PART ONE: You are a Water Pitcher.
A teacher friend of mine gave me this to chew on:
Every morning, you are a pitcher full of water. As the day goes on, as you help, guide, teach, listen, cope with your students (and others), you give some of your water to them. You give of yourself to others.
At the end of the day, who refills your pitcher? How are you replenished?
(I jokingly responded, 'get more beer', which was met with an "I'm serious, Jay" look.)
For guys coping with partners with PMDD, it's a valid question. This is a draining, exhaustive process - for both of you.
With kids, it means having them to yourself - which can be fun, freeing and a great distraction. It also means handling their every need (if they're young) or schlepping them to hockey, soccer, baseball, sleepovers, scouts, playdates, gymnastics...the list goes on.
It also means, depending on the day of the week, handling getting dressed, breakfasts, lunches, suppers, snacks, bath time, bedtime...and all stops in between.
It also means, cleaning, laundry, groceries, cooking, disciplining, maintenance of the home...all while, often, tiptoeing around mommy who's not feeling well.
And all of this before you even think about stuff that YOU need to do...whether work or social or personal or professional...your priorities usually take a backseat to your partner's needs and, if applicable, your children.
PART TWO: Totem Poles.(I don't feel comfortable appropriating an image of a totem pole for picture's sake.)
A friend said to me, when I explained my situation, "Wow, you really are bottom of the totem pole."
I know he meant it as third place or last place or an after thought. But I see it differently.
The base of the totem pole is:
- at eye height, giving it prominence and importance, so everyone can see it;
- usually the thickest part of the pole, the strongest part of the wood;
- the root of the family story upon which the future tales are built.
While totem poles have no linear structure or hierarchy to it's progression, the base is seen as having the highest significance. The 'low man on the totem pole' is something to be proud of. Embrace it, knowing that you are the grounded one.
PART THREE: The Baobab tree.
Also known as the "upside-down tree". Or, the Tree of Life.
A tree whose roots are above the ground, stemming from a huge, strong, thick and powerful base. It provides the nutrients and water to itself and the roots reaching for the sky. It stores the energy needed to survive droughts. It withstands the elements and remains standing and visible throughout Africa. It is a symbol of power and strength, upon which the fruits grow. Without it's energy, the roots do not produce its fruit.
Which leads me back to the water pitcher metaphor. The Baobab tree stores water to support the trunk in its branches that are firmly planted in the ground. This are the stores for the base of the tree, while the trunk holds water for the roots in the sky.
(I know, it's the whole upside down thing...which, in itself, is symbolic of our family life).
It's an important question to ask yourself: have you stored water for yourself? where do you go to replenish your water? how do you refill your pitcher?
What do you do for fun? What do you do for yourself? Who or what helps you regain your strength? Friends? Family? The gym? Reading? Writing? Sports? Cooking? Dancing? Hiking? Music (playing or listening or composing)? Whatever it is, embrace it. It's there for you. It's your time.
Need I say, avoid getting pissed drunk or any other potentially harmful behaviours? That won't help anyone or make things any better. It'll do more harm than good.
We support, we nourish, we strengthen. It may not always feel like it, and it sometimes is hard to believe or accept, but your strength as a human, as a partner, as a parent, will strengthen those around you...but never lose sight of the fact that you need an outlet to regroup, regenerate and nourish yourself, storing your energy for the difficult days that will, undoubtedly, arise.