Saturday, February 20, 2016

Being a Nurturer

I am a nurturer by nature. As mothers I think we're all nurturers to an extent, but some of us have a deeper inclination in our souls to take under our care any one or any thing that has a need, and we do everything in our power to fulfill that. We cannot turn a blind eye to hurt and need. That's how I've ended up with so many animals. I cannot see an animal in need of rescue, know that I have the resources to provide for it, and not do just that. I've always been this way.
Quote by Harper Lee from "To Kill a
Mockingbird"
   As a child, all living creatures except snakes were on the same level to me, so my kittens and calves were just as precious to me as humans. That's not to degrade the place of humans in my heart- I still was profoundly aware of the sacredness of life, it was just all life that was so precious to me. When I was a child we did not watch TV, but I remember reading in the newspaper when I was ten years old  the story of Susan Smith who claimed her car had been carjacked and her two babies kidnapped. I had no idea who these people were, but it crushed my heart. When it came to light weeks later that she'd drown her babies herself to be rid of them so she could run off with a lover, I didn't even understand the fidelity issue nor did I have the bond of motherhood in my heart, yet still I cried for days, once even yelling at her picture in the newspaper, asking why she hadn't just given her babies to me. I'd have taken them, she'd never have to think of them again, and they could live. I was ten. 
   Even though I feel so deeply, few people know this. They see a strong exterior, hear my words that to most are bold and unfiltered, and assume I am that firm and tough through and through. They couldn't be more wrong. I look strong and busy on the outside because I have developed that shell to protect myself and because of neurological issues(I have the same SPD as my oldest son, though when I was a child I was called "strong-willed," "Jezebel spirit," and "needing severe discipline") I lack a verbal filter for what is socially acceptable, but if they looked close they would see what I am always busy doing is caring for others. 
   The problem with being a busy, doing nurturer is that we get burned out. I've learned over the years that I have to purposefully care for myself, too. That's so hard for me. It's been a difficult years-long lesson that I still find myself on the forgetful end of, but when push comes to shove I know what I need: A break. To be refreshed. Restored. To have my cup filled back up. 
   This sensitivity, desire to love, nurture, and protect, and the need to be refilled has become even stronger since we lost our son last year. After a particularly difficult stretch where life has been pummeling me to a bloody pulp with no reprieve, I wrote to a dear bereaved mama friend and said, "My heart is so heavy. Sometimes heavier than others. Is it a 'thing' that the perma-heaviness makes other things seem to compound so much faster and feel so much harder to deal with at times? I feel like a walking, breathing contradiction. My heavy heart has totally changed my perspective in so many ways, made me so much more grateful for every little thing in so many ways, but at the same time I feel so much more sensitive. Like the weight of things that ordinarily would be not such a big deal are suddenly very heart-breaking and suffocatingly soul-crushing. Do you ever feel that, or am I just a ball of hormones?" Her answer(in part, because I won't violate her privacy and copy and paste everything she wrote): It's normal. As bereaved mothers we'll always be living contradictions. Part of our hearts will always be broken with grief, and the other part will always be here trying to survive in the every day life. We will appreciate the little things- the joys, the depths of pain, noticing the small things most pass by- all the more because of this depth of feeling and new perspective. It's all completely normal for this utterly awful reality as a bereaved mother. We survive by community. Sticking together. Ah yes. That 'filling my cup' thing again. I'll forever be learning this lesson. 

 It's a hard lesson for me. I hate to open up to people. The first 2/3's of my life I was constantly told everything that was wrong about me as a person, and I've seen so many who just seem to want to ooze every last drop of every drama and annoyance in their life on all those around them because they crave attention and validation. As a result, and as a nurturer, I feel like some one always has worse pain, worse problems, more heartache than me, so my 'stuff' can wait, my 'stuff' is not significant, my 'stuff' must be my own doing so I deserve no help, and my 'stuff' would only be a burden to others to hear. Until, that is, I burst from the load of pain. Then people are blown away and respond either in a voice of 'Oh my, I had no idea,' or 'Oh my, what a mess.' The key?  Relationships, true relationships. Did I mention how hard they are for me? I just want to give and give and give, caring for others to show my love, which usually results in me being used and mistreated(my husband says this is constant and in his defensiveness gets very angry FOR me) or else a friend I value so much it pains me to lay it all out there on them, lest  I overwhelm them with the weight of my burden so they still don't know what's really going on in my life. I'm still learning. Still trying. Still seeking the cup-filling community to replenish me and force my heart to let people in. It's not easy. 

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