This week, I’ve mostly been thinking about being a tree. This tree in particular, in fact.
You see, this tree is pretty amazing. Look how the churning water thunders past relentlessly. It never stops, and yet the tree remains still. A calm pillar of strength amid the endless hustle and bustle. I’m sure it can feel the water bashing against its trunk, I’m sure it can hear the roar, and yet this beautiful tree remains upright – still and resilient. Not following, not resisting. Just being.
As a mother, there is a lot of water rushing past, buffeting you from every angle. There is a lot of noise. And I’m not talking about leaving the bath running while you catch your kamikaze rolling baby as she heads towards the stairs. I’m talking about opinion, guilt and self-blame. And it’s everywhere – the internet, well-meaning family, well-meaning strangers, even your own head. It is easy to be taken by surprise and swept off your feet, to be carried along by the strength of the current. It is easy to find your inner voice drowned out by the roar of advice. Even if the advice is well-meaning, as it almost always is, by letting it push us too far one way or another, it is easy to lose our sense of centre and self. The newness of being responsible for a little human all of a sudden throws you completely off balance, and in the shock of those first few weeks it can be difficult to remember what your self ever was.
However, attempts to resist the power of the water in order to stay put can have the opposite effect. Pushing back too hard can result in inner tension: I don’t WANT to do that! Leave me alone! Oh god, maybe I should have just done what they said. What do I know? And so on. The risk then is we end up blaming ourselves even more, feel guilty and go a bit bonkers. A surefire fast-track to a toppled tree trunk if ever there was.
That’s why I think this tree has the right idea. It holds itself in such gentle balance. It observes the water as it rushes past; it feels the support and strength of the flow, and yet remains calmly grounded and strong in its place. As a mother, or just as a me, I can be like this tree. I can quietly observe opinion, I can be aware of the noise, and I can respect it, whilst maintaining a quiet resilience. I don’t have to let it sweep me off my course. Ultimately, the decisions we make are our own, and they are just fine. They simply are what they are.
There will always be choppy waters around us. There will always be noise. And sadly, for the time being, there will always be judgement and guilt-tripping of mothers on social media, absorbed anxiously by new mums sitting alone in the early hours, desperate for answers and approval of the choices they are making for their baby. I’d like to change the dialogue on that. I think we can. But to do that we need to start with strengthening our self. When you find your inner tree, then it doesn’t matter how choppy the water gets. You can just be sure in yourself and let it pass on by.