Phew! We made it to the end of 2020.
As a mental health practitioner, I know that every human psyche subconsciously exhaled a little when they woke up this morning. New Year’s Day is here…welcome to this n-e-w year! My friend Leah says her favorite day is the first day of the month because she gets to change her calendar to a fresh page of empty squares to fill however she wants. I have felt my excitement for this particular day for a while now. In fact, sometime in October, during the height of my depression from the long-suffering year, my mind began to fantasize about today, January 1, 2021. It’s here now. Thank you, Jesus in Heaven!
Last new year, I could not have conceived what this past year would hold: COVID. Pandemic. Homeschooling. Quarantining. Lockdown. Masks. Hand sanitizer. Fear and anxiety. No childcare. Online grocery shopping. The election. Protests and racial justice rallies. Family members dying. Siloed death, and thus, siloed grief.
The amount of time it will take to disentangle ourselves from these lived experiences is unknown. Each year it takes me about a month to stop signing my checks with the previous year. This year I started practicing in November, writing the year 2021. I imagine it will be a similar undoing for our psychological health as well. We all have different ways of extricating ourselves from old patterns, yet today I am struck wondering how long it will take for the United States to recover from last year?
My resolution this year is to unwind the impact of 2020. I must begin by listening to my stories from the past year. What was exposed in me during seasons of stress and hardship? Due to quarantine, I spent a lot of time in my house with my family. This magnified so many issues: my self-esteem and body image, marital discord, and fear of isolation. These exposures invite me to be curious about my own story.
Let’s choose one, self-esteem and body image.
As much as I have not wanted to make the common weight loss resolutions, I must admit that I have for the last five years. It is hard to skirt my internal critic when I see my physical reflection. She waits for me in the hall or bathroom mirror, and she seemingly has endless time to find me in street shop glass windows. I have come to find that my internal critic sounds a lot like my mother. More so, my inner voice criticizes particularly what my mother critiques in herself. My sin is that I have come to align with this internal critic.
It is only through achieving a PhD in counseling skills that I have come to acknowledge and engage my internal critic. Initially, I blamed my mom until I realized it was no longer her voice commenting on my figure; it was my own. It is now my work to become a better “mother” to myself.
Mothering your internal critic is the act of speaking to your most vulnerable parts with the wisdom of sage femme.
Sage femme is the wise woman, the one who is more mature and enlightened because she is your future self. My internal critic can invite the insecure parts of me to be mothered by the sage femme. When I come to my reflection, or the reflection of this last year and how I survived it, I want to invite my internal, wise mother-voice to speak kindness and love over the critique.
The art of re-mothering is made up of tools that can tend to bleeding wounds, rebuild broken hearts, and speak words of hope. Hannah Gadsby writes, “There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”
Within my spiritual circles, a new year is also a time of reflection and planning, where one can choose a word to intentionally carry through the next 365 days. My word for 2021 is “womaneering.” I made up the word over a decade ago. Womaneering is the art of pioneering womanhood. I no longer want to use societal lenses to measure myself against. Amid the heartache, patriarchy, chaos, and ache of last year, I want to free myself to live into my most authentic self.
Last year reminded me that life is not certain or promised. So, good woman, as you step into this new year, ask the wise woman to speak to the vulnerable parts still reeling from a frightening and tumultuous year. Breathe deep and bless yourself, for you made it. Release yourself to freely womaneer into the most honest you.
Christy Bauman, LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voice. She offers meaning-making and storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of three works: Theology of the Womb, A Brave Lament, and Documentary: A Brave Lament. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, adjunct professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality and theology. Christy co-director of Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with her husband Andrew – they live in Seattle with their three kids: Wilder, Selah and River.