"While human nature largely determines how we hear the notes,
it is nurture that lets us hear the music." -Jonah Lehrer
I know, as a woman, you've nurtured someone today, be it a co-worker, a friend, a child, a family member, or even a stranger. But here's a question to ponder: When's the last time you nurtured yourself?
I meet women all the time who ceaselessly care for others along many paths. While it is true that in giving to others, we give to ourselves, that doesn't mean we can't be on the receiving end sometimes. Somewhere along the line, many girls were taught to be nice and caring to others, even at the expense of their own well-being. I know I was.
Our lake house was a revolving door for guests to come, have fun, and go, all while my mother made sure the house was clean, the yard was groomed, the fridge was stocked, the food was cooked, the beds had clean sheets, the boat had enough life jackets, and the list goes on. With the exception of an occasional boat ride, I'm not real sure what she enjoyed about the lake. Rarely did she sit down and visit. Mom was, and still is, excellent at seeing all the things that need to be done.
My father, on the other hand, had a real talent for seeing the stuff my mom never saw. He saw the jukebox, and always made sure it was playing. He saw the cold beer in the fridge, and was never too busy to sit down and enjoy one or three. He saw the boat tied to the dock, and his motto was the sooner, the better. He saw the guests as individuals to talk to, not individuals to feed. He took the grandkids on five-wheeler rides through the woods and down to the little bait shop to get coca-colas in small glass bottles. Sure, there was a two-liter back at the house, but what's fun about that?
You can bet his way did not suit my mother at all, and her way.well, he called her the war lord, to her face, of course. Now, I'm not saying one way is better than the other. In fact, if I had to take a side, and couldn't get away with pleading the fifth, I would side with my mom (Mainly because my father is now deceased, and therefore, much easier to please, and people really did enjoy having food with their beer!). Having grown up smack dab in the middle of these two extremes, it's easy to see why I'm crazy.I mean why I'm torn between finding my worth in doing or by being.
Some 20-years ago, I used to be more like my mom. I made sure everyone was happy, regardless of what that felt like to me. Over time, and with a lot of life-coaching (a euphemism for therapy), I came to realize that my natural propensity is more like Dad. While I'm a great cook and learned to clean house from the best-my mother-I like to socialize, cut-up, joke around, shoot-the-bull, and play games. Those are the things that nurture me.
For a long time I quit having parties, which had been one of my favorite things to do. I didn't enjoy it anymore. I was too worried that things wouldn't be perfect-that someone, God forbid, might see the dirty pan that the bread was baked on, or that someone would be shorted a salad fork. Not anymore. Somewhere between a coaching session and hitting my 40s, I realized I was the problem, and that there's more than one way to skin a cat.
Recently, I was walking the beach one early evening and passed a group of adults sitting in beach chairs in a circle. They had food and drink. They were talking, smiling, laughing even! They recognized me and called me over. While they kindly showered me with compliments and told me how inspirational I was, I inquired about their circle. They explained that they were neighbors in Long Cove, and gathered regularly on the beach to enjoy each other's company, but even more than that, to enjoy the ocean. One gentleman stated: This is why we all moved here, right? Before I left, I told them they had inspired me.
Later that week, I sent out an email to some of my friends to invite them to our own beach circle that upcoming Saturday. I didn't care who came, if it was only my husband and me, I was going to the beach to sit, drink and talk. (I have to admit though, I was hoping others would show up-I mean I live and work with my husband, and he doesn't exactly find me funny anymore. I have to believe it's just because he's not listening, because personally, I find myself hilarious. But really, it's hard to form a circle with just two people.)
This was the deal. Come to the beach at 5:00 p.m. Bring your chair, beverages, and a dish to share-shoes optional. I didn't ask for RSVPs and I didn't coordinate who brought what dish; the bottom line was that even if everyone brought deviled eggs.no one would go hungry. Invite anyone you want to come along I encouraged-this is not an exclusive beach circle.
It worked! People showed up, we had a fabulous array of food that overfilled the table. I brought the music, the cold beer, and looked at all my friends in the circle as people to talk to, not people to feed. Actually, we fed each other. Those two hours on the beach nurtured us all, without taxing one of us. We all agreed it was just what life ordered.and planned to do it again very soon.
So, what do you plan to do to nurture you?
By-the-way, if you know my mother, please refrain from talking about this article with her, and for God's sake, don't give her a copy of this issue. I beg you to work with me on this. Believe me, it will be better for my future.
On a serious note, we are excited to team up again with Park Plaza Cinemas to bring a one-time showing of another special movie: Girl Rising. This very relevant, powerful film spotlights the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change a girl-and the world. Please don't miss it; it's only $12, and an empowering way to nurture yourself and women all over the world. Read more about it on page 77.
Elizabeth Skenes Millen