Every morning for the past six weeks I’ve stepped quietly out my front door
slid my feet into my rubber boots
and crunched my way across our gravel driveway.
The sound of the birds as the sky begins to lighten to grey
is like stepping into an exotic rainforest, somewhere far away from here.
The air is tinged with salt and water droplets, and the peeper frogs in the pond are still singing their sweet springtime song as I pick up my pace and turn onto the trail.
Since we moved out to the country – since I stepped fully into entrepreneurship and full-time mothering; since we downsized our home and have learned to become more discerning about the way we spend our personal resources
I have felt deeply off-kilter.
I realize now that I had expectations of myself and my adaptability that may have been unrealistic.
And even though my work centres around supporting women through the kinds of life changes that change everything – and I have the resplendent toolkit of resources to prove it – I underestimated the magnitude of this transition in my life.
I spent the winter deeply frustrated: I felt perpetually torn between finding the time to do the work I love to do and the time to be with my kids, and I felt as though, in so many ways, I was throwing myself and my own needs – even my fundamental requirements for rest, movement, water, and nourishment – under the bus. At one point, I said to my husband,
“This is not the life we came here to live.”
Although it may seem it, it was no small decision for me to start going for a walk every morning.
I usually wake up at 4a.m. and have two hours to work before the kids get up and the day must begin. Sometimes, those are the only two hours I know I’ll get, for sure, to keep my business afloat. Taking one of those hours and devoting it to being outside and moving my body was challenging.
Until the first day I did it:
something awoke in me that had been dormant all winter, and maybe longer.
As I’ve walked the trail behind my house, across the pond, into the woods and along the beach,
I’ve been living the answer to a question I’ve been exploring in my work with women for the past few months.
I have been teaching new mothers about attachment theory for years. The concept of attachment theory is rooted in infant psychology research. The premise is fairly simple: babies have needs, and their caregivers are responsible for meeting them. When tiny humans have their needs met consistently and appropriately most of the time they express them, they develop a concept called “safe haven.” Safe haven means that kids who are well-met create a schema of the world as being a safe and secure place where someone always has their back. As those kids grow and develop, safe haven becomes “secure base,” whereby this schema of security that they have about the world and the people around them actually allows them to be more courageous, intrepid and resilient.
Note: although this concept may seem simple, comparatively few caregivers truly embody this approach. The first challenge that we often have as parents and as humans is with the idea that “babies have needs.” When a baby cries, we are quick to wonder if they are being manipulative, or if meeting those needs might spoil the baby. It’s no wonder: it’s estimated that only about 30% of today’s adults have a “secure attachment style” – likely as a result of all-too-common narratives that deny babies (and all of us, really) their emotions and an adequate and empathic response to them.
Research has shown that the concept of creating safe haven and secure base actually applies to adults too, in our intimate partnerships, friendships, and among work colleagues.
I’ve been wondering a lot lately about how we might develop a safe and secure relationship
It starts with recognizing that we are experiencing a need
maybe a physical need
or an emotional one.
Then we have to find enough self-compassion to acknowledge that that need is
and worth paying attention to.
This, I would argue, is nothing less than revolutionary for most of us.
And the next thing?
Rather than throwing ourselves under the bus yet again,
prioritizing the needs and wants and desires of our
children, partners, colleagues and communities
instead of our own
We meet our own needs.
When we show up for ourselves,
acknowledge ourselves and our needs – starting, at least, with our fundamental human requirements for nourishing food, water, and movement –
and meet those needs at least most of the time
what happens is we begin to build a sense of self-trust and self-sufficiency.
We feel cared for in a way that is deeply nourishing.
Toward the end of my walk, when I’ve traversed the length of the beach near my home and I’m about to re-enter the forest,
I’ve started a small ritual of finding a shell to bring home
A symbol of Promises Kept
promises to myself
held just as close as the promises I hold to everyone else.