Divorcee Life: Becoming Succulent

Yes, you, succulent.  Juicy, moist, luscious, ripe, soft, and tender.

No, this isn't going to be about sex.  And, isn't it funny that, when we read a word like succulent, we don't think about it as relating to how we experience ourselves, but rather think of ourselves as objects of pleasure for others?  But that's another story . . .

This one's about taking care of ourselves, no matter what the outside "weather" conditions may be.

Self-care can be a difficult concept to get excited about, because it sounds like even more work than we're already doing.  Every.  Single.  Day.

But, I'm already too burned out to do more!

Wait, wait!  I'm not trying to convince you to get yourself to a nail salon, or have time-consuming massages, or spend hours at the gym -- or to crowd your already scarce after-work schedule with more self-care chores at home.

I'm talking about self-nourishment that's low maintenance, and using succulent plants as a beautiful example.  Because, if you're a succulent, self-care is easy and fun, rather than having to be a plant that needs all sorts of special attention:  fertilizer, pruning, a precise amount of sun, regular watering schedules . . . .

Nourish yourself from the inside out by embracing what you need.

I love succulents because they remind me that I can be easily and happily self-sustaining.  

Succulents don't do anything extra.  They just retain water in their leaves and stems so that they don't need as much care from the outside.  They nourish themselves from the inside out.

Have you taken a look at any succulent plants lately?  They're shiny, colorful, and bursting with life.  They're not dry, crunchy, or shriveled.  They invite you to admire them.  They look friendly, happy, and juicy.

And, guess what?  Because they have plenty of water inside, they do great in arid, harsh climates and can flourish in dry soil.  They're drought resistant because they've been saving up and taking care of themselves all along.  They hoard that nourishment!  They store that water!

Guess what else?  They're easy to propagate.  These plants have so much surplus love to give that when a leaf falls off, you can just stick it in the ground and a new plant takes life.  No waiting for roots to grow, no babying, no special techniques.

It's almost impossible to kill these plants.  Because they take care of themselves, and they make very good use of the water and care they do receive.

There's a lot to learn from these glossy, happy plants that can deal with the driest, most pitiless conditions.

If you feel that life and circumstances are out to kill you, there's a lot to learn from these glossy, happy, friendly plants that can deal with the hottest, driest, pitiless conditions.

I want to be like them!  (That's why I love to have succulents around my house, and love to give baby plant cuttings -- that I bless with good vibes -- as gifts.)

What does it mean to be like a succulent plant?  A succulent woman doesn't let everything she has slip through her fingers.  She holds something in reserve in case she needs it.  She doesn't have to worry about running on empty or burning out.

It's cash in the cookie jar.  It's groceries in the fridge.  It's moisturizer.  It's a room of one's own.

Why is succulence such a hard sell, when it's what we need most?  Why does it always have to be couched in the language of serving others: "Put on your oxygen mask first.  You can't give from an empty well."

Socially approved self-care versus real self-nourishment.

Why isn't it okay to need what we need in order to feel good?  Men feel great about taking what they need, and forget to think about others unless someone reminds them (and still feel great about ignoring any requests made of them) .   But it's not the same for us.

Why can't we give ourselves what we need, especially if it costs nothing but time?  What if the only cost is listening to our inner voice, and saying "yes" to our preference first, and accustoming others to getting their way after our own deep longing is met?

Society repeatedly tells us, in ways both spoken and unspoken, that a woman's worth is only based on how much and how well she can serve others.  This internalized belief (so deeply rooted that we don't even realize it's a belief -- it's just the "way things are") makes even much of what we think of as self-love or self-care part of our own servitude.  

Part of why we spend so much more money than men do on clothing, cosmetics, fitness classes, and salon and spa services is wrapped up in being desirable to men and being rated acceptable as women.   This way of being-sold-to by fashion magazines and cosmetic companies isn't really about fulfilling our deep needs as women; it's about measuring up.  It's about appearing attractive rather than feeling beautiful.

