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  • Marisa Raymond

Core Values, People Pleasing, and Finding the Calm in this month's, MOMents of Mindfulness

I stroke my younger son’s head as he lays under a blanket on the couch. He’s sick. And, though he’s 12 years old and I have a deadline, I am not going to miss this chance to snuggle with him as much as I can. 


As parents, we spend a lot of time caring for our children. Some days are marked with snuggles, laughter, and pure joy. Some days leave you feeling overwhelmed, overtired, and underappreciated.  Most days are a mixture.


But, from the moment we find out we’re going to be parents, something in us changes. When I found out I was pregnant with my son and his older brother, I nourished myself in ways I didn’t when I wasn’t pregnant. All to keep them as happy and healthy as I could and can. 


For as long as I can remember, I have been a caregiver. I even went into a medical profession and now work as a coach because I’m empathic, compassionate, and patient. 


Gretchen Rubin would call me an Obliger. Other people call it people-pleasing. I used to wear the label with shameful pride. Like a scarlet letter in a world that tells women to wear so many hats and perform at such high levels while still staying lean and bubbly. You can have it all, I was told. Until I burnt out.


The health and wellness industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet, most women I know still find themselves regularly struggling to maintain the boundaries they’ve been told to set. 


As I sat on the couch with my son, I felt calm. Under the blanket with him, I was warm. Cozy. Peaceful. The pressure to get back to my deadline had faded and I found myself feeling my bucket filling as I cared for him. 


A thought flashed across my mind: from an observer’s perspective, I had people-pleased. I had changed my plans to care for my child. But, this was the farthest away from feeling out of alignment than I had felt in a long time.


I began to re-evaluate my definition of people-pleasing.


What I’ve come to own is that connection is one of my core values. Pleasing people isn’t always about martyring myself. The very act often fills my bucket. Making people feel good, feel loved, feel pleased, can be healthy. When we do it with boundaries and intention. When we balance it with our own needs. 


Over the last few years, I have worked really hard on replacing the martyr story of people-pleasing with a more balanced, compassionate one as a nurturer. And, like the days when the parenting rollercoaster is in full swing, some days feel more successful than others. 


Overall, I have been conscious that I have grown. I have grounded. I flow through the lows with more ease and appreciate the highs with more present-mindedness.  


But, lately, I feel myself slipping back into old patterns. I talked to a friend, who is also a Gen-X mom of teens and a coach. She asked if I had journaled on it.


I’m a verbal processor so I tend to journal like this: I write down a question or two, take out my phone and open a voice-to-text transcription app, and start to interview myself. I, literally, self-coach myself the way I’d coach a client or support a friend or loved one.


Three themes came up.


First, as my kids get older, they request less of my time and attention. So, the energy I previously got through nurturing them wasn’t filling the same volume in my bucket as before.


Second, the world just feels more scary, unstable. The future feels even more uncertain. As a Jewish woman with family in Israel and a history advocating for peace in the region, the rise of anti-semitism globally, fears for my family, and the horrors of what is happening in Gaza are taking their toll on my mental health. Not to mention global concerns of climate change, the war in Ukraine, the rise in populism and division that were already on my mind. As an empath, I know that, as many tools as I have to protect my energy, I haven’t taken the time to revise my rituals to meet the new pressures.


And, third, as my kids grow, I can’t escape the truth that my parents are aging, too. I’ve entered that “sandwich” phase of life: worrying about the coordination of care for my parents and in-laws with growing intensity as I continue to coordinate the daily routine of my kids.


I informally polled my friend group. We’re all feeling the heaviness of this stage. And, for those of them who, like me, are doing it from afar (we live in France with our extended family living in the U.S.), there’s an extra layer of not being able to “do enough” that enters into the grief.


Like Cher, I know I cannot turn back time. Nor can I stop it. I also am not prepared yet to pull up the roots we’ve made and move closer to our parents. So I sit in the knowledge that the feelings of joy have to coexist with those of sadness.


How powerful that, as humans, we have the capacity to feel the entire rainbow of emotions in a single moment. 


Holiday season has always been rife with the competing emotions of creating new traditions and memories with our friends and community away from our loved ones back home. I tend to go quieter on social media because it’s hard to be reminded of the connection time we’re missing out on. 


We talk about FOMO and JOMO but there is also SOMO - sadness of missing out. And, for me, that comes up around the holidays.


This year has an added layer of sadness for my husband and I as we navigate the diagnosis of cognitive decline in one of our parents. We recently went back for a visit and were shocked to discover how much this person had changed—had regressed—in the nine months since we had last been together. We were welcomed as strangers. Engaged with in a pleasant but distant way. 


My heart broke. 


And, in that moment, the martyr voice creeped back in: “you have to give up everything and move back here to help and support and do everything that needs to be done.” 


Another thing that I’m learning is that, when we start to feel comfortable with the balance we’ve created, the universe comes along and pushes down on one side of the scale until it starts to tip—letting us know that it’s time to grow to another level. It’s time to re-evaluate the definitions and the stories and the actions and, in some cases, even the tools, that have become part of our comfort zone. 


There’s a song I love called Perfectly Human by a singer/songwriter named Iris Miller. One of the lines is: “It’s perfectly human to make mistakes. It’s perfectly human to hit the brakes.”


Winter is a season of transition, reflection, and intentional change. It prompts us to hit the brakes, appreciate the warmth of connection, and sift through the layers of our experiences. Just as nature slows down, we too can take a moment to reassess, with patience and intention, what needs to be altered and what deserves our focus.


In the midst of the heaviness, nature reminds us it’s an opportunity to pause, trusting that, in doing so, we create the opportunity to expand our comfort zones, to evolve, to adapt, and to embrace the change.


The martyr voice brings the reminder that each moment is an opportunity to reshape my stories, redefine my boundaries, and find a new version of balance in my relationships with my children, my aging parents, and myself. And isn’t that the journey my soul came to this incarnation to fulfill? 


And speaking of being in this sandwich phase of life, let’s jump into some helpful tools to navigate it…


MELLOW YOUR MIND: SANDWICH POSE


Also known as seated forward fold or Paschimottanasana, this posture stretches the hamstrings, lower back, and spine and encourages a sense of introspection and relaxation, calming the mind as you open up the back body.


HOW TO DO IT:

Starting in a seated position on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you, flex your feet and relax your shoulders. You can keep your knees bent if needed.

  1. As you inhale, lengthen your spine, reaching your arms overhead.

  2. On the exhale, hinge at your hips and bend forward from your lower back, leading with your chest. Keep your back straight as you fold forward.

  3. Extend your hands toward your feet. You can reach for your shins, ankles, or even wrap your hands around the soles of your feet, depending on your flexibility.

  4. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds or even up to a minute. As you breathe into the pose, allow your body to relax. You may notice yourself stretch even a millimeter more. But don’t force it. If you feel pain, back off.

To release the pose, inhale as you slowly rise back to the starting position, keeping the movements controlled.


CALM THE CHAOS: Come back to your mission


It IS perfectly human to hit the brakes. When things go haywire in business, we’re often reminded to get back to the basics. To remember our why, our mission. 


The same is true when things feel uncertain, unstable, out of alignment in our personal lives. Navigating the sandwich phase of our lives, it’s more important than ever to take time to root yourself in your values.


Creating a personal mission statement can serve as a source of motivation during challenging times. It fosters a sense of self-awareness, helping you to understand what truly matters and realigning your actions to reflect those priorities. Having it written down gives you a reference, a tool, to go back to when your thoughts are spinning wildly.


Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What are my core values? What principles and beliefs matter most to me?

  • What brings me joy and fulfillment? When do I feel happiest and most alive?

  • Who are the people I want to surround myself with? What qualities do I admire in others?

  • What strengths do I draw upon during tough times?

  • In what ways do I want to contribute to my family, my community or the world?


If you’re a person who likes a fill-in-the-blank approach, try this:

  • I am a ______________________ 

  • I believe in _______________________.

  • I love to ____________________________.

  • I surround myself with people who ____________________________.

  • I want to be remembered for _________________________.


Wishing you love and happiness, peace and joy, and lots of mindful MOMents!

xMarisa



Written by Marisa Raymond

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