Sustaining Myself by Molly Remer


37880751_2142186212660256_8002693145366102016_nI touch the earth and offer gratitude
for this land I call home.

I reach towards the sky and offer gratitude
for sun, moon, and stars.

I place my hand on my heart
and breathe deep, offering gratitude

for all that I am and all that I have
and for the many blessings of my life…

June 2016

I am finishing my last semester of college teaching. I have four children ranging from 18 months to 12 years and a thriving home business. I am exhausted. I feel wrung out, weary, overloaded, sped up, and on the edge of collapse. My dominant fantasy, the one that pops unbidden to my mind as I work through my never-ending to-do list is to just lie on the floor, flat on my back. I tell my husband, “this isn’t a sustainable pace for me. If I keep going like this, something bad is going to happen to me.”

I keep going.

July 2016

I stand on the river bank with two friends and lift my arms to the sky. It begins to rain on us and I begin to cough. It is just a little cold, I decide. I continue teaching, working, mothering, going. I get a fever. I keep coughing. I cough through the last final exam of my college teaching career. I cough through Red Tent. I cough so hard through the month of July that I have to regularly sink down into a chair, out of breath, while trying to get going for the day. I try some “self-care” and finally grant my own wish to lie on the floor July 2017 353for a guided meditation. I cough so much that I cannot finish the meditation while lying down and have to sit up part way through. During this meditation (the “Moon Goddess Ally Journey” by Ros Simons), in the temple in which I meet the moon goddess, right as the meditation is coming to a close, the Cauldron rune from Womanrunes appears quite clearly etched on the floor of the temple–very large, covering the whole floor. It is very dramatic and powerful and feels like a needed wake-up call. I decide that August will be a “Cauldron Month” for me. The Cauldron in Womanrunes is a rune of alchemy and change, but also of containment and contemplation—a marrying of what might seem like opposites, but that which really co-exist. During August, I vow, I will take it all to the Cauldron…to let it bubble and brew and stew and percolate. I will pull my energy inward to let myself listen and be and to see what wants to emerge. I give myself permission not to create for public consumption during this month, but just to sit with myself and see what is bubbling, what is cooking, and how I might create a safe space for myself in which to stew up my truest magic.

While my time in the cauldron helps me clarify things, to restore my sense of spirit, and gives me some time off to rest, I continue to cough. I cough through my children’s birthdays and through the winter solstice. It isn’t until I step out onto the beach in January of 2017, that my cough clears. In less than five days at the beach, the cough is completely gone.

(Why didn’t I see a doctor for that cough? Well, because I am always pretty sure it will be better “tomorrow.”)

June 2017

It is summer again. I have four kids who are all a year older and have more to do and more that they need from me. Our business is busier than ever. I feel tired. I feel wrung out, weary, overloaded, sped up, and like I’m burning out. I tell my husband, “remember when I got that cough last year? I feel the same way again, like if something doesn’t give, I’m going to get sick.”

My kids go to social justice day camp and return with a hideous amalgamation of assorted viruses that conclude with revolting cases of viral pinkeye, eyes matted shut with yellow goop each morning.

July 2017

I hold out for many days, but as the last kid’s goopy eyes clear, I go down hard. My fever recurs for weeks, one eye is bloodshot and streaming, and the nastiness settles into my sinuses where I develop a sinus infection. I go to the river, lie on my back, and fully immerse myself in the healing waters of the aptly named Cold Spring. I ask for my fever to be lifted by these cool waters. We go kayaking and look for rocks and watch a heron swoop overhead and little fish gather around our toes.

I realize I am angry with myself for being sick. I wasn’t going to do this again this year, I 37633035_2136195683259309_9172723665081466880_ncomplain. I’m only sick because I didn’t listen, because I’m not taking good enough care of myself. I even google, “spiritual significance of sinus infection.” Luckily, my gentler inner self takes my hand. She reminds me that I was the last woman standing in my family when it comes to this sickness, that I was actually the strongest, the one who waited until no one else needed me to care for them before getting sick myself. She speaks to me firmly when she says, “would you ever look your two year old in the goopy, disgusting eyes and tell him that he deserves to be sick? That he is only sick because he didn’t take care of himself? If you wouldn’t say that to a sick two year old, don’t you dare say it to yourself. Ever.”

August 2017

I honor another Cauldron Month for myself. Going on a solo vigil at the river. Journaling. Lying on the floor. Working with clay. Giving myself a break from working and content creation and generating work for public consumption. The sinus infection does clear, though in December I get another one which persists until I lift my arms to the sky by the ocean again in January. After only two days at the beach, the sinus infection is gone.

June 2018

Ah, this again. This sensation that my pace is not sustainable, that I need a break, that something has to give. I feel a tightness in my chest, a twinge in my nose, a constriction around my heart. I feel brittle and tired and strained. I tell my husband, “it is that time of year again. I’m doing something different this year. I am not going to get sick again.” I ask my Red Tent to witness my promise to myself, that I am recognizing this as an annual pattern and I’m going to proactively head it off this time. I will be slowing down now. I will be saying no. I will be letting myself percolate, and bubble, and grow.

July 2018

I keep my promise to myself. I lay the groundwork for another Cauldron Month this 37780329_2139857799559764_8485217083095777280_nupcoming August, scheduling posts in advance or deciding not to write them after all (except for this one for FAR which I forgot was due!), deciding not to create new ritual kits or newsletter content, but rather to re-use the previous year’s material. I let our customers know that custom orders are closed and that we are taking some time off. I shut off my personal social media accounts. I create new goddess sculptures. I sit on the rocks in the woods for an hour at a time instead of fifteen minutes. I write new poems. I try out radical ideas such as lying down when I feel tired. Stopping when I have a headache. Stepping outside when I need a break. Going to bed early(ish) and waking up with plenty of time for yoga and journaling. Saying no to things I could create and host and do. Not going to things. Stopping. Reading books I feel like reading. Sitting still with my hand on my heart and asking myself what I most need and then doing that. When I feel myself feeling tight and sped up, I do things like take off all my clothes and step out naked in the sunshine with my face lifted to the sky. I pick rose petals and hold them in my hand. I anoint my forehead with oil. I pick wild berries in the rain. I lie on the floor. We close our shop for an entire week and go to the river, where we sit in the water and go for walks, laugh together, celebrate our twentieth anniversary, watch the moon rise, and eat fun foods.

The Future

Listening to my heart, trusting my body, and taking care of myself is no longer a radical act that needs annual recognition and intensive planning. It is simply my life.

 

Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She 37864363_2140041906208020_3283110964278329344_nplans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.

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Categories: Embodiment, Goddess Spirituality, Gratitude, Sacred Space, Spiritual Journey

12 replies

  1. Welcome to new Life, Molly, and congratulations to you and your husband on your anniversary. I believe that teaching people (especially by example and story) to “Listening to my heart, trusting my body, and taking care of myself is no longer a radical act that needs annual recognition and intensive planning. It is simply my life.” is one of the most important lessons for our time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Your post was the one I needed to read this morning. Until the day before yesterday, “I felt tired. I felt wrung out, weary, overloaded, sped up, and like I was burning out.” The day before yesterday was supposed to be the beginning of a vacation. But instead my whirlwind to get ready (writing posts, videotaping blogs, finding photos for instagram) turned into a real whirlwind in my physical head (as vertigo, one of the most debilitating things I’ve ever had). So I’m looking at my life and how to stabilize it, to create sustainable ways of being, rather than the dizzying pace I’ve kept since the publication of my book. All of it feels important. That’s why we keep doing it. But, of course, as you write in your essay, we need to prioritize ourselves first. “I will be slowing down now. I will be saying no. I will be letting myself percolate, and bubble, and grow.” Me, too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Nancy! Glad it spoke to you. And, you’re right about it all feeling important–my default response to life is YES and that is why it is such an ongoing puzzle of discernment to sometimes say “no” instead!

      Like

  3. Molly, your post really resonates with me. I tend to feel guilty because I’m not as active as many people my age and older, and I forget that I don’t have to be as active at them. I am retired and can do what I want, also I have erythromelalgia, also known as “burning feet syndrome” which saps my energy and makes it hard to be on my feet much, or deal with heat. Yesterday my mother and I went to visit a friend at her summer home on the coast. On the way there my car’s AC die, and wouldn’t you know it, it was in the 90s and very muggy. Our friend’s home was hot and she only had one small fan, so we were overheated when we got back in the car and did the long drive home. On the way we came up to a Dunkin’ Donuts and I debated pulling in there to get something cold to drink and cool down, but I didn’t instead I chose to power through it all. After that there really wasn’t any place to stop and get into an air conditioned building and cool down. So I drank lots of ice water and kept on going. I realized that it was very unwise of me to not stop at that Dunkin’ Donuts and that I was at risk of getting heat exhaustion. Fortunately I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t stop, but I suspect it was because I just thought I could power through it. Oh, I did get my car’s AC fixed today, thank goodness!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh dear Molly, so glad you are learning to take care of yourself. Please take good care of yourself, you are so precious.

    Like

  5. Listening to our bodies is the most important thing we can do for ourselves and we cannot do it at breakneck speed… I am 73 and am adjusting to the fact that I have limited energy and a need for more sleep… additionally, I am struggling with a strange kind of malaise that comes and goes without warning…and I am asking my body what it is that she needs. Self care becomes critical at my age and I was so slow getting to this point. It is wonderful to read about someone who gets it at your age, Molly. Stick with it!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m so glad you are recognizing the need to care for yourself. One of the best pieces of advice I ever had came from the author Diana Laskin Siegal, co-author of Ourselves, Growing Older, who told me when I was a full time mother of a toddler – “You can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself.” Enjoy your August!

    Like

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