Reducing, Releasing and Receiving: My New Self Care

I’m coming full circle around to where this all began more than 20 years ago, with the Mad Goddess speaking to me in my middle age about sovereignty and self care. It’s playing out so differently this time, because the landscape is new. I’m passing through another transition.

Then it was all about preparing for the empty nest, or empty next as I liked to frame it, pursuing my interests and talents, carving out my unique niche in the world, making the dream come true.

Now I’m moving through my younger old age, not yet Crone, but perhaps crossing the threshold between Priestess and Sorceress as presented by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard in their model of the thirteen stages of a woman’s life,  I’m standing in a liminal doorway, crossing into the next unknown.

13 Stages of women's life depicted in a wheel

Women’s Wheel of Life by Elizabeth Davis and Carol Leonard
I suppose you could put a mystic spin on all that, but really it’s about meeting my own truth and shaping the wisdom season of my life.
I’m practicing the three Rs. I think back then it was Reevaluate, Reimagine and Reset. Now those Rs are Reduce, Release and Receive.
All of this stuff I’ve accumulated over the decades of my adult life, longed for, worked hard for, held as success, now I feel the weight of it bearing down. We don’t own our material belongings as much as they owns us. Owned in perceived value; we can’t just throw it away or donate it, it cost us hard earned money. It should all be worth something.
Our stuff owns us in the time needed to use it, clean or maintain it. It claims our space for keeping it, saving it because we fear we might need or want it some distant day. Or saving it for children and grandchildren who have no use for it, don’t want it and will give it away.
Reducing the clutter has not proven easy. There is emotional attachment to things, but I find that the memories stay even when I let the things go. I had a beautiful perennial garden, twenty-four by forty feet, raised and enclosed with wire fencing to keep out deer, rabbits and other invaders. It bloomed with fragrant roses, peonies, and lilies. Spires of holly hocks, lupine and foxglove, and carpets of phlox.
It became too much work for me to keep up with. It’s overgrown with weeds and I’ve been giving my perennials to my daughters and younger gardening friends. I transplanted a few to small flower beds near my deck. I’m transforming the space into a wildlife garden, with mostly mulched beds, garden structures, and ornaments like wind chimes and sun catchers. I’m planting a few easy care shrubs and native wildflowers to attract birds and other wildlife.

My beautiful perennial garden is not gone, it is transformed, shaped to fit my life now. The stress of no longer being able to care for the formal perennials is gone. The strain on my arthritic back and knees is gone.

I’m gathering up all the bric-a-brac I no longer need, sets of china rarely used, books I no longer open, clothes I think will fit me again (they never will), all the little chotskies filling the shelves, the collection of wrapping paper and bows—who am I kidding? I give gift cards these days, or purchase a gift bag if needed.

Cluttered room full of vintage and furnishings

Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

I keep telling anybody who will listen, I want less things in my life, and more experiences, with family, friends, and even on my own. I’m releasing my material stuff and going through my baggage, setting it down, walking away.

I’m clearing the space my stuff takes up in this world and opening it to receive what comes next. It’s slow going, it takes all the courage I’ve conjured up as an Warrior and Matriarch. I’m trusting it will make my life simpler and richer.

I want to travel light the rest of my years.

 Release, Reduce, Receive.This is my new self care.


Grounding and Centering

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay 

For years I read and listened to the accounts of successful people who begin every day by collecting their thoughts, setting intentions, and mentally preparing for the day ahead. Nice luxury, I thought.

Recently, I decided to give it a go. I took a thirty day challenge to ground and center every morning, first thing, no excuses.

I knew if a daily practice was going to work for me, it had to be meaningful, not rote. To that end, it could be as long and elaborate as I liked; I work from home, my children are long since grown, and gone and my spouse is self-sufficient.

On the other hand, I was certain if it was too elaborate, I’d be tempted to skip it on busy mornings—like the day I was scheduled for lab work before 8 a.m. at a clinic 40 miles from my home.

Sunrise is my time of day, whether I’m up and about in the wee hours, or still lying in bed when dawn breaks, that first ray of sun cutting across the room, coming to rest on a table or dresser, awakens me.

