As a child, I never lived in any one place long enough to experience what it was like to belong to a community. By the time I was thirteen, I had lived in three states, five cities, and was the "new kid at school" five times. I attribute the fact that I still struggle to decorate the house I have lived in now for ten years, to the very deep seated belief that I shouldn't get too comfortable, lest my whole world be ripped out from under me, as was the reality I experienced in my formative years. Seriously, if you could see how bare my walls are, you wouldn't know whether I was coming or going. Making my house a home has been something I have longed for a very long time, but for the most part, it's all I can do to keep the laundry done and groceries shopped for. Forget about looking good while doing it!
When I finally had children of my own, I was very adamant about my wishes to keep them in the same school district the entire time they were in school. Right or wrong, I couldn't stand the idea of any of my kids knowing what it felt like to be the new kid, to spend their entire lunch period holed up in a bathroom stall, so they wouldn't draw the stares and snide remarks from other kids noticing them sitting by themselves at lunch. But my dreams were crushed when, midway through my oldest's kindergarten year, my husband announced that he didn't want to raise his kids in Las Vegas. It was a sentiment he communicated in not so many words more than once, but one I elected to ignore so long as he wasn't pressing the issue. Let's just say, for lack of permission to share, the issue was sufficiently pressed and I found myself eight months pregnant with my fourth child, moving from the place I had called home for the longest of my earthly existence, uncertain of the future yet again.
Consistent inconsistency, especially as a child, does a thing to a person, and while the behaviors may change as we grow, the underlying reasons certain behaviors exist in the first place, aren't likely to disappear without some respectable attention being paid them: Negative self-image, negative self-talk, and lack of self-care caused by the aforementioned behaviors are common examples. Isolation is often the result of said behaviors. So while I was successful at keeping my kids in the same school over the years after the traumatic relocation, building a community didn't come without a decision to commit to healthy cultivation of my own self-care practices.
I began counseling for my issues and discovered that at the very root of my anger, depression, and general listlessness for life was the lack of proper love and attention I was allowing myself. With four children under the age of 9 and a husband who worked most of the time, my self-care sucked. What's more, I didn't even understand it to be a very critical issue. I thought the mark of a good mother meant pouring out every last drop of time and energy into my children, at the expense of time spent with my husband, my friends, and especially myself. However, at the recommendation of my therapist, I began to pay more attention to the time I devoted to other interests and needs I had that, until this point, had been neglected and chalked up to the fun women get to experience only before becoming mothers.
I began teaching exercise classes at the gym so I could be sure of getting a specific number of workouts in and have childcare while doing it. Since my husband was an early riser, I asked that he care for the children in the early morning hours so that I, a natural night owl and late sleeper, could get a few extra solid hours of sleep after being up and down all night with the kids. I started becoming more aware of how much better my body felt when I fed it nourishing food and also when I allowed myself as little as ten minutes a day to just sit still, do nothing, and focus on my breathing. In short, I unknowingly began the practices that today are what we call The Four Seeds of Self-Care.
My self-care is always a work in progress. Some days, I'm better able to sit still than move my body or eat nutritious food. Other days, I eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables, but am only functioning off of four hours sleep because I stayed up too late writing a blog about self-care. Ha! The point being that we never do self-care perfectly. But the awareness of the necessity and the consistency with which we are always trying to be better is key. For once we begin to experience the positive effects of our self-care practices, which is ultimate brain health and regularly feeling good, we begin a snowball effect of wanting to do more. We become more active in physical hobbies, we automatically begin to seek ways to connect with our community through volunteer work or church activities. and we have the energy to sustain the demands of our own family with more positive attitudes toward them and more permission toward ourselves to not be able to do it all. For example, I started playing tennis again after almost twenty years and began volunteering in my children's schools as well as on professional committees in my field. The result was meeting more people, making more friends, and building the community I had so longed for as a child.
I will never forget the evening I realized how fruitful my consistent practice of The Four Seeds was becoming. It was around Christmas and our city community center was hosting a tree lighting ceremony. Many activities were planned for the evening, of which my children were also involved. As I escorted my youngest into the community center to find her school choir group she would be serenading us with, I noticed a friend of mine sitting in the bleachers filled with community members who had come out to enjoy the activities as well. I waved to my friend. Ten other people seated in different parts of the bleachers waved back. It took me a moment to digest what had just happened. As I looked at the other wavers I noticed that, they too, were friends in all different capactities- personal and professional, and my heart leapt as I basked in the warm glow of a community I had built by first building my own strength of character because of The Four Seeds, which ultimately lead me to be a healthy, positively contributing member of my city. It begins within. Plant the love of the Four Seeds practice in your personal life. and watch your community thrive.
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel