It’s funny how things unfold. On New Year’s Eve I was full of the lightness of the energy-shift which always happens for me at the turn of the year. My mind was a whirl of thoughts of all the lovely things we could do in 2017 – how we’d wisely and joyously spend our days – and what we’d give to the year; feeling all the promise and adventure ahead. We had a great New Year’s Eve fulfilling our new year traditions. Going for our new year walk, writing our family list, each settling on our word for the year, feasting in our pjs in front of the fire and watching the fireworks. (I’ve written before about our New Year traditions here and here). And then the calendar page turned and we kind of slumped a little. Or I did at least.
It could be that it’s very much still Winter and parts of me are firmly in hibernation. It could be that we’re still in holiday mode with school not starting until next week and Paul working from home for a few more days. It could be that both my children are on a growth spurt and I seemingly haven’t paused from producing food for them for three days. It could be that when it came, I realised that the new year was really quite big and what I wanted to fill it with really quite vast and I felt overwhelmed about where or how to begin. It could be that I dreamed so big that I scared myself off. Or it could be that I’m just really happy with exactly as things are this week and I’m sitting in it, soaking it all up.
It’s all of those.
It’s also the word I’ve chosen. It’s busy at work, sinking into my bones and becoming part of me. Changing the way I’m doing things right from my core, so that I have to hear it and be it and live it. Holding me still while it beds in and decides to stay.
My word for the year is Tend (with what feels like an important capital T). Ooh it’s a big one this year. Quite possibly a game changer.
It took me a while to know my word this time around. I toyed with several others and chewed my husband’s ear off – ‘hmm, it’s this but it’s not that, but with a bit of this… what would be the word for that?’ – while he looked a bit confused. His had just jumped up and clanged him around the side of the head and I was jealous. I love it when they do that. It’s much easier than mining for them in the depths of my self.
Eventually it came. It was ‘nurture’, but more free flowing. It was ‘free’ and ‘grow’ but also earthy and grounded. It was both doing and being. It was inside me and out in the world. It had form, but far from being cultivated it was – and this was essential – a little bit wild. It was definitely Tend.
At the heart of this word of the year is the understanding that I need to take better care of myself. I was a wreck by the end of term last year. When you think that us mothers are instrumental in so much where our family is concerned – it all kind of collapses if we do – we really have to tend to our own needs. I’m frequently terrible at this. I very much know and understand the need to fit my own oxygen mask first and fill my own cup, but in the busyness of the days, with all the burning priorities, it’s the easiest thing to ignore. I don’t shout at myself or ring alarm bells when I don’t get tended to. Other things do.
I dance the dance between getting it really right for myself and then getting it really wrong. It’s an unhelpful cycle of neglectful almost-burnout followed by much needed retreat and recovery. I think this is true for many of us and I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit over it. 2017 is the year of tending to my own needs. It really is. And yes, I mean all of them.
We all know that means finding a way to fit them in alongside everything else. Tending to my family and my relationship is still top of the list as well and while it feels slightly daunting, I have a hunch (a hope) that this all becomes much easier when I’m feeling well tended.
I have a lifelong habit of over stretching myself. My creative mind sparks ideas to pursue, my hands crave projects, my heart wants to help and support, my sense of the bigger picture makes me want to contribute freely. It can lead to a lot on my plate and in truth, I doubt this year will be any different. But I think what makes all the difference is how well resourced we are. When I’m not taking care of myself I’m tired, distracted, disorganised and stressed out and doing anything from that place is hard work. On the other hand, a well-rested, nourished and tended-to me is a whole different story. We cannot pour from an empty cup.
On my plate this year are a (Waldorf Handwork Teacher Training) course to complete, along with it’s accompanying two years worth of finished (not finished!) handwork pieces and (as yet unwritten) vast and comprehensive portfolio. Ahem. Not worried about that at all! There’s also the small (utterly enormous) matter of restarting (reinventing) my business after 5 years of being a SAHM. It’s both unendingly exciting and hugely daunting. More about this soon. Save to say, that as a coach, a creative and a teacher, I love and need to throw a lot of myself into my work and we come back to that cup again – and how full, or perhaps not full, it is.
Tend feels so very good for right now. It’s a warm hug for myself. It’s kind voices only. It’s listening to what I need and making space for that alongside all the other important things because it’s important too. It’s permission. It’s at the heart of everything. It’s both strong and soft. It’s reaching out and rooted. It’s growing and unfurling. It makes me think of a garden. If my life during this year was a garden, it would be far from the formal manicured kind where everything is cultivated, ordered and clipped neatly inside it’s borders. It would be a well-tended slightly wild cottage garden which goes with the flow, where all kinds of things pop up and are appreciated for their beauty; where seeds are dropped by passing birds, take root and grow. A garden that’s tended to with love and hope and a loose kind of vision, which unfolds and blooms in just the way it wants to. If I’m sat here next January and looking back my year feels like this I’ll be super happy. So, first things first, I’m going to go and prepare the soil.
If you’ve chosen a word for the year, I’d love to hear about it. If you like the idea but don’t know where to start I’d recommend Susannah Conway’s lovely free 5-day Find Your Word ecourse. She also has a brilliant Unravel Your Year guide. If you’re feeling the pull of tending to your own needs, I hope this inspires you to join me. If you do and you’re on Instagram, join me in tagging #nurturethemothers . I started using it a while back to encourage myself – and in recognition of that fact that, my goodness, us mums could really do with all the nurturing! Let’s do this.