I don’t usually post about self-help books. In fact, I’m sure I never have. And that’s because I don’t usually read them. But when I was contacted by a publicist at New World Library about Renée Peterson Trudeau’s new book Nurturing the Soul of Your Family, I said yes, send me a copy.
In some ways I feel like I’m in a new stage of life – both professionally and as a mother. Professionally I know what I want to do: lead more workshops and retreats, work more closely with writers, increase my editing load. I’m poised to take that leap, and I’m just trying to be patient and wait things out until I can manage it. I’m keeping myself open to opportunities that will help me move in the direction I want.
Similarly in my role as a parent, I finally feel as though I can step back and take stock. The girls are now nine and a half and five. They are largely self-sufficient. Of course they still need me, but it’s different than that desperate, clinging kind of neediness of very small children. They are people. I like them. And I want to make the most of our relationship. I want to enjoy the time we have together instead of hurriedly dragging them from one thing to the next. That’s why I said yes to Trudeau’s book.
The book is made up of five sections that will help readers to honor themselves and their families through reconnecting with what’s really important in their lives. The chapter that resonated with me most was the one on self-care. I know how challenging it can be to take time to renew when you have kids and are working and juggling a hundred things. But as I always tell my students, taking that time to sit by yourself with a cup of tea (or glass of wine) and write your truth can make such a huge impact on your life.
A couple of weekends ago, I was in Boston for the AWP Conference. As always, it was a weekend filled with interesting panels and wonderful conversations with writer friends I don’t see often enough. It’s exhausting, of course—how could it not be with 11,000 people milling about?—but it always energizes me and gets me excited to dive back into my own work. Usually, I leave the conference a little early in order to get back home. This year, I arrived late instead, so I had all day Sunday to myself: no conference obligations at all.
I got up early that day and went for a run along the Charles River, which was lovely. I didn’t have a timeline or any plan, so I just ran and breathed and let my thoughts unfurl the way they do when I run far enough. (I was determined not to give myself away as a Midwesterner so I refrained from greeting passing runners with my typical, smiling “morning!” and head nod. I think it worked.)
After my run, I packed up my things and then wound my way through Boston streets to The Museum of Fine Arts, where Cézanne’s The Large Bathers was on display. I happened to get there just as an art historian was talking about the painting, which was fascinating.
Then one of my lovely students (whom I’d never met in person) picked me up, and we spent the afternoon together, walking through the Cambridge Cemetery, talking, enjoying a late lunch together before she took me to the airport, where I sipped a glass of wine and read my friend Amy Shearn’s wonderful new novel, The Mermaid of Brooklyn. It was a perfect day—all about self-care.
And when I got home, I was delighted to spend as much time as possible with my girls and D. I felt renewed, and because I had taken care of myself, I was ready to take care of my family. This is one of the points that Trudeau makes so well in her book. When you really begin to take care of yourself and give yourself the space to think and be, you are, she writes, “wiser and more effective in all areas of your life…”
Each chapter of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family ends with exercises for readers to try. While I didn’t feel I needed to work through the book in that way, I know these prompts will be helpful to many readers.
I’d love to hear how you create space in your life to nurture yourself. Is it writing? Exercising? Please leave a comment below by April 3rd for your chance to win a copy of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family.