Omg. How fluffy does reading poetry sound? Seriously. It seems so frivolous in our modern world. When I think of poetry I don’t picture a mom with a beautiful messy bun on the top of her tired head, sipping cold coffee in yesterday’s yoga pants while tiny children scream at her feet, doing everything they can to draw her attention away from the page she is so obviously not engrossed in.
Instead, when I think of poetry, I imagine something out of an old movie…sleek beatniks lying around an apartment in Paris, smoking, reading poetry aloud to one other on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Or Shakespeare, alone in his home, writing powerful works. Or college students wasting their money studying poetry. Or any other cliché or opinion about poetry that marks it as “not for us.”
Poetry is none of that. It’s none of those stereotypes. It is words strung together in such a way that it expands our hearts and minds. Poems leave room for us and our imagination—we get to put a piece of ourselves into them with our interpretation of the stories they tell or the scenes they paint or the points they make.
So how could they be perfect for modern moms? For the 9 reasons I’m going to share with you about how they help me.
- Reading Requires Intentional Stopping. It requires me to stop the spinning wheel of the modern mothering madness and say, “Hey! I need to do something for me right now. I like reading, I want to read, and I’m going to do it. I’m going to take care of me so that I can take care of my family better, too.”
- It’s Self Care. It’s me claiming my right to take care of myself. It’s me stepping into my worth as a person, as a woman, as a mother and recognizing my needs. Then once I recognize that need for self care, I take action on it. And I do that by pausing and taking time to do something I want to do—something that fills my cup. For me, that happens to be reading a lot of the time. But I also read for work. I read a ton of books to prepare for interviews. I read a ton of books to support our homeschool efforts. And sometimes I just want to step away from those obligations (even though I LOVE them) and just go out into left field with my reading by purposefully pursuing poetry.
- Poems are Typically Short. Because as modern moms we are often told we don’t have time to read, poems are an awesome break that don’t usually take a ton of time to read. Poems take as little or as much of my time as I want. I can read a short poem and not necessarily like it and be done with it, and never to think of it again. Or I might find a poem that is short and there’s a line or a stanza that I just read over and over and over again. It speaks to me. I think about it. I integrate the meaning behind it. It stays with me and moves me. Or not. The length of a poem holds little bearing for me when it comes to importance, but the often shorter lengths are a definite perk.
- Poems are Calming. They calm me down almost immediately. A good poem will take me out of the present moment and into a quick scene or story or thought that is usually 1,000 times more calm than my daily life and to-do list. It’s almost like a touch point for when I get too wound up. Because I mostly read poetry that is about nature or openly reassuring (like the ones Lisa McCrohan writes, my guest from Episode 017)—I am immediately calmed. There are plenty of poems out there that can be energetic and get you fired up, but if you want calm—there are a ton of poems out there that can encourage calm.
- It’s Artistic. It expands my mind. It reminds me that there is so much more to life than just motherhood topics. Don’t get me wrong, I could happily talk about motherhood topics ALL DAY LONG. But there is another side of me. There’s Lori Beth the author, Lori Beth the woman, Lori Beth the scholar, Lori Beth the reader, Lori Beth the thinker, the writer, the speaker, the artist. I’m all of those AND a mother. Reading poetry taps into that artistic side of me and gets me thinking about my life in a broader sense…one that expands beyond the piles of dishes, laundry, and work emails. It says, “Hey, look up. There’s beauty in all of life. There’s space for a reframe. For perspective. For the artist in you.”
- It Feeds My Spirit. It not only expands my mind, but expands my heart. I believe we have physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs as people. Our physical, mental, and emotional needs are openly talked about all the time. (They aren’t necessarily met, but they are talked about in our culture). But what about our spiritual needs? For some of us, our faith or religion feeds all or part of our spiritual needs. But if we’re in a season of disconnect with our faith or religion, or we don’t identify with a specific faith or religion, what can we do? That spirit side of us is still there. I believe it’s the same space our love for our children comes from. And since we can’t put the sole burden of meeting our spiritual needs onto our children or family—it wouldn‘t be fair to them, especially our kids—we are responsible for meeting our own spiritual needs. Sounds heavy, I know. But it can actually be really lightening. Feeding your spirit is meant to feel so, so good. Like a dip in the ocean. Like the warmth of the sun on your face. Like a blessed breeze on a hot day. That’s why I like poetry. Because it not only stirs the imagination but also the heart. Gets you thinking and feeling and connecting the dots. Answering the questions. You can find this in the self care of daily devotionals, in uplifting reading, in poetry. There are many sources of this soul food—religious and secular.
