The taskmaster in my head is the worst person to have around when I’m trying to create. She’s gripping a yardstick or a calendar and is always pointing out how little I’ve done or reporting on how much more others are doing.
Her criticism is not born of hatred. She has observed that you win here by producing the most things for the most money. She’s afraid that I’ll be left behind. But her pounding wears me down.
If we were lucky as children, we could run to a parent or grandparent to be held and comforted. As adults we don’t grow out of this need. We just have to give it to ourselves.
This weekend I'm getting on a plane and driving up to the Berkshires to a retreat center called Kripalu. Housed in a former Jesuit monastery overlooking a lake, it’s beautiful — but not just in physical grandeur. It awakens a part of me that is gentle and curious, ready to stop trying and open to grace.
No electronic devices are allowed except in your room. I'll bring a phone for emergencies, but I’ll navigate there by memorizing the map and using that sense that's getting stronger in me: my intuition.
There will be yoga classes throughout the day, three healthy meals, and a silent dining room where no one has to make small talk. There will be time to take naps, to walk in the woods, to hear a singing bowl concert by candlelight.
How often can we get out from under the weight of our responsibilities? How often do I listen to my body, or notice the light changing outside my window, how the birds seem to talk to me, or the way the lake ripples when I come near?
Going on a retreat is a rare gift, and one that many will never have the privilege of experiencing. But it’s not the only way I can feel held. Taking a nap after lunch, cooking a meal just for me, making a doctors appointment for my own health, not just my children’s: when I notice all the ways I mother myself, these experiences feel even more delicious.
Nurturing myself does not fit in with the cultural program of achievement and productivity. But as I treat myself more gently, the stopwatch gets quieter, and another part of me gets braver.
When I become the mother, I can be the child. And when it comes to creativity, that’s where I want to be. A child who creates out of pleasure, and the satisfaction of mastering a new skill; who creates to explore all she is, and to communicate the beauty and pain of her one life.