First of all, thank you. For reading my Monday post and for leaving such wonderful comments. It’s certainly been a murky time for me, but I feel both optimistic and strong and having your love and support (in addition to the love and support of my flesh-and-blood peeps) means a tremendous amount. More than you know.
Okay, so I’ve been thinking about the art of self-soothing. I remember back to when my girls were babies and there was a fair bit of talk about soothing, about how we need to teach our wee ones to learn to soothe themselves. This argument certainly came into play vis-a-vis the whole (torturous!) cry-it-out dilemma… Do we race to the crib every time our baby cries or do we let her cry it out? Do we soothe our progeny or let them soothe themselves? Does this ring a bell at all?
Anyway, time has passed and my girls are bigger – 9, 7, and almost 5 – but these questions still apply. Do we race to help our kids in moments of angst or frustration or sadness or do we hang back and let them suss it out themselves? I don’t pretend to know the answer to this, but my gut tells me that as parents, our job is to do a bit of both.
But what if we turn the lens on ourselves? What do we do to soothe ourselves? If I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that adulthood is tricky terrain. Things happen. Good things, but also hard things and the meaningful question becomes how we react to these things, how we become resilient, how we cope with struggle, with success? (I think handling good change can be as challenging as unfortunate change.)
A good friend texted me the other day and asked what I was reading. I told her that for the last few weeks, I’d been unable to focus enough to read a thing. But this past weekend I started reading again and the most gorgeous sense of calm came over me. I devoured that book (The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante) and started the next (Book Three). Also, I hadn’t been writing much at all. I figured it was the holidays anyway and that “time off” was fine and deserved, but then Monday I set my alarm and woke up early to write and the same thing happened – I felt so peaceful and positive. I texted something back to my friend: “I think reading and writing will get me through this.”
And I believe it. We all have (or perhaps should have) positive things we turn to, things we love, things that fill us and free us in uncertain times. For me, those things are books and stories, consumed and created (as well as silly/sweet snuggle time with my favorite people.) It’s different for all of us, I suppose. In my forthcoming novel The Ramblers, my three characters have different passions which they turn to as self-soothing strategies. In times of turmoil, Clio escapes to the Ramble in Central Park to spend time with her beloved birds. When life goes haywire, Smith uses her hands to clear spaces and create order from chaos. And when things fall apart for brooding Tate, he takes his camera outside for long walks to find and capture beauty, even in a broken world.
Maybe this is the trick. To find something that takes us outside of ourselves when we need it most, something that lets us breathe and just be.
Did you cry it out with your children?
What do you turn to when life gets tricky or uncertain?
What are you reading?
Do you have a favorite bookstore? (One of mine is Book Culture, pictured above.)