- It Deepens My Connection to Nature. A lot of poetry paints a picture with us that often includes nature or scenes from or inspired by nature. I specifically seek out nature poetry for lots of reasons: we use a nature-based curriculum in our homeschool and I love to pay attention to the season changes. Here in Hawaii they aren’t as dramatic as the ones on the mainland or other non-island areas. Reading about seasons helps me recognize the subtle shifts that do happen here. And keeps me feeling aligned with the natural pulse of the Earth. That sounds really hoodie-doodie, but there it is. I’m more productive if I can tap into natural occurrences like season shifts. And I’m much calmer if I can feel connected with nature by going outside and noticing what’s around me: trees, flowers, insects, clouds, birds—everything. Reading poetry on a regular basis helps me connect with nature in a more meaningful way. It’s not just a hydrangea outside my front gate, it’s a beautiful pale blue flower blooming next to the striking purple of the lavender sprigs. It’s a clear sign that Spring is unfolding. It’s a wonderful welcome for beloved friends. It’s my symbol for home. The familiar I see and settle into when I return after a long day away. It’s the plant my children will know and remember, though it’s simply in the background of their childhood now. Like the roses outside my grandmother’s house. Or the marigolds outside my mom’s. One day maybe they’ll plant a beautiful blue hydrangea in the Spring and it will remind them of their childhood home, of their mother. The way planting roses and marigolds reminds me of my mother and grandmother. See what I mean?
- It Brings Me into the Moment. My gosh, we’re called to look at a million things at once. We’re told to process everything that’s buzzing around us and move onto the next thing without pausing (unless it’s for a coffee, and even then, get the coffee but you won’t have time to drink it until it’s cold—hurry, hurry!). And so we find ourselves drowning in overwhelm and a revolving door of “to-do” items. It makes me think of the saying: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” How do you take one bite at a time? By being in the moment. And what brings us into the moment? Us. We do. We have to bring our thoughts, mind, and heart into the moment and be present. That’s where a lot of magic happens. It’s where connection lives and things actually get done. It’s a place of peace. It’s you listening to this podcast right now. It’s where the downloads happen. And by that, I mean where you pause and take in information, think about it with your heart and mind, and see how (or if) it applies to your life. And then you apply it. Can a poem do that? For me, it does. For me to actually read and understand a poem, I have to be present in the moment. And if the message or imagery from the poem or verse speak to me, I think about it in the moment (and sometimes beyond). And being in the moment is very powerful. It gives me the chance to think, expand, download, breathe, connect, change, grow—all the things that can’t happen when we’re rushing through the day with the mindset of “on to the next!” This moment. This is what we have. And I don’t know about you, but I want things that bring me into the present moment. Things like poetry. And writing. And recording this for you.
- It’s a Positive Hobby to Model for My Children. It’s good for my kids to see me reading. It’s good for them to see me taking time to do something I love, taking time to grow my mind. Practicing self-care. Trying something new. Reading something new. All of these are positives…and my kids are watching anyway. Why not show them something good? Why not give them something encouraging to watch that could also possibly help them one day—something that breaks through the stigmas about poetry—and instead shows them what a powerful tool it is.
Are you ready? Do you feel inspired to read a poem today? Do you need suggestions for where to start? Start with children’s poetry. Seriously. It’s usually about nature. It’s simple. It’s beautiful. It’s positive. It’s uplifting. You don’t have to feel obligated as an adult reading poetry to only read ones that are dark and heavy. Or ones with complex themes or rhymes. I’ll take a good light, fluffy kids’ nature poem book any day over something considered “elite” or “educated” or “snooty.” (Yes, I said all of that out loud. The girl with the two masters degrees in literature calling out the ridiculous divide between works considered “academic” vs. “other.” Read what inspires you! Read what speaks to you! What makes you feel alive! Not what “scholars” tell you you should or shouldn’t be reading. This is about you—your life, your interests, your needs, your thoughts, your heart.
Thank you for listening to this. Again, this is one of those weeks where even I was surprised about the topic. But this is such a strange time. And we’re being blasted with advice from all angles about what we should or shouldn’t be doing with our down time. And I didn’t want to pop on here and be another voice giving you “advice.” Instead, I thought the most helpful thing to do would be to pause and think about what was helping me…and then share that thing with you. So I sat down, ended up reading a poem, the light bulb went off, and I let the words fly.
I felt like it was time to share something simple, short, sweet, positive, actionable, do-able, not overwhelming, new (and yet a return to an old concept?). It’s a weird time. It’s also Spring. It feels like everything has stopped. And yet new life is springing up around us. It’s swirly. And crazy. And we could use something…I don’t know what. Maybe fresh ideas. Maybe poetry will be that something for you like it is sometimes for me. If it is, let me know!
I have some incredible, deep, heart-felt interviews lined up for you that I’ll be publishing in the coming weeks. Be sure to check back next Wednesday (and every Wednesday after that) for a new episode of Elevating Motherhood. If you love this one or others, do me a favor…please leave a review on iTunes, like and share it on social media, and tell your mom friends! We’re all in this together—as sisters, as friends—and a great way for us to be supportive is to share resources and messages that speak to us…because they might just speak to another mother, and lift her up, too. Thanks again for listening. I appreciate you.
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