1. Gently calm (a person or their feelings).
2. Reduce pain or discomfort in (a part of the body).
My husband and I are approaching our fifth wedding anniversary. We’ve been together over seven years. When we married, I grabbed all the stepmother books I could find. I combed the stepmother chat rooms on the internet. I was looking for someone to tell me we would be alright. I wanted to know we would be one of the 33% of the remarriages that succeed.
When I read that it takes seven to 12 years for a remarried couple with children to adjust, to advance through all the stages of a family adjusting to new constellations of alliances, I freaked out. That seemed like such a long time. I was 46 when we married and we weren’t getting any younger.
We did indeed go through all those stages, just like the researchers suggest. Apparently, we are pretty average, though we’d like to think we’re amazing and special and awesome. We are amazing, special, and awesome, but we have also been hurt and it has taken us time to find our way back to feeling whole again. Today, we are much stronger and in many ways, I feel like our honeymoon is just beginning.
I was recently talking to my stepmom-girlfriend and she commented on this calm place in which I had settled. I promised her I’d blog about the idea of self-soothing and this self-soothing series was born, but first a couple of disclaimers.
If you’re looking for what you need to do to take care of the kids or your husband or your in-laws, stop reading. This has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you, though ironically, if you take care of yourself your experience in your family will change. You will let go of stuff you never thought you could release. Life will change. Not 100%, but what if your life felt 10% less contentious? 20%? Maybe 30%? Wouldn’t that be enough for you to have a sense that it wasn’t so hard?
Nor will this self-soothing series promise anything close to a happy ending. There isn’t a happy ending. There is a life well-lived and filled with all that life brings. That means it will be messy and ecstatic, awful and stupendous, heart-wrenching and inspiring. When we uncover our own power, especially the power to make our own lives of a higher quality, that’s when we can begin to experience the good stuff we humans want.
The self-soothing series will bring you back to you. One of the first steps to self-soothing is to accept your sadness and confusion and hurt and loneliness and the sometimes unbearable feeling that you walked out of your own life and into someone else’s movie. It is really important for you to get back into your own movie.
Good news is that you don’t have to wait. You don’t have to grin and bear it until the kids move out. You don’t have to grit your teeth ten thousand times in a day. You can grit them 30% less and in those moments of un-gritting, you can reconnect with the you that you know as you. It takes time, but you can learn to keep you, hold you, and be you. When that can happen, all those events that used to make you feel like you wanted to lock yourself in the bathroom will somehow become more bearable.
The list of things I don’t consider self-soothers include food and alcohol, shopping, salon pedicures and manicures, massages and time with girlfriends. These soothers are passive and require you leave home or ingest something that might temporarily make you feel better.
It is vital that you are responsible for your own self-soothing, thus this self-soothing series will focus on the things you can do for yourself. True self-soothing is when you are the agent of your own change and you build yourself a repertoire of strategies to calm and remain steady. I think of learning self-soothing in the way you would learn anything else, you need to know the basics and you need to practice every day, every week, and every month.
I’ll blog for 10 weeks about self-soothers that don’t cost money, are completely healthy, and when practiced freely will help you feel free.
And, thanks stepmom-girlfriend! This project is helping me further solidify my sense of self-soothing as a regular strategy for keeping me in my own movie.