I’ve been absent. Did you notice? I noticed. When I don’t write I feel lost. And when I feel lost, I don’t write.
As part of my ACT course, I recently did the “sweetspot” exercise. It was very confronting. I’m not sure Russ anticipated that exercise would be as confronting as it was – some of the other exercises come with warnings, but this one – not so much.
It’s a nine-minute audio where he walks you through a fond memory. You get to choose the memory. This was mine…
I was so happy then. I can’t even begin to express the happiness. I realise it’s a dreadfully pixelated photo, and you’d think perhaps I was miserable because I was exhausted with three little people to run around after, and I was really overweight which isn’t ideal for someone with body image issues and an eating disorder. But I was blissfully happy and completely content. I had hopes and dreams – for myself and my children. I felt useful, needed, purposeful and wanted. I was quintessential earth mother.
And did I mention I was happy? Not every minute of every day – because that’s unnatural and unhealthy. But I was content with my lot in life. I look back on that photo and miss every ounce of it. I miss breastfeeding my babies, and feeling that incredible bond between mother and child which I was so blessed to have from the very beginning with all three of my children. I miss my beautiful toddler just sitting there leaning against my shoulder while I feed his little brother. I miss being 20 years younger and having frizzy hair and wallowing in the luxury of carefree afternoons out in the park with my young family.
During the audio exercise, you focus on every detail of the memory – sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings. While my memory is usually slightly shoddy, in this particular case it’s crystal clear. I can still feel the cold hard earth of the stone steps. Smell the fresh earthy autumn air of the gardens. Hear the sounds of the distant birds, the hum of the traffic, and the gentler murmur of passersby. And I can still feel my babies, warm and snug against my body.
So why did I subject myself to this memory? It was an interesting exercise. In ACT there is a lot of focus on finding values – deciding what we stand for in life. And by delving into a really positive memory, it is an exercise in identifying values in life.
The values I identified most strongly are kindness, compassion, caring, nurturing, empathy and love. All embodied in the simple act of being with my children.
I miss it intensely. I feel lost without little people to nurture. It’s just not the same now they tower over me, or roll their eyes when I remind them how important it is to me we all eat together once a week.
I’m not sure how valuable it was to identify my values, but it was painful. It was bittersweet. I cried for the whole nine minutes. It was far more bitter than sweet. And I am so glad I had the opportunity to live those precious moments.