Waking Up

Sunrise - Zanzibar

The fact that I find myself awake at 5:30 every morning to walk my daughters dog is an annoying reminder of how completely I have bought into my role of taking care of the needs of others. Last night my daughter and I talked about her responsibility to wake up with her own dog in the morning, but today at 5:30 there her dog was, let out of her room and on my bed licking my face, pleased and happy with her self and full of excitement and enthusiasm about starting a new day.  As I walked around outside with the dogs I thought about where I might find the gift or the meaning in being forced out of bed so early. I listened to the birds singing. I appreciated the view across the canyon of the mountains covered with thin clouds that rested lightly on their peaks. I remembered how much I love the quality of the light early in the morning and the freshness of the air. The possibility of taking a hike passed through my thoughts. This has been a beautiful summer and everything about this morning was exceptional. Surrounded by all of this beauty the message I heard from every corner was “wake up!” “What are you doing out here after such a short nights sleep?”  “Wake up!”  “Who are you taking care of this morning?”  Wake up!”  “You need to take care of yourself!”  “Wake up!”

When did I become a caretaker? I think I might have started when I was 3 months old. My father had a heart attack, and it was clear that someone had to step up and take care of things around my house. I certainly have no memory of a time when I did not take care of everything and everyone. Except for one bit of instruction from my mother when I started dating, about a girls responsibility to draw boys out and to hold up the conversation and keep it going, I have no memories of being taught to put my own needs last. There is a theory that cultural beliefs come into us unconsciously from our surroundings with the very air we breath and food that we eat. In Judaism there is an expression that Judaism is transmitted “ through the soup”. I became a caretaker through the soup. I assumed a role unconsciously that I thought was expected of me. There are qualities about myself as a caretaker that I appreciate. The challenge now is to weed out and let go of the qualities that do not support my own well being and focus on caretaking my self.

For years our family has vacationed every summer on Catalina Island. One year, over 10 years ago, I was complaining to my therapist about how exhausting this vacation was. She gave me a homework assignment to do while I was there. I had to take 10 minutes for myself every day. For 10 minutes every day I had to walk away from my family and do something that was entirely for myself. I could window shop, or walk around the block a few times. I could get an ice-cream cone or take a swim. What I did was unimportant. The essential part was standing up, excusing myself and walking away. 10 minutes. It sounds easy, right?  It was surprisingly difficult and I felt foolish doing it. In the years since I have stretched that ten minutes into hours and am no longer conscious most days about how I spend my personal time. That summer on Catalina island taking time for myself was so foreign that I have a memory of what I said as I walked away and of what I did every day for those 10 minutes.

It is time for a new homework assignment and the beginning of a new relationship to self-care.  Many years ago I had to learn how to physically separate myself from the needs of others in order to begin to be in touch with needs of my own. Now it is time to do more.  As everyday begins I need to check and make sure that I am aware of my needs and desires and  placee them at the top of my internal to do list for that day. I need to make sure that I make time and space for my own needs before I let the needs of others flood in.

5 comments to Waking Up

  • katie

    Did you take the hike? Want to go on an adventure with me? We could go backpacking. Haven’t done that since before the kids. Or, I have 2 weeks in Dec. We could go on a xcountry ski adventure. Think about it.

  • Catherine

    Congrats on the new journey & the new blog. You are an amazing writer -it will be a joy to follow you.
    You are an inspiration to so many of us & I thank you especially for that. XOXO

  • Amrita

    Hi Sweetheart, I loved being woth you last night and woke up with a warm glow. Could you come to India, even for a week?? The blog is great. Love Amrita

  • Nancy

    For many years I would secretly describe myself as going backwards on a conveyor belt.
    Attempting to move forward, but with each awkward step I was stuck..one step forward and two steps backward because I didn’t know how to get off that fast moving conveyor belt that held me hostage caring for the needs of children, husband, community, and so on…I finally realized that what I needed was to be appreciated for the many tiny, as well as huge details that I managed to take care of each day. With this realization came a psychic lightning bolt to my heart; I wasn’t going to get that appreciative bit of gratitude from those I needed it most from. I hopped off with a rolling fall from that reality bite. Today, I make sure that I express gratitude and appreciation for however big or small a kindness is extended to me whether it comes from someone close or from a stranger. For some reason that I don’t understand, it helps to keep the “demon- resentment” at bay. Asking for it, pleading through tears for it wasn’t going to give me what I needed. It just made me look crazy to my family;
    I once asked my husband why he loved me…his reply was that I make him happy. As a woman, I will always attempt to nurture…if I am a source of relief for anyone then I let joy rest in my heart. sometimes it is enough, sometimes not. Thank you Marlene, keep on keeping on Sweetness. xoxo from my heart to yours.

  • Lynda

    Hi Marlene,
    What you’ve written this week resonates with so many of us. . .so, so well.
    At 65, although I still deal with the issue, I have a memory of two realizations that came to me somewhere along the journey.
    The first one was a Louise Hay tape in which she instructed listeners to hold the image of their mother as a child in their heart; then join that with the image of their father as a child. See their parents as little children holding hands running through a field, and hold them in our hearts.
    I know I haven’t said it in the meaningful way that she did, but I HEARD it at that certain time & it touched me to the depths of my inner child’s being.
    I believe that was the catalyst for me to reflect upon the childhoods of my parents. . not just reciting the same old experiences they had told us about, but really seeing them as children of mothers who could not mother them.
    I think, for some reason, Marlene, that these realizations helped me begin to care for my inner child in the way I think a child should be taken care of. . . .in the way that I’ve
    seen you take care of your children: with love, understanding and most of all respect.
    Just wanted to share that with you on this rainy “Seattle” day.

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