Clarissa Pinkola Estés (or Mama Clarissa, as some of us devotees like to call her), illuminated for me the essential distinction between COMFORT and NURTURE.
“If you have a plant that is sick because you keep it in a dark closet, and you say soothing words to it, that is comfort. If you take it out of the closet, put it in the sun, give it something to drink, and then talk to it, that is nurture.”
Every time I read this, I feel a tenderhearted mix of grief and rage. For so many years, I nurtured others while settling for comfort in exchange. I was conditioned this way. I believe most women are, and that modern motherhood reinforces this norm. We are taught that the more self-sacrificial we become, the more dedicated we prove ourselves to be.
“Good mothers” sacrifice themselves like thirsty plants in a dark closet. We make sure that those we love have all the light and water and encouragement they need, and then retreat back to our closets, wilted and thirsty, yet grateful for the comfort of the occasional beam of light from beneath the closed door.
Shopping? Comfort. Once-a-year Mother’s Day brunch and flowers? Comfort. Fancy strollers, minivans with sanity saving bells and whistles, and the nervous system-settling aesthetic at Whole Foods? Comfort. Occasional acknowledgement of our hard work and sacrificial spirits? Comfort. A few guilty “stolen” moments to ourselves? Comfort.
We settle for scraps instead of delicious, nourishing soul food, because we have no time to contemplate what we really need to thrive, and even less time to create these realities for ourselves. There’s SO MUCH COMFORT around us, that we’re deluded into thinking we’re being fed a feast.
Our anxiety, depression, loneliness, overwhelm, and resentment are telling us otherwise.
Solitude, movement, feeling deeply seen and heard and understood, contemplative conversation, time in nature, playfulness (with safe people), travel abroad, writing, creating, and soulful sisterhood are some of the things that nurture me most deeply.
And you? In what ways are you currently being comforted but not nurtured? What’s one step you could take today toward the deep nourishment (and eventual thriving) you deserve?