The Bankruptcy of the Martyr

Martyrb and W

SELF CARE: A continuation of the conversation about why we do not value self care and why we should. I look forward to hearing your voice in the conversation.

I was raised by a women who was part of a lineage of at least three generations of women for whom martyrdom was the foundation stone of being a wife and mother. It was a learnt way of being for her, passed down from her grandmother and before. She was sincere in her expression.

I believe the assumption was always that by looking after everyone first and putting everyones needs before her own, that we would in turn, children included, take responsibility for owing her…. the owing was never clearly defined, but a moveable feast depending on where her emptiness lay. Therefore by the time I left home I was in a huge amount of emotional debt to my mother.

As much as I rallied against it, I found myself, becoming a martyr wife. The poster girl for Selflessness, minus the pearls. I shelved myself, parked my desires beyond being the woman behind the man and the mother of the year. Part of being a martyr is that the only person that is bankrupt was myself.. There are pay offs to this bankruptcy; like approval, the ability to wash my hands of the responsibility for my own happiness, holding hostage those that I hold most dear and I got to have company as the ship went down, at least I thought so.

The more exhausted I was, the more I put my children and husband first and the more I made deals with myself that I would get mine back later. I lost myself and became bankrupt in my relationships. There was a level of dishonesty in the continual pushing past my limits. It really was a form of control and manipulation.
There was no room for going back to yoga, leaving the children with their father to go for quiet, self returning walks. There was no going to the movies except if done with a pound of guilt. I never even considered it possible to do as Anne Morrow Lindbergh did and to leave to spend time,Thoreau on Walden Pond style, away from my family for the benefit of myself and subsequently them. Many people that knew me then would agree that I kept a punishing pace.

Self Care was left in the dirt for generations of women and men through the depression, two world wars and post war. The residue of such global turbulence has lasted generations beyond the necessity of the those extremely challenging times. Now days many of us still, live our lives in personal withhold of deep self care out of a sense of loyalty to our parents and the imaginary debt we accrued. There is still a cultural shame doing the rounds that suggests that you do not care about others if you do not invest entirely in them.

Self care becomes a loaded topic to navigate with a heavy cross to bare. Even now I can find gun powder residue of an ancient thinking passed down through my mother that would say I am selfish for taking time to reconnect with me. Luckily, I can say, I have happily discovered more and more evidence in my life that this is indeed not so. I have discovered that self care is how I fill myself up, teach people how to treat me and show my children how valuing themselves and investing in themselves is the key to empathy and abundance for all. I call this the OVERFLOW of which I will talk about next.x

– Lotus Indigo Shakti

“Besides, I thought, not all women are searching for a new pattern of living, or want a contemplative corner of their own. Many women are content with their lives as they are. They manage amazingly well, fare better than I , it seemed to me, looking at their lives from the outside. With envy and admiration, I observed the porcelain perfection of their smoothly ticked days. Perhaps they had no problems, or had found the answers long ago. I decided, these discussions would have value and interest only for myself.”

“But as a I went on writing and simultaneously talking with other women, young and old, with different lives and experiences – those who support themselves, those who wished careers, those who were hard working housewives and mothers, and those with more ease – I found that my point of view was not unique. In varying settings and under different forms, I discovered that many women, and men, too, were grappling with essentially the same questions as I, and were hungry to discuss and argue and hammer out possible answers. Even those whose lives had appeared to be ticking imperturbably under their smiling clock-faces were often trying, like me, to evolve another rhythm with more creative pauses in it, more adjustment to their individual needs, and new and alive relationships to themselves as well as others.”
Anne Morrow Lindberg – Gifts of the Sea { first published in 1955}

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