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  • Jessica McQuistin

Self-Awareness, Song-spiration & Building Structure for Self-Care



Want to play a game? It's like name-that-tune but with lyrics instead. I'll go first.


I want to wake up and know where I'm going.


Do you recognize it yet? I'll give you a hint: Think mom-music of the mid-90s. The good kind.


Need a little more?


I want to wake up and know where I'm going.

Say I'm ready

Say I'm ready


I want to go where the rivers are overflowing and

I'll be ready

I'll be ready


Still stuck? Ok here's the chorus:


I'm ready to let the rivers wash over me

I'm ready to let the rivers wash over me


If that didn't do it, chances are you're not a mid-90s-mom-music connoisseur.


Ready for it?...


...It's Tracy Chapman's "I'm Ready" from the 1995 album New Beginning - still a go-to for me when I'm craving a deep, comforting female voice.


That was fun! Now to get into today's actual post. (I promise, this is going somewhere...Stay with me!)


After some gentle yoga-esque movement the other day, I wanted to tap into the feeling of surrender. Letting my whole body become heavy as wet sand at the bottom of the ocean and letting my mind release any lingering thoughts and melt into a calm, restful state. So I threw on this song, which often conjures that feeling for me. Only...this time, the first line stood out to me, as if I'd never heard it before:

I want to wake up and know where I'm going.

Kind of the opposite of surrender...But my whole being gave a resounding"yes!" to this statement, so I paid attention to it. I wrote it down and let it roll around in my mind for the next week or so.


One of the things about not having a job is that on most days, I don't know where I'm going. Apart from getting the kids on the bus, I don't have a specific destination to get to, people to say "good morning" to, or a pile of purposeful work waiting for me. I left my job in mid-April of 2020 (a year and a half ago), so this isn't new to me but...I don't know if I've fully felt this shift yet, seeing as the kids became my new full-time responsibility (due to the pandemic) right when work stopped.


I got to (conveniently?) swap one identity (Employment Advisor at Lutherwood) for another (stay-at-home-mom and somewhat of a home-school-teacher). Now I'm neither. Of course, I'm still a mom, but without the kids home all day, that part of me is not constantly "on" anymore.


On a deeper level, I know that none of these identities really matter. They're just shells or costumes that we put on. Roles we play. Who we are inside, at our core, is unchanging. But I don't always live on that deeper level. And if I did, introductions would get pretty awkward. "Hi I'm Jessica, a tiny droplet of Universe, temporarily donning a female human-suit. Who are you?"


Another song that has spoken to me lately, is Grace VanderWaal's "I Don't Know My Name". The title says it all. It's admittedly got a teenage angst vibe, but maybe I do feel a bit like a teenager again, in the sense that my identity is shifting and I have a lot of uncertainty around my life's purpose (if there is such a thing). I like how her song goes from:


I don't know my name

I don't play by the rules of the game

So you say I'm just trying, just trying


to


I now know my name

I don't play by the rules of the game

So you say I'm not trying

But I'm trying to find my way


I certainly am trying to find my way. That's what this blog is about. And the different volunteer opportunities I've been pursuing. And all the reading and podcast-listening and little lifestyle experiments I've been trying (like doing yoga and/or meditation every single day for 6 months - that started mid-2020 and wrapped up in January of this year).


I noticed the other day that when I'm talking to people, I'm very quick to tell them about all the "things I do" like volunteering at The Working Centre Market Garden, or checking in on the KW Community Fridge, or as of this month, doing a work-trade at The Branches Yoga, covering the front desk and doing some cleaning a few hours a week in exchange for free yoga. (See, I just did it again! I just told you about all the things!)


It's as if I feel compelled to tell people these things because otherwise, they might assume that I just watch Netflix all day, now that the kids are in school.


But what does it matter what other people think? I think sometimes I mistakenly use the words "other people" rather than naming the real culprits - my inner critics - who are definitely much harsher than any other real people I've ever met.


Getting back to the first idea, of wanting to "wake up and know where I'm going"...


After some thinking and struggling and pondering and wondering...I've decided that this newfound freedom - of having both kids in school - might be better enjoyed with a little structure. Now that I have a big chunk of the day to colour in as I please, I need some outlines because otherwise, I feel like I'm just scribbling. Another analogy (because I can never have too many!) would be music. A free-flowing guitar solo can be enjoyed within the familiar context of a song with a specific tempo and key and underlying chord structure, but hearing someone endlessly noodling away on a guitar is just annoying! (Anyone else live with musicians?)


I've got to stop noodling my way through my days.

At the same time, I want to offer myself some compassion and understanding. After being stuck with kids full-time (and surviving the pandemic lifestyle), it's no wonder that I wanted to enjoy a sense of freedom and spontaneity! But if I'm being honest with myself, it's felt more like falling on my face than "Free Fallin'" Tom Petty-style.


All of this freedom has led me into pretty negative head-space, constantly questioning whether I'm doing "the right thing" or if I "should" be doing something else, and stressing about every little item on my to-do list, attacking each one with uncalled-for ferocity. Rather than prioritizing, I've just been doing. And there's been (surprisingly!) enough to do that I haven't run out of things! Not even close. My inner critics often remind me that everyone else somehow manages to do all these things too (making dinner, packing school lunches, doing the dishes, getting groceries, cleaning the house, etc.) and most of them work on top of that! So if I'm struggling, and I don't even have a job, what does that say about me?


*deep sigh*


Luckily, I know better than to listen to them. (Most of the time.)


It's clear that I need to make a change if I don't want to continue down this noodly nerve-wracking path.


So, what does this change look like?


I know it will involve structure, but I'm still in the blueprint stages. There are several different areas in which I'd like to become more organized or regimented, including meditation, exercise, meal planning, and writing, as well as several long overdue house projects. I know I probably can't tackle them all at once (especially coming from this cloud of overwhelm I'm in) so I'll have to choose a few to start with. I'd also like to spend some time in deeper reflection on my overall sense of purpose or mission in life since this has been nagging me lately and I know that confronting the big questions will feel much better than avoiding them, even if I don't come up with all the answers (which of I course won't).


As a starting point, I will use a daily planning tool (Google calendar for now) to block off chunks of time for important things such as:

  • daily writing blocks Mon-Fri

  • 15 minutes of meditation Mon-Fri

  • 30 mins of cardio every day

  • a coffee shop date with my journal and the big questions once a week

  • a special self-care activity once every 2 weeks (like watching a movie or getting a haircut - I love haircuts!)

I'll also continue turning to friends for support (as I have been) because I know my self-discipline muscles are feeling a little weak lately and I need all the help and encouragement I can get!


Now if you'll excuse me, I have some meditating to do.

 

Do song lyrics jump out and speak to you? I'd love to hear about your experiences with music and lyrics!


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