As we move into the holiday season, we often think about what we have learned or are learning over the past year.
So what am I learning?
I am learning to listen to my life.
This past year has been busy; to be honest, every year is busy.
But this year, I graduated from grad school, published a book, and navigated my child's mental health crises, all while running our household. I have also tried to be present in the life of my adult children. For those of you with littles, prepare yourself. Adult kids will need you more than you ever anticipated.
I felt like I was running a marathon with no margin and no water breaks.
Recently I had a conversation with my small group. I shared with them a situation that I had been struggling with for a long time
These loving souls listened, really listened, and instead of coming up with solutions, they asked me one question: what do you want?
To be honest - I could not name one thing I wanted. I could name all the ways the problem needed to be solved to benefit others, but not for myself. I could not name one thing I needed for me.
Can you relate when someone asks how you are? Or how they can help? Do you stare blankly, or not have an answer? What if they ask what you enjoy doing?
I am learning to listen to my life instead of running to the next thing.
In episode 276 of the Next Right Thing podcast, Emily P. Freeman asks her guest, Taylor Elise Morrison, about self care. Morrison replies, “ the starting point for most people’s self-care isn’t with a purchase, it is with listening to themselves.”
Really? That stopped me in my tracks - ten minutes on social media will give you many opportunities to improve your life. Your phone offers you easy distraction, self-help tips, and many offers to buy things that will bring you happiness.
When I feel overwhelmed, I am convinced I need a new planner, one more book on prayer, or cute color-coordinated bins to clean up and create more space in home.
Surely one of these will help me fix the problem. I am convinced improvement requires action or at least a purchase or two. Can you relate?
But listening to my life first? I think I am a good listener, but the person I often forget to listen to is myself.
Taylor goes on to say,
“Self-care is listening and responding in the most loving way possible.
We need to well resourced. When we do not listen, we ignore obvious issues.”
As a caregiver, you need to be well resourced. When I work with my mentoring clients, my goal for them is to help them work through what is hindering them and help them learn to be well-resourced,
Special needs parenting is marathon parenting. We cannot ignore what we need - we have to listen to our own needs and provide ourselves with the right resources.
I also work with a mentor, and the irony is not lost on me that while my job is to help special needs moms find space to breathe, I don’t always do that well for myself.
Recently I was sharing a long list of all the things that were stressing me out with my mentor, and she asked me this questions: how are you contributing to your own chaos?
I initially pushed back. I am not contributing to my own chaos!
But as I thought about it more, it really landed.
The chaos or stress is not just because I am a RAD mom, have a busy schedule, or whatever is going on in my life. Those circumstances do contribute to the overwhelm and chaos of life, but I also contribute to my own chaos when I do not listen to my own life and name what I need.
After naming what we need, we have to find a way to do what it takes to meet that need in small doses.
We need to be well resourced. You would only want your kids to be taught by a teacher with all she needs to be well-resourced or a doctor that has the medical resources they need.
But we walk into our lives as special needs moms without the resources we need.
So what have I noticed as I have been listening to my life? How am I contributing to my own chaos?
First of all, I am learning that Just because you handle something well does not mean it is not stressful.
Another visit to the hospital or a call from the school is something I do well, but I come away with a stressed, nervous system. I need to pay attention to that and give myself space to breathe and move.
I can tell when I am not listening to my life because of what I call the “overs:” overthinking, overdoing, overworking, and overlearning.
Are you familiar with the overs? Maybe your overs are different - overeating, overspending, other “overs.”
When I am not listening to my life, the overs come marching in, ready to save the day. They seem effective, but the overs, the busyness, and the hustling never deliver me to a place of listening.
When I engage in the overs, I am not listening to my life. I am listening to the voice of scarcity and fear.
We hustle and push because we want to fill the perceived gaps in God’s plan for our life and our kid’s lives. In the midst of this hustling and pushing, we lose our perspective and peace. And it is easy to forget this: everything I have is because of God, not the overs.
Friends, there are so many things we can’t control - our kid’s diagnosis, the future, or whether the disability papers will come in the mail today. There are so many things we can spend all our time doing to make better, and those things may never improve.
By listening to our lives, we can tend to the things we know will help us be well resourced.
I have been a parent for 30 years, and if I could go back and tell young Amy one thing, I would say this:
calm down, slow down, and take a moment to breathe.
I want you to be at peace.
I want you to be well rested.
I want you to be nourished and hydrated.
It starts with listening to your life.
So start today. Take some space, be quiet, and ask this: what is the one small thing I can do to resource myself today?
If you would like help with this, reach out to me. I would love to have a conversation with you. If you are interested in mentoring, I can help you with this process.