How all of this relates to feeling better after divorce:

If you came into divorce already depleted and dry, and perhaps didn't feel that you deserved to honor your own needs, no wonder you may feel that you're weak and withering.

Do you have a feeling of deep longing inside?  It's your need for nourishment speaking to you, crying out to you.  It's the signal that you're running on empty.  That you deeply need moisture to nourish the heart and soul of your body so that you can sustain yourself during the dry seasons.

Instead of begging for respect or validation from those around me (and, you know, the more you beg, the less you receive), I want to collect as much good juju as I can from what's already available.  

If the loving, positive friends you desire aren't in your life right now, what inspiring books can you read, by loving authors who seem as if their words are meant only for you?  Hug a bunch of people you meet in the course of your day, and find out who is a great hugger.  Dare to step outside the box of how you normally interact with the world around you.

Instead of feeling like I'm searching hard for what I crave, I want to see what I may have overlooked right next to me.  Who's already offering love, who's already in your corner, what kindnesses can you give to yourself.  What riches are you holding back from yourself that are easily in your own power to give?

Succulent baby steps:

1.  Meditation, succulent-style.  I've been trying to meditate since I was in my 20s, but, to tell you the truth, I had trouble seeing the point.  I didn't care about enlightenment; I cared about happiness in this world.

I found my own, non-traditional way. I like a more body-centered form of meditation, in which you sit still (or you can even do this while walking) and check in with how your body is feeling.  See if your breathing feels relaxed.  See if you feel at home in your body.  Are your clothes comfortable?  Are you thirsty?  Do you need to give yourself a hug?  What can you do to feel more comfortable in this moment?

2.  Say yes to yourself at least once a day.  This is especially important if the answer was always "no" growing up, and dreams have tended to be deferred in your adult life.  You even may have gone on to marry someone who was never onboard with anything you wanted to do.  

Now, you have a second chance to practice saying yes to yourself, especially in little ways that can make you happy.  When you need to get up from your desk and stretch for a few moments, let yourself do it.  Give yourself permission to try something different at lunch.  Say yes to those little desires that may seem foolish to indulge in.  Start finding out the small, easy things that would bring you a sense of comfort and happiness that's much greater than the effort you expend.

3.  Check in to see whether the ways you're currently nourishing yourself are truly nourishing, or are they simply a way to numb the pain rather than something that makes you feel good to be you?

This can be a little hard to figure out, if you're not sure what it means to feel good to be you.  

So let's take a look at those succulent plants again.  See how they look really happy to be who they are?  They're not reaching out, trying to climb somewhere or to go somewhere else.  They're grounded, settled, earthy, and strong.  They don't blow in the wind.  They don't reach out, begging you to admire them, touch them, smell them, or pick them to arrange in a bouquet.

Maybe the first step to feeling like that yourself is to pour yourself a nice glass of water, feed yourself with its loving, succulent, sustaining moisture, breathe, and see what it feels like just to be contented to be you for a moment or two.

A succulent doesn't have to fear the future.

So much of the pain of divorce is in the anticipation of even more difficulties ahead as you enter the single life.  But none of that has happened yet.  As you become succulent, and find ways to be at peace as a self-nourishing being, you can let go of panic over a stressful future that hasn't even happened yet (and that, most likely, will never happen to the degree you fear).

At this moment, you are breathing and you are safe.  You're making yourself as comfortable as possible so that you're making decisions from the best part of yourself, with your own well-being (and that of your children, if you're a mom) foremost in your mind.

You're taking in self-nourishment of every kind so that you don't need to depend on care from external sources.  Because you have all of those inner resources you've stored up, you are at peace for the duration, and you have time to consider what you want to do, where you want to be, and who you want to be with.

As always, I'm sending love to you, and, encouraging you to pick up an adorable little succulent plant as a companion on the journey -- and as a reminder that you can have fun slowly building up your loving inner succulence.

As a footnote, here's a TedX talk from author SARK, in which she talks about succulence, "how to dialogue with your inner critics, give them the love and support they're looking for, and assign them to new jobs, " and much more: