A red cardinal against the snow

How to say no when it matters most

Saying no is one of the hardest things to do, especially for highly sensitive people. You don’t want to disappoint someone, or make them think you don’t care – or worse, seem selfish or unfriendly or rude. Yet, if you live with anxiety or depression and find yourself saying yes when you need to say no, then this is an important area to pay attention to. It’s time to learn how to say no when it matters most. 

Saying no is an act of love

Saying no is an act of love for yourself, and an act of respect for the recipient. After all, no one who really cares about you would want you to say yes to something that will make you feel overextended, stressed, or anxious. They wouldn’t dream of asking if they knew the price you’d pay.

Now, I know you might be thinking, This sounds great, but easier said than done! 

You’re right, but it’s like any new skill. With time and practice, muscle memory and the sheer joy of having space to focus on what you love most will take over. You will have a new baseline, and saying “no” will come naturally. 

How to stop the insta-yes

One of the best ways to make space for a “no” is to first block your gut instinct to say yes. Some call it the insta-yes. You know, the yes that flies out before you’ve really thought about it.  

First, take a breath before answering. The pause gives you a moment to really assess what you need, and a moment to decide how to say no as the authentic, loving person you are. If it helps, that pause can include holding your hand over your stomach – which is your power center – and reminding yourself of your power. 

-Second, offer a “no” response that is simple and kind. For those who push harder, take another breath and be willing to be firm. You’re worth it. You’re drawing boundaries. They will manage.

So what, exactly, do I say? 

Here are some gentle “no” responses that you can carry in your back pocket, so that you’re ready to say no when it matters most. 

  • “Thanks so much for thinking of me, but I’ve been overextended and promised myself not to take on anything else/ go anywhere until I got some rest.”
  • As a rule, I ______________ (am home by 6pm on weeknights/ never go out on Sundays, etc). I’m so glad you invited me and hope we can catch up soon!
  • My schedule is so crammed right now, I’m not able to go out for lunch/ volunteer for the bake sale/ etc. Could we do ________ instead at a later date?
  • To be honest, I’d love to contribute another time but it’s just not in the cards right now.”

For more ideas, or to see a list that includes work or client situations where you could use some help saying no, I highly recommend downloading “The Ultimate Guide to Saying No,” by Marie Forleo. 

Say Yes to only what matters most

Above all, there are two points that I want you to remember: 

Saying no when you need to is an act of self love, and no one knows what you truly need except you. 


If you feel like saying “maybe,” say no. 

You’re someone who shows up with everything you’ve got. Which means the things that get your “yes” should truly deserve that kind of energy. 

All right, my friend. It’s time to go forth and become a first class disappointer. Disappoint the heck out of every person and request that comes your way that isn’t in line with your dreams, desires, and needs. Say no when it matters most. A happier, calmier you stands on the other side. A you glowing with energy for the people and things you love the best. 

You’re worth it. 

To your joy,


A field of poppies to symbolize Mary Oliver's wander in a field

Feel less pressure about your life with this gentle poet’s words

Mary Oliver wrote a poem in 1992 with one, particularly popular quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Those words used to thrill me and validate my urge to adventure. Like the time I leapt from a taxi cab and, horribly late, ran into an airport check-in kiosk with jeans muddied up to my knees from crossing an Ecuadorian mountain landslide….in that moment I felt my wild self unleashed. But I’m a mom now, and a business woman. I’m working my desk job or nurturing children or sorting mail. These days, that quote makes me feel like I’m somehow letting myself down. The funny thing is, if you read Oliver’s full poem, it actually does the opposite – it makes you feel less pressure about your life. 

Mary Oliver wasn’t writing about the extreme, high flying moments in life. She wrote about spending a day in the sunshine, idle and blessed, slow enough to witness a grasshopper’s intricate beauty, to ponder prayer. She challenges any would-be critic: 

Tell me, what else should I have done? 

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

You can read the full poem on the Library of Congress website. It’s called Poem 133: The Summer Day. 

Permission to feel less pressure about your life

I know that it can be hard to be idle when you’re a working mother. It’s nearly impossible to slow down a mind on overdrive and we put so much pressure on ourselves to be different than we are and feel different than how we feel. 

My wish for you is that you feel less pressure about your life. Follow Oliver’s path to an open space with sun streaming down. Heck, step out your back door and sit right there. Bring nothing but yourself and a wish to witness. And even when you’re the opposite of alone and surrounded by your children, dwell deeply in the moment – allow your full self to soak them up. That’s what these wild and precious days are for. There is deep healing in allowing yourself to be present, idle and blessed. You have permission. 

With so much love, your joy midwife, 


P.s. My husband and I did miss that post-landslide flight out of Ecuador, by the way. Instead, we spent a glorious day waiting at a hotel in Quito for the next flight, washing our muddy clothes and resting. I remember the sun and the stray dogs sweetly sitting by my bench in a plaza, hoping that I would share my croissant. That day was idle and blessed. 

P.p.s. Do you have a memory of a slow, beautiful day that stays in your heart? Would you share it in the comment section? 

Fence in a pretty field to symbolize boundaries

How to honor your needs with better boundaries

There’s this saying that physical health conditions are our bodies sending a message about an underlying emotional health issue. I had to sit with that one for a long time. I have a leaky gut – and I spent at least two years pondering…what’s the message there? Until one day, a magical, transformative book showed up in my life and it hit me: boundaries. Leaky guts literally have compromised boundaries in the intestinal walls, and food particles cross into the blood stream causing anxiety, mental fog, and other discomforts. And just as leaky guts can heal, so too can weak boundaries be redefined. Stick with me for a few minutes, and I will share some starting points for how to honor your needs with better boundaries. Deep work is required here, and your joy is worth it. 

A Dynamite Book about Boundaries

One of the resources this journey led me to is a book called Boundary Boss, by psychotherapist Terri Cole. The book is written for women who struggle to say no, who feel like they should be doing more in all areas of their life, who struggle asking for help, and who are overinvested in the decisions and feelings of people they love. In short, she wrote it for women who struggle to identify and honor their own personal boundaries. I’m raising my hand – I needed her wisdom. 

I won’t attempt to unhash all of her guidance in a blog post – you need to grab yourself this book (and no, I’m not an affiliate!). That said, boundaries is a topic that anyone struggling with anxiety and depression may need to consider for themselves. So let’s start with something accessible: the rhythms that you and your family follow on a daily and weekly basis. 

A Journal Exercise on Boundaries

Tell me, if you could wave a magic wand, would your routine look the way it does? Take out a journal and spend a few minutes really reflecting on this idea. It’s just you and the page here, so you can be really, lovingly honest with yourself. 

  • What areas in your daily or weekly routine leave you feeling drained?
  • Which activities leave you feeling resentful? 
  • What voices call at you that you wish you could silence or put on the back burner? 
  • Are there relationships that leave you feeling unworthy, taken for granted, disrespected, or uncared for? 

If you were able to fill in detailed answers for any of these questions, then congratulations – you have started your roadmap to a more fulfilling life. You are beginning to understand how to honor your needs with better boundaries. 

Now go back and for each of those answers, write down some possibilities for how you would like to alter the scenarios. Maybe you drop some activities so that you can end up going to sleep earlier. Perhaps you hire a mama-helper a little bit during the weekends so you have some dedicated space to take care of whatever you need. Maybe you say no to the friend date that always stresses you out, or you start making date nights with your sweetie finally happen.

The big point here is that you are the pilot of your life. Once you clearly identify which boundaries are being crossed, you can begin to respond in a way that honors your deep needs. 

Make Changes, but Be Easy About It

The challenges you face are built into your beautiful life, whether by design or happenstance. And you, dear one, are uniquely in control of how they shift and alter. Just don’t feel like you need to take on that whole list you journaled in one fell swoop. Be easy about it. Be gentle with yourself and those you love. Learning how to honor your needs with better boundaries is hugely transformational, and those around you will need a little space to adjust to your new groove.

Grain by grain, you will move your mountain, and discover the joy that was living inside you the entire time. 

With so much love, your joy midwife, 


Lotus flower reminder to love the miracle you are

Six Ways to Love the Miracle You Are

It’s not always obvious how to love the miracle you are. The truth is that for so many of us, the dead opposite often feels easier. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, there are places in this world where self love is the only option. Some decades ago, a group of Buddhist teachers from the West were with the Dalai Lama and asked him about concepts of self loathing, self hatred, and unworthiness. The Dalai Lama conferred with a translator for a good ten minutes to understand what these men were talking about. You see, the concepts weren’t even in his vocabulary. To him, they did not exist. He asked the teachers who among them had experienced this, and all nodded. One of the group’s members, Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, recalls the Dalai Lama’s surprised response: “But that’s a mistake! Every being is precious.” 

The dark side of our thoughts about ourselves isn’t something talked about much. Yet, I know that most of us in Western culture have experienced self-loathing, self-hate, or feelings of unworthiness at one point or another in our lives. I wish I could shield my children from this, and to be honest, the only way I know how to do it is by setting the example. What a world this would be if the idea of anything but self love and compassion were met with the same surprise and confusion as the Dalai Lama’s response to those teachers.  

Where does self-loathing and unworthiness begin?

A number of things can start the mental ball rolling toward self-loathing and unworthiness. At some point or another, we receive negative messages about who and what we are, and we choose to accept them as truth. We develop an inner critic as a protection mechanism to help us show up in the world in a way that won’t earn more negative attention. But that critic grows out of control, especially for people who’ve experienced narcissistic caregivers, trauma, family or housing instability. Truth is, any number of things can deeply impact feelings of worthiness and we grow harder and harder on ourselves in a misguided attempt to prevent future pain.

If you experience self-loathing or feelings of unworthiness, please, pause and hold your heart for a moment. Tell your heart that you are here now. You are here and you will gently guide yourself back to a place of self love, peace, and joy. 

Unworthiness hides in so many of us

When I was in college, I struggled with an eating disorder. I kept it secret from everyone but a single close friend and a therapist. Nearly alone, I grappled with the horror of realizing that I hated myself. I didn’t know where it came from, how it started, how it got so out of control. In addition, that horror was paired with shame at my situation that was so deep, I didn’t even tell my parents. 

I share this with you because I want to acknowledge the feelings of unworthiness that run rampant in our society, and also to be present with the stress that our feelings about our feelings causes. If this sounds like you, this need to hide your pain because you’re ashamed of it, know this: you are not alone. You have more allies and sisters and guides at your fingertips than you realize. People eager to witness you and guide you back to a place of knowing your worthiness.

How to love the miracle you are

Often, the healing path to self-love starts with small shifts. I offer some suggestions to you here, with hope that something will resonate. 

  • When your inner critic speaks, challenge it. Ask it why it’s saying that. My own inner critic never had an answer, and slowly it quieted. Yours will, too. 
  • Journal. Get your feelings out on paper. Let the crap out. All of it. Then, allow your journaling to move into a space of hope, of what-ifs, of dreaming a more peaceful or positive outcome. 
  • Go on a gratitude rampage. Take a walk or just journal or say it out loud – list things you are grateful for, for as many minutes as you can. 
  • Find a therapist. Therapy is something healthy people take part in, and it should be applauded. A good therapist makes space for you to let things out, whereas holding it in just magnifies the self-hurt, depression, or anxiety you may be feeling. 
  • Surround yourself with kind, positive people. The ones who make you feel uplifted at the end of an interaction. In fact, this is extra important for highly sensitive people who soak in the energy of others. If you’re still learning how to protect your energy, give yourself a head start by being choosy with who you surround yourself with.
  • Start a meditation practice. This is a miracle worker. Meditation teaches you to be present and gentle with yourself and your body. You learn to let your thoughts pass without attaching them, returning over and over to the stillness and peace of the present moment. 

I have traveled from the place of self-hatred to self-love. I know it is possible. So, wherever you’re at today, I want you to know that you’re enough. You are worth inner peace. You are worth love. You are worth all good things. Love the miracle you are.

To your joy,


stained glass window spiral

Your tired, beautiful heart needs this story

There’s a certain kind of pause that most of us with babies and small children experience. We wonder whether our dreams for ourselves will ever come back to life as we feed and bathe and nurture small bodies, our own energy drawn thin and yearning for sleep. The answer of course is yes, they’re still here. All of your dreams are here. You’re just zoomed way, way in at the moment. Kind of like the bricklayer in an old parable, which I will share. Trust me, your tired, beautiful heart needs this story. 

A story for your tired, beautiful heart

There was once a bricklayer who spent her days laying bricks, one after the other. There was nothing glorious about the work. No one thanked her as she labored under the hot sun or in the cold wind, her hands thick with calluses and back bent. No one really noticed her, not much. Strangers passing by thought she was building a wall. 

This wall was a labor of love known only to her, so she did not mind that others did not see the deeper meaning in each of her movements. 

Then one day she put the final brick in place. She climbed down stories of scaffolding. Looking up, she smiled. Then she laughed, sending her voice and arms joyfully toward the sky. 

What stood in front of her was a beautiful cathedral, unlike any other. 

You are the cathedral

I love that image. A friend shared this story with me once as a metaphor for parenting – meaning that our children are the cathedrals that we build one tiny piece at a time. We can’t see the full picture while we’re in it, covered in their snot and bathed in their laughter. Bit by bit, as we witness the miracle of their unfolding, we also see the scaffolding and cement and steady presence of our own selves guiding their growth. We see the gift of love in its full beauty.

Yet, the metaphor is bigger than that. It extends beyond parenting to all of our dreams. 

My friend, even if at times you feel lost for a while, or like your dreams are on hold – know deeply that your life is a cathedral. One day you’ll take a step back and laugh with joy at this breathtaking, soaring thing you made. You’ll see that somehow, all of your dreams were held in the gaze of love, and all had space to rise as you showed up, one humble day at a time. 

You make one gorgeous cathedral.


Tell me, because I’d love to know. What dreams still live in your tired, beautiful heart? Go ahead and name them here in the comments, then share this post with someone you love. May our words inspire and lift each other up. 

With joy and love <3


Sparking joy for your body can start small, like this sparkler

Spark joy with this 30 second quiz

Wouldn’t it be nice if we’d been taught to think of our bodies a little differently? Not as something separate from us that can fail us and let us down, but the thing we are. Wouldn’t it be easier to take care of ourselves in a way that amplifies our joy? If you’re a go-getter or a highly sensitive person, this is especially for you – because even though you know you have to take care of yourself, I’m guessing it gets pushed aside a little more often than it should. Here’s a little quiz to help you identify whether your body might be in need of a little more nurturing. Spark joy with this 30 second quiz.  

Spark Joy Quiz

All you need to do is count the number of times you say “yes.”

Do you identify as: 

  • A perfectionist
  • An achiever or overachiever
  • Someone with a lot of balls in the air
  • A people pleaser
  • A “yes” person
  • The one who always gets it done, no matter what

Do you ever:

  • Feel inexplicably tired at the end of the day
  • Feel like you’re wired or have to project more energy than you really have
  • Get less than 7 hours of sleep a night
  • Have a hard time falling asleep
  • Regularly eat on the go
  • Cycle on negative thoughts about the past
  • Worry a lot more than you’d like
  • Easily get overwhelmed
  • Live with (un)diagnosed anxiety or depression
  • Regularly push through your needs to finish everything 
  • Hear the word “self-care,” and think – what’s that?!

Now, how many times did you say yes?

Use Your Quiz Results to Spark Joy

If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, then your body is likely wearing out faster than you realize. Pause and let that sink in – this is important. You deserve only the best that life has to offer, and that includes a body that feels good all. the. time.

The good news is that awareness of these flags means that you have an amazing opportunity to slow down and course correct. Your body needs fuel to support your dreams. If you go go go without giving it rest when you’re tired, food when you’re hungry, hydration, mental space to relax or even be bored – then you are heading towards a crash that will slow you down sooo much more than you want. 

That’s what happened to me. As a mother with young children – or even before then as I held a day job and did grad school by night – I knew I was busy. Too busy. Yet, I was driving toward something I wanted and I didn’t pause even in moments when I knew in my heart it was too much. I knew I wanted the kind of joy and rest that was not part of my daily experience. So my body became a messenger I could not ignore. The path to a joyful, thriving body has been longer than it would have been, had I only listened to my heart before symptoms began. 

Maybe you’re in a similar place, with physical or emotional symptoms you can no longer ignore. Maybe you aren’t at that point but are doing some preemptive damage control. In either case, I give you so much respect for showing up to make a change. So many people don’t even make it that far. 

Let’s Get to It!

Like a fire that starts with small sparks, joy starts with small sparks, too. There’s nothing so good as taking a little inspiration and turning it into action. Do you feel ready to make some shifts that honor your heart? 

(Oh good – I knew you’d say yes. 🙂 

Today’s joy journey challenge is to pull out a journal, get comfy, and list out everything you juggle. Then make a list of all the places where your body could use a boost, such as drinking more water, exercise, quiet time, emotional support, etc. 

Now, looking through the list – can you identify one or two things that you could shift right now? Are there activities someone else could take on, or which don’t jive with your exact needs and you could give yourself permission to drop? Are there physical care items that you can begin to incorporate into your days?

Change happens incrementally, so your list isn’t meant to be answered with a “Shazaam!” and all is complete. Instead, use it as a tool to really see what is happening in your life, and how your body’s well-being might be pushed to the side in the process. Take one one or two items, and return to the list periodically when you feel ready to address one or two more. Your health will blossom as you pursue the changes that feel right to you.

I’m so glad you’re here. Your joy journey matters – you’ve got this, and I’ve got you. 

WIth so much love, your joy midwife, 


P.s. Let’s really get that motivation going – tell me in the comments – what have you decided to draw into your life to spark joy? Share it here and I just know you’re going to make it happen.

Welcome, my friend. Please make yourself at home.

Hello, and welcome to my blog, where I’ll share what I’ve discovered about how to fall head-over-heels in love with yourself and your life. You’ll know you’ve arrived when joy comes easily. Make yourself at home; stay awhile. I’ll be your joy midwife, holding space for you every step of the way. To start things off, I’ll share a little bit of my story and where this joy journey is heading. 

Image of Ashley and baby LJ in a daisy patch
A mother on her own joy journey, Ashley blogs to guide other mothers healing from anxiety and depression. She is pictured with her daughter LJ, the baby whose heartbeat taught her joy.

The first time I heard my unborn daughter’s heartbeat is one of the purest moments of joy I’ve ever felt. We heard it around nine weeks pregnant, sitting in a midwife’s office. The joy arrived a little later as my husband and I drove home. Sitting at a stoplight, I was suddenly elated. It’s like my spirit was expressing something about my life and my circumstances, and in that moment I was open enough to receive the message: joy. I understood that the span of time ahead of me with this arriving spirit was more right than I could ever know.

What I know for certain

The following couple of years were challenging. We moved states, bought a fixer-upper house, and my husband and I both changed jobs when our daughter was three months old. It was more than my mind and body could handle. Joy is not something I had easy access to for a good while. In fact, my emotions were as opposite as you can get. But the lack of joy and the physical symptoms indicating I needed more of it were clear. So began a journey that I am still on, and I have come far enough in to know this: 

Joy lives in you. 

You can feel your way back.

No matter your circumstances. 

Even if it’s hard to wake up and face the day. Even if going to work takes every ounce of your willpower. Even if you’re exhausted, or stressed by a relationship, or just feeling sad or alone – joy lives in you. You have access to it. You can feel your way back. 

Let’s be real

I won’t pretend you can just snap out of a low spot. That’s not how we work. But if you show up day by day, if you lean into what feels good, if you allow what your heart is asking for first –ahead of all your to-dos –you can ease yourself into a space of calm, more happiness, and with more emotional access to joyful moments. 

For me, “feeling my way back” has been as slow and methodical as the phrase sounds. This blog will be devoted to all the many pieces that it has involved. I hope I might inspire your own journey. This world has great love for you. And you have my love, too. For now, here are a few teasers about what’s to come in the months ahead:

  • You are a body. Its health and well-being are your health and well-being. Our culture tends to consider our bodies as something separate from who we are — an idea that couldn’t be more wrong. How are you caring for the body that you are? 
  • Healing into the present. We all carry hurts, limiting beliefs, and thought patterns that remove us from the beauty of the present moment. What are you ready to release? 
  • Emotional self-care and self-love. We have the power to shape and redirect our self-talk, to set boundaries with other people and ourselves, to say no, and to give ourselves permission to relax and rest. We can feel peaceful and loving towards ourselves. Where are you ready to change? 

My friend and fellow seeker, I hope you will join me for this journey towards joy. You are the reason I blog. I’ll share everything I’ve learned with the hope that you take what resonates and fall head-over-heels in love with yourself and your beautiful life. 

With so much love, your joy midwife, 


Picture of a 30 minute dinner

How to become a 30 minute dinner chef

I’m sure any mom can relate to those moments when your kid says, so sweetly, “Can you come play with me?” My heart sinks as I answer, go play by yourself – I have to finish these dishes.” Or make dinner or ________ (insert house or work project). How do you win? There must be a way to “do it all”… some way to keep the home running and also have time to soak up our sweet children, and maybe a little time for ourselves somewhere in there. 

I’ve heard about dinners that take half an hour to make. Are those a real thing? Can someone learn to be a 30 minute dinner chef? Recipes often claim that’s all it takes to whip up a tasty meal. I don’t know about you, but dinners take me about an hour to cook, whether it’s from a recipe or something I make up on my own. But surely it must be possible! I did a little internet sleuthing to bring you tried and true tips from experts who really do know how to make a meal in 30 minutes. 

Tips from real 30 minute dinner chefs

The kitchn.com has a fabulous article that dishes up all the places we unwittingly go astray when we cook. Think:

  • Are the things you almost always use gathered in the same place, like your spices, olive oil, onions, garlic, and most-used cooking tools? 
  • Read a recipe thoroughly before starting. That way, you’re not surprised by directions part way through that required chilling or thawing or something else you should have done yesterday. 
  • Clean as you go. This gives you space to work as your cooking progresses, and makes for less clean up later. This is especially helpful in tiny kitchens where messes can make you start to lose your cooking ingredients or tools, which obviously eats up time when you spend a minute looking for the measuring spoon that you just put down. 

Eat This, Not That! offers 30 tips to cut down on time in the kitchen. Some of my favorites include:

  • Sharpen your knives (it makes chopping faster)
  • Get yourself some kitchen shears (think – fancy, sharp scissors that replace a knife – you’re faster and your fingers are safe). 
  • Cook with a small pot. It takes less time to heat and also distributes heat more evenly as your food is heating. 

Finally, remember the old wisdom to measure twice, cut once. It’s the same in the kitchen – if you move deliberately – read the recipe twice, don’t rush – you will be way less likely to make mistakes. And not having to fix a mistake? That’s solid gold.  

Keep showing up

Getting systems in place so that cooking or cleaning takes less time doesn’t happen overnight. But if you keep showing up in this area, looking at where you’re at and choosing small changes to make, you’ll find yourself in a new space before you know it. If you become a 30 minute dinner chef, maybe you really can sneak in a half hour of laughter and play with your children before dinner! 

woman performing a juggling act

Why Busy Moms Need to Prioritize Their Juggling Act

I lost momentum on this blog thread for a good while this year. My commitment to post once a week no matter what fell to the wayside in March. That month heralded the onset of early-pregnancy nausea in the evenings (my prime writing time). Wisconsin’s stay-home order also went into effect and I just felt lost for a while – head spinning, trying to understand everything going on while feeling utterly exhausted from the pregnancy. The pause became a gift. I was quiet long enough to hear the whispered wishes from my heart. Quiet long enough to prioritize what’s most important. This busy mom is finally prioritizing the juggling act.

Your One Thing

Some time ago, I wrote a post about Your One Thing. It’s based on a book that recommends prioritizing based on the one thing that – once done – will make everything else easier. I actively employed that idea – my One Thing at work, my One Thing for housework, my One Thing for this blog, my One Thing for health. But I ignored the wisdom of someone else, who said there has to be a One Thing for all of it. One thing that I care most about and prioritize above all else.

For me, that was health. And I knew it. But I so desperately wanted to run a blog and start up a business where I feel challenged. I so desperately wanted to be part of a choir and make friends and make music. All this while holding a full time job and giving all my love to the sweetest little one-year-old on the block – dinner by 6 pm, stories and songs and bedtime by 7:30 pm sharp.

I wanted to do it all. So to Lady Health I said, “I’ll take care of you, too, but it’s going to have to be mixed in with everything else.” Then the pandemic hit and like you, I was suddenly at home all the time. No choir, no going out to see people, no date nights with my husband. I was suddenly relieved of the daily, intensely stressful routine of getting my daughter to daycare and myself to work relatively on time. I no longer had to spend 40 minutes a day commuting during rush hour.

Suddenly, health could take a front seat. With my usual activities gone, my body has been slowly remembering how to relax. Relaxing, it turns out, isn’t something you can will your mind to do. Not something you can force a body constantly in fight-or-flight mode to shift to. I find myself holding a softer smile, a more joyful, open presence. I didn’t know I was so constantly tense. I had no idea. But now I feel like the me I remember from years ago. I’ve missed her and I don’t fully know when she disappeared.

It’s safe to prioritize the juggling act

So, my path ahead is clear. I must be infinitely gentle with my body. This body that carries me and sustains me and is me. This body has wanted to be this calm for a long time. Continuing this may mean some major life shifts – a reckoning with what success means for me, a willingness to let go of who I think I am for who my heart wants me to be.

My personal vision for self care has also changed. It’s more than the occasional self-pampering get-away and saying kind things to myself. It’s a deep acknowledgment and honoring of what I need most as a physical being in this world. A commitment to honoring those needs while trusting that all my dreams are there and will still come true. It’s safe to prioritize the juggling act. I don’t need to push so hard. Neither do you. <3

Ice cream with sprinkles. Who says adults don't know how to play or have fun?!

Big smiles served here: how to amp up your play

I wish you loneliness… 

This line appeared in a poem for my baby, written by my sister in law. She shared it at a Blessingway ceremony held in August – a gathering with a small circle of dear women to honor the transition in my life as I prepared to give birth to my second child. 

The women brought blessings, poems, and prayers to share, written on sheets of origami paper. I planned to fold the papers into birds and place them around the house; I would be surrounded by their blessings while giving birth. My son arrived 12 days early, a little too soon to complete folding all of the birds, but some were scattered around and I have the gift of sitting with them as I fold them now, weeks later. But back to the poem…  in its fullness, it quietly reads: 

“I cannot wish you safety, because we learn through risk.

I cannot wish you peace because discomfort makes us radically creative.

I cannot wish you pure health, because the body contains multitudes, and strength comes from wrestling what seeks to unbalance you.

I can wish you love. I can wish you loneliness.

Mostly, I wish for you to live in the fullness of your humanity, whatever that may be, with as much curiosity about the messes as the miracles.” 

Written by Kitt Healy

How to accept life’s messes

Ultimately, these origami blessings are destined for a picture box to hang on the wall, surrounding a photo of my newborn son. I’ve deliberated over leaving this one in the frame unfolded, it’s love and honesty open for reading and rereading. Part of me wants to fold it, to hide the words because my mother’s heart wants no sadness or hardship for this child. And while for me it will always be this way, I know, deeply, that a life of pure ease is not what he came for. He came to forget; forget that he is made of love and forget that he is one with everything. He came to relearn and remember these things as he ages. He came for the messes.

This is a good reminder for me, too. I’ve spent long hours feeling sad over pains in my life. Friendships and loves lost. Being hard on myself for those sadnesses, as if doing things a little bit different, a little bit better or more perfect could have protected me from painful moments. I sometimes get intensely anxious about making a decision, afraid that if I make the wrong one I will be hurt in the future.

But pain free living was never going to be possible, was it? Over these past months, during the loneliness invoked by COVID-19, I’ve started using a method for releasing old emotions called emotional frequency technique, or “tapping.” Events that I wish hadn’t happened – they’re transforming into old memories without painful associations. I’m learning to love my messy life, just as it is.

Our messes, illuminated

I can’t protect my children from the messes any more than I can protect myself. But I can show them a mother who loves her life, all the bumps and bruises and how they’ve shaped her, a mother who has learned to let go and forgive and love herself. Maybe that example can be a beacon of light that helps guide them back to themselves when their messes make them forget the way. These are my messes, illuminated.

I wish that for you, too. That you see your messes as part of your becoming. Becoming something brighter and more full and more in line with the heart of you. You are made of love and are part of everything. Even with the messes. Remember that.

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