A Quick Guide to the Alpha Female Jewish Mother M.A.P. + BIG S or a really good Recipe for Saving the World and Yourself
I generally am the person that everyone finds, asks or expects to be helpful, in charge, or doing the work; the Alpha, Alpha female in most situations. This recipe does apply for all people and genders, but I am definitely an Alpha Female, so I have to address this from where I am.
I am part of a large wolf-pack of sisters of amazing women who give huge amounts to their communities, their children, their spouses, their religious organizations. We all recognize each other, upon sight, and there is a sheer delight for me when I get to work with other power-house women. I know I can relax or flow in a completely different way than how I tend to operate when the only Alpha female in the space is me. If no one is in charge in a situation that I think needs some taking charge of, a flip gets switched in me. It’s a reflex, I just start moving into action.
Thirty-five years of Alpha female behavior wears on a woman (I started in my early teens). I will turn fifty in September of 2014, very, very soon. In order to maintain myself and navigate all that I do and am, I have a map I follow. Massage, Acupuncture, Pedicure and Shabbat/Sleep and Spiritual Practice. You don’t have to be wealthy to use this recipe or M.A.P. (S). You do have to have sisters or friends who will trade with you one or more of these activities. I don’t recommend seeing anyone other than a licensed professional acupuncturist though, (you will need to save money or work out a trade for this activity).
I have a monthly massage with a person I trust and who is a professional. I budget for this. When my budget won’t allow for this, I have a friend whose touch is lovely and we trade. I massage her, she me. I see my acupuncturist regularly two to four times a month. This is a maintenance issue for me now as I navigate menopause, a thyroid condition and as I experience the very real wear and tear on my body of a life spent doing and caring about and for lots of folks and the planet. I also get a pedicure once a month, either with a friend or at a local spa. So, I am covered top to bottom with this MAP.
The most important ingredient in all of this is my Spiritual Practice. It is really beyond this simple list, but since it conveniently starts with an S as do the words Shabbat and Sleep, it fits really well here. Sleep is not something I always manage to get fully, but I almost always have a day of rest. On Shabbat, I endeavor not to get out of my pajamas and to spend the majority of the day quiet in bed, on my deck or on the sofa. I study Torah, read a good book (when I’m not reading THE GOOD BOOK), nap, eat left-overs and visit with whomever shows up. I don’t check my email, or pay bills and I also try not to answer the phone, be on the computer, or deal with anything I don’t want to be doing. I have worked hard six days a week, most of my life, in various jobs (some that paid, others that didn’t). I don’t define work by the money I have been paid for what I do. If care-givers were paid wages based on what we do, we’d be millionaires, all of us.
You don’t have to be Jewish or wealthy to take care of yourself or observe a day of rest. You can make your own map. Acupuncture may not be something you can imagine wanting or needing, likewise a full body massage may not be something you want. They are incredibly important and useful to me. My particular MAP makes a good acronym, but yours may not, it still needs to be explored.
Yoga, gardening, Qi Gong, meditation, hot-tubs, swimming, hiking, biking, running, anything that gets your blood circulating and helps you feel nourished counts. It has to be helpful to your full being though, not just punishing and aerobic. I think the aerobic stuff is very important but it is very different than the self-care, relaxation and deep nourishment that I am talking about here. Also, if one of these activities is your paid work, then it doesn’t necessarily count as self-nourishment. If what you are doing has a purpose, like losing weight or “being good for you” while making you unhappy it is not part of my recipe. I’m not advocating against exercise, but what I am talking about here is really different. I want to be very clear about this.
Exercise and body engagement are extremely important, but the worship of the body that our culture thrives on is not healthy. Our bodies are vessels, temples of Holiness and the homes of our souls. They have very short life-spans, even if you live to be 120, that is a nanosecond of time on a universal time-scale. Some folks are born with different abilities and bodies than others, some folks are in accidents or have compromised immune systems and they will NEVER look like or feel like the culture tells them is healthy. This is FLAWED. Health cannot just be the provenance of the few lucky folks who don’t have any medical issues or who have been born with amazing genetics or who happen to look like the airbrushed models or stars onscreen and in the media.
Real health is a much GREATER thing. When you relax your body and you actually feel it, the blood flowing through it, the magnificent feeling of BEING in a body, there should be a strong sense of gratitude and a quality of Presence beyond Self that accompanies that. This is HEALTHY. The grace of having a body and being free to breathe or taste or love or sing is a gift and just using our bodies without giving thanks for them is wrong. Likewise taking for granted the bodies we have, regardless of their issues, “flaws,” sizes and shapes is not advised by this Jewish Mama.
You cannot navigate the terrain (of being an awake and caring person on this planet) without some kind of self-love and gratitude map. Folks often wonder how I do so much. There is no quick answer for this. I generally have more energy and chutzpah than most folks, but part of how I walk on this path and and why I do what I do is because I am not just doing for others. I also DO for myself and I take it seriously, not once a year or if I get a break, but regularly, weekly and monthly. I am also constantly, really all the time, in a state of gratitude. When I’m not, I know something is off and I have to re-align or get a Massage, Acupuncture or a Pedicure or I have to wait for Shabbat and remember to actually observe it.
Spiritual practice, which runs through everything I do, whether it is “Praying in the Lap Lane,” cooking, riding my bike, or attending religious services is what keeps me not just in my body, but ALIVE in my body. My engaged practice with the Divine informs and inspires all of what I do and who I am and how I am. There are as many ways to connect to something larger than self as there are selves on the planet. It doesn’t make any difference to me how you define Holiness, but it does make a difference to serve a greater or higher purpose that is meaningful and real for you.
The inspiration to continue or to move past fatigue or to engage once again with pursuing justice or getting back up off the ground when we fall, needs to be linked to something bigger than our finite sense of self and whatever energy we have to spare. If it is related to a real relationship with beauty, excellence, grace, mystery and delight it will sustain us, inform us, guide us and prepare us while it also will continually bathe and soothe us as we work to mend what is broken in our world or in ourselves.
So, the Alpha Female Jewish Mother MAP/Recipe for the whole world looks something like this: Start to look into or further cultivate your relationship to something greater than yourself and don’t forget to give yourself a lot of juice and love along the way and while your at it, endeavor to find your gratitude and to cultivate it and be generous with who you are and what you have been given.
If you do all this, well, the world really will be a better place and you’ll be happier to be in it and on it for the eye-blink of time you’ve been granted to be in the body you are inhabiting at this moment. ENJOY!