Yesterday at noon after I put Laly to bed for her midday nap, I flopped onto my bed exhausted, wanting to sleep for hours, days, however long it would take for the exhaustion to go away. This is how I feel at some point in the day, every day – feeling the sting of it without exception when I put Laly to bed at night. This is a feeling I know well as I’ve learned to live with it for many years, but it’s all the more apparent now that I have a little being in my life to nurture and nourish 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I know now how important it is that I stop pushing the feeling away and listen to it.
So yesterday at noon, while lying in bed desperately wanting to fall asleep… why am I this tired? What have I done this morning that has made me so tired? I thought about all the things I’d done for that six hours: making Laly’s breakfast, tending to the chickens, laundry, cleaning the kitchen, helping Laly use the potty, gardening, preparing morning tea, and all the while attending to Laly’s various other needs. These are simple, everyday tasks that I know other people do without feeling exhausted, so why does it affect me so much?
I then thought about what else was happening while I was doing these things – how was I feeling while I put the clothes in the washing machine, what was I thinking about? And that’s when an inner light shone on an habitual pattern that I hadn’t noticed up until that point.
It occurred to me that while I go about all these daily activities, I am thinking one or all of the following: “I’m probably not doing this right”, “This isn’t good enough”, “Am I doing enough?”, “I should be doing more”, “This is not enough”, “I’m not enough”. I question and doubt the way I go about every single activity in my life. It’s exhausting.
As an example, while I was sorting dirty clothes and putting them in the machine with the natural detergent I use, I was thinking about how so many of Laly’s clothes now have paint or food stains that won’t come out in the wash, or the whites have turned grey. I started to compare my washed clothes to those I see on other people or in advertisements. That’s when I started to spiral down in my thoughts and think, “I’m probably not washing our clothes properly. I’m not doing a good enough job at washing our clothes” which then, over a matter of seconds as I start to think about other parts of my life where I feel inadequate, it leads to “I’m not good enough”.
Another example is that for the first time yesterday Laly sat on the tree trunk stools I created for her in an unkempt part of our backyard near the hen house. Without any prompting from me she sat on one of the logs, looked around, and decided to bring her favourite teddy to sit with her on a log and offer him a tiny cup of tea. I couldn’t have wanted for anything more after my grand search of finding the right tree logs. This was exactly what I had hoped she would do and at that moment I wanted to breathe it in, feel nourished by the scene before me. But instead, I thought: “Is she safe? The stools aren’t very clean, I should stop what I’m doing and wipe them down. I should put insect repellant on her in case there are mosquitoes… am I doing the right thing by leaving her alone there? Am I doing enough?” With all the self-(re)searching I’ve been doing these past 2 years, I was able at that point to observe these thoughts instead of immediately act on them, and so I took a breath, knowing that I wasn’t able to allow myself to be nourished by what I saw because of my thoughts but also acknowledging that yes she was safe, I was safe, and to let her enjoy her time without me hovering around her. I’m becoming more and more aware that it is this thinking pattern that is exhausting me, this constant conflict within, this constant doubt. It runs through my mind like a speed train on a loop track, taking me away from the present moment and into unsafe territory. Yet because it’s become an habitual pattern, I’ve been under the illusion that it makes me safe to think these things because I’ve been with it for so long – I know it so well.
At the end of everyday, I plonk my exhausted self on the couch. For all the time that I’ve felt this tiredness – reaching as far back as my mid teens, I thought that it was life in general that was tiring me. All this time I’ve been thinking that I’m too weak, that I can’t handle simple every day tasks, that I’m simply not able. But I’m now seeing this is not the case at all. I can do all the simple every day tasks, and I can do really great tasks too like write a book. What has been tiring me all these years is the constant self-criticism and self-judgement that runs through my mind with everything I do. I plant seeds – have I done enough to help them grow? I let Laly sit without socks on, will she get sick, have I done enough to keep her warm? I put her to bed at night – what if I haven’t done enough for her today? This self-criticism affects every part of my life – I have always had the feeling that I’m not enough – I am not enough of a friend, a daughter, a partner, I’m not enough as an author, a writer, a photographer, a blogger, an entrepreneur. I know that this self-criticism has been learned by example, along with being criticized from those I’ve adored over my youthful years. All of which helped to make my inner critical voice louder.
But as I discover these aspects of my mind, I’m opening up who I truly am, and what I need. And that it’s okay to need while I myself am being needed. And by keeping myself surrounded by people who connect with my core, who understand and support me, I am getting stronger, and wiser.
There will be judgement for this post, this I know. But I know that judgement will be coming from those who have their own loud inner critic just like me, the voice of judgement. It’s an aspect of ourselves we can be aware of, and accept, but not indulge. I heard a wonderful life coach say in an interview the other day, “If this inner critic was a real person, always hovering over you, criticizing everything you do, would you invite them to tea?” The answer for me was immediately no, and I laughed at the absurdity of allowing such a voice to dominate my life.
Have a beautiful weekend mes amis. Thank you for being in my life.
PS these are our backyard hens, Plume (the isa brown), Alouette (the white leghorn) and Esther (Rhode Island red). I’ve written more about them on instagram (my username is piajanebijkerk)if you’d like to follow my everyday adventures in chook rearing, mothering, gardening and more.