“Light of the world, a new day dawns. Renew my spirit, awaken me.”

Those words became the first line of my morning prayer that begins my daily devotion. The prayer includes setting an intention for directing the energy I give and receive “this day” to a higher purpose and greater good. I follow with my grounding and centering cued to these words:

“Mother earth, supporting me, Father Sky, lifting me, Grandfather Sun, igniting my spirit, Grandmother Moon, lighting my compassion, guide me on my journey.”

As I speak the words, facing the sunrise, I ground my energy to the earth and extend it to the upper world (heavens, deity or higher self—as you believe). I then spread my arms outward, centering the energy in my heart. I finish by folding my hands at my heart and bowing my head. Standing in the prayerful position, I finish with my gratitude to the Creator.

Short and sweet, completed in a few minutes, and quite rote despite what I’d intended—not unlike the prayers I learned as a parochial school girl, rattled off in church every week. Yet, there are significant differences. The words of my devotion are my own and heartfelt, I am deliberately present as I speak them (in a way I wasn’t as a school child), and the memorized recitation is a mere warm-up to the real meat of my daily devotions, that being 20-minutes or more of meditation.

Busy days crowded their way into my month, more mornings that I had to be out the door and on the run early. I let the meditation slip some days, or fit it in later in the evening, but I never missed the brief, memorized prayers. It turns out, those moments of grounding and centering were what made the difference in my days.

Yes, the prayers are a preamble, enhancing what immediately follows, but the simple words, the deliberate connections, support me throughout the day. Going through the motions, speaking the words, creates a memory, a touchstone in my body and mind. In difficult moments I can call on the energy to remain grounded, centered and balanced. But even when I’m not consciously aware, the energy is there, within me.

There are numerous methods for grounding and centering, including mundane, magical, and religious. For the simplest approach, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, close your eyes and relax your breathing. Scan your body for any areas of tension, take a deep breath and release the tension on the exhale. Repeat until your body is completely relaxed.

Call to mind a calming image—it can be anything that makes you feel peaceful. Focus on the image and your breath, allowing the weight of your body to sink. Feel your feet on the floor, your thighs and back against the chair supporting you. Then imagine a beam of white, or pale violet light extending from the crown of your head. The light energy flows both ways, reaching up to the higher realm and coming back to you.

Next imagine drawing up energy from the earth, while drawing down from the upper world. Envision these meeting near your heart, then expanding out in every direction. With each inhale, see the light glowing and growing until it surrounds you, like a sphere. Imagine this light sphere in the center of body, mind and spirit, made visible and drawn out to encompass you, almost as a force field.

Image by LillyCantabile from Pixabay 

When you are finished, see the light growing smaller, until it becomes a tiny orb, nestled between your heart and solar plexus. Take three deep breaths and open your eyes.

You can envision any color you choose for your light. White contains all colors, and is also associated with cleansing and purifying. A warm yellow or golden light is healing. Explore chakra energy centers and colors for more about working with the energy meridians of your body.

Try starting your day off with your own, simple grounding and centering ritual.


Doing It All In Spite of Your Self

Image by Peter Lomas from Pixabay 

Many years ago, as a wife and mother of three young daughters, with aging parents living next door, I awoke one morning to the normal sounds of my daughters getting ready for school. Instead of getting out of bed, I uncharacteristically pulled the covers up under my chin, giving in to my desire to ignore the call of yet another busy day.

My husband worked rotating shifts; he was on the early watch that day. With a 45 minute commute, he was up and out of the door before dawn, having made his own breakfast. It was the one indulgence I’d claimed from the beginning of our marriage. I’ve never minded rising early, but my brain doesn’t fully engage for an hour or more. Trying to make breakfast is comical at best, sometimes even dangerous . . . cooking with gas. Tea and quiet contemplation are more my style.

This day, I begged off getting breakfast for the girls and overseeing their morning rush, saying I maybe had a cold coming on. I had that tell tale achey and fatigued feeling, despite having slept through the night.

The girls ate cold cereal and got themselves out the house and down the driveway to the school bus. Eventually, I had to get up and into my day, but when I tried, my back seized in pain, paralyzing me in place. Living on our little hobby farm, with large garden, a small menagerie of livestock and heating our home entirely with wood, any number of daily chores may have been the cause of my pain.

Even the slightest movement was excruciating. Anybody whose ever had back pain realizes very soon how much of our movement is supported by the back—it hurts even to breath. All I could manage was to roll to the edge of the bed and drop to the floor. I crawled on my hands and knees to the phone, to call my mother for help.

At the ER, a breif exam and X-rays revealed nothing more than severe spasm of the major muscles in my back (oh is that all?), and a bit of spinal misalignment. I was fitted with a soft support brace and scheduled for physical therapy. It ended up being months of therapy—six before the pain wasn’t a constant companion and nearly a year before doing even light work didn’t cause a flare-up.

It was that incident that started my journey to self care. I was the “backbone” of our family. I kept everything running, kept everybody on schedule, provided comfort and nurturing for my growing family and companionship for my aging parents. I worked out of the house part-time, but was home when my children were home. I cooked, cleaned and was responsible for most household maintenance as my husband work hours were long and demanding.

I didn’t just “have it all” as they promised young women of the day, I was doing it all . . . all by myself. I didn’t realize exactly how ego driven my need to be needed was.

The Natural Remedy Book for Women, by Dian Stein, introduced me to the idea that our body’s dis-ease is often the best clue to where we are suffering imbalances in our life. It sometimes takes a little detective work. For example, the skin is a barrier for the body, hinting that unexplained skin conditions could be the symptom of poor emotional boundaries. Chronic sore throats or difficulty swallowing may indicate feeling unable to speak freely or to call out untruths as you see them (a lot to swallow).

For years, even before my marriage, I was the fixer, the family mediator, the one jumping in wherever I saw the need to smooth things over, or maintain harmony. I was carrying the load, physically and emotionally, for too many who were willing to let me. And who would blame them? I was filling all the space, patching all the cracks before anybody had a chance to see them.

I didn’t know how to step back and leave enough room for others to step in. When my back gave out on me, I had no other choice.

It would be even more years before I awoke to the ways of witchery, and still more before I delved into my shadow work, where I would begin to understand that my desire to make others happy is a desire for their appreciation. I am a praise junky, no doubt because my parents showed love through expressing appreciation, whether for a job well done, a story or joke well told, a kindness given—any notable action or accomplishment. A high achiever, I became an expert at cultivating heaps of praise.

My default for receiving love is co-dependent, basing my sense of worth on what others tell me is valuable to them. I’ve learned to resist my first impulses to jump in and save the day, but it’s like fighting any addiction—my craving for acknowledgment and appreciation is always gnawing at me. Before I offer help, I have to ask myself if I’m doing it only for the praise I might get, and would I still do it if I knew for certain there would be no pay-off.

I once cooked meals for a woman after she’d done me serious harm that effectively ended our relationship. Her husband was dying of cancer. She was working full time and couldn’t quit her job. She’d asked among her friends and family if somebody could make meals that she could easily reheat at the end of her long days.

Nobody else responded to her need for this small comfort, so for several months I cooked a week’s worth of meals at a time, arranging for a mutual friend to deliver them to her. It was one thing she needed that I was capable of giving. If there were never a single word of thanks, I knew, without questions how much those meals would be appreciated.

I’ve also learned there are healthier ways to channel my penchant for trouble shooting, as I did when working as an events coordinator—there’s always at least one fire that needs dousing at every event. And there are far more enjoyable ways to receive accolades, like performing in community theater for one.

My mother used to say I’d cut off my nose to spite my face. As a headstrong and persistent teenager, I didn’t understand what she was trying to tell me. I spent a good part of my life, bending over backwards, doing cartwheels and handsprings, trying to get people to do the same for me. It’s taken me a long time to figure out I could put all that energy into giving myself what I need, instead of begging others for crumbs.

You don’t have to love yourself before others can or will love you; but if you don’t love yourself at least as much as you expect others to love you, there will be an emptiness in your heart that remains unfilled.


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