

Contact me to register today at denise@riverwaterhealing.com.

Does this topic not interest you? No worries! Topics will vary based on need. Share what's important to you today to see this topic the focus of a group tomorrow. It takes a village! I'd love to see you be a part of ours.

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Transitions through motherhood: the first day of school

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Transitions through motherhood: the first day of school

Everything you've experienced in the wild journey through motherhood has prepared you for this moment- sending your child off to school. Make no mistake, the universe (call it what you will) has intentionally led you hear, through metaphors, trials, physical and emotional bumps and bruises, endless teaching moments, missed opportunities, sleepless nights dealing with uncertainty and self-judgment, and persistent evidence that your child is their own being separate from you. All. Of. IT! This is a new level in the rite-of-passage of Motherhood, and we are bathed again in the waters of a new unknown.

 

Our children slowly “separate” from us since the moment they're born. Getting ready to send them to school is unique in that we are offering them a new opportunity to learn from someone other than ourselves. At least that’s what we're thinking. Its what we tell ourselves, along with “its going to be okay,” when we get a pang of anxiety anticipating the life changing effects this school experience will have on us. And that's fine! But its not all ...

 

There’s more bellow the surface, Mama.

 

Our children are little mini reflections into our past and future. As they move forward in life and develop into themselves, they force us to reflect on all of our own ... shit. Each one of them comes equipped to rock our worlds at the drop of a hat. And if we aren’t self-aware, we can miss an opportunity to heal our past and undo personal and familial patterns that no longer serve us and wont serve them.

 

Why does our child’s first day of school feel so emotional? Because we know that their big life story is about to begin.

 

Reflect on this: Where did you experience your biggest life lessons? Where did you go through deep life-trails such as rejection, heartbreak, longing, awkwardness, stage fright, and peer-pressure? Where did you first discover your body as it transformed – awkwardly- before your eyes? Where did life start to get really real, wonderful, and hard? Where did your search for personal identity begin? School! It all happened while you were in school.

School was a constant setting in the story of your youth.

 

This is heavy stuff! Its bigger than just being prepared with the perfect lunchbox, pencils, and notebook!

When we send our babies off on that first day, there is much deeper meaning than what’s just on the surface. We are being invited to reflect back onto our own experiences in order to help our children have theirs. The more self-aware we are, the more we can empower our kids when their life story gets interesting.

You may want to ask yourself:

What are you doing to get ready for this moment?

Are you attending to your many emotions?

Are you able to reflect back on your life story during your school years?

What do you remember about YOUR first day of school? Positive or negative?

And finally: Do you have a village or support system in place to help you deal?

 

I encourage you to create the village of support you need, Mama. If you’ve got sisters, friends, family you trust, tell them to actively become your source of support leading up to and on that big day. Have a group of Mama’s who you vibe with? Gather them up and make a conscious choice to intentionally walk down this path together. If you don’t have the village- create it!

 

For those living in or near Durham NC, I have created a unique support group for mothers called: FLOW MAMA. We will explore life transitions important to mothers using creativity, ritual, and deep listening in a safe and empathetic environment. All are welcome! No artistic experience necessary.

We will be having our first gathering to address this First Day of School rite-of-passage and you are welcome to join us! Contact me for more details. 

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What to do when faced with global uncertainty? Make banana bread!

With many of you, I woke up on Nov 13 with news of a third act of cowardice that brought terror to brothers and sisters in not-so-distant lands. When the shock wore off, I found myself overwhelmed by an ache in my heart that I hadn’t felt so deeply since 9/11. I recalled the doom, gloom, and dread that bombarded our lives as our country coped with the magnitude of what it meant to be “attacked,” followed by months (years) of after effects from communal trauma, unfamiliar territory given the comforts and privilege many of us enjoy.

Now, over a decade later, the smell of terror rises again, threatening to permeate the scars we have been trying to heal after wars, natural disasters, local gun violence, etc. But this time, the trauma is global. “Game Changing” as they say. And I am left with the feeling that so many of us share: “What do I do now?”

In that moment I wanted desperately to “do something”! To act! Revolt! But deep in my heart I knew—there was nothing I could possibly do or say to make it all go away. Knowing I had reached my peak of feeling overwhelmed, I made the bold decision to turn the news off and ... make banana bread.

Its something I’ve been putting off for months and regretting every time I see the banana’s starting to rot. It’s something I have made excuses for: “today’s not a good day,” “too busy,” “maybe next time” ... you get the picture. You do it too. It might not be banana bread, but it's something.

My daughter and I got all the necessary tools together in the kitchen, carefully peeled the bananas, grated the apples and carrots, smelled the delicious spices and vanilla, mixed in the flour, watched the loaf rise and the sweet smell permeate the house. It was the perfect, simple, mundane, but deeply profound moment for me.

So why does this matter?

When we feel out of control, it is important to engage in activities in our lives where we DO have control. This was not just a loaf of banana bread, it’s my form of coping with the gravity of the situation and the possibility of what that means for me and my family's future. I might be unable to control the decisions of our world leaders, or stop the grief so many share, or put an end to the violence. But I CAN control how I mash my bananas, how much flour to put in my batter, and how many slices my daughter is allowed to eat in one sitting.

Will the simple act of making bread change the uncertainty? No. It’s not a replacement for social action and therapy. Together we should let our voices unite in solidarity against brutality. If anxiety peaks, we should seek help (call me!). But today, in this moment, when you just read that FB post about the horrors or just watched the news and your having a moment of being overwhelmed, turn it all off and tune into the tangible. This will help you cope. Feeling in control of certain things in your every day life will help when the much larger state of global affairs seems so far out of your personal control. So, bake! Fold that laundry! Clean your dishes or your house or your dog. Read your child a book. Do some Vinyasas or pushups. Close your eyes and meditate. These may have been annoying chores or just part of the daily routine before, but now they are transformed into mindfully enacted coping skills. Acknowledge that the choice to engage in this activity at this very moment IS being in control of your life right now.  Set an intention—even when baking banana bread.

For instance:

“I don’t know what the future will bring for the planet, but I DO know that I can make a pretty darn good loaf of banana bread right now.”

“I don’t know when the violence abroad will stop, but I DO know that I will fold this shirt really well right now.”

“I don’t know what our leaders will do to stop the war, but I DO know that I will clean this kitchen right now and make it clean and safe for my family.”

(Get the picture?)

It will help take the edge off.

With love,

Denise







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