I started writing about paying attention several months ago. It was an unfinished thought, and I knew it, and I wasn’t sure how to complete it. It wasn’t entirely clear in my own head; I wasn’t sure how to articulate it in its half-formed state.
I am still not entirely clear, but I’m giving it my best try, anyway. Over the past few months I have attempted to clarify the thought that precipitated a total paradigm shift for me this year, the former way of thinking and the feeling of being bricked in, and the change and the relief and peace that came and what all else was lost in the process.
Yes, there was loss, but it was a good kind. It was throwing off of “things that hinder.”
That loss can probably be most accurately summed up as myself.
Lose myself? That can’t be good. One is not supposed to lose herself in motherhood. She’s supposed to work very hard to establish herself as separate, to care for her own needs first, and not forget herself while she cares for her children. And to a certain extent that is true; there is danger in focusing all of my energies on my children. It’s unhealthy for them and for me–but I think we confuse symptoms with cause, here.
It is not the hyperfocus on children’s care that is of chief danger to me as mother–it is the fact that, more than likely, I do what I do out of a deference to myself and my insecurity. It is how I convince myself that I am a good mother, something of which I desperately need to be convinced. Because I am motivated, ultimately, by my own self-interests, counseling me to move from focusing time and energy on my children to focusing time and energy on myself only allows the root cause–an over-preoccupation with myself–to flourish, unseen. (I call the result of this the Pet/Pest Situation–something that has its own post in the works and will be published “eventually”.)
When I say lose myself I’m not talking about a loss in practice, where I bolster my self-image by passing over my needs to become a martyr to my family’s needs. I’m talking about a loss in principle, where I no longer judge what I do by how beneficial it is for me personally. Pay attention, Beatrice told me. And I tried to. And when I did that, I couldn’t pay attention to myself. I quit worrying about me. In practice, everything stayed the same. Our days actually looked the same. My work and my rest looked the same. But I stopped paying attention to myself and I started slowing down and paying attention to somebody else. And, suddenly, I could breathe.