Pigeons, Poses, and (Self) Parenting
Self-compassion, self-care, self-love…buzz words these days. And, I’m fine with that. It is
hard IMPOSSIBLE to be self-giving if you do not have a self to give. You just can’t pour from an empty cup. It is impossible.
AND, the cup must continuously be filled as what is in it flows out.
I think about these things…self-compassion, self-care, self-love… as a form of hygiene. The truth about hygiene…daily self-care…things like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, etc…the truth is if you don’t do these things people notice.
You start to smell. Your breath stinks.
It is not only socially ACCEPTABLE to do these outer displays of hygiene every day, it is socially EXPECTED.
Internal hygiene (hygiene not as “visible”) may not be as socially expected, much less socially accepted at times (spend time on self-care? selfish!), but I promise that if you don’t invest in this type of self-cleansing you will start to stink…emotionally, mentally, and relationally.
The grime adds up…in your soul, your mind, your heart, and in your relationships.
For me, internal hygiene, or self-care, falls into different categories.
Relational. Physical. Creative. Professional.
You might ask “what about spiritual?” My answer? Yes. Just…YES. The spiritual does not have its own category because it spans, influences, and emanates from each one. Not unrelated, I also get uncomfortable with the idea of “putting God first”. I don’t really want to put God in a position…in a box…on a line. I hope I am open to inviting Him everywhere and into everything.
I have a term for self-care that resonates with me. Perhaps, it will for you, too. It is a pretty simple idea: self-parenting.
One of my favorite definitions of an adult is “someone who is their own mom or dad”. We learn how to mother and father ourselves from our own parents…and because NONE of us had perfect parents…we all have some work to do in this area.
We each have “growing up” to do…things to learn about parenting ourselves.
I have four kids and it seems that as I parent them I am also parenting myself all over again. One significant truth I am learning as I parent my four children is that “equal does not mean the same”. I like to think that I love my four kids equally, but I better NOT love them the same. In fact, to love them the same would NOT be loving them equally. They are individuals with distinct interests, personalities, needs, desires, and love languages.
Part of parenting well is knowing your child’s personality enough to know when to push and when to pace with it. For example, my second daughter is a complete extrovert. She goes 120 mph and has more friends than I can now name. I stopped trying. She loves to GO. And CONNECT. I have always marveled at her people skills even as a tiny girl on the playground. I enjoyed timing how long it would take her to make a friend.
This past Friday after 9 PM she asks me to take her to a friend’s house. I have a personal parenting rule where I try to say “yes” unless I have a good reason for saying “no”. I LIKE saying “yes”. I LOVE supporting friendships. I don’t want my default to be “no”. Except, this night I am also on the couch in my pj’s snuggling up with my two youngest children watching a movie.
To stop and take her to the friend’s house at that moment would be to disrupt an activity I had already promised to my other children, not to mention a pick up later that night. And? I had already taken her and a friend to Starbucks earlier that day. So, after taking a deep breath and thinking for a minute I say: “No”.
She is upset, and she deals with it. “I really want to go, Mom.” “I know, sweetie. The answer is no tonight.” Her face shows a struggle for a minute and then she lets it go. I am so, so, so proud of her. And, of me. It is ok for my extroverted daughter to learn staying home is not a disaster, to learn to handle a “no”, and to have the experience of regulating her emotions. Part of parenting her well in that moment was pushing and saying “stay”.
On the flipside, my oldest daughter is a complete introvert. I learn early not to assume she wants to do something with a friend when the mom calls and asks. Just last weekend she is invited for a sleepover with a good friend and to make cookies the next day. Her response? “I’m tired. I want to stay home tonight. I would like to go make cookies tomorrow if that works for them.”
I try to respect those needs, too. I admire her so much…how grounded and steady she is. She might be the steadiest person in my life. She knows what she likes and wants and she isn’t afraid to tell me. I have always admired her ability to entertain herself. When she was a toddler I would time how long she could play by herself because it astounded me.
A week or so ago, she is invited to participate in a panel of middle schoolers for a college class at a local university. I see her hesitation when I mention it. I jump in: “I think you should go.” She sighs. “Why?” “I think it will be good for you.” So, I make her go. I am still hearing about it from her through teasing comments a week later. Am I glad I “made” her go? Yep. I know introverts need to be pushed to engage socially at times, too. Part of parenting her well in that moment was pushing and saying “go”.
Parenting ourselves is not much different. As we grow in understanding ourselves and our needs we learn when to push and when to pace. It reminds me of how my mom would tell me to go outside and get some sunshine when I had been in the house all day reading or watching TV. I didn’t WANT to go get some sunshine at that moment, but it is exactly what I NEEDED.
A few weeks ago, I’m having a massage and when it is over the massage therapist fairly sternly tells me that my shoulders, chest, and hips are really tight. We talk about some of the ways I can work to loosen these areas. I begin incorporating specific stretches and yoga poses into my daily routine. Like a good mom following up on a doctor’s orders for her child, I respond to the prescription of this health care provider. I don’t always feel like it, but I parent myself and do what needs to be done so I can be healthy.
I am focusing on yoga positions often called “hip openers” and “heart openers”. One hip opener I am doing every day is called the “pigeon”. To be completely honest, I hate this pose. It always feels awkward. Painful even. Hard. I must not be doing it right, I think. So, I avoid it.
On two recent occasions I am having private yoga sessions with two different friends and when we get to pigeon I ask my friends: “How does this look? Am I doing it right? It feels weird. I must not be doing it right.” Both friends say to me: “Yes. Everything looks right. Your form looks good. Everything is aligned.”
“So weird” I say back. “It feels so hard and awkward.”
“Well, Emily, it IS really hard. One of the hardest poses. It isn’t easy.”
I commit to the pigeon. Every day. I sink into it. Bringing patience to the awkwardness. Reinterpreting the pain. Appreciating the stretch down the outside of my hips. Grateful for the openness I feel when I rise out of the pose. Another yoga instructor I know says: “Where it feels sticky, stay there. Breathe.”
Where it feels sticky. Awkward. Painful even. HARD. Stay there. Breathe.
Friend. Sweet girl. Dear boy. Somewhere along the way we have picked up the idea that things that feel hard and awkward and maybe even painful…that they aren’t right. Something is wrong. Maybe WE are wrong. Surely, WE are doing something wrong.
Listen. LISTEN. This is so important. The awkwardness. The pain. The fear. The anxiety. The STICKINESS…all often signs that you actually ARE doing the very hard, very right thing.
You aren’t doing anything wrong. In fact, everything is aligned. Maybe THAT is what feels weird…because you aren’t accustomed to how PROPER alignment actually FEELS.
Sometimes something can feel familiar and comfortable, but that doesn’t mean it is right. Doesn’t mean it is healthy. Doesn’t mean it is properly aligned.
Where it is sticky. Awkward. Hard. Where it is all these things, dear friend.
Stay there. Sink in.
Bringing patience to the awkwardness.
Reinterpreting the pain.
Appreciating the stretch down the side of your life.
Grateful, hopeful, prayerful for the openness you will feel when you rise out of this place.
WHEN you rise out of this place called HARD. AWKWARD. PAINFUL. STICKY.
Because you will, friend.
You will rise out of it.
But only…ONLY…if you commit to the hard things first.
The awkward. The sticky. The pain. The stretch.
If you had told me last year that the pigeon pose would become one of my favorites? I would not have believed you. But, it is. I look forward to putting myself into this difficult pose every day. Pushing my foot into alignment with my knee. Extending my other leg straight out behind me. Breathing into the stretch.
Then laying over my front leg, chest to the floor, in surrender.
I love the way it feels. The awkward. The hard. The sticky.
I love how my body is responding to the intention.
To my self-care. Self-love. Self-compassion. Self- PARENTING.
Listen friend. Sweet girl. Dear boy. Just because you grieve something doesn’t mean you weren’t supposed to let it go. Just because you feel sadness doesn’t mean you weren’t supposed to say goodbye. Just because you feel anxious doesn’t mean you are making wrong decisions. That is often a part of us that gets louder when we are closer to doing exactly what we need to do. Too often we mistake it for intuition that we are doing the wrong thing. Often we give it too much power.
Don’t do that, friend. Don’t let that part run the show. It is trying to take over because it is afraid. Listen to that part of you. Spend some time with it. Empathize with it…just like a good parent does with a scared, anxious, hurting child. It IS hard, awkward, sticky, and painful. That part is TRUE. But what you do next has everything to do with being your own mom and dad.
You take your own heart by the hand. And, you say “Let’s go. It’s time. I know you can do this.”
And, you align…no matter how strange the proper alignment feels.
And, you extend.
And, you stretch.
And, you surrender.
And, you stay there.
And, you breathe.
Image from: https://www.terminix.com/blog/education/can-pigeons-spread-disease