Amy Taylor-Kabbaz reflects on a life-time of busy-ness, and what happens when you finally hit ‘stop’.
Always scanning the horizon for the next thing to do.
Always on alert, always searching.
For nine years, I have been ‘on’.
Before babies, there were nothing days. Days filled with M*A*S*H reruns, never getting out of my pyjamas, crawling back into bed that night the same as I left it ten hours earlier. Soul days that, at the time, I had no idea were such a blessing. Granted, they were mostly nursing a hangover, but for those days, the world stopped. Even if the superwoman inside me hated it, and berated me for my nothing-ness.
But now, after nine years of motherhood and the switch inside me never really getting turned to off, I can see just how important those days of nothingness really were. They soothed my frazzled mind. We need days of nothing just as much as we need exercise and a certain number of veggies a day.
For nine years, my mind has listened out for cries, screams and illness throughout the night. For nine years, my nervous system has been on high alert, hovering in a state of readiness for whatever my children might need. And for a significant percentage of those nine years, my readiness was needed: I was up, numerous times a night, soothing another soul.
That stuff gets exhausting.
I never knew how exhausting, until I finally stopped.
There have been days in the past twelve months when I have done nothing but lie on my couch. From school drop off to school pick up, I have laid, in a semi-conscious state, watching hours of Netflix. I have sobbed my eyes out, releasing a sadness I didn’t even know was there (because I’d never stopped long enough to feel it) while watching crappy Rom Coms and endless Gilmore Girls reruns.
I’ve also had days of deep healing. Of sitting on my bed with my headphones, listening to guided meditations and insights from my many teachers, and poured my heart out into my journal. I have, once again, sobbed from a place I didn’t even know was hurting, and I have faced many painful memories to finally bring them into the light, and be healed.
I have obsessively consumed podcasts to fill the searching I was feeling, and then eventually, gotten so sick of hearing everyone else’s thoughts I would spend the day in silence. Clearing out drawers and old cupboards; spending half an hour painting my toenails while sitting in the sun.
I have missed deadlines, I have cancelled appointments, I have said no to so many things.
Because finally, FINALLY, I had to rest.
It was devastating to realise just how weary my soul was. After fifteen years of climbing the imaginary ladder of journalism that I had set my sights on at just 8 or 9 years of age, I had finally stepped off the rungs and seen what I had done to myself. The pressure I had piled onto my tiny shoulders, believing that once I got there, I’d be OK.
I did get there. And I wasn’t OK.
And when I finally stopped long enough – when the Universe finally gave me the gift of time and space – I was overwhelmed by what I found.
Where has all my drive gone? Where has all the determination and hardwork disappeared to? Maybe I’m just not that type of person who can work from home – maybe I’m lazy. Maybe I need a boss and a weekly paycheck and the fear of being shown up in front of colleagues to get me to move each day?
Maybe I was broken?
No, I wasn’t broken. And neither are you. You’re just exhausted too: exhausted from a lifetime of pushing and then another lifetime of high-alert mothering on top of that. If we’d come to this mamahood gig fresh and rested, adrenal glands swinging, gut health flourishing, and feminine energy divinely connected, we’d all be nailing it. We’d be going with the flow of this season of our life, and trusting that our new priorities include deep self-care and inward reflection.
Screw the promotion and proving to the world that we are still important even though we’re now only doing a third of what we used to achieve: we would have an inner strength that could not be broken.
But we don’t. We don’t come to motherhood connected to who we are – in fact, we’ve spent most of our life trying to be someone else.
No wonder we’re exhausted.
No wonder I was.
And so, I rested.
I said no, I cut back, I cleared out the mess in my head and in my home, and I started to learn how to move at a different pace. I honoured what my body was telling me, as much as I could within a 3pm pick up. I turned down the noise and caught myself whenever I switched back into high alert mode again.
It hasn’t been easy. Some days, that shame is still there when I go back to the school gates after a day of ‘nothing-ness’ and I see everyone else rushing around looking busy. There have been many a time when I have felt useless compared to others. But when I rest, I rise. And you can too.
You don’t need a year at home without the kids. I know you’re reading this wishing that the luxury of staying at home and working your own hours is a problem you’d like to have. This is about unplugging from the system of busy-ness we’ve been swept into, however we can. Because we can’t keep waiting until something else breaks for us to finally focus on this.
Don’t look at your phone after the kids go to bed.
Turn all noise off in your house when they’re sleeping, and let the silence soothe you.
Dedicate one night a week (every week) to a good ol’ fashion beauty routine you would have ripped out of Dolly magazine back in your teens: face mask, bath salts, fingernails, and bed with socks on to let the foot balm soak in.
Rest is a state of mind, as well as the body. It’s going slower while you dress, or shower, or sip your tea. Breathe, walk slower, let your kids be your tourguide of your neighbourhood: stopping to look at every bug and flower is good for your anxious mind.
No one can rule seven days a week. There has to be a balance, mama. There has to be space to rest.
Remember: And on the seventh day, she